We were talking about ?..? which is basically Kadampa expression, it’s like the path for three types of pursuer or the seeker or dharma practitioner or a vessel. Because there are three types of vessel, and as I told you yesterday, there are actually many many, millions of different types of vessel, but generally three kinds of vessels are categorized. Therefore Buddha also taught three different kinds of teachings. Just for this reason alone, Buddha himself said in Prajna Paramita Sutra, in the future the bodhisattvas should never ever engage with one of most hideous non-virtues action which is abandoning the dharma, and by which he means, he actually stated that even to think, even if a bodhisattva thinks: oh so and so is teaching only for the sharvakayana. So and so is the teachings only for the pratyekabuddha yana. Then even that can be considered as abandoning the dharma because basically you are having an attitude, you consider mahayana as the supreme and all the other vehicles as lesser. So this kind of ecumenical or non-sectarian attitude to the teachings of all the buddhas is so much required. Specially if you are practicing mahayana path.
Buddha told his monks: Monks of his time, those who abide with all the vinaya rules they have so much merit. And then the Buddha said: monks in the future degenerated time which is I guess now, if a monk breaks almost all the vows, maybe keeps one, the merit is equal if not more. Really this is Buddha’s statement. And it actually is very logical. Because the path is a remedy or antidote to the problems. So this is one of the beauty of the dharma, as the time gets degenerated, the blessing of the dharma gets more powerful. Because we have much more challenge. During those days, the monks, they don’t have the view of G-strings for instance, right. Nowadays we do. So there is much more challenge.
You are really blessed, that you are not a Tulku or Rinpoche. Actually there is a great master called Tsele Natsok Rangdol. He has a prayer, I saw, there is a really beautiful prayer. One section of the prayer, from the depth of his heart he said: “May I never ever reborn as a Tulku or Rinpoche.” It is really good. I do it every day, really. Because when you suddenly have these Rinpoches or some monasteries or Khenpos or whatever the line is so thin, so thin. Are you really, is your life for the Dharma or the Dharma for life. So thin. And I can almost tell you from my experience it is more from the other way, Dharma for living.
For us practitioner of motivation, practice refuge, take refuge, recite the refuge, recitation such as sang gye kyab su chi .., in pali and sanskrit, however in english, chinese, whatever language. I personally prefer that you do it with your own language. Also you know it doesn’t have to always be, you have to always recite something that is composed by the lamas of the past. Although I should recommend that you do that because it must have so much blessing. You make up your own. Like I take refuge to the buddha, dharma, sangha, please protect me from all kinds of suffering, all kinds of problems, accidents, diseases, bad news and bad dreams and all that. You also take refuge to the buddha, dharma , sangha, please protect me from my selfishness – mahayana path. Everything. You can even, so much so that you can even take refuge this way. Take refuge to the buddha, dharma, sangha, so that you will actually really take refuge to buddha, dharma, sangha. Really, everything like turning to the practice of the refuge. So that I will have right motivation, so that I will actually want to take refuge. So that I will have no doubt to the buddha, dharma, and sangha.
If you want to elaborate, you can have a statue of the buddha, if that helps you. If not necessary statue of a buddha, even a dharma text such as a Vajracchedika Sutra or a Heart Sutra, or whatever, even the text that you have, you can put it on the shrine. You can make offerings of whatever is available or whatever you can. Incense, flower, water. If you don’t have, or if you cant have it because of a certain situation such as in the aeroplane, then you visualize because you are a practitioner of motivation.Remember. It is not as if certain amount of flower will please the triple gem. You can actually offer one flower and think in billion, that it manifests into billions.
If you take refuge to the buddha, dharma, sangha, for long life, for wealth, for success, for I don’t know, right match. All kind of things, for Barcelona team to win, all kind of ridiculous things also. It doesn’t matter, whatever. Pick one. Okay you pray to the buddha, dharma and sangha to live long. And now look at our mind. What do we need by live long. If there is a choice we want to live forever remember. We want to live forever. Living long, for ever and ever is by reality it is not possible. Buddha himself said all compounded things are impermanent. So you are asking the Buddha to make us live for ever and ever and I am compounded phenomena, you Buddha you who taught me that all compounded things are impermanent, can you make me live for ever and ever. It is a contradiction. It doesn’t work. So this is why taking refuge, it doesn’t matter, anything to do with the dharma practice, tse di la shen na choe pa min, if you have attachment to this life you are not a dharma practitioner.
Refuge, ???, refuge, as much refuge again in the english word refuge can be, we may have overused it again. Refuge, among many other things, refuge has a connotation of acceptance. Acceptance. Because generally refuge is like surrendering. Like if you are afraid of getting burned by the sun then you take refuge under the umbrella. But ???, or the Buddhist practice of refuge has more the connotation of acceptance. Acceptance. For instance, no matter what, no matter what, all compounded things are impermanent, ???. No matter what all compounded things are impermanent. That was spoken by the Buddha that is why it is called the teaching, the dharma. But whether it is spoken by the Buddha or not, doesn’t matter, in the Prajnaparamita Sutra Buddha said, ???, whether the Buddha have come or not, the reality of the phenomena doesn’t change. All compounded things are impermanent. This fact or this truth, if you can accept, that’s actually really, the actually sort of real or I don’t know how should I put it, that’s actually taking refuge. When you can accept that. That is on the much more profound level.
If you can accept, yes all compounded things are impermanent, I can accept that. Is it logical, that is really true, it is not going to change. Similarly all stained emotion leads you to pain. All phenomena have no inherently existing nature. Nirvana is beyond extreme. All of that. To know the suffering is important. To abandon the cause of suffering is important. There is a path to abandon the cause of suffering. There is actually a cessation of suffering. Accepting that truth is actually what taking refuge to the Dharma means.
Of course symbolically, you we can even do a Buddhist text into the shrine and do prostrations, bow down to it, make offerings of flowers and incense. That is what we can do, we deluded beings, we, those who are so light up on symbols. We have to do that way. But if you were to choose, which one is better, making offerings of flowers every day to a Buddhist text such as Prajnaparamita, every day you offer a flower. Or you think about the Prajnaparamita’s meaning for one moment. Buddha himself stated many many times, one moment of dwelling in the meaning of the Prajnaparamita is like billion times much much much better than feeding the thousands and millions of Buddhas for many many many years. You have heard this many times if you read the Vajracchedika Sutra, Avatamsaka Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra. This goes on.
We are going to talk about refuge, that’s very important. It is an indispensable practice and a theory in all the Buddhist teachings. Unfortunately sometimes refuge is referred as something like a, some kind of a preliminary practice or a study which is very unfortunate because even the most seasoned practitioners really need understanding and maintaining of practice of refuge. In Tibetan there is a saying ??? which means the distinctions of whether you are a follower of Buddha or not is made by whether you have taken refuge or not. At glance it sounds like you will be referred as a Buddhist only if you ceremoniously took a refuge which is of course to the certain extend true. But refuge actually is really a very vast, it’s a, one could almost say that the fundamental teaching of the Buddha lies within the refuge, the attitude of the refuge, the motivation of the refuge and the understanding of the refuge. In fact if you ask what is the most common, because there are many Buddhist schools or lineage or tradition in this world, and if you were to ask, what is the most common mantra if you like, or something to recite that is agreed by all tradition of Buddhism, it has to be refuge. And it is basically, I take refuge to Buddha, I take refuge to Dharma, I take refuge to Sangha. So this is recited in Thailand, in Sri Lanka, Burma, Tibet, Japan, everywhere. This is properly the most common prayer, supplication, mantra people practice. It is the most fundamental also. Even the most exotic and supposedly very high teachings like the Vajrayana cannot begin their practice without the refuge. Without the refuge, there is no base or foundation for the Vajrayana practice.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
Relatively speaking it is true that Buddhist philosophy or Buddhadharma originated from India. And there is something quite interesting about the way the Indian approach to life and specially something to do with the human endeavor. There is a system called dharma, artha, kama and moksha. And this always fascinated me a lot. Dharma, not in the sense of the holy dharma but some kind of a structure or moral structure to accomplish the moksha, the liberation. Now there is also the artha, which talks about leadership, management, warfare, economy. And then there is a kama which is enjoying, partying, making merry. Basically having the full worldly pleasure or whatever. Now of course Buddhism would, as we all know, Buddhism does concentrate more on the moksha and everything that is related to Buddhism is sort of originated, derived or influenced by the path to the moksha. The reason why I am mentioning this four as I was saying to me this is very interesting because – and this system I feel is very Indian way of thinking. As part of the human endeavor I think within this system the Indian thinkers have stated many times that there is the dharma, a system, it could be moral, it could be logic, it could be anything that is rational. And then there is artha which is something to do with the common sense I guess. And then there is the kama. Now I believe that many other philosophical system maybe lacks the moksha, the last, the liberation bit. And this is quite important because what it means is that – let’s say, since we all use mobile phone let’s use the mobile phone as an example. Mobile phone is important, now specially for dharma, for artha and for kama of course. Because without the mobile phone you can’t have a pleasure, you can’t book a restaurant. You can’t do anything almost. And then without a mobile phone you can’t have a proper management let’s say. And then there is of course some kind of a system related to the mobile phone. Prepaid or postpaid or long distance or short distance or a certain package and all that. But the most special is the moksha. I think – this is of course my own interpretation – when we talk about the moksha, at the end of the day the Indian thinkings are saying, that at the end of day actually mobile phone is an illusion. And this actually makes the whole system very painless. If you really adopt, if you sort of really put this into practice I think the world always forgets the last, the moksha bit. We think that the mobile phone is the ultimate, it has to work, it will work, it works with everyone. And then of course there is a complaint, there is disappointment, there is fights, there is disharmony and all that. And all because we forget the moksha. I am telling you this because if you look at the Indian thinking of any philosophical system – I haven’t read much but let’s say Hinduism, Jainism and of course Buddhism. You will feel, they always give you a path – let’s say in Buddhism, there is a path which consist of certain rules and regulations. You have shave your hair, you have to eat nettle soup. You have to only sit on the cushion. You can’t really sit on a – I don’t know, all this kind of rules and regulations made for different kinds of people. But then at the end of the path they always tell you the path is an illusion. That you are not supposed to be attached to the path. I am sure whether you know this, it is really important that we Buddhist know that Buddha was not a Buddhist. Buddhism is a path, the path of the Buddhadharma is like a placebo, it is actually created for specific problem to a specific people. And one is not supposed to attach to the path as the goal. Path even in the highest Buddhist philosophy such as the Mahamudra or the Mahasandhi, we hear examples such as when you sharpen the knife what do you need? You need a whetstone. And then you have the knife. And then you rub these two together. When you rub whetstone and the knife, what is really happening there? Two kind of exhaustion are happening simultaneously. Whetstone is getting exhausted. At the same time the iron, the metal is also getting exhausted. This two exhaustion is actually referred as sharp knife. And suddenly there is actually a non concrete achievement called sharp knife which is not other than exhaustion of the stone and exhaustion of a metal. Now this is a really important thinking to make the path a path simply speaking.
Buddhism beyond boundaries and time, Nepal 2007
Why are we becoming Buddhist? Why are we following the Dharma, the path of Dharma. And what is it that we are following? I think for many of us we think Buddhism is just a discipline. It is a discipline. It is some form of an ethic. Specially Confucius people like us. We love ethic. We strive based on ethic. We have heard a lot to be obedient to the father and the mother, the grandparents, the ancestors, the master. All of that. Yes. And I have a feeling that again this sense of putting too much emphasize on ethic, morality and discipline is overwriting the real Buddhism. Real Buddhism, as we talked yesterday, is an art to destroy the paranoia. An art to destroy obsession. Remember the example of shoes, the bed room shoes, when you manage to throw up in the sky and then you relax. That is Buddhism. Really. CCL, couldn’t care less. That is real Buddhism. But we instead try to become, we have become so paranoid.
Not that I am negating the culture. I think culture is very important, because culture is like a medium, is like a language. Without that, you cannot really have the Dharma. Anyway the Dharma that we can have access to has to be dependent on some kind of language. So when we rely on language we have to rely on culture. So certain element of culture, quite a lot of culture is necessary. I am never condemning or refuting or negating them. What I am asking to myself and others is to really know that the culture and the Dharma is two different things. At the end of day, if you want to practice the Dharma, you have to look for the Dharma. Use culture as the means to look for the Dharma. You should not settle with a little understanding of culture. This I think is very important.
We have to live for dharma, we should never have the dharma for the life. Life for dharma, not dharma for life.
In fact, bluntly speaking, when a Mahayana bodhisattva is taking refuge, not like all the other practitioners, who will take refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to protect them from samsara only. Mahayana bodhisattvas they take refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to protect them from both, samsara and nirvana.