Seeing the truth is so important in the Buddhist path. Seeing the fake as fake is very important. That is the quintessential. And this is what is meant by vipassana. Seeing, the insight. Or in the Tibetan we call it lhatong, meaning seeing something extra. Right now what we see, we see the one that’s, you know, all the painted version, the camouflage. The window dressing. One that is sooner or later going to disappoint you. So what we need to do is to see the truth. Seeing the truth is what we call wisdom. And that is the most important blessing of the Buddha. Seeing the truth is also none other than so called mahakaruna, compassion, sort of loosely. Seeing the truth is also itself the power. Flying, all these kind of things, clairvoyance, all those are not real power. The real power is seeing the truth. And that, seeing the truth, is what eighty four thousand Buddha’s teaching are trying to achieve. And that is what did Buddha try to lure people, eighty four thousand and more ways. For some he leads, he points to the truth nakedly. For others, he brings them close to the truth, points to another direction and makes sure that he ends up seeing the truth. Now you know that seeing the truth is crucial, to get rid of the fundamental root of suffering.
Many times, to be straight forward, to be open is cherished and valued. But to be skillful has to be valued, because many times the truth, the honest truth, cannot be easily appreciated by others, cannot be digested. Even the Buddha, if you look at his teachings, the absolute teachings – you know there are many different levels of teachings. Many many many teachings are what we call the expedient teachings, the teachings that require interpretations. The direct naked absolute teachings such as Vajracchedika Sutra are very difficult to digest. Here Buddha says there is no Buddha, there is no form of the Buddha. Buddha never taught. So on and so forth. That is shocking. That is indigestible. So in many other Sutras Buddha talks about his past life, once when he was a rabbit, once when he was a peacock. So on and so forth, Jatakamala Sutra. And then there are other Sutras where he says there is something like Sukhavati, Amithaba realm where there are lotuses, there are swimming pools. Stuff like that. So Shakyamuni Buddha was being very skillful in order to approach.
When a bodhisattva visited Buddha – it is in the Prajnaparamita Sutra – and the bodhisattva complaint to the Buddha, saying: I feel so sad, I feel so sad about this meaningless life and all of that. And it is almost painful. Then Buddha: this is a noble wealth, you have so much merit that is why you are feeling sad about these things. When you don’t have that merit you will be distracted to all this gadgets and think this is life.
In buddhism there is no such thing as sharing. We can assume that you are all looking at the same flower. Exactly same flower as the flower that I am looking at. But that is only an assumption. What you see I will never see. Not only the direction or the color, but you know, your idea of flower. Your idea, I don’t know, the good, all the paraphernalia of this flower. An individual experience. You can try your best describing this to somebody. And this person, your partner, assumes that he or she has, she is, he or she is looking at the same thing.
This is very emphasized in buddhism, you know if you read a classic buddhist text like the sutras, it all begins with thus have I heard. Once Buddha was here and there, you know, like that. Thus have I heard. It is a very important statement. Because Ananda is saying: I don’t know what he talked. But this is what I have heard.
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.
Although this is of course not a vajrayana time, we are not going to teach vajrayana, don’t ask me question about vajrayana, I don’t know nothing about vajrayana. But for instance in Sarnath when Buddha taught four noble truth, ?..? for instance when Buddha said: know the suffering, abandon the cause of suffering, generally the story is there is so called five monks who are listening to this. And they heard the general way which is: know the suffering, abandon the cause of suffering, all of that. But there are also some other students they are called vidhyadharas, sort of tantric practitioners. They same word they hear different thing. They hear when Buddha said ?..?, you know like abandon the suffering, they heard samsara is blissful. When Buddha said abandon the cause of suffering they heard Buddha said use emotion, utilize emotion as the path. It is almost like the complete 180 degrees difference. And both gets benefit.
I think I spoke this briefly, Nagarjuna wrote the Mulamadhyamakakarika and in its homage,?..?, the Buddha is the only one who is like the supreme speaker or the supreme expounder or the supreme teacher basically. This is not just a poetic kind of expression of devotional, poetic thing, it is actually, there is quite a lot of element into this statement that Buddha is the supreme speaker or the teacher. ?..?, anyone who is not buddha including the tenth bhumi bodhisattvas doesn’t have that quality. It is actually one of quality of ??, ten power, one of the very special power.
Okay let me begin with this. Unfortunately, you are asking me, someone like myself. So only the supreme expounder, ?..? we call it, the supreme expounder or the teacher is the Buddha. Only he can actually really give you the, what you call it, the specific answer. For someone like me I will have to bank on to all sort of guess jobs. This is, really of course myself, but even the tenth bhumi bodhisattva, they have to do that. The challenge is this.
The challenge is I have to tell you you should want this. But at the same time I always have to keep in mind that this does not exist what you are supposed to want. And this is actually a wonderful thing because if I have the compassion. See you are like a drunk person about to fall here about to fall there. I don’t want you to fall into the nihilism of nothing exist, I don’t want you to fall into the eternalism of things exist. The skill to teach this seemingly contradictory paradoxical thing, only the Buddha can do it. But the rest we can only sort of give, what we call it, ??, logic, ??, examples. We can only give you examples. So I was trying to give some examples yesterday, you remember, the dream. If you are having a nightmare, okay ?…?, this is Shantideva, if the nightmare is not really bothering you, then you don’t even have to wake up from that, what’s the point. Because there is a pain, there has to be some kind of a drive in you to get out of this pain. Right? As long as you have that drive, that also means that you have the pain, you don’t want to the pain so path can be constructed. All along I have to also tell you, by the way, that is just a dream. It does not exist.
You know very important that you know Buddha was not a Buddhist. Did you know that? Buddha is not a Buddhist. Buddhism and all of that is later, human beings projecting this.
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.
In case, some of you, those who are very new, some of you who have no knowledge of Manjushri, relatively speaking, Manjushri is like, Manjushri appears at time as one of the Buddha’s chief disciple among the lay disciples, chief among the lay disciples. But from the Mahayana sutras, Manjushri is also as the, I don’t know how to put this very simply, but Manjushri appears almost as the narrator of all the Buddha activities, narrator, the narration not necessary verbally but physically and in the form of manifestation. For instance it is believed that Suddhodana or Shakyamuni Buddha’s father, the physical father. Suddhodana is considered in the Mahayana sutras as a Manjushri in person. And also if some of you are familiar with the Buddha’s twelve deeds, Buddha’s life story, the deed of Buddha’s first observing the death, old age and sickness which triggered so to speak, which triggered Buddha’s renunciation mind. Then also seeing a Bikshu who really inspired the Buddha to become the wanderer. In some sutras in fact is believed that all the manifestation of death, old age and sickness and the monk are created by Manjushri as the reminder to the young bodhisattva. Manjushri seems to be quite busy, because Manjushri is not only doing this to the Shakyamuni Buddha but it is believed that Manjushri will be doing the same thing with all the nine hundred and ninety six coming Buddhas. Reminding them, teaching them, giving them signals. But then again also acting like a disciple. And his teachings, the way he taught also not ordinary. Many times, I am sure some of you know that in the sutras there is an account of how at one point when Shariputra or Kashyapa in the presence of the Shakyamuni Buddha asked Manjushri: What is emptiness, what is shunyata? Manjushri kept quite for some time and then Buddha applauded and said, that was the right answer. And there is also another occasion. You know is some of the Mahayana sutras there is this restriction that you are not supposed to teach the shunyata to ordinary people, ordinary who are not matured, because shunyata, the message of shunyata is too vast, if you are not prepared it can mislead you. But there is a Sutra which talks about how Manjushri actually, deliberately, loudly, extremely talked about emptiness and shunyata and all of that. In fact, about five hundred odd people got really shocked, and not only that, they actually sort of discard the Mahayana path and born in the lower realm. And another bodhisattva asked Manjushri this is like mindless thing to do. How can you, a bodhisattva, of all the people specially you Manjushri, how can you do such things? Here there Buddha Shakyamuni intervened and said: Actually Manjushri did an amazing thing because Manjushri knew that even though this people will suffer for the time being, eventually Manjushri has already planned the seed of understanding the shunyata. Therefore it was necessary. So as you can see from these accounts, Manjushri has a very unique way of teaching. Many sutras talk about Manjushri. I think it was Maitreya, the future Buddha, Maitreya said that if ten million bodhisattvas who are equal standings of Maitreya, looked at Manjushri, even the ten million bodhisattvas who are equal standing of Maitreya, they will not comprehend how Manjushri even place his steps when he walks. So there is this kind of very flowery at times, symbolic kind of account. But there is something that you might want to know. These are not just like a legend or some kind of a mystical stories, actually quite a profound symbolic teachings. Because what is the most important in the Buddha’s path, what is the most important. The most important is the wisdom. Without the wisdom as the Shantideva said, all the other path is like blind path. It is because of the wisdom all the other path also become valid such as generosity, discipline, diligence, all of this becomes a valid path because of the wisdom or if you have the wisdom. So obviously wisdom is considered the essential. And Manjushri actually represents or symbolize or if you like, is the embodiment of all the wisdom of the Buddhas, all the Buddhas. So it is because of this reason the symbolic Manjushri is very much venerated by Panditas, scholars, saints of the past, present and I am sure in the future. Even in Tibet there is a rush of tulkus that are claim that they are incarnations of Manjushri. Everybody likes to claim, quite a lot. Even more then, I don’t think I have heard any Tibetan lamas who claim there are Shakyamuni’s incarnation. But Manjushri incarnation they love it, this resume, or this CV, that tulkus like to have the CV of being a Manjushri’s incarnation or something to do with the Manjushri. Among many other bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshvara.
Shakyamuni Buddha said that everything, all the phenomena are circumstantial and the circumstance depends on motivation. So first of all I cant stress enough that we have to tune our motivation.
Student: Hi. Thank you Rinpoche. I have heard about this gurus when I have to visualize it, don’t see them as a real person. Don’t see them as yawning and scratching. But just I am not enlightened enough to recognize a Buddha when I see it in the street. So if I see as a teacher I should not see him as a human being. And you said the opposite now. So, yes.
No no this is very good. When we say not see him as the human being, yes that is your aim. You have to think that he or she is the Buddha. You understand. But the entity itself, in order to communicate with you, let’s say your guru is like a what you think a sublime being is. With a hallow, you understand. Someone who doesn’t touch his feet when he walks on the earth, someone who flies. Someone who knows everything instantly. You know, someone who, if you have something like that, someone like that as your guru, you will not communicate. There will be no communication. We have already too many of those, how many ten thousand Buddhas, millions of Buddhas supposedly everywhere. This is not communicating. There is too many. This is like a statue you know. So the substance itself, the substance or the entity, the guru entity has to be, this is the challenge he or she has to have that human flaw and your challenge is to think that this flaw that I see is my own perception. He or she is the embodiment of the Buddha. That is your practice. We are talking about the complexity of condition. This is how human mind works. We are talking about creating a system that will dismantle all system including itself. This is the challenge.
Why does the Buddha come into this? Aren’t we, isn’t Buddhism supposedly, Buddha himself said, not to depend on a person but depend on the teaching. Isn’t Buddhism a path that does not believe in truly existing all mighty creator, a supreme being. Why do we have to take refuge to the Buddha? This is a very important question. Yes, for many of us, the moment we say we take refuge to the Buddha, for most of us, for most we can’t help but we think in terms of taking refuge to the Buddha who came 2500 years ago in a place called – two thousand five hundred years ago, six hundred years, two thousand six hundred years ago. India, not UK. Man, not as a woman. As a prince, not as an ordinary person. All of that, most of us we think like this. That is actually not so bad, nowadays most of the people, the moment they say I take refuge to the Buddha, their mind automatically thinks about the golden statue they bought. Not gold, many of them are bronze. Fake ones. That’s sitting on your shrine somewhere. It is terrible. But that is how lot of us think when we say we take refuge to the Buddha. Now this one, but I am not negating this, this will do for some people. Why not? If it helps that is good because indirectly it is actually not deceiving. Someone could be inspired by a statue in British Museum for instance of a Buddha, because of his serenity, because of the way he looks, I don’t know, because how the light falls on his face. And he or she may get inquiry about this person who came two thousand five hundred years ago. And then if he or she more diligent then he or she might end up finding some of his teaching and then it might indirectly lead him to a non deceiving path. So as a Buddhist I would say, relatively it is okay. But on a more profound level when we say we take refuge to the Buddha, again we are actually talking about a very very profound truth. We are not really saying we take refuge to the Buddha which is bound by time, bound by a place such as Shakyamuni Buddha, historical Buddha. But we are talking about taking refuge to the innate Buddha that we all have. Our true nature. The absolute nature of each and every individual of beings, us, animals, gods, ghosts, every one of us has this innate buddha nature. And that is what we are taking refuge to, ultimately.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
If you are listening from the classic Buddhist teachings, one truth is that all, everything that is made, everything that is gathered, everything that is put together, everything that is produced which basically is everything that we have, they are all impermanent. Nothing, there is nothing that is permanent. Before the Buddha, it was impermanent, while he was teaching it was impermanent. It is not because Buddha said all compounded things are impermanent somehow everything became impermanent. It is going to be impermanent looks like. Until a scientist or some technician manages to produce one produced good as a permanent thing the Buddhist refuge of I take refuge to the Dharma is not going to change. If one day scientist or engineer manage to produce something that will not fall apart yes then Buddhism is collapsed. Then I take refuge to the Dharma is completely collapsed. Then we should really go and have lot of fun actually. Otherwise, but until then, this is the truth. All compounded things are impermanent. All produced, made, put together, composed, created, fabricated, made are all impermanent. This is one truth that we take refuge. And that’s why we call it, we say I take refuge to the Dharma. When we say I take refuge to the Dharma we are not taking refuge to a book. Book is produced. It is going to fall apart. It is already falling apart. The truth is what we are taking refuge, this impermanence.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
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
You know if you read the life of the Buddha, twelve deeds of the Buddha. After the six years of penance Buddha went to the present day Bodhgaya. There under the Bodhi tree, he sat. And, what happened? Just as he was about to be enlightened, just as he was about to crush the last residual of ignorance, the usual suspect came. The lord of the Mara, the evil, the lord of the evil. That alone is actually a very very significant symbolic teaching. If there is any practitioners, you should hear this. You know when we practice Dharma many times we have obstacles like lost of inspirations, lost of devotion, lost of compassion, lost of wanting to even sit. Things like this. This actually means you are about to get it. Just like the Buddha, just he was about to get it, then the usual suspect came. This is their job, they are paid to do this kind of things. So that is the time where you have to be really mean. Sort of an enlightened way of being mean. You have to learn to do this. [Where is it?] Anyway, who came? The evil, the lord of the evil. The lord of the demon, the mara, he came. He tried all kind of things, he sent his daughters to seduce the Buddha, right? The story goes like that. That is not the last battle. The last battle was the lord of the mara came with the five different arrows. And the five different arrows are things like – this is what I was looking for but I couldn’t find anyway, just like doubt, distraction, making a big deal out of eight worldly dharmas. Desire. Yes, desire is a very big one actually. I think there is actually an order, I think it was Asvaghosa. Beautiful, the first arrow he aimed at the Buddha was I think the aggression. That, that’s the easiest one. And then it was desire. Things like that. I think the last one is the doubt or the distraction, I don’t remember this. Just constant distraction. We are just constantly distracted. For instance we don’t, you are sitting, your bottom is on that chair right now, and you are not feeling your sensation of your underwear and the chair and the hardness of the floor. You are not aware of it. You are wearing necklaces, you are not aware of its weight. Totally distracted, we are basically like a zombie, right, zombie. Yes. Just not aware of anything. Not aware of feeling, not aware of sound, not aware of what we are thinking. Just that. That is actually, I think is the, the enemies when they fight with you, they always send their best, right, the last, of course. They have to reserve that, that is the last bullet. Yes I think, constant distraction. I think before that is the doubt, doubt you know like. And doubt comes, do you know why? Doubt is there because you have become, you have become a victim of logic. That is why there is this doubt. You have become a logician. Logic is the most powerful way to make yourself trapped. So these are evil actually in Buddhadharma.