So meditation is quite popular, meditation is really, people I think are attracted to meditation. But what I want to point out is, if you don’t have dompa or the vow then meditation that without the dompa or the vow, specially something like the refuge, meditation is really not even a gewa or not even a virtue. It is not even a virtue. It is just a technique to calm your mind. I am not saying that you should not do it, no no, of course not, by all means. If you are asking me without the dompa or the vow, what is meditation for me. I would sooner go to a sauna or have a massage. Because after all might also relax you. Or go walk in an english garden or something. Because anything that would calm your mind, you can just do it. So meditation is nothing special basically, that is what I am saying, if you don’t have the vow. Of course I am coming from the Mahayana point of view. It is only when you have a vow, and specially something like having taken refuge to the buddha, dharma and the sangha, then your hearing, your contemplation, and specially your meditation is becoming very special. So really the vow is the most important.
Taking refuge, taking that vow of refuge. If you have taken refuge then you have created yourself as a perfect vessel to plant or to establish hearing, contemplation and meditation.
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.
Keeping the right attitude or motivation of the mahayana path, please listen to the following
Zin pa choong na ta wa min. If you have attachment to this life, you are not a dharma practitioner. In order to practice that as we discussed yesterday we begin with laying the foundation of discipline. Among many methods of disciplining ourselves the most supreme one is taking refuge or disciplining oneself by surrendering to the buddha, dharma and sangha.
This very short and pithy instructions, if you have attachment to this life, you are not a dharma practitioner, really covers a lot of elements of the mahayana path. Not only the mahayana path actually, all the three vehicles. Since this is actually properly the primary foundation that we have to lay I am this morning going to again visit to this subject.
Okay. So now, where does the discipline comes in. For someone who has taken refuge lets say to the Dharma. For someone who has taken refuge to the Dharma, meaning for someone who has genuinely accepted that all compounded things are impermanent, or many other aspects, or everything is interdependent, everything depends on cause, condition, and effect. So on and so forth. So if you have accepted that truth, it does not make sense, by doing something opposite such as harming others. This is why when you harm somebody you are forgetting that cause and condition exist. You are forgetting, on many levels, that everything is interdependent. Harming somebody, this is on the most beginner level by the way. Actually means that you are forgetting the fact or the truth that everything is interdependent. Similarly, if you have taken refuge to the Buddha, it doesn’t make sense – a little bit more on the Dharma. If you have taken refuge to the Dharma, it doesn’t make sense by practicing another path that believes in extreme view. If it is an interfaith religious conference, again I have to be hypocritical and I have to sort be careful, oh ya ya all religion are same. You know like everything leads to the heaven and all of that. But that’s actually a bullshit. Because it is not. I am not saying that the other religion are bad. Definitely not. In fact the great Nyingmapa master Longchenpa he said that all religion, anything that believes in some kind of a right and wrong, is, what you call it, indirect teaching of the Buddha. So we cannot really leave out anything. But what I am saying is every religion, every path have their own aim. Buddhism is a path of no extreme. Buddhism is path of non duality. If you follow that it doesn’t make sense by practicing – there are people who sort of say I am kind of practicing both Buddhism and Christianity. It doesn’t work. If you want to practice buddhadharma, then anything that believes in extreme view that such as truly existing god, permanently existing god, truly existing heaven, truly existing sort of soul that is full of sin. All of this, they contradict. So one has to choose. If you are going to Kathmandu you go to Kathmandu. You don’t go to Delhi. You cant do it together. So this is the discipline you have to take. You have to really take this discipline. Similarly if you have taken refuge to the Sangha, ???, you are not supposed to have people who follow the extreme view as your spiritual companion. Spiritual companion you should underline that. I think you can go for a drink of a beer or hang around in the bar talk about other things. But someone as a spiritual friend, meaning someone who will give you the influence of extreme view. If you hang around with a person who can slowly or with a speed give you the influence that if you kill chicken every day you will go to heaven and there you will be greeted by, you will be greeted by not so fresh virgin girls. How is that? It’s only chicken you see, there are other levels too. Things like that. If you have, if you want to follow that, then that’s up to you. The discipline is that you have to follow this. Basically what I am trying to tell you is the Buddhist discipline has nothing to do with monotheistic discipline. In the monotheistic discipline if you, you have to follow this. If you follow the other you are doomed or something like that. And this is only the right way. That is what monotheistic I believe discipline. In Buddhist thing, it is very very practical, it is very logical. It is simply that if you believe in that, if you want to follow a path that believes in interdependent reality, then it doesn’t make sense to follow also – you know it doesn’t make sense, you believe in the path of interdependence, call it, interdependent origination. By around three o’clock you switch to something that believes in a truly existing, independently existing path. This is very, is not imposing, it is a choice. It is a privilege, that if you want to partake, it is up to you. But if you do it, and if you want to achieve a certain goal, then you have to take this discipline.
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.
The discipline is the foundation. And in order to generate this, to discipline ourselves there are many many many methods of disciplining oneself. But everything can be abbreviated and concise into taking refuge to buddha, dharma and sangha. Once you take refuge to the buddha, dharma and sangha whole heartedly, from the depth of your heart, without any doubt, you will, most of the other discipline will automatically easily emerge. This is why refuge, practice of the refuge, in all the Buddhist traditions, not only in the Mahayana or the Vajrayana, in the Shravakayana, everywhere, the first thing you do is take refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
So here as in many others commentaries I will take the chance to talk about the refuge, because the discipline fundamentally in the buddhadharma, the most precise and most concise form of discipline is disciplining oneself by taking refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. And I don’t want to go too intellectual here but it is important if you are serious in pursuing this spiritual path you also take the vow of refuge such as what we did just now before we began our teachings we did Sangye cho dang tsok kyi chog nam la, jang chub bar du dag gi jin gyat su chi, so we take that kind of vow. Vow is important. If you have a vow you accumulate merit lot faster. I will give you one example. Let’s say we human beings we have not taken a vow. Okay lets say many of us we have not taken a vow. Many of us, many human beings don’t take vows of not killing. Not killing. So they don’t kill, see people don’t go at this moment, this morning maybe, outside, inside here we don’t go around killing people or killing animals. But if you have not taken a vow it doesn’t mean that you are accumulating merit. You are not killing anybody because you just don’t have a time or you don’t have the energy or you don’t have the weapons to kill, it’s too boring anyway. It’s too hassled, so much hassle so why do it. So you don’t have a bad karma, you don’t have a good karma, you have nothing. You are just not killing, that is all. But for someone like here maybe most of you, like the Bikshus here, you have taken a vow, I shall not kill. As part of the, let’s say, part of the vow of refuge. From then on, once you have taken the vow, from then on, every second every moment when you don’t kill such as while you are dozing off, you are accumulating the merit. And this is why the vow is quite important.
Practically, if you really want to go home with some kind of an instruction on how to do refuge, if you are not a tantric practitioner, thinking that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are in front of you, and that is good enough. That’s, I mean, you may say it’s a make believe but didn’t I tell you, even four plus four is a make believe. So just thinking, even so I am not seeing it because of my own delusion, thinking and having confidence that they are there, and with this fear to the samsaric games and cause of samsara, take refuge to protect us from all kinds of temporary illness, temporary obstacles, temporary, I don’t know, sickness, disease, war, famine, disputes, disagreements. And then more importantly to protect us, you know refuge is something to do with the protecting, you remember, to protect ourselves from our own inner enemy which is clinging to the self, self cherishing. And then if you are tantric practitioner, thinking all the Buddhas, embodiment of all the Buddhas, the guru, in front of you. Your guru in the form of a deity or whatever, you know. And on top of what I just told you, reasons of taking refuge such as fear of outer obstacles, inner obstacles, secret obstacles is this constant impure perception or constant judgment, dualistic mind. To protect ourselves from this dualistic mind then we take refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, or in the Tantrayana, name of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is kind of transformed into guru, deva and dakini, and specially, if you are practitioner of more profound level of Tantrayana such as Mahasandhi or Mahamudra, then taking refuge to dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya or prana, bindu and nadi or essence, nature and display, we take refuge. And towards the end of the refuge, refuge object and you become inseparable. That’s the point. That is actually very very important. It is not as if the refuge object stays there as a celestial divine being and you go around as a mundane, ignorant being. That’s very important. They merge together. That is the technique. And then there are many many different liturgies to recite the refuge. You can do Namo Buddha, Namo Dharma, Namo Sangha or Buddham saranam gacchami, so on and so forth. ????? or in English which ever, I take refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. And then if you want to elaborate this, specially for those who are doing the Ngondro practice, then there will have a specific liturgy.
Now to the Mahayana. For the Mahayana, historically bound, the physically bound Buddha is actually a manifestation, meaning is not the real one so to speak. It’s manifested. So the real Buddha is usually out of lack of choice of words, we choose the word, many words, like dharmakaya or buddha nature that we talked this morning. And buddha nature is a very big subject, I was just hitting on very small aspect of buddha nature which was, remember, the defilements are removable. I think that much understanding is good enough to begin. And to this truth, to this nature of, nature that although defilements are so blatantly, obviously there, our defilements are so thick and large and long and tall and completely vivid and very much there. But. And big, and many. But no matter, they are all removable. And that, what we call it ???, which is quality of absence, we call it. It is a quality that is an absence of dirt, remember the dish washing example I give you. That is the ultimate object of refuge and that, you know if you take refuge to that, nothing can go wrong. It’s undeceiving.
Shravakayana or what we, which the Theravada tradition is categorized by the Mahayana chauvinist like myself. Each different tradition of Buddhism basically has a different approach to refuge. They do not contradict, they are a little bit like a paradox. In the Shravakayana the truth, the absolute truth, is what is absolutely non-deceiving object of refuge. So Shakyamuni Buddha who was bound by elements like history, time, citizenship and all that, is not really, his body basically, his body is not the object, his body is not the ultimate object of refuge. His mind or his dharmakaya, in a more appropriate way of putting it, is definitely object of refuge but his body, the Buddha’s body, Shakyamuni Buddha, historical Buddha, his body was not ultimately non-deceiving. His body decayed and got old and died. Very crudely speaking, right. So that’s not, you know – Theravada tradition or the Shravakayana tradition is very strict, no compromise, which is so good. Really no compromise. So the things like Four Noble Truths is the truth that, if you accept that, if you follow that, if you take refuge to that, is undeceiving. Whether it is not deceiving or not you have to find out through hearing, contemplation, meditation and all kinds of other disciplines.
You know, I really have to stress this refuge. Because many times we forget this refuge. I was so touched when I went to Sri Lanka. First of all for the first time I thought I was in a Buddhist country. You know many people think Tibet is a very Buddhist, of course. You can sort of say, ninety nine percent of Tibetans are Buddhist. Very very kind of hardline Buddhist, you can say. But whether the teaching has really gone inside the mind and the heart of the grass root level of Tibetans I don’t know. And one big part of this is the fundamental basic teachings of the refuge, many times the Tibetans forget. They are all excited with all kinds of things like smoke offering, I don’t know, but all the high stuff, Dzogchen, Mahamudra. Of course one could always argue that they are the ultimate refuge and all of that. But many times the ultimate refuge is so difficult if you don’t have a relative refuge. Sri Lanka when I went there, it is just so beautiful. For instance as a tourist when I went there. You go to this small village monastery and then this temple managers they come to you and they lead you. And the first place, the first spot they lead us is to a Bodhi tree, a tree. That is the most important because it reminds us the enlightenment. Symbolically and all of that. Historically. That is the most important place. Then they say, well have you had enough now? Then we say can we see more. Then only then they bring you to a Stupa. That is fantastic. Stupa. Now if you still want more only then they take you to a temple with a roof and inside where you can sit and do prostrations. It is the opposite in Tibet. First of all I don’t think there is a Bodhi tree in Tibet but – very important I think because temple is so materialistic and worldly, you know, it has a roof. You can change clothes inside there. You understand what I mean, you can change, you can actually be naked if really necessary. So it is a dwelling place. Whereas the Stupa there is no door to go in. There is no toilet. It is just a mount. That is much more, you know, that is much more useless. And then they take you to the tree, that is the absolute useless. Actually, from the temple’s point, from the materialistic point of view, even to this level of mundane even to this kind of mundane level Sri Lanka reflected me this amazing, it is in there sort of. And this I think is very important because it really makes – this is one country that has been really ravaged you know like. This went through so much of problems insides, you know all kinds of war. But I can almost say I never been to a more peaceful, loving, friendly and so gentle people, ever. This I could see it is because of the acceptance of some of these truth I was talking earlier. This small village temple when I went there was two college girls, Sri Lankan, they were there deeply doing some kind of prayers and meditation. So I waited for some time and when they finished I approached one of them and asked. I was incognito so I acted as a non Buddhist. Anyway I prefer that way because I would look really like a Buddhist gangster there because – they are so good. So I asked, what do you pray for. And this village, small college student, girl. I am a Buddhist, we don’t pray for anything. We just pray so that we can follow the Buddha’s truth. The way of the Buddha. Wow. Lots of mixture of feelings in my mind, kind of got a little bit depressed for a day too. Because I was reflecting myself. Refuge, specially in the Theravada tradition, they really have a very good strong tradition of taking practicing the refuge.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
Student: Hi. When I took refuge a while ago I was given a refuge name. Is that a common practice and why is it important?
Well this is all to remind you, it is like a, it’s all a reminder. Everything in Buddhism, all the rituals is to remind you actually, really. Fundamentally these are to remind you. But the problem is many times the reminders end up either becoming a culture or at worth it is even forgotten. I have a retreat center in Bhutan, the monks are doing three year retreat. And there is this monk, he has written this notes like don’t get distracted. He has it on the sealing, on the door, doorknob, everywhere. After about a year he said he is not even reading them. Doesn’t mean that he is not, he is very good with no distraction. He is totally distracted he said but this are just, he doesn’t even see them. Because he is just so used to it. Used to it, this is the challenge of the path. So supposedly the name, cutting the hair, all that ceremony is – you know it is bit like wedding. You understand wedding is supposedly to remind you two are together. But then a second after the wedding is finished. I guess like what you call it, ring yes, here, like that. Maybe they should invent a ring actually. Nose ring would be really good. A hanging nose ring. Something to remind, but after a while it won’t work. You know like, I was thinking just the other day, Jigme Lingpa, one of the Nyingmapa master, he uses the weather to remind him the impermanence. But I was just thinking the other day, I don’t think it is going to work in England. Maybe nowadays but you almost feel like, it is just to often.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
Student: When you are speaking the other day in Oxford you mentioned that meditation is a bit of a trick in the sense that you use it to make sense as though I guess to work with relative reality. Would you say taking refuge in buddha nature is also a bit of a trick?
For now yes yes, very much. Anything that is a path is a trick. But that is a necessary trick so. Very important. That is a very important trick. Very very important. Because if you don’t have that, it is a bit like you have to want the oil right. First you have to want the oil. Then you have to believe that the sesame seed will do the trick. You have to also, together you have to believe that this piece of paper won’t do the job. All of that is necessary to build the path. And once the oil is extracted, oh sesame seed you get rid of it. No need.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
Refuge is not a simple matter, it is a very, it is the spine of Buddhadharma. Some Buddhist come, oh I am only doing refuge. What do you mean by only? It is very important, so important.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
Basically what we need to know is that emotions, no matter how strong, no matter how deep they are, they all have their cause and condition, they don’t come randomly. And this is a good news. This is the element of what we call innate buddha, buddha nature that we have. So our emotions are removable, our defilements are removable, purify-able, and that fact is what we are accepting when we say, I take refuge to the Buddha. That fact is what we are accepting, that fact. That is important. If you don’t accept that fact it is bit like you see your dirty dishes in the sink with all the sauce and things stained. And many of us who are really good with, who are cheerful people and who are really good with the washing dishes, you know when we see the dirty dish we get all excited, ha you know, I can make it spotless clean, shinny, within half an hour. Isn’t it. It is almost, if you see kind of a clean dish you feel like bit like you know, more dirtier the better. Like this. And that kind of confidence you have because you know it’s washable. That dirt is washable. That time, you have taken refuge to the innate clean dish. That is why when you take refuge, when you are doing this, when you are putting it into the washing dishes and all of that, it’s a non deceiving washing dish path. It is never going to fail you. It worked yesterday, it worked the day before yesterday, it is going to work for me today. This is what we call taking refuge to the Buddha. Of course I am not negating, I am not sort of cancelling the sort of more touchy feely, you know, music, songs, and taking refuge to the Buddha who came, walked bare feet with the begging bowl in Mandhata street two thousand five hundred years ago. That is a tool, that is like a soap. That, Buddha is like a sponge, it is very necessary. It is really, it is good to have that actually. To the certain extent it is good to have it.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
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
I also told you about two other cause of taking refuge, compassion and devotion. Where does the compassion fits into this. Once we know this truth that for instance, three minutes we were sitting, and maybe you didn’t notice because we are thinking about other things but for some of you maybe you have actually managed to just sit and be aware of whatever is coming right this very moment. And that must have given you some kind of an example that actually this releases you from, this liberates you from hope and fear and, you know the stories that entangle you. So then you realize, wow, this is a really kind of economical way of living. And kind of liberating and really very nurturing and enriching. Then you look at all this people in the street with a small brief case and an umbrella walking up and down, up and down completely thinking about things. Trying to catch up, trying to compete. Trying to knock over somebody in many different ways. Then you suddenly realize, oh, if only they could sit like this for three minutes, three minutes a day, they are missing a lot. It is so, you don’t have to buy anything, you don’t have to download anything. You are just doing it, you can sit anywhere, watch this present moment mind. This you can do anywhere. You almost feel like just frustrating kind of compassion. If only people can do this. And that actually develops even a stronger motivation of taking refuge. You almost develop some kind of a sense of responsibility.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
I’ll see you tomorrow for instance. Even that. See you later. We don’t know. Maybe there is no later. But constant forgetfulness of this impermanence indicates that you have not really taking refuge to this truth, this truth of impermanence. And this has caused, it is not like it hasn’t caused any problems, it has caused so much problems. People talk about ecology and what, global warming and all of that. Who do you think is the culprit, it’s the forgetfulness of impermanence. Insatiably thinking that we are going to be here for ever. Forgetfulness of that.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010