Permissions and Prohibitions
Every sentient being desires to be free of suffering and desires happiness. That is the way it is. Everyone of us has buddha nature, the potential for enlightenment. By the power of that sometimes there is a glimpse of special insight, like the sun peeking through the clouds. If there were no sun it would be completely dark, but no matter how thick the clouds, there is some light. No matter how much suffering, there is sometimes compassion, which is a glimpse of buddha nature. If buddha nature were outside us, there would be some doubt we could get it. But because it is inside us, there is no doubt. Because the dharma is holy, if we apply it, we will become holy. The dharma is not something Buddha made up and gave to you. Buddha investigated through countless eons and experienced it without boundaries: peaceful, and uncompounded. It is total peace and joy, complete in itself. It’s that what we are looking for. Understanding is important, but the most important thing is to practice. So when we get the opportunity to practice it, we should rejoice. That is not arrogance, it is a way to build wisdom awareness. We cannot find that joy anywhere else except in the mind.
We should respect all sentient beings, no matter what their culture. Everyone is busy looking for something. Success, what is that? It is just seeking for happiness. Dharma is so precious. Instead of looking outside, we are looking inside. Dharma gives us the wisdom to understand who we are and gives us fearless joy and happiness. So seek that happiness. Life is not so long, you know.
The mind is the most important subject. We study and chant to make the mind more peaceful. Because the mind is filled with garbage, that causes us to suffer. The mind is the center of our life. No one else can send us to hell or the pure land except our own mind. You can see for yourself that when your mind is peaceful, you are in a completely different world. But when you are upset, you cannot enjoy anything. The dharma helps to change that state. That is what the dharma is all about. It is to make the mind more peaceful and compassionate. First you must have compassion for yourself before you can extend it to others. People ask, “If I show compassion how will I survive? People will take advantage of me.” Compassion gives strength and clarity. It is something we need so much in the world.
Often when we don’t know how to present the dharma, it’s presented as a culture. It’s not a culture it’s a way to find peace and happiness. It’s a way to reshape the mind. Everyone respects compassion. Even a rootless person, who doesn’t respect compassion, at least wants peace of mind. So we can change ourselves, and we should rejoice in that. If you practice dzogchen or mahamudra, it is with a wish to end suffering. If you reflect on impermanence and suffering, it’s with that same wish.
Last year I got a little break and this teaching came into my mind. It has thirty two verses. You may think of permissions and prohibitions as limiting your freedom. But Buddha said to avoid all unwholesome deeds, engage in all wholesome deeds and tame your mind. Unwholesome deeds are the cause of suffering. Buddha was not trying to control beings or exert his authority. If you keep these rules, it will create peace and happiness. If you practice the ten virtues, no matter what culture you go to they will respect you. So what is the mode of abiding? From the cause, the result manifests. If you plant a seed of a poisonous plant, a poisonous plant will grow. If you plant the seed of a medicinal plant, a medicinal plant will grow. Everyone knows this, but now we will try to understand this better. “As you sow so shall you reap” is expressing the interconnectedness of everything. The smallest dust particle engages the energy of the whole universe. One moment of thought reflects the whole of your life. You can achieve enlightenment in one second. So what should we avoid and gather? We should avoid the cause of suffering and gather the cause of peace and spaciousness.
The little knowledge I got, I got from my teachers, so I pay homage to them. It is realization and not just intellectual understanding. Because of their realization, they embody compassion. They are the friends of all sentient beings, even the small bugs. The great teachers taught a way out of samsara. If the dharma is presented properly, it is freedom. The eight freedoms and ten opportunities are explained in many books. We have the opportunity to attain enlightenment, which makes our life precious. Human beings are sophisticated and can do many things. We have the ability to purify our defilements. We should contemplate the allegories on how difficult this is to achieve and appreciate this opportunity and not take it for granted. There is so much to know and we don’t have the time or energy to learn it all. We should bring the relative and absolute bodhicitta into our lives and practice it.
Impermanence is not just a Buddhist philosophy. We should appreciate that we have the good karma to have dharma in our lives. And because our thoughts are impermanent, we can change them. Consider how many of your friends have passed away and how you will also. If you do such small things, it will create a wonderful life. If you see things are temporary, then you can change them. Impermanence is a powerful idea to contemplate and gives you great power and insight. Sometimes we feel we can’t meditate, but because we are impermanent, that can change. The meaning of dharma does not change, so it is changeless. Bodhicitta is my wealth. You should marry the dharma and not divorce from it. You real mind is the dharma and you need the relative dharma to reveal that. All conditions that make us comfortable or uncomfortable arise from a cause. We should see that, instead of blaming someone else. When you have a headache, you should wish that the headache substitute for the headache of all beings. So everything we encounter is an opportunity.
No one high or low who is within the unenlightened state is free from suffering. The powerful suffer and the powerless suffer, the educated and uneducated. We’re not saying they are bad, we are saying that they suffer. So we should strive in the uncontaminated and sublime dharma to overcome this. So understanding suffering gives us the motivation to practice dharma.
Taking refuge is the practice of the dharma, it is not separate from it. When we understand dharma, we take refuge in it, when we don’t we take refuge in confusion. When we see others who don’t understand this, we feel great compassion for them. The dharma is known as the joyful path. Through it we become better and better human beings. Otherwise we are consumed by negative thoughts.
Good conduct is the method for achieving higher birth and definite happiness. The ten non-virtues destroy harmony in society. If you abstain from eating meat your mind will be a little clearer and your body lighter. Emptiness cannot transcend causality. We should look at Buddha’s life story. It was so pure. That was because the highest view cannot transcend causality. So the more you practice, the more mindfulness is necessary. We depend on other sentient beings and need them. If there is no customer, there is no businessman. There is no politician without voters. And without sentient beings we cannot develop loving kindness and compassion. If people were always kind to us, we couldn’t develop patience. Just because someone tells you they aren’t spiritual, that doesn’t mean they don’t desire happiness. We should practice the four unlimited qualities of love, compassion, joy and equanimity.
Bodhicitta is the thought to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings. All Buddhist teachings are contained in it. To practice bodhicitta we need to understand suffering, impermanence, all the four limitless qualities, refuge, and the path. So the primary cause of enlightenment is bodhicitta. If you have bodhicitta you cannot take a life or deceive others. Relative bodhicitta is crucial to reveal the ultimate bodhicitta. The thought to achieve enlightenment is an unafflicted and uncontaminated mind.
There is the bodhicitta of aspiration, engagement, and unsurpassed enlightenment.Through aspiration we engage in practice and step by step we get a glimpse of ultimate bodhicitta. The mind of enlightenment is burned by the afflictions and we need the water of the six paramitas to purify it. Buddha nature pervades all sentient beings without anything to remove or add. We only need to see it. Our mind is buddha but it is obscured by adventitious defilements. All the dharmas buddha taught are to remove these defilements. Just enjoy the dharma. Even before enlightenment, your mind will be more joyful. Real empowerment is when you get a chance to establish yourself in the enlightened state and understand this, with or without a ceremony. The tantric practice ripens us, just like a mango becomes sweet through ripening. I’m sure you’ve gotten so many empowerments that your head has become flat.
The mind has no limit or boundary. It is a very hidden subject. No matter how powerful technology may be, a machine cannot show the mind. That is because the machine is material and the mind is immaterial. The mind is neither inside or outside, but it is there. If you try to pinpoint the mind you will go crazy. Mind can only be pinpointed when you meditate, stabilize, and actualize. There are two types of meditation, stabilization and insight. Through insight Buddha saw the nature of mind, which is blissful and without boundaries. He practiced samadhi for six years until it became very powerful and on that basis developed special insight. Through that he saw the very hidden nature of mind and became omniscient. So Buddha was the greatest scientist not though machines but through the mental power of meditation. So until we have the power of special insight, I don’t think we can see the nature of mind through machine. Through his unwavering compassion he taught the dharma to human and non-human beings. That is why we revere the Buddha. So what Buddha taught is beyond any specific culture. The mind is important and powerful. It creates everything. All the sophisticated technologies and weapons are created through the mind. So mind has no limit. But because we are obscured we cannot see the qualities of the mind. How many thoughts are coming each second? You think day and night, even in your dreams. So the mind has no limit. But because the mind is so hidden and abstract very few people can talk about it. So it is very important that humans learn to utilize the mind better and bring peace and harmony to the world.
When we talk about suffering, its not to say that everything is negative, but to show us what is there. There are three types of suffering. The first is the suffering of suffering. This is the obvious sufferings of sickness, not getting what you want, and so on. Everyone knows about this and all technology is made to abate it. We develop methods to travel faster, communicate instantly, and have more and tastier food. The next kind of suffering is the suffering of change. At first when you get a cell phone you are so excited. But then it breaks and the happiness changes to suffering. So the object that brought happiness also creates suffering. We’re not putting a negative face on things, that’s reality. The third kind of suffering is pervasive suffering. No matter what we do until we are enlightened, we encounter suffering. To understand this third kind of suffering requires great wisdom. Even animals have a way of freeing from suffering of suffering. But they do not have a way of freeing themselves from the suffering of change. We practice in order to relieve the suffering of change. So there are different types of renunciation for each of the kinds of suffering. The third kind of suffering is very subtle, but when we are enlightened it will definitely cease. This teaching is not taught to frighten you, but to show you things as they are. If you try to practice the very high teachings without understanding suffering, you are just floating, without contact to reality. Everyone is dominated by the afflictions. When we see this we should develop great compassion and practice the dharma. My responsibility is to explain the dharma. Your responsibility is to take the teachings to heart. We renounce samsara to totally uproot suffering.
With undistracted mindfulness of the form of the deity, whose nature is bodhicitta, even if they are wrathful. They have a pure form. The lotus represents freedom from passion. The moon represents compassion, the crown the five wisdoms of the buddha, the three necklaces represents the three kayas, and the two earrings the two knowledges. When you establish clarity, stability, and purity, you will see the deity face to face. This is either as the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. To practice with the chakras and channels, you must have a profound meditative stabilization and clear power of visualization. Otherwise you can’t do a practice like tummo. There is also the signless completion stage, which is dissolving everything into emptiness.
The most profound benefit of the Buddha is the stream of enlightened teachers that issued from his teaching. A good teacher should have an understanding of scriptures and realization. They should not teach out of self-interest. They should dispel the suffering of others out of compassion. And they should lead students on the path with great wisdom. So these qualities are necessary for a teacher that lead you to liberation. If you have a lesser goal, a teacher without these qualities will suffice.
The three afflictive emotions are the cause of the three lower realms as well as the suffering in all the realms. Just look around you and you will see that this is so. They are not permitted by any of the three levels of vows. These are the vows of individual liberation, bodhicitta, and tantric samaya. At any level you have to purify the obscurations. They are poison and create nothing but suffering. It is very important to understand this. There are no poisons in the enlightened state. All the happiness arises from the absence of the three afflictive emotions. In the absence of the three poisons, you achieve nirvana. All the virtues are permitted by all three levels of vows. Non-virtue cannot be virtue or become virtue from some higher perspective.
All appearances are the manifestation of mind and the play of the mind. This is taught in dzogchen, mahamudra, and madhyamika. They have the nature of illusion, but our mind takes them as substantial. It is like a rainbow or mirage. If we can’t let go of it and suffer, that is because of our habitual fixations. That is why we need to practice. Everything in the world only exists relatively, like left and right, high and low. Thinking on this will make your mahamudra practice better. When you realize the nature of samsara and nirvana are the same, you realize that you are never apart from enlightenment and that is mahamudra, the great seal that pervades everything.
Omniscience depends on causes. Causality and emptiness are one and cannot be separated. For this reason, mahamudra and discipline share the same points. Practicing emptiness is the cause for seeing the interdependence of everything. If you see this, you can have inexpressible joy. Within that state there is nothing to add or take away. When emptiness is realized, causality stands out distinctly within it. So the wisdom of seeing things as they are and causes and their results are both clearly seen and these two wisdoms are the same.
The teachings on adopting and abandoning are the heart of both and tantra. We shouldn’t confuse samsara with nirvana, but when we see the nature of samsara that is also nirvana.
Q: Shouldn’t we have a strong practice of bodhicitta before practicing Vajrayana?
A: You should study the sutras along side of practicing Vajrayana. You can polish your understanding as you practice.
Q: Is there very simple practice of bodhicitta that can be taught to disturbed persons?
A: First practice calm abiding for a few minutes and then reflect on bodhicitta. Do this as a daily practice. Then when you need its power, it will be there. If you don’t give up the dharma, it will never give up you.
Q: What is signlessness?
A: It means emptiness. There is no sign.
Q: Some people when they look at their actions are filled with self-hatred. How do you deal with this?
A: There is no one who does not cherish their own life. But sometimes their afflictions are so strong they will commit suicide. You need to have the skill and tact to point out the truth. Slowly you can point out the truth to them.
Q: I’m not sure if I should become a nun or not.
A: You need to avoid mental obscurations whether you or ordained or a lay person. There’s no magic in wearing robes that takes all your negative thoughts away. When you wear robes you are an example of the dharma and if you don’t uphold the discipline, that is a disgrace to the dharma. You have to work hard to live up to that. You have to be mindful and cultivate bodhicitta so that negative thoughts are purified and good qualities developed and you achieve enlightenment.
Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen
Tibetan Meditation Center
May 23 2009