Relying on a Master
by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

We all need to find freedom from samsara and attain enlightenment, and the only way to do so is by relying on a spiritual master, receiving the master’s guidance, and practising what the master teaches. All the past, present, and future Buddhas rely on a teacher; there is not a single enlightened being who attains enlightenment without depending on a master. Nowadays, many people think that they can just do their own meditation without relying on a teacher, but that’s not very beneficial, and when meditation is not successful, it may cause rebirth in the animal realm.

If enlightenment could be attained without reliance on a master, the Buddhas and lineage masters of the past would have said so, but they all attained enlightenment by relying on their master and practising his or her instructions. One may be a great scholar and memorise as many texts as an elephant can carry on its back, but one still won’t attain enlightenment without the blessings of a master. It is through the blessings of one’s guru that one can recognise the nature of one’s mind. I’m not just making this up; that’s how all the masters explained things.

It is said that it’s important to have a connection with highly realised masters, whether it’s a connection through Dharma or mundane matters and whether such a connection is positive or negative. If we can’t have a positive connection with highly realised masters, then even with a negative connection, although we’ll have to experience the result by wandering for a time in samsara, ultimately we will receive benefit because of such a master’s power of bodhichitta. Even though there is no end to samsara for sentient beings in general, for those who have a connection with the Dharma, there will be an end. Thus, continuously pray to your master from the depths of your heart.

The Tibetan word for master is lama. La refers to unsurpassed, inconceivable wisdom and ma to the loving-kindness of a mother. So a master is someone endowed with inconceivable wisdom and boundless love for all beings.

When I mention the word master, maybe you think I’m talking about myself, but I’m just explaining the transmissions that the past masters taught and the related stories. Don’t create too many concepts about what I myself am saying here; develop trust and confidence in what the past masters and Buddhas taught, and generate faith and devotion in them. I personally don’t have any experiences or realisation at all and know nothing about what might happen tomorrow or next year or even what will happen tonight. I might not have any of the qualities or powers a master should have, but even so, without relying on a qualified master there is no way to attain enlightenment.

When Naropa was told by his teacher that his karmic root master was Tilopa, he set off to find him. He searched for a very long time, wandering far and wide, but couldn’t find him anywhere. Finally, he asked someone if they knew where a master named Tilopa lived and was told that someone by that name was staying in a small house with smoke coming out the roof. When Naropa arrived, he found Tilopa grilling fish in the fire. Naropa asked Tilopa to accept him as his student and requested teachings, but Tilopa replied, “What are you talking about? I’m just a beggar!” But Naropa wasn’t fooled and was certain that this was his master, so he followed him for twelve years, doing exactly what Tilopa told him to do.

One day they came to a high cliff and Tilopa said, “If you want to follow your master’s command, jump off this cliff !” So Naropa went up to the cliff ’s edge and jumped. He ended up half dead with all his bones broken. When Tilopa came to see him three days later and asked if he was sick, Naropa replied, “I’m not just sick, I’m dying!” So Tilopa cured him through his blessings. In that way, Naropa experienced eighteen hardships but didn’t receive any teachings. Then one day, while making tea, Tilopa sent Naropa to fetch some water. When Naropa returned with the water, Tilopa said, “No matter how much I tell you, you never understand!” Then he whacked Naropa very hard on the head with his sandal, knocking Naropa out. When Naropa regained consciousness, his realisation had become equal to Tilopa’s. This happened solely due to Naropa’s fervent devotion to Tilopa.

There are countless stories of past great masters going through a lot of hardship while staying with their teacher. Here is a more recent example: Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche said that Khenpo Ngakchung was an emanation of Vimalamitra. The previous Drubwang Rinpoche (Palchen Dupa) studied philosophy with him and received all the pith instructions. One day, Khenpo Ngakchung said they should go for a stroll, and they went to an isolated place where Khenpo Ngakchung wanted to sit, so Drubwang Rinpoche took off his shirt and let Khenpo Ngakchung sit on it. Sometime after that, they went for another walk, and Khenpo Ngakchung got extremely angry. He took off his shoe and beat Drubwang Rinpoche so badly that Drubwang Rinpoche fell unconscious, and when he regained consciousness, his realisation was equal to his master’s. If one follows one’s master with such strong and unwavering devotion, the result can really be quite extraordinary, but these days any master who did such things in the United States would likely be arrested and put in prison.

In fact, there are many practitioners who have realised the nature of mind and attained perfect enlightenment just by doing guru yoga. Being introduced to the nature of one’s mind can happen only through the master’s blessings, and without the blessings nothing will happen. This is not something that can be bought, and no matter how learned a scholar you may become, without a qualified master it’s not possible to recognise the true nature of our mind. As this is the root of the practice, without blessings there is no way to attain enlightenment, and the path to Buddhahood is blocked. There is no other way to discover the nature of your mind; you can’t buy it or find it anywhere other than through the blessings of a qualified master. That is why the single most important practice in Dharma is guru yoga.

We have now obtained this precious human body endowed with the eighteen favourable conditions, which is very hard to obtain and may never be acquired again. If we use this support to practice Dharma and enter the path of liberation, we will always receive the proper support to continue on the path, but if we don’t use it to integrate the Dharma into our being, there is very little chance of getting such an opportunity again. If we don’t use our precious human body for Dharma practice, we may accumulate a lot of wealth, power, fame, and so on, but it will have no real benefit and will just carry us farther away from the path of liberation, casting us into the lower realms. Thus, it is our responsibility to strive again and again to let our master’s blessings enter our stream of being. Now that we have obtained this precious human body, we should acknowledge, feel confident, and never forget that our sole object of refuge is the Three Jewels manifesting as our root master in the form of Guru Padmasambhava, who is the embodiment of all past, present, and future Buddhas.

Our physical form really is extraordinary, so we should use our body, speech, and mind for the sake of perfect enlightenment, physically doing prostrations, circumambulations, and sitting in meditation; verbally reciting mantras and Dharma texts as much as we can; and mentally giving rise to bodhichitta, vast or small. All this is possible only because of this exceptional human form that came about through the kindness of our parents — without parents we wouldn’t have a body, and without a human body we couldn’t engage in virtuous practice. It is said that this body has great potential, both positive and negative: If we use it properly, we can accumulate a great deal of merit, but if we use it in a negative way, we can cause a great deal of harm. We can accumulate such negative actions that we’ll never attain liberation, or we can engage in Dharma practice and attain perfect enlightenment in this very lifetime.

Please remember that beings in nonhuman forms such as gods, nagas, animals, gandharvas, and so forth don’t have the opportunity to attain liberation, so now that you have obtained this extraordinary support, which is so rare and precious, and have been so fortunate as to meet the Dharma, you shouldn’t waste such a rare opportunity; instead, devote yourself wholeheartedly not only to receiving teachings but to applying them as well.



— 慧天長老











「諸法意先導,意主意造作,若以清淨意, 或語或行業,是則樂隨彼,如影不離形。」





This entity is indeed enlightenment, which is due to having the nature of non-attachment. Attachment is born from mistakenness, and mistakenness is held to be without basis.

— Maitripa

Why Should I Meditate?
by Venerable Matthieu Ricard

Take an honest look at yourself. Where are you in your life? What have your priorities been up till now and what do you intend to do with the time you have left? We are a mixture of light and shadow, of good qualities and defects. Are we really the best we can be? Must we remain as we are now? If not, what can we do to improve ourselves? These are questions worth asking, particularly if we have come to the conclusion that change is both desirable and possible.

In our modern world, we are consumed from morning till night with endless activity. We do not have much time or energy left over to consider the basic causes of our happiness or suffering. We imagine, more or less consciously, that if we undertake more activities we will have more intense experiences and therefore our sense of dissatisfaction will fade away. But the truth is that many of us continue to feel let down and frustrated by our contemporary lifestyle.

The aim of meditation is to transform the mind. It does not have to be associated with any particular religion. Every one of us has a mind and every one of us can work on it.


The real question is not whether change is desirable; it is whether it is possible to change. Some people might think they can’t change because their afflictive emotions are so intimately associated with their minds that it is impossible to get rid of them without destroying a part of themselves.

It is true that in general a person’s character doesn’t change very much over the course of their life. If we could study the same group of people every few years, we would rarely find that the angry people had become patient, that the disturbed people had found inner peace, or that the pretentious people had learned humility. But as rare as such changes might be, some people do change, which shows that change is possible. The point is that our negative character traits tend to persist if we do nothing at all to change the status quo. No change occurs if we just let our habitual tendencies and automatic patterns of thought perpetuate and even reinforce themselves, thought after thought, day after day, year after year. But those tendencies and patterns can be challenged.

Aggression, greed, jealousy, and the other mental poisons are unquestionably part of us, but are they an intrinsic, inalienable part? Not necessarily. For example, a glass of water might contain cyanide that could kill us on the spot. But the same water could instead be mixed with healing medicine. In either case, H2O, the chemical formula of the water itself, remains unchanged; in itself, it was never either poisonous or medicinal. The different states of the water are temporary and dependent on changing circumstances. In a similar way, our emotions, moods, and bad character traits are just temporary and circumstantial elements of our nature.


This temporary and circumstantial quality becomes clear to us when we realise that the primary quality of consciousness is simply knowing. Like the water in the above example, knowing or awareness is neither good nor bad in itself. If we look behind the turbulent stream of transient thoughts and emotions that pass through our minds day and night, this fundamental aspect of consciousness is always there. Awareness makes it possible for us to perceive phenomena of every kind. Buddhism describes this basic cognitive quality of the mind as luminous because it illuminates both the external world through perceptions and the inner world of sensation, emotion, reasoning, memory, hope, and fear.

Although this cognitive faculty underlies every mental event, it is not itself affected by any of these events. A ray of light may shine on a face disfigured by hatred or on a smiling face; it may shine on a jewel or on a garbage heap; but the light itself is neither mean nor loving, neither dirty nor clean. Understanding that the essential nature of consciousness is neutral shows us that it is possible to change our mental universe. We can transform the content of our thoughts and experiences. The neutral and luminous background of our consciousness provides us with the space we need to observe mental events rather than being at their mercy. We then also have the space we need to create the conditions necessary to transform these mental events.


We have no choice about what we already are, but we can wish to change ourselves. Such an aspiration gives the mind a sense of direction. But just wishing is not enough. We have to find a way of putting that wish into action.

We don’t find anything strange about spending years learning to walk, read and write, or acquire professional skills. We spend hours doing physical exercises to get our bodies into shape. Sometimes we expend tremendous physical energy pedalling a stationary bike. To sustain such tasks requires a minimum of interest or enthusiasm. This interest comes from believing that these efforts are going to benefit us in the long run.

Working with the mind follows the same logic. How could it be subject to change without the least effort, just from wishing alone? That makes no more sense than expecting to learn to play a Mozart sonata by just occasionally doodling around on the piano.

We expend a lot of effort to improve the external conditions of our lives, but in the end it is always the mind that creates our experience of the world and translates this experience into either well-being or suffering.

If we transform our way of perceiving things, we transform the quality of our lives. It is this kind of transformation that is brought about by the form of mind training known as meditation.


Meditation is a practice that makes it possible to cultivate and develop certain basic positive human qualities in the same way as other forms of training make it possible to play a musical instrument or acquire any other skill.

Among several Asian words that translate as “meditation” in English are bhavana from Sanskrit, which means “to cultivate,” and its Tibetan equivalent, gom, meaning “to become familiar with.” Meditation helps us to familiarise ourselves with a clear and accurate way of seeing things and to cultivate wholesome qualities that remain dormant within us unless we make an effort to draw them out.

So let us begin by asking ourselves, “What do I really want out of life? Am I content to just keep improvising from day to day? Am I going to ignore the vague sense of discontent that I always feel deep down when, at the same time, I am longing for well-being and fulfilment?” We have become accustomed to thinking that our shortcomings are inevitable and that we have to put up with the setbacks they have brought us throughout our lives. We take the dysfunctional aspects of ourselves for granted, not realising that it is possible to break out of the vicious cycle of exhausting behaviour patterns.

From a Buddhist point of view, the traditional texts say every being has the potential for enlightenment just as surely as every sesame seed contains oil. Despite this, to use another traditional comparison, we wander about in confusion like a beggar who is simultaneously rich and poor because he does not know he has a treasure buried under the floor of his hut. The goal of the Buddhist path is to come into possession of this overlooked wealth of ours, which can imbue our lives with the most profound meaning.


The object of meditation is the mind. For the moment, it is simultaneously confused, agitated, rebellious, and subject to innumerable conditioned and automatic patterns. The goal of meditation is not to shut down the mind or anaesthetise it, but to make it free, lucid, and balanced.

According to Buddhism, the mind is not an entity but rather a dynamic stream of experiences, a succession of moments of consciousness. These experiences are often marked by confusion and suffering, but we can also live them in a spacious state of clarity and inner freedom.

We all well know, as the contemporary Tibetan master Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche reminds us, that “we don’t need to train our minds to improve our ability to get upset or jealous. We don’t need an anger accelerator or a pride amplifier.” By contrast, training the mind is crucial if we want to refine and sharpen our attention; develop emotional balance, inner peace, and wisdom; and cultivate dedication to the welfare of others. We have within ourselves the potential to develop these qualities, but they will not develop by themselves or just because we want them to. They require training. And all training requires perseverance and enthusiasm, as I have already said. We won’t learn to ski by practising one or two minutes a month.


Galileo discovered the rings of Saturn after devising a telescope that was sufficiently bright and powerful and setting it up on a stable support. His discovery would not have been possible if his instrument had been inadequate or if he had held it in a trembling hand. Similarly, if we want to observe the subtlest mechanisms of our mental functioning and have an effect on them, we absolutely must refine our powers of looking inward. In order to do that, our attention has to be highly sharpened so that it becomes stable and clear. We will then be able to observe how the mind functions and perceives the world, and we will be able to understand the way thoughts multiply by association. Finally, we will be able to continue to refine the mind’s perception until we reach the point where we are able to see the most fundamental state of our consciousness, a perfectly lucid and awakened state that is always present, even in the absence of the ordinary chain of thoughts.


Sometimes practitioners of meditation are accused of being too focused on themselves, of wallowing in egocentric introspection and failing to be concerned with others. But we cannot regard as selfish a process whose goal is to root out the obsession with self and to cultivate altruism. This would be like blaming an aspiring doctor for spending years studying medicine before beginning to practice.

There are a fair number of clichés in circulation about meditation. Let me point out right away that meditation is not an attempt to create a blank mind by blocking out thoughts — which is impossible anyway. Nor is it engaging the mind in endless cogitation in an attempt to analyse the past or anticipate the future. Neither is it a simple process of relaxation in which inner conflicts are temporarily suspended in a vague, amorphous state of consciousness. There is not much point in resting in a state of inner bewilderment. There is indeed an element of relaxation in meditation, but it is connected with the relief that comes from letting go of hopes and fears, of attachments and the whims of the ego that never stop feeding our inner conflicts.


The way we deal with thoughts in meditation is not to block them or feed them indefinitely, but to let them arise and dissolve by themselves in the field of mindfulness. In this way, they do not take over our minds. Beyond that, meditation consists of cultivating a way of being that is not subject to the patterns of habitual thinking. It often begins with analysis and then continues with contemplation and inner transformation. To be free is to be the master of ourselves. It is not a matter of doing whatever comes into our heads, but rather of freeing ourselves from the constraints and afflictions that dominate and obscure our minds. It is a matter of taking our life into our own hands rather than abandoning it to the tendencies created by habit and mental confusion. Instead of letting go of the helm and just allowing the boat to drift wherever the wind blows, freedom means setting a course toward a chosen destination — the destination that we know to be the most desirable for ourselves and others.


Meditation is not, as some people think, a means of escaping reality. On the contrary, its object is to make us see reality as it is, right in the midst of our experience, to unmask the deep causes of our suffering, and to dispel mental confusion. We develop a kind of understanding that comes from a clearer view of reality. To reach this understanding, we meditate, for example, on the interdependence of all phenomena, on their transitory character, and on the nonexistence of the ego perceived as a solid and independent entity.

Meditations on these themes are based on the experience of generations of meditators who have devoted their lives to observing the automatic, mechanical patterns of thought and the nature of consciousness. They then taught empirical methods for developing mental clarity, alertness, inner freedom, altruistic love, and compassion. However, we cannot merely rely on their words to free ourselves from suffering. We must discover for ourselves the value of the methods these wise people taught and confirm for ourselves the conclusions they reached. This is not purely an intellectual process. Long study of our own experience is needed to rediscover their answers and integrate them into ourselves on a deep level. This process requires determination, enthusiasm, and perseverance. It requires what Shantideva calls “joy in virtuous ways.”

Thus we begin by observing and understanding how thoughts multiply by association with each other and create a whole world of emotions, of joy and suffering. Then we penetrate the screen of thoughts and glimpse the fundamental component of consciousness: the primal cognitive faculty from which all thoughts arise.


To accomplish this task, we must begin by calming our turbulent mind. Our mind behaves like a captive monkey who, in his agitation, becomes more and more entangled in his bonds.

Out of the vortex of our thoughts, first emotions arise, and then moods and behaviours, and finally habits and traits of character. What arises spontaneously does not necessarily produce good results, any more than throwing seeds into the wind produces good harvests. So we have to behave like good farmers who prepare their fields before sowing their seeds. For us, this means the most important task is to attain freedom through mastering our mind.

If we consider that the potential benefit of meditation is to give us a new experience of the world each moment of our lives, then it doesn’t seem excessive to spend at least twenty minutes a day getting to know our mind better and training it toward this kind of openness. The fruition of meditation could be described as an optimal way of being, or as genuine happiness. This true and lasting happiness is a profound sense of having realised to the utmost the potential we have within us for wisdom and accomplishment. Working toward this kind of fulfilment is an adventure worth embarking on.

Matthieu Ricard 2.

I encourage you to take in the scenery of your life and of nature, and contemplate all the wonderful friends and loved ones you have been fortunate enough to walk with.

— HH Gyalwang Drukpa, Jigme Pema Wangchen


“中道”是一个历史悠久的词,最早出现在《论语·雍也》中:“力不足者,中道而废。” 表示是中途、半途的意思,随后又引申出道路中央的意义。此后这两个意义作为中道一词最简单而基础的意义,几千年来一直为人们使用。但在更多的场合中,它有一个更为重要的含义,即“中正之道”,也可以说是“中庸之道”。佛教传入中国后,僧人们在翻译佛经时,使用了“中道”一词来表示佛教的核心教义。但在佛学里,不同时期的中道有不同的含义,这一点与儒家不同。在阿含经中,中道指八正道;在部派佛教而言,中道是远离断、常之二见;到了大乘中观派,以远离一切执着、分别而无所得者为中道。








在佛学典籍里,“中道” 是由梵文词语madhyama^-pratipad翻译而来的,表示的是佛教的核心教义之一。佛学理论有发展变化的过程,不同的发展时期,“中道”指代的具体内容也有所不同。早期的佛教,中道含义较为简单,即修行的正确道路,在阿含经中具体指八正道,在部派佛教时期指远离断、常二见。到了大乘佛教兴盛时期,中道被反复强调,在对诸多问题的理解、看法上都要持守中道,即不能执着一边,而是须将绝对对立的两边一起否认。


释迦牟尼在时,所有僧人都听从他的教导;他灭度后,僧人们在诸多问题的看法上产生分歧,而又不再有佛陀能为他们解答。因此,僧团依据看法不同,经历数次分裂,先后产生了大众部、说一切有部、犊子部等二十(一说十八)个不同的派别,这就是部派佛教时期。部派佛教时期,对中道的解说非常简短,主要见于说一切有部的《阿毗达磨大毗婆沙论》和《成实论》。《大毗婆沙论》卷七十七:“而执断常乖于中道⋯⋯ 非断非常契于中道。”这就是说,在说一切有部这里,中道就是远离断见和常见。