Method, Wisdom and the Three Paths
by Geshe Lhundub Sopa


The great eleventh century Indian master Atisha said,

Human life is short,
Objects of knowledge are many.
Be like a swan,
Which can separate milk from water.

Our lives will not last long and there are many directions in which we can channel them. Just as swans extract the essence from milk and spit out the water, so should we extract the essence from our lives by practicing discriminating wisdom and engaging in activities that benefit both ourselves and others in this and future lives.

Every sentient being aspires to the highest state of happiness and complete freedom from every kind of suffering, but human aims should be higher than those of animals, insects and so forth because we have much greater potential; with our special intellectual capacity we can accomplish many things. As spiritual practitioners, we should strive for happiness and freedom from misery not for ourselves alone but for all sentient beings. We have the intelligence and the ability to practice the methods for realising these goals. We can start from where we are and gradually attain higher levels of being until we attain final perfection. Some people can even attain the highest goal, enlightenment, in a single lifetime.

In the Bodhicaryavatara, the great yogi and bodhisattva Shantideva wrote,

Although we want all happiness,
We ignorantly destroy it, like an enemy.
Although we want no misery,
We rush to create its cause.

What we want and what we do are totally contradictory. The things we do to bring happiness actually cause suffering, misery and trouble. Shantideva says that even though we desire happiness, out of ignorance we destroy its cause as if it were our worst enemy.

According to the Buddha’s teachings, first we must learn, or study. By asking if it’s possible to escape from suffering and find perfect happiness, we open the doors of spiritual inquiry and discover that by putting our effort and wisdom in the right direction, we can indeed experience such goals. This leads us to seek out the path to enlightenment. The Buddha set forth many different levels of teachings. As humans, we can learn these, not just for the sake of learning but in order to put the methods into practice.


What is the cause of happiness? What is the cause of misery? These are important questions in Buddhism. The Buddha pointed out that the fundamental source of all our problems is the wrong conception of the self. We always hold on to some kind of “I,” some sort of egocentric thought, or attitude, and everything we do is based on this wrong conception of the nature of the self. This self-grasping gives rise to attachment to the “I” and self-centeredness, the cherishing of ourselves over all others, all worldly thoughts, and samsara itself. All sentient beings’ problems start here.

This ignorant self-grasping creates all of our attachment to the “I.” From “me” comes “mine” — my property, my body, my mind, my family, my friends, my house, my country, my work and so forth.

From attachment come aversion, anger and hatred for the things that threaten our objects of attachment. Buddhism calls these three — ignorance, attachment and aversion — the three poisons. These delusions are the cause of all our problems; they are our real enemies.

We usually look for enemies outside but Buddhist yogis realise that there are no external enemies; the real enemies are within. Once we have removed ignorance, attachment and aversion we have vanquished our inner enemies. Correct understanding replaces ignorance, pure mind remains, and we see the true nature of the self and all phenomena. The workings of the illusory world no longer occur.

When ignorance has gone, we no longer create mistaken actions. When we act without mistake, we no longer experience the various sufferings — the forces of karma are not engaged. Karma — the actions of the body, speech and mind of sentient beings, together with the seeds they leave on the mind — is brought under control. Since the causes of these actions — ignorance, attachment and aversion — have been destroyed, the actions to which they give rise therefore cease.

Ignorance, attachment and aversion, together with their branches of conceit, jealousy, envy and so forth, are very strong forces. Once they arise, they immediately dominate our mind; we quickly fall under the power of these inner enemies and no longer have any freedom or control. Our inner enemies even cause us to fight with and harm the people we love; they can even cause us to kill our own parents, children and so forth. All conflicts — from those between individual members of a family to international wars between countries — arise from these negative thoughts.

Shantideva said, “There is one cause of all problems.” This is the ignorance that mistakes the actual nature of the self. All sentient beings are similar in that they are all overpowered by this ego-grasping ignorance; however, each of us is also capable of engaging in the yogic practices that refine the mind to the point where it is able to see directly the way things exist.


Buddha himself first studied, then practiced, and finally realised Dharma, achieving enlightenment. He saw the principles of the causes and effects of thought and action and then taught people how to work with these laws in such a way as to gain freedom.

His first teaching was on the four truths as seen by a liberated being: suffering, its cause, liberation and the path to liberation. First we must learn to recognise the sufferings and frustrations that pervade our lives. Then we must know their cause. Thirdly we should know that it is possible to get rid of them, to be completely free. Lastly we must know the truth of the path — the means by which we can gain freedom, the methods of practice that destroy the seeds of suffering from their very root.

There are many elaborate ways of presenting the path, which has led to the development of many schools of Buddhism, such as the Hinayana and Mahayana, but the teachings of the four truths are fundamental to all Buddhist schools; each has its own special methods, but all are based on the four truths. Without the four truths there is neither Hinayana nor Mahayana. All Buddhist schools see suffering as the main problem of existence and ignorance as the main cause of suffering. Without removing ignorance there is no way of achieving liberation from samsara and no way of attaining the perfect enlightenment of buddhahood.


Buddhism talks a lot about non-self or the empty nature of all things. This is a key teaching. The realisation of emptiness was first taught by the Buddha and then widely disseminated by the great teacher Nagarjuna and his successors, who explained the philosophy of the Middle Way—a system of thought free from all extremes. Madhyamikas, as the followers of this system are called, hold that the way things actually exist is free from the extremes of absolute being and non-being; the things we see do not exist in the way that we perceive them.

As for the “I,” our understanding of its nature is also mistaken. This doesn’t mean that there is neither person nor desire. When the Buddha rejected the existence of a self he meant that the self we normally conceive does not exist. Yogis who, through meditation, have developed higher insight have realised the true nature of the self and seen that the “I” exists totally in another way. They have realised the emptiness of the self, which is the key teaching of the Buddha; they have developed the sharp weapon of wisdom that cuts down the poisonous tree of delusion and mental distortion.

To do the same, we must study the teachings, contemplate them carefully and finally investigate our conclusions through meditation. In that way we can realise the true nature of the self. The wisdom realising emptiness cuts the very root of all delusion and puts an end to all suffering; it directly opposes the ignorance that misconceives reality.

Sometimes we can apply more specific antidotes — for example, when anger arises we meditate on compassion; when lust arises we meditate on the impurity of the human body; when attachment to situations arises we meditate on impermanence; and so forth. But even though these antidotes counteract particular delusions they cannot cut their root — for that, we need to realise emptiness.


However, wisdom alone is not enough. No matter how sharp an axe is, it requires a handle and a person to swing it. In the same way, while meditation on emptiness is the key practice, it must be supported and given direction by method. Many Indian masters, including Dharmakirti and Shantideva, have asserted this to be so. For example, meditation upon the four noble truths includes contemplation of sixteen aspects of these truths, such as impermanence, suffering, and so forth. Then, because we must share our world with others there are the meditations on love, compassion and the bodhicitta, the enlightened attitude of wishing for enlightenment in order to be of greatest benefit to others. This introduces the six perfections, or the means of accomplishing enlightenment — generosity, discipline, patience, energy, meditation and wisdom. The first five of these must act as supportive methods in order for the sixth, wisdom, to become stable.


To attain buddhahood the obstacles to the goal have to be completely removed. These obstacles are of two main types: obstacles to liberation, which include the delusions such as attachment, and obstacles to omniscience. When the various delusions have been removed, one becomes an arhat. In Tibetan, arhat [dra-chom-pa] means one who has destroyed [chom] the inner enemy [dra] and has thus gained liberation from all delusions. However, such liberation is not buddhahood.

An arhat is free from samsara, from all misery and suffering, and no longer forced to take a rebirth conditioned by karma and delusion. At present we are strongly under the power of these two forces, being reborn again and again, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. We have little choice or independence in our birth, life, death and rebirth. Negative karma and delusion combine and overpower us again and again. Our freedom is thus greatly limited. It is a circle: occasionally rebirth in a high realm, then in a low world; sometimes an animal, sometimes a human or a god. This is what samsara means. Arhats have achieved complete liberation from this circle; they have broken the circle and gone beyond it. Their lives have become totally pure, totally free. The forces that controlled them have gone and they dwell in a state of emancipation from compulsive experience. Their realisation of shunyata is complete.

On the method side, the arhat has cultivated a path combining meditation on emptiness with meditation on the impermanence of life, karma and its results, the suffering nature of the whole circle of samsara and so forth, but arhatship does not have the perfection of buddhahood.

Compared to our ordinary samsaric life, arhatship is a great attainment, but arhats still have subtle obstacles. Gross mental obstacles such as desire, hatred, ignorance and so forth may have gone but, because they have been active forces within the mind for so long, they leave behind subtle hindrances — subtle habits, or predispositions.

For example, although arhats will not have anger, old habits, such as using harsh words, may persist. They also have a very subtle self-centeredness. Similarly, although arhats will not have ignorance or wrong views, they will not see certain aspects of cause and effect as clearly as a buddha does. Such subtle limitations are called the obstacles to omniscience. In buddhahood, these have been completely removed; not a single obstacle remains. There is both perfect freedom and perfect knowledge.


A buddha has a cause. The cause is a bodhisattva. The bodhisattva trainings are vast: generosity, where we try to help others in various ways; patience, which keeps our mind in a state of calm; diligent perseverance, with which, in order to help other sentient beings, we joyfully undergo the many hardships without hesitation; and many others.

Before attaining buddhahood we have to train as a bodhisattva and cultivate a path uniting method with wisdom. The function of wisdom is to eliminate ignorance; the function of method is to produce the physical and environmental perfections of being.

Buddhahood is endowed with many qualities — perfect body and mind, omniscient knowledge, power and so forth — and from the perfection of the inner qualities a buddha manifests a perfect environment, a “pure land.”

With the ripening of wisdom and method comes the fruit: the wisdom and form bodies of a buddha. The form body, or rupakaya, has two dimensions — sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya — which, with the wisdom body of dharmakaya, constitute the three kayas. The form bodies are not ordinary form; they are purely mental, a reflection or manifestation of the dharmakaya wisdom. From perfect wisdom emerges perfect form.


As we can see from the above examples, the bodhisattva’s activities are based on a motivation very unlike our ordinary attitudes, which are usually selfish and self-centered. In order to attain buddhahood we have to change our mundane thoughts into thoughts of love and compassion for other sentient beings. We have to learn to care, all of the time, on a universal level. Our normal self-centered attitude should be seen as an enemy and a loving and compassionate attitude as the cause of the highest happiness, a real friend of both ourselves and others.

The Mahayana contains a very special practice called “exchanging self for others.” Of course, I can’t change into you or you can’t change into me; that’s not what it means. What we have to change is the attitude of “me first” into the thought of cherishing of others: “Whatever bad things have to happen let them happen to me.” Through meditation we learn to regard self-centeredness as our worst enemy and to transform self-cherishing into love and compassion, until eventually our entire life is dominated by these positive forces. Then everything we do will become beneficial to others; all our actions will naturally become meritorious. This is the influence and power of the bodhisattva’s thought — the bodhi mind, the ultimate flowering of love and compassion into the inspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all other sentient beings.


Love and compassion have the same basic nature but a different reference or application. Compassion is mainly in reference to the problems of beings, the wish to free sentient beings from suffering, whereas love refers to the positive side, the aspiration that all sentient beings have happiness and its cause. Our love and compassion should be equal towards all beings and have the intensity that a loving mother feels towards her only child, taking upon ourselves full responsibility for the well-being of others. That’s how bodhisattvas regard all sentient beings.

However, the bodhi mind is not merely love and compassion. Bodhisattvas see that in order to free sentient beings from misery and give them the highest happiness, they themselves will have to be fully equipped, fully qualified — first they will have to attain perfect buddhahood, total freedom from all obstacles and limitations and complete possession of all power and knowledge. Right now we can’t do much to benefit others. Therefore, for the benefit of other sentient beings, we have to attain enlightenment as quickly as possible. Day and night, everything we do should be done in order to reach perfect enlightenment as soon as we can for the benefit of others.


The thought characterised by this aspiration is called bodhicitta, bodhi mind, the bodhisattva spirit. Unlike our usual self-centered, egotistical thoughts, which lead only to desire, hatred, jealousy, pride and so forth, the bodhisattva way is dominated by love, compassion and the bodhi mind, and if we practice the appropriate meditative techniques, we ourselves will become bodhisattvas. Then, as Shantideva has said, all our ordinary activities — sleeping, walking, eating or whatever — will naturally produce limitless goodness and fulfill the purposes of many sentient beings.


A bodhisattva’s life is very precious and therefore, in order to sustain it, we sleep, eat and do whatever else is necessary to stay alive. Because this is our motivation for eating, every mouthful of food we take gives rise to great merit, equal to the number of the sentient beings in the universe.

In order to ascend the ten bodhisattva stages leading to buddhahood we engage in both method and wisdom: on the basis of bodhicitta we cultivate the realisation of emptiness. Seeing the emptiness of the self, our self-grasping ignorance and attachment cease. We also see all phenomena as empty and, as a result, everything that appears to our mind is seen as illusory, like a magician’s creations.

When a magician conjures up something up, the audience believes that what they see exists. The magician, however, although sees what the audience sees, understands it differently. When he creates a beautiful woman, the men in the audience experience lust; when he creates a frightening animal, the audience gets scared. The magician sees the beautiful woman and the scary animals just as the audience does but he knows that they’re not real, he knows that they’re empty of existing in the way that they appear — their reality is not like the mode of their appearance.

Similarly, bodhisattvas who have seen emptiness see everything as illusory and things that might have caused attachment or aversion to arise in them before can no longer do so.

As Nagarjuna said,

By combining the twofold cause of method and wisdom, bodhisattvas gain the twofold effect of the mental and physical bodies [rupakaya and dharmakaya] of a buddha.

Their accumulation of meritorious energy and wisdom bring them to the first bodhisattva stage, where they directly realise emptiness and overcome the obstacles to liberation. They then use this realisation to progress through the ten bodhisattva levels, eventually eradicating all obstacles to omniscience. They first eliminate the coarse level of ignorance and then, through gradual meditation on method combined with wisdom, attain the perfection of enlightenment.


The main subjects of this discourse — renunciation, emptiness and the bodhi mind — were taught by the Buddha, Nagarjuna and Tsongkhapa and provide the basic texture of the Mahayana path. These three principal aspects of the path are like keys for those who want to attain enlightenment. In terms of method and wisdom, renunciation and the bodhi mind constitute method and meditation on emptiness is wisdom. Method and wisdom are like the two wings of a bird and enable us to fly high in the sky of Dharma. Just as a bird with one wing cannot fly; in order to reach the heights of buddhahood we need the two wings of method and wisdom.


The principal Mahayana method is the bodhi mind. To generate the bodhi mind we must first generate compassion — the aspiration to free sentient beings from suffering, which becomes the basis of our motivation to attain enlightenment. However, as Shantideva pointed out, we must begin with compassion for ourselves. We must want to be free of suffering ourselves before being truly able to want it for others. The spontaneous wish to free ourselves from suffering is renunciation.

But most of us don’t have it. We don’t see the faults of samsara. However, there’s no way to really work for the benefit of others while continuing to be entranced by the pleasures and activities of samsara. Therefore, first we have to generate personal renunciation of samsara — the constant wish to gain freedom from all misery. At the beginning, this is most important. Then we can extend this quality to others as love, compassion and the bodhi mind, which combine as method. When united with the wisdom realising emptiness, we possess the main causes of buddhahood.


Of course, to develop the three principal aspects of the path, we have to proceed step by step. Therefore it’s necessary to study, contemplate and meditate. We should all try to develop a daily meditation practice. Young or old, male or female, regardless of race, we all have the ability to meditate. Anybody can progress through the stages of understanding. The human life is very meaningful and precious but it can be lost to seeking temporary goals such as sensual indulgence, fame, reputation and so forth, which benefit this life alone. Then we’re like animals; we have the goals of the animal world. Even if we don’t make heroic spiritual efforts, we should at least try to get started in the practices that make human life meaningful.

Whatever temporary goals you may set, with bodhichitta they’ll come through effortlessly. And, your ultimate goal of bringing all sentient beings to enlightenment will also come along through the force of bodhichitta. Once you’ve developed engaged bodhichitta, you continually accumulate vast merits and purify negativities whether you’re sleeping, walking, eating, meditating, or doing other activities. And, you should understand that if you put the right effort into the correct meditation methods for generating this, there’s absolutely no reason why you should not succeed in realising bodhichitta in your own mind!

— Ribur Rinpoche








Loving kindness is giving others happiness. Compassion is removing others’ bitterness. Joy is freeing others from suffering.

— His Holiness Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche

Everyday Life Is the Practice
by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche


Leaving everyday life and committing yourself to formal meditation practice is one way to enter the dharma, as demonstrated by the many yogis practicing in remote places and monks and nuns living a simple monastic lifestyle. Perhaps in your own life, you are considering this approach. You may be retired and financially secure and can clearly decide that this is the time to completely commit your life to practice, renouncing your ordinary lifestyle. For most of us in the West, however, it is hard to leave our lives in order to practice dharma. In fact, to do so could cause harm to our family and loved ones. So we have no alternative but to bring our dharma practice fully into our lives, which is just as valid an approach as leaving our life behind to practice dharma.

There are certainly times when you can leave your daily working life — times for learning and for personal retreats — but these events should not be the primary emphasis of your spiritual development. Such special occasions are opportunities to gain a clearer idea of how to practice and to find some perspective as you reflect upon how you are going to integrate practice into your life. But you should not depend on them to grow and achieve liberation.

A conflict may emerge for those of us who pay bills and have children and have an ordinary, beautiful life. We feel creative and self-motivated within our ordinary life. We also know the value of formal practice, yet that sometimes conflicts with family or job responsibilities. On top of that, we don’t even know if we are making progress in our practice, because we feel we are not doing it enough. Many times, with the pressures of daily life, we find ourselves saying “Oh, I didn’t do any formal practice at all last week. I am a bad practitioner. I committed to do this, and now I just dropped everything.” We feel bad about ourselves and our path.

So we end up with a big gap between the reality of our everyday lives and our formal meditation, and big gaps like this are a problem. Because we are consumed by the fact that we are not practicing enough, we don’t apply the antidotes we learned to counteract our habitual patterns. We don’t deepen our experiences of practice. Overall, we are uncertain how to judge the success of our meditation practice. We are not skillful enough to bring the practice into our lives and build a bridge between dharma and the challenges of everyday life, including the many relationships it involves.

To illustrate this gap, I give the example of a friend of mine who wants to have a loving relationship with her mother. Fighting and arguing between them has been a pattern for a long time. Since her mother is quite old, she wants to change this pattern of arguing. She is now determined to make a change. With this in mind, she plans for a wonderful time with her mother on a weekend visit, thinking “I’m going to try my best, take some time off, and spend quality time with my mother. We will go out for dinner and a movie. We’ll relax together and enjoy each other’s company.” On Friday, as she leaves work and drives out of the city, she encounters lots of traffic and arrives late. When she arrives, her mother opens the door with, “You’re late,” followed by, “Oh, what have you done to your hair?” That is just enough to awaken the old karma, the spontaneous manifestation of the same mother and the same daughter, and they are back in the same argument. Sparks fly.


This experience shows that my friend was not really engaging deeply enough in her practice for the change she desired to spontaneously manifest. Intellectually, she wanted it to, but internally things hadn’t really changed. If they had, perhaps she could have responded to her mother’s comments with humour, exaggerating her comment and laughing. “Oh yeah, Mom, my hair. It’s very civilised all week, but come Friday it goes wild.” Some humour, something that changes the direction, is often all it takes. If her practice had ripened in her, or touched her as deeply as her mother’s comments had, she could make that shift. Or perhaps she would not even hear the comment. She would be focusing on putting her bag down and washing up rather than listening for and identifying herself entirely as a target for her mother’s comments.

If we were following the path of leaving daily life in order to practice dharma, perhaps we would be focused on renouncing negative emotions, such as anger. And certainly, if you don’t have anger, you’re not missing anything. But if you do experience anger, it doesn’t help to pretend it’s not there, or to suppress it. Rather, consider how you can give some space to it, because it is already in you, and cultivate its antidote, which is love. Then your anger can actually become the foundation for the achievement of wisdom.

One of the well-known practices in the Bön Buddhist tradition is called the six lokaspractice. While it is a formal meditation practice done on your cushion in a quiet setting, I introduce it because discussing it will help to address how each of us can work to have the results of our formal practice manifest in everyday life. According to the Bön tradition, the six lokas, or six realms, are the actual dimensions of suffering which make up samsara, or cyclic existence, and beings migrate from one to another of these realms through countless lifetimes. It is only through the attainment of buddhahood that one is free from this cycle of birth and death. The underlying cause of the suffering of all of cyclic existence — of each of these realms — is ignorance, or not recognising one’s true nature as open, clear, and perfected. Until you do, you are reborn in a realm if the root cause for that realm drives you as you transition through the bardo, or the stage between one life and the next.

Anger is the root cause to be born as a hell being; greed and attachment leads to the hungry ghost realm; ignorance and doubt are the seeds to be born in the animal realm; jealousy is the root cause of the human realm; pride results in the demi-god realm, and a balanced array of emotions in blissful self-absorption causes one to be born in the god realm. These emotions may be familiar to each of us as troublemakers in our everyday lives. Psychologically, from one moment to the next we may experience ourselves transitioning from one realm to another, driven by conflicting emotions. Certainly, as we look at our families, corporate organisations, and countries, we can observe each of these realms playing out as the various manifestations of human suffering. In fact, the human realm is an ideal place to work with these emotions, to cultivate their antidotes, and to recognise one’s true nature.


In this six lokas practice, the practitioner examines and reflects upon the causes and conditions of the various forms of suffering in cyclic existence. Through visualisation and mantra, the practitioner burns, clears, purifies, and overcomes the causes and results for each of the realms of suffering. Through this practice, we are reminded of the truth of impermanence, we deepen our compassion for the suffering of all beings, and we clear away the obstacles to realising our natural mind, which is Buddha.

Here is a simple description of how the practice works. If you are working with the purification of the hell realm, for example, where the suffering is caused by anger, you reflect deeply on the times in your life when you have acted or spoken driven by anger. You would then take refuge and rouse devotion in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; purify anger and the potential for anger to manifest in the future through a visualisation practice and mantra; and cultivate love, the antidote to anger.

Self-reflection on our negative actions of body, speech, and mind is essential to the practice. We can use the ten precepts — ten actions to be avoided and ten virtues to be cultivated — as a very useful guideline to support self-reflection by considering how we violate the precepts with our body, speech, or mind. For example, we may reflect upon our negative speech by thinking “Driven by anger I spoke harshly to my mother. I am aware of the suffering this action caused. In my spiritual development, changing that behaviour would make a difference.” The precepts allow us to be more definite in seeing and working with our negativity.

You could look at the ten actions to be avoided in relation to greed, the root cause for the suffering of the hungry ghost realm, as you seek to clear the causes and conditions of this realm of suffering. Look at your actions in the past, remembering those times when you were stuck in your version of the hungry ghost realm, feeling incomplete and empty and needing so much to be filled up. You may realise that you gossiped because of an underlying feeling of being inadequate and hungering for attention. Reflecting upon the suffering of yourself and others caused by this action and developing sincere remorse, you can now connect to your inherent open awareness.

This open awareness is represented by the Buddha, and is also at the very foundation of your being. When we take refuge, this is what we are truly taking refuge in. It is this open awareness that allows you to look very closely at the suffering that arises in your life due to being driven by greed and attachment. Then, after reflecting on the nature of greed and how the realm of the hungry ghost manifests in your life, and reflecting that countless others are suffering in this way, you apply the skillful means of visualisation and mantra. The causes and conditions of the suffering are penetrated, destroyed, and purified, and the antidote of generosity is cultivated.

As important as your hour session of meditation is — reflecting on the causes of the hell realm and cultivating the antidote of love, or reflecting on the greed of the hungry ghost realm and cultivating the antidote of generosity — the time when you really grow spiritually is when you are challenged in your life. You grow when your mother opens the door and greets you in that familiar way that invites you to either manifest the seeds of your anger or to exercise your awareness. In the same way that you build muscle when you lift weights, your wisdom muscle is built when you are challenged in life. The challenges are not easily found in a comfortable retreat setting. But they are certainly found in everyday-life settings.

In daily life, there are many times when we unexpectedly encounter problems, and we don’t always greet these encounters joyfully or with strength. Sitting on our meditation cushion is a good time to bring these situations to mind, and then to look directly at those encounters, with the support of our refuge in the Buddha as open awareness. In order to bring the fruit of practice into the realities of everyday life, it is important to look deeply and directly at yourself, to examine your actions of body, speech, and mind. The teachings and practices give you ways to overcome and transform negative emotions, so you can examine yourself with confidence. It is not the case that the closer you look the scarier it gets.

You also do not take this opportunity for reflection as a means to over-analyse your behaviour or to develop guilt. You look closely and directly because you feel like a warrior. You can look at your life with strength, with power, with motivation, and with a solution. Because you have a means to transform your life, you actually feel grateful when you can see your stuck places, rather than being fearful, overly intellectual, or guilt-ridden.


By looking closely with the bravery of a warrior, we can grow and transform the self that encounters issues and problems in life. We can shift from being driven by anger or greed or ignorance to abiding in the open space of awareness. We may discover that in this open space of awareness, the antidotes of love, generosity, clarity, openness, peacefulness, and joyful effort naturally and spontaneously arise.

If you are ripened through your practice, if you have allowed your practice to touch those places of weakness in you, when anger arises in daily life, you will not be driven by that anger. In the best case, anger becomes the fuel for the spontaneous expression of love or kindness, or at the very least, you may find some space to host that anger without being driven by it.

In order to love fully, you need to understand the wisdom of emptiness, which I often translate as openness. Openness is the ground of our being. But how do you actually become more open in the face of anger? I have clear advice: keep silent; don’t act. Usually we think acting out is a way of taking care of things when we are angry. “I really have to speak up about this!” Instead, create space by not acting. Give more time. You may think that not acting sounds too simple, but that is my advice. If you are able to give time, you will create space. If you are not able to give time, if you are not able to not act, you will have driven actions, driven speech, and driven thoughts, all of which result in the ten negative actions to be avoided. Instead, guide your actions, speech, and thoughts with the antidotes and with the ten virtues. Guide yourself rather than being driven by your emotions. To make this possible, you must give time, even though it is sometimes very hard. When people are angry, they have to do, do, do! How fast you feel the urge to act is often the clear message that it is not time to act. The thought “Now I have to act” is a clear message that you need to allow more time and space. And when you give space, you often make the amazing discovery that you don’t have to say or do anything. Have you felt that?

If your practice is ripened, awareness is spontaneous. If your practice is not that ripened, a little conscious effort is useful. When you reflect on your life, you try to prepare the causes and conditions for ripening. When you take personal time to practice, you build the foundation and reflect, so you are ready, or almost ready, to change something in your life. When a situation that challenges you arises, you apply a little extra effort to shift your behavior and make the change. Once things change, the benefit of change itself brings power to your awareness, and the next time a challenging situation arises, your awareness is stronger, and you need less effort to shift your behaviour. In this way you experience the completion or the result of your practice in your everyday life.


The gap between the opening of your heart in your practice and seeing the fruit in results in your daily life is a very important gap to bridge. We have already discussed reflecting upon our challenges and bringing this reflection to the cushion, looking directly with open awareness at our emotions and conflicts. When we have developed our practice of reflecting with openness, we must keep creating bridges between our practice and our behaviour, so that we can make changes in our lives. Perhaps we experience love, but it is only half-ripened, and so a little encouragement to manifest that love would be nice. If you can manifest love in your kitchen or your workplace or with colleagues or with your family, if love can manifest in those particular situations where it seems necessary, that will be a practice. It is not a formal practice, but definitely it is a practice. I would give more credit to those times when you are conscious and aware even when you are challenged and pushed. In those cases, your spiritual muscles are exercised. When you pay attention to the difficult places and are able to shift them, that is great joy. You can see right in front of your eyes the areas where you have difficulty and the shifts you are able to make.

Perhaps as you have grown through your meditation practice, you have learned to be nice where otherwise you were not. Think of that as a practice, instead of thinking, “I missed my practice, my half-hour of sleepy meditation, this morning.” What is the big deal of missing that meditation when you have been kind to somebody in that difficult situation? Consider the success of your day rather than the failure of missing a session of practice. It is important to think, “Yes! I am practicing!” The idea of feeling guilty and inadequate because you are not on the cushion doing your silent meditation is not useful.

I’m not saying formal practice is not important. It is. But we can expand our notion of practice in order to bring the results into everyday life. If we look closely at our lives, we always have time to practice. Do I need to meditate quietly in order to create a little extra problem to work with? No, the long line for the security check at the airport is perfect. I can get agitated and manifest my six realms there — and in many other places — quite easily. In terms of the practice, that time is completely available to practice the virtues and the antidotes. That time becomes wonderful practice as you live your everyday life, conscious and working with the situations of life, and your formal practice supports you to make the changes that benefit you and others.

The biggest supernatural power is to find one’s own mistakes and correct them.

— Droge Yonten Gyatso Rinpoche