Last time, someone approached me for blessings, I told him I wouldn’t be able to give him blessings; blessings cannot be obtained from external parties. I told him that there are many impoverished, hungry children outside who are in need of food, education and others, and that if he could help these children receive education and to obtain good meals, he definitely would receive the blessings he is seeking!

— His Holiness the Dalai Lama







Instead of curses, the parents embraced their wayward children with love. They viewed everything that had happened as their own karma. Rather than being angry or depressed, they responded wisely entrusting everything back to their true nature, and freed their children from ignorance and misguided views.

Although we do things for others, ultimately we are the one who will benefit. If we do something harmful, it doesn’t just fade away. Eventually, it will all return to us.

Understanding this, one will be diligent and do one’s very best; one will be utterly sincere with everything that arises in one’s life. Then the things you do for others will also benefit you.

If you only think about yourself and your own difficulties, while ignoring the situation of those around you, how is this correct? Even if you have only a little to eat, share it with those who have less. If everyone practises like this, there will be more than enough for everyone.

— Zen Master Daehaeng

How to Get to the Heart of Buddhadharma
by Khen Rinpoche Geshe Chonyi

Whenever you listen to an explanation of the Dharma, as you are doing now, it is very important that you reflect and analyse as you listen to what is being said. This is extremely important. If you only listen to what is being said without thinking at all, without reflecting or analysing, then there is no way you are going to learn anything.

In the process of educating yourself, when you are learning the Dharma and hearing an explanation, you have to simultaneously analyse as you listen. Without such analysis, you will not be able to check whether you understand what is being taught or not. If you don’t think about it, you will not be able to see whether you agree with what is being said or not.

While thinking as you listen to the teachings, if you find points that are objectionable to you or that you cannot agree with, then you need to bring them up and ask me. You pose a question: “Why did you say that? Is that correct? Is that wrong?”

When you are dealing with Buddhist philosophy and looking at the great treatises, in order to understand what is in the text, you have to reflect and analyse in order to understand its meaning. Otherwise, there is no way to understand these topics at all. When you engage in studying these topics, you have to try your best. Your mind has to be very alert in seeking out the answer through analysis and reflection.


The first line in the “Vajra Cutter Sutra”: “A star, a visual aberration, a flame of a lamp,” is an introduction to what constitutes reality. The whole of reality, anything and everything that exist, can be included in the two truths. So this is the introduction to the basis.

It is stated in the teachings that if we do not understand the basis, what constitutes reality, especially in terms of the presentation of the two truths, we will not discover and understand well the intent of the Buddha and his teachings. In order to understand well the intent of the Buddha and the intent of his teachings, we need a good grasp of the two truths. When we have a good grasp of the two truths, we will be able to complete the accumulation of the two collections. With that, we will achieve enlightenment. These are the benefits of having a good grasp of the two truths.

This is how it is presented in the teachings in terms of the basis, the path, and the result. The basis is the two truths. The path is the method and wisdom. The result is the two bodies: the truth body and the form body.

It is so important to have some idea of the two truths. This is why I am repeating this over and over again, saying the same thing in different ways. The two truths are the bedrock or foundation for everything else. The purpose of repeating myself over and over again is to emphasise their importance. You should also think about them over and over again.

If somebody were to ask you what the two truths are, at least you should be able to say decisively, “The two truths mean this; these are their names and this is what they are.” At the very minimum, you must be able to say this. It doesn’t matter who is asking this question about reality or the two truths or how they phrase their question. You should be able to deliver a definitive answer. That means you don’t have one answer for one person and another answer for another person. Your answer should be a standard answer, which is reflective of reality.

There are many people who are easily swayed. This means that if somebody says, “It is like that,” these people would agree readily, “Yes! Yes! It is like that.” When another person says something completely different, they will also say, “Yes! Yes! You are right. It is like that.” Their understanding is not stable at all!

What I am trying to say is, that whatever understanding we gain from our studies, the conclusion we arrive at must be firm and unshakeable. We must be convinced of the conclusion we arrive at. This is one point I want to drive home. I am not saying that we should aim to be foolishly stubborn. Being decisive and holding on firmly to a position is not being foolishly stubborn: “This is so because my guru said so! Therefore, it has to be so.” It should never be like that. Your decisiveness comes from having thought thoroughly about the subject matter. You understand what you are saying because you have thought about it and you know that your position is backed up by reason.

The result of learning and reflection should be this kind of decisive, unshakeable conclusion. This is especially important when we are dealing with Buddhist philosophy. The end result we are aiming for must be like that. We cannot be wishy-washy with our command of the topic.

What I am presenting here is not something new. You have already studied the tenets that cover the Great Exposition School, the Sutra School, the Mind Only School and the Middle Way School. Each of them has their own assertions of what the two truths are. If you remember what you have studied, this should not be anything new to you.

You have to know the presentation of the two truths from the perspectives of these four Buddhist tenets. With an understanding of the presentation of the two truths by the lower schools, only then will you see how the presentation of the two truths according to the higher schools is special, unique and extraordinary.


Although we don’t like suffering, we experience suffering in many ways. There has to be an answer to that. We don’t like it, yet it keeps on coming our way. We get angry and we have attachment for all kinds of things. We don’t like to be upset and we don’t like to be angry, yet anger still arises. Why? There has to be an answer. We can talk about reality, “Reality is these two truths. It is this and that.” But we still have to answer the question, “Why do we get upset? Why does attachment arise?”

When you hear an explanation like this, this is the way to listen to a teaching. For example, I had just asked the question: “Why do we get upset? Why does attachment arise?” At the same time, you should be analysing my question. You should not just sit there, thinking, “He is asking why we are angry.” You have to ask yourself the question, think about it and look for the answer. This is why there is an art to learning and studying the Dharma and an art to listening to the teachings. It is not just sitting there and registering the words you hear.

If you don’t think about what you have read or heard, it is impossible to develop any insights or understanding. Often people think, “You are saying this again. I have already heard this before many times. I already know this as you have said it numberless times already.” With this kind of attitude, not putting effort into analysing what you have studied or heard, you will not taste the Dharma. The Dharma will not go into you. And this is why you don’t change. This is the problem.

We should ask ourselves this. Many of us, if not all of us here, have heard numberless teachings over many years but nothing much has happened, isn’t that right? It is important then to ask our selves, “Where does the problem lie? What happened?” This absence of change despite having heard so many teachings over so many years is not due to a shortage of teachings. It is not due to experiencing the poverty of Dharma teachings. It is also not the fault of the teachings themselves. If we analyse and think carefully, it is evident that we have never ever seriously analysed what we have heard and what we have read. The problem comes from that lack of reflection, just listening to teachings and reading but no reflection at all.


It is said in the teachings that when we look at our own or someone else’s body, the body appears to be something solid right there, whether we call it an inherently existent or truly existent pleasant body. Furthermore, we assent to that appearance.

When we see somebody that we dislike, what is the basis for our unhappiness with that person? It is just the mere appearance of the body of that person that makes us feel uneasy. It is said in the teachings that our feeling of unhappiness is based on our belief that there is a bad and terrible person existing right there from its own side. Whether this is true remains to be seen from our own experience. We have to think about this.

The big question pertains to our object of attachment, say the body of another person. In the view of that attachment, that attractive body appears to that mind of attachment in a certain way. The big question is this: “Yes, this is how this body is appearing to me, but is that representative of how that body actually exists?” We have to think about this deeply.

Likewise, with regard to the enemy or the person we dislike so much, in the view of that mind of aversion or anger, that enemy or bad person appears in a certain way. Is that appearance indicative of how that person actually exists? This is what we must investigate.

The correct conclusion from thinking about what I have just said should be the same as what the line, “Form is empty” [from the “Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra”] is trying to convey. We say that things do not exist in and of themselves, although they may appear in that way, be it our object of aversion or object of attachment. Applying the line, “Form is empty”, to our enemy or object of attachment, that person does not exist in the way that our anger or attachment believes it to exist. Just by understanding well that our enemy or friend does not exist in the way they appear and the way our mind believes them to exist, our emotion, be it anger or attachment, will be reduced substantially. There is no force behind that anger or attachment anymore. When we develop this understanding, it is said that not only are those emotions subdued but we can eradicate those emotions completely because there is no longer any basis for them to arise.

Sometimes, when adults play games with children, they clench their fists and pretend to be holding something in them. Then they tell the children, “I am holding something special in my hand. If you can guess what it is, then it is yours.” The children become excited and fantasise about what the special object may be. They look forward to getting that object inside the fist.

Actually, there is nothing there.

Likewise, we are like those children in that we imbue so many hopes and expectations onto the object we are clinging to, be it the enemy or friend. This can only lead to either very strong aversion or very strong clinging. At the end of the day, however, we are clinging on to nothing. We are getting upset with nothing. We are just like the child who is so excited over that empty fist. When the fist opens up, there is nothing there.

This is very clear evidence that we have been suffering and we will continue to suffer over nothing. Due to our hallucinated view, while there is nothing there, we think that it is everything although reality is not like that. Reality exists in terms of the two truths. Not knowing that all phenomena are empty and exist only in mere name, we lead life based on our made-up reality. Our hallucinated mind is the bedrock of all our views. Based on that, we lead our lives believing whatever our hallucinations tell us to be true. While they are not true, we think they are true and correct. We accept whatever appears to our mind. “The person appears like this. The object appears like that then it has to be like that. What I think is correct. How it appears to me is correct. There is nothing more than that. There is no other possibility for reality.” This is how we lead our lives. Based on this hallucination, we create our suffering life.


This is why it is so important to gain an understanding of reality and what actually exists. Because we don’t know this at all, this is why we suffer so much and we continue to be in samsara. If we don’t understand the two truths, we will never see the icing on top of the cake, the most delicious part of the entire Buddhadharma.

What is the essence, the very heart, of the entire Buddhadharma? If we don’t understand the two truths, there is no way to see the intent of the Buddha. Without understanding the two truths, there is no way to see how the Buddhadharma is truly in a class of its own. We will not be able to see how special, extraordinary and different it is from other beliefs and traditions. Appreciating the wonderful and special qualities of the Buddhadharma can only come from understanding well the presentation of the two truths, the Buddha’s explanation of what reality is. This is a hallmark of Buddhism that truly sets Buddhism apart from all other traditions.

Arya Nagarjuna said in his “Essay on the Spirit of Enlightenment”, that when one comes to understand the emptiness of all phenomena — how things do not exist inherently — and at the same time, is able to explain how actions can give rise to their effects, when you have the realisation that emptiness is complementary with the working of karma and its effects, that realisation is beyond marvellous and exceedingly amazing.

Many people think that they have some understanding of emptiness. Yet, they are the very people who assert that since everything is empty, there is no karma because that is empty too. That is why there is no karma and no effects. This is no way to understand the heart of the Buddhadharma.

Mind acts like a crazy monkey. When a monkey sees something it has to grab it immediately. When it sees something else it drops the first thing and jumps to the new object of interest. Our mind is similar. Because of our obsession with objects of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, it keeps us busy all the time. There is not even a second of rest for the mind.

— The Buddha













From karma the various worlds arise.

— Vasubandhu

Various Aspects of Tantra
by Trijang Rinpoche


Although some scholars have maintained that Buddhist tantra was derived from Hinduism, this is not correct. This theory, prevalent among those who adhere to the tenets of the Hinayana, is based on a superficial resemblance of various elements of the two systems, such as the forms of the deities, the meditations on psychic channels and winds, the fire rituals and so forth. Though certain practices, like the repetition of mantras, are common to both the Hindu and Buddhist tantric traditions, their interpretation — their inner meaning — is vastly different. Furthermore, Buddhist tantra is superior because, unlike Hinduism, it contains the three principal aspects of the path: renunciation, bodhicitta and the right view of emptiness.

As even animals want freedom from suffering, there are non-Buddhist practitioners who want to be free from contaminated feelings of happiness and therefore cultivate the preparatory state of the fourth meditative absorption. There are even some non-Buddhist meditators who temporarily renounce contaminated feelings of happiness and attain levels higher than the four absorptions. However, only Buddhists renounce all of these as well as neutral feelings and all-pervasive suffering. Then, by meditating on the sufferings together with their causes, the mental defilements, they can be abandoned forever. This explains why, even though non-Buddhists meditate on the form and formless states and attain the peak of worldly existence, they cannot abandon the mental defilements of this state. Therefore, when they meet with the right circumstances, anger and the other delusions manifest, karma is created and they remain in cyclic existence.

Because of this and similar reasons, such practices are not fit to be included in the Mahayana. They resemble neither the practices of the common sutra path [Sutrayana, or Paramitayana] — which comprises renunciation, yearning for freedom from the whole of cyclic existence; the wisdom correctly understanding emptiness, the right view, which is the antidote to ignorance, the root of cyclic existence; and bodhicitta, the mind determined to reach enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings — nor those of the exclusive Buddhist tantric path of the Great Vehicle [Vajrayana, Tantrayana, or Mantrayana].


The tantras were taught by the Buddha himself in the form of his supreme manifestation as a monk, as the great Vajradhara and in various manifestations of the central deity of specific mandalas. The great beings Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Vajrapani and others, urged by the Buddha, also taught some tantras.

In terms of the four classes of tantra, the Kriya [Action] tantras were taught by the Buddha in the form of a monk in the realm of the thirty-three gods on the summit of Mt. Meru and in the human world, where Manjushri and others were the chief hearers. The tantras requested by the bodhisattva Pungzang were taught in the realm of Vajrapani. Others were taught by the Buddha himself and, with his blessings, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani. There were also some that were spoken by worldly gods.

The Charya [Performance] tantras were taught by the Buddha in the form of his supreme manifestation in the celestial realms and in the realm called Base and Essence Adorned with Flowers.

The Yoga tantras were taught by the Buddha when he arose in the form of the central deity of each mandala in such places as the summit of Mt. Meru and in the fifth celestial realm of desire.

The Anuttara tantras were also taught by the Buddha. In the land of Ögyan, having manifested the mandala of Guhyasamaja, he taught this tantra to King Indrabodhi. The Buddha taught the Yamantaka tantras at the time of the subduing of the demonic forces, when they were requested by either the consort of Yamantaka or the consort of Kalachakra. He taught the Hevajra tantra when he arose in the form of Hevajra in the land of Madgadha at the time of destroying the four maras; it was requested by Vajragarbha and the consort of Hevajra. Having been requested by Vajrayogini, the Buddha manifested as Heruka and taught the root tantra of Heruka on the summit of Mt. Meru, and when requested by Vajrapani, taught the explanatory tantra. As for the Kalachakra tantra, which was requested by King Suchandra, a manifestation of Vajrapani, the mighty Buddha went to the glorious shrine of Dhanyakataka in south India and, manifesting the mandala of the Dharmadhatu speech surmounted by the mandala of Kalachakra, taught it there.

Although he appeared in many different manifestations, the tantras were actually taught by the enlightened teacher, Lord Buddha.


There are many differences, some great and some small, in the initiations of each of the four classes of tantra. Therefore, one initiation is not sufficient for all mandalas. When receiving an initiation from a qualified master, certain fortunate and qualified disciples develop the wisdom of the initiation in their mind streams. Otherwise, sitting in on an initiation, experiencing the vase, water and other initiations, will plant imprints to listen to Dharma in your mind but not much else will happen. Still, you need an initiation if you want to study tantra. If the secrets of tantra are explained to somebody who has not received an initiation, the guru commits the seventh tantric root downfall and the explanation is of no benefit whatsoever to the disciple.


Regarding renunciation and bodhicitta, there is no difference between Sutrayana and Tantrayana, but regarding conduct there is. Three kinds of conduct have been taught: disciples who admire and have faith in the Hinayana should separate themselves from all desires; disciples who admire the Sutrayana should traverse the stages and practice the perfections; those who admire the deep teachings of the Tantrayana should work with the conduct of the path of desire.

From the point of view of the philosophy, there is no difference in emptiness as an object of cognition but there is a difference in the method of its realisation. In the sutra tradition, the conscious mind engages in meditative equipoise on emptiness; in tantra, the innate wisdom, an extremely subtle mind, is involved — the difference, therefore, is great. The main practice of Sutrayana, engaging in the path as a cause to achieve the form and wisdom bodies of a buddha, is the accumulation of wisdom and merit for three countless eons and the accomplishment of one’s own buddha fields. Therefore, Sutrayana is known as the causal vehicle.

In tantra, even when still a beginner, one concentrates and meditates on the four complete purities that are similar to the result — the completely pure body, pure realm, pure possessions and pure deeds of an enlightened being. Thus, tantra is known as the resultant vehicle.


With respect to sutra, the explanation of the Hinayana and Mahayana is the same in all the four great traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Also, as far as the preliminary practices are concerned, there are no differences apart from the names. In the Gelug tradition they are called “the stages of the path of the three scopes”; in the Kagyü they are known as “the four ways to change the mind”; in the Drigung Kagyü as “the four Dharmas of Dagpa and the five of Drigung”; and the Sakya refer to “separation from the four attachments.” [Kyabje Rinpoche did not refer to the Nyingma tradition here.]

With respect to tantra, the individual master’s way of leading the disciples on the path depends on his experience and the instructions of the root texts and the commentaries of the great practitioners. Accordingly, the entrance into practice is taught a little differently. However, all are the same in that they lead to the final attainment of the state of Varjadhara.

It’s not okay to be full of opinions and always having all these opinions and concepts because those would just be carried on with you. And so rather than that, you should make sure your mind turns to Dharma rather than worrying about what other people are doing, forming all these opinions about that. You should be thinking and reminding yourself, “Is my mind turning to Dharma with each passing day? Have I improved myself? Is my path turning to virtues? How much negative karma am I accumulating? What are my faults?” Check out on yourself. Don’t check the faults of others. Don’t spend your time checking and faulting others but fault yourself. Examine yourself continuously and self-adjust. Self-adjust with each and every passing day because you are an ordinary person. This is something you have to do in order to break free from this cycle. So please take this to heart.

— Yangthang Rinpoche