Rejoicing is the best
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

The fourth limb of the seven-limb practice is rejoicing. This is a very important practice and we should do it each day as many times as possible. It is the easiest way to accumulate merit. By doing this practice we can accumulate merit as infinite as space. Rejoicing increases merit, like investing $100 and then constantly receiving interest until we have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and then millions of dollars. When we rejoice, the merit increases greatly.

It is said in the teachings that among the virtues, or good karmas, the best one to practice is rejoicing. In other words, if we want to create good luck, rejoicing is the best way. People usually think that luck is something that comes from its own side. That’s completely wrong. It is not that luck suddenly comes from outside, without our having to create it. Luck comes from our mind. If we experience good luck, it’s luck that we have created with our mind. If we are going to experience luck, we have to have created it. There is no way we can experience luck that other people have created or independent luck, which has no creator. We create our own luck by having faith in karma and by knowing how to practice Dharma. With the seven-limb practice, mandala offering, bodhicitta, meditation on emptiness and the various other practices, as well as with Vajrayana practice, we create so much good luck.

Among the virtues, rejoicing is the best, because it is the easiest one to practice. It simply involves our mind thinking, and the merit we accumulate is infinite. If we rejoice in our own merit, we accumulate more merit than we actually accumulated by doing the virtuous action. When we rejoice in the merit of other sentient beings, if their level of mind is lower than ours, we accumulate more merit than they accumulated; but if their level of mind is higher than ours, we get half or a quarter of that merit. If we rejoice in the merit one bodhisattva accumulates in one day, we accumulate half or a quarter of that merit. If we were going to accumulate the merit that one bodhisattva accumulates in one day, it would take us 15,000 years without rejoicing, but by rejoicing we can accumulate in a few seconds the merit that would otherwise have taken us 15,000 years.

Generally in our life we should practice rejoicing as much as possible. We should rejoice whenever we see good things happening to other people. When other people develop their Dharma practice and have realisations, have education, wealth, happy families or many friends, we should always think how wonderful it is. When somebody succeeds in business or any other good thing happens to them, we should always rejoice, thinking, “How good it is! How wonderful it is!” It then becomes the best business for us. Why? Because by rejoicing we are creating the cause for success, success in our Dharma practice, success in benefiting sentient beings and the teachings, and success in even the ordinary activities of this life. By rejoicing, we are creating the best cause for success. But if we feel jealous of other people’s success, which is the opposite of rejoicing, we create obstacles for our own success. It is important to understand this and to practice rejoicing.

We should feel as happy as a beggar who has unexpectedly found a million dollars in the garbage. You can’t believe it. It’s like a dream. There is no way to experience happiness without good karma. That is natural, a dependent arising. Without good karma, there is no way to experience happiness or success at all. All happiness, up to the happiness of enlightenment, comes only from good karma; therefore, it is extremely precious.

With this awareness, we should rejoice. Think, “How wonderful it is that I’ve accumulated so much merit in the past, in the present and in the future.” Think this twenty-one times. Practice it right now.

Then practice rejoicing in the merit of other sentient beings, particularly that of bodhisattvas. I mentioned before the great profit that comes from rejoicing in the merit that one bodhisattva accumulates in one day. Then rejoice in the merits of the three times [past, present and future] of all the buddhas. They create so much merit in the three times, which results in so much happiness, including the achievement of enlightenment. Again think, “How wonderful it is! How wonderful it is! How wonderful it is!” Count your repetitions.

Sentient beings normally create negative karma and it’s very difficult and very rare for them to create good karma, or virtue. We should feel much happiness because it is only through their own practice of good karma that they can have happiness. We should cause them to accumulate merit, but how wonderful it is that they are putting effort from their own side into accumulating merit.

When you rejoice in the merit of other sentient beings, if it is more comfortable for your mind, rejoice first of all in those to the east, then to the south, then west, then north, then up and down. Rejoice in that way if you find it more comfortable.

Then rejoice in all the people in Tibet who have accumulated merit in the three times. After that, rejoice in all the people in Nepal who have accumulated merit in the three times. Then rejoice in all the people in India who have practiced virtue and accumulated merit in the three times. In Dharamsala, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama lives, so many people, both lay and ordained, are practicing Dharma. Then think of all the other Buddhist countries and rejoice in all their merits of the three times. Then think of all the sentient beings in the whole world. You can also be more specific. This makes it even easier to rejoice, because you relate to particular people in each country.

To practice rejoicing is very enjoyable, because when you rejoice your mind is happy. It is easy for your mind to get upset, angry or jealous when you don’t rejoice in your own merit and good things and in other people having good things. If you don’t rejoice, your mind is unhappy; but if you rejoice, you naturally have a happy mind.

Rejoicing is the specific remedy for jealousy, so if you feel a lot of jealousy, you should practice rejoicing. The result of rejoicing is that you achieve a buddha’s holy body, which has no ugliness, only beauty. Rejoicing is something you can practice while you are eating, while you are walking, while you are lying down, while you are working. You can do it even when your body is engaged in doing something else.

It might be good to rejoice in your own merit in one session and then rejoice in the merit of others in the next session. It’s very good to count on a mala. Or in the first session you could rejoice more in your own merit, then rejoice in other’s merit one time at the end; in the second session you could rejoice more in others’ merit, then rejoice one time in your own merit. You can do it in different ways.

Among those [consciousnesses], mentation is twofold. Since it is the support that acts as the immediate condition, the “mentation which is [any] consciousness that has just ceased” is the support for [the arising of] consciousness. The second is the afflicted mind, which is always congruently associated with the four afflictions of the views about a real personality, self-conceit, attachment to the self, and ignorance. This is the support for the afflictedness of consciousness. [Thus,] consciousness is produced by virtue of the first [aspect of mentation] as its support, while the second one makes it afflicted. [mentation] is a consciousness, because it cognises objects. Since it is [both] immediately preceding and self-centered, mentation has two aspects.

— Asanga

持戒念弥陀 安然得解脱


善知戒律 端心正意





第四,戒律的圆融性和可悔性。 很多人对戒律可谓既爱又怕,一边想好好学戒、守戒,一边呢,觉得自己条件所限,可能会触犯戒律,觉得犯戒是造业,罪很重,因此不敢受戒。其实,这种担忧大可放下。戒律并不是死板和教条的,戒条有开、遮、持、犯及圆融的一面,比如当我们无法一下子全受五戒的时候,可以先选择自己有能力受持的部分先受,再慢慢圆满;比如我们受了不杀生戒,但是无奈的情况下,吃三净肉并不直接犯杀戒;不妄语戒在救度众生的基础上有方便妄语等,当然这些特别的开缘并非鼓励大家去轻慢和毁犯戒律,而是在业力拘缚情况下的两害相权取其轻,当慎重之,明辨之。 同时,持守戒律不清净时,可以忏悔,透过忏悔清净过失或罪业,继续努力,不断进步。凡夫有妄想执著,很难戒如冰雪、纤毫不犯,但守住根本大戒,其他的可以在生活和修学中不断学习,不断完善。就好比孔子七十才不逾矩,我们只要用心,随着自身的努力和三宝的加持,戒律的持守必会慢慢地如法起来,会有云开日朗的一天,应当生起信心和欢喜心。

第五,戒律的自律性和自由性。戒律往往被视为约束性质的内容,很多人认为受持戒律之后,工作、生活和修学会遇到相当多的不允许,不能杀生、不能说脏话、不能欺骗、不能喝酒、不能……种种的不能带来很多痛苦和无奈,因此,不愿意去持戒,觉得不持戒会更自在一些。其实,这个观点是错误的。当我们不持戒的时候,难道杀生、 说脏话、欺骗、喝酒就没有罪过吗?杀生断 人命,脏话惹人烦,欺骗伤人心,喝酒害人身,都会产生不吉祥的恶报,损福折寿,堕落深渊,被业力越缠越紧,得不到身心的自在和欢喜。反之,如果我们持守戒律,行事有度,那么习惯成自然,戒律会成为下意识 的自律标准,不仅避免了造很多业,还能增上智慧福德,得到身心安泰,自在吉祥,生活、工作和修学如空中月,出于云翳,一路顺利。


持戒念佛 知行合一




第三,我们的祖师大德也以身垂范,持戒念佛,良好的传统和家风,给我们留下了不少脍炙人口的佳话。如:净土宗初祖慧远大师临终时,弟子们请大师喝一些药酒,大师不喝;又请求喝米汁,还是不喝;最后请喝蜜水。大师令解说戒律的僧人,翻阅律文,看是否能喝,律文未翻完就圆寂了。净土宗二祖善导大师护持戒品,纤毫不犯,且从不举目视女人。净土宗六祖永明大师重视戒律,尤重菩萨戒,并以菩萨戒,为往生重要资粮。净土宗八祖莲池大师以戒律为根本,以净业为指归,整饬清规,精严律制, 并亲自著述,阐发戒律精义,布萨羯磨,举功过,行赏罚,丝毫无错。净土宗九祖蕅益大师目睹当时律学多讹,不重戒律,遂以弘律自任,撰述《重治毗尼事义集要》、《梵 网合注》等。净土宗十一祖省庵大师到普仁寺,见一僧人仆地而死,瞿然悟世无常,修持益加精进。严持戒律,不离衣钵,日止一食,胁不贴席,终生不懈,大师遵莲池大师持戒念佛之遗风,一生以“行在梵网,志 在西方”自励。净土宗十三祖印光大师自述:“至湖北莲华寺,讨一最苦之行单…… 次年四月副寺回去,库头有病,和尚见光诚实,令照应库房。银钱帐算,和尚自了。光初出家,见‘杨岐灯盏明千古,宝寿生姜辣万年’之对,并《沙弥律》,言盗用常住财物之报,心甚凛凛。凡整理糖食,手有粘及气味者,均不敢用口舌舔食,但以纸揩而已。”《文钞》内,印光大师反复叮嘱大众持戒念佛,强调戒为基址,净为归宿。诸位祖师,以身垂范,慈悲至极,无以复加。

再看我们熟悉的寄心净土的高僧,如马鸣菩萨、龙树菩萨、昙鸾大师、道绰大师、 圆照禅师、憨山大师、中峰禅师、楚石大师等都是严持戒律之高僧,乃至《净土圣贤录》、《近代往生随闻录》等著作中提到的往生者大都持戒念佛,清净三业,留下了光辉的榜样力量。

如今,虽然时代不古,持戒念佛的内因和外缘都远不如古时清净与自在,往往业风吹袭,令我们无所 适从,虽有心持戒, 往往感叹力犹不足。 其实,我们应该正视这些问题,不能因此 而因噎废食,自暴自弃,虽然环境的改变给我们持戒带来了这样那样的困难,但戒律在原则上,也有时代性的融通和善巧,比如:交通工具的便捷使受戒变得方便,印刷和媒体的发达使学戒的资料容易获取,通过购买食品避免了自己耕田伤害众生……总而言之,戒律不会因为时代的改变而消失,戒德不会因为时代的 改变而减损,我们通过积极的心态和用心的方式,沿着前贤的足迹,随缘随分、随心随力地认真践行持戒念佛,如法修行,必能得到理想的善果,解脱的希望,克成净业,早证菩提。

佛在世时,以佛为师;佛灭度后,以戒为师。诸佛法戒,蕴含自行化他、乃至阿耨多罗三藐三菩提之资粮,《梵网经》云:“ 佛灭度后于像法中,应当尊敬波罗提木叉。波罗提木叉者即是此戒,持此戒时如暗遇明,如贫得宝,如病者得瘥,如囚系出狱,如远行者得归。当知此则是众等大师,若佛住世无异此也。”《四十二章经》云:“ 佛言:弟子去,离吾数千里,意念吾戒必得道。若在吾侧,意在邪,终不得道。”这些法语都是佛陀慈悲的谆谆叮咛,切切提醒。 古德云:“唯菩提之植种,仰戒律以培根,诚为正法之堤防,永作心宗之城堑。”愿大家皆能正视戒律,持戒念佛,精进修持,海会相期。

Obstacles arise. If you deal with them through kindness – without trying to escape – then you have real freedom.

— Akong Rinpoche

The Importance of Study
by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

I would like to simply offer some general suggestions related to the dharma. I think that in what I have to say there will be a few essential points that will be helpful to hear, and if you listen well they will be beneficial to you. For those of us who are gathered here as followers of the Kagyu tradition, it is very important to have a pure motivation in coming here, because we are only able to gather like this for a very short period of time out of each year.

Today, I would like to talk a little bit about study and education. In general, study and education are indispensable elements for everyone. Many reasons are given as to why study is important, and among these are the teachings of the protector Maitreya in his ‘Ornament of Mahayana Sutras’. In this text, Maitreya says that buddhahood is attainable only through studying the five fields of knowledge. Without studying these, he says, there is no way we can attain buddhahood. This is indeed very true. We shouldn’t expect to attain buddhahood and higher understanding without undertaking a process of learning and study.

It is important to work hard and apply diligence to the process of learning. As has been taught by the Buddha, and as can be proven through reasoning, all sentient beings (everyone endowed with a mind) have one thing in common. What is that one thing? Suffering. All beings find suffering undesirable. The Buddha, with his omniscient wisdom, discovered that the ultimate cause for that suffering is ignorance, or not knowing. If we ask what is the antidote for such ignorance or not knowing, we find that the antidote can be found in the opposite of ignorance, which is knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, in order to overcome ignorance, we need to develop our knowledge.

In order to develop our knowledge, we need to understand that all phenomena arise due to causes and that the causes of wisdom and knowledge here are the study of the five fields of knowledge. Without such training, wisdom and knowledge will not arise of themselves. It is not the case, such as is asserted in some spiritual traditions, that wisdom is something handed down to us by a creator god. Therefore, it becomes very important to put a lot of effort into the learning process from our own side. The Buddha himself gathered knowledge and exerted himself very diligently in learning throughout three countless aeons. This process is recorded in great detail in the histories of his previous births. In his final birth the Buddha was Prince Siddhartha, who also studied and thoroughly integrated in his mind all of the fields of knowledge, after which he attained full enlightenment. He did this through great effort and learning, not simply going to Bodhgaya as a fool and then automatically becoming enlightened.

Therefore, we can easily see that buddhahood is not something that arises causelessly; it requires extensive training and learning. In the same way, for we followers of the Drogon Kagyu tradition, it is very important to examine the life stories of the founding masters of the Kagyu lineage and try to follow their examples. We will see that all of the previous great masters of the Kagyu lineage attained perfection in both scholastic and meditative accomplishment. None of them reached their exalted state through simply coasting there easily. The great Indian siddha Tilopa was also a proficient scholar, as was the master Naropa. There are the six ornaments and the two supreme ones, as well as all of those masters in Tibet during the earlier and later phases of the spreading of the teachings. Naropa was one of the renowned nine great scholars of India. We can also examine the life of Marpa Lotsawa. In his songs, he sang of his resolve to travel to India three times. He lived in India for some forty years of his life and there he studied, contemplated and meditated. From among those three activities, it is said in the histories that he primarily focused on study and contemplation.

As for the Jetsun Milarepa, most people hold the view that his path did not involve much study and contemplation. They say that his life story only tells of his practising meditation and attaining buddhahood on the basis of that. That might be how it appears at first glance, but if we really take a good close look at the life story of Milarepa, we will see that his path also involved study and contemplation. It would not have been possible for him to attain buddhahood in one life and one body had he not studied and contemplated. According to the history written by Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, entitled ‘The Sun that Expands the Teachings’, Milarepa in his younger years studied and learned the art of black magic which he used to kill many people. Afterwards, he came to engender remorse towards the negative actions he had committed by killing people. After he had engendered such regret, it took him fifteen years until he was able to meet with Marpa Lotsawa.

From this, we can see that Milarepa had a very firm mind of renunciation from samsara and an earnest desire to practise the dharma. We can also see that he was free from laziness. There is clear indication in such histories that Milarepa always tried his best and was endowed with tremendous exertion towards learning. So even for people like Milarepa, the first stage is hearing and contemplating. Through hearing and contemplating, we remove our exaggerations and denials about the way things are and then finally we are able to practise meditation and generate the wisdom that arises from meditation.

As for Gampopa, or Dakpo Rinpoche, he is considered to be the one who unified the tradition of the Kadampas with the Mahamudra teachings. He is also the founder of our own unequalled Dakpo Kagyu lineage. At the time of Gampopa, the tradition that was strongest in intellectual studies was the Kadampa tradition. Since that was the case, Gampopa studied with many Kadampa masters. Also, from Milarepa, he received key oral instructions in the manner of one vase being poured into another. This was how Gampopa trained – we don’t have any stories here like those of going to Marpa’s house and building and tearing down towers.

In general, Gampopa had many disciples, and from among those disciples, the one with the vastest activity was Phakdru Dorje Gyalpo. If we look at his life story, we can see that he also studied all of the major texts of the Kadampa tradition, and in this way became very learned. Not only that, he even came to take on the role of being a teacher to Palden Sakyapa. Therefore, there is no need to mention he was a great scholar. There is also the lord Dusum Khyenpa who perfected all of the fields of knowledge – including Valid-Cognition, Madhyamika and the treatises of Maitreya – and also attained full meditative accomplishment. In the same way, many other Kagyu masters, such as Drikung Jigten Sumgon, attained perfection in the fields of scholastic learning. It was through their perfection of learning that they eventually gained perfection in meditation. They did not become perfect in the latter regard through simply being ignorant fools. They were both learned scholastically and accomplished meditatively.

Therefore, we can first prove the importance of education and study through scriptures. Then we can prove it through reasoning. Further, we can see through looking at the life stories of the previous masters that there are many important reasons for studying and learning. Some people may wonder about how much I personally study. They may think, “Well, he’s talking a lot about studying, but he’s the Karmapa. He probably has nice food, probably has a nice place to stay, he probably just takes it easy!” Well, even though I don’t have much talent when it comes to excelling in studies, I do try to abide by a daily schedule that includes studying. Nevertheless, my daily schedule is always changing due to various situations, and so I may not always get to study for twenty-four hours a day. Still, despite the frequent busyness in my day-today schedule, I try to maintain diligence and put a lot of energy into my studies, and I always have the wish in mind that I will be able to study in accordance with my abilities. It wouldn’t be helpful for me to provide elaborate details of my daily schedule, but in general it is like that.

So, in brief, whether you go by the scriptures, by reasoning, by the life examples of the previous masters, or by my own opinion, study and education is very important. In terms of what is important to study, this has particular significance for those of us who are Tibetan. This is so because in this world there is only one language in which the entirety of the sutra and mantra teachings of the excellent and precious buddhadharma is completely preserved. That language is Tibetan. Therefore it is extremely important for us all as Tibetans to study our Tibetan language. As a support for our language study, we should study the fields of learning (Tib: But what is the purpose or goal behind learning Tibetan and the fields of knowledge that accompany it? This is none other than the study of the dharma.

It will be very difficult for us to be relaxed, happy and have favourable conditions for a good livelihood if we do not study the dharma. In the same way, in the long term, if we want to lead a positive, happy life, it is necessary for us to study the dharma. Also, for the happiness of our future lives, as well as the ultimate goal of the abundant state of Buddhahood, it is only the dharma that will bring these results about. Liberation and buddhahood will not come about due to one’s knowledge of the general fields of learning, nor will knowledge of language help in attaining enlightenment. It won’t help to know about science, which these days is accepted by everyone as valid. One will be able to attain buddhahood only through studying the dharma.

The buddhadharma is comprised of the works of the Buddha and the treatises that comment on his teachings. In terms of the words of the Buddha, these are preserved in over one hundred volumes of scriptures that were translated into Tibetan. In the Tengyur, the collection of commentarial works, there are over two hundred volumes. Because of the immensity of these bodies of scripture, it is extremely difficult to study all of these texts. Therefore, one should approach these two categories of teaching in a way that accords with one’s own inclinations and abilities. It is not necessary to study these texts in an elaborate way, but it is also not okay to forgo them altogether. One must study the teachings that accord with one’s own ability and availability, and gain familiarity with the meaning of the teachings in that way. For example, the Buddha taught the 84 000 classes of dharma to students in a way that accords with their propensities and abilities. And so, if from all of these teachings we can understand even one word, this is very excellent. If your intellectual faculties are poor, and you do not have many favourable conditions to study the dharma, you can still learn the teachings about the ten non-virtuous actions and how to abandon them, and the ten virtuous actions and how to practise them. Starting from there, all the way up to the unsurpassable secret mantrayana, it is very important to be diligent in learning and in putting what you have learned into practice, even if you only manage to understand one word.

In terms of learning the dharma, in the Tibetan tradition this learning is done in the most extensive way in the shedras, or monastic colleges. In relation to this, as was said before, all of the previous great Kagyu masters were endowed with both the quality of scholastic learning and the quality of meditative accomplishment. However, in recent times, the qualities of scholasticism and meditative accomplishment have slightly declined in the Kagyu tradition. In particular, the quality of scholasticism has declined, and those possessed of this quality have become very rare. Situ Changchub Gyaltsen, in a letter he wrote shortly before he passed away, said that although previously the great Kagyus were both learned and accomplished, in recent times this has become unbalanced, and because of that the dharma is not fulfilling the objectives of humans. Therefore, Changchub Gyaltsen said that in light of this situation he built the great shedra of Tsegong. Although the dharma of the Kagyu lineage is very profound, it is not acceptable to leave hearing and contemplation behind, because without those one will not be able to approach the teachings with a correct understanding.

Thus if one does not study and contemplate, the dharma will not be fulfilling the objectives of the dharma, and since the people who practise it will be devoid of the qualities of learning, humans will not fulfil the objects of humans. Recently, there has been renewed interest in improving the area of scholasticism in Tibetan Buddhism, and this has been the case for us as Kagyus as well. Therefore, the situation has improved somewhat. There are shedras in some of the monasteries and the students studying in those shedras are exerting themselves well. Nevertheless, these activities are merely a seed for future harvests. We have not arrived at the point where we can be content with what has been established. I feel it is very important for us to continue to improve the area of scholasticism in our lineage.

This emphasis on learning and study also applies to the monastics who specialise in ritual arts. There are many details involved in the ritual arts, such as music, that one must train in. Although monastics who specialise in ritual do not have time to study the great texts of the shedra, still they must be learned with respect to the stages of the rituals they perform: bodhichitta, invitation, creation stage, completion stage, making tormas, and so on. They need to know the meaning of the tormas and their defining characteristics, so that they will be able to explain them to others. It is important for them to be educated about all of these aspects of ritual, especially because they will need to teach these things to Westerners who are studying Buddhism.

In the Kagyu tradition, there are many students who take meditation practice as foremost and there are many who choose to do the traditional three-year retreat. All of these people need to learn the various aspects of their particular practices. In terms of the path of practice in the Kagyu tradition, we mainly have the Six Dharmas of Naropa, the Path of Method, and Mahamudra meditation, the path of liberation. In the context of the Mahamudra path of liberation, emphasis is placed on clarity and emptiness inseparable. The main textual source that teaches on the clarity aspect is the ‘Treatise on Buddha Nature’, or Uttaratantra (Tib: ‘ It is said that if one is able to realise the intended meaning of Uttaratantra, one will have no choice but to realise the reality of mahamudra.

This is echoed by Gampopa, when he said, “As for our mahamudra, its intention is expressed in the Treatise on Buddha Nature.” Therefore, for this reason, it is very important for us to study this treatise. Then in terms of the emptiness aspect, this is expressed in the texts of the Middle Way, which we also must study. The text that is in very common use these days is the ‘Entrance to the Middle Way’, which I feel is important for us to study. If we do not learn the ‘Treatise on Buddha Nature’, if we do not learn the ‘Entrance to the Middle Way’, then unless we are of very high faculties it will be difficult for us to practise correctly. We definitely must study these texts.

As for the ‘Six Dharmas of Naropa’, which compose the path of method, they are said to be the essence of all of the classes of tantra taught by the perfect Buddha. It is important for us to know the tantras, but if we are not capable of doing that, then still there is the ‘Profound Inner Reality’ of the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, which clearly presents the topics of the prana and nadi practices of the completion stage. This text is absolutely indispensable. Whether we are practising the path of method, the Six Dharmas of Naropa, or the path of liberation – Mahamudra, we need to do so through relying on the creation stage. In the Kagyu tradition, the creation stage is studied using the Hevajra Tantra, which is a teaching of the Buddha himself.

Thus, no matter whether we are practising the path of means of the path of liberation, we must engage in the process of learning. If we do not study, then we may go ahead and sit in the same room for three years, but I wonder how much benefit will come of that? It would be brazen of me to say there would be no benefit, but I wonder if it would be really possible to produce a very strong benefit through meditation without having studied.

All of what I have said today also applies to lay people, not just monastics. After all, aside from clothing and the length of hair, there is really not that much difference between monastics and lay people. From the perspective of the desire for happiness and freedom from suffering, everyone is the same. Therefore, if we want to enjoy happiness and freedom from suffering, everyone is the same. Therefore, if we want to enjoy happiness and be free from suffering, we need to learn the presentations of what to adopt and what to reject. If we think that we want happiness but do not want to learn what positive and negative actions to adopt or reject, this is a misunderstanding of the principle of karma. There is not too much hope that such an approach will actually lead to happiness.

We need to proceed in the proper order. Since the cause comes before the result, we need to practise the proper causes in order to bring about the results we desire. Therefore, we need to accumulate virtue and relinquish negative actions as much as we can. In general, everyone works hard in order to bring about the result of happiness. But it is a distinguishing feature of Buddhism that we work primarily from the side of the cause. We concentrate on the cause in order to bring about the result of happiness. If one proceeds otherwise, simply saying, “I want happiness”, then this will be an aspiration, but it in itself will not actually become a direct cause to bring about the happiness we desire.

Although things are changing slightly these days, we Tibetans often used to talk about the dharma as something that is reserved for lamas and monks, and people were sceptical of lay people – particularly women and also of nuns – if they tried to learn dharma. This of course is a very mistaken attitude. Our teacher – the perfect Buddha – taught the dharma to all beings without bias so that they all could attain liberation and omniscience and cross over the great ocean of samsaric suffering. The Buddha never said that the dharma was something only for lamas and monks.

So therefore, if we come across someone who is trying to refute the validity of anyone’s studying of the dharma, we should know that it is he or she who is mistaken. Whether we are lamas and monks and nuns, or whether we are male or female lay practitioners, we can study the dharma if we are able to study it. If we are not able to study it, then that is a different situation, but in terms of permission, we are always permitted to study the dharma.

This completes an explanation of why it is important to gain knowledge in the fields of learning, speaking from the three perspectives: the way of study, the topics to be studied and the individuals who study.

The Heart Sutra is considered the most profound, the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. It is considered the most supreme of all teachings. Buddha cannot bear to see sentient beings suffer and wants to free them from samsara. He cannot rescue them from their negative deeds. He can only show them the path he has taken.

What leads to liberation? Only by understanding and meditating on emptiness. Since it presents the path, the complete framework, that is why the Heart Sutra is the supreme teaching.

The Buddha did not teach those who are not matured enough or those who are not interested in emptiness. If a person’s primary interest is in this life, there is no need for emptiness. It is not relevant to him. It is relevant to those who think more deeply and go beyond the 5 senses. On a deeper level, as long as you are influenced by mental affliction and karma, if you do not do something about it, then it continues forever. Then emptiness becomes an important subject. Emptiness is the gateway to liberation, to subdue one’s mental afflictions.

— 4th Zong Rinpoche, Tenzin Wangdak














譬如“布施”与“供养”这个名词,很多人好像理解,布施就是普遍对一般人;供养是对上的,那就会有问题产生,刚刚说过“众生平等”,在家的对出家的所谓“四事供养”,就是讲吃的、穿的、用的,以及医药等的供养,也可以说是一种布施,如果硬要说对出家人是供养的话,那就变成好像出家人比在家人高一等了,就不能够说是众生平等。又很多人把它当成是“布施波罗蜜”,其实不是,施就是付出,要注意“施”不是给予,是付出,为什么有这种差别?因为梵文的意思有这差别。“付出”通常是我自己拥有的,愿意给予更多的人得到同样的利益,但是这种付出不一定是物质的,也包括精神的在内。那“给予”呢?就变成我们一般讲的施舍了,好像把别人看得很可怜 〝啊!某某!我有钱,我给你一点〞,这就不合乎佛法的平等之道。




所以学佛,要能分辨什么是佛教、佛学与佛法。有很多人自认为:我也看经典、也会打坐,甚至还能入定....如果是邪魔外道呢?可能还会说:“喔!我打坐还可以灵光出窍,还可以发光喔!”如果是这么说的话,那连佛学都不是!如果自认为是佛教的话,那也是附佛外道,就是附和在佛教这个宗教的前提之下所行的外道。这许多 “不如法的”,可以说就是佛教里的外道,真正佛教的本身是正信的,强调须“依教如法”,就是要依于佛陀所教的道理以及方法。











Even if through being generous in the past, I am rich in this life, if I give nothing in this life, I’ll be poor in the next.

— Mipham Rinpoche

Buddhism and Ageing: In Praise of Ageing
by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

The Lord Buddha described birth, sickness, old age, and death as dukkha, or suffering. If we do not die young, we are all going to experience old age and death. Therefore, ageing is a topic that concerns everyone.

In contemporary society, we find a cult of youth and a denial of the natural course of life towards decay and death. Most people hope to keep looking young and beautiful forever. Indeed, beauty is usually associated with youthfulness. So we find countless books and articles on how to keep old age at a distance and stay young forever. But no matter how many facelifts we undergo or how many exercise and diet regimes we submit to, eventually the body will deteriorate and the likelihood of illness will increase. Deterioration is the nature of all conditioned things. Buddhism faces up to the unpalatable facts of life and death. Buddhism even uses these facts as the path itself, as a means to transcend birth and death.

In more traditional societies, the advent of ageing is seen as natural and is not regarded as something to be avoided or denied for as long as possible. Rather, there is an appreciation that having lived for so long there should likewise be a growth of knowledge and understanding. Old age is often equated with wisdom and experience. The older members of the family are accorded respect and often assume roles as councillors and guides. They have an important role to play in society.

Even in the West, there is the archetypal character of the wise old woman (as well as the witch) and most storybook wizards are elderly. In fact, old wrinkled faces with shining eyes full of love and intelligence often display real beauty.

Unfortunately, even though nowadays women over the age of 50 make up the majority of the population, in the modern social order the elderly are increasingly shunted aside, isolated among their senior contemporaries, and ignored by the world around them. Many feel that their useful days are finished and they have no further contribution to make to society. As a result, old age is something to be dreaded and evaded for as long as possible.

So the question is, how do we deal with our inevitable ageing in a way that makes sense of our life? In traditional Buddhist countries, it is the custom that as our children grow up and leave home, as our professional lives wind down, and as our daily activities become more inwardly directed, we can direct more attention to the Dharma and to setting our lives in order so as to be ready for death and future rebirths.

In traditional Buddhist societies, many older people take the eight precepts and pass their time in meditation or other meritorious activities, such as circumambulating holy objects, making prostrations, chanting, visiting temples, and so on. The Dharma becomes the focus of their lives and they cultivate devotion. In this way, their lives remain meaningful and important, even as the axis of focus shifts.

For women in particular, it often happens that our youth is taken up with acting out the roles that society has determined for us. First, as physical objects of desire we strive to be as attractive and alluring as possible to fulfill male fantasies. Then as wives and mothers, we devote ourselves to nurturing our homes and families. Nowadays, most women also have full-time careers in which they must work hard to keep ahead. Even while enjoying many advantages, women live stress-filled lifestyles designed to meet the expectations of others.

Even in the modern world, however, we are seeing an interesting phenomenon occurring. Many people, especially women, having fulfilled their life’s tasks as wives, mothers, and professionals, are now ready to give their attention to more introspective callings such as the arts, the alternative healing professions, psychology, and the study and practice of spiritual paths. Since these women are often highly educated and motivated, they are able to acquire new skills and extend a positive outreach to the society around them. Rather than spending their declining years merely playing golf or watching TV, their inner spiritual world is now given greater prominence.

Awhile back, I met a group of women living in an affluent small town in Florida who were devoting their later years to sincere spiritual practices and philanthropic activities. These women were benefitting not only their own neighbourhoods, but also reaching out to people in other cultures and lands. They felt very happy and fulfilled to be using their time for the benefit of others as well as themselves.

It seems that the foremost regret expressed by the dying is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” By contrast, many people I know have remarked that the latter part of their lives has become even more satisfying and meaningful than their earlier years. Now they can discover their own genuine interests rather than merely conforming to societal expectations. Although they accept that their earlier life experience was necessary for what has developed later, like a tree that grows slowly and only in time can reveal its true characteristics, yet they feel that they have finally found their reason for living.

Of course, most of us would prefer a 25-year-old body, but few would choose to return to our 25-year-old mind! So instead of dreading the approach of old age, despite the unavoidable loss of physical and mental flexibility, we can welcome this new stage of life and explore its potential. We have a choice either to view our ageing as the gradual fading of all our dreams or to regard retirement as the start of a new and exciting era.

As we grow older, we see our contemporaries – our friends and family members – succumbing to illnesses and death, so we are forced to recognise these states as natural and inevitable. As Buddhist women, we have an important part to play in demonstrating an alternative lifestyle that is not so dependent on the usual societal roles and can show the way forward to greater freedom and a more meaningful way of living. Even if our old knees ache too much for sitting cross-legged and health issues slow us down physically, our minds can still be bright and clear. Our meditation can deepen and mature.

Now that we have more time for ourselves, we can select a lifestyle that is meaningful and engaging, exploring spiritual pathways and reaching out in social engagement, thus benefitting ourselves and likewise benefitting others. This is a great opportunity to put the skills acquired over our lifetime to good use. We are reborn to a new life without having to discard the old one!

Many people chose to travel or learn new skills, sports, or crafts once their “official” work and responsibilities come to an end. As Buddhists, the question we can ask ourselves is, “Now that my worldly responsibilities are fulfilled, how can I use this life most practically to be of help to myself and others? What needs to be done to make some more advances on the Dharma path?” Our path need not include long retreats or total immersion in Buddhist community work. There are many ways to develop ourselves and tame our mind. Usually as we grow older, the storms of emotional upheavals have quieted, we have some basic self-understanding, and hopefully our formal practice has also deepened over the years. Now we have the time and space to nurture the bodhi saplings of our practice toward fruition and to encourage the bodhi tree of realisation to reach its full potential.

For many ageing Buddhists, there is also the issue of where to live as our faculties decline. As the family nucleus shrinks and no longer offers home facilities, many older people, especially in the West but also increasingly in Asian countries, must face the probability of living their later years in a nursing home. To end up surrounded by people and caregivers who have no interest in spiritual matters can be a very gloomy prospect. Therefore, it is time to start talk about starting retirement homes for senior Buddhists – communities not limited to any particular tradition. The main problem is probably financial, since acquiring suitable land and buildings, plus the subsequent upkeep would require considerable investment. However, it would be a very worthwhile endeavour and surely requires more thought and attention. It is important to make good use of our later years, while our faculties are still functioning, even as our physical vigour declines.

Finally, it is up to us to take the life we have been given and make the most of the opportunity to develop our potential. This precious human body is precious because we can use it to cultivate our mind and advance along the path. We can use our remaining days to create the circumstances to die without regrets.

Sometimes as we age, we can become very ill with life threatening diseases such as cancer or heart problems. This is common. Many people look on the onset of such sicknesses with dread and horror and hope to die quietly in their sleep with no prior warning. However, it is not always an advantage to pass away without any preparation.

When we recognise in advance that our allotted time here is limited, we have the opportunity to make arrangements for leaving this life in an orderly and satisfactory manner. Knowing that we are truly going to die and that time is running out can help us focus the mind wonderfully on what is important and what is not important. People are often transformed as they begin to finally let go of attachments and long-held resentments in readiness to pass on.

Facing death gives us a chance to reconcile our differences, repair broken relationships, and allow those whom we hold dear to know that they are loved and appreciated. In the face of our imminent mortality, we have nothing to lose but our hang-ups.

At the point of death, it is best to focus the mind on our personal practice or object of devotion. At least we can try to concentrate on light and absorb our minds in that. Friends and loved ones surrounding a dying person should remain calm and supportive, not giving way to grief, but perhaps gently chanting something appropriate.

On the whole, if one has led a fairly decent life, and especially if one has made some effort to merge the Dharma with one’s mind, then death holds no fears. The consciousness will follow along its accustomed path. So it is vital to make sure, while we still have some control over our thoughts and emotions, that this will be a pathway we would wish to travel.

As Professor Dumbledore advised young Harry Potter, “For one with a well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

Whoever realises that the six senses aren’t real, that the five aggregates are fictions, that no such things can be located anywhere in the body, understands the language of Buddhas.

— Bodhidharma