Discovering the True Nature of Mind
by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Vision is mind.
Mind is empty.
Emptiness is clear light.
Clear light is union.
Union is great bliss.

This is the heart instruction of Dawa Gyaltsen, a Bön meditation master who lived in the eighth century. Bön is the native, pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet, which has incorporated many Buddhist elements. This teaching is a direct introduction to the nature of mind and is not elaborate with ritual. The pith instructions of these masters — their heart advice to their students — are often only a few lines, but these few lines can guide the fortunate practitioner to recognising his or her own true nature as Buddha.


How do we work with Dawa Gyaltsen’s instruction, which begins, “Vision is mind”? Vision includes everything we perceive, but I suggest that you use what bothers you as an entrance to this practice. Do you have a famous person in your life? The famous person is the one who seems to be born to create a problem for you, as if that were his or her number-one mission in life. Sometimes we feel there are people like that. Such people can make trouble for you not only with their presence, but with one single postcard sent to you. When you see the postcard with their handwriting on it, you are immediately disturbed.

So we begin our meditation practice with this famous person as our starting point. Create a protected environment and sit in a comfortable upright position. Now invite the image of your famous person to come into your awareness. They always come anyway, but this time you are inviting them so that you can look more deeply into this experience. What exactly is this famous person composed of? See the image of the person, the character of this person who bothers you so much. Sense the energetic or emotional presence of this person. When your famous person was born, he or she did not show any physical signs or marks of what you now see. And not all people share your view of this person. What you perceive is your mind, your karmic vision, which is more karma than vision.

So in this moment, instead of looking out and focusing on that person, look inward. Step back and let the experience come in. Do not step forward but step backwards. Don’t go to your office and make phone calls and send emails. Just sit and close your eyes and reflect on this person, and experience what you’re experiencing at this very moment. This is your vision. It is very much in you, in your mind. That famous person is now an image or a felt sense. Perhaps you have a sense of being contracted, closed or agitated in the presence of this person; feel this fully, not simply with your intellect. Sit with the image of your famous person, and with the resulting feelings and sensations, until you recognise that this experience is in you, and you conclude, “Vision is mind.”


The next question is, “What is this mind?” Look for your mind. Look from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. Can you find anything solid? Can you find any permanent color, shape or form that you can call your mind? If you look directly, you come to the conclusion that your mind is empty. Some people come to this conclusion very quickly; for others it requires an exhausting search to discover this clear awareness. But this is what mind is. You can obviously pollute that clarity in any given moment, but by continuing to look directly, you can discover that mind itself is just clear. Clear means empty. “Empty” is a philosophical term, but as experience it is clear and open.

So what began as the famous person is now clear and open. If this is not your experience, you are grasping the image and holding on to the experience in some way. Just be. Relax into the experience. Simply be. Mind is empty. When we arrive at the experience of emptiness and vastness through the doorway of the famous person, it is possible to have quite a strong experience of emptiness.


Our next question is, “What is this emptiness?” Sometimes emptiness is scary to the point where someone may prefer even their famous person to this nothing where one experiences the absence of self. But this experience of open space is essential. It clears the identity that creates the famous person. In order to clear the obstacle of the famous person, you have to clear the identity that creates that famous person. There is an expression, “The sword of wisdom cuts both ways.” Don’t be scared by this. Remember: “Emptiness is clear light.” It has light. It is possible to feel the light in the absence of the stuff.

Usually we accumulate a lot of stuff in life. Then we have a big yard sale in order to get rid of that stuff. For a moment we might feel “Ahhh . . .”—a sense of relief at getting rid of our old stuff — but soon we are excited again about all the new stuff we can accumulate to decorate and fill the open space. In your meditation, when things clear, just be with this. Don’t focus on the absence of the stuff, but discover the presence of the light in that space. It’s there. I’m not saying it’s easy to recognise and connect with the light — clearly it will depend on how much you are caught up with appearances and with the famous person. I’m not talking about the clear appearance of the famous person; I’m speaking of the clear appearance of the space.

So when you look at appearance and discover it is mind, and then discover that mind is empty, clear light emerges. When you look for the mind, you don’t find the mind. When you don’t find anything, the Dzogchen instruction is to “abide without distraction in that which has not been elaborated.” What has not been elaborated is that space, that openness. So you look for mind; you don’t find anything. What you don’t find is pure space which is not elaborated. So don’t do anything. Don’t change anything. Just allow. When you abide in that space without changing anything, what is is clear light. The experience or knowledge of emptiness is clear light. It is awareness.

Clear light is the experience of vast emptiness. The reason you have a famous person in the first place is that you experience yourself as separated from the experience of the vast, open space. Not recognising the vast space, not being familiar with it, you experience visions. Not recognising the visions as mind, you see them as solid and separate and out there — and not only out there, but disturbing you and creating all kinds of hassles for you that you have to deal with.

Perhaps you say, “Well, I am very clear about the direction in my life.” Here, you are clear about something. The clarity Dawa Gyaltsen points to is not clear about something; it is clear in the sense of being. You experience your essence, your existence, your being as clear. That clarity is the best. Through experiencing that clarity, you overcome self-doubt.


From this experience of vast emptiness we say, “Clear light is union.” The space and the light cannot be separated. Clear refers to space, and light refers to awareness; awareness and space are inseparable. There is no separation between clear presence and space, between awareness and emptiness.

We have a lot of notions of union: yin and yang, male and female, wisdom and compassion. When you pay close attention to the experience of emptiness, you experience clarity. If you try to look for clarity, you cannot find it — it becomes emptiness. If you don’t find it, and you abide there, it becomes clear. The experiences of clarity and emptiness are union in the sense that they are not separate. Clarity is the experience of openness. If you don’t have the experience of openness, you cannot be clear. What is clear is that openness, the emptiness. What is empty and open is that clarity. The two are inseparable. Recognising this is called union.

This means that our experiences do not affect our relation to openness. It is usually the case that experiences affect our connection to openness because immediately we get excited and attached. Then we grasp, or we become agitated, conflicted and disturbed. When that doesn’t happen, when our experience spontaneously arises and does not obscure us, that is union: the inseparable quality of clear and light. You are free; you are connected. You are connected; you are free.

This combination experience, whether in deep meditation or in life, is rare. Often, if you are “free,” that means you are disconnected. So this sense of union is important. Having the ability to do something and the ability to feel free, having the ability to be with somebody and still feel a sense of freedom, is so important. That is what is meant by “clear light is union.”


If you recognise and experience this inseparable quality, then you can experience bliss. Why is bliss experienced? Because that solid obstacle to being deeply connected with yourself has disappeared. You can have a strong experience of bliss because you have released something. Bliss spontaneously comes because there’s nothing that obscures you or separates you from your essence. You have a feeling that everything is complete just as it is.

So you begin with the famous person, and you end up with bliss. What more could you ask for? This is the basis of the whole Dzogchen philosophy in a few lines. The famous person you project is great bliss, but you must understand this as your mind, and that very mind as empty. From there, emptiness is clear light, clear light is union, union is great bliss. You can experience this in an instant. The moment you see the famous person, you can instantly see light. But sometimes we have to go through a longer process to see this. It is a question of ability. So this progression, this process, is our practice. It takes time. But there is a clear map.

These five principles can be applied in daily practice. You can do this practice any place, in any given moment, and especially when the famous person is bothering you. When a difficult circumstance arises, of course you could just live with it, or you could try to find one of many solutions. But as a Dzogchen practitioner, this practice of the Fivefold Teachings is what you do. Perhaps you lost a business deal and you feel bad. What does “lost” really mean? You look at that; that is vision. Whether fear-based vision or greed vision, you look directly at that experience. Be with that experience. Then you realise it is mind, and you look at your mind and discover that mind is clear — just clear. Even when we have a lot of problems, the essence of mind is always clear. It is always clear. There is always the possibility to connect with the essence of mind rather than the confusion aspect of it.


I love this practice very much. On the one hand, it is so practical. It gives you a tool to deal with a very specific situation. On the other hand, it guides you directly into the essence, to the root of yourself. It always amazes me when people fight with one another and say, “Oh, that terrible person. We have been good friends for a long time and I always thought that person was so honest. It took me a long time to discover that that person is really terrible.” So your conclusion is that that person is terrible. Have you heard people say things like that? This is not really a healthy solution. It’s like going to therapy and realising, “My dad was really a bad guy. Now I feel much better.” Of course, you might realise some difficult aspect of your situation, but realising that is not the conclusion. You need to conclude into the essence, conclude into the root, to come to the place in yourself where you realise your mind is clear and blissful and the image that was bothering you has finally dissolved through your meditation.

What is the conclusion here? The conclusion is bliss. “Union is great bliss.” What better conclusion would you want than that? And it will be like that if you open your mind to learn, trust with your heart, and pray. It’s really important to pray, and to pray for a deep experience. Because if what you think is not that deep, the result won’t be that deep either. Through prayer, you open your heart and receive the blessings of effortlessness. The quality of effortlessness is a quality of heart, and devotion and prayer open the heart. So praying is wonderful. It sets up the intention and puts you in the right direction, so when you do the practice of meditation — of directly looking and being with your experience — it will work.

I encourage you to practice this heart advice of Dawa Gyaltsen, to look directly into what is disturbing you and discover the nature of your mind. Through the profound simplicity of these five lines, not only can you heal your day-to-day life and make it lighter and more pleasant, but you can recognise and connect with your innermost essence, the nature of your mind as Buddha.


Question: In terms of the experience of “vision is mind,” it seems that our grasping mind, our small mind, is different from the natural state of mind which is clear light. I don’t know how to bridge the gap between the grasping mind and emptiness, because the grasping mind doesn’t seem empty.

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: It doesn’t seem empty, but it is. If you look at the ocean you might find it calm and peaceful, or with small ripples, or bigger ripples, or small waves, or bigger waves. All these appearances – from calm to ripples to waves – have the quality of wetness. All are water in every appearance. The appearance of the ocean can never be anything other than water, no matter how terrible or peaceful the ocean appears. In the same way, no matter what vision appears, it is always empty. The essence is always there. The only question is, “Am I able to see it or not?”

Question: It is wonderful when the famous person dissolves, but I still have an obligation to him or her, a responsibility. He or she is my child. So the “famous person” situation may keep recurring. Do I keep dissolving in the same way?

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: Sure. The famous person can still be famous without disturbing you as much. The reason we call him or her “famous” is that they really bother you. Do they really need to bother you? No. He or she can be as they are or they can be different, but they don’t have to bother you. We have expectations that things need to be a certain way. Do they really have to be a certain way? No.

Let’s take a situation in which I’m trying to help my child. How am I trying to help? I want him to go to school and study well. So what’s the problem? Well, the child has some difficulty learning. O.K. So I’m trying to do the best I can under the circumstances. If I’m doing that, then what am I worrying about? Some people learn faster, some learn slower. Right?

But the problem is not about the child learning too slowly; it’s that I can’t accept the situation. It’s not about the child; it’s about me. I have some fixed idea about what would be good for my child. This is usually the case. I think, “What I want is good for you.” The child probably doesn’t agree. He might be interested in a completely different thing than I am. But I feel like I’m the boss, and of course I am: I have a moral responsibility and so on. But there is someplace where it is just fine. I need to realise that.

Question: Is it just the lack of practice of recognising that “vision is mind” that makes me feel there is a hook that draws me back to, “Yeah, but that famous person really is mean”?

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: I am not suggesting that this is the only way to deal with life. This is one of the Dzogchen ways. It is not a samsaric way, and sometimes we have to deal in a samsaric way. If somebody is trying to cheat me, of course I don’t like that. If somebody asks me for something, I don’t mind giving. But if somebody is taking something from me, then I don’t want to give. If that aspect of me seems to be who I really am in this moment, then I will fight or do whatever needs to be done. It’s not a question of one approach being more valid than another. Who I am and what realisation I have determines how skillfully I am able to work. In the end, the real sense of victory is the practice. But in the conventional sense, we do whatever we have to do. We naturally defend and we fight. Sometimes, you defend, you fight, and you still lose. Then maybe you don’t have any other choice but to see it as emptiness! That is a forceful way of discovering emptiness.

Thoughts usually follow one upon another without intermission. In the same way, we usually chase after our thoughts like a dog that fetches the same stone thrown time after time. One thought gives birth to two, and two to three, and soon they multiply and completely invade our mind. But, lions unlike dogs don’t play fetch. Instead of watching the stone, a lion would turn back and look for the one who threw it. By following the lion’s example, we can look at the source of the thoughts rather than following the thoughts themselves, and see that thoughts arise from the absolute nature of mind. In this process, thoughts naturally dissolve into that absolute nature and do not proliferate.

— Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche












We have also lost the sensitivity to listen to our own inner voice. Loss of this sensitivity is largely due to the conditioning of modernity that makes us think about ourselves as something independent and artificial. We have distanced ourselves from our own nature, and when we distance ourselves from our own nature we also distance ourselves from nature surrounding us outside. This distance creates fear and conflict.

— 5th Samdhong Rinpoche, Lobsang Tenzin

Eight Offerings
by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche

MAKING OFFERINGS is part of the practice of Buddhism, and certain offerings are apparent on every shrine that is done in the traditional way. However, these offerings are much more than a ritualistic system and form; they are a viable extension of the commitment to serve all beings. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche gave the following explanation of the seven shrine offerings during the Amitabha Seminar of July, 1981.

The making of offerings is an antidote to the pattern of attachment and greed. There is a material aspect to offerings, where a person offers from his or her possessions something particularly valued. Or someone may symbolically offer the totality of their possessions with the thought of bringing about benefit for all sentient beings, that the material deprivation of all beings may be remedied and their perfection of generosity take place. In general, offerings on a shrine are in a set of seven, in seven bowls, and there are specific meanings for each of the seven offerings.

Drinking Water (Auspiciousness)

The first offering is that of pure drinking water. It is offered with the thought that whatever benefit one accumulates may, for the present, bring about the annihilation of suffering through thirst among beings. Especially beings in realms such as the pretas, or hungry ghosts, may receive relief from the suffering of thirst. The offering is also made so that ultimately all beings may be permeated by loving kindness and compassion.

Bathing Water (Purification)

Bathing and drinking waters are offered to the body of the Buddhas, not because they are thirsty or need cleansing, but because by making such an offering to the objects of refuge, sufficient merit may be gained to bring about physical purification and cleansing of our own bodies, which are subject to negativity and are very vulnerable. The offering is also made, ultimately, to dissolve obscurations that interfere with meditation, that block Dharma understanding, and to purify all obstacles to Dharma practice.

Flowers (Generosity)

The third offering is the offering of flowers to the awakened ones to beautify their surroundings, though the gift of flowers is quite unnecessary in the perfection of their Buddha realms. Again it is for the benefit of those who make the offering and it is made with the intention that all beings might find noble forms to inhabit, and ultimately, that all beings might embody in their forms all of the marks and attributes of enlightenment, like the awakened ones.

Incense (Discipline, Moral Ethics)

Incense, or good fragrances, is offered not because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are in need of assistance to get rid of any bad odours. Rather, incense is offered so that the annihilation of all unpleasant and unhealthful smells may take place, and, ultimately, that the merit accumulated might bring about the realisation of perfection of the profound scent of discipline. It has been said that whoever has perfected the discipline is surrounded by a sweet fragrance.

Light (Patience)

The fifth offering is the offering of the lamp. The awakened ones, seeing through their wisdom eyes, have no need for such a small light, yet the offering of it is made with the thought that ignorance may be purified in all beings. It is made so that ultimately the merit of such offerings of light might cause the transcendental knowledge and experience to become manifest in all beings just as it has in the Buddhas and enlightened ones.

Perfume (Perseverance)

Of course, the radiant and perfect bodies of the awakened ones have no real need of an ordinary perfume in their experience of spontaneous perfection, but we make the offering so that temporarily all negative patterns may be purified, such as aggression, ignorance and attachment, and that ultimately not only the habitual patterns of beings but also the outer environment may become purified and perfected.

Food (Samadhi)

The seventh offering is the offering of food. The awakened ones have no need to indulge in material food offerings, but the purpose of such offerings made to the enlightened objects of refuge is to temporarily relieve suffering that beings experience through hunger and starvation, and to bring about an abundance of food. Ultimately, the offering is made so that beings may experience the perfect state of meditation, of samadhi, and that all beings may live on the spontaneous food of meditation.

It is important that one knows the purpose and symbolism of these offerings, and that whether one is able to offer one single bowl or many, one realises that the importance lies in the attitude with which one makes the offering to the enlightened objects of the refuge, the sources of all inspiration. Offering is an occasion for the accumulation of inexhaustible merit. One offers what one can. The more sincerely offerings are made, the more one will find themselves surrounded by an abundance of what has been offered.

Making the seven offerings is not just a limited cultural thing, relating only to a tradition or cultural ritual. If that were all it signified, then it would be a waste of time to discuss it in a teaching session. But it is something that is universally important and meaningful.

Upon examination you might find that you are making offerings for other than the reasons already mentioned. Maybe it is an exotic thing to do, or you do it because someone else is doing it, or from a sense of jealousy or competition, but these are not the correct attitudes. Instead of bringing about the accumulation of meritorious qualities, such ideas could bring the opposite, sowing much negativity for the future.

There is a story about a Kadampa monk who was used to making simple offerings. One day his benefactors were coming to visit so he woke early and made a very elaborate and detailed offering. When it was done he looked at the offering which he had so painstakingly prepared, observing that it looked very fine. But while sitting there looking at it he asked himself, “Why did I make such elaborate offerings on this day of all days, when on other days my offerings are very simple?” He realised that it was just because his patrons were coming that he had done this. So he grabbed a handful of ashes from his fireplace and threw it on the offerings, creating a great mess on the shrine. He sat filled with remorse at his ugly attitude and could not help but cry. When his patrons appeared he sat in tears with his shrine and robes covered with dirt, looking forlorn. The patrons inquired if a thief had come and robbed him, and he said that worse than an ordinary thief, a much more serious thief had come — the thief of negative attitude robbed him of the possibility of profound accumulation of meritorious qualities.

The point is that one can easily fall into such traps of negative attitude, and it is critical to ask yourself why you are involved in doing the things that you do, what is your motivation. One makes offerings not for any mundane reason, but one surrenders everything to be able to experience perfect liberation and so that one may be able to liberate other beings as well as oneself.

For the mind to be still, the body must be disciplined.

— 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje









Within the all-pervasive expanse of the sky of great emptiness, without center or circumference, the shadowless sun of luminosity naturally arises, without emanating or dissolving, thus the dense darkness of innate and conceptual ignorance simultaneously vanishes, and the gateway of the great illumination of clear primordial wisdom freely opens, which is the vast expanse of the original primordial ground, free from restrictions and partiality.

— Lama Tharchin Rinpoche


The Sutra of Recollecting the Three Jewels (Part 2)
by Khenchen Appey Rinpoche

What is the meaning of the word “Buddha”? There are two syllables in Tibetan for the word “Buddha.” These are sangs and rgyas. Sangs refers to awakening from sleep. Rgyas refers to the complete blossoming of a flower. Therefore, sangs.rgyas means awakening from the sleep of ignorance and increasing the understanding of knowable things. Therefore, in the Sanskrit language “Buddha” refers to either of those two syllables. However, in Tibetan “Buddha” is translated as sangs.rgyas.

Arya Asanga said that there are three qualities within the word “Buddha.” Since Buddha himself has awakened from the sleep of ignorance, he possesses the perfection of relinquishment. Second, the Buddha causes others to awaken from the sleep of ignorance. So, the Buddha possesses the perfection of compassion. Third, the Blessed One increases his realisation of wisdom. Therefore, Buddha possesses the perfection of realisation which sees all things as they are. In this way, Asanga has explained the term “Buddha” in relation to these three qualities.

Those who have not studied Buddhist philosophy think that studying the Dharma is a very difficult task. For this reason, some of you may think that you are not able to study the Dharma. However, it is not only the study of the Dharma that may appear difficult, but also any worldly matter that you have not studied will not be easy to understand at first. However, if you become accustomed to it, difficult-to-understand worldly matters as well as the study of the Dharma will become easier. There is no task you cannot accomplish if you apply appropriate diligence. We should all study the Dharma. Especially, it is immensely important for the monks and nuns involved in the practice of the Dharma to study the Dharma first. Generally speaking, the study of the Dharma is not something that should be done solely by monks and nuns. It is very important for all humans who aspire to gain happiness and who wish to discard suffering — whether monks or nuns, female or male lay practitioners — to study and practice the Dharma. Some people may have studied and understood the Dharma, but may not have actively engaged in its practice. Still, through the merit arising from merely listening to the Dharma, the seed of liberation is sown within your mind continuum.

The second section or latter part of The Sutra of Recollecting the Three Jewels concerning the Buddha reads, “The Blessed Buddha is the One Gone to Suchness. He arose through corresponding causes of merit and his root of virtue is inexhaustible.” The meaning of this is as follows: Generally, we will not be able to keep this human body forever. One day this body will perish. In that way, even the Shravaka Foe Destroyer who has gained great realisation will also die one day, and his ability to benefit sentient beings is limited. However, even though his physical body may not be present, the enlightened activities of the Buddha remain forever, without disruption, until samsara is emptied.

If someone were to ask, “Why is this so?” there are two reasons that explain why the Buddha’s enlightened activities will endure in this universe. The first reason is shown by the first sentence of this section of the sutra, which reads, “He arose through corresponding causes of merit.” “Merit” refers to virtue. The enlightened activities of the resultant Buddha are the results that correspond to the causes of multiple virtues. Commonly, it is said that there are five different types of results. Among these is “the ripening result of virtue.” It is said that some living beings in samsara may engage in virtues, such as maintaining moral conduct, for the sake of the attaining a human birth in their next life. If they engage in this type of virtue along with making the aspiration, “May I attain human birth in my next life,” consequently they will attain that higher rebirth. This is known as “the ripened result of that virtuous activity.” At that very time the result of that person’s virtue is complete, and it will not carry on further than the next lifetime, whereas at the time when the Buddha was a Bodhisattva, the virtues accumulated through his enlightened activities were not for the purpose of his simply gaining a human rebirth. Instead, he made an aspiration that the results of his actions would benefit all sentient beings. In this way, the Buddha’s activities resulted in “a ripening result of virtue.”

The meaning of the phrase “the result similar to its cause” in relation to karma is explained as [referring to] a result that is similar to whatever action was performed. This is known as “the result similar to its cause.” For example, whatever virtuous action is performed now will result in a similar virtuous action in the future. Likewise, whatever non-virtuous action is performed now will result in a similar non-virtuous action in the future. So, this is known as the result similar to its cause. Therefore, the Buddha accumulates merit by such actions as maintaining moral conduct for the purpose of continuing to perform similar virtuous actions in the future for the sake of all sentient beings. Then, whatever result was gained from that would be turned into an aspiration, such as “May I be able to continue to engage in the practice of generosity for the sake of others” or “May I be able to continue to maintain moral conduct for the sake of others.” The Buddha would make such aspirations so that he would continue to obtain the result similar to its cause.

Since the Buddha has made an aspiration not to waste the root of virtue, his virtue will never be exhausted. Due to this, it is said that the Buddha and his enlightened activities are never spent. The merit arising from such selfless activities produces great merit that is endless. So, the second reason that explains why the Buddha’s enlightened activities will endure in this universe is shown by the words of the sutra, “his root of virtue is inexhaustible.” So, whatever virtues have been performed to gain Buddhahood for the sake of others are never exhausted.

The ultimate result that you gain by practicing on the path of the Hinayana is the result of a Foe Destroyer. After having attained the state of a Foe Destroyer, your root of virtue is exhausted when you enter into Parinirvana, whereas through practicing on the Mahayana path, you gain the state of ultimate Buddhahood. Having attained the state of a Buddha, the root of virtue never becomes exhausted. All this shows that even after attaining the state of a Buddha, your merit never becomes exhausted.

The subsequent words of the sutra read: “He is adorned with patience and is the foundation of the treasures of merit. His body is adorned with the noble minor marks and decorated with the flower blossoms of the noble major marks. Conforming to the stages of the field of enlightened activities, his appearance is not unpleasant to one’s sight and is delightful to devoted aspirants.” With respect to the Buddha, these six expressions show how he benefits sentient beings by manifesting the various kayas [i.e., enlightened forms].

The first two expressions, “He is adorned with patience and is the foundation of the treasures of merit,” illustrate the causes from which the Buddha’s enlightened bodies are produced. Mainly, there are two causes that are explained. These are the root or main cause and the lesser branch causes.

The root or main cause is the one that produces the overall body of the Buddha. The lesser causes mean those that produce the limbs of the body. The first phrase, “adorned with patience,” refers to the root cause. The second phrase, “the foundation of the treasures of merit,” refers to the cause of the limbs. Generally speaking, the word “patience” means that no matter what difficulties you may face, you do not become angry and your mind does not become disturbed. In brief, “adorned with patience” signifies that the beautified body of the Buddha arises from the cause of patience. Generally, if you meditate on patience, you will gain a beautiful body as a result. In contrast to that, if you display a black face with anger and resentment, you will be born with an ugly body as a result. Not only will that be the result in this life, but also in the next one. The beautiful body of the Buddha is a result of his meditating on patience again and again at the time when he was practicing on the path as a Bodhisattva. Due to that, his body is described as “adorned with patience.”

Anger is a very major fault. It takes us a long time to destroy anger from its roots. Understanding the faults of anger, it is therefore appropriate to think that you should overcome your anger. The practice of meditation on patience must start from today. How are you to meditate on the practice of patience? For example, even if you are being killed by others, you should try not to be defiled by anger. Instead you must try not to engage in harmful, non-virtuous activities of body, speech and mind. This was said by the Buddha. Even if someone robs you of all your belongings, you should reflect upon it with the thought, “By the merit of this generous gift of my belongings, may those robbers themselves become the treasure of generosity.” Instead of letting anger arise, you should try to produce patience instead.

The word “merit” in the phrase “the foundation of the treasures of merit” means virtuous action. The word “treasures” refers to the Buddha’s merit, or root of virtue, being inexhaustible. The word “foundation” refers to the Buddha being the source from which many other merits arise. In brief, this phrase shows that the individual limbs of the Buddha’s beautiful body are the result of the accumulation of numerous merits. It is said that ten times the merit of all sentient beings is equivalent to the merit that is the cause of producing one pore of the Buddha’s body. One hundred times the merit that is able to produce all the pores of the Buddha’s body will produce one of the minor marks of enlightened perfection. One thousand times the merit that produces all the eighty minor marks of enlightened perfection produces one of the thirty-two major marks of enlightened perfection. Among the thirty-two major marks of enlightened perfection, twenty-nine of them can individually be produced by one thousand times the merit that produces all the eighty minor marks of enlightened perfection. Now, ten thousand times the merit that produces each of the other twenty-nine major marks of enlightened perfection will produce the curl of hair located between the eyebrows of the Buddha. One hundred thousand times the merit that produces the curl of hair will produce the ushnisha [the protuberance at the top of the Buddha’s head]. Ten million times the merit needed to produce the ushnisha will produce the “conch of Dharma.” The conch of Dharma seems to signify the Buddha’s voice.

The phrase “adorned with the noble minor marks and decorated with the flower blossoms of the noble major marks” explains the very nature of the main structure of the Buddha’s body. The minor and major marks are the physical qualities that beautify the Buddha’s body. Among these two, the minor marks are the subordinate ones while the major marks are the principal ones. There are eighty minor marks, such as coppery-coloured fingernails. “Adorned with the noble minor marks” means that the Buddha’s body is adorned and beautified by these eighty minor marks.

The major marks refer to the shape of the wheels on the Buddha’s hands and feet, the ushnisha on the crown of the head, and the like. “Decorated with the flower blossoms of the noble major marks” means that, just as any physical body is beautiful when adorned with a garland of flowers, so those major marks, such as the wheels on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, make the Buddha’s body beautiful.

The first part of the phrase “conforming to the stages of the field of enlightened activities” indicates that the Buddha possesses the infinite perfection of enlightened activities.

The second part indicates that no matter what behaviour or activities the Buddha is engaged in, those who behold him always find him attractive, pleasing, and soothing to their minds. In brief, whatever action the Buddha is performing, such as walking, sitting, sleeping, talking, etc., his enlightened activities are calming to the mind of the observer. The second part of the phrase, “his appearance is not unpleasant to one’s sight and is delightful to devoted aspirants,” describes the enlightened activities of the Buddha’s body. When people see the Buddha’s body and observe his behaviour, not only do they think that this “being” is an exceptional one, but also a clear faith and devotion arises within them. Therefore, onlookers always see him as an agreeable sight and not displeasing to look upon.

The [next three] phrases of the sutra, “delightful to devoted aspirants,” “his wisdom cannot be overpowered by others,” and “his powers are invincible,” all demonstrate the types of enlightened activities the Buddha performs for the sake of the different natures possessed by his disciples. The essence of this conveys the idea that the Buddha receives seekers of the spiritual path in different ways. Generally speaking, there are two types of devotees who go to see him. One is the type who sees him out of devotion. The other type of disciple is the one who goes with the idea of competing with him.

The first type, the one with devotion, is further divided into two groups. The first kind is, for example, someone who has only heard about the Buddha but does not know anything about his qualities. So, out of curiosity, that person wants to see what the Buddha is like in actuality. Due to that thought, a seed is planted in his mind that, when ripened, enables him to see the Buddha later. As a result of this, he later goes to see the Buddha. That type of person is known as one who possesses what is known as “desiring faith.” That kind of faith, however, is not desiring faith in the real sense. The reason for this is that it is just a desire to see the Buddha.

Real desiring faith [that of the second kind of disciple with devotion,] is as follows: One hears of the qualities of the Buddha and comes to understand those qualities. Due to that, there arises faith in the Buddha. When this type of faith occurs within a person, it gives rise to the ripening of the root of virtue that already exists within that person’s mind continuum. For this reason that person now goes to see the Buddha. This is the true meaning of “desiring faith.” It is for this reason that two kinds of desiring faith are described.

These are the two types of people who possess desiring faith. When either of them is in the Buddha’s presence, they become very happy. For example, people who engage in meditation experience both great physical and mental joy. Similarly, at the time when people see the Buddha they become delightfully happy. Those people are acknowledged to be delightfully happy with desiring faith.

The subsequent phrases from the sutra, “his wisdom cannot be overpowered by others, and his powers are invincible,” indicate the people who go to see the Buddha with the intention to compete with him. They are also divided into two groups: the first is the person who wants to debate with the Buddha due to that person’s pride in his knowledge of logic among the five sciences. His intention is to defeat the Buddha through his knowledge. The second type of person is one who is physically very strong. This person has the intention of defeating the Buddha through the art of wrestling.

Among these two, the first, the person who wants to defeat the Buddha through his skills in debate, is unable to do so. The reason for this is that the Buddha’s wisdom cannot be defeated by the wisdom of any other living being. The second person is described in the sutra where it reads, “his powers are invincible.” Even though a person wants to physically compete with the Buddha, there is no way the Buddha’s power can be overpowered. The reason for this is that the Buddha’s physical strength cannot be defeated by gods or men. The Buddha’s body possesses matchless strength. There were many people who physically competed with him, but no one succeeded in defeating him.

Behold this beautiful body, a mass of sores, a heaped-up (lump), diseased, much thought of, in which nothing lasts, nothing persists.

— The Buddha