How Meditation Changes Your Brain — and Your Life
by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson

One cool September morning in 2002 a Tibetan monk arrived at the Madison, Wisconsin airport. His journey had started 7,000 miles away at a monastery atop a hill on the fringe of Kathmandu, Nepal. The trip took 18 hours in the air over three days, and crossed ten time zones.

Richie Davidson had met the monk briefly at the 1995 Mind and Life meeting on destructive emotions in Dharamsala, but had forgotten what he looked like. Still, it was easy to pick him out from the crowd. He was the only shaven-headed man wearing gold-and-crimson robes in the Dane County Regional Airport. His name was Mingyur Rinpoche and he had travelled all this way to have his brain assayed while he meditated.

After a night’s rest, Richie brought Mingyur to the EEG room at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, where brain waves are measured with what looks like a surrealist art piece: a shower cap extruding a spaghetti of wires. This specially designed cap holds 256 thin wires in place, each leading to a sensor pasted to a precise location on the scalp. A tight connection between the sensor and the scalp makes all the difference between recording usable data about the brain’s electrical activity and having the electrode simply be an antenna for noise.

As Mingyur was told when a lab technician began pasting sensors to his scalp, ensuring a tight connection for each and placing them in their exact spot takes no more than fifteen minutes. But Mingyur, a shaven-headed monk, offered up a bald head, and it turns out such continually exposed skin is more thickened and calloused than one protected by hair. To make the crucial electrode-to-scalp connection tight enough to yield viable readings through thicker skin ended up taking much longer than usual.

Most people who come into the lab get impatient, if not irritated, by such delays. But Mingyur was not in the least perturbed, which calmed the nervous lab technician — and all those looking on — with the feeling anything that happened would be okay with him. That was the first inkling of Mingyur’s ease of being, a palpable sense of relaxed readiness for whatever life might bring. The lasting impression Mingyur conveyed was of endless patience, and a gentle quality of kindness.

After spending what seemed like an eternity ensuring that the sensors had good contact with the scalp, the experiment was finally ready to begin. A precise analysis of something as squishy as, say, compassion demands an exacting protocol, one that can detect that mental state’s specific pattern of brain activity amidst the cacophony of the electrical storm from everything else going on. The protocol had Mingyur alternate between one minute of meditation on compassion and thirty seconds of a neutral resting period. To ensure confidence that any effect detected was reliable rather than a random finding, he would have to do this four times in rapid succession.

From the start Richie had grave doubts about whether this could work. Those on the lab team who meditated, Richie among them, all knew it takes time just to settle the mind, often considerably longer than a few minutes. It was inconceivable, they thought, that even someone like Mingyur would be able to enter these states instantaneously, and not need much time to reach inner quiet.

Richie was fortunate that Buddhist scholar John Dunne — a rare combination of scientific interests, humanities expertise, and fluency in Tibetan — volunteered to translate. John delivered precisely timed instructions to Mingyur signalling him to start a compassion meditation, and then after sixty seconds another cue for thirty seconds of his mental resting state, and so on for three more cycles.

Just as Mingyur began the meditation, there was a sudden, huge burst of electrical activity on the computer monitors displaying the signals from his brain. Everyone assumed this meant he had moved; such movement artifacts are a common problem in research with EEG, which registers as wave patterns readings of electrical activity at the top of the brain. Any motion that tugs the sensor — a leg shifting, a tilt of the head — gets amplified in those readings into a huge spike that looks like a brain wave but has to be filtered out for a clean analysis.

Oddly, this burst seemed to last the entire period of the compassion meditation and so far as anyone could see Mingyur had not moved an iota. What’s more, the giant spikes diminished but did not disappear as he went into the mental rest period, again with no visible shift in his body.

The four experimenters in the control room team watched, transfixed, while the next meditation period was announced. As John Dunne translated the next instruction to meditate into Tibetan, the team studied the monitors in silence, glancing back and forth from the brain wave monitor to the video trained on Mingyur.

Instantly the same dramatic burst of electrical signal occurred. Again Mingyur was perfectly still, with no visible change in his body’s position from the rest to the meditation period. Yet the monitor still displayed that same brain wave surge. As this pattern repeated each time he was instructed to generate compassion, the team looked at one another in astonished silence, nearly jumping off their seats in excitement.

The lab team knew at that moment they were witnessing something profound, something that had never before been observed in the laboratory. None could predict what this would lead to, but everyone sensed this was a critical inflection point in neuroscience history.

The news of that session created a scientific stir. As of this writing, the journal article reporting these findings has been cited more than 1,100 times in the world’s scientific literature. Science has paid attention.

The next stunner came when Mingyur went through another batch of tests, this with fMRI, which renders what amounts to a 3D video of brain activity. The fMRI gives science a lens that complements the EEG, which tracks the brain’s electrical activity. The EEG readings are more precise in time, the fMRI more accurate in neural locations.

An EEG does not reveal what’s happening deeper in the brain, let alone show where in the brain the changes occur — that spatial precision comes from the fMRI, which maps the regions where brain activity occurs in minute detail. On the other hand, fMRI, though spatially exacting, tracks the timing of changes over one or two seconds, far slower than EEG.

While his brain was probed by the fMRI, Mingyur followed the cue to engage compassion. Once again the minds of Richie and the others watching in the control room felt as though they had stopped. The reason: Mingyur’s brain’s circuitry for empathy (which typically fires a bit during this mental exercise) rose to an activity level 700 to 800 times greater than it had been during the rest period just before.

Such an extreme increase befuddles science; the intensity with which those states were activated in Mingyur’s brain exceeds any we have seen in studies of “normal” people. The closest resemblance is for epileptic seizures, but those episodes last brief seconds, not a full minute. And besides, brains are seized by seizures, in contrast to Mingyur’s display of intentional control of his brain activity.

While Mingyur’s visit to Madison had yielded jaw-dropping results, he was not alone. His remarkable neural performance was part of a larger story, a one-of-a-kind brain research program that has harvested data from these world-class meditation experts.

Over the years in Richie’s lab, 21 Buddhist yogis have come to be formally tested. They were at the height of this inner art, having racked up lifetime meditation hours ranging from 12,000 to Mingyur’s 62,000.

Each of these yogis completed at least one three-year retreat, during which they meditated in formal practice a minimum of eight hours per day for three continuous years — actually, for three years, three months, and three days. That equates, in a conservative estimate, to about 9,500 hours per retreat.

All have undergone the same scientific protocol, those four one-minute cycles of three kinds of meditation — which has yielded a mountain of metrics. The lab’s team spent months and months analysing the dramatic changes they saw during those short minutes in these highly seasoned practitioners.

Like Mingyur, they entered the specified meditative states at will, each one marked by a distinctive neural signature. As with Mingyur these adepts have shown remarkable mental dexterity, with striking ease instantly mobilising these states: generating feelings of compassion; the spacious equanimity of complete openness to whatever occurs; or a laser-tight, unbreakable focus.

They entered and left these difficult-to-achieve levels of awareness within split seconds. These shifts in awareness were accompanied by equally pronounced shifts in measurable brain activity. Such a feat of collective mental gymnastics has never been seen by science before.

Preparing the raw data on the yogis for sifting by sophisticated statistical programs has demanded painstaking work. Just teasing out the differences between the yogis’ resting state and their brain activity during meditation was a gargantuan computing task. So it took Richie and his colleague Antoine Lutz of the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center quite a while to stumble upon a pattern hiding in that data flood, empirical evidence that got lost amid the excitement about the yogis’ prowess in altering their brain activity during meditative states. In fact, the missed pattern surfaced only as an afterthought during a less hectic moment, months later when the analytic team sifted through the data again.

All along the statistical team had focused on temporary state effects by computing the difference between a yogi’s baseline brain activity and that produced during the one-minute meditation periods. Richie was reviewing the numbers with Antoine and wanted a routine check to ensure that the initial baseline EEG readings — those taken at rest, before the experiment began — were the same in a group of control volunteers who tried the identical meditations the yogis were doing. He asked to see just this baseline data by itself.

When Richie and Antoine sat down to review what the computers had just crunched, they looked at the numbers and then looked at one another. They knew exactly what they were seeing and exchanged just one word: “Amazing!”

All the yogis had elevated gamma oscillations, not just during the meditation practice periods for open presence and compassion but also during the very first measurement, before any meditation was performed. This electrifying data was in the EEG frequency known as “high-amplitude” gamma, the strongest, most intense form. These waves lasted the full minute of the baseline measurement, before they started the meditation.

This was the very EEG wave that Mingyur had displayed in that surprising surge during both open presence and compassion. And now Richie’s team saw that same unusual brain pattern in all the yogis as a standard feature of their everyday neural activity. In other words, Richie and Antoine had stumbled upon the holy grail: a neural signature showing an enduring transformation.

There are four main types of EEG waves, classed by their frequency (technically, measured in Hertz). Delta, the slowest wave, oscillates between one and four cycles per second, and occurs mainly during deep sleep; theta, the next slowest, can signify drowsiness; alpha occurs when we are doing little thinking and indicates relaxation; and beta, the fastest, accompanies thinking, alertness, or concentration.

Gamma, the very fastest brain wave, occurs during moments when differing brain regions fire in harmony, like moments of insight when different elements of a mental puzzle “click” together. To get a sense of this “click,” try this: What single word can turn each of these into a compound word: sauce, pine, crab?

The instant your mind comes up with the answer, your brain signal momentarily produces that distinctive gamma flare. You also elicit a short-lived gamma wave when, for instance, you imagine biting into a ripe, juicy peach and your brain draws together memories stored in different regions of the occipital, temporal, somatosensory, insular, and olfactory cortices to suddenly mesh the sight, smells, taste, feel, and sound of that bite into a single experience. For that quick moment the gamma waves from each of these cortical regions oscillate in perfect synchrony. Ordinarily gamma waves from, say, a creative insight, last no longer than a fifth of a second — not the full minute seen in the yogis.

Anyone’s EEG will show distinctive gamma waves for short moments from time to time. Ordinarily, during a waking state we exhibit a mixture of different brain waves that wax and wane at different frequencies. These brain oscillations reflect complex mental activity, like information processing, and their various frequencies correspond to broadly different functions. The location of these oscillations varies among brain regions; we can display alpha in one cortical location and gamma in another.

In the yogis, gamma oscillations are a far more prominent feature of their brain activity than in other people. Our usual gamma waves are not nearly as strong as that seen by Richie’s team in yogis like Mingyur. The contrast between the yogis and controls in the intensity of gamma was immense: on average the yogis had 25 times greater amplitude gamma oscillations during baseline compared with the control group.

We can only conjecture about what state of consciousness this reflects: yogis like Mingyur seem to experience an ongoing state of open, rich awareness during their daily lives, not just when they meditate. The yogis themselves have described it as a spaciousness and vastness in their experience, as if all their senses were wide open to the full, rich panorama of experience.

Or, as a fourteenth century Tibetan text describes it,

“…a state of bare, transparent awareness;
Effortless and brilliantly vivid, a state of relaxed, rootless wisdom;
Fixation free and crystal clear, a state without the slightest
reference point;
Spacious empty clarity, a state wide open and unconfined;
the senses unfettered…”

The gamma brain state Richie and Antoine discovered was more than unusual, it was unprecedented — a wow! No brain lab had ever before seen gamma oscillations that persist for minutes rather than split seconds, are so strong, and are in synchrony across widespread regions of the brain.

Astonishingly, this sustained, brain-entraining gamma pattern goes on even while seasoned meditators are asleep — as was found by Richie’s team in other research with long-term vipassana meditators who have an average lifetime practice of about 10,000 hours. These gamma oscillations continuing during deep sleep are, again, something never seen before and seem to reflect a residual quality of awareness that persists day and night.

The yogis’ pattern of gamma oscillation contrasts with how, ordinarily, these waves occur only briefly, and in an isolated neural location. The adepts had a sharply heightened level of gamma waves oscillating in synchrony across their brain, independent of any particular mental act. Unheard of.

Richie and Antoine were seeing for the first time a neural echo of the enduring transformations that years of meditation practice etch on the brain. Here was the treasure, hidden in the data all along: a genuine altered trait.

Lotus 157.

One important lesson that I have learned is that there will always be someone ahead of me. Thus, in my opinion, it is better to be realistic in our approach and not to think only about oneself. We should keep this mind and just try our best at whatever we do in life, and at the same time, prepare ourselves for the fact that we too can fail in life just like anybody else. Practically speaking, failure and success are not our choice, but whichever comes first we should learn to accept it and move forward.

— Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche






我有一次,因为我还年轻,讲话比较单纯,我说:“我们在这里听经,身上都有带钱,待会出去要是被车撞死了,这些钱也不是我们的了。”台下的人就骂我了: “真是触霉头!”所以我现在不敢讲了,来这里听经的人都不会死啦——这样讲算好话了吧?这样你们听了就很爽快。其实你们也知道这句话很虚伪,哪有人不会死的?又不是打算当妖精。我们要想:世间不可得。

所以我告诉你们,什么样的钱才是我们的?真正属于我们的钱,就是从我们的手中布施出去,做功德。我们亲手拿出去做功德,这才是真正属于我们的钱。有钱人如果不懂佛法,他会想:“我留下财产,我儿子会帮我做功德。”我告诉你,这可不一定,也许你儿子请道士来吵死你也说不定。难道不曾听过:道士比不过和尚? 搞不好还用牲礼祭拜你,这也说不定。生前不会布施做功德,死后才想子孙替你做功德,这不是聪明人。















“一”只是一个观念。所以真正的佛法就是彻底的觉悟,一绝对不是一,知道吗?譬如说,这是一朵花,这是真的一朵花吗?我们把它撕一点点,那这个是什么? 这不能讲是花啊,花不过是种种的植物的细胞构成的,没有一个真正的一。“一”不过是人类生命的一种执著的观念,错误的观念。我们到现今的教育,都是执著的教育,只有佛陀的教育,是破除执著的教育,记住!一绝对不是一;我绝对不是我;杯子也绝对不是杯子;麦克风也不是麦克风。方便说是麦克风,方便说这是我,方便说这是一盆花,方便说这是文化中心,对不对?这都是方便说。
















所以说想要解脱,第一个,观无常;第二个,观死亡,时时刻刻,我们都要面对死亡;第三点,观世间不可得;第四点,要观无我,一切法无我;第五点,观万法皆空,观照万法皆空,无相可得。世间都是暂时性的,只是暂时性的而已,没有一样东西是永久的。我们今天长得很漂亮,也不必骄傲,有一天你也会年华老去,老到牙齿全掉光了,这是事实。今天你长得很丑,你也不必很有自卑感,虽然长得丑不是你自愿的,但是别常常出来吓人就行了!长得丑不是你的罪过,但是不要常常出现,让人家很惊讶,surprise 不要常常出来吓人。


所以我跟诸位讲过,电视上办的call in、辩论,一点意义都没有。你若是跟广钦老和尚辩论,也许你比广钦老和尚更会讲话,但是你是凡夫,广钦老和尚他是圣人啊,他不必跟你辩论,你讲得天花乱坠,你还是束缚的凡夫,因为你没有开悟啊,对不对?所以透过语言、文字,这不能代表佛法,那只是方便而已。

The victorious ones have said that emptiness is the relinquishing of all views. For whomever emptiness is a view, that one will accomplish nothing.

— Nāgārjuna

A Brief Teaching on Refuge
by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

I would like to present a brief teaching on Refuge. It is the understanding and observing of the Refuge vow which defines one as a Buddhist. It is also said, “You are not a Mahayanist if you don’t have Bodhicitta.” The generation of Bodhicitta or the Bodhisattva aspiration to aid all sentient beings is what defines whether or not your practice is Mahayana.

It should be understood that the entire Buddhist path is included within the principles of Refuge and Bodhicitta. All the teachings given by the Buddha Shakyamuni come down to Refuge and Bodhicitta. Therefore we have teachings on the roots of Refuge, the general and particular precepts of Refuge, and many other instructions related to Refuge. The roots of Refuge are faith and compassion. First there is trust and confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha (the Three Jewels). Also, there is compassion, wishing to liberate all sentient beings from suffering.

Faith in the Three Jewels consists of three types. Inspired faith is the positive inspiration you receive when visiting places of worship where there are many sacred objects, or when you meet great masters and attend sangha gatherings. Aspiration faith is when you wish to get rid of suffering and attain the peace of higher states of existence; you wish to practice good deeds and abandon negative deeds for that purpose, and have confidence in the possibility of achieving that goal. The faith of full confidence is to understand that the Three Jewels are your only and ultimate Refuge. One has heartfelt trust in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Compassion for all sentient beings is the pure wish to liberate sentient beings from all the kinds of problems and suffering in the ocean of Samsara. One should think, “All living beings have been my mothers (in past lives). All have loved me and cared for me as my mother. Therefore, I would like to help them to become liberated from all their suffering.” This is compassion. These are the roots of Refuge.

What is the essence of the refuge vows? It is that I have no other ultimate guide but the Buddha, I have no other true path but the Dharma and I have no other companions with whom to tread the path of dharma but the supreme Sangha. We need companions with whom to tread our path: If we want to cross the river we need a boatman; the boat will not move on it’s own. If we rely on wrong companions or friends we can be led astray, so we want to find the right companions and travel together on the right path. That is the supreme sangha (the noble sangha of bodhisattvas).

Clear and unchanging commitment to the Three Jewels of Refuge is necessary. The instructions on observing the Refuge commitments are many and can be categorised into the general, the particular and so on.

First of the general instructions is not to give up your Refuge vow even in exchange for your life, or for great awards. For example, even if someone might pile up the greatest amount of wealth on one side and tell you, “This could be yours if you would abandon your Refuge vow,” one should not abandon the Refuge vow.

Second, whatever suffering and hardships you go through, you should not rely on anything but the Three Jewels.

Third, you should always make offerings to the Three Jewels and the sacred objects which represent the body, speech and mind of a Buddha.

Fourth, you should observe the Refuge vows and bring others to have confidence in the Three Jewels as much as possible. It is not enough that oneself alone should abide by the Refuge precepts, one should also bring others to the right direction; if somebody is going the wrong way you should try to lead them on the right path.

Fifth, you should make prostrations to the Buddhas of the ten directions, to the Buddha of whichever direction in which you are heading. This simply means to have respect, recall the kindness of and pay homage to the Buddhas morning, noon and evening.

There are the instructions on the particular precepts regarding the Three Jewels.

First, if we go for Refuge to the Buddha we do not ever take worldly deities and gods as an ultimate source of Refuge. Worldly gods are those like Brahma, Indra, Vishnu and Shiva, or Tsens and Gyalpo and other spirits. Since they themselves are in Samsara, how can they help you to become liberated from it? So, as it is said in the Thirty-seven Practices of a Bodhisattva (by Thogme Rinpoche), one should not go for Refuge to unenlightened and worldly beings.

Second, going for Refuge to the Dharma means giving up harming sentient beings. These living beings here include not just those with four legs and hair, but all those who have senses or a mind (including insects). One should give up killing and robbing, and should tread the path of non-violence.

Third, when you go for Refuge to the Sangha you should not spend time with negative companions; if you spend time with negative companions you will be led into negative ways and not into positive ways.

There are three precepts to observe with regard to paying respect to the Three Jewels:

First, regarding going for Refuge to the Buddha, you show reverence to the Buddhas and their representatives. This includes putting Buddha images in a place of respect, making prostrations and offerings, and so on (images of the Buddha should not be placed on the floor).

Second, going for Refuge to the Dharma requires you to show reverence to the Dharma and its representations, even to a letter or a syllable by which the Dharma is written.

Third, taking refuge in the Sangha requires you to show respect to the sangha and the representatives of the Sangha, like those who are wearing the robes of the Sangha. Even if you find a piece of red robe on the street you should think that this is also a representation of the Sangha and should not treat it in a disrespectful way.

Now for the three instructions on accordance of the vows.

First, in going for Refuge to the Buddha, let your mind be in accord with the Dharma. If we claim to go for Refuge to the Buddha but our mind is completely in opposition to the Dharma it is not right. Let your mind be infused with the Dharma, and generate peace and humility in your mind.

Second, in going for Refuge to the Dharma, we should let our speech be in accord with the Dharma. If we claim to be taking Refuge in the Dharma but let our speech be totally contrary to the Dharma this is very wrong. Therefore we try to give up telling deceitful lies, slandering others, and speaking hurtful words; we try to infuse our speech with the Dharma in our daily life.

Third, in going for refuge to the Sangha we should let our body be in accord with the Dharma. We should try to live our life in accord with the Dharma and give up negative actions of the body, such as sexual misconduct and so on.

What are the benefits of observing the Refuge precepts? By going for Refuge we begin to practice the Buddha’s Dharma, this generates numerous benefits. We create a favourable basis for all precepts and levels of ordination. Also, we are protected from the harm of negative humans and non-human beings; all obstacles and harmful influences are pacified. We will not be separated from the blessings of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in all our lives to come. The effects of negative karma will be reduced. There are so many benefits that it is difficult to count them all.

Now we’ll talk about Bodhicitta. All of the paths of a Bodhisattva must be completed within the context of Bodhicitta. First try to think of all those beings experiencing great suffering whom you have seen, like those people who are disabled or sick, and then think of all the other beings who are undergoing immeasurable sufferings. You think of this again and again until you feel real and great compassion for them. You feel as if one will personally dispel all their sufferings; I will do it even if I must do it alone.

When this kind of aspiration and courage arises in you, it is the beginning of becoming a Bodhisattva. Developing this kind of compassion and courage constitute the preparation and training of a Bodhisattva.

There are three kinds of aspiration for a Bodhisattva.

First is the king-like aspiration. A king has power and can give orders to help and benefit his subjects. This means one aspires to become enlightened, in order to be able to help all other sentient beings attain enlightenment.

Second is the captain-like aspiration, which means you want to become enlightened alongside all other sentient beings. A boatman loads his boat with passengers and goes with them across the river.

Third is the shepherd-like aspiration, which is when one aspires, “May all beings become enlightened because of my positive deeds. I will become enlightened only after every one of them has attained enlightenment.” A shepherd will take care of the sheep first, and only then will he go home. This is the most supreme type of courage and compassion.

Of these three, the most noble is the third. But you can choose whichever is more suitable for you; there is no difference. There are three precepts of the Bodhicitta vow: abstaining from negative actions, accumulating positive actions, and working for the benefit of others. Abstaining from negative actions can be elaborated into the eighteen root precepts, but the essence of all of them can be condensed into not abandoning sentient beings. To give up on any sentient being is worse than any other negative deed, therefore one must place emphasis on this.

The Refuge vow and Bodhicitta are not just preliminary practices, or something to be done in the beginning and then be left behind. We recite verses on Refuge and Bodhicitta at the beginning of our practices, but they are not only for the beginning. These two should always accompany you throughout the path. One should maintain compassion, not give up on any sentient being, and should keep a strong commitment to the Refuge vow. This is the most important basis for the Buddhist path and one should always think that “I will personally bring all sentient beings to Enlightenment.”

One should try to generate a genuine aspiration of this kind and work on it as one would dig for gold. This means one should be genuine, and not false or hypocritical. For example if you are not drunk but act like a drunk to impress others, you are not being genuine. When someone is digging for gold, he or she is not thinking of anything else but that gold. Likewise, one should focus one’s mind solely on the generation of Bodhicitta and not do it for fame.

If you do not place emphasis on Refuge you cannot even practice the Hinayana, let alone the Mahayana. If you do not have an inclination towards Bodhicitta you cannot practice Mahayana, let alone Vajrayana.

It is very important to understand this basic principle. If genuine Bodhicitta is established in your mind, you will enter the path of the Bodhisattvas and you will always meet genuine spiritual friends in your lives to come. One will receive the nectar of the Dharma teachings, and will actualise Enlightenment, the perfect Buddhahood, without much delay. Perfect here means the complete abandonment of all that is to be abandoned and the full accomplishment of all that is to be accomplished.

Buddha is translated into Tibetan as Sangye. ‘Sang’ means awaken: you awaken from all the afflictions. ‘Gye’ means blossom: the wisdom opens like the petals of a blossoming flower.

Now that we have laid the foundation for the ocean of Bodhisattva activities, we should say prayers such as the Zangpa Chopa Monlam, the prayers composed by Nagarjuna, etc. al. We should say them not just once or twice but every day, and as constantly as possible throughout our lives for the benefit of others.

The reason why I talk about Refuge is that we should not waste this life of ours which is endowed with the eight freedoms and ten opportunities. Of course there are many who are more learned than I am, but I have tried to say a few words on this. A fool like me doesn’t know much, but if you keep it these words in mind I think there will be some benefits.

17th Karmapa 63.

Buddhism does not advocate that people should forsake their desires completely; it advises people to follow the middle path. We shouldn’t allow our desires to become rampant, but we also have to live with the fact that we do have desires. Therefore, we have to use our wisdom to guide us so that we only follow positive desires and not the negative ones.

— Venerable Fazhao

清明节 且思且感恩









To accomplish these purposes we need a sincere practice of the Dharma, and for this we need a proper understanding of the Dharma, proper teachings and the blessings of the unbroken lineage of the Gurus’ oral teachings. We cannot rely only on books; although an intelligent person can learn something from books, to really practice we need the blessings of the lineage. So now, out of a great rejoicing state of mind, think how you are going to receive the teachings from a Mahayana teacher.

— Ling Rinpoche

Respect Between Teacher and Student
by Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche

Without a good teacher-student relationship it is very hard for the teachings to unfold naturally. The teaching really depends on that connection. The teacher has to be inspired to teach that subject. The teacher can’t feel like, “Oh I don’t want to talk about this teaching,” or “No one will understand this teaching,” or “No one appreciates this teaching.”

Sometimes students request and recite long life prayers for their teachers. In one way, of course, those prayers are important. But the most important thing for a spiritual teacher’s longevity is that his or her students have respect and appreciation. That is much more important than any prayer for a teacher’s long life. Having respect and appreciation for the teacher is the most important long life prayer – it does more to help a teacher’s longevity than praying for it. You don’t need any other long life prayer than that. If you don’t have respect and appreciation, a long life prayer won’t help much. If the students don’t have respect and appreciation it is impossible to teach.

In order to teach, the teacher needs to be inspired. He or she needs to really want to teach that subject. They need to feel like they have a good container to pour that teaching into. Otherwise, if something is bothering a teacher, it damages their motivation to teach.

This good connection between student and teacher is a requirement especially for the Vajrayana teachings and for the Dzogchen teachings. The teacher and the student need to have certain qualities. It cannot be that the teacher is a disaster and the student is a disaster. Then nothing meaningful happens, in fact things get worse.

For example, as Guru Rinpoche says, “If you don’t examine the teacher’s qualities, it’s like drinking poison.” If you drink poison you may die. Guru Rinpoche also said, “If you don’t examine your students, it’s like jumping off a cliff.” If you jump off a cliff you may die or you may break your legs.

A teacher influences your life. If you meet the wrong kind of teacher then you are influenced to go the wrong way. It’s not a small danger. That’s why Guru Rinpoche says not examining the teacher is like drinking poison. This goes for any kind of teacher — religious teachers, spiritual teachers, or any other kind of teacher because the role of a teacher is to guide you. So the wrong teacher can misguide you, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Many students suffer because they met the wrong teacher. They take the wrong person as a teacher. They end up feeling betrayed and violated or very depressed and disappointed.

The other side is that sometimes the teacher gets the wrong kind of students. If a teacher has bad students it can also be dangerous. Those students end up undermining the teacher, or creating difficulties for the teacher. When the student is difficult and doesn’t have the proper respect for the teacher, then that disturbs the teacher’s mind. And that disturbs the teachings because when the teacher’s mind is disturbed then he or she doesn’t want to teach. Thus it prevents other people from receiving the teachings as well. Having the wrong students interferes with other people’s precious opportunity to connect with the teacher and the teachings.

Many teachers, even ones who are enlightened beings, don’t teach. Why is it that a being like this wouldn’t teach? Sometimes the reason is that the students are so complicated. The teacher would prefer to remain silent rather than share the precious teachings they have with the wrong people. They decide that silence is better than teaching complicated students. This is what happens when students disturb the teacher’s mind. These teachings are very precious, so a teacher of them needs to be in a good mood and have a good connection with the audience to feel like sharing them.

Therefore while a long life prayer is important in one way, the teacher and student must have this mutual respect. Both must make their relationship a priority all the time. For the teacher and the student to have a good connection they need to respect each other. That is the basis for any real relationship. Then wonderful and amazing things can happen on the basis of that connection.

After realising the things of this world are unreal, there is little benefit in dwelling in solitude. When the falsehoods of phenomenal appearances have collapsed into their own nature (emptiness), and the unaltered nature of phenomena has been recognised, do not nit-pick the subtle concepts of grasping and grasped, or attach to the contaminated virtuous deeds. Please maintain the stronghold of the vast expanse of primordial pure nature.

— Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche