by Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche

When searching for spiritual values, many people look for something very fresh and new, and think that Buddhism, which has been around for about 2,500 years, is too old. But that is not true! Buddhism is the freshest thing you’ll ever come across, because our mind is constantly fresh, and the Buddha is talking about nothing other than our state of mind. He teaches that everything, whatever we experience, good or bad, happy or sad, all happens through states of mind. He’s talking about our own mind, so how could we ever get anything fresher than that?

Buddhism teaches about equality: that differences in race, culture, tradition and belief do not really matter. The fundamental teaching in Buddhism is that everybody has the opportunity and possibility to become a Buddha. Every human being has this potential. The only difference between a Buddha and ordinary beings is that a Buddha has fulfilled it, whereas we are still searching. The Buddha did not keep his discovery to himself but, out of his love and compassion, he wished that all sentient beings might discover this inherent potential within themselves. This realisation, this recognition of our Buddha nature, is very important for all of us. To recognise it is to fully free ourselves, and to achieve this we need to concentrate on what will really free us instead of running after mirages that will never bring us complete and lasting happiness.

As far as I am concerned, Buddhism is the simplest and most practical religion in the world, because our body is ours, our speech is ours, our mind is ours – and our time is ours. All we need to do is learn how to use these properly in order to change our habits and improve ourselves.

When people come to realise that this modern materialistic way of life is meaningless, I think that they will gradually accept the Buddhist teachings, but I am definitely not trying to make a Buddhist out of anyone. Buddhism is very open and teaches respect for all other beliefs. People who have other beliefs might think that Buddhism has nothing to do with them, nothing to offer them, but Buddhism could actually mean everything to them. It could be the missing piece they have been looking for all their lives.

Buddhism tells us about our potential. This potential does not belong only to Buddhists, or only to Christians: it belongs to each and every human being with no distinction of faith, race or culture. We have to learn how to search for it, not out there but right within ourselves. We don’t need to go to any other person or believe in any other thing, the only important step is to believe in ourselves, in the potential we have within ourselves. When we talk about Buddhism, we are actually talking about the mind. If you do not want to hear about Buddhism, the Buddha or enlightenment, we can leave out such words and talk only about the mind.

The most important thing is to learn to appreciate what we have. We really seem to forget how fortunate, how lucky we are. To be able to appreciate our lives, who and what we are, allows us to trust other people and also to have faith and devotion. It makes us wholesome human beings. If we don’t appreciate what we have, then even if we have everything, we are still unhappy. We don’t have peace of mind and it is impossible for us to trust anybody, not to mention having faith and devotion. Some people get so paranoid and lose self-confidence to the point that they cannot even trust themselves. This is why all the religions in the world first teach us to be humble, decent and honest. When we have those qualities, then everything becomes so simple, so easy! I think that we should not get carried away with words like nirvana and realisation. All this means nothing to people like us. What is nirvana? What is enlightenment? If we have found inner peace, then satisfaction comes, happiness comes, joy, generosity, the ability to trust, everything comes! It is all part of this inner peace. I always remind people that the religion they follow makes no difference. If their practice helps them become more humble, better human beings who are able to appreciate themselves and others, then I think they have achieved their goal!

Of course, we are all trying to find happiness. The problem is that we get so fooled by appearances. This 21st century is so ‘visual’. Whatever has a physical form has such an impact on everybody. People want to see and enjoy beautiful things, yet they fail to see that these things are hollow inside. They want a good job, money and relationships, and they are able to change them like changing paper napkins, yet they are not happy. They are in fact looking for a direction that would give meaning to their lives but they fail to recognise that they are actually using poison in their search for happiness. It is impossible to obtain happiness through envy, jealousy, pride, anger and selfishness. If we plant poisonous seeds, the result will be inedible fruits.

This is why I think it is so important to learn to tame our mind. In a way, we have been fully tamed and trained by our own culture, by our traditions and family values, but these values are worldly values that are all about how to survive in this world. Nowadays, people are on the whole more educated and have more knowledge than ever in the past, but if we look at the world situation, we have to admit that all this education and knowledge is no good without inner wisdom as the guide.

We are living in a civilisation where people are brought up like sheep and instead of training their own minds, they either follow others or force others to go along with their ideas. We see it every day. There are many decent young people, even grown-up people, struggling to make their voices heard in order to improve the world situation but they lack the proper training and knowledge and so somehow use the wrong methods to try to get the right result. They stubbornly try to force their own solutions on others. Like these young people with good heart and motivation, who go through so many hardships just to end up in jail, whereas the multinational companies they are fighting usually seem to win, thanks to all the money and clever lawyers they have.

The Buddha who was wise and enlightened saw that it is impossible to change things in this way. He said we need more wisdom than that; it is no use trying to change everybody else, we need to change ourselves.

All those philosophers who are learned in western subjects such as science are able to identify that which is invisible to ordinary people. Nevertheless, although they see and extract that which is precious among the external four elements, have made medical discoveries that cure diseases, are able to benefit and protect their own direction and deliver that which is harmful to others, are expert in discovering substances that bring both benefit and harm into this world; their capacity to be omniscient is still extremely limited.

If we compare that to the omniscience of the Buddha, then from a spiritual perspective the capacity of the Buddha is equal to space. There is not even a hair’s worth of anything that cannot and is not known. That is called being fully and completely omniscient.

If you come to understand the Dharma that is taught by such an omniscient Buddha then your own mind will become like the sky and will never be rigid. Your entire being will be open and free. Since the teachings of the Buddha are full of such temporary and ultimate benefit to yourself and all others if you can learn even a little bit of this Dharma that will bring tremendous achievement. Please hold this advice deep within your heart.

— Yangthang Rinpoche


“指月”是禅宗典籍中经常用到的一个术语,以指比喻言教,以月比喻佛法。如《圆觉经》云:“修多罗(经)教,如标月指。”禅宗典籍中常用“标月之指” 表示指向月亮的手指,即引导你眼睛望向月亮的那只手指。意谓一切法门、言语等等只不过是指向目标之向导,并非目标本身,应随指见月,见月忘指,莫执指而不见月。简而言之,就是将月亮作为目标,手指作为手段。“标月之指” 在于提示人们莫将手段误当成目标。如《楞严经》卷二云:“如人以手指月示人,彼人因指,当应看月。若复观指,以为月体,此人岂唯亡失月轮,亦亡其指。”佛教诸多经论多以“指月”一语劝诫修道之人,不要执着于佛教经文名相。















禅宗以“ 本来无一物” 之境界为上乘,以“万虑皆空”为至德。主张不立文字,不下注脚,亲证实相,方为究竟。认为一切言教无非为示机之方便而设,如以指指月,使人因指而见月。以言教而显示实相,然言教本身并非实相。这就是本书之所以取名《指月录》的由来。



Buddha Nature is empty of the adventitious stains, which are characterised by their total separateness. But it is not empty of the unsurpassed qualities, which have the character of total inseparability.

— Maitreya

Packed and Ready for Whatever’s Next
by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

In the most basic sense, phowa, as practised in Tibetan Bön Buddhism, centres on the transference of consciousness at the moment of death. These teachings can prepare us to project our consciousness directly into a pure realm at the time of death, increasing our chance for liberation in a single lifetime. The time of our death may feel remote and unconnected from our day-to-day reality, but phowa begins now, in this realm of existence. Every day, we undergo a seemingly endless parade of transitions, from the mundane — one day, one week, or one year into the next — to major life transitions that can be much more difficult to adjust to. By recognising each transition — recognising that we have a choice, becoming aware, and then letting go of our attachment — we also prepare ourselves for the great transition at the time of death.

My teacher Yongdzin Rinpoche once said to me that the purpose of practising phowa is to “be packed and ready” when the great moment of our passing approaches. Being packed and ready means just as we are, not bringing anything with us. Whether we are crossing to the other side of this life or simply passing from one phase of life to another, we endeavour to enter empty-handed. Tibetan Bön Buddhist teachings tell us that transitions themselves — even the great transition at the end of this life — are not the cause of suffering; it is our insistence on trying to take things with us that’s the problem. We can’t take anything, and in trying to do so we disturb our minds. So, our practice is to work with ourselves and that sense of attachment, because we all find something — usually many things — to become attached to.

When you walked into the room where you are now sitting, at the very moment of entering, how fully did you walk in? How conscious were you as you crossed the threshold? How much of your “stuff” — your stories, plans, replayed conversations, the lingering discomfort in your mind and emotions — did you bring in with you? Every moment of transition is an opportunity to practice awareness and clarity, to learn about ourselves, to see the ways we become stuck, and to let go. Each time we practice this, we can reflect a little more and be open to seeing our habitual patterns. We must pay attention and be willing to change. And if we find ourselves resisting change, we can pray that we will change: “I know I need to change. May I change. Give me the strength to change.”

Different transitions challenge our attachments in different ways. Just going from one day to another — Friday into Saturday — is not so hard for most of us. But what about going from one season to another, one year to another, one job to another, one relationship to another? Each of these transitions becomes harder as our attachments and expectations around them increase. Perhaps you are used to being able to get up and run or jog each day. There may come a time when this is no longer possible, and you must forget about jogging. That kind of change can be very difficult to adapt to. Maybe you’ve always had one kind of relationship with your parents, but now it’s become another kind of relationship. Now, instead of gathering for barbecues or parties, maybe you visit them in a hospital or nursing home and hold their hands. It’s a change. You are not used to it. It’s hard to transition to the new phase of life if you’re still attached to the previous one.

Because bigger transitions are more difficult, we must focus on our ability to let go now. If you look at this moment of your life, right now, how many things could you let go of? Think of one thing at this moment that you are attached to, that you’re identifying with, that you are holding onto, that causes pain. Perhaps you have a difficult relationship with someone in your life because of a grudge you are holding onto, or perhaps your attachment to the relationship itself is holding you back. Now compare how hard it would be to let go of that attachment with the letting go you will have to do at the time of your death. Which would you prefer, dying or letting go of that attachment? There’s no question, right? You would let go of that attachment. So why not just go ahead and do it?

With awareness, we can see that when we struggle with a transition, it has something to do with an attachment, whether to an identity or to something external. If you let that one thing go, and then another thing and another and another, then all the smaller things you can let go of will help you to be free. Each act of letting go benefits you, making it easier to let go of the harder things that will come along the way. If we do not apply ourselves to these opportunities to let go, if we can’t handle the little things that come along, then we are certain to have a harder time with the big things.

Letting go is like cleaning your garage or your closet. How many of us have cleaned our closets and found stuff in there that we were not using? This is a simple opportunity to practice letting go. When you open your closet and see something you put in there five years ago that you haven’t used, haven’t even touched, go ahead and take hold of it and let that one thing go! Energetically, these small acts of letting go can make a big impact. Even just deleting photos from your phone — a simple act of selecting and then deleting — can lighten our attachments. Do you know someone who has too much stuff, whose house has almost no space for people to move, let alone any sense of spaciousness? Energetically, that’s not good for us. In a monastery, the monks clean a lot. When they clean the gompa, shine the floors, clean the shrine, it’s seen as a purification. Both a shrine and a closet are easier to clean than the chakras. If you cannot clear your central channel, at least open your closet and clear some of those blockages.

There are many ways to enter the next moment. Ceremonially, socially, we do various things that are symbolic. In the Tibetan tradition, we perform a lot of big ceremonies at the end of the year. The end of the year is a time for clearing the old year, so we do purification and rituals. We raise a prayer flag on the first day of the new year, symbolically raising all the forces of elemental energies. In our daily lives, the principle is the same. We can find a way to bring the best out of each new space, new time, new purpose, new mission, new beginning, new phase of life, new moment. It doesn’t have to be the end of the year. Every morning can be like this. In the Tibetan tradition, every day we make an offering of the fresh water on the altar. This is an old tradition, and lately I’ve been feeling a strong connection to it. Bringing something fresh to the shrine, my sense of the day ahead feels very different. That sacredness, that freshness, that sense of connection, of offering, that sense of not forgetting the refuge or source, connecting there to start my day, is very powerful.

Often, at times of transition, we behave without awareness. We behave with condition, with pain, with fear. We feel we don’t have a choice. Just knowing we do have a choice can make all the difference. The choice comes when we can take time to be still, silent, spacious. We practice not doing, not saying, not thinking (not thinking is harder, but at least not doing and not saying). Then, once we have calmed down, we find a new space from which we can do and say and think, and what we do and what we say might be different from what we originally would have said or done. One thing that we want to be able to see clearly and to say to ourselves is, “If it’s not good, I will not make it worse.” Leave it as it is.

We have so many opportunities to be aware. Think about approaching it this way: I’m going to handle this little transition well so I can handle the next, harder one even better. Each time we make these little transitions and feel free, feel good, the world opens up for us. Moments, places, locations, changes, transitions happen all the time in life. These are all opportunities to cultivate and practice to better support the transition of phowa practice at the moment of death. Beyond just preparing us for the big transition at the end of life, bringing this mindset into times of transition can make our lives easier, more productive. In the end, whether doing the phowa practice or walking from one room into the next, it’s about how clearly we enter, how clearly we go to the next day, how clearly we go to the next thing. Every entrance is interesting if we approach it with clarity.

As long as we are mindful and aware, no one practice is better than another.

— Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche








Whatever grounds there are for making merit productive of a future birth, all those do not equal a sixteenth part of the liberation of mind by loving-kindness. The liberation of mind by loving-kindness surpasses them and shines forth, brilliant and bright.

— The Buddha

Religion Without God
by Reginald A. Ray

In the 1930’s, the scholar Helmuth von Glassenapp published a book entitled Buddhism: A Non-theistic Religion. In this title the author was making the point that unlike most of the other world religions, Buddhism denies the ultimate existence of any “God” or deity. As von Glassenapp indicates, non-theism is fundamental to Buddhism and stands right at the heart of its spirituality.

Unfortunately, people in the West have sometimes jumped to the conclusion that Buddhists do not believe in the existence of gods or other unseen beings at all. Wishing Buddhism to be true to modern scientific materialism and philosophical rationalism, they believe that Buddhism is eminently “empirical” and denies the existence of anything that cannot be seen with the senses or proved in some kind of objectively verifiable manner.

But this is not the sense in which Buddhists are non-theistic. Buddhists everywhere believe in an “unseen world” inhabited by a full range of gods, demi-gods, spirits, ghosts and demons. In addition, all Buddhists-except, perhaps, modern Western ones-pray continually to Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and great teachers not only for inspiration, but for practical guidance and help.

In these various ways, Buddhists certainly seem to be behaving like worshippers in the world’s theistic religions. This raises the question: what exactly is Buddhist non-theism?

Briefly put, non-theism in Buddhism means that what is ultimately true and real cannot be found in any external god or being. Any such being has location, qualities and some kind of existence, and is therefore subject to causes and conditions. There is, according to Buddhism, something far more fundamental than this.

Theism implies an inherent limitation to human nature. It declares that to attain the ultimate, we must look outside of ourselves and our immediate experience. It establishes a reference point for reality that resides somewhere else and directs us to seek confirmation of the self in relation to that.

The doctrines of original sin or inherent human depravity would be examples of theism in its more extreme forms. They are typical in asserting that we can connect ourselves to the ultimate only by making a relation with that which is exterior to us, and that we can do so only through the agency of a saviour, a holy book, a religious institution, and so on.

In Buddhism, the meaning of theism is best understood when set in a wider context. In a larger sense, theism refers to anything outside of us that purports to solve the human predicament. It may be spiritual; it may be secular. Some people seek salvation in an external deity. But others seek it in a philosophical viewpoint or political movement, in a relationship, in social status, or in material acquisition.

In each case, the individual seeks ultimate confirmation and fulfilment by looking outside. What is already present within his or her experience, what arises throughout the course of a day or a life, is discounted as being without ultimate value. In a sense, whether the external “answer” is materialistic, psychological or religious does not really matter.

The Buddhist approach states that what is ultimately required for human fulfilment is a perfection of being that is found in who we already are. This is the meaning of the Buddha’s advice given shortly before his death and recounted in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, in which he councils his followers to be lights unto themselves, to seek refuge in themselves, and to seek no other refuge, using the dharma as a means to that end.

Here the Buddha directs us to rely only on ourselves, using various methods to explore our own human nature as it exists right now. This exploration is not a one-sided introversion. Rather, it is looking at our present experiences of both the “internal” and “external” worlds to see what lies at their base, beneath the constant chatter of discursive thinking. Then from within our own experience is gradually uncovered what is ultimately real. This is our buddhanature – that which is open, clear, all-wise and limitlessly compassionate.

In fact, it is this very nature that is habitually projected onto “supernatural beings.” It is in this sense that the Buddha, the prototype of the enlightened person, is called the devatideva in the early texts-the god above gods. The Buddha fully understands the deities-that while they may appear to exist on a relative level, they have no final reality. Instead, they are projections of the deepest qualities of our own human nature. This understanding is attained through the practice of meditation, in which the temporary defilements that obscure the buddhanature are gradually stripped away.

It is true not all Buddhists are non-theistic in this sense. One may be a Buddhist but also a theist, if one believes that enlightenment is something external and looks to texts, human teachers or institutions to provide the final answers.

Nor are all Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus theistic. One can be a good Christian, for example, and be non-theistic in the Buddhist understanding, if one admits the presence of a “Christ within,” as the Hesychasts do, and takes St. Paul’s perspective that when one does good, “It is not I, but Christ within me.” In similar fashion, Hindu advaita Vedanta, certain strands of Kabbala, and aspects of Sufism conform to the definition of non-theism.

Finally, it is interesting to note that theism is not universally condemned in Buddhism. In fact, it is said to be a necessary component of the path, not only at the beginning but right up until enlightenment itself. Perhaps in order to enter the path at all, one must believe that there is a tradition of teachers, texts and practice “out there” that will provide some answers to one’s basic life questions. It is only through locating the ultimate outside of oneself in the form of projections that one can rouse the motivation to traverse the path. Even for the Bodhisattvas of the high levels (bhumis), there is some sense, however subtle, of a final enlightenment to be attained.

There is no need to worry, then, that the dharma is necessarily being perverted when one finds Buddhists acting like spiritual practitioners in “theistic” religions. Of concern, rather, are those modern Buddhists who utterly abjure theism even in its relative and pragmatic senses. In turning away from devotion, veneration and supplication of the enlightened ones, they are rejecting the most powerful methodology that Buddhism possesses.

Demonstration and refutation together with their fallacies are useful in arguing with others; and perception and inference together with their fallacies are useful for self-understanding.

— Dignāga