The Experience of Shunyata: Realising the True Nature of the Mind
by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche

The diligent practitioner of dharma is always mindful of the transience of life, for we have no idea what is going to happen in the future or when we will die. By contemplating how or when death will come, we learn to appreciate the impermanence of life, and to develop a sense of renunciation. In this way, we become less involved in mundane attachments.

It is like planning a move from one geographical location to another. A wise person cultivates an attitude that accepts the idea, then plans the change skillfully, doing important chores ahead of time, so that at his new house everything will be ready and waiting. Once he arrives, he will be less concerned about the home he has left and more able to concentrate on settling down.

In the same way, realising how short and temporary this life allows us to devote more energy to practising the Dharma. This is a more fruitful undertaking than being obsessed with material pleasures, for a time is going to come when none of these possessions can be claimed. Indeed, a time will come when we cannot take along even one strand of hair.

Our friends may be willing to help us now, but in the future, not they, or any possessions or wealth will have a chance to help us. Our position as Dharma practitioners is very rare, for even famous and rich people may not have the opportunity that we have. Because our lives are limited, we should regard the Dharma and the spiritual master as very, very precious.

The connection between the spiritual master and the disciple cannot be stressed enough. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past related to the Dharma first as ordinary sentient beings, and only through proper guidance did they integrate the teachings and achieve enlightenment. From this point, they went on to indestructible omniscience and eternal bliss. Such a state of mind, and the ability to benefit others, comes only from a proper relationship with the master. It is essential to relate to the master in a sincere and genuine way, for he guides us to the proper understanding of the experiences that come with practice. This practice takes a long time to perfect, and we cannot expect fruition to come about in a day or two, or even a few years.

The nature of the mind can be explained in three points: how we perceive, how we relate to these perceptions, and the nature of phenomena. Perceptions, projections, and phenomena are all inseparable elements of the mind. Without the mind, we have nothing to perceive and no way to relate to what is happening. All shapes, even nightmarish forms, are there because of the mind. If there was no mind, there would be no form. Because a blind man cannot see, for him, there is no colour. We perceive colours when our eye-consciousness is working, and with this consciousness, we distinguish and label the different colours. In terms of ultimate reality, there is no difference between colour and mind, or between the labels we give a colour and the mind.

In the same way, sound is not an entity separate from the mind that hears it, and the ear-consciousness reflects the inseparable quality of sound and mind. Likewise, the quality of each sense perception is embodied as a sense consciousness — sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Although sense experiences and their labels are not separate in terms of ultimate reality, we fail to take this perspective, placing what we sense and that which is sensing into different categories. If we acknowledge that there are no perceptions without the mind, we can understand that phenomena, too, are dependent on mind.

Perceived objects do not exist independently and do not have a permanent quality of their own, and labels are just reference points that we devise to support the existence of our thoughts or perceptions. Labels such as good/bad, happy/sad, long/short, and hot/cold are created by the mind, and do not in themselves hold any inherent truth. Because everything is a function of the mind, phenomena are not things in themselves, but are what the mind is and how the mind relates to them. Acknowledging that phenomena are mental projections, we can achieve greater renunciation for there really is no point in getting attached to a situation that is not what it seems to be. Going further, we can actually look into our own mind and examine it. This is a fluid situation. We have identified the quality of knowing, but we cannot locate or label that quality. We cannot give our consciousness a fixed shape or colour, for the nature of mind itself is insubstantial. That which identifies, relates to, and labels other things does not itself possess a fixed identity. This step-by-step method — examining the perceiver in relation to the perceived — can help us to realise the unborn and insubstantial quality of all things. We are working toward unfolding the nature of everything, which is sunyata or emptiness.

Sunyata is not a vacuum or a state of nothingness. Indeed, an enlightened yogi sees the same things we do. At the same time, he or she appreciates the insubstantial and changing quality of everything, and understands that projections and perceptions can cause no harm or trouble. We, on the other hand, regard our projections as something substantial, and we believe that they support and sustain us. We think they are real; indeed, for us this is total reality. We fixate on our perceived reality and become attached to it. That is how we become trapped in our own projections.

To go beyond intellectual understanding to a spontaneous experience of sunyata is to experience the nature of the mind as dharmakaya. This state manifests as an all-pervading quality of space. When a practitioner merges his mind with the dharmakaya, he or she continues to experience everything as before, but also sees the transience of all things. He knows at that point that his mind is insubstantial and non-compounded.

The state of mind in which we see phenomena, yet perceive it without grasping, is called “the mind of great bliss.” Although we do not categorise or focus attention on any fixed thing, we see everything that dawns in the consciousness distinctly, without mistaking one for the other. Such is clarity, and if we see clearly, we can sustain a blissful state without effort. In our lineage, this is called “giving birth to the experience of mahamudra.” As this awareness dawns, the quality of mind itself manifests as unborn and uncompounded.

We construct our own confusion if we hold on to a fixed reality and label phenomena as entities separate from ourselves. In doing this, we inevitably crave some things and reject others, and this is bewildering. Thus, the boundary between enlightened beings and sentient beings lies not in what is seen (because enlightened beings see things too), but in the way they are seen. From the perspective of enlightened mind, everything is Buddhanature, everything is sunyata, and everything is insubstantial. To realise this involves a letting go, the letting go that is enlightenment. Those of us caught up in confusion, imprison ourselves by holding onto a fixed system of dualities.

For example, when adults see a rainbow in the sky, they know what it is and understand that it is insubstantial. When a child sees a rainbow for the first time, he wants to catch it and make it his own. This is like the difference between enlightened beings and ordinary sentient beings. Realised beings, when they see anything, understand it as a reflection of the mind, and they get neither bored with it nor excited about it. Ordinary beings, thinking that what they see is real and permanent, run off with their perceptions and compulsively try to possess this and reject that. This is how confusion piles up. One of the highest experiences is to understand that reality is not fixed.

It is also like this with dreams. Enlightened beings have dreams much like ours. Within our framework of habitual patterns, some dreams frighten us, and others please us. For a yogi, however, the dream experience is different. He recognises that a dream is occurring, and he knows that it is insubstantial. He can catch the dream and play with it, doing whatever he wants to do with it. Unlike us, he recognises that a dream does not have a fixed quality, and he can experience its fluid openness and space without becoming frightened or excited.

Day-to-day life is like a dream, for we react to waking experiences as we do to dreams, with the same patterns or habits. Everything seems complete and real; some experiences make us sad and some make us happy. An enlightened being, however, has let go of everything, and regards all phenomena as insubstantial. Therefore, no one is hurt, nothing triggers excitement, and there is no cause for fear.

The bardo experience can be encountered in the same way. Usually, we cannot see clearly at the time of the bardo because we have built such heavy habitual patterns, and our projections seem so concrete. We play a game of duality, including conflicts between ourselves and others, so we fight the bardo experience, and everything frightens and bewilders us. Yet, for an enlightened being who realises the sunyata nature of all things, even in the bardo, whatever appearances may come, there is space, openness, and movement.

The experience of sunyata is the essence of enlightenment. It is also the basis for bodhicitta, the motivation to benefit all sentient beings. This is because realising insubstantiality–the sunyata nature of all things–makes the difference between sanity and insanity. A sane person sympathises with the suffering of an insane person. He or she thinks, “I wish something better could happen to him,” and in this way her bodhicitta grows. Likewise, a realised person sees that those who have not recognised sunyata clutch and hold onto fixed ideas, and knowing that this will lead the other person to further suffering, he or she wants to do all they can to help. Because a person with the experience of sunyata knows what the sunyata experience means to them, they know how much it would mean to others.

Just having had the experience of sunyata brings benefit to others because now spaciousness is always present. We are no longer limited to doing only this much or that much, and because there are no limitations, there is also great ability and willingness. When there is no substantial blockage to our true nature, the experience of sunyata is immaculate. Without at least a beginning experience of sunyata, true compassion is not even possible. We will only be able to care genuinely when things go wrong for our own loved ones. This becomes a sort of possessive compassion. It is limited and discriminatory, and it is not the compassion of the bodhisattvas.

The bodhicitta generated by bodhisattvas is directed toward all beings equally. Only with such non-discriminating motivation can there be the ability to benefit others. Great ability, or skilful means, extends everywhere because we have transcended a fixed state of reality and overcome all barriers. Regardless of the situation and regardless of which people are involved, we will have the ability to help.

Learning about compassion is important, but it is the actual doing of practice that enables us to realise the profundity of the teachings and to integrate them into daily life. We are not talking about practising for a couple of months or a few years, but doing it constantly and continually until we have great experiences. This is important because the greater our experience of sunyata, the greater and more spontaneous will be our ability to benefit all beings.

At the point where we experience sunyata, practice becomes easy. When the sky is cloudy, the sun is obscured, but as the clouds evaporate, the sun’s rays appear and become more and more radiant. Likewise, the more we let go of ego, the greater is the space created in the environment. Some people believe that persons who have realised sunyata become detached and aloof. This is not at all true. Indeed, with the experience of sunyata we become even more affectionate, respectful, and helpful toward others. We feel closer to everyone because the wish for them to attain enlightenment is also growing. Thus the greater our experience of sunyata, the greater our concern for all beings.

The transcendental qualities of the great yogis are beyond belief. Once in Tibet, a great yogi was doing an intensive ritual practice and a robber crept up behind him with a knife. As the yogi played his drums and ritual objects, the robber cut off his head, which dropped to the ground. Nonchalantly, the yogi picked up his head, put it back on, and continued the ritual. The robber stared speechless until the yogi had finished, and then said: “Oh, I wanted to kill you so much! I really wanted to get rid of you.” The yogi replied, “Well, will my death make you happy? If it will, I’ll die right here. My prayer for you is that there may come a time when I will cut the neck of your ego.” With that, he fell dead. This is an example of a total letting go.

Of course, we do not actually want to drop dead, but the point is that the yogi acted effortlessly and spontaneously, and created for the future a connection between himself and the robber. In a later life, this robber became his disciple, and through this connection and his own prayers, he was helped toward liberation.

Most of us have had dreams of effortless action. As you dream of a fire, for example, you jump into it, then realise that it is only a dream, and you are not burned. Or perhaps a huge beast lunges at you, yet nothing happens. It is like that for enlightened ones: being attacked is like being in a dream. Similarly, you may dream of finding a precious object, and your first instinct is: “Oh, wow! I’ve got a precious jewel!” But on second thought, you realise that this is just your dream, so you just play with the jewel and then let it go. This is what seems to happen to diligent practitioners.

It is important to learn how to recognise sunyata so that we can realise that every perception is relative to our mind, and that the nature of labels, of phenomena — in reality, the nature of all things — is insubstantial. We never reach a point where we can say that the mind is going in this direction, is located here, or comes from there — or for that matter that it has any particular colour or shape at all. Understanding this, we can let go of our confusion, letting go of our ego and conflicting emotions as well. We can transcend our bewilderment and reach Buddhahood.

A Buddha works so that others, too, may recognise sunyata, and may themselves become Buddhas. The main point is that someone who understands sunyata acts with naturally arising compassion for the liberation of all those who are suffering. When we build a house, we start by clearing away dirt, not by placing the completed building on bare ground. Digging the foundation is a part of the building process. In the same way, purification of defilements is part of the process of enlightenment, and it is necessary for our ultimate realisation of sunyata. In helping you recognise the true nature of your mind, the teacher does not place a new mind in you, but just helps you to recognise how things really are.

This is the profound instruction of the Kagyu lineage. It is a path of unbroken teaching because it is the same path that the great masters have followed. The teachings are not presented to you in a neat package ostentatiously wrapped, and just hearing about the Dharma is not enough. Methods such as visualising deities, reciting mantras, and so forth provide the skill to purify all accumulated neuroses, and they engender the virtues that cut through obscurations. Dharma practices are the tools that we need to break through to the experience of sunyata.

We are just being slaughtered and slaughtered one lifetime after another — don’t let your wisdom, compassion and power be so weak!

— Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol

须知烦恼处 悟得即菩提

悟处州灵泉宗一禅师在悟道之前专注一心,常年参禅不止,坐破了好多只蒲团。虽然坐禅习定,但宗一心中的烦恼依然存在,知见之心若有若无,挥之不去。有位高僧看着宗一终日参禅不见功效,于是对他说:“还是行脚去吧。”宗一 听从高僧的话,芒鞋踏遍高山平原、江河湖海, 踏破了数双芒鞋,结果仍然是一无所悟。宗一自己也感到迷惑了。

一日,宗一经过玉器作坊,他聚精会神看着工匠将一块粗糙的顽石打雕成美玉,心中若有所思。夏日,他经过湖边看到一朵朵鲜艳的莲花使赏客们兴奋不已。宗一沿湖行走过去,看到一只打捞污泥 的船从湖中捞出一坨坨又黑又稀的烂泥。宗一当下大悟,说:“烦恼即菩提,此话实是不错,大千世界无处不成正觉,只在于悟与不悟之间。”


烦恼与菩提本来是两种佛教术语,烦恼,又称为惑,也就是使有情之身心发生恼、乱、烦、惑、污等精神作用之总称。《大智度论》云:“烦 恼者,能令心烦能作恼故,名为烦恼。”人类于意识或无意识间,为达到我欲、我执的目的,常沉沦于苦乐之境域,而招致烦恼之束缚。在各种心的作用中,觉悟为佛教之最高目的。准此而言,妨碍实现觉悟的一切精神作用都通称为烦恼。佛陀为了使众生了解烦恼所导致的恐怖情形,常以随眠、缠、盖、结、缚、漏等词语来表示烦恼。佛教中常将贪、嗔、痴三惑作为一切烦恼的根源。




对于烦恼与菩提的关系,《六祖坛经》中云:“凡夫即佛,烦恼即菩提,前念迷即凡夫,后念悟即佛,前念著境即烦恼,后念离境即菩提。” 更有“若识自性,一悟即至佛地”之令人如若醍醐灌顶的精妙见解。一切众生悉有佛性,心本自清净,若是前一念执迷于诸法相,停住于诸境便会被烦恼所困,若是后一念开悟,心无所住便是菩提,到了佛地。所以说如若认识了自我性空之实相,一 悟就是到达了佛之境界。烦恼与菩提的转化只是在悟与不悟之间。


“烦恼即菩提”中烦恼与菩提不二,两者一并而存,烦恼实相即是空,能知烦恼自性空即是菩提。凡是妨碍众生觉悟的都称为烦恼;与之相反,能够帮助众生断绝世间诸烦恼达到涅槃之境的智慧就叫菩提。然而,贪、嗔、痴等烦恼之法相本体就是菩提,也就是说菩提是诸法实相,烦恼是实相的外在诸法。 离开菩提自性即空的实相, 烦恼就不存在,所以烦恼的根本自性立就了菩提。这就是烦恼与菩提相即不离的意思。

Lotus 258.

This interconnectedness of everything is termed ‘interdependent arising’ in Buddhism. As everything is interdependently arisen, we do not have the perspective of a solitary agent performing a variety of actions but a complex multifaceted individual engaged with many diverse roles, intersecting with a very complex world. This is the real core of it all and is really what is behind the great emphasis on the practice of mindfulness and awareness, for if things were simple in themselves, there would be no real need of paying too much attention to them.

— Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche

Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche 20.

Healing the Child Within
by Thich Nhat Hanh

In each of us, there is a young, suffering child. We have all had times of difficulty as children and many of us have experienced trauma. To protect and defend ourselves against future suffering, we often try to forget those painful times. Every time we’re in touch with the experience of suffering, we believe we can’t bear it, and we stuff our feelings and memories deep down in our unconscious mind. It may be that we haven’t dared to face this child for many decades.

But just because we may have ignored the child doesn’t mean she or he isn’t there. The wounded child is always there, trying to get our attention. The child says, “I’m here. I’m here. You can’t avoid me. You can’t run away from me.” We want to end our suffering by sending the child to a deep place inside and staying as far away as possible. But running away doesn’t end our suffering; it only prolongs it.

The wounded child asks for care and love, but we do the opposite. We run away because we’re afraid of suffering. The block of pain and sorrow in us feels overwhelming. Even if we have time, we don’t come home to ourselves. We try to keep ourselves constantly entertained — watching television or movies, socialising, or using alcohol or drugs — because we don’t want to experience that suffering all over again.

The wounded child is there and we don’t even know she is there. The wounded child in us is a reality, but we can’t see her. That inability to see is a kind of ignorance. This child has been severely wounded. She or he really needs us to return. Instead, we turn away.

Ignorance is in each cell of our body and our consciousness. It’s like a drop of ink diffused in a glass of water. That ignorance stops us from seeing reality; it pushes us to do foolish things that make us suffer even more and wound again the already-wounded child in us.

The wounded child is also in each cell of our body. There is no cell of our body that does not have that wounded child in it. We don’t have to look far into the past for that child. We only have to look deeply and we can be in touch with him. The suffering of that wounded child is lying inside us right now in the present moment.

But just as the suffering is present in every cell of our body, so are the seeds of awakened understanding and happiness handed down to us from our ancestors. We just have to use them. We have a lamp inside us, the lamp of mindfulness, which we can light anytime. The oil of that lamp is our breathing, our steps, and our peaceful smile. We have to light up that lamp of mindfulness so the light will shine out and the darkness will dissipate and cease. Our practise is to light up the lamp.

When we become aware that we’ve forgotten the wounded child in ourselves, we feel great compassion for that child and we begin to generate the energy of mindfulness. The practices of mindful walking, mindful sitting, and mindful breathing are our foundation. With our mindful breath and mindful steps, we can produce the energy of mindfulness and return to the awakened wisdom lying in each cell of our body. That energy will embrace us and heal us, and will heal the wounded child in us.


When we speak of listening with compassion, we usually think of listening to someone else. But we must also listen to the wounded child inside us. Sometimes the wounded child in us needs all our attention. That little child might emerge from the depths of your consciousness and ask for your attention. If you are mindful, you will hear his or her voice calling for help. At that moment, instead of paying attention to whatever is in front of you, go back and tenderly embrace the wounded child. You can talk directly to the child with the language of love, saying, “In the past, I left you alone. I went away from you. Now, I am very sorry. I am going to embrace you.” You can say, “Darling, I am here for you. I will take good care of you. I know you suffer so much. I have been so busy. I have neglected you, and now I have learned a way to come back to you.” If necessary, you have to cry together with that child. Whenever you need to, you can sit and breathe with the child. “Breathing in, I go back to my wounded child; breathing out, I take good care of my wounded child.”

You have to talk to your child several times a day. Only then can healing take place. Embracing your child tenderly, you reassure him that you will never let him down again or leave him unattended. The little child has been left alone for so long. That is why you need to begin this practice right away. If you don’t do it now, when will you do it?

If you know how to go back to her and listen carefully every day for five or ten minutes, healing will take place. When you climb a beautiful mountain, invite your child within to climb with you. When you contemplate the sunset, invite her to enjoy it with you. If you do that for a few weeks or a few months, the wounded child in you will experience healing.

With practice, we can see that our wounded child is not only us. Our wounded child may represent several generations. Our mother may have suffered throughout her life. Our father may have suffered. Perhaps our parents weren’t able to look after the wounded child in themselves. So when we’re embracing the wounded child in us, we’re embracing all the wounded children of our past generations. This practice is not a practice for ourselves alone, but for numberless generations of ancestors and descendants.

Our ancestors may not have known how to care for their wounded child within, so they transmitted their wounded child to us. Our practise is to end this cycle. If we can heal our wounded child, we will not only liberate ourselves, but we will also help liberate whoever has hurt or abused us. The abuser may also have been the victim of abuse. There are people who have practised with their inner child for a long time who have had a lessening of their suffering and have experienced transformation. Their relationships with their family and friends have become much easier.

We suffer because we have not been touched by compassion and understanding. If we generate the energy of mindfulness, understanding, and compassion for our wounded child, we will suffer much less. When we generate mindfulness, compassion and understanding become possible, and we can allow people to love us. Before, we may have been suspicious of everything and everyone. Compassion helps us relate to others and restore communication. The people around us, our family and friends, may also have a severely wounded child inside. If we’ve managed to help ourselves, we can also help them. When we’ve healed ourselves, our relationships with others become much easier. There’s more peace and more love in us.

Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. The wounded child in you needs you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all these things. Practice mindful walking and mindful breathing. Do everything in mindfulness so you can really be there, so you can love.


The energy of mindfulness is the salve that will recognise and heal the child within. But how do we cultivate this energy?

Buddhist psychology divides consciousness into two parts. One part is mind consciousness and the other is store consciousness. Mind consciousness is our active awareness. Western psychology calls it “the conscious mind.” To cultivate the energy of mindfulness, we try to engage our active awareness in all our activities and be truly present with whatever we are doing. We want to be mindful as we drink our tea or drive through the city. When we walk, we want to be aware that we are walking. When we breathe, we want to be aware that we are breathing.

Store consciousness, also called root consciousness, is the base of our consciousness. In Western psychology, it’s called “the unconscious mind.” It’s where all our past experiences are stored. Store consciousness has the capacity to learn and to process information.

Often our mind is not there with our body. Sometimes we go through our daily activities without mind consciousness being involved at all. We can do many things by means of store consciousness alone, and mind consciousness can be thinking of a thousand other things. For example, when we drive our car through the city, mind consciousness may not be thinking about driving at all, but we can still reach our destination without getting lost or having an accident. That is store consciousness operating on its own.

Consciousness is like a house in which the basement is our store consciousness and the living room is our mind consciousness. Mental formations like anger, sorrow, or joy, rest in the store consciousness in the form of seeds (bija). We have a seed of anger, despair, discrimination, fear, a seed of mindfulness, compassion, a seed of understanding, and so on. Store consciousness is made of the totality of the seeds, and it is also the soil that preserves and maintains all the seeds. The seeds stay there until we hear, see, read, or think of something that touches a seed and makes us feel the anger, joy, or sorrow. This is a seed coming up and manifesting on the level of mind consciousness, in our living room. Now we no longer call it a seed, but a mental formation.

When someone touches the seed of anger by saying something or doing something that upsets us, that seed of anger will come up and manifest in mind consciousness as the mental formation (cittasamskara) of anger. The word “formation” is a Buddhist term for something that’s created by many conditions coming together. A marker pen is a formation; my hand, a flower, a table, a house, are all formations. A house is a physical formation. My hand is a physiological formation. My anger is a mental formation. In Buddhist psychology, we speak about fifty-one varieties of seeds that can manifest as fifty-one mental formations. Anger is just one of them. In store consciousness, anger is called a seed. In mind consciousness, it’s called a mental formation.

Whenever a seed, say the seed of anger, comes up into our living room and manifests as a mental formation, the first thing we can do is to touch the seed of mindfulness and invite it to come up too. Now we have two mental formations in the living room. This is mindfulness of anger. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. When we breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing. When we walk mindfully, that is mindfulness of walking. When we eat mindfully, that’s mindfulness of eating. So in this case, mindfulness is mindfulness of anger. Mindfulness recognises and embraces anger.

Our practice is based on the insight of non duality — anger is not an enemy. Both mindfulness and anger are ourselves. Mindfulness is there not to suppress or fight against anger, but to recognise and take care of it — like a big brother helping a younger brother. So the energy of anger is recognised and embraced tenderly by the energy of mindfulness.

Every time we need the energy of mindfulness, we just touch that seed with our mindful breathing, mindful walking, smiling, and then we have the energy ready to do the work of recognising, embracing, and later on looking deeply and transforming. Whatever we’re doing, whether it’s cooking, sweeping, washing, walking, being aware of our breathing, we can continue to generate the energy of mindfulness, and the seed of mindfulness in us will become strong. Within the seed of mindfulness is the seed of concentration. With these two energies, we can liberate ourselves from afflictions.


We know there are toxins in our body. If our blood doesn’t circulate well, these toxins accumulate. In order to remain healthy, our body works to expel the toxins. When the blood circulates well, the kidneys and the liver can do their job to dispel toxins. We can use massage to help the blood circulate better.

Our consciousness, too, maybe in a state of bad circulation. We may have a block of suffering, pain, sorrow, or despair in us; it’s like a toxin in our consciousness. We call this an internal formation or internal knot. Embracing our pain and sorrow with the energy of mindfulness is the practice of massaging our consciousness. When the blood doesn’t circulate well, our organs can’t function properly, and we get sick. When our psyche doesn’t circulate well, our mind will become sick. Mindfulness stimulates and accelerates circulation throughout blocks of pain.


Our blocks of pain, sorrow, anger, and despair always want to come up into our mind consciousness, into our living room, because they’ve grown big and need our attention. They want to emerge, but we don’t want these uninvited guests to come up because they’re painful to look at. So we try to block their way. We want them to stay asleep down in the basement. We don’t want to face them, so our habit is to fill the living room with other guests. Whenever we have ten or fifteen minutes of free time, we do anything we can to keep our living room occupied. We call a friend. We pick up a book. We turn on the television. We go for a drive. We hope that if the living room is occupied, these unpleasant mental formations will not come up.

But all mental formations need to circulate. If we don’t let them come up, it creates bad circulation in our psyche, and symptoms of mental illness and depression begin to manifest in our mind and body.

Sometimes when we have a headache, we take aspirin, but our headache doesn’t go away. Sometimes this kind of headache can be a symptom of mental illness. Perhaps we have allergies. We think it’s a physical problem, but allergies can also be a symptom of mental illness. We are advised by doctors to take drugs, but sometimes these will continue to suppress our internal formations, making our sickness worse.


If we can learn not to fear our knots of suffering, we slowly begin to let them circulate up into our living room. We begin to learn how to embrace them and transform them with the energy of mindfulness. When we dismantle the barrier between the basement and the living room, blocks of pain will come up and we will have to suffer a bit. Our inner child may have a lot of fear and anger stored up from being down in the basement for so long. There is no way to avoid it.

That is why the practice of mindfulness is so important. If mindfulness is not there, it is very unpleasant to have these seeds come up. But if we know how to generate the energy of mindfulness, it’s very healing to invite them up every day and embrace them. Mindfulness is a strong source of energy that can recognise, embrace, and take care of these negative energies. Perhaps these seeds don’t want to come up at first, perhaps there’s too much fear and distrust, so we may have to coax them a bit. After being embraced for some time, a strong emotion will return to the basement and become a seed again, weaker than before.

Every time you give your internal formations a bath of mindfulness, the blocks of pain in you become lighter. So give your anger, your despair, your fear, a bath of mindfulness every day. After several days or weeks of bringing them up daily and helping them go back down again, you create good circulation in your psyche.


The first function of mindfulness is to recognise and not to fight. We can stop at any time and become aware of the child within us. When we recognise the wounded child for the first time, all we need to do is be aware of him or her and say hello. That’s all. Perhaps this child is sad. If we notice this we can just breathe in and say to ourselves, “Breathing in, I know that sorrow has manifested in me. Hello, my sorrow. Breathing out, I will take good care of you.”

Once we have recognised our inner child, the second function of mindfulness is to embrace him or her. This is a very pleasant practice. Instead of fighting our emotions, we are taking good care of ourselves. Mindfulness brings with her an ally—concentration. The first few minutes of recognising and embracing our inner child with tenderness will bring some relief. The difficult emotions will still be there, but we won’t suffer as much anymore.

After recognising and embracing our inner child, the third function of mindfulness is to soothe and relieve our difficult emotions. Just by holding this child gently, we are soothing our difficult emotions and we can begin to feel at ease. When we embrace our strong emotions with mindfulness and concentration, we’ll be able to see the roots of these mental formations. We’ll know where our suffering has come from. When we see the roots of things, our suffering will lessen. So mindfulness recognises, embraces, and relieves.

The energy of mindfulness contains the energy of concentration as well as the energy of insight. Concentration helps us focus on just one thing. With concentration, the energy of looking becomes more powerful and insight is possible. Insight always has the power of liberating us. If mindfulness is there, and we know how to keep mindfulness alive, concentration will be there, too. And if we know how to keep concentration alive, insight will also come. The energy of mindfulness enables us to look deeply and gain the insight we need so that transformation is possible.

Thich Nhat Hanh 108.

One drop of dew is enough to sustain life. So it is with sentient beings who are plagued moment after moment by the heat of vexation. The smallest amount of Buddhadharma is enough to encourage them to continue to practise. It nourishes practice and helps it to grow.

— Master Sheng Yen




一 布施波罗蜜多




二 持戒波罗蜜多



为什么要这样做呢?归根结底,乐因是善,一切快乐都是从善法中产生的;苦因是恶,一切痛苦都是从恶业中产生的。佛讲“诸恶莫作,众善奉行”,就是断恶行善,这是离苦得乐唯一的方法。断除一分恶业,就可以去除一分痛苦;行持一 分善业,就能获得一分快乐,因果是不虚的。我们作为学佛人,任何时候都应该清醒、理智,尽量去断恶行善,这样我们才可以逐渐改变命运。



三 精进波罗蜜多





四 安忍波罗蜜多



在疫情肆虐的特殊时期,在这样严厉的对境前,我们也可以修安忍。首先,就内在而言,我们要真正安住这颗心。做到不恐慌,绝非易事,即便如此,我们也要努力与负面情绪抗争。其次,外在要有一些防护措施,这些措施可能与我们的生活习惯有冲突,如有些人爱出门玩儿,在家里待一个小时也如 同画地为牢一般难忍。但这是特殊时期,包括戴口罩、每天勤洗手等,都要尽力去做。一是为了自己,二是为了身边的人,三是为了整个社会。也许你没有事,更不害怕,但你身边的人可能会害怕,所以这时候要修安忍,要理智、智慧地去面对这些现实。这样不仅自己没有烦恼,也不会给身边的人带来烦恼,这就是修行人应该做的事情。







五 静虑(禅定)波罗蜜多





3.缘真如静虑。即止观彻底双运的境界,这个境界安立在佛的境界里,三清净地(八、九、十地)也有相 似的缘真如静虑。有的法师讲:这不是相似,是一种真正的缘真如静虑,但它是因不是果。我们理解为相似的也可以,因为真正的缘真如静虑在佛的境界里,这时彻底止观双运,而佛没有出定和入定之分,当下即轮涅一体,轮回即涅槃,涅槃即轮回;此岸即彼岸,彼岸即此岸。



六 智慧波罗蜜多





Khenpo DaZhen Rinpoche (达真堪布) 19..jpg

It is said that the Buddha taught eighty-four thousand Dharma teachings and that these teachings can all be condensed into the following three lines. The first is, ‘‘Do as many good actions as you can.’’ The second is, ‘‘Avoid as many bad actions as you can.’’ How does one practice the good and avoid the bad? The third line contains the answer: ‘‘Tame your mind.’’

— Thrangu Rinpoche

Carrying difficult situations onto the path of Enlightenment
by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Bodhichitta may be considered under two further headings: Bodhichitta in intention and Bodhichitta in action. Beginning with the former we find that it likewise has two aspects according as it is related to the relative, or to the absolute, truth.

When all the world is filled with evils,
Place all setbacks on the path of liberation.

If we have instructions on how to carry obstacles onto the path, then no matter how many difficulties and conflicting situations come upon us, they will simply clarify our practice and have no power to hinder us on the path. If, however, we do not have such instructions, then difficulties will be experienced as hindrances.

In these degenerate times, as far as the outer universe is concerned, the rains and snows do not come when they should, harvests are poor, the cattle are unhealthy and people and animals are riddled with disease. Because people spend their time in evil activities, because they are jealous and constantly wish misfortune on one another, many countries are at variance and in desperate circumstances. We are in the era when even the teachings of religion are perverted so that famine, disease and war are rife. But, when a forest is on fire, a gale will only make it bigger, it certainly will not blow it out. Likewise, for a Bodhisattva who has received instruction, all such catastrophic situations may be profitably taken onto the path.

Guru Padmasambhava has said, ‘Pray to me, you beings of degenerate times, who have not the fortune to meet with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions. My compassion will be swift to shield you.’ As an illustration of this, think of Tibet, a place where Buddha Shakyamunil” never went. When the abbot Shantarakshita Vajrapani in person, went there to teach the Buddhadharma, his work was hindered by ferocious and terrible evil spirits. Because of that inauspicious circumstance, Guru Rinpoche was invited. He came, and with the weapons of voidness and compassion subdued all the negative forces, blessing the entire country as a Buddhafield of Chenrezig, causing the tradition of the Mantrayana to rise and shine like the sun. This is an example of Bodhisattva activity.

We might however think that in order to carry everything onto the path to enlightenment, we need to be someone like Guru Rinpoche, with high realisation and miraculous power, qualities which, alas, we do not have. We should not discourage ourselves with thoughts of that kind! By following these instructions, we will be able to make use of every difficult situation in our spiritual training.


All suffering comes through not recognising ego-clinging as our enemy. When we are hit by a stick or a stone, it hurts; when someone calls us a thief or a liar, we become angry. Why is this? It is because we feel great esteem and attachment for what we think of as our selves, and we think ‘I am being attacked.’ Clinging to the ‘I’ is the real obstacle to the attainment of liberation and enlightenment. What we call obstacle-makers or evil influences, such as ghosts, gods, and so on, are not at all entities outside us. It is from within that the trouble comes. It is due to our fixation on ‘I,’ that we think: ‘I am so unhappy, I can’t get anything to eat, I have no clothes, lots of people are against me and I don’t have any friends.’ It is thoughts like these that keep us so busy-and all so uselessly! This is the reason why we are not on the path to liberation and Buddhahood. Throughout the entire succession of our lives, from beginningless time until the present, we have been taking birth in one or other of the six realms. How long we have been labouring in the three worlds of samsara, slaves to our ego-clinging! This is why we cannot escape. When a man has borrowed a lot of money, he will never have a moment’s peace until he has repaid his debt. So it is with all the work that our ego-clinging has given us to do; it has left negative imprints on the alaya similar to promissory notes. When our karma fructifies and ‘payment’ is demanded, we have no chance for happiness and enjoyment. All this is because, as it says in the teachings, we do not recognise ego-clinging as our real enemy.

It is also because we do not recognise the great kindness of beings. It was said by Buddha Shakyamuni that to work for beings with kindness and compassion, and to make offerings to the Buddhas are of equal value for the attainment of enlightenment. Therefore to be generous to others, to free them from suffering and set them on the path of liberation is as good as making offerings to the Buddhas. We may think that it is better to give to a temple, or place offerings before an image of the Buddha. In fact, because the Buddhas are completely free from self cherishing, the more we can help beings, the happier they are. When the hordes of demons tried to obstruct the Buddha as he was on the point of attaining enlightenment, sending their armies and hurling their weapons, he meditated on kindness towards them, whereupon his great love overwhelmed their hatred, turning their weapons into flowers, and their curses and war cries into praises and mantras. Other beings are in fact the best occasions for the accumulation of merit.

This is why the Bodhisattvas in Dewachen (a pure Buddhafield where there are no afflicted beings and no objects of hatred, pride and envy) pray to be reborn in this sorrowing world of ours. For, as the sutras say, they want to be in a place where beings think only of accumulating possessions and satisfying those close to them, where they are therefore overwhelmed by defilements and so are supports for the mind training and practice of Bodhichitta. The immediate causes for the attainment of Buddhahood are other beings; we should be truly grateful to them.

Lay the blame for everything on one.

All suffering, all sickness, possession by spirits, loss of wealth, involvements with the law and so on, are without exception the result of clinging to the ‘I.’ That is indeed where we should lay the blame for all our mishaps. All the suffering that comes to us arises simply through our holding on to our ego. We should not blame anything on others. Even if some enemy were to come and cut our heads off or beat us with a stick, all he does is to provide the momentary circumstance of injury. The real cause of our being harmed is our self-clinging and is not the work of our enemy. As it is said:

All the harm with which this world is rife,
All the fear and suffering that there is:
Clinging to the ‘I’ has caused it!
What am I to do with this great demon?

When people believe that their house is haunted or that a particular object is cursed, they think that they have to have it exorcised. Ordinary people are often like that, aren’t they? But ghosts, devils and so on are only external enemies; they cannot really harm us. But as soon as the inner ghost of ego-clinging appears-that is when the real trouble starts. A basis for ego-clinging has never at any time existed. We cling to our ‘I,’ even when in fact there is nothing to cling to. We cling to it and cherish it. For its sake we bring harm to others, accumulating many negative actions, only to endure much suffering in samsara, in the lower realms, later on.

It says in the Bodhicharyavatara:

O you my mind, for countless ages past,
Have sought the welfare of yourself;
Oh the weariness it brought upon you!
And all you got was sorrow in return.

It is not possible to point to a moment and say, ‘This was when I started in samsara; this is how long I have been here.’ Without the boundless knowledge of a Buddha, it is impossible to calculate such an immense period of time.

Because we are sunk in the delusion of ego-clinging, we think in terms of ‘my body, my mind, my name.’ We think we own them and take care of them. Anything that does them harm, we will attack. Anything that helps them, we will become attached to. All the calamities and loss that come from this are therefore said to be the work of ego-clinging and since this is the source of suffering, we can see that it is indeed our enemy. Our minds which cling to the illusion of self, have brought forth misery in samsara from beginningless time. How does this come about? When we come across someone richer, more learned or with a better situation than ourselves, we think that they are showing off, and we are determined to do better. We are jealous, and want to cut them down to size. When those less fortunate than ourselves ask for help, we think, ‘What’s the point of helping a beggar like this? He will never be able to repay me. I just can’t be bothered with him.’ When we come across someone of equal status who has some wealth, we also want some. If they have fame we also want to be famous. If they have a good situation, we want a good situation too. We always want to compete. This is why we are not free from samsara: it is this that creates the sufferings and harm which we imagine to be inflicted on us by spirits and other human beings.

Once when he was plagued by gods and demons, Milarepa said to them: ‘If you must eat my body, eat it! If you want to drink my blood, drink it! Take my life and breath immediately, and go!’ As soon as he relinquished all concern for himself, all difficulties dissolved and the obstacle-makers paid him homage.

That is why the author of the Bodhicharyavatara says to the ego:

A hundred harms you’ve done me
Wandering in cycles of existence;
Now your malice I remember
And will crush your selfish schemes!

The degree of self-clinging that we have is the measure of the harms we suffer. In this world, if a person has been seriously wronged by one of his fellows, he would think, ‘I am the victim of that man’s terrible crimes, I must fight back. He ought to be put to death, or at least the authorities should put him in prison; he should be made to pay to his last penny.’ And if the injured man succeeds in these intentions, he would be considered a fine, upstanding, courageous person. But it is only if we really have the wish to put an end to the ego-clinging which has brought us pain and loss from beginningless time – it is only then, that we will be on the path to enlightenment.

And so, when attachment for the ‘I’ appears-and it is after all only a thought within our minds-we should try to investigate. Is this ego a substance, a thing? Is it inside or outside? When we think that someone has done something to hurt us and anger arises, we should ask ourselves whether the anger is part of the enemy’s makeup or whether it is in ourselves. Likewise with attachment to friends: is our longing an attribute of the friend, or is it in ourselves? And if there are such things as anger or attachment, do they have shape or colour, are they male, female or neither? For if they exist, they ought to have characteristics. The fact is, however, that even if we persevere in our search, we will never find anything. If we do not find anything, how is it that we keep on clinging? All the trouble that we have had to endure until now has been caused by something that has never existed! Therefore, whenever the ego-clinging arises we must rid ourselves of it immediately and we should do everything within our power to prevent it from arising again. As Shantideva says in the Bodhicharyavatara:

That time when you could beat me down
Is in the past, it’s no more here.
Now I see you! Where will you escape?
I will crush your haughty insolence!

‘In this short lifetime,’ Geshe Shawopa used to say, ‘we should subdue this demon as much as possible.’ Just as one would go to lamas for initiations and rituals to exorcise a haunted house, in the same way, to drive away this demon of ego-clinging, we should meditate on Bodhichitta and try to establish ourselves in the view of emptiness. We should fully understand, as Geshe Shawopa would say, that all the experiences we undergo are the fruit of good or evil actions that we have done to others in the past. He had the habit of giving worldly names to selfish actions, and religious names to actions done for others. Then there was Geshe Ben who, when a positive thought occurred to him, would praise it highly, and when a negative thought arose, would apply the antidote at once and beat it off.

The only way to guard the door of the mind is with the spear of the antidote. No other way exists. When the enemy is strong, we too have to be on the alert. When the enemy is mild we can loosen up a little bit as well. For example when there is trouble in a kingdom, the bodyguards will protect the king constantly, neither sleeping at night nor relaxing by day. Likewise, in order to drive away the mischief-maker of our ego-clinging, we should apply the antidote of emptiness as soon as it appears. This is what Geshe Shawopa used to call ‘the ritual of exorcism.’

Let us regard ego-clinging therefore as our enemy. When it exists no longer, it will be impossible for us not to care for others more than we do for ourselves. As this feeling arises, let us


for they have been our parents and have shown us much goodness countless times in the past. Of the thousand Buddhas of this age, it is said that Buddha Shakyamuni was the one who had the greatest aspirations. For when the others conceived the wish to be enlightened for the sake of beings, they aspired to Buddhafields, longevity, great congregations of Shravakas etc. But the Buddha Shakyamuni prayed to be reborn in degenerate times, when it would be difficult to teach beings afflicted by disease, famine and war. He took birth in this realm knowingly, praying that whoever heard his name or his teachings might straight away be set upon the path of liberation. That is why, with his armour-like aspirations and endeavour, the Buddha Shakyamuni is without equal and is praised as a white lotus among the thousand Buddhas of this fortunate kalpa.

We should be thankful to all beings, for enlightenment depends on them, and have as much love and compassion towards our enemies as we have towards our friends. This is the most important thing, because love and compassion for parents, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters arises naturally by itself. It is said in the Bodhicharyavatara:

The state of Buddhahood depends
On beings and the Buddhas equally.
By what tradition is it then that
Buddhas, but not beings, are alone revered?

For example, if we find an image of the Buddha, or even a single word or page of the scriptures, in a low and dirty place, we respectfully pick them up and place them somewhere clean and high. When we see beings, we should respect them in the same way. Whenever he saw a dog lying in the street, Dromtonpa would never step over it, but, reflecting that the animal also had the potential for Buddhahood, would circumambulate it. Thus towards Buddhas and beings, we should have an equal reverence. In whichever sadhana we perform, immediately after taking refuge, we generate the attitude of Bodhichitta, and from that moment on, other beings become the support for our practice. We may thus appreciate their significance. For the one who wishes to attain enlightenment, the Buddhas and sentient beings have an equal kindness. With regard to those to whom we owe so much, we should meditate very strongly: generating an intense love, wishing them every happiness, and having great compassion, wanting them to be free from suffering.

If people are sick, we should wish to take their suffering upon ourselves. When we meet a beggar, we should be generous to him. In this way, we shoulder the sufferings of others and send them all our happiness, fame, long life, power etc.-whatever we have.

Especially, if we are the victims of harm inflicted by human or non human beings, we should not think, ‘This being is harming me, therefore I will make him and his descendants pay.’ No, we must not bear grudges. Instead we should think to ourselves: ‘This evil-doer has for countless lives been my mother – my mother who, not caring for all the suffering she had to undergo for my sake, not listening to all the bad things people might say, took care of me and endured much suffering in samsara. For my sake, this being has accumulated many negative actions. Yet, in my delusion, I do not recognise him as a relation from the past. The harm which I suffer at the hands of others is provoked by my bad karma. Because of my past negative actions, my enemy has hurt me and accumulated negative karma, which he in future will have to expiate. Because of this, this person has endured suffering in the past and will certainly do so in the future.’ Thus we should try to be very loving towards such beings, thinking, ‘Until now I have only harmed others. Henceforward, I will free them from all their ills and be of help to them.’ In this way, we should perform the practice of taking and giving very intensely.

If bitten by a dog or attacked by someone, instead of reacting angrily, we should try to help our aggressor as much as possible. And even if we cannot help, we must not give up the wish to do so. When in the presence of sick people, whom we cannot cure, we can visualise the Medicine Buddha above their heads and pray that they will be freed from their disease. If we do so, this will automatically be of benefit to them. Moreover, we should act with the deepest conviction and pray that the harmful beings which were the cause of the sickness might also be free from suffering and quickly attain enlightenment. We should decide that from now on, whatever virtuous actions we perform, the riches or longevity we gain, even Buddhahood itself-all these will be exclusively for the benefit of others. Whatever good might come to us, we will give it all away. What does it matter, then, if we attain enlightenment or not, if our lives are long or short, if we are rich or poor. None of this matters!

Even if we have the impression that we are under attack from evil spirits, we should think: ‘Because for countless lives I myself have fed upon your flesh and blood, it is natural that I should now repay you in kind. Therefore I will give you everything.’ And we imagine that we lay our bodies open before them, as when an animal is butchered. As it is said in the practice of chod:

Those come from afar, let them eat it raw!
Those who are close by, let them eat it cooked!
Grind my bones and eat your fill!
Whatever you can carry, take away!
Consume whatever you are able!

Saying this aloud, we let go of all clinging to ourselves. We imagine that when the harmful spirits have satisfied their hunger, their bodies are filled with a bliss free from negative emotions, and that the experience of the two Bodhichittas arises in them. This is how we should offer our bodies to what are thought to be the ghosts and demons who feed on flesh and blood. We should imagine that with this offering of our bodies, they are totally satisfied and have no further intention to kill or harm others, that they are content and pleased with all they have received.

In short, all suffering comes from the enemy of our own ego-clinging; all benefit derives from other beings, who are therefore like friends and relatives. We should try to help them as much as possible. As Langri Tangpa Dorje Gyaltsen said, ‘Of all the profound teachings I have read, this only have I understood: that all harm and sorrow are my own doing and all benefit and qualities are thanks to others. Therefore all my gain I give to others; all loss I take upon myself.’ He perceived this as the sole meaning of all the texts that he had studied, meditating upon it throughout his life.


Voidness is the unsurpassed protection; Thereby illusory appearance is seen as the four kayas.

Sufferings related to the universe and its inhabitants are the result of false perceptions, the nature of which it is important to understand. Emotions, such as attachment, anger and ignorance are all creations of the mind. We think, for instance, of our body as a precious possession of which we must take special care, protecting it from illness and every kind of mishap. We get into this habit of thinking and, as a consequence, begin to suffer mentally as well as physically. This is an example of perception which, since it is devoid of any basis in reality, is called deluded; it depends upon the belief in the existence of something which does not exist at all. It is just as when we dream and think that we are being burned or drowned, only to discover, when we wake up, that nothing has happened.

From the point of view of absolute truth, phenomena have no actual entity. What we think of as ‘I,’ ‘my body,’ ‘my mind,’ ‘my name,’ have no real existence. Other beings have no real existence either, whether they be dangerous enemies or loving parents. In the same way, the five poisons are by nature empty. Bearing this fact in mind, we should watch from where these poisons, these negative emotions arise, what does the agent of these arisings look like, and what do the emotions themselves look like? If we analyse, we shall find nothing. This absence is the unborn Dharmakaya. Although everything is by nature empty, this emptiness is not the mere vacuity of empty space or an empty vessel. Happiness, sufferings, all sorts of feelings and perceptions appear endlessly like reflected images in the mind. This reflection-like appearance of phenomena is called the Nirmanakaya.

A grain not planted in the soil will never give a fruit, likewise that which is unborn will never cease to be. To be beyond origination is to be beyond cessation also. This aspect of unceasingness is what should be understood as the Sambhogakaya.

If there is neither birth, in the past, nor cessation, in the future, there cannot be something which endures in the present; for an existence necessarily implies a beginning and an end. For example, though it might be thought that, while we are alive, the mind resides in the body, in fact there is no residing and no one who resides; there is no existence and nothing that exists. Even if one were to separate the skin, the flesh, the muscles and the blood, of the body, where would the mind be found? Is it in the flesh or in the bone, etc? Nothing will be found, for the mind itself is void. The fact that the mind is by nature empty, that it is nevertheless the place where phenomena appear, and that it is beyond origination and is therefore unceasing-this inseparable union of the three kayas is called the Svabhavikakaya.

If deluded perceptions are understood in terms of the four kayas, it follows that in that which is termed deluded, there is nothing impure, nothing to rid ourselves of. Neither is there something else, pure and undeluded, which we should try to adopt. For, indeed, when illusion dissolves, undeluded wisdom is simply present, where it always has been. When gold is in the ground, for example, it is blemished and stained; but the nature of gold as such is not susceptible to change. When it is purified by chemicals or refined by a goldsmith, its real character increasingly shines forth. In the same way, if we subject the deluded mind to analysis, and reach the conclusion that it is free from birth, cessation and abiding existence, we will discover, then and there, a wisdom which is undeluded. Furthermore, the deluded mind, being itself illusory, is unstable and fluctuates, like experiences in a dream, whereas the true and undeluded nature of phenomena, the Buddha-nature or Tathagatagarbha, has been present from unoriginated time. It is exactly the same in ourselves as it is in the Buddhas. It is thanks to it that the Buddhas are able to bring help to beings; it is thanks to it, too, that beings may attain enlightenment. There is no other introduction to the four kayas than this understanding of the true nature of illusory perception.

We should be thankful, therefore, to our enemies for stimulating our experience of relative and absolute Bodhichitta. It was the same, for example, with Milarepa. When his aunt and uncle turned against him and his mother, reducing them to beggary, he was eventually spurred into going to seek the help of Marpa.” He then practised with such diligence that within his very lifetime he attained unsurpassable accomplishment so that his fame filled both the noble land of India and Tibet, the Land of Snow. All this came to pass because of the actions of criminals. Therefore we should be grateful for the stimulus that they provide. For indeed, as long as we are unable to make use of the antidote, as described above, and negative emotions are at work in us without our noticing, it is through the activity of those who do us harm that we are made aware of them. Consequently it is as if they were emanations of our Teacher and the Buddhas. Suppose we are afflicted by a deadly disease, or even if we are only unwell, we should think, ‘If I were not sick, I should be lost in the futility of trying to make this life pleasant, giving no thought to Dharma. But because I am suffering, I think of death, turn to the teachings and reflect upon them. All this is the activity of my Teacher and the Three Jewels.’ We all know that Bodhichitta begins to develop in us when we have met with a Teacher and received his teachings. If, with the seed of Bodhichitta once planted in our hearts, we continue to practise, evildoers and the troubles they cause, indeed suffering in general, will all conspire to make our Bodhichitta grow. There is therefore no difference between our enemies and our Teachers. Knowing that suffering brings about the growth of the two Bodhichittas, we must take advantage of it.

When Shantarakshita came to Tibet and began to teach, his work was hindered by evil forces and local spirits too. Heavy storms occurred which even washed away the Red Hill Palace. Because of these disastrous circumstances, Shantarakshita and the king invited Guru Padmasambhava, who came and caused the Buddhadharma to shine like the sun. If those negative forces had not arisen, perhaps the precious Guru would never have been invited to Tibet. Likewise, if the Buddha had not had to contend with the demons, he might never have attained enlightenment. Thus we should meditate constantly, always putting difficult situations to good use.


The best of methods is to have four practices.

The practices referred to here are accumulation, purification, offerings to evil forces and offerings to the Dharma Protectors.

Accumulation. When we are in pain, we naturally wish that we were not suffering. If therefore we do not want to suffer and want to be well, we should recite the name of the Medicine Buddha and make offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas – all of which is a cause of health and happiness. We should consequently exert ourselves in making offerings to the Lama and the Three Jewels, paying homage to the monastic order, and giving tormas to the spirits.

We should take refuge and generate Bodhichitta. Then we should offer a mandala to the Teacher and the Three Jewels praying as follows: ‘If it is better for me to be sick, I pray that you will send me sickness to purify the stains and obscurations of my sinful karma. But if my being cured means that I will accomplish the Dharma, that physically and mentally I will practise virtue and make progress on the path, then I pray that you will bless me with health. But if it is better for me to die so as to be reborn in a pure Buddhafield, then I pray you, send me the blessing of death.’ It is very important to pray frequently like this, for thereby we will free ourselves of hope and fear.

Purification. When we suffer, we should regard our discomfort as a sign reminding us that the way to avoid even minor pains is to abandon all negative actions. In the purification of negativities, there are four powers to be considered.

The first is the power of revulsion, a strong regret for all evil actions committed in the past, similar to the regret we might feel after swallowing poison. It is futile to confess faults without regret, and the power of revulsion is simply to be sick of one’s negative actions. The second power is the decision to improve. In the past, we have failed to recognise the evil of negative actions; but from now on, even at the cost of our lives, we resolve to refrain from negativity. The third power is that of the support. Since it is impossible to make confession without having someone to confess to, we take as our object the Three Jewels, whose Body, Speech and Mind are ever free from evil actions, and who are utterly without partiality. When we have taken refuge in them, the best way to purify ourselves is to generate Bodhichitta in their presence. Just as it is said that all forests will be consumed in an instant by the fires at the end of the kalpa, likewise all negative actions are completely purified by the generation of Bodhichitta. The fourth power is the power of the antidote. One such antidote is the meditation on emptiness, for even negative actions are by nature empty and have no substantial existence as independent entities. As another antidote, it is said that the mere recollection of the mantra of Chenrezig can bring about enlightenment. The six syllables of the Mani correspond to Chenrezig’s accomplishment of the six transcendent perfections and are manifestations of them. By hearing the mantra, beings are liberated from samsara; by thinking of the mantra, they accomplish these perfections. The benefit of the Mani is so vast that if the earth could be used as paper, the trees as pens and the oceans as ink, and if the Buddhas themselves were to discourse upon it, there would be no end to the description of its qualities. Practices such as meditation on emptiness or the recitation of the Mani constitute the power of applying the antidote of wholesome conduct. The Buddha said in the White Lotus of Compassion Sutra that if someone were to practise properly the recitation of the six syllables, even the parasites living in his body would be reborn in Chenrezig’s Buddhafield.

Confession is practised correctly when these four powers are all present. As it is said by the Kadampa Masters, negative actions have but one good quality: they may be purified through confession.

Offerings to evil forces. When offering tormas to evil spirits, we should say with great conviction, ‘When you do me harm, I practise patience and therefore you are helping me to train in Bodhichitta. I am grateful. Use your great power to cause the sufferings of all beings to come to me.’ If however we lack such courage, we can simply offer them tormas with feelings of love and compassion and say: ‘I shall try to do you good both now and in the future; do not hinder me in accomplishing the Dharma.’ Offerings to the Dharma Protectors. When we offer tormas to the Protectors, Mahakala, Pelden Lhamo and the like, we request their help in our meditation and practice of Bodhichitta so as to be able to care for all beings in the same way as we do for our parents or our children. Let us pray to be completely free from anger towards our enemies and to overcome the delusion of ego-clinging. Let us ask them to remove from our path all causes of conflict and to bring about favourable circumstances.

To bring the unexpected to the path, Begin to train immediately.

There is no certainty that we will not fall victim to disease, evil forces and soon. If we are afflicted by serious illness, we should think, ‘There are countless beings in this world suffering in the same way as I.’ In this way we should generate strong feelings of compassion. If, for example, we are struck by heart disease, we should think, ‘Wherever space pervades, there are beings suffering like this,’ and imagine that all their illnesses are concentrated in our own hearts.

If we are struck by evil forces, we should think, ‘By making me suffer, these evil beings are helping me to practise Bodhichitta; they are of great importance for my progress on the path, and rather than being expelled, they should be thanked.’ We should be as grateful to them as we are towards our Teachers.

Again, if we see others in trouble, although we cannot immediately take their suffering upon ourselves, we should make the wish to be able to relieve them from their misfortunes. Prayers like this will bear fruit eventually. Again, if others have very strong afflictive emotions, we should think, ‘May all their emotions be concentrated in me.’ With fervent conviction, we should persist in thinking like this until we have some sign or feeling that we have been able to take upon ourselves the suffering and emotions of others. This might take the form of an increase in our own emotions or of the actual experience of the suffering and pain of others.

This is how to bring hardships onto the path in order to free ourselves from hopes and fears-hopes, for instance, that we will not get ill, or fears that we might do so. They will thus be pacified in the equal taste of happiness and suffering. Eventually, through the power of Bodhichitta, we will reach the point where we are free even from the hope of accomplishing Bodhichitta and the fear of not doing so. Therefore we should have love for our enemies and try as much as possible to avoid getting angry with them, or harbouring any negative thoughts towards them. We should also try as much as possible to overcome our biased attachment to family and relatives. If you bind a crooked tree to a large wooden stake, it will eventually grow straight. Up to now, our minds have always been crooked, thinking how we might trick and mislead people, but this practice, as Geshe Langri Tangpa said, will make our minds straight and true.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (顶果钦哲仁波切) 97.

As rust sprung from iron eats itself away when arisen, even so his own deeds lead the transgressor to states of woe.

— The Buddha