Resilience: Self-Care for Tough Times
by Shauna Shapiro

All of us can feel the impact of these uncertain and challenging times on our hearts and in our nervous systems. While there are parts of our current crisis that we cannot control, that doesn’t mean we’re powerless. When we’re up against change, uncertainty, and stress, resilience is the key to navigating life and emerging with more happiness and satisfaction.

We can cultivate resilience through the practices of mindfulness and compassion. This is the miracle of neuroplasticity — what you practice grows stronger. We can carve out pathways of greater clarity, courage, and compassion through practice.

The five steps below help us face difficult emotions, re-centre, and find calm. These steps don’t have to be done perfectly. Think direction, not destination. The key is practice.



It’s helpful to remember that our emotions are here for a reason. They often serve as a smoke alarm, letting us know about an impending fire. When we ignore or repress our emotions, it can lead to bigger problems.

Mindfulness teaches us a different way to manage difficult emotions — to acknowledge and name what we feel. This is called “name it to tame it.” Research shows that when we acknowledge and name our emotions it allows the body to physiologically calm down. Naming an emotion puts the brakes on your reactivity, down-regulates the nervous system, and allows you to see clearly.


Emotions have a limited time span, typically lasting for only thirty to ninety seconds. They arise, do their dance, and pass away, just like waves in the ocean. When we remember that this painful feeling will not last forever, it becomes more manageable.

Through practise, we can learn to welcome all of our emotions with an attitude of kindness and curiosity. This involves becoming interested in the emotion and the felt experience in the body. For example, you may feel sadness as a tightening in your throat, or fear as a contraction in your belly. All emotions have a signature in the body.


Self-compassion is not our typical response when we’re facing a challenge, have made a mistake, or are in pain. All too often, instead of kindness, we judge, shame, and criticise ourselves. But self-judgement and shame aren’t helpful. They actually shut down the learning centres of the brain and inhibit our ability to heal, change, and grow.

The antidote is self-compassion, learning to bring kindness to our pain. The easiest way to practice it is to treat ourselves as we would treat a dear friend facing a similar situation. The willingness to face the pain in ourselves and in life takes great courage. As we practise self-compassion, we learn not only to grow from our own struggles and sorrows, but also to connect with the suffering of others.


It’s natural to be feeling fearful and overwhelmed at this time. We’re not alone in our feelings. There are many others right now all over the world who are also frightened and overwhelmed. As we recognise our common humanity, our isolation begins to lessen, and we understand that we’re all in this together. It can be helpful to send compassion to both yourself and everyone else who is suffering.


The fifth step is to realise that you won’t do any of the first four steps perfectly. This isn’t about perfection. It’s about practice. Small changes lead to big shifts. In fact, one of the most important discoveries in brain science — neuroplasticity — shows that the brain has the ability to make new neural connections throughout life. This is a very hopeful message because it means that all of us have the capacity to change, heal, and grow. Perfection isn’t possible, but transformation is.

Shauna Shapiro 1.


— 六祖慧能大师

Ven Hui Neng 9.







In each meditation session, we gather knowledge about the mind through observation, questioning, and testing. We do this over and over, until we gradually develop a meaningful understanding of our own mind.

— 7th Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

The Revolution of Tantra
by Ken Holmes

Opinions vary about how and when tantric Buddhism first appeared. Some believe it was first taught by Buddha Sakyamuni and then maintained by a few adepts as a secret teaching for almost a thousand years, until a broader public was ready and it became popular. Others see it as an aberration of the original teaching. There are convincing arguments for both cases but no definitive evidence for either. Here, we shall simply consider tantra as it is viewed by the proponents of its own living traditions, i.e. as the highest of the three levels of Buddhist teaching.

The general foundation for all Buddhism is a balance of ethical living, mastering the mind through meditation and acquiring the wisdom of egolessness. This wholesome combination is, in itself, enough to bring personal liberation from suffering. However, as it helps only the individual concerned, this foundation is known as the lesser (Hinayana) aspect of the teachings. One can go much further. By enlarging wisdom into a direct awareness of the illusoriness of all things (not just ego) and by awakening mind’s unlimited potential for compassion, one can become a Buddha and help multitudes. This is the greater (Mahayana) aspect.

The Mahayana journey, however, is sometimes very long. Certain people can complete it with far greater speed through powerful techniques which rapidly awaken the mind to the primordial purity and perfection which is everywhere, but masked by illusion. These practices are known as tantra, which means a thread or fabric, since they unite one, in the moment, with the primordial thread which runs through all things: they integrate one with the wholeness which is the fabric of the universe. This is the indestructible (Vajrayana) aspect. Sometimes the Hinayana foundation is compared to a saucer, the Mahayana to a cup and the Vajrayana to the tea held in the cup.

In the life of an individual, these lesser, greater and indestructible stages of the teaching must fall into place, one after another in correct order. Some people apply the same notion to the progressive acceptance of the three stages in the collective consciousness of the Indian nation. One could, very broadly, consider the Hinayana teachings of the Buddha as dominating the first five centuries of Indian Buddhism, the Mahayana as coming into its own during the next seven hundred years and Vajrayana taking its rightful place in the remaining five centuries, during which Buddhism, as a living, growing faith, came to maturity.

According to the Kalachakra Tantra and the Good Age Sutra, one thousand and two Buddhas appear, during the lifespan of this world, to teach the universal truths. But Sakyamuni is the only one of them who teaches tantra. The others manifest during golden ages when the inhabitants of the world are virtuous, peaceful people of great merit – easy to teach. At such times, the outer environment is harmonious, with bountiful crops which are delicious, satisfying and nourishing. Sakyamuni, however, the fourth and most intrepid of these Buddhas, comes at a worse time than any other. The people of his degenerating world are in emotional turmoil and only the powerful psychological transformations of tantra can help some of them.

There are four main levels of tantra: Kriya, Carya, Yoga and Anuttarayoga. Kriya (action) tantra puts great emphasis on physical activities, such as rituals of purification. Carya (method) tantra strikes a balance between external activities and inner meditative stability. Yoga (union) tantra is almost entirely concerned with inner spiritual union. These first three are sometimes called, collectively, mantrayana — the way of mantra. Annutara Yoga (highest union) tantra stands somewhat apart. The most sublime tantra of all, and the most powerful spiritual alchemy, it can bring total enlightenment in one lifetime and, unlike the others, train one not only for this life’s experience but also for death and the intermediate state between lives. It is sometimes called Vajrayana.

Sakyamuni is considered to have attained enlightenment in a celestial realm before appearing in this world as Prince Gautama, who graced the Earth for eighty years from around 624 – 544 BCE. This brief emanation or nirmanakaya was but one small facet of the jewel of his attainment. It served principally to establish the main body of his teachings, destined to endure for ten periods of five hundred years, i.e. well into the fifth millennium. Throughout these five millennia, bodhisattvas with exceedingly pure minds can be constantly in the presence of his sambhogakaya, which manifests as pure lands and many symbolic Buddha forms within their meditations.

Some of the tantra were given by the nirmanakaya facet of the Buddha during his time on Earth, to a mixed audience of human followers and celestial bodhisattvas, in various locations from as far north as Oddiyana and as far south as Dhanyakataka, where he taught the Wheel of Time (Kalachakra) tantra. After his passing, these lineages were perpetuated secretly in this world and more openly in non-Earthly realms. Other tantras started later, being given through the sambhogakaya, either directly to human beings or indirectly, via celestial bodhisattvas such as Ratnabhadra.

As the early Mahayana masters appeared, from the second century BCE to the fourth century CE, the mantrayana aspect of tantra became better known, but was nevertheless still primarily a secret, hermetic practice pursued in jungles and wildernesses by lone meditators. It was a way of devotion and direct spiritual action, as opposed to the great erudition and intellectuality that had developed in monasteries. It was not unknown, during this period, for great scholars, having mastered the Buddhist tenets and ensured their own disciples’ education, to leave their established respectability in order to finish their days in the pursuit of highest truth through tantric meditation. Nevertheless, there was a great deal of suspicion of tantra among many Buddhists, since some of its tenets and practices seemed to fly directly in the face of the Buddha’s teachings. Much of the confusion came from the fact that tantra used a secret ‘twilight language’ (sandhyabhasa) full of double meanings and paradoxes, designed to scare off the dilettante. This was not a new invention. Even the universally-accepted dhammapada says, in verse 294, that one should,

“… having killed mother and father and two Ksattriya kings, destroy a kingdom and all its inhabitants.”

This does not sound very Buddhist until one understands the symbolism. The mother is egotism, the father is a selfish desire, the two kings are the prime misconceptions of a lasting identity and its opposite, total nihilism. The kingdom and its inhabitants are the ways one perceives subjective consciousness and objective reality, due to these false notions.

The various levels of tantra provide ways of mobilising thoughts, imagination, emotions, perception and consciousness so as to blow away the clouds of illusion and bring one into spiritual integrity. Through awakened, intelligent use of body, speech and mind in one’s day-to-day dealings with life, anything and everything becomes a gateway to truth.

Rather than giving the people of ancient India a whole new religion to learn, their familiar acts and gestures could be taken and modified by tantra to make Buddhist sense. This meant that primitive rites, such as animal sacrifices, could be replaced by similar but imaginary rites, in which selfish delusions are pinned to the sacrificial altar (rather than some misfortune goat) and in which the deity receiving the offering is replaced by a representation of the primordial and selfless space of wisdom and compassion.

From the time of Asanga (fourth century), the higher yoga tantras started finding their way into some centres of learning. The following two centuries were marked by the rule of the Gupta kings and a general trend towards devotion rather than erudition throughout India. Tantra, on all its levels, began to establish itself in some monasteries, as a normal aspect of the Buddha’s teaching.

It seems fairly clear now that Buddhist tantra preceded Hindu tantra and probably gave rise to it. There are several factors to be considered in reviewing the historical development of tantra. Prior to the Buddha, religion, based on the Vedas and the Upanishads, was the privileged domain of the three upper castes (the traivarnika or arya). The Brahmana priests jealously guarded their wisdom, much of which concerned prolonged, non-theistic reflection upon the nature of the soul (atman). In contrast to this, the Buddha had made it clear that his teachings were available to all, regardless of sex, caste or any other such factors. He severely criticised Vedic animal sacrifice and, dismissing useless speculation on personal identity, laid great emphasis on personal ethics as the way to each individual’s liberation.

After his passing, the Mahayanists encouraged the use of prayer as a way of training the mind and giving spiritual succour to the meditator. This coincided with the appearance of the Bhagavad-Gita which was to radically alter Hinduism, by opening religion to non-aryan castes, giving it a more theistic slant and encouraging prayer and devotion (bhakti) as the way in which ordinary people could find salvation.

As we follow the trends in ancient and medieval India, the question of whether it was Buddhism or Hinduism which initiated these widespread tendencies to prayer, devotion, quasi-theistic rituals etc., becomes secondary. Much more interesting is the strikingly different way in which each faith uses them.

By the seventh century, tantra had become truly widespread, and was openly taught in great monastic universities such as Nalanda and Oddiyana. The great flowering of tantra came under the Pala dynasty (eighth – twelfth century), which actively fostered the development of Buddhism: especially mantrayana. The famous ‘greatly-realised-ones’ (mahasiddhas) appear at this time. Vikramasila monastic university gradually stole the limelight from Nalanda and both Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism spread widely in Asia. They took special root in Tibet, where they have persisted healthily until the Chinese annexation in the middle of the 20th century. Successive waves of Turko-Muslim invasions during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries destroyed first the great Buddhist centres of Kashmir, then burned down Nalanda and the monasteries of Bengal. By 1335, Islamic Turko-Afghans ruled all India. That unique land had fulfilled its destiny, seen by Buddha Sakyamuni when he first left the Tusita realm to come here. He had seen it to be a cultured land in which his teaching could be properly established, step by step, and from which it could spread out, when the time was ripe, to reach all ends of the world.

It was, without doubt, traumatic for the early Buddhists to first establish their faith and then see it giving way to a larger, more profound vision: a process that was to happen again and again as the fullness of the Buddha’s message came to light. Such winds of change can be refreshing or threatening. In its face, one either entrenches one’s views or accepts the new. Thus, various ‘schools’ of Buddhism emerged with the passage of history. Each new chapter was a miniature revolution and the coming of tantra was perhaps the greatest of all these revolutions.

Ken Holmes 1.

Enlightenment is nothing other than the state beyond all obstacles, in the same way that from the peak of a very high mountain one always sees the sun. Enlightenment is not a paradise or some special place of happiness, but it is in fact the condition beyond all dualistic concepts, including those of happiness and suffering.

When all our obstacles have been overcome, and we find ourselves in a state of total presence, the wisdom of enlightenment manifests spontaneously without limits, just like the infinite rays of the sun. The clouds have dissolved, and the sun is finally free to shine once again.

— Chögya Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu 9.



身体在哪里,心就在哪里;身体在做什么,心就在做什么;手在做什么,脚在哪里,你的心就在哪里 —— 身心不可分离,身心一致。例如:
















Ven Sheng Yen 37.

When thoughts arise, recognise them clearly as your teacher.

— Gampopa

Gampopa 9

Is enlightenment off-limits to laypeople?
by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

This question is very complicated doctrinally. My simplest comment is that first, this teacher’s comment is a generalisation. To state that a layperson lacks the proper causes and conditions to achieve realisation comes from a particular doctrinal view. There are different Buddhist doctrinal systems, paths, and traditions, and they have varying views on the attainment of enlightenment, or liberation from cyclic existence. There are Buddhist doctrines that state that a person cannot achieve full liberation if one does not maintain monastic vows and commitments. There are even doctrines that state that it is not possible to achieve liberation if one is in the form of a woman. And there are views that state that it is not possible to attain liberation in one lifetime.

The different points of view can be summarised in three basic approaches to enlightenment within the Buddhist teachings: sutra, tantra, and Dzogchen. Sutra emphasises renunciation as the path to liberation. Tantra emphasises transformation — not avoiding our emotions but engaging them through skilful means that transform confusion into wisdom. In Dzogchen, the five poisons are nakedly and directly engaged as the way to liberation. For the Dzogchen practitioner, afflictions, emotions, and pain become the ornament or way of exercising the dynamic energy of the enlightened mind. This is the tradition in which I study, practice, and teach.

According to the sutric path of renunciation, the vows of a monastic are necessary supports on this path. If you are a householder, it is difficult to renounce because you are immersed in child-rearing and commerce, and it is difficult to get rid of attachments. The monastic system is a beautiful and complete path for the one who enters it, but the path of renunciation is only one path.

According to the Dzogchen teachings, you can achieve full liberation in one lifetime regardless of whether you are male or female or live a lay or monastic lifestyle. Many realised masters and practitioners of the Dzogchen lineages were laypeople, both men and woman. Many have attained liberation from suffering through engaging wholeheartedly in the teachings of the Dzogchen lineages in the Bön and other Tibetan Buddhist schools. And many teachers and teachings exist that articulate a path to complete enlightenment for the layperson. These teachings have been successfully practised for thousands of years and are now available in the West. Here, they are followed by mothers and fathers, lawyers and waiters, actors and artists, all dedicated practitioners who are intent on enlightenment for the benefit of others.

Half of my life I have been a monk, and half I have lived as a lay practitioner. Having a wife and child and living an engaged family life has greatly enriched my spiritual path. Please do not lose heart on your path. I encourage you to connect to your sincere wish to be free of suffering and to live a life that benefits others. Continue looking for a teacher and teachings that will support you to accomplish this.

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 13.

Generosity in which adverse factors have disappeared, endowed with wisdom that is non-conceptual, completely fulfils all wishes, and brings all beings to maturity at the three levels.

— Maitreya

Maitreya 23.