The Three Lineages
by Reginald A. Ray

All religions concern themselves with questions of authenticity and legitimacy. How can we tell whether a particular teacher or teaching is a genuine and true reflection of a certain tradition? In Tibetan Buddhism, the question of legitimacy comes down to the question of lineage: Which teachers embody and transmit the authentic lineage? Which teachings and practices are legitimate reflections of genuine lineage? For that matter, what do we even mean by lineage?

In Western religious history, it has been common for institutions to determine what is religiously “legitimate” and “authentic,” and people often look to institutional leaders or hierarchies to evaluate the lawfulness of individual teachers, teachings, and practices. This kind of approach might seem particularly appropriate to the theistic religions, where truth is understood to be external to the individual, and the individual is thought to lack the capacity to judge truth or reality.

But even in the theistic traditions, there is some irony to this institutional bias. Consider the main burden of Jesus’s teaching mission. In his time, the official Judaic establishment in charge of the Jerusalem temple and its sacrificial cult, with its network of financial obligations, requirements, and specific procedures, claimed to offer the sole access to God. Jesus, by contrast, taught that the kingdom of God was already within, and that therefore one did not require any external mediating force to attain salvation. Consider as well Martin Luther’s primary criticism of the Roman Catholicism of his time, which insisted there was “no salvation outside of the church,” with its exclusively male hierarchies, its institutions, and its undeniable politics. Luther championed the “priesthood of all believers”: that no person or institution can get between the individual and God, and that every person had his or her own unmediated relationship with the Almighty.

In a nontheistic tradition such as Buddhism, the question of authenticity has its own particular challenge. On the one hand, like all organised religions, Buddhism has its institutions, power structures, and organisational hierarchies. In some Buddhist traditions, such as Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism, these are front and centre; in others, such as Zen, they sometimes stand more in the background. Given our own religious history, we Western Buddhists may find ourselves looking to these external authorities to determine what is spiritually legitimate and what is not.

On the other hand, as a nontheistic tradition, Buddhism holds that the ultimate is discovered not in any external agent, but in the innermost heart of the meditator. This leads to the obvious question of how the internal and the external “authorities” are related to one another in the various Buddhist lineages, and by what measures we can determine what is authentic.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the term “lineage” has historically been used in a variety of ways. Three specific meanings of lineage are particularly important to this discussion: lineage as “primordial lineage,” as “transmission lineage,” and as “organisational lineage.” By understanding these three ways in which the term has been used, we can arrive at some useful insights into the question of authenticity.


The primordial lineage is the most important of the three and is historically the most ancient, being original to Buddhism. What is the primordial lineage? It is the direct experience of the awakened state. It is what the Buddha uncovered in the moment of his enlightenment.

The Buddha discovered that within us is a totally uncompromised, immaculate awakening — right now, in this very moment. He realised that all of the trappings, ideas, practices, and paraphernalia he had encountered in his spiritual journey were, at that point, irrelevant. He found himself simply awake and present, seeing all things nakedly and directly. He experienced his life in a completely stripped down and unadorned way, beyond hope and fear, with no sense of politics whatsoever.

Completely present and direct — that’s the primordial lineage. From a certain point of view, that is what all Buddhism is about. It is discovering the primordial lineage within us and learning how to express it in our lives.

It is the primordial lineage that the Buddha principally transmitted to his own students. Shortly after his awakening, he met his five former ascetic companions in Deer Park in Benares and said a few things to them expressing his discovery. Abruptly, the mind of one of the five, Kaundinya, fell fully open and he directly realised the awakened state within. The Buddha, seeing that his friend had met the primordial lineage face-to-face, exclaimed joyfully, “Kaundinya’s got it; he’s got it.”

The various major Buddhist traditions give different names to the primordial lineage. In Theravada, it is called cessation, meaning that with which we come face-to-face when the five skandhas fall away. In the early Mahayana, it is known as prajnaparamita: the transcendent wisdom underlying all ordinary human knowing. In Zen, it is known as “no mind”: what occurs when we have utterly worn out trying to know anything and find we have lost ourselves — and found ourselves — in “don’t know mind.” And in Tibetan Buddhism, it is Mahamudra, “the great seal [of reality],” and Dzogchen, that which is the “utter and final fruition.”

As a nontheistic tradition, Buddhism holds that the primordial lineage is our ultimate and inmost essence, our buddhanature. Nevertheless, the primordial lineage is so foreign to who we think we are and to the habitual operation of our ego that we are generally not aware of it as the ground of our being. Typically, we first encounter the primordial lineage in other people who manifest it, and specifically in our revered teachers. When we do meet it in another person, it is not uncommon to feel some kind of tremendous intensity in their presence. We may experience overwhelming love and devotion, and want to be around them all the time. Or — and just as much a sign of our connection with them — we may feel terror and want to run away to the farthest corner of the universe.

In Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, for example, the primordial lineage was blazing. In his presence one felt terrified, but also incredibly and irresistibly attracted. Our feeling around teachers like this has such intensity because in them we are meeting our own deepest nature, or, in Zen terms, our “original face.” Having met our own primordiality in them, we can, over time and through meditation practice, discover it as the very foundation of who we are, the unborn awareness out of which “we” continually arise.

In looking at the most accomplished primordial lineage holders, one can sense three qualities that are particularly evident: depth, vastness, and realisation of the implications of primordial awareness.

First, there is a great depth of realisation. The experience of the awakened state is infinitely profound — there is a depth within the space of awareness that goes on and on. In this case, we are not talking about depth in the sense of “down,” but rather that the experience of space itself — this present moment of awareness — has layer upon layer of subtlety that call to be fathomed.

For example, our mind may be at rest and we may think, “This is it. This is the unconditioned mind.” But then, suddenly, we see that we are hanging on to some subtle concept of mind or space, and we let go into a freer, fresher, more open state of being. Then we may think, “OK, this is it,” only to discover ourselves holding on at this subtler level and needing to surrender our grasp once again. And so it goes, on and on. Perhaps there is no end to how open and unconditioned the space of the nature can be, and the question is, how completely can we abide and stay with that free-fall?

Second is breadth, or vastness. As one Tibetan text says, “The nature of mind is the great space of dharmadhatu.” This means that our awareness has no inherent boundary or limit. In fact, it is co-extensive with space itself, with the infinite reaches of space and time. So the question here is, can we surrender without reservation to this infinite vastness? Or is there a point at which we retract from it and set an artificial limit to how far our awareness extends?

Third are the implications. While the original state is beyond causes and conditions, from another viewpoint it is not isolated from them or irrelevant to them at all: it has the potential, indeed the momentum, to touch every aspect and dimension of our lives. We may think that after touching the primordial nature we can just return to our habitual patterns and business as usual. But the primordial lineage implies that there is not and never has been any discrete or substantial “self,” that any notion of personal territory is a dream, and that our habitual patterns are completely beside the point. To what extent, then, can we allow the implications of the primordial lineage to permeate our karmic history, our lives, and the persons we thought we were, so that there is no corner of a “me” left over?

A great teacher has become completely transparent to the primordial lineage, so that he or she is nothing other than the primordial awakening manifesting in an apparently human form. Such a person is known in the Buddhist tradition as a nirmanakaya, a person in whom the primordial lineage has arrived at full maturation and perfection.

Yet it would be a mistake to overemphasise the distinction between the very greatest masters and others who authentically hold the primordial lineage. As Tulku Ugyen repeatedly emphasised, it is just a matter of development. In fact, the challenge to every practitioner — indeed, the expectation — is that each of us, through a life of dedicated and devoted meditation practice, will come to hold the primordial lineage in the full and perfected sense. Such was the confidence of the Buddha himself in his disciples, and such has been the confidence and encouragement of all the great teachers down to the present day.


The transmission lineage comprises the various ways in which the primordial lineage, the buddha mind, is communicated and transmitted to students. Again, we can see this meaning of lineage in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. For seven weeks following his enlightenment, the Buddha remained in the vicinity of the bodhi tree. During this time, he experienced some uncertainty. Should he abide in the beatific silence of the awakened state, or should he try to communicate his realisation? He wondered whether anyone would be able to receive his teaching. Nevertheless, after a certain period of time, the piteous cries of suffering beings all over the world reached the Buddha’s ears and, in response, great compassion spontaneously arose in him. At this point, the Buddha faced a challenge: how should he communicate his realisation and the path to it?

The Buddha himself had followed a very circuitous path to realisation. He had studied with many different teachers and followed a variety of paths, and his journey was filled with obstacle-ridden routes and dead ends of all kinds. He did not want to put his own disciples through the same kind of unguided trial and error that had marked his own path. So, beginning with his first sermon in Deer Park, the Buddha began to develop methods, often unique to his dharma, of bringing others to the primordial truth. The first teaching to his five friends marks the beginning of the transmission lineage in Buddhism.

The early texts tell us that far from settling on one method or “program” for transmitting the awakened state to others, the Buddha spent his entire teaching career developing different “gates to awakening” that reflected his disciples’ differing capacities and needs. By the time of his death, so we are told, the Buddha had developed 84,000 different methods of transmission of the awakened state.

By now, among the various Buddhist traditions, there are probably many times the original “84,000 dharmas.” Part of the genius and creativity of great teachers is the variety of ways they lead their students to the heart essence. A central concern of the practice traditions of Tibetan Buddhism has always been to maintain the full range of the transmission lineages. In particular, the renowned Rimé masters of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries sought to preserve, as living traditions, the many different transmission lineages that were in danger of dying out in their day.

The multitude of transmission lineages is important because every person has a different set of capacities, inclinations, and karmic connections through which to receive the primordial lineage. The job of the skilled teacher is to find that one teaching or practice that, at this precise moment in a student’s journey, will open his or her mind to its full depth.

In Buddhist history, different schools and lineages have tended to emphasise particular transmission lineages, or approaches. Zen, for example, awakens us through sitting, walking, oryoki, koans, interviews with the teacher, poetry, brush painting, flower arranging, and so on. All of these are examples of the transmission lineage, of gates of access to the primordial itself. Both Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism have many common and also distinctive transmission lineages. Altogether, the abundance of transmission lineages is quite extraordinary.

It is important to note that the transmission lineages do not maintain their validity and effectiveness on their own. Transmission lineages only fulfil their intended function if they are taught from the viewpoint of the primordial lineage, if they are given in a completely selfless way, and if they lead trainees more deeply into the unborn nature. If the passing on of specific practice teachings is done with other motives, such as institution building, attracting supporters, or ensuring the allegiance of students, then the transmission lineage has been co-opted to some different purpose. It doesn’t matter how traditional a practice may be; if it isn’t taught from the viewpoint of the primordial and if it doesn’t lead to awakening, then it has lost its integrity.

How may one determine the authenticity and integrity of a transmission that is being given? The most important point is that the transmission is offered from the vantage point of the primordial lineage and that it opens the way for the disciple to realise the awakened state. The person giving the transmission must be well experienced in the practice that he or she is transmitting. And the student receiving the transmission must have the proper understanding, motivation, and preparation.

First, the student needs a correct understanding of the purpose of the practice he or she is doing. The purpose of all Buddhist practice is to strip away the conceptual overlays that obscure the awakened state within. This may sound attractive in principle, but the actual process of the path, as the hagiographies of the great meditators amply show, is the most challenging and painful thing that one can ever go through. The journey clearly involves much self-confrontation, many obstacles, and more than a fair share of suffering. If we don’t understand that what is at stake is our very being, our treasured life and familiar world, then we will be unable to actually engage the practice.

In order to engage a particular practice, we also need the right motivation. This is different from an accurate understanding of the basic intention of the various practices. We may know what practice is about, on a general level, but when we actually sit down to meditate, driven by hope or fear, we may actually carry out the practice with a different aim in mind. Too often our primary motivation is to get through the present stage of practice and on to the next, with the idea that we are in the process of getting something for ourselves, in the way of practice credentials, social acceptance and prestige, approval of the teacher, or solving our problems and getting rid of our suffering. Of course, these kinds of things are always going to be somewhere in our minds, but when these are the primary motivations for practice, then the practice we are doing is not going to be authentic and is not going to lead to its intended results of openness, gentleness, and genuine care for others.

Any practice that one is doing must also be appropriate to one’s stage of maturation and temperament. Practices are not commodities that nourish all consumers in the same way. At each stage in our maturation process, we need just the right catalyst to enable us to let go more, to abandon our current false identifications and self-serving attachments to “me.”

For example, Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, is considered to be the highest Tibetan meditation, the end and epitome of all practice. There are many Western practitioners these days who have received Dzogchen teachings and are carrying out Dzogchen practices. Some of these folks have had some experience with meditation, while others are at the very beginning of their practice. However, Dzogchen corresponds to a very advanced realisation of egolessness, and a very subtle and profound experience and surrender to the primordial emptiness of one’s being and one’s world. Tibetan tradition has always affirmed that Dzogchen meditation does not become accessible to anyone until they have practised for many, many years, and have substantial retreat experience. It would seem that no matter what teaching one receives, a significant and appropriate amount of preparation in the way of meditation and solitary retreat is generally necessary for people to be able to receive and carry out genuine Dzogchen instruction, even at the simplest levels.

What is happening with Dzogchen is illustrative of a trend in the teaching of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Advanced practices are being taken out of their traditional context, and preparations on the part of the practitioner that were considered essential in the past are no longer being required, or, in some cases, even recommended. In some sense, this trend is understandable. Tibetan tradition faces a vexing and perplexing dilemma: few Westerners — and nowadays few Tibetans — can carry out the transmissions in the traditional way, and there is the legitimate concern that these transmissions may die out. Certainly, the very great teachers can and must make these kinds of adaptations for their students. But that sometimes leaves the impression that the traditional preparations are mere cultural window-dressing and serve no important function.

Finally, a practitioner can be given the best practice in the world by an accomplished teacher, but if he or she doesn’t have the benefit of informed, steady, and effective mentoring, it is going to be difficult for that practice to lead to its intended fruition. Tibetan tradition holds — and I think with much good reason — that serious practitioners need a mentor who knows them well and can be a sounding board and guide for them on their journey. Alas, although there are some notable exceptions, this kind of mentoring is difficult to come by in modern Western Buddhism.


The third type of lineage is the organisational or institutional lineage. A lineage holder in this sense is the person who officially holds responsibility for maintaining the organisational and institutionalised forms of the tradition. As in the cases of the primordial and transmission lineages, we also find the institutional lineage as a theme in Shakyamuni Buddha’s life, but in quite a different sense from that of the other kinds of lineage.

According to the early texts, the Buddha not only declined to set up any centralised organisation or bureaucracy for his lineage, he flatly refused to do so. When the Buddha was close to death, his cousin, Devadatta, suggested that he set up a single authority, a single head, to act as supreme authority to manage and run the sangha. The Buddha explicitly and vigorously rejected this idea, saying that it would cause various problems for both individual practitioners and for the integral survival of his lineage as a whole. This goes along, of course, with the Buddha’s emphasis on developing the inner authority and the awakening of each practitioner through meditation practice. So what, then, are we to make of the development of Buddhism as a highly organised, institutionalised religion?

Writing a century ago, the father of modern sociology, Max Weber, viewed the development of institutionalised Buddhism as a betrayal of the essential teaching of the Buddha. While Weber has an important point to make, I do not think we have to subscribe to his rather extreme view. Nor do I think a “necessary evil” explanation is accurate either.

Where Buddhist institutions serve the individual path of the practitioner, they have a positive role to play. Remember that the transmission lineage is dependent for its validity on its connection to the primordial lineage, and its effectiveness in opening a gate to the unborn. Similarly, the institutional lineage depends for its legitimacy on its fidelity to the transmission and primordial lineages. At its best, the organisational lineage provides a protective container for the transmission lineages and the primordial lineage. It establishes a container within which the authentic, living lineages of practice and realisation can flourish. It encourages people’s meditation practice, affirms the unique revelations that arise in practice, and encourages the flowering of the individual creativity of its practitioners.

Of course, in Buddhism, as in the other world religions, one sometimes finds that institutions get between the practitioner and the experience of the awakened state. In such a case, that institution or organisational lineage is no longer performing its intended function. It has succumbed to institutional habits and has overlaid the unbounded nature of the primordial lineage with bureaucracy and hierarchy. It has, at that point, lost the mandate of the primordial lineage and lost its own authenticity and validity.

Those who function as institutional lineage holders are in a delicate position. They must be beyond territoriality and have as their only motivation the dissemination of the dharma. Their priority must be the integrity and effectiveness of the journey of each member of the organisation they oversee. This is a tall order for anyone at the head of an organisation, and there have been many cases in the history of Buddhism where practitioners in this role saw the lay of the land and simply walked away from the job. And there have been cases of others who simply functioned as C.E.O.’s of their organisation, losing touch with the genuine primordial and transmission lineages.

When the primordial lineage, beyond all partiality, is not held, then one’s attempt to hold the transmission or institutional lineages will ultimately be flawed. When a person holds the primordial lineage, on the other hand, then he or she can be a genuine holder of the transmission lineage and, if need be, of the institutional lineage. However, holding the primordial lineage almost requires that one constantly scrutinise and, where necessary, critique the ambitions, agendas, and activities of Buddhist institutions and organisations. In this respect, Trungpa Rinpoche once remarked, “Throughout the lineage of the practising tradition, everyone in the lineage has been extremely sarcastic and critical of the current scenes taking place around them. They were extremely critical in the name of the dharma.”

Historically speaking, this kind of vigilance has most often emerged from the authentic devotion, practice, and realisation of serious meditators. Such critiques are the spontaneous outflow, the natural flowering, of a life lived in the primordial nature. Historically, it has often been from such institutionally peripheral sources that the truly fresh and vigorous creativity of Buddhism has continued to unfold in the world.

Reginald Ray 17.

He who knows that all things are his mind, that all with which he meets are friendly, is ever joyful.

— Milarepa

Milarepa (米勒日巴) 56.

We should be really concerned with these questions: Am I really practising in a genuine way? Am I really progressing? We need to check ourselves, again and again. As we practice more and more, the basic guideline is: are our disturbing emotions diminishing? Is wisdom developing and increasing? Yes or no? We should examine ourselves honestly in this way.

— Tsoknyi Rinpoche

Tsoknyi Rinpoche 7

Even if we were to study quite a lot and become very learned, if we only know the theories but don’t assimilate them through reflection and actual practice itself, it would be like dying of thirst on the shores of a great body of fresh water. Wouldn’t it be a complete waste to die like that?

— Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche 3.

Be Friendly with All Your Emotions
by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, Jigme Pema Wangchen

Negative emotions such as anger, greed and pride are corrosive to one’s balanced and happy state of mind, but rather than try to suppress or ignore them, it is better to become more aware of when they come and where they come from. By acknowledging negative emotions and understanding why you are experiencing them, it will be easier to let them go.

One of the greatest obstacles to happiness that I see increasingly often is anger. This saddens me so much. There is the obvious, extremely dangerous anger that creates the mind of a terrorist or someone who harms another person. And then there is the anger that I see on the streets on a regular basis. People today seem to become angry with hardly any provocation – you can feel it bubbling up even as they sit there. Or you might see somebody walking in front of another person and you will feel the anger of that first person flare up immediately, like a lit match. So someone walked in front of them … so what? Is it a big deal?

It can sometimes seem as though the accepted norms of a society’s behaviour feed this type of anger; the rules are giving people the sense that it is their right to be angry. I met a woman from England who told me that there are ‘silent’ carriages on the trains there; this is a nice idea in principle, but when people don’t see the signs and are chatting on the phone, others around them will begin to simmer and then boil over in their rage, throwing the culprit disapproving glares and pointing at the signs. Of course, I understand that we are all trying to act according to a good set of ethics, but we have become too quick to get upset when other people don’t know the rules or have a different set of ideas altogether. I must admit I can be quite a chatterbox and so I’m sure I would get told off on one of these trains – but it is the anger in the reaction that worries me; all it does is cause suffering, and mainly to the person who is holding on to it.

Without ‘friendliness’ happiness cannot be there in our minds. If we are not friendly towards others, towards nature or towards ourselves, then we don’t give happiness a chance. So even when you are taking a very honest look at yourself in the mirror and you don’t like what you see at first, be gentle with yourself and always be friendly with all your emotions. If you can’t be compassionate to yourself, then how can you help to make the world a happier place? You are wasting all of your amazing potential by concentrating on feeling bad about the things you don’t like about yourself and others.


Carrie’s passion is her strength, but occasionally we all need to recognise when our emotions are holding us back. They are still very important, but we may develop the confidence to acknowledge them and then let them go, rather than carry them all with us:

I remember being on a Pad Yatra when we came across a man who it turned out was buying historic artefacts at very cheap prices from the local villages with the intention to make a big profit once he got back to his home country. As a lawyer, I was incensed by this man and I became very angry with him, right there, on the mountain path. I felt I had to stand up for the people and their villages, some of which we would be visiting along the way of the Pad Yatra. The argument became so heated that we almost came to blows, which is crazy because this man could have literally pushed me off the side of the mountain. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but I was still so angry and when I spoke to His Holiness later that day I told him all about it and how we must make sure the man is arrested and prosecuted. His Holiness told me, yes, yes, we will make sure to let the authorities know so that they could decide what to do, but then he looked straight at me and laughed that wonderful, kind laugh of his. I was still so full of anger I couldn’t believe His Holiness was laughing at me, but then I realised what a comical scene we must’ve made: two people shouting at each other on the side of a mountain in the Himalayas. He then said to me, ‘Now, are you going to leave your anger here, or carry it with you every day, because we still have a long way to go.’

It’s amazing that when you look directly at your anger or craving, for example, it often evaporates there and then. And while it is very difficult to do this in the heat of the moment, if you give yourself a chance to investigate when you are feeling calmer, then it often becomes a way in itself to get out of negative thinking and see things a little differently.


Allow yourself the space to learn from interactions, to learn from your friends, for example, or from your disappointments and even your anger. By being a better watcher of your mind, and therefore your reactions, you will gradually give yourself that little bit of space which will take some of the heat out of the situation. If you don’t give yourself space, then rather than learn from these things you might feel as though everything is going down in a negative way. And tomorrow, instead of feeling happiness or feeling motivated to make a change in your life or to develop and take care of your mind, you will feel like you have a hangover in your mind and your heart. It is as though a heaviness takes over, which can be the cause of a great deal of unnecessary suffering, and rather than picking yourself up to find out what interesting things today has in store, you remain stuck in negativity.

Our emotions are our teachers and usually signal when we need to interact more, rather than continue to hold back and feel jealous or frustrated or fearful of what might happen. So when you get upset with people, don’t run away or let yourself get carried away by emotions like anger or disappointment. Just give yourself a second and allow the space to come between you and the anger. Realise that the sensation of anger in your body is just that, a fleeting sensation just like a cloud momentarily covering up the sun’s warmth. Allow it to pass, instead of holding on to it. Understand that you are not anger, you are experiencing anger. Then you will receive one of the biggest lessons of all.

For many of you there is no space at all right now between you and your emotions. Anger or impatience feel as though they are instantaneous, as though you have no control over them. It will take a great deal of conscious effort, but if you can allow even the smallest gap between a thought you have in your mind and the emotions that rush in, you will begin to let the river of your mind flow just a little more smoothly around the rocks and over the rapids – not because you are blindly drifting along, buffeted by the waves, but because you are becoming a great navigator, aware of what is going around you. You will begin to notice that you feel more prepared to be friendly with your emotions, that you feel you have more time to gently meet and flow around the obstacles in your life, rather than lurching from one extreme reaction to the other. By doing so, you get to enjoy the journey so much more: you have the time to look around and notice all the beauty, and you have the chance to listen, whether to the birds or to the people who are dear to you in your life, rather than everything being drowned out by your waterfall of thoughts and emotions.

Of course, you still have all these emotions, but by putting a little space around them, you may get to know them better and understand where they come from. The best time to practise is when you feel an emotion like anger or impatience: you need not see your emotions as enemies, which will make you feel even more upset as you feel bad about being an angry or impatient person, but you can turn things on their head and instead use them as friends. Instead of rejecting the emotions, think about how you might transform them. It is like fighting with someone who is much stronger than you: the best way is to talk with them – and the same goes for your emotions. Investigate them, ask yourself what is their purpose and remind yourself that whatever happens in the moment, you don’t then need to cling to your reactions.

If you hold on to anger, you will end up burning yourself. When you feel so sure about your own definitions of what is right and what is wrong, you chase your own happiness away through stubbornness and ego clinging. You replay arguments or situations in your head, and rather than making peace, you feel even more outrage or hurt as you re-experience a situation over and over again. Anger and other negative emotions have a way of closing up the mind, making everything feel very tight, as though you can’t breathe. A mind filled with hate destroys all good things and eats away at your capacity for compassion and kindness. It is impossible to feel joy if you are consumed by anger.

I say to people, ‘Sit on your cushion to look at your emotions.’ When we remove all the other distractions of life, we are left just with our minds. Then we can use what is in our minds to practise patience, compassion and love and emotions like anger and jealousy begin to dissolve into emptiness. I like the phrase ‘all things being equal’. Because at the end of the day, all things are equal – nothing is permanent, everything fades, so why cling on so tightly to things that aren’t even there any more?

This will take many years of practice, but the good part is that just a little understanding will go a long way to developing your life and helping your happiness to blossom.


If you have patience and tolerance, then you can have a lot of things. By practising patience, you allow a space to very gradually develop that gives you at least a little room to think and to compromise with people or in situations that would usually make you unhappy. From a distance, even just the smallest distance to begin with, the whole scene will look much better.

People may behave wrongly in your view, in a way you find hard to accept because it doesn’t fit in with your own wishes, desires and beliefs. You want everyone to be understanding of you, but you can’t accept others as they are. If you don’t try to be accepting, to give others a chance to live their own lives, this kind of impatience can become a great obstacle to happiness.

When you are in a difficult situation with another person, the main way to practise patience is to put yourself into the other person’s shoes. Take a breath and remember that person is just trying to get along in their own life, and that they have just as much misunderstanding and attachment to their beliefs as you are feeling in the heat of the moment.

If you don’t practise patience, then you are unable to control your anger when the time comes, and soon your happiness is covered over by negative feelings directed towards others, life, the universe and sometimes towards yourself. You fall into the trap of the blame game.

Gyalwang Drukpa 44.

People say walking on water is a miracle, but to me walking peacefully on earth is the real miracle.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh 110.

The Need for Compassion in the World
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

If there is more education about compassion in the world, in the country, if there is more education, educating people in compassion and how to practice it — the more that happens then the more real peace happens. It comes from within their own heart, from compassion, from the good heart. By having compassion, a good heart, we don’t harm others, and on top of that, we only benefit others. We become the cause of happiness for others and we also don’t harm ourselves. Peace comes from each individual being with the freedom.

Just by saying there is a need for compassion, just by lecturing there is a need for compassion, that alone doesn’t generate compassion in the mind. Just by lecturing that we need compassion, that alone cannot generate compassion in the hearts of the people in this world. We need to learn how to develop compassion. Compassion, like rain falling, doesn’t just happen. Even if the rain comes from the fogginess due to the vapour from the ocean or whatever it is, it’s all dependent arising. It’s not just happening instantly, it’s not happening without causes and conditions. Even that. Compassion doesn’t just drop into the brain or into the heart like that.

The mind has to be trained in compassion. There is a graduated method to develop compassion. There are preliminary stages to have the realisation of compassion. There is a whole graduated path; there are whole stages the mind has to develop through — then we can have the realisation of compassion.

How much peace and happiness within our individual life, how much fulfilment and high esteem, having a happy life, a meaningful life, then our life is meaningful, worthwhile, beneficial — it is not meaningless, not depressing — there is peace and happiness within our individual life. Then peace and happiness in the family, in society, in the neighbourhood, in the people around us, peace and happiness in the country, in the world, global peace and happiness — all this depends on compassion. When there is less compassion in the world, in the hearts of the people, there are more problems, more wars. It is similar in the family, even in a small group like a family. Even in one person’s life there are more problems, so many more problems and disasters. Body disasters, mind disasters — there are two kinds of disasters: body and mind. The whole world peace depends on how much a good heart is educated and practised.

As I often say, if one person has compassion, then that attitude doesn’t produce a harmful action; it doesn’t produce an action that harms others. Starting from the family, from an animal or human being, whoever is nearest to us in everyday life, starting from there, to all the rest of the sentient beings, they don’t receive harm from us, and that absence of harm is the peace and happiness they receive from us. Then, on top of that, with compassion, with stopping giving harm, the more we develop compassion, the more we benefit others. So, numberless other sentient beings receive peace and happiness. From our compassion, the numberless other sentient beings not only receive the happiness of this life, but more importantly, they receive peace and happiness in all future lives. For numberless others, their long-term happiness in all the coming future lives is received from us. By having compassion, it can cause this.

And not only that, an even more important happiness, we cause other sentient beings to receive ultimate happiness, the everlasting happiness having pacified completely the whole oceans of samsaric sufferings. By pacifying the cause which is within them, delusion and karma, or the mistaken thoughts, wrong concepts, the emotional, afflicted thoughts, and then the actions, karma, by pacifying them completely, including the seeds of the delusions, which are within their mental continuum. By ceasing all that, including the seeds of delusion, which is the nature of the imprint, by ceasing all that completely and making it impossible for those negative emotional thoughts, the wrong concepts, those disturbing emotional thoughts to arise again. Due to that, it is impossible to create karma again and impossible then to experience the result, suffering. That is ultimate happiness, everlasting happiness. They are free from suffering forever. Numberless sentient beings can achieve that happiness from our compassion.

If we have compassion, then we also develop wisdom. If we have compassion then we look for wisdom, we put effort into learning Dharma wisdom, to know what is right, what is beneficial for others and ourselves, and what is wrong, what harms others and ourselves. Wisdom knows this. Wisdom knows karma, what is the cause of suffering. Without knowing, without wisdom, how can we achieve happiness? How can we prevent suffering without knowing the cause of suffering?

If we have compassion we continuously put effort into developing wisdom so that we can benefit others more deeply, we can be of better service to others. And with that compassion, we are able to bring the numberless sentient beings to great liberation, to full enlightenment, which is the cessation of even the subtle mistakes of the mind, the subtle defilements, the subtle negative imprints, which project the hallucinated appearance, the truly existent appearance. By ceasing that, then the realisations are completed, all the qualities are achieved. Then, there is nothing more to develop, that’s the end, it’s completed; there is bliss, peace. The spiritual work, the attainment is finished, is completed. Our compassion causes numberless sentient beings to achieve peerless happiness, full enlightenment. That which is the highest success, the most important happiness — that should be achieved. That is what sentient beings need to achieve.

Therefore, all this happiness that numberless other sentient beings receive from us, all this up to enlightenment is in our hands. All this happiness is caused by us. Our compassion is the cause of all this; it is in our own hands. It is up to our own mind, what we do with our mind. It all depends on what we do with our mind. If we develop compassion for other sentient beings, then that compassion becomes the cause for all those numberless sentient beings to achieve happiness up to enlightenment. All that comes from us. If we don’t generate compassion, then all these benefits, all those skies of benefit, the numberless sentient beings cannot receive from us.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche 58.

Dependent Co-Arising and Mutual Support
Venerable Yen Pei

The basic tenet of Buddhist teachings is “dependent co-arising with no true self” People are inter-related, nobody can exist independently on his own. According to this principle of Dependent Co-arising, everything arises in dependence on a combination of causes and conditions. Based on this principle, human beings should take care of one another, offer mutual aid and support so that all may live happily in peace, security and freedom.

However, people do not understand this basic principle and subconsciously develop the self-important mentality. One variably considers oneself as being superior to others, so they should be directed by “me”. This is the cause for various human conflicts.

The turmoil in our world has reached a peak and mankind is afflicted with unprecedented suffering. We should exercise profound reason to understand and judge everything based on the principle of Dependent Co-Arising. Furthermore, in the Buddhist spirit of compassion, let us sympathise with the foolishness of people relieve human suffering and promote global harmony. We should avoid conflicts among people and wars among nations. Following this principle of Dependent Co-Arising and selflessness as taught by Buddha, nations should share resources equitably, people should collaborate for mutual support and benefits. Only then can human beings thrive together with reasonable resolution of many complicated global issues.

Ven Yen Pei (演培老和尚) 4.




照這樣看,活 ── 絕對的活,不僅是一般人的渴求獨鍾,就連發了菩提心的菩薩,也具有此最強烈的蘄求,足見這個活字的誘發性、鼓激力與盤迴味,是多麼的濃稠與深厚唷﹗人類的世界具有充分的聲色光熱,這完全是由於人類活力的發明與創造。從佛法緣起業感的如實立場說,這個世界是無始性的,也不是無因而有的,乃是憑人類的共業感得的。業,概括著人類一切一切的活動,這一切一切的活動中所積累的無限活力,從他的內涵加以究析︰不外乎染與淨,染強過了淨,人心及社會風習,則日趨於敗腐淪墮;淨勝過了染,人心及社會風習,則日趨於旺鮮上升。因此,佛教特別重視轉染成淨的倡揚與體踐。從人類身心中所潛涵的一分善淨性 ── 「梵行」加以觀察,人最具有轉染成淨的可能性,「人身難得」之激勉與可貴,在此。所以,只須勝解自身之可貴,積極而果毅地向上向善,善到惡止善行,久久地積善不已,積儲的善力善德強大深廣了,人就能轉變得心地厚重,面貌寬和,與一切人相見相處得篤敬而禎祥。人類的特性之一︰具有通向、呼應、接聯、相助的理念與行為,將此種觀念與行為,透過了理智的淨導與理性的渾涵,擴充到無邊無類無人無我的境界,器質與氣宇完全都世界化了;有了世界化了的器質與氣宇,便會激發出抱著世界心,獻出世界身,發達世界願,恤拯世眾苦的弘願與偉業,騰涌而洋溢著熱血與醇情的人了。


菩薩於極久遠的過去生中為救度眾生與淨化世界而發心,所以,總是將眾生與世界連在一起看,故其視野與緣境,從未離開過眾生與世界,因此,於心心念念中都思惟著如何成熟眾生,莊嚴佛國。但是,成熟眾生與莊嚴佛國的任務非常非常的艱鉅,由於從智觀中空化了身心,對發心獻身視為最有意義的樂事;更何況為著推展普世的進化與淨化,當然更感到無比的奮暢與健昂。菩薩的興神與使命,就這樣的越來越積極懃懇的。一切諸佛的心量與眼界,無一不曠觀遍照著整個世界,生活在世界的無數有情,其中以人類的活力最為強大,強大到能到處開拓,遍地殖產,可以說人類的活力與動能創造了這個世界。在這裡我要特別說一下,我們最大的慶幸處︰上不升天堂(彌勒內院例外),下不墮地獄,卻能生在人間聞薰佛法,從佛法中聞薰的久了、深了;深到從因緣中體解到無定性、無常我,徹底振脫了世間戀著,身心邁向著出世清淨,以清淨心眼察照世界,正正直直地深入而遍入世界,負起改變、提昇世界的職責,面對世界的精神與氣志,則蓬勃輻展得與時俱進,與空俱擴,修為、發達在這麼種的時空中,一切時空中則成為詮演佛法的道場;這麼種道場的載體 ── 身心,空化淨化了的身心,自然而必然的與道相應,這樣看來,人類身心的價值與力用,是多麼的可貴呀!

身心果真化為道場的,一切云為、操守與印決,無不是道,身心則成為活道場;活道場中所顯現的 ── 正法,正法從活道場中顯出光明清淨,這樣的佛弟子所接引、所提轉的有情,在的實畢真中受到的啟發,獲得的觀摩,引發的效隨等等,都相當的正直而明豁,能腳踏實地進入活活脫脫、開開通通的新境界中,成為脫胎換骨的徹底的新新人;新到內不失念而外不著相的階段,則永不顛倒永發趣。發趣發到具有洞洞闢闢、虛虛融融的本領與能耐,面對一切的艱險恐怖,便鎮平得如空不動,身心放得下,行願當得起。行願於身心中充實的旺旺足足,念頭上空觀的光與力,將我見與我愛照治得活躍不了,一切都進修在平實坦穩中,前途看的清清楚楚,做的果果敢敢,這時,菩提心從無我的平台上指揮得了了當當,所見與所行的種種,便完全不離世界觀,與之俱起的當然是做世界人了。世界人必然的離不開世界心,發世界心為世界人的若觀若行,配應得極其緊切而親誠,菩薩的心腸與面貌,讓人們照察到的盡是表裡一如,言行一致,對任何人無條件的照料都護衛得無微不至,盡讓人感到他的的確確是發了普度世界眾生的大心行者,因此,從事實所表現的,面臨著大苦大難之際,總是搶在眾生前面充當急先鋒,衛在眾生後面作真後殿者,絕不會臨難怯逃,將赴義勇為的氣膽與精神,發揮得極極致致,實踐其普度世界眾生的決絕大願與大心。






Ven Ren Zun (仁俊長老) 2.



勤修什麽呢? 當然是勤修"善"。什麽樣叫善? 勤修十善,剔除十不善。怎麽去衡量善與惡? 諸法由緣生,於在渴望度。做每件事都要看它的動機來決定是善還是惡。"三輪體空"的基礎上做每件事也是最好的善事。而以不著"能、所、事件"的"三輪體空"的"清淨慧","回向菩提"、回向終極的覺悟。俗話說:做任何事不要執著於能、所、事件而清淨平等,爲消除無邊衆生之苦而精進修善!“如《賢愚經》雲:‘莫想諸善微,無益而輕視,水滴若積聚,漸次滿大器。’我們只要是每天做一件善事,不管小與大,最終會有光明的結果。相反,我們應當注意每一件惡事,都儘量不要做。”




1、殺生。一般人認爲:不殺生誰都做的到;就是不殺人、馬、牛等大牲動物嗎?這些我不殺!其實不然,佛教認爲:殺生要具備四種條件,如果完全具備這四個條件以後就成立了殺生的罪業。哪四種條件呢? 對境、動機、行動和結果。
































Droge Yonten Gyatso Rinpoche (卓格仁波切) 7.