HIS HOLINESS THE 41ST KYABGON SAKYA GONGMA TRICHEN A FEW SHORT EXCERPTS FROM HIS HOLINESS’ TEACHINGS
Dharma in everyday life
“The Sanskrit word dharma has many different meanings, but the word generally means to change: to change our impure or wild mind that is so involved with defilements toward the right path. Although of course even just doing practice has some benefit, the point of practice is to change one’s mind. If one’s mind does not change, then it is not very effective. We must look to see whether the practices we are doing are making a real difference in our mind or not. If the practice changes our mind, then, if we use it in the right way, we could be the busiest person in the busiest city but still be a very good Dharma practitioner because everything we see and do, everyone we associate with, gives us a chance to practice Dharma.
“For example, when traveling in cities and noticing many changes, we witness the truth of impermanence. When we see so much suffering, we are experiencing the Buddha’s teaching that everything is suffering. The fact that we actually see it with our own naked eyes means we can immediately learn it. When we associate with the vast numbers of people in cities, we have a chance to help them, to practice compassion. When people disturb us or are angry with us, it gives us a chance to practice patience. In this way, if we can apply the teachings to our everyday life, then wherever we are, at work or at home, we can use our experiences and surroundings to practice the Dharma. “These different experiences can help us to understand more deeply how important it is to practice the Dharma. Higher meditations like concentration and insight are very important, but in order to reach that level, it is necessary to cultivate the basic foundations – such as contemplating the difficulty of obtaining precious human birth, impermanence and death, the cause of karma, and the suffering of saṃsāra, together known as the Four Common Foundations. These you can learn from a teacher or study in books.”
“Today we find that many people are interested in the Dharma path, and many people follow a set of associated traditions. We go to temples, do prostrations, recite prayers and mantras, make offerings, perform circumambulations, and do meditations. All of this is of course very meritorious, but these practices alone are not truly effective unless we are making inner mental changes.
“First, we must think, ‘What is the most important thing in life?’ Many people want nothing more than higher positions, wealth, fame, friends, and supporters, but all this worldly prosperity has no ultimate purpose. In the human realm, very few people attain an age of even one hundred years. Our lifetime is just a matter of, at most, one hundred years. And after that, our worldly attainments will not matter. On the day that you leave this world, no matter how clever you are, how powerful you are, how rich you are, how many supporters you have, or how many friends you have, none of these will help. We must die by ourselves, alone. Nobody can share that suffering or prevent it for us. “The only thing that will help at that moment is our Dharma practice. The virtuous deeds that we do can help us at that moment, and for this reason it is especially important to perform positive actions right now, while we can. You never know whether you will have an opportunity to practise in the future. Many people think, ‘At the moment, I am young, so for the time being, I will enjoy life, and then when I get older, I will enter the spiritual path’. But there are many young people who die before old people. Many healthy people die before people who are extremely sick. Truly, no one can ever tell when they will die. Therefore, it is important to begin the spiritual path right away and then to practise it very diligently.”
“Nobody else can remove your suffering. Each person must work their own way out of suffering. The Buddha said, ‘You yourself are you own saviour’. Nobody else can save you; only you can save yourself. For example, when a person is sick, although it is very important to have a good doctor, good medicine, and good helpers, the main factor is that the patient themself has to take the medicine and abstain from the cause of the disease. Otherwise, no matter how good the doctor or how good the medicine, the patient will never get well. Similarly, the Buddha is like a doctor and the Dharma is like medicine – together, they help us to be free from suffering.
“Even though we receive help in the form of the Buddha’s blessing, compassion, and grace, due to our own faults and defilements, we have not yet been able to relieve ourselves from the suffering of saṃsāra.
“Among the sentient beings of the six realms, we human beings are endowed with superior knowledge and intelligence so we can work effectively to free ourselves from suffering. Even animals can do this to a degree, but we are different from animals; we have intelligence, we have a mind to think, and we have the capability to overcome all our problems. Therefore, we must not lose precious time.
“What we are seeking is the state beyond suffering. Therefore, the Buddha spoke of ‘the truth of cessation, which one must obtain’. That is the goal we are seeking: the state that is permanently free, the state where we have permanently parted from all types of suffering and there can be no more relapse. In such a state, we are not only free from suffering, but suffering never reoccurs.”
“What is the cause of suffering? The cause of suffering are actions and defilements. Where do defilements come from? They come from ignorance, from self-clinging. Our mind’s true nature is pure, but we do not recognise this; instead, we cling to a ‘self’ without authentic reasons and logic. We cling to our overall existence; we mistakenly believe that our being exists as a self.
“When you have a self, then automatically you have an ‘other’. Self and other depend on each other. When you have self and other, then there is attachment to one’s own friends and relatives and so forth. And there is also the other side – the people you do not like, beings that you do not appreciate, beings that you do not agree with, etc, and so anger arises. From ignorance comes both desire and hatred.
“To be able to meditate on insight wisdom you need to go step by step. The first step is to understand that outer objects, outer visions, are mental visions. All the phenomena we see, the life we go through, all things, do not appear without a cause. All phenomena are not the creation of a force coming from outside, they arise from our own mind and propensities. When a seed planted in our mind ripens, we move from life to life, so there is no outer creator, no outer projector other than our own mind.
“The second step is to recognise that all mental visions are magical illusions: all things we see now or the life we go through are like a magical show or like a dream. For example, in our dreams we can visit many different countries, we can meet many different beings, we may have very sad or happy dreams, nightmares and all kind of experiences. When you wake up, not even one tiny trace remains of all the things you saw in your dreams. Similarly, our life itself is like a dream or like a reflection in a mirror: nothing is real, all is a magical illusion.
“The third step is to realise that all magical illusions are devoid of self-nature. From the relative point of view, in the various lives we go through, visions never cease, and even though they are the result of cause and effect we never perceive the interdependent origination of visions. However, by means of very careful investigation one cannot find anything real, not even one tiny bit. All is emptiness, and although vision and emptiness seem to be in contradiction, there is no discrepancy between the two because emptiness and the interdependent origination of all visions are inseparable.”
“In this way, the defilements are formed, which are known as the three main poisons: ignorance, desire, and hatred. These three give rise to the other defilements. For instance, when you have attachment to your wealth and possessions, then you generate stinginess and pride. And when other people have wealth and prosperity, you then have jealousy and competitiveness and so forth. All these impure mental states arise. Based on these impure mental states, you then take actions – physical actions, mental actions, and verbal actions. These actions are like planting a seed of suffering. Actions that arise from the defilements are all forms of suffering. If the root of a tree is poisonous, then anything that grows on the tree, such as fruits, flowers, and leaves, are all poisonous. Similarly, the actions arising from defilements – ignorance, hatred, and desire – are all non-virtuous deeds and are the cause of suffering. Performing an action is like planting a seed. When you plant a seed, its fruit depends on causes and conditions. When the right causes and conditions are brought together, then you are bound to produce a result. Through our own actions, we have created all of our own situations. Through all of our own actions, we have created our own suffering. It is through all our own actions that we have created all of our happiness. Everything comes from our own actions.”
The 41st Sakya Trizin, His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche