Bliss and Emptiness Meditation ~ Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Online Advice Book


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Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Online Advice Book
Meditation and Retreat Advice : Meditation and Visualization

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Last Updated Oct 13, 2014)
Bliss and Emptiness Meditation
A student wrote that she was experiencing bliss while in retreat. Rinpoche gave the following practice advice.

My most dear, most kind, most wish-fulfilling one ,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. My conclusion is that it’s very good that you are able to experience bliss—that you are able to shoot bliss up to the crown, that you are able to experience the four blisses, and that you can do that by going through the channels inside. So now what you should try is generally more meditation on emptiness—the fourth bliss and emptiness.

Don’t let the I be lost totally, don’t escape from that or lose that. To go through that, to accomplish that, is like climbing Mount Everest or winning gold. The way the I has appeared from beginningless rebirth—what we believe as the true, real I—see the emptiness and abide in that. You should attend to that as the main object of meditation.

That’s the false I. What you believe real is the false I in reality, so try to look at that. After discovering that, then seeing it as empty, by thinking it does not exist at all and meditating on that. Meditate on that as long as you can last. Aim for four hours without disturbances, without break.

Otherwise without emptiness, then Hindus can also generate bliss, but not in the central channel. They can actualize the clear light, but not the extremely subtle mind understanding emptiness, realizing emptiness. General bliss, kundalini, Hindus also have that; it is not particular to Buddhists, but emptiness is not in Hinduism.

You need total renunciation, including of the form realm, the desire realm, and the formless realm, then these four: infinite consciousnesses, infinite space, nothingness, and the tip of samsara. In Hinduism they have the desire realm, the form and formless realm, and they see their suffering nature—these three categories they see are suffering in nature, but they don’t see the tip of samsara as samsara, because the way to realize it is by looking at a higher level, with more peace, then looking at the present stage, more suffering nature.

So the way the Hindus do meditation and realize the nature of suffering is different from the way Buddhists do it, therefore they see there is no higher realm than the tip of samsara, so that is how they get stuck. When the karma of that realm is finished, then they see that they have to be reborn in the lower realms, the desire realm and so forth. Then sometimes they get heresy because they believed before that they had achieved nirvana, but because the delusions are so subtle, at the end they realize they did not achieve that, so when they see that they have to be reborn in the lower realms, they generate heresy and then they have to be reborn in the hell realm.

When you do Vajrayogini sadhana, it’s good to keep the bliss if it happens easily. Keep it during the sadhana—while reciting the sadhana and doing generation stage meditation.

Follow the outline of the Six Yogas of Naropa, and try to have realizations one-by-one.

The most important thing is to have bodhicitta realizations, so every experience of bliss becomes the direct cause of enlightenment for sentient beings, so that means all your experiences become beneficial for sentient beings.

Of course, bodhicitta realization, but before that you also need total renunciation—seeing the whole entire samsara as suffering in nature, and you can’t wait [to be free from samsara.] Just as a prisoner doesn’t want to be in prison for even one second, or like being in the center of the fire, you don’t have the attraction to be in the fire even for one second, you only want to be free from the fire, without delay of a second, so like that, have the wish to be free from samsara.

Then there is the unmistaken realization of emptiness, for example, being able to see the I as empty. That means as a result you see the I exists in mere name, merely imputed by the mind, so that means it does not exist at all from its own side. It is totally empty of existing from its own side, so oneness, emptiness and dependent arising, that is Buddha’s, Nagarjuna’s and Lama Tsongkhapa’s way of examining emptiness. It is supportive to realize how the I is existing, not non-existing, it’s a subtle dependent arising. Thinking that way, realizing that way, helps you to see emptiness, that it is empty.

Then to have the realization of guru devotion, by meditating on that for however many weeks, months or years it takes to have realizations that your guru, who you have a Dharma connection with, is numberless buddhas, and one buddha is all the gurus. To have the effortless experience, without any difficulties to be able to see that, one hundred per cent, from your own heart.

That becomes the root, the success of all the realizations, which should be done by following the lam-rim outline, with the meditations. Here I’m talking about the result of the meditation, training the mind in the gradual path of lower capable being, for as many weeks, months or years it takes to train the mind, to have no attachment at all to this life, to the food, clothing, and reputation. So the most important thing is the happiness of the next life, not this life. Most important is the next life, so totally change from the previous thinking, that this life’s happiness is more important than the next life, totally change this.

That’s why Nagarjuna is saying comfort and discomfort are equalized, praise and criticism are equalized, good reputation and bad reputation are equalized, to receive material or not receive material is equalized. You should have that realization.

You can meditate on the perfect human rebirth and its usefulness, how it is difficult to find again, also meditate on impermanence and death, the nine stages of death, the lower realm sufferings and refuge and karma. Try to have realizations one-by-one. This is the gradual path of the lower capable being.

Then [meditate on] the gradual path of the middle capable being: the suffering of humans and the deva realm, etc, the six types of suffering, the three types of general suffering of samsara, then [develop] renunciation of samsara, as I explained before, thinking that being in samsara is like being in prison or being in the center of a fire.

When you have bodhicitta realizations without any effort, day and night, continuously, there is the thought to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, even for each sentient being. It is explained in the texts by meditators, that generally when bodhicitta is actualized, then you can put your main effort into tantra—the generation and completion stages—that is general.

With much love and prayers…

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Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden @ Lama Yeshe Archive

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Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Pomaia, Italy (Archive # 1243, Last Updated Sep 15, 2014)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this talk to students of the FPMT’s Masters Program at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Pomaia, Italy, October 22, 2000. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.

Recently I sent a letter (see note below) to the abbots of the large monasteries of Sera, Ganden and Drepung to inspire the older geshes and other lamas who had a strong connection with the previous life of my root guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, to request his incarnation to show the aspect of following His Holiness Dalai Lama’s holy wishes and return to India to study in his monastery and follow the normal way of life of such high lamas. In this way, the incarnation will benefit the world greatly, in the West and especially the Tibetan people in the East. I’m not going to read the whole thing from top to bottom to you, just a few parts.

His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche has been in Switzerland away from his monastery, under the control of other people, for a long time. Some time ago, I felt that because he was my root guru, I must do something about it. I felt it unbearable to leave things as they were; I felt I had to try to resolve this issue. Therefore I wrote this letter, which expresses my own thoughts, hoping to inspire the abbots and older geshes to add their views and request the incarnation and his entourage to return to India.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has taken unbelievable responsibility for the peace and happiness of this world. He has worked for world peace in general and, in particular, for the preservation of Buddhism, the holy Dharma, in its entirety—the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle and both Mahayana Paramitayana and tantra. On top of that, there’s the issue of Tibet, which is unbelievably hard and such a difficult situation. Despite the many problems, His Holiness has taken responsibility for the welfare of all Tibetan people, especially those in the monasteries—the monks’ means of living and their education. That in itself is an unbelievable task, but in addition, he has taken responsibility for the freedom of Tibet.

If Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s incarnation were to follow His Holiness’s holy wishes and go back to study in the monastery like His Holiness Ling Rinpoche and other lamas do, it would reduce the burden in His Holiness’s heart and relieve the discomfort of this situation. So that’s one aspect of this.

There are many contemporary and ancient stories about His Holiness Dalai Lama that, together with valid quotations from the scriptures, prove that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is Chenrezig; the Buddha of Compassion. [See Lama Zopa’s talks In Praise of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and Great Compassion and His Holiness the Dalai Lama] The qualities of his holy body, speech and mind, his great compassion and his holy actions are as limitless as the sky and benefit not only the East but also the West; in fact, every country in the world.

His Holiness has even managed to spread the Dharma to far-flung countries where normally you’d never hear any Buddhadharma at all. Like the rising sun, he has shed the light of Dharma upon the sentient beings who live in those countries, leading them along the pure path to peace and happiness, to liberation and enlightenment. Because of such incredible, extensive work throughout the world, His Holiness’s kindness is beyond measure.

What proves that the founder of the Buddhadharma, Shakyamuni Buddha, is a pure founder, a valid founder? This is proven by his teaching being pure and valid. Similarly, the fact that even ordinary beings like us can see the extensive qualities of His Holiness’s holy body, speech and mind proves that he is the Buddha of Compassion.

Further proof that His Holiness is the Buddha of Compassion comes from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in India, when he predicted to the bodhisattva Eliminating Defilements (Dribpa Namsäl), “The sentient beings in the Snowland of Tibet will be subdued by the Buddha of Compassion.”

Guru Shakyamuni Buddha also predicted to the bodhisattva Thayä Rigchog, “The Chenrezig who is going to work for the transmigratory beings of the Snowland of Tibet is you.”

Furthermore, the teachings say, “The guide of all the sentient beings in the Snowland of Tibet will hold the position of a king. The savior of Tibet, Phurgyäl Yül, is my heart disciple. His holy mind is completely clear, without obscuration, but he will work for sentient beings in a hidden manner by acting as an ordinary being.”

When we meet this Chenrezig that the Buddha predicted, hear his holy speech and are guided by him with compassion, if His Holiness Dalai Lama is not that Chenrezig, who else can Chenrezig be? If His Holiness is not Chenrezig, then nobody can be Chenrezig; even those great yogis who are said to be incarnations of this buddha or that are suspect. You can’t trust any other incarnation.

So, that proof relates to the ancient stories from the time of the Buddha, when he predicted that Chenrezig would be the Dharma king of Tibet and preserve Dharma and guide sentient beings in Tibet by revealing the Dharma.

However, there are also recent stories that prove the ancient stories true. When His Holiness was giving teachings at Geshe Sopa Rinpoche’s center, Deer Park, in Madison, Wisconsin, recently, he said, “I have no experience, no realization of bodhicitta and no realization of emptiness.” His Holiness often says that, but later, during an interview with the staff of Deer Park, somebody raised the question, “If you don’t have those realizations, as you say, there must be no hope for people like us.”

When His Holiness heard this, he felt incredible compassion and had to say something, so he told the people that he remembered being around Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in India. This means that he was one of the bodhisattvas who were part of the Buddha’s entourage. It slipped out that he remembered being in the presence of the Buddha.

This story is connected to the previous stories about the predictions the Buddha made to those bodhisattvas and that Chenrezig would guide sentient beings in Tibet and that the bodhisattva Thayä Rigchog was in actuality Chenrezig and would be the one who would do that work in Tibet.

There are many Buddhist leaders in the world, not only those from Tibet. But amongst all these Buddhist leaders, His Holiness’s deeds are beyond compare. Because of His Holiness, the Buddhadharma, the precious teaching of the Buddha, the only medicine that can eliminate the suffering of all transmigrator beings, is flourishing. His Holiness’s holy actions have prevented the Buddhadharma from degenerating.

Besides His Holiness having taken complete responsibility for preserving the stainless teaching of the Buddha, he has also taken full responsibility for the freedom of the six million Tibetan people in the world. His Holiness has borne great hardship to ensure that Tibetans everywhere have both Dharma and temporal freedom.

Because of all this, we must not only completely abandon any thought of giving harm to His Holiness’s activities but also put every effort into helping him. The time has come for all of us together to offer His Holiness every possible service. Therefore, each of us should generate the most extensive thought of benefiting others and ourselves. In this way, please follow His Holiness’s advice and wishes as much as you possibly can.

Whereas above I am asking everyone to follow His Holiness’s advice, in a later paragraph I quote the sutra that says, “Bhikshus and the wise should examine my teachings like goldsmiths analyze gold, by cutting, rubbing and scorching it. Examine my teachings in the same way and then put them into practice. Do not practice Dharma on the strength of blind faith alone.”

So, the Buddha himself said that we should first analyze his teachings and once we are convinced of their validity then put them into practice. We should not just blindly follow what he said simply because he said it.

We have many gurus; many virtuous friends with whom we have made a Dharma connection. You often find that, when you ask your various teachers for advice on your practice, you receive different instructions. That’s quite common.

It also says in the teachings that you should not simply rely on the person giving Dharma teachings but on the Dharma itself. In other words, you should base your practice on valid teachings of the Buddha and the previous pundits’ and yogis’ commentaries on those teachings. Moreover, you should practice according to your own capacity. Just because something is called Buddhism or Buddhist meditation doesn’t mean that you should necessarily put it into practice. Of course, your practice should be based on valid teachings of the Buddha and the ancient Indian pundits’ and yogis’ commentaries, but even then you should just practice according to your own capacity.

You have to use your own wisdom; you have to analyze. One guru tells you not to do a certain thing; another tells you to do it. Which one are you going to follow? You have to use your own wisdom. So here, in my letter to the abbots, I’m talking about the practice of this particular protector, Shugden.

Some of you may be familiar with this issue, others may not. However, whereas so far I’ve just been talking about general advice, where one guru tells you not to do something and another says to do it, what I’m doing is leading up to the specific issue of the practice of Shugden. One guru tells you “Don’t practice this protector”; another says, “Practice this protector.” You find yourself getting conflicting instructions from different gurus. How are you supposed to know what to do?

What you have to do is use your wisdom. Analyze the various instructions you have received to determine which course of action is the most beneficial for sentient beings, which creates fewest problems. Once you have reached a conclusion, practice that.

The teachings also explain what to do if your guru tells you to do something that you can’t do, that is beyond your capacity; something that you cannot transform into the path to enlightenment and would create heavy negative karma if you did it. For example, if your guru tells you to do something very heavy, like killing a human being, but from your side you feel that you don’t have the capacity to do it, how do you handle that situation?

It is said in the teachings, “Like an actor, the one Dharmakaya, the great bliss, the ultimate guru, manifests in many different forms.”

Therefore, from your side, you must look at the holy minds of all the gurus with whom you have made a Dharma connection as the great, blissful Dharmakaya. You must see them as being completely free of error and in possession of all good qualities. Your mind must look at all of them as Buddha. By keeping your mind in that view, you don’t lose your guru devotion. If continuously you keep in mind that your gurus are Buddha, non-devotional thoughts, such as disbelief, anger and so forth, do not arise. It is extremely important to avoid generating negative thoughts towards your gurus because such minds create enormous obstacles not only to gaining realizations but even to temporary success. However, the Vinaya teachings say, “If your guru tells you to do something that is not Dharma, do not do it.”

Also, the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion says in verse 24, “If you cannot do what your guru suggests, you can request permission not to do it by explaining why you can’t.” Humbly, without arrogance, without thinking, “Oh, my guru doesn’t know this, he doesn’t know that,” by looking with devotion at your guru as Buddha, humbly explain how you are incapable of doing what he asks. As skillfully as you can, try to get permission from your guru not to do what he has asked you to do.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, “Special disciples and special gurus, like Milarepa and Marpa or Naropa and Tilopa, are different. In such cases, every single word that the guru says to the disciple, even if it involves killing, stealing and so forth, has to be followed exactly.”

In this part of my letter, then, I am offering His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche my suggestions for dealing with various questions that arise, such as, “Perhaps His Holiness says this, but what about other lamas, who say something different?” Here I try to answer those various points. Of course, this approach can help with many things, but the particular issue here is that of Shugden.

Then I request His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche to go back to India to study in his monastery. It is extremely important that he return to his monastery to undertake deep, extensive study. The people who are preventing the incarnation from doing this are not considering the extensive benefit that he could offer sentient beings if he were allowed to develop in the normal way. They are not thinking of his future benefit to sentient beings.

At the Gelugpa meeting in Delhi in March 1999, which we, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, helped organize, all the abbots agreed that if His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche’s incarnation’s holy activities were not developed in one of the great monasteries, if they were developed outside, they wouldn’t count.

Another thing is that the way things are, the Tibetan people see the incarnation as being against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In that way, Tibetan people and others generate wrong views towards him and thus create the extremely heavy negative karma of criticizing a holy being.

Also, other people’s misuse of the incarnation damages his samaya with His Holiness, which severely hinders the incarnation’s ability to develop his holy actions to benefit sentient beings. Moreover, if a bad connection is made with His Holiness this time, there will be bad connections in all future lives. This hinders his ability to benefit sentient beings in future lives. Therefore, it’s extremely harmful. Many sentient beings collect negative karma. Most people can understand all this. Even someone with just a little lam-rim knowledge can understand these problems.

Some people say that if you don’t practice Shugden, Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching cannot be developed. The next point answers this view.

Some people think that the practice of Shugden prevents Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings from degenerating and promotes their development. But there have been many Gelug lamas who without practicing Shugden, spread Buddhadharma, spread the stainless teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa like the sky. Lamas like Their Holinesses the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth Dalai Lamas, Ling Rinpoche and Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen—a great, well-known Tibetan lama who wrote many, many teachings and not only didn’t practice Shugden but also advised against the practice.

Purchog Jampa Rinpoche, a very high lama of Sera Je Monastery and an incarnation of Maitreya Buddha, wrote against the practice of Shugden in the Monastery’s constitution. Jangkya Rölpa’i Dorje and Jangkyang Ngawang Chödrön, who wrote many excellent texts, also advised against this practice, as did Tenpa’i Wangchuk, the Eighth Panchen Lama, and Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen, the Fourth Panchen Lama, who composed the Guru Puja and wrote many other teachings, and Ngulchu Dharmabhadra. All these great lamas, and many other highly accomplished scholars and yogis who preserved and spread the stainless teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa, recommended that Shugden not be practiced.

This point is very important, because people think that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the only one trying to stop the practice of Shugden. Therefore, the people who are practicing it get negative towards His Holiness. But His Holiness is not the only one. There are many other high lamas who, in monastery constitutions, have advised their monasteries not to practice, or, if they are practicing, to stop. There are many, many lamas who have done this.

No other protector has become such a big issue, but this has become important because not only His Holiness the Dalai Lama has advised against it but so have many other great lamas. Therefore it is something that we have to think about.

Even though this specific issue does not concern most of you—only a few old students—everybody has to understand what I mentioned at the beginning and again in the middle: how to remain devoted to lamas who give you conflicting advice and how to get permission not to do something you have been asked to do without generating wrong views, arrogance or anger.

My root guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche; Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s guru’s root guru; His Holiness Song Rinpoche, from whom many of the older students received the initiation of Shugden; and the previous incarnation of Gomo Rinpoche, who has a strong connection with Istituto Lama Tsongkhapa, here in Italy, all promoted the practice of Shugden. They were all aspects of the Dharmakaya.

I myself took the initiation of Shugden from His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche. There were four of us—Lama Yeshe, Claudio Cipullo, Piero Cerri and myself. However, this initiation can be given to only three people at a time; there cannot be four. Kyabje Rinpoche had set up the altar and made all the preparations perfectly—of course, everything he did was always perfect—and was there, waiting for us. After the four of us sat down, he said, “You cannot be four; only three. Whoever has bodhicitta, who has let go of the I and cherishes others, should leave.” Lama shot up immediately. I just sat there like a donkey, as if I were made of stone. So then the three of us, Claudio, Piero and I, took the initiation.

Of course, Lama and I practiced Shugden for many years. That was always the main thing that Lama did whenever there were problems to overcome. At the beginning of every Kopan course, Lama always did Shugden puja to eliminate hindrances. Of course, this was not Lama’s principal practice. His principal practice was bodhicitta, emptiness, clear light, illusory body and so forth. The protector puja was done simply to overcome obstacles.

However, all these lamas giving different kinds of advice are all manifestations of the Dharmakaya. The point is that many great lamas who had incredible qualities and were of unbelievable benefit in Tibet, preserving and spreading the stainless teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa, advised against the practice of Shugden.

Similarly, His Holiness is of enormous benefit to sentient beings and, furthermore, has taken on the incredible burdens of his position. Therefore, it has become crucial that we support him, especially in his efforts on behalf of Tibet. This is very important and the main reason we changed—why Kopan changed; why I changed [i.e., stopped practicing Shugden]. As I understood how hard His Holiness works and what heavy burdens he has assumed, I changed. How could I be against His Holiness? There was no way. The only thing to do was to support, serve and help him. That’s the main thing.

The next question—and here, I’m just posing hypothetical questions and giving the answers, like the debate texts do—that comes up for some people is that if the incarnation of His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche doesn’t practice, the lineage of Shugden will degenerate and die out. Some people might think this because in his previous life, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche was the main lama preserving this lineage, which had come down through his root guru, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo. To that, I say there’s no need to worry because many other people do the practice, so the lineage will not get lost.

Then, some people say that this practice should continue because it promotes wealth and prosperity in the world. In response, I say that the practice of Shugden is not necessary for wealth. There are many rich and powerful countries in the world, like Saudi Arabia and the USA, that don’t practice Shugden. They haven’t taken the initiation; they haven’t made a commitment to practice. As everybody knows, wealth and prosperity comes from merit and virtue; from the creation of good karma.

After Guru Shakyamuni Buddha left his father’s palace but before he began to practice Buddhism, he practiced Hinduism. That’s not because he didn’t know that Hinduism was not the way. It was to show sentient beings that his first choice was wrong and that Buddhism was the right path.

At one point, when things in Tibet became very difficult politically, His Holiness came to Dromo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery in southern Tibet. At that time the Tibetan government could not decide whether His Holiness should go on to India or back to Lhasa. So His Holiness and his ministers consulted Dromo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery’s protector, the one in question. Through the oracle, Shugden said that His Holiness should not go to India. This protected Tibet for another year or for so. What I have heard is that after that experience, His Holiness would recite prayers to Shugden regularly. However, after many years of analysis, when His Holiness was about to take the initiation of Shugden, he received signs in a dream that he should not. As a result, he didn’t take the initiation.

This is the same as what Guru Shakyamuni Buddha did. He first became enlightened inconceivably long ago, not, as history tells us, two-and-a-half thousand years ago in India. According to the Theravada tradition, that’s what happened, but the Mahayana does not accept this—we believe he became enlightened inconceivably long ago. Therefore, as an enlightened being, how can the Buddha make a mistake? He simply practiced Hinduism to show sentient beings that it was the wrong path. This is just what His Holiness did; he practiced Shugden to show us it was wrong.

Because of His Holiness’s special capacity to benefit people extensively by revealing the entire Buddhadharma in a very short time, in two or three days or even one or two hours, it is very important that he have a long, healthy life. Since His Holiness can introduce the Dharma to people in such a short time, leading them to the peace and happiness of liberation and enlightenment, the longer and healthier His Holiness’s life, the more he can benefit us sentient beings. Therefore, we need to support him. That’s the main point.

For example, if something were to happen to His Holiness’s life, what would happen to Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism? Imagine how much suffering there would be. We’d have no guide; all those monasteries would also be guideless. Everything depends on His Holiness. Like a father and mother, His Holiness is everything; not only to Dharma students but especially to Tibetans. Who would we listen to if His Holiness were not there? You can see how much suffering there’d be without him.

If Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism is lost, the complete teaching of the Buddha is lost. If there’s no Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism there’s no complete teaching of the Buddha. Even though there might be Chinese Mahayana and other traditions, it’s only Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism that has everything—the Lesser Vehicle teachings, Mahayana sutra and Mahayana tantra; especially the complete teaching on tantra. You see how much suffering and confusion there’d be in the world. This is particularly true for Tibetans.

Therefore, it’s extremely important that you understand this. His Holiness’s advice is to not practice Shugden, therefore, we have to support His Holiness and fulfill his wishes on this point. That’s the essence of what I’m trying to say. I don’t know whether any of you are practicing Shugden, but this is just to inform those who do not know and to clarify the situation for those who do.

Another thing is that some Tibetans and others severely criticize Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo because he practiced Shugden, making him out to be some kind of demon. However, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo wrote incredible teachings on sutra and tantra; on Heruka, Tara Cittamani and many other topics. All these amazing teachings were written purely from his experience. So it’s impossible that he can really be some kind of evil being, as those extremists accuse him of being. There’s no way he could have done the negative things they say he did.

The great translator Ra Lotsawa, one of the main Yamantaka lineage holders, is supposed to have killed many people through his tantric power, but nobody regards Ra Lotsawa as bad. Tantric powers are attained on the basis of bodhicitta, the realization of emptiness and the generation and completion stages of Highest Yoga Tantra, and when you gain the powers that come with the clear light and the illusory body and do wrathful actions—for example, separating evil beings’ consciousness from their body—the main point is to transfer their consciousness to the pure land. That’s the end result of wrathful tantric actions. Wrathful actions like that are done to benefit other sentient beings. When dealing with evil beings through peaceful actions doesn’t benefit them the only way left to benefit them is through wrathful actions. If you possess the necessary powers and qualities you can benefit others in that way with no danger to yourself. Not only can you but you are supposed to. It’s part of your samaya.

There are many stories about the great yogis and living beings. For example, one great yogi called Lobpön Jampel Shenyen made soup with live worms. And when Naropa first met his guru, Tilopa, he was down by the river cooking live fish and eating them, which made him think, “This can’t be Tilopa.” So when he asked, “Are you Tilopa?” Tilopa said, “No.” Later on, when Naropa had generated faith and again asked, “Are you Tilopa?” Tilopa said, “Yes.” Anyway, great yogis can assume such aspects.

The incarnation of Kyabje Dorje Chang, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s guru and the lama of all the Tibetan people, so it’s terrible if he’s hidden away in some corner as if there’s something wrong with him. That’s absolutely shameful. Therefore, the people around him have to think very extensively. In his previous life he performed incredibly holy actions; therefore, his present incarnation has the potential to spread Dharma in both the East and the West like the rising sun spreads light. Even just within the FPMT there are more than 120 centers in which he could spread the teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa when he finished his geshe degree. But the extent to which he can practice guru devotion and develop his holy actions depends almost entirely on his attendant.

Then in my letter to His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche I also request the incarnation that whatever sutra and tantra teachings he offered His Holiness Dalai Lama in his previous life, to please take those complete lineages from His Holiness Dalai Lama. So I request this from my heart.

However, this does not apply only to His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche. It applies to all of you as well. The main point in telling you all this is that if you read the letter, it might give you an idea of how to practice in general and particularly what to do with respect to the issue of the protector, Shugden. The other point is to let know something about this issue itself.

1. The letter was addressed to the reincarnation of the previous Trijang Rinpoche and Lama Zopa Rinpoche sent it to the abbots to get their input and support for it. Here, Rinpoche is reading parts of this letter to the assembled students and commenting on it. The letter itself is not available at this time. Return to text.

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A Perfect Object of Refuge ~ Lama Thubten Yeshe @ Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive

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A Perfect Object of Refuge

By Lama Thubten Yeshe at Cumbria, England (Archive # 153, Last Updated Aug 31, 2014)
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Lama Yeshe at Kopan Monastery, 1974.
Lama Yeshe gave this teaching at Manjushri Institute, Cumbria, England, in September 1976. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.Published in Mandala magazine, April 2014.

How many different religions are there in the world today? I’m not criticizing, but just look at how many followers they have and how these people are practicing their religion. What kind of refuge do they take? Check up.

Forget about materialists, who haven’t discovered any religion; they only take refuge in material things. But even religious people, who have a little better understanding, still mostly take refuge in ridiculous ways. For example, statues of Lord Buddha are material objects; if we take refuge in them, we too are taking refuge in material things.

Many people are like this. They have no understanding that it’s only the light of wisdom that can elevate you into liberation, nirvana, salvation or whatever you want to call it, so they take refuge in mere atoms instead. They also engage in mistaken practices. Like in Nepal, many people believe that their religion says they have to sacrifice animals to the gods, so at certain times they can kill as many as 100,000 sentient beings in a day. The streets run with blood; if you were to go there you might slip and fall in it. This is just so wrong. I’ve seen the same thing about Africa on TV. They sacrifice animals and rub their blood on the god to appease him. Such wrong conceptions and wrong paths lead you to ruin your life.

I’m not criticizing other religions, merely trying to point out reality—if you engage in such practices you’re leading the wrong kind of life. We’re allowed to explain the way things are. Saying that one thing is right and another is wrong is not criticism. If, with a biased, deluded mind, you say, “My religion is better than yours; yours is just wrong,” that might be considered to be criticism, but if, with discriminating wisdom, you point out the difference between right actions and wrong, that’s a completely different thing.

It’s similar in Buddhist countries, too. Simple, uneducated people take refuge by going to temples and folding their hands at their heart. That’s how they take refuge. They light candles, make prostrations and pray hard for something but don’t understand how their everyday actions could be leading them to liberation or the unified state of buddhahood and so forth.

The advantage of growing up in the West is that you receive a good education and intellectual training. In general, people from common Eastern families aren’t trained to think, nor do they have much religious training, so all they can do is take refuge in the simplest way. Western people are very intelligent and good communicators and can examine all of the world’s religions. That’s good; you can see the whole picture rather than a narrow section of it.

And when you do survey the entire range of possibilities, you can see how worthwhile it is to take refuge in the preeminent qualities of the Buddha, the wisdom of the Dharma and the support of the Sangha, your Dharma friends who give you a good visualization and help you in your practice.
It’s so worthwhile to take refuge in that which can truly liberate you. You have to understand that. Otherwise you’ll see people taking refuge in the sun, the moon or something else up in the sky. People look up at the sky and, thinking God is up there, fold their hands and cry, “Please help me.” They look up pleading for God’s help, yet down here on earth engage in ridiculous actions, somehow expecting him to reach down and say, “My child, come to me.” God can’t guide you that way. It’s impossible.

However, taking refuge in Lord Buddha’s good qualities and Dharma wisdom is not some kind of partisan political act—“Now I’m a member of the Buddhist party.” Be careful. It’s easy to develop that kind of attitude through attachment to your own ideas. You think, “I like the Buddha’s philosophy.; now I belong to his party,” and then look down on others. You look down on others but you don’t look within yourself.

Lord Buddha’s philosophy is actually a way for us to relate to our own everyday life. It’s a boat to cross the river of delusion, an elevator to the heights of everlasting peace. Its purpose is to take us beyond delusion, to make our mind happy and healthy. That’s why we take refuge, why we practice Dharma. Be careful that that’s your purpose too.

Lord Buddha’s teachings are incredible, absolutely too much! You can see how they can elevate you, but when you listen to or try to practice teachings, your conceptions flavor them. It’s like when you bake a cake you can add this flavor or that. Similarly, Dharma means one thing but you flavor it to mean something else; Buddha means this, but you make it that. It’s actually extremely difficult to act purely with the right understanding of reality.

However, it’s so worthwhile, really worthwhile, just to discover that, instead of superstitiously looking outside of yourself, seeking happiness out there, there’s something much better than the material world to be found within. Discovering that and deciding to seek happiness within you rather than out there, you take refuge in the wisdom of Dharma and the knowledge of the Buddha, knowing that if you act in accordance with his knowledge, you too can attain his level of understanding and become a buddha yourself.

That’s why we practice the Guru Shakyamuni yoga method. Normally we have the dualistic mind that tells us, “Buddha’s up there; I’m down here, nothing.” Guru yoga closes that gap: Shakyamuni Buddha dissolves into us and we unify with him. By training in this way we destroy the dualistic mind.

We should be open and honest with ourselves and admit that for countless lives, and even in all of this one, we have been taking refuge in the external world. What has been the result? Confusion and more attachment. Who has the power to release us from all this? It’s only the Buddha and his knowledge-wisdom. Through his profound wisdom, he’s the only one who can show us the reality of who and what we are.

Of course, it’s not only about us; we’re not the ones with the greatest suffering. All mother sentient beings are in the same situation—seeking satisfaction in the external world with the wrong attitude and experiencing misery as a result. Although all they want is happiness, because of using the wrong method, they end up more miserable than ever. So we also need to generate compassion for them.

Lord Buddha, the ultimate physician, is a perfect object of refuge because he has perfect knowledge. Ordinary, worldly doctors don’t even come close to this. They cannot see our inner nature, the evolution of our delusions or how to attain liberation, so of course they can’t show us all this. Lord Buddha can, and does so clean clear.

He also has universal compassion and doesn’t discriminate between beings. For example, let’s say my dear wife loves me and I love her…we clearly discriminate in such relationships. Lord Buddha’s compassion, however, is nondual; we can completely rely upon his universal compassion. We can never rely on somebody who is selfish, unequal or partial—such a person is obviously not a perfect object of refuge; not completely reliable.

Lord Buddha, with his knowledge and universal compassion, shows us the light of Dharma clean clear. This is actually medicine, and through it we can realize the light of wisdom within ourselves. It’s possible.

So think, “From now on until I gain perfect and complete enlightenment, I forever take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.”

The most profound way of doing this is with great compassion for all universal living beings without partiality for family and friends. This way is an incredibly powerful way of destroying the fanatical, schizophrenic view of the deluded mind.

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10 Buddha Mudras to Practice in Daily Life ~ Garima Roy @ Fractal Enlightenment



10 Buddha Mudras to Practice in Daily Life

Garima Roy July 20, 2014

Mudras or hand gestures is a practice to improve your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. In the Vedic tradition, the fingers of the hand represent the five basic elements that make up the human body: air, wind, fire, mud, and water. Based on this understanding, finger tips of living beings have many concentrated nerve root endings which act as free energy discharge points.

On touching the finger tips together in different ways or to other parts of the palm channelizes and balances the flow of energy (Prana) within our body, and the energy traveling through the nerves stimulates the various chakras. In Sanskrit, mudra literally means a posture/seal and has been used in different religions, art and dance forms, yoga and meditation for a long time.

In yoga, using mudras in conjunction with Pranayama (breathing exercises), revitalizes the flow of energy to different parts of the body. While Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism broadly use mudras during mindful meditation.

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Let’s take a look at ten important mudras incorporated by Buddha on his journey to enlightenment. You must have come across a Buddha statue somewhere in one of these mudras. As mudras have healing benefits on the mind and soul, you can generally perform these to instantly energise yourself.

1) Karana Mudra

karuna mudra

This mudra keeps negativity at bay. To perform this Mudra, stretch your hand either vertically or horizontally. Turn the palm forward. Now using your thumb press down the two middle fingers and extend the index and little finger straight upwards. Energy created by performing this mudra helps in expelling negativity from your mind and soul.

2) Varada Mudra

Varada Mudra

This gesture signifies offering, welcome, charity, giving, compassion and sincerity. It is a left hand gesture in which the arm is hanging naturally at the side of the body and the palm facing outward, and the fingers extended.

3) Uttarabodhi Mudra

Uttarabodhi Mudra

It signifies supreme enlightenment as it charges one with positive energy and vibrations. The mudra helps one in staying connected with oneself and the divine universal energy. In order to perform this Mudra, both hands are placed at the heart; index fingers touching and pointing upwards and the remaining fingers intertwined. Try holding the Uttarabodhi mudra for a couple minutes and feel the subtle energy shift in your body.

4) Namaskara or Anjali Mudra

Namaskara or Anjali Mudra

Namaskara mudra is used in Indian culture to greet people and as a sign of respect. This Mudra is performed by pressing the palms together and holding it to the center of the chest or the heart chakra; fingers pointing towards the sky. The mudra evokes positive vibrations in the body teaching us the fact that we are all one and we must acknowledge/adore the existence of light in one another. This Mudra helps in staying grounded and humble.

5) Vitarka Mudra

Vitarka Mudra

This mudra evokes the energy of teaching and intellectual discussion, or argument. In this gesture tips of the thumb and index finger touch to form a circle that creates a constant flow of energy and information. All the other fingers are extended upwards. This Mudra gives us the energy required to attain clarity of mind.

6) Abhay mudra

Abhay mudra

Abhay is translated as fearlessness. In this Mudra, the right hand is brought to the shoulder level and the palm faces outward and fingers extend upwards. History says that when Buddha was attacked by an elephant, he used this mudra to stop the flow of negative energy (fear). This Mudra gives us the energy to stand strong.

7) Dhyana mudra

a Dhyana-mudra

This mudra depicts absolute concentration in the process of meditation. Place both your hands on the lap with the right hand placed on the left and fingers fully stretched, palms facing outwards; thumbs of both the hands will touch creating a triangle, cleansing of any impurities on an etheric level. Practicing this Mudra will fill you with deep sense of peace and serenity.

8) Bhumisparsha mudra

a Bhumisparsha mudra

Bhumisparsha translates to touching the earth where the mudra symbolizes the fact that the earth witnessed Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. This was the Hand gesture of Buddha when he accomplished Enlightenment. In this Mudra, the right arm hangs over the right knee with the right palm turned inward and the left hand is placed on the lap with the left palm faced upwards.

9) Vajradhara mudra

a Vajradhara mudra

In this mudra the wrists are crossed, over the heart, with the right forearm placed in front of the left one; this gesture symbolizes the highest energy and the union of compassion and wisdom necessary to reach enlightenment. In vajradhara mudra, one is free from judgement, notions, theories, fate, truth and any concept that defines enlightenment; as they say, enlightenment is not defining it.

10) Dharmachakra Mudra

a Dharmachakra Mudra

Depicts the continuous flow of energy in the cosmos. Here the hand gesture symbolizes the energy of the universe in the form of a chakra/wheel. Both the hands are placed near the chest, the left palm faces the heart and right palm faces outwards; index finger and thumb form a circle like Vitarka mudra. This mudra represents the whole universe in a nutshell. Dharmachakra As I mentioned before, these Mudras are used in the process of mindful meditation. But at the same time one can practice these mudras to gain the simple benefits of altering one’s state of consciousness and staying positively energized. “Our essential nature is boundless consciousness. We are rooted in it when the mind focuses and settles.” – Yoga Sutras