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this book, two great Tibetan Buddhist masters of the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries challenge us to critically examine our materialistic preoccupations
and think carefully about how we want to spend the rest of our lives. At the
same time, they provide practical guidance in following the Buddhist path,
starting from the most basic motivation and culminating in the direct
experience of reality beyond the reach of conceptual mind.
root text is a teaching in verse written in the nineteenth century by Patrul
Rinpoche, one of the outstanding teachers of his day. In the accompanying
commentary, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–1991)—lineage holder of the
Nyingma school and one of the great expounders of the Dharma in Europe and
North America—expands upon the text with his characteristic compassion and
uncompromising thoroughness. Patrul Rinpoche's fresh and piercing verses
combined with Khyentse Rinpoche's down-to-earth comments offer a concise yet
complete examination of the Buddhist path.
Part One: The Shortcomings of Our Decadent Age
paid homage to the Three Jewels, Patrul Rinpoche begins the first section of
True Rishi, the Munindra, god of gods,
the true level through the true path,
And truly showed this true and excellent path to others.
that why he's known as the True Rishi?
ancient India, rishis were long-haired ascetics living in forest retreats,
sustaining themselves with whatever alms might come their way, and remaining
aloof from family life, trade, farming, and other ordinary worldly activities.
They were called rishi, in Tibetan
which literally means "straight" or "true," because their
conduct was upright and true and made them worthy of respect and veneration.
rishis, of whom some were Buddhist and some were not, varied greatly in their
degree of accomplishment and realization. There were some who had achieved
miraculous powers through concentration and meditation and were known to live
for a kalpa,
be clairvoyant, and to be able to fly or levitate with ease. But even such
accomplished rishis had not yet cut the root of the obscuring emotions, and so
they remained vulnerable to pride and attached to praise and recognition. Lord
Buddha, on the other hand, the unequaled prince of the Shakyas, totally
eliminated ego-clinging at its very root from the very moment he conceived the
thought of enlightenment.
was it that he was able to do this? It was because he sought enlightenment
exclusively for the sake of others. That is why he is called the True Rishi.
the thousand and two Buddhas each made their prayers of aspiration to benefit
beings, Buddha Shakyamuni vowed to help those of our present dark age. He was
undaunted by the fact that this would be the age of the five degenerations
that the minds of beings, obscured by gross emotions and tossed by the strong
winds of passion, would be wild and difficult to tame. Such is the nobility of
this aspiration that, of all the Buddhas of the kalpa, Buddha Shakyamuni stands
out like a brilliant white lotus.
the moment the bodhichitta arose in his mind, he gave up all traces of
selfishness and considered only the welfare of others. For three great kalpas
and over hundreds of lifetimes he accumulated merit and helped living creatures
in every possible way with a determination and resourcefulness that knew no
limits. For example, once as a young prince, while walking in the forest, he
came upon a tigress so weakened by hunger that she could not feed her cubs.
Overwhelmed by great compassion he offered her his own flesh, but she did not
even have enough strength left to eat it. So he cut his wrists and nourished
her with his own blood; and when she had revived, he gave her his entire body
on which to feed.
his extraordinary compassion and unfaltering diligence, he finally attained the
fruit, perfect enlightenment. Following the true path to its end, his
ego-clinging utterly extinguished, Lord Buddha was like a great sun
illuminating the whole universe for the benefit of beings.
this he accomplished solely for the good of others, and it is through his
perfect example and flawless teaching that we now have a chance to blend our
own minds with the true Dharma and attain Buddhahood. By adopting the right
attitude and following the true path we can achieve the true result; like the
Buddha, we will no longer be deceiving either ourselves or others. Since Lord
Buddha himself was true, he spoke the truth as it is. To those with faults he
pointed out what was wrong with them. To those who wished to devote their lives
to the Dharma he said, "Go from home to homelessness, take up the three
monastic robes, and immerse yourselves in study, reflection, and
meditation." To householders he explained how to give up the ten negative
cultivate the ten positive ones. In these ways he enabled people of different
capacities to lead their lives in the right way and practice the Dharma
of the Buddha—whether learned sages, accomplished meditators, or just ordinary
people like ourselves— should follow the path properly. Even in ordinary life
people respect someone whose mind and behavior are straightforward and true;
but a dishonest person is trusted by no one.
should pray that our teacher will clearly show us our mistakes and defects.
When he does so, we must gratefully accept his criticism and use it to rid
ourselves of our faults. Here the words of Patrul Rinpoche come down in a
direct lineage from the teachings of Shakyamuni—they are the words of the
for people in this age of residues!
mind's wholesome core of truth has withered, and people live deceitfully,
their thoughts are warped, their speech is twisted,
cunningly mislead others—who can trust them?
the golden age, the age of perfection, there was no need for sunlight or
moonlight, for beings radiated light from their own bodies. They could move
miraculously through space, and they lived without needing any solid food. All
creatures naturally abided by the ten virtues. But, as time passed, they began
to harm each other, to be ruled by their desires, to steal, and to lie. They
lost their natural radiance and had to depend on sun and moon for light; they
lost their ability to fly; they began to need solid nourishment, and when
eventually the spontaneous harvest and the bountiful cow
they had to toil to produce their food. Now in our present epoch, all that
remains of the qualities of the golden age are residues, like the unappealing
leftover scraps of a sumptuous feast. Anyone with eyes of wisdom seeing the
miserable condition of people in this decadent age cannot help but feel great
this age of conflict people are ill intentioned and full of deceit. They put
themselves first and disregard the needs of others. Whoever flatters them they
regard as a friend; whoever contradicts or opposes them they see as an enemy.
As these attitudes gradually distort all their actions, words, and thoughts,
people become more and more warped and twisted, like crooked old trees, until
finally their mentality degenerates so far that any notion of right and wrong
is completely lost.
are in an age when anger, craving, ambition, stupidity, pride, and jealousy are
the rule of the day. It is an age when the sun of Dharma is already sinking
behind the shoulders of the western mountains, when most of the great teachers
have left for other realms, when practitioners go astray in their meditation,
and when neither lay people nor the ordained act according to the Dharma.
People may obtain some transient advantage from the misguided values of these
times, but ultimately they are cheating no one but themselves.
poisonous emotions that saturate people's minds in this dark era are the
principal cause of their wandering in the endless cycle of samsara. To deal
with those emotions we need to keep a constant vigilance, following the example
of the Kadampa masters, who used to say:
hold the spear of mindfulness at the gate of the mind,
when the emotions threaten,
too, will threaten them;
they relax their grip, only then will I relax mine.
How depressing to see the beings of this degenerate age!
Can anyone trust what anyone says?
like living in a land of vicious man-eating demons—
about it, and do yourself a big favor.
you were to find yourself in a land of man-eating demons, you would find it
hard to feel relaxed, knowing that however friendly and polite they pretended
to be, they might attack and eat you up at any time. In the same way, however
agreeable ordinary people may seem, you are sure to end up in trouble if you
listen to the advice they give you. And if you should try to give them advice,
that will only lead to trouble, too. It would be much wiser to concentrate on
your own shortcomings. Numerous as they may seem to be, they cannot be
permanent, and it is always possible for you to transform them. Replace
negative thoughts with faith and love, ordinary gossip with prayers, pointless
activities with prostrations and circumambulations, and you will be doing
yourself a favor. To take monastic vows, respect your teacher, and make serious
efforts in study, reflection, and meditation, working on all your defects, is
to do yourself an inestimable service. Just as the application of a drop of
gold can transform an entire painting, so too the application of the teachings
will completely transform your mind.
do yourself a favor in this sense does not mean to be selfish. It means that
rather than perpetuating your own and others' suffering by allowing yourself to
be taken in by the ways of samsara, based as they are upon deluded attachments
and aversions, instead consider carefully what the best way to use your life
might be. The true goal of the Bodhisattva is to free all beings from samsara,
but to be able do that he must first free himself; and to free himself from
samsara he first has to understand clearly what is wrong with it. As it is said:
is born will die,
is gathered will be dispersed,
is joined together will come apart,
goes up will fall down.
a pit of burning coals, a nest of vipers, or a city of demons, ordinary worldly
life inevitably brings tremendous suffering. Imagine 360 holes pierced in your
body, each with a burning wick set in it. The terrible pain you would feel is
nothing compared to the inconceivably intense suffering caused by even a single
spark of the fires of a hell realm. Whatever suffering we may experience now,
we should use it to remind us of compassion
love, to sweep away our evil deeds and obscurations, and to spur ourselves on
as we travel the path of deliverance. We must understand the nature of samsara
and see clearly that its only antidote is the practice of Dharma.