- Lamdre (Tibetan lam 'bras) represents one of the most precious non-canonical literatures of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. It generally covers esoteric teachings of Vajrayana and Hevajra Tantra. The term Lamdre means the path including its result. The original Lamdre teachings are from the Indian mahasiddha Virupa, especially an oral tradition of a text called Vajra Verses.
Lamdre arrived in Tibet by the famous Tibetan translator Drogmi Lotsawa around the mid 10th century. It was later written down and organized by the Sakya lama Sachen Kunga Nyingpo in the 12th century. Contents of the Lamdre Literature
- Expositions on the Hevajra Tantra (rgyu bad)
- Classical Lamdre Manuscripts (lam 'bras glegs bam)
- Hagiography of the Lineage Masters (bla ma brgyud pa'i rnam thar)
- Treatises on Common Lamdre Teachings (lam 'bras tshogs bad)
- Manuals on Uncommon Lamdre Teachings (lam 'bras slob bad)
- Liturgy on Initiation Rites, Rituals and Hevajra Sadhana (dba da dkyil chog sgrub thabs skor)
- The Beautiful Triple Tantra by Panchen Ngawang Chodak, Gorum Publications, ISBN 0958708517
- pan chen ngang dbang chos grags kyis gsung gsung ngag rin po che'i dngos gzhi'i khrid rim rgyud gsum snying po'i legs bshad bzhugs so
The Tibetan term Lam Dre means Path and the Result. Lam Dre is the highest teaching in the Sakya tradition. This secret system of teaching encapsulates core Sakya philosophy and practices resulting in the realisation of the indivisibility of samsara and nirvana, the ultimate view.
The Lam Dre consists of two parts. The first part, the Triple Vision, explains the Sutrayana, which is the path of the Hinayana and Mayahana, and the second part is the Triple Tantra which explains the esoteric Hevajra teaching.
Lam Dre is taught in a single place by a single teacher over a period of several weeks. Within the Sakya lineage, which is the Lam Dre lineage, there are only a handful of lineage holders in each generation. The origins of the Lam Dre
Over 2,600 years ago Lord Buddha turned the wheel of dharma for the sake of all sentient beings. The most profound of these teachings is the Hevajra, the main teaching of the Lam Dre. The form we will receive has an ancient lineage from Mahasiddha Virupa (837CE-909CE), the Great Abbot of Nalanda university, who received the entire empowerment of the deity Shri Hevajra from Vajra Nairatmaya, Hevajra's consort. Over the next six nights, Virupa attained six bhumis (stages of enlightenment).
Virupa had innumerable great followers, but only Dombipa and Krishnapa, his two main disciples, received the Lam Dre (path and result instructions). For the benefit of Krishnapa he also gave the additional teaching known as the Vajra Words, containing the essence of all the Lam Dre. Then Krishnapa gave these teachings to Damarupa, Avadhutipa and Gayadhara.
The Lam Dre in Tibet
The Lam Dre spread from India to Tibet in three stages. Firstly the Indian master Gayadhara brought the Lam Dre to Tibet in the 11th century. In the second stage, it was spread by Drogmi Lotsawa (992-1072), the first Tibetan Lam Dre master. In the third stage this lineage passed to the great lama Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158). He also received the lineage directly from Mahasiddha Virupa, in a series of visions over the course of a month.
Before Sachen Kunga Nyingpo's time the Lam Dre was solely a secretly transmitted oral lineage; subsequently it was both an oral and written lineage, which flourished through the five Sakya founders, from father to son and then comes unbroken to the 41st patriarch, His Holiness the Sakya Trizin.
Dezhung Jamyang Kunga Gyaltsen stated, "Fearless lord of the yogis Mahasiddha Virupa taught this pith instruction, bringing beings into the path of the Lam Dre, so this practice is suitable for all levels of practitioner".
- For those at beginner level the aspects of view, meditation and conduct are practiced separately and in a gradual way.
- For the intermediate person the detailed instruction is received from the teacher. Then view, meditation and conduct are practised all together in the one spot.
- For the most advanced practitioners, view, meditation and conduct are beyond thought and expression. They are primordial in nature, all one taste and non-dual.
The heads of all the Tibetan Buddhist schools practise this precious Lam Dre; in this way all four schools share the same ultimate view. The Nyingma master, Longchen Lamchempa (1308-1364), and the Kagyupa master, Jay Phagmo Drubob (1110-1170), were both great Lam Dre practitioners. The Gelugpa master, the Great 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682), studied every detail of the uncommon Lam Dre and was a great supporter of the lineage. He received the Lam Dre from the Sakya master Gonpo Sonam Chogden (1603-1659). This continues to this day - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama received the Lam Dre from the late His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche (head of the Tsarpa sub-sect of the Sakyas).
The path including its result
During the time of Muchen Sempa Chenpo Konchok Gyeltsen, Lam Dre was divided into two sub-traditions: the explanation for private disciples or the uncommon Lam Dre (Lobshe) and the explanation for the assembly or the common Lam Dre (Tsogshe).
The central point of the Lam Dre teaching is the inseparability of worldly existence (samsara) and enlightenment (nirvana). It follows that nirvana is merely a transformation of samsara; there is no abandoning of samsara in order to achieve nirvana, as the mind is the root of samsara and nirvana. Realising this inseparability is the key to attaining enlightenment.
It is said that Lam Dre is the complete path to enlightenment, and is divided into two parts: the preliminary section and the tantric section. The preliminary section contains the instructions and teachings on sutras of Lord Buddha and focuses on the three visions: impure vision, the vision of experience and the pure vision. The tantric section is esoteric or tantric teachings, which include teachings on the three tantras.
Virupa was born in a royal family, and from a very young age had very special qualities. Seeing that all samsara was suffering, he renounced his station, became a monk and entered the great monastery of Nalanda.
He became so renowned for his learning that after the passing away of his teacher, he succeeded him as the abbot of Nalanda monastery. During the day he gave Mahayana teachings to the monks, taught debate, and composed texts. In secret, however, he undertook Mantrayana practices for a very long period of time.
Yet, after practising in this way for a very long period of time, he experienced no significant signs of progress or accomplishment. Virupa thought that perhaps he did not have the karmic connection with the tantric practice, and so decided to devote his efforts full-time to giving Mahayana teachings.
After making this decision, on that very night, he experienced a vision of Vajra Nairatmaya. Vajra Nairatmaya said to him: “What you have decided is wrong. I am your karmic link deity and you must continue your Vajrayana practices.” So because of this vision, he continued his secret practices. Shortly afterward in his pure vision, he saw the full mandala of Vajrayogini and received the empowerment of the deity Hevajra.
Every night for six nights, one after another, he attained great realisations. On the first night he attained the great realisation of the first bhumi, realising the ultimate truth. On the second night and on each night after it, he obtained one bhumi or one stage of the bodhisattva path, up to the sixth bhumi. He then became a great Mahasiddha, left the monastery, performed many great miracles, and subdued those on the wrong path. Many benefitted just by hearing his name, and he did great service to the Buddhadharma.
Virupa had many general followers as well as Mahayana followers, but Krishnapa and Dombipa were the two main followers of his esoteric, pith instruction. For the benefit of Krishnapa, he gave the teaching known as “Vajra Words.” This very short teaching contains the essence of all the Tripitaka and Vajrayana. In the same way that butter is refined from milk, the Vajra Words are the most important essence of the Buddha’s sutric and tantric teachings in the form of pith instruction. This teaching then passed to his close disciple Krishnapa, who gave it to his disciples. In this way it was passed on to five great Indian gurus.
The fifth of these gurus was the Gayadhara who came to Tibet several times and gave this teaching to the great translator Drogmi Lotsawa. Drogmi Lotsawa was the first Tibetan to receive the Lam Dre teaching. He was a great master who had many male and female disciples who had very great realisations. Drogmi Lotsawa transmitted the general tantra explanations and the pith instructions to his disciples separately.
He would not give the general tantric explanations to the disciples who were listening for the pith instructions, and he would not give pith instructions to those who were listening for the general teachings. Among his disciples who received the most important teachings was Seton Kunrik. Seton Kunrik received the Lam Dre teachings, attained high realisations, and gave the teachings to Zhangton Chobar. Zhangton Chobar was a kind of hidden yogi: to the general public he was an ordinary person working in other people’s fields. He promised to work in many fields, and emanated his body to many places. Zhangton Chobar gave the teaching to the great lama Sakyapa, who was born of the Khon race. The Lam Dre lineage
The Khon lineage is believed to be directly descended from celestial beings dwelling in the Rupadhatu. When the time was ripe, they felt it was necessary to descend into the human realms. Three brothers descended from the heavenly realms to the high mountains of Tibet. One of them settled in Tibet. The first name of this lineage is known as the Clear Light race. Later they mixed with the rakshas, which were the local spirits.
When this mixture took place, there was some disagreement between the perfect wisdom and ignorance. At that time the name “Khon” was given, and both the name and lineage have continued to the present day. Members of the Khon lineage were formerly Bon practitioners. Later on, Khon Nagarakshita was a direct disciple of Padmasambhava. Guru Padmasambhava gave him many teachings - and in fact, he was one of the first Tibetans to receive full Buddhist bhikshu ordination. He was one of seven Tibetans ordained as a trial to see if the Tibetans could keep the Buddhist monastic ordination.
So, Khon Nagarakshita’s monastic ordination was the beginning of a very auspicious Buddhist monastic tradition. In any case, he was a very great disciple of Guru Padmasambhava, and for many generations, the descendants were great Nyingmapa practitioners. During Khon Konchog Gyalpo’s time, they felt it was necessary to start a separate school, so they concealed all the ancient teachings and started the Sakya order. The first monastery was built in 1073 by Khon Konchog Gyalpo who was the father of the great Lama Sakyapa, Kunga Nyingpo.
Khon Konchog Gyalpo was a disciple of Drogmi Lotsawa and received the tantric teachings from him. However, Lama Sakyapa Kunga Nyingpo received the Hevajra tantra teachings directly from his father; but received the pith instruction from Zhangton Chobar. At first there was some hesitation on the part of Zhangton Chobar, but later when he found out that Kunga Nyingpo was the son of his dharma brother, Khon Gyalpo, he was more eager to give the Lam Dre pith instructions. When he gave them to Lama Sakyapa Kunga Nyingpo, he did so with the admonition that he should not disclose even the name of the teaching to anybody for eighteen years.
The condition was that after eighteen years, Lama Sakyapa would be free to write the teachings down or give them to his disciples, because by then, he would be the ‘owner’ of this great teaching. So for eighteen years Sachen Kunga Nyingpo didn’t mention the name of ‘Lam Dre’ to anybody and kept it completely secret. During this time he studied and mastered the teachings. Lama Sakyapa was an emanation of both Manjushri and Avalokitesvara, a manifestation of all the Buddha’s wisdom and compassion combined. In reality he was already a fully enlightened being, but from our ordinary perception, he appeared in human form and followed the path.
At one point during these eighteen years he became ill and actually forgot many of the teachings, because at that time there was yet no written text. Because it was a strictly oral teaching he was very worried because his guru had already passed away. At that time, tantra was practised secretly in the high mountains or in the great forests; it was not commonly given. He thought that even if he went to India it would be very difficult to find such a teaching.
So he prayed, and in a dream, the guru Zhangton Chobar, came to him and gave teachings. In this way Kunga Nyingpo remembered a lot of what he had forgotten. A second time after praying in his meditation cell the Guru Zhangton Chobar came and gave teachings, and he was able to remember the greatest part of the teachings. A third time after praying, the great Mahasiddha, the guru Virupa, founder of Lam Dre teaching who received the teaching directly from the deity, appeared in the Sakya mountains.
In the vision, the huge mountain behind Virupa was covered with his body: he said ‘this earth belongs to me’ and then gave the full Lam Dre teaching and many other pith instructions to Kunga Nyingpo. And so, in this way, the great Lama Sakyapa Kunga Nyingpo became the owner of all the Buddha’s teachings. Kunga Nyingpo gave these teaching to his sons and many of his disciples, and it has continued up to the present day. This is a very brief history of how the Lam Dre teaching was started.
The famous five Sakya teachers, the Jetsuns, are members of the Khon lineage. Sonam Tsenmo was Sachen Kunga Nyingpo’s son, and Sakya Pandita was Sonam Tsenmo’s nephew, and Chogyal Phagpa was the son of Sakya Pandita’s brother. Overview of the Lam Dre structure
The Lam Dre teaching is very profound and very vast. Though it is one teaching, it can be practised in many different ways. Those destined to follow the gradual path will start first with the Hinayana path and then continue with the Mahayana and Vajrayana. Others may be able to follow the direct path due to circumstances related to their state of mind and their karmic connections. So for this reason there are many different ways to present the Lam Dre teaching to disciples. The common way is to combine the whole of the Lam Dre teachings into two parts: the preliminary part and the main part.
The preliminary part is included in the preliminary teaching known as the Triple Vision. The Triple Vision consists of the base, the path, and the result. The base refers to sentient beings. Due to karma and defilements, sentient beings have the impure vision, which is the ordinary vision that we have right now. Yogis and practitioners who have enrolled in the path and practise meditation have the vision of experience. After working on the path very hard, one achieves the result, which is Buddhahood. The Buddhas have great inner qualities and pure vision. So, the triple vision refers to the impure vision, the vision of experience, and the pure vision. This is how the preliminary part is divided. Preliminaries
In the Lam Dre, as in all Buddhist traditions, the very first point - the preliminary practice of all the paths, the root of all dharma and the foundation of all vows is to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The practice of Refuge differentiates Buddhist practitioners from practitioners of other religions. The first meditations of the preliminary part divide taking refuge into three sections:
- Taking refuge and creating the enlightenment thought
- Practising the main part of the meditation
- Dedicating the merit
(1-3.) Regarding the cause of taking refuge: we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha out of fear, faith and compassion. The object is the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In the Mahayana, the word ‘Buddha’ is used to refer to one who possesses three kayas [or aspects]: the Dharmakaya, the Nirmanakaya, and the Sambhogakaya. The Dharma or the teaching points us to the realisation. The Sangha refers to the great bodhisattva who has already reached the irreversible state. We take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha with the Buddha as our guide, the Dharma as our path; and the Sangha as our spiritual companions.
=The impure vision
There are three preliminary meditations:
The explanation on the impure vision is given first in order to develop renunciation. This is connected to the first turning of the wheel of dharma by Buddha Shakyamuni, in which he taught the four noble truths.
The first noble truth is the truth of suffering, the second truth is the cause of suffering, the third is the truth of cessation, and the fourth is the truth of the path. In order to be free from suffering, we must first understand the nature of suffering. For example, when we are sick, we must first know the disease before we are able to get the proper treatment. It is for this reason that the first noble truth - the truth of suffering, must be understood. We begin by understanding the nature of suffering in samsara.
There are three types of suffering:
- the suffering of suffering
- the suffering of change
- the suffering of the conditional nature of all things.
The suffering of suffering means the visible suffering we have all experienced, such as physical pain and mental anxiety. Beings reborn in the lower realms - the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, the animal realm- have an intense experience of the first suffering. In the higher realms it appears that there is a mixture of suffering and happiness, but in reality, there is no such mixture. The experience of suffering in the higher realms is merely different than it is in the lower realms. First of all, we all experience the sufferings of physical pain and mental anxiety.
Also we experience the suffering of change, in that anything that is created with cause and conditions is impermanent, and anything that is impermanent is conditioned by suffering. In this sense, just as the outside world changes, as in the changing of the seasons, change is also occurring in our own lives. Young ones grow older, large families become smaller - everything is changing.
The third suffering is the suffering of the conditional nature of all things. Feelings which we normally categorise as “happy” or “indifferent,” exist only in relation to other feelings. In reality, there is no happiness in these relative feelings.
In samsara as a whole, from top to bottom, there is no essential happiness. So although in certain ways we have less suffering and in certain ways experience more suffering, in reality, there is not a single aspect of our experience that is worthy of attachment. For example, when a poison is mixed with food, whether it is good food or bad food, the poison still is harmful. Therefore, in order to arouse renunciation the first part of the Lam Dre teaching emphasises the meditation on suffering.
In order to fully arouse renunciation, the teachings explain the details of sufferings; especially the hell realm and the hungry ghost realm. According to the teachings, the whole universe is divided into six realms: three lower realms which include the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, and animal realm; and three higher realms: the human realm, the demi-god realm and the god’s realm. But taken together, in samsaric existence there is not a single space that is worthy of attachment.
Impermanence and the rarity of humanrebirth
The second preliminary practice is to meditate on the difficulties of obtaining the precious human birth. As ordinary sentient beings we are only able to perceive the impure vision, due to our karma and defilements. We conclude that this impure vision came from our own actions; therefore, the only way to be free from this realm of existence is to practise the holy Dharma. In order to practise the holy Dharma, we need to first obtain a precious human birth.
To obtain a precious human birth is very rare. In order to be born as a human being, generally one must have created the proper causes in advance - such as having practised virtuous deeds, especially pure moral conduct, supported by other good deeds such as generosity combined with sincere prayers. It is very rare for all of these qualities to combine together. Consider the world today, and of the many people who practise the spiritual path.
Even of those who appear to practise dharma, many of them only practise externally and on a superficial level. Since the cause is rare, the result is very rare. So from the causal point of view, all of these qualities are very rare. From the sheer numerical point of view, outwardly it seems that there are so many people; however, if you think about it carefully, it is very easy to count how many people live in one house; and yet it is impossible to count how many different beings, including insects, are in the same house.
So from point of view of how many sentient beings exist already, human life can be understood as very rare. From the point of view of nature, generally human life is rare, particularly those who have been freed from all the unfavourable states of mind, or the human life that has all the right conditions.
The additional conditions for an optimal human rebirth are to be born at the time that a Buddha has come to this universe, or in a time when a Buddha has given the teaching and the teaching is still a living tradition, or being born with functioning sensory organs, and with an eagerness to receive the teachings. Just from these factors we see that it is very, very difficult to find the Dharma.
Therefore, we must think that human life is very precious, more precious than the wish-fulfilling jewel. The wish-fulfilling jewel is the most precious thing of all material things because if one has it, it can bestow all our material requirements such as food, medicine and clothing. However, the wish-fulfilling jewel cannot bestow his/her rebirth, self-liberation, or enlightenment.
One must not only intellectually understand the value of the precious body, but also feel that it is very precious and very rare because it is more valuable than the wish-fulfilling jewel. When one possesses such a precious thing, one then understands that there is no greater loss than losing this very rare opportunity.
one cannot make use of this precious time, one will never know whether there will be such an opportunity in the future. Therefore, it is very important for us to work when we have all the right conditions, and are free from all the unfavourable states.
In other teachings, the meaning of the precious human birth and impermanence are taught separately, but in the Lam Dre they are taught together. The precious human birth that we have now is impermanent. Since everything is impermanent we must understand that our precious human birth is impermanent also.
In the Sutras, it is said that the best offering that one can offer to the Buddha is to think about impermanence, because just by thinking about impermanence will turn us away from attachments. By thinking about impermanence we will be motivated to practise and make efforts on the spiritual path. Thinking about impermanence is a great antidote to suffering, and will eventually help us to realise the ultimate truth.
In this way, we must be mindful that this human existence that we enjoy now has no definite life span. We all know people can die before birth, or soon after birth, or when they are babies or grownups, and so forth.
Moreover, even if one has a certain amount of time, there is no actual reason that one will live up to that time because anything can happen. It is the same as a butter lamp with oil that can be blown out at any moment due to a sudden wind.
In the same way, the precious life that we have right now, even if one is young and healthy, can be affected by outer or inner obstacles. Anything can happen, and at any moment one can die. Therefore, not only is it important to practise dharma, but it is very important to practise it quickly without wasting any time.
The third preliminary is the law of karma: cause and effect. It is one of the unique teachings that the Buddha gave in order to show what one must do and what practices one must follow. Everything we see and experience, including our current quality of life has been created by our own actions. The teaching on cause and effect has two parts: the illusory vision and the karmic vision.
The illusory vision
The illusory vision is sometimes referred to as the “jewelled vision.” Just as in a dream, when we are dreaming the experience is as real as in our waking life, but when we awake, nothing remains of the things that we saw and experienced.
The karmic vision
The karmic vision consists of the different perspective each sentient being has, based on their karma. For example, some beings have less suffering, some have more suffering, and so on. In any case, the law of karma requires that whatever action we take, the result will follow; just as surely as our shadow follows us wherever we go. Similarly virtuous and non-virtuous actions are like seeds which we plant. In due course, the seed will ripen and produces the result.
There are non-virtuous, virtuous, and neutral deeds. Non-virtuous deeds are actions created out of ignorance, desire, and hatred. If the root of a tree is poisonous, the flowers and leaves that grow from it are also poisonous. In the same way, whatever actions that are generated by desire, hatred and ignorance are called non-virtuous deeds which create suffering in this life as well as in future lives.
There are three kinds of action: physical, verbal, and mental; and there are ten non-virtuous deeds. Virtuous actions are deeds done without hatred, desire, or ignorance. Actions which are motivated by loving kindness and compassion are called virtuous deeds.
If the root of a tree is medicinal, then whatever grows from the tree is also medicinal. Similarly, any action that is created without the defilements is called a virtuous deed. Virtuous deeds create happiness in this life as well as in future lives.
Finally, there are actions that are neither virtuous nor non-virtuous deeds, such as walking and sitting. Since these actions do not produce any negative results, they are greater than the non-virtuous deeds; yet since they do not produce any positive results, they are inferior to virtuous deeds. It is important to turn these neutral deeds into positive deeds.
If one wishes to be free from suffering, one must abstain from negative deeds. We begin by abstaining from the cause: if we indulge in a negative cause, then we can’t expect to have happiness as the result. Therefore, we must abstain from even the tiniest negative deeds, and we must try our best to practise even very small virtuous deeds.
In the same way that an accumulation of drops of water forms the great oceans, even tiny virtuous deeds will gradually accumulate and produce a beneficial result. Regarding indifferent actions that are neither virtuous nor non-virtuous, one should change one’s motivations using the skilful means of the bodhisattva’s way of life. One should try to convert negative deeds through diligent practice. This is a very brief explanation of the first part of the Lam Dre, the Impure Vision.
Some questions and answers follow, which relate in particular to the topic of the impure vision
His Holiness: It depends on the action itself. There are certain actions that will ripen in this life. When the object is strong, the action is strong, and the intention is strong, then the result ripens in this very lifetime. There are certain actions that ripen in this life after this lifetime, or even in several lifetimes later. The law of cause and effect is such a subtle thing that no ordinary person can fully explain it.
Sakya Pandita was very critical on the use of the term “Mahamudra” for anything less than the highest completion practice. Would you comment on this in connection to the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism?
His Holiness: Actually, Sakya Pandita did not say that we couldn’t use the term “Mahamudra”. With any practice, not necessarily Mahamudraf we do not do it correctly, we can not achieve the result. If we do it correctly, with the right teacher, the right path, and the right method, we can achieve the result.
His Holiness: Actually the word karma means action or activities - the work that we undertake. The life we go through now, and all of its experiences, is the product of our own actions that we have taken in the past. Nobody can make us suffer. Nobody can make us happy.
Only through the main cause that comes from our own actions will we be happy or suffer. The main cause is our own action. The actions that we’ve taken create the effect and the result. The vision of experience
The common vision of experience
The common vision of experience refers to the experience of the common Mahayana practitioner. These practitioners apply themselves to meditation on loving kindness, compassion, and the enlightenment thought. By practising these, one will experience the vision of experience. First, in order to arouse this vision, one must practise loving kindness. To practise loving kindness one must see that samsara is full of suffering.
Next, one sees that since everyone wishes to be free from suffering, one must work to be free from suffering. One then aspires to attain personal freedom or nirvana for oneself. We must view the impermanence of our present aggregates, understanding our situation is like a fire without fuel which will eventually go out. Similarly, when one attains nirvana, the aggregates, which are the base of suffering, disappear.
However, this goal is only an intermediate goal: if we carefully consider the situation we will see that this is not the ultimate goal. Working for oneself alone is not the highest aspiration. For example, it would not be appropriate to remain in a safe place if the other members of our family were in great trouble. If one is a good and kind-hearted person, one would not be happy in such a situation, but would rather go, and suffer together with the other members of one’s family.
We believe that a continuum exists in our present awareness. Since our present body came from our parents, our consciousness must have come from the same kind of mind we experience now. From birth and continuing until old age, although our consciousness changes, the mind continuum remains the same. In this sense, there is no gap in the continuum - the same mind is simply taking different forms.
From beginningless time until now we have continued in this realm of existence: we have taken birth, we have died, and we have taken on another form. It is for this reason we believe that at one time or another, every sentient being has been our dear mother, or father, or relative, or friend. Abandoning other sentient beings in order to achieve our own salvation is not the proper goal of spiritual practice. We must continually think of other sentient beings in our practice.
When we begin to consider developing loving kindness, we should remember that every sentient being, even the most fearful animal, has a kind of instinctive capacity for loving kindness. Even fearful lions love their cubs. We all have a certain level of loving kindness, but not a full capacity for it.
So, we must first cultivate kindness toward persons for whom this is easier - such as our own mother, or relatives or friends. We begin by cultivating the loving kindness we already have, and then work on increasing it. Next, we should try to develop loving kindness to more difficult objects, like one’s enemies.
We should attempt to transcend the superficial distinction between people we see as friends, as enemies, or those we treat with indifference. In reality, we should see ourselves as having been related to all three kinds of persons at one time or another. By understanding our relatedness to others, and seeing that they have given us much love and kindness as our relatives and friends, we can finally develop loving kindness for all sentient beings indiscriminately.
After we develop loving kindness we must next develop compassion. We generate compassion by focussing on a particular sentient being that is suffering, and wishing that they be free from the suffering and its causes. As in the meditation on loving kindness, we start first with easier objects, and then gradually build up to more difficult objects, and finally apply the meditation to all sentient beings.
On the basis of loving kindness and compassion, we then develop the ultimate enlightenment thought. In order to completely free oneself from samsara, one must cut the root of samsara, which is self-clinging. Although in ultimate reality, the “self” does not exist, due to the illusions of the “jewelled vision,” we perform actions. Through these actions we get caught up in this realm of existence.
We therefore must create bodhicitta to crush self-clinging, which is the source of all suffering and the cause of the illusory vision. In order to crush self-clinging thoughts one must practise the two bodhicittas - which are known as relative and absolute bodhicitta. Relative bodhicitta suppresses self-clinging by making it inactive. Absolute bodhicitta completely eradicates self-clinging.
Relative bodhicitta has two parts - wishing bodhicitta and entering bodhicitta. Wishing bodhicitta means to have a sincere wish to attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Entering bodhicitta means not only to have the wish, but to actually undertake some kind of practice to achieve enlightenment. This implies enrolling on the path and proceeding with practice. Efforts which are made after generating the wish to attain enlightenment such as studying, contemplation and meditatione considered entering bodhicitta. From the very beginning of this practice one must see oneself on an equal level with others.
This is an important practice because we are in the habit of believing that there is an enormous difference between ourselves and others. No matter how much we care for others, self-clinging is a propensity we have experienced from beginningless time. Even when we consider another person “beloved,” typically one still cares more about oneself, and self-clinging persists. To change this we must cultivate the practice of loving other beings as much as ourselves.
Then gradually, as we habituate this attitude, we are able to begin to give up our happiness, benefits, and other good things, for the sake of other beings. Then, we begin to take the sufferings and the cause of sufferings of others onto ourselves. If we had done this in the past, we would already be enlightened.
But from beginningless time until now, we have only cared for ourselves. We care for ourselves to the point that every effort we make is only for our own sake, although all this achieves for us is more suffering. It is for this reason we begin to do the exchange meditations, first for ordinary persons, and later on with more difficult objects, like one’s enemies, and finally for all sentient beings. In this way we accumulate merit and eradicate selfish thoughts as well as the attitude of self-clinging.
The next topic is the general bodhisattva activities. The relative bodhicitta thought only suppresses self-clinging, so that the defilements become inactive. In this sense, the defilements are not eradicated, but appear again in the future when the conditions are right again. Therefore, in order to completely eradicate the attitude of self-clinging, one needs to practise absolute bodhicitta.
Absolute bodhicitta refers to the absolute reality, the true nature of all phenomena. This is not the sort of thing ordinary people attempt to understand. More intelligent beings try to examine and draw conclusions from questions such as: What is our true nature?
Why are we here? Why do we have to experience this kind of life, and why do we have to have this sort of vision? This is the reason there are so many different philosophical schools like Sarvastivada, Vijnanavada, and Madhyamika. And within these schools there are also internal divisions.
Sometimes, students find it difficult to understand the concept of generating loving kindness toward our mothers, families and friends, because of the difficulties they have experienced with dysfunctional, addicted, and unloving families and relationships.
When we give teachings, the teachings are given to help people eliminate suffering and lead them to enlightenment. So the presentation is given in the best possible way. It is true that it is difficult to practise loving kindness and compassion, especially in this degenerate age. When we teach through the pith instructions, teachings that have been passed down from one guru to the next, they have a very special effectiveness.
So by presenting these, even if one cannot practise all of it, part of it might actually be very helpful. The Buddha’s teaching is like an ocean, very deep and wide. Whatever amount one can take, even as little as a spoonful will be of great benefit. Moreover it is basic human nature that we all need love and kindness. We must try to cultivate these virtues through various methods, through the teachings, and through actual experience. We must make every effort through the various methods. The pure vision
Many of the higher tantric teachings call this ultimate reality, “the simultaneously born primordial wisdom.” “Simultaneous” means that the result and the cause arise simultaneously - the result is not elsewhere. In this sense, the result is not something we seek outside ourselves, but which is actually within ourselves. Because the cause and the result are simultaneously born, Buddha Nature is within every human being.
If we make efforts, we can all attain full enlightenment. In the relative sense, we go through different phases along the path to enlightenment; however, we must understand that there is a continuity between the ordinary cause mind and the ultimate enlightenment mind.
We might consider the example of a copper container which is used to hold dirty things. When such a container is used for dirty things, we consider the container itself dirty. But if the same copper were melted down and made into ornaments which people wore proudly and others admired, then we would consider the copper radically transformed.
If again, the ornaments were melted down and made into the image of a deity, then the copper becomes even more precious, as people worship and pay respect to the image. The point is, of course, that the actual nature or real quality of the copper never changes. The same copper has been used as a dirty container, as ornaments, and as the image of a deity. The face or the appearance of the copper may change, but the actual quality of the copper does not change. Similarly, the natural cause, the true state of our mind, is the Buddha nature. The true state of all phenomena is the same everywhere.
After the vision of experience, when obscurations have been gradually eliminated, and inner wisdom improves, the pure vision is attained. The Buddhas or Tathagatas abandon every possible fault or obscuration and then, through their great realisations, achieve the pure vision.
Just as a man who has awakened from sleep cannot experience his dreams, similarly, beings who are completely awakened from illusion cannot see the impure vision. They see the same vision that we have now, in complete pure vision, everything in form and primordial wisdom and everything in pure vision.