Dharma Practice Q&A
The source material of the Q&A is provided by Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche who was given the title Vajra Acharya (Dorje Lopon) by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche during the Nyingma Monlam Chenmo in Bodhgaya, recognising him as a Vajra Master who is entrusted to transmit the Vajrayana teaching. Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche is the Spiritual Director of Pathgate Institute and the English publishing editor of three volumes of Nyingma Tibetan prayer texts sanctioned by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche.
1. Q: What is Buddhism?
A: Buddhism (nang pa chö) is a spiritual faith based on the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha (sangye shakya tubpa) who attained the state of enlightenment (changchup) in the sixth century B.C. It offers a path of liberation from the repeated cycle of worldly suffering known as samsara (khorwa) through the awakening from ignorance (ma rigpa) by means of recognising the causes and consequences of dependent origination (tendrel du jungwa), and thus eradicating all traces of craving (sepa) to bring forth the cessation of sufferings (dukngal) and gives rise to the lasting peace of nirvana (nya ngen lé dé pa). The entire path is sum up by the following verses in the Sutra on the Vows of Individual Liberation (so sor tar pé do):
- In English: Abandon all unwholesome actions; Cultivate all virtues; Purify all thoughts in one’s mind; This is the teaching of all the buddhas.
- In Chinese: 諸惡莫作 zhū è mò zuō；眾善奉行 zhòng shàn fèng xíng；自淨其意 zì jìng qí yì；是諸佛教 shì zhū fó jiào。
- In Tibetan: སྡིག་པ་ཅི་ཡང་མི་བྱ་ཞིང༌ dik pa chi yang mi ja zhing; དགེ་བ་ཕུན་སུམ་ཚོགས་པར་སྤྱད་ gewa pün sum tsok par ché; རང་གི་སེམས་ནི་ཡོངས་སུ་འདུལ་ rang gi sem ni yong su dül; འདི་ནི་སངས་རྒྱས་བསྟན་པ་ཡིན་ di ni sang gyé ten pa yin.
2. Q: What is a buddhist?
A: Buddhist (nang pa) is a term refers to a person who is aspired to become liberated from the conditioned existence of samsara (khorwa) by accepting the Buddha’s view of the four seals (dom zhi) that all composite phenomena are impermanent, all contaminated phenomena are in the nature of suffering, all conditioned phenomena are devoid of self-arising existence, and nirvana is peace. In Tibetan, nang refers to that of the inner aspect and pa refers to a person. Together, nangpa refers to a person who established the foundation of the three refuges and internalises the threefold trainings of discipline, meditation and wisdom in the pursuit of the truth within the nature of the mind, recognising happiness and suffering are merely conceptual projection of the mind itself and is not dependent on external circumstances.
3. Q: What is the foundation of the three refuges?
A: The foundation of the three refuges is the commitment of one’s confidence in taking refuge (kyab dro) in the awakening state of the Buddha (sangyé); in the teachings of the Buddha (chö); and in the assembly of enlightened beings (gendün). There are four types of refuges:
- The outer reliance of taking refuge in the Three Jewels (könchok sum) - the Buddha as our guide, the Dharma as the path and Sangha of arya bodhisattvas as our companions.
- The inner reliance of taking refuge in the Three Roots (tsawa sum) - the Lama as the guru; the Yidam as the tutelary meditation deity; and the Khandro as the female wisdom deity who confers support and blessings on the meditator.
- The secret reliance of taking refuge in the energy channels (tsa); the subtle energy (lung) and the essence-drop (tiklé) to attain the intrinsic natural state of bodhichitta (chang chub kyi sem).
- The ultimate reliance of taking refuge in the three kayas (ku sum) within the nature of our mind (rigpa) - the essence of voidness (ngowo tongpa); the cognizant nature of luminosity (rangshyin salwa); and the unobstructed compassionate energy (tukjé gakme).
4. Q: What is a Buddha?
A: Buddha (sangyé) is one of many honoric title referring to a supreme enlightened being of omniscience who is fully awakened from the slumber of ignorance and is henceforth free from the bondage of conditioned existences. Epithets that are commonly used include The Omniscient One (thamched khenpa), Tathagata (deshyin shekpa), Sugata (dewar shekpa), Bhagavan (chomdendé), Lokavudu (jigten khenpa), Foe Destroyer (dra chompa) and countless others.
5. Q: What is the teaching method of a Buddha?
A: Buddha teaches by means of the threefold miraculous display (chotrul nampa sum):
- Miraculous manifestation of form (ku dzuntrül gyi chontrül) to cater for the different karmic conditions of sentient beings. This may range from the supreme nirmanakaya in the form of an ordained such as Shakyamuni Buddha, the sambhogakaya of the primordial Buddha or a deity such as Vajrasattva, and also indirectly through utilising various samples of phenomena.
- Miraculous display of speech (sung jé su ten pé chontrül) to cater for the diversity of languages used by the six classes of sentient beings.
- Miraculous mind transmission (tuk kün tu jö pé chontrül) to cater for the different level of mental faculties of students simultaneously in a gathering.
6. Q: What is Enlightenment?
A: Enlightenment (changchup) is a state of awakening from the ignorance (ma rigpa) of not knowing the karmic law of cause and effect, the truths on suffering and cessation, and the virtues of reliance on the Three Jewels (könchok sum) of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to purify the four veils (dribpa shyi) of karmic obscurations (lé kyi drip pa), emotional obscurations (nyön drip pa), cognitive obscurations (shé drip pa), and habitual obscurations (bak chak kyi drip pa), that inhibit the revelation of our true nature to us. There are three types of enlightenment:
- Enlightenment of the Hearers: Shravakas (nyenthö) motivated by the four noble truths (pakpé denpa shyi) and wish to be free from the conditioned existence of samsara by following the hinayana path (tek men) of renunciation and striving to liberate oneself by focus their view single-pointedly on the selflessness of the individual through the nine stages practice of the mind-abiding meditation (sem nepé tab gu). By gradually pacifying the mental distraction related to the desire realms (dö kham) and the form realms (zuk kham) with the four dhyana meditative-absorption (samten shyi), they may progress onto the formless absorptions of the four perception spheres (kyemché mu shyi). Their goal is to accomplish one of the four fruition levels of stream-enterer (gyün shyukpa), once-returner (len chik chir ongwa), non-returner (chir mi ongwa) and arhat (drachompa).
- Enlightenment of the Solitary Realisers: Pratyekabuddhas (rang sangyé) realise the selfless characteristics of phenomena through reflecting on the twelve links of dependent origination (tendrel yenlak chunyi) and aspire to attain awakening by their own effort by leading a life of ascetics and accomplish a higher level of realisation than the shravakas due to their accumulation of merit and wisdom for a hundred kalpas while the state of shravakas is attained due to the accumulation of merit of only sixteen lifetimes. Pratyekabuddhas prefer teaching through display of miraculous acts instead of verbal discourses.
- Enlightenment of the Buddhas: Bodhisattvas (chang chub sempa) motivated by the arising of bodhicitta (chang chub kyi sem), the compassionate wish to attain full realisation for the sake of all sentient beings in order to establish all beings without exception in buddhahood (sang gyé kyi gompang). Abiding by the bodhisattva vows (jang dom) and follow the path of the middle way (uma) that stays clear of the dualistic perception of the extremes, they come to recognise the total selfless characteristics of both the individual and the phenomena. Through meditating on the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment (changchub kyi chok kyi chö sumchu tsa dün) and perfect themselves through the activities of the six paramita (parol tu chinpa druk), they accomplish the practices of the ten bhumis (sa chu) that lead them to the fully realised state of buddhahood - the accomplishment of the Dharmakaya, the Absolute Body (chö ku) for their own benefit, and the accomplishment of the Nirmanakaya, the Emanation Body (tulku) and the Sambhogakaya, the Enjoyment Body (longku) for the benefit of others.
7. Q: Which are the enlightened qualities unique to a Buddha?
A: A Buddha has many unique qualities. According to the Abhidharma (chö ngönpa), there are eighteen distinctive qualities unique to a Buddha (sang gyé kyi chö ma dré pa cho gyé):
- Power over life (tsé la wangwa) : mastery over when to renounce their life or to live for as long as they wish to remain indefinitely due to their perfect practice of generosity in the past.
- Power over mind (sem la wangwa) : mastery over their meditative states due to their perfect practice of meditative concentration in the past.
- Power over life necessities (yojé la wangwa) : materialise at ease the life necessities and riches to satiate the need of all sentient beings due to their perfect practice of generosity in the past.
- Power over karmic action (lé la wangwa) : mastery over the unfolding of karmic action as they wishes due to their perfect practice of discipine in the past.
- Power over birth (kyewa la wangwa) : manifest at ease as they wishes in a variety of births, of specific form, at specific location due to their perfect practice of discipine in the past.
- Power over aspirations (möpa la wangwa) : empower to fulfil the wishes of their disciples on the path of training due to their perfect practice of forbearance in the past.
- Power over prayer (mönlam la wangwa) : empower to fulfil the aspirations of prayers due to their perfect practice of diligence in the past.
- Power over miracles (dzutrul la wangwa) : mastery over the display of miracles as they wishes due to their perfect practice of meditative concentration in the past.
- Power over wisdom (yeshe la wangwa) : possess the primordial wisdom which knows without impediment all that can be ascertain in the past, present and future due to their perfect practice of transcendental wisdom in the past.
- Power over dharma (chö la wangwa) : empower to give the transmission of the twelve branches of buddhadharma to fulfil the wishes of their disciples due to their perfect practice of transcendental wisdom in the past.
- Fearlessness in declaring oneself having attained the omniscience of enlightenment (chö tam ché ngön par jang chup pa la mi jik pa).
- Fearlessness in declaring oneself having eliminated all passions and delusions (jik pa mé pé né).
- Fearlessness in proclaiming oneself having eliminated all obstacles and doubts in Dharma practices (ngé par jung pé lam tön pa la mi jik pa).
- Fearlessness in proclaiming oneself having attained emancipation from all sufferings (chos thams cad mkhyen pa la mi 'jigs pa).
- Equanimity toward those who listen with respect (dül ja gü pé nyen pa la chak pa).
- Equanimity toward those who do not listen with respect (gü pé mi nyen pa la dangwa).
- Equanimity toward those who listen with respect and those who do not listen with respect (dré mar juk pa la nyi ka min pa).
- Immeasurable compassion (nyingjé): the wish of loving-kindness and heartfelt sincerity that all sentient beings to be free from suffering and its causes.
8. Q: Which are the enlightened activities unique to the Buddhas ?
A: The enlightened activities (trinlé) of the Buddhas are characterised as being spontaneously fulfilling, perpetual and all-pervasive (tak khyab lhündrub). Since sentient beings are incalculable in number throughout space, the enlightened activities of the Buddhas manifested continuously and spontaneously accomplishing all beings without effort.
9. Q: What is the definition of sentient beings in Buddhism?
A: Sentient beings (sem chen) are living beings who possess a mind that is defiled by illusions and are subjected to the forces of karmic imprints which caused them to transmigrate repeatedly within the six classes of beings of the desire realms, form realms and formless realms. The six classes of beings are gods, asuras, human, animals, hungry spirits and hell beings. Those sentient beings who have attained the accomplishment of the first bhumi and above are not subjected to rebirth by karmic forces but do so voluntarily out of their compassionate wishes to liberate all sentient beings from samsara are known as bodhisattvas (chang chub sempa), the awakened sentient beings.
10. Q: Why are there differences between the four fearlessness of the buddhas and the bodhisattva?
A: There are differences because all buddhas inevitably entered parinirvana (yongsu nyangdé) due to the lack of merit of sentient beings to support their continuous corporeal presence in the world while their presence in the form of sambhogakaya and dharmakaya are indiscernible by ordinary sentient beings, and the visible presence of bodhisattvas who choose to take birth in the world for the sake of all sentient beings. The four fearlessness of bodhisattvas are:
- Fearlessness in retaining buddhadharma in the mind at all times and in the elucidation of their meaning.
- Fearlessness in distinguishing different spiritual faculties of sentient beings and offer remedies of buddhadharma appropriate to the eliminating of their causes.
- Fearlessness in clarifying and resolving doubts that arise from the practice of buddhadharma.
- Fearlessness in answering clearly without hesitation to any questions on buddhadharma.
For description of the four fearlessness of the buddhas, you may refer to the previous question on ‘Which are the enlightened qualities unique to a Buddha?’
11. Q: What is Dharma?
A: Dharma (chö) in general refers to a diversity of conditioned phenomena:
- Dharma or buddhadharma is the doctrine of the Buddha (sung rap) which are the transmission of preventive measures to liberate us from suffering and it’s causes while promoting the ultimate goal of full awakening.
- Dharma is also a term used to describe: the path (lam); truth (den pa); reality (chö nyi); nirvana (nya ngen lé dé pa); meritorious karma (sönam); phenomena subjected to changes (jung gyur); mental experiences (yi kyi yül); rules (ngé pa); life (tsé); spiritual traditions (chö luk).
12. Q: How did Dharma come to this world?
A: According to the teachings of the Nyingmapa, the primordial Buddha Kuntuzangpo who is inseparable from the sphere of Primordial Purity, displaying infinite emanations in innumerable universe to teach and benefit countless beings. For the benefit of sentient beings in this world, he manifested in the form of Shakyamuni Buddha and left behind a vast treasury of teachings which can be classified into extensive form, middle form and short form, and from which twelves branches and nine vehicles emerge.
13. Q: Which are the twelve branches of buddhadharma?
A: The twelve branches of buddhadharma (sungrab yenlak chunyi) are:
- Sutra (dö dé) - discourse on a specific topic that is appropriate for the occasion to invoke positive joyful response from those present to inspire them to develop faith in the three jewels of the buddha, dharma and sangha.
- Geya (yang kyi nyé pa dé) - introduction or summaries of a sutra that are presented as poetic verses of stanzas at the beginning or end of a sutra.
- Vyakaraṇa (lung ten pé dé) - examine the past lives and offer prophecies for the future as a means to illuminate the main points in a sutra.
- Gatha (tsik su ché pé dé) - teachings presented as verses in the format of a stanza which summarise the main theme of a sutra.
- Udana (ché du jö pé dé) - discourse of inspirational aphorisms which include a section of prose followed by a verse to inspire the arising and affirmation of faith in buddhadharma.
- Nidana (leng zhi dé) - explanation and guidance given after the occurrence of a specific event.
- Avadana (tok pa jö pé dé) - biographical accounts of buddhas and bodhisattvas presented as the testimonies of their realisation.
- Itivrttaka (dé ta bu jungwé dé) - narratives of historical events as parables to illuminate specific principle of virtues.
- Jataka (kyé pé rap kyi dé) - birth stories of the former lives of the buddhas.
- Vaipulya (shin tu gyé pa) - lengthy complex sutra such as the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines (sher chin tong trak gya pa).
- Abidhutadharma (mé du jungwé chö kyi dé) - accounts of marvellous accomplishments of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
- Upadesa (ten la pap pé dé) - definitive exposition on specific doctrine such as nature of reality.
14. Q: Which are the nine vehicles of buddhadharma?
A: The nine vehicles (yana) of buddhadharma are divided into three sets of three vehicles:
- The first three vehicles are of the Sravaka, Pratyekabuddha and Bodhisattva were given to large assemblies in Varanasi, Vulture Peak, Vaisali and other locations. After the passing of Shakyamuni Buddha into nirvana, there were three gatherings of the Arhats to assemble the teachings of the Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha. The teachings of the Bodhisattva were collected by Maitreya and Manjushri, and later propagated by Nagarjuna and other great masters.
- The next three yanas are the three Outer Tantras: Kriya, Upa, and Yoga Tantras. The Kriya Tantra was taught at Neranjana, and at Alkapuri - the Pure Realm of Vajrapani. The teachers appeared in the form of the three bodhisattva mahasattva (chang chub sempa sempa chenpo) of Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani, who are the embodiment respectively of the compassion, wisdom and power of the Buddhas. The teachings of Upa and Yoga Tantra were given by Shakyamuni Buddha in the form of Buddha Vairocana in the realm of the 33 Gods in Akanishtha Heaven to Vajrapani.
- The remaining three yana are the Inner Tantras: Maha Yoga, Anuyoga and Ati Yoga. Maha Yoga Tantra is further divided into two classes - Gyude (Tantra Class) and Drupde (Class of the means of attainment). Maha Yoga was disclosed by Lord Buddha in the form of Buddha Vairocana, to Vajrapani, on the peak of Malaya Mountain and in the Akanishtha Heaven. Anuyoga Tantra was first revealed by Lord Buddha in the form of Kuntuzangpo and Dorje Sempa at Gyalmopuri to the King of Lanka and many others. Ati Yoga was revealed to only a few selected disciples by Kuntuzangpo in the form of King Kunjed at Gyalmopuri and Samburi Park.
15. Q: What is the common foundation of the nine vehicles?
A: The fundamental pure nature of the mind is the common foundation of the nine vehicles which can also be categorised into common and uncommon paths.
16. Q: Which are the common and uncommon paths?
A: The practice of sutrayana which includes both Theravada and Mahayana vehicles is known as the common path on which the causal vehicle is used as the means to attain enlightenment. Uncommon path is referring to the practice of tantrayana which utilises the resultant vehicle as the means to attain enlightenment.
17. Q: What are the characteristics of the causal vehicle?
A: The casual vehicle’s main focus is to create the causes of future enlightenment through the practices of the paramita (parol tu chinpa). Since the accumulation of merits and wisdom are practised separately in a gradual process of purifying one’s mind of faults and karmic imprints, it takes the duration of one great aeon (maha kalpa) of lifetimes to reach the first bhumi, a second great aeon to reach the eighth bhumi, and a third great aeon to attain full enlightenment.
Note: one great aeon is approximately 1,344 billion human years.
18. Q: What are the characteristics of the resultant vehicle?
A: The resultant vehicle starts its journey to enlightenment by applying oneself to think and to behave in the same manner as if one has already attained buddhahood. By the tantric means of using desire-attachment (döchak) as the path which combines the accumulation of merits and wisdom as one practice to transform worldly desires into the pristine state of awakening, the result is a vast reduction in time to attain the ultimate goal of full enlightenment.
19. Q: Which are the prerequisites for the practice of tantrayana?
A: Tantrayana is the union of skilful means and wisdom. Prerequisites for tantric practices are:
- Access to qualified vajra master - the cause of receiving blessings of the Buddhas.
- Firm faith in the teachings - the cause of realising the supreme buddhadharma.
- Commitment to bodhisattva vows - the cause of generating compassion for all beings.
- Commitment to pure samaya - the cause of receiving support from the deities.
- Commitment to renunciation - the cause of liberation from samsara.
- Commitment to bodhicitta - the cause of attaining full awakening.
- Right view of emptiness and dependent origination - the cause of eliminating ignorance.
20. Q: What are the characteristics of tantrayana?
A: The characteristic of tantrayana are:
- Perceiving one’s guru as Buddha - the practice of guru yoga.
- Perceiving oneself as deity - the practice of deity yoga.
- Perceiving guru and deity as non-dual - the unification of all vehicles as one single vehicle.
21. Q: What are the activities of tantrayana?
A: The activities of tantrayana are:
- Maintain meditative unification with the yidam.
- Maintain calm abiding that is free from conceptual notions of phenomena.
- Maintain purity of body as the deity.
- Maintain purity of environment as the mandala or pure land of the deity.
- Maintain purity of enjoyment as offering with bliss and emptiness.
- Maintain purity of the three doors through positive actions of body, speech and mind.
22. Q: What are the qualities of buddhadharma?
A: Buddhadharma has five supreme qualities:
- Buddhadharma is not an intellectualised sectarian belief system based on speculative presumption but the illumination of the universal law of nature based on the Buddhas' enlightened direct experiences of natural phenomena.
- Buddhadharma is not based on faith alone but can be scrutinised and verified by all beings who can put it to the test and experience the ultimate truth for themselves.
- Buddhadharma is timeless and the abiding truth it embodies remains unchanged across the three times of the past, present and future.
- Buddhadharma is a path of liberation that guarantees to fulfil the full potential of precious human birth leading one to become the heir of the Buddha and attain the ultimate state of peace and happiness,
- Buddhadharma is an intrinsic cognizance of the wise and can be realised only by the noble beings who are naturally humble and accommodating before the truth and have accepted their personal responsibility to attain the perfect union with the buddha nature of the ultimate truth.
According to the commentary of Maitreya’s Uttaratantra Shastra (tek pa chen po gyü la mé ten chö) on buddha nature, Buddhadharma has the following qualities:
- It is a path of purity that is free from emotional obscuration.
- It is a path of clarity that is free from cognitive obscuration.
- It is a path of remedy that has vanquish both emotional and cognitive obscurations.
- It is a path of cessation that is inconceivable since it is beyond intellectual investigations.
- It is a path of cessation that is absolutely peaceful since it is beyond the influences of karma and emotion.
- It is a path of cessation that is unfathomable since the Buddhas have perfected every quality that is spontaneously-present.
23. Q: What are the compositions of buddhadharma?
A: Buddhadharma has two aspects: Dharma of transmission; and Dharma of realisation:
1. Dharma of transmission (lung gi chö) consists of twelve branches of buddhadharma within the collections of Tripitaka - the Three Baskets (denö sum): Vinaya (dulwa), Sutra (do), and Abhidharma (chö ngönpa).
- Vinaya provides guidance on how to develop pure discipline of conduct (tsultrim kyi labpa) through avoiding negative actions and adopting positive actions.
- Sutra is the collection of the Buddha’s testaments on how to cultivate immovable faith (yiché pé dépa) and samadhi meditation (tingédzin) in accordance to the absolute truth (döndam denpa) as spoken by the Buddha in response to the questions and requests of the devotees.
- Abhidharma presents the complete classification of all the topics in the sutra from the point of prajnaparamita (sherab kyi pharol tu chinpa), the transcendental wisdom of directly realising the non-conceptual oneness of all phenomena that leads one to the original nature of jnana (yeshe), the uncontrived primordial wisdom of non-abiding nirvana (mi nepé nyangdé) which manifests as the three enlightened bodies of the Buddhas - Dharmakaya (chö ku) the Truth Body; Sambhogakaya (longku) the Enjoyment Body; and Nirmanakaya (tulku) the Emanation Body.
2. Dharma of realisation (tokpé chö) is the nurturing of a virtuous mind that manifest as meritorious activities of the body and of the speech through the training in the skilful means of perfecting discipline to purify non-virtuous views and non-virtuous actions by the doctrine of the vinaya; of perfecting meditation to stabilise right view, right motivation and right action by the doctrine of the sutra; of perfecting wisdom to eliminate the root causes of ignorance by the doctrine of the abhidharma.
24. Q: Which are the three turnings of the wheel of Dharma?
A: The three turnings are referring to the three cycles of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings:
- At the first turning of the wheel of Dharma, Lord Buddha gave the teaching of the Four Noble Truths common to both Theravada and Mahayana traditions at Varanasi.
- At the second turning of the wheel of Dharma, Lord Buddha reveals the Mahayana teaching at the Vulture Peak on the absolute truth that is devoid of characteristics and conceptual definition as detailed by the Prajnaparamita Sutra in One Hundred Thousand Verses.
- At the third turning of the wheel of Dharma, Lord Buddha reveals the Vajrayana methods for discriminating between phenomena that have self-established existence, and phenomena that possess none. These transmissions were given at different times and locations in the human realm, and the realms of the gods and the nagas.
25. Q: How do you define the Four Noble Truths?
A: Four Noble Truths (pakpé denpa shyi) are defined as that which reveals that the self-established existence of phenomena are due to the gathering of conditions as seen by the arya beings:
- The truth of suffering which is to be comprehend (dukngal kyi denpa).
- The truth of origin of suffering which is to be discarded (künjungwai denpa).
- The truth of cessation of suffering which is to be implemented (gokpai denpa).
- The truth of liberation from suffering which is to be followed (lamkyi denpa).
26. Q: What is the definition of a sangha?
A: Sangha is defined as follows:
- Anyone who has received the Refuge Vows and holds firm to the avoidance of the non-virtuous actions of body, speech and mind and follows the threefold training of discipline, meditation and wisdom is deemed as a member of a sangha (gendün).
- According to the Vinaya (dulwa), sangha is a term referring to any community of four or more buddhist monks or nuns who maintain straight discipline of Pratimoksha Vows (sotar gyi dompa).
- According to the Mahayana (tekpa chenpo), both ordained and lay practitioners who are committed to maintain pure samaya (damtsik) of Bodhisattva Vows and Tantric Vows can be referred to as member of a sangha.
- Sangha can also be divided into two unique classes - the outer sangha and the inner sangha.
27. Q: How do you define the outer sangha?
A: The outer sangha is defined by two main types :
- The four classes of the sangha of shravakas (nyenthö) and pratyekabuddha (rang sangyé).
- The noble sangha (pakpa gendün) of realised arya bodhisattvas (pakpa chang chub sempa).
28. Q: What is the sangha of shravakas and pratyekabuddha?
A: The four classes of the sangha of shravakas and pratyekabuddha are:
- Stream-enterers (gyün shyukpa) - those who follow the Hinayana Path and have to take seven more births in the desire realm to purify the obscurations related to emotions and to the perception of the self.
- Once-returners (len chik chir ongwa) - those who have progressed from stream-enterers and need to take birth one more time in the desire realm to eliminate the residues of emotional obscurations related to the desire realm.
- Non-returners (chir mi ongwa) - those who have progressed from once-returners and have completely extinguished all the emotional obscurations and no longer need to take birth in the desire realm.
- Arhats (drachompa) - those who have attained the realisation of the true nature of conditioned existence and transcended the samsaric cycle of birth and death. There are two kinds of arhats: those with attained the state of nirvana with residue during one’s lifetime and those who entered the state of nirvana without residue at the time of death. Residue here is referring to the remaining influences of the five skandhas (pungpo nga) - the five psycho-physical aggregates of forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness.
29. Q: What is the noble sangha of arya bodhisattvas?
A: The noble sangha of arya bodhisattvas are those exalted beings who have reach the path of seeing (tonglam) and entered the first bhumi of perfect joy (rabtu gawa) as a direct result of them being able to perceive the truth of reality through the non-conceptual practice and meditation of samadhi (ting ngé dzin).
30. Q: Which are the qualities of the noble sangha?
A: The noble sangha has six qualities of awareness and liberation (rig drol gei yönten drug) according to Maitreya’s Uttaratantra Shastra:
- Awareness of the profound nature of conditioned phenomena.
- Awareness of the vast array of conditioned phenomena in all their diversity.
- Awareness of discriminating awareness wisdom.
- Liberation of emotional obscurations and attachment.
- Liberation of cognitive obscurations and obstacles.
- Liberation of obscurations associated to shravakas and pratyekabuddhas.
31. Q: How do you define the inner sangha?
A: Inner sangha is the assembly of dakinis (khandroma) and vidyadharas (rigdzin).
32. Q: Which qualities and activities are unique to the dakinis?
A: Dakinis (khandroma), the female wisdom deities, can manifested through different aspects and activities to support tantric practitioners on the path by the four activities (lé shyi) of pacifying obstacles (zhiwa); increasing merits (gyé pa); magnetising the beings of the three realms (wangwa); and subjugating belligerent forces (drak po). They may manifest in the form of a vajra master (dorje lopon), as tutelary meditation deity (yidam), or as the wisdom deity who protects the integrity of tantric transmissions. There are four main classes of dakinis with various aspects in relation to the trikaya - the three bodies of the Buddha.
33. Q: Which are the four main classes of dakinis?
A: The four main classes of dakinis (khandro) are:
- Secret dakinis who are the emanation of the Great Mother of Wisdom - Prajnaparmita (yum chenmo) - the emptiness aspect of the Mahayana teachings.
- Inner dakinis who are the guardians of the tutelary meditation deity’s mandala - the wisdom treasury of the Vajrayana teachings.
- Subtle dakinis who are the subtle physical form of the dakinis attained through the tantric practice of working with the energy channels (tsa); the subtle energy (lung) and the essence-drop (tiklé) to attain the subtle body that corresponds to the emergence of an enlightened mind.
- Human dakinis who are the realised yoginis such as Yeshe Tsogyal and Machig Labdrön.
34. Q: How should dakinis be perceived in relation to the trikaya?
A: Dakinis are perceived in relation to the trikaya as follows:
- Dharmakaya dakinis - the emanation of Samantabhadri (Kuntuzangmo) which encompass the domain of the Dharmadhatu where all phenomena arise.
- Sambhogakaya dakinis - the emanation of tutelary meditation deities (yidam) used in Vajrayana practices.
- Nirmanakaya dakinis - the realised yoginis who are the emanation of the enlightened aspects of the Five Buddha Families of the Vajra, Ratna, Padma, Karma and Buddha.
35. Q: How do you define vidyadharas?
A: Vidyadharas (rigdzin) are the pure mind awareness holders, capable of remaining in a state of pure awareness inseparable from the nature of their rigpa - the primordial mind. There are four classes of vidyadharas (rigdzin nampa shi).
36. Q: Which are the four classes of vidyadharas?
A: The four classes of vidyadharas (rigdzin nampa shi) are:
- Matured Vidyadharas (namin rigdzin) - this include vidyadharas on the paths of accumulation (tsoklam) with focus on the amassing of merits, and vidyadharas on the paths of joining (jorlam) which cultivate the conditions leading to the direct insight of non-conceptual wisdom. The vidyadharas at this stage still posses ordinary bodies but their mind have matured into dharmakaya.
- Vidyadharas with Power over Life (tsewang rigdzin) - noble arya beings (pakpa) on the paths of seeing (tonglam) who have utilised the practice of non-conceptual samadhi (tingédzin) to enter the first bhumi of perfect joy (rabtu gawa), their mind have matured into the dharmakaya and their bodies are purified and transformed into the subtle body of the immortal.
- Mahamudra Vidyadharas (chakchen rigdzin) - vidyadharas on the paths of meditation (gom lam), by which 414 greater, middling and lesser erroneous correlation with phenomena of the desire realms (dö kham), form realms (zuk kham) and formless realms (zuk med kham) are relinquished, with their mind having merged with the wisdom mind of the meditation deity and their bodies having transformed into the form of the yidam.
- Spontaneously Accomplished Vidyadharas (lhundrup rigdzin) - vidyadharas on the paths of no-more-learning (mi lobpé lam) - vidyadharas approaching the final stages of attaining full enlightenment of the five buddha kayas - dharmakaya (chö ku), saṃbhogakaya (longku), nirmanakaya (tulku), svabhavikakaya (ngowo nyi ku), and vajrakaya (dorje ku).
37. Q: Which qualities and activities are unique to the vidyadharas?
A: The qualities and activities which are unique to the vidyadharas are described in the Eight Great Sadhanas of Heruka (drubpa kagyé) which was compiled by Vajradharma (Dorjé Chö) - the peaceful emanation of Vajrapani (Chakna Dorje). These eight cycles of Mahayoga transmissions were first revealed at Deché Tsekpa to the eight vidyadharas of India which included Humkara, Manjushrimitra, Nagarjuna, Padmasambhava, Dhanasamskrita, Vimalamitra, Rambuguhya and Shantigarbha. Padmasambhava later gave the Kagyé transmission, both general cycle and individual cycle of yidam deity, to his twenty-five Tibetan disciples of which eight were referred to as the eight vidyadharas of Tibet (pö kyi rigdzin gyé), for having displayed exceptional signs of the qualities and activities of their respective yidam deity. These eight vidyadharas are:
- Trisong Deutsen who mastered the enlightened qualities of Chemchok Heruka.
- Namkhé Nyingpo who mastered the enlightened mind of Yangdak Heruka.
- Nupchen Sangyé Yeshé who mastered the enlightened body of Yamantaka.
- Gyalwa Chokyang who mastered the enlightened speech of Hayagriva.
- Yeshe Tsogyal who mastered the kilaya activities of Vajrakilaya.
- Palgyi Yeshé who mastered the liberating sorcery of Mamo Bötong.
- Langchen Palgyi Sengé who mastered the spirits taming ability of Jikten Chötö.
- Vairotsana who mastered the subjugating mantra of Möpa Drakngak.
38. Q: What is Rigdzin Düpa ?
A: Rigdzin Düpa - Gathering of the Vidyadharas - is the inner lama practice from the Longchen Nyingtik mind-terma (gong ter) revelation of Jikme Lingpa. At the age of twenty-eight during an evening meditation, he received from the wisdom dakinis in his vision a casket containing 5 yellow scrolls and 7 crystal beads which he was instructed to swallow. Instantly, the words and meanings of the Longchen Nyingtik terma were awakened in his mind. The ritual of Rigdzin Düpa is customarily performed on the 10th day of the Tibetan month to invite the presence of Guru Padmasambhava to commemorate the heritage of his enlightened activities in the world.
39. Q: What is the difference between pure lands and Buddha fields?
A: The difference between pure land and Buddha fields are as follows:
- Pure lands (dag pa'i zhing) can be the pure realms that the arya bodhisattvas dwell within the samsaric multiverse, and where Buddhas teach in the form of sambhogakaya, such as Zangokpalri - the Copper-Coloured Mountain of Glory - in Ngayab Ling, the continent of the rakshasas (sinpo), where Guru Rinpoche as the regent of Vajradhara (Dorje Chang) currently resides and gives Kagyé transmission to the vidyadharas there.
- Buddha-fields (sangye kyi shying) are usually referring to the pure lands manifested from the great vows of the Buddhas for the rebirth of their devotees such as the Radiant Lapis Lazuli Pure Realm of Medicine Buddha (Sangyé Menla), and the Pure Realms of the five families (rik ngé shying kham) which include:
- Abhirati (Ngönpar Gawa) - Pure Realm of Manifest Joy presided over by Aksobhya (Mikyöpa) of the Vajra family.
- Śrīmat (Paldangdenpa) - The Pure Realm of the Magnificent presided over by Ratnasambhava (Rinchen Jungné) of the Ratna family.
- Sukhavati (Dewachen) - The Blissful Realm presided over by Amitabha (Nangwa Tayé) of the Lotus family.
- Karmaprasiddhi (Lerab Drubpa) - The Pure Realm of Perfect Action presided over by Amoghasiddhi (Dönyö Drubpa) of the Karma family.
- Akanishtha (Omin) - The Pure Realm of Blazing Mountain presided over by Vairochana (Nampar Nangdzé) of the Buddha family.
40. Q: How can we purify past negative actions and restore positive conditions?
A: To purify past negative actions, breach of vows and to restore positive conditions, here are some of the most effective practices:
1. Apply the four opponent powers (shakpé tob shyi) in accordance to the sutra:
- Power of regret (nyejé sünjin gyi tob) - feeling remorse for past negative actions.
- Power of remedial action (nyenpo künchö kyi tob) - use of antidote to pacify negative actions.
- Power of resolve (dompé tob) - determination not to repeat a negative action.
- Power of support (ten gyi tob) - consolidate one’s reliance on the Three Jewels, and never abandon bodhicitta.
2. Vajrasattva meditation - daily purification practice.
3. Narak Kong Shak - the supreme confession for purifying all violations and breaches of vows performed on the 10th and 25th days of the lunar month.
4. Sojong - the practice of confession to remove negativities, replenish virtues and to purify misdeeds for the ordained performed on the 15th and 30th days of the lunar month.
5. Nyung Ne - the fasting retreat to purify negative karma and to accumulate merit and wisdom, performed on auspicious days of the lunar month.
6. Gutor - ritual to pacify negativities and obstacles in the world performed one week before the start of the Tibetan New Year (losar).
41. Q: What is the object of refuge in the ultimate refuge?
A: The object of refuge in the ultimate refuge is the luminosity of our own primordial mind.
42. Q: What is the nature of the primordial mind?
A: The nature of the primordial mind (nyuk sem) is the inseparable union of luminosity and emptiness - the timeless spontaneous pristine clear light awareness, that is beyond all conceptual notions of existence and non-existence, totally free of cognitive or emotional obscurations - the origin of all our samsara and nirvana.
43. Q: What are the qualities of the primordial mind?
A: The primordial mind is none other than our own uncontrived beginningless mind which has always existed as it is - the pure mind that is unconfined, spacious, expansive, utterly enlightened; beyond all signs of attainment; beyond all conceptual elaborations; beyond all mental experiences; beyond all labels of realization and non-realization - the supreme ever-present pristine meditative awareness of the ultimate reality that is beyond coming or going, yet open to the limitless cosmic display of consummated experiences and to the multiverses of infinity and beyond.
44. Q: How do you attain the ultimate refuge?
A: Ultimate refuge is attained through following the pith instruction of one’s tsawe lama who introduces the student to the true nature of their mind, and in the process causes the student to embark upon the path to cultivate the full potential of precious human birth until complete unsurpassable enlightenment is attained whereby one has fully consummated with the dharmata of the universe - the all-knowing awareness of the nature of all phenomena.
45. Q: What is the origin of the unique qualities of an authentic tsawe lama?
A: The unique qualities of an authentic tsawe lama are not the result of the diligent practices of one life time or ten life times, but the unabated continuous accumulation of merits and wisdom from numberless immeasurable acts of virtue over an incalculable number of aeons.
He does not merely give transmission to students on the outer meaning of the buddhadharma but is capable of revealing its innermost essence that is relevant to the need of each and every student. He lives amongst sentient beings contaminated by karmic residues, but remains untainted by the affected qualities of samsara.
He remains ever-present the living embodiment of all the buddhas of the three times - the all-compassionate nirmanakaya lama who can nurture students to succeed beyond their conceptual boundary of reality.
46. Q: What is the purpose of the ultimate refuge?
A: The purpose of the ultimate refuge is to elevate oneself from the impure state of samsara to attain the realisation of the dharmakaya, which is expressed through the all-providential luminosity of the self-originating-wisdom body of sambhogakaya, and from which the all-accomplishing compassionate nirmanakaya is manifested for the sake of all beings.
47. Q: What is the nature of the phenomena we experience in the world?
A: The nature of all the phenomena we experience in the world is, in actuality, the essence of sameness in dharmata (chö nyi) - the union of conditioned appearance and intrinsic emptiness. Dharmata can hence be defined as the naked unconditioned nature of reality - the unified essence of the ultimate truth which gives rise to the existence of all phenomena.
48. Q: How should we perceive the appearance and emptiness of phenomena?
A: During the union of appearance and emptiness, all phenomena may appear tangible in a diversity of forms, but are in effect more akin to a sequence of dreams or a whiff of morning mist, which manifest briefly in a continuous succession of ever-changing, condition-dependent appearance, then dissolved back into the all-pervading expanse of emptiness due to the total absence of any intrinsic reality to remain permanent.
Phenomena should be perceived without attachment or aversion. Whatever happened is happening because it is meant to happen at that moment due to the ripening of either our own karma or being part of a much wider collective karma originated from our past lives.
Simply deal with it the best way that you can and accept it as what it is when there is nothing you can do about it. Be always mindful and stay alert so as not to get yourself misled by your own conceptual delusion.
49. Q: How can fear and uncertainty be overcome in Dharma practice?
A: Dharma practice in daily life is about integrating one’s practice with one’s life so that every moment in one’s life becomes an occasion for Dharma practice.
It is absolutely feasible for everyone to live a fearless life when one -
- abides in the truth that is inseparable from the teachings of the Buddhas;
- takes refuge in the Three Jewels and acts accordingly without reservation;
- maintains immovable faith and firm devotion in the guidance of the vajra guru;
- eliminates all mundane clinging to the world.
One who lives in accordance to the guidance of the vajra guru is energised by the power of the ultimate truth, because the vajra guru is revered and supported by all the deities of the three planes of existence - those who reside in space, on the surface of ground and beneath the ground - in recognition of vajra guru’s immeasurable compassionate activities over countless aeons in the service of all beings without exception.
Ultimately, there is nothing to fear other than your own attachment to delusion.
50. Q: How can delusion be eliminated?
A: There are two main methods to eliminate the karmic causes leading to delusion: either through utilising the stillness of the mind to exhaust all karma in the human realm for those who have faith and determination in implementing the guidance of the vajra guru, or through experiencing the sufferings of recurring rebirths in the lower realms of animals, hungry spirits and hell-beings until all karma are exhausted, for those who are stubborn and difficult to tame.
51. Q: How do these two methods manifest?
A: The first method is through having successfully cultivated the stillness of the mind which leads to the subsequent spontaneously arising luminosity of wisdom from the primordial nature of the mind that is free of all delusions, and hence by means of the maintaining of pure view, no more karmic causes for further involuntary rebirths in samsara are produced.
For the second method: since it is due to the restlessness of the mind caused by emotional obscurations, conceptual speculations or worldly knowledge, that contaminated karmic imprints are produced. Hence entrap the deluded beings to the twelve links of dependent origination to produce the required karmic formations for rebirths in samsara.
Since the conceptual mind can only focus on one single thought at any one time during which no other thought can be entertained, the presence of a single minor negative thought is sufficient to serve as the seed of delusion which grow and increase exponentially into more negative thoughts, and in the process deplete our store of merits which took countless lifetimes to accumulate until our merits are completely exhausted and all that we can expected for our remaining human life are the raging deluge of worldly sufferings, leading us ultimately to descend into the hell realms where the ferocity of retribution awaiting us are so indescribably intense that all our negative thoughts and delusions are eliminated one by one over aeons.
52. Q: Which of these two methods is the most effective means to eliminate delusion for the faculty of beings at this present time?
A: The eliminating of delusion has nothing to do with faculty but rather whether one is humble and sincere.
One who is humble may have poor faculty, but such a student will still attain stillness of the mind in the rightness of time for having unswerving faith in the instruction of the vajra guru.
But one who takes pride in worldly knowledge and lives by the dictation of one’s ego will come upon self-inflicted obstacles in their human life due to the reversing of positive karma, and will experience sufferings of recurring rebirths in the lower realms as dictated by the ignorance of the cause and consequences of karmic transgression.
53. Q: Does stillness of the mind mean the mind is inactive?
A: Stillness of the mind does not mean the mind is inactive. Whenever mindfulness (drenpa) in conjunction with attention (yi je) are utilised to attain the unwavering state of samadhi (ting nge dzin), whereby the mind cease to wander in between object and subject, and phenomena are perceived as what they are, we are entering the calm-abiding state of shamatha meditation (shyine) in which we can observe without overtly focusing upon the dharmata of the mind in its natural original state without adding or taking anything from it until the emptiness nature of the mind appears of its own accord.
It is from the emptiness nature of the mind that luminosity of omniscience emerged to offer us the insightful experience of vipashyana (lhaktong) on the union of emptiness and luminosity - the consummated fusion of infinite space and the all-knowing wisdom of sambhogakaya.
54. Q: How can the stillness of the mind be incorporated in our daily life?
A: You may begin your day by first practice meditation that utilise the observation of breath. Follow each session of meditation by spending time each day on a specific teaching you have been studying and contemplate upon its significance.
Then extend the resulting calmness from the meditation and the guidance you glean from your study into the post-mediation period of your day by gradually integrating the calmness and key points of the teaching into your daily life.
Conclude your daily practice with reflection on your daytime activities in the evening to establish better understanding on how to further improve your practice for the following day.
It is also vitally important to repent and repair the slightest infraction of one’s refuge vows and samaya which we might have committed during the course of the day to avoid its karmic implication to multiply overnight if these pledges are not restored.
55. Q: How do you start with the observation of breathing?
A: You start by bringing all meandering thoughts and discursive thinkings into one single point of focus on your breath.
Simply observe the natural process of your inhalations and exhalations through the nostrils. Remains aware of the duration, quality and effect of each breath, whether it is a long or short breath, a cool or warm breath, and whether it brings calmness to the entire body.
As your awareness of each breath becomes increasingly subtle and effortless, one enters an unperturbed meditative state where all other mental activities cease to exist and one’s mind is stabilised in the present.
56. Q: What is the significance of daily meditation and reflection in Dharma practice?
A: Dharma practitioners use Dharma teaching as the reference point in their life. The essence of Dharma practice is to transcend all self-clinging inclination and dedicate one’s life in the service of others, whereby generosity is practiced with no thought on gain or loss; discipline is practiced without desire; and patience is cultivated without resentment.
It is by the practice of meditating on the relative bodhictta and the absolute bodhicitta that one developed the altruistic mind that arisen from the cognition of the nonexistent nature of the ego. It is by the practice of reflection that true progress can be cultivated in one’s Dharma practice.
Without proper reflection, even good quality previously attained will deteriorate rapidly in the absence of humility - the source of mindfulness.
57. Q: In the Gems of Wisdom for daily meditation, it states that: ‘Desires are innate human instincts indispensable to how we function in the world; but are not the prime objective for life itself.’ What are the prime objective for life?
A: Desire is the fabricated wanting of the mind which leads to the subsequent karmic action that creates the cycle of continuous rebirth in samsara. Whenever there is desire, suffering is sure to follow. The prime objective of having a precious human birth is to recognise the causes of sufferings and to apply one’s cognition diligently to attain one’s liberation from the endless conditioned rebirth of samsara during one’s lifetime.
Jayata, the twentieth patriarch who succeeded the lineage of Shakyamuni Buddha had strong aspiration to abandon the life of a householder to become ordained. His parents begged of him to take a wife to produce a child first to keep them company before going ahead with his plan. Affected by their despair and sadness, Jayata took a wife and agreed he would wait until the child reached eight years of age before leaving home. When it was time for Jayata to leave home as previously agreed, his parents coerced his son to stop Jayata from leaving by clinging on to him. Affected by his tearful son desperately holding on to him, he finally agreed to stay home to appease his family. It took 91 kalpas for him to exhaust the karma he had accumulated from that one lifetime as a householder before he had the opportunity to obtain a precious human rebirth to become ordained and attained the enlightened state of an arhat. When you take into consideration that even the shortest kalpa is 16,000,000 years, 91 kalpas of continuous rebirths in samsara is an awful long duration of time to waste over a mundane desire.
58. Q: What are the appropriate attitude and conduct for a Dharma practitioner?
A: The appropriate attitude and conduct for a Dharma practitioner can be summed up as reverence, humility and gratitude. Here are some of the essential pointers:
- Aspiration and determination to actualise the Dharma teaching one received is strong while the energy it conveys through body and speech is soft, humble and mindful.
- Be respectful to your master, your seniors and your elders.
- Be accommodating to your peers in accordance to the pledges of your refuge vows and samaya.
- Be compassionate and protective in the nurturing of your juniors.
- Do not get overtly excited when things go well.
- Do not get unhappy when things are not going well.
- Instead of wallowing in guilt and regret over past errors, make good of one’s mistakes as soon as one is able to do so.
- Be mindful of the transient nature of phenomena and be grateful for their presence to remind us the pointlessness of attachment.
59. Q: How would the experiencing of suffering be a cause to eliminate delusion?
A: Human sufferings can be helpful in being the catalyst to cause the arising of motivation and determination to attain freedom from samsara.
Feeling sad and genuinely ashamed for one’s lack of ability to free our dependency from samsaric clinging and be of benefit to liberate others from worldly sufferings are often the pivotal factors that turn our mind to take refuge in the three jewels which mirrored Prince Siddhartha’s quest of enlightenment for the sake of all beings.
For those who live by the allurement of delusion and fritter away their precious human birth, the unimaginable intensity of sufferings they will come to experience in their imminent recurring rebirths in the lower realms until their negative karma are exhausted, will nonetheless pave their way over timeless aeons for another probable future rebirth as human, albeit they will reborn with the lowest of faculties and into the most miserable circumstances due to lack of merits.
60. Q: Which are the main causes leading to the depletion of merits?
A: Depletion of merits is the result of negative actions we have committed due to ignorance of karma, creating in the process, the causes for our future rebirths as animals, or as hungry spirits due to insatiable graspings, or as hell beings due to anger and ill-intent.
Merits that took many aeons to accumulate to engender a precious human birth are thus easily depleted by our endless pursuits of worldly goals. The more mundane pleasure we chase after; the more effort we spent to appease our ego; the more time we wasted on mundane activities to distract our mind from facing up to the truth of reality; the more quickly our store of merits are hence getting depleted.
For those still persist with their habitual impulses to indulge in negative and unwholesome activities due to their own obscuration and addiction to the allurement of delusion, they will only succeed in creating the inevitable consequences of their own endless future rebirths into the lower realms.
Some of the main causes leading to depletion of merits for ordinary beings leading to future rebirths as animals and hungry spirits are as follows:
- Resentment towards those who have offered their support in one’s time of need due to delusion.
- Refusal to offer one’s service to others in need of support due to conceit or miserliness.
- Endless social activities that promote no benefit for anyone other than invoking competitiveness, rivalries and jealousy in others - the causes of negative karma.
- Partaking in senseless interaction with those obsessed with wrong views and distorted beliefs.
- Indulging in acts of distraction, wrongly perceived as harmless enjoyment that produce no virtue.
- Craving for relationship with those whose qualities have been vastly exaggerated to distract themselves from the dissatisfaction and discontentment with their life.
However, the mere distancing of ourselves from the above activities do not preclude ourselves from the depletion of merits leading to future rebirths in the hell realms for those who have lent their support to or have actually committed the following negative actions:
- Acts of disrespect towards a spiritual master who is the representation of the three jewels.
- Acts of disrespect towards the ordained sangha who are the son and daughter of the Buddha.
- Causing disharmony amongst members of a buddhist community.
- Destroying the wisdom life of those in a buddhist community by the disruption of their activities.
- Leaving a buddhist community due to the allurement of delusion.
- Breakage of the pratimoksha vows of individual liberation (sosor tarpa) that are beyond repair.
- Breakage of the commitment to samaya (damtsik) that are beyond repair.
- Holding the intent to kill or being a participant of an activity such as bull-fighting or computer games that encourages the act of killings.
- Committing acts of killing whether intentionally or accidentally, in self-defence, pest control, abortion, or suicide.
- Behaving like a Dharma tourist instead of a Dharma practitioner.
61. Q: What is the difference between Dharma practitioners and Dharma tourists?
A: Dharma practitioners are motivated by the arising of bodhicitta to realise the true state of reality as being the transient union of appearances and emptiness, and as such are like dreams that have no real substance nor present any need for them to cling onto, other than to detach their mind from the affective influence of these illusions which are the true causes of suffering in samsara.
They also realised the true purpose of having a precious human birth is to utilise whatever time they have in their life to attain liberation from the cycle of continuous rebirths in samsara.
Dharma tourists are those who are still very much attached to the mundane concern of samsara.
They perceive Dharma teaching in the same way they approach worldly knowledge - a tool to embellish their samsaric existence and not as the means to attain freedom from samsara.
They are eager to receive Dharma teachings but show little effort to transform their habitual behaviour in accordance to the Dharma.
Instead of focusing on consolidating an unbreakable relationship with the vajra guru who is the representation of the three jewels and has the power to guide them towards the attaining of liberation from samsara, they forged mundane interaction with other students who are the common source of distraction since they have yet free themselves completely from the afflictive influences of conditioned existence, and hence relationship with them can offer no relief to their discontentment other than creating more causes of restlessness.
They treat Dharma teaching like a social excursion and may even solicit others to accompany them to a pilgrimage that can be perilous for the unprepared.
The consequences of such wayward conceits and misguided endeavours will produce no merit except speeding up the reversing of positive karma and the ripening of negative karma from their alaya, since the arising of all phenomena as dictated by the state of their mind are amplified by the energy field around the holy sites.
62. Q: Why is there danger during a pilgrimage?
A: Wherever there are Dharma practitioners engaging in Dharma activities, so too will be the presence of mara - the lord of illusion - to cause whatever obstacles that are required to stop the flow of its proceeding.
Even the personal attendants of Shakyamuni Buddha were known to have fallen victim to the disruptive influence of mara as in the case of Sunakshatra who knew all the Buddha’s teachings by heart but after having succumbed to the mara of the contaminated aggregates (phungpo'i dü), he became increasingly proud and developed gross disrespect towards Lord Buddha. Subsequently, he ended up reborn as a hungry spirit (preta) before descending into the avici hell (narmé) - the vajra hell of interminable torment without respite.
63. Q: What are the causes behind the reversing of positive karma for Dharma students?
A: Reversing of positive karma is the result of proud immature students who mistook the good fortune they experienced as the fruition of their own effort and not through the blessings of the guidance and support they received from their guru. As delusion and arrogance increasingly clouded their mind, transgressions become more frequent and unchecked, while broken vows and breach of samaya are not being restored.
Each act of transgression is then likened to adding one’s vomits into a pot of nectar that one has previously received due to the blessings of the lineage. Having spoiled the nectar while continuing to act with conceits and showing disregard to the consequences of karmic implication, no amount of Dharma activities, henceforth, would generate any more merits since whatever added to the pot simply get contaminated. It is chiefly due to the purity of the nectar in the pot that one is protected from the threat posed by karmic debtors and negative entities.
Once the purity of nectar is spoiled by the vomits, karmic debtors and negative entities can easily exact their revenge and exert negative influences upon the defenceless student to cause the reversing of positive karma.
64. Q: Why is it so important to restore pledges of vows and samaya?
A: Whenever acts of transgression are committed, it is vitally important to purify it immediately because the negative karma it created will increase and multiply. The karmic implication of even killing an ant will double by the passing of one day which means the killing of one ant will become the killing of two ants by the following day, and then double again every subsequent day. By the eighteenth days, you will have created the same negative karma as that of taking a human life. At the moment of your death, the number of negative karma you have accumulated will equal to all the dust particles of the entire earth, which explains when one’s precious human life is lost, it will take unaccountable aeons for one’s negative karma to get exhausted before any possibility of coming upon even the most lowly ordinary human birth. This being the karmic implication of killing one single ant, do there be a need to mention the negative karma of disrupting the Dharma activities of a buddhist community or even the most unimaginable scenario of disparaging a vajra guru which is the same as despising all the Buddhas of the three times.
In the Ornament to the Vajrahrdaya Tantra, it says:
“Whoever shows contempt to his sublime guru,
Even though he may know every tantra by heart,
Practice without sleep,
And free from distraction
For a thousand aeons,
He will still end up in hells.”
In Commentary of Kalyamari Tantra, it says:
“One who upon hearing even one verse of teaching,
Yet does not perceive the person
Who gave the teaching as a lama
Will be born one hundred times as a dog
And then in the most atrocious realms of hell.”
In the Kalachakra Tantra, it says:
“Count the number of moments
You were angry at your guru.
You destroy root virtues amassed over aeons.
The duration of torment
You will spend in hell
Is for the same numbers of aeons.”
In the Fifty Stanzas of Guru Devotion, it says:
“You who are such an idiot
As to disparage your guru
Will contract contagious diseases
Caused by harmful spirits.
You will die a horrifying death
Caused by demons, plagues, poison,
Fire, water, immoral kings, snakes,
Witches, bandits or savages,
And then reborn in hells.”
The importance to restore pledges of vows and samaya is thoroughly explained in the Pathgate teaching - Guru Yoga: The Benefits Of Remembering The Lama from the archive of Gateway to Tibetan Buddhism which is available on the Pathgate website.
65. Q: How should a vajra guru be perceived?
A: A vajra guru should be perceived with pure view as the representation of all the buddhas. Regardless of how the vajra guru may appear or whatever worldly activities the vajra guru may adopt to create the necessary karmic connection for the sake of sentient beings, these are all selfless compassionate activities inseparable from the pristine all-knowing awareness of the buddhas. Always bear in mind the great store of merits a vajra guru must possessed in order to manifest in the world, instead of holding on to the impure view of what you may consider as misdeeds or inadequacy from your mundane perspective.
66. Q: In the Gems of Wisdom for daily meditation, it states that: ‘All healthy relationships reflect the true nature of the universe - mutually supportive, yet entirely co-independent of any energy transgression.’ What is the meaning of ‘co-independent of any energy transgression’?
A: To understand the subject of ‘co-dependent of energy transgression’, you should study the Pathgate teaching Reflection On The Twelve Links Of Dependent Origination from the archive of Gateway to Tibetan Buddhism which is available on the Pathgate website.
67. Q: In the Gems of Wisdom for daily meditation, it states that: ‘To attain a state of oneness with ones chosen discipline, whereby separation ends and reunion begins, one should adopt the approach of a true pilgrim.’ Please explain the approach of a true pilgrim?
A: A true pilgrim is first and foremost a devotee of guru yoga and a practitioner of the three higher trainings. Having thoroughly been inspired by the compassionate activities of the vajra guru, the devotee would first invoke lineage blessings from the vajra guru before embarking on a pilgrimage since obstacles and accidents are common during such endeavour for the genuine devotees.
There are also certain procedures to observe when paying homage to the holy relics of the realised masters, before which the devotee would make their supplication be known such as they may wish to replicate the noble activities of the realised masters in the same manner as they have done in the past. To demonstrate the absolute sincerity of their intention, the devotee would typically undertake certain commitments such as performing 100,000 prostrations before the sacred stupa or to complete 100,000 circumambulations around the sacred site.
Firm faith, strong devotion and unrelenting enthusiastic effort, are hence the three most essential qualities for the devotees on a pilgrimage.
68. Q: Which are the three higher trainings?
A: The three higher trainings (lhagpé labpa sum) are referring to practices that can lead to liberation (tharpa) from samsara (khorwa) through embarking upon the path of the shravaka (nyenthö), pratyekabuddha (rang sangyé) or the attaining of buddhahood (sangye kyi gopang).
The three higher trainings are:
- Discipline (tsultrim kyi labpa) - appropriate measures that serve to simplify one’s life, purify one’s body, speech and mind, whereby one is protected from fear, while firm resolve and renunciation are established, to provide conditions conducive to Dharma practice;
- Meditation (ting ngé dzin gyi labpa) - practices that serve to transform one’s mind to attain the cognition of the ultimate truth, whereby appropriate Dharma practices are adopted and delusions are abandoned;
- Wisdom (sherab kyi labpa) - practices that serve to cultivate the perfection of transcendental wisdom (sherab) that leads to the cognition of the true nature of phenomena and the revealing of the all-omniscient primordial wisdom (yeshe).
The transmission of the three higher trainings are contained in the three pitakas (denö sum) - the three separate collections of the Vinaya (dulwa) for the cultivation of discipline; Sutras (do) for the cultivation of meditation; and Abhidharma (chö ngönpa) for the cultivation of wisdom.
69. Q: What is the purpose of circumambulation?
A: Circumambulation around any sacred representations of the three jewels such as a stupa, a temple, or a vajra guru, is a meditative devotional practice that can purify negative karma and promote one’s advancement on the path to enlightenment.
Detailed explanation on the purpose of circumambulation and the origin of the stupa are featured in a series of teachings from the archive of Gateway to Tibetan Buddhism which are available for reading on the Pathgate website.
70. Q: What are the energy associated with the sacred representations of the three jewels?
A: The energy associated with the sacred representations of the three jewels begins with its presence within the vajra body, vajra speech and vajra mind of a living vajra guru who is the all-accomplishing, all-compassionate nirmanakaya lama - the embodiment of all the buddhas of the three times.
Having attained realisation through the pure discipline of the mind, his physical body is transformed into a powerful source of crystallised energy that convey the magnetic signature of the ultimate truth which has the efficacious quality to cause the speedy exhaustion of karma in those he come upon.
Upon his passing into parinirvana, the holy body is cremated to reveal the true state of his realisation by the number of crystallised sarinas, holy relics such as organs and bones, found among the ashes. These sarinas and holy relics which contain the indestructible energy signature of the vajra guru are highly valued and are usually housed inside a stupa.
71. Q: What is the difference in the benefit that may generated from circumambulating a stupa and the practice of guru yoga?
A: A stupa that has been consecrated with holy relics is of great benefit to the devotee who wishes to pay homage to the stupa before which great vow of aspirations are made for the benefit of all beings.
However the merit accumulated from paying homage to a stupa cannot compared to that of paying homage to a living guru. For a start, a stupa does not physically give teaching to the devotee nor does it offer answer to any questions the devotee may have. A living guru gives not merely Dharma teaching but also advice on Dharma practice.
72. Q: What is the meaning of vajra?
A: From the vajrayana perspective, vajra personified the indestructible oneness of the ultimate reality - the union of samsara and nirvana.
73. Q: Why are there dissatisfaction and discontentment in life?
A: Dissatisfaction and discontentment in life are the direct result of inner conflicts arising from the existential crises of not being aware of the true purpose of human life, and the experiencing of confusion in establishing one’s personal identity within the bigger scheme of existence.
74. Q: What is ignorance?
A: Ignorance is the lack of awareness of the ultimate truth as displayed by the obscured immature beings who are obsessed with their desire in the pursuit of mundane gratification, which are the main causes for their continuing rebirth in samsara. Being obsessed with the appeasement of their own ego, with which they used as a reference of direction in life, they ended up squandered their precious human birth - the rarest of all good fortune which they are unlikely to come upon again for many aeons due to their imminent continuous rebirths in the lower realms where the possibility of generating virtue for rebirth in the higher realms is nigh impossible.
75. Q: How can we get rid of ignorance?
A: Ignorance is entirely the result of delusion - the relationship we made with the conditioned phenomena of our own fabricated ego which is the source of hope and fear, like and dislike - the true cause of suffering in samsara. By abandoning our relationship with our ego and turn our mind to cultivate a true relationship with the Buddhas is the cause to attain liberation from samsara.
76. Q: What is the meaning of “to detach bondage from the trappings of virtue”?
A: Your question is from the Gems of Wisdom for Daily Meditation. The full line is: ‘Be as ready to detach one’s bondage from the trappings of virtue as one would surrender evil.’
Trappings of virtue is referring to the conceptual expectation of merit that may arise from acts of virtue and the grasping of praise for what one perceived as acts of virtue.
77. Q: In the Gems of Wisdom for daily meditation, it states that: ‘The virtuous shine from afar to near, by merit of self-mastery and self-purification.’ How do we cultivate virtue?
A: All selfless activities to promote the greatest benefit for all sentient beings are deemed as acts of virtue which include:
- generosity and loving-kindness towards others;
- preservation of life;
- maintaining pure vows and pure samayas;
- defending the truths;
- mindfulness of body, speech and mind that is compatible to Dharma and so forth, as thoroughly explained in the Pathgate teaching - Guru Yoga: The Benefits Of Remembering The Lama from the archive of Gateway to Tibetan Buddhism which is available on the Pathgate website.
78. Q: What is the difference between virtue and merit?
A: Virtue (gewa) is the selfless wholesome behaviour motivated by positive intent to promote the greatest good for others in samsara, while merit (sonam) is the resultant conditions of virtue that enable us to realise the full potential of mahayana vehicle with which liberation from samsara is attained.
For the most expedient means to accumulate great store of merits, the vajrayana vehicle offers two peerless methods: firstly through the cultivating of compassion for the benefits of sentient beings, and secondly through the practice of guru yoga.
79. Q: What is the significance of seeing specks of light while doing prostrations?
A: Whatever phenomena you may have encountered during Dharma practice are all devoid of any intrinsic existence. Simply acknowledge the phenomena as being the transient cosmic display of dependent arising and that the true reality of all phenomena as being the union of appearances and emptiness.
Maintain a quiet stable mind at all times instead of allowing yourself to get distracted by the appearance of any phenomena. To allow your mind getting distracted by either outer or inner phenomena during your practice is to turn your mind and your practice into the activities of the mara.
With pure perception, focus on the correct application of instruction as received from your vajra guru without allowing yourself to get distract by any expectation or speculation, has always been the advice on correct Dharma practice as given by all realised masters.
80. Q: How can pure perception be used to embrace hardships?
A: Pure perception is the unified awareness of clarity and wisdom that is free of conceptual fixation such as the dualistic view on good or bad.
Simply accept hardship as another transient moment of phenomenon like the changing shape of cloud in the sky and deal with it as appropriately as you can without burdening your mind with any emotional labelling.
81. Q: Is it true that buddhas are all part of emptiness and that they can manifest in samsara only through masters who are skillful enough to connect to emptiness?
A: From the vajrayana perspective, emptiness is referring to the ultimate unmanifested state of the dharmakaya which personified the absolute truth that exists in all animate and inanimate states throughout the infinite expanse of space. All the realised masters who have ever existed in the world are the emanation body of the Buddhas in the nirmanakaya form that arise directly from dharmakaya and to which they would return after the dissolution of their compassionate form.
82. Q: Why do people attend empowerment ceremony?
A: The majority of people who attended empowerment ceremony are motivated by their desire to receive blessings of good fortune to improve their mundane existence, which in actuality only creates more causes for continuing rebirths in cyclic existence.
For others, it is the opportunity to receive initiation for the commencement of specific practice that may lead to their ultimate liberation from samsara.
83. Q: What is the real purpose of empowerment?
A: The real purpose of empowerment is to cause the awakening of the primordial wisdom (yeshe) in the mind of the devotees. Only through firm faith, immovable devotion and strict observation of samaya can real empowerment amplify its full potential leading to, in some cases, instant realisation of one’s true nature, just as what had happened during each of the 84,000 teachings given by Shakyamuni Buddha.
84. Q: Were there empowerment given during the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha?
A: The entirety of the eighty-four thousands teachings given by Shakyamuni Buddha during his lifetime were all precious word empowerment (tsik wang rinpoche), with which pointing out instruction of words and gestures were used to cause countless beings of various faculties attained instant spontaneous realisation.
85. Q: What is the characteristic of vajrayana vehicle?
A: The characteristics of vajrayana vehicle can best be represented by its unique practices of the generation stage (kyerim) and the completion stage (dzogrim). Generation stage is the practice with which phenomena are purified through visualization of the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and their associated mandalas. Completion stage is the practice with which illusory emptiness of the deities are realised through utilising the channels (tsa), wind-energies (lung), and essences (tikle) of the subtle body (lu tra). The union of the generation and the completion stages is employed to visualize the meditational deity (yidam) as an illusory entity just as that what one would experience in the intermediate state of dream.
86. Q: How does energy manifested and changed around a realised master?
A: All manifestation of energy is directly connected to the mind. Those who are pure mind awareness holder (vidyadhara) are in harmony with their own subtle body of channels, wind-energies, and essence, can attained the enlightened state of oneness with the dharmata of all phenomena, and hence can transform the energy dynamics of the four elements around them when it is appropriate to do so.
87. Q: How can one attain harmony with one’s subtle body?
A: One attains harmony with one’s subtle body by unifying the energy of compassion with the pure discipline of one’s mind which together offer the most essential provision required for the path leading to the attaining of the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment.
The compassion arises from the insightful cognition of reality and pure discipline, is the result of the combined effort of sincerity and consistency. Where there is sincerity - the offspring of humility, there will likewise be insight. Where there is insight - the offspring of mindful observation, there will naturally be sincerity.
Only one who is absolutely sincere and humble is able to cultivate their own subtle body through the two accumulations (soknyi) of merit (sonam) and primordial wisdom (yeshe). One who has fully cultivated the primordial nature of mind (semnyi) - the inseparated union of wisdom-luminosity and emptiness - is able to nurture others and even enable the universe to evolve through their interaction with the dharmata (choyi) of the absolute reality (dondam denpa) - the true nature of all phenomena that is beyond appearances.
88. Q: What is the essence of pure discipline?
A: The essence of pure discipline is the merging of absolute bodhicitta with a peaceful, self-regulated altruistic mind that recognise the insubstantial, non-existent nature of the ego and the sufferings of the obscured.
89. Q: What exactly is absolute bodhicitta?
A: Absolute bodhicitta is the pristine awakening of the noble bodhisattvas with which they liberated themselves from all mundane clingings by means of direct cognition of the emptiness of inherent existence of the self. Absolute bodhicitta is hence the awakening of awareness to the nature of all phenomena - the elevated extension of relative bodhicitta with which the greatest benefits of all beings are promoted without exception.
90. Q: How can we develop better understanding of the illusory nature of emptiness?
A: Emptiness can be better understood by examining the following phenomena:
- Dream (mi lam) - none of the events we experience in a dream has any inherent existence other than the mere appearance of mental fabrication due to a restless mind.
- Magical illusion (gyu ma) - a performance of deception based on the coordinating of causes and conditions.
- Optical misapprehension (mik yor) - phenomena appear and disappear with no apparent causes.
- Mirage (mik gyu) - like seeing an oasis in the desert which does not exist when approached.
- City of gandharvas (dri zé drong khyer) - the illusory phenomenon of a city in the cloud with neither places of dwelling nor residents.
- Reflection of the moon in water (chu da) - the appearance of the moon in the water does not substantiate the actual existence of the moon in the water.
- Apparition (trül pa) - all sorts of emanations that are not really there.
91. Q: What are the signs of pure discipline?
A: All the past holders of pure discipline such as Shantideva, Jetson Drakpa Gyaltsen and the eighty-four Mahasiddhas (drubtob chenpo) are accomplished secret yogi (bepé naljor) who have cultivate the perfection of siddhi (ngödrup). They are not known to openly display their true ability, and were oftentimes the subject of ridicule and derision for their non-conforming behaviour and unbecoming appearance. The signs of pure discipline they convey are subtle yet tangible.
Here are some of the more noticeable:
- Their bodies are known to exude subtle whiffs of exquisite fragrance that resemble incense or fresh flowers even though they may not have their bodies wash for many days.
- Their garment even after washed still retain their unique fragrance and ambience of calmness.
- Their physical presence magnetise the positive energy matrix around them, and in the process amplified the ripening of virtue within the faithful, and cause the sudden departure of karmic debtors, negative entities, and malicious spirits from the hosts they have been attached to due to their experiencing of unease in the presence of a holder of pure discipline.
- They are always favoured with fair weather wherever they are and even extreme weather such as typhoon are known to change their course before their arrival.
- Local deities are always present to offer their support to put out wildfire or to bring rain to places of droughts when needed.
- The prowess of their prayers that have been consolidated from aeons of pure discipline are known for their efficacy to reverse the course of karmic ripening such as illnesses or the extension of longer lifespan for the infirm when requested.
- Their mind are said to have direct access to the nature of other beings. Insects and animals are known to relocate their presence as the result of their mind to mind communication.
- Ability to offer impartial prophecy on future events based on pure mind awareness that is unstained by samsaric concern.
- Totally impervious to harm even when directly expose to threat of extreme conflicts.
92. Q: How do karmic debtors and negative entities come into our lives?
A: Karmic debtors are those deceased beings with whom we have unresolved conflicts due to harm or injustice we have caused them in our past lives, and hence always remaining close by waiting for the opportunity to take up residence in our body to exact their revenge by feeding upon our life force and causing illnesses that are impossible to treat by medicine.
Negative entities are malicious spirits who have made their connection to us due to our display of afflictive emotions and disruptive behaviours similar to theirs, or when we frequent places heavily charged with negative life-depleting energy such as haunted location of fatal accidents or suicide where wandering spirits are abound.
93. Q: What are the signs that indicate presence of karmic debtors and negative entities?
A: The signs that indicate the presence of karmic debtors and negative entities are:
- Pale complexion and surging of anxiety due to one’s subtle channels getting contaminated by their presence which affect the normal circulation of blood and subtle energies.
- Inability to eat normal food without experiencing of aversion.
- Involuntary bodily movement due to congestion of energy within the subtle channels caused by the presence of karmic debtors and negative entities.
- Frequent encounters of accidents, material loss, legal issues and health problems.
- Exhibiting of intent to cause harm to oneself and to others due to the harbouring of destructive emotions that mirror the antics of the negative entities.
94. Q: Why would karmic debtors and negative entities take leave before a vajra guru?
A: An accomplished vajra guru is not merely the representation of the three jewels, but in actually, the embodiment of the three jewels in the nirmanakaya form. Such a compassionate bodhisattva of pure discipline is always accompanied by dharma protectors and local deities who are tasked with the duty to evict all non-virtuous beings from around the vajra guru. The same reason why those who are conceited with wrong views will always feel unease in the presence of a vajra guru.
95. Q: How can karmic debtors and negative entities be removed?
A: Any attempt to remove karmic debtors and negative entities by force will increase their resentment towards the host and end up creating more karmic causes for their return life after life to exact revenge. One of the most effective way to pacify them is to perform daily confession practice (sojong) such as the Thirty-five Buddhas Confession and Purification Practices to restore all virtues and purify all non-virtues. Then dedicate the merit from your practice to their swift rebirth in more fortunate circumstances such as the Pure Land of Amitabha (dewachen).
96. Q: How can we generate great store of merits?
A: In the very first sutra that was translated into Chinese by the two Yuezhi monks Kasyapa Matanga (迦葉摩騰) and Dharmaratna (竺法蘭) - the Sutra of the Forty-Two Chapters (佛說四十二章經) - Shakyamuni Buddha gave a very concise discourse on the accumulation of merits:
The Buddha said:
“It is far better to offer food to one person of selfless virtue than to feed one hundred persons with propensity for self-serving non-virtue.
It is far better to offer food to one person who observes the five buddhist precepts (gé nyen gyi dom pa) than to feed one thousand persons of virtue.
It is far better to offer food to one stream-enterer (gyün shyukpa) than to feed ten thousand men who observes the five buddhist precepts.
It is far better to offer food to one once-returner (len chik chir ongwa) than to feed one million stream-enterers.
It is far better to offer food to one non-returner (chir mi ongwa) than to feed ten million stream-enterers.
It is far better to offer food to one arhat (drachompa) than to feed ten million stream-enterer.
It is far better to offer food to one single solitary realiser (rang sangye) than to feed one billion arhats.
It is far better to offer food to one single buddha of the three times (dü sum sangye) than to feed ten billion solitary realisers.
It is far better to offer food to one person who has transcended the boundaries of thought, of abiding, of cultivation and of accomplishment in Dharma practice than to feed one hundred billion of buddhas of the three times.”
Whoever has succeeded to transcend the boundaries of thought, of abiding, of cultivation and of accomplishment in Dharma practice is the ultimate vajra guru for the degenerate age.
97. Q: Which are the five buddhist precepts and who are the stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, arhat and solitary realiser?
A: The five buddhist precepts are:
- not to take life;
- not to take what is not given;
- not to tell lies;
- not to engage in sensual misconduct of both body and particularly of the mind;
- not to get intoxicated with activities of both body and particularly of the mind.
The five classes of practitioners are defined as follows:
- Sotapanna is the stream-enterer (gyün shyukpa) who has entered the stream of the four truths as understood by the arya beings (pakpé denpa shyi), and has subsequently severed the first three of the ten fetters (kün tu jorwa chu) that bind one to the cycle of conditioned rebirth - the fetter of mistaken the aggregates of the self as real (jik tsok la tawa); the fetter of doubt on the effectiveness of the path (té tsom); and the fetter of attachment to conventional rules and rituals (tsül trim dang tül zhuk chok tu dzin pa), will attain the state of nirvana after seven more births as a human or in heaven.
- Sakadagamin is the once-returner (len chik chir ongwa) who has severed the attachment to the fetter of sense pleasure (dö pa la dö chak); and the fetter of ill-intent (nö sem), will attain the state of nirvana after one more birth as human.
- Anagamin is the non-returner (chir mi ongwa) who has completely abandoned the five lower fetters and all attachment to mundane concern to enter the cultivating stages of meditative absorption (samten), will attain the state of nirvana after one more birth in the pure realm of suddhavasa heaven.
- Arhat is the foe destroyer (drachompa) who has realised the selfless nature of the individual and entered the state of nirvana with no more rebirth after having eliminated the last five upper fetters - the fetter of craving for rebirth in the fine-material realm (zuk la chak pa); the fetter of craving for rebirth in the immaterial realm (zuk mé pé dö chak); the fetter of conceit that arises from a competitive mind (nga gyel); the fetter of mental agitation which destabilises concentration (gö pa); and the fetter of ignorance (ma rik pa).
- Pratyekabuddha is the solitary realiser (rang sangye), who uses the twelve links of dependent origination as their focus for meditation, is deemed to possess a higher level of realisation than an arhat for having spent one hundred kalpas in the accumulation of merits, while an arhat spent no more than sixteen life times. A pratyekabuddha is noted for having realised the selfless nature of the individual and partial aspects of the selfless nature of phenomena, and is hence considered inferior when compare to the full enlightenment of a bodhisattva who has spent countless number of aeons and a hundred thousand kalpas to attain buddhahood after having full realised the selfless nature of both the individual and that of phenomena.
98. Q: What are the qualities of the ultimate vajra guru for the degenerate age?
A: The ultimate vajra guru for the degenerate age are the noble beings who perceive their role model in Bodhisattva Mahasattva Ksitisgarbha who took the great vow of deferring his attainment of buddhahood until the hell realms are emptied of all sentient beings.
Such a vajra guru is the personification of the non-dualistic natural perfection. The awareness of his mind mingled ever so effortlessly with the nature of all phenomena, totally unaffected by confusion nor appearances; he seeks neither recognition nor anonymity but are praised by the Buddhas of the three times for his great aspiration to accomplish all beings without exception; he aims neither to please nor to displease but his words reflects always the truth that stands the testing of time; his ability is neither visible nor concealed but always brings forth the appropriate outcome in the rightness of time; the faintest thought in his mind has the efficacy to produce instant fruition due to the respect of his wishes by the deities of the three planes; he has no attachment to neither the attainment of nirvana nor the avoidance of samsara in which he has been abiding for countless aeons with the nonchalance of equanimity; he seeks neither follower nor does he abandon the obscured by simply remaining in the world without being affected by the defilements of the world; his every action and non-action accomplished all beings equally by expediting the exhaustion of karma for those who are drawn to him in the human realm, and likewise, for those who are conceited, hostile, deluded, to have their karma exhausted in the lower realms; he exists not for the sake of approval nor does he harbour any aversion towards disapproval; his mind rests ever so freely upon the awareness of natural perfection amidst the ever-changing phenomena of appearance and emptiness. Having no self-clinging concern to validated his realisation other than to promote the greatest benefits for all beings throughout space, he has transcended the boundaries of thought, of abiding, of cultivation and of accomplishment in Dharma practice, and hence is deemed by all the Buddhas as the ultimate vajra guru for the sentient beings of the degenerate age.
99. Q: What is the purpose of prayer practice?
A: Natural disasters and man-made calamities are rampant during the present degenerate age is the direct result of the imbalance of the four elements in the world. It is nigh impossible to render this phenomena harmless by our own effort alone. To ensure we may remain unaffected by these predicament, it is most essential and necessary to make daily supplication prayers, offering prayers, aspiration prayers, and invocation prayers to the three jewels, the three roots, and the dharma protectors for their continuous blessing and support for our continuing harmonious co-existence with the world. Always conclude your practice with dedication towards the benefit of all beings.
100. Q: What are the signs of degenerate age?
A: There are five main signs during the degenerate age:
- Decline in life-vitality and shortening of lifespan.
- Decline in the nutritious properties of life-sustaining food.
- Decline in the display of virtues and increase of afflictive emotions amongst the population.
- Decline in the display of virtues and increase of wrong views amongst the ordained.
- Decline in the physical, intellectual, and mental well-being of sentient beings.
In additions, during the degenerate age, the virtuous, the humble, and those of pure discipline are subjected to ridicule and malicious attack by mundane beings besotted with the allurement of mara, while the ignorants are admired and celebrated for their idiotic antics in seeking attention. The integrity of the sacred Dharma has largely been compromised by the misinterpretation of the unlearned and by those suffered from their lack of experiences in actual practices.
101.Q: What are the effects caused by imbalance of the four elements?
A: The four elements are the four fundamental constituents of earth, water, fire and air which give rise to the physical manifestation of the universe. Imbalance of the four elements are caused by the mental restlessness and the collective karma of the sentient beings, which are then manifested as epidemic, famine, tsunami, tornadoes, wars, social disorder, and all types of human tragedies. The causes of the four elemental imbalance and their effects are as follows:
- Imbalance of the earth element is the result of the collective karma generated by arrogant and conceited beings who are the causes of earthquakes, landslide, and all earth-related calamity.
- Imbalance of the water element is the result of the collective karma generated by greediness and grasping which are the causes of flooding, rainstorm and all water-related calamity.
- Imbalance of the fire element is the result of the collective karma generated by anger and malicious intent which are the causes of firestorm, bushfire, volcanic eruption, war, lawlessness and all fire-related calamity.
- Imbalance of the air element is the result of the collective karma generated by ignorance and stupidity which are the causes of hurricane, tornado, typhoon and all wind-related calamity.
102. Q: How likely would a precious human rebirth occur again for the beings of the degenerate age?
A: Shakyamuni Buddha revealed the number of gods and humans exist in our world are equivalent to the dust particles found on one single finger nail, while the remaining masses of dust particles that constitute the world represent the incalculable number of sentient beings who have lost their human bodies and exist in the lower realms of animals, hungry spirits and hell beings. During the degenerate age, it is regarded as normal by the masses to behave in a manner driven by confusion, grasping, competitiveness, and to take pride in the self-righteousness of validating one’s wayward outburst of emotions as acceptable, not realising it takes only one single act of ignorance to cause one to reborn repeatedly after death as animal and then as hungry spirit due to the animal’s instinctive craving for procreation and for taking lives to survive, before reborn in the hell realms repeatedly until all karma associated with the hell realms are exhausted before reborn again as animal, and repeated the same cycle of recurring rebirths amongst the three lower realms for a minimum period of 5000 kalpas before any probability of being reborn again as human - an unimaginable incredible long duration of exile when even the shortest kalpa is 16,000,000 years. The chance of anyone you care about right now in your life to experience the probability of consecutive precious human rebirths, is extremely remote without some immediate massive changes on their part. For one who truly cares about the ultimate welfare of oneself and those in their life, there is no better time to stop the endless chasing after ordinary goal that offer no meaningful benefit for oneself or others. In order to attain consecutive precious human rebirths requires one to adopt the conduct and practice of the noble beings while we still exist as human. It takes up to sixteen life times for an arhat to attain liberation from samsara, and countless kalpas for a bodhisattva to attain buddhahood. There is no greater compassion and loving-kindness for oneself and others than to value the rarity of precious human rebirth, for it offers us the opportunity to attain the ultimate lasting happiness for all beings.
103. Q: What is the true purpose of having a precious human rebirth?
A: The true purpose of having a precious human rebirth is to use one’s human life to exhaust all karma so that we may attain liberation from the recurring rebirths in samsara, instead of wasting our human life on the pursuit of pleasure and worldly goal, and ending up reborn repeatedly into the lowers realms until all karma are exhausted. A precious human rebirth usually occurred under the following circumstances:
- Descending from the heavenly realms after death due to not having enough merits to be reborn in heaven but still have sufficient merit to reborn as human. These may be gods (deva) who are blessed with handsome features and good faculties, or demi-gods (asura) who enjoys engaging in rivalry and the waging of conflicts. They will all inevitably descend into lower realms after death due to having spent their human life under the influences of the three poisions.
- Ascending from the lower realms such as that of animals after their karma to remain there are exhausted over aeons. They are usually reborn into lowly circumstances such as places of famine, war-torn countries or places of social unrest due to lack of merits for more fortunate rebirth. Dependent upon how they apply themselves in dealing with the challenging conditions they encounter as human, they may reborn into more fortunate circumstances or descending back to the lower realms after death.
- Recurring precious human rebirths due to the profound aspiration and meritorious conduct of a noble being such as that of an arhat or one on the bodhisattva path for the sake of all beings.
104. Q: Please explain this pith instruction from the Gems Of Wisdom for daily meditation: ‘The most profound miracle of the universe is its multi-universal properties, whereby the natural pattern of one universe is concealed within the structural integrity of another universe - mutually supportive of each other and yet totally co-independent’?
A: This is referring to the co-independent group dynamic and the inter-dependent influences that take place amongst the multiverse of the infinite galaxy. Whenever the metaphysical structure of any world has reached the stage of complete disintegration and return to the state of nothingness, the remaining sentient beings of the three lower realms of that world are transmigrated to another world to continue their existence until their karma are exhausted.
105. Q: Why are there different vehicles in Buddhist teaching?
A: While all the teachings of the Buddhas come from the same source, these teachings are presented in the format of view (tawa), meditation (gom, ting nge dzin, samten) and action (chöpa) to suit the need of different beings. All the different vehicles of hinayana, mahayana, vajrayana are in actuality, part of the same vehicle. When one has actualised full direct realisation of one’s nature, there is only one unified vehicle. Different vehicles only exist when you are still progressing through the different stages of practice.
106. Q: Is it the right conduct to forward queries to other teachers instead of first asking your own guru?
A: It is traditionally perceived as inappropriate decorum and disrespectful for a student to by pass their own guru and put forward their queries to other masters as if your own guru cannot help you while other masters who know far less about you can answer your questions.
107. Q: Is it the right decorum to attend other teachers’ discourses without first received permission from your own guru?
A: Students who attended other teachers’ discourse without first having received permission from their own guru are frowned upon from the traditional perspective. All the monks at Namdroling Monastery during the time of His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche must first seek permission from His Holiness before they can participate in the annual retreat at the monastery. Oftentimes, monks were instructed by His Holiness to repeat their Ngondro preliminary practices three or four times before they were permitted to move on to the next level of the retreat.
108. Q: Can anyone perform life releases of animals?
A: The practice of life releases (tse thar), or known more precisely as ransom for lives, should only be conducted by a qualified lama who is familiar with the sadhana of supplicating the blessings of the Five Buddhas for animals that are purchased from the market so that they can be released into a suitable habitat to live out their natural lifespan before taking rebirth into more fortunate conditions.
109. Q: What are the sign of making progress in Dharma practice?
A: The sign of having made progress in Dharma practice is that the manner with which you express your body, speech and mind, have become calm and free of obscured emotions and deluded urges to seek validation from others. You maintain a peaceful relationship with everyone around you regardless of the way they behave. This is the sign you have assimilated the Dharma teaching you received into your daily life through studying, reflection and meditation. Furthermore, you no longer chase after your thoughts endlessly, but instead, allow each thought to arise and dissolve of its own accord within the infinite awareness of your mind, not dissimilar to the observing of the rising and falling of wave in the sea.
110. Q: What are the factors leading to the corruption of Dharma practice?
A: The most common factors leading to the corruption of Dharma practice are:
- Faith tends to fickle and waver to and fro due to reliance on conceptual speculation.
- Devotion to the three jewels is compromised due to one’s attachment to the illusion of the ego.
- Over-estimating one’s intelligence due to conceit and reliance on worldly knowledge.
- Overtly absorbed in habitual urges to validate oneself due to one’s insecurity.
- Mistakenly believe that attending Dharma teaching is sufficient without ever applying any genuine effort to integrate the instruction into daily life.
- Failing to extend the clarity attained from meditation into post-meditation during daily activities.
- Fond of insatiable loose talk leading to rapid depletion of merits and increase in misfortune.
- Getting distracted by one’s attachment to meaningless activities that bear no fruit of virtue.
- Wasting precious human life to appease mundane beings who can never be satisfied.
- Ignoring the correct stages of Dharma practice in favour of self-indulgence in fantasy.
- Complete lack of discipline in maintaining a calm-abiding, self-regulated, altruistic mind that is free from pretence and hidden agenda.
- Unwilling to accept whatever that has disturbed one’s mind is caused by one’s poor effort in Dharma practice and not due to the changes of circumstances or the behaviour of others.
- Pre-occupied with the desire to point out flaws of others instead of uncovering one’s own flaws.
- Inability to mingle one’s mind with the certainty of the ultimate truth that can only be attained through the practice of pure view and insight meditation.
111. Q: How should pure view be cultivated?
A: Pure view is the cognition of the essence of equality and sameness in dharmata - the true nature of all phenomena. What we regarded as flaws in others are in actuality the reflections of our own delusions. Once we are free from the confine of the dualistic views, and started to perceive what deemed by ordinary beings as good fortune or misfortune with equal equanimity, every experience in our life instantly transform into an opportunity for us to further the cultivating of impartial clarity in the absence of confusion and mistaken impression. Whenever we come upon those who are permeated with the excellent qualities of the noble beings, we should strive to emulate and replicate the same qualities in ourselves. Whenever we come upon those who are neither noble nor virtuous, we should observe without judgment, then reflect upon ourselves to see whether we may have shared similar traits in any way. Whenever we experience sickness and obstacles, we should be grateful and perceive these phenomena as the guru’s blessings to expedite the purification of our negative karma.
The most efficacious path to cultivate pure view is through the practice of guru yoga - the one and only path as used by the Buddhas of the three times. Through the path of guru devotion, we examine daily anew whether we have apply ourselves diligently with equal measures of equanimity and altruistic intent in accordance to the pith instruction of one’s vajra guru as we continue with our increasingly blissful journey to attain the unsurpassable perfect enlightenment of the Buddhas.
112. Q: What is the relationship between devotion and blessing?
A: It requires tremendous amount of good fortune to have the opportunity to chance upon an authentic vajra guru. It is even more rare and requires a great store of merits to receive personal instruction from such an accomplished vajra guru. The attainment of your liberation and realisation are dependent entirely upon the introduction to the nature of your mind by the pith instruction and blessings of the vajra guru. Only the purest of devotion can invoke the greatest shower of blessings. The amount of blessings we received are always in proportion to the intensity of our devotion to the guru.
113. Q: Why are there so much conflicts and turmoils in the world today?
A: It is chiefly because the majority of the human population in the world are previously asura (lhamin), descended from the terrestrial heavenly realms after death due to their lack of merits to get reborn there. Also known as demi-gods, jealous gods or titans, they share the same residence as the gods (deva) of the terrestrial heavenly realms located in Mount Meru (ri rab) at the centre of our universe.
114. Q: What is the difference between demi-gods and gods?
A: Both demi-gods and gods are supernatural beings who share the same father but possess different innate attributes and preferences in their lifelong activities. Demi-gods are known for their unprincipled passion, jealousy and their obsession with the acquiring of power, wealth and prestige through acts of violence. They are constantly challenging and waging war against the gods but always end up in defeat due to the supremacy of the gods. Demi-gods with lesser merits also reside in the world of human, animals and hungry spirits.
115. Q: What are the characteristics of human who are descendants of demi-gods?
A: Human who are descendants of demi-gods are known for their egotistic, arrogant, competitive aptitude. They are prone to rivalry, jealousy and anger, with strong craving for power and material acquisition. As parents, they like to dominate their family. In relationship, they are possessive and demand adulation. The male are boastful, argumentative and addicted to competitive sport. The females are spiteful, addicted to attention seeking and gossiping to the extent of advocating untruth. Their common characteristics are pride, pretentious, insincere, ungrateful, absence of loyalty, and are ever so emotional and vindictive when they do not get what they desire, which often lead to all types of self-harm or belligerent action against others.
116. Q: Why is the energy of the classical qigong so different from other qigong traditions?
A: The energy of the classical qigong that I teach is the extension of the pure discipline of the mind from Dharma practices and not from the mere physical movement of techniques. That is why the energy I share with students who approached the teaching with pure faith have been known to experience unblocking of their channels to released trapped energy caused by pent-up emotions and other karmic causes.
117. Q: What is the origin and the principle of classical qigong?
A: Classical qigong was first taught at the Shaolin Monastery in China by Bodhidharma, the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism who succeeded the lineage of Shakyamuni Buddha. Bodhidharma was renowned for remaining in samadhi meditation for nine years in a cave near the Shaolin Monastery without taking any food nor water. He simply co-existed with nature which sustained him for the duration of his nine years retreat.
The principle of classical qigong can be summed up by the following pith instruction:
“Elaborated action is not as effective as subtle action,
Subtle action is not as effective as the non-manifested action,
It is the action within the non-manifested action that is the ultimate action.”
In the practice of any energy arts such as qigong (tsalung), methods that involve elaborate movements and breath control to release karmic energy through the unblocking of channels is not suitable for those who do not have the appropriate constitution. Classical qigong offers an alternative means through cultivating pure discipline of the mind to cause a unified state of oneness with the dharmata of phenomena to arise, and in doing so, purify the residue of karmic energy still exist within the consciousness and the physical body.
118. Q: Which are the four spontaneous visions as mentioned in the bodhicitta prayer of Riwo Sangcho?
A: The four visions (nang was shyi) you enquired are related to the tantric practice of togal. The four visions are:
- direct experiencing the nature reality (chönyi ngön sum).
- increasing of experience (nyam gong pel).
- intrinsic awareness attaining full maturity (rigpa tsé pep).
- dissolution of phenomena beyond the mind (chönyi zésa).
119. Q: Which are the three conceptions as mentioned in the seven-part supplication prayer of Riwo Sangcho?
A: These are referring to the eighty conceptions (rang zhin gyé chü kün tok) of various emotional and cognitive states. They are divided into three groups:
- the first group - which arises from anger - has thirty-three types of conceptualization;
- the second - which arises from desire - has forty types of conceptualization;
- the third - which arises from ignorance - has seven types of conceptualization.
120. Q: What are the seven riches from the prayer that swiftly accomplishes all wishes?
A: These are the seven noble treasures (pakpé nor dün) from Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend:
“The Buddha has said that
Faith, Discipline, Generosity,
Liberation of the mind through listening,
A stainless sense of moral decency,
Consideration for others and
Discriminating awareness wisdom
Are the seven treasures of an arya.
Recognise other worldly treasures have no value”.
These seven noble treasures are thoroughly explained in the Pathgate teaching - Guru Yoga: The Benefits Of Remembering The Lama from the archive of Gateway to Tibetan Buddhism which is available on the Pathgate website.