Tagarchief: Mahayana

Great Ancient Masters


      Jampa in Nalanda India                                                                               foto : jampa
Great Ancient Masters ( many of whom taught in Nalanda )

The wisdom teachings of the Mahayana are contained in three primary sets of writings. The first and oldest of these are the Prajnaparamita texts, which date to the beginning of the current era. These wisdom texts go beyond conventional understanding and speak directly to one’s innate enlightened nature. They are the first pointing out texts –transmitting the transcendent wisdom that sees the emptiness of all conceptualized views of reality.

Later, Nargarjuna applied the insights of the Prajnaparamita to classical Indian philosophy and through his articulation of the nature of emptiness beautifully and impeccably dismantled prevailing scholastic views on the nature of reality, establishing the primacy of the inexpressible as the heart of the Buddhist path. In the Mahayana tradition Nargarjuna is seen as the primary spokesperson of the Pranjaparamita literature.

These teachings were united with the meditative and devotional traditions of Mahayana by a brilliant set of teachers from Gandhara, Asanga and Vasubandu, whose works are the culmination of the early Mahayana movement. The school that held this transmission tradition was Yogacara, which became the leading philosophical school in India during the 3rd to 5th centuries, at the same time that Neoplatonism was the leading philosophical school in the Classical Western World. Yogacara teachings still form the philosophical core of the great Buddhist contemplative lineages such as Zen, Mahamudra and Dzogchen. In a similar manner Neoplatonism underlines Western contemplative lineages.

Yogacara translates as “practitioners of yoga” emphasizing the school’s commitment to meditation as the essential nature of the Buddhist path. It is also known as the Consciousness Only School for their central teaching that all reality is a display of consciousness.


According to the Tibetan tradition, Asanga was born in Purusapura, the capital of Gandhara, of a Brahmin woman who was herself a considerable adept in the teachings of Buddhism and who taught him the “eighteen sciences” which he mastered easily. He became a monk and for five years applied himself diligently, memorizing one hundred thousand verses of dharma each year and correctly understanding their meaning.

He then left the monastery to practice the Arya Maitreya Sadhana in a cave at the foot of a mountain. For three years, not a single good sign appeared, and he became depressed and decided to leave his retreat. Emerging from his cave he noticed a bird’s nest by the mountain where the rock had become worn just by the brushing of the bird’s wing as it flew back and forth. Realizing his perseverance was weak, he returned to his cave to practice. For three more years he meditated, but again not a single good sign appeared. He became discouraged and left again. This time he saw a rock beside the road that was slowly disintegrating because of the trickle of single drops of water. Inspired by this, he returned and practiced another three years.

When again no signs appeared, he left his retreat a third time. He encountered an old man who was rubbing a piece of iron with a smooth cotton cloth. “I am just finishing this needle,” the man said to Asanga. “I have already made those over there” and pointed to small pile of needles lying nearby. Asanga thought, “If such effort is put into a mundane task such as this, my effort so far has been merely a trifle.”

He returned and meditated for another three years. Although he had by now meditated for 12 years on Maitreya, he still had no signs of favor. He became extremely despondent and walked away from his cave. After awhile he came across a half-dead dog lying beside the road, infested with maggots, crying out in pain. Asanga thought, “This dog will die if these worms are not removed, but if I try to lift them out with my hand, I will crush them.” So using his tongue so as not to hurt them, and cutting off some of his own flesh for them to live in, he bent down to remove them. At that moment the dog vanished and Maitreya appeared, showering cascades of light in all directions.

Asanga burst into tears and cried, “Ah, my sole teacher and refuge, all those years I made so much effort in my practice, exerting myself in a hundred different ways, but I saw nothing. Why has the rain and the might of the ocean come only now when tormented by pain, I am no longer thirsting?” Maitreya replied, “In truth, I was in your presence constantly, yet because of karmic obscuration you were unable to see me. However, your practice has purified your karma and removed your obstacles. Now by the force of your great compassion you are able to meet me. To test my words, put me on you shoulders for others to see and carry me across the city.”

Asanga was overjoyed. Lifting Maitreya onto his shoulders carried him into town, yet no one saw Maitreya. One old woman saw Asanga was carrying a dead dog and that brought her endless good fortune. A faithful servant saw Maitreya’s feet and found himself in a state of samadhi which granted him all the siddhis. Asanga himself realized the samadhi called “Continuum of Reality”. “What is your desire now?” Maitreya asked him. “To revive the teachings of the Mahayana,” Asanga replied. “Well then, hold onto the end of my robe.” Asanga did this and together they ascended to the pure land of Tushita where they stayed for fifty years. Here Asanga mastered the teachings of the Mahayana and received the famous Five Texts of Maitreya, each of which opens a different door of samadhi.

Dedicated to actualizing these teachings, Asanga returned to the earth and built a small temple in a forest. At first only a few students came to learn teachings from him, but gradually the fame of his doctrine spread and the Yogacara School was established. He became the abbot of Nalanda and lived to be well over 100, but always had a youthful look, with no gray hair or wrinkles.

He compiled many important Mahayana works including what has come to be known as The Five Texts of Maitreya. These include the Abhisamayalamkara (Ornament of Clear Comprehension), the  Mahanaya Sutralankara (Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras),  the Madhyanta-vibhanga (Discourse on the Middle between the Extremes), the Dharma-dharmata-vibhaga, and the Uttaratantra (The Peerless Continuum). His Mahayana-samparigraha (Compendium of the Mahayana), Abhidarma-samuccaya (Compendium of Higher Doctrine), and Yogacharabhumi-shastra (Treatise on the Stages of Yoga Practice) are also famous.

According to the Tibetan historian Taranatha, Tantric teachings were handed down in secret through the Yogacara lineage from the time of Asanga. In the Tibetan canon are several Tantric works ascribed to Asanga including a Maitreya Sadhana and a Prajna-Paramita Sadhana.


The cofounder of Yogacara, Vasubandu, is traditionally said to be the younger brother of Asanga. He was also born in Purusapura in Gandhara and became a monk of the Sarvastivadin school. He went to Kashmir to study their teachings including their renown Abhidharma works. He also was said to possess a complete understanding of the Tripitaka and the tenets of all the Hinayana schools.

Vasubandu wrote Seven Branches of Metaphysics, an encyclopedic work clarifying the main points of teachings of the early Arhats, The Four Oral Traditions of Vinaya on Buddhist discipline, and the most famous compendium of Abhidharma teachings in the Buddhist tradition, the Abhidharma-kosa and a commentary to it called the Abhidharma-kosa-Bhayasa. The Kosa describes the Buddhist path to enlightenment by categorizing and analyzing the basic factors of experience called dharmas.

Impressie uit Nalanda hd from jampa gyatso on Vimeo.

Already famous for his intellectual understanding of Buddhism, Vañsubandu came to Nalanda University and was converted to the Mahayana by Asanga. According to a traditional account, Asanga summoned Vasubandu under the pretext that he was dying. When Vasubandu arrived and asked the cause of his illness, Asanga replied, “I have a serious disease of the heart which arose on account of you.” Vasubandu asked, “How did it arise on account of me?” Asanga replied, “Because you do not believe in the Mahayana and are forever attacking and criticizing it. For this wickedness you will be reborn in a miserable existence. Grieving for you has brought me close to death.” Vasubandu was surprised at this and asked Asanga to expound the Mahayana to him. Upon doing so he became convinced of the truth of the Mahayana and asked his brother what he could do to overcome the negative karma he had accumulated. Asanga answered, “Since your skillful and eloquent speech against the Mahayana earned you this negative karma, you must now use your skillful and eloquent speech to propound the Mahayana.”

De ruines van Nalanda , Bihar , India                                                                                                                           foto : jampa

Vasubandu went on to write many works which systematized the Consciousness Only teachings including On the Three Natures, the Twenty Verses, and the Thirty Verses, perhaps the most famous of the Consciousness Only texts. He also wrote devotional hymns and commentaries on Mahayana texts, including works of Asanga. He is also credited with being the founder of Pure Land Buddhism.

According to one Tibetan account,

Vasubandu was in the habit of reciting daily the Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 Verses. Once a year he would sit in an iron cauldron filled with sesame oil and for fifteen consecutive days and nights would recite five hundred Hinayana sutras and five hundred Mahayana sutras. After Asanga passed away, he became abbot of Nalanda. Every day he taught 20 classes on various Mahayana Sutras and constantly met in debate and defeated the false views of other teachers. For over 100 years he traveled in India and Nepal establishing the dharma and teaching the Mahayana doctrine.

Many of his debates were with Samyka teachers, a school like Yogacara based on yogic experience that flourished at that time. Other debates were with proponents of yoga as reflected in Patanjali’s famous sutras.

After a long life, Vasubandu eventually left this world to reside in the Tushita heaven with Maitreya.


Stirmati was one of the famous disciples of Vasubandu. He was born in the southern Indian city of Dandakaranya of low caste parents, and studied with Vasubandu from age seven. He wrote commentaries on Abhidharma and the works of Vasubandu, including the Trimsikabhasya (Commentary on The Thirty Verses).


Dignaga, another disciple of Vasubandu, was one of the most respected Indian philosophers. Born in the southern Indian city of Simhavakta to a Brahmin family, he became a monk with a Hinayana teacher, but dissatisfied with the Hinayana teachings went in search of further instruction and met Vasubandu.

Every day he would recite 500 Mahayana sutras. From a tantric master who was an emanation of Heruka he received the empowerment and the “Method of Actualization” of Manjushri. By practicing this, he received a vision of Manjushri, and from then on received teachings from Manjushri whenever he wished.

Dignaga is known as the founder of Buddhist logic. He wrote over a hundred works on logic and other matters including Arya Prajnaparamita -samgraha-karika (A Verse Compendium of the Noble Perfection of Wisdom), and the Pramanasamuccaya (The Synthesis of All Reasoning). The later was such a profound and timely text that according to the Tibetans when Dignaga wrote the salutation to the work, “Homage to him who is Logic personified…”, the earth shook, thunder and lightning flashed, and the legs of all the heretical teachers in the vicinity became as stiff as wood. Using his skills at logic, he became famous as a debater. He was also famous for his miracles and had many disciples. He traveled throughout India establishing Mahayana, and spent many years in Kashmir. He completed his life meditating in a remote cave in the jungles of Odivisha.


Gunaprabha, one of Vasubandu’s closest disciples, is famous for his mastery of Vinaya. He was born in Mathura of a Brahmin family. He studied the Vedic teachings, and the Hinayana teachings in addition to receiving Mahayana teachings from Vasubandu.

According to the Tibetan accounts, he recited the Hundred Thousand Vinayas daily and resided in a monastery in Mathura called Adrapuri that had 5000 monks, all of whom kept the Vinaya rules perfectly.

He composed the Vinaya-Sutra, Basic Teachings of the Vinaya and One Hundred Actions. His Aphorisms of Discipline are one of the “five great books” that form the basis for the twenty year study program in Tibetan monastic colleges.


Vimuktasena was another close disciple of Vasubandu. He is famous for his mastery of the Prajna-Paramita sutras. He was born in Jvala-guha in south-central India. He was a devotee of Maitreya and received both advice and teachings from the celestial Buddha.

He wrote a text called Twenty Thousand Lights on the Prajna-Paramitas. Towards the end of his life he became the spiritual guide of a king in South India and supervised twenty-four temples where he widely taught the Prajna-Paramita Sutras.


A disciple of Dignaga, Dharmapala became the head of Nalanda after his teacher died. After that he went to Bodhgaya and became abbot of the Mahabodhi Monastery. He died at the age of 32. He wrote a number of original works and commentaries most of which have been lost.


Dharmakirti was born in the southern Indian town of Cudamani to a Brahmin family. At an early age he became learned in the arts, the teachings of the vedas, medicine, grammar, and the tenets of the various sages. Then becoming inspired by the teachings of Buddha and the lineage of Pure Consciousness, he took ordination as a monk from Ararya Dharmpala and studied the Tripitaka from beginning to end. Every day he recited 500 different sutras and mantras.

He became a great adept at logic, equal to the master Dignaga himself, and wrote a famous commentary on Dignaga’s Synthesis of All Reasoning. He also wrote Seven Treatises of Logic. His works became the basis for debate training in the Tibetan monasteries. He himself was said to be such an excellent debater that the population of Indian sages of other schools was quite depleted by his efforts, since after losing they had to convert to Buddhism or throw themselves into the Ganges.


A disciple of Dharmapala, Silabhadra was born to a royal Brahmin family in the East Indian city of Samatata. He was conversant with the teachings of all sects, famous for his mastery of Buddhist sutras and commentaries, and became head of Nalanda where 104 years old, he taught the Chinese Master, Hsuan-Tsang, the Consciousness Only doctrine through his exposition of Asanga’s Treatise on the Stages of Yoga Practice.


Paramartha was one of the great translators of Buddhist texts into Chinese, Paramartha was already a master in India when he traveled to China in 546 at the age of 47. At the request of the emperor of China, he settled in the capital and began the translation of texts. Political instability in China forced him to move quite often, but he was still able to translate the important works of the Yogacara lineage into Chinese including the Abhidharmakosa, the Mahayana-Samparigraha, and various works of Vasubandu. He is also famous for his translation of the Diamond Sutra. All together, Paramartha translated sixty-four works in 278 volumes. His translations made the later success of Yogacara possible in China and inspired Hsuan-Tsang several generations later to travel to India for additional texts and commentaries.


Hsuan-Tsang in de Hsuan-Tsang Memorial Hall in Nalanda, India foto : Jampa


Hsuan-Tsang was a remarkable spiritual pilgrim who became one of the most famous Chinese Masters. The son of a poor Chinese official, he left home at the age of 13 to study Buddhism. According to a traditional account,

During those early years of study, if there was a Dharma Master lecturing on a Buddhist text, no matter who the Dharma Master was or how far away the lecture was being held, he went, whether it was a Sutra lecture, a Shastra lecture or a Vinaya lecture. He listened to them all. Wind and rain couldn’t keep him away from lectures on the Tripitaka, to the point that he even forgot to be hungry. He just took the Buddhadharma as his food and drink. He did this for five years and then took the Complete Precepts.

In 629 at the age of 27, having been a monk for fifteen years, he secretly left China and made the dangerous journey across the silk road to India. Sixteen years later, having learned Sanskrit and studied with the best Indian teachers, he returned with an incredible collection of 657 Indian texts, a number of statues of the Buddha and various relics. He was acclaimed by the Emperor who supported him the remainder of his life so he could translate the texts and convey the Mahayana teachings to China. On his deathbed he dedicated his merit so that all present would be born again among the inner circle of Maitreya in Tushita Heaven

De reis van Hsuan-Tsang in de Hsuan-Tsang Memorial Hall Nalanda India                                  foto : Jampa

His Cheng Wei Shih Lun (Treatise on the Attainment of Consciousness Only), a compendium outlining Yogacara doctrine, became the standard text for the Consciousness Only schools of China and Japan.

He translated many other Sanskrit texts into Chinese including the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, which filled 600 volumes, Asanga’s Treatise on the States of Yoga Practice, the Master of Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagata which established the practice of the Medicine Buddha in China and the Far East.

Yogacara Masters After Hsuan-Tsang

Kuei-Chi (638-682 A.D.) was Hsuan-Tsang’s most prominent Chinese student. He systematized the Yogacara teaching and established Yogacara as a distinct school in China, called Fa-hsiang. He also wrote commentaries to Hsuan-Tsang’s Yogacara works including the Fa-yuan-i-lin-chang and the Wei-shih-shu-chi.

Hsuan-Tsang also had several notable Japanese and Korean students. Dosho (628-700) studied with Hsuan-Tsang for ten years sharing a room with Kuei-Chi. When he left to go back to Japan he was given sutras, treatises and Yogacara commentaries to help him establish Yogacara there which he did, teaching at Bwangoji monastery. His most famous student is Gyogi (667-748). A Korean student Chiho studied with Hsuan-Tsang and also went to Japan to teach. His pupil Gembo went back to China in 716 and was instructed by Chih-Chou, a pupil of Kuei-Chi. Another early Japanese student who studied with Hsuan-Tsang was Chitsu. “Thus,” as Junjiro Takakusu wrote in his Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy in 1947, “Japan received the orthodox teaching sacrosanct from first-hand authorities of the Indian and Chinese Yogacara School and with the Japanese even now it is the chief subject of Buddhist learning.”

Hosso, the Japanese name for Yogacara, thrived during the Nara period and today several prominent ancient temples are still functioning. Yogacara proper in India and China did not fare so well. The Yogacara School in India became part of a Yogacara-Madhyamika School which thrived in the last centuries before Buddhism disappeared in India under Islamic persecution. This school became influential in Tibet through Santaraksita, one of the first Buddhist Masters to teach in Tibet, and today all Tibetan sects have a strong Yogacara component. This is especially visible in the more contemplative Kagyu and Nyingma practice traditions. Several Kagyu teachers have supervised English translations of Asanga’s works in recent years.

An example of the respect Tibetan teachers have for Yogacara is this appreciation taken from a dharma talk by the Venerable Traleg Rinpoche,

People have generally ignored how Yogacara philosophy influenced Buddhist tantra and its development. Even though it’s quite patent in the writings of Buddhist tantra… Yogacara philosophy itself developed as a reaction against too much theorization. It came to emphasize individual experience and practice,hence the name Yogacara, meaning practitioners of yoga… You could not theorize about Yogacara philosophy without meditating. In fact, you could not be a Yogacara philosopher unless you meditate. When we look at the writings of Yogacara philosophy, we discover many tantric concepts mentioned.

The Fa-hsiang School suffered under the general persecution of Buddhism in China during the middle of the 9th century and gradually disappeared. However, its works are still preserved, and it was revived in the 20th century by several Masters including Ou-Yang Ching-Wu (1871-1943), Abbot Taiuhso (1889-1947, and Hsin Shih-Li (1883-1968), who wrote A New Doctrine of Consciousness Only in 1944. This revival led to the Hsuan-Tsang’s Cheng Wei Shih Lun being translated into English for the first time in 1973 by Wei Tat, a member of a Hong Kong Yogacara group.

Perhaps the greatest success of the Yogacara teachings was in Gandhara where it Third Turning was revealed. There Yogacara became the foundation for Dzogchen which flourishes today in Tibet as the summit of Buddhist philosophy. That is no small honor for the remarkable work the early Yogacara Masters accomplished in clarifying the essence of the Mahayana path.


Khandro-la Namsel Dronma




(Excerpted from an interview with Khadro-la conducted by Ven Roger Kunsang, and featured in
Mandala magazine, August 2008)

Ven. Roger Kunsang: Can you tell me why you left Tibet?
“I didn’t have the intention, and I didn’t have the money to travel. I followed a sign that came
in my dreams. There was a bus blowing its horn indicating its departure, and until I got on the
bus I was unaware of where I was heading. I learnt from the other people on that bus that they
were going to Lhasa and thence to Shigatse. A couple of days into the journey I learnt that
they were also planning to go to Mount Kailash.
“One day, while we had stopped our journey at Shigatse, I was circumambulating Tashi
Lhunpo Monastery when I came across an elderly man dressed in an Indian cloth doti. This
complete stranger gave me 2000 gormo. He asked me to sit beside him, and begun to tell me
many unusual stories. He told me that India was just beyond this mountain, and that I should
be meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many other lamas. He kept urging me to
head for India – and at the time it didn’t feel at all strange, although when I recall it now it
seems amazing to me.”
There was much hardship. I had no mission of my own and was just following the pilgrims. I
don’t remember very clearly how long the journey was, but I did fifteen koras round Mount
Kailash and due to my unusual actions and the words that I was speaking, rumors were going
around that I was a dakini. People began to line up to see me, even seeking blessings from
me. It was very tiring for me to deal with the crowds, but a very kind monk from a nearby
monastery took good care of me with food and drink. He even organized a better system for
the people who came to see me for blessings, etc. Many of those people expressed their wish
to go to India with me. One night, quite suddenly and without any discussion, I made up my
mind to leave for India and so a man who was our guide led seventeen of us from the bus
along the trail that leads to the border. He wasn’t very experienced and it took seventeen days
to reach Kathmandu in Nepal. It should have taken only seven days. We were in no man’s
land, and as there were no real paths or people to ask, it was impossible to tell whether we
were even out of Tibet. We had to just follow the signs I got in my dreams. When we were
confused about the way, I was instructed to go in the direction where there appeared a circle
of light. Maybe this was the blessing of the Dalai Lama or Palden Lhamo.
“Sometimes we had to walk all day without any food or drink, and sometimes we had to walk
all through the night. We were not prepared for such a long journey.
“When I arrived in Nepal, I fell seriously ill with food poisoning and could not continue with
my companions towards India. I had to stay at the reception center in Kathmandu, vomiting
blood, which made the staff suspicious that I had a contagious disease. I was left to sleep
outside the building in a field. I was so weak that I couldn’t change position. When I needed
to move, they used long sticks to push me back and forth because they were afraid to touch
me with their hands. As my condition worsened, the staff thought I wouldn’t survive, and so


asked me if I wanted to leave a last message for my family and asked for the address to deliver it.

“So I made a request for monks from a monastery to do prayers after I died and to take my
body for cremation to a peak which I later found out is the holy Nagarjuna hill where Buddha
had spoken the sutra called Langru Lungten.
“I asked them to take my urine in a bottle and give it to whomever they met first at the
Boudhanath Stupa entrance. By now I was semi-conscious, but they were kind enough to do
this favor for me. The person who took my urine met a man at the gate who turned out to be a
Tibetan physician. He tested my urine and diagnosed that I had been poisoned with meat,
prescribed some medicine and even sent me some blessing pills. My health improved
dramatically and I had many good dreams. When I recovered, I was sent to the Dharamsala
reception center, together with some other newly-arrived people.
“I arrived in Dharamsala not long after some monks from my village had quarreled with the
staff of the center – and so they had a negative impression of anyone who came from the
same area. Consequently I, too, became the victim. Since I was quite young I was asked
whether I would like to join school or did I want to have some skills training. My reply was
quite straightforward and honest. I said I had no interest in going to school and neither did I
want to learn something else. When I was back at home I always had the very strong will to
serve good meditators, and so I used to collect firewood and deliver water for the meditators
who lived around my village. I didn’t even know that Tibet was occupied by the Chinese and
that that was why Tibetans went into exile. I was not tortured by the Chinese and I didn’t
have any lack of food or clothing. My only wish was to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and
as I have a problem of going into craziness sometimes, I merely wanted to know from His
Holiness whether that was good or bad. That was all I wanted, otherwise I just wanted to
return to my own home.”
“I couldn’t get an audience with His Holiness because I was accused of having a contagious
disease which might infect him. Some said I was mad. Some even said I ought to be leaving
the center or be sent to an insane asylum. I was even banned from public audiences for
several months. Instead, I circumambulated the Dalai Lama’s palace every morning. One day,
I heard that His Holiness was coming back home, so I hid beside the road to greet him. As his
car passed by Namgyal Monastery, I saw a very bright light radiating on the front window of
the car and inside I saw him with many hands around his shoulders! It was the first time I had
ever seen His Holiness and I just jumped towards the car to prostrate, and I fell unconscious,
almost under the car.
“I was carried back to the center by a man from my village and again the shower of scolding
began. But I think a very strong change happened in me by seeing His Holiness and I never
got angry with the staff. I thought, ‘Oh! They have to take care of so many people and of
course they get upset sometimes.’
“Despite many requests, I still wasn’t given an audience with His Holiness. At a public
teaching I managed to find a seat. As he came in escorted by security personnel, I was possessed by the protector and the guards took me away from the courtyard where the
teachings were to take place, telling me to stay at the bottom of the stairs. I felt so sad to think
what evil karma I must have created in the past that now I can’t even see His Holiness.
“The teaching began with the recitation of the Heart Sutra. I could hear His Holiness
chanting, and as he was saying “no eyes, no nose,” etc., I started to have a very strange
feeling. By the time he was saying “form is empty and emptiness is form,” I felt rays of light
were showering on me, entering from the crown and filling my whole body. I felt lifted up in
the air. I had a strong feeling of joy and sentiment.
“As time went by, I came to know some meditators and came in contact with some great
lamas such as Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche and Khalkha Jetsun Dampa. I received blessing water
from them, and they, too, tried many ways to make my contact with His Holiness possible.
But no progress was made, and so I finally made up my mind to return to Tibet. I was
exceptionally sad at not being able to fulfill some of the tasks the old man in Shigatse has
asked me to do. There were some important things that I should do, such as making a long
life offering and some other secret thing, and time for all those activities was running out.
“I informed Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche of my decision, but he insisted that I did not return. He
said that he saw in me something more important than just an oracle; he could see some
specialness in me. He said I would be very helpful to His Holiness, and advised me to remain
in Dharamsala. ‘I myself will make the golden bridge between you and His Holiness.’ As I
listened to him, I wondered why such a great scholar and great lama said such comments
about me. Soon after, and out of the blue, I was approved for an audience, together with other
new arrivals.
“There were a lot of us waiting anxiously. I saw His Holiness coming toward us and I saw
him with so much light radiating and many arms, just as I had seen him before. As soon as I
stood up to make prostrations, again I was possessed and taken away by the security guards.
Perhaps I was kicked or punched, because I found bruises on my body when I regained
“But after His Holiness granted an audience to all the other people, he asked to bring up the
lady oracle and so I was taken to him. As soon as I went to him, I grabbed at his feet and
went unconscious again. When I came back to normal His Holiness asked me about my home
and many other questions, but I was just left speechless. No words came out – I was too
overjoyed to say anything. Later I was able to tell him all that the old man had told me in
Shigatse and he heard all about me and my problems. I was confirmed as the oracle of the
protector and His Holiness asked me not to go back to Tibet. His Holiness granted me
different empowerments and instructions, and I begun to do the retreats that he advised me to
“A house was given to me by the private office within Namgyal Monastery. It’s the same
house I live in today. It was during that time when the teacher in the Dialectic School was
murdered by the group of Shugden worshipers, and there were rumors that I too would be
assassinated. The monks of Namgyal Monastery were very concerned about my safety. That’s how we became close. Actually, I tried to refuse their protection. I told them that if my
fate is to be killed, then nothing can make it not happen, but that if my karma is not to die, the
Shugden worshippers cannot harm me. The monks didn’t listen to me and they continuously
took good care of me.
“As I was very weak physically, His Holiness contacted Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche and I was
sent to France for treatment. At that time I came to know Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Indeed,
because of my poor health I came to know so many people!
“During my retreat and practice there have been some good signs and some positive
outcomes too, but I like to say that all of these are just hallucinations. Whatever good
happens is no more than the blessing of His Holiness. I myself am no better than the poorest
being among the rest.
“About two years ago, His Holiness advised me that whenever the opportunity comes, I
should give teachings or any kind of service that I can deliver to those who are in need. But I
know I have nothing to offer to others. To tell you honestly, in my mind I have a very strong
belief that the essence of life is only to have the realization of bodhichitta and emptiness.
Though it is difficult to gain, my primary wish is to achieve indestructible faith in these two
before I die. If I cannot help people to generate these things, our meeting is just a waste of
time. Other than that, I am the poorest by inner, outer and secret perspectives. The best side
of me is only that I met the best Dharma, best practice and the best lamas.”
Ven. Roger: When did you first feel that you were a dakini?
K: “I always think I am not a dakini. I don’t know who I am. Some lamas say I am Khandro
Yeshe Tsogyal, some say I am Vajrayogini, and others say I am Tara. It might be their own
pure appearances. I myself think I am nothing special.
“When I was young some people said I was mad. Some said I was dakini. I don’t know. I
have no doubt that I have very strong karmic imprints from the past, because I have been very
dear to His Holiness and many other high lamas from Tibet and outside of Tibet. Some lamas
from Tibet, whom I never knew, sent me love, respect, good wishes and often offerings and
praises. Another reason is that sometimes the words to express the view of emptiness come
out of my mouth automatically – something I have never heard and studied before – but I
can’t remember later what I said.”

9 Round Breathing / Clarity of the Mind



Have your eyes either open a little bit or closed, which ever is better for you.

Relax your shoulders, have your hands on your lap with the right on top of the left; two thumbs touching; arms slightly away from your sides, hanging loosely by your sides.

Your mouth and jaw relaxed.

Chin tucked in a little bit.

Place the tongue on the roof of the mouth behind the upper teeth and breathe normally with a natural, steady rhythm.

Now let’s start the nine-round breathing exercise.

Using your right hand, your right index finger blocks off the left nostril while you are breathing into the right nostril.

Just let your breath come in slowly and steadily, pause for a moment, then block off the right nostril and breathe out the left nostril.

Slowly and steadily do the same three times,

in through the right and out through the left.

Focus completely on the breathing, on the sensation of the nostrils as you are breathing in and out.

For the next three breaths keep your right nostril blocked and breathe in through the left and then move your finger to block off the left and breathe out through the right.

So breathe in through the left and out through the right, three times.

For the last three breaths bring your hands back to your lap and breathe through both nostrils evenly, slowly and gently.

Pause for a moment and then exhale through both nostrils, keeping your mind fully focussed on the breath, on the sensations, as you breathe in and out.

Continue to breathe normally and bring into your mind a positive motivation for doing the meditation.

Think, ‘I am going to do this meditation in order to work on my mind, to be a more positive, beneficial person for others, for the world. May this meditation bring more peace and happiness to others, to the world’.

Once you’ve generated a positive motivation bring your awareness back to your breathing and just be aware of each inhalation and exhalation of breath.

Let your attention ride or float on the breath similar to the way you would float on the surface of the ocean where there are gentle waves coming and going.

Stay floating on the surface flowing with the wave, coming and going, flowing in and out, just let your attention rest or float on the gentle rolling rhythm of the breathing.

Now move your attention away from the breathing to the mind itself, that which is aware of breathing.

In other words instead of being aware of the breath, which is the object of your mind, the object of your awareness, become aware of the mind itself, the awareness itself, that which is observing the breath, experiencing the breath.

The mind is like space or like sky, completely clear, not solid, and vast, spacious and unlimited.

Try to get a sense of how your mind is like that, like this clear, vast, spacious sky.

The things that we are aware of, the thoughts, images, memories and so on, are similar to the clouds that pass through the sky.

They’re not always there but they appear and after a while they disappear.

If there are thoughts appearing in your mind while you are sitting here doing this meditation, thoughts, memories, images, or if you hear sounds or feel sensations in your body, think that these are just like clouds, passing through this space or clear sky of your mind.

Let them come and let them go, realise that they are only momentary and not solid, they just come and go.

Let them go and return your awareness to the mind itself, which is like the clear spacious sky.

See if you can get a sense of identifying with this clear space-like nature of the mind.

In other words feel, ‘this is the real me, this is my real nature, who I really am’.

Rather than identifying yourself with the temporary clouds of thoughts and emotions that past through your mind see if you can realise those as mental events, things that come and go in the mind.

They are not you and not who you really are.

Let them go and identify with the clear space like nature of your mind, your awareness, so that you are the sky, not the clouds.

Before opening your eyes mentally dedicate the merit or positive energy for doing this meditation.

In the same way you motivated at the beginning, may this meditation be beneficial for others, may it bring greater peace, happiness, and benefit to other beings, to the world.

So dedicate the effort that you made and the positive the energy you’ve created from doing the meditation to that goal.

This meditation has been made available with gratitude from the Foundation for the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) “How to Meditate” module of their Discovering Buddhism Home Study Program. click here




This is a very condensed and precious explanation of what Buddhism is all about.

So take your time to read this text bit by bit and repeatingly.

When you clearly analyze and feel able to accept the meaning, you more or less hold the key to understand most other Buddhist texts and (very important!):
the main purpose or goal of meditation, whatever technique or method is used (e.g. shine, deity yoga, awareness).

This teaching by HH. Kalu Rinpoche
should be printed in gold letters and illuminated with sparkeling rainbows of enlightenment!

The Mahamudra.(1).experience and approach is perhaps the quintessence of
all Buddhadharma.(2). In order for this quintessential approach to be
effective, we must have some understanding of the nature of the mind that we
are attempting to discover through the Mahamudra techniques.

Mahamudra has three aspects: foundation, path, and fruition.Foundation
Mahamudra is the understanding which is based on our appreciation of the
nature of mind. This must be augmented by the process of path Mahamudra
which is direct experience and acclimatization to that nature of mind through
meditation. Finally, there is the fruition or result aspect of Mahamudra,
which is the actualization of the potential inherent in the nature of mind.
This actual aspect of transcending awareness includes the Dharmakaya.(3),
Sambhogakaya.(4), and Nirmanakaya.(5) as the facets of completely enlightened
experience. It is not beneficial to speak of Mahamudra lightly; we must not
ignore any of these three aspects of the Mahamudra approach.

Foundation Mahamudra implies a deep appreciation and understanding of the
nature of mind. When we say that this is the correct view, we do not use the
phrase in a casual sense. Very often, we say, “Well, in my view, such and such
is the case,” but this does not necessarily mean that we have understood it at
all. We may say, “I believe in previous existences,” or, “I don’t believe in
future existences,” but very often our talk is not based on experience and
appreciation, but merely on an idea to which we give lip service. What is meant
in foundation Mahamudra is a thorough appreciation of the nature of mind
itself, the mind with which we are working, and the mind which we are
attempting to discover.

To get a deeper understanding of the nature of mind itself, we can quotes the
authority of enlightened masters of the lineage as a guide. The third Karmapa,
Rangjung Dorje), wrote a prayer of aspiration for the realization of Mahamudra
in which he said, “It is not existent because even the Buddha could not see it,
but it is not non existent because it is the basis or origin of all samsara.(6)
and nirvana.(7).” It does not constitute a contradiction to say that mind
neither exists nor does not exist; it is simultaneously existent and non existent.

Let us consider the first part of the statement that the mind does not exist.
We take into account that the mind is intangible. One cannot disscribe it or
find it. There is no fixed characteristic that we normally ascribe to things
which we can ascribe to mind. Consciousness does not manifest with any
particular color, shape, size, form or location. None of these qualities has
anything to do with the nature of mind, so we can say that the mind is
essentially empty of these limiting characteristics.

Even the fully enlightend Buddha Shakyamuni.(8).could not find any thing that
is mind, because the mind does not have identifying characteristics. This is
what Rangjung Dorje meant when he said, “It does not exist because even the
Buddha could not see it.”

So, then, is mind nonexistant? No, not in the sense that there is nothing
happening. That which experiences confusion, suffering, frustration and all the
complexity of samsaric existance is mind itself. This is the origin of all
unenlightened experience; it is within the mind that all unenlightened
experience happens.

On the other hand, if the individual attains enlightenment, it is mind
which is the origin of the enlightened experience, giving expression to the
transcending awareness of the various kayas.(9).

This is what Rangjung Dorje meant when he said, “One cannot say that it does
not exist, because it is the basis for all samsara and nirvana.” Wether we are
talking about an enlightened state of being or an unenlightened one,we are
speaking about the state of experience that arises from mind and is experienced
by the mind. What remains if mind neither exists nor does not exist?
According to Rangjung Dorje, this is not a contradiction, but a state of
simultaneity. Mind exhibits, at one and the same time, qualities of
non existance and qualities of existance. To state naively that mind exists is
to fall into one error; to deny the existance of anything at all is to fall
into another error. This gave rise to the concept of what is called the Middle
Way or Madhyamika. Finding a balance between those two beliefs, where there
is simultaneous truth to both, is the correct view, according to the Buddha’s
description of the nature of mind.

When we hear a guru make the statement, “Mind does not exist;mind does not
not exist; but it is at the same time existent and nonexistent, and this is
the middle view,” we may say, “Fine, I can accept that,” but that is not
enough. It is an idea that may appeal to us, a concept with which we are
comfortable, but that kind of understanding lacks any real spirit or depth.
It is like a patch you put on your clothes to hide a hole. One day the patch
will fall off. Intellectual knowledge is rather patchy in that way.It will
suffice for the present but it is not ultimately beneficial.

This is not to say that intellectual knowledge is unimportant.It is
crucial because it is that which gives us the ability to begin to develop
personal experience of what is being discussed. However, mere understanding
on a superficial or intellectual level should not be mistaken for the direct
experience. We can only arrive at that through meditation and the continued
analysis of our own experience. The value of intellectual knowledge is that
it is a springboard to deeper, more intuitive experience.

First, then, we say that mind is essentially empty, that is not describable
as some thing. Other than using the label mind., there is no thing that could
be further described in terms of form, shape, size, color or any
distinguishing characteristic.

Beyond this essential emptiness, we can make the statement that mind is
like space. Just as space is all-pervasive, so is consciousness. The mind
has no problem conceiving of any particular place or experience. While we
have attempted to describe the indescribable by saying that mind is
essentially empty, that is not the complete picture. We are speaking of
something that is obviously qualitatively different from simple space.We
need to remember that when we are using these terms, we are attempting to
describe something that is indescribable. However, that does not mean that
it cannot be directly experienced. The person who is mute is still able
to experience the sweetness of sugar without being able to describe it to
anyone else. Just as the mute person has trouble describing the taste of
sugar, we have trouble describing the nature of mind. We search for examples
and metaphors that will give us some idea of what is being experienced.

Another aspect of the nature of mind is its luminosity. Normally we think
of this term in a visual sense. We think of a luminous body like the sun or
the moon which shines and gives off light. However, this is merely a
metaphor to give us some idea of what is being hinted at. To say that the
mind is luminous in nature is analogous to saying that space is illuminated.
For example, we can have empty space and there might be no illumination;
then the space would be obscured. There is space, but no ability to see
clearly; there is no direct experience possible in complete darkness.
Just as there is clear vision in illuminated space, so in the same way,
while mind is essentially empty, it exhibits the potential to know,which
is its luminosity. This is not a visual experience per se, but the ability
of mind to know, perceive and experience.

In our continuing attempt to describe the nature of mind, to discribe the
indiscribable, we next speak of the unimpeded or unobstructed dynamic nature
of mind. It will be useful to divide this element of unimpededness into a
subtle and a gross aspect. The most subtle or fundamental level of the
unimpeded quality is an awareness of the emptiness and luminosity of the
mind. The mind is essentially empty and has this illuminating potential to
know and experience.

The coarse or gross aspect of the unimpeded dynamic manifestation of mind
is conscious experience, which does not depart from emptiness and
luminosity, but is the experience of, for example, seeing and recognizing
form as form, hearing and recognizing sound as sound, and so forth.This is
the ability of mind to experience the phenomenal world, to make
distinctions, to make value judgments based upon that discrimination.

We may utilize a metaphor here. The Emptiness of mind is the ocean; the
luminosity of mind is the sunlit ocean; and the unimpeded dynamic quality of
mind is the waves of the sunlit ocean. When we take the waves of the sun lit
ocean as an event or situation, it is not as though we are trying to seperate
ocean from waves from sunlight; they are three aspects of a single
experience. The unity of these three aspects forms the seed or potential
for enlightenment. They are the pure nature of mind; the impurity of
obscurations, ignorance and confusion overlays what is inherently the
nature of mind itself.

There has always been the pure nature of mind and there has always
been fundamental ignorance in the mind. The essential empty nature of mind
has never been recognized for what it is; the luminous nature of mind has
ever been experienced for what it is; and the unimpeded or dynamic
manifestation of mind, this consciousness, this awareness, has never been
directly experienced for what it is. Because this level of ignorance is so
subtle and so fundamental, and because it is co-existent with mind itself,
it has been valid as long as mind itself has been valid. We speak of it as
co-emergent ignorance.

Just as there are subtle and gross aspects to the dynamic awareness of
mind that we noted earlier, there are subtler and coarser aspects to the
ignorance of mind. We have already spoken of the fundamental level of
co-emergent ignorance, the lack of direct experience of the empty,clear
and unimpeded nature of mind itself, and this is the subtle aspect of
co-emergent ignorance.

There is second level of ignorance that we might distinguish which is
termed labelling ignorance; it is a more conventional or relative ignorance.
Not only do we lack direct experience of the essential emptiness of mind,
for example but we substitute the self or ego for that experience.The
individual mind as something ultimately real is a distortion that has taken
place, due to a lack of direct experience, and this is an example of
labelling or relative ignorance. Likewise, due to a lack of direct
experience of the clarity and luminosity of mind, there is a projection of
something other than the mind, an object other than the subject. This is
again a relative level of ignorance. Rather than being a simple lack of
direct experience, there has been a distortion into something.

So the second level of obscuration in the mind is the aspectof ignorance
which begins to label things as I and other. Lacking direct experience,
the distortion takes place on a coarser level of dualistic fixation between
subject and object.

Once we have this dualistic framework, of coarse, emotionality develops
and action takes place. Karmic tendencies are reinforced by actions based
on the emotional confusion which springs from dualistic clinging. All of it
is based upon the fundamental ignorance which is the lack of direct
experience of the nature of the mind itself.

The nature of mind is like empty space, like the sky, which at present is
filled with clouds and fog and mist and periodically has all kinds of
activity such as hailstorms, snowstorms, rainstorms and thunder and
lightning. This activity does not change the fact that the empty space is
still present, the sky is still there. However it is temporarily obscured
by all these activities. The reason the Buddha presented his teachings,
which encourage basic moral choices between virtuous and nonvirtuous
actions and encourage the practice of meditation, is to eliminate the
obscuring and confusing aspects of our experience. This permits the
inherently pure nature of mind to become more obvious and be discovered,
just as the sun becomes more obvious as the clouds begin to dissipate.

As the most effective means to bring about that transformation rappidly
and directly, the Mahmudra approach has no equal. It gives us the most
powerful methods to turn the balance, to eliminate obscurations and allow
that manifestation to take place. Our present situation as unenlightened
beings is due to the victory of ignorance over intrinsic awareness;
Mahamudra speeds the victory of awareness over ignorance.

When we are concerned with foundation Mahamudra, then, we first and
foremost need to be exposed to ideas. This should take place in the
presence of a teacher who holds the transmission and can accurately
introduce us to the concepts which are the theoretical underpinnings of
the Mahamudra approach. After we receive the teachings and understand
what is being said, we take them home with us and begin to apply them
to our own experience. We say to ourselves, “Well, mind is empty,
clear and unimpeded. What do I experience when I experience mind? Does
it exist; does it not exist?” We check with our own experience. That
is very beneficial for developing a kind of mental construct from which
we can work, though it is not the ultimate experience. Conceptual
understanding is only a springboard, because the theme of Mahamudra is
spontaneity and uncontrivedness, and it is still a very contrived
situation to think of the mind as being empty. To directly experience
the nature of mind itself requires meditation.

So on this foundation level of Mahamudra, the analytical approach is
followed by, and interwoven with, the more intuitive approach of relaxing
the mind in its own natural state. The particular skill required is that
it must be a state of total relaxation which is not distracted or dull.
It is not an objective experience of looking for the mind or looking at
the mind. On the other hand, it is not a blind process; we are not
unaware. There is seeing without looking; there is dwelling in the
experience without looking at the experience. This is the keynote of the
intuitive approach.

While the mind is poised in the state of bare awareness, there is no
directing the mind. One is not looking within for anything; one isnot
looking without for anything. One is simply letting the mind rest in its
own natural state. The empty, clear and unimpeded nature of mind can be
experienced if we can rest in an uncontrived state of bare awareness
without distraction and without the spark of awareness being lost.The
pure nature of mind calls to mind an image such as the sun or the moon,
a luminous body. The unimpeded nature of mind permits the act of
thinking of this form in the first place, and we can rest in the bare
perception of that form without any further elaboration; we dwell in the
bare awareness of that form.

Thus one’s approach in developing the foundation aspect of Mahamudra
is, at times, an analytical or conceptual approach of examining the mind
from the point of view or trying to locate it, describe it or define it,
and at other times an intuitive approach of dwelling in the experience of
total relaxation of mind, an uncontrived state of bare awareness which
allows the experience of the nature of mind to arise.

The third Karmapa wrote a prayer in which he said that confidence comes
of clearly establishing the parameters of practice by defining the nature
of mind precisely. Then the confidence of actually experiencing and
appreciating it on an intuitive level completes the foundation. The prayer
describes meditation as remaining true to that experience by refining
through continual attention to and absorption in that experience. Path
Mahamudra is the refining of and attending to the basic experience of the
nature of mind and refine it, then at a certain point, an automatic
quality arises; the experience happens without one generating it or
discovering it. The mind is subject to very little distraction at all.
When this occurs, one has entered into the level of path Mahamudra which
is termed.one-pointedness.or focus on a single thing. In this case,the
focus is on a single aspect of experience, the experience of mind nature.
Traditionally there are three degrees of this one-pointed experience:
a lesser degree of intensity, an intermediate, and a very intense degree.

As meditation continues, the next clearly definable stage is a certain
spontaneity, where the experience is no longer the result of any particular
effort; to think of meditation is to have the experience. One begins to
discover the incredible simplicity of the nature of mind, absolutely free
from any complication and this, in fact, is the name given to the second
phase of experience,.simplicity, the freedom from complication.
Traditionally this phase also has three degrees of intensity; a lesser
degree, an intermediate degree, and a very intense degree.

In the beginning, one is meditating for short and frequent periods of
time rather than attempting long periods of forcing the mind. But as
experience accumulates and simplicity arises, one’s meditation naturally
begins to be longer and longer duration. Soon the phase termed one flavor
arises, which is the experience of the essential quality of all aspects
of phenomenal experience. Soon, seeing form, hearing sounds, smelling
smells, tasting tastes, feeling textures, thinking thoughts, formless
states of awareness and form states of awareness all have the same flavor.
One perceives the underlying essential nature of these experiences,rather
than being concerned with the superficial content. This is the third phase
of the experience of path Mahamudra, the unique flavor of all aspects of
one’s experience, and again, it has different degrees of intensity forming
a spectrum of experience, rather than clearly defined steps.

The spontaneity of the experience will take over completely so that there
seems no need to meditate at all. The experience arises without there being
any particular thought of meditating. This is a glimpse which itensifies
further to become the actual experience of the nature of mind without there
being any thought of meditation. The most intensive degree of this stage is
that meditation and being become one. At that point there is no longer any
distinction between meditating and not meditating because one is always
meditating. The full experience of this is the most intense degree of the
fourth phase of path Mahamudra which is termed beyond meditation..The
sustained experience of this phase is the result of all one’s efforts,
Mahamudra. It is the quintessential experience, the pinnacle experience in
terms of the attainment of enlightenment and realization.

It is important to identify the context of the Mahamudra experience.
Tradition assures us that any approach, other than one’s own efforts at
purifying and developing oneself and the blessing that one receives from an
authentic and qualified guru.(10), is stupid. Of course, at a certain
point, the practice becomes spontaneous and the efforts to purify oneself
and to develop devotion to receive blessings from one’s guru become second
nature. However, this does not become spontaneous until the intense level
of the simplicity experience, the second phase of Mahamudra practice,when
the practice of meditation becomes one’s purification, one’s development
and the receipt of blessing from one’s guru. The fundamental identity of
the guru’s mind and one’s own mind begins to be directly perceptible;
one’s deepening awareness assures further development of merit and the
further purification of obscurations and negativity; there is no necessity
to formally supplicate one’s guru, meditate upon one’s guru or generate
devotion in order to receive blessing, because the meditation practice
carries one along.

Up to that point, however, the efforts that we make to purif yourselves,
to develop our devotion and open ourselves to the guru’s blessing are
absolutely crucial. Only present exertions will convey us to the time when
they are no longer necessary; the practice of meditation becomes the process
of purification, the process of development and the process of receiving

– This teaching was given by Ven. Kalu Rinpoche at a meditation retreat in
Marcola, Oregon, USA, in 1982 and edited from tapes by a team of
translators. It is part of the book: H. E. Kalu Rinpoche ‘The Foundations
of Tibetan Buddhism’ (Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY USA).

– Some Annotations
(1).Mahamudra = Great Seal (Sanskrit) ~ (2) Buddhadharma = teachings
(dharma) of the Buddha ~ (3) Dharmakaya = enlightened mind  of pure light
and emptiness (our immament etheric Buddha nature of light and sound;the
formless and  non-dualistic ‘reality’) ~ (4) Sambhogakaya = the mind in a
various dreamlike form-body’s (like during sleep or having visions of e.g.
deities, ghosts, various magical emanations) ~ (5) Nirmanakaya = the mind
in a physical body (physical ‘reality’) ~ (6) Samsara = world of illusion,
ignorance and karmic restrictions (our obvious ‘reality’). In the Buddhist
view even the worlds of highly realized gods and goddesses are not free of
illusion and karmic restrictions ~ (7) Nirvana = state of emptiness
(beyond illusion, ignorance and coarse karmic restrictions / our hidden
‘reality’) ~ (8) Buddha Shakyamuni = the historical Buddha ~ (9) kayas=
embodyments/states (Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, Dharmakaya) ~ (10) guru=
spiritual friend, experienced practitioner and teacher (p.s. in case you
don’t find such a person, try to visualize a radiant golden Buddha in front
of you or sitting on top of your head, blessing you with radiating golden
or rainbow-colored light, becoming your personal guru, and by melting into
your heart).

– Thank you for your interest!




Ringu Tulku Rinpoche is now giving teachings on the Bodhicharyavatara for the Online Shedra. We hope you will partake in this wonderful opportunity to study this important text with Rinpoche. No registration is required.

You are encouraged to leave study questions in the comment section under the latest teaching. Rinpoche will address the questions with a Q&A video approximately once a week. If you are catching up, you can also send questions regarding the previous teachings and not only the latest ones by email to studyquestions@bodhicharya.org.



Samsara and nirvana


Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

He who knows samsara knows nirvana
He who knows nirvana knows samsara
Nirvana is the state of mind which has erased all negative karmic imprints.
So, such a man/woman can no longer experience the suffering of samsaric cycles..
He/she is a buddha.
Samsara is the mind that is polluted with negative karmic imprints.
All suffering comes from ignorance.
That is why a buddha has omniscience.
As long as we are still in any state of ignorance about the real state of reality we will suffer rebirth after rebirth.
A buddha sees the suffering in samsara and has great compassion.
He/she once was suffering too.
So, a buddha, like Shakyamuni, who manifests himself in samsara shows us the Path of Liberation.
Enlightenment is better translated as awakening.
Buddha opened his eyes and it is said that he had an unwinking gaze for seven days and smiled because he had found the ultimate thruth.
Bodhi means awakening to the true view of all and everything.
Going in nirvana without showing the Path is considered by Mahayana buddhists as selfish.
A buddha that teaches is a bodhisattva of compassion.

The nature of mind is always pure as light.
But we cannot see its’ real nature as long as our negative emotions cover it up in illusions.



jampa photo 2010

In The Art of Living (2001) the 14th Dalai Lama says, “As your insight into the ultimate nature of reality is deepened and enhanced, you will develop a perception of reality from which you will perceive phenomena and events as sort of illusory, illusion-like, and this mode of perceiving reality will permeate all your interactions with reality. […] Even emptiness itself, which is seen as the ultimate nature of reality, is not absolute, nor does it exist independently. We cannot conceive of emptiness as independent of a basis of phenomena, because when we examine the nature of reality, we find that it is empty of inherent existence. Then if we are to take that emptiness itself is an object and look for its essence, again we will find that it is empty of inherent existence. Therefore the Buddha taught the emptiness of emptiness.”

Explanation of the Medicine Buddha Mantra


1. OM:  we begin with Om, the under-current tone of the universe

2. NAMO:  means yielding or full of trust; can also mean to bend or bow, and might mean to melt into

3. Bhagawate: means in intimate relation to the Divine and often means the entire cosmos

4. Bhaishjaye:  a name for the Medicine Buddha

5. Guru: Spiritual Master; also means the “that” which transmutes ignorance into wisdom

6. Vaidurya prabha:  Divine deep blue light, like that of Lapis Lazuli

7. Rajaya:  means Great King

8. Tathagataya:  means once came or once gone

9. Arhate:  one who has conquered the cycle of birth death

10. Samyaksam buddhaya:  perfectly enlightened

11. Teyatha:  do it like this

12. OM:  again we begin with Om, the under-current tone of the universe

13. Bekhajye bekhajye:  do away with the pain of illness

14. Maha bekhajye: do away with the pain of illness (of the darkness of Spiritual Ignorance)

15. Bekhajye:  do away with the pain of illness

16. Samudgate:  means the supreme heights. Like this, go go go

  (my prayer shall go to the highest and the widest and the deepest)

17. Svaha:  I offer this prayer and now relinquish it …  (to you Medicine Buddha)

Explanation of the meaning of the Mantra


Bekandze means eliminating pain, maha bekandze means great eliminating of pain. One explanation of the meaning of the first bekandze is that it refers to eliminating the pain of true suffering, not just of disease but of all problems. It eliminates the pain of death and rebirth that are caused by karma and disturbing thoughts. The first bekandze eliminates all the problems of body and mind, including old age and sickness.

The second bekandze eliminates all the true cause of suffering, which is not external but within the mind. This refers to karma and disturbing thoughts. It is the inner cause that enables external factors such as food and exposure to sunlight to become conditions for disease.

Scientists claim that intense exposure to the sun causes skin cancer. However, without the cause in the mind, there is nothing to make external factors become conditions for disease. Exposure to sunlight is a condition for skin cancer, but it is not the main cause. For those who have created the cause to get skin cancer, the external phenomenon of sunlight can become a condition for skin cancer.

For example, not everyone who sunbathes on the beach gets skin cancer. Also human beings have been exposing themselves to the sun for many thousands of years, but skin cancer is a comparatively recent phenomenon. The important question is: Why doesn’t everyone who is exposed to the sun get skin cancer? The proof that sunlight is not the main cause of skin cancer is that not everyone who is exposed to the sun gets skin cancer.

If someone has created the cause, as long as they do not do anything to purify it, the cause will definitely bring its own result; just as a seed that is planted will definitely result in a sprout as long as it is not eaten by birds, and so forth. Once there is a cause, as long as there is no obstacle to the cause, it is natural to experience its result.

So, the second bekandze refers to eliminating the cause of problems, karma motivated by disturbing thoughts.

The third phrase, maha bekandze, or “great eliminating,” refers to eliminating even the subtle imprints left on the consciousness by disturbing thoughts.

The Medicine Buddha mantra actually contains the remedy of the whole graduated path to enlightenment. The first bekandze contains the graduated path of the lower capable being in general; the second bekandze, the graduated path of the middle capable being in general; and maha bekandze, the graduated path of the higher capable being. The whole graduated path from the beginning up to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment is contained in the Medicine Buddha Mantra.

Reciting the mantra leaves imprints on our mind, so that we are also able to actualize the path contained in the mantra. It establishes the blessing of the whole path within our heart; we can then generate the whole graduated path to enlightenment, which is signified by bekandze bekandze maha bekandze.

 The OM is composed of three sounds, ah, o, and ma, which signify the Medicine Buddha’s completely pure holy body, holy speech, and holy mind. Actualizing the whole path to enlightenment purifies our impure body, speech, and mind and transforms them into the Medicine Buddha’s pure holy body, holy speech, and holy mind. We then become a perfect guide for living beings.

 With our omniscient mind we are able to effortlessly, directly, see, without mistake, the level of mind of every living being and all the methods that fit them in order to bring them from happiness to happiness, to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment.

We also have the perfect power to manifest in various forms to suit every living being and reveal the necessary methods to guide them, such as giving material help, education, or Dharma teachings. Whenever the positive imprint left by their past positive actions ripens, without delay of even a second, we can reveal various means to guide the living being to enlightenment.



Remember this


He who knows samsara knows nirvana
He who knows nirvana knows samsara
Nirvana is the state of mind which has erased all negative karmic imprints.
So, such a man/woman can no longer experience the suffering of samsaric cycles..
He/she is a buddha.
Samsara is the mind that is polluted with negative karmic imprints.
All suffering comes from ignorance.
That is why a buddha has omniscience.
As long as we are still in any state of ignorance about the real state of reality we will suffer rebirth after rebirth.
A buddha sees the suffering in samsara and has great compassion.
He/she once was suffering too.
So, a buddha, like Shakyamuni, who manifests himself in samsara shows us the Path of Liberation.
Enlightenment is better translated as awakening.
Buddha opened his eyes and it is said that he had an unwinking gaze for seven days and smiled because he had found the ultimate thruth.
Bodhi means awakening to the true view of all and everything.
Going in nirvana without showing the Path is considered by Mahayana buddhists as selfish.
A buddha that teaches is a bodhisattva of compassion.

The nature of mind is always pure as light.
But we cannot see its’ real nature as long as our negative emotions cover it up in illusions.

The Bodhisambhara Shastra


The Treatise on the Provisions Essential to Enlightenment


By Arya Nagarjuna

Translated into Chinese by the Great Sui Dynasty’s
South Indian Tripitaka Master Dharmagupta (550?-619 ce)

English Translation by Bhikshu Dharmamitra

Now, in the presence of all the Buddhas,
With palms pressed together, I bow down my head in reverence.
I shall, in accordance with the teachings, explain
The provisions essential for the bodhi of the Buddhas.

How would one be able to describe without omission
All of the provisions for the realization of bodhi?
This could only be accomplished by the Buddhas themselves,
For they, exclusively, have realized the boundless enlightenment.

As for the boundless meritorious qualities of a buddha’s body,
The provisions for enlightenment constitute their very root.
Therefore the provisions for enlightenment
Themselves have no bounds.

I shall then explain but a lesser portion of them.
I respectfully offer reverence to the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas.
All such bodhisattvas as thesexc2x97
They, after the Buddhas, should be given one’s offerings.

Since it is the mother of the Bodhisattvas,
It is also the mother of the Buddhas:
The Prajxc3xb1aparamita :
Is the foremost among the provisions for enlightenment.

Giving, moral virtue, patience, vigor, and meditative discipline
As well as that which extends beyond these fivexc2x97
In every case, because they arise from the perfection of wisdom,
They are subsumed within this prajnaparamita;.

These six paramita’s
Encompass the provisions for bodhi,
They are comparable in this to empty space,
Which entirely envelopes all things.

There is in addition the opinion of another master
That, as for the provisions for enlightenment,
Truth, relinquishment , quiescent cessation, and wisdomxc2x97
These four bases subsume them all.

The great compassion penetrates even the marrow of one’s bones.
Thus one becomes for all beings one on whom they can rely.
One’s regard for them is like that of a father towards his only son.
Thus loving-kindness then extends to everyone.

If one brings to mind the meritorious qualities of a buddha
Or hears of a buddha’s spiritual transformations,
One may be purified through one’s affection and joyfulness.
This is what qualifies as the great sympathetic joy.

As regards his relations with beings, the bodhisattva
Should not, on realizing equanimity, simply forsake them.
In accordance with whatever abilities his powers enable,
He should always strive to draw them in.

The bodhisattva, even from that time when his efforts begin,
Should, as befits the power of his abilities,
Employ skillful means to transform beings,
Thus causing them to enter the Great Vehicle.

If one transformed through teachings a Ganges’ sands of beings,
Causing them all to gain the fruit of arhatship,
Still, transforming a single person so he enters the Great Vehiclexc2x97
The merit from this is superior to the former.

Instructing through resort to the Hearer Vehicle
Or through resort to the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle
Is undertaken where, on account of lesser abilities,
Beings are unable to accept instruction in the Great Vehicle.

Where, even by utilizing the Hearer and Pratyekabuddha Vehicles
In addition to drawing on the Great Vehicle,
There are those who still cannot accept transformative teachingxc2x97
One should establish them in merit-creating circumstances.

If there be persons who are unable to accept
Transformative teachings conducing to the heavens or liberation,
One should employ the means of bestowing present-life benefits
And, as one’s powers dictate, one should draw them in.

Where a bodhisattva with respect to particular beings
Has no basis through which to teach and transform them,
He should raise forth great loving-kindness and compassion
And should not then simply cast them aside and forsake them.

Drawing in through giving, or through explaining Dharma,
Or through listening in return to others speaking about Dharma,
Or also through endeavors beneficial to themxc2x97
These are skillful means by which one may draw them in.

In that which is done for the benefit of beings,
One should not become either weary or negligent.
One should bring forth vows for the sake of bodhi.
Benefiting the world is just benefiting oneself.

Entering the extremely profound state of the Dharma realm,
One extinguishes and abandons discriminations.
They all become devoid of any useful function.
Thus, in every circumstance, one naturally abides in equanimity.

Personal gain, reputation, praise, and happinessxc2x97
In every case, one refrains from attachment to these four points.
Moreover, even their opposites present no obstacle.
Conduct of this sort constitutes the practice of equanimity.

In the bodhisattva’s striving for bodhi,
So long as he has not yet gained irreversibility,
He acts as urgently as the person whose turban has caught fire.
Thus one should take up just such intensely diligent practice.

Thus it is that those bodhisattvas,
When striving for the realization of bodhi,
Should not rest in their practice of vigor,
For they have shouldered such a heavy burden.

So long as he has not generated great compassion or the patiences,
Even though he may have gained an irreversibility,
The bodhisattva is still subject to a form of “dying”
Which occurs through allowing negligence to arise.

The grounds of the Hearers or the Pratyekabuddhas
If entered, become for him the same as dying.
Because he would thereby sever the bodhisattva’s
Roots of understanding and awareness.

Even at the prospect of falling into the hell-realms,
The bodhisattva would not be struck with fright.
The grounds of the Hearers and the Pratyekabuddhas, however,
Do provoke a great terror in him.

It is not the case that falling into the hell realms
Would bring about an ultimate obstacle to his bodhi.
The grounds of the Hearers and the Pratyekabuddhas, however,
Do create just such an ultimate obstacle.

Just as is said of he who loves long life,
That he becomes fearful at the prospect of his own beheading,
So, too, the grounds of the Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas
Should bring about a fearfulness of just this sort.

Not produced and not destroyedxc2x97
Neither unproduced nor undestroyedxc2x97
Nor is it the case that one posits “both” or “neither”xc2x97
As for “emptiness” and “non-emptiness”xc2x97it is the same for them.

No matter which among all dharmas one encounters,
In their midst, one remains unmoving in one’s contemplation.
Those who achieve this abide in the unproduced-dharmas patience
On account of having cut off all forms of discrimination.

Once one has succeeded in gaining this patience,
One immediately receives the prediction:
“You will definitely become a buddha.”
It is then that one succeeds in achieving irreversibility.

Those bodhisattvas already dwelling at the stage of immovability
Have gained irreversible knowledge of dharmas as they really are.
Their knowledge is invincible to those of the Two Vehicles.
Hence this stage alone is designated “irreversible.”

Up until the bodhisattva has gained
The ground of all Buddhas’ present manifestation
Along with its durably-solid samadhis,
He should not allow any negligence to arise.

The ground of all buddhas’ present manifestation
With its durably-solid samadhisxc2x97
This constitutes the bodhisattva’s father
While the great compassion and the patiences serve as his mother.

As for the perfection of wisdom serving as his mother
And skillful means serving as his father,
It is on account of the one’s giving birth and the other’s support.
Thus those are also claimed as the bodhisattva’s father and mother.

With but a lesser accumulation of merit
One remains unable to realize bodhi.
Merit the measure of a hundred Mount Sumerusxc2x97
Only an accumulation exceeding that would enable its realization.

Although one may perform but a minor meritorious deed,
Even in this, one possesses a skillful means:
Taking all beings as the object of this act,
One in all cases brings about transformation of the conditions.

As for he who reflects, “Whatever actions I undertake,
They will always be for the sake of benefiting beings”xc2x97
With a mind which courses on in this wayxc2x97
Who could be able to measure his merit?

When he is not cherishing of even his relatives, his retinue,
Or of his own body, life, or wealthxc2x97
When he does not covet the “sovereign-independence” happiness,
The Brahma-world heavens, or any other heavensxc2x97

When he does not covet even nirvana,
This because his actions are undertaken for the sake of beingsxc2x97
When in this way, he bears in mind only other beingsxc2x97
Who could be able to measure his merit?

When for those of the world without refuge or protection,
He rescues and protects them from their bitter afflictionsxc2x97
When he raises forth such thought and actions as thesexc2x97
Who could be able to measure his merit?

If he were to act in accord with the perfection of wisdom
Only for the moment of tugging cow’s milk, it would then be so.
If he did so for a month or for many more monthsxc2x97
Who could be able to measure his merit?

When, taking up those profound sutras praised by buddhas,
One recites them to himself, teaches them to others,
Or provides analysis and explanation for their sakesxc2x97
It is this which generates the accumulation of merit.

When one causes countless beings
To generate the mind resolved on bodhi,
That treasury of merit becomes even more supreme.
One thus becomes bound to gain the ground of immovability.

When one follows along in turning what the Buddha turned,
The wheel of the most supreme Dharma,
Bringing to quiescent cessation all of the evil piercingsxc2x97
It is this which establishes the bodhisattva’s treasury of merit.

For the sake of bringing benefit and happiness to beings,
One would endure even the great sufferings of the hells,
How much the more so the other lesser sufferings.
In such a case, bodhi resides in one’s own right hand.

When in initiating actions, it is not for one’s own sake,
But rather solely to bring benefit and happiness to beingsxc2x97
Because in all cases this arises from the great compassion,
Bodhi resides in one’s own right hand.

When one’s wisdom abandons frivolous discoursexc2x97
When one’s vigor abandons indolencexc2x97
When one’s giving abandons miserlinessxc2x97
Bodhi resides in one’s own right hand.

When meditative concentration is free of dependence or ideationxc2x97
When moral precepts are perfectly fulfilled and unadulteratedxc2x97
When one has gained the unproduced-dharmas patiencexc2x97
Bodhi resides in one’s own right hand.

Those now abiding in the ten directionsxc2x97
All of those who have gained the right enlightenmentxc2x97
I, in the presence of them all, directly before them,
Lay forth and describe those unwholesome deeds I have done.

In those realms throughout the ten directions,
If there be buddhas who have gained realization of bodhi
And yet have not proclaimed and expounded the Dharmaxc2x97
I request of them that they turn the wheel of Dharma.

In the present era, throughout the ten-directions’ realms,
Among all those possessed of the right enlightenmentxc2x97
If there be those about to relinquish their lives and practices,
I prostrate in reverence, exhorting and requesting them to remain.

Wherever there are any beings who,
By their physical, verbal, or mental deeds,
Generate merit through giving, moral virtue,
And so forth, on through to the cultivation of meditationxc2x97

Whether it be that of aryas or common persons,
And whether it be created in the past, present, or futurexc2x97
All of their accumulated meritxc2x97
In every case, I am moved to accord with and rejoice in it.

If all of the merit which I have created
Could be formed into a single ball,
I would bestow it on all beings through transference
For the sake of causing them to realize the right enlightenment.

My acting in this manner in repentance of transgressions,
Exhortation, requesting, accordant rejoicing in others’ merit,
And the transference through dedication to bodhixc2x97
One should realize these accord with the acts of all Buddhas.

That confession and repentance of the evils of my karmic offenses,
The requesting of the Buddha, the accordant rejoicing in merit,
And the transference through dedication to bodhixc2x97
These accord with the instructions of the most supreme ones.

Kneeling down with the right knee touching the ground,
And the upper robe arranged, baring the one shoulderxc2x97
Three times each day and three times each night,
One places the palms together and proceeds in this manner.

The merit created in even a single instance of this,
If it were allowed to manifest in material form,
Even a Ganges’ sands number of great chiliocosms
Could not be able to contain it.

After the initial generation of resolve,
In relating to bodhisattvas of lesser standing,
One should bring forth for them a veneration and cherishing
Comparable to that reserved for one’s own guru and parents.

Although a bodhisattva may have committed transgressions,
Even so, one still should not speak about them.
How much the less might one do so where no actual case exists.
One should then engage only in praises which accord with truth.

In an instance where a person has vowed to become a buddha
And one wishes to influence him to achieve irreversibility,
Make matters manifestly apparent, cause him to blaze full of fire,
And also inspire in him the happiness of sympathetic joy.

When one has not yet understood extremely profound scriptures,
One must not claim they were not spoken by a buddha.
If one makes statements of this sort,
One undergoes the most intense suffering in retribution for evil.

As for karmic offenses generating “nonintermittent” retributionsxc2x97
If one were to form them all into a single ball
And compare them to the two karmic offenses described above,
They would not amount even to the smallest fraction thereof.

As regards the three gates to liberation,
One should skillfully cultivate them:
The first is emptiness, the next is signlessness,
And the third is wishlessness.

Because they have no self-existent nature, phenomena are empty.
If already empty, how could one establish any characteristic signs?
Since all characteristic signs abide in a state of quiescent cessation,
What could there be that the wise might wish for?

When cultivating and bearing these in mind,
One goes toward and draws close to the nirvana path.
Do not bear in mind anything not resulting in a buddha’s body
And, in that matter, one must not allow any negligence.

“In this matter of nirvana, I
Should not immediately bring about its realization.”
One ought to generate a resolve of this sort,
And then should bring to ripeness the perfection of wisdom.

Just as an archer might shoot his arrows upwards,
Causing each in succession to strike the one before,
Each holding up the other so none are allowed to fallxc2x97
Just so it is with the great bodhisattva.

Into the emptiness of the gates to liberation,
He skillfully releases the arrows of the mind.
Through artful skillful means, arrows are continuously held aloft,
So none are allowed to fall back down into nirvana.

“I refuse to forsake beings
And so continue on for the sake of benefiting beings.”
One first brings forth just such resolve as this,
And thence, forever after, one’s practice accords with that.

There are those who’ve attached to existence of beings and the like
Throughout time’s long night and in present actions as well.
They retain inverted views regarding characteristic signs.
This is due in every case to confusion wrought by delusion.

For those attached to marks who retain inverted views,
One resolves to proclaim Dharma that they might be severed.
One first generates just such a mind as this.
And thence, forever after, one’s practice accords with that.

The bodhisattva strives on for the benefit of beings
And yet does not perceive the existence of any being.
This in itself is the most difficult among endeavors
And is such a rarity, it transcends one’s powers of conception.

Although one may have entered “the right and definite position,”
And one’s practice may accord with the gates to liberation,
Because one has not yet fulfilled one’s original vows,
One refrains from proceeding to the realization of nirvana.

Where one has not yet reached the “definite” position,
One holds oneself back through the power of skillful means.
Because one has not yet fulfilled one’s original vows,
In this case, too, one refrains from opting for realization of nirvana.

Equipped with the most ultimate renunciation of cyclic existence,
One nonetheless still confronts cyclic existence directly.
While maintaining faith and happiness in nirvana,
One still turns one’s back on taking up the realization of nirvana.

Although one should maintain a dread of afflictions,
One still should not bring afflictions to their final end.
One should proceed to accumulate the many forms of goodness,
Employing blocking techniques to block off the afflictions.

For the bodhisattva, afflictions fit with his very nature.
He is not one for whom nirvana is the basis of his very nature.
It is not the case that the burning up of the afflictions
Can bring about the generation of the bodhi seed.

As for the predictions accorded to those other beings,
These predictions involved their own causes and conditions.
They were only a function of the Buddha’s excellent skillfulness,
And were expedient means to facilitate reaching the far shore.

The comparisons involve “empty space,” “lotus flowers,”
“Precipitous cliffs,” and “a deep abyss.”
Just so, their realms. Analogies cite “non-virility” and “klecamani,”
With an additional comparison made to “seeds which are burned.”

All of the treatises as well as artisan’s skills,
The esoteric skills of higher clarity, all of the sorts of livelihoodsxc2x97
Because they bring benefit to the world,
One brings them forth and establishes them.

Adapting to beings amenable to transformative teaching,
To their realms, paths, and birth circumstances,
As befits one’s reflections, one proceeds forthwith to them,
And, through power of vows, takes birth among them.

In the midst of all sorts of circumstances rife with evil
And in the midst of beings prone to guileful flattery and deceit,
One should put to use one’s sturdy armor
And so must not yield to loathing and must not become fearful.

One equips oneself with the supremely pure mind,
Does not resort to guileful flattery or deception,
Reveals all of the evils of one’s karmic offenses,
And keeps concealed his many good deeds.

One purifies the karma of body and mouth
And also purifies the karma of the mind,
Cultivating observance of all passages in the moral-code training.
One must not allow any omissions or diminishment in this.

One establishes himself in right mindfulness,
Focuses on objective conditions, and meditates in solitary silence.
Having put mindfulness to use to serve as a guard,
The mind becomes free of any obstructive thoughts.

When bringing forth discriminations,
One should realize which are good and which are not.
One should forsake any which are not good
And extensively cultivate those which are good.

If the mind trained on the objective sphere becomes scattered,
One should focus one’s mindful awareness,
Return it to that objective sphere,
And, whenever movement occurs, immediately cause it to halt.

One should not indulge any laxness, any grasping at what is bad,
Nor any intense cultivation of such things.
Since one is prevented thereby from maintaining concentration,
One should therefore constantly cultivate accordingly.

Even if one were to take up the vehicle of the Hearers
Or the vehicle of the Pratyekabuddhas,
And hence practiced solely for one’s own self benefit,
Still, one would not relinquish the enduring practice of vigor.

How much the less could it be that a great man,
One committed to liberate himself and liberate others,
Might somehow not generate
A measure of vigor a thousand kotis times greater?

It may be that one tries to carry on a separate practice half the time,
Thus practicing some other path of cultivation simultaneously.
In cultivating meditative concentration, one should not do this.
One should rather focus only on a single objective phenomenon.

One must not indulge any covetousness regarding the body
And must not cherish even one’s very life.
Even if one allowed a protectiveness towards this body,
In the end, it is but a dharma bound to rot and destruction.

Offerings, reverence from others, or famexc2x97
One must never develop a covetous attachment to them.
In the manner of one whose turban has caught fire, one should
Act with diligence, striving to accomplish what one has vowed.

Acting resolutely and immediately, pull forth the supreme benefit.
In this, one cannot wait for tomorrow.
Tomorrow is too distant a time,
For how can one ensure survival even for the blink of an eye?

Establishing oneself in right mindfulness,
When eating, it is as if consuming the flesh of one’s cherished son.
With respect to that food which one takes to eat,
One must not indulge affection for it or disapproval of it.

For what purpose has one left the home life?
Have I finished what is to be done or not?
Reflect now on whether or not one is accomplishing the endeavor,
Doing so as described in the Ten Dharmas Sutra.

One should contemplate conditioned things as impermanent
As devoid of self, and as devoid of anything belonging to a self.
As for all forms of demonic karmic actionsxc2x97
One should become aware of them and abandon them.

The roots, powers, limbs of enlightenment,
Bases of spiritual powers, right efforts and severances, the Path,
As well as the four stations of mindfulnessxc2x97
One generates energetic diligence for the sake of cultivating these.

In beneficial and happiness-creating acts of goodness, the mind
Serves as the source for their continuously-repeated generation.
It also acts as the root of all manner of evil and turbidity.
One should make it the focus of skillful analytic contemplation.

“In my relationship to good dharmasxc2x97
What sort of daily increase is occurring in them?
And, again, what sort of reduction?”
Those should be the contemplations of utmost concern.

When one observes another gain increasing measure
Of offerings, of reverences, and of fame,
Even the most subtle thoughts of stinginess and jealously
Are in all cases not to be indulged.

One should not cherish any aspect of the objective realms,
But rather should act as if dull-witted, blind, mute, and deaf.
Still, when timely, one should respond by roaring “the lion’s roar,”
Frightening off the non-Buddhist “deer.”

In welcoming them on arrival and escorting them off as they go,
One should be reverential towards those worthy of veneration.
In all endeavors associated with the Dharma,
One should follow along, participate and contribute assistance.

One rescues and liberates beings bound to be killed,
Naturally increasing and never decreasing such works.
One cultivates well those karmic deeds requiring clarity and skill,
Training in them oneself while also teaching them to others.

Regarding all of the supremely good dharmas,
One adopts them through enduring and solid practice.
One cultivates the four means of attraction,
Making gifts of clothing as well as food and drink.

One does not turn away from those who beg for alms,
Brings together in harmony all who are related,
Does not allow his retinue to drift into estrangement,
And provides them with dwellings as well as material wealth.

As for one’s father, mother, relatives, and friends,
One provides circumstances for them befitting their station
And, wherever they are provided such fitting circumstances,
One treats them as supreme and independent sovereigns.

Although there are yet others who act as one’s servants,
One speaks to them with goodness and also, in effect, adopts them.
One should accord them the highest esteem,
Providing them with medicines and treatment for any illnesses.

Being the first to act, one becomes foremost in good karmic deeds,
Speaks with smooth and marvelously sublime words,
Is skillful in discourse guided by right intention,
And has none above or below to whom he does not proffer gifts.

One avoids any harm to the retinue of another,
Regards beings with the eye of loving-kindness,
Does not course in disapproving thoughts,
And treats all as one would close relatives or friends.

One should accord with the words he speaks,
Immediately following them with concordant actions.
If one immediately acts in accordance with his words,
Other people will then be caused to develop faith.

One should support and protect the Dharma,
Being aware of and looking into instances of neglectfulness,
Going so far as to create even a canopy of gold and jewels
Which spreads over and covers a caitya.

For those who wish to find a maiden mate,
Once adorned, one may see to her presentation,
And also discourse to them on Buddha’s meritorious qualities,
Presenting them with prayer beads gleaming in varying hues.

One creates images of the Buddha
Which sit upright on supreme lotus blossoms.
And, in the six dharmas of monastic harmony,
One cultivates them, thus creating common delight and happiness.

Of those who may be given offerings, none are not given offerings.
Even for the sake of preserving one’s life, one still does not slander
The Dharma spoken by the Buddha
Or the person who expounds the Dharma.

Gold and jewels are distributed among teaching masters
And also among the caityas of teaching masters.
If there are those who forget what is to be recited,
One assists their remembrance, enabling them to stay free of error.

When one has not yet reflected on what should be done,
One must not be impulsive and must not simply emulate others.
As for the non-Buddhists, gods, dragons, and spiritsxc2x97
In every case, one must not invest one’s faith in them.

One’s mind should be like vajra,
Able to penetrate all dharmas.
One’s mind should also be like a mountain,
Remaining unmoved by any circumstance.

One finds delight and happiness in world-transcending discourse,
But must not derive pleasure from words based on the worldly.
Having adopted all manner of meritorious qualities oneself,
One should influence others to adopt them as well.

One cultivates the five bases of liberation,
And also cultivates the ten reflections on impurity.
The eight realizations of the great men
Should also be the focus of analytic contemplation and cultivation.

The heavenly ear, the heavenly eye,
The bases of spiritual powers, the cognition of others’ thoughts,
And the cognition of past lives and abodesxc2x97
One should cultivate purification of these five spiritual abilities.

The four bases of spiritual powers constitute the root.
They are zeal, vigor, mental focus, and contemplative reflection.
The four immeasurables control and sustain them.
They are kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

The four elements are like poisonous serpents,
The six sense faculties are like an empty village
The five aggregates are like assassins.
One should contemplate them in this way.

One esteems the Dharma as well as the masters of Dharma
And also relinquishes any stinginess with the Dharma.
The instructing masters must not be tight-fisted or secretive
And those listening must not be mentally scattered or confused.

Free of arrogance and free of any particular hopes,
One resorts only to the mind motivated by compassion and pity.
With intentions imbued with veneration and reverence,
One expounds the Dharma for the sake of the assembly.

In learning, one never becomes weary or sated,
And having heard, in every case, one then recites and retains it.
One does not deceive any among the venerable fields of merit,
And, additionally, causes the teacher to be delighted.

One should not pay visits to the houses of others,
With a mind cherishing hopes for reverence or offerings.
One must not, for the sake of debating challenging topics,
Take up study and recitation of worldly texts.

One must not, on account of hatefulness or anger,
Defame anyone who is a bodhisattva.
With respect to dharmas not yet received or learned,
In those cases, too, one must not initiate slanders.

In order to cut off and get rid of arrogance and pride,
One should abide in the four lineage bases of the arya.
One must not course in disapproval of others
And must not allow oneself to become conceited.

Whether someone has actually committed a transgression or not,
One must not bring their cases to the attention of others.
Do not seek out the errors and faults of anyone else.
As for one’s own errors, one should become aware of them.

As for the Buddha and the Dharma of all Buddhas,
One should not course in discriminations and doubts about them.
Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe,
One should still maintain one’s faith in it.

Even though one might be put to death for speaking the truth
Or be forced to abdicate the throne of wheel-turning king,
Or even that of a king of the gods,
One should still engage only in truthful speech.

Even if beaten, cursed, terrorized, slain, or bound up,
One must never subject others to enmity or castigation.
Think, “This is all the product of my own karmic offenses.
It is on account of karmic retribution that this has manifested.”

One should, with the most ultimate respect and affection,
Provide offerings in support of one’s father and mother,
Also supplying the needs of and serving the upādhyāyas,
While extending one’s reverence to the ācāryas as well.

When, for the sake of those who believe in the Hearer Vehicle
Or those who resort to the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle,
One discourses on the most profound of dharmas,
This, for a bodhisattva, is an error.

When, for believers in the profound Great-Vehicle teachings,
One discourses to those beings
On the Hearer or Pratyekabuddha vehicles,
This, too, is an error for him.

So, too, where some eminent personage comes seeking the Dharma
And one delays this, thus failing to speak Dharma for him,
And then, on the contrary, one draws in and accepts what is evilxc2x97
So, too, if one appoints the unfaithful to positions of responsibility.

One should depart far from the errors herein described.
As for such herein-described meritorious practices as the dhūtas,
One should bear them in mind, come to know them,
And also draw close to them all in one’s practice.

Regard all equally in one’s thoughts, speak equally to all,
Be uniformly equal in skillfully establishing others,
And also in influencing others to accord with what is right.
Thus, in relating to beings, one remains free of discrimination.

One acts for the sake of Dharma and not for the sake of benefit,
Acts for the sake of what is meritorious, not for the sake of fame.
One aspires to liberate beings from suffering,
And does not wish simply to bring about one’s own happiness.

With purposes kept to oneself, one seeks fruition in one’s works.
When the results of one’s merit-generating endeavors come forth,
Even then, one applies them to the ripening of the many.
Thus, in this, one relinquishes and abandons one’s own concerns.

One should grow close to good spiritual friends (kalyānamitra).
This refers to the masters of Dharma, to the Buddhas,
To those who encourage one to leave the home life,
And to that class of persons which comes begging for alms.

Those who ground themselves in worldly treatises,
Those who exclusively seek worldly wealth,
Those with faith and awareness in the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle,
And those who are devoted to the Hearer Vehiclexc2x97

As for these four types of unwholesome spiritual friends,
The bodhisattva should be aware of them.
There are moreover those things which one should strive to gain.
This refers specifically to four great treasuries:

The emergence of Buddhas; hearing the perfections explained;
Being able where a Dharma master dwells,
To behold him with unobstructed mind;
And being able to abide happily in a place of solitude.

Earth, water, fire, wind, empty spacexc2x97
One should abide in a manner comparable to them.
In all places, one should remain uniformly equal to all
And bestow one’s benefit to all beings.

One should skillfully reflect upon the meanings
And should be diligent in generation of the dhāraṇīs.
In relating to those who listen to Dharma, one must not
Manifest any sort of obstruction of them.

In the midst of afflictions, one should be able to overcome them.
In minor matters, one is able to relinquish them without a trace.
In the eight circumstances involving indolence,
One should also in all cases cast it aside and cut it off.

One must not engage in covetousness for what is not one’s lot,
Unprincipled covetousness will not bring satisfaction.
The estranged should be influenced to come together
Regardless of whether or not they are one’s relations.

As for trying to get at emptiness itself in what is empty,
Those who are wise must not base their practice on that.
In the case of one determined to get at emptiness itself,
That wrong is even more extreme than viewing the body as a self.

From sweeping and maintaining floors to setting up adornmentsxc2x97
This as well as providing many sorts of drums and musicxc2x97
Offering fragrances, flower garlands, and other sorts of offeringsxc2x97
One should bestow all such sorts of offerings on the caityas.

One should create all sorts of lantern wheels
To make as offerings to the caityas and their buildings.
Provide then canopies as well as sandals,
Horse-drawn carriages, sedan chairs, and the like.

One should especially find delight and happiness in the Dharma
And be happy realizing what is gained through faith in Buddha.
One finds delight and enjoyment supplying and serving Sangha,
While also being pleased by listening to right Dharma.

They do not arise in the past.
They do not abide in the present.
They do not extend forward, thus arriving into the future.
One should contemplate dharmas in this way.

As for those things which are fine, one bestows them on beings
And does not seek that they will proffer fine rewards in return.
One should act so that only oneself is bound to endure suffering
And not favor oneself in the partaking of happiness.

Although one has become complete in rewards from great merit,
One’s mind is not raised up by it nor should one feel delighted.
Although one may be as poverty-stricken as a hungry ghost,
Still, one does not become dejected or overcome with distress.

If there be one already accomplished in study,
One should accord him the most ultimate honorific esteem.
Those who’ve not yet studied, one should cause to take up study.
One should not generate towards them any slighting or disdain.

To those perfect in moral prohibitions, one should be reverential.
Those who break precepts, one should cause to adopt precepts.
To those equipped with wisdom, one should draw close.
Those who act foolishly, one should influence to abide in wisdom.

The sufferings of cyclic existence are of many kinds,
Involving birth, aging, death, and the wretched destinies.
One should not be frightened by their fearsomeness,
But rather should overcome demons and knowledge rooted in evil.

In the lands of all the Buddhas,
One amasses every form of merit.
So that all will reach one of them for themselves,
One generates vows and proceeds with vigor.

In the midst of all dharmas, one is constant
In not seizing on them, thus coursing along in equanimity.
Proceeding in this manner, for the sake of all beings,
One accepts the burden, wishing to carry it on forth.

One abides in the right contemplation of all dharmas
Wherein there is no self and nothing belonging to a self.
Even so, one must not relinquish the great compassion
And must also avail oneself of the great loving-kindness.

As for that which is superior even to using every sort of gift
In making offerings to the Buddha, the World Honored One,
What sort of action might that be?
This refers specifically to making offerings of Dharma.

If one upholds the Bodhisattva Canon,
Even to the point of gaining realization of the dhāranīsxc2x97
If one enters into and reaches the bottom of Dharma’s sourcexc2x97
This is what constitutes the offering of Dharma.

One should rely upon the meaning.
One must not cherish only the various flavors.
In the Path of the profound Dharma
One enters skillfully and does not fall prey to negligence.

It is in this manner that one cultivates these provisions
Across the course of kalpas as numerous as the Ganges’ sands,
Doing so as a monastic as well as in the role of a householder,
Thus becoming bound to gain fulfillment of right enlightenment.

End of Nagarjuna’s Root Text

Translation  2005 by Bhikshu Dharmamitra

Nagarjuna’s Vimsaka


Nagarjuna’s Vimsaka

Ongelofelijk wat een prachtige tekst !

Nagarjuna was een Zuid-Indiase boeddhistische meester uit de eerste of tweede eeuw westerse jaartelling. Hij onderwees aan de grote boeddhistische universiteiten in Noord-India zoals Nalanda. Er is waarschijnlijk, nadat Shakyamuni Boeddha over de aarde ging, geen groter cultivator/geleerde geweest dan Nagarjuna. Zijn geschriften liggen aan de basis van de grootste boeddhistische stromingen die er na die tijd zijn gekomen. De Vimsaka lijkt door zijn beknoptheid een geschrift dat – mogelijk – in korte tijd is gecomponeerd. Het bevat alle themas die ook aan de orde komen in het grotere werk, de Zangen over de Wortels van het Midden (Mulamadhyamakakarika).Onderstaande tekst vereist enige voorkennis van de boeddhistische filosofie. Kijk hiervoor in het menu aan de rechterkant. Het verdient ook aanbeveling de categorie “klassieke teksten” te raadplegen. Het beste blijft het om daarnaast lessen en meditaties te volgen bij een boeddhistische Leraar.

VIMSAKA Nagarjuna’s Twintig Zangen over de Weg van het Midden


1. Ik buig mij neer voor de Boeddha die wijs is, die vrij is van hechten, wiens krachten voorbij het voorstellingsvermogen liggen en die van harte de de waarheid heeft onderwezen die voorbij woorden gaat.

2. In die allesoverstijgende waarheid is geen verrijzen (utpada); en, naar waarheid, daar is evenmin uitdoving (nirodha). Boeddha is als de hemel (die noch verrijst, noch verdwijnt), en zo ook zijn de wezens – alles en allen hebben dezelfde aard.

3. Noch aan deze zijde, noch aan gene (van het leven) is er ontstaan (bhava). Een samengesteld ding (samskrta) verrijst als gevolg van voorwaarden. Derhalve is het van nature ledig (sunya). Dit feit behoort tot het rijk van een alwetende.

4. Naar hun aard zijn alle dingen (illusoir) als weerspiegelingen; ze zijn zuiver en naar diepste wezen onbewogen, ontdaan van enige dualiteit, (aan elkaar) gelijk, en altijd, onder alle omstandigheden blijven ze zo (tathata).

5. Werkelijk, mensen noemen zelf wat niet-zelf is, en net zo fantaseren ze zich geluk, ellende, gelijkmoedigheid, passies en bevrijding.

6-7. Geboorte in de zes bestaansvormen, groot geluk in de verheven sferen, grote pijn in de hellen, al dit behoort het rijk van waarheid niet toe, en zo is het ook met opinies als “onheilzame daden leiden tot diepe ellende, ouderdom, ziekte, en dood”, en hetzelfde geldt voor de opinie dat verdienstelijke daden goede resultaten voortbrengen. Wezens worden door het vuur van passies verteerd precies omdat ze dergelijke opinies koesteren; ze zijn als een woud dat verteerd wordt door vuur – zo vervallen ze tot miserabele staten. Omdat ze ondergedompeld zijn in illusies, daarom verschijnen de wezens. De wereld is illusoir; ze bestaat slechts omdat er voorwaarden en condities aan ten grondslag liggen.

8. Zoals een schilder angst kan krijgen door het zien van een Yaksha (demon) die hij zelf geschilderd heeft, zo deinst een dwaas terug voor de wereld (die niettemin zijn eigen geestesgestalte is).

9. Zoals een dwaas die niet weet te stoppen verdrinkt in een moeras, zo verdrinken de wezens in dat moeras van verkeerde opinies; uit zichzelf zijn ze niet in staat hier uit te krabbelen.

10. Je ondervindt een gevoel van ellende wanneer je je een ding voor de geest haalt dat overigens niet bestaat. Wezens worden gekweld door het vergif dat bestaat uit verkeerde opinies over fenomenen en de kennis daarvan.

11. Deze hulpeloze wezens met mededogen gadeslaand zou je de hoogste kennis (bodhicarya) in praktijk moeten brengen, ten bate van hen allen.

12. De gereedschappen daartoe verkregen, en voorzien van ononvertroffen bodhi (de verlichtingsgedachte) moet je Boeddha worden, een vriend van de wereld, vrij van verkeerde opinies, je bindingen.

13. Hij die de alles-overstijgende kennis omtrent afhankelijk, voorwaardelijk ontstaan (pratityasamutpada) heeft, kent de wereld als ledig (van “zelfheid”, sunya, en afhankelijk van voorwaarden), en ziet dat er noch begin, noch midden, noch een eind aan is.

14. Samsara en nirvana zijn slechts gestalten; waarheid is smetteloos, onveranderlijk, vanaf het begin onbewogen en helder schijnend.

15. Zodra je wakker bent ken je het object van je dromen niet meer. Zo ook verdwijnt voor hen de wereld zodra ze ontwaakt zijn uit de duisternis die onwetendheid is. Het scheppen van illusie is illusoir. Waar alles samengesteld is, kan niets als “het ware” worden gekenschetst – dat is de aard van alle dingen.

16. Iemand die geboren is (jati) doet niet zichzelf geboren worden. Geboorte is een foutief concept; dergelijke concepten en de wezens (die ze er op na houden), rede is daar ver te zoeken.

17. Dit alles is niets dan geest (citta) en bestaat zoals een illusie bestaat. Daaruit (uit een illusoir bestaan) komen goede en slechte daden voort, daarvandaan vinden goede en slechte geboorten plaats.

18. Is voor het wiel van mentaal bezig zijn een blok gegooid, dan zijn ook de fenomenen niet meer. Daarom, alle dingen zijn zelfloos (anatman), en als gevolg zijn ze zuiver.

19. Het is alleen maar vanwege het dingen uitdenken, dingen die geen eeuwige onafhankelijke aard hebben, geen zelf, maar die in deze oceaan van bestaan (bhava) als plezierig ervaren worden, dat iemand die gehuld is in de duisternis van gehechtheid en onwetendheid denkt dat ze verschijnen (of ontstaan, of geboren worden).

20. Wie is in staat deze grote oceaan van samsara, vol verkeerde opinies over te steken zonder zich aan te monsteren op het schip dat Mahayana heet ! Hoe kunnen verkeerde opinies ontstaan in iemand die deze wereld door en door kent, die wereld die voortgekomen is uit onwetendheid!

Noot: “Onbewogen” uit vers 4 verwijst naar het feit dat waar de fenomenen naar hun ware aard niet ontstaan zijn, ze ook niet voortgaan doorheen ruimte en tijd.

Noot bij verzen 6-7: Zolang we de wereld-van-objecten als enige en laatste waarheid erkennen, en daaraan niet voorbij kunnen gaan in een realisering van ledig (zijn) zijn alle dingen, zolang wroeten we over een al dan niet gelukkig hiernamaals.

Noot bij vers 13: de wereld is in absolute zin leeg aan inherent bestaan , maar zij bestaat relatief wel omdat alles een gevolg is van voorgaande oorzaken en indien de condities juist zijn , zij zich aan ons voordoet. zie de Twee Waarheden.

Noot bij vers 18: “… en als gevolg zijn ze zuiver.” Wanneer we aannemen dat alleen een altijd aanwezige, nooit veranderende, eeuwige kern in de wezens en de dingen bezoedeling kan aannemen, en wanneer we zien dat zo’n kern er niet is, dan is er ook niets dat bezoedeld kan raken – of voortgaan door samsara etc. Leest u ook de essentiele samenvatting van dharma in het linkermenu.