Advice from Mipham Rinpoche to the Beginners

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2023-06-22
AUTHOR: Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro Rinpoche
HITS( 2029)
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Alas! Things in samsara are all meaningless,

Just as impermanent as a bolt of lightning,

Death comes at no certain time,

Thus, don’t make plans far into the future.

Practice the guru’s teaching,

Determine the nature of mind in a quiet place.

Mind is like lightening, wind, and clouds,

Defiled by many a rambling thought,

It is rootless on close examination,

Like the misty illusion from dust particles in the sun,

At once empty and existent.

Mind rests naturally in its original state,

The nature of mind manifests with solid practice.

Strong faith in the lama is essential for blessing,

Accumulation and purification give rise to realization,

Thus, practice diligently.

 

This teaching from Mipham Rinpoche is an actual practice. It is an exoteric practice suitable for all who have faith in the Dharma. No other qualification, such as having received empowerment, is required.

What is the distinction between a beginner and a non- beginner?

The so-called beginner, like most of us, is someone who has just started to learn the Dharma and attained very little realization, if any. A non-beginner is someone who can take deadly poison and sustain no harm at all purely through the power of his or her own realization, without relying on any external help such as medication.

So, do not assume you are no longer a beginner just because you have learned the Dharma for two or three years. As mentioned, only those who can neutralize the effect of a poisonous substance on their own are deemed in a rank superior to the beginner. Check yourself against this benchmark and you would know clearly where you stand.

This treatise is organized in two parts: the preliminary and the actual practice.

Preliminary practice

1. Samsara is pointless

Alas! Things in samsara are all meaningless,

Just as impermanent as a bolt of lightning,

 

Mipham Rinpoche told us that, strictly speaking, all worldly things such as fame and wealth have no meaning other than to sustain our livelihood. They are not only meaningless but also as impermanent as lightning and as illusory as a drama.

Although our forefathers said that life is but a play, and others also echo this saying, none of them can explain why life is like a play. The fact is everyone still thinks life and a play are different – life is real, whereas a play is made up.

We all understand money, status, fame, and so on represent the great ideal in life for worldly people. The external appeal is too powerful to resist, so we all end up spending our precious life and time chasing after them. We can’t stand the idea that we don’t have what others have, that we cannot keep up with the Joneses.

However, the Buddha didn’t think there is much value in worldly fame and fortune. Instead, we should establish a new purpose in life. And the first step is to elevate our mindset.

Some very prominent and powerful people have also told us in private that they feel special and superior in gatherings where they are praised by others, but realize they are just ordinary people once they are back home alone. Knowing what they own can be lost at any time, they are no different from everyone else. Even so, they cannot escape from the temptation of fame and wealth.

The reason why we place emphasis on worldly gains has much to do with how we were brought up, and the education environment. Ever since the first grade in primary school, we have been told by teachers, family, and friends that we should have a career, make lots of money, become winners who are envied by others in society, and feel proud about ourselves. Since this is the common view held by people around us, it is very difficult for us to change.

Nowadays, our living condition is much better, but the same cannot be said about ourselves. We are instead getting older and weaker every year, closer to death every year. Internally, the makeup of channels, winds, and the flow of energy worsen year after year as well.

For example, our bodies now often encounter the attacks of illness, aging, and death. Upon death, when one’s consciousness separates from the body, the body will decompose within a few hours and eventually disappear completely from this planet. However, some tantric practices can transform our bodies into vajra bodies.

What is a vajra body?

Vajra means unchanging, indestructible, inseparable, not illusory, etc.

In terms of the body, vajra body is the carrier of the buddha’s wisdom, just as our body is the carrier of our consciousness.

In terms of mind, presently it is not free, not at ease. Our mind is constantly disturbed by the environment and is apt to produce all sorts of reactions on encountering external objects.

Buddha Sakyamuni discovered that, from the body and mind of an ordinary person, the ultimate wisdom of the buddha can be extracted and the vajra body of the buddha experienced. Through practice, one can experience for oneself the eternally unchanging wisdom of the buddha.

The most critical reason that worldly people get stuck in samsara is because they don’t know the buddha within themselves, hence they only chase the external elements that fascinate their senses.

Although the Buddha knew samsara is devoid of any meaning, he would not ask us to withdraw completely from the materialistic life right away because it is impossible for sentient beings in the desire realm to do. We in the desire realm must rely on external conditions such as food, oxygen, and the like to live.

The Buddha meant to point out that external things are only the prerequisite for living, not the purpose of life.

Although every individual and organization need to develop a long-term plan for this life, these plans do not really benefit us. Moreover, they may turn out to be just games we are fooled by, the result of which is to take away our life-long freedom and time.

2. Impermanence

Death comes at no certain time,

Thus, don’t make plans far into the future.

 

Everyone must face death and it can happen at any time. Life is short, so don’t make plans too far into the future.

In fact, death is not the end of everything but a turning point in life. There are numerous stages in life, and death is but a short trip on a very long journey.

However, many people are not prepared for the long journey. Because we have focused all our thoughts and actions on just this life. This can be said a real failure in life.

The Buddha’s view is to include one’s journey in the next life and lives after that into one’s long-term plan; as for this life, refrain from harboring too much attachment, just be content with less desires.

To be content with less desires is not to say one should live in a cave, like Milarepa, eating coarse food and wearing shabby clothes. It means we should not waste an excessive amount of energy on material pursuits. The ideal is to live a simple and relatively stable life, which is neither too poor nor too extravagant.

First of all, a moderate lifestyle helps not only one’s spiritual practice but also society. The pursuit of economic development worldwide at the expense of the environment is a fact we all know. The more we allow our greed to expand, the greater we need to develop and consume energy. Being content with less desires can prevent over-development of energy and reduce harm to the natural environment.

Secondly, we need not purposely choose to live in poverty or be frugal. This can prevent afflictions from arising during practice.

The Buddha ruled that so long as the monastics don’t have greed in their minds and do not take material things seriously, they can live in comfort. If owing to the merit accumulated in their previous lives, they don’t need to work hard to gather wealth, such as owning five hundred buildings as luxurious as the five-star hotels, they are free to use those assets as they please. They don’t necessarily have to live in a shabby place.

We all know that the Buddha’s rules for the monastics are the most stringent, relative to the lay Buddhists. If the monastics can enjoy such treatment, the laity is certainly allowed to live a comfortable life.

There’s a story to illustrate this:

One day, Patrul Rinpoche paid a visit to a master and saw the master’s house full of things.

Patrul Rinpoche didn’t say anything, but muttered quietly to himself, “The master is a man of few desires, but there are really too many things in his house.”

Knowing Patrul Rinpoche’s disapproval, the master got straight to the point, “You may think I am not a person who is content with few desires, but the truth is I am not as attached to these things as you are to that wooden bowl of yours.”

Many people knew Patrul Rinpoche was very attached to the wooden bowl his root lama left him.

On the other hand, except for a very few with great merit accumulated from previous lives, most laypeople do not have the good fortune to just naturally live a normal life without having to work for it. Therefore, the Buddha acceded to our need to work, to build a career with reasonable effort.

However, if one considers money to be all important, and ethics, karma, family, conscience, etc. to be useless things, it is a completely mistaken value.

I have studied Buddhist philosophy for more than twenty years, read books on physics, astronomy, and western philosophy, as well as discussed and exchanged ideas with some physicists over the years. My conclusion is the view of Buddha Sakyamuni represents the sole, absolute truth. I say this not because I am a Buddhist. Nor was I ever forced to follow the Buddha. If there were flaws in the Buddhist view, conduct, and practice that could be inferred from other cutting-edge theories, I would not believe in or praise Buddhadharma blindly. However, after learning the Dharma, not only did I not find any flaw in Buddhism, I have gained true wisdom from it. Only Buddhadharma can thoroughly explain questions regarding the world and life. This is the reason why I want to share my experience.

It is a fact there are also many truths in other branches of knowledge such as philosophy and science, but no one can proclaim they are the ultimate truth nor accept their validity wholly. Scientists themselves also admit that science is still in the development stage, not at its absolute peak yet.

Buddha Sakyamuni, on the other hand, reached the pinnacle of human wisdom. He understood thoroughly the true nature of the universe and samsara from his farsighted and extraordinary point of view and summed up his own experience as well. From the position of an old hand, he proceeded to tell us how to elevate an ordinary person to the state of the enlightened. Many people were able to attain wisdom of the buddha after listening to and following Buddha Sakyamuni’s teachings. This is a fact that no one can deny.

Besides Buddha Sakyamuni’s teachings, there is really no other education or method that can completely elevate people to a higher state in either the Eastern or Western culture. I believe the Buddha’s idea is truly an epoch-making thought system. It is not just relevant at the present time. A hundred years from now, people will realize the way of living propagated by the Buddha is really the most ideal way to live.

Although humans appear to have relatively more wisdom than other species, no one has been able to define oneself precisely - what am I? What will I become after advancing to a higher state mentally? Scientists at best are knowledgeable about the material world and are able to create new and better living conditions.

There are people who think Buddhism is superstition and dogma.

When we pass judgment on something, be it praise or criticism, it must be based on evidence. If one just makes an accusation at will, without prior research and careful consideration, one risks being blindsided by one’s own superstition.

People consider upgrading or improving worldly possessions a real skill or capability, not superstition; to things they don’t know anything about, they just casually label them as superstition. This is really nonsense!

Some people think Buddhism is very passive.

This is another example of not knowing at all what Buddhist practitioners do. Buddhists have the noble aim of delivering all sentient beings from suffering and have long- term plans that continue as long as samsara continues. Worldly people, however positive they may be, generally aim high just for this life; they are unlikely to concern themselves with other beings’ happiness or dedicate themselves to the task of delivering all sentient beings from samsara. Their goals, however long, are no more than a few decades. In this sense, Buddhism is very dynamic, not passive at all.

As Buddhists, we should first establish the right view. Right view comes from hearing and pondering the Dharma. Just like the purpose of academic study is for future needs in life and work, the purpose of hearing and pondering the Dharma is for meditative practice. Hearing and pondering precede practicing; the three must not be separated. Every Buddhist must acquire Buddhist knowledge to be qualified to undertake practice.

Main practice

1. View

i ) The best way to search for the view

■ Rely on the teacher’s pith instructions

Practice the guru’s teaching,

 

Then Mipham Rinpoche proceeded to tell us that life is finite. In this finite process, don’t make infinite plans. It is impossible to complete infinite plans in a limited lifetime, so do the sensible thing based on one’s own time.

What is the sensible thing? It is to take the path that leads safely to the exit of samsara. To go on this path, one should first listen to the words of one’s teacher, contemplate repeatedly the meaning of the teaching, then go to a quiet place to practice after having gained a good understanding of the content.

■ Abide in a quiet place

Determine the nature of mind in a quiet place.

 

The so-called quiet place means a location suitable for meditative practice. Strictly speaking, the best place is akin to Milarepa’s where there is no one else but yourself. If one cannot find such a place for the time being, feels uncomfortable in such a place, or doesn’t have the means to stay in such a place, one should just find somewhere relatively quiet with little interference from humans and non-humans alike. The point is to be able to explore and grasp the mystery of mind in a somewhat natural and safe environment.

The reason why we need to explore the mystery of mind is that our number one driving force is the mind, not the almighty God.

Mind is the creator, the governor, and the destroyer of all phenomena. Buddhists need not argue whether external objects are matter or mind because phenomena are neither matter nor mind, just illusions; the source of the illusions is our minds, not philosophy, science, or religion. As external objects themselves are non-existent, there is no point for us to be stubbornly fixated on them, questioning whether they are matter or mind as if they really exist.

In the Madhymaka practice, we are asked to observe emptiness thoroughly. Even if the object is just a small flower, we need to break the gross matter down into ever smaller parts until there is only energy left at the end, and experience emptiness then. But this process is unnecessary. We don’t need to observe whether a house, a car, the world, or the universe is void or not, because they are but our minds’ creations. We can just turn around, and look into our minds. Once we have the secrets of the mind in hand, all questions are solved. This is the pith instruction of the Mahayana tradition.

ii ) What is the view?

Mind has two aspects.

■ The appearance of mind

Mind is like lightening, wind, and clouds,

Defiled by many a rambling thought,

 

The appearance of mind is akin to lightening, wind, and clouds. One should often think about how mind is defiled by the external objects, the myriad discursive thoughts.

Why is it like lightening? We all know when there is lightening, its flash of light can brighten the ground as in daytime, but only for a very brief time, then it’s gone. Likewise, our minds also change from one moment to the next. For example, when the thought “I want to be in high position and make money” arises, it may stay for a long time if one does not observe it. However, if one observes this thought at the very moment when it arises, neither stop nor foster it, one may discover every thought is like a lightening that appears suddenly and disappears the next moment. It ceases and arises by itself every moment.

There is also a similar practice in Mahamudra. One just observes what is going through one’s mind. When another thought arises, observe that as well. Just take note of every thought that crosses the mind.

Many people think this is realization of emptiness, but it is not. It is merely discovering the natural order of things, just like our eyes can see a lightening disappear in a few seconds, but it doesn’t mean our eyes have realized emptiness.

Why is the mind like wind? On close examination, the wind also has color and weight. But from a simpler perspective, we can only feel a soft breeze on our face, sense a piercing cold wind through our body, or hear a howling wind with our ears; normally, we cannot see the wind. Likewise, our minds are constantly filled with many afflictions, insights, and so forth, but when we really turn around to see what an affliction looks like, no one can tell.

Why is the mind like clouds? On a good day, we can see a cloud here and there. In an airplane, it feels as if we are sitting on clouds; on a high mountain, we feel the clouds are passing us by. Clouds can appear in different shapes, like mountains, rivers, animals, buildings, etc., but they are none of those.

Besides, in a clear blue sky, dark clouds can gather suddenly, followed by thunder and rain. But after a while, the dark clouds are all gone. Where did the clouds go? Are they hiding somewhere we cannot see? No. The clouds just disappear right where we can see for no reason.

There are many other metaphors that can describe the state of mind, but these three are the most typical.

Ever since we were kids, we have never examined what our thoughts are like. From primary school to college, we have been taught how to master the advanced techniques, how to change the outside world, how to conquer nature, and so forth. No teacher has ever asked us to look inward to see our own thoughts, to better ourselves, to know ourselves.

Thanks to modern technology, we can now locate any city in the world with its longitude and latitude through the Global Positioning System (GPS), but can we position ourselves? The answer is no. Even scientists and philosophers cannot do this, let alone ordinary people like us.

In the nineteenth century or earlier, some thought they could finally define what mind or consciousness is. Some suggested mind is a product of the brain or the activity of the brain because when the brain is hit by a hard object, one feels dizzy and sees sparks fly before one’s eyes. Others thought mind is a product of the heart because when some people feel scared or sad, their hearts ache.

All these only prove that mind is closely related to the brain and heart, but no one can thus conclude that mind is a product of either.

As technology continues to develop, even some scientists don’t agree with the old theory. Although the mainstream thinking has not changed at this point, that is, mind is produced by the brain, not all scientists accept this view, including a Nobel Prize winner in neurobiology whose view is entirely different from that in the past.

Over the years, many scholars and theologists have been baffled by the question regarding the mind. No one has been able to give a convincing definition, except Buddha Sakyamuni. As a result, many people claim that mind does not exist.

So, where is the mind? This only Buddhism can answer. Our minds are like the wind, without shape and color, neither in the brain nor in the heart.

In my opinion, Buddha Sakyamuni is the greatest neuroscientist in the world because the state of mind is already explained very clearly in Buddhist tantra. Many of the descriptions of mind in tantra have not been discovered in the medical field so far; nevertheless, they do exist from the perspective of the practitioners. For the time being, we don’t need to know too much. Our purpose here is to give a definition of mind.

Don’t make thoughts complicated, simply look at what mind is like.

■ The nature of mind

It is rootless on close examination,

Like the misty illusion from dust particles in the sun,

At once empty and existent.

 

We never know what mind is when not observing it at all; after making some observations, we find out it is like lightening, wind, and clouds. Now we need to explore further what the nature of mind is.

In terms of Buddhist theory, the nature of all phenomena is emptiness, so should the nature of mind. But we should not force ourselves to accept this view just because the Buddha said so. What we should do instead is to see for ourselves what mind truly is, regardless of what the Buddha said.

It would be hard if we want to prove to others, at the macro level, all phenomena including the galaxies in the universe are created by the mind. But in our own small world, our emotions and relationship with others are all closely related to mind. Mind has been hiding in the backstage, controlling how we live and think. Our feeling of happiness, sadness, harmony, contradiction, and so forth are all functions of mind which are constantly affecting us. Now we must see clearly who this mastermind behind the scenes really is.

The best way to examine this is to practice Guru Yoga after finishing the preliminaries and visualize the guru dissolve into one’s mind at the end; or visualize the guru, buddhas, and bodhisattvas in front and pray for their blessings to help gain realization of emptiness, to find the nature of mind. After praying, let the mind quiet down.

Then contemplate this: All phenomena constantly arise and cease in a split second. Upon leaving the prior state of a phenomenon (ceasing ) and entering a new state (arising ), can we still find the prior state? No way. What’s past cannot reappear, only its image remains. This is true not only of mind but also the external objects, such as buildings and the like.

Some suggest that Einstein once said matter can go back to the past when it reaches faster-than-light speed. But it is a mistaken idea. Any matter, once it disappears in this world, will never return. Even if we see the appearance of someone becoming young again in one’s old age or going back in time, it is just a newly created look-alike of the past, not the real past coming back to life. This is the simplest and most basic explanation of “the past mind cannot be found.”

Next, that which we call “present” does not exist in this world. One second at present can also be cut into numerous fragments of past and future, but we just cannot find the present anywhere. This is the meaning of “the present mind cannot be found.”

Then, is the future hiding somewhere and waiting for the right condition to appear, like waiting to jump out on the stage when the curtain is pulled open? Of course not. The future denotes something yet to come, so it cannot possibly exist either, hence “the future mind cannot be found.”

Mind does not need space to exist; it can be anywhere. It is however more closely related to time. When the thought “I need to make some money” appears for a second in our minds, we can break down this one second. In the periodic table of elements, #109 is a short-lived element which disintegrates in one five thousandth of a second. If we break one second down to one five thousandth, one fifty thousandth, one five hundred thousandth, one five millionth, etc. of a second, we will find in the end the one second no longer exists. So, what becomes of the mind after this breakdown? On what base is one’s mind formed?

In the micro-world, physics has offered good evidence for us. Many people used to think Buddhadharma would collapse in the face of advances in science; actually we need not worry about scientific development, but should instead be very grateful to it. If not for Einstein, Bohr, Prandtl, Heisenberg, and others who provided solid evidence to prove the emptiness of phenomena, it would not have been as easy to convince people in the modern age of the idea of emptiness, even though Buddhadharma is complete with its own set of theory. Nowadays, no one would object to using science to explain Buddhist theory. Science has helped Buddhism, at least I think so. Heart-felt thanks to those prominent scientists.

I once met an American professor teaching Tibetan Buddhism at a university. He said when he taught Yogacara (Mind-Only School) to students who were confused, he would ask them if they knew Heisenberg’s theory. When they said yes, he then proceeded to tell them the view in Yogacara is what Heisenberg proposed in his quantum mechanics theory. Immediately, they all understood and accepted it.

Certainly, we cannot equate Heisenberg’s quantum theory with Yogacara; there are great discrepancies between the two. However, modern science is the only tool we can use to help people today understand Buddhism. Science can help spread the Dharma better. Whether it is science or Buddhadharma, they both represent the essence of human wisdom.

Those who have studied physics or who like to read popular science articles know that eventually all matter with mass can transform into energy. Energy is completely different from matter in its normal sense because it is not solid. If so, on what base are our bodies formed?

Although there is the idea of an infinitesimal in Western philosophy, it is a mathematical misconception which represents merely a hypothesis of infinite continuation, far removed from objective existence. For example, the difference in weight between one kilogram and ten kilograms is due to their respective quantities of atoms or particles. This shows that the number of particles, which are even smaller than atoms, are finite, not infinitesimal. Although we may break down matter and time infinitely in our thoughts, it is only an unrealistic hypothesis.

If neither space nor time can accommodate our bodies and minds, where can we abide in the whole universe? Following this train of thought, one comes to realize deeply all is like a mirage, an illusion born of nothing.

Take another example. When one watches a TV screen from afar, the images appear full and clear; if a magnifier is used, one no longer sees complete images, only numerous colorful dots in red, green, white, etc.; on further analysis, there are no more colors, only some long and short waves. Hence, the images on the screen are also formed on the basis of mistaken illusions.

If we want to find an absolute truth in the human world, we may discover the closer we get to the truth, the more difficult it is to define who we are.

Let us think about this: What is the basis of our minds? Does mind exist or not? If it does not exist, our education is worthless. For example, if mind were really a chemical reaction of the brain, no criminal would need to go to jail to be reformed; just change a chemical element in the brain. It is the same as taking a car which is insentient to a garage to change parts, not to jail, when it breaks down. This says clearly man has a mind, cars don’t. If mind exists, what is it like then?

Since birth, we have lived and died with a very vague idea about ourselves. But this should not continue.

We can bear not having money but should not tolerate not having awareness. We would rather be poor than be foolish. What is a foolish person? Is an uneducated person a foolish person? An educated person is not necessarily wise as many well- educated people have also done foolish things, such as crimes committed in the hi-tech industry. Huineng, the sixth patriarch of Chan Buddhism, was illiterate, but no one would question his wisdom. We would say a foolish or unwise person is one who cannot define or does not know exactly what he or she is.

2. Practice

i ) The specific method of practice

Mind rests naturally in its original state,

 

With thorough analysis and observation as mentioned above, one can truly experience the void nature of mind; nothing exists at all.

Once the sense of mind’s emptiness arises, stop thinking of anything else, just abide naturally in this original state – all thoughts stop and dissolve into empty space; the body naturally relaxes and remains still. If the sense of emptiness is rather firm and clear, it can be deemed a preliminary understanding of emptiness.

If, however, one gets only a vague impression instead of a clear sense of emptiness following the analysis and observations, there is no other way but to repeat the exercise again and again until the sense of emptiness arises.

Does it serve any purpose just to keep the mind still? No. The following story can better explain this question.

About seventy or eighty years ago, there was a highly accomplished Dzogchen master in Serta (Sichuan province) whose disciples were also great practitioners. In those troubled times, his disciples carried themselves very differently from others, exemplifying the kind of noble demeanor befitting a practitioner. It just showed how great their teacher was!

At that time, there was a person who practiced samatha all the time. After many years, he developed a tendency of becoming completely still even when he was eating or walking, like a computer that can crash at any given moment. He could remain in this condition for a couple of days without any trouble, but all along he was unable to attain a sense of emptiness.

The master knew there was a problem with his practice, so he sent a young lama every day to play with him, doing whatever – patting his head, screaming at him, to disturb him; furthermore, the master asked four persons to monitor him, making sure he could not meditate for three years, and required this practitioner to recite the heart mantra of Chenrezig one hundred million times. During this time, the master frequently called on this person and others to come play Tibetan chess with him to prevent him from entering the calm-abiding state.

This shows merely being able to stay still can also become an obstacle to realizing emptiness.

Combining realization of emptiness with calm-abiding is the best way to practice. When the state of realization of emptiness lasts for a long time, it represents samatha and vipassana are inseparable from one another. This is a very good state of meditation, in which vipassana–the realization of emptiness, is most crucial, not calm-abiding. The practitioner in the story lacked the most crucial element in his practice, so he could not achieve any result even though his mind was extremely quiet.

In the past, many lay practitioners often liked to talk about mysterious experiences, such as the dreams they had last night or a certain light that appeared before them during their practice. Such behavior caused much misunderstanding of Buddhism by many non-Buddhists.

What can a light do? Can you attain liberation with it? It sounds like heresy. I have also read some articles about qigong, one of which mentions a certain qigong master; on a flight that the master took, a circle of light surrounded the airplane and followed it all the way to the airport... If we Buddhists also say such things, it indicates Buddhism has degenerated. The so- called supernatural power cannot prove anything; it may just be an illusion which is not useful at all.

There was once this story in Tibet. Several practitioners were doing a retreat together; somehow one of them acquired a certain magical power such that while in his meditation, he could see clearly who was going to come up to the mountain to visit, what that person carried in his bag, be it yogurt, tsampa or meat. He often reported this to his lama as well.

One day, the lama called this disciple over and unexpectedly hung his own prayer beads on the disciple’s neck. A couple of days later, this practitioner lost his magical power.

One should always follow the standard method when undertaking Buddhist practice, of which the key point is to attain realization of emptiness. Without realization of emptiness, a still mind alone does not lead to liberation; on the other hand, if realization of emptiness is not accompanied by a quiet mind, the state of realization interrupted by racing thoughts cannot last.

ii ) The result of practice

The nature of mind manifests with solid practice.

 

Lay practitioners generally have rather good faith but it is not stable enough. If one combines good faith with the Vajrasattva practice to purify evil karma, the mandala offering practice to accumulate merit, and the generation of renunciation and bodhicitta, it will not be that difficult to gain an initial understanding of emptiness. If the faith is extremely strong, sudden realization is also possible. Such a realization is already very close to tantric realization. Nonetheless, for the state of realization to continue to develop and grow, it depends on one’s own view and degree of diligence in practice.

It is common for some practitioners to long for attaining realization so much that they exert great effort to achieve that goal. Once they succeed, they become complacent and make no more progress. I think it is very critical to allow the state of realization to continue to develop and grow.

Some may think attaining realization means attaining buddhahood, but the two are still far apart. It is true after gaining preliminary realization, we can resolve normal afflictions by ourselves, but it is not enough when encountering stronger obstruction as the wisdom gained at this level is still rather weak. Only when our realization of emptiness has grown to a strong enough level can we hope to resolve all problems then.

3. Action

Endeavor to apply the two factors for attaining realization:

i ) Strengthen the faith

Strong faith in the lama is essential for blessing,

 

Mipham Rinpoche said here one should also strengthen the faith in one’s lama after attaining realization by practicing Guru Yoga often.

In tantra, especially the realization of Dzogchen, the most crucial point is the lama’s blessing instead of a practitioner’s own attributes such as intelligence. One needs to have faith to receive the lama’s blessing; absent this faith, one cannot have the blessing.

ii ) Accumulation and purification

Accumulation and purification give rise to realization,

 

Along with the Guru Yoga practice, one needs to practice the mandala offering, life release, and other such actions to accumulate merit, and undertake the Vajrasattva practice to purify karmic obstacles. By doing these practices, those who have not gained any result in their practice will attain realization; and those who have already attained realization will see their state of realization become clearer and more obvious.

 

Thus, practice diligently.

 

Please don’t think that because Dzogchen has many extraordinary methods, one can attain realization, even buddhahood, without having to practice at all. The fact is if one has not even tasted emptiness one bit, practicing Dzogchen would be out of the question; conversely, if one has somewhat experienced emptiness and endeavor to grow that experience continuously, we can presume one will arrive at the state of Dzogchen eventually. Therefore, practice diligently.