Literary Genres › Advice | Tibetan Masters › Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
I pay homage at the feet of glorious Vajrasattva.
The fact that we have this support with its freedoms and advantages, so difficult to find, is due to our vast accumulation of merit. Still, although we might have this unimpaired human form right now, it will be difficult to find such a situation again in future lives. Reflect on this well. Moreover, this form is fragile, compounded and impermanent. Whatever is born must ultimately die, and there is no telling whether this will happen in youth or in old age. Reflecting as well on the unpredictability of the circumstances of death will help to turn the mind towards the Dharma and ensure the completion of Dharma practice. There is no profounder method than this for instigating the winds of diligence and putting a stop to activities concerned only with this life.
When death befalls us there will be no choice but to be take rebirth somewhere among the six classes of beings, where we will experience the general suffering of saṃsāra: the pervasive suffering of conditioning in the upper realms, suffering upon suffering in the three lower realms, and the suffering of change in the heavenly realms. We must also reflect on specific sufferings, such as the extreme heat and cold of the hells.
The source of all suffering lies in the five tainted perpetuating aggregates. It is from them that all faults originate. Their root cause is the multitude of kleśas, all of which are included within the three poisons. It is on the basis of pleasant objects that we feel desire; on the basis of the unpleasant that we feel anger, and on the basis of the neutral that we experience dull indifference. Actions motivated by any of these three emotions may be included primarily within the category of the ten non-virtuous actions. Diligently applying oneself to the meticulous, unerring application and avoidance of actions on this basis is known as having a correct mundane view. It is important that we repeatedly generate conviction in the infallible operation of cause and effect.
Someone who accumulates the ten virtues of body, speech and mind, which are the opposites of the ten non-virtuous actions, out of a wish to attain the happiness of gods and human beings is a being of lesser capacity. A being of middling capacity, a śrāvaka or pratyekabuddha, is someone who accumulates virtue conducive to liberation with the intention to emerge from saṃsāra and attain peace and happiness for themselves alone. The path of bodhisattvas, beings of greater capacity, consists of accumulating actions conducive to the liberation of the Mahāyāna motivated by a wish to benefit all sentient beings. Of these, it is the path of great beings that we must adopt in our practice.
On the basis of a noble altruistic motivation, entirely unspoilt by selfish concerns, we must dedicate all our virtuous actions of body, speech and mind, whether major or minor, with or without conceptual reference, to the direct or indirect benefit of sentient beings who are infinite in number as space is vast. Make special prayers of aspiration to this effect, and cultivate overwhelming love and compassion that extend universally like space.
Moreover, this attitude is naturally empty of any essential object to be generated, agent who generates it, and act of generation. Yet, the dependent origination of such experience unfolds without obstruction. This is what we call the union of emptiness and compassion, the union of the two truths, the inseparability of emptiness and dependent origination, the union of emptiness and appearance, and so on. Although there are several names that refer to the same thing, they can be illustrated by this crucial point of the union of emptiness and compassion. This is, in fact, the real bodhicitta. It is by means of this that one attains the great nirvāṇa that avoids the two extremes of existence and quiescence.
The discipline here consists of meditating again and again on training the mind in exchanging oneself for others, developing trust in the Three Jewels and intense compassion for sentient beings, aspiring towards the oceanic conduct of the bodhisattvas, and cultivating a sincere, genuine wish to benefit others. This alone is of major importance. It is essential that we try to develop such a precious motivation, the attitude of bodhicitta, and that we apply it to every virtuous deed we perform, however great or small.
On the basis of this crucial point, strive to complete the accumulations and purifications of the preliminaries, from taking refuge onwards. Put particular effort into the hundred-syllable mantra, complete with the crucial four powers, as well as reciting the Confession of Downfalls, Immaculate Confession Tantra and so on.
Guru yoga is the foundation of blessings. Decide that the root guru is a buddha, and meditate on him or her as the embodiment of all sources of refuge. Recall past kindnesses and develop devotion. If you exert yourself in guru yoga, beginning with sincere faith and samaya and a determined willingness to undergo hardship, there is no doubt that blessings will arise.
Once the mindstream has been purified through the successive preliminaries in this way, the key points related to the ground, path and fruition of the union of Mahāmudrā and the Great Perfection may be applied in the following way. Simply put, the nature of one’s own mind is beyond arising, dwelling and ceasing. It has no real characteristics or attributes and is beyond existence and non-existence, being and non-being. This fundamental nature of mind, awareness in which clarity and emptiness are in union, pervades the whole of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa and has always been utterly pure. This is its genuine, basic condition, which is recognized as the naturally present view through the coming together of the guru’s blessings and one’s own devotion. When settling in a genuine, natural experience of this ordinary awareness, free from thoughts associated with the three times, unrestricted by intellectual speculation, uncontrived and unfabricated, there is naturally present mindfulness in which there is no distraction. At the same time, it is free from object and act of meditation, and there is an experience of great natural clarity, the wisdom of awareness that is without underlying support, basis or origin and objectless. In essence, this is inexpressible, inconceivable and indescribable. The arising of such an experience marks the phase of cultivating the path. When acting from such a state, there is neither adoption nor avoidance, and whatever occurs or manifests is of equal taste within the basic space of awareness. There is no need to seek any antidote from elsewhere. Whatever arises is liberated by itself without trace, like a bird’s passage through the sky. This itself is the ultimate form of conduct.
Through training in this way, one’s own inner qualities, which need not be sought as some other form of fruition, manifest as outward luminosity. These oceanic qualities have always been naturally present within as the basic space of awareness that is great, empty original purity and spontaneously present wisdom. This is called the ultimate freedom or fruition.
To hold the vital force of such a path is the authentic 'referenceless main part'. It is also important that we always seal whatever virtuous actions we perform with referenceless dedication.
In short, the key themes of the instructions are faith, renunciation, non-attachment, compassion, emptiness, bodhicitta, devotion, samaya, generation and perfection, and naturally abiding in the unreal without attachment, contrivance or clinging. Therefore, please practise accordingly.
This extremely succinct guide was set out in response to a request from my own student Pema Tekchok. The precise details should be understood from the instructions of the gurus of the past, as contained in experiential songs, manuals and the like.
By Chökyi Lodrö.
| Translated by Adam Pearcey with the generous support of the Khyentse Foundation and Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2022.
'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. "zhal gdams mdor bsdus" In 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung 'bum. 12 vols. Bir, H.P.: Khyentse Labrang, 2012. (BDRC W1KG12986). Vol. 8: 359–364
The four powers (stobs bzhi) of confession practice are the powers of 1) support, 2) antidotal power, 3) repentance and 4) restraint. ↩
zhen log is sometimes translated as revulsion. ↩