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From Enlightened Courage
By Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Consider all phenomena as a dream:
This precious human body, supreme instrument though it is for the attainment of enlightenment, is itself a transient phenomenon. No one knows when, or how, death will come. Bubbles form on the surface of the water, but the next instant they are gone; they do not stay. It is just the same with this precious human body that we have managed to find. We take all the time in the world before engaging in spiritual practice, but who knows when this life of ours will simply cease to be? And once our precious human body is lost, our mindstream, continuing its existence, will take birth perhaps among the animals, or in one of the hells or god realms where spiritual development is impossible.
At present, the outer universe—earth, stones, mountains, rocks and cliffs—seem to the perception of our senses to be permanent and stable, like the houses built of reinforced concrete that we think will last for generations. In fact, there is nothing solid to it at all; it is nothing but a city of dreams…
Take an example from the recent past. Before the arrival of the Chinese Communists, how many monasteries were there in what used to be called Tibet, the Land of Snow? How many temples and monasteries were there, like those in Lhasa, at Samye and Trandruk? How many precious objects were there, representations of the Buddha’s Body, Speech and Mind? Now not even a statue remains. All that is left of Samye is something the size of this tent, hardly bigger than a stupa. Everything was looted, broken or scattered, and all the great images were destroyed. These things have happened and this demonstrates impermanence…
If we have an understanding of impermanence, we will be able to practice the sacred teachings. But if we continue to think that everything will remain as it is, then it will be just like rich people still discussing their business projects on their deathbeds! Such people never talk about the next life, do they? It goes to show that an appreciation of the certainty of death has never touched their hearts. That is their mistake, their delusion.
…What shall we say about these so-called thoughts? At this moment, while I am teaching Dharma, let us consider the mental experience, or thought, which you have, of listening carefully to me. Does this have a shape or color? Is it to be found in the upper or lower part of the body, in the eyes or ears? What we call the mind is not really there at all. If it is really a thing, it must have characteristics, such as color. It must be white, yellow and so one. Or it must have shape, like a pillar or vase. It must be big or small, old or young, and so on. You can find out whether the mind exists solidly or not by just turning inwards and reflecting carefully. You will see that the mind does not begin, or end, or stay, anywhere; that it has no color or form and is to be found neither insider nor outside the body. And when you see that it does not exist as a thing, you should stay in that experience without any attempt to label or define it.
All suffering comes through not recognising ego-clinging as our enemy. When we are hit by a stick or a stone, it hurts; when someone calls us a thief or a liar, we become angry. Why is this? It is because we feel great esteem and attachment for what we think of as our selves, and we think, “I am being attacked.” Clinging to the “I” is the real obstacle to the attainment of liberation and enlightenment… It is from within that the trouble comes. It is due to fixation on “I” that we think: “I am so unhappy, I can’t get anything to eat, I have no clothes, lots of people are against me and I don’t have any friends.” It is thoughts like these that keep us so busy—and all so uselessly! This is the reason why we are not on the path to liberation and Buddhahood. Throughout the entire succession of our lives, from beginningless time until the present, we have been taking birth in one or other of the six realms. How long we have been labouring in the three worlds of samsara, slaves to our ego-clinging!
Now when the moment of your death arrives, this is what you should do. Just as the Buddha did when he passed away, lie on your right side and rest your head on your right hand. Breathe in through your left nostril, blocking your right nostril with the little finger of your right hand. Mediate on love, wishing happiness for all beings, numerous as the sky is vast, and generate compassion with the desire to free them from every suffering. Using the support of your ingoing and outgoing breaths, imagine that you exhale all your happiness, comfort and wealth, sending them to all who suffer. And inhale all the diseases, evil, negative emotions and obscurations of other beings, taking them all upon yourself. Afterwards, you should reflect that samsara and nirvana are themselves illusory, just like a dream or a wizard’s magical display. Everything is devoid of self-existence. Everything is but the perception of the mind, and where nothing exists, there is no cause for fear, here or in the bardo. Try to remain in that conviction, without any mental grasping.
To accustom oneself to Bodhichitta is like keeping a garden neat, without undergrowth, pests, lumps of wood and weeds. Let us practice it, bringing together all the qualities of the greater and lesser vehicles, so that we are like containers gradually filled with grain or drops of water. Whether we practice Pratymoksha, the Bodhisattva training, or the stages of generation and completion of the Mantrayana, all that we do should act as a support for our vows of Bodhichitta. Even if we practice the Mantrayana, it should uphold and confirm our commitment as Bodhisattvas.
We should constantly meditate on the difficulties that we cannot escape. Towards people, for instance, who do us harm, who want to compete with us, who are at one moment friendly but who suddenly turn against us unprovoked, or towards people who for no apparent reason (due to our karma) we simply do not like, we should try to generate the Bodhichitta even more intensely, especially when it is difficult. We should serve and reverence our elders, parents and teachers. As Guru Padmasambhava said, “Do not be a sorrow to your elders; serve them with respect.” If we help them and those who are in need, we are treading the path of the Bodhisattvas.
Do what is important:
The Dharma has two aspects: exposition and practice. Exposition is only the work of the mouth, and many there are who do not practice the teachings explained. As the saying goes: “Many have heard the Doctrine, but those who implement it are few. Even those who have practiced a little are side-tracked and get lost.” As far as the Dharma is concerned, practice is more important than teaching and talking. The Dharma is something that we really have to do… It is better, moreover, to follow single-mindedly the instructions received from our teachers than to practice on the basis of our own book-learning and intelligence… Of all our activities, the most important is to sit and practice. We should not move around too much, we should just remain on our seat. We will only stumble if we get up! We should sit properly, not too stiffly, and remember that the best practitioners wear out their meditation cushions, not the soles of their shoes.
Translated by Padmakara Translation Group
Excerpted from Enlightened Courage
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