Examining the Causes of Suffering

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

The second cause for suffering is karma—– karma meaning cause and result. This begins with these negative causes:  beginning first with killing, the weightiest cause, which is to kill or to take a life.  Now according to Buddhism this means the life of any and all living beings.  In other religions it is more or less agreed upon that one should not kill human beings, but it is O.K. to kill other beings, that it simply doesn’t matter.  But this is not O.K.  This is incorrect understanding, and the reason for this is that all living beings have fear and all living beings suffer in the same way that human beings do.  So even the lowliest little ant has feelings and doesn’t want to lose its life  It feels suffering when it is being trod upon and so forth and smashed in this way.  We have to think about how we don’t want to suffer, and we have to understand that every creature that lives feels the same way.  Therefore this is the reason why we should never intentionally take the life of any living being.

The second cause to abandon is stealing. This means to take the possession of another without permission, whatever it may be.  Whether it is of great value or of little value, it simply doesn’t matter.  If it is something that belongs to someone else and they have every intention of maintaining that as their possession, then it should never be taken from them for any reason.

The third cause to abandon is to lie. Specifically it means here to really trick the minds of others with the specific intention to harm them by speaking that which is untrue. By doing so it immediately lowers one’s own honor and brings suffering to others. So this is something which is negative and must be abandoned.

The fourth cause to abandon is adultery or unclean sexual conduct.  This specifically refers to entering into a relationship with a male or female who already belongs to somebody else.  When we say “belongs to somebody else,” it means that that person is already committed to somebody else, and there is an understanding between them.  To break that understanding by intervening and having a relationship is considered to be ultimate stealing of a spouse of another.  Not only that. Those males and females who are already committed to one another usually have the most attachment for one another. So if someone else is with their partner, then there is nothing more painful than that because of the intensity of the attachment.  It produces even more suffering than stealing other objects.  Therefore it is considered to be extremely negative because it brings about such tremendous harm and harmful repercussion which arise from it. This must be abandoned from the root.

In addition to that, another action or activity which is considered to be ultimately destructive and which must be abandoned is the drinking of alcoholic beverages so as to become intoxicated.  The reason for this is because it is physically harmful to the body. Also if one becomes intoxicated one loses one’s own sense of control.  In that state of being out of control, all the other nonvirtues are easily accumulated.  Therefore becoming intoxicated by drinking alcoholic beverages must be abandoned.

These four root causes that correspond to physical conduct must be abandoned, and then the fifth, drinking alcohol, as well.  Any practitioner of Buddhism, whoever the person may be, must abandon these five.  These are five root precepts which are maintained, which means the abandonment of these negative causes.  Not only to abandon these five, but to guard oneself by taking the vow of what is called genyen, which is the vow of a lay practitioner who upholds these five precepts of formally vowing to abandon these five negative causes.  This is something that each and every one of you should consider taking on: to become a genyen or lay practitioner who upholds these five vows, because if you have these five vows you automatically accumulate virtue in whatever you do.  This also makes you somewhat similar to those who are holding the vows of higher ordination, such as the male and female novice practitioners and the male and female fully ordained, because they all have these five precepts as well.

There are two things which set the ordained apart from the lay upholders of these five vows.  First of all the fact that you are wearing the robes of the Buddha, the robes of ordination.  If you don’t wear your robes of ordination, you appear as a lay person  So the fact that you wear your robes sets you apart as an ordained.  The second point that sets you apart from a lay upholder of the vows is that in the case of a layman or laywoman, the vow is to abstain from adultery or unclean sexual conduct, but in the case of the ordained who are wearing the robes of the Buddha, you must abstain from any sexual conduct, particularly that of sexual intercourse.  So this is something that you all have abandoned before you have taken these vows of ordination.

I have spent some time here just now going over these four root precepts and the fifth, which is to abandon drinking alcohol, so that everyone here, especially those who are members of the Dharma center, would clearly understand what qualifies as a precept holder of the Buddhist tradition, and particularly those who are ordained.  If you are able to maintain these five precepts, that will be enough  Please understand that it includes the two particulars that you are already upholding.  Even if you can’t maintain the other vows, you must always maintain these five, and everyone else as lay practitioners should maintain the five as well.

Introduction to the Four Noble Truths by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok in Washington D.C.

This is the auspicious occasion which commemorates the precious turning of the Dharma Wheel which occurred in ancient India by our Lord and Supreme Guide, Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, in Varanasi in the presence of the five disciples and hundreds and thousands of gods and other exalted beings who gathered. At that time the Buddha gave the teaching on the subject of the Four Noble Truths.  Since this is the special day of that teaching, I would also like to mention a little about the Four Noble Truths.

OM YE DHARMA HE TU PRA BHA WA HE TUN TE KHEN TA THA GA TO HAYA WA DET TE KHEN TSA YO NI RO DHA EWAM BHADI MA HA SHRA MA NA YE SO HA

I have just recited what is called the essence mantra of interdependent origination, which is what the Buddha first uttered on that occasion.  First the Bhagawan Lord Buddha Shakyamuni spoke four words which had to do with understanding the truth of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path which leads to the cessation of suffering. These four points were explained according to their essential nature.  Secondly, he explained how it is that we can recognize what suffering is, what causes suffering, what causes the cessation of suffering and what practices are the actual practices that comprise the path leading to the cessation of suffering.  And thirdly, he explained what the situation was like when suffering is alleviated, when the causes of suffering are alleviated, when the cessation occurs and the actual fruition of the path.  After explaining the Four Noble Truths in these three ways, Lord Buddha Shakyamuni was able to lead those five disciples, who themselves were all Arhats, and those hundreds and thousands of gods and exalted beings who had gathered to realize the fundamental nature of reality, the nature of the dharmata.  Although the Buddha himself only uttered twelve words, because those who were gathered there were not ordinary and had tremendous faith and devotion and fervent regard, they were able to actualize the full understanding of the teaching and realize the meaning based on that direct transmission.

Now I would like to very briefly go back and explain the meaning of what Lord Buddha taught on that occasion.  These are like condensed teachings that came in words, but the explanations that came after the first explanation were for those who were on the Bodhisattva bhumis, and so they could understand the meaning. Therefore I would like to explain the first series of teachings on the nature of suffering, which is something that we can relate to.  What I will be drawing from at this point is a teaching which was actually written down, or compiled by, Maitreya.  To cite an example: If one is suffering from a disease or an illness, first one has to recognize what is the cause of that disease in order for the suffering to be alleviated.  The second step would naturally be to recognize what causes the disease.  One must then be careful in terms of what food one eats and one’s activity and conduct so as to not create those causes.  One must uproot the causes which produce that unwanted result.  To completely eliminate that disease, one has to understand very clearly the benefit of the elimination or the cessation of that disease.  Considering that one can then be free from suffering if the cause of the disease is eliminated is not enough. One must actually engage in whatever activity is necessary to make the elimination of the disease occur, which is in fact partaking of the medicines which are potent enough to actually destroy the disease.  Therefore this points to the path.  In terms of spiritual practice, one has to know how to pursue the path to eliminate suffering.

Meeting with the Vajrayana Path: His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

This vehicle of secret mantra, Vajrayana, is the principal vehicle of Buddhism that is practiced in Tibet, and now we find it spreading throughout America and other countries.  There are many Dharma centers that have been established in America, primarily by Tibetan lamas who are upholders of the Vajrayana tradition.  This means that many of the American disciples are now becoming practitioners and upholders of this tradition.  In fact, throughout this world, Vajrayana Buddhism is already firmly established in some 32 countries.

Within the secret mantra vehicle, the ultimate, absolute pinnacle, the enlightened mind of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas condensed into one essence, the heart blood of all the Dakinis, is the quintessential path known as the Clear Light Great Perfection, or Ati Yoga.  This Doctrine of the Great Perfection is dependent upon the receiving of what is termed pointing out instructions or pith essential instructions which can be passed from teacher to disciple in the form of just a word or two.  In fact, if everything is auspicious according to the way that the Clear Light Great Perfection is actually transmitted, it is taught that if those essential instructions are given in the evening, by sunrise one will be enlightened.  If they are given at sunrise, by evening one will be enlightened.  So this is considered to be the most expedient path to liberation.

To meet with the Clear Light Great Perfection is something that is so precious and rare that it is taught that just to hear the words of the Dzogchen teaching, the teachings on the level of Ati Yoga, closes the door to rebirth in the three lower realms and puts one safely and directly on the path to liberation as a Buddha.  So it is a Dharma that has the power to liberate just by contact, just by sight, just by recollection.  Even to recall the words of the Dzogchen teachings is something that is so precious and profound that it is likened to having a wish-fulfilling jewel in the palms of your hands.  It is not a Dharma that is filled with elaborations and complexities that takes a lot of time to accomplish or establish.  It is a Dharma that, if it meets with the right individual or the perfect aspirant, is something that is easy to practice and that can be applied to every aspect of life in a very simple way producing very direct results.  However, this Dharma, this Doctrine, must only fall into the hands of those disciples who have the karmic affinity for it which is something that must be established due to karmic connections.  Otherwise it is a Dharma that is meant to be kept secret or to be guarded from any other type of situation.

When we think about Tibet and how the Dharma came into Tibet originally, it was due to the kindness of the great Orgyen Rinpoche, Guru Padmasambhava, and Vimalamitra. In fact, there have never been two teachers of the likes of these two who have ever come since then.  They are so great and profound.  Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra only gave the Dzogchen teachings to their closest heart disciples and only after a tremendous kind of karmic affinity had been established.  It is not something that is just given in any other circumstances.  In Tibet there exists to the present day the eight great chariots of traditions and teachings of practice which are very sublime and extraordinary.  However, amongst them it is only in the tradition of the secret Nyingmapa that these Dzogchen teachings are found, and they are unequalled by any other.

Now I have a personal feeling about this, and I mentioned it a little bit in San Francisco. Since I’ve come to America I have seen that there is a very strong connection here for the Dzogchen teachings.  I have also had an opportunity while I’ve been in the United States to give Dharma teachings on different subjects, but I find when I teach on the subject of Dzogchen, which is the Tibetan term for this Clear Light Great Perfection, this Ati Yoga category, that I find that people become much more enthusiastic and the faith wells up inside of them in a different kind of way.  I liken this to the situation in this country at this time where the country itself is very powerful and there is much material prosperity, but also everyone is extremely busy and people don’t have too much of a chance to practice elaborate forms of religious or spiritual instructions.  So in noticing all of these coincidences coming together, I truly have seen that Americans have a strong connection with the Dzogchen doctrine and that this is probably the most important doctrine to propagate here at this time.  Therefore I have a very strong hope that each and every one of you will have an opportunity to meet with the Dzogchen doctrine and put it into practice in your lives.

If you practice the Dzogchen in this life alone, you will immediately receive the benefits of good health and mental contentment.  That’s why you can use someone like Gyaltrul Rinpoche as an example.  Even though he’s old now, much older than most of you, he’s still very happy.  His mind is filled with content and his body is still healthy too.  This is because of the point I just brought out.  I think it also might be true for Ahkön Lhamo as well.

Examining the Path: His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok

The following is an excerpt from a public talk by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

There are three major world religions and countless minor religions, spiritual pursuits that are available in this world which we should actually embrace in this lifetime. It doesn’t really matter which one one embraces in terms of the point that is being made here. The point is that everyone should enter a spiritual pursuit so that there is a purpose to this life.  Otherwise it is like the cows and the horses that are just grazing and eating the grass and just kind of surviving aimlessly. There is no point to spending your life just so that you can acquire the comforts of eating good food and drink and just getting by.  This is really, truly the greatest waste of a human existence.  Nor is it suitable to just enter any path without examining that path, without questioning others about that tradition.  One must carefully examine the spiritual path that one is going to enter because this is something that affects you for this and all future lifetimes.  You shouldn’t just do this mindlessly in a state of delusion.  For example, if one day you can choose whether you are going to eat delicious food or foul food and you check to see whether it is good or bad, then it is quite important that you would choose the best, and you would want it to be very delicious.  When it comes to the spiritual practice and Dharma, this is something that affects you for all of your lifetimes, so it is totally unsuitable not to examine the path that you are going to be involved in.  Another reason for examining is because it also very unsuitable to become partial about religious dogmas and to actually feel some hate for other religions.  People who feel this way are usually people who are not intelligent enough to examine.  If you examine each of the religions, at least you can gain some sense of appreciation.  At the same time you can understand very clearly which is a pure path, which is an impure path, which path is beneficial, which path is nonproductive.  If you are unable to discern that because you haven’t examined, then you are someone who is experiencing the conflicting emotion of delusion.

For example, in this world there may be spiritual traditions or religions which actually encourage adultery or encourage thievery or encourage the killing of other sentient beings or animals for ritual offerings or sacrifice or what have you.  Maybe these types of activities might even go against the rules of the country, might even break the law of the country and yet are still encouraged by the religion.  We have to examine to see if these are activities that are the play of desire and attachment, anger and delusion, or not.  If we clearly examine, then we can recognize for ourselves that this is non-beneficial and nonproductive, and it is something that we can avoid getting involved in.  But in order to avoid getting involved in it, in the beginning we must examine.

In some religions, some spiritual traditions, there is only a focus upon some personal gain or some personal pursuit for one’s own happiness.  It is very self-oriented.  This is also something that we should examine, because if that is the case, it is not pure and not ultimately beneficial.  If there is no focus upon how one can truly be of service and of benefit to others—because if the religion you are involved in is only going to bring you happiness in this life and doesn’t even focus upon how you can somehow bring happiness to others in this life—how could it possibly be truly pure?  In this way we must examine it. and we should get involved in a religion that focuses on the benefit of others as well.

The excellent spiritual traditions, the sublime traditions, are those which bring benefit to self and others alike. So first and foremost, please examine to see if the religion that you are engaged in or thinking to engage in has these qualifications.  Finding then a religion that brings benefit to both self and others is a prerequisite, but the methods in order to employ that must be available.  It must be a profound path that brings about the benefit of self and others.  For example, even if an old woman who has no arms has love and compassion for her son and wishes to uplift him and help, she cannot.  She has that wish but there’s nothing she can do because she’s crippled.  Therefore if we want to achieve ultimate, permanent results in this and future lifetimes, we have to be sure that our path has the power to bring about those results.  It can’t just be something that is filled with fancy rhetoric and good thoughts, but doesn’t have any methods which produce good results.

Speaking of those methods then, the spiritual path that can bring that about is one that includes the different sciences and also transmissions based on experience, and also has the valid source through which strong faith and conviction can be developed.  There must be a true and valid source of the lineage of a spiritual tradition. That must be established over a period of time by those who are intelligent scholars and true practitioners who have been able to uphold the line of the lineage of transmission.  One has to go back and see where the religion finds its origin.  The religion should be validated by the presence of the different categories or sciences of spiritual knowledge or development that validate the ability of that path to bring forth the results of what one wants to accomplish.  You can’t just expect to go to someone who promises you that if you do this according to what I am teaching then it is going to bring you happiness and peace, and if you avoid this you won’t suffer.  This kind of shallowness is something that must be avoided and can only be avoided by examining the tradition to see if it is validated by the different categories and presence of sciences and methods which have already been tested.  And thirdly, from the point of view of, experiential validity, one must be able to see that it has been proven by those who have practiced this path that both temporarily and ultimately the results have been and are and will be achieved.  One has to take a look and see if those results have borne out through the different efforts of the practice of those who are practitioners on the path—if they have been able to bring out the fruition, and if the results that they have achieved are permanent or not.

In this world, in terms of benefit both temporary and ultimate, Lord Buddha Shakyamuni has presented the methods which are according to his miraculous activities and deeds.  For the most part, those great leaders of other religions are also considered to be emanations of the compassion of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.  For instance in Hinduism, the leader Jangjuk is said to be an incarnation of Buddha Shakyamuni, and also Wangchen, or King Brahman, is said to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara.  So even these religious leaders of those traditions that are said to bring only temporary benefit, that bliss comes about through the miraculous activity of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.  Also in the Christian path, a religion that is founded upon the principles of love and compassion for sentient beings, these principles of love and compassion are also the essential points of the Buddhist doctrine, and the fact that that is so is due to the concerned miraculous activity of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.  This also points out why it is very unsuitable for us to ever have partial attitudes towards other religions. Really, when we think in terms of what has just been presented to you, all the religions in this world have very much in common.  The most important points are the points which are similar, and we shouldn’t try to find the differences.

The Purpose of This Life: His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

The Buddha taught that true happiness and peace can never be found through material gain, and the only way that one can truly be satisfied is to realize this point. Therefore it is very important for all of you to consider decreasing your attachment to the objects of this world, to all apparent phenomena, and to understand that more important than spending most of one’s time pursuing the material world and thinking that happiness can be found in this way, we should try to practice pure Dharma.  Not only that. To be too attached to friends, family members, even our children and our spouses, those whom we cherish, thinking that it is only through our relationships with them that we can have happiness, is only going to bring us more suffering.  This is also a source of suffering, since we will be distracted having to figure out how we can bring food to the table and get clothing for our offspring and all of the other necessities that one has to completely fill one’s mind with.  The details of survival for family and friends will completely distract one from the benefits of purely practicing Dharma.

Regarding the wish for fame and glory: Those who don’t have it suffer because they don’t. Those who are poor and those who have no position at all are always having some expectation that somehow and in some way they may be able to rise above this circumstance and achieve a position of fame and glory.  Those who are already in positions of fame, glory and leadership are always suffering from the fear that they are going to lose their positions.  So in both cases the suffering is more or less equal.  On this point I would like to say that probably here in this place there are those who are very, very poor and there are those who are very, very wealthy and in high positions, and there is quite a big space between them.  I was thinking that those who are in the high positions are probably suffering even more than those who are poor.  The reason for that is because those who are poor—except for the fact that they are always having some kind of an expectation that someday they may become wealthy or in a better position—probably have enough to survive, are getting along sort of all right. And the mental suffering that they endure is not too extreme, except for that expectation or wish. But those who are in high positions are probably suffering much more because they are always fearful that they are going to lose their positions, that they will fall down to a lower place. So their minds are filled with doubt and paranoia and anxiety.  In this way they suffer more than the poor people.

The nature of suffering is twofold: Suffering is caused by delusion and by karmic propensities.  When we speak of delusion, it refers to three root conflicting emotions: desire-attachment, anger or aggression, and delusion itself, stupidity.  Let’s look at desire-attachment first.  Now this conflicting emotion fixates itself upon objects, objective appearances, such as material things, fame, status or other human beings or individuals.  Wherever it fixates, then if one allows oneself to become controlled by that emotion, then the only result will be unceasing suffering or discontent.

Anger or aggression is a conflicting emotion which causes one to feel that one actually wishes that others will suffer.  That which brings up this conflicting emotion of aggression is due to the desire-attachment that we have for ourself and those that we are already attached to because if anyone else tries to harm them, then those other people who are trying to harm our loved ones or friends are termed enemies, and we feel aggression towards them and wish that harm would come to them.  As soon as we enter into this type of emotional battle, the only result is unceasing suffering.

That which is termed delusion or stupidity is the inability to understand or recognize what should be accepted, what should be rejected, what should be accomplished and what should be abandoned.  Inner divisions of delusion include misunderstanding and incorrect understanding.  The first of these inner divisions of delusion, misunderstanding, could also be interpreted as misunderstanding, or misusing, the ultimate purpose of this life. The way that that would qualify is that one would have to be born as a human being anywhere in this world who never really understands the difference between that which is wholesome and that which is unwholesome, never having any real kind of ability to discern what should be accepted in order to produce true, positive results and what should be rejected—basically just spending one’s life aimlessly living like a cow or a horse which can graze and eat grass and just kind of survive.  The difference between a cow or a horse and a person who is just kind of aimlessly surviving is maybe the person is able to put on clothes and other kinds of comfort. But really the point that is being made is that this person who misunderstands the purpose of life is wasting his or her opportunity because they dwell in this state of delusion, the delusion of misunderstanding what should be done with life.

 

Recognizing the Disease: Commentary on the Four Noble Truths by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

“Not recognizing what causes the disease” refers to those of us who are still wandering in the three realms of cyclic existence.  We are suffering in samsara, which is considered to be like the great welling up of spontaneous suffering that occurs because we simply don’t recognize our condition.  What we must do is recognize that as long as we stay in this state of lack of awareness, we will never be able to experience even a needle tip’s worth of happiness.  If you still wonder why it is that sentient beings are suffering, what is this condition that we call the suffering of the three realms of cyclic existence, just think about it.  Physical illness, incurable disease, mental suffering, mental illness, anxiety, inability to acquire the wealth and the objects of one’s desire, inability to become famous, or acquiring wealth and fame, and losing it, all of these different complica­tions and ins and outs of daily life situations are what we are referring to in terms of the suffering of cyclic existence. This is easy to understand if you just simply take a look at it.  This is called the suffering of suffering.

That which we think brings us happiness, that which we pursue with the hope to get happiness—fame, wealth, gain, possessions and so forth—are actually the causes of suffering, because if you are finally able to acquire what you are working so hard to acquire, once you have one thing, then you will want a second and a third and a fourth.  In other words, you can’t be satisfied by these material objects because they will only lead to more desire for yet more material objects.  Even if you are the ruler of an entire country, you will want to rule a second and a third country because it is the nature of desire that it simply cannot be satisfied.  This is why desire itself is a source of suffering, and with this kind of endless or unceasing desire for material gain, happiness can never be found.

We suffer then because we can’t obtain what we want in terms of material wealth and glory. And then if we do obtain it, we suffer fearing that we will lose it.  We actually have enemies that we are threatened by because we have these possessions.  So then we have to hire more people to protect our possessions and on and on and on like this.  One situation leads to a second situation which leads to more and more suffering. This is why I am saying that it is very unlikely that any true happiness can be derived from this suffering.  It would be better to be able to be satisfied by thinking. “As long as I have some delicious and satisfying food to eat, and comfortable and ample clothing, and a comfortable bed to sleep on at night, then it is not necessary to own all these other possessions because they will only be the causes for more suffering.  I can be satisfied by just simply having that which makes me comfortable so that I can survive.”

Especially when it comes time for our death, no one in this world can take any of their possessions with them at that time.  All of the things that we spend our short lifetime trying to accumulate and pursue, thinking that these things will bring us happiness, are totally useless when the time of our death arrives.  Not only that, none of our friends can come along.  We must go alone when we pass from this life. Even the greatest rulers and the most powerful people of this world are alone in the hour of their death.  Therefore it becomes more obvious that it is kind of futile to spend one’s time and one’s short lifetime pursuing the accumulation of material objects which bring suffering during one’s life and are useless at the time of death.

Introduction to the Three Vehicles: His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

​Recognizing suffering for what it is, understanding the causes that produce suffering, we are then able to engage on the path of true freedom and bliss which culminates in the experience of enlightenment or full awakening, the status of Buddhahood.  When the status of Buddhahood is realized we will know permanent happiness.  To be able to cessate all types of suffering in this way so that permanent happiness is achieved is totally dependent upon the spiritual path, the practice itself.  Therefore we must understand how to practice the pure path.

​The goal of liberating all beings from suffering is predominant in all vehicles, but in addition to that one would consider the thought of never harming others and of somehow being of benefit to others.  Anything that is harmful, in any way at all, is absolutely abandoned.  To practice on that level, of maintaining refuge and never harming others intentionally is the essence of the Hinayana pursuit.  In this world of ours these days the Hinayana vehicle of Buddhism is primarily practiced as the sole pursuit in countries such as Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries.

​The Mahayana pursuit, or the greater spiritual pursuit, more than focusing upon one’s own purpose one focuses upon the purpose and welfare of others.  One is always thinking how to be of benefit to others.  In fact, it becomes one’s sole concern to not only think about being of benefit to others, but to engage in activities which bring direct benefit to all other sentient beings impartially to the point where one is ultimately able to establish all other sentient beings in the status of Buddhahood.  That is done based on one’s altruistic attitude of love and compassion for all other beings.  So that type of motivation and practical application qualifies one as a practitioner of Mahayana.  The essence of the Hinayana is already incorporated into that because, if you’ll recall, in Hinayana the main focus is not to harm others, but as a Mahayanist, not only are you not harming others, but you are only doing that which benefits others.  So it is taken a step further.  In this word, those countries where the Mahayana doctrine is predominant include China and Japan and some others.

​In the context of Mahayana, as an inner division we find the vehicle of secret mantra, Vajrayana. What sets the secret mantra Vajrayana path apart from the others is that it is called the resultant vehicle.  This is because it produces results in a very short period of time.  It does not take a long time of practice to receive the results because method and wisdom are combined in such a way that in one short lifetime enlightenment can be realized.  The secret mantra path of Vajrayana combines the two yogic stages of generation stage — which is the practice of generating visualizations of self-nature as the deity — and the completion stage — which is the practice of dissolving visualizations and other types of elaborations into the fundamental nature of emptiness.  These two yogic stages are combined in such a way that the result is achieved in a very short period of time.

​This vehicle of secret mantra Vajrayana is the principal vehicle of Buddhism that is practiced in Tibet, and now we find it spreading throughout America and other countries.  There are many Dharma centers that have been established in America, primarily by Tibetan lamas who are upholders of the Vajrayana tradition.  This means that many of the American disciples are now becoming practitioners and upholders of this tradition.  In fact, throughout this world, Vajrayana Buddhism is already firmly established in some 32 countries.

​Within the secret mantra vehicle, the ultimate, absolute pinnacle, the enlightened mind of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas condensed into one essence, the heart blood of all the dakinis, is the quintessential path known as the Clear Light Great Perfection, or Ati Yoga.  This Doctrine of the Great Perfection is dependent upon the receiving of what is termed pointing out instructions or pith essential instructions which can be passed from teacher to disciple in the form of just a word or two.  In fact, if everything is auspicious according to the way that the Clear Light Great Perfection is actually transmitted, it is taught that if those essential instructions are given in the evening, by sunrise one will be enlightened.  If they are given at sunrise, by evening one will be enlightened.  So this is considered to be the most expedient path to liberation.

​To meet with the Clear Light Great Perfection is something that is so precious and rare that it is taught that just to hear the words of the dzogchen teaching, the teachings on the level of Ati Yoga, closes the door to rebirth in the three lower realms and puts one safely and directly on the path to liberation as a Buddha.  So it is a Dharma that has the power to liberate just by contact, just by sight, just by recollection.  Even to recall the words of the dzogchen teachings is something that is so precious and profound that it is likened to having a wish-fulfilling jewel in the palms of your hands.  It is not a Dharma that is filled with elaborations and complexities that takes a lot of time to accomplish or establish.  It is a Dharma that, if it meets with the right individual or the perfect aspirant, is something that is easy to practice and that can be applied to every aspect of life in a very simple way producing very direct results.  However, this Dharma, this Doctrine, must only fall into the hands of those disciples who have the karmic affinity for it which is something that must be established due to karmic connections.  Otherwise it is a Dharma that is meant to be kept secret or to be guarded from any other type of situation.

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