Understanding the Faults of Samsara: by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso given at Kunzang Palyul Choling on Ngondro:

When contemplating the faults of samsara, we need to understand that in samsara, as we explained, there is some enjoyment, some peace, which distracts our minds and keeps us from having any accumulation of merit or purification.  It is just like in Christianity: In the beginning, God said there is a very nice apple tree, but you should not get distracted and eat of it.  If you do, then you will get spoiled.  By not listening to that and eating the apple, all evil and bad things happened.  Just like that, in this world there are certain things that really feel attractive, but when you look at the object of attraction and really examine it deeply, there is nothing attractive.  It is all just like a magician’s creation which looks very real, but when you approach it, then you see that it is artificial with no essence.  That is why one has the thoughts of the precious human birth, that death is uncertain, that the law of karma is going to direct you, and that the law of karma is created by yourself. There is no external law of karma  ordering you to do all these kinds of things.  Each and every experience of good and bad, suffering and happiness, that you experience each and every moment is created by yourself.  That is known as the ripening of karma.

So we need to understand the fault of samsara.  When one has a clear understanding of these four thoughts, you could have some kind of feeling that you have to do some practice.  Samsara looks so attractive, but it doesn’t have any essence, like the rainbow.  The rainbow looks so colorful, so nice, and you have so much desire and attachment.  You really want to have it, but when you jump up to get it, you cannot get anything.  Then you feel very sad, and you get so depressed.  Why can’t I have some of this beautiful rainbow?  You get upset, but nothing happens. All these worldly pleasures are exactly like a rainbow.  When you really enter into them, there is nothing there to have.  That is why one must have a deeper understanding of cyclic existence.  Then you can become more relaxed and have more enjoyment, thinking how attractive everything is, but having no attachment to it, no desire. You can enjoy and at the same time not create any negative karma and be more relaxed, because you don’t have to try to get anything. Whether you get something or not, you just relax.  If you can’t get it, you won’t feel depressed because you know that it has no essence.

So your mind gets very relaxed, you can enjoy whatever happens without any attachment or afflicted mind.  In that way, one can have a very smooth life without any depression or emotional feelings and without any excitement, but still some kind of enjoyment is always there.  That is how we can really apply practice into our daily life—just relaxing, no attachment, no hatred or anger, just always relaxed and balanced.  Whatever things you have, you enjoy them just like a magician’s creation.

At the same time, you do not have any attachment to the practices.  No attachment to the Great Perfection ngöndro practice.  Attachment binds you;  it is a type of bondage. When you feel that kind of excitement, like, “Oh, I want to do this ngöndro practice. This is so great!” with so much expectation and so much interest, then as you apply it into practice, some obstacle arises. Then you feel like you should have gone some other place for the weekend.  “I should have gone to see my friends or relatives.”  When one has so much attachment or expectation, that also becomes an obstacle.  So you need to get relaxed, always get relaxed, thinking this is a great opportunity.

Qualities: excerpts from Palyul Clear Light

“When one has some little bit of quality or knowledge, one should not think pridefully ‘Oh, I am so great’. Then one’s quality and knowledge will degenerate, and in the future it will be even more difficult to give rise to these kinds of qualities and knowledge”

The previous #quote is from Kyabje HHPenor Rinpoche With thanks to Kenchen Tsewang Gyatso and PALYUL CLEAR LIGHT

THE STAINLESS ESSENCE TANTRA says: Merit accumulated from prayer. Offering, and making praises before the image of your Lama is infinate and countless. Merely seeing him cleanses bad karma; merely hearing his words generates positive qualities; merely rembering him merges your mind with his. That which is very hard to find in ten million eons is attained in an instant. All these qualities come from the Lama!

The Stainless Essence Tantra thanks to Palyul Clear Light.

The Law of Karma: Explanation by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso given at Kunzang Palyul Choling on Ngondro:

The law of cause and effect, or karma, has been explained a number of times by Jetsunma and myself.  Whatever exists in this world is just the creation of oneself.  There is logical proof and proper reasoning for this, and one can experience it for oneself.  There are many examples that prove everything is the result of one’s own karma combined with one’s present life conditions.  If you never do any harm to any sentient beings, you will not suffer.   It is definite.  In this lifetime, if you never say anything bad to someone, then this person is not going to do anything bad to you because you have not created any problem.  When you create problems for another, then the other person also feels unhappy and gets angry, and then he creates problems for you.  It plays back and forth and creates many troubles.  That is how the law of karma works.

The law of karma is very, very subtle and very, very strict, no corruption.  Whether one is very rich or a great philosopher or a very great doctor or a very great scientist or a very great modern technologist, whoever, there is no corruption of the karma.  Whatever you have done, you will have to bear it.  What you have not done, there is no way that you can experience it.  Even if you wished to experience it, there is no way to do it.  It is very, very subtle and very strict, and it has very good justice.  There is no way that it can forget anything, that it can lose anything.  Everything is fully imprinted, like the hard disk on your computers.  Everything is there.  Our mind and our actions, our body, speech and mind are like the floppy disk, and they are constantly putting things on the hard disk, where it stays.  When you need something, you switch disks, and it comes out.  When conditions happen, then it is ripening back to you because you have already inserted something in the hard disk of karma.  You have put it in there, so never can that get lost or corrupted or erased.  Fires cannot burn it.  Waters cannot wash it.  Winds cannot carry it away, unlike computers, which fires can burn.  Your whole hard disk with 10 years of programs, when it is burned, it is gone like that.  But none of the five elements can harm the karma computer.  No one can harm it.  When conditions happen, it will definitely ripen back to you and you alone.  There will be no mistake.  Mr. A’s karma will not ripen to Mr. B, and Mr. B’s karma will not ripen to Mr. A.  Those sorts of things are not going to happen in that way.  It is very subtle, very strict, very just.  No corruption.  It cannot get lost, cannot be burned.  Everything is so organized, much, much better organization than your schedules.  When there are proper conditions, then that is going to ripen to you.  That is the actual life process.  That is experienced by all sentient beings.  That is the law of karma.

The Power of Devotion: from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso on Ngondro given at Kunzang Palyul Choling:

Today, from The Great Perfection, Buddha in the Palm of the Hand, we are going through the Four Thoughts Which Turn the Mind, Refuge and Bodhicitta.  There are many practitioners in Tibet who only accumulate  prostrations and chant taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha who achieve purification and have some kind of experience.  There are not just one or two, but thousands.  Really!  Tibetan lay people who could not enter monastic life or those who could not study like you guys.  Here lamas come and give teachings and you all are very smart and want to understand everything step by step and you want to make everything clear.  In Tibet, they have very strong devotion.  When a lama is giving teachings, they all rush up there and listen. They are not so attentive, but they have so much devotion.  Whenever a ngöndro teaching is given on prostrations, they have no doubt.  They will do that accumulation.  They will not consider whether it makes sense or not.  They just practice it, thinking, “This must be something of benefit, so I have to do it.”  They do it continuously.  Even when they are working in the kitchen or tending the cows, they continue chanting “Lama la kyab su chi-o, Sangye la kyab su chi-o, Chö la kyab su chi-o, Gendun la kyab su chi-o,” like this.  They are constantly chanting, and they don’t think, “Lama la kyab su chi-o, why do I have to say this?”  They really don’t have that kind of thought.  “Why do I have to take refuge in Buddha?  Who is Buddha?  What is Dharma?  What is Sangha?  Why do I have to do that?”  They really don’t have that kind of thought.  They just go on constantly chanting. And they really do have some kind of purification, and they could have many different kinds of experiences, dreams, clear understanding.  I think it is due to the culture that they have that kind of belief and constantly do that.  Nobody knows what kind of practice a very ordinary appearing human is doing, just that every time people see him he is chanting, “Lama la kyab su chio, Sangye la kyab su chio…” “I take refuge in the Lama, I take refuge in the Buddha…”  People think he is just ignorant.  But when death comes, he sits calmly with a smile and rainbows appear.   Then people realize that this was a great practitioner.  We didn’t know that.


Impermanence and Death: a Teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso

The following is an excerpt from a teaching given by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso at Kunzang Palyul Choling on Ngondro:

Precious human birth does not mean everyone who is born as a human being.  It doesn’t mean that.  There is precious human birth and ordinary human birth.  Those who don’t do any kind of practice, those who don’t even try to go to church on weekends, those involved in New Age groups or modern ways of belief, or those who enter into some kind of entertainment and waste their lives in that manner—that is just an ordinary human birth.  You really must have accumulated some merit in your previous lifetime.  You must have done some kind of purification in your previous lifetime.  You must have made some kind of connection with the Dharma and your lamas. That is why you are here.  Otherwise there is no possibility.  That would never, ever happen.  So since you have a precious human rebirth, you must immediately think,  “I should not waste it.  I have to get some advantage from this opportunity.”

Then how can one do it?  You must then think that all phenomena which are composed of cause and condition are impermanent.  Impermanence does not just mean that everything comes to an end.  Impermanence means that each and every moment is impermanent. Each and every moment of our lives we are becoming older and older; we are getting nearer and nearer to death.  If you waste even one hour, you are one hour closer to death.  If you spend your weekend enjoying yourself, still you are getting nearer to death.  Whenever you sit idle, still you are getting nearer to death.  Even if you do practice, still you are getting nearer to death.  Even if you don’t do anything, still you are getting nearer to death.  You are always getting nearer and nearer and nearer.  Every sentient being who is born is subject to death.

At the same time, death is uncertain.  You can see many examples.  Someone will say, “Just yesterday he was talking with me, and then last night he had an accident.”  Or somebody shot him or killed him or whatever.  There are so many conditions that may bring death.  If I cannot do actual practice and if I do not have something I can carry with me, then tonight if something happens, what can I do?  What are you really going to carry with you?  You cannot pack up like when you get divorced or when you get mad at your friends and you say you’re going to leave and you take your suitcase and pack all your clothes and everything and whatever money and credit cards you have and you leave and go some other place.  When death comes, you cannot do that.  There is no way that one could do that.  Up until now in this world, even the great popes, even Milarepa, even Shakyamuni Buddha, even His Holiness Karmapa and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, they left all their belongings behind.  Even His Holiness Karmapa left his black hat behind, even his body.  Never mind about an ordinary sentient being who cannot carry all those things.  Even the great Christian popes who passed away, could not carry anything.  All the great ones and not so great ones—when death came, nobody could pack anything, nobody could carry anything along.  You could not even make a phone call.  “I’m coming very soon, so could you please reserve a place for me?”  There is no way that one can do that.  You say, “Oh please, you save a better place for me since I am coming very soon.”  Or you want to make a phone call to heaven.  “Oh God, please save a place for me.”  So you have to realize that life is like that.

In one sense, life is very long.  You can experience lots of things.  In another sense, life is gone like that.  When death comes, what one can carry is just whatever accumulation of merit or whatever negativity one has done.  That is the only thing that comes with you.  Even if you don’t want it, it is stuck there and will be coming with you.  So you have to realize that life is uncertain and death is uncertain.  At any moment it can come.  When you really consider that, you really get scared, goose bumpy.  Then you really get motivated to do practice.  Then your sleepy way of thinking and laziness and everything is gone just like that.  You cannot feel so tired if death is coming like that.  Then you can make yourself so alert. You can generate so much courage in yourself.  “Why can’t I do 100,000 prostrations in a month?  Why can’t I do that?”  Then you can have that kind of courage within yourself.  Otherwise you say, “Other people are out enjoying the weekend and going here and there and I am stuck here doing prostrations. I get pain in my legs and my knees and pain there. When can all this be finished?”  Then it feels really difficult.  When you really see that death is coming, then you can bear it.  If you think about that, then that will really help you to apply yourself into practice with full energy and with full courage.

Contemplating this Precious Opportunity by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso given at Kunzang Palyul Choling on Ngondro:

The Four Thoughts that turn the mind from samsara are very important.  Our minds are distracted by this world.  We practice a little bit, and then get distracted, thinking life is good — eating pizza in the restaurant, going to the beach on weekends, and enjoying ourselves.  It is really nice.  One could have a very happy life with one’s family, and eating, and experiencing all those happy experiences.  At the end of life, if one could not have the continuation of that kind of happiness in the next lifetime and many future lifetimes, one may get a little upset and think, “I should have done something.  I have just been going to the beach, the mountains, camping, bungee jumping, and all that.  I’ve spent my time doing all that, but I really didn’t do anything.”  Then all one’s karma ripens.  Whether you believe in karma or not, understand it or not, it doesn’t matter.  Whether you are a Christian or a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Jew or a Muslim, in cyclic existence, karma is the life process.  It is the nature of cyclic existence itself.  So that nature ripens to everybody.  Everyone experiences that.  After death, if one has to bear all different kinds of suffering, then one may experience some regret.

This is how one has a very happy life.  You can have entertainment, but at the same time have a kind of entertainment which really makes sense, which you can carry with you.  On weekends, you could come here and participate in a tsog offering or a puja or some kind of a practice.  While you are doing the practice, you may experience some minor problems with your knees or sitting or doing prostrations, but still you are bearing some karma and having some purification.  After all, you could have something you can really carry with you after death.  It is as the Buddha, who is fully enlightened, has explained.  Jetsunma has also explained all this a number of times.  The important thing to realize here is that this precious human birth is one in which one could really become involved in practice, in which one could become involved with the Dharma teachings, in which one could really become involved in Dharma activities.  If one could really have some time to apply to practice, then this becomes a precious human birth.

Cause and Effect: Examining Circumstances

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso on Ngondro, given at Kunzang Palyul Choling:

There is not one single sentient being who wishes to suffer.  That is very obvious.  Even scary animals, ghosts, and evil spirits don’t really mean to harm anybody.  They are in search of some kind of happiness.  They are looking for some kind of peace.  An evil spirit or consciousness wanders here and there and creates some kind of problem for someone.  Then that person becomes possessed by the evil spirit and there are lots of disturbances, all due to the search for happiness, but without knowing what the actual cause of happiness is.  How can one really have actual happiness?  How can one really have a peaceful life?  How can one have a happier life?  One has to understand the actual cause.  Due to ignorance, all sentient beings do not know that. Each and every sentient being wishes for happiness, but not knowing the cause of happiness, all kinds of karma, actions, thoughts, and afflicted mind, arise and worldly things are done which result in problems and suffering.

I think that Americans really don’t like to hear about suffering in the teachings.  You like to hear only about having a happy and prosperous life, about enjoyment.  You are always trying to find some kind of modern technology, some different way of doing things, because you are really trying to find happiness.  Maybe if I climb a mountain, I can enjoy life more.  Or no, maybe I’ll go bungee jumping!  That may be more enjoyable and will bring some happiness.  In that way, everybody is trying each and every thing just to experience happiness, just to experience some kind of peaceful mind. There are so many religions, so many masters, so many yogis who have appeared. When a Hindu teacher comes, then everybody goes there and listens to the yogi teaching about prana, some kind of breathing, some kind of meditation, because they think,  “If I go to this teacher, maybe I can get some kind of solution so that I can be happier.  Maybe I can have some kind of path.  Maybe I can really get something so that I can maintain a happier life.”

So everyone does whatever we do 24 hours a day. And whatever we are doing, whatever we talk to people about, it’s all in search of peace and happiness.  Not knowing the actual cause of happiness, one thinks something else may help, so one creates all kinds of karma, causing problems which ripen for oneself.  It is like a reflection, or an echo when you shout in a cave.  The same ego shouts back to you.  When you look in the mirror and make a face, the image makes the same face back at you.  In the same way, the actions one has done to other sentient beings, ripen back.  This is the cause of samsara, or cyclic existence.  Whatever peace or happiness is attained is very temporary and limited.  While worldly peace and happiness is temporary and of short duration, at the same time, one experiences lots and lots of difficulties, lots and lots of problems. One experiences suffering and struggles very hard before one can have a little bit of peace and happiness.

So experience one’s own life and others’ lives.  Sit aside and watch the universe, watch sentient beings. Watch how all these sentient beings fare.  Everything is the result of one’s own karma or whatever action one has done.  In this way, when one thinks about the suffering of sentient beings, then one could think, “How can I really apply some kind of method or practice so that I can become fully perfected, so that I may not have any more suffering—no miserable life, no birth, no death, no sickness, no old age?  How can I get rid of all this?”  There is a teaching which explains how one can really enter into a very strong practice, a practice which would produce results very fast, a practice which may have a very special skill, a special technique, so that one can have realization in this lifetime.  If one could really generate Bodhicitta or Awakening Mind, then one would feel like he really needs to get enlightened.

Generating the Motivation

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso given at Kunzang Palyul Choling on Ngondro:

Motherly sentient beings are spread throughout this universe.  As much as space has expanded, so sentient beings are extended throughout space.  We cannot perceive the edge of space, and in the same way, we cannot perceive the numbers of sentient beings.  Visualize the countless sentient beings that exist in this universe, and in the thousands and millions of other universes, which are also filled up with thousands and millions, countless, sentient beings.  Visualize and understand all sentient beings as one’s mother. And taking them as one’s mother, then generate compassion, realizing and experiencing the suffering of all sentient beings—all the different kinds of suffering, all the different kinds of obstacles, all the miserable lives.  Experience all these for oneself.  If one really tries to experience that, there is no way that one cannot generate compassion. You must generate compassion for all motherly sentient beings.  When you have compassion, then you really want to know how to help all these sentient beings. “How can I benefit these sentient beings?  I need some kind of energy, some kind of power.  I need all the qualities whereby I can benefit all sentient beings so that they can be liberated from cyclic existence, from the suffering of samsara.

When one has this strong desire to benefit sentient beings, then there is a way, a possibility, that one can give rise to the Bodhicitta, or the Awakening Mind. One thinks, “Now I need to get some kind of realization.  I really need some kind of power or energy or noble qualities or omniscient mind.  I really need to get enlightenment.  Otherwise how can I benefit all these sentient beings?  How can I help them?  How can I liberate them from cyclic existence?”

Palyul Clear Light

Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso

The following is an excerpt of a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso published in Palyul Clear Light

Afflictive emotions don’t arise anywhere but within yourself. The important practice is to not look outside at the external condition.  The moment anything becomes a condition for your afflictive emotions you have to look into your mind. Mostly our five senses are faced outward.  We think, “This person said this certain word and it affected me and THAT is why I’m angry.”  Our minds always try to blame.

So it is important to look into your own mind.  To watch your thoughts is the key point for your practice. If you really want Dharma, this is key.  But if you want to just have fun with Dharma then you don’t necessarily have to worry about it, you can just be angry. It’s fine unless you are really thinking, “How can I do real Dharma practice?”   Then truly you must work with your mind.  There are a few who work with mind.  For them the most important thing is to work with their minds and not fall into any afflictive emotions. When you have control over your mind, you don’t necessarily neeed to verbalize something negative. You can practice to govern your speech. This is the gift of mind.

Great thanks to Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso.  May His Holiness Penor Rinpoche return swiftly!

Tsawei Lama Kye Ho