H.E. Mindrolling Khenchen Rinpoche’s Teachings
The proper way to listen to the spiritual teacher
The proper way to listen to spiritual teachings has two aspects: the right attitude and the right conduct.
The right attitude combines the vast attitude of the bodhichitta, the mind of enlightenment, and the vast skill in means of the Secret Mantrayana.
The Vast Attitude Of The Bodhichitta
There is not a single being in samsara, this immense ocean of suffering, who in the cocurse of time without beginning has never been our father or mother. When they were our parents, these beings only thought was to raise us with the greatest possible kindness, protecting us with great love and giving us the best of their own food and clothing.
All of these beings, who have been so kind to us, want to be happy, and yet they have no ide how to put into practice what brings about happiness, the ten positive actions. None of them want suffer, but they do not know how to give up the ten negative actions at the root of all suffering. Their deepest wishes and what they actually do thus contradict each other. Poor beings, lost and confused. Like a blind man abandoned in the middle of an empty plain!
Tell yourself: “It is for their well-being that I am going to listen to the profound Dharma and put it into practice. I will lead all these beings, my parents, tormented by the miseries of the six realms of existence, to the state of omniscient Buddhahood, freeing them ffrom all the karmic phenomena, habitual patterns and suffering of every one of the six realms.” It is important to have this attitude each time you listen to teachings or pratise them
Whenever you do something positive, whether of major or minor importance, it is indispensable to enhance it with the three supreme methods. Before beginning, arouse the bodhichitta as a skilful means to make sure that the action becomes a source of good for the future. While carrying the action, avoid getting involved in any conceptualization, so that the merit cannot be destroyed by circumstances. At eh end, seal the action properly bu dedicating the merit, which will ensure that is continually grows ever greater.
The way you listen to the Dhrama is very important. But even more imporatant is the motivation with which you listen to it. Whaat makes an action good or bad? Not how it looks, nor whether it is big or small, But the good or evil motivation behind it.
No matter how many teachings you have heard, to be motivated by ordinary concerns-such as a desire for greatness, fame or whatever-is not the way of the true Dharma. So, first of all, it is most important to turn inwards and change your motivation.
If you can correct your attitude, skilful means will permeate your positive actions, and you will have set out on the path of great beings.If you cannot, you might think that you are studying and practising the Dharma but it will be no more than a semblance of the real thing. Therefore, whenever you listen to the teachings and whenever you practise, be it meditating on a deity, doing prostrations and cicumambulations, or reciting a mantra- even a single mani- it is always essential to give rise to bodhichitta.
Vast Skill in Means: The Attitude of the Secret Mantrayana
Everything is circumstantial. And depends sntirely on one’s aspiration.
Do not consider the place where the Dharma is being taught, the teacher, the teachings and so on as ordinary and impure. As you listen, keep the five perfections clearly in mind.
The teacher is the Buddha, the teacher is the Dharma,
The teacher is also the Sangha.
The teacher is the one who accomplishes everything,
The teacher is Glorious Vajradhara.
We, as the assembly gathered to listen to the teachings, use the basis of our own Buddha-nature, the support of our precious human life, the circumstance of having a spiritual friend and the method of following his advice, to become the Buddhas of the future. As the Havaraja Tantra says;
All beings are Buddha. But this is concealed by adventitious stains
When their stains are purified, their Buddhahood is revealed.
The second aspect of proper way to listen to spiritual teacher
CONDUCT- The right conduct while listening to teachings is described in terms of what to avoid and what to do. What to Avoid- Conduct to avoid includes the three defects of the pot, the six stains and the five wrong ways of remembering.
The Three Defects of the Pot- Not to listen is to be like a pot turned upside down. Not to be able to retain what you hear is to be like a pot with a hole in it. To mix negative emotions with what you hear is to be like a pot with poison in it.
The Upside-Down Pot- When you are listening to theteachings, listen to what is being said and do not let yourself be distracted by anything else. Otherwise you will be like an upside-down pot on which liquid is being poured. Although you are physically present, you do not hear a word of the teaching.
The Pot with the Hole- If you just listen without remembering anything that you hear or understand, you will be like a pot with a leak: however much liquid is poured into it, nothing can stay. No matter how many teachings you hear, you can never assimilate them or put them into practice.
The Pot containing Poison- If you listen to the teachings with the wrong attitude, such as desire to become great or famous, or a mind full of the five poisons, the Dharma will not only fail to help your mind; it will also be changed into something that is not Dharma at all, like nectar poured into a pot comtaining poison.
It is no good listening with only your body physically present, while your mind wanders off after your thoughts and your speech lets loose a rich store of gossip, saying whatever you like and looking around everywhere. When listening to teachings, you should even stop reciting mantras and prayers, or whatever other meritorious activities you may be doing.
After you have listened properly to a teaching in this way, it is then also important to retain the meaning of what has been said without ever forgetting it, and to continually put it into practice.
The teacher gives the disciple instructions explaining how to listen to the Dhrama and how to apply it, how to give up negative actions, how to perform positive ones, and how to practise. It is upto the disciple to remember those instructions, forgetting nothing; to put them into practice; and to realize them.
Just listening to the Dharma is perhaps of some benefit by itself. But unless you remember what you hear, you will not have the slightest knowledge of either the words or the meaning of the teaching- which is no different from not having heard it at all.
If you remember the teachings but mix them with your negative emotions, they will never be the pure Dharma. As the peerless Dagpo Rinpoche says:
Unless you practise Dharma according to the Dharma, Dharma itself becomes the cause of evil rebirths. Rid yourself of every wrong thought concerning the teacher and the Dharma, do not criticize or abuse your spiritual brothers and companions, be free of pride, and contempt, abandon all bad thoughts. For all these cause lower rebirths.
The Six Stains
In the Well-Explained Reasoning, it says: Pride,lack of faith and lack of effort. Outward distraction, inward tension and discouragement.
These are the six stains:
Avoid these six: proudly believing yourself superior to the teacher who is explaining the Dharma, not trusting the master and his teachings, failing to apply yourslef to the Dharma, getting distracted by external events, focussing your five senses too intently inwards, and being discouraged if, for example, a teaching is too long.
Off all negative emotions, pride and jealousy are the most difficult to recognize. Therefore, examine your mind minutely. Any feeling that there is something even the least bit special about your own qualities, whether worldly or spiritual, will make you blind to your own faults and unaware of others’ good qualities. So renounce pride and always take a low position.
If you have no faith, the entrance to the Dharma is blocked Of the four types of faith, aim for faith that is irreversible.
Your interest in the Dhrama is the basis of what you will achieve. So depending on whether your degree or interest is superior, middling or inferior you will become a superior, middling or inferior practioner. And if you are not at all inerested in the Dharma, there will be no results at all. As the proverb puts it:
The Dharma is nobody’s property. It belongs to whoever is the most interested.
Listen to the teachings, therefore, with great effort, ignoring heat, cold and all other trials.
The tendency of consciousness to get engrossed in the objects of the six senses is the root of all samsara’s hallunicinations and the source of all suffering. Whenever you are listening to the Dharma, teaching, meditating or practising, it is important not to follow tendencies from the past, not to day-dream about the future and not to let your present thoughts get distracted by anything around you.
Do not let your mind get too tense or too inwardly concentrated; let your senses be naturally at ease, balanced between tension and relaxation.
You should not tire of listening to the teachings. Do not feel discouraged when you get hungry or thirsty during a teaching that goes on too long, or when you have to put up with discomfort caused by wind, sun, rain and so forth.Just be glad that you now have the freedoms and advantages of human life, that you have met an authentic teacher, and that you can listen to his profound instructions.
The fact you are at this moment listening to the profound Dharma is the fruit of merits accumulated over innumerable kalpas. It is like eating a meal when you have only eaten once every hundred mealtimes through-out your life. So it is imperative to listen wiht joy, vowing to bear heat, cold and whatever trials and difficulties might arise, in order to receive these teachings.
The Five Wrong Ways of Remembering
Avoid remembering the words but forgetting the meaning. Or remembering the meaning but forgetting the words. Avoid remembering both but with no understanding. Remembering them out of order, or remembering them incorrectly.
Do not attach undue importance to elegant turns of phrase without making any attempt to analyze the profound meaning of the words. Like a child gathering flowers. Words alone are of no benefit for the mind. On the other hand, do not disregard the way in which the teachings are expressed, as being just the words and therefore dispensable. For then, even if you remember the profound meaning, you will no longer have the means through which to express it. Words and meaning will have lost their connection.
If you remember the teaching without identifying the different levels- the expedient maening, the real meaning and the indirect meaning- you will be confused about what the wordsrefer to. This may lead you away from the true Dharma. If you remember it out of order, you will mix up the proper sequence of the teaching, and every time you listen to it, explain it, or meditate on it the confusion will be multiplied. If you remember incorrectly what has been said, endless wrong ideas will proliferate. This will spoil your mind and debase the Dharma. Avoid all these errors and remember everything- the words, the meaning and the order of the teachings-without any mistake.
However long and difficult the teaching may be, do not feel disheartened and wonder if it will ever end; persevere. And however short and simple it may be, do not undervalue it as just elementary.
Compassion is not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person before you, or a sharp clarity of recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering.
Compassion is not true compassion unless it is active. Compassion seems marvelous, but in practice our actions are deeply uncompassionate and bring us and others mostly frustration and distress, and not the happiness we are all seeking for.
Isn’t it absurd,then, that we all long for happiness, yet nearly all our actions and feelings lead us directly away from that happiness?
A canny, self seeking, resourceful selfishness, the selfish protection of ego, which can, as we all know, make us at the moments extremely brutal. But in fact the complete reverse is true: self-grasping and self cherisheing are seen, when you really look at them, to be root of all the harm to others, and also of all harm to ourselves.
Every single negative thing we have ever thought or done has ultimately arisen from our grasping at a false self, and our cherishing of that false self, making it the dearest and most important element in our lives. All those negative thoughts, emotions, desires and actions that are the cause of our negative karma are engendered by self grasping and self-cherishing. They are dark, powerful magnet that attracts to us, life after life, every obstacle, every misfortune, every anguish, every disaster, and so they are the root cause of all the suffering of samsara.
Faith and Intellect
Nagarjuna states that both faith and intelligence are crucial factors for our spiritual development, and of the two, faith is the foundation. He clearly states, however, that for faith to have sufficient power to drive our spiritual progress, we need intelligence, a faculty that can enable us to recognise the right path and to cultivate deep insights. Your understanding should not remain, however, merely at the level of knowledge and intellect. Rather, it should be integrated into your heart and mind so that there is direct impact on your conduct. Otherwise your study of Buddhism will be purely intellectual and will have no effect on your attitudes, your conduct or your way of life.