Archive | February 2021

Looking at oneself

Jamyang Rinpoche :

There was a very large Kagyu monastery near Lhasa called Trangdor Monastery. A very important Khenpo from that monastery came to Yarchen Monastery. He was said to be extremely proficient in debate, almost invincible on the debate grounds. He had been to Serthar Larung Monastic University. He was quite critical of many things he saw in the places he visited.

At the beginning, he was somewhat proud of himself. What is the reason for that? It was due to his great learnedness in the Dharma. When he had visited the Gelug monasteries (famed for their skills in debate and erudition), he was also undefeatable in debate. When he first came to Yarchen Monastery, his intention was not to come to learn the Dharma. He wanted to see for himself what Yarchen monastery was like as its fame was spreading quite widely at that time. Serthar Larung Monastic University was also very famous, that was why he also visited it.

When he was at Yarchen, he met Lama Achuk Rinpoche. At first, he did not even make prostrations to Lama Achuk Rinpoche, he went straight up to Lama Rinpoche and asked a few questions. Lama Achuk Rinpoche answered his questions in a way that captured the essential points. This Khenpo was so struck by Lama Rinpoche’s response that he decided that he could not leave Yarchen, he had to stay on to learn more Dharma.

After he had been in Yarchen for about one month, he observed that I was always around Lama Rinpoche and in Lama Rinpoche’s home, so he must have thought that I was an important disciple of Lama Rinpoche. Once, I had been meditating on the Zangdok Palri Mountain, it was summer-time and the vegetations and flowers were blooming. I held a worn-out pair of shoes in my hands and walking bare-footed, met him on the way home.

He asked me, “Where did you go?” I replied that I had been meditating on the mountain. He exclaimed, “What kind of meditation are you doing? Instead of always meditating on emptiness, you should be studying, you are so young still, what kind of texts have you studied?” (I was probably about 16 at that time. ) He asked me if I had read texts such as Abhidharma or this treatise or that commentary, listing many texts.

I said, “I do not know those texts. I only know and understand myself, I do not know anything else.” The Khenpo then fell silent and seemed dumbfounded. But it was true. I did not know any of those texts that he stated. I did not know any teaching either. I only know myself very well. This is what Lama Achuk Rinpoche taught me since I followed him as my Guru for the past 4 or 5 years. This was what my Guru kept teaching me. Now, due to my Guru’s kindness, I truly understood myself. This was what I told the Khenpo.

Later, he returned home and it seemed that my words had struck a raw nerve in him and exposed his own problem. That night, he went to see Lama Achuk Rinpoche. When he saw Lama Rinpoche, he immediately prostrated and knelt down with his hands folded, imploring with tears in his eyes, “All that I have said in the past is mistaken! I was very wrong!” Lama Rinpoche then said, “What is the matter? What happened to you today?” The Khenpo said, “Guru, please save me. If you do not save me, since I am already so wrong and on the wrong path and near the end of my life, about to go to the next life, what can I do? Guru, could you please give me a chance and save me?”

Lama Rinpoche replied, “It is fine. I can save you. It is very simple. It is not something very difficult. Everything that you have learnt before, can you use it to reflect on yourself instead of using it to check on other people? Don’t stay on the level of words, don’t leave the Dharma in the texts but bring the Dharma into your mind. Can you try to integrate the Dharma with your mind indivisibly, so that your entire being becomes the Dharma? If you can do that, then it will be possible to save you.”

Later, Khenpo told Lama Rinpoche saying, “That young monk who is beside you all the time, when I met him today on the road, he said something to me and I felt extremely sad. I am a high Khenpo while he is just a young monk. He said that he doesn’t know anything else but he knows himself. He doesn’t understand anything else, but he understands himself. From this, I understood that my Dharma path has been badly mistaken and wrong.”

This Khenpo understood everything else externally, but he did not understand himself. However, when it comes to liberation, it is oneself who has to be liberated, one does not find liberation in other people. To cut mental afflictions, it is one’s own mental afflictions that are cut, not other peoples’ mental afflictions. The Khenpo began to understand this and started to engage in practice in Yarchen.

Later in 2003, when I returned to Yarchen, he was still there. We had a picnic together on the grass. By then, we had been Vajra Brothers for several years under Lama Achuk Rinpoche, I was probably in my 30s then, and Khenpo was approaching his 60th year. He asked me, “Do you remember that when you were young, you gave me a teaching and you saved me? If you did not say what you said, I would have probably gone down the wrong path and not stayed on at Yarchen Monastery.”

It is like that. If you remain on the level of words and theory, you will not attain liberation but remain stuck in samsara. But if you truly practiced and habituate your mind to the Dharma, even an uneducated nomad can attain liberation. If the Dharma truly penetrated into your mind, no matter what level of social status, power or intelligence you possess, it does not matter. If you have practised according to the pith instructions of the Guru, there is nothing difficult about it. The pureland is not very far away. The pureland is just nearby.

The problem with people nowadays is that they are unable to let go of ‘face’ or egoistic pride. The second problem is that they mix whatever Dharma they listen to with all kinds of worldly motivations such as fame, power, benefits etc, which pollutes the Dharma they listen to. They start to criticize even the teacher and even say that this teacher speaks well, or that teacher speaks poorly. Not for an instant do they look back at themselves and check out what faults they themselves have. Looking at others only, they do not have the chance to observe themselves to see what faults are emerging in their own minds.