Tag Archive | dharma

Interview with Thinley Norbu Rinpoche on bringing up children

I understand you are writing a new book on bringing up children. Would you tell us about it?

I thought Westerners might be interested in how to give their children good habits, especially to connect with Buddhism. The book is for children, but parents should give up parent’s ego and study it in order to teach children.

The title is Fresh Rain. It is about how to create good habits in children, to raise the crops of spiritual knowledge. When children start to see objects and start to talk, you can put the seeds of good habits in their minds gradually, with skilful means and patience, for the long term, showing them how to practise for enlightenment and also for this life. It is important to put the seeds of how to settle their minds from the beginning.

Ordinary people cannot be forced to think or act beyond their capacity, because it can cause craziness. Unless they have especially gifted minds or are a sublime being’s incarnation, very young children cannot understand subtle, immaterial spiritual ideas. So therefore, they have to be taught gradually about spirituality at the right time, with skilful means, through the objects of the five senses in the material world, even though the source of material energy is immaterial and the basis of spiritual phenomena is insubstantial.

Children must be taught initially through material examples which they can touch, which they can see, and which they can hear, in order to connect them to immaterial spirituality. At least they will not have an unstable mind or mental disorder. Ultimately, this can be beneficial to attain enlightenment if they practise continuously. If they have faith, it can benefit them even momentarily in this life. Then, as they grow up, they have to change again, because they develop their minds. Their minds become more refined, and they become ready to learn more refined ideas. As they grow up further, a more expansive point of view has to be gradually taught.

The main key is to make children’s minds very balanced, very stable, and not speedy. Nowadays, many people are very speedy from the habit of competition, but this always causes mistakes. It is not right to think about the past or future just to be expedient for one’s own instant gratification which leads to many disastrous consequences. The problem is that they have to continuously repair their mistakes.

Of course, samsara is like this world; it is not a buddhafield. There are always mistakes, but Americans make many more mistakes than anyone, I think. I say this with good intention, not to be negative, hoping they will decrease and cure their mental halitosis. There is so much technology and material wealth; people don’t believe in the spiritual idea. People don’t believe in rest. They are so afraid of delaying anything, and they always have to rush.

This automatically seeds extreme nervousness, frustration and fear, so when they age, they are more unhappy and depressed. They can no longer deal with the material world in the same way because their physical energy is decaying, yet reminiscence of their youth continues in their minds. It is very difficult to help them through substance, and their misery cannot be cured easily because of their lack of spiritual development. So, spiritual development cannot be ignored, in order to always have a positive life until attaining enlightenment.

There is such a great cultural distance between Tibet and the West, how easy is it to communicate the dharma to Westerners?

If Westerners think and say that dharma is difficult to communicate to Westerners because it is foreign to them, it will discourage them from believing in their buddhanature, rather than inspiring them to let their buddhanature blossom.

Whoever follows the Mahayana teachings believes, as Buddha Shakyamuni said, that all sentient beings have buddhanature. Buddhanature does not mean animal nature. Buddhanature means the awakened nature which is the source of immeasurable, awakened knowledge. Therefore, that is the root circumstance seed. Through that seed of buddhanature and the good opportunity of contributing circumstances arising, such as wisdom lineage teachers, buddhanature can blossom.

Buddhanature is not foreign. Buddhanature itself has no division. Division only comes from the lack of acknowledgement of buddhanature. So, it is not only Westerners who can connect with dharma some day, but other beings also. Instead of thinking dharma is foreign and discouraging Westerners from opening their buddhanature, we should have the inspiration of believing in buddhanature and try to let it blossom as shown by the Uttaratantra’s three reasons.

Actually, in the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings, Buddha Shakyamuni never made divisions between those with different skins and cultures. If people do not think dharma is foreign, and they believe in buddhanature, then buddhanature is not foreign and they can cause enlightenment the same as other supposedly foreign Buddhas, and join with other foreign Buddhas. But this depends on the individual’s decision. For example, Devadatta was not physically foreign to the Buddha. He was Buddha’s cousin, from the same race and family and locale as Buddha, but through his jealousy, Buddha’s activity became foreign to him. It cannot be said who is foreign and who is not. It is the individual’s karma.

But even though it is generally acknowledged in history that Devadatta is evil, I cannot decide myself. I cannot say that Devadatta is certainly evil, because as I heard and read in the many vast Mahayana teachings from my great teachers, for the benefit of sentient beings, it is taught and written that Buddha’s activity can be anything, and Buddha can emanate anything, sometimes with what seems to be negative appearance and sometimes with positive appearance, in the form of demons or in the form of deities, as a demonstration for the benefit of sentient beings who have dualistic habit in order to guide them so that they can recognise the difference between what is negative and positive, and so that they can analyse what is bad and what is good.

A master magician can create many different spectacles on a stage, but he himself does not believe that they are true. The audience believes in their reality because they are attached to reality habit. Even though they know it is just the performance of a magician, if the magic is frightening, the audience has fear, and if the magic is beautiful, the audience has desire.

Because bodhisattva’s prayers are so vast, and Buddha’s miracles are so awesome, it can never be said by someone such as me what the ultimate nature of appearance is, since any appearance can be a Buddha’s emanation. Many people of inferior faculties misunderstand the miraculous histories of many sublime beings, including misinterpreting Padmasambhava’s history, because of their seriously mistaken habit from many lives. Even the one angle that they see is only seen through their critical, negative habit.

Was your father, Dudjom Rinpoche, your teacher?

All inner Vajrayana practitioners say “Pa chhog Dorje Chang” — supreme father Vajradhara — as Tilopa said. So, I suppose I can call my father my supreme vajra master father. Father and vajra master are indivisible for me.

Your books have been popular and much sought-after by Western students of Buddhism. Yet you do not seem to seek publicity or large numbers of students. Why do you not seek a more prominent public role?

In general, if I’m in good health, I like to present the teachings in public, but for many years I have had health problems that have reduced my energy very much. I do not want to only blame the operations I have had; I am supposed to believe it is my karmic result, according to the causal yana. However, it is difficult to judge which way of serving the Buddha’s teachings is truly beneficial, whether it is done publicly or privately. It depends on the intentions of the teachers and the listeners, and can only be known from sublime beings. The main teaching is to try to help others in an immaterial, spiritual way, to guide them to enlightenment through blossoming wisdom, spirituality, and not only through materialising and conceptualising.

I do not want to say either that many people know me or that no one knows me because I do not want to prove anything. In general, few, many and much always go within different times, different places, and different directions. Time, place and direction are always changing. So, the best way is not to answer anything in a particular way.

You came to the West first in 1976 because of your health problems. Why did you choose to stay?

I didn’t choose; I think my karma chose, the same as for other sentient beings. Also, I often stay in the West and in other places. I can’t say I will stay continuously in the West, because first, I cannot say what my karma is, and second, I still have breath, so I can move.

Was it good or bad karma to stay in the West?

If someone likes to think it’s bad karma, I like to say it is bad, in order to satisfy them. If someone likes to say it is good karma, I like to say it is good, in order to satisfy them. What other people like to perceive, I have to answer. What I believe from my heart, people may not believe because of different points of view. I cannot know if it is good or bad karma or what is the result and what is the cause. Maybe from the Buddha’s teaching I can know what is good karma and what is bad karma, but I don’t know myself because I have no wisdom eyes, my mind is obscured, and I cannot penetrate any past lives or future lives. So maybe it is bad karma or maybe good karma.

Potencies of Holy Days

“In the Kalachakra Tantra, it is stated that during the occurence of a solar or lunar eclipse, all positive actions would increase in effect by a thousand or ten-thousand fold.   In China, in the Susiddhikara Sutra, it is stated that during a lunar eclipse, one can accomplish the highest attainment; during a solar eclipse, one can accomplish the highest, medium and lowest attainments.”    ~ Khenpo Suodargye, one of the most extraordinarily learnt and prolific translators in our times

“Why are the solar and lunar eclipses important  times for doing Dharma practices?  In the Kalachakra tantra it is deemed that the external sun and moon corresponds to the Prana (Vayu), Nadi and Bindu (Wind, Channel and Essence) in one’s body.  Everyone breathes 21,600 times everyday, out of which a large proportion are karmic winds.  The proportion of wisdom winds is relatively smaller.  On such holy days, most of the karmic winds are transformed into wisdom winds, therefore the Prana(Vayu), Nadi and Bindus are circulating in a special phase and diligent Dharma practice during these times would yield a result beyond that of normal times.”   ~  Khenchen Tsultrim Lodro –  vice abbot of one of the largest monastery in the world – the Larong Five Sciences University


View other link about Eclipses:


Difficulties in Dharma Practice

Collated quotes on this topic…

Suffering exhausts future causes for greater suffering; enjoyment only uses up blessings … practice the dharma with great patience and perseverance for all hardship because it purifies past karma. Worldly achievements come with great hardship but little lasting benefit. Dharma brings limitless benefit for relatively little hardship. The greater the difficulty, the greater the purification and merit.

Don’t seek easy dharma practice… all the past masters have had to give up alot and go through immense difficulties to achieve. How can it be any different now in this age of degeneration when merit is even weaker?

Although one experiences hardship during dharma practice, it makes the resulting benefit even sweeter. Although one suffers in dharma practice, but it is suffering with inner joy and satisfaction

If you are a sincere practitioner, every single difficulty in the course of your practice and life is purification. Don’t think that it is not related to dharma practice. Having patience during obstacles is in itself dharma practice and one of the best sign of purification. We should rejoice when there are obstacles!
When facing obstacles, there are only two things to do: 1. Accumulate more merit 2. Relax your gripping attachments to whatever is making you suffer and accept the situation with a relaxed wisdom state of mind
If we can turn around obstacles and make use of them in the path, then there is no situation that does not transform into the Guru’s blessings and the dharma practice. Basically, such a practitioner can only progress forward
If you are comfortable and not practising dharma, then it is right to be fearful of the future when anytime negative karma can catch up and ripen. If you are suffering while practising dharma, then it is right to rejoice in the difficulty and know that only great benefit will await you in the future.
If your own aspirations and motivation are in tune with the teachings and Buddhas/Bodhisattvas, then there is no need to fear obstacles, because even if one has obstacles, one can always trust in the guidance and blessings of the Triple Jewels.

Karmapa Teachings on the Four Dharma Seals

You can listen to this 12-parter teaching on the Four Dharma Seals by His Holiness Karmapa at this web-link… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx-VfQKuxAE

The four Dharma seals are:
All compounded phenomena are impermanent, everything defiled (with ego-clinging) is suffering, all phenomena are empty and devoid of a self-entity, and nirvana is perfect peace.

Karmapa talks about some ways in which we go wrong in our practice and what is the true essence of Buddhism. It is important to have a deep insight into these four seals at least intellectually to know how to approach/practice Buddhism… everything in Buddhism on the path can be traced back to these four seals… that’s why they are called ‘seals’.

I really deeply recommend all readers to study this topic deeply,  not only through this video but also through your own contemplation and relating it to your own practice.  I found this understanding profoundly reshaping my practice and my whole life and it continues to be so further more….

Long term practice — Happier as we age

I have been telling my friends… in the path of practice, we accomplish alot by doing a little everyday.  Although it seems that our daily practice of 1 hour or so is so insignificant, but always look at the bigger picture.  In time to come, we accomplish alot.  For eg. if you are doing 108 Mani mantras every single day without skipping at all, then in 10 years, you would have accomplished more than 300,000 mani mantras.  Which is not bad!  And that takes maybe a minute or two a day if you do it fast?

What more for those who put in more effort daily.  So don’t discourage yourself or underestimate what our daily practice can do.  Bit by bit we are building up a spiritual support that will go beyond all changes in outer circumstances.  No matter what happens outside, due to our strong practice, we will never be totally crushed.  There is always a part of us that is more resilent, filled with positive energy and able to deal with whatever happens… this is all due to the small practice we have everyday that builds up our inner strength over time.

Everytime we think that nothing is really happening with our practice, our chanting, our mantras, our meditation… think again!  What is happening may be so gradual that you can’t detect it yet but it will definitely bear its fruit in time to come.  Of course, this is not saying that we can just do our prayers like a robot. We have to bring to it as much genuineness and faith as possible.  Spiritual practice shows its results in years and decades.  It is something very very significant and being so significant, it has to take time to develop and take root.  Never believe in shortcuts, fast results, cheap thrills and what not… all these things are just byproducts of greed. Which never ever leads anywhere.

In tibet, many practitioners do mantras daily and at the end of their lives, they have accomplished a staggering amount of mantras which represents a very rich stock of potentiality for awakening and for positive conditions in their lives.  Now i’d say that is a very good result, won’t you. Compared to wasting your whole life and ending up on the death bed with nothing much to show for and much regret, untied ends etc.  Such practitioners get happier and happier when they approach death. They are happy with what they have done. They may even be confident to face death and they may be sure of going to the purelands… And i say this is the way we should be getting too… happier and happier as we age, because we are always developing virtue and going to a better stage… unlike other people who may get more and more sad, depressed, lonely, paranoid as they grow older…

Stick with your practice, you’d NEVER regret it in the final end.  Do whatever short or long retreats you can. Accumulate prayers/ mantras. Meditate on emptiness… everything counts. Nothing will ever be lost and gone once you have dedicated the merit. One day the fruit wld be so evident. And we are always admiring those great practitioners or realised beings, but please note that they also have to consistently, diligently plant the causes for that until the day it ripened.  Between their path and yours, does not exist the slightest difference.

Info about eclipses

In many cultures throughout the world, eclipses were viewed as important astronomical events, often associated with ill omens and misfortune. Many cultures believed that the sun or moon was being devoured or eaten by dragons or demonic planets (rahulas), and that this had negative effects for all life on earth. This comes from the basic understanding that the planets, particularly the sun and moon, have definite energetic effects on all living things. The microcosm of our bodies is intimitely affected by the macrocosmic movement of the celestial bodies. This is especially demonstrated by the tantric view of the solar and lunar radiations governing the movement of energy within left and right subtle energy channels in our bodies. In addition, it is beleived that the sun and moon radiates many kinds of subtle elemental energies that help to sustain life on earth.

   When there is an interruption of these energy radiations, as during an eclipse, its effects can be observed and felt. It is a cessation, or a cutting off, of these vital energies. We can see this concept expressed by the word ‘eclipse;’ a Greek word that means ‘abandon’ in the sense that the sun ‘abandons’ the earth during that time. Where there was light filtering through the elemental forces of the zodiac into the earth’s aura, there is suddenly darkness, a cutting off from the source of life. When these solar or lunar radiations are cut off, it creates an energetic stress on the planet and all life on it. This can be observed by the rise in disorders such as epilepsy and mental illness, the strange behaviors of animals – both land and sea, by the way the birds become silent,  by the shift in the gravitational pull, and the arising of earthquakes, volcanos, and other terrestrial phenomena.
The stressors are strongest on the areas that are directly affected by the eclipse – in other words, the areas on the planet where the eclipse is visible. The upcooming eclipse on Jan. 15, will be visible in parts of Africa, India and China. Although the energetic disruption will affect the entire planet, it will be particularly strong in these areas. According to Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, many beings – beings with forms and without forms – die during eclipses as a result of the stress or the ‘abandonment’ of the solar rays, especially if their life force is particularly weakened or they have certain astrological alignments that are in conflict with the planets involved with the eclipse.

     According to tantric Buddhist cosmology, the energies that are lost during eclipses, cannot be recovered. This means that every time there is an eclipse, there is a gradual diminishment of energy on the planet. Over the course of decades, centuries, and millennia, this gradual decreasing of energy is what is known as ‘the degenerate age.’ This manifests as the gradual lessening of the power of the five elements – food and herbs loose their potency, there is less oxygen in the atmosphere, diseases and pollution increase, there is a worsening of natural disasters and suffering. This process of elemental degeneration is largely created as a result of these continual cycles of eclipses, until finally we reach the end of the kalpa when only one element predominates and consumes what is left.
    For this reason, in the Buddhist tradition, much emphasis is placed on engaging in Dharma practice on these days. By generating merit and reciting prayers, we can lessen the overall diminishment of energy and slow down the process of degeneration. We can help to preserve the continuity of the elemental energies, and by doing so, it may be possible to save the lives of those beings who may die as a result of the stress caused by the eclipse. Some Buddhist sources say that during a solar eclipse the effects of positive and negative actions are multiplied by 10,000. What this means is that if you engage in virtuous practice it will be more helpful than usual. However, if you engage in non-virtue, it will further the process of degeneration. During an eclipse, Dharma practice is the special method to not leak away the element’s energy that is the support for all beings.        

There are some special prayers, such as the ‘Kunzang Monlam’ (Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra) that state very specifically that the prayer should be recited during eclipses. However, any Dharma practice – whether it is prayers, mantras, sadhanas – will be helpful in preventing the loss of the vital energies provided by the sun; in particular, the mantra for Medicine Buddha, Amitayus, Tara, Vajra Guru, or reciting the ‘Tse-Do Tse-Sung’ Sutra.