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Teachings by Thrangu Rinpocheas

The following are an extract of an interview:

Simply for your information as many of us do have a connection with this learned Rinpoche.
Teachings by Thrangu Rinpocheas extracted from the Namo Buddha Archives

Question: Why can’t gods, sages, and Brahmin reach enlightenment?
Rinpoche: The gods, sages, and Brahmin are only concerned with their own welfare. They practice to attain Buddhahood only to eliminate their personal suffering. Therefore they have never even dreamt of an attitude of awakening mind being concerned only with their own welfare.

Question: What is the philosopher’s stone?
Rinpoche: At the time of Nagarjuna this gold-making elixir existed. It has been said that if one had an ounce of this elixir, one would be able to transform one thousand ounces of iron into gold. In those days Nagarjuna constructed a great university of Nalanda and other holy places. He was, however, an ordinary monk and had no wealth whatsoever. So to construct these places, he did a practice that made use of this gold-making elixir.

Question: Could you explain further the fear of a bodhisattva faced with the task of helping absolutely all sentient beings?
Rinpoche: The fear of engendering awakening mind is thinking, “Well, I’ll never be able to help all these beings, since they are so numerous.” One thinks of all these numerous and various beings and all their desires and that one is not able to fulfill all their hopes and desires. So there is a fear of engendering the awakening mind or engaging in bodhisattva activity.
It might seem that this effort involves suffering, but it also involves happiness. For example, if you are concerned about ten people and you help one of them, then you feel very happy. You will be content with your effort of having been able to help one person. So if you are able to help two or three or more of these people, you will be even happier. So in the case of a bodhisattva who is concerned with a limitless number of beings, the bodhisattva’s happiness and joy is continuous. It is continuous because the bodhisattva is concerned with the welfare of so many and each time someone is helped, the bodhisattva is happy. So, in fact, there is a continuous happiness and joy, rather than suffering with this commitment.

Question: How much negative karma is erased from doing good actions?
Rinpoche: The virtue resulting from giving rise to the awakening mind is very powerful. In fact, it consumes negative karma. In the case of extremely strong negative karma, awakening mind will, so to speak, take away the effect, though one will have to experience some of the effects of this negative karma. In the case of a slight misdeed, it will be eliminated totally by awakening mind. If one, for example, has accumulated karma which will result in rebirth in hell and after one has given rise to the awakening mind, the future effect of this negative karma will be very slight. For example, if you drop a ball, it bounces back off the ground. In the same way, rather than having to dwell in the hell realms for a very long period of time, one might just fall down into the hell realms and then bounce up again like a ball.

Question: Do person who are nonBuddhist or have not taken the bodhisattva vows possess awakening mind or bodhichitta?
Rinpoche: There are fortunate beings in the world who have many good intentions and these one could say have bodhichitta. But the majority of those that are endowed with bodhichitta are to be found within the Buddhist tradition because Buddhists have an understanding of bodhichitta and know it’s meaning. Bodhichitta generally means that one has developed goodness of mind or one has good intentions. But these good intentions might be limited to having good intentions in relation to relatives, one’s country, one’s race, and so forth. If one, for example, has good intentions towards one’s relatives, it follows that one might be adverse to those that are not one’s relatives. If one has good intentions in relations to one’s country, it follows one will probably have bad intentions towards other countries. Similarly, having good intentions towards those that are of the same race means one is probably adverse towards others of a different race. With bodhichitta, however, one is not biased and one’s good intentions includes all sentient beings. One believes that all sentient beings no matter what country they belong to, whether they are related or not, or whether they belong to the race or not, desire happiness and want to avoid suffering. So a bodhisattva’s good intentions include all these sentient beings and is completely unbiased.
There are many people that have good intentions and desire to help others, but their good intentions are limited. They think that it’s not necessary to attain Buddhahood and it is sufficient to be happy oneself and benefit others so that they are happy. In actual fact, one needs to establish all beings in Buddhahood because any other help is only temporary and will eventually be exhausted. For example, if one lends a hundred dollars to someone, for some time that person will have money and be temporarily helped, but when the money is used up, that person is impoverished as before. Whereas if one is able to establish someone in Buddhahood, that is the ultimate kind of help and will never be exhausted.

Question: I want to ask a practical question. If you do an evil deed during the day, should you try to confess it right away, or should you wait until the end of the day or should you wait until you practice?
Rinpoche: It doesn’t make a big difference when one confesses evil deeds. One confesses what one has done the moment one recognizes that one has committed an evil deed. Whether a day has elapsed, whether it’s immediately or after a few years makes no great difference. At the point when one recognizes that one has committed an evil deed and regrets that, one makes a confession. With respect to commitment of the vajrayana tradition on the other hand, timeliness have been mentioned, though generally speaking with respect to evil actions there are no particular time limits.

Question: Does one have to feel remorse with confession?
Rinpoche: Here confession is concerned with recognizing or identifying evil deeds that one has committed. It’s not very important to have a feeling of remorse or regret for no particular reason. With respect to confession or disclosure of evil, one actually recalls negative deeds and regrets them.

Question: What about regret?
Rinpoche: Well, usually with regret, one has a reason. There is something one has done in a mistaken way and one recognizes this. And therefore one feels remorse or regret. Though generally speaking, the nature of samsara is suffering and so forth. So when this state of mind arises without any particular reason, it’s good to meditate or do some practice which could clear away that frame of mind. It just indicates the general nature of samsara and suffering, the fact that state of mind arises.

Question: Is it important to visualize the buddhas and bodhisattvas?
Rinpoche: Well, buddhas and bodhisattvas are not ordinary beings. There is the interaction between oneself meditating on the buddhas and bodhisattvas and the buddhas and bodhisattvas knowing that one is doing this act of confession. So we are not able to actually see these buddhas and bodhisattvas in front of us, but they are present. We evoke them then by doing this meditation and not being ordinary beings, they at that point know that we are doing this confession, and they actually are present in front of us.

Question: How far away should one visualize them?
Rinpoche: There is no ordinary distance. For them, it’s not a question of being far away or close by. They are not present in front of us physically. They are present in the sense that they are aware of our confession.

Question: I do not understand rebirth.
Rinpoche: There is what one calls the mental continuum. The Bagamati River here in Kathmandu always seems to be the same river, though in actual fact, yesterday’s river is not the same as today’s river because the water in yesterday’s river has already flowed down to India. It’s not here anymore, though one thinks of the river as the same one when in actual fact, it’s not. It’s new water flowing through all the time. Similarly, one’s present body is different from the body one will have in one’s future life, though one still thinks one is the same.
So, now with a human being and he can talk about lots of different things. If he’s reborn as a dog, for example, he can’t talk anymore, he can only bark. So even though he might think he is one and the same individual, in fact he’s not.

Question: How can we completely eliminate the kleshas or negative obscurations?
Rinpoche: One speaks of suppressing, for example, anger, and the antidote for this is patience. One develops patience by considering the result of what ensues from anger. Based on this one is able to suppress anger, but it’s not uprooted. To abandon, for example, anger one then meditates on selflessness, that is, one meditates on the emptiness of all phenomena. In terms of the vajrayana tradition, one meditates on mahamudra or dzog chen, and anger or any other affliction will be abandoned when the true nature of mind is realized. Then naturally these afflictions will have been pacified.

Question: How do we know when we are sufficiently developed in our shamatha meditation to go on to vipashyana meditation?
Rinpoche: It is not good if we stay with shamatha meditation and never begin vipashyana meditation. Because vipashyana is actually being able to uproot the disturbing emotions, vipashyana is what establishes us in liberation. For this reason we need to begin vipashyana, but this vipashyana meditation needs to be grounded in the calm abiding of shamatha meditation. What are the signs of having reached a stable mind in shamatha meditation? The signs are that you can rest your mind whenever you want it to rest, that your have little trouble in letting go and being at ease at will, that you do not often experience the faults of dullness and agitation in your meditation. When you do not have dullness or agitation often and that your mind is easy and open, then that is a sign that your mind has some kind of stability and that is a sign that your are ready for vipashyana meditation.

Question: How does forsaking attachment to friends and relatives relate to the relationship one has for one’s children?
Rinpoche: There is the feeling of attachment and there is the feeling of wanting to benefit others. We need to understand that wishing good for our children is not something undesirable, but is something good. It is all right to think, “I wish that my children will be healthy, they will have a good education, and that they will have a good life.” That is simply wishing them well and is giving up nothing. On the other hand thinking, “I must always be with my children and I cannot live without them.” is attachment and this is not healthy. If one wishes well for one’s children, then its fine and there’s nothing to give up.

Question: Can you say something about enlightenment.
Rinpoche: There are various religious traditions in the world. Non-Buddhist traditions often believe that enlightenment is God, a supernatural power which if one prays to this God, then that God will be pleased and will grant one whatever one wishes. They also believe that if one does not pray to that God and does not keep contact with that God, the God will not be pleased and one will not get what one wishes. So this is the theist view of enlightenment. But in Buddhism, enlightenment is noting outside, it is nothing other than our own mind. Sometimes our mind is polluted, sometimes the good qualities of our mind do not manifest, but when our mind is purified, then all these special qualities of enlightenment will unfold. The word for enlightenment in Tibetan is “sang gay” with each syllable having a meaning. The first syllable sang means “to purify” and the second syllable gay means “fully” so reaching enlightenment is when all the temporary thoughts of the mind have been dispelled by the power of meditation and all the excellent qualities of the mind have unfolded fully.

Question: Can you say something about busyness?
Rinpoche: If we look at our life, we see that we are actually always in pursuit of something, always busy doing something. When night comes, we go to bed thinking we didn’t really finish that job and we’ll have to get up really early tomorrow to do it. Then the next day we work worrying about whether we will finish our job. We go on this way without ever really completing the project especially in modern life. Then we feel unhappy when we have no project or job. So we’re suffering if we are busy and unhappy and also when we are not busy. This is what is understood by the suffering of busyness. This is due because our mind is never satisfied thinking, “I will be happy if I have $ 1,000.” Then when we get it we think, “No, I need $ 2,000.” We are always thinking that it is quite enough, we need more. This is the impulse that causes suffering in human beings.

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