Meditation practice reveals our true nature as being totally perfect and complete. However, at present, in an illusory and temporary way, we are incomplete. Although we have many good qualities, we also have many obstacles. In order to reveal this completeness, the most important things to work with are the body, speech, and mind. In Buddhism, these three aspects are called the three doors.
Along with the three doors, we cling to other dualistic labels like “he” and “she” and “I” and “you.” In our present state we are continually thinking about “me” and “mine.” When we observe this thinking about “me,” we see that it is just a way in which we grasp and hold on to the idea of a self.
Taming The Mind: The Mind is Changing Every Instant
It is very important to tame the mind because it is the basis for speech and action. Buddhist masters have said that the mind is like a king and the body and speech are like servants. If the mind accepts something, then the body and speech follow. If the mind is not satisfied, no matter how nice it looks on the outside, the body and speech will refuse it.
To see how vast and subtle the mind is, we can look at the continuity of our thoughts. For example, the present thought developed from the thought of the previous instant. Thoughts continue from the previous minute, the previous hour, from today, yesterday, and so on.
The present thought is a result, and every result must have a cause. Everything that we see or hear or touch has causes and conditions. Our past thoughts influence our present thoughts. The mind is changing and moving every instant. If the mind were permanent, we would not be thinking at this moment, because permanent means unchanging. But thoughts change constantly. For example, as these words change, your mind changes accordingly. It never stays the same.
There are thousands of instants of thoughts; each follows the other continuously like a river. Your present mind has a cause and it has conditions, and it will continue without interruption until you attain enlightenment.
The Continuation of Consciousness
The continuation of consciousness through different stages is what Buddhists call past and future lives. Even though at this moment you do not remember your past lifetimes, or you do not understand how you were conceived in your mother’s womb, there is definitely a continuation. You have come here now, and you will go on continuously in the future.
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It is similar to seeing a flowing river. Since the river has arrived at this point, you know it must be continuous. Even though you cannot see its source, you know that the river has come from somewhere and will continue to go somewhere. You have come from the past, from beginningless time. Now you are here, and your consciousness will continue tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year.
It is very important to understand the way causes and conditions work because this understanding brings inner wisdom. The cause of the body is the elements and the cause of consciousness is consciousness itself. Whatever results will be similar to the causes and conditions that produced it. For example, if we plant a seed of wheat, we will grow wheat, not corn or soybeans.
Ignorance Blocks Our Vision & Wisdom
Ignorance blocks our vision in many ways. For example, if someone asks us where the mind came from or where it will go in the future, or how long we will live on this earth, we do not know the answers. Ignorance has covered up wisdom to the extent that we do not even understand the way things work at the relative level of cause and effect. Buddha Shakyamuni said that sentient beings are wandering in darkness, unable to see beyond what they can feel.
Ignorance also obscures the mind’s enlightened qualities. One way that ignorance obscures the wisdom mind is through negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and desire, which keep the mind from remaining in the natural state. When we are under the control of negative emotions, we simply cannot have a peaceful state of mind. We find ourselves worried and uneasy, floating in an ocean of ignorance, where we are tossed about by waves of resentment, fear and attachment.
It is important to remember that ignorance can be removed; it is not the fundamental nature of the mind. If we understand the causes and effects of ignorance and wisdom, we can work to remove confusion and bring out the inherent enlightened qualities.
©2010 by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche
and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Snow Lion Publications. http://www.snowlionpub.com
The Buddhist Path: A Practical Guide from the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism
by Khenchen Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche.
A rounded approach that includes guidance on how to cultivate intellect and heart so that our true nature can easily manifest, along with clear explanations and methods that reveal how the mind functions and what its essence, our primordial nature, is. The reader is also given invaluable meditation instructions that are relevant for practitioners of all levels.
About the Authors
Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche is a renowned scholar and meditation master of Nyingma, the Ancient School of Tibetan Buddhism. He started his education at the age of four at Gochen Monastery. At the age of twelve he entered Riwoche Monastery and completed his studies just before the Chinese invasion of Tibet reached that area. In 1960, Rinpoche and his family were forced into exile, escaping to India. Rinpoche moved to the United States in 1984 and in 1985, he and his brother Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche founded the Dharma Samudra Publishing Company. In 1988, they founded the Padmasambhava Buddhist Center, which has centers throughout the United States, as well as in Puerto Rico, Russia, and India. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche passed into parinirvana peacefully on June 19, 2010.
Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche was born in the Dhoshul region of Kham in eastern Tibet. Rinpoche's first dharma teacher was his father, Lama Chimed Namgyal Rinpoche. Beginning his schooling at the age of five, he entered Gochen Monastery. His studies were interrupted by the Chinese invasion and his family's escape to India.