The 12th Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche
April 11, 2011 Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat (H.P) India. Video produced by Palpung Media Studio.
Transcript of teachings given on request of Palpung Yeshe Chöling Slovenia. Slightly edited and published by permission.
The first subject is Buddha nature. To understand Buddha nature you have to know what Buddha is. Buddha is a Sanskrit word and it is not a name of a person, but it is a description of attainment of Prince Siddharta, and all the past Buddhas. And also all the future Buddhas. I believe each one of you are one of the future Buddhas. Now, Buddha means one who is fully awakened and fully mature. So what is there to be awakened? And what is there to be matured? Each and every one of us, all sentient beings have primordial, limitless potential. Primordial wisdom potential. This potential, when it is fully awakened and when it is fully developed, then the person is Buddha. Until that the person is not Buddha, but the person is with the Buddha nature or Buddha potential.
Now, how do we know that every sentient being has Buddha nature and Buddha potential? That is quite simple. If you ask somebody: “Do you like to be happy?” they will say: “Yes.” “Do you like to suffer?” they will say: “No.” So in this whole universe you cannot find one person or one being who don’t like to be happy and who don’t like to overcome the suffering.
Then you ask the second question: “What is happiness? What do you want? What will make you happy? What is suffering? What you don’t like and what you like to overcome?” When you ask these two questions, then it becomes quite individualistic. Some person will say something about the happiness and describe the happiness in one way. Another person will describe it slightly differently. And even the same person, if you ask the question from the person today and you ask the same question tomorrow, the answer will be slightly different. If you ask the same question from the same person one year from now, the answer will be quite different. Therefore definition of enlightenment, awakening and developing or maturing becomes relevant.
Although our basic wish for happiness and basic wish to be free from suffering is same, what makes us happy and what makes us suffer is different. Those who like to meditate and do retreat, they like to be alone. They like to do nothing but meditate. That makes them very happy. Although that is not an ultimate purpose of the meditation, a temporary, immediate purpose is to be in peace, at peace, and happy. So, people become very happy when they are alone and when they don’t have any worldly things to do. When they don’t have all the worldly entertainments and all these things around them, they are very happy.
Contrary to that, if you ask somebody just from the ordinary life – let’s say, go to the street and ask somebody to come up and just sit there for five hours not doing anything, the person will be bored, doesn’t like it. If you deprive somebody from watching TV for one week they will not be happy, they will be deprived. And if you feed the same food for one month; same breakfast, lunch and dinner for one month, the person will complain very seriously, because it will be so boring. So, what makes you happy and content is quite different between these two examples of people.
Now there aren’t only two, if you really look into it, almost everyone is slightly different. Obviously if you go into your city, then you know very clearly: there are so many shops selling all kinds of clothes. They are different in color and design. And some people like these and others like other kinds. And so many restaurants. Some foods are very heavy, some foods are very light, some foods are very spicy, some foods are very plain. Some like these, others like those. This way individual definition of happiness and suffering, the liking and disliking is quite unique. So, now this gives us very clear indication that each one of us has very unique cause and condition that makes us what we are.
In Buddhism we call that karma. As long as we have the karma, we have all kinds of changes and situations. Whether we like it or not, we have to encounter them. Good karma – wonderful things will happen, bad karma – terrible things will happen. Neutral karma – boring things will happen. The person who overcomes all the karma, and not only overcome the karma but fully realize… and not only intellectually realize but mature and become the primordial wisdom potential, primordial freedom potential with no limitation. When this is fully matured, then the person is free and in absolute harmony, and that person we call Buddha. The potential for that is there in each one of us. That we call Buddha nature or Buddha potential. And anybody who like to be happy, anybody who don’t like to suffer, it is the proof or the outcome of that potential. And in this way we can have basic understanding of Buddha nature.
If we don’t have the basic understanding of Buddha nature, or whatever you might call it, one doesn’t have to call it Buddha nature – potential for limitless freedom or potential for primordial wisdom, you can call it many things, because in the Dharma there are so many titles, names and terminologies that describe this. So, when you don’t have this understanding, then there is some confusion and difficulties in day to day life, because we somehow forget or don’t feel or become insensitive towards our equal interest in ourselves and others. Instead of equal you might even use the word common interest. I don’t like to suffer, so I should remember others also don’t like to suffer. I like to be happy, therefore I also should remember, others like to be happy, too.
That way understanding of Buddha nature will help us to have this kind of common interest and understanding. When we don’t have the understanding of the common interest and communality between us and everyone, then we might become quite selfish, quite ignorant. We might even do things which will cause enormous suffering for others, just to get a little bit of happiness for ourselves. That is not right, is it?
And also sometimes we might become neurotic and jealous, when others are happy and doing well. You might ask: “Why not me?” You might not, but another person might say that and become jealous, resentful. But if you know the Buddha nature, you are grateful and happy that at least somebody is happy. You did not manage to be happy as you would like but somebody is happy. So you are happy for it, instead of being resentful.
And at the same time, when you see somebody is suffering you will have compassion, you will feel for the other person, because you know how it feels to suffer: you don’t like it, it’s painful. So when somebody else is suffering, then you can also understand the other person, other being is in pain. So you have sympathy and you can do something for that person or sentient being. You will be happy to do it for them and at that moment you will not think so much about yourself. And if you are very advanced, we call that selfless service to others. And even we might not have that much maturity right now, but when we really see somebody suffering and do something to help the person, then we somehow do not think about ourselves at that moment, and that is a very precious moment.
So all of these things will happen very clearly (not confused) when you have a clear understanding of Buddha nature. And at the same time then we also know that each and every one of us is ultimately naturally good. When you see somebody doing something wrong you don’t feel very negatively about the person ultimately. You don’t like it, of course, and you might try to stop the person doing that terrible thing, or even you might pray that the person will stop doing those terrible things, but you will not hate that person, because you know that person is ignorant. And he or she does not know the Buddha nature. Therefore you have sympathy for the person rather than being angry towards him/her.
There is so much benefit from knowing and so many shortcomings from not knowing. This is about the Buddha nature. Now, the last thing. Whether we know it or not we are future Buddha. You are future Buddha, I am future Buddha, everybody is future Buddha.
Having a Good Heart
Next, I was requested to talk about the importance of being a good person and having a good heart. Well, if you are a good person, you are a happy person. If you have a good heart, you are a healthy personJ Okay? But I know you are not talking about the physical heart, you are talking about kindness, that aspect of heart. That is even more deeper than having a good heart, which is a very important part of good health. But if you are a kind person, then everything becomes much easier and positive for you. Easier in a sense of positive. Not lazy kind of easy but positive easy. And everything becomes more positive also to others.
What is the definition of good heart and good person? We have to define what is good and what is bad. Good person means: first we know, I like to be happy, I don’t want trouble. Then you also should know the same thing about everybody else. Everybody likes to be happy, nobody likes trouble. Good person does not create trouble for others and good person tries to make others’ life better. That is good person. And that naturally makes that person not to create problem for himself or herself and also not to get into unnecessary troubles himself or herself. That is good person.
If you are in harmony, then you can share this with others. If you are miserable, if you feel miserable – you are not miserable ultimately but many people feel miserable, think miserably. If the person think and feel that way, they cannot share anything else with others but the misery. That way good person by definition is someone who has perspective, understanding, compassion, who is kind to themselves and others, that is good person.
I give you one example, how is it possible that you are not kind to yourself? It sounds impossible, but it happens so many times. Not all the time, but many times. To avoid a small problem like getting bored a little bit, a person takes drugs. And as a result of that you become drug addict, then you are in a very big trouble, your life is ruined. To avoid a small problem you created a very big problem for yourself.
Same thing, you are uncomfortable with somebody. Just a small discomfort. Then you say bad things, you go after the person, you bother the person saying bad things, negative things, doing bad, negative things. Then it gets worse and worse. A small problem becomes big problem. A person who makes a small problem into a big problem for themselves and others, person who is irresponsible, who has no kindness towards themselves or others, that is a definition of not being a very good person.
But you can always change. There is nothing that is permanent. You cannot find anything in samsara, anything in the world that is permanent. Look into the sky, there is the sun in the daytime and the moon in the nighttime. They are also impermanent. Sun and moon were not there in the past. They were formed several billion centuries back. Before that the sun and moon were not there. And they will be gone several billion centuries from now. They will be gone.
So, everything is impermanent, everything. And knowing everything is impermanent, your attitude about other people’s problems, your problems, your attitude towards yourself and others, everything becomes transformed. If you have a problem, if you give enough time, your problem will disappear or become manageable. But if you are impatient and trying to manage the problem when it is just starting, then instead of solving the problem it becomes two, three or four problems. It will multiply.
If you are wise, you can transform your problem into something good and wonderful. Let me give you a little strange example. You find out that you have diabetes, which is quite serious disease, but not life threatening right away. So if you take it negatively, then it’s very bad: you are diabetic, you cannot eat so many things, chocolate, all kinds of tasty things, you cannot enjoy that. You have to do exercise. Difficult things you have to do. So you become quite discouraged by the discovery of having diabetes. But if you already have diabetes, being negative about it does not help.
So, take it positively. Okay, my diabetes is my guru, so that I know what I should eat and what I shouldn’t eat. I know that I have to do regular exercise. Then you take very good care of your food intake and physical condition. You become healthier than all the other people around you, who don’t have diabetes, because when we don’t have such thing, then we eat anything and we don’t exercise, and we become quite lazy. By knowing that I have diabetes (I don’t have, but if I had) I will be doing lots of exercise and I will be very careful with what I eat and I will be very healthy. This is little strange example, but I think you understand what I mean.
This way a good person should have perspective, which is quite far-reaching perspective, and wisdom to understand things. Not only one way but in many ways. There is good side and bad side for everything. So, being able to see all of this and decide to take it positively.
Another thing about the same subject is good heart. Good heart has many levels. You can be superficially good-hearted or you are maturely good-hearted. Immature, superficial good heart is not bad. It is okay, but you should become maturely good-hearted person. For example, if you are superficially good-hearted, which is good, not bad, and not maturely good-hearted, the consequences of your immature emotional good heart can cause perhaps more problems to the other person, to whom you are trying to be helpful, it might cause more problem than just leaving it for the time being. Don’t give up from your heart, but just watch and wait.
Because there will be a right moment, when you can intervene, and help the person, and then your assistance becomes more effective and more direct. Direct in a sense it will not have some kind of opposite effect. You want to help the person, but you do things out of emotion and impatience. You don’t see things clearly and you will find that instead of helping you made the situation worse. So good heart has many levels.
I don’t think we should wait until we have the mature good heart. But when we have good heart, kind heart, even we are not so mature, we should exercise this by assisting others. Exercise in a way that we should use this to help others, but we should know we are not mature. Therefore we will be very careful and responsible. As a result of this, slowly, slowly we become mature. The more you mature, the more assuredly your actions will benefit the subject, the other person. So, good heart should be very precious thing, but it is more precious if that good heart is mature good heart.
This is about the good heart. And good heart relative, good heart ultimate. The ultimate good heart will be: with no effort. Just like Buddha, non-dualistic. But before that the mature relative good heart will be like mature father, mature mother, mature teacher, helping the student or children sincerely. Then immature good heart might be like a person, who is very, very kind but impatient and desperately trying to do something for others. Desperately.
We should not discourage or ignore the immature emotional good heart, but we have to know we are in that stage – if we are in that stage. Then we should know that we have to be careful and responsible, even when we are doing something with good heart for the welfare of others. It’s very important to have far sight and be mature and responsible. That is about good heart and being a good person.
I’m responding to a request to explain the importance of daily practice, every day practice. It is extremely important. I give you a very ordinary example: we have to have every morning breakfast, day after day, you know? Every midday you have to have lunch day after day, every evening you have to have dinner, day after day. Every night you have to go to sleep, day after day. And every morning after you get up you have to take shower and clean yourself. Every day, isn’t it? You just eat one lunch for whole life, one dinner for whole life and one breakfast for whole life? One shower and one sleep for whole life? Nobody can do that. They have to do it every day, repeat it again and again.
Same thing with meditation and recitation, if you are a Dharma practitioner, because every day your practice becomes deeper and deeper. Your practice will mature. For example with ordinary education: you go to school, you have to continue day after day. If there is a break in between semesters by one month, you are absent from the class for one month, almost guaranteed you will fail the exam in the end of the year. If you fail the class one exam, class two will be one year delayed, so you will have to spend two years instead of one year to get from the first class to the second class.
In the same way, when we meditate, practice, chant and recite, all of that, if we do it wholeheartedly every day, then every day it becomes deeper. Like om mani peme hung, very simple thing, compassion, bodhicitta for all sentient beings to be free from suffering. If we say it again and again from our heart verbally and mean what we say, if we repeat it, it goes deeper and deeper. Its’ meaning becomes deeper and deeper. And then the gap between you, who wish all sentient beings to be free from suffering and all sentient beings who are suffering, the gap between you two, becomes less and less. So the equanimity, the non-duality, the harmony manifests more clearly and more profoundly.
If you are a student studying a very important subject, then you have to continue your studying and training. If you stop for some time, when you start again, you are no good. You have to spend many hours and days. I give you an example. If you are a musician, any kind of good musician. First you have to learn the basics. Then you have to exercise and play it every day. By doing so then you and music have less distance. So you are able to manifest music naturally. Otherwise you have to remember this finger, and that finger, your instrument, you have to look at the notes and so many things. It is very confusing. You will stir up and ruin the entire music orchestra because you did not practice every day. For those who practiced every day everything is very smooth and natural, and you did not exercise every day, so you have to look at the notes, change the pages and think about your fingers and you spoil everything.
It’s the same thing with Dharma practice. Everyday practice is very important, until we reach a very profound, deep, spontaneous level of realization. Then you are the practice. Therefore you don’t have to practice like you used to do. You still have to practice, but in a natural manner. Not like before, when you are beginning. We are meditating, but we are not in order to become a meditation expert. We are meditating so that one day we don’t have to meditate. Every moment becomes meditation. Therefore repeating the prayers, doing practice every day, this is extremely important.
The Sanskrit word shamatha, in Tibetan shine, I think in English it means remaining in peace and harmony. I will say few words about this subject as a response to a request.
In order to do anything in life you have to be calm. You have to be in peace. You have to be in harmony. If you don’t have that, then you will be doing everything in confusion and haste. You will not get anything correctly and efficiently. It is not only a Buddhist meditation of shamatha. If you look at the mature people in the world, their motivation might not be Buddhahood but their motivation is to do well in certain things. I give you a very ordinary example.
If you are a good cook, you have many ingredients and you have many tools. And then you have to cook whatever you are going to cook in right order. The temperature of the tools you are cooking with, the stove or oven or whatever you are cooking with, the amount of spices you are putting in, and the period how long you cook certain things, in which temperature, all of that makes your dish into what it’s supposed to be. If your mind is not calm, not in harmony, you are supposed to cook something, but you end up with something else! It will not be what you are supposed to be cooking.
If you are a chef in a restaurant, and a person ordered a certain dish, and the person is waiting for that dish, and when the dish comes to the table, it will be something else. So the person will cancel the dish because it is not what he or she ordered. The taste is different, color, smell, everything is different! Therefore, even for good cooking you need calm and clear mind, mind in harmony. So, this way for attaining Buddhahood, attaining realization of the primordial wisdom, which might take very long time, it has to be based on calm abiding harmonious state of mind, shine.
And your efficiency and ability will be doubled and tripled, when your mind is calm. Because you are saying certain things only once or twice and you delivered the message. Without clear mind you might be talking for hours and hours and you don’t get the subject right. And the other person, who is listening to you, has a total misunderstanding of what you are supposed to say, because your mind is not calm and clear.
It’s the same thing with all the activities. You might be doing certain things in day to day life, spending only 15 minutes with clear mind, but if you don’t have clear mind and if you are not calm, you might be spending three hours doing the things which you could do in 15 minutes. This way calm abiding state of mind is extremely important. Not only that, if you are a person in a family who has good, mature calm abiding state of mind, everybody around you will be affected by this. So your family will be a happier family. Everybody becomes much calmer, much more in harmony.
Otherwise, everybody might be quite okay, but because you are not calm and you are confused, you are not in harmony, you are in conflict within, this will create disharmony and stir up the whole family. And you might become the problem in the family. I don’t want to be the problem in my family.
Everyone should have calm abiding state of mind and maturity and should have mental and emotional harmony, so that you become someone, who makes your family much happier. That makes your family to become one family, which makes the entire neighborhood much more in harmony and happier. This can go on and on. This way shine or shamatha or being in peace and harmony, having a calm-abiding state of mind, is extremely important.
Having said that, as a Buddhist, we have a meditation for this. We have so many meditations: walking meditation, sitting meditation, breathing meditation, visualizing meditation etc. to develop the calm-abiding state of mind. So you should learn them from your local Dharma centers, if you are Buddhist. Or just to learn the calm-abiding state of mind, if you don’t consider yourself a Buddhist, you can learn shine. Like breathing shine, we all breathe, right? You don’t have to be Buddhist to breathe, and walking shine, you don’t have to be Buddhist to walk, everybody is walking. So we can practice all of this. But at the same time, as a Buddhist, I consider every sentient being as Buddha. Everyone is more than Buddhist, they are Buddha. Not yet enlightened but Buddha in potential. So, shine is very important; to have harmonious mind and harmonious state of emotions, consciousness, is extremely important.
Taking Difficulties as Practice
Now I am responding to the request: taking problems and difficulties as a practice. If we have a problem or difficulty, if we already have them, then we better make the most positive use of that problem rather than making it more and more negative, isn’t it?
It is like this. Let’s say you have a land where a big spring just breaks out. So much water comes out. It’s a big problem: my land, my small property, now there is much water coming out, big flood, big problem. Well, I’m not sure, because water is very precious. And on your land lots of water comes out, so you can use it for your home, you can also donate some of it to your village, and you can also channel this to the reservoir of the entire township. This way it doesn’t have to be a problem, it can be a blessing. It is the way you think. Certain problems are more difficult to transform like that, but most of the problems you can transform.
I give you another example. You are a layperson with family and your son and daughter are teenagers. And they have lots of energy. They want to run here and there and get into fight and so many problems. One way to solve that problem is: one of your children likes to get into fight all the time. Let your child join the national sports academy, where they teach how to do boxing. Then your son has to fight every day. Every day, you know. He has to fight every day but he cannot be angry every day. And also there is a rule, so that the teenager’s energy is used positively. So your son might bring gold medals for your country. Olympic gold medals for your country, possibly. I’m talking in a worldly sense.
And spiritually of course according to each individual’s so called problems, we should work to transform that. Now let’s say your other child, your daughter likes to go for long walks and disappears for many days. And you as a parent worry so much. If that is the case, then make your daughter join in the national cross country ski championship. So she has to put on the ski gear and walk day after day across the country. Clime the hills, slide the slopes, and she will spend all her energy in a positive way. And she might become a national treasurer for your country to bring many Olympic gold medals for your country. I’m talking this again in a worldly sense. But turning this energy, which can become destructive, into constructive, positive energy. And she will be a happy person, because sometimes she will learn to like it. She will enjoy: tens of thousands of people cheering for her and she will be considered hero for the country. She will have meaning for the life in a worldly sense. Spiritually of course slightly different.
So I think after your son becomes the boxing champion and your daughter becomes the cross-country skiing champion – cross-country, not the other kind, this is very difficult, and takes long time. Then you can teach them not to be proud, and engage in socially beneficial activities. Because everybody knows their face and name, if they do something for the society, they can do it much more effectively than you as a parent who does not have all those gold medals. So they can do much more. You can direct them and help them, you can make a future for them which will make a difference in the lives of so many thousands of disadvantaged, underprivileged people and physically and mentally challenged people. So many things in a worldly level.
Then, if they learn Dharma, that have of course something to overcome. That is, because they are so highly upheld by the society, there is a chance to become very proud. They can work with that transforming the problem into practice, so that ego becomes source of inspiration and compassion for others, because when you know you are so privileged and see how those who are underprivileged suffering. That way your ego can transform into concern for others. And you can be so happy, that you can be useful for others, you can do lots of things for the others.
This way both in a meditation kind of manner as well as in a worldly manner, problems and obstacles are always, always something that you can transform into positive. Then they are no more an obstacle, they are practice.
I am very happy to share the precious Dharma with you. These few points, in this order I was requested, so I am responding to it according to the Dharma. Of course you have limited time, therefore I did not want to go into many levels of detail. Because if you go into the sacred Dharma, there is so much depth in it, so many levels in it. So at the moment, since this is first such request, came from your country and your center to me (Palpung Slovenia). So I am responding this time with that much. I wish you all my best and I sincerely hope that you will learn something meaningful from this response. All the best. Let us dedicate the merit of this teaching for the benefit of all sentient beings to reach the Buddhahood.