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Part VII – A Brief Commentary on the Sutra of Four Methods of Practice of Bodhisattvas as Taught by the Buddha

A Brief Commentary on The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha(Part VII)By Acharya ZhiguangAt Namkha Dzong Retreat Centre in Spain on July 2015(e) The eight ways of serving an Vajra AcharyaYesterday we talked about the four important points that are practiced by Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition as taught by the Exalted Buddha in the Sutra. Let’s now review the two points that we’ve studied yesterday: the first one is that we must generate Bodhichitta; the second one, which is even more important, is to rely on a spiritual teacher. Yesterday we talked a lot…

2017.11.20

A Brief Commentary on The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha

(Part VII)

By Acharya Zhiguang

At Namkha Dzong Retreat Centre in Spain on July 2015

(e) The eight ways of serving an Vajra Acharya

Yesterday we talked about the four important points that are practiced by Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition as taught by the Exalted Buddha in the Sutra. Let’s now review the two points that we’ve studied yesterday: the first one is that we must generate Bodhichitta; the second one, which is even more important, is to rely on a spiritual teacher. Yesterday we talked a lot about the teachings of Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa on how to rely on a teacher from The Words Of My Perfect Teacher.

Today we will continue and talk about the way of relying on a vajra Acharya as taught in the Vajragarbharatnarāja Tantra. In the Tripitaka of Chinese Buddhism, it is considered belonging to the Anuttarayoga Tantra.

In Chinese Tantric Buddhism, the translation of Tantric scriptures started before Tang Dynasty and continued until Song Dynasty. During that period, a great number of Tantric scriptures were translated from Sanskrit into Chinese. Those translated in Tang Dynasty are mostly the Kriya, Charya and Yoga Tantra, with a small part of them being Anuttarayoga Tantra. And those translated in Song Dynasty are assumed to be mostly Anuttarayoga Tantra, including the very famous Hevajra Tantra and Guhyasamaja Tantra in Tibetan Buddhism. They are considered to be extremely important in Anuttarayoga Tantra, especially highlighted in the New Translation schools. As we all know, Nyingma is the school of Early Translation, whereas Gelug, Sakya and Kagyü are the schools of the New Translation. Basically, the Lam Dre teachings (the Path and the Fruit) of the Sakya tradition originate mainly from Hevajra Tantra. According to the comparison between the Chinese and Tibetan versions of Tripitaka, both Hevajra Tantra and Guhyasamaja Tantra also exist in Chinese Buddhist scriptures, and they are called The Sutra Of Ritual Procedures Of Great Compassion And Emptiness Wisdom Of Vajra King and The Sutra Of The Supreme Esoteric Teachings Of The King On Threefold Vajra Karmas Of All Tathagatas. According to the texts available to us, most of the Tantric scriptures translated during Song Dynasty belong to the Anuttarayoga Tantra.

Today, I’m going to introduce a teaching from an Anuttarayoga Tantric scripture translated during Song Dynasty. It is called Vajragarbharatnarāja Tantra, and teaches us the ways of serving Vajra masters. In this scripture, there is a dialogue between the King Indrabhuti and Bodhisattva Vajrapani as follows:

“At that time, the King Indrabhuti asked Bodhisattva Vajrapani: “What are the eight ways of service? Bodhisattva Vajrapanire said: “First the disciples should never call their master by his first name. Second, they should always call themselves shizu. Third, they should help the master to carry his shoes. Fourth, they should clean the room. Fifth, they should make the bed or throne for the master. Sixth, they should make full-length prostrations. Seventh, they should not harm the master. Eighth, they should have faith in the master’s instructions and teachings. These are the eight ways in which the disciples should serve their Vajra master.”

The King Indrabhuti asked Bodhisattva Vajrapani: “I heard that there are eight ways to serve a Vajra Acharya. Could you please tell me what they are?”

Then Bodhisattva Vajrapani responded that first the disciples should never call their teacher directly by his first name. Generally speaking, we should call our teacher in the most respectful way. Second, we should call ourselves shizu (literally, “at the master’s feet”) in a humble way. Third, we should help the teacher to carry his shoes. Fourth, we should help our teacher to clean his room. Fifth, we should make the bed or throne neatly for the master. Sixth, we should often make full-length prostrations before our master. Seventh, we should not harm our master in any way. Generally speaking, we should never do anything that would go against the will of our master. We should respect and protect all the belongings of the master. Eighth, we should have great faith in all the teachings that the master gives to us, and should keep practicing them. These are the eight ways in which the disciples should serve their Vajra Acharya.”

It is also stated in this scripture that when a Vajra Acharya sees that a disciple can serve him in these eight ways willingly and persistently, then he can accept him. That is, he then can give the profound empowerment and Tantric teachings to the disciple. This is a very important teaching in this scripture. Of course, I think many of our Dharma friends are doing very well in this regard, but there are still some who don’t do it well, like me.  

I remember having listened to the teaching of Khenpo Sodargye on The Fifty Stanzas Of The Spiritual Teachers at Larung Gar. After Khenpo Sodargye finished his teaching, he said that during the Age of the Right Dharma, the disciples were used to serve their Lama exactly in these ways; and they would do their best to please their Lama, so that they could obtain enlightenment quickly. He then said that in the current Degenerate Age, things are probably going in the opposite way, which means that now the Lamas would serve their students in these ways, because if the Lamas make the students unhappy, they would immediately say “bye-bye, I’m leaving.” So Khenpo jokingly said that in this Degenerate Age, we as the Lamas may need a change by using these methods to serve our students and make them happy.

Ok, that’s all for how to follow spiritual teachers for now.

4.3 Third practice: “One should be enduring and gentle, and not let hatred arise even at the cost of one’s life.”

Thirdly, the Buddha thought that the most important quality for a Mahayana Bodhisattva is “to be enduring and gentle, and not let hatred arise even at the cost of one’s life”. In this Degenerate Age, there are many negative circumstances arising and sentient beings have to go through tremendous suffering. As a Mahayana Bodhisattva, we are facing a lot of obstacles in practicing and spreading the Dharma, as well as benefiting the beings. We must have the quality of endurance if we want to achieve accomplishment.

There are three types of endurance stated in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher.

(a)Endurance upon the others’ evil acts

This means that we have to endure the unkind deeds that others do to us. This is the endurance between the people. As we can see, people around the world have so much trouble and suffering in getting along with others. As Dharma practitioners, we can face the same problem. The people around us don’t understand us, and we can’t get along well with them. Especially when we set out to spread the Dharma in order to benefit the beings, we will encounter even more such obstacles. The great masters of the past also encountered harmful deeds from many others while they were spreading Dharma and benefiting beings. As stated in A Guide To Bodhisattva’s Way Of Life: “One thought of hatred can destroy all merits and blessings accumulated from making offerings to Buddhas during the past thousands of kalpas”, and “no sin is worse than hatred, no difficulty is harder than endurance, therefore we should strive to cultivate endurance using all that we’ve learned.”

To those who harm us, we should not only suppress hatred towards them, but we should also sympathize with them. Such endurance is also one key practice to the Mahayana Bodhisattvas. As stated in The Thirty-Seven Practices Of Bodhisattvas,

“To Bodhisattvas who desire the pleasure of virtue,

all the harms to them are like precious treasures.

Therefore, suppressing hatred toward all beings and

cultivating endurance is the Bodhisattvas’ practice.”

That is to say, if some people are unkind to us, we should know this to be a great opportunity of practice for us, so we should not generate hatred towards them.

In The Eight Verses For Training The Mind by Langri Tangpa, there is similar teaching:  

“Whenever I see ill-natured beings,

Or those overwhelmed by heavy misdeeds or sufferings,

I will cherish them as something rare,

As though I’d found a priceless treasure.”

It means that the evil beings who do terrible things to others are actually powerlessly driven by their negative karma. We should not hate such people but instead feel sympathy for them, for they are pitiful. The opportunity of encountering such people could inspire us to generate compassion and practice patience, just like having found precious treasures, we should cherish them.

If you aspire to become a Bodhisattva, you will often have to meet a lot of people. Generally speaking, most of the people who want to get close to a master or a Bodhisattva are in fact seeking help. They usually tell you a lot about their troubles. So, if you are determined to become a Bodhisattva, you should better be prepared because you will hear a great deal of troubles. I heard that there’s an organization in America that did a worldwide research on which profession had the highest suicide rate, and the statistics showed that it was the profession of psychiatrist. To my understanding, the reason for this profession associated with a very high rate of suicide is because these professionals often listen to patients pouring out their troubles. If they cannot transform these troubles afterwards, there may result in a breakdown to themselves. As a Bodhisattva, your situation will be even more miserable than those of psychiatrists. First of all, you don’t have off work time. Whenever people need you, you will have to be available, with no time limit. You can’t say “I’d charge you for this much money per hour”. Sometimes the person will talk over night until the next morning, and you will have to listen with great compassion. You can’t show impatience, otherwise it would be against the principle of compassion in Buddhism. As a Bodhisattva, if you don’t have very strong endurance, you would have committed suicide multiple times. Patrul Rinpoche wrote in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher that those who can truly benefit all beings must at least attain the first Bhumi. Because a Bodhisattva of the first Bhumi has realized Emptiness, therefore they are free from those issues.

It is also said in The Lotus Sutra that there are three criteria for spreading this sutra, which are “being inside Buddha’s room, wearing Buddha’s clothes, and sitting on Buddha’s throne”. What is Buddha’s room? Where is it? There is no physical address for Buddha’s room. The “Buddha’s room” means “the great compassion”. What are Buddha’s clothes? They are not made of any known brand. Buddha’s clothes are “the qualities of being gentle and enduring”.Where is Buddha’s throne? Buddha’s throne is “Emptiness”, where you should abide in. Therefore, you should be a Bodhisattva with these qualities to teach The Lotus Sutra. Firstly, you need to be inside Buddha’s room, meaning that you have great compassion. Secondly, you need to wear Buddha’s clothes, meaning that you have to possess the qualities of patience and gentleness, and you must be able to endure either prosperity or adversity; and at last, you also must abide in emptiness, meaning sitting on the throne of emptiness. We can observe from these that being enduring and gentle is very important.

(b) Endurance upon a difficult environment during our studying

We should endure all the difficulties we undergo during studying and practicing, for example, we endure the physical environment such as the hot weather, cold weather, or the lack of living materials. We must endure all these for Dharma practice. It is rather hot here these two days. When I was studying at Larung Gar, there were a lot of severe cold days. In one winter, the Academy held a Vidyadhara Buddhist Assembly, and everybody was chanting the mantra of the Nine Yidam Deities of Avalokiteshvara. How cold was it? At the time I had a tiny shack near the Academy. It was in a great section, right behind the Lama Assembly Hall, the central area of the Academy. It was around 1998, and the cost for a shack at the Academy was RMB 3000, which was fairly inexpensive. I heard that nowadays it costs over RMB 100,000. Since the shack was built with wooden boards, it was particularly freezing. And it was pretty simple and crude, just one room for all needs including bedroom, practice room and kitchen. I remember that we went out to get a bucket of water and left it beside the bed. Actually, there was no bed, just a piece of wood on the floor with bedding on top. The next morning this bucket of water turned into ice. Now you can imagine how cold it was.

On top of that, the living conditions back then were not as good as today. Now they have a farmer’s market at the Academy, as well as many restaurants. We had nothing then. I remember once that I ate only potatoes for four months. Besides potatoes, I ate mostly instant noodles. At the time, one of my Lamas, the Great Khenpo Tenzin Lhakpa said to me jokingly: “If you and me do retreats, one bag of tsampa for me and a box full of instant noodles for you will be just fine.” Back then, the living conditions were pretty tough. But for the purpose of studying and practicing Dharma, I think that being able to undergo such difficulties was very valuable. For a Mahayana Bodhisattva, the quality of endurance is indispensable. During the thirty years of my study and practice, I had a lot of such experiences.

Of course, comparing to what many great ancient masters had experienced as written in their biographies, the difficulties we have had are not even worth mentioning. Especially the biography of Master Milarepa, which I have read so many times, has inspired me greatly. When I face some difficulties, if I read the biography of Milarepa, I would think the current difficulty is not a big deal.

(c) Patience of being fearless regarding the profound Dharma

We must have no fear of the profound teachings such as emptiness and the Great Perfection, and not harbor any wrong views towards them, or defame them. Otherwise we would have committed great negative karma for abandoning Dharma. While Master Atisha was teaching emptiness in India, two Bhikshus were listening to his teachings. When they heard the “emptiness of non-self”, they were very delighted, but when they heard the “emptiness of no inherent existence”, they couldn’t stand it and said “It’s so horrible”. When hearing The Heart Sutra, they ran away with hands covering their ears.

When the Buddha was alive, there were a few Bhikshus with overweening pride died vomiting blood upon hearing the very profound teachings on emptiness, and fell into hell. Therefore, we should have firm faith, sincere respect and profound faith from deep inside the heart to such profound Dharma and the virtuous masters who are giving such teachings. Even if we cannot have firm faith due to our lack of wisdom, we should avoid defaming them at our best.

The Buddha said in The Buddha’s Last Bequest: “Endurance is a virtue which cannot be equaled even by keeping the precepts and undertaking the austere practices. Whoever is able to practise endurance can be truly called a great and strong man.” It’s said in the “Chapter of Fighting” in The Dirghagama Sutra: “You are so ignorant to think that I’m fearful of evil. I see the first doctrine as endurance, which is the supreme quality. The worst of all evils is hatred over hatred. Being devoid of hatred over hatred is the best among all fightings.” Moreover, “If one has great strength while endure the strengthless, this strength is the strongest and this endurance is the best. It’s foolish to call oneself strong, for this strength is not truly effective. If one holds endurance according to Dharma, this strength is undefeatedable.”

Endurance is the greatest strength. Endurance not only can bring us immeasurable merits, but also can make us have a dignified appearance in the future. From this cause and effect logic, those who currently have a dignified appearance are likely a result of having practiced endurance in the past. If we think our appearance could be better, we probably need to work harder on practicing endurance, because the secret of true beauty lies in endurance. I guess many women are happy hearing this. Now they’ve learned the secret of true beauty, and there is no need for cosmetic surgeries anymore. Practicing endurance is much safer than cosmetic surgeries. Besides, it brings you immeasurable merits. All right, today I have taught you the secret of beauty. (Laughs)

4.4 Fourth practice: “One should live in solitary places and abandon distractions even at the cost of one’s life.”

Fourthly, the Buddha said that as a Mahayana Bodhisattva, one should “live in solitary places and abandon distractions even at the cost of one’s life.”

In The Words Of My Perfect Teacher, the importance of solitary places is also mentioned. We must stay in a solitary place if we are to practice Dharma. If we haven’t given up all the noises and distractions by staying at a solitary place, it is impossible for true meditative concentration to arise in our mind. Today at Namkha Dzong Retreat Center, which is such an extraordinary place of tranquility, I am greatly rejoiced to see so many Dharma friends doing retreat here. It was also through solitary retreats that many great lineage masters in history achieved extraordinary accomplishments, such as Milarepa, Longchen Rabjampa, Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa, Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu and Patrul Rinpoche. I have also practiced solitary retreat for seven days in the cave where Patrul Rinpoche had done retreats. Staying in solitary places is a great thing.

Solitary places are where all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as well as all the lineage masters like to stay and practice, because there are no noises or distractions. This is an era with extreme chaos that we’re currently in. There are many forms of entertainment such as movies, TVs, computers, phones and internet. Our mind can be distracted very easily. For those who especially practice meditative concentration, these are all obstacles to them. There are some other things that are also obstacles to meditation practices, such as various industries, agriculture, commerce as well as many complicated relationships between people.

Generally speaking, without Dharma practice, all the relationships are within four types of relations: to collect a debt, to repay a debt, to repay kindness and to revenge. Let’s think about the people around us. Of course, we cannot do this among the Vajra Dharma friends, for they are all Bodhisattvas and the relationships between them are all pure karma. But many relationships in the society belong to these four types of relations. There are some people whom you have to often give money to, meaning you owed them in previous lives; there are some people who give you money all the time, meaning they owed you in previous lives; there are some people who are very good to you, making you very happy, meaning they’re here to repay you the kindness that they owed you in previous lives; while there are some people who do great harm to you, making you overwhelmed with grief, meaning they’re here to revenge.

All these relationships are because of the various karmic seeds that we planted in the past. So first of all, we should generate compassion to them at our best. Secondly, we can no longer do negative things to them in order to avoid worsening the negative karma and result.

When we are in a solitary place, we can temporarily free ourselves from these numerous and complicated karmic relationships, which is exceptionally helpful for practicing meditative concentration and attaining enlightenment. In solitary places, there are no loved ones for us to desire, nor enemies for us to hate, so it’s rather easy for us to attain the merits from the practices in our mind.

Patrul Rinpoche wrote in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher: “Even if you only walk seven steps toward the solitary place that you wish to go, the merits that you will gain are greater than what’s gained from making offerings to all the Buddhas of the Ten Directions in countless kalpas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, not to mention that you go and abide in there in person.” Therefore I’m rejoiced very much for the merits that all the Dharma friends gain from practicing in this retreat center.

Patrul Rinpoche also said that being at solitary places, even without you practicing very deliberately and diligently, the merits of renunciation and Bodhichitta will arise naturally, so will the qualities of all right paths, and all the behaviors will spontaneously become good karma. Patrul Rinpoche also said that being at noisy places, although you are working very hard to suppress your own afflictions such as desire and anger, it will be difficult to succeed; if you stay in a solitary place, all the afflictions such as desire, anger and ignorance will diminish by themselves, and the merits of all kinds of practices will arise in your mind. These indicate the importance of living in solitary places.

Many people always think themselves very capable, and always want to go out to help beings, but they usually end up in such a result: they go to the cities to spread Dharma and rescue beings, but in the end they are changed by others. Just like a bottle of boiled water being poured on ice in a world of ice and snow, it melts a small piece of ice at the beginning, but in the end it turns into ice as well. That’s why those great Khenpos at Larung Gar back then always advised us to remain at solitary places instead of moving around.

In The Thirty-Seven Practices Of Bodhisattvas, it also advocates that the practitioners should stay in a solitary place. It says:

“Confusion will decrease being away from adverse situations.

Good karma will increase living without distractions.

Firm comprehension of the Dharma will come along with pure mind.

Living at tranquil places is the practice of Bodhisattvas.”

If you stay away from bad circumstances, your confusion, greed, hatred and ignorance will all decrease. Without distractions, good karma will grow naturally, mind will become pure, the firm comprehension of Dharma will automatically arise, and then right views will emerge. Therefore, a Dharma practitioner should live in solitary places.

Many sutras mention the merits of living in solitary places. In Tangmi, there is a sutra called The Mahayana Sutra Of Mental Contemplation During Earlier Births, which is considered as the king of all sutras. It talks about the ten benefits of living in solitary places as follows: “The Buddhas of the Three Periods have peacefully dwelt in quiet places away from noisy distractions, so their myriad practices were enhanced for attaining enlightenment. Pratyekabuddhas, Shravakas and all sages have done the same to attain enlightenment. Living in solitary places has ten benefits, which can help one to achieve three kinds of enlightenment.” Those who want to attain Buddhahood, or the fruition of Shravakas or Pratyekabuddhas, need to keep away from noisy distractions and live in solitary places. The most important thing for Buddhist practitioners is to diligently practice the threefold training as virtue, concentration and wisdom. Without the foundation of “virtue and concentration”, it is impossible to attain “wisdom”. Living in solitary places is very helpful for holding precepts and practicing concentration, that’s why it is very important.

One of my teachers gave me some teachings of Drukpa Kagyu. According to Drukpa Kagyu tradition, you should first do retreat in a cave while meditating on Mahamudra. After having completed the strict retreat, you need to enter the worldly society. What are you going to do by going into society? You are to become a beggar. As a beggar, you will encounter all kinds of different situations. Some people may give you good food, while others may curse you or beat you. You will encounter various situations. This is the time to test what level of practice you are at. If after all kinds of situations, you still can remain in the wonderful state of realization as you did in the retreat, that would be an indication of you being capable of going out to help beings. Otherwise, you will have to continue to do retreats.

For the practitioners with higher levels, it makes no difference for them whether they are living in a silent place or in the city because they have inner peace. There are two kinds of silence: the silence of the body and the silence of the mind. If one lives in a solitary place and diligently cultivate virtue, concentration and wisdom, this is viewed as the silence of the body. If one lives in a bustling city but his mind remains undistracted, devoid of desire, anger and ignorance and always maintains a state of mindfulness, this is viewed as the silence of the mind. If you can always dwell in a state of enlightenment and the non-duality of emptiness and existence regardless where you are, then the environment doesn’t matter to you. In this case, you can go ahead and do many things to benefit beings. But for most practitioners who haven't attained the state of silence of the mind, staying in solitary places is still the best thing for them.  

One of my dreams since childhood is to live in solitary places for my entire life. But unfortunately, this dream never came true. I think it requires great merits to live in solitary places. I have been trying hard to accumulate the merits, hoping that I would have more time to practice retreat in a solitary place as you are doing now.

4.5 Summary of the Four Practices

“All good men, the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, should practice these four methods.” The Buddha said that all the great Bodhisattvas should generate Bodhichitta, follow spiritual teachers, cultivate endurance and gentleness, and live in solitary places.

Then the Buddha summarized all the above teachings using the following verses:

“Whoever seeks the fruition of enlightenment needs to generate Bodhichitta.” One needs to generate Bodhichitta first in order to attain the supreme fruition of Buddhahood. It is impossible to become a Buddha without Bodhichitta.

“Whoever wants to practice diligently and make progress must rely on spiritual teachers.” The premise for one to start practicing diligently is doing this under a teacher’s guidance.

“Whoever practices endurance is praised by the Buddha as a strong person.” The Buddha praises anyone who practices endurance as the most powerful person. The Bodhisattvas should practice endurance diligently.

“The sages live in solitary places, fearless like lions.” The solitary places are where the sages stay. With their body and mind remaining at silent places, there is no distraction on their mind, no delusive thoughts such as desire and anger, no dualistic right or wrong views of the others and self, no fear to life and death, no hindrance in the mind, fearless as lions.

“Then after speaking the verses, the Buddha once again said, ‘If those who have wisdom and great compassion could follow the above four practices, they will liberate themselves from birth and death, escape from the net of Mara, attain enlightenment, and reach the great Nirvana.’”

What are the most important qualities for Bodhisattvas? It is compassion and wisdom. “Those who have wisdom and great compassion” refer to Bodhisattvas. If Bodhisattvas can follow the above-mentioned four practices, they can be liberated from the cycle of deaths and rebirth, go beyond the net of demons, and then attain the supreme enlightenment and the great nirvana.

5. Circulation of the Sutra

The last paragraph says: “After the Buddha taught this sutra, all the Bhikshus and the Bodhisattvas rejoiced greatly. They accepted and upheld the words of the Buddha, bowed in obeisance and departed.”

The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken by The Buddha is short, but teaches the keys of practice. If we can practice in the ways taught in this Sutra, we can get enlightenment and also help others get enlightenment, and ultimately attain Buddhahood. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra mentions four steps of attaining Buddhahood: “Firstly, one should follow the spiritual teachers; secondly, one should listen to Dharma attentively; thirdly, one should contemplate Dharma teachings; and fourthly, one should practice according to the teachings.” The most important thing in practicing Dharma is to follow a spiritual teacher. Next, for every sentence of the Dharma, we need to learn and contemplate according to the teachings. After understanding it, we need to keep practicing it. We can all attain Buddhahood through these four steps. I hope you can contemplate and practice this Sutra Of The Four Practices after the lectures.

By studying The Sutra Of The Four Practices, we can see that many teachings in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche have their origins in the Buddhist scriptures. We can learn that the basic Sutra and Tantra teachings in Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism are essentially integrated. I have studied the teachings of many lineages and finally realized that they are actually the same.

I believe that everyone here must have great merits to be able to follow the purest and most outstanding lineage of Longchen Nyingthig. I hope that you cherish these precious merits. The Words Of My Perfect Teacher mentions the difficulty of finding the Freedoms and Advantages. So, it is precious to have a human body that is free from the Eight Circumstances of Lack of Freedom and has the Ten Advantages. Such a human life is hard to get. Sometimes we say in brief that the human body is precious. But this human body is not just any human body; it refers to the human body that is free from the Eight Circumstances of Lack of Freedom and has the Ten Advantages.

H.H Moktsa Rinpoche from Kathok Monastery once told me a joke. One day, he was teaching the preciousness of the human body to some students from Han region of China, and one of them asked a question, “Lama, it seems that you have made a mistake. Have you ever been to Han region of China? Have you been to Chengdu? There are so many people! There are traffic jams every day and people everywhere. What is precious about this human body?” In fact, the precious human body we are talking about is not just someone on the street. It is this perfect human body which is free from the Eight Circumstances of Lack of Freedom and has the Ten Advantages.

But there are also some differences even in such perfect human bodies, especially for the Vajrayana practitioners, their perfect human bodies are more precious and rarer. Also, there are differences even between different traditions in Vajrayana. Particularly, those who have entered Longchen Nyingthig lineage are the most precious of the precious and the rarest of the rare. If you enter this lineage and become a student of a qualified master, you are very likely to attain Buddhahood within this lifetime. So, many of you are already among the most precious of the precious and the rarest of the rare. You should be thrilled for yourselves.

Besides, you have already been following the four key practices taught in this Sutra Of The Four Practices. In fact, you do not need me to give you these teachings because many of you have already done very well on these four practices. The reason why I am sharing the teachings with you today is to increase your devotion, because devotion is the most important source of enlightenment.

Finally, I sincerely hope that all the Dharma friends could attain enlightenment within this lifetime and spread Dharma to benefit beings like all the lineage masters. This is one of my wishes.

It is a great honor to study with you here in Namkha Dzong Retreat Center in Spain. I haven’t elaborated this Sutra Of The Four Practices in great detail because we do not have enough time. I have only shared the common teachings of Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism. I do not have much wisdom, so if His Eminence Namkha Rinpoche and our Dharma friends find any mistakes or inadequate explanations that I made, please let me know to help me improve. Thank you!

 

Part VII – A Brief Commentary on the Sutra of Four Methods of Practice of Bodhisattvas as Taught by the Buddha

Part VII – A Brief Commentary on the Sutra of Four Methods of Practice of Bodhisattvas as Taught by the Buddha

2017-11-19

A Brief Commentary on The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha

(Part VII)

By Acharya Zhiguang

At Namkha Dzong Retreat Centre in Spain on July 2015

(e) The eight ways of serving an Vajra Acharya

Yesterday we talked about the four important points that are practiced by Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition as taught by the Exalted Buddha in the Sutra. Let’s now review the two points that we’ve studied yesterday: the first one is that we must generate Bodhichitta; the second one, which is even more important, is to rely on a spiritual teacher. Yesterday we talked a lot about the teachings of Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa on how to rely on a teacher from The Words Of My Perfect Teacher.

Today we will continue and talk about the way of relying on a vajra Acharya as taught in the Vajragarbharatnarāja Tantra. In the Tripitaka of Chinese Buddhism, it is considered belonging to the Anuttarayoga Tantra.

In Chinese Tantric Buddhism, the translation of Tantric scriptures started before Tang Dynasty and continued until Song Dynasty. During that period, a great number of Tantric scriptures were translated from Sanskrit into Chinese. Those translated in Tang Dynasty are mostly the Kriya, Charya and Yoga Tantra, with a small part of them being Anuttarayoga Tantra. And those translated in Song Dynasty are assumed to be mostly Anuttarayoga Tantra, including the very famous Hevajra Tantra and Guhyasamaja Tantra in Tibetan Buddhism. They are considered to be extremely important in Anuttarayoga Tantra, especially highlighted in the New Translation schools. As we all know, Nyingma is the school of Early Translation, whereas Gelug, Sakya and Kagyü are the schools of the New Translation. Basically, the Lam Dre teachings (the Path and the Fruit) of the Sakya tradition originate mainly from Hevajra Tantra. According to the comparison between the Chinese and Tibetan versions of Tripitaka, both Hevajra Tantra and Guhyasamaja Tantra also exist in Chinese Buddhist scriptures, and they are called The Sutra Of Ritual Procedures Of Great Compassion And Emptiness Wisdom Of Vajra King and The Sutra Of The Supreme Esoteric Teachings Of The King On Threefold Vajra Karmas Of All Tathagatas. According to the texts available to us, most of the Tantric scriptures translated during Song Dynasty belong to the Anuttarayoga Tantra.

Today, I’m going to introduce a teaching from an Anuttarayoga Tantric scripture translated during Song Dynasty. It is called Vajragarbharatnarāja Tantra, and teaches us the ways of serving Vajra masters. In this scripture, there is a dialogue between the King Indrabhuti and Bodhisattva Vajrapani as follows:

“At that time, the King Indrabhuti asked Bodhisattva Vajrapani: “What are the eight ways of service? Bodhisattva Vajrapanire said: “First the disciples should never call their master by his first name. Second, they should always call themselves shizu. Third, they should help the master to carry his shoes. Fourth, they should clean the room. Fifth, they should make the bed or throne for the master. Sixth, they should make full-length prostrations. Seventh, they should not harm the master. Eighth, they should have faith in the master’s instructions and teachings. These are the eight ways in which the disciples should serve their Vajra master.”

The King Indrabhuti asked Bodhisattva Vajrapani: “I heard that there are eight ways to serve a Vajra Acharya. Could you please tell me what they are?”

Then Bodhisattva Vajrapani responded that first the disciples should never call their teacher directly by his first name. Generally speaking, we should call our teacher in the most respectful way. Second, we should call ourselves shizu (literally, “at the master’s feet”) in a humble way. Third, we should help the teacher to carry his shoes. Fourth, we should help our teacher to clean his room. Fifth, we should make the bed or throne neatly for the master. Sixth, we should often make full-length prostrations before our master. Seventh, we should not harm our master in any way. Generally speaking, we should never do anything that would go against the will of our master. We should respect and protect all the belongings of the master. Eighth, we should have great faith in all the teachings that the master gives to us, and should keep practicing them. These are the eight ways in which the disciples should serve their Vajra Acharya.”

It is also stated in this scripture that when a Vajra Acharya sees that a disciple can serve him in these eight ways willingly and persistently, then he can accept him. That is, he then can give the profound empowerment and Tantric teachings to the disciple. This is a very important teaching in this scripture. Of course, I think many of our Dharma friends are doing very well in this regard, but there are still some who don’t do it well, like me.  

I remember having listened to the teaching of Khenpo Sodargye on The Fifty Stanzas Of The Spiritual Teachers at Larung Gar. After Khenpo Sodargye finished his teaching, he said that during the Age of the Right Dharma, the disciples were used to serve their Lama exactly in these ways; and they would do their best to please their Lama, so that they could obtain enlightenment quickly. He then said that in the current Degenerate Age, things are probably going in the opposite way, which means that now the Lamas would serve their students in these ways, because if the Lamas make the students unhappy, they would immediately say “bye-bye, I’m leaving.” So Khenpo jokingly said that in this Degenerate Age, we as the Lamas may need a change by using these methods to serve our students and make them happy.

Ok, that’s all for how to follow spiritual teachers for now.

4.3 Third practice: “One should be enduring and gentle, and not let hatred arise even at the cost of one’s life.”

Thirdly, the Buddha thought that the most important quality for a Mahayana Bodhisattva is “to be enduring and gentle, and not let hatred arise even at the cost of one’s life”. In this Degenerate Age, there are many negative circumstances arising and sentient beings have to go through tremendous suffering. As a Mahayana Bodhisattva, we are facing a lot of obstacles in practicing and spreading the Dharma, as well as benefiting the beings. We must have the quality of endurance if we want to achieve accomplishment.

There are three types of endurance stated in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher.

(a)Endurance upon the others’ evil acts

This means that we have to endure the unkind deeds that others do to us. This is the endurance between the people. As we can see, people around the world have so much trouble and suffering in getting along with others. As Dharma practitioners, we can face the same problem. The people around us don’t understand us, and we can’t get along well with them. Especially when we set out to spread the Dharma in order to benefit the beings, we will encounter even more such obstacles. The great masters of the past also encountered harmful deeds from many others while they were spreading Dharma and benefiting beings. As stated in A Guide To Bodhisattva’s Way Of Life: “One thought of hatred can destroy all merits and blessings accumulated from making offerings to Buddhas during the past thousands of kalpas”, and “no sin is worse than hatred, no difficulty is harder than endurance, therefore we should strive to cultivate endurance using all that we’ve learned.”

To those who harm us, we should not only suppress hatred towards them, but we should also sympathize with them. Such endurance is also one key practice to the Mahayana Bodhisattvas. As stated in The Thirty-Seven Practices Of Bodhisattvas,

“To Bodhisattvas who desire the pleasure of virtue,

all the harms to them are like precious treasures.

Therefore, suppressing hatred toward all beings and

cultivating endurance is the Bodhisattvas’ practice.”

That is to say, if some people are unkind to us, we should know this to be a great opportunity of practice for us, so we should not generate hatred towards them.

In The Eight Verses For Training The Mind by Langri Tangpa, there is similar teaching:  

“Whenever I see ill-natured beings,

Or those overwhelmed by heavy misdeeds or sufferings,

I will cherish them as something rare,

As though I’d found a priceless treasure.”

It means that the evil beings who do terrible things to others are actually powerlessly driven by their negative karma. We should not hate such people but instead feel sympathy for them, for they are pitiful. The opportunity of encountering such people could inspire us to generate compassion and practice patience, just like having found precious treasures, we should cherish them.

If you aspire to become a Bodhisattva, you will often have to meet a lot of people. Generally speaking, most of the people who want to get close to a master or a Bodhisattva are in fact seeking help. They usually tell you a lot about their troubles. So, if you are determined to become a Bodhisattva, you should better be prepared because you will hear a great deal of troubles. I heard that there’s an organization in America that did a worldwide research on which profession had the highest suicide rate, and the statistics showed that it was the profession of psychiatrist. To my understanding, the reason for this profession associated with a very high rate of suicide is because these professionals often listen to patients pouring out their troubles. If they cannot transform these troubles afterwards, there may result in a breakdown to themselves. As a Bodhisattva, your situation will be even more miserable than those of psychiatrists. First of all, you don’t have off work time. Whenever people need you, you will have to be available, with no time limit. You can’t say “I’d charge you for this much money per hour”. Sometimes the person will talk over night until the next morning, and you will have to listen with great compassion. You can’t show impatience, otherwise it would be against the principle of compassion in Buddhism. As a Bodhisattva, if you don’t have very strong endurance, you would have committed suicide multiple times. Patrul Rinpoche wrote in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher that those who can truly benefit all beings must at least attain the first Bhumi. Because a Bodhisattva of the first Bhumi has realized Emptiness, therefore they are free from those issues.

It is also said in The Lotus Sutra that there are three criteria for spreading this sutra, which are “being inside Buddha’s room, wearing Buddha’s clothes, and sitting on Buddha’s throne”. What is Buddha’s room? Where is it? There is no physical address for Buddha’s room. The “Buddha’s room” means “the great compassion”. What are Buddha’s clothes? They are not made of any known brand. Buddha’s clothes are “the qualities of being gentle and enduring”.Where is Buddha’s throne? Buddha’s throne is “Emptiness”, where you should abide in. Therefore, you should be a Bodhisattva with these qualities to teach The Lotus Sutra. Firstly, you need to be inside Buddha’s room, meaning that you have great compassion. Secondly, you need to wear Buddha’s clothes, meaning that you have to possess the qualities of patience and gentleness, and you must be able to endure either prosperity or adversity; and at last, you also must abide in emptiness, meaning sitting on the throne of emptiness. We can observe from these that being enduring and gentle is very important.

(b) Endurance upon a difficult environment during our studying

We should endure all the difficulties we undergo during studying and practicing, for example, we endure the physical environment such as the hot weather, cold weather, or the lack of living materials. We must endure all these for Dharma practice. It is rather hot here these two days. When I was studying at Larung Gar, there were a lot of severe cold days. In one winter, the Academy held a Vidyadhara Buddhist Assembly, and everybody was chanting the mantra of the Nine Yidam Deities of Avalokiteshvara. How cold was it? At the time I had a tiny shack near the Academy. It was in a great section, right behind the Lama Assembly Hall, the central area of the Academy. It was around 1998, and the cost for a shack at the Academy was RMB 3000, which was fairly inexpensive. I heard that nowadays it costs over RMB 100,000. Since the shack was built with wooden boards, it was particularly freezing. And it was pretty simple and crude, just one room for all needs including bedroom, practice room and kitchen. I remember that we went out to get a bucket of water and left it beside the bed. Actually, there was no bed, just a piece of wood on the floor with bedding on top. The next morning this bucket of water turned into ice. Now you can imagine how cold it was.

On top of that, the living conditions back then were not as good as today. Now they have a farmer’s market at the Academy, as well as many restaurants. We had nothing then. I remember once that I ate only potatoes for four months. Besides potatoes, I ate mostly instant noodles. At the time, one of my Lamas, the Great Khenpo Tenzin Lhakpa said to me jokingly: “If you and me do retreats, one bag of tsampa for me and a box full of instant noodles for you will be just fine.” Back then, the living conditions were pretty tough. But for the purpose of studying and practicing Dharma, I think that being able to undergo such difficulties was very valuable. For a Mahayana Bodhisattva, the quality of endurance is indispensable. During the thirty years of my study and practice, I had a lot of such experiences.

Of course, comparing to what many great ancient masters had experienced as written in their biographies, the difficulties we have had are not even worth mentioning. Especially the biography of Master Milarepa, which I have read so many times, has inspired me greatly. When I face some difficulties, if I read the biography of Milarepa, I would think the current difficulty is not a big deal.

(c) Patience of being fearless regarding the profound Dharma

We must have no fear of the profound teachings such as emptiness and the Great Perfection, and not harbor any wrong views towards them, or defame them. Otherwise we would have committed great negative karma for abandoning Dharma. While Master Atisha was teaching emptiness in India, two Bhikshus were listening to his teachings. When they heard the “emptiness of non-self”, they were very delighted, but when they heard the “emptiness of no inherent existence”, they couldn’t stand it and said “It’s so horrible”. When hearing The Heart Sutra, they ran away with hands covering their ears.

When the Buddha was alive, there were a few Bhikshus with overweening pride died vomiting blood upon hearing the very profound teachings on emptiness, and fell into hell. Therefore, we should have firm faith, sincere respect and profound faith from deep inside the heart to such profound Dharma and the virtuous masters who are giving such teachings. Even if we cannot have firm faith due to our lack of wisdom, we should avoid defaming them at our best.

The Buddha said in The Buddha’s Last Bequest: “Endurance is a virtue which cannot be equaled even by keeping the precepts and undertaking the austere practices. Whoever is able to practise endurance can be truly called a great and strong man.” It’s said in the “Chapter of Fighting” in The Dirghagama Sutra: “You are so ignorant to think that I’m fearful of evil. I see the first doctrine as endurance, which is the supreme quality. The worst of all evils is hatred over hatred. Being devoid of hatred over hatred is the best among all fightings.” Moreover, “If one has great strength while endure the strengthless, this strength is the strongest and this endurance is the best. It’s foolish to call oneself strong, for this strength is not truly effective. If one holds endurance according to Dharma, this strength is undefeatedable.”

Endurance is the greatest strength. Endurance not only can bring us immeasurable merits, but also can make us have a dignified appearance in the future. From this cause and effect logic, those who currently have a dignified appearance are likely a result of having practiced endurance in the past. If we think our appearance could be better, we probably need to work harder on practicing endurance, because the secret of true beauty lies in endurance. I guess many women are happy hearing this. Now they’ve learned the secret of true beauty, and there is no need for cosmetic surgeries anymore. Practicing endurance is much safer than cosmetic surgeries. Besides, it brings you immeasurable merits. All right, today I have taught you the secret of beauty. (Laughs)

4.4 Fourth practice: “One should live in solitary places and abandon distractions even at the cost of one’s life.”

Fourthly, the Buddha said that as a Mahayana Bodhisattva, one should “live in solitary places and abandon distractions even at the cost of one’s life.”

In The Words Of My Perfect Teacher, the importance of solitary places is also mentioned. We must stay in a solitary place if we are to practice Dharma. If we haven’t given up all the noises and distractions by staying at a solitary place, it is impossible for true meditative concentration to arise in our mind. Today at Namkha Dzong Retreat Center, which is such an extraordinary place of tranquility, I am greatly rejoiced to see so many Dharma friends doing retreat here. It was also through solitary retreats that many great lineage masters in history achieved extraordinary accomplishments, such as Milarepa, Longchen Rabjampa, Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa, Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu and Patrul Rinpoche. I have also practiced solitary retreat for seven days in the cave where Patrul Rinpoche had done retreats. Staying in solitary places is a great thing.

Solitary places are where all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as well as all the lineage masters like to stay and practice, because there are no noises or distractions. This is an era with extreme chaos that we’re currently in. There are many forms of entertainment such as movies, TVs, computers, phones and internet. Our mind can be distracted very easily. For those who especially practice meditative concentration, these are all obstacles to them. There are some other things that are also obstacles to meditation practices, such as various industries, agriculture, commerce as well as many complicated relationships between people.

Generally speaking, without Dharma practice, all the relationships are within four types of relations: to collect a debt, to repay a debt, to repay kindness and to revenge. Let’s think about the people around us. Of course, we cannot do this among the Vajra Dharma friends, for they are all Bodhisattvas and the relationships between them are all pure karma. But many relationships in the society belong to these four types of relations. There are some people whom you have to often give money to, meaning you owed them in previous lives; there are some people who give you money all the time, meaning they owed you in previous lives; there are some people who are very good to you, making you very happy, meaning they’re here to repay you the kindness that they owed you in previous lives; while there are some people who do great harm to you, making you overwhelmed with grief, meaning they’re here to revenge.

All these relationships are because of the various karmic seeds that we planted in the past. So first of all, we should generate compassion to them at our best. Secondly, we can no longer do negative things to them in order to avoid worsening the negative karma and result.

When we are in a solitary place, we can temporarily free ourselves from these numerous and complicated karmic relationships, which is exceptionally helpful for practicing meditative concentration and attaining enlightenment. In solitary places, there are no loved ones for us to desire, nor enemies for us to hate, so it’s rather easy for us to attain the merits from the practices in our mind.

Patrul Rinpoche wrote in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher: “Even if you only walk seven steps toward the solitary place that you wish to go, the merits that you will gain are greater than what’s gained from making offerings to all the Buddhas of the Ten Directions in countless kalpas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, not to mention that you go and abide in there in person.” Therefore I’m rejoiced very much for the merits that all the Dharma friends gain from practicing in this retreat center.

Patrul Rinpoche also said that being at solitary places, even without you practicing very deliberately and diligently, the merits of renunciation and Bodhichitta will arise naturally, so will the qualities of all right paths, and all the behaviors will spontaneously become good karma. Patrul Rinpoche also said that being at noisy places, although you are working very hard to suppress your own afflictions such as desire and anger, it will be difficult to succeed; if you stay in a solitary place, all the afflictions such as desire, anger and ignorance will diminish by themselves, and the merits of all kinds of practices will arise in your mind. These indicate the importance of living in solitary places.

Many people always think themselves very capable, and always want to go out to help beings, but they usually end up in such a result: they go to the cities to spread Dharma and rescue beings, but in the end they are changed by others. Just like a bottle of boiled water being poured on ice in a world of ice and snow, it melts a small piece of ice at the beginning, but in the end it turns into ice as well. That’s why those great Khenpos at Larung Gar back then always advised us to remain at solitary places instead of moving around.

In The Thirty-Seven Practices Of Bodhisattvas, it also advocates that the practitioners should stay in a solitary place. It says:

“Confusion will decrease being away from adverse situations.

Good karma will increase living without distractions.

Firm comprehension of the Dharma will come along with pure mind.

Living at tranquil places is the practice of Bodhisattvas.”

If you stay away from bad circumstances, your confusion, greed, hatred and ignorance will all decrease. Without distractions, good karma will grow naturally, mind will become pure, the firm comprehension of Dharma will automatically arise, and then right views will emerge. Therefore, a Dharma practitioner should live in solitary places.

Many sutras mention the merits of living in solitary places. In Tangmi, there is a sutra called The Mahayana Sutra Of Mental Contemplation During Earlier Births, which is considered as the king of all sutras. It talks about the ten benefits of living in solitary places as follows: “The Buddhas of the Three Periods have peacefully dwelt in quiet places away from noisy distractions, so their myriad practices were enhanced for attaining enlightenment. Pratyekabuddhas, Shravakas and all sages have done the same to attain enlightenment. Living in solitary places has ten benefits, which can help one to achieve three kinds of enlightenment.” Those who want to attain Buddhahood, or the fruition of Shravakas or Pratyekabuddhas, need to keep away from noisy distractions and live in solitary places. The most important thing for Buddhist practitioners is to diligently practice the threefold training as virtue, concentration and wisdom. Without the foundation of “virtue and concentration”, it is impossible to attain “wisdom”. Living in solitary places is very helpful for holding precepts and practicing concentration, that’s why it is very important.

One of my teachers gave me some teachings of Drukpa Kagyu. According to Drukpa Kagyu tradition, you should first do retreat in a cave while meditating on Mahamudra. After having completed the strict retreat, you need to enter the worldly society. What are you going to do by going into society? You are to become a beggar. As a beggar, you will encounter all kinds of different situations. Some people may give you good food, while others may curse you or beat you. You will encounter various situations. This is the time to test what level of practice you are at. If after all kinds of situations, you still can remain in the wonderful state of realization as you did in the retreat, that would be an indication of you being capable of going out to help beings. Otherwise, you will have to continue to do retreats.

For the practitioners with higher levels, it makes no difference for them whether they are living in a silent place or in the city because they have inner peace. There are two kinds of silence: the silence of the body and the silence of the mind. If one lives in a solitary place and diligently cultivate virtue, concentration and wisdom, this is viewed as the silence of the body. If one lives in a bustling city but his mind remains undistracted, devoid of desire, anger and ignorance and always maintains a state of mindfulness, this is viewed as the silence of the mind. If you can always dwell in a state of enlightenment and the non-duality of emptiness and existence regardless where you are, then the environment doesn’t matter to you. In this case, you can go ahead and do many things to benefit beings. But for most practitioners who haven't attained the state of silence of the mind, staying in solitary places is still the best thing for them.  

One of my dreams since childhood is to live in solitary places for my entire life. But unfortunately, this dream never came true. I think it requires great merits to live in solitary places. I have been trying hard to accumulate the merits, hoping that I would have more time to practice retreat in a solitary place as you are doing now.

4.5 Summary of the Four Practices

“All good men, the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, should practice these four methods.” The Buddha said that all the great Bodhisattvas should generate Bodhichitta, follow spiritual teachers, cultivate endurance and gentleness, and live in solitary places.

Then the Buddha summarized all the above teachings using the following verses:

“Whoever seeks the fruition of enlightenment needs to generate Bodhichitta.” One needs to generate Bodhichitta first in order to attain the supreme fruition of Buddhahood. It is impossible to become a Buddha without Bodhichitta.

“Whoever wants to practice diligently and make progress must rely on spiritual teachers.” The premise for one to start practicing diligently is doing this under a teacher’s guidance.

“Whoever practices endurance is praised by the Buddha as a strong person.” The Buddha praises anyone who practices endurance as the most powerful person. The Bodhisattvas should practice endurance diligently.

“The sages live in solitary places, fearless like lions.” The solitary places are where the sages stay. With their body and mind remaining at silent places, there is no distraction on their mind, no delusive thoughts such as desire and anger, no dualistic right or wrong views of the others and self, no fear to life and death, no hindrance in the mind, fearless as lions.

“Then after speaking the verses, the Buddha once again said, ‘If those who have wisdom and great compassion could follow the above four practices, they will liberate themselves from birth and death, escape from the net of Mara, attain enlightenment, and reach the great Nirvana.’”

What are the most important qualities for Bodhisattvas? It is compassion and wisdom. “Those who have wisdom and great compassion” refer to Bodhisattvas. If Bodhisattvas can follow the above-mentioned four practices, they can be liberated from the cycle of deaths and rebirth, go beyond the net of demons, and then attain the supreme enlightenment and the great nirvana.

5. Circulation of the Sutra

The last paragraph says: “After the Buddha taught this sutra, all the Bhikshus and the Bodhisattvas rejoiced greatly. They accepted and upheld the words of the Buddha, bowed in obeisance and departed.”

The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken by The Buddha is short, but teaches the keys of practice. If we can practice in the ways taught in this Sutra, we can get enlightenment and also help others get enlightenment, and ultimately attain Buddhahood. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra mentions four steps of attaining Buddhahood: “Firstly, one should follow the spiritual teachers; secondly, one should listen to Dharma attentively; thirdly, one should contemplate Dharma teachings; and fourthly, one should practice according to the teachings.” The most important thing in practicing Dharma is to follow a spiritual teacher. Next, for every sentence of the Dharma, we need to learn and contemplate according to the teachings. After understanding it, we need to keep practicing it. We can all attain Buddhahood through these four steps. I hope you can contemplate and practice this Sutra Of The Four Practices after the lectures.

By studying The Sutra Of The Four Practices, we can see that many teachings in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche have their origins in the Buddhist scriptures. We can learn that the basic Sutra and Tantra teachings in Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism are essentially integrated. I have studied the teachings of many lineages and finally realized that they are actually the same.

I believe that everyone here must have great merits to be able to follow the purest and most outstanding lineage of Longchen Nyingthig. I hope that you cherish these precious merits. The Words Of My Perfect Teacher mentions the difficulty of finding the Freedoms and Advantages. So, it is precious to have a human body that is free from the Eight Circumstances of Lack of Freedom and has the Ten Advantages. Such a human life is hard to get. Sometimes we say in brief that the human body is precious. But this human body is not just any human body; it refers to the human body that is free from the Eight Circumstances of Lack of Freedom and has the Ten Advantages.

H.H Moktsa Rinpoche from Kathok Monastery once told me a joke. One day, he was teaching the preciousness of the human body to some students from Han region of China, and one of them asked a question, “Lama, it seems that you have made a mistake. Have you ever been to Han region of China? Have you been to Chengdu? There are so many people! There are traffic jams every day and people everywhere. What is precious about this human body?” In fact, the precious human body we are talking about is not just someone on the street. It is this perfect human body which is free from the Eight Circumstances of Lack of Freedom and has the Ten Advantages.

But there are also some differences even in such perfect human bodies, especially for the Vajrayana practitioners, their perfect human bodies are more precious and rarer. Also, there are differences even between different traditions in Vajrayana. Particularly, those who have entered Longchen Nyingthig lineage are the most precious of the precious and the rarest of the rare. If you enter this lineage and become a student of a qualified master, you are very likely to attain Buddhahood within this lifetime. So, many of you are already among the most precious of the precious and the rarest of the rare. You should be thrilled for yourselves.

Besides, you have already been following the four key practices taught in this Sutra Of The Four Practices. In fact, you do not need me to give you these teachings because many of you have already done very well on these four practices. The reason why I am sharing the teachings with you today is to increase your devotion, because devotion is the most important source of enlightenment.

Finally, I sincerely hope that all the Dharma friends could attain enlightenment within this lifetime and spread Dharma to benefit beings like all the lineage masters. This is one of my wishes.

It is a great honor to study with you here in Namkha Dzong Retreat Center in Spain. I haven’t elaborated this Sutra Of The Four Practices in great detail because we do not have enough time. I have only shared the common teachings of Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism. I do not have much wisdom, so if His Eminence Namkha Rinpoche and our Dharma friends find any mistakes or inadequate explanations that I made, please let me know to help me improve. Thank you!