Without Compassion, Dharma is Poison

From a teaching on Songs of Barway Dorje by Bardor Tulku Rinpoche. Translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso.]

Any dharma activity — whether we engage in it as students, as practitioners, as disciples, or as teachers — any dharma activity that is performed without compassion, without the motivation of love and compassion, is poisonous. It is like eating poisoned food, or, if you’re a teacher, feeding poisoned food to others. The food will nourish you, it will fill your belly, but at the same time it’s making you sick. And the sickness produced by uncompassionate dharma activity is worse than physical sickness. We all, naturally, are very concerned with physical sickness; we don’t like it. But the very worst thing physical sickness can do is kill us, and then it’s over. We’re cured. But the mental sickness that is produced by lack of compassion is far, far more dangerous than that because it covers or obscures reality. Literally covers it just like a curtain covering a window and preventing you from seeing what’s outside. Lack of compassion, and even dharma activity conducted without compassion, adds to our obscurations and it causes us to be unable, temporarily, to see things as they are, unable to accurately connect to reality. Our minds become like dirty mirrors that can never show us the true beauty of our own face or anything else because they are so dirty that when we look in the mirror instead of seeing reflection all we see is dirt. And, that’s what we become when we lack compassion.

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The Trikaya (Three Bodies of Buddhahood)

[From a teaching on the Guru Yoga of Barway Dorje by Bardor Tulku Rinpoche. Translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso.]

I think it would be good, Rinpoche said, to clarify something here about the three bodies of buddhahood or the trikaya. It’s said that all three bodies of buddhahood are permanent or lasting but in three different ways. The dharmakaya’s permanence lies in the fact that it is unborn; it never started. The sambhogakaya permanence consists of the fact that it is unceasing and the nirmanakaya’s permanence is the fact that it is continuous. The dharmakaya is what we otherwise refer to as emptiness, the nature of all things. The nature of all things, the nature of our minds is dharmakaya. And that nature, that dharmakaya, never started. It never began; whatever it is, it has always been.

Now, something that begins or starts must and will come to an end. Something that never begins or starts can never end.

The sambhogakaya — the body of complete enjoyment —  is unceasing in its possession of five attributes that are called the “five certainties of the sambhogakaya.”  And these are: certain body, the sambhogakaya itself; certain place, the highest pure realm; certain dharma, it always teaches the mahayana and vajrayana; a certain time, it is lasting until samsara is emptied or over; and certain entourage or retinue, the entourage or retinue of the sambhogakaya is always only bodhisattvas on the ten bhumis or levels.

The nirmanakaya’s permanence is in its continuity. The nirmanakaya is constantly reappearing in the form primarily of intentional rebirth. Now, the dharmakaya is what a buddha is. The sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya, which are referred to in our commentary collectively as the rupakaya, as the form bodies, are displays for the benefit of others. The reason for these displays is that wherever there is space, there are beings. Wherever there are beings, there are kleshas, mental afflictions. And wherever beings have mental afflictions, there are suffering.

We can actually trace the rupakayas or form bodies of a buddha back to their initial generation of bodhichitta when they first entered the path. They generate bodhichitta by saying, “I will achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of others.” Bodhichitta is unique among motivations in that it has a dual focus. The wisdom of bodhichitta is that it is focused on the achievement of perfect awakening. The compassion of bodhichitta is that it is focused on the benefiting, the liberation of all beings.

So, no one has ever achieved buddhahood for selfish reasons. No one has achieved buddhahood with the motivation “I will achieve budhdahood so that I can be a buddha.” The only way you can achieve buddhahood is with the motivation of wishing to help others by doing so. So therefore, when someone becomes a buddha, the dharmakaya automatically, naturally displays the sambhogakaya and nirmakaya.

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Faith Comes From Personal Experience

[From a teaching on Songs of Barway Dorje by Bardor Tulku Rinpoche. Translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso.]

When we listen to the dharma it is not enough that it pleases us. It is not enough that we enjoy the experience that on a social level it is gratifying. We feel comfortable. We enjoy it. When we listen to dharma we do it in order to learn something practical, something that we can use to change, to cleanse our minds of whatever flaws afflicts us in order to achieve perfect wisdom.

What we are attempting to do or begin when we listen to dharma is not a hobby. It is not some kind of project that we will complete in whatever spare time we have in one year. It’s a project that cannot even be measured in lifetimes. We can’t say, “It’ll take me a hundred or a thousand or billion lifetimes to do this.” We have no idea. It’s a very gradual and very long climb up a very, very long staircase. If we see it that way, we will get the most out of the teachings.

The teachings themselves, as you know of course, comes in all kinds of formats: commentaries and texts of practical instruction, songs, even memoirs. The point of most of them is inspiration and that comes from faith. But we have a problem with faith because we have a dream, an expectation about what faith is that doesn’t fit the facts, and especially doesn’t fit the facts in this 21st century. We dream or imagine that faith is just going to happen to us like some kind of instantaneous mind-blowing infatuation with a charismatic lama, that we’ll be swept off our feet in an instant and never have any questions, never have any doubts, never have any problems.

If it was ever that way, it certainly isn’t nowadays. In this 21sth century blind faith and obviously what I’ve just described to be a case of abject blind faith is hopefully less prevalent than it used to be. Nowadays we’re highly educated by which, I mean, we’re trained in critical thinking. In the faculty of critical examination and evaluation and we all grow up learning the scientific method.

This gives us a problem because we tell ourselves, “I want to feel faith and I want to feel it right now but I’m not feeling it because I’m not convinced.” It’s fine that you’re not convinced. Do not be in any hurry to accept the truth of dharma. Do not be in any hurry to believe or be a true believer. And don’t try to rush faith. Don’t try to induce it.

The Buddha taught that we should examine his teachings with as much critical rigor as we would involve in chemically testing gold supposed gold before buying it.

Faith – good faith, genuine faith – only comes from personal experience. The wondrous qualities of the three jewels, the buddhas, dharma, and sangha, and the wondrous attributes of the results or fruition of this path have to be learned gradually. And as you gradually gain reason in your own experience to believe in these things, you will gradually, naturally develop informed faith. This does not happen suddenly. And it does not happen through some kind of brainwashing or induction.

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