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24 Nov 2018
44 min 24 sec
Isabelle Foley
Audio Overview
Creators: 
Marcia Schmidt

Teaching on the preliminary practices of the Künzang Tuktik cycle of the Chokling Tersar tradition.

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  • [Trülku Urgyen Speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] {Unintelligible: No matter what kind of Buddha-Dharma you practice} If you recite OM MANI PADME HUNG, or whether you are a shravaka, pratyeka, Hinayana practitioner, Mahayana practitioner or whatever kind of Buddhist dharma you practice — if you lack the proper motivation, the whole thing will not work.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] First, you must set your mind upon {attaining} enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, you must make the pledge of bodhichitta before you get involved in any kind of practice.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • Buddha Shakyamuni, himself, received the "bodhichitta-pledge lineage" from another buddha, named Tukchen, during a past aeon called ‘Mahamuni.’
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] So, all of you, please develop the proper motivation right now.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] If we want to attain enlightenment in this very lifetime, in this very body we must completely annihilate the twofold obscurations: the obscuration of kleshas, [or disturbing emotions] and the cognitive obscuration.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] In order to purify the obscuration of kleshas, we engage in a twofold practice: one practice purifies our evil deeds while the other practice gathers the accumulations of merit and wisdom. The practice of mandala-offerings gathers the accumulation of merit and wisdom while the practice of Vajrasattva, and recitation of his mantra, purifies our evil actions, or karma. Both of these practices, which act to annihilate the obscuration of the kleshas, are included in this preliminary practice called "ngöndro."
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Of course, when we become involved in practices that include visualizations and mantra recitations, we may obtain certain powers, or ordinary siddhis, such as clairvoyance and mantra powere and so forth, nevertheless, whenever we begin a Dharma practice we must first start out with the proper motivation of bodhichitta. When we possess the attitude of bodhichitta, even if we are beginners starting out with a set of preliminary practices, we already [possess a frame of mind] that will carry us (far) along the path to enlightenment. But if we engage in the (advanced) main practices without possessing bodhichitta, even very [sublime] practices will be [downgraded] to just ordinary practices. Without the proper motivation, the practice will be useless.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The name of this cycle of teachings is Kunzang Tuktig, meaning the "Heart-essence, or Quintessence, of Samantabhadra." Samantabhadra, or Kuntu Zangpo in Tibetan, means the Ever-excellent One, or the Always Most Supreme One. Under all circumstances and at all times, he is most supreme and most excellent, completely free from all defects and endowed with all possible qualities.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] {This is what is meant by Samantabhadra who is the primordial buddha:} He is the forefather of all buddhas. He is prior to all buddhas; Samantabhadra is prior to all buddhas.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] He is the essence of all enlightened beings.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Samantabhadra is the primordial teacher as well as the primordial teaching — he is both the teacher and the teaching.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] His teaching, the Dzokchen teachings of the Great Perfection, is the heart-blood of all Buddhist teachings.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The texts starts...
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The text begins with a line of homage. And it says in Sanskrit: NAMO GURU MAHA NIDI VAJRASATTVA YA. NAMO means ‘homage,’ GURU means ‘teacher’ or ‘lama,’ MAHA means ‘great,’ NIDI means ‘quintessence,’ VAJRASATTVA is the name of a deity — VAJRA refers to emptiness while SATTVA refers to compassion. As a deity, he symbolizes the unity of emptiness and compassion. YA means "prostrate to."
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] This is the Refined Gold Great Perfection Preliminary Practice, the Heart-essence of the Great Lotus-born Master. [The term ‘lotus-born’] refers to Guru Rinpoche who was not born from a womb, but was born miraculously [from a lotus] in the middle of a lake. His Sanskrit name is Padmasambhava, which also means ‘lotus-born.’ Tuktig means this teaching is his ‘heart-essence.’ It is a Dzokchen teaching of the Great Perfection which is like refined gold. Here, this text is a preliminary practice for the whole cycle [of practices] called Kunzang Tuktig. This preliminary practice has two parts: an ordinary and special part, or ordinary and excellent.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The ordinary or general section has, again, three subsections.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The first of the three subsections is called ‘changing one’s mind by means of renunciation’ or repulsion. This refers to generating the bodhichitta attitude. Each day, check your motivation, asking, ‘Am I practicing for my own sake? Do I just want to attain enlightenment for my own personal happiness, or do I actually engage in heartfelt practice for the sake of all sentient beings?’ Check your own motives every day when you begin your practice. Many people are just practicing to attain enlightenment or permanent bliss for their own sake. That is what pulls one down in practice. So, everyday it is crucial to examine your own motives.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Practicing merely for your own benefit is like eating poison which sickens and then kills you.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Change your mind through renunciation. This also means one should reflect on the fact that all sentient beings are circling throughout the realms of samsara — especially in the three lower realms of samsara, beings undergo unbelievable, inconceivable agony. Why are they undergoing this suffering? Because they have not mastered their own minds, they have not realized the essence of their minds. Due to this fact alone, they undergo countless sufferings. If you give this proper thought, none of these samsaric activities have any final fruition — they are utterly pointless, completely essenceless. Reflecting on this, one changes one’s mind through renunciation.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] After having gone through the first point of changing one’s mind by means of renunciation, the second point refers to the foundation of all yanas which is ‘going for refuge.’ When building a house, we must first start with a ‘foundation’ and slowly construct the house from the bottom up. In the same way, if we want to engage in any type of Buddhist practice — no matter what level it may be among all the yanas — we must always begin with refuge. Refuge-taking is the basis for all vehicles.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The third point is that, at the root of the Great Vehicle, is the generation of bodhichitta. There are two major classifications within Buddhism: the lesser vehicle and the greater vehicle. The essence of the greater vehicle is arousing bodhichitta when setting one’s mind on attaining enlightenment.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] This entire ngöndro has two classifications: the ordinary and the extraordinary. Within the ordinary preparations, there are three topics: the first one is changing your mind through renunciation; 2) the second one, the base for all yanas is refuge-taking as the basis of all yanas; the third, the root for Mahayana is generating bodhichitta as the root of Mahayana. These three points cover the ordinary preparations.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] It is said that, within the lesser vehicle and the greater vehicle, the capacity of the practitioner and scope of the teachings differ. The teachings of the lesser vehicle are compared to the amount of water that can puddle in the hoof-print of a cow, while the teachings [and the scope of] the practitioners of the greater vehicle are compared to the amount of water gathered in the infinite ocean. Why is such a drastic comparison made? Because the motivation engendered in the lesser vehicle is to attain enlightenment for one’s own benefit, to end one’s own suffering, while [the motivation engendered] in the greater vehicle is to aspire to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all, to establish everyone on the enlightened level.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The ordinary preliminaries also cover the [traditional] ‘four mind-changings.’ To back up those teachings, the text contains a quote from the cycle called ‘The Way to Accomplish the Mind of the Teacher’ which is a terma of Chokgyur Lingpa, and the quote goes as follows, "Having obtained the supreme freedoms and riches, And possessing the weariness of understanding impermanence, With the intense renunciation, may we endeavor in adopting and avoiding, What should be adopted and avoided in terms of cause and effect."
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The ‘four mind-changings,’ which are to be contemplated, are, first reflection on the difficulty of attaining the freedom and riches; second, reflection on death and impermanence; third, reflection on karma — cause and fruition; fourth, reflection on the defects of samsara. Those are called "meditating on the four mind changings."
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] These four mind-changings are now phrased in poetry as part of the text’s recitation. It begins with the Sanskrit word EMA. EMA means, in English, ‘amazing, how wonderful!’
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Why is the word ‘EMA’ interjected here? Because the teachings on the four mind-changings are great.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The first line is: "This excellent and sublime support, Adorned with the eight freedoms and ten riches, Is extremely difficult to find." What are the eight freedoms? They are the freedoms from eight inferior types of rebirth which are: birth among the three lower realms, birth among savages or primitives, birth among those who hold wrong views, birth among those with perverted livelihoods, birth in an aeon devoid of awakened beings, and birth with the (defects) of muteness, birth without (the capacity) to understand. To be free from any of these eight situations is exactly what is called the ‘eight freedoms.’ We do possess these eight freedoms right now. If we were caught in one of these eight unfree situations, we would have neither the leisure nor the capacity to listen to, receive teachings or practice them.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The ‘ten riches’ should be possessed.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The ten riches are actually 2 times 5: five riches which result from others and five riches which arise from within oneself. The first of the five riches resulting from others is that a buddha appeared in the world; otherwise, there would be no teachings. Second, that the Buddha taught; otherwise, there would be no teachings. Third, that these teachings are kept alive by the lineage of upholders. Fourth, that there are other followers. Fifth, that there are present-day teachers who are willing to impart the teachings due to their kindness. These are the five very valuable riches which we derive from others.
  • In addition to that are the five riches which arise from oneself. First, as a result of our own karma, we are reborn as a human being. Second, we have the five senses intact, especially the mental faculty so we can understand. Third, we have been born in a central country, meaning in a place where the teachings flourish. Fourth, we have not [adopted] a perverted livelihood, meaning we are not upholding a livelihood that creates tremendous bad karma. Fifth, we have put our faith in the right place, meaning in the Three Jewels. This endowment of five riches from others and five from ourselves is called the ‘ten riches.’
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The support, itself, which is endowed with the eight freedoms and ten riches, is called the most excellent, precious human body.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The text calls the body the ‘most excellent support’ — ‘support’ refers to our body which is endowed, ‘unified’ with the eight freedoms and the ten riches.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] ‘Most difficult to achieve’ refers to the precious human rebirth whereby it is extremely difficult to acquire a body endowed with these eight freedoms and ten riches.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] It is said that within 100 aeons, only once can one achieve what is called a ‘precious human body’ whereby we have a chance to receive all the teachings.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Right now, we have got it — we have achieved this [kind of rebirth].
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] At this point in time, we should, therefore, endeavor in the most profound, great secret Vajrayana practices with their visualization stages and completion stages.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] If we fail to endeavor in the most secret Vajrayana practices right now, it is like having visited a golden island [laden with jewels] and returning from it empty-handed.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] These four lines of poetry cover the first part of the four mind-changings called the ‘opportunity of attaining the freedoms and riches.’ Now, we come to another four lines of poetry which cover the second part of the four mind-changings — death and impermanence. It is said that the outer world is impermanent and also its ‘inner contents,’ which refers to all sentient beings, are impermanent. Right now, the universe around us appears very stable, but eventually even the universe, itself, which came about at one point and which abides right now, will someday collapse. With it, all sentient beings will die.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The outer universe is often compared to a cup — it’s literally called the ‘outer vessel.’ Everything is contained within this cup-like vessel (known as) our universe. The beings within the cup-like universe are compared to tea within a cup. The beings are, thus, called the ‘inner essence’ or ‘inner contents.’ Both the universe and the beings, the cup and the tea, will eventually perish. They are not everlasting.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The outer vessel or universe is comprised of three sections or realms of samsara. The inner contents or beings are comprised of six classes of beings.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The three realms of samsara are: the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the realm of formlessness.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The six classes of beings refers to the three lower realms: the hell realm, the preta (hungry ghost) realm and the animal realm and the three higher realms: the human realm, the asura realm and the god realm.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] All of these realms are impermanent.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • The text continues: "The end of birth is death." That is for certain.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Everyone who has undergone birth will die. Not a single being has been born anywhere in the universe who will not have to die.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] When we must die is utterly uncertain.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] But when the time of death comes, the only thing that can benefit us is our Dharma practice. Nothing else can help.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] "Without wasting time, I will endeavor to practice one-pointedly." Now, we are caught in the time-span between birth and death, so we should not waste our time by not practicing.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Life never stands still even for a single second; it runs out from second to second.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] From the moment a baby is born, it comes closer and closer to death with every breath it takes and exhales.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Knowing that there is death and knowing for sure that one will die, but not remaining aware of this fact all the time, we are really stupid.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] One of the four maras is called the ‘son of the gods.’ This mara, or negative force, causes us to postpone our practice again and again. We think, ‘Oh well, if I don’t do my practice today, I can always do it tomorrow.’ or ‘I can’t start my practice right away, but next week I’ll try to find some time for it.’ In this way, we constantly postpone our practice.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] That concludes the four-line verse that expresses the second part of the four mind-changings called ‘reflection on death and impermanence. Another four-line verse covers the third topic called '[reflection on] karma, cause and effect.’ The text says: "Generate confidence in the fact of [understanding], How happiness arises as the result of virtuous actions, And how suffering arises as the result of unvirtuous deeds." Reflect on and gain confidence in the fact hat whatever happiness we experience right now is nothing other than the fruition of virtuous deeds we performed in former life-times, while whatever suffering we experience now is just the ripening of the fruition of negative or unvirtuous deeds we carried out in former life-times.
  • At the time of death, whether we take a positive or negative rebirth will be decided by the meritorious or demeritorious actions we take in this life. So, gain confidence and certainty in these facts.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Having gained confidence in these facts, endeavor in virtuous actions which become a cause for liberation and avoid negative actions. This concludes the four-line verse expressing the third topic of ‘[reflection on] karma, cause and fruition.’ Now we have reached the last topic of the four mind-changings called ‘reflection on the defects of samsara.’ In this context, the four lines of poetry begin with: "Regardless of where one is reborn among the six classes of beings:The three lower realms of the hell, hungry ghost or animal realmsm Or the three higher realms of the human, asura or god realms,
  • One never transcends the threefold suffering which is so unbearable." Regardless of where we take rebirth within those six classes of existence, we never go beyond suffering.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The ‘threefold suffering’ is: the suffering of change, the suffering upon suffering [double suffering], the all-pervasive suffering of formations.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The ‘suffering upon suffering,’ or double suffering, refers to a double misfortune. For example, let’s say that one contracts leprosy and, on top of that, you also develop cancer. Or for example, your mother dies today, your father dies tomorrow and the next day you lose all your wealth. Or, another example is that everyone is happily living in their homes with their families when suddenly an earthquake strikes and they lose both their houses and all their possessions. The following day, they find themselves roaming the streets in a daze and begging for alms. When one misfortune is followed by another, this is called ‘suffering upon suffering.’ These were just examples, but if you read the newspapers, you find that this really does happen to people.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] Regarding the ‘suffering of change,’ temporary happiness does not last long. It can change into suffering. For example, today we may be happily living together with our family, our bank account is nicely filled, we are rich, comfortable and healthy while tomorrow we could be hit by a great calamity whereby we lose all our wealth. Our loved ones may turn away from us and, completely abandoned by everyone, we could find ourselves begging at the doors of other rich people. Being happy right now and being utterly miserable tomorrow is called the ‘suffering of change.’ At the conclusion of happiness, suffering awaits us.
  • [Trülku Urgyen speaking]
  • [Erik Pema Kunsang] The ‘all-pervasive suffering of formation,’ or conditioning, is something ordinary people are not aware of. For them, [this kind of suffering] is like an eyelash clinging to the palm of one’s hand. One does not sense it and one is, therefore, unaware of it. Ordinary people are insensitive to this kind of suffering. But noble, or enlightened, beings are continually aware of the all-pervasive suffering of conditioned existence. It is actually like the constant irritation of an eyelash resting in the center of one’s eye. In the same way, noble beings are aware of this all-pervasive [aspect of] suffering as well as the fact that, from second to second, {Recording ends; original audio missing] life is running out. We are not aware of this.Which kind of suffering is predominant in each of the six realms? We could say that the three lower realms are dominated by the ‘suffering upon suffering.’ In the three lower realms, even the word ‘happiness’ is unknown. Happiness, bliss and satisfaction do not occur for even a single instant — only suffering is perpetuated throughout (such existences). The human realm is dominated by the ‘suffering of change,’ while the asura and god realms are dominated by the ‘all-pervasive suffering of conditioning.’ [In these two realms,] the beings do not take much notice of their suffering and seem to be happy throughout their existence, but this is not [the real case]. This is just a (comparison) if we apply these three kinds of suffering to the different realms, but if we check our own human condition right now, we will find that all three sufferings are included in our human existence as well.