Enlightened Journey: Buddhist Practice as Everyday Life

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ENLIGHTENED JOURNEY Buddhist Practice as Daily Life TULKU THONDUP Edited by Harold Talbott


SHAMBHALA Boston & London 2001

Shambhala Publications, Inc. Horticultural Hall 300 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, Massachusetts 02115 www.sbambbala.com

© 1995 by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche Buddhayana Series: V All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. 9









Printed in the United States of America

® This edition is printed on acid~free paper that meets the American National Standards Institute Z39.48 Standard. Distributed in the United States by Random House, Inc., and in Canada by Random House of Canada Ltd

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Thondup, Tulku. Enlightened journey: Buddhist practice as daily life I Tulku Thondup; edited by Harold Talbott. p. em. - 1st ed. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-57062-021-0 I. Spirituallife-Rfiiri.-ma-pa (Sect) 2. Rdzogs-chen (Riiiri.-ma-pa) I. Talbott, Harold. II. Title BQ7662.6.T56 1994 94-36154 294.3' 444-dc20 CIP

CONTENTS Prifact Acknowledgments

ix xxi


2. OPENING THE HEART WITH COMPASSION Enlightened Mind Conceptual Mind Compassion


3 10 12 15 21 27



TIBETAN BUDDHIST THANGKAS AND THEIR RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE The Historical Tradition of Thangkas: The Pictorial Scrolls of Tibet Varieties of Thangkas The Religious Significance of Thangkas

32 37 38 41 43

6. PREPARING FOR THE BARDO: THE STAGES OF DYING AND AFTER DEATH The Bardo of Life The Bardo of Dying The Bardo of Ultimate Nature The Bardo of Becoming

5I 53 55 62 68


7. THE NYINGMA ScHooL OF TIBETAN BuDDHISM Contribution of Nyingma to Tibetan History and Culture Unique Nyingma Lineage Teachings Longchen Nyingthig Lineage

81 82 85 88


o Contents

8. THE TERMA TRADITION OF THE NYINGMA ScHooL Transmission of Ter Two Major Categories of Ter Earth Tei: Mind Ter

93 97 98 98 103

9. THE EMPOWERMENTS AND PRECEPTS OF EsoTERic TRAINING Empowerments Qualities of the Tantric Teacher The Nature of the Mal)gala Qualities of the Disciple Ca~egorization of Empowerments Effects of Empowerment The Two Causes and Four Conditions of Empowerment The Actual Empowerment Preliminary Section Main Section The Five Common Empowerments of the Five Buddha Families The Four Uncommon Empowerments Precepts Three Divisions of Precepts Time of Taking the Precepts Precepts Common to Both Old and New Tantric Traditions The Fourteen Root Infractions The Eight Gross Infractions· The Uncommon Precepts of Dzogpa Chenpo General Precepts of Dzogpa Chenpo Special Precepts of Dzogpa Chenpo Two Precepts of Thregcho Two Precepts of Thogal Conclusion Restoring Broken Precepts 10. THE MEDITATION ON NGONDRO: THE EssENTIAL TRAINING OF THE LONGCHEN NYINGTHIG TRADITION Prayers to the Lineage Masters

106 106 108 110 Ill 112 114 II 5 116 116 117 118 119 119 120 120 121 121 123 123 124 127 128 128 129 131

134 I 35

Contents The Four Preliminary Practices Difficulties of Obtaining a Precious Human Life Impermanence Karma: Cause and Effect The Suffering Character of Sa111sara The Four Essential Trainings Going for Refuge Developing Bodhichitta Purification: Yajrasattva Recitation Mal)c;iala Offering The Main Practice: Guru Yoga The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer The Seven Aspects of Devotional Practice Devotional Prayers Mantra of Guru Rinpoche Four Empowerments Unification Conclusion II. THE MEANING OF THE VAJRA SEVEN-LINE PRAYER TO GURU RINPOCHE Structure of the Text History of The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer The Common Meaning The Path of the Hidden Meaning The Path of Liberation The Path of Skillful Means According to the Perfection Stage According to the Nyingthig of Dzogpa Chenpo: The Direct Realization of the,Spontaneous Presence The Accomplishment of the Result Conclusion of the Practices



138 138 139 140 142 144 144 148 152 156 157 160 160 161 162 163 163 164 166 167 169 170 174 174 :(.78 178

182 185 188



Empowerments The Three (or Four) Syllables The Three (or Four) Vajras

194 194 198

V Ill


Contents Blessing Lights The Four (or Three) Centers of the Body The Four Karmas The Four Obscurations The Four Vajra Blessings The Four Tantric Practices The Four Stages of Attainment The Four Buddha Bodies The Four Empowerments

200 204 204 207 213 214 218 221 223

13. A BRIEF MEDITATION ON GURU RINPOCHE, PADMASAMBHAVA Relaxation Preliminary Main Practice Some Details of the Visualization and Their Meaning Conclusion The Prayer Mantra of Guru Rinpoche The Meaning Recollection of the Qualities of Guru Rinpoche Praying to Bestow the Wishes and Attainments In Brief A Short Meditation

231 231 231 231 232 237 238 238 239 240 241 241



Notes Key to Abbreviations

259 265

of Works Cited





in Buddhism, and for

that matter in any spiritual path, is the "skillful means"

that enables the trainees to transmute every aspect of their daily life into spiritual training. Spiritual training is the exercises that release the intensity of our mental grasping and the driving force of our craving. Spiritual training eases the pain and suffering created by our narrow, rigid views and our burning, confusing emotions. Spiritual training is crucial to the realization and experience of openness, peace, joy, love, and wisdom. If our mind is filled with peace, love, and wisdom, our mental and spiritual energies will be strengthened. If our mental and spiritual energies are strengthened, the physical elements of our body become heal1thy and the events in our life become positive. By the same token, if our mental energy is strong, our body will be healthy and our life positive; our mind will be n;~turally more peaceful and joyful. The days of our entire life will flow in a cycle of true happiness. As the third Dodrupchen Rinpoche writes:' When your mind is not disturbed, your energy will not be disturbed, and thereby other elements of the body will also



Preface not be disturbed. Because of this, your mind will not be disturbed, and so the wheel of joy will keep revolving.

There are two important ways to transmute daily life into training. First, if you have realized the wisdom that transcends mental conceptions, or even if you have not yet transcended mental conceptions but have powerful spiritual experiences such as compassion, devotion, or contemplation, then you can unite or transform all appearances and experiences into a support for the energy of realized wisdom and spiritual expenence. For great adepts, every phenomenal appearance becomes che expression of their inner wisdom itself. All appearances become the power of realization, like the rays of the sun that coax the flowers of happiness to blossom in the hearts of all those around. Second, for ordinary people like ourselves, whose minds are conceptual, emotional, and. unrealized, it is essential to rely on any skillful means-positive and spiritual images, signs, sounds, or sources of power-as the means of generating spiritual energy. If we could see the objects that surround us as a source of inspiration and peace, they will generate peace and joy within us because of the power of our own mental p~rceptions. In the same vein, we cannot transform negative situations into positive ones if we see them as negative and react to them with negative emotions. As long as we hold on·to negative perceptions, viewing our circumstances through dark shades, the whole world will appear negative, and all our efforts will be one never-ending struggle. So we should lay the foundation of true peace and joy in our own minds by devel-

Preface o xi oping the skillful means of spiritual training, not by struggling to ward off adversity. As Shantideva explains: 2 Foes are as unlimited as (the extent of) space; They cannot possibly all be overcome. Yet if you just overcome the thought of hatred, That will be equal to overcoming all foes. Where is the lea~her With which one can cover the earth? But wearing a leather sandal Is equal to covering the earth with leather. This book contains fifteen of my published articles and transcriptions of talks. It is divided into two parts: an introduction to the Buddhist path and a discussion of meditation practice. The core of this book is the article on the meditation practice of Ngondro, the essential training of the Longchen Nyingthig 3 tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The Ngondro embodies a complete process of training, beginning with inspiring one's mind toward Dharma and ending with unifying one's mind with the enlightened mind of the Buddha, universal enlightenment. The other articles deal with introductory or supportive material which, taken together, constitute a manual on how to turn the various experiences we encounter, whether external or internal phenomena, into spiritual views, disciplines, and experiences. Part One consists of six articles. They form an introduction to the spiritual view, culture, and life, which are an important means of transmuting our physical and mental life into Dharma training. I. "Using Daily Life as the Practice of Dharma." This article summarizes some of the fundamental principles of

x i i 0 Preface

Buddhism-who we are and why we can tU:rn our daily life into spiritual training and realize Buddhahood, the state of ultimate peace and wisdom. If we follow the right path of spiritual training, we can overcome all of life's miseries, which are mere illusions of the deluded mind, and be like dreamers waking up from a nightmare. The fully enlightened nature could be spontaneously awakened in us, as we are all Buddha in our true nature. Suffering is the by-product of our mental ..:oncept of grasping at "self," fueled by emotions of aggression, greed, and confusion. Training in various meditations such as patience and the beneficial attitude for others pacifies our .negative emotions and concepts, and simultaneously generates in us peace, joy, and wisdom. 2. "Opening the Heart with Compassion." Compassion is a caring attitude, an openness of mind. It is also the omnipresent power of Buddhahood. This article explains in simple words what compassion is and how we can develop it. Compassion as a meditation not only generates peace and harmony, but also awakens Buddhahood in us. This presentation on compassion additionally illustrates what kind of results we can expect from various other spiritual trainings, such as devotion, pure perception, and contemplation. 3. "A Spiritual Journey in a Turbulent Life." Using my own turbulent life as an illustration, the insightful teachings of Buddhism are presented. By giving me the strength to bear the calamities and emotional devastation that befell me and many others, Buddhist teachings became my sole means of survival in a turbulent world. If you know how, suffering can

Preface o x 111

become a more powerful tool than happiness to transform life into the enlightened path. 4. "Buddhist Artifacts as the Support of Spiritual Realization." Using an image of Avalokiteshvara as an example, this article explains the symbolic significance of spiritual artifacts as a source of teaching, inspiration, and power. If we are skilled at perceiving various artifacts as spiritual symbols and sources of power, a time will come when all phenomena, not only spiritual artifacts, will arise before us as the image of teaching and the realization of peace, joy, and wisdom. It is easier for ordinary people to use objects ,that have direct spiritual significance and power as a means of inspiration than it is to use ordinary objects. Objects with direct spiritual significance include religious paintings, statues, temples, books, teachers, meditators, and holy places. 5. "Tibetan Buddhist Thangkas and Their Religious Significance." This article outlines Tibetan Buddhist paintings of different traditions, with an emphasis on their religious significance. For people who are spiritually inclined, religious art in various peaceful and wrathful forms is a powerful tool to develop and strengthen spiritual experience with the various expressions of phenomena. For realized people, spiritual art is power, energy, and light, the extension of their own inner peace, strength, and wisdom. Art can also be wisdom itself arising in the form of images of power and symbols of teachings. So, spiritual art is an important means of turning perceptions of phenomena into the realization of peace, strength, and wisdom.

x 1 v 0 Preface

6. "Preparing for the Bardo: The Stages of Dying and After Death." Thi's article explains in detail the whole process of dying, from the moment death begins to what happens after death. Based on esoteric scriptures ( tantra) of Tibetan Buddhism, this chapter outlines the numerous stages involved in living and dying, with teachings on how we should view and experience each step. Death is a most crucial time for every one of us, a critical opportunity to affect our futures. When we die, all of us, rich or poor, await the same consequences. At death, neither money, power, nor friends, not even our cherished body, can come to our aid. Only the habits and energies-the karmathat have been stored up in our minds will create the manifestations of.our next life, our future experiences. So to prepare for death, our most important strategy is to gain spiritual understanding and experience while we are still alive. When death arrives, it will be too late to cry for help. Part Two consists of nine articles. The main focus of these is the meditation of Ngondro, the essential training in Dzogpa Chenpo ("Great Perfection"), according to the lineage of the Longchen Nyingthig tradition .. The first three articles are introductions to the Ngondro practice. They present a brief history of the Nyingma school and an outline of the Ter tradition through which the Ngondro was revealed and came to us. 7. "The



of Tibetan


Nyingma or Nyingmapa ("Old One") is the oldest of the four major Buddhist schools of Tibet. This article outlines the unique attributes of the Nyingma school within the literary, spiritual, and social history of Tibet. Longchen Nying-

Preface o x v

thig, to which this particular Ngondro belongs, is one of the prominent lineages of the Nyingma school. 8. "The Terma Tradition of the Nyingma School." Ter or Terma means "hidden treasures." They are spiritual objects, teachings,

and transmissions

concealed and discovered

through enlightened mystical powers by great adepts. The Nyingma school is the richest Buddhist tradition in terms of teachings revealed as Ter. This article summarizes the different classes of Ter discoveries: Earth Ter (Sa gTer), Mind Ter

(dGongs gTer), and Pure Vision (Dag sNang) teachings. It details the complete process by which teachings are concealed and then discovered. Longchen Nyingthig teachings were discovered by Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798) as a Mind Ter. 9. "The Empowerments and Precepts of Esoteric Training." This has two aspects: empowerment (Tib. dBang, Skt.

abhifheka) and precepts (Tib. Dam Tshig, Skt. samaya). Empowerment is the entrance' to esoteric or tantric training. An aspirant receives this from a tantric master to initiate himself or herself into the training. Empowerments can also be repeatedly received as training in the path. They can also be received as the final att