THE 37 PRACTICES OF A BODHISATTVA – Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche Part 2

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche_1
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche_1


Commentary by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche ISBN 09710523-0-1
Copyright, Marpa Foundation 2001 Ashland, OR 97520

Commentary based on an oral translation by Suzanne Schefczky, Taiwan 1993. Special thanks to Ari Goldfield for his careful review of the root texts, and to Pema Clark and Yeshe Parke for proofreading the Commentary with care and devotion.


Practice 20
Taming the mind

If you have not tamed the enemy of your own anger,
Combating outer opponents will only make them multiply.
Therefore, with an army of loving kindness and compassion,
To tame your own mind is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Generally we think we must defeat outer opponents. If only we could get rid of them, we would be happy. Or so we believe. But we cannot overcome all adversaries, and when we try, their numbers just increase. At first we have one, then two, then many. So what are we to do? The only solution is to tame our anger, tame our mindstream through bodhichitta. Armed with the attitude of loving kindness and compassion, we naturally no longer have any external enemies. Because the Great Teacher, the Buddha, the Bhagawan, had tamed his mindstream, he prevailed against the Maras who tried to distract him as he sat meditating beneath the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya. The Buddha was armed with the forces of the samadhi of loving kindness, and the Maras could not harm him. The Great Yogi Milarepa tamed the enemy of ego-clinging with the force of the wisdom that realizes selflessness. And he conquered the enemy of anger with the army of bodhichitta. Because he defeated his inner foes of ego-clinging and anger, he became so skillful that even his bitterest enemies eventually became his disciples.

Practice 21
Relinquishing attachment to sense pleasures

Sense pleasures are like salt water.
The more you partake of them,
The more your craving will increase.
Therefore, when something arouses attachment,
To abandon it immediately is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

In Tibetan, the term for the sense pleasures is a special one that refers to beautiful forms, lovely sounds, appealing smells delicious tastes, and objects pleasant to the touch. These are the five sense pleasures. If you take them to be true, your attachment to them-and your suffering-will increase. Like drinking salt water to quench your thirst, the more you drink, the thirstier you become. In the same way, it is necessary to abandon immediately whatever arouses attachment. This is the practice of a Bodhisattva.
There are two ways of relinquishing sense objects: one is literally to give them up; the other is to abandon attachment to them. Milarepa actually gave up all sense pleasures to meditate in solitude. He didn’t need or want them. Marpa, on the other hand, abandoned only his attachment to the five sense pleasures. He lived a normal householder’s life, enjoying all the pleasures of the senses. Though he indulged in everything, Marpa was attached to nothing, for he realized all sense pleasures to be a dream and an illusion. He was thus able to completely relinquish attachment to them. In fact, Marpa took sense pleasures onto the path, using them as a practice. Then there was Gampopa, a monk. Gampopa decided to adopt a half-and-half approach. He gave up half of the sense objects; the other half he understood to be without any essence, no more than a dream and an illusion.

Practice 22
Transcending dualistic appearances

All appearances are your own mind, and
Mind itself primordially transcends all mental fabrications.
Knowing this is the precise nature of reality,
To remain free from dualistic conceptions
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

The first line, “All appearances are your own mind,” accords with the Mind Only School, known as the Chittamatrin. The second line that says, “Mind itself primordially transcends all mental fabrication”, accords with the second Rangtong Madhyamaka School, namely the Prasangika. Some of you may have studied the view and meditation of these philosophical schools. If not, now is not the time or place for an in-depth examination. Briefly, “dualistic appearances” refers to perceived and perceiver. The perceived is the outer perceived object, and the perceiver is the inner perceiving mind. The outer perceived object is merely one’s mind, a confused or delusive appearance arising from habitual tendencies. It is just like a dream in which objects seem to arise, yet nothing that appears has any true existence.
If the outer perceived object is just like a dream appearance, then what can we say about the inner perceiving mind? The text says that the mind itself, that is, the true nature of mind, transcends all mental fabrications and has done so since beginningless time. You need to know this. If you realize that perceived objects do not really exist and that the true nature of mind transcends all mental fabrications, you can give up clinging to dualistic appearances. Only then will you be able to accomplish this Bodhisattva practice.

Practice 23
Seeing pleasant objects as rainbows

When you encounter objects that please your mind,
Know they are like rainbows in the summer season.
Though they seem beautiful,
To see they are not real and to give up attachment to them
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

This verse uses the rainbow as an example of form to illustrate that no matter how beautiful an appearance may seem, attachment to it must be relinquished. Beyond what the eye can see, “objects that please your mind” include the four other objects of the senses: pleasant sounds for the ear, appealing smells for the nose, delicious tastes for the tongue, and soft, gentle objects for the skin. Clinging to these as real must be abandoned as well. All sense objects are like rainbows that, though beautiful and desirable, are mere appearances that lack essence. If we believe otherwise, our desire to cling to a desirable object will increase, and our suffering will grow in equal measure. Once the object is understood to be empty of essence, it can be enjoyed without attachment, without suffering. What is there to give up?
In this way all forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects have no self-nature. They are absolutely empty of essence. Though from the absolute perspective they do not truly exist, still they appear as mere appearances. This apparent contradiction is called appearance and emptiness inseparable. Why do not we see this universal quality of the inseparability of appearance and emptiness of phenomena? It is because our minds are obscured by the idea that phenomena exist, and this thought covers up their true nature. Our minds are veiled by concepts.

All appearances are like a dream. When we dream, objects clearly appear to us, but when we analyze these dream appearances, we see they do not exist apart from our mind. Nevertheless, they manifest as appearance and emptiness inseparable. While we sleep, we accept the reality of our dreams because we fail to recognize we are dreaming. Upon awakening, we understand our dreams were only mental events, mere dream appearances. Our idea or concept about them as solid and real was mistaken. All of life’s appearances are like that: appearance and emptiness inseparable.
Our tasks are to dismantle the idea that appearances truly exist and to become free from conceptual obscurations that veil how things really are. In this way, the empty nature of appearance will manifest and our life will become relaxed, open, and spacious. Then, no matter what desirable objects appear to us in waking life, our enjoyment of them can be free of pain, affliction, and all disturbing emotions. Once we are able to do this, we have fulfilled the twenty-third practice of a Bodhisattva.
Practice 24
Seeing unpleasant circumstances as delusions

All suffering is like the death of your child in a dream.
To take such delusive appearances as true, how exhausting!
Therefore, whenever you encounter unpleasant circumstances,
To see them as delusions is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Every variety of suffering is similar to experiencing your child die in a dream. We have so many kinds of suffering. Our body, possessions, enemies, friends, relatives, and so on can all cause sorrow. But not one of these sources of pain truly exists. All are delusive appearances, nothing but dreams. We dream we have given birth to a child who is the center of our life. The child dies; we cannot be consoled. The truth of the matter is that there is no reason to mourn because no one has died. We have experienced a dream death. Our grief is dream-grief arising from delusive dream appearances.
All suffering is delusive, like the suffering in a dream. All appearances are delusive and confused, like the appearances in a dream. Life will exhaust you if you do not recognize this. So, do not take delusive appearances to be true. Recognize whatever difficulties and obstacles you meet as delusion.
However, it is not enough to glibly think, “Oh, it’s only an illusion.” Conviction is needed that this is actually the case. To develop conviction, first correctly analyze why the situation and all its appearances are delusive. This means applying your own experience to the Buddha’s teaching that appearances do not truly exist. Do this again and again. Eventually you will develop a firm conviction that waking experience is no different from the dream state. Then, when difficult circumstances arise, you will know they are delusions and you will be able to apply the real practice of a Bodhisattva.

[Practices 25 through 30 address the six perfections, or 6 paramitas.]

Practice 25: The First Paramita
Giving generously

If those who aspire to enlightenment willingly give up their bodies,
What need is there to mention external objects?
Therefore with no hope of reward or benefit,
To give with generosity is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Why is the practice of generosity necessary? Someone who wishes to attain enlightenment must be ready, like the Buddha himself, to make the ultimate offer of his body. In several of his lives as a Bodhisattva, the Teacher gave his own body. Many other Bodhisattvas have done the same.
In order to attain enlightenment, if you need to be ready to surrender your own body, then offering merely your possessions is hardly worth mentioning. Therefore, with no hope of reward or karmic benefit, you must give generously to practice like a Bodhisattva.

Practice 26: The Second Paramita
Guarding discipline

If lack of discipline prevents you from benefiting yourself,
Then your wish to benefit others is just a joke.
Therefore, to guard discipline
With no longing for worldly existence
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

In general, discipline is of three types: First is the discipline to abandon all faults of body, speech, and mind. Second is the discipline to accumulate virtue. Third is the discipline to work for the benefit of sentient beings.
As applied to the three vehicles, giving up harming others is the discipline of the Sravakayana,, benefiting others is the discipline of the Mahayana, and developing the ability to see all appearances as pure is the discipline of the Vajrayana. If, without discipline you cannot benefit even yourself by accomplishing the one-sided peace of nirvana, how will you be able to accomplish Buddhahood for the benefit of all other beings? Discipline with no longing for worldly existence means foregoing all efforts to secure a favorable rebirth, for example as a god or a human, in which case you are still attached to samsara. The Bodhisattva practices discipline without any attachment to worldly existence.

Practice 27: The Third Paramita
Practicing patience

For a Bodhisattva who seeks a wealth of virtue
Every harm is like a precious treasure.
Therefore, without getting irritated by anything at all,
To cultivate patience is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

What is patience? The genuine definition of patience is the mental ability to remain unperturbed by negative conditions. Applied to the Dharma, it means forbearance in the face of difficulty. Practitioners should be able to withstand whatever obstacles arise when they practice the Dharma. For example, extremes of heat or cold should not influence the commitment to practice. The paramita of patience goes further: It includes the patience to forbear emptiness. The profound nature of phenomena is emptiness. Hearing about this emptiness, some people become fearful. They think, “If everything is empty, then what can I do? I am so afraid!” Thus, patience also extends to one’s ability to tolerate the idea of emptiness, the true nature of being.
The Mahayanasutralankara describes patience as having four qualities. The first is that it pacifies anger. Anger and patience are direct opposites. If you are angry, you are not being patient. And if you are not being patient, you are not behaving like a Bodhisattva. The second quality of patience is that it is endowed with nonconceptual primordial wisdom. Bodhisattvas who completely understand this point realize the selflessness of phenomena and of the individual.
The third quality of patience is that one comes to like all sentient beings. This is not a matter of saying, “Oh, I like everybody!” A Bodhisattva who has complete patience with everything hurtful or harmful bears affection towards everyone and can bring happiness everywhere. This ability to bestow happiness on all sentient beings is a sign that the paramita of patience has been perfected.
The fourth quality is that through perfecting patience, one can help others progressively develop their Dharma practice. This ability is called “ripening others through the Three Vehicles”. Starting with the Shravakayana and proceeding through the Mahayana and the Vajrayana, a Bodhisattva guides beings along the path, helping them decrease their afflictions and suffering, and increase their compassion and wisdom.
Milarepa had good reason to be angry with the aunt who had stolen everything from him. But as a Dharma practitioner, he applied patience. In fact, he developed complete patience. After many years, Milarepa returned home, where he discovered the bones of his mother and learned that his sister had disappeared. The family house, though damaged, still stood and had value. And one of his fields, though overgrown, was fertile and also had value. Patience enabled Milarepa to give his aunt the house and the field, thereby pleasing her, which is the third quality of patience. By giving away all that he possessed to his worst enemy, Milarepa made her so happy that she became interested in Dharma.
Thus, the fourth quality of patience arose: Milarepa did not say, “I’m justified in being angry toward you to, so I will not teach you Dharma. You’re a bad woman, my enemy.” Instead, he gave his aunt Dharma instructions. Her meditation practice took root and developed, and in the end the aunt became a great yogini. So the fourth quality of patience is ability to ripen others on the path.

Another incident in Milarepa’s life concerned a hunter who, one day while out hunting, came upon a deer and set his fierce dog on it. The dog chased after the terrified deer, which fled until it came upon Milarepa meditating. To quell its fear, Milarepa sang to it, and the deer lay down peacefully by the Jetsun’s side. Suddenly, in charged the dog. Frustrated and enraged at losing its prey, it attacked Milarepa. Again, the Jetsun sang a song. The dog was pacified and settled down by the yogi’s other side. Finally the hunter burst onto the scene. Seeing Milarepa flanked by the deer at ease at one side and the dog equally at ease on the other, he bellowed, “You have used black magic to pacify these animals!” and readied his bow and arrow to shoot Milarepa. He took aim and was about to let the arrow fly when Milarepa called, “Stop! There will be enough time to shoot me with your arrow. First listen to my song.” And so he sang a song to the hunter that pleased the man so much he decided to spare Milarepa’s life. Later he developed great faith in the Dharma and became Milarepa’s disciple.
This story illustrates the four qualities of Milarepa’s patience: Pacifying the anger of the dog and the hunter is the first. Demonstrating nonconceptual wisdom is the second. Pleasing and melting the hunter’s anger through his song is the third. And inspiring the hunter’s faith in the Dharma so that he could receive the profound instructions of Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa is the fourth. Thus, Milarepa’s perfect patience and compassionate mind transformed his potential murderer into a Dharma practitioner and disciple. What an inspiring story from the life of Milarepa!
In the Sutralankara, Maitreya describes the four qualities of patience:

Patience decreases all opposite sides.
One possesses nonconceptual primordial wisdom.
One can perfectly fulfill all wishes.
And one ripens sentient beings along the three vehicles.

Notice that the first two qualities concern ourselves, and the second two concern others-even our enemies, whom we bring to the Dharma and whose practice we help mature.
As a Mahayana practitioner, always remember that anyone who hurts you shows you a great kindness, and that whatever brings you harm bestows a precious treasure. It is like a poor person digging in the earth who finds oil, gold, or silver and suddenly becomes very rich. From the Mahayana perspective, whoever or whatever harms us provides the same opportunity for wealth. Why? To obtain a wealth of virtue requires a harmful opponent. Without a foe or adversary, how can we practice patience? The Bodhisattva wishes to develop virtue, merit, and such. The prerequisite for these qualities, our most precious treasure, is an enemy.

Practice 28: The Fourth Paramita
Cultivating joyous effort

If Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, who strive for their benefit alone,
Expend effort as if to extinguish a fire burning on their heads,
Then for the benefit of all beings,
To cultivate joyous effort, the wellspring of positive qualities,
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

The Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas practice for their own liberation; that is, they do not take the Bodhisattva vow or develop the enlightened attitude. Yet they apply as much effort to their practice as if they were putting out a fire on their heads. If your head were in flames, can you imagine how fast you would drop everything to extinguish it? The point here is to show how diligent the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas are, how much effort they apply to their practice just for their own benefit.
We who have developed the enlightened attitude of the Mahayana should apply even greater effort. We should apply joyous effort, which is the source of positive qualities that benefit of all sentient beings. That is the practice of a Bodhisattva. Joyous effort possesses the same four qualities as patience. To apply this paramita to Maitreya’s verse, we need change only one phrase.

Joyous effort decreases all opposite sides.
One possesses nonconceptual primordial wisdom.
One can perfectly fulfill all wishes.
And one ripens sentient beings along the three vehicles.

Joyous effort overcomes its opposite, laziness, and allows us to engage enthusiastically in Dharma. By applying nonconceptual primordial wisdom as we carry out this practice, we transcend concepts of a diligent subject, an object of diligence, and the act of diligence. As a model of joyous effort, Milarepa pleased many beings. Seeing his diligence, they developed trust in him and in the Dharma, which fulfilled the third quality of joyous effort. Having won their trust, Milarepa then gave them Dharma practices and helped bring them to maturity. Even today, Milarepa’s example inspires us. We read his biography, admire his diligence, and his example ripens us upon the path. This is an example of the fourth quality of joyous effort.

Practice 29: The Fifth Paramita
Attaining meditative stability

Vipashyana perfectly endowed with shamatha
Completely conquers all afflictions.
To cultivate meditative stability That transcends the four formless states
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Among the three realms (desire, form, and formless), the highest is the formless, which is reached through samadhi, or meditative stability. Samadhi has four levels, namely, Infinite Space, Infinite Consciousness, Complete Nothingness, and Peak of Existence. The highest, most subtle of these is Peak of Existence. Within all existence, all samsara, no state is higher. But no matter how subtle Peak of Existence may be, it still lies within the three realms. To conquer afflictions and transcend suffering, our meditation must go beyond all existence.
Transcendence of samsara requires superior knowledge, the wisdom that realizes the selflessness of all phenomena. How does superior knowledge manifest? When vipashyana (analytic or insight meditation) arises from shamatha (peaceful abiding meditation), the two become one. This union, known as samten, or stable meditation, activates superior knowledge within our samadhi. This fifth paramita, samten, is the key to unlocking the wisdom that realizes emptiness. Through samten, one completely conquers affliction and suffering, goes beyond the four states of samadhi, and transcends all existence. One is liberated from samsara. Therefore, stable meditation is the practice of a Bodhisattva. Stable meditation also has Maitreya’s four qualities:
Stable meditation decreases its opposite.
It is embraced by nonconceptual primordial wisdom.
One can perfectly fulfill all beings’ wishes.
And one ripens sentient beings along the three vehicles.

How does meditative stability decrease its opposites? Agitation and dullness, the opposites of samten , are faults that in equal measure hinder meditation. The greater the meditative stability, the less these faults will operate. With regard to meditation, the quality of nonconceptual primordial wisdom refers to not taking the meditator, the object of meditation, and the act of meditating to be truly existent. They are not conceptualized. >From meditative stability arises the third quality, that of fulfilling all wishes. The meditator now develops special qualities and all-seeing knowledge through which he or she can accomplish miracles that please others and make them happy. These miracles inspire others to trust in the Dharma, arouse their interest in practice, and give a Bodhisattva the opportunity to ripen them on the three vehicles-ripening being the fourth quality.
Milarepa perfected meditative stability. He could fulfill all wishes and ripen sentient beings along the three vehicles. At one point in his life, three high scholars from a university who had disdain for Milarepa and thought he lacked any accomplishment challenged the yogi to a debate. Through having accomplished the fifth paramita, meditative stability, Milarepa could work miracles. He demonstrated this ability, astounding the scholars so much that they realized Milarepa’s qualities and became very happy and joyous. Through Milarepa, they learned what the genuine Dharma was, developed trust in him, and later became disciples whom Milarepa ripened on the path. In the end, they became some of Mila’s best disciples. Thus, by demonstrating miracles, he fulfilled the third quality of pleasing sentient beings and making them happy; and the fourth quality by ripening them on the path.
Here is my song about the three scholars:
Milarepa pleased with knowledge and miracles Even the scholars who wanted to defeat him in debate. Then he ripened them with genuine Mahamudra and the Six Yogas. Thus they became principal disciples. How very wonderful!

Practice 30: The Sixth Paramita
Cultivating nonconceptual superior knowledge

Without superior knowledge,
It is not possible to attain perfect enlightenment through
the first five paramitas alone.
Therefore, joining it with skillful means
and not conceptualizing about the three spheres
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva

Generally, when one thinks of knowledge, what comes to mind is worldly knowledge, the sort that enables us to manufacture cars, make computers, or cure sickness. Here the text speaks of a different kind of knowledge, superior knowledge that transcends the world. Superior knowledge recognizes the selflessness of the individual and of phenomena, and it is united with skillful means-loving kindness and compassion. For knowledge to be superior, it must transcend conceptualizing the three spheres–that is, of there being someone performing an action, an action itself, and an object of the action. If we have perfected the first five paramitas, but lack nonconceptual wisdom united with bodhichitta, it will be impossible to attain enlightenment. Applying this sixth paramita to Maitreya’s four qualities:

Superior knowledge decreases all opposite sides.
One possesses nonconceptual primordial wisdom.
One can perfectly fulfill all wishes,
And one ripens sentient beings along the three vehicles

The first quality is that superior knowledge decreases false or mistaken views, such as denying absolute and relative levels of reality, disputing previous and future lives, or trying to disprove karma, cause, and result. These are examples of mistaken views or wrong knowledge. Another type of wrong view is using scientific knowledge to harm beings.
If we perfect superior knowledge, we realize the true nature of mind itself. Milarepa said, “There is no other superior knowledge than to realize the true nature.” In other words, if you realize the true nature, then you have realized the paramita of superior knowledge.

Practice 31
Analyzing delusion

If you have not analyzed your own confusion,
You might put on a Dharmic façade
While behaving in a non-Dharmic way.
Therefore, to continuously analyze your delusion and discard it
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

If you wish to practice correctly, it is necessary to analyze your confusion, your delusions. Otherwise, your practice becomes no more than a façade, a mask behind which you behave counter to the Teachings.
Here is an episode in Milarepa’s life that is pertinent: Yet another university geshe (this one named Dalo) tried to discredit Milarepa by challenging him to a public debate. When Dalo failed to defeat the Jetsun, the scholar became so enraged that he took a handful of dirt and flung it in Milarepa’s face. Seeing this affront, his disciple Rechungpa lost his temper. “The Dharma must be properly maintained. Such behavior isn’t Dharmic. I must defend teacher, my guru,” Rechungpa rashly concluded. He picked up a stick and was about to thrash Dalo when Milarepa called out, “Wait a minute! Calm down and meditate on patience!” And then he sang this song:

Rechungpa, please practice patience. Otherwise you will violate the Dharma

When he heard his guru’s song, Rechungpa realized he was acting from anger and violating his Bodhisattva vow. You can see that both the scholar and the disciple had deluded themselves into thinking they were practicing Dharma when, in fact, they were violating its teachings. The scholar was a monk, yet he became angry and threw dirt at Milarepa. Rechungpa was a practicing yogi, yet anger had him ready to beat the scholar with a stick. Both men presented the faces of Dharma practitioners when, through self-delusion, they were violating its precepts.
This story shows how important it is to continuously analyze your body, speech, and mind for signs of confusion. And having analyzed your delusion, you must give it up. This is the true practice of a Bodhisattva. In their delusion, Dalo and Rechungpa failed to analyze their behavior or see that they were at fault. Perhaps most practitioners who act against the Dharma as a result of anger do so because they cannot recognize or analyze their behavior. Under the sway of delusion, they violate the Teachings.

When the debate between Dalo and Rechungpa took place, all the inhabitants of the valley, along with the sponsors who had been invited for a great feast and puja, witnessed the scene. They witnessed Dalo become enraged, Rechungpa lose his temper, and Milarepa remain peaceful, even smiling, when Dalo threw dirt in his face. So their faith and trust in Milarepa grew, and their respect for Dalo and Rechungpa declined.
Gampopa was Milarepa’s sun disciple and Rechungpa, as foretold by the yidam Dorje Phago (Vajrayogini), was his moon disciple. . Yet even such a close disciple as Rechungpa could not control his anger. In the same way, when we get angry we should be very careful. Anger will of course arise, but when it does we have to be very careful about how we view and handle it.
Another story about the consequences of anger concerns a main disciple of Patrul Rinpoche, Nyoksho Longtok. One day, Nyoksho Longtok and Patrul Rinpoche set out on a journey. They had not proceeded very far when thieves attacked them and seized everything they had brought with them. Being a person of great physical strength, Nyoksho Longtok began to assault the men with his walking stick. Patrul Rinpoche cried, “Stop! Stop! Meditate on patience, meditate on patience!” In his anger, the disciple turned a deaf ear to his guru’s entreaties.
Again Patrul Rinpoche called out, “Be patient, meditate on patience!” But Nyoksho Longtok continued to flail the robbers as hard as he could. So overpowered was he by rage that he had thoroughly beaten and routed the thieves before even noticing that Patrul Rinpoche had gone away and left him behind.
When he came to his senses, he began searching for his master. After a long time, the disciple found Patrul Rinpoche, who refused to see him. When Nyoksho Longtok asked why, Rinpoche replied, “I told you to meditate on patience, but you didn’t listen, you were too angry.” And for many months afterwards, Nyoksho Longtok was not allowed to see Patrul Rinpoche because in the grip of delusion he had not attended to the words of his teacher. He had not been able to analyze his delusion and see through it. The same can happen to any of us if we are not careful and do not analyze our anger when it arises.
When the robbers stole Patrul Rinpoche’s and Nyoksyho Longtok’s possessions, Rinpoche intended that he and his student mentally dedicate all their goods to the thieves and pray that the stolen items might benefit them and all sentient beings. The incident would then have been an opportunity to practice the paramitas of generosity and patience. Blinded by delusion, Nyoksho Longtok could not listen to his teacher and therefore lost this opportunity.
One Mahayana prayer for the perfection of patience says, ” I pray that in this and all my lifetimes I will be able to make no mistakes arising from anger, but instead be patient.”

Practice 32
Not criticizing other Bodhisattvas

If, compelled by your own afflictions,
You speak of the faults of other Bodhisattvas,
You, yourself, will degenerate.
Therefore, never to mention the faults of those
Who have entered the Mahayana path
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

One stanza in The Seven Points of Mind Training directs the reader to think that all positive qualities belong to other sentient beings and that all faults are one’s own. This is the correct attitude. Generally, most people think just the opposite: someone else is always wrong, while they are always right. This attitude is to be given up. Patrul Rinpoche advises students to acknowledge their own deficiency first; and then, when they recognize it in someone else, to pray that the guru grants blessings to them both. It is always beneficial to see that the perceived fault in yourself is greater than it is in the other. Then you know that person is no different from you.

Practice 33
Relinquishing attachment to households

Desire for gain and honor leads to argument,
And activities of listening, reflecting and meditating decline.
Therefore, to relinquish attachment to the households
of friends, relatives, and sponsors
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Under the influence of desire for gain and recognition, even a Bodhisattva may end up arguing over possessions and demanding special considerations. Preoccupied with such desires, the ordinary Bodhisattva’s activities of listening, analyzing, and meditating will decrease. These are good reasons for giving up attachment to the households of relatives, friends, and sponsors.

Practice 34
Abandoning harsh speech

Harsh speech disturbs the minds of others
And compromises a Bodhisattva’s right conduct.
Therefore, to give up harsh and unpleasant speech
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

We are advised for two reasons to give up harsh words that displease others. First, our conduct disturbs the minds of others. You may recall situations when someone spoke to you sharply or unkindly, or unfairly laid blame on you. You became disturbed, frustrated, depressed. Perhaps the harshness even made you cry. This is why it is wise to remember that harsh or unpleasant speech causes others pain. The second reason to give up harsh speech is because it compromises a Bodhisattva’s right conduct, which is to benefit others. Disturbing someone’s mind accomplishes just the opposite: it causes harm. Therefore, harsh and unpleasant speech violates the Bodhisattva vow.

Practice 35
Eliminating mental afflictions

Once you become accustomed to the mental afflictions,
They are hard to cure with antidotes.
Therefore, with the remedies of mindfulness and awareness
To eliminate afflictions the moment they arise
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

As long as we take things to be true, then mental afflictions like attachment, anger, and jealousy will continue to arise. As soon as they do, a Bodhisattva must eradicate them. Why is it so difficult to fight mental afflictions with antidotes? It is because of habit. We have reacted a certain way for so long and have become so accustomed to our mental afflictions that we do not notice when they arise. Even if we know what antidote to apply, we may not be sufficiently mindful and aware to apply it. But a mindful and fully aware person holds an armful of remedies. “Mindfulness” is remembering at all times what conduct to abandon and what conduct to adopt. “Fully aware” means being constantly alert to afflictions the moment they arise in our mind. Mindfulness and awareness are the weapons that cut afflictions and work as antidotes to habit.
For example, you are mindful that patience must be adopted and anger abandoned. Then, if you are alert and notice that anger is arising in your mind, you can remedy it immediately by applying the antidote of patience. An analogy is the Tibetan verb “to even out”. This term is often used in road construction: If you are building a road and notice rocks jutting up, you take a jackhammer and break them up to make the road smooth and even. In the same way, you have to “even out” each mental affliction as it arises.

Practice 36
Remaining mindful and aware

In brief, wherever you are and whatever you do,
Always examine the state of your mind.
Cultivating mindfulness and awareness continuously
To benefit others is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Whether you are in a remote monastery or in a city, whether you are a monastic or a householder, you must be continuously mindful and aware of the state of your mind. This means knowing your real intention at all times, finding out why you are doing something and for whose benefit. Always investigate your true motivation.
To cultivate continuous mindfulness and awareness means to accomplish the benefit of others as well as yourself. Even if you are helping others, still check your motivation: it is possible to work for others’ benefit for the wrong reasons. Therefore, this verse summarizes all thirty-five practices that have preceded it.

Practice Thirty-seven
Dedicating merit

To clear away the suffering of all infinite beings,
With superior knowledge free of concepts of the three spheres,
To dedicate to enlightenment the merit accumulated through these efforts
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva

How does a Bodhisattva dedicate merit? The Bodhisattva applies the superior knowledge of emptiness to the three spheres. This means that he or she purifies the dedication process by realizing that there is no one to dedicate merit, no merit to be dedicated, and no one to receive the merit. Subject, action, object do not truly exist. This is the meaning of “Šfree of concepts of the three spheres”, and it cannot be separated from the superior knowledge with which it is suffused: the wisdom that realizes emptiness. Without understanding that the three spheres do not truly exist, it is quite difficult to comprehend how to dedicate merit in this way. Imagine a dream in which you are sitting before a shrine. In the exact moment of dedication, you awaken and instantly realize that no one has been dedicating merit, no merit has been dedicated, and no one has received any merit. It was all a dream. This is how to understand the practice of dedicating merit

Epilogue A
Relying on scripture and oral teachings

Relying on what is taught in the sutras, tantras, treatises,
And the words of the genuine masters,
I have composed these thirty-seven Bodhisattva practices
To benefit those who wish to train on the Bodhisattva’s path.

In this verse, Ngulchu Thogme explains what he has composed and why he has composed it. He refers to his reliance on the teachings of the sutras, tantras, treatises, and on the instructions of genuine masters. It is a traditional requirement to mention these precedents so that everyone understands Thogme did not personally make up the practices. He has based them on the teachings of the great masters who have preceded him.
His purpose in composing these verses has been to summarize the vast number of Bodhisattva practices into a manageable thirty-seven to benefit those who have entered the Mahayana path and wish to train in it. Thus, Thogme has made the practices easy for everyone to apply.

Epilogue B
Confidence in basis of the practices

Because my intelligence is small and my studies few,
I cannot compose poetry to please the scholars.
Yet since they are based on sutras and teachings
of the genuine masters, I believe these practices of a Bodhisattva are not mistaken.

These lines are included because Tibetan tradition also requires a verse in which the author, to counteract pride, belittles himself. Here, Thogme minimizes his intelligence and learning and states that his verses cannot possibly please scholars. Nevertheless, because he has based his work on authentic teachings, he has confidence that the verses are free of mistakes and confusion.

Epilogue C
Supplication to the genuine masters

Nevertheless, since the vast conduct of a Bodhisattva is difficult to fathom
For one with an inferior intellect such as mine,
I pray to the genuine masters to consider with patience
All my mistakes such as contradictions, incoherence, and so on.

Thogme has previously stated that because he has relied on unmistaken sources, he is confident his practices are also unmistaken. Now he acknowledges that contradictions and incoherence still may have crept in due to his limited intellectual capacities. If he has made mistakes like these, he prays the genuine masters will be patient with them.
By “contradictions”, Thogme means teaching patience toward enemies in one place and advising fighting them in another. “Incoherence” refers to the possibility that his sentences may not flow logically or smoothly because a line has discussed one topic and the next line has jumped to another, unrelated one.

Epilogue D
Final dedication and aspiration

By virtue of the merit gathered here,
By the power of relative and ultimate bodhichitta,
May all sentient beings become like the Protector Chenrezig
Who dwells neither in the extreme of existence nor in that of peace.

Chenrezig does not abide in cyclic existence, nor is he attached to the state of peace. Why doesn’t he dwell in samsara? Chenrezig realizes the emptiness that cuts to the root of existence. Therefore, he does not abide in samsara. And what is the cause that frees Chenerezig from attachment to peace? His great compassion uproots his wish for nirvana for himself only. Therefore, Thogme prays that all beings become equal to Chenrezig.

The author dedicates to all beings the merit of having composed these practices. He prays that, like the Protector Chenrezig, who dwells on the Bodhisattva bhumis, they develop absolute bodhichitta freeing them from the bonds of existence, and relative bodhichitta freeing them from attachment to peace.

Epilogue E
Place of composition

The monk Thogme,
A proponent of scriptures and logic,
Has composed these verses
In a cave known as Ngulchu Rinchen Puk
To benefit himself and others.

Whenever he speaks about Dharma, the author reminds us that his words accord with scripture and logic. By composing these verses, Thogme has benefited himself, as well as others, because the work has increased his wisdom and helped him perfect the two accumulations. Finally, he tells us that he composed this text at Ngulchu Rinchen Puk, The Jewel Cave of Silver Water.

The End…

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