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The Four Dharmas of Gampopa

The Four Dharmas of Gampopa

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Teaching at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, Summer 1984.Translated by Chojor Radha.Densal Vol. 6 No. 1.
T
he Four Dharmas of Gampopa show how the mind follows theDharma, how the Dharma follows the path, how the patheliminates confusion, and how out of confusion wisdom arises.
First Dharma:May My Mind Follow the Dharma
T
he first of the four teachings points to the understanding that wepractice Dharma in order to truly benefit ourselves and others inthis and future births. Whatever teachings we hear, contemplate,and put into practice should be motivated by this intention. If wepractice to obtain material gain, then our minds are not followingDharma. We work in the mundane world to support our physicalneeds, but we practice Dharma to develop our inner understandingof this life and attain those realizations that will also benefit us infuture births. The nature of samsara is constant change, and fromthis viewpoint, using Dharma to gain fame, wealth, or other
The Four DharmasofGampopa
by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche
 
temporary rewards is turning the teaching to the wrong purpose.Using Dharma properly, we generate benefits through meditation.When we receive teachings, we should put them into practiceimmediately. Our life is very uncertain and the time of death unpre-dictable, no matter what our health or age. To obtain this precioushuman birth and the opportunity to practice is most rare, and wemay not find it in the future. Knowing this, we should immediatelyengage in practice that is meaningful and relevant to us, and thenpractice consistently. Such practice is like taking medicine. You arethe patient and, until the disease is cured, you must take medicineregularly. Likewise, until our confusion is removed, we should prac-tice Dharma regularly.
Second Dharma:May the Dharma Follow the Path
W
e have seen that the nature of samsara is nothing butsuffering, yet every living being wants happiness, peace, andcomfort. Not knowing how to obtain these, their actions onlycompound suffering, and they are thus constantly confused anddrawn into the realm of samsara. Some people, for example, thinkhappiness can be obtained by robbing a bank and becoming rich.The result of stealing, of course, is negative karma and its attendantsuffering. If we consider our situation, there are many instances inwhich we think some activity will produce happiness, but it actuallyyields negative karma.Birds, insects, and humans are all equally busy trying to obtainthat state called happiness. From birth to death, we look for wealth,fame, and other forms of worldly success, not realizing that the rootof happiness is in the virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind, andthat the root of suffering is in the negative actions of these three. Inthis ignorance, we continue in constant busyness, vaguely hoping forsomething good, yet creating more problems.When we can understand that all beings share a desire for hap-piness and yet are closed into the darkness and confusion of samsara,then with this awareness we can begin to help others. Loving-kind-ness is developed through the motivation of not only wanting to
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Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche
 
help others in material ways, but also wanting to liberate them fromthe cycle of samsara.In order to develop this strong loving-kindness, it helps in thebeginning to focus on the person you love the most, such as yourmother, brother, or sister, and imagine them suffering in great pain.If you did not come to help them, and merely tried to maintain yourown happiness, you would not be very comfortable. The only thingto do, of course, would be to find out how to help them. Supposethat the one you love the most was in the hell realm, burning withfire, boiled in water, and forced to drink scalding liquids, and wasconstantly crying out, “Someone please help me!” At that point youcould not just sit there and work for your own happiness. At thesound of the word “help!” immediately your tears would flow.Likewise, if they were in the hungry ghost realm suffering fromthirst, hunger and want of shelter, with their body burning at night,you would have difficulty ignoring their cries for help. Suppose thisperson you love has taken birth as a fish with no home, no protec-tion in the water, and constantly searching for food simply to stayalive and stop the pangs of hunger. When they came up from thewater and pleaded for help, you could not turn a deaf ear.In such ways, we use the example of the one we love most andimagine what we would do if that person cried for help from thedepths of suffering. When we can freely express loving-kindness forthose we love, then this loving-kindness can be expanded by know-ing that not only the person we love is suffering and wants happi-ness, but that every living being equally wants such happiness. Thisrealization brings forth greater generosity and loving-kindness,which eventually includes limitless numbers of living beings.Developing loving-kindness by itself, however, is not enough foreffective practice; in addition, we need to develop aspiration bodhi-chitta. In this context aspiration bodhichitta means a deep commit-ment from your heart with the feeling, “From now on, I will neverharm any living being, but try to help as much as I can, and not justfor a short time, but until all are liberated from samsara.” Once wemake this commitment we think, “If I ever break this vow, may mybody be scattered into a thousand pieces.”With this commitment, we practice according to our intention.Since all practices will not go easily and smoothly, we will have towork through and overcome many difficulties, troubles and hard-ships, both mental and physical. When such problems arise, we
Densal Book
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