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From Enlightened Courage

By Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Consider all phenomena as a dream:
This precious human body, supreme instrument though it is for the attainment of
enlightenment, is itself a transient phenomenon. No one knows when, or how, death will
come. Bubbles form on the surface of the water, but the next instant they are gone they do
not stay. !t is "ust the same with this precious human body that we ha#e managed to find. $e
take all the time in the world before engaging in spiritual practice, but who knows when this
life of ours will simply cease to be% &nd once our precious human body is lost, our
mindstream, continuing its existence, will take birth perhaps among the animals, or in one of
the hells or god realms where spiritual de#elopment is impossible.
&t present, the outer uni#erse'earth, stones, mountains, rocks and cliffs'seem to the
perception of our senses to be permanent and stable, like the houses built of reinforced
concrete that we think will last for generations. !n fact, there is nothing solid to it at all it is
nothing but a city of dreams(
Take an example from the recent past. Before the arri#al of the )hinese )ommunists, how
many monasteries were there in what used to be called Tibet, the *and of +now% ,ow many
temples and monasteries were there, like those in *hasa, at +amye and Trandruk% ,ow
many precious ob"ects were there, representations of the Buddha-s Body, +peech and .ind%
Now not e#en a statue remains. &ll that is left of +amye is something the si/e of this tent,
hardly bigger than a stupa. 0#erything was looted, broken or scattered, and all the great
images were destroyed. These things ha#e happened and this demonstrates
!f we ha#e an understanding of impermanence, we will be able to practice the sacred
teachings. But if we continue to think that e#erything will remain as it is, then it will be "ust like
rich people still discussing their business pro"ects on their deathbeds1 +uch people ne#er talk
about the next life, do they% !t goes to show that an appreciation of the certainty of death has
ne#er touched their hearts. That is their mistake, their delusion.
The Mind:
($hat shall we say about these so2called thoughts% &t this moment, while ! am teaching
Dharma, let us consider the mental experience, or thought, which you ha#e, of listening
carefully to me. Does this ha#e a shape or color% !s it to be found in the upper or lower part
of the body, in the eyes or ears% $hat we call the mind is not really there at all. !f it is really a
thing, it must ha#e characteristics, such as color. !t must be white, yellow and so one. 3r it
must ha#e shape, like a pillar or #ase. !t must be big or small, old or young, and so on. 4ou
can find out whether the mind exists solidly or not by "ust turning inwards and reflecting
carefully. 4ou will see that the mind does not begin, or end, or stay, anywhere that it has no
color or form and is to be found neither insider nor outside the body. &nd when you see that it
does not exist as a thing, you should stay in that experience without any attempt to label or
define it.
&ll suffering comes through not recognising ego2clinging as our enemy. $hen we are hit by a
stick or a stone, it hurts when someone calls us a thief or a liar, we become angry. $hy is
this% !t is because we feel great esteem and attachment for what we think of as our sel#es,
and we think, 5! am being attacked.6 )linging to the 5!6 is the real obstacle to the attainment
of liberation and enlightenment( !t is from within that the trouble comes. !t is due to fixation
on 5!6 that we think7 5! am so unhappy, ! can-t get anything to eat, ! ha#e no clothes, lots of
people are against me and ! don-t ha#e any friends.6 !t is thoughts like these that keep us so
busy'and all so uselessly1 This is the reason why we are not on the path to liberation and
Buddhahood. Throughout the entire succession of our li#es, from beginningless time until the
present, we ha#e been taking birth in one or other of the six realms. ,ow long we ha#e been
labouring in the three worlds of samsara, sla#es to our ego2clinging1
Now when the moment of your death arri#es, this is what you should do. 8ust as the Buddha
did when he passed away, lie on your right side and rest your head on your right hand.
Breathe in through your left nostril, blocking your right nostril with the little finger of your right
hand. .ediate on lo#e, wishing happiness for all beings, numerous as the sky is #ast, and
generate compassion with the desire to free them from e#ery suffering. 9sing the support of
your ingoing and outgoing breaths, imagine that you exhale all your happiness, comfort and
wealth, sending them to all who suffer. &nd inhale all the diseases, e#il, negati#e emotions
and obscurations of other beings, taking them all upon yourself. &fterwards, you should
reflect that samsara and nir#ana are themsel#es illusory, "ust like a dream or a wi/ard-s
magical display. 0#erything is de#oid of self2existence. 0#erything is but the perception of the
mind, and where nothing exists, there is no cause for fear, here or in the bardo. Try to remain
in that con#iction, without any mental grasping.
To accustom oneself to Bodhichitta is like keeping a garden neat, without undergrowth,
pests, lumps of wood and weeds. *et us practice it, bringing together all the :ualities of the
greater and lesser #ehicles, so that we are like containers gradually filled with grain or drops
of water. $hether we practice ;ratymoksha, the Bodhisatt#a training, or the stages of
generation and completion of the .antrayana, all that we do should act as a support for our
#ows of Bodhichitta. 0#en if we practice the .antrayana, it should uphold and confirm our
commitment as Bodhisatt#as.
$e should constantly meditate on the difficulties that we cannot escape. Towards people, for
instance, who do us harm, who want to compete with us, who are at one moment friendly but
who suddenly turn against us unpro#oked, or towards people who for no apparent reason
<due to our karma= we simply do not like, we should try to generate the Bodhichitta e#en
more intensely, especially when it is difficult. $e should ser#e and re#erence our elders,
parents and teachers. &s >uru ;admasambha#a said, 5Do not be a sorrow to your elders
ser#e them with respect.6 !f we help them and those who are in need, we are treading the
path of the Bodhisatt#as.
Do what is important:
The Dharma has two aspects7 exposition and practice. 0xposition is only the work of the
mouth, and many there are who do not practice the teachings explained. &s the saying goes7
5.any ha#e heard the Doctrine, but those who implement it are few. 0#en those who ha#e
practiced a little are side2tracked and get lost.6 &s far as the Dharma is concerned, practice is
more important than teaching and talking. The Dharma is something that we really ha#e to
do( !t is better, moreo#er, to follow single2mindedly the instructions recei#ed from our
teachers than to practice on the basis of our own book2learning and intelligence( 3f all our
acti#ities, the most important is to sit and practice. $e should not mo#e around too much, we
should "ust remain on our seat. $e will only stumble if we get up1 $e should sit properly, not
too stiffly, and remember that the best practitioners wear out their meditation cushions, not
the soles of their shoes.
Translated by ;admakara Translation >roup
0xcerpted from Enlightened Courage
+now *ion
Three Short Teachings
By Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche7
Thoughts and the Mind
*ike wa#es, all the acti#ities of this life ha#e rolled endlessly on, one after the other, yet they
ha#e left us feeling empty2handed. .yriads of thoughts ha#e run through our mind, each one
gi#ing birth to many more, but what they ha#e done is to increase our confusion and
$hen we closely examine the ordinary habits that underlie whate#er we do and try to
disco#er where they come from, we find that their #ery source is our failure to in#estigate
them properly. $e operate under the deluded assumption that e#erything has some sort of
true, substantial reality. But when we look more carefully, we find that the phenomenal world
is like a rainbow'#i#id and colourful, but without any tangible existence.
$hen a rainbow appears in the sky we see many beautiful colours'yet a rainbow is not
something we can clothe oursel#es with, or wear as an ornament. There is nothing we can
take hold of it is simply something that appears to us through the con"unction of #arious
conditions. Thoughts arise in the mind in "ust the same way. They ha#e no tangible reality or
intrinsic existence at all. There is therefore no logical reason why thoughts should ha#e so
much power o#er us, nor any reason why we should be ensla#ed by them.
.ind is what creates both samsara and nir#ana. 4et there is nothing much to it'it is "ust
thoughts. 3nce we recogni/e that thoughts are empty, the mind will no longer ha#e the
power to decei#e us. But as long as we take our deluded thoughts as real, they will continue
to torment us mercilessly, as they ha#e been doing throughout countless past li#es. To gain
control o#er the mind, we need to be aware of what to do and what to a#oid, and we also
need to be alert and #igilant, constantly examining all our thoughts, words and actions.
To cut through the mind-s clinging, it is important to understand that all appearances are #oid,
like the appearance of water in a mirage. Beautiful forms are of no benefit to the mind, nor
can ugly forms harm it in any way. +e#er the ties of hope and fear, attraction and repulsion,
and remain in e:uanimity in the understanding that all phenomena are nothing more than
pro"ections of your own mind.
3nce you ha#e reali/ed absolute truth, then you will see the whole, infinite display of relati#e
phenomena that appears within it as no more than an illusion or a dream. To reali/e that
appearance and #oidness are one is what is called simplicity, or freedom from conceptual
Self and others
&s you wish to be happy, so you should wish others to be happy too. &s you wish to be free
from suffering, so you should wish that all beings may also be free from suffering. 4ou should
think, 5.ay all li#ing creatures find happiness and the cause of happiness. .ay they be free
from suffering and the cause of suffering. .ay they always ha#e perfect happiness free from
suffering. .ay they li#e in e:uanimity, without attachment or hatred but with lo#e towards all
without any discrimination.6
To feel o#erflowing lo#e and almost unbearable compassion for all li#ing creatures is the best
way to fulfil the wishes of all the Buddhas and Bodhisatt#as. 0#en if for the moment you
cannot actually help anyone in an external way, meditate on lo#e and compassion constantly
o#er the months and years until compassion is knit inseparably into the #ery fabric of your
&s you try to practise and progress on the path, it is essential to remember that your efforts
are for the sake of others. Be humble and remember that all your exertions are child-s play
compared to the #ast and infinite acti#ity of the Bodhisatt#as. *ike parents pro#iding for the
children they lo#e so much, ne#er think that you ha#e done too much for others'or e#en
enough. 0#en if you finally manage to establish all li#ing creatures in perfect Buddhahood,
simply think that all your wishes ha#e been fulfilled. There must ne#er be so much as a trace
of hope for any benefit for oneself in return.
The essence of the Bodhisatt#a practice is to go beyond self2clinging and dedicate yourself
to ser#ing others. The Bodhisatt#a-s acti#ity hinges on the mind, not on how your actions
might appear externally. True generosity is the absence of clinging, ultimate discipline is the
absence of desire, and authentic patience is the absence of hatred. Bodhisatt#as are able to
gi#e away their kingdom, their body, their dearest possessions, because they ha#e
completely o#ercome any inner impo#erishment and are unconditionally ready to fulfil the
needs of others.
The teachings we need most are those that will actually strengthen and inspire our practice.
!t is all #ery well to recei#e teachings as high as the sky, but the sky is not that easy to grasp.
+tart with practices which you can truly assimilate'de#eloping determination to be free of
ordinary concerns, nurturing lo#e and compassion'and as you gain stability in your practice
you will e#entually be able to master all the higher teachings.
The only way to achie#e liberation from samsara and attain the omniscience of
enlightenment is to rely on an authentic spiritual teacher. &n authentic spiritual teacher is like
the sail that enables a boat to cross the ocean swiftly.
The sun and moon are reflected in clear, still water instantly. +imilarly, the blessings of the
Three 8ewels are always present for those who ha#e complete confidence in them. The
sun-s rays fall e#erywhere uniformly, but only where they are focused through a magnifying
glass can they set dry grass on fire. $hen the all2per#ading rays of the Buddhas-
compassion are focused through the magnifying glass of your faith and de#otion, the flame
of blessings bla/es up in your being.
3bstacles can arise from good as well as bad circumstances, but they should ne#er deter or
o#erpower you. Be like the earth, which supports all li#ing creatures indiscriminately, without
distinguishing good from bad. The earth is simply there. 4our practice should be
strengthened by the difficult situations you encounter, "ust as a bonfire in a strong wind is not
blown out, but bla/es e#en brighter.
$hen someone harms you, see him as a kind teacher who is showing you the path to
liberation and merits your respect. ;ray that you may be able to help him as much as you
can, and whate#er happens, ne#er hope for an opportunity for #engeance. !t is particularly
admirable to bear patiently the harm and scorn of people who ha#e less education, strength
or skill than you.
*ook right into it, and you will see that the person who is harmed, the person who does the
harm, and the harm itself are all totally de#oid of any inherent reality. $ho, then, is going to
get angry at mere delusions% ?aced with these empty appearances, is there anything to be
lost or gained% !s there anything to be liked or disliked% !t is all like an empty sky. Recogni/e
3nce you control the anger within, you will disco#er that there is not a single ad#ersary left
outside. But as long as you pay heed to your hatred and attempt to o#ercome your external
opponents, e#en if you succeed, more will ine#itably rise up in their place. 0#en if you
managed to o#erpower e#eryone in the whole world, your anger would only grow stronger to
follow it will ne#er make it subside. The only really intolerable enemy is hatred itself. To
defeat the enemy of hatred it is necessary to meditate one2pointedly on patience and lo#e
until they truly take root in your being. Then there can be no outer ad#ersaries.
&sk yourself how many of the billions of inhabitants of this planet ha#e any idea of how rare
it is to ha#e been born as a human being. ,ow many of those who understand the rarity of
human birth e#er think of using that chance to practise the Dharma% ,ow many of those who
think of starting to practise actually do so% ,ow many of those who start continue to
practise% ,ow many of those who continue attain ultimate reali/ation% !ndeed, those who
attain ultimate reali/ation, compared to those who do not, are as few as the stars you can
see at daybreak compared to the myriad stars you can see in the clear night sky.
&s long as you, like most people, fail to recogni/e the true #alue of human existence you will
"ust fritter your life away in futile acti#ity and distraction. $hen life comes all too soon to its
ine#itable end, you will not ha#e achie#ed anything worthwhile at all. But once you really see
the uni:ue opportunity that human life can bring, you will definitely direct all your energy into
reaping its true worth by putting the Dharma into practice.
!f you make use of your human birth in the right way, you can achie#e enlightenment in this
#ery lifetime. &ll the great +iddhas of the past were born as ordinary people. But by entering
the Dharma, following a reali/ed teacher and de#oting their whole li#es to practising the
instructions they recei#ed, they were able to manifest the enlightened acti#ities of great
Translated by the ;admakara Translation >roup
?rom Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
0ditions ;admakara