Dear friends near and far,

As always, I hope this message finds you well, healthy and happy, and able to practice the Dharma. Today’s Guru Rinpoche day, the tenth day of the sixth (monkey) month, marks the birthday of our precious Mahaguru Padmasambhava, the manifestation of the awakened activity of all buddhas.

On this occasion, I would like to remind you of Guru Rinpoche’s profound teaching, from the Gradual Path of Secret Mantra (Sang-Ngak Lamrim):

As an antidote to attachment, cultivate compassion; as an antidote to aversion, cultivate loving-kindness; as an antidote to ignorance, cultivate bodhicitta.

Compassion is the best antidote to attachment, because when you have genuine compassion, you have no selfish desires. Loving-kindness is the antidote to aversion, because when you wish others to have happiness, you have no ill-will or enmity. Bodhicitta is the antidote to ignorance, because it is the realization of the empty nature of mind. Please remember this and practice accordingly.

Now, on top of this, I would like to share with you some important advice based on my own experience, and what I’ve witnessed in others. All of us have different backgrounds and abilities, based on our individual karma, aspirations, and faculties, whether lesser, middling, or greater. However, the most important for us all is to know our own capacity, and to practice the Dharma based on that.

The starting point of all Dharma practice is faith, or trust. We need to trust in karmic cause and effect, in the Three Jewels, in our accumulation of merit and in the power of mantra to protect us from the lower realms… Faith, or trust, is essential. Even if we are not able to meditate, chant, or spend time in retreat, that’s okay. As long as we have faith, we are fine.

Some people, on top of faith, also feel weariness and renunciation toward samsara. Due to their life experiences, good or bad, they ardently wish to be free from the three realms of cyclic existence. With faith and renunciation, they then engage in study, contemplation, and meditation. This is the first path.

Others may also naturally feel some compassion and loving-kindness toward beings, wishing to be of benefit to them. Those who have such a compassionate disposition should apply themselves to developing it. This is the path of the bodhisattvas, the path of compassion, which one also follows through study, contemplation, and meditation.

Still others may see that buddha is in the mindstream of all beings, and that the essence of all beings’ minds is awakened. They are naturally drawn to and believe in the teachings on buddha-nature. These are the students who can engage in the practice of Secret Mantra.

Finally, some students perceive their guru as the buddha in person. They have faith, renunciation, and bodhicitta, and they believe that all beings have buddha nature, and therefore see everything as buddha, including the guru and their own nature of mind. These are the students who engage in the teachings of the Great Perfection, looking at the nature of mind on the path of awareness.

Whichever path one is on, whether it’s the path of renunciation, the path of bodhicitta, the path of mantra, or the path of awareness, all have a common purpose: to tame the mind. The point of all of these paths is to transform our negative habits and patterns, to overcome afflictions, self-clinging, and ignorance.

Moreover, all paths also have a common foundation: faith. Faith is the key factor, even if you are not able to practice much: faith is sufficient. Nowadays, most people don’t have much faith, but they try to practice meditation, which doesn’t work for them, so they try the Secret Mantra, which doesn’t work for them, and they go on from one path to another without ever getting anywhere. I don’t think that is the way. Please be wary of such tendencies.

There are also many people who wonder or worry about which teaching is the highest, which is the best path, and so on. However, you should know that though the paths may be different, they are all the teachings of the Buddha.

Of course, everyone would rather practice the highest teachings, or follow the greatest path. If given the choice between flying economy, business, or first class, we would all rather fly first class, right? However, we need to first check our own capacity, or our finances, to see if we can actually afford first class. Most of us can’t, right? Likewise, when we practice the Dharma, we need to practice whatever is best suited to our own capacity, rather than trying to follow the highest teachings without regard for our abilities. Otherwise, I think you might find the path quite difficult.

All of this advice is based on my own experience, and what I’ve seen in people around me. The main point is that all of the Buddhadharma is the teaching of the Buddha; and each of these teachings have their own potency, and their own results.

With all my love and prayers,

Sarva Mangalam.

Phakchok Rinpoche


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