Dear friends near and far,
As always, I hope this message finds you well, healthy and happy. Today’s Guru Rinpoche day —also called Treldha Tsechu (the 10th day of the sixth month) —is particularly auspicious, as it falls within the auspicious Monkey month. This day celebrates Guru Rinpoche’s birth as Guru Tsokyé Dorjé within a lotus blossom on Lake Danakosha, after which he turned the wheel of Dharma for the dakinis of the island.
On this auspicious day, I would like to share with you four profound verses from the fifth chapter on introspection of Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva (Bodhisattvacharyavattara), the seminal Mahayana treatise.
Recitations and austerities, Long though they may prove to be, If practiced with distracted mind, Are futile, so the Knower of Reality has said. (16)
Thus, as the Buddha has taught, it is crucial not to be distracted in any of our activities. Instead, we need to change our minds’ childish habits, and bring it to focus on the Dharma, and on whatever practice in which we engage. Stability and steadfastness are key.
For those who have no introspection, Though they hear the teachings, ponder them, or meditate, Like water seeping from a leaking jar, Their learning will not settle in their memories. (25)
Introspection is the quality that enables us to check our minds, to notice whether or not we are distracted, and whether or not we are actually meditating. Mindfulness is remembering what to do and what to avoid. Both are very important, but without introspection, we cannot possibly progress, as we will never know how our minds are doing.
Those disabled by ill health Are helpless, powerless to act. The mind, when likewise cramped by ignorance, Is impotent and cannot do its work. (24)
When we are distracted, without mindfulness or introspection, we are powerless. And this is the case for everyone on this earth, wandering in confusion and unable to accomplish anything, because they don’t even realize it. That is why I wanted to remind you all to be vigilant, and not remain blinded by confusion.
All those who fail to understand The secret of the mind, the greatest of all things, Although they wish for joy and sorrow’s end, Will wander to no purpose, uselessly. (17)
The crucial point of the Dharma is to know the mind’s secret. This entails understanding the mind, knowing how to keep it undistracted, how to tame it through introspection, and how to transform it through practice. If you do not know the mind’s secret, though you might wish for happiness and the end of suffering, you will neither be happy, nor be rid of suffering. To accomplish true happiness, you need to transform the mind, and therefore know its secret. This is the true meaning of the sacred Dharma: without knowing the mind’s secret, you cannot know the Dharma.
So, on this Guru Rinpoche day, we all need to learn the mind’s secret: this is what is meant by learning the Sacred Dharma. The Buddha’s teachings are the light that shines onto the mind’s secret, revealing what the mind is, how it can be transformed, and what its true essence is. Nothing other than the light of the Buddhadharma is available to us to illuminate these secrets. The mind may constantly be with us, but because we wander in the darkness of confusion, we cannot see it, or understand it. For this, we need the sacred Dharma. That is why we say that the Buddha has shown us the greatest kindness.
Today, recalling the kindness of the Buddha, followed by that of Guru Rinpoche, without whom the Secret Mantra would not have remained up till today, and of all the root and lineage masters who have transmitted the sacred Dharma down to us, I therefore offer you these four verses by Shantideva.
With all my love and prayers,
Note: All verses were extracted from Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva (revised edition), transl. Padmakara Translation Group (Boston and London: Shambala, 2011).