Dear friends near and far,

As always, I hope this message finds you well, healthy and happy. On today’s Guru Rinpoche day, I would like to remind you of something I often used to say, many years ago: What you do sitting on your cushion is merely training. The real practice starts when you get up from the cushion. 

As practitioners, many of us tend to focus on the pith instructions we received for our practice sessions. However, the key is actually to know that practice is never separate from our daily lives. Whatever we are doing—walking, talking, sitting, sleeping—we should be guided by our practice principles. 

For instance, many of us practice Guru Yoga. One of the key instructions here is to have the devotion of seeing the guru as a buddha. But, just as important is to keep samaya with the guru, which means maintaining a good relationship. In Tibetan, we speak of the importance of tendrel zangpo, or positive connections. Guru Yoga doesn’t just happen on your cushion: to maintain a positive connection, or a harmonious relationship to your guru, throughout your daily life is essential as well. 

Another key practice is, of course, compassion. And again, compassion should not just guide our practice sessions, it should guide every one of our words, thoughts, and actions throughout our day. Likewise, bodhicitta should guide every one of our waking and sleeping moments, through the practice of the six perfections: being kind and generous, being aware of one’s behavior, being patient and understanding, applying effort to positive actions, remaining grounded in our awareness, and not being self-centered or judgmental—these are the six perfections to be applied in our daily lives. Moreover, to apply them without any hope or expectation of a result is the true practice of compassion.

As you can see, being compassionate does not just mean being nice. Practicing Guru Yoga does not just mean seeing the guru as a buddha. That is just the beginning. Since we need to engage in all the tasks and activities of daily life, the principles of our practice should also be engaged in everything we do. When Guru Yoga and compassion inform all of our actions, these become positive, steady habits. Guru Yoga and compassion become a way of life, rather than just a training or a discipline. 

It’s like keeping a good diet as an integrated lifestyle, rather than as a discipline you impose on yourself and have trouble maintaining. When it becomes a way of life, you always remain present and aware to your guiding principles, and therefore never stray far from them. Likewise, once your practice becomes a way of life in this way, the real story of your transformation begins. 

So, whatever practice you are currently doing, do not just think of it as a set of instructions for the cushion. Think of it as guiding principles for your life. To keep a positive relationship with your guru is Guru Yoga. To keep positive relationships to beings is compassion. To keep a positive relationship to your practice is to be a practitioner. By ‘positive,’ here, I mean without any rough edges, without any hard feelings, without any strain or disharmony. 

It is essential to think about all these aspects of your life and see how they directly affect your practice session, your meditation, your accumulations, and, eventually, your transformation and realization. Your progress on the path is entirely dependent on maintaining positive connections. 

This is the path of interdependence, or dependent origination. We all need to depend on each other. In particular, in order to reach realization, we need to rely on two things: on the guru for the realization of wisdom, and on beings for the realization of compassion. Without these two aspects, wisdom and compassion, there can be no genuine bodhicitta. This is the only pathway to awakening, which has been followed by all buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Therefore, please reflect on how your practice guides your actions and habits in your daily life, and remember that every moment is a moment of practice. Sitting on the cushion is only the beginning.

With all my love and prayers,

Sarva Mangalam.  

Phakchok Rinpoche


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