King Tri Songdetsen, the 8th Century Dharma King of Tibet and Disciple of Guru Rinpoche, offered this advice for living a meaningful life to his subjects. However, this advice is practical and truly timeless–we can benefit from considering each point carefully. Therefore, from time to time, we can make a special effort to review these principles.

How do we apply these in our daily life? This simple list can provide a simple guideline for reflecting on your practice and behavior.  And if we hold these points as guidelines, we can be confident we are leading an ethical and meaningful life.

King Trisong Deutsen
King Tri Songdetsen.

Phakchok Rinpoche reviewed this list while teaching in Singapore and gave a short commentary on the king’s advice.

Guidelines for Ethical Behavior

  • Don’t forget the good qualities of the past (people, community, etc.) and retain those qualities. We can learn so much from our own history.

  • Acknowledge the good things that people do. Declare and acknowledge them verbally. Skillfully make mistakes known without being severe or judgmental.

  • Your character should be heavy, grounded, and honest. That means that you are solid and dignified. Because of that dignity, you have confidence in your own worth. You become straight, honest, and sincere.

  • We need rules and discipline to support our practice. One way to adopt rules is to take up vows. And how should we observe the rules? Outwardly, we can observe them strictly and hold them tightly. Inwardly, however, we want to remain relaxed and at ease.

  • Be respectful to those who are more advanced or senior than yourself. And importantly, never forget the kindness of the people who have been kind to you.

  • Have a good nature and be trustworthy. This means you are a good person to be around when you are with other people. Since you are open to others, you can establish good relationships. And your relationships should be long-term: they should be stable and not fluctuate.

  • Observe the rules of the ten virtues. We acknowledge the fact that non-virtuous activity causes pain and suffering to ourselves and others. But, we should not just avoid the 10 non-virtues; we can also practice their opposites—the 10 virtues. And we can also learn to rejoice in the virtue of others rather than feeling jealous or envious.

  • Gather and accumulate wealth, but also spend it. Make offerings to the triple gems. If you do that, your efforts are meaningful.

King Tri Songdetsen, courtesy of HAR.

Levels of Practice

Rinpoche also explained that, according to the king, we should practice on three levels:

Outer Level:
Take care of those who depend on you: like your family and those who work for you. And at the same time, you should support the teachings.

Inner Level:
Study sutra and tantra.

Secret Level:
You need to sit and practice!