Six Stains

Buddhist teachers describe 14 types of mistaken conduct, including a list of six stains.  They encourage us to avoid these mindsets when listening to the Dharma. Historically, one “heard” the Dharma orally from a teacher as texts were rare and very valuable. Most people would not have had the opportunity to read texts on their own.

Thus, as we are fortunate enough to be able to read Dharma books, we might consider our conduct when reading as well as listening. In another blog post, you can read more guidelines for checking our intent, motivation, and conduct.

Six stains

Here, in an excerpt from Khenpo Gyaltsen’s A Lamp Illuminating the Path to Liberation, we read the list of six attitudes that “stain” our mind.

Reflection after Reading:

Once we review this list, we can take a few minutes to examine our own conduct. Do we exhibit any of these types of behavior? Do we become bored, or distracted? Most of us can probably recall a Dharma teaching when we were a bit stained. Please don’t be discouraged, but notice how common these are and how often they occur. If we notice a habitual tendency, then we have the opportunity to correct it. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself, but be aware. Stainless listening takes some time and diligence to develop!

The Student’s Conduct When Listening to the Dharma

Part Two

When listening to the dharma, you should abandon the fourteen faults of the vessel (the receptacle for the teaching) and cultivate the fourfold perception:

 The Six Stains

In the Well-explained Reasoning, it says:

Pride, lack of faith, and lack of effort, Outward distraction, inward tension, and discouragement; These are the six stains.

Avoid these six:

Proudly believing yourself to be superior to the teacher who is explaining the dharma; Not trusting the master and his teachings; Failing to apply yourself to the dharma; Getting distracted by external events; Focusing your five senses too intently inwards; Becoming discouraged if, for example, a teaching is too long.

The Words of My Perfect Teacher, Patrul Rinpoche, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group (Sacred Literature, 1998), p. 12.

A Lamp Illuminating the Path to Liberation: An Explanation of Essential Topics for Dharma Students by Khenpo Gyaltsen (translated by Lhasey Lotsawa Translations, Nepal: 2014, p. 14. For more information, please visit