How teachings should be studied and taught

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Part of a series of teachings based on the The Gradual Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim) given at Dharma Friendship Foundation in Seattle, Washington, from 1991-1994.

Review

  • The qualities of the lineage
  • The qualities of the teachings
  • The qualities of a teacher
  • The qualities of a student

LR 002: Review (download)

How to study Dharma

  • Attitudes to avoid
  • The benefits of listening to teachings

LR 002: Benefits of listening to the Dharma (download)

Courtesy to the Dharma and teacher

  • Etiquette during teachings
  • Care for Dharma texts

LR 002: Respect (download)

The actual way to study the teachings

  • Avoiding the three faults
  • Relying on the six recognitions

LR 002: Listening and studying (download)

Explaining the Dharma

  • Considering the benefits of explaining the Dharma
  • Enhancing the courtesy shown to the Buddha and Dharma
  • Thoughts and actions with which to teach
  • Who to teach

LR 002: Teaching the Dharma (download)

Review

  • The ways to study and explain the Dharma
  • The benefits of teaching the Dharma
  • Presuppositions for understanding the teachings

LR 002: Review (download)

Questions and answers

  • Asking questions of teachers
  • Relationship between teacher and student
  • Praying that the Dharma exists and flourishes

LR 002: Q&A (download)

It is good to appreciate the attitude of wanting to attain full enlightenment for the benefit of others, even if we are cultivating it just artificially. Even if it’s artificial, still, it’s an incredible thing we are doing, considering that we have never ever done it in all of our previous lives! From beginningless time, we have done everything and been everything in samsara, but we’ve never really followed the path properly. We’ve never cultivated bodhicitta. Just the fact that now we are putting in some effort, even though it might seem artificial, just the fact that we are making the thought arise in our mind this one time, you can see it is completely opposite of what we have been doing for eons and eons. It’s very, very special.

Review

We have been talking about the lamrimThe Gradual Path to Enlightenment. We’ve talked about two of the four basic points. The first two being the qualities of the lineage—the compilers from the Buddha down to Atisha and Lama Tsongkhapa—and the qualities of the teachings, where we talked about the benefits we receive from studying the lamrim, especially in the sense of it giving us a really thorough way of looking at all of the Buddha’s teachings in a progressive manner. It is in this way that the teachings make sense to us in terms of our personal practice. Also, we will not be confused when we meet different traditions and different teachings. We’ll know how they all fit together as one whole that can lead us to enlightenment.

The last session, we started on the third basic point, which is the way the lamrim should be studied and taught. We talked about the qualities of a teacher. First, the qualities to look for in a Vinaya teacher. In other words, the level of the teacher who gives us refuge, precepts, and the basic instructions. Then even more importantly, the qualities we should look for in a Mahayana teacher—somebody who will teach us about the altruistic intention and the bodhisattva’s practices. We talked about how important it is to really examine a teacher well before making the decision in our mind that he or she is our spiritual master. We should try and get somebody with all 10 qualities. If we can’t get somebody with 10 qualities, then we get somebody with five qualities. If we can’t, then get somebody who has more good qualities than bad qualities, then someone who cherishes future lives more than this life, or finally, someone who cherishes others more than themselves.

We also talked about the qualities of a disciple or student. This is not to make us feel inferior if we don’t have all of these qualities ourselves, but rather, it is a way to make us see in what direction we want to try and go with our practice and what qualities we should try and develop, because these qualities will aid our progress on the path.

The first quality is being open-minded—not being overwhelmed with all of our own ideas about how things should be. The second is being intelligent, having some kind of discerning wisdom. Here intelligence does not mean getting good grades in school. Dharma intelligence and worldly intelligence are very different. You meet some people who are PhDs or lawyers, but if you try and teach them about the fact that our life is transient and we are going to die, they may go, “You’re talking nonsense. I do not understand that at all!” [laughter] People with a lot of worldly intelligence may not understand simple Dharma things. This is because of previous negative actions that obscure the mind and present preconceptions and afflictions.1 Intelligence here does not mean worldly intelligence, it means Dharma intelligence, which is a very different thing. It depends very much on our merit, our open-mindedness, and our ability to grasp the principles.

Also, Dharma intelligence is not something that we just get at birth and that’s all we have. We bring some Dharma intelligence with us from previous lives, but we can also generate more Dharma intelligence. This can be done in three ways. First of all by listening to the teachings, then by reflecting on them, and then by meditating on them. Buddhism says, “Yes, our intelligence can increase.” We do not have a fixed Dharma IQ. It can be increased in this very life.

The third quality of a good student is somebody who is sincerely interested in the teachings and has commitment to the practice. Somebody who really wants to make progress on the path. In other words, somebody who is earnest and not just playing games and wasting their time.

Today we are going to go on to the topics “How to listen to the Dharma” and “How to explain the Dharma.”

The way to study (listen to) the Dharma

How to listen to the Dharma refers to when we are on the side of the audience or students. But I must say that sometimes when I am teaching, I listen to what I am saying and I go, “Boy, I’d better think about this, this is really hot stuff!” [laughter] So you listen to yourself too!

Attitudes to avoid

Some of the attitudes we want to avoid when we’re listening to the Dharma is, first of all, having an attitude of collecting teachings. You see this often. People collect teachings or initiations like they are collecting postage stamps. They just want to accumulate more. But the thing with Dharma is it’s not a matter of just getting a lot, it’s really a thing of having the right intention. We come to the teachings not just to get them, but with the idea of putting them into practice. We want to avoid just collecting teachings without having any real interest in practice.

Another thing we want to avoid is, even though we have the intent to come and listen, we do not really understand the benefits of listening to teachings. When some obstacles come, our minds become discouraged and we lose energy. This comes about because we haven’t really understood the benefits of listening to teachings. Sometimes you come to the teachings and your legs hurt, or your mind’s distracted, or you are tired. You say, “I should have stayed at home; this is a waste of time,” then you just quit. Or maybe you come to the teachings and the teacher is saying all sorts of things that are pushing buttons. You would rather not listen. [laughter] Again, the mind gets discouraged or wants to go away. This happens very easily. To some extent, listening to teachings can be somewhat of a hardship, but the more we understand the benefits of listening, the more courage we’ll have to overcome our hardships. It’s like when you go to work. If you understand the benefits of getting your pay check, you will have a lot of perseverance to overcome the hardship of your job. [laughter] Listening to teachings is similar in this way. That’s why we have to talk about the benefits of listening to teachings.

The benefits of listening to teachings

First of all, by listening to teachings, our own wisdom increases. We come in contact with wisdom and compassion. We come in contact with virtuous attitudes. These qualities will then automatically arise within us much more easily. By the power of listening to the teachings, whatever compassion and wisdom is already in us starts to come out more and more.

Secondly, the Dharma is our best friend. Whenever we run into difficulties, our one lasting friend is going to be the Dharma. We can’t always be with our worldly friends, but we will always have the Dharma. Whatever teachings we’ve heard stay in our mind. Whatever situations we find ourselves in, we can then recall those teachings. The teachings become our real friend. Whenever we have problems, if we can’t call up a real friend, we can call up a Dharma teaching. We apply the Dharma teachings to our problems.

Somebody wrote me a letter. This is real cute. This person came to a course in Tushita [a Dharma center in Dharamsala, India]. We had many interesting discussions there. This person was somebody who was truly taken by the teachings. He was 24 years old and spent a quarter of his life in the Israeli army. Coming from that into hearing the Dharma teachings was a real about face for him. Later he was traveling and he wrote me a letter. He said in his travels he would meet different circumstances and he would think, “What would the Dharma be saying about this?” “What would Chodron say about this?” He said it really helped him understand what was going on. This is one benefit that you receive by listening to teachings. You have the internal Dharma friend with you all the time.

Another benefit is that whatever Dharma realization and understanding you have can never be robbed from you. People can take your money, take your credit cards, take your possessions, but they can never rob your Dharma understanding.

This is something really precious. Our Dharma understanding is ours. Nobody can take it with. You look at the example of the Tibetans after their country was overrun. Having been in Dharamsala many years, I have talked to people who have been in the most incredible situations and heard how their Dharma understanding, their hearing of the teachings, and their own internal integration of the teachings have helped them.

I talked to one lama who was imprisoned. The place they imprisoned him was his family’s house. They took over his family’s house and turned it into a prison. He was imprisoned there and in other places around Tibet for 16 years. He told me that he did retreats while in prison. From having heard all the teachings, he knew how to do the meditations. They were only let out of their rooms twice a day, to go to the bathroom and take a walk. The rest of his time he sat in his own room and did all of his practices and made use of his imprisonment like he was on retreat. It was incredible meeting him because after 16 years in prison, his mind was still really buoyant and he was a happy and easy-going person. He wasn’t at all neurotic.

At one science conference with His Holiness, His Holiness was astonished to learn that many Westerners had low self-esteem. We also talked about post traumatic stress syndrome (PTS). His Holiness said that most Tibetans don’t suffer much from this. Some of them may have a few problems, but not to the extent of other people in similar situations who had been subjugated to torture and imprisonment. The scientists were completely shocked by this. There was one guy there whose whole profession was dealing with PTS. He could not believe it when he heard these stories about how the Tibetans survived these horrible atrocities in prison—being beaten, having electric cattle rods put on the body. Some of them might have a few problems, but they were not complete basket cases. I think this really comes through the force of their Dharma practice. By knowing how to put all these horrible things in perspective and by being able to generate a positive attitude in spite of what’s going on around you.

How do we put horrible things that happen to us in perspective? When we have bad situations, we think these happen due to our own negative karma in the past. It is good that it’s ripening now and finishing up rather than ripening in the future into some really horrendous rebirth. One Lama I went to visit, I asked him how he practiced in the prison, and this was what he told me. This exact same technique. This was how he practiced and made his mind happy while in prison. He also said he practiced the teachings on love and compassion. He tried to see kindness in the people who were imprisoning him and to remember that they were sentient beings who wanted happiness and who didn’t want problems just like him. This was how he was be able to survive the whole horrendous experience.

We can see the benefits of listening to Dharma teachings through these examples. Whatever you hear you can take with you no matter what situation you encounter, no matter what’s going on around you. If we practice the Dharma teachings well now, then when we die—we’re all going to have to die—the teachings can be our great friend on the passage to the future life. Dying becomes a joyful thing instead of being something that is feared. We have the Dharma techniques and teachings to make our mind happy at the time of death. These are just some of the benefits that come from listening to teachings.

Also, if people want to meditate, we have to listen to the teachings first. Some Westerners do not understand this. They just want to meditate, but what are you going to meditate on? [laughter] You need teachings to understand what to meditate on. Meditation is not just sitting there making your mind blank. Meditation is a very specific technique—knowing what the subject of the meditation is, knowing how to develop it in your mind, knowing where you want to go with it, and knowing how to do it. The teachings are tools which benefit your meditation.

Also, by listening to the teachings, our ability to help others increases. You’ll find that having heard Dharma teachings, when other people come to you with their problems, you’re going to have additional tools at your fingertips to help them. You’re going to have a much more balanced and loving mind while helping them. The benefits are twofold. First, it increases your ability to help other people because your own qualities increase, and also your relationships with other people become better and more honest. Secondly, by knowing all the different techniques and teachings, you know you’re going to have something to give other people when they come to you with different problems.

The trick is to learn to be real skillful when your friends come to you with their problems. You don’t need to use a lot of Buddhist words: “OK, you have to sit down, take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha!” You don’t have to talk about anything religious. By understanding attachment and how to be free of it, anger and how to be free of it, you can give guidelines to your friends that will help them without talking about any doctrine. This is possible because Buddhism is basically a wise way of living. It’s a viable psychology. So as you listen to the teachings and learn these things, you’ll have more to give to other people as well.

It’s important to think of the benefits that we can get from listening to teachings. This increases our enthusiasm to practice and also increases our ability to put up with sore knees! [laughter]

Showing courtesy to the Dharma and the teacher

The second point is showing courtesy to the Dharma and the teacher. People have asked about etiquette in the teachings and a little bit of that comes in this section. Traditionally speaking, you should have a clean room and you should set up a seat for the teacher. It’s good if the teacher sits higher than others. First of all, it is to show respect for the Dharma. You are putting the Dharma up, not the person. Second of all, so that the teacher can have eye contact with the people. Personally speaking, when I’ve had to give teachings where I’m on the same level as everybody and can only see the people in the front row, that’s a big hindrance to be really effective in talking to the group. Having the teacher sit at a higher level has a double purpose here.

The audience should be standing when the teacher comes in. After the teacher makes the prostrations and sits down, then generally the students make their prostrations and sit down. This is something that has to come slowly and in a comfortable way in the West. I’ve told you before that when I first saw people prostrate, I thought it was ungodly—“This is really weird!” [laughter] I don’t think newcomers should be pressed into prostration. It should be something that comes naturally. You should first understand what it means and how to think when doing it as well as the benefit of doing it. Prostrating and bowing should be something that feels comfortable to you.

There is a difference in Asian and Western ways regarding this. Actually, in terms of Dharma etiquette, you’re supposed to prostrate after the teacher sits down (before the teaching starts), and also at the end of the teaching. The students bow three more times, either after the dedication while the teacher’s still sitting there, or sometimes after the teacher leaves. It’s another way of showing respect to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Once I was teaching at Kirkland, at a Chinese temple. After the teachings, the Chinese nun said to me, “Oh the people didn’t bow after the teaching!” And I said to them, “Look, I was glad that they did before! [laughter] Let’s not push it here.” [laughter]

When you’re listening to the teachings, do not put your Dharma materials on the floor. Just as you would not put your delicious cookies on the floor because the floor’s dirty, you also do not put your spiritual nourishment in a dirty place. Incidentally, just while I am talking about this, it’s better not to put figures of the Buddha, Buddha’s texts, and sacred items or materials in the bathroom. Somebody might say, “Why? The Buddha should be anywhere. We should be able to take these things to the bathroom. We’re just being too formal.” Well, on one hand you can say that is true. Buddha’s omniscient mind is everywhere. The Buddha is in the bathroom, that’s OK. But on the other hand, we don’t put our bank book in the bathroom, we don’t put our old family treasures in the bathroom. [laughter] Our mind does make some difference between what we put in the bathroom and what we don’t. So it is better to put your Buddha statues and your Dharma things in a higher place. (Of course, you can recite mantra in the bathroom, that is OK.) This is just a guideline. You can check it out and see what feels comfortable to you; see if this reasoning makes sense to you.

Also in terms of etiquette, when your legs start hurting and you have to stretch them out, it’s better not to point your feet directly towards the teacher or towards the figure of the Buddha. In Asian cultures, your feet are really something dirty because you walk around barefoot, and you’re walking around on all sorts of things in Asia. Like when you go to Dharamsala, and you’re going into the temple, don’t take your shoes off and climb over people with your shoes over their head—they completely freak out. That is part of Asian culture. Then we start to think: What about the American culture? When we sit, do we put our feet on somebody’s face? We usually do not, do we? [laughter] Where we put our feet does have some meaning in our culture, though it may not be as strong as in Asian culture. It’s good to have some kind of awareness about our body language.

Similarly, when you are listening to teachings, we have a setting here where people are sitting on chairs and you are leaning back. This is perfectly OK because it’ll be difficult to sit on the chair without leaning back. [laughter] But generally speaking, when you are listening to teachings, try and keep your body erect. This is helpful for you because when you have an erect body, you listen with more attention. It does not mean erect like a soldier but as opposed to lying down. Also it makes it much easier for the teacher to teach when everybody has their head facing up. It is easier for the teacher if you are sitting in a respectful way and it is easier for your own ability to listen. We should be relaxed and comfortable when we are listening to teachings, but not so relaxed and so comfortable that we’re going to fall asleep in the middle of them. If you’re going to fall asleep you can do that without leaning also—I have done that. I have one friend, a nun; she always sits listening to the teaching calmly and perfectly. I said to her, “You always look so beautiful when you listen to teachings. You’re really concentrating.” She said, “Sometimes I’m sleeping.” [laughter]

When you are listening to teachings, you do not have to close your eyes and sit in a meditation position. My teachers have said, when you are listening, you should be wide awake and listening. This is also not the time to be saying mantras with your mala or rosary. If you are saying mantras and trying to listen to the teaching at the same time, you are not as concentrated. It’s good to say mantras, but not at the time of the teaching.

Also, you do not chatter during teachings. When you’re teaching and there’s people in the audience talking to each other, it’s really distracting. Or if you’re sitting next to your boyfriend and girlfriend, that is not the time you should be holding hands and making eyes at each other. By the way, at teachings, the Sangha should sit in the front and the laypeople behind, but many Westerners don’t know this and they sit in front of the Sangha. I’ve sometimes gotten stuck behind some couple. They’re making gaga eyes at each other and I’m trying to listen to the teaching! That’s not the time to be doing that. [laughter]

These are just some of the things to be aware of.

Do you have any questions so far on this?

Audience: Is it all right to write on Dharma texts?

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): I think a lot of that depends on our mind and our attitude. We should never use Dharma texts as scratch paper, as doodle paper, to write down people’s phone numbers on them, stuff like that. Taking notes is one thing if you are doing it with a good motivation. If we’re writing on our Dharma texts with the thought that this is a way that’s going to help us study and learn the Dharma, then we are not using the Dharma texts as scratch paper. My teacher made a comment once. He said to imagine that you are offering color. He said when you write on a Dharma text, underline, or jot down a note, think of it like you are offering color to the Dharma text. I think in that way it becomes an offering rather than you defacing it.

Audience: How do we dispose of Dharma texts?

VTC: Don’t put them at the bottom of the garbage can with your banana peels or orange peels on top, [laughter] but you keep them separate and burn them. There’s a specific prayer that you can say, or even if you do not have the prayer, it’s no big deal. But it’s essentially imagining that you’re sending the Dharma off and requesting it to come back again. Save the papers and then burn them in some place that is clean.

[In response to audience] Actually, strictly speaking, it says in the scriptures that any written words which could be used to express Dharma meaning should be burned. I remember once we heard this (I was living in a Dharma center then), we started tearing all the labels off the tin cans. It just became an impossible thing. There’s no way that you can burn everything that has written words on it. We have written words on our sidewalk, on our street, on our shoes, don’t we? The basic idea is to be aware and to mentally think, “I’m not trampling on the written word.” The idea here is not that this is sacred (where it says “Stop” on the street), but it’s the whole idea of appreciating the value of written language and what it can do for us. The teachings were passed down orally for many centuries before they were written down. The ability to use written language is precious. Without it, we would have a difficult time learning, wouldn’t we? We couldn’t hold everything in our minds. If you’re driving over “Stop” or you’re walking over written words, it’s good to be aware and think mentally, “I still treasure the written word in my heart even if these are not specifically Dharma words. I appreciate the language ability that can be used to express the Dharma meaning.”

Audience: Is it okay to recycle Dharma materials?

VTC: Yes it is. The ink is removed from the paper and just the paper is recycled. It’s important for us Buddhists to be conscious of our environment and help the environment. This is part of the practice of loving-kindness.

The actual way to study

Avoiding the three faults

Study means to hear and also read all the different teachings. Using the analogy of a pot, we have to avoid the three faults. This is a really good technique. It’s like a mirror for our mind to help us check up on how we are listening or how we are studying.

Upside-down pot</h4

There is one way of studying that’s like an upside-down pot. When the pot’s upside-down, you might have this incredible nectar but it cannot get into the pot because the pot is upside down. That’s analogous to when we come to teachings but our mind is completely spaced out and inattentive. Your body is here, but nothing’s going in. Your mind is at work, or it’s on a holiday, or it’s thinking about your friend. Even though your body is here, nothing’s going inside the mind. It’s like an upside-down pot. We can see the disadvantages of that. As soon as you leave the teaching and somebody who is not at the teaching asks, “What did she talk about?” you go, “Urrr …hmm … something about the Dharma,” [laughter] because somehow, nothing went in.

That is the upside-down pot. The point is when we come to teachings, we should try to be attentive, as attentive as we can. Drink a cup of coffee before coming, or splash your face with water, or generate a strong motivation. When you notice your mind wondering off, tell yourself, “Hey, wait a minute. I am here. I should remember the benefits of listening.” Then put your mind back on the subject again.

Leaky pot

The second fault is to be like a leaky pot. A leaky pot has the right side up, and things go in, but they leak out. In the end you are left with zilch. Again, you are here and you are paying attention, but as soon as you go home, you can’t remember what was talked about. It doesn’t stay in the mind. To combat that, you have to listen attentively and that’s where taking notes comes in very helpful. What I find very good is when you leave a teaching, instead of talking about blah, blah, blah, try to recall and remember the points that were discussed in the teaching. That’s why I have a little digestion meditation at the end. To help us try and remember at least the major points so that we can remember them and think about them in depth later on.

To avoid being a leaky pot, we need some kind of consistency in our mind, some ability to hold the material not only during the teaching, but also to carry it with us afterwards. What’s really very helpful is, whatever you’ve heard, try and use that in your daily life immediately afterwards. Try and think about the teaching when it’s fresh in your mind. Try and relate the different things that happen in your life to the teaching you’ve just heard. Try and think about certain things that struck you from the teaching as you’re walking around.

Dirty vessel

The third kind of pot is a pot that’s upright, doesn’t have a hole, but is filled with junk. If you pour your nectar in, “Yaks!” [laughter] It’ll just be polluted. This is like when we are attentive, and we can remember the teachings afterwards, but our mind is so filled with preconceptions and wrong motivations that we pollute whatever we hear.

For example, this would be like coming to the teachings with the idea of “I am going to learn a lot so that I can become a big teacher and everybody will respect me,” or “I am going to learn a lot so that I can point out the mistakes of all my fellow students.” [laughter] When the teacher’s talking about anger, instead of looking at your anger, you nudge the guy next to you and say, “Hey, the teacher’s talking about anger, look at your anger.” That’s wrong motivation—you are using the Dharma to lay a trip on somebody else. The Dharma should be a mirror for our own mind.

We want to avoid these three faults of being:

  1. An upside-down pot, where we come to teachings but nothing goes in
  2. A leaky pot, where we come to the teachings, we listen, but we forget it right away
  3. A dirty pot, where we come, the teaching enters, we remember it, but our motivation is completely polluted, so there is no real sense in our coming for teachings

Go over these examples when you are doing your analytical meditation. Think, “What are examples when I’m like a leaky pot, and what am I going to do about it?” Think, Am I a dirty pot, and what can I do about it?” Think about these examples.

Relying on the six recognitions

We will now go on to how to listen to teachings by relying on the six recognitions. These are six things we should try and recognize. They are actually very, very fruitful for contemplation. Think about them in terms of your own life.

Oneself as a sick person

The first recognition is to recognize oneself as a sick person. They say that if you get this one, the other five come really easily. This is the basic one. What does it mean to recognize oneself as a sick person? It means to be perfectly honest with ourselves about the fact that everything is not hunky-dory in our lives. It’s funny, because somehow in our country, we always put on a big facade that everything is great, don’t we? “How are you?” “Oh, I’m FINE!” It is almost as if something is wrong with you if you have a problem. Here what we are trying to understand is to admit that, “Hold on, I don’t have to put on a big show that everything is fantastic in my life, and that I am a super together person. I am going to be honest and admit I’m not a completely together person. And everything isn’t wonderful in my life.” Not in the sense of admitting these things and “Poor me! All my problems!” but just in the sense of recognizing them with a wise mind, “I’m a sick person. I suffer from ignorance, attachment, and anger. I suffer from the results of my own harmful actions. I suffer by being selfish but like any sick person, I want to be well, and I have the potential to be well.”

Recognizing ourselves as a sick person—what it comes down to is being honest about the fact that we are in samsara. Samsara is full of problems, but we are capable of having a higher state and a greater happiness. It also comes down to the point of approaching the teachings in a very humble way. When you’re sick and you go to the doctor, you go with a very open, receptive mind. You want to learn what’s wrong with you. You don’t go to the doctor real arrogant, “I know it all!” It’s similar here. If we come to teachings with the attitude of “I’ve heard these all before. I know it. Why don’t you tell me something new?” or “What do you know anyway?” An arrogant and proud attitude completely closes our mind down and prevents us from learning anything from the teaching. But recognizing that we are sick with ignorance, anger, and attachment makes us humble, makes us open, and then we can receive benefit from attending the teachings, reading Dharma books, and discussing the Dharma with our friends. An attitude of humility is important.

The teacher as a skilled doctor

Not only are we a sick person, but we see whoever is teaching as a skilled doctor. The person who is teaching is like a doctor who can diagnose our illness and then prescribe the medicine.

Dharma as the medicine

The Dharma is medicine. When you are coming to the teachings, it’s like going to the doctor’s office. You’re getting medicine with which to deal with your problem. It is very important to listen to the Dharma with this attitude: “This is medicine. All my emotional turmoil, all my confusion, my whole situation of being in this life where I get old and sick and die without choice—these all could be cured by what I am hearing.” When you have this attitude, then what you hear, even one sentence, is very precious and it really goes in your mind. It becomes very powerful. If you contemplate this well and can try to come to the teachings with that attitude, then even one sentence can make an incredible impact on your mind. The Dharma becomes a remedy for whatever problems you have.

Practicing the Dharma as the way to get cured

We are a sick person, the teacher is the doctor, the Dharma is the medicine, and practicing the Dharma is the way to get cured. After the doctor gives us the medicine, we do not just take it home and put it on the shelf. We have to take the medicine and put it in our mouth. Similarly, when we come home after a teaching, or when we’ve read Dharma books or gone to discussions, we have to come home and put what we learned into practice in our life. One of my teachers, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, used to say to us:

You write so many notes in class, note book after note book after note book, and then they all go on the top shelf and collect dust!

He said that shouldn’t be the way. We should take what we’ve heard and practice it. When you take the medicine, then it can heal you. When you practice the Dharma, then it transforms your mind.

Buddha as holy being whose medicine of Dharma is non-deceptive

Try also to recognize the Buddha as a holy being whose medicine of Dharma is non-deceptive. In other words, we are getting the right medicine. We are getting real, solid medicine that’s really effective in curing our illness. The Buddha is a holy being who is able to teach us that. Why? His great realizations made it possible.

Methods we learn are things we should pray exist and flourish

[Teachings lost due to change of tape. See Questions and Answers below for a brief explanation.]

How to explain the Dharma

Considering the benefits of explaining the Dharma

[Teachings lost due to change of tape.]

…Also your friends tend to be more steadfast. Again I think this happens because if you are teaching, then you try to practice what you preach. Automatically your relationships with people improve. Your friendships are more steadfast. Your words are respected. What you have to say is worthwhile. When you’re talking about the Dharma, you are not just blah, blah, blah, gossip, gossip. It has a real purifying effect on your speech. You can feel it. When you spend the whole afternoon gossiping about everybody else’s mistakes, how do you feel afterwards? If you spend the whole evening in a Dharma discussion, you will feel differently about yourself. Your speech will be different. There is a purifying effect on your speech when you talk about the Dharma with other people.

Your mental happiness increases. You might get sore legs too, [laughter] but mentally the mind becomes very happy. I can say this from my personal experience. Somehow after I teach, I always feel really happy. It’s happened to me many times. I may not have felt well before the teaching, but while teaching, I forget that I was sick. The same with going to a group meditation session. There are times when I haven’t felt well, but I kind of dragged myself to puja, and somehow I came out feeling great. It’s also happened going to attend a teaching. I wasn’t feeling well, physically, or sometimes mentally, but that feeling vanishes in the process of being close to the Dharma.

These are some of the benefits of offering the Dharma.

Enhancing the courtesy shown to the Buddha and Dharma

From the teacher’s side, enhancing the courtesy shown to the Buddha and the Dharma. In the Tibetan tradition, at the beginning of a teaching, the teacher comes in and bows three times. When you as the teacher are bowing, you are imagining before you the whole lineage of teachers—from the Buddha through all the Indian sages, through the Tibetan sages, the whole lineage of teachers—and bowing to them. You connect with that lineage and sincerely pay respect to all the teachers and the teachers’ teachers who have so kindly passed the Dharma on down to you from the time of the Buddha. When you are prostrating, you are prostrating to that whole lineage. When you sit down you imagine that all of them dissolve into you.

You may have noticed that the teachers sometimes snap their fingers when they sit down. This is to remember impermanence. Like a finger-snap, things do not last long. This is also to counteract pride so that you don’t get proud as a teacher. You don’t think, “I am sitting on a higher place than everybody else, I am teaching them all these things, and they are paying respect to me!” To prevent your mind from getting into any of that kind of rubbish, you snap your fingers and remember every single situation is impermanent. There is nothing to get attached to, nothing to cling on to. Then people will usually recite some homages to the Buddha and the Heart Sutra. The idea of reciting the Heart Sutra is to dispel interferences by clearing karmically and mentally dispelling any kind of interferences. We also take refuge and generate bodhicitta. The seven-limb prayer is also often done, as well as the mandala offering.

Offering the mandala is actually the part of the students, the idea being that the students offer everything in the whole entire universe to the teacher to request the Dharma teachings, which are even more valuable than the entire universe. You’ll see this in the Tibetan tradition. Often at the beginning of the teachings, the students will do the mandala offering. On the first day of the teachings, somebody (usually the people who requested the teachings) will stand up and make three prostrations to the teacher. They have a tray with a statue of the Buddha, a Dharma text, and a stupa. The statue represents the body of the Buddha, the text represents the Buddha’s speech, and the stupa the Buddha’s mind. Then using a khata (a white cloth), they first offer the mandala (representing the universe). The teacher accepts it and puts it aside. Then they offer the Buddha’s statue (representing the Buddha’s body), and the teacher accepts it, touches it to their head and puts it aside. Then the text, and then the stupa are offered, followed sometimes by an additional offering. The idea of making offerings is to show respect for the Dharma teachings. It’s also a way of creating a lot of positive potential before listening to teachings. If you create positive potential and purify your mind, then the Dharma goes in at a much deeper level.

Now, here in the West at teaching sessions like this, I usually do the Heart Sutra silently. This is a habit I’ve got into because most of the people in the West don’t know the Heart Sutra. If I sit and chant aloud before teaching, people are going to think, “This is some weird Tibetan thing!” So I usually just have people meditate, and then I mentally recite the Heart Sutra and do other preparatory practices for teaching. Also, for people in the West it’s very good to meditate before teachings because we’ve been running around so busy all day. We really need that time to sit.

It’s interesting. One time someone asked one of my teachers for advice on making a center in the West. Geshe-la advised that when people come together as a Dharma group, it should be for teachings and discussions, not for meditation. People can do meditation on their own. Geshe-la’s translator, who was a Western woman, and I both told Geshe-la, with all due respect, that we felt the situation is different for Westerners. First of all, people need to meditate, but they lead such busy lives that for many of them, the time when they come together is the only time they have to sit. When they go home, there are kids, TV, and so many other distractions. Even if people have time to meditate at home, they need to calm their mind down after a busy day before listening to a teaching. In this way, when they listen to the teachings, the teachings go in.

Meditation is a really valuable thing to do together as a group before teachings. I really think so, and it is for this reason that I change the usual protocol when I teach and have people meditate beforehand. Also, if I am teaching an old group of students, it’s one thing (you people like saying the prayers), but if I go to teach at a bookstore, I am not going to take prayer sheets along and have these people reading prayers before a talk. It just doesn’t fit. When I talk to different groups, I change the protocol accordingly to fit the different audiences, but for Westerners, meditation is definitely very important. The Tibetans like doing a lot of rituals and chanting. Some of us like doing that too, but I think our lives are so full of words it is nice just to be able to sit quietly. That’s why I had us do the silent meditation, preceded by the prayers—the prayers to help us generate a proper motivation, the silent meditation to calm our mind down.

We also try to generate bodhicitta. Even though we have already generated it when we say the prayers before the meditation, we do it again strongly after the meditation before the teachings because the motivation is the most important part of any action. It’s really important to constantly cultivate a good motivation for what we are doing.

These come under the responsibility of the teacher in showing courtesy to the Buddha and the Dharma when one is teaching.

Thought and actions with which to teach

As a teacher, you don’t teach for fame. You teach not because you want everybody to go around saying, “Oh, these were such good teachings, you should invite this person to come teach at your center.” You also do not think, “Yes, I’m such a good teacher. Look how many people are inviting me.” As a teacher, you don’t get into any kind of ego trip for fame or reputation. This is completely counterproductive. It is very harmful to yourself and the students. Also, you don’t want to get into a mind that is thinking about offerings: “If I go and teach, how much are they going to give me?” Teaching out of a desire to receive offerings is a very bad motivation. It completely pollutes the process. You should teach with a good motivation, out of a genuine sincere care for the students.

You should give unmistaken teachings. In other words, you teach as you have been taught by your teacher in the lineage of teachings. You don’t make up your own thing. You don’t mix the Dharma in with all the other things you read in the New Age newsletter. Or if you do bring other points in that relate to other fields, you say (like you’ll hear me say sometimes), “This is something I learned when I studied communication,” or “This is something I’ve learned from mediation theory that I’m applying here to the teachings.” If you bring in any other material, then you introduce it like that. As a teacher, you should always give pure teachings, something that is the Buddha’s word coming down in that way.

They also say you should teach in an intelligible way so that people can understand your words. You should not be mumbling. You should teach with examples from daily life so that people can make the Dharma applicable to their life, so that they can understand it. This is a great challenge I find as a Western teacher. I have listened to the teachings with all the Tibetan stories and examples. Like the story about the guy who danced around and hit the bag of tsampa on the ceiling and the tsampa bag crashed down on his head and killed him—that was to illustrate death and impermanence. [laughter] They have certain stories written into the lamrim, but I think our challenge as Westerners is to bring in stories that relate to our life.

When you teach, you should teach enthusiastically, and not think it’s hard work: “I’ve got a teaching again tonight—what a horrible thing!” Instead of having that attitude, you should enjoy it. You see teaching as a pleasure.

You should teach only what’s useful. In other words, you don’t teach everything you know simply because you know it. The idea isn’t to spell off everything you know so that other people are impressed. The idea is to teach what is useful to the other person. I think this is something that is very helpful for us even in our general life. Teaching Dharma is to speak what is useful to the other person, not everything we know about the subject.

We should also not be miserly in teaching, not to feel “The Dharma teachings are mine, and I don’t want to teach you because then you might know more than me.” In other words, we should teach with a real generous heart, with a real openheartedness and attitude of sharing, not “I’m keeping the teachings for myself, I don’t want you to have these teachings because maybe you will learn them and become more famous than me.” Our minds can get into weird things. This is getting into the point of always having a good motivation.

The difference between whom to teach and whom not to teach

Generally speaking you don’t teach unless you’ve been requested. Again, in the West some things are a little bit different because people don’t know that they’re supposed to request teachings. [laughter] They think that you as the teacher are supposed to come and say, “Now this is what we are going to study.” But in actual fact, the way it’s usually done is you’re supposed to request, and you’re supposed to request three times. That’s the more traditional way. This is to let you know that you shouldn’t be shy about asking for teachings. If there is a particular text or whatever that you want teaching about, it’s perfectly alright to go and request the teachings. Generally speaking, in the old style you only teach when you’ve been asked to. But in a way it fits now too because teachers only come when Dharma students ask them to come. There are exceptions, but basically it depends on the people. By people’s interest, you draw a teacher and request teachings.

The teacher should also be able to discriminate which students are ready for which subjects. The teacher should not just teach anything to anybody. They should really know different people’s level of mind and teach them accordingly. If somebody has a disposition for Theravada teachings, you give that. If they have a disposition for Mahayana, you give that. You give something that is suitable for the person. You need to know the students as much as you can before giving the teaching. Obviously that is impossible if you have a huge crowd. When His Holiness teaches, there are thousands and thousands of people. He doesn’t screen everybody in advance, but you will notice when he teaches, in the course of one teaching, he will give something for everybody. His Holiness is so skillful. He will start out a Dharma talk talking about something so simple that mom and pa who just came from Tibet and are illiterate can really understand. Then he will go into this incredibly deep philosophy that only the people in the front row will understand. And then he will come out and crack a joke to wake everybody up and say something again that everybody can understand. Even though he can’t screen the audience, he gives something in the teaching for everybody. Sometimes he does screen an audience. There’ve been times when he says, “OK, I am giving a certain tantric initiation. Everybody who comes to this should have been a Buddhist for at least five years.” There are times he will give conditions like this.

Review

We talked about the way to study and the way to explain the Dharma. In terms of studying, we should think about the benefits of listening to the Dharma. This will increase our enthusiasm and perseverance. The benefits include increasing our wisdom, the fact that our Dharma understanding is our best friend, our Dharma realizations can’t be stolen away from us, and learning the teachings gives us the whole foundation for meditation.

We also talked about showing courtesy to the Dharma and to the teacher in the sense of arranging the seat, making prostrations, offering the mandala, sitting in a respectful position.

The actual way to study is by avoiding the three faults: an upside-down pot where nothing goes in (we are inattentive during the teachings), the pot with a hole (things coming in but we forget the teachings afterwards), and the dirty pot (the teachings come in, we remember, but because our motivation is to pick at others’ faults or to become famous ourselves, we completely pollute what we’ve heard).

We talked about the importance of relying on the six recognitions. Especially the first one, recognizing ourselves as a person who is suffering from attachment, anger, and ignorance, who is under the control of our previous karma. It is like going to a doctor (our teacher) for treatment. We see the teachings as medicine. We see taking the Dharma teachings home and practicing them as the way of taking medicine and getting cured. We regard the buddhas as holy beings who have given us an undeceptive medicine. We also regard the teachings as something very precious that we pray will exist and flourish in the world.

Then, we talked about how to explain the Dharma and the benefits of teaching the Dharma. The gift of the Dharma is the highest gift. Giving Dharma books to friends is a very nice gift. At Christmastime your friends have already received 10 fruitcakes. They don’t need another fruitcake! It’s nice to consider Dharma books as gifts for people. At one retreat a woman came up to me. Her goddaughter was graduating from university. She wanted to give her a Dharma book and had me write something in it. She said her goddaughter doesn’t know anything about the Dharma, but because they have a good relationship, the girl will at least read this and take something in. I thought this was really nice. It made me really happy.

The gift of Dharma is the highest of all gifts. It benefits ourselves too when we teach. The Dharma helps us get the material clear in our own mind, develops our intelligence, and develops our mindfulness to practice. It makes our speech more powerful, clearer, and more reliable. It makes our relationships with other people better. It makes our own mind happy. Sometimes it makes your throat sore too, but we don’t pay much attention to that. [laughter] It’s true. When you can talk about the Dharma with people, you feel as though you are really giving others something that’s worthwhile. You are giving something from the heart and something that can be beneficial to them. It’s a nice feeling to do that.

We also talked about showing courtesy to the Buddha and the Dharma from the teacher’s side. You make prostrations to the lineage of lamas, they absorb into you as you say the Heart Sutra. You lead everybody in doing the various prayers. Then there’s the mandala offering and then you lead everybody in cultivating the motivation. And then the Tibetan style is you unwrap the text and you touch it to your head before you start the teachings. You’ll see the Tibetans do this a lot, touching things to their head. It’s a way of showing respect.

Then we went over the thoughts and actions with which to teach. The most important is the motivation. In other words, not for fame and offerings, financial gains, but out of real sincere care for the people that you are teaching. You should teach intelligently. They say you shouldn’t teach like an old man eating something—he chews the soft parts and spits out the hard ones. [laughter] You shouldn’t teach only the nice things, but try and make yourself capable of teaching even the hard things. Give examples that are related to people’s lives. Give pure and unmistaken teachings. Do not think it’s hard work, but approach it with joyfulness. Teach only what is useful to other people. Do not be miserly when you’re teaching, wanting to hold the teachings for yourself or being lazy.

And then we talked about the difference between whom to teach and whom not to teach. Generally speaking, you teach when you’re requested. You don’t go around inviting yourself, “Here I am. The great guru is here to teach.” You teach because other people asked. As I have said, usually you have to ask three times. When somebody tells you no the first time, don’t despair. You should also get to know the audience, to know what level the audience is at, and teach according to their level of understanding. If you are doing some kind of high teaching, you should either screen the audience beforehand or make sure they have the adequate preparation.

Here we’ve talked about the first three of the major points in the lamrim—the qualities of the compilers, the qualities of the teachings, and how the teachings should be studied and practiced.

Next we’ll get into the fourth point, which is the basic soy of the material—any vegetarians around here? [laughter]—how to lead somebody in the Gradual Path. Now, as I have said in the first talk, the Gradual Path as written by Lama Tsongkhapa presupposes a whole lot of other material. This is a good point to talk about some of the things that are presupposed; for example, rebirth. Rebirth is a subject that can be very difficult for us. I will use the next session to explain rebirth and ways to approach it to gain some conviction. Much of what we are going to learn is easier to understand if you have an understanding of rebirth. I will also talk a little bit about karma. Karma is actually discussed later in the lamrim. But again, some understanding of karma will help you to understand a lot of the things that come early in the text. I will talk a little bit about the different realms of existence too because they’re mentioned earlier in the text. If you don’t know anything about them, it can create obstacles in your mind.

Also, feel free next session to bring out any other things that you feel are preconditions to learning Buddhism, that haven’t been explained fully. For example, the existence of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. They assume at the beginning that you believe Buddha exists. But we Westerners, when we come to the teaching, we don’t assume Buddha exists. We will talk about some of these things so that as we get into the rest of the text they will become much easier.

Questions and answers

Audience: Should we ask teachers questions, or should we be considerate of their time?

VTC: I think we need to do both. I think it’s extremely important to ask questions. If you don’t ask your questions, then the same issues just stay inside you, and they can become difficult. It is good to ask our questions and to be very frank and honest about our questions. I asked all the questions that good Buddhists are not supposed to ask. One lama cautioned me, and I already knew, to be careful who you ask what questions. If it’s a real, real traditional teacher, don’t go in with those questions about things they wouldn’t understand, but it is important to ask your questions. Pick the people whom you feel a good rapport with, who will be open to the kinds of questions you have, and ask. This is how we learn.

At the same time, it’s good to be considerate. Let’s say you attend a course. The break time is important for the teacher. They do have to rest their voice. They do have other practices to do. But you can still go up to them and say, “Can I meet with you for a few minutes?” Pick a time when it is convenient during the course to meet with them for a few minutes, or if you want to meet them after the course is over, when there is more time, then you make an appointment for a later time. Similarly with the other Sangha members at the course. You can sometimes get a sense of who are the ones who like to speak a lot and who are the ones who don’t. Don’t be shy in approaching them. I mean, if somebody says, “I am eating, and I prefer not to speak when I am eating” or something like that, be sensitive. I think it’s basically just being aware and having common courtesy. But we shouldn’t go to the extreme of being so shy that we lose out.

Audience: Did Shakyamuni Buddha pass on because he wasn’t requested to teach?

VTC: It wasn’t that the Buddha passed on because he wasn’t asked to teach. One time the Buddha made some reference to leaving the world, and Ananda, his attendant, didn’t immediately ask him to continue living. After the Buddha passed away, everyone got on Ananda’s case. I, personally speaking, I am sticking up for Ananda. I don’t think it’s fair to blame him. It’s due to collective karma that the Buddha dies. Maybe Ananda could have asked the Buddha to live longer, if he had thought of it, but I don’t think it makes any sense to blame anybody.

Interdependent relationship between teacher and student

[In response to audience] Yes. It is a very dependent relationship. I mean, you are not a teacher in and of yourself. There is only a teacher because there are students. There are students because there are teachers. If the students are not interested, then the teachers go somewhere else, or they die, or something like that.

Audience: Sometimes I feel that I’m wasting my time practicing Dharma.

VTC: Sometimes you find yourself wondering, “What in the world am I doing? I should be making myself useful!” That comes to everybody. Why? Because we’ve been brought up, not only since beginningless time, but also in this lifetime, with certain views of what is worthwhile. And a lot of the Dharma is the complete opposite. Sometimes these old habitual ways of thinking come up. They come up very strong, especially when the Dharma’s really starting to penetrate—ego throws a complete temper tantrum. [laughter] It does. The ego becomes like a little baby that just wants to make a big chaotic scene to distract us. When this happens, be aware that this is ego making a temper tantrum. We don’t need to follow it. I think it would be very interesting to write down at that time exactly what you think is valuable, what you should be doing instead of sitting on your cushion meditating or attending teachings—stock market and these kinds of stuff [laughter]—and then look at them with the Dharma mind. Examine: “If I did that, would it make me happy? If I did that, is that the real meaning to having a precious human life? If I did that, when I die, will I feel satisfied with how I lived?” Ask yourself those questions. That will help a lot to break through the whole storyline that ego is giving you. Don’t be alarmed when this stuff comes up. It’s very natural. It won’t just come up once. It will appear many times. [laughter]

The sixth recognition: Praying that the Dharma exists and flourishes

[In response to audience] At that time, we see ourselves as a sick person, the Dharma as the medicine, the teacher as the doctor, and taking the medicine, that is, practicing the Dharma, as a cure. We therefore see Dharma as something that’s very, very valuable. Like if you are a cancer patient, you go to the doctor, and he gives you medicine which cures your cancer. You will then want other people to know about this cure so that all other cancer patients can benefit. Similarly here you see the benefit in the Dharma and cherish it. You want to make sure you create the cause to continually meet the Dharma in future lives. You also want other people to benefit from the Dharma. You pray that it can spread to other places, touch other people’s hearts, and that these people can also find relief from their attachment, anger, and ignorance.

[In response to audience] Yes. You are making the prayer for all of the Dharma teachings to spread and flourish.

Audience: Not just one teaching?

VTC: No. Not just one teaching. You could concentrate mostly on one teaching, but if you like all the teachings, you don’t have to leave them out.

Audience: How do I include all teachings in the prayer—do I have to list them?

VTC: You don’t have to list to yourself every single Dharma teaching. You can pray for all the teachings—and maybe make a few examples in your mind of teachings you’ve found really valuable—to spread in the world.

Audience: Does the dirty pot refer only to motivation? Or does it refer also to comparing the Dharma to something else you are studying or something along that line?

VTC: This is a very interesting question. This is a tricky thing because very often we come in with a mind that instantly wants to compare the Dharma to something else we know. This can be a block in our mind sometimes. We have a certain preordained structure, and we’re trying to take the Dharma and squeeze it into that. We’re seeing the Dharma through a veil, through a matrix of what we want to see and don’t want to see. This can be confusing at times. What’s best to do is when you are studying one philosophy or whatever, study only that. When you study the Dharma, study only the Dharma. When you have some familiarity with both philosophies, then make the comparisons. It is difficult to compare two things when you don’t understand either of them very well.

Now, you may have studied other philosophies or psychologies or science before, and now as you listen to the Dharma, certain things will ring bells, and you go, “Wow! This is just like what I heard before.” That’s fine. You don’t have to suppress that thought. In fact, that’s really useful because then you see how the Dharma relates to something that you already feel comfortable with and you already see the purpose of. This doesn’t harm you in any way. It’s when you have a preordained structure and you are trying to squeeze the Dharma into that, that then problems can arise.

Audience: One of the qualities of a student is to be open-minded. But we all come to teachings with our own preconceptions, don’t we?

VTC: To some extent it is true that we all come with our own preconceptions. The idea is to try and listen with as fresh a mind as possible. For instance, you come to a teaching for the sole purpose of finding out does Buddhism believe in God. Then all you’re going to listen to or listen for is does Buddhism believe in God. You’re going to miss everything else because you’re only concentrating on that. This attitude impedes your learning. To some extent that is true, we all come with our own preconceptions. We have to do the best we can within our preconceptions. When you observe that you are acting like a theater critic in a Dharma teaching instead of as a student, then you know it’s time not to listen as a critic or as a professor of comparative religion, but to listen as a sick person.

Audience: One of the faults we want to avoid as a student is being a dirty pot. But if we wait for the pot to be perfectly clean before attending teachings, we’ll never get to attend Dharma teachings. To clean the pot we need the Dharma teachings.

VTC: Right. I am glad you asked this question. This is very good. It’s true we shouldn’t have to wait until the pot’s perfectly clean to get the Dharma. We would have to learn the Dharma in the first place to get the pot perfectly clean. We want to be aware that “Yes, the pot is dirty,” but at the same time we are trying to be more aware of what kind of dirt it is, and as much as we can, gradually eliminate that dirt. In other words, you shouldn’t feel that you have to be a number-one grade A bodhisattva before you step into a Dharma teaching room. [laughter] As much as we come with this attitude of “I really need the teachings,” then that much more they can help us. We feel we need the teachings knowing that we are a dirty pot. It comes down to the point that when you see your garbage, don’t get discouraged. You should be happy when you see your garbage. The garbage has been there all along. If you don’t see it, the garbage will sit there and fester. You should be really happy to see it because that gives you the opportunity to then do something about it. Don’t get depressed when you see your faults. Instead be really happy: “Ah, now finally I see this! I have the opportunity to work on it.”

I once met a Catholic nun. She had been a nun for 50 years. I was so impressed. She was a beautiful, beautiful woman, and she came and stayed at our monastery in France because she was interested in Buddhism. I asked her one time, as she had been a nun for so long, how did she do it, how did she keep her mind happy doing that? She said that there will be times when you go through a crisis, but every crisis is an opportunity. Before the crisis happened, the level of understanding you had was sufficient. You were satisfied and complacent with that level. A crisis signifies that now you’re probing deeper, that you’re ready to understand more. What was satisfactory before is now insufficient. The crisis situation is your opportunity for growth. This holds true no matter what crisis it is or whether you are a nun or not. She said she really welcomes it when it happens. I thought this was such a beautiful attitude.

OK. So let’s sit quietly and digest.


  1. “Afflictions” is the translation that Venerable Thubten Chodron now uses in place of “disturbing attitudes.” 

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