These teachings were given by Ringu Tulku at the Purelands Retreat Centre, in the hills above Kagyu Samye Ling, in the summer of 2007.
They feature Rinpoche’s commentary on Patrul Rinpoche’s text “Notes on the 9 Ways of how to help other beings” given over 4 sessions.
Patrul Rinpoche’s དཔལ་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ། (1808-1887)biography can be read here:
Rinpoche commences the first teaching session with a brief summary of Patrul Rinpoche’s life, and then explains the Bodhisattva concept: any being who has resolved to sincerely train themselves to bring lasting peace and happiness for the benefit of all beings.
A Bodhisattva can be anyone, and needn’t be a Buddhist!
To train in Bodhicitta (compassion unified with wisdom) we require 3 aspects:
- The wisdom of how to understand and see things; including ourselves. More experientially than conceptually. Thereby completely understanding the nature of reality.
- Meditation to train our mind to be calmer, and not so wild.
- Conduct and action that helps people: lessening the harmful actions of body, speech and mind; and increasing our positive activities (with the 6 Paramitas of patience, diligence, generosity, morality, meditation and wisdom).
We don’t get rid of karma through suffering. Rather we create more karma through emotions in suffering. Karma is our habitual tendencies. We change our karma through good acts.
In the second session (given on the afternoon of 18/6/07), Rinpoche explains the way that Bodhisattvas work for the benefit of beings. 9 ways are given to test, assess or investigate if a Bodhisattva’s actions are useful for other people; as if we don’t know how to help, even if we want to, we are limited. So we aspire to assess any given situation as objectively as we can, with these 9 criteria:
- Look at yourself and others. Examine, and analyse directly or indirectly if an act is beneficial for yourself and others. If so, one must do it. One must avoid any action that does no good for yourself and others. Rinpoche then explains that having guilt is not the right way.
- Examine how much benefit and how much harm. If helping other beings might harm you a little, but help others lots; would you regret it? If so, avoid. It is only useful if you would have no regret.
- Examine what type and level of beings you are trying to help. An act may be helpful to some beings but harmful to others. If forced to choose, it is better to help beings with greater potential.
- Examine the numbers of beings benefitted or harmed. We can do acts that will help many and harm a few; but avoid actions which will help few but harm many. If there are equal numbers of beneficiaries and disadvantaged beings, then try to be skilful in limiting the harm. Whatever we do may have a good and bad side, so we seek to find the best balance.
- Examine this life and the future long term when trying to help other beings. If doing something helps both this and future lives, we should do it. If it harms both we should avoid. If it helps this life a little, but harms us in the long term and future, we should avoid doing it. If harmful a little now, but helpful in the future, we should try to limit the harm in the present.
- Examine the precepts and avoid negative deeds. If we’ve taken a precept, but break it in a way that is helpful for lots of beings in the long run; then it’s better to do so (this is the Bodhisattva’s perspective). Motivation is most important. A seemingly positive deed that helps is excellent. Some seemingly positive deeds may be actually negative (such as showing off with impure intentions)!
Rinpoche then talks in detail about this point, and how Patrul taught on negative actions of body, speech and mind. In essence: if we have compassion, and pure compassionate motivation, with the capacity to actually helpfully assist, then a deed is likely to be positive. However we have to be careful not to make excuses and ego-justifications for our mundane, samsaric, non-compassionate underlying motivations. This is why Patrul stresses the need for sincere examination as being vital. Otherwise we can end up in “righteous” wars!
The third session commences on the morning of Tuesday 19th June: where Rinpoche again emphasizes that anyone who acts with compassion, who is deeply dedicated to the benefit and welfare of beings, is a Bodhisattva. Rinpoche then discusses the Vinaya monastic precepts; the Bodhisattva’s precepts and the trainings. We take the Bodhisattva’s Vow until Enlightenment, not only for this life. We should therefore abandon the 4 negative thoughts and actions which weaken it:
- Deceiving those who are worthy of your respect (your teacher);
- Generating regrets in people who have no regrets (to make them hopeless or pessimistic);
- Criticising and making unfounded allegations about good people;
- Misleading, misguiding and deceiving other beings.
Instead, we should observe the precepts of a Bodhisattva:
- Show respect and be grateful;
- Generate joy and rejoicing in others;
- Praising people and focusing of their positive sides;
- Guide others in the right way, with the right information that helps them.
If we make a mistake, we repair and rectify it.
7. Examine our generosity.
When giving material things:
- If we see people in poverty, and we have enough to give, and giving doesn’t harm, then we should give, as this will help others from being in negative circumstances.
- If we give material things and it will become a danger, obstacle or risk to our life, study or practice, and it won’t benefit others very much, then we shouldn’t do it.
- If giving helps others a little, and harms us a little, then we should try to share whatever we can. Risk it!
Giving our body and its activities:
- If we’re asked to give our life “as a Bodhisattva”, if we’re still samsaric beings, and haven’t reached the First Bumi, then it is not the time! Giving our life away is an obstacle! However, we can do Chod practice in our minds; giving our body to all sentient beings, which lessens attachment and can be used as a training in generosity.
- If giving the gift of Dharma doesn’t hinder our own practice, and isn’t an obstacle; then give as much as possible!
- If giving becomes an obstacle to our practice, and the Dharma wouldn’t be helpful to the people in question; then don’t give it!
- If it would be not so good for us, but others will benefit, then give it!
- If the intended recipients wish to use the information with corrupt motivations and intentions; then don’t give it.
- If you don’t know Dharma too well, then don’t give it!
- If you know Dharma; but because of your meanness don’t really want to give; still give! Giving Dharma is the best giving!
Giving protection (both physical and emotional):
- If people want to take protection in you, as a Bodhisattva, do you have the ability to give protection? If so, do it! If not, don’t!
- If it’s too risky for yourself, no need to do it!
- Even if you have a little bit of power to protect; and there’s not too much risk; then do it!
In the final fourth session on the afternoon of 19/6/2007, Rinpoche completes the topic:
8. Examine different interests and types of people.
Generally, different attitudes and aptitudes of people are countless, but for the purpose of categorising beings as 8 types, we have:
- Those beings who have no interest in liberation or higher realms; without such beliefs.
- Those with some understanding of heavenly realms, causes and results.
- Those who are aware of the Shravakayana Path and its results (who prefer to follow a leader on a guided path).
- Those who are aware of the Pratyekabuddha Path and its results (intelligent beings, minded to be independent and find things by themselves).
- Bodhisattva types of beings (confident in the Path of the Bodhisattva; altuistic; compassionate; w/ a big heart; happy to lead).
- Those on the Path of Vajrayana (Bodhisattva types who utilise skilful means; intelligent and broad minded).
- Those drawn to the direct essence; the quintessence (with no great interest in details of all of the Vajryana means).
- Those who aren’t in these categories (!) or who change categories.
9. Examine your own level and Path.
According to the time; if we can do something now that directly benefits people, that doesn’t obstruct people, which will assist us more in the future> then we should try to do it, to benefit other beings; it is doesn’t interrupt our own progress on our path. We shouldn’t abandon something big, in order to achieve something small. So we weigh up the pros and cons; training ourselves in the disciplines of the Bodhisattva. We aspire to find the best way to do something; essentially this is the discipline of the Bodhisattva. This will eventually result in benefit for all beings.
- We refrain from harm (the main focus for beginners; to remove obstacles);
- Do positive things (for more advanced practitioners; accumulation and accomplishing to help other beings);
- Help others (very advanced practioners focus on benefitting the wellbeing of others).
In the final Q&A session Rinpoche explains the essence of the Vajrayana path.
These teachings were given at a time, when there was no English translation of Patrul Rinpoche’s text available; so Ringu Tulku translated and taught simultaneously. However, the text was subsequently translated into English by Karen Liljenbergin in 2009 and published on her website:
Karen and Adam Pearcey prepared a revised version for Lotsawa House in 2015, which is available here:
Few teachings sessions were ever recorded at Purelands Retreat Centre, so immense thanks go to Bill Trotter who transported equipment up to Purelands for the purposes of recording these teachings for posterity; and who subsequently transferred them to mp3.
Photography by Conrad Harvey & Gary Fraser.
For more information, visit: https://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/patrul-rinpoche/nine-considerations