In his 16th consecutive year of teaching annually at Kagyu Samye Ling in Scotland, in these 12 sessions spread over 10 recordings, Rinpoche explains the Mahayana or Bodhisattvayana Path.
In the First Recording, given on the evening of 28/4/06, Rinpoche advises that if we don’t know how to practice, it’s like rock climbing without fingers. Just knowing conceptually is insufficient- what’s known and what has been learned, have to be applied practically. Compassion is the vital foundation of Mahayana. Most man-made world problems are due to not caring for others, but only for oneself. This selfishness and self-centredness have to be addressed for any genuine progress to be made. However compassion is not self-neglect, as compassion benefits both ourselves and others.
Buddhism is a path, a training in how we experience; not purely a belief system. If we have a path, then we have a purpose. How we react and experience now is a reflection of our habitual tendencies; which we can transform. We can do this at both a conscious level; and at a deep level of our consciousness through meditation. If we are mindful we can realise how we are reacting, by applying awareness.
Rinpoche demonstrates our monkey mind with a story of a monkey getting caught by his grasping then greed, when being tricked by a man wanting to source water.
Buddha Shakyamuni’s greatest miracle was his speech -the teachings that have reached us today. Talking in a gentle way that is truthful and creates less harm. Rinpoche gives us advice in how to deal with being the victim of slander.
Questions and Answers
00: 58:12 Q. Please could you say something about what Buddha taught about: harmful speech within a spritual community; what the results of such speech are; and how we can potentially skilfully use it, if we’re affected by it?
01:12:33 Q. Is there a way, if we find ourselves in a situation where we’re being slandered or criticised, to use it to uproot our ego-grasping?
In the Second Recording on the morning of 29/4/06, Rinpoche emphasizes the need for us to focus our motivation and direction. He then discusses the two accumulations of merit (compassionate acts of body, speech and mind) and direct, experiential wisdom (rather than merely intellectual, conceptual, or theoretical wisdom); all that needs to be done. All Dharma practice is based upon the union of compassion and wisdom; but also in us having joy in doing such positive things; making Dharma our hobby! That is the key secret to Right Effort, Joyful Effort, or Diligence: as no-one tends to get burned out by their hobby!
At 00:56:54, in the second recording includes the start of the Third Session from the afternoon of 29/4/06; where Rinpoche discusses the Foundations of Buddhist Practice being the Eightfold Path ; fuelled by Right Effort (how we approach and work on the path) and Right Mindfulness (the tool we work with and use to progress). How we live our life IS THE PRACTICE, we integrate awareness and mindfulness into everything we do. Dharma isn’t an “-ism” it is genuinely working on ourselves; reducing our negative actions of body, speech and mind.
At first we learn to be with ourselves without distractions; solitude of body, speech and mind. We learn to relax. Easy to say, but harder to do! Relaxing is learning not to control or worry about things. Instead, to let things be experientially. Wisdom is about us experiencing the way we are in depth.
Often, the more we receive higher teachings, the more we realise that we have to relax.
We are our practice. Buddhism is simply our tool.
In the Third Recording the Third Session continues. Rinpoche discusses his experience as a recognised Tulku. We start from where we actually are. Any good or inspiring advice from any source is potentially beneficial. Ringu Tulku read the New Testament in the Christian Bible to learn English. There is no point in being sectarian. Good Advice is Good Advice regardless of the source.
To use and integrate the wisdom of the Tantras can be a challenge, but this doesn’t stop us from practicing a complete path. We don’t need to know everything that is in Buddhism as “A Package”! We only need use what helps us to transform ourselves skilfully.
Questions and Answers
00:12:51 Q. Is there a difference between: View, Meditation, and Action; & Ground, Path, and Fruition?
00:18:50 Q. Can you give some advice about experiencing: a deep seat of relaxation; whilst simultaneously overcoming dullness?
( At 00:22:45 Rinpoche gives some armpit advice…)
00:33:00 Q. We were recently discussing Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s conduct in life. How important is it for a teacher to personally practice what he preaches?
00:40:40 Q. Rinpoche, please could you say something about how meditation works on our habitual tendencies?
00:41:36 Rinpoche answers at the start of the Fourth Session.
00:54:24 Q. How stable does our Shamatha or Shinay Meditation have to be, before we should move onto Vipassana Meditation?
In the Fourth Recording Questions and Answers continue:
00:00:00 Q. Can you say a bit about how shunyata/emptiness supports compassion (and vice versa) in Mahayana Buddhism?
00:17:20 Q. Is wisdom: awareness; without a grasping to a “self”?
At 00:17:40 Rinpoche then reads a Song of Compassion by Shabkar (a great yogi and emanation of Milarepa, who lived in Amdo) translated by Matthieu Ricard.
00:25:40 Q. Please can you talk about the Buddhist relationship beween empathy and compassion?
00:28:48 Q. When I discussed empathy with the translator Peter Roberts, he didn’t think that there was an exact word in Tibetan for the concept of empathy?
00:30:58 Q. If I look in myself, I see a lot of self-grasping, and very little compassion! Does that mean that I’m not a Buddhist?
The next session starts at 00:34:41 with a question: Q. Please could you talk a little about how we can stop finding fault in others?
At 00:42:42 Rinpoche has a discussion with an American journalist in the room about news reporting. As long as “bad news” is “news”, there’s a cause for optimism, as misfortune and suffering has not become the normal, and is still exceptional. He also cautions us about the hazards of listening to news, all the time.
In the Fifth Recording Questions and Answers continue:
00:00:00 Q. Rinpoche, can you give some advice about how we can help in situations where there’s conflict between people, to bring about some understanding and peace?
00:08:44 Q. Can you tell us something about meditation to experience selflessness?
At 00:19:22 Rinpoche quotes one of his favourite Milarepa songs: finding deathlessness; through reflecting on the uncertainty of death.
00:21:00 Q. Is Milarepa talking about uncertainty regarding the time of death?
00:23:00 Q. Rinpoche, is there any way to work with how the 5 elements come together?
The next (sixth) session (of the morning of 30/4/06) begins at 00:24:04 where Rinpoche discusses Bodhicitta and Karma:
Rinpoche starts with a recap of compassion being the basis for all positive deeds.
Karma is not “punishment & reward”, but “cause & effect”. We are we are are now, because of our past; the sum total of what has happened to us and what we have done in the past. Making us what we are now. The past has an effect, but everything is not already programmed. We can remove obscurations, negative emotions and ignorance. “Ignorance” is basically not knowing “what I am”.
In short, the Mahayana teachings are about Bodhicitta. To understand how to become a Bodhisattva, we need to understand Bodhicitta.
Bodhicitta is an intention with relative and ultimate levels; the mind, the heart, the intention. To know completely. Limitless compassion with wisdom; two purposes of “compassion focusing upon the benefit of others” and “wisdom focusing upon enlightenment”.
Nothing is outside The Four Noble Truths.
At 00:44:45 Rinpoche references Rager Ossel’s dutch diction, and the creation of Bodhicharya (“The Actions of a Bodhisattva”) as an organisation.
Questions and Answers
00:48:11 Q. Are emotions mind or not mind?
Aa 01:11:00 Rinpoche explains the dangers of feelings being given too much relative importance (as feelings can be influenced by many things); as the Buddha encourages us to also think, analyse and rationalise. To understand, not just follow blindly. We investigate, and only after finding out if something is true, should we accept it.
The Sixth Recording features the next session where Rinpoche reflects on defining Bodhicitta; wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all beings. We expand this to everyone, and do something about their liberation, not stopping until we free all beings. This ties in with the understanding of life after life (reincarnation). Most of us don’t rember our previous lives. However Rinpoche then discusses individuals who recall their previous lives (and how they previously died). If there is a present logically there must be a past and a future. Mind and body are not one; they have different characteristsics (body is limited and dependent upon the 4 elements, whereas mind has the quality of awareness not found in the 4 elements, can see and experience; a continuum).
The Prajnaparamita sutras are all on Bodhisattva teachings. The Six Paramitas are the main training. Our incremental steps are vital; how we make real progress (which we often don’t notice).
Questions and Answers
00:25:42 Q. In the last session you talked about analytical meditation as being a vital element for us to progress; whereas in Tibet there was also a tradition of Buddhist debate, as a learning tool. Are we likely to benefit from debate to a similar degree, as we are with analytical meditation?
00:30:53 Q. Rinpoche, if the Bodhisattva principle is given a greater emphasis in: Mahayana Buddhism; as opposed to Theravadan Buddhism; what practical relative difference do you think that makes to practioners’ lives?
00:34:51. Q. When putting the Bodhisattva Vow into practice, is there a balance between: giving yourself to others; but then ending up being the one who needs more help yourself?
00:43:31 Q. I was reading a text that mentioned “wrathful compassion”. Please could you talk about what this is?
00:45:53 Q. Is there a danger that a subjective labelling of “wrathful compassion” can just be a convenient weapon for the ego?
00:46:14 Q. Often we have teachings from Tibetan masters that we’re encouraged to study. Are there any specific Prajnaparamita or Mahayana teachings, perhaps from Nagarjuna or Shantideva, that you’d recommend that we study to help us develop Bodhicitta?
00:47:58 Q.We spoke about meditation as a tool to relax, and how to prevent dullness; but is there anything in Buddhist practice about helping us to sleep?
00:50:29 Q. We were talking yesterday about addiction to a suffering; and distracting ourselves with bad news. We tend to focus on suffering; an annoying habit – clinging to things that will make us miserable! How can we transform this into joy instead?
Rinpoche then discusses his insight into how we become bored!
The Seventh Recording covers the eighth session on 30/4/06.
It starts off with a question on the Bodhicharyavatara:
00:03:43 Q. In the last session you suggested that we study the Bodhicharyavatara. How advisable is it for us as individuals just to take texts and read through them, studying them as we might any academic book? Or how advisable is it to be guided by instruction from a teacher providing a commentary?
Rinpoche here recommends: the Bodhicharyavatara commentary written by Patrul Rinpoche’s student Khenpo Kunzang Pelden
00:08:53 Q. How do we help people, who are not involved in the Dharma, with their habitual tendencies?
00:16:26 Q. Can you discuss “obstacles”: the recurrent feeling that we can’t do something; as a form of laziness or lack of motivation? How can we work with this?
For the next life, it will be easier to re-learn what we’ve learnt in this life. It doesn’t matter if we are old.
Rinpoche gives the life story of the Dzogchen master Vairotsana or Berotsana (བཻ་རོ་ཙ་ན་) one of the greatest of the Tibetan lotsawas from the eighth-ninth century.
Rinpoche then discusses the role of Tara in getting rid of obstacles.
Atisha recommended Achala ( མི་གཡོ་བ་ miyowa) practice to clear inner obstacles to our practice.
Compassion is one of the strongest way to clear obstacles.
00:45:40 Q. How do we medidate on compassion?
Rinpoche discusses different approaches including Avalokiteshvara/Chenrezig practice; before discussing the Four Immeasurables. Particularly remaining in great equanimity loving-kindness (not indifference) where there is no attachmnet nor aversion.
Eighth Recording (ninth session) given on the afternoon of 30/4/06
00:00:00 Q. Rinpoche in the last session you talked about methods to clear away obstacles. This year, there were Drupchen practices on Holy Isle and Samye Ling, including Dorje Phurba or Vajrakilaya practice. Please can you talk about how doing that practice interdependently results in clearing away inner and outer obstacles?
Rinpoche explains the source of drupchen practice from the Guhyasamāja Tantra, and the importance of good-harmony without breakages of samaya. Vajrakilaya is very effective at swiftly clearing obstacles.
00:07:55 Q. I wonder if you could say a few words about how Buddhism has had an influence on the West, and how has Buddhism evolved, through contact with the West?
Here Ringu Tulku Rinpoche recollects his time in Delhi with Akong Rinpoche and Trungpa Rinpoche in 1962/3 when they sailed to the UK and their initial experiences recounted in letters.
Buddhism is very adaptable to different cultures.
At 00:24:27 Rinpoche recalls his experiences of returning to Tibet in 2005, and how popular Tibetan Buddhism was becoming amongst the Chinese.
00:30:22 Q. Rinpoche, is there any equivalent of the Christian concept of “righteous anger” within Buddhism?
Rinpoche then talks about how we might respond to witnessing injustice.
00:44:40 Q. In the past people used to have interactions to go to a shop and buy food, now we can just go online and have no contact with human shopkeepers. Is that happening the East as well as the West?
00:47:28 Q. My friends have recently returned from Palpung Sherab Ling monastery with photographs of many of the young monks there. As a little tulku, did you have lots of opportunities to play?
Rinpoche then introduces people to the concept of yak dung ice boarding.
00:54:23 Q. How’s your swimming coming along these days?
The Tenth Session on the morning of 1/5/06 commences with a question:
00:54:55 Q Can you tell us about your students’ forthcoming Long Retreat at BMC in Sikkim?
The story of this Long Retreat was subsequently documented in the Niko von Glasow film:
00:55:16 Q. Rinpoche if we all have the same potential inherent Buddha Nature; why is it that some people seem to progress quickly; whereas others seem to go backwards; or stay the same? How can we generate the conditions to progress more quickly?
Rinpoche relates one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings given in Varanasi.
We progress more with the right motivation and discipline. Our current state of mind is an addiction we have acquired over many lifetimes. Having impatient expectations of ourselves can lead to unhappiness. Dharma practice shouldn’t be based on the same old samsaric tangle of aversion and attachment! We needn’t have grasping to the path and result.
In the Ninth Recording from 1/5/06 the tenth session continues :
00:00:00 Q. Rinpoche please could you say something about the importance of joy and happiness in meditation?
Rinpoche emphasizes the importance of learning to Relax.
00:11:50 Q . Many of the teachings you’ve given us over the past few days are very practical: dealing with our emotions; and working with negative tendencies through meditation and studying. However, reading through some of the biographies of great masters like Guru Padmasambhava and Milarepa, they seem to be, a lot of the time, dealing with the almost supernatural world: overcoming local deities; daemons; and nagas. I wondered how useful you think it is, for us to consider such matters, if we’re not personally able to interact with any supernatural beings or daemons at all? When reading these stories it doesn’t seem to be metaphorical, but a genuine exchange of pacifying spirits? Initially I thought that these stories might be symbolic of overcoming difficulties, but it seems to be a genuine interaction. Is this useful for us as practitioners to think about, or useful to consider, when now introducing Buddhadharma into the West?
As the Buddha confirmed there are many beings: seen and not seen. Rinpoche refers to the 4 Maras as being within us and others. The best way to pacify negative forces, is to pacify negative forces within ourselves; using compassion.
If we practice Dharma, Dharma protectors will protect us; because they are Dharma protectors, and we are practicing Dharma!
00:21:30 Q. Can you talk about the interdependence of everything or dependent arising?
00:29:29 Q. There was a Swiss linguist who felt that the signifier was arbitrary, and functional through consensus; that there is no inherent relationship between a word and an object.
00:30:24 Q. I identify to feel like I exist. A dualistic perspective seems much easier than a non-dualistic perspective. I’m still attracted to the Dharma, but I feel I can’t attain enlightenment?
Everything is dependently arising, in a relative way. The nature of absolute reality is to to see that everything is just relatively existing. We needn’t “think” too much about being “non dualistic”, as thinking itself is dualistic! It’s actually more about directly experiencing without conceptualising and projecting dualistically.
The next (eleventh) session starts at 00:38:26 with Rinpoche recounting a story about spirits and Brussels Samye Dzong.
Buddhism adapts local cultures into practice. Pre-Buddhist Tibetans worshipped local mountain, lake & rock spirits. They became Buddhist dharma protectors; forms incorporated into Vajrayana practice with Refuge & Bodhicitta. Smoke offerings offered to the 4 Guests: Buddhas & Bodhisattvas; Sentient Beings; Protectors; Hungry Ghosts.
00:50:11 Q. Rinpoche, we’ve talked a lot about habitual tendencies this week and how difficult they can be to overcome. I wonder if you could talk about the education of children; as children tend to develop habitual tendencies when they’re young, and, as a parent, you’re watching that all the time? Is there a Buddhist perspective on this?
Bringing the value of compassion into society, can only be done by example; showing compassion in action. The best teachers are often good people, so act as inspirational role models.
00:59:29 Q. Rinpoche, with every passing month there seems to be another published English translation of a Tibetan Buddhist text book, and sometimes it can be a bit like going to a sweet shop! As we don’t currently have a shedra structure in Scotland, what texts would you recommend to students of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, in terms of us acquiring and studying texts?
01:08:00 Q. Historically, complaining and demonstrations seem to have improved people’s rights in the present day, but also upset some people, so what is the most skilful to do?
Rinpoche recounts the approach of Gandhi (with peacock commentary).
The Tenth Recording
Starts with Maggy Jones commentating on Thích Nhất Hạnh work in American around the time of the Vietname War.
00:01:47 Q. Yesterday we talked about reincarnation, but I’m not so clear about who or what is actually reincarnated?
00:03:43 Q. Rinpoche, can you give some advice about how to deal with pride and arrogance?
To avoid the grip of pride, the aim is to see things clearly, directly, & realistically.
00:05:54 Q. With respect to the Four Noble Truths, and the Truth of Suffering, sometimes I find it difficult to keep my heart open, but also thinking too much about the Causes of Suffering. How can we keep our heart open?
The final, Twelfth Session (from the afternoon 1/5/06) continues at:
00:10:54 Q. Rinpoche, do you have any advice about sitting over long periods of time and dealing with pain in the body?
00:20:51 Q. Rinpoche, would you mind saying something about the Ringu Tulku lineage (The Lineage of Rigul Monastery’s Ringu Tulku Rinpoches)?
The 1st Ringu Tulku was a student of the Karmapa, and exchanged his life for the Karmapa when He was sick.
00:23:06 Q. Can you talk about Marpa choosing between taking an empowerment from Naropa or from Hevajra mandala?
In response to an enquiry, Rinpoche clarifies that he has never used anti-wrinkle cream.
00:32:23 Q. How do we, as fragile human beings, not become disturbed by injustices in the world?
From oo:49:44 Rinpoche concludes these teachings with advice on preparing for death and phowa.
Some of these teachings were subsequently referenced in “The Lazy Lama looks at Relaxing in Natural Awareness” (published in 2015). Photography taken during these teachings in 2006 by Conrad Harvey.
For more information, visit: https://bodhicharya.org/ll-relaxing-in-natural-awareness/