FOOTPRINTS ON THE JOURNEY - The Diary of Khenpo Sodargye

Post sayings or stories from Buddhist traditions which you find interesting, inspiring or useful. (Your own stories are welcome on DW, but in the Creative Writing or Personal Experience forums rather than here.)
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Footprints on the Journey: Knowing Not- Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:32 pm

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Knowing Not


Oh no, the bothersome backache is here again.

Sickness is anything but merciful. Regardless of the weather—warm or chilly, cloudy or cloudless—it pounces on me and renders me in no mood to enjoy the spring splendor beyond the window.

One becomes most susceptible to the thought of death in illness.

Perhaps I’ll die today! Who knows if I’ll be able to finish the translation of Great Biography of Buddha Shakyamuni? Will A Treatise on Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind end as well as it began? As I have not been mindful about death, I have wasted a huge portion of my life. Now that old age is creeping in, I can’t help feeling my days are numbered, just like the sun setting beyond the western hills. In the little time left, I should always maintain the right view, be diligent and unfettered by worldly affairs.

To encourage myself, I am citing here the verse on realization by Hong Zhi of the Southern Song Dynasty:

Dharma bliss is my sustenance, compassion is my dwelling,
Faith in the Buddha is my final settling place; this body of mine is merely on loan.
Being mindful is my sole endeavor; I have no time to spare on earthly affairs.

Take Dharma bliss as sustenance; regard love and compassion as dwelling places. Take faith in Buddhism as the final destiny; understand that the body is on loan. Always diligently maintain the right view; spare no time in chasing the mundane affairs. Keep off fame and wealth; crave not external attractions. Always see life as a candle flickering in the wind.

Can I accomplish all of this?

It is tough!


20th of January, Year of RenWu
March 3, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Masters’ Teaching- Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun Apr 03, 2016 11:09 am

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Masters’ Teaching


What a beautiful morning!

Outside the window, the whole sky was filled with the sunrise’s glow, as rosy as if it were ablaze. Houses, trees, lawns, roadways…. all were tinted with a reddish hue. I drenched myself merrily in this glory as if spellbound. Gong Que Sen Que! (Offering to the Three Jewels!)

Flipping through books, I chanced upon this passage that Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa, the great Tibetan siddha and a terton master, says to his disciple Padma Sangdon:

When one embraces Buddhism and embarks on genuine practice, it’s not uncommon for morbid obstructions to surface. One then should stay away from evil friends and be vigilant. Do not drift with the tide. When dealing with people, be sure to uphold your principles and self-reliance, and make your own decisions. Any speech, even words of truth, feeds avarice and aversion, therefore maintain the code of silence firmly, and regard worldly people as strangers. Know what to adopt and what to avoid according to karmic principles, cultivate bodhichitta. Whether traveling to the city or in the mountains, always watch your mind. In happiness or sorrow, always cast off discursive thoughts and observe mind’s primal state. Maintain the recognition that appearances are illusory and dreamlike. Look into your mind’s essence that is without birth or death. In post-meditation, dedicate all the merits to enlightenment. These are the most profound teachings from me.

Master Repa Shiwa also says:

Practicing alone, one attains realization; two together, good connections are made; having more than three or four, causes for avarice and aversion arise. Therefore, I would rather practice alone and abide in tranquility.

Quiet and solitary mountainsides are the places where Buddhas and Bodhisattvas found peacefulness. There is nothing to make you busy, no distractions; all qualities that increase merit or lead to liberation—renunciation, bodhichitta, faith, and so on—will arise effortlessly. As a result, your whole way of life becomes wholesome spontaneously.

Why hesitate? Go quickly to a secluded forest and practice in solitude!


22nd of January, Year of RenWu
March 5, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Auspicious Dream- Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed Apr 06, 2016 12:23 am

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Auspicious Dream


When I woke up, the clock had just struck six.

I had a good dream last night. As an ordinary person, I couldn’t help feeling overjoyed, even knowing that all dreams are but illusory. I wavered on whether to write down the dream. In the end, to do so got the upper hand.

This is the third time that I dreamed of Mipham Rinpoche since I left Chengdu.

The first dream happened when I was in the hospital. In it, I received a transmission to teach the Commentaries on Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata. The second time, which was also during my hospitalization, I was given the transmission of Distinguishing the Middle and the Extremes and the Gateway to Knowledge. Upon waking up, I was so proud of myself and could barely hold back my strong urge to immediately translate or teach others the transmissions that I had just received.

Last night, Mipham Rinpoche appeared as three different persons in turn. When the last one came, I clearly sensed that the emanation must be Mipham Rinpoche. He looked like a Kham layman in his 40s, with hair gleaming black and eyes brimming with vigor. He had thick dark eyebrows and snow-white teeth; his tanned face had a rosy tint. Wearing blue Tibetan brocade, he pleasantly settled to the left side of my bed. A deep sense of reverence arose in my heart and I felt that he is the wisdom embodiment of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. He seemed amicable, and I sought his advice on the questions I always had…. When I woke up, I could still feel the warmth of his body, and I dared not touch the place where he had been moments ago.

Some people disapprove of talking about dreams. Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa once said: “A good dream, after being disclosed, will never come back again.” Our revered H.H. Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche also taught: “A tiger can leap quite far, but a frog just cannot follow suit.” It seems that talking about one’s dreams is not a good idea. Anyway, now I have said it, and that’s it.

Yet what puzzles me still is that I have prayed most earnestly to the Omniscient Longchen Rabjam for many years, yet he has never appeared in any of my dreams. Why? I have no answer!

Here, I am only describing a good dream that came to me just once in a blue moon. Should I recount all my bad dreams, they would be nothing but long filthy foot wraps.


At dawn, 23th of January, Year of RenWu
March 6, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Tight-Lipped- Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun Apr 10, 2016 11:45 am

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Tight-Lipped


As spiritual practitioners, we should always check up on our own faults and keep silent all the time. The mouth is to be used in meaningful activities such as recitation or extolling virtues; otherwise it may cause grave harm to future lives.

Master Padmasambhava, when departing Tibet, taught his disciples:
Loquacious people easily betray their thoughts to others. Their jokes sometimes are interpreted as the real thing while true statements are misunderstood as jokes, making even simple tasks difficult to accomplish. Thus all disciples had better keep their mouths shut and say very few words.

Great Tibetan masters often cite this instruction to caution students, lest they commit verbal non-virtues.

The great practitioner Geshe LeSogpa says:

People nowadays like to chase after high teachings; they spend days on end requesting this or that instruction. Yet rarely do they put the requested teachings into actual practice, nor do they care about accomplishing them. Bragging that they are disciples of the Three Jewels, they always babble, ‘I am a follower of the Three Jewels,’ yet they slander their teachers or Sangha members behind them. I always think the mouth can really drag us to the hell realm. If people were to listen to me, they should lock up their mouths and hand the keys to others. The mouth would stay locked all the time, opening only for the necessity of eating. How wonderful if this would actually happen!

Zen master Shimen Huikai called himself “the silent old fellow.” He wrote this poem:

Been there, done that, I am now too lazy to talk.
Seen it, known all, I care only to nod to people.
Declare not that this old guy knows nothing,
Charming and unconventional is everything but him.

It’s clear between the lines that this Zen master has seen it all in this world; he is unconventional, carefree, and unfettered. Being broad-minded, he is unaffected by others’ praise or insult, nor does he care to discuss others’ personal affairs.

Other adages also say: “Silence is golden,” and “Full of water, a jar makes no sound; half full of water, lots of clattering noise.” It is obvious, then, how important it is to be tight-lipped!


24th of January, Year of RenWu
March 7, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Hit Me- Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:05 pm

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Hit Me


In order to bring about their disciples’ sudden revelations, great masters throughout history at times employed some peculiar training methods besides using gentle words.

Naropa, when following Tilopa, underwent 12 major and 12 minor hardships. Finally, one day Tilopa grabbed Naropa’s throat with his left hand and with his right hand he took off his sandal and hit his disciple on the forehead with it. Naropa lost consciousness. When he came to, all the qualities of his teacher had arisen in him. The teacher’s wisdom and the disciple’s mind had become one in realization.

Zen master Liao Yi of the Song Dynasty at 17 paid a formal visit to Master Gao Feng and was given the pith instruction of meditating on “all phenomena converged to be one”. One day when seeing snowflakes fallen from pine branches, Liao Yi was inspired to write a poem which he submitted to his teacher. Giving no chance for explanation, the master lifted a wooden stick and hit the student down into a deep ravine. With painful wounds all over his body, Liao Yi reflected on the nature of the mind and finally reached the stage that is beyond all fixation and conception. He left these beautiful lines:

Gone swiftly is all the snow covering the vast land, once the sun appears.
My doubt in Buddhas and the fixation on east, south, west, or north, likewise, are now all vanished.

When Zen master Huang Bo took Lin Ji as his disciple, he hit him 61 times with sticks and made him the most outstanding Zen master in generations. There is a saying about Zen schools: “Lin Ji is like a war general, while Cao Dong is like a field farmer.” It’s obvious that Lin Ji, while carrying on the lineage tradition, also has developed his own unique Zen style that even surpasses his teacher’s.

When, if ever, will my Guru give me a hit on the head?


21st of January, Year of RenWu
March 4, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: On Women - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun Apr 17, 2016 5:08 pm

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On Women

Today is March 8, International Women’s Day. All around the world women are celebrating this annual festival in their own unique ways; throngs of cheery people are seen on the streets or TV news. In some areas, women take this occasion to hold rallies to demonstrate against the unfair treatment usually imposed on them.

A question from a female lay practitioner came to my mind: In Buddhist scriptures, women have always been described as low and degraded. Why is that? For example, in Satipatthana Sutra, it says: “Women are sources of disasters, they ruin this and future lives. Should you want to save yourself, stay away from all women.”

In The Moon Lamp Sutra it says: “This is not the way to attain enlightenment, therefore, never place any reliance on women. Like poisonous snakes with extreme venom, they should be avoided by all wise people.”

While promoting people to do good deeds and accumulate merits, it is also stated: “I pay homage to the protector Buddha of Infinite Light; by hearing the holy name of Buddha Amitabha, until I reach enlightenment, may I always be reborn in noble bodies rather than in female forms.”

In many sutras, the description of all Buddha’s Pure Land include the following: “There are no women per se, or the names of women,” or: “Any woman, having aroused pure faith and bodhichitta upon hearing my name and feeling disgusted with the female body and wishing to be reborn to my Land, will arrive in my Land in a male body when she dies.”

Longchenpa has also repeatedly advised future generations: “One should avoid women; they are the sources of decadence.” It sounds like women have become the sources of all evils as well as the roots of deterioration. Isn’t this statement a little unfair?

In fact, these are misunderstandings due to insufficient knowledge of the Buddhist scriptures. Some statements in the sutras are taught specifically for women with a strong propensity for jealousy only.

The teachings on staying away from women are given specifically to men who are unable to eradicate their covetous minds.

Similarly, for a woman incapable of eliminating her lust, she should also stay away from men who are the roots of deterioration.

In A Great Treatise on Jewel Garland of the Middle Way, there is a long list of uncleanliness of the female body followed by: “If you loathe the excrement and filth from yourself or others, why wouldn’t you be repulsed with the grimy body of yours or others? Your own body is just as unclean as the female body so described.”

It is obvious, therefore, that the male and female bodies are equal in having the same flaws and shortcomings.

As long as a woman has strong faith and possesses wisdom and compassion, she is much superior to any man who knows not how to act in accordance with the principle of cause and effect.

In the land of Tibet, there have arisen many great female Buddhist practitioners, such as Dakini Machig Labdron, Dakini Yeshe Sogyal, and others. They have left inconceivable legacies for future generations; how could any ordinary male in the world be on par with them?

In Ballad of Mulan, it also says: “The he-hare’s feet go hop and skip, the she-hare’s eyes are muddled and fuddled. Two hares running side by side close to the ground, who can tell if I am a he or a she?”

When a rabbit runs, no one can tell if it’s a he or a she.

Any woman who has cultivated genuine bodhichitta and practices the Dharma diligently will attain exactly the same level of quality as a male practitioner does.


25th of January, Year of RenWu

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Footprints on the Journey: Cutting the Root - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed Apr 20, 2016 10:45 am

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Cutting the Root

Jetsun Mila once imparted a song of realization to his disciple Repa Shiwa:

My son, should you sincerely want to practice the Dharma, arouse strong faith from the depths of your heart, and never cherish the affairs of this life.
Should you want to follow me to practice, recognize friends and relatives are Mara’s net; so you should remove these hindrances.
Food and possessions are Mara’s minions; abandon these evil old companions of yours.
Sensual pleasure and enjoyment are Mara’s chains; so you should eliminate these fetters.
Intimate buddies and good friends are Mara’s daughters; be sure to guard against their temptations.
Native land and hometown are hellish prisons; quickly run away from being incarcerated.
Giving up everything you must at the time of death; now is the best time to leave them behind.
If you listen to me and do the practices, my son, you are connected to the supreme Dharma!

The great Kadampa master Dapo Rinpoche (Sonam Rinchen) attained a high level of accomplishment; when in deep Samadhi, he could remain immobile for 10 days straight. He strongly emphasized actual practice and once said: “Appearances are as unreliable as evil-doers; this illusory body, on loan to us, is easily lost. Wealth, flimsy and deceiving, causes suffering; hometown, a demonic prison, entraps you to no end. Those who enjoy drifting in the rounds of samsara should cut samsara’s lifeblood and root—self-attachment.” To be freed from suffering, to demolish obstacles and attain liberation, the only recourse is to sever the grasping to samsara.

Zen master Dao Lin of the Tang Dynasty often practiced meditation up in a pine tree and was known as the “Bird Nest Zen Master.” Poet Bai Juyi once paid him a visit out of admiration. Seeing the master living high up in the tree, he said: “Master, the place where you are living is quite dangerous!” The Bird Nest Zen Master replied: “The way I see it, Sir, it is you who are in danger!”

Perplexed, Bai Juyi asked: “I am an official in the royal court, why am I in danger?”

The Bird Nest Zen Master replied: “People in the secular world, driven by karma, harm each other continuously; they take turns avenging one another and breed endless afflictions. Aren’t these situations dangerous?”

This simple answer rendered Bai Juyi dumbfounded.

It’s so true! Ordinary people are always toiling for fame and wealth; they are constantly confused and worried. Aren’t they living in an invisible prison or in the devil’s web? Couldn’t it be said that they are in grave danger?

Hurry! Run away from this dangerous place!


26th of January, Year of RenWu
March 9, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: How Pitiful - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun Apr 24, 2016 10:00 am

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How Pitiful

People nowadays have long managed the basic needs of food and clothing. But the kind of meats some humans consume—that of peacock, horse, scorpion, rat, or dog, you name it—gives the impression of insatiability that “a hungry man will refuse no food.” So much so that buns made of human flesh are rumored to be on the market. Although the allegation is dubious, the propagation of such savage habits is bound to bring about the day of human flesh eating, like that of king Kalmasapada.

By chance I walked by a packed canine steakhouse. The greasy-faced patrons were erupting with excitement; burping stinky breaths, they preoccupied themselves with a drinkers’ wagering game. It’s no surprise that no one paid any attention to the black dog locked up in the cage at the storefront.

The dog, perhaps aware its imminent fate of being slaughtered, curled up its muscular body and, with tearful eyes, stared at passersby with grief and resentment. But crowds were indifferent; they just rushed about for their own survival needs. How could anyone care to spare time to halt for one dog?

This can only be the effect of actions in previous lives! The scripture says: “Disrespect and distrust to teachers—even to the one who transmits a four-line Dharma—will cause the student to be reborn as dogs for a hundred lives, followed by being inflicted with tumors.” When facing the consequences of karma, everyone is powerless. I gather this dog must have slandered his teachers in previous lives and is now facing this predicament.

Mipham Rinpoche, the great luminary of Tibet, also says: “The Buddha teaches that if one lacks respect to the teacher who imparts down to a single Dharma verse, one will be reborn as dogs for a hundred lives consecutively, followed by rebirth in low castes.” Of course, there are other causes for a dog rebirth. For expedient purposes, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas may aspire to be born as dogs to benefit beings. But other than that, the non-virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind are the main causes of downfall as dogs.

To be reborn as a dog or to slander the teacher, either way, it’s quite a pity!


27th of January, Year of RenWu
March 10, 2002
Written at Gulangyu

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Footprints on the Journey: Lotus Flower - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed Apr 27, 2016 5:04 pm

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Lotus Flower

Here I am in this southern city, far away from my hometown. All by myself in a strange land, I am often engulfed by a feeling of loneliness, having no friend or kin to turn to.

Only the lotus pond facing the front door greets me every day. No sooner have I seen the lotus leaves as barely pointed buds than they become a full panel of lush green. Lotus flowers of a riot of color—deep red, pink, creamy white—all blossom gracefully and shapely, utterly enchanting and mesmerizing to the eyes. As I was feasting on this poetic and picturesque scenery, I suddenly noticed a lotus flower at one corner. Its head drooped low as if overladen by sorrow and weariness, the spectacular spring affected her not even a dint.

“Little lotus flower, why are you so sad?”

“There was a dew drop yesterday, we got along so well and I cherished it very much, but today, the sun snatched my dew drop away. Thinking the blissful occasions we had together are gone forever, I am immediately flung into a pit of suffering and have no way to extricate myself. Oh how I hate the sun! Why should he plunder my little dew drop?”

So the little lotus flower bared her soul to me, I was at a loss as to what to offer. Perhaps she could use some of Mipham Rinpoche’s blessings.

Finding my most favorite passage from Mipham Rinpoche’s teachings, I read it and explained the meaning to the little lotus flower: “The fools, thinking that all happiness and suffering are caused by external factors, are forever distracted in wanting and rejecting. Disturbing waves of craving and aversion carry them away. The wise, knowing that the source of all happiness and suffering is the self, always reflect inward and guard against indolence.”

After listening to my explanations, the little lotus flower finally felt better. She relinquished her clinging to the dewdrop and no longer held a bitter grudge against the sun. What’s more, she took refuge in the Three Jewels of Buddhism and grew inwardly day-by-day. Even though she was drooping and withering, she felt confident and enriched. Witnessing her transformation, I was filled with joy. How inconceivable are the blessings of the Three Jewels!

On the day when I was ready to leave, the little flower declared to me with a firm resolution: “I will definitely study and practice to my best the Buddha’s teachings!”

In reality, the little lotus flower is Dr. He, who gives me injections every day, the dew drop her boyfriend, and the sun her sister.

Can people find their own images in this story?


28th of January, Year of RenWu
March 11, 2002
At the Xiamen 174 Hospital

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Footprints on the Journey: Key Points - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun May 01, 2016 11:36 am

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Key Points

When it comes to practicing Dharma, many people either lack enthusiasm or run out of steam. Such obstacles occur because of their inability to relinquish mundane concerns. Zen Buddhism also stresses giving up earthly affairs, as disenchantment to the world arises, accomplishment is reached with ease.

Geshe Potowa says: “Clinging to mundane affairs of this life may seem comforting in the beginning, but eventually it will become a tight binding rope. A spiritual seeker should cut off attachment to this life with the sword of wisdom; the teaching that teaches you to do so is the best one.” Nowadays, some famous practitioners may talk days on end about prana wind, bindo, or other high trainings, but due to a lack of contemplation and analysis, they scarcely renounce the secular world. Talking about lofty and impractical practices makes no sense; it is better to work sincerely to eradicate clinging to this world. To a person on the brink of dying from hunger, merely showing him piles of gold, silver, and other treasures is of no avail in saving him. It’s the same case here.

The crucial point in doing any practice is to grasp its essence. On the other hand, devoting all one’s energy to favoring friends and relatives, to overcoming enemies, or to amassing wealth, is not a bit of wisdom. Geshe Potowa also says: “One who does not put the teaching into actual practice is not different from animals, no matter how well this person might have done in study and reflection.” In terms of survival, animals possess skills rivaling those of humans. To deal with snakes, the sand lizard is capable of plotting to bite back at the snake; crows and monkeys also know how to take revenge for insults among themselves. Compared to the skill of mice in amassing possessions, even the scrooges among humans have to take a back seat; many animals are very adept in raising their offspring. Born as human beings, how can we be willing to equate ourselves to animals? Therefore, we should know the keys to practice.

Reverent Master Hui Yuan of Dong Lin Temple, one of the main seats of the Pure Land School, served well as the model of abandoning worldly trifles. A powerful chief Huan Xuan tried to persuade him to give up ordination and advised that he should “realize one’s mistakes and mend one’s ways.” When being enticed with a high government position and the pleasure of fame and wealth, the Zen master wrote to reply: “The glory of this life flashes like lightning, whatever comes together is bound to depart. Are these things worth chasing after? How confused are men of shortsightedness! When these people of lesser acumen hear Dharma teachings, they can only respond with silly laughs. This is exactly the case of ‘not realizing the mistakes nor mending the ways’.” His noble integrity—neither yielding to powerful forces nor caring about prestige and money—is really amazing. It deserves our highest respect!

Alas, this world is filled with too many smart alecks but way too few genuine practitioners of the Buddhadharma!


29th of January, Year of RenWu
March 12, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Generating Bodhichitta - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun May 08, 2016 11:21 am

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Generating Bodhichitta

Whatever we do, it is most important that we do it with the bodhichitta intention.

The Sutra Requested by Maitreya says: “Maitreya, the water that flows into the ocean will not dry up even after many kalpas. Maitreya, any positive actions done with the bodhichitta intention will never be exhausted until the attainment of the highest and utmost realization.”

If we have genuinely aroused bodhichitta in our mental continuum, even neutral activities bring forth merit. The Avatamsaka Sutra says: “Having developed the supreme bodhichitta, even for a distracted person, the activities of body, speech, and mind become meaningful, they will always be virtuous.” The sutra also lists 250 examples to describe aptly the qualities of bodhichitta.

Bodhichitta is the sublimated cream of the crop of the wisdom milk flowing from studying, contemplating, and meditating on the Dharma; it is the cool moonlight that dispels the heat of sentient beings’ confusion; it is the brilliant rising sun that drives away the darkness of ignorance; it is the ultimate vehicle that leads beings toward liberation.

Even Maudgalyayana, with his amazing supernatural power, could not extinguish a lamp that had been offered by a poor woman with bodhichitta.

It is also due to the arising of genuine bodhichitta that Asanga was finally blessed with a vision of Bodhisattva Maitreya. Indeed, the benefits of bodhichitta are just too numerous to count!


30th of January, Year of RenWu
March 13, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Tough Questions - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed May 11, 2016 11:16 am

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Tough Questions


“Is there bodhichitta on the level of Buddhahood? Do the Bodhisattva vows require the Pratimoksha vows as the basis?” These questions have always been raised during the Dharma debate in Tibetan monasteries.

The answers to these questions are many and each holds a different viewpoint.

According to the superior viewpoint of Nyingma master Longchenpa, they can be summarized as: “On the level of Buddhahood, there is absolute bodhichitta, but not the bodhichitta conferred in rituals while on the path of learning. The Buddha’s compassion is free from concepts, infinite, and unconditional; once gained, such bodhichitta will never be lost.”

In the Middle Prajnaparamita Sutra it says: “I see all sentient beings with my Buddha-eye and I possess bodhichitta. Traveling to the realms of hell, hungry ghosts and animals of the eastern worlds as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River, I expound Dharma for all the beings there.”

According to views of Cittamatra, one must have kept at least one of the Pratimoksha precepts to receive the Bodhisattva vow. In Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment it says: “Only those who have kept at least one of the seven categories of the Pratimoksha vows are the fortunate ones to receive Bodhisattva vows. No one else can.”

According to Madhyamaka, every sentient being can have bodhichitta and thus possessing a human body is not required. The Jewel Heap Sutra (Ratnakūṭa Sutra) says: “When the treatises are thus expounded, numerous beings—gods, nagas, demigods, garudas, big-bellied ones and so on, all generate bodhichitta, the wish for unsurpassable, true, complete enlightenment.

Therefore, these two points of view are not contradictory. As long as genuine bodhichitta is generated, the precepts in the Pratimoksha vows such as not taking life become perfect also.

These are really the priceless legacies of our lineage masters!

1st of February, Year of RenWu
March 14, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: It’s Impermanent - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun May 15, 2016 1:09 pm

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It’s Impermanent


At this moment, the talented and brilliant Mr. Sun is sitting next to me, holding photos of his youthful self. As he looks at them, tears stream down his cheeks like crystal beads falling from a broken mala string.

I understand he is feeling sad that he has lost his glorious prime and will never be young again. All his jubilant youthful years, like a river rushing forward, were gone beyond recall.
  
Seeing this, the poem “Burying Flowers” by Lin Daiyu in The Story of the Stone (A Dream of Red Mansions) comes to my mind:

Spring is ending and the flowers wilting one by one,
It is also the time when beauty must grow old and die.
Once spring is gone and the beauty meets her doom,
Who will care for the fallen bloom and buried lady?

This poem, I sense, must be a close portrayal of Mr. Sun’s mood at this moment.

Too bad he does not believe in Buddhism and is unable to use the sword of Dharma wisdom to cut off suffering. He can only give rein to gloomy emotions, which like turbulent tidal waves, surge higher and higher. How lamentable!

Everything in the world—youth, wealth, and relationships, even life—is ephemeral. Bai Juyi says in a poem: “No need to envy young fellows, Hoary old gents soon they become.”

Try as we may to hold onto youth, yet the paces of life and death never pause for an instant. Should we fail to take advantage of youthful years to study the Dharma, it’s quite regrettable. Mipham Rinpoche says:

Youth is momentary and wealth is fickle; life is like being in the jaws of the Lord of Death. Yet many people still ignore Dharma practice. Alas, how disconcerting their behavior is!

Perhaps I should try to explain this logic to him; he is a smart guy, he will get it. Closing my book, I decide to have a good talk with him.


2nd of February, Year of RenWu
March 15, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Meritorious Activities - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed May 18, 2016 9:51 am

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Meritorious Activities

People with good hearts enjoy doing meritorious acts, regardless of their belief in Buddhism. For instance, they like to burn incense and prostrate in front of the deities at temples, present fresh flowers and fruits in the shrine room, donate funds to monasteries, offer to eminent monks, build “Hope Elementary Schools”, collect goods for poor mountain villagers, and so on.

Those who have committed non-virtues will also do some good deeds, in order to feel less conscience-stricken and perhaps to make up for their misdeeds.

The eve of Chinese Lunar New is usually a time when folks pack local temples to offer incense and prostrations. Police and fire trucks have their watchful eyes on possible fire alarms and overcrowded conditions. People come in a continuous stream and many have to wait in long lines over several blocks. Even the skyrocketing admission fees do not discourage the arriving throngs.

Rejoicing in this, I recall a passage from Mahaparinirvana Sutra: “The merit of offering to all the Buddhas in one’s life seven precious substances, beds, and food is great. However, it can’t be compared with the immeasurable merit of generating bodhichitta for all beings just for an instant. ” Of all the virtues, the one having the greatest merit is arousing bodhichitta. To generate bodhichitta of intention even just momentarily is great virtue. The benefits of generating bodhichitta of application are even innumerable.

The Sutra of the Maiden Excellent Moon says: “If the merit of hoping to help others knows no bounds, what need is there to speak of the actual deeds of helping others?”

Therefore, a practitioner should not seek only superficial semblance of merit. Instead, cultivate the supreme bodhichitta. Doing it even just once a day, in bed when settling down, a boundless store of merit is amassed.

2nd of February, Year of RenWu
March 16, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Profound Practices - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun May 22, 2016 12:45 am

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Profound Practices

Many spiritual seekers love to request exalted practices—Mahamudra, Great Madhyamaka, Great Perfection, Yamantaka, and so on. In addition, they are keen on visiting and paying homage to eminent monks, high tulkus, and famous masters…. These fans of grand Dharma feel that by so doing, extraordinary realization will dawn on them accordingly.

Well, this may not be the case. Whatever practices a person requests should match well with that person’s capacity. Unless the basic requirements for a practice are met, no accomplishment is possible.

One of the main disciples of Sakya Pandita, Gyalwa Yangonpa, is a well-known siddha in Tibetan history. He says: “People usually dash after profound Dharma practices while feeling dissatisfied with lower ones. They behold the grand, unfathomable practices with wonder and attention, but neglect to check if their own minds are ready. Although one could engage in the practice of Great Perfection, it affects nothing at all, because a practitioner of Great Perfection must be a qualified vessel for Great Perfection instructions. I have witnessed that teachings as valuable as a fine steed are babbled by people less worthy than a dog. Behaving against the Doctrine, they have no inclination to study and practice. What they say is no different from the melody of an appealing rapper, or the verbatim repetition of a clever parrot. Having received one or more teachings, we should carry them out by actual effort and practice accordingly. Having understood one or more teachings, we should let them permeate the mind thoroughly. Failing to do so is like pouring an immiscible powder into water, they don’t mix. The mind and the Dharma are a thousand miles apart; the two do not embrace each other in the least. Like lung lobes floating on top of the medicinal soup rather than dissolving in it, Dharma without practice becomes meaningless, floating words. (One will still blame everybody but oneself, be conceited and complacent, and complain to no end.) The significance of Dharma practice will never manifest.”

Whatever Dharma you have received, it’s necessary to let it suffuse your mind and put it into practice. The Dharma is not to be used as an ornament or an asset to brag about. In Sakya Lekshe it says: “The fool shows off knowledge by talking, the wise stores away knowledge in heart. Wheat straw floats on top of the water, a precious jewel sinks to the bottom.”

Spiritual seekers should not feel that “it’s always the other mountain that looks higher,” but instead start the Dharma practice from square one and proceed in a thorough, solid manner.

3rd of February, Year of RenWu
March 17, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: My Mother - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed Jun 01, 2016 11:39 am

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My Mother

You have been away from Larung for 160 days—this was what my mother reminded me on the phone today. So every day, she is concerned with her undutiful son who is now living in a distant place.

Like all the mothers in the world, my mom paid dearly for my upbringing and spiritual practice. Throughout the rough years, she endured humiliation and shouldered heavy burdens, fully reflecting her extreme tenacity and kind heart.

Once when I was 2 years old, I became ill suddenly. My fever wouldn’t drop and I was at the verge of dying. Carrying me on her back, my mom trudged one step after the other toward the county town scores of kilometers away. For two full days and nights, she walked nonstop; the number of times she stumbled and the difficulties she encountered on the road could not be counted. I was unconscious in the grip of the Lord of Death until finally, I managed to break free from the ordeal. It was only then that a smile appeared upon on my mother’s sweltering face.

In my childhood, every night after dinner our whole family would sit around the fire pit and my mom would start her daily must-do homework—reciting The Aspiration Prayer to Be Born in the Pure Land of Great Bliss. The fire cast a reddish glow on her blossoming young face; I was struck with a sense of pure awe as if beholding the immaculate Tara in person. Her vivid recitation and chanting were like melodies coming from the Dakini Land, reverberating in our tent on and on…. This subtle influence led to my early understanding of Buddhism. To this day, whenever I hear or read the Aspiration Prayer to Be Born in the Pure Land of Great Bliss, my mother’s chanting voice resounds in my ears. I owe it greatly to her that I can still remember the entire prayer to this day.

I remember when I was around 7 or 8, my mom was still quite young, her white porcelain face had a reddish tint, her eyes were like jet-black jewels, and her teeth were as white as the snow. One day I went herding with her on the mountainside. Up there the trees grew lavishly and the verdant pasture was dotted with colorful flowers. We played hide and seek and, when I spotted her hiding among the flowers, I felt she was just as beautiful as the divine maiden. Perhaps that’s what is meant in the Han Chinese proverb: “Never does a son see his own mother as ugly; never does a dog see its own master as poor.”

These days, the carving knife of time has chiseled deep lines on my mother’s face, her cheeks are now sunken, and her teeth have fallen out. With legs almost crippled, she can only move her heavy body jerkily with the aid of a cane. Should I recount her agility and stunning beauty in her youth, no one would believe me. Indeed, time pays no mercy to anyone!

The kindness of parents is inconceivable. The Buddha recounts in The Sutra about the Deep Kindness of Parents and the Difficulty of Repaying It our parents’ many acts of kindness. Master Atisha also teaches that to be filial and respectful to one’s parents is no different from practicing emptiness, which has compassion as its very essence. This teaching was once related by a lay practitioner to his parents, which aroused in them great faith in the Dharma and consequently they took refuge in Buddhism.

A proverb in Tibet goes: “As flowing water is the mother’s heart; as a rocky stone is her son’s.” A mother’s heart is as tender as water, while her son’s is as hard as a rock. When people at last appreciate their parents’ hardships and want to pay them back and look after them, the parents have already left this world.

To be calm and still is the tree’s wish, yet the wind keeps on blowing.
To offer respect and care is the son’s wish, but his parents have already gone.

Therefore, we should pay due respect and attention to our parents while they are still living.

A thread moves in a mother’s loving hand,
Making a garment for her traveling son.
With all of her affection she is sewing and sewing,
For fear he’ll ever be roving and roving.
Who says the little soul of grass waving
Could ever repay the warmth of the generous sun?

In fact, there is no greater way to repay a mother’s kindness than to lead her to embrace Buddhism and arouse in her faith in the Three Jewels. It’s a consolation to me that my mother is a devout Buddhist and she has taken monastic ordination. Perhaps these could be counted as my little accomplishments in my filial duties.

Mom, please do not worry too much about this undutiful son of yours. Just concentrate on your recitation of Buddha’s name and praying to the Three Jewels. I’ll be back home as soon as I recover from my illness.

4th of February, Year of RenWu
March 18, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Advice and Encouragement - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun Jun 05, 2016 8:44 pm

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Advice and Encouragement

As practitioners, besides paying attention to our own minds constantly, we should also lead others to embrace the Dharma at the proper time. For instance, we can encourage our family members, friends, and colleagues to take refuge and study Buddhism, or even to enter a monastic life. Many people have tried to do so but gave up the “difficult task” when seeing no results after one or two attempts. In fact, this is also the reason that we fail to truly merge bodhichitta with our minds.

When Buddha Shakyamuni was Bhikkhu the Power of Diligence in a previous life, it took him 84,000 years (at a time when beings had long life spans) to advise Prince Auspicious Treasure to abandon evil, adopt good, and take refuge in Buddhism. During that period, the Bhikkhu often sat on the steps of the Prince’s garden gate, endured unjustified public insults and learned much about the Prince’s arrogance and insolence. But for the sake of benefiting beings, he persisted assiduously and never gave up. Eventually the Prince was deeply touched and he embraced Buddhism with strong faith.

The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras says: “With matchless diligence, the Bodhisattva ripens sentient beings; to kindle merely one altruistic thought in them, the Bodhisattva strives for eons.” The Omniscient Longchenpa also says: “Even if there is merely one being left behind in samsara, be willing to stay in samsara life after life and strive day and night tirelessly to bring that being to liberation. For the sake of kindling one moment’s virtuous thought in one sentient being, be willing to work on it with utmost courage, even for hundreds of thousands of eons.” As followers of Buddha’s footsteps, and as the Mahayana heirs to carry on the Tathagata’s activities, let us do as instructed.

The merit of causing bodhichitta to arise in one being’s mind is tremendous. The Four Hundred Verses of Madhyamaka says: “Comparing the merit of building stupas as high as the world with the merit of causing bodhichitta to arise in one being’s mind, the latter is far superior.”

Well, it’s easier said than done. I have right before me a few doctors who are quite unreceptive. Despite my daily preaching to them the Buddhadharma, none of them has taken refuge yet. How embarrassing!

5th of February, Year of RenWu
March 19, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Fleeting Time - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun Jun 12, 2016 5:21 pm

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Fleeting Time

People like to think of time in terms of day and night. For me, I prefer to imagine it as a river of no return.

At the bank of a river, Confucius says: “The passage of time is just like that.”

The philosopher Heraclitus says: “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”

Another wise man says: “Life is on the move; it is a river.”

The sages all emphasize the preciousness of time. Indeed, as a rushing river, time will never return once it’s gone, no matter whether it has been splendid or obscure, happy or sad. In this life, we humans can live only once; thus it is important to ponder deeply how to spend the time we have.

A pompous intellect said to me today: “You always emphasize that we should memorize the sutras and shastras. Yet I think a Dharma practitioner’s main concerns should be cultivating bodhichitta, overcoming confused emotions, as well as practicing concentration and meditation. As to the theoretical aspects, a rough understanding should suffice. Why waste time memorizing them line by line?” He had some points there. But I knew the time he so “saved” had not been used properly on the crucial tasks he mentioned, but rather on worthless activities such as distractions, gossiping, and slumber. I replied: “What you said makes sense. I would rejoice for sure if you were to really use your time in cultivating bodhichitta or sitting in meditation. But is it because you are sitting in meditation all day long that you have no time for recitation and memorization? Not quite so, correct?” Hearing this, he seemed to see the light at once and said: “I understand now. I am just a big talker; in fact, I have not devoted my time to practice. From now on I will save time from distractions to memorize stanzas for at least 30 minutes.” Hearing his confession, I was quite pleased. This case applies not only to him, but also to all practitioners; it is definitely beneficial to find time every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes, to memorize one stanza or note down a koan.

Mr. Lu Xun said once: “I am no genius; I only make full use of time. When people are having coffee, I’d rather be reading or writing.” Famous people in the world value time highly but know not to use it on spiritual growth; spiritual seekers know Dharma practices but usually do not cherish time.

So long as we are unable to turn time backward, we should try to live our lives perfectly. Otherwise on our deathbed we will be overcome with remorse for having wasted our precious time. Let us make use of every minute, every second, like squeezing out water from a wet sponge, on meaningful activities; let us not squander our time on distractions.

6th of February, Year of RenWu
March 20, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Deep Reflections - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Wed Jun 15, 2016 10:37 am

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Deep Reflections

Sublime beings who are worthy of their names never seek fame, wealth, or other worldly enjoyment on their spiritual path. Instead, they always practice what they preach in order to cut off mundane desires and attain liberation.
Tsultrim Trophu Lotsawa (1173-1225), a master translator of the Kagyu lineage, went to India and Nepal to study Buddhism under the tutelage of great siddhas such as Pandita Kashmir. During that period, he endured severe hardships of deprivation and hunger, yet around the clock his incredible diligence never flagged. In the end, he became vastly proficient in the teachings of exoteric and esoteric schools. Upon returning to Tibet, he founded many monasteries and spread the Dharma, nourishing people in various places with the exquisite nectar of Buddhism. He has taught:

Failing to see that life is just like a bubble, one is oblivious of the imminence of death.
Although one performs numerous good deeds, the intention is to better this life only.
Failing to see fame and wealth as illusions, one covets prestige and is ensnared in profit making.
Being respectfully regarded as supreme, yet one still succumbs to the eight worldly concerns.
Striving to do good deeds without first renouncing the corporeal body, one inevitably heads to future lives empty-handed.
How downright miserable is this bleak prospect!
Unaware of the defects of samsara, one craves worldly enjoyment untiringly.
Prattling hollow words all the time, one is nothing but a deceitful hypocrite.

His main disciple Buton Rinchen Drub, the author of The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet, also says in his Self-Instructions:
For the sake of friends and foes in this life, you amass wealth and retinues with avarice and aversion.
None of your subjects will follow you when you die, you must bear the painful karma all by yourself.
Brahmins, Indra, or Universal Monarchs enjoy great pleasures that are unreliable samsaric happiness.
When they die, there is no guarantee to avoid lower realms, so become weary to samsara, Rinchen Drub!

Reading these, I reflected carefully on the seemingly good deeds I have done so far. Most of them boiled down to self-serving for this life only; I am not even sure what portion of them has been devoted to others or to future lives. How I admire the high realization and conduct of the accomplished sages!

The adage goes: “Instead of wasting time longing for the fish by the pond, it’s better to go back and prepare fishing nets.” I may as well take actions from now on; perhaps it’s still not too late!

7th of February, Year of RenWu
March 21, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Mental Offerings - Khenpo Sodargye

Postby UK Bodhi Association » Sun Jun 19, 2016 6:09 pm

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Mental Offerings

Sublime beings who are worthy of their names never seek fame, wealth, or other worldly enjoyment on their spiritual path. Instead, they always practice what they preach in order to cut off mundane desires and attain liberation.
Tsultrim Trophu Lotsawa (1173-1225), a master translator of the Kagyu lineage, went to India and Nepal to study Buddhism under the tutelage of great siddhas such as Pandita Kashmir. During that period, he endured severe hardships of deprivation and hunger, yet around the clock his incredible diligence never flagged. In the end, he became vastly proficient in the teachings of exoteric and esoteric schools. Upon returning to Tibet, he founded many monasteries and spread the Dharma, nourishing people in various places with the exquisite nectar of Buddhism. He has taught:

Failing to see that life is just like a bubble, one is oblivious of the imminence of death.
Although one performs numerous good deeds, the intention is to better this life only.
Failing to see fame and wealth as illusions, one covets prestige and is ensnared in profit making.
Being respectfully regarded as supreme, yet one still succumbs to the eight worldly concerns.
Striving to do good deeds without first renouncing the corporeal body, one inevitably heads to future lives empty-handed.
How downright miserable is this bleak prospect!
Unaware of the defects of samsara, one craves worldly enjoyment untiringly.
Prattling hollow words all the time, one is nothing but a deceitful hypocrite.

His main disciple Buton Rinchen Drub, the author of The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet, also says in his Self-Instructions:
For the sake of friends and foes in this life, you amass wealth and retinues with avarice and aversion.
None of your subjects will follow you when you die, you must bear the painful karma all by yourself.
Brahmins, Indra, or Universal Monarchs enjoy great pleasures that are unreliable samsaric happiness.
When they die, there is no guarantee to avoid lower realms, so become weary to samsara, Rinchen Drub!

Reading these, I reflected carefully on the seemingly good deeds I have done so far. Most of them boiled down to self-serving for this life only; I am not even sure what portion of them has been devoted to others or to future lives. How I admire the high realization and conduct of the accomplished sages!

The adage goes: “Instead of wasting time longing for the fish by the pond, it’s better to go back and prepare fishing nets.” I may as well take actions from now on; perhaps it’s still not too late!

7th of February, Year of RenWu
March 21, 2002


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