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: Distracted Mind -Khenpo Sodargye

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Distracted Mind

There is one saying of Longchenpa that I really admire. Although my obscuration has prevented me from abiding in it all the time, I’d like to quote it here to share with Dharma friends.

This golden saying is: “On all occasions, be vigilant about your own mind. If distraction is absolutely unavoidable, then strive to engage in virtuous deeds that can be done in a distracting setting, such as doing prostration or circumambulation; never commit any evil deeds. If there is time for solitude, then practice excellent virtues such as quiescence meditation; do not waste time muddle-headed.” In other words, we should not let meaningless diversions take hold of our precious time. Under any circumstances and in any kind of mood, we should behave in accordance to the Dharma.

A good practitioner, even living in a bustling city, can still stick to his own principles. He may seem lazy outwardly, always sleeping in. Yet secretly he is reading books under the bed covers, reciting scriptures, meditating, or even practicing luminary dream yoga. He is like a fine steed, far better than those who brag about self-accomplishment all the time. Gendün Chöphel has this saying in his miscellaneous translations done in India:

A wise man is like a fine steed:
Being ever mindful even when relaxing,
Being wakeful while appearing to sleep.
Far superior to common folks he is.

The scholar Tao Yuanming of Jin Dynasty says in a poem:

In people’s haunt I build my cot;
Wheel and hoof noises disturb me not.
How can it leave on me no trace?
Secluded heart makes secluded place.

Even if one makes a home in a bustling city, one hears not the noise coming from cars or carriages. How could that be? It is because one’s environment will automatically calm down when the mind is calm. Our physical circumstance can be modulated by various factors. A peaceful mind will render the environment incapable of making disturbances to it. Our minds remain unruffled even when we find ourselves in the hubbub of the world. A secluded mind naturally transports us to a secluded place.

30th February, Year of RenWu
April 12, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Crazy Pursuits -Khenpo Sodargye

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Crazy Pursuits

Standing at the corner of a dazzling city street, what appears in front of me is the rainbow of the eight worldly preoccupations.

The glaring lights of the high life expose everyone’s weary looks. Chasing after their desires, the seekers rove everywhere—the hustling and bustling streets, the stock exchange floor, parties with wining and dining, cutthroat business dealings, etc. People’s pursuit of money and pleasure has been so fervent that it is almost out of control.

A person who owns a bicycle dreams of a motorcycle, while one who owns a motorcycle desires an automobile. Then the car has to be upgraded to a Land Cruiser, a Benz… A one-bedroom, one-living room apartment has to be replaced by a five-bedroom, two-living room condo. Having lived in the five-bedroom, two-living-room place, one gets busy to add a villa. In addition to the villa, one keeps on dreaming: In spring, I shall open my window to the spectacular cherry blossoms in Tokyo; in summer, I could enjoy the cool breezes from the Alps right at my doorstep; in autumn, I shall marvel at the moon’s reflection in Lake Zurich leisurely in my own backyard; in winter, I easily walk out from my patio onto a Hawaiian beach of fine sand…. The greed for money, likewise, is just at its extreme—owning $10,000 makes one want to have $100,000, and then to $100,000,000 and so on. Anyway, “the more, the better” can never be wrong.

The courses of pursuit make one dazed while the goals get harder for one to reach. Yet, few have thought through the untoward effects of craving; people don’t see that they are becoming ensnared in a web of their own spinning. It should be understood that the pit of desire could never be filled to the top; it only buries oneself. Endless toil and drudgery only pile up defilement. No matter how painstakingly one has schemed or how glorious one’s life has been, in the end there is nothing left but a pile of earth over ashes of splendor.

The Bible tells the story of how Adam was forced to leave the Garden of Eden after he became desirous. He then had to make a living with hard labor. Eve had to pay the price by going through the pain of childbirth. Hence suffering is no one’s fault but one’s own. If there were no desire, there would be no suffering.

Who needs a big house when one’s mind is spacious? Who needs a lot of money when one is rich in wisdom? Since time immemorial, humans have paid dearly for chasing after pleasure. Isn’t it about time that we take lessons from bitter experiences?

Longchen Rabjam, a sage living 600 years ago, clearly saw this affliction of humans. He left us Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind; hoping that our weary and exhausted souls could find some respite therein. A teaching like this condenses all the wisdom and compassion of sublime masters. We need to think carefully about how not to squander this precious treasure.

1st of March, Year of RenWu
April 13, 2002
Under a cherry tree with falling flower petals flying around.

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Footprints on the Journey: Some Reflections-Khenpo Sodargye

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Some Reflections

To receive proper treatment for my ailment and also to find a quiet place for my translation work, I have been living in Xiamen for more than 110 days.

It has been an easy and tranquil life for me—no massive office work to manage, nor packs of Buddhists to receive. It was not until a few days ago that I had to resume the title of Khenpo, when someone spotted me down the street.

An invitation was extended to me for lunch today at the Nanputuo Vegetarian Restaurant. I accepted it readily, as I haven’t had any visitors for a while and perhaps was feeling kind of lonely. On my way I saw caged snakes and birds that I bought and brought along. Having the opportunity to save these once-doomed creatures, I felt it was worth the trip.

After releasing the snakes and birds in the woods on the mountainside, I went to the Nanputuo Vegetarian Restaurant. It had an elegant and serene decor, making one relaxed both physically and mentally. There were no heart-rending shrills from creatures being slaughtered to hear, no pungent odor from blood and carcasses to smell, no silent struggles of motherly beings to witness…. The chefs and attendants were all beaming with warm, sincere smiles; dishes embellished with color and flavor whetted our appetite. The faces sitting around the table were devoid of the ferocious countenance of meat eaters; instead, they all looked peaceful and easygoing. The whole restaurant was suffused with an air of auspiciousness and harmony.

Sitting with us was a professor from Xiamen University. He said thoughtfully: “It is most important that we use The Words of My Perfect Teacher as a guide to build a strong foundation of spiritual practice. Considering that the great masters like Patrul Rinpoche even learned oral teachings on it for 25 times from his master, what needs to be said about us ordinary people? I have read it five or six times by now. It has helped me tremendously in subduing my negative emotions and in dealing with difficult situations of daily life. In the past, I have always sought empowerment or so-called profound practices; I was steeped deeply in conceptual thinking and unaware of the graduated path of practice. It dawns on me only now that there are no other higher teachings than this. If one faithfully follows its steps, achievement will come for certain….”

Hearing what he had to say, I felt rather delighted. My joy did not come from his profuse praise to me, but rather, from the fact that a Han Chinese was keen about The Words of My Perfect Teacher, even though he had not been to Larung Gar personally. It was even unusual that he had quite an astute and profound insight. In Tibetan monasteries, The Words of My Perfect Teacher is a required course in the annual curriculum with very high priority. Such a tradition is now being adopted into Han China; it’s something worth rejoicing and to be happy about.

As it seems, this lay practitioner not only is learned in worldly knowledge, but also possesses great spiritual wisdom.

2nd of March, Year of RenWu
April 14, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Forsaking Kinships-Khenpo Sodargye

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Forsaking Kinships

Nowadays many practitioners entertain a win-win wish of attaining perfect enlightenment and at the same time enjoying the company of friends and relatives.

But from time immemorial, people who are successful in Dharma practice while maintaining a family life are almost nonexistent. For us ordinary people, wishing to attain the same goal is nothing but indulging in flights of fantasy.

Staying at home, one is likely to be enmeshed in all sorts of activities. One day, your paternal aunt’s family has an accident; the next day, your maternal uncle needs some help, the day after that, your father’s sister gets laid off…. Day after day, year after year, time slips by just like that, while Dharma practice gets delayed and put off indefinitely.

The Gateway to Practice says: “Outwardly, you appear to abandon friends and relatives, inwardly, you never give up on them. In truth, you always hold great compassion toward them, but you must sever ties in body and physical environment. Were it otherwise, your practice would be bound to fail miserably. If your parents gladly support your wish of cutting off secular ties, that is most ideal. But even if they try to stop you with all sorts of tactics—to become furious, to show utter disappointment, to fly off in resentment, and so on—you should not recoil. From the time since Buddha Shakyamuni, all spiritual seekers practically have to cast off all concerns amidst the torrents of tears and long goodbyes of their loved ones. This has something special to do with the law of causality.”

Bodhisattva Thogme Zangpo says:
Out of warm intention, your loved ones advise you to work diligently to assure a happy life.
But their intent of help brings harm instead, as chasing after this life is all but a fool’s endeavor.
To attain liberation, you must see through the vanity of the mundane world and practice diligently the vast and profound Dharma.
For the ultimate truth, renounce this life and go to a solitary place to practice ardently. These are the crucial points.
When you are famous and wealthy, people pursue you even if you try to hide.
While being down and out, people run away from you when you beg them for help.
A son could even slay his own father, what is there to say about any loved ones to rely on?
People in your face are all smiling and cordial, yet behind your back they slander and bite you.
Your benevolence and hospitality are returned with strife and hostility, deluded companions turn against each other even within families.
When you are riding high, people creep and crawl all over you, skillfully they manage to appropriate all your possessions.
When you hit bottom, you meet forlorn faces, bickering and fighting.
How utterly foolish it is to care for and protect so-called friends and relatives!
In good times members of the clan are united to destroy outsiders, when dispersed, with avarice and hatred they fight within.
Blood brothers murder each other when personal interest is at stake, how rare it is for loved ones to bring you any benefit!

The sages from the past have thus listed the many evils of friends and relatives. For a practitioner in this degenerate time, it is absolutely urgent to run away from any entanglement with them.

3rd of March, Year of RenWu
April 15, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Illusory Appearances -Khenpo Sodargye

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Illusory Appearances

Many so-called perfect things in the world may seem entirely satisfactory on the surface. But upon careful investigation, they usually turn out to be the causes of suffering.

Nagarjuna says: “The Buddha teaches that all the satisfactory matters in this world are just as untrustworthy as the poisonous fruit mubeigou.” In other words, many affairs in the world appear as colorful and enticing as the mubeigou fruit; people conclude that their pulp must likewise be delicious. It is only after eating that they realize the fruit’s poisonous nature. But alas the regret comes too late.

It’s the same with things in the world. The snake with the brightest skin is usually poisonous. The most gorgeous mushroom tends to be deadly. The fairest woman frequently is a “fountain of disasters.” Helen’s ravishing beauty ignited the Trojan War, and the unparalleled demeanor of Chen Yuanyuan caused General Wu Sangui to fly into a rage for war. For the sake of exquisite beauties, battles were fought and dragged on, causing tremendous misery to all affected. Therefore, we should not be fooled by anything of pleasing appearance alone, be sure to penetrate the superficial and find the truth inside.

The great Tibetan sage Gedun Chophel says: “By careful investigation, it is obvious that all worldly undertakings incur nothing but suffering. Only with the Dharma can their root causes be eliminated. By reflecting deeply, everyone will come to appreciate this truth.” Hence, it is essential that we learn how to apply the Buddhadharma to deal with suffering.

4th of March, Year of RenWu
April 16, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Sincere Counsel -Khenpo Sodargye

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Sincere Counsel

If we happen to know someone is doing spiritual practices in deep mountain woods, we should try our best to offer provisions, help, and encouragement, such that the practitioner doesn’t ever think to cut short the retreat. This kind of support is not only in great need but also most meritorious. The virtue of offering to practitioners is unfathomable to ordinary minds. On the other hand, the consequences of creating obstacles to them are equally unimaginable.

Once there were a mountain hare and a practitioner in the high mountains. At one time a drought befell the area for a long period; parched, the practitioner was forced to prepare to leave his retreat and head for the village. Learning this, the mountain hare tried very hard to stop the practitioner, but to no avail whatsoever. In the end, the hare resorted to jumping into a flaming pit, declaring to him the advantages of a place of solitude versus the drawbacks of the village. The practitioner was so moved by the hare that he decided to stay put. Eventually, he attained accomplishment.

Compared with this mountain hare, ordinary people are usually nowhere close. Isn’t it embarrassing! Even if we are unable to offer the necessary provisions for practitioners, we should, by all means, not create any obstacles.

As for practitioners, it should be understood that by dint of concerted effort, difficulties could be overcome, no matter how great they may prove to be. Geshe Potowa has taught:

After a nine-day snow blizzard, the skylarks can still find a place to hide for safety. Likewise, even when the whole country is in turmoil and the Dharma is degenerating, by tenacious study and striving, one is bound to find a niche conducive to spiritual practice.

Obstacles usually are the presages of accomplishment. Do not blame outward circumstances; reflect inward instead.

5th of March, Year of RenWu
April 17, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: About Wars -Khenpo Sodargye

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About Wars

Due to lack of wisdom, some people covet to attain peace and happiness by means of waging war. Yet numerous harsh lessons from time immemorial only prove the absurdity of this notion.

Indeed, if one relates to war only at the level of talking or watching the news on TV as entertainment, one will never have any feeling that hits close to home. On the other hand, one who has suffered the miseries of war personally and fully will shudder at any recollection of it. In addition, people who have a strong compassion will also experience a keenly felt pain.

War inflicts trauma that is beyond healing in the hearts of many; war causes damage that is beyond repair to beautiful landscapes; war smears bloody chapters over the white sheets of history…

Because of war, innocent people have to endure living in long-term commotion and unrest, and suffer the tremendous pain of losing houses and families. The war between Israel and the Palestinians has dragged on for more than 20 years; 40 million refugees are without homes. Flames of war have been raging everywhere in Afghanistan, millions are forced to leave their homes and become destitute. In China, during the eight years of the War of Resistance, countless families were crumbled and loved ones scattered apart…. All of this was brought about because a few people craved to satisfy their ambitions of plundering possessions, of appropriating land, or of seizing power.

Some fools even contrive to make big bucks through dealings in war; they are totally ignorant of the dire consequences that will soon befall them.

All kinds of conflicts, from the major ones between countries to the trivial ones among family members, are but manifestations of lacking wisdom. Spiritual practitioners, in particular, should stay away from conflicts. Lhala Chodri Rinpoche, in his biography of the Omniscient Longchen Rabjam, cites this scripture: “Wherever there is dispute, you should stay one hundred miles away from it.” Therefore, we must keep wars and conflicts away; let’s settle into a secluded place and pray for world peace.

6th of March, Year of RenWu
April 18, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Lotus Pond -Khenpo Sodargye

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Lotus Pond

Right in front of the main hall of the Minnan Buddhist Academy, there is a large lotus pond; late in the spring, lotus flowers start to blossom one after the other. When the sun comes out smiling from behind the clouds after a shower; the crystalline water droplets on leaves and blossoms sparkle brilliantly. White flowers, reflecting a riot of colors, become notably charming to the eye. Verdant lotus leaves, ever elegant and poised, give the pond exuberant vigor; dragonflies and birds glide smoothly over the pond, taking in the flowers’ fragrance to their hearts’ delight. Fish whose lives have been saved are now swimming at will in the pond, chitchatting to the flowers of the marvel of freedom. The trees around the bank are bedecked with green baby buds, as if composing a spring symphony to welcome the returning swallows. Monks promenade leisurely and meditatively; have they felt in the air that “spring is making a full display of itself over the treetops”?

This spring scenery is utterly enchanting; could it be anything but the display of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? As I immerse myself fully in it, not only do I feel refreshed mentally and physically, but also am inspired to realize the profundity of this Zen poem:

Bamboos, all green and vibrant, are nothing but the display of wisdom
Flowers, all yellow and lush, are entirely the expression of Dharmakaya.

The layout of this pond was well conceived by the monks who built it. Having a wall built around it, the pond is isolated from the noise and busyness of the city and provides a quiet retreat for practitioners. No wonder even students from next-door neighbor Xiamen University also like to visit here, to enjoy the unique seclusion of the monastery while doing their homework.

An antithetical couplet comes to my mind:

The sounds of wind, water, insects, birds, and chanting, all together with those of gongs of 365 days—there is no sound that is not silence.
The forms of moon, mountain, grass, tree, and sunset, as well as those of 48,000 mountains—all forms are nothing but emptiness.

This couplet, if posted inside the main hall, may invoke some inspiration in people who read it.

To do one’s spiritual practice in such a setting is quite a blessing. How I wish we could have a lotus pond just like this at Larung Gar!

7th of March, Year of RenWu
April 19, 2002
By the Lotus Pond

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Footprints on the Journey: On Money -Khenpo Sodargye

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On Money

City dwellers usually wear a look of weariness and worry. Why is that so? After my careful observation, I find money issues are largely to blame.

This sack of flesh and bones that we humans survive in, if it fatefully lands in a city, will need the constant support of money. Otherwise, it will fall with a thump. Some of you may argue: “That’s not quite possible!” But in the city, one is forced to be keenly aware of the power of money. Any activity—be it eating, buying clothes, and seeing the doctor, sleeping, even going to the toilet—calls for money. It is exactly how the saying goes: “Money is not almighty, but without money nothing can be done.”

With no money, all living activities in the city have to come to a halt. In order to have our body machine, the composite of five aggregates, function normally; humans have to struggle like slaves to garner the source of its fuel—money. I often think, wouldn’t it be wonderful if humans could survive just by imbibing soil like the earthworm! But cruel reality tells me otherwise: for people living in the city, the provisions to survive are by no means easy to come by.

Consequently, city folks are reduced to being always on the run. The anguish of having to work hard for money is felt by practically everyone. Previously I had the illusion that people in the city live like celestial beings; only now do I come to see the extra agony they have to endure. This reminds me of those spiritual seekers deep in the mountains where the environment is naturally conducive to survival. Other than food, there are not too many things to worry about, and a person with 1,000 yuan can stand tall and be considered a rich person. While in the city, the same amount of money won’t go too far; one is unable to make ends meet and will feel a sense of inferiority.

A spiritual seeker should be defined as one who is proud of accruing the seven noble riches, who is ashamed of amassing worldly possessions, and who regards poverty as a dear companion. The most celebrated teaching among the Kadampa masters is:

Base your mind on the Dharma,
Base your Dharma on a humble life,
Base your humble life on the thought of death,
Base your death on a lonely cave.

Wealth and power make one obsessive and indulgent, while poverty and humility impart to one vision and wisdom.

There is also a saying in the Han area: “The monk of the highest caliber is light and at ease, the monk of the second rank holds a big sack, the monk of the third rank stoops with weight.”

Some time ago, an erudite Tibetan went to England as a visiting scholar. Each month before payday, he would offer all the money he saved from the previous month to charity, keeping for himself only old ragged clothes. When visitors sought him out with admiration, they found it hard to match the humble, scrubby person they saw with the famous Tibetan siddha of perfect learning and accomplishment. His conduct deserves our highest praise.

Innumerable sages have shown us perfect examples; we should abide in poverty without the slightest second thought.

8th of March, Year of RenWu
April 20, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Sound of Singing -Khenpo Sodargye

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Sound of Singing

A long time ago, there was a dancer of ravishing beauty named Incomparable Lady (Wu Yumu). Her dances were most fluid and graceful; her singing voice was as pristine as the sound of nature. Both her dancing and singing brought tremendous enjoyment to many people.

The lyrics of one of her songs especially evoked in people deep contemplation:
With the mind abiding in the Dharma always,
One will not engage in non-virtue and stray into the lower realms.
As the Dharma light shines bright to drive away the darkness of night,
What a shame if one still wanders onto the wrong path!

Hearing this song, people with a distracted mind found themselves deep in thought; the ministers plotting to end the king’s life subdued their vicious intention; the ordained mendicant wishing to leave the order and resume secular life dropped his plan; beings steeped in immense suffering became free from afflicting emotions…. Through her beautiful singing, everyone in the country, from the king to the common citizen, was suffused with incomparable bliss.

This is a true story, not a parable. During that time period, people had less karmic defilement and could be awakened easily even with simple lyrics. However, the situation nowadays has worsened so that even the highest pith instruction is met with deaf ears, since people are deeply ensnared in meaningless activities. Knowing not how precious the spiritual teachings are, they treat them like worn-out, useless shoes. As beings vary vastly in their capacities, there are many varieties of teachings to suit each individual. Some teachings may seem easy and simple on the surface, but they deserve more than to be taken lightly. Even one simple verse, if pondered deeply and practiced earnestly, has the power to eliminate afflicted emotions.

Now that we have met a rare, authentic master and have received profound teachings leading to the path of liberation, should we still stray onto the wrong track in this well-lit place, it would be an incredible loss!

People rave about modern-day licentious songs and discos, regarding them as fantastic enjoyments. In truth, rich spiritual nourishment is contained in the ancient melodies; to dig in and extract the nectar from them is what a wise person would do.

9th of March, Year of RenWu
April 21, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: The Summit -Khenpo Sodargye

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The Summit

The passage of human life is rough and bumpy; the path to liberation is winding and rugged.

A timid person, dreading difficulties, never dares look up at the towering mountain. A tough person, armored with diligence, charges courageously toward the summit of spiritual attainment.

People coming from various places and wearing different attire all gather at this mountain, they pick their path according to their own inclination. Yet the real champion will be the one who scales the summit.

To reach the high peak of liberation, one must first have unshakable determination and unbeatable courage. Thus armored, the warriors will not shrink when facing great obstacles on the road, nor be halted by sheer cliffs and overhanging rocks formed by friends and relatives. Thistles of unfavorable conditions cannot deter them. Without any hesitation, they persistently and unwaveringly tread the path straight on. Eventually, they will reach the summit of their long aspiration. There, the breathtaking vistas are at their feet, and they will fully appreciate the wonderful feeling of seeing “all distant mountains appear shrinking before the eyes.”

During the course of climbing the mountain, some (those with the wrong views) may get lost and stray into the deep woods; some (those with failing faith) may lose confidence and turn back to the starting point; some (the Hinayana practitioners) could stall halfway due to fatigue and indolence; some (those seeking worldly gains) may be lured by beautiful scenery and take a detour; and still some (the Vajrayana practitioners) just take the trolley and arrive at the destination with ease….

Panoramic vistas are to be found only at the perilous peak.

However, this steep summit is reserved only for the undaunted and the courageous. It is by no means easy to reach for those who lack faith and merit, or who shun labor and indulge in ease.

10th of March, Year of RenWu
April 22, 2002
At Lau Wu Mountain, Xiamen

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Footprints on the Journey: Loquat Fruit -Khenpo Sodargye

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Loquat Fruit

Due to the El Niño effect, the spring weather has turned out to be very hot and humid, almost like midsummer.

On the street, I caught sight of a vendor carrying a basketful of golden fruit. Embellished with green leaves, the fruit looked so juicy and fresh, making one’s mouth water. I had never seen anything like it, and learned after inquiring that they are called loquats. I peeled one open and put it in my mouth. A refreshing and delicious juice filled my mouth—yum! Such tasty fruit must be the treat of the god realm! After a little bargaining, I brought dozens at quite a steep price and hurried home with them, thinking to savor them with my readings.

Turning the pages of the Great Biography of Buddha Shakyamuni, the White Lotus, I read this: “How many people in the world will enjoy everlasting happiness? How many people in the world will suffer endless miseries? How many have never experienced suffering? After attaining happiness, how many have enjoyed it forever?” Indeed, throughout the journey of life, there will be happiness, but suffering will be there as well. Whatever one’s identity is, one is bound to taste the assorted bitter sweetness of life. A person of wisdom therefore must meet life’s vicissitudes calmly: neither becoming arrogant with success nor discouraged by failure. The French philosopher La Rochefoucauld says that the happiness and misery of men depend no less on temper than fortune, mirroring this ancient saying:

Misfortune, that is where happiness depends;
Happiness, that is where misfortune underlies.

We can see that all things are but relative. Everything is impermanent.

Therefore, whenever we are seized with intense emotion of pleasure or pain in a happy or sad moment, we should look squarely at its essence. This is the most crucial, most powerful way of practice.

While entertaining these thoughts, I forgot completely my plan to enjoy the loquats. Yet from a book I have tasted something more delicious than the exquisite fruit. The teaching is the most delectable loquat in the world, it will never rot, and it is ready to be savored even a hundred or a thousand years later.

11th of March, Year of RenWu
April 23, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Question and Answer -Khenpo Sodargye

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Question and Answer

A Dharma Teacher in Minnan Buddhist Academy asked me today: “Does the Buddha still perceive sentient beings after having attained Buddhahood?” This is a question many Buddhists often raise. Some people say: “An enlightened Buddha has eliminated all perceptions of self and of beings; therefore, to him there are no sentient beings to be seen.” Still others wonder: “How can the Buddha tame sentient beings if he does not perceive them?”

The answer to these questions can be stated as follows: To the enlightened Buddha, in his wisdom that knows the nature of all phenomena, all appearances are indistinguishably equal; to him there are neither forms nor beings. In his wisdom that knows the multiplicity of all phenomena, the Buddha knows every thought and idea of all sentient beings; however, to him there is neither confusion nor clinging.

Tulku Dewopa, once cared for by Lord Maitreya, is a renowned contemporary Tibetan siddha from whom our Choeje (King of Dharma) Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche had received teachings. In the shastra Discerning the Views of Sects, the Tulku cites teachings from Pandita Rangjung as examples: There are two persons in a room; the first person is dreaming while the second one, who has the psychic power of knowing other minds, is awake. The second person sees the first one’s dream with no clinging because he clearly knows it is a dream. Should the dreamer have a nightmare and suffer tremendously, the second person can through his miraculous power enter the dream, dispel the horror, and wake up the dreamer. In the same way, the Buddha knows sentient beings’ conceptual thoughts and their perceived phenomena. The Buddha has no attachment and, with his skillful means that suit each individual, leads all beings gradually onto the path of liberation.

Even Bodhisattvas who have advanced to the level of bhumis cannot fathom thoroughly the wisdom and qualities of the Tathagata, what needs to be said of ordinary people with conceptual minds? Master Dharmakirti says it well: “The wisdom of the Tathagata is just inconceivable.”

Only through strong faith and scriptural evidence can one comprehend the ultimate wisdom of the Tathagata. It can never be resolved by the thinking and reasoning of a conceptual mind.

12th of March, Year of RenWu
April 24, 2002

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Footprints on the Journey: Massage Treatment -Khenpo Sodargye

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Massage Treatment

According to my doctor’s advice, I should get a massage treatment daily.

As we see each other every day, the masseur and I have become well acquainted. He is quite deft in his profession and is also a good conversationalist.

Soon after I lay down, he let out a flood of words: “You Buddhists always talk about karmic retribution. I could see it indeed is infallible through my many years’ observation. Look at the United States, bullying others and its World Trade Center towers were blown to ashes. The Taliban of Afghanistan, destroying the Buddhist religion a year ago and smashing many holy statuses, now they end up meeting revenge. Apparently, karma is something we’d better believe in. My next-door neighbor has been impious to his parents, and he sees his wife run off with someone else. For myself, I must have committed some evil actions in my past lives and as a result, I was born blind this life. On the other hand, I must also have done unknown good deeds so that I could learn my trade and support myself….”

His words left me pondering for a while. It’s a shame that many able-bodied people often cannot do better than a blind person. They are ignorant of the principle of cause and effect and indulge in negative actions; when encountering misfortune, they only resent fate and blame others. They reckon not the following adage:

If you want to know what you have done in your past lives,
Just observe what this life of yours has been like.
If you want to know how your future lives are likely to be,
Just observe what you have been doing in this life.

All of our fate, good or bad, results from our own deeds. If everyone could have faith in causality as my masseur does, I believe the world will have one measure more of decency and one measure less of hostility.

While deep in thought, all of a sudden I felt a heavy blow on my back that made me cry out with pain: “Ouch! Do spare your brute force!” The masseur apologized quickly: “I am sorry, I am very sorry; somehow I was imagining you as an American. Anyway, the world is already in chaos, why is it that I cannot fumble about at will? Why can’t I speak at liberty, or indulge in fancies?” I chuckled heartily and said: “In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a great master called Mipham Rinpoche. He once said, ‘Even if the whole world is filled with evil beings, one should still maintain one’s noble conduct’; although you are not a Buddhist, I believe this saying will benefit you. You should always be like the lotus flower which emerges out of mud without being sullied.” He replied: “Thank you so much for your advice, I shall follow it faithfully.”

Well, the heavy pounding landing on me today may well be the result of my own karma. But if this episode can bring my masseur some understanding of the truth, my pain is all-worthwhile.

13th of March, Year of RenWu
April 25, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Nice Chatting -Khenpo Sodargye

Post by UK Bodhi Association »

Nice Chatting

A small hill called Wu Lau Mountain by the locals rises behind Minnan Buddhist Academy. Though lacking the imposing height of those in the Tibetan snow land, it nonetheless is considered a great local spot to hike in order to enjoy a panoramic view of the area surrounding it. Once at the peak and seeing the whole of Xiamen city, it’s easy to feel that “up on the Wu Lau, the Min Province is shrunken.”

This hill is lush with dense trees, green with grass, and vibrant with the twittering of birds as well as the chirping of insects. It’s an excellent place to do spiritual practice.

Halfway to the mountaintop is the Arinya Place, a sanctuary visited often by local residents. It is also where Dharma Teacher Jiqun and I have planned to meet and chat with each other. Dharma Teacher Jiqun has long endeavored in spreading the Buddhadharma and is well-respected in Buddhist circles for his accomplishment. He has trained many monks, nuns, and lay professionals who are now carrying out Dharma activities in many places. It’s a great pleasure to have a chance to talk with him.

Sipping Kung Fu tea, the chosen beverage of Min people, we exchanged our thoughts and experiences. I mentioned the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, its way of following spiritual teachers, and the many heart-rending stories of past great masters in this regard. We paused to admire some of the most inspiring ones. I also stated the central role of listening to, pondering, and meditation on the teachings; none of them can be spared. He agreed with a sigh that, indeed in this time of five degenerations, it’s crucial for people to work on these three wisdom tools in order to establish the right view and uproot afflictive emotions. His words lent me the feeling akin to Boya meeting his soul mate Ziqi. Certainly, the real purpose of Buddhism is to empower people to overcome confused emotions. Unless Buddha’s teachings are infused into one’s own minds and applied to daily activities, all other feats such as building temples and erecting statues are but superficial and meaningless. Regrettably, very few people grasp this truth. It‘s a shame!

Without us noticing it, the sun was already setting in the west. It’s time for me to take leave and to wish for another heart-to-heart talk while we are still around. But with impermanence pervading all places, I am afraid this wish may not come true!

14th of March, Year of RenWu
April 26, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Banishing Lust -Khenpo Sodargye

Post by UK Bodhi Association »

Banishing Lust

All beings of the Desire Realm, with the exception of sages, are afflicted with untamable lust. Regardless of whether they are men or women, people in the world are quite attracted to the bodies of the opposite sex.

The Buddha, in order to tame certain beings, was once reincarnated as a brothel visitor. On the first day, he rewarded the prostitute with valuable precious jewelry. The second day, he offered her ornaments made of gold. The third day, he gave silver accessories instead. The prostitute expressed discontent and appealed to the king. The Buddha’s incarnate responded: “The body she runs her business with is filled with filth. The so-called charming body is decaying every moment; its worth, of course, has to come down accordingly. It is similar to how a withered flower is deserted by the bees. Love and attraction between worldly beings likewise deteriorate. At its prime, the body can be employed as a tool to satisfy sexual desires. As the body ages and decays, of course it will be dumped. Who can be immune to craving for the new and rejecting the old? All composite matters are momentarily arising and disappearing. An exuberant youth is destined to become senile and decrepit; the Lord of Death robs one’s lifespan each day. To say it explicitly, impermanence rules all phenomena. The body, be it of the indulgent fool oblivious of aging, illness, and death, or of the woman he craves, is nothing but sinews and vessels wrapped over a skeleton frame. Isn’t it utterly foolish to be helplessly infatuated with such a collection of bones and flesh? Who can claim himself as wise if he fails to see the ills of being obsessed with the female body? ” Hearing these words, the king was greatly impressed, and the prostitute also decided to give up her brothel life.

In this world, there are many people who are plagued by severe sexual impulses. If they take time to ponder the meaning of these words, they will be helped greatly.

Male or female, all their bodies are but heaps of filthy components; all their love relationships are flimsy and unreliable. It is really foolish to lust after and indulge in them.

15th of March, Year of RenWu
April 27, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Pith Instruction-Khenpo Sodargye

Post by UK Bodhi Association »

Pith Instruction

Jikme Tenpe Nyima of Pema, Qinghai, was the chief disciple of the great Ju Mipham Rinpoche. When he was barely 8 years old, he was able to give excellent teachings on A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. On such occasions he usually held a text holder (the Tibetan traditional text holders are made of silk brocade reinforced with bamboo, about 2-chi long) of almost the same length as his height, a sight that made people, even those with years of Dharma practice, marvel and lavish him with praise.

To this, Patrul Rinpoche was pleased to comment: “Now that Dodrup Rinpoche (another name of Jikme Tenpe Nyima) teaches the Dharma at the age of 8, it shows that the Nyingma tradition is rising high and the future is great!”

Jikme Tenpe Nyima left future generations many poems and jewel-like treatises on the Great Perfection and the Great Illusory Net. Here are some selections as food for thought: “The profound truth of primordial wisdom is difficult to grasp by people who are inclined to analysis and logic. It is only through constant praying to the lama with devotion and faith, coupled with diligent practice that we come to see the true face of the mind. As we get better, we can maintain this recognition of the mind even as we are reading scriptures such as the Seven Treasures. Our insight and discriminating awareness will gradually increase, bringing us great benefit.”

Therefore combining the task of reading text with the practice of seeing the mind’s nature or with the recitation of mantras is most wonderful. Gyangze Rinpoche says: “To recite a mantra and to read scripture at the same time is very meritorious. This multitasking could be difficult for a beginner, but the time will come when he reaches a certain level of practice.”

Many khenpos at our academy are adept at this practice; this is how they manage to accumulate astonishing numbers of mantra recitations over the years.

Nonetheless, there are people with high opinions of themselves who neither bother to read books nor recite mantras. They waste their precious lives meaninglessly and do not deserve the name of practitioners!

16th of March, Year of RenWu
April 28, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Heart Treasure-Khenpo Sodargye

Post by UK Bodhi Association »

Heart Treasure

Nyingmapa masters have not left much worldly inheritances to their successors when compared with those wealthy tycoons. But the masters have far surpassed the worldly riches in leaving their followers the wisdom legacy, treasure troves filled with dazzling arrays of sublimated wisdom and compassion. Anyone equipped with the key of faith will discover in the vault gems that bring boundless joy.

Today, I made a trip to Lhala Chodri Rinpoche’s treasure chamber and toured around. Innumerable jewels and gems filled the place to the brim and made me, who always craves more Dharma, ecstatic to no end. But with my limited strength, I was unable to bring out all the treasures I saw. I could not resist, however, translating one passage on recognizing the nature of the mind. While I’d love to share it with Dharma friends, those who have not received the transmission on Great Perfection should refrain from reading it. Otherwise, a reprimand from the Dharma Protectors is sure to come.

“Briefly, the heart treasure of direct pointing out is as follows: All phenomena appear because of the mind. When one investigates the mind that is having the thought, one finds nothing. Looking for one’s mind, there are no shapes or colors of it to be found. The thing we called mind since beginning-less time is only an imputation of conceptual thinking. A thorough investigation of the ‘I’ and ‘my mind’ yields only emptiness. Other than that, there is nothing substantial; this is the view of Madhyamaka. Our mind, when no longer searching around, naturally abides in emptiness and the unceasing display of phenomena. Such a state of self-knowing and clarity is the realm of Great Perfection. Remaining thus undistracted by external objects and unsullied by subtle discursive thoughts, one maintains a luminous and knowing mind with the right view and mindfulness. It’s important to practice continuously, like a great unremitting stream. Besides, one also must maintain supportive practices such as taking refuge, generating bodhichitta, practicing guru yoga, as well as observing worldly virtues of doing good deeds and abandoning evils. For me, the old yogi of Nyingmapa, Sonan Lanchen, there are no other daily practices besides these. May beings with fortunate karma also come to know this heart treasure!”

At this moment, we’ve received such a precious heart treasure, shouldn’t we cherish it dearly?

Of course there are people who regard themselves as possessing sharp faculties for Great Perfection. They regard taking refuge, doing guru yoga, arousing bodhichitta, adopting worldly virtues, and abandoning evils as practices for dull people only and choose to ignore them. Do they really think their aptitudes surpass those of our lineage masters?

The heart treasures left by our past masters have now been fully revealed to us without any reservation. We should reflect upon them deeply, word by word, to permeate our mind with them, recognize the nature of the mind, and continue the practice for a long period of time. Only by so doing can we prove ourselves worthy of the kind blessings from our masters and the Three Jewels.

18th of March, Year of RenWu
April 29, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Resuming Secular Life-Khenpo Sodargye

Post by UK Bodhi Association »

Resuming Secular Life

How reluctant am I to touch upon this subject! But “to leave the monastic order” presents a cruel reality we must face in the current time of five degenerations. Instead of dodging the issue, I may as well look at it squarely and bravely.

A few months ago a monk, beset by afflictions, declared to renounce his monastic life of more than 10 years. When I heard this news today, I got quite upset as if I had swallowed a fly. I recall early on, his ordained peers had regarded him as a model by his diligent study and keeping pure precepts. Once he asserted: “As long as I am alive, I will never leave the monastic order even for one day. For me, returning to the worldly life is worse than dying.” A person who proclaimed his faith with such strong determination still ended up eating his own words and repealed his vow. How can I not feel sick at heart!

Over the phone, he veered away from discussing the Dharma, but instead tattled endlessly about his business. When I asked how it was going, he started to pour out to me his pent-up miseries: “You know, it’s so difficult to do business these days! My hard labor of eight hours daily earns me less than 10 yuan. The ordained life at the monastery, as I recall now, was so peaceful and worry-free, almost like living in heaven! Alas!!” Hearing his complaints, I have no idea how to respond.

But there is some consolation for me: He is still holding onto his views and his faith in the Three Jewels has not waned. He takes every opportunity to do the purification practice and also remembers to recite mantras while busy with his shop.

Once, one of Lhala Chodri Rinpoche’s main disciples left the monastic order for some reason. When others condemned him, Rinpoche said: “It’s not right to speak badly about others. Although his body has resumed a worldly life, he has not done so in his heart.”

It is stated in the scripture: “Better to break the precepts than to damage the right view.” In the Four Hundred Verses of Madhyamaka, it says: “One would rather transgress edicts than abandon the right view.” If a person has ruined his right view but, instead of confessing sincerely, he points the finger at the guru or the Three Jewels, then this person’s mind is incurably corrupt, even though his body has not returned to the secular world.

19th of March, Year of RenWu
April 30, 2002

UK Bodhi Association
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:50 am

Footprints on the Journey: Leaving Home-Khenpo Sodargye

Post by UK Bodhi Association »

Leaving Home

If a spiritual seeker tries to do his practices at home, he is likely to be influenced by situations of craving, hatred, and delusion. Even if he has every intention of concentrating on his studies, friends and relatives easily stir up his emotion. Hence, the smartest thing to do is to stay away from home to practice.

The scripture says: “A place that incites afflictive emotions is a place not to stay even for an instant.”

Geshe Potowa also says: “Leave behind your hometown, relatives, and friends. Give up distractions and steer your mind according to the teachings. By doing so, you will attain liberation.”

The following quote is found in Tsangpa Gyare’s teachings on practice: “External circumstances trigger afflictive emotions, clinging to one’s homeland is indeed foolish. Spiritual practice is meant to subdue disturbing emotions, knowing not to apply antidotes is indeed foolish. The opportunity to hear the Dharma results from causes and conditions; not knowing to create favorable causes and conditions is indeed foolish. Having left the homeland far behind for practice, you have no regret whatsoever even if rumors abound. Having resolved to follow a spiritual teacher, you have no regret even if you die from starvation. Having realized the nature of the mind, you have no regret even if your time with the teacher was brief. To leave the homeland is a favorable condition for overcoming afflictions. To give up the craving for pleasure is a favorable condition for establishing right views. To banish worldly affairs is a favorable condition for making offerings. So long as you are attached to your homeland, you cannot rid yourself of greed and avarice. Henceforth, the first crucial step is to bid farewell to your home. If you cannot give up worldly engagements, you will never have the time to practice. If you cannot relinquish your worldly possessions, you will never sever entanglements with friends and relatives.”

In all, it seems the ills of staying in one’s homeland are indeed endless. A truly wise person should let go of what is difficult to give up and carry out what is difficult to do.

Only when we have settled in a secluded place, free from tangles of money and homeland, shall we come to appreciate deeply the sublime meaning of the masters’ teachings.

20th of March, Year of RenWu
May 1, 2002

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