A person wanting to enter a
locked treasure-house must have the right key to unlock the door of the
treasure-house of enlightenment. in this case the key has been given various
names, however it is really the wisdom of Great Understanding. Always the real
key comes back to the Great Understanding of all phenomena. The reason we use
the term 'Great' is because it involves not merely an undersatnding of phenomena
but the greater understanding of the nature of phenomena; and this is
The mere understanding of
phenomena is simply an intellectual wisdom. Whether or not this type of wisdom
can really help one proceed on the path to enlightenment is uncertain. To
progressively develop a thorough intellectual knowledge before one gets onto the
experiential path is practical, useful and important, but only as long as one
remains sharp enough to not 'get off the track' and this, of course, depends on
the strength of one's mind. By using this analogy of 'getting of the track' I am
meaning to indicate that one can lose Great Understanding through the smaller
Actually we all know a great deal
about phenomena and this has not helped us find the right way to enlightenment.
On the contrary, it has obstructed our true understanding and we therefore have
deceived ourselves. Things that many of us do which we assume are highly
meaningful, are in fact not meaningful at all, and we act rather stupidly all
because we do not possess this key of Great Understanding.
There are two kinds of stupidity
- spiritual and worldly. Spiritual stupidity is simply an attachment to life and
especially an attachment to ritual without any real insight into its meaning.
This kind of stupidity will dissolve when you develop a true and Great
Understanding of what you are committing yourself to in the practice; with the
deity, the ritual, meditation, prayer and so on.
This commitment can also be
called devotion or faith however it has nothing to do with blind faith. As a
practitioner on the true path one should have a true and logical understanding.
Wouldn't it be astonishing if a person could step onto the true path with blind
faith? Although nothing in this world is impossible, this is almost impossible.
With regard to devotion a
practitioner must know how to differentiate between devotion and common desire
or attachment. Common desire is practices by most beings spontaneously without
any Great Understanding. If this is all that was required by those on the path
of enlightenment then why are we not all enlightened by now? As already
mentioned devotion is a deep and unconditional understanding. For example, if
one has a thorough understanding of bamboo as always being hollow then no matter
how much someone else tries to convince you that that particular piece of bamboo
is solid, you will not be convinced.
One must therefore really
understand the difference between devotion and attachment. To do this, as
mentioned previously, one must acquire the appropriate wisdom. This wisdom is
known in Tibetan as sherab and it literally means 'great understanding'.
It excels all other understanding and is 'great' because it is beyond the
knowledge of ordinary people, because it bestows births in higher realms and
ultimately it bestows liberation. Furthermore it is 'great' because it
temporarily grants all the possible goodness of samsara and nirvana.
If one practices the path
gradually, either by using this excellent wisdom as the foundation, or by
viewing it as the inseparable and intrinsic nature of devotion, one will
cultivate the correct devotion which is based on firm conviction. Through the
power of cultivating such devotion, one will naturally evoke both a yearning to
be free of the machinations of cyclic existence and a desire to attain the
excellent and sublime peace that transcends this cyclic existence. The boundless
view of reality will dawn in one's mind by cultivating such devotion. One will
clearly realize one's Guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, the law of cause and effect,
the meaning of former and future rebirths as well as perceive all appearances as
enlightened bodies. One will hear all audible sounds as the speech of the
enlightened and know all thoughts as their mind. Inspired by a definite
conviction that there is this hidden knowledge that any ordinary person can
perceive, then one's desire to attain realization will be consolidated. This is
called devotion of aspiration.
Attachment is the exact opposite
of this devotion of aspiration. One should contemplate on the importance on not
getting them confused.
One should also investigate one's
purpose for embarking on the path. Striving on the path for the purpose of
happiness in this life and for the attainment of a higher rebirth is referred to
as inferior devotion. Some modern disciples however may consider this to be a
good devotion as devotion within one's heart can appear idealistic and
If one embarks on the path with
the intention of freeing oneself alone from samsara, it is called devotion of
If one embarks on the path not
for the sake of one's own liberation but with the sincere intention to free all
sentient beings from samsara and to establish them into perfect liberation, this
is called superior devotion. This must be practiced for it is mainly based on
compassion. it is rather difficult to cultivate this superior faith without the
assistance of loving-kindness and compassion, even if it may have had the
foundation of the much emphasized wisdom.
When referring to devotion, I for
one, strongly feel the inadequacy of 'raising of one's eye brows' and the
shedding of emotional tears when one has been inspired by the teachings, for
they are mere emotional reactions of superficial renunciation. This reaction is
like flowers that wither at the end of the autumn season. Great Devotion rather
refers to a noble intelligence which is comprised of devotion, diligence, wisdom
Especially in regard to the
teacher-student relationship, unless it is inspired by the strong renunciation
of this noble intelligence, I cannot see any purpose in it. People pursue it
earnestly but it is really like the sand castles of a child's play. Such
teachers or students make me laugh. Their relationship with one another is
mainly held together by a powerful clinging disguised as devotion but it has no
sense of renunciation.
A practitioner must at least have
the inferior faith mentioned before. It seems that modern students who neither
have cultivated the inferior faith or have any significant reasons for engaging
in the teacher-student relationship other than to entangle themselves with
strong clinging and craving are just like hungry dogs devouring a piece of
liver, and they will only bring themselves personal misery and deceive the
Generally, a sense of clear joy
is instantaneously generated when one has learnt the fundamental reasons for the
path and then hears, sees and remembers the enlightened qualities. This is
called devotion of clarity.
The difference between this and
the joy obtained from attachment is a subtle matter and thus they can be
difficult to distinguish. The excerpt below from one of the great Jetsun
Milarepa's songs may help in this task:
are like fish who have greater devotion
only the deeper water,
I, the yogi carry devotion in my heart.
The yogi's devotion will remain
unshakable in the face of even the most adverse circumstances. It is not
dependent on familiar or favorable surroundings. Thus I suppose one could
distinguish this way.
Ha! Ha! Please examine whether
this is relevant or not!
Hi! Hi! As the Buddha Shakyamuni
as gold is examined by burning,
cutting and rubbing,
One should examine the truth and
not accept it merely out of respect.
Thus one has the right to
The teacher has to be at least
someone who is enriched with the experience of practice, and who can emulate the
complete and unmistaken qualities such as devotion and the rest which I have
discussed as requirements for the students. it is certainly not the case that
the teacher does not have to abide by the rules and the students made to
experience difficulties. The function and the role of the teacher must be to
emphasize the importance of adhering to the path of Dharma (not the personality
of the teacher). While properly adhering to the path for the sake of others, the
teacher should also look after the welfare of his students who have embarked on
the path. Guiding students on the path and benefiting others is the main purpose
of training on the path. if benefiting others is not carried out, the whole
exercise has lot its purpose.
Jetsun Milarepa sang:
is a contradiction for someone to lead others out of the ocean of samsara when
they have not yet reached the dry land of liberation themselves. This is similar
to a drowning person trying to save themselves by holding onto another drowning
In this way all efforts will
undoubtedly go astray. The purpose of both this and future lives will be wasted
and misery will be brought to oneself and others.
I, the Twelfth Drukpa, who is
merely imputed and known as 'Padma' was unable to refuse the sincere request of
others and wrote this with an insignificant motivation to benefit others.