I want to start by saying that I hope all of my Dharma brothers and sisters around the world are doing well during these challenging times, and that I pray for everyone’s well being with all of my heart.
Today, I want to let my friends and students know of my everyday affairs during the coronavirus lockdown, and would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the importance of meditation in your daily practice.
To start with, I am your teacher and you are my students. The bond between a teacher and student is sacred; in general, talking about the role of a Guru is an uncomfortable subject for me. It seems as if I am praising myself and displaying my ego. I am not saying that I am an adept teacher and that you should have faith and devotion in me. While I view all of you as my Dharma brothers and sisters, in this case, I must act as an example for you. I sincerely hope to be a good example and I always try my best. I follow the established practice and tradition of my Guru, and in turn, the emulation of my Guru’s Guru. I speak from my own experience with my Root Guru, Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche. Having had the good fortune to associate closely with him for many years, I was able to examine him in many ways; his interactions with students and fellow monks, his acts of kindness towards other sentient beings, his daily practice, his meditative absorption, etc. It is said, we should examine the qualities of a Guru which should increase our faith in him. Such was the case with my Guru; the more I accompanied him, the stronger my faith became.
I myself do not have much knowledge or realization, but what little I do have I want to share with you in order to benefit you who are dearer to me than my own self. As I have told you before, meditation is a source of great happiness for me and the profound practice of Holy Dharma brings unparalleled joy! The concept of Dharma, a Sanskrit word, is often misunderstood. Some scholars believe that Dharma is a philosophical system and body of knowledge which can be learned by methods such as memorizing sutras. While intellectual knowledge of Dharma is certainly important on the path, Dharma is much more; Dharma is about the transformation of the person ― body, speech, and mind ― into a better and better human being. True understanding of Dharma comes from practice, deep experience, and realization. This transforms the entire nature of an individual; a qualified teacher is not merely a scholar, but rather one whose teachings come from experience and from the heart. The tradition which I come from, the Kagyu lineage, are known to be practitioners, and I myself strive to be a practitioner of Dharma.
During this coronavirus pandemic, I am always meditating. Following my normal schedule, I wake up at 5:00AM, make tea, bring the teacup to my meditation cushion, and then begin my meditation. Meditation is not just one activity or practice; some students seem to believe that meditation is solely defined as shunyata, or emptiness, meditation. This is one form of meditation; I also meditate on love and compassion, practice Guru yoga, visualization of deities, and meditation on impermanence, which is the root of my practice. In addition, I pray, chant, read Dharma texts, help my students, and engage many other activities. Meditating on emptiness while sitting in one position for 8 hours is very difficult; by engaging in varied types of meditation, practices and activities, meditation becomes easier. Then, it is not as difficult to practice 5, 6, and even 7 hours or more. Truly, everything, all actions, words, and thoughts throughout the day can be a form of meditation.
Since I’ve spoken briefly about the various practices of meditation, we must ask ourselves, what is meditation and what is the real purpose of meditation. I believe that to meditate is to take care of your own mind. The mind is akin to a baby who must be nurtured, and meditation can be likened to motherly care. As stated in the 12th verse of my composition Excellent Path of Freedom: The Jewel Ornament of Liberation in Brief:
Even though a child of good family is home, because of severed lineage, he has been separated from his Mother for a long time. Once he encounters his virtuous Mother, from then on, his realized qualities will be perfected. If he becomes certain about this family of eternal happiness, that is also an ornament of Liberation.
In this birth, we have been given the rare opportunity of the precious human body and the precious human mind; as stated in the 2nd verse of the text I composed for my students, The Heartfelt Advice of Dharma Nectar:
This boat of a precious human life we’ve found just this once, is not found again. To cross over the terrible ocean of samsara, don’t be lazy getting in the boat!
Many of us are very careful and attentive to the needs of our physical bodies. We clean ourselves, we provide our bodies with delicious foods, clothe our bodies nicely, put on cosmetics and makeup, etc., everything externally! We seem to, however, forget about or disregard our precious mind. As stated in verse 5 of The Heartfelt Advice of Dharma Nectar:
Mind is the king, with power over all. The body is the slave, whether of virtue or vice. Not emphasizing ‘imitation virtue’ of body and speech, always watch your mind!
Who comes to the Dharma Centre or reaches out to me, sometimes even crying? Those who are suffering from physical ailments and afflictions of the mind, such as depression, loneliness, anxiety, etc. If one’s mental state is miserable or if the body is sick, how can one meditate without undue strain? By this time, it may be too late. Therefore, I think it is very important to take proper and good care of your mind. Good meditation is like medicinal nectar for the mind.
The mind is not a trash bin for keeping anger, pride, jealousy and so forth! It is a treasure chest for keeping happiness, compassion, love, mindfulness, and alertness. Therefore, be vigilant and bring positivity to your mind, rather than filling it with negativity. If you take care of your mind and cultivate positive qualities, if you bring positive thoughts to the mind every day, treating it as a treasure chest, the mind will become very happy and will bring you happiness. If you don’t take care of your mind and negative states of jealousy, attachment, and ignorance grow, treating it as a trash bin, the mind will not remain content and will bring you suffering.
Right now, we have an uncommon situation that presents a very good opportunity; we presently have time. Usually, most people don’t have time and are very busy. When I request my students to come to Saturday morning meditation practice at the Dharma Center, I often hear, “Sorry Rinpoche, I would come but I have to work.” This is a legitimate excuse. One must work; we need money to survive, especially in this country where the cost of living is very high. I tell them, “I am so sorry that you cannot come, I understand.” But right now, this is not the case. Most people have time and are stuck at home. I think that during this period when you cannot leave your house, make a schedule and get into a routine everyday. Do not repeat the same patterns. Change your daily habits a little bit at a time.
If you normally wake up at 7AM, wake up at 6AM; then you can make tea and begin the morning one hour earlier. Afterwards, instead of 30 minutes of meditation, try to meditate for 1 hour. Then, you can have breakfast with your family and later read Dharma-related texts. Continuing to do the same activities in the identical way will not bring different results or positive change to your life. I request you: please, persist and persevere in your practice of Holy Dharma and use this time wisely; take this opportunity to change in a beneficial way that is good for your body, speech and mind to turn closer towards Dharma.
Because English is my second language, the conveyance of oral teachings can be complicated. We have been very fortunate, however, to have had very skilled translators over the past ten years whose assistance has enabled the composition of many teachings into English and even the publication of books. Written teachings represent a great opportunity for us; I want to request everyone to read these teachings and I sincerely hope that you do. I am not saying that my compositions are the best so you must read them. Rather, I wrote these teachings with you, my students, in mind. If you, whose benefit the teachings are intended for, don’t read, who will? A few books you can read include my recent text, A Door of Entrance to the Heart Advice Called a Ship Sailing to Liberation and Excellent Path of Freedom: The Jewel Ornament of Liberation in Brief, along with the numerous teachings available over the internet on my blog. I sincerely hope that all of you stay well during this pandemic and that you make the best use of your time during this period in which we find ourselves. I send you my love and best wishes.
I, Khenpo Karten Rinpoche, wrote this brief account on April 5, 2020, in order to encourage my students to make the best use of their time during the current pandemic. This blog was transcribed by my student, Karma Choeying, through a series of audio recorded messages and conversations.