How Khentrul Rinpoche Approaches Dharma

For those of you who wish to study with me, I have set forth the methods to tame your mind just as they have been taught, in a gradual manner, so that the path is at once correct and complete. The Buddha said,

Completely tame your mind;
this is the teaching of the Buddha.

In accordance with his teaching, I approach the Dharma in the following way:

What is the Basis for Taming the Mind?

The nature of mind of all sentient beings that is the primordial unity of lucidity and emptiness, buddha nature.

What is to Be Tamed?

All adventitious factors that can be removed and that obscure the positive qualities of buddha nature—ignorance, karma, disturbing emotions, and deluded appearances—the causes and conditions for suffering.

What is the Fruition of Taming the Mind?

The temporary and ultimate fruition is non—deceptive peace and happiness.

What Tames the Mind?

The correct path, a path that has the capacity to eliminate the suffering from which we wish to be freed while resulting in the attainment of happiness in its entirety.

How Do We Tame the Mind?

By relying on a qualified lama with pure and authentic lineage, the path of skillful means and wisdom is practiced by alternating study (listening to teachings), contemplation, and meditation. Taming the mind in this way through gradual stages is extremely important. If we practice according to the Buddha Shakyamuni’s own examples that illustrate the gradual stages, such as the refinement process for a lapis lazuli gem, we will definitely engage in a complete and correct practice containing the vital points that lead to maturation. This is because of the enormous benefiting power for each individual with their myriad elements1 and inclinations, when they practice in accord with the proper sequence of teachings of the universal tradition of the buddhas.

Three Stages of Taming the Mind

First Stage: The Outer Instructions

The first stage of taming the mind correlates with the refinement process of a lapis lazuli gem. The gem is initially soaked in salty water then scrubbed with a rough cloth. This process removes the coarse and external impurities. Likewise, having been introduced to Buddhist philosophy, the trainings begin by focusing on calming the most coarse and obvious kinds of discursive thoughts and emotions, thereby relaxing and opening the mind through meditating on love, compassion, and basic meditative concentration. Following this, the actual doorway to the Buddhist path begins with an explanation of the qualities of the three infallible and supreme jewels and is well established by taking refuge. Then, by receiving explanations on texts containing teachings on the four seals which signify the view and the four noble truths, we gain understanding of past and future lives; the adopting of positive action and refraining from negative action; the pitfalls of samsara and the positive qualities of nirvana; the nature of all composite phenomena to be suffering and impermanence; and so forth. Receiving these instructions and applying them through practice results in an accurate worldview, which brings a certainty that engenders a determination to pursue liberation.2 It is necessary to establish this understanding as a stable foundation for the path.

Second Stage: The Inner Instructions

The second stage of taming the mind correlates with the middle process of refinement for the gem, whereby it is soaked in a special fruit juice compound and scrubbed with a wool cloth to remove the next layers of impurities. This stage is the entrance-way to the Mahayana. At this point, all of the methods of mind training in the two-fold intention of bodhicitta3 are taught through oral instructions on texts such as Entering the Way of a Bodhisattva, The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, and The Seven Key Points of Mind Training. Having trained the mind according to these instructions, the mind will be saturated with bodhicitta and experience its benefits. With bodhicitta as the foundation, we train in the six transcendent perfections and specifically in the meditations of shamatha (calm abiding) and vipashyana (the profound view of transcendent wisdom that knows the nature of all phenomena to be emptiness). To realize this wisdom, we receive teachings from the Buddha’s own words, commentaries by realized holy saints of the past, and pith instructions from our own root guide’s personal experience. In this way, we work through our doubts to arrive at an indwelling and definitive certainty; this requires studying these profound teachings again and again, as well as applying them to taming the mind.

Third Stage: The Secret Instructions

The third stage of taming the mind correlates with the final stage of refinement, in which the gem is soaked in a medicinal compound and then polished with a soft silk cloth to result in a flawless gem, free of impurities. At this point, we enter into the practices of Vajrayana, the profound methods that bring liberation through the realization of and familiarizing in our buddha nature essence—the timelessly pure nature of mind. It is important to understand that what is called "Vajrayana practice" does not necessarily mean that it has to involve the methods of deity visualization. For those who are not inspired to develop deity practice, there are other methods for taming the mind that can be known through the pith instructions of the lama.

In general, these practices need to be preceded by training the mind through the Ngondro (preliminary practices) and followed by receiving empowerments that mature, or ripen, our mind stream. Using the development stage practices that apply the key points of "the mandala of the purity of all possible appearances" is called Mahayoga. Harnessing the channels, energies, and vital essences of our body is Anuyoga, which when relied upon becomes an expeditious means to liberation. Further, the secret teachings directly and nakedly introduce the nature mind, buddha essence, through the great perfection pith instructions of Ati Yoga. Relying on the three yogas, we gain understanding, experience, and realization of true abiding nature, which enables us to progress swiftly on the path. Thus, finding freedom in ultimate liberation, enlightenment will be attained.

Furthermore, for those of you who have not yet begun practicing the path, or who give the mere appearance of practicing the path, or who engage in the path but do not know the proper methods to practice, it is in accord with the way things are that you will see none of the results of taming the mind. Therefore, it is absolutely vital from the very outset that we base our practice on properly discerning what is positive and negative—what we should and should not do in both practice and conduct—so that everything is in accord with interdependent origination.

I wish to encourage you to practice in this way. This I offer with folded hands at my heart in humility, love, honesty, and openness.

~ Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé

  1. This word, khams in Tibetan and dhatu in Sanskrit, has a vast spectrum of meaning, ranging from the four elements to personality, all of which are different aspects or constituents of our physical and mental experience.
  2. This word, nges ‘byung, is a philosophical term that has often been translated with the word "renunciation". However, it has a very specific meaning that literally translates as "an arousal of certainty". This term carries two specific connotations: one is a certainty about the basic nature of our experience to be dissatisfactory and painful; thus it is marked by a disenchantment, or sadness, for the basic state of existence. The second aspect of certainty is about liberation and the need to attain it. Here, the meaning has been translated versus settling on a term that does not cover the concept.
  3. Bodhicitta can be rendered in English as something similar to "enlightened intention". It is often referred to as "the two-fold intention", because of the two facets that define it. These two are, the loving and compassionate wish to benefit others and the motivation to seek enlightenment as the means to accomplish that benefit.