Six Paramitas, Vajra Vidya Down East, Maine, Sep 5, 2010

Length: 8 hr; Format: audio; Recording Quality: Fair.

A teaching on the Mahayana, and on the Six Paramitas, given in four talks (see the playlist to the right of the play button).

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Talk 1

Sravakayana- basic or foundation teachings of the Buddha

Mahayana foundation teachings + Bodhisattva principles, sometimes called bodhisattvayana.

Bodhisattva is a person who has bodhicitta. A bodhisattva has the courage to work for enlightenment for all beings.

15.0 Bodhicitta from the root word bodh- to know, have the full understanding, and ‘citta’ refers to the heart mind or ‘heart feeling’.

Bodhicitta combines compassion and wisdom together. Compassion-not suffering together but wishing to be free from suffering.Everybody has the intention to be rid of suffering but we don’t know how. We need clarity therefore wisdom is necessary. Wisdom- if I have some kind of understanding/knowledge then there is the possibility or a way to get out of this suffering. Wanting that for self + near and dear ones+ every being.

48.0 Generating Bodhicitta is the path. 

If klesha and karma is the root cause of suffering then transforming that is the path. opposite of ignorance is wisdom ( knowing)

Basic ignorance is looking at me as the center of the world- dualistic, from that comes our way of reacting with aversion and attachment.

Compassion brings wisdom and vice versa.

If we deeply understand that if we act with negative emotions it’s not good for me or others, then we can more naturally let something go.

The best way to fight injustice is with compassion, focusing on the issue versus the person iS wanting to change the situation.

1.18 Mahayana:

  1. motivation is Bodhicitta
  2. view is emptiness and interdependence
  3. Meditation is Shamatha and Vipashyana
  4. action is wisdom and compassionate action

1.38 Q Is that a way we can test our compassion? ( by how we think/act in the world)

A Look at our way of reacting, is it clear/tangible. Can I be OK for one moment, 2 moments, 5 mins. etc. 

Q Satisfaction, joy from not reacting badly?

A That’s how you practice, you should be rejoicing. We learn through appreciation not punishment. If you expect too much too soon it doesn’t work, it will take time.

Talk 2

Nyingma Masters Longchempa and Rangsum ( less translated into english)

4.46  From Nyingma master there are 2 different ways of categorizing the YANAS

Mahayana or Sutrayana way includes

  • Shravakayana
  • Pratyekabuddhayana ( These 2 are combined into Hinayana)
  • Bodhisattvayana ( includes Vajrayana)

Vajrayana or Tantrayana way includes:

  • Shravakayana
  • Mahayana
  • Bodhisattvayana
  • Vajrayana

3 Yanas is one way of processing the yanas. Each yana or vehicle contains its own view, meditation and conduct. Sometimes it is said that there as many yanas as there are people. Sometimes the yanas are presented on the basis of teachings and sometimes on the basis of types of people.

Teaching categories for Yanas include:

  • general teachings – Shravakayana
  • Bodhisattva instructions which when elaborated becomes Mahayana
  • Buddha nature- Vajrayana, how to actualize Buddha nature.

9.15 Yanas presented on basis of types of people or natural inclinations:

  • Shravakayana as group people to whom the sangha is the most important aspect.
  • Pratyekabuddhayana people who tend to be solitary and intelligent.
  • Mahayana people – compassionate, courageous, altruistic.

Basis is attitude, how we see things. If I don’t care for my own happiness I don’t know how to wish that for others. Satisfaction from doing something good, being of benefit, useful to others. Thinking or doing for others brings more happiness to my life “Is a wise way of being selfish” ( Dalai Lama)

Emptiness and interdependence are not two things but one. 

if you look at a ‘pillar’ there is no one thing that is there totally existing independently.

If I look at the experience of me I don’t find one thing totally independent.

42.40 Selflessness or interdependent. Each one of us is dependently arising. My existence is dependent on the air, space, land, everything around me. My state of mind is creating my world. The way I am is how I experience my world therefore I create my world.

I cannot control everything that is going on around me, but I can control how I react.

58.0 Example of a glass that is made up of many elements, causes and conditions. It is not one because it changes. Everything is a little bit like an illusion. There is nothing there in a way but everything arises. All phenomena is interdependent and empty/emptiness.

Words as symbols to indicate something- like pointing to the moon, you have to go beyond your fingertip. All instructions are like that, one has to go beyond the concept.

If one looks at phenomenon and how relative it is, then there is no use running after or away from.

Mind There is nothing, but it is there as awareness and consciousness. There is nothing I can hold onto at the grossest or subtlest level, it is like a river.

  • there is nothing to be destroyed so what is there to be afraid of?
  • all negative emotions are coming from fear
  • aversion and attachment as 2 sides of the same coin

If this is understood deeply one can find peace and relax, whatever happens.

Habitual tendencies 

We cling to both good and bad things.

Story of person ready to leave helldom but turned around to say “don’t let anybody sit on my seat”.

‘Let it go’ can be difficult because we don’t know how, it has become myself.

The more we understand there is nothing to hold onto, the more we are ready.

Samsara as a state of mind.

Gampopa Without obstacle there is no path. Path is to make that obstacle not a problem; to transform.

1.30 Question: Say something about dedicating merit?

A: Dedication is giving or sharing whatever good things come out of your actions. If it is shared then there is no attachment. 

3 noble principles include 1) motivation, 2) practise and 3) dedication

1.32 Question: Al things that have a beginning will by their nature, have an end?

A: You can say that. Sometimes you cannot say which comes first eg. the chicken and the egg, father and son. Questions as to beginning can be a problem. If you ask what is the nature of the universe, then questions as to beginning naturally dissolve. Universe is relatively existing, time itself is a relative thing.

1.39 Question: If we can purify karma do we make effect of past actions less?

A: Karma is not reward and punishment it is causes and effects. To purify karma change our way of being.

Question: Taking obstacles on, welcoming them on the path?

A: Any negative thing being made into a practise is a good thing.

Question: Didn’t get a job and rationalizing I didn’t need it?

A: Welcoming suffering is not easy, use the best of the situation you are in.

Talk 3

There is no difference with the eightfold path and the six Paramitas, they are just put in a different context.

Six Paramitas:

Giving or Generosity

There are two parts to giving, practising within ourselves and doing something in the world. Generosity is the opposite of a poverty mentality. Whatever I have I want to share, appreciating and being satisfied, feeling contented. Gandhi said there are enough resources to fulfill the needs of this world, but not the greed of this world. Greed has no end.

Story of the boy who became the king of the world, but was not satisfied, and wanted to be the king of the heavens as well. He fell into a latrine, not a good ending.

The best wealth is the wealth of contentment. If I feel I have enough, I have enough to share. It is a state of mind, not dependent on how much you have.

19.00 Story of woman with gold coin who wanted to give it to the person who needed it the most. Buddha described that as the wealthiest man in town.

Story of the wheelchair person who saw someone without legs, but was very jolly. Shedecided to do something good for somebody each day, and had no more depression.

Shantideva said if you are ready to give a cup of curry, then give that. It may become easier to give with practise. If it is good for me and others, then do it. There is a balance. If I feel I might regret it later on, I don’t need to do it.

One can give: material things, protection, and/or guidance.

Conduct or ‘Shila’

What I do with body, speech and mind.

Refraining from doing negative things

Training to do more positive things, then there is more virtue accumulated.

51.00  3) Patience

Patience has three aspects, 1) Patience, 2) Forbearance 3) Tolerance

The more patience one has the less you allow things such as anger to take over.

1.04 Story of man allowing his children to disturb others. When the person complaining found out that the man’s wife has just died, his anger vanished.

Instead of anger, generate compassion. To fight against injustice one needs more sustained energy, patience, compassion.

Forbearance  is being able to go through difficulties/hardships in order to transform. Being prepared, knowing it will not be easy , but doing it anyway, persevering. When you are prepared you never give up.

Tolerance is the opposite of small mindedness. Capacity to tolerate different points of view. Mind becomes more spacious. If your mind is too congested you become intolerant. How well your meditation works depends on how you are acting after the meditation. How you act is how you become. As Samsaric beings we have to be patient with our impatience. Training but not making it a burden. The practise has to be joyful, then it happens slowly.

1.25 Question: Please talk about self awareness/reflection

A: 3 aspects:

  • awareness is to see, be clear or conscious
  • mindfulness- understanding what is the right thing to do or not do
  • ‘deliberate’, in the way of taking action or implementing. We need to be sensitive and intelligent, but not so sensitive in an emotional way.

1.33 Question: Sadness as a healthy intelligiblity?

A: We feel a range of emotions, that is the nature of the mind. Let emotions come and go. Take them in stride. “Stability” of mind, whatever comes you’re OK, you can deal with anything. Work towards that.

1.39 Question: How much tolerance is too much? Consequences of not drawing a line?

A: The more tolerant you are the better it is. Taking things in without becoming disturbed. There is no limit. We all have limitations of tolerance and that is something to work on. However if you know something is harmful you can immediately stop that. 

Talk 4

4th Paramita: Diligence

Diligence or perseverance is the opposite of laziness.

8.00 There are 3 kinds of laziness:

a. Procrastination. The laziness of not wanting to do things, delaying, not having enough motivation to do the important things. Allow yourself to do what is seen as most necessary. Diligence is joy in doing positive things, not just pushing hard, but creating a right kind of enthusiasm, motivation.

b. Distraction or busi-ness Doing many things, but not the things that are most useful or important. Not knowing how to set our priorities.

Story of putting the rocks, pebbles and sand into a jar. If one puts the rocks in first there is also room for the pebbles and sand, analogous to doing the most important things first.

c. No self confidence. Deciding you cannot transform yourself. When you already decide you cannot do it, then of course you cannot do it, and this is insulting ourselves or underestimating our capacity. Everybody has the same potentiality/possibilities.

Difference between refuge and prayers: If I asked the Buddha to save me (as in prayer) there would be no need for the 3 refuges ( buddha, dharma and sangha).

31.00 Story of Buddha born as a small parrot, trying to put out a forest fire. Indira (king of the heavens) disguised himself as an eagle and advised the parrot to take care of himself. The parrot said I don’t need your advice, why don’t you come and help me? The understanding is: Don’t think I am too small, just start to do it with determination.

Diligence is not putting pressure on yourself, but progressing lightly and joyfully. If you make it a burden there will be resistance, and sooner or later you will drop it. Make a friend with meditation, like someone going on a long journey.

Tibetan saying “ If you go slowly, slowly, you reach faster, faster”.

42.06 5th Paramita: Meditation

All meditation can be described as Shamatha or Vipashyana.

Shamatha meditation is to tame your mind, while Vipashyana meditation is to bring wisdom to your mind.

We usually start with Shamatha meditation, doing positive things and refraining from doing negative things, taming the mind. Without taming the mind we cannot transform. We are making the mind more flexible, like a trained dog. Every practise is a practical thing. Balance of relaxing and being aware.

1.05 Patrul Rinpoche gave a 3 point instruction:

a. Bring your body to the cushion

Solitude of body, speech and mind, create a situation where the body is not disturbed.

b. Bring your mind into your body.

Usually our mind is in the past or the future, bring it into the now, then I become present.

c. Bring ease into your mind.

Relaxed and not too focused, you can use something to bring yourself back eg. flower,Buddha image.

Our mind has 2 problems, distraction and dullness. Anything can be a meditation if you are aware and relaxed. Shamatha and Vipashyana are not 2 things. Vipashyana is wisdom, seeing things clearly, but not necessarily as a concept, it is direct.

6th Paramita: Wisdom

1.30 There are 3 wisdoms: listening, reflection and meditation.

  1. Listening to what the other person is saying without questioning or interrupting.
  2. Reflection is examining, looking from every angle, deeply digesting.
  3. Meditation, bring the understanding from the head to the heart.

The more clear you become, the more your habitual patterns/obscurations are more easily eliminated. Gross and subtle obscurations, subtle obscurations are more difficult to eliminate. Wisdom of knowing the nature of your mind and through that the nature of everything, in an experiential way.


1.43 Q: Be friends with a practice eg. tonglen?

A: Important that practise is based on both compassion and wisdom in a practical way. Daily practise, share good things with everybody, anything that happens is ok.

1.50 Q: Obstacle with Shamatha, relaxing versus getting duller.

A: There are lots of ups and downs, just relax and be aware.

1.53 Q: How to work with anger, difficult when seeing someone do something harmful to another?

A: This is Samsara. There is more expectation from self and others in the West. Understanding Samsara, when you see a little positive thing you appreciate it more.

Summary By DS