About Shang Rinpoche

Rinpoche’s spiritual pursuit began at a very young age and has spanned many years, in which he received lineages of all four major Vajrayana Buddhist schools—Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug—from numerous lineage holders and great yogis of our time in India, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. Rinpoche has acquired all the necessary empowerments, transmissions, and teachings to become a fully qualified Vajrayana master. Furthermore, Rinpoche is a recognized tulku (reincarnate lama), authenticated by eminent lineage holders and distinguished masters of our time.
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2015年11月12日 星期四

Calisthenics for the Mind

Nowadays, hordes of white collar workers go to the gym, do yoga, engage in weight training, or even undertake triathlons - any method at all to let off steam and relax after work. Some people are able to find temporary focus in exercise. It takes their mind off their worries, and they feel better after a sweat. This is because when you reach a certain level of energy output, your body releases endorphins which, for a short while, can ease your emotions and reduce your troubles. However, when you return to work or get back to reality, all of the discomfort again rears its ugly head — muscle stiffness, tight shoulders, throbbing head and body aches — possibly even accompanied by heart palpitations or tightness in the chest. Your physical symptoms attest to the negative mental energy and emotions which haven’t actually been released because their root causes haven’t been addressed.

There is a saying: “Where you find yourself squeezed is where you set yourself free; where you’ve fallen is where you pick yourself up.” It may seem to many that they’ve taken care of a problem or that a situation has passed, but they still feel fearful and overwhelmed. Whether it’s the environmental crisis, with many doomsday sayers spouting negative beliefs about the earth entering a new Ice Age, or other modern sources of stress like the intense interpersonal competition, suffocating pressure from debt interests, complicated but unavoidable interpersonal relationships, or physical and mental instability. For most people these things will negatively impact their quality of life. Our lives — flooded with news of terrorists, economic crimes, and other negative information — have been so thrown off track that it is now difficult to navigate. Most young people don’t know how to experience positivity or happiness. Tranquility has become an impossible dream. What can we do?

Training in awareness and shutting down the mind’s ego-driven navigation system are the only solutions. Most people lack awareness to the point of not knowing how to deal with what’s happening right in front of them. When difficulties arise, they panic, lose their wits and look for a way to escape. This is not healthy. Some vent to get rid of stress, but this is only a makeshift solution. Therefore, I often suggest that rather than wandering the streets like a blind dog, ownerless and vagrant, it is wiser to aspire to activate your inner potential in the face of hardship. That potential is awareness.
What is awareness? When calamity strikes, imagine yourself as a highly proficient receptionist. Warmly greet it as you would a VIP guest and welcome it into your mind to chat amiably to its heart’s content. When your interaction comes to an end, you can leisurely send it on its way, naturally observe it growing more distant until it disappears, and then be done with it. When the next mental visitor arrives, act in the same unattached manner, greeting it and then seeing it off. No matter how many visitors come in the course of a day, if you can receive them all with a natural, cordial and unassuming attitude, the feeling you’ll get — of being completely free and uninhibited — is beyond words.

I often advise my fellow students to elevate their quality of life to the highest level by adhering to these maxims: “Deal with it when it comes; once it leaves, let it go,” and “merge with the situation, with your mind completely undisturbed.” Apply this in a natural and unrestrained way in every aspect of your life until it becomes your anchor, and your mind will be healthy, strong, and beautiful. Please also remember that, in the face of a radical and unexpected change unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before, there is no need to be afraid. It is as if, while driving, the car in front of you stops abruptly: you get a scare and slam on the brakes. At such a critical moment, your heart will be pounding, but in a matter of minutes it’s as if nothing has happened. Therefore, don’t fret. The Buddha in your life will never give up on you, will not let you fall, and is forever guiding you down the bright and proper path. The key point is to regard all of your difficulties as a sort of training, as if you were going to the gym for regular exercise, which will improve your mental and physical health and fill you with energy.

2015年11月6日 星期五

Highs and Lows

Have you ever been on a rollercoaster or a ferris wheel? You find yourself quickly moving from peaks to dips. On a roller coaster, the experience is so abrupt you get the sensation of your heart jumping out of your chest. The same feeling comes with riding a ferris wheel: you find yourself making a complete circle from the highest to lowest point. I often suggest to students who have lost confidence and find themselves in difficult times to try one of these rides.
Life is actually quite similar to riding a roller coaster or a ferris wheel: the ride is brief and filled with highs and lows. This comparison may be difficult to grasp right now because we are so attached to the eight winds (eight worldly concerns). We still have expectations, hopes, goals and dear ones who influence our decisions, for better or for worse. At times it may seem to you that life is quite long, that it drags on. But as soon as your understanding of this comparison deepens, you will see that life has two main characteristics: it is cyclical and has its highs and lows.
Only a lion can be the king of the forest. Apart from their powerful and ferocious appearance, they only attack after careful and serious deliberation. Ordinary people are pulled along by their karma, but for those with a high level of practice and self-cultivation, any temperament can be overcome. You must have a courageous spirit and the absolute resolution of a soldier in battle; only then, regardless of worldly or spiritual matters, will you not be restrained by your destiny. Your mind is the master of your destiny: it is the ruler. When the mind is settled there is peace in the kingdom, peace in society, peace in the family.
Victory is only decided in the last moment. If Shakyamuni had relented to the demon Mara in those final moments under the bodhi tree, there could have been no attaining of Buddhahood. Success and failure are common things in this world. Just like the path of the ferris wheel, if you never reach the lowest point, how can you attain the highest?

Purity: Mind in the Here and Now

Many people recite the Buddha’s name, keep a strict vegetarian diet, and practice in pursuit of purity. They call out, “Give me a little bit of purity, won’t you?” In truth, everyone who holds this wish knows that they have as of yet been unable to obtain such a state. Purity, after all, is neither in the beads of your mala; nor is it found on the meditation cushion; nor in your prostrations and yoga. In their search for purity, most people just end up falling deeper into the mud, unable to take a hard look at what it is.

People who can really enjoy a state of purity are those who live always in the moment. What is this ‘moment?’ It is none other than the most pressing life matter upon your hands; none other than the thing you most fervently would like to do right now; none other than that which you are obligated to do right now. It is the time you are currently enjoying. The time when both your body and mind are being tormented. The moment is that which shackles and chains us to our life; the moment we come screaming and crying into this world; the moment we begin our formal education; the moment we start our first job; the moment we bind ourselves in marriage; the moment our first child is born; the moment we become ill. We follow these to the end of our days.
If you can be completely clear in each and every moment, from one day to the next, you can directly obtain the dharmakaya body without passing through the bardo. If you can successfully observe all the thoughts in your mind from one moment to the next, every moment will be your golden opportunity.

Life can be long or short. Who can be absolutely sure if tomorrow we will live to get out of bed and put on our shoes? A person who understands how to live in the moment will never make excuses for themselves. On the contrary, it is exactly by facing the moment that they will be able to find better ways to deal with what it brings. True purity is maintaining absolute clarity about what is happening, whether it is wonderful or disastrous.

The only real failure in life is when you are lost in ignorance. When you let go in the moment, that’s precisely when success comes. In the hand of the successful person, there is always a golden key; and this is especially the case with a person who persists in carefully observing every moment as an opportunity for accomplishment.

2015年9月27日 星期日

The Potential of the Mind

Uneasiness, depression, and anxiety appear to be the common ailments of modern man. People are often easily provoked and become red-faced with agitation. Others become frustrated and storm off the moment they are admonished by their department head. Some, due to inexplicable mood swings or an offhand remark from another, will set in motion some fatal disaster. Often, spouses and family members become estranged over some harsh words exchanged. Actually, if we look carefully, we will realize that all around, people have become increasingly unstable and intolerant to stress. When you see old friends that you have been out of touch with, you find them full of discontent and ceaselessly complaining and even cursing the world. The elegant and gentle manner of days gone by has all but completely disappeared. These people actually deserve our sympathy because they have, to different extents, depressive inclinations. Everyone knows anxiety or depression is a psychological disorder, and it is uncertain when it might flare up. When the illness becomes more serious it can be devastating for everyone around. Statistics show a rising trend in the mortality rate from depression. This is the modern plague, the Black Death of our times and it can't be taken lightly.

The cause of mental exhaustion can be traced back to our attachments and desires. Not only ordinary people relate to this problem, many great spiritual masters and practitioners invest their lives and their time in transforming greed and attachments. The great Vajrayana master Longchenpa spent a great many years in retreat completely exposed to the scorching sun and torrential rains, not even taking shelter in a cave. He practiced in a place where he could not stand up straight and there was barely room for him to turn around. This kind of ascetic practice was done entirely for the purpose of transformation. His only possession was a burlap sack that he wore during the day and, at night, it turned into his bed, and then during meditation practice it was his cushion. The interesting thing about the place where he would practice was the variety of prickly trees and grasses that would prick him all over, making of him a mass of bleeding wounds. At one point he had thought about cutting these down but it occurred to him that, while he hadn’t yet attained enlightenment, did he really have the time to waste on such things? Then he immediately dispelled the thought and persisted in his practice with even greater determination, eventually leading to his enlightenment.

The buddha-nature of practitioners and ordinary people is identical. The only difference is that practitioners are able to face their problems. Observing their afflictions incites their determination in attaining buddhahood, and so this aspiration is not an inborn quality. It only requires that a person to be willing to face their afflictions, manage and let go of them in order to reconnect with their own self-nature. For people nowadays, enlightenment might be a far-fetched notion but they should at least be able to transform their afflictions and frustrations. Please bear in mind that, when afflictions have not yet arisen, worry and fear are useless; and when something bad has actually happened, worry and fear will in no way ease the sorrow. No one can stop the hands of the clock. But if we are willing, we can always buy new and different clocks, wind them up and start afresh - wouldn’t you say?

From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

2015年9月25日 星期五

We Should All Live With Hope

There have been a lot unsettling incidents reported in the news. The unpredictable and sporadic nature of these events has disturbed some people to the point where their bodies are plagued by tension and they are unable to feel safe and secure. The gas explosion in Kaohsiung led to the senseless loss of many lives and the instant destruction of many homes. When faced with this kind of scenario, people might consider what they would do if it were to happen to them. Many have come to me to say that, were they to encounter such an event, they would not know how to carry on.

The current surplus of similar disastrous events has led to an atmosphere of ever increasing misgiving, hollowness, confusion and uncertainty. When these kinds of incidents are brought up in conversation many immediately feel dispirited and some may even consider emigrating.
Those with even the most basic grasp of Buddhist concepts can understand that all phenomena are the product of karma. This is why certain things happen to certain people in certain places. Some places are engulfed in a distressing and maddening gloom while other places are blessed with peace and tranquility. Karma also explains why a misfortune may befall a group of people and yet some manage to avoid it by being pulled out of harm’s way by a last-minute situation. This is what the Buddhist teachings of impermanence and collective karma elaborate on.

An understanding of karma can clearly show that each circumstance can be traced to a cause. There is no such thing as an accident. Ever since primordial times, humanity has been faced with surviving an incalculable number of natural disasters. Entire regions have been swallowed up by swift bursts of floodwater, and tectonic plates lying quietly under mountain ridges suddenly clash with such overwhelming power that countless lives are destroyed in an instant. The legend of Atlantis can also serve to demonstrate the omnipresence of karma and impermanence.

If we maintain a warm and positive mindset and never arbitrarily forsake the aspects of right intention and right mindfulness, while doing what needs to be done in a calm and wise manner, we will purify our karma and will definitely be able to embrace a brand new life.
There is no need to be overly anxious about our deep-seated fears. Everyone has the absolute potential to face up to the the challenges imposed by external circumstances. People habitually turn away from these difficulties thinking that they are unable to resolve them and so they stagnate in their pre-established ideas and cement their feet to the ground. In reality, once the dark night has passed, the breaking of dawn is sure to come.

2015年9月24日 星期四

Can Buddha’s Teachings Cure Depression?

The two top killers in the 21st century are cancer and mental disorders. Among psychiatric disorders, depression is the most common.
According to reports from health organisations worldwide, almost 150 million people have been clinically diagnosed with depression since the 1970s. Within the next 50 years, another projected 8 billion people will suffer from depression-related illnesses. Nations will be hard pressed to swallow the bill for the massive amounts of medication needed to counteract the illness.

Further examination of the subject brings up a division between depression linked to heredity and cases linked to diet or hormonal imbalances. There might be a plethora of causes, but what is certain is that once a person develops tendencies, depression will directly affect their lifestyle, including sleep patterns and emotional, physical and psychological well-being. Family members will become strained in providing support.
If the condition is caused by diet or unhealthy lifestyle choices, there is a positive prognosis for recovery. It is worth checking whether the depressed person has a deficiency in certain amino acids or a severe lack in iron, magnesium, potassium, etc. Fluctuations in the testerone levels of older men can sometimes lead to temporary depression. Females are susceptible to depression during puberty, their menstrual cycle or after giving birth. Women going through menopause, which could last up to 10 years, deserve particular attention as they are exposed to a high risk of onset during this period.

Are drugs absolutely necessary to treat depression? Statistically, only 10% of depressed patients experience improvements with medication. In some cases, the harmful effects or complications caused by drug treatment can be even more troubling than the depression itself.

In truth, psychological disorders are not so terrifying. The diagnosis of depression, panic disorder, manic depression or any mental disease and the ensuant anxiety is actually far more damaging to the patient. Studies of personality traits and behavioural patterns shows that most mental patients are perfectionist and timid. They are overly self-critical and persnickety while giving too much consideration to the criticism and opinions of others. Overcome by feelings of failure or inadequacy, they are preoccupied with how others view them and the possibility of failure or loss. This makes them easily demoralised or unable to recover from even minor setbacks in daily life. Many similarly unhealthy habits and personality traits that have been formed in our early life will eventually develop into depression.

Buddhist householder Pangyun upheld the philosophy of “if the mind is unmoving, it is just as well to be surrounded by all things.” In the face of all circumstances and even obstacles, ideally we would be able to cope with them as they arise and leave not a single trace on our mind once they pass. This would mean that we are in complete control of our mind, as it would remain unperturbed by any circumstance. We should try to put all afflictions and tribulations to rest by viewing them in neither a positive nor a negative light. Emotional afflictions are borne out of a preconception, built up in the moment’s thoughts, and carried over by afterthoughts. This cycle can take a toll on our appetite and we might even lose sleep over it.
We should avoid forming attachment or being obsessively meticulous, thereby driving ourselves into a mental cul-de-sac. It is crucial to stop further complicating our train of thoughts and let the mind take breaks. Do not mull over the past and let bygones be bygones - good or bad, applause or derision. Terminate all desires and the mind will always be in a state of unfettered ease; regardless of whatever passes, it stays intact and unaffected as if nothing has happened.

When we can truly understand the empty nature (i.e. impermanence) of all things, their significance will cease. When situations arise, if only we can take precautions, think rationally, let go, shed unnecessary encumbrances and maintain a well-adjusted, level-headed and even buoyant mindset, then we can avoid psychological barriers such as gloomy pessimism and negativity and all that comes with it.

2015年7月29日 星期三

The Importance of Perseverance

Those who exhibit great passion for life are undeniably ones who never shrink back (from difficulty). Even if all the guns in the world were pointed at their chest, they would still stride proudly forward with their heads high, holding the truth in their hearts. The real reason for my admiration of Galileo lies not in his fame but in his courage to hold the truth in spite of those in power. While carrying out his life imprisonment in Rome, he was asked by one of his visiting students, “Someone once offered you a luxurious house as a gift. Why didn’t you accept it?” Galileo replied, “How could even the most beautiful house in the world compare to the truth in my heart?”

Determined to attain enlightenment and subdue his remaining arrogance while practicing under certain precepts, Tilopa decided to offer himself as a servant to a prostitute. For the following 12 years, he extracted sesame oil for her, never missing a single day. This eventually led to his great achievement. I’ve come to the conclusion that in this world it is not the scientists or artists who have beautified the souls of humanity, but the spiritual mentors such as Buddha Shakyamuni, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Confucius, Zhuangzi and Martin Luther King Jr. It is precisely the resolution of these Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and holy people, as well as their courage to persevere, that has brought about the transformation of so many peoples’ minds in this world. Whether one can become a person who truly makes an impact on others, then, depends solely on one’s perseverance and resolve.

From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

2015年7月20日 星期一

Pure Land and Chan Buddhism Are One and the Same

Many people confuse Chan with Pure Land Buddhism — after all, if you meditate and also recite the Buddha’s name, doesn’t that just mix the two practices together? Actually, these kinds of questions are superfluous. If you only ever have one Dharma in your mind, as soon as another Dharma enters, whatever you had becomes delusive and distracted thought, and any Dharma you practice becomes the same. Without a pure mind, any true practice becomes something other than Dharma. Chan places the mind at the core of everything. If the mind is very clear, then the world’s ‘dust’ and delusion will be left behind and the true enlightened mind will come forth. Another way of saying it is, when you meditate, it’s not your body but your mind that’s meditating. When delusive thoughts arise, it’s the mind that knows; when the mind is clear, it knows it is free of delusive thoughts. The mind never had any ‘internal’ or ‘external,’ and it’s the same mind that knows this to be true. If you can observe your mind in this way in every moment, noticing whether you’ve deviated from this principle — if the mind in motion or at rest doesn’t get influenced by anything external or internal, physical or mental — then you can say it’s abiding in the meditative stillness of its own essence. This is what the sutras call taking good care of your thoughts. If you continue to carefully protect your mind after reaching this level, if the senses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind — the six roots — merge together in the end, then you’ve surpassed the ordinary way of seeing and can now see your essence, your own buddha nature. You will discover that everything was already there within you to begin with and there is no differentiation, no impurities. At this point you see all form without giving rise to action or differentiation. This is called great emptiness, or when the five aggregates become completely empty, or merging (with phenomena) without becoming scattered. At this point, away from all form, you’ll naturally realize that all ordinary appearances are illusory reality. You could also say that in the end, it’s Amitabha’s self-nature reciting his own name, and not your mind reciting to an external deity. Amitabha is your own mind and your mind is Amitabha. Even if you don’t recite his name, Amitabha has been in your mind from the very beginning. Whoever understands this will realize the truth of self and Amitabha being one and the same.

All practices in the Pure Land school are anchored in the recitation of Amitabha Buddha’s name along with visualizing the Buddha or in front of a statue of the Buddha. Everyone will go through this stage of their practice, whether it involves the methods of audible or silent recitation, vajra recitation, visualizing the Buddha on the crown of your head, enlightened illumination, visualization, prostrating to the Buddha or the Ten Recitations Method. Whichever method you use, they are all skillful means. The goal of all of them is to merge your mind with the name of the Buddha, so that you’re reciting with your whole mind. This method becomes the state of reciting without reciting. At this stage, even as distracting thoughts are thrust into your consciousness (nearing death) by the dissolution of the four elements (earth, water, fire, and wind), this will not affect your mind, because the intensity of your recitation has already penetrated your stream of consciousness. You will remain undisturbed by any state you may encounter. This is also described as brushing off all remaining dust, the correct way of mindfulness for facing death. At this point you can add your vows, just like Buddha Amitabha, who, in the sutras, says: “If vowing to be reborn in a Pure Land, one should make vows as such, And why is this so? This can allow all those great, good people to gather in the same place.” In other words, reciting the Buddha’s name can bring your mind to one-pointed focus and at your passing you will be received by the Buddha himself; so you should definitely make vows.

Chan Master Zhao Zhou said, “After reciting the Buddha’s name one time, rinse your mouth out for three days.” The point is to be single-minded in your concentration. Yet, it says in the Siliaojian (of Chan Master Yongming Yanshou), “With Chan but no Pure Land, nine out of ten people will tarry or be delayed. When the hidden realm appears before you, follow it as soon as you glimpse it.” Whether practicing Chan or Pure Land Buddhism, everything depends on the mind. If the mind can settle, any Dharma can liberate. There is no need to differentiate countless practice methods based on individual afflictions, delusive thoughts, root senses or life circumstances. Whether it’s observing the origin of thoughts in Chan meditation or reciting the Buddha’s name to understand who Buddha is, all comes from your own mind: they are two paths to the same destination. If you can singlemindedly return to the mind’s original nature and liberate the six senses, there will be nothing to differentiate between Chan and Pure Land. Whether you achieve liberation or fall into the lower realms depends entirely on your mind.

From  Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

Forgetting the Past, a Potential Realization of Emptiness

Impermanence is not only mentioned in Buddhist teachings. Those who learn from the past to understand the present and more meticulously analyze their surroundings can glimpse the flux and unpredictability of everyday life.
Qin Shihuang considered himself utterly superior, majestic and powerful, thinking that he could go as he pleased and that the world was beneath the soles of his feet. However, even as he was wrapped up in his imperial life, he could sense that the wild and unruly Liu Bang had begun to move against him. Cao Cao was not mistrustful by nature, and was as wise as he was daring, with no equal in the Three Kingdoms. But all of this changed when he narrowly escaped an attempted assassination. Afterwards, his suspicion of even his closest relatives eventually destroyed him his promising future and any chance at ascending to emperorship. In this world, there was a man who, to this day, holds 2.5 billion disciples, all claiming unswerving loyalty and service. But who could have imagined that, at only 36 years old and in the prime of his life, he was nailed to the cross. It’s clear that nothing in this world is certain or controllable at will.

I’ve spoken with many great masters and historians who, in their research and personal experience, all agree that no matter how great the achievements of an emperor or how unparalleled the hero, they all end up under the ground and being pulled into the bardo. Thus, many of them turned to the study of Buddhism, in particular the sutras. Many people, especially scholars, are partial to the Diamond Sutra. It is almost always the scholars who ask me questions about its verses. In fact, this sutra, along with the Heart Sutra, are the Buddha’s best sermons for those wishing to traverse the landscape of the mind and resolve their fear of life and death. Many people misunderstand the Diamond Sutra, believing it to be too abstract, impractical and just a play on words about emptiness. In actuality, many of the secrets of life and the keys to transcending the cycle of birth and death lie in its four-phrasal verses.

For example, the phrase “give rise to a mind which does not abide in anything” means that people need not be attached to external or internal circumstances or the needs we place on them. As well, we ought to use these very circumstances to experience the world in all of its facets, since in the end everything falls back into Emptiness. Is it from this true Emptiness that we obtain enlightened wisdom.
To illustrate this point using the external world: all the things our mind perceives in the material world – our whole planet – is it real? If you say yes, where are the people who lived hundreds of years ago? The Bianjing of old, flourishing Chang’an, the golden age of the Tang Dynasty, Luoyang in Guangdong, their music, their poetry, their merriment and grand celebrations are mere shadows in recollection. We can only pick up the traces of what is left in the cadence of classical Chinese poetry. Can that magnificence be restored? If not, how can we verify whether it is real? On the other hand, you might say it’s empty, but records and ruins serve as evidence of its existence.
Now take the mind as another example: does it exist? If it does, then you should be able to consolidate all of its phenomena into a single whole, but why do they still slip away like smoke? What is there that you can pin down? Truthfully, nothing really exists. Sometimes our mind is above, sometimes below, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right. The point is, everything your eyes see and your mind thinks are just temporary scenes that vanish as soon as you reach out to touch them. They aren’t real. All of life’s comings and goings are just pieces of information slowly filling up your memory. There is no reason to cling to them. By understanding that “All that has form is illusive and unreal,” you will be able to clearly observe all forms and all of the things that you experience but not be disturbed by them. This is what is meant by “without abiding.” You will be able to maintain inner purity and clarity, remaining unaffected by the sensory experience of what you see, touch and taste. This is an experience of what is known as “without form.” At this stage, with the truly pure mind having arisen from “non-abiding,” everything you see and contemplate will be different.

2015年7月6日 星期一

The Difference Between an Elephant and a Rabbit

Master Yong Jia’s "Song of Enlightenment" contains a few lines that could be very meaningful for people of this generation, namely, “The great elephant does not loiter on the rabbit’s path; Great enlightenment is not concerned with details; Don’t belittle the sky by looking through a pipe; If you still don’t understand, I will settle it for you.” Many people take this phrase as an excuse for their erroneous words and actions. But in reality, all well-known practitioners from all the schools, even if they were to follow all virtuous teachings, must first understand wisdom and emptiness and have the experience of having entered into the void. Without this foundation, practicing Dharma can lead to obstacles and to going astray, thus making the practice meaningless. In this lies the goal of all esoteric practices that take wisdom dakinis as the principal deities. The accomplishments of all buddhas originates in the root practice of the Buddha Mother (Dharmas which lead to the attainment of Buddhahood), rather than the physical form of either a male or female Buddhist image. Wisdom is the lamp of the six paramitas, on which all achieved buddhas of the three realms rely. Even when they are involved in worldly affairs or are going against the grain, for a practitioner possessing a foundation in wisdom, everything amounts to all skillful means. As a Buddhist verse states:
When we realize actuality,
There is no distinction between mind and thing
And the path to hell instantly vanishes.
If this is a lie to fool the world,
My tongue may be cut out forever.
Once we awaken to the Tathagata-Zen,
The six noble deeds and the ten thousand good actions
Are already complete within us.
In our dream we see the six levels of illusion clearly;
After we awaken the whole universe is empty.

No matter where they apply their skillful means, true practitioners have a mind as continuously immovable as a mountain and don’t use Buddhist names and appearances to deceive. They wholeheartedly apply themselves to keeping strict precepts, because they’ve already broken through the gross and subtle afflictive obstacles of sight, thought, etc. Therefore, even if they move freely within the eight worldly preoccupations (of disappointment and delight) of the mundane world, they are like a pure lotus flower in the midst of this profane world, a task not easy to accomplish. If Vimalakirti had immersed himself in mundane affairs without fully controlling his mind, then wouldn’t he have been just like an ancient fox spirit who, having gotten drunk, might easily reveal it’s cloven feet? In the real world, even those old master artists who avoided society from the Wei, Jin and North-South Dynasties such as Ruanji, Jikang, Shantao, Liuling, Ruanxian, Xiangxiu, Wangrong and the like, with their emotions dwelling in the mountains and rivers, indulged in (the Way of) Laozi and Zhuangzi, while never before having even heard of such evil acts as killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and such. The reason for this being that they were clear about what they had read in the holy books with regards to how they should behave. Although they didn’t bother about the trifles of outer appearance, living in savage exile, they still actually possessed a code of conduct for how they ought to comport themselves.
How much more so, then, of practitioners who abide in Avalokitesvara’s compassion, Samantabhadra’s vows, Manjushri’s wisdom, Mahasthamaprapta’s courage and the vows of all bodhisattvas? Just like the Sixth Patriarch Huineng as he lived with hunters -- although unable to stick to a vegetarian diet, he ate what vegetables were there alongside the meat; or like Chan master Dao Ji who, although his behavior was beyond anyone’s imagination, still did everything to benefit sentient beings, adapting to worldly phenomena with wisdom -- otherwise he would have kept on incurring extreme karma. As for the Mahayana and Theravada, they should be regarded as the same, otherwise this is akin to the idea that when one praises oneself while slandering another, it brings nothing but disgrace to oneself. There is an old story of a person who had come into contact with the Theravada sutras, yet did not realize that the Mahayana texts also came directly from Buddha Shakyamuni. Later, when he heard them being recited by good knowledge holders, the sutras profoundly affected his mind and he was so ashamed that he wanted to cut out his tongue to atone for his slander. At that time, Asanga Bodhisattva consoled him, saying, “Because you’ve disparaged Mahayana texts in the past, with this very same tongue you should now recite them all. Would that not be true repentance?” So he did just that, writing hundreds of Mahayana commentaries. This is a true story.

A Buddhist verse says, “A virtuous mind gives rise to virtuous words and deeds, an evil mind gives rise to evil words and deeds, mind is the origin of all dharma (worldly phenomena), investigating the mind is the good advice of the Buddha.” From this we clearly see that no matter the school, sect or religion, everything comes from the mind. If our thoughts are impure, all the practice that we undertake becomes demonic. We must observe our minds at all times, reflecting on ourselves constantly, not allowing the mind to become attached or caught up in external circumstances. Gradually our mind will become concentrated, so that at all times, in all states, we can be clear and unhindered, proceeding till we arrive at an understanding of enlightenment and unsurpassed emptiness, abiding in this state until our meditative stillness becomes strong, unrestrained, proficient, without any excuses; these are the concepts practitioners of all faiths should understand.

2015年6月16日 星期二

How to Get Along with Yourself

Many people have things to discuss with themselves, but don’t know how. But please, at least give your mind a chance to settle.I ask you first to carefully observe your mind. Remember that you are the closest friend you’ve got. In no way are you your own worst enemy or karmic debtor. It is time for you to become your own teacher, or the friend who knows you better than anyone else. Allow yourself to let go of all doubts and all things that bind you inside. Sit down and have a serious chat with yourself. Set this time aside for you and you alone. Give yourself the space to speak openly with yourself about what is really going on deep down in your heart. Take advantage of this rare moment with yourself. In truth, much of the time your mind is filled with anger rooted in the unknowing assumption that you have been treated unfairly. Sometimes your heart is restless and filled with a pervasive fear stemming from your constant worry about being unable to accomplish something that you nonetheless must do. Much of the time your emotions sway between forgiveness and blame, all the while asking yourself why could have let something like this happen. For reasons you can’t quite figure out, you often end up inexplicably in a bad mood over something trivial, perhaps the weather, wondering why nothing ever goes right. Just one sentence or one action and you become preoccupied or start to think negatively, feeling like despite all that you have given, people still don’t understand you. Out of the desire to put forth your best and most efficient performance in completing a task or anticipating its next step, you work yourself up until you can’t eat or sleep properly, all because you can’t control and deal with your anxiety. While everyone left and right is telling you how to do this and that, inside you are grumbling and rejecting everything they say, questioning, in your inflated arrogance, what right these people have to push you around. Then there are those insatiable desires that spring up, desires to buy a luxury home, diamonds, gold and everything that you have been wanting, even though you know you can’t afford them. Your mind goes through all kinds of turmoil.

The above-mentioned are just a few examples of what it might look like if you give yourself a chance to communicate with yourself. You could easily come up with more things to say and more ways to talk. It’s almost like, since your youth, all of these things have been buzzing around in your head, all of these different voices constantly echoing through your brain. It’s just that nobody has taught you how to communicate with yourself and become as close to your mind as that friend to whom you could tell anything. Without this, many people lack self-esteem and self-respect. They take all of their mental garbage and secrets and stuff it deep inside of their mind, where it sits festering, decaying and reeking until they become sick. How is this worth it?
It’s simple: when you find yourself at home and nobody is around, completely clear your mind. All you need is a space to talk to yourself and you can start to work on this. You can get a pen and a blank Starbucks notepad and chat with yourself on paper. You can go to the beach, set up an umbrella and a chair, and sit there in the shade with your favorite drink chatting with abandon about everything under the sun. Believe me when I say that you can make this a good habit and will like it the more you try it. You will become your own best friend. Gather up your courage and let down your guard. Lay bare the weakest, most damaged, most secret parts of yourself, parts that you won’t show anyone else, and bravely bring them all into the conversation. In the vast and borderless world that exists inside, there is no doubt you can treat yourself with warmth and propriety. In this inner world exists only gentle forgiveness and it is without harm. No one is going to get up in arms over a word. No one is going to pick a fight or judge between right and wrong.
Just give yourself a chance to talk. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even find the real you. Maybe, in a flash of brilliant insight, you’ll discover that this is what your mind looked like all along.

2015年6月15日 星期一

To Regard All Beings as your Parents

Too many acts of unthinkable violence have occurred in recent years. Other than the problems with the educational system, at the root of this problem is the built-up negativity within the hearts and minds of those who are acting out these terrible scenarios. If you seek an earnest understanding of it all, besides the compulsion of the karma carried over from past lives, one other important point is the ability of those perpetrators to transform their habitual patterns.

No matter it if is greed, hatred, or ignorance, these habits are as impossible to discard as your own cells and blood. If a method for transforming or counteracting them is not found, they will certainly accompany you life after life. If a practitioner is able to realize the relation between the cause and effect of samsara and the force of karma, and through this realization succeed in effecting transformation, the habits which are brought about by this practitioner’s karma will also fall away. Long ago, there was a practitioner of great achievement who begged for alms as he travelled and helped sentient beings. Once, he arrived at a village in which he observed a person sitting in his doorway nibbling and sipping away at a bowl of mutton soup. After finishing the whole bowl of soup, he tossed the bones off to one side, at which point a dog immediately appeared and snatched the bones away. This man angrily picked up a stone from the ground and launched it at the dog, while in his other hand he held a cute newly born infant. The great yogi, as the reincarnation of a bodhisattva, actually possessed psychic abilities. After laying eyes upon this scene, he felt that it was both saddening and unfathomable. He was able to observe that the bowl of mutton stew held by the man was made from the body of his father who had been reborn as a lamb in this life. Who would have thought that he would be killed by his own son? The dog, on the other hand, was the reincarnation of the man’s mother, only to end up being smashed with a stone at the hand of her own son while trying to snatch those mutton bones. Yet the focal point of all of his love, the child whom he now held in his embrace and whom he loved like life itself, was the reincarnation of a creditor whom this man had once killed in a previous life. Take a moment to think about it - how peculiar is this story of samsaric rebirth!

When you possess great wisdom and the ability of clear discernment, you will discover all the more that throughout our lives, anyone whom we’ve met, family or friend, are all the reincarnations of beings who were once our mothers and fathers in previous lives. Just as described in the aforementioned tale, after you understand more clearly the relationships between yourself and others, will you still give rise to such thoughts of anger or possessiveness? Actually, not a single genuine enemy has ever appeared in this world, external to yourself. You need not search for the enemy which truly poses danger to you, as that enemy is your own mind. As such, if you possess compassion and bodhicitta, you will be well equipped to transform your greed, hatred, ignorance, and all of the five poisons. Although we may not have psychic abilities, we can use the power of bodhicitta to regard all beings whom we encounter as our parents and family members from past lives. If this is the case, will you still spend unnecessary time and energy in bickering with them?

From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

2015年6月12日 星期五

It is Better Not to Read, than to Read Lousy Books

Bookstores these days are filled with an abundance of literature on the study of strategy and tactics from experts of old. You can see this ideological trend everywhere in society, indicating that places with frequent human interaction adopt a lot of covert phenomena; competition, the strong preying on the weak, and the survival of the fittest. In terms of positive influence and their significance for human nature, these things are actually negative.

A person’s wisdom and skillful means should be cleverly used to help others. This kind of wisdom rises above worldly strategies and, combined with integrity and compassion, can benefit people. By contrast, those who are driven by the benefits and desires of their own personal gain, if followed to the extreme, in the end might just be caught in a trap of their own making, even forfeiting their lives. If you want to gain the admiration and support of others, rely on selfless devotion and compassionate generosity, rather than narrow-minded scheming.
When their wants are not met, these calculating individuals will exert unrelenting pressure on others. And in the end, they’ll bring disgrace upon themselves, as others turn against them. An ancient saying goes, “Sages do not worry that they lack wisdom, worrying instead that their virtue is lacking.” In the Han Dynasty, there lived a strategist whom I greatly admire named Chen Shi. His wisdom was impressive, but everything he did was to help sentient beings. Even when he was subjected to indescribable injustice, he always repaid such unjust treatment with graciousness, earning the respect of high officials and commoners alike.
He once said, “If my life were spent merely in the pursuit of trifling possessions, such foolish conduct would be a disgrace to my reputation and dignity! Those who give their life in the greedy pursuit of wealth are too numerous to count, yet there are plenty of clever strategists and advisers among them. If they meet their end today, what then? This would certainly never happen to a sage or to a truly wise strategist.” Chen Shi at one point served as a county magistrate and miraculously there was not a single litigation during his tenure. The magistrates from other counties begged to know his secret tactic. To this he replied, “The best strategy is to have none. I treat people sincerely every day, never resorting to dishonest rhetoric, and my intentions are benevolent, believing that so long as we trust one another fully, a day will come when the truth will become thoroughly clear to all. This is truly the best way to strategize without a strategy and the best way to inspire the whole world.”

Even the greatest mind is no match for the eyes of the common people. I also believe that the person with a glib tongue cannot overcome the voices of the masses. Although one’s words can hurt others, this actually deals a crushing defeat to one’s own dignity. This world is brimming with such distrust, discontent, resentment, meaningless gossip and nonsense; all of which are linked to the tongue (speech). The wounding effect and speed of the tongue is even more fearsome than a bullet. One wrong sentence, spread through the Internet, can influence the whole world. Eloquence will never surpass the importance of good personal character, and if someone unconscionably uses convincing words, schemes, and other despicable means to draw out far-fetched analogies and hurt others, they are no different than flies and maggots stuck to festering, putrid food. Schemes which are of no benefit to others are the customary trickery of unseen assassins, and the karmic retributions from such designs are fearsome. Furthermore, if in the pursuit of selfish interest one is unconcerned with cause and effect, disregarding one’s body, speech, and mind and shirking one’s moral responsibility, only one of the three most sinister roads will be available for this person to tread.

2015年4月27日 星期一

The Game of Cat and Mouse, also Your Ticket to Enlightenment

Some people say they have excessively greedy desires, that their temper is awful and that their minds are full of meaningless and troubling afflictions. These things may even be affecting their sleep and emotional wellbeing and, indirectly, wreaking havoc on their personal relationships. As a result, their mind becomes more and more clouded. Some people quite honestly concede that they would really like to dedicate themselves to their study of Buddhism, yet they often feel at odds with their previous way of thinking. These mental impressions hinder their understanding, and they often take two steps backward to every one step forward on the path of spiritual practice. Time slips by, and they often feel exceedingly distressed by their ignorance. In reality, however, the same issues exist in the minds of each individual. Everyone entertains the same concerns, yet none dare admit it. As a matter of fact, all of these conundrums are excellent catalysts to our progress on the path of spiritual practice.

The negative habits and afflictions which we have in this life did not appear all of a sudden. They can be traced back uncountable eons, from which time we have carried them as they pile up like a mountainous garbage dump. Even when we relocate, the smell is ever present. The purpose of learning Buddhism is to eliminate this karma as opportunities naturally arise to do so, as it is impossible to eliminate such a saturating karmic stench in a short period of time. While we practice to transform these habits, we must simultaneously observe them. Through this gradual practice and process of elimination, these redundant habits naturally fall away and disappear. We don’t need to take aim at destroying any particular habit, looking for the same instant relief we would get by removing a fish bone lodged in our throat. On the contrary, we must value our habitual patterns and the time that they accompany and interact with us, giving us the chance to learn. The moment that you realize which habitual pattern it is that is tying you in knots, is the moment you become aware of where it is that your afflictions arise. At this time you need to loosen the reins in order to get a better grip on them, like a cat hot on the trail of a mouse, needing only to wait for the mouse to stick out its head. The time to catch your prey depends upon your own mind – this is the true meaning of awareness. And only in this way will you get the chance to practice the method called “knowing without thoughts.”

We must remain thankful of our afflictions and habitual patterns, for without the opportunities that they provide, we practitioners, in search of our own minds, would never have the chance to introspect upon our self-nature or reflect inwards and observe ourselves. The most precious and rare distinction between practitioners and ordinary folk is that practitioners regularly and clearly observe these perfect defects (habitual patterns) which always keep them company, able to remain unruffled and handle them with skill and ease. You will not feel in the least distressed by the poisons which exist in your body, mouth (speech), or mind. You will not feel irritable or impatient and intolerant, becoming uneasy and nervous. On the contrary, you will be capable of dancing gracefully with these wolves, waiting for the moment to turn them into docile sheep. This is what we would call the successful transformation (of habitual patterns), to turn an assault into a triumph. When we encounter such a situation, it actually doesn’t matter how we counteract or practice. In the time that we coexist and interact with our afflictions, the afflictions and poisons will, without the space in which to shock or ruffle us, transform and purge themselves of their negative energy. This actually increases the positive spiritual power of our self-nature, which in the end is unified with the five wisdoms of Buddha (wisdom of dharmadhatu, mirror-like wisdom, wisdom of equality, wisdom of discernment, and all-accomplishing wisdom).

From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

2015年4月2日 星期四

Elevating Our Spiritual Energy Can Trump Adrenaline

There is an ever increasing number of people that will experience an increased heart rate, a jump in body temperature, and a surge in adrenaline, all caused by the sudden influx of emotions. A substantial change in cortisol secretions can also contribute to immediate changes in our mental states. From a medical and psychological point of view, all these reactions arise when anyone encounters unfamiliar circumstances or surroundings. This asserts that a person who hasn’t undergone spiritual or religious development has no way of transforming or controlling his or her physical response to stress.

In fact, we are our own best psychologist. Even with the depth psychotherapy developed by Freud and Jung, it can only touch on the surface of an individual’s physical and psychological issues which are manifestation of their karma. If we hope to thoroughly transform ourselves for the better, the only way is through religious guidance and spiritual inspiration.

Humans are unable to attract everything they desire, but they spend the greater part of their life energy in pursuit of these desires. If we want to transform ourselves, it has to start from the positive spiritual law of attraction. We should understand that to immediately bring about all transformations, the self is the most important. An individual’s mental intent can decide the final outcome, as well as setting the wheels of karma in motion. To elevate our spiritual level, it’s imperative to first establish a belief in cause and effect and samsara, because our karmic roots go all the way back to the beginning of the soul. Once we’ve grasped these concepts, we should carefully observe and control our body, speech and mind’s conduct in minute detail. We must understand that we are the only ones who are able to instill peace and harmony within ourselves, and we are the ones to decide if we allow ourselves or others around us to be harmed. Ultimately, whether or not our mind is at ease is contingent on the way we treat ourselves. So in fact, there is only one thing we need to do well. And that is to thoroughly observe our own mind in every moment, and to adequately rectify and transform any mistaken views and affairs gone wrong. If we are successful, we will never be at a loss for what to do or how to handle any situation.

From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

2015年3月22日 星期日

True Zen Meditation: Sitting or Not, Always in a State of Inherent Awareness

In the practice of meditation, many find their minds swirling with delusive thoughts at the outset; or perhaps they fall into a dazed or drowsy state, wholly unaware. This is proof that, generally speaking, their ability to cultivate meditative stillness is tentative and their conviction weak. This is also an indication that their practice of right mindfulness has been momentarily lost. Especially when the weather is in flux and, for instance, the warmth of the sun suddenly appears, or the temperature suddenly drops, the mind easily loses concentration and drifts off, becoming drowsy and filling up with delusive thoughts as soon as one begins to meditate. At this time the the power of our inherent awareness is very frail.
Whether we are sitting or walking, it is important to constantly practice using external conditions and sensations for inward reflection. This is to say that it doesn’t matter if your body is in a state of movement or stillness; all along, you have a very clear and pure mind helping to deal with all situations triggered by both body and environment. If the inherent awareness of your inner mind can observe and understand very clearly, this is also a form of correct mindfulness. If you are able to be conscious of every single act, whether static or dynamic, then over time, all of your drowsiness and disorderly thoughts will automatically be perceived the moment they arise. This is yet another kind of enlightened wisdom. So we don’t need to go out of our way to intentionally change any of our trains of thought or afflictions, as it will be ineffective to intentionally enforce any method to counteract afflictions of the body, speech or mind.

An increasing number of people are interested in whether it is possible to reduce or alleviate their delusive thoughts and afflictions by doing yoga, qigong, or meditation, only to become disappointed by the result. This is because they have failed to first establish a sound understanding of true samadhi (meditative stillness) and the correct concepts pertaining to the elimination of afflictions. So what kind of meditative stillness is free from the restrictions (imposed by the methods) of “sitting in meditation,” “practicing Chan” or “walking meditation?” How can one enter into such a state?
Actually, one can simply start from the basics. At all times and in all places, you must be unaffected by any external conditions. To accomplish this point is also a form of right concentration, since you can remain undisturbed by the differentiating mind. In the very beginning when you undertake this practice, it may be impossible to remove your differentiating mind altogether. This would be considered a kind of indefinite differentiating thought. Sometimes, a small number of people might derive certain sensory experiences from this kind of intricate differentiating mind, however it is very easy to misinterpret this state as being the experience of emptiness. If you have a firm understanding of the foundation of Mahayana, gradually with practice, you will feel your mind entering into a more tranquil state of meditative stillness. This kind of understanding is yet even more firm and concrete. A more advanced practitioner is constantly able to maintain a tranquil mind, and he will be able to see with utter clarity the appearance of his mind which has always existed within himself.

After you yourself are able to see clearly the original nature of the mind, this means you would have no need, regardless of the time or place, to resort to any method for transforming the nature of your mind, as you are already abiding in your original nature. If you continue to practice in this way, your delusive and afflictive thoughts will disappear the moment they arise. This is what it means to be certain in your practice of right concentration.

From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

2015 Shang Rinpoche's books

“If we were simply willing to crack open our hearts like a nut, we would find within each of us an inexhaustible love enough to satisfy everyone in the world.” - Shang Rinpoche
Rinpoche currently has three English-language book titles available (and many more in Chinese). The first one is a complete meditation guide and the second two are a compilation of Rinpoche’s articles that were originally posts on his (bi-lingual) Facebook page.

Free and at Ease

"Free and at Ease" is an instruction guide of methods and oral tips for practicing meditation as taught by Shang Rinpoche over the years. It is based on Rinpoche's rich experience with contemplative practices:
  • The introduction addresses the purpose, benefits and goals of meditation, including such important questions as who meditation is intended for and "what for?"
  • The main body of the book is practical in nature, and is laid out in a progressive manner, starting with advice on an optimal environment and the posture and exercises to enter and exit a session.
  • A series of actual meditative practices are then presented, ranging progressively from entry level to more advanced practices.
Fundamentally, all these practices revolve around bringing more mindfulness into your daily life.
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In the first two English editions of his written Chinese works on Facebook, Rinpoche offers practical and plainspoken advice on how to courageously face and overcome the challenges every day brings.

Soaring the Winds of Adversity

The first title, "Soaring the Winds of Adversity", offers advice on transforming the way one views life and the obstacles that comes one’s way. It shares a wealth of insight on how to live fully in our rapidly changing world, inviting us to make best use of every moment of our precious life. This advice is often practical, rooted in the realities of our world, while nonetheless not losing sight of the traditional heritage it represents, taking its source as it is in the wellspring of spiritual and philosophical traditions of the East.
Drawing from traditional wisdom as well as secular knowledge, it invites us to:
  • open our minds and broaden our horizons
  • march forth unabashed by the blows life delivers us
  • and develop a vast mind capable of achieving all success.
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Braving the Storm of Sorrows

The second volume, "Braving the Storm of Sorrows", much in the same spirit as the first, touches on diverse subjects such as relationships, happiness, and the ever-present human quest for true freedom. Through exploring themes so close to our everyday experience and inviting us to be mindful of every moment that each day offers us,
  • it proposes that we become intimately acquainted with our fears and our sorrows, thereby empowering ourselves to transform them into joy and confidence.
  • It offers tips on training our minds, so that we may achieve such transformation in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our most-often hectic daily routines.
Braving the Storm of Sorrows thus invites us to take a fresh look at our lives, opening our eyes to witness the abounding opportunities for awakening that our lives are teeming with.
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