Shortly before the Buddha left this world, he was asked, “When in the future the dharma is explained generation after generation, there may be changes, so how can someone be sure that what is taught is in accordance with your teachings?” Buddha sat for a while until everyone was silent and then he started talking. “When an explanation of a teaching contains these four realities, then it is in accordance with my teachings.” Then he explained what the four are.
The first is that no composite thing is permanent. The next is that everything associated with self-centered emotion is painful. The third is all we experience, all experienced content, is shunyata, that means, beyond assumptions, opinions and preconceived ideas. And the last is that nirvana is peace. Nirvana here does not mean that you have gone away into a self-absorbed state of mind, but that you have gone beyond self-centered opinions and beyond erroneous views. In other words; realization is the ultimate peace. These four principles contain the core of the Buddha’s teaching.
I have heard many explanations of the four sentences from various masters over the years, especially Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, and also read about them. They are deep and I can not claim that I can cover their depth adequately. But to the best of my ability, I have tried to incorporate them into a system called Bodhi Training, which includes the path for humans, the path for gods, the path for someone with a hinayana mentality and the path for people with outer and inner mahayana attitude. The methodology of asking questions for personal inquiry comes from my teacher, Tulku Urgyen.
I am very pleased with the results the participants so far have presented. How they are able to let go of the preoccupation that characterizes ordinary human life, being preoccupied with the transient and superficial. They have become more able to rest in themselves and at the same time make room for the open heart, so that humanity and goodness come forward. Goodness, love and a sense of responsibility for more than oneself unfold while self-centeredness has diminished. Thus you become a trustworthy, reliable person and able to be a guide for others, for your family and for your friends. This does not happen by just believing in a set of ideas, that one is better than others, but it shines through one’s words, manner and facial expression, as an automatic consequence. This is what I call the path for human beings.
When that goodness is given even more space in the present moment by yielding personal territory from within and opening up further, your love, sense of responsibility, understanding and compassion expand. They become much, much larger as you work to remove boundaries while they form in your mind. That is the key to boundless love, compassion, joy and impartiality, and that is exactly the essential path for gods. We discover that the present moment contains a divineness that is available to us at any time.
We can work with this discovery in a very practical way, so that a loving and open-minded way of being is more expansive and happens more often in our daily lives. We also begin to discover that what feels love and insight, the subject, disappears every time we look for it. The person – I, me, myself – is only apparently present, as a habitual impression. We can all discover this as we look for it many times over the course of a day.
This failure to find a personal identity besides consciousness is the very essence of the Buddha’s fundamental path, because the sting that sits in every self-centered emotion is pulled out again and again and disappears without a trace. In other words, we begin to discover how to be a centerless, ownerless, egoless attention which is kind and loving at the same time.
Now we are ready to move on to the Buddha’s larger path, the mahayana. Without insight into ownerless attention, it can feel too heavy and insurmountable to take on the responsibilities of many people, animals, and sentient beings. It is much better to have the foundation in place first.
As we enter the mahayana, the Buddha’s greater path, it is based on the failure to find an ego, on a direct discovery that there is no personal identity, but rather based on an open consciousness. In other words, it is yourself, not as an ego-self, but as an ownerless and open mind that is loving without being self-centered.
Thus, we can start on the true path of a bodhisattva and review qualities that are trustworthy for others. To be generous, not only with things, but with oneself, with your presence, with your being and with your resources, with your understanding, and proper in behavior and attitude. Willing to endure hardships especially to endure deeper insights.
It is not necessarily easy to accept that the contents of experience in reality neither rises nor disappears, but is like an image in the inner mirror. This is the essential understanding of Mind Only. We are also willing to continue because there is inspiration and joy. Our determination is not built on the belief in illusions, but on the fact that it is possible to resolve misunderstandings and mistakes. Not just in this mind, but also in the mind of others. Anyone can join.
It is possible to continue because of discovering a calm way of being that does not require effort, in which the training is to bring the attention back every time we are distracted. Not that we sit and concentrate like a stiff log of wood, but like a continuous flowing river where fixed points of reference loosen up and gradually fall away. This openness means that we can see much more clearly and distinctly what is what. This is what is called transcendent insight, prajnaparamita. We go on the other side of duality and yet there is still an alertness that perceives not just its own nature but also anything that occurs. Such is the essence of the Buddha’s greater path, the mahayana. A human being who travels through this greater path is now really ready to enter into the unbreakable methods of all the Buddhas, which is called the vajra path, vajrayana.
These are the topics I teach during the Bodhi Training course, not because I am something special, but because all the methods and explanations my teachers have given are very effective and work for anyone who honestly uses them. I really appreciate dharma insight and how it affects the dualistic mind. Dharma helps to open a hand that has tightened into a fist. It is as if the heart chakra zealously maintains its own identity through ignorance and misunderstanding, but it is possible to open up more and more. It’s like that for all people, not just for a few. It should therefore be a human right to have access to this kind of teaching in liberating methods for insight.
It’s absolutely fine if you only spend your life on the humane path. If you move on to the path for gods it is even better. If you go on to understand the unfindability of the ego, it is simply excellent, because then it is possible to be freed from a confused way of being. And if you go on through the Buddha’s greater path, the benefits are endless. Take my word for it. An endless benefit flows forth, not just for yourself, but also for everyone you come in contact with.