Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

Aspiration is the King (Vancouver 2024)

Public teaching on Samantabhadra’s King of Aspiration Prayers (Ārya-Bhadracaryā-Praṇidhāna-Rāja)
Given at The Vancouver Playhouse, Vancouver
January 6-7, 2024

Day 1 part 1: Video (62 minutes), Transcript
Day 1 part 2: Video (93 minutes), Transcript
Day 2 part 1Video (117 minutes), Transcript
Day 2 part 2: Video (121 minutes), Transcript

Includes audio recording of Rinpoche giving the reading transmission (lung) for the King of Aspiration Prayers

NEWS! We will be offering a review of Rinpoche’s teaching on “Aspiration is the King”, hopefully to be scheduled between February to April 2024. Please take the following short survey to let us know your preferences for the review.

Teachings on Samantabhadra’s King of Aspiration Prayers: Taipei 2016 / Hong Kong 2021 / Bodh Gaya 2023 / Vancouver 2024

Note 1: This is an edited transcript of a live teaching, and should not be taken as Rinpoche’s final word. Every effort has been made to ensure that this transcript is accurate both in terms of words and meaning, however all errors and misunderstandings are the responsibility of the editors of Please see note.

Note 2: This transcript includes footnotes with clarifications and more information about Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist terms used in the teaching. Please click on the superscript number to read the footnote. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s name is abbreviated to “DJKR” throughout.

Day 1 part 1

1. Introduction: The Avatamsaka Sutra and the King of Aspirations


I want to express my joy for being here and having this gathering. I have tried to tune my mind [and] intention with the right kind of direction, that whatever I’m going to sort of briefly share with you is going to be beneficial not just for temporary satisfaction, but that somehow this will in one way or another lead to the awakening of all of us. For those of you who are familiar with Buddhist procedures generally, and especially the Mahayana tradition, I should encourage you to generate a similar motivation to listen to this.

Motivation and attitude are so important. You could come here and listen to these verses with the intention just to gather some information about so-called Buddhism. Or you can come here [with the intention] to listen to what is it that the bodhisattvas aspire [for], and [also with the intention] that you will also apply these. The kind of motivation [that you have] will definitely influence the way you listen and hear, and eventually even how you apply [these verses] to your life.

I’m very happy that I’m doing this particular text. This is a classic, a very classic Buddhist text. Among many other reasons why I’m happy, one of them is — especially for those who are new to Buddhism — that I want you to know the richness and the depth and the sort of progressiveness of Buddhism, even from the days of [the] ancient classical Buddhist period. But I have to tell you that for sure I’m not going to do a good job in going through all the stanzas. That’s just — it’s not only impossible just because we don’t have time, but primarily [because] me, myself, I don’t have the capacity to encapsulate everything. And I’d like to believe that you will try to have the capacity to listen.

Time and space in the Avatamsaka Sutra

This is a Mahayana text. It comes as the last section of the sutra known as the Avatamsaka Sutra1See Avatamsaka Sutra, which is one of the most important and most elaborated texts in Mahayana Buddhism. By the way, it has been translated quite nicely, so you can read it in English. And it is one of the most venerated sutras in China, in ancient Chinese history. So definitely there are [also] a lot of Chinese translations.

I think, I hope, that this will give you a little bit of a demonstration of why we have the name “Mahayana” [i.e. “greater vehicle”]. I think for a lot of people, maybe they think the term “Mahayana” is just a [Buddhist] school or tradition that flourished in Japan, Korea, Tibet, Bhutan, the Himalayan region, and China. That is true, but it’s much more than that. Now I have to tell you this. The word “Hinayana” [i.e. “lesser vehicle”] is probably a Mahayana chauvinist word, so I don’t know whether this actually exists [i.e. as the name of a school or tradition]. When Tibetan or Mahayana Buddhists talk about the Hinayana, they are referring to what we should be calling Shravakayana or probably Theravada. And I think the word Hinayana is a little bit misleading because a lot of people seem to have the attitude that Hinayana is some sort of a lesser school, which is actually not really true. 

Anyway, let’s just explore a little bit about what makes something Mahayana. And throughout these stanzas you will realise [or at least] hopefully you will have a little taste of what we mean by Mahayana. Just briefly, I will give you a few [examples] from the text. For instance, there is a section where we do what we call confession. The English word “confession” does not really do justice to the [Tibetan word] shakpa2shakpa (Tibetan: བཤགས་པ, shakpa ; Wylie: bshags pa) = confession – see shakpa.. I mean, it’s not really the direct proper translation. I don’t think so. But let’s just use it for now. So there is a section on confession, and if you pay attention you will realise you are not only confessing the misdeeds and the non-virtue of the past and the present, but you are also confessing the misdeeds and the non-virtue of the future. This is how the Mahayana looks at the world. Now this is nothing to do with pre-empting your non-virtue before it arrives. Rather, in the Mahayana, they don’t really believe that time truly exists or that time independently exists. So based on that [view of time], you will have this kind of [confession, where you confess for misdeeds of the future]. Basically, this kind of phenomena or world [can be found] in every level of this sutra.

So, where was this sutra taught? This is a very difficult question. Because as you read the Avatamsaka Sutra, it begins somewhere like under the Bodhi Tree, let’s say. But somewhere in the middle [of the sutra], you will realise that the teaching is happening in Tushita heaven. [And yet] supposedly Buddha never left the Vajra seat under the Bodhi tree. So the [way that] space is dealt with is another demonstration of [the Mahayana attitude]. I already talked about how time is not really independently there, but even space [does not exist independently] — you are here, but you are also somewhere else, [and yet] you have never left here. Basically I’m saying that if you want to hear Mahayana teachings, you really need to try to go beyond the way you normally think. If you insist on keeping intact all the ways you think now, the chance of you understanding this kind of Mahayana sutra is very, very slim.

The disciples in the Avatamsaka Sutra

When we read the Avatamsaka Sutra, as some of you may have done, and you can read it later if you want, the first about two hundred pages is the list of some of the students or disciples. [Some of] the remarkable or significant disciples, let’s call them. When I used to read this sutra, I just skipped [the first] about 180 pages. I didn’t even read them. It’s just names. But recently, the way I approach [this sutra has changed]. You see, this is the thing. Even though I was myself born in a Buddhist family, a Mahayana family actually, we take things for granted too much. So I never really managed to appreciate this sutra. [It was] only recently that I began to pay some attention to the list of these people. And they are so important, because you will notice [there are] all kinds of beings. I guess we would now call them “alien”. One of my very close friends died a few years ago. He used to teach at the University of California in San Francisco. He used to say that reading the Avatamsaka Sutra is a hundred times better than watching the [complete set of] episodes of Star Wars. 

Actually, this special attention to the disciples came after I visited the caves at Dunhuang3Dunhuang (Chinese: 敦煌, pinyin: Dūnhuáng) = a city in Western China. It was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road and is best known for the nearby Mogao Caves, a series of 735 caves noted for their Buddhist art – see Dunhuang. in China. They have done a good job depicting some of these [disciples] in painting. And now when I read this, it’s just fascinating because there are disciples who are just mist. Or a breeze. Or half-human, half-snake. Or horse’s head but human body. 

Apsaras, supernatural female spirits of the clouds and waters skilled at dancing on air. Mogao Cave 249, Dunhuang © Dunhuang Academy.
Siddhartha crossing over the palace wall at night, with feitian, mythological creatures, archaic deities. Mogao Cave 329, Dunhuang © Dunhuang Academy.

Of course, one can always think that these [non-human disciples] are all [included merely on a] fantastical level. But this is such an important element that we should make note of. Because even here [we have] myself, a deluded being, talking to several hundred people. Yes, of course, you are not mist. I don’t think so. Some of you are probably robots, who knows? But you all have a different way of understanding. How you understand my words, how you hear my words is going to be different [for each of you]. And as I said earlier, I don’t have the capacity to make all of you understand [in the way] I want you to understand. I will just have to let you understand however you want to understand. But in the Avatamsaka Sutra, one realises that Buddha and his disciples, [such as] bodhisattvas like Mañjushri, have this amazing way to teach. “Teach” is maybe not the right word, but anyway, [they have a] way to make people understand [in the way] they want things to be understood. 

By the way, this sutra is very big. Even just one part of the sutra could easily be a very big normal, standard sutra. And Mañjushri plays an important role here. So even though the tribute or credit is given to Buddha Shakyamuni as the supreme teacher, the actual action of teaching happens through many different bodhisattvas such as Mañjushri.

The King of Aspiration Prayers is part of the Stem Array (Gandavyuha Sutra)

There is one section [of the Avatamsaka Sutra] called Dongpö Gyenpé Do, which is loosely translated as “Stem Array”, or something like that. [Ed.: DJKR taught on the Stem Array in Hong Kong in October 2021. The transcript is available here]. It’s like the stem of a tree, sort of in layers or properly arrayed4The Sanskrit word gandi (गण्डि; IAST: gaṇḍi) means “stem, stalk”, “pieces, parts” and also “the trunk of a tree from the root to the beginning of the branches” – see Gandavyuha Sutra. Peter Alan Roberts, who translated this sutra for 84000, says:

“The title The Stem Array is a translation of the Tibetan interpretation of the Sanskrit title Gaṇḍavyūha, though I think its original meaning is probably something more like, “an array of episodes.”
. And that one also has fifty-six chapters. I need to tell you a bit about that sutra, because this particular aspiration [prayer] is part of it. So there’s this bodhisattva, [who is] very diligent, kind, compassionate, and brave. Again, really I’m not doing this justice. Whenever a character is introduced, there is almost a whole page describing this bodhisattva, such as [how they are] brave, diligent, loving, kind, compassionate etc. This bodhisattva, whose name is Manibhadra, was very wealthy [Ed. this bodhisattva is more commonly referred to as Sudhana, e.g. in the 84000 translation of the Gandavyuha Sutra5See Sudhana.. The name Sudhana will be used going forwards in this transcript]. In China, he was also worshipped separately because he is also sort of referred to as a wealth deity. But a big part of this sutra is about this man.

He meets Mañjushri, and Mañjushri teaches him this and that. And Mañjushri says, “Okay, now I’ve finished for now. There is another great teacher somewhere distant from here …” — something like five hundred miles or five hundred mountains and five hundred valleys beyond. You know, the classic Indian narrative construction — “… And there is this incredible master, you must go and learn from him”. So Sudhana obeys Mañjushri, and he goes through all [kinds of] hassles and penance in search for this master. He encounters this master after a lot of difficulties. He learns from this master. And this master teaches him for years and years and years. And then finally one day this master says, “Okay, I’ve finished. You should now go to another place”.

So basically, [this is a story of] fifty-two masters sending Sudhana to different masters. And some of them are quite amazing. For example, with one of these masters, Sudhana has to wait next to the ocean, the incredible vast ocean, and wait and wait and gaze at the ocean. And then the master will slowly arise on the surface of the ocean6Chapter 5 tells the story of Sudhana’s meeting with Sāgara­megha, who describes how by focusing on the ocean and its qualities over twelve years he saw a buddha seated on a giant precious lotus arise from the ocean, with countless deities of various kinds paying homage to that buddha, who gave him a teaching called All-Seeing Eyes, which was so vast that even one chapter of it was too long to ever be written out – see 84000.. And each master has very specific teachings, by the way. One of the masters is a prostitute. And the only way to receive teachings from this master is by Sudhana becoming her customer7Chapter 28 tells the story of Sudhana’s encounter with the courtesan Vasumitrā – see 84000.. And this is the thing. Didn’t I tell you about the Mahayana? Mind-boggling stuff! We cannot [approach this sutra] with our normal thinking. Usually we have this idea of a master as someone serene, someone morally perfect, all of that. You know, the whole procedure. But here it’s not like that.

There are a few of my favourite masters. One of them is the perfume seller, and it’s all about smell 8Sudhana meets two perfume merchants during his travels: Samanta­netra in Chapter 19, and Utpalabhūti in Chapter 24.. I think a Western scholar even refers to this sutra as the perfect description of wealth. And it kind of makes sense that he described it that way, because some of the wealth that is described in the sutra is so beyond [our ordinary thinking], like out there. Like a thousand different diamonds, thousand different turquoise, thousand different emeralds, steps made out of these thousand different emeralds, railings made out of different kinds of diamonds. The gold is not even secondary [in importance].

One of my own personal favourites is [the story of] Sudhana’s [meeting with Indriyeshvara9Indriyeshvara (Sanskrit: इन्द्रियेश्वर, IAST: Indriyeśvara) = Indriyeshvara, a young boy, the kalyanamitra that Sudhana meets in Chapter 15 of the Gandavyuha Sutra – see Indriyeshvara.]. Sudhana is sent by the master Sudarshana10Ed.: Sudhana is first introduced in Chapter 3 as a disciple of Mañjushri, and the story of Sudarshana is in Chapter 14, which makes him Sudhana’s 12th master. to another master. And usually when a master sends Sudhana, they will always have a perfect description [of how to find the next master] — how to go, which mountain to pass, which valley to cross, all of that. Anyway, Sudarshana said, “Okay, you have to go now. You have to go to a beach, a sandy beach. And there [you will find] this incredible, compassionate, omnipotent, omniscient master who is adorned with the kayas and the jhanas — the lord of the paramitas, the great master. And you will find him playing [on the beach] among hundreds of kids. And he himself is [a young boy]”, I think an eight-year-old kid.

And of course Sudhana spends years looking for this master. Finally one day he finds some kids playing on a sandy beach kids. And there’s a full description about how Sudhana ran to this special kid and fell to the ground and prostrated and held this kid’s feet. And he said, “I’ve been all over the place looking for you.” And, you know, the normal conversation,”Who sent you?” And then he gave the name of Sudarshana, the [previous] bodhisattva. Anyway, the subject of this kid’s teaching is so good. It’s my favourite. It’s about numbers, like one, two, three, four, five, six, you know, like that. But what is so amazing is that for us, after about a trillion, we are finished. But the kid has so many, so many [more numbers], about fourteen pages. After about the tenth page, the numbers basically sound like a baby talking. And then there you realise the bodhisattva is making fun of mathematics. You realise that one and a trillion and a thousand are just an illusion [Ed.: DJKR explains Indriyeshvara’s teaching on the nature of numbers in greater depth during his teaching on the Gandavyuha Sutra].

The bodhisattva Samantabhadra

Anyway, finally, I think the 51st bodhisattva sent Sudhana to his last teacher, Samantabhadra. [This is the Mahayana bodhisattva Samantabhadra], not to be confused with the Buddha Samantabhadra that you find in the Nyingma tradition. All bodhisattvas are omnipotent, they are omniscient, they are all just perfect — but they each have their own kind of specialty, so to speak. Mañjushri for wisdom; Avalokiteshvara for compassion; Akashagarbha for confession; Kshitigarbha for wealth — It depends on the different [school of Buddhism], but mainly wealth. And the bodhisattva Samantabhadra specialises in aspiration.

And this is so beautiful because after all the two thousand pages of the sutra, we come to the conclusion that the best thing you can do is aspiration. You know, before we reach this [final chapter], there is talk about shunyata, the paramitas, all that high philosophy stuff. [But] we boil down everything to aspiration. Supposedly all the bodhisattvas, when they were just beginning their steps, they had their own aspiration. For example, Mañjushri aspired that whoever will hear his name in the future, that they will have wisdom. And Avalokiteshvara aspired that whoever hears his name will have compassion. [Samantabhadra’s aspiration was that] whoever associates with [him in the future], their aspiration will be accomplished. Anyway, after eons and eons, our hero Sudhana finally ends his tour with Samantabhadra. So this is why the Pranidhana-Raja is the king of all the aspirations.

Aspiration is the most user-friendly practice for beginners like us

Anyway, briefly, for beginners like us, aspiration is the most risk-free, most user-friendly if you like, practice. So even, let’s say, shamatha meditation, [if you have to choose between] actually doing shamatha meditation — like concentrating on your breathing, concentrating on your sensations — versus aspiring to concentrate on the breathing, Samantabhadra here is saying [you should prefer] aspiration. Because if you keep on aspiring, the chances of you actually doing [your practice] is higher. It’s the same thing with shunyata, emptiness. For us, forget it, it’s a joke. We can talk about it, think about it, read about it for days and lifetimes, but it’s not going to do much. But [you should] long for it, aspire for it. Because when you aspire, that has a lot of good elements. When you aspire, at least you are admitting you don’t know, which is humility. And humility is the worst news for the ego. And the ego is the one that cements samsara. There are just so many incredible powers [and benefits of aspiration].

2. The Text: The Pranidhana-Raja (The King of Aspiration Prayers)

The Benefits of Aspiration

And so, today we will begin. I can’t go through every stanza, but I will go [through them] roughly. I will actually begin with [the verses on] the benefit of aspiration. This is somewhere towards the end [Ed.: the Pranidhana-Raja has 63 verses in four sections, and the verses on the benefits of making aspirations comprise the third section, which starts at verse 47]. This is the statement of Samantabhadra himself [Ed.: the verses of the Pranidhana-Raja are in dark red. The English translation, including the outline and headings, is by Lotsawa House. The Chinese root text is from Amitabha Buddhist Center11See Arya-Bhadracharya-Pranidhana-Raja.]:

3. The Benefits of Making Aspirations

3.1. The Benefits of Making Aspirations in General
[47] Whoever hears this king of dedication prayers,
And yearns for supreme enlightenment,
Who even once arouses faith,
Will gain true merit greater still


[48] Than by offering the victorious buddhas
Infinite pure realms in every directions, all ornamented with jewels,
Or offering them all the highest joys of gods and humans
For as many aeons as there are atoms in those realms.


If somebody makes offerings of jewel garlands to all the buddhas of the past, present and future, of course they have a lot of merit. But that merit is nothing compared to even [just] hearing this aspiration. And then upon hearing this aspiration, [if] you actually have some sort of inkling or attraction towards the bodhisattva path, that has much, much, much more merit. Okay, from one angle you might think that, “Oh, this is because the aspiration is so powerful.” Specifically this aspiration. You can understand it that way. But you can do even better. The reason why just hearing this and having some sort of admiration towards the bodhisattva path is much more meritorious than actually meeting thousands of buddhas and giving them jewels is because the contents of this aspiration are so not ordinary. Anyway, first let’s just go through the benefits very roughly.

3.2. The Thirteen Benefits in Detail
[49] Whoever truly makes this Aspiration to Good Actions,
Will never again be born in lower realms;
They will be free from harmful companions, and
Soon behold the Buddha of Boundless Light.


[50] They will acquire all kind of benefits, and live in happiness;
Even in this present life all will go well,
And before long,
They will become just like Samantabhadra.


[51] All negative acts—even the five of immediate retribution—
Whatever they have committed in the grip of ignorance,
Will soon be completely purified,
If they recite this Aspiration to Good Actions.


[52ab] They will possess perfect wisdom, beauty, and excellent signs,
Be born in a good family, and with a radiant appearance.


Those who have admiration towards this aspiration and actually do this aspiration, they will abandon all the non-virtuous realms. They will stay away from non-virtuous friends. They will soon encounter the Buddha of Boundless Light, Amitabha. Even in this relative life, they will encounter fortune, longevity, success, etc. This person will also become like the bodhisattva Samantabhadra. And even very hideous non-virtue12The verse refers to the five acts of immediate retribution, which are: (1) killing one’s father, (2) killing one’s mother, (3) killing an arhat, (4) maliciously drawing blood from the body of a tathagata, (5) creating a schism in the sangha – see pañchanantariya. that we may have accumulated in our past, present and future life, by just uttering the words of this aspiration, they will be quickly purified. They will soon be adorned with wisdom. They will obtain infinite form, and they will also obtain the appropriate presence, like colour [and] shape. If we have time, I will go through this a little bit later, but just roughly first.

[52cd] Demons and heretics will never harm them,
And all three worlds will honour them with offerings.


[53] They will quickly go beneath the bodhi-tree,
And there, they will sit, to benefit all sentient beings, then
Awaken into enlightenment, turn the wheel of Dharma,
And tame Mara with all his hordes.


3.3. The Benefits in Brief
[54] The full result of keeping, teaching, or reading
This Prayer of Aspiration to Good Actions
Is known to the buddhas alone:
Have no doubt: supreme enlightenment will be yours!


One who dwells in this aspiration will not be defeated by those who are possessed by extreme views. One who does this aspiration will be revered by all the beings of the three realms. Soon this being will go beneath the Bodhi Tree, meaning he will soon be enlightened. After achieving enlightenment, this being will turn the wheel of the Dharma and defeat infinite numbers of demons of emotions. Never doubt the bodhisattva path. So these are, very briefly, the benefits of doing this aspiration. And as I said, I will come back to why it is so powerful a little bit later.

The Seven Preliminaries for Purifying the Mind

But first, I will begin right from the top. [The prayer] begins with what we call seven limb practices. In order to make your aspiration powerful or in order to actually even have the ability to aspire, we have a few preparations. These are sort of easier parts, so I’m going to just again go through them very quickly. So in order to create this ability, we try to accumulate merit by doing these seven limb practices.

1. The Seven Preliminaries for Purifying the Mind

1.1. Prostration
[1] To all the buddhas, the lions of the human race,
In all directions of the universe, through past and present and future:
To every single one of you, I bow in homage;
Devotion fills my body, speech and mind.


[2] Through the power of this prayer, aspiring to Good Action,
All the victorious ones appear, vivid here before my mind
And I multiply my body as many times as atoms in the universe,
Each one bowing in prostration to all the buddhas.


The first one is [making] prostrations to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three times and all the directions. To them we offer our prostrations of body, mind and speech. And as is stated here, even [right here at the beginning] in the gesture of prostration, we manifest our body into billions and billions. This is such a Mahayana way of thinking. You know like we always talk about going out of the box? So here, as you can see, even during the prostration, the one who does the prostration becomes billions. And to whom do we prostrate? The buddhas of the past, buddhas of the present, and even those buddhas who have not yet become Buddha, the future buddhas. See, here already [right at the beginning], the ordinary concept of time is already broken, even when we are doing the prostration.

Earlier I was talking about the Mahayana flavour. You know why we use the word Mahayana? [When we talk about] “Maha”, the “great vehicle”, we are talking about a grand attitude, a grand view. And when we say grand, we are talking about not being constricted to this [DJKR emphasises the word “this”, and gestures by pointing down to the floor, indicating this particular place in time and space], now, or just one, me, one unit. [We are talking about] having the ability to break through concepts such as, “Oh, I cannot prostrate to the future Buddha because he hasn’t even arrived.”

1.2. Offering
[3] In every atom preside as many buddhas as there are atoms,
And around them, all their bodhisattva heirs:
And so I imagine them filling
Completely the entire space of reality.


[4] Saluting them with an endless ocean of praise,
With the sounds of an ocean of different melodies
I sing of the buddhas’ noble qualities,
And praise all those who have gone to perfect bliss.


[5] To every buddha, I make offerings:
Of the loveliest flowers, of beautiful garlands,
Of music and perfumed ointments, the best of parasols,
The brightest lamps and finest incense.


[6] To every buddha, I make offerings:
Exquisite garments and the most fragrant scents,
Powdered incense, heaped as high as Mount Meru,
Arranged in perfect symmetry.


[7] Then the vast and unsurpassable offerings—
Inspired by my devotion to all the buddhas, and
Moved by the power of my faith in Good Actions—
I prostrate and offer to all you victorious ones.


In the third stanza, actually it’s described even further. On the top of one atom, or a sort of very small particle, there are [as many] atoms [as] exist on earth— billions and billions. And there is that number of Buddhas on each atom. And they are each surrounded by their retinues, the bodhisattvas. To all these Buddhas and bodhisattvas, we praise and prostrate with songs, music, tunes, and expressions. And then next, making offerings of all kinds — imaginable things like flowers, music, incense, lamps, and food of all kinds. We make these offerings to all the Tathagatas. 

1.3. Confession
[8] Whatever negative acts I have committed,
While driven by desire, hatred and ignorance,
With my body, my speech and also with my mind,
Before you, I confess and purify each and every one.


In the presence of all these Buddhas and bodhisattvas, we confess all our misdeeds that are motivated by desire, anger and ignorance, and which we have accumulated through our body, speech and mind. We confess them in front of these Tathagatas.

1.4. Rejoicing
[9] With a heart full of delight, I rejoice at all the merits
Of buddhas and bodhisattvas,
Pratyekabuddhas, those in training and the arhats beyond training,
And every living being, throughout the entire universe.


And then in the presence of the Tathagatas, we rejoice at all the enlightened and ordinary virtue of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and his followers, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. We also rejoice in the virtue of all beings.

1.5. Imploring the Buddhas to Turn the Wheel of Dharma
[10] You who are like beacons of light shining through the worlds,
Who passed through the stages of enlightenment, to attain buddhahood, freedom from all attachment,
I exhort you: all of you protectors,
Turn the unsurpassable wheel of Dharma.


To all these Tathagatas, Buddhas and bodhisattvas, I beseech them to turn the wheel of the Dharma, in other words, to teach.

1.6. Requesting the Buddhas not to Enter Nirvana
[11] Joining my palms together, I pray
To you who intend to pass into nirvana,
Remain, for aeons as many as the atoms in this world,
And bring well-being and happiness to all living beings.


For those Buddhas and bodhisattvas who wish to pass into parinirvana, I request them to remain in this samsara in order to turn the wheel of the Dharma.

1.7. Dedication
[12] What little virtue I have gathered through my homage,
Through offering, confession, and rejoicing,
Through exhortation and prayer—all of it
I dedicate to the enlightenment of all beings!


And all this merit which I have just accumulated through prostrations, offerings and so on, I dedicate this to the awakening of all sentient beings. Okay, so this is basically setting us up for the aspiration. We will take a short break and then we will enter into the main body of the aspiration, which needs a [somewhat] more philosophical discussion.


Day 1 part 2

Aspiration in the Mahayana

Relative aspirations alone will not lead you anywhere

So, now to talk about aspiration. What makes the Mahayana aspiration unique? This is something that we will first discuss, and I think once you have the general idea of that, then if you follow the stanzas, it will make some sense. For instance, there are words like, “May all sentient beings be free from illness.” Of course, you can just interpret this “illness” as in the usual illness that we talk about, like physical illness, mental illness, and so forth. By the way, this prayer has a lot of commentaries. Both in India and later in Tibet also. I have been using different commentaries, and some of the shlokas [or] stanzas can be quite dense, so we need commentaries. Anyway, [we were] talking about illness, and here “illness” is actually not only referring to physical and mental illness. Here, we are talking about the illness of falling into extremes. Okay, I think we should go even beyond this before we discuss this.

We are talking about aspiration. And as we aspire — let’s use the word “pray” — as we pray for something, whatever we are praying for has to have some sort of base, on which you can trust that this prayer will work. All the other prayers, according to the Pranidhana-Raja, are relative prayers. For example, prayers for long life. You can do that — you can pray for long life. There are a lot of Buddhist prayers [for long life], including [this one]. You can [recite the Pranidhana-Raja as a] prayer for longevity. But these [kinds of] prayer are only conventional. Because they are very subjective. For instance, first of all, what do we mean by “long”? “Long” can be one minute. That can be very long. And also, just because you live long does not necessarily mean it’s good. Many times it’s better if you live short. If not for yourself, then maybe for others. You know what I mean? [Likewise, we might pray] “May we be prosperous” or “May we be successful”. It’s the same thing. All these prayers are very subjective. And by the way, it’s not that we are shunning them. You can still do these prayers. But if you forget the ultimate aspiration, then the relative aspiration [alone] will not lead you anywhere.

There’s only one aspiration that actually makes sense

For an aspiration [to be] perfect, it should come to a fruition, a perfect fruition of the aspiration. It should give you the result. And according to the Mahayana, there’s only one aspiration that actually makes sense and that actually will give you a result in accordance with your aspiration. So, for instance, the aspiration, “May I be free from ignorance.” That aspiration is worthy. It is achievable. Much, much more than long life. Because long life, how long do you want to live? A thousand years? This is how the Mahayana thinks. Likewise, aspiring to purify defilements is achievable and it is true to the facts. So, for instance, “May all become Buddha.” That’s a good aspiration. “May all become Buddhist.” That’s not necessarily a good thing, and also it’s not necessarily achievable either. And what do we mean by being Buddhist anyway? There are too many problems in this case. But “May all be Buddha,” may we all be awakened, this is doable. The reason why aspirations such as “May we all be enlightened” and “May I be free from ignorance” are achievable is because ignorance [and] defilement is not your true nature. So of course [here] we are talking about what we call Buddha nature. And this is a very important element of the aspiration. We’ll come back to this, but just make a note of that, because this is a very important aspect of the aspiration.

Another important aspect related to this is non-duality. As a Buddhist, especially as a Mahayana Buddhist, they have this aspiration “May all [sentient beings] be enlightened.” And immediately you may think, “Now that is going to take eons. So many, many, many eons.” And “What do we mean by ‘all'”? Here we need to think in terms of the Mahayana interpretation. This is where I like that kid [Indriyeshvara], that eight year old boy. [After going through all the numbers], he says, “What is one?” One, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, no difference. All these are illusory, all these are imputed by habitual patterns. You need to know this element. So, for a Mahayana student, to aspire “May all become awakened or enlightened” is much more doable than “May the world have peace.” That’s not possible. World peace is not possible. But everybody [becoming] enlightened? Very possible. Easy.

The Mahayana’s attitude to the world is completely different from our ordinary dualistic way of thinking

I’m just giving you [some of the main] elements of the Mahayana [approach] so that you can appreciate [why] this is the King of Aspirations. What makes this the king is these elements. I think I already covered quality earlier, that we are by nature not stained by defilements. Therefore, you can aspire to be free from defilements. [This aspiration] will bear fruit. And I just told you about quantity. [We can aspire] “One sentient being, may he or she be enlightened”, [and equally we can aspire], “May all be enlightened”. You don’t have to be too frightened by using the word “all”. But also you should not take [things] for granted when you think about [the] enlightenment of only one sentient being. So, don’t take [things] for granted just because there’s only one, but [don’t] be too freaked out if you say “all sentient beings”. Because one sentient being is enough. They are a complete pain in the neck.

[Likewise with] duration [and the distinction between] moments and eons. And I’m sure many of you have heard me saying this, but for the newer ones I’ll repeat it here. In the Mahayana Sutras you hear statements like “three countless eons”. Actually, I think one of the fifty-two gurus talks about duration—eons and minutes and moments and all that, month, days, day and night, all that. So what are [three] countless eons? And what is one moment? There are extensive explanations in the Mahayana shastras. For example, there’s an analogy of a bird. I’m forgetting all these analogies now. A bird flying over Mount Meru, a very big mountain, let’s say Mount Everest. And every hundred years, he touches Mount Everest once with his wing. And each time his wing touches the mountain, a little bit of mountain gets eroded, worn out. So let’s just imagine every hundred years this bird touches Mount Everest and then finally the mountain actually becomes flat. All this time, according to the Mahayana, is one moment. So it’s like that. Basically, this is the Mahayana’s attitude towards the world.

The Mahayana sees our everyday dualistic distinctions as being like a magical game

The Mahayana really looks at the world in a different way. That is very Mahayana. They don’t look at the world in [terms of specific] boxes, like east/west, right/left, man/woman, they don’t look at it like that. They will still comply with all these [aspects of] what they call “game” or “play”, but they’re not stuck with them. So this is the ingredient, if you like, of aspiration in the Mahayana. I’m sure many of you are quite familiar with this, [especially] those who have received Mahayana teachings in the past. [For example], time is relative. Even scientists, to a certain extent, say that time is relative. But they never seem to have a practical practice. “Okay, since time is relative, let’s do this, let’s do that.” I always find this interesting. They say that time is relative, but at the same time they have difficulty in accepting next life. [After all], if time is relative, then “next”, “previous”, all this is like a game13Ed.: DJKR said “all means like a game”. This has been edited.. These [things] are very clearly explained in the Mahayana sutras.

There is also is an extensive [explanation of] how cause and condition functions. This is also important as part of aspiration, so I need to explain it to you. Many of you come to me and say, “Rinpoche, can you please pray for my son who is about to go for their final examination?” And from a scientific point of view, you could cheat your exam like that. [You might] not study at all and then someone does a puja for you and then you pass. I guess the scientists might not really accept [something like this]. But you see, this is the great thing about the Mahayana. You will never find anyone less superstitious than [followers of] the Mahayana. They don’t have superstition, yet they [can] accept all the superstitious thoughts. They don’t have superstition because they are followers of Prajñaparamita. Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate — gone, gone, gone beyond and gone. They’ve gone completely beyond the path, [so] there’s no room for superstition. And yet they [can] believe in a magical game of cause and condition.

The role of causes and conditions

Again, I’m extracting this from the commentaries. You will not find it in the actual aspiration, because when you are doing the actual aspiration, you are not supposed to be going through all this academic [analysis and] research. You are supposed to just wholeheartedly do it [i.e. aspire]. For instance, if I’m chewing something sour, those of you who know what sour is will have saliva in your mouth. See how the cause and condition works? It doesn’t mean that [whatever] I’m chewing suddenly went into your mouth. But those who don’t know anything about this thing [won’t have that same reaction]. For instance, I’m chewing this [DJKR picks up a pink flower from the table in front of him and starts chewing it], and I’m sure you are thinking something like, “Oh, that’s poisonous. I hope whoever was selling this [flower] hasn’t smoked too much pot!” But anyway, basically what I’m [talking about] is cause and condition. As I’m chewing this, I’m sure some of you who have never chewed this, your minds are wandering. This is how it works, cause and condition. For somebody who knows nothing about sour or nothing about this [flower], nothing happened actually. Nothing happened. So in that case, the cause and condition functions in a different way. It’s called “nothing happened” cause and condition. There is an extensive study about this [in the Mahayana].

And here I also need to talk about past life and future life, because when we talk about aspiration, we are also always talking about continuity, right? “I aspire that I will become this, this, this”. And then you have this incredible magical thing called continuity. It’s very magical, because if you decipher it, it doesn’t make sense. You could commit a crime today, and tomorrow the police catches you and you go to court. You cannot tell the judge, “Yesterday’s me is different.” Even in the mundane scientific modern world, you are still a criminal. There is a continuity here, right? This is what we call cause, condition and effect. It plays a very important role in the act of aspiration.

So, going back to me praying for your child’s [success in their] examination, it works wonderfully — sometimes. I say sometimes, because I might be distracted while I do the prayer. It also is possible that there is not much karma between this child and me. Remember? For someone who doesn’t know about the flower and the sour, nothing happens — [this is] cause and condition. So [in these kinds of situations] nothing really happens [when I pray for your child], so he will fail. Or [maybe] he will pass but it’s got nothing to do with me. But the parents would be better off thanking me anyway, because that is their good cause and condition. And if the parents thank me for the success [of my] prayer and [their child] passing [the examination], if I get pompous about my prayer then I’m creating a very strange cause and condition. [Then perhaps] in my next life or later in this life, no matter what I say, people will either not hear or [they will] misinterpret me all the time. It would not necessarily be like that. I’m just giving you an example.

Developing the attitude of a bodhisattva

There are many examples of [cause and condition], like [transferring a flame] between two candles — one is lit, the other one is not lit, and you use the first one to light the second one. Now what happened here? Did the first one’s fire go into the second one? [Is the fire the same or different?] And so on and so forth. I think I like the example of teaching better. Let’s say I’m teaching you language, some obscure language. And then you learn. What happened there? Has the language sort of gone from me inside you? Kind of yes and no, both, right? So this is how aspiration [works]. So this is also why also works for a single person to pray for the sake of all sentient beings. So, what I’m saying is then when you are doing the aspiration [for the enlightenment of] all sentient beings, you shouldn’t think “Nobody is paying me to do this, I’m not getting paid for this”. You shouldn’t think that they’re freeloading. You also shouldn’t assume [or have the attitude] that they should appreciate you. [It’s actually the opposite] — as a bodhisattva [you are] supposed to appreciate all sentient beings for giving you the chance to do the aspiration [for their benefit].

Okay, so let’s go back again. Remember, we talked about quality, quantity, and shunyata. So there’s all that non-duality. And at the same time I also talked about the magical order of cause, condition and effect. And that’s how the aspiration works, so to speak. We are talking about the impact or effect of the aspiration. It is coming here [towards the end of the prayer]:

[53] They will quickly go beneath the bodhi-tree,
And there, they will sit, to benefit all sentient beings, then
Awaken into enlightenment, turn the wheel of Dharma,
And tame Mara with all his hordes.

Through this aspiration, you will defeat the four maras. Now that is a big claim. But if you pay some attention to some of the aspects which I just told you about, it’s actually very acceptable. Because you are starting your aspiration with a different motivation and a different attitude, a different way of looking at the world. Confidence. We are talking about confidence. It’s “aspire-able”, so to speak. It’s an achievable task. Actually, according to the bodhisattvas, even as you begin the aspiration, you have already succeeded. You don’t have to refer to an index each week of how many people got enlightened because of you. I think for now this is good enough [as an introduction to the Mahayana view], so we will just do a few stanzas and then we will come back to this because this is an important aspect of the aspiration.

The Pranidhana-Raja: The Actual Aspiration

2. The Actual Aspiration

2.1. Aspiration for Purity of Attitude
[13] Let offerings be made to buddhas of the past,
And all who now dwell throughout the ten directions of this universe!
Let all who are yet to come swiftly fulfil their wishes
And attain the stages of enlightenment and buddhahood!


The incredible thing about these sutras [is] they are so profound and deep but also very beautifully expressed, very poetic. It begins with making offerings to all the tathagatas that existed in the past, that exist now, that will exist in the future. They are being offered all the offering objects. Just these two lines say a lot. You know, some of us Buddhists have a shrine, and we make lamp offerings. You forget for a week. And then you think, “Oh, I’m sorry, Buddha.” You are treating Buddha as somebody who feels left out. [These lines] are addressing this issue. The Buddhas are always being offered to. Not only the present Buddha that is sitting on the shrine, but the past Buddhas and the future Buddhas. Basically, the offering is always there whether or not you are paying attention. It’s just always there. See, these Mahayana attitudes are some of the most beautiful attitudes. Now you can see why they have the name “Maha” [or “great”]. This is how they think. They don’t have a poverty mentality, “Oh, I forgot for a week.” They don’t feel they need to apologise. Non-apology is a very important one, actually. Because if you feel that you need to apologise, you are not thinking like a Mahayana [Buddhist]. I’m of course just summarising most of these stanzas.

[14] Let as many worlds as there are in all the ten directions
Transform into realms that are vast and utterly pure,
Filled with buddhas who have sat before the mighty bodhi tree,
Around them all their bodhisattva sons and daughters!


Then comes the aspiration to perfect the Buddha field. The Buddha field is just everywhere, not somewhere [specific like] in the east or west. But then, from time to time, there [also] are expressions like “May the bodhi tree be filled by endless tathagatas and their retinue bodhisattvas.” So there’s always this sort of very ultimate [view that] everything is perfect [as it is], but then suddenly we also have “May it become perfect”, “May there be a lot of buddhas and bodhisattvas”. This is again a very unique Mahayana way of talking.

[15] Let as many sentient beings as there are in all the ten directions
Live always and forever in happiness and health!
Let all beings meet the Dharma
That befits them best! And so may all they hope for be fulfilled!


May the sentient beings of the ten directions be free from all illness. May the hopes and pursuits of all these beings be fulfilled according to the Dharma. This is a big one. Basically, no matter what you do, may it one way or another lead you to benefit sentient beings, so that [none of your activity] is what we call mundane or ordinary activity. You want to take a nap? You take a nap. May the power of this nap somehow, in one way or another, lead you to enlighten [all] sentient beings. This [applies to even the] most mundane activities. [And not just] mundane activities, but even seemingly non-virtuous activities, may they one way or another bring you to awaken sentient beings. This may not happen right away, but it can happen in the future.

The story of Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s previous incarnation as a gangster

There’s a very famous account of a lama from the Drukpa Kagyu tradition, a previous life of Tsoknyi Rinpoche. In eastern Tibet, there are a lot of what we call “jagpa”, meaning gangsters14jagpa (Tibetan: ཇག་པ, jag pa ; Wylie: jag pa) = robber, gangster – see jagpa.. Usually they rob poor pilgrims who go to Lhasa, but they also rob horses and yaks. Tsoknyi was just an ordinary boy who was part of a group of gangsters. And because he was so young, the older gangsters gave him the job of [driving horses] — after they stolen the horses, the horses needed to be driven to another part of the valley. That was his job.

One time the group managed to steal a group of horses. And after the older gangsters had stolen the horses, he was taking the horses away to another valley. And there was one horse that was dragging [behind], not running quickly. And he got so nervous because the owners might also catch them and kill them, kill the gangsters. So he got so angry and he slashed the horse’s stomach, the horse that was dragging [behind]. And then from the horse’s stomach came a small horse, a baby horse. And that very moment, the mother horse immediately licked the baby horse, out of instinct. And that sight of the mother horse licking the baby horse just made him think that even an animal is compassionate like this, loving like this. Then he broke his gun, he broke his knife, and then he left his gangster’s life and became the great practitioner called Tsoknyi.

The story of Thaganapa, the mahasiddha “He Who Always Lies”

These [things] are important for you to hear, because this is how the Mahayana thinks. They never think there’s one particular action in you that is always evil and bad. All actions, if you have the right aspiration, can lead you to something good, except the wrong view and maybe harmful thoughts. For example, [Thaganapa15Thaganapa (Tibetan: ཐ་ག་ན་པ།; Wylie: rtag tu rdzun smra ba): “He Who Always Lies”, one of the 84 mahasiddhas – see Thaganapa.], one of the eighty-four mahasiddhas, was a pathological liar. He just couldn’t help it—he just had to tell lies. He just couldn’t help himself. He knew this was not right, and he would get so depressed after each lying session. And he really wanted to kill himself. Then he heard there’s this great mahasiddha around. I forgot the name of that mahasiddha. And this great mahasiddha knew that Thaganapa was about to kill himself. This mahasiddha came and said, “What are you doing?” Well, he explained, “I just can’t help myself lying, and then each time after I lie, I feel like killing myself.” And the mahasiddha said, “Oh, you are totally wrong. You have been doing the right thing!” The man got shocked. “What do you mean?” So they had a conversation and then this guy suddenly realised [he was talking to] a great mahasiddha. He quickly bowed down and said, “Please take me as your disciple. I will really vow in front of you never to lie.” The mahasiddha said, “Well, in that case you are not my disciple.” Then Thaganapa said, ‘What do you mean?” and the master said “I want you to lie.” Thaganapa said, “Really?” “Of course!” So then he followed the master for something like twelve years, lying everywhere [he went]. I can’t remember the whole story, but anyway, one day just before the mahasiddha, the master mahasiddha was about to pass into parinirvana, he summoned all his disciples and told them, “Thaganapa is the only man on this earth who is telling the truth.” So it’s like that. I’m telling you these things because Mahayana aspiration is [very vast]. You have to have a different take on Mahayana aspiration. It’s not limited. It’s very vast.

Aspiring to have genuine heart of sadness

2.2. Aspiration Never to Forget the Bodhichitta
[16] As I practise the training for enlightenment,
May I recall all my previous births,
And in my successive lives, through death and through rebirth,
May I always renounce the worldly life!


Then the next one is basically, ‘May I always be sad.’ To put it in a very lay person’s language, it is this. I think sadness makes human beings more human. If you are a frog or a spider, I don’t think they have that much sadness. They are busy. When you are busy, you are not sad. Or they are always afraid that somebody will eat them. And also the gods are not sad because they are all distracted, they are all stoned. They have all these shops that sell stuff, without needing to be afraid of police. Anyway, they are all stoned. Human beings, on the other hand [have sadness]. But here we are talking about a much more important sadness. Basically, “May I always remember my life.”

The story of the Sixth Dalai Lama’s love song to Palden Lhamo

This actually reminds me of a beautiful love song by the Sixth Dalai Lama16Tsangyang Gyatso (Tibetan: ཚངས་དབྱངས་རྒྱ་མཚོ, Wylie: tshangs dbyangs rgya mtsho) (1683-1702) = 6th Dalai Lama – see Tsangyang Gyatso.. It’s beautiful. The Sixth Dalai Lama had a kind of challenging time. He got abducted by different politicians as a prisoner. And one time he got again arrested and he was being delivered to [prison]. I don’t know which warlord arrested him, maybe a Mongol or I don’t know. Anyway, he was on his way to prison. And near Lhasa there is a small mountain—not really small, [actually it’s] quite big— called Gangbala. If there are any Tibetans here, they would know there’s a song about this, which is written by the Sixth Dalai Lama. And when they reached the peak, his hands were cuffed and there were soldiers with him. I guess the soldiers needed to pee or something, so there was a little bit of a pause on the peak. Then he [looked] towards Lhasa and the Potala. That’s where he [had been staying].

Gangbala Mountain Pass, Milky Way over Yamdrok Lake, 2020 © Jeff Dai

Now the Sixth Dalai Lama, as you may know, is well known for being a little mischievous. Not a little, quite a lot mischievous. Lots and lots of lovers. And Tibetans are very strange, because on one hand, they are so into this sort of “Do the right thing”, discipline, all of that. The Dalai Lama has to be a monk, etc. On the other hand, wherever the Dalai Lama visited these girls, their houses were painted yellow in veneration. Anyway, on the peak, he composed a song, and it is so beautiful. Well, in the song, we never know what he’s talking about. He’s a very big-time poet, so we don’t really know to whom he’s referring. He’s sort of referring to Palden Lhamo. Palden Lhamo is also a girl’s name in one way, “the glorious goddess”. Could be one of his lovers. But this is also the name of Mahakali. So we don’t know who he’s talking about. But what I want to tell you — and of course he’s handcuffed, he’s not free — so he said, “My mind, that free mind, is travelling through the valleys and mountains and is now going to meet Palden Lhamo.” And then he said, “But the travelling doesn’t stop.” You see, he’s a little mischievous like this. It’s not like your usual lover — you meet and then you stay there, right? He says he will keep on going to the valleys and the mountains [throughout] the whole of samsara and there he will meet all these other Palden Lhamo.

Having a bird’s eye view of our whole life

So basically here I’m talking about genuine heart of sadness. I think the bodhisattvas pray to always have a bird’s eye view of not just this life, but the whole [of] life [Ed.: i.e. all past and future lives as well]. So I guess [if you have that] you would feel … not really self-pity, but some sort of a sadness. How would you feel if [you had a] bird’s eye view [of your whole life], and you suddenly see once upon a time when you were this lobster that was about to be fried? You understand? So when you have the bird’s eye view of life, even just this life, then you feel this [genuine heart of sadness]. If you think about [your life from] childhood until now, I’m sure you’ll have a lot of sentimental feelings. That’s why we go to psychiatrists to express your sentiment, isn’t it?

So this is one prayer we bodhisattvas are supposed to pray. May I be able to have this remembrance or bird’s eye view of my entire existence, not just this life. Because through that, yes, you’ll feel happy, you’ll feel sad, but happy also with a tinge of sadness because you’ll think, “Oh gosh, why did I do that? How silly I was.” So on and so forth.

Aspiring to have renunciation mind

[17] Training in the footsteps of all the victorious buddhas,
May I bring Good Actions to perfection,
And my moral conduct be taintless and pure,
Never lapsing, and always free from fault!


May I always have renunciation mind. May I always, always want to emulate the Tathagatas. May I always, always look up to the Tathagatas. Again, this is explained in many sutras. Supposedly, our Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, the first ever time he got inspired— there are several stories about this one. One incident is when he got so tired of someone’s ego. Just so exhausted with someone’s pride and ego, he didn’t know what to do. But just a few days later, he encountered [the bodhisattva] Kashyapa17The full name of the bodhisattva is Mahakashyapa, sometimes shortened to Kashyapa – see Mahakashyapa., the one who has no ego. And he was so attracted to this egoless being. He found it just so attractive and he said, “I want to be like you.” So that’s what we are talking about here. May I always be attracted to egolessness or egoless person, or may I always be attracted to these beings who have the Tathagata quality. May I always be perfect, may I always apply perfect conduct in order to acquire and maintain the Tathagata qualities. Okay, I think we’ll stop here.

Q & A

Does aspiration arise because of karma or free will?

[Q]: Thank you. My question, I think you already answered, but I still want to ask it. It’s about aspiration. How could we have aspiration? Are we are able to because of the free will we have, or because of karma?

[DJKR]: Very good. Are you coming back tomorrow?

[Q]: Yes, I will.

[DJKR]: Can I answer this [tomorrow], because this is a big one.

[Q]: OK, sure.

Can Rinpoche show that he is enlightened?

[Q]: Thank you. I have a question. You are enlightened already.

[DJKR]: Me?

[Q]: I mean you. Can you show me now?

[DJKR]: Well, if I could show this, I would have shown it even right from the beginning. That’s it. [laughter] [applause]

[Q]: Thank you very much.

[DJKR]: This is a perfect example of cause and condition and effect. I don’t know what she is thanking me for. [laughter] Anyway, it doesn’t matter.

Why is there no longer magic in the world?

[Q]: So, this question, some words, I probably need some translation, so I will use Chinese. [Chinese] When I read Buddhist sutras or stories, I get touched a lot. For example, people cutting off their flesh to feed dying moms or kids. And this kind of magic, we’ve not seen in the world much. And is it because we don’t aspire enough?

[DJKR]: I think so. [laughter]

How to avoid disappointment when my aspirations don’t work out?

[Q]: Thank you very much for your teachings, Rinpoche. Hopefully not too stupid of a question, but how do you manage expectations with aspiration? How do you keep yourself from getting disappointed and losing that aspiration by virtue of just losing hope?

[DJKR]: OK, [there’s a] very easy answer for this one. I mean, there’s a difficult answer, but the easy one is better, I think. [laughter] Make [your aspiration] infinite.

[Q]: How?

[DJKR]: “May all be enlightened”. That’s better than “May ten people get enlightenment”. Then you have a problem. Even if you finish the ninth, you still have a problem.

[Q]: Thank you very much.

What is enlightenment?

[Q]: What is enlightenment? Is it the same as omniscience? How does one know if she is enlightened or on the right track?

[DJKR]: What is enlightenment? Yes, the word “enlightenment” is not so good. When you see the truth, I would say, for now. When you see the complete truth. When you are dreaming and when you realise you are dreaming, there’s a little bit of enlightenment.

To address colonialism and world problems, what else should we do beyond aspiration?

[Q]: Thank you, Rinpoche, for your teachings. You spoke about the power of aspiration, and you also — not today — spoke about the horrors of colonialism and how that affects the world. Is aspiration enough as Buddhists to combat colonialism and these horrors that people wreak? Or are there other things we should be doing?

[DJKR]: My master always told me that aspiration is the best thing, but we get so distracted by doing other things because we think that we can do something. Because we have this habit of fixing things.

[Q]: Thank you Rinpoche.

What do we need in order to be happy?

[Q]: Hello, Rinpoche. Thank you for the lesson. On the topic of happiness, what do you think are necessary conditions for one being happy, such as freedom, or love, or money, or career, or romance, etc.? Which do you think are necessary for one to be happy?

[DJKR]: Well, according to Shantideva, I don’t think this answer is going to satisfy you, but anyway I will give it you. This is actually the Buddhist sort of definition of happiness and unhappiness. When you are free from causes and conditions, then you are happy. Not just when you are free from somebody. That’s already gross cause and condition. Even small conditions, if you are free [from all of those as well], I think this encapsulates it quite well. And the opposite is suffering. So, I want a dark roast for my coffee. I hate medium roast. Ah, there you are, beginning to be unhappy already. Dark, medium, light, who cares? You are already happy. So something along [those] lines. You understand?

[Q]: A little bit. Thank you Rinpoche.

[DJKR]: Anyway, this is a classic Buddhist answer. Because—and it’s a relative answer by the way— because also it’s very, very dependent on different beings. For some, a whip is pain. For others, it’s excitement. [laughter]

Is the story of the thief and the horse about a bad aspiration leading to a good outcome?

[Q]: Hello Rinpoche. During your talk today, it feels like you’re talking about the game of cause and effect as if it’s a bit of a— what’s the word I’m thinking of? Well, it’s a game. But in the story you gave about the thief and the horse and how he slit open his stomach and the baby came out, would that not be an example of a wrong aspiration, a wrong action creating the cause and effect for a right outcome?

[DJKR]: No, I think the story is more like you are aspiring that no matter what you do, may it somehow, one way or another, lead you to good things. You understand? Because of your old habits, you may end up doing wrong things. You are not aspiring to kill many horses. Okay, put it this way. If he hadn’t aspired that, the chance of him killing more horses [would have been greater]. Actually, I think he even has songs. He said that the mother horse and the baby horse had to be his guru’s manifestation, because if not for those two [he might not have renounced his life of crime]. I think he has a lot of writings about this.

Do we need to apologise?

[Q]: Hi Rinpoche, thank you for your teaching. My question is like, if we don’t have to apologise, how can we do the confession? Like, how do we feel when we do it?

[DJKR]: Oh, I think we are talking about different kinds of apology. Of course, if you have done something wrong, I guess you should. Yes. I think we were talking about … What were we talking about? I forgot. I will try to think about it and tell you. It’s a big one, actually. This [topic] of apology is a big one.

Is the purpose of life to experience cause and effect?

[Q]: Thank you, Rinpoche. It’s very nice to meet you. I first read your book twelve years ago when I was in Tibet, so this feels like a very surreal experience. I’m not chasing like a star, but you are my star. I have a quick question. With your examples, I think I learned the lesson that every moment counts. That kind of explained how we can go through these meditating lives. And you also mentioned in your book that with all those good thoughts or those experiences we can have, it doesn’t really— I mean, with the Buddha in our heart, it doesn’t mean that we have to cancel out day-to-day life. But some people are saying that the reason why we are going through all those lives is just to have this experience, to experience cause and effect. So do you agree with that or do you have any other thoughts on that?

[DJKR]: Generally, the whole point of so-called Dharma practice, like Vipassana, is to disrupt the order of cause, condition and effect. There is a famous quotation from Chandrakirti. “If you are an idiot, you will do bad things and go to hell. If you are an idiot, you will do good things and go to heaven. Only if you are wise, you will go beyond good and bad and be liberated.”

A request for Rinpoche to recite the Seven Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche

[Q]: Dear Rinpoche, please lead us reciting the Seven Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche. Thank you.

[DJKR]: Okay, I will do it right before we end.

A story about some Japanese healers

[Q]: There is something that I just wanted to share, which I think is an example of what you were saying about that concept of the Seven Line Prayer, about that confidence that as soon as the aspiration is made, it is already done. So I saw this video many, many years ago of some Japanese healers. And it was set up with one of these cameras that was focused inside the body on the tumour. And they were chanting and you could see on the camera, you could see this tumour actually shrinking. And they just kept chanting the same thing in Japanese again and again. And what they were chanting was already done. They weren’t watching the video, it was just happening.

[DJKR]: Very good.

Does aspiration require praying to an external Buddha or guru?

[Q]: The phrase “May I” implies an external force. But in Tibetan, is the word ‘aspiration’ emphasising the power of the one making the aspiration or [praying] to internal or external Buddha or guru for help.

[DJKR]: I need to tell you, the guru has no business in this. Guru is tantric stuff. This is a Mahayana [teaching]. But tantrikas can use this prayer. They do. And this “I”, “May I”, this “I” will, I think, as you pray and pray, it will mutate. Mutation.

How to aspire without hope and fear of results?

[Q]: How do we make genuine and grand aspirations but without any hope and fear of results?

[DJKR]: I think I have already explained this. If you do [aspiration with] infinite aim, I think it’s a really good way. Yes, but this question is important and the answer is the whole discussion we have been having this afternoon.

Do enlightened beings know that they are enlightened?

[Q]: Do enlightened beings ever know for themselves that they are enlightened?

[DJKR]: Can you explain that?

[Q]: The more I practice, the more it seems that I am learning I don’t know things more than I know things. And it’s made me wonder, do enlightened beings know that they are enlightened? Because it’s the absence of ego, right? It’s the absence of self.

[DJKR]: Very good.

[Q]: So how do they recognise that they themselves aren’t there anymore? Do they know?

[DJKR]: First, do you mean the more you study what? [Study] in general or the Buddhist stuff?

[Q]: The more I practice, just the more I meditate.

[DJKR]: I would encourage you to keep that kind of mental factor. I think it’s good for you. But as for the enlightened beings, do they know they are enlightened? Well, it’s a very tricky question, which requires a tricky answer. It’s like they have never ever been a sentient being.

Does an aspiration have to be genuine to be meaningful?

[Q]: My question is that I make aspirations and dedications every night. Sometimes they are emotional and genuine, sometimes they are not. And does that still make it meaningful?

[DJKR]: Of course, very much. Even though you are doing it out of obligation, it’s good. Actually, this is important. This is Samantabhadra’s aspiration, that as long as someone is even remotely interested in this, even flips through [just the] first page, he [Samantabhadra] will just finish the rest, so to speak. Actually, I’ve always wondered why people prefer to make Mañjushri statues and Avalokiteshvara statues, yet we hardly see Samantabhadra. It’s kind of interesting.

A request for Rinpoche to pray for people to understand wisdom and be enlightened

[Q]: Thank you so much for the speech. Me and my friends, we have a group studying your book, “What Makes You Not a Buddhist”. We’ve been studying the first few chapters and we realise how hard it is to understand wisdom. And after hearing the speech today, I realised that we need to aspire for all beings to be enlightened after reading your book, not just for our group. So I’m wondering if I could stand here to request you with a prayer for all the people who are reading your book to understand the wisdom and be enlightened.

[DJKR]: Thank you and I will also pray that I will not write such complicated [books]. Actually one of the Buddha’s qualities—he has ten qualities, many many qualities. One of them is this. He can talk to a baby three years old about shunyata and the baby will understand. For us, talking to a baby about shunyata is just impossible.

How can healthcare authorities include aspiration in their daily work?

[Q]: Thank you Rinpoche. In a couple of sentences, what would you suggest to say if the healthcare authorities wish to include intention-setting or aspirations in their daily work when helping patients?

[DJKR]: I think you should—actually for that, that’s important. I would suggest you to weekly do this aspiration once. Finish the whole aspiration once, at least once a week.

Okay, there was a request from a lady for me to recite the Seven Line Prayer, so today I will end with this. [DJKR recites Seven Line Prayer in Tibetan] Today is the Dakini’s Day. So I’m also going to recite an offering of feast to the dakinis. I have nothing prepared. I will offer some flowers to all the dakinis [DJKR recites offering prayer in Tibetan].


Day 2 part 1

Introduction to ultimate truth and relative truth

Free will and aspiration

Yesterday someone asked about free will and … what’s the opposite of free will? Predestination? In all my life, I have to say, [that when it comes to] solving this problem of free will, predestination, fate, fatalism, luck etc, I have not found a philosophy or theory that is better than Buddhism generally, and especially Abhidharma. Actually, I’ve even listened to a lot of podcasts and panel discussions regarding this [subject], as I think it’s very related to aspiration, so I’m going to dwell on this a little bit. Because when we talk about aspiration, as I said yesterday, we’re always talking about something to do with the future, “May I be this”, “May they be this and that”. And yesterday we stopped at the point that we were talking about bird’s eye view, and where we were aspiring to remember [our] lives — not only remembering past lives, but just seeing our whole life, even future lives. You have to get used to the logic a little bit with this one.

I want to dwell on this a little bit because the main ingredient of the Pranidhana-Raja prayer is, of course, bodhichitta. Part of the name of this aspiration is Arya, as in Arya Pranidhana Raja. Arya means sublime, something that is not ordinary. This name usually is given to [beings such as] Arya Tara and Arya Mañjushri, someone who has transcended the mundane. But this text is also called Arya, and the reason is because it contains bodhichitta. So it is entitled to have the name Arya. And it is because of that, as the prayer itself [says] towards the end, that even if you don’t read it, if you just keep the text on your shrine and revere this, you have so much merit.

The Buddhist understanding of free will and predestination

Going back to the question about free will and predestination. I’m going to explain this a little bit, because whenever Buddhists talk about karma, they seem to always fall into [one of] two traps. Sometimes they say, “Oh, it’s my karma, what to do?” Fatalist. Predestined. Other times they say, “Oh, you should create good karma so that you will become this and that.” Free will. So now the question is, which is the right one? Both are actually wrong. It is important that you know this, and this is very related to bodhichitta, so I need to really carefully construct this one. And also I should say this is what makes Buddhism so unique. But [it’s] not that easy to understand this.

The story of when Rinpoche teased a monk in Thailand

I got into trouble by teasing a monk in Thailand. In the Theravada tradition they teach things like anicca [impermanence], dukkha [unsatisfactoriness and suffering] and anatta [no-self]. Anatta means selfless. And selfless is the cream of the cream. If selflessness is not taught, anicca and dukkha [alone] — everything is impermanent, nothing gives you satisfaction — are a very pessimistic and very doomsday teaching. Who wants to hear that? So anatta is really the most important [aspect of the teachings], even on the Shravakayana level.

So there was this monk—you know I love always offering alms. In the Theravada countries, monks go begging [for alms]. And for me it’s one of the most inspiring sights. About twenty-five years ago, I went to the American [embassy] in Thailand to get my visa — I think the American ambassador to Thailand was a Buddhist. There was a long line, so I got up so early to line up. And usually the monks go begging early in the morning, really early, like six o’clock, sunrise. I was already there, and there were already a few people lined up. The embassy only opens at something like nine. And then suddenly there was some commotion. And then I saw from one side there were about twenty monks with begging bowls, just very silently walking —you know that’s what they do — silently, bare feet, walking towards embassy. And suddenly the embassy gate was opened by an incredible looking American Navy guard, and the ambassador came with all the offerings. Anyway, this is just a side track.

So anyway, I was doing this, and this was such a beautiful sight. But as always, I’m always trying to tease people or stir people. And in [countries like] Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka, you would notice the laypeople, farmers, the vendors [and] sellers [making offerings]. I mean there’s even a dedicated shop, a monk’s alms shop, where you can actually buy [offering] packages — full offering, half offering, even just a symbolic offering. And very ordinary poor people also [make offerings], they offer a little bit of rice. And the monks will chant a very important part of the Buddhist scripture18Monks in the Thai Forest tradition often chant or recite the anumodana after meal-offerings, which is an expression of rejoicing in the merit generated by the donors, rather than a direct form of saying “Thank you” – see anumodana.. Anyway, usually the monks don’t talk. But one day I offered a few fruits to this monk — he knew I was not native, so he spoke [to me] in English. I repeated this the next day, and he began to know that I was there. And this act [of offering alms] is considered very meritorious, so people do this diligently. He didn’t know I’m a Buddhist, so I sort of pretended [I was very new to Buddhism] and I asked him “Well, if anatta is truth and there is no self, that means your self is not there, and my self is not there. So who is accumulating the merit? What is merit? Who is gaining the merit?” Well, that was sort of the end of our friendship.

The nightmare of falling from a cliff

This is kind of important. I know some of you are quite jaded with this example that I have been using, but for the sake of new people, you need to bear with this. If you are having a nightmare of falling from a cliff, there is the whole act of (1) the beginning of the fall, (2) the duration, i.e. the middle of the fall, and (3) [the end of the fall], perhaps breaking your hips or whatever. You’ll be scared, you’ll be panicked, all of that — and those cannot be denied. And during this period of falling — [i.e. from the beginning of the fall] until you have landed on the ground — during this period you can talk about karma. Bad karma, good karma, karma in general.

In reality though, you are just sleeping in your bed. You are not falling. So there is no beginning of the falling, middle of the falling, or end of the falling either. So can you see that the reality of not falling and the illusion of falling can occur together? So this is why asking a Buddhist about whether everything is free will or [predestination is difficult]. If you believe in free will, then you are basically saying the fall in the dream is not a dream, it’s a real falling. If you believe in predestination, it’s the same thing. So this is a little difficult. I think it will take some time to get used to this logic. Anyway, the short answer is that Buddhist karma is neither free will nor predestination. Sometimes there is the appearance of free will, at other times it appears to be already fixed.

Ultimate truth and relative truth

Now this approach is perhaps very Indian, [so I would like to] go deeper into this and present the unique Indian way of constructing a theory. I’m sorry, this is a little bit too technical for the new ones, but you sort of have to bear with this because we are, after all, discussing quite an important text and I don’t want to sort of water19Ed.: DJKR said “wash”. This has been changed. it down into something very simple [like] “May all be happy, may all be free from unhappiness”. [This text] is so much more than that.

I think that western philosophies, even science, even though they may not package it this way, actually I think [their approach] falls into the category of construction. Now of course we know that science never really comes to a conclusion, which is one of the great things about science. So keep that in your head. That’s quite good. They say, “You know, we are experimenting still. So far it’s like this. So far Panadol seems to work, but who knows, maybe it’s going to harm us.” It’s like that, [scientific findings] are always [subject to the results of future] experiments. The great Buddhist philosophers like Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti like statements [are happy with statements] like this. No argument with that one.

The analogy of the dream [of falling from the cliff] demonstrates the Indian way of constructing a theory. In this example, I’m talking about two things — ultimate and relative. Ultimately, you are not falling. But relatively, you are falling. Now, it is [not as though] ultimate and relative [are opposites], like one is in the east and one is in the west. They are one. But also you can’t really say they are one, because you are not actually falling, but you appear to be falling. Let’s talk about the Big Bang [for a moment], because perhaps it’s easier for new people to relate to. If a scientist presents the Big Bang theory on the relative level, there’s no [disagreement] at all with Buddhists, no problem. But if a scientist develops the Big Bang theory on the ultimate level, then Buddhists will think that there is no difference between that Big Bang and the Almighty God. [According to Buddhists] they are all wrong. You have to get used to this way of thinking, I guess.

I don’t know anything about Taoist teachings, but as I read some of the stanzas from the beginning [of the Tao te Ching], you can feel that the thinking is very similar. Lines like, “The name that can be given is not a name.”20The first stanza of the Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu:

The Tao [Way] that can be told of is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The Named is the mother of all things.

Translated by Wing-Tsit Chan, Oxford Essential Quotations.
You know, you are almost talking like the ultimate, but then come all these names, like relative. So let’s go back to the bird’s eye view. What is this bird’s eye view? What we are praying is that when we fall — remember that we are having a nightmare that we are falling right now — may we at least know that we are dreaming. Because when you know that, then you can see [the whole fall] — the beginning of the fall, the middle of the fall, all of this — with a bird’s eye view. What does that do? Oh, it does a lot of things! If you are falling from a building and you know that you are really [just] dreaming, you might want to take advantage of [this dream experience to] look through the windows of other people’s [apartments as you fall]. Because you know you are not going to break any limbs anyway. So, this combination [of ultimate truth and relative truth, i.e. knowing that you’re not really falling even though you experience the falling] is what we call understanding nonduality. In other words bodhichitta. And this is like the key to aspiration.

The Pranidhana-Raja: The Actual Aspiration (contd.)

Aspiration to renounce worldly life

2.2. Aspiration Never to Forget the Bodhichitta
[16] As I practise the training for enlightenment,
May I recall all my previous births,
And in my successive lives, through death and through rebirth,
May I always renounce the worldly life!


And in order to remember this, we have aspiration to always have revulsion towards worldly life. What is revulsion towards worldly life? Of course, on a very general level [it’s revulsion to things] like addiction to social media, I don’t know, carpets, tables, stuff like that. But the most important level of revulsion [is at the level of ultimate and relative truth]. Going back to the dream, you are falling from a building, from the 26th floor. And you pass the 20th floor, where your friend is staying, and your friend who is smoking on the balcony. And if you scream [for help], “Help! I’m falling!”, that’s like not being able to have revulsion towards mundane life [because are denying the ultimate reality that this is just a dream and you are not really falling]. That’s easy to understand.

But if your friend asks you, “Hey, what are you doing?” and you say, “Well, nothing actually. I’m not really falling. You should try it!” That is also [failing to have] revulsion [because now you are denying the relative experience of the dream]. You fail to have revulsion towards worldly life when you deny either relative truth or ultimate truth. This is such a big thing for Buddhists, not to be extreme. They will say you become nihilist [if you deny relative truth] or you become eternalist [if you deny ultimate truth]. So here when we say, “May I always have this renunciation mind.” Yes, of course we should have renunciation towards carpets, gold rings, whatever. But may I also have renunciation and revulsion towards all values. Liberal values, fascist values, just all values. That’s much more difficult than [renouncing a] carpet, I’m telling you. Because your values are your character, and character is so important. [A big part of your] identity [is your] values. So may I always be able to renounce all my identity and values. That’s one.

Aspiration to maintain ethical discipline

[17] Training in the footsteps of all the victorious buddhas,
May I bring Good Actions to perfection,
And my moral conduct be taintless and pure,
Never lapsing, and always free from fault!


And may I always be able to keep my ethics. Discipline. Wow, that’s a big subject. And I’m wondering whether the English word “ethics” is actually doing justice as a translation of the [Sanskrit] word “shila”21shila (Sanskrit: शील, IAST: sīla) = virtue, discipline, moral conduct – see shila. or [the Tibetan word] “tsültrim”22tsültrim (Tibetan: ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས ; Wylie: tshul khrims) = discipline, morality, ethical conduct – see tsültrim.. The Tibetan word tsültrim is something to do with the way or the truth. Water is wet. That is the truth. That is the way of the water. Outside it is cold. If I pour this [glass of water] over me during the break, it’s not really a good idea if I’m going out. Or even now, it’s not a good idea. That’s it. That is the core meaning of Buddhist ethics. Anything [you do] that goes against the truth will only bring you misery, problems, disappointment. Of course, may I always be diligent in not killing, not lying, not slandering — all of that is on the relative level, and you need this of course.

Especially in the Mahayana, ethics comes in three categories23tsültrim sum (Tibetan: ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་གསུམ ; Wylie: tshul khrims gsum) = the three kinds of ethical conduct or discipline according to the Mahayana, see tsültrim sum. DJKR corrected himself during this part of the teaching in Vancouver and only the corrected version appears here. He previously taught on the three categories of ethical discipline during his teaching on “Prajña” given in Bengaluru, January 5, 2020 – see transcript.. The first category is not engaging in non-virtuous action, like not killing, not stealing etc. The second is engaging in virtuous actions [or helping others], such as giving food, medicine, shelter, information, whatever. The third is [gathering virtuous dharmas]24Ed.: DJKR said “helping others”. This has been corrected. The third category of ethical conduct is gewé chö düpé tsültrim (Tibetan: དགེ་བའི་ཆོས་སྡུད་པའི་ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས ; Wylie: dge ba’i chos sdud pa’i tshul khrims) = the ethical conduct of gathering virtuous dharmas, which DJKR previously termed “extracting virtue, extracting wisdom/prajña” – see tsültrim sum.. Now this is complicated. If by killing somebody, you help a lot of people, what should you do then? So there’s a big study on that one. Or if by lying to somebody, you save lots of beings and planets, what then? What should a bodhisattva choose? Of course there’s also the danger of you [falling into self-deception and convincing yourself] that [your actions] will help. But that could be just your interpretation. So anyway, may I always manage to maintain my ethical [conduct]. [And remember that] all these aspirations are so that you will keep your bodhichitta intact. What does that mean? Going back to our example, it means that your understanding and experience of falling and not falling together — [your] knowing this [nonduality] — is intact.

Aspiration to teach the Dharma in different languages

[18] In the language of the gods, nagas, and yakshas,
In the language of demons and of humans too,
In however many kinds of speech there may be—
I shall proclaim the Dharma in the language of all!


Next, in order to [maintain and] enhance this bodhichitta, may I utter the teachings of the Buddha in different languages. That’s a big one for bodhisattvas. Not just [teaching the Dharma] to human beings [but also] to the gods, to the insects. Having the aspiration to teach all beings in [their own] different languages. Of course you understand that it’s a virtuous action, it’s a virtuous deed to share Dharma to ordinary people. But I think it’s much more than that. When [we talk about] explaining these Mahayana teachings, bodhichitta for instance, in different languages, we are not only talking about languages as in Chinese or English, but different ways of communicating. Because all beings have different values, different [ways of] thinking. How would you teach the ancient Mexican Mayans? You know, they would they play a game, and the winner would get the honour of having his head chopped off25See wikipedia, Human sacrifice in Maya culture.. How do you talk to them? You need a different language. Communication is difficult, right?

[19] Taming my mind, and striving in the paramitas,
I will never forget the bodhichitta;
May all my harmful actions and the obscurations they cause
Be completely purified, every single one!


Also, when we talk about the aspiration to teach different beings with different languages, we are aspiring to share the information of six paramitas. And for the person doing the aspiration, [this also] helps to strengthen their ability to remember the bodhichitta or the teachings.

Aspiration to be free from defilements and obscurations

2.3. Aspiration to be Free from Defilements
[20] May I be freed from karma, harmful emotions, and the work of negativity,
And act for all beings in the world,
Just like the lotus flower to which mud and water cannot cling,
Or sun and moon that course unhindered through the sky.


Next, aspiring to purify all the non-virtuous actions, non-virtuous deeds and their impact. This is again a very big subject— virtue and non-virtue. What makes something non-virtuous? I think the easiest way for you to understand this is that [non-virtue] is anything that takes you further from the truth, such as [the truth of] anatta [i.e. selflessness]. So for instance, harming others. Usually we harm others because we have self-cherishing or clinging to oneself. And clinging to self is definitely one of the key [causes] — actually it is the key cause — that distracts you from the truth.

Three obscurations: pride, doubt and wrong view

And also having aspiration to purify obscurations. This is also a very big subject. Usually obscurations are the impact or the result of negative deeds or actions. But they can also in turn become the cause of negative actions. There are so many different obscurations, but let’s discuss just three: pride, doubt and wrong view26These are the last three of the six root disturbing emotions (see mulaklesha) that Vasubandhu presents in the Abhidharmakosha:
(1) raga (राग) = desire, attachment.
(2) pratigha (प्रतिघ) = anger.
(3) avidya (अविद्या) = unawareness, ignorance.
(4) mana (मान) = pride, arrogance, conceit.
(5) vichikitsa (विचिकित्सा) = doubt, indecisive wavering.
(6) drishti (दृष्टि) = wrong view; deluded outlooks, views.

These three stand out among the many [kinds of] obscurations. Sometimes we also include jealousy. These are some of the most difficult to challenge. What really stops you from going out of the box? These three. Let’s say you are an artist. You want to go out of the box. What stops you? Pride, doubt and wrong view. Because of your pride, you will also always want to be accepted. It’s complicated. Yes, these three are very complicated emotions. That’s why they are called obscurations. The [Tibetan word] dikpa27dikpa (Tibetan: སྡིག་པ ; Wylie: sdig pa ; Sanskrit: अकुशल, akushala, IAST: akuśala) = evil deeds, harmful actions – see dikpa. or [Sanskrit word] akushala means “non-virtue” or I guess [you could say] “sin”. And [the Tibetan word] drib28drib (Tibetan: གྲིབ ; Wylie: grib; Sanskrit: आवरण, IAST: āvaraṇa) = defilement, obscuration – see drib. means “obscuration”. Because they make things so unnecessarily complicated. And these three obscurations are very big trouble, because the meaning of the word “obscuration” is actually non-virtue.


Pride is actually the opposite of confidence, [because] when we talk about pride, you are always comparing [yourself] with someone else. [Whereas when you have] confidence, [you are] not necessarily referring to someone else, like [if I say I’m confident that] I’m a human. But “I’m much better than so-and-so” is more like pride. I think when we talk about pride, that’s what we are talking about on a general level. But from the Mahayana point of view, there are much more subtle [forms of] pride. For [example], even though it’s necessary for the time being, even you aspiring for enlightenment can [also be a form of] pride. But some of this pride is needed as a fertiliser. At a very high level, [we can say that] all duality is pride. Basically you can also say that a big ingredient, a big part of pride is insecurity. There’s also something to do with you [not having] made up your mind, that element is there. You haven’t come to a conclusion, but you are pretending that you have come to a conclusion. That is what pride is. Basically, insecurity. There’s too much information, but for now, that’s pride.


Next is doubt. which is a really challenging obscuration because it can [also] be a necessary tool. Even the Buddha himself said, “You should analyse my teachings. You should not take things for granted”, and so forth. So doubt can be a big and helpful part of the path. But [sometimes we] put too much emphasis on doubt, [as in] critical thinking. Critical thinking is something that we modern people cherish, but it does not lead you anywhere. And it gets worse when it is combined with pride. A lot of people who think they are so-called critical or analytical thinkers usually have pride, meaning they already have a conclusion. What I’m saying is that it never becomes proper critical thinking [if] you already have decided [on your own conclusions, as then] you are only trying to find fault [with others], so to speak.

Wrong view

The worst one is lokta or wrong view29tawa lokpa (Tibetan: ལྟ་བ་ལོག་པ ; Wylie: lta ba log pa) = wrong view – see tawa lokpa.. The classic example is that doubt and pride are a bit like strong wind. If you are planting a flower, a typhoon or big wind may unsettle the growth of the flower. But wrong view is like burning the seed of the flower. No more flower. Wrong view is a big [obscuration]. And we may think, “Oh, it [won’t] really happen to me”, but that’s not true. It happens so easily. I mean, for now as Buddhist practitioners or followers, [it will] sort of suffice [if we] think, “I believe in karma, I believe in cause and condition and effect. I don’t really believe that there’s somebody who creates everything”. We have that much of a right view. But [the fact that we are] unable to really accept shunyata [as a whole] proves that there are lots and lots of wrong views in us. This really happens a lot. And yes, it’s a difficult one.

Anyway, for a Mahayana [practitioner], the answer is to not have conviction towards [or belief in] dualistic views. And I underline the word “conviction”. When I say conviction, of course we all have dualistic habits, but [these are] not necessarily wrong view. They’re just your habits. But if [you have gone] through study, through analysis, through hearing and contemplation, and [after all that] you still think something is permanent or that something truly exists, then the seed is burnt. We call it “falling into extremes”.

Okay, then, we make aspiration to be free from karma, emotions, and maras30mara (Sanskrit: मार, IAST: māra ; Tibetan: བདུད, pronounced “dü” ; Wylie: bdud) = malevolent forces – see mara., which I guess you can call “demons” [here translated as “the work of negativity”]. Of course, we are not talking about some externally existing demon. I think this is going to be elaborated later, so I’m going to continue with the stanzas.

The Pure Land

2.4. Aspiration to Lead Beings to Happiness
[21] Throughout the reach and range of the entire universe
I shall pacify completely the suffering of all the lower realms,
I shall lead all beings to happiness,
And work for the ultimate benefit of each and every one!


Anyway, the [next] aspiration is divided into two. These aspirations are mainly for bodhisattvas of the beginning level. We aspire to perfect what we call “Buddhafield”, which is something you will find in the Mahayana sutras. Basically, having the aspiration that you will have your own Buddhafield, [one in which] other sentient beings can aspire to visit or be reborn. For example, Chinese [students here] will know the whole phenomena about Pure Land. In fact, in Japan and China, and I think in Korea also, it even became almost like a tradition or school [within Buddhism]. They even call it the Pure Land School31Jodo Bukkyo (Japanese: 浄土仏教, Jōdo bukkyō, also 浄土教, Jōdo kyō ; Chinese: 淨土宗, pinyin: Jìngtǔ Zōng) = Pure Land Buddhism, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism that is one of the most widely practiced traditions of Buddhism in East Asia – see Jodo Bukkyo..

I went to the head monastery of the Pure Land School in China a few years ago. As I entered, they were giving all the tourists pamphlets with an explanation [of Pure Land], which said something about Amitabha and “Buddhist heaven”. You remember that earlier we talked about how you have to learn to communicate to different beings with different language? I guess, even though the word “heaven” sort of annoyed me, I thought, “Yes, why not?” And then when I went in, [I saw that] the temple itself is one of the most beautiful temples. It’s so beautiful, with many Chinese characters written in ancient calligraphy. I had quite a good translator with me, so I asked him to translate quite a lot of them right on the spot. And I was thinking, if only they had just translated some of these and put them in the brochure [instead]. But I understand, because some of the contents of the Pure Land are maybe not that easy to digest for people. Remember, it is mentioned several times in this prayer that whoever does this [aspiration], they will enter [Sukhavati], the pure land of Amitabha32Sukhavati (Sanskrit: सुखावती, IAST: sukhāvatī ; Tibetan: བདེ་བ་ཅན་, Dewachen; Wylie: bde ba can, literally: “Blissful [Land]”) = Sukhavati, or the Western Paradise, the western Pure Land of Amitabha in Mahayana Buddhism – see Sukhavati. [for example]:

[57] When it is time for me to die,
Let all that obscures me fade away, so
I look on Amitabha, there in person,
And go at once to his pure land of Sukhavatī.


Migrating is such a thing for sentient beings. You can just see it if you walk around in Robson Street. This is one of the [afflictive or destructive emotions of] human beings. Buddhists call it klesha33klesha (Sanskrit: क्लेश, IAST: kleśa ; Tibetan: ཉོན་མོང་, nyönmong ; Wylie: nyon mong) = afflictive emotions, destructive emotions – see klesha.. It’s like an emotion. The grass is always greener on the other side. This has existed [since] dualism started. Going somewhere, a better place, like the Wild West, a land of dreams, whatever. But of course, for different people, there are different lands. For Gurdjieff [?], he had a different land.

Taking a trip to the Pure Land and blowing your nose in North Vancouver

I will give you an example of how the Mahayana’s Pure Land works.Usually, when you go somewhere, there’s always an aim. [Like going] for a job interview or to pick up a package or to see a museum. Something like this. Or to meet your uncle. Or maybe to actually settle there. Okay, I’m talking on kind of a very profound level, so be prepared. I’m just giving you one of the ingredients of the atmosphere of the Pure Land. After this session, if you just walk on whatever road and just go, you will find that the atmosphere is very pure. It doesn’t matter where you [get to]. You have nothing to do. There is no place to reach. If you have to have an aim, maybe how about [going to] North Vancouver just to blow your nose? Upon reaching there, blow your nose and come back. I bet you this will be the most blissful trip. Because blowing your nose is not that big a deal, right? Upon reaching there, you can really blow it ceremoniously if you want. And if you really want to do it with a proper ritual, maybe [you could] get up tomorrow in the morning and put on your best dress, as if you are going for the most important job interview. Iron your napkins—this is in preparation for nose-blowing. Make a really big fuss about this ironing. Then just take a taxi or walk, or take a boat. And of course, [remember that you are doing this] for the benefit of all sentient beings, of course. And you reach there, North Vancouver, the place where you will forever depart from your snot. 

I’m trying to make it a little watered down, but this is actually a very important aspect of the Pure Land34Ed. DJKR also said “Pure Realm” at times. These have been changed to “Pure Land” for consistency.. But I understand, because many people when they read the description of the Pure Land, they get distracted by [things like] birds that speak and the swimming pools. And a very [important aspect of the] description of the Pure Land is the ground — supposedly if you press down on it, it sinks and if you let go, it comes up, like a sofa seat. You know, many of these prayers were written several hundred years ago when only a very, very small number of people could afford a sofa seat. And just imagine if all the birds started to talk. I don’t think you would have much of a good day. But please read the Amitabha Pure Land Sutra35For additional information and links to the sutra – see Jodo Bukkyo.. It’s just so beautiful. But you have to think within this context [of the beyond-ordinary thinking of the Mahayana]. It’s so beautiful actually. Perhaps you may have a degree of doubt about the Pure Realm. [In this case], you may be reborn in a lotus in the Amitabha realm — usually they always reborn in the lotus — but the lotus will not blossom right away. These descriptions are just so profound. You need to communicate [the vast and profound Mahayana view] with ordinary people, so that’s how [these scriptures] communicate. 

So anyway, there’s that aspiration, “May I perfect the Buddha realm.” And when I say, “May I perfect the Buddha realm,” just think about blowing your nose, then probably it will make a little more sense. Of course, you can still think about the talking birds, swimming pools, and all of that. Whatever beautiful things [you can imagine] — the trees, the mountains, the lakes, the turquoise, all of that.

Aspiration to wear the armour of dedication and not become discouraged on the path

2.5. Aspiration to Wear the Armour of Dedication
[22] I shall bring enlightened action to perfection,
Serve beings so as to suit their needs,
Teach them to accomplish Good Actions,
And continue this, throughout all the aeons to come!


Next, “May I always wear the armour”, the armour of entering into the Mahayana path. The armour of never giving up [the] accumulation of merit and accumulation of wisdom. The armour of never stopping liberating sentient beings. Here, the word “armour” is sort of symbolic, but really it’s talking about not feeling exhausted or losing inspiration. Not becoming lethargic. Not becoming discouraged. The reason why we get discouraged is because we are not well-versed [in the Mahayana] or we don’t have enough understanding of wisdom and method. There are many examples given [in the commentaries], for instance when a bodhisattva got so exhausted and discouraged because [the path was] taking so long, and Buddha gave him encouragement by saying that time is totally an illusion. He also said that a bodhisattva must benefit sentient beings, [in the same way that] a mother who has [only] one child dreams that the child is drowning in a river. The mother will not think twice, but immediately she will jump into the river to save [her child]. But a bodhisattva, one who is adorned with wisdom, will also know that this is just a dream. So these are a few of the reasons for talking about the armour that a bodhisattva must wear.

Q & A

As a Mahayana Buddhist, what should be our aspiration at the moment of death?

[Q]: What is the last thought we should aspire to at the moment of death as a Mahayana Buddhist?

[DJKR]: There are many, but I think one of them is actually what we just spoke about — entering the Buddha field. That could mean really thinking about Amitabha Buddha and the Amitabha Buddha realm and having the aspiration to be reborn there at all costs for the benefit of all sentient beings. On the more profound level, realising that the Amitabha Buddha realm is not somewhere out there, but here, this moment, this very place.

How can we aspire to enter the Pure Land while also abolishing all dualism?

[Q]: In different Buddhist sutras there are practices about aspiring to enter the Pure Land, but in the sutras it also says that we should abolish all dualism. So how should we approach whether there is a Pure Land or not, and how should we look at it? 

[DJKR]: As I said, during the dream, there’s the beginning, [the middle, and the end of the falling] and all of that, yet it’s not there. if you can accept this understanding of relative truth and ultimate truth, then all this works. Otherwise, yes, it sounds like there’s just continuous contradiction all the time. As I asked that monk, “[Given the truth of] anatta, why do we offer alms?” 

Do I have to give up philosophy to be a true Buddhist?

[Q]: [A question from a philosopher in Germany]: The pride, doubts, and wrong views you criticise seem to be similar to dualism, criticism, and conception, which are, however, fundamental aspects of philosophical work. Does that mean I have to give up philosophy in order to be a true Buddhist?

[DJKR]: Yes. [Laughter]. But you will also have to give up being Buddhist later, so it doesn’t really matter. 

How to practice renunciation without falling into nihilism?

[Q]: You spoke yesterday about renunciation. How to practice renunciation without falling into nihilism?

[DJKR]: Okay, I will go back to my example of the dream. Here you need to know that the real renunciation is really knowing that when you [have the experience that you] are falling, you are actually not falling. That’s why I said, when you fall, if you scream not knowing that this is a dream, that is nihilism36Ed.: in yesterday’s teaching DJKR gave this example to illustrate eternalism, i.e. you scream because you think it’s real even though it isn’t. The example he gave to illustrate nihilism was denying that the experience of falling and the experience of fear was in fact happening.

Are we aspiring to change or to accept?

[Q]: When you make an aspiration, are you in essence aspiring to change or to accept? 

[DJKR]: I think both, actually. Accepting your Buddha nature and changing in the context of undoing the cocoon that is wrapping your Buddha nature. 

How can we renounce all views and also follow morality?

[Q]: Rinpoche, thank you for your beautiful teachings. From my perception, my karmic perception, when I hear you, for me it’s always like in one sentence, yes and no, and at the same time it’s not contradictory. And my question is about renunciation and discipline. You said renunciation is renouncing all views, but in discipline, there is a view, there is a morality. So how [can we] at the same time actually renounce all the views and [also] follow morality? 

[DJKR]: I’m glad that you guys are asking this. It’s just like how I teased that monk. This is what you need to get used to with the Mahayana concept of relative truth and ultimate truth. I think what you need to know is this. Until you know you are dreaming, you will always be panicked. It doesn’t matter. You are peacefully sleeping on your bed, but you will still be in panic. And as long as you have panic, the path is valid. As long as you are dreaming, [having] somebody sort of waking you up is valid. In reality, somebody waking you up is not helping you at all in getting rid of the real problem, because there was never a real problem. 

How can we integrate aspiration and right view into our daily activities?

[Q]: Thank you for your teaching, Rinpoche. You mentioned being an artist, and I was thinking as an artist, when you go to your work, you would want to bring right view. I was thinking about the Buddhist idea that you have the highest view, high as the sky, but your actions fine as tsampa flower. But hypothetically, what if Allen Ginsberg were still alive today and he were to ask you, “When I go to my writing desk, what should I do when I sit down, other than [having] right view? [What should I do] when I start to write, during writing, and when I end my writing session?” Thank you.

[DJKR]: I think we talked about relative bodhichitta yesterday. It doesn’t matter what you do, [you should aspire that] whatever you do, even mundane things like waking up in the morning, may it somehow lead me to awaken myself and others. I think that is the fundamental and the easiest. I think right now, because I’m just giving you a sort of summary of this chapter, [and it] really has everything there, so maybe it’s confusing you people a little bit. This [subject] is very big. I mean it’s [discussing things] on a very profound level. For example, in one sense it talks about [how there is] no time. If there is no time, how does aspiration work? As I said right at the beginning today, aspiration always has something to do with in the future. But time and again in these stanzas, this is dealt with. For instance, it says you should prostrate to the buddhas of the future. Now. How do you do that? I’m here and they are going to come in the future. How do I do that? These are the incredible methods of the Mahayana, which are basically trying to really stir our normal way of thinking.

Can nihilism be a valid tool on the spiritual path?

[Q]: For the past few years, one thought that’s become really prominent in my mind is that free will is an illusion. And whenever I start thinking in terms of absolute reality, my mind seems to naturally gravitate towards nihilism. And I’ve been cautioned, or in the teachings I’ve heard many cautions against nihilism. But from my perspective, nihilism is not untrue. And if it’s not untrue, can it be used as a valid tool in my spiritual process? 

[DJKR]: Actually, we all have nihilism as a habit. That’s why we get depressed, for instance. Also, we are also by habit eternalist. That’s why we also get ridiculously hopeful. So that’s always there. What you don’t want is a nihilism [that you have arrived at as a] “result of analysis”, to use the classic Mahayana language37rikpé nyépé nyédön (Tibetan: རིགས་པའི་རྙེད་པའི་རྙེད་དོན ; Wylie: rigs pa’i rnyed pa’i rnyed don) = an object found by means of reasoning and analysis, result of analysis – see rikpé nyépé nyédön.. Because if you analyse [phenomena] through your logic and through scientific tools, and then you come to a conclusion that nothing exists, that is dangerous. Let’s go back to the dream example. When you fall, you will be afraid even though in reality you are not falling. We always go back to that. Now the interesting thing is if you analyse [your dream], then if your analysis is good, you may say, “Oh, I’m just dreaming.” That’s good. But let’s say that you analyse and you come to the conclusion — I’m trying to remember Chandrakirti’s words — that you never dreamt, you never had that nightmare, then that’s nihilism. But no, you are sweating, you are screaming, you are shouting [and to deny this experience would be nihilism].

What is the best way to overcome jealousy?

[Q]: You mentioned that jealousy is also a great obstacle for practitioners. I feel like jealousy is subtle and difficult to overcome. What is the best way to overcome jealousy? 

[DJKR]: I [will give an] easy sort of answer, just because it’s a very big question. We don’t have time to talk about this too much. But there is a practice called the Seven Limb Practice and one of them is actually designed to counter jealousy. It’s [the practice of] rejoicing. Yes, jealousy is a problem. Some of the commentators say there are two “loser” emotions. And among these two, jealousy is even more of a loser. Pride being the other one. Jealousy, yes, it’s a real loser, because at least with passion, you get things done. And with aggression you also get things done. And with ignorance you get stoned. It’s kind of nice. But what you do with jealousy is totally baseless. Most of the time it’s like a story inside you. But actually if you want to topple jealousy — I think this comes from Milarepa — if you want to tackle jealousy, you should have an economy embargo. No, Milarepa didn’t say this. I’m just interpreting his words. Jealousy gets fed by pride. So watch pride and then jealousy gets unsettled. I know [you are thinking] how to do [this] with pride? We can talk about it later. It’s too much, too long. 

How to decide which aspect of the teachings to focus on?

[Q]: Thank you for coming to Vancouver. I’m a big fan of your books. And I remember that you used the metaphor of onions, [where] the teaching of Buddhism is like different layers of an onion. I really enjoy reading about Buddhism, but [with] each onion I read, I kind of lose faith in the previous onion, the previous layers. But I also feel like I’m lacking practice. So I don’t know which onion should I pick and really sit with and really do the work. 

[DJKR]: I think I will let you keep this problem.

If there is no self, who is trying to aspire?

[Q]: Hi Rinpoche, thanks for your teaching. I guess my question has been brought up [already], or similar questions have been brought up. We’ve been talking about aspiration and usually it goes, “May I something, something.” So it sounds to me like I am in pursuit of something or trying to do something. And you were also talking about the idea of selfless. So I guess my question is, if there’s no self, then who is trying to aspire? 

[DJKR]: Yes, you are talking about me and my monk. Yes, I understand. So just remember, we are [only] talking about aspiration [during the period] from the beginning of the dream until the end of the dream. Other than that, there’s no aspiration. This will come this afternoon. The prayer ends with the Buddhist result, and [the result] or aim of Buddhism is beyond aspiration. 

[Q]: Is it similar to the question earlier about discipline [where] you said we should let go of a firm grip on ideas? So is it sort of like until we see the, I guess you could call it the fundamental truth, there needs to be a path and all these things are a path? 

[DJKR]: Yes, everything from the beginning of the dream until the end [is path]. Practice, discipline, generosity, prayers, everything exists there. 

[Q]: And that’s why you said to the German philosopher, in the end you have to give up being a Buddhist anyway. 

[DJKR]: Yes.

[Q]: Okay, that makes sense. Thank you. 

How can we become better at communicating effectively with memorable analogies?

[Q]: Hi, Rinpoche. I think one of your superpowers is you are really good at making analogies. So I remember you mentioned that nowadays mindfulness is a bit like diluted chai. Chai used to have this beautiful connotation, the smell of the train, the clay pot, the sugar and the hearth [?]. So for someone who aspires to make effective and memorable analogies, do you have any tips and tricks, mental models, app recommendations, things like that? 

[DJKR]: That was [part of] the aspiration. You know, may I be able to talk with different languages for different people. Yes, I think that’s why we do this.

[Q]: What are your tips and tricks to deliberately practice this ability? 

[DJKR]: This is the trick — aspiring. I think it really [works]. [It’s the] best trick. 

What’s the most important thing about an intimate relationship from a Buddhist perspective?

[Q]: What do you think is the most important thing about an intimate relationship from a Buddhist perspective? 

[DJKR]: Buddhists don’t really care so much about what you eat, what you drink, how you eat, how you drink. I think intimate relationships fall in this kind of department. If you don’t [make] it properly, even a vegan chai might be troublesome. You know, the vegan cappuccino drinkers, they are the worst sometimes. They are like vegetarian terrorists. [Laughter]. There’s a really good French film called “Delicatessen”. It’s really good. 

What should our aspiration be if we’re worried about the climate emergency and think maybe there really isn’t any future?

[Q]: Rinpoche, my question is about the climate emergency and just the way the world is going generally. Years ago I heard you say that we should make aspirations, that if we’re worried about the climate emergency and all that, that this would help a lot. But I guess I still have some doubts. 

[DJKR]: What is my thought about how the world is going? 

[Q]: No, I mean, from my point of view, maybe there really isn’t any future. So what aspiration am I making in that case? 

[DJKR]: No, no. If you have taken the bodhisattva vow, which if you haven’t and if you want to, we will be doing this afternoon [then you should think]. “Okay, this world will end, but so what? I’m not going to give up [my bodhisattva vow].” That’s the attitude. [Applause] But frankly, no. You know, there are so many different things happening in the world [and] some are really good. Just a few days ago I downloaded the whole collection of works of the great Longchenpa, in something like two minutes. That is so good. [But] I know what you mean. There’s too much information. So we get stirred a bit. This is just me personally sharing with you just what I do. You should listen to some of the most ridiculous vlogs and videos. It’s really helpful. [Laughter] Because then you should think they are all the same, you know, like they are all just… [Ed.: Rinpoche didn’t finish his thought]. But I appreciate that [the world] feels very volatile, and it is in a way volatile. But for the Mahayana, and especially for tantrikas, if [the time] is volatile, this is also a really good chance to reap profit too.

Is the bird’s eye view related to not abiding in the extremes of samsara or nirvana?

[Q]: Hi Rinpoche. You spoke about having a bird’s eye view and remembering the sadness of life. I’m wondering if this idea relates to teachings on not abiding in the extremes of samsara or nirvana, or not preferring one [over] the other. 

[DJKR]: [That’s the bird’s eye view at the] highest level, the real bird’s eye view of the bird’s eye view. There’s another bird then. Okay, we’ll take a lunch break. 


Day 2 part 2

The bodhisattva’s perspective on life

Ultimate and relative bodhichitta

Yesterday [we were] talking about how aspiration is absolutely important. This morning we were talking about relative truth and ultimate truth, which you can also understand as relative bodhichitta and ultimate bodhichitta. I was giving the analogy of the dream [of] falling from a building, and [in this analogy] ultimate bodhichitta is that nobody is falling [in reality]. But relatively there is the perception of falling, and therefore there is fear. And because there is fear, of course there is a wish to be free from this fear. And in one way, you can say this wish [to be free from fear] is the seed of aspiration. But ironically the cause of this fear is unfounded [because] in reality, it’s an illusion. But if someone is having a nightmare, it doesn’t do any good for you to go into their dream and tell them, “You know, you are just dreaming”. Unless the person is ready to hear and contemplate what you are saying, it’s not going to do any good. So at times, it’s also good to go along with the story of their dream.

And because this is a Mahayana text, we are also talking about awakening everyone else from their dreams as well38DJKR said “awakening from everyone else’s dream”. This has been changed.. This makes things a little complicated. Because one might say, “That is their dream and my dream is my dream”. And after all, Buddha said that even he cannot wipe away your suffering. You should do it yourself. So what is this taking everybody in? Why take the responsibility of awakening others? And this makes things a bit complex. 

So [we will] always [be] talking about these two — the relative and the ultimate — at times as one, at times as different, and this is always going to be challenging. I have noticed that many of the questions are stemming from this. Hypothetically speaking, [you might say that] Buddhists hate to hear these questions. There is even a sutra where there is a list of fourteen questions that the Buddha never really answered. But actually, his not answering was the answer, which many people actually misinterpreted as sort of no answer. But the no answer was the answer to the question. One of the questions is, “When did everything begin?” That’s a tricky question, because the question of beginning alludes to an “original” genesis. So then you are kind of talking about the ultimate truth — in the beginning, you know, the “real” thing. Buddhists don’t like that. Remember the person who is falling from the building? The beginning of the fall is a bit like that. It actually never really happened, so there’s no beginning of the fall. The beginning of the fall can only be talked about just because there is some ground underneath. 

Hearing the Mahayana will change your perspective

It’s really good that many of you have asked these questions. It really means that actually my whole [purpose] of agreeing to do this Pranidhana-Raja [is working out]. I’m happy that it has really confused you guys. Because — now I’m repeating here— beginning, end, genesis, Armageddon, the end of the world — all those are as arbitrary as talking about the beginning of the dream when I just fell from the twenty-sixth floor and now I am slowly falling past the twenty-second floor. It’s like that. But also, I can’t dismiss it. You see, this is the problem. There is real pain there. It’s a nightmare. Sweating and screaming and sleepwalking, everything. Nightmare, samsara, whatever you want to call it. I hope you realise that Buddhism in general and Mahayana in particular has a different way of looking at the world. And even if you [only] hear it intellectually, I think that’s good. It will really change your perspective. 

Even if [the only thing] this makes you realise [is that] everything that you say is vague. When I say, “Rose is red” [DJKR holds a red rose]. “Rose”, of course, is vague. Not too bad though. “Red” is so vague. What is the ultimate red? So that’s vague number two, [which is still] not too bad, but the worst is “is”. Oh gosh, what a tragedy this is! I mean, the rose “is” red [DJKR emphasises the word “is”]. What is? So now you just apply this to everything. All your values, all the things that you treasure, all the things that you dislike — I don’t know, everything. But the Mahayana will say, “Well, you don’t really have to apply this to everything. That’s a waste of time. Just go to the root of it”. That “I” is just very big [from the] twenty-sixth floor to the ground floor. This whole “I” and the worst is “am”. I mean, it has been with me for sixty-two years. Can you believe that? And [I’m sure somewhere] a great bodhisattva is laughing at me, “Sixty-two? That’s nothing! Billions and billions of lifetimes before, when you were a spider, when you were some bug, when you had a totally different language.”

The bodhisattva does not crave some sort of ending

There are two [important] words here, zangpo chöpa (Tibetan) or bhadracharya39bhadracharya (Sanskrit: भद्रचर्या, IAST: bhadracaryā ; Tibetan: བཟང་པོ་སྤྱོད་པ, zangpo chöpa ; Wylie: bzang po spyod pa) = good/virtuous action – see bhadracharya.) (Sanskrit) [which means good/virtuous conduct, as in the name of this prayer, the Arya-Bhadracharya-Pranidhana-Raja], and jangchub chöpa (Tibetan) or bodhicharya40bodhicharya (Sanskrit: बोधिचर्या, IAST: bodhicaryā ; Tibetan: ང་ཆུབ་སྤྱོད་པ, jangchup chöpa ; Wylie: byang chub spyod pa) = the action/conduct of a bodhisattva – see bodhicharya. (Sanskrit) [which means the action/conduct of a bodhisattva]. The [Sanskrit] word “charya” means action, or maybe “the way you live”, basically “the way you function”. So there are two [noble or virtuous] ways of living, [the way of living of] the bodhisattva (bodhicharya), and the [noble/good/virtuous way of living more generally] (bhadracharya).

2.17. Extent of the Aspiration
[46] Sentient beings are as limitless
As the boundless expanse of space;
So shall my prayers of aspiration for them
Be as limitless as their karma and harmful emotions!


[This verse comes] towards the end of the prayer. And this is so good, so beautiful. For how long should we pray? For how long should we aspire? As long as the sky exists, it says. See, I told you, the [Mahayana] doesn’t like these kind of [questions] like “For how long should I pray?” “When did it all begin?” “When will it all end?” They don’t like these words. So that’s how you get answers like “As far as there is a sky, there is that much emotion. As long as there is emotion, the limit of my aspiration will also be that much”. In a way, this also is an aspiration of “May I never be liberated until all these are sorted out.” The craving for some sort of an end is not a Mahayana thing. No last page. No climax. But, at the same time, [the bodhisattva] never feels the dread of endlessness. There is no end, therefore there is no endless. So the bodhisattvas are always in bliss. It’s like you are getting promoted every moment. The moment a bodhisattva sees an ignorant, stubborn, impossible person, it’s like they feel so famished [i.e. so eager to help].

[So when we ask] “Where do these things come from?”, again we go back to what I’ve been talking about and what you have really nicely asked me in several ways. This intrigue, this curiosity about the beginning and this longing for the end is really not Buddhist language, and especially not Mahayana. If you hear this, even intellectually, and if you sort of understand it even vaguely, this should already free you from the fear of death. Well, that’s what the commentary says, so I’m saying this. I mean, death is just like changing a tight swimsuit. An extra small size. It takes a bit of time to shrug it off.

The Pranidhana-Raja: The Actual Aspiration (contd.)

2.4. Aspiration to Lead Beings to Happiness
[21] Throughout the reach and range of the entire universe
I shall pacify completely the suffering of all the lower realms,
I shall lead all beings to happiness,
And work for the ultimate benefit of each and every one!


So, may I be able to benefit all others. Actually there are two things [here]. May I be able to make others happy. But more importantly, may I be able to give them something that is [truly] beneficial. It’s like, I know giving you ice cream makes you happy. [But then] immediately after giving you the ice cream, I should take it away. Because it would be beneficial for your health. Right? It’s a bit like this. So may I be able to make them happy and may I create benefit for others. 

2.5. Aspiration to Wear the Armour of Dedication
[22] I shall bring enlightened action to perfection,
Serve beings so as to suit their needs,
Teach them to accomplish Good Actions,
And continue this, throughout all the aeons to come!


May I be able to accomplish all the Buddha activities, just according to [i.e. in the same way] the Buddhas [have done]. But may I also be able to do that according to sentient beings’ mood and culture and hang-ups and all of this. This one is so important. The Mahayana doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all glove. The Mahayana doesn’t believe in that kind of glove. If your disciple happens to be mist or a spider, you will have to act like one, talk like one, behave like one. Like getting really excited about swinging on webs. Stuff like that. You have to talk according to [their needs]. We should also [aspire to] be able to accomplish things according to the [way of the] Buddhas. That’s there always. And may I be able to do these activities endlessly. 

2.6. Aspiration to Accompany other Bodhisattvas
[23] May I always meet and be accompanied by
Those whose actions accord with mine;
And in body, speech and mind as well,
May our actions and aspirations always be one!


This is a really good one. May I always encounter [others] who act like this, who think like this. It is very important, especially for the beginner bodhisattvas, to have some support, I guess.

2.7. Aspiration to Have Virtuous Teachers and to Please Them
[24] May I always meet spiritual friends
Who long to be of true help to me,
And who teach me the Good Actions;
Never will I disappoint them!


May I encounter those who have the same aspiration, those who wish to benefit others, those who wish to engage with excellent charya or activity. And after meeting them, may I never disappoint them. This is probably the closest thing to the guru that the Mahayana talks about, but [here in the Mahayana] it’s still a spiritual companion41kalyanamitra (Sanskrit: कल्याणमित्र, IAST: kalyāṇamitra ; Tibetan: དགེ་བའི་བཤེས་གཉེན་, gewé shenyen; Wylie: dge ba’i bshes gnyen) = spiritual friend – see kalyanamitra..

2.8. Aspiration to See the Buddhas and Serve them in Person
[25] May I always behold the buddhas, here before my eyes,
And around them all their bodhisattva sons and daughters.
Without ever tiring, throughout all the aeons to come,
May the offerings I make them be endless and vast!


And then may I always learn to gaze at the Buddhas that are surrounded by millions of bodhisattvas. And without any tiredness, may I be able to make offerings to them all the time. I don’t know how to articulate this. What it’s really talking about is not that [this ability to see all the buddhas and bodhisattvas] is going to come in the future. What we are talking about is there is Buddha surrounded by millions of bodhisattvas right now, as you open your eyes. You just need to learn to gaze at them. You need to see them, not just look, but actually see them. And not only see, but interact with them, like making offerings, asking questions, receiving answers.

Again, just to remind you, this is the Avatamsaka Sutra42Avatamsaka Sutra (Sanskrit: आवतंसक सूत्र, IAST: avataṃsakasūtra ; Tibetan: མདོ་ཕལ་པོ་ཆེ་, do palpo ché; Wylie: mdo phal po che) = The Flower Ornament Sutra – see Avatamsaka Sutra.(, sometimes called the Flower Ornament Sutra, which is part of the Stem Array. I don’t know the definition of ornament, but [I think] it’s like something that you arrange so that suddenly everything gets sort of accentuated and becomes kind of special. Something like that, right? We call it gyen43gyen (Tibetan: རྒྱན, gyen ; Wylie: rgyan ; Sanskrit: √तंस्, IAST: taṃs) = ornament – see gyen. [in Tibetan]. 

For instance, take this flower [DJKR holds up a flower]. In our limited human mind, this is an ornament. And subconsciously or maybe consciously, the fact that this flower is here may have made everything, all the other parts [of this room] beautiful and sort of bearable. Well, the idea of the Avatamsaka Sutra is that you just need to learn how to add that jewel [to your live]. [For example, if you are putting on jewellery] like an earring, you just add that blue [sapphire] or a pearl, and then everything works out. [Now] the ear is also nice. Next to the ear, the nose suddenly looks good. Next to the nose, the mouth suddenly looks good. And then everything looks good. Those who wish to, please read the Avatamsaka Sutra. It will take some time to get into, but once you get into it, it’s so moving actually. It’s really moving. Don’t read it as a novel [expecting] some sort of a linear [narrative]. It is supposedly a description of what’s happening right this very moment. It’s hallucinogenic mushroom ten thousand times. It’s not just vision and sound, [but also] values, distance, history, everything. 

2.9. Aspiration to Keep the Dharma Thriving
[26] May I maintain the sacred teachings of the buddhas,
And cause enlightened action to appear;
May I train to perfection in Good Actions,
And practise these in every age to come!


2.10. Aspiration to Acquire Inexhaustible Treasure
[27] As I wander through all states of samsaric existence,
May I gather inexhaustible merit and wisdom,
And so become an inexhaustible treasury of noble qualities—
Of skill and discernment, samadhi and liberation!


I aspire to be awakened, but meanwhile while I am roaming around in the samsara, I aspire to accumulate merit and wisdom. May I be able to perfect skilful means, wisdom and samadhi.

2.11. Aspiration to the Different Methods for Entering into the “Good Actions”
a) Seeing the Buddhas and their Pure Realms
[28] In a single atom may I see as many pure realms as atoms in the universe:
And in each realm, buddhas beyond all imagining,
Encircled by all their bodhisattva heirs.
Along with them, may I perform the actions of enlightenment!

[29] And so, in each direction, everywhere,
Even on the tip of a hair, may I see an ocean of buddhas—
All to come in past, present and future—in an ocean of pure realms,
And throughout an ocean of aeons, may I enter into enlightened action in each and every one!


Again, on top of each atom exists a number of Buddhas that is equal to all the atoms in the universe. I will look at these Buddhas. I will gaze at them. And I will emulate these Buddhas for ocean-like aeons. 

b) Listening to the Speech of the Buddhas
[30] Each single word of a buddha’s speech, that voice with its ocean of qualities,
Bears all the purity of the speech of all the buddhas,
Sounds that harmonize with the minds of all living beings:
May I always be engaged with the speech of the buddhas!


c) Hearing the Turning of the Wheels of Dharma
[31] With all the power of my mind, may I hear and realize
The inexhaustible melody of the teachings spoken by
All the buddhas of past, present and future,
As they turn the wheels of Dharma!


d) Entering into All the Aeons
[32] Just as the wisdom of the buddhas penetrates all future aeons,
So may I too know them, instantly,
And in each fraction of an instant may I know
All that will ever be, in past, present and future!


I will listen to ocean-like teachings with their ocean-like melodies. And with my ocean-like determination, I shall enter into their words. When these Tathagatas turn the wheel of the Dharma, I shall not only listen and hear their teachings, but I shall enter into these teachings with the power of my wisdom. I shall not only enter into their teachings in this time, but even the Buddhas of the future, I shall enter their speech within one moment. 

e) Seeing all the Buddhas in One Instant
[33ab] In an instant, may I behold all those who are the lions of the human race—
The buddhas of past, present and future!


f) Entering the Sphere of Activity of the Buddhas
[33cd] May I always be engaged in the buddhas’ way of life and action,
Through the power of liberation, where all is realized as like an illusion!


g). Accomplishing and Entering the Pure Lands
[34] On a single atom, may I actually bring about
The entire array of pure realms of past, of present and future;
And then enter into those pure buddha realms
In each atom, and in each and every direction.


h) Entering into the Presence of the Buddhas
[35] When those who illuminate the world, still to come,
Gradually attain buddhahood, turn the Wheel of Dharma,
And demonstrate the final, profound peace of nirvana:
May I be always in their presence!


Again and again, I shall emulate these ocean-like Tathagatas. And not only emulate their body, speech and mind, but I shall also accomplish their ocean-like Buddha fields. I will ask these Buddhas to turn the wheel of the Dharma. And I shall go to each of these Tathagatas within one moment. 

2.12. Aspiration to the Power of Enlightenment through Nine Powers
[36] Through the power of swift miracles,
The power of the vehicle, like a doorway,
The power of conduct that possesses all virtuous qualities,
The power of loving kindness, all-pervasive,

[37] The power of merit that is totally virtuous,
The power of wisdom free from attachment, and
The powers of knowledge, skilful means and samadhi,
May I perfectly accomplish the power of enlightenment!


And by the power of experiencing the presence of these Buddhas, may [the bodhisattva powers] — there are [nine] specific bodhisattva powers — may they all be accomplished. So one of these powers is like a miracle power44dzutrül [Tibetan: རྫུ་འཕྲུལ, dzutrül or dzüntrul ; Wylie: rdzu ‘phrul ; Sanskri: ऋद्धि, IAST: ṛddhi) = miraculous power – see dzutrül., [the power to] manifest miracles. Because the bodhisattvas have understood relative truth and ultimate truth, because they have understood the non-duality of numbers, size, destinations etc., they can manifest miracles such as [crossing] a long distance within one moment, expanding one moment to one aeon, and one aeon to one moment. That’s just one of their powers. 

2.13. Aspiration to the Antidotes that Pacify the Obscurations
[38] May I purify the power of karma;
Destroy the power of harmful emotions;
Render negativity utterly powerless;
And perfect the power of Good Actions!


Another power is outshining obstacles. Sometimes it’s called ziji, which is the power of presence or outshining others45ziji nönpa (Tibetan: ཟིལ་གྱིས་གནོན་པ, zi gyi nönpa or zil gyi nön pa ; Wylie: zil gyis gnon pa) = outshining, overpowering – see ziji nönpa.. I’m not going to go through all the powers, maybe just two of them, because they are quite extensive. Okay, so the power of presence or outshining others. Because the bodhisattva is not stained by duality — not just the duality of time and space, but duality of all kinds — good/bad, immoral/moral. In every way, physically, speech, mental, activity. So there’s just no way the bodhisattva will fall into pretence or hypocrisy. [They are] authentic. What you see is what it is. And this really shatters the heart of the demons, of hypocrisy. This is just a very brief way of explaining this. It’s a really big one. [The bodhisattva has] authentic sitting, authentic presence, authentic being. Not many people are going to argue with you. [Let me give you] a very bad example, but it might work. It’s like a three-year-old baby walking naked, are you going to argue with them? [Are you going to say] that it’s unlawful and all of that? We just have to accept it. There’s not much argument. And everybody accepts it. So now multiply this billions of times. The bodhisattva reaches this sort of total authenticity — what you see is what you get, just how it is — [which gives them the power] to outshine obstacles.

2.14. Aspiration to Enlightened Activities
[39] I shall purify oceans of realms;
Liberate oceans of sentient beings;
Understand oceans of Dharma;
Realize oceans of wisdom;

[40] Perfect oceans of actions;
Fulfil oceans of aspirations;
Serve oceans of buddhas!
And perform these, without ever growing weary, through oceans of aeons!


May we aspire to purify ocean-like Buddhafields. Liberate ocean-like sentient beings. See the ocean-like truth. Accomplish ocean-like wisdom. Engage with ocean-like activity. Accomplish ocean-like aspiration. Make offerings to ocean-like Buddhas. And for ocean-like eons, [may we] not be exhausted. And this bodhisattva, meaning us, may we also accomplish the aspirations of all the Buddhas. Okay, so this is a very brief glimpse of how the bodhisattva thinks. 

2.15. Aspiration for Training
a) To Emulate the buddhas
[41] All the buddhas throughout the whole of time,
Attained enlightenment through Good Actions, and
Their prayers and aspirations for enlightened action:
May I fulfil them all completely!


b) To emulate the bodhisattvas: Samantabhadra
[42] The eldest of the sons of all the buddhas
Is called Samantabhadra: ‘All-good’—
So that I may act with a skill like his,
I dedicate fully all these merits!

[43] To purify my body, my speech and my mind as well,
To purify my actions, and all realms,
May I be the equal of Samantabhadra
In his skill in good dedication!


c) Mañjushri
[44] In order to perform the full virtue of Good Actions,
I shall act according to Mañjushri’s prayers of aspiration,
And without ever growing weary, in all the aeons to come,
I shall perfectly fulfil every one of his aims!


For beginners, for most of us, we can’t even fathom these [enlightened qualities and activities of the buddhas and bodhisattvas]. So in that case, what can we do? For beginners who wish to follow and emulate these bodhisattvas, the [aspiring beginner] bodhisattva should think “There is a bodhisattva called Samantabhadra, and however he aspired —may we also aspire [in that same way]”. That encompasses all the aspirations. [In verse 41 we seek to aspire as the buddhas did]. and in [verses 42 to 44 we aspire] “In the way that the bodhisattvas [Samantabhadra and Mañjushri] aspired, may we also tirelessly aspire.

2.16. Concluding Aspiration
[45] Let my bodhisattva acts be beyond measure!
Let my enlightened qualities be measureless too!
Keeping to this immeasurable activity,
May I accomplish all the miraculous powers of enlightenment!


2.17. Extent of the Aspiration
[46] Sentient beings are as limitless
As the boundless expanse of space;
So shall my prayers of aspiration for them
Be as limitless as their karma and harmful emotions!


[The aspiration concludes] “May our action be infinite. May our qualities be infinite”. The commentary [explains that] when you read stanzas like “May our qualities be infinite”, it includes things like if a bodhisattva is required to be an idiot from 5pm until 7pm today, why not? That is included in this one. Because idiots are so powerful, and [manifesting as an idiot] can really benefit a lot of people. For instance, it can make people think that they are more useful, which is important. Let them think that. Yes, it’s [included] there. If a bodhisattva needs to be46Ed. DJKR said “feel”. helpless, sick, whatever, then yes, [they should] be that. If a bodhisattva [needs to be] a homeless addict, or if a bodhisattva needs to be annoying for half an hour, may I be that. Basically, you cannot exclude anything. There’s not a single quality that can be excluded. The only thing that can be excluded is something that will go against the truth, [in other words] something that will not benefit others. So that is basically sort of very bad summary of this aspiration. 

So, I guess I should let you ask some questions for a few minutes and then we will do the refuge and bodhisattva vow. For those who don’t wish to take refuge and the bodhisattva vow, but you still want to sit here just to see what’s happening, you are very welcome. And for those who wish to go home and do your things, now is good, you can go. Meanwhile, we have some questions.

Q & A

Request for Rinpoche to give the lung (reading transmission) of the text

[Q]: Will Rinpoche give the lung, the oral transmission of the text he is reading? 

[DJKR]: Okay, I will.

Do you have any advice for people dealing with depression?

[Q]: Can Rinpoche please share some advice for people dealing with depression? 

[DJKR]: It’s a little difficult because I’m not trained. I also don’t know what depression means. It’s so large, looks like. Connected to physical, chemical, mental, emotional. I think psychiatrists and psychologists’ help is very good. Just like having a good massage. But if you are talking about the depression of samsara as an ever-leaking plumbing system, then you have to sort of accept that it cannot be fixed, and that will already help a bit. It really does help. When I’m in places like Japan, when even a small thing goes wrong, I get so annoyed. But in my washroom in Nepal, the washing machine seems to be forever not working, [but] I’m actually not really annoyed. I just already accept that’s how it is. So, causes and conditions. How to deal with causes and conditions? 

What is the difference between the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions? 

[Q]: Thank you, Rinpoche. Can you please use your example of falling in a dream to explain the difference between the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions? 

[DJKR]: Okay. I have to be brief. There are many, many ways of explaining this. I’m choosing one only. This is regarding practice. So let’s say you have anger. How to deal with that? In the Theravada, they will say, “Oh, you know, anger is really bad. You should really try to read about the bad things about anger. You should have a lot of maitri, love and all that.” So that’s how they deal with it. Things like shamatha, vipassana, all of that. The Mahayana way is, “All sentient beings’ anger, may it all come to me.” That’s how they deal with it. And then comes the Vajrayana. “What do you mean anger is bad? It’s just a mental factor. Just don’t let it entangle you, just watch”. This is a very famous one, which we call [in Tibetan] spang gyur shes gsum — pang “abandon”47pang (Tibetan: སྤང, Wylie: spang ; also Tibetan: སྤང་བ, Wylie: spang ba) = to abstain from – see pang., gyur “transform”48gyur (Tibetan: སྒྱུར, Wylie: sgyur) = to transform – see gyur., and shé “know”49shé (Tibetan: ཤེས, Wylie: shes) = to know, to be aware – see shépa.. Also it depends [on] the disciple. [Different] disciples hear it in a different way. I wish that mist disciple had written something about what “he” heard — he or she or whatever.

How can we share Dharma through video games?

[Q]: You have shared Dharma through books, through movies, even music. If you had an opportunity to share Dharma through video games, how would you do it? 

[DJKR} Can you suggest some games to me? I haven’t really… 

[Q]: That could take a while, so I’ll keep it to a very small number. But for example, Last of Us, Mass Effect — these games have opportunities for decision making and morality. There’s also an entire series, an entire world of independent games that are designed more towards mindfulness and towards being of benefit. 

[DJKR]: Do you have the list? 

[Q]: Yes. 

[DJKR]: Can you make one? No, no, I’m serious. This is good. 

[Q]: Yes, I can absolutely do that. But as somebody who works in the video game industry and who has some influence, the only use of that influence is if it can benefit others. So, as somebody who works in that industry and who does not want to cause harm, how would you recommend teaching the industry to be better? 

[DJKR]: I’m sure there’s a way. I don’t know how to tell you, but I’m quite sure there’s a way. This is what the bodhisattvas say, “If something has a way to deceive you, that very tactic can be used to not deceive you”. So I’m sure we can do this. But I need to get the list. Can you please [get it for me]? I’m serious.

[Q]: I can absolutely get you a list. Just let me know how to get it to you. 

Why is waking up important?

[Q]: You talked a lot about dreaming and waking up. And I believe that you are somebody who was once dreaming, and now you’ve woken up. Could you tell us from your personal experience what makes you feel that waking up is so important? And could you give us a pith instruction so that we can use it even in our dreams? 

[DJKR]: I haven’t woken up. [Laughter] This is a disclaimer. It’s the truth. But I have always used logic and rationality —that’s the only thing I have. So when I use it, I can see the benefit [of the Dharma]. So I’m somebody who has seen the benefit, so I should consider [myself as someone] who should be happy with myself for this. [Laughter]

[Q}: Is there any pith instruction? 

[DJKR]: Just do the Pranidhana-Raja, actually. 

Why do we aspire to awaken all beings, given that when we wake up they’re all gone?

[Q]: We always vow to wake all beings up, but when we wake up, we wake up. What I mean is that all the beings [are] in our dream, and when we wake up, they’re all gone. So when we make a vow, why do we always aspire to wake up all [beings]? Is there anyone [else] for us to wake up? I thought that when we wake up, like everything in the dream, all beings are gone? 

[DJKR]: This is again a very similar thing [to what] we have been dealing with. It’s good that you guys asked this question. So you are talking from the point of view of the person who is sleeping on the bed, or [the person that has] woken up [i.e. not the point of view of the person who is dreaming]. So [in this case] there has never been falling. No prayers. 

How can I help a non-spiritual friend who is dying?

[Q]: A close friend of mine is quite ill and may die very soon. This is not a spiritual person. She is more scientific. And I don’t know how to help her in her process of dying, but I really would like to help her. Do you have any advice for me? 

[DJKR]: Well, the Mahayana way, since we are talking about this, if you have a chance, please read this prayer next to this person. And then if you want to do a little bit more, I would say, “Well, I’m going to say a few things to you. And this may all be hocus-pocus. But what if it is not hocus-pocus? You might as well hear me out”. So what you will say is, “Who knows who will die first, you or me? I may be the one who goes first. And when we die, there’s going to be separation of body and mind. And when there’s a separation of the body and mind, actually it’s good news. Good news in the sense that your mind is becoming more independent. Until now, your mind is always under the wrath of five or six translators. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, etc. And now they are retiring. So your mind is going to be very naked. And when this naked mind interacts with the object, finally you will have a so-called objective [experience]. You know, you are a scientist, right? Finally, at long last, you are going to have an experience of the objective world. And this might scare you. Then don’t be scared. Always think that it is your mind playing tricks”. I think this much will do good for now. 

The two cushions on Rinpoche’s couch

Where can I get the two cushions on your couch?

[Q]: Hi, Rinpoche. I’m a very novice to all your teachings and the Buddhist teachings. While I’m here today, I’m grateful for everything I’m learning, absorbing, processing, and reflecting. I don’t know why, but I’m drawn to the two cushions on your couch. And I want to know where I can get them. 

[DJKR]: You better ask these guys. Very good. It’s a really good question. 

Is accomplishing Buddha fields a joke?

[Q]: This morning you talked about accomplishing Buddha fields, and you gave the example of going to North Van to sneeze. It sounds like a joke. Are you trying to express that accomplishing Buddha fields is also like a joke? 

[DJKR]: You make it sound like a joke is such a joke. A joke is quite important, no? It will release you, I think. To be continued. This discussion is to be continued. 

How does dedication relate to aspiration?

[Q]: Please you could you clarify how dedication relates to aspiration at this level. How are they similar? How are they different?

[DJKR]: Dedication is if you have already accumulated something, like merit, like a prostration. You dedicate. Aspiration is [when] you have not specifically done anything, you just aspire. Mönlam we call it.

[Q]: Does aspiration work by its own merit? 

[DJKR]: Yes, that’s why we also did some sort of seven limbs thing, right? 

How to know when we should tell someone they are dreaming?

[Q]: Rinpoche, you mentioned that sometimes it’s not a good idea to tell someone to wake up from their nightmare because they may not be able to accept it. At times, from my previous experiences, it has helped when you tell someone, [as least according to] my perception. I’m hoping for some kind of advice as to how we can decide [whether or not] it is a good idea to tell them to wake up. 

[DJKR]: You know there’s this aspiration where you say, “May I always encounter this [spiritual] friend or community?” [Ed. In verses 23 and 24]. Those friends supposedly know how [and when] tell you that you are dreaming or when to wake you up, should they wake you up abruptly or should they tickle you or [throw a] bucket of water? That’s why. So aspire for a good companion. 

What to do if ngöndro practice is no longer inspiring?

[Q]: It’s a question from my wife. She’s been practicing ngöndro and she’s doing Guru Yoga and when she reads the sadhana, she kind of loses the joy of it. But when she doesn’t do it, then she doesn’t feel this way. So what should she do?

[DJKR]: I see. Take a break for a month, I think. 

What is a good aspiration to help with poor health and other obstacles on the path?

[Q]: Hi Rinpoche. These teachings have been so precious and have really helped me on my path. And I really pray that my question will benefit many others here. My question is about aspiration and I’ve had a lot of obstacles on my path that have caused ill health. And I even tried to reach out to my teacher and had an opportunity for communication and then was hit by a dump truck and lost my ability to communicate and to speak. And after a year, I tried to write, but it wasn’t from my heart. I couldn’t feel my heart because of the situation. And it just keeps happening. More and more and more things keep happening like this. So my question is about aspiration. Can you help me to please really essentialise an aspiration?, I accept what’s happening because it is a fruition of my karma on one hand. And yet I really have a wish to be able to serve the Dharma and to care for the Sangha. And I’ve been unable to really do that because of the lack of vitality of my situation. So is there an essential aspiration you could help me with for this situation?

[DJKR]: I mean, you can do this aspiration, but I would suggest that you actually sort it out in a conventional way also. Because while we are [falling] from the twenty-sixth floor to the ground, all the conventional methods apply. 

[Q]: I feel like I am doing that. Do you have a sense that I’m not? 

[DJKR]: No, I think I’m saying don’t just depend on aspiration for now. 

What does it mean that enlightened beings are not sentient?

[Q]: You said enlightened beings are not sentient. Could you say something more about that? 

[DJKR]: Okay, let me think about this one. Someone who is beyond numbers, directions, space, time, I guess. 

What is Buddhism’s view on rights and liberties?

[Q]: I want to ask about the topic of rights and liberties, and what would you say Buddhism and the Dharma’s view on them are. Do they align most closely with, say, John Locke or Thomas Jefferson’s views on prioritising individual rights and freedoms and pursuit of happiness above all else, which has shaped much of Western civilisation? Or perhaps more with Confucian principles that moral obligation and family hierarchy are more important than an individual’s rights and freedoms, which is more common to Eastern civilisations? Or perhaps even with Marxism in that some collective community or class interests supersede those of both the individual and the family? Or is there something totally unique and different on the subject that Buddhism praises? 

[DJKR]: Yeah, as I said earlier, all this [only applies] from the 26th floor to the ground. Yes. They’re all equally a child’s game. 

[Q]: They’re a child’s game?

[DJKR]: Illusion. Child’s game. There are many words [used as metaphors]50mayopama (Sanskrit: मायोपाम, IAST: māyopāma ; Tibetan: སྒྱུ་མའི་དཔེ་, gyu mé pé ; Wylie: sgyu ma’i dpe) = similes, metaphors and analogies used in the Prajñaparamita sutras and Madhyamaka teachings to describe the empty nature of phenomena – see mayopama., like a shooting star, mirage, and [even] some sort of saliva from a small bug that binds itself, [though] I don’t know how to translate that. 

[Q]: So what would the Buddha say on the issue? 

[DJKR]: You should transcend them all. None of them works. So basically what I’m saying is Churchill is very wrong. He said democracy is second best. It is not. They’re all just rubbish.

What is the symbolism of Samantabhadra and the elephant?

[Q]: Rinpoche, would you please say something about the symbolism of Samantabhadra and the elephant?

[DJKR]: Yes, very good. I forgot that.

[Q]: And a quick follow-up question?

[DJKR]: They have a big statue and a mountain in China, East China, Sichuan.

[Q]: It’s different than the elephant of Mayadevi and Lalitavistara, yes? Two different elephants?

[DJKR]: I don’t know whether it was two elephants, but definitely he sits on an elephant.

[Q]: And the elephant, what does it symbolise?

[DJKR]: I think elephant symbolises a lot of things. Among many things, elephant has this trick. He sees, but he always pretends he is not seeing.

Request for Rinpoche to lead a recitation of the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche

[Q]: Can Rinpoche lead the whole group in reciting the Seven-Line Prayer sentence by sentence? 

[DJKR]: Okay, let’s see. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

[Q]: Hello. I’m a singer-songwriter from Japan. And from a Buddhist perspective, what advice would you give to an aspiring artist? 

[DJKR]: Buddhists have a lot to say about art. There’s a whole lot to study about nirmanakaya. Do you know about Fudo Myo-o51Fudo Myo-o is the Japanese name of Achala (Sanskrit: अचल, “The Immovable”, IAST: acala ; Japanese: 不動明王, Fudō Myōō, also 大日大聖不動明王, Dainichi Daishō Fudō Myōō) = a wrathful deity and dharmapala – see Achala.

[Q]: No, I’m not too familiar. 

[DJKR]: Anyway… For now, because we don’t have much time, art is something to do with illusion in Buddhism. [Things that are] assembled. But it is worthy if it can lead to the truth. That’s all I can say for now. 

How can I console friends how have recently lost their loved ones?

[Q]: What would you suggest that I say to console my friends who have recently lost their loved ones, besides doing dedication and releasing life for them? 

[DJKR]: Oh, there’s a lot of things I guess, like talking, listening. And I guess dedicating the aspiration. 

Do you have any projects to make children’s movies or games?

[Q]: You have made a lot of movies. Do you have any projects coming up making animation for children or games? And do you have people around you who can help make these movies or games so that children will not just be sucked into all the destructive ones? 

[DJKR]: I going to engage in these video games [as in the woman’s earlier question about video games]. I do have one movie project about kleptomaniac monk. So let’s see. 

How can we organise events for kids that will help them to become enlightened?

[Q]: I have a question. Actually, coincidentally, it’s also related to kids. Because I realise that in the education system now, we are kind of illusion-ised. We always say “we, we, we”, “I, I, I”, and “I want to be successful” and all that. But in Dharma, it’s actually the opposite. And if we are trying to organise events at local Buddhist centres to help kids, how can we do that? Is there any advice you could give [so] that we are not forcing them to become Buddhists, but we are trying to help them to get enlightened and become a Buddha? 

[DJKR]: This is a very important question. And I don’t really have a proper answer, but I’m trying to facilitate creating a school and all of that. So please keep in touch. We will try to see what we can do together. It’s uphill traffic, so it’s not an easy job. [Applause] 

When we are making aspirations, are we praying to anyone in particular like an almighty God?

[Q]: Hi Rinpoche. We’ve been talking about aspiration. To me it almost sounds like we’re making a wish or making a prayer. And my question is, who are we making the prayer to? Is it to an almighty God that has the power to grant us a wish? 

[DJKR]: Very good. Buddhists generally, strictly speaking, have no [almighty God]. You are just generating your aspiration and determination. But if you want to have [someone to pray to, you can pray] to Samantabhadra, because he aspired to help you actualise your aspiration.

A short conversation about stones

[Q]: I have a lot of questions, but it’s not really the time or the place for any of them. I just wanted to say hello, and hopefully we will meet again in this lifetime. Okay? 

[DJKR]: Oh my goodness. [Laughter] Wait, wait, wait. Where have you been? 

[Q]: Here in Vancouver. 

[DJKR]: You still have the stone? 

[Q]: No. Oh, I have lots of stones. 

[DJKR]: Where are they? 

[Q]: I have some in my pocket. 

[DJKR]: Oh, okay. Good. [Laughter] 

If we are supposed to pray for rebirth in the Pure Land, why do Buddhists take rebirth here on earth?

[Q]: I’m a beginner, and I just wonder, if Buddha encouraged us to pray for rebirth in the Pure Land, then why do so many monks try to reincarnate on earth again? 

[DJKR]: Oh, I think you are talking about some Tibetans, right? It’s very much a minority. [Laughter] There are thousands and thousands of Chinese, Japanese, Zen, Korean, Thai, Burmese — they don’t even think about this thing. There are only a few Tibetans in the Himalayas who have that thing going on. And actually it has caused a lot of puzzlement. And now there’s also a lot of corruption because of that. But it’s also kind of interesting, so it’s also not going to go away. It’s very interesting. 

[Q]: Yeah, I’m really confused because I feel like if they take rebirth here again, that means they didn’t stop the reincarnation? 

[DJKR]: No, because remember as I said earlier, your prayer will never finish. You don’t want to be enlightened. That was one of the prayers.

A short conversation about choosing a girl

[Q]: Thank you for teaching today. I have a question. This question may not be related to your speech yesterday and today. I would like to ask if you would choose a girl you like and a girl who likes you, who would you choose? 

[DJKR]: I have to think about this. 

[Q]: It’s okay. 

[DJKR]: Can we exchange our emails? 

[Q]: Sure. No problem.

[DJKR]: Maybe you should help me. 

[Q]: Yeah, sure. It’s no problem.

[DJKR]: No problem? Okay. Well, there we go.

Request for Rinpoche to read his invocation

[Q]: Thank you, Rinpoche, for your activities. I just wanted to request you to read the text you wrote at the beginning of January, which is called “Invocation.”

[DJKR]: Yes, I’ve already read it, so you can do that invocation.

How can we achieve the level of nonduality?

[Q]: Can you tell us how can we achieve the level of maha and non-duality in reality? 

[DJKR]: Oh, hearing and contemplation. 

[Q]: Because no time, no space, no form, no shape, and no colour, it really bothers me.

[DJKR]: That is nothing to worry about. That is much, much easier than a lot of our habituation. What’s your name? 

[Q]: Josephine.

[DJKR]: See? That’s how you have been habituated to call yourself. That is kind of ridiculous. [Laughter] Yes, so we get habituated like that. So now we use the same tactic to habituate [ourselves to shunyata or emptiness]. It doesn’t mean you are no one. It just means Josephine, body, mind, speech, has no truly existing nature. No one means nihilism, so that’s a little different. But as all the bodhisattvas said, you have to [get used to shunyata]. And it’s actually easier to get into this habit, because it is closer to the truth. Well, we don’t have much time now, so can’t really discuss this. This is why the stage of hearing, contemplation and meditation [is necessary]. This is why. 

Refuge & Bodhisattva Vow

Taking Refuge

Now we are going to do refuge and the bodhisattva vow. You first have to take refuge before you take the bodhisattva vow. You are not taking refuge in me. I can’t give you refuge because you have to take refuge in someone who will not deceive you, someone who will not falter, someone who you can trust. So the only thing you can take refuge in is the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Everything is impermanent. That’s the Dharma. Nothing will give you 100% satisfaction. Nothing exists independently and truly. This is not going to deceive you. It’s not going to be like one day something will become permanent. This one you can rely on. So that’s what it is, taking refuge. And [you also take refuge in] the one who taught this and realised this, the Buddha, and then the community [that practices and upholds these teachings], the Sangha. That’s what you are taking refuge in.

Now, [you might be asking yourself] what do I do? [When I take refuge], is there some sort of commitment like, “From now on I can’t go to Las Vegas,” stuff like that? None of that. However, if you have taken refuge in the Dharma, then you can’t really take refuge in the belief that maybe something does exist permanently, because that [wouldn’t] make sense. So if you have taken refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, you can’t really take refuge in a system that believes in permanent [things] and all of that. You can’t. If you go to the right, you go to the right. You can’t go to the left and right together right now. And then, try not to harm others.

Here we are performing a ritual. Because although the main taking refuge is through your engagement, a ritual helps. So that’s why there’s a ritual of taking a vow. And to represent the Shakyamuni Buddha, the teacher, here is a statue which will symbolise [the Buddha]. And please think that this is not bronze, but this is the real living Shakyamuni Buddha. And then, folding your palms together, please repeat after me. [Tibetan] I’m going to pause a little bit. And I will snap my fingers. At that moment, you have taken refuge.

Bodhisattva Vow

Now to take the bodhisattva vow. Again, in the presence of the Buddha and the bodhisattvas, think that you will [undertake] this path to awaken all sentient beings. Now this is a Madhyamaka tradition, which means you don’t have to apply all the bodhisattva activity overnight. You will try step by step to awaken all sentient beings. So thinking that, please repeat. [Tibetan] Again I’ll snap my fingers. At that time, you’ve taken the bodhisattva vow.


Okay, now I’m going to lead you through some contemplation. So please think that today your life has become fruitful. Today I have become the heir of the Buddha. From now on, I shall try my best to engage with Buddha activity. Like a blind beggar stumbling into a treasure mine, amidst all these negative emotions and habitual patterns, I have found this supreme kindness, the wish to awaken all sentient beings. I rejoice myself. And then think, declaring to others. Today, in the presence of the Tathagatas, I have taken the bodhisattva vow. May all gods and asuras be happy. May bodhichitta sprout or grow in the minds of beings who don’t have the seed of bodhichitta yet. And those who have bodhichitta, may their bodhichitta grow and mature. May all [beings] never be separated from bodhichitta. May we all be embraced by the Tathagatas. May we be free from thoughts and actions of maras. May all the bodhisattvas’ wishes be fulfilled. Whatever the Tathagatas wish, may [those wishes] be accomplished. 


And then a series of aspirations. May I be medicine for those who are ill. May I become a bridge for those who wish to go across. May I become a boat for those who wish to go to the other shore. May I be a guide for those who are lost. May I become a companion for those who are insecure. May I become a shade for those who are tormented by heat. May I become a lamp for those who are roaming in the dark. 

Now I’m going to do the transmission or reading of the Pranidhana-Raja that we have been going through. [Tibetan]

Elegant yet not engaging

So this is the [Pranidhana-Raja] — very, very briefly. Even as I was reading it again, I found there are just so many elements that were not covered. I think most of it you will have to just find [these for] yourself. As I was reading, two things caught my attention which I didn’t manage to share with you. First, there’s this aspiration [in the first line of verse 19, which starts], “déshing…”52The root text of the first line of verse 19 is:
Tibetan: དེས་ཤིང་ཕ་རོལ་ཕྱིན་ལ་རབ་བརྩོན་ཏེ།
Wylie: des shing pha rol phyin la rab brtson te
Pronunciation: déshing paröl chin la raptsön té

[19ab] Taming my mind, and striving in the paramitas,
I will never forget the bodhichitta;

[Ed. the translation by 84000 is slightly different, with a greater emphasis on gentleness]53Verse 19 is location 56.90 in the translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra by 84000. Note 2213 explains differences among the Sanskrit and Chinese sources:

According to the Tibetan des and the Sanskrit peśalu. The Vaidya edition of the Sanskrit has ye khalu. The Chinese translates peśalu as “pure,” but in reference to the practice of perfection rather than the person.

The word here translated as “gentle” is the Sanskrit word peshala (Sanskrit: पेशल, IAST: peśala ; Tibetan: དེས་པ, Wylie: des pa) = gentle, elegant, charming, tender – see peshala.

[19ab] May one who is gentle and dedicated to the perfections
Never forget the aspiration to enlightenment.

At a glance, it sounds like it means [an aspiration to be] kind of elegant — but elegant together with a sense of not engaging54Ed.: this overall sense is created both by two words at the start and end of the first line of verse 19, which convey the two meanings of both “elegant, gentle” and “very diligent”:
1) peshala (Sanskrit: पेशल, IAST: peśala ; Tibetan: དེས་པ, Wylie: des pa) = gentle, elegant, charming, tender – see peshala.
2) raptsön (Tibetan: རབ་བརྩོན, Wylie: rab brtson “(very) diligent, (very) suitable, (thoroughly) endeavour” ; Sanskrit: सुयुक्त, IAST: suyukta “well joined, harmoniously combined ; well composed, attentive”) = very diligent, well composed, attentive – see raptsön.
. There are just so many gems in this [prayer], like, “When I interact with people, may I always be elegant, but with the element of unassuming”, as if you are doing nothing, basically. But then actually you do everything.


The other one that caught really my attention that I didn’t mention is prophecy. It really has the aspiration, “May the Buddhas come and give me prophecy that I will become this and that.”

[59] Born there in a beautiful lotus flower,
In that excellent and joyous buddha realm,
May the Buddha Amitabha himself
Grant me the prophecy foretelling my enlightenment!

[60] Having received the prophecy there,
With my billions of emanations,
Sent out through the power of my mind,
May I bring enormous benefit to sentient beings, in all the ten directions!

This is a very, very big concept in the Mahayana. I think it also encourages young bodhisattvas. These buddhas can even prophesy that so and so, in the future, [after] eons and eons, you will become so and so.

Okay, I know I haven’t given you refuge names. If you insist, for those who don’t have one — I know most of you have one, but if you really want to have one, call yourself “Flower Ornament”. Okay, that’s it. Thank you so much.

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Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio