Quotes


This page contains a [currently very] partial selection of quotes from Buddhist and non-Buddhist sources that appear on this website. They are loosely organized according to the main topic of the quote.

[page under construction]


C

≫ Contradiction (Jigme Lingpa)

By Jigme Lingpa (source unknown).

DJKR often quotes this when talking about the limitations of thought and language in expressing nonduality:

“As soon as we talk it’s all contradiction;
As soon as we think it’s all confusion.”

• appears in: Madhyamaka 8-week course, Week 7
• external links: (Jigme Lingpa): wikipedia / rigpawiki


D

≫ Do you see the stars up there in the sky? (Patrul Rinpoche)

One of the most famous and most beautiful quotes from the Dzogchen tradition, capturing the essence of the moment when Patrul Rinpoche introduced the nature of mind to his student Nyoshul Lungtok (in what is also known as a pointing-out instruction):

“Do you see the stars up there in the sky?”
“Do you hear the dogs barking in Dzogchen Monastery?”
“Do you hear what I’m saying to you?”
“Well, the nature of Dzogchen is this: simply this.”

The story is told beautifully in Sogyal Rinpoche’s book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” (pp. 159-160 in the 2002 revised edition):

Nyoshul Lungtok, who later became one of the greatest Dzogchen masters of recent times, followed his teacher Patrul Rinpoche for about eighteen years. During all that time, they were almost inseparable. Nyoshul Lungtok studied and practiced extremely diligently, and accumulated a wealth of purification, merit, and practice; he was ready to recognize the Rigpa, but had not yet had the final introduction. Then, one famous evening, Patrul Rinpoche gave him the introduction. It happened when they were staying together in one of the hermitages high up in the mountains above Dzogchen Monastery. It was a very beautiful night. The dark blue sky was clear and the stars shone brilliantly. The sound of their solitude was heightened by the distant barking of a dog from the monastery below.

Patrul Rinpoche was lying stretched out on the ground, doing a special Dzogchen practice. He called Nyoshul Lungtok over to him, saying: “Did you say you do not know the essence of the mind?”

Nyoshul Lungtok guessed from his tone that this was a special moment and nodded expectantly.

“There’s nothing to it really,” Patrul Rinpoche said casually, and added, “My son, come and lie down over here: be like your old father.” Nyoshul Lungtok stretched out by his side.

Then Patrul Rinpoche asked him, “Do you see the stars up there in the sky?” “Yes.”

“Do you hear the dogs barking in Dzogchen Monastery?” “Yes.”

“Do you hear what I’m saying to you?” “Yes.”

“Well, the nature of Dzogchen is this: simply this.”

Nyoshul Lungtok tells us what happened then: “At that instant, I arrived at a certainty of realization from within. I had been liberated from the fetters of ‘it is’ and ‘it is not.’ I had realized the primordial wisdom, the naked union of emptiness and intrinsic awareness. I was introduced to this realization by his blessing, as the great Indian master Saraha said:

He in whose heart the words of the master have entered,
Sees the truth like a treasure in his own palm.

At that moment everything fell into place; the fruit of all Nyoshul Lungtok’s years of learning, purification, and practice was born. He attained the realization of the nature of mind.

There was nothing extraordinary or esoteric or mystical about the words Patrul Rinpoche used; in fact, they were extremely ordinary. But beyond the words something else was being communicated. What he was revealing was the inherent nature of everything, which is the true meaning of Dzogchen. At that moment he had already brought Nyoshul Lungtok directly into that state through the power and blessing of his realization.

DJKR alludes to this quote in “Vipassana for Beginners” Taipei, Taiwan, December 11, 2020:

Can’t you hear the rain drops now? Can’t you hear the humming of the air conditioner?

• appears in: “Vipassana for Beginners” Taipei, Taiwan, December 11, 2020
• external links: (Patrul Rinpoche): wikipedia / rigpawiki; (The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying): wikipedia / rigpa / rigpawiki


F

≫ Finger pointing at the moon (from Lankavatara Sutra & Shurangama Sutra)

From the Lankavatara Sutra1Lankavatara Sutra (लंकावतारसूत्र) = a prominent Mahayana Buddhist sutra compiled around 350-400 CE that recounts a dialogue primarily between the Buddha and a bodhisattva named Mahāmati, “Great Wisdom”. The topics of the sutra include Buddhanature and the teaching that consciousness (ālāyavijñāna) is the only reality, and that all phenomena that are mistakenly taken to be external objects are merely manifestations of the mind. This sutra is very important for the Yogācāra school and Chan and Zen Buddhism – see wikipedia., 223-224 (trans. D. T. Suzuki):

As the ignorant grasp the finger-tip and not the moon, so those who cling to the letter, know not my truth.

From the Shurangama Sutra2Shurangama Sutra (शूरङ्गमसूत्र) (Taisho 945) = a Mahayana Buddhist sutra that has been especially influential in Chan Buddhism. The sutra includes the popular dharani known in Chinese as the Léngyán Zhòu (楞嚴咒) or Shurangama Mantra. It is well-known and popularly chanted in East Asian Buddhism and also known in Tibetan Buddhism as White Umbrella. The current consensus among scholars is that the bulk of the Shurangama Sutra is based on Indic material from the Nalanda period (5th-6th centuries) that was later edited in China. The first catalog that records the sutra was published in China in 730 CE – see wikipedia.:

The Buddha told Ananda, “You still listen to the dharma with the conditioned mind, and so the dharma becomes conditioned as well, and you do not obtain the dharma-nature. It is like when someone points his finger at the moon to show it to someone else. Guided by the finger, that person should see the moon. If he looks at the finger instead and mistakes it for the moon, he loses not only the moon but the finger also. Why? He mistakes the pointing finger for the bright moon.3From Shurangama Sutra Vol. 2, Ch. 1 “Seeing does not return” – translation by City of Ten Thousand Buddhas..

As spoken by Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon (1973)4Ed.: see also the analysis at Fake Buddha Quotes, where a version of this quote is also traced to a part of St. Augustine’s “On Christian Doctrine” that was written around 397 CE, possibly contemporaneous with Buddhist sources.:

“It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon
Don’t concentrate on the finger,
Or you will miss all the heavenly glory.”5See timestamp t = 1M 18S in this clip from the movie on YouTube.

Appears in DJKR teaching on “Lhaktong (Vipassana)”, Thimphu, Bhutan, November 27, 2019

Because when we talk about method, we’re talking about means. Have you watched “Enter the Dragon”, the Bruce Lee movie? Bruce Lee says this. He’s quoting from a Zen teaching by the way, “When I point with my finger towards the moon, don’t look at the finger, look at the moon”. The finger is necessary. But many people look at the finger instead of the moon. Many fingers are necessary. You can point all ten of them if you want, but that might confuse you. Sometimes, just [pointing with just one finger] is good. Just like that. Other times, you know like the traffic police in Thimphu [you point with your whole arm]. It does add up. It creates the style. I’m serious.

Appears in DJKR teaching on “The Way of Vipassana“, Bengaluru, India, January 4, 2020:

The path is not the goal. Like the great Zen master said, when when somebody points at the moon, you are not supposed to look at the finger but the moon. The path, the finger, is not the end. It is just the means.

• appears in: “Lhaktong (Vipassana)”, Thimphu, Bhutan, November 27, 2019 / “The Way of Vipassana“, Bengaluru, India, January 4, 2020
• external links: (Lankavatara Sutra text): translation by D. T. Suzuki, (Lankavatara Sutra): wikipedia / (Shurangama Sutra text): City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, (Shurangama Sutra): wikipedia


M

≫ Mind; there is no mind; mind is luminous (from the Prajñaparamita Sutra in 8000 Lines, the Ashtasahasrika Prajñaparamita Sutra)

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche first introduced this quotation in his 1998 teachings on Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara. When discussing the rangtong and shentong views of the second and third turnings of the wheel (i.e. the teachings on emptiness and Buddhanature), he said:

A good way to understand the [rangtong and shentong] distinctions is by using a very special quotation of the Buddha: “Mind; mind does not exist; the nature of mind is luminosity“. It has three portions that correspond to the three Dharma-wheels, as illustrated above. Now, many other scholars, mainly shentongpa scholars, say that mind has two kinds of aspects: emptiness and clarity. In the second turning of the wheel of the Dharma, the Buddha talked more about the emptiness aspect, and in the third, he talked more about the clarity aspect. Therefore, both the second and third turnings are teachings that have certain meaning. (Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche “Introduction to the Middle Way”, p. 205)

He gave a slightly different translation in the teaching “Return to Normal” in Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2020:

[In answer] to the question “What is mind?” [Buddha] said, “Mind; there is no mind; mind is luminous“. This quotation is probably like the spine of Mahayana Buddhist studies.

Rinpoche did not cite the source in either case. However, the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitā in Eight Thousand Lines) includes the line that corresponds to his translation. The Sanskrit original is6Page 3.18 from the edition by Vaidya, P.L. (1960) “Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra”. Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute. Sanskrit available at Gretil Archive.:

:तच्चित्तमचित्तम् / प्रकृतिश्चित्तस्य प्रभास्वरा
taccittamacittam / prakṛtiścittasya prabhāsvarā

Karl Brunnhölzl also mentions this line in his 2007 translation of Nāgārjuna’s “In Praise of Dharmadhātu”. In his discussion of “Luminous Mind and Tathāgatagarbha”7p. 70, Karl Brunnhölzl (2007) “In Praise of Dharmadhātu”, by Nāgārjuna with commentary by Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje. Snow Lion, New York., he offers an alternative translation of the same source text8In endnote 181 on p. 354, Brunnhölzl cites the source as “Ed. Vaidya, p. 3.18 (ACIP KD0012@03A)”.:

The notion of luminous mind also appears in several places in the prajñāpāramitā sūtras. For example, the aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra says: “The mind is no-mind. The nature of the mind is luminosity.”

Huifeng Shi mentions this line in his 2017 article “An Annotated English Translation of Kumārajīva’s Xiaŏpĭn Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra”9In the article abstract, Shi writes “Kumārajīva’s early 5th century translation entitled the Xiaŏpĭn Bānruòbōluómì Jīng (小品般若 波羅蜜經), i.e. the Small Section Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, is the fourth of seven Chinese translations of the early Mahāyāna text commonly known by its Sanskrit name the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, or in English the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines“.. In note 26 on p. 205, he offers an alternative translation and raises doubts about whether this line was part of the original Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra:

= VAIDYA (1960: 3): “tac cittam acittam … prakṛtiś cittasya prabhāsvarā” = “this mind is non-mind … from the luminosity of the essential nature of mind“. Reading the Chinese from the Skt, better to say 心 相本 (xīn xiāng bĕn; prakṛtiś citta) “essential nature of mind” is 淨 (jìng; prabhāsvarā) “pure”, rather than 心相 (xīn xiāng) “nature of mind” is 本淨 (bĕnjìng) “fundamentally pure”. This one really is an issue viz Kumārajīva’s intrepretation / translation. However, Móhē, fasc. 3 《摩訶般若波羅蜜經》卷 3〈8 勸學 品〉:「是心非心。心相常淨故。」(CBETA, T08, no. 223, p. 233, c23). The Dàoxíng, fasc. 1 《道行經》 only mentions 有心無心 but has not equivalent for 心相本淨. Thus, this passage in the Sanskrit Aṣṭasāhasrikā, etc., which is often cited by modern scholars as showing the roots of teachings such as the Tathāgatagarbha in the very earliest strata of the Mahāyāna, appears to have been absent altogether in the earliest versions of the sūtra.

Rigpawiki gives an alternative English translation based on the Tibetan:

སེམས་ལ་སེམས་མ་མཆིས་ཏེ། / སེམས་ཀྱི་རང་བཞིན་ནི་འོད་གསལ་བའོ།
[sems la sems ma mchis te / sems kyi rang bzhin ni ‘od gsal ba’o]
The mind is devoid of mind, / For the nature of mind is clear light

However, Rigpawiki notes that this paraphrased version is not the original:Although the paraphrase has become the standard, the actual quotation in the text reads:

འདི་ལྟར་སེམས་དེ་ནི་སེམས་མ་མཆིས་པ་སྟེ། / སེམས་ཀྱི་རང་བཞིན་ནི་འོད་གསལ་བ་ལགས་སོ།
[‘di ltar sems de ni sems ma mchis pa ste / sems kyi rang bzhin ni ‘od gsal ba lags so]

The Prajñaparamita Sutra in 8000 Lines is an important text for Mahayana Buddhism. It is not only the oldest surviving Buddhist manuscript; it is also the first of the Prajñaparamita sutras and is therefore foundational to the development of the Madhyamaka. According to wikipedia10“Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra”, accessed November 4, 2020.:

The sūtra’s manuscript witnesses date to at least ca. 50 CE, making it the oldest Buddhist manuscript in existence. The sūtra forms the basis for the expansion and development of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtra literature. In terms of its influence in the development of Buddhist philosophical thought, P.L. Vaidya writes that “all Buddhist writers from Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva, Maitreyanātha, Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, Dignāga, down to Haribhadra concentrated their energies in interpreting Aṣṭasāhasrikā only,” making it of great significance in the development of Madhyāmaka and Yogācāra thought.

• appears in: “Return to Normal” Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2020
• see also (Tibetan + Sanskrit): Ashtasahasrika Prajñaparamita Sutra (Prajñaparamita Sutra in 8000 lines)
• external links: (Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra): wikipedia / rigpawiki; (Sanskrit original): Gretil Archive; (English translations): Edward Conze 1973 translation available at Huntington Archive
• external references: Brunnhölzl, Karl (2007). “In Praise of Dharmadhātu”, by Nāgārjuna with commentary by Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje. Snow Lion, New York. / Shi, Huifeng (2017). “An Annotated English Translation of Kumārajīva’s Xiaŏpĭn Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra”. Asian Literature and Translation, Vol 4, No. 1 (2017): 187-238. https://DOI.org/10.18573/alt.26. Available online at Cardiff University Press.


R


T

≫ Thinking makes it so (William Shakespeare)

From Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2, where Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, is talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, some courtiers who are also his friends:

[Hamlet]: Denmark’s a prison.
[Rozencrantz]: Then is the world one.
[Hamlet]: A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ th’ worst.
[Rozencrantz]: We think not so, my lord.
[Hamlet]: Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

• appears in: Madhyamaka 8-week course, Week 7
• external links: (text): The Complete Works of William Shakespeare at MIT; (Hamlet): wikipedia


≫ To arrive where we started and know the place for the first time (T. S. Eliot)

From the poem “Little Gidding” which is part of the Four Quartets (1942):

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

• appears in: Madhyamaka 8-week course, Week 7
• external links: (text): Columbia University; (Little Gidding): wikipedia


≫ Truth is here (e. e. cummings)

From the poem Seeker of truth (posthumous):

seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here.

• appears in: Madhyamaka 8-week course, Week 7
• external links: (text): All Poetry; (e. e. cummings): wikipedia


V

≫ View (I praise the Buddha who taught the path that has no view) (from Mulamadhyamakakarika by Nagarjuna)

From the final shloka of Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika, XXVII:30:

I salute Gautama, who, based on compassion,
Taught the true Dharma for the abandonment of all views.

(trans. Mark Siderits and Shōryū Katsura)

Appears in DJKR teaching on “The Way of Tathagata“, Pune, India, December 27, 2019:

As long as you have a view [you are inauthentic]. This is why Nagarjuna goes on and on in the Madhyamaka about “no view”. This is also why the Mahayana people always praise the Buddha saying “I praise the Buddha who has taught us the path that has no view”. [No view], shunyata, emptiness, inherently nonexistent, etc. – basically, as long as you have a view, you’re doomed.

Appears in DJKR teaching on “Introduction to the Middle Way”, Dordogne, France, 1996 (page 80 of transcript):

At the end of the sixth chapter, our opponent asks, if you do not have a view, why are you doing this? The Prasangikaanswer is that it is out of our great compassion, because we know you have so many problems, and we cannot resist telling you that you have these problems! Therefore, we have come here to destroy all your views. Whenever His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches, even when he was about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, he chants the following sloka, which essentially means, “To the lord Buddha, who has no view, I prostrate”:

To the lord Buddha,
Who taught us the view-less teaching,
In order to destroy all views,
I prostrate.

• appears in: “The Way of Tathagata“, Pune, India, December 27, 2019
• see also (Tibetan + Sanskrit): Mulamadhyamakakarika


W

≫ Wisdom (All practices are for the sake of wisdom) (from Bodhicharyavatara by Shantideva)

From Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara IX.1:

All these branches of the Doctrine
The Enlightened Sage expounded for the sake of wisdom.
Therefore they must cultivate this wisdom
Who wish to have an end of suffering.

(trans. Padmakara Translation Group)

Appears in DJKR teaching “The Way of Vipassana“, Bengaluru, January 4, 2020:

[In Chapter 9 of the Bodhicharyavatara, Shantideva said] “All these disciplines, such as generosity, such as patience, such as ethics, morality, discipline, all that is taught by the Buddha just so that it can bring prajña, wisdom”. If there is no prajña, if there is no wisdom, all the so-called generosity, ethics, discipline, morality, they’ll just cause suffering. They’ll case self-righteousness, they’ll cause narrow-mindedness, they cause pride.

• appears in: “The Way of Vipassana“, Bengaluru, January 4, 2020:
• see also (Tibetan + Sanskrit): Bodhicharyavatara


Y

≫ You are your own refuge (from Chapter 12 of the Dhammapada)

This is one of the most famous Buddhist quotations, verse 160 from Chapter 12 of the Dhammapada, Dhp. XII “Atta-vaggo: The Self” (sometimes transliterated as Attavagga). The original version of the Dhammapada is in the Khuddaka Nikaya, the “Collection of little texts”, the fifth section in the Sutta Pitaka division of the Pali Canon.

The original Pali is11The Pāli with English translation is available at Suttas.com:

:अत्ता हि अत्तनो नाथो, को हि नाथो परो सिया
Attā hi attano nātho, ko hi nātho paro siyā

In: “Return to Normal” Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2020, DJKR expresses this as:

“You are your own master. Who else can be your master?”

And in “Vipassana for Beginners” Taipei, Taiwan, December 12, 2020, DJKR expresses this as:

“You are your own master. No one can be your master.”

Other translations include:

“One is one’s own refuge, what other refuge can there be?” (Max Müller (1881), wikipedia)

“One is indeed one’s own refuge. What other refuge could there be?” (Suttas.com)

“One is one’s own refuge, who else could be the refuge?” (Walpola Rahula (1959). “What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada.”)

“Your own self is your own mainstay, for who else could your mainstay be?” (Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1997), Access to Insight)

“One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be?” (Buddharakkhita (1996), Access to Insight)

The diversity of translations stems from the wide semantic range of the Pali world natho12nātho (Pāli: नाथो) = protector, refuge, savior, lord, master, chief – see natho., which has meanings that include “protector”, “refuge”, “savior”, “lord”, “master” and “chief”.

• appears in: “Return to Normal” Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2020; “Vipassana for Beginners” Taipei, Taiwan, December 12, 2020
• see also (Tibetan + Sanskrit): Dhammapadanatho (protector, refuge, savior, lord, master, chief)
• external links: (Dhammapada): wikipedia / rigpawiki; (translations): BuddharakkhitaMüllerSuttas.comThanissaro BhikkhuWikisource


Artwork: “Buddha Offering Protection”, Late 6th-early 7th century, India. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Page last updated January 20, 2021