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  • Writer's pictureSabchu Rinpoché

The Precious Treasury of Written Instruction Transmitted One-to-One | Slogan 6

by Patrul Rinpoche


There are three things that must be kept secret: རང་གི་ཡོན་ཏན།

One’s qualities


Others’ faults


Future plans

གཞན་གྱི་སྐྱོན། Other's faults

When we observe sentient beings’ uncontrolled, unregulated behaviours, we can discover the opposite of Patrul Rinpoche’s suggestions. We sentient beings not only notice others’ faults, but we can endlessly talk about them. Other’s doom, their failures make up a spicy gossip. We take satisfaction of our own glory relative to the others’ shortcomings, therefore such conversations serve us about the same purpose as a good dramatic TV show. What made people take pleasure in Rome’s ancient bloodsports could not have been significantly different. Things have changed since then, we could argue. We are now civil and sophisticated, we might think. True, to a great extent, but what about our propensity to take delight in other’s setbacks, their failures, especially when we dislike them? That still exists. After turning toward Dharma, we could think that these propensities dissolve. But do they really? Don't we, in fact, become increasingly more aware of them? Like a good shape-shifter, we see the propensities reappear, manifesting in different cloaks, in different capes all the time.

Then there are some of us who are on the other end of the spectrum. The outer world does not matter

to us at all. We could not care less about what is happening to our own siblings, let alone the sentient beings of the six realms. Totally confined within our own self-absorbed mind, wherein our own wellbeing – or rather lack thereof – is the only matter of concern to us. Dissatisfaction, fury, and a truckload of sadness occupy the entirety of our mental landscape. If only others could hear loudly our inner monologue, they would certainly feel compassion toward us. But sadly, they cannot hear our thoughts. They cannot see us helplessly stuck in our own disturbing emotions. Lost, hopeless, and unhappy, we can take extreme measures like killing ourselves. Om mani peme hung.

When we are our best selves, and when we rely upon our Dharma compass, we can clearly see that all the aforementioned thoughts and actions are nothing but an ocean of negative karma driven by deluded mindset. This is how we have been paving our way toward saṃsāra, perpetuating this type of existence lifetime after lifetime. Not fully realized, but as firm believers, we try to remove ourselves from the unfavourable environment and put ourselves in a favourable, conducive one in the hopes that we can put an end to such predicaments. Inspired by those who are called the Well-Gone-Ones (Skt. Sugata), we also try to tread the shown path. To help us on our meaningful endeavour, the great master Patrul Rinpoche left behind a map. His suggestions are:

Your valuable faculties and well-favoured conditions are extremely precious but they are finite. By focusing on others’ faults, you are wasting your precious life on negative thoughts and actions. One ought be faultless to point out others’ faults. Are you faultless? If you are enlightened, you are on a higher plane, but you are as sentient being as the other. Both of you are on a same plane. On the contrary, if you point out faults of the other, in turn, the other would not just sit quiet and accept. He or she would also point out your faults, which of course, you would not accept. Would you? Like fuel to a fire, a range of afflictive emotions will be in play during the course of this action, and beyond. Both parties end up creating a mountain of negative karma, which further ensures the saṃsāric existence after your death, which, you know very well, is the antithesis to your original aim. Therefore, even if you know of others’ faults, keep them secret. Don’t speak ill of others, because it will not bring any positive outcome, and you save yourself from creating unnecessary negative karma.

རང་གི་ཡོན་ཏན། One's qualities

While it is true that we suffer from our systemic saṃsāric propensities, it is also equally true that we have many positive qualities. By the power of our merit from the past, we enjoy good outer and inner conditions. Caused by these limited, finite, but well-favoured conditions, we have intermittent bursts of loving-kindness and compassion toward sentient beings, as well as confidence in the enlightened teacher and teachings. Thanks to the living teachers we encountered in this life, we have knowledge of what is to be abandoned and what is to be adopted. In adverse situations, we manage to stay true to our core beliefs: respecting karma, restraining oneself from negative thoughts and actions, not giving into pressure, but persevering to be good and do good for self and others. We do all that. When needed, we also rely on the antidotes to the negative mental states. These defining qualities constitute who we are or how we wish to be.

We need to remember that a person of good character has been working on himself or herself amidst difficult predicaments. Thinking, I will be good when the world allows me to be good, is indicative of our need for convenience, not good character. We must think carefully of what Patrul Rinpoche is suggesting here. We may genuinely try our best to be compassionate, caring for everyone around us, yet the very people we cared for may often scorn us. When this happens, we should not be discouraged, but continue to be mindful. We can cultivate positive qualities such as aspiration and action bodhicitta, because of understanding their innate virtue – not for any other reasons.

We may fail at times to remember why we are cultivating the said qualities. For some individuals, we may end up NOT having very compassionate thoughts, simply because their reactive feedback to our compassionate gesture was not up to our standards. After such instances, we may then closely conceal our qualities like precious jewels, exposing them only to a chosen few worthy ones who reciprocate in accord to our wishes. Receiving the expected responses from them, this sense that we have been successfully compassionate can then sometimes become a reason to feel superior over others. The compassion, or rather, this feel-good factor we perpetuate, is just like any other feel-good factor we have in life – there is nothing compassionate in it. Is there?

We knew then, and we can know now, that our development of compassion for sentient beings was not contingent on what we may receive in return, but rather, that we practice compassion for its own innate virtue. We chose compassionate action over non-compassionate action, because that is the way of life we saw fit for ourselves. Though it may have had a thoughtful inception, such compassion, however, when not paired with the wisdom of mindfulness, frequently leads us to either discouragement, or becomes a means to feel good about ourselves, which was never the intended goal of compassion when we started the practice. Therefore, just like a training gymnast has to balance on the beam consistently, similarly, we must always be mindful of the very reason for being compassionate and kind. Determined to perpetuate the best version of ourselves, when we feel that we are being hit by stones, we must carry on being who we always wish to be. Remembering why we are practicing compassion enables us to remain in the practice. May noble Chenrezig constantly inspire us all.

On the other hand, occasionally, upon failing to be the best version of ourselves, we may be lightly mocked by our friends and relatives, who comment on how our behaviour is not up to par with Buddhist principles. We should, again, introspectively think, along the lines of what Sakya Paṇḍita said in Ordinary Wisdom, and I paraphrase: People examine faults in the excellent ones only, just as they examine precious material such as gold and diamonds. This is true. Those in the path of excellence are scrutinized. Diamonds are coveted, but have we heard of anyone coveting ordinary rock? No. With that reason in mind, we must remember that, while we are on the path, if our unregulated behaviour sometimes becomes a subject of discussion, we can infer that this scrutiny, and our initial tendency to fall short of more perfect aspirations, are part of this path. Thus, not discouraged, we must carry on in the path of mindfulness and compassion, determining to be the best we can, performing all the social roles we have, such as parents, children, spouses, siblings, peers, friends, and above all, being mindfully compassionate human beings. May noble Chenrezig constantly inspire us all.

Patrul Rinpoche writes that we must keep our aforementioned qualities secret. Why? Let us ponder on that. In the world around us, we can see people boasting about their achievements, their qualities. Sometimes, we also may want to be seen in good light. For instance, in the workspace, do we not compete with our peers to make good impressions on our boss? At home, do we not see children working hard for their parents’ positive opinions about them? To our prospective employer, do we not fine-tune our resume – mildly concealing some parts while remarkably highlighting others – to stand out in the crowd? After turning toward Dharma and becoming part of Buddhist centres, have you not noticed people’s explicit and implicit efforts in hopes of making good impressions on their peers and on the teacher? While being couch potatoes in our room, we do not care about our appearance, but the minute we decide to go out in public, we must appear nice. APPEAR nice. Think about it! The concern about how we appear to the eyes of onlookers. We couldn’t care less about how we appear to the four walls we are in right now as we read this essay, because they do not perceive us, we think. But people perceive us, we know. Their perception of us matters to us, especially when they are important to us. As a result, we try, in all sorts of ways, to achieve our goal. Why do we do that? What are the mental states involved there?

The pertinent answer conveyed in Dharma is that we are captivated by the eight worldly preoccupations. These include four attractive ones: praise, pleasure, fame, and gain; and four displeasing ones: criticism, pain, disgrace, and loss. Ordinary sentient beings perceive them as an effective compass to achieve happiness and avoid suffering, which Dharma instructs us not to be valid. The preoccupations, in and of themselves, are not inherently good or bad, say the masters. But their inherently transient nature makes them ineffective as means to lasting happiness, they say. But let us argue that that is not true, that they are the perfect means to lasting happiness. We should then scheme to constantly strive for the former four concerns and fight against the latter four, which by the way, we sentient beings do, and yet we do not achieve the perceived happiness nor do we succeed in avoiding the suffering. Rather, following this paradigm, our suffering, or duḥkha, is amplified. Because of our deluded mindset, we are unable to sustain this verifiable truth. May noble Chenrezig constantly inspire us all.

Thus Patrul Rinpoche instructs us as follows:

Your qualities are yours. You cultivated them and likewise, you could diminish them. You are the master of yourself. The other’s knowledge of your qualities will not increase nor diminish your qualities. So why announce them to others? On the contrary, if you do announce them to others, pay attention to the involved motivation. Are you sure that you are not governed by eight worldly preoccupations? Having experienced the futility of your actions, why do you still pursue this? Why don’t you rather focus on the worthwhile pursuits? You know you do not need the world to know who you are. Don’t be concerned about your APPEARANCE. Keep your qualities to yourself. Keep them secret.

ཕྱིན་ཆད་ཀྱི་བསམ་བློ། Future plans

From the verifiably true words of the masters, we can come to understand that all affairs of saṃsāra are futile, unreliable and fleeting. This finite life we have, can end at anytime. When the death strikes, this precious faculty-equipped body dissolves. With that, everything of this life also dissolves. By those reasons, we can understand and limit our idle plans and speculations. Putting an end to the limitless schemes can open up free time for us to focus on the reliable endeavours: accumulation of merit and purification of karma. Unlike saṃsāric affairs, our accumulations, our purifications can effectively help us. They do not dissolve as we die. Moreover, the training of decent behaviour, the training of concentrative meditation, and the training of wisdom carry over lifetime after lifetime. The time we spend training in the two bodhicittas – aspiration and action – is not wasted. The practice of the six pāramitās, the transcendental qualities, is exceptionally reliable. Through it, the benefits achieved will not only manifest in this life but also in the next. They are the source of true, meaningful, long lasting happiness. In keeping with this and adapting the instruction to our life situation, we could engage in the practice in all sorts of scenarios. That being said, no one needs to know when we decide to limit our saṃsāric affairs, or what changes are we implementing. No one needs to know what practices we are doing in our mind. No one needs to know when and how we practice. Do we need the world’s permission to practice saṃsāra? If no, then why do we need permission to practice Dharma? We did not announce to the world when we started saṃsāric affairs, so why do we need the world to know when we start Dharma? When we are angry at someone, we don’t ask permission: Hey! May I be angry at you? – Certainly, no. Similarly, we also do not need to inform the other party that we are practicing patience, that we are practicing compassion. What we decide to do voluntarily or involuntarily in our mind is decided in our mind, by us. The world's awareness of our aims is irrelevant. Perhaps, the only party who needs to be involved is the lama, who we rely upon. Apart from that, no one. Therefore, no one needs to know what we do.

But think about this: we do let the world know what we are doing, don’t we? We can go endlessly

announcing to others what we plan to do, where we plan to go. What are the perceived benefits? What are our end goals? Through what means do we aim to achieve that? In the digital age we are in right now, we do that via social media, announcing to the world that we are in a retreat of some esoteric tantric practice. One could argue: is there harm to this? Certainly there is no harm, but that is not the point. The point is to pay attention to the motivation behind the action. What are the involved motivations? Are these motivations consistent with the original ones which drew our attention to the Dharma? Since the determining factor of virtue and non-virtue is motivation, it becomes imperative to crosscheck if the involved gross and subtle motivations are in accord with Dharma or with the eight worldly preoccupations. Contrary to our saṃsāric behavior, Jetsun Milarepa, the great example in this respect, proclaims the following while practicing alone in the mountain:

May there be no one to carry my corpse, And no one to weep at my death, If I am able to die in this mountain retreat, The wish of this lowly one will be fulfilled.

Making it simple and applicable to our context, Patrul Rinpoche alludes to us: Just keep your affairs to yourself. They do not pertain to others.

The source text by Patrul Rinpoche you can find HERE.


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