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  • Writer's pictureSabchu Rinpoché

The Precious Treasury of Written Instruction Transmitted One-to-One | Slogan 7

by Patrul Rinpoche


Three things should not be flaunted: གློ་བུར་གྱི་ངེས་འབྱུང་།

Momentary renunciation


Deceptive ploys


Cursory deeds of virtue

གློ་བུར་གྱི་ངེས་འབྱུང་། Momentary renunciation

Keeping his words short and direct for our saṃsāric minds, Patrul Rinpoche suggests that we must not flaunt the set of these three.

When our saṃsāric surroundings are proliferating our saṃsāric propensities, we can begin regarding non-virtue as virtue and vice versa.

Deceitful actions are non-virtues. For the perceived fulfillment of our ego-driven aims, we sentient beings can engage in all sorts of non-virtuous actions. Initially, deceitful people are sincere with everyone they meet, consistently appearing modest and good-natured, says Sakya Paṇḍita (1182-1251). But once they gain others' confidence, they completely abandon any pretense of decency, and betray them in pursuit of their own interests, he writes, together with a story, in his Ordinary Wisdom.

གཡོ་ཅན་བཟང་པོའི་ཚུལ་བཟུང་ན། །ཕྱི་ནས་དོན་ལ་བསླུ་བ་ཡོད། །རི་དྭགས་རྔ་མ་བསྟན་ནས་ནི། །ཁྲེལ་འདས་བོང་བུའི་ཤ་དག་འཚོང་།
Deceitful people first put on a good front, Then later cheat to achieve their objectives. By exhibiting the tail of a deer, One shameless fellow sold his donkey meat.

Once upon a time a shameless man was trying to sell the meat of a donkey, but nobody anywhere would buy it. One day he found the tail of a deer. He took it with him and again began asking, Do you want to buy some meat? What kind of meat is it? – the people inquired. He showed them the tail. Brazenly he said, It comes from this kind of animal. The customers were fooled and bought the meat at once.

By keeping our saṃsāric propensities in check, and recalling Patrul Rinpoche’s words, we can save ourselves from committing non-virtuous actions. Since virtue and non-virtue are determined mainly by our motivation, Patrul Rinpoche suggests that we examine our motivation. If we find it to be deceitful, we must end such motivation at once. After recognizing the root of our sweet-talk, our good appearance is understood to be manipulative pretense – we can admit to ourselves: This is nothing to flaunt about. This is non-virtue. This is not good communication skills. This is negative karma. I am not in the virtuous frame of mind. I’m being deceptive. I’m being disingenuous. I’m being opposite of how I want to be. In fact, this is precisely what my teacher warned me about. I’ll rectify this at once.

A side-note: as Dharma practitioners, we are urged to be totally genuine with ourselves. To practice Dharma personally, we are instructed to always personalize our practice by examining our motivation. When we fail to look at our motivation, we could find ourselves reading Dharma instructions and then using them to police others, to judge others, to take vengeance. Instead, we must honour the valuable wisdom by putting it into practice for our own growth.

གཡོ་སྒྱུའི་ཁུག་མགོ། Deceptive ploys

Renunciation is the foot of meditation, we read in a meditation text, because in order to truly achieve buddhahood, the goal of Buddhist meditation, we cannot be in love with saṃsāra. What is to be adopted in saṃsāra is what is to be abandoned in Dharma. How can we claim to be in the boat headed for nirvāṇa when one of our feet is not in that boat at all. There is no union to these two opposites. Renouncing, therefore, is becoming disenchanted with saṃsāra, which is verifiably a requisite for liberating oneself from it. Meditation for health and wellness, meditation for improvements in interpersonal skills, or meditation for pain management, though being beneficial practices, are nevertheless not the means to attain true liberation from the root of all our problems. We can regard them as band-aids for temporary relief, but unless taken care of once and for all, the problems can and will reappear. To discern authentic renunciation from fleeting, temporary renunciation is a difficult task for a beginner.

Authentic, bodhisattva renunciation is described as one’s genuine resolve to free oneself and all others from suffering and its causes. When he left behind the life of comfort and convenience and pursued the true medicine for duḥkha or suffering, prince Gautama Siddhārtha was compelled by this described resolve. It entails the willingness to give up saṃsāric affairs for the greater goal of benefiting self and others. Such topic is beyond our scope, we may think, How can learning about renunciation help me in my Dharma practice? We may argue. Knowing what is and is not authentic renunciation is within our scope of reflection, because we can then distinguish by ourselves our experience as either genuine resolve or momentary renunciation. Why else would Patrul Rinpoche make a point of highlighting this for his followers?

Genuine renunciation is an ongoing heartfelt process based on the firm belief that:

  1. The aim for liberation is not only possible, but absolutely worthy our endeavour. This eliminates the indecisiveness, self-pity, and resentment about having to give up something desirable.

  2. The strive for liberation is fortified by the empirical, experiential, and inferential reasons acquired from one’s lived experiences, introspective inquiry, and meditative ascertainment. Genuine renunciation strengthens the belief in the total freedom from confusions, removing all types of ambivalences. Clear and decisive mind is its outcome.

  3. Lastly, not simply remaining in the belief, but thoroughly implementing it in our everyday actions directs us toward the described aim. This course of action prompts us to practice that will enable us to slowly gain freedom from suffering and its causes. It entails protecting one’s refuge and genyen vows from breakage; protecting one’s bodhisattva vow from breakage; and if applicable, protecting one’s mantrayāna samaya from breakage.

Momentary renunciation, on the other hand, is short-lived, all-excited renunciation. In contrast to the stable, well-thought-out, and reason-based authentic renunciation, the momentary renunciation is not substantiated as such. It is typically emotion-driven with limited foresight. Overachieving aspiration but under-preparation is its hallmark. When we experience this "fluffy" renunciation, we may exhibit all the indicative signs of a true renunciant. We could perceive making big changes in our life situation comparable to Siddhārtha Gautama’s life decisions, such as reducing all the conventional, saṃsāric affairs, becoming a monk or nun in a monastic community, or becoming a hermit in the mountains. When we are not under the guidance of insightful teacher, or when we are not ready to heed the instructions given by our teacher, we could go about making decisions based on our strongly-held opinions, but only to realize later that our opinions were as fragile and fleeting as the morning’s dewdrops. Upon meeting adverse circumstances of the sunshine, our so-called renunciation evaporates in thin air.

The other notable point is the pride, or sense of superiority, that could come together with such momentary renunciation. This is related to Patrul Rinpoche’s word flaunting. In our thoughts and words, we could convey something along this line of thought which underscores the mentioned pride: I can give up! I really can! Anytime! I can be a hermit living in the mountains like Milarepa. Not like others, I am not caught up in these saṃsāric affairs. I don’t need comfort. Look how the others are complicated, making their lives more complicated. I’m not complicated like the others. I am really free and flexible. To entertain our mind, to effectively convey this perceived ability to others, and to circumvent the need to say boastful words, we can even put up a show, practically exhibiting to others that we are a renunciant or that we are an adept, or a scholar. We could see how it's just a clever manifestation of pride. A proud person who is trying to practice humility would ensure that he or she is the best humble person in the crowd. Through these and many other saṃsāric situations, we can learn more about our skewed propensities. To not fall in such distorted ways of being, the enlightened masters instruct us to frequently revisit our motivation, as that is the effective means to become good practitioners. Similar to Patrul Rinpoche’s line of thought, Geshe Chekhawa (1102-1176) also writes concisely in his The Seven Points of Mind Training:

ཡུས་མ་བསྒོམ། Do not make a habit of showing off.

In short, we must make the habit of cultivating good motivation. When we realize that we were swayed by disturbing emotions, we are advised to immediately revert back to our motivation, and rectify the problem at the root. If appropriate, end the action that is motivated by disturbing emotions. If our general appearance is such that others see us as a practitioner, it is a testimony, but we know that other people cannot read our thoughts. If they catch us engaged in seemingly positive conduct, they may be impressed. But by revisiting our motivation, we know whether or not we are truly stemming from positive motivation. Out of the two witnesses, the inner, oneself, and the outer, the others, who should be more important for our genuine growth? Geshe Chekhawa suggests we are the more important witness:

དཔང་པོ་གཉིས་ཀྱི་གཙོ་བོར་གཟུང༌། Of two witnesses, heed the more important one.

I do not need anything else, we may think. But reality unfolds after some months living in the mountains. I’m nutrient deprived. There is excess of this and deficiency of that, we could think. Moreover, we could then start influencing our hermit peers advising, I know for a fact, that you have excess of this and deficiency of that.

To seek guidance in terms of what we want to actually give up, we could ask, where do I start? How do I begin? – to a Buddhist teacher.

In response to which, a lama might counsel, Renunciation is wonderful! How about implementing incremental changes and proceeding gradually with your wish?

There are three clear benefits in this answer:

A. If this wish is caused by momentary renunciation, which of course will disappear as quickly as it manifested, the teacher saves us from facing the unfavourable, dramatic consequences of making an abrupt decision.

B. If this wish is caused by authentic renunciation, the suggested incremental changes will only help, preparing the mind to slowly accept all the involved abandonments and adoptions of a hermit’s life.

C. Because a passage of time is a big determining factor to realize the quality of one’s resolve, the suggestion to introduce incremental change allows us to improve the quality of our renunciation.

འཕྲལ་གྱི་དགེ་སྦྱོར། Cursory deeds of virtue

Patrul Rinpoche is counselling us not to flaunt our positive deeds whenever we manage to perform some as it can ruin them, no matter their size or virtue. The author knows us very well, we must admit. After having done some virtuous deeds, we become convinced of having done a lot. We can go about showing off to others cleverly. The author is not suggesting to inhibit ourselves from being joyful, he merely points out that pride is a tricky beast. Are we joyful or are we proud? Are we cultivating genuine appreciation for the opportunity to do something good or are we ruining the merit of virtuous deeds by feeding it to our ego? Again, unless we revisit our motivation, we might never know what is happening. We could think, Oh I’m sharing my joy. Isn’t this what friends do? Again, unless one checks one’s motivation, how else can one distinguish the difference between sharing and flaunting? And since each one of us is the lone witness to our own passing virtuous and non-virtuous thoughts, how on earth can anyone accuse us of flaunting or otherwise? Except ourselves, no one knows whether or not we are flaunting. Moreover, if we do not trust in karma, then it would even worse – now there is no compass whatsoever. We can voluntarily and gladly swim in the pool of disturbing emotions. So what if I am showing off? Everyone does, we could mentally argue. You see, in this way, it becomes relatively clear that we can be our own support, in becoming the person we want to become, or we can be our own foe, ignorantly becoming the person we do not want to become. The crossroad where we can and we must pause for a short while is our motivation – the root, the base of all good, the not-so-good, and evil deeds.

The source text by Patrul Rinpoche you can find HERE.


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