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Thrangu
Rinpoche

The origin of the Thrangu Rinpoche incarnations began in the 15fh century when the 7lh Karmapa founded the Thrangu Monastery, enthroning Sherap Gyaltsen, the re-established emanation of Shuwu Palgyi Senge, one of the twenty-five great siddha disciples of Guru Padmasambhava, as the abbott and first Thrangu Rinpoche. The present Thrangu Rinpoche is the 9th and one of the highest scholars in the Kagyu Lineage, tie has been responsible for the education of the four Kagyu Regents and most recently has been appointed personal tutor to H. H. 17th Karmapa.

THE FOUR INFINITE CONTEMPLATIONS

1. Impartiality

To have love for other beings and compassion for them is very, very good. But not every form of love and compassion is necessarily good. In particular, if love and compassion are limited and partial then in the end they can actually be harmful because if one only loves some then one excludes others and in the end they become enemies. Some people have great love for their ´own´ family, their ´own´ country, their ´own´ race, their ´own´ religion. The very fact of this partial love means that ´other´ families, ´other´ races, ´other´ religions and countries are excluded from one´s mind and eventually they can be sources one needs to harm in order to benefit those one loves. For this reason love and compassion need to be impartial. Love and compassion should not be passionate and involved. The Buddha himself taught that when we develop love and compassion it should not be passionate, highly involved, partial love, rather it should be an even and all-embracing compassion. So, by only wishing to help a specific group of one hundred people and by excluding the rest, not caring is not all-embracing compassion. When our love, care and compassion are partial and involved then we help some very much and our specific help in one direction increases, while by the nature of partial love, often our harming others increases too.

In the Buddhist teachings we have the four infinite contemplations. One is impartiality. Actually when these are expressed in the prayer impartiality is the last of the four in the sequence of love, compassion, sympathetic joy and impartiality. But in the actual practice of these four impartiality must come first. It is by developing the quality of impartiality that afterwards the love one develops will be good; impartial love is a consequence. The compassion and sympathetic joy one develops will also be impartial compassion and sympathetic joy. They have the quality of impartiality. It is interesting that the Tibetan word for impartiality also means´equanimity´, ´evenness´, ´balance´.

2. 6- 3. Love and Companion

As we actually develop our practice of dharma then love and compassion need to increase greatly. Besides developing in their strength and breadth, they need to be accompanied by wisdom. If our love, compassion and care for others are not accompanied by wisdom, then it is quite possible that the things we will do to try to help others will not be of benefit to them or that perhaps they may be even harmful to them; this is quite possible if it is unwise love, unwise compassion. So in terms of the four infinite contemplations and wisdom we recognize in our prayer and in our loving and compassionate wishes that just being happy is not enough. The definition of love is to long for other beings to be happy. Wisdom is recognizing that in order to find lasting happiness living beings need to create the causes of future happiness. It is a recognition of the process of interdependence. The wisdom aspect is not only longing for beings to be happy but generating the causes of future happiness. The same applies to our development of compassion. The definition of compassion is to long for beings to be free from their sufferings, feeling that they really must get out of all the suffering. But just that wish
is not enough. It needs to be accompanied by wisdom, whereby one recognizes that compassion is not only longing for others not to suffer now but also recognizing that they should not create any more causes for suffering, that they need to free themselves from the causes of suffering.

As one cultivates love and compassion, wisdom in terms of prajna and jnana, ´excellent wisdom´ and ´profound wisdom´, are necessary. If wisdom is present in one´s love and compassion, those qualities will be very beneficial for oneself as well as for others. If the wisdom is not present, then it can be quite harmful because one can start with a loving and compassionate wish and become easily discouraged because one sees that beings cannot actually be happy, that one cannot do anything about the suffering they experience.

So many circumstances can cause one to lose heart. This leads us on to the fourth infinite contemplation, which is infinite joy.
 
 4. Infinite Joy

Infinite joy has much to do with the presence of wisdom because through wisdom and a greater perspective on a matter one realizes that even if one cannot get rid of suffering now one can bit by bit help by removing the causes of suffering. Gradually suffering will be removed to some extent. Even if one cannot bring happiness to others in the present one can do one´s utmost to establish the causes of future happiness in other´s minds and hearts. So this confidence through the wisdom of impartiality can bring a feeling of great joy rather than a feeling of despondency and discouragement. Infinite joy reaches out to all beings in all circumstances, the fourth of the infinite contemplations in this order.

THE PRACTICE

In order to cultivate love and compassion along with wisdom successfully one needs to control one´s activity of body and speech. One needs to check one´s body, speech and mind and see whether they benefit and particularly do not harm others. One needs to be very careful that one´s body does not harm others physically, that one´s speech is not causing suffering to them and that one´s mind always has a good and healthy motivation. The Buddha made this very clear in his teachings. He taught what we need to get rid of and what we need to cultivate, the two main areas of practice

THE FOUR NON-VIRTUES OF SPEECH

The four areas of un-virtuous activities of speech are

- to lie,

- to slander,

- to speak harshly and

- to engage in useless speech.

4. TO LIE. Normally one lies in order to deceive other people. But, in fact, when one examines it the person one is most deceiving is oneself. Sakya Pandita said: ´One thinks by lying that one is deceiving and misleading others. But, in fact, the person mostly misled is oneself because by telling lies one is cheating one´s own straightforwardness.´ The being inside oneself wants to be clear, straightforward and honest. One is oneself the victim of one´s own lying. Also, the person one misleads through one´s lies more likely than not will suffer and experience problems. Therefore their suffering and confusion is caused through one´s lying. Also it means that the next time one says something that person will have no trust. Telling lies is negative and unhealthy from many angles.

5. TO SLANDER. The second area of non-virtuous speech is usually called ´slander´, more accurately ´divisive speech´. The main point is that through jealousy, the main mind poison associated with this non-virtue, one wants to create disharmony amongst those who get along quite well with each other. One says things which make people feel not very good about each other; one says things that turn people against each other. Because of one´s own jealousy one does not want harmony among others to continue. This obviously causes trouble to others. Disharmony is an unwholesome thing, an unwholesome motivation within oneself. Again, it is something negative all around.

6. TO SPEAK HARSHLY. The third area is harsh and wounding speech. This means saying things which hurt others. Of course one´s harsh words cannot hurt others physically but they wound their mind; they make others feel hurt, wounded, angry, disturbed. It brings negative consequences to others as well as to oneself.

7. TO ENGAGE IN USELESS SPEECH. The fourth area is chatter and all sorts of speech which have no particular value. When one looks deeper it is usually motivated by a negativity or mind defilement. It is just a waste of time and leads people into defiled ways of thought.

As for the physical non-virtuous actions, the four factors of karma need to be combined in order to bring karmic results: the basis which is another sentient being, the negative motivation, the action needs to be done, i.e., spoken in this case, and it needs to be completed. Then it will bring a karmic result. If one has a pure motivation, then it is possible to perform an action of speech which is positive and not negative. For instance, it can well be that one tells what is called ´a white lie´ so that one benefits some people and avoids harm. It might be that if one had to tell the truth, a lot of harm might ensue. So, there might be a good motivation to say what is not true so that some benefit takes place. In this case it does not belong to the category of un-virtuous action, even though one is lying.

THE THREE NON-VIRTUES OF MIND

Finally we have three areas of mental activities which are un-virtuous. Because they are mental they do not have an immediate consequence upon others, whereas un-virtuous physical and verbal actions do. Here our mind is intimately concerned with ourselves alone. By their character, there are three states of an un-virtuous mind. One cannot have an un-virtuous mind with a good motivation; it does not work. An un-virtuous mind is solely un-virtuous and there is no exception whereby it can ever become positive karma. What are the three areas?

8. COVETOUSNESS, we could say ´greed´ but that is not quite right. It is based upon desire and because of this main defilement taking place one here longs to have others´ goods. One thinks, ´If only I had the things which make others happy!1 One wishes they were one´s own and covets them, quite different from greed.

9. MALEVOLENCE is wishing others harm. Anger and aggression are the main defilements taking place here. One wishes, ´If only others are hurt, get sick, suffer a bit!1 One diminishes their qualities and wishes harm upon others.

10. DISTORTED UNDERSTANDING means one does not have the clarity of understanding actions and their consequences, the cause and effect of karma, virtue and non-virtue. One´s mind has distorted beliefs about the nature of reality.

All ten of these are un-virtuous ways of acting with body, speech and mind which need to be given up.

Originally published in the sept 2000 edition of Dharmachakra
Kagyu.org.nz
Lama Kathy response

Question: What should one do if, after practicing for many years, no changes or benefits are received?

Answer: If, after years of practice, one does not notice benefits, then one has to ask whether one has been practicing correctly, or enough.

First of all, we may have received instructions from a qualified master, but we may not have completely understood the instructions, or perhaps developed doubts about our ability to practice them. Sometimes, mistakes can creep into our practice when we least expect it-one person I know once said they had a lot of trouble meditating, but after talking with them, I learned that whenever they experienced thoughts passing through their mind, they became lost and frustrated. If they had learned the technique correctly, and then applied the technique correctly - that is, noticing thoughts and then gently bringing their mind back to the technique-they could have avoided a great deal of frustration and doubt!

Other times, the problem lies in our attitude toward the dharma. Perhaps we wonder if it is truly effective. Or perhaps we wonder whether we are capable of being helped by the dharma. One of the most difficult things to fight is self-doubt and self-dislike. If we remember that all beings (including ourselves!) have Buddha nature, we will know that self-doubt and self-dislike are not logical or useful attitudes, and will set them aside.

Once we have found which attitudes are most helpful to us, we will invest our thought-energy in those attitudes; once we find which attitudes are least helpful, we will reduce our investment in those thoughts. If our thought-energy were like money, we would learn to make a wise investment in attitudes that bring us strength, happiness and wisdom!

Lastly, we could be expecting a quick result from the dharma when we have not truly spent a great deal of time practicing. If we typically spend one-half hour a day practicing, and multiply that by 365 days in a year, we will have about 183 hours of practice. When we compare this to the practice done by great masters, who practiced 4 to 12 hours a day, we will see that the yield of 183 hours versus 1,460 to 4,340 hours of practice a year makes quite a difference!

If we look at our busy daily lives and say, \"we could never practice 4 to 12 hours a day!\" we might despair. But if we take hold of the special practices of the Mahayana and Vajrayana, we can turn even daily activities into practice.

One of the most powerful practices of the Mahayana is Lojong, or Mind Training. Through this practice, we increase our altruistic motivation and our understanding of the illusory nature of thought and phenomena - all by using our daily life situations!

For example, one Lojong slogan says, \"In postmeditation practice, be a child of illusion.\" If we are experiencing pain or difficulty in our lives, rather than being a drain on our energy, it can be an energy boost - if we can just remember to see all things as being dream-like. This is what the words ‘be a child of illusion’ mean.

Next, we can use the Lojong slogan that says, \"Three Objects, Three Poisons, Three Bases of Virtue,\" and practice altruism whenever we experience happiness or suffering.

Usually, the three objects (things we like, things we dislike, things we are neutral toward) trigger expression of the three poisons (attachment, aversion and ignorance). If, instead of grasping or pushing away our experience, we use it to trigger altruistic feelings, we can practice all the time!

For example, when we are happy, we can imagine that our happiness flows out to others. If we are unhappy, we can imagine that our unhappiness contains within it all the suffering of all sentient beings. Then, we dedicate our practice of altruistic thinking to all beings’ attainment of enlightenment.

In this way, even mundane emotional states can become the basis of virtue.

And if we are practitioners of the Vajrayana, we can also practice all day, every day, by practicing visualization and mantra. If we are waiting in line, we can think of the mantra of Chenrezig, OM MANI PADME HUNG (OHM MAH KNEE PEH MEH HUNG). Or we can visualize ourselves as having the illusory, light-made body of Chenrezig at any time of the day, while we are engaged in any activity-washing the dishes, feeding our family, etc.

If we continually look for these \"dharma practice opportunities,\" we will not need to despair about our inability to spend long hours on the cushion.

If we want to know if our practice is \"working\" the masters say we only need to look at our attitudes and behavior. Jamgon Kongtrul the Great said that the only measure of a Dharma person’s practice is whether they have reduced their ego-clinging and selfishness. If their practice is causing them to become more opinionated, more prideful and so forth, their practice is going in the wrong direction! One’s practice should make one less reactive, more gentle and more kindly disposed toward themselves and others.

If we want to know whether practice is working, we should look over a long period of time-weeks, months and years. If we look back at our lives as they were \"before Buddhism\", generally we will see an improvement. We should not be like the impatient farmer, who plants a seed and then digs it up 5 minutes later to see whether it has grown!

Having faith and confidence in the dharma, and confidence in our Buddha nature, and good understanding of the teachings, is the beginning of good practice. If we add this to a constant wish to benefit others, and a constant watchfulness for \"dharma practice opportunities,\" our practice should bear fruit for us, both in this life and in the future!

May all beings benefit!!

- Lama Kathy Wesley



May All Beings be happy and have the causes of happiness!