Phakchok Rinpoche

Rangjung Yeshe - Dharma Huis Amsterdam

Phakchok Rinpoche - Lezing 2003

Phakchok Rinpoche

Public Talk November of 2003.
During the Fall Seminar given at Ka Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery.

The whole talk.

Please set the mind on supreme enlightenment. Thinking that all sentient beings are my mothers as vast space pervades, I shall establish them to the supreme achievement, the level of complete enlightenment. In order to accomplish this, I will receive these teachings of the sacred Dharma and put them into practice in the authentic way. In this way, set the mind on enlightenment and so listen. What we will be talking about here today is a set of teachings called "Parting from the Four Attachments."

Sometimes, Buddha's teachings and Buddhism are easy to understand but very difficult to practice. That's why in the history of the Dharma there weren't many practitioners that were very successful. Why? Because we are habituated to our attachments; we are used to thinking "me first." We are very habituated to them. Because of this, we can't get free from our habitual patterns which are like a shadow. Wherever you go, your shadow follows you. That's it; that is attachment- wherever you go, it goes with you. Whether you think that you are a good practitioner or not, it doesn't matter. Your attachment is there, with you.

In the Buddhist tradition the most important things that you need to know are what ignorance, obstacles, and hindrances are. After this, you need to know what makes the path; what kind of antidote you need to eat. In other words, you need to know how to practice.

In my experience, Buddhist teachings are not that easy. First, they are quite difficult to understand, believe, and trust. Why? Sometimes they are beyond what we think, so they are very difficult to trust. Secondly, they are very difficult to practice. Why? The practices are the opposite of what we usually do. That is the Buddha-Dharma in a very short form. This is why I say that in my experience Buddhist teachings are, in general, very difficult to combine with our general life style. That's why many teachers and many good practitioners say that if you really want to become a good practitioner, you must abandon cities and shouldn't talk with people. One of my root gurus used to say that he was afraid of people; that he didn't want to meet anyone. He was very realized.


He didn't want to go into the Samsaric thought- Samsaric dream, as I prefer to say. It is then extremely important to understand that the Buddha-Dharma is exactly the opposite of what you are doing. Today's teaching has a very nice name, "Parting from the Four Attachments."

This teaching is very high. Most practitioners want to be enlightened, so they only want to get involved in the highest teachings and in the highest practices. However, without these four teachings, you cannot go higher; you cannot become enlightened. That is guaranteed by Manjushri, not by me.

How did this story begin? The story of these four sentences starts with the Sakyapa's first teacher, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo. When he was twelve years old he met his teacher, Bari Lotsawa. His teacher told him that he needed to study, so he had to choose a wisdom Yidam, like Manjushri, and practice according to the Sadhana, in order to become a learned person. In India and Tibet many learned people, who also had high realizations had, at some stage, to choose their own Yidam. Without a Yidam, one can never have any realizations. This is the Vajrayana way. After choosing Manjushri as his Yidam, he went into retreat for six months. After he finished the retreat, Manjushri appeared in front of him and in Tibetan said… Ok you may think, "Why did Manjushri talk to him in Tibetan if he is from India?" Well, because the practitioner was Tibetan. I guess that if he had talked to a Westerner he would have talked in English, but in this case the practitioner was Tibetan, so he spoke in Tibetan. Otherwise, if had talked in Hindi, the practitioner would have said, "What?! I didn't understand!" He said these four sentences in Tibetan:

Tse di la shen na chö pa me
Khorwa la shen na nge jung me
Dak tön la shen na jang sem me
Dzin pa jung na tawa me

Which means:

If you are attached to this life, you are not a practitioner.
If you are attached to Samsara, you have no renunciation.
If you are attached to your own welfare, you have no Bodhicitta.
And if there is any grasping, you don't have the view.

If I go into retreat these four sentences are all I need.

The teacher thought that this was Manjushri's blessing, as the result of finishing the six month retreat. Then the student went on to teach many disciples. So without going into a lot of complicated historical details, this is in short how this teaching came about the first time.


As for the Buddha's teachings, it is said that the word of the Buddha is as vast as the ocean, that the scriptural traditions are many, and the instructions are profound. On the other hand, we can include all the Buddhist teachings in the three Pitakas, the three receptacles, which are the receptacles of the Vinaya, the Sutra and the Abhidharma.

Don't think that in the Buddhist tradition you need to know many points. If you know the key point you can understand like this [Rinpoche snaps his fingers]. If you don't get the key point then you might study for a whole year but get completely lost in texts. On the other hand, if you know the key point then you can remember everything. For example, if somebody asks you, "What's the real meaning of Buddhist teachings?" you can answer "non-attachment." Everything is there; the main point is non-attachment. In practice, I'm one hundred percent sure that it is very difficult, but from my mouth these words come out easy, eh? You can hear; it's very easy. However, when you go back and try to practice, then it is very difficult. Really. I experienced this; I know how difficult it is.

So, the first statement says:

"If you are attached to this life, you are not a practitioner."

Many new practitioners, new people, or new students have come to this monastery. First, I want to tell you that you need to search, "Why are you in this world?" If it is good or bad it doesn't matter, but why are you here? War is coming; new sicknesses without cures are coming. So, why are you here? Every step in life is suffering. Sometimes you think its suffering; sometimes you don't. Why is it like that? Did someone make you? Did Yamaraza, the Lord of Death, make you? Did God make you? Who made you? In Buddhism, we don't say that a Surpreme One made us, we say that we are made by ourselves. That's why you can decide yourself whether you will suffer or you will be happy.

I've searched. I don't want to say I've searched a lot, that's a little lie. But I've searched. I was listening to a teaching on a movie show. One Punjabi Sikh said Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism are all the same. At the beginning I wondered why he didn't say Buddhism, but afterwards I found out that they say, "God made everything." I've searched many times; I've talked to Christians and Muslims many times. We need to search. Searching is not bad, but if you search you need to find something. I have found that it's quite reasonable to say that everything is made by mind. Everything is in the mind.


The first statement says that if you are attached to this life, you are not a practitioner. It says you are not a practitioner! I'm really sad. Before, I thought I was a practitioner; I had a little bit of pride. People said, "You are a Tulku." I thought, "Yeah, maybe there is something." But, I saw these four sentences and studied more, and I asked if it is really like this. I asked one of my teachers, a Khenpo, and he said, "Yes." Then I felt, "Oh, I'm not a good practitioner." Then he said, "If you have attached to this life you are not a practitioner." I then said, "I'm really attached to this life!" I asked how to practice. He said, "How are we attached to this life? It means to want to be famous." It is very important that many Shedra students are here. It is very important not to think you want to become famous by writing books or something in the eight worldly concerns. Don't think that! If you think this while you study, it is all negative and it is opposite from the teachings.

My third year teacher told me, "You study here; means they say you are a Tulku, a reincarnation." Before, all the monks would stay on the ground and I had a big, thick, special cushion. Two years later, the cushion was gone. My friend and I were looking for our place, and my teacher said, "No, you need to stay the same like the other students." At that time I felt like an arrow was shot to my heart. I thought, "Why do I need to stay down there?" After that, I found that pride comes easiest to Shedra people. I know that.

Study or meditation means that you need to abandon or have less attachment. You are attached to this life; of course you can't abandon it now. You study, and then you know something. Then you say, "I know something, I'm a Three year Shedra student." "I'm a three year retreat master." "I'm a twenty-year Dharma practitioner; you are just a two year student." "You don't know anything, I know Mahamudra and Dzokchen." I know this pride. I had this before. Before, when I was in fifth grade, I thought only my teacher was above me. I looked down to all other people as below me. That kind of pride can come. It is wrong. Why? You have attachment to this life. It comes to any kind of practitioner, not only Shedra students. I say Shedra because I studied before so I know that pride, I've experienced it. Why is it coming like this? You have attachment to this life. That's why when you do any Dharma with pride, you look down to people. Sometimes you judge your teacher… "Oh my Guru, but he is wrong." Why is like this? I'm sorry, but you are not practitioner, because you are attached to this life.

How should we practice? To practice, sit down and think of impermanence. Today's practice is a little bit of mind changing. The antidote is impermanence. Why are we attached to this life? We think it is permanent. Many people want to live a long time; many people don't want to die.


Many people want to live long and stay young. This means they have attachment to this life. They don't accept their nature. We can't change our nature. You make something, and of course it will get old and break. You can't make everything permanent. You can't change it; nobody can change it. We all die. It's sad to say, but we all die. In this room, I don't know who is going to die first, but we will all die. Many young people my age don't think that. We never think that we will die. We think that we are tough, that we are solid and healthy, but when we get sick, we think, "I'm young but I can be like old." The last four days I was sick. I didn't wash my face, brush my teeth; most of my mind was gone. A little heartbeat was left. What did I do? I just sat down and watched TV. I couldn't look at a book because I was so sick, I couldn't concentrate. I watched a movie; it was good. I'm thankful for the Television. I ate some medicine. I want to tell you this so it will be easy to understand that it is easy to become weak.

How to practice? Just sit down. If you want to open your eyes, it's Okay. If you want to close your eyes, it's Okay. When you do it, think that every human being in this world, six billion people, is dying. You can hear many people dying. One of my friends counts a year as a day in his mind. I told him not to tell me that; I did not want to think about it. We think a year is long, but it's only 365 days. If we count the days as seconds, it's easy to see how it goes. I studied seven years in the Shedra, now it's gone, like that [Rinpoche snaps his fingers]. Time is very fast. I don't want to think about it. Why? It makes me afraid, near to death. Everyone knows; we all will die. That is the first thing.

Secondly, we are not sure when we will die. Will we die now or will we die after my dream? Who knows? One of my friend's relatives died in a shocking way. He slept, and in the morning, he was finished; dead. They said, "Hello, wake up, wake up!" He didn't wake up. He was dead. They called me, "Oh, he's dead!" I asked "How?" They said, "In the bed!" I thought death was something very awful with shaking, but no, it's very easy. I will die easily; I don't want to die suffering. I will die with a full stomach, and surely with good music, nice food. An easy death; that's good.

What's the worst is that the King of Death is not compassionate. He doesn't have compassion at all: "I'm the King of Death, really I'll give you time. Okay, you want to study or do something, I'll give you one year, and then I'll take you up." He doesn't do that. During your study time, he'll take you up. During your practice time he'll take you up. If you're planning a retreat, he'll take you up. Take you up or down, I don't know, but he'll take you. The main point of the sentence "If you are attached to this life, you are not a practitioner," is what I already told you.


"My own name, my own family… for this I'm doing this practice…" I don't think the Westerners do, but I've seen many Asians do this. "I'm doing this Vajrayana practice for wealth; I'm doing this Vajrayana practice for my family." They also say the Amatayu chant, thinking all the while that other families will die soon, etc.

In this life, it is very important to search out what attachments we have; to self, life, etc. The more attachment you have in this life, the more suffering you have. It's really true. The more you think of yourself, the more you will suffer. Why? The cause of suffering is thinking of your own welfare. Understand? If you don't think of yourself so much, and if you are a little sick, it's Okay. If you have much attachment, even if you're only a little bit sick, then you cry out, "Oh, my leg, its pain, my neck, its pain! Oh!" A good practitioner, even with head pain or cancer inside the stomach, will not cry, will not say, "Ah." He will just be like he was before. Normal people will say, "Ahhh! Please give medicine! No! Pain is coming!" Why is it like this? Why is it different? They're both human beings, what is the difference? You can control all suffering from you mind. If you can control your mind you can control all suffering. If you can control your mind you can control all happiness. Whether you accept this or not, I don't know. Yes or no? Do you accept? I think I'll give you time to search, it's Okay. Really search about what I've said.

As for how to practice, remember to think about how all people will die. Then about how we are not sure about when we will die. We do not want to think about it, but think! It's good. If you don't want to think about it, I'll give you some photos of dead people. Then you will easily remember death. Really, I know it's difficult, but we need to have many methods. What I'm talking about now is mostly my own experience. I need to go see dead people. When some people die there will be a puja for the dead person. Then I will see a dead person with my eye. Westerners only see dead people in coffins with nice makeup, very nice. What I see is not makeup; I like death. Not the pain, but some people die with their hands all crunched up; their mouths open; sometimes looking up, sometimes eyes closed.

When one of my teachers passed away, he was very relaxed. He put his fingers like this, then he died, in the Buddha posture. His face looked normal, relaxed. Good practitioners with good faith die like normal. I was very happy; the old people were crying a lot. But for me and the monks, although the first time we were a little scared, it was Okay. Some other people die with their heads up very scary. When you see them there is fear inside your heart. Your heart shakes and your legs shake. That's why I think this kind of experience, if you have, you will know what to do. I think that you will become a good practitioner.


That's why I have told you many times: we are sure we will die but we don't know when we will die. This is a very difficult thing. I will give you some photos of dead people, and then you can look. After that, we will say, "We will die. What can we do?" That is the most important question. How can we prepare for when death comes? That is Dharma.

If you practice, whatever you did, you will have no regrets about what it was. You will die without fear. If regret is there, any kind of regret, then it is no good. We should die without regret and to be happy to die. However, merely being happy to die does not mean that you are a good practitioner. That's very easy. Brave people will say, "I die in the war, I accept this kind of death!" They've already accepted it; that doesn't really mean they are good Dharma practitioners. What I'm saying is that you need to prepare with Dharma practice. That kind of impermanence makes you less attached to this life.

When you think of impermanence, that you will die, you ask, "What do we need to do? That attachment is no good. We need to practice." Why? That attachment leads to a lower realm. Lower realm, higher realm, heaven, hell; everything is in your mind. I can say, "In this world, there are Hot Hells, Cold Hells, Hungry Ghosts, Animals, Demigods, Gods; all inside this world, this global world." Really. If you want cold suffering, then it is easy. Just wear these clothes and go to Tibet in the winter. It's easy, that is hell. In Tibet they used to say, "Winter is hell, but summer is heaven." In the summer, the mountains are covered with flowers, everything is natural. And you can go on a horse through the small hills, it's so nice. Tibetan food is very easy. Tsampa and meat; there's no need to carry the whole kitchen. You carry the tsampa here, the meat here, one small sword and tea; then go! You sit down, set up a small tent, make tea, add tsampa, and eat meat. That's what we like, it's very easy. If you want to sleep in the mountains you can sleep, wherever you like, it's all full of flowers. It's heaven. The water is clean; you can see all the stones inside very clearly. But winter! No flowers! No grass! No people are out; they're all inside, shaking. We used to wear sheepskin, so it was Okay. With these clothes you couldn't stand it for one hour. You'd be frosted.

That's why there are the Cold Hells. As for the Hot Hells, there are deserts that are fifty or sixty degrees in the sunshine. If you have no water, you'll die! There are so many people in many places that have no food and are hungry with big stomachs. All the hells are here!

I went to Switzerland this year and I gave a Dharma talk to some Swiss people. I said, "I think that in Switzerland you cannot be a good practitioner. If you want to be a good practitioner go to Nepal. Why?


In Nepal you can see all of life, the whole circle of life. Dirty, clean, sickness, happy, or unhappy. Everything in life is there. Of course everything in life is present in Switzerland. However, the keep it all inside, and you can't see it. Of course they have suffering! Of course they have sickness, but they all cover it very nicely. I was very shocked when I went to one family's house. When they washed the dishes, I was very surprised. In Nepal we wash the dishes. I didn't see them wash; I saw them put them all inside something and close it up. I was very surprised. I asked, "What are you doing? Who washed the dishes for these six or seven people? No one washed them!" They said, "Oh, Rinpoche, this is a washing machine!" I saw this for clothes before, but not dishes. I said, "Wow! No need to wash the clothes, no need to wash the dishes! And you don't need to cook food! You just call and say, 'Hello, Pizza Hut, please bring some pizza!'" And clean! There are many rules, but very clean! I then said, "I can only show you mental suffering. The only present I want to show you is that of mental suffering. If you want to see physical suffering, come to Nepal."

Sometimes in Switzerland I felt generous and wanted to give money to beggars, but after searching and searching I didn't find them! I really wanted to give but didn't find them! In Nepal you can find them, so it's very good. That's why the Buddha said, "You need to respect the Buddha and you need to respect sentient beings, too. If there are only Buddhas, you cannot become enlightened. Sentient beings are very valuable because it is through those sentient beings that we can become enlightened." That's why I'm very happy that we have beggars. Some Westerners question a lot, asking, "Why do you give? If you give to them they will take drugs and drink alcohol!" I say, "I don't care. I want to give, so I give to them. What they want to do with it, they can do." Of course, giving food is the best, because it cannot be exchanged.

Okay, as for practicing impermanence and the Dharma, I have already described it. The first sentence is, "If you have attachment to this life then you are not a practitioner." Please practice and make your attachment to this life less. Whether you are an old practitioner, a young practitioner or a new practitioner; if you want to be a Buddhist or not, I don't care; just do not be attached so much. That is the worst thing. You need to regret bad things. It is good. Why? Rejoicing and regretting are the opposites. Say you have a lot of attachment to this life, and someone gives 1000 rupees to beggars. You are rich, and you say, "He's just showing off his money!" There is no rejoicing in what has been done, but just the saying of bad things. That results in accumulation of bad karma. Say that you say, "Oh! He's giving 1000 rupees each to beggars! He's so good! What a good person! Wow!" That is rejoicing in what he is doing. You can get the same merit from giving to each beggar. Then you will get the same merit.


I said to not have regret, meaning if you are dying and say, "Oh, now I'm dying, I can't do anything. I didn't get a chance to do this! I didn't go there, or get to go in a Mercedes car! Ah!" Don't regret like this. This is bad regret. I said to not regret like that. However, of course regretting the bad things that you've done is a good thing.

War is quite bad, because one dies with anger. Dying with anger is very bad. Dying with ignorance is very bad. What to do? Before death one needs to be a good practitioner. If they are not a good practitioner, then we can only pray. That's all.

I said today to not be attached to this life. However, I didn't say, "Don't be attached to not wanting to do bad things." In Buddhism, first we practice mind changing. In preliminary practice, we practice the mind changing practice. Why? We want to make sure that your mind is controlled by you, not controlled by other. We need to control our thoughts, not let our thoughts control us. This sounds like nonsense, because you think, "What? Thought is me and I am thought!" "Okay, I'm doing practice… Just practice…" Nowadays we say, "I'm doing practice," but thinking, "I need to go to Thamel and have dinner. Tomorrow I have to study…" That is not practice; that is thinking. Thinking about what you're going to do. What I'm saying is that you need to control your mind and your thoughts. How do you do that? Think of positive thoughts, positive attachments; to change the negative to the positive, to put more into the positive. Nowadays we are more into the negative. A good attachment is compassion; relative compassion and relative Bodhicitta. Thought without attachment does not exist. "Without attachment" exists. It is clear; as wisdom.

By this merit may all attain omniscience,
May it defeat the enemy, wrongdoing,
From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death;
From the ocean of Samsara,
May I free all beings!

May the precious mind of enlightenment,
Arise where it has not arisen,
Where it has arisen,
May it not wane,
But further and further increase!

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