The Importance of Practice

I will say a few words about practice. Generally speaking there is much to learn about Tibetan Buddhism. Sakya Pandita said, to become completely qualified one should completely study the different wheels of the dharma. After study there is contemplation and after that meditation. Contemplation is done for the sake of meditation and its end result is meditation. After studying it's good to have writing skills to benefit others. Teaching, and debate are also useful.

The purpose of all these is meditation practice. All the great masters you will see are completely qualified by study. After that came meditation and realization. I finished my academic study in 1990. I taught for a while but thought I should do more meditation so I could experience what I taught. I needed wisdom from meditation practice. There is nothing wrong with education and teaching but it is limited. The essence of the teachings is within the practice. You can understand a certain level though study but practice of meditation allows you to understand the heart. The last couple of years I have had the opportunity and support to do retreat. The past six months I have travelled I saw how people were interested in the dharma. If I practice more I saw that I could benefit them more. It's like chewing food very well so you can taste it. By practicing the teaching one has more insight. So that is the purpose of meditation retreat.

When I looked at the life stories like those of Milarepa and saw how they practiced, I saw there is no realization without step by step meditation. Meditation practice can be difficult and challenging. But if we practice continuously then realization is there. If we don't practice realization is always farther and farther away. In the Kagyu lineage, practice rather than intellect is emphasized. Its easy to explain the teaching intellectually but this doesn't help when tragedy or emotional challenges arise. The wisdom is only in the book and not in ourselves. Milarepa said I am not a reincarnation of a great bodhisattva, I am just an ordinary person who practiced hard. Shantideva said that when we can apply effort every day what is difficult becomes easy. For example study seems difficult but when we apply ourselves every day we can learn. Even if we don't have the desire for realization, if we practice every day realization is close.

The precious human life gives us the opportunity to achieve something, so we shouldn't waste it. What we achieve in this life will help us in the next. This life is short compared to the future lives we will experience. This life gives us a precious opportunity we should take advantage of. We need to practice as much as we can. Practice gives us the confidence and strength to face life's challenges. It is the most important antidote to them. So that's the reason for doing retreat. The result is bodhicitta. Retreat is challenging at first, but you adapt to it and everyone can do it. No matter how busy we are we have time for practice, if we make it. Even five or fifteen minutes is precious. Even one minute of meditation is precious. My motivation in practicing is to benefit all beings. That is important. I try to do my best.

Q: If a person is very busy with their business and only have five or ten minutes, what type of practice would be best?

A: It depends on the person. If they are advanced they can look at what's going on in their mind and calm themselves. If they are new it would be better to do breathing meditation.

Q: And if you're in the middle?

A: Look at your emotions and meditate on loving kindness.

Q: Could you say a bit about the guru's blessing?

A: There are several different kinds of blessing. In Tibetan it is jin lap (pyin rlabs). Jin means giving or receiving, offering. Lap means transforming. Blessing mean receiving energy from the lineage master so the person is transformed into that nature. It depends on how the practitioner can develop genuine devotion by understanding the history of the lineage masters from the Buddhas. The dharma itself is the ultimate refuge. When we receive dharma teaching we receive some wisdom there. It is like medicine. Each person gets the teaching according to their level of understanding. When you receive teachings you receive blessings. The master cannot give his realization to the student. Otherwise enlightenment would be easy. It depends on the person's confidence in meditation practice. The most confidence comes through practice. It may be something you've known for twenty years but through practice you realize it today. I think this is the great blessing practice. The root lama is most important and you visualize them dissolving into you. That's the external practice. The internal is your own awareness. Through my practice and education I developed some devotion to the teachers. The external lamas teach that there is no difference between my mind and Buddha's. But understanding this through practice takes time. You see that all sentient beings have this mind and all life becomes precious. Blessings is the speciality of the mahamudra and dzogchen. Without the blessing, the realization is not there. The completely qualified blessing energy must be there. Those who realize their dharma teaching are different than others. There is an energy there. Especially in the West in the college, the Dharma is taught differently. In a dharma center they put together the academic study and practice.