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Becoming Realized

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In 1987, on the eastern plateau of China’s Mount Wutai, my root teacher His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche revealed the mind treasure Meditation on Manjushri to Attain Dzogchen. Shortly after his return, His Holiness began to transmit this precious teaching at the Larung Buddhist Institute. The lineage transmission and its related teaching lasted one hundred days and more than one thousand students participated. According to His Holiness, it was because all participants had perfectly observed vows and commitments as a result of Manjushri’s blessings that this Dzogchen treasure teaching could be transmitted to a large audience. However, this kind of large gathering for the teaching would not be repeated in the future.

At the time, I was one of those students. Apart from hearing and practicing in accordance with His Holiness’s pith instruction, I also acted as a tutor for some other students after His Holiness’s teaching sessions. One day, Darsen, who is now the head lama at the Tashi Triling Retreat Center, came to me. With tears in his eyes, he said to me, “It is difficult to attain a human rebirth and to meet a qualified master. His Holiness is teaching this supreme practice. If I am still unable to attain realization this time, I might never have the chance of attaining it in my life.” Despite years of practice, Darsen was facing obstacles that prevented him from realizing the nature of the mind. He was worried and asked me to revisit the main points of His Holiness’s teaching with him. So, we reviewed His Holiness’s heart advice together:

You must have confidence in your teacher, great compassion for all beings, and conviction in the karmic law of cause and effect. Without these, you will never be able to attain realization, even if the Buddha himself were to preach the Great Perfection to you. If you acquire these, even the demon lord Mara could not entice you away from the path to enlightenment.

If you do not see your teacher as a real buddha but think that there are buddhas or bodhisattvas more enlightened than your teacher, you will never attain realization.

Before the Buddha entered nirvana, Ananda was deeply saddened and pleaded with him to live longer. But the Buddha said, “Do not grieve, Ananda. To help beings I will soon return as a teacher.” Depending on the Buddha’s connection with beings and their underlying karmic conditions, the Buddha appears in different forms to save them from the bitter sea of samsaric suffering. Sometimes he appears in the form of a buddha, like the Buddha Shakyamuni who turned the Dharma wheel; sometimes he appears in the form of a bodhisattva, like Manjushri or Avalokiteshvara; sometimes he appears in the form of an ordinary person, like the teachers we meet; and sometimes he even transforms himself into a bird, cow, or other animal to save those who have a connection with him. Therefore, your teacher is the buddha whom you can see with your current physical and mental capacities. Your teacher is the outer manifestation of your own inner buddha nature.

Pray to your teacher fervently and then meditate. Those who have attained realization should rest in the mind’s natural state. Those who have not seen the nature of the mind should rest in the conceptual awareness that comprehends emptiness. You should alternate praying and meditating repeatedly for at least a half hour every day. It is extremely beneficial for your realizing the nature of the mind or augmenting your realization.

We have a close connection with Mipham Rinpoche. If you visualize your teachers, Mipham Rinpoche, and Manjushri as being one in essence, you will surely obtain their blessings and realization will be within reach. When I was a one-year-old and learned to say the word mama, I aroused uncontrived compas-sion. When I was around seven or eight, I attained some degree of realization of Dzogchen. But it was only after I had generated tremendous faith in Mipham Rinpoche at the age of fifteen and prayed to him fervently while reciting his Directly Pointing to the Nature of the Mind that I achieved complete realization of Dzogchen. I hope my personal experience can inspire you, my students. You should learn and regularly practice the methods taught by Mipham Rinpoche.

In the lineage line of Dzogchen that I hold, all the lineage masters—from Samantabhadra to Thubga Rinpoche—were real buddhas. Although I myself am an ordinary being, the lineage I have inherited is unstained, supreme, and unsurpassable. This is because I have never thought for a second that my closest root gurus Mipham Rinpoche and Thubga Rinpoche were different from the Buddha, nor have I ever displeased any teacher who conferred Dharma on me. I wholeheartedly revered and admired all of them. If you seek the Dharma of liberation, you should examine your teacher carefully before requesting his transmission of Dzogchen. If the teacher has ever displeased or even defamed his own teachers, he has contaminated the lineage and broken the precious line of transmission that is meant to be unstained. As a result, you will not be able to obtain any blessing of the lineage from him.

Darsen was concerned that he had not mastered the Five Great Treatises, and this might put him at a disadvantage in terms of realization. In fact, knowledge and realization are not the same. It is certainly beneficial to master various sutras and tantras, but this does not warrant enlightenment. The specific teachings regarding the attainmentof realization can even be very simple. The teaching of Meditation on Manjushri to Attain Dzogchen, for instance, encompasses everything an ordinary being needs to attain Buddhahood, but it is merely five pages long. In the traditional practice of Tibetan Buddhism, if one relies on an authentic and realized teacher and has true faith and devotion to him, they can become realized at any time, in any situation.

When Patrul Rinpoche and his disciple Nyoshul Lungtok performed tantric practices at Dzachukha, they lived on only a small amount of tsampa. One day, a devotee offered them a pie made of ginseng fruits and milk. So Patrul Rinpoche said to Nyoshul Lungtok, “Let’s share the pie.” But Nyoshul Lungtok declined, saying, “Master, I do not need it.” Patrul Rinpoche then said, “Grab me a knife and let me cut it in half. But where is its head and where is its tail?” Upon hearing this, Nyoshul Lungtok was struck by an unprecedented realization.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo introduced Mipham Rinpoche to the nature of the mind in a way that was equally unusual. One day, Mipham Rinpoche went to see Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo but was stopped at the gate by an arrogant guard. Pushing the guard aside, Mipham Rinpoche entered the residence by force and saw Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo sitting there with a cloak over his head. So fright-ened was Mipham Rinpoche that he simply lowered his head and knelt down before his master without daring to say a word. Then, all of a sudden, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo removed the cloak from his head and slapped Mipham Rinpoche’s head while shouting, “Who are you?” Instantaneously, Mipham Rinpoche became realized.

The Chinese Zen school has many similar stories related to realization. But we should not regard them as amusing anecdotes, or think that realization is so simple that one day we ourselves might attain it without the need to make an effort. Realization will not suddenly appear like a pie that falls on your head from the sky. Should you have no faith in your teacher, you will not be able to see it, even if your teacher breaks your head. While the teachings of the Great Perfection have clearly shown us a progressive path of training and realization, to make progress, we must practice accordingly. And any step we make on the path is thanks to the compassionate blessings of our teacher.

As His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche said:

It is possible for tantric practitioners who have received the Dzogchen teachings to attain liberation in this life, or in the luminous intermediate state of dharmata after death, or the karmic intermediate state of becoming before rebirth, if they have had faith in and devotion to their teachers, kept the tantric vows and commitments, refrained from defaming Buddadharma, and diligently practiced according to the stages of the path. If humans, animals, or beings in other realms hear the Dzogchen teachings, they will be connected with Dzogchen again between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five in the next life and attain liberation when the necessary causes and conditions come together.