Quotations

October 29, 2010

compiled by Norm Hirsch

Quotations from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

(The former, by CTR, are in regular type) (The latter, by SMR, are in italics)


Nobody has given up hope of attaining enlightenment. Nobody has given up hope of getting out of suffering. That is the fundamental spiritual problem that we have.

CTR, The Lion’s Roar (LR), p. 22


WHY MEDITATE

What I always try to encourage is that we really know why we’re meditating. That’s always important, and the reasons why we’re meditating. So that’s something you have to think about. It could be just simply needing some relaxation, some stress reduction, peace, could be all the way up to, you know, we want to attain enlightenment, and we’d like to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha and have tremendous wisdom and compassion.

SMR, SMR meditation instruction video, SI website and Youtube

We might actually question what is the purpose of meditation, what happens next, but actually the idea of meditation is to develop an entirely different way of dealing with things, where you have no purpose at all. One just simply sits without aim, object, purpose, without anything at all. Nothing whatsoever. One just sits.

CTR, The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation (TOS), p. 117

__________

. . . the mind has to be strong, stable, and clear. That’s why we meditate.

SMR, Turning the Mind into an Ally (TMA), p. 57

Whenever we have a dualistic notion such as, “I am doing this because I want to achieve a particular state of consciousness, a particular state of being,” then automatically we separate ourselves from the reality of what we are.

CTR, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (CTSM), p. 14

It is just simply creating a space, a space in which we can unlearn and undo our subconscious gossip, our hidden fears and hidden hopes. And begin to bring them out. Meditation is simply providing space through the discipline of sitting down and doing nothing.

CTR, Tibetan Buddhist Teachings and Their Application  (TB),  Collected Works (CW), Vol. 3, p. 522

__________

Off the cushion, we’re no longer lost in daydreams. . . Our mind is a powerful ally that helps us focus on what we need to do: study, play sports, cook.

SMR, TMA, p. 56

Although many books on Buddhism speak of such practices as shamatha as being the development of concentration, I think this term is misleading in a way. One might get the idea that the practice of meditation could be put to commercial use, and that one would be able to concentrate on counting money or something like that.

CTR, Meditation in Action, pp. 75-6

__________

Stabilizing our mind any time of the day or night is like taking a mineral bath. It dissolves our stress and revitalizes us.

SMR, Ruling Your World (RYW), pp. 100-1

I went snorkeling recently, and it was a very vivid experience. My body felt light and buoyant, and there was a penetrating clarity to the sunlight shining through the turquoise water on the fish and the coral. Mindfulness and awareness bring us into such a space, and as we stay there longer, that space gets bigger and bigger.

SMR, TMA, p. 55

The natural quality of meditation relaxes into boundless, unimpeded freedom and space. The dualistic struggle is over. This is peace.

SMR, TMA, p. 57

Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility. . . . It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes.

CTR, The Myth of Freedom (MF), p. 2

__________

When we meditate, we’re training ourselves to see our weak points and strengthen our positive ones.

SMR, TMA, p. 30

So if your reason for sitting or doing postmeditation practice or any other kind of practice is self improvement, it is like eating poisonous food.

CTR, Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-kindness, CW, Vol. 2, p. 206

__________

. . . great meditators become so centered that they can feel their blood flow. They can actually sense the atomic level of their cellular structure.

SMR, TMA, p. 44

In Tibet we say, “Only a Buddha can explain the reason for every color in a peacock’s feathers.”

SMR, RYW, p. 55

Contemplating specific parts of the body like this, we are invoking drala. We can invigorate ourselves in this way. That’s how Milarepa, the Tibetan yogic saint, could fly…

SMR, Community Talk, Boulder, CO 1/10/03

. . . we can’t do publicity by having testimonials for meditation practice. If we did, it would be disastrous.

CTR, The Path is the Goal (PG), p. 135

__________

Our meditation has come to perfection. When we sit down we engage with the breath in a completely fluid and spontaneous manner. Our mind is strong, stable, clear, and joyous. We feel a complete sense of victory. We could meditate forever. Even in the back of our mind, there are no traces of thoughts. We’re in union with the present moment. Our mind is at once peaceful and powerful, like a mountain. There’s a sense of equanimity.

SMR, TMA, p. 126

The basic point is to experience cessation rather than to have a theory or a dream about it. As several contemplative gurus in the lineage have warned, too much description of the outcome is an obstacle to the path.

CTR, TOS, p. 67

HOW TO PRACTICE MEDITATION

When thoughts come we say, oh, I shouldn’t be thinking right now because I don’t want to be thinking about that, I want to be paying attention to my breathing because I know that’s helpful, this is what I want to be doing. So just bring some calmness… and feel the peace and relaxation… simply breathing. . .a thought comes up say “I don’t want to be thinking about that”. Pay attention to the breathing and feel some peace.

SMR meditation instruction video, SI website and Youtube

For instance if you meditate, you might experience ordinary domestic thoughts and at the same time there is a watcher saying, “You shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that, but you should come back to meditation.” These pious thoughts are still thoughts and should not be cultivated.

CTR, CTSM, p. 161

__________

Before it even arises, we can prevent a thought from destabilizing our mindfulness. This is how we prolong the continuity of peaceful abiding.

SMR, TMA, pp. 55-6

One should try not to suppress thoughts in meditation, but just try to see their transitory nature, their translucent nature. We do not become involved in them or reject them, but simply acknowledge them and then come back to the awareness of breathing. There should be no deliberate effort to control and no attempt to be peaceful.

CTR, TOS, p. 116

__________

Although shamatha is abiding in peace, it takes effort to stabilize our wild mind in that peace.

SMR, TMA, p. 100

Trying to achieve a restful state of mind reflects a mentality of poverty.

CTR, MF, p. 48

[The Buddha] began to realize that there was a sane, awake quality within him which manifested itself only in the absence of struggle. So the practice of meditation involves “letting be.”

CTR, CTSM, p. 9

__________

We can imagine the mind’s activity as circles of light radiating outward. Peaceful abiding is like taking the dispersed light and gathering it into ourselves. As we gather it closer, it grows brighter.

SMR, TMA, pp. 59-60

The meditation practice is not a way of entering into a manufactured state of tranquility or equanimity. . .

CTR, Dome Darshan (DD), CW, Vol. 3, p. 540

The reason why the technique is very simple is that, that way, we cannot elaborate on our spiritual materialism trip.  Everyone breathes, unless they are dead.  Everyone walks, unless they are in a wheelchair.

CTR, PG, p. 20

__________

So in meditating properly, we’re strengthening aspects of our mind that are already there. It’s like working out. . . .I didn’t become strong from lifting one massive weight at once, but from doing repetitions consistently and regularly and building strength over time. This is exactly how we strengthen mindfulness and awareness—through consistent and regular practice.

SMR, TMA, p. 50

Rangjung Dorje, a great teacher of the Kagyu tradition, in his commentary on the Hevajra Tantra, says that the ultimate materialism is believing that Buddha nature can be manufactured by mental effort, spiritual gymnastics.

CTR, Dawn of Tantra, p. 9

You could sit down and do nothing, just sit and do nothing. Stop acting, stop speeding. Sit and do nothing.  You should take pride in the fact that you have learned a very valuable message: you actually can survive beautifully by doing nothing.

CTR, Journey Without Goal (JWG), p. 142

Buddha did it two thousand five hundred years ago. He sat and wasted his time. And he transmitted the knowledge to us that it is the best thing we can do for ourselves—waste our time by sitting.

CTR, PG, p. 9

__________

The more we’re able to gather our attention and focus, the stronger our mind becomes, the stronger the experience becomes, and the stronger the result becomes.

SMR, TMA, p. 117

According to the Buddhist tradition, the spiritual path is the process of cutting through our confusion, of uncovering the awakened state of mind. . . . So it is not a matter of building up the awakened state of mind, but rather of burning out the confusions which obstruct it. In the process of burning out these confusions, we discover enlightenment.

CTR, CTSM, p. 4

We have to learn to be willing to die, to subside. This particular “me” that wanted to attain enlightenment has to go away. When that happens, then you actually attain enlightenment.

CTR, The Mishap Lineage (ML), pp. 4-5

THE SPIRITUAL PATH

In other words, to make this perfectly clear, the difference between spiritual materialism and transcending spiritual materialism is that in spiritual materialism promises are used like a carrot held up in front of a donkey, luring him into all kinds of journeys; in transcending spiritual materialism, there is no goal. The goal exists in every moment of our life situation, in every moment of our spiritual journey.

CTR, Crazy Wisdom, p. 15

__________

The ball flew about 175 yards, came back on the green, and went into the hole. Jeff said, “It works, it really works!” That’s the power of discipline.

SMR, TMA, p. 204

…we’re talking about having a continual relationship with the phenomenal world that is not based on either a good or a bad result.

CTR, Smile at Fear (SF), p. 70

__________

After years of practice and study, I’ve begun to understand why those realized teachers don’t need to go out to have fun. It’s not that they are antisocial or afraid of the world. They already have what everybody else wants and is looking for—contentment and joy.

SMR, RYW, pp. 70-1

We have the expectation that spirituality will bring us happiness and comfort, wisdom and salvation. This literal, egocentric way of regarding spirituality must be turned completely upside down.

CTR, CTSM, pp. 158-9

__________

Contemplating, thinking about, and generating bodhichitta is a sure way to be happy, to be at peace.

SMR, TMA, p. 175

We realize in an outrageous moment that if we approach all beings with kindness, appreciation and love, we can be happy anytime, anywhere.

SMR, RYW, p. 138

I could say, “Soon you’ll feel good. Soon you’ll forget your pain, and then you’ll be in a beautiful place.” But that would be an enormous falsity, and in the long run, such an approach is ungenerous and extremely destructive to the spiritual path.

CTR, JWG, p. 47

__________

We develop an aura that makes us seem bigger and more beautiful to others.

SMR, RYW, p. 193

Our potential is to become totally happy.

SMR, TMA, p. 138

We can quite safely say that hope, or a sense of promise, is a hindrance on the spiritual path. Creating this kind of hope is one of the most prominent features of spiritual materialism. There are all kinds of promises, all kinds of proofs. We find the same approach as that of a car salesman. Or it’s like someone demonstrating a vacuum cleaner and telling you how well you could clean your house if you would just buy it. If you would just buy that vacuum cleaner, how beautiful your room would be, completely free of dirt and dust, down to the last speck! Whether it is a vacuum cleaner salesman or a guru, we find the same level of salesmanship. That is why both are included in the same bag of materialists. There are so many promises involved. So much hope is planted in your heart. This is playing on your weakness.

CTR, Illusion’s Game, p. 61

__________

People often ask me why I seem so happy. They think that I must have some kind of secret. I do—exertion.

SMR, RYW, p. 66

Exerting ourselves toward virtue creates stability in our lives—happiness that we can depend on.

SMR, RYW, p. 71

The teachings do not present another form of security at all, but bring the absence of any kind of security. Enlightenment is the complete absence of any kind of promises.

CTR, TB, CW, Vol. 3, p. 518

__________

The more peaceful, cheerful, and generous we are, the more successful we are in attracting friends, as well as everything else we need.

SMR, RYW, p. 77

True spirituality is relating with the day-to-day living situation rather then hoping for or seeing your dreams coming true.

CTR, DD, CW, Vol. 3, p.542

Buddhism is the only nontheistic religion. It doesn’t contain any promises, or doesn’t permit any.

CTR, LR, pp. 23-4

__________

Windhorse takes us beyond the “me” plan. As we release that small-mindedness, a natural magnetic energy arises. There is something charismatic about us. It’s not just that we look good from the outside; we are radiating from the inside out. We exude success and enthusiasm.

SMR, RYW, pp. 18-9

…you are neither on the side of success nor on the side of failure. Success and failure are your journey.

CTR, SF, p. 73

__________

When we begin to mix wisdom into our secular life, we have success—both spiritual and worldly.

SMR, RYW, p. 2

The ancient Chinese Book of Changes, or I Ching, often talks about success being failure and failure being success. Success sows the seeds of future failure, and failure may bring a later success. So it’s always a dynamic process. For warriors, fearlessness doesn’t mean that we cheer up by saying “Look! I’m on the side of the right. I’m a success.” Nor do we feel that we’re being punished when we fail. In any case, success and failure are saying the same thing.

CTR, SF, pp. 70-1

__________

By acting virtuously, exerting ourselves in service to others, we are blessed in return by harmony and good luck.

SMR, RYW, p. 160

Because we have aligned ourselves with basic goodness, the environment begins to reflect our open quality. We effortlessly, as if by magic, attract what we need.

SMR, RYW, p. 19

When we are connected with our basic goodness, it inspires our every breath, action, and thought. With the resulting brilliance and confidence, we can accomplish whatever we wish.

SMR, RYW, p. 6

Many practitioners in our culture are motivated by worldly concerns and use spirituality to successfully accomplish their wishes.  It’s fine to use spiritual practice to get what we want.

SMR, TMA, p. 180

The only way to deal with spiritual materialism as such is to develop an ultimately cynical or critical attitude toward the teachings and the teachers and the practices that we’re involved with. We shouldn’t let ourselves be sucked in, but question twice, thrice, from the point of view, “Is this spiritual materialism to me, or isn’t it?”

CTR, DD, CW, Vol. 3, p.539

__________

Windhorse brings spiritual and worldly success—personal power, harmony with others, strong life force, and material prosperity.

SMR, RYW, pp. 192-3

The warrior who experiences windhorse feels the joy and sorrow of love in everything he does. He feels hot and cold, sweet and sour simultaneously. Whether things go well or things go badly, whether there is success or failure, he feels sad and delighted at once.

CTR, Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior (S), p. 85

__________

You see the image of windhorse printed on the prayer flags that flutter in the breeze all over Tibet. It is the ability to bring about long life, good health, success, and happiness.

SMR, RYW, p. 21

The fruition of invoking windhorse is symbolized by the universal monarch with a broken heart.

CTR, SF, p. 120

APPROACHES TO DAILY LIFE

I’ve received many instructions from my teachers about how to be a ruler. The simplest and most helpful is “Upon arising, have a positive and open attitude.”

SMR, RYW, p. 42

Being a warrior is being simply here without distraction and preoccupation.

CTR, SF, p. 123

__________

When I wake up in the morning, first I stabilize my mind by placing it on the breath. When a thought arises, I acknowledge it and return my focus to the breath. Then I orient my mind in the direction of how I can be helpful, how I can learn more that day, or how I can raise my windhorse….. I know that if my mind is in the right place at the beginning, I am going to have the upper hand in ruling my day.

SMR, TMA, p. 30

So the only way that is feasible is developing an attitude of hopelessness, something other than future orientation.

CTR, DD, CW, Vol. 3, p. 539

__________

In our sitting practice, we’re trying to penetrate our speedy exterior by reducing our activities and stabilizing our ability to be present. Then we carry that practice into our day, continually reflecting on what to cultivate and what to discard in order to strengthen windhorse.

SMR, RYW, p.46

Awareness is like a wind. If you open your doors and windows, it is bound to come in.

CTR, PG, p. 116

__________

As I live my day, I always try to have a contemplation going—whether I’m talking to people, riding in a car, giving teachings, or eating.

SMR, RYW,  p. 31

Accepting yourself—rather than trying to be good by being solemn and religious about your behavior— leads to uplifted confidence in body, speech, and mind.

CTR, SF, p. 122

__________

If we’re driving on the freeway, if we’re working in an office, if we’re having dinner with our friends, if we’re changing diapers, if we’re at the movies, we can visualize ourselves sitting tall in the saddle of patience astride the horse of meditation.

SMR, TMA, p. 211

We often invent and substitute somebody else for ourselves, some mythical person who doesn’t even exist. Then we fail to find our own human quality, and we run into a lot of trouble.

CTR, SF, p. 95

__________

Having enlarged our mind in meditation, we continue to cultivate thoughts and actions that take us in a positive direction—away from the “me” plan and toward peace, compassion, and wisdom.

SMR, RYW, p. 31

Q: You seemed to say that compassion grows, but it was implied that you do not have to cultivate it.

A: It develops, grows, ferments by itself. It does not need any effort.

CTR, CTSM, p. 105

GOOD AND BAD

For students who see the world in a very naïve way and have naïve attitudes toward spirituality, goodness is the issue, peace is the issue, euphoric states of Samadhi are the issue; therefore, they try to cultivate those things.

CTR, TOS, p. 98

__________

The most practical way to ensure forward movement on the path of rulership is to train for a short time each day in changing our attitude—just ten percent.

SMR, RYW, p. 28

We decide to decrease the percentage of time spent in negative emotion, and increase the amount of time spent in thoughts and ideas that lead somewhere.

SMR, RYW, 36

Little mind becomes smaller with bad habits. Big mind becomes bigger with good ones.

SMR, RYW, p. 49

As soon as a notion of polarity between good and bad develops, then we are caught in spiritual materialism, which is working to achieve happiness in a simple-minded sense, on the way to egohood.

CTR, MF, p. 68

Giving, opening, sacrificing ego is necessary. . .We lose our grip on the wishful-thinking world of pleasure and goodness. We have to give up trying to associate ourselves with goodness.

CTR, DD, CW, Vol. 3, p. 539

_________

There are certain places we shouldn’t go in our mind. Angry, grasping, or greedy thoughts darken our view and deplete our energy.

SMR, RYW, p.24

Meditation practice is based on dropping dualistic fixation, dropping the struggle of good against bad.

CTR, MOF, pp. 44-45

__________

Hanging out with the wrong crowd, be it the crowd of thoughts in our head or the people we call friends, only reinforces discursiveness and negativity. Nonvirtuous companions are like termites that eat away our noble qualities.

SMR, RYW, p. 74

Insights come only when there are gaps in our struggle, only when we stop trying to rid ourselves of thought, when we cease siding with pious, good thoughts against bad, impure thoughts, only when we allow ourselves simply to see the nature of thought.

CTR, CTSM, p. 153

When we speak of basic goodness, we are not talking about having allegiance to good and rejecting bad. . . It is not a “for” or “against” view, in the same way that sunlight is not “for” or “against”.

CTR, S, pp. 42-3

The ultimate implication of the words “peace on earth” is to remove altogether the ideas of peace and war and to open yourself equally and completely to the positive and negative aspects of the world. It is like seeing the world from an aerial point of view: there is light, there is dark; both are accepted. You are not trying to defend the light against the dark.

CTR, CTSM , p. 102

Sadness and joy are one in basic goodness. Don’t try to push out the nightmare, and don’t try to bring in the bliss. Just rest your being in a state of basic goodness.

CTR, SF, p. 89

PERSPECTIVES ON KARMA

Buddhists consider physical illnesses to be the results of previous negative actions. . .

SMR, RYW, p. 23

Karma moves in two directions. If we act virtuously, the seed we plant will result in happiness. If we act nonvirtuously, suffering results.

SMR, RYW, p. 32

Perhaps we think that our ambition has brought us a beautiful house, a nice car, a loving family, and all the money we want. But according to the law of karma, that happiness came from previous virtuous actions.

SMR, RYW, p. 56

Even if we are sowing seeds of good karma, we are nevertheless still encircled in a samsaric fortress. So from this point of view, meditation practice is a way of altogether transcending both good and bad.

CTR, Karma Seminar, 1972

__________

We all want to be happy. No one wants to suffer. So the point of contemplating karma is to look at what causes and conditions come together to produce happiness, and what causes and conditions come together to produce suffering. Then we can point ourselves in the direction of happiness.

SMR, TMA, p. 161

The attitude you bring to spirituality should be natural, ordinary, without ambition. Even if you are building good karma, you are still sowing further seeds of karma. So the point is to transcend the karmic process altogether. Transcend both good and bad karma.

CTR, MF, p. 45

__________

Our motivation stretches further when we begin to think about how our current actions might affect us after death . . . With this motivation, we practice spiritual teachings to assure a favorable afterlife or rebirth, depending on our beliefs.

SMR, TMA, p. 181

Particularly the talk about reincarnation in Eastern religions is exciting to a lot of people. They regard it as the ultimate good news. We could go on after all! We could be ourselves all the time, eternally. Such an approach seems to be utterly simple-minded. We haven’t solved the problem of giving, dissolving into nothingness.

CTR, DD, CW, Vol. 3, p. 538

HELPING OTHERS

Our aspiration to help others is so great that we would gladly spend an eternity in hell even to help a child be less afraid to speak in class.

SMR, TMA, p. 207

__________

Caring for others is the basis of worldly success. This is the secret that we don’t learn in school.

SMR, RYW, p. 18

We may be sitting there contemplating others, and in the back of our mind thinking: “I need to do more for myself.” By thinking of others, we are doing more for ourselves. Generating joy by helping others is a secret way—and the best way—of helping ourselves. Every time we think of someone else’s happiness, we are taking a vacation from the “me” plan. It’s like getting physically fit by helping our neighbour shovel the snow from the driveway.

SMR, RYW, p. 116

There’s a self-denying tendency that everybody knows of. At least they’ve read or heard that to gain a higher state of consciousness, to pursue the spiritual quest, you have to lose your selfishness, your egohood. However, that tends to become a strategy, a plot. Ego is pretending to itself it doesn’t exist; and then ego says, “Okay, now you got rid of me, now let’s both look toward our mutual happiness.”

CTR, DD, CW, Vol. 3,  pp. 537-8

__________

By remembering the basic intention of a ruler—to ensure others’ welfare—we are laying the ground for enriching our family or business, and ultimately for our own happiness and success.

SMR, RYW, p. 112

Just thinking about how to help others relieves stress, brings joy to our mind, and has fantastic karmic repercussions.

SMR, RYW, p.111

By acting virtuously, exerting ourselves in service to others, we are blessed in return by harmony and good luck.

SMR, RYW, p. 160

So the point we come back to is that some kind of real gift or sacrifice is needed if we are to open ourselves completely. This gift may take any form. But in order for it to be meaningful, it must entail giving up our hope of getting something in return.

CTR, CTSM, p. 8

__________

In the story of the Buddha’s life we hear of the temptations of Mara, which are extremely subtle. The first temptation is fear of physical destruction. The last is the seduction by the daughters of Mara. This seduction, the seduction of spiritual materialism, is extremely powerful because it is the seduction of thinking that “I” have achieved something. If we think we have achieved something, that we have “made it,” then we have been seduced by Mara’s daughters, the seduction of spiritual materialism.

CTR, CTSM, p. 119

The attainment of enlightenment from ego’s point of view is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment.

CTR, MF, p. 6

Everyone in the lineage of the practicing tradition has been extremely sarcastic and critical of the current scenes taking place around them. They were extremely critical of the subtle corruption taking place in the name of the dharma. We could say that the Practicing Lineage is the guardian of the buddhadharma, not only in Tibet alone but in the rest of the world. Someone should at least have a critical view of how things should happen, how things shouldn’t happen.

CTR, ML, p. 5

__________

A few years ago, my friend Greg told me that his brother was going on an expedition to climb Mount Everest. He asked me if there were something I would like him to take. I gave him the flag of Shambhala. . . . Now a huge nylon flag from the West is radiating the confidence of windhorse from the rooftop of the world.

SMR, RYW, pp. 194-5

The tantric journey is like walking along a winding mountain path. Dangers, obstacles, and problems occur constantly. There are wild animals, earthquakes, landslides, all kinds of things, but still we continue on our journey and we are able to go beyond the obstacles. When we finally get to the summit of the mountain, we do not celebrate our victory. Instead of planting our national flag on the summit of the mountain, we look down again and see a vast perspective of mountains, rivers, meadows, woods, jungles, and plains. . . That is ati style. . . So maha ati is the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning.

CTR, JWG, p. 133-4


Norm Hirsch has been a student of Chögyam Trungpa since 1973.

Editor’s Note: Further remarks by Chögyam Trungpa on practice, as compiled by Ravinder Rai from the Ocean of Dharma list, can be viewed on the CTR practice page.