His Eminence the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche,

Karma Lodrö Chökyi Senge


Happiness & Suffering



Presented at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, N.Y., 1986





I would like to welcome you to these teachings and want to remind everyone to arouse the correct attitude before and while receiving teachings of the Buddhadharma. The correct motivation to receive the teachings is the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all living beings.


We know that there is suffering in the world. We have also heard that it is possible to become free of emotional habits and problems. I wish to speak about the experience beyond suffering, the experience of being completely free of all problems and inadequacies of conditioned existence, samsara. Generally, suffering and freedom from suffering refer to the experience of confusion and, respectively, freedom from confusion. Many problems arise due to confusion. One is free of suffering when one is free of confusion. The difference between a state of suffering and a state free of suffering depends upon each individual’s degree of confusion. True happiness in Buddhism is described as a state beyond the suffering and happiness that ordinary beings are subject to and continuously experience.


One identifies suffering as a moment-to-moment experience of discomfort, of physical or mental anguish and pain - experiences that oppose one’s hopes. The moment-to-moment experience of satisfaction is what one usually refers to as happiness. This is not seen as true happiness in Buddhism. Worldly situations are a result of karma and can never be reliable because they change and end. True happiness in Buddhism is defined as having nothing beyond or outside of it. One needs to know this. True happiness is the experience of perfect buddhahood, the completely awakened mind. The characteristic of buddhahood is all-knowing – it is the experience of true happiness and freedom from suffering. The term for ‘buddha’ is sangs-gyäs in Tibetan , sang meaning ‘complete purification of the twofold coarse and subtle veils’ and gyäs meaning ‘attainment of the twofold realizations,’ which are knowledge of the fundamental or undistorted nature of reality and knowledge of the manifold ways phenomena arise and function. These two attributes are expressions of a fully awakened buddha.


Another way of explaining this subject is from the ultimate view of the nature of reality, which is beyond the four limitations and eight complexities. The four limitations are the belief that the essence of phenomena exists, doesn’t exist, both, or neither. The eight complexities are the mental formulations of mind or phenomena having such attributes as arising and ceasing, being singular or multiple, coming and going, and being the same or being different. The ultimate view is knowledge of the fundamental nature of all things, that it is neither being nor non-being, that it cannot be designated as “it is” or “it is not.” One needs to understand that the true nature of all things is beyond being and non-being and thus permeates all things. The ultimate view is discussed in conventional terms for the sake of understanding, but the actual experience of beyond being and non-being is unconditioned and undistorted true happiness. It is the essence of all living beings.


The experience of buddhahood is realization of the ultimate truth. Since there are no impediments arising from suffering and its causes for a buddha, he relates to the relative world free of ordinary conventions. Usually, one fears to suffer and evades any threats one anticipates, which give rise to mental discomfort. One has hopes and fears concerning suffering and pain and therefore continuously fears suffering and anticipates to evade it as best as possible. Thus, one lives one’s life in constant hope and fear, which are born from clinging to a truly existing self. Due to clinging to a truly existing self, one perpetuates a great number of conditioned experiences, which, as mentioned, are subject to loss and decay. Filled with anxiety, one guards oneself against possible suffering, e.g., one protects one’s territory with all one’s might, which one will lose one day anyway. Both hope and fear cause suffering.


One cannot understand the profundity of the teachings if one doesn’t clearly understand the difference between true and mundane happiness. Ordinary happiness and suffering is experienced to the extent that one sees things wrongly and hasn’t realized that temporary experiences are deceptive and entail suffering. As long as one is not free of clinging to the duality of an apprehended self and apprehended objects as real, one’s experiences are subject to change and loss. True happiness is perfect realization that is free of egoistic clinging. It is the perfect experience of the selfless nature of a subject and all objects.


An awakened one experiences the world free of hopes and fears – he has no fear of conditioned existence and he has no false hopes about it. A buddha experiences the inseparability of the two truths, ultimate knowledge, i.e., seeing the true nature of reality, and relative knowledge, i.e., clearly seeing the multiplicity of appearances that arise in dependence upon causes and conditions. Buddhahood is the experience of the inseparability of the two truths and is free of any temporary hopes and fears. It is lasting happiness.


The Three Kinds of True Happiness


It’s important to understand what true happiness really is. In short, it is freedom from wishing to get rid of suffering and hoping to attain happiness. True happiness, nirvana, is an experience beyond conditionality and is liberation from all divisive and discursive thoughts.


Nirvana is the Sanskrit term that was translated into Tibetan as myang-ngän-‘däs-pa, which literally means ‘transcendence of sorrow and suffering.’ Mya-ngän means ‘anguish, despair, misery, suffering,’ and ‘däs means ‘to surmount, to transcend, to go beyond.’ There are three kinds of nirvana. The first is rang-bzhin-gyis-myang-ngän-‘däs-pa, which means ‘natural nirvana.’ The second is ‘gog-pa’i-myang-ngän-‘däs-pa, which means ‘nirvana of cessation.’ The third is ma-gnäs-pa’i-myang-ngän-‘däs-pa and means ‘non-abiding nirvana.’


- Natural nirvana


Natural nirvana is the true nature of all things, realized as freedom from any distortions whatsoever. The basic nature of all things is supreme emptiness, which is non-referential and inconceivable. The Prajnaparamitasutra states that supreme emptiness is ineffable and inconceivable. Ineffable means that it cannot be expressed, inconceivable means that it can’t be found to exist anywhere as anything. Even if one understands emptiness intellectually, one has false assumptions about reality.


To have some understanding of what inconceivable emptiness means, it is likened to space, which is not created and is never obstructed. Unimpeded nirvana is never born and never ends. Self-existing cognizance, which is the mind’s capacity of knowing and of experiencing awakened mind, pervades it. The fundamental nature of one’s mind is empty of inherent existence and manifests clearly due to being pervaded by self-knowing cognizance. Realization of the undistorted and unobscured nature of phenomena and experiences is realization of natural nirvana and is perfection of transcendental wisdom. Natural nirvana is beyond concepts and expressions and is not created.


Since nirvana is the fundamental nature of one’s mind and everything arises from one’s mind, it is all-pervasive. It is important to understand that mind pervades everything because everything is a reflection of one’s mind. Therefore, there is unconditioned, natural nirvana. Even though nirvana is one’s basic nature, one fails to recognize it and thinks it can be found outside oneself. One experiences the world of suffering, samsara, and thinks freedom from suffering, nirvana, is not one’s true nature. Thinking this way causes inner conflicts. Again: Unconditioned nirvana pervades all beings, but one separates nirvana from one’s present experiences because one doesn’t recognize it.


- Nirvana of cessation


As long as one hasn’t realized natural or unconditioned nirvana, one remains bound by one’s many habitual patterns, thus intensifying one’s obscurations that conceal one’s true nature. When one relinquishes one’s habitual patterns that one has created and accumulated throughout all one’s lives, then one will experience nirvana of cessation.


There are different levels of cessation. Hinayana teaches that realization of nirvana of cessation means being free of dualistic habits. Mahayana teaches that one’s mental afflictions are purified on the bodhisattva paths and nirvana of cessation is attained when they are completely dispelled.


- Non-abiding nirvana


The third nirvana is complete realization of awakening. It is called “non-abiding” because someone who has awakened to complete buddhahood abides beyond the state of suffering and bliss. This means to say that due to having perfected realization of non-referential reality, which is supreme emptiness, a bodhisattva who has awakened to complete buddhahood does not abide in nirvana or in samsara. Having realized the inseparability of the wisdom of supreme emptiness and the brilliant radiance of skilful means of compassion, a bodhisattva who has awakened to the richness of complete buddhahood is able to perform an inconceivable number of beneficial activities for the welfare of living beings. He or she is not involved with samsara because of having fully realized the dependent nature of all transitory things.


Because phenomena lack inherent existence and therefore don’t truly exist, they arise and appear in dependence upon causes and conditions. Having realized supreme emptiness, an awakened bodhisattva cannot fall into the extreme of samsara nor into the extreme of nirvana. Non-abiding nirvana means being completely non-divisive, and therefore an awakened bodhisattva abides beyond both samsara and nirvana. Realization of non-duality is realization of the inseparability of compassionate skilful means and wisdom of emptiness.


In summary: Natural nirvana is ground nirvana. Nirvana of cessation if path nirvana, and non-abiding nirvana is fruition nirvana.


The Two Qualities of True Happiness


I want you to know that we should be free of separating nirvana and samsara since discriminating them enhances divisiveness. Nirvana is beyond duality, i.e., beyond thoughts of samsara and nirvana. Nirvana dawns while one is in the world and it should not be seen as existing outside the phenomenal world. Realization of nirvana means freedom from suffering and confusion and has two qualities.


- The dharmakaya


Having awakened to complete buddhahood, a realized individual experiences unconditioned nirvana, called “realization of the dharmakaya,” the ‘truth body.’ It is the experience of own well-being that arises due to having become liberated from the veils of one’s dualistic concepts and habitual patterns. Supreme emptiness, the dharmakaya, is the ground of all things, therefore it pervades everything. A vast number of qualities of being manifest when one has realized the dharmakaya.


- The two form kayas


When a bodhisattva has fully awakened to buddhahood, then he or she has attained freedom from all mental defilements and thus the perfect resources of enlightened activities that have always been within spontaneously manifest for the welfare of all living beings. The abundant qualities of enlightened activities manifest as the two form kayas, the sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. They are the unimpeded manifestations of the dharmakaya. The sambhogakaya is the perfect expression of Mahayana, and the nirmanakaya is the perfect emanation that can convey the teachings to others according to their propensities and needs. Benefiting from the form manifestations depends upon a practitioner’s greater or lesser ability to be open for the profound Dharma and to put it into practice. For those with lesser inclinations, the dharmakaya emanates as the nirmanakaya. This indicates that the coarse or more subtle ways of enlightened activities depend upon a practitioner’s ability to recognize the form kayas.


The sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya are not deliberately intended by the dharmakaya – they are spontaneous manifestations that fulfil a bodhisattva’s supreme motivation to help those in need. Both kayas are the luminous aspects of an awakened one and are the spontaneous expression of the dharmakaya. They are like the rays of the sun – they are the lucid and clear radiance of awakening. Another example for the three kayas is an ocean and its waves. The ocean is like the dharmakaya and the play of its waves are like the form kayas. The waves are inseparable with the ocean – they arise from the ocean and subside into it again. The Vajrayana teachings say that the unborn essence, the dharmakaya, is like the sun; the sambhogakaya is like its light rays, and the nirmanakaya is the play of the light rays.


Conclusion: The Vast Perspective


True happiness is not what one usually regards as happiness. One usually thinks that satisfaction of personal desires is happiness and lack of satisfaction means to suffer. I want you to understand that such limited views of happiness denote suffering since all conditioned experiences inevitably turn into the suffering of change and loss. True happiness should not be seen as the exclusion of suffering. Thinking liberation is ultimate also means having the wrong view of true happiness. One has different views, so I am speaking about the view from different angles to help you find a vaster perspective and can thus be able to break through limitations. Realization of true happiness is based upon the correct view, which accords with perfect realization.


Liberation means being free of all inadequacies of conditioned existence, samsara, and embraces two qualities: completely benefiting oneself and spontaneously manifesting to perfectly benefit others. They are realization of the dharmakaya and of the two form kayas, which are the play of pure being that is not bound by any hopes and fears. Experiencing wakeful awareness is not a simple task. One has the fortunate occasion to receive the precious Dharma teachings, but one needs to practice them and not leave it at an intellectual understanding.


I want to remind you of the necessity to generate and uphold bodhicitta – the inseparability of loving kindness and compassion. Genuine compassion means engaging in wholesome activities that benefit others. It is unbiased concern for others and is the means to liberate them from suffering. I wish that you always cultivate and practice bodhicitta. By doing so, one feels worthy and is inspired to practice the path. One needs to attain wisdom of emptiness. Realizing emptiness depends upon having bodhicitta. In order to fully appreciate what it means to have genuine compassion, one has to cut through one’s deceptive concepts and renounce mundane ways. I want you to have no doubts about the importance of cultivating bodhicitta. It enables one to break through a dark world of deception and to attain the sacred outlook.


Correct practice is based on sincere confidence in the Buddhadharma and in the spiritual masters and teachers. One needs to have genuine devotion and trust in the teachers who bring Lord Buddha’s teachings to us. Confidence, devotion, and trust depend upon bodhicitta born in each disciple and student of the Buddhadharma. Bodhicitta is indispensable when one practices the path that Lord Buddha taught. Let me conclude by asking you to please take the meaning of the teachings to heart.


Questions & Answers


Question: “Can I experience realization in one lifetime?”

Rinpoche: It is possible because there are all possibilities, but it depends upon whether one appreciates that one has all abilities to experience realization. The major criterion is having the inclination to realize wisdom. Everything depends upon your wish. The Vajrayana methods are available to you and you can relate to a Lama, so it is possible to attain realization in one lifetime. Inclinations are based on that subtle twist in one’s mind to do the right thing in the right moment. Purity of samaya is strongly emphasized in Vajrana. Samaya is ‘the pledge or commitment’ to maintain a harmonious relationship with one’s Lama and Dharma friends and not to stray from the continuity of the practice. Genuine faith is also crucial. One has workable means when these are upheld. Buddhahood doesn’t mean that one will become an historical buddha possessing the major and minor marks of enlightenment, rather it is realization of one’s mind.


Next question: “Is it possible to have glimpses of ultimate happiness that do not seem conditioned?”

Rinpoche: Yes, flashes of experience are possible. They constantly take place and are our inherent nature. One’s true nature is impeded from manifesting due to one’s personal biography. Flashes occur but one fails to recognize them, which is one’s situation. As one goes through the stages of the path, one experiences glimpses of clarity that one can recognize. The ten bhumis and five paths are taught in connection with the successive experience of those glimpses. In Mahamudra, there are twelve stages of yoga, which are the lesser, middle, and greater realizations of the four yogas. The four yogas of Mahamudra are one-pointedness, freedom from mental contrivances, one-taste, and non-meditation. They are essentially the same as the bhumis and paths.


Next question: “Is the nature of both enlightened and non-enlightened beings Dewachen?”

Rinpoche: Dewachen is the pure land of bliss of Buddha Amitabha. The fundamental nature of all things includes everything that arises from the mind. The world is a reflection of one’s mind, so one’s experiences of the world depend upon whether one’s mind is afflicted. The true nature of the mind is beyond being and non-being, i.e., it is not fabricated and it is not a philosophical point of view. Since the true nature of the mind is “as such,” everything that arises from the mind is beyond being and non-being. A self is only a self because one assumes so. It wouldn’t be wrong to think that when you attain enlightenment the self attains enlightenment with you. It is up to you.


Next question: “A Zen teacher said, ‘Make small distinctions.’ If we make distinctions, do we go further away from experiencing happiness and liberation? Aren’t words we are using getting away from the experience?”

Rinpoche: Making small distinctions is making big distinctions. Any distinction one makes is big because one separates the relative from the ultimate and experiences the world dualistically. Intellectually anticipating what might be true happiness is making a distinction. There is no distinction when true happiness has been realized. Should there be, it would be short of being true.


Next question: “Is buddhahood attained without counter-dependence of time?”

Rinpoche: Yes. The only thing I might say is that time is not a factor for you. People want to experience enlightenment in a day or two.


Next question: “Self-love is an important factor on the second bhumi according to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Is it the isn’t-ness loving the is-ness? It seems like a rock admiring itself when there is no self.”

Rinpoche: The bhumis need to be understood correctly. The first bhumi, ‘stage of realization,’ corresponds with the perfection of generosity and with the third path of seeing, seeing being the experience of insight that one never had before, dharmata, ‘the basic nature of things as they are.’ The second stage presupposes the first. It isn’t necessary to say that self and other have been properly understood at this level. You may need to work with the interpretation. Consciousness and object, animate and inanimate, are obviously different.


Next question: “What is the difference between one-pointedness of calm abiding meditation and Mahamudra?”

Rinpoche: There are experiential stages that become more and more refined in calm abiding practice. The difference is the profundity. One-pointedness means that one’s mind isn’t disturbed. The idea is the same in calm abiding and Mahamudra, but the experience is different. The difference is upholding a state of mind with or without a reference point, such as the breath.


Next question: “It is said that the notion of a self is greater than the ego.”

Rinpoche: I think they mean the same. Instead of saying “selfish clinging,” it is more appropriate to say “egoistic clinging.” The apprehension of a self one calls “I” refers to the same person one points to when one says “me and mine” as opposed to “other.” Ego is the reason one clings to an “I” and a “me and mine.”


Next question: “I don’t understand the co-emergence of samsara and nirvana.”

Rinpoche: The nature of the world is empty of inherent existence and appearances are the luminous aspect of reality. All things are emptiness-appearance inseparable. Therefore we use the term “co-emergence” while teaching about the ground, path, and fruition. The ground is the inseparability of the two truths; the path is the inseparability of skilful means and wisdom, and fruition is the inseparability of the kayas.


Next question: “Rinpoche discussed that everything is a reflection of one’s own mind while explaining the first nirvana. What is the difference between the Buddha nature and nirvana pervading all beings?”

Rinpoche: It is a matter of language usage when stating that unconditioned nirvana or Buddha nature pervades all living beings. The point is the same and is presented from another angle. I explained how nirvana pervades all beings from the point of view of emptiness. In Vajrayana, clarity is emphasized and it is taught that all beings have Buddha nature within because the dharmakaya pervades all beings.


Next question: “I wonder about the activity of selflessness.”

Rinpoche: Your question brings up the issue of inseparability. In Buddhism, we speak about various kinds of inseparable factors. They all come down to the inseparability of emptiness and luminosity, which is the fundamental nature of all phenomena.


Buddhism isn’t a dogmatic belief system consisting of set rules one blindly accepts. Buddhism explains the fundamental nature of reality. It is not a belief that disapproves other opinions, but it clarifies reality. Due to the empty nature of all things, phenomena clearly appear, which is what luminosity means. Emptiness and luminosity are inseparable. One’s dualistic notions of why and how things arise and function are based on assumptions about the interaction of subject and objects. Buddhism teaches that things are related due the inseparability of emptiness and luminosity. Should the essence of everything not be emptiness, luminosity could not occur.


The term “selflessness” isn’t a negation suggesting that things don’t exist, but refers to realization that the essence of all things is beyond existence and non-existence – emptiness-luminosity inseparable. For example, Buddha Shakyamuni said, “I didn’t teach, but the teachings pervade all things.” Ultimately, the Buddha did not turn the Wheel of Dharma, yet the Buddha saw the teachings in everything.


Next question: “There are all kinds of differences, so it’s hard realizing how all individuals are beyond what is happening.”

Rinpoche: You need to develop a better basis to appreciate the Buddhist view so that you understand the details better. The word “beyond” in Buddhist context is a term that isn’t what scientists refer to. Beyond here means lacking anything that can be defined as “beyond.” One perceives the world deceptively – the world is relatively true and isn’t non-existent. I explained the inseparability of the two truths. The relative truth deals with how phenomena arise and are. Appearances aren’t negated, but one apprehends delusively. Experiencing the world and appearances is correct, but one needs to know that all things are devoid of inherent existence, which isn’t denying the existence of things. One clings to one’s ideas and can’t understand this easily. In fact, one feels threatened when hearing about emptiness. Becoming uptight as a result, one has lesser chance of understanding the empty nature of all things. While appearances exist, their nature lacks real existence, which is the definition of emptiness. The relative and ultimate truths co-exist.


Next question: “I have a view of you from here and somebody over there sees you from there. Are we all creating each other in terms of our material bodies?”

Rinpoche: I want to go along with you. The problem is that we try to create each other.

Same student: “You have your view of you too. Do we create each other?”

Rinpoche: On stage, yes.

Same student: “What about the Buddha fields?”

Rinpoche: When you have realized the sacred outlook, then you experience every world as a Buddha field. It doesn’t have to do with a replacement. One can experience the world from the enlightened outlook and then one sees it as a Buddha field.


Next question: “Is it useful to practice seeing the world as empty?”

Rinpoche: If you are able to see the world in the light of emptiness, yes. However, one must remember that understanding emptiness and realizing it are different matters.


Next question: “We visualize people having the Buddha nature. I get lost in their impurity.”

Rinpoche: It is a slightly wrong way of seeing a buddha. In order to see and experience somebody as a buddha, you first have to know that they have the abiding nature within. Experiencing and aspiring to see are different.


Speaking about buddha doesn’t refer to a body. The ground is the inseparability of the two truths. The path is the inseparability of skilful means and wisdom. Fruition is the inseparability of the three kayas. Your idea of buddha is causing problems for you. One first needs to cultivate the sacred outlook, which renders the ability to see everything in the sacred light. What you asked implies that you cling to somebody as a buddha and therefore have a wrong idea. Buddha possesses the twofold wisdom – the wisdom realizing what is, i.e., the basic nature, and the wisdom that sees the undistorted display of the mind. Having this twofold wisdom is buddhahood. To see a buddha is to actually realize buddhahood. In order to see the true nature of others, one must first have recognized one’s own Buddha nature. The reason I speak about ground, path, and fruition is because the basic view needs to be understood correctly, otherwise one will be confused about the path and fruition. If things are clear at ground level, then the door to the path and fruition has been opened.


Next question: “Rinpoche spoke about the sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya as being emanations of the dharmakaya. What is the difference between the first two?”

Rinpoche: An individual who has realized the dharmakaya experiences the two form kayas as inseparable. Differences pertain to somebody’s experience of coarse and subtle manifestations. The nirmanakaya manifests on many levels and isn’t restricted to one category.

Same student: “Buddha Shakyamuni is a supreme nirmanakaya. Being unenlightened, I couldn’t see the sambhogakaya aspect. One must be enlightened to see the sambhogakaya, but can anyone see the nirmanakaya?”

Rinpoche: I spoke in relation to experience. As to appearances, one needs to distinguish, not because the two kayas are different, but due to the experience on the side of a practitioner. Experiencing enlightened activities from the level of sacred outlook is experiencing the sambhogakaya. Experiencing enlightened activities from an unenlightened level is experiencing the nirmanakaya.


Next question: “How does one know if one is experiencing the cessation of one’s emotional patterns?”

Rinpoche: It depends upon one’s level of practice. On the basic level, restlessness decreases and one has one-pointedness during meditation. These are signs of progress.

Same student: “The patterns are still there?”

Rinpoche: Yes, they are the ground to work with to accomplish cessation. Habitual patterns decrease progressively on the various stages of practice.


Next question: “On the subject of compassion towards all sentient beings, we are competitive in a world where there is much unemployment. I see pride in those persons who don’t have compassion. This frequently leads to confrontations. If these confrontations aren’t successful in negotiating, then worse complications arise. Being mindful of compassion at such confrontations seems to me to be going in two directions simultaneously.”

Rinpoche: First, speaking about compassion has nothing to do with giving in and losing heart. In fact, skilful means of great compassion means having bodhicitta, which is fearlessness to work for the benefit of others, utilizing whatever demands you aren’t fearful of. You maintain dignity while being fearless. Being considerate of others includes a variety of skilful means. The Buddha’s teachings speak about four enlightened activities. They are pacifying, magnetizing, enriching, and destroying. These skilful means arise out of great compassion, e.g., destroying what is harmful, pacifying what is harmful, and so forth. They arise out of unconditional compassion. There are various ways to generate consideration for the well-being of others. Ultimately, one needs to understand that compassion means benefiting others without hesitation and without fear.


Next question: “Would you please explain why true happiness is not separate from suffering?”

Rinpoche: From a confused level they are separate. True happiness is beyond that kind of happiness and suffering.

Same student: “Then suffering isn’t experienced.”

Rinpoche: Why do you assume that?

Same student: “Suffering seems to be some kind of struggle. What confuses me is how can you be beyond suffering of struggle and still experience suffering?”

Rinpoche: You have understood but hold on to the world. Suffering is clinging to the world; happiness is also clinging to the world. Due to the truth of dependence, you constantly give birth to suffering and happiness while clinging to meanings, which is due to clinging to a self. Whatever appears as happiness is suffering while one clings. Being beyond this kind of suffering and happiness is true happiness. True happiness isn’t being separated from suffering but is being free of clinging.


Next question: “I don’t doubt the teachings. If there is only one true nature of things, then what scientists have found should be able to be incorporated in Buddhism. This is my humble attempt: From a scientific point of view, everything is made up of atoms that consist of nucleons, neutrons, protons, etc., circling around the nucleus. The neutrons aren’t solid; they aren’t energy but are both. I can relate to Buddhism until that point. Atomic energy keeps the particles around the nucleus. The turning of the particles, the speed at which they turn, gives the illusion of solidity. Now, emptiness, which can’t be seen, and the atom is dharmakaya. The atomic force that functions like waves of energy is the sambhogakaya. The molecules, which emanate from the interaction of emptiness and the waves, are the nirmanakaya. I realize what makes all this wrong is that there is no bodhicitta. The problem we have in modern physics is there are no love-cords, etc., and I’m fed up with this problem. There’s no love in what they are doing and how they see physics. For the sake of the Dharma, would Rinpoche please help me incorporate bodhicitta into that understanding? Sure, it’s not real.”

Rinpoche: You want to make the translator step down, right?

Same student: “I’m clinging to my desire for an answer.”

Rinpoche: The Buddhist approach to the world is from the mind. The Abhidharma explains how phenomena arise and how they exist, but how they exist in relationship to the mind. Everything analytically explained or explored is done in relation to the mind. Everything is fuel for the mind to cultivate practice or to see that there is no phenomenon or concept that doesn’t arise from the mind. Buddhism teaches how everything is a reflection of one’s mind. The nature of the mind is the three kayas. Since that is the nature of the mind and everything is an expression of the mind, the three kayas pervade everything. That is clear in the teachings on the three kayas and in the teachings on their relationship with the world. The difference between Buddhism and Western science is that the latter is a materialistic approach; it breaks down material components assumed to be inherent existents. Bodhicitta and the world of objects are different. Consciousness is animate and matter is inanimate. You said that there is no possibility of developing bodhicitta in physics. Breaking down particles means one assumes that something smaller truly exists, which is a materialistic view and approach. Bodhicitta is not the nature of matter. Buddhist metaphysics understands that atoms and molecules are relative realities and investigates this in great detail, proving that relative realities have no inherent existence. Realizing the profundity of the relative truth, which is not the ultimate truth, enables one to understand the ultimate truth.


Next question: “Rinpoche once said that it takes sixteen lifetimes to perfect Vajrayana and attain enlightenment. At another time, he said it is possible for an ordinary being who had never practiced Buddhism to attain enlightenment in one lifetime. Would Rinpoche clarify this?”

Rinpoche: I said at the longest it could take sixteen lifetimes for a Vajrayana practitioner to attain enlightenment. A short time can be a matter of a moment. It depends upon an individual’s inclinations and abilities. Realization in a moment presupposes that all conditions are present – the teacher, the disciple, pure samaya, and joyful endeavour to develop the awakened mind.


Next question: “In discussing the inseparability of emptiness and luminosity, is there any significance between luminosity and the power of visualization?”

Rinpoche: Luminosity doesn’t necessarily have to be visual. I likened this inseparability to the ocean and its waves. Clarity doesn’t have to be visible. For example, in the Mahamudra tradition it is said that the nature of the mind is emptiness-clarity inseparable. There needn’t be anything visible when seeing the mind. Because we cannot point to the existence of the mind as an entity, it is empty. All phenomena arise out of that empty nature – even the all-knowing awakened mind. This aspect of the mind engenders all enlightened qualities and is in itself luminous. One separates emptiness and luminosity because one is confused. When one realizes the true nature of one’s mind, which is emptiness-luminosity inseparable, then one will have become liberated from ignorance.

Thank you very much.




Through this goodness may omniscience be attained

And thereby may every enemy (mental defilement) be overcome.

May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara

That is troubled by waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death.


By this virtue may I quickly attain the state of Guru Buddha and then

Lead every being without exception to that very state!

May precious and supreme bodhicitta that has not been generated now be so

And may precious bodhicitta that has already been never decline, but continuously increase!


Long-life Prayer for His Eminence the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche,

Lodrö Chökyi Nyima


May the life of the Glorious Lama remain steadfast and firm.

May peace and happiness fully arise for beings as limitless in number as space is vast in extent.

Having accumulated merit and purified negativities,

May I and all living beings without exception swiftly establish the levels and grounds of buddhahood.




The instructions were translated from Tibetan into English by Ngodrub Burkhar, transcribed in 1988 & edited again in 2009 by Gaby Hollmann from Munich. Gratitude to Jan Puckett from San Antonio for having made the recording available. Photo of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche courtesy of Lee from Puli-Nantou. Photo of the landscape taken & graciously presented as a symbolic offering by Lena Fong from San Francisco. This article is copyright of the Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang at the Great Pullahari Monastery in Nepal, 2009. All rights reserved.


May truthfulness and goodliness increase!


©Karma Lekshey Ling Institute