Illumination Light 1-Khandro Pema Chodron
Illumination Light 1

Upon redesigning the website—Samye.org.tw, which documents all of Rinpoche’s Dharma propagating activities, the production team asked if I can write a column to encourage everyone into Dharma practice. They maintained that, although the website already contains the treasure of the Guru’s excellent expounder, it will be perfected with my own words. When I first received such a request, I felt that the profoundness of Dharma cannot be described by ordinary beings like me, so I turned down this request a few times. Later, with the Guru’s encouragement, I decided to share with you in writing my own experiences of Dharma practice. I hereby beseech that all _lineage masters give me the wisdom, and may all my words help the readers achieve enlightenment!

Running against the clock has become my daily routine; unfortunately, I am always falling behind. Fortunately, I did not waste my time on senseless chattering. So I hope that every word I say in this column can help anyone who might or will practice Dharma; I also hope that the column will help all of you better understand the Guru’s precious Dharma expounder.

Writing this column is not meant for self-promoting. With the _lineage masters’ and the Guru’s great compassions and loving kindness, I have had the great honor to serve for the _lineage and accompany the Guru. In addition to taking care of all kinds of miscellaneous things beyond the Guru’s Dharma propagating activities, I also help disciples from all over the world handle and deal with all kinds of problems and issues. Witnessing everyone’s many sufferings makes me better aware of the horrendous nature of the Samsara. I certainly wish that I have a thousand hands and eyes so I can better share the Guru’s burdens and to benefit all sentient beings. This is the very reason why I devoted myself to all the Dharma propagating activities for Rinpoche from the beginning. Further, information transmission is so rapid nowadays that readers can easily obtain all kinds of information, true or false, regarding Dharma, depriving so many Dharma practitioners of the correct knowledge and of making the right choice. They are misled by the wrong information before they stabilize their faith in the path of Dharma; worse of all, they make the wrong speeches that not only harm themselves but also others.

In particular, there are quite a few people who disparage or hold prejudiced views against Vajrayana, causing many to stop practicing Vajrayana teachings, or even worse, making those who have practiced the Vajrayana teachings before to abandon them, wasting the precious human birth. After all, in this dark age of degeneration, there have been few people practicing Dharma; if this rare precious opportunity of practicing Dharma is ruined by those spreading incorrect and prejudiced views, that will be the most disheartening and pitiful outcome. Therefore, no matter how busy I am, I shall take the time to protect those tiny yet faithful buds of Dharma practice, keeping them from being harmed and denied the path to the liberation. I also hope to use this column to encourage those with unwavering faith on the Guru and the Dharma to keep up the good progress on Dharma practice, advancing to the path of enlightenment!

In fact, the worse sufferings experienced by ordinary beings are birth, aging, illness, and death. Everyone is destined to die ever since they are born. You cannot choose how and where you are born, but you can choose how to leave this world. The only way to peacefully leave the world is through practicing the profound Dharma, the ultimate solution to all sentient beings' everlasting sufferings.

Let me start with how we came to this human realm. Every being comes to this world unwillingly, driven by the karmas without any freedom to choose. Why is this happening? This is all caused by ourselves. Everything we do in this life is paving the way for the cyclical existence of the next life, and we have repeated the same harmful process in the past numerous lives without even feeling tired; on the contrary, we mistakenly thought that we try hard to live a worthy life every time in this process. During the thousands of millions of cyclical experiences of the Samsara, sometimes we were born in the Realm of Devas and Heavenly Beings and enjoyed as joyful and pleasant lives as possible; sometimes we were also born as kings ruling a country and enjoyed as powerful and wealthy lives as possible. However, being born in the Upper Realms of the Samsara does not eliminate our constant sufferings. We start the next cyclical existence again after we have exhausted all the merits we accumulated. In this endless process of the Samsara, have we been born as beggars? The answer is definitely yes. We also fell into the Three Lower Realms (the Hell Realm, the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and the Animal Realm) and experienced even greater sufferings than we do in the Three Upper Realms. After we have exhausted the bad karmas that led us to the sufferings of the Three Lower Realms, we are again onto next cyclical experience driven by the karmas. Just like this, all the sentient beings wander around with the karmas.

Now you are born as an ordinary being, working very hard to earn a living for your family and yourself. Some people think that they should make money at the early age to live wealthier, more insured lives. Some are busy taking care of their children; they want to provide the best education for their children. If the Chinese school is not good enough, they send their children to bilingual schools or even to study abroad. To summarize, you spend all your life and energy to meet the constant needs of yourselves, your family, and friends and relatives, unavoidably causing bad karmas and paving the way for the next experience of the Samsara.

In fact, all your family and relatives in this life or in the previous lives are brought together by Karmas. Every relationship is impermanent and constantly changing. Even the love of your (this) life will disappear as circumstances change. After you leave this life, you may be reborn as a deity or a heavenly being full of physics and powers, but you are incapable of reducing your family’s sufferings, which are caused by their karmas. It is likely that you will be reborn as a cow or a horse in the next life. In that case, even your family in this life has the psychic power to recognize you and tell you that he (she) is your husband (wife), your children, or your friend in you previous life, there is no way you can recognize and interact with them. You may even kick them out when they do so.

It is very important to understand the concept of impermanence, which helps you reduce the emotional attachment to your family, relatives, and friends. This is not to say that you should abandon or desert them; instead, you still take good care of them as usual, but now you are less emotionally attached to them as you have learned that attachments bring sufferings and obscurations to all sentient beings.

If, due to the all the merits you have accumulated in your previous lives, you have the opportunities to learn and practice Dharma, in particular the Vajrayana—the teachings that help one attain the Buddhahood in a single lifetime, then you are the most fortunate person! Therefore, you shall recognize how fortunate you are and stop wasting this rare precious opportunity to practice Dharma. You should not risk your life pursuing the sources of the Samsara.

When it comes to learning and practicing Dharma, you have learned numerous invaluable teachings from the Guru, so there is not much I can add in this regard. But if it ever happens that your levels of enthusiasm in practicing Dharma cannot keep up with the profoundness of the teachings given by the Guru, this is because you do not have a clear understanding regarding the Dharma; you are oblivious of the preciousness of the teachings that lead to liberations, and forget the importance of practicing these teachings. Therefore, I feel obligated to constantly remind all of you that you should start building the foundation of the Dharma practice, then advance step by step. You should not hold the wrong thought that, since you have heard and learned about the Dharma, you will attain full enlightenment without the daily practice. You have to exert all your efforts to shorten the time it takes to reach full enlightenment through practicing all the superb teachings and skillful means. This all starts from laying the correct foundation of Dharma practice.

So, how should we start? You start with renunciation. Only when you fully understand the sufferings from the Samsara will you be determined to stay away from it and throw yourself into Dharma practice. This is like leaving the place with the stench as soon as you smell it, or running away from the route as fast as you can knowing someone is waiting ahead to hurt you. Now that we know that the Samsara can only bring endless sufferings and obscurations, there is no reason to stay in it. Only when you truly understand the sufferings from the Samsara from the bottom of your heart will the true sense of renunciation arises, and then you are determined to stay away from the cyclical existence that have plagued us all the time.

Some people may say that it is extremely difficult to attain Buddhahood, let alone making this happen in a lifetime. Of course this is not an easy task. That is the reason why numerous Buddhas appear in the world and try to help all sentient being attain full enlightenment. Others may say that they have to take care of their families and thus cannot forsake everything they own and concentrate on the Dharma practice. That is the very reason why Buddha Shakyamuni expounded eighty four thousand methods of practicing Dharma in response to different practitioners’ faculties and circumstances.

In fact,all the excuses of not practicing Dharma originate from your deep attachment to the worldly phenomena! Because you have not experienced the true sufferings of the Samsara, you may hold the wrong thought that, although the worldly phenomena have down sides, they have upsides too. In particular, when you live a healthy and rich life, you may firm up the illusion that the worldly phenomena are actually not bad. However, when impermanence occurs, all the fortunes will not alleviate the sufferings from illness. It takes just one single incident to make people feel agonizing and helpless, then they realize the preciousness and the merits of the Dharma and the Guru. But it is too late to realize this once the impermanence occurs. The nature of all the worldly phenomena is impermanence. Everlasting happiness does not exist. Even if you live an affluent life without experiencing any adversities, you still cannot get away from the sufferings when facing death. You are working so hard now to prepare for life after retirement or aging without preparing for the death. Once impermanence comes, you then realize that you are deceived by all the worldly phenomena. But you have lost the rare and precious opportunity to liberate yourself from the sufferings of the Samsara. All the regrets cannot bring back such an opportunity. All the worldly fortunes cannot change the fate that you have to leave this world all by yourself and continue the journey to the next cyclical existence no one can escape. How fearful is that!

Pema Chodron 2014-11-13


Khandro's teachings


《Illumination Light 1》Renunciation

all the excuses of not practicing Dharma originate from your deep attachment to the worldly phenomena


《Illumination Light 2》Faith

Faith is the indispensable state of mind in learning Dharma


《Illumination Light 3》Impermanence

the only solution for us to face impermanence and free ourselves from its suffering is to practice Dharma