What is the sign that someone has received the teachings of the supreme Dharma and is practicing them?

What is the sign that someone has received the teachings of the supreme Dharma and is practicing them? Whoever has heard and absorbed the teachings becomes serene and self-possessed.

Ours is not a tradition that inculcates anger and encourages us to fight; it does not encourage us to get involved with our defiled emotions. On the contrary, the Buddha has taught us to get rid of our defilements as much as possible. The point is that, having received the Dharma teachings, we should find when we examine ourselves, that, even though we may not have been able to eradicate our defilements totally, our anger has at least diminished a little.

We should find that, even if we do get angry, we are less involved and are able to keep ourselves in check. This is the sort of sign we should be looking for. The sign that we are assimilating the teachings is an increase in serenity and self-control.

It is said that if practitioners do not examine themselves frequently, and if they fail to practice correctly, the Dharma itself will lead them to the lower realms. Some people claim to have received the teachings, but they don’t practice them. On the other hand, it is obviously impossible to eradicate defiled emotion just by listening to the teachings.

We have been in samsara from beginningless time and are immersed in the habits of defilement. These cannot be whisked away by the mere act of listening to something. So turn inward and examine your minds. You should at least have a glimmer of understanding!

In addition, we have all entered the Vajrayana. We have received profound empowerments and instructions of the Secret Mantra. This is said to be very beneficial but it is also very dangerous. Even if we are unable to bring our practice to accomplishment, if we keep our samaya unbroken, it is said that liberation will be achieved in seven lifetimes.

After crossing the threshold of the Secret Mantra, however, if we ruin our samaya by displeasing the Lama, causing havoc among our fellow Dharma practitioners and so on, the only possible destiny for us is the vajra hell.

The saying goes that practitioners of Secret Mantra either attain buddhahood or go to hell. There is no third alternative. It’s like a snake inside a cane: it must go either up or down. There’s no way out halfway! Think carefully about the benefits and hazards of samaya, and observe it purely and perfectly. To do this, it is crucial to keep a close watch on your mind, a practice in which all the essential points of the teachings are condensed.

It is vital to examine and watch your mind. You have all received instructions through the kindness of your teachers. This is what your Dharma practice should be like.

~ Dudjom Rinpoche, Counsels From My Heart