As the root verses read: Whoever is born possesses the phenomena of impermanence and death. Thus, wherever one goes, wherever one is born, then from birth, without depending on measuring by the numbers of more or less beings, impermanence is the conditional phenomenon of death. As the Great Pandit, Ashvaghosha, said:

Whether on earth or else in the heavens,
Once born, was there ever anyone who did not die?
Did you ever see anyone?
Did you ever hear of anyone, or did you have any doubt?

Thus, as said, here in this universe, has one ever heard of any being who never died and is still living at this time? Did anyone ever see any such being with their eyes, or ever hear about them, or have any doubt? There is no escape from death, so therefore, such decisive questions are asked by the learned one. However one thinks, whether considering the outer container of the universe or the inner essence of beings, it is all conditional phenomena that is destructible. From The King of Samadhi Sutra:

When this world of cyclic existence occurs,
By occurring, it diminishes and nothing is left.
Likewise, as it was before, the future will be like that.

Thus it is said.
Although thinking it is true that taking birth leads to death, one might still speculate, according to the strength or weakness of one’s health and whether one is old or young, that one is young and healthy, and for this reason may assume that one will continue to live for a while. It is impossible to predict that. As it says in The Voice of My Root Guru, the Emanation of Samantabhadra: 

Some infants still crawling meet with death. Some youths meet with death. For some, death comes when they are old, frail, and decrepit. Others may not even have the opportunity to take medicine or to try to protect themselves from sudden, untimely death. Some are ailing for so long that their bodies are stuck to the bedsheets while their dead eyes continue to gaze longingly at the living, with only skin covering their bones, and then they die. Some suddenly die of a stroke without even finishing their meal, conversation, or work. There are even those who die by suicide. There are many conditions for death. The power of life is weak in comparison, like a butter lamp in a windstorm. Even today at this very moment, death could suddenly occur, so that by this time tomorrow, rebirth as an animal with horns or a beak could have already happened. The time of death is extremely uncertain, and so is the future place of rebirth. It is important to be concerned about this.

Since the circumstances of death are so uncertain, it is important to have confidence in the immeasurable teachings that are given. As it says in The Speech on Impermanence: 

For all who are born,
Death is staying before them.
Since even I have not transcended that, Dharma must be practiced from today.

Thus it is said, and, from The Sutra of Parinirvana:

For whoever harvests fields, the best is to have found a field with crops. Among all impressions, the best is the perception of impermanence and death. Why? Because the perception of the three realms will be diminished.

Thus it is said. Then, in this case, the meaning of reversing the mind that identifies with the three realms is as follows. According to the Hinayana vehicle, knowing the passions and their karma are exhausted so there is no cause to be born again is the attainment of the Arhat state. According to the great vehicles of cause and result, the mind of the desire realm is exhausted in the wisdom mind of Nirmanakaya, the all-encompassing compassion of empty bliss. The mind of the form realm is exhausted in the wisdom mind of Sambhogakaya, the spontaneous presence of empty radiance. The mind of the formless realm is exhausted in the sphere of the wisdom mind of the empty awareness of Dharmakaya. In this way, the sublime permanent state of deathlessness places one in the state of the Victorious Ones of the Three Kayas. The meaning of this is in The Sutra of Revealing the Three Kayas:

Dharmakaya is the permanence of the essential nature as it is.
Sambhogakaya is constant permanence.
Nirmanakaya is uninterrupted permanence.

Thus it is said. Also, in the Uttara Tantra, it says:

The lord of Dharma annihilates the demon of death,
And since this is unborn, it is the permanent protector of the world.

Then, from Uma ]ukpa:

Body of peace, the wish-granting tree, ever radiant,
Like a wish-fulfilling jewel with no conception,
Permanently endures in this world until all beings are liberated.

Thus, Dharmakaya and Sambhogakaya are permanent. Nirmanakaya is both pure and impure, according to the purity or impurity of the vessels of water of various beings’ capacities, which reflect clearly or unclearly the image of the moon that appears in the sky. Just as the actual moon does not really enter the water to become self-characterized within water, the nature of phenomena is likewise beyond the nature of permanence and impermanence, and so is called the permanence of the uninterrupted continuity of Nirmanakaya. Therefore, since the result of meditating on impermanence is the attainment of the deathless, permanent, sublime state of the Victorious Ones of the Three Kayas, be diligent

A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar, Pgs 39-42
by Thinley Norbu
Shambhala Publishing


Precious Human Birth

As the root verses read: The eases and obtainments of this precious human rebirth are extremely difficult to find.

As previously explained, when samsara starts with the delusion of sentient beings, alaya is the basis of all ordinary phenomena. Kuntuzangpo never abides in alaya and is thus forever sublime. To describe this in relation to the condition of human birth: in alaya, pure wisdom vital energy and impure karmic vital energy are dormant. When alaya is not transformed in stainless Dharmakaya, pure wisdom vital energy is dormant and impure karmic vital energy arises or moves. Then one mind becomes dualistic mind. This is the basis of the mind of ordinary beings, which creates deluded phenomena. In the first instant, the objectifying mind that creates objects arises, so that the outer phenomena of all form, sound, smell, taste, and touch appear, including all outer elements of rivers, mountains, trees, and all male and female beings. Then, in the next instant, the analytical mind arises that perceives these phenomena as pleasing or displeasing and creates attraction or aversion toward objects. Then the various karmic habits of subtle mind become grosser and grosser.

Kuntuzangpo never wavers from his unwavering state. That is why Kuntuzangpo is called the primordial Buddha. Beings have the potential of the unwavering state of Kuntuzangpo, but when beings waver from this state due to not abiding in Dharmakaya the same as Kuntuzangpo and instead remain in alaya, they create the ordinary five skandhas and ordinary five elements from the basis of alaya, but they can return to the pure, inconceivable wisdom elements, as later explained in Guru Yoga. If one obtains a precious human birth, hears the great teachings of Mahasandhi, and meets and receives the blessings of precious Dzogchen teachers who can teach how to purify and transform all ordinary body, speech, and mind through Guru Yoga practice with light initiation on the path of the Three Kayas, one can return to the state of the result of the Three Kayas, which is the original primordial Buddha, the same as Kuntuzangpo.

Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa prayed for us:

From alaya, karmic vital energy arises. The habit of mind that, by being trapped in the womb, Occurs as flesh, fluid, warmth, and breath, the elements of the skandhas, I offer to you. May I attain rainbow body.

Many people feel discouraged, thinking that it is very difficult to attain rainbow body because it takes so much time for thögal practice to transform the ordinary karmic body into rainbow body. This discouragement is due to being lazy for many lives and expecting an instant material answer. Of course, if one has total faith and belief, and practices, one can attain rainbow body in this life or the next life, as many saints in India and Tibet have done, including Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra. Even in this life, in this karmic body, one is not supposed to discourage oneself. Do not hesitate, thinking that it is difficult to attain because one has to transform one’s karmic body into rainbow body. There are many choices. According to trekchö, for one who can realize the teachings of Mahasandhi, one’s own wisdom mind is always the origin of wisdom body, so even if one did not transform one’s karmic body from lack of thögal practice in this life, one who can practice trekchö can attain fully enlightened wisdom body.

Longchenpa said in Jewel Treasure of the Dharmadhatu:

The power of the skill of the garuda’s wings
Is already perfected while in the shell, although temporarily it does not appear.
Whenever the trap of the shell breaks, he simultaneously soars in the sky.
Likewise, for good practitioners, the previous deluded habit body has been cleansed through practice.
Whenever the shell of the remainder of the karmic body has been torn,
Self-accomplished awareness wisdom self-occurs and expands,
And wisdom body and wisdom mind phenomena pervade, filling the stainless sky of dharmadhatu.
Recognizing this is liberation in the wisdom body of Samantabhadra.
From that state, out of immeasurable, unconditioned, effortless compassion’s manifestation toward the ten directions,
The emanation of wisdom body and activity benefits all beings.

In taking rebirth, the root circumstance is dualistic mind and the contributing circumstance is impure karmic vital energy. When beings are wandering in an in-between state searching for birth and see parents in union, first the objectifying mind arises and grasps, and then the analytical mind arises with attachment and desire. When the three conditions of the father’s white essence (corresponding to semen, which predominantly produces bone), the mother’s red essence (corresponding to blood, which predominantly produces flesh), and consciousness join, it is the beginning of a living being. This may appear similar to a nonreligious, biological description of the male’s sperm and female’s egg coming together. A biological description, however, does not consider the karmic vital energy of grasping mind joining with the father’s liquid and the mother’s substance from the being’s karmic connection with parents. The Buddhist view is that it is only when these three conditions are gathered together that the mother becomes pregnant and all of the elements develop into a being’s form. These elements include the outer element of earth corresponding to the inner element of flesh, the outer element of water corresponding to the inner element of bodily fluids, the outer element of fire corresponding to the inner element of warmth, the outer element of air corresponding to the inner element of breath, and the outer element of sky corresponding to the inner element of consciousness.

The nihilist view is that whenever a sperm enters an egg, a living being begins, but there is nothing said about a karmic connection with parents because there is no belief in the continuity of mind. According to the Buddhist view, a being with dualistic mind’s karmic vital energy, through having a strong connection with parents from previous karma, becomes attached to them so that form can develop. There are also countless other beings who are trying to take rebirth but do not have a karmic connection and cannot connect with these parents in time, even though they may be present at the time of conception and attempt to enter into a body. This may sound like nihilist explanations of many sperm competing to enter an egg, but in a nihilist explanation there is no thought of or belief in a karmic connection or the intangible vital energy of dualistic mind. Therefore, nihilists only say that many sperm try to penetrate an egg, but do not consider the root circumstance of mind and contributing circumstance of karmic vital energy. They only notice that out of many sperm, just one sperm goes into the egg, and that other sperm that are close to that one sperm can be killed by it, and that these sperm even fight with each other. Mysteriously, when nihilists express the idea that the one powerful sperm entering the egg can damage other sperm, seeing this sperm as a powerful killer and seeing other sperm as being killed by it, they inadvertently express qualities connected with mind. This is like a Tibetan proverb saying that if one asks a question of others, they won’t say anything, but if one just waits, they are going to blurt. So, naturally, even though nihilists do not accept the continuity of mind, nor karma or enlightenment, which are connected with mind, nihilists sometimes come out with an acknowledgment of the existence of mind without realizing what they are saying.

The main point is that nihilists do not think that continuous mind exists, but think that the forms of human beings are made by sperm entering eggs, which naturally results in life. They do not believe that mind begins until the senses are completely developed. They do not think that embryos see or hear in the same way as adults, and they do not think that when the mother is pregnant, consciousness is dormant but arising, or that consciousness begins to function as the sense organs ripen.

There are different ideas about consciousness and when it occurs. Some eternalists believe that life, which is the support of consciousness, begins at conception and are strongly opposed to abortion for this reason. This may seem similar to the Buddhist view, but Buddhists do not consider conception to be the moment when the mind begins. Buddhists think that mind is continuous, and that consciousness is only either dormant or actualized. The power of consciousness depends on the power of the elements of the senses. Buddhists believe that consciousness begins to be actualized when the sperm joins the egg, and that mind is there. When the objects of the senses can be located, consciousness has started to function. Buddhists do not think that the moment of conception when the sperm enters the egg is all that matters, because Buddhists believe that the continuity of mind is unbroken whether mind exists within form or not, and is based on karma unless enlightenment is attained. This is the reason why Buddhists believe in creating virtue, which always follows mind. When the elements of beings are exhausted and they die, even though the gross five skandhas no longer exist, the mind is continuous. Therefore, beings take rebirth in a realm corresponding to the habits that have been created or else attain the state of enlightenment, depending on the individual’s karma. Ordinary nonreligious people think that when one dies, everything is finished and vanishes. Because there is no belief in the continuity of mind, they are disengaged from accumulating virtue.

Since Buddhists believe that mind is continuous, when one dies, it is one’s previous individual karma that determines whether one has to be reborn or can be enlightened. This is not like ordinary nonreligious people thinking that life comes from a sperm joining with an egg, and that it disappears at death. Buddhism teaches how samsara started and how to arrive at enlightenment.

When sublime beings manifest, they take birth in order to benefit other beings. When they see parents in union, their minds are visualizing the seat of wisdom deity, and when they abide in the mother’s womb, they bless it as a palace and pureland through their great prayers and visualization. That is why, although sublime beings seemingly take birth, they have special wisdom energy and the power to guide and help ordinary beings.


A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar, Pgs 32-37
by Thinley Norbu
Shambhala Publishing

The Essence of all Paths, Lama’i Naljor or Guru Yoga

Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

The essence of Kuntuzangpo’s inconceivable object of sublime appearances of skillful means as dharmata is the actual empty nature of great prajna, Kuntuzangmo. Unchanging throughout the three times, this limitless sphere of space, which is the source of the manifesting and gathering of all Buddhas, is not from the path of learning and practice.

This is the enlightened Lama who has attained the non dual union of Vajradhara, which only means the result of Buddha, the Three Kayas. Therefore, the term yoga is not appropriate in this context. It is for those practitioners who have the joy of devotion and diligence to try to achieve the state of the enlightened Lama.

Whatever Dharma is practiced, the subject who is the practitioner is practicing in order to increase and enhance the union of skilfful means, or phenomena, and prajna, or emptiness, which is for the benefit of the practitioner. That is why this is called Yoga.

In a brief way, all yogas are contained in the two yanas: the causal yana, or Mahayana tradition, and the result yana, or Vajrayana tradition. The result yana of Vajrayana is as said in The Lamp of the Three Ways:

Even the understanding of one meaning excels beyond ignorance.

There are many methods, there is no hardship, And it belongs to those with keen faculties. So therefore, Vajrayana surpasses all other vehicles.

Thus, as it says, Vajrayana surpasses the causal vehicle with characteristics in these four ways.

In particular, as our incomparable Lord Buddha Shakyamuni said:

Do not rely on an ordinary individual; rely on Dharma.

Do not rely on the words; rely on their meaning.

Do not rely on relative truth; rely on absolute truth.

Do not rely on consciousness; rely on wisdom.

Thus, this teaching from the glorious voice of Buddha on the four ways of relying completely reveals the meaning of everything, which is the way of taking wisdom as the path and the pinnacle and king of all vehicles.

It is as said in The Precious Treasure of the Supreme Vehicle:

In the aim of the common, conceptual vehicle, even though mind is the basis, path, and result, all of these do not arrive at the meaning. In this vehicle of Vajrayana, wisdom is the basis, path, and result of Buddha, so by establishing wisdom, liberation from samsara is swift.

In other vehicles, although there is hope to attain enlightenment, the basis is the root of samsara, which is ordinary mind. Not only does that path take a long time, but the result is extremely difficult to accomplish because the way of establishing the basis is mistaken.

~ Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche
A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar
Shambhala Publishing 

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