19 February 2009
We had the good fortune to be able to talk with His Eminence Ratna Vajra Rinpoche about Lam Dre, during his 2009 visit to Australia.
Your Eminence, could you please tell us how important is it to receive Lam Dre?
It is important because the Lam Dre teaching contains the complete path from the beginning until we ourselves become Buddhas, so for those who wish to gain Buddhahood it is important to receive this teaching. Actually there are many different ways and paths to attain Buddhahood, but in our Sakyapa tradition this is our main practice to attain Buddhahood.
How important is it to find the perfect master from whom to receive Lam Dre?
The definition of the perfect master is explained in the texts, especially in 50 Verses of Guru Devotion. It is important to choose the right guru because guru is very, very significant and once you adopt the person as a guru, then it means it is that person or guru who can ripen your mind or who can give the chance for us to attain Buddhahood in this very lifetime. This is also depending on the faith and fortune of the disciples.
What merit do students need to receive Lam Dre and how can we prepare for Lam Dre?
This is a very precious and profound teaching and also His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin is very precious and it is rare to find such a guru in this modern time. So to have these two together at one time in a western country is very, very rare. His Holiness has very high realisation and understanding of the teaching, and His Holiness can teach directly in English, so that it is very easy for English speaking persons to understand the meaning. Also His Holiness can explain the difficult meaning in a very simple way so that people can understand easily, and so therefore it is very meritorious for us to have such a chance to receive this precious, profound teaching from this precious guru. To prepare to receive this Lam Dre, the most important thing is to have very strong faith and devotion. One should not receive it out of curiosity or out of lack of interest – just to be in that atmosphere – that’s not right, so we need to prepare our own faith and devotion. Although we have faith, we may not have the genuine faith or the strong and unshakeable faith, so we can make this faith through reasoning and contemplating, reflecting on the guru, how important the guru is, etc and how rare it is to have the chance to receive this precious teaching. With these and other reasons one can make this very strong and unshakeable faith in your mind, so faith is very important to prepare ourselves as the disciples. Also we can read the Triple Vision book – anyone can read this book generally speaking, and that will prepare one not only to receive Lam Dre but also one will need to keep the samaya vows that have been received through this Lam Dre teaching. Some may think the most important samaya is to do the sadhana but it is not. The most important thing is to keep the samaya vows or to keep the rules and regulations of the vow, and reciting the sadhana is part of practice or part of samaya, but it is not the one and only samaya. There are many other samaya to keep, like not having any negative thoughts towards the guru, and not having any other root or branch downfalls of the Vajrayana or the Mantrayana vows, etc.
What state of mind should we try to have during Lam Dre?
Actually you may have heard that to receive the Lam Dre, or in general to receive the teaching, we should refrain from the faults of the three containers. In this meaning the first faulty container or pot is upside down and then no matter how much food or water you pour, it will not enter into it. Similarly, although physically you are attending the teaching, you are in the teaching hall, but if your mind is not in the teaching, your mind is distracted towards some other objects or place, etc, then that is the first fault. The second fault is, for example, the pot is not upside down but is in an upright position yet still if the pot or container has a hole in the bottom, then no matter how much you pour, it will not remain in the pot but it will leak from the pot. Similarly, if you receive the teaching single pointedly but at the same time you don’t have mindfulness and alertness, then the teaching that you have received cannot remain in your mind and you will forget easily. So second is to have mindfulness and alertness. The third fault – if the pot is in the upright position and there is no hole, yet at the same time there is dirt and impurity in the pot, then no matter how much good food or drink you pour, it is not eatable or drinkable, it will be ruined. Similarly, although we have full concentration and attention for the teaching single pointedly, and mindfulness and alertness, but at the same time if you have pride, thinking “I am higher than the guru or more educated than the guru,” then that’s not right. So third is the stained container. There are six stains: the first one is pride; the second one is lack of faith to the guru or the teaching; third is lack of interest (your main interest is to go there just to have the atmosphere of the teaching or the people but you are not really interested in the teaching itself); fourth is distraction (your mind is not paying attention or your mind is distracted); fifth is sinking mind (your mind is not fresh, and if your mind is dull or sleepy then you can’t concentrate on the teachings properly); sixth is sadness. For example, one sadness is at the teaching session being too long. At this time you should remember that in history, there are some beings who had many hardships just to learn one stanza of the teaching of Buddha, so compared to that, we don’t have much hardship to receive such a stanza, to receive the whole Lam Dre, or generally receive the Buddhadharma. Therefore one should not have sadness for having long sessions because in the past some have put a lot of effort to receive four lines of teaching, etc. Another kind of sadness is not knowing the teaching, or not understanding the meaning. If you don’t understand the meaning, then that is the very reason why we need to receive the teaching again and again, so that we can understand the meaning properly. So these are the six stains of the third faulty container – pride, lack of faith, lack of interest, distraction, sleepy mind or dullness, and sadness – and if you have these while you are receiving teaching, then it is not right. One should be free from all these three faults of containers, and have the right perception, thinking that guru is the real Buddha etc, and with this right atmosphere then you should receive the teaching.
How can we integrate the Lam Dre teachings and practices into our daily life?
In the Lam Dre also it talks about loving kindness, compassion and bodhicitta, etc, so with these in mind, we should not only understand their meaning and keep them in mind, but also we need to implement these teachings into actions. So in our daily life we should practise the teaching, with the right motivation, by avoiding the 10 non-virtuous deeds, adopting virtuous deeds, when you are walking, when you are at work, etc. Also with the right motivation you can practise the Vajrayana teaching and it will certainly help you to overcome obstacles and gain higher realisation. When you have higher realisation and no obstacles, then you can do more beneficial things to help the sentient beings.