from a teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche
The first part of Ngöndro practice is spent contemplating "The Four Thoughts" that turn the mind toward the practice. These are: the preciousness of this human birth; impermanence and the certainty of death; the defects of this worldly life ("samsara"); and the principle of cause and effect ("karma"). Here Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche speaks about "The Four Thoughts" in
the context of the importance of actual practice.
The Four Thoughts that turn the mind from samsara are very important.
Our minds are distracted by this world. We practice a little bit, and
then get distracted thinking life is good, eating pizza in the restaurant,
going to the beach on weekends and enjoying ourselves. It is really nice.
You could have a very happy life with your family, eating and experiencing
all those happy experiences. At the end of life, if you do not continue
to have that kind of happiness in the next lifetime and many future lifetimes,
you may get a little upset and think, "I should have done something.
I have just been going to the beach, the mountains, camping, bungee jumping,
and all that. I've spent my time doing all that, but I really didn't do
Since you have a precious human birth, you should not waste it. If you
waste this time, then you are wasting something very great. Even were
you to waste a billion dollars, it doesn't matter. You can make it up.
You can do something, and you can make it up. But if you waste this precious
human birth, it is very, very difficult. You cannot make it up.
So since you have a precious human rebirth, you must immediately think
that you should not waste it. You should think, "I have to get some advantage from this opportunity. Then how can I do it?" By
thinking that all phenomena which are composed of cause and condition
are impermanent. Impermanence does not just mean that everything comes
to an end. Impermanence means that each and every moment is impermanent.
Each and every moment of our lives we are becoming older and older, we
are getting nearer and nearer to death. If you waste even one hour, that
is one hour closer to death. If you spend your weekend enjoying yourself,
still you are getting nearer to death. Whenever you sit idle, still you
are getting nearer to death. Even if you do practice, still you are getting
nearer to death. Even if you don't do anything, still you are getting
nearer to death. You are always getting nearer and nearer and nearer.
Every sentient being who is born is subject to death.
At the same time, death is uncertain. You can see many examples of the
many conditions that may bring death. If I could not do actual practice
and if I did not have something I could carry with me, then tonight if
something happens, what can I do? What are you really going to carry
with you? You cannot pack up like when you get divorced or when you get
mad at your friends, and you say you're going to leave, and you take
your suitcase and pack all your clothes and everything and whatever money
and credit cards you have and you leave and go some other place. When
death comes, you cannot do that. There is no way that one could do that.
Up until now in this world, even the great popes, even Milarepa, even
Shakyamuni Buddha, even His Holiness Karmapa and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche,
all of these masters left all their belongings behind. All the great
ones and not so great ones, when death came, nobody could pack anything,
nobody could carry anything along. You could not even make a phone call: "I'm coming very soon, so could you please reserve a place for me?" There
is no way one can do it. So you have to realize that life is like that.
So we need to understand the fault of samsara. We need to understand
that in samsara, as we explained, there is some enjoyment, some peace,
which distracts our minds and keeps us from having any accumulation of
merit or purification. It is just like in Christianity, where in the
beginning God said there is a very nice apple tree, but you should not
get distracted and eat of it. If you do, then you will get spoiled. By
not listening to that and eating the apple, all evil and bad things happened.
Just like that, in this world there are certain things that really feel
attractive, but when you look at the object of attraction and really
examine it deeply, there is nothing which can be attractive. It is just
like a magician's creation which looks very real, but when you approach
nearer to it, then you see that it is artificial with no essence.
When you have a clear understanding of these four thoughts, you could
have some kind of feeling that you have to do some practice. This world
looks so attractive, but it doesn't have any essence, like the rainbow.
The rainbow looks so colorful, so nice, and you have so much desire and
attachment. You really want to have it, but when you jump up to get it,
you cannot get anything. Then you feel very sad and get so depressed: "Why can't I have some of this beautiful rainbow?" You
get upset, but nothing happens. All these worldly pleasures are exactly
like a rainbow. When you really enter into them, there is nothing there
That is why one must have a deeper understanding of cyclic existence.
Then you can become more relaxed and have more enjoyment, thinking how
attractive everything is, but having no attachment to it, not having
desire, while at the same time enjoying but not creating any negative
karma, and being more relaxed because you don't have to try to get anything.
Whether you get something or not, you just relax. If you can't get it,
you won't feel depressed because you know that it has no essence.
Those who could not do this Ngöndro practice may think not this year, maybe next year or some other year, and when you have already finished ten years of complete practice, then they say, "Oh, we were actually together at that time, but then I didn't have time. I went to there and there and there. You finished it all? I didn't really start it." So
then they're way down at the the bottom of the practice, while their
friends are at the top.
Right now you have a full opportunity. You can really apply yourself
into some practice. Even if you could not get everything purified, at
least you are going to purify something. Even if you do one prostration,
still there is some karma that is erased, even though you cannot see
it. So for the practice, whatever difficulties or small amount of pain
arise, if you can bear it through the practice, it is worthwhile kind
of pain that is bearable so that one can have some kind of purification.
This is a great opportunity since you are interested, and you must have
created some kind of good karma and accumulated some merit. That is why
it is happening in this way. So this is something very great and wonderful
and amazing that could heal yourself and benefit your family and relatives
and all sentient beings. That is something really, really wonderful!
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