Lessons from Patrul Rinpoche’s Words of My Perfect Teacher

Meditation on Sympathetic Joy

Buddha Shakyamuni
Buddha Shakyamuni

Lately, we’ve been reading a few pages a day of Patrul Rinpoche’s classic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, Words of My Perfect Teacher. We’ve loved it, and found many beautiful passages, and so thought that we would share excerpts from it with you from time to time. We’re using the Yale University Press edition, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. You can get the book for yourself if you wish. 

We’re going to start where we are, in the chapter on Arousing Bodhicitta, pp. 213-215 of the 2011 edition.

Meditation on Sympathetic Joy Imagine someone of noble birth, strong, prosperous, and powerful, someone who lives in the higher realms experiencing comfort, happiness and a long life, surrounded by many attendants and in great wealth. Without any feeling of jealousy or rivalry, make the wish that they might become even more glorious, enjoy still more of the prosperity of the higher realms, be free of all danger, and develop ever more intelligence and other perfect talents. Then tell yourself again and again how wonderful it would be if all other beings could live at such a level too.  Begin your meditation by thinking about a person who easily arouses positive feelings — like a relative, a close friend or someone you love — who is successful, contented and at peace, and feel happy that this is so. When you have established that feeling of happiness, try to cultivate the same feeling toward those about who m you feel indifferent. Then focus on all kinds of enemies who have harmed you, and especially anybody of whom you feel jealous. Uproot the evil mentality that finds it unbearable that someone else should have such perfect plenty, and cultivate a particular feeling of delight for each kind of happiness that they might enjoy. Conclude by resting in the state without any conceptualization.  The meaning of sympathetic joy is to have a mind free of jealousy. You should therefore try to train your mind with all sorts of methods to prevent those harmful jealous thoughts from arising. … Once people have been corrupted by jealousy, they no longer see the good in others, and their own negative actions increase alarmingly…. …Moreover, even when evil thoughts about others do not materialize as actual physical harm, they still create prodigious negative effects for the person who has the thought…. Constantly dwelling on such feelings as jealousy and competitiveness neither furthers one’s own cause nor harms that of one’s rivals. It leads to a pointless accumulation of negativity. Give up vile attittudes of this kind. Always sincerely rejoice in the achievements and favourable circumstances of others, whether it be their social position, physique, wealth, learning, or whatever else. Think over and over again how truly glad you are that they are such excellent people, so successful and fortunate. Think how wonderful it would be if they became even better off than they are now, and acquired all the strength, wealth, learning and good qualities they they could possibly ever get. Meditate on this from the depth of your heart. The image given for boundless sympathetic joy is that of a mother camel finding her lost calf. Of all animals, camels are considered the most affectionate mothers. If a mother camel loses her calf her sorrow is correspondingly intense. But should she find it again her joy knows no bounds. That is the kind of sympathetic joy that you should try to develop.


The Impermanence of Beings 

This is a continuation of excerpts from Patrul Rinpoche’s classic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, Words of My Perfect Teacher. We’re using the Yale University Press edition, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. You can get the book for yourself if you wish. We are not following any particular order in these excerpts. This one is in the chapter on The Impermanence of Life, and the section on The Impermanence of Beings Living in the Universe pp. 41-42 of the 2011 edition.

The Impermanence of Beings Living in the Universe

Have you ever, on earth or in the heavens, Seen a being born who will not die? Or heard that such a thing had happened? Or even suspected that it might? Everything that is born is bound to die. Nobeody has ever seen anyone or heard of anyone in any realm—even in the world of the gods — who was born but never died. In fact, it never even occurs to us to wonder whether a person will do or not. It is a certainty… …Nagarjuna, too, says:

Life flickers in the flurries of a thousand ills, More fragile than a bubble in a stream. In sleep, each breath departs and is again drawn in; How wondrous that we wake up living still! Breathing gently, people enjoy their slumber. But between one breath and the next there is no guarantee that death will not slip in. To wake up in good health is an event which truly deserves to be considered miraculous, yet we take it completely for granted. Although we know we are going to die one day, we do not really let our attitudes to life be affected by the ever-present possibility of dying. We still spend all our time hoping and worrying about our future livelihood, as if we wer going to live forever. We stay completely involved in our struggle for well-being, happiness and status — until, suddenly, we are confronted by Death wielding his black noose, gnashing ferociously at his lower lip and baring his fangs. Then nothing can help us… Death cannot be fought off by any warrior, ordered away by the powerful, or paid off by the rich. Death leaves nowhere to run to, no place to hide, no refuge, no defender or guide. Death resists any recourse to skill or compassion. Once our life has run out, even if the Medicine Buddha himself were to appear in person he would be unable to delay our death. So, reflect sincerely and meditate on how important it is from this very moment onwards never to slip into laziness and procrastination, but to practice the true Dharma, the only thing you can be sure will help at the moment of death. (Emphasis added.)  


Intense Awareness of Impermanence

This is the third in a series of excerpts from Patrul Rinpoche’s classic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, Words of My Perfect Teacher. We’re using the Yale University Press edition, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. You can get the book for yourself if you wish. We are not following any particular order in these excerpts. This one is in the chapter on The Impermanence of Life, and the section on Intense Awareness of Impermanence, from pp. 56-57 of the 2011 edition.

Intense Awareness of Impermanence The Buddha said:

To meditate persistently on impermanence is to make offerings to all the Buddhas.

To meditate persistently on impermanence is to be rescued from suffering by all the Buddhas.

To meditate persistently on impermanence is to be guided by all the Buddhas.

To meditate persistently on impermanence is to be blessed by all the Buddhas.

Of all the footprints, the elephant’s are outstanding; just so, of all subjects of meditation for a follower of the Buddha, the idea of impermanence is unsurpassed.   A lay disciple asked Geshe Potowa which Dharma practice was the most important if one had to choose only one. The Geshe replied:

If you want to use a single Dharma practice, to meditate on impermanence is the most important.


What to Do? The Four Metaphors

This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from Patrul Rinpoche’s classic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, Words of My Perfect Teacher. We’re using the Yale University Press edition, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. You can get the book for yourself if you wish. We are not following any particular order in these excerpts. This one is in the chapter on The Ordinary or Outer Preliminaries, and the section on The Four Metaphors, on page 16 of the 2011 edition.

The Four Metaphors The Sutra Arranged like a Tree says:  Noble one, you should think of yourself as someone who is sick, Of the Dharma as the remedy, Of your spiritual friend as a skillful doctor And of diligent practice as the way to recovery.  We are sick. From beginningless time, in this immense ocean of suffering that is samsara, we have been tormented by the illness of the three poisons and their fruit, the three kinds of suffering.  When people are seriously ill, they go to consult a good doctor. They follow the doctor’s advice, take whatever medicine he prescribes, and do all they can to overcome the disease and get well. In the same way, you should cure yourself of the diseases of karma, negative emotions, and suffering by following the prescriptions of that experienced doctor, the authentic teacher, and by taking the medicine of the Dharma.


Patrul Rinpoche on the Six Stains

This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from Patrul Rinpoche’s classic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, Words of My Perfect Teacher. We’re using the Yale University Press edition, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. You can get the book for yourself if you wish. We are not following any particular order in these excerpts. This one is in the chapter on The Difficulty of finding the freedoms and advantages, from the section onConduct and the subsection on The Six Stains,on pages 12-14 of the 2011 edition.

The Six Stains

Pride, lack of faith and lack of effort, Outward distraction, inward tension and discouragement; These are the six stains …   Your past joys and sorrows are like drawings on water: No trace of them remains. Don’t run after them! But should they come to mind, reflect on how success and failure come and go. Is there anythings you can trust besides the Dharma, mani-reciters? Your future projects and plans are like nets cast in a dry riverbed: They’ll never bring you what you want. Limit your desires and aspirations! But should they come to mind, think how uncertain it is when you’ll die; Have you got time for anything other than Dharma, mani-reciters? Your present work is like a job in a dream. Since all such effort is pointless, cast it aside. Consider even your honest earnings without any attachment. Between meditation sessions, learn to control in this way all thoughts arising from the       three poisons; Until all thoughts an percceptions arise as the dharmakaya, This is indispensable – remembering it whenever you need it, Do not give rein to deluded thoughts, mani-reciters!  

The Words of My Perfect Teacher By Patrul Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama

Our friend, a Buddhist Studies professor in the U.S., notes that this is “an English translation of a Tibetan text on the path to enlightenment. The translation is really good and many Tibetan Studies scholars use the book in their Tibetan Buddhism classes.” 

Description: “A favorite of Tibetans and recommended by the Dalai Lama and other senior Buddhist teachers, this practical guide to inner transformation introduces the fundamental spiritual practices common to all Tibetan Buddhist traditions...Patrul Rinpoche makes the technicalities of his subject accessible through a wealth of stories, quotations, and references to everyday life….quintessential introduction to Tibetan Buddhist practice. ” (5 stars/24 reviews)

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Updated on February 22, 2020. First published on July 25, 2015.

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  1. Paula Foster says

    This is a beautiful and essential dharma book. My copy sits at the top of my shrine. Must mention that your free video helped me to understand and create the shrine. Can’t thank you and Yolanda enough for your wonderful website.
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