PARTING FROM THE FOUR ATTACHMENTS … part 1/6 (zhen pa bzhi bral) by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche



If you are attached to this life, you are not a true spiritual practitioner.
If you are attached to samsara, you do not have renunciation.
If you are attached to your own self-interest, you have no bodhichitta.
If there is grasping, you do not have the View.

PARTING FROM THE FOUR ATTACHMENTS … part 1/6 (zhen pa bzhi bral) by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

I am assuming that most of the people come here to hear this so that one way or another, this becomes a help to their spiritual path and practice. In this case then it is important you listen with a proper motivation. Of course if you are here only to observe; and if you are here just to increase your knowledge on some of the Buddhist thoughts or if you want to fulfil so…me of your curiosity, you are still very welcome but then in this case you have a different kind of motivation. But for those who are seeking some kind of spiritual path, then it is important that you have the right motivation.

The right motivation to hear the teaching is… some sense of having a right value, seeing the value of the dharma, and within this context, at least on the intellectual level of revulsion or if not, some kind of seeing the futility of samsaric value, the worldly value. This is important as a cause for listening to the teaching. And then if you are pursuing a higher path such as the Mahayana path, it is important to keep in mind that you are listening to this, not just to liberate yourself but liberate all sentient beings. So this is traditionally which is required and also for the practitioner, very important. Not only you listener but the expounder of the teaching, myself, such kind of motivation is important.

Now as Rinpoche requested me to share some dharma. As said again and again in the sutras, to read, write, explain, hear, contemplate, even to have a dharma text in our dwellings is so important in the degenerate times. So in this regard we are very fortunate that even at this age and time we find ourselves. We put so much effort in listening to the teaching. So this should be considered very auspicious and this is due to the request by Rinpoche. As Rinpoche requested, these two days we are going, I'm going to share little bit of knowledge and the teachings that I received mainly from the Sakyapa masters, choosing the subject of “zhen pa bzhi bral” or "Parting from the Four Attachments". This is almost like a signature teaching of the Sakyapa lineage.

It was first, even though “zhen pa bzhi bral” or “Parting from the Four Attachments”, is considered purely a Mahayana path, it was actually discovered by a great tantric master, Sachen Kunga Nyinpo in his vision or dream. He dreamt of Bodhisatva Manjusri and Manjusri spoke these four statements. I think easily a Nyimgmapa would consider this as a treasure teaching. Later on, Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen, another great Sakyapa master, also composed very practical and enlightening commentary. This is a text worthwhile for you to explore if you have time. And then much later, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo also had a very clear summary of the teaching of “zhen pa bzhi bral”. This is something that is easily available these days.

But as you will see, the “Parting from the Four Attachments”, just like the “Four Thoughts of Gampopa”, is very practical and easy to remember, yet all-encompassing instruction. And theoretically speaking it is also, you will notice that “zhen pa bzhi bral”, or the “Parting from the Four Attachments”, really gives you the Mahayana path in a nutshell. So I repeat: “This is a Mahayana teaching. This is not a Tantric or Vajrayana teaching although it was first invoked by a great tantric master”. Even though the author of this “Parting from the Four Attachments” begin with ,"If you are attached to this life, you are not a true spiritual practitioner". We begin with this. I think it makes sense to actually talk a little bit about the last point, , "If you have grasping, you do not have the view". Because I think it is important for us to know, as a dualistic human being, as a human being who is packed with emotion. We always like to know what it is, what is there in it for us. What will this do for us. I think, beginning with, if you will have attachment to this life you are not a true spiritual practitioner. And then going on, if you are attached to samsara, you do not have renunciation. If you attached to your own self-interest, you have no bodhicitta.

All of these make sense if you see the value of the last point, which is “If you have grasping, you do not have the view”. Other than that, why should we abandon attachment to this life. That's ups and downs. Yes, we have problems in our life, but many times we also enjoy our life. There are lots of things going wrong in our lives but a lot of times, everything goes right for us. Similarly, why should we abandon attachment to samsara? The lives that we have. Again, it is good to have friends, it is good to have companions, it is good to have a goal, it is good to get graduated from good schools. And then why not? Such interest is the most important. Even the Buddha himself said, “You are your own master. Who else can be your master?” This is what Buddha himself said. So what is wrong with attachment to oneself? After all, isn‟t that the only thing that we have…the self, me, myself?

So this is why I think it is good that we begin with exploring on what do we mean. What do Manjushri mean or Sachen Kunga Nyinpo mean by “If there is grasping, you do not have the view”. Why do we need the view? Of course, right view. It all boils down to do what is it that we want? What is it that we are looking for? … ultimately, and also relatively, but more ultimately. One can say, it is safe to say, no matter who you are, we are all looking for some sort of happiness, some kind of satisfaction, some kind of fulfilment. This is what we all want, from the smallest insect to the largest animal. This is all what we are looking for. Of course the definition of fulfilment or happiness differs, depending on the circumstances and situation. For the small insect, probably, a mere, meagre one-bite of food to get by for a few hours, maybe a satisfaction. All the way to very sophisticated kind of satisfaction. The definition of satisfaction: such as collecting stamps, if you are able to collect stamps, and “obscurer” stamps, the better; or climbing Mount Everest.

All kinds, all of these are happiness, fulfilment, satisfaction; the definition of it differs with everyone, every being. Every being has a difference. And because of that, all religions all kinds of endeavour on this earth, science, technology, political systems; all of these, one way or another, you can say, they are all designed to bring some kind of satisfaction, some kind of happiness. They are all designed for that. At least, that is what we think they are designed for. Now the Buddhist or the Mahayana answer to this… this pursuit, this endeavour is…as long as you have the wrong view you‟ll never be satisfied. And you know, there is something else.

Not only do we want to be satisfied or happy, we are also looking for some kind of permanent, long-lasting happiness. Permanent, unchanging kind of satisfaction. Unconsciously or consciously, that is what we are looking for. And if that is what we are pursuing, definitely, as long as you have the wrong view, you will not really manage to get that kind of everlasting satisfaction or happiness. So this is why the view, having the right view is utmost important.

So now the next question is what is the right view? Before we… the right view, as taught in the Madhyamika, or as taught in the Mahayana, sutras and shastras. Even though the actual view itself is so simple, the simplicity itself has become a challenge. It is so simple that our emotional and intellectual mind might not be able to accept. So for this reason we end up havi…ng all this long-winded tools and methods and gradual leading towards this right view. The absolute right view, because it is so simple, it‟s so difficult to express.

This is a bit like this. If you are to explain how salt taste to someone who has never tasted salt, you have absolutely no way to make this person understand how salt tastes. So the only way you can do is to give this person sugar, and some other non-salt stuff. And then each time, you tell them, “This is not it.” And this list of “This is not it.” is basically what we call Śrāvakayāna, Pratekyabuddhayāna, Bodhisattvayana, Mahayana. Of course, all the way to the Tantrayana.

As the great Nyingma master, Longchenpa said: “When a person point with a finger, pointing at the moon, many end up looking at the finger instead of the moon”. So in the process of leading the people into the right view, the challenge is to lure them, the challenge is that the technique and the method to point at, pointing at the right view always ends up distracting them from the right view. This happens a lot. But now to make it practical. You know, "zhen pa bzhi bral" is very practical and I should try to keep that spirit – practicality and simplicity. To begin, what is wrong view? Obviously, everything that we think valuable, such as praise, criticism, gain, loss. All of that if you contemplate, we know. For instance, praise – if you contemplate carefully, we know, we will find out that it is very futile. Yet, we get so manipulated, manipulated, influenced by a small word of praise.

Criticism, similarly if you contemplate, as Shantiveda and many other great Masters have advised us, again and again; if you contemplate, criticism, really it is futile and essence-less. But we make such a big deal. From a very small criticism, could create long-lasting depressions and loss of confidence, so on and so forth. So if you look at so-called worldly values, thinking that criticism is so important, not to have criticism is so important, longing for praise. These are wrong views. And as long as you have that, you are not going to be happy. You will never have a fulfilling life. And this you have experienced many times. How many times have we had praise. In our lifetimes, how many times have you been praised by others. Many times, but it is never enough. Actually we have not been criticised many times. Because many times we don't encounter people who are brave enough to criticise us anyway. Because they have their own selfish motivation. Not necessarily out of compassion or kindness they will not criticise you, but they have an agenda to praise us. So many times, actually in our lives we get little criticism but mostly we get criticised in the teachings by our teachers. But because we put such a value to this criticism as something to be avoided, we have suffered a lot with one or two basically and occasional criticism.

Similarly – attention. We put so much emphasis on attention from the people. We long for attention. We don't wish to be ignored. But if you contemplate on this, this is also very futile. Many times, for instance, the things that we humans think, you know, manifest – for instance, the modern world puts so much emphasis on individual rights, space, right to express, so on and so forth. In pursuit of these individual rights, we ended up alienating ourselves. Because you are, you have worked so hard to establish this right to be alone. So, finally, you are kind of successful. Everybody's getting the message and then allowing you to be alone. And suddenly you get alienated and you feel lonely. Then you need attention. And when you are looking for attention, usually you want attention from someone who has mind. And that is not so bad, if this thing has only mind but no mouth, or if they have mouths, but speak a different language, such as barking; if they are barking or whining, that is fine, because we don‟t know what they are saying anyway. So we kind of decided; yes, I think he likes me because he is wagging the tail. We actually don't know whether that's true.

But, the majority of the time, we like attention from someone, not only who thinks, but who has mouth and worse, someone who thinks quite excitingly. That is really inviting trouble. Your partner is like a lump of meat who, occasionally, grants a few words here and there. It might not satisfy you. So then, you like to stimulate yourself will the partner‟s hobbies, and what he or she read or not read, or what kind of tools he or she use, what kind of outfit he or she wears, whether he or she shaves or not. All these have become important. And we will know that this hasn‟t really brought us a long-lasting and ever-lasting fulfilment. Many of us, we have changed our partners, probably more than changing our underwear. Still we are looking for this soul-mate. This happens many times. So now we realize that putting, making such a big deal out of this; this is really not the right view.

So then we move on. Okay. Now we‟re looking for the right view. Remember, Manjushri or Sachen Kunga Nyinpo said, “If you have grasping, you have the wrong view”. And what‟s wrong with that. If you have the wrong view, you suffer. You go through pain. And we are now at the moment that we are establishing what is the right view. To do that we first explore what are the wro…ng views. Then, we contemplate again and again, and we realize that actually it is not these worldly, externally worldly things that exist in this world …friends, families money, power, political system, I don't know, traffic system, the house that you live in, the neighbour, the country that you live in. Actually, externally, really it is not that there is something wrong with these. Actually, fundamentally, it is…there is one fundamental wrong view, and that is cherishing oneself.

And we are going deeper than something, we are going much deeper here when we are talking about the right view. If there is one self, then it is understandable to cherish that. But from the Mahayana point of view there is no self to begin with, to cherish. The notion …me, I, is a total imputation, is imputed towards things that are transitory, ebbing, drifting, fading, deteriorating, every second, every moment. When we call our self me, I – what are we looking at? What are we pointing towards?

We usually point at your body, your feeling, your perception, probably your consciousness, and your activity – what you do. And if you look at these, none of these have a truly, solidly existing entity. Body is changing, decaying, falling apart every second, every moment. How our body used to be ten years ago, is not how it is now. Same thing, our feeling – how we feel, this morning when we get up. Maybe a good mood., but for no reason now, bad mood. Maybe in the afternoon it will be good mood again. Our mood, our perceptions, our feelings, our value, we used to be very fond of and certain, I don‟t know, certain political systems. Now, towards the end of our lives, we may detest the political systems. Everything, nothing that we think remains the same. So who is this me?
When you are looking at this me, when you are contemplating and try to find out who is this me? You will not find a solid entity or substance you can refer to as me. And yet and yet, clinging and cherishing the self is the strongest emotion we have. So, once and for all, we need to deal with this. You see many of the things I'm telling you is coming straight from Shantideva‟s analyses in many of his chapters in Bodhicharyavatara. You know, you know how we get annoyed – by a temporary deception. For instance, like you expect so much to see somebody and from a distance you see a scarecrow. You get so excited that there is at last a person there. You rush towards the scarecrow and for your disappointment you see ragged clothing hanging from some stake. And then you get temporally disappointed. It has taken time, it has exhausted certain amount of your energy. But the deception of the self and clinging to the self is much more serious than this. It is as futile and as illusory as the scarecrow as a human being.

But this illusion of self is going to, and it has been ruling ours all the time. Even as I speak this might mean some kind of intellectual sense. Yes, if I look at my toes, I can‟t find myself. If I look at my lips, I don‟t find myself. Where is myself? As Shantideva thoroughly analysed it – bone is not self, blood is not self, vein is not self, head is not self, and so on and so forth. If you go through all this, yes, intellectually, it makes some kind of sense that there is no self, but try to skip your lunch today. Immediately, the power of the self; not only skipping lunch, but skipping lunch is not so bad. After skipping lunch, be with your usual annoying friend, who will annoy you much more. So this deception of the self is even as, myself, more than half a century, I have sort of been “marinated” by the Buddhist lamas and blessed, but, even as I speak, my intellectual mind kind of believe that is no self, my emotion does not believe it. It's really difficult. At least, at least we know what is the wrong view. To really think that there is a self is a fundamentally wrong view.

As long as you think that is a self, truly existing, that is a wrong view. And if you think like that, like a torrential rain the emotions will come. All the reasons for the emotion to pour. This is one way to establish the right view. And then, lastly, do we stop there with the right view? No, actually not. Okay, earlier, we have developed that gain, loss, criticism, praise; yes, to see them as very valuable is the wrong view. So intellectually, we kind of, at least intellectually, accept that they are not that valuable. And now we think that there is as a self, truly existing self is the wrong view.

We kind of intellectually accept that; at least, intellectually. But are we finished here? This is the last one: (Tibetan sentence) Bluntly speaking, if you think there is no self, and if you are grasping that there is no self, you have no view; any kind of grasping. As long as there is this notion: “This is it”, you have no view. In other words, when you attain enlightenment, and if you think: “ Ah, finally, looks like we have reached there”. Looks like we haven‟t made it because you thought “Ah, finally..”, because there is a grasping. In the Mahayana sutras and the shastras, the path to non-grasping is taught very, very extensively. In the Mahayana, mainly this is established through analysis and analogy and lastly, quotations of the sublime beings.

Analyses such as Seven Chariots Analyses by Chandrakirti: Where is self? What are the relationship of the self with the aggregate or the form. Are they one, are they separate, are they independent? Which one is the container? Which one is the contents? So on and so forth. Through this kind of analysis, we come to the conclusion that there is no self, truly existing self. My stress on truly existing self is something to be, you know, highlighted. Because relatively speaking, there has to be a self. There has to be, even as we begin teaching, I said, we should all have the right motivation: to get what? To get enlightenment. There is a self, that is trying to shirk off samsara and awaken to the state of nirvana.

The analogy is like the…there are many Mahayana analogies and examples. Like a rainbow, for instance, a certain amount of sunlight, moisture and angle of sunlight, rain and also the distance from you and the rainbow. When all of these causes and conditions are together, there is something called rainbow. Beautiful, intact. Colours and shapes are not chaotic. It‟s all very ordered, dimensions with breadth, everything intact. But clarity, its colours, its vividness, its intact sort of order, none of them makes the rainbow truly existing. When the causes and conditions are there, it appears to me there. That‟s how the Mahayana sees everything.

When you're looking at me, when I am looking at you, as we sit on this chair, as we are underneath this ceiling, this ceiling, this noise that we hear – all of these are just a temporary collection of all gatherings of few or lots of causes and conditions put together; and then there is a phenomena called us, teaching, listening, noise – that's all there is. That is the analogy in the Mahayana. And the quotations of the sublime beings are infinite.

If I am quoting Buddha, let's call from Vajracchedikā Sūtra, Buddha even asked his disciple, in fact, the so-called mediator of the sutra, Subhuti. You know, the Vajracchedikā Sūtra is almost like a dialogue between Subhuti and Buddha. And after about how many pages, about forty pages of discussion between the Buddha himself and Subhuti, Buddha then asked: “What do you think, Subhuti? Do you think that Buddha taught?” And then Subhuti said, “No, you never taught.” And Buddha said, “Excellent, that„s it. I never taught”. Such kinds of statement goes on. Buddha said, “If somebody thinks Buddha is beautiful with thirty-two major and eighty minor marks, this person has the gravest misunderstanding of all.

I think, towards the last stanza, he said, {Tibetan}, those who see me as a form, those who hear me as a sound, they all have the wrong view; so and so forth. The right view is established. Now I know this is not really the right moment but just as a reference. In the Tantrayana, (there's a painting upstairs, Tilopa and Naropa), in the Tantrayana, without relying on the analysis, analogy, or probably even the Buddha‟s quotation, but totally relying on the trust from the student and the skill and wisdom of the teacher, the right view can be introduced through mundane act such as hitting somebody‟s head with his own shoes. This has happened a lot.

In fact this house that which we are dwelling right now is partially the lineage holder of a person who got the right idea, the right view after been hit by a shoe. But that's Tantra. We are not going to talk about that here. It is not the occasion So this is a brief jumping towards the last stanza, (Tibetan) “If you have grasping, you have no view”. I wanted to introduce you this first because there's a saying in Tibetan, “If a businessman, if a business person, doesn't see a profit in something, there's no point of doing business”. You have to see what is the profit? What is the point of doing business if you don‟t see the profit?

Likewise, dharma practitioner must see what is it that they are aiming for? Or what will they get out of, you know, not having attachment to this life, not having attachment to selfishness, so on and so forth. So this is why I briefly visited the last stanza, the last line, which we will come back again and again in the course of our discussion of the three other points. Now, if we go back to the first one, (Tibetan), “If you are attached to this life, you are not a spiritual practitioner”. I will try to give you some picture of this instead of explaining.

My very good friend, Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche…once I went to see him and he has this old Buddha statue. You know, you could say like fourth-century, fourth-century antique. And in many – not, not so much now – many Tibetan lamas have this kind of old relics. When I went to see Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche, he was busy. First he was polishing with a sand.., what do you call, sandpaper? Sandpaper. You know, me, someone who is so attached to this life, immediately, “What are you doing? You are ruining the value!” You know, anyone, the antique dealers – they love to have it as old as possible. There are actually in Kathmandu and many different places in Kathmandu, they have even a technique and even a…what do you call it… factory that makes the new statue looks like old statue. There's even a recipe I used to actually know it…some lemon juice, tomato, soya sauce also, I think you have to put it, you have to bury it underneath, you know, stuff like that…basically make it look old. And here he is polishing it with sandpaper and then painting gold. Looks completely like any souvenir shop, you know, those, you know like Indian, very kitschy Indian, you know, Ganesh statue with overly painted, you know, shining. He made that. What a lesson.

Because the real value is this is the Buddha‟s statue. This is what Nagarjuna said, (Tibetan), “Even if it is made out of wood, a Buddha‟s form should be respected as the Buddha himself, and that is far, more important than seventh-century, fourth-century. That is very this life. You know you are attached to this life. You know, thinking in terms of, because you see the statue of the Buddha in many monasteries are basically considered as an asset. That‟s wrong, isn't it? They are not assets. Not at all.

They should never be considered as an asset. And similarly all the things that you see in the monastery – silver and gold-plated cups and bowls for the Buddhas, offerings – they are not asset. If you are a Dharma practitioner, if someone blatantly in the daily-light situation takes it, you should be closing your eyes and in fact rejoice. That's how it is. Grasping towards this life.

Let me tell now this famous story. Je Kadampa, student of Atisha Dipamkara, I think, was told by the master, “You should practice Dharma”. He thought, okay, chant mantra or something Iike that. After a few days, the master came, “You know, you should practice Dharma”. Then he thought, okay, maybe, you know, circumbulate stupas and do this kind of thing. Again the master, after a few days, came, “You really should practice the Dharma”. So this went on…like he tried like retreats, he tried pilgrimage, he tried to do meditation; even meditation, can you believe that? Even meditation. He really sat long time. Finally he gave up and said, "Look, I tried everything and you keep on still saying must practice dharma, as if I haven‟t been. So what do I do?

The master said, (Tibetan), “Give up attachment to this life”. “ If you are attached to this life, you are not a dharma practitioner”, and by the way, this statement is big. This statement is really, really big. I am the best example for not being able to do this. Really I'm not being humble or doing anything. I'm actually taking a bit of a chance to confess this. Monastery – I always ended up thinking it is my asset even though sometimes I feel like selling all my monasteries. Who knows who will buy it. More likely I have to pay people to buy it. Centres, disciples, you know, disciples, the patrons – they are all asset. Terrible! They‟re all in your address book – the names, their e-mail addresses, their personal numbers, twitter numbers – it doesn‟t matter, whatever. They have to be within reach; sending them birthday cards, “Goodness, gracious” This is all coming from attachment, because you don‟t want to lose contact with them, isn‟t it? So that one day when you need, I don't know – a potato peeler? You call them. Do you have that? You know this what I do. I have all these people from every corner of the world. I actually need to send them just a postcard.

Once in a blue moon that also, and it is because, the thing is this. Maybe I give you my secret away. This is how I think. They have the ego. They love themselves so much. So as long as they have this weakness, I will have no shortage of my business. In fact I really don't want them to crash their ego or selfishness. If they do, that will be it. Spiritual, what do you call it, inflation? What do you call? So, you know, you just say “Hi”, or something; you know, it really makes them so happy. But I also don‟t want them to invade me all the time. So I also lose myself in the midst of pretending that I am busy, you know, I'm not available – but whenever I need something, just send something and they always do something for you. The disciples are asset. All of these have become asset? This is what I mean by attachment to this life.

This goes on. I don't know whether you really like to hear all of this, but… And once in a blue moon, I actually think of practicing Dharma. But even that is so convoluted, mixed and stained by attachment to the self, I mean, attachment to this life. Majority of my prayer and aspiration, I have found myself praying for, you know, long life, my own long life, good health. That's a big chunk of attention to this life, isn‟t it? Very, very seldom, I think of enlightenment. Even more seldom is the enlightenment of others. Who cares about others? Who cares? Just myself. But that is very, very seldom.

Only when you, you know, I don't know, I have to say this is the power of the words of the sublime beings. Only when you read like the songs of Milarepa, most of the blessings, you know, one can call it a blessing or a force, then you end up like “Hey, I have to really think about this. I really have to think about delusions and illusions. I really need to wake up from this”. But, that‟s very, very difficult. And why not? Since I‟m in the mood for exposing myself. Kunkhyen Jigme Lingpa said, “ It‟s easier to give up attachment to wealth than fame.” So true. Both fame and wealth, is actually worldly, of cause, obvious. And isn‟t this funny? At least, if you have wealth, you can get things done. But the fame is really, kind of pointless, but attachment to fame is more difficult, really difficult. What I am trying to get to this is. Kunkhyen Jigme Lingpa‟s quotation, “To give up wealth is easier than to give up fame”.. This is really true.

I thought on both accounts, the fame and wealth, I used to think, you know, I'm quite flexible with this, with both. And especially with the fame, because I thought, I have a twisted one on this, by the way. It is really slippery, very slippery. Okay, I thought I was not interested in fame – just small amount, not big. But I realized two things. One actually the reason why I'm not that interested in fame is because I want to do hideous things. You know like hideous, kinky stuff. And then I have this fear that if I become famous there'll be thousand people watching me all the time. So you see, this is not so, this is not like no attachment to this life. This is very much this life. Very much this life, very much, Another reason why I realize, this is a more obvious one.
I was enjoying the fact that not everybody, just a few people, I was enjoying the fact that I'm famous for not wanting to be famous. You understand, very dangerous, still very attached to this life. Still very attached to this life.

I am just…to summarize everything right now. Recently because of my age – middle age crisis, you see – I feel kind of like, you know, empty, and hollow; you know like I have done nothing. All that really stubborn, not so strong, but stubborn, very, stubborn kind of – I don't know whether it qualifies as a depression – but some kind of feeling empty. Now, the reason why this is connected to attachment to this life or not, is because I realize, instead of using that empty feeling, instead of really using that empty feeling, that hollowness, as a stepping stone to really bravely going into some kind of really, really serious Dharma practice;

I find myself always trying to fulfil that empty feeling, with some other means like… ah, this is a very subtle one. I find myself wanting to go to places like India or Bhutan or Tibetan environment more and more. And by the way, this comes from a ver