Magical Nectar: Advice for a Disciple
Gracious Lord of all the Buddha Families,
The nature and embodiment of every refuge,
To you, the Lotus-Born, my jeweled crown, I bow in homage!
If I were to instruct others in the excellent way, who on earth would listen? For I am wholly without discrimination and cannot be a guide even for myself! Still, you see me with pure vision and you did ask. So rather than being a disappointment, I will say a few things as they come to mind.
All success, great and small, whether in spiritual or temporal affairs, derives from your stock of merit. So never neglect even the slightest positive deed. Just do it. In the same way, don't dismiss your little faults as unimportant; just restrain yourself! Make an effort to accumulate merit: make offerings and give in charity. Strive with a good heart to do everything that benefits others. Follow in the footsteps of the wise and examine finely everything you do. Do not be the slave of unexamined fashions. Be sparing with your words. Be thoughtful rather, and examine situations carefully. For the roots of discrimination must be nourished: the desire to do all that should be done and to abandon all that should be abandoned.
Do not criticize the wise or be sarcastic about them. Rid yourself completely of every feeling of jealous rivalry. Do not despise the ignorant, turning away from them with haughty arrogance. Give up your pride. Give up your self-importance. All this is essential. Understand that you owe your life to the kindness of your parents. Therefore do not grieve them but fulfill their wishes. Show courtesy and consideration to all who depend on you. Instill in them a sense of goodness and instruct them in the practice of virtue and the avoidance of evil. Be patient with their little shortcomings and restrain your bad temper, remembering that it only takes the tiniest thing to ruin a good situation.
Do not consort with narrow-minded people, nor place your trust in new and untried companions. Make friends with honest people who are intelligent and prudent and have a sense of propriety and courtesy. Don't keep company with bad people, who care nothing about karma, who lie and cheat and steal. Distance yourself, but do it skillfully. Do not rely on people who say sweet things to your face and do the reverse behind your back.
As for yourself, be constant amid the ebb and flow of happiness and suffering. Be friendly and even with others. Unguarded, intemperate chatter will put you in their power; excessive silence may leave them unclear as to what you mean. So keep a middle course: don't swagger with self-confidence, but don't be a doormat either. Don't run after gossip without examining the truth of it. People who know how to keep their mouths shut are rare. So don't chatter about your wishes and intentions; keep them to yourself. And whether you are speaking to an enemy, an acquaintance or a friend, never break a confidence.
Be welcoming with people, and smile and talk pleasantly. And keep to your position. Be respectful towards your superiors, even when things do not go well for them. Don't scorn them. At the same time, don't bow and scrape before the vulgar, even when they are proud and full of themselves.
Be skillful in not making promises that you know you cannot keep. By the same token, honor the promises you have made, and never dismiss them as unimportant. Do not be depressed by misfortune and the failure to get what you want. Instead be careful to see where your real profit and loss lie.
All such worldly conduct, adopted with proper discrimination, will result in this life's fortune and prosperity and, so it is said, a speedy passage to the divine realms.
If, however, you want to get out of samsara completely, here is some advice that should help you on your way to liberation.
If you have no contentment, you are poor no matter how much money you have. So decide that you have enough, and rid yourself of yearning and attachment. It's a rare person indeed who knows that wealth is passing and unstable and who can therefore practice perfect generosity. For even those who do practice it, generosity is often soiled by the three impurities and is wasted, like good food mixed with poison.
Apart from the beings agonizing in hell, there is no one in samsara who does not cherish life. Now, of the seven excellencies of the higher realms, longevity is a karmic effect similar to its cause. Therefore, if you want to live long protect the lives of others; concentrate on doing this!
Cultivate faith and devotion to the Three Jewels and to your teacher! Strive in the ten virtues and combine clear intelligence with extensive learning. And nurture a sense of personal integrity and propriety with regard to others. With these seven sublime riches you will always be happy!
To gain peace and happiness for oneself is the hinayana approach of the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas. The altruism of bodhichitta is the path of beings of great potential. Therefore train yourself in the deeds of bodhisattvas, and do this on a grand scale! Shoulder the responsibility of freeing all beings from samsara. Of all the eighty-four thousand sections of the Buddha's teachings, there is nothing more profound than bodhichitta. Therefore make every effort on the path, uniting absolute and relative bodhichitta, which distills the essence of all the sutras and the tantras. The subduing of one's own mind is the root of dharma. When the mind is controlled, defilements naturally subside.
Do not allow yourself to become impervious and blasé with regard to the dharma; do not lead yourself astray. Let the profound dharma sink into your mind. Now that you have obtained this excellent life, so hard to find, now that you have the freedom to practice the teachings, don't waste your time. Strive to accomplish the supreme, unchanging goal. For life is passing, and there is no certainty about the time of death. Even if you are to die tomorrow, you should have confidence and be without regret.
Therefore, cultivate a real devotion for your root teacher, and love your vajra kindred, cultivating pure perception in their regard. Fortunate are those disciples who at all times keep their samaya and vows as dearly as their lives. They gain accomplishment quickly.
Ignorance, the five poisons, doubt and dualistic clinging are the roots of samsara, and the sufferings of the three realms. To this there is one antidote that removes or "liberates" everything in a single stroke. It is spontaneous wisdom, the primal wisdom of awareness. Be confident, therefore, in the generation stage: appearances, sounds and thoughts are but the primordial display of deity, mantra and primal wisdom. Then settle in the "subsequent" (anuyoga) path of the three specific perceptions, the perfection stage, the state of bliss and emptiness.
Take your stand on the ultimate practice of the Heart Essence—samsara and nirvana are the display of awareness. Without distraction, without meditation, in a state of natural relaxation, constantly remain in the pure, all-penetrating nakedness of ultimate reality.
"Counsels from My Heart" by Dudjom Rinpoche Shambhala: Boston, 2001