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A compilation of advice about Dharma studies and practice
Advice from Khen Rinpoche Geshe Thubten Chonyi, resident teacher at Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore. These teachings offer valuable advice related to our Dharma studies and practice: how to check whether our practices are Dharma, the need for study and constant reflection on the Buddha's teachings, and how to overcome our afflictions and problems so that we can truly benefit others. Transcribed, edited and prepared for publication by the editorial team at ABC, Singapore.

Daily Reflections is available as an ebook from online vendors.

Daily Reflections
i. Introduction and Biography
1. What is Dharma?
2. Studying the Dharma
3. Need for Reflection and Analysis
4. Overcoming Negative Emotions
5. Practising Pure Perception
6. Faith
7. Advice on Practice
8. Precious Human Rebirth
9. Death and Impermanence
10. Overcoming Attachment to the Body
11. Joyous Effort
12. Subduing Anger
13. Generating Bodhicitta
14. Wisdom Realizing Emptiness

The two wings of the bird 

Lama Tsongkhapa said in The Three Principal Aspects of the Path:

Although you practise renunciation and bodhi-mind,
Without wisdom, the realisation of voidness,
You cannot cut the root of samsara.
Therefore, strive to understand dependent origination.

Although there are many inconceivable benefits and advantages to developing the altruistic intention to become enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings, if we do not develop the wisdom that realises selflessness or emptiness, there is no way we can free ourselves or others from samsara (or cyclic existence), to achieve the state of enlightenment. Therefore, developing bodhicitta alone is not enough. We must also develop the wisdom that realises emptiness, because of the reason given by Lama Tsongkhapa in the above verse.

The very root of samsara is the self-grasping ignorance: our grasping at the self of the person, conceiving the person as existing by way of its own character and our grasping at the self of phenomena, conceiving phenomena as existing by way of their own character.

In order to destroy these self-graspings, we must develop a mind that can counter such ignorance, realising how its mode of apprehension is mistaken and wrong. This is the only way to cut the root of samsara.

These two are called the method and wisdom aspects of the path. In order to fly, a bird needs a pair of wings. Having one wing alone is insufficient. In the same way, in order to achieve the state of full enlightenment, we need method and wisdom.

Dependent arising & lack of inherent existence

Lama Tsongkhapa said in The Three Principal Aspects of the Path:

One who sees the infallible cause and effect
Of all phenomena in samsara and nirvana
And destroys all false perceptions
Has entered the path that pleases the Buddha.

First, we need to understand how all phenomena including samsara and nirvana arise dependently, i.e. they came about through depending on something else. Understanding that, we then understand that things do not exist in the way they appear to our minds. When we look at phenomena, we grasp at them as being truly existent. We have to understand that phenomena do not exist in this way. With this understanding, we would have entered the path that pleases the Buddha.

A good understanding of dependent arising enhances our ascertainment of the law of cause and effect - the better our understanding, the greater will be our ascertainment of the law of cause and effect, that when we engage in positive actions, we will experience happiness; when we engage in negative actions, it will lead to suffering.

Through understanding how all things do not exist inherently, we will see how the law of cause and effect work and exist conventionally. It will also help our understanding of dependent arising, that conventionally there is such a thing as dependent origination.

“Not existing inherently,” means that all phenomena exist by depending on something else and on that basis are given labels. This understanding of dependent arising would enhance our understanding of the working of the law of cause and effect. Believing things exist truly contradicts this law, that causes lead to effects.

It is very problematic when we believe phenomena exist inherently from their own side. For example, if the seed exists inherently, then it is very difficult to explain how it can transform into a plant. When we assert that lower realms or good rebirths exist inherently, it is difficult to explain how we can move from one realm to another. When we say sentient beings exist inherently, it becomes difficult to explain how sentient beings can become buddhas. In the same way, if a baby or young person exists inherently, then it is very difficult to explain how that person will age.

We must not leave things at that but really try to figure them out in our minds. For example, when we assert that a youngster inherently exists, it is tantamount to saying that that he will never get old. We have to understand why there is a problem with such assertions and how that problem comes about.


Through the merit created by preparing, reading, thinking about and sharing this book with others, may all teachers of the Dharma live long and healthy lives, may the Dharma spread throughout the infinite reaches of space, and may all sentient beings quickly attain enlightenment.

In whichever realm, country, area or place this book may be, may there be no war, drought, famine, disease, injury, disharmony or unhappiness, may there be only great prosperity, may everything needed be easily obtained, and may all be guided by only perfectly qualified Dharma teachers, enjoy the happiness of Dharma, have love and compassion for all sentient beings, and only benefit and never harm each other.


A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

The commentary I have been following talks about the old and new translation schools. The former means the Nyingma School. Of the four main traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma is the old Kadam and the Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug are the new Kadam. Within these traditions we find slight differences in the wording of the different versions of the root text of the Seven-Point Mind Training. This is not a case of correct or incorrect but simply that over the years certain differences have arisen.

The root text I have been following was compiled by the twentieth century Gelug lama, Pabongka Rinpoche,29 and the commentary I have used was composed by Chigja Rinpoche at the request of Kungo Palden, his manager, who explained that he found the root text and extant commentaries hard to understand and asked Chigja Rinpoche to compose one he could comprehend.

This now finishes the explanation of the Seven-Point Mind Training based on that root text and commentary.

Within the entire Seven-Point Mind Training, perhaps the most important point is made under the seventh point in the line

There are two activities—at beginning and end.

As I mentioned in the teaching, the important activity at the beginning is motivation, so please try to be careful with that. Cultivate the habit of thinking about your motivation first thing in the morning, the way a smoker lights up as soon as he gets out of bed. Once we become familiar with setting our motivation first thing, it goes quite smoothly.

However, we have to continue working on our motivation lest faults creep in. It’s not enough to assume that since what we’re doing is beneficial for others we can just leave it at that and not think about our motivation any more.

On the other hand, if we continue to think about our motivation all the time, our practice won’t be quite right either. What we should do is reflect on our motivation at the beginning, do the practice properly and then conclude it in the right way. If we do all this correctly our practice will be complete.

We should also make a habit of reviewing our day before we go to bed each night, asking ourselves how well we did in actually working for the benefit of others, as we set out to do at the beginning of the day. If we find that we did quite well in working for the benefit of others, we should feel very appreciative of ourselves, rejoice, and make prayers and dedications. If we find that we did not do so well, we should try to feel remorse, regret whatever went wrong and purify it. This is the way to shape our mind.

Thus, in the context of the two important activities, one at the beginning and one at the end, the latter is dedication. Dedication is a specific type of prayer we make when we have something to dedicate. If we do something virtuous we can dedicate it with a special prayer; merely saying the prayer itself does not create any merit to dedicate towards the intended result. However, if we have been careful to start our day with bodhicitta motivation, as above, our actions that day should have produced some merit, so that night we should dedicate it to attaining enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.

Practicing Dharma in daily life

Even though we talk about these important activities at beginning and end, the teachings actually say that we don’t need to set aside a special time for practice. Rather, we should transform all our daily activities—walking, coming, going, sitting, sleeping, eating, working and everything else we do—into practice. We might find it difficult to do this at first because it’s hard to remember to do it all the time but if we make the effort it will get progressively easier.

Take the simple activity of eating, for example. There are many ways to eat in a Dharma way, depending upon the level of our practice. Those who have taken bodhisattva vows can transform eating according to Paramitayana or Vajrayana, but at the basic, less esoteric, level we can think simply that we’re offering what we’re eating to all the sentient beings that inhabit our body, aspiring in future to satisfy them with the Dharma just as we’re presently satisfying them with food. In this way we can transform our action of eating into Dharma.

When we go to bed we can recollect the qualities of the Buddha and our various Dharma practices and in that way go to sleep in a positive frame of mind, thus making the whole time we’re asleep virtuous.

Therefore, even though it is good to set time aside to do retreat when the opportunity arises, it is probably more important to try to transform all our activities into Dharma. The methods for doing so exist. I know they’re difficult and I don’t claim to practice them all myself; if someone were to ask me if I can do all these practices I would reply that I cannot do them all. However, it is excellent to try, and the more effort we put in the easier it becomes.

Another thing I’d like to stress is the importance of keeping our mind steady in the sense of not getting too puffed up because of our accomplishments and knowledge, worldly or spiritual. Either way, it’s dangerous and harmful. If we find ourselves becoming arrogant we should look around and recognize there are definitely other people who know more and can explain things better. Whatever we feel proud of knowing, we should remember that others know more and looking up to them can help bring our mind back down.

Alternatively, sometimes we might feel a bit depressed, thinking, “No matter what I try, I’m just no good at anything. I’m no good at worldly things; I’m no good at Dharma practice.” But if we look around we’ll see that there are others who are worse. Comparing ourselves to them can help bring our mind back up.

We need to apply the mental factor of vigilance to check ourselves all the time to see whether or not what we’re doing is worthwhile, whether or not we’re really practicing. We don’t have to be doing anything visible, reciting mantras or sitting in the meditation posture to be genuinely practicing Dharma. As long as what we’re doing is truly beneficial for others there’s no reason it’s not Dharma. Therefore we must be constantly mindful and aware of what we’re doing to make sure that we’re always on the right track.

There’s a story from Atisha’s time in Tibet, where he had many disciples. Once he checked to see who had the higher realizations—Dromtönpa, the disciple who spent all his time serving Atisha, or Neljorpa, who spent all his time meditating in retreat. What he found was that Dromtönpa, who continually waited on him hand and foot, helping and serving him, had more realizations than Neljorpa. That was because Dromtönpa was constantly vigilant to ensure that everything he did was of service to his guru. Since he was able to transform all his activities of body, speech and mind into Dharma, he became the more highly realized.

Also, when Tibet’s great yogi Milarepa was living up in the mountains, people would come up and make offerings of food and help to the meditators. He observed that the meditators and those offering food and help became enlightened simultaneously. Actually, the fact that they reached enlightenment at the same time is a dependent arising. Like the story of Dromtönpa and the meditator, this story shows that those who helped the meditators up in the mountains with a good motivation purified much negativity and accumulated extensive merit.

It is said that the root of all Dharma practice is the mind—our attitude and way of thinking—and that if our motivation is pure, whatever we do becomes Dharma, whether it benefits others directly or not. There’s a saying that a person with a good mind lying down sleeping is much better than a person with a bad mind sitting in meditation. This is very true. So what if a person full of malicious thoughts, who always harms and speaks very spitefully to others, sits up straight, eyes half-closed in the correct meditation posture? That’s not particularly amazing.

What’s more remarkable is an ordinary person full of friendly and caring thoughts, who always avoids harming others and is very humble and considerate, lying down to sleep—that person’s mind doesn’t become negative but continues to grow more positive, even when asleep.

As I mentioned before, when we see that death is imminent we should be able to think, “Well, it’s OK to die. I’ve led my life as best I could, I’ve not done anything really bad, so there’s no reason to regret dying.” However, when we see that our death is not imminent we should feel happy that we’re not about to die and that there are many good things we can do with the rest of our life.

A final note on motivation

Because it is a Mahayana practice, we should never engage in mind training for ourselves alone but always for the sake of all the countless other sentient beings.

When our motivation is to attain personal liberation for ourselves alone, although in general this is neither bad nor non-virtuous because it leads to the state of a Hinayana arhat, it’s not appropriate for Mahayana practitioners.

Similarly, if our motivation is to be reborn as a human or a god because we’re desperate to avoid the unbearable sufferings of the lower realms, this isn’t bad or non-virtuous either—it’s still Dharma—but it’s a small scope practice and again not worthy of a great scope practitioner.

However, if we practice simply to receive praise, veneration or offerings, gain followers or become rich and famous, then even if we meditate all night and day, it can never become Dharma. No matter how hard we practice, if we’re doing it for just this life, it’s not Dharma.

For our actions to become Dharma they must be completely unmixed with any thoughts of gain for just this life. If our motivation is mixed with the purpose of this one life, it is deeply polluted and nothing we do will turn out well. It’s like pouring nectar into a jar of poison.

The very best thing we can do is to work constantly for the benefit of all sentient beings, who are as infinite as space. If we can’t manage that, we should try to gain personal liberation, and if that too is beyond us, then we should at least try to avoid the suffering of the three lower realms. That’s still Dharma practice; it’s not non-virtue. It’s neither wrong nor evil; it’s just not the highest practice we can do.


29 See the appendix of this book. [Return to text]