On May 3, 4 & 5 2024, H.E Garchen Rinpoche bestowed precious teachings on: Essence of Phenomena and Karma, which can be found on Youtube.

Transcription of H.E. Garchen Rinpoche’s teaching from the English translation, by translator Ina Bieler.
All copyright reserved to Garchen Institute.

May 5 2024.

The session opens with the recording of the White Tara mantra:


And so yesterday Dharma friends, we spoke about the “Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind” [to Dharma]. And also, you asked some good questions. Especially the question about believing in karma, that’s really an important question, because believing in karma is really the root of the Dharma. So, now you have a precious human body. And a quality of this body, is that you have an ability to understand things. So, you have an ability to know, what to do, and what not to do. So, what is to do, (what you should do), is to cultivate love. And what you should not do, is to cultivate self-grasping. And why?, because you want to be happy. So, if you want to be happy, you do have to understand, (know the cause of happiness). If you do not know the cause of happiness, (even if you are born as a human being, in the higher realms), you will still experience a lot of suffering. If you want to avoid suffering, you have to avoid the cause of suffering.

It is just like, this cause of suffering, is just like the seed of a flower. And it is something that now, in this human life, we can easily abandon. We can understand what causes birth in the Hell Realms, it is anger, it is hatred. It is all the activities that we engage in with an angry mind. Right now, that seed of that flower, is present in our mind. And then that anger leads to other emotions. It leads to jealousy, and then that leads to attachment, and so on. So all of these afflictive emotions are seeds in our mind, that will ripen. When you understand that, you have understood karma really. And so the medicine that helps heal that, is bodhicitta, which is really the essence of the Dharma. So the term “Dharma,” it really means to transform your mind for the better, [which brings the two-fold benefit for self and others]. And so what is it [Dharma]? So it literally means “to cut” something out. So, what needs to be cut out, is that grasping at a “self”. This thinking of “me”. This “I exist”. And the way we uproot it, is by cultivating an altruistic mind. So what you need is, a wish to benefit others. “The perfect Buddhas arise from the altruistic mind”. And, “All suffering, without exception comes from wishing for one’s own happiness”. So, if you understand karma, you basically understand, that the altruistic mind is the seed for all happiness. Right now, temporarily, you will experience the happiness in higher realms, and it is that, which will lead ultimately to Enlightenment. So the only cause for that, is love.


And, also we learn that, when we take the “Refuge Vow”. When you take the “Refuge Vow,” in the beginning you say, “I take Refuge in the Buddha, in Wisdom, the Heart Essence of the Buddha”. So, it is that wisdom, the wisdom, or your intelligence as a human, [that] helps you understand, what is the cause of happiness. There is only one cause, and that is love. And there is only one cause of suffering, and that is self-grasping. So, if you understand just this, you have already understood karma. And then, from there if you understand that, whatever you do with body, speech and mind, with a mind of love, will result in happiness. So we can see a lot of suffering in this world. And, even just one kind of suffering, (any kind of suffering), has a cause, and the cause is always, ultimately an afflictive emotion. And the cause of that affliction, is ultimately self-grasping. If you understand this, it is like having two open eyes, (you see clearly). And the Deity actually has three eyes; in addition, there is the wisdom eye. And so, we can also say, one eye sees the ultimate truth, and the other one, sees the workings of karma, (and that’s really crucial), because if you do not understand karma, then you are ignorant. Then you are just like an animal, and then, all other knowledge, is really useless. So it is really important to understand karma.

And so beings, like animals for example, who are ignorant, who don’t understand karma, they still experience a lot of suffering, (but they don’t understand it). And so yesterday, you asked that question, about it being very difficult to believe in karma. And that is true, of course it is difficult in the beginning, to believe it. For example, it is just like when you look at the seed of a flower, and I tell you, “All the beautiful qualities of the flower, are in that seed”. You can’t see it, in the seed, so it is hard to believe. So it is something you really have to reflect on, and analyse over and over again, until you really understand. And you do have the intelligence, the ability to understand that; that is a quality of your mind. And so right now, in your mind there are all sorts of afflictive emotions. And all of these afflictive emotions, are the cause of suffering. We say that, and yet, then on the other hand, they do not inherently exist. They are sort of illusory by nature. So when you apply a clear mind, (mindfulness), and you look at these afflictive emotions, (that cause all this suffering), they will go away instantly. So they are not really there actually.


So temporarily, “All suffering without exception comes from wishing for one’s own happiness”. But then, when we practice mindfulness, you recognise the true nature of those afflictions. For example, Tara is a Wisdom deity, and within the expanse of wisdom all the Buddhas are one, their minds are all the same. [The nature of dharmadhatu wisdom]. So when we say, a wisdom being, we mean a deity, any deity, they are all the same, [of unborn essence of the true nature]. Their mind is nondual. There is no thought of self and other, in the deity’s mind, there is just great love. And their love also has the power to reduce our own self-grasping. So the deity Tara is referred to in “The Seven Verses of Supplication to Tara,” as the “Mother Goddess of Mindfulness”. So Tara therefore really is your own mindfulness. So this intelligence is your intelligence that knows, what to do and what not to do, (that’s your mindfulness). So you know that, “I have to cultivate love”. For example, another representation of this, is in the Christian’s tradition, there’s Mother Mary. There’s this common image of Mother Mary, how she holds the baby Jesus on her lap. And that’s also a symbol of compassion. It is the same compassion that Tara has.

Tara as a symbol of compassion, is more from the perspective of the ultimate [nature], (more metaphoric). And so Tara is often depicted with a flower. And the flower represents, the one who gives happiness to others. Just as the flower has nectar, and then the bees come and take the nectar. The flower, [symbolically] means something very similar to baby Jesus in Mother Mary’s lap. But actually that image of Mother Mary may even be better, because it is a very direct image, where instantly, when we see it, we understand the quality of love. And that is important to understand, because if you do not understand that all of these causes for happiness, and suffering are in your own mind, then you will continue to create the causes for suffering. And, as a result of that, you will temporarily continue to wander in the six realms of samsara, [cyclic existence]. But ultimately you will always be freed from these realms, that is because you possess Buddha nature. But, it is really very important to trust in karma. Because, now you have a precious human body. And even though you have that now, it is not so easy to find that, a human body, and to get that, [a human body] again, in the future. So when you think about it in terms of numbers, (as we mentioned before). [We consider] how many people there are in the world. So you may think, there are so many people in the world. When you think about the different cities, and there are so many people. But actually, if you compare this [number] to the animals, there might be more ants, in an ant hive, than people in the entire world.


So, there are many more animals than there are human beings. And, that is just what we can see. And then also there are beings without a body, there are even more of them. And then there are all these beings in the oceans, which are as small as atomic particles, all pervading the ocean. There is just infinite beings, and they all have the same mind. It is just because of the cause of ignorance, that they have now become such an animal, and they experience the suffering in the six realms. So think about the suffering of the six realms, and how difficult it is to find a precious “human” body. And therefore, about karma. And then another of those, “Four Thoughts [the Turn the Mind to Dharma],” is the “Reflection of Death and Impermanence,” the impermanence of this life, so that is what we have not yet talked about. So, eventually we are going to die, even if you are very wealthy in this life, when you die you will only follow your karma. So when you look at you life now, and you find that, I do experience a good amount of happiness, and wellbeing, that’s because you have been generous in a past life. You are generous with a mind of love. Or, the fact that you have a human body, shows that you have practiced ethical discipline. But is important to recognise the cause for that. If you don’t recognise it, you will just discard it, forget about it, and then eventually, that good karma of this life will be exhausted. And when there is no more good karma left, you will be dragged down into the lower realms again.

Often people want to know what they did in a past life. It is said that, “If you want to know what you did in the past, look at your present body. It is the manifestation of everything you have done in the past”. So, if you find, I’m quite happy now, that is because you have developed love in the past. If you find that I have so many problems, and suffering, that’s the fault of afflictive emotions. And where are these [afflictive emotions]? They are in your mind. So, if you just understand this, you have actually understood karma. And also, this is related to taking the Refuge Vow. And when we take Refuge, there is a “Refuge on the Basis,” a “Refuge on the Path,” and the “Resultant Refuge”. So you have to develop a trust in karma. So, when you look in the world, everything that happens in the world, the good things, and the bad things, all come from karma, and it is not the same everywhere. Even within one place, even within one country, people have different experiences of happiness and suffering, (they are not all the same). Or, even within a single village, or town, one person may be happy, the other one may suffer. So this is how I myself have reflected on karma.


So, first in my life, I experienced great happiness, (I found this precious human body). Then, later in the middle part of my life, I experienced a lot of suffering in prison. And then, in the midst of all this suffering, I also learnt to practice, and follow the “Three Jewels”. And really, through this Refuge, (through this protection), I was protected from death eight times. So, there were eight times in my life, when I came really close to death, and then again I was protected. And that is also really karma. This really made that clear, (that [it] is really karma). When you look around in the world, some people suffer a lot, and that is because they have created the cause of that in the past, and now they do experience the result. As we said, in one town, (even if it’s a good place), not everyone has the same experience. Some people, do not suffer at all in such a place. Some people, have even lived through a World War, and remained unaffected. Some people, never suffer much, and that is also because of karma. Or, you might have a king, who is protected in a palace by bodyguards, and then still he is assassinated, (even though he is so protected). [And then] another person is in the middle of war, and nothing happens to them. It is all because of karma, karma is really unfailing. And so what is certain, is that when we seek “Refuge” in the “Three Jewels,” we will be protected in this life, in the Bardo, and in future lives. So who are the Three Jewels? They are the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

So the Buddha is the one you are most familiar with, “we take Refuge in the Buddha”. When we take Refuge, there is three parts to it, (three aspects). There is the Basis, the Path, and the Resultant Refuge. The basic Refuge, (or fundamental Refuge), is your own Buddha nature. [And that] will always be there with you, wherever you go in the Six Realms of Samsara. No matter how much suffering you endure, in the end you will always be freed, because you possess Buddha nature. So, no matter where you end up temporarily, in the end, Buddha nature will always be freed. [So then] temporarily, (if you understand that), you will not have to experience all this suffering. But will enjoy the happiness in the Higher Realms, and ultimately attain Enlightenment. So that is why we take the “Refuge Vow”. And for that, we need to understand, that all the happiness and suffering, (everything you see in the world really), has a cause, is karma, (it has a cause). And it is really important to think about this very carefully. And if you understand karma, then this human existence, really has become meaningful. [This is] because, then you can go on with an assurance, (a certainty), and you understand karma, (you know it is in your own hands, and you can protect yourself). So therefore, it’s so important to trust in karma, and you have to really think about it.


So again, the “fundamental Refuge” is your Buddha nature, and that is also explained in the Samantabhadra Prayer, which I’m always passing out to people. So that Samantabhadra Prayer goes into that [fundamental refuge], into much detail. If you want to understand karma in more detail, read the Samantabhadra Prayer. And many lamas, (many masters), have given teachings on the Samantabhadra Prayer; when you hear those teachings, you will be able to understand. So it explains, really where does all the suffering come from? The suffering we experience now, the suffering of the past, and the suffering in the future, ultimately it comes from self-grasping. And then the Samantabhadra Prayer explains, how each of the afflictive emotions, leads to a certain kind of suffering. When I was young I always recited all these prayers, and that was really helpful, because by reciting them, I also then reflected on their meaning. So when you understand the meaning of this prayer, (and you want to become liberated); you know that I have to cultivate love, in order to be liberated. So that means, if you want to become liberated, you have to think about others. For as long as you think, “I want to be liberated,” you will actually never be liberated. So you have to free yourself of the “I,” therefore we say that, “The actual Refuge is Bodhicitta,” and that is called the “Mahayana Refuge”.

When we take Refuge with a selfish mind, thinking, “I want to be liberated,” that is more from the perspective of “Individual Liberation,” or pratimoksha. For as long as you do not liberate yourself of self-grasping, you cannot be freed from suffering. So when you are on the “Pratimoksha path,” and you practice that, this is what you eventually realise; that is, how I will be liberated from suffering, it is only if “I” let go of self-grasping. So, then eventually you enter the “Bodhisattva Path,” where you practice bodhicitta, in order to let go of “self-grasping”. And then when self-grasping goes away, you understand the meaning of the “Vajrayana,” which is the ultimate truth, or the “Resultant Refuge”. So again, the fundamental, or basic refuge is your Buddha nature. Then the “Path Refuge,” the “Refuge on the Path,” is the practice of those three vehicles: Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Vajrayana. And then the “Resultant Refuge,” is to attain the state of the Three Kayas, (dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya). At that stage, the mind just abides like space. And that is why we call Chenrezig, also Chenrezig the King of Space, Chenrezig’s great love and compassion pervades like space, because his mind is a unity of emptiness and compassion. And then from that dharmakaya state, the sambhogakayas, and nirmanakayas will naturally emerge. So those three kayas are just like the sky, the clouds, and the rain, and all the qualities of a Buddha come, when the rain falls down. So, in brief, the essence of all this, is you have to protect yourself, by protecting your own mind.


So now, when you receive a Dharma teaching, you take notes, and eventually you have a lot of notes. So, it’s important to take the most important points, of all these teachings that you hear, and really get to the essence of all this. Different gurus, give you hundred of different teachings, but ultimately they are all saying the same thing, they are all talking about: the two-fold truth, and then how, when you cultivate bodhicitta, you will attain Enlightenment. So the two-fold truth on the “relative level,” is to understand karma, (karma is unfailing). And on the ultimate level, [it is] that “self,” and “other,” do not exist. And so when you understand karma, eventually you will see the “ultimate truth”. What you realise then, is that the mind of all those beings, and my own mind, and all those Buddhas minds, is all one and the same, (that’s called the dharmakaya). Or the dharmakaya is like space, (the space-like mind). And so this is what one realises, when one sees the ultimate truth. So it’s something that you should contemplate really very carefully, and really apply that to yourself, and your own experiences; (how you experience the world, when you see something). For example, when you see an animal, then think about it, really reflect on that. Think that, for example, “I really have to believe in karma. How can I believe in karma? If I don’t understand it, and remain ignorant, there is a real danger, that I will be reborn as this kind of animal”. And then think about the suffering of that animal. And then, you see the next animal, and think about their suffering.

And so every time you see an animal for example, think that, “How would it be, if I would be that? If I would be that animal, how would I suffer?” Really think about what these animals experience, (the suffering that they experience). And so, then in this way, you think about the suffering of the beings in the hell realms, and the hungry spirits, and the animals. So it is really something, that becomes sort of a reality to you, when you think about it, how it would feel to yourself. Because these beings in these lower realms, they are really the same as we are, (they want to be happy, and they do not want to suffer like that). And so the difference is, the mind is the same, but then there is a difference in the experience of happiness and suffering. So why is there a difference between us? It is because of karma. It is because there are different causes, leading to different results. So, therefore there’s a difference in the way we appear, even though our mind is the same. So when you think about it in this way, it will help you to believe in karma.


And so you have set up your objects to be blessed on this table, (there were a lot of things). But you also have to really understand, what is the blessing actually? So actually in order for something to be blessed or consecrated, you have to understand, what it actually is, that confers blessing. (What exactly this blessing is). So we have to really see it, for what it actually is. And so what it actually is, is the outer universe, is actually pervaded by blessings naturally. If you understand the view of the Vajrayana, then this is what you understand. In the Vajrayana it is said, “When you realise that all appearance and existence is the deity, then you have perfected the secret mantra generation stage, or the deity yoga”. So […] understanding “appearance” and “existence” as the deity, means to understand for example, that the five elements are Buddhas, (they are the five goddesses or dakinis). And then there are five afflictive emotions, in the mind of sentient beings, (and they are the five wisdoms; they are the five Buddhas, (the five male Buddhas)). So the inner mind of beings, and the outer environment, really is the union of the male and the female five Dhyani-Buddhas. And so everything that appears and exists, (so we say, samsara and nirvana), everything is part of this union, of the five Buddha families. And this union of the male and female, what it really represents, is the union of clarity and emptiness. So things clearly appear, but they are empty of inherent nature, and ultimately being empty, everything arises from the mind, (everything comes from one mind). And so the Buddha himself said that in his teachings.

The Buddha gave extensive teachings, we speak about 84,000 different Dharma teachings, and then each of them, is subdivided into a further 84,000. Even though there are so many teachings, they ultimately have a single meaning. And the Buddha said in the Samādhirāja Sūtra [King of Samādhis Sūtra], “I have taught the sutras in thousands of worlds, and while my words are distinct, they have a single meaning. If you practice the single meaning you will realise all my words”. And this was actually a teaching that was given by a Drepung Geshe, Ngawang Phuntsok, in 1980. I was at one of the first teachings that he gave, when I came out [of prison]. And so ultimately there is really just one essence, and that is what we need to get at, and that ultimately, essentially is Buddha nature. So all sentient beings within the universe possess Buddha nature, (so their mind is the Buddha). But it is said, “I have not recognised my own mind to be the Buddha”. And that is why the Buddha said, “Tame your own mind, completely tame your own mind, in order for us to see that”. So this is how the blessings are all pervasive, they are within the minds of all sentient beings, and they are also within the outer environment, within the five elements.


The blessings really are everywhere, and so for example, when you think about the rain falling down, (the water element), and when you experience rain, or any of the elements, think about their benefits. For example, it rains and then the trees and the environment can grow, (it gives life to many sentient beings). Beings all around the world rely on the rainwater to survive. So it is the deity, it is Tara, for instance, (when you understand that, then you know things are already blessed). So this is what I mean, when I say, you have to understand what blessings actually are. And so when people come and ask me to consecrate, or bless something, then I feel I also have to introduce them to that. [This is] because, when they ask me that, they may not know what the blessings really are, and I know what they really are, so I explain it to them. And now when I explain it, you understand, and when you understand, you have actually received the blessing. Then there’s another illustration about the prayer wheel. So people in Tibet like the prayer wheels. And often they say that, [with regard to] one type of prayer wheel that you touch, “so you [in reference to Garchen Rinpoche] touch a prayer wheel spin it, and then send it to me. [And this is] because, they believe now it is blessed. But actually if you understand the meaning of the prayer wheel, then you know that the prayer wheel is already blessed in itself. It is endowed with blessings.

And that is also taught in many scriptures, and many gurus, many lamas, speak about that. [And that is] because the prayer wheel is filled, for example, with many “mani mantras,” [“OM MANI PEME HUNG”]. And “mani mantra” is Chenrezig, and Chenrezig is love and compassion. So that is the blessing, it is Chenrezig’s great space-like pervading compassion, (that is the blessing). So that is what we need to understand, in order to understand blessings, (and there is no other separate kind of blessing than that). It is just that, (when we don’t understand that), then we rely on some other blessing, (when we don’t feel that). If you don’t understand what the blessing really is, you won’t experience it, (you won’t feel it). If you do understand what a blessing is, then you will experience the blessings everywhere, (then you know, “Oh this is a blessing, or it is consecrated”). And so for as long as you don’t understand, often I tell people to recite prayers, because it then helps them to understand. In the “Five-Fold Path of Mahamudra,” it says, that “Dedication,” or “Aspiration Prayer,” is a skilful method, (the essence of skilful means is prayer, or “Dedication Prayer”). So when I confer a blessing, so to speak, then I see it in this way. I understand what the blessings really are, (maybe they don’t understand what it is), and so then I make a prayer. There’s this prayer where we say, “May all the virtuous activities of the Bodhisattvas be accomplished,” and also, “May all sentient beings understand karma”.


And you will understand, because you possess Buddha nature, and because you have Buddha nature, the Buddha is already inside of you. It is just that currently the mind is like an ice-block. When you understand all of this, you will see that, “What I need to do is melt my ice-block”. And when you understand that, the blessing has already come to your mind, (that’s the inner blessing). The outer blessing, is this introduction to what the blessing actually is, which is, that everything that appears and exists is the deity. Also the inner afflictive emotions are Buddhas, the outer elements are the deity. And when you see it that way, you will be able to see things in a different way. Then you won’t just see an ordinary earth, or an ordinary rock. You will think that these are actually Buddhas, these are the deity. They are here to benefit sentient beings. And then this ordinary perception of just being earth and rocks will disappear, and a pure perception, and devotion arises. (And with that, self-grasping disappears). So, there is a devotion to that Buddha that you see that arises, and self-grasping disappears. And when compassion for sentient beings arises, then self-grasping again disappears. And so, in both ways, through devotion, or compassion; self-grasping diminishes, and this is how you melt your own ice-block.

So the point really is, that you have to melt you own ice-block, (because the Buddha is already inside yourself). It is said that, “There is nothing to be purified, or removed from your mind, there’s nothing, no Buddha, no quality to be added to your mind. The mind itself, already is the Buddha, and there is no other Buddha than that, (than your own mind). And that mind, that is the Buddha, is like space”. And within space there is no duality. So all of this, is the introduction to what a blessing actually is. Also it really began with the teachings on the “Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind” [to Dharma]. If you understand all of this well, then your mind will be at ease, relaxed. When the mind is at ease, then you receive the blessings; (because the way you receive the blessings, is through your own mind). So you have to be receptive, to receive the blessings, and that means you have to feel it, (experience it). And once that feeling arises, you have already received the blessings, just naturally. So therefore, remember the qualities of the Buddha, the Dharma, and of the Sangha. There are so many, endless teachings on that. So you all live in a free place, you can listen to many Dharma teachings. So listen to them, and reflect on them, until a real experience, (or a kind of feeling of that) arises; and when that arises, you have received the blessings.


So when you really understand, that you have received the blessings, [then] there must be a feeling of reception, (a feeling of ease), from your side. And then once that has arisen, then you will have the intelligence to know unmistakably, what to do, and what not to do. Then, you have found the authentic path, and you will cultivate love and compassion. So this is how you should understand the blessing. And then a way for us to understand it, is we understand it really, by virtue of “Three Powers”. So there is first the Power of Your Own Intention. And so you understand this, and you want to cultivate love and bodhicitta. You understand this because you have Buddha nature, and then you develop love. And if you develop love for all sentient beings, then there will be the second power, which is the Power of All the Buddhas Great Compassion. So if you develop bodhicitta, then all the Buddhas will be there to support you. And then if the Buddhas support you, you have their power, then you will also access the third power, which is the Power of Dharmadhatu, which is then, where you see that you and all beings possess Buddha nature. And you see that, through your own power, (the power of your own mind). You shine the sun onto your own ice-block, and it melts into ocean water, and then you see that all beings have this nature. But before that, you need the first and the second power.

So the first and the second power are to be cultivated. And then the third power is innate, (you already have that), but you need to uncover it. So, first you cultivate the intention of bodhicitta. If you have that, secondly then, the Buddhas will be there to support you, because if you want to benefit others, that is all the Buddhas want, (and then if you want to benefit others, the Buddhas will support you). And then as a result, you will have the Power of Dharmadhatu, (where you understand that all beings actually possess Buddha nature). So it is really within these Three Powers, the benefit that we gain through any Buddhist practice. (It really comes from those “Three Powers”). Anything that you do, even a small Dharma practice, for example, a smoke offering, or you recite a mani mantra, (whatever you do), that really comes from these “Three Powers”. The accomplishment comes from these “Three Powers”. So therefore it is good to keep those in mind. And, as you go about in the world, whatever you experience, try to connect that to karma, and really understand karma. So when you hear a lot of teachings, it is always important that you get the essence of everything. It is actually [the case], no matter what you want to do. If you want to learn anything, you need to get at the essence of that.


Because we simply can’t “remember” all things, so we need to get to the essence, and the essence, is really just a single one, and that is to cultivate love, [it opens the door to our inner awareness-knowing. Cultivating the right attitude, (the right conduct) in our mind; is awakening our inner realisation (bodhicitta). This transforms our inner perceptual framework, which brings inner realisations]. The benefit of cultivating love, [in this way] is that your self-grasping will go away. And when self-grasping goes away, then you will realise your space-like nature of mind, and so you will see the ultimate truth. There is also one line that I added to the Refuge Vow card, and that is, “I take refuge in the Spiritual Friend, the Heart-Essence of the Sangha”. So that is really most important, in my opinion. All the Spiritual Friends are the Sangha. There are different opinions on that. Some people say, “Oh, but it is said that you should only have one Root Guru, so it is not okay to have so many Root Gurus”. But is also depends from which perspective, you are seeing it. (So this maybe is just more from an ultimate perspective, in the sense that there is only one guru ultimately, (because all gurus are contained in one guru). So ultimately, you can’t have more than one guru, because there is only one). So, then maybe that is what they are saying. But certainly, from an external perspective, we can’t say that you can only have one guru.

For example

(to be continued…)

Immeasurable heartfelt thanks for these most precious teachings. Emaho!
(Any errors in the transcription are the transcriber’s).