HE Garchen Rinpoche – Jan 7, 2007 – Tibetan Meditation Center, Frederick, MD A Song of Milarepa: The story of Yogini Nyama Paldarbum

Nyama asked, “Previously, you depended on a teacher and have practiced, so what arose in your mind?”

Milarepa replied and explained, “Its’ ground basis abides like space, and it is boundless as the sky without center or boundaries. When one is looking at mind, one is practicing, one sees the root of all practice is to realize the two types of bodhicitta.”

We have to see our mind like water that has become dirty. We need to clean that water. As long as we grasp and have concepts, it will be murky water. The mind of the Buddha is like clean water. The mind of the sentient beings is like murky water. Clear water shares the same nature as muddy water. The nature of mind is like space, it is all pervasive, the nature of the mind where all concepts have been liberated is empty and clean like space. This is what needs to be realized in practice.

Everyone who came, dear dharma friends, I am happy you came, thank you. Tashi delek! Even though this is a small group, it accomplishes great purpose. If even one person practices dharma for the sake of all sentient beings, it is of great benefit.

According to Buddha’s speech, with intention to bestow happiness to all sentient beings, this has high purpose, [and] will bring about great results.  There is the religious tradition, and worldly tradition. From worldly perspective, one looks for means to get happiness and freedom from suffering in this lifetime. In dharma perspective, [one is] looking for methods of happiness and liberation in this lifetime and all other lifetimes.

Depending on karma, we meet with all religions, in this way, all religions are excellent.

Which ever tradition one encounters depend on aspirations one has made in previous lifetimes. In this assembly, we are making aspiration prayers to encounter the Buddha’s’ prayers in the future.

There are 4 traditions in (Vajrayana/ Himalayan) Buddhism.  This is Kagyu. All have the same aim, all have the same goal, and just some differences in approach.  They all aim to accomplish conventional bodhichitta – to realize incontrovertible cause and effect – and accomplish ultimate bodhichitta – to realize emptiness.  There is only one result, one goal.

So the practitioner finds a tradition depending on karmas. Everyone must practice what one does, depending upon karmas. One must go one way…if one goes “my lineage is the best, and all the others are nothing.” this is wrong approach, this is sectarian. All masters have said all lineages are good, just different approaches. This is very important.

The Buddha has taught many vehicles, depending on disposition, mental scope, and intelligence of sentient beings.  Like a small child has different food and clothes than a teenager or an old man, there is appropriate dharma for the individual.

There is appropriate dharma for the highest mental faculty, mediocre mental faculty, and lowest mental faculty.

We have those three types of mental ability. How do we understand?

  • Highest – great merit from previous life. Having already made imprints and habits to dharma practice, high intelligence, and great compassion.
  • Mediocre– devotion and disposition to practice and compassion, but not much wisdom.
  • Lowest – a lot of non-virtuous actions, has not habituated to dharma practice, has little intelligence and compassion.

All have Buddha nature, of course, but they vary in compassion and wisdom. All sentient beings have Buddha cause in mind.  The extent of wisdom and compassion makes the difference.

From within the vehicles, there are two vehicles: the causal and resultant vehicle.

  • Causal – scholarly vehicle- focuses on realization of meaning of karma.
  • Resultant – secret mantra vehicle.

When someone is low on intelligence and may ask, “casual vehicle only talks about karma, resultant vehicle only talks about emptiness.”  One must know that there is a teaching appropriate to each person.

For example, the person who walked from lama house to TMC slowly got here in 5 minutes. But we who drove fast got here in 15! (laughter) It takes longer to drive than walk: one may have doubts. One must understand that every path is in accordance to one’s disposition and faculties.

We cannot all say “we must all walk same path.”  If someone has less intelligence and wisdom, they can’t do secret mantra.  We who drove here today are like those of low wisdom: we must ponder the teachings. (laughter)

Today, we will talk about the tradition of Kagyu lineage. This lineage is known as the practice blessing lineage.  We will specifically be talking about Milarepa, the disciple of Marpa.


Nyama Paldarbum meets Milarepa

There are many life stories of Milarepa. I’m using one written by Nyama Paldarbum, starting on p. 302 in Tibetan. Later, when you study 100,000 songs, you will know what it is. Please study and look at this later.

Nyama Paldarbum was a woman with great merits and karma from a previous life.  In her next life, she was born as a girl and became a disciple of Milarepa. [At that time], he was practicing the single taste of no attachment or aversion.  If he got good food or bad food, he had a single taste. He was sometimes in retreat, sometimes out in world, practicing not having attachment and aversion. He was begging for food and went to a farm. There, he found a girl there who became his disciple and who wrote this life story.

One day, Milarepa went on his tour to get alms, and came to some fields of farmers. Milarepa told them, “I had nothing to eat, please give me something.” A young girl named Nyama Paldarbum there saw him and had devotion, and said “go to my house, and I will feed you later.”

When he got to her house, the door fell apart.  The old woman there thought Milarepa was a thief, and was about to throw hot ashes on him.  He said “think first.”

Milarepa gave a teaching song.

“In the beginning……..

In the middle…..

In end, you are old, you are living like a pig, needing someone else to take care of you. “

He told her of birth, old age, sickness, and death, and that we must practice dharma under a guru to get out of samsara. She realized he was right, had great devotion, and let the ashes fall down.

[Garchen does impression of old woman crying with devotion (laughter)]

The old mother softened up, and then was crying when the girl got home and saw her mom crying. She said “I thought you were a Dharma practitioner, but you made my mother cry and broke our door!” So, she beat Milarepa until her mother said, “don’t do that, he taught me great dharma!”

Then she took Milarepa to her family and asked him questions. First, she asked about his lineage, the lineage of the 3 kayas.

Milarepa replied, “the dharmakaya is Samantabhadra, the sambhogakaya is Vajradhara, and the nirmanakaya is the Shakyamuni Buddha. My lineage in the 3 kayas.”

She replied, “your lineage is precious, like a river that is uninterrupted or broken, flowing down from a mountain.”

Then Nyama asked, “one needs a root guru from whom one can directly receive the instructions. What kind of root guru did you have?”

Milarepa replied, “outer- my spiritual guide, inner- bodhichitta, secret- the realization of mahamudra, the Buddha inherent in the mind”

The outer guru is the one who communicates the continuity of knowledge through signs. He or she is the guru who teaches the instructions through symbols and other various methods.

The inner guru is the one who teaches the continuity of wisdom and causes the direct recognition of the true nature of the mind.

The ultimate guru is the one who teaches the ultimate truth by increasing the clarity of our wisdom until the final result is attained.

Then she replied, “your teacher is as precious as a golden necklace with turquoise.”

Then Nyama asked, “One needs to receive an empowerment from a qualified guru. What kind of empowerment have you received?”

Milarepa replied, “The outer empowerment is that my body and mind its basis has the cause of Buddha.  The inner empowerment is that it is the nature of the five Buddha families. Having recognized the nature of mind- understanding it being the Buddha, the mahamudra –is the secret/actual empowerment. In this way I have received the three empowerments.”

She responded, “the empowerments you received are truly precious. If wild animals came, it would startle like a lion.”

This showed she was high in wisdom.

Then Nyama asked, “What kind of instructions did you receive?”

Milarepa replied, “Outer-listening, pondering, meditating, I have put in practice.

Inner- understanding nature of my mind.

Actual- practicing with mindful awareness and no distraction.”

She responded, “The instructions you have received are as clear and unstained as a mirror, truly precious.”

Then Nyama asked, “Have you meditated in mountain retreat? Have you done Chod?”

(Garchen Rinpoche does some really funny gestures miming playing a Chod drum)

Milarepa replied, “Being in mountain retreat is the Outer Chod I have practiced, secluding to dangerous places without fear.  We have fear due to self-grasping, like a child scared of going to bathroom in the night, or a bird drinking water, looking at all times that something will come get them. Fear is self-grasping. Weather I die or not, no concern.

The Inner Chod is not grasping to my body as myself. My body is not I. we suffer due to self-grasping.  I DON’T mind what happens to my body.”

We need to consider this very well, for it is essential for our true dharma practice. If we still have strong self-clinging, we will still miss out. The root of all practice is rooting out self grasping. This is why we do the preliminary practices. We are always offering a mandala, thinking of other sentient beings, to cut self-grasping.

In the 37 bodhisattva practices, it says all suffering comes from self- grasping.

# 11- “All suffering without exception comes from wishing for one’s own happiness. The perfect buddhas arise from the altruistic mind.  Therefore, completely exchanging one’ own happiness for the suffering of others is the bodhisattva’s practice.”

We need to consider this well.

Self-grasping leads to suffering, If there is no self-grasping, there is no suffering.

All beings in the six realms are there depending on self-grasping. Because of grasping, they wander in samsara. When the body has died, the consciousness is seeking a body, and a body is established. It is established in the nature of suffering. In this way, we wander in 6 transmigrations, suffering. The root of the 37 bodhisattva practices and 84,000 teachings is bodhichitta, to cut self-grasping. When we think of others, self-grasping will natural diminish.

When we are thinking only of “I”, the dharma practice will not be pure. You must understand the fault of self-grasping, and investigate if there is any benefit to self-grasping at all.

We may think, “I need to abandon all of life to abandon self-grasping.” But there is a difference between view and practice.  In behavior, we still need to work and engage in activities, but our view should be to abandon self.

It says in the 37 Bodhisattva practices, however hard we may try, if we don’t have karma, we won’t get self-grasping.  If we have karma, we will get it.

For example, there have been Tibetans who had been poor in Tibet.  They left everything, even clothes, at home to come over the mountains. Now, they have everything they need over here. But it is impermanent. If we have the karma from a previous life, what we need will happen. But if we don’t, we won’t get what we want. Self-grasping won’t change what we get or not. If we do not have self-grasping, then prosperity will do no harm.

When we are offering a mandala, our own body, to 3 jewels, we have offered everything to 3 jewels.  These are methods to decrease self-grasping. Many teachings have been taught, but they are all an antidote. In this country, we need to do ordinary work, but we need to understand the body is not me, it is a guest house, and the consciousness is the guest, which will abandon the guest house of the body [as it says in the 37 bodhisattva practices].

Getting back to Milarepa’s response, “the Ultimate Chod, the actual truth, is realizing the actual nature of one’s mind. Look for that I. Is it my possessions? My identity? My body? Nope. My mind? Look at the mind, and you will only see it is the nature of clarity and emptiness abiding like space, like sky. Nothing can be found. The knower of this is clarity. The mind is not existent nor is it non-existent. If you look for it, you won’t find it.

To see its nature As It Is is like a solid ice block. As soon as we start to understand nature of mind, the ice block starts to melt. Everything that appears in empty. This is the ultimate Chod: realizing the nature of mind.”

All self grasping is like the cold that lets the water freeze into ice. If we have no self-grasping, it melts. Bodhichitta is like the heat that melts the ice.

Sentient beings are the water (?)? The Buddha itself is established in ourselves.

She responded, “So your Chod is truly precious, like an eagle that doesn’t have to fear any other bird. When the other birds fly, they are afraid.”

Then Nyama asked, “So why are you always screaming “PHET” in your Chod practice? (laughter)  ”

Milarepa answered, “The Outer PHET is when concepts are arising that are strong that don’t let us rest and distract us, the loud PHET breaks that stream of concepts.

The Inner PHET is when we get sleepy and foggy and think “I’d rather sleep,” we say PHET to wake ourselves up, mind gets clear.

The Absolute PHET– the resultant phet- we are not sleepy or foggy or distracted, we are in perfect state of clarity with no distraction- is like the ultimate PHET.”

She responded, “Your PHET is precious, like the sound of an army blowing a big trumpet, the other soldiers who hear will jump up and run away.”

This PHET is something we can actually learn and put into practice. It is like the trumpet of an army. This is a sign of great wisdom. Usually, when we practice, we have a stream of concepts, which the PHET will dispel.

When one of H.E. Garchen Rinpoche’s teachers says PHET, it sounds like a trumpet (does trumpet impression). (laughter)


After sharing meaning of three PHETS, Nyama asked, “Previously, you depended on a teacher and have practiced, so what arose in your mind?”

Milarepa replied and explained, “Its’ ground basis abides like space, and it is boundless as the sky without center or boundaries. When one is looking at mind, one is practicing, one sees the root of all practice is to realize the two types of bodhicitta.”

We have to see our mind like water that has become dirty. We need to clean that water. As long as we grasp and have concepts, it will be murky water. The mind of the Buddha is like clean water. The mind of the sentient beings is like murky water. Clear water shares the same nature as muddy water. The nature of mind is like space, it is all pervasive, the nature of the mind where all concepts have been liberated is empty and clean like space. This is what needs to be realized in practice.

This basis, this ground of the mind is one and the same in Buddhas and sentient beings. It is clear and uncontrived. There is no different in the basis of the mind, which is unfabricated.  We sentient beings fabricate, we adulterate it. It is like taking pure water and adding dirt to it. We are fabricating something. The water without adding anything to it is clean, pure water, it is nature of mind which is pure like space, uncontrived.

This basis is, as all Buddhas have known, abiding dharmakaya. The Buddha’s are abiding. But sentient beings, though their mind has that nature, their minds are murky and they are wandering in samsara. We need to purify that mind.

There is a path to get there. Stay in the moment where past memories have ceased and future thoughts have not arisen. This is complete openness, great vast openness. A state where mind is not obscured by concept.  There is no grasping to concept. And even if concepts do arise, they just arise and subside, they can’t do any harm. This is the state in which the mind must abide.

Applied to practice, what does “uncontrived, unfabricated” mean? We need to look at the mind. The one who knows that is the one who sees the mindful awareness. In an instant, its nature is recognized. As it arises, it immediately dissipates and can’t do harm. In this way, they go out of existence. That is great openness.


But if we follow the thoughts, for example a thought like anger, then it obscures the mind and it is becoming contrived or fabricated. But if we just let it be in uncontrived state, there is no obscuration. Always observe by mindful awareness. As a result, one will immediately recognize thoughts as they arise, when we have no grasping. Even if they are good or bad thoughts, there will be no grasping. Since the cause is uncontrived, the result of a path that is uncontrived is a mind that is uncontrived.

This is the uncontrived state of mahamudra, like previously dirty water that is no longer obscured. Leaving it the name uncontrived state of mahamudra. What does mahamudra mean?

The first word is “chag.” It is a word of respect and devotion, recognizing the Buddha’s amazing qualities and seeing them as unsurpassed and precious.

Where is the Buddha? Don’t look outside, he can only be found on the inside. When one sees ones own intrinsic awareness as it is, it is the mind’s unity of clarity and emptiness. We give this mind the name of Buddha.  chagya chenpo

Gya– devotion to my own intrinsic awareness, which has the nature of Buddha

chenpo– extremely vast, no center and no fringe.  It is understanding one’s intrinsic awareness as it is for oneself, rather than getting it from someone else. It is inexpressible, like a mute eating molasses – he is getting sweet, but couldn’t give an answer. The nature of mind cannot be expressed.

Mahamudra in Tibetan is “Gya chenpo” – “vast and inexpressible.”

“Gya chenpo” is extremely vast.  It means all encompassing, encompassing all phenomena in samsara and nirvana.  Even only considering this world system, the particles of dust in it are beyond count. There are an infinite amount of Buddhas, and an infinite amount of sentient beings in this universe with mt meru in center and 4 continents. There is nothing the mind can not encompass. It comes from emptiness and dissolves into emptiness, like water freezing into ice and then melting again into water.

When one has realized the meaning of mahamudra, one has realized liberation from samsara. When one realizes it, one realizes all things of samsara and nirvana are empty of true self nature. Therefore, that mind has no grasping to things as real things, like an ice block that melts into water. One doesn’t grasp for the ice because one knows it is water.


All phenomena of samsara and nirvana are made by mind and empty of self-nature abiding as space: this leads to the arising of mahamudra. When one has realized the nature of one’s mind, one is liberated from samsara.


She was asking him, “so what is it that appears in your mind?”

Milarepa used the analogy of the sun shining in a cloudless sky.

She followed up, “when you aren’t meditating, and things are arising, what is the depth of the view- what is the ultimate result?”

He replied- “all phenomena of samsara and nirvana are not substantially existent things with reality to them.  There is no grasping to things as existing and with reality. Having no referential point, there is no concept. In the non-distracted state, whatever concepts arise, they can do no harm. We need to rely on an object when our mind gets distracted; therefore, it says this is a meditation without a reference point.


The view is without hope and fear. The only hope we should have been that all sentient beings inhabiting the three spheres should attain Buddha hood, but that’s it. No hopes, no fears- no suffering when one is empty of self and other.

This yogi is free of hopes and fears.


So, Milarepa said, “do you want this practice?”


She gave rise to devotion, and recognized Mila as a true teacher, she admitted her previous mistakes.

Worldly sentient beings, they do not ever know of the shortcomings of nonvirtuous actions and advantages of virtuous actions. They are ignorant, even if they know it; they see bad things as good and good things as bad. They see everything in samsara in wrong way. See it as a happy state, don’t see it as it really is. This is a

corrupt view. It is likened to a summer day, when there are many clouds in the sky, you can’t see the sun shining. Or it is like a snowy winter when everything is covered and cold, and you don’t see flowers growing in the meadow. In the same way, mind is obscured, and not seeing everything as it really is.


Nyama Paldarbum admitting her wrongdoing and mistakes she had done, and said, “now, depending on negative karmas from past lives, I have taken on a negative body, that of a girl who is like a servant of my parents, always coming and going for them until they get old. I had never thought of death or growing old.”

She admitted this is wrong. Many examples, but no need to go into details.

In brief, “I have never reminded my self if death and impermanent, but now I will. Master, I will practice the dharma and be your disciple.”


Mila replied, “ok yes, I shall teach you the dharma, but to teach you girls the dharma is hard. If you get good, you get proud easily, and if you have faults, you get mad. But I have trust in you, so I will teach you. (laughter) ”


The message is, we should not worry about makeup and cleaning our faces, we should clean out minds instead. Of course, we should wash ourselves, or our husbands and everyone else won’t like us. But wash ourselves once a day, not three times. (laughter)

Mila said don’t turn your mind to samsaric friends, but turn it to your spiritual guide.

In brief, do not fixate your mind on this lifetime preparing for this lifetime, but prepare your mind. if you have wealth, don’t be stingy, be generous with it.


. Instead, you should Be generous with your possessions instead of being stingy. When you are young, it is hard to practice the dharma. The young are like beautiful peacocks. They are proud of their appearance and do not wish to practice. With this pride, love and compassion cannot arise. We need to apply an antidote to pride and this antidote is devotion.


When we are young boys and girls, it is difficult to practice dharma. They are like peacocks, thinking
I am beautiful” we are proud of being beautiful or young or rich.

With this pride, love and compassion can not arise in this mind.

In brief, we need to find antidote against pride. An antidote against pride is devotion.


She replied, “Please do not scold me. I really want to practice the

dharma, but never had the chance to practice dharma. I used to just work, then come home and get exhausted.”


In the day there is never-ending work. In the night I am fast asleep. Morning and evening I am a slave to food and clothes. I have never had the chance to practice the Dharma.”


(Garchen Rinpoche says to read this translated version of this song.)


Milarepa replied, ” Now you have no time to practice. Do you have time to die? J


This life is very short compared to all your future lives. You must prepare for all your future lives. Do you know what you will eat then?” The preparation for all your future lives is generosity in this present life.


At some point you have to die. So, if you are only working for this life, it is a very short term compared to thousands of years in your future lives. Rather than prepare food for this life, prepare for your future lives.

What will you eat in future lives?

Preparation is generosity. So, prepare for what you will eat in future lives.


If you have no preparation for lives to come, what will the food be?

If you are not generous, that is your true enemy, stinginess. If you recognize it, get rid of it.

Stinginess is your true enemy and you should eliminate it. Normally we think of only ourselves. As a result, we will be reborn as a hungry ghost. So we need to practice generosity for our future lives.In this life there is the light of the sun and the moon. But in the bardo there is none. Meditate on luminosity as a preparation for the bardo.



If we only think “me me me”, we end up in the realm of hungry spirits. You are not doing any good, only harming self. Not only meaningless in this life, but will be reborn as hungry spirit. So, need to practice generosity.


In this life, there is the sun and the moon, but when you die, this is gone. Therefore, meditate on luminosity, meditate on mahamudra.  If you don’t practice this, and are always sleepy, your true enemy is ignorance therefore; sleep as little as you can.


Some people may think, I have nothing to give, but that is not right if one has material possessions, then one must give to others. If not, there is protecting life- ex. protecting an insect. The highest generosity is practicing for sentient beings.  Reciting Mani mantra, and with every mantra thinking of a different sentient being, this gives rise to compassion and

Cuts self-grasping.


Some people may think that they have nothing to give, but that is not right. If one has much, one should give that. But if one has nothing, one can give the protection of life and give the dharma by reciting “om mani padme hum.” The prayer wheel I turn continuously is turning in prayers for all sentient beings. So one can always give.

When we go to the next life, we will take no company and no friends.


Ex. The prayer wheel I am turning continuously; I am doing prayers for all sentient beings. Love and compassion IS the highest generosity.


When we go onto to next lives, we are going like a car on an empty mountain with wild animals and thieves, alone. We go to the bardo alone, with no company.  Our company will be the deity, when we do the deities mantra and arising.


We have said that the deities are our company and our obstructers are those humans that are close to us, that are dear to us. They bring many obstacles, create work, and are harmful when we die. None of them can help you and go with you.

Of course we need to have love and be kind for those close to us, but know when you go; you go alone, except for the yidam.  Loved ones won’t go with us, the deity will.


Who will we take when we go to the bardo alone? When we do deity practice, the deity will accompany us in the bardo. Our obstructers will be those who are now dear to us. They create problems when we are alive and cannot help us when we are die. Of course, we should be kind to them. But only the yidam deity we have meditated on will accompany us in the bardo.The meditation on the yidam deity benefits us in this life as well. I get many calls about people’s problems. I always tell people to meditate on Tara. When the mind is suffering it is obscured by self grasping. At this time we need to visualize the yidam as clear as an image in the mirror. If we do this, our mind will become clear and pure. If you recite the mantra without love and compassion, there will be some benefit. But we should transform ourselves completely into the deity, including their love and compassion. If we do this there will be great benefit for this life as well as for future lives.


I always tell you about the meditation on the yidam deity. Not only is it of benefit in the next life, it is of benefit in this life.  Many times, people call saying they are having problems. I tell them to do Tara. Suffering is a concept, a fault, arising from previous karma from self-grasping. Mind is obscured, it eliminates our intelligence in that moment. We need to visually the yidam clearly, like in a mirror, and recall the love and compassion the yidam have. If you can do it, the self-grasping will decrease and wisdom will increase. I hand out the small round pictures of yidam, it should give them.

If a child recited Om tare tu tare tutare soha, it won’t be as beneficial as giving rise to love and compassion while reciting.


Thinking about the future lives is a very long way. If you don’t plan, will you ride a horse?

Whenever you can engage in virtuous actions, do it. If you have a spare moment, recite mantra, visualize deity, practice continuously. Do this, and all karmas will be exhausted, and the period in bardo will be short. It is like a butter lamp: As long as there is oil in there, it will Burn. But when oil is gone, it won’t burn. So, we should not be lazy.

Instead of a using a horse, ride the steed of diligence.


In the next life, your mind will be transformed into the deity. So it is important to engage in visualization of deities.


The obstacle to diligence, the enemy is laziness, not just in the next life, but in this life. If we have work to do and we just procrastinate, then at one point there will be a big heap of work that has to be done. In the same way, when we are being lazy, what will happen tomorrow if /when you die? We must practice with diligence tonight.

If one has practiced with diligence, one will be fine. But if one hasn’t?


So practice with diligence.


After Milarepa had spoken, she thought. She said, “I have not prepared for my next life at all, and have regret. I must commit myself to dharma practice from now on.”    Milarepa replied, “If you truly want to practice the dharma, you don’t need to give up family. You don’t need to stay in mountain retreat at all times. But you do need to practice and meditate with diligence at all times. If you can do that, you can stay in your family as a householder.”


Then she asked, “how I should meditate?” Milarepa said, “Just let your mind rest and look at it, without center or boundary.” When you meditate, look at the nature of mind, and when you look, let it rest like space, without any thoughts.” Rest your minds space like, and have some tea.

(short tea break)


An analogy for the nature of mind is the sky. When one sees the mind as it is without boundary or center, one sees that it abides just like space. A second analogy is the the sun and moon. It can be obscured by afflictive emotions, like the sun and moon are hidden by clouds. But when we are mindful and aware, whatever afflictive emotion arises, it is eliminated in its own place. It is like seeing a beautiful flower. Without awareness, one wishes to buy it. With awareness one realizes that it is just like an illusion. So the mind is like a sun., that is always illuminating, even though it my temporarily be hidden.

Another example of nature of mind –

  1. Space, the sky – when one sees with wisdom the true nature of mind without any expressions, one has realized the nature of mind like space.
  2. The sun and the moon- at the moment our mind is in state of clarity, we are mindful and aware of concepts, we are aware and they are liberated of their own accord.

One is not motivated by attachment and anger.

If one sees a flower with concepts, one sees a beautiful flower, and will think “it is beautiful flower, I want to buy it” vs. with mind not motivated by concepts “it is a beautiful flower, but it isn’t real”.

  1. Mind is like an ever excellent sun always illuminated.


Now one may ask, “if the basis of our mind is the Buddha, if we already are the Buddha, then why do we need to meditate?”

That is because we need to develop a state of clarity when we are always mindful and aware. If so, then when afflictive emotions arise they cannot harm us. There are four obscurations. The first is not seeing the mind as it is. As a result, afflictive emotions arise, then as a result of afflictive emotions, karmic actions arise. And these give rise to karmic imprints. These imprints give rise to our temporary body, which ceases when the karma is exhausted. So these are the four obscurations.


Because we need to keep up our clarity so we have mindfulness and aware so even if there are concepts they are rendered powerless.

Otherwise, we engage in actions that obscure nature of mind.

  1. Obscuration of recognizing the mind as it is.      -Leads to:
  2. Obscuration of afflictive emotions. -Leads to:
  3. obscuration of karmas -Leads to:
  4. obscuration of habitual tendencies imprinted in our mind

At time when imprints are exhausted this body will go out of existence.


So we always hear that the root of our suffering is out afflictive emotions. We know that, but don’t know how to eliminate those emotions.  For that, we need to meditate. When one wishes to realize the view, we need to habituate the mind to it.


As beginning

practitioners, the reason we cannot eliminate afflictive emotions is because our wisdom is small. Primordial wisdom, or yeshe, is always there and this wisdom realizes all things as they are.  We do have this yeshe, but it is like a little flame. It does not have the strength to burn our afflictive emotions up. But as it grows stronger, it will have the strength to burn up our concepts and emotions. This is the meditation that Milarepa taught. Milarepa was known for dealing with all demons and obstacles. This is because as a result of his strong meditation he did not grasp at them as being real.


In beginning, why we can’t eliminate them is because the primordial wisdom – yeshe – original from beginingless time abiding like space

She – awareness that realizes nature of mind, all knowing awareness, all phenomena of samsara and nirvana have arisen from mind.

We have some yeshe, but it is a tiny little flame.

When strong afflictive emotion or concept arises, that little flame doesn’t have strength burn that up.

But it grows greater. So concepts will get burned up by flame.

Ex. In beginning, when you put a lot of wood on a fire, it won’t burn. But when the flame is stronger, once it s stronger, it can burn up any amount of wood.

Everyday must habituate to it.

No matter how big the demons, yeshe can burn them up.

Milarepa defeated demons because he did not grasp to them having any self-reality.


Generally, in our dzog chenpo (Dzogchen) texts, three examples are given of having a body like a mountain, speech like an ocean, and a mind like space.  But in this case, these are all referring to the unchanging nature of mind.  Milarepa explained how to place the mind in meditation with three analogies: the mind is like mountain, mind is like ocean, and mind is like space.

The mountain cannot be shaken by wind. When the mind is like a mountain it will not be shaken by concepts. When the mind is like an ocean



  1. If mind is strong like mountain, no mater how strong the wind blows, it can’t shake mountain. Strength of concepts can’t shake mind.
  2. When the Mind is like an ocean, on the surface, it is moving. its depths are undisturbed even though there may be waves on the surface. But in depths, it remains unmoving. In same way, rest mind.

The text gives another analogy: Guard your mind like guarding a jewel from a thief, thinking “a concept could come and steal one’s mind, I must guard it from distraction.” When distraction happens, afflictive emotion happens.  3. The last analogy is having no doubts questioning that the state of mind is like this or that, just as space has no qualities.


Then Nyama Paldarbum was instructed on physical posture, the 7-fold posture of Vairochana. Many traditions, but most important that the spine is straight. If spine straight, channels are straight. If channels straight, winds are straight. Then winds can abide in central channel.  There are also mind instructions that go with this instruction on physical posture. She sat like that for a long time and had good experiences, but then had questions for her teacher Milarepa.


“When I meditate with my mind like space, it is good. But what happens when clouds arise? Or when I meditate on mind like the moon, it is excellent. But what about when many stars appear? Or if I meditate on mind as the mountain, and many trees appear?”


She used examples like brush on the mountain and stars around the moon to represent the many small concepts that arise that are harmful to our meditation. As soon as small thoughts arise, we go from joyful to experiencing difficulties. So she asked Milarepa about this. Mila replied, “When you mediate on mind as vast like space, then clouds will arise. You must see them as magical display of sky, and they will dissipate by themselves. They will disappear back into sky. But they will just vanish back into the sky. When you meditate on mind as mountain, do not grasp at the trees and bushes. They will naturally disappear on their own.


 When you meditate the mind as ocean, [know] mind and concepts are not different, [just as] the ocean and the waves are not separate. Though a wave may appear very powerful from the ocean, they are not separate. If we see a big wave, we have great fear. But if we recognize its nature is water and it will disappear back into ocean, there is no more fear. Similarly, when an emotion arises, if you recognize its nature it will disappear back into the mind.


So, when big concepts arise, if we see them like this, they will disappear. Sometimes, big concepts or emotions or great bliss will arise – especially anger. When we recognize this, don’t speak in anger. Recognize it every time it arises, and slowly, the hard ice block will melt into water, as you realize the anger is empty of self-nature. In the future, it will be very easy to liberate afflictive emotions as they arise, if we recognize them at all times with mindful awareness.


Practicing in this way, the young woman, Nyama Paldarbum, didn’t need to go into mountain retreat or become ordained. She stayed as householder, and attained rainbow body and became a true yogini. His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche says we should remember her name, and study her story.



Ngigum Repa


There was another disciple named Ngigum Repa. One gets this name “repa” when you master tummo and only need to wear a cotton cloth. You don’t need other clothing, even if on a snowy mountain. It means one is highly realized.


He asked Milarepa, “How did you train your mind?”

Milarepa replied, “when you practice, you need to look at the nature of the mind,

seeing directly its true essence is unelaborated like space, neither existing or not. Nothing need to be done with it, it simply abides. It is empty of self-nature. This is what I have realized.” Mind’s essence is unelaborated like space.  When one leaves it just as it is, one realizes the nature of all phenomena of samsara and nirvana have been created by mind. Things still arise, but mind doesn’t grasp after them. No matter what one sees, one can’t be harmed by it.

To realize all phenomena as empty of self nature is not what ordinary beings do. Again and again, they give rise to grasping.  [We] need hearing, reflecting and meditating first. All things are non-existent and everything in compounded and impermanent.

We must rely first on study and investigation and by reading scriptures.

First, one depends on the wisdom from hearing and reflecting. At that stage, there is still a sense of self and others.  We naturally have a grasping as soon as self and other appear.


But then, when one looks and has realized it has no true nature in its own existence, one thinks,” what have I been thinking? I have grasped at all things as truly existing.” Then you realize that your grasping has no basis.


This is something a little difficult to understand for beginners.   if you tell a person, “Oh, that person is empty of self-nature”, they will say “you are stupid.” (laughter) But when you understand the nature of one person or being, you understand the nature of all beings in the 6 realms.  When you ask if someone is a person, they will say yes. Ask, “Is it the body”?  If they say yes, say “so what happens when they die. Is the corpse a person?” They will say “no, the mind is a person.” So, you have to search for the mind. But when you investigate the mind, what is it?  It will be lost: you won’t be able to find the mind, so will have doubts about if mind is person. There are many debates and logic arguments: if it is functioning, but impermanent.


The Buddha said it is just like a dream.  We are born from our mothers, and when we die, it will be just like waking up from a dream. When we go to sleep, if we have a dream, we wake up and think, “Oh, that was a dream, THIS is real.”


Someone asked if hell realms exist or not.  Now, this present life exists just like a dream. After we die, when we wake up, we will be in the bardo state. Lord Jigten Sumgon has said “this life and all future lives are really one and the same, not different.”

All the outer phenomena of the universe are going to be destroyed because they are all compounded phenomena and are impermanent, all bodies will be destroyed, and that inner phenomena are also impermanent, have no inherent existence, and will be destroyed.

If one realizes this, the mind will become calm and be at ease.



Scientists know that the outer phenomena will be destroyed, and all bodies will be destroyed. But the mind itself will never go out of existence.

If one has realized the nature of mind, if one has realized all phenomena are impermanent, one will have no fear or grasping.  Even when one experiences great bliss, one will not grasp it.

One won’t hold onto suffering when suffering arises.


So, make supplication prayers that sentient beings don’t go into lower realms.

So Milarepa has taught this supreme instruction: that there is not the slightest difference between happiness and suffering, when one does not grasp at Phenomena. the mind will remain clear and unstained. When you realize this, mind will be like purified water, like space.


When one has realized that, then the wish to meditate, thinking “I need to meditate,” will also cease. Without thinking of anything, one’s mind just remains as it is, abiding like space. No emotions, no concepts. In that state, one recognized one’s own mind to be the Buddha. One is beyond thoughts of “I need to practice” or “I don’t need to practice.”

An example for all sentient beings originally are a Buddha is water. It is like when one has pure water and uses it to wash clothes: It is clean water that is now dirty water.  There is clean water, and there is dirty water, but both have the same basic nature as water.


But these days, scientists know how to purify dirty water, so they use some machines to filter it and make water pure again.  In the same way, through bodhichitta and karma, we can eradicate defilements and be left with a pure mind again, which is Buddha itself. Water has always been water, whether in clean or dirty state.  [Likewise,] when mind is pure, we are Buddha, and all sentient beings are Buddha.


When someone will say “I am a Buddhist” or “I am not a Buddhist” or “I don’t need the Buddhist teaching,” (Garchen does silly practitioner impression), explain to them that the Buddhist view is just that the Buddha is inherent in every sentient being, but our minds have been temporarily obscured by stains. If there were no minds, there would be nothing.

Buddhahood arises from mind.  You can say “I don’t want to attain enlightenment,” but you can’t say “I cannot attain Enlightenment,” that the Buddha cause is not in you. That cannot be, because the cause is in the mind in all beings. Even all outer phenomena are Buddha because they are empty of self-nature.



Thank you.


It would be good for you all to really practice together.  You can have a drubchen, when one practices with night sessions, or a Drupcho without night sessions. If you practice a drubchen like this in retreat for one year, it is like doing 7 years of retreat.   One week of practice in drubchen is like 7 weeks of practice! (laughter)


Do guru Rinpoche, chenrezig, white Tara, vajrakilaya, and so forth. It is beneficial to your country, too. Habituating yourself to practice in this manner will benefit our practice.



Bernie Simon’s notes of the same teaching:



Other versions of the “mind is like the sky” song itself:




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Filed under Dharma teachings, Drikung Kagyu

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