“Enjoy your day. Enjoy your friendships. Enjoy your meditation. Rejoicing is the antidote for self-pity, envy and jealousy.” — Zasep Rinpoche

Most Buddhist practice — and Buddhist living — can be distilled down to the concept of “antidotes.” When our gurus give us teachings, it’s almost always in the form of an “antidote.”

One of the most memorable descriptions of one of these antidotes came in a teaching by H.E. Zasep Rinpoche. The antidote to envy and jealousy, one of the great poisons described by Buddha, is a simple formula, but a profound one. Rinpoche advised:

“It’s important to rejoice,” said Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche at a weekend Lam Rim and Green Tara retreat in Toronto. “It’s important to be positive. Enjoy your day. Enjoy your friendships. Enjoy your meditations. Rejoicing is the antidote for self-pity, envy and jealousy.”

Perhaps this is why you often see Rinpoche — and other great teachers — laughing and smiling.

 

The importance of smiling and “enjoying your day.”

 

Where did Buddha describe the poisons?

The poisons were described in various forms in many sutras, beginnig with the first teaching of the Buddha on the Four Noble Truths — a teaching fully recorded in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.   [The full Sutta in English below.] The Conqueror, the Blessed One, gave a discourse in Deer Park to the five ascetics, where he first explained the importance of the middle way, of giving up the two extremes — those being indulgence in sensual pleasures, and it’s opposite accetic self-mortication. Famously, he taught that too much senual pleasure leads to attachments and clinging, ultimately trapping us in a cylce of suffering. The opposite extreme, denying everything, is equally a trap.

In the famous teaching (completely translated below), he described four noble truths:

  • Dukkha: that life in Samsara is suffering
  • Samudaya: that the origin of Dhukka is “craving, desire or attachment” (which gets us started on poisons)
  • Nirodha: that the “antidote” or cessation of Dhukka is to eliminate these poisons
  • Marga: that Noble Eightfold Path is the way to achieve the end of suffeirng (Dhukka).

Buddha then, in that short first teaching, pointed to the antidotes to this suffering — the Eightfold Path. In future teachings, each of these points would be elaborated and illustrated, with methods suited to students of any capability. Yet, in that first teaching, the antidotes were wonderfully concise. To eliminate the poisons that lead to suffering, this was Buddha’s advice:

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

Milarepa shows his Bum

In modern times, the best teachers tend to engage students with humour and some “real life” anecdotes. For instance, in a Lamrim weekend session at Gaden Choling in 2016, Rinpoche described the critical importance of working hard at our practice — which speaks to “right action” and “right effort.”:

Speaking on the importance of regular practice, he had students laughing over the story of Milarepa:

“When Milarepa was dying he showed his bum to one of his students and said, ‘This is my last teaching.’ It was because he had callouses on his bum from years and years of sitting and sitting and sitting. This was the teaching.” Rinpoche explained that whether you do mantra practice, or simply sit and watch the breath, the secret is hard work, regular practice, commitment. “Strength only comes from hard work. That’s why Zen people sit and sit and sit.”

 

Seven Limbs of Practice

During that teaching, Rinpoche emphasized the great importance of the seven limbs practice: prostration and praise, offering, admitting mistakes, rejoicing in other’s accomplishments, requesting teachings, beseeching teachers not to go away, and dedication.

He spoke extensively on requesting teachings. “You reach out and ask for help. There are lots of good people, spiritual friends and mentors. You just have to reach out.”

To illustrate the importance of repeated daily practice, he told a charming story of himself as a boy monk, complaining to his guru that there was too much repetition. “The Buddhas must be deaf.”

His teacher answered, “It’s not that the Buddhas are deaf. You do this for yourself. You develop perseverance, self confidence, patience, concentration.”

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion

Translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

 

Buddha’s first teaching to the five ascetics on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Varanasi in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five monks:

“There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

“And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

“Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress. Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of stress.’ Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This noble truth of stress is to be comprehended.’ Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:’ This noble truth of stress has been comprehended.’

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the origination of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress is to be abandoned’… ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned.’

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the cessation of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the cessation of stress is to be directly experienced’… ‘This noble truth of the cessation of stress has been directly experienced.’

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed’… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.’ [3]

“And, monks, as long as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was not pure, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk. But as soon as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was truly pure, then I did claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk. Knowledge & vision arose in me: ‘Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.'”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the group of five monks delighted at his words. And while this explanation was being given, there arose to Ven. Kondañña the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye: Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.

And when the Blessed One had set the Wheel of Dhamma in motion, the earth devas cried out: “At Varanasi, in the Game Refuge at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahman or contemplative, deva, Mara or God or anyone in the cosmos.” On hearing the earth devas’ cry, the devas of the Four Kings’ Heaven took up the cry… the devas of the Thirty-three… the Yama devas… the Tusita devas… the Nimmanarati devas… the Paranimmita-vasavatti devas… the devas of Brahma’s retinue took up the cry: “At Varanasi, in the Game Refuge at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahman or contemplative, deva, Mara, or God or anyone at all in the cosmos.”

So in that moment, that instant, the cry shot right up to the Brahma worlds. And this ten-thousand fold cosmos shivered & quivered & quaked, while a great, measureless radiance appeared in the cosmos, surpassing the effulgence of the devas.

Then the Blessed One exclaimed: “So you really know, Kondañña? So you really know?” And that is how Ven. Kondañña acquired the name Añña-Kondañña — Kondañña who knows.

About

Gaden Choling Toronto is a Buddhist Mahayana Meditation Centre, established over 30 years ago under spiritual director Venerable Zasep Rinpoche. Many great spiritual teachers, such as HH Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Tara Tulku Rinpoche and HH Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche have given many amazing holy teachings and initiations at Gaden Choling.

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637 Christie St, Toronto, ON, M6G 3E6
Tel: 1 (888) 123 4567

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