Natural Great Peace

The teaching of the Buddha is vast. Just the ‘Word of the Buddha’ alone fills over a hundred volumes. Then the commentaries and treatises by the great Indian scholars fill another two hundred and more, and this is not even counting all the works of the great Tibetan masters. Yet at the same time, the teaching of the Buddha can be essentialized in a very profound way.

I remember my master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche used to say, “The teaching of Buddha is both ‘vast’ and ‘profound’: the ‘vast’ is the approach of the learned, the pandit, and the ‘profound’ is the approach of the yogi.” When Buddha himself was asked to summarize his teaching, he said,

Commit not a single unwholesome action,
Cultivate a wealth of virtue,
To tame this mind of ours,
This is the teaching of all the buddhas.

To say, “commit not a single unwholesome action”, means to abandon unwholesome, harmful and negative actions which are the cause of suffering, for both ourselves and others. To “cultivate a wealth of virtue” is to adopt the positive, beneficial and wholesome actions that are the cause of happiness, again for both ourselves and others. Most important of all, however, is “to tame this mind of ours”. In fact the masters, like Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, often say that this one line captures the essence of the teachings of the Buddha. Because if we can realize the true nature of our own mind, then this is the whole point, of both the teaching and our entire existence.

The mind is the root of everything: the creator of happiness and the creator of suffering, the creator of samsara and the creator of nirvana. In the Tibetan teachings, mind is called ‘the king who is responsible for everything’—kun jé gyalpo—the universal ordering principle. As the great guru Padmasambhava said, “Do not seek to cut the root of phenomena, cut the root of the mind.”  That is why I find these words of Buddha so inspiring: “We are what we think, and all that we are rises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak and act with a pure mind and happiness will follow.” If only we were to remember this, keep it in our hearts, and keep our heart and mind pure, then happiness would really follow. The whole of Buddha’s teaching, then, is directed towards taming this mind, and keeping our heart and mind pure.

That starts when we begin with the practice of meditation. We allow all our turbulent thoughts and emotions to settle quietly in a state of natural peace. As Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche said:

Rest in natural great peace this exhausted mind,
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thoughts
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
Rest in natural great peace.

How do thoughts and emotions settle? If you leave a glass of muddy water quite still, without moving it, the dirt will settle to the bottom, and the clarity of the water will shine through. In the same way, in meditation we allow our thoughts and emotions to settle naturally, and in a state of natural ease. There is a wonderful saying by the great masters of the past. I remember when I first heard it what a revelation it was, because in these two lines is shown both what the nature of mind is, and how to abide by it, which is the practice of meditation. In Tibetan it is very beautiful, almost musical: chu ma nyok na dang, sem ma chö na de. It means roughly, ‘Water, if you don’t stir it, will become clear; the mind, left unaltered, will find its own natural peace.’

What is so incredible about this instruction is its emphasis on naturalness, and on allowing our mind simply to be, unaltered and without changing anything at all. Our real problem is manipulation and fabrication and too much thinking. One master used to say that the root cause of all our mental problems was too much thinking. As Buddha said: “with our thoughts we make the world”. But if we keep our mind pure, and allow it to rest, quietly, in the natural state, what happens, as we practise, is quite extraordinary.