Lama Karma Thinley Rinpoche  
  8 Auspicious Symbols  


A Teaching on
"The Eight Verses of Training the Mind", by Geshe Langri Tangpa Dorje Senge

by Lama Karma Thinley Rinpoche

  The Buddha said in a Sutra (Stainless Goddess Sutra) consisting of various prophecies that the Dharma would spread to the West 2500 years after his Parinirvana. Since 100 years ago, this prophecy has come to fruition, so this is very wonderful. Also, in the Prajnaparamita Sutras it is prophesied that the Dharma will spread from one place to a further place, to a further place. We can see this: from India, the Dharma spread to Tibet and so on, and now to the Western world. So, this prophecy is being realized, and this is very wonderful. We are now actually living in the time of the fulfillment of these prophecies. By our practice and realization of the Buddha's teachings, which are the means for gaining happiness, we are able to achieve the results of the Buddha's practice, and this is very wonderful.  
  The Teaching of the Buddha has three levels: Shravaka, Bodhisatva and Vajrayana. In some countries, the teachings of the Shravakayana have spread, in others the Mahayana teachings have spread and become popular, and in Tibet, all three of these traditions have been perfectly established and accomplished. This is very auspicious.  
  From the time the Buddha gave his teaching on Earth, many people have followed these teachings and realized enlightenment. If we bring the teaching to its most essential point, we can say that the teaching of the Buddha is the taming of one's own mind. When we speak of it in its vast detail, there are 84,000 teachings, the nine yanas and so on.  
The means for taming one's own mind is the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion, and the enlightened attitude, the bodhichitta. These are the very extraordinary means for proceeding on the path of enlightenment. When the great Lord Atisha came to Tibet, he taught many wonderful teachings on the cultivation of bodhichitta to many people, and as a result of this transmission many became enlightened, or became bodhisatvas.
Now, when we speak of the sons of Buddha, there are three - the sons of Buddha's Body, of Buddha's Speech and of Buddha's Mind. When Buddha was a prince, he fathered a son, so that is the son of Buddha's Body. Those practicing the Shravakayana are the sons of Buddha's Speech. And the sons of Buddha's Mind are those who actually practice loving kindness and compassion and bodhichitta and become bodhisatvas. These are the beings that have forsaken their own selfish concerns and have generated the great concern for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Even the Buddha himself first generated the great enlightened attitude, and then for three immeasurable eons he pursued the activities of a bodhisatva and, finally, he achieved the supreme attainment of buddhahood. We can see that first he generated compassion for the suffering of beings, from this compassion arose his enlightened attitude, and by virtue of the enlightened attitude, he worked for the benefit of sentient beings in many ways and over a very long time, and at last he achieved the state of perfect buddhahood.  
Now, the bodhisatvas are those who have generated this compassion and enlightened attitude, and who have resolved to give up their own selfish interests and to work for the benefit and happiness of all beings. Thinking not of themselves, but of others, they have resolved to gain enlightenment to lead all beings from the suffering of samsara. This is why the bodhisatvas are known as the sons of Buddha's Mind.  
There are many religious traditions - many have features in common with the Buddhist path, while others don't. In the West, Christianity has been established and spread vastly. Jesus himself was like a manifestation of a bodhisatva - he demonstrated his great love and compassion for the world through many deeds. Those who have experienced the Christian teaching should find it very easy to understand what we mean in Buddhism when we speak of loving kindness and compassion, because the teaching of love and compassion and the enlightened attitude is similar in many ways to the great love and compassion that Jesus showed.  
We should also not revile such traditions as the Hindu tradition. They have many unusual practices such as sacrifice of animals to please the gods, and this is an indication that their compassion is smaller than, for example, in Christianity and Buddhism. But we have to understand that their motivation for sacrificing is not that they hate the animals, but rather they genuinely believe that they are making an offering to their gods such as Maheshwara, in order to appease and please them. So their motivation is positive, but they are mistaken with regard to their actual practice. All religious traditions of the World teach many ways of pacifying the mind, so we should have respect for all of them. When we have respect for some of them and revile others, our mind will become disturbed and divided, and it will become difficult to make progress.  
In Buddhism, we particularly teach the great methods of pacifying the mind by the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion. In particular, the transmission handed down from the Glorious Atisha is a very wonderful method for doing this. Atisha had a great disciple, Potawa, and he taught Langri Tangpa. Langri Tangpa actually achieved the ability to remove the suffering of others. He was a great bodhisatva and demonstrated the path in wonderful ways. And this is his teaching - the Eight Verses of Langri Tangpa.  
Langri Tangpa was born into a very poor family, and in the course of his studies he experienced many difficulties and obstacles. But he was able to generate the enlightened attitude/bodhichitta, and he entered the bodhisatva family. Once he awakened the bodhichitta, he made this his sole meditation. Then he taught the Eight Verses of Langri Tangpa, the eight essential points he had to offer on this teaching.  
All his life, Langri Tangpa practiced Tonglen (Sending and Taking). Breathing out, he imagined that all happiness, bliss and virtue emanated out from him to all beings in existence, and when he breathed in, he imagined that all their suffering and misery and pain was coming into him. He would practice this meditation with great diligence from morning to night, and later in his life, he himself said: "In my life, I have not breathed a single breath that I have not made an offering to the happiness of beings, and an attempt to remove the suffering of beings." Langri Tangpa meditated very intensely on the suffering and misery of beings, and this at times made him very depressed. He always had a frown, and he became well-known as the "black-faced" Langri Tangpa. But everyone was aware of his incredible diligence and bodhichitta and the compassion that he felt, and recognized that it was due to his awareness of the intense suffering of sentient beings that he never smiled, and never expressed a happy, joyous countenance.  
It is said that Geshe Langri Tangpa smiled only on three occasions in his whole life. I only remember one: he was meditating in his cave, and at that time he was doing the mandala offering practice. On the shrine, he had placed a mandala with all kinds of rice and grains and precious things, including a fair-sized lump of turquoise, as an offering. As he was doing his meditation of offering, a mouse came and climbed up on the shrine and started carrying away the grains one by one. Then it came to carry away the turquoise. It tried and tried and tried, but the turquoise was just too big for the mouse to handle! Finally, it ran off and brought back a whole bunch of other mice, and they all got together and picked up this large turquoise and went running off with it! And at that time, the great Geshe Langri Tangpa broke into a a huge smile!  


With the thought of attaining enlightenment
For the welfare of all beings,
Who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel,
I will constantly practice holding them dear.

Now, the meaning of the first verse of Geshe Langri Tangpa is that this precious human body that we have is like a wish-fulfilling jewel, and it is a very rare and precious thing to have this body, so it should be treated well and made comfortable. Especially when we have generated the enlightened attitude, which is to remove the suffering of beings, this body becomes extremely precious, because it is the vehicle by which we can accomplish the purpose of liberating beings from their miserable conditions. So it is like a wish-fulfilling jewel, and we should treat it well - one should take the medicine that one needs, and one should eat good food and wear proper clothes and stay in a place where one is protected from the elements - in other words, one should treat one's body with the respect that one would have for a wish-fulfilling jewel, because it is an incredible opportunity to have this body. And when we speak of the precious human birth, we speak of eight kinds of leisure and ten kinds of endowment. This is to say, we actually have the opportunity and ability to bring about the purpose of enlightenment, not only for ourselves, but for all beings. And without this body it is almost impossible to achieve these aims. So we need to appreciate our body and take good care of it.  
Now, when we say one should make one's own body happy and content, this is not out of a selfish motivation, but rather we should think that this body is the means by which we can accomplish the happiness of others. So, it is out of the motivation of compassion that we make our body comfortable and happy. In ancient stories, there are accounts of actual wish-fulfilling jewels. A wish-fulfilling jewel has incredible qualities - for example those who are sick can solicit this jewel and become healthy, and those who are impoverished can solicit this jewel and they will receive food and clothes and possessions. And at night when there is no light, this jewel is like a lamp that shows the way. In this way, a wish-fulfilling jewel brings about all the wonderful benefits that make beings happy.  
So, when we think of our own body as a wish-fulfilling jewel, we should think: by making my body happy and content, may it be that through my body, those who need medicine come to have medicine, those who are poor may come to have all they need and, ultimately speaking, through my body may I be able to show all sentient beings the way to enlightenment and freedom from misery. In this way, one uses the enlightened attitude and compassion, thinking of one's own body as a wish-fulfilling jewel, as a medium to bring forth the benefit of others.  
So, the first verse means that once we have generated the enlightened attitude we ourselves become bodhisatvas. And the body of a bodhisatva is a sacred thing. So, we should think of our body as a sacred thing, and as a means and vehicle for bringing about the happiness of all beings.  
Then, the word "bodhisatva" or "changchup sempa" in Tibetan, means a hero in the mind of enlightenment. "Changchup" means enlightenment, "sem" means the mind, and "pa(wo) means a hero. So, a bodhisatva has an incredibly heroic attitude in his/her resolve to bring happiness to all sentient beings. He/she never becomes overwhelmed, or has the feeling he/she can't do it - he/she perseveres through all odds and difficulties. In the teachings, it is said that the sky is without limit and, likewise, sentient beings are without limit, and yet we resolve to bring happiness to all these sentient beings without end. And this is endless compassion, heroic compassion. Now we ourselves can see that there is no limit to the sky. But we can't see that sentient beings have no limit, so we have to accept this in order to generate compassion for them.  
Then also, the deeds of the great bodhisatvas are such that in order to bring about the happiness of beings they will give whatever is needed. There are many stories where great bodhisatvas gave their head, or gave their limbs, or gave their eyes, or gave their heart - they were fearless in their endeavor to bring about happiness. Therefore, we say that a bodhisatva is a hero in the mind of enlightenment.  


Whenever I am with others,
I will practice seeing myself as the lowest of all,
And from the depths of my heart,
I will recognize others as supreme.

When we have entered this heroic path, we must not look down on others, thinking: I am a bodhisatva, therefore I am superior - I am so wonderful. Actually, the second verse of Geshe Langri Tangpa says that we should have humility, and we should think of ourselves as lower than those around us. Whatever beings we encounter, we should always practice this bodhisatva heroism with a humble attitude. That doesn't mean that we wear inferior clothing, or live in inferior houses and so on, but that we have respect for others. If you think of yourself as better, then if someone else has more than you you become unhappy. The great beings who have great compassion think of themselves as servants. That allows one to rejoice in others' success and feel sorrow for their setbacks, and when you reach that state you yourself are free from negative emotions.  
Also, the great Teacher Shantideva said in his Bodhicharyavatara that the Buddha taught the way of the bodhisatva out of his Great Compassion, and that the bodhisatva actually depends on sentient beings. That means, when we engender the enlightened attitude to work for the happiness of sentient beings we depend on the sentient beings as the object of that attitude! Without sentient beings, there is no heroic enlightened attitude! So, sentient beings are very important to us, and we should never despise or belittle them in any way. And this is why humility is very important.  

All sentient beings have buddha nature, in an equal amount. Some have already achieved buddhahood, like Buddha Shakyamuni, others have generated the enlightened attitude and are on the path to enlightenment, and others have not yet reached this level - but all sentient beings have the buddha nature equally. And this buddha nature is the cause and condition of the attainment of buddhahood. So, all sentient beings are essentially buddhas. By thinking in this way, we should then respect each being we encounter as potentially a buddha. It is just like under a mucky swamp, there is a heap of gold.

So we should look after the happiness of ourselves, and we should also look after the happiness of others, thus approaching oneself and others with this attitude of equality.



In all actions, I will examine my mind and
The moment a delusion arises,
Endangering myself and others,
I will firmly confront and avert it.


The meaning of this verse is that when we have generated the enlightened attitude we must give up hatred, anger, jealousy etc. towards others - all attitudes that seek unhappiness for other beings. So we should be constantly mindful of our own mind, by the minute, by the hour, by the day, by the month and by the year: Is there a thought of hatred coming up in my mind? Am I trying to confuse other people? Am I doing something that brings unhappiness for others? And if we catch such an attitude, then we must apply the remedy to these kinds of thoughts. Don't go into their power, but instead control them. Without controlling them, anger or jealousy will result in harmful actions, either hurtful words or even physical harm. This is like hot water, so as soon as it starts boiling, pour some cold water in it!

And if you let desire and greed take control, then there would be no limit to what you want for yourself, and this could lead to actions that create a lot of negative karma for yourself. If you let the negative emotions control you, this would not only bring negative karma for yourself but also for others. The other person would react again with negativity, and that would create a negative karma for him/her, so you would be responsible for double the negative karma! So, you should practice the mind training each time a negative thought or emotion comes up, as soon as you can feel it coming up.



Whenever I meet a person of bad nature
Who is overwhelmed by negative energy and intense suffering,
I will hold such a rare one dear
As if I had found a precious treasure.


When training in the dharma and in Lojong, we will encounter others whose negative forces will try our patience again and again. We should be happy that we were able to encounter these situations - these are the beings that help us develop our positive qualities like patience and compassion. So don't run away from these situations - it is like finding a wish-fulfilling jewel!

We should think of benefiting all others and do this without any hope. What this means is: say we have generated the enlightened attitude and we have done many things to help suffering people, giving them food and clothes, and helping them out in various ways, as much as we are able. Then what if we ourselves come upon difficult times and experience hardships? We should not expect that these other beings will come to our assistance in return for our favors.

We should enact our virtuous activities without any hope that we are going to get a return "on our investment", so to speak.



When others, out of jealousy,
Mistreat me with abuse, slander and scorn,
I will practice accepting defeat
And offering the victory to them.


If we have friends and associates, and one of these friends or associates is full of jealousy and secretly or openly goes to spread all kinds of bad rumors about us, rather than getting full of anger toward this person who is bringing the downfall of one's reputation, we should try to think that he may be right, and make him happy. Instead of harboring anger and wrath, we should think how we can benefit even our enemy.

If, for example, you meet with an aggressive person that tries to take away your seat, then let him take it. And if someone is stubborn about something and doesn't listen to reason, then try not to argue, because this will just cause him to become angrier. Better to let him win the argument - doing this takes just a few moments, but the effects will last for many lifetimes. Because this Lojong teaching that we are practicing is the cause for achieving the fruit we are aiming at - enlightenment.



When someone I have benefited
And in whom I have placed great trust,
Hurts me very badly,
I will practice seeing that person as my supreme teacher.

There may be cases where we have really benefited beings by helping them and giving them friendship, and then we find that they have betrayed our trust and friendship and are causing us sadness. But even then, don't let the emotions control you by being angry and thinking: I have done so much, and he/she is repaying with such ingratitude. Instead, think that you had the opportunity to benefit somebody, and by this you achieved your goal. It doesn't matter what the other person says or does - he/she is giving you cause to develop further patience and compassion. So, when we encounter people like that, we need to look on them as our teachers because they have given us the opportunity to do the mind training. As soon as we feel upset because someone is ungrateful or has betrayed our trust, we are putting too much importance on attachment, so this is helping us let go of attachment to the three circles (subject, object and act).  


In short, I will offer, directly and indirectly,
All benefit and happiness to all beings, my mothers.
I will practice in secret, taking upon myself,
All their harmful actions and suffering.


Everyone at one time has been our mother, even if they look like our enemy right now. So to repay the great kindness of these mothers in all they have done for us, now we have to help all sentient beings in whatever they need, thinking of them as our mothers.

There may be times when doubts come up in one's dharma practice, like, for instance, the thought: how could all sentient beings have been my mother? At that time, just think that Lord Buddha has said this, and accept it in order to develop the practice of mind training and great compassion.

So we think about our own mother and all she has done for us and then we extend this to all sentient beings - even insects. How wonderful, at last, that with this precious human body we can do things to benefit others - when they need it, we can give them food, clothes, emotional support, helping them however we can.

But we may encounter many beings that are experiencing many kinds of suffering that we ourselves may not be able to release them from. We may not have the means or the qualifications to help them out. In this case, we can help them through our meditation. We should think from the very bottom of our heart: May all these beings get what they need! May their wishes be fulfilled! May they achieve happiness! And this kind of motivation from the bottom of one's heart is the very essence of this verse.

Then, the practice of Tonglen - Sending and Taking - is very important. This is a meditation that one does using one's breath. When one breathes out, one visualizes that all one's merit, virtue and goodness go out to all sentient beings. And that is to say, all the merit from one's spiritual practice, all the merit from acts of kindness, and all the merit that has come from generosity and friendship - there is incredible merit just from feeding small insects and mice and so on - all this merit and good energy that one has within one, one imagines going out with the out breath, touching all sentient beings and removing their suffering. When one breathes in, one imagines that all physical pain and discomfort and all mental anguish and dissatisfaction of all sentient beings come into oneself.

If one were to explain this meditation to followers of the Shravakayana, they would be terrified! Because this is an extraordinary path, this is a sacred instruction of the Mahayana - to give one's own happiness to others, and to take on oneself the suffering of others. In this way all self-cherishing is eliminated, and this is terrifying to practitioners of the lower vehicles.

There is a story about a lama who had achieved this meditation of sending and taking. One day, out in a field, somebody threw a rock at a dog and broke his ribs; and at the same moment, in his room, the lama fell from his bed as he felt that rock hitting his own body. So, there are some lamas who have reached very high levels in this practice - they can actually feel and remove the suffering of others when they do this meditation, and they feel great joy at being able to do that.

But when you do this meditation, don't think that you will get all the suffering and everyone else is going to be happy - that is not going to be the case! When we include all sentient beings in our meditation, we also include ourselves, and the merit gained from doing that is really great, both for us and others.

The mind is very powerful and can accomplish many things. Actually, the whole world is the creation of the mind. And although we may not yet have achieved the great level of attainment, the level such as that by the power of our mind and meditation we can actually bring about happiness and release from suffering - nonetheless, we can practice with the attitude of these levels and cultivate our mind in a way that will lead to the happiness of all sentient beings. And that is to say that when we breathe out, we imagine for example lands where there is a famine, and we imagine that our breath becomes food - that by the power of our breath crops grow and food becomes available, and the famine is eliminated. Some countries are like deserts, and there is no water, and we imagine that our breath turns into rain, and springs, and streams, and all kinds of crops come forth to satisfy the needs of the beings of that place. Or we can imagine that our breath reaches all beings suffering from illness, and for them our breath becomes medicine, elixir, and restores their health. Or we imagine the countries full of fighting and wars, where people are using guns and other horrible weapons in order to destroy each other out of hatred. We can imagine that by the power of our breath, all the weapons suddenly turn into beautiful bouquets of flowers, and all their wrath and anger becomes love and compassion. And in this way, by sending out our breath we imagine that all the many kinds of suffering of sentient beings are pacified, and that all beings become happy by the power of love and compassion that we send to them. And you may think this is just your imagination you are playing with, but you should realize that your mind is very powerful, and that the world is created by mind. And the energy that you send out into the world is the power of your mind, and it does have the power to change things.

So, one strives to bring about the happiness of all beings with one's mind and one's meditation, but one must do this also in actual fact, as much as one is able. For example, if in the cold of winter you see someone without warm clothes, and you have some extra clothes, then you must give them some so they don't freeze to death. In this and other ways, one should actually help others.

For example, Geshe Langri Tangpa at one time was doing a circumambulation of the Great Temple of Lhasa, and as he was going around, he heard the screams and wailing of a woman. He followed the sound and found a young woman who had been stripped naked and tied to a post, and it was certain that she would die from the cold during the night. He himself was a Geshe and a fully ordained monk, and he didn't have many possessions, but he went immediately back to his cave and took some robes and then went back to this woman and dressed her in his own monk's robes, so she would be warm through the night, even though she was still tied up. And it happened that some time later, after she was released from her suffering, her situation improved and she became very well off. She remembered the kindness of this monk and had a nice little temple built for him where he could stay.



Through perceiving all phenomena as illusory, I will keep these practices
Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly concerns,
And free from clinging, I will release all beings
From the bondage of the disturbing, unsubdued mind.


When one does the bodhisatva practice, one should not have ideas such as: by acting holy, I will become famous and people will make offerings to me; I will have a large following and become very powerful, and everyone will think I am a great religious teacher - and so on. One should not make one's spiritual practice into a practice motivated by the hopes and fears of the eight worldly concerns, meaning one is happy when one gains something and unhappy when one does not, or loses something; one is happy when enjoying oneself and unhappy when in sorrow or pain; one is happy when being praised and unhappy when blamed; one is happy when hearing nice things and unhappy when hearing unpleasant things about oneself.

Now, having come to the eighth verse, we should make note that the first seven verses of this teaching relate to the relative enlightened attitude while the eighth verse relates to the ultimate or absolute enlightened attitude. And we have to distinguish between these two attitudes: The relative enlightened attitude is based on the assumption that everything is as it appears. The absolute enlightened attitude is that in reality there are no sentient beings; in reality there is no suffering; in reality there are no three circles (subject - bodhisatva; object - sentient beings; and act done - actions of generosity, morality, patience etc.). So the subject, the object and the act are also not real. These are all like illusions, and when we say "illusion", it is like for example a skilful magician who can take a little rock or a little piece of wood and recite some spells - and suddenly we will see cities and trees and women and horses and all kinds of wonderful images. But actually, there is nothing there at all. And the realization that everything is like an illusion is what is meant by the ultimate enlightened attitude. The great Teacher Chandrakirti said: the giver, the gift and the recipient are all nothing but an illusion. So, while one has the relative awareness that one is enacting the benefit of sentient beings, one also does not lose the ultimate view that it is all like a magic show.

Geshe Langri Tangpa was - as I already mentioned - widely known as the black-faced Langri Tangpa, because he was constantly depressed by the misery of all sentient beings. When he was nearing death at the age of seventy, on the day before he died, his disciples were gathered around him, and he said: "Oh, I'm really feeling miserable today." His disciples asked why, and he said: "Well, I've been thinking that in order to bring about the happiness of sentient beings, I must be reborn in hell. Because now, I've been practicing as a human being to generate compassion and the welfare of beings all my life, and in order to really bring about my wishes I must be reborn in hell, to actually take on the suffering of those miserable beings in hell. But this morning I had a vision that I would be reborn in Dewachen, the Land of Bliss, the Paradise of Amitabha. So now, I am feeling really bad because I won't go to hell."
And it was at this point that Geshe Langri Tangpa actually gained the realization of the ultimate enlightened attitude - that even the hells are nothing but an illusion.

So, if you want to practice in this way, the first thing is to take Refuge, and the second thing is to generate the enlightened attitude to bring about the happiness of others. And the third thing is to actually bring happiness to others, as much as is possible, and even if one is unable to bring happiness to others, to generate the attitude as much as possible, thinking: May all beings be happy; may they get all they need; may their wishes be fulfilled. And especially, we should think: May I myself reach the same kind of compassion for sentient beings that this great Spiritual Friend Langri Tangpa had.

And this concludes the Teaching of the Eight Verses of Langri Tangpa Dorje Senge.



Any merit or good energy we have created by the discussion of the Eight Verses
of the Spiritual Friend Langri Tangpa, and whatever merit there may be in our gathering today,
I would like to dedicate to the happiness and welfare of all sentient beings.

This Teaching on the Eight Verses of Langri Tangpa,
given by Lama Karma Thinley Rinpoche at Marpa Gompa Changchub Ling in 1987,
was transcribed and edited by Rigdzin Khandro.
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