‘YOUR LIPS ARE WHAT WILL SEND YOU TO HELL AND NEED TO BE SHUT AND LOCKED’: 8th Karmapa on the difference between ‘dry’ and ‘juicy’ words, Je Gampopa on signs of the Dharma disappearing,  and the importance of having pure perception of all people’s faults and mistakes, and keeping your lips shut (17th Karmapa’s Spring teachings 2023 (Day 5)

“From the outside, it might seem like they have the conduct of a bodhisattva that seems to benefit others. However, because they are thinking about this life only, then it is only of pseudo-benefit for others. The Bodhisattva actions they do are pseudo-actions.”

“Sometimes you do see faults, you see it and think that really is a fault. What should you do? When you see that fault, you must make the aspiration may that person never have such a fault again. May I never see such faults again in the future. That is kind of mind-only talk. Actually, it is not really mind-only but when we look at the faults of the other person, it is because of the karmic connection we see it as a fault. Not everyone will see it as a fault, some people will, and some people will not.”

“These poisonous lips will cast us into hell, we don’t need anything else, the only thing we need to go to hell are our lips.  For that reason, if there was someone who really cared for me, they would put a lock on my mouth, and give the lock and key to someone else. Then when I have to eat, they would unlock it. Otherwise, it is better if they leave my mouth locked and closed all the time. This is what the Kadampa master, Nirupa said.”

—17th Karmapa (Day 5 teachings)

Today,  I offer a transcript and overview of the fifth day of the 17th Karmapa’s Spring Teachings (given one week ago, video here). Sadly, due to sickness and other unknown reasons, the Karmapa again cancelled all his scheduled classes this week. It is worrying indeed and hope and pray that his health will return quickly.

In this teaching, the Karmapa emphasised the importance of teaching with genuine experience and not just spouting dry, empty words. They should be wet and moist with experience. He also criticised teachers who would merely count the amount of teachings and empowerments they had done or got, and the number of people attending, rather than focusing on whether they were really benefiting the students or not, and whether they were really able to tame a student’s mind or not.

The 17th Karmapa explained that many lamas and their students attend many teachings and empowerments but do not practice what they hear. They criticise many people and see faults in them. However, as we do not know who is a Bodhisattva or not, we have to suspend judgement, even if a fault is a fault. In addition, we should be very careful not to completely ignore and discount all the other good qualities in a person, even if they have made a mistake or done a bad thing. He cited a Kadampa master, Nirupa who said ‘It is our lips that will send us to hell. We need someone with a lock and key so they only open our lips when we need to eat.” Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, you couldn’t make it up even if you tried, have to laugh or might cry!

However, as a survivor of lama misconduct myself, I have witnessed first hand what happens when people ignore the unethical and dishonest acts of lamas, especially towards women, for many years. That is why we also need to have discriminating awareness and wisdom. Buddhism does not say we can act however we want, unethically or contrary to generally accepted laws and social norms. In fact, it is also a Bodhisattva vow to protect people from harm. So stopping someone’s abusive or unethical or harmful conduct could be a Bodhisattva act, if done with love, compassion and wisdom. It all depends on the motivation and one’s depth of wisdom and knowing what will be genuinely beneficial or not.

The 17th Karmapa’s teaching reminded me of Indian Buddhist master, Shantideva’s famous quote that: “Even if the whole world were to  publicly point out my faults, may I hold such people high above my head as my greatest teacher.” Easy to say but not very easy to practice, as we can see!

Music? To keep it the ‘wisdom’ and for laughs, listen to how ‘spiritual people’ (unable to keep their lips shut) fight/debate, “my higher self wants you to know that you are completely wrong”.   Our Lips Are Sealed by Fun Boy Three,  for the dry words, Dry by PJ Harvey, and for those who cannot keep their lips shut,  Big Mouth Strikes Again by the Smiths….”Now I know how Joan of Arc felt….”.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 16th April 2023.

8th Karmapa’s Excellent Deeds
17th Karmapa Spring Teachings, Day Five

“Before, I had to delay the teachings and the flu seemed to get better, but then I had no energy at all. So today for the teachings, I am a little bit fearful,  it is like there is some obstacle there and that I can hardly breathe, the air is not coming up and something is taking my energy. But as today is the last day of the Spring Teachings, I felt there was no choice but to come today, and if I did not come it would not be right. 

Today I will speak about the 27th and 28th Excellent Deeds. So in the commentary by Sangye Peldrup,  we are now at the section on the path of the greater individual, on the third section, training in the two types of bodhicitta. Of the seven sub-topics within that, we are on the second one, how he trained in purifying his continuum.

This is the 27th Verse. The previous day, I spoke about this 27th Excellent Deed, as presented in Mikyo Dorje’s Instructions on Training on His Liberation-Story, so today I would like to talk about it as presented in Sangye Peldrup’s commentary on the meaning.”

Having an impressive name but not recognising what is actually non-virtuous

“In society, there are said to be great beings who are said to be unrivalled at getting others to venerate the three jewels and bringing others to happiness and who are very good at teaching the path to excellence. These are said to be lamas or great beings who can bring beings’ great benefit. They are called spiritual friends or gurus and so on.

Some of them actually live up to their names. Some just have great names but in actuality are not really like that, there are quite a few like that. It happens that many of them have an impressive name, guru or lama, but actually, in order for them to bring others to the path of virtue, they themselves should be able to recognise the opposite of non-virtue, but they are unable to do so.

Such a lama like that is just a dry name. They speak well and say they are a lama; they speak about excellent things about how to practice the ten virtues and so on. Then once they get a bit of faith and respect of people, and renown, then they don’t continue teaching people with a pure intention how to practice virtue. Instead they get them to practice unvirtuous conduct. The main reason for this, is that they themselves do not have certainty what non-virtue is. They do not recognise that it is not good and that it is bad. They do not know this so they get others to do unvirtuous things and get them to commit offences and wrongs. These people who are said to be gurus or spiritual friends, are unable to see the faults of unvirtuous conduct so they get others to practice it. The opposite of that is someone like Mikyo Dorje.

The way he thought about this is that in order to tame other sentient beings, to cleanse or improve someone’s mind stream, then first you need to tame and cleanse your own mind stream. If you have not done that, there is no way that you can tame or cleanse others’ mind streams. Likewise, if you do not think even the slightest about the next and future lifetimes, and only think of the happiness of this lifetime. Instead of doing things for long term and lasting benefit, instead you focus on the short-term benefit. From the outside, it might seem like they have conduct of a bodhisattva that seems to benefit others. However, because they are only thinking about this life only, then it is only pseudo-benefit for others. The Bodhisattva action they do is pseudo-action. like I said before, it is like a leper teaching garuda, they are doing something they cannot do.

Leprosy in the past many people caught in the past, it has more or less been eradicated due to medical treatment. Previously, people infected with leprosy would need to be separated from society from others. So it was a terrible illness. The way it was seen in Tibet by Tibetans, is that leprosy is a Naga illness. The antidote for a Naga is a Garuda sadhana. So there are many different Garuda sadhanas and they can overcome the Naga illness. But if someone is infected with leprosy and if that person then teaches the Garuda sadhana to another person, they might think that if he knows that Garuda’s practice well then why is he not able to free himself of leprosy? Why can’t he do that? He must not know how to practice it; In addition they think they may catch it as well. So they would be suspicious and uncomfortable with the person.

So on the outside, it seems like some Bodhisattva activity or doing great things for the benefit for others, but in actuality, since you do not have bodhicitta attitude then it is difficult for it to be something satisfying and fulfilling.

Tame your own mind first before you try to tame others

“The main point is that you have not tamed your own mind stream, you cannot tame others. In order to bring vast benefit to other sentient beings, in order to do that, then it is very important to think about the next and future lives. Mikyo Dorje then thought what is the most important point in the instructions for purifying sentient beings. He clearly understood the most critical point. You need to be able to teach others what they should and should not do. So if you cannot teach that, even if you say a lot of words, they would still not be able to point it out to others. But if you know the main point, then you can explain it in ways that people can understand, and apply that one antidote, that can be an antidote for everything. Then when you have an obscuration to discard, it discards all of them.

Generally, even ordinary people with a little diligence and practice of prajna, such people are basically unable to do this directly, or even have a conceptual idea of what it means. This is a very important critical point that Mikyo Dorje knew.  Not only did he know it, he practised it. He developed real experience in his mind, which was not just that he had a hazy feeling but real certainty of his experience. It was the Dharma he had real certainty in and was able to teach beings. Then he would teach the ultimate level of practice, only then would he teach that Dharma to others.

There are a lot of other people who have not even tried to see if they can mix the Dharma with their being. They have not got some sort of a rough idea of this; they haven’t even got a basic idea of it. They think it is enough to get some empowerments and transmissions and to see the words and the texts. They think that is enough, and that they understand.

There are so many of us like that. Who think I know the main point, and know how to practice the Dharma. They say a lot of arrogant things, they think “Oh I am going to teach these teachings, this summer teaching. I will have many students, who will go and do retreats, I will make them all go into sealed retreats” and they say all these impressive things and teach like that. However, actually for themselves, forget about even bringing out some experience, they have not even tried to see if they can develop experience. Forget about having a complete understanding of the Dharma, they do not even have a partial understanding. So they think the empowerments and transmissions, the lama recites the texts, gives a few teachings and transmissions and they look at the written text and they see it and think ‘Oh I understand’ they say, and they are satisfied with that and then are over-confident in their teaching.

In brief, no matter how much Dharma they teach, they are not thinking about the quality. They don’t look at the level of understanding and level of Dharma people developed, they think about how many times they have taught, how many empowerments and transmissions they gave. They count these and total them up. Then they see how many students or followers they have. One hundred or a thousand, they count that too. When they get a thousand or ten thousand, they think this is incredible.

Then, while they are giving empowerments and transmissions, they think about how much respect and profit they get, how many offerings they received. But to think like that is not at all good, without looking to see whether the students have mixed the Dharma with their beings or not. Instead of looking at how many offerings they got, they need to look at what changes have come about in the students, how have they improved, what have they learned. Instead of thinking of those mainly, they think of it in terms of amounts. How much they taught, how many empowerments they gave, how many people came. That is how they think about it.

This is a bad way of acting and thinking. The 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje said this is like robbers who are destroying the Dharma. They are like the bandits, or the highway men who destroy the Buddha’s teachings, not the work of someone who upholds the teachings, Mikyo Dorje himself considered such a way of acting as bad and so, at all times he held back from doing this as much as he could. To the extent he was refraining from it, he just would not do it ever, in any situation.”

Mixing the Dharma with one’s being is the most important for a teacher and practitioner, and signs that genuine Dharma is disappearing

“When we think about the way the authentic gurus give instructions, what they do is they first see if they themselves have mixed the Dharma with their being and then they see if they can get others to mix the Dharma with their beings. This is the way it should be done. What is most important is whether you have incorporated Dharma into your being or not.  For example, especially with the authentic gurus of the Dagpo Kagyu. When you look at how they gave their instructions is as I said. The reason for that is Je Gampopa said in a quote:

“In the future, when gurus have no real experience and students no devotion in the gurus, when they just give instructions as transmissions, my teachings will disappear.”

That is what Gampopa said. The way to understand this, is in the future, there will be a situation where the teachers themselves won’t have any experience of mixing the Dharma with their being, and students to whom they teach the Dharma, will have no faith or devotion in the lama or the Dharma. A teacher with no real experience, a lama who has no practice or realisation of the Dharma and the students have no faith or devotion in the Dharma or lama but they pretend to be giving instructions and transmissions and act as if they are teaching the Dharma. At that time when that happens, that shows that Je Gampopa’s teachings have disappeared. It is a sign that they have disappeared.

A sign that the Dagpo Kagyu teachings are still there is when there is a guru who has the experience of the teachings, which they have mixed with their being. A guru with the blessings and a student with devotion. Then the Dharma will be that which is good in the beginning, middle and end. That is a sign that the actual teachings of the Dagpo Kagyu are extant. If it is the opposite, then forget about the lamas having any blessings,  they don’t even have any experience of the Dharma, students have no devotion, they pretend to be gurus and students and they say we are giving transmissions and instructions, that is a sign that the Dagpo Kagyu teachings have disappeared. Likewise, 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa and Phagmo Drupa and his disciples said exactly the same things. Gotsangpa and his disciples said:

“I have never taught a single word of Dharma that I have not practised and gained experience in myself.” 

So, what this is saying is that Lord Gotsangpa and his disciples, like Yangonpa they said this: “If I haven’t practiced the Dharma and mixed it into my being and developed experience of it, I have never taught even a word of such Dharma to anyone else. I only teach it if I have practised and gained some experience of it, then I teach it to others.” So, if it is just dry words without having practised and gained experience in them, they have never done that.  They say that the Dharma they taught was not dry words but was experiential, they are moist and juicy words. They have real experience of what the Dharma is in their being.

Mikyo Dorje himself would speak about these words to others, he would say you have to teach Dharma like this. He would say that again and again to his students. He himself held the examples of the Kagyu forefathers to be authoritative, and he would look to see if he could be like them himself. So, whatever Dharma he was teaching to his student, he first considered it really important and valued it. It was not just something that was enough to be able to spout out orally. It had to be Dharma that would benefit the student in this and future lifetimes. So he considered that to be very important and first developed experience of it. He tried to see if he could do this. Then, once he had gained experience and understanding then he would teach it to his students.

For this reason, Mikyo Dorje’s students considered every single word of his teachings or advice to be very important because he considered it to be very important. Even if he only taught a single word, he thought this has to be a word that will benefit them in this and future lifetimes. He considered it very important to have experience and understanding and only then would he teach it to others. As students understood this, they also considered his words very important.”

Showing by example not by words only – what is a lama’s work?

“One real quality of Mikyo Dorje was that he got his students todo a lot of accumulation and purification in order to make themselves be receptive to the Dharma, and able to practice it. Not only did he make others do that, he also himself to benefit others, worked hard at accumulation and purification.  For example, when Mikyo Dorje did prostrations, the way he made a mandala offering, he had real devotion to the three jewels. The way he served the three jewels, we cannot really see this these days, but his students felt and saw this. They felt certain and feeling just looking at the way he would prostrate and offer. They would think it was amazing and they should emulate it. Mikyo Dorje was very skilled in getting his students to practice the accumulations. He also did that and this had a great influence on his students.

What Mikyo Dorje himself said, I won’t read it, but the main point is that: A guru should really worry about if they can actually tame the student’s afflictions. They should even dream about these worries about taming the student, a lama should really worry about this. Otherwise, if there are people who entrust themselves and try to make them turn out well in this life, and not have a hard time this life, that is not the actual work of a lama. It is not the real work of a lama. Worrying about if something will turn out well for others and happy in this lifetime, is something even worldly leaders will do. Like parents always think about their children, “I hope they don’t have a bad time and turn out well.” Parents worry about their children.  In the olden times, the lords would worry about their subjects and oversee them to see if they could fulfil their wishes. So if someone is only worrying about the happiness and joys of this lifetimes, that is not the work of a lama.

The lama’s work is primarily to see if they can tame afflictions in a student’s being or not. They should not be necessarily worrying about if they will get food and clothing or so on. This is something that worldly parents and leaders are able to do. It is not a responsibility of a guru/lama.  The main work is to see whether they can tame the student’s mind stream or not. Like leather, if they can make it soft and supple. They should worry about that and take that responsibility. That is the teacher’s responsibility. The students must not have any guile or deceit, and really entrust themselves to the lama fully, and devote themselves to the guru as their lasting refuge and direction in the future lives, thinking “you are my refuge and hope for future lifetimes,” they have to have that devotion and confidence in the guru. If they do not have that, then that student is not really a student. Even if you give a heap of offerings the size of Mount Meru, it does not benefit. Even if you took teachings of the three vehicles, without missing even a single letter and all the empowerments you can get without any transmissions, there is no benefit to it. 

In brief, in order for the Dharma to be authentic, it has to be for the sake of next and future lifetimes. You need to be working for that. If you are only thinking of this lifetime, then no matter what you do,  it will not help the student achieve the higher states of excellence. They will not get the chance or opportunity. From one perspective, we talk about the student attaining the state of Vajradhara in this lifetime, but when we think about this, this is not a question of achieving something for the sake of this lifetime. It is a different way of thinking. But if you only think about it for the sake of this lifetime, then it is difficult to practice genuine Dharma. That is what Mikyo Dorje said and that is what he taught, but also in his life-story he had no attachment to sensory pleasures. He had no attachment or attraction to diversions and so on and had no interest in the eight concerns of the world. He never tried to fool people or act like a charlatan. This naturally happened. He never told lies about having super human qualities.”

Being able to genuinely say sorry for mistakes and take full accountability

“When Mikyo Dorje made a mistake, he would say “this is my fault, I am wrong”. He accepted his mistakes and confess them with regret. For example, he was a very direct person. If you read his texts, at that time, in Tibet, he made a lot of refutations of older lamas in Tibet. If he made a refutation of someone that was wrong, he would later confess it. So a lot of Tibetan scholars make refutations, but they don’t later say it was wrong and confess them. Mikyo Dorje himself didn’t make his confessions in an eloquent sort of way, he was recognising the faults he had. He confessed them all. This is a very particular quality he had. In any case, when Mikyo Dorje taught Dharma to people, if he hadn’t developed experience or understanding, he would not teach it. He would not teach the profound Dharma to just anyone.

So some people criticised him, saying: ” he won’t give empowerments and is very strict about them. He is too tight with them. He does not have the ability or what it needs to give them. His knowledge is too limited and other great teachers have studied a lot of empowerments and scriptures. When Mikyo Dorje finished, he never finishes teachings instructions from beginning to end.”

So, there are people who spoke like this. But just the way they are speaking is because they did not have the right merit or fortune. However, those who did have the fortune, if he gave an example with his body or said a single word, it would inspire and teach them something. Whether it was the wish for liberation from samsara, faith in the three jewels, or carefully choosing what to do and what not to do, or karmic cause and effect, or training in strengthening bodhicitta, or training in the paths and levels, it was really beneficial for people in gaining new understandings and learning something.” 

“For that reason, Mikyo Dorje’s life and example, and the way he taught the students, if you understand them, they would think that there was no one else on this earth that could guide me to this level of omniscience or could show me the path to Buddhahood. They would feel very comfortable or reassured by him. They would have certainty and believe he was a lama they could really trust and have certainty in. This was one of Mikyo Dorje’s great qualities. There were really not that many people who could understand his full example. They had a real decisive feeling that he could lead them to liberation.

In brief, Mikyo Dorje when he was guiding his students and nurturing them, had a really heartfelt affection or compassion for his students. A sign of his pure intention was when people were hoping for material things, and came asking for food and clothing, and some came asking for Dharma, empowerments and so on. Mikyo Dorje without any deceit and would treat them well and do as much as he could to sustain them in the Dharma and in material things. Even when he was going to be bed, he was always doing things to benefit beings. Giving Dharma and material things to people needed or wanted them.

Some of them did not really want Dharma, but they had worldly aims. When they came to him, they would pretend they were coming for that and he was one of the most important and well-known lamas in Tibet at that time. So when they came to him and if they would ask for empowerments and transmissions and then they boasted to others, I got this empowerment and Dharma from the Karmapa and try to build themselves up by doing that. So there were people who came to him with that sort of intention. So in order, to mollify or placate these people, no matter what they were doing, he would just do whatever he could to teach and mollify them then. As their attitude was not very good, he spent a lot of time for them, and wasted a lot of his own time in terms of practising purification and accumulation and they interrupted many of Mikyo Dorje’s other activities. 

 If the person wasted Mikyo Dorje’s time, they would be committing a misdeed. Therefore, for that reason, people who did not have pure intentions or actions, he did not give them very much. He didn’t pay much attention to them. If there was someone who really wanted to practice Dharma from the bottom of their heart, even if they did not have such a great practice at the moment, in the future, if Mikyo Dorje thought that someone would turn into a good practitioner, who was receptive and a good student, then he would pay a lot of attention to them and do the best he could for them. Forget about anything else. He would spend a lot of time speaking about things or joking and playing around with them. Of course, he would teach the Dharma but he would also spend time in ordinary conversations, and joking with them. He spent a lot of time doing that in order to benefit them, to improve their mind streams. When we look at it that way, we can understand what Mikyo Dorje was like, right?  If he saw someone who was like that, he would give them the Dharma and spend a lot of time with them even playing and joking around. Whereas for other people, who did not really have the wish and would just think is it better I get this empowerment and boast about it, Mikyo Dorje would know this and so he would not really teach them much and spend much time with them. that is how it is. That is the 27th Good Deed.”

28th Excellent Deed – Training in the ways of All the Bodhisattvas

The next is the 28th Excellent Deed.  How he trained in the way of the Bodhisattvas:

So when we talk about training we mean taking the Bodhisatvtvas as an example and training in those ways. In Mikyo Dorje’s Collected Works there is his text Instructions in Training in his Liberation story.  If I explain this verse according to that, as I said before, in order to tame other beings, you first have to tame your own being. In order to cleanse and purify others, you have to do that to your own mind. Otherwise, to think one could help other people’s minds, is just arrogance. You need to recognise your faults as faults and recognise your qualities as qualities. With the faults, you need to do whatever you can to decrease them. And the qualities you need to whatever you can to increase them. So you need to be able to do what you can to abandon the faults in your being. Even if you only have a few qualities you need to do what you can to improve them.”

The importance of not pointing out others’ faults and seeing their good qualities

“If you are looking out at others, it is different when seeing faults in others. You should not hold that to be a fault. There is a real point there, which is that we are only seeing other people’s faults, we are always seeing their faults. But it is not that easy to see your own faults as other people’s faults, We see others faults but we don’t think we have any ourselves. It is like we don’t take any responsibility for those faults. We think that everything is someone else’s fault: “They are wrong, I am always right, I never make mistakes”.

So when you see faults in other people, instead of looking it only as a fault and you consider yourself as being OK and faultless, that is really dangerous for us. The danger is we are always talking about other people’s faults and say you should not do this and cannot do that and always blaming others, that’s the danger. People become really proud and think I am always right and faultless. There are many different types of pride right? So thinking about the different types of pride, thinking I am right and not making any mistakes. If we are unlucky and that person turns out to be a Bodhisattva then it’s even worse!

The Bodhisattvas in order to benefit other sentient beings without doubts or fears, they appear in different ways. When you look at their actions, some of the things we cannot get our minds around. We do not understand that it is Bodhisattva activity. Because we do not understand or respect it, we develop wrong views. That will destroy many roots of virtue that we have accummulated. They won’t bear any result because we have criticised or despised a Bodhisattva that is a great danger. Until we have telepathy and are able to read other people’s minds, and can know what that person is thinking and their aims are, or the level of their being, like seeing it with our eyes, then we are just guessing. We are looking at the external things with our five senses which deceive us all the time. Are they valid or not?

Scientists talk about the five sense faculties and they say there are many times they are not reliable. So we should not take them as so reliable. Some people enjoy looking at other people’s faults and it is very dangerous. We should not look at their faults but try as much as we can to look at their qualities. So for that reason, we need to look at ourselves to see our own faults. We need to put more effort in to seeing our own faults. It is very easy to see others’ faults, Seeing faults in a Bodhisattva is very dangerous. In general, all sentient beings have Buddha Nature. The Bodhisattvas benefit others without hopes or fears or wishes of their own. So there may be Bodhisattvas who are not so skilled in means, we cannot say they are all on the levels. It is possible they are not skilled in means, or who do not have much wisdom. But the Bodhisattva is a person, so it is possible that they will make mistakes from time to time. However, compared to ordinary sentient beings, the Bodhisattva is a source of inexhaustible qualities. Because they are thinking about other beings and focusing on the needs of many beings, compared to ordinary beings. For that reason, it is important to look at the qualities of Bodhisattvas. But we do not know if they are a Bodhisattva or not. So we should look at their qualities. Likewise, in Mikyo Dorje’s 100 Short Instructions it says the same thing.”

We see people and incidents differently based on our karma and tendencies

“For example, in terms of worldly things, if there is someone who does not have good vision, or a good looking face, or people who are disabled, if we call them all sorts of disparaging names, and speak of their worldly faults, it is kind of discrimination right? If we do that, it is not good right? Also, in terms of the Dharma, we have people who have violated discipline and have faults, right? If we point out the other person’s faults to other people it is also not good. In brief, we should never think anything about anyone else’s faults. We should not look at them and stop looking at their  faults. What you should do when you see a fault in someone else. Sometimes you do see faults, you see it and think that really is a fault. What should you do? When you see that fault, you must make the aspiration may that person never have such a fault again. May I never see such faults again in the future. That is a kind of mind-only talk. Actually, it is not really mind-only but when we look at the faults of the other person, it is because of the karmic connection that we see it as a fault. Not everyone will see it as a fault, some people will and some people will not. So because of karmic imprints and connections, people see different people in different ways.

At the very least,  if you have one hundred people look at the colour blue, it is the same colour, but the blue that each person sees, the blue that I see, and the blue the other person sees is going to be different. We do not need to go into all those complicated explanations. Based on the imprints and confusion because of the way those work, everyone has a different ways of seeing things. If we have a bad way of seeing things, it is because of karma and afflictions. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who have exhausted all their karma and afflictions, do not see any other people as bad, right?

So even seeing  a fault in another person, from one perspective it may be fault, but it also a fault in ourselves, so we must pray in the future never to see a fault like that again.”

Being honest and admitting our faults to our guru

“In particular, whatever afflictions sentient beings have, we should try our hardest to eliminate that first. If pride is the strongest, we should work hard to eliminate that pride first. When taking teachings from a guru, you should tell your guru what the great affliction is. You might think it would be not good if I told the guru or who sees that I am so prideful and hide it from them. You should not do that, instead whatever you have, you should explain it to the guru. You should take whatever affliction you have to the guru, and the guru should gather it all together as the antidote for that one affliction.

To give an example, when you are practising the Dharma, it is like going to war. What one needs to do when waging war, one has to have different methods. One method is to surround it from the outside, and then from the inside, we need to have spies in there who will create dissent, and from the outside and they have a revolt inside, then with the outside and inside working together then they can overcome and beat the other country.

Likewise, when you are going to war against the afflictions, it is like having tens of thousands of soldiers, you need to heap on all the antidotes as much as you can. and from the inside you need to have a revolt inside your being, then no matter how many outside forces there are, if everyone is united on the inside then it is difficult to eliminate them, right? So you need to see the fault as a fault, and that this is not good, this is bad. You have to be revolting against the afflictions on the outside. In that way you can repress the afflictions. 

There is a doubt that comes up, and this is in the One Hundred Short Instructions by 8th Karmapa. If you see something as good which is not a fault that is bad. If you see someone has a fault and see it as a fault then, then what is wrong with that? What’s the problem with that? If it is a fault, that is OK. When someone has a fault you should point it out to others, that is how people think. However, if that is how you think, it is not certain.

For example, there are some people who have accumulated negative actions, a person may have done that a lot and made mistakes , so in terms of their performing misdeeds and making mistakes that is one thing, but that person has also done good things. It is important for us to be able to distinguish the individual from their mistakes. The mistakes the person has committed, we can see them as mistakes, but because of those if we see that person as completely bad then that is not OK. Because if we criticise them and make them into a completely bad person, and saying they are awful and terrible, then the virtuous qualities they have are naturally also, you are not respecting them. It is possible they have virtuous qualities.”

West Buddha surrounded by caves, c. 6th-7th c C.E., stone, stucco, paint, 175 feet high, Bamiyan, Afghanistan, destroyed 2001.

“An example of this is, if you have a Buddha statue made of clay and destroy it, we say you have the misdeed of destroying the Buddha form. But the actual statue of the Buddha is made of clay, it is not the Buddha. But when you destroy the statue made of clay, they say it is destroying the Buddha’s body because they say the support and supported are being destroyed. So for that reason it is said to be the same as destroying the kaya/form of a Buddha.

In any case, in the world, there are good sentient beings who perform bad actions that have also benefited sentient beings. Sometimes there are horrible people who do good things but they can also become harmful, when a bad person does a good thing, then it can also be something that destroys the teachings of the Buddha. So this question of good and bad, is something that is very difficult for us to quickly determine. This is something we have to be extremely careful about. We cannot just quickly say something is good or bad. We don’t know who is a Bodhisattva. I they are a Bodhisattva and, with a feeling of hatred, we criticise them that is a huge negative action.

There was a noble Mahayana Sutra called Entering the Seal of Indeterminate Beings, which says that if you were to gauge out the eyes of sentient beings in the realms of ten directions, if you feel hatred for a sentient being and look at them incorrectly, that is even worse. For that reason we need to be very careful of who is a Bodhisattva. It is possible there are Bodhisattvas among ants, or cats and dogs. They do not have to be a human. If we can make a good, virtuous connection with them it is good, if we are unable to make good connections with sentient beings, we should just suspend judgement. We should not have attachment and aversion and develop bias for people.”

“Our lips will send us to hell, it is better we keep them locked and sealed”

“There was a Kadampa spiritual friend called Nirupa. He said something we should keep in our minds. What he said was that, these days, the way people think is that basically, they run out of Dharma to practice. They do what they can to get whatever Dharma they can. They get empowerments, transmissions and whatever they can to get it. They get a lot of Dharma teachings, and request all they can. But they do not say I have practised this one, but not that one.  They never talk about this, they don’t even have any feeling for it. It is enough just to take the empowerment. They think once the guru has put the vase on the head that is enough, that is OK and they are fine. They do what they can to get the vases put on their head as many times as they can. When the guru is giving a transmission, they think that is enough.

 Actually, when the guru gave this empowerment and transmission, we need to think “I should practice this”. If we take so many teachings and empowerments but do not practice it, it is just empty and a total waste. But there are not many people who think like this. Everyone says “I go for refuge to the guru”, but in their actual lives what they do, whether it is a lama or a master or teacher or sangha, there is none they will not criticise. There is no one among the sangha, among the Khenpos and the lamas that they will not criticise.

So it is these poisonous lips that will cast us into hell, we don’t need anything else, the only thing we need to go to hell are our lips.  For that reason, if there was someone who really cared for me, they would put a lock on my mouth, and give the lock and key to someone else. Then when I have to eat, they would unlock it, only at mealtimes they would unlock it. Otherwise, it is better if they leave my mouth locked and closed all the time. Because these lips will give me such a hard time. This is what Nirupa said. This is something we can understand and can benefit us. So I think that is probably enough for today.”

4 thoughts on “‘YOUR LIPS ARE WHAT WILL SEND YOU TO HELL AND NEED TO BE SHUT AND LOCKED’: 8th Karmapa on the difference between ‘dry’ and ‘juicy’ words, Je Gampopa on signs of the Dharma disappearing,  and the importance of having pure perception of all people’s faults and mistakes, and keeping your lips shut (17th Karmapa’s Spring teachings 2023 (Day 5)

  1. This is a fantastic article on being an embodiment of the teachings. I can only speak for myself, but I think about trying to remember these teachings into future lives. So, from that perspective, repetition and contemplation are essential. I think now that I’ve discovered this precious treasure of wisdom, why would I let it go? I want Dharma to mix with my midstream so that the teachings may be preserved for future generations to come. It’s truly the ONLY gift that keeps on giving. Otherwise, there will be no Dharma in the future. That would be catastrophic for all sentient beings! I believe in impermanence, so there is an inevitability in that. Our only best recourse to combat this, is to mix the Dharma with our midstream. If we take this garden of truth for granted and it becomes a means to increase our “cool factor ” (aka “be a poser” for those gen x-ers out there) then surely it will dry up and blow away, eventually. How many things did I think would never go away? I took so many good things for granted, as a child. Those things are gone now. The Buddhas teachings are a living garden. You have to water the garden and make sure the sun is feeding those plants. In other words, water the garden by practicing loving kindness and make sure the sun is shining by doing your practices and contemplating the teachings. That was my rant for the day! Thank you, Dharma sister! 🙏

  2. Hello Adele.
    Nice to see your big output in Dharma. Concerning today teachings about faults what about your perspective about your personal ecounter with Dharma teacher which ecounter made you writing long story about it.
    In light of today teachings are you
    going to change your mind about it ? All best in working with mind which like you said easy to say , difficult to be done. Fingers crossed
    for your success in mind workings.

    1. Why are you still thinking about something I wrote three years ago and what is it to you? I thought the teaching is focus on your own business/faults not that of others? Why do you need to know what I am doing and thinking? Maybe it is you who needs to let it go ha ha ha

      In any case, there is a Bodhisattva vow also to protect others from harm, it all depends why and how one does an action that makes it a good one or not. That means there is space to try and expose and stop unethical conduct to others. As long as that is done with genuine love and compassion.

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