Buddhist Philosophy

Awakening is Possible

In these two brief audio files from early 2015, Phakchok Rinpoche addresses questions that many practitioners have about their path and practice. These common doubts can create confusion about the path and the result, so it helps us if we take Rinpoche’s very direct message to heart.

Each of these teachings addresses the subject of awakening. And both may inspire us to develop great confidence in our practice. We may want to listen to these two teachings repeatedly to remind ourselves that awakening is very possible and that it brings great freedom.


Awakening is Easy

In the first teaching, Rinpoche addresses the issue of the difficulty of achieving enlightenment–or “waking up”. His answer may be startling–he says that it is actually very easy. He points out that it is our own mindset that creates problems. We develop the habit of thinking that it is so difficult–and then we never actually practice. We might even give up before we truly begin. Rinpoche kindly shares the advice of his own meditation master. He says that his teacher always emphasized the possibility and the ease of the practice–and this is Rinpoche’s own inspiring message for all of us.

image01Free of Hope and Fear

In the second teaching, Rinpoche uses the example of the famous Tibetan yogi Milarepa (11th-12th century). Milarepa, of course, was probably the most famous of the Tibetan yogis . He spent many years wandering from cave to cave and subsisting on a diet of nettles.

Rinpoche notes that many people wonder what the benefit of this type of existence was. The major accomplishment, Rinpoche points out, was that Milarepa was completely free of hope and fear.

If we are honest with ourselves, we can come to understand how these two factors dominate our lives. Milarepa stated that he was free from hope and fear–these two elements that, as Rinpoche says, “haunt us on both the spiritual and mundane level.”


Reflection Question

As you sit down for a practice session, honestly reflect on your hopes and fears. Do you feel those as weights, making awakening seem beyond possibility? Consider what it might be like to just sit and practice without expectation. Encourage yourself to just relax with whatever manifests.

How does that feel?

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.