Buddhist Philosophy

Belief in Dharma Practice

Belief, or confidence,  in our own dharma practice allows for progress.  Yet, often we approach our practice in a half-hearted or not fully committed manner.  But when we don’t believe in what we are practicing, we may not recognize our own experiences on the path.  And if we don’t believe that the practice will bear results, then we may end up abandoning it altogether.

Here, in a video teaching from Malaysia, Phakchok Rinpoche points out that if we practice Vajrayāna we want to develop confident belief.

How to Practice Visualization: Belief in Dharma Practice

Belief means holding the steady conviction that the guru is all-pervasive. Rinpoche reminds us that he often teaches how to see all deities as inseparable from Guru Rinpoche. Again, he explains that we can dissolve all deities into Guru Rinpoche, and then into ourselves.  Furthermore, he explains that we come to regard all phenomena–a flower, a tree–whatever we encounter, or whatever we experience–  as Guru Rinpoche.

Belief in Dharma Practice

We begin by practicing in the conviction of inseparability. And yes, this starts as a conceptual exercise–we’re imagining something that we can’t yet fully see. From this conceptual stage, we then use the visualization to work with the experience, to bring it into our own life. Thus, Guru Rinpoche dissolves into all our experiences without exception–regardless of whether we consider them good or bad, positive or negative.

So we can practice by visualizing that Guru Rinpoche dissolves into absolutely everything–and then, simply rest with the confidence that it is the actual situation. We rest for a short period.  Once again–immediately, everything dissolves back into Guru Rinpoche. And then, we rest again.

Additional Resources

You might also want to consider the role of faith and the mind by reviewing this teaching.

Belief in Dharma Practice: Reflection Question

How often do you practice receiving the four empowerments from Guru Rinpoche?  Perhaps you have been doing this in a very rushed way.  During the next several weeks, make a point to slow down and develop conviction that you and the guru are inseparable.  Then, as you go about your daily life, keep touching back into that experience. 

Does your belief in your practice change when you are more intentional?  What is different?

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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.