Buddhist Philosophy


Self-confidence can be a trait that we wish we had, but many of us may feel unsure of ourselves. At first glance, it might seem rather paradoxical to worry about self-confidence as we often hear about the emptiness of self in Buddhist philosophy. However, we need self-confidence so that we can function in our regular daily actions in the world. Moreover, and most importantly, we need self-confidence in our own nature and in our practice.

Phakchok Rinpoche says that we shouldn’t focus on the external conditions where we lack self-confidence. Instead, he advises us to first think about how we can be confident. Here, he shares the good news that for a Buddhist practitioner, it becomes natural and easy to have dignity because that is built into the system.

Building Dignity

Every single practice of the Buddhist tradition–especially in the Vajrayana path, empowers us with dignity.Self-confidence

When we go for refuge, we visualize light rays coming from the many awakened beings who populate the refuge tree. And when we conclude that practice, we imagine all those beings dissolving into ourselves, empowering us, and bestowing a strong sense of confidence and purity. This is how we should practice! Repeating this process over and over again will naturally build our dignity, but without leading to pride.

Self-Confidence Through Practice of Guru Yoga

Additionally, on the Vajrayana path, Guru Yoga is considered to be the supreme practice. When we practice Guru Yoga, we speak of mingling our minds completely with the Guru. The Guru’s wisdom and our mind are not separate. As we practice in this way, we don’t dwell on lots of conceptual details. Instead, we approach this meditation with a firm determination that we and the Guru are always one.

Self-confidence develops if we don’t get hung up on the whens, whys, or hows! If we repeat this practice regularly, our dignity and confidence will slowly, but automatically, increase. When we build self-confidence in this way, we ground it deep within our hearts. It is not some easily shaken external shell.

Reflection Exercise

Examine your own experience.  Do you have a solid, grounded sense of dignity when you practice? 

If you feel slightly shaky, make an effort over the course of the next month or so to spend more time with the refuge visualization and/or your Guru Yoga practice. As Phakchok Rinpoche often reminds us, we need to feel the presence very strongly. Gently, but resolutely, remind yourself that you and the Guru are one. Be decisive!  

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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.