Buddhist Philosophy

Becoming an Authentic Practitioner

In this audio clip from an extended question and answer session conducted in February 2015 in Nepal, Phakchok Rinpoche responds to a question that many of us often pose.

How do we become authentic in our dharma practice?  And what does it really mean to be an authentic practitioner?

Rinpoche gives two very specific instructions that we can use to make sure we practice correctly.

Motivation and Non-Attachment

First,  Rinpoche reminds us to check why we practice. In every session, and multiple times during the day we can reflect on our motivation for practice. Specifically, as Mahayana practitioners, we aim for the motivation of bodhicitta.

Secondly, he points out that an authentic practitioner should not be attached to the eight worldly concerns, the ‘jig rten chos brgyad in Tibetan.

The Eight Worldly Concerns


What are the eight worldly concerns?  And where do we find this teaching?

Nāgārjuna discussed these eight concerns in his Suhṛllekha (Letter to a Friend). Although he wrote advice to his patron, a king, all practitioners can benefit from contemplating these points. Through reflection, we may gradually come to see these opposing conditions as equal and not let any of these factors disturb our minds.

Hope and Fear

The ordinary concerns are divided into four pairs of common human preoccupations or attitudes. If we examine them, it is clear that hope represents attachment and fear is a manifestation of
aversion. And these concerns seem to be universal. Thus, we can observe our own conduct and practice and try to break free from these bonds.

  • Hope for happiness
  • Fear of suffering
  • Desire for fame
  • Dread of insignificance
  • Hope for praise
  • Fear of blame
  • Wanting gain
  • Fearing loss

Reflection Exercise

First, Rinpoche says we can make an effort to memorize these concerns. We learn how we are susceptible to ups and downs. Then we can use mindfulness to check ourselves regularly.

Each of us may experience some of these more strongly than others. Our outer conditions and previous conditioning can make certain pairs more obvious to us than others.  But try to take some time with each set of opposites and investigate how they appear in your own experience.

We may, at times, feel that we are free from these situations.  But, if we dig deeper, we may surprise ourselves by discovering subtle hopes and fears.  Observe how these attitudes color our actions and reactions. 

Can we develop more equanimity–or do we let ourselves become upset when faced with what we do not want? 

As always with self-reflection, be gentle and loving to yourself. If you notice a particular one of these issues pushes your buttons, then resolve to work with it more carefully–with a lot of love. 



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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.