Turning the Wheel of the Dharma

Gen Rinpoche's Last Formal Teaching

Given in the morning of Thursday, 2 February 1995, this was Gen Rinpoche's last teaching in the Gompa. Gen Rinpoche himself decided to teach that morning and because the teaching was unscheduled the only people present were four of the Sangha who happened to be there at the time. There was a strong sense, however, that Gen Rinpoche was addressing everyone. Though by this time Gen Rinpoche's body was very weak, his mind was as sharp as ever and his message as direct. The teaching was orally translated by Ven. Sönam Tenzin. (c) Copyright Dhargyey Buddhist Centre.

I have said many times that there is no difference between the speech of the Protector Nagarjuna, and the speech of the Buddha.

Nagarjuna says in one verse that of all the kinds of wealth, the wealth of contentment is the best. Even if you have no material wealth you are wealthy when you have contentment. With contentment you have the absolute, perfect, supreme wealth. So what these lines say is extremely important.

What does contentment mean? Contentment comes with being satisfied with what one has. It means that whatever one has, one thinks, "This is enough, this is sufficient for me." One doesn't feel that one has to accumulate many things, or have things of extremely good quality. If one has contentment one doesn't have those kinds of grasping feeling.

In general we should think about how extremely fortunate we are. Even though we do not have a lot of jewels decorating our heads and bodies as nagas do, we have a precious human rebirth which has the eight leisures and ten good-fortunes. Because we have these eight leisures and ten fortunes we have the opportunity to practise dharma. In this we are more fortunate than nagas who, though they have jewels, do not have the eight leisures and ten fortunes, so cannot practise dharma properly. Thus we are extremely fortunate -- much more fortunate than most beings. Because of the kindness of our teachers and the three jewels, we have obtained a precious human rebirth and so we can practise well.

It is also said of nagas that the more jewels they have attached to their heads, the more suffering they have in their bodies due to carrying those jewels. And of course they also have the suffering of losing their jewels or having them stolen. This shows us that those sorts of jewels are of no use.

The Teacher of Gods and Men declared that being satisfied
Was the greatest of all riches. Remain
Satisfied always. One knowing satisfaction is
Truly wealthy, even without material possessions.

Gentle Sir! Those having few desires
Lack the misery of those with many possessions.
However many the heads of the foremost nagas,
Just so is the misery obtained from them.

Nagarjuna, Friendly Letter

Though we, as ordained practitioners, do not have those sorts of jewels, we do have the precious eight leisure-jewels and ten freedom-jewels, so we are extremely rich in the necessities for practising dharma. We should remember how fortunate we are, and even as we are walking around we should collect manis etc, and do as much practice as we can. We will never have better conditions than these to practice dharma: these are the best possible conditions. Even celestial beings do not have conditions as good as ours, because they do not have teachers to teach them dharma. They do not have the sort of circumstances which are available to us.

So the essence of that first verse about contentment is that if one has contentment then even if one does not have worldly wealth one has absolute or supreme wealth. Contentment is a really wonderful thing in that even if one has just a little bit of money one thinks, "This is wonderful, I've got this money!" But without contentment it doesn't matter how much money one has -- whether one has $100 or $1,000 or $100,000 one always wants more; one is always dissatisfied with what one has.

That is Nagarjuna's teaching. We should listen well to Nagarjuna's teaching because it is really no different from the Buddha's. I have taught you the entire Friendly Letter, and I want you to remember it well. It is a very great teaching, so you should never allow yourself to forget it. It is also very beautiful to listen to and pleasant to read -- especially the verse that says if you have contentment you have absolute wealth. Those lines are lovely to listen to, especially in Tibetan*. All the verses are like that -- beautiful to listen to.

If, when having found leisure such as this,
I do not attune myself to what is wholesome,
There could be no greater deception
And there could be no greater folly.

If the arising of a Tathagata,
Faith, the attainment of a human body
And my being fit to cultivate virtue are scarce,
When will they be won again?

Shantideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life.

Shantideva said that if one has a precious human rebirth and does not take the virtuous steps forward, there is nothing more shameful than that. There is nothing more wasteful than not engaging in virtue while one has a precious human rebirth.

We should take Milarepa as our example. He had no jewels -- in fact he didn't even have any tsampa to eat -- yet because he had a complete, precious human rebirth and used it wisely, he was able to attain enlightenment in that one lifetime. But nagas, who have jewels all over their heads and sometimes all over their bodies as well, do not have a precious human rebirth so they cannot give meaning to their life as an animal, and they cannot generate a human rebirth. They probably cannot even generate an animal rebirth -- they have nothing but bodily suffering from all those jewels.

Having a precious human rebirth is not something that happens all the time, but just this once. So, since you have the possibility for great happiness, thinking in the correct way take the essence of your precious human rebirth. If you just put it off until tomorrow or the day after, you will end up empty-handed, not having collected any merit.

It is incredibly hard to meet with a human rebirth that has dharma, so don't waste it. Try as hard as you can to practise. There may be many billions of people in the world, but the number of them who meet with Buddhist teachings is very small. You might think that it is easy and commonplace to meet with Buddhist teachings, but it is not.

We can look into our own minds to see whether we will get a precious human rebirth in the next life. If we find we are only partially keeping our vows and commitments there is not much hope for us. Only a crazy person would say that someone who keeps their vows and commitments poorly will have the chance of a human rebirth. On the other hand, if we keep our vows and commitments carefully, as carefully as we would protect our most valuable possession or our own life, then we have a chance.

It would be very strange to think that we could get a precious human rebirth in the next life while wasting this life not practising properly and not keeping our vows carefully. It would be the same as a farmer who sowed any old grass seed in the spring, and in autumn expected to have a harvest of edible grain.

As soon as you have heard teachings you should immediately apply them to your practice. This is excellent advice.

*nor nam kün gyi nang nä chok she pa
rab chok leg pa lha mäi tön päi sung
kun tu chog she tsö chig chok kyen na
nor mi dog kyang yang dag jor pa lag

[Back]Back to Teachings page.
Back to About Gen Rinpoche page.
This page is designed and maintained by Sönam Tenzin.
Enquiries, suggestions for improvements, and any comments are welcome: E-mail me!