Ven. Jetsünma Khandro Rinpoche says:
Teachers throughout the times have always said: Dharma is not about doing things. Buddhadharma does not become Buddhadharma, until through the methods applied one is bringing about change, transformation, transition in one’s own self completely, that change and transition must manifest and be seen by the others …
But despite knowing all this the heart of the person is not cured, if the mind of the person still retains the rigidity and the stubbornness and the selfishness and the greed and this sort of ambition and the agenda filled with worldly tendencies, then no matter how many years of meditation you may have done, how many teachers you know personally and you have the emails and the phone numbers of all the Holinesses and so on and so forth, it doesn’t make a difference at all.
I often say, when people say: “Oh I know so and so Holiness or I have been in 10 years retreat or 15 years of retreat …” There is nothing so dramatic (about that). Very good, we always say: Very good. You’ve been in 10 years of retreat, now let’s see what that has done to you, isn’t it. After 10 or whatever number of years in retreat, having finished this sadhana and that sadhana, and so on and so forth and Mahamudra and Dzogchen and knows all the HUNGS and the PHETS as we say, that is all very fine.
And you star-gaze or sky-gaze or you rest in expanse or whatever it is, that’s all very fine; but on the other hand many times unfortunately close encounter with such people leaves us with a lot of bad taste, and you find selfishness, you find uptightness, you find arrogance, you find rigidity, you find so much display and ostentatious display. And no sign of really being a person who can be true and genuinely selflessly kind.
Then we often feel very very sad at, you know: What went wrong? Which point did they miss? What did they not hear? What part of the teachings was ever made to understand by these people where you would know a subject that you would never do yourself. You would know what to eliminate, and yet you would never eliminate that from your own mind stream.
And in these days another very popular thing to do is: I’d like to teach dharma. It’s everybody’s wish to teach dharma. It is all very good, but to teach dharma, that you practice – which is very important. And so when there is a lot of teachings that are being given but one doesn’t practice them, then as a listener we do to not like to listen from people who don’t practice what is being taught, what has been given as teachings.
In the same way then everyone of us has to realize: Just as I do not want, likewise others will not want it in the same way. And therefore it is very essential to have an accurate understanding of Buddhadharma, as whatever methods you do, wether it is formal meditation, whether it is informal meditation, whether it is Tibetan Buddhism or any other kind of buddhism or maybe not even buddhism at all, but so long as this human being who is doing this practice, who is walking this journey genuinely shows the transition and the change in the attitude and the conduct.
Softness of the person, gentleness of the person, genuine inward contentment and a contentment that is manifest as joyful contentment, happiness in each moment, where there is not the sense of rigidity, but allowance for others to be totally free; to be given freedom from your own demands and expectations. When that suppleness and flexibility of the attitude arises, all things fall into place, all the good qualities fall into place.
Through mantra recitation, if you can generate that kind of flexibility of attitude and conduct, then the mantra is very beneficial. Being in retreat, if this is possible to be received, that is also very good. Through following teachers and keeping there instructions in mind, if you can bring about that change in your own personality, attitude and conduct, then it is worth following such teachers and their teachings, belonging to certain lineages and doing certain practices, whether Vajrayana or different kinds of Vajrayana practices is bringing about such flexibility of attitude, then choosing to practice the sadhanas of Vajrayana has been a very excellent choice.
Not doing anything, and yet being able to bring about that flexibility of attitude, genuine contentment in oneself and therefore really selflessly being kind to the others, simplicity and humility and genuine softness of the attitude, if that is being cultivated, if that person hasn’t understood a word of Buddhism, but if it is there, that person – our teachers have always said – has gotten a better understanding of Buddhadharma than somebody who sits in a meditation box, and the only reason, why you meditate is so that you can go out and teach others, or the only reason is so that quickly you may learn something more than your other dharma brother or dharma sister who is in the next room….
And being able to therefore take these teachings or these instructions to heart and really in your own mind saying: “What is dharma, what does it mean for me to have taken walking this path of practice. Is it to collect a number of things that are exalted, or is it to truly bring about an awareness and a genuine change in the way I relate to this world and to other sentient beings; in the way I think about myself and see what I am able to really present as a human being within my own self.”
Excerpt from 2008 teaching on Nagarjuna’s text, “Letter to a Friend,” conducted on the UC Berkeley campus.