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Chapter 1 – Atisha The Thrice Great

Chapter 1


(The New Edition has a changed chapter title called “First, learn the preliminaries”)

First, learn the preliminaries.
Think that all phenomena are like dreams.
Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
Let even the remedy itself go free on its own.
Settle in the nature of basic cognition, the essence.
Between sessions, consider phenomena as phantoms.
Train in joining, sending and taking together.
Do this by riding the breath.
Three objects, three poisons, three bases of virtue.
Train with phrases in every mode of behaviour.

Religion is not a science…. Religion is not a science in the sense physics, mathematics and chemistry are sciences. But still it is a science because it is the ultimate knowing: the word science means knowing. And if religion is not a science, what else can be? It is the highest knowing, it is the purest knowing.
Ordinary science is knowledge, not knowing: religion is knowing itself. Ordinary science is object-oriented — it knows something, hence it is knowledge. Religion is not object-oriented; it has no object, it knows nothing. Knowing knows itself, as if the mirror is reflecting itself. It is utterly pure of all content. Hence religion is not knowledge but knowing.

Science is a lower kind of knowing, religion is a higher kind. Religion is PHILOSOPHIA ULTIMA: the ultimate knowing. The difference between the two is not of the spirit — the spirit is the same — but the difference is certainly of purity.
Science is mixed with much mud. Religion is pure essence, pure fragrance. The mud has disappeared, the lotus has appeared. And at the ultimate stage even the lotus has disappeared, only the fragrance abides. These are the three stages of knowing: the mud, the lotus and the fragrance.

Religion cannot be grasped, because there is no object in it. But still it can be understood. It cannot be explained, but it can be experienced. There is no way of informing you about religion, because it cannot be reduced to information. But you can be shown the way, the path to it — fingers pointing to the moon. The fingers are not the moon, obviously, but the fingers can point to the moon.

These “Seven Points of Mind Training” of the great master Atisha, are fingers, seven fingers pointing to the moon. Don’t be caught by the fingers, don’t become too much obsessed with the fingers. That is not the point, that will be missing the point. Use the fingers and forget them, and look where the fingers are pointing. And when you see the moon, who bothers about the fingers? Who remembers them? They automatically become nonessential; they disappear.

That’s why for those who have experienced religion, all the scriptures become utterly useless, all methods become nonessential. When the goal is achieved, the path is forgotten.
Atisha is one of the rare masters, rare in the sense that he was taught by three enlightened masters. It has never happened before, and never since. To be a disciple of three enlightened masters is simply unbelievable — because one enlightened master is enough. But this story, that he was taught by three enlightened masters, has a metaphorical significance also. And it is true, it is historical too.

The three masters that Atisha remained with for many years were: first, Dharmakirti, a great Buddhist mystic. He taught him no-mind, he taught him emptiness, he taught him how to be thoughtless, he taught him how to drop all content from the mind and be contentless. The second master was Dharmarakshita, another Buddhist mystic. He taught him love, compassion. And the third master was Yogin Maitreya, another Buddhist mystic. He taught him the art of taking the suffering of others and absorbing it into your own heart: love in action.

This could happen because all these three masters were great friends. They had started their search together; while they were on the way they had remained together, and when they attained they were still together.
Atisha became a disciple of Dharmakirti. Dharmakirti said to him, “I will teach you the first principle. And for the second you go to Dharmarakshita, and for the third to Yogin Maitreya. This way you will know all the three faces of the ultimate reality, the three faces of God — the trinity, the TRIMURTI. And this way you will learn each face from the person who is the most perfect in it.”
These are the three ways people reach to the ultimate. If you reach through emptiness you attain the other two also, but your path remains basically that of emptiness — you know more about emptiness, so emptiness will be emphasized in whatsoever you teach.

That’s what happened in Buddha’s case. He had attained through emptiness, hence his whole teaching became emptiness-oriented. There is no God in Buddha’s teaching, because God is a thought, a content, an object — God is the other, and Buddha had attained by dropping the other. Buddha had attained by emptying his mind totally, hence there is no place for God, no place for anything at all. His path is the purest VIA NEGATIVA.

That was also the case with Dharmakirti. He was the perfect master of emptiness, a master par excellence of emptiness. And when Atisha had learned how to be empty, the master said, “It will be better for you to go to Dharmarakshita for the next step, because he has attained from a totally different path. Just as you can reach Everest from different sides, he has reached from a totally different path, the path of compassion. I can also teach you the path of compassion, but my knowing about that path is only known from the top.

“I have reached through the path of emptiness. Once you reach the top, you can look down at all the paths, they are all available to your vision. But to follow a path in its different dimensions, to follow a path in all its details, small details, is a totally different thing.” And to look at it from a helicopter or from the mountain-top is certainly a different vision; it is a bird’s-eye view.
And Dharmakirti said, “If there had been nobody available here, I would have taught you the other too. But when a man like Dharmarakshita is just here, my neighbor, living in another cave just nearby, it is better you go to him.”

First one has to become empty, utterly empty. But you have not to cling to emptiness, otherwise your life will never know the positive expression of religion. Your life will miss the poetry, the joy of sharing; you will remain empty. You will have a kind of freedom, but your freedom will be only freedom from, it will not be freedom FOR. And unless a freedom is both — freedom from and freedom for — something is missing, something is lacking; your freedom will be poor. Just to be free from is a poor kind of freedom.

The real freedom starts only when you are free for. You can sing a song and you can dance a dance and you can celebrate and you can start overflowing. That’s what compassion is.
Man lives in passion. When the mind disappears, passion is transformed into compassion. Passion means you are a beggar with a begging-bowl; you are asking and asking for more and more from everybody; you are exploiting others. Your relationships are nothing but exploitations — cunning devices to possess the other, very clever strategies to dominate. When you are living in the mind, in passion, your whole life is power politics. Even your love, even your social service, even your humanitarian works, are nothing but power politics. Deep down, there is a desire to be powerful over others.

The same energy, when the mind is dropped, becomes compassion. And it takes a totally new turn. It is no longer begging; you become an emperor, you start giving. Now you have something — you had it always, but because of the mind, you were not aware of it. The mind was functioning like darkness around you, and you were unaware of the light within. The mind was creating an illusion of being a beggar, while all the time you had been an emperor. The mind was creating a dream; in reality you never needed anything. All had already been given. All that you need, all that you can need, is already the case.

God is within you, but because of the mind — mind means dreaming, desiring — you never look within, you go on rushing outwards. You keep yourself in the background, your eyes are turned towards the outside, they have become focused there. That’s what the mind is all about: focusing the eyes on the outside.

And one has to learn how to unfocus them from there — how to make them loose, less rigid, more liquid, so that they can turn inwards. Once you have seen who you are, the beggar disappears. In fact it had never existed; it was just a dream, an idea.
The mind is creating all your misery. With the mind gone, misery is gone, and suddenly you are full of energy. And the energy needs expression, sharing; it wants to become a song, a dance, a celebration. That is compassion: you start sharing.

Atisha learned compassion from Dharmarakshita. But compassion has two faces. One is inactive compassion: the meditator sits silently in his cave, showering his compassion over the whole existence. But it is a very inactive kind of compassion. You have to go to him to partake of it, he will not come to you. You will have to go to the mountains to his cave to share his joy; he will not come to you. He will not move in any way, he will not take any active step. He will not flow towards others, he will not seek and search for the people with whom he can share his dance. He will wait.

This is a feminine kind of compassion: just like a woman waits — she never takes the initiative, she never goes to the man. She may love the man, but she will never be the first to say “I love you.” She will wait; she will hope that one day or other, sooner or later, the man will propose. Woman is inactive love, passive love. Man is active love, man takes the initiative.

And in the same way, compassion has two possibilities: the feminine and the masculine. From Dharmarakshita, Atisha learned the feminine art of being in love with existence. One more step was needed: Dharmarakshita told him, “Go to Yogin Maitreya” — these three masters were all living together in the same vicinity — “Go to Yogin Maitreya and learn how to transform the baser energy into active energy, so love becomes active.”

And once love is active, compassion is active, you have passed through all the three dimensions of truth — you have known all. You have known utter emptiness, you have known compassion arising, you have known compassion showering. Life is fulfilled only when all these three have happened.

Because Atisha learned under three enlightened masters, he is called Atisha the Thrice Great. Nothing more is known about his ordinary life, when and where exactly he was born. He existed somewhere in the eleventh century. He was born in India, but the moment his love became active he started moving towards Tibet, as if a great magnet were pulling him there. In the Himalayas he attained; then he never came back to India.

He moved towards Tibet, his love showered on Tibet. He transformed the whole quality of Tibetan consciousness. He was a miracle-worker; whatsoever he touched was transformed into gold. He was one of the greatest alchemists the world has ever known.

These “Seven Points of Mind Training” are the fundamental teaching that he gave to Tibet — a gift from India to Tibet. India has given great gifts to the world. Atisha is one of those great gifts. Just as India gave Bodhidharma to China, India gave Atisha to Tibet. Tibet is infinitely indebted to this man.

These seven points, the smallest treatise you can find, are of immense value. You will have to meditate over each statement. They are the whole of religion condensed: you will have to unfold each statement. They are like seeds, they contain much. It may not be apparently so, but the moment you move into the statements deeply, when you contemplate and meditate and start experimenting with them, you will be surprised — you will be going into the greatest adventure of your life.

The first:


What are the preliminaries? These are the preliminaries. First: truth is. Truth is not something to be created, truth is not something that is far away. Truth is herenow, truth surrounds you like the ocean surrounds the fish. The fish may not be aware — once the fish becomes aware of the ocean, the fish is enlightened. The fish is not aware, cannot be aware, because the fish is born in the ocean, has always lived in the ocean, is part of the ocean as any wave is part of the ocean. The fish is also a wave — a little more solid, but born out of the ocean, lives in the ocean and one day disappears in the ocean. The fish may never come to know about the ocean. To know something, a little distance is needed. To know something, perspective is needed. And the ocean is so close, that’s why the fish may not be aware of it.

And so is the case with truth, or if you like you can use the word god. So is the case with god. It is not that he is far away, and that’s why we don’t know about him; it is because he is not far away but very close by. Even to say that it is close by is not right, because you are it. He is within you and without: he is all and all.

This is the first thing that has to be allowed to sink deep in your heart: truth already is, we are in it. This is the most fundamental thing to begin with. You are not to discover it; it is not covered. All that is needed is a new kind of awareness which is missing in you. Truth is there, but you are not aware, you are not mindful, you are not alert. You don’t know how to watch, you don’t know how to observe, you don’t know how to look and see. You have eyes but still you are blind, you have ears but you are deaf.
The first preliminary is: truth is.

The second preliminary is: mind is the barrier. Nothing else is hindering you from truth, just your own mind. Mind surrounds you like a film, like a movie that goes on and on, and you remain engrossed in it, fascinated by it. It is a fantasy that surrounds you, a continuous story that goes on and on. And because you are so fascinated by it, you go on missing that which is. And mind is not; it is only a fantasy, it is only a faculty for dreaming.

Mind is nothing but dreams and dreams — dreams of the past, dreams of the future, dreams of how things should be, dreams of great ambitions, achievements. Dreams and desires, that is the stuff mind is made of. But it surrounds you like a China Wall. And because of it the fish remains unaware of the ocean.

So the second preliminary is: mind is the only barrier.

And the third: no-mind is the door. Atisha calls no-mind BODHICHITTA: that is his word for no-mind. It can be translated as buddha-mind, buddha-consciousness, too. Or if you like you can call it christ-consciousness, krishna-consciousness. It doesn’t make any difference what name is used, but the basic quality of bodhichitta is that it is no-mind. It looks paradoxical: the mind in the state of no-mind. But the meaning is very clear: mind without content, mind without thoughts, is what is meant, is what is indicated.

Remember the word bodhichitta, because Atisha says the whole effort of religion, the whole science of religion, is nothing but an endeavor to create bodhichitta, buddha-consciousness: a mind which functions as a no-mind, a mind which dreams no more, thinks no more, a mind which is just awareness, pure awareness.

These are the preliminaries.
The second sutra:


Now the work starts. Atisha is very condensed, seedlike. That is the meaning of a sutra: it is just a thread, just a hint, and then you have to decode it.


“Phenomena” means all that you see, all that you experience. All that can ever be experienced is all phenomena. Remember, not only are the objects of the world phenomena and dreams, but also objects of consciousness. They may be objects of the world, they may be just objects of the mind. They may be great spiritual experiences. You may see kundalini rising in you: that too is a phenomenon — a beautiful dream, a very sweet dream, but it is a dream all the same. You may see great light flooding your being, but that light is also a phenomenon. You may see lotuses blooming inside you and a great fragrance arising within your being: those too are phenomena, because you are always the seer and never the seen, always the experiencer and never the experienced, always the witness and never the witnessed.

All that can be witnessed, seen, observed, is phenomena. Material phenomena, psychological phenomena, spiritual phenomena — they are all the same. There is no need to make any distinction. The basic thing to remember is: that which can be seen is a dream.


This is a tremendously powerful technique. Start contemplating in this way: if you are walking on the street, contemplate that people passing by are all dreams. The shops and the shopkeepers and the customers and the people coming and going, all are dreams. The houses, the buses, the train, the airplane, all are dreams.

You will be immediately surprised by something of tremendous import happening within you. The moment you think “All are dreams” suddenly, like a flash, one thing comes into your vision: “I am a dream too.” Because if the seen is a dream, then who is this ‘I’? If the object is a dream, then the subject is also a dream. If the object is false, how can the subject be the truth? Impossible.
If you watch everything as a dream, suddenly you will find something slipping out of your being: the idea of the ego. This is the only way to drop the ego, and the simplest. Just try it — meditate this way. Meditating this way again and again, one day the miracle happens: you look in, and the ego is not found there.

The ego is a by-product, a by-product of the illusion that whatsoever you are seeing is true. If you think that objects are true, then the ego can exist; it is a by-product. If you think that objects are dreams, the ego disappears. And if you think continuously that all is a dream, then one day, in a dream in the night, you will be surprised: suddenly in the dream you will remember that this is a dream too! And immediately, as the remembrance happens, the dream will disappear. And for the first time you will experience yourself deep asleep, yet awake — a very paradoxical experience, but of great benefit.

Once you have seen your dream disappearing because you have become aware of the dream, your quality of consciousness will have a new flavor to it. The next morning you will wake up with a totally different quality you had never known before. You will wake up for the first time. Now you will know that all those other mornings were false; you were not really awake. The dreams continued — the only difference was that in the night you were dreaming with eyes closed, in the day you were dreaming with eyes open.

But if the dream has disappeared because awareness happened, suddenly you became aware in the dream…. And remember, awareness and dreaming cannot exist together. Here, awareness arises, and there, the dream disappears. When you become awake in your sleep, the next morning is going to be something so important that it is incomparable. Nothing like it has ever happened. Your eyes will be so clear, so transparent, and everything will look so psychedelic, so colorful, so alive. Even rocks will be felt to be breathing, pulsating; even rocks will have a heartbeat. When you are awake, the whole existence changes its quality.

We are living in a dream. We are asleep, even when we think we are awake.


First, objects will lose their objectivity. And second, the subject will lose its subjectivity. And that brings you to a transcendence. The object is no longer important, the subject is no longer important, then what is left? A transcendental consciousness: bodhichitta — just a witnessing, with no idea of ‘I’ and ‘thou’; just a pure mirror which reflects that which is.
And God is nothing but that which is.

The third sutra:


Now you know what awareness is. You have known this transcendental awareness where objects and subjects are no more existential. You have known for the first time this purity, this crystal-clear mirror. Now examine the nature of this awareness.
Look into it, look deep into it. Shake yourself into as full alertness as possible. Wake up and see! And you will start laughing — because now you will see there has never been a birth, and there is never going to be a death.

This is unborn and undying consciousness. It has always been here. It is eternal, it is timeless. And how afraid you were of death, and how afraid you were of old age, and how afraid you were of a thousand and one things! And nothing has ever happened: all was a dream.
Seeing this, one smiles, one laughs. Your whole life up to now has been ridiculous, absurd. You were unnecessarily afraid, unnecessarily greedy, unnecessarily suffering. You were living in a nightmare and it was your own creation.


And you are freed from all misery, all suffering, all hell.


And now don’t start clinging to the remedy, to the method. That temptation arises. It is the last temptation, the very last effort of the mind to survive. The mind comes from a back door, it tries once more. Before it disappears forever, it makes one more effort, and that effort is to cling to the method — the method of thinking that all phenomena are dreams.
It has given you such joy, such a deep experience of reality, that naturally you would like to cling to it. And once you cling you are back in the same old rut again: the mind is back in disguise. Cling to anything and the mind is back, because clinging is mind. Hold on to anything, depend on anything, and the mind is back, because the mind is dependence, slavery. Possess anything — even a spiritual method, even a method of meditation — become a possessor, and you are possessed by it. Whether you possess money or you possess a tremendously significant method of meditation, it doesn’t matter. Whatsoever you possess, you will be possessed by it and you will be afraid to lose it.

Once a Sufi mystic was brought to me. For thirty years continuously he had used the Sufi method ZIKR, and he had attained to great experiences. One could see it; even ordinary people were aware that he was living in a totally different world. You could see it in his eyes, they were shining with joy. His very being had a vibe of the beyond.
His disciples brought him to me, and they said, “Our master is a realized soul. What do you say about him?”
I said, “Leave your master with me for three days, and then come back.”
The master stayed with me for three days. On the third day he was very angry, and he said, “You have destroyed my thirty years’ work!” Because I told him a simple thing — just this sutra of Atisha: LET EVEN THE REMEDY ITSELF GO….

I told him, “Now for thirty years you have been remembering one thing, that all is divine. The tree is God, the rock is God, the people are God, the dog is God, everything is God — for thirty years you have been remembering it continuously.” And he had really made a sincere effort.

He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Now stop remembering. How long are you going to remember? If it has happened, then stop remembering and let us see what happens. If it has really happened, then even after dropping remembering, it will remain.”

It was so logical that he agreed. He said, “It has happened.”
I said, “Then give it a try. For three days you forget remembering, stop remembering.”
He said, “I cannot stop, it has become automatic.”
I said, “You just wait and try.”
It took him at least two days, forty-eight hours, to stop. It was hard to stop, it had become automatic. There was now no need to remember; for thirty years he had been remembering, it was simply there like an undercurrent. But within forty-eight hours it stopped.

And on the morning of the third day he was very angry. He said, “What have you done? All that joy has disappeared. I am feeling very ordinary, I am feeling the same as I was before I started on the journey thirty years ago.” He started crying out of anger and out of sadness; tears started coming to his eyes. He said, “Give me back my method — please don’t take it!”

I said, “Just look! If this is so dependent on the method, then nothing has happened. It is just an illusion that you are creating by continuous remembering. This is nothing but autohypnosis.”
All the great masters say this, that one day you have to drop the method. And the sooner you drop it, the better. The moment you attain, the moment awareness is released in you, immediately drop the method.

Just look: this is only the fourth sutra. In the third sutra Atisha says:
And in the fourth, immediately:

Now no more examination, no more mindfulness, no more remembering that all is a dream. Once the first taste of awareness has happened on your tongue, be quick! Because the mind is very cunning — the mind can start telling you, “Look, you are no longer ordinary, you are extraordinary. Look, you have attained. Look, you have become a buddha, you are enlightened. Look, this is the goal of all human beings, and very rarely, one in a million attains. You are that one in a million.”

The mind will say all these beautiful sweet nothings, and of course the ego can come back. You can start feeling very good, holier than thou. You can start feeling special, spiritual, saintly. And all is lost. Through the remedy, the disease is back. Cling to the remedy, and the disease is back.
One has to be very alert about dropping the method. Once you attain something, immediately drop the method, otherwise your mind will start clinging to the method. It will talk very logically to you, saying, “It is the method that is important.”

Buddha used to tell a story again and again. Five idiots passed through a village. Seeing them, people were surprised, because they were carrying a boat on their heads. The boat was really big; it was almost crushing those five idiots, they were almost dying under the weight of it. And people asked, “What are you doing?”

They said, “We cannot leave this boat. This is the boat that helped us to come from the other shore to this shore. How can we leave it? It is because of it that we have been able to come here. Without it we would have died on the other shore. The night was coming close, and there were wild animals on the other shore. It was as sure as anything that by the morning we would have been dead. We will never leave this boat, we are indebted forever. We will carry it on our heads in sheer gratitude.”
This can happen, because all minds are idiots. Mind as such is idiotic.

The origin of the word idiot is beautiful to remember. Idiocy means something private, something special, something that is your own, something eccentric. That is the basic meaning of idiocy — to function in an eccentric way.
The mind always functions in an eccentric way, the mind is always an idiot. The really intelligent person has no mind. Intelligence arises out of no-mind, idiocy out of the mind. Mind is idiotic, no-mind is wise. No-mind is wisdom, intelligence.
Mind depends on knowledge, on methods, on money, on experience, on this and that. Mind always needs props, it needs supports, it cannot exist on its own. On its own, it flops.

So the ultimate effort of the mind to come back will be when you attain to some awareness. It will say, “Look, so we have arrived.” The moment something inside you says, “We have arrived,” beware! Be very very cautious now, each step hasto be of great caution.


Now please don’t cling to the remedy, to the method. This is the emphasis of J. Krishnamurti — but this is his first sutra. It should be the fourth. That’s where he is wrong; it cannot be the first sutra. How can you drop a method that you have never used? You can only drop a method that you have used.
Atisha is far more logical, far more scientific, than J. Krishnamurti. But I can understand why he emphasizes it, because he is afraid that if you go into the first three sutras the fourth may never arrive, you may be lost in the first three. Many are lost in the preliminaries, many are lost in the methods. So he has become too cautious, extremely cautious.

Those five idiots were carrying the boat, and J. Krishnamurti is on the other shore teaching people: “Don’t enter the boat” — too cautious! — “because if you enter the boat, who knows, you may start carrying the boat on your head. So please don’t enter it.”
And there are many who have become afraid of entering the boat. But to be afraid of entering the boat is the same idiocy; there is no difference. One who is afraid of entering the boat is the same person who will carry the boat; otherwise why should you be afraid?

There are old friends of mine who have followed J. Krishnamurti for their whole life. They come to me and say, “We would like to come here, but we are afraid of all the methods that you teach. Methods are dangerous,” they say.
Methods are dangerous only if you are unaware; otherwise they can be used beautifully. Do you think a boat is dangerous? It is dangerous if you are thinking to carry it on your head for your whole life out of sheer gratitude; otherwise it is just a raft to be used and discarded. All methods are rafts to be used and discarded, used and abandoned, used and never looked back at again — there is no need, no point!

These are two extremes. At one extreme are those five idiots, and at the other extreme are the followers of J. Krishnamurti. There is no need to be either. My approach is: Use the boat, use beautiful boats, use as many boats as possible; with this awareness, when the shore is reached the boat is abandoned with no clinging. While you are in the boat, enjoy it, be thankful to it. When you get out of the boat, say thank you and move on.
The fifth sutra:
If you drop the remedy, automatically you will start settling in your being. The mind clings; it never allows you to settle in your being. It keeps you interested in something that you are not: the boats.

When you don’t cling to anything, there is nowhere to go — all boats have been abandoned, you cannot go anywhere; all paths have been dropped, you cannot go anywhere; all dreams and desires have disappeared, there is no way to move. Relaxation happens of its own accord. Just think of the word relax. Be, settle, you have come home.

And when you settle, there is pure awareness, with no effort, with no method. If awareness needs a method it is still not true awareness, not the essential awareness, not the natural spontaneous awareness. It is still a by-product of the method; it is cultivated, created. It is a by-product of the mind, it is not yet the truth.

Now there is nothing to do. See, be, enjoy: only this moment exists. This now, this here, this cawing of the crows… and all is silence.
To know this serenity is to know who you are, what this existence is all about. This is samadhi, in the words of Patanjali. This is SAMBODHI, in the words of Gautam Buddha. This is bodhichitta, in the words of Atisha.

Now Atisha is really very aware of the disciple. He knows that these experiences of settling into your being will be only momentary in the beginning. One moment you will find yourself relaxed into your being, another moment it will be gone. In the beginning it is bound to be so: one moment you are flooded with the unknown, with the mysterious, another moment it is no more there. One moment all is fragrance, and the next moment you are searching for it and you cannot find it, where it has gone.

Only glimpses will happen in the beginning. Slowly slowly they become more and more solid, they abide more and more. Slowly slowly, slowly slowly, very slowly, they settle forever. Before that you cannot be allowed to take it for granted; that will be a mistake. Hence he says: Between sessions….
When you are sitting in meditation, a session of meditation, this will happen — but it will go. So what are you supposed to do between sessions?

Between sessions, continue to use the method. Drop the method when you are deep in meditation. The moment comes, as awareness is getting purer and purer, when suddenly it is utterly pure: drop the method, abandon the method, forget all about the remedy, just settle and be.

But this will happen only for moments in the beginning. Sometimes it happens here listening to me. Just for a moment, like a breeze, you are transported into another world, the world of no-mind. Just for a moment, you know that you know — but only for a moment. And again the darkness gathers and the mind is back with all its dreams, with all its desires and all its stupidities.
For a moment the clouds had separated and you had seen the sun. Now the clouds are there again; it is all dark and the sun has disappeared. Now even to believe that the sun exists will be difficult. Now to believe that what you had experienced a moment before was true will be difficult. It may have been a fantasy; the mind may say it may have just been imagination.
It is so incredible, it looks so impossible, that it could have happened to YOU. With all this stupidity in the mind, with all these clouds and darknesses, it had happened to you: you saw the sun for a moment. It doesn’t look probable — you must have imagined it; maybe you had fallen into a dream and seen it.
Between sessions start again, be in the boat, use the boat again.


Atisha is very considerate to the disciples. Otherwise the fourth sutra would have been the last — or, at the most, the fifth:

If Atisha had been a man like Bodhidharma, the treatise would have finished at the fifth sutra, or even at the fourth:


Then the settling happens on its own. Bodhidharma was very miserly, he would not have used the fifth, but Atisha is very considerate to the disciple. He had been a disciple, so he knew the difficulties of a disciple. And he had been a disciple of three great masters, so he knew all the difficulties that a disciple has to face. He had been a pilgrim; he knew all the problems. And he had been a pilgrim on three paths, all the three possible paths, so he knew all the problems and all the difficulties and all the pitfalls and all the obstacles that are bound to arise on the path of a disciple. Hence his considerateness. He says: Between sessions….

Between these moments of meditativeness, between these moments of utter joy, emptiness and purity, between these moments of being, remember that all are dreams, that every phenomenon is a phantom. Go on using this method till the settling has happened forever.


Now emptiness has been experienced — this is what he had learned. Up to this sutra he had been with the first master, Dharmakirti. With this sutra, the second master, Dharmarakshita.


Now he says: Start being compassionate. And the method is, when you breathe in — listen carefully, it is one of the greatest methods — when you breathe in, think that you are breathing in all the miseries of all the people in the world. All the darkness, all the negativity, all the hell that exists anywhere, you are breathing it in. And let it be absorbed in your heart.

You may have read or heard about the so-called positive thinkers of the West. They say just the opposite — they don’t know what they are saying. They say, “When you breathe out, throw out all your misery and negativity; and when you breathe in, breathe in joy, positivity, happiness, cheerfulness.”

Atisha’s method is just the opposite: when you breathe in, breathe in all the misery and suffering of all the beings of the world — past, present and future. And when you breathe out, breathe out all the joy that you have, all the blissfulness that you have, all the benediction that you have. Breathe out, pour yourself into existence. This is the method of compassion: drink in all the suffering and pour out all the blessings.

And you will be surprised if you do it. The moment you take all the sufferings of the world inside you, they are no longer sufferings. The heart immediately transforms the energy. The heart is a transforming force: drink in misery, and it is transformed into blissfulness… then pour it out.
Once you have learned that your heart can do this magic, this miracle, you would like to do it again and again. Try it. It is one of the most practical methods — simple, and it brings immediate results. Do it today, and see.

That is one of the approaches of Buddha and all his disciples. Atisha is one of his disciples, in the same tradition, in the same line. Buddha says again and again to his disciples, “IHI PASSIKO: come and see!” They are very scientific people. Buddhism is the most scientific religion on the earth; hence, Buddhism is gaining more and more ground in the world every day. As the world becomes more intelligent, Buddha will become more and more important. It is bound to be so. As more and more people come to know about science, Buddha will have great appeal, because he will convince the scientific mind — because he says, “Whatsoever I am saying can be practiced.” And I don’t say to you, “Believe it,” I say, “Experiment with it, experience it, and only then if you feel it yourself, trust it. Otherwise there is no need to believe.”

Try this beautiful method of compassion: take in all the misery and pour out all the joy.


There are three objects which can either function as three poisons or can become three bases of infinite virtue. Atisha is talking of the inner alchemy. The poison can become the nectar, the baser metal can be transformed into gold.
What are these three objects? The first is aversion, the second is attachment, and the third is indifference. This is how the mind functions. You feel aversion to whatsoever you dislike, you feel attachment to whatsoever you like, and you feel indifferent to things which you neither dislike nor like. These are the three objects. Between these three, the mind exists. These are the three legs of the tripod called the mind: aversion, attachment and indifference. And if you live in these three as they are, you are living in poison.

This is how we have created a hell out of life. Aversion, dislike, hatred, repulsion — that creates one-third of your hell.
Attachment, liking, clinging, possessiveness — that creates the second one-third of your hell. And indifference to all that you are neither attracted to nor repulsed by — that creates the third part, the third one-third of your hell.
Just watch your mind, this is how your mind functions. It is always saying, “I like this, I don’t like that, and I am indifferent to the third.” These are the three ways the mind goes on moving. This is the rut, the routine.

Atisha says: These are the three poisons, but they can become the three bases of virtue. How can they become three bases of great virtue? If you bring in the quality of compassion, if you learn the art of absorbing suffering, as if all the suffering of the world is coming riding on the breath, then how can you be repulsed? How can you dislike anything and how can you be indifferent to anything? And how can you be attached to anything? If you are unconditionally taking in all the suffering in the world, drinking it, absorbing it in your heart, and then instead of it pouring blessings onto the whole of existence unconditionally — not to somebody in particular, remember; not only to man but to all: to all beings, trees and rocks and birds and animals, to the whole existence, material, immaterial — when you are pouring out blessings unconditionally, how can you be attached?

Attachment, aversion, indifference: all disappear with this small technique. And with their disappearance the poison is transformed into nectar, and the bondage becomes freedom, and the hell is no more a hell, it is heaven.
In these moments you come to know: This very body the buddha, this very earth the lotus paradise.

And the last sutra:


Atisha is not an escapist. He does not teach escapism, he does not tell you to move from situations which are not to your liking. He says: You have to learn to function in bodhichitta, in buddha-consciousness, in all kinds of situations — in the marketplace, in the monastery; with people in the crowd or alone in a cave; with friends or with enemies; with family, familiar people, and with strangers; with men and with animals. In all kinds of situations, in all kinds of challenges, you have to learn to function in compassion, in meditation — because all these experiences of different situations will make your bodhichitta more and more ripe.
Don’t escape from any situation — if you escape, then something will remain missing in you. Then your bodhichitta will not be that ripe, will not be that rich. Live life in its multidimensionality.

And that’s what I teach you too: Live life in its totality. And living in the world, don’t be of it. Live in the world like a lotus flower in water: it lives in water, but the water touches it not. Only then will bodhichitta flower in you, bloom in you. Only then will you come to know the ultimate consciousness which is freedom, which is joy, eternal joy, which is benediction. Not to know it is to miss the whole point of life; to know it is the only goal. The only goal — remember it.

And remember, Atisha’s sutras are not philosophical, not speculative, not abstract. They are experimental, they are scientific.
Let me repeat again: religion is a science in the sense that it is the purest knowing. Yet it is not a science in the sense of chemistry and physics. It is not the science of the outward, it is the science of the inward. It is not the science of the exterior, it is the science of the interior. It is the science that takes you beyond, it is the science that takes you into the unknown and the unknowable. It is the greatest adventure there is. It is a call and a challenge to all those who have any courage, any guts, any intelligence.

Religion is not for cowards, it is for people who want to live dangerously.
Enough for today.



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