Class 5 Transcript: A Gift of Liberation 36: Love in the Time of the Virus (2020)


Hi, welcome back to the Lam Rim (LAM RIM). This is episode five, and it’s called “Read the Recipe.” The first image I chose is a small girl and she’s sort of protecting a small plant. To me this picture, which looks like Nick’s daughter actually, Amalie, right?

She’s protecting this plant with her hands and what it means is if you’re a gardener, it’s very important to take care of a plant when it’s young. In the first week or two you really, really have to pay attention. You have to water very regularly, and you have to really protect the plant from wind, and from birds, and from deer, and things like that. So that’s going to be a theme in this first part here.


de na chu sab sabmo dang gya chenpoy ke drak chen shen ma gya cher ma jung na-ang (DES NA CHOS ZAB ZAB MO DANG RGYA CHEN PO’I SKAD GRAGS CAN GZHAN MA RGYA CHER MA BYUNG NA’ANG,) So look, some people get really attracted to big, big Dharma teachings. They get to go to an initiation. It’s super secret. The lama says, “I’m going to teach you something that no one ever gets to hear and this is a special initiation,” or “This is some special emptiness thing, emptiness level seventeen; I never teach it to anybody.” So, we get all excited and we all say, “Oh, let’s go! The lama’s going to teach emptiness level seventeen.”

ke drak chen (SKAD GRAGS CAN) means, you’ve heard these famous names like Mahamudra (mahāmudrā) or Dzogchen (RDZOGS CHEN), and you get all excited. gya cher ma jung na-ang (RGYA CHER MA BYUNG NA’ANG)—he says forget the big Dharma teachings, you know, don’t worry so much about the big Dharma teachings. rang rang gi gyu kyi ge tsul long gi dompa lekpar sung na (RANG RANG GI RGYUD KYI DGE TSUL SLONG GI SDOM PA LEGS PAR BSRUNG NA,) if you just take care of the small beautiful vows you have in your own heart. Just take care of them.

sung na rang re dendun du chepay che chu sundro (BSRUNG NA, RANG RE DGE ‘DUN DU BYED PA’I BYED CHOS SU ‘GRO,) then you have created the Sangha (saṃgha). It’s an unusual expression. You are creating Sangha. You are upholding the Sangha. You are sustaining the Buddhist community in the world if you just take care of your baby vows that the lama gave you. Be nice to other people. Take care of this small plant. Take care of this small plant. I like to call it your future barrel of peaches. It means, recently I did plant a peach tree. In fact today, I was taking care of it and it started out as a tiny, little plant and you take care of it and you take care of it, and then if you take good care of it… in fact, my first peaches came out today. You will get millions of peaches, thousands of peaches.

So just, don’t worry about some big famous Dharma teaching, some big famous initiation. Don’t worry about it. Get your little ten vows from your lama and plant that seed and take care of it, and then that’s going to give you thousands, millions of fruits. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy the small thing, take care of it, and it’s going to bring you a million things. rang re gendun du chepay, tenpa dzinpa yang de nyi yin (RANG RE DGE ‘DUN DU BYED PA’I, BSTAN PA ‘DZIN PA YANG DE NYID YIN,) and then you are a Buddhist master; we talked about that idea already. He says, “You want to be a Buddhist master, you want to be a master meditator? Protect your small vows, be nice to other people.” Share your coffee with your friends. Open the door for somebody else. Give a roll of toilet paper to your neighbor during the virus. Take care of the small things—they become the big things.


ge tsul long gi dompa sok ta chi (DGE TSUL SLONG GI SDOM PA SOGS LTA CI,) I’m not even talking, he says… his audience was a lot of geshes (DGE BSHES), a lot of tulkus (SPRUL SKU), and a lot of senior monks. The audience of this lama, when he gave this teaching—I guess in the 1920s, something like that—the audience were very, very high Buddhist monks, lamas, incarnated lamas. He says forget these heavy vows that you guys have, let’s talk about the vows—kyimpa sok kyi kyang nyen ne kyi dompa (KHYIM PA SOGS KYIS KYANG BSNYEN GNAS KYI SDOM PA) let’s talk about the one-day vow that a normal family person takes. A normal village person in a small village in Tibet. And let’s say, I don’t know, they work as a sheep herder and they just get a one-day vow. So forget these big monk’s vows and super monk’s vows. Let’s talk about these modest vows that everybody starts with.

nyin chik tsam sung na-ang (NYIN GCIG TZAM BSRUNG NA’ANG) Even if you just keep them for one day, pen yun chewa dulwa lung dang, do dzang lun sok su ngun gyi chungway lo gyu selwa tar yin (PHAN YON CHE BA ‘DUL BA LUNG DANG, MDO MDZANGS BLUN SOGS SU SNGON GYI BYUNG BA’I LO RGYUS GSAL BA LTAR YIN,) Then there are many, many stories in the great books. dulwa lung (‘DUL BA LUNG) means “Vinaya scriptures.” do dzang lun (MDO MDZANGS BLUN) is a very famous sutra called the “Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish.” And he says you can read those sutras and you will read beautiful stories about people who kept their tiny vows and had extraordinary results.

de na, nyen ne dang, ge nyen, de-ang na shi, na sum, na chik sok lo nu chi yud kyi sung chi tub che (DES NA, BSNYEN GNAS DANG, DGE BSNYEN, DE’ANG SNA BZHI, SNA GSUM, SNA GCIG SOGS BLO NUS CI YOD KYIS BSRUNG CI THUB BYED,) So take those one-day vows, keep them as well as you can, take baby monks vows. Take your… you can take lifetime layman’s vows. Now, the lifetime layman’s vow in its complete form has five parts. And it’s very, very basic. (1) I will not kill a human being or a human fetus. That’s the first one. (2) I will not steal anything that’s more valuable than about ten U.S. dollars. Something that has some value, I will not steal. (3) Then, I will not commit adultery with another person’s wife or husband that they got married to. And (4), I will tell the truth, especially about my spiritual life. I will not exaggerate to other people about my spiritual life. (5) avoid the use of intoxicants and the book says, de chang le tungwa (DE CHANG LAS ‘THUNG BA) or de dze le tungwa (DE RDZAS LAS ‘THUNG BA) means whether it’s made from plants—like beer, or wine, or whiskey—or it’s made from chemicals—like cocaine or things like that. I promise I will not use them in my life, because they make you stupid and they cost a lot of money.

So, the full lifetime layman’s vow has five parts, and Pabongka Rinpoche, says, “Okay, look, forget these big monk’s vows, two-hundred fifty-three vows. Forget the full nuns’ vows, three-hundred sixty-four vows, forget all these big, big, big Vinaya vows. Look, let’s just talk about layman’s vows. Just five vows. You know what? Let’s talk about someone who says, ‘Hey, I can’t keep all five.’ Well, can you keep any of them? “Can you just take off the alcohol one, because I like to have some wine sometimes? Can I just keep four?'” It’s called na chik na ga pel du chu (SNA GCIG SNA ‘GA’ ‘PHEL DU SPYOD) in the Vinaya. “Okay, you can keep four,” and then somebody says “Oh wait, wait! I don’t really want to promise to pay my taxes completely. Can I just take three vows?” Sorry. Oh no, I’m sorry. “I enjoy exaggerating about my meditation, can I just keep these three vows: no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct? that’s called na sum (SNA GSUM) means the guy who decided to undercommit to the five simple vows because he didn’t want to take on too much.

Then there’s a na nyi (SNA GNYIS), what’s na nyi? Yeah, this guy said, “Look I’m really attracted to that other guy’s wife or husband, can I just keep two of them?” And Buddha’s like, “Yeah, okay. Okay.” By the way, my lama would not give anyone less than five, but it is a tradition in ancient times to na chik na nyi na ga chu (SNA GCIG SNA GNYIS SNA ‘GA’ SPYOD). Anyway, it is possible to give one. And then you come down to one. “Do you agree not to kill a human being in your life?” You say, “Okay, I can do that.” na chik, chi tub che Then Rinpoche says, just do what you can do, just do what you can do.


rab jung sok kyi tekchen sojong yang len chi tub che na (RAB BYUNG SOGS KYIS THEG CHEN GSO SBYONG YANG LEN CI THUB BYAS NA) And even if you have full monks vows, and your tantric vows, and your bodhisattva vows, I don’t care! If you’re a person with all those vows and you get a chance to keep a one-day vow, Do it! You get a chance to take a one day vow, jump on it. chi thub che na di nyin shak chik gi dompa yinpe nampar dakpar gyurwa sok (CI THUB BYAS NA ‘DI NYIN ZHAG GCIG GI SDOM PA YIN PAS RNAM PAR DAG PAR ‘GYUR BA SOGS) And then you can focus on that one-day vow. You can say, “Okay, I know I’ve got a hundred of these vows, tantric vows, I’ve got a couple hundred monk’s vows, I’ve got all these sixty-four bodhisattva vows, but I’m going to take just the one-day vow for dessert. I’m going to focus on that, in that one day. That’s going to be my vow day for this year. I’m going to take the one-day vow once this year, but, I’m going to make it super special. I’m going to really, really work on those vows for one day. I’m going keep them so sweetly.”

gyurwa sok gupa che (‘GYUR BA SOGS DGOS PA CHE,) He says it’s extremely useful, extremely beneficial to do that. rang re lapba sum sok kyi tam yang yang shu kul che mu (RANG RES BSLAB PA GSUM SOGS KYI GTAM YANG YANG SHOD KHUL BYED MOD,) Now, guys like you and me—rang ge (RANG RES) means guys “like you and me,” and we said it before in the lam rim teachings, but Pabongka Rinpoche is being modest. Obviously when he says “guys like you and me,” he means “guys like us.” He’s just being considerate to say “people like you and me.” We are not like him. rang re, and especially not like his student who wrote this book down, Trijang Rinpoche, who was off the Dharma charts. rang re labpa sum sok kyi tam yang yang shu You know monks, geshes, we sit around the monastery, we debate about the three trainings, morality, meditation, wisdom, and you know we debate about it, and we blah, blah, blah about it. yang yang shu kul che—we blah, blah, blah, about about these big, big trainings.

But he says, shen nyi ni rang gyu la suk nyen tsam yang me (GZHAN GNYIS NI RANG RGYUD LA GZUGS BRNYAN TZAM YANG MED) You don’t have a shadow of the meditation and the wisdom, forget it. You don’t have a single trace in your heart of the meditation and wisdom—forget those two. So what are you left with? You got your little vows. Okay, you got your ten vows. You got your ten good deeds, focus on them. ngu su sung du yupe di la be gu (DNGOS SU BSRUNG DU YOD PAS ‘DI LA ‘BAD DGOS,) let that be your focus. Maybe you can meditate for forty-five minutes in the morning. Maybe you can listen to a Nagarjuna teaching if you go to the Mixed Nuts class. Or something like that. Maybe you can get it in one day. But your vows, your morality, you’ve got that all day long. You can do it all day long. It’s always right there in your heart.


So pe di la be gu (PAS ‘DI LA ‘BAD DGOS), means focus on that one. That’s always available to you, twenty-four hours a day you can be a nice person, that training is available to us. labpa sungwa la-ang tungwa jungway go dak gu (BSLAB PA BSRUNG BA LA’ANG LTUNG BA ‘BYUNG BA’I SGO DGAG DGOS,) Then he says, “Look, if you want to keep your vows, keep your commitments, keep the ten or keep the sixty-four, or keep the hundred and something—Your secret vows, your bodhisattva vows—if you want to keep them, there’s three ways to break them.” There’s three ways to… it’s called the door to break your vows. There’s three doors to break your vows. It’s a very famous thing in the scriptures. There’s three doors to break your vows. Your vows can start leaking if there’s three things open in your heart. Three things—three caps—that are supposed to be closed. Three caps that are supposed to be closed in your heart and, if they get loose, you will break your vows. The green drink will spill all over the nice white couch. So there’s three jar tops you have to be careful with. Here’s the three.

Then we see here a chef, and I think he looks a little confused. Like I like to cook for my partner Veronica and she insists that I study the recipe before I try to cook it. Then I like to say, “Look, I’ve been cooking my whole… I was the monastery cook for eight years, I know how to cook and we don’t read cookbooks in the monastery. We just cook.” And she’s like, “Read the recipe.” I’m like, “I don’t have to read the recipe.” Then she just really insisted, and to make peace in our home, especially during the lockdown, I said, “Listen, okay, I will read the recipe. I will follow the recipe.” So, there are four ways that your vows can leak. There’s four ways to put the top on crooked and things are going to get messy on the white couch with the green drink if that, if that’s loose. Four different ways. We’re going to cover them. We’ll do three in this episode and we’ll do one in the next episode, I think.


So (1) Read the recipe. Number one is, if you want to keep your vows and you want to keep your commitments, read the recipe. For fifty dollars, what’s it mean? Read the recipe? What? Tim? Read the recipe? No, okay. I guess, he says the first way, the first trick to keeping your vows is to read the recipe. What’s it mean? Learn the instructions. Like, when I was the young and stupid—now I’m old and stupid—but when I was young and stupid, people said, “We’re going to an initiation, the big lama is going to give initiation.” I’m like, “I’m there man. I’m there. I want to go.” I don’t know, I was more wanting to hang out with my friends, take a trip on a plane or hang out with my friends. But I said, “Yeah, I’m there. I’m going. I’m going to the initiation.” Then there’d be these lamas, they’re ringing bells “buhbuh, buhbuh, buhbuh,” and then they go “waaaaaa” and “bung, bung, bung,” “chung, chung, chung.” And I was like, “Wow, this is cool. This is amazing. Look at that bell.” And then “waaaaa.” I’m like, “Wow, this is a real blessing.” Then I’d go home, back to the monastery, and my teacher would say, “I heard you got a tantric initiation.” I’d said, “Yeah. Wow, that was a lama! That was a high Lama.” He said, “Well, yes. So are you going to keep those vows? Because that’s that’s how the empowerment works. If you keep the vows that they gave you during the empowerment, then magic happens in your life. Then magic will happen in your life.”

Then he said, “Are you going to keep the vows?” I’m like, “What vows?” He says, “They gave you an empowerment and they didn’t give the vows?” I’m like, “I don’t know—it was all in another language. I guess they gave me the vows.” “What?! They gave you vows, they didn’t tell you what the vows are? How do you think that tantra is going to work if you don’t follow the vows? It doesn’t work. The magic doesn’t happen if you don’t keep the vows and they didn’t even teach you the vows.” I’m like, “No.” Okay, so number one law: You can’t keep your vows if you don’t know what the vows are. It’s so funny. The vows are the machine that drives the magic of Buddhism. The vows are the machine that drives the Tesla car. The vows are the solar battery of this sports car and if you don’t even know them, then it’s hopeless; you will just break them. Your life will get un-magical because you broke them, the initiation vows, because no one taught them to you. I think we should all go on strike, all of us normal people should go on strike. We should refuse to attend an empowerment if the lama doesn’t teach us the vows. Then we should say, “On strike.” “Are you going to teach vows?” “No, I don’t have time. I have to be in California next week.” “Okay, then I’m going home. I’m not taking this empowerment.” I think that would be really a good idea.

So here, dangpo mi shepa tungwa jungway go yin pe (DANG PO MI SHES PA LTUNG BA ‘BYUNG BA’I SGO YIN PAS) Not knowing what vows you took is the number one way to break them. kakpa ni (BKAG PA NI)—if you want to stop that, lab shi gangshik sung gupa ma she na (BSLAB GZHI GANG ZHIG BSRUNG DGOS PA MA SHES NA,) If you don’t know the vows that you’re supposed to be keeping, tungwa jung ma jung mi she (LTUNG BA BYUNG MA BYUNG MI SHES) Then you’re not going to know whether you’ve broke it or not. Duh! mi shes (MI SHES) lo dang tun te (BLO DANG BSTUN TE) Then he says third. Yeah, that’s right Seiji, third line, lo dang tun te is very funny. He says, “You should be studying those vows from the great books as far as you can read them.” He’s making fun of us. “I know you guys can’t read Vinaya, but, just give it a try—okay?—as much as you can.” lo dang tun It’s basically saying, “I know you guys are too lazy to crack the Vinaya sutras and study them, but can you do a little bit? Can you make a little bit of effort to learn what your vows are?”

dulway shung chenmo dak gam (‘DUL BA’I GZHUNG CHEN MO DAG GAM,) You could study the great books of Vinaya, which are difficult. Or, if that’s too hard for you, lap jay dom tsik (BSLAB BYA’I SDOM TSIG,) There are little poems that they write about Vinaya. You can study one of those poems. shi sum lab ja (GZHI GSUM BSLAB BYA,) There’s tiny, tiny poems about the three foundations of morality. The three foundations of morality for a monk or a nun are to do your confession twice a month, to do your summer retreat so you don’t destroy the environment, and then the best one is ga ye (DGAG DBYE), which is the end of the summer retreat when you’re allowed to play rock & roll in the monastery for twenty-four hours or something. All the monks observe this one very well. And we all play games and it’s really fun. So at least study those three things you’re supposed to be doing.

lung shiy bar dom (LUNG GZHI’I BAR SDOMS) There’s summaries of the Vinaya Vastu, the foundation of morality. Read those little summaries. They have little poems in them, between the big sections, so they’re called bar dom (BAR SDOMS) you get an intermission. Intermission Vinaya books. te ne che tsam nam kyi drang dren tsun che shespar chedak tu shen mu chu nor mi ter zhin, shak kyang mi nyen tekchen pongwa dang, konchok kor trok chu pong ngur mik trok, tsam me nga dang lok ta dru sok jom, ma jang tongnyi ten dang dzok jang dok, so tar pong dang nyen mu sab dzun ma (BDAG BSTOD GZHAN SMOD CHOS NOR MI STER ZHING, ,BSHAGS KYANG MI NYAN THEG CHEN SPONG BA DANG, ,DKON MCHOG DKOR ‘PHROG CHOS SPONG NGUR SMRIG ‘PHROG ,MTSAMS MED LNGA DANG LOG LTA GROD SOGS ‘JOMS, ,MA SBYANGS STONG NYID BSTAN DANG RDZOGS BYANG LDOG ,SO THAR SPONG DANG NYAN SMOD ZAB BRDZUN SMRA,)

Like that. At least be able to count your vows. Start with that. If you can’t count them,
you can’t keep them. That’s the first obstacle to keeping your vows. What was it again? No one ever taught them to you. “Oh, my god! They sold you a Tesla without the engine, without the solar battery!” It’s funny.


Second one: ma gupa tungwa jungway go yin pe (MA GUS PA LTUNG BA ‘BYUNG BA’I SGO YIN PAS) ma gupa (MA GUS PA) means, again, you blow off these vows. “Come on, I’m not supposed to blow my nose on a green leaf? Come on?” That’s called not honoring your vows. There’s a French monk. Matthieu Ricard, I heard about a TV show he was on and he’s a great writer and a great monk. He said… Somebody said—the interviewer said—”Don’t you feel constrained by your vows, all these vows, they make you feel like you’re in a straight jacket, right? Don’t you feel like you’re in a straight jacket?” And he looked at the guy and he said, “Those vows are wings that I use to fly. Those vows are not a strait jacket, those vows are my flying wings. When I have vows and when I keep vows, man, I can fly.” To blow off the vows and say “Oh those are not so important.” dey chepa dang, drok tsangpa tsungpar chupa nam la gupa dang (DE’I BCAS PA DANG, GROGS TSANGS PA MTSUNGS PAR SPYOD PA RNAMS LA GUS PA DANG,)

Also, part of respecting the vows is to show respect to the people who are keeping them well. So you respect your vows on paper, but also respective vows as your friends are keeping them. Like Seiji starts pulling out his six-times book and Geshe-la’s embarrassed, because he’s not keeping his. Then respect the vows as other people are keeping them and that’s another kind of respect you can show your vows. Respect your friends when they keep their vows, and that’s a very powerful force for keeping your own vows.

gupa che, hlakpar rang gyu kyi labpa la tunpa sanggye kyi dushe shak (GUS PA BYED, LHAG PAR RANG RGYUD KYI BSLAB PA LA STON PA SANGS RGYAS KYI ‘DU SHES BZHAG) Don’t forget that the vows in your heart are the Buddha himself. Buddha said, “If you keep the vows in your heart, then I am living in your heart.” shak ching gupa che (BZHAG CING GUS PA BYED) Respect those vows in your own heart as if the Buddha is sitting in your own heart. You can prostrate to your heart sometimes. de la nang chung mi ja (DE LA MNANGS CHUNG MI BYA) Don’t do nang chung (MNANGS CHUNG). nang chung is a very, very rare colloquial word and it means “don’t fall into the trap of thinking some of those vows are not so important, or not so sexy”. Don’t think like that. Don’t think some vows are super sexy and very mystical, and some vows are just kind of small practical things. That’s nang chung. Making that distinction is called nang chung.

tunpa nyengen lende je kyi ku tsab tabu yin (STON PA MYA NGAN LAS ‘DAS RJES KYI SKU TSAB LTA BU YIN,) When the Buddha left his world, this world, he left behind a representative, his representative, to remind people about his time here. That representative is the vows that have been passed on from generation to generation for the last two and a half thousand years. So respect the Buddha in the form of the vows in your heart and in the heart of other people. Okay, cool.

We’re done with that episode and I’ll see you at episode six.

Thank you.

And thanks Seiji and Tim for help.