For me, what teaches me is an example. I can hear 100 million interpretations but it is not going to mean much to me. At least, that is the way it works for me.  This is because of my background. Since I was 14 months old, I have been bombarded with concepts and explanations.

When I was younger, I said, “Oh! I am a Buddhist. I believe, completely. I am a Buddhist.”

I used to be very adamant regarding this.   You know, I was very clear. Then, I turned about 12.  I was like, “Why am I Buddhist? Do I understand Buddhism? How can I be Buddhist if I do not understand Buddhism?”

I am constantly learning about Buddhism.  I will probably be learning all my life. Even the day I am dying, I will still be learning about the stages of death. So, for me, it is a process.  It is not something you can just grab. Then, you say, “That is it! I am this”.

You cannot do it like that because you are happening. You are being. It is not a constant… So, you cannot say, “I am this.”  “I am that”. No, because you have already moved on in your process of being.

You cannot be like, “I know everything.” You do not know everything. You are learning all the time.

We are being pounded by the information that we have to interpret.  We are being pounded by the information that we have to make sense of to relate to the reality that surrounds us.

If we do not have memory, how can we relate to it? So, based on memory, we are relating to all the information we are receiving. Regarding the information that we are receiving, we are learning about it. So if you think, “I know,” then, you are not wise. 

If you say, “I do not know,” then, you are wise. When you are moving with change, you are moving with life.  That is the process of life.

I mean, for me, the philosophy is really good.  I have a lot of faith in Buddhist philosophy. The teachings have helped me a lot.

However, what counts for me is an example. 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and, my teacher, Geshe Gendun Chöephel, or “Gen-la,” as I used to call him while growing up in the monastery, are the shining examples.  At least, they are for me.

It is important to know that Dharma is real. I can read many books. I can read many other things. I can hear many stories, like that. However, if I do not have an example, how am I supposed to even know that it is real?

Also, the Buddha said this. You know, at the time of the Buddha, when the Buddha taught,  he always used to say, “You have to question what I say. You have to question the teachings. You have to doubt. Doubt is good. The example,”  he said, “Is like a goldsmith checking whether it is real gold or not.”

That is the example used by the Buddha. When relating to his teachings, he said that you have to be like a goldsmith checking whether it is gold or not. If you give a goldsmith a piece of so-called gold, he is not going to take it and say, “Oh, wow! This is a precious metal.”

No! He will take it but there will be a process of testing to see if it is real gold or not. He will burn it.  He will melt it.  He will scratch it. He will do all these procedures on this supposed gold.  Once he has conducted all these tests, he will be like, “This is a precious metal. This is real gold.” 

At that point, after doing his due diligence, he will value it. He will say with assurance, “This is the real deal.” However, there is a process to reach that point.

The Buddha and His Holiness always encourage this doubt, this questioning.  That is because this is the process of learning.  This is the process of understanding.

You can choose to get on a bus, fall asleep, and go from A to B. If you do like that, then, you do not know what the path was. You do not know how you got to your destination.

Or, you can choose not to take the bus.  You can choose to walk the whole distance. Then, you will be able to help others get there. Maybe you can even do it blindfolded.  I do not know. Maybe, if you walk it enough times yourself, you can eventually get there blindfolded. What I am trying to say is that it is about your own experience.

Ok, you can read. You can listen.  You can go to do this.  You can go to that… dadada… In the end, it is up to you to walk it. You know, people can drive you on a bus.  You can go on a helicopter.   You will get somewhere, but you will not know where that place is, because you have not gone through the process of the self-experience, the self-practice.

So, in Dharma, they say that one-pointed concentration meditation and analytical meditation are complementary.  They, also, say there are three ways, techniques, or aspects to get out of Samsara. You know what Samsara is.  It is the cycle of life, death, and after death. We are bound because of our attachment.

One of these three points is the method.  The method is the compassion, the bodhicitta, the empathy, you know. It is humility, patience, gratitude, kindness, a warm heart, consideration, cherishing others, etcetera.  These are inner values, right? They are all complementary to each other. That is the method.  The method is compassion.

Then, there is wisdom.  That is understanding.  That is knowledge.  Wisdom and compassion are complementary.  They go together.

Then, you need the renunciation. Renunciation is not like, “Oh, I give up everything. Now, I am going to suffer in order not to suffer.” It does not work like that.

You think, “I am going to be disciplined. I am going to be hard with myself because I do not want to suffer,” but you are suffering in the process. That is not renunciation.

Renouncing is understanding the reality of things that we know through the five senses, for example.  That is how we interpret everything.  It is through the five senses.

At least for now, actually, we are quite isolated within ourselves. The only way we can communicate is through the five senses. Right? That is the way we communicate. We offer a smile.  We give a hug.  We use words.  We play music.  We cook.  We make art.  Whatever we want to know, we know through the five senses.  Also, what we perceive in an interpretation.

Inside we are isolated even though the ultimate reality is that there is no separation. Right now, we are talking about conventional reality.

So, in that respect, renunciation is to understand.

Renunciation is to analyze.

Renunciation is to question.

Think about it.  If you take away the five senses, reality has no shape, no color, no taste, no smell, no sound, no touch, no feeling. Think about that actual reality. What we see as reality is only the interpretation of the interpretation. Right?

Take, for example, our brain. We see something. We receive the image in our brain upside down.  This is just an example using science, ok? Then, our brain switches the image around, again. We are not aware of that process but it is happening. That is one more process which we are not aware of.

So, already, our interpretation comes from the information that our senses transmit to our brain. Then, we interpret the information through the brain. So already, there is a different place that it has to go through.

What we are interpreting has nothing to do with the actual original object. The perceiver is perceiving an interpretation of that object.  It is not understanding the reality of that object. So, when you start to analyze that, then, you can create more renunciation, because you do not get so attached. Do you know what I mean?  You do not get so grasping. You do not get so much suffering because you want more or you want less of something. Those responses are our conditioning. We create the conditioning throughout our lifetime.  We create it even through many past lives. 

We are always reacting to the sensations that we perceive in three different ways. 

We are attracted to it.  Or we reject it. Or we are indifferent.

That is the conditioning.  In Sanskrit, it is called the Samsara. You know. So we are trying to be equanimous to what we perceive, in order not to react, in order not to create conditionings.  That is going to make us happier people because we will be able to relate to reality in a much more realistic way. So that is a little bit what renunciation is talking about.

Now, back to what I was addressing. What inspires me is living examples of this philosophy. Yes, that is where I was going.

So, for me, what counts much more than the philosophy itself is living examples of the philosophy in practice.  When the philosophy is put into practice, it is amazing. Otherwise, it is just a concept. It is like a bulb without electricity.  What inspires me is the example.  What inspires me is the shining example of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  What inspires me is the shining example of Lama Zopa Rinpoche.  What inspires me is the shining example of Geshe Gendun Chöephel.  What inspires me is the shining example of all my gurus, of all of my teachers.

You see, already, I am saying, “Mine.” Already, I am creating an attachment. Already, I am creating conditioning, you understand? We have to be careful with these things,  you know.

For me, a living example is a big inspiration. My teacher, Gen-la, was just so compassionate.  He was so considerate.  He was so patient. He was a living example of all of these qualities with me when I was a kid. I was so naughty. I was such a rebel. Really. Yet, he was so patient with me year after year after year. So, for me, that means, that is what inspires me, you know. There are many people like that.  Many true practitioners are so humble.  They are so discreet.  It is just amazing.

Even I know people who are suffering greatly.  They have really difficult conditions in their life. They are suffering tremendously! Yet, when they relate to others, they give the best of themselves. What they share is always the best of themselves.

Although I have a great human rebirth, sometimes, in my life, it has happened, on occasion, that I am caught in my mind, you know, going around and around circling. Oh! Oh! Oh!

Then, I meet someone when I am like that.  What happens is I share the worst of me. “Oh, this”.  “Oh, that!” On and on I go! “I have this problem.” “I have that problem!” Then, I bring down that person. That person feels bad after meeting me. It is like, “Why did I do that”. Then, I feel even worse than ever.

Sometimes, it is good, you know. If you have close friends who love you, who understand you, who care for you, it is good to talk about your problems with them, if they are willing to listen. For me, with today’s society, with capitalism, with all the problems like this and so forth, there are so many people, so much confusion that there is a lack of empathy. So, we do need psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and psychoanalysts.  We need all of these professions.  We do need them because, with this huge population and all the problems,  there is a lot of egoism, selfishness, un-empathy, and all of that.

However, real psychologists are your friends. The real psychologists are the people who care for you, the people who know you, the people who listen to you. They are real psychologists.

That does not mean that we are just going to be talking about our problems every day all the time. A little bit is good. However, do not overdo it. Otherwise, we go into this cycle of self-pity. Then, we are just feeding the low-frequency vibrations. When we do that, it is not helping. We are not getting out of the cycle.

So, do not project what you fear. Do not project what you do not want.  If you do,  that is what you are going to attract. Right?

You want to project what you want to see.  That is the reality that you want to create. Be the embodiment of the future you want to see in the future.

So, for me, I have tremendous admiration for the people who are suffering so much but, when they interact with people, they give the best of themselves. That, for me,  is very inspiring.  They are the perfect example.


  1. Rosalyn Williams

    Dearest Lama Osel,
    Your comments are very provoking although they follow the written teachings and social conventions.
    How does one communicate ? written words don’t do it for me.
    Although I have enrolled for a Buddhist course again and been practising for a long time as I am now very old.
    I have twin boys. And using them as an example for ‘is equanimity the first step in developing Bodhichetta? ‘
    One had equanimity from when he was first born and he used to assiduously build up his toy blocks and his twin who was always smiling took great joy in knocking them down.
    They are both good people but the smiley one was bullied by my eldest son and had many years of despair. Both are successful but it was to the smiley one I sent a Guide to the Bodhisattva’s way of life. Because even when a little one he would toddle off and talk to the old people in the street.
    The most important thing in life is to have courage believe in yourself go after what you desire try not to take advice of ‘professionals ‘ ordinary people like ourselves .
    But yes take refuge in Buddha Dharma and Sangha.

  2. Andy Wistreich

    Lots of good stuff here. I could pick many things to respond to, but I chose this one: “When the philosophy is put into practice, it is amazing.” I choose it because it says exactly what is my experience of studying the philosophy and trying to put it into practice for forty years.
    Some people have an aversion to studying philosophy because it can be difficult – so many words! But if you are patient and don’t rush, and connect the words to your experience and prior knowledge, the words can inspire understanding. That understanding is still a concept, but what is important is that it is correct, not fabrication.
    Then, putting it into practice means integrating it with your life. Philosophy literally means ‘love of wisdom’. So it includes love and wisdom conjoined. Love comes from the heart. It’s a feeling that gives you much joy, and connects you with others. Wisdom isn’t just intellectual knowledge, it’s something you know deep down. If you don’t love your wisdom, you won’t bother to make the journey to the centre of your heart.
    Practising philosophy brings on wisdom that is unbreakable because it’s based on reality, not fabrication. That’s why, as Osel-la so rightly says, philosophy practised is amazing.

  3. Stephie Brennan

    Thank you Lama Osel. As western Tibetan Buddhists, how helpful it is to allow ourselves to question how this path is often distorted by our own western minds, which value intellectual learning above empathy. And to learn from His Holiness and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, examples of behaviour, when, speaking for myself, I know what an absolute beginner I am.

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