DEVOTION IS ESSENTIAL – Not Intellighence or Smartness*

3.8.2019, Dawu, Golok



The inner confidence – when you’re doing something correct; especially meditate on non-conception, like emptiness or meditate on Rigpa, awareness – there are no concepts, no thoughts. Whether you’re doing it correctly or not – you need to have a clear instruction first. Then you have to make a custom to remain in nature. Because when you are not used to it, not familiarized with it, it is difficult to remain in that state – you get distracted. Thoughts arise like clouds, without stopping, without liberating themselves. But when you have that kind of ability, you know how to do it, then everything becomes very natural. Then at the same time there is such clear and strong inner confidence. Remember, we say that is natural mindfulness, natural confidence; that is not really the same as a concept or thought.

Then to be able to recognize that kind of view, we need to practice Guru Yoga first, a lot, to establish the good, genuine, strong and unchangeable devotion to the Guru. It means whatever Guru says, you accept and there is no doubt. No second thought. Just only “YES” to anything that Guru says. But now we are not like that. We argue, we use our intelligence in our mind to fight and to argue with our Guru. You say Guru said something but that may be not correct. As long as you have that kind of conception and thought in your mind, you are not merging in that state yet. That means no conception, no thought but very confident, very calm, like very genuine believing inside. Also it is not the same as mind is believing in something. This is different from that. But natural believing and natural mindfulness and natural awareness and confidence.

As a Buddhist practitioner, especially Varjayana practitioner, and even more specially a practitioner of Dzogchen, the most important [thing] is devotion. Not smartness, not intelligence, not wisdom, but genuine devotion. Only genuine devotion can perceive or understand the reality of nature. Because there are many intelligent people who are very smart; they can memorize many volumes of Sutras and they can beat the Shakyamuni Buddha. [They are] very smart and know a lot of teachings’ meaning, but because no devotion they did not develop the inner experience and they were still wandering in illusion of samsara. In fact end up, they are going down and reborn in the lower realms, reborn in hell realm.

Therefore, all the teachings, all the masters of the teaching, the great Vajrayana or Dzogchen [masters] request highly the devotion first and then the intelligence. This makes sense because we see disciples who were very close to the Buddha they could not develop such view, such realization but only pride, jealousy and hatred. They caused a lot of troubles, even tried to kill the Buddha. So when no devotion, no success at all. So whether you are successful in the path or not, definitely depends on the faith and devotion.

I recommend everyone here: first thing is to check and subdue your ego. If you think you are smart then at the same time you arise your ego. That means you have no faith and you reduce your devotion to the Three Jewels, to the Guru, to the teachings, and your own practice. When you learn too much, when you go around too much, when you see too much, you don’t really work with your mind but you creating more hesitation in your mind. “Oh this is better, the other one is not so good”; but there is no balance in the mind. There are more dualistic thoughts than [if you are] keeping yourself in a humble way.

I see a lot of people are running so many places, here and there, like three times and ten directions (laughing). Then, at the same time, they create all problems from ten directions. And I think their minds are everywhere, all over ten directions and they don’t know where to use their own mind. That is a big problem. I have a lot of experiences [with this kind of people]. So keep yourself in a humble and simple way as much as possible, so that it is easy to handle your ego, your negative thoughts.

It is true – when you see more things then, you have more thought of course. I don’t think you see nothing. When you see one thing, you have one thought. When you hear something, at least you have some thoughts. So the more you hear, the more you see, the more thoughts arise. This is not a great way of practicing of Dharma. Therefore, I think people should try to keep themselves less busy. Because if you run here and there, you get distracted actually; and you are not in mindfulness and in your calmness anymore. You get distracted. “Oh this is beautiful, but not beautiful like the others!” You are making a lot of judgments in your mind.

That is not useful. We need to control oneself like Milarepa was a good example. He did not go too much. He kept himself in a quiet place because only that way he can check his mind easily. If you go ten directions, your mind are all over and cannot bring back. Therefore, I think we should do this. There is a saying in Tibetan: “Sitting is much more powerful than going. By going around you can break your shoes but you don’t get much. Sitting can break your cushion but you can get something by chanting at least”. This is very important saying in Tibetan. So try to break your cushion by sitting, don’t try to break your shoes by going too much. That is my thinking and it is very important.

Generally, we can see sitting is harder than going. Right? Going is easier. “I go there, I go here.” Sit here quietly for half hour. You don’t want to sit there too long because “I am bored now, I am tired and I want to sleep,” then you are not sitting correctly. So it is much harder. And sitting means you are doing something real, but walking does not mean much. Maybe you are just hanging around and watching the external things. Sitting means you are watching internal things, so there is the difference. And not easy to do the sitting [as compared with] going.

People usually don’t sit much. If they sit because they are tired, that is it. I don’t think they are aware or practice their awareness. So, what is lacking of Dharma practitioner is sitting. Sitting needs a lot of work. We can get tired, legs are hurting pains etc. Not easy. Of course, we need to keep balance. If you sit there and don’t move for many hours, then it is not very good. But [that can be] combined by walking. Walking is different from going. Walking is physically to take some steps and take a walk to do exercise. Going means going for samsara or going for your attachments or something. That is the difference.

Therefore, when you are humble enough and faithful enough, you try to accomplish something. When you are not faithful and you are smart enough, you create troubles and problems. So what makes people to become a good practitioner is devotion, not intelligence. In Varjayana system specifically say: “Devotion, devotion and devotion.”

A disciple of Atisha asked him “Oh! Atisha give me a good instruction.” Atisha said: “Faith and devotion, devotion, devotion. That is the instruction.” We never know devotion is the instruction, right? “I have devotion but I don’t have instruction yet.” IAn fact, no difference between devotion and instruction, because there are no faith, the instruction don’t work. It is useless. Therefore, the instructions alive [or not], that depends on the devotion. This is very important. And I have a lot of experience for these many years of practicing Dharma. The most important is devotion not intelligence.

Of course studying is very important but even more important is devotion. As of devotion, studying, hearing, thinking and meditation and everything is important; [and] everything becomes very useful and every effective. When you don’t have any devotion, [then] your learning, your hearing, your meditation are empty, empty form, not very useful. Therefore, we must try to have faith first, the genuine devotion first, then study, then practice, then meditate.

Of course, we can develop [faith] and we have good conditions [for] good faith because we’ve heard the reason to have all the benefits of having faith. Like I said, we have seen a lot of Tibetan monks who are very scholarly but they don’t have enough faith and devotion in the Three Jewels. They even do not believe in cause and effects. They even criticize the view of interdependent origination, cause and effect. In Tibet it happens right now. It shows that intelligence and smartness sometimes can turn into the bad cause. What can fix you in the correct path is the devotion. If you can investigate this honestly, only then you can understand.

Right now, we too busy to think carefully. We don’t have time to think this is good or not, intelligence is important or faith is important. We are not really thinking. In this society, generally speaking, wisdom is very important. “Oh I must have wisdom.” But sometimes that kind of knowledge can bring troubles to people’s life. Sometimes we need to be careful not to be too smart (laughing). Too smart sometimes like cheatings. You try to be sneaky, but you don’t know yourself very well. You think: “I can do this. I can try this,” but actually you are cheating people. You are cheating people and sometimes you are cheating yourself. That is also one kind of smartness but not what we want.

There are two very famous monks that were the attendants to the Shakyamuni Buddha. One was brother of Ananda, cousin of the Gautama Buddha, called Devadatta. And the other one is the monk Sunakwatra, a very famous bhikhu. Very good discipline – the external conducts were perfect but he was mentally crazy, because [he had] no devotion, no faith.

Devadatta was cousin to the Buddha and also attendant to Him. Also, he was very smart. He created many things in his way. He created his own tradition to criticized the Buddha. Then he created a lot of negative karmas because he had bad view and bad-minded to the Buddha. He did not have any devotion. He did not respect the Buddha at all, but he was very smart and even accomplished some miracles. He was very powerful, and physically so he could beat the Buddha actually. He tried many times to kill the Buddha. He did not have enough devotion to the Buddha but he was smart enough to attack the Buddha, actually.

The other monk, called Sunakwatra, was very important attendant to the Buddha who served Buddha for 25 years. After 5 years of serving the Buddha, he said “I have not seen any qualities of you. You have only one brightness, light around your body. Except for that you have no qualities. You and me are the same. What you know, I also know. All the sutras you taught I already remember and memorize.” As soon as he died, he was born in the Preta realm – a scary hungry ghost. The cousin Davedatta, as soon as he died he went directly to the hell realm.

When no faith, even you are in the environment of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, there was no use. And even you can make such situation dangerous for yourself. Whenever I talk about these things. Maybe my speech is very familiar to you. You may think: “Oh Rinpoche, we are talking about the devotion!” Because the devotion is such important [thing]. Because if there is no devotion, then no Dharma actually. Smartness and knowledge are not working properly. Even though you know a lot of Sutras, you become a great geshe, or a great khenpo, but having no faith you are empty. An empty form, empty mind. Nothing. Therefore, if you want to accomplish something for your path, for your life through practicing the Dharma, you must understand the essence and what is the most effective condition.


End of the quoted part


Transcript by Quang Minh Hải (Tú Lan)

Excerpt from MP 3 Dawu – 3.8.2019 [1]:


* The title is created by the translator for the reader’s convenience. This is an excerpt from the Dharma lecture 3.8.2019 at Dawu, Golok.