Dharma Notes


Definition of the Week (36) – Pliancy

☞ Definition: Pliancy is the mere workability of body and mind that comes about through having severed the continuity of physical and mental destructive tendencies.

☞ Pliancy has the function of eliminating all obscurations.

☞ Being a consciousness that has cut off the continuity of physical and mental negative tendencies, pliancy creates the imprints for being able to place the mind on any virtuous object for as long as one wishes.

Physical and mental destructive tendencies refers to the inability to engage into physical or mental virtuous actions as one wishes. Mental and physical negative tendencies block joy in regard to abandoning the mental afflictions.

Their antidote, physical and mental pliancy, is an extreme suppleness of body and mind that is devoid of physical and mental negative tendencies and that makes it possible to easily engage into virtuous actions on a continual basis.

☞ Divisions: Pliancy is divided into two, physical and mental pliancy:

  1. Physical pliancy: Having purified physical destructive tendencies through the power of concentration, this pliancy makes the body very light. One can meditate for long periods at a time without physical discomfort.
  2. Mental pliancy: A workable consciousness that, having abandoned destructive mental tendencies through the power of concentration, can engage the mind with an internal virtuous object without obstruction.

☞ Concerning pliancy, Lama Tsong Khapa says:
The king that empowers the mind for absorption;
If placed, immovable like the power of a mountain;
If directed, engaging every virtuous focus;
Inducing great bliss of physical and mental pliancy.

☞ Regarding eliminating all obscuration as the function:
Through the force of pliancy all physical and mental destructive tendencies are purified and one will naturally stay in concentration. This greatly increases concentration and through this, in turn, the bliss of pliancy increases also. The further increase of the bliss of pliancy leads to a further proportional increase in concentration.

Definition of the Week (35) – Non-Attachment

Definition: Non-attachment is a consciousness endowed with renunciation that lacks attachment to samsara and samsaric perfections.

Its function is to act as the basis for not engaging into negative actions.

Non-attachment in the context of giving up the happiness of this life and directing one’s attention to the happiness of the next life is the motivation of the practitioner of the small scope.

Non-attachment to the whole of cyclic existence, giving up the grasping for samsaric perfections from the depth of one’s heart, is the motivation of the practitioner of medium scope.

Some thoughts regarding attachment:

Attachment is a minion of ignorance. From the Debate between Wisdom and Ignorance,

Ignorance says to wisdom:

They who belong to my retinue, [38bcd]
Which is dominated, among others, by the three poisons,
Jealousy, miserliness, pretension, dishonesty, conceit,
The sixty-two corrupt views, [39]
Pride, laziness, non-conscientiousness and others,
Such as great desire, I send them out continuously.
Just to subdue them is hard, even without severance.

I am the essential person in the continuum, [40abc]
You, wisdom, are the adventitious one.
If someone goes then it is your kind.

Ven Choden Rinpoche commenting these lines:

Also, I am not alone. I have a very numerous entourage. The different mental factors that are dominated by true-grasping and the other main ones such as attachment and anger, I send out continually.

Because I send them out, it is even difficult to just subdue a little those that are like me, i.e. which do not contradict me but agree with me: Jealousy, miserliness, pretension, dishonesty, conceit, the sixty-two appalling views, pride, laziness, non-conscientiousness, and the like. There is also great desire, where whatever possessions one has, it is never enough and where one always wants more.

It is difficult to just subdue or lessen these a little, without even talking about being free from them from the root.

Further, I am the essential person in the continuum, and you, wisdom, are the adventitious one. Hence, if someone has to go, then it is your kind.
Did not Einstein say that to repeat the same action over and over again, each time with the hope of a different result, is the definition of insanity?

While it is hard to give up samsara altogether, we should definitely be able to see that: SAMSARA IS OVERRATED.

Most of us would like to alleviate the sufferings brought on by our attachments, but if possible without giving up our attachments. We need to realize there is no middle ground. Either we cling onto the object, or we do not.

Definition of the Week (34) – Faith

Definition: Faith is a clarity, an aspiring belief and a wish with regard to qualities, mere existence and ability, respectively.

☞ There is a threefold division of faith:

  1. Clarifying faith
  2. Faith of belief
  3. Aspiring faith

1. Clarifying faith is a clear awareness that is generated through seeing the qualities of objects which actually have qualities, such as the Three Jewels.

2. Faith of belief is faith in topics taught by the Buddha, such as the law of cause and effect, dependent arising and so forth and arises through having contemplated them.

3. Aspiring faith thinks, “I definitely have to attain this,” after having contemplated, for example, the four noble truths, and having ascertained that suffering and its origin are to be abandoned and that cessation and its path are to be attained. It is generated on the basis of understanding the possibility of realization if one practices accordingly.

Function: Faith acts as the antidote against faithlessness. It is also the basis for aspiration and thus helps to overcome laziness.

Generally, faith is praised by the sages as the root of all paths and grounds, and is therefore very important.

From the Ten Dharmas:
For people without faith
White dharmas are not generated.
It is similar to a seed burned
By fire and a green sprout.

☞ Faith and Liking
Sometimes in popular thought, faith is confused with liking. But while they do not necessarily exclude each other, they are also not always the same:

  1. Liking that is not faith: Liking temporary pleasures.
  2. Faith that is not liking: Faith in cyclic existence.
  3. Faith that is also liking: A liking faith in the teacher and in the white karmic laws of cause and effect, which arise by contemplating their qualities and benefits from the depth of one’s heart.

Faith and Reason

Contrary to the western view of faith, in Buddhism faith and reason do not have to cancel each other out. Rather, while there is also in Buddhism such a thing as blind faith, the superior type of faith arises as a result of investigation and experience.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Faith based on analysis is the superior type of faith.


Definition of the Week (32) – Wisdom

Definition: Wisdom is a mental factor that thoroughly discerns the object of analysis.

It discerns in detail the faults and qualities of the object and has the function of eliminating doubt: e.g., it analyses whether an action is beneficial or harmful. The objects to be investigated by wisdom are virtue, non-virtue and non-predicted phenomena.

Wisdom and Non-ignorance
Non-ignorance is a stable virtuous wisdom combined with concentration that can counteract ignorance. It is the sole antidote to ignorance.

Special Insight: A wisdom held by the bliss of pliancy derived from analyzing the object while remaining in calm abiding.

From The Debate between Wisdom and Ignorance:
The sentient beings of the three realms
And specifically one’s own very mind,

Since time beginningless and non-abiding,
From whence ignorance came into being,
Have been abiding naturally with the mind’s nature.
This is the mahamudra of the basis.

They who do not realize this, grasp at true existence
And thus wander up to now in cyclic existence.
The direct antidote to this is the wisdom
That explicitly realizes this selflessness.

Hence, that a self exists in reality
Is even more mistaken then mistaken
Therefore, from now on, at all times,

I shall abandon you, the mistaken self-grasping.
Without generating any aversion,
Go where ever you have to go to.

The wisdom realizing selflessness says to the self-grasping:
‘Hence, as all phenomena lack existence from their own side and exist only as appearances to conceptual thought, as mere imputations by name, the grasping at a real self by you, the self-grasping, is so mistaken that it is mistaken beyond mistaken. Therefore, from now on, as I have identified you as mistaken, I shall abandon you at all times. Therefore leave and go wherever you have to go to, without generating any aversion to me.”

Definition of the Week (33) – Union of Calm Abiding and Special Insight

☞ Calm Abiding:
Jetsün Chokyi Gyaltsen:
A concentration held by the bliss of pliancy, which can remain in equipoise on its object however much it likes, attained in dependence on the nine stages of mental stabilization.

It is called calm abiding because upon having calmed the movement of the mind to outer objects, it abides single-pointedly on its internal object.

☞ Special Insight:
Jetsün Chokyi Gyaltsen:
A wisdom clearly discerning its object through being held by the bliss of pliancy derived from analysis of its object while remaining in calm abiding.

☞ Union of Calm Aiding and Special Insight
The union of calm abiding and special insight is synonymous with special insight.

☞ Why Special Insight is needed:
From the Debate Between Wisdom and Ignorance:

Self-grasping says to wisdom:

Focusing on the aggregates one says ‘I’.

Make the mere non-affirming negation [149]
Of true existence of this the object of apprehension.
If then, without weakening strength, but with clear intensity,
Free from mental sinking, excitement and apprehending characteristics,

One is skillful in training in the mode of apprehending, [150]
Where, upon having focused on the aggregates,
My non-existence appears as object,
Then this is is the mode of apprehending antithetical to me.

Then one is able to evict me. [151]
☞ The Reason why Calm Abiding Needs to Precede Special Insight:
Lama Tsong Khapa:
If one has not attained calm abiding, then no matter how much analytical meditation is performed by individually discriminating wisdom, it cannot generate the joy and bliss of physical and mental pliancy in its conclusion. Once calm abiding is attained, then the analytical meditation with the individually discriminating wisdom can also generate pliancy in its conclusion, and that is why calm abiding is needed as the cause.

Definition of the Week (31) – Mental Stabilization / Concentration

Lama Tsong Khapa:

The nature of mental stabilization is a virtuous mind abiding single-pointedly on its object, without mental wandering.

They who wish to protect the trainings [1]
Protect the mind after focusing it strongly.
Without protecting this mind
It is impossible to protect the trainings.

Gyaltsab Je:
Showing in Brief the Necessity of Protecting One’s Mind
They who wish to protect the trainings of generosity and the other perfections from degeneration must strongly focus their mind on the trainings, and then protect the mind from wandering off to mistaken objects.

If one does not protect the mind from wandering off, then it becomes impossible to protect the trainings.

Ven Geshe Doga:
How to Meditate: A crazed elephant can be tamed with a rope, hook and pillar. It is tied to the pillar with the rope, and directed with the hook. Similarly, our crazed mind is subdued with the rope of mindfulness, the hook or introspection, and the pillar of the virtuous meditation object.

First the mind needs to be tied to the pillar of the meditation object with the rope of mindfulness, and then we use the hook of mental introspection to direct the mind back to the virtuous object if it has strayed, or adjust our focus when we find the mind has become unclear.

Through this approach, we will not experience mental wandering and distraction, and all other virtuous practices will arise naturally.

Definition of the Week (30) – Enthusiasm

Lama Tsong Khapa:

“The nature of enthusiasm: Having focussed on the object of virtue, being in the aspect of strong joy.”

Enthusiasm is joy in virtue. It is the antidote against laziness and has the function of perfectly accomplishing and completing one’s virtuous practice.

Definition: From the Compendium of Knowledge: What is enthusiasm? It is joy in regard to armor, training, confidence, not giving up and not being complacent.


  1. Armor-like enthusiasm is the enthusiasm that is generated prior to engaging into a virtuous action.
  2. Enthusiasm of training is the enthusiasm that accompanies the viruous practice.
  3. Enthusiasm of confidence is enthusiasm in one’s abilities. It lacks low self esteem and counteracts thoughts like, “How could somebody like me ever achieve this.”
  4. Irreversible enthusiasm is the enthusiasm that prevents one from being sidetracked by other virtuous activities before having completed what one originally set out to do.
  5. Enthusiasm of non-complacency is enthusiasm that protects one from being satisfied with an inferior or incomplete result.

For examples, some students are satisfied with just studying and implementing one small aspect of the path, and then think, “I have made great progress along the path.” When they then later receive teachings on the whole path to enlightenment by someone knowledgeable in all the important points of the path, then they become discouraged.

The Difference Between Enthusiasm and Effort:
Effort based on enthusiasm is joyous effort that helps to accomplish one’s aims quickly. Mere effort, on the other hand, is difficult to sustain over a long time period and is usually less effective. It is therefore important to cultivate a sense of happiness with one’s dharma practice.

Four Conducive Conditions for Enthusiasm:

  1. The power of belief: Generating aspiration for the practice of abandoning and adopting through meditating on the karmic laws of cause and effect.
  2. The power of stability: Not engaging into actions indiscriminately but first weighing up whether one can accomplish the action or not.
  3. The power of joy: Practicing joyful enthusiasm without contentment, like a child that does not want to stop playing.
  4. The power of desisting: Taking a break when body and mind have become exhausted through intense joyous effort and then immediately starting again when mental and physical strength are restored.

Short Meditation on Increasing Self-Confidence and a Positive Self-Image

Sit down comforably in an upright position.
Pick a time span such as today, last week, last year etc.
Remember consciously with a clear and relaxed mind, without judging, all the actions of body, speech and mind carried out in that period from the start up to the present moment.
Rejoice in all positve actions in general and dharma actions specifically, recalling also all their immense karmic benefits. (Most likely one finds more to recjoice in as one initially thinks).

Now focus inwards and identify your dharma qualities, such as love or compassion. (Find at least one.)
Rejoice in your qualities, ideally until the thought, “I am good,” is generated.

Repeat until the thought, “I am good,” is generated naturally.