More on How to Practise in Everyday Life


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Image: Green Tara. Nepal. Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton. Date Range1200 – 1299. CollectionThe Cleveland Museum of Art Catalogue #1970.156


What follows is an inspirational extract from a Commentary on the Vajrasattva Purification Practice given by the Ven Geshe Doga at Tara Institute, Melbourne in 2016. Though I am still in retreat, I have been doing some editing work and couldn’t resist posting this for you now!




My attempt, from the very beginning, is to present a guideline of how to do a practice able to be incorporated into daily life. The sadhana[1] which we recite as a meditation practice is only a basis. On top of that we need to elaborate the visualisations and so forth. In this way we see with more clarity how to incorporate the sadhana into our personal practice. What I am saying here is that in order to relate to the practice as “Okay, this is something which I can do” we need a clear understanding of what the practice consists. Likewise, we don’t need to worry ourselves too much about those practices the whole purpose of which is beyond us and with which we can’t cope. So, from the very outset, we need a simple practice, simple in the sense that one does understand its purpose together with our need to practice it. Based on that, if we elaborate a bit more, but in a slow fashion, our practice will be enhanced; it won’t be a case of us becoming more confused.

Actually, this is the way in which I have conducted my own studies in my own life. I have always not attempted to be too ambitious in trying to understand too much or going for big grand explanations right from the start. Instead, I would try to find something simple, something more manageable. Then, based on that, I would add on by reading some other commentaries and relating to other explanations. In this way you can gradually build upon something with which you had a fix clear idea initially. Anyhow, that is what I have found useful in my life. I would think it would also be useful in your approach. That is why you should find something simple and immediately applicable that can serve as a core basis from the very beginning. On the other hand, if we first acquire many explanations and many variations of detail and so forth, our mind has no anchor to which we can hold. We become quite dispersed, scattered in every direction so that the thought comes: “Oh, well I have heard so much, I have learnt so much, but what do I actually put into practice”? “What is it actually, that I am meant to be doing”?

This is a situation where there is a discrepancy between a genuine interest in learning and understanding something to be practiced, yet not being able to find something to put into actual practice. In such cases, having acquired lots of knowledge does not amount to much if we can’t find a way to practice! If this has happened to us, then it indicates that we have actually lost the point! Of course, what I am explaining here is relation to a [meditation] practice but I think what I am saying is also useful to consider not just in respect to our studies, but also to whatever it is in which we wish to embark or engage. It is because this advice is so useful that I have thought to share it with you.



Let’s give a practical example. One might have taken up, as part of one’s commitment, the recitation of Tara mantras. Of course there will be some benefit arising from the recitation itself. At the very least we might say that by reciting the mantra we will be prevented from engaging in idle gossip.[2] For that duration, then, at least on a verbal level, you are avoiding creating negative karma. As the mantra is a formalised name of an enlightened being there is benefit already contained therein, but if one does the recitation with a distracted mind, an absent mind, the benefits are minimal. But if you combine the recitation with even a simple visualisation, such distraction is prevented.


Green Tara, Tibet. Bronze. 14-15th Century. 

To illustrate: at the time of reciting Tara’s mantra you visualise Tara on the top of your head. As one recites, visualise light and nectar descending from Tara into oneself (through the crown) and, as it dissolves into oneself, your negativities and defilements are purified; you are filled with nectar and experience a feeling of great joy. Just doing one round of a mala [usually 108 beads) of mantra [thus 108 times] will bring real experience. There will be a sense of transformation in one’s mind. Your discursive thoughts will naturally subside and for that duration at least, you will be released from having a troubled mind, one hyper-anxious, unduly worried about things. Your mind will naturally settle down and become really and genuinely relaxed. In this way we can see the obvious advantages of combining a simple visualisation with recitation.


Even a few moments with combined visualisation and recitation in this way will cause our hyperactive mind to settle down. And, of course, a hyper-active mind is not really a happy mind: it is troubled, agitated. So when it settles down the transformation we feel expresses itself as a form of well-being and it is this that is considered the blessing of the deity!

p1010018 Photo: Ladakh. Ross Moore 2014. Year of Kalachakra Initiation in Leh

Sometimes we have a grand notion of what such a blessing should be. But the shift of the mind from agitation to a more peaceful positive state is the actual blessing. Indeed, this is the literal meaning of the Tibetan word for blessing: chinlab.[3] Composed of two syllables, chin and lab, each has its own meaning; chin has the connotation of bestowing, as in giving whereas lab has the meaning of ‘magical’ or ‘glorious.’ Thus chinlab refers to giving or bestowing a glorious or more clear state of mind. And it is this experience of a clear and peaceful state of mind that is the actual dharma blessing of the enlightened being taking place.

It is useful to understand this as we do often wonder what receiving a blessing might mean. How might we define it? In fact it is whenever we experience a transformation from a negative to a positive mental state. Seen in this way we can gain a profound appreciation of what a blessing might mean, not just in general terms but in the direct terms of our own experience. Also we can know that blessings are already there every time we access them through the application of the practice. Then we realize that when doing our practices there is no point in just letting our mind continue in that distracted state. By allowing our mind to remain in a chaotic state our practice remains dry and we get nothing out of it.

I have shared these simple techniques in the past and others have told me they have found it really helpful and beneficial. So I do feel that adopting a practical approach as I have been describing will be useful.


Although this transformation from a troubled to a more calm, clear and positively-energised mind might be temporary, nonetheless, it is a clear indication that our mind can attain that state on an ongoing basis if we put more effort to separate the mind from the delusions for it is these that cause our troubles and disturb our mind. By separating out the delusions we can reach or attain a pristine state of perpetual clarity. Otherwise we may have doubts and question whether it is even possible to overcome the delusions.[4] Because we have not experienced the possibility of the mind being free from troubled states we might conclude that it is not possible to ever separate them. Considered in this way, our experience in our practice supplies proof that we can experience the mind without disturbances.

It is not the case–is it?–that when our disturbances cease, so does our mind? Our mind is still present, right? But what is absent is the agitation that is the troubled mind. If it was the case that the mind and the agitation were the same thing, then it would follow that whenever we had mental experience (which is a continuum unfolding on a continuous basis) we would also have mental problems. It is in this way that we can understand the proof that the mind and the delusions may be separated {because they are not intrinsically the same thing).

Resorting to reasonings and proofs such as this is really beneficial, especially when doubts and questions are arising in our mind. Indeed, what we are doing is utilizing our experiences to remind ourselves, again and again, that there is a possibility of reaching a state of clear mind. Moreover, because it is possible to separate away the delusions we see that it is definitely worthwhile applying the antidotes to the delusions. So this is the value of applying our own logic and reasoning to situations that arise. Again, this is not just true in relation to our Dharma practice–it applies to other life situations, especially those where we are experiencing doubts and quandaries. Logic and reasoning can be employed anytime to open up and work towards other possibilities; not just possibilities but possibilities based on some reality.


Through familiarization the practice becomes part of us. Even the recitation of mantra can be part of our normal existence such as we see in the case of older Tibetans, grandmothers and grandfathers who go around reciting Om Mani Padme Hum. In Melbourne we have one older lady whom we refer to as “Amala” [5] who, even in the gaps in conversation, is constantly reciting like this: Om Mani Padme Hum Om Mani Padme Hum Om Mani Padme Hum. Once her granddaughter (who was standing nearby) said: “Grandma, people might thing you have already gone crazy or something, always mumbling around, where-ever you go.” So that just goes to show how it becomes a habit via recitation.

There is a related story. When that grand-daughter (who was called Tenzin Khando) was much younger she would notice how her grandmother, as well as her mother and father,  would make an offering at the altar and recite the Tara Praise[6] each morning, as that was part of their regular practice. So one day she asked: “I notice every day you make offerings and recite something. So, having paid attention to the deity, what do you get in return?”

Even as a young child she was asking a very reasonable question. In effect, her enquiry was: “you are making offerings but what is their job?” Actually, it was a very innocent question but she was thinking: “there must be some significance here in doing this offering, but what is it?”

This is referring back some time when I had first arrived in Australia and I used to go around and share a meal with the family. So I knew the children when they were very young. Tenzin Khando was fond of me. Anyway, there are many stories relating to this family I could tell, but the main point I am making here is that even a few minutes visualization and mantra recitation will give us real benefit.[7]




Full publication details of cited texts are found in the bibliography

[1] Sādhanā (Sanskrit;Tibetan: སྒྲུབ་ཐབས་, druptap) literally “a means of accomplishing something.” In this context it is referring to the tantric practice manual used by the meditator to structure and guide their practice towards the goal of actualizing the deity by first gradually approaching and then finally achieving the deity’s enlightened state. A short Green Tara sadhana is found at See also

[2] While Geshe Doga’s humor is obvious, there is also serious intent : idle gossip is included in the Ten Non-Virtuous Actions, four of which pertain to speech. They are 1. lying, 2. harsh speech; 3. divisive speech; 4. gossip.

[3] Blessing (Skt. adhiṣṭhāna; Tib. བྱིན་བརླབས་, chinlap; Wyl. byin brlabs or byin gyis brlabs). In a related explanation, Chogyam Trungpa writes: “Chinlap, or blessing is what causes you to change your perception.” The Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness (Volume Three). Compiled and edited by Judith Lief (Shambala Publications: Boston, 2013). Chapter 33. 

[4] The reference here is to our primordial clear light mind (Tib: gnyug-ma’i ‘od-gsal). His Holiness the Dalai Lama details: “There are, in general, three levels of mind. The coarse level is that of sensory consciousness. The subtle level is the gross levels of mental consciousness, both conceptual and non-conceptual. The subtlest level is that which is totally devoid of the grosser minds and which provides the basis continuity from moment to moment and life to life. Known as primordial clear light mind, it has no beginning and no end. It is what continues into Buddhahood, becoming the omniscient mind of a Buddha.” See Dalai Lama, Gelug/ Kagyü Tradition, 89. It is in the sense that it has no beginning or end that it is called “primordial.” Because it arises simultaneously “with each moment of experience” it may also be called, within the Tantric context, the “simultaneously arising clear light mind.” Ibid., 108. Within the context of the Mahāmudrā teachings it can be described as the basis dharmakaya. See post Mahāmudrā: Part Four. 

His Holiness the Dalia Lama:

A primordial clear light mind is something that we all have within us. It is not something external to us. It is on this basis that we can attain enlightenment. When we can see, straightforwardly and non-conceptually the nature of our clear light mind and remain totally absorbed on this nature without ever regressing from it, we have become a Buddha. That being the case, Buddhahood is not something that can be given to us by someone else. If we think in this way, we must conclude that we all have Buddha-nature–the factors that allow us to become a Buddha…Primordial simultaneously arising clear light subtlest mind, which we all have had without beginning and which becomes manifest each time we die, is the basis dharmakaya–a body encompassing everything, which forever abides as a basis. Since basis dharmakaya continues each moment after the next, when we transform it, with skillful means, into having the nature of a pathway mind, it functions as a pathway dharmakaya. When we cultivate the pathway dharmakaya, continually making it more and more excellent, so that it becomes totally purified of all obstacles regarding knowables together with their instincts–or, if we describe it from another point of view, when we reach the state at which we forever remain totally absorbed on clear light mind without ever being parted from a correct view of reality–clear light mind becomes the resultant dharmakaya.

See Dalai Lama, Gelug/ Kagyü Tradition, 253.

Further commenting on the clear light mind, His Holiness asks the question, “Is primordial clear light mind something established as truly and inherently existing?” Then answers: “No, it definitely is not. This clear light mind, however, as a non-inherently existent phenomenon, is not totally non-existent either. It functions as the basis for all samsara and nirvana, being neither totally non-existent nor truly and inherently existent. This is the Buddhist explanation for what is called the creator in other traditions. Perhaps this is what is meant by the Holy Ghost!” Ibid.

See post The Defilements Are Superficial, the Nature of the Mind is Clear Light. Consider also how if the sufferings are adventitious in nature because produced by ignorance, this means they can also be  definitely remedied, to wit: by applying the exact antidote to that ignorance–the wisdom realising emptiness. Recognising this gives rise to  a source of great compassion [that observing the unapprendable) because we now (and only now) recognise that not just our own suffering but the suffering of others is entirely unnecessary. As Jay-d̄zun-b̄a writes: “ order for a compassion thinking, “I will free from suffering those sentient beings who adhere to [true existence] despite the fact that [persons and phenomena] are empty of true existence,” to arise manifestly, it must be explicitly affected by an awareness thinking that sentient beings lack true existence.” See Newland, Compassion: A Tibetan Analysis, 65. Also, considered from the perspective of its root cause, suffering can be seen as  self-inflicted/imposed. Its tragic depth together with its fundamental superfluity is thereby expressed. This topic of great compassion is pursued  in the post Moon in Rippling Water. If the mind and the defilements (Kleśaswere intrinsically the same then they would be forever inseparable. Then there would be no scope for improvement (via any path or practice), let alone enlightenment. As His Holiness notes, “this is the ultimate deepest point that we come to in meditation on the essential factors for bllissful progress discussed in Maitreya’s The Furthest Everlasting Stream.” Gelug/ Kagyü Tradition, 253.

Understanding Buddha nature is another way of approaching this topic. As His Holiness writes (in relation to the developmental or transformational Buddha lineage): “In our continuums now we have a capacity such that, when we meet with certain conditions, in the future we will manifest uncontaminated qualities. The developmental lineage refers to a time when that capacity has been nourished, or activated.” Such a capacity itself resides (as noted above) upon the fact that the mind’s ultimate nature is emptiness. This ultimate nature refers to the first Buddha lineage: the naturally abiding. See Dalai Lama, Harvard Lectures, 195. See also Post Mahāmudrā: Part Two, especially footnote 6 where the two types of Buddha nature are briefly described.

There are many scriptural sources based on direct yogic experience. For example, Lord Götsangpa:

Just by virtue of being human, our consciousness
exists as the Dharma body.
Although the master points to it, this is not necessary,
For it is already present in one’s own mind.

And the Great Mahasiddha Tilopa sings:

Aye ho! This is the gnosis of self-awareness.
It is beyond speech and is not an object of thought.
I, Tilopa, have nothing to teach.
Know the self-symbolized state by yourself.

Both verses quoted in The Dalai Lama, Khöntön Peljor Lhündrub and José Ignacio Cabezón, Meditation on the Nature of Mind  (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2011), 82.

[5] This is a colloquial and affectionate honorific meaning “honorable mother.”

[6] The short or abbreviated praise is:

OM chom dän dä ma lha mo dröl ma la chhag tshäl lo
Chhag tshäl dröl ma TARE päl mo
TUTTARA yi jig kün sel ma
TURE dön nam tham chä ter ma
SVAHA yi ger chä la rab dü

OM I prostrate to the goddess foe destroyer, liberating lady Tara,
Homage to TARE, saviouress, heroine,
With TUTTARE dispelling all fears,
Granting all benefits with TURE,
To her with sound SVAHA, I bow.  

For the longer praise titled “Praise to the Twenty-one Taras” and mantra see

[7] Geshe Doga, Vajrasattva Commentary, Easter Course, Tara Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 28 March, 2016. Translated by the Ven Michael Yeshe. Transcribed by Kim Foon Looi. Checked by Su Lan Foo. Extracted and edited by Ross Moore. The full commentary (combining other commentaries given by Geshe Doga) is forthcoming: to be published by Tara Institute Publications.




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