The Thirty-Seven Practises of All Buddah's Sons (Verse 1)

Teaching given by HH Drukchen Rinpoche

..”As common ignorant beings, we are not yet qualified to realize true compassion directly. Therefore, the external forms of Avalokiteshvara (embodiment of great compassion and great love) helps us visualize it. The appearance of a compassionate deity or goddess of mercy or whatever you may call it is an expression or form of great compassion.

…This particular text is an instruction on the activities of the Bodhisattva, what they are supposed to do and what they are not supposed to do. The instructions are very clear. It describes the thirty-seven practices of all great Bodhisattvas.
…We are all Bodhisattvas. Unfortunately, because of our ignorance, we are not good Bodhisattvas. Since we are already Bodhisattvas, no matter how good or bad, we must practice this text. None of the Buddhas have become realized without practicing. It is important to understand that all Buddhas reached attainment by following the path firmly and correctly.
Whatever we do and whatever we say has to come out of compassion and love which means not being involved with selfish attitudes.
……………Bodhisattvas are called Buddhas’s Sons. The Buddha has a body son, speech sons and mind sons so the Bodhisattvas are the sons of the mind of Buddha. The speech sons are the Arhats, the great practitioners of the Hinayana path. Buddha had one biological son in India, such a son is a body son.
Buddha is the one who taught the Dharma. When we refer to the practice of the Buddha, we are referring to following the true Dharma. We really have to follow the true Dharma, this is very important. These instructions were given because we have the great potential to be enlightened within this lifetime. Why not? #we need these instructions and we need to follow them. By following the true Dharma we can be like those great beings …so now there is hope. Not only hope but you will be like them for sure – 100%. We have reason to be optimistic. The potential is already there: we are lucky enough to be human beings.

Verse 1
This sound human body endowed with full leisure –
An excellent vessel rare to be found –
Since now we’ve obtained one in no way deficient,
Let’s work night and day without veering off course
To take ‘cross the ocean and free from samsara
Not only ourselves but all others as well.
First listen, think hard, then do much meditation –
The sons of the Buddha all practice this way.

The first of the thirty-seven practices mentions the importance of obtaining a human life. It then speaks of the human body like a boat and we have that boat. Samara is like an ocean or a big dangerous river that has to be crossed. So the river is there and we have a boat. If we didn’t have one, it would be quite hopeless. The only thing we need to do is get inside and learn how to navigate. This takes skill so we need to practice day and night without wasting a moment of our life.
We also need to have some intellectual knowledge as well as experimental knowledge. Intellectual knowledge comes first. Listening to the teaching and contemplating it is necessary. If you don’t listen or approach a master, it is a bit difficult. The master is very important. You should be listening to a true master who is giving a true teaching. After listening, you should contemplate it. Think hard, think strong, think over and over again about the teachings. Before experimental knowledge, this is essential.
Almost every Buddha, every Bodhisattva, every great saint and master has attained Buddhahood and enlightenment through listening to the teaching of a true master. Without guidance, there is no way for attainment because when we talk about compassion, we don’t really know what compassion means or what suffering is or what enlightenment is. The Bodhisattvas (meaning us) are bound to do everything: practicing, listening, cultivating and meditating with the motivation of liberating all sentient beings. This is a very important key point.
On the Bodhisattva path you should have the right motivation. This not only applies to listening and cultivating teachings in mediation but even wile doing things like going to the toilet and spitting. All these things have to be dedicated for the sake of all sentient beings. Spitting is a very tiny thing, and has little respect but it can be very beneficial for many beings such as hungry ghosts and spirits who have nothing to eat and because of their own karma, possess nothing. But with the right motivation, if you spit and dedicate for those beings, it can help them. Whether they get it or not depends again on their karma. Everything you do has to be done for their sake even something as simple as entering a room. You have to remember "I am stepping into this room for all sentient beings. May someone, at least, benefit by my stepping in or stepping out.” Every activity, even sleeping and talking, has to be dedicated to all sentient beings in this way. This is very important.
Everything can be meditation. There are different stages: Analytical meditation, then calm abiding meditation. When we start to analyze compassion or something about the world, the guru, devotion, true love and the like, this is analytical mediation. It isn’t only sitting and keeping silent. That is one type of mediation but not the only one. In order not to waste any precious time in this human rebirth, we can use our energy for contemplating through analytical mediation. It can be done in an informal way, at work and in your daily life. At these so called informal times, you can check yourself; you can think about the teaching, you can think about impermanence and other aspects of the teaching. For example, the day before yesterday I was talking about impermanence. Impermanence is always there. When you see the sun rising, it is rising because of impermanence, not because of something else. The sun set last night and came up this morning. Why? Because the sun is moving and it is impermanent. The world is moving ad so the sun rises. Time is moving. It’s movement indicates the movement of time or impermanence. This is a great teaching. If you know how to take it as a teaching, then this is analytical meditation. You think and then you see – you literally see a sunset and that’s all. You are to doing anything but you utilize it very meaningfully as a meditation. This is what we have to do.
There is formal and informal meditation. I think, for our level, the informal mediation is more beneficial but first you have to listen. If you don’t, you won’t know how to do informal mediation. It is very valuable so listening is the preliminary thing. But after that, when you start thinking about it, that’s when you start meditating. This is obvious. In many cases, when we do a formal meditation like sitting down in silence, we tend to lose ourselves. We don’t really know what is happening around us. And we waste a lot of time pretending to be meditating and claiming to be a meditator or practitioner. But we are not really meditating. We are lost, nowhere. This happens quite often and this is not good. In that respect, informal meditation, looking at the sun rising and thinking about the suffering of samsara and how it arises and how it functions may seem simple but now you are utilizing your energy and your brain in the correct way. This is more meaningful and beneficial than losing your way in formal mediation.
It is very important to understand how to take every movement, every change, every thought and every appearance as a true teaching. That kind of teaching is a hundred or maybe a thousand times better than an oral teaching. Of course to start, the teaching is essential but to accelerate that knowledge, it is much better I think to find teachings from what is occurring around us. If one is able to do that, it is the key for beginning the Bodhisattva’s path and an important part of the Bodhisattva’s practice. The foundation or essence of the Bodhisattva’s practice is to mediate all the time, night and day; the reason why this practice is given first. Let’s work night and day without wasting a minute! But how can we meditate every minute without wasting a moment? It is not possible with formal mediation but you can constantly improve your efforts throughout the day with informal mediation. The longest formal mediation is a few hours a day, maybe three or four hours, that’s all. And then the rest of the time is wasted. That is not good.
In order to liberate all sentient beings to nirvana, one needs to work hard and diligently. To start the Bodhisattva’s work, you have to listen to the teaching and think about it. That’s when meditation begins. This is the message of the first practice (verse).
Excerpt from "A Flash Of Lightening In The Dark Of Night”
(HH Dalai Lama’s commentary on Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life)

Verse 47
First consider your resources –
To start or not to start accordingly;
Best it is to stay and not to go,
But once you start, then better not turn back!

Before we do anything, we should always ask ourselves whether we will be able to do it properly and complete it. If the answer is no, we should not start. Leaving tasks uncompleted creates a habit for the future. So once we have begun something, we should be sure not to go back on our decision.
Self-confidence is not to be confused with pride. Pride is thinking highly of oneself without good reason. Self-confidence is knowing that one has the ability to do something properly and being determined not to give up.

The Thirty-Seven Practises of All Buddah's Sons (Verse 5)

Teaching given by HH Drukchen Rinpoche

From staying together with friends who misguide us,
Our hatred, desires and ignorance grow.
With little time left to continue our studies,
We don’t think of Dharma; we meditate less.
Our love an compassion for sentient beings
Are lost and forgotten under their sway.
Sever such ties with misleading companions –
The Sons of the Buddhas all practice this way.

Not only non-attachment but the need to abandon negative friends is especially important. In the fifth practice it refers to negative friends, bad company or misleading companions. It is quite urgent that we abandon friendship with those who misguide us by creating much hatred, desire, ignorance, misunderstanding and other things. This kind of company is considered bad or negative. We call it ‘togyin’ – ‘tog’ means friend and ‘yin’ means bed or negative, so negative friend. They must be abandoned so their bad vibrations and orientation will not influence you.
But actually, bad company, enemies and other external things are projections of your own negativities. Rather than point to this person or that enemy, the main target is oneself. We have to fight and destroy the inner enemy and the inner bad company. This is very important. Because we are materialistic, we are too reliant on others and external things. We have to learn to deal with them. "This person is causing me anger, causing me desire, making me ignorant. Maybe I should leave him, silently, without saying anything”. But even if you leave, you should still think, "I must develop my own strength so I can fight my negativities, otherwise, I will find someone else like him again. Or meet the same type for a second, third or fourth time; There will be no end of enemies and bad company.”
It is important for a practitioner to stay away from bad company. This can be very tricky because we often enjoy it. If it came with frightening eyes and a fierce appearance, we would know it was bad and go away but unfortunately, it can be very charming and attractive with loving vibrations an a romantic way. You can be easily deceived and fail to discern that this person or company is bad.
If you are a practitioner, perhaps years later you may notice but it will be too late. It’s tricky. The only way to check is whether your defilements are increasing though the contact with this person or decreasing. Or whether your loving kindness and compassion for all sentient beings increases or decreases by this contact. By checking these things, you will know if they go up or down. If wisdom and compassion go down because of this connection, something is wrong. If anger, desire, pride or jealousy increases, something is not right. These are two checks to see if the person you live with is negative or not.