Talk Categories Happiness | Talk Locations Accademia Albertina

Beautiful Living

From the Buddhist point of view there are three types of suffering. These are: the suffering of change, the suffering of suffering and the all pervasive suffering of conditioning. Suffering is pervasive all throughout our life. But we can also say that life is beautiful and joyful. It’s a matter of attitude. Life is acted upon a stage, and once the curtain is raised the show must go on—there is no turning back. As US President Dwight David Eisenhower’s mother told him, “No matter what cards you get, you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Both in cards and life.” So whether life is beautiful or not is more about attitude: if one can realize the truth in life, he will cultivate a positive attitude and live beautifully forever.


“If we understand that all the sufferings and happiness in life is just an unreal game, we can then be released from the samsara, the ocean of sufferings. It’s only at this time that life can be considered as beautiful.”

Speech by Khenpo Sodargye

Living Through Suffering

Living Through Suffering

It’s very good to be here this afternoon to communicate with all of you. For people here today, no matter what your identities are, I believe we have a lot in common. You live here in Italy, which is a very beautiful and desirable, developed country where people wish to live. Similarly, I come from the Tibetan Plateau, where the environment is also very beautiful, and the culture there is also admirable and has been aspired to by many people. This is the first time I have come to Italy. After coming here, I feel the sunshine and flowers here are similar to those in Tibet. Besides, there is another similarity between Italy and Tibet, that people here seem to have no concept of time, which is much like the Tibetans.

Today we’re going to talk about beautiful living, a topic that may not be appropriate for me to talk about, because a couple of years ago, I wrote a book titled Living Through Suffering. So, as the writer of the book, my idea that life is full of sufferings might be a little conflicted or contradictory with the topic that you proposed.

Why do I think life is bitter? According to Buddhism, in life, there is the “suffering of change”, which means happiness will turn into suffering quickly. There is also one pain called the “suffering upon suffering”, which happens a lot in our life that before one suffering disappears, another one begins. Moreover, there is the “all-pervasive suffering of conditioning”, the suffering that cannot be seen from appearance, but is actually the cause for sufferings that come to us later. Therefore, in our life, sufferings can be found everywhere. So, that’s what I want to emphasize—life is full of sufferings.

Many people believe life is happy. If we believe from the very beginning that life is full of happiness and are totally convinced with the idea, then it is very possible that later in our life when encountering even a small difficulty, we’ll be unable to face it and will fall down forever.

Nowadays, there are so many young people, who, when faced with sufferings in life, are very susceptible to suicidal behaviors. Even though many people are reluctant to admit that life is bitter, we couldn’t hide the fact that everyone has to suffer a lot of pain in life. Therefore, I have to say it frankly that we’re living through suffering.

The Bittersweetness of Life

However, from another perspective, we can say that life is beautiful, life is happy, and life is joyful.

Actually, “Life Is Beautiful”, as you may know, is also the name of a movie. I don’t know whether the Italian name of the movie means anything different. Anyway, in around the 1990s, there was a movie called “Life Is Beautiful.” It’s about a Jewish couple and their son in a Nazi concentration camp. To shelter the son from the horrors, the father tried to convince his son that their time in the camp was merely a game. The father thus kept encouraging the son. I remember that the father died at the end during the World War II. However, for the son, despite being in the concentration camp and being surrounded by loneliness, hunger, horror and misery, the sweet lie of his father made him believe that everything was just a part of the game which eventually would end. Once it ends, true freedom would come and a big prize would be won. Thus, because of the father’s efforts, the son was able to face life bravely and then survive.

According to my opinion, although the father knew clearly how much sufferings there were in the concentration camp and the battlefield, to guarantee the future freedom of his son, he hid their true situation, making the son believe that their life is still full of hope. Eventually he did obtain hope by saving his son. In real life, we may picture ourselves having a very happy life, which might be similar to what the father did in the movie.

There are some differences between Eastern and Western cultures. In the Eastern culture, people will say directly that there’re many sufferings in life, our body is full of impurities, etc. Especially in religious texts, those ideas will be expressed directly. While in the Western culture, people tend to express the bright side, or in other words, the most beautiful and romantic things in life. Besides, the dresses and clothes which make people look beautiful are also what people like to comment on. They often talk about those good aspects of life like how good-looking one’s body is, how beautiful one’s hair is, as well as how romantic life is. That’s what Westerners like to talk about—the successful side in life.

These differences, as I see it, are derived from various faculties and mentalities of the people. If I am an excellent speaker and I say that life is suffering, people will feel that life is full of suffering. But if I say that life is beautiful, people will also feel that’s true. Some of us here may think life is very happy and beautiful, while others may think there are a lot of twists and turns as well as sufferings in life. People may have different mentalities.


Some people may enjoy a very smooth life, bestowed with all kinds of resources like money, brilliance and so on. While for some others, no matter how hard they try, they may still be poverty-stricken and face many adversities in life. No matter what, we should continue to live life strongly and bravely, because your life is in your own hands, and there is no way to escape.

Attitude Is the Key

Different Answers to Different People

In Buddhism, we teach students in accordance with their aptitudes, which is also in conformity to the traditional culture inherited from our ancients, that is, ideas should be expressed to different people in different ways to bring out the wisdom and positive energy in their inner minds.

To do this, it’s important for us to know the different mentalities of people. There was a famous Tibetan Buddhist master named Jikme Lingpa who had four foremost disciples and each of them shared the same last name Jikme, which is the same as the case in Han area that the master will name the disciples with the same last name. There was such a phenomenon in Tibet back then. So the four disciples were Jikme Gyalwe Nyugu, Jikme Gocha, Jikme Trinle Ozer and Jikme Kuntrol. Jikme Lingpa chose four different places for the four disciples and asked them to build temples and promote Buddhism there individually. Many years later, master Jikme Lingpa who is very renowned in Tibet is proved to be a man with superior wisdom, as the temples built by his disciples at that time contributed significantly to the later generations.

Therefore, for all of us here today, to educate or persuade your coworkers, classmates, your students or kids, firstly, you need to be aware of their aptitudes, their hobbies, their interests, and many other aspects of them, which is very important.

Let me tell you a true story which happened around 2500 years ago. It’s about the founder of Confucianism in Han region—Confucius. He had two disciples who are Zilu and Ran You. One day, Zilu asked Confucius: May one immediately put into practice what one has learned? The Master said: When one’s father and elder brothers are alive how could one immediately practice what one has learned without enquiring with them? Then, another disciple called Ran You asked the same question: May one immediately put into practice what one has learned? Confucius replied: Yes, one may! Do it immediately. To the same question, Confucius gave two different answers.

Later, another disciple was confused: Why to the same question, our teacher gave different answers? What’s the reason behind it? Confucius replied: Zilu is more impulsive and arrogant, and he encroaches upon others, so I drew him back. Whereas Ran You is a little bit weak and often holds back, so in order to encourage him, I drew him forward. Later, as a result, both of the students became very successful.

The story is very helpful for myself, and I always use it for reference when teaching and dealing with people. In engaging in interpersonal relationships, we first need to know their personalities, capabilities, their intelligence and so on. Otherwise, if you do things blindly without knowing these, you will fail in the end.

For me, when I teach others or give guidance to people, I treat situations differently. For two people who face the same situation, I might agree with one person on doing something while disagreeing with another on doing the same thing. The reason is that from my observation, the same thing might be suitable for one person to do while inappropriate for another. So I often face the same problem that Confucius faced before. I might not have his wisdom, but I would also make different decisions when facing different people.

Attitude Is the Key

Hence, I’ve been thinking about life which everyone thinks of as beautiful. Is it really beautiful or not? Each person has his own thought. Some people consider life as a marathon or other kind of race. Some people compare life as a dream while some others treat it as a battlefield. Some people even think life as a drama, either tragedy or comedy, or take it as a game, etc. As a result, knowing that how we see our life, whether it’s optimistic or pessimistic, is very important.

It doesn’t matter if you do something significant or insignificant in life, as long as you think your work and family is valuable, then it’s meaningful. It is said that during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian President, there was a very normal cleaner in the Kremlin Palace. Once, he was asked: How is your life? He replied: My life has no difference with the President’s life. Why? He replied: I’m busy cleaning the Palace everyday which is very meaningful, while the President is busy with national governance everyday. What we both do has value, so I believe it’s the same. Therefore, an optimistic attitude towards life is very important.

Some people may enjoy a very smooth life, bestowed with all kinds of resources like money, brilliance and so on. While for some others, no matter how hard they try, they may still be poverty-stricken and face many adversities in life. No matter what, we should continue to live life strongly and bravely, because your life is in your own hands, and there is no way to escape.

It’s said that the 34th President of the United States, David Eisenhower, had a very bad temper when he was young. When playing cards, every time he got poor luck, he would complain and be very unhappy. Once, his mother told him: No matter what cards you get, you have to continue to play. That’s what you should do, and also in life. Since then he had been working very hard and became the President of the United States. Hence, having a strong determination, perseverance and courage in our heart is critical for us as human beings.

Understand the Impermanence of All Phenomena

There are many optimistic things in our lives. Especially when we are young or when we are successful, we will feel very happy. But things turn different when we become old or ill, or become poor one day. Nowadays, we can see that in the world, the financial crisis first began in the U.S. then it shifted to Europe. So the wealth and power of people who used to be very rich and powerful shrank. Now the financial crisis in Asia is also very severe. I’ve seen a variety of people who used to be very successful and arrogant became low-key in every aspect all of a sudden. Hence, there are many changes in life and impermanence comes very fast.

In fact, just as it is mentioned in Buddhism, everything is impermanent. According to the Diamond Sutra, all compounded phenomena are like a dream, hallucination, bubble, magical illusion, dewdrop, and lightning. That is to say, all things in our life, including our young and beautiful body, the external beautiful flowers, the bright sunshine, and the prosperous political status, are all impermanent and will change at some time. If we know the truth in advance, then once we encounter these changes including the occurrence of birth, sickness, aging and death in life, we won’t feel too pain and can even face difficulties with a normal attitude.


According to the Diamond Sutra, all compounded phenomena are like a dream, hallucination, bubble, magical illusion, dewdrop, and lightning. That is to say, all things in our life, including our young and beautiful body, the external beautiful flowers, the bright sunshine, and the prosperous political status, are all impermanent and will change at some time. If we know the truth in advance, then once we encounter these changes including the occurrence of birth, sickness, aging and death in life, we won’t feel too pain and can even face difficulties with a normal attitude.

The Art of Finding the Beauty of Life

It’s Important to Realize the Nature of the Mind

I wish all of you, no matter which religion you believe in, to listen to the teaching, learn its doctrine and then put it into practice. Practice is quite important. The great master, Jikme Lingpa, once said that to have thousands of disciples is not as important as to have one disciple who realizes the nature of the mind, which matters more than the number of the disciples. Therefore, it’s important to practice and then realize the truth of all things through it.

I heard that there are some Buddhists here today. As for Buddhists, their most common problem is the lack of combining learning with practicing. Some Buddhists don’t like to learn and just practice, which is not so good, and neither is the opposite. The same happens in other religions since every religion has its own practices.

Nowadays, many practices such as the so-called meditation are not necessarily religious practices. Actually, many meditation practices we see today are only used to suppress our afflictions. The authentic practice of realizing the nature of the mind or the practices of transforming the afflictions into spiritual practice or practices of eradicating the afflictions are yet to be known by many people. As it’s not a lecture specific to practices, I will not elaborate on this today.

The Art of Finding the Beauty of Life

Moreover, I want to say that for all of us here today, it’s important to know how to deal with others especially for the young. Many young people think that life is easy, and that for ever after they were born, everything they want would come true and every point they make would be recognized as long as it’s reasonable. However, this is not how the society operates. So we need to get used to and adapt to the real society, and try to practice in the society.

In communication with various people, if the person is a doctor, I would communicate with him from some medical perspectives. If the person is a teacher, then it’s better to communicate with him from aspects of education. If the person is a policeman, then I would find a topic that he is interested in. That’s what we’ve mentioned—teaching in accordance with different faculties, which is beneficial to both families and the society.

As long as the teaching methods are correct, even if they may not be understood by people, they will still be very useful. A couple of years ago, there was a PhD from Harvard University who believed in strict parenting. She used many tough ways to educate her children. She was called as a tiger mother who you may have read about in the newspaper. So her strict way of education was hard for people to accept. For example, if the kids didn’t practice piano well, she wouldn’t let them sleep, use the washroom, drink water or have a rest, which seemed quite harsh. However, the way of her education proved to be successful. Then people in both eastern and western countries wonder why this happens. Now it has become a key topic of education.

Also, there is a quite opposite lady named crazy mom who is completely obedient to her children and even plays with the children crazily. However, her way of education is also very successful. Therefore, though these two ways of education seem totally different, as long as they were used properly, they will be helpful.

That’s why in Tibetan Buddhism, there are wrathful deities who are holding various weapons, as well as peaceful deities who seem to be very kind and merciful. Both of them can lead people to enlightenment—the wrathful ones can tame the mind of the brutal beings while the peaceful ones can tame the mind of the mild beings. For those who don’t understand Buddhism, they may feel scared of the wrathful deities. Actually, sometimes our own mothers may also show angry faces when it’s necessary for educating the children. So, sometimes what happens in the worldly life can help us understand many truths. Hence, as long as it brings meaning and benefits to our life, then no matter how things manifest outside, whether it appears to be peaceful, wrathful or scary, this is also the beauty of life.

The Most Beautiful Thing in Life

Many people here who study arts may care a lot about beauty. Somehow, the external beauty does matter. Today, many people after they come to Italy have been fascinated by the famous Italian brands, like the luxury brand Armani or the famous car brand Ferrari which has been loved by many Chinese, as well as Bvlgari and many other famous brands. Many people now are seeking for these. But for me, these are just external luxuries which are much less important than owning the inner wisdom, the inner charm and beauty. Among these, seeking wisdom and compassion is the best thing that will never be outdated and is meaningful and valuable.

If we understand that all the sufferings and happiness in life is just an unreal game, we can then be released from the samsara, the ocean of sufferings. It’s only at this time that life can be considered as beautiful. Because when we are enlightened, life will only be perfect. In Buddhism, there is a famous motto said by Bodhisattva Maitreya which means that, by knowing that life is like taking a wander in the garden, one will not be bothered by whatever happens in life. I hope all of you can understand this truth and can actually enjoy life and live happily. Thank you.

Question & Answer Session

Different Ways of Buddhist Practice Besides Meditation

Q1: The Mysterious Supernatural Power in Buddhism


I am honored to ask the first question. I come from Milan. And I come specially to meet Khenpo Sodargye. I am a beginner in Buddhism. My first question is, in Buddhism there is the mysterious part such as supernatural power like some people say they’ve opened the divine eye or claim they could see things which other people couldn’t see. This is the mysterious part of Buddhism. There is also another part of Buddhism, which is the teachings taught in the sutras or by our gurus, concerning how to liberate one’s mind. That’s something philosophical. In each case, which one is the real Buddhism? Can these two parts coexist? Should I pray and offer incense to the Buddha or chant mantras so that I can see things and so on? Or should I study Buddhism as a philosophy? If they can coexist, what’s the proportion of each?

Khenpo Sodargye:

Indeed, there are many mysterious concepts including the divine eye and supernatural power. However, these can only be achieved through practice. Regarding the mysterious part and the logic behind, there is a Buddhist text named Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutras. I’m not sure whether you know it or not. In it, there is a chapter about the magic power which specifically talks about the mystery, its logic and practice. Indeed, there are some Buddhists now who obtain transcendental states through practices, while some may not. No matter what, it is real that the transcendental merits mentioned in Buddhism contain both the mysterious and logical aspects.


What are the proportions of these two aspects?

Khenpo Sodargye:

It depends on the situation of different people.


From the authentic teaching of Buddhism, what are the proportions?

Khenpo Sodargye:

If one has obtained real transcendental power, then within every mysterious aspect he attained, there will absolutely be the logic and rationality.


I have another question which I always feel confused about. I’ve always been trying to tell myself the mysterious things are not real and are caused by imaginations. I also want to prove that the mysterious things are deceptive. Maybe this is because of the education we’ve received which categorizes the mystique of Buddhism into superstition. Therefore, from my inner heart, I have some resistance to it. But I myself have many direct and personal experiences which seem to confirm the authenticity of the mystique. Therefore, I feel very confused and don’t know what is right.

Khenpo Sodargye:

Actually, for many religious beliefs, a lot of people want to verify the mysterious parts through some theories and logical analyses. This is quite difficult. So I quoted the words of Einstein yesterday. What did he say? He believed “the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other.” Therefore, it’s not possible to use science to explain all the mysteries of life and religion which can only be realized and experienced at some point through true practices.

Q2: Why Are There Less People Achieving Enlightenment Now?


Hello Khenpo, I arrived in Turin just 5 days ago not knowing before that you’ll come. I got the information by accident and was very happy. So, as you mentioned yesterday, it’s really an unexpected encounter. My question is that modern people, compared to ancient people have easier access to Buddhism, but why in the modern times the proportion of people who attain a certain level of realization are getting smaller and smaller?

Besides, for the young generation or university students, regarding the relationship among practice, life and study, do you have any ideas or suggestions? That’s my question, thank you.

Khenpo Sodargye:

Now, the dharma age of fruition has passed, which was the time when Buddha Shakyamuni was alive and many people can soon attain the fruition of Arhat or Pratyekabuddha. The lasting period of the Dharma can be divided into the dharma age of fruition, the age of the right dharma and the age of semblance dharma and so on. So, it doesn’t mean that people in the past took less time to get realization. Actually nowadays, there are many people who have attained enlightenment either in Tibet, India or many other places.

Regarding your second question, being a university student the key is to comprehend the basic knowledge of Buddhism and master its theories through learning. It’s important to arrange your time properly as at the time of university there are many uncertainties regarding economic and mental status as well as relationship and work, etc. Therefore, it may be difficult for one to study, practice and work at the same time. But if you can arrange and use your time properly I believe it is workable. So, it depends on oneself. You should think: when and how long I want to spend on studying or on practicing or on learning social and job related knowledge? If you work hard enough you’ll be able to manage it well.

Q3: Different Ways of Buddhist Practice Besides Meditation


Hello, I‘m new to Buddhism. I understand that meditation is a practice. Is there something similar in the Western world? I just want to know if there are some other ways of practice as well?

Khenpo Sodargye:

There are many ways of practice similar to meditation. In Tibet, someone would chant one hundred million times the Mani Mantra which will bring about huge merits. This morning we went to a museum in Turin—the Museum of Oriental Art, and in its Himalayan exhibition area, there is a collection of sutra regarding the merits of Mani mantra. For many Tibetan people whose mind cannot be calmed down through meditation, they would choose to chant a lot of mantras. One person could complete chanting the mantras one to three hundred million times. In other cases, people may choose to chant the sutras probably hundreds of pages a day. This is called doing homework in Buddhism which is also a type of practice. Another type of practice different from meditation is to frequently attend volunteer and charity activity. In Mahayana Buddhism, this is also a practice.

Q4: How to Balance Between Working Hard and Letting Go?


You just said that when trying to do something, one should work hard. I’m wondering if trying hard to do things has something to do with the concept of attachment in Buddhism. Often, when you have attachment you will feel suffering. When you insist on doing something there will be pain because things don’t always turn out as you wish. In this situation would you choose to let it go or keep doing it?

Khenpo Sodargye:

Actually we do need wisdom in our lives. Many people compare life to a battlefield because when on the battlefield you would keep fighting if you believed you will win, but if you feel that your life is at high risk you would choose to escape or change to another way of fighting. Similarly, in our lives many things including our careers and families require us to work hard, but during the process, rather than do it blindly, we need to have wisdom—that is to conform to the current living habits while keeping our hearts away from being hurt too much.

Many people today are too indulged in or attached to something, which, eventually causes them to feel very tired and thus lose all their courage. Many young people might have the ambition to try everything to achieve the goal, but they may achieve nothing in the end. That’s why I said you must have wisdom in life. If you use your wisdom properly, then you can take a rest sometimes during the whole process. In Buddhism, there is a shastra called TheWay of the Bodhisattva, which mentions that, during the process of doing something, if you are getting very tired, then you should relax for a while, which is also a part of hard working.


How to balance these two sides?

Khenpo Sodargye:

It needs wisdom and depends on the individual situation. If there’re some specific things for me to deal with I’ll use my wisdom to observe the situation.

Q5: The Eastern Pure Land of Buddha Akshobhya


Hello, Khenpo Rinpoche. I’ve been reading your writings since 2007. Since all my families practice the Pure Land Buddhism, I’ve had the opportunity to watch many of your DVD teaching materials. I wrote two letters to you in 2007 and you replied to both of them which I’ve been keeping in my home. I’m from Shengli Oil Field, Dongying, Shandong, if you remember you’ve been to Shandong or Shengli Oil Field. My question is that, about the blessing of the Medicine Buddha in the eastern pure land, there is very little information. Do you have more information about the eastern and western pure lands? How to balance our practice on the two sides and how to understand more of the eastern pure land? This is my question.

Khenpo Sodargye:

You mean the Eastern Pure Land Abhirati of Buddha Akshobhya, right? In Tibetan Buddhism, there are some descriptions about the Eastern Pure Land, including its external grandeur and solemnity, as well as the Buddha and Bodhisattvas within the land. Why isn’t there so much information on it in many sutras? Because it’s very difficult to be reborn in the Eastern Pure Land, due to its higher prerequisite. Comparatively, it’s easier to take rebirth in the Western Pure Land. Therefore, considering the qualities of living beings in this Saha World, to be reborn in the Eastern Pure Land may be a little difficult. That’s why in many sutras there are more descriptions of the Western Pure Land and the ways of taking rebirth there. You can find the related information in some of the Tibetan sutras.


How to Continue with the Things I Don't Like but Have to Do?

Q6: The Internal and External Suffering


Hello, Khenpo Sodargye, I have one question. In our lives, there are two kinds of sufferings: the internal one and external one. But I don’t quite understand what are internal and external suffering respectively, as well as how to transfer these sufferings into practices. That is, when we face obstacles in lives, if we don’t have sufficient spiritual realization, how can we solve these without worrying our parents and bothering our friends who may not understand us very well?

Khenpo Sodargye:

The internal and external suffering seem to be a new way of saying this which I am not very sure about. However, the so called internal suffering is possibly the pain within the mind, and the external suffering may include the pain in our bodies and lives. For example, the material shortage and sufferings in work can be called external suffering. As for the internal suffering, sometimes even if we have a good work environment and salaries, some may still suffer a lot in the mind, including from psychological syndromes, depression and so on.

Actually, all of these sufferings, especially the internal pain, can be eliminated through Buddhist ways like praying and the power of blessings. Also, doing meditation and learning the theoretical knowledge of Buddhism including the knowledge of emptiness, impermanence and so on can easily solve both internal and external pains. I feel that many people here today including both the young and the middle-aged do have a thirst for knowledge. Especially in countries like in Europe,  you have very good learning conditions and methods, and have less pressures than do cities in other countries such as Hong Kong and Shanghai. I noticed that people in Turin walk slower than people in mainland China, which may suggest that you have more time to study.

Q7: The Cause of The Buddhahood Is the Great Compassion


Hello Khenpo, you’ve mentioned before that theCommentary on Valid Cognitionsays, “The cause of the Buddhahood is the great compassion.” Then how can we develop or cultivate the real Bodhicitta?

Khenpo Sodargye:

It is amazing that you know this teaching which is very important in theCommentary on Valid Cognition. The reason why Shakyamuni Buddha is the one who obtains valid cognition is that he has perfect great compassion. So, this teaching you mentioned is very important. The Buddha is different from other religions’ followers because his compassion has reached a peak, and that’s why he is called omniscience, meaning that his compassion and wisdom are at the peak. Therefore, if we study the Commentary on Valid Cognitionsystematically, we’ll know that this teaching can be extended to the whole story of Shakyamuni Buddha and his experiences in causal grounds.


I meant to ask how to develop real compassion? How should we achieve that?

Khenpo Sodargye:

It requires long time studying, reflecting and practicing.

Q8: How to Make a Materialist Believe in Reincarnation?


Hello, Rinpoche. My father is a materialist and an intellectual. Because of his life experience and education, even though he is very old now he still worries a lot about the worldly affairs and has been busy with these things. So how can I make him believe in the existence of reincarnation and karmic law and learn Buddhism?

Khenpo Sodargye:

It’s difficult for a materialist to believe in karma. For a young person, you can tell him the theory or some facts. However, when a person reaches a certain age his mindset is mature and fixed. It’s challenging to change his thoughts in the latter part of his life. Actually, our values or mindsets are correlated with the education we received in the childhood. If you are born in a family or society which totally doesn’t believe in karma, it would be very difficult to change all of a sudden. The question he just asked is very representative. Sometimes we don’t have any reason to reject the mysteries in Buddhism, such as samsara and karma, but it’s difficult to truly believe in it as the education we received since childhood hardly touched on it, and even when it was mentioned the view was often negative. Therefore, it’s hard for people to accept the concept. While in Tibet, people grow up in the environment where the belief is widely accepted—virtue is always rewarded and evil is punished, so it’s much easier for us to believe in Buddhism.

I find that since Italy encompasses the Vatican, many people here have deep-rooted beliefs since childhood. We asked many people recently about having faith, and their answers were different from other people in materialistic countries, since they all feel it’s normal to have religious beliefs. As a result, each person has a different situation. Of course you can try, which is also important, but if it doesn’t work out, then it’s better to recite Buddha’s names in his ear. In this way, the seeds of virtues can be sowed in him and merits can be accumulated.


I’m wondering if I can practice visualization for my father to relieve his negative karma?

Khenpo Sodargue:

You can also chant mantras or sutras for him such as the mantra of Vajrasattva and then dedicate the merits to him.

Q9: Giving Alms & Learning of Vajrayana


Hello Khenpo, I have two questions. The first question is how to understand offering which is to give alms on the road? What states of mind should we have? When we meet beggars what states of mind should we possess to deal with the situation? Secondly, Vajrayana is said to be the best approach in Buddhism which is taught by the Buddha after teaching the 84,000 approaches. Both Master Tsongkhapa and Guru Padmasambhava achieved enlightenment through Vajrayana. For us university students we also hope to achieve enlightenment but the problem is, we are just laymen who stand outside the door of Buddhism. How can we learn the key Buddhist theories and where should we start?

Khenpo Sodargye:

Okay. Firstly, about the offering, it is an activity which we always have the opportunity to do in our lives since we may meet beggars on the street or see some poor people. The highest standard of offering requires one to abide in the emptiness of subject, object and the alms, yet it’s very difficult to realize now, so it’s not our emphasis.

Offering can be divided into the offering of goods, of the Dharma, and of fearlessness. Among which, two types of offerings are achievable. One is the offering of the Dharma which means telling the truth you already understand to people around us who may not know about it. But firstly you need to learn more then can you help other people through the knowledge you’ve learnt. This will bring you numerous merits. This is the offering of the Dharma or can be called missionizing in a modern way of saying.

The second is the offering of goods. No matter how, the beggars are very poor. I find that every country has beggars. So, even giving out one or two pennies without humiliating them, is called the offering of goods, which is also very significant. As for the higher standard of offering—the offering of one’s own body is prohibited for ordinary people.

Regarding the second question, about the Sutrayana and Vajrayana, there are many deep theories in Vajrayana. Personally, I’ve received the education of both Sutrayana and Vajrayana for more than 30 years and have been giving teachings to people for many years. The more I’ve learnt and taught, the more I feel convinced that Vajrayana is not a legend or lie but rather what will bring me benefit when practicing it. Not only teachings of facing the problems in our lives will we find in it, but also teachings about the afterlives and realizing the nature of mind which are very important.

However, building a good foundation is very needed for entering Vajrayana. You can start by studying the fundamental teaching—the Words of My Perfect Teacher. After that, continue to study Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind. If you can learn step by step like this, it is very meaningful. Sometimes I feel there are so many texts in the world however, two or three books in Vajrayana are enough to solve the questions for this and next lives.

Q10: How to Continue with the Things I Don’t Like but Have to Do?


Hello Khenpo, I have one question about how to continue to do something I don’t like but have to do?

Khenpo Sodargye:

Just go ahead with your eyes closed. However, we have to encounter many different circumstances in our lives. Sometimes you have to do something even if you don’t want to. Sometimes those you don’t want to see would often appear in front of you. Sometimes you don’t want to say the words but have to. Sometimes you have to eat the food that you don’t want to eat. Sometimes you don’t want to encounter something but you always face it. This is called the suffering of associating with the unbeloved, the phenomenon that things you don’t want often come in front of you. So if you can’t change anything it’s better to face it with a positive attitude. At a certain time, you might get used to it or even enjoy it and finally would achieve success.