In the summer of 1900 the Tibetan mystic Terton Sogyal began to reveal a cycle of teachings and meditation practices that had been hidden more than a thousand years earlier by the extraordinary master Padmasambhava. At the heart of his revelation is a remarkable instruction on transforming faults in the system of interdependence that governs all our lives. I was amazed when I first read its opening lines:

The root of all faults, all failings, is nothing other than ignorance. This ignorance is like mistaking a heap of stones on the horizon for a human figure; it has no basis whatsoever, which means that even the source of these faults and failings does not exist.
Our problems, in other words, all come from nothing; they are all based on a misunderstanding that does not even exist. The more I think about what Padmasambhava said, the more I realize how true it is. With all our ideas, with all our misunderstandings, how often do we ever grasp more than a partial and distorted version of how things really are? Our whole vision of reality in fact amounts to a fabrication, an exaggeration, a fantastic edifice of delusion. Once we miss understanding, we create something based on that mission of the point, which cannot but be a lie and an illusion. And in turn we swallow the lie and fall for the illusion and take it to be true, like the fool who spends his life chasing after the fabled crock of gold that is buried at the end of the rainbow.
How tragic this all is! For misunderstanding brings with it endless complications: hope and fear, despair and even suicide. We make ourselves suffer, and we create problems for ourselves that are absolutely unnecessary. It's that simple-all we have to do is realize it. And when you do eventually see the truth of just how unnecessary it is, your heart wants to burst with compassion for anyone who is suffering in this way. And yet at the same time you begin to appreciate the absurdity of it all-it's as ridiculous, the Tibetan saying goes, as trying to fix a string onto an egg. Why on earth do we go through all this-for nothing? It's so difficult for us to see the truth for what it really is because the whole thing is so personalized-we fail to see any other perspective, or notice how much our mind exaggerates. This is one of the symptoms of samsara, the uncontrolled cycle of life and death that we subscribe to. If we only examine them, all these appearances, all these perceptions of ours we take to be so real, are revealed to be completely nonexistent. We only need a glimpse of the innermost nature of the mind to see this fake reality for what it is, a way of sabotaging and undermining our true nature, and to see that all our hopes and expectations and fears are the agents of samsara, employed to drain and weaken us.
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Friends and students of mine often tell me how they are plagued by some repetitive pattern: their partners keep leaving them; or there is always a problem at work; or again and again they fall out with people. If that keeps happening to you, maybe you need to look at the reason why. But don't make a big deal out of it, or succumb to the mistake we often make of dwelling on our habitual patterns. By thinking, "I'm always doing this . repeating the same old pattern . This is what I'm like . That's just the kind of person I'm always going to be . I'm doomed .," all we are doing is empowering and steadily giving a false reality to that which we want to be free from. We will never be able to change if we endlessly play the same old scratched record. Instead, just ask a simple, "Why?"

Whatever the reason may be, and it could turn out to be something unexpectedly simple, you need to identify it, and then you can do something about it. If you continue to feed your problem there is no limit to how inflated it can become, and the whole issue will turn into a fog of complication. You will then be left at the mercy of the only explanations you can still catch sight of, theories of all kinds about who's to blame: your childhood, your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, Buddha, Jesus or God. It's too complicated by far. So don't keep looking for patterns and tormenting yourself with what's wrong with you: that could be just another pattern. And whatever you do, don't identify yourself with your pain, your suffering and sore spots; otherwise you'll never be free of them. Don't identify with the mistakes you have made, or let yourself believe that simply because you went wrong, you are fundamentally bad or that's all that you are or could ever be. Much more important is to strengthen the good aspects of yourself, to realize and remember what happens in those wonderful moments when you are confident in your nature, when you feel so good that it's almost as if there is no ego, as if all sense of "self" had completely dissolved, revealing the real you, and there is only compassion, generosity and fearlessness.

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In our hear of hearts we all want to make progress, to change, to become enlightened. But we don't need to wait for the perfect situation, for everything to be right, before we can let go and change. We can begin right now. Let's face it. we have no choice but to change-and that lack of choice is a blessing in disguise, for it hands us continuously the opportunity to blossom, to be free of our "selves" and so to become truly ourselves.

Sometimes, though, we can feel so frustrated at how struck and resigned we are, and how resistant to change, that we want to alter absolutely everything about ourselves, even our whole appearance. Don't judge yourself or be too ambitious, and don't try to change everything all at once; instead, be sure to change something fundamental. Change has to grow on you; then it's much more stable. Sudden change is like a promise you cannot keep. Keep working slowly and trust that it will work out, because what we discover so often in life is this: when you really let go, whatever you are asking for happens; and when you try for too much, it does not. But letting go does not mean giving up; they are two quite different things. Never give up. But by all means do let go.

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