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Philosophical Sayings about Worldly Matters

H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu’s Selected Philosophical Sayings About Worldly Matters


A person is established in character only when he truly knows himself. Why? It is difficult for a person to be aware of his own flaws, just as he cannot see his own back, though it is in plain sight of other people. It is quite natural for a person to hide his own flaws, but overdoing it will alienate the person from those around him. When the person realizes this and feels ashamed, he turns to seek knowledge and adhere to moral integrity so as to establish his own character and win the respect and support of other people.

Brief Commentary

One must know oneself before one can truly be a human being. What is the rationale behind this? Why must we know ourselves before we can truly call ourselves a human being? Although we all consider ourselves as human beings right now, the conduct of many of us is worse than that of animals. The essential character of some people cannot even be called the essential character of a true human being, because a lot of us fail to understand ourselves. Only by understanding ourselves can we truly be a human being. We generally cannot see our own mistakes. Even if we see our own shortcomings, we forgive them. It is difficult to understand ourselves because we all hold our own individual internal principles and stubbornness. It is just like the fact that we cannot see our own backside. No matter how hard we try, we cannot lean our head back far enough to see our backside, but others can see it very easily and clearly. It is the same with our mistakes and shortcomings. We cannot see them, but outsiders can see them from every angle without us knowing it. So to make others like us, we have to hide our mistakes and conceal our flaws. It is human nature. Some people try too hard to hide their mistakes or flaws. Their strenuous and fierce efforts are excessive. In the long run, no one wants to be with them or work with them. People feel they are too selfish, too negative. If we can acknowledge our inadequacies, understand our mistakes and shortcomings, and try to acquire knowledge with a humble mind, then our ways will naturally comport with ethical standards. You can then become a true human being. When people witness your behavior and state of mind, they will naturally respect you and help you willingly. Therefore, by knowing yourself, you will be able to successfully develop yourself. By successfully developing yourself, you will then receive respect and support, and everything in the world will then be complete.


In a dispute about right and wrong, there is nothing worse than to stick to one’s position and continue arguing, thus compounding one’s wrong and finally getting into trouble. For this reason, one should not let oneself be overwhelmed by disputes.


Love and hate arise from a combination of causes. People cannot love a thing without seeing it, hearing about it or remembering it. Without one of the these experiences, there will be no feeling, whether love or hate.


It is exceedingly foolish for a person to claim that he possesses the ability to meet all social needs. Viewed against the background of the infinity of such needs, the ability of an individual is as insignificant as a speck of dust. Even in the one area of activity in which he claims superiority, the ability of an individual pales because there are always many others who can do better.


How much one learns from his teacher depends a great deal on the guidance his teacher provides him. A good teacher, therefore, should be a role model for his students in moral integrity as well as scholarship, and his students should strive to reach high levels through accumulating knowledge and attaining moral integrity. In this manner learning is a part of the way to human perfection.


The construction of a tall building begins with the laying of groundwork from which it goes up floor by floor. Structures resting on nothing are seen only in a mirage. Building up a career is like putting up a building: what is needed are firm steps taken one after another toward the goal and executed with the support of true knowledge gained from experience. These steps, aided by a defiance of obstacles, will eventually lead one to success.


One in good fortune should remember the days in woe. A good soldier knows that battle victories are just as common as defeats. It is too late to remember one’s umbrella when he is caught in a downpour without it.


Profound wisdom and ability are the inner qualities of a person who possesses them. A person lacking in these qualities but trying to impress people that he is in possession of them is not to be taken seriously. Bamboo with its hollow interior can never support a building.


When one is held up by obstacles on his way to a rendezvous, he should back down so that he may reach his destination sooner. It is like driving a car in reverse gear; one does that because he will be able to drive forward faster later on.


The one who is only good at reciting other’s works is ignorant. The value in such works lies in their application to reality. A brilliant university graduate, or a master of the Four Books and Five Scriptures, without knowing how to put what he has learned into practice, can hardly fend for himself and offers no benefit to society. Only when the masterpieces are in put into use can they be powerful in terms of social advancement. It is only then that knowledge is transformed into a material force.


Undue haste causes delay, and procrastination causes loss. With this point of view, one shall choose the Middle Way as a principle. When a violin is tuned too low, its strings produce disharmony, but when it’s tuned too high, the strings are likely to snap.


What standards does one go by in choosing a person for a particular undertaking? It is both weaknesses and strengths that make a person what he is; these qualities are inseparable. Don’t dismiss a candidate just because of his weaknesses, or you will end up with no candidates at all. The wise thing to do is to give him a chance to make the best of his strengths.


Deliberation is needed before one makes a move, but no conclusion is to be drawn from deliberation alone. It has to be tested in action. Suggested moves are not to be adopted in haste, nor are they to be rejected out of hand; they are not to be dismissed even when tests have proved them worthless, for in this case an inquiry into their legitimacy has to be made. When a rainbow is blocked from view by clouds, it does not mean that there is no rainbow out there.


A person not appreciative of the good life he is living is one who has forgotten his past miseries. A person in good health is not aware of its blessings until he loses it.


A wise person knows that negative experiences in life are just as useful as positive ones. That is why he remembers both of them. Negative experiences are taken as warnings against erring and positive ones as means to increase the well-being of others. Such is the attitude of a wise person toward life experiences.


When a person says that he never errs, he is whitewashing his error and thus erring.


What makes the sun the greatest thing man has ever known? It is admired for providing light and warmth for all the beings under it. A truly great person is one who is willing to sacrifice his own benefit for the well-being of others.


There is nothing more foolish than for one to believe that all one sees is reason and the universe is created from it. Whenever one measures everything from one’s own standards, that person is demonstrating ignorance.


Anger over other people’s faults is a demon. It torments the person possessed by it while leaving the wrongdoers alone.


The respect a person enjoys comes from his devotion to the well-being of other people. A swimming pool is admired in summer because it provides relief from the heat.


A city does not need all the food a province produces, but that much food is far from enough to feed the whole country; it needs all the food the country can produce. The strength of an individual is nothing compared with collective strength.


What to do to beat your equal in battle? Attack him where he is most vulnerable with concentrated force and victory will be yours. A piece of wood with a sharp end can break another piece of wood that is just as hard as the wood you use to attack.

(Read Many More in the Treasure Book)



Today you, who are a rinpoche, respectfully requested a discourse on the dharma relating to the question “What is cultivation?” This is a very fundamental lesson; indeed, the first lesson. Nonetheless, this is an important matter that many cultivators, including those who have practiced cultivation over many years, do not understand and are confused about. It is difficult to incarnate as a human being. It is even more difficult to incarnate as a human being with the opportunity to encounter the true Buddha-dharma. Thus, today I will enlighten everyone on dharma relating to the question “What is cultivation?” (Read the Full Discourse)


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