by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

If we cannot remain present during sleep, if we lose ourselves every night, what chance do we have to be aware when death comes? If we enter our dreams and interact with the mind’s images as if they are real, we should not expect to be free in the state after death.

Look to your experience in dreams to know how you will fare in death. Look to your experience of sleep ti discover whether or not you are truly awake.

. . .

In Tibet, new leather skins are put in the sun and rubbed with butter to make them softer. The practitioner is like the new skin, tough and hard with narrow views and conceptual rigidity. The teaching (dharma) is like the butter, rubbed in through practice. The sun is like direct experience; when both are applied the practitioner becomes soft and pliable.

But butter is also stored in leather bags. When butter is left in a bag for some years, the leather of the bag becomes hard as wood and no amount of new butter can soften it. Someone who spends many years studying the teachings, intellectualizing a great deal with little experience of practice, is like that hardened leather.

The teachings can soften the hard skin of ignorance and conditioning, but when they are stored in the intellect and not rubbed into the practitioner with practice and warmed with direct exprience, that person may become rigid and hard in his intellectual understanding.

We must be careful not to store up the teachings as only conceptual understanding lest that conceptual understanding becomes a block to wisdom. The teachings are not ideas to be collected, but a path to be followed.