In Tibetan, the Sanskrit word dharma is translated as chö. That means “change or correction.” In other words, we are changing or correcting our negative addictions into a positive way of functioning. That is true chö. Say you get angry all the time. You try to change that negative addiction into being compassionate and patient. Or, at least you don’t allow that anger to build up by adding more irritation, nervousness, obsession, and jealousy. Anything will pop up to make your anger stronger. That’s because we are addicted to it. Sometimes it’s a little difficult, but it is not impossible.
So, when you’re looking into karma, and you see your responsibility, you try to change or correct the anger. Even if you can’t change the anger into compassion, try to develop compassion or even love, in addition to the anger. To a certain extent, even ordinary attachment, if used wisely, can reduce anger. In other words, try to have your mind not be totally influenced by anger. Then try to switch it around to compassion. That is beginning of really working with the dharma. I am giving you anger as the example, but it is the same thing with jealousy, attachment, or hatred.
The true spiritual practice the Buddha talked about begins here. We might have obtained Vajrayana initiations; we might have done a retreat or all kinds of things, but if that doesn’t affect [our negative emotions], we are still not true dharma practitioners. You may have been meditating for fifteen, twenty, or thirty years, but still you are not truly a dharma practitioner. If you say that to people, they get upset. They will think, “What have I been doing for thirty years?” But the reality is that dharma practice really begins here. It is the beginning of helping ourselves, watching ourselves.
On our level, we can’t talk about the magical-mystical practices. We are not capable of handling them. That’s why for us, the best, top-level practice of dharma truly is this. The best transformation is transforming negativity. On our level, that is the best way of helping ourselves. Then, when you can help yourself, you can begin to help others. How to help yourself with the Buddha dharma is nothing more than this—nothing more and nothing less. If you listen to scholars, they can tell you all kinds of things. That is a different story. But the true way to help yourself is this.
That is why I often joke and say that if you sit too long, thinking nothing, it is just lizard meditation. You could chant OM MANI PADME HUM twenty-four hours a day. Some people do that. particularly in old Tibet, people used to carry their malas around and say the words. But if you’re not thinking, if you’re not watching yourself, if you’re not correcting your own negative emotions, then you are not seriously dealing with the dharma. We may burn a million joss sticks, but true spiritual practice begins here. We may do the whole Ganden Lha Gyema, including the six preliminaries and mantras and Migtsema, and we may do guru yoga, meditate on the appreciation of life, and think about death and impermanence, but true dharma really begins here. This is the beginning of helping ourselves: seeing our own faults and correcting them and being responsible.
~ Gelek Rimpoche, Foundation Of All Perfections, 2013, p. 77