The Three Turnings of the Wheel of the Dharma

In this teaching, taken from a talk given in Tarragona, Spain, Sogyal Rinpoche briefly explains the three major teachings given by the Buddha and how they correspond to the three different vehicles of Buddhism.

First the Buddha taught that the root cause of all our suffering is grasping, particularly at a false view of self, and that through meditation and analysis this can be overcome.

Next he taught the wisdom of the realisation of our ultimate nature—realising that not only the self but even phenomena are empty of inherent existence—as well as the importance of training the mind in compassion. Finally the Buddha taught who we really are. He showed that our true nature is buddha.

What Is Enlightenment?

In the modern world Buddhism can sometimes be presented as a way to deal with the concerns of this life only, and enlightenment often gets overlooked. Some people feel that enlightenment is no longer popular among Western people who have so much to do. The demands on our attention and our time seem endless, and we want a practical way to be free from all the complexity and suffering of our lives.

But there is nothing more practical than enlightenment. Whatever happiness we seek in this world is only temporary, and despite our best efforts we are always thrown back into suffering. But if we really want to completely uproot the causes of suffering – ignorance, negative emotions and negative action – and to achieve lasting happiness free from suffering, then enlightenment is the way.


Regardless of who we are, the main purpose of our life, you could call it the heart of being human, is to be happy. All of us share the same wish and the same right to seek happiness and to avoid suffering. If we look closely we can see that there are two kinds of happiness: one is based more on material comforts and pleasures and the other is founded on a deeper mental contentment. The first kind can be very expensive and is often unsatisfying, while the second costs nothing at all and is deeply satisfying.

The great saints of the past used to say: it is the foolish that go looking for happiness outside of themselves; the wise and learned know that all happiness and the causes of happiness are present within us, in our own mind and heart.

If you have this deeper, inner peace and contentment, then even when you go through suffering, your mind can still be happy. Even when difficulties arise you’ll be able to turn them to your advantage. So, for your own inner peace and stability, taking care of your mind and heart is crucial. Once your own mind is more at peace, then both inner and outer harmony will automatically follow.

The Essence of the Buddha’s Teaching

The teachings of the Buddha are vast, numbering well over 100 volumes, yet at the same time, they can all be essentialized in a very profound way. When Buddha himself was asked to summarize his teachings he said: 

'Commit not a single unwholesome action,
Cultivate a wealth of virtue,
To tame this mind of ours,
This is the teaching of the Buddha.'

First, try as much as possible to abandon all the unwholesome, negative and harmful actions, which are the cause of suffering for yourself and others. Second, adopt the positive, beneficial and wholesome actions that are the cause of happiness, again for both you and others. Finally, and most important of all, work to transform your mind—the root of all happiness and suffering—and understand it’s true nature. This is whole point of the teachings and our entire existence.