People often talk about spirituality and
materialism, but what do these terms really mean? You'llfind that, as individuals,
each of us has a different view.
Some think they're opposites, two irreconcilable extremes. Others think you can't lead a spirituallife while living in a materialistic society, that to do so you have to abandon all enjoyment of material things. Then there are those who think spiritual seekers are rejects from society who couldn't succeed in the material world. Yet others think, "I'm a rationalist, I don't believe anything," considering religious people blindly ignorant believers.
Some people, especially those brought up in materialistic societies, become attracted to Buddhism or some other religion the moment they hear about it. Without understanding or even checking that it suits their mind, they immediately grasp at that religion as "fantastic!" This is very dangerous and not at all a spiritual attitude.
Religion is not just some dry intellectual idea but rather your basic philosophy of life: you hear a teaching that makes sense to you, find through experience that it relates positively with your psychological makeup, get a real taste of it through practice, and adopt it as your spiritual path. That's the right way to enter the spiritual path.
If, for example, after you encounter Buddhism for the first time you think it contains wonderful ideas and immediately try to make radical changes to your life, you won't make any progress at all. You have to implement it step by step. To actualize Dharma you have to look at your basic situation, what you are now, and try to change gradually, checking as you go.
So, why do we all have different views of what spirituality and materialism are? Because we have all had different experiences and therefore think differently.
To follow the spiritual path you do not have to abandon material things, nor does leading a materialistic life mean that you can't engage in spiritual practice. In fact, even if you are totally materialistic, if you check deep within your psyche, you will find that there is already a part of your mind that is flowing in a spiritual direction. It may not be intellectualized, it may not be your conscious philosophy, you may even declare, "I am not a believer," but in the depths of your consciousness there is a spiritual stream of energy constantly in motion.
From the point of view of religious tolerance, the world today is a much better place than it was even less than one hundred years ago. People held extreme views; the religious were afraid of the nonreligious and vice-versa; everybody felt very insecure. This was all based on misconceptions and is mainly in the past, but some people may still think that way. Certainly, as I've been saying, many people feel that spiritual and material lifestyles are completely incompatible. It's not true.
Therefore, take the middle way as much as you can; avoid extremes. If you spiritual practice and the demands of your everyday life are not in harmony, it means there's something wrong with the way you are practicing. Your practice should satisfy your dissatisfied mind while providing solutions to the problems of everyday life. If it doesn't, check carefully to see what you really understand about your religious practice.
Everything Lord Buddha taught was for us to penetrate to the essence of our being in order to realize the nature of the human mind. But he never said we had to believe what he said just because he'd said it. He encouraged us to understand the meaning of what he said. Without such comprehension, your entire spiritual trip is a fantasy, a dream, a hallucination: one skeptical question from a doubter and your whole spiritual life collapses like a house of cards.
Therefore, put it all together. Enjoy your material life as much as you can, but at the same time, understand the nature of both whatever it is that you're enjoying and the mind enjoying it, and how the two relate. If you understand all this at a deep level, that is religion. If all your narrow mind sees is what is external and you never know what's happening in your own mind, that's a materialistic view. It's not the fault of the materials, but that of your view.
You can't dedicate your life to just one object: "This flower is so beautiful it makes my life worthwhile. If this flower dies, I won't be able to live." That is stupid, isn't it? I mean, the flower is just an example; we do this with other people and all sorts of other things, but such is the extreme view of the materialistic mind. A more realistic approach would be, "Yes, the flower is beautiful, but it won't last; alive today, dead tomorrow. But my satisfaction does not depend on that flower and I wasn't born human just to enjoy flowers."
Whatever you understand by religion, or Buddhism, or even simple philosophical ideas, should be integrated with the basics of your life. Then you can experiment: does satisfaction come from your own mind or not? That is enough. You don't need to make extreme changes to your life to learn that dissatisfaction is created by your own mind. You don't need to suddenly sever your connection with the world. You can lead a normal life while observing the nature of the dissatisfied mind. This approach is both realistic and practical, and guaranteed to give you an answer.
Otherwise, you accept some extreme idea, intellectually try to give something else up, and all it does is agitate your life. For the human body to exist you have to eat; you can't become an extreme ascetic overnight. Be realistic; it is unnecessary to make radical changes. Change on the inside; change the way you see things, instead of hallucinating.
We also have to accept the fact that everything is constantly changing. Many of us have fixed ideas about the way things should be and suffer when they don't turn out like that. Lord Buddha's psychology teaches us to free ourselves from that kind of grasping -- not in an emotional, rejecting way but rather by taking the middle way, between the two extremes. If you put your mind wisely into this balanced space, you will find there happiness and joy.
introductory talk on : Working with Karma
Lecture given at Bodhi Path Buddhist Center, Washington D.C. in 2002
We begin every teaching with prayers to the Refuge, to the Bodhisattva commitment, and to the Guru-masters.
Refuge in Tibetan means protection, in the Buddhist context, it means to be protected by all the completely enlightened beings who are the Buddhas. We are also protected by the truth of the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddhas. In addition, we follow the Sangha who act as our guides on the Path of Dharma. These are beings who have already achieved a certain level of enlightened wisdom through their own Dharma practice. They are therefore qualified guides for us. We seek to be connected to these three aspects of Refuge to avert our deviating into the wrong direction. We wish to stay on the right path.
The second prayer reflects the importance to develop the Bodhicitta attitude. When we go to receive the Dharma, or when we practise the Dharma, we are not doing it to solely benefit ourselves. It is natural that we initially seek out the Dharma for our own sake. But we must at the same time, start to learn to be concerned for other beings as well. We learn to adopt an attitude, or an aspiration that we may become useful to others. We try to share always with others whatever knowledge we may acquire. This open, and genuine altruistic care and concern for others is Bodhicitta.
When we pray to the Guru as in Guru Yoga, we seek to receive the essence of the knowledge and capacity of our Buddha nature mind. This is accomplished through our connection to the qualities of the Guru which will lead us to realize the essential meaning of the Dharma thereby we become liberated from our suffering and our illusions. This is just what the Buddha had taught us, to begin to step away from samsara and towards nirvana through a process of our own awakening to the truth.
As we say the prayers, we try to keep our understanding in mind concerning Refuge, Bodhicitta, and our connection to the realized masters.
The term, Buddha, in Tibetan, means someone who is totally enlightened, San Gye. He is someone whose knowledge is complete, or all knowing. In Indian, the term is Bhagavan. A little more than 2500 years ago, the Buddha explained that all beings could improve their conditions by connecting to the truth. We should first try to understand and then to act according to the truth. This will inevitably bring about better and beneficial results for oneself as well as for others.
The Buddha explained that each and every being has an innate and basic potential. This potential is wisdom, and it can be developed. Just as he himself developed his wisdom and reached enlightenment, similarly, we can also achieve this same result. The Buddha then taught extensively and exclusively to reach this one goal. He explained in great details the obstacles preventing us from developing our inner potential. He elucidated the methods, the practices as remedies to help us overcome our obstacles. He taught the path of meditation as the means to develop our innate wisdom.
The Buddha's teachings are very vast and profound. The translations in Tibetan alone total 103 volumes. These are massive volumes of the Buddha's original teachings. Then there are the numerous commentaries and explanations given by the Buddha's disciples, great Indian scholars, and panditas that serve to further clarify and to make more precise the very profound meanings of the teachings. These make up additional volumes numbering almost 200. Add to these the numerous Tibetan commentaries that have been passed down through the generations to the present day, the existing volumes of Buddhist teachings have reached well into the thousands! Numerous commentaries given by the different scholars and yogis accompany every original teaching. This is important so as to present a complete view which would otherwise be difficult for one person alone to give. Of course, the commentators from the past were themselves high-realized masters. Through rigorous debates among themselves, they were able to make the explanations ever clearer and more precise for the followers at large. Each generation of realized masters contributes towards improving the explanations. This work continues today. The result is anyone who takes the time to look for an explanation to a subject will no doubt find a very clearly presented one.
Despite the vast volumes of teachings that are available to us, I feel that the Dharma can be followed in a very simple way without studying all of them. In our centers in France, we try to follow in a very simple way. People do not have so much time to study and learn. From the very large commentaries, the realized masters have neatly extracted the precise meanings and incorporated them into what we'd call, essential practices. These are then introduced to the people so they could easily follow the Dharma. If you can understand and can get the basic meanings, then everything becomes very simple for you. There may be intellectuals, or practitioners, or scholars who wish to study and to do research in the Dharma. They can study the detailed proofs of the different theories which can be very complicated. They can rely on the extensive volumes of explanations which are there to validate and to clarify them.
what is karma?
Karma can be translated from the Sanskrit or Tibetan term as cause and effect, or action and result. Very simply, the Buddha explained that we are human beings and as such, we have to go through birth, aging, and then death. Some of us think that death marks the end of living. Others among us believe that there is continuity after death. Some people think in terms of existence versus non-existence. The Buddha's answer is that we are here now as human beings but when we die, our mind continues.
There is a term, reincarnation, which is a Christian term. The Christian explanation is somewhat different than the Buddhist's concept. I discovered this during an inter-faith dialogue with a Catholic priest. By karma in the Buddhist context, we are simply saying that since we exist, then at the end of life, we have to go somewhere. This is all we mean by reincarnation. It is easier to understand if you do not have a preconceived notion of reincarnation which might confuse you. The Buddha told us that it is the mind that reincarnates.
Each human being has a mind. Each human being has a body. Each human being has a name. The mind identifies with the body with a name and thinks that there is a self, "I am so and so." The Dharma explains that it is due to our habitual tendencies that we feel that there is a "self". Some realized lamas have described the mind as being like energy, like air, without any form whatsoever. There are many terms used to label it, such as soul, thoughts, or consciousness. These terms can be confusing. For simplicity's sake, I always refer to it as the mind.
When one dies, the mind does not stay with the body. The mind actually separates from the physical form. Reincarnation in the Buddhist context means that my mind continues while my body changes into another form. My mind continues into another form of being. The Buddha explained that there are six "form" realms of beings as well as some formless states of beings. The basic point is that the mind can take on any form or any state of being. Which form you end up with depends on your own knowledge and ability which is your karma. Your reincarnation is directly based on your karma. If I go into the city, I will choose according to what I feel like. For example, I can choose to go to a park, or to a restaurant, to a shop, etc. How I choose will depend on my own inclinations and feelings. Our rebirth after the present life is similarly based on our inner conditions. Since our inner conditions are based on our karma the Buddha said that our own basic individual karma would "choose" or "influence", or "determine" the form of rebirth. With the passing of one life form, the mind without a body is like air, transparent. The mind can feel without an "I" and it can perceive any condition, or any form of life. Having taken rebirth, we will again go through the life cycle creating more karma until its end marked by death. This is a fundamental truth that the Buddha discovered, and he called this endless cycle of rebirths samsara. The crux of his teachings is that if we live in tuned to only how we feel, or we simply follow whatever and wherever we are connected, then we will always act akin to the same influences and conditions which bind us. We will never get free. We will inevitably continue to accumulate causes of like karma, and experience like results.
To think more carefully in order to change
It might therefore be worthwhile for
each of us to take a step back and try to listen and introspect more carefully.
The Dharma tells us that karma is ever present and samsara is continuing. Everything
is nice, yet everything is also difficult, so we have to think more carefully.
The Buddha taught us many different paths and results but they all lead to the
final destination called beyond samsara. In ancient times, they coined the term,
nirvana, to signify this liberation when our consciousness becomes totally clear.
I am not saying that we are in complete darkness right now. We are who we are
right now. This is fine. We can of course continue to follow what we have been
doing so far with all our ups and our downs. But we can do better. There is a
Try not to follow the ignorance
The Buddha introduced
us to the basic state of ignorance, or marigpa, in Tibetan. He explained that
we are always in marigpa, which means we are not seeing properly. Ignorance, or
marigpa, does not mean stupid. It means that while you may be clever, and you
have wisdom, nevertheless you don't see your wisdom. Not seeing clearly, you could
therefore act wrongly. Everything is linked or interdependent. This is how karma
works. If you act positively, the result will be good. If you do wrong, the results
will not be good. Your positive actions can create benefit for others, and vice
versa, your negative actions will hurt others and you, too.
The teachings tell us not to follow the ignorance. The question is how to clear oneself of this fundamental ignorance. The answer is meditation. After the Buddha was enlightened, he gave teachings to his followers on a personal level. Many people went to him for help and for guidance. The Buddha gave them teachings fitting their individual propensities and personal capacities. First, he emphasized teachings that are aimed to help the person. These are generally referred to as the Hinayana teachings. The Buddha himself did not make any kind of categorizing such as Hinayana versus Mahayana. Some Buddhist followers arbitrarily created these terms in later generations since the Buddha passed away. Second, the Buddha taught how not to be caught up in self-centeredness but to always think for others' benefit as well. These teachings are more commonly referred to as the Mahayana. Actually, nowadays, all these teachings are combined so the man-made categorizations such as Hinayana, Mahayana, or Vajrayana. have not as much significance they did in earlier times. The terms of differentiation still exist today. However, when we explain, teach, or apply the meaning of the Dharma, no such distinctions are made.
The Buddha first taught about the self. He expounded the truth of individual karma, and its result which underlies the cycle of rebirths in samsara. He taught about the different sufferings in samsara due to the mistaken identification with a self under the influence of ignorance in the mind. This is the reason why we should try to get free of the ignorance. We will then understand more clearly and we will fare much better. The Buddha gave teachings on the two truths - the relative and the absolute truths. His teachings on the relative truth bring results that pertain to our human existence in the here and now. His teachings on the absolute truth bring us to Buddhahood. We all have the potential to achieve this absolute result. To be free from ignorance applies both in our relative existence at this present time as well as when enlightenment is achieved. We now turn to the methods taught by the Buddha which form the Path of Practice, which will lead us to liberation.
One of the main emphases of the Hinayana teachings is that we should not suffer. It is possible to be free from suffering. We are human beings and at the end of this life we will continue to live many more lives. Our future is filled with uncertainties. If we want to ensure a better future then we need to live by proper ethics now. While we are relatively free. We should act morally grounded in a genuine wish to benefit others. In order to act positively, all our ideas and concepts have to become clear to us. We try to engage in positive thoughts and avoid all connections to negative thoughts. Our speech and actions would then follow our positive inner inclinations and intent naturally.
Wisdom versus illusion
The Buddha said that it is important to always think of others. For the moment, our tendency is to think only of our own benefit. It is difficult for us to act positively, or to care for others because we have negative emotions, and they disturb us. To understand the difference between positive and negative actions, we need to examine how our consciousness functions. We must therefore be introduced to the conditions of our mind. Our mind functions through two aspects. In Tibetan, they are yeshe and nyurmon. Yeshe is wisdom, or complete clarity. Nyurmon means distraction. Our mind can function either through wisdom or through the distracted influences as in the negative emotion. Everything depends on our mind. If we are not aware of our inner functioning and we simply follow according to how we feel, then we are said to be acting under confusion. But if we are aware, and we can see by ourselves, then there is understanding. The understanding will steer us in the right way. The right way does not imply that there are prescribed things to avoid or to do. Of course, we are now very much controlled by our feelings. But actually, if we take the time to reflect and to try to see for ourselves, then we will discover the right things. In other words, we will connect to yeshe, wisdom, or clarity. To clarify our mind, or to allow this wisdom to come through, we have to know the functioning of the disturbing emotions. The disturbing emotions are not something foreign to us, external to us, but they are how we feel. So the first thing is to understand the cause of the disturbing emotions, or the distractions. When we are not aware of them, they disturb us. But if we are aware of them, then they do not disturb the mind. Aware, we go forward. Aware, we continue. In this way, we begin to connect to the wisdom aspect of mind.
The Buddhist tantric teachings employ different methods, rituals, mantras, and meditations to help us connect to the truth. They help us deal with our disturbing emotions. Ultimately, we wish to become clear of our ignorance. It is the root cause of our being trapped by our own illusion. It is why we helplessly live our illusions and suffer the consequences of our negative emotions, and actions.
"Illusion" is just a term. For most of us, seeing is believing. I am not saying that things do not exist. Rather, I am saying that things exist as appearances in your mind. Due to a lack of true understanding, the disturbing emotions dominate our experience. We feel that there are many problems and much suffering. The one point that can never be overemphasized is the very importance to look always at yourself. We use meditation as a method to look within. This is essential when you follow the Buddhist path of practice. You should know how to look within. Here are a few things that we need to keep in mind:
1.We have to engender a proper attitude. This means to know how to think for the welfare of other beings.
2.We have to know the meaning of ignorance that is in our mind.
3.We have to know that there is karma, or cause and effect.
Knowing these three factors will help us when we look into our mind. We will know where to connect because we can understand the significance of the different meanings. The right connection gives our mind the proper orientation, attitude, and will in turn reveal to us what really matters.
look into your own basic nature
When you look into your mind, it is very simple. There is nothing to do. Just sit. First, you just sit without doing anything. Then, from time to time, look at your own nature. Look at yourself. It is similar to pacifying the water. When you want moving water to settle, you simply leave it on its own. It will settle. Similarly, when you sit to watch your mind, you let all the feelings and thoughts calm down on their own. Let them become pacified. Actually, when you do look at yourself, you will find it very difficult to find out about your nature. Why? It is because of the many contradictions in your mind. They arise when your obligations, your duties, and the things that you feel you have to do not fit into your set of circumstances. You feel confused and somewhat at a loss as to what to do. For example, you will think as follows:
"This is right for me to do. But, it does not fit well with my conditions so maybe it's not quite right "
"I must be mistaken because things just can't be like that..."
These thoughts of contradiction can appear in the mind. They may be very minor or trivial but nevertheless they confuse you. The point is to sit, and try to become calm, and quiet. You will then, as we say in Tibetan, "go back to your nature", your original nature. It means to see who you are really and how you function. It is very difficult to find this nature at first. But if you refer back to the teachings, then you will gradually know.
"I am here. I exist. Right now, I am a human being. I am like this "
Just try to look at the self. You actually have many capabilities. If you really try to focus, you can understand everything. You have this potential. You are capable of trusting and believing in the Dharma teachings. When you look, you will see your conditions, and all your abilities. There is kindness, compassion, and love in you. They are there very naturally. We can see them very clearly for ourselves. This is what the Buddha taught - we have these qualities. Somehow, when we have to link or engage in external conditions and circumstances, then these qualities seem to disappear. The teachings affirm that this does happen. We have all experienced such ambiguities in ourselves. This is why it is so important to look at ourselves by ourselves. Usually, we tend to think like this:
"Oh, I am not so good."
" I am not so capable."
" I am quite bad."
While some of us may think along these lines:
"Everything about me is good."
" I 'm alright."
" I can do everything."
These are just individual concepts. What will make a difference is to know clearly yourself, then you will feel differently. Your expectations and perspective will change. In Buddhism, we simply look inward without connecting to the externals. Simply look at the basic human nature. This is what we call meditation. The Tibetan masters say, "Just look at your mind." You connect to your mind in your practice (meditation). When you know your own potential, or capacity, then you will be able to work with any and all conditions. It is when you don't see your own nature that you are foggy or confused. You are doubtful, and confused.
"I cannot see."
"I cannot accept."
The negative emotions cloud the mind
Your understanding of yourself yields understanding
of the causes of the various conditions in mind, or karmic conditions. You will
find it easier to deal with the disturbing emotions, which are the most problematic
conditions of mind. The disturbing emotions are attachment, pride, jealousy, hatred,
expectations, and anger. They are your own mind. When you are aware of them, you
will see how such emotions disturb you, and the conditions that cause them to
arise. You will know that they bring you great difficulties, in short, suffering.
Slowly, you will understand that you don't have to follow these conflicting emotions
and continue to suffer. Then, another understanding will result.
"Why do I let the disturbing emotions overwhelm me? Why do I have to follow them every time that will inevitably bring me suffering?"
It is actually a very subtle idea that will come to you. At the moment, you may think it normal to feel the way you do. It is when you feel yourself turning away from them that you will begin to gradually understand them.
Influenced by ignorance, we feel our negative emotions natural. We recognize and accept them as integral to being human. And so we remain as we are. But if we really try to reflect, we will find that we don't have to follow the negative emotions. As I said before, this is a very subtle understanding. For example, last summer, a doctor told me that if I changed my diet then I would feel much better. During a two-week period, I followed his prescribed diet - what foods to eat and what foods to avoid. The result was a dramatic improvement in how I felt physically. I felt totally different, no pain, and no discomfort. I really thought that I was fine before the diet change. I didn't even notice the small discomforts. We are all same. We think we are healthy and everything is fine. But if you really look, you will notice that there are sometimes the little tensions in the body, and feelings of heaviness. Myself, I used to feel gas in my stomach and sometimes, I did feel tired. With this diet, needless to say, I was very surprised to feel as if totally free physically. I remembered it is similar to how I felt when I was young. It was like that. Then I reflected that this was what the Buddha meant. Since we are here in samsara, we don't feel so much. We feel everything is as it should be. But if you really find yourself, another feeling will appear. All the samsaric conditions are not really normal. If you could change, you would feel much better. Of course, we do the practice and this is how we know. Much similar to the example of our physical health, if you do the right things, you can totally change for the better. Otherwise, you remain as usual.
React differently to the negative emotions
respect to the disturbing emotions, there is a better way to deal with them. For
example, right now, when people do not behave properly, we get angry. We feel
that anger is normal, and justified. But our anger also makes us a little upset,
and not so happy. The teachings tell us that we don't have to react with anger.
If you knew better, you won't get completely upset. You may react a little but
not quite to the point of getting upset. There is no need to follow the suffering.
You do not have to counter with negative action or revenge. By refraining, the
outcome in terms of karma will be much better for yourself. You will also not
cause others to create negative karma. Again, the key is to just look at yourself.
Of course, you can see your regular emotions. They may range from mild to strong, but you can see them clearly. Apply the Mahayana idea that we have to think for others - not only for the self exclusively. If we can connect with this idea whenever we feel negative, then we have truly reached a turning point. We will understand the fact that negativity does not serve any good whatsoever. We will then be able to accept much more than before. Even in the case where the other person has made a mistake, we will understand that it is due to his ignorance, or his not seeing. We will not feel so hurt. We are not saying that the mistake is right. The mistake is wrong. The difference is you can understand why he made the mistake. It is true that in general, we do know why mistakes happen. What we are talking about here is different. It is a type of knowing grounded in understanding and compassion. For example, where young children are involved, we stand ready to help them even when they make mistakes. We understand that they may not yet know everything so they need our help. In this way, children can learn and improve. It is this kind of caring feeling that enables us to share and help those who are not acting quite properly. Even if the person is not really nice, we can still understand that it is due to ignorance, karma, cause and effect, and so on. Because acting under confusion is an experience that you can discover firsthand in yourself, you will then understand it in others. If you could help, then help, if not, just continue without responding negatively. The point is not to be drawn into the negativity and then act likewise. If you can do this, then you will enjoy more peace of mind.
We are usually trying to escape from problems and difficulties. But running away just does not work. It does not change anything. Peace of mind comes through understanding the disturbing emotions, instead of avoiding them. When we see how we are disturbed by pride, jealousy, and other negative emotions, we will act better free from their influence. This in turn will cause us to understand even more because we are clearer. This is why it always comes down to the one point: look at yourself. If you know how to look, then by this awareness, your mind will change for the better. How your mind connects with all the different conditions will turn increasingly positive. The result is better karma for everyone.
meditation gives the capacity to cope
In general, we feel that we are analyzing ourselves, and
our situations all the time. This is also my experience. But I have found that
by just analyzing, I don't get the exact meaning. I may believe my own conclusions,
or I may believe what the teachings are telling me, but somehow, belief alone
does not show me how to work with the different conditions. You believe what the
Dharma tells you yet you cannot effectively cope with your daily situations. You
have to meditate. Meditation gives the mind the capacity to get clearer. This
is why the Buddha said to truly integrate the Dharma in our lives, it is important
It is very difficult to explain how meditation functions. Its effect comes very naturally. It appears. It is very hard to show theoretically that if you meditate in a certain way, then your mind is changing. It is difficult to prove in theory why meditation is so important. When you do meditate for long periods, you don't need to see, or to feel anything. If you expect to feel something or to see certain visions, then you are again caught by your own illusion. Meditation has to proceed very spontaneously and continuously. Just keep going. This emphasis cannot be stressed enough. Why? Because without the obstacles that cover our seeing like veils in the form of visions and feelings, then we can get through to the real meaning that we already know - the many theories and teachings. For example, we know that the emotions like jealousy, pride, and anger can disturb us. Yet, when we encounter their appearance in our mind, we let them influence us. We cannot help but let them lead us into wrong actions, and wrong thinking. it. Somehow it is very difficult for us to cope with them.
We cannot change right away but in order to change, we have to meditate. Maybe you all know this already. Meditation makes us understand everything better because it makes us understand the functioning of our own mind. We cannot see the result today, or tomorrow. But gradually, our mind begins to get used to meditation. Then maybe after a year or two later, we will feel a very slight change in us, nothing big. We will feel different in the way we handle life in general, in our communication with others, and in the way we perceive the reactions of others. As well, we will notice that our emotions, and distractions of mind are becoming somewhat softer, or more pliable. They can be understood more readily, and we will feel much lighter overall. These are just descriptive words. What we experience is quite difficult to put into words or terms. We tend to hear a term and immediately focus on it. We get fixated on the words and lose their meaning. In the olden days, an analogy often used to describe meditation was the ripening of a fruit. A fruit ripens slowly and gradually until it is ripe for picking. Similarly, meditation ripens all your qualities in your mind. As was explained earlier, there are two aspects to mind: the wisdom aspect and the aspect of the disturbing emotions. To ripen the mind means to get clearer, less distracted, and connecting to the wisdom aspect of mind.
Directed in the right motivation
meditate, the emphasis is to orient our attitude towards a proper goal. This does
not mean to question why we meditate. However, we are dealing with an abstract
concept - a negative action, in general, not only disturbs others but it can also
cause more negative actions to be committed. Before we practise, we should carefully
reflect in this way, "I do practice now. I don't want to be distracted and
act negatively thereby creating suffering and all kinds of confusion. I try to
do practice myself, and through this, I can also help other people. I hope my
own understanding will increase so that my actions will be directed in the right
way generating help to others."
Some people embrace this type of thinking quite readily, which is good. But not everybody has this motivation. We may simply wish to do better personally as well as to help our close friends and family. Everybody has this wish. You work together with your colleagues in an office, or you live together with your family. When you act positively, you help those around you. This is natural. If you are rash and negative, you will disturb everyone and create unhappiness all around. Moreover, we are always learning from one another. We influence one another quite subconsciously. If you are negative, then slowly your surrounding will also become negative. For example, you are at the office, and you told a few colleagues how you had manipulated a certain situation to gain a certain advantage. By talking like this, then you will start to believe that what you are clever and right. Your dishonesty appears favorable due to your own personal gain. The fact that you have disturbed others is ignored. The person next to you apprehends the whole situation and starts to think that it is OK to behave like you. This kind of negative influence is widely prevalent among people. So it is necessary that when you begin your meditation, you take a moment to really focus on your wish to act positively, "I want to act better. Through my practice, I will try to better my understanding so I can help others... I will try to do my best for the welfare of others."
Belief brings blessings to support and enhance our practice
To wish is very much like praying. The term, "prayer" is a Christian term. In Buddhism, the meaning of prayer is similar. It means that when I believe in something, my belief connects me to the something. Due to my conscious focus or belief in the truth, then I am connected to the truth thereby I receive blessings. In Buddhism, blessings give us the capacity to connect to our own true nature so that we will be able to do the practice, or to understand the Dharma teachings. This is the reason to maintain our belief and to use the resultant blessings as a support for our meditation. Our practice will then be more effective. Because we are talking about belief, naturally, some people believe whereas others do not believe in the benefit of prayer, connection, and blessings. But for those who do believe, then it is good to pray before meditation, just for a few seconds. We pray to be protected by the Refuge, and we pray for all beings engendering Bodhicitta. You can recite the prayers, or you can very sincerely think the meaning of the prayers in your mind. This is very easy to do when you really believe. Where you don't believe then it can be difficult. We do not push people to believe. Belief has to come from your own mind. Some people have such strong belief that they become totally enlightened. In Buddhism, we believe in the Buddha and his teachings. So when you pray, just connect to where your belief is. The belief in Refuge can really strengthen your capacity to understand clearer.
When we practise motivated by Bodhicitta, our practice will be ever more effective. If we take the time to reflect, we will find it easy to understand and accept Bodhicitta. Everybody needs help. We naturally feel that people should not have to suffer. Bodhicitta is good for everyone, and so we apply it in a general way. When we are together with people, getting along seems quite reasonable. Problems often arise when we have to work together. At such times, it could prove very difficult to remain positive. We therefore have to go step by step to gain understanding of ourselves and others so that we can become more open.
Having turned to the Refuge for protection,
and engendering Bodhicitta, we begin our meditation. In general, to meditate means
to just sit. We do not let the mind go wandering after the thoughts. We want "to
be in the present". Our mind should rest in the present. This means, "I
am here." Be aware of where you are. All the mental tendencies or patterns
will appear as wandering thoughts. Be aware of them. The awareness will also bring
you back into the present moment. We use different methods which help and support
our focus. A method could be visualizing a certain mental image, or focusing on
a particular external object, or simply resting our focus on our breathing. Knowing
to return to your focus means that you can see clearly in one second your distraction,
or your thinking of other things. If you are aware, then you can come back. Unaware,
you will think more and more; you may think you know your thoughts but your mind
is actually gone. Bring your mind back into the present clearly on the one point
of focus. If you are able to continue with this, then it will cause you to develop
your intelligence, and clarity of mind. You can be clear in the present moment.
In time, the clarity or awareness will stay all the time. Actually, even when
we don't have instructions on meditation, we are naturally trying to meditate.
This I have noticed, too. For example, we encounter a problem requiring a solution.
We will immediately try to meditate, or to focus, to come up with a solution.
Of course, strictly speaking, it is not meditation, but we try to think, "
is the best way to go about it." Due to this zeroing in on the problem, we
can see many solutions. This process is a human reaction. It is in our nature.
Without focusing on the problem, we are a little confused and we feel lost.
Similarly, in meditation, we focus and try not to be disturbed by the habitual and wandering thoughts. We are continuously aware and return to the meditation as soon as we detect a distraction. This is the training. Once the process becomes a habit, at anytime we can apply it. You will be able to meditate and focus whenever and whatever the situation. Mind is alive in the midst of all the appearances of our daily life.
How long to meditate depends very much on how much time you have: ten, twenty, or thirty minutes, or longer, regularly on a daily basis. It will help. If we could not manage it regularly, then the progress is always interrupted. You stop and then start again. It is not continual. But if we could do a little everyday then our mind's capacity is developing everyday. This is why it is so highly recommended to practise everyday. We regard meditation as a daily activity rather than learning something special. "Daily" means that we feel that it is an ordinary part of our day. It then becomes very simple, and we can do it. On the other hand, if you regard it as training then you are treating it as something special. You will think that sometimes you can do it and at other times, you cannot because you perceive so many interruptions there. And so we do it daily, in a way, it is very simple. It really depends on you. It is very much like when you awake in the morning, you feel the need to take a shower, or otherwise you don't feel good. It is not any special occasion and yet we always do it even when we are very busy. It is a habit. Similarly, in the morning, we have breakfast. The English term "breakfast" means to break the fasting. It is this kind of idea. We need to eat a little bit, if we are too busy, we don't eat so much. But we can always manage to have a cup of tea or a little bit of food. It is normal and automatic. If you could practise meditation as a daily thing, something that you simply and automatically do, then it becomes very easy. When we get used to it, at anytime we can meditate. Just like when we are thirsty, we drink. When we are in any kind of confusion or difficulty, or complication, we can meditate. Furthermore, whenever we need to understand something we will be able to apply the meditation precisely there. Therefore the emphasis is to develop the meditation from an idea into a habit of mind.
Of course in the beginning we need training. We learnt how to take a shower when we were children. Our parents had to see to it that we washed regularly. They washed us until gradually and slowly, we learnt to appreciate and feel the need to shower. I remember when I was a child, I didn't like so much to shower or to clean my face. I tried to run away when it came time to wash. I was always made to wash and clean. Somehow after a little while, I began to feel a need to clean.
When The way of meditation produces results that we can use all the time. I am always available, always present, both at an emotional and at a physical level. I feel less tired, and less disturbed, and therefore much more ready to understand the happenings in the moment. Due to this, it is much easier to apply compassion and be open to others. Compassion is not applicable only when someone is sick, or is in difficult times, either physically or mentally. Compassion is our natural human nature where we are open and ready to support any kind of conditions. In general, when we are faced with the problems, we have to really think and force ourselves to do something, otherwise, we could easily fall into an attitude of not caring.
The benefit of compassion is twofold, for the self and others. My mind is much more flexible and it is relieved from the tension or tightness of mind. In the teachings, there are many references to liberation. We understand it as liberation from samsara. Generally, it means liberation from the tightness of mind. Tightness is caused by the disturbing emotions due to a very strong attachment. They make our mind quite tight. As a result, we lose our composure and can no longer do anything properly because of our self-grasping. Of course, we think that this is normal. Grasping is normal for us now. However, mind can be so much more comfortable with less suffering in the absence of grasping. Right now we are always grasping. For example, grasping is when somebody says something wrong, we are unhappy. Somebody says nice things to us, we are then happy. These little illusions are there. Somebody says something not quite nice, we feel very hurt. As a result, we react negatively. We think that it is human to behave like this. But on the contrary, we can change. If we do, then our conditions will improve.
Meditation will yield results gradually over time. The progress takes place step by step. For me, I feel that meditation is not about having visions or seeing something fantastical. It is not like this. Meditation is a means to naturally change my conditions for the better so I can be a little bit more relaxed. My understanding will improve, and I can be more open to others. I will be able to act with less heaviness or stress, a kind of separation from the problems themselves. This kind of change cannot be achieved in one or two days, one or two months. It's quite difficult. The change that we are talking about here will come later, one or two years later. During this time, the change happens like the movement of the clock. It moves ever so slightly and hardly noticeable. Similarly, our nature changes, too, step by step. As we understand better, our actions will become better. And so will our karma. The progress cannot be forced. It will come naturally when you use the methods. And then, everything changes according to your own knowledge or wisdom. Though karma is very detailed and complex, I think basically it is your understanding, and your capacity to think for others that will change or will lead to better karma in a natural and spontaneous way.
By L a m a . J i g m e . R i n p o c h e
OF ONE'S LIFE
So most of the time an incident might be trivial, but if we do not see it truly for what it is, it can be very dangerous. Fighting ignorance is not like starting a war. It is simply opening our eyes to notice the little things that, if not recognised, might become problematic and dangerous for others and ourselves.
We have a tendency to want everything right now. After hearing the teachings, we think that we have the keys, but somehow they don't fit. We may then turn away without considering our own efforts and input. For example, as in the case of the splinter, even though I knew that it would not get worse, it would still be painful for some time. Thus we need to develop an attitude of being relaxed while doing what is necessary. It may take time, but improvement will gradually come. The danger here is the tension we experience while waiting for a result. In fact, such anxiety actually slows or blocks the improvement. Whatever we do, it is done better in a relaxed way. If we rush, it will take longer.
During our attempt to decrease our suffering, we must not exclude other people. They are essential to our success because through them we build up our strength of awareness. When we meditate, we have a clearer mind, but when we come out of our practice and face others, we find that we have not improved that much. Meditation makes us more sensitive to others around us. When we are alone, there is no problem, but when facing other people, our emotions will surface. It is in our experiences with other people that we find fuel for improvement. If we want to have enduring results, we have to strike a balance between being with others and our solitude. The attitude to develop is a reasonable balance of reaction and acceptance. There is no pre-established standard. Through our interaction with other people we will improve, but each of us has to find our own limits.
The key is to be aware so that we can see things clearly and dispense with any preconceived points of view which only cloud perception. We want to recognise what is really taking place. Every time we look, we find "ego grasping." It is the first movement of our consciousness. We all have this first reaction of, "I perceive." At the base of any experience is ego grasping which is the root of suffering. When we discover this ego grasping there is a tendency to fight it. The point is not to fight it but to recognise it, directly or indirectly perceiving it: I want," which is desire, or, "I don't want," showing our aversion, or, I don't care," our ignorance. All the emotions are due to ego grasping, a dualistic mode of perception, "I" and "others." It produces much suffering yet we cannot get rid of it by waving a magic wand. It is interesting to look at the ego grasping in any experience, and to start working with it.
The term, -disturbing emotions" is merely a label. In fact, when we do examine these emotions, we will see mental events, images, sensations, etc. and not know to what they correspond. Take, for example, the study of botany. We first gain understanding of the connection between flowers and fruits, how they grow, and the sequence corresponding to the seasons. In the same way, we first gain awareness and then understanding of the "disturbing emotions" and "ego grasping." Generally, we only investigate or question ourselves when something has gone wrong or we are not happy. When we are happy, we don't do anything. At the base of our consciousness, there is the ego grasping, "What I like, what I don't like, I don't care, etc." The more we know about ourselves, the better our chance of liking and accepting ourselves. Ego grasping is also the root of pride, jealousy, and the other disturbing emotions. Slowly and gradually we will realise that ego grasping pervades all of our experience. We will see our jealousy and pride. In the example of botany, this is like seeing the seed or the sprout. If we want to get rid of the plant, it is easier to get rid of the sprout.
is ever on-going, a continuum. This on-going process cannot be adequately described
with words. The mind moves forward on "tracks" derived from habits.
When we let our consciousness drift away, we find ourselves following our habitual
tendencies that are nothing other than our egos at work. We have developed these
tendencies from past experiences. We need to realise that when we are not vigilant,
we tend to drift toward jealousy or pride or any of the other emotions that are
habitual. We can weaken these tendencies by modifying our reactions in a more
balanced way, and we can slowly start to affect some changes in our habits. We
can cultivate openness and benevolence if we have first noticed our habitual tendencies.
With practice, we will learn over time to see ever more clearly how, because of ego grasping, the mind reacts with pride, jealousy, greed, and so on. In our relationships with others, we are always expecting something. This is extremely important to realise, because our expectations cause conflicts when they are not fulfilled. Within our familial and work surroundings, we usually have a lot of expectations. We often pretend that we are acting for the welfare of others while at the same time harboring expectations which will then lead to frustrations. I expected from so and so... now, I am frustrated. I thought I was right. They have let me down. Either I was in the wrong, or, they did not come through!" We should be aware that everyone everywhere is like this, including ourselves. It is common to think like this, but nevertheless we need to be aware of it.
To be able to see this attitude with some sense of humor is helpful and necessary. Don't imagine that there is a "quick fix" to modify it. The habitual reflex will change somewhat after having first noticed it, but we cannot force a change to take place. Ever since our childhood, we have been told: It is not good to be proud, not good to be jealous, etc." What was not said is that these emotions, anger, pride, jealousy, etc., are generally what our minds are preoccupied with. The same mind experiences both greed and generosity. In fact, there is really no "bad" versus "good;" rather it is a mere mislabeling. This why it is so important to see and understand. The key is not to reject these emotions but to recognize them. What appears as pride can be changed into the energy of action. Insofar as it is recognized, it becomes a quality. jealousy can be transformed into the quality of perseverance, leading us to bodhicitta, to enlightenment. Anger arises when something goes wrong. The same anger could be a quality of lucidity able to help correct a situation and thus could be very useful.
Recognising our emotions does not mean that we should go against or get rid of them. There is nothing to reject, there are only different energies to be used in potentially beneficial ways. By being aware, it is possible to change the expression of the energy from negative to positive.
Buddha said, I can give you the means to liberation but I cannot set you free. I can give you the tools to reach the goal." He also taught that it is not possible to free oneself without the "others." Ultimate enlightenment is attained only through bodhicitta. We cannot develop qualities when isolated because, to overcome ego grasping our success depends on our contact with others. We can seize the chance to take advantage of our emotions when they arise in order to modify and change our habitual tendencies. Bodhicitta, or loving-kindness, is the antidote to apply to bring about the changes. There is no other way. We need to put ourselves in the place of others, be aware that they are unhappy, and see for ourselves that our own happiness depends on theirs. This also means that our view encompasses all points of view, so that our vision of any situation becomes more complete and thereby more precise. The immediate result of the application of bodhicitta is that we stop rejecting our responsibility for whatever is happening.
How do we develop the necessary vigilance and integrate it into our experience? The goal is to perceive the true nature of our mind, the true nature of both mental and outer phenomena. Slowly and gradually, we improve the way we live our lives and elevate ourselves by following the guidelines given in the teachings. Then we will arrive at a stage where we can take control over our existence. We embark on a spiritual path taking into account all the implications of the law of cause and effect. We make an effort to be aware of what is positive and negative while on the path to enlightenment. Unless we retreat into solitude, we will continue to lean more toward negative acts. However, if we are vigilant we can see through all the negativity. We will then have an opportunity to work with our negative perceptions through our practice and turn them into useful qualities. By being conscious, not only do we live with less suffering, but we are striving toward enlightenment.
ARCHITECT OF ONE'S LIFE
We also need to be able to perceive the true nature of the mind. There is an all-base consciousness that underlies all the sense consciousnesses and ego grasping called the alaya vinyana or tathagatagarba. We obscure this all-base consciousness by both our habitual tendencies and our dualistic mode of perception. We can only work on ourselves, but unfortunately, we don't have access to these levels of consciousness. It is precisely in the alaya vinyana that all the karmic imprints are stored. The effects of negative actions generate suffering while at the same time increasing the two veils of habitual tendencies and tainted modes of perception. Positive actions, on the contrary, enhance our progress on the path to enlightenment and provide the much needed relief of immediate suffering.
To practice the Dharma (Buddha's teachings), we don't necessarily have to become Buddhists. It can be just as effective if we learn to take control of our lives by using the methods discussed above. What is ordinarily referred to as virtue becomes transcendental virtue, or paramita (2). Ordinary qualities enable us to go beyond suffering. One of the six paramitas is ethics. Positive behavior is deemed positive depending on personal experience and these positive acts always help to remove the veils that obscure consciousness. There are no external rules to follow. Everyday we need to keep a watchful eye on what we do. In time, our awareness during meditation will gradually become more clear, and in our daily lives, we will be able to perceive the positive results in our actions. This positive improvement will spread to our relationships with others. Our awareness will guide us to minimize suffering for others and ourselves. When we behave wrongly, we will realize our responsibility and no longer make excuses. We will correct and adjust ourselves, and eventually we will act appropriately.
The spiritual path demands a sharp awareness of negative action because recognizing the character of what we do is crucial. We need to feel regret for our bad actions as if we have swallowed poison. It is important to think that, "If I could go back into the past, I would not do it again." It is also important to note that we do not necessarily need to feel guilty. The benefit of regret is that it urges us not to do wrong again. We can then engage in practices that purify the negativity and spur us on to do what is right. All this can happen if we feel real regret. The process of self-correction can start at a mundane level and can eventually evolve into a superior path of practice where we employ more powerful tools and means to remove our mental veils. We can form new habits, such as reflecting every night on the activities of the day. This awareness helps us create a habit of performing more positive acts because we can see that we can create our experiences and results every day.
The path of Dharma is based on the infallible axiom of karma, that all causes and all actions have results. This does not just stop at the gross and outer levels but also permeates our whole being. The emotions of jealousy and anger for example not only generate consequences, but also leave imprints in the all-base consciousness. These imprints will condition our perceptions that are the fruit of previous actions and explain why we are as we are now. We realize with caution that any anger, however small, will leave imprints in our base consciousness and this will have an impact on our future existence. A positive example, on the other hand, is the Chenrezig practice of compassion. It strengthens the positive imprints in the consciousness which will in turn condition our perception of the universe.
ARCHITECT OF ONE'S LIFE
As we advance on the path, the practice of ethics becomes more and more important. As explained already ethics is not a set of external rules but it has its base in being vigilant in the need to always keep a watchful eye on what we do. Having understood this about karma, we might be afraid of falling down. What if we are unable to perceive the negative character of an action and think instead that it was positive? The ten negative actions involving the three categories of body, speech, and mind are a useful guide:
Mind: envy, malevolence, wrong views
Speech: lying, slander, callousness, idle talk (e.g. about the faults of others)
Body: killing, stealing (taking what is not given), harming beings sexually
We have a tendency to go and ask a lama, "Is this good or not?" If we look closely enough and we are honest, we really do not need to ask. Ethics will steer us into looking at things as they really are, that is, to do "good." We can use our own understanding and can refer to external rules if sometimes we are not sure. On the surface, ethics do not seem very important, but the consequences can be grave. Small actions, positive or negative, can bring big, unpredictable results. We are responsible for our actions and do not want to take for granted the little things that we can do. We can protect even the smallest life. Our generosity will open us to the ten positive actions. We can deter someone from committing wrong. We can strive to perform small positive things and refrain from small negative actions, ever aware that all actions will bring results. By acting in a positive way, we diminish the agitation of our minds. This in turn will facilitate more positive actions leading to more peace of mind. Everything is of consequence, be it positive or negative, and we have to encourage ourselves to do what is positive.
We can see that the spiritual path is pervasive in all aspects of our lives. There is not one period of time for practice, and another when we are not in practice. It is essential to be aware of how we communicate with others. If possible, with awareness we can try to be kind. We can practice the two accumulations: performing positive actions that lead to good results and having lucidity of mind with ever-present awareness. The latter requires our vigilance all the time. Both accumulations are important and are interrelated. If we find ourselves more engaged in one accumulation, we can expand our time and energy in the other.
There are two qualities relative to the spiritual path that transcend the rationale of ordinary life, faith, and confidence; both are beyond intellectual understanding. We can speak of ethics, perseverance, and other qualities. We need to go beyond the confines of our ordinary perception and reasoning, which is only possible if we have a proper foundation. Our practice will not work if we do not have a solid grounding in ethics. Only then can we try to enter a formal spiritual practice. We need to develop the aspiration to achieve enlightenment. We begin our practice with simple and ordinary experiences that are readily available and easily understood directly in our everyday life. Our practice can take us to higher levels. To explain what we mean by going beyond the ordinary level, we use the example of bodhicitta and our good wishes for all beings. Even though it cannot be explained in words, the power of making wishes to benefit all beings can and will bring about strength in our mind that can purify negativity and make use of the power of wisdom. Although this cannot be explained in ordinary terms, it can be experienced. What is necessary is the accumulation of positive actions in order to transcend the existing boundaries. At that point we can perceive what seems otherwise irrational and can truly understand that we can only be happy by caring for the welfare of others.
Through our formal practice, our understanding will become deeper and sharper. We will understand emptiness, not to be misunderstood as nothingness, that is the nature of all things. We will understand why the practice of yidam (3) can be so effective, how the purification practice works, and why we need a lama. We can go beyond the rational through rational logic and meditation. We will gradually grasp the meaning of the 'developing phase' and 'completion phase' of the practice and how the different phases of the practice are useful. We will gradually understand why some practices are long while others are short. It is necessary to venture forward and investigate for ourselves. The practice works, yet the explanation lies beyond logic. Gradually, we will go farther and farther. This is what we mean by the "understanding of the practice." Of course, our formal practice and daily life are not on the same level, but are of the same path.
To become architects of our own lives, we have to stand on a proper base. The base is essential for our daily life while integrating all the aspects of practice to reach enlightenment. The base also serves to provide comfort and peace of mind while we are on the spiritual path. With a solid foundation, everything is possible. Without it, nothing is possible.
Tathagatha refers to the essence of the Buddha.
2 Paramita - the perfection that leads to enlightenment. The six paramitas are: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom.
3 Yidam - An enlightened aspect of Buddha in the form of a deity that helps a practitioner on his or her path to enlightenment.
OF ONE'S LIFE
We all agree that we would like to end suffering. Each person has weaknesses and faults unique to his/her own set of circumstances. However, there is something good inherent in all of us; we all possess the nature of Buddha mind. We need to remove the veils so that our true Buddha nature may reveal itself. The reality we experience inevitably generates suffering. We need to be aware and gain understanding of our situation. We will then be able to apply the appropriate remedy for our maladies. First, we need to be aware of how and who we really are. Only then can we be successful in finding a way to recognize our true nature that is neither superficial, nor emotional. We should therefore put into practice the following:
Recognize our own situation, Modify our ways to lessen the suffering, and Purify our minds thereby increasing our awareness of the true nature of mind.
Whether we are on a spiritual path or not we still have to live our lives. Though the situations on the outside may remain the same, we can start to change our reactions to them. Because our minds are now very much under the force of habit, any attempt to change the familiar tracks quickly will likely fail. Change can only come about slowly, little by little. We must work on modifying our habits now and gradually our perception of things will change. Big changes hardly ever take place. Only little changes may occur from day to day, which often go unnoticed. Patience and perseverance are therefore important if we are to succeed.
Our minds are unclear at the moment. We develop stress and frustration invariably as we carry on everyday. We should try to minimize the stress in every aspect of our life. We are all different individuals so the results of our practice will be different for each of us.
Our goal is Enlightenment, awakened mind, or Bodhicitta.1 If we look at the achievement of near perfect Bodhicitta on the level of the great Bodhisattvas, it might seem almost unattainable, too far removed from our present situation. Hopelessness might set in. Nevertheless, we have to start by taking the first step now.
Bodhicitta is the complete opening towards what is not oneself. We have to accept that things are not the way we want them to be. Acceptance will naturally reduce stress and enhance greater understanding. This will in turn give way to a clearer mind which will facilitate deeper insight into mind. And so the process continues.
In the Bodhicitta of application we should adopt equanimity. At the moment, we are constantly developing hope and fear whereby our actions are tainted. We are afraid of failure on the one hand, and on the other, we have desires:
"The success is mine."
"The goal is mine."
"I have failed."
ARCHITECT OF ONE'S LIFE
We have seen how meditation is the heart of the path to enlightenment. Although to attain enlightenment may not be the goal for every-one, those of us who wish to do the same as the Tathagatha (1) will decide to tread the path to enlightenment; for us, med-itation is necessary. Others will lead a normal life but may wish to improve their circumstances. They come to know about the nature of mind one way or another, and ultimate-ly are led to Buddhahood. Some of us want to stop suffer-ing. Since the premise of the entire Buddha's teachings is that suffering is the cause or root of everything, whether our motivation is to reach Buddhahood or to stop suffering, the path is the same.
Some people believe that the Dharma or teachings are altruistic and therefore exclude those people who only want to look after themselves. Regardless of whether the point of departure is selfishness or not, when we start practicing the Dharma, we start to see things as they truly are. At some point we will understand that nothing is possible when we are not concerned with the welfare of others. Whatever the motivation is at the beginning, the practice will inevitably reveal that others are vitally important and our motivation will naturally change.
On a practical level, the first thing is to be aware that each person is endowed with Buddha nature, a clear con-sciousness able to apprehend the whole universe. We think on the one hand, "I'll try to experience this consciousness free from suffering," and then on the other, "I live in a world made by happiness and suffering." We have to under-stand that everything is suffering. Even happiness is a cause of suffering because happiness has an end. Open any book about the "Four Noble Truths." Does it not state that every-thing is suffering? We need to understand this fundamental axiom in order to be aware that happiness is suffering. We need to be aware that our mind is the Tathagatha, and to see this world of suffering as it is, to understand it clearly.
Secondly, we look at ignorance. Some regard it as a demon, but ignorance is not an evil force nor is it some energy out to destroy us. Although it is not malevolent, it is true that it underlies the root of all suffering. When ignorance diminishes, so does suffering. For example, if my leg hurts and it does not stop, I might start to imagine that it might be cancer. If someone tells me that there is a splinter there, all my mental suffering immediately disap-pears. I can then tend to the pain. But if I cannot see it clearly, my actions might be inappropriate and harm me instead.
: Effects, Causes and Antidotes
by Ven. Gyaltrul Rinpoche, 13.06.1997
The five poisons, i.e. desire, anger, ignorance, pride and jealousy affect our mind. Among these five poisons, anger is the most damaging one. One of the main practices of the Mahayana / Vajrayana practitioners is to get rid of anger.
Shantideva once said "One strong bitter anger can destroy merits of a thousand aeons". There is in fact no merits equivalent to patience and no bad karma equivalent to anger.
The Effects of Anger
1) Visible effects which are felt in this life
2) Invisible effects which will be felt in the next life
1) Visible Effects
Examples of visible effects of anger are feeling unhappy an uneasy, and showing undesirable facial expressions. These will cause others to feel uncomfortable and unwilling to talk to us. Our spirit and physical energy will be deteriorated. We cannot sleep well when we have anger and strong hatred. The next day we will not have a clear mind to concentrate on things. Our diets will be affected, either we do not have to appetite to eat or we will eat a lot. Worse still, it draws all our senses and wisdom such that we become very blunt and bold. Whatever we do, we will not be able to think whether it is right or wrong. We will feel like wanting to scold others and talk bad about others. Eventually, we lose our friends, relatives, health and merits.
2) Invisible Effects
Anger will destroy our goal for practicing and will cause us to be born in hell directly. In Amitabha;s long sutra, it was mentioned that saying bad words with anger and hatred to a Bodhisattva will create evil karma for aeons or destroy our merits accumulated for aeons. This was also mentioned in many other texts. A person who takes and preserves the bodhisattva vows is a bodhisattva. Practitioners of Mahayana and Vajrayana who always think of sentient beings and preserve their vows are bodhisattvas. Therefore one of the most important things to remember is that a bodhisattva can be anyone anywhere. We should not be angry at any person, especially our dharma brothers and sisters.
The Causes of Anger
To know how a problem comes about and how to get rid of it, we have to know its causes which can be divided into primary cause and secondary cause. The primary cause is self-grasping ego which can be eradicated by the practice of understanding and realizing emptiness. The secondary cause is frustration which is a step before anger. Frustrations arise when we get cannot get what we want or we get something which we do not want. All these happened because:
1) all sentient beings have too much self-interest or ego;
2) there is no respect towards others. Everybody thinks that they are the most important and unless there is mutual respect, we as well as others be harmed;
3) dissatisfaction which can cause unhappiness because we tend to want to get more when we are not satisfied; and
4) impatience. We should know that things take time to get results but we give up halfway. This also leads us to unhappiness and the generation of anger.
The Antidote for Anger
It is very important to know the causes and the effects of a problem in order to get rid of or reduce the anger associated with the problem. There are three ways to solve our problem of anger:-
1) Analytical meditation
2) Skillful practice
3) Generation of positive reception
1) Analytical meditation
Imagine someone says very bad words to make us very angry or defame us in front of others. If we are unhappy because of anger, we should examine ourselves. What is the cause that makes us unhappy? Is it the sound / word we heard, the cause of our unhappiness? Imagine again that somebody says very bad words but in a different language that we do not understand or he says it with a smiling face, what would you think? In our daily life, if we can analyze this through meditation, then we are actually practicing the Dharma. We should use this skillful mean. Chanting cannot replace this analytical meditation.
From our analytical meditation we will be able to know that the word is not the cause of our unhappiness and anger. The cause in fact is the thought attachment of thinking that the word is something bad to us. You may think that this is perhaps true, but you may get angry when someone hits you because of feeling the physical pain. You should meditate and ask yourself. If you get angry when you are in pain, why don't you get angry when you have a headache, toothache, etc? They are all pains. You may say the headache is caused by no one but this pain and anger is caused by someone with a bad intention. If you think like this, check if this person is always hitting others or saying bad words to others. He may not scold or hit everybody but just a few people. There must be something behind him that makes him hit/scold others. Ask yourself if someone hits you with a stick, will you be angry at the stick or the person? Usually we get angry with the person but not the stick because it is the person who causes the movement of the stick. But we should know that the person hits us because of anger. He will not want to hit people all the time. For example, he will not hit people when he is happy. If anger is not the cause for him to hit people, he will hit people anytime. Why don't you get angry at the person's anger then? If you know this secret, you will not complain much. Instead you should feel compassionate towards this person because he will create karma under the control of anger.
Another meditation is to think of the corresponding cause. If you are not here, he has no object to hit. Therefore at least 50% of the problem comes from you. You are here at the wrong time and wrong place. If you think back with anger and hatred towards the person, will it help you to be happy? If it doesn't, why should you be angry? In fact this will be harmful because it will create more bad effects. If you are angry with him, and in return he gets angry with you, etc. There will be no end to it.
2) Skillful Practice
One of the very successful skills is a Bodhisattva practice of practicing like a tree. If someone hits a tree, the tree will not feel anything and will not move. Similarly, if someone hurts us and we do not react, it will stop further detriments (even though when we are actually emotionally involved). If your unhappiness is caused by jealousy, think of the goal that you want to achieve. Is it possible to achieve? If it is not possible, why not just forget about it and do something else? Why be unhappy as this will not be helpful? The unhappiness will even make us angrier. You should void unnecessary troubled places. If you know you'll have problems when going to a certain place at a certain time, don't go. It is also important to understand the timing factor, i.e. is it the right time or not? An example is when you are doing a good deed but couldn't achieve the goal for others. You will get frustrated, but think, is it the right timing? If not, you should do it some other time. Another main skill is never count to how many times you had practiced patience.
3) Generation of Positive Perception towards All Sentient Beings
When we are positive towards others, our anger will become weaker. To practice this, we need to do one of the following when we get angry:
1) contemplate about the benefits of patience and the faults of anger;
2) understand that things we experience are the results of previous karma and accept them; and
3) think or understand that the nature of all sentient beings is pure because they all have the Buddha Nature. They are beings controlled by anger and ignorance. We shouldn't be angry at these innocent beings. We should be angry at the 3 poisons.
In conclusion, by understanding the faults and causes of anger and knowing how to solve the problem, we will be able to practice the Dharma to calm our mind and attain liberation. It will definitely benefit us in this life as well as future lives.
Questions and Answers
Q. Is there any difference between acquiring Dharma knowledge by learning from books and by listening to teachings in temples?
A. The three methods of learning the dharma are listening, contemplating and practicing. Therefore, listening is very important. You can still learn from a book but it depends on who wrote the book. When you are reading the book and you don't understand, you cannot ask the book. When someone speaks the dharma, you can ask questions to clear your doubts and this is also not so boring.
Q. What is the real meaning and purpose of receiving empowerment? Is it necessary to practice after an empowerment?
A. Receiving empowerment is opening the gate to a deity's palace to receive blessing from the deity. Through empowerment, all defilements and obstacles will be purified. You will be blessed by the deity and eventually achieve the state of the deity. It is not necessary to practice after receiving the empowerment, but if it is your commitment, you can chant the mantra and do the practice.
From A Talk Given By Shamar Rinpoche In Los Angeles On October 4, 2002
There are two levels of benefit experienced by the practitioner of meditation. The first benefit is the immediate improvement in the conditions of daily life. The practice of meditation leads to a mind that is more peaceful, more tranquil and more at ease. Because the mind is more relaxed, events that usually disturb us seem to take on less importance and we stop taking them in such a serious way. Likewise, through meditation the mind gradually learns to be independent of external conditions and circumstances. This mind that is unaffected by outer conditions is then able to discover its own stability and tranquility. A stable mind, one that is not disturbed, leads to the experience of less suffering in our lives. These are the immediate benefits that come from regular meditation practice.
The long-term benefit of meditation is that when the mind is pacified, this gradually leads to purification of the mind's basic ignorance, which ultimately leads to buddhahood or enlightenment. In this state of enlightenment, the confusion of ordinary, everyday life no longer exists.
To experience pacification and tranquility, the mind must learn how to remain still. This is not our usual experience of mind. The mind is usually agitated, always in motion, thinking about many different things. We need to look deeply at the causes of this. Since beginningless time to the present moment we have cultivated a perception, a way of seeing things that is based on duality. We have a strong sense of 'I,' of personal existence due to what we call ego-clinging. This gives rise to the perception of external objects that are separate from the ego. This misconception inevitably involves a relationship between 'self' and the world around us, the objects with which we interact. This is the dualistic experience of the world that we all share. This fundamental sense of duality gives rise to all sorts of thoughts, ideas and movement in the mind. Therefore, when we initially sit down to meditate our experience of the mind is far from being peaceful or at ease. This is because the mind is completely distracted by strong activity in relation to external objects. This is the basic cause; this is how mental distraction comes about.
We need to apply a method to train this unstable mind to remain stable in one place. In this way, the mind becomes accustomed to the experience of stability. For this reason, in meditation we give the mind one single object to rest upon.
Before we begin to meditate, we should understand something about the qualities of mind, what the mind actually is. The mind is not a thing - it is not a material substance, a fixed object. It is comprised of the nature of knowing. It has this capacity. The mind is simply a succession of moments of consciousness, moments of awareness or moments of knowing. In essence, the mind is without obstruction, it is vast, it is unlimited. The mind is not an entity that exists as such and that lasts for a certain length of time. As the mind enters into relationship with objects, there arise a series of ever-changing instances of perception; therefore, the mind is not one continuous thing - it is impermanent. Thus, this mind, which has the capacity to know and is by nature unobstructed, must be trained to remain stable.
We need stability in order for the mind to recognize its true essence. Without this stability the mind is unable to recognize itself. The mind has the capacity to know or to recognize its own instability, its own impermanence. Because it is by nature something that knows, it can have knowledge of itself, i.e., knowledge of the fact that it is not stable. It is on the basis of that knowledge, that understanding of itself that the mind can then learn to be stable. So this mind, even though it is agitated, always in motion, nonetheless, it recognizes this instability and can transform it. This is quite different than the wind, for example. The wind is also constantly moving, but, because it is not comprised of mind, it cannot know that it is moving and therefore cannot calm itself down. It cannot stabilize itself. It is this knowing aspect of mind that allows the mind to work on itself.
The instability of mind will not be permanently removed simply by a meditation technique. In order to stabilize the mind, we need the mind to recognize its own nature. Once the mind has recognized its own nature it can reach true stability. Mind can experience itself directly. This means that the mind is capable of experiencing its true nature, unobstructed, free from grasping and fixation on the endless stream of mental content - our thoughts, perceptions and concepts. We habitually grasp at mind's appearances as if our own version is quite solid and real, thus losing the perspective to recognize the unobstructed quality of mind. We say that mind's true nature is emptiness. By empty, we mean that mind is clear; that it is empty of anything that is solid, permanent, or inherently self-existent.
If we do not meditate on the mind as it is, that is our personal experience of mind as it is in the moment, we will not be able to clearly see how the mind is agitated, how it is constantly distracted with an endless stream of thoughts. Once we realize that we are unable to experience a stable mind, we understand the necessity to train the mind, to tame it to bring it to a state of tranquility and stability. However, in order to train the mind, we need a reference point. We need to give the mind something to focus on. In the Buddha's teachings are explanations about the different supports or reference points to help stabilize the mind. Among those supports, the Buddha emphasized the method of resting the mind on the breath. The Buddha explained that in living beings, the mind is closely connected to the body. Therefore, mind and body are in close relationship, particularly mind and the subtle energy system of the body. This means that one way to experience tranquility is through working with the breath, because breathing is related both to the body and its subtle energies. This is why the initial meditation instruction recommends counting the breath.
The first meditation technique we use to tame the mind is called shamatha (Sanskrit) or shinay (Tibetan) meditation, which means 'calm abiding.' Shamatha consists of six steps - counting the breath, following the breath and resting on the breath are the first three steps. After you practice these for a long time, the mind will become tame. Then you progress to the next three steps that develop from concentration on the breath. Here we use analysis to see the connection between mind and the breath. Through this analysis you will realize the emptiness of the mind's nature. You can develop an intuitive feeling for the mind and then you can play with it. You can change the concentration, the image upon which you focus and know that the mind is like a mirage - you can play with. After that you concentrate upon the nature of objects to see the essential emptiness of phenomena. This is how you complete shamatha, the concentration practice that trains the mind.
The purpose of a one-day teaching such as this is to give an overview of the different steps in meditation practice. When it comes to actually learning a meditation technique, then it is better to have a systematic series of explanations on a regular basis so that one can gradually develop one's understanding of the practice of meditation.
When we are using the meditation method of counting the breaths, we count the breathing cycles (in-breath and out-breath being one complete cycle). We initially count continuously from one through five, the idea being to rest the mind on the breathing without any distraction until we reach five cycles and then continue to repeat the process. When we feel we can do this easily, we increase the number of cycles we count, but only for the duration of time we're able to remain undistracted. All the time the mind is resting on the breathing and is not distracted elsewhere. With time we can actually reach a count of one thousand using this method without the mind wandering away from the breathing during that time. This constitutes the measurement of a certain level of stability wherein the mind is definitely under our control. This is what we call the pacified mind, tranquil or tamed mind.
Through this practice we develop in our meditation an inner experience of tranquility. As we improve our skills in this meditation technique, this ease and tranquility becomes an ongoing experience of the mind. This is the result of shamatha practice.
In general, when we receive teachings on meditation it is not customary to describe all the various different meditation techniques in the space of one single lecture. We have to systematically learn the practice of meditation, beginning with being able to sit in the correct posture. Sitting properly in meditation is the first subject that is taught. This is followed by a second series of explanations that describe how the mind learns to rest on the meditation object. This is followed by a third level of explanations where we learn to distinguish faults of incorrect meditation and how to prevent these kinds of defects from arising in our meditation. We also learn to recognize the qualities that arise in correct meditation. Actually, the initial meditation instruction is of very important because it provides the foundation for which development of our future meditation practices rest. Thus, the instructions on experiencing a mind that is tranquil and pacified are of utmost importance.
After practicing shamatha meditation where we've learned to develop the mind's tranquility and stability, we then move into the second phase of meditation called vipashyana (Sanskrit) or insight meditation. This is a meditation practice in which we gain a profound insight into the true nature of mind. When we look into the mind we discover what is called primordial awareness. This primordial awareness is non-dualistic and it is only through insight meditation that we can access or recognize this non-dual mind. Without insight meditation we will always be caught up in dualistic clinging and the mind's true nature - the wisdom or primordial awareness aspect - will remain obscured and we will not be able to access it at all.
Once we have seen into the nature of mind, then through further insight meditation we improve the quality of our experience of primordial awareness. With time, this becomes natural, something that will develop by itself. This is the point where there is spontaneous growth of our experience of primordial awareness. If the mind is agitated, however, we will not be able to see this primordial awareness. This is why it is important in the initial practice of meditation to cultivate mental calm, tranquility and stability.
This, then, is how one experiences through meditation the growth of primordial awareness in the mind. The method to develop this is the practice of insight meditation where we learn not to grasp at the reality or the fixed existence of external objects. Inwardly we recognize that the mind itself is not something that is dull or obscured, but is in fact the nature of clarity. When we encounter directly in our meditation the non-grasping at objects and the inner clarity of mind, these two work together to allow us to see the essence of mind. We can only see the essence of mind if the mind is unobscured by thoughts. A thought arises through the contact or the relationship between the mind as subject and an object that is being related to by the mind. Thus, thought is necessarily a dualistic process. When the mind is in a state of dualistic clinging it will think. When, however, the mind knows its own essence and can recognize its true nature, then this is the experience of non-dualistic, primordial awareness. In fact, the mind at that point is seeing itself.
To illustrate this process at this level of meditation, when we wake up in the morning the sunlight is already beginning to filter into the world and the day is getting lighter. As the day goes by the light increases as the sun gets higher and as the light increases the darkness is dispelled. This is the automatic effect of sunlight. This is analogous to what happens in our meditation. The more we see the nature of mind, the more clearly the nature of mind shines. This all happens because the mind has the capacity to know itself. It can initially recognize what is already there in the mind and because of that, the mind is no longer affected by uncontrolled thinking. This is like the unobscured, cloudless sky. The sunlight is free to shine without hindrance; just as through the gradual continuance of our insight meditation practice, the ability to light up or to see the nature of mind increases without interruption. Gradually, the practice becomes completely natural.
It is through the practice of meditation as outlined that we accomplish the last two of what are referred to as the six paramitas or the six transcendental virtues. These two are the practice of meditative concentration and the practice of full knowledge or full understanding, wisdom. Paramita is a Sanskrit word that means literally something that has reached its fulfillment. Here, we are talking about these two qualities of meditation and wisdom having reached their full achievement, their full accomplishment. The transcendental or fully accomplished meditative concentration, the fifth of the six paramitas, is related to the practice of tranquility meditation as explained earlier. It is through training the mind and the gradual development of our experience that we come to the complete fulfillment of this quality of mental stability or meditative concentration.
discuss the stability of mind, we often refer to the three stages of stability.
The first stage might not seem like stability at all because it is in fact the
recognition of just how agitated our mind really is. Our experience in meditation
may be that there seems to be an increase in thought, that the mind is greatly
agitated like a river flowing down a rocky mountain. This, however, is not a defect
in our meditation. It just means that the mind is now calm enough to be able to
recognize its own agitation. Not being involved in that agitation, it can actually
recognize just how agitated it is.
Once we recognize this, we should not become stuck on it, but move on with our tranquility practice until the mind becomes more trained. At that point, we will experience mind as a constantly flowing river, gently moving along. This is the result of the mind being more pacified and trained. This is followed by a third stage of practice during which the mind is able to remain in a state of stability for as long as it likes. Here, one has complete control or mastery of the state of stability.
These three stages of meditative concentration are called the three stabilities. In the first stage we still need to teach the mind to stabilize itself by resting on an external reference point - some kind of object. This is absent in the second and third stages where there is no longer any need for a reference point.
In the second stage, while we do not have a reference point, there is still certain watchfulness. We need to observe when the mind is stable and when it is moving and thinking. We need to recognize these states and gradually stabilize the mind further. There's a certain amount of deliberate effort required in this phase in order to maintain the quality of our meditation.
By the time we reach the third stage, mental pacification and tranquility automatically occur without any effort whatsoever. The second stage leads to the third stage without any intervention on our part. This third and final stage corresponds to the accomplishment of tranquility meditation. This is the equivalent of the accomplishment of meditative concentration or what we call the fifth paramita, the transcendental virtue of meditative concentration. It is from then on that we can enter into the phase of insight meditation.
The stage of insight meditation is much more difficult for us to actually judge or measure because it is endless. In fact, we continue insight meditation practice right up until the very moment of enlightenment. Therefore, it is not a practice that can be judged to last for a certain amount of time and then we do something else. Insight meditation will take us to enlightenment itself.
Insight meditation is so vast it is difficult from our point of view to comprehend what it really is; it is a realm of meditation that takes us beyond dualistic manifestation. Initially, insight meditation brings some minor experience of reality or the true nature of things. As we continue with this practice it expands and grows - it develops beyond our current ability to follow its progress. That's why we say it is endless. Insight meditation is the perfection of wisdom, the sixth paramita or the sixth perfection.
Presently, we are unable to see the nature of mind, even though mind has the capacity to see its own nature. Right now our mind is full of obscurations. However, these very obscurations can become the means through which we can access the genuine qualities of mind. The minds of most all living beings are currently in a state of ignorance. This ignorance forms the basis upon which the obscurations of the mind appear. However, all of these obscurations can be purified and lead to the attainment of enlightenment. The capacity to transform obscurations into qualities is what we refer to as buddha-nature. Each and every living being has this capacity to transform their mental obscurations into the qualities of enlightenment.
To better understand obscurations, we will briefly discuss karma, the law of cause and effect. This will help us to understand the relationship between our actions and the results we experience. The practice of virtue is the remedy that allows us to purify all past karmic actions.
is the accumulation of actions based on thoughts in our mind and actions that
are produced by that thinking. If we look at how the mind thinks, or the ideas
or concepts that come up in the mind, we see that they are based upon the interrelationship
between mind and objects that is produced by the emotions. Sometimes the mind
is influenced by ego-clinging or selfishness. Sometimes the mind is influenced
by strong anger or aggression and sometimes by strong desire or attachment, pride,
or jealousy. All of these emotional states cause the mind to create ideas and
to perform actions that create what we call a karmic potential, a karmic seed.
These karmic seeds are collected in the mind where they continue as habitual tendencies.
As these tendencies ripen, as the karma created by confused thought or action
comes to full fruition, this produces the experience of an event in our impression
of the world around us. This is our karma, the manifestation of the confused mind.
So karma can be either in the consciousness as a potential; it can be in the process
of ripening; or it can be fully-ripened karma.
If instead of developing negative emotions in the mind such as desire, anger or jealousy, we develop the qualities of love and compassion, then we have good motivation as a basis for the actions we perform. The result will then be that all our actions will strengthen the quality of virtue. All actions that are motivated by genuine love and compassion are inevitably going to result in virtuous actions. There is no way that a genuine loving or compassionate action could produce a non-virtuous result. These virtuous actions are also collected in the mind stream and they will ripen into an experience of the world - an illusion or a manifestation around us that contains positive qualities and fortunate circumstances.
When we talk about positive and negative we have to view or understand these terms in relation to attaining enlightenment. We define fortunate karma as conditions that help us move closer to enlightenment and negative karma as unfortunate conditions that compromise our opportunity to reach enlightenment.
We talk about existence as being either fortunate or unfortunate. A fortunate existence is to be born as a human being with a human body in a human world with human friends. Our experience of life is a very positive one, giving us many opportunities to further our progress towards enlightenment. An example of an unfortunate rebirth is if we manifest as a ghost rather than as a human being. In that case we would have the body of a ghost; we'd live in a ghost world; we would perceive the world around us as the kind of manifestation experienced by a ghost and all our friends would be ghosts. Life would be very unfortunate indeed. However, things could get worse - we could have the karma to manifest as an insect. Even though the insect may be flying through the human world, it doesn't have the ability to contact human beings and benefit from the human world. The world in which the insect is living is not a human world; it is a world that is experienced from the point of view of an insect. This means that in order for the insect to make meaningful contact with another living being, such a contact can only take place when it makes contact with another insect. If the insect makes contact with a human being the insect doesn't perceive that as beneficial or of any use whatsoever. This is the life of an insect. The insect has various faculties and sense perceptions, as well as certain tendencies. Driven by its instinct to survive, an insect can easily commit a negative act; whereas, even though all beings have buddha-nature, in the insect realm accomplishment of virtuous actions is of extremely difficult.
Therefore, we can see how important it is to have a fortunate existence with all the faculties, potential and capacities to develop toward enlightenment. It is highly beneficial to have this kind of rebirth, this human situation. What do we do to ensure that it continues? We need to engage in actions and behaviors that are motivated by love and compassion. For instance, one of the kinds of actions that we can engage in is the practice of generosity, cultivating generosity based upon the motivation of love and compassion. If we practice generosity with this kind of pure motivation then everything we do will continue to create good fortune and fortunate conditions. This means that from year to year, from life to life, we will be getting closer to attaining enlightenment. That is the practice of generosity, the first paramita, the perfection of generosity.
The second paramita is the perfection of ethical conduct. This affects everything we do, including all the other paramitas. Here we work within the illusion that we are caught in order to develop something positive within that illusion. In these practices, whether it is meditation where we are dealing directly with the causes of the illusion, or the practice of generosity where we're dealing with the situation of the illusion, we should not harm living beings by our actions. This is the essence of ethical conduct. It means that whatever our practice we should avoid causing any harm to living beings. Even in our practice of virtue, we must ensure that it doesn't cause harm to others. If we do this, then the mind can be more firmly rooted in positive karma and this will mean that our meditation progresses, the confusion of mind diminishes, the mind becomes freer and ultimately becomes more able to see its own true nature. All this is the result of the perfection of the paramita of ethical conduct.
The discipline of ethical conduct is to enable us to give up or renounce anything that can be harmful to our practice and to encourage all things that can be beneficial to our practice. The practice of ethical conduct becomes the basis for purification and improvement in whatever practice we are doing.
Concerning the third paramita, the practice of patience, there are two categories. Patience or tolerance can be exercised in relation to outer circumstances or to inner circumstances. If we look at outer circumstances, this means not replying in kind when we are attacked or insulted in some way, but instead reacting from the basis of love and compassion. We must learn to respond to aggression with love and compassion. As for the inner kind of patience, there is a strong practice and a more subtle practice. The more obvious practice of inner patience is accomplished when we cut off thoughts and feelings of anger as soon as we are aware they are arising in the mind. We don't follow or engage with these thoughts and emotions. The more subtle practice of patience is related to overcoming the darkness of ignorance in the mind. This means that when any thoughts or ideas of a dualistic nature develop in the mind, we exercise the practice of wisdom - the practice of complete understanding of the nature of thoughts so as to not get caught up in dualistic thinking. In this way we see through or into the very nature of our thoughts. This is also patience.
Concerning the fourth paramita, the practice of perseverance, initially this is quite simply the exercise of cultivating exertion or will power in more circumstances and applying it. This is followed by a second stage that involves constant effort. That means our efforts to do anything should be continual, not off and on, but regular. There is then a third phase where our ability to persevere, to exercise energy and to deal with a situation is something that is easy, automatic and completely untainted by any deliberate effort because this is a natural functioning of the mind. This kind of ingrained or innate perseverance will lead us as we continue with this practice to the very threshold of enlightenment. As we travel the path it will allow us to be of great benefit to living beings.
The cultivation of the perfections of ethical conduct, patience and perseverance will be of great benefit to our practice of the other three perfections - generosity, meditation and wisdom. It is through the gradual accomplishment of all six paramitas that we progress on the path towards enlightenment.
in the Theravada and Mahayana Traditions
Once you connect genuinely with meditation practice, you will develop a true passion for it and your practice will begin to mature. If you do not understand the essence of meditation, it is because you have not properly experienced it. Only when you experience its essence does meditation really become interesting.
Mind is not used to being in balance. Rather, we are much more used to the state of constantly arising thoughts, uninterrupted streams of thought. We are distracted, confused, and restless. We are comfortable with this habitual state of mind. Because our mind is addicted to being restless, constantly in motion, meditation feels unnatural. Meditation runs contrary to our familiar experience. Therefore we must put effort into the meditation. It requires more than just having a spontaneous or momentary interest in it. What we need is diligence and patience. To make progress, diligence is especially required, along with the knowledge of how to meditate. This combination will bring results. But the path can be misunderstood. Meditation brings one-pointedness, a mind that is stable and clear, not distracted or confused. It is not about entering into a special state where you have visions, see lights, or experience fantastic things. Some people might think so. They take LSD or play music and they are just manipulating their experience. This has nothing to do with meditation, since mind is still distracted and confused. The 8th Karmapa meditation is often misunderstood in this way, because one visualizes different Dakinis flying through the sky. Many people in the early seventies asked for explanation of the 8th Karmapa meditation, then they took LSD and meditated on the 8th Karmapa. This is not what I want to pass on to you.
So what is meditation, really? It enables us to experience the mind as it is, in its original nature. What happens in our mind now is that thoughts occur uninterruptedly, hindering us from experiencing mind's true nature. You can distinguish two levels of thoughts: outer and inner. Sensory experience is one such outer level. Mind continuously orients itself towards outer experiences, such as smells, forms, sounds and so on. Mind keeps itself constantly busy experiencing outer objects, thus creating the outer world. It feels like it is beyond our control to keep the mind resting in itself. Why? Because the mind is absorbed in its inner experiences - the second level that underlies our perception at each moment. Since our mind inwardly constantly follows its thoughts, we are also not able to control the sense impressions when the mind focuses outward. When we manage to control our inner thoughts, the outer level will no longer be a problem. When the inner distraction disappears there is no way to be disturbed when experiencing sense impressions. So meditation is about getting control over the constant stream of thoughts, practicing concentration in order to keep the mind focused. Winning this kind of concentration, you can get deeper into much more calm states of awareness. At that point, the mind is quite vast and rests in itself. It is as if you have opened a gate, a gate that in turn opens many other gates to go further and ever deeper. One develops a profound appreciation for the actual quality of mind.
For this reason, in the Theravada tradition, practitioners sleep only six to seven hours and meditate all day long. People meditate this way to achieve inner calm in a short period of time. Furthermore, they do not eat anything after lunch. They are allowed to drink only beverages that do not have any real nutrition, like water or tea. This benefits meditation in that the mind is clearer and less sleepy. Everybody who practices intensive meditation should do this.
It is also the custom to go to bed early, at about nine or ten, and then get up early, at about five in the morning. One's life is focused completely on meditation. Today a schedule like this may not be practical. The reason people adopted this meditation schedule during the time of the Buddha is that the Buddha taught that samsara is suffering, and that one cannot accomplish anything while trapped within it. Therefore, complete retreat from samsara to focus exclusively on meditation has become the special focus of the Theravada tradition. However, the motivation of the Theravadans is not particularly for the benefit of others. Of course they are not opposed to others who try to benefit all beings, but this is not their goal. Their goal is solely to concentrate on meditation in order to reach liberation as quickly as possible. But we are Bodhisattvas. We eat in the afternoon and in the evening. Since Bodhisattvas do not think so much of themselves, they are not in such a hurry to reach their own goal. Bodhisattvas are not afraid to be reborn again and again; they are willing to keep coming back. This is why they do not practice a form of meditation that simply cuts off the world, as do the Theravadans. Following the Theravada path, even if you wanted to, you would not be able to be reborn anymore.
Through the concentration states the Theravadans reach in their meditation, they can analyze their state of mind. Whatever disturbing emotions arise such as anger, attachment, jealousy, or envy, based on their ability to concentrate, they are able to analyze the nature of their emotions in subtle detail. This can be compared to a dream where after you wake up, you find that your dream was not real; it was not actually happening. Similarly, practitioners who have accomplished the Theravada path can see that their disturbing emotions are not truly existent. They understand the true nature of emotions and then, on the basis of this understanding, they remove the basis or cause that otherwise would automatically lead to a rebirth in samsara. After they have removed the cause of rebirth in samsara, they will not be able to be reborn again. This is the logical consequence of this form of meditation. The usual word in Tibetan for meditation is gom. There are other very precise terms in Tibetan, such as tingdzin which is a translation of the Sanskrit word samadhi. Ting means depth, as in experiencing the calm depth of mind. Dzin means to hold, as in to hold the unwavering quality of mind. Tingdzin also has other meanings. The Tibetan term samten is another word for meditation. Samten means stable, to experience a stable state of mind. Again there are several different stages of samten. In the Theravada tradition you progress through these stages: first the stages of samten, of concentration meditation, and then the stages of tingdzin. Similarly, Bodhisattvas proceed through stages in their meditation. When a Bodhisattva has reached a stage of samadhi or deep insight, he has the ability to use this inner calm to help beings. Here the stages or bhumis are primarily based on the increasing ability to benefit beings, while in the Theravada tradition they are entirely focused on reaching the state of liberation quickly.
It is very powerful to apply analytical meditation to our experience. The point is to carefully analyze every movement of mind. Through recognizing thoughts as such, you will reach an understanding concerning the true nature of mind. Therefore you will not be distracted by thinking, but will recognize thoughts as they are to see the inherent inner stability of mind. Analyzing thought reveals the nature of mind. Gradually, you develop certainty regarding what is otherwise hidden within the ongoing stream of thoughts. Analyzing thoughts brings about the ability to experience their nature, which is of course the nature of mind itself. Buddhism precisely describes negative disturbing emotions like anger and jealousy. Analyzed as products of our mind they are like all the other mental contents, simply thoughts and feelings. They are negative in the sense that they trigger negative consequences. Thoughts have different karmic propensities. For example, if you notice the carpet and think, "this carpet is blue;" this type of thought is neutral. It does not create a positive or negative result. Thoughts like anger, or jealousy, originate in the mind in the same way. However, they differ in that they bring about strong negative results. So through analytical meditation, we first recognize all kinds of mental activity, and then through this method learn to avoid their negative results. There are two benefits to this kind of meditation. The first is the control of mind by recognizing mental processes and then slowly uprooting negative emotions to uncover the nature of mind. The second benefit of this practice is a reduction in attachment and clinging to sense impressions. To develop concentration, it is helpful to refrain from excessive sensory input. If you are strongly outwardly oriented and also project great expectations onto the world, it will be difficult to calmly concentrate the mind on itself. Automatically clinging to outer sense impressions creates useless distraction. Conversely, when the mind observes itself, you experience a calm and peaceful mind. At this stage meditation becomes effortless. This is because all the neurotic movement of mind, which used to be the subject of analytical meditation, has been so greatly reduced.
Quite possibly the meditator could become attached to this state of total inner peace and start clinging again. This attachment hinders us from progressing to more profound experiences. At this point, one again needs further insight. The antidote here is, as before, an analytical form of meditation with the focus on this attachment to peace. Analytical meditation on subtle feelings of attachment is the key that opens the door to further development.
These are the phases of the development of concentration. Meditative experience is difficult to describe, because of the limits of human language. Good practitioners of the past have coined terms to describe their actual experience. They were probably able to communicate very well, however, in our case it is not so easy, since we do not experience what stands behind those terms. It is essential to experience for oneself what is meant in order to understand realized states of mind. The Buddha once taught the Samadhiraja Sutra in which different stages of meditation are described. Nowadays, who can actually understand the descriptions? But why then did the Buddha teach them? One can be sure that at the time of the Buddha, he had disciples who had all those different experiences and thus understood what the Buddha was talking about. Today we still have this sutra so we also have the opportunity to come to that point where we can understand the meaning. So how should we proceed? We must work with what we have as human beings to understand the meaning of these precious teachings. Bodhisattvas progress through different stages of developing concentration and at the same time preserve a certain attachment to the human form, the physical form to be able to be reborn in samsara. So on the one hand, one proceeds as the Theravadans in attaining levels of concentration, and on the other hand, one uses inner peace to create a cause to be reborn in samsara for the benefit of beings. These two qualities define a Bodhisattva: the combination of courage to be reborn in samsara, and the ability to control the illusion of samsara. These two aspects must be combined for the benefit of others.
Madhyamaka philosophy explains how the whole world and all beings are an illusion. Everything stands in the context of cause and effect and exists only in reciprocal dependency. Since everything is interdependent, things do not have independent reality. Things are not truly existent in and of themselves, because they are dependent on each other. Bodhisattvas understand this very precisely. They see the illusory nature of the world, so they can see illusion and can work with it. In this way, Bodhisattvas skillfully work for the benefit of beings entangled in samsara.
(Edited) - Published in Buddhism Today, Volume 7, 2000
the meaning of Samaya.
Taught by Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche.
Translated by Tina Draszczyk.
Samayas or commitments are essential in that they
aid the practitioner in refraining from mistakes which, if engaged in, would damage
his or her practice and thus counteract progress on the path.
Samayas are different depending on the particular level upon which their respective teachings are given. Commitments taught in the context of Theravada, vinaya, are different from those recommended in Mahayana. The samayas of Mahayana in general are again different from those involved in tantric practice. Within Vajrayana, samayas are also distinct according to their respective levels, Kriya-, Charya-, Yoga- and Annuttarayogatantra.
In order to practice the path, which involves various samayas, it is necessary to rely on a lama who should be qualified in the following:
- Learned in Sutra- and Tantrayana and skilful in teaching
- Experience in meditation practice.
These two qualities which are described in many tantras are essential with respect to Tantrayana. In Sutrayana as well both should be united.
A lama who is learned in the Dharma but lacks experience in meditation is of middling capacity. An individual who unites both, knowledge of Dharma and experience in meditation is of highest capacity. With regard to judging the capacities of a lama one can distinctly judge knowledge and skill in teaching due to his or her educational background. The depth of experience in meditation, however, cannot be evaluated by others.
Further criteria concerning an authentic teacher other than that mentioned above are not reliable. Some may claim themselves to be an emanation of Amitabha, Chenresi, Manjushri or others. If these individuals do not have good qualifications in terms of Dharma knowledge and/or experience in meditation they should not be considered as authentic lamas.
In the west people are easily impressed from the charisma of teachers and by certain behavioural patterns. Due to these characteristics individuals are considered high lamas. In the east, particularly in the chinese society, people are impressed with those who speak English well and with someone who presents himself as an emanation of a specific yidam or bodhisattva. If one accepts such criteria, it is not certain that one will meet a qualified lama. One could have great luck and meet an authentic lama who possesses charisma and excellent qualification. Furthermore one might have greater luck and encounter a very charismatic person who is the Buddha himself. In many cases, however, one will meet lamas who lack the necessary qualities.
Today there are many Buddhist teachers who offer an abundance of excellent Dharma. Unfortunately, at the same time, there exist unqualified teachers who misuse their spiritual influence. For example, they infer that if a student performs a certain action which is in discord with the teacher, he will break his samaya. This is often the case in individuals who do not possess the necessary qualities of a spiritual leader but nevertheless present themselves as Vajrayana teachers.
The first point of the 14 major mistakes by which one breaks the samaya involves disrespect towards the teacher. An unqualified teacher who misuses his spiritual position may present the 14 major mistakes as a rule claiming that if the student was to contradict this system, he would be reborn in low states of existence.
One therefore requires a teacher who is learned and skilful in presenting Dharma. If such a teacher is not encountered and one relies only on an unqualified individual, even if the student was to receive 1000 empowerments from this person he would therefore not need to worry about breaking samayas in that he never received the samayas in the first place. This was pointed out by the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje.
With respect to participating in particular empowerments and instructions it is not enough to simply be present in order to receive the full benefit. If the student is not conscious of the deep meaning of the background he will not genuinely encompass the full meaning of Vajrayana. In this case he should not consider himself as an authentic Vajrayana practitioners with the respective samayas. If, however, the student is aware of the deep meaning of Vajrayana, the practice involves upholding samayas which in itself is an indication that he is established in the Vajrayana and for his qualification to do this practice. Proper knowledge of Dharma is the necessary basis for Vajrayana practice in that it entails an awareness of certain mistakes to be avoided. Consciously maintaining samayas, due to ones knowledge, will therefore lead to protection of ones practice and thus ensure development on the path.
The following 14 major mistakes refer to actions which damage ones practice entirely. Therefore they are also named the 14 rootdownfalls. These are presented according to the Annuttarayogatantra, in specific, the Tantra of the red Avalokiteshvara (Gyalwa Gyamtso).
The 14 major mistakes by which one breaks the vajrayana samayas :
1. To Physically or Verbally Harmones Vajra-Master or to Entertain Wrong Views of Him :
The vajra-master is that specific lama from whom the practitioner receives empowerments, explanations on the Vajrayana meditation practice and essential instructions concerning the actual meaning of that practice.
The following concerns background explanation regarding the breaking of samaya by means of harming the vajra-master: With respect to Vajrayana practice, especially in the Annuttarayogatantra, the outer world including sentient beings is transformed into a pure aspect. The lama is considered as the centre or main yidam, deity of the mandala. Causing harm to the lama will therefore damage the main yidam deity which will furthermore negatively effect the remaining mandala.
The samaya is broken when the following conditions are present:
- one is fully aware of a lama to be his or her vajra-master and consciously physically or verbally harms this person
- awareness that ones actions will displease the vajra-master
- feeling no regret after having harmed the vajra-master
In one entertains wrong views concerning the lama and furthermore has the intention to harm him without physically or verbally hurting him, the samaya is not broken completely but damaged.
The samaya is considered to be of a small, an average or of a great extent depending on the strength of the relationship of the student to the vajra-master. From among the three aspects of the Vajrayana relationship (empowerment, explanations and essential instructions) if only empowerment is received, the samaya will be of a small degree. If a combination of two of these three aspects is received, the samaya will be of an average degree and if all three aspects are involved, the samaya is of the greatest degree. Accordingly a broken samaya is graded into small, average and great.
2. To Oppose the Teachings of the Buddha :
Certain teachings of the Buddha may be disliked by a practitioner. It is acceptable to disregard those teachings which do not seem suitable to an individual. However, the Vajrayana samaya will be broken if one opposes these particular teachings. An example of an opposition against the Buddha's word means for instance to slander certain segments of his teachings such as abusing the Theravada or Mahayana.
3. To Have Strong Negative Emotions with Other Sentient Beings :
This refers to negative tendencies such as anger or jealousy which one generally extends to sentient beings. Secondly the samaya is broken if one projects anger against those who have taken the refuge and bodhisattva vow. Thirdly the samaya is broken if hatred, jealousy etc. are projected towards those on the Vajrayana path, especially when one belongs to the same spiritual community, the same mandala or has received empowerments, explanations and essential instructions together.
In order to purify clinging to the outer world, the notion of the world reflecting a pure mandala of a specific yidam-deity, is generated. In order to purify ones clinging to sentient beings one visualizes them as yidam-deities. A sincere relationship among those practitioners who share this mutual vision is therefore established. This close relationship is known as vajra-relatives. Projecting negative tendencies against vajra-relatives would damage this bond and have a destructive influence on ones practice. For this reason one should refrain from selfish anger, jealousy and in general fighting with one another.
4. To Abandon the Attitude of Loving Kindness :
After having generated the bodhicitta attitude, the samaya is broken if the attitude of loving kindness and compassion towards all sentient beings is abandoned. Furthermore the samaya is broken if a sudden negative emotion leads to rejection of an individual, therefore excluding him or her from ones wish to benefit all sentient beings. If one does not regret this attitude, this contributes as well to a broken samaya.
5. To Go Astray in Ones Clinging to Sexual Bliss and to Abandon Bodhicitta :
In the developmental phase of the Vajrayana path, the practitioner identifies with the body of the yidam-deity. This is a method to overcome the clinging to the ordinary body. The biological potential for birth is the ejaculation of the bindhu. In order to overcome the habitual tendencies relating to the bindhu, the Vajrayana meditation involves generating the seed syllable of a yidam-deity from which the yidam then manifests.
Meditation techniques of highly advanced practitioners of Vajrayana involve sexual excitement as a method. The meditative experience is increased by realisation of the inseparability of sexual bliss and emptiness. This level of practice, however, is applicable only when the attachment to sexual excitement is overcome.
Monks break their vinaya vows and the Vajrayana samaya if they were to use these techniques improperly out of attachment to sexual satisfaction. Lay people break their Vajrayana samaya if they misuse these methods, pretending to be a practitioner on this level without full knowledge of their proper application.
6. Abusing Other Traditions with the Motivation of Gaining More Respect for Oneself :
An individual who asserts himself to be a Vajrayana practitioner and criticizes other traditions such as Theravada, Mahayana, Christianity or Hinduism, often possesses the mistaken motivation of simply drawing attention towards himself.
Criticising the Sutrayana is especially negative due to the fact that Tantra is based on Sutra. Criticising in particular the teachings of the Prajnaparamita and of Madhyamaka is even more harmful in that these constitute the very essence of Tantra practice. This behaviour therefore contributes to the breaking of samayas.
It is fully accepted and has no relation to the breaking of the samayas if criticism with a positive intention is formulated in order to clarify each others viewpoints.
7. To Reveal Secrets to Those who are Not Spiritually Mature :
If one describes the meaning of great bliss as taught in Vajrayana to individuals who do not possess the required educational background, they might misunderstand and abuse these teachings. This will contribute to the breaking of the samaya.
8. To Harm the Human Body :
The human body is the support for Dharma practice, the basis upon which realization of the two Buddhakayas is attained. With respect to Vajrayana the human body is considered to be an important instrument on the path. Therefore exposing the body to extreme conditions such as whipping, burning or destroying it by suicide, contributes to the breaking of the samaya.
At the same time, one should not assume the opposite extreme of adorning ones body and regarding it to be more important than it is.
9. Having Doubts Regarding the Absolute Truth :
This refers to an incomplete understanding of the meaning of Madhyamaka. Clinging to mere emptiness without comprehension of the relative truth contributes to the breaking of the samaya. This point also involves doubts concerning whether sentient beings can attain Buddhahood. Furthermore it includes mistrust of the potential wisdom in the mind of all sentient beings. It also refers to doubts concerning the non-conceptual state of mind and the perfect wisdom of a Buddha.
10. To Refrain from Forceful Activity when Needed :
Sometimes it is not possible to overcome destructive influences due to negative energies by applying peaceful methods only. Of course, in terms of benefiting sentient beings, a mind of loving kindness and compassion should always be present. The activities required to quell any particular situation must be specifically ascertained and the corresponding methods applied. Forceful methods should be applied when its is the only means to prevent individuals from committing negative actions which harm themselves and others. If one refrains from forceful activity when it is needed, especially if one has the capacity to perform in such a manner, this contributes to the breaking of the samaya.
In pretending to overcome negative influences and in using this point as an excuse, one carries out certain rituals which cause harm to others, is a total misunderstanding and misuse of forceful means.
11. Doubts Regarding the Meaning of Suchness :
This refers to individuals who are unable to comprehend the true nature of phenomena and merely conceptualize on the nature of phenomena. To entertain doubts as to the true nature of all phenomena involves the breaking of the samaya.
12. To Annoy Sentient Beings :
This refers to irritating other beings out of self concern, especially to annoy or distract individuals who are practicing the Dharma. Due to jealousy, abusing yogis who demonstrate various unconventional practices, also contributes to the breaking of the samaya.
13. To Refrain from Certain Behaviour when Appropriate :
During specific occasions the Vajrayana master, who should be a highly qualified teacher, will require that the student carries out certain practices such as secretly eating the 5 types of meat, drinking the 5 kinds of nectar and dancing nakedly. This is requested in order to test whether or not conventional concepts are relinquished. If, due to moral tendencies, one hesitates or refrains from carrying out these rituals, this contributes to the breaking of the samaya.
14. To Abuse Women :
Within Vajrayana women are considered to be the embodiment of wisdom. Regarding women as inferior or abusing them as witnessed in certain cultures, contributes to the breaking of the samaya.
Breaking one or a number of these 14 points requires purification within a short period of time. The most optimal is to purify this difficulty within one day. From among the various practices offered, an effective and simple method concerns the meditation and recitation of Vajrasattva. This practice involves the flow of nectar throughout the body by which all defilements and broken commitments will be purified. Due to conscious and unconscious reasons one often breaks the samayas. It is therefore recommended to apply this practice at least once or twice a day.
An Interview and a Message for the Web
was recognized as a reincarnation of Trijang Rinpoche by the present Dalai Lama,
trough a divination with dough balls and also by Dorje Shugden oracle.
Actually there were 500 candidates but they were looking for a candidate with particular signs. After the first screening one hundred candidates were left; then again 10 candidates, then 3 and lastly myself.
For this examination they showed to us some personal belongings of the previous Trijang Rinpoche; we had to choose the right ones. At that time I was 2 years old. They showed to me the picture of the previous incarnation and they asked: "who is this?" and I answered: "This is me!" Another time they showed me a picture of a group of Lamas and they asked: "Where are you?". I pointed to the right Lama in the picture.
One of the follower of the previous Trijang
Rinpoche was a teacher in the Central School for Tibetans in Dalhousie. He had
a relic, a tooth of Trijang Rinpoche, completely wrapped in a cloth. He showed
it to me and asked: "What is inside here?" and I answered indicating
There were many other proofs of this kind, many signs that I was the right reincarnation but now I don't remember them all.
Do you remember your previous life?
Most of the Tulkus have very vivid memories,
a very clear mind of their previous lives when they are very young but then, as
they grow up, they start to forget: things of this life become more important,
predominant. If it was not like that, no Rinpoches would need to study!
If I have to express my personal experience, I do not feel I am a reincarnation. I just feel I am a lucky child. Being a reincarnation brings many benefits: for example when I was a child I received many toys. But there are also many responsibilities.
previous Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche was a promoter of Dharma. He helped the Dharma
to flourish, especially of the Gelug School; so most Tibetans are directly or
indirectly his followers or disciples. I myself feel that he was an omniscient
being, very learned and that his morality was flawless; so I am always trying
my best in order not to spoil his image.
My responsibility is not to let the Buddhadharma degenerate especially of the Gelugpa tradition; and to have it flourish everywhere. It is a big responsibility and is also a responsibility of many Gelugpa Lamas. I always pray that everything will turn out the way I feel and pray.
Which is your daily schedule?
In the morning I recite some small prayers, the Arapatsa mantra [the wisdom mantra] and Migtsema [Lama Tsong Khapa mantra] then I take my breakfast. After that I start my main studies: for 1 hour and half I memorize texts. Then I have a class with Geshe Tsultrim on the Commentary to the Well Explained Essence of Definite and Interpretative Meanings. Then lunch and after lunch I have another class with Geshe Tsultrim on Tantra. Later I study Tibetan grammar and composition and in the evening, after dinner, I recite the texts memorized in the morning. My day ends with my daily prayers.
Chogtrul Trijang Rinpoche message for the web
I am very glad that you created
these web pages because I feel that this web site can be very helpful, especially
for the follower of the Buddhist path. Peace can be established in the world only
by Dharma, by spiritual path.
It is true that the world is undergoing a lot of progress, a lot of technological and military development; but there are also many pitfalls and disadvantages. Material progress is very limited, it is just external development related to external happiness. Inner happiness can be brought about only by Dharma.
There are many religions in this world and
it is important that whatever religion a person choose he (or she) has to pursue
it with enthusiasm, without criticizing other religion. That is wrong.
If we talk in a Buddhist context or perspective, Buddhadharma is very comprehensive and profound. It is impossible to learn Dharma in a short time, in a month or something like that. It is the same with spiritual studies or with worldly studies. In order to achieve something you need to study day by day, with the right teacher.
can say that the essence of Buddhadharma is not to harm anybody. If we can benefit
sentient beings of course it is very good but, if this is not possible, at least
we should not harm. If we apply this in our daily life, in our daily practice,
it is possible to progress in our spiritual path.
In fact it is not enough just to study the Dharma. We need to put it into practice. The reason for studying the Dharma is to tame the mind. If we do not put these precious instructions into practice, they can inspire hatred or competitiveness. So it is important to understand that the reason for studying is to tame the mind. If we do not tame the mind, by not putting the spiritual teachings into practice, then there is no peace and this brings many consequences like conflicts and so on.
So my personal request for the people who visit this web page is not only to study spirituality but also to put it into practice. I will pray that everyone will find achievement into their practice. I will pray that peace will prevail on Earth and that all the people pursuing a spiritual path my find success in it and in all their spiritual activities.
Many tashi delek,
Chogtrul Trijang Rinpoche
on Ngalso Self-Healing
How to relax body, speech and mind
Inner world peace method linking this world to Shambala
Siddharta started his spiritual quest with a medical perspective: he wanted to cut the suffering he had witnessed from its very root. To accomplish this he researched its causes and then found the remedies. This, in fact, is the principle motivating any scientific medicine but, in those times, the concept of scientific thought was not existing; the explanation of the world belonged to religion and philosophy and so Buddhism became a religion.
In his search Siddharta discovered that the mind
is the cause of everything, both of the happiness and of the suffering. Usually
we are not able to reach our deepest goal (happiness) and instead we accumulate
the causes for more sufferings and problems. But if our mind is lead in the right
direction it can find a way out of this vicious circle. This direction is a path
of self healing.
Self-Healing Ngalso is a system that stems its origin from the teachings of Siddharta, the historical Buddha. It is an ancient method with a new "packaging" created by Lama Gangchen to offer its beneficial effects to modern people as a relief from their stressful life.
is a Tibetan word composed of two syllables: ngal means the negative side - diseases,
tiredness, pollution and so on - of inner and outer worlds; what we need to purify;
so is the positive side, all those favorable energies and qualities we need to
recover or heal.
Self-Healing, at the practical level, it is a very effective and flexible tool. It can be used as a therapy or as a diagnostic method or it can be used as a supporting therapy in allopathic treatments or to facilitate recovery from psychic or physical trauma. Five minutes a day can become a healthy habit and can help us to keep mental harmony, peacefulness and a general sense of well-being throughout the day.
It is a healing practice and so
it does not entail conversion or faith. Everybody can use it, in any moment. To
get deep results, of course, as any other therapeutic method, it must be done
in a serious and constant way but even an occasional practice can still be beneficial.
It is a complete system that includes many different therapies: mudra (gestures), concentration, breathing, blockage-opening, seed-syllables, colors, symbols, visualization, elements and sound therapies. It can become extremely deep and complex but that it can be practiced at a very simple level during our busy and scheduled life. In our body and mind exist many precious elements we usually neglect or use in a wrong way. This is the reason for all our sufferings, pain and difficulties. But we do not need to worry. We just need to start taking care of them and not only of material needs. With Ngalso we can eventually heal ourselves deeply and also contribute to heal our world.
All the purification methods contained within the Tantric Self-Healing practice are taken from the Kadam Emanation Scripture (Kadam Trulpai Lekpam) - the essence of the Ganden Kargyu Chagya Chenpo. This is the ear-whispered lineage of Ensa, the lineage of the Panchen Lama. This mahamudra lineage of Gyalwa Ensapa, the yogi who attained enlightenment in three years and three months, was always passed down by the Lama to a few selected disciples.
These instructions were never written down until this generation. This secret lineage was passed directly from Buddha Vajradhara to Youthful Manjushri, then to Je Tsong Khapa, to Jampel Gyatso, then to Baso Choeki Gyaltsen until the masters of the present century such as Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang and Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang. From these masters this lineage reached down to Lama Gangchen Rinpoche.
Everybody knows that our body is a well built system that functions with the help of many different subsystems, like the nervous, the lymphatic and blood systems. This is well known because it happens at the gross level. But at the subtle level there is another system, mainly explored by Tantric practitioners or Acupuncturists: the subtle channels system. Inside the subtle channels, which are undetectable by our senses, flows our vital energy.
important is the central channel: it stretches from the top of our head to the
sexual region. On its left and right sides run two other smaller channels that
intersect the central channel at five points.
These five points are very important: they are the five main chakras of our body: the secret chakra, the navel chakra, the heart chakra, the throat chakra and the crown chakra.
From these main chakras many smaller channels branch out, filling all our body and forming our vital energy subtle system.
The vital energy winds that flow inside
these channels are, as the Tibetans call them, the "mount" of the mind.
They are the vehicles of the gross, subtle and very subtle minds.
This system is also called our inner mandala.
Through the practice of meditation
it is possible to learn about our inner mandala and to become able of recognizing
our subtle blockages.
These blockages in the subtle energy channels or in the chakras are the root causes of our mental and physical sicknesses; therefore it is very important to eliminate them.
We never think about our subtle
body: since it is invisible and untouchable, according to our mainly materialistic
perspective, it is not important.
In reality, the most important thing we can do is to take care of it since happiness and unhappiness, health or sickness all derive from it.
Ngalso Self-Healing is an extraordinarily effective
and quick way of accomplishing this.
In the past travelers
were affected by the nature of Tibetan people: in such a hard and difficult environment
they were happy people.
Since they were applying the methods of the Buddhist science of the mind, integrating their daily life in the spiritual practice, the result was joy and mental stability.
The tales about the mysterious and magic Tibet have distracted people's attention from a strange fact: in such a backward country many eminent minds were able to reach incredible levels of philosophical, psychological and spiritual insight. So advanced that they have fascinated great Western intellectuals and scientists, like Einstein, and have deeply affected the world collective imaginary.
How this could happen?
The answer is: the practice of Tantra.
Nowadays there is lot of confusion on this subject and so it becomes necessary to give some clarification (we will have many occasions, in this web site, to speak at length about the Tibetan Tantra).
is not a game of sexual freedom. In fact Tibetan monks, which among their vows
observe also chastity, are very often Tantric practitioners
The so called liberating techniques, nowadays so popular, are very often a mean of escape from the social responsibilities or from the world.
But escapes cannot solve the emerging problems of our modern society, that is the relationship problems and the loneliness and violence born from the resultant feeling of abandon.
The essence of Tantra, on the contrary, is the total communion, the feeling of never being alone. The universe itself becomes an experience of love, joy and warm acceptance.
or Ngalso, is an effective and fast therapeutic system that uses archetypes and
symbols to transform the mind in a positive way. The secret of its effectiveness
and rapidity lays in the ability of utilizing all life experiences, even those
considered totally out of control, like death or dreams: life itself becomes a
liberating path that can lead towards the complete recovery or, in traditional
You can call it a spiritual path but it's only a name. Medicine and Psychology follow the same direction, although with different objectives.
Teaching on Meditation
A Teaching given by H.H. Penor Rinpoche
November 12, 1999.
We are very pleased to present you with a rare opportunity
to study His Holiness Penor Rinpoche's teachings in print. Very few of His Holiness'
teachings are available to the general public, so this chance is all the more
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Re-cycling in worldy existence ("Samsara")
In this world, as we were born as human beings, we need to have something beneficial that we can do. In general, we have some kind of activity by which to earn our livelihood, just to have something to eat and drink. Of course, not only human beings, but also animals know how to live their lives in this way. As we were born human, we can talk and understand language and meaning. That is the specific characteristic of a human being. So based on that we need to have some ultimate benefit that we can achieve within this lifetime.
Generally speaking, two main activity categories we can engage in: our normal worldly activities and then the Dharma activities. But the majority of the world's people become very busy with worldly activities rather than following some kind of spiritual practice. These worldly works or activities are based on one's capabilities and power and skill, and of these there are many different levels - some have more or better and some have less.
However, whatever worldly activities that we complete, whether or not they are good or meaningful, they will only endure for a few months or years. There is not anything within these activities that we can ultimately rely on. For example, from young childhood we pursue educational training, from first grade until graduation. For almost fifteen or twenty years we work very hard and study so that we can get a specific job. Then if through one's job one becomes more successful, then possibly in twenty or thirty years we consider that we have a better or happier life. And if during all that time, if we have a very pure and sincere mind in all these works, then of course there is some benefit which is known as virtuous action. But there are also those that have the qualifications to do these activities but who have so much ego or arrogance or pride that their works, even if completed, are not really beneficial in this lifetime.
So many human beings consider the benefit for their individual selves as the most important thing. The result is we are all re-cycled over and over in what is called Samsara or the cyclic existence.
We cannot really establish or find out how long we have been drifting about in Samsara or cyclic existence. No one can know for certain how many lives we have taken in this world - one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, perhaps one million lifetimes. We cannot calculate the countless aeons of times we have been reborn in this world, in this Samsara.
Sometimes we were able to fulfill some of our wishes and sometimes we could not. For this life, from the time we have taken birth from our mother's womb until now, whatever our ages, we have been constantly thinking about our own benefit and how we can be more happy people. All of our education and financial developments are all just for one's own benefit. There is not anything left out that one has not thought of for one's own benefit.
The law of cause and effect ("Karma") and ignorance
However, whatever we do, fulfill or complete in this lifetime is mainly based on our Karma, the action, of what we have done in our many past lifetimes. One cannot complete one's every wish immediately because of the Law of Karma. Because have never developed their spiritual side, they mainly have deluded minds. So they are not able to understand the causes and conditions based on the Law of Karma. They can only think of what is happening today, and have no idea what is really going on. They don't have a deeper level of understanding of these spiritual practices and so they don't understand what is involved in past lifetimes and future lifetimes. It is because of their obscurations or ignorance that they don't have any clear understanding about the causes and conditions. They really don't know anything about the Law of Karma.
And there are many, many beings that don't know much about Buddha or Enlightenment or the Dharma teachings or liberation. They really don't have any idea of such things. Even with all the explanations we could find in these Dharma teachings, and even though so many lamas and other qualified teachers give these teachings, still one might think that these teachings are just myths. And so you can't truly accept them or believe in the absolute reality.
Everything is based on what is called the Law of Karma which is the actions that we do, the causes and conditions we create ourselves. Furthermore there is a Law of Karma which is known as the Collective Karma, the actions, causes and conditions we create together. There is no way we can change ourselves other than understanding Karma. Moreover, when one cannot understand all these deeper things, then one thinks that these things do not really exist.
When the lamas and the many other qualified teachers¹ teach on the sufferings of Samsara, of course it is not really nice to hear and then one feels like, "I don´t want to hear these kinds of teachings." Certain people when lama gives these teachings on suffering even say, "I'm not interested to listen about the sufferings of Samsara. This lama doesn't seem like he can give out good teachings!" These people prefer to just express their own ideas.
However, when taught by a qualified lama, it is indeed the Dharma, the truth. These teachings about the nature of Samsara and the reality of the faults of Samsara have been taught by all the Enlightened Beings such as Shakyamuni Buddha. The Enlightened Beings, the Buddhas, all gave these teachings because if we could just understand the nature of Samsara, we could then move on to the actual practices through which we could purify our obscurations. We could have the ultimate realization through which we achieve peace and happiness, and through that we could manifest ourselves to benefit all other sentient beings in Samsara. For that purpose Buddha gave all these teachings. It is not that Buddha wanted to be famous and so gave these teachings, nor was the Buddha showing off his skills in teaching, nor was he explaining things to us so that we would become frightened. These teachings are mainly about how all sentient beings can believe and act to attain complete Enlightenment, to liberate themselves from the sufferings of Samsara. So you see, Buddha gave these teachings with great compassion.
Take the example of a having a nightmare. Within such dreams, no matter what you do, you still cannot escape the scary feeling of a nightmare until you wake up. At the same moment, someone who is awake and watching beside the bed, can see that you are having a dream. We can understand something of the nature of Samsara from this dream example. While we are in Samsara experiencing all different kinds of sufferings, it is exactly like somebody who is having a nightmare.
The samsaric sufferings we experience are the result of non-virtuous actions of the body, speech and mind. For example, if somebody performed a negative action, such as killing, for instance, then the result based on that action, the reaction or its ripening Karma, is for the person's life to shorten. And in the next lifetime he may be born in the hell realms where he has to suffer the result of the Karma he created. Similarly, if someone thinks that in this lifetime they could obtain material possessions by stealing or robbing, like a rat who steals all kinds of grains, such stealing ultimately ripens its fruit so that in the next lifetime, or maybe in this lifetime, this person may actually not have enough wealth and become very poor. Even the physical body's negative actions, such as sexual misconduct, have negative results. This can be that within one's lifetime, or in the next lifetime, one's family will not be in harmony and will suffer quarrels and fighting. Similarly there are four negativities of speech, which are known as lies, interferences, harsh words and gossip. From these are certain negative results that one experiences, such that whatever one tries to tell, people will not believe. Even when one tries to say something beneficial it will seem like one is trying to harm somebody. Likewise with the three negative mental actions: Greediness, thoughts of harming others and wrong views. Based on these, one will not have success whatever one tries to do in this lifetime or in future lifetimes, one will experience a lot of harm from other beings, one will be unable to remain together with one's masters, teachers or good friends and so on. These are examples of the ripening of negative actions.
So understanding all these causes and conditions are based on the actions of our body, speech and mind, we should then try to abandon all the ten negative actions and try to train ourselves so that our mindstream flows with the spiritual path. Then one can practice and accumulate all the virtuous activities. The teachings say that if one follows the worldly aspect of the Dharma practice, with good or positive behaviors, that naturally turns into a spiritual path through which one can have peace and happiness. In this way, with our bodies, speech and mind, in whatever conditions of life, it is very important to try to benefit others and have loving kindness toward everybody.
Loving-kindness, the root of practice
This is the root of all the Dharma practices: generating the Bodhicitta [loving-kindness]. If one can really generate genuine Bodhicitta within one's mind, then it is very easy to move nearer to ultimate liberation. Bodhicitta is known as the awakening mind. The awakening mind is without partiality and equally benefits all sentient beings. If we have the thought of doing something good and beneficial only for our families and friends and then we want to create all kinds of obstacles for someone we don't like or whom we consider to be an enemy, this is not Bodhicitta.
Generating Bodhicitta, the awakening mind, is for the purpose of benefiting all sentient beings without any exception. Even living creatures such as ants, in their ultimate nature, they also have the Buddha nature. Even cockroaches. There is no difference in the size of the form. In the teachings it says that there is no limit to space, that space is immeasurable, and similarly there is no limit of sentient beings. Their number is immeasurable. Hence we have to generate the kind of Bodhicitta that is immeasurable for all these immeasurable numbers of beings.
If Bodhicitta, the awakening mind, is within your mindstream from birth, then of course it is very good! But if one cannot generate in that way or have that kind of quality, at least one can understand the necessity and importance of Bodhicitta. Based on that one can receive the Bodhisattva vows from a master and also from the body, speech and mind supports - like shrines and altars. As we receive the Bodhisattva vows, we can apply all this into practice, and the fact that we have been born as human beings becomes something really meaningful.
Within our mind-streams, there are all kinds of mental afflictions or defilements that are called the five poisons. These are the main causes by which we experience all the kinds of sufferings and problems in Samsara. That is why our most important responsibility as a practitioner is how we can get rid of this afflicted mind, how we can abandon it and how we can suppress these poisons.
It is difficult in the beginning to really generate Bodhicitta, the positive thought of benefiting all other sentient beings, within one's mind. But if we constantly think of it and try to contemplate and to train ourselves to get through all these practices, then it will become easy, like a habit. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, in countless numbers like the stars of the sky, all these Enlightened Beings were in the beginning the same as us - just sentient beings. They were not born from the beginning as Buddhas.
So with this precious human birth, when we have all this intellectual understanding, we have to really contemplate and think about what is the best benefit that one can really achieve within this lifetime. We could just complete our worldly activities. But that is still just cultivating the same kinds of causes and conditions, and we will just rebound into Samsara again. We will not achieve the ultimate happiness. Even if we have really high rank or we have all kinds of luxuries and material belongings, or we have fame and very good friends and many subjects or attendants, still there is no real essence there from which we can benefit. So if we spend our whole lifetime just to get success still we will find there is nothing there that we can rely on. Everything is so impermanent and changeable.
You all have some intellectual understanding so you can think and examine for yourself and understand what is really going on. One should examine and think over what one has really done and what benefits one is really getting within one's lifetime. Even if one is very rich, very wealthy, very intellectual, very wise - if we look into ourselves, into our own minds, we can understand just how much experience of peace or happiness is really there.
Does "I" exist?
Within this world, the most powerful obscuration or negativity is known as the grasping of self, the "I", or the ego. When one just thinks of "I" and has that kind of strong ego and pride, then within that kind of mind-stream it is very difficult to have these Dharma teachings and practices. Pride or the ego is like an iron ball which pulls us down.
If we carefully investigate ourselves, we will not find an "I" existing in reality. We think, "I am," and "He is," or "She is," but when we examine truly, these are not existing in an absolute sense. For example, we may think of our body as "I," but when we investigate we can see that the body is not the "I." The "I" feels happy, the "I" suffers, the "I" has this pain and sickness, and then the "I" dies. But when at death the five aggregates of our physical bodies die, still our external body is there, but it no longer has all those kinds of experiences of happiness or pain. For example, when the dead body burns in the fire, it does not feel the heat at all. When it is buried under the ground, there is not any kind of feeling either. Even when it is eaten by dogs and vultures, there is no pain at all. When death happens, all the pains and sufferings associated with the body are no longer there.
Even right now if we try to find this "I" within our body, from top to bottom, we cannot really find it. When we investigate, asking: Is the head the "I?" Is the eye the "I?" Is the nose the "I?" Is the chest the "I?" We cannot find in any part what we call the "I." There is no way we can find our mind, our "I," there.
In the relative bodily existence, it is our mind's grasping of subject and object through which we think there is this "I" and through which we experience things. It is merely created by the conceptual mind. Verbal speech, also, when we investigate and divide past, present and future, then we cannot find what is called speech. It is just in our mind
What mind is
So the mind - does it need to be something which we can see? If we think that what has pain, suffering, problems and so forth, that this is what is called the mind, in this way we have to perceive the mind as something like a round ball. When we investigate into the mind itself there is not anyone who can really perceive a mind.
At the same time, this mind does not really die. From beginningless lifetimes until now, the mind of Samsara has just been getting rebirth over and over. The mind which has been conceptualized by having that thought of subject and object is that which binds oneself here. It is that which projects the external world and then one's body and so forth. But no matter how much we investigate, there is no way anyone can perceive this mind.
All the past Buddhas have explained that there is no way one can perceive the mind in the past, present and future. If it is self-existing, then we could see it, like a round pill or something! So why do we think that it has to be perceived as some "thing?" All these "things" are created by the mind. All the experiences of happiness and suffering of Samsara and nirvana - everything is just created by the mind itself.
So we will find if we think over the absolute nature of the mind, it is definitely emptiness. Some people might say, "Oh, my mind is very active and multicolored! Maybe it is possible somebody might have it!" Or maybe somebody might say, "My mind is something like a white light!" But it does not really exist in that way.
When we don't control the mind and just let it be free, then it starts to create all these negative actions and thoughts. That is why in these practices which we call meditation, although there are many levels of meditations, whatever the Dharma teachings that have been taught by all the Enlightened Buddhas, it is mainly to subdue this mind and to tame this mind. It is to recognize the fault of the mind is conceptual thought, which is a very dualistic thing where there is always subject and object, and this binds us into Samsara or cyclic existence. At the same time we try to realize its absolute nature, to realize or recognize this, and that is the most important part of our practice.
When lama gives all these teachings, the practitioner receives them and tries to put them into practice and then they say, "Oh! I recognize the nature of the mind!" But by just recognizing the conceptual mind, it is very difficult that one could attain Enlightenment. That which creates all these emotions and conceptual thoughts - that is called the mind. But the actual practice is of something which is beyond that kind of conceptual mind, which is known as wisdom. It is that which we need to realize. So we cannot achieve the ultimate happiness just by recognizing the conceptual mind.
There are many kinds of practices¹ which aim to pacify all these kinds of negative thoughts and to control the afflicted mind, to purify and abandon them. When we do these practices and achieve some tranquility through which we can concentrate our mind and make it very stable, then we can perhaps concentrate our minds on the emptiness through which we may achieve some realization. So when we practice meditation and manage to get kind of settled and stable, even having just a little bit of experience of emptiness is really beneficial and can accumulate lots of merit.
Emptiness and the idea of emptiness
Emptiness is not something like just remaining there without having thoughts or anything at all. It has been said in the texts that if one does not know how to meditate properly on emptiness, then one can fall into the wrong pot. So one has to investigate the true nature of the mind in order to really establish its absolute nature as emptiness, and this must be maintained through the practice of meditation.
Emptiness which is merely emptiness, and the emptiness which is the nature of mind, are two different things. The one emptiness is kind of like nothingness. This kind of nothingness emptiness in the Dharma teachings is explained by the example of the rabbit's horn - something which does not exist at all. But the emptiness of the mind, which does not have any form or colors or shape, is in certain ways non-existing, but at the same time this mind is everything. It is that which creates all these samsaric phenomena and all the nirvana phenomena.
When you do meditation practice, it is good to cut through all these conceptual thoughts. To be without any such thoughts and then to remain in meditation is very beneficial. This is what is known as samatha or tranquility meditation. If one carries through with such meditation practice for awhile, one begins to have some stability of the mind, and then it is easier to achieve the vipassana or insight meditation practices.
All Dharma teachings and practices have to follow through the proper lineage. That is to say, the lama, the master, must be really qualified to give these teachings. Then the disciple, the practitioner, if he or she has really strong devotion or faith, can understand through his or her actual practice. There is no other way to give and receive these teachings.
So the lama, the master, must have that quality by which he can "read" the disciple's mind. When the lama has that quality - the knowledge by which he realizes the mind-stream of the practitioner - then according to that knowledge he can give the right introduction of the nature of the mind. For example, when the lama examines a practitioner, he can directly experience whether or not the practitioner has the actual recognition of the nature of the mind.³
Other than that kind of direct mind-to-mind interaction, there is no way to explain, "Oh, the nature of mind is something like this." There are no words to handle it. If there was any kind of expressway diagram about the nature of the mind, then we could just draw it and then explain, "Here! This is the nature of mind!" So it is important to carry through all the practices, constantly watching through the samatha meditation practice, getting used to that kind of concentration of mind, so that there can be a way for one to have the true recognition of mind.
The Tibetan word, "lama," means the Unsurpassable Teacher. The "la" is based on the quality of the realization and the "ma" symbolizes the mother, the loving-kindness and affection that one needs to have, just like a mother gives to her children. All the past, present and future Buddhas obtained Enlightenment by relying upon the lama². There is not any Buddha who just by him or herself attained Enlightenment.
The lama, the master, means someone that has complete knowledge about all these practices. So all who just have a red cloth are not lamas. Those also who wear yellow clothes, they are not necessarily lamas! Someone who has true purification and realization internally is who is known as the lama³. And the lama's mind-stream must have the genuine Bodhicitta to benefit all sentient beings.
Meditation the Dzogchen Way
Many of you are interested and have asked, "Please give us the Dzogchen teachings." But even I myself don't know what is Dzogchen and I don't have anything to teach you!
Anyway, as I explained to you earlier, if one practices the Bodhicitta, that kind of pure intention to really benefit all other sentient beings, and then the samatha meditation practices to establish one's mind in full concentration, then of course there will be the Great Perfection ("Dzogchen") meditations.
But if one cannot cultivate the Bodhicitta within one's mind, the path to Enlightenment is already broken. Without Bodhicitta, there is no real path. Bodhicitta is that which is without any partiality. The pure intention of Bodhicitta, the thought to benefit all sentient beings without any exception, can be understood by realizing that in one or another lifetime, each being has been one's parent. If we understand this and think of how dearly they have taken care of us, then we will feel grateful to all the parently beings and we can generate Bodhicitta to all of them.
This present body of ours is here because of our parents. If we did not have parents, there is no possibility that we could have these bodies. And if we don't have this physical body, then we cannot accomplish any kind of worldly or Dharma activity. So our mothers are indeed very kind and we should be grateful.
Of course, there are many kinds of parent-child relationships in this world, but we should remember that whether or not we are close to our parents is based on our own desires and our own thoughts. Beyond that sort of thing, the main meaning here is that without our parents, we could not have this body, and because of this we should understand and be grateful for their kindness. So first one really concentrates on generating Bodhicitta based on one's gratefulness to this life's mother, and from that one can extend this Bodhicitta to all sentient beings equally.
So the most important points are to have faith and devotion in the Dharma, then meditating and contemplating on Bodhicitta and compassion. Then one can apply these into practice through the meditations on emptiness.
In the Dharma practice one should not think, "Oh, I am doing all this practice for the benefit of this lama or for these Buddhas." Never think in this way. The Dharma practice is for yourself. Each and every one of you as individuals has to liberate yourself from Samsara. You are attaining Enlightenment for yourself. You are attaining Buddhahood for yourself. By your practice, your lama is not going to attain Enlightenment nor is Buddha going to attain Enlightenment! Buddha has already achieved Buddhahood! And if you cannot attend to Dharma practice in the proper way, then it is yourself who will fall down into the three lower realms. It is not the lama or the Buddha who will fall into the lower realms!
So, though it is important to think spiritually of one's own benefit and how one can attain Enlightenment, still the acheivement of that kind of liberation is by the path of benefiting all other sentient beings. Without that kind of Bodhicitta one cannot attain complete Enlightenment.
The Bodhicitta we can generate right now, however vast, is beneficial. In the future, when one attains Enlightenment, according to the vastness of that Bodhicitta, that many sentient beings can benefit and liberate themselves from the sufferings of Samsara. Right now we cannot really perceive all that fruition, but if we continue to practice, then in the future we will realize it as a direct perception.
Buddha Amitabha, for example, ultimately achieved that kind of result from his generation of Bodhicitta and his accumulation over many countless years of practices of commitments and aspiration prayers. So even as the Amitabha Buddha achieved Enlightenment over a long time based on aspiration prayers and the commitment to benefit all sentient beings, so we as practitioners must constantly apply the practice of the six perfections to benefit all other beings.
The Buddha Amitabha did not just do these aspiration prayers once or twice, or make this kind of commitment just one or two times. It was over many aeons that he practiced these aspirations and commitments, such that whoever hears the Amitabha's name and does supplication prayers to Amitabha, they will instantly be born in his pure land. If one has single-pointed devotion to Amitabha Buddha and one carries through all of these supplication prayers, then even oneself as an ordinary person with an afflicted mind can be reborn in his pure land. It is all because of Amitabha Buddha's special aspiration prayers. So although there are countless Buddhafields, the Amitabha Buddha's pure land is very special because of these reasons.
We all could also achieve that kind of completion when we attain Enlightenment if we continue on the path and carry through our practices, generating Bodhicitta in as vast a way as possible. So we should not lose courage, thinking, "Oh, I cannot do it. I could never attain that kind of Enlightenment." It is not good to lose one's courage like that. Think instead that all these past Enlightened Beings, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they also attained Enlightenment and ultimate realization by beginning the same as us, standard beings, and if they could attain Enlightenment, we can also attain that same kind of realization.
So today, though there is much that has been taught, if one can just try to keep in one's mind to have one hundred percent devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and if one will train one's mind by generating Bodhicitta and carry though the practices, then one can definitely have this kind of fruition. We can all do aspiration prayers, that in the future we can all attain Enlightenment within one mandala through these Great Perfection ("Dzogchen") meditations. Just as in the past such great Great Perfection ("Dzogchen") realized masters like Garab Dorje and Shri Singha and so forth attained Enlightenment through these Great Perfection ("Dzogchen") practices, similarly we can also have that aspiration prayer to attain Enlightenment.
Translated by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche.
© Copyright 1995-2003 by Palyul Ling. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without prior written permission.
In general, there are two aspects to the Bodhisattva Vow. The first aspect is the wish, the intention, or aspiration of a bodhisattva. The second is the application of that intention or wish. The Application of the wish means to actualize, or to put the wish into action. The Bodhisattva Vow should be taken after the Refuge Vow.
The Aspiration of the Bodhisattva Vow
First comes the aspect of the wish or aspiration. This means that we set our minds upon a goal, towards a target. What is this? It is all the beings that occupy space in a whole variety of forms of existences in all the worlds and planets. What characterizes a living being? It is that the living being has a mind. Its mode of existence is characterized by suffering due to the fact that the mind is deeply rooted in fundamental ignorance. A mind marked by fundamental ignorance produces nothing but disturbing emotions. Under such influences, inevitably we will act and accumulate karma. The karmic seeds when ripened produce suffering. It is this suffering that underlies and produces the various types of existences. The process generates itself life after life and forms a cycle of existences. By being concerned with all beings, their conditions of existence and their suffering, we will develop an authentic compassion.
Developing the Wish to Liberate All Beings
Keeping in mind the suffering that all beings experience, we need to develop an attitude. This mental attitude is a profound wish that we must develop in an honest way. The wish is for all beings to be completely and permanently liberated from suffering. Faced with this suffering of beings, one encourages oneself to develop the state of mind known as bodhicitta. In order to realize this wish, i.e. to relieve beings of suffering in a definite way, one has to work on oneself and be liberated from one's own suffering and confusion. Then afterwards, one can acquire the true capacity to help others and to liberate them. This capacity is a complete and perfect awakening; it is the state of Buddhahood. It is a real capacity to benefit others in a spontaneous way. In order to achieve this awakened mind, one needs to have firmly created the cause for it.
The Awakened Mind
The development of bodhicitta, or the enlightened aspiration, is the cause of awakening. The development of this aspiration forms a seed in the mind that will ripen as enlightenment. To formalize our commitment, we take the Bodhisattva Vow. Having taking the Vow, we carry on by actualizing this attitude of mind, and we develop spiritually. From life to life, we become increasingly capable of achieving the benefit of others. Eventually, we will realize the ultimate fruit that is the complete and perfect awakening, the state of Buddhahood. We will then benefit beings spontaneously, no longer in a conceptual manner, but in a completely spontaneous way without any obstacles. Just as the sun shines in the sky and illuminates everything, the activity of the Buddha will naturally benefit others. It is what is called the fruit of awakening, a complete and perfect awakening acquired by developing bodhicitta.
These are therefore the two points of view, the two reference points on the path to enlightenment: the fruit itself, and the seed or cause that produces the fruit. The fruit is the genuine capacity to benefit others. Its cause is the development of bodhicitta, the development of the enlightened attitude, formalized by the Bodhisattva Vow.
Four Types of Beings
We have talked about the fruit of awakening. It is important to really understand what this fruit is and what it means to be awakened. A Buddha has the capacity to accomplish the benefit of others in a spontaneous and limitless way. We need to understand what that means.
A Buddha benefits others spontaneously through four levels of activity that correspond to four types of beings. Spontaneously, a Buddha's activity enables beings that are completely imprisoned in samsara and its suffering, to have the opportunity to liberate themselves. This is especially the case for beings trapped in the suffering of the lower realms. A Buddha has the capacity to bring them to a rebirth in which they can experience relative happiness.
The second and third levels of activity concerns the beings that are already on the Path of spiritual practice. These beings are the arhats, and the Pratyekabuddhas. (They are on the Path but their levels of realization are still not the real enlightenment.) In this case a Buddha's activity takes the form of encouragement and support so that they can completely free themselves from samsara.
Take for example the arhats. Their practice will yield them the realization of the Smaller Vehicle (Hinayana); the Buddhas can help them equally to attain full enlightenment. The arhats are those who are already established in an inner peace of mind. They reside completely in this peaceful state. This achievement of inner peace is the fruit of the path of individual liberation, the awakened state of an arhat. The Buddha's activity can influence an arhat to advance towards full awakening rather than to remain in this peace. The activity of a Buddha can effectively shake an arhat out of the state of serenity and peace of his samadhi or meditative absorption. The Buddhas exhort the arhats to continue along their paths towards full awakening. The same applies to the Pratyekabuddhas.
A Buddha's activity also benefits a fourth type of beings. They are practitioners who are on the higher levels of the Bodhisattva Path, that is, the eighth or the ninth level. These Bodhisattvas are encouraged and helped by the activity of a Buddha to continue their efforts, to persevere, until they realize by themselves the full awakening.
Thus, we can see how vast this awakened activity of a Buddha is. Its sphere encompasses at the same time, beings who are completely caught in samsara, beings who are already on the Path of practice as well as beings who have already attained various levels of the Path. In short, this activity benefits all types of beings, on all levels of the Path. So it is important that we understand the initial cause that precipitates this spontaneous and boundless activity. It is this promise, this commitment, and this oath to practice in order to help and to benefit others. The Bodhisattva Vow enables us to have this spontaneous and limitless result.
Putting the Enlightened Aspiration into action
To actualize this enlightened aspiration and wish, we have to engage ourselves in the practice of the six paramitas, the six enlightened qualities. They are : generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiastic effort, meditation, and non-discriminating wisdom. A Buddha is someone who has brought these six qualities to full perfection and maturity. By practicing these qualities, complete awakening can be realized. The Buddhas have practiced and actualized these qualities, they perfected them and thus achieved enlightenment. They have gone through numerous existences rooted in their wish to truly help others. As a result, their enlightened qualities blossomed. We should follow their example and as we take the Bodhisattva Vow, we should think: "Just as the Buddhas of the past, the present and the future, adopt the Path of practicing the six enlightened qualities, the six paramitas, I too will follow this Path."
The Discipline of the Bodhisattva Vow
We can activate and carry out the Bodhisattva Vow in the context of three types of discipline. Firstly, we reduce our negative actions that cause suffering. Secondly, we accumulate positive actions that generate positive results for ourselves and for others. And thirdly, we behave and act to benefit others.
In order to maintain and to carry out the Bodhisattva Vow, we have to train ourselves. The methods are clearly explained in Gampopa's 'Jewel Ornament of Liberation.' If we fully train in these methods, we will build a powerful base for the development of virtues and everything that is positive. The development itself is automatic when the Vow is not broken. Even when we sleep and even when the mind is not attentive, these positive benefits continue to develop. This is why it is said that the Bodhisattva Vow is like a fertile ground for the development of virtue.
The eighteen root bodhisattva vows
When a vow has more than one aspect, doing just one aspect constitutes a transgression of the vow.
1. a) Praising oneself or
b) belittling others because of attachment to receiving material offerings, praise and respect.
2. a) Not giving material aid or
b) not teaching the Dharma to those who are suffering and without a protector, because of miserliness.
3. a) Not listening although another declares his/her offence or
b) with anger blaming him/her and retaliating.
4. a) Abandoning the Mahayana by saying that Mahayana texts are not the words of Buddha or
b) teaching what appears to be the Dharma but is not.
5. Taking things belonging to a) Buddha, b) Dharma or c) Sangha.
6. Abandoning the holy Dharma by saying that texts which teach the three vehicles are not the Buddha's word.
7. With anger
a) depriving ordained ones of their robes, beating and imprisoning them, or
b) causing them to lose their ordination even if they have impure morality, for example, by saying that being ordained is useless.
8. Committing any of the five extremely negative actions:
a) killing one's mother,
b) killing one's father,
c) killing an arhat,
d) intentionally drawing blood from a Buddha or
e) causing schism in the Sangha community by supporting and spreading sectarian views.
9. Holding distorted views (which are contrary to the teachings of Buddha, such as denying the existence of the Three Jewels or the law of cause and effect, etc.)
10. Destroying a a) town, b) village, c) city or d) large area by means such as fire, bombs, pollution or black magic.
11. Teaching emptiness to those whose minds are unprepared.
12. Causing those who have entered the Mahayana to turn away from working for the full enlightenment of Buddhahood and encouraging them to work merely for their own liberation from suffering.
13. Causing others to abandon completely their vows of self-liberation and embrace the Mahayana.
14. Holding and causing others to hold the view that the learners' vehicle* does not abandon attachment and other disturbing attitudes.
15. Falsely saying that oneself has realized profound emptiness and that if others meditate as one has, they will realize emptiness and become as great and as highly realized as oneself.
16. Taking gifts from others who were encouraged to give you things originally intended as offerings to the Three Jewels. Not giving things to the Three Jewels that others have given you to give to them, or accepting property stolen from the Three Jewels.
17. a) Causing those engaged in meditation on meditative quiescence to give it up by giving their belongings to those who are merely reciting texts or
b) making bad disciplinary rules which cause a spiritual community not to be harmonious.
18. Abandoning the two bodhicittas (aspiring and engaging).
There are four binding factors which must all be present to transgress completely sixteen of the root vows. The transgression of two vows, numbers 9 and 18, requires only the act itself. These four are:
1. Not regarding one's action as negative, or not caring that it is even though one recognizes that the action is transgressing a vow.
2. Not abandoning the thought to do the action again.
3. Being happy and rejoicing in the action.
4. Not having shame or consideration about what one has done.
To prevent oneself from experiencing the results of transgressing the vows, one can purify by means of the four opponent powers. Prostration to the thirty-five Buddhas and the Vajrasattva meditation and recitation are excellent methods to purify transgressions. If one's bodhisattva ordination has been damaged by completely breaking a root vow, one should purify and then retake the vows before a Spiritual Master or before the objects of refuge - the Buddhas and bodhisattvas - that one has visualized.
Part of a teaching by Yongey Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche
going to give you a story. This story is related to love and compassion. This
story happened in China. There was a husband and wife. Traditionally the wife
and her mother-in-law don't get along very well, they are constantly arguing.
One day it happened that they had quite an argument in someone's home. The wife
was thinking that her mother-in-law is very cruel and often says very bad things.
She felt very angry towards her. Later she was even angrier. She thought, "I'm
going to kill my mother-in-law. How am I going to do it?" She went to a doctor
and asked for poison. "I need the poison, because my mother-in-law is always
nagging me and shouting and putting me down. So I shall give her poison and then
she will die. I'll be happy." The doctor agreed and gave her some medicine.
He gave advice with it, "Now you give this medicine to your mother-in-law,
but she won't die immediately, she will die very slowly. So you need to give this
medicine a little bit every day with the food. If she dies immediately, then everybody
will know that you gave her the poison. They will know that I gave the poison
to you, and they will take me to jail. So it's better she doesn't die straight
away. "Give the medicine a little bit every day and after you have given
it, you have to be really nice to her, say nice things to your mother-in-law."
She thought, "This is great." Every day she put little bit of poison
in the food and gave it to her, saying nice things. In her mind she thought -
she is going to die soon. A few days later she looked at her mother-in-law and
thought, "She doesn't seem so bad after all." After a month she thought,
"She actually is a decent person, a very good person. Oh dear, I have been
giving her poison for a month!" What to do? Although she had given poison
to her mother-in-law, now she liked her. Also the mother-in-law's attitude had
changed and she liked her daughter in law more than her own son.
So the daughter-in-law ran off to the doctor again, worrying. She said, "Look I came to you a month ago and asked for poison to kill my old mother-in-law, but actually I really like her now, she is very good. When I thought she was bad before I was mistaken. If you have any antidote for this poison, please give it to me." The doctor said, "Is it really true? Do you really believe that?" She said, "Yes, I really believe this." The doctor said, "Sorry, there is no antidote." She was very sad. The doctor said, "If you don't give poison to somebody, there is no need of an antidote. If you do give poison to somebody, then you need an antidote. In this case you didn't give her poison and I haven't got any antidote to a poison which hasn't been given." Both the doctor and the daughter-in-law were happy. Then the doctor gave her a technique. What the doctor told to the daughter-in-law I'm going to tell you. I'm going to give you this method.
In the first instance the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law had a misunderstanding, and they both saw each other in a very negative way, so they had many arguments. At the time the daughter-in-law was speaking nicely to the mother-in-law, they both changed somewhat, and they both saw each other in a different light. If we have very small and shrivelled up minds, we will cause problems for ourselves and others. But if we have a light, open mind we are going to give happiness and peace to others and we will also experience happiness and peace in our own mind.
Glance Meditation on All the Important Points of Lamrim
by Vajradhara Losang Jinpa
I take refuge in all magnificent pure gurus, who are
the nature embodying all the Buddhas, the source of all the pure Dharma of transmission
and realization, and the principal among all the arya Sangha.
Please bless me so that my mind becomes Dharma, the Dharma becomes the path, and the path is free of all hindrances. Until I achieve enlightenment, may I, like the bodhisattvas Shonnu Norsang and Taktungu practice pure devotion to my guru in thought and action, see all the actions of my guru in excellence, and fulfil whatever he or she advises. Please bless me with the potential to accomplish this.
(This is relying on the spiritual friend.)
Knowing that this highly meaningful perfect human rebirth is difficult to obtain and easily lost, and realizing the profundity of cause and effect and the unbearable sufferings of the lower realms, I take refuge from my heart in the three precious sublime ones. I will abandon negativity and practice virtue in accordance with the Dharma. Please bless me with the potential to accomplish this.
(This is the path of the initial level practitioner.)
In dependence on these, I am able to attain only the higher rebirths of humans and gods. Not having abandoned the disturbing attitudes, I will have to experience uninterrupted, limitless cyclic existence. By contemplating well how cyclic existence works, may I train, day and night, in the principal path of the three precious higher trainings -- the means of attaining liberation. Please bless me with the potential to continuously train like this.
(This is the path of the middle level practitioner.)
In dependence on these, I am able to attain only self-liberation. Because there is not one sentient being in all the six realms who has not been my mother or father, I will turn away from this lower happiness and generate the wish to fulfil their ultimate purposes. By contemplating the path of equalizing and exchanging self for others, I will generate the precious bodhicitta and engage in the bodhisattva's actions, the six far-reaching attitudes. Please bless me with the potential to train in this way.
(This is the common path of the being of the higher level practitioner.)
Having trained like this in the common path, I myself will not have aversion to experiencing the sufferings of cyclic existence for a long time. Nevertheless, may I, by the force of extraordinary unbearable compassion for sentient beings, enter the quick path of Vajrayana. By observing purely my vows and pledges even at the cost of my life, may I quickly attain the unified state of Vajradhara in one brief lifetime of this degenerate age. Please bless me with the potential to attain this.
(This is the secret mantra vajra vehicle of the being of highest capacity.)
Eight Verses for Training the Mind by Langri Thangpa
With a determination to accomplish
The highest welfare for all sentient beings
Who surpass even a wish-granting jewel
I will learn to hold them supremely dear.
I associate with others I will learn
To think of myself as the lowest among all
And respectfully hold others to be supreme
From the very depths of my heart.
In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
And as soon as an afflictive emotion arises
Endangering myself and others
Will firmly face and avert it.
I will learn to cherish beings of bad nature
And those oppressed by strong sins and suffering
As if I had found a precious
Treasure very difficult to find.
When others out of jealousy treat me badly
With abuse, slander, and so on,
I will learn to take on all loss,
And offer victory to them.
When one whom I have benefited with great hope
Unreasonably hurts me very badly,
I will learn to view that person
As an excellent spiritual guide.
In short, I will learn to offer to everyone without exception
All help and happiness directly and indirectly
And respectfully take upon myself
All harm and suffering of my mothers.
I will learn to keep all these
Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly conceptions
And by understanding all phenomena as like illusions
Be released from the bondage of attachment.
Mind-training is, in Tibetan, Lojong Shijepa. It is a practice that descends directly from Buddha Shakyamuni through Nagarjuna, Atisha, and Dromten to Langri Thangpa and others.
According to Kensur Rinpoche, geshe Thangpa was known as the "Dark Faced," since he rarely smiled due to his contemplation of the suffering of sentient beings.
It is said that one night near his home village evil spirits gathered to discuss doing harm to a local person and Geshe Langri Tangpa was suggested as he lived alone and unprotected. However the spirits decided against it as they recognized that he had spent his life concerned for the well-being of all sentient beings including themselves. . . . even evil spirits cannot harm those who are truly dedicated to Bodhicitta.
is within you
Marpa, a great, enlightened being, established our Kagyupa teachings. He was the guru to Milarepa, the most famous Yogi of Tibet. The initiation given today is the Guru Yoga initiation of Marpa. The benefit of this initiation is mainly to ripen the seed of enlightenment that is within you. After you have received this initiation, you will be successful in all your practices. Your obstacles will be weakened. This is due to the blessings that come from Marpa's own wishes. Blessings come to us when the wishes made by enlightened Bodhisattvas come true.
Enlightenment is within you. Buddha cannot give you Enlightenment by his hands. Because the illusion is within you, then samsara and all the problems of the mind are within you. If the illusion, negative emotions, and samsara are from your mind, then enlightenment is also from your mind. When these problems are gone, enlightenment is there. So enlightenment is within your mind.
Dharma means methods - methods that you practise to get enlightened. When you have accomplished the practice, the result is Buddhahood. Before you begin the Dharma practice you must know how important the Dharma is. The length of our lives is determined by how long our physical bodies exist, not how long our minds exist. Mind will continue. The good or the bad things that happen to you in your life is the result of your past karma. Collectively, we human beings along with all other living beings in our universe share the same collective karma, the same realm, the same type of nature, the same type of form. We can communicate with one another. This is the result of collective karma.
However, the individual karma is not equal, or the same, among living beings. Some people are luckier than are others depending on the individual karma. Actually, the whole universe and you are an illusion of your own mind. They are the result of your karma. Karma is also mind. But once the illusion has manifested due to the ripening of karma, it is solidly there until its underlying cause is exhausted. When this happens, the effect is like a dream disappearing. You will then change from this illusion to another one corresponding to another cause. This is cause and result. No one knows one's own karma - what are the causes and results that are next to ripen. You do not know the karma that has brought about your present life. Neither do you know what cause is coming up next for yourself, nor its result. Nobody can know or find out about it.
Karma is accumulated. It is built up by your own negative emotions. It is invisible. It is not of any substance or form. Just like the negative emotions are invisible, so is karma. But the result of karma, however, is visible because it manifests as an illusion. Because your negative emotions are part of your mind and karma is also part of your mind, the resulting illusion is also part of your mind. Of these three aspects, only one is visible but it is also too late to change it. Whatever karma you have accumulated is limitless because your negative emotions from the past are limitless. You cannot make excuses now and claim that you have not done anything wrong.
Of the accumulated karma, the strongest karma will ripen next. It will yield the corresponding result. The future is never certain. When you begin the Dharma practice with this understanding of karma, you will have a very strong commitment. You will persist with your practice. You have found the Dharma and have some understanding of the Buddha. You have what is called a precious human life. Why is it precious? It is because you have found a solution to the mind. Fortunately your life is now meaningful. But your life is impermanent. You are aging in every moment. Without a solution like enlightenment, life has no meaning. Living a comfortable life seems like a good idea and everyone wants that. But whether or not it will really turn out the way you want it is entirely uncertain.
Every moment is meaningful if you live your lives applying the methods that can lead you out of samsara's trap. With this understanding, you should have a very strong intention. But intention is only the first step. You need to learn the Dharma. Very likely, people will not understand the Dharma immediately. But by knowing the example of the Buddha, they will develop the intention. They will then want to learn the Dharma. This is the second step. It is very important to learn from someone who knows the Dharma. Then you can receive the teachings in detail. Teachings are like the road directions to get somewhere. It is like when you want to go to San Francisco, you need directions so you study the map. An experienced person can show you how to get there. He may say, "taking this highway is longer," or "this way is shorter," or "here is the way to get there." It is the same with the Dharma. A qualified instructor is someone who can teach you and show you the directions. He knows the Dharma or the way. You should obtain the directions from him, study the directions, and then you must go to your destination. Otherwise, why did you learn them?
It is important that the dharma practise be done properly. For example, you may have very important business in Los Angeles. You have to be there at a certain time. From the moment you leave your house to go to Los Angeles, every minute is meaningful. You know the directions well. Along the way, you are focused. You will reach your destination, and you will accomplish what you have set out to do. Dharma practice should be like that.
In Dharma practice you apply what we call the paramitas. Paramita means to cross over, like crossing the ocean to reach the other side. Let us take for example, the drive to Los Angeles. In this context, the application of the Paramita of proper ethics means that you do not consume alcohol while you drive. Otherwise you may get drunk and have an accident. You do not fall asleep while driving is another caution. In other words, you avoid the things that will prevent you from reaching your goal. This kind of discipline is required to make your journey successful. When you go through the practice, you apply the Paramitas to put all your effort into making your journey to enlightenment a successful one.
Enlightenment is beyond our imagination. Dharma practice is limitless but our mind has the capacity to do the practice. To be precise, Dharma practice can be broken down into three aspects: the main practice and two side practices. The main practice is meditation. Meditation is a common word but in the Buddha Dharma, meditation is about removing all our problems of the mind. Samadhi is the realization of the nature of mind. Samadhi is meditation where the main focus is on the nature of mind. It is easy to say "nature of mind", but it is very difficult to realize it. The main meditation is on the view of the nature of mind to eliminate all mental problems. Mental problems do not mean the abnormal problems. Mental problems here refer to the negative emotions, and ignorance. Ignorance is the main cause of all negative emotions. The meditation has its focus on each of the negative emotions to eliminate them. In this way, you will be liberated. Of the two side practices contained in the Ngondro or Foundation practices, one purifies your karma. The other develops the merit that supports and strengthens the practice to make it successful. The two side practices are the methods and meditation is the main practice. In this way you will be enlightened. This is Dharma practice.
When you do the Dharma practice in this life, you are sure to achieve something. You can become fully enlightened in this life. In the least, even if you are a very slow mover, you will still achieve something. It is certain that you will produce a positive cause for the future and it will keep growing. Even if you do not reach the goal in this life, you will get there in one of your future lives. Otherwise, once this opportunity is lost and another karma ripens, you might lose the chance forever. Your past karma is probably not very good, otherwise you would not be in samsara now. Look at how much negative emotions that you have now. It means that you have accumulated that much negative habit in your mind from the past. Nothing good can come out of it. This is one way of looking at it logically to convince yourself that the majority of your karma is not good if your negative emotions are still strong. Once you lose this opportunity you will lose it forever. This is why this human life is precious and it must not be wasted.
A common problem of people is to think like this, "I must achieve the results quickly. I cannot wait more than five, or six years. Otherwise, I don't like it." But look at six years of an ordinary life without practice. What can you achieve that is lasting? You end up with nothing. You cannot achieve the results of the Dharma practice within six years. You simply cannot. But you are nevertheless engaged in something meaningful. After six years of practice, if you still want to pursue another goal, you can drop the Dharma and still do so. But is there another goal? For sentient beings, life holds no other goals beside enlightenment. I am not trying to discourage you but there really is no other objective in life. You can try to get rich, but then what? Suppose you can be a successful politician, or become a president of a country, but then what? The problem is still the same, isn't it? Dharma is the best. This is why even if you are progressing very slowly, the Dharma is still more meaningful than anything else in life.
A teaching given prior to the Marpa Initiation at Menlo Park, California, August 1994
Our Attitudes about Self and Others
Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche
translated by Alexander Berzin
Dharamsala, India, June 4, 1983
There are two traditions for how to develop bodhichitta, a heart fully dedicated to others and to attaining enlightenment in order to benefit them as much as is possible - the seven-part cause and effect tradition and the tradition of equalizing and exchanging our attitudes toward self and others. Each has a separate or distinct way of developing equanimity beforehand as a preliminary. Although each has the same name, equanimity, the type of equanimity developed is different.
1. The equanimity that comes before recognizing everyone as having been our mothers in the seven-part cause and effect meditation involves visualizing a friend, an enemy, and a stranger and is the equanimity with which we stop having feelings of attachment and repulsion. One of its names, in fact, is "the mere equanimity with which we stop having attachment and repulsion toward friends, enemies, and strangers." The word mere here implies that a second method exists that entails something further.
Another name for this first type of equanimity is "the mere equanimity that is the way of developing equanimity in common with the shravakas and the pratyekabuddas." Shravakas (listeners) and pratyekabuddhas (self-evolvers) are two types of practitioners of the Hinayana (Modest Vehicle) of the Buddha's teachings. Here, mere implies that with this type of equanimity, we do not have and are not involved with a dedicated heart of bodhichitta.
2. The equanimity that we develop as a preliminary for equalizing and exchanging our attitudes toward self and others is not merely the above type of equanimity. It is the equanimity with which we have no feelings of close or far in the thoughts or actions involved in our benefiting and helping all limited beings and eliminating their problems. This is the especially distinguished, uncommon Mahayana (Vast Vehicle) way of developing equanimity.
If we ask what is the way of developing the equanimity that comes before recognizing everyone as having been our mothers in the seven-part cause and effect method, it involves the following steps.
Visualization of Three Persons
First, we visualize three persons: a totally nasty and unpleasant person whom we dislike or whom we consider our enemy, a very dearly cherished loved one or friend, and a stranger or someone in between toward whom we have neither of these feelings. We visualize all three of them together.
What kind of attitude ordinarily arises when we subsequently focus on each in turn? A feeling of unpleasantness, uneasiness, and repulsion arises with respect to the person we dislike. A feeling of attraction and attachment arises toward the dearly cherished friend. A feeling of indifference, wanting neither to help nor to harm, arises toward the one who is neither, since we find the stranger neither attractive nor repulsive.
Stopping Repulsion from Someone We Dislike
[For ease of discussion in English, suppose all three people we visualize are women.] First, we work with the person we dislike, the one whom we might even consider an enemy.
1. We let the feeling of finding her unpleasant and repulsive arise. When it has arisen clearly,
2. We notice that a further feeling arises, namely that it would be nice if something bad happened to her, or if she experienced something she did not want to happen.
3. We then examine the reasons for these bad feelings and wishes to arise. Usually we discover that it is because she hurt us, did us some harm, or did or said something nasty to us or to our friends. That is why we want something bad to happen to her or for her not to get what she wants.
4. Now, we think about that reason for wanting something bad to happen to this woman we dislike so much and we check to see if it really is a good reason. We consider as follows:
" In past lives, this so-called enemy has been my mother and father many times, as well as my relative and friend. She has helped me very much, uncountable times.
" In this life, it is not certain what will happen. She can become of great help and a good friend later in this life. Such things are very possible.
" In any case, she and I will have infinite future lives and it is completely certain that she will at some time be my mother or father. As such, she will help me a great deal, and I shall have to place all my hopes on her. Therefore, in the past, present, and future, since she has, is, and will help me in countless ways, she is ultimately a good friend. This is decided for sure. Because of that if, for some small reason such as she hurt me a little in this life, I consider her an enemy and wish her ill, that will not do at all.
1. We think of some examples. For instance, suppose a bank official or some wealthy person with the power to give me a lot of money and who had the desire and intention to do so, and had done so a little bit in the past, were to lose his temper and become angry one day and slap me in the face. If I were to become angry and hold on to my rage, it might cause him to lose his intention to give me any more money. There would even be the danger that he would change his mind and decide to give the money to someone else. On the other hand, if I were to bear the slap, keep my eyes down, and my mouth shut, he would become even more pleased with me later that I did not become upset. Maybe, he might even want to give me more than he originally intended. If, however, I were to become angry and make a big scene, then it would be like the Tibetan saying, "You have food in your mouth and your tongue kicks it out."
2. Therefore, I have to consider the long run with this person I dislike, and the same is true with respect to all limited beings. Their help to me in the long run is a hundred percent certain. Therefore, it is totally inappropriate for me to hold on to my anger for some slight, trivial harm that anyone might do.
3. Next, we consider how a scorpion, wild animal, or ghost, at the slightest poke or provocation immediately strikes back. Then, considering ourselves, we see how improper it is to act like such creatures. In this way, we defuse our anger. We need to think that no matter what harm this person does to me, I shall not lose my temper and become angry, otherwise I am no better than a wild animal or a scorpion.
4. In conclusion, we put all of this in the form of a syllogism of logic. I shall stop getting angry at others for the reason that they have done me some harm, because
" in past lives, they have been my parents;
" later in this life, there is no certainty that they will not become my dearest friends;
" in the future, they will at some time or other be reborn as my parents and help me a great deal, so in the three times they have been helpful to me;
" and if I get angry in return, then I am no better than a wild animal. Therefore, I shall stop getting angry for the small harm they may do to me in this life.
Stopping Attachment for Someone We Like
1. We focus on our friend or loved one in the group of enemy, friend, and stranger that we initially visualized.
2. We let our feeling of attraction and attachment arise toward her.
3. Letting ourselves feel even stronger how much we want to be with this person, we then
4. Examine our reasons for having such infatuation and attachment. It is because she gave me some small help in this life, did something nice for me, made me feel good, or something like that, and so I feel drawn to her and am attached.
5. Now, we examine whether this is a proper reason for having such a feeling. It is also not a good reason, because
" undoubtedly in past lives, she has been my enemy, hurt me, and even eaten my flesh and drunk my blood.
" Later on in this life, there is no certainty that she will not become my worst enemy.
" In future lives, it is decided for sure that she will hurt me or will do something really nasty to me at some time.
1. If, for the small reason of her doing something nice, but trivial, for me in this life, I become infatuated and attached to her, then I am no better than the men who are enticed by the songs of siren cannibal women. These sirens take on a pretty appearance, lure men with their ways, and then later gobble them up.
2. In this way, we decide never to become attached to anyone for some small nice thing he or she does for us in this life.
Stopping Indifference toward Someone Neutral
Thirdly, we follow the same procedure with the person who is in between - the stranger who is neither a friend nor an enemy.
1. We focus on such a person from our visualization,
2. Let ourselves feel nothing, neither the wish to harm nor to help, neither to get rid of nor to be with this person,
3. and feel further the intention to ignore her.
4. We examine our reason for feeling this way. It is because she has not done anything either to help or to hurt me, and so I have no relation with her.
5. When we examine further whether this is a valid reason to feel this way, we see that she is not ultimately a stranger, because in countless previous lives, later in this life, and in future lives she will be close, she will be a friend, and so on.
In this way, we will be able to stop all feelings of anger, attachment, or indifference toward enemies, friends, and strangers. This is the way to develop the mere equanimity that is in common with that of the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas and which is developed as a preliminary to recognizing everyone as having been our mothers in the seven-part cause and effect method for developing a dedicated heart of bodhichitta.
Distinguished Mahayana Equanimity
The way to develop equanimity in terms of equalizing and exchanging our attitudes with respect to self and others is divided into two:
1. the way to actualize the equanimity that depends on the relative point of view,
2. the way to actualize the equanimity that depends on the deepest point of view.
The way that depends on the relative point of view is divided into two:
1. the way to actualize the equanimity that depends on our own points of view,
2. the way to actualize the equanimity that depends on the points of view of others.
The Way to Actualize the Equanimity that Depends on Our Own Points of View
This involves three points.
1. Since all limited beings have been our parents, relatives, and friends in countless lives, it is improper to feel that some are close and others far, that this one is a friend and that one an enemy, to welcome some and to reject others. We need to think that, after all, if I have not seen my mother in ten minutes, ten years, or ten lives, she is still my mother.
2. It is possible, however, that just as these beings have helped me, sometimes they have also harmed me. Compared to the number of times they have helped me and the amount they have helped me, however, the harm they have done is trivial. Therefore, it is improper to welcome one as close and reject another as distant.
3. We shall definitely die, but the time of our death is completely uncertain. Suppose, for example, we were sentenced to be executed tomorrow. It would be absurd to use our last day to become angry and hurt someone. By choosing something trivial, we would be missing our chance to do anything positive and meaningful with our last day. For example, once there was a high official who became furious with someone and thought to punish him severely the next day. He spent all that day planning it out and then the next morning, before he could do anything, he himself died suddenly. His anger was completely absurd. The same is true if the other person were to be condemned to die the next day. It would be pointless to hurt him today.
The Way to Actualize the Equanimity that Depends on the Points of View of Others
This is also divided into three points.
1. We need to consider, as for myself, I do not want to suffer, even in my dreams, and no matter how much happiness I have, I never feel it is enough. The same is true with absolutely everyone else. All limited beings, from a tiny bug upwards, wish to be happy and never to suffer or to have any problems. Therefore, it is improper to reject some and to welcome others.
2. Suppose ten beggars came to my door. It is totally improper and unfair to give food to just some and not to the rest. They all are equal in their hunger and need for food. Likewise, as for happiness untainted with confusion - well, who has that? But even happiness that is tainted by confusion - all limited beings lack a sufficient supply. It is something that everyone has keen interest in finding. Therefore, it is improper to reject some as far and welcome others as close.
3. As another example, suppose there were ten sick people. They are all equal in being miserable and pathetic. Therefore, it is unfair to favor some, to treat only them, and to forget about the others. Likewise, all limited beings are equally miserable with their specific individual troubles and with the general problems of uncontrollably recurring existence or samsara. Because of that, it is unfair and improper to reject some as far and welcome others as close.
The Way to Actualize the Equanimity that Depends on the Deepest Point of View
This also involves three rounds of thought.
1. We think about how, because of our confusion, we label someone who helps us or is nice to us as a true friend and someone who hurts us as a true enemy. However, if they were established as truly existing in the ways that we label them to be, then the Tathagata (Accordingly Transformed) Buddha himself would need to have seen them like that as well. But, he never did. As Dharmakirti has said in A Commentary on (Dignaga's "Compendium of) Validly Cognizing Minds" (Pramanavarittika), "The Buddha is the same toward someone applying scented water to one side of his body and someone else slicing him with a sword on the other."
We can also see this impartiality in the example of how Buddha treated his cousin, Devadatta, who was always trying to harm him out of jealousy. Therefore, we too need to avoid being partisan and taking sides with people out of thinking with confusion that they exist truly in the categories in which we label them. No one exists that way. We need to work on stopping our grasping for true existence. This grasping comes from our confused minds making things appear to us in ways that are not true.
2. Furthermore, if limited beings were established as truly existing in the categories of friend and enemy, just as we grasp at them to be, they would always have to remain like that. Consider, for instance, a watch that we feel always has the correct time. Just as it is possible for its condition some time to change and for it to run slow, so likewise the status of others does not remain fixed, but can also change. If we think about the teachings concerning the fact that there is no certainty in the uncontrollably recurring situations of samsara, it helps here, as with the example of the son eating his father, hitting his mother, and cradling his enemy. This example comes in the instructions for developing an intermediate level motivation in the graded stages of the path to enlightenment (lamrim).
Once, the arya (highly realized being) Katyayana came to a house where the father had been reborn as a fish in the pond and his son was eating him. The son then hit the dog, which had been his mother, with the fish bones of his father and cradled the child in his arms who had been his enemy. Katyayana laughed at the absurdity of such changes in the status of beings wandering in samsara. Thus, we need to stop holding on to or grasping at people to exist in the fixed and permanent categories of friend or enemy, and then on that basis, welcoming the one and rejecting the other.
3. In A Compendium of Trainings (Shikshasamuccaya), Shantideva has explained how self and others depend on each another. Like the example of far and near mountains, they depend on or are relative designations to one another. When we are on the close mountain, the other seems to be the far one and this one the near. When we go to the other side, this one becomes the far mountain and that one the near. Likewise, we are not established as existing as "self" from our own sides, because when we look at ourselves from the point of view of someone else, we become the "other". Similarly, friend and enemy are just different ways of looking at or regarding a person. Someone can be both one person's friend and another's enemy. Like the near and far mountains, it is all relative to our points of view.
The Five Decisions
From having thought like this about the above five points, we need to make five decisions.
I Shall Stop Being Partisan
Whether we look from the relative or deepest point of view, there is no reason for considering some people or beings as close and others as far. Therefore, we need to make a firm decision: I shall stop being partisan. I shall rid myself of feelings of partiality with which I reject some and welcome others. Because hostility and attachment harm me both in this and future lives, both temporarily and ultimately, in both the short and the long runs, they have no benefits. They are the roots for hundreds of kinds of suffering. They are like guards that keeping me circling in the prison of my uncontrollably recurring problems of samsara.
Think of the example of those who stayed behind in Tibet after the uprising in 1959. Those who were attached to their monasteries, wealth, possessions, homes, relatives, friends, and so on, could not bear to leave them behind. Consequently, they were interred in prisons or concentration camps for twenty or more years, because of their attachment. Such feelings of partiality are the slaughterers who lead us into the fires of the joyless hell-realms. They are the festering demons inside us that prevent us from sleeping at night. We must root them out by all means.
On the other hand, an equal attitude toward everyone, with which we wish all limited beings to be happy and to be parted from their problems and sufferings, is important from any point of view, both temporarily and ultimately. It is the main thoroughfare traveled by all Buddhas and bodhisattvas to reach their attainments. It is the intention and innermost wish of all the Buddhas of the three times. Therefore, we need to think that no matter what harm or help any limited beings do to me from their sides, from my side I have no alternative. I shall not get angry or be attached. I shall not consider some as distant and others as close. There can be no way or method to handle situations other than that. I am definitely decided. I shall have an equal attitude in terms of how I think and act toward everybody, since everyone wants to be happy and never to suffer. This is what I shall make as much effort as possible to do. O spiritual mentor, please inspire me to do this as best as is possible. These are the thoughts we need to have when we recite the first of the five stanzas in An Offering Ceremony for the Spiritual Masters (Lama Chopa, Guru Puja) that are associated with this practice:
Inspire us to increase others' comfort and joy,
By thinking that others and we are no different:
No one wishes even the slightest suffering,
Nor is ever content with the happiness he or she has.
Thus, with this first verse we pray to develop an equal attitude of having no feelings of close or far in our thoughts or actions with respect to bringing about the happiness and eliminating the suffering equally of everyone. Such an attitude of equality fulfills the definition of the type of equanimity or equalized attitude with which we concern ourselves here. We make the firm decision to develop and achieve that attitude, in the same way as when we see some wonderful article in a store and decide to buy it.
I Shall Rid Myself of Self-Cherishing
Next, we think about the faults of having a self-cherishing attitude. Because of the selfish concern of a self-cherishing attitude, we act destructively, commit the ten negative actions, and consequently bring ourselves hellish rebirths. From there, all the way up to an arhat's (liberated being's) not attaining enlightenment - such selfish concern causes the loss of all happiness and peace. Although bodhisattvas are close to enlightenment, some are closer than are others. The differences among them come from the amount of self-cherishing they still have. From disputes in countries to discord between spiritual masters and disciples, within families, or among friends - all come from self-cherishing. Therefore, we need to think that if I do not get rid of this festering mess of selfishness and self-cherishing inside me, there is no way that I shall ever enjoy any happiness. Thus, I shall never let myself come under the sway of self-cherishing. O spiritual mentor, please inspire me to rid myself of all selfish concern. These are the thoughts with the second verse:
Inspire us to see that this chronic disease of self-cherishing
Is the cause giving rise to our unsought suffering,
And thus, begrudging it as what is to blame,
To destroy the monstrous demon of selfishness.
Thus, with the second verse, we make the firm decision to rid ourselves of our self-cherishing attitudes of selfish concern.
I Shall Make Cherishing Others My Main Practice
Next, we think about the benefits and good qualities that follow from cherishing others. In this life, all happiness and everything going well; in future lives, birth as humans or gods; and in general, all happiness up to the attainment of enlightenment come from cherishing others. We need to think a great deal about this in terms of many examples. For instance, a well-liked official's popularity is due to his cherishing and being concerned with others. Our ethical self-discipline of restraining from taking the life of another or from stealing derives from our cherishing of others, and this is what can bring us rebirth as humans.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for example, always thinks about the welfare of everyone everywhere, and all his good qualities come from this cherishing of others. The bodhisattva Togmey-zangpo could not be harmed by Kama, the god of desire, who set out to cause him interference. This great Tibetan practitioner was the type of person who, if an insect flew into a flame, would break into tears. He was sincerely concerned about all others and so even ghosts and such interferers could not bring themselves to harm him. This was because, as the spirits themselves said, he has thoughts only of benefiting and cherishing us.
In one of Buddha's previous lives when he was born as an Indra, a king of the gods, there was a war between the gods and the anti-gods. The anti-gods were winning and so Indra fled in his chariot. He came to a spot on the road where many pigeons had congregated, and feared that he would run some of them over, he halted his chariot. Seeing this, the anti-gods thought he had stopped his chariot to turn back and attack them, and so they fled. If we analyze this, we see that their flight was due to Indra's attitude of cherishing others. In such ways as these, we need to think about the advantages of cherishing others from many points of view.
When a magistrate or any official sits very elegantly in an office, his position and everything about it are due to the existence of others. In this example, the kindness of others consists simply in the fact that they exist. If no people existed other than himself, he could not be a magistrate. He would have nothing to do. Moreover, even if people exist, if no one ever came to him, this magistrate would just sit back and do nothing. On the other hand, if many people came before him, looking to him to settle their affairs, then in dependence upon them, he would sit up nicely and serve them. The same is true for a lama. In dependence on others, he sits nicely and teaches. His entire position is due to there being others for him to help. He teaches Dharma to benefit them and thus his help comes from his depending on others, such as through his remembering their kindness.
Likewise, it is through love and compassion, from cherishing others, that we can quickly become enlightened. For instance, if an enemy hurts us and we develop patience, and thereby we come closer to enlightenment, this has come about due to our cherishing of the other. Thus, since limited beings are the basis and root of all happiness and welfare, barring none, we need to decide that regardless of what they might do or how they might harm me, I shall always cherish others. Other beings are like my spiritual mentors, Buddhas, or precious gems in that I shall cherish them, feel a loss if anything were to go wrong with them, and never reject them, no matter what. I shall always have a kind and warm heart toward them. Please, inspire me, O my spiritual mentor, never to be parted for even a moment from such a heart and feeling for others. This is the meaning of the third verse:
Inspire us to see that the mind that cherishes our mothers
and would secure them in bliss
Is the gateway leading to infinite virtues,
And thus to cherish these wandering beings more than our lives,
Even should they loom up as our enemies.
In this way, we decide to take as our central focus the practice of cherishing others.
I Definitely Am Capable of Exchanging My Attitudes Regarding Self and Others
By relying on the gateway of thinking about the many faults of cherishing ourselves and about the many qualities of cherishing others, when we feel that we must change our values of whom we cherish, and then we wonder whether we really can change them, we definitely can. We can change our attitudes because before he became enlightened, the Buddha was just like us. He too was similarly wandering from rebirth to rebirth in the uncontrollably recurring situations and problems of samsara. Nevertheless, the Able Buddha exchanged his attitudes about whom he cherished. By holding fast to cherishing others, he reached the summit of being able to fulfill his own and others' aims.
In contrast, we have cherished only ourselves and ignored all others. Putting aside accomplishing anything of benefit to others, we have not accomplished even the slightest benefit for ourselves. Cherishing ourselves and ignoring others have made us totally helpless, unable to accomplish anything of real significance. We cannot develop a true renunciation or determination to be free from our problems. We cannot even prevent ourselves from falling to one of the worst states of rebirth. In these ways, we think about the faults of cherishing ourselves and about the benefits of cherishing others. If Buddha was able to change his attitude and he started out like us, we can change our attitude as well.
Not only that, but with enough familiarity, it is even possible to cherish the bodies of others the same as we would take care of our own. After all, we took drops of sperm and egg from other people's bodies, namely our parents, and now we cherish them as our own bodies. Originally, they were not ours. Therefore, we need to think it is not impossible to change my attitude. I can exchange the attitudes I have toward self and others. Therefore, however I think about it, it will not do unless I exchange the attitudes I hold toward self and others. It is something that I can do, not something I cannot do. Therefore, inspire me, O my spiritual mentor, to do it. This is the thrust of the fourth stanza.
In brief, inspire us to develop the minds that understand
the distinctions between
The faults of infantile beings slaving for their selfish ends alone
And the virtues of the Kings of Sages working solely for the sake of others,
And thus, to be able to equalize and exchange our attitudes
concerning others and ourselves.
Thus, the decision we make here is that we definitely can exchange our attitudes concerning the cherishing of self and others.
I Shall Definitely Exchange My Attitudes Regarding Self and Others
Again, we think about the faults of self-cherishing and the benefits of cherishing others, but this time we do it in an alternating fashion, mixing the two together. In other words, we go through the ten destructive and the ten constructive actions, one by one in turn from each list alternatively, and see their results in terms of self-cherishing and cherishing others. For instance, if I cherish myself I will not hesitate to take the lives of others. As a result, I will be reborn in a joyless hell realm and even when born later as a human, I will have a short life full of sickness. On the other hand, if I cherish others, I will stop taking the lives of others and, as a result, I will be reborn in a better state, have a long life, and so on. Then, we repeat the same procedure with stealing and refraining from stealing, indulging in inappropriate sexual behavior and refraining from such action, and so on. In short, as the fifth stanza says:
Since cherishing ourselves is the doorway to all torment,
While cherishing our mothers is the foundation for everything good,
Inspire us to make our core practice
The yoga of exchanging others for ourselves.
The fifth decision, then, is that I definitely shall exchange my attitudes toward self and others. This does not mean, of course, to decide that now I am you and you are me. Rather, it means to exchange the points of view with respect to whom we cherish. Instead of cherishing ourselves and ignoring others, now we shall ignore our selfish concerns and cherish everyone else. If we fail to do this, there is no way we can attain anything. But if we make this exchange in our attitudes, then on that basis we can go on to train with the visualizations of giving away our happiness to others and taking on their sufferings, as a way to develop sincere caring love and compassionate sympathy. On that basis, we will be able to develop the exceptional resolve to alleviate the problems and sufferings of everyone and bring them happiness, and the dedicated heart of bodhichitta with which we strive for enlightenment in order to be able to do so as much as is possible.
The source for these teachings is Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior (Bodhicharyavatara) by Shantideva, the teachings of the Kadampa masters, and of course An Offering Ceremony to the Spiritual Masters by the First Panchen Lama. They appear in this form with numbered sections in The Collected Works of Kyabjey Trijang Dorjechang, the Late Junior Tutor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. However, to be too interested in the outline and the numbers within it is like when we have a plate of seven momos (dumplings) in front of us and instead of eating them, we want someone to attest to how many there are, what the source was for their shape, and so on. Just sit down and eat!
Meditation--A Practice For Honest People
HOLISTIC CLEARING MEDITATION
a contemplative method for human unfoldment
developed by Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche
This meditation was created with the intention of helping students of Buddha Dharma and all humans in the West who have difficulty relating to the cultural trappings of "Buddhism". It is a non-sectarian, non-deistic body-mind technique that includes all the salient points of the Buddhas great teaching of the mindful way - The Satipatthana Sutta - culturally translated for today.
The technique is comprised of four main sections, as follows:
1. Meditation on Defilements
2. Meditation on Lacks
3. Meditation on Strengths
4. Meditation on the Breath
The recommended general guidelines for practice are as follows:
1. Exercise - Before each sitting, get your system going with a walk or calisthenics, etc. The principal meaning of this instruction can be summed up by the word "sweat"! Exercise until you start to "glow".
2. Posture - Sit in a comfortable, balanced posture with a straight spine and open eyes looking in front and only a little below eye-level. If the mind is active, lower the gaze a little; if it is sluggish, raise the gaze a little. Sitting in a chair is okay, but be sure that the spine is balanced and centred and both feet are on the floor. If you can manage the lotus posture, that is best, but be gentle with yourself. The meditation can be gradually extended to the other three classic postures - standing, walking and lying down. For now, work exclusively with the sitting posture until there is some sense of mastery of the technique.
3. Breathing - When your posture feels good and balanced, take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Bring your attention fully to the breath until the mind stablizes, perhaps three to ten breaths, no more.
4. Aspiration - It is important to know what you are trying to do there on your meditation cushion, so make a clear and straightforward statement of intention. For instance, "I want to be happy and free from pain, so I will now practice this Holistic Clearing Meditation with that intention". or, "I want to know more!", or, "May I and everyone get better!" Pray until you are moved in the stream of your own being. Try to narrow it down to one key word or slogan.
5. The Main Body of the Meditation - Here you focus on the object of study.
6. Re-statement of Aspiration - When you are ready to exit the meditation, briefly recall the intention you made at the beginning of the session and power it up. Strengthen it by adding new words or finding the essence slogan that really rings true for you.
7. Share the Merit - Splash some of your good feelings around by wishing "may whatever positive results that have been produced by this practice be shared with all living creatures!" Imagine that rays of light and blessings emanate from your entire body-mind to bless all directions of the compass as well as above and below. Give it all away.
8. Review - It is helpful to keep a notebook and pencil handy to jot down any important ideas that occur to you. At the end of the session keep a record of as many details as you can remember, in point form. The principal is to cross the information from the right to the left brain hemisphere. Speaking out loud at this point will do the same trick, but writing is better. Both speaking and writing is even better. You may consider exploring any emergeing insights by bringing them into artistic expression. This will deepen the work considerably.
FOUR MAIN BODIES OF THE MEDITATION
1. Meditation on Defilements.
After you have established your meditation with Exercise, Posture, Breathing and Aspiration, you are ready to turn your mind to the main body. The first meditation focuses on the negative emotions that afflict you. This is, paradoxically, a positive meditation because it is possible to liberate yourself of a neurotic pattern by fully going into it, locating it in the body and naming its essence or texture.
Start by creating a list of (no more than) five things that really "Bug" you. Attitudes that you find really obstructive and negative; aspects of your character that seem to be "Stuck". You may wish to jot it down on paper. Take each one, one at a time, and find a key word or phrase that definitely "embodies" the issue, for instance "Nagging" or "Can't get Around to It". Whatever. Now repeat the essence word a few times and feel deeply into your body. "Where is it in the body?" "What does it feel like?" Do this briefly. Now, take a rest and go back to simply breathing for a short while until you feel balanced and centred again. Then go back to your second defilement. Feel it in the body and then rest. Then the third defilement, et cetera....
When you have a handful of negativities, choose ONE that you feel has the most juice for you. You may need to briefly scan them again, but allow the mind to zone in on the one defilement it wishes to work on.
Choose one, then bring your attention to it fully. Find a word or phrase that resounds or reverberates in your body and seems to exactly "get" the defilement. Play around with a few words until you feel that it's just right. You'll know it's right when your body responds.
Use the key words like a mantram. That is, conjoin it with a question mark. ? Ask yourself, "What IS ____?" Stay focussed on your mantra and whatever you do, don't change it or get lost in intellectualizing. Just keep repeating the key word with an intense attitude of question.
When the mantra is rolling along, start noticing what's happening in your body. What you are feeling for is the emotional-body or energy-body, called by the Buddha "the body in the body". Notice in particular any sensations of texture, or density. For example, you may feel cloudy in your chest. Keep the mantra turning until a definite energy-body formation evolves. In the early stages of practice, this may take time. Once you do some work however, it can come really quickly.
Now, when the body in the body has become manifest, let go of the mantra and take up this penetrating question: "What is the essence texture of this formation?" It could be anything, because every individual is different, but it might be something like "smoke" or "cheddar cheese" or "velvet hat". Who knows, it's up to you. But, you will KNOW when you get the right word because it will reverberate through your body-mind like a gong. "Aha! That's it!"
When the texture word of the defilement is brought into consciousness, the neurotic pattern is liberated. Use the word like a magic wand and touch it to every part of your body. (Yes you are allowed to enjoy it). Pay very close attention to what is happening internally. You may observe energy movements of all kinds or you could receive insights. Sit in silence and remain watchful. Adjust your posture and use breathing awareness to keep you grounded.
At this point the energy-body might change to a new formation. If you wish to pursue it, then simply repeat the previous step and search for the essence texture of the body. And so on. It's pleasant to continue on like this for a long time, but keep it short during the first sessions.
If you decide that you wish to end the session, then Re-state your Aspiration, Share Merit, and Review.
2. Meditation on Lacks
This meditation is designed to pinpoint the areas of your life that are simply missing. For example, a plant may have rain and sunshine but maybe what it needs is a little phosphorus. How would it ever know? If only it could do this meditation.... Carl Jung wrote about four basic human modalities or functions: Thinking, Feeling, Sensation and Intuition. His (and Namgyal's) belief was that all humans are striving towards balance and integration of these four in their own being. Where are you lacking? This will be the area of your greatest unconscious resistance so don't be surprised if obstinacy comes up for you in this meditation. Just plow right through it. Stick to your practice and win through to liberation. This destroys ignor-ance.
Start with Exercise, Posture, Breathing and Aspiration. Now ask yourself deeply: "What is lacking in me?" Say this or it's equivalent over and over again with feeling. An answer will come, be open to it. Honour and acknowledge it, then close in the usual way.
3. Meditation on Strengths
is really the core of this particular teaching. Eventually, when you are free
of all obstructive defilements, the energy that was tied up will be available
for new and interesting explorations and unfoldment of consciousness. You will
move from strength to strength, from curiosity to curiosity until whatever path
you are on takes you to the experiences of the Transcendental. You can experience
complete freedom from fear and obsession because this is your natural state. Oddly,
most everyone has frequent episodes of wholesomeness, but won't acknowledge them
or remember. This meditation is designed to support and feed wholesome states
of consciousness already present in the body-mind, as well as encourage and nurture
wholesome mind states that are as yet only in a seed form.
Start with Exercise, Posture, Breathing and Aspiration. This is in itself a statement of great strength.
Now, like the meditation on defilements, create a list. Instead of negatives, however, creat a list of positive wholesome events, attitudes, feelings. Search for events that left you feeling whole and complete, for instance, "swimming" or "making love" or "generosity". You can dwell for a good long while at this stage if you wish, collecting a list of approximately ten wholesomes. You may wish to jot them down.
Now focus on each one, one at a time. Find a key mantra word or phrase that seems to embody the feeling of the event. Let the word and memory resonate through your body-mind. Marinate your spirit in wholesome feelings and thoughts.
When you've gone through your list and have a good collection of positives, select ONE that has the most juice for you. Follow your interest and bliss. If it seems like the most fun then it's probably the right one. Allow your mind to naturally gravitate towards it.
Now bring all of your attention to this particular word and use it as a mantram. "Swimming. Swimming. What IS swimming???" Use your voice inflection to add a big question mark. ?
Continue repeating until you have established a really engaged focus.
When the mantra is really roiling, then begin noticing "the body in the body". How does it feel? What texture does it feel like? This is probably going to be more dificult than the defilement meditation because the nature of strengths is that they don't stand still! Defilements just sit there like a lump of ----, so they're easier to apprehend than strength formations which tend to move on like a river. So you must be sensitive and unhesitant, clear and strong. Keep the mantra moving and watch the body-mind with alertness until you can feel the energy-body manifest a full holistic statement from the depth.
At that moment, drop the mantra and focus on the feeling of the "body in the body" itself, asking intently, "What is the texture of this?" "What is its essence?" "What does this feel like?" Try out different texture words until one resounding word comes that is instantly recognizable as the correct one. "Aha! It's nectar!"
Now use the word like a magic wand and touch it to all parts of your body-mind. Then sit in stillness and pay close attention to whatever arises. Attend to awareness of the breath in order to stay grounded.
At this point, the body-mind may spontaneously change to another body-mind pattern of strength. You may follow it by once again searching for the word that embodies the essential texture of the formation. ie:"What does this feel like?"
If you wish to end the session at this point, then Restate the Aspiration, Share Merit and Review.
4. Meditation on the Breath
Whenever you are perplexed, root yourself in this meditation. The main principle is to establish tranquillity to act as a foundation for the other meditations presented here. It is the counterbalance*, but is also in itself capable of providing the mental conditions for nurturing strengths, filling lacks and eliminating defilements. Use it as a tool to stabilize your mind and bring yourself back to centre. Also, any time you feel you need a rest, this practice is remarkably rejuvenating. *(Samattha and vipassana; tranquillity and insight)
Start with Exercise, Posture, Breathing and Aspiration. Exercise isn't so important in this one, but posture is.
Now take a few deep breaths and let them go. Now let your mind go and rest in a non-contrived natural state, neither grasping nor pushing. Just let go of everything. Be like a bail of straw when the string is cut. If you have received Mahamudra or Dzogchen instructions from an authentic master then practice that, but if you haven't, then simply put your attention on your breath at the nostrils.
You may wish to start by counting your out-breaths from one to five, then one to five, et cetera... Do this for a while until your mind is stable and you can consistently keep attention on the breath, counting effortlessly.
Then let go of the counting and simply regard the breath whistling in and out of your nostrils. Do this for a while until your mind is stable and you can consistently keep attention on the breath.
Then let go of the breath. Let go of everything except awareness. Relax.
This teaching is a pith instruction of Namgyal Rinpoche's excellent method to enlightenment called "The Holistic Clearing Method". I wrote it by the request of my Aunt Jean Wells on December 21st, 1995 at her electronic cottage on Vancouver Island. If there are any errors, then they are completely my fault. By the power of reading, practicing,writing and copying this teaching, may all beings be completely free. C. Fortune
We are continually strengthening the tendency of the mind to be unsettled.
by Rob Nairn Excerpted from Diamond Mind
WHY IS THE MIND UNSETTLED?
First we need to ask why it is necessary to settle the mind, and what is the unsettled mind. Mostly, it is the mind we have always lived with, the one that can't remain on the cushion. It can't remain in this room or anywhere near this place most of the time. We sit down, focus on the external meditation support, and we form an intention. Our intention is to remain present with the meditation support.
Then a very interesting thing happens. Something within us, within seconds, perhaps a split second, overrides that intention. In an instant, we are no longer with the meditation support, instead we are thinking about something. Now that is quite interesting if we sit back and look at it.
Here we are, these 'self-deterministic' human beings who are supposedly able to guide our destinies through the universe, but we can't even carry out an intention to keep the mind in one place for more than a few seconds at best! Something else overrides that intention and we are away.
What overrides that intention? Habit. What sort of habit? The habit of having a butterfly mind. An unsettled mind. A mind that prefers to be in constant movement and activity. When we try to meditate we discover how distracted and unsettled our minds really are. It's usually quite a healthy shock to new meditators.
So our mind zaps away, out of this room. We could be in Trafalgar Square, New York, or down at a Cape Town beach within an instant of starting our meditation. Quite possibly it takes a little bit of time before we catch up with it and bring it back into this room. Then it's gone again! Then we catch up with it and bring it back into this room.
So that is the unsettled mind. It is the mind that, of its own accord, moves away. When our mindfulness is weak we don't even realise that it has moved. It's as though we fell asleep. We sit there and think, 'Ah, now I'm going to meditate... I wonder what we will have for supper tonight?' We're gone! Now we realise that if we don't learn to settle the mind we are unlikely even to begin meditating.
HOW WE KEEP THE MIND UNSETTLED
Interestingly, what we don't understand is that we are continually strengthening the tendency of the mind to be unsettled, and we are doing it in a variety of ways.
One is, we continually seek entertainment. It may be through TV, radio, a book, a conversation or drinking coffee. If we are denied all those external forms, all we have left to fall back on is the entertainment of the mind's imaginative activity. And that is limitless! It can run videos forever! It does it because we want it to. At a certain level, we most certainly want it to. It's boring and tiresome just to be here watching the breath. So we definitely want to be doing something else.
Quite often we won't let our minds settle because we are afraid that if we do manage to switch off the eternal video we will uncover what we have spent so much of our lives burying and keeping hidden. What we don't realise is that our intention to remain present and mindful is overridden by another intention which doesn't reveal itself. It is another of those surreptitious hidden reefs. That intention comes into action the moment the mind spots the possibility of doing something more interesting than meditating. So if we put our mind on sound and the sounds are entertaining or strong, like the sound of an aeroplane, then we can really get off on that because we may not like it. Or if it is something nice like a bird, we can get off on that. If it is the wind in the trees we can stay with that pretty well but after a while there isn't much juice left in these external possibilities. So our minds now want something different. Something begins to emerge on the outer edge of our mental vision and presents itself as a preferable option. Then this deeper level of intention says, 'Yes!' and we're there. This is one way how we unsettle ourselves.
UNSETTLING THROUGH REACTIVITY
Then there are more rigorous ways of unsettling the mind. We start meditating and go through maybe five or ten minutes of being quite diligent in bringing our minds back to the focus. Then, deep down, a memory stirs of something somebody said to us some weeks ago. We had an argument which perhaps we lost. We didn't like that so there is quite a strong residual emotional element left. This surfaces somewhere in the back of our minds and sends a tremor through the whole body. Perhaps a feeling that we didn't like this unresolved blow to our pride, or whatever it was.
Now a new thing happens. We hook into that memory and rerun it. We rerun it with all its emotional impact and this does more than the bland entertainment cycle we've just talked about. This really gets us stewed up because we completely invoke all that old business, it hooks onto a whole lot of other related emotion in our minds and before we know it, there is a good old turmoil going on. So there is no tranquillity in our meditation. We've managed to get our minds pretty turbulent. Now we're steamed up! We're ready to go and punch somebody. This is frustrating because here we are sitting meditating and nobody has even picked a fight with us, and we're ready to go and punch somebody. What have we done? Thoroughly unsettled our minds.
What we begin to see is that there are these sorts of mechanisms in operation. Although they are relatively superficial within the meditation context they are going on in our daily lives. So if, in meditation, we spot our unsettlers, we can begin to identify them in life. We begin to see how continually through the day we are unsettling our minds through our reactivity.
When we are driving a car, for example, and somebody speeds, suddenly appearing over the hill and nearly crashing into us, we get a big fright. Then we get angry. Then we go through a really big scene in our mind about how other people shouldn't drive so fast and go through red traffic lights. Then somebody pulls in front of us, changing lanes quickly. Now we are even more angry! The piece of road in front of us, that space there, belongs to us. They should know that! They shouldn't get into it quickly, or at least without asking our permission. So by the time we get to work we are really not in a fit state to do much except growl at people.
If we go back over this whole business in the traffic we begin to see that it is a self-generated turmoil. It is just an indulgence in reactivity. And there are very definite alternatives. The moment we got into the traffic, and the other guy was speeding, we could see what we were doing. We could know that 'OK, this is what happens in traffic. I do it myself sometimes. When I am in a hurry, I speed up over hills and I go through red traffic lights.' I'll bet most of us have done that! So that person isn't doing anything different from what we have all done. It is just our ego territorial compulsion that is making us buy into reactivity.
If we see this we can let it go. If the guy pulls in front of us, we just slow down and let him go. If he wants to change lanes, we just slow down and let him go. Slowly, it's no big deal. The stress of driving through traffic falls away and we are just adjusting to and accommodating the needs of other human beings.
What we see from this example is that through our reactivity and our projection we're keeping our minds unsettled and we are convinced that it is the fault of other people. The traffic example is easy to deal with because it is so obvious, but this is going on in many areas of our lives. We are doing this constantly because we are not aware of our expectations, assumptions and reactivity. We have probably done this so consistently through our lives that we no longer realise we are doing it.
We may say, If only I could go away to a really nice quiet holiday spot, I would be much more at ease. Then I would be much more peaceful and happy.' Unfortunately we wouldn't because we take with us our built-in tendency to unsettle and stress ourselves out. What we have to learn is that if we begin to understand how we unsettle ourselves, we can free ourselves and relax wherever we are. Not always, but pretty well anywhere. The point is that each time we unsettle the mind we strengthen the tendency for it to be unsettled. This means it will remain unsettled for a long time after the specific incident is past. ln addition, because the strong tendency is there, it will unsettle itself of its own accord, even when we don't want it to. We can' blame it because we set the causes in motion ourselves.
HOW TO SETTLE THE MIND
It is important that we come to our meditation understanding that we are inherently inclined to unsettle our minds. External things do not generally unsettle our minds; internal things do. We are responsible for this inner environment. So we sit and meditate and then see the first unsettling action. The mind is wanting to take off somewhere. Now comes the important moment. The normal tendency is to grab the mind and wrench it back, an act of violence similar to a parent in a supermarket with little Annie, who wants to take stuff off one of the display stands. The tired, overwrought, frustrated father grabs hold of her and yanks her back. Of course, straight away there is a scream and a scuffle and a fight.
That is what happens to our mind if we treat it that way. If we wrench the mind back from its preferred course of activity we are going to create inner turmoil, adding stress, tension and resentment to our unsettledness. We will feel an internal resistance building up in the mind. So don't attempt to settle the mind forcefully - it won't work. Try to be the kind parent: return to the meditation support gently, kindly. That's the first principle of settling - know there is no need to chase off after any thought, but when the tendency to do so arrives, simply turn gently away from the temptation and return to the support.
source of all phenomena of samsara and nirvana
Is the nature of mind void, luminous,
All-encompassing, vast as the sky.
When in that state
of sky-like vastness,
Relax into its openness; stay in that very openness,
Merge with that sky-like state:
Naturally, it will become more and more relaxed
you become accomplished
In this method of integrating mind with view,
Your realization will naturally become vast.
And just as the sun shines freely throughout space,
Your compassion cannot fail to shine on all unrealized beings.
The mind, dividing experience into subject and object, first identifies with the subject, 'I,' then with the idea of 'mine,' and starts to cling to 'my body,' 'my mind' and 'my name.' As our attachment to these three notions grows stronger and stronger, we become more and more exclusively concerned with our own well-being. All our striving for comfort, our intolerance of life's annoying circumstances, our preoccupation with pleasure and pain, wealth and poverty, fame and obscurity, praise and blame, are due to this idea of 'I.'
We are usually so obsessed with ourselves that we hardly ever even think about the welfare of others in fact, we are no more interested in others than a tiger is interested in eating grass. This is completely the opposite of the outlook of the Bodhisattva. The ego is really just a fabrication of thought, and when you realize that both the object grasped and the mind that grasps are void, it is easy to see that others are not different from yourself. All the energy we normally put into looking after ourselves, Bodhisattvas put into looking after others. If a Bodhisattva sees that by plunging into the fires of hell he can help even a single being, he does it without an instant of hesitation, like a swan entering a cool lake.
Translated by Matthieu
From "Rabsel" Issue 5
Ways of the Arhat and of the Bodhisattva
A talk by Ken Holmes, March 2002
It is a great pleasure to be asked to speak to you today about the two main traditions of Buddhism: those of the so-called hinayana and mahayana : the lesser way and the greater way, the ways of Shravaka to become an Arhat and the way of the Bodhisattva to become a Buddha.
Oh dear! Lots of foreign words - shravaka, arhat, bodhisattva- 30 seconds into the talk and you might already feel like going home!
Well, let's try to explain these terms simply, before going into the details. Most religions are about the relationship between you, the individual, and God or, in the case of some religions, between you and a whole series of Gods. This God or these Gods are believed to be the governing power of the universe: creator of the universe. Buddhism is different. It has no belief at all in a creator God.
All of Buddhism is about working with the potential that exists in the human mind. Not about a relationship with another being, a Supreme Being, but about understanding and changing oneself. It is about awakening to the possibilities of life and in particular about using this extraordinary thing -which is our own mind- to the full: to become a wiser, kinder, more peaceful person. Buddhism believes that there is a timeless, perfect purity, a profound love for all beings, a perfect peace and amazing wisdom deep within each and every one of us. Life's task is to discover it.
The Buddha taught very extensively about the nature of life and our human potential. He taught to thousands of people over a 45 year period. He taught each person according to his or her needs and capacities. Over the two and a half thousand years since he taught, all of those teachings of the Buddha have given rise to two main ways of working with one's life, known as the Greater Way and the Lesser Way.
Those following the Lesser Way -Hinayana- want to find perfect inner peace and want to live in a kind, truthful and generous way in the world. They are sometimes called Shravakas: Shravakas means those who heed the teachings. They have a certain "been there, done that" feeling about most of the pleasures of this world and are no longer interested in them one bit. You know, the way you feel about whatever was the craze three years ago - it just doesn't grab you any more. These Shravakas see the world as obsessed with satisfying the senses to find happiness -seeing beautiful things, hearing nice sounds, smelling pleasant odours, tasting good food and seeking pleasant physical sensations. They consider such happiness too shallow, too fragile and find great inner strength instead in meditation. The end of their journey, their dream, their goal -the perfection of inner peace- is called the state of being an Arhat. Sometimes you can achieve that state in one lifetime of intense meditation, sometimes it takes many lifetimes.
Those following the Greater Way -Mahayana- are called Bodhisattvas: bodhi -sattva means with a mind to be Buddha. They are people who are also very aware of life's fragile happiness and the suffering that exists in most people. They are so moved by this suffering that they promise, from the depths of their hearts, to dedicate this life and all future lives to caring for other beings. They feel that the best way to care is to become just like the Buddha. Buddhahood is a state far beyond that of the Arhat. It takes hundreds of lifetimes -hundreds of reincarnations- to achieve. The bodhisattva way is based upon truthfulness, peace and non-violence but its main characteristic is not a withdrawal from the world into inner peace but an active engagement with the world, a development of incredibly deep loving kindness, compassion and care for others. In fact, from beginning to end, the Bodhisattva's way is the way of compassionate care.
So that you are
clear about 'where I'm coming from', you should know I belong to the mahayana
tradition and that I'll be teaching today's topic in the traditional way in which
it is presented in the mahayana.
Please have a good look at these terms - they'll come up a few times in the talk. Please notice that shravakas and bodhisattvas are those following a spiritual path, and that the ends of those paths are the states of Arhat and Buddha. Having introduced these two main strands of Buddhism very briefly, I'd like to go into them more deeply by talking about a topic traditionally called the three types of valuable human being, taught widely in India in the 11th century. They are called 'valuable humans' because -from a Buddhist point of view, in terms of Buddhist value judgements -they are really doing something with their lives: making a marked and definitive change to themselves, and perhaps other people, for the better. If you like, they can be considered the three sorts of audience for Buddhism or the three psychological types that Buddhist teachings address. This topic will help us understand where Arhats and Bodhisattvas fit in -they are the second and third types of valuable human- and help us define these words hinayana and mahayana.
The first type of valuable human being: the person who lives wisely in the world.
The vast majority of dedicated Buddhists (as opposed to people just born into a Buddhist culture and not strongly practising it) belong to this first type of valuable human being. They are not yet following the way of either the Arhat or the Bodhisattva. It is too soon. They are like children learning to walk. Shravakas and Bodhisattvas are like adults drive cars or pilot a plane. Unlike the Shravaka and Bodhisattva, this first type of valuable human is not yet ready to let go of its attachment to worldly things, in order to seek spiritual peace. The Buddha's teachings can nevertheless still help them greatly. So really today's talk could have been about three ways and been called the ways of the worldly Buddhist, the Arhat and the Bodhisattva.
How does the Buddha help the first sort of valuable human, the worldly Buddhist? By helping them live their lives according to principles based on the laws of karma. Karma means action and the laws of karma explain why things happen and how our actions determine our destiny. Everyone wonders why things happen. You know, you must have asked yourselves why you are you, different from the person sitting next to you. Why is there life's exquisite beauty? Why are there life's atrocious horrors? Most religions describe these things in terms of God's purpose: divine forces are pulling the strings and pushing the buttons of life. Buddhism, by contrast, says that events are not God-created but the long-term consequences of our own action: actions as individuals and actions as groups. Buddhism says our actions make us what we are and make our world what it is.
The Buddha taught that nearly all the things we do, say and think have long-term consequences for their doer. What we are doing now is shaping our own future, in this life and lives to come. What we are now has been shaped by how we acted and reacted in the past. Remember that Buddhists believe this life to
be just one in a long chain of lives, as we reincarnate over and over again. What we do in this life generates all the details of our future lives: who we meet, the way the environment changes, our health, our suffering, our happiness. When we live in a harmonious, helpful and wise way with each other now, this generates happiness for later. When we live in conflict, self-centredly and unwisely now, it stores up suffering for later.
Thus, if we protect and save life -in this life- then we ourselves will be born with long life and good health next time round. If we are generous and caring now, we will feel satisfied with our lot in the future life and be cared for by others. If we lead what Buddhism defines as a respectful, responsible life in one's sexual relationships, we will find loving, caring and suitable partners in the next life and so on and so forth.
The Buddha gave many teachings about our actions - and in particular a very helpful list of the 10 main actions to avoid and the 10 to cultivate. These form the basis for Buddhist morality just as the 10 commandments do in the Judaeo-Christian traditions. I have listed these 10 in the printed version of this talk, which is also on the Web.
There is, of course, in the action of this first type of Buddhist, a fair degree of self-interest: a studied concern for one's own worldly future. These are not Buddhists who desperately want to leave all worldliness and find the lasting peace of nirvana. If we use Shakespeare's words, "To be or not to be..." then our first Buddhist customer is definitely not ready not to be. This person likes life, still wants to be someone, somewhere in the world but preferably would like to be a healthier, happier and more prosperous person in a better family and social environment than at present. Even if that does not look likely in this existence, they try to live according to the Buddha's teaching on karma so that they will have a better time in the next life.
In teaching the laws of karma - the cause and effects of our actions - the Buddha was not only trying to help people help themselves but also trying to make for a better society: one in which there is less violence, less dishonesty and greater respect for others.
Furthermore, our other two types of valuable human being -those following the ways of the Arhat and the Bodhisattva- emerge from this pool of good people. One day, one life, it is said, there will dawn in their minds a profound awareness of the extent of suffering that there is in the world and indeed in one's own mind; then they become candidates for the ways of the Shravaka and the Bodhisattva.
The second type of valuable human being: the Shravaka, who shuns worldliness to attain nirvana; the nirvana of the Arhat.
we come to the second type of Buddhist or second type of valuable human being.
These are people who -if we return to Shakespeare's to be or not to be -no longer
want 'to be' someone, somewhere. They have understood that there is a deep, spiritual
state of equanimity and peace, far more satisfactory than anything this world
can offer. You know, it's as though you've been in a smoky, noisy, crowded room
all your life and suddenly you discover the vast, clean open spaces of nature.
The crowded, smoky room is a busy, worldly mind. The purity and freshness is discovered
in the inner space of meditation. It is a peaceful, infinite space which transcends
personality and the cult of personality - you know what I mean by cult of personality,
where ME, I is all important - a world in which you have to assert yourself, create
territory, be beautiful, be intelligent, BE
Our second type of valuable human being has had enough of seeking the pleasures of the senses and of having a happiness that always depends on external things: on other people, on the weather, on food, on sights, on sounds, on success at work, on human affection etc. They are shocked by the fragility
and impermanence ( anicca) of such happiness and by the price-tag of suffering ( dukha) that goes along with it. They know that the Buddha and the Arhats of the past managed to stopped being reborn into lives of mixed happiness and suffering. How did they do it? By stopping doing the harmful actions - karma- that generate rebirth. How to stop these harmful actions? By getting rid of their cause: anger, jealousy, pride, ignorance and desire. How to get rid of all those? by destroying their cause: the illusion of self, of ME of I.
These saintly beings cleanse their mind of all these unhelpful emotions, feelings and illusions and instead cultivated very natural states of inner peace and harmony. The advantage of this inner happiness is that it does not depend on other people and external things. It is a state of constant well-being which does not depend upon the up-and-down world of personality and feelings. It is self-contained. It is free of suffering. When it is perfected, it will remain forever. It is called nirvana. This is what the Shravaka hopes to achieve.
At this point, I think it will be useful to clarify the meaning of this word nirvana. Nirvana is not something in particular: not something that is . Nirvana means "suffering transcended". In other words, it is defined by what it isn't: it isn't suffering. It means that you have got free from suffering forever. It is like saying, "got out of the fire". One is no longer being burnt by the sufferings of life. But this does not tell us where we actually are: in a swimming-pool, up a mountain, in a space-capsule. It only tells us that we are out of the fire. So this word nirvana can cover many possibilities. This will become important when we look at the way of the bodhisattva. We will find that the bodhisattva is trying to achieve a much higher nirvana than that of the Arhat. Both are nirvana inasmuch as both have gone beyond the suffering of the world because both have ceased creating the karma that causes suffering. But the bodhisattva aims to become a Buddha and a Buddha has far more qualities than an Arhat and has removed more blockages from the mind.
To give an analogy: if we think of worldliness as the planet Earth, the Arhat has gone beyond the Earth's gravitational field and is floating in the space of meditation. The Buddha has also gone beyond the Earth's gravity but has reached the heart of the Sun of Wisdom.
Now let us return to the way of the Arhat. It consists of the Triple Training: Conduct, Meditation and Wisdom. I think you may know these. The basis for the Arhat's path to the Arhat's nirvana is a very pure ethical and moral conduct in all one says, all one does physically and also in one's profession. In one respect, it is similar to the careful attention to karma of the first type of valuable human being. But the motivation is different. Here the pure conduct is aimed at switching off the video of life, not at making it into a better film! This different motivation channels things differently. It is like earning the same amount of money but investing it in another account. The Arhat's good karma is not paying the worldly mortgage - it is going in to the permanent retirement fund.
On this basis of pure conduct, nirvana is achieved through the skilful combination of two things: meditation and wisdom. Let us first examine meditation.
is the way in which those becoming Arhats overcome their passions, angers and
other agitations of the mind. Concentration meditation cultivates inner peace.
As the peace develops, desires, aggravations, and all these other things naturally
diminish. As the peace grows, worldiness diminishes. It is like water. Let's just
think together for a minute. Has everyone seen a turbulent ocean? Try to imagine
it: those vast, powerful, rolling grey-green waves Brrrr! You can't see into it,
it is busy, dangerous and it reflects nothing clearly. That's the worldly mind:
very agitated, very busy with itself, very short-sighted and very endless. Now
let's think of clear water - a very calm loch. Got the image? As water becomes
calm, the waves subside. When water is calm, you can see all the fish and plants
in its depths and it reflects the sky by day and the stars at night. The meditation
mind is very still, clear and beautiful, like a very calm ocean. It has far-seeing
As anger, desires and so on diminish through meditation, the peace becomes more lasting and more stable. This reveals levels of thought and subconscious activity of which one was not previously aware. Again and again, one refines the process of inner peace, until the mind is exceedingly clean and pure, knowing nothing but happiness and equanimity. A great, calm ocean of peace. Meditation requires careful training in mindfulness, concentration and channeling one's effort.
Now let us consider wisdom. As meditation improves, the quietness and clarity of mind enables great precision in the mind's self-knowledge. Just as our modern science pierces the secrets of the material universe through very fine investigation into the atom and into the human genome, the science of concentration meditation investigates the complex workings of the human mind and this knowledge is very helpful in transforming the mind and bringing it to stability and wisdom.This wisdom ends up being real insight into the Four Noble Truths, which lie at the very heart of the Buddha's teaching. When I say 'real insight' I mean that the Four Truths are no longer ideas but things vividly, directly experienced as true, direct insight into life itself, without the need of thoughts. This gives you the "right view" of things -the right perspective- and provides the right intention for instructing other people.
I don't want to get too technical in this talk. The Buddha's own teachings -called sutra- on this topic of the way of the Arhat fill dozens of books. We could -for example- examine extensively the real meaning of the Eightfold Path that I have just described.
We could also explore (if we had time) how meditation actually changes the mind, bringing freedom and peace as well as the emergence of saintly qualities, which are quite extraordinary; miraculous.
Also, given time, we would explore the nature of wisdom in this path, seeing how it is anatta - a complete de-masking of all the delusions of self that the human mind can fabricate, whether it be a personal self or a cosmic self in the form of a God or a series of gods. This wisdom also recognises anicca - the totally transient, or impermanent, nature of the various phenomena of the worlds
of mind and matter and understands in detail how they come together and trigger each other into making the events we perceive as life, with all of its suffering; dukkha.
The Hinayana mental journey of purification is a voyage deep into the inner peace of one's mind. There are four main stages on the journey, with Arhat being the final stage.
1. Stream-entrant when one has profound faith in what one is doing because the results are emerging and the process is very obvious. If we compared the path of meditation to unblocking a drain, it is at this stage that -after poking for ages with the rods- the blockage clears and the water starts to flow swiftly.
2. Once-returner when one has purified so much of one's mind and karma that
there will be only one more rebirth in the world.
3. Non-returner when one is living that last life in which one becomes an Arhat
4. Arhat the final achievement when every trace, gross or subtle, of ego-delusion and its subsequent desires, anger, jealousy, pride and confusion are all irreversibly eliminated from the mind and the mind will rest continuously in deep, far-reaching meditation.
At this stage, I would like to sum up so far. We have looked at two types of what are called valuable human beings. Together, they make up what is known as the hinayana or the smaller way. I must make it clear that the term hinayana does not refer to the Buddhism of any particular country. It refers to the Buddhism suitable to a certain psychological type: a person who is working first and foremost for his or her own well-being. That person could be in Tibet, Sri Lanka or Scotland, following any school of Buddhism. Such people are not without love or compassion for others. It is just that they feel -quite pragmatically- that, in the end, we cannot change other people that much but that we can change
ourselves and that self-transformation is our prime duty as human beings. So much of the world's problems come through people trying to change each other but being unwilling or unable to change themselves.
Hina means smaller or lesser and Yana means the power to carry. Because these first two types of valuable human being can, at best, only take one person to liberation -that person being oneself- then their way is called the lesser way. It's like a car with only one seat. We will see that the greater way aims to carry many people to liberation. It's like a jumbo jet.
C. The third type of valuable human being: the bodhisattva, who works within the world, in order
to attain the 'non-situated' Nirvana of the Buddha
The bodhisattva shares absolutely all the positive points of the hinayana follower: he or she recognises the futility and suffering of worldliness (samsara) and also knows that there is a much more elevated state to be achieved. But instead of wanting to make the Arhat's journey deep into the mind's peaceful
recesses, the bodhisattva wants to become a Buddha, so as to be able to help thousands of other people free themselves from suffering. A Buddha is not only a great guide and friend for living beings: a Buddha's attainment - the Buddha's Nirvana- is far purer than that of the Arhat. It is in understanding the difference between their two "nirvanas" that one can clearly understand the different paths of the bodhisattva and the Shravaka.
In the printed version of this talk, I have spelt the Buddha's Nirvana with a capital N and the Arhat's nirvana with a small n. The Buddha's nirvana is called non-situated Nirvana, because we cannot situate it:
1. either in samsara - the world
2. or in the profound inner peace of the Arhat's nirvana.
The Buddha's Nirvana -with a captial N- is therefore said to be neither samsara nor nirvana (with a small n). Here I'd like to remind you of the all-important point made earlier: nirvana simply and only means that all suffering has ended but not all nirvanas are the same.
Like all nirvanas, the Nirvana of the Buddha has transcended worldly suffering and the necessity of rebirth as someone, somewhere. But it is much, much more than the profound peace of the Arhat's nirvana. The Buddha's Nirvana is the total discovery of the timeless, perfect, heart-essence of the universe. It is everywhere and in everything and everyone. It is a natural, brilliant world of peace present everywhere (once you know how to recognise it), not the peace of withdrawal into an inner sanctum. It is something naturally sacred, ultimately pure and radiant with immeasurable qualities of universal love, universal compassion and an incomprehensible outreach, helping beings to the farthest ends of the universe. Because it is so sublime, so far-reaching and so much beyond the imagination, we call it the undefinable or unlocated or non-situated Nirvana which we can locate neither in the things of this world nor in the peaceful meditation of the Arhat's nirvana. The Arhat's nirvana we can, by contrast, define very clearly, in terms of concentration meditation.
I really hope that as you come to understand this point about the difference between the two nirvanas. If you do, it will clear up the confusion created in books about Buddhism, in which they say that the bodhisattva renounces nirvana in order to help other beings. It sounds almost like somebody giving up their holiday in order to stay at home to help the family. Or like someone in prison who could be released but somehow has to commit more crimes to stay inside and help the inmates. This really is a misunderstanding. It is true that the bodhisattva abandons one sort of nirvana (the one with a small 'n', that of the hinayana path - the inner peace) but this is because he or she is taking a quite different route towards a different Nirvana: that of the Buddha: the peace of the compassionate, totally-wise mind. Nirvana with a capital N.
The only way to reach this Nirvana of the Buddha -often called buddha nature-is through perfect compassion. Compassion involves being in living contact with the suffering of the world, facing it and doing all one can to eliminate it. Furthermore, here one is not shutting off the senses but liberating them. There is a very good expression in Christianity which explains exactly what the bodhisattva is doing: being in the world but not of the world. Take the work of primary school teachers, for example. They need to skilfully enter into the world of 5 and 6 year-olds. They give these tiny children the magnificent skills of literacy and numeracy. It doesn't mean that they have to become childish themselves and renounce their adulthood. They operate in the world of small children but are not themselves of that world.
Someone who dedicates this life and all future lives to attaining this universal essence which is Buddhahood and helping millions of beings alleviate their suffering is called a bodhisattva. Bodhi means Buddha and sattva means mind, in the sense of a determined and courageous mind. Thus a bodhisattva is someone with the courage and determination to become a Buddha. The word Arhat means the one who has conquered the enemy, the "enemy" being the delusion of personality and all the desires and adversities it produces.
What does the bodhisattva's path involve? First, all the same mind-purifying work of the hinayana path. Whichever Buddhist path one follows, every trace of selfish desire, anger, jealousy, pride and confusion must be eliminated from the mind.But the way in which these are eliminated by the bodhisattva is different. You will remember that -in the hinayana way- it is done by going ever more finely
into the tranquil depths of concentration meditation. The mind draws away from the senses, draws away from all that is worldly and goes deep inside. The bodhisattva does not need to withdraw from the world but instead faces the world and learns through the world and through his or her own reactions to it. It
is not so much a path of escape as one of transformation. Anger is transformed into love. Jealousy is transformed into a sincere joy, which rejoices in the achievement of others. Pride is transformed into an awareness of the sameness of us all, before what is eternal and so on and so forth.
This work -of transforming emotions- is made possible by meditation, as only meditation gives clear insight into how the mind works. You know, if you want to fix something you first need to know how it works. Meditation helps us discover how the human mind works. The bodhisattva's meditation practices are structured differently from those of the hinayana path. Also, there are many more of them. As mentioned before, the bodhisattva is avoiding the nirvana (with a small 'n') of the hinayana path and the bodhisattva is very careful not to be drawn into its beautiful inner peace of meditation's tranquillity. One of the main tools for doing this is right thought or prayer.
In other religions, people pray to a God or to several gods, asking for their help. In Buddhism, prayer is not addressed to an external, other, being. Prayer is an organised way of changing the mind. By repeating good thoughts, sincerely from the depths of one's heart, over and over again, they become habitual ways of thinking. They change the mind. In the end, the way one reacts to life's situations will be made very different, just through constant prayer. The main prayer of the bodhisattva is a commitment to help all beings, by achieving the perfection of Buddhahood. Why is this? The Buddha was just one person. All he had were three robes, a begging bowl and one or two small objects. Yet,
through his purity and deep wisdom, he was able to help many tens of thousands of people personally during his own lifetime and many thousands of millions after his death, through his extensive teachings, which show people how to help themselves. The bodhisattva remembers this over and over again. One
person helps millions simply by attaining a perfect mind. The Bodhisattva knows that the finest way to help others is to become totally pure, totally wise and totally skilful in guiding others on the path, just like the Buddha. Many times a day, the bodhisattva dedicates his life to this end, in prayer, and tries to do every daily task -even making a cup of tea- with a mind filled with compassionate love for all other beings and a deep longing to attain buddhahood.
But longing to achieve something is not enough. One must actually do the work. I can stand here for years, longing to go to Hawaii, but I won't budge an inch. One needs to earn the money, buy the ticket, buy the baggy shorts, get to the airport, catch a plane and so on and so forth. What the bodhisattva has to do in order to really become a Buddha is usually described through six things. These are like six parts of a puzzle. When they are all complete and perfectly put together, the puzzle of Buddhahood is complete. What are they:
The six paramitas LINK
1. Perfect generosity.
2. Perfect right conduct.
3. Perfect forbearance (you could call this one patience or tolerance).
4. Perfect diligence.
5. Perfect meditation.
6. Perfect wisdom.
The six are called the six paramita or six transcendent perfections. You will have noted that I have tried not to use Pali or other foreign words in this talk. We only need to use them when we have no equivalent term in English. I know a lot about this as my own life's work is translating scriptures from Tibetan. Your
school examiners may want you to know words like anicca or dukkha but I cannot see the point too much. We have perfectly good words for these in English -impermanence and suffering- and why should you learn the Pali words, rather than the Sanskrit or the Japanese or the Tibetan? Anyway, paramita is a word without a direct equivalent in English and so it is useful to use the Sanskrit.
It literally means "gone to the other shore". This is because when all these six qualities have been brought to an absolute perfection, one has crossed the ocean of worldly existence (samsara) and attained the other shore of Buddhahood. We can look at it another way. What is a Buddha? Someone in
whose mind these six things are totally, immaculately perfect.
Why does the bodhisattva work with his or her mind in a different way from the hinayana follower? Let us compare this universal essence -of love, compassion and wisdom which is everywhere and which we call buddha nature- to a bright light. Although this light is in each and every one of us, it cannot shine because it is covered up, blocked off. There are two layers of blockage:
1. The first is called klesha in Sanskrit. This is often translated as mind poisons or cankers or defilements. I have mentioned it a couple of times already today: it consists of selfish desire, aggression, jealousy, pride and ignorance. All of these feelings arise through the negative delusions of personality -the harmful ways in which one defines oneself- I must have, I can't stand, I ought to have what he has, I'm better than she is etc. In the hinayana path one removes all such deluded ideas about self and this removes this first covering on the light of truth. By simply doing that, one no longer needs to act selfishly, therefore there is no bad karma and so one stops the cycle of rebirth after rebirth into worldly existence ( samsara) and eventually become an Arhat.
2. The second covering, blockage or veil is something much more subtle. For simplicity, we can call it "duality". It is the split-second by split-second play of our minds, which is constantly defining not only ourselves but also the world around us. It is like a piece of mind-programming which produces, second
after second, a two-sided movie: me and you, self and other, ours and theirs, my body and the world in which it moves, my mind and my body etc. etc. It is through these conscious and subconscious processes that we define ourselves and our world: our parents, friends, enemies, every detail of life.
Each of us has his or her totally unique way of seeing and defining the world. We each move in our own unique universe. In the mahayana path, one needs not only to see anatta - that our delusions about ourselves are de void of truth - but also to see how our delusions concerning other people and other things are also devoid of truth. Piercing through the illusions and seeing the raw truth of the cosmos is called discovering its voidness (sunyata). We say voidness because we discover that other people and other things are devoid of the illusions we have been projecting onto them - like suddenly realising
that a mirage is just an optical illusion and not real water on the road or like realising that someone you have been assuming was uninteresting is in fact pretty cool. Part of the discovery of voidness concerns the non-ego (anatta) discovered in the hinayana path. But it is only a part. By only uncovering anatta, one becomes an Arhat. By uncovering the whole truth about everything, sunyata, one becomes a Buddha.
One simple way of putting things may be this: the Arhat overcomes all illusions concerning himself and is therefore totally at peace with himself. The Bodhisattva is overcoming all illusions not only about himself/herself but also about all other people and the entire universe and is therefore at peace with
everything. By destroying all illusions, the bodhisattva becomes a Buddha, knowing everything there is to be known. The Buddha is omniscient. The Arhat is extraordinarily wise but not ommniscient.
In the six paramita, the main work of discovering voidness is accomplished through a combination of the meditation paramita and the wisdom paramita. The second of these -wisdom paramita- is called prajnaparamita in Sanskrit. It is exceedingly important in mahayana Buddhism and there are many gigantic phiolosophical texts elaborating the meaning of voidness. Although there are so many texts, the truth of voidness can only be discovered directly, in meditation, as it transcends all thought and philosophy.
As the six paramita - generosity, right conduct, forbearance, diligence, meditation and wisdom - come to completion, the real meaning of the word Buddha becomes apparent.
At the start, Buddha simply meant someone: an historical figure who gave us the Buddhist teachings. But as time goes by, one realises that the historical Buddha Sakyamuni simply achieved something that everyone, one day, in one life or another, will achieve. What he discovered is inside each and every one of us. It is our true nature, our Buddha-nature. This does not mean that each of us is really, at heart, an Indian prince! It does mean that there is perfect love, perfect compassion, infinite wisdom and a great ability to help and guide others, locked up in each and every one of us. It is the inner light. We just need to find it and to remove all the layers of illusion covering it and blocking off its power.
This timeless light, universal peace or cosmic wisdom manifests in three ways, known as the three kaya.
LINK FROM GOLDEN ROSARY
1. This Buddha nature, just as it is and as only a Buddha will ever know it, is called dharmakaya. Dharmakaya is formless: that means it has no shape, colour, sound, smell or form whatsoever. It is a vast, cosmic wisdom: the wisdom of voidness
2. Bodhisattvas who are very saintly, who are no longer reborn in human worlds but have bodies of light, experience this buddha nature through the filters of their senses. Though it is formless, they see it as thousands of different Buddhas in various pure paradises. They hear it as deeply moving teachings
expressing the universal laws of truth. The whole experience of their senses is an uninterrupted mental 'movie' of transcendent perfection. The way Buddha-nature appears in these bodhisattva's minds is called sambhogakaya: the enjoyment body, meaning the visions and experiences of purity enjoyed
by saintly bodhisattvas.
3. More ordinary beings, who are still in the world of rebirth and suffering, also have an experience of Buddha nature. They will have religious experiences, perhaps see a Buddha or a being of light in a vision and so on and so forth. This happens in moments when the mind is pure and open. It doesn't last
and is not nearly so pure or so accurate as the experience of the bodhisattvas mentioned just now. The bodhisattvas' experience is constant, never interrupted. Nevertheless, when worldly beings have experience of the Buddha mind, it is usually a remarkable moment which changes and shapes
the whole of their life. This aspect of Buddha-nature or Buddha mind is called nirmanakaya: the emanated body.
Today, I have spoken briefly -and very quickly- about the three types of valuable human being. Of course, this does not mean that other beings are worthless. It is just that these three types live lives which help themselves mature as human beings and they help the world. When the Buddha came to our planet, he came, like all great spiritual teachers, to help everyone, not just Buddhists. Understanding that we are each unique, he taught everyone he met according to their individual needs and, in general, he helped the three psychological types. I have spoken of today as the three sorts of valuable human being: the everyday Buddhist and those deeply committed to the paths of the Arhat and the Bodhisattva. It is not that one way is better than the other. They are just different way suited to different people.
Today I have not spoken about the "sociological" side of Buddhism: its different temples, different customs for marriages etc. These are simply the outer shell of a faith. They are the clothes it wears. The actual faith is a series of beliefs and attitudes towards life, towards oneself and other people. They form the real body of the religion. It is true that some Buddhist countries accentuate some of these ways, while others have dropped into the background or disappeared. I could have spent the whole lecture describing the geographical and historical develoment of Buddhism. Instead I have chosen to sketch the psychology of these main strands of Buddhism and tried to explain how the Buddha was trying to help everyone through these three approaches.
The Buddha often used the analogy of a doctor to describe himself. His teachings are like medicine, our mind's impurities and our karma are like the sickness. These three ways are suited to different types just like different medicines are suited to different diseases. Can we say a heart medicine is better than medicine for rheumatism? Of course not. Would ther be any point in giving the rheumatism medicine to the heart patient? Of course not. These three ways of living one's life and meditating suit different types of people. When someone comes to our monastery in Dumfriesshire for training, we use all three types
according to the individual.
In fact, when you look closely, you will see that -besides denoting types- these three psychologies often exist side by side in nearly all of us. One part of us wants very much to be, another part seeks a peace beyond the passing pleasures of this world and another part of us seeks the way to truly serve and help other beings find their way to liberation. I would like to conclude by expressing my profound respect for all the goodness achieved by all three types of valuable human being and by saying that I think the Buddha was extremely wise and broad-minded in providing such an immense spectrum of advice concerning these three ways, teachings filling over a hundred books, during the 45 years of his teaching.
Thought Transformation In Eight Stanzas
Geshe Langri Thang-pa Dorje Senge,
the great spiritual friend of the Kadam tradition,
a disciple of Geshe Potowa, who was in turn a
direct spiritual son of the layman Dromtonpa,
Atisha's closest Tibetan disciple.
determined to accomplish
the highest welfare for all beings,
who excel the wish-fulfilling gem,
I shall constantly hold them dear.
When in the company of another
I shall view myself as the lowest of all
and in the depth of my heart
shall hold others dearly, as supreme.
Examining my mental continuum throughout all actions,
as soon as a mental affliction arises,
endangering myself and others,
by facing it I shall strictly avert it.
When faced by a being of wicked nature
who is controlled by violent wrongs and sufferings,
I shall hold this one dear, so hard to find,
as though discovering a precious treasure.
When others, out of jealousy,
treat me badly, with abuse, insults and the like,
I shall accept their hard words
and offer the victory to others.
When someone whom I have assisted
and in whom I have placed great hope
inflicts upon me extremely bad harm,
I shall view that one as my supreme spiritual friend.
In short, I shall offer benefit and bliss to all mothers
in this actual (life) and in the (future) continuum,
and secretly I shall take upon myself
all of the harms and sufferings of my mothers.
Furthermore, having not defiled all this by the stain
of preconceptions of the eight (worldly) feelings
and by perceiving all phenomena as illusory,
free from attachment, I shall be released from bondage.
Translated by Brian Beresford for Wisdom Publications, London.