In the morning when you wake up, visualize the Buddha on the crown of your head and think, "How fortunate I am that so far I have not died. Again today I have the opportunity to practice the Dharma. I again have the opportunity to take the essence of this human rebirth which has so many freedoms and richnesses. The great essence to be taken from this opportunity is to practice bodhicitta, the mind that is dedicated to attaining enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, by renouncing myself and cherishing others. Cherishing only myself is the greatest obstacle to be happy myself and it is especially the greatest hindrance to bringing about happiness of all sentient beings. So, from now on, I will never allow myself to be under control of the self-cherishing thought.
"Also, cherishing others is the best means to bring all success for my own happiness and especially to successfully bring about the happiness that all sentient beings desire. Therefore, from now on, I will never separate from the precious bodhicitta, the mind cherishing other sentient beings, for even one moment. With the bodhicitta, and the mind that cherishes others, I will live my life."
Then make a sincere request to the Buddha, "Whether my life is happy or painful, may whatever actions I do with my body, speech and mind always become only the cause to lead quickly the pitiful mother sentient beings throughout infinite space to enlightenment."
Guru Shakyamuni is extremely pleased with your request. He melts into light, which flows down through your crown to your heart, blessing, inspiring and transforming your mind. Think, "I have received all of the Buddha's qualities." Then imagine a small Buddha made of light appears at your heart. Throughout the day, think of the Buddha constantly. In this way, you will become more mindful of what you do, say and think, as you will be aware of Buddha witnessing it.
Read and contemplate the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation:
1. With the thought of attaining enlightenment
For the welfare of beings,
Who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel,
I will constantly practice holding them dear.
2. Whenever I am with others,
I will practice seeing myself as the lowest of all
And from the very depth of my heart,
I will respectfully hold others as supreme.
3. In all actions, I will examine my mind
And the moment a disturbing attitude arises,
Endangering myself and others,
I will firmly confront and avert it.
4. Whenever I meet a person of bad nature
Who is overwhelmed by negative energy and intense suffering,
I will hold such a rare one dear,
As if I had found a precious treasure.
5. When others, out of jealousy,
Mistreat me with abuse, slander and so on,
I will practice accepting defeat
And offering the victory to them.
6. When someone I have benefitted
And in whom I have placed great trust
Hurts me very badly,
I will practice seeing that person as my supreme teacher.
7. In short, I will offer directly and indirectly
Every benefit and happiness to all beings, my mothers.
I will practice in secret taking upon myself
All their harmful actions and sufferings.
8. Without these practices being defiled by the stains of the eight worldly concerns,
By perceiving all phenomena as illusory,
I will practice without grasping to release all beings
From the bondage of the disturbing, unsubdued mind and karma.
By remembering Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, do your daily life actions as follow:
Before you eat or drink, think, "I am going to make this food (drink) offering to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, who is the embodiment of all the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha, in order to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all mother sentient beings." Think the food is very pure and sweet nectar that gives great bliss. Its taste is delicious, like what a Buddha experiences; that is, it is completely beyond the usual ordinary appearance of food. Offer the food with the following prayers and imagine the Buddha at your heart experiences bliss as you eat.
Recite "OM AH HUM" three times to consecrate the food and then offer it with any of the following verses:
Guru is Buddha, Guru is Dharma, Guru is Sangha, also.
Guru is the source of all (goodness and happiness).
To all the Gurus, I make this offering.
You, whose body was formed by a million perfect virtues,
Whose speech fulfils the hopes of all beings,
Whose mind perceives all that is to be known,
To the prince of the Shakyas I make this offering.
The supreme teacher, the precious Buddha,
The supreme refuge, the holy precious Dharma,
The supreme guide, the precious Sangha,
To all of the objects of refuge, I make this offering.
As you eat, imagine that Guru Shakyamuni at your heart experiences bliss from the nectar that you have offered to him. He radiates light which fills your entire body.
Dedicate the positive potential
(merit) created by offering the food:
May we and those around us, in all future lives,
Never be separated from the Three Jewels,
Continuously make offerings to the Three Jewels,
And receive the inspiration of the Three Jewels.
When you dedicate, especially remember the sentient beings who created negative karma by harming others and who suffered and died in the process of growing and preparing the food.
Whatever sense objects you enjoy during the day -- clothes, music, beautiful scenery and so forth -- think that you are offering them to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha who is at your heart. In this way, you continuously make offerings to the Buddha, thus creating a great store of positive potential. Also, you will become less attached to sense pleasures and will begin to enjoy them with a peaceful mind.
Making Offerings on the Altar
Think, "I am going to make these offerings in order to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all pitiful mother sentient beings who have been kind to me since beginningless rebirths." Immediately consecrate whatever you offer by saying, "OM AH HUM."
When you look at the pictures and statues of the Buddhas and holy beings on your altar, think that they are all the Guru and the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha of the ten directions. Offer to them with this recognition, and imagine that they generate great bliss by receiving your offerings. Think that you are offering to the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats and sanghas of the ten directions. Offer to the statues of the Buddhas and deities (which represent the Buddha's holy body), to all the scriptures (which represent the Buddha's holy speech), and to all the stupas (which represent the Buddha's holy mind) that exist in all ten directions. This includes making offerings to all holy objects in Tibet, in India and in each person's home where there is a holy object. This is the most skillful way to accumulate merit without needing to take even one step or spend even one dollar to travel to those places. By thinking that ll the statues, Buddhas, bodhisattvas and so forth are manifestations of the guru, you accumulate the highest merit.
After offering, think, "Whatever happiness and virtue I have accumulated, may all sentient beings receive it, and whatever suffering beings have, may it ripen upon me." Then dedicate the positive potential.
When you go to work, think, "I must achieve enlightenment in order to lead each and every sentient being to enlightenment. Therefore, I am going to do service for sentient beings by going to work." If you are working in order to provide for your family, it is service to sentient beings. If you do not have to provide for your family, you nevertheless need the necessary material conditions in order to practice the Dharma so that you may attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
While you are at work, remember the kindness of the other sentient beings who gave you the job and who make it possible for you to earn a living. Thinking in this way helps to avoid generating negative emotions like anger at work.
Think, "I am going to bathe by transforming this action into the cause to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings." By thinking in a new way, you can make your shower or bath a purification practice. One way to think is that the water is very blissful and you are offering it to the Buddha at your heart. Another way is to visualize whichever manifestation of the Buddha you feel a strong connection with (for example, Chenresig or Tara) above your head and think that the bathing water is flowing from his or her hand. The water is the nature of wisdom and it is making your mind clear so you can practice the path for the benefit of sentient beings. While you are washing, think that all negative karmas, sicknesses and interfering forces are cleansed by the wisdom realizing emptiness and that you receive all the realizations and the qualities of the Buddha.
At the end of the day it is important to purify the negative actions created during the day. The most powerful method to do this is by means of the four opponent powers:
1. Having regret for the negative actions you have done.
2. Taking refuge and generating bodhicitta.
3. Doing remedial actions, i.e. a purification practice.
4. Determining not to do the action again in the future.
By doing this, it stops the karma from multiplying each day, each week, each month. It also purifies the negative karma accumulated since beginningless time. By thus cleansing your obstacles, you have the opportunity to become enlightened.
Before going to bed, think, "I take refuge until I am enlightened in the Buddhas, the Dharma and the Sangha. By the positive potential I create by practicing generosity and the other far-reaching attitudes, may I attain Buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings."
Visualize Guru Vajrasattva on your
crown. Light and nectar flow down from his heart into you and purify all negative
karmas and obscurations of yourself and others. While visualizing in this way,
recite Vajrasattva's mantra at least twenty-eight times:
om vajrasattva hum
Then Vajrasattva says to you, "All your negative karmas and obscurations are completely purified. Be happy about this." Vajrasattva absorbs into your heart and blesses your mind.
the positive potential:
"May the precious bodhi mind
Not yet born arise and grow.
May that born have no decline,
But increase forever more. "In all my lives with the victorious one, Lama Tsong Khapa, acting in person as the mahayana guru, may I never turn aside for even an instant from the excellent path praised by the victorious ones.
"Due to the positive potentials accumulated by myself and others in the past, present and future, may anyone who merely sees, hears, remembers, touches or talks to me be freed in that very instant from all sufferings and abide in happiness forever."
When you go to bed, think, "I am going to practice sleeping yoga in order to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings." Lie down in the lion position, which is how the Buddha lay when he passed away: lie on your right side, with your right hand under your cheek. Your left hand is on your left thigh and your legs are extended. Remember the kindness and sufferings of sentient beings and go to sleep feeling loving-kindness towards them. Visualize Guru Shakyamuni Buddha on your pillow and put your head in his lap. Very gentle light flows from the Buddha into you and by remembering the Buddha's enlightened qualities with devotion, fall asleep.
Different Levels of Amitabha Practice
by Manfred Seegers
Buddha Shakyamuni had disciples of many different capacities. Although he actually
taught one single way to enlightenment, different parts of his teachings were
taken as vehicles according to the capacities of his disciples. Basically, one
can subdivide all of the Buddha's teachings into the two vehicles of Sutra and
Tantra. Sutra is also called "the causal vehicle," because one builds
up the causes for enlightenment. In Tantra, "the vehicle of fruition,"
one identifies with the fruit, or the different aspects of enlightenment.
To build up the causes for enlightenment means both to remove all causes for suffering and to practice the way which leads to the cessation of all suffering, to lasting happiness. In the Smaller Vehicle (Hinayana) the goal is liberation, because the illusion concerning a true self of the person together with all gross defilements is dissolved. In the Greater Vehicle (Mahayana) the goal is full enlightenment. On the basis of the wish to liberate all sentient beings from suffering, even the subtlest veils of ignorance are removed and the state of highest wisdom, of complete omniscience, is obtained. This highest wisdom is nothing but the true nature of our mind.
If one has very strong confidence in the true nature of the mind one can directly identify with fruition itself, the different qualities of enlightenment. Based on the teachings about the Buddha nature which is present in all sentient beings, the Tantric methods of the Diamond Way bring about a very quick result. It is said of the Diamond Way that the best practitioner can reach enlightenment within one single lifetime. This is extremely fast, especially when it is compared to the Sutra approach where enlightenment can be obtained only within aeons. But not every practitioner is able to use such powerful methods. Most traditions in the Mahayana are based on the Sutra approach. Only Tibetan Buddhism uses and transmits all the Tantric methods that the Buddha has given.
Enlightenment expresses itself in different forms. All the Buddha aspects that Buddha Shakyamuni taught can be summarized into the five Buddha families, and these five families can be condensed again into Vajradhara (Tib.: Dorje Chang), the Tantric form of Buddha Shakyamuni himself. All the Buddhas of the ten directions and also the high Bodhisattvas manifest a pure powerfield around themselves, which is their own pure land. Buddha Shakyamuni described the qualities of these pure lands in detail. He taught different methods to connect with the Buddhas and their pure lands because, compared to other methods, the practice of the pure lands is a relatively easy way to enlightenment.
Within the circle of the five Buddha families the Buddha Amitabha (Tib.: Öpame, Eng.: Limitless Light) is the Buddha of the western direction. He bears this name, because the light radiating from his body pervades all the pure lands of all the Buddhas of the ten directions. Many aeons ago, in connection with his Bodhisattva promise, he made extremely strong wishes that he would be able to manifest a pure land which combines the qualities of all other pure lands, and that all beings who made corresponding wishes would be reborn there easily. As a result of these strong wishes he manifested the Pure Land of Great Bliss (Skr.: Sukha-vati, Tib.: Dewachen) at the time he accomplished Buddhahood.
The teachings on the qualities of Buddha Amitabha and his pure land are found mainly in the Smaller and Larger Sukha-vati-Vyu-ha, the shorter or longer Description of the Pure Land of Great Bliss (1st and 2nd century AD), and in the Amita-yur-Dhya-na-Su-tra, the Sutra of the Meditation on the Buddha of Limitless Life (3rd century AD). In addition to these three Sutras the method of getting in connection with the pure lands and taking rebirth there is praised in numerous Mahayana Sutras. These include some 200 Sutras and commentaries, such as the Avatamsaka, Surangama, Lotus and Prajnaparamita Sutras. Also the Treatise on the Awakening of the Faith by Asvaghosha explains this practice very clearly.
In general, there are four causes for a rebirth in the Pure Land of Great Bliss. The first and main cause is the wish to be reborn there. To visualize the Buddha and his pure land in one's mind as clearly as possible is the second cause. The third cause is to avoid negative actions and to practice positive actions. Finally, the fourth cause is to develop Bodhicitta, the Enlightened Attitude, the wish to obtain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings on the basis of love and compassion. But on the basis of these general teachings there exist many different levels of practice that the Buddha gave in correspondence with the different capacities of his students. It is these practices that one can divide into the two main categories of Sutra and Tantra which will be briefly described below.
The Sutra Level
In terms of the Amitabha practice, the Sutra level of teachings is the basis for the Pure Land School, which is the biggest Buddhist school in the world with more than one hundred million followers. This school's main practice is the recitation of the name of the Buddha Amitabha together with three kinds of accumulations.
The first accumulation is confidence in the Western Pure Land and in Buddha Amitabha's promise to rescue all who recite his name, as well as confidence in one's own self-nature, which is intrinsically the same as his. To recite the Buddha's name is to recite the true nature of mind. The second is to make wishes, the determination to be reborn in the Pure Land, in one's pure mind, in order to be in the position to save oneself and others from all sufferings. The third is to practice, which in this school means that one mainly has to recollect the Buddha Amitabha, reciting the Buddha's name until one's mind and that of Buddha Amitabha are in unison, i.e., to the point of single-mindedness. Stable meditation and insight are then achieved. Besides recollecting the Buddha Amitabha it is also necessary to study the Sutras of the Mahayana, and to do various kinds of positive activities. In this way one can build a bridge to Dewachen, the Pure Land. But one can also say that these three aspects - confidence, wishes, and practice are actually one and the same in essence, as the one contains all and all are contained in one.
The main practice in the Pure Land School is to recite the name of Amitabha, but there are also three other forms. In one form one recollects the Buddha by looking at a statue or form of the Buddha. Another form is to recollect the Buddha by vizualisation, and a third form is to recollect the Buddha by meditating on the true nature of mind. The recitation of the name of a Buddha has the same effect as reciting a mantra. This is the connection to the Tantric or esoteric schools. Buddhist masters of different traditions often commented, "The method of reciting the name of a Buddha encompasses the Meditation (Zen), Sutra Studies, Discipline (Vinaya), and Esoteric Schools." This is because when reciting the Buddha's name, one rids oneself of all delusions and attachments, which is Zen. The sacred words 'Amitabha Buddha' contain innumerable sublime teachings, hidden in and springing forth from those words, which is the Sutra Studies School. Reciting the Buddha's name purifies and stills the three karmas of body, speech and mind, which is the Discipline School. The Esoteric School will be explained in the context of the Tantra level.
The formal title of the Pure Land School in China is Ching-t'u Tsung, corresponding to the Jodo Shu in Japanese Buddhism. Devotion to Buddha Amitabha was, prior to Hui Yüan (334 - 416), an optional practice within Buddhism. Hui-yüan established this practice as an independent activity, and developed a Buddhist school around this practice by founding the White Lotus Society in the year 402. He emphasized the Buddha Amitabha's promise to cause all faithful beings to be reborn in his pure land, focusing on the practice of repeating the phrase known as the Nien-fo: "Na-mo A-mi-t'o Fo," literally meaning, "Homage to Amitabha Buddha." This practice is also used in the Japanese version of the Pure Land School, where it is called Nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu).
The eminent 16th century Zen Master Chu Hung has said, "This (Pure Land) is the most primal and the most subtle and wondrous. It is also the simplest. Because it is simple, those of high intelligence overlook it. Birth and death are not apart from a single moment of mindfulness. Consequently, all the myriad worldly and world-transcending teachings and methods are not apart from a single moment of mindfulness. Right now, take this moment of mindfulness and be mindful of Buddha, remember Buddha, recite the Buddha's name. How close and cutting! What pure essential energy, so solid and real! If you see through where this mindfulness arises, this is the Amitabha of our inherent nature. This is the meaning of the patriarch coming from the West (the meaning of Zen)."
In Zen Buddhism one has to understand the truth of self-nature Amitabha, Mind-Only Pure Land. As the Vimalakirti-Nirdesha Sutra states: "When mind is pure, the Buddha land is pure." Rebirth in the pure land is, ultimately, rebirth in our pure mind. This high level form of pure land is practiced by those of deep spiritual capacities: "When the mind is pure, the Buddha land is pure ... to recite the Buddha's name is to recite the mind." Thus, at an advanced level, Pure Land and Zen are the same in essence.
The Tantra Level
On the Tantra level, or the level of the Diamond Way, again many different forms of practice exist. The main focus of the Diamond Way is identification: to behave like the Buddha until one becomes a Buddha oneself. Even if one can already do the practice without having many special prerequisites, because the Buddha Amitabha made such strong wishes for all sentient beings, the practice actually becomes more powerful if one has received an authentic transmission from one's teacher. This transmission consists of the Amitabha empowerment (Tib.: wang), the 'oral transmission' or authorization for the practice (Tib.: lung), and the exact explanation how to practice in a correct way (Tib.: thri).
Every Tantra practice can be divided into two or three parts. The two parts are the development phase, where one builds up a certain visualization, and the completion phase of the meditation, where one dissolves whatever one has built up and lets the mind rest in its own nature. When divided into three parts, the aspects of practice are called "Mudra, Mantra, and Samadhi" in Sanskrit, and the Mantra recitation is added in connection with the development phase. The first part, Mudra, building up the form of the Buddha with all details in one's mind, functions to purify the defilements of the body and as a result of that to manifest the pure aspect of the body which is the emanation body of a Buddha (Skr.: Nirmanakaya). The Mantra recitation fulfills the purpose of purifying the defilements related to speech and to manifest the pure aspect of speech which is the body of enjoyment of a Buddha (Skr.: Samboghakaya). Finally, the function of the dissolving or completion phase (samadhi) is to purify the defilements related to mind and to manifest the state of truth or the body of phenomena of a Buddha (Skr.: Dharmakaya). These functions are basically the same, whether one takes a short, medium, or extensive form of Amitabha practice. The longest forms can last a day or more and include many different kinds of rituals like offerings, etc. Because the meaning of these practices is very profound, it is not possible to explain all aspects in this context.
The Diamond Way also contains a very special form of practice, one of the most profound teachings the Buddha has given. This is the so-called "Transference of Consciousness" (Tib.: phowa) or the practice of conscious dying. In the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism it is taught in the context of the Six Teachings of Naropa. It is also taught as a part of the Tantric Teachings of the Nyingma lineage given by the great Indian master Padmasambhava who was the main founder of Buddhism in Tibet.
During Phowa practice one learns to direct one's mind towards Buddha Amitabha and to transfer one's consciousness into the Pure Land of Great Bliss. Thus it is possible to establish a definite connection with the Buddha Amitabha and to arrive at a direct experience of this extremely pure and joyful state. This is especially useful at the time of death. Instead of being driven through the intermediate state (Tib.: bardo) into a new rebirth in the cycle of existence, one goes directly into the state of highest bliss, from where one can freely choose whether or not to come back for the benefit of beings. Being in the state of the Buddha himself one receives further teachings and develops very quickly towards the state of full enlightenment.
However, through this kind of practice it is even possible to realize more and more the pure nature of one's mind, which means to manifest the pure land here and now. In this case one doesn't need to send one's energy and awareness to the Pure Land and one needn't wait for the result to come when one builds up the causes. Instead, one can develop, in this lifetime, a huge capacity to benefit others and to liberate them from all sufferings. This is the actual meaning of the Phowa practice. It is a great gift, and the most powerful of all the different forms of Amitabha practice.
Four Thoughts which Turn the Mind from Samsara
Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche
Every dharma practice is preceded by certain preparations that serve as a solid basis for correct practice. These preparations are divided into two kinds: the general and the special. The "four thoughts which turn the mind from samsara" belong to the general, or ordinary, preparations.
What does this mean to turn the mind from samsara? It means freeing oneself of every attachment to life in the three realms of samsara. The four thoughts, the four general preparations, allow us to develop this freedom, as we reflect in turn upon the precious human birth, impermanence, karma, and the sufferings of samsara.
The Precious Human Body
One speaks of the "precious human body," referring to the preciousness of a human existence, which is very difficult to obtain. It is valuable because it is endowed with certain freedoms and abilities. Its preciousness is described through three aspects: by comparison with the greater situation, through numerical comparisons, and through analogy.
The first of these aspects describes the so-called "freedoms" which characterize the precious human birth. A human birth is valuable because one has managed to avoid certain other kinds of rebirth, which would confront one with situations completely different from those found in the human realm. Eight different kinds of existence are spoken of here:
1. Birth in the paranoia states where one constantly experiences the suffering of extreme heat and cold.
2. Birth in the hungry ghost realms where one constantly experiences the suffering of hunger and thirst.
3. Animal birth, where beings have the experience of being hunted and oppressed, of constantly eating each other and being misused.
4. Birth in uncivilized lands, where one has no opportunity of learning something leading to a positive path.
5. Birth as a god, especially a god with a very long life. As a result of earlier positive acts a god with longevity experiences happiness and joy during his life. However, experiencing the results of positive karma in this way means that this karma will eventually be exhausted. After their long lives these gods are reborn in lower and very painful states.
6. Life as a being with mental disability, where one can neither understand the meaning of the dharma, nor practice it.
7. Life with incorrect views when one automatically tends to accumulate negative actions, and therefore the causes of future suffering.
8. Birth in a time when no Buddha appears, when there are no Buddhist teachings, and therefore one receives no help to free oneself from the suffering of samsara.
In these eight kinds of existence, one experiences only suffering. One has no experience of freedom in the sense of being able to practice the dharma.
Having a precious human body means that one has not only avoided these types of existence, but one is also equipped with certain capabilities. Here, ten aspects are described. Five of these concern us directly.
" One was born in a human body.
" One was born in a region in which the Buddha's teachings are accessible.
" One has intact sensory organs.
" One does not have false views.
" One has a natural trust in the dharma.
The five further aspects have more to do with our surroundings, our outer environment:
" One was born in the times when a Buddha has appeared.
" This Buddha has given teachings - something we should not take for granted, since not all Buddhas necessarily give teachings.
" These teachings, if given in the past, have been preserved and are still accessible.
" One grasps and practices these teachings - a very personal condition, despite being listed with the external aspects. If one finds oneself in the excellent situation described, but does not practice, then having access to the teachings does not really do much good.
" One must also have a good heart, and a naturally loving disposition towards other beings - again, a very personal aspect.
These eight freedoms and ten conditions make up the eighteen conditions which, when they all come together, constitute a "precious human body." If one of these conditions were lacking, one could not call such a human existence "precious."
We have all obtained a human birth that qualifies as precious. This is not easy to obtain; rather, it is extremely difficult and for it to be possible one must have accumulated a huge amount of positive potential, a great amount of positive karma in previous lives. Above all, there is one cause that allows us to be re-born under such precious circumstances: this is the adherence to a discipline. On the one hand, discipline has to do with the various sets of vows we take on the way toward personal liberation. On the other, it has to do with avoiding the ten negative actions. However we formulate it, the quality of discipline is the direct cause for obtaining a precious human life.
There are stories that convey the difficulty of obtaining a precious human life. For instance, imagine a glass house with completely smooth walls. If somebody throws raw peas at the glass walls, most of them will bounce off and fall to the floor. It is most improbable that the peas will stick to the glass. However, if you constantly throw peas at the glass, sooner or later one is bound to stick. The probability that you will obtain a precious human body is much smaller than the probability that a pea will stick. Or imagine that a small ring is floating on the ocean. On the bottom of the ocean there lives a special turtle that surfaces briefly only once every hundred years. The probability of its head surfacing within the ring is pretty slim, but far greater than the chance of obtaining a precious human body.
One can also illustrate the value and the rarity of a human body when one compares the numbers of different kinds of beings. For example, there are pretty exact estimates of how many people live in this country. It is well known. However, if you tried to count how many insects live on just a small piece of land, this would be impossible.
All of us here were born under circumstances that make our human life very precious. We should remember that we have our precious human life because we have accumulated a great amount of positive potential and purified our minds of many obscurations. Right now we are enjoying the results of this but it is important to use these results in the best and most sensible way possible; otherwise we are simply squandering them. It would be as though we had taken a journey specifically to get something, and came back empty-handed. Or as though we had carried an empty bucket to fetch water, and returned with the bucket still empty. In each case, a wasted trip. We also should strive to make the most of our fortunate situation, and not fritter it away.
Making one's life meaningful means using the dharma and practicing the various methods that the Buddha taught. The Buddha gave such a great number of methods that it is not possible for one person to practice them all. Therefore, one should practice those methods that correspond to one's capabilities.
Dharma practice at its best means practicing like Milarepa and turning oneself away from all worldly concerns. In today's world, however, there are only a few people who are capable of practicing the dharma to this degree. If one is not capable of practicing like this, one should resolve to practice to the extent that is possible for one personally. One should do as much as one can. This relates to all our practices - meditation, accumulation of merit, purification practices and, of course, the preliminary practices.
One way to continually accumulate positive merit is to make offerings to the Buddhas. At best, one offers a large amount of things that one has. When this isn't possible, one can always offer clear water. If this isn't possible either, one can offer a lot of flowers. Or, failing this, with a mind full of devotion, one can imagine flowers and offer these to the Buddhas. In one's mind, one can also offer any flowers that one sees during the day. By making offerings to the Buddhas in whatever way possible, one can accumulate positive tendencies in one's mind.
Another possibility is to be generous to the sangha. One should be as generous as possible and support the sangha with a respectful mind.
The third possibility is to be generous to all sentient beings. One does whatever is possible to help them. For instance, when one comes across a thirsty animal, one gives it water.
These various examples show that it is always possible to practice useful and meritorious actions on different levels. One should really try to do this to the extent that one can, so as to strengthen one's own positive potential and destroy the negativity that burdens the mind.
As far as virtuous and harmful actions are concerned, one should not have the attitude that serious, obviously negative actions are to be avoided, and small negative actions are not to be worried about. A negative action, whether large or small, is always negative and will lead to problems and suffering. The result will always be negative because it corresponds to the original action. Therefore, one should not just concentrate on the avoidance of the big negative actions but should also distance oneself from those small actions which one so easily encounters.
For example, imagine a huge pile of dry grass, as big as a mountain. If this pile is ignited with even the smallest spark, the entire pile of grass will go up in flames. In a similar way, even the smallest negative action can have a very destructive effect.
This also applies to useful actions. One should never think that small positive acts would have no worth and therefore never even make the effort to perform them. One can very easily take this point of view. One thinks that one really isn't able to accomplish positive actions to any significant degree and, therefore, one never even makes the attempt. But a positive action will always have a corresponding result and one should always do what is possible on a personal level. With respect to practice, one should never think that it isn't worthwhile to start because one cannot do a significant amount. One should practice as much as one can, however much that is.
The second of the four thoughts deals with impermanence. There are many ways for a human life to end before coming to a death from old age. A butter-lamp consists of a container with butter and a wick. When such a lamp is filled to the brim with butter and the wick is not yet lit, this corresponds to the situation of a person that is not yet born. A butter-lamp that has fully exhausted its fuel corresponds to a person who has died of old age. Between these two examples there are a great number of variations. There are in fact many more conditions that can cause death than there are conditions that support life. Our life can be compared to a drop of dew on a blade of grass - it is very fragile and as soon as the sun comes up it evaporates.
Life is very precious not just because it is very difficult to obtain, but also because it is very easy to lose. The precious human body brings many possibilities, but there is one certainty and that is death. Uncertain, however, is the exact moment when it will come. It doesn't follow any rules. Children don't necessarily live longer than their parents. Teachers don't necessarily die before their students. Even though people actually know this from their own experience, they seem to think it's normal to believe that children will naturally live longer than their parents. However, if you take a look around and take your own experience into consideration, you will conclude with certainty that these things are not predetermined. Although one has the good fortune to still be alive, it is absolutely not a matter of course that this will continue so. The moment of one's own death can come at any time. That is the problem with life. It is so fragile, so easy to lose, and so easy to destroy.
At the moment of death one is very alone regardless of how close one is to one's family, how many brothers or sisters one has, or how many close and dear friends one has. They cannot accompany or help one at the moment of death. Even the material things which seem so important to us, regardless of how much money we save, how big and attractive our house and our car are, we will not be able to take any of it with us when we die. This also applies to that which is closest and most dear to us - our body. Our shadow has accompanied us throughout our entire life. We do not have to carry it along or worry whether it is there or not; it is automatically there. But even our shadow cannot accompany us beyond the point of death.
The only things that really count at the moment of death are the tendencies that we have accumulated in our mind. Both the positive and the harmful impressions will accompany us whether we want them or not. We cannot just take the positive impressions and leave the negative ones behind. These tendencies will determine our state of mind. They determine how we experience our death and the time afterwards. If we have accumulated a great amount of positive impressions in our mind, then we will experience the appropriate result. We will experience a lot of happiness and won't encounter the suffering that goes along with harmful tendencies. However, if negative tendencies are dominant in our mind, these will determine our experience in the sense that we will experience suffering and pain. We should be aware of this. For our death and that which follows, nothing other than the way in which we have lived can help us.
Karma - Cause and Effect
Karma deals with causality. A specific action leads to a specific result. A positive act will lead to a result of a positive nature, hence, to the experience of happiness and joy. On the other hand, a negative act will unavoidably lead to a painful result. It will most certainly cause suffering. This happens of itself because the result will unavoidably correspond to the nature of the cause. For example, if you plant a seed, a certain kind of plant will grow from this. From a rice seed, a rice plant will grow and not any other kind. Therefore, it is very important to be careful and to do everything possible, from the greatest to the seemingly smallest acts, in order to strengthen positive behavior.
The dominant tendencies in our mind will be the first to ripen. If they are characterized by negative kinds of behavior, then we will experience this first and they will be dominant in our lives. We will then experience suffering and will not be happy. This exacerbates our problems because we won't manage well in life and will get into more trouble. If, on the other hand, we strengthen our positive and useful behavior, then our happiness and joy will increase and become our prevailing experience. This then reinforces our ability to strengthen positive behavior.
The four thoughts were not simply "invented" by somebody in order to deceive you. They are authentic, completely true, and were taught by the Buddha Shakyamuni. The Buddha gave these teachings out of his all-knowing wisdom, his loving kindness, and his exceptional ability. Everyone has strong obscurations in his or her mind, of which the main disturbing feelings are attachment, anger and ignorance. On the basis of these disturbing feelings, a great number of other disturbing feelings arise in our minds. These influence our actions and so lead to many other negative activities. In our present situation, disturbing feelings are pretty dominant and lead to physical, verbal, and mental activities through which we accumulate negative karma.
Generally speaking, there are a great number of negative activities, but they are divided into specific categories. Three have to do with our body: killing, stealing, and causing sexual harm. Four have to do with our speech: lying, slander, divisive speech, and idle talk. The three negative actions of our mind are ill will, envy, and the cultivation of false views.
These ten negative actions should be avoided at all cost. In the meantime, one should do the opposite, namely engage in the ten positive actions which are the reverse of the negative actions already mentioned.
There are five negative actions that carry an extreme amount of negative force. They are referred to as "the five extremely harmful actions." These are: (1) to kill one's own father, (2) to kill one's own mother, (3) to kill an Arhat, (4) to physically injure a Buddha or one who represents the Buddha, such as one's own teacher - this also applies to the destruction of representations of the Buddha, and (5) to divide the sangha.
Carrying out one of these actions means accumulating extreme negative karma. The result of this action ripens especially fast after death, without an intermediate period. As a result of this action, one will immediately find oneself in a state of paranoia. This is why the literal description of these actions is "the five actions with which there is no intermediate state."
There are five further actions that are very similar to these: (1) to destroy a stupa, (2) to kill an "ordinary" bodhisattva - one who has not yet reached a level of direct realization, (3) to kill one's own lama, (4) to engage in sexual intercourse with a realized Arhat, (5) to steal from the Three Jewels- Buddha, Dharma, Sangha - for example, to take back an offering.
In general, negative actions don't have a single good quality; they are simply harmful. The Buddha however said that negative actions do have one good aspect, and this is that one can purify oneself from the negativity one has created. This purification is possible through the application of the so-called "four powers" - regret for the action, reparation of its ill effects, resolution not to repeat it, and renewal of our refuge in the Three Jewels. Even with the four powers it is extremely difficult to remove the tendencies that have been created by the five extremely harmful actions. It is also difficult to deal with negative impressions in the case where one has absolutely no trust in the Three Jewels and clings to false views.
The Disadvantages of Samsara
Because of our karma which leads to the ripening of certain experiences, the wheel of conditioned existence continually turns. This is samsara. Actions and karma accumulate, and through this experiences manifest. When positive actions are predominant, one will experience a more or less joyful result. When negative actions predominate, one will mainly experience suffering. In this way, within samsara one differentiates between six different kinds of experiences or states of existence: paranoia realms, ghost states, animal existences, human existence, half-god, and god states.
Regardless of which of these situations one observes, one finds nothing but suffering. Samsara is nothing but suffering because it is simply the result of accumulated actions. We can take a quick look at the six states in order to gain some insight into what it is like to live in each.
The paranoia state is not just a realm into which one is born. It is the name for a state of mind which is further divided into various sub-realms. There are, for example, eighteen different hell realms. In eight of these, beings suffer primarily from intense heat, and in eight others, they suffer predominantly from extreme cold. There are two more hell realms similar to these, making a total of eighteen. In all of these states nothing but heat and cold is experienced.
One could think that there is indeed great suffering in the paranoia realms but that the other realms may not be so bad. One should then take a look at what is experienced in the ghost worlds. The "hungry ghosts" born in these states suffer greatly from hunger and thirst. In one description of this realm it is said that in a hundred years time, a hungry ghost will not once hear the word "nourishment" or "water" and has absolutely no means of obtaining either. Hungry ghosts are described as having stomachs as big as mountains and mouths as small as a single hair. It is totally impossible for them to obtain nourishment to pacify their hunger and thirst. Even when they do find food or water, in the same moment they are about to drink or eat it, it is transformed into something repulsive like blood or pus. This is their prevailing experience.
Once again, one could think that things aren't so bad in the animal realm. However, when one takes a look at the situation, again one only finds suffering. It is easy to see how much suffering animals in water and on land experience, how they are constantly hunted and misused. These realms are called the three "lower" realms because suffering is very dominant there and of quite brutal nature. However, we really don't find anything but suffering in the so-called "higher" realms either. For example, the predominant problem with the asuras or half-gods is jealousy. They see the pleasant experiences of the gods and are envious because their own experiences pale in comparison. Therefore, they are continually fighting against the gods, but they never win. They are always the losers and are continually jealous. This is what conditions their suffering.
However, even the real gods suffer. Although they have a lot of fun during their lives, they experience a great amount of suffering before their death because they become aware that they are dying seven days beforehand. Seven days in a god realm is equal to seven human years. The gods see where they will be reborn after their death, and because they have used up all their good karma they will fall into the lower realms. During the process of decay that occurs as their death approaches, they recognize certain signs. For example, the flowers that adorn their bodies begin to wilt and their bodies begin to smell bad. Thus the suffering pervades the god realm as well.
Finally, in the human realm one experiences the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death.
Hence, regardless of which realm of existence one looks at, one sees that suffering and samsara are one and the same. One can compare samsara with sitting on the top of a needle. There is not one moment without suffering.
The four thoughts that turn the mind from samsara are very important for us. Many of the old masters have said, "The four preliminary practices are more profound than the main practice." For one's own development in dharma practice it is extremely important to take the time to develop a clear understanding of these fundamental views. After one has gone through every detail and understood the explanations of the "precious human body," one can then fully appreciate it. Next, one goes over "impermanence." When one has considered this thoroughly, one naturally understands how karma works, how samsara functions, and the suffering that exists in the various realms of existence.
When one has developed these fundamental views, one possesses a solid foundation on which to build one's dharma practice, namely, the "four special preliminary practices" - prostrations, diamond mind, mandala offerings, and guru yoga. Upon this firm base, one is able to let direct realization arise. If one doesn't take time to build a strong foundation it could be difficult to achieve the desired result of all these practices. It is like building a house. Without a good foundation, the house could very easily collapse.
There is a lot more to explain regarding this topic, but I ask you to keep in your mind what has been said here. Being in samsara means suffering. We should, however, be glad that we had the karma to be reborn with a precious human body. This is a fortunate situation because it means that we have excellent possibilities that are not found in other realms of existence. We have a certain amount of freedom insofar as we are able to discriminate between good and harmful actions. We are able to give up negativity and to concentrate on positive actions. If we practice being useful through this life, we will be able to attain a state of liberation from samsara. If, on the other hand, we don't bother with positive actions or practicing the dharma and continue to act negatively, then we will also get the corresponding result and we will not be able to free ourselves from samsara. We will continue with the never-ending cycle of rebirth in one state of existence or another.
For this reason, we should really be aware of the great opportunity here and now and do our very best to use it while we can. Take the time to study dharma and to practice. This is useful and I want to encourage you to continue doing it. Do not ever be discouraged in your dharma practice.
BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.5, 1998
Copyright ©1998 Kamtsang Choling USA
Power of Bodhisattva
First of all, each practitioner should decide if he wants to be a genuine follower of Buddhism. If he does, he needs to study earnestly and cultivate Bodhicitta and the enlightened attitude. These will lead to enlightenment.
Now what is Bodhicitta? Bodhicitta is not a single attribute. It is the combination of many positive attributes such as the application of compassion, kindness, right view and wisdom. Development of these is, thus, development of Bodhicitta and all these positive actions lead a person towards enlightenment.
Bodhisattvas do not rest in their peaceful state. They have a great deal of loving kindness and compassion towards all sentient beings and they are neither trapped in samsara, nor have they entered into nirvana. They take on the role of bridging samsara and nirvana.
According to the Mahayana view, the great Bodhisattvas such as Avalokitesvara, Manjushri and others are nearing enlightenment, which means that they are not yet fully enlightened. Why are they nearing enlightenment? Because they have great compassion and want to serve all sentient beings. They have made a commitment that all sentient beings will enter nirvana and because of this commitment they choose to remain as Bodhisattvas and not enter the supreme enlightened state. On the other hand, the Vajrayana teachings state that all these manifestations were fully enlightened long ago, but for the accomplishment of others they function as Sambogakaya forms to benefit sentient beings unconditionally.
The Mahayana and Vajrayana viewpoints may seem contradictory on the surface. In actual fact, they are not. They merely appear contradictory, as people of different levels of understanding and awareness perceive different qualities in Bodhisattvas who have attained their status through the development of the aspiration and application aspects of Bodhicitta. Just as a king who is walking along the street may be seen and recognised by those who know him as a king; and by those who don't, as a merely distinguished, or noble-looking gentleman.
The aspiration aspect of Bodhicitta is when one learns and understands the result of the development of Bodhicitta and has the desire to achieve that goal. To do that one makes a commitment of aspiration Bodhicitta. Application Bodhicitta is when after one has made a commitment, one follows the path to fulfil that commitment and in the process becomes a Bodhisattva.
>We can develop Bodhicitta through loving kindness and compassion. Generally, each and every body has the ability to be kind and compassionate. Even tigers and snakes, which can be ferocious towards other animals, are compassionate to their offspring. This is true of many other sentient beings, including human beings, who do have a compassionate nature that is inherent. It is due to the lack of right view and wisdom that this inherent nature becomes corrupted loving and compassion. It is corrupted in that once the emotion forms an attachment, it generates defilement. That is why we are not able to develop with good results because we have the motive to benefit ourselves.
If we are kind to someone, we also expect to be kind to one we know and that kindness has self involved. The involvement of self-interest will contaminate the exercise of loving kindness and compassion and so the results of that are not so effective or pure. The development of a selfless kind of loving kindness and compassion is not an easy task. It is quite difficult and impossible at first, because we need a good basis and only from there are we able to develop accordingly. The good basis is that we must have a certain kind of understanding of loving kindness and compassion even though it may at first involve self-interest. Somehow we must know the characteristic of loving kindness and compassion so that we can express it with people we know and then gradually and increasingly to others. That kind of expanding improvement we will be to do if we have a good basis. Everybody has loving kindness even though some may initially be very weak and some very strong. We all have to develop from wherever we are. That basis is the starting point.
To develop the selfless view we have to start from the self and then, through wisdom and right view, gradually develop a selfless attitude. We develop loving kindness and compassion towards all sentient beings selflessly without any expectation. That is selflessness. The selflessness is initially generated by self and then it is transformed into selflessness through wisdom and right view. Poison can kill a person, but if used properly, poison can also save a life. Everything is inter-related. If one wants to know selflessness, first one needs to know selfishness and recognise it and then from the nature of that recognition, one realises selflessness.
The cause of all sufferings that we experience is the grasping of the self. It is clear that once one grasps the notion of self, for example, that I want to be happy, that I do not want to suffer or that I need material things, etc, then one has to undergo all the necessary processes in order to get things done. Yet all these processes are not easy to undergo. A great deal of effort is required at each stage. We may get what we want or we may not. At a certain point, there is usually uncertainty as to whether a goal can be accomplished or not.
Even when we get what we wish for, it does not bring lasting happiness and the achievement becomes a cause of suffering. All these processes cause us many sufferings. The root of the processes and the suffering is the attachment towards the self of 'I' or 'me'. So long as we have that attachment, things are always constantly torturing and bothering us. In order to be non-attached, we must meditate to investigate the 'I', to establish whether the 'I' exists or not. Whether it has form or colour, etc.
After investigation, we will realise that the ' I ' cannot be found. The non-finding is the finding of the ultimate state of self itself. So that is why we do not grasp the existence and non-existence of phenomena; because both cannot be found. That state of mind is then free from the extreme; beyond description. We must develop that kind of realisation. As Buddha said, existence is one extreme, non-existence is another extreme. Therefore, beyond these two extremes is the middle way or path and that is the ultimate. So the Bodhisattvas have that level of understanding of the ultimate, and they do not want to rest in the state of meditation of peace, but to be constantly benefiting all sentient beings. Buddha accomplished the two purposes, the self-purpose and other-purpose. These two together are the causes of Buddhahood: that is developing the wisdom and the method. Method means development of loving kindness and compassion.
The power of compassion is very great. We experience much suffering, such as when enemies disturb us, or when physical and mental problems torture us. We suffer because we do not have the quality or perception to prevent or absorb the obstacles into the positive view. Therefore, everything becomes unfavourable to oneself. But loving kindness and compassion can convert all situations into favourable ones. So for all the 84,000 defilements, only one type of medicine can help and that is compassion. All the great masters and Bodhisattvas agree on this point. Of course that compassion must be pure, genuine and selfless. Therefore, that kind of compassion is the remedy for all our sufferings.
When practising Bodhicitta, cultivating the right intention is most important. Initially, when we try to develop the intention to benefit sentient beings, it may be difficult and we may waver. This is because of our habitual tendency of selfishness, which is firmly established in our mind. That is why the practice may sometimes flicker as we hesitate. Sometimes, we may even think of changing our mind or intentions. It is critical, therefore, that we first develop firm and full understanding about what we intend to do and what the result will be.
Once we are firm in our intention, then the next stage is for us to correct our behaviour so that any defilement will be effectively diminished. This cannot be accomplished merely with a one-off practice. Constant mindfulness and awareness have to be applied. Once these qualities are attained, we are closer towards the state of enlightenment and we also directly and indirectly benefit sentient beings constantly.
The Buddha, in the course of his development gave his body to needy people, a tiger, etc, without regret and without fear of pain but with joy and happiness. The Buddha dedicated himself to others and that most perfects kind of loving-kindness and compassion is what we need to develop. And so we need to change and develop our intention. In doing so, we have to examine our own capabilities and not force ourselves to do something beyond our abilities.
To work within our abilities, without hesitation and just for the benefit of others. This is the true Buddhist way of life.
This teaching was given by Ven. Shangpa Rinpoche at the centre on 5th May 1995 before the Vesak Day
When we call ourselves Buddhists, we mean we are the followers of Buddha. The most important aspect of being a Buddhist is that we should follow the path of Buddha and always reflect as Buddhists. Buddha is a Sanskrit word. It refers to one who has awakened from the ignorant mind and who has accomplished knowledge and wisdom. The Tibetan word for this is 'Sangye'.
Every Buddhist has ambitions and goals to attain the state of Buddhahood. The attainment of Buddhahood is the achievement and development of one's potential to liberate all sentient beings from suffering.
Those who have not yet achieved Buddhahood, have conflicting emotions such as desire, hatred, jealousy, ignorance and countless types of defilements. All these defilements come from ignorance; that is, being without wisdom and not knowing the true nature of mind. This ignorance causes all kinds of complications and confusion in the samsara. But ignorance is not permanent. It can be removed by applying wisdom. By turning ignorance to wisdom, one will be able to understand the truth. This will gradually lead one to the state of the enlightenment. Therefore, as a Buddhist, the most important goal is to develop wisdom and understand the basic teachings of Buddha dharma, such as the Four Noble Truths, the Eight Fold Paths; and then the practice of Bodhisattva paths and Vajrayana methods. An understanding of these will help us to develop wisdom.
Besides absorbing the knowledge of dharma,application of the teachings is also important. Whatever knowledge of the dharma we have absorbed into our mind streams, we must apply. For example, we all know that we should be generous. The knowledge of this is insufficient. We must implement that knowledge and practise generosity at all times.
Similarly, morality is equally important and we should implement and practise it. It is only through applying the teachings that we will reach the stage of enlightenment.
The more we understand the dharma, the more we will know when and where to apply it. Every moment in any situation of our daily lives is an opportunity for us to practise in order to develop ourselves spiritually. The more unfavourable circumstances we experience, the greater our chances of success in our dharma practice. For example, you may have an enemy who causes you alot of discomfort through hatred and curses. Generally, this is perceived as a bad situation as nobody wants to be hated or cursed as it causes discomfort and misery to oneself. However, from a spiritual-practice point of view, it is a good moment of challenge as it gives us the opportunity to develop and strengthen the positive attitude towards dharma. Patience is the important teaching in dharma and we can apply it in all circumstances. Especially when facing our enemies, we have to be tolerant and patient. If we can apply these principles, we will succeed in our practice.
Suffering is the path to happiness. Basically, the more difficulties we experience, the better are the results we gain; just as we must work hard in order to achieve good results. Though we may experience alot of difficulties, obstacles and hindrances, this is the passage to success. Dharma is very precious, as it helps us to overcome all kinds of difficulties, regardless of whether they are emotional or physical in nature. Dharma is actually the only treasure that leads us to success in our practice.
Thus, being a good Buddhist does not mean always appearing in the temple. In fact, a good Buddhist can be in anywhere, such as a business place, the street or a restaurant. In other words, as long as one can apply and practise dharma at all times, one is considered a good Buddhist. To use every moment of our experiences to develop one's practice is to be a pure Buddhist. One who does not apply dharma effectively but who always appears in the temple is called a physical Buddhist or an outlook Buddhist. One who practices and applies dharma regularly and correctly and, at the same time, always visit the temple is a very good Buddhist and a practitioner.
When any defilement arises, the practitioner can recognise it instantly. After recognising that the defilement, one should implement mindfulness and awareness to apply the antidote and be free from that particular defilement. Hence, whatever emotion and defilement arises, one must take it as a challenge and overcome it and that is the correct method for us to follow.
However, application is not as easy as we may think.It can be very tough and difficult to recognise our defilement. Even we recognise it, it may be difficult to recall or apply the antidote effectively. As the force of defilement is very strong in comparison to the weakness of an antidote, we may not be able to remove the defilement so quickly. Actually, we all want to purify our numerous defilements but the defilements are too much to be overcome all at once.Constant effort and hard work will help us to succeed in overcoming our defilements. Eventually, our effort will become positive habits and we will be able to succeed one day.
Once there was a Tibetan merchant named Norbu Zangpo, who lost all his money in his business. Due to his failure in the business, he felt very upset and disappointed and wanted to quit. Feeling so depressed, he lay down on the ground and he noticed that an ant was trying to climb a blade of grass. Halfway up, it fell down. It tried again and again many times and the merchant counted 79 times of the ant falling. At last on the 80th time,it managed to climb on to the tip of the grass. Suddenly, the merchant realised thatwithout constant effort, one cannot succeed in anything. From then on, he put a lot of effort and hard work into his business and he succeeded. He became the richest and most successful businessman in Tibet. The tiny insect Ant gave that inspiration to him.
The story reminds us to exert effort constantly and not to be afraid of failure. In the process, even one does not succeed initially, one needs to practice until one succeeds. We all lack mindfulness and constant effort. We expect immediate results without exerting much effort. This is not possible. Dharma is mental training and cannot be bought or transferred. It is very simple if we know how to apply dharma to act as an antidote to purify defilement. If dharma becomes supplementary to one's pride or defilement, that will develop a negative effect against oneself. If dharma is practised through proper application, it will become the antidote to defilement. That is to say, with right implementation, one can reduce one's defilements like hatred, ignorance, desire, and all other kinds of confusions.
Basically, through all these processes we are able to distinguish whether a person is a true Buddhist or not. A true Buddhist is one who does not only just understand the teachings of dharma, but who implements them and experiences the results. Not being a true Buddhist means that we do not implement the teachings of dharma and never change our attitude towards the spiritual path. Instead, we show off our pride of knowing dharma and look down on others and this increases further our negative thoughts.
Listening to dharma teachings with contemplation and meditation covers the whole practice. We must try to understand the meaning of Buddha's teachings, then contemplate and investigate the dharma. After investigating the logic of truth, then we must implement and apply whatever we have learnt and meditate on it. With these methods, our practice of dharma can be effective and we will be able to achieve enlightenment.
Meditation does not mean only sitting down and placing our palms together. Meditation can be practised in many different ways such as development of generosity, patience, and morality. In fact, all these practices are related to meditation, which requires awareness and mindfulness. For instance, if a person is cooking and he says that he is meditating, you will not believe him because you do not expect meditation to be like this. How can he be meditating while he is cooking? However, if he applies the qualities of mindfulness and awareness to the process of cooking, then he is indeed meditating.
In Vajrayana, we have lots of chanting, musical instruments playing and many different hand mudras etc. All these are also part of the meditation. Through these meditation and actions we are able to realise the nature of mind more effectively.
Finally, a true Buddhist is one who applies the teachings of Buddha to his mind-steam and every day life. By doing that, one is mindful towards every thought and action. Once you have that quality, you will not make any mistake and you will continue increasing your positive thoughts as well as merits or wisdom. When you have those qualities, the inner bliss will arise and then you will be fully satisfied and find the purpose of life.
This teaching was given by Ven. Shangpa Rinpoche at the centre on 3rd May 1995 before the Vesak Day
Illness To Train The Mind
By Seventh Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyatso
a physical illness arises, we usually multiply our suffering by worring and by
mental anxiety on top of it. One should understand that the human body is a composite of
elements and agents that constantly are struggling with one another. When these elements and
agents fall into disharmony or when external factors such as the many types of evil powers are
affected, the various diseases naturally arise with intensity and for long period of time. Therefore
one might as well face up to the fact that during the course of one's life a certain amount of
disease is inevitable. When one does fall painfully ill, one should not be concerned with one's
own situation. Instead consider the inconceivable sufferings of the hell denizens, the hungry
ghosts, animals and so forth whose anguish is infinitely greater than one's own. Ask yourself,
"If they must bear such immense pain, how can I not bear this suffering which by comparison is
small? If I am so weakened by my suffering, how must they feel who anguish is so much greater?
May their afflictions be alleviated by this illness of mine."
Thinking in this way, visualize that you are surrounded by all sentient beings experiencing
every type of suffering. As you inhale, visualize that all their negativities and obscurations,
sickness and pain ripen upon you, freeing them from all misery, and as you exhale, visualize
all good things going to them in the form of white nectar giving them happiness. Repeat this
process again and again.
As the benefits of this contemplation surpass the effects of any virtuous actions, any illness
should be seen as an excellent opportunity to practice Dharma. Think, "Even if I never recover,
I can continue to practice the meditation of taking others' suffering upon myself and giving
others peace - a powerful practice unsurpassed by all. Therefore I am perfectly happy to lie
here with this illness."
If you can practice this advice from the depth of your heart, there is no doubt that you will
be benefited in both this and future lives, hence keep it in mind.
By Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Thoughts and the Mind
Like waves, all the activities of this life have rolled endlessly on, one after the other, yet they have left us feeling empty-handed. Myriads of thoughts have run through our mind, each one giving birth to many more, but what they have done is to increase our confusion and dissatisfaction.
When we closely examine the ordinary habits that underlie whatever we do and try to discover where they come from, we find that their very source is our failure to investigate them properly. We operate under the deluded assumption that everything has some sort of true, substantial reality. But when we look more carefully, we find that the phenomenal world is like a rainbow-vivid and colourful, but without any tangible existence.
When a rainbow appears in the sky we see many beautiful colours-yet a rainbow is not something we can clothe ourselves with, or wear as an ornament. There is nothing we can take hold of; it is simply something that appears to us through the conjunction of various conditions. Thoughts arise in the mind in just the same way. They have no tangible reality or intrinsic existence at all. There is therefore no logical reason why thoughts should have so much power over us, nor any reason why we should be enslaved by them.
Mind is what creates both samsara and nirvana. Yet there is nothing much to it-it is just thoughts. Once we recognize that thoughts are empty, the mind will no longer have the power to deceive us. But as long as we take our deluded thoughts as real, they will continue to torment us mercilessly, as they have been doing throughout countless past lives. To gain control over the mind, we need to be aware of what to do and what to avoid, and we also need to be alert and vigilant, constantly examining all our thoughts, words and actions.
To cut through the mind's clinging, it is important to understand that all appearances are void, like the appearance of water in a mirage. Beautiful forms are of no benefit to the mind, nor can ugly forms harm it in any way. Sever the ties of hope and fear, attraction and repulsion, and remain in equanimity in the understanding that all phenomena are nothing more than projections of your own mind.
Once you have realized absolute truth, then you will see the whole, infinite display of relative phenomena that appears within it as no more than an illusion or a dream. To realize that appearance and voidness are one is what is called simplicity, or freedom from conceptual limitations.
Self and others
As you wish to be happy, so you should wish others to be happy too. As you wish to be free from suffering, so you should wish that all beings may also be free from suffering. You should think, "May all living creatures find happiness and the cause of happiness. May they be free from suffering and the cause of suffering. May they always have perfect happiness free from suffering. May they live in equanimity, without attachment or hatred but with love towards all without any discrimination."
To feel overflowing love and almost unbearable compassion for all living creatures is the best way to fulfil the wishes of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Even if for the moment you cannot actually help anyone in an external way, meditate on love and compassion constantly over the months and years until compassion is knit inseparably into the very fabric of your mind.
As you try to practise and progress on the path, it is essential to remember that your efforts are for the sake of others. Be humble and remember that all your exertions are child's play compared to the vast and infinite activity of the Bodhisattvas. Like parents providing for the children they love so much, never think that you have done too much for others-or even enough. Even if you finally manage to establish all living creatures in perfect Buddhahood, simply think that all your wishes have been fulfilled. There must never be so much as a trace of hope for any benefit for oneself in return.
The essence of the Bodhisattva practice is to go beyond self-clinging and dedicate yourself to serving others. The Bodhisattva's activity hinges on the mind, not on how your actions might appear externally. True generosity is the absence of clinging, ultimate discipline is the absence of desire, and authentic patience is the absence of hatred. Bodhisattvas are able to give away their kingdom, their body, their dearest possessions, because they have completely overcome any inner impoverishment and are unconditionally ready to fulfil the needs of others.
The teachings we need most are those that will actually strengthen and inspire our practice. It is all very well to receive teachings as high as the sky, but the sky is not that easy to grasp. Start with practices which you can truly assimilate-developing determination to be free of ordinary concerns, nurturing love and compassion-and as you gain stability in your practice you will eventually be able to master all the higher teachings.
The only way to achieve liberation from samsara and attain the omniscience of enlightenment is to rely on an authentic spiritual teacher. An authentic spiritual teacher is like the sail that enables a boat to cross the ocean swiftly.
The sun and moon are reflected in clear, still water instantly. Similarly, the blessings of the Three Jewels are always present for those who have complete confidence in them. The sun's rays fall everywhere uniformly, but only where they are focused through a magnifying glass can they set dry grass on fire. When the all-pervading rays of the Buddhas' compassion are focused through the magnifying glass of your faith and devotion, the flame of blessings blazes up in your being.
Obstacles can arise from good as well as bad circumstances, but they should never deter or overpower you. Be like the earth, which supports all living creatures indiscriminately, without distinguishing good from bad. The earth is simply there. Your practice should be strengthened by the difficult situations you encounter, just as a bonfire in a strong wind is not blown out, but blazes even brighter.
When someone harms you, see him as a kind teacher who is showing you the path to liberation and merits your respect. Pray that you may be able to help him as much as you can, and whatever happens, never hope for an opportunity for vengeance. It is particularly admirable to bear patiently the harm and scorn of people who have less education, strength or skill than you.
Look right into it, and you will see that the person who is harmed, the person who does the harm, and the harm itself are all totally devoid of any inherent reality. Who, then, is going to get angry at mere delusions? Faced with these empty appearances, is there anything to be lost or gained? Is there anything to be liked or disliked? It is all like an empty sky. Recognize that!
Once you control the anger within, you will discover that there is not a single adversary left outside. But as long as you pay heed to your hatred and attempt to overcome your external opponents, even if you succeed, more will inevitably rise up in their place. Even if you managed to overpower everyone in the whole world, your anger would only grow stronger; to follow it will never make it subside. The only really intolerable enemy is hatred itself. To defeat the enemy of hatred it is necessary to meditate one-pointedly on patience and love until they truly take root in your being. Then there can be no outer adversaries.
Ask yourself how many of the billions of inhabitants of this planet have any idea of how rare it is to have been born as a human being. How many of those who understand the rarity of human birth ever think of using that chance to practise the Dharma? How many of those who think of starting to practise actually do so? How many of those who start continue to practise? How many of those who continue attain ultimate realization? Indeed, those who attain ultimate realization, compared to those who do not, are as few as the stars you can see at daybreak compared to the myriad stars you can see in the clear night sky.
As long as you, like most people, fail to recognize the true value of human existence you will just fritter your life away in futile activity and distraction. When life comes all too soon to its inevitable end, you will not have achieved anything worthwhile at all. But once you really see the unique opportunity that human life can bring, you will definitely direct all your energy into reaping its true worth by putting the Dharma into practice.
If you make use of your human birth in the right way, you can achieve enlightenment in this very lifetime. All the great Siddhas of the past were born as ordinary people. But by entering the Dharma, following a realized teacher and devoting their whole lives to practising the instructions they received, they were able to manifest the enlightened activities of great Bodhisattvas.
by the Padmakara Translation Group
From Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
"(The Six Perfections)"
A Discourse By Khempo Yurmed Tinly Rinpoche
Oral translation by Robert Clark, Ph. D. (T. T. Dorje)
Prior to Receiving Teachings
Request For Teachings
Today's Topic - The Six Perfections
The Five Aspects of Excellence
Preparing to Receive the Teachings - Preliminary Practices
The First Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Place
The Second Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Disciples
The Third Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Teachings
The Fourth Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Time
The Fifth Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Teacher
Dependent Arising and Emptiness
Conventional Truth and Ultimate Truth
The Chain of Cause and Effect
The First Paramita - Generosity
The Second Paramita - Perfection of Ethics
Paramitas (Part 2 of the teaching)
Cause and Effect, Buddhist Ethics
Third Paramita - Patience
The First Type of Patience
The Second Type of Patience
The Third Type of Patience
The Fourth Paramita - Virtuous Effort
The Fifth Paramita - Meditative Concentration
Mindfulness & Circumspection
Moving from Meditative Ground to Paramita
The Sixth Paramita - Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom
Questions From Audience
Traditional End to Teachings
Dedication of Merit
Prior to Receiving Teachings
Following tradition, we will make the offering and request for teachings, which appear in our text. We will say these prayers once in English and once in Tibetan. We start with the second one, which is the Mandala Offering; then we do the first one, which is the Request For Teaching. Please read it together:
This ground anointed with perfumed water and strewn with flowers,
Mt. Meru, the four continents, the sun, the moon are offered as a Buddha Realm.
May all beings attain the Pure Land through this offering.
I send forth this jeweled mandala to you, precious Guru.
SA ZHI PO CHHU JYUK ZHING ME TOK TRAM
RI RAP LING ZHI NYI DAY GYEN PA DI
SANG GYAY ZHING DU MIK TE PHUL WA YIY
DRO KUN NAM DAK ZHING LA CHYOD PAR SHOK
I DAM GURU RATNA MANDALA KEM NIRYA TA YA MI
Request For Teachings
To fulfill the needs of all sentient beings in their various states of mental
capacity, including the lesser, greater, common and extraordinary vehicles,
we beseech you to turn the wheel of the Dharma.
CHEN NAM KYI SAM PA DANG
LO YI JYE DRAK JI TA WAR
CHE CHUNG THUN MONG THEK PA YI
CHO KYI KHOR LO KOR DU SOL
Now Rinpoche will invoke the blessings of the Lord of Infinite Wisdom, Manjushri, with the traditional prayer for his wisdom, so that we may clearly understand the teachings that will be given.
Today's Topic - The Six Perfections
Today's topic is the Six Perfections, or Paramitas, which is the central feature of the Prajnaparamita teachings. These are part of what is called "The Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma" by the Lord Buddha, Sakyamuni. He turned the Wheel of Dharma three times.
This second turning of the wheel, which was done from his
place of teaching on Vulture's Peak, is called "The Wheel of the Lack of
Intrinsic Characteristics." That was the name of that whole cycle of teaching.
The Five Aspects of Excellence
In this second turning of the wheel, the Lord Buddha presented what are called the five aspects of excellence, the first of which is the fact that the place of the teaching was the most excellent place from where to give teachings, from where to turn the Wheel of the Dharma for the sake of living beings. So the first of the five is said to be most excellent place of teaching, meaning this place in India called Vulture's Peak.
The second aspect of excellence is the audience or disciples, so it's called the most excellent disciples - these were the assembly of bodhisattvas together with eighty thousand divinities.
The third aspect of excellence is the Dharma, that is, the content of the teaching itself was most excellent - namely, the teachings on the Prajnaparamita.
The fourth aspect of excellence is the timing of the teaching, of the turning of the wheel. This was the most excellent time for living beings to receive the teaching. This is indicated by the fact that human beings at the time had great longevity, living to be normally around one hundred years old.
The fifth aspect of excellence is that here we
have the most excellent teacher, meaning the Lord Buddha himself, who had attained
the state of highest perfect and peerless enlightenment.
Preparing to Receive the Teachings - Preliminary Practices
The manner in which these teachings were given is said to be by way of the three types of miraculous activity, namely the physical manifestations, the verbal manifestations and the mental manifestations, all three being miraculous by nature.
What was the reason behind these three types of miraculous activity? The reason why the Lord Buddha manifested miraculous activities of body, of speech and of mind was in order to prepare the students, or disciples, to receive the teachings, to make them suitable to absorb the teachings that he was giving to them. If they were not prepared properly, then giving the teaching would be a waste of time.
So to prepare the disciples, he manifested the three types of miracles. The greatest obstacle to acquiring the teaching, once it is made available to you, is your own mental defilements. Principally, pride and arrogance can make a disciple immune or disinterested in the teachings, thinking that they already, in many ways, have everything they need of an intellectual or spiritual nature. So to overcome that pride and arrogance, the Buddha manifests the three types of miraculous activity.
In Buddhist practice, there is a universal aspect, which is called preliminary practices. Here, depending upon the teaching that you are getting and the teacher that is giving it to you, a series of preliminary practices, often comprised of a large number of repetitions of such things as prostrations and recitations and so forth, may be required. All of these are preliminaries designed to prepare the student or disciple to receive and to practice the actual teachings.
The purpose of all of these preliminaries is not just to amass a great number, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of repetitions of various practices, but to receive the benefit of their collective effect upon the mind. The preliminaries are always designed to reduce the great obstacle to effective engagement in Buddhist practice or meditation; that great obstacle is the inner obstacle of pride, that sense of arrogance where one thinks that one is already completely sufficient and does not really need to acquire any new teachings. This subtle pride or arrogance makes it completely impossible to truly listen to the teachings, to truly benefit from what one hears and to truly put it into effective practice. So to overcome that subtle or coarse pride in one's own mind, the teacher prescribes various preliminary practices. So that's the nature of, the reason behind, these three types of miracles that were manifested by the Lord Buddha.
The Lord Buddha, looking out upon his audience, the vast numbers of divinities and bodhisattvas, understood clearly and directly the types of obstacles that prevented them from effectively listening to the teachings and putting it into practice. What he saw is described under the category of the five types of arrogance, and these include the arrogance in which one takes great pride in one's own powers, one's own beauty, one's own wealth, one's possessions, and in one's own knowledge.
the types of pride which were possessed by the audience (the disciples), and which
prevented them, before these miracles were manifested, from truly listening to
what the Buddha had to say. So to overcome these, he exhibited the miracles. Had
he not done that, the disciples would have been left with their pride and arrogance,
and left without any means to attain liberation from all of the causes of their
own misery. So they would remain stuck in the round of birth and death, and all
of the miseries that that entails.
The First Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Place
The location where the teachings took place was called the most excellent place, the first of the five aspects of excellence, because this so-called Vulture's Peak was in fact the place where the six great emperors of India established their capitals. This was the most powerful, most desirable place from which the six universal emperors of India exerted their influence over the entire subcontinent. This was the place of their palace and their capitals, so throughout that early history of India, this was always considered the supreme place in the entire land.
The Second Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Disciples
Another of the five aspects of excellence is that the disciples themselves constitute the most excellent circle of disciples. These included all of the great bodhisattvas as well as the eighty thousand divinities. So each of these possess all of these aspects of excellence themselves, such as the highest attainments in the worldly sense, the greatest retinues, the greatest radiance, the greatest possessions, the greatest powers, even the greatest ability to perform miraculous activities. All of these aspects are possessed by the members of this audience of disciples. All of them have these powers, but altogether they, of course, do not match even a small bit of what the Lord Buddha was able to exhibit. In the entire world system, these were the most powerful persons. Therefore they are called the most excellent retinue or the most excellent audience of disciples.
The Third Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Teachings
What the Lord Buddha spoke or communicated with these sixty aspects of enlightened speech, was what was referred to earlier as the most excellent teaching or most excellent Dharma. To understand why the teachings of the Buddha were most excellent, we have to see that whatever he spoke arose out of his enlightened mind, his enlightened experience. That is to say, it was based on his eons of practice, of developing and perfecting himself, of eliminating all flaws and attaining all excellences. And from that state of supreme enlightenment, whatever he said had the great power to liberate living beings from their illusions and to establish them in the state of liberation. So other teachers, hearing his words, and trying to emulate it or repeat it, could do so only to a certain degree. The power of the Buddha's speech, arising directly from his experience of ultimate enlightenment, can not be matched by any who do not also possess that state of highest enlightenment. So what he gave at Vulture's Peak is the aspect that is referred to as the most excellent teaching, because it arose directly from his experience of supreme enlightenment and cannot be matched by any who have not attained that level of perfect insight.
The Prajnaparamita teachings, given by the Lord Buddha from Vulture's
Peak, is the supreme teaching. This is the most excellent teaching, the teaching
which expresses directly his enlightenment. Of all other religious teachers who
give instructions in this world, none can match the teachings on the Prajnaparamita
because only the person with that state of highest, perfect, supreme enlightenment
can teach in this way. Therefore it is called the most excellent teaching.
The Fourth Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Time
In world cycles, there are various times in which there is the development or evolution of the world, and then times of devolution as things go into a period of decline. There is a certain time when the evolution is at its peak before the devolution or decline starts. The very peak of the cosmic cycle, when living beings have the greatest fortune, the highest level of ability to acquire and practice the teachings, was the time in which the Lord Buddha gave these teachings from Vulture's Peak. Therefore it is called the most excellent time. It was a time when the average lifespan was around one hundred years, when people had, almost universally, the leisure and the opportunity to engage in effective spiritual practice, untroubled by all of the various distractions and difficulties which obstruct spiritual practice. So of the five aspects of excellence, this is what is called the most excellent time.
So having all these aspects of excellence present, the most excellent place, the most excellent assemblage of disciples, the most excellent teachings, the most excellent time, and the most excellent teacher, the teaching would still not be effective as long as within the mind of the disciple there remains a sense of pride and arrogance. So to eliminate that, the Lord Buddha exhibited the miracles. These functioned to get the attention of the disciples, to make them attentive, to make them realize that no matter how powerful, influential, clever, wealthy, beautiful and so forth, that they were, that they were still insignificant in the face of this supreme being, the Lord Buddha, who appeared before them. So to convince them of that he exhibits the miracles, which has the effect of subduing that pride and making them receptive to learning the Dharma.
Having subdued their pride in this way and having gotten their attention,
at this point the disciples look to the Lord Buddha to enlighten them, to show
them the way from their relatively insignificant powers and abilities and knowledge
to find this higher level, this state of supreme knowledge. So at this point,
they willingly and diligently listened to what he had to say.
The Fifth Aspect of Excellence - The Most Excellent Teacher
Why was the Buddha the most excellent teacher? This is related to the three types of miracles and how he subdued the pride and arrogance of the disciples. The teacher who lacks true excellence, who has serious gaps in his or her knowledge, whose understanding is very small, but who pretends to be qualified to teach, such a person will not be able to truly help disciples. A typical manifestation of such a person is to be very arrogant and proud, to cover up the inadequacies in such a person's understanding and ability to teach.
The Lord Buddha, having amassed accumulations of merit over three endless eons, having perfected all of the infinite varieties of good attributes and having freed himself from all aspects of mental, physical and verbal stains or defilements, had achieved the state of ultimate perfection, wherein nothing was beyond his knowledge or ability. For such a person, then, there is no need to make any great show. There is no pride whatsoever in such a person. All things such as pride and arrogance have been eliminated. As Sakya Penchen describes it, such a person is like a very deep ocean where the surface is very, very smooth and calm because of its great depth. The person without such depth, without such knowledge and understanding, is like a very shallow body of water that is always turbulent, muddy, unclear, noisy, unstable and is easily moved by any little bit of wind. The Lord Buddha is like the very deep, even bottomless ocean - very, very calm and clear. So such a person manifesting these three types of miracles does so without the smallest trace of pride or arrogance, but does so in order to benefit the disciples.
Sakya Penchen described it like this: if you have something very valuable, like a very precious jewel, and you put that into the ocean, it sinks to the bottom and it abides there. It is heavy in all its wondrous features. A perfect jewel or something made of pure gold goes to the bottom and remains there.
Something without any value, like some dried grass or dried wood, remains on the surface, pushed around by the waves and blown by the wind. The teacher, with all of the excellent qualities, is like that jewel or the gold that remains calmly at the bottom, no matter how turbulent the waves and the wind. It is never disturbed, never blown around. The teacher with less good qualities is like the dry wood or straw that remains at the top and is tossed by the waves and blown by the wind. The teacher who is like the straw or the dried wood has great pride and arrogance, but very little good qualities and knowledge. The teacher who is like the jewel has great good qualities and knowledge, but no pride and arrogance.
The excellent teacher is filled with the weight of knowledge, of good qualities, of self-discipline and so forth, and remains like the jewel at the bottom. The poor or unqualified teacher does not have those solid, heavy qualities and has just appearances, so it is like the straw remaining at the top of the water, with all sorts of arrogance and show, speaking loudly, praising himself or herself, but lacking these good qualities that constitute the true substance of the qualified teacher.
What brings about those heavy, substantial qualities is the training which the individual undergoes. Study, contemplation and meditation bestow substance upon the individual teacher. Without those qualities, which arise from study, contemplation and meditation, there is no substance. All there is, is the superficial, the show.
So this is the reason why the Lord Buddha is called the most excellent teacher. Because he has acquired all of those good qualities from the many, many lifetimes of practice, study, contemplation, meditation, spiritual development, of bestowing all of his wealth, possessions, even his bodies to benefit others, thinking only of the benefit of others. In this way he acquired countless virtues and freed himself of all defilements.
In exhibiting the three types of miracles, the Lord Buddha subdued the pride of the gods, which was no easy thing - the gods having all of these fantastic powers, having tremendous retinues of followers, having all of the radiance and the glory of the divine beings, having all of the wealth and possessions and all of the various types of powers unique to gods and goddesses. Such beings then, looking upon an ordinary person, feel tremendous pride and arrogance and are completely unsuitable to listen to any sort of teachings. Therefore, the Lord Buddha exhibited the three types of miracles, so that the gods and goddesses looking upon him felt their own radiance and their own powers to be very small, if not insignificant, so great were the miracles exhibited by the Lord Buddha. The gods and goddesses came to feel that they were like a small candle being held opposite the great sun. Their illumination powers were like the light of a candle, whereas the Lord Buddha was like the light of the sun.
These miracles were shown by the Buddha at this time, before giving the teachings on the Prajnaparamita at Vulture's Peak, for the benefit of the gods, to overcome their pride and arrogance. So, his first type of miracle was the physical miracle. The gods and goddesses had such great radiance that in their divine abodes they had no need for sun or moon, nor any sort of celestial light. Their own bodies gave off such light, such brilliant radiance. Very proud of this, at first, they came to see the Lord Buddha.
To overcome that pride, he sent out from the place between his eyes on his forehead, rays of light which went forth and illumined, not just the area around there, not just this world, not just this world system, but went out to illuminate all of the hundreds of billion world systems. Giving out light more than hundreds of trillions of suns, all together. Just from him, he sent out this great radiance. It went out in all directions, illuminated all these billions of world systems, then came back and dissolved back into his forehead. In this way, that aspect of the arrogance of the gods was subdued.
The Buddha has these inconceivable abilities, like fitting the entire world into a single atom or a single dust particle, right in front of him. So he can hold the whole world on a single atom or a single particle of dust. Likewise, he can make something as small as a single particle of dust as great as the entire world. In this way, what he expresses with his own tongue can go forth to the entire world and come back again, without his tongue growing greater or the world growing smaller. The activities of his tongue extend out, throughout the world's systems - he has such an ability to overcome time and space.
The verbal abilities of the
Buddha, that is the miraculous powers of his speech, are such that he has what
are called the sixty aspects of enlightened speech. Without going into all of
those, we can understand that when he spoke a word, that word was just as clear
and intelligible from millions of miles away as it would be sitting right in front
of him, without having to yell or raise his voice. Another of these aspects of
enlightened speech is that the speech of the enlightened ones is understood by
the disciple in his or her own idiom or language. With no need of a translator,
the Lord Buddha could speak to all sorts of diverse audiences. Though the languages
of certain heavens or parts of certain heavens might be totally different from
the language of other gods or goddesses, all of them would understand it the same.
Some of the nagas, speaking one naga language, would understand it in their idiom,
others in their idiom. Likewise with any of his other disciples, they would perceive
what he said to have been spoken in their own language.
So he began at that point to give the teaching on the Prajnaparamita. This teaching begins with the first of the Six Paramitas. Paramita means the most perfect practice which leads one to the attainment of liberation. The first of these is the perfection of generosity.
Dependent Arising and Emptiness
But first, in order to put this teaching on the practice and perfection of generosity into a context of the ultimate meaning of all of the teachings, to show that it is part of this path to supreme knowledge and ultimate liberation, the Lord Buddha first gave instructions on what is called dependent arising. Dependent arising is the way in which all phenomena arise, abide and dissolve. As part of that, he gave the teachings on emptiness, that is, on the ultimate reality or ultimate nature of all phenomena.
The teachings on the Six Paramitas - generosity, morality, patience, virtuous effort, concentration and wisdom - all of these are meaningful only in the context of ultimate truth. Were it not for this ultimate truth, then the engagement or practice of these things would not be effective or even sensible. So the Buddha starts out by giving these teachings on dependent arising, and on the nature of the ultimate truth characterized by dependent arising. That is what we call shunyata, or emptiness. As Nagarjuna says in the Tsawe Sherab, the Mulamadyamika Karika, "Whatever arises dependently, that is, all things which are dependent arising, meaning all phenomena without exception, are free of both annihilation and eternal existence". In other words, they are not non-existent, nor are they truly or eternally existent. They are neither of those two things.
In this teaching on dependent arising as explicated by Nagarjuna, where he comments on these teachings on the Prajnaparamita, he explains this teaching on dependent arising and emptiness. Where do things arise from? In this world we have so many different philosophies and ideas and explanations for the arising of phenomena, that is, how and why the world was created, how phenomena arise, how they exist, how they change and dissolve - so many different teachings, so many different philosophies. Only the Lord Buddha taught dependent arising. This teaching is what clears away the clouds of confusion with regard to how things truly exist.
This principle of dependent arising, to describe it very briefly, is that all phenomena arise from a cause. So long as causes and conditions produce it, it is said to exist. But it has no true existence apart from its causes and conditions. So it then becomes a part of this chain, or this process, becoming the cause and condition for the arising of something else, which also has no true or independent existence apart from its own causes and conditions. In this way all things arise in connection and dependence upon something else. Nothing whatsoever, not the smallest atom or atomic particle, or anything, exists in and of its own right. Its existence is merely apparent or merely a transitional appearance, without any true or inherent existence. So this is the description of the subject matter of the teaching on dependent arising, and how all things lack that inherent existence; all things can neither be said to truly exist nor to be nonexistent. That middle way between those two extremes is what we have when we understand the nature of reality and its dependent arising.
The teaching on dependent arising is not something that you can just listen to and say, "Oh, OK, things are dependently arisen, things lack inherent or true existence," and sort of leave it at that. The topic as the Buddha has taught it is not as something to be simply accepted. Rather he provided a framework for analysis and investigation which must be carried out by the individual disciple. That is to say, the faculty of wisdom or the perfection of the faculty of wisdom (which is roughly the translation of Prajnaparamita, the ultimate development of wisdom), comes about only by the individual using this framework of the teachings on dependent arising and emptiness to investigate the nature of the arising of all things -- all inner things associated with the mind, all external phenomena - everything, getting closer and closer to the direct understanding of how things truly come into being, how they abide, how they dissolve, how they change. Through that great effort at personally and directly understanding these things, the faculty of wisdom increases in the disciple.
This is in contrast to other philosophies or teachings which attribute the arising of things in the world to some type of an agency or to a deity who creates things. That the world and the things in the world, whether they're external or whether they are one's mind, whether they're one's own good fortune or bad fortune, to say that this is created by a certain deity or group of deities, is given so that people can accept that and go on, and say, "I understand everything now; the world and everything in it is created by such and such deity," and then not think about it anymore - other than to pay homage to that deity. And if you do accept this, then you can be part of that group, that religion or that culture; if you don't then you can get into conflict with them and have all sorts of problems because you don't believe this basic tenet.
In the meantime, you're not investigating, you're not looking into reality, you're not using your own reasoning or your own faculties, and you're not developing that faculty of discriminative awareness or wisdom. That is then contrary to what the Buddha has taught. He always emphasizes, again, that the individual must come to an understanding, a very minute, perfect, focused understanding about how all things arise, and emphasizes that this understanding is possible, and that the pursuit of this understanding is what leads to the development of this faculty of wisdom.
Among the tremendous variety of teachings, of views and of faith systems in the world, there are those who assert that things arise in the world, that phenomena arise, that the world arises, that living beings arise, as the result of the miraculous and inscrutable activities of a creator. These various creators, or views of what a creator might be, are propounded by all of these different schools. The Buddha disagrees with this, refutes the idea of a creator, and insists that we use our own mental faculties to see for ourselves how things arise. He insists that we can do that and we can develop the ability to have perfect insight into this.
On the other hand, there are many schools and systems that are nihilistic in nature. What they are doing is denying the reality of cause and effect, saying things are not dependently arisen; they do not arise on the basis of a whole complex of causes and conditions. Rather, they arise randomly, without a cause. Such teachings insist that there are no former lives, that there are no future lives, that things truly do not exist at all. The Buddha refutes this also. When he speaks of emptiness he is never speaking of nonexistence, but rather empty of self nature or inherent nature. So the idea that things do not exist at all, that they are merely illusion, that everything is arisen without any cause or without any creative process, this is also thoroughly refuted by the teachings of the Buddha.
Lord Buddha teaches the middle way, between the creationists and the nihilists,
saying that things are neither created by some sort of eternal power or agency,
nor are things non-existent by nature. He describes the middle way, where nothing
exists by way of its own nature. Rather, things arise in dependence on causes
and conditions and disappear in the absence of those causes and conditions. Everything
that we can see or perceive is of this nature. It is a dependent arising, not
existing in its own nature. Therefore it is said to neither truly exist, nor to
be non-existent. So the extremes of existence and non-existence are refuted, and
the middle way of dependent arising is taught by the Buddha.
Conventional Truth and Ultimate Truth
These dual principles of dependent arising and emptiness are the central teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha teaches the two truths: the conventional truth and the ultimate truth, and says that the true state of knowledge, the enlightened state, is the one where we can see the two of these as being not only non-contradictory but as being completely unified. To understand reality, we have to understand both that everything is dependently arisen and is empty by nature. In fact, that the evidence or the proof of things being empty is that they are dependently arisen, and the proof that they are dependently arisen is that they are empty. These can both be established independently. Through the process of meditative analysis we can directly perceive the conventional truth, how things arise in dependence upon each other, and we can realize the ultimate truth, that all things lack true or inherent existence.
This teaching on emptiness and dependent arising, the central teaching of the Prajnaparamita and indeed the central philosophy of Buddhism, is the teaching of great freedom, the teaching of liberation. That is to say, that because things are empty and dependently arisen, therefore liberation is possible, therefore supreme enlightenment and Buddhahood are possible. If things inherently existed, that is to say that things were simply created by some sort of a creator, then there would be no ability of an individual by his or her own efforts to attain enlightenment. Rather, any sort of state of bliss or happiness or peace would be something bestowed at the whim of the creator. If we found a way to please this creator, we would get these benefits. If we didn't, we couldn't get them. It would not be something that we could do ourselves, by our own efforts, by our own diligence; we could not attain any supreme state. Likewise if things were non-existent, as the nihilists would have it, then any efforts to attain insight into reality would simply be vanities. There would again be no possibility of liberation or supreme bliss or Buddhahood.
The nihilists do not believe in former and future lifetimes, for instance. They do not believe in the inexorable process of karma or cause and effect, so they don't recognize that there is a future life, that what exists today produces or accounts for what will exist tomorrow. In this way, there is no way to bring about any desired results. There is no way to understand the process by which things arise and through that arising, to establish one's own good fortune and one's desired goals.
With the nihilists there is no reason to
engage in study, there is no reason to engage in any sort of practice or to develop
any insight. There is no former life and no future life. So the only sensible
thing is to do anything you want in this life, to enjoy yourself and not worry
about the future because there is no future. There is no connection between today
and tomorrow, between this life and a future life.
The Chain of Cause and Effect
This nihilistic view represents an inability to look closely at reality, to see the connection between one thing and another, to see how everything that exists now is the result of what existed before and what led up to it, that everything that will exist in the future arises out of what exists now, and that there is this cause and effect process which is responsible for all things in the world. The Buddha therefore taught about the chain of cause and effect, that tomorrow is caused by today, and that the future lifetime is determined by this lifetime. He taught this continuity of cause and effect and showed how it is responsible for the arising, abiding and dissolution of all phenomena.
The Six Paramitas, the practices of generosity, morality, patience and so forth, are meaningful only within this context of cause and effect. That is to say, the Buddha taught that all things arise from a cause. He taught what those causes are. He taught the dissolution of all things through this process of cause and effect. He taught the two truths so that we can understand the way things appear to us, to our senses and so forth, and the underlying way in which they actually exist. The way they appear to us is what is called the conventional reality, the underlying reality being the ultimate one, the lack of true existence, the emptiness, and the way that things arise only through this process of dependent origination.
in this light, it becomes appropriate to act in certain ways in which it would
not be appropriate to act were the world and all phenomena either non-existent
by nature, or randomly existent, or created at the whim of some type of creator.
In other words, because all things are causally related, those who desire happiness
and wish to avoid misery must act in a certain way to establish the causes of
what they desire. Desiring happiness, you act in a moral way. Desiring to have
wealth and possessions, you act in a generous manner, and so forth. So the meaning,
the purpose, of all these Paramitas can only be understood in this context of
the middle way, of dependent arising.
The First Paramita - Generosity
We now go to the topic of the first of the Paramitas, which is the Dana Paramita, or the perfection of the practice of generosity. To understand this, it is important to understand that all things are connected in this process of dependent arising. Therefore the practice of generosity is meaningful. Were it not for this, it would not be sensible to engage in these great activities of giving to others. It is through the process of dependent arising, from the practice of generosity, both the recipients are benefited, as well as oneself.
Now, why did the Lord Buddha teach as first of the Six Paramitas, generosity? He taught it by way of its compatibility to the thoughts and attitudes of the living beings in the world. That is to say, that those who inhabit the world, the objects of the Buddha's teaching, are people who enjoy the wealth and enjoyments of the world. So he's teaching by way of effect, saying that if you desire the effect, which is to have possessions and enjoyments, then you must engage in the causes which bring about the possessions of wealth and enjoyment. So to show the cause of our own enjoyment of wealth and possessions, the Buddha taught this practice of engaging in the perfection of generosity.
Looking at this in an overly simplistic or immature manner, one might think, "Oh I have a certain amount of possession of wealth right now, and if I engage in this practice of generosity, I'll be giving it away, I'll be reducing my own wealth and enjoyments. And this is the opposite of what I want. I want to have more and not less." This is the wrong way to look at things, the Buddha has taught. He said we have to have more long-range thinking here. It is like a farmer who has a certain amount of wheat or corn, and what is that farmer best advised to do? To hoard what he has, and then it can deteriorate or be eaten up by bugs or whatever, if he is stingy with it, or take it out and plant it in the ground so that each seed will produce a crop and will produce so much more? Obviously it is much more sensible to take the seeds that he has and instead of hoarding them, to plant them properly and cultivate crops, and then have thousands of times more seeds in the future than he has now. But if the farmer looks at it from a short-term or immature way and thinks that casting what seeds he has out on the ground is just throwing them away, then that farmer will never be prosperous.
So the farmer has to have a little more long-term thinking, and be willing to give those seeds that he possesses forth to the land with the reasonable expectation that a crop will be produced. Just hoarding them, again, is to waste them. But just as the farmer planting the seeds does not expect that the moment he plants them immediately a plant will arise and he will be enjoying all that profit, likewise the person engaged in the practice of generosity, who gives away things to others, should not expect that instantly great wealth is going to come back, but rather should understand the cause and effect process. It may take some time for that deed to produce its result, but indeed acts of generosity in this lifetime will produce great enjoyment of wealth in the future.
If we look at people in the world, we see that some people are very wealthy and have all sorts of things and other people are extremely poor and cannot manage to provide themselves with any wealth or enjoyment. If we look at this just in the very limited context of the present, it seems very random and senseless. If we understand, on the other hand, that all things arise in this complex of causes and conditions, of dependent arising, then we have to understand that there is a cause for some people to become very wealthy and others to be poor in this life. Not seeing any particular reason in the context of this life, for example someone born into a wealthy family, but understanding that things are causally related, then we can look to the former lifetime to understand that in the past lifetimes, the person who is born into the wealthy family engaged in great deeds of generosity which are ripening in this present lifetime. Whereas the poor person did not do that and the lack of generosity is manifesting in the present lifetime. That is to say, a specific pattern in some former lifetime of either generosity or stinginess manifests at a certain point in the future, in these ways.
So this is what was taught by the Lord Buddha, in opposition to other views which posit some sort of an external, magical agency that arbitrarily, or by some whim, chooses that some persons will be wealthy and others will be poor. The Buddha taught that it is not like that. If it were like that, there would be nothing that we could do about it. But in fact, because things are related and dependent and arise as the result of causes and conditions, it is therefore in our own hands whether in the future we will be prosperous or poor.
The Buddha laid out very clearly the pattern of cause and effect, understanding that all people want to be prosperous, that they want to be endowed with requisites and resources and do not want to suffer poverty. He taught the causes of prosperity and that this is within our own ability, within our own hands to establish those causes. By having given generously to others, we can confidently await the time that we ourselves will be prosperous, if not later in this lifetime, then in a future lifetime.
The Buddha taught that this is our own responsibility, this is completely in our own hands - just as liberation itself is not something bestowed upon us from some external power or being or agency, but rather something which we ourselves either produce through establishing its causes, or do not produce by failing to establish those causes. Just like wealth and enjoyment, so enlightenment and Buddhahood are the result of the cause and effect process. The Buddha taught that it is in our own hands and not anywhere else.
Through understanding this process, the attitude of miserliness or stinginess then becomes apparent as the cause of all of our material suffering, all of our depravation, and becomes the antithesis of what we seek to do. Through understanding these teachings of the Buddha, we find any type of miserliness or stinginess to be something which we must diligently avoid, and must instead engage with great effort in practices of generosity and charity.
So the Lord Buddha taught this first among all the teachings on the Paramitas. Understanding that he did not need to convince people to desire wealth and enjoyment, that this was natural for people in the world, and to get them involved in understanding and practicing the activities which follow from the nature of reality, that is from the interdependent nature of all things, the easiest way is to start with the practice of generosity, having established that that is the cause of all wealth and enjoyment.
Regarding what is meant by generosity, there are three ways in which we practice it. Of the three types of charity, the first involves giving things, such as wealth or possessions. That is the first type of charity in the practice of the perfection of generosity. The second is the giving of refuge, that is protecting living beings from the things that they fear, principally things like injury and death. Third is the highest form of charity, which is called the giving of that which is sublime, that is the gift of the Dharma, that of the Buddha's teachings.
The third type of charity, giving the gift of the Dharma, is the highest type because giving that, one gives the person the means whereby all good things can be obtained and all negative or unfortunate things can be avoided, whereas with other types of giving, such as giving things, this is only temporary. You can give someone things - wealth, possessions, material things - and those material things can be used up. Once they are used up, the person can be poor again. So the highest form is the gift of the teaching, the teaching which allows them to bring about the causes of wealth, of happiness and so forth, which allows living beings to attain the state of supreme bliss, which is the cessation of all of the miseries of the phenomenal world, the world of birth and death.
The Buddha taught that through giving things such as wealth and enjoyments, we ourselves will come to be endowed with the various desirable things - the wealth, enjoyment and so forth. And he said that this is not something he can do; he cannot do the giving for us. He can neither give things for us on our behalf, and then we enjoy the effects of that, nor can he just directly give us the wealth and enjoyment that we desire. We must do it ourselves. We must establish the causes for our own enjoyment of possessions, of wealth and resources. The individual must establish the causes for that individual's coming into possession of things. Likewise we must establish the causes of our own liberation. Liberation cannot be bestowed from the outside. Not by any divinity. Not by the Buddha himself. Why? Because the causes for our continued bondage to the wheel of birth and death are within us. So we must remove them.
The Lord Buddha has taught the ways in which we can bring about that state of enlightenment, of liberation, the ways in which we can engage in the activities which bring about the purification and the acquisition of good qualities which allow us to attain liberation and enlightenment, and the fact that we are not presently liberated from cyclic existence, not enlightened, is because we have not taken up these teachings. We have not taken seriously the teachings on cause and effect, on dependent arising. And we have acted habitually under the influence of the delusions which cause us to see things as being either non-existent or truly existent, the delusions that the world and the things in it are created by something external. Acting in that way, neglecting the teachings on dependent arising and cause and effect, we act in such a way as to establish the causes of things we don't want and not establish the causes of things that we do want. Therefore we remain in the unenlightened, samsaric state.
in the teachings on the First Paramita, on generosity, the Buddha clearly gives
all of the explanation in detail of how giving to others, through being generous,
we bring about the desired state of happiness, that is, of the acquisition and
enjoyment of things in the future.
The Second Paramita - Perfection of Ethics
The second of the Six Paramitas is the perfection of ethics. Again, teaching from the point of view of effect, the Buddha recognizes that living beings want happiness; they do not want misery. Just in general, that's a universal rule that you cannot find contradicted or violated anywhere. All living beings desire happiness. So the Buddha, under the heading of the Second Paramita, that of ethics, teaches the cause of happiness. Why are some people happy? What is the cause and effect process that leads to happiness? He shows here how ethical constraint, how a pattern of moral behavior, results in the future in the experience of happiness, and the opposite, the violation of ethics, is what brings about misery.
Under this topic of ethics, we have the division into things which are virtuous, and things which are not virtuous. That which is bad or sinful or non-virtuous is whatever brings about unhappiness or is a cause of misery. That is the Buddhist conception of non-virtue or sin: that which brings about states of unhappiness. That which brings about states of happiness is called virtue or merit. To understand this, we have an example of the laws and customs of a particular country. If we live in a particular country and we follow the laws and customs of that country, then we will tend to stay out of trouble and not have problems come to us from within that country or that culture. If we understand the customs and the laws and we follow them, then we can expect to live in a peaceful, comfortable and happy way within that country. If we violate them, then there is the expectation that we will bring all sorts of trouble to ourselves. So this is just an analogy within the present lifetime, within the worldly context. What this illustrates is the broader context of reality, of our birth and death and rebirth. What is it that brings about happiness? It is following the laws and customs of reality. That is where you have the teachings on ethics.
The Buddha teaches in particular, the ten non-virtues that are to be avoided. Why? Because these are the causes of unhappiness both in this world and in our future lives. So these are non-virtues which, if we engage in them, will bring about immediate unhappiness to ourselves and others, as well as unhappiness in the future. Many of these are similar to laws and customs found anywhere, such as the non-virtue of killing, of stealing, of sexual misconduct, of lying, of harsh speech, divisive speech, senseless talk, harmful attitude, covetous attitude and wrong views.
So of these ten non-virtues, the first three refer to or entail actions of the body. The second group of four involve harmful or negative activities of speech. The final three involve negative activities of the mind. That is to say, killing, stealing and sexual misconduct are predominantly physical, whereas lying, divisive speech, harsh speech and senseless talk are non-virtues of speech. The harmful attitude, covetous attitude and wrong views are negative activities of the mind.
We can understand Buddhist ethics to be divided into three categories,
according to the type of happiness that results from that ethic. The first type
of ethics is what was just described, the abandonment or avoidance of the ten
non-virtues. That is the first type. That is the universal ethic which brings
about the causes of happiness in general and the avoidance of states of great
misery. The second is the type of ethics that brings about both happiness in this
lifetime, but more particularly, the attainment of the high states of existence
in future lifetimes - high states being the state of fortunate human beings, demi-gods
and gods. The third type is the morality which brings about the states of liberation,
beyond the cycle of birth and death.
The Six Paramitas (Part 2 of the teaching)
Cause and Effect, Buddhist Ethics
Again, these teachings on morality are based upon the interdependent nature of all things, on cause and effect; we're looking here at the causes of misery and finding them in these ten non-virtues. Engagement in the ten non-virtues brings about, through the inexorable process of cause and effect, states of misery both in this world right here and now, as well as in future rebirths. Likewise the avoidance of them is the cause of happiness both in the present life and in the future.
The second type of ethics, in particular, is establishing the causes for high rebirths. Certain types of morality, certain efforts at avoiding non-virtues, allows us to avoid falling into any sort of unfortunate rebirth in the future, and to attain to the pleasant, happy rebirths of human beings and gods. Ethics in itself is not going to lead to liberation or enlightenment, but it will cause us to attain good rebirth.
the motivation for engaging in ethical activity needs to be considered. Motivation
should not be based on a desire to attain a pleasant rebirth, but you should be
motivated by a recognition that all types of rebirth within cyclic existence are
pervaded by one form of misery or another. As long one remains in the cycle of
birth and death, one is vulnerable to falling down to a very unfortunate and painful
rebirth. Nowhere within the cycle of existence, of Samsara, is there any type
of rebirth where we can be safe and secure and never have to worry about terrible
calamities and misery. Misery pervades all of it. Understanding that, then, we
seek liberation from the cycles of birth and death. When we're motivated by that
search, then our ethics result in bringing us closer and closer, and then finally
allowing us to attain that state of liberation.
The Third Paramita - Patience
The third of the Six Paramitas is patience. To understand patience, we have a quote from Shantideva's Bodhisattvacaryavatara. In the sixth chapter, which is on patience, he begins by saying, "There is no evil so great as anger. There is no religious practice so powerful as patience." The reason for this is that through the practice of patience, we attain a good or pleasant state of existence. Through indulging in anger, which is the opposite of patience, we attain the great sufferings of the lower realms. Just as generosity brings about a state of prosperity, enjoyments and wealth, and just as morality brings about happiness, so the practice of patience is the cause of the attainment of a good 'form', that is a good 'life form'. Those who have the most glorious, beautiful, radiant, and powerful types of bodies or physical forms (namely the gods and goddesses of the various heavenly realms), attained these wonderful states through avoiding anger, through practicing patience. Likewise among human beings, those with the more fortunate bodies - more attractive, healthy, powerful, etc., these good qualities of one's form come from the practice of patience. Bad, unfortunate qualities of the body come from indulging in anger; those who indulge in great anger then establish the causes for taking on terrible forms such as the bodies of hell-beings that undergo all manner of terrible suffering. So falling into a hellish type of existence is the result of indulging in anger and hatred towards others.
So again, there is no sin so great as
anger. There is no virtue so powerful as patience. This is taught again and again.
If we look at the various unfortunate types of rebirth, these are characterized
as being the result of indulging in anger. Now even among a certain group of beings,
for instance human beings, you have those with the more pleasing, healthy, powerful
forms, and those who have various sorts of physical difficulties or challenges
or are not so attractive. All of those things are the result of either more, or
less, practice of patience. If we look at animals for instance, we can find animals
which are characterized by anger; for instance some type of snake, is very angry.
Its nature is angry, always seeking to harm those around it. It has this form
as the result of a former pattern of indulging in anger and hatred, so this results
in the taking on of this form.
The First Type of Patience
There are three types of patience. The first we could call forbearance against those who would do harm to us. We can understand that when someone attacks us in some way, verbally or physically, or in any way, they are not doing this because they are in possession of true understanding and virtues and so forth. Their acts of anger and their aggression are based upon their own lack of good qualities. So we must feel compassion towards them. If we respond to them with anger, then we are reducing ourselves to that same level of lack of good qualities, of indulgence in bad qualities. Anyone who acts in a harmful, aggressive manner is someone who is bereft of good qualities at that point. Towards those who indulge in the very worst type of activities, we must feel compassion. They are establishing the causes, by what they are doing, of their own suffering. And again, if we join them in angry and aggressive activities, we establish the causes of our own suffering, our own bad rebirths, and our own difficulties. On the other hand, if we respond with forbearance, then we are establishing the causes of our own welfare, happiness and good qualities in the future.
The Second Type of Patience
The second type of patience is the patience towards the demands of the spiritual path, or the requirements of religious accomplishment. This is to say, that to engage in the spiritual path, to practice the Dharma that leads to the states of happiness and liberation, we have to be patient. We have to exert ourselves. We can't be impatient and annoyed at all of the demands that are made by that path, but must steadily work at it in a steady, consistent manner and not allow ourselves to become annoyed or angry about what we have to do. If we become annoyed and angry and abandon the process, then of course we will continue as we have for innumerable lifetimes to wander in the Samsara, to continue to experience the countless miseries of samsaric existence. So to practice and accomplish the Dharma, you must have this type of patience to steadily engage in whatever effort is necessary to accomplish the various aspects of the path to liberation and Buddhahood.
The Third Type of Patience
The third type of patience has to do with one's attitude towards the vast and extensive path to highest enlightenment. When one contemplates that path of perfect Buddhahood, of what is required to attain the state of highest enlightenment and sees that it is almost inconceivably great, there can arise in the mind a fear, a trepidation, a sense that I am inadequate to even take this path on, to fear that one has no ability. And based on that type of fear, one abandons the whole enterprise, and engages once again in ordinary worldly activities. One engages in some sort of false pretense of a spiritual path, rather than facing and overcoming that fear and realizing one's own ability to accomplish all of those things, given a state of patience and of continued virtuous enthusiastic and diligent effort towards the accomplishment of all of the aspects of the path to the sublime and enlightened state.
The Fourth Paramita - Virtuous Effort
This brings us to the fourth of the Six Paramitas, which is the protection of virtuous effort. Here, the result of the perfection of virtuous effort is to accomplish all good things. All truly worthwhile accomplishments arise only in the presence of this factor of virtuous effort. So this is the abandonment of lethargy and of laziness, and the enthusiastic engagement in activities that are required to bring about the desired goal.
To accomplish any virtuous goal, one needs this factor of virtuous effort. Virtue is put in here because to accomplish anything in the world we need to be diligent; we need to make effort. Even in the worldly sense, nothing good or bad is accomplished without effort. Here the term virtuous is added as part of this concept of the perfection of effort, which does not mean just any efforts, but efforts directed towards a virtuous purpose, guided by the understanding of ethics and so forth. So virtuous efforts accomplish all good or worthwhile goals. Here we are speaking specifically of the goals of the Dharma, which is the transcendence of misery in both this lifetime and future lifetimes and ultimately for all living beings.
The obstacle to accomplishing the first type of virtuous effort is overcoming what can be characterized as false modesty. Thoughts such as "Oh, I am such a small, insignificant, powerless person. There's nothing really I can do. I can't really accomplish anything worthwhile," or, with respect to any given type of accomplishment, to have a sense of inadequacy like, "Oh, there's nothing I can do. I won't even bother to try, because that is so far beyond me," that is the first type of laziness. This laziness is characterized by that false modesty or that sense of inadequacy where one will not even undertake efforts thinking that they couldn't possibly succeed. The effort which overcomes that is the first type of effort.
The second type of effort is that which overcomes the second type of laziness. The second type of laziness we could call procrastination. That is where we continually put things off, thinking, "Oh, I have to do this, but I don't have to do it today. It can be accomplished sometime in the future; it's work for tomorrow, I'll wait for tomorrow." Then tomorrow never comes, so one keeps putting things off. So to oppose that, we have the second type of effort which is to actively take on and anticipate what has to be done, to do tomorrow's work today, the next day's work tomorrow and so forth. To actively accomplish whatever possibly has to be done without ever putting it off.
third type of virtuous effort is that which overcomes the third type of laziness.
This could be called the laziness of distraction. Unlike the first two types of
laziness, it does not typically appear as laziness or lethargy. With the third
type of laziness, we can be very active, working very hard and keeping ourselves
extremely busy. But nevertheless it is laziness, because what we are doing is
distracting ourselves by working at something which is not useful or productive.
Useful and productive here is in the context of understanding that one's purpose
in life is to establish the causes of a good rebirth at the very least, but to
fully engage in the Dharma, to attain the state of liberation and beyond that,
the state of perfect Buddhahood. So, in the context of seeing this life as a rare,
precious and brief opportunity to attain liberation and enlightenment, one's efforts
must all be focused on making progress towards that worthwhile goal. Any other
worldly efforts then just become distractions, and constitute this third type
of laziness, whose antidote, again, is this factor of virtuous effort.
The Fifth Paramita - Meditative Concentration
The fifth of the Six Paramitas is the perfection of what we could call meditative concentration. Meditative concentration has two varieties. One is the focusing meditation, which trains the mind to hold its object single-pointedly, the ultimate goal or result of which is the state of shamatha, wherein the object is held undistractedly in perfect clarity for as long as one wishes. The second type of meditation is the analytical one, which is translated as the term vipashana, where we develop clear insight into reality by means of an analytical process based upon the mind, which has been trained to hold its object undistractedly. Meditative concentration in general is the practice which frees our mind from the two types of distracted states.
The first type of distraction is literally what is called sinking. That's where the mind becomes distracted into states of drowsiness, a sort of sleepiness. It sinks into a state, more or less, of unconsciousness or obscurity. That is the first type of distraction.
The second type is the wandering mind, the mind that is distracted this way and that, thinking about all sorts of things, out of control, going from this thought to that thought without the ability to hold onto a single focus, but rather lost in all sorts of thoughts, images, emotions, and so forth, one after another in a great proliferation. This second type of distraction is where the focus of the mind is lost and out of control. The antidote to these two faults is the practice of meditative concentration.
second factor, that is overcome by meditative concentration, this wildness, scattering,
or distraction of the mind, is based upon the mind getting caught up in the objects
of the six sense powers. That is to say, caught up in the visual field of the
eyes, seeing something attractive, having some attachment towards it so the mind
goes out towards that. It is distracted into that visual object. Likewise the
mind can be distracted by sounds, caught up in them, carried away by them, you
could say, going under the power of that auditory object. Likewise the olfactory
objects, those things we smell or which we taste or which we feel with our tactile
sense, all of those can distract the mind and carry the mind away. Likewise, the
sixth sense power is that of mental objects, the conceptions or mental imagery
into which we become distracted. All of these function to lead the mind away,
to put the mind in a state of distraction, so that it no longer can abide peacefully,
calmly and clearly within. Rather it goes outward towards these objects of the
Mindfulness & Circumspection
The antidote to all things which disturb the clarity and focus of the mind, to these two ways in which the mind is carried away, the outward distraction and the inward drowsy, sinking of the mind, is found in two faculties. When we say, "What is meditative concentration? What is the technique that is practiced?" we see that there are two faculties called mindfulness and circumspection.
Circumspection functions as the faculty that stands back and looks in on what is going on. It is sort of like spying on what's going on in one's own mind. It stands back and says, "OK, what's going on here? Where is my mind right now? What am I doing with my mind? Is it on its object of meditation or has it gone somewhere else?" So you have to develop that faculty of circumspection so that you are aware at all times of what you are doing so that you don't just get carried away with a thought or a proliferation of thoughts, sensations, ideas, or other distractions. Rather you can catch it because you've developed circumspection. You can see, "Oh, I've become distracted from that object." So it brings into awareness what is going on in the mind at all times.
Then combined with that you have to have this faculty of mindfulness. Mindfulness is that which enables you to keep in mind the proper object of your mental focus. So here in the context of meditative concentration, we have certain objects of meditation that we work on. In any type of meditation you have the instructions of your teacher, the lama, who says "meditate on such and such". So you start meditating on it. You enter into a meditative state or meditative practice and there is always a focus of the mind. So you must be mindful of that, you must be able to quickly call it to mind. With the faculty of circumspection, you know when and if the mind becomes distracted. With the faculty of mindfulness, you know the proper focus, "I should now concentrate on such and such," and then you bring that into your mind, into the center of your mental focus.
So these faculties of mindfulness and circumspection keep the mind both from scattering outside to all of this proliferation of sensations and thoughts, as well as prevent it from sinking within, into the states of drowsiness and sleep. So both of these distracting factors must be eliminated for meditation to succeed. If the mind is scattered outward to some object, mindfulness and circumspection allows one to draw it back in to the object of meditative focus. On the other hand, if the mind has become drowsy and sleepy, then mindfulness and circumspection can draw it outward, again, to that object. So here we sometimes have objects of meditative focus, or techniques which employ objects, in order to train the mind to hold an object one-pointedly. This could be an image of the Buddha, such as a bronze image, something which when placed in front of you, can function as an object of meditation. It allows you then, to avoid that sinking within, because the object is something actual out in front of you. As one's meditation becomes stronger, one can meditate on a teaching or on an internalized image - of the Buddha for instance. Whatever object is taken up, it is held there through this process of mindfulness and circumspection.
To understand this perfection of meditation, it is necessary to understand all of the stages, from the very coarsest to the most subtle, the entire process or range of meditative concentration, which goes from the beginning efforts to keep the mind from being totally wild and distracted, on the one hand, or fast asleep on the other - to go from that very coarse state of mind, to more and more subtle, focused, clear states of mind. So at each stage there are obstacles to be overcome and there are more and more subtle techniques employed, using more and more subtle aspects of circumspection and mindfulness, and at each level, more and more types of the sinking and the scattering. Clearly, we don't have time to go into all of these, but you should understand that in general this is laid out very carefully and in great detail to help us develop our meditative practice to higher and more refined, more powerful states of clarity and undistractedness.
Now when we look at this in detail, we will
find that there are nine discreet mental states or stages through which we progress
in the cultivation of shamatha, in other words, in the cultivation of the state
of perfect, undistracted clarity and focus. To attain that state that is called
shamatha, we go through nine levels of refinement and of greater power of meditative
concentration. Each of those nine levels is characterized by various things, so
we can understand, as we engage in meditative practice, where we are, how far
we have progressed, and how far we have to go. Then, there are eight discreet
techniques employed to advance ourselves, to advance our practice, through these
nine levels. There are five, what is called, 'applications' to the object. These
are the five mental states which take up the object in different ways so as to
establish that perfect focus.
These levels of meditation correspond to what is called the Nine Grounds. These Nine Grounds take place in the Three Realms. As ordinary beings, we abide in what is called the Desire Realm. The Desire Realm has within it states of meditative concentration. The first of the nine, is the Ground of Meditative Concentration which takes place in the ordinary world or in the ordinary state of consciousness. Then above that, you have the more refined states of consciousness which correspond to the four levels of the Form Realm, that is the four concentrations of the Form Realm, the Brahma Loka. Then beyond that are the four concentrations, the four levels, of the Formless Realm. So in each higher realm, there is a state of mind, a state of clarity and concentration and expansiveness of mind, which can be attained in the context of meditative practice. So the nine levels of meditative practice correspond to those nine levels of the world, and that's all of samsara included in the Desire Realm, the Form Realm and the Formless Realm.
Looking a little closer at this, we find that the states of concentration correspond with the states of mind of the deities in the Divine Realms. So to understand this, we look at the Divine Realms. Within the Desire Realm, being our present abode, we have all of the six classes of beings: the hell-beings, all the way up to animals, human beings, demi-gods and gods of the Desire Realm. Within the gods of the Desire Realm there are six different varieties from the lowest to the highest. The lowest heavenly abode or heaven of the Desire Realm is called the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. Those are the kings of the four directions. Above that is the Heaven of Indra, which is called the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, because of its thirty-three different divine or heavenly neighborhoods in that heaven. Above that is called the Heaven which is Free of Strife. From that heaven on upwards there's no possibility of conflict, such as conflict with the demi-gods who disturb the lower Heavens of the Four Great Kings and Indra's Heaven of the Thirty-Three. Above the Heaven which is Free from Strife, you have the Tushita Heaven, in Tibetan, Ganden. Above that is the heaven which is called the Topdrel. The fifth of the six is the heaven which is called the Heaven of Enjoying Emanations (Nirmanarati), wherein the divine beings can emanate, that is manifest at will, whatever they want. Their enjoyments come just by desiring something, it appears, and they can enjoy it. And the highest heaven is called the Heaven of Enjoying the Emanations of Others (Paranirmita-Vashavartin), because there the gods don't even have to desire something. Their desires are anticipated and emanated by the lower gods and goddesses. So before they can even bother to desire or want anything, it appears. That is the very highest level of the Desire Realm, which is the peak of the Desire Realm.
So when we practice meditative concentration, we have these Nine Grounds. The very first of the Nine Grounds corresponds with that highest heaven of the Desire Realm, Enjoying the Emanations of Others, so we attain that in the context of our meditation as the first of the Nine Grounds.
When we go on above that highest level of the Desire Realm, we enter into the Form Realm. There we have four levels, what is called the four concentrations of the Form Realm. These four concentrations of the Form Realm include seventeen Divine Abodes of the gods of the Form Realm. The seventeen are divided up such that the first concentration contains three Divine Abodes, as does the second and the third. Each has three Divine Abodes. The fourth concentration of the Form Realm has eight Divine Abodes, so that we have a total of seventeen Divine Abodes in the Form Realm.
One perceives in one's meditation, through these seventeen Divine Abodes of the Form Realm, having left behind the Desire Realm, the lowest of the Divine Abodes in the first concentration of the Form Realm. And how does one do that? When one becomes aware of the coarseness of that divine abode and the subtlety of the next one, one passes on to that higher state of concentration, entering into the Form Realm. In such fashion, one goes throughout the seventeen Divine Abodes of the Form Realm.
Continuing this process of refining the state of meditation, when one has gone through the seventeen Divine Abodes of the Form Realm and reached the very highest, there comes a time in the practice of the meditation, as one continues to exert oneself, that one sees the unsuitability or the coarseness of that state of mind, and wishing to refine the mind, makes the concentration more powerful. At that point, one leaves behind the Form Realm and enters into the Formless Realm.
first of the four levels of the Formless Realm is called 'the infinite space.'
When the mind has been stabilized within infinite space and has come to discriminate
in this coarseness and subtlety that there is a higher, more refined meditation,
one enters into the second level of the Formless Realm, which is called 'the infinite
consciousness.' Stabilizing the mind there and discriminating between subtlety
and grossness, seeing that there is a higher, more refined state, one enters into
the third level of the Formless Realm, which is called the absolutely nothing
level, or nothing at all level, or 'nothingness level.' Then entering into this
nothingness, stabilizing the mind there in absolute nothingness, one again discriminates
between coarseness and subtlety, seeing there is a higher state, and enters into
the fourth and highest level of the Formless Realm, and that is the level called
'neither existence nor non-existence.'
Moving from Meditative Ground to Paramita
This process described so far is called the practice of meditative concentration. Everything described so far is meditative concentration, but it is not the perfection of meditative concentration. In other words, it is not the paramita. To translate it as perfection is not quite right. 'That which brings one to a state beyond the world' is the meaning of paramita, not just perfecting in giving or ethics or anything else, but engaging in these in a manner which brings one to the further shore, to the place beyond the cycle of birth and death. So how do we transform this ordinary meditative concentration that has been described so far, into the paramita, the transcendent practice of meditation? We do that by conjoining, with meditative concentration as described so far, that which is called vipashana, or the analytical process which provides insight into or realization of ultimate reality.
The Sixth Paramita - Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom
To understand this analytical insight into the nature of reality, this factor of vipashana, we have to add to meditative concentration to make it a transcendent practice, a Paramita. We have to go to the sixth of the Six Paramitas, that is the perfection of transcendent wisdom. The nature of that vipashana is transcendent wisdom. So we have to conjoin that with meditative concentration to attain the Paramita of meditative concentration. This state of perfect insight into the nature of reality is what is called the Prajnaparamita or the perfection of wisdom.
There are varieties of this transcendent wisdom which are developed. The first ones are common to both the Hinayana and the Mahayana schools of Buddhism. What is common to both is the practice that is called the 'four close contemplations'. These are examined in the light of the sixteen aspects of The Four Noble Truths, the first of which is impermanence. So using those sixteen aspects of The Four Noble Truths, we examine the four objects of the close placement of mindfulness. There arises the certain wisdoms or insights into reality which are common to both the Hinayana and the Mahayana traditions.
The unique aspect of Mahayana wisdom arises from the insight into what is called 'The Two Truths', The Conventional Truth and The Ultimate Truth, through the analytical meditation on the sixteen varieties of emptiness. Meditation on the sixteen varieties of emptiness leads to a realization that is a direct, non-conceptual perception of the sixteen aspects of emptiness. When conjoined with great compassion for living beings such that the compassion and the wisdom are no longer differentiated, are no longer two different things, such that one is able to perceive the two truths (conventional and ultimate) as non-dual, that is the realization of the sixteen varieties of emptiness and the development of great compassion. At that point one attains the highest wisdom of the Mahayana.
There are certain types of samadhi that arise from the cultivation of the perfection of wisdom. There are a great variety of them. For instance there is the samadhi that is said to be the samadhi of the actions of the lion. This is the one which overcomes all of the illusions resulting from the misapprehension of the two truths, and the inability to realize the sixteen aspects of emptiness together with the mind of great compassion. The lion activity or lion action samadhi destroys all of those illusions such that one can come to that direct perception of the non-duality of the two truths.
Then there is a samadhi which directly perceives the nature of the path. This is the type of samadhi one attains at the point of attaining perfect enlightenment or Buddhahood. A person at that level then can perceive the nature of the path from the very beginning, from the very first stirrings of interest in the path and how it proceeds up through the levels, the way in which it is facilitated and the way in which it is obstructed. Every aspect of the path to perfect enlightenment then becomes perfectly clear through this type of samadhi.
There are varieties of samadhi which are involved in
the higher levels of meditative concentration joined with the perfections of wisdom.
There is a tremendous variety of samadhis which take on all of the obstacles to
omniscience, that is to full perfect awareness or ultimate enlightenment, and
see through or eliminate those obstacles through these samadhis, such that when
one completes them one attains a state of peerless, perfect enlightenment. So,
we do not have time to go into any more of these, but you should be aware that
each of them is characterized by a certain development of insight based upon the
meditative stabilization that arises through the Fifth Paramita and allows for
the application of wisdom of the Sixth Paramita. So in this way, the entirety
of the path to Buddhahood is accomplished.
Questions From Audience
At this point we are just in time for the end of the session and we will conclude it with the Dedication of Merit. We have time for a couple of questions. Anything specific?
(Could you explain the meaning of the term Dharma?)
term Dharma, its derivation - or not really its derivation as it is not really
etymology but rather a description of its actual meaning, is sort of like 'fixing'.
That's not really an elegant word for it. But it's fixing the mind, taking the
mind from its normal amorphous state and fixing it so it attains the proper condition.
So maybe one would say fixing or repairing. Establishing? Evolving? It's more
active. It's like you're doing something. Refining? Sort of actively forming.
Taking something that is sort of all messed up and getting rid of the negative
aspects and making it positive, making it function properly. The word literally
means fixing or making something, like clearing away and making it what you want.
If it is a sculpture or something that's broken, you fix it. It means perfecting
or completing or accomplishing.
(Please explain more about the sixteen aspects of emptiness.)
So, you could have great detail on each of the sixteen
aspects of emptiness. Rinpoche just mentioned them really quickly. So first there
is the emptiness of the external world, the lack of true existence anywhere in
the external world. There is the lack of true existence anywhere in the internal
world, of the mind, that is. There is the lack of true existence or emptiness
of both the inner and the outer. So you have the emptiness of the entity of things;
things do not exist by way of their own entity, by way of their own nature. Then
you have the emptiness of the lack of emptiness; not only are things empty of
any true existence, but they're empty of any lack of existence. Then there is
the description of the emptiness of composite things, and the descriptions of
the emptiness of non-composite things, then the emptiness of spatial distinctions,
that is, close by and far away. There's the emptiness of temporal distinctions,
early and late, beginning and end, things like that and the emptiness of movement,
away from oneself, towards oneself. Then there's a description of what is called
natural emptiness or the emptiness of things by their nature, that they lack any
inherent nature or self nature - the emptiness of phenomena without exception,
to eliminate any possibility that anything is other than empty. Then there is
the emptiness which is described as the lack of any object, whatsoever, that there
is no external object which has any true existence. That is getting near sixteen,
but it is close enough if not.
(What about abandoning the senses?)
(Translator) Avoid the senses? The five senses or the six senses? In this system we have six senses, because we include the intellectual faculty, the mental sense.
no sense here of abandoning things. The sense powers and their fields should not
be abandoned, but rather we should overcome the illusions or ways in which we
misperceive reality through the six senses. There's no problem with the senses
themselves. It's the way in which we mistake the data or input from the six senses
and are caught up in illusions. Once we overcome our mistaken view towards the
six senses and their objects, then there is no problem. Actually, that is one
of the sixteen emptinesses -- the emptiness of emptiness.
(Can the Buddhas be perceived by humans?)
Yes, all of them appear in human world and
they can be perceived by human beings and receive their teaching. They are called
the thousand Buddhas of the fortunate eon, and Sakyamuni is the fourth.
(Can you explain more about enlightenment?)
The term 'enlightenment',
since it is an English term, is applied to all manner of things by different English
speaking people. This is why we rely on the Sanskrit or Tibetan. What is being
translated as enlightenment, that's the thing you have to examine. Sometimes people
use it in different ways like using it to mean a state of clarity or a state of
peacefulness or all sorts of things, which are far short of what's being referred
to by the term Buddhahood. In Buddhism we have the term 'moksha' which means liberation.
Liberation means liberation from birth and death, from the cycle of birth and
death, or more specifically from the miseries of birth and death. So it can be
applied sometimes in slightly different ways, but when you attain the first of
the ten bodhisattva grounds, which means you finish the first two of the five
paths to Buddhahood, you finish the path of accumulation and the path of preparation.
The moment you attain the third path, which is the path of seeing, you've attained
a state of enlightenment, if you like, because at that point you have direct insight
into reality, but it's yet to be stabilized and developed. At that point you are
no longer caught up in the illusions of the world. You still have a long way to
go. You could call that a stage of enlightenment. But then eventually you go through
the five paths and attain the state of Buddhahood. Then that is the state of perfection,
beyond which there is nothing more to attain. Therefore the fifth path is called
the path of no more learning, because that is when you attain Buddhahood in the
Mahayana tradition. In the Hinayana, at that point, you would become an arhat
which means you've attained Nirvana. You'll no longer ever need to be reborn in
(What is the difference between enlightenment in the Hinayana and the Mahayana?)
In the Hinayana, you are attaining the state of liberation.
We say liberation in English instead of enlightenment because it's not a question
of a state of all knowingness or omniscience, it's a state of liberation from
cyclic existence; so we say you attain Nirvana. At that point you attain liberation,
and you are no longer reborn in the world. In the Hinayana system you've attained
Nirvana and that's the goal, that's it. In the Mahayana, the goal is to become
a Buddha. The Buddha then has attained a state of omniscience. Therefore in Mahayana
circles usually the term enlightenment is reserved for the Buddha, for the one
who has attained the ultimate perfection. Then, as far as reentering the world,
that's part of being a Buddha. Not that you're reborn in the world, but that you've
attained the state of omniscience, but that you are the all knowing Buddha, endowed
with both wisdom and compassion. You can manifest in the world, as many bodies
as you wantcalled manifestation bodies (nirmanakaya), for the sake of living beings,
in order to lead them out of cyclic existence. But there is no question of suffering
anymore, you've transcended that, you've put an end to all of the causes of misery.
So you're perfectly enlightened but still involved in the world as a teacher,
as a guide to liberation.
(What is the relationship of wealth and happiness?)
Unfortunately, that's not the case. Just because we have great wealth and enjoyments does not mean you're happier. Often it's the reverse; you have so much more to worry about losing - so you're much less happy. But you do have a lot of stuff. Great wealth is often a cause of great misery for many different reasons. Normally, at the very least, it is a cause of not being able to sleep well at night. People stay up and drink lots of coffee and worry 'is this going to go up' or 'am I going to lose money in that', 'how is this money going to go' and 'what do I have to do to make more' and lose a lot of sleep and are not very happy.
need a balance in this. So you're not so poor that you're suffering all the time,
suffering physically through deprivation and hunger and all those things. You
certainly don't want to be that poor. Nor do you want to be so rich that you're
always worried and have all sorts of worries. So there's a balance that's good
(Could you elaborate on the comment that all snakes are angry?)
The more extensive explanation there is not that the snakes are necessarily angry, but that the possession of an unfortunate form is the result of the lack of patience. A snake is considered, if you look at the various animals and inhabitants in the world, not to be very fortunate. If nothing else, when people or other animals look at the snake, some people get upset and feel aversion for it and things like that. They do bad things to it.
Just to add to your question about whether you'd want to be wealthy or poor in the next life, the priority here is the accomplishment of the Dharma, of the path to liberation and supreme bliss of enlightenment. On the other hand, you should be free of the burden of great concern over vast amounts of wealth and managing it and things like that, because that totally distracts you from Dharma. It makes Dharma practice impossible. It even makes Dharma practice undesirable because you're so concerned with all these other considerations that Dharma practice is just not relevant in your life, if you're that involved with material things.
Being oppressed by property
and worried about where your next meal will come from or where you're going to
sleep that night, is unsuitable for Dharma practice. You have to take care of
yourself. You have to be established enough in the world that you have something
to eat, something to wear and somewhere to stay. But the pattern of acquisition
that characterizes so many who are wealthy is one that is unfortunate also. It
turns the mind so much away from Dharma in its consideration that it is hard for
such people to be interested in Dharma. Their concern, twenty-four hours a day
is in the acquisition and maintenance of great wealth. It becomes totally at odds
with effective Dharma practice when it reaches those dimensions, so you need a
(What is the first ground you attain direct perception of emptiness or ultimate reality, and that takes place at the point of attaining the third of the five paths, called the Darshana Marga or path of seeing? What is the difference between that and the arhat, the one who attains arhatship, which means the one who has completed the five paths?)
First of all there is a big difference between the arhat on the Hinayana path and the arhat on the Mahayana. Arhat means the person who has completed the five paths. The five paths of the Mahayana lead to Buddhahood. On the Hinayana they lead to Nirvana. So there is a big difference here. In the Hinayana path, what you directly perceive is the selflessness of persons, only, when you attain that direct insight into reality. In the Mahayana, it is the direct perception of the emptiness or the selflessness not only of persons, but of phenomena. So there is a big difference in what is being realized at the point of the third of the five paths. But then what happens from there on, you have the ten grounds that are unique to the Mahayana. So the ten bodhisattva bhumis, or grounds, start with that first direct insight or direct vision, direct experience of emptiness, which is the attainment of the third of the five paths, the darshana marga. From there on, the bodhisattva proceeds through the ten grounds. With each one, what he or she is able to realize becomes greater and greater. Specifically, the ability to benefit living beings increases sort of exponentially as one goes up through those ten paths because one's understanding, one's realization, one's powers increase as one goes up. So that first direct perception of emptiness on the first bodhisattva ground, that's like the first glimpse of reality, seeing things as they actually are. It's the first glimpse of perceiving emptiness and from then on, although at that point one is no longer fooled by the illusions of the world, they have not overcome them yet. They still arise to the perception and they still have to fully integrate that experience over the next nine levels of the path.
So there are specific things that you're able to perceive
at each of the bodhisattva bhumis. For instance, at the first level you are able
to perceive directly, visit, and meet face to face with one hundred Buddhas. So
this is where you have the exponential development of a hundred Buddhas on the
first bodhisattva bhumi and the second it is thousands and on up to incalculable
numbers. So the powers and realizations of the bodhisattva go up tremendously
and with it the ability to benefit human beings.
(Can you elaborate on the differences between the Mahayana and Hinayana paths?)
No, only Mahayana. No, no, no. The ten paths are only for the Mahayana. In the
Hinayana there is no need for that. You become an arhat and attain Nirvana, in
the Hinayana. You have the same paths on the Mahayana and the Hinayana, the same
names, accumulation, preparation, seeing, meditation and no more learning. They
are called the same things; the content is very different, because the goal is
(Can you comment on the similarities between Buddhism and Hinduism?)
is so much that is in common there, in the cosmology. It's the same Indra, the
same heavens, the same Heaven of the Thirty-Three (that's the abode of Indra).
Traditional End to Teachings
Dedication of Merit
this merit may all attain omniscience.
May it defeat the enemy, wrongdoing.
From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death,
From the ocean of samsara, may I free all beings.
SOD NAM DI YIY THAM CHAD ZIK PA NYID
THOP NAY NYEY PAI DRA NAM PHAM JYAY SHING
SYE GA NA CHI'I WA LONG THRUK PA YI
TRID PA'I THSO LAY DRO WA DROL WAR SHOK
Langro the translator, cared for by Padma, has manifested in this
Unhindered manner in the perceptions of beings to be tamed;
O Excellent Padma Yurmed Tinly Odzer, may the presence of your form
Remain stable, accomplishing benefit for the teachings and for beings!
PAD MAY JEY ZUNG LANG DRO LO TZA WA
GANG DUL DRO NGOR GAG MED DER NANG WAI
PAD MAY YUR MED TIN LEY OD ZER CHOG
KU TSAN RAB TAN TAN DROI DON DRUB SHOG