by His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama
Translated by Thupten Jinpa
Prior to the Kalachakra Initiation
Barcelona, December 11-13, 1994
Day Three, December 13, 1994
His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama
During the last two days we have been talking a lot about the importance of bringing about within oneself internal transformation, transformation within the mind and heart through practice and through meditation. To sum up, in Buddhism it is stated that all of one’s experiences, be they pleasurable or painful, if examined for the processes leading to the experience of suffering and pain, one finds at the root of all those experiences is an undisciplined, untamed and disturbed state of mind. Similarly if one examines the process and causes and conditions that lead to experiences of happiness and joy one finds at the root of those lays a disciplined, tamed and also peaceful state of mind. Ultimately one’s experiences of joy, pain, suffering and happiness are results from either a disciplined or undisciplined states of mind. This is the crucial point that Buddhism makes.
Similarly if one examines the nature of all things and events, all things and events that either have direct or indirect relevance to one’s experience of pain or pleasure, such as one’s body, environment, physical universe, in other words all things and events, are ultimately rooted in a state of mind. For example as I pointed out yesterday, one’s experiences of suffering result from negative and delusory states of mind which in turn are motivated by volition. Volition in turn leads to actions and so on which are themselves rooted in a distorted state of mind. So one finds that ultimately all things and events, the whole expanse of reality that has any relation to one as an individual, one’s experiences of joy, happiness, suffering or pain are all in some sense products of mind, different states of mind. These do not come about without any cause and they do not come about by just any cause rather there is an intimate connection between causes and their fruits. So one finds that ultimately all experiences are products of different states of mind or consciousness.
To continue, what we find is that ultimately one’s experiences of joy or happiness are the result of a disciplined state of mind, peaceful or positive states of mind whereas one’s experiences of pain and suffering, the undesirable consequences are fruits of undisciplined, negative states of mind. One finds that in one’s everyday experience the mind plays a very important role in governing one’s very existence. Not only this but also when one engages oneself on a spiritual path trying to bring about the internal transformation that I spoke about earlier, even there one finds again that one’s mind plays an important role. It is only through using factors of the mind, different faculties of mind and different ways of thinking, attitudes and thought processes that one can bring about this internal transformation. One can transform from negative states of mind to positive and peaceful states of mind. So that even when it comes to the spiritual path and spiritual practice, mind still plays a dominant role.
Similarly from the Buddhist point of view at the resultant stage when the individual eventually attains full awakening, again here mind plays a tremendously important role. Buddhism defines or characterizes full enlightenment in terms of a level of mind or the perfection of the mind. When we speak about the perfected states of Buddha’s body, speech and mind we are talking about the qualities of Buddha’s enlightened mind. What becomes crucial in understanding Buddhism be it the nature of one’s experience, the human condition or the nature of the path leading to cessation or characterizations of the fully enlightened state, what is clear is the understanding of the nature of mind.
The question arises when discussing the nature of the self and the importance of the mind, what is meant by the mind? How is it defined? Here again it is important to bear in mind that when Buddhism talks about mind or sems, one needs to take into account that one is talking about a complex concept. There are different levels of consciousness or mind, many different levels of subtleties. At the gross levels one could say that mind or consciousness has a very intimate relationship with one’s physical body. Just as the scientists point out there is a close correlation between one’s brain, the chemical processes in one’s brain, one’s thought processes and levels of consciousness at the gross level. Also one can see through the evolutionary theory how the development of the brain goes hand in hand with the development of consciousness. There is no contradiction in accepting these facts. Also there seems to be a correlation between the size of the brain of a particular species and the level of intelligence in that particular species. This is a fact and there is no contradiction in accepting this fact. What seems to be true is that at the gross levels there seems to be a close correlation between levels of consciousness and the physiological/biological makeup of the body.
As I pointed out earlier, at the gross level there is a close correlation between consciousness and the brain or the body. In order to have a conscious event, for example a visual perception, it requires the collection of certain conditions like the visual object, the eye-organ, the sensory faculties and so on. Through the interaction or aggregation of these conditions it gives rise to an instance of sensory experience. This is something that we can know through our experience.
However the question arises, what is it that makes this particular experience, this particular cognitive event to posses the nature of experience, that experiential quality or the clarity of the subjective experience? Of course Buddhists would explain that in terms of its preceding cause. When one speaks of causation here one needs to bear in mind two types of causes. One is known as the substantial cause and this is the particular cause that turned into the effect. There are also cooperative causes, which act as conditions or circumstances that give rise to that particular effect.
When we talk about the luminous, mere experiential quality of the consciousness, we need to trace its cause to its preceding moment. Otherwise if we were to accept that pure matter, purely a physical entity could give rise to an entity of consciousness which is so distinct in its nature from matter then that would lead to all sorts of inconsistencies and intolerant positions.
The complex question really is how do we understand the mind-body relationship? Of course it is an area where there are still many unresolved questions even from the scientific point of view. Much research is being done into the study of neurons and how they give rise to states of consciousness and so on. One could say that this research is in some sense trying to understand the relationship between consciousness and matter or consciousness and the body. I feel that in this area there are still many open questions and I feel that further research can be done.
However one thing we need to bear in mind is that the scientific methodology that is used currently at this stage of understanding and the conception of scientific methodology is very much based on a model of investigation which is entirely based on the idea of physical reality. It is very much characterized by methodological ideas like quantification, measurement and these sorts of parameters. Therefore I wonder whether this current scientific methodology can fully embrace studies on the nature of consciousness. For example some scientists when they are asked the question, is it possible that conceptual thought occurs in the brain and the occurrence of that particular thought can then cause a chemical change within the brain which in turn leads to further thought processes? Strangely enough I found that some scientists hold a dogma that since only through the process of chemical reactions that take place in the brain that thought and consciousness occurs, they see no possibility of conceiving the reverse process. To give such an answer is not true to the spirit of scientific understanding. To be scientific is to be open-minded and one should leave possibilities open.
Part of the limitation I feel comes from the conception of scientific methodology, which is very much dominated by the idea of reality being exhausted by physical reality. This then leads to many complications. However when we employ such investigative methodology using quantification, measurements, calculations and so on, and through such methods when we do not find anything, this in itself can not entail that the object of analysis when searched for in such a manner that the object of analysis does not exist.
For example let’s take the question of personal identity or any other abstract entity like in the case of Buddhism selflessness. Also let us use the example of the Buddhist concept of impermanence or the transient nature. There is no way that by using the current scientific methodology that we can measure or quantify these concepts. There is no way to find personal identity nor can we find impermanence nor selflessness. However this is not to say that these things do not exist. Of course they exist though we can not find impermanence per se or selflessness itself. Because they exist we reflect on them, we meditate on them and when we enhance our understanding of them we can feel within ourselves a transformation, the effect they bring in us. So these are indications that they do exist, not necessarily in physical terms. I feel it is important here to make a distinction between what is not found and what is found not to exist. This is a very important distinction we must make. Simply because something is not found doesn’t necessarily entail that thing does not exist.
According to Buddhism as you may have surmised by now there is the notion that mind and body although they are dependent on each other very intimately, however in terms of their continuum they posses separate continuums. These are traceable through their substantial causes. For example if one traces the continuum of one’s physical body, one’s present body at this time in history, it came from the previous evolution of bodily forms. If one were to trace the continuum of this body, it came from a fertilized egg. Tracing it further back, examining its physical continuum, one can arrive at say the beginning of the universe. According to Buddhism at the point of the beginning of this particular universe, there was a form of matter, which was condensed from all the matter in this universe, and is called space particles. There is a notion that all the matter and material elements are condensed into these previous space particles. So one can trace the continuum of one’s physical body back to this point of space particles.
Similarly if one traces back the continuum of one’s consciousness, it is quite untenable if one were to maintain that the same physical continuum of one’s body is the same as the continuum of one’s mind. They clearly have two distinct natures. As I pointed out earlier much of one’s gross conscious events, cognitive processes are in some sense products of one’s body, like sensory experiences. These are dependent on the sense organs and because of this we call our consciousness a human consciousness, a human mind. When the human body ceases to exist that gross human mind or consciousness will also cease to exist. But still this does not really account for the underlying factor, which enables one to have experiential events. A pure material explanation can not give a full account for the presence for the unique factor that allows one to have experiential and cognitive events. This factor according to Buddhism can again be traced in terms of its origin. Just as the physical continuum can be traced back through beginningless time, similarly the continuum of mind at the subtle level can be traced back through previous lives.
It is along these lines that Buddhism accounts for its belief in rebirth as if the previous mind must come from a previous continuum, that earlier continuum must also be a state of mind or subtle consciousness. Through this way Buddhism accounts for its belief in rebirth. This is how one traces the continuum of an individual’s mind and body. Again one can not explain the continuum of the consciousness purely in terms of the continuum of the body, which in the case of one’s current body, comes from the fertilized egg from the parents.
If one were to try to extend this to the understanding of the cosmos as a whole then one can see that in terms of its material constituents, a particular universe such as this one starts from space particles. The question arises what is it that makes the same continuum, the same matter like particles, evolve into inanimate objects like planets whereas other matter evolves into animate bodies, life forms? What is the factor, which makes the difference? Here I think it is important to understand from the Buddhist point of view the role karma plays in this process. As I pointed out earlier when one talks about the continuum of causation, the present continuum of a material object is a consequence of its previous moment. In terms of that continuum I do not feel it is the result of karma; it is just following a process of natural law.
However the role karma plays is seen more in terms of a factor of circumstantial conditioning. Through karma for example in the case of this universe, although the material continuum comes from the space particles, it is the collective karma of the sentient beings who later inhabit the particular universe that allow the continuum of the matter to evolve gradually into the macroscopic world. The planet for instance will then have a direct effect on the sentient beings living there and their experiences of pain and pleasure. So one could say that at the point when the physical evolutionary process begins to become relevant to the experience of living beings, at that point one can say karma has entered into the picture.
Of course this leads to another question which is how can karma that is a non-substantial, immaterial phenomenon have any effect to influence a material, physical process? This is a valid question. Here I think that perhaps some explanation could be found in the tantras, especially in the Highest Yoga Tantra. There it is mentioned about subtle matter in the form of energies and there is a particular concept of energy called the Energy of the Five Radiances. These in some sense can be described as the subtlest form of the five elements, space wind, fire, water and earth. This subtlest form of the elements I feel give rise to the grosser forms of the bodily elements and these inner bodily elements then have some relationship with the external elements. It is through this subtle connection one could explain the relationship between karma and the processes of the material world.
A further question can be raised as to how the space particles and the continuums of consciousness come into being? Such an investigation would then ultimately lead to a point where one is forced to either believe in a beginning point where one would need to accept a creation at some point or one pursues a line of argument further. As to the first alternative of accounting for this by invoking a notion of creation, from the Buddhist point of view there would arise many complications. The first question to be raised would be what exactly is the nature of the creator? Is the creator in turn dependent upon a cause or is it a self-caused entity? Is it a necessary being and if so how can a causeless, self-arisen entity have the power or potential to produce something that is in essence different from itself? From the Buddhist point of view this leads to all sorts of untenable complications and leaves many questions unanswered and unresolved.
From the Buddhist point of view the second alternative which is to seek an explanation more in terms of the same causal principle is adopted. So ultimately Buddhist accept the possibility of infinite causes [infinite regress] and conditions, infinity in the continuum of cause. Of course to some people this may not be satisfactory and further questions could be raised such as how did the infinity come into being? How is an infinity of causes possible? This may seem very discomforting and unsatisfying to some people. To them the Buddhist would respond that it is the way it is; there is no further logical explanation.
To sum up Buddhist’s understanding of the nature of human experience would be that many of our problems, our experiences of pain, suffering, frustrations, or anxieties come about as the result of certain attitudes or states of mind, an undisciplined state of mind. Of course there are other factors like power predispositions coming from past lives and also karmic influences being exert from past lives. So when we talk about trying to understand the nature of experience now, for a Buddhist all of these factors have to be taken into account.
Within such a world-view then makes it easier to accept certain phenomena, which one faces. Even today there are cases of children who can very vividly and very clearly recollect events from a previous life. So for such a world-view there is the concept of rebirth and the beginningless continuum of consciousness and these phenomena become acceptable and understandable. Otherwise one is forced either to say that these are a total mystery, there is no explanation at all or one is forced to conclude that even in the case of someone who recollects very clearly and accurately, one is forced to say that it is just an illusion.
To sum up what we find is that so far as the continuum of consciousness is concerned, it is ever-present. Similarly so far as the continuum of the individual or being that is designated upon such a continuum is concerned, it is ever-present. The question can then be raised that if that is the case how does one account for phenomena like death, birth and life? Buddhism would explain that although as far as the continuum of consciousness is concerned, it is always there but death, birth and life are in some sense different stages of the same continuum at a particular point in the continuum of the cyclic nature. One understands death and birth in terms of different stages in the process.
This is similar to the processes of sleep, the waking state and also the dream state. According to Buddhism these different stages in one’s daily life are seen as different states of consciousness where consciousness abides in different levels. One could also say different levels of energy. For example sleep is where the consciousness and energy is at a deeper level. If one includes the dream state then the level of consciousness and energy becomes slightly grosser, this is the dream level. The consciousness’ grossest form is when it is awake and because of this there is a comparison made between death and sleep, dream and the intermediate state and the waken state with birth.
On this view we can see that at the point of death is characterized by the point where the old body, the gross body is severed from the mind. However the continuum of the mind/body at its subtlest level will always remain. So there is not a total separation between the mind and body. It is only on the gross level; the gross body, which is in some sense, is discarded at the point of death. At the point of birth a new gross body is assumed. Similarly when one looks at the nature of sleep and the waking period, one can also see that there is a form of renewal of one’s body. For example if one is totally exhausted, during sleep and when one awakens one feels as if the body has been refreshed and renewed. If one wishes to be very exact one could say that there has been a renewal process during sleep. So there is a similar process going on even during the sleep and the waking period.
It is because of these similarities and correspondences between death, the intermediate state and rebirth on the one hand and sleep, dream and the waking period on the other that in the Guhyasamaja Tantra one finds many practices which are aimed at drawing out the parallels and comparisons between these stages known as the Practices of Mixing. It is with the knowledge of these in the background that Buddhism talks about many lifetimes and also talks about time scales in terms of innumerable eons. So when one understands the Buddhist position in these terms then when one recites prayers like we will be reciting shortly from the Bodhicaryavatara as “As long as space remains, As long as sentient beings exist” then one can really feel something. When one reflects on the infinity of one’s own continuum and beginninglessness, does it make one feel exhausted? Or discouraged?
Although the concept of infinity and the concept of beginninglessness may seem quite daunting and may seem difficult to comprehend, one point to remember however is the reality of one’s present existence. Also as long as one exists it is important to make one’s existence meaningful, making it meaningful in terms of making oneself be of service to others. Now that one exists and so far as one’s existence is concerned one cannot question that along with survival so one might as well make it a meaningful existence by being of service to others. The fact that one exists is a natural phenomenon, one can not really fully account for it, why one is here but from the Buddhist point of view the fact of an infinity of lifetimes since beginningless time and in some sense an endlessness, this is also just part of nature. One might as well make these infinite lifetimes meaningful and useful. When one reflects along these lines then Santideva’s verses where he states, “So long as space endures, So long as sentient beings exist, May I too remain, To dispel the miseries of the world” then these lines will really be brought home. These lines will then begin to make real sense to you.
So when we talk about being of service to others, we are not talking about it purely in a moral sense where one’s altruism is confined to mere wishful thinking. We are talking about something deeper than that especially in the context of Buddhist practice. Compassion and altruism have to be based on a clear realization and deep insight into one’s own unsatisfactory nature of existence, one’s own suffering. As I quoted yesterday from Candrakirti’s Entering into the Middle Way where he states that one first out of clinging at a solid ego identity, one then clings to one’s body and possessions as mine. Through this clinging to I and mine then one generates within one certain emotional responses which then lead to volitional actions which then perpetuate the whole cycle of samsaric existence.
When one thinks along these lines one sees that from one’s own experience one knows that although one does not wish to be angry or negative but one often finds oneself being overcome by strong negative impulses. This indicates that in some sense one has little control over one’s responses and one’s psyche. Similarly one doesn’t wish to act in a negative way, one does not wish to create bad karma but we often find ourselves acting against one’s fundamental wish. Again this shows one has little control over one’s actions. So this shows that one is in some sense being governed by the dual forces of karma and delusions. Through the manipulation of these two forces one is driven into the vicious cycle of habitual patterns of action and existence.
Once one realizes this then one develops a strong sense of repulsion towards these delusions and negative karma. One also develops a genuine sense or aspiration to seek freedom from this type of existence. One aspires to get out of this vicious cycle and this is known as true renunciation in the Buddhist context. Once one has true renunciation and deep insight into suffering and the nature of unsatisfactory existence then when one extends this insight to other, fellow sentient beings. One then realizes that just as oneself is being propelled against one’s wishes by the forces of karma and delusions so are all other sentient beings who equally do not wish for unhappiness or suffering but are again being driven by the dual forces of karma and delusions against their wishes.
When one reflects on such facts then of course one’s sense of abhorrence towards karma, delusions and the unsatisfactory nature of existence becomes so strong that it forces and motivates one to be concerned with the well being of other sentient beings. They, just like oneself, wish to be happy and overcome suffering. Thinking along these lines and being convinced by the power of compassion if one can dedicate one’s whole life for the service of others in bringing about the welfare of other sentient beings using all the resources available to one, bodily, mentally and verbally, then the sense of fulfillment and the joy one would achieve from leading such a dedicated way of life would be tremendous. The underlying sense of joy and fulfillment through leading such a dedicated way of life one is making in some sense one’s life the most meaningful in the best possible way.
So when one reflects on these things then passages from the Bodhicaryavatara and other bodhisattva texts make definite sense. For example, Santideva says in the Bodhicaryavatara, “Why should I seek nirvana?” Similarly Bhavaviveka states in his text called the Heart of Madhyamika; “Through insight into the unsatisfactory nature of existence I will be freed from attachment to existence. However through the power of compassion I distance myself from seeking nirvana”. The implication is that once one is gripped by the power of compassion one’s commitment to bringing about the welfare of other sentient beings is such that in some sense that the thought to seek enlightenment for one’s own sake simply doesn’t arise. In Candrakirti’s when he summarizes the great qualities of the bodhisattva on the sixth bodhisattva bhumi, he states that a bodhisattva at such a high level of realization as a result of their deepened insight into the nature of emptiness and their intuitive, direct experience of emptiness will then develop spontaneous compassion which is at the true mode of being of that bodhisattva.
In this regard I would like to draw an analogy which could perhaps bring my point into sharper focus. For example when we look at the Milky Way Galaxy and when we have a concept of cosmology, which embraces a universe where there are so many stars and planets, our earth then becomes just a speck. So once one has such a vision or image of the cosmos then of course it will reveal that all the divisions we fight for, such as national boundaries leading to bloodshed and conflict, from the larger perspective seems so insignificant. They appear to be insignificant squabbles. The issues and disputes are really something trivial, not really worthy of such emotional investment. So this will definitely have an impact on our global consciousness.
Similarly in the Buddhist context when one has a view or vision of existence where one’s understanding or conception of life is in terms of infinity and one’s conception of fellow sentient beings is of an infinity in number, and one’s commitment is to bring about the welfare of this infinity of sentient beings then once starts along these lines it will have enormous impact on one’s attitudes towards one’s immediate concerns and interests. Something which previously would have seen so important, maybe dealing with one’s own self-interest in this single lifetime and dealing with a particular point in one’s life which may seem to be very important, when seen from the wider perspective these temporary self-interests and needs seem insignificant. One will not feel so attached and bound with the preoccupations of trying to achieve these limited goals.
Even in conventional terms we know that people who have a greater sense of security, small incidents are less likely to effect them whereas people who have a deep sense of insecurity are more prone to be easily effected by minor incidents. This shows to what extent that if one has a greater sense of security it makes a difference in how one is emotionally effected. I would say it is these expansive and in some sense broad ways of thinking in Buddhism that assist practicing Buddhists in dealing with their problems of life. I would say that Buddhism does not have a single formula or one remedy as it were to deal with adverse situations in life. It is all these ways of thinking, these spiritual orientations which embrace such infinity and magnitude that really help give a broader perspective on life.
Since there is certainly benefit for the individual by adopting such an outlook, such a spiritual orientation the question of whether these things are actually true or not really isn’t primary. As they are truly beneficial, that is what matters. If at the beginning it may seem difficult to comprehend, may seem difficult to digest however through constant reflection, thinking and meditation it is possible that one will gradually begin to understand. This will definitely have a tremendous effect on one’s mind and on one’s psyche. In some sense they will have a kind of liberating effect and will make one’s mind more resilient, providing one with a greater capacity to cope with the adverse circumstances and problems of life.
To some this may seem very idealistic and also unrealistic. Some may feel this is impractical as for instance when one suggests that this kind of approach, this kind of solution to people they may reject it offhand. (Break)
Question: It seems it is not enough to simply understand the absence of self and others or enemies and friends based on understanding the transient or impermanent nature of existence. What seems to be required also the need to develop an altruistic sense to help other sentient beings. However since we do not have such a capacity to be of help and service to other sentient beings, what can we do to give us this capacity or ability to help others?
Answer: From the practicing Buddhist’s point of view the full potential for helping other sentient beings becomes perfected only when one has totally overcome one’s own personal limitations and have attained full knowledge of the needs and dispositions of all sentient beings. Such knowledge can only be obtained at the fully awakened state. However this is something that needs to be kept as the ultimate objective and while one is aspiring towards that objective, one needs to engage in various practices. For example bodhisattvas have as their main practices consist of the Six Perfections which are aimed primarily at bringing about internal transformation within the practitioner. In terms of assisting to bodhisattva-to-be in assisting others, the teachings talk about the Four Factors for Helping Other Sentient Beings such as giving material needs to fulfill the immediate needs of others, providing protection, setting an example for others by living the teachings oneself and teaching others. These are the types of activities that a bodhisattva must engage in.
In our day-to-day lives even in our ordinary state of course there are many things we could do in implementing these bodhisattva ideals. I would personally say that for example in our modern professions like teaching which involves educating others and also the health professions along with social work and so on, if one adopts the right attitude and motivation, these activities become the implementation of the bodhisattva ideals. It is through these activities that one enhances one’s capacity to be of service to others.
Question: You say there is no end, there is a continuity. How can we set ourselves free and more than anything how can we free other beings who are suffering? If we leave samsara then we are abandoning these others to their fate.
Answer: When we speak of nirvana we need to bear in mind that there are different conceptions of it. One type of nirvana is known as the isolated peace of nirvana, which refers to the type of goal that non-Bodhisattvas like Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas (Solitary Realizers) seek. What they seek is more the peace and tranquility of the freedom from suffering which is motivated primarily out of self-interest.
However this is not the type of nirvana or freedom from suffering that the bodhisattva is seeking. In fact the bodhisattvas’ quest for full enlightenment is in some sense not for themselves but rather the motivation arises out of altruism. The bodhisattva sees the need to attain full enlightenment as a requirement in order to utilize their potential to help others fully. Therefore the nirvana or the freedom of suffering that the bodhisattva seeks is described as the state which is free from the extremes of the isolated peace of nirvana and free from the extreme of uncontrolled cyclic existence. So it is a freedom from both existence and nirvana. Those who are gathered here among those I know, I can not say anyone here has such realizations but if you do come to India, I can give you the names of people who I think may have had experiences of such a type.
Question: Is the Long-Life puja announced part of the Kalachakra initiation or is it something different? Is there a commitment with the Long-Life initiation or daily practice?
Answer: The Long-Life empowerment ceremony is not part of the Kalachakra initiation itself. There are no commitments by attending the empowerment however I can assure you that if you come then you can take the long-life pills.
Question: In samsara time is relative and we can speak of the past, present and future. For the Buddhas is there still a past, present and future times? Does time have a cause and if so what is it?
Answer: This is a complex question. In Buddhism when we talk about the nature of the Buddha’s enlightened mind and the nature of its perception of reality, we need to take into account in some sense a dual perspective. It is said that so far as Buddha’s perception of the ultimate unity of all phenomena is concerned, in other words Buddha’s perception of ultimate reality or the truth of all phenomena there is no sense of time or sense of the passage of time. Buddha’s perception is all-pervasive yet at the same time a Buddha is fully aware of the multiplicity of the world of dependent origination, the relative world. Within the relative world there are many appearances which are primarily the results of illusions. Of course Buddhists would accept that as far as a Buddha’s own conception is concerned there is no level of deception or illusion within a Buddha’s own perception. However what appears to us as sentient beings to our delusory minds also appears to a Buddha not because a Buddha has the causes or conditions for deception or illusion but rather Buddha sees the deceptive appearances, the deceptive perceptions that we have as they appear to us.
So when we talk about the question of what is the nature of a Buddha’s knowledge, it is a very complicated question which needs to take into account this dual perspective which is operating always at the same time. Therefore the fully enlightened mind of a Buddha is said to perceive the Two Truths simultaneously without any passage of time.
As to the second part of the question which is whether time has a cause, of course the Prasangika-Madhyamika standpoint, which is considered to be the highest philosophical standpoint of Buddhism, accepts that time is a relative phenomenon. Time is not permanent, is eternal and is a relative phenomenon and is in some sense a mental construct. Therefore it has a cause and is a product.
Question: When we die and are born again do we choose the place and the parents? If not who or what determines where we are born? Is it possible once one is human to be born again as an animal? How can we gain control over the process and cut the cycle?
Answer: Where do we take rebirth and in what form are governed by one’s own karmic imprints. When it comes to the question as to which parent, one needs to again take into account the karma also of the parents; it is not just the karma of the individual to be born. Even though this is the case if we examine in more detail we find that karmic imprints are planted by our volitional actions. An individual who is motivated to act in a particular way commits volitional actions. So ultimately it is ourselves who are responsible.
Perhaps an example may clarify the process or mechanism of karma. Take the example of someone flying back to India. By you buy your plane tickets you have the choice whether to go or not and also when to go. After this you buy your ticket your choices are now limited but you still have a choice as to whether to go or not. You are then at the airport and even there you still have a choice even though the cancellation becomes more difficult. If you choose not to cancel, have boarded the plane and it is taking off then your choice not fly is gone. So unless you hijack the plane, you have no choice left. The closer you get to the action or objective the narrower the range of your choices becomes and the more determined is the course of events.
Similarly in the case of karma, which literally means action, volitional act, at the stage of motivation or intention one has tremendous choice of whether to act or not. As one gets closer and has committed the act then the karmic imprint is implanted and then the imprint needs to be activated, needs circumstantial conditions to activate it. Once further conditions acting as ripening factors activate the karmic seed then one’s control and choice over the causal events becomes narrower and narrower. But until that point one does have a choice, one does have the choice to reverse the cause of the karmic determination.
We will proceed with the ceremony for generating the mind of enlightenment. In the following ceremony among the audience those who have been practicing Buddhists for several years can fully participate in the ceremony for generating the mind of enlightenment. For those who are non-Buddhists and for those who are Buddhist but do not feel fully committed to the practices of bodhicitta, they need not fully participate in the ceremony. One thing however that you could do is to use the opportunity to develop a strong determination and resolve to be a warm-hearted person, to be a kind person and resolve never to hurt or harm any other person or sentient being.
Now for those who wish to fully participate in the ceremony for generating the mind of enlightenment, you should visualize in the space in front of yourself the Buddha Shakyamuni as in the thangka behind me. He is surrounded by many bodhisattvas and imagine yourself as being surrounded by all other sentient beings.
Having visualized the Buddha in front of you surrounded by all the bodhisattvas and yourself being surrounded by all sentient beings, you should develop the following thought, reflect in the following manner. Reflect that just as you instinctually and naturally aspire to achieve happiness and overcome suffering, so do all the limitless and countless sentient beings. Just as you are driven by this fundamental and instinctual desire and engage in all sorts of activities to fulfill this basic aspiration so to do all other sentient beings. However up until now you have lived throughout many lifetimes pursuing only your own self-interest and your whole existence has been characterized by pursuing self-centered interests and ends. Even though this has been your primary motivating force you still haven’t been able to achieve what you wished to achieve which is the fulfillment of your own well-being.
On the other hand all the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ lives have exemplified the virtue and value of altruism. They have reversed that self-centered way of existence and way of thinking. They have put other’s interests as more important than theirs and have pursued a way of life where they have been dedicated to bringing about the well-being of other sentient beings. So though this process you should reflect upon the fact that all problems, anxieties, frustrations and miseries are either directly or indirectly the result of egocentric, self-centered ways of thinking and ways of living. However all positive events of happiness, joy, sense of fulfillment and so on are all directly or indirectly the result and consequence of altruism.
Reflecting in this way on the benefits of altruism and the destructive nature of selfish and self-centered attitudes, you should now resolve to follow in the footsteps of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who have dedicated their lives to the fulfillment of the altruistic ideal. Make a resolve to follow in their footsteps and follow their example from now on regarding others’ well-being and happiness as more important than one’s own. This is such that you are never again imprisoned in your own egocentric, self-centered way of thinking and way of living.
When we talk of generating the mind for enlightenment or bodhicitta, one should understand that bodhicitta is a state of mind which arises as the result of two principal aspirations. One is the aspiration to fulfill the welfare of other sentient beings and the other is the aspiration to attain full enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Through these two aspirations when one attains a very strong sense of confidence and a very strong sense of resolve to seek full enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings that is the point when one has attained genuine bodhicitta or the mind for enlightenment.
Of course to be able to have a true realization of bodhicitta is very difficult. It takes a long period of meditation and practice. However today at this point we can at least have developed an intellectual understanding of what bodhicitta means and also try to develop a sense or intuition of bodhicitta. At least for this ceremony we can have a simulated state of bodhicitta within us so therefore now on the part of all of you, generate this aspiration and resolve to seek full enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.
Before we do the actual generation of bodhicitta let us participate in some preliminary practices such as the Seven-Limbed Practices. There is no need to perform any recitation of this but you can now reflect in the following way. For the sake of generating bodhicitta for the benefit of all sentient beings I shall now prostrate to the Buddha and Bodhisattvas in front of me. What do we mean by prostrating to the Buddhas? By reflecting upon their qualities one develops a strong sense of admiration and faith in them. Then with one’s folded hands at one’s heart, one performs the gesture of paying one’s respect and acknowledging the Buddhas’ great qualities.
The second limb is making offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. When one does this one should imagine that one is offering all forms of articles and substances which are beautiful and things which one would offer as a gift. One should visualize making these offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The best type of offering is one’s own practice and realization so one should reflect that up until now one has tried one’s best to engage in a serious practice and shall now make an offering of whatever progress one has made in one’s practice. One resolves to continue to pursue one’s practice in the future with commitment and single-pointedness.
The third limb is purification and here one should reflect in the following manner. In the past one has committed many negativities either knowingly or out of ignorance, not only in this lifetime but also have committed many negative actions during past lives. The fact that one finds oneself committing negative actions in this life, falling prey to negative impulses with little choice on one’s part, is an indication that one has many habits developed in past lives of acting in a negative way. One needs to fully disclose and confront all these negative actions committed in the past and focused on them one develops a deep sense of regret and repentance for having committed those acts. This should then be followed by developing a strong resolve that in the future one will never engage in such negative actions again.
The fourth limb is the limb of rejoicing. Here one rejoices not only in all the positive actions that one has done, all the wholesome deeds one has engaged in but also one rejoices and admires the wholesome activities performed by others as well.
The fifth limb is requesting the Buddhas to turn the wheel of the Dharma, to give teachings. To put it simply Buddha Shakyamuni is the teacher and if the teacher does not speak then we will not be able to learn. So we are requesting the teacher to teach and show us the way so that we can understand.
The sixth limb is requesting the Buddhas not to enter Nirvana. This is analogous to a teacher who having come to the class is prepared to leave. This is not of any use to the students as the teacher must not only come to the classroom but also need to spend time with the students so that the students will benefit from the teacher’s presence. Of course this is from the perspective of a good student, as the lesser student would rejoice at the teachers leaving!
The seventh and final limb is the limb of dedication. Here one is praying and dedicating all of the positive energies just created, the positive karmic imprints created and one is not dedicating them so that one may have a successful life, health and so on but dedicating the positive potential towards the attainment of liberation for all sentient beings.
Now we will recite these verses in Tibetan but you should recite in your own language. Out of these three verses the first verse is the formula for taking refuge in the Three Jewels, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The second verse is the formula for generating the mind for enlightenment, bodhicitta. The third verse is give one a sense of encouragement and also reinforces one’s determination and strength to be able to fulfill the Bodhisattva ideals. We will recite the first verse now three times.
With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Until my full awakening.
So when we do the recitation, which is the formula for generating the mind for enlightenment, those who are fully participating in the ceremony should reflect upon the meaning of the verses and resolve to seek full enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Retain this mind throughout. Those who are not participating please use the time to reaffirm your resolve to be a warm-hearted person, a kind person and never engage in actions, which are harmful to others.
Enthused by wisdom and compassion
Today in the Buddha’s presence
I generate the mind for enlightenment
For the sake of all sentient beings
As long as space endures
As long as sentient beings exist
May I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.
Those who are fully participating keep these verses with you and use it as a daily practice. At appropriate times such as when you are relaxed or in a calm state of mind then read these verses to reaffirm your bodhicitta but do not do this if you are in a disturbed state of mind or feeling a strong negative emotion.
We will now perform a dedication constituting the conclusion of this ceremony generating bodhicitta. You should think in the following way. If we examine the nature of our own experience we find that an instance of a deluded state of mind like clinging to the false sense of self or strong ego-identity, leads to afflicted emotional responses which then lead to negative actions creating a negative energy. Similarly I feel that by even a very short period of time when we develop within ourselves the seed for positive thoughts, an altruistic mind fully aimed at helping other sentient beings, I am certain that this in itself creates a tremendous power and potential for positive energy.
So today in this gathering by participating in the ceremony of generating bodhicitta and in some sense reaffirming our resolve to pursue the ideals of altruism we have created a tremendous positive energy and imprints. It is important to dedicate this positive potential, imprints and energies towards an altruistic cause. The verses which I will recite are verses of dedication at state that just as the great bodhisattvas like Manjusri, Samantabhadra and so on have dedicated their positive potentials and virtues with tremendous creative imagination, we shall to follow their examples. We will dedicate the positive energy and potentials created today towards the attainment of full enlightenment for all sentient beings.
Question: Is there any special diet to follow in order to receive the Kalachakra initiation?
Answer: There is no special diet. Generally for a practitioner whose main emphasis and foundational practice is that of universal compassion vegetarianism is the best diet to follow. So long as you are not vegetarian then I do not feel that any other special diet makes much difference. I feel that vegetarianism is really admirable and if you can’t be vegetarian then as to the other forms of diet there is not grounds for a preference. Once an Indian asked me if I was a vegetarian and I said, “No”. He then asked what special diet did I have and I told him that being a fully ordained monk I don’t eat after noon but other than that I am like a pig in that I eat everything!
If the initiation ceremony you are attending belongs to Kriya Tantra which is Action Tantra as well as Carya and Yoga Tantra then of course you need to follow a very strict diet that is vegetarian. You also cannot eat onions, garlic and so on. The Long-Life empowerment, which you will be given, belongs to the Kriya Tantra class. On that day if it is possible don’t eat any non-vegetarian food.
Question: If everything is a dependent arising are space particles also? If they are not dependent arisings then what are they?
Answer: Of course the space particles would be considered as caused because as I spoke earlier even these space particles themselves are infinite in terms of their continuum so current matter is an product of its earlier instance. There is a causal continuum. From this point of view they also have a cause.
However when we talk about dependent arising or dependent origination in the Buddhist context, our understanding should not be limited to dependent arising only in terms of causes and conditions. Rather our understanding must embrace a broader and in some sense deeper understanding of dependence. Dependence need not necessarily be understood only in terms of causes and conditions; one can talk about dependence in relation to parts and the whole. The very concepts of parts and a whole are interconnected and interdependent. In some sense one emerges only in relationship to the other.
Still there is a further and deeper understanding of dependent origination which is to understand dependent origination in terms of a designated basis and the designation that involves a labeling process. This view understands things and events in the form of mental constructs. Of course this is a very subtle point and is very difficult to understand. For example if one were to examine the content of one’s consciousness, one’s perception, what one sees is the designated basis not the designation. For instance one sees things or objects but if one were to examine the content in a specific way, what is the content of one’s consciousness? One sees a certain shape or color but these are the basis of the designation of that particular object. These in of themselves do not constitute the object itself. When one analyzes in such a way then the very idea of objectivity, the entity itself begins to dissolve. One begins to find that it is non-substantial, there is no substantiality, no entityness. Of course this is a very complex issue but as pointed out earlier when one discusses dependent origination one needs to embrace these three levels of understanding of dependent origination.
Question: How do we obtain knowledge of reality or emptiness when all we perceive is appearance?
Answer: When we of different forms of knowledge and the nature of our perception, it is important to understand the complexities behind the issue. For example when we talk about knowledge we have means through which we gain knowledge. Some of the knowledge is from direct experience like sensorial experiences such as vision and so forth and some knowledge is non-sensorial; they are mental or conceptual. So there are different types of knowledge and similarly the mode of engagement of the object between sensory perceptions and mental perceptions are quite different. Also conceptual thoughts are quite different.
For example when conceptual thoughts engage with an object it does so in some sense by a process of elimination. It is selective; it does not embrace the totality of the object rather it hones on a particular aspect of the object and focuses on that aspect of the object. So in that sense it is exclusionist whereas sensory perception does not make such distinctions rather it reflects. There are different ways in which sensory perceptions and mental perceptions operate.
Because there are different types of knowledge and different forms of perception, similarly when we talk about objects of knowledge there are different meanings to the term object even from the perspective of one instance of knowledge. One can talk of the appearing object of that consciousness, the apprehended object of that consciousness or the intended object of that consciousness. So even from the perspective of one consciousness one can talk about different levels of the object of that consciousness.
When we talk about reality and our knowledge of reality we have to understand that there are different levels of reality. The doctrine of the Two Truths reflects in some sense two levels of reality. One can talk about reality within the context of the relative world and also the underlying reality of the ultimate world. Again the meaning of reality differs according to the different levels in which one is operating.
Even then it is important to understand that when we talk of the two levels of reality we are not talking about two different entities or two entirely distinct things. As I pointed out earlier the two realities are in some sense dual aspects of one and the same thing or event based on two different perspectives. For example when we speak of the ultimate truth, we are talking about emptiness and when we talk of emptiness we should not have the notion that there is some thing called emptiness “out there” which is independent and autonomous of the relative world. Emptiness can be understood only in relation to a particular instance of an object. When one takes a particular instance like an object and examine its nature, analyze its ontological status, what one finds is the absence of its substantiality. What one finds is the absence of intrinsic reality, inherent existence and this absence is the ultimate nature, ultimate reality. So there is no separate thing called emptiness other than a quality or mode of existence of the object under analysis.
Also it would be useful here to recall a distinction I made earlier between negative and positive phenomena, phenomena, which can only be understood by a negation or some phenomena, which can be known in affirmative or positive terms. Emptiness belongs to the first category; emptiness is a phenomenon only understood through a process of negation. It is the mere absence or negation of intrinsic existence or intrinsic identity. (End of talk)
Transcribed and typed by Phillip Lecso from audiotapes obtained from QED Recording Services entitled Kalachakra for World Peace: Kalachakra Initiation Preliminary. I take full responsibility for all mistakes that have occurred, through hearing and writing incorrectly what was taught, for these I apologize. May all be auspicious. May any merit from this activity go to the long life and good health of His Holiness. May all sentient beings quickly attain the state of the Glorious Kalacakra even through these imperfect efforts.