Kalachakra for World Peace Graz 2002
Teachings by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on:
The Middling Stages of Meditation
by Acharya Kamalashila,
The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas
by Ngulchu Thogme Zangpo,
The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment
by Lama Atisha Dipamkarashrijnana
Day 3, October 17, 2002
In the beginning, with regard to the process of generation of bodhicitta, Lord Maitreya says:
One that stops the path to negative existence,
One that shows the path to higher state of happiness,
And one that destroys old age and death;
I pay homage to the bodhicitta!
As is outlined in this verse by Maitreya, if we possess a wish to benefit other sentient beings, or if we possess the altruistic wish to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, based on which we cherish the well-being of other sentient beings more than oneself, then naturally as a byproduct one will stop accumulating the non-meritorious actions, which are responsible for taking birth in the negative states of existence. And when we are able to develop a positive mind like that of bodhicitta, which we can say is the ultimate form of beneficial mind, because of generation of such a mind our virtuous practices will naturally get increased, and it is in this way that we will gradually achieve a higher status.
By developing such a bodhicitta, even though we voluntarily continue to stay in the cycle of existence in order to be able to benefit all sentient beings, we develop an immense courage, as is cited in the text called Verses of Guru-Devotion, or Guru Puja, where it says:
By developing such a bodhicitta, you develop such a tremendous amount of courage, that even if you were to stay in the hot hell or ceaseless hell-realm for countless eons for the sake of just one sentient being, you will not be discouraged because of the presence of strong compassion.
May I be able to achieve the perfection of endeavor or effort!
As it says in this verse from the Guru Puja, that even though you have developed such a tremendous amount of courage to dedicate oneself for the benefit of other sentient beings, and you have totally given up caring for yourself, however because of your total dedication for the well-being of other sentient beings your own personal purposes will be fulfilled as a byproduct. And it is in this context that the great Kadampa masters in the past said that if you have the bodhicitta, it will do the job of accumulating merit, it will do the job of fulfilling one’s own purpose, and it will do the job of fulfilling the purposes of other sentient beings. So therefore as a byproduct one’s own purposes will be spontaneously and effortlessly fulfilled. Therefore it is now our task to ensure that our mind is directed towards such an altruistic mind, such a mind of bodhicitta, and to make our mind totally habituated with that. Even if you are able to develop a fraction of the quality of this altruistic intention, then we can say that is really the start of a happy life, a peaceful life. And for undertaking such a practice, we will never get a time better than what we have today, because today we have obtained this precious human life, we have encountered the precious sacred teachings of the Buddha. Having such a wonderful opportunity and facility at our disposal, it is important to make an endeavor, to make repeated effort and to try to leave as much positive imprints as possible towards developing such an altruistic mind.
In order to develop such an altruistic wish to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, we need to make ourselves familiar with various processes of visualization and objects of focus. Therefore it is important first of all to develop some sense of appreciation towards the development of bodhicitta, one must clearly discern the benefits of generating such a mind. In this way you will be able to develop a wish to acquire or develop bodhicitta. And it is in this way that we should receive this mind of bodhicitta.
Therefore in the place where you see the image of the Buddha, the thangka in front of yourself, you should visualize not only the photo of the Buddha, but you should visualize the actual presence of the Buddha adorned with major and minor characteristics and signs. In this way you should imagine the actual presence of Buddha in front of you, as it says in the text called Praising the Dependent Arising by Tsongkhapa, where it says that “When I reflect on the excellent speech of the Buddha, and when I reflect on the excellent body of the Buddha endowed with major and minor signs, my heart is filled with delight.” So in this way you should remember the qualities of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha, and reflect that he is actually present in front of you as an object of refuge, as a witness, in whose front you are generating this mind of bodhicitta. Around the Buddha imagine the presence of great masters like Nagarjuna.
In the case of Nagarjuna, in the painting here in front it has been depicted with a kind of sleeveless shirt, which is actually wrong, because the costumes and clothes of Nagarjuna should be depicted similar to any other ordinary monk and not in this form. It is a usual tradition that Asanga wears a sleeveless shirt, because he is the son of a king, whereas in the case of other masters like Nagarjuna, Aryadeva and so forth, they should be depicted in the ordinary bhikshu form. And in the terms of seniority Nagarjuna’s picture should be on the right, however in this particular photo of the 17 Nalanda Scholars, which I have commissioned to draw, I have purposely asked them to draw Nagarjuna on the left side, to represent the profound lineage of the philosophical view. However, as I said earlier, I have not asked the painter to draw Nagarjuna wearing this sleeveless shirt.
So you should visualize these masters in order written in the Prayer Requesting to the 17 Nalanda Scholars, and then similarly you should visualize other great lineage masters, like the vast lineage and the lineage of the blessing. Then likewise, in accordance with the sequence of development of Buddha-dharma, you should recall the great lineage masters who preserved and followed the Pali tradition, and then also reflect on the great masters of China, where the Sanskrit tradition later developed, and then also visualize the presence of great lineage masters of Tibet, where there is a combined practice of the translation of both Pali and Sanskrit. Within the Tibetan tradition or Tibetan school you should visualize all the lineage masters of the ancient school, the Nyingma school, and the lineage masters of the Path and the Fruit or the Sakya tradition, and the lineage masters of Kagyü, like Marpa, Milarepa, Dagpo Lhaje, and similarly the lineage masters of the new transmission, Tsongkhapa and his two primary disciples.
In short, you should imagine the complete presence of all the lineage masters right from the Buddha until to your root guru, and see that these masters are present here in front of you as a witness that you are receiving and developing this bodhicitta. And in fact, when we visualize these Buddhas and bodhisattvas in front of us, we are doing so because they have all developed bodhicitta, the mind wishing to benefit other sentient beings. All the qualities that we find in them are the result of practicing bodhicitta.
Similarly, you should also visualize the presence of infinite sentient beings around yourself, seeing that they are like yourself in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, and develop an intense aspiration and wish that “I will first myself achieve enlightenment and then help all these suffering mother sentient beings to achieve a similar state of enlightenment.” It is in this way that you should develop bodhicitta.
Now when we talk about generating bodhicitta, it should be generated within the mind of a person, and therefore at the time of generation of bodhicitta, if you are not free from certain hindrances, for example if you are discouraged, thinking “How can I generate such a great mind of bodhicitta?” and so forth. Then likewise if you lack merit, then you will also not be able to generate bodhicitta, or if you are someone who has committed strong negative deeds, again that will act as an obstruction and you will not be able to generate bodhicitta. So therefore in order to purify or eliminate, or at least minimize the presence of lack of merit and the presence of accumulation of strong negative deeds, here at this point we will reflect on accumulating merit and purifying the negative deeds. Normally this is done by reciting the Seven-Limb Prayer, but here there’s not much point in reciting that in Tibetan language, as most of you are listeners to different languages, so therefore without having to recite the Seven-Limb Prayer, I will briefly explain these seven points like paying homage, making offerings and so forth. At that time you should reflect on these points carefully one after the other.
So, as I said earlier, here again you should reflect clearly on the qualities of body, speech and mind of all these objects of refuge that you have visualized in front of yourself, and particularly you should reflect on the qualities of conventional bodhicitta and ultimate bodhicitta, and then pay homage to them physically, verbally and mentally. Paying physical homage is folding your hands, paying verbal homage means reciting words of praise, and paying mental homage means reflecting on their qualities.
And next is making offerings. In the case of making offerings, it is of two types – offerings that you own and that you do not own. In other words, mentally visualize everything wonderful, everything good, everything positive that you find in this world, and mentally visualize that you are offering all of them to the Three Ratna – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. And also you should imagine the positive qualities that you have done physically, verbally and mentally, imagine that all these virtues arise in the form of different offering substances, and then you are making the offering of these substances to the objects of refuge.
Next is the practice of confession. In this case there may be many negative deeds that you have committed in this life and which you are able to recall today, and there are may be many other negative deeds which you are unable to recall today, because either you have committed these negative deeds when you were just a very small child, or you might have committed those negative deeds in many past lives, which you are unable to recall today. However, if we reflect carefully on the state of ordinary unenlightened beings like us, we will find that we are always motivated by afflictive emotions and delusions, and what we do more or less leads to accumulating negative deeds. And not only we commit these negative deeds, but we do so voluntarily and with great rejoicing in our mind, and when we are able to express certain negative deeds, we find some kind of consolation and satisfaction with that.
So therefore here it is important to reflect carefully and recall all the negative deeds that you have committed in the past which you may be able to remember directly or which you may not be able to remember directly, but somehow you should think that “it is definite that I have committed countless negative deeds in the past.” Now in the case of these negative deeds, their function is only to harm oneself and harm other sentient beings, and there is no benefit at all in these negative deeds. So therefore you should now clearly see that “I have committed a great mistake!” So therefore you should think that “I will never commit such negative deeds and I will not allow these negative deeds come out from my body, speech and mind!”
Particularly in the case of ordained Sanghas it is extremely important to lead a pure moral ethical discipline, so that you will not disgrace the profound teaching of the Buddha. Even if you are unable to contribute towards the flourishment of the Buddha-dharma, it is extremely important not to disgrace the teaching of the Buddha. And when you engage in such practices like confessing the negative deeds in the past, it is important to recall that unless we reflect and think carefully, sometimes when we receive the vow of a monk or a nun, even though we do think that “I have now received the vow of a monk or a nun, which will act as a basis for quickly accumulating positive deeds and so forth,” but if you are unable to observe the commitments and precepts clearly and purely, then receiving these vows will be almost like inviting more negative deeds. Because you make a commitment, and then when you are unable to observe that commitment, you will end up breaking more rules, and through that way you end up committing more negative deeds. And therefore it is important to remember teachings like the one that we find in the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, where the great bodhisattva Thogme Zangpo says that unless one’s own mistakes are not investigated by oneself, even though you appear in the form of a religious person, you might end up doing irreligious practices, or practices that are not in conformity with the Dharma teaching. Therefore you should always watch your mistakes, and you should always confess them and purify them.
Next branch of the practice is called rejoicing. In this practice of rejoicing you should clearly recall the unthinkable great qualities of Buddhas and bodhisattvas that you have visualized in front of yourself. You should develop a strong sense of appreciation from the depth of your heart, thinking “how nice, how good, how beneficial these qualities that have been developed by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are.” The Buddhas and bodhisattvas achieved such a wonderful state of mind, because when they were on the stage of training they have developed a mind of bodhicitta, a mind wishing to benefit sentient beings, they have actually engaged in the practice of developing six perfections, and as a result they have either already achieved the state of enlightenment, or they are quite close to achieving it.
And then likewise you should also rejoice the qualities that are being developed by sentient beings existing within the six realms. The sentient beings that are within the six realms are still entrapped by the cycle of existence, and their life is quite pitiable, they are in a plight. However, we do find sentient beings accumulating various types of virtuous practices, and this is quite amazing, because even though they are overpowered by so many types of problems and sufferings, but they also develop the strength to accumulate certain virtuous qualities and that is very amazing and we must rejoice at them and appreciate those positive qualities, instead of developing jealousy or competitiveness.
And likewise in your own case, also you should understand and should realize that you have today obtained this precious human life, because you have collected virtuous deeds in the past, and even today you are able to develop certain virtuous qualities, and that is quite amazing and you should appreciate it and further strengthen your commitment.
The next two branches are requesting the Buddhas to turn the wheel of the doctrine or to give teachings, and requesting them not to pass away. These two practices are explained in terms of a supremely emanated body of the Buddha. In the case of the supreme emanation of the Buddha, we request them to continuously appear in this world and to keep on giving Dharma teachings, and we also request them not to pass away.
And then the seventh branch is called dedication. That means you should here dedicate all virtuous deeds that you have done, not only for achieving higher rebirth, or achieving just liberation, but try to recall vividly all these virtuous qualities and dedicate them for achieving enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. In other words you should think, “May these virtues that I have earned, become a cause for alleviating the temporary and long-lasting sufferings of all sentient beings.”
We admire the qualities of Buddhas and bodhisattvas that we have visualized in front of ourselves. Why do we admire them? We admire them because they possess bodhicitta; they possess this altruistic wish to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Now if this is the case, it is very relevant and worthwhile that we ourselves make an attempt to achieve or to generate such an altruistic wish or bodhicitta. The purpose of generating such a wish is not for personal gain or personal happiness, but to be able to help all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment.
So therefore it is extremely important to make concerted effort in developing this bodhicitta. Even if it is just a word related to the practice of bodhicitta, you should repeat those words, make your mind familiar with those teachings, those words that are related to the development of bodhicitta, and it is in this way that you should cultivate this altruistic wish to achieve enlightenment to be of benefit to all sentient beings.
This completes the practice and visualization of the seven-limb practice. With regard to the actual cultivation of bodhicitta, as I said earlier, it is important to systematically familiarize your mind with the aspects and objects of bodhicitta, and in this case it is helpful to recall the verse from the Bodhicharyavatara, where it says that all the happiness that we see in this world is the result of cherishing the well-being of other sentient beings, and all the sufferings that we see in this world are due to the self-cherishing attitude. There’s no need for me to elaborate much more, if you simply see the difference between yourself and the Buddha, you will be able to clearly see that the Buddha has achieved such a perfect state of enlightenment, because he has always practiced altruism, because he always cared for the well-being of other sentient beings, whereas in our case, we are unable to fulfill even our individual purposes, because we always get engrossed in the self-cherishing attitude.
In our ordinary pursuit we want to be powerful, we want to be strong, we want to be rich, and even in dreams we always think about all those things that bring some kind of temporary delight and peace in our mind. So this clearly shows how strongly we are influenced by the self-grasping mind, and such kind of strong self-cherishing attitude is present not only among human beings, but it is present even among the animals. Now if it was the case, that whatever we aspired to try to achieve, we would be able to achieve it, then it would be wonderful, by this time we should have fulfilled our individual purposes, and by this time we should have nothing to complain, because since beginningless time we have been always pursuing this self-cherishing attitudes. But however, because we have followed the wrong path, because the self-cherishing attitude is the wrong path, because of this we have achieved nothing. This can be clearly understood if you clearly study your present plight.
This being the case, now this is the high time to sit and pause and reflect: “Is there any other better method for improving my purpose, for achieving my purpose of long-term benefit and happiness?” In this regard it will be quite helpful and quite important if you reflect and contemplate on the teaching on bodhicitta, which was taught by countless Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the past, which was practiced by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the past. If you carefully reflect on the countless qualities of the development of bodhicitta, you will find some amazing qualities in that. For example if you reflect on the qualities right from the Buddha until to your spiritual master, and likewise if you look at some positive qualities that you will see among your Dharma friends that are sitting around you, you will be able to see that they have these different positive qualities basically because they have a wish to benefit other sentient beings, so this altruistic attitude is really the source of all positive qualities. The more you have a wish to benefit other sentient beings, the more your mind will be relaxed, the more your mind will be calm and it will be at peace. So therefore, if you follow this path of bodhicitta, taught by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the past, it is definite that this will give you long-lasting peace and happiness.
Now how should we do that? What is my present plight? My present plight is such that we have kept the self-cherishing attitude at the innermost place of our heart, and similarly, the misconception of the reality, the self-grasping attitude, is also placed within the innermost of our heart. So we have taken refuge in these two very, very negative emotions – the self-cherishing attitude and the self-grasping attitude. And it is because of our having taken refuge to the self-cherishing attitude and to the self-grasping attitude, that we continue to encounter countless problems, unceasing streams of difficulties, one after the other, and sometimes it seems that we are so overwhelmed by this suffering, that we feel as if we are confined in the darkness of suffering and problems.
Therefore this is now the time, since we have found this precious human life, encountered the Buddha’s teaching, this is the time to see these two misconceptions, the self-cherishing attitude and the self-grasping attitude, as our sworn enemy. And we should take the wonderful example of Buddhas and bodhisattvas and try to cultivate the qualities of a bodhisattva. If you do so, then you are really fulfilling the purpose of being a human being, fulfilling the meaning of a human life. If you follow such a path, then you are really an intelligent person, really a wise person. This is so because the mind cherishing the well-being of other sentient beings is the gateway to all types of peace and happiness, whereas the self-cherishing attitude is the gateway to all types of downfalls, sufferings and problems. Through this kind of reflection, at this point you should develop some sense of appreciation, enthusiasm and delight towards generating bodhicitta.
Now here in this gathering, it is possible that there may be others, who are not Buddhists, and among those who are not Buddhists there could be those who are following one or the other religion. If you are someone who is following Christianity, then you can reflect on the presence of Jesus and Mary, and reflect on their positive qualities. And for a Christian, when they regard with great respect to Jesus, this is not because Jesus has strong power, he’s a strong man, or he’s very rich, but you show so much respect to him because of the presence of compassion, because of presence of a benevolent mind in him. And therefore if you are someone who sincerely practices the message of love to god, then you should also love your fellow human beings.
Like Christianity, all the major religious traditions of the world, they are same of giving the common message of developing love, compassion, brotherhood and so forth. So therefore if you are a follower of any religion other than Buddhism, there also you have plenty of opportunities to develop and reflect on these positive qualities, the wish to help others and benefit others.
And if you are someone, who has no trust or belief in any kind of religion, even if you are a strong atheist, even in that case you do respect the point of becoming a good person, a beneficial person. And it is because of this that today, in this highly developed modern world, the Buddha is seen as the embodiment of compassion, and in this way the Buddha is respected not only by the believers, but he is respected by many non-believers because of the appreciation of these positive qualities. Therefore even in the case of those who do not believe in any particular religion, it would be quite helpful if you make some determination, thinking, “I will lead a compassionate life, a life that doesn’t harm other sentient beings!” And so during this session if you reflect on this point, right during this session it will bring some kind of peace, happiness, tranquility and relaxation in your mind. And because of this inner relaxation, inner tranquility that you develop, you might be able to bring smiles on your face, and at the end of this session when you go out, perhaps you might be able to carry smiles on your face, and later on when you meet your family members, they might ask you the question “What happened to you? Did someone give you anything because you look so happy today?” This is obviously not because of some material gift, but because of your inner tranquility and relaxation.
[Generation of bodhicitta by reciting three verses]
The first verse is taking refuge. You take refuge not only for your personal well-being and benefit, but you take refuge for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Then the second verse refers to the actual generation of bodhicitta. That means, you are making a commitment to develop compassion supported by wisdom, and that not only for yourself, but for the benefit of all sentient beings, and it is in this way that you develop bodhicitta. That is the actual process of generation of bodhicitta.
And the third verse is from the Bodhicharyavatara by Shantideva, and this verse is recited and reflected for stabilizing the bodhicitta that you have developed earlier.
Having generated such a bodhicitta, what is important is to try to continuously practice this in order to strengthen your determination towards achieving enlightenment. However, after having generated this bodhicitta here, if you claim from today onwards saying that you are a bodhisattva, that is a mistake, that is wrong. It will take a long time until you become an actual bodhisattva, in some cases it might take a few eons. So what we have done today by generating bodhicitta is like moving on a railway track – you have just turned your face and you have made a commitment to move towards that direction. It will take a long time to develop it, but however if you sustain your practice and continuously make an effort to generate it, then gradually you will pick up bits and pieces of the qualities of bodhicitta.
For some people who are very shortsighted, they might think that by repeating these three verses of generating bodhicitta three times they become bodhisattvas, and by undertaking a three-year and three-month retreat they get enlightened. If one expects such kind of push-button enlightenment, then it is a clear sign that they will not be able to achieve these qualities.
And it is because of this the great master Atisha has said with regard to the cultivation of the sun- and moon-like bodhicitta – the sun-like bodhicitta refers to the ultimate bodhicitta, and the moon-like bodhicitta refers to the conventional bodhicitta – so Atisha says that for cultivating and developing sun- and moon-like bodhicitta, even if it takes countless eons, it doesn’t matter, and I think this is absolutely true. Because if you reflect carefully, from beginningless time what we have been doing, or what you are doing, we have been practicing the self-cherishing attitude and self-grasping attitude. And what is our present plight? What have we achieved? We have achieved nothing! So therefore time is really not a factor. If you make a move towards generating these bodhicittas, then with the passage of time you will be developing bit by bit the qualities of bodhicitta, and that makes your life meaningful, that makes your existence meaningful.
In fact for a person who follows the path of a bodhisattva, whose prayer is, as we have cited in Bodhicharyavatara “As long as space remains, may I too remain to dispel the sufferings of sentient beings.” For a person who makes such prayer, that person’s mind is instilled with energy and strength and for such a person with such determination time is really not a factor. On the other hand if you remain shortsighted, you will lose your mental courage. And therefore, as said in the Bodhicharyavatara and Precious Garland, we should regard ourselves as one of those elements like earth, water and so forth, and continue to develop such a bodhicitta and pray to be of benefit to all sentient beings.
And then we will continue from the Stages of Meditation by Kamalashila. I must mention that in terms of Buddhist practice, it is extremely important that one should be well versed in the teaching of the Buddha, and at the same time one should sincerely and fully engage in the practice. The part of the practice is extremely important, because what we are studying here is not like any other academic subject, like history. The very purpose of being well versed in the teaching is so that we are able to relate it to our own mental continuum and so that we are able to practice it. So therefore it is important to thoroughly understand the teaching on one hand, and on the other hand to try to practice what you have learned, what you have studied.
And with regard to the different thrones that you see on the stage, the heights of these thrones are not determined in terms of inner spiritual qualities, these are determined in terms of the Tibetan hierarchy and kind of social status. The Dalai Lama having the highest social status, I have the highest throne, so therefore the heights of these thrones are not determined in terms of spiritual realization.
In the past it is said that the Mongolian scholars had made a kind of apt remark by saying that the Tibetan lamas have long names, but very short qualities and the great masters in the past have short names, but long qualities. So in the case of the Dalai Lama, I have also a very long name – Jetsun Jampel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso.
And of course this is just a side talk. In addition to this long name, when a long life offering is made to the lama sitting on a high throne, then the disciples or those who offer the long life offering, they recite beautifully composed prayers, which further exaggerate the qualities of the lama, and on those occasions, if the lama also raises his eyebrows, pretending or accepting that he has those qualities, there’s a risk of even losing one’s vow or ending up committing many negative deeds, or telling a lie, so therefore one really has to be very careful on those occasions.
I was explaining these points in reference to the necessary causes for achieving proper contemplation, for developing the prerequisites or causes of special insight. Three causes are being mentioned here as causes or prerequisites of development of special insight, as is cited here on page 9 in the Stages of Meditation. They are: relying on holy persons, seriously seeking extensive instructions and proper contemplation. With regard to relying on holy persons His Holiness briefly mentioned that point. With regard to seriously seeking extensive instructions, that means that you should be someone who is versed here and who has studied major texts.
In this case the instructions and advice of the highly learned reincarnated lama called the Nyengung Tulku will be extremely useful. He makes this apt comment by saying that if you read various texts and teachings you will find that they are of two categories. There’s one process of presentation of the teaching, which is done in accordance with the general process or general trend of the teachings as a whole, we have for example the six texts composed by Nagarjuna and five different texts composed by Maitreya. These texts are taught in accordance with the general process and trend of the stages of the path taught by the Buddha. And then there are other kind of instructions and teachings, which are taught keeping in mind the need of a particular individual person. An example of these types of teachings, which are primarily taught for the benefit of one single individual person, is like the Poems of Saraha, or Doha of Saraha. Out of these two processes of instructions and teachings, if you follow the process and trend of the first teaching, than there’s no way you can make a mistake, there is no danger of falling into the wrong path, because you are following a teaching which systematically explains the whole stages of the path leading to enlightenment, so there is no risk in there. In the case of following the second kind of instruction, which is taught particularly for one individual person, keeping in mind the need of that particular individual person, it is not sure by studying such pith instructions, whether you will be able to understand the complete teaching of the Buddha as a whole or not.
Then if you read from the Stages of Meditation, there is a paragraph, which starts by saying
What is meant by seriously seeking extensive instruction? This is to listen seriously with respect to the definitive and interpretable meaning of the twelve branches of the Buddha’s teachings.
Then it cites a quotation from the Unraveling of the Thought Sutra.
Now here we are talking about the prerequisites for developing special insight. Out of the two types of special insight, here we are primarily talking about the transcendental special insight, and therefore we are talking about the prerequisites of the transcendental special insight. In the case of the transcendental special insight, before achieving that special insight, one should have realized emptiness, so therefore it is important to first of all properly study those texts, which explain the meaning of suchness or emptiness.
And with regard to the teaching of the Buddha, there are two types, interpretative teachings and ultimate teachings. And in the case of the Vaibashikas and Sautrantikas, they do not make such a demarcation of interpretative or ultimate teachings in the teachings of the Buddha, because they say that all teachings of the Buddha are ultimate teachings. Now it is the Mind-only school and the Madhyamika school which make this classification of the interpretative and ultimate teachings in the teaching of the Buddha.
In accordance with the Mind-only school, interpretative teachings are those teachings, which you cannot accept literally, whereas ultimate teachings are those teachings, which you can accept literally. However in the case of the Madhyamika school of thought, the meaning of the interpretative and definitive teaching are different. According to them, the teaching of the Buddha, which directly and explicitly explains the ultimate truth as the main object, that teaching is called ultimate teaching, and the teaching, which explicitly and directly explains the meaning of the conventional truth, that is called interpretative teaching. So the demarcation between the interpretative and ultimate teaching is done in terms of the subject.
Then in the Stages of Meditation it explains about the third factor or prerequisite, quality of special insight that is proper contemplation. And the text reads:
What is meant by proper contemplation? It is properly establishing the definitive and interpretable sutras.
That means that you should develop proper understanding of the teaching of the Buddha in general and particularly of the meaning of the two truths. One must repeatedly reflect on the meaning of them, and then finally you should be able to precisely perceive the meaning of the ultimate truth. And once you have developed conviction towards the meaning of the ultimate truth, then focusing on emptiness you will be able to undertake the mediation of development of calm abiding as well as special insight. And having reflected on the meaning of emptiness, if you make your mind one-pointedly abide on that, then that is called “seeking the meditation through the view”. You can also “seek the view through meditation”, that means you first achieve calm abiding, and then through that way you should also seek the view. So therefore what is of utmost importance here is that you should have a precise understanding of the meaning of the ultimate truth.
Then in the following lines it explains about the process of actual meditation. With regard to meditation – there are two types of meditations, during the meditative session and during the post-meditative session. And with regard to the post-meditative session practices, as it is explained in the Stages of Meditation on page 9:
Yogis should at all times avoid fish, meat and so forth, should eat with moderation and avoid foods that are not conducive to health.
As is clearly mentioned here, one should be moderate in eating, and then also without sleeping one should engage in the practice of the yoga and so forth. All these points are explained in the Stages of Meditation.
And with regard to the actual meditative session, you should first set up a proper motivation, then you should reflect on the practice of the seven limbs, through which you purify the negative deeds and accumulate positive deeds, and then you should adopt a proper physical posture, which is said in the text like that of the seven-fold Vairochana posture. Then in the text it explains about the process of developing a calmly abiding mind, with regard to the focus of calmly abiding mind it could be a conventional truth, it could be an ultimate truth, it could be an external object, it could be an internal object, with regard to an internal object it could be one’s own mind, or one could also focus on the channels, energies and drops within one’s body. And then likewise if you reflect on the twelve sets of scriptures of the Buddha, if you summarize all the twelve scriptures of the Buddha, and then if you let your mind focus on that summarized points, then that is a calmly abiding meditation. On the other hand, if you undertake a detailed study of the twelve sets of scriptures, then that is the process of meditation of the special insight.
During the actual process of development of calmly abiding mind, what is really important is not to allow your mind to get distracted, in fact the very word calm abiding comes from the meaning “let your mind be totally calmed from all types of external and internal distractions, and let it abide on the chosen object one-pointedly”. That’s the meaning of calm abiding mind.
What are those negative factors that interrupt the meditation on calm abiding mind? It is interrupted by distraction and sinking or dullness, and if you develop attachment towards a certain external object, by recalling the pleasures that you have experienced in the past and so forth, then that is called excitement, which is also one form of mental distraction. Then another distraction, another interruption is the mental dullness or mental sinking. The mental sinking is a kind of a quite powerful interruption in the sense that during that interruption where the mind becomes dull, even though the mind may be focused on the object, however there is no clarity of the object. And from the side of the subject of mind itself, it loses its alertness, it loses its intensity and it becomes dull. There is great risk here, because you might still think that “I am meditating and focusing on the object” even though there is no clarity. And in this way at a sudden glance you might find that “I am still doing a wonderful meditation”, because you have not lost the object of meditation, but however you have not developed any clarity towards the object, your mind is not fresh, the intensity is lost. Because of this, if you gradually sink into subtler forms of mental dullness, then in this way you might make a mistake between mental sinking and actual meditation, and if you pick up this habit of continuously remaining in that state of mental dullness or mental sinking then this is a great risk, because then your mind will gradually become very dull, the sharpness of the mind will be lost.
So when mental distraction or mental excitement arises, the mental excitement arises because the spirit of your mind is too heightened, is to raised up, so when the spirit of the mind is very heightened, then the mind starts getting distracted from the object, and therefore as a counterforce to that you should bring down the spirit of the mind and let it focus on the object; that is one way of solving the problem of mental excitement.
Mental sinking or dullness arises because the spirit of the mind is too low, it has lost its spirit, and in this case what you need to do is to raise the spirit of the mind, to heighten the spirit of the mind. The spirit of the mind can be raised or heightened by reflecting on certain delightful object, something that brings joy, light and illumination in your mind.
So it is important to clearly understand the nature of mental distraction, the nature of mental excitement, and the nature of mental sinking. You should also be able to quickly identify them, when they come and when they interrupt you, and in this way make sure that your calm abiding mind is not interrupted by these two negative interruptions.
With regard to the development and practice of calmly abiding mind, if you practice it very systematically and very rigorously, then it is possible to develop it even within a few months. The purpose of development of calm abiding mind is to be able to develop special insight, and therefore even if you are able to develop calm abiding mind, one should not simply be satisfied with it. As we have read yesterday, that the purpose of developing calm abiding mind is to be able to eliminate afflictive emotions, and afflictive emotions can be eliminated only by realizing suchness, only by developing a special insight that develops precise insight or understanding of the nature of suchness, nature of ultimate truth, and therefore it is important to understand the meaning of the selflessness of the person and the selflessness of phenomena.
The selflessness of the person and phenomena that is explained here is in accordance with Kamalashila. Kamalashila was a disciple of the abbot Shantarakshita, who was a follower of Svatantrika-Madhyamika school of thought. According to him, he accepted conventionally inherent existence of all phenomena, and he also accepted external objects. And therefore according to this presentation, as an antidote to afflictive emotions one develops wisdom realizing the selflessness of a person, and as an antidote for removing obscurations to enlightenment one develops the wisdom realizing the selflessness of phenomena. They also say that wisdom realizing the selflessness of a person is grosser comparing to the wisdom realizing the selflessness of phenomena.
Therefore here in this text of Stages of Meditation on page 12, Kamalashila says:
Yogis should analyze in the following manner: a person is not observed as separate from the mental and physical aggregates, elements and the sense powers. Nor is a person of the nature of the aggregates and so forth, because the aggregates and so forth have the entity of being many and impermanent. Others have imputed the person as permanent and single. The person as a phenomenon cannot exist except as one or many, because there is not other way of existing. Therefore, we must conclude that the assertion of the worldly “I” and “mine” is wholly mistaken.
The understanding of a person according to some non-Buddhist schools of thought, they say that there is a person separate from the body, separate from the mind, and the reason they put forth is that they say that there should be a person other than the physical body, because when an our “I” sees an object, then you say “I have seen the object”, clearly demarcating that there is an “I” separate from the body. And likewise we talk about remembering what you have done in the morning, and in the case of the people who are able to remember past lives, they talk about their life in the past lives, so therefore they say that from these experiences we can say that there is a person apart or separate from the psychophysical aggregates. It is also not easy for them to pinpoint a person within the psychophysical aggregates, so therefore they say that the person is something that is totally different from the psychophysical aggregates. And they also say that this person that is separate from the psychophysical aggregates is something that is permanent, something that is independent, and something that is partless. For example, you say “when I was a child”, clearly saying that “I was there when I was a child”, and you think that that “I” is still present today, or you would also say in my past life, again showing that you were there in the past life. So from those points of assertion, from those points of statements, those non-Buddhist schools of thought say that there is a person that continuously comes from past lives and goes to the next lives, and that person is permanent, partless and independent from the psychophysical aggregates. However to our actual experience, if we try to find such a person apart from the psychophysical aggregates, it is not possible to find such a person.
Therefore here Kamalashila clearly refutes the viewpoint of the non-Buddhist schools of thought by saying that a person is not observed as separate from the mental and psychophysical aggregates, elements, sense powers and so forth. This is the presentation made by the non-Buddhist schools of thought. They also say nor is a person of the nature of the aggregates and so forth, because the aggregates and so forth have the entity of being many and impermanent. This means a person is not of the nature of the aggregates and so forth, because if the person were in the nature of psychophysical aggregates, this would imply that just as there are so many different types of psychophysical aggregates, similarly there should be a similar number of “I” or person. So that’s the meaning of saying that nor is a person of the nature of the aggregates and so forth, because the aggregates and so forth have the entity of being many and impermanent, whereas the person is one.
Others have imputed the person as permanent and single, so this is how the others, the non-Buddhist schools of thought impute the person as something permanent and single, saying that they are not of the same nature with the psychophysical aggregates, and they are not observed as one with the psychophysical aggregates.
And then finally he says that we must conclude that the assertion of the worldly “I” and “mine” is wholly mistaken. That means, as is presented by the non-Buddhist schools of thought to our ordinary unenlightened mind, when we think about the person, we tend to see that person as an owner, and the psychophysical aggregates as something being owned by that person, so we tend to see the relation between the person and the psychophysical aggregates owned by the person, as like the relation between the king and his followers, the king and his citizens.
And it is because of such conception, as is said in the Pramanavarttika, that sometimes when we see a person with an elegant physical form, we even aspire “how nice if I were able to change my body with his kind of body”. So we have this kind of misconception of the reality. This clearly shows that we tend to see the body and the psychophysical aggregates as totally separate, totally different, and we even go to the extent of thinking that it is possible to change the body and so forth.
So that kind of grasping of seeing the person as something permanent, partless and solitary or independent, that kind of grasping is called the grasping of the person, and that grasping of the person, the “I” and the “mine”, is completely mistaken and that in fact is the root cause of suffering, because there is no self-supporting, self-sufficient person or a permanent person, as we have understood. So therefore we must analyze and see how such conception is wrong, how such conception is a misconception.
As you have seen in the Stages of Meditation, there is a clear classification of the selflessness of the person and the selflessness of the phenomena. This kind of demarcation is very essential and very important for properly understanding the meaning of the ultimate reality.
In the texts that are related to the Hearers or the Shravakayana, they primarily talk about the selflessness of a person. When we develop attachment and hatred, as is clearly outlined in the Pramanavarttika, it says that when we develop attachment and hatred, then they develop based on the conception of the “I”. In the Pramanavarttika it clearly says that when there is this feeling of self, then you also develop the feeling of others, and based on this you develop attachment to yourself and to those that are on your side like your friends and relatives, and similarly you develop hatred and the feeling of distanceness to those who belong to the side of others, and based on that you develop all types of faults and negative emotions like attachment, hatred and so forth. In this way we need to see how this kind of grasping of the self is the root cause of all problems, the root cause of development of all types of afflictive emotions.
But this does not mean to say that in general there is no “I” at the conventional level, because at the conventional level there is a nominally imputed “I”, which is the basis of experiencing harm and help and benefit. Now the difference in the degree of the force of grasping of “I” makes a big difference in terms of cultivation of afflictive emotions, and this can be clearly understood if you reflect even in a very ordinary level. For example even in a very ordinary case, among very ordinary people, when we talk about “me” and “you”, “I” and “others” and so forth, even though there is an “I”, there is a person, but when you talk about “I”, among different types of people there are some people that when they talk about “I”, they do so with much arrogance, much pride, and by developing this feeling of “I” they tend to exploit others, they tend to denigrate others, look down upon others. Whereas in the case of some other people when they talk about “I”, they tend to see that “I” as kind of low, and thus by reflecting on that “I” they develop some sense of humility. When you develop a strong sense of ego, and a strong, tight grasping of the “I”, then that becomes a source of problems, that becomes a source of development of all types of afflictive emotions. Whereas when you do not hold the “I” with great tightness, with great force, with strong grasping, then there will be less development of other types of problems, other types of afflictive emotions.
When you have a strong ego, strong feeling of “I”, then because of this tight and strong grasping of the “I”, even if you encounter very small minor problems, you will not be able to tolerate it, you get highly explosive, and you get very irritated over that. On the other hand, if the grasping of the “I” is smaller, if it is not that big, then you will not care much whether others praise you or whether others harm you, there will be not too much ups and downs, and in this way you will be able to maintain the calmness of the mind, stability of the mind. This point is very clearly mentioned by some medical doctors also, and according to their medical findings, they say that those persons who make too much self references, and always talk about “I”, “mine” and so forth, these people are more prone to heart attack. This is true, because when you have a strong grasping of the “I”, then you are unable to tolerate even minor problems, and thus you tend to magnify these small problems, you are not able to tolerate that, and thus you get all types of physical and mental problems.
Therefore, now the question is how to reduce this strong, tight grasping of the “I”? In order to reduce this strong, tight grasping of the “I”, it is important to first of all identify the “I” at the nominal level and the grasping of the “I” that must be eliminated, or the “I” which is the object of negation. It is important to find the actual mode of existence of the “I”, so when you search, when you analyze, when you investigate the ultimate reality of the “I” and when you see the mode of perception of that “I”, how does it perceive an object, how does that “I” arise, then you will find that there is a big difference between the presence of such self-grasping and the absence of such self-grasping.
Let us take the example of this rosary in my hand. If this rosary belongs to someone else, and I see this rosary being held in hands of someone else, and I see that rosary from a distance, and I might think, “Yes, he has a good rosary.” And then suddenly the rosary falls from his or her hand, then I think, “Yes, the rosary fell down on the ground,” but I do not show much concern, because the rosary does not belong to me. Now later on let us say that someone offers you that rosary or you buy such a rosary and you own the rosary, and then if the rosary falls down from your hand then you get much concerned, thinking that one of the beads might have broken and so forth. So this clearly shows that this state of not being able to tolerate things that belong to you being broken and so forth, is because of your strong sense of self, strong grasping of self.
Because of this strong grasping of the self we tend to demarcate, as I have highlighted right in the beginning, and in fact I have touched on this point earlier also, when you have this strong self-grasping, then you tend to demarcate people, you categorize some as your friends and bring them to your own side, and you categorize some as not belonging to your side, as neutral sentient beings, and you categorize some as your enemies. On the other hand, if you are able to perceive clearly that there is no such “I” which is permanent, partless, independent, which is self-supporting, if you are able to see that clearly, and particularly if you are able to see that “Just as I have an “I”, similarly all other persons have also an “I”, and the “I” that I possess is nothing special. Therefore, why should I think that the “I” that I have is something special, or something superior?” When you are able to see your “I” as completely equal to the “I” of other people, that will also help reduce your ego. So that is the way you should see the selflessness of the person.
With regard to the selflessness of the phenomena, just as you have seen that in the case of the person, the one who enjoys the object, that it does not have an inherent or independent existence, similarly in the case of those phenomena other than the self, just like the example of the rosary that I have presented before you, they also like the person do not have true existence, they do not have ultimate existence. Now this kind of understanding of lack of true existence with regard to objects enjoyed by the person is also very, very important, because normally when we develop attachment, hatred and so forth, we do so with reference to a particular object. When we see or encounter an attractive and pleasant object, we tend to develop attachment, and when we encounter an object, which is ugly, which we do not like, then we tend to develop hatred or anger. Therefore, if you are able to see that just like the person the objects, the phenomena that the person enjoys, also do not have such true existence, then you will be able to reduce your attachment, and you will also be able to reduce your hatred and other afflictive emotions.
For example in accordance with the philosophy of the Mind-only school of thought they say that the object, like that of a rosary and the mind are substantially not separate, substantially they are one, and from that point of view they talk about emptiness, which is the lack of substantial separateness of the subject and object. Meaning: when we say that the subject and the object are substantially same, it means that what you experience, or the object that your mind engages in, is basically a reflection of your mind, so how you see, how things appear to you, is very much dependent on your outlook, on your mental attitude. Through the realization of lack of substantial separateness of the subject and the object, it will help reduce your attachment, hatred etc. towards the object. In this way you will be able to see that objects like psychophysical aggregates and so forth also do not exist as they appear to your mind, and in this way you will be able to reduce and eliminate many of the misconceptions, many of the wrong thoughts or improper minds that you develop with reference to these external objects.
In Kamalashila’s Stages of Meditation on page 12 it reads:
Meditation on the selflessness of phenomena should also be done in the following manner: phenomena, in short, are included under the five aggregates, the twelve sources of perception and the eighteen elements. The physical aspects of the aggregates, sources of perception and elements are, in the ultimate sense, nothing other than aspects of the mind. This is because when they are broken into subtle particles and the nature of the parts of these subtle particles is individually examined, no definite identity can be found.
So this is a presentation of the selflessness of phenomena in accordance with the Mind-only school of thought. According to the Mind-only school of thought they do not accept an externally existent phenomenon, externally existent object. And when they talk about the selflessness of phenomena, they talk about two types of selflessness of phenomena, a selflessness of phenomena that appears to conceptual thought, and a selflessness of phenomena, which appears to a sense consciousness, which is a non-conceptual thought. According to the Mind-only school of thought, they say that even though there is no external object, but things appear to the mind because of the activation of imprints of the mind. With regard to imprints they talk about different types of imprints: imprints of similar type, imprints based on terms, expressions and thoughts, imprints due to the view of self-grasping, and further on they talk about fifteen different types of imprints, like the self, others, time, number and so forth.
And all these phenomena that appear to the mind are of same substance to the mind. For example in the case of seeing a rosary by the eye consciousness, when the eye consciousness perceives or sees the rosary as a rosary, then they say that this is due to the activation of the imprint of similar type. And when the rosary is seen as an object of engagement of terms and names, then they say that this is due to the activation of the imprints of past expressions and thoughts. And when you see that basis of engagement of terms and names as existing from its own side, this is due to the activation or awakening of imprints of the grasping of the self.
However, in reality things do not exist as they appear to the mind. There is a disparity, a gap between appearances and reality.
So this appearances of an object as if existing from its own side, as a basis of name and thought, that is the grasping of the self, which appears to a conceptual thought. And the lack of existence of such a self is what appears to the wisdom mind.
The source of the Mind-only school of thought is found in the Sutra itself, where Buddha in one of his texts clearly says that these three realms are only mind, meaning that the three realms are of same substance to the mind, and of same nature to the mind. Similarly there are also quotations from Nagarjuna, where in one of his texts it says that all the four elements and so forth can be included in the consciousness. So in this way, in this philosophical school of thought, external object is refuted. So such kind of refutation of existence of an external object also is quite beneficial in removing attachment, hatred and so forth towards external objects.
However, if you study the Madhyamika school of thought, they would rather tell the Mind-only school of thought, “Your presentation of emptiness in the form of lack of substantial separateness of the subject and object is wonderful, it is also very useful. However, the problem is that you have refuted only the external object, whereas in the case of the mind you still tend to say that the mind has true existence, ultimate existence. So therefore, when the mind encounters ups and downs, and when the mind encounters sufferings, problems and so forth, then this grasping of the mind as having true existence will not help reduce the mental afflictive emotions.”
Therefore it is important to see that just as the objects of engagement of the mind do not have external existence or true existence, similarly the mind that perceives the gap between appearances and reality too does not have true or independent existence. This is explained in the text Stages of Meditation itself, where Kamalashila says:
In the ultimate sense the mind too cannot be real. How can the mind which apprehends only the false nature of physical form, and so forth, and appearances in various aspects, be real? Just as physical forms, and so forth, are false, since the mind that does not exist separately from physical forms, and so forth, which are false, it too is false. Just as physical forms, and so forth, possess various aspects and their identities are neither one nor many, similarly, since the mind is not different from them, its identity too is neither one nor many. Therefore, the mind by nature is like an illusion.
So it is in this way, from the point of view of the Madhyamika school they talk about the lack of true existence of all phenomena, not only the object, but also the mind. And this point is also further explained in text.
If you analyze the nature of the mind, if you analyze the nature of the past mind, the nature of the upcoming or future mind, the way the mind sees different aspects and forms of objects, and the way the mind has a fleeting nature, if you reflect on all this, then you will find that mind too does not have true existence or real existence. So this kind of lack of true existence from the Madhyamika point of view is applicable to all phenomena, and that’s why in the Madhyamika school of thought it talks about four types of emptiness, two types of emptiness, sixteen types of emptiness and so forth. When it speaks about the sixteen types of emptiness, it speaks about emptiness of emptiness. That means not only in the case of conventional truth, or conventional phenomena, but also in the case of ultimate phenomena like emptiness itself, if you analyze and investigate whether emptiness is its own ultimate nature, you will find that that is not the case, because if you again analyze the nature of emptiness you will find it too is devoid of inherent existence. So that’s the meaning of emptiness of emptiness.
Now if this is the case, the Mind-only school of thought might face some problems when they encounter certain quotations from Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, where it speaks about all phenomena having no entity, or being empty of entity, empty of nature. This is interpreted by the Mind-only school of thought by saying that when the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra says that all phenomena are devoid of their own nature, that is an interpretative teaching, and not an ultimate teaching. It is interpretative teaching in the sense that the “devoid of true nature” could be referred in different contexts, depending upon whether it is an imputed phenomenon, or other-dependent phenomenon, or a thoroughly established phenomenon. With reference to imputed phenomena, the meaning of devoid of inherent nature means that they do not have inherent characteristics. In the case of the imputed phenomena and in the case of the other-dependent phenomena, this means that they do not have inherent production, and in the case of thoroughly imputed phenomena it means that they are devoid of ultimate existence.
Just as the Mind-only school of thought accepts three categories of phenomena: imputed phenomena, other-dependent phenomena and thoroughly established phenomena, similarly the Madhyamikas also accept these three types of phenomena. And when we talk about dependent phenomena it refers to the basis, the foundation, when we talk about imputed phenomena, it refers to the object of negation, and when we talk about thoroughly established phenomena, it refers to the ultimate reality, the emptiness.
So basically both the Mind-only school of thought and the Madhyamika school of thought accept these three types of phenomena, but when it comes to the explanation of the meaning, they do not agree, they have different views. In this way according to the Mind-only school of thought, they say that the actual thought and intent of the second turning of the wheel of the doctrine is as is interpreted by the Samdhinirmochana Sutra. However, in accordance with the Madhyamika school of thought they accept the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra not as an interpretative teaching, but as a definitive teaching. However it has to be understood in its proper context, in the sense that when we encounter a word like “there’s no form”, it does not mean there is no form in the conventional sense, but it means there is no form having inherent or true existence.
So in this way, what is really important for you to remember and written here is that when we talk about meditating on emptiness, it is first of all important to judge and examine “What kind of perception, what kind of thought arises in your mind when you think about the “I”, when you think about yourself, when you think about the person? What kind of perception you develop? You should be able to clearly understand that based on your experience, and then gradually you will be able to see that there is no “I” as is perceived by your ordinary thought, because to your ordinary mind the “I” tends to appear as having independent, true existence, but in reality there is no such existence. So it is through such an understanding that you will be able to reduce and eliminate the self that is the root cause of samsara.
And then if you proceed in the Lamp on the Path by Atisha, you will find that there are verses that explain about the benefits of cultivation of calm abiding, and also verses explaining about the prerequisite qualities for developing calm abiding and then also it explains about the need to develop a union of method and wisdom and so forth. But the main point that I would like to discuss here is as is explained in the verse 47, where Atisha very clearly says that:
Understanding emptiness of inherent existence
Through realizing that the aggregates, constituents,
And sources are not produced
Is described as wisdom.
That is the main point that I would like to discuss here. That means that if you see physical objects or constituents or elements and so forth, you will see that at the conventional level, at the nominal level, there is production, disintegration and so forth in the case of this phenomena, but this kind of production and cessation or disintegration occur only at the conventional level, only at the level of being designated by the mind. But if you see from the purview of the ultimate analysis there is no such production, there is no such cessation, there is no such disintegration. Such an understanding is really the development of wisdom realizing emptiness.
And similarly, if you reflect on the meaning of the verse paying homage found in Nagarjuna’ s Fundamental Wisdom, where it speaks about the fact that whichever phenomenon is dependently originated has no cessation, no production, no separateness, no sameness and so forth. Then also what Nagarjuna is saying is that even though there is separateness, sameness, permanence, impermanence, production, cessation at the conventional level, but at the ultimate level when you search you do not find production, cessation and so forth as the ultimate nature of that particular phenomenon, because if this interdependently originated nature of production, cessation and so forth is in the ultimate nature of a particular phenomenon, then that should be found when searched by a mind that analyses the ultimate reality of a phenomenon.
So therefore we can say, for example in the very conventional level we do know that a seed produces a sprout, a seed produces a tree, a flower and so forth, but at a conventional level we take it for granted that a sprout is produced from the seed, a tree is produced from the seed and so forth, and apart from that we do not go into the details saying: at what point that sprout is produced from the seed, what was the hour, what was the minute, whether the seed and the sprout are of same nature or of different nature, what are its preceding causes and so forth. We do not analyze it that way, we are simply satisfied and contented with the conventional nature, the conventional reality, but if you try to go beyond this conventional sense of being satisfied by what appears on the conventional level, then you will not find it, as is again clearly explained in Nagarjuna’ s Fundamental Wisdom, where Nagarjuna says: “Things do not arise from oneself, not from others, not from both, and not without a cause, and therefore things do not have production and so forth.”
So these points are further elaborated from verse 47 to verse 53, and particularly if you read the last verse, verse 53, Atisha sums up the point by saying:
Thus, whatever is meditation
On selflessness, in that it does not observe
An inherent nature in phenomena,
Is the cultivation of wisdom.
So this Lamp on the Path and the thought expressed in the Lamp on the Path by Atisha represents the Madhyamika school of thought, even though one of Atisha’s teachers Suvarnadvipa or Lama Serlingpa was a follower of the Mind-only school of thought, but in terms of the philosophical view Atisha followed his teacher Avadhuti or Rigpe Kujug, who followed the thought of Chandrakirti. So the philosophical viewpoint being found in the Lamp on the Path is the philosophical viewpoint of Chandrakirti.
The ultimate thought of the philosophical viewpoint of Nagarjuna is explained by Buddhapalita. In accordance with Buddhapalita, this ultimate viewpoint on emptiness is that everything, whether it is a permanent phenomenon, impermanent phenomenon, whether it is a person or object or it is the mind or object, they all are simply designated, nominated, and they do not have objective or inherent existence from their own side. This is the case whether you analyze the cause, analyze the fruit, analyze the nature, in whatever way you analyze you will find that they are simply designated and have no inherent existence.
So in a nutshell, this point of the Madhyamika school of thought can be clearly understood if you understand the logic of dependent origination, which is again clearly explained in one of Nagarjuna’s texts, where it says, “Whichever is in the nature of dependent origination, that is the nature of emptiness, and that alone is the middle way, that alone is the Madhyamika way.”
The same point is explained in the Four-hundred Verses by Aryadeva, where also he says: “When any particular phenomenon has the nature of dependently originated nature, then it cannot arise independently.” So it is from that point of view that things are devoid of inherent existence. And similarly in the commentary of the Four-hundred Verses by Chandrakirti, he also clearly says that here when we talk about the self, the self refers to a mode of existence which is not at all dependent on others, so that is the meaning of the self. So here when we talk about the self that is the object of negation, we are not talking about the conventional self, but we are talking about the self which is non-existent, but where we tend to see it as something having inherent or objective existence.
So therefore it is important to realize that when we are talking about emptiness, it is not equal to nothingness or non-existence. It is the meaning of interdependent existence, because things are interdependent, they do not have an existence which is independent, because dependence and independence are mutually exclusive. It is through such an understanding that you will be able to eliminate the two extremes, the extremes of non-existence and the extremes of independent existence or permanent existence.
The whole point is again summarized in one of the texts by saying that “In short, there is no phenomenon whose nature is not of dependent origination, and therefore there is no phenomenon whose nature is not empty.”
In the beginning of the Stages of Meditation you will recall that there is a brief explanation of the meaning of dependent origination, which was confined primarily in the sense of conditioned phenomena. There the dependent origination is explained in the sense of the cause-effect relationship. But here when we talk about the subtler form of interdependent origination from the Madhyamika point of view, then we are not talking about interdependent origination in the sense of cause-effect relationship, but in the sense that everything, whether it is a permanent phenomena or impermanent phenomena, they are all designated by names and terms. And such a mode or way of existence is the true nature of all phenomena, and therefore such a reality pervades all phenomena, and that is the meaning of “lack of entity of all phenomena” as is expounded in the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra and this kind of explanation of view of emptiness is the most profound one.
That means so long as you have such a profound view of emptiness, then all the lower graspings of the self, as is explained in the lower schools of thought, in the non-Buddhist schools of thought, in the schools of thought of the Vaibashika and Sautrantika, and as is presented by the Mind-only school of thought, all these self-graspings will not arise, and similarly the afflictive emotions induced by such wrong views will also not arise. So this clearly shows this is the highest and the most profound philosophical viewpoint, whereas in the case of realization of the view of selflessness of the person and phenomena and so forth, as is explained in the lower schools of thought, even if you have a thorough understanding of such philosophical viewpoint, still it is possible that you will develop wrong views with regard to certain objects.
For example in the case of the Mind-only school of thought, through realization of their view they will be able to stop certain grosser manifestations of grasping of the self of the person and the self of phenomena, but they will not be able to stop the arisal of the grasping of the subtler form of grasping of the self and phenomena, as is explained in the Madhyamika school of thought. In the case of the Madhyamika school of thought, there is no differences in terms of subtlety between the selflessness of the person and the selflessness of the phenomena, these two classifications are made only as a different reference object, the emptiness of the person is called the selflessness of the person, and the emptiness of phenomena other than the person is called selflessness of the phenomena. Apart form the differences of the reference point, apart from the differences of the basis, there is no differences in terms of the subtlety of the viewpoint.
And because of the differences of the philosophical viewpoint, there are also differences in terms of the presentation of the afflictive emotions, as is presented in different schools of thought.
And then in the rest of the texts, in the Lamp on the Path as well as in the Kamalashila’s Stages of Meditation it clearly says that if you keep on your meditation and make you mind habituated with such a process of meditation on the selflessness of person and phenomena and so forth, then gradually you will be able to traverse from one spiritual ground to the other spiritual ground, leading to the achievement of enlightenment.
For example in the Lamp on the Path this point is achieved in the verse 59, where it says:
Having meditated on suchness,
Eventually after reaching “heat” and so forth,
The “very joyful” and the others are attained
And before long, the enlightened state of buddhahood.
And finally, I would like to sum up the point by citing a quotation from Nagarjuna, where he says:
Through the virtue accumulated by this, may all sentient beings
Be able to accumulate the collection of merit and wisdom,
And through that way may they all be able to actualize
The truth and the form body of the Buddha.
So to sum up the whole point, the most essential and heart practice is the development of these two, the conventional bodhicitta and the ultimate bodhicitta. The development of conventional bodhicitta refers to developing an altruistic wish to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. And the development of the ultimate bodhicitta refers to developing the wisdom realizing emptiness, as we have just now discussed by citing quotations from the Stages of Meditation and Lamp on the Path. If you take these two practices as the heart and most important practice, then you will be able to directly combat with the two enemies, the self-cherishing attitude and the self-grasping mind. And it is through such a practice of conventional bodhicitta and ultimate bodhicitta, that you will receive the blessings of the Buddha, and that you will receive the blessings of the lama, and it is in this way that the Nagarjuna’s prayer will be fulfilled.
Thank you very much!