Preliminary Teachings to the Kalachakra Initiation
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
on The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas
Translator: Jeffery Hopkins
Santa Monica, California
Question: If Avalokiteshvara is a deity representing the emanation of Buddha’s compassion, which can be attained by everyone, can there be more than one person who is an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara?
Answer: If we consider Avalokiteshvara from the point of view of Avalokiteshvara being the physical manifestation of the compassion of all Buddhas, then that sort of Avalokiteshvara is just the sport or emanation of the Buddhas and is not a person or being in his own right. If we speak about reincarnations in general, there are many different types. For instance in this particular case there is one person who is emanating an Avalokiteshvara or many. So from this point of view there can be many Avalokiteshvaras.
In terms of reincarnations there are many different levels. It is possible for a person who is still a common being to be a reincarnation. It is possible for somebody who has achieved the Path of Seeing or a high Bodhisattva ground to have the incarnation of a Buddha.
Question: Could you share from your own personal experience, not Buddhist theory, how you overcome problems in order to develop loving-kindness?
Answer: The other day I mentioned the development of a sense of responsibility. Even insects in order to survive form a community to work together. We human beings have to live together. If we were like animals who live alone then cities would never have developed. Humans are social animals who need to live together. Thinking along this line especially in the modern economic picture is the problem of the environment. When we talk about the problems of the environment or the economy there are no natural boundaries. These are the problems of the whole, one group.
The responsibility does not lay with one nation but the entire global population. The entire population includes ourselves. Each of us bears some responsibility. This is my feeling. It does not involve any philosophy. In our daily life we need wisdom which comes from proper motivation or activity.
A true smile comes from a genuine warm feeling. Artificial smiles come from a different kind of motivation. If you examine the smile carefully you can tell the difference between a genuine and artificial smile. Sometimes a smile gives you more happiness while another gives you suspicions. A genuine smile must come from a warm heart.
Everyone likes warmth and happiness. These things come from preparation or groundwork we call karma. Karma means action. Every event comes from action. Today’s comfort comes from yesterday’s actions. Without action things do not change.
Action itself is difficult to judge as being positive or negative. It mainly depends on motivation. Motivation is the prime factor whether an action is positive or not. Scientists describe how crucial human touch is to human infants. This shows that the body itself needs compassionate feelings. This is human nature; it has nothing to do with religion, nothing to do with philosophy.
Question: With respect to belief in an eternal deity, does this differ from the Buddhist view of absolute mind?
Answer: A lot depends on what you mean by absolute. It means many different things. Absolute can mean a oneness or independence. This meaning can refer to the mind. From the Buddhist standpoint subtle mind is almost like a creator. We accept self-creation. Within this self-creation my future is shaped by my actions. My actions create my motivation. My motivation creates my subtle consciousness. Motivation happens because there is consciousness. Why does a different kind of consciousness happen? There is subtle consciousness. From this viewpoint the innermost subtle consciousness is almost like an ultimate creator.
There are many different kinds of deities. One category of deity belongs to samsara and they are under the influence of ignorance or negative mind. Another category is the manifestation of different Buddha qualities. These deities are manifestations of Buddha mind.
Question: Do faith and grace have a place in your practice of Buddhism?
Answer: Yes. Generally there are three kinds of faith. There is the faith, which is the wish to attain certain qualities. There is a faith, which is clarity of mind, and the faith of conviction. For instance when you speak about having faith in sources of refuge, all three of them are involved. The Tibetan word for grace or blessing is in two parts. The first part means magnificence and the second part transform. In one way it means to be transformed into a magnificent state and in another way it can mean to be transformed by way of magnificence.
Therefore the real sense of blessing is the transformation of one’s own mind from a negative state to a positive state of mind. In this sense the real transformation must occur within oneself by one’s own effort.
Question: If one is rude to another need one apologize?
Answer: Yes but sometimes you must analyze the situation and your motivation. Sometimes you need harsh words, tough action. That action or harsh words comes not from blind anger but rather with awareness or clarity from analyzing the situation showing the need for harsh words. In that case if may be better to leave it and not apologize. In certain people it may be more helpful to show tough action or harsh words. If the person realizes their mistake then one should apologize which gives more conviction or help to that person. All these things depend on individual circumstances. Too much sincerity can sometimes lead the other side to be more negative, in that case no need to apologize. On a good ground one can respond to toughness with toughness.
Question: What are the role of deities since you do not believe in a creator and how does rebirth happen without a soul?
Answer: We do say that these deities are creators. The non-soul or no-self theory is often misunderstood. Sometimes people get the impression that Buddhists deny the existence of self or I at all. This is wrong. Buddhists do accept some existence of I. Nobody denies the existence of I. I is there. Whether we realize I or not the natural feeling of I is there. Nobody can deny that. If I is there then what is the meaning when we say non-self? That the self is not independent or a oneness. Buddhism does not accept this sort of I.
In many ancient Indian traditions there is the belief in the atman or soul. On that basis they accept rebirth. If that is true then the soul can never change. When we are a child we say we are young. When we grow old we say I am old. The changing of the physical should not change the feeling of I. Changes in the human body cause changes in the feeling of I. The self is not then independent or unchanging. The self is always changing.
As I mentioned yesterday the consciousness has no beginning and no end. So Buddhist tenets or philosophical schools have different definitions of the I. According to some Madhyamika and Cittamatra schools they believe that the supreme consciousness is as a self or I. According to the Prasangika-Madhyamika, the highest, deepest or most profound Buddhist philosophy, the I is merely designated of the combination of consciousness and body. I is there, not only there but also since beginningless time.
Question: What is the best way to overcome fear in meditation?
Answer: What kind of fear? Again there are many different kinds of fear. There is the fear of earthquakes. This is serious and must make preparation. Then there is senseless fear. As a small child I use to be afraid to walk past a dark room. This is due to one’s own wrong imagination. This is a different type of suspicion or fear. This fear is simply mentally created from factors of our own conceptuality. Thus how you think about it, your attitude is very important. Often these feelings are brought on by loneliness or suspicion of everyone and then you feel insecure. In this case with the practice of compassion and respect of others and a sincere and open attitude then this will reduce this kind of fear.
Let us return to the text. Yesterday I spoke of the mode of procedure of the path of the Theravada vehicle, of the Bodhisattva vehicle and of the Mantra or Tantra vehicle. The great Atisha took these practices and condensed them down into the practices of beings of three levels of capacity.
With respect to the three levels of capacity for training in the stages of the path, on the first level one is concerned with overcoming sole attachment to the affairs of this lifetime and is turning the mind toward the longer period of time, the future. It is necessary to take care of this lifetime but for that person for whom this is no longer the primary concern, the primary concern having become the future lifetime, that is the first of the three levels.
On the next level, the middling level, one develops a wish to cease the process of cyclic existence itself through undoing the process of afflictive emotions. When a person turns his or her mind to undoing the process of cyclic existence entirely, that is the middling level.
On the third level one is no longer thinking just to take care of one self but instead one is considering all sentient beings and is seeking the omniscience of Buddhahood in order to help all beings. This is the third level, the being of great capacity.
From a positive point of view this is how the three levels are explained. From a negative point of view, that is to say in terms of what one is removing, one is seeking basically to remove suffering. What is the ultimate source of suffering? From the Buddhist explanation it is the afflictive emotions. On the first level one is on a stage where it is not possible to overcome the afflictive emotions that are at the root of cyclic existence, one is seeking to overcome the pain and suffering caused by them. One is restraining the external behavior, which is motivated by the afflictive emotions, even though at this point one can not overcome the afflictive emotions.
To remove the negative thoughts is very difficult, not an easy task. First, what should one do? One tries to minimize those negative actions due to negative thoughts. One should try to stop these completely but if unable to do that then at least minimize the negative actions.
In the second stage one works to restrain, to overcome the afflictive emotions that give rise to bad behavior. On the third level one seeks to remove the latent predispositions that have been established by afflictive emotions.
Thus in the practice of Buddhism, whether directly or indirectly, one is engaged in a technique to overcome afflictive emotions. It’s really impossible to say that one is engaging in the practice of Dharma if one is not doing anything about the afflictive emotions. To do so would be the religion of the easy minded.
All the great teachers such as Shakyamuni or Jesus Christ clearly demonstrated that one must fight the negative emotions. They themselves went through many difficulties and had to sacrifice a lot. One must follow their examples. I always am telling our Buddhist brothers and sisters that we are very presumptuous. Buddha himself spent six years in hardship meditating without food or clothing. He left his kingdom and spent many years in the forests. Eventually he became enlightened. We do not undergo these kinds of hardship and are expecting great achievement. If I consider myself to be a Buddhist follower and our teacher became enlightened through hardship, then I a simple monk will not achieve enlightenment unless I put out great effort.
It is important for Buddhists and Christians to take their founders’ examples seriously. The sincere follower or practitioner should go to the level of action demonstrated. We as Buddhists have to fight our inner enemy, constantly. One Tibetan master said, “My whole practice involves holding the antidote of wisdom in front of the delusions”. This is the practice of self-examination, always watching, examining oneself. Mindfulness is the watcher. If the mind starts to move towards a wrong way then one notices and tries to stop it. This is the way to improve oneself.
That was a general presentation of the stages of the path arranged according to the three levels of capacity. Now the text refers to the first level of capacity:
It is a practice of Bodhisattvas-
For the sake of freeing themselves and others from the ocean
of cyclic existence-
To hear, think, and meditate day and night without deviation
Here at this time of having attained the great ship of leisure
and fortune hard to gain.
At this time of having gained a human life support, we have the very best support for being able to engage in thought. There are many special things which humans can do by way of their special capacity for thought. The focus is to transform one’s mind. In order to transform the mind, it is necessary to train. Now it is with respect to the topic of training that we come to the topic of meditation.
What is meditation? Meditation is a matter of familiarizing the mind with an object such that in time it becomes natural. It is an artificial training of the mind, a familiarizing, a conditioning of the mind.
Basically there are two types of meditation. One is meditative cultivation in which you are seeking to generate a certain type of attitude such as when you seek to generate faith or love. The other type of meditation is when you take something as your object and meditate on it such as meditating on impermanence or selflessness.
For both of these types of meditation two other types of meditation are needed. In the first one reflects on many different types of reasoning in order to induce ascertainment. This is called analytical meditation. When one has induced ascertainment by way of reflecting on many reasonings, then one sets one’s mind one-pointedly, without analyzing, and this is called stabilizing meditation. In order to attain ascertainment, one must first do analysis.
In order to meditate on an object it is necessary to know that object or topic well. Because of this there is the series of three types of wisdom. The wisdom arisen from hearing. At this stage one is hearing about the doctrine, studying it and getting it straight. Then comes the wisdom arisen from thinking which entails thinking, contemplating over and over that topic and generating ascertainment. Based on this then one can develop the wisdom arisen from meditation.
When it says to hear, think, and meditate day and night without deviation, it doesn’t mean that one should not sleep. If we divide the day into session and non-session what is important to do is to keep whatever you have gained in the session such that it does not completely disappear during the periods of non-session. You need to keep it going in some form.
There are even cases when during the day you engage in study, are thinking, if that has not disappeared if some form of it remains until you go to sleep, then even during sleep you can continue reflecting on the problem. There are cases indeed of something that you could not figure out during the day, you can figure out at sleeptime during dream. When you have these experiences during dreamtime you should not take them as some sort of profound prophecy but as a matter of continuing your own analysis.
It is a practice of Bodhisattvas to give up their fatherland
That has, like water, the fluctuations of desire for the class
That like fire, has burning hatred for the class of enemies,
And that has the darkness of obscuration forgetting to
adopt [virtue] and discard [non-virtue].
Since one’s own homeland is full of one’s own family, parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends and so forth it is easy when meeting with them and so forth to generate desire and hatred. Thus it is very helpful to put some distance between one self and them. The purpose is to distance one self from your own generation of desire and hatred. If that purpose is achieved then there is no need to distance oneself from friends and relatives.
The second stanza sets forth the problems one encounters when not putting a distance between oneself and friends, enemies and so forth. The third stanza sets forth the advantages of achieving such a distance.
It is a practice of Bodhisattvas to resort to isolation –
Through abandoning bad objects the afflictive emotions
Through the absence of distraction application to virtue
Through clarity of mind ascertainment of doctrine is
During that period of time when one has not achieved stability with respect to the antidotes to desire and hatred, it is important to distance oneself from the objects, which would cause this. When one distances oneself from objects, which generate desire and hatred, the mind becomes withdrawn and capable of reflecting on virtuous practices. Thereby virtuous practices naturally increase.
Through engaging in such training of the mind, the mind gradually becomes more and more alert. In general early morning is a very good time for a sharper type of intelligence. Thus it is important to rise early and meditate. However you need to do this relative to your own disposition, your own constitution.
The fourth stanza is concerned with overcoming a mind that is attached to this lifetime, to the affairs of this lifetime.
It is a practice of Bodhisattvas to renounce this life –
Close friends, who companied together for a long time
The wealth and articles achieved with striving are left
And the guesthouse of the body is left by the guest of
There are two types of meditation on impermanence, one coarser and the other subtler. When Buddha set forth the Four Noble Truths, he spoke of four attributes with respect to each of the four truths, making sixteen. The First Noble Truth is that of suffering and the four attributes of true suffering are that they are impermanent, miserable, empty and selfless. Thus the first of those is impermanence. When one meditates on impermanence from within the sixteen attributes of the Four Noble Truths, this is the meditation on subtle impermanence.
However here at this point where one is seeking to generate a mind, an attitude, that turns away from overemphasis on the appearance of this lifetime, it is important to meditate on coarse impermanence.
Indeed all of the afflictive emotions; desire, hatred and so forth depend upon ignorance. But at this stage one can not just get rid of ignorance. Therefore one needs a means to overcome the coarser forms of desire and hatred immediately as they arise. One of the chief reasons why desire and hatred arise is that we are overattached to this lifetime. We have a sense that it is permanent, that it will last forever and with that sort of an attitude, people are overattached, overconcentrate on this lifetime. They put too much value on material goods, material possessions. They are attached too much to temporary friends, temporary situations. Thus as a method which is immediately employable, one needs to reflect on the fact that one will pass away. These situations will change.
When we speak of renouncing this lifetime it does not mean that one should give up all activities concerned with taking care of this lifetime. Rather within the two divisions of practitioners, householders and those who have emerged from the household, for both of these two classes of practitioners, even monks and nuns, it is important to engage in a middle style of behavior. Buddha taught about not falling either to the extreme of indulgence or to the extreme of excessive asceticism. Thus it is necessary to take care of this lifetime. If this is the case for monks and nuns then of course it is the case for a layperson.
In our lifetime some kind of contentment is very important. There are two types of desire. One kind of desire is a reasonable desire. In order to live one needs a house or money. As a practitioner one desires to achieve altruism, wisdom or ultimately to achieve Buddhahood. This kind of desire is the right one.
Another kind of desire is an attachment to the things you see, that you want. This leads to a lack of contentment and is a negative desire, an unreasonable desire. If you ask yourself if you really need these things the answer is no. Without these things one can survive. This type of desire has no limit, no way to satisfy it. It leads ultimately to suffering. It is important to have a brake on this kind of desire for contentment.
Without the first kind of desire there is no improvement, human evolution. All human development comes on the basis of desire. We have to make a distinction. I call the negative desire attachment.
For meditating on impermanence its very important to meditate on the indefiniteness of death, when death will be. When one thinks about this then the question arises, what will happen after death? This leads us to the topic of rebirth. According to Buddhism one decides on what exists and what does not exist by way of whether the thing in question is observed by valid cognition or not. Among existents there are those that change and those that don’t change. Those, which change, depend upon causes and conditions and those, which do not change, do not depend on causes and conditions. Thus among existents there are these two classes.
Among those, which depend upon causes, they can mainly be classified into the external substances, matter or material things and internal consciousness. There are many different categories of phenomena such as production that are neither the material thing itself nor consciousness but are in a category called non-associated compositional factors. All of these depend upon causes and conditions.
With respect to external substances, material phenomena, one can speak of their substantial causes and the cooperative conditions. If there is no substantial cause present then no matter how many of the cooperative conditions are present that thing can not be produced. When one investigates the causation external, material phenomena, such as one’s own body, when one carries it back and back in the system of Kalachakra one finally comes to particles of space.
Between the destruction of the last world-system and the formation of the next world-system there is a period of vacuity. The particles of space referred to previously are these particles during the period of vacuity. When we consider the substantial causes of material phenomena and carry them back and back and back to this period of vacuity, there are earlier continuums, these particles of space. They are very subtle.
Once these particles of space are produced-phenomena they are phenomena which disintegrate moment by moment. However it seems that their continuum probably has no beginning. With respect to certain material or physical objects there is a limit or end to their continuum. But it seems one might have to say that in general if we just consider physical phenomena composed of these particles as having no beginning but an end. Without the substantial cause things can not exist. This is a law of nature.
The next question is whether there is mind or not. Nobody doubts the existence of particles. Is there such a thing as consciousness or mind? Though we use it at all times it is hard to realize the mind. One can develop a deeper awareness or realization of what is mind mainly through meditation. This is a simple technique. Try to stop thoughts of the past, the future or having the mind follow the sense organs.
Because the mind runs a great deal to external phenomena and takes on the aspects of external phenomena, it is as if the mind is hidden, whereas it actually isn’t so. The actual nature of the mind is luminous and cognitive but remains hidden to us therefore we can’t identify it. Therefore as I was saying earlier one needs to keep the mind from being distracted by external things. When one stops distraction to external objects and stops thinking about things which occurred in the past, stops thinking about things that might occur in the future and gradually develops stability to lengthen that space in which you are not thinking about the past, not thinking about the future, then the luminous and cognitive nature of the mind tends to appear in and of itself.
As I mentioned yesterday there are different levels of consciousness. The coarser level of consciousness depends on the physical particles. Therefore without the physical support this consciousness can not function, it can not develop. The more subtle consciousness even without the physical particles it can function. Through training sometimes the mind can depart the body and can again re-enter. Sometimes through the training of the mind some extraordinary experience or phenomena can occur. This is because of that nature of the subtle mind.
How did the universe happen? The Buddhist explanation is that the new world-system forms before there are any sentient inhabitants. Due to the actions of sentient beings the world-system eventually forms. When the physical conditions are right then the sentient beings appear. There are sentient beings who will reside there so the world-system forms.
Similarly the human body is composed of particles. When the body changes the grosser level of consciousness also changes. One galaxy appears and another disappears endlessly. Generally speaking beginningless and endless.
Besides the physical there is some other energy. We may call it mind or special kind of energy. Like matter the mind is also always changing. Even the subtle level also changes momentarily. It shows that it depends on causes.
On the external level there are substantial causes and cooperative conditions. When one looks into the substantial cause of a consciousness, it is very difficult for a physical phenomenon to serve as a substantial cause of a consciousness. That which makes something into having a nature of luminosity and cognition itself would seem to have to have as its nature a luminosity and cognition. With respect to a sense consciousness for instance, there is an observed object-condition, which is the object, there is a dominant condition, which is the sense faculty, and an immediately preceding condition. The immediately preceding condition is that which makes the consciousness into having a nature of luminosity and knowing.
Thus any consciousness is produced in dependence upon a former continuum of consciousness. If it were not produced that way then consciousness could either be produced causelessly or from a discordant type of cause. If any kind of produced phenomena such as consciousness or anything else were produced causelessly then either it would exist anywhere and anytime or at nowhere and at no time. This indicates, shows a sign, that produced phenomena depend upon causes and that they depend upon concordant causes.
Thus it seems preferable to assert that the continuum of consciousness is beginningless. The continuum of the substantial causes of consciousness is beginningless. This is the root by which former and later rebirths are established. A more specific reason for asserting rebirth is that there are cases of people who very clearly remember former lifetimes. For those who don’t assert rebirth it’s quite difficult for them to explain such phenomena although they do try to explain it.
In general from a Buddhist viewpoint if we accept the beginninglessness of consciousness then there is less question, less contradiction, although this may not solve all problems. On the other hand if one accepts a beginning of consciousness then there are more difficulties, very difficult questions to answer. We prefer the fewer questions.
Another way to approach phenomena is to divide them into the classes of those that are manifest, those that are slightly hidden or obscure and those that are very hidden or obscure. Those, which are in the class of manifest phenomena, are realized by direct perception. Those in the class of the slightly obscure or hidden are realized by the usual sort of inference that operates by the power of the fact. The third class of the very hidden or obscure are realized by way of scriptural inference, inference of belief.
Our consciousnesses are such that they naturally have a nature of luminosity and knowing. Under the proper conditions they are capable of knowing everything. However in the sort of condition we have in which we are obscured, obstructed and defiled we can not say, “Because I don’t know something it can not exist”. It is important to make the distinction between not finding something and finding something to be non-existent. There are many types of things where people have not found proofs for their existence but this does not establish that they are non-existent. They have not found nor determined their non-existence.
With respect to those phenomena, which would appear to an ordinary person if they were present, when they don’t appear, when you don’t see them then you can say they are not present. However with respect to those phenomena that wouldn’t appear to an ordinary person the very fact that they don’t appear, you don’t perceive them, doesn’t establish that they aren’t there, that they don’t exist. Candrakirti made a statement like this.
It is very important and very interesting to investigate more into the nature of the mind. As a Buddhist monk I am always interested in discussions with scientists who are involved in this field; about human beings, about psychology, the relation between mind and brain. I have had very useful discussions with scientists. It is very helpful to know their latest findings.
Theoretically speaking the Buddhist attitude is that if it does exist one should be able to find it. Under this situation through scientific analysis or investigation, if it is not found then we have to accept that this does not exist. For Buddhists the scientific experiment is very helpful, very useful.
This is the system, which is the basis for the theory of rebirth. Some beings can take a future rebirth under their own choice. This we call reincarnation. Sometimes unfortunately in the Tibetan community reincarnation has become a social status. This is very unfortunate, not good. This is why I make distinctions between those who are lamas and those who are also reincarnations. Those who are both, neither, one who is a lama but not a reincarnation and one who is a reincarnation but not a lama.
It is a practice of Bodhisattvas to abandon bad friends
Who, when accompanied, increase the three poisons
[of desire, hatred and ignorance],
Cause the activities of hearing, thinking, and meditating
And make love and compassion non-existent.
For beginners it is a very dangerous to accompany bad friends. Whether there is bad motivation or not it can be very dangerous. It is very important to accompany with, to acquaint with people of better type, good friends, healthy friends, friends who encourage our good side. Indeed there are many cases of people who due to the influence of their friends begin taking drugs, drinking alcohol and getting themselves into a lot of trouble. This is the meaning of this stanza.
It is a practice of Bodhisattvas to hold more dearly
Than their own body the excellent spiritual guide
Who when relied upon causes faults to be removed
And good qualities to increase like a waxing moon.
The sixth stanza indicates that it is important to acquaint with people who can serve as models of good behavior, models of virtue and so forth for oneself. It is very important to acquaint with, depend on and get used to an excellent spiritual guide. Because of the focal importance of depending on a spiritual guide, a lama, a guru, Buddha himself in the Sutra system and in Tantra set forth the qualifications for a spiritual guide, a lama.
Since it is impossible to help others become tamed if one is not tamed oneself; it is necessary first to tame one’s own mental continuum. The first qualification of a lama or spiritual guide is that his/her continuum be tamed. It is not sufficient to tame one’s continuum, to restrain oneself just occasionally, here and there, and have some feeling that one has done so. Rather this must be done continually throughout the entire day.
It’s very important for a student to examine the behavior of a spiritual guide. For the time being you have to act like a spy on your lama. Otherwise if you have some sense of faith and immediately take on the person as a lama, then in time your mind will change and you will become disillusioned. There is no hurry in choosing or depending upon a lama. You should take your time. It is very important not to be mistaken. Thus in tantras it is even said that it is suitable to engage in this kind of examination of a spiritual guide for twelve years.
Who could be protected by a worldly deity
Himself also bound in the prison of cyclic existence?
Therefore, it is a practice of Bodhisattvas to go for refuge
To the Three Jewels, which are undeceiving when, refuge
With respect to the Three Jewels, the central focus or way of getting at what refuge is, is to look at the Doctrine Jewel. The Doctrine Jewel specifically refers to true cessations, which are abandonments of faults, of defilements, and true paths, which are the means of abandoning those faults.
…thus these are mental qualities. The Doctrine is like medicine, the Buddha is like a doctor and the Spiritual Community are like nurses. The main or central of all of these is the Doctrine.
What are true cessations? True cessations are factors of the cessation of faults, defilements or obstructions. When one looks into it further true cessations are ultimate truths. When one takes it further true cessations are the final nature of a mind in which the defilements and obstructions have been extinguished.
With respect to mental defilements, the very entity or nature of the mind itself, its luminous and knowing nature, is not affected by the defilements. The defilements do not subsist in the very entity of the basic mind. Because defilements do not subsist in the very entity of the mind itself, it is said that defilements are adventitious. This indicates that they can be removed. The mind can be separated from its defilements.
Thus in what way is it said that defilements are adventitious? To understand this one needs to know a presentation of afflictive emotions. There are a great number of different types of afflictive emotions but according to Asanga’s Compendium of Manifest Knowledge they are divided into the six root afflictive emotions and the twenty secondary afflictive emotions.
Those that are the most obvious to us are desire, hatred and pride. Now it is said that at the basis of all of these afflictive emotions is ignorance. With respect to identifying what ignorance is, there are many different explanations, coarser and subtler, among the various schools of Buddhist tenets. If we speak about ignorance from the point of view of the Madhyamika school and from within that the sub-division called the Prasangika, then ignorance is a obscured consciousness that apprehends objects as if they exist in their own right.
If we examine cases of our own generation of desire and hatred, we can see that desire and hatred are based upon an object’s appearing as if in its own right it is vastly attractive or vastly unattractive. Based on assenting or agreeing with this false appearance of objects as if they are from their own side very attractive or unattractive, one is drawn into desire for them or hatred towards them.
Thus it is clear that when such desire and hatred are generated, they are generated in dependence upon ignorance, the ignorance which assents to the false appearance as their root. Does this consciousness that apprehends objects as if they are self-instituted, as if they exist in their own right as being very attractive or unattractive, have a correct mode of apprehension or is it mistaken? One has to look into this.
This is the context in which the topic of emptiness comes. When one uses the reasonings for establishing the emptiness of inherent existence, it is the case that one can understand through these reasonings that objects don’t exist in their own right. They are not self-instituting. Reasoning contradicts the way objects seem to exist with such an ignorant consciousness. Conversely reasoning supports the wisdom consciousness that realizes that objects do not inherently exist.
Once the inherent existence of objects and the absence of inherent existence of objects is opposite, then a consciousness that apprehends objects are inherently existent and a consciousness that apprehends the absence of inherent existence have opposite modes of apprehension. Because of this the wisdom, which realizes the absence of inherent existence, will damage or undermine a consciousness that conceives objects to inherently exist.
An ignorant consciousness that perceives objects as if they inherently exist can be opposed by another consciousness, a consciousness that realizes that those objects do not inherently exist. Because reasoning backs up such a wisdom consciousness, it can be increased and increased. It is from this point of view that it is said that ignorance and the afflictive emotions can be removed. When desire, hatred and so forth are generated they are generated in dependence upon this type of ignorance as their foundation. When one cultivates wisdom, which realizes the absence of inherent existence, this gradually undermines desire and hatred and lessens their force.
It is from this point of view that it is said that one can achieve a true cessation, which is a separation from afflictive emotions that it is possible to achieve such that such does exist. Thus the Doctrine Jewel are these true cessations and the true paths that bring them about. When a person generates a superior path consciousness, this being a wisdom consciousness that directly realizes emptiness, then that person is called a Superior and becomes a spiritual community jewel among the Three Jewels.
It is possible to posit persons as among the Three Jewels because that sort of person has within his or her mental continuum a quality of realization that makes it possible for them to help other sentient beings in accordance with that level of realization. When such a person’s practice becomes more and more profound, then that person eventually achieves a Truth Body which is a fulfillment of that person’s own welfare and an extinguishment, a true cessation, of all defilement. That consciousness which is devoid of all defilements then manifests its capacity to know all objects of knowledge. This is the reference of the term a fully enlightened Buddha.
Those are the three refuges of Buddhists. There is no exposition of someone who is a Buddha who earlier was not an ordinary sentient being or did not train in the paths, who was not an ordinary sentient being like ourselves and who did not train in the paths. It is by the way of progressive development that anyone achieves Buddhahood.
Transcribed and typed by Phillip Lecso from audiotapes obtained from Thubten Dhargye Ling entitled The 37 Bodhisattva Practices. 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.