Preliminary Teachings to the Kalachakra Initiation
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
on The Bodhicaryavatara
Translated by Thupten Jinpa
New York City
For those who wish to meditate on bodhicitta and generate this altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, start by generating enthusiasm and great admiration by reflecting on the great merits and benefits of generating such a mind. This will enable the practitioner to successfully bring about the realization of bodhicitta within one’s own continuum.
The merits and benefits of bodhicitta have been explained extensively and in great detail in Santideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. From the point of view of a single lifetime, one can realize or perceive the beneficial effects of a good heart. For instance if someone possesses this precious good heart, not only is that person’s mind calm, happy, relaxed and serene but also such a good heart somehow allows that person greater success, prosperity and happiness in their life. Also the possession of such a good heart makes the person more courageous and broad-minded.
On the other hand if someone is always suspicious of others, fosters ill-feeling and hatred towards other sentient beings then because of that very polluted state of mind, that person projects that attitude towards others. Irrespective of others’ attitudes towards the person, that person relates to others through the filter of negativity. So long as one is a human being one has to relate and interact with other fellow human beings, this is a natural fact. In spite of this unavoidable fact, such a person will relate and interact with others in a very suspicious and negative manner. Therefore in the end such a person will lack happiness, calmness of mind and serenity.
Even looking from the point of view of a single lifetime, if someone wishes to be happy, it is the good heart, which one must cultivate and generate. If someone wants to be successful and prosperous, it is the good heart, which must be generated and enhanced. If someone wants to bring happiness to others and share in that happiness, it is the good heart, which must be generated and enhanced. If someone wishes to enjoy both short-term and long-term happiness then it is the good heart, which must be generated and enhanced.
Also for someone who desires to attain favorable rebirth in successive lifetimes in the future, it is also a good heart which must be generated and enhanced within oneself. Higher rebirth comes by leading a way of life according to the principles of sound ethical discipline such as the observance of morality based on the ten positive actions. These are actions, which restrain from the ten negative actions, which are the main negative actions created by the three doors of the body, speech or mind of the agent. An example is the taking of the life of another sentient being. Stealing harms others’ wealth and possessions. Causing dissension and discord among other people harms the friendships of others.
All these actions which are harmful for others’ lives, physical bodies, wealth or relationships are negative in character. Therefore by leading a way of life which is based on observing a sound moral discipline which restrains from indulging in these negative actions lays the foundation for accumulating the causes and conditions which later lead the individual to take rebirth in higher states of existence. All of these ethical actions point to a fundamental need to respect and revere others’ lives and welfare.
The importance of a good heart can not be underestimated in relation to one’s progression on the spiritual path of the Mahayana tradition. According to the Mahayana tradition, bodhicitta or the genuine altruistic aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings is considered the gateway to the Mahayana path. Generation of bodhicitta is the initial stage of having entered onto the path leading towards enlightenment. Bodhicitta is a state of mind, which is based on a foundation of having a genuine realization of universal and unbiased compassion towards all sentient beings. It is on the basis of whether or not an individual practitioner has generated within themselves such a state that they are determined to be on the Mahayana path or not.
All of the great qualities of the Mahayana path, starting from the initial bodhicitta stage all the way to the highest levels of the path, are ultimately dependent on the foundation of a good heart. Similarly all of the inconceivable qualities of the Buddha’s compassion, activities and mind ultimately depend and are based on a good heart. The good heart is a very altruistic state of mind, which cherishes and considers others’ welfare as more important than one’s own. The entire Buddhist practice and path based on a single foundation of the great, universal compassion. Compassion is therefore said to be the root of the entire Buddhist practice.
If one looks at the multitude of the world’s religions one sees that irrespective of the diversity of their metaphysical and philosophical assumptions they all converge on one point. The goal or aim of all the major religious traditions is to produce a good human being, a good person. Let us leave aside ultimate aims such as salvation or nirvana. On the practical level all of the various world religions converge on this single point and agree on the aim of producing a good human being. In this respect if you look from the result side we will see that they all share a common potential to bring about the same result. Therefore one could say that compassion is also the foundation of other religions.
From the point of view of one’s own health, leaving aside health related to circumstantial issues, generally when we are ill and consult a doctor we are given general advice to rest and relax. The true meaning of this rest and relaxation should not be understood only in physical terms such as lying down on a bed. As long as your mind is not relaxed and calm there is little help in recuperating or get the rest and relaxation that the doctor advised you to obtain. It is only when you have the capacity to relax the mind, to have a calm state of mind that you can recuperate and relax properly.
If the mind is disturbed, afflicted with hateful thoughts, then instead of relaxation it will bring about more disturbance and unhappiness. Therefore from one point of view one could look at the doctor’s advice to get rest and relax as saying to be a good-hearted person.
It is said that whenever one of the great Indian masters, Atisha, met a new person he would immediately ask them, “Do you have a good heart?” It is very worthwhile to try and improve one’s own heart. This is definite.
Having realized the importance of generating such an altruistic state of mind, such a good heart, and having seen the great benefits and merits of generating such a mind then the next question is “Is it possible to bring about such realization in ourselves?” If so how does one go about generating it?
When we talk about generating a good heart in this context we are referring to bodhicitta which is the ultimate good heart. It has the infinite capacity to empathize with others’ suffering and to seek to fulfill the welfare of other sentient beings. It also is an altruistic state of mind, which is complemented, with the factor of intelligence or wisdom.
Maitreya defines Bodhicitta in the Abhisamayalamkara as a state of mind, which is complemented with two characteristics. These two are an aspiration to fulfill the aspiration of other sentient beings which is the motivating factor and then the bodhicitta itself is accompanied by another aspiration which is to seek the state of enlightenment for others’ benefit. So the definition of bodhicitta is an altruistic aspiration which seeks the attainment of enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
I think I should explain by what is meant by bodhicitta being accompanied by the factor of wisdom. To give an example, when we take refuge in the Three Jewels we do so by entrusting ourselves, our spiritual needs and welfare, to the care of the Three Jewels; the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Such a refuge can be generated in two ways. One is by hearing about Buddha’s qualities and feeling great admiration for Buddha’s life. Out of great devotion and faith one can take refuge in the Buddha. This is one way of taking refuge in the Buddha.
There is another way however which is not simply out of faith or devotion but rather one examines the Buddha and if such a state can be achieved. Can the delusions and so forth, which pollute our minds, be removed? If so is there a state where all these deluded states of mind are ceased? Through such investigation and analysis one arrives at a point where one is convinced of the possibility of attaining a state which is totally free of all suffering, delusions and defilements. Thus realizing the possibility of attaining Buddhahood and through such realization taking refuge in the Buddha is much more stable, powerful and effective than through faith alone.
Similarly there are two ways in which bodhicitta can be generated. Certain practitioners’ altruistic tendencies are so powerful and strong that they have a capacity to empathize with others’ suffering. At the same time they may not have the intelligence or the subtlety to apprehend the realization of the identitylessness of all phenomena. By the intensity of their altruism alone, they can generate bodhicitta.
…reflects upon others’ suffering nature and examines whether other sentient beings suffering can be removed, whether there is a path which leads to universal liberation and if so how does one go about bringing about the fulfillment of that aspiration. Through such reflection the person goes on to generate bodhicitta, it is said to be more powerful and effective. This bodhicitta is not only altruistic but is also accompanied by wisdom and intelligence. This is the type of bodhicitta that the main practitioners of the Bodhicaryavatara must generate.
These bodhisattvas have two distinct characteristics. Out of their compassion they direct their attention towards sentient beings and out of their wisdom they direct their attention towards Buddhahood, the attainment of enlightenment. Such bodhisattvas who possess bodhicitta complimented with the factor of wisdom have very great courage and enthusiasm. From the perspective of compassion one can also see the difference between mere compassion lacking the factor of wisdom and compassion which is complemented with the factor of wisdom penetrating to the deeper nature of reality.
There is a huge difference between the two types of compassion. In the first case although compassion can be very powerful and altruistic and have the practitioner constantly thinking of others’ welfare and empathizing with them, seeking to bring about others’ welfare, such an aspirational compassion is lacking true understanding. When compassion is complemented with wisdom penetrating into the deeper nature of reality, realizing emptiness, this compassion is very powerful. It not only empathizes with all sentient beings but it also has the awareness of the ignorance misconceiving all things as enduring, as inherently existing, which binds all sentient beings in the vicious cycle of life and death. If the sentient beings can develop the insight into the nature of reality then they will be able to start the process of removing themselves, freeing themselves from bondage. There exists such a path but sentient beings revolve in the cycle of life and death out of ignorance.
When this realization influences one’s compassion, one’s compassion is all the greater because one knows that sentient beings revolve in cyclic existence unnecessarily. Should sentient beings take the initiative there is the possibility for them to get out.
So when training the mind in generating bodhicitta these two aspirations need to be cultivated separately; the aspiration for all sentient beings to be freed from suffering and the aspiration to attain enlightenment for their benefit. The generation of these two aspirations needs to be cultivated and trained in separately.
Compassion is the foundation of bodhicitta and in order to train our minds in cultivating universal compassion we need two other factors. First we must be able to train our mind in such a way to be able to perceive all sentient beings as objects worthy of our affection. We must be able to develop a sense of closeness, intimacy, with all other sentient beings equally. The second factor is to be able to develop deeper insight into the nature of the suffering of other sentient beings. These two factors must be developed first.
Although I don’t know if there is a definite sequence, traditionally it is recommended that before generating compassion one should develop in one’s mind genuine renunciation which is a desire to free oneself from the bondage of cyclic existence. This renunciation or literally the definite emergence refers to a genuine desire to free oneself from suffering. The reason this is recommended first is as reflect upon your own suffering the feeling of unbearableness is more easily developed as one identifies with one’s own suffering more easily and naturally. Once one develops insight into the nature of suffering in relation to one’s own situation then one develops a sense of it being unbearable. When this feeling that one’s own suffering is unbearable, one extends to include all sentient beings and this becomes compassion. Traditionally it is said that compassion and renunciation are two sides of a single coin.
It is in the context of cultivating genuine renunciation, the desire to be free from suffering that the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths becomes extremely important. Buddha taught in the Four Noble Truths two sets of causal chains. One is the effect, which is suffering, and the cause, which is the source or origin of the sufferings. If suffering is an experience which we don’t wish to have then we must seek the causes which lead to it. Also we need to find out if there is a possibility of putting an end to the process of causation. If there were no way or possibility to break this causal chain then reflection and contemplation of the nature of suffering would be self-torture, self-torment. If this were the case it would be better not to think about suffering at all.
However this is not the case. Having taught the Noble Truth of Suffering and its origin including emphasizing the importance of generating insight into the nature of suffering and its causes, Buddha taught a second set of causal chains where the possibility of the cessation of suffering has been explained. Also the true path which has the capacity to lead individuals to that cessation has been explained.
This implies the need to reflect upon the nature of suffering and develop insight into the true nature of our experience of suffering. In this context Buddha spoke of three principle types of suffering. These three are technically known as the suffering of suffering which refers to situations commonly identified as painful and of the nature of suffering, the suffering of change which are experiences ordinarily identified as pleasurable but in reality if pursued to their limits one ends up with dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and the deepest level of suffering known as the pervasive suffering of conditioning. The suffering of conditioning refers to our very existence in this cycle of birth and death, which is the product of our own karmic actions. The fact that we are propelled in this cycle uncontrollably by the power of our karmic actions and delusions is the suffering of our conditioning. As long as this nature exists, it serves as the basis for the arising of the first two sufferings.
When explaining the nature of suffering Buddha spoke of four specific characteristics of suffering. These four are impermanence, dissatisfaction, identitylessness and selflessness. In this context impermanence refers to the subtle impermanence which is that as long as something is the product of its causes and conditions, the very same causes and conditions are its basis for its destruction. Anything, which is the product or consequence of causes and conditions, can not possess a quality of endurance or permanence as the very fact that something caused it indicates that it is dependent on the causal factors. The causes themselves have not only brought about the existence of the product but also has about the potential for disintegration. This momentary nature of phenomena is the consequence of the causation as well. Understanding this nature of momentariness, this nature of transience, is seen as the understanding of the subtle impermanence.
In the context of our own physical existence, our own birth in the cycle of life and death, causes and conditions refer to karmic actions and the delusions which give rise to them. Fundamental ignorance particularly is seen as the primary factor, which gives rise to the whole chain of causation. Since this fundamental ignorance is a deluded state of mind how can one maintain that its effects or consequences could be otherwise? Since the causal factor itself is deluded, its consequences or products must also share the same nature. Since our very existence or birth is under the control of fundamental ignorance, it is in the nature of suffering and dissatisfaction.
If we reflect on the subtle nature of impermanence particularly in relation to our own aggregates, our own physical and mental aggregates, our own body and mind, then we will be able to trace its origin to this fundamental ignorance which is the primary cause. Through this contemplation we will be able to realize that irrespective of where we stay, irrespective of any circumstantial conditions, as long as we remain under the domination or control of this deluded state of mind there is no possibility for an enduring or everlasting peace and happiness. Through such contemplation we will be able to generate true insight into the nature of suffering.
If we train our mind in such a way then we will be able to develop from the depths of our hearts a conviction that delusions and afflictive emotions are the true enemy. They are the ultimate enemy, which by abiding in our mental continuum bring about our own downfall and cause our own sufferings. As Kadampa masters used to say we must resist our defilements no matter how small the effort. A deep conviction of the destructive nature of the delusions is important to generate.
We need to see what is at the root of all the deluded states of mind; fundamental ignorance which misconceives the nature of reality. By contemplating whether this ignorance can be removed, whether that misconception can be dispelled, does the context of the Third Noble Truth, true cessation become apparent. In this respect extensive discussion of the nature of true cessation can be found elaborated in the Second Turning of the Wheel. Buddha spoke at great length of the possibility of realizing emptiness and generating insight into the true nature of reality.
When the realization of emptiness is combined with the realization of the Third Turning of the Wheel where the Buddha spoke at great length about the subjective quality of our minds, in other words, the presence of the seed for Buddhahood or full enlightenment which exists in all sentient beings, then a genuine conviction will develop that it is possible to attain true cessation from suffering.
By true contemplation if one realizes the faults and undesirable aspects of life in cyclic existence then this will turn one’s mind towards a cessation from the causal chain. One will be able to generate a genuine desire to attain liberation from cyclic existence. This liberation is known as moksha or salvation. In order to attain such a state of liberation the obstructing factors are the delusions or defilements, afflictive emotions and thoughts that obstruct one from obtaining the state of liberation.
At the initial stage it is extremely difficult for the practitioner to directly confront these deluded states of mind, these defilements, and uproot them. Rather the process of eliminating these delusions and defilements is a gradual process. Ultimately it is the wisdom penetrating into the true nature of emptiness, true nature of reality, which sees through the illusion created by our ignorance and misconception. It is the realization of such emptiness or selflessness, which ultimately removes or eliminates the defilements from our mental continuum.
This wisdom which has the capacity and power to eliminate and uproot the delusions and defilements from our mind must be based on the attainment of single-pointedness and concentration of the mind. Therefore the practice of training in concentration becomes crucial. In the initial stages in training the mind to successfully attain such stages of concentration what is crucial is to lead a way of life which is based on the observance of sound ethical discipline. At the initial stage before we directly confront the delusions it is crucial to restrain our actions, our body, speech and mind from indulging in negative actions which are the effects of a deluded state of mind. By training in concentration and generating wisdom one eventually will eliminate delusions from one’s mind.
The negative effects, which manifest in physical, verbal or mental actions are in summary known as the Ten Negative or Non-virtuous Actions. The three bodily actions are killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Telling lies, divisive speech, harsh speech and frivolous speech are the four negative actions of speech. The three mental negative actions are covetousness, harmful intent and wrong views. These ten actions sum up in a broad way all the physical, verbal and mental manifestations of the delusions. It is by restraining from indulging in any of these actions, which constitutes ethical restraint.
The Ten Positive Actions are the opposites of the Ten Negative Actions. In order to successfully observe such an ethical discipline initially it is crucial to develop a deep conviction in the karmic relationship between actions and their effects. Not only must the practitioner have in general some understanding of causal relationships between causes and conditions on the one hand and their effects on the other but also how certain causes and conditions give rise to their corresponding effects. The practitioner also must develop conviction in the nature of karmic causation; how certain actions and events which when engaged have a harmful potential or are destructive, give rise to consequences which are undesirable, in the nature of suffering.
Whereas certain types of actions and events are pleasant not only when one engages in them but also the beneficial potentials. These actions and events give rise to consequences, which are desirable and beneficial. By realizing such karmic causation and the relationship between corresponding causes and effects, one will be able to develop deeper conviction in the workings of karmic causation. To a certain degree aspects of karmic causation can be understood, how certain actions lead to their corresponding effects, but when it comes to the very subtle aspects of karmic causation these aspects are very hidden. This is the category of phenomena as discussed yesterday which remain beyond the scope of our understanding. Of these issues we must rely on an authority.
As explained earlier certain aspects of karmic causation can be understood or at least have some understanding of based on reliable scriptures, the authority of a third person. Karmic causation is explained in these in conjunction with the teachings on taking refuge. When talking about the practice of taking refuge, although there are three objects of refuge, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, out of the three it is the Dharma, which is the main object of refuge. Dharma here refers to true cessations and the true paths, which led to such cessations.
If one can take such a practice based on taking refuge and the belief and conviction in the law of karmic causation coupled with the observance of sound ethical discipline then such a practice is a guarantee for an individual to take a high or favorable rebirth in the future.
Our own physical existence as human beings provides us with the special faculties of intelligence, courage and determination though we are equal to all other sentient beings as far as life in general is concerned. If we realize this fact then we will appreciate the precious opportunity that as existence as humans accords us. Once we appreciate this preciousness of our existence then we will realize the need to utilize such faculties towards a more positive and beneficial direction. Therefore in the text, the importance of appreciating the potentials of human existence is extensively discussed.
In order to underline the destructive nature of negative actions such as killing, stealing and so forth, the suffering nature of unfavorable rebirths in other realms has been explained. For instance by simply observing the lives of animals we can realize the intensity of their suffering, the deluded nature of their existence. Through this we can develop a deep sense of the unbearableness and aversion to rebirth in such forms of existence. This will motivate the practitioner to restrain from indulging in actions, which have the potential to bring about such a rebirth in the future.
All these points are explained in the various chapters of Santideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Through such contemplations and reflections one will be able to develop a deep insight into the nature of suffering. Such a realization will lead to a genuine desire to free oneself from the cycle of existence which is tormented by experiences of suffering and dissatisfaction. This is what is known as renunciation. When this powerful and genuine desire to free oneself from suffering has been generated and realized then this realization can be shifted to other sentient beings. This leads to the cultivation of compassion and the aspiration to work for others’ benefit.
When talking about generating and cultivating altruism one should realize that self and others should not be seen in terms of complete separation. Self and others should not be conceived in terms of no relation between them. In reality the fate of ourselves is totally and intimately linked with the fate and welfare of other sentient beings. The more a person works towards others’ benefit, the more a person cherishes and works for the fulfillment of others’ welfare, the greater the fulfillment of one’s own aims will occur. Such is the nature of reality.
As a precondition for generating compassion towards all sentient beings is the development of a feeling of closeness and intimacy for all sentient beings, seeing them as all worthy of our affection. In order to develop such a realization one needs to train the mind towards this goal. For cultivating such a mind there exists among traditional Buddhist practices two major techniques. One is known as the Seven Point Cause and Effect method and other is known as Equalizing and Exchanging Oneself With Others.
In actual meditation one first cultivates a state of equanimity. The significance of generating a state of equanimity is to overcome our usual feeling of discrimination and inequality towards other sentient beings. Normally our attitudes towards other sentient beings are characterized by either a feeling of closeness towards those we consider our relatives or friends and a feeling of distance towards those we consider enemies or potential enemies. In the practice of generating equanimity one reflects upon the fact that ultimately there is no objective grounds for making such sharp and clear cut distinctions or discriminations on our part towards other sentient beings.
Those whom we consider relatives, friends and so forth and perceive as worthy of our special attention and care if examined deeply reveals that these people although they may be friends now at this very moment may have been our enemies in past lives. Even within this lifetime someone who is a friend now could turn into an enemy or person harmful to us in the future. There is no absolute sense in which they have to remain as our friends. Similarly those whom we consider our enemies may have been our best friends in the past and in this life, although they may be our enemy now due to a change in circumstances they could turn into our best friend. There is no guarantee that they will remain eternally as our enemy.
By reflecting on this one will be able to realize that the delusions and afflictive emotions are our true enemies whereas the people who harm us are under the control of these same afflictive emotions and thoughts. They are not enemies in the true sense of the word. Therefore although it is crucial to be compassionate towards all sentient beings, there is no objective grounds for which to feel particularly loving towards someone we categorize as our friends. This extra attention implies attachment or grasping. Similarly there are no objective grounds by which we should be particularly hateful towards those we categorize as enemies. Through such contemplation what we initially develop is a sense of equanimity towards all sentient beings.
This state of equanimity is then followed by what is technically known as the recognition of others as mothers but the use of a mother is only an example. What is required at this stage is to perceive all sentient beings in terms of someone who we hold most dear. All sentient beings at one time could have been a most dear one to us in a past life and every sentient being has the potential to become a most beloved person in the future as well. Thinking in such terms one develops a realization of all sentient beings as objects most dear to oneself.
The third stage is to recollect the kindness of all sentient beings. This is followed by the generation of the wish to repay their kindness. After this comes the training known as Equalizing Oneself With Others. This equality of oneself with others refers to a state of mind where one reflects that oneself has the instinctive wish to overcome suffering a be happy equal to that of others. Oneself and others are also completely equal in the right to fulfill the aspiration to be happy and overcome suffering. From all perspectives, from all points of view, one decides there are no grounds upon which one could objectively, justifiably, make a discrimination between oneself and others.
The sixth stage of this meditation is known as Special Recollection of Others Kindness. The uniqueness here is that all sentient beings have been kind to us not only when they were among the most beloved but also indirectly contributed to our happiness. Even our enemies upon deep reflection have the special potential to create for us the opportunity to develop certain spiritual qualities within ourselves such as tolerance and patience. From this point of view, irrespective of their attitudes towards us, enemies are kind to us. In this life our fame, shelter, food, clothing and everything else on deep reflection, all come about through others cooperation, others’ participation in bringing about these factors. Others’ kindness can not be overestimated.
When thinking in such terms recollection of others’ kindness need not be confined to others when they have been beloved or dear to us. On the path to enlightenment all the spiritual realizations, progress and so forth, come about in reliance upon others. Without others’ cooperation and kindness, there is no possibility to make any spiritual progress on the path. Similarly at the resultant state of Buddhahood, it is because of the existence of other sentient beings that the Buddhas possess great compassion and the motivation that propels their compassionate actions towards other sentient beings. Thinking in such terms there is not even a single moment in our entire existence when we are not indebted towards other sentient beings.
Two further stages come next. The seventh stage is reflecting upon the destructive effects and disadvantages cherishing one’s own benefit, oblivious to others’ welfare. The eighth stage of meditation is to reflect from various perspectives the merits, benefits and the gains of cherishing others welfare.
It is only by reflecting upon the advantages of cherishing others and the disadvantages of self-cherishing that will be able to ultimately succeed in what is called Exchanging Oneself For Others. The meaning of exchanging oneself with others is to be understood in terms of the attitude one adopts towards oneself and other sentient beings. As a result of our training and meditation we should be able to change our normal attitude where we put our own welfare uppermost in our mind. So far as others’ welfare is concerned our normal attitude is mostly indifference.
As a result of our meditation and training of the mind what we should be able to succeed in doing is to be able to arrive at a stage where we will be able to consider others’ welfare as equally important as we used to consider our own welfare. This is so much so that when it comes to our own welfare, we maintain a sense of indifference.
If you train your mind through such stages of meditation then what is achieved at the end, irrespective of the attitude of other sentient beings towards us, is the ability to perceive all sentient beings as objects worthy of affection. One will feel a sense of closeness and intimacy towards all sentient beings equally.
Two further stages of meditation follow this point. The ninth stage is a practice of training one’s mind in what is called Taking Upon Oneself which in a sense is a practice of enhancing one’s compassion. The tenth stage is training the mind in what is known as Giving To Others which is in a sense enhancing one’s power of love towards other sentient beings. If one is successful in training one’s mind through these stages of meditation, particularly the ninth and tenth which refer to the practice of Giving And Taking, then one will be able to arrive at a stage where one is able to generate within oneself an unusual sense of responsibility, shouldering upon oneself the responsibility to work towards the fulfillment of others’ wishes, bringing about others’ welfare.
This is how one’s trains the mind in cultivating the aspiration to work for others’ welfare. When this extraordinary sense of responsibility to work for others’ welfare is combined with an earlier understanding of the nature of cessation and liberation as explained earlier then one can truly appreciate what is meant by others’ welfare. Here in this context others’ welfare refers to other sentient beings attainment of liberation, Buddhahood.
The combination of those two realizations will eventually or ultimately lead one to the attainment of bodhicitta, the genuine, spontaneous aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. This is a state of mind, which aspires to attain one’s own enlightenment for the sake of working towards fulfilling the welfare of other sentient beings. Such a state of mind as described earlier is bodhicitta.
Therefore one realizes that bodhicitta or this altruistic aspiration is the special cause, the most precious cause for laying the seed for attaining the omniscient state of Buddhahood. In order to bring about the realization of such a seed within one’s mind, what is required is an accumulation of great stores of merit. In terms of engaging in a system of practice, which has the capacity to accumulate, great stores of merit is concerned, the Seven-Limb practice is considered one of the most effective methods. In the Bodhicaryavatara, in the second and third chapters, this text outlines the practices of Seven Limbs.
As one engages in the practice of generating bodhicitta and as one begins to attain a slight realization of bodhicitta, in order to stabilize that realization the practitioner is advised to participate in a ceremony to enhance the generated mind. I will conduct this ceremony tomorrow.
Following the ceremony of enhancing the generated bodhicitta stabilizing the initial experience of it, then the practitioner is advised to train their mind and develop the enthusiasm to engage in the Bodhisattva deeds and practices. As a result of training one’s mind and reflecting upon these facts, once one develops a genuine desire to engage in Bodhisattva ideals and practices then the practitioner is advised to take the Bodhisattva Vows. These vows I will give the day after tomorrow.
When we talk of bodhicitta there are two main levels of the generated mind known as the aspirational aspect and the active or engaged aspect. The distinctions between these two, although there are diverse opinions as to how one makes the distinction, one mainstream opinion held by Kamalasila’s Stages Of Meditation or Bhavanakrama according to which the distinction is made on the basis of whether or not the practitioner who has generated that bodhicitta has taken the Bodhisattva Vows. From the initial stages of generating bodhicitta up to a point where the practitioner has taken the Bodhisattva Vows, this is known as the aspirational bodhicitta. The moment the practitioner takes the Bodhisattva Vows the practitioner’s bodhicitta is said to have been turned into the practical aspect of bodhicitta.
With this brief summary, the essence of the practices, which are associated with the stages of training for the initial generation of bodhicitta, is completed. These are explained in the first three chapters of Santideva’s Guide to The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.
The subsequent chapters deal with practices and stages of training associated with safeguarding the mind, which has already been generated. The fourth chapter is devoted to conscientiousness, which is a very important faculty. When cultivated and developed conscientiousness will safeguard one’s body, speech and mind from indulging in harmful and negative actions. Conscientiousness is a faculty, which also ensures that mindfulness and introspection are never left behind. Therefore the cultivation of this faculty is very crucial.
The fifth chapter deals with the practices for guarding introspection or alertness. Introspection is a very crucial faculty and one of the principal factors for generating or cultivating such an introspective faculty is the faculty of mindfulness. Holding constant vigilance towards one’s daily actions of both body and mind when combined with mindfulness enables one to develop and enhance one’s own faculty of introspection.
To sum up an ideal practitioner of bodhicitta, an ideal bodhisattva practitioner, should be someone who having voluntarily developed a deep admiration in the value and merits of bodhicitta has generated the mind. Having generated the mind and having the genuine desire to lead a way of life in accordance to the principles and ideals, one takes the vow.
Such a person must realize that they have taken upon themselves a great responsibility, a responsibility to work for the welfare of other sentient beings. This must be voluntarily taken upon oneself. The awareness of this responsibility should always be present and this is what is meant by cultivating the faculty of conscientiousness. This awareness of the responsibility should always be present. In addition to this one should study what actions are in accordance with the Bodhisattva principles and which actions are contradictory to the Bodhisattva principles.
By studying one should in every action have the faculty of introspection and alertness ever-present so that even in dreams one will be able to consciously be aware if there is the slightest likelihood of transgressing any of the Bodhisattva Vows. One reminds oneself of the vows one has taken so that the individual does not indulge in these actions. Even in dreams one can apply the faculty of introspection and mindfulness. Such is the mode of practice of the ideal Bodhisattva practitioner.
The third faculty, the faculty of tolerance or patience will be explained tomorrow. Now we will have some questions.
Question: How do you feel Buddhism will have to change in order to be accepted in the West and by Americans?
Answer: Basically I feel that as Buddhism addresses fundamental problems of existence and of being human, I do not feel there should be any differences wherever Buddhism flourishes. At the cultural level I think it will definitely change. Even within one country as time and social structure changes, the cultural aspect of the religious tradition changes as well. I think it is very important to be able to extract the essence of the Buddha’s teaching and leave the cultural aspects, which are not relevant to one’s own setting.
Question: Do you mean to stress the benefit of reasoning over meditation? Could you talk about the relationship of the two?
Answer: Generally speaking the Tibetan word for meditation includes both the analytic and also the absorptive meditations. Also meditation can be of two different types generally speaking. There are certain types of meditation, which takes on certain objects as the focus of the meditation. It focuses one’s attention or concentration on that. Then there is another type of meditation where there is not so much an object-subject relationship between the object of meditation but rather one’s own mind is generated in that state.
For example when we talk of meditating on compassion we do not mean that here of taking compassion as an object and then observing it. Rather one generates in one’s own mind, a compassionate state of mind. Similarly when we talk of meditating on impermanence, here we are talking of taking impermanence as the object of meditation and then developing its understanding or realization or insight. Then when we talk of meditating on a deity, we are talking about another type of meditation where meditation is in terms of visualizing oneself in that aspect. The main object of meditation in deity yoga, if one looks at it in terms of subject and object, is emptiness.
Analytical meditation refers to a form of meditation where the role of analysis is important and also the faculty of analysis is applied, whereas absorptive meditation is a form of meditation where analysis is not applied. There can be two types of absorptive meditation. For instance in the case of meditation cultivating single-pointedness of mind, in other words calm-abiding, samatha, in such meditation the application of analysis is in fact discouraged. Similarly there can be another type of absorptive meditation, which as a consequence of analysis one arrives at a conclusion and then at that point one ceases the process of analysis and simply focuses on the conclusion arrived at with a single-pointedness of mind. This is again an absorptive meditation.
Similarly when we talk of vipasyana or penetrative insight from a point of view common to Sutra and Tantra, special insight meditations are seen as being characterized by an application of analytic process. Whereas from the point of view of Highest Yoga Tantra then special insight meditations need not necessarily be analytic in character. This is also similar to meditation of the Mahamudra and also the Dzogchen style of meditation as well.
Question: What is inside the yellow pagoda?
Answer: Right now it is covered but there is a great spectacle inside it.
Question: Does an understanding of emptiness and dependent origination aid in the generation of bodhicitta? Or should bodhicitta be generated first in order to understand emptiness?
Answer: There are two types of practitioners depending upon their faculty of intelligence and wisdom. Those who have the greater faculty of intelligence and wisdom first generate the insight into the nature of emptiness and then the realization of emptiness induces them to generate compassion towards all sentient beings thus leading to the realization of bodhicitta.
Whereas practitioners who lack such a faculty of intelligence, initially emphasize the practice of compassion and then bodhicitta. Later they have a realization of emptiness. So there are two different modes of approach.
Question: If our guru makes a statement that contradicts our experience and reason or contradicts another teacher, what attitude should we take in order to maintain respect and devotion?
Answer: Personally I would suggest that one should be cautious from the beginning so that one will protect oneself from having getting caught in such a situation where one is relying on a teacher whom you later find out to be unreliable. But once you have already initiated the teacher-disciple relationship and then later you realize these contradictions then it is wiser if you could somehow insure that you don’t take it seriously.
Generally speaking although guru’s instruction and transmission is extremely important but at the same time it is always crucial to insure that the guru’s instruction and transmissions accord with the general structure of the basic Buddhist path. If you find yourself in a situation where the guru’s instructions contradicts with the general approach, the general structure of the Buddhist path then you should rely more on the general structure of the path than the instruction of the guru.
How one should proceed can be substantiated by many references from various scriptures. For instance in the Vinaya where certain procedures relating to one’s spiritual guru are explained. There it is explicitly stated that if a guru gives advice, which does not accord with the Dharma, then it should not be carried out, it should be opposed. Similarly in Mahayana sutras it has been explicitly mentioned that if among the instructions of the guru are those which accord with the way of the Dharma should be followed and those which do not accord or contradict with the Dharma should be rejected. In the Tantric literature which outline the tantric way relating to a spiritual guru, it is explicitly mentioned that if an instruction is given which is something beyond your scope and ability to perform then you should explain to your teacher. You should not follow it but rather explain to your teacher the reason why you are incapable or unable to carry out that instruction.
However what I have stated here is the general mode of procedure of how the relationship between the disciple and teacher should be maintained. But this does not rule out extremely exceptional cases, for instance the case of the relationship between Marpa Lotsawa and his disciple Milarepa or Naropa and Tilopa. In these examples both the teachers and the disciples are extremely exceptional. In such exceptional cases although what might seem superficially on the surface as something contradictory to the general mode of procedure of the Buddhist path, but in essence, in reality these can be realized as extremely skillful means on the part of the teacher to enable the student to accomplish stages of the path in a very expeditious manner.
Question: How does one go from inferential knowledge to non-conceptual knowledge? Since analysis is used to arrive at total inferential knowledge, any more analysis would still be inferential.
Answer: As I stated earlier among meditations there are different types and in special situations such as certain levels of meditation in Highest Yoga Tantra, analysis is discouraged. But what I stated earlier is the general mode of procedure of the Buddhist path and as to the question on how one proceeds from inferential knowledge to non-conceptual knowledge, through constant reflection on the knowledge which is initially inferential, through the process of constant familiarity that knowledge eventually becomes non-conceptual. This is because the mode of engagement of that knowledge in relation to the object becomes more and more subtle, eventually the knowledge become direct.
Generally speaking it is very true that there must be co-maturation between cause and its effects. There must be a correspondence between causes and effects. Any cause can not give rise to any effect; there must be some causal relationship and connection. But this does not mean that every effect must have completely similar causes. For instance in the case of the omniscient mind of the Buddha, if we insist that its cause must be completely similar in characteristics with the effect which is the omniscient mind then we would have to maintain that within us, since we posses the seed for attaining Buddha’s omniscient mind, wisdom, then we must posses within us even to a slight degree some form of Buddha’s omniscient mind which can not be maintained. Similarly as far as the non-conceptual awareness or wisdom of the Arya Beings are concerned their causes need not be also such high stages of realization. Therefore this non-dualistic awareness or wisdom of the Arya Beings, their causes can be said to exist even in ordinary beings. It we, for instance, examine our mind, within our mind, so long as we remain in an ordinary state of existence, it is characterized by dualistic perceptions, dualistic experiences. Now within this dualistic experience and perceptions we must be able to seek some kind of seed which can give rise to non-dual wisdom, non-dual awareness. Therefore the initial stage of knowledge is inferential which is dualistic which is characterized by duality between subject and object. As you train your mind, as you constantly reflect on it, cultivate familiarity with that object then that duality, that subject-object duality will gradually diminish in its intensity and gradually it will lead you to a stage where your realization, your knowledge of that object becomes direct, intuitive and non-conceptual.
Also when we talk of non-dual awareness in the context of dualistic appearances or dualism, one must bear in mind there are many different meanings of the term. Dualistic appearance could be understood in terms of the multitude of conventional appearances or subject-object duality, separateness as being dualistic appearance or having generated an image through which one conceives an object, that image can be seen as dualistic appearance.
Similarly when we come across the term non-conceptuality, we should not have the notion that there is only a single meaning which is universal in every single context. This is not the case. Non-conceptuality will have different meanings in different contexts. For instance there is the non-conceptuality that is common to both Buddhist and non-Buddhist practices. There is a non-conceptual state, which is common to both the Lesser Vehicle practices and the Great Vehicle practices. There is a non-conceptual state, which is common to both Sutra and Tantra practices. There is a non-conceptuality, which is common to all four classes of tantra. There is a non-conceptual state, which is unique to Highest Yoga Tantra. Even within Highest Yoga Tantra there is a non-conceptual state which is common to both generation stage and completion stage practices. Within the completion stage as corresponding to the different levels of realization, there are different meanings of the non-conceptual state. One therefore should not have the notion that non-conceptuality means only one thing in all contexts. (End of second day)
Transcribed and typed by Phillip Lecso from audiotapes obtained from Buddhist Studies on Audio Cassette entitled The Path of Compassion Teachings. 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.