Preliminary Teachings to the Kalachakra Initiation
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
on The Bodhicaryavatara
Translated by Thupten Jinpa
New York City,
Today we will be conducting the ceremony of enhancing the mind, which has been generated, the altruistic mind to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings, the bodhicitta. In order to participate in this ceremony first of all visualize in front of yourself the Buddha Shakyamuni as depicted on the thangka behind me. Visualize the Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded by his seven main successors and also surrounded by the great Indian masters like the Six Ornaments and so on. Visualize him also surrounded by the great Tibetan masters of all four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and you, yourself being surrounded by all sentient beings. In all directions visualize the Directional Guardians who protect you and all sentient beings from obstacles that might interfere or hinder your generation of bodhicitta and participation in the ceremony of enhancing that generated mind. Imagine the lama conducting the ceremony as a messenger representing all the lineage masters of the past.
Focussing your attention towards all the sentient beings whom you have imagined as being all around you, reflect upon their fate that just like yourself they all have the innate desire to be happy and overcome suffering. But contrary to that innate desire they willingly engage in actions, which are detrimental, essential detrimental to their own happiness. They willingly accumulate factors, causes and conditions, which are potentially destructive and harmful to them. Whereas although it is happiness they seek, they avoid from engaging in actions, which would accumulate for them the causes, and conditions that give rise to the actual experience of happiness. So it is out of such ignorance that sentient beings willingly propel themselves in the vicious cycle of existence, life and death.
Reflect upon your own fate, thinking that today at this juncture I am in a position, although I myself am not free from cyclic existence but at least I am in a position to be aware of the situation. I also have the knowledge, the insight to seek the path which can led these sentient beings from the bondage of suffering. At this point it is my responsibility to insure that these sentient beings are shown the right path and enable them, at least encourage them to embark upon this spiritual path which eventually leads to their own liberation in the future. With such motivation look at the examples of the past great masters whom you have visualized in front of you. Focussing your attention on them think that just as these great masters of the past have engaged in the Bodhisattva Deeds and have worked only for the benefit of other sentient beings attaining great enlightenment so too will I follow their example. I will attain enlightenment for the sake of all. So with this kind of motivation and attitude we will proceed with the ceremony. We will perform recitations associated with the practice of the Seven Limbs and the verses we recite come from one of the aspirational prayers known as the Good Deeds. (Recitation of verses)
Next is making a request to the guru to conduct the ceremony of enhancing bodhicitta. This will be done on the basis of doing a recitation after me. This verse that you will recite after me states that just as the great masters and Buddhas of the past have first generated the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings today I too shall follow in their footsteps. Please conduct the ceremony. (Recitation of verses)
Next is taking refuge. This is not a ceremony of the common practice of taking refuge but rather a practice of refuge that is uncommon to the practice of the Mahayana tradition. The meaning here is that one’s attitude for taking refuge is not just entrusting yourself under the care of the Three Jewels but reflecting upon one’s own Buddhanature, the potential that exists within all sentient beings which allows through individual initiative and effort to actualize all the great qualities of the Buddha’s mind and attain the state of Buddhahood, one seeks to emulate them. You should develop a sense of wishing to emulate their example that in order to fulfill the wishes of all sentient beings and work for their benefit, I shall attain the state of Buddhahood just as all the great masters of the past attained. With this type of attitude and motivation one takes refuge. Such a practice of refuge is said to be uncommon in that it distinguishes itself from the ordinary practice of refuge in three characteristics. The taking of refuge is motivated by working for the benefit of all sentient beings therefore the object of intention is all sentient beings. A person who takes such refuge their ultimate aim is to attain the fully enlightened state, not just liberation from cyclic existence. A person who undertakes such refuge is a being who has at least had some knowledge of the possibility of attaining a fully enlightened state. So with these three characteristics then this Mahayana refuge is said to distinguish itself from ordinary types of taking refuge.
The verses, which you will be reciting, the repetition of which constitutes the taking of refuge, begin with calling out for the attention of the Master. You then state that from now on until you attain the state of full enlightenment you will seek refuge in the fully enlightened Buddha. You then state that you will take refuge in the Supreme Dharma, which is the true cessation and the paths leading to such a state of cessation. One then states that from now on I will also take refuge in the Supreme Assembly, the assembly of the Sangha, particularly the Mahayana Sangha referring here to the assembly of Arya Bodhisattvas. Arya Bodhisattvas are beings who have not only realized genuine bodhicitta but also have attained direct realization of emptiness. This is the type of person we were speaking about yesterday, a type of person who has fully transcended all levels of dualistic appearances. For such practitioners in their realization of emptiness there is no appearance of a diversity of conventional phenomena nor is there a duality of subject and object nor is there a duality caused by a generated image of the object and not perceiving it directly. Such a person in their realization of emptiness is totally free from any level of dualistic appearances. (Recitation of verses)
After taking refuge we will again recite the verses of the Seven Limbed practice. (Recitation of verses)
We will now prepare our minds to generate bodhicitta. First reflect upon the sentient beings you have visualized around you and then focussing your attention on them, reflect on the fact that if you compare yourself to them you are both common and equal in having the instinctive desire to seek happiness and overcome suffering. Equally just as you both yourself and sentient beings have that innate wish, so do both of you have the natural right to fulfill that aspiration to enjoy happiness and to overcome suffering. Now from this point of view there is no difference whatsoever between oneself and others. The difference really lies in term of numbers, no matter how important and how precious one’s own well-being might be, if you compare it with the welfare of all other sentient beings who are limitless in number to the fate of a single sentient being, there is a vast difference in terms of numbers. In terms of having the wish to enjoy happiness and overcome suffering and in terms of having the natural right to fulfill those aspirations there is no difference. The difference lies in the number.
Secondly if we think deeply we will realize that if one were to give up the welfare of an infinite number of sentient beings for the sake of one single person that is quite an unwise action. Whereas to give up the well-being and happiness of a single person for the sake of countless numbers of other sentient beings is definitely a wise action and decision. Not only this even in reality in practical terms if a person indulges in the fulfillment of their own selfish ends and is totally oblivious to other sentient beings then in the end it is that person who will be the loser. On the other hand the person while being indifferent to their own welfare and needs and rather puts greater emphasis on the fulfillment of others’ welfare and works towards others’ benefit, that person’s own interests and needs will be fulfilled in the process. The fulfillment of one’s own wishes becomes a by-product and that is something, which is an observed fact.
Not only that there is something called in ordinary language luck. Whether or not a person irrespective of their level of knowledge, background, ability, wealth, position and so forth enjoys a happy life depends very much on the level of what we call luck the person has. This term luck although it sounds as if it is a meaningless term but it is not just a mere word but luck can not be understood only in terms of something like a fluke. In Buddhist terminology we call it merit and if you look at it from this point of view then we will begin to realize that what we call luck can not be simply dismissed. It must have some basis; it must have some sort of ground on which we can understand it. There must be some factors, which would provide some people with more luck than others less. This we call merit and merit is something that you can accumulate. Merit is something that can decrease or increase.
The fact that there is a tremendous difference in terms of the level of merit between different types of sentient beings or different humans even though they are suffering the same fate, tragic fate. For instance let us take the example of recent events inside Tibet. The overall situation is so tragic that all the people there are suffering the same fate. But even under such similar circumstances due to different levels of merit between different individuals, it does seem that some people suffered more than others did. Some people had comparatively happier and luckier life than others.
So in talking about luck and merit, it seems quite obvious that I seem to be a person who seems to have accumulated quite a good store of merit in my past lives so I consider myself a lucky person. But as for how lucky I will be in my future life I can’t say. In fact my merit is increasing so much that it is eating the hairs from my head!
When it comes to accumulating one’s own store of merit, one can say that there is no greater force than the cultivation of the altruistic mind. Even a slight generation, even a slight level of the altruistic mind, the generation of which is said to have tremendous power to increase one’s store of merit. This is something which one can see through one’s own experience in life but also is something that has been substantiated and repeatedly mentioned in many scriptures. The power and ability of the altruistic mind and good heart to increase great stores of merit has been emphasized and extensively mentioned in the scriptures. The altruistic mind and good heart are something that not only create immediate effects, positive effects like bringing about calmness and serenity in one’s mind but its effects can be maintained and experienced throughout many lifetimes. This is due to its power to increase the level of merit.
The preciousness of a good heart and altruism is something that I know from my own personal experience. When I talk of my experience I must tell you that I am a person who can not claim to have any high levels of spiritual realizations. I am a follower of the Buddha who has succeeded in not being just a disgrace to the Buddha and this is the level of my experience. But still I can state that as far my admiration and conviction in the preciousness and power of altruism and a good heart is concerned, even in my dreams from the depth of my heart I can always feel admiration towards the good heart and altruism. Also I have maintained that conviction in the power and preciousness therefore it enables me to increase the level of my merit. Sometimes when I think about that I feel myself to be very encouraged by the fact that I am born in a lifeform which is equipped with this wonderful human intelligence and capacity. This is so much so that it has the capacity to produce the good heart, this altruistic mind, a state of mind, which cherishes the welfare of other sentient beings. When I think in such terms sometimes I feel that the human mind is really a wonder because of this capacity. We are here and we have this opportunity to generate that mind and participate in a ceremony, which enhances it. It would be very good if you could realize the great fortune yourself in having this opportunity to not only generate and develop admiration for the altruistic mind and good heart. We also have the opportunity to try and at least simulate the experience and generate it.
As stated by one of the great masters that if one’s mind clear and sound and if one’s heart is good then all the spiritual paths, the grounds and levels that one attains will become good and virtuous. Now this quotation indicates the crucial importance of the good heart and the generation of the altruistic mind. Every human action and every human thought is somehow governed by our way of thinking. If we can train ourselves in generating the good heart as a primary motive of our every action then it will have the power to turn every action and every single word we utter into a virtuous act, into a positive and beneficial act. If you have this fundamental primary motive as the basis of your actions then every single word you utter will be virtuous, gentle and beneficial. Every movement you make every behavior that you adopt and every conduct you engage in will be virtuous, good and beneficial. Therefore what is crucial is to somehow exert all your effort into generating this good heart, that altruistic mind and protecting yourself from fostering ill-feeling, ill-will and harmful intentions towards other sentient beings. Rather you must concentrate, single-pointedly in generating the good heart as the basis for one’s motivation.
If we posses this basic faculty, this basic factor of the good heart as the basis of our every motivation then no matter what profession you engage in be it a teacher, a scientist, an economist or a politician. As long as you posses that basic motivating factor then you can transform every action into a positive and beneficial action. Through such concerted effort in these various human activities it is possible to create what we would all call a happy, human society, a happier world. On the other hand if we let this basic motivation of the good heart and kindness lapse, then it is very likely that all these human activities could become destructive or damaging to the very purpose for which they are meant to serve.
Even from a point of view of a non-believer so far as the good heart and altruism is concerned, it is something, which is most beneficial. Its benefits can be extended to every sentient being.
So what we are going to do here in this ceremony is to first of all generate that basic motivation of the good heart and altruism within our mind. Then we will generate the altruistic aspiration to attain a fully enlightened state for the benefit of all sentient beings. We will then take a pledge to generate this mind within ourselves and bring about its realization.
As I pointed out on the first day there are members of the audience who do not consider themselves as practicing Buddhists. So out of the audience those who do not consider themselves to be practicing Buddhists and also those who do not feel committed to take such a pledge for generating bodhicitta, for them there s no need to undertake these contemplations. For you it is enough to develop a certain degree of admiration for the good heart, altruism, and then think from today on I will try to be as kind and good-hearted as possible.
Taking the pledge to enhance the generated mind through ceremony is to first generate bodhicitta and then focusing your attention on that generated mind, you mentally take a pledge that from now on I will never give up this generated mind. This is the actual ceremony.
Although I spoke of the generated mind being enhanced through the ceremony, one must bear in mind that I’m using the term bodhicitta rather loosely. What I am referring to here is that under the present circumstances of participating in such a ceremony and due to other factors like being in a community of fellow practitioners, it is possible there could be some effect within one’s mind. This may lead to some form of slight experience of bodhicitta. Now when I use the term generated mind, I am referring to that because the genuine bodhicitta, the true bodhicitta, for that matter any aspect of the path, comes about as the result of long periods of meditation and practice. For instance in the case of bodhicitta, initially one has to develop an understanding of what bodhicitta is and also one has to develop an understanding of the procedure or the stages of meditation which train one’s mind in cultivating bodhicitta. Having developed this understanding, the procedure of training one’s mind, then one engages in the practice and at this point one will gain a level of certainty giving oneself the conviction that if one were to undertake the practice, some form of experience will occur. It is at this point that one is said to have developed a certain conviction in one’s ability to generate bodhicitta. When this conviction is further reinforced by actually engaging in the practice of training one’s mind, then one will get to a stage where as the result of one’s long period of practice, a strong experience of having the aspiration or desire to seek the fully enlightened state for the benefit of all sentient beings arises. This is so powerful and forceful but again is not the true or complete bodhicitta as it comes about only if one engages in a meditative session. When one ends such a session that force or intensity is no longer there.
But if one still carries on with one’s practice then as you progress along the path finally one reaches a stage where the generation of this altruistic mind does not require any circumstantial conditions like deliberately engaging in a meditation or consciously thinking about suffering sentient beings. Rather the wish to seek the fully enlightened state for the benefit of all sentient beings will come spontaneously as an automatic response towards the perception of other sentient beings’ suffering. It is at this point one is said to have realized complete bodhicitta. You are said to have realized genuine bodhicitta, non-simulated genuine bodhicitta.
Fold your hands. As I explained earlier develop a strong determination that you will generate within yourself a good heart and altruistic mind. Motivated by such a good heart and altruistic mind you will spend the remaining part of your life in activities worthy, beneficial and helpful. You will then repeat some verses after me and the verses state that just as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past generated bodhicitta so do you. Due to the power of the merit and the positive imprints you have accumulated in the past, you shall also generate the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Motivated by that aspiration you will work towards alleviating all sentient beings who are suffering and liberate all those not consciously undergoing suffering but who’s minds are stained and polluted by negative emotions and thoughts. You will also lead those who are not free from the obstructions to knowledge to the state of Buddhahood. During the third repetition you should deepen your commitment that you will from now on never abandon the mind which you have generated, this altruistic aspiration. (Recitation of verses in Tibetan)
Having taken the pledge through the ceremony of enhancing bodhicitta one must observe certain precepts. There are four principle precepts, which are design to protect bodhicitta from degeneration during this lifetime. First is that in order to increase one’s admiration for bodhicitta and also to increase one’s enthusiasm for the practices related to it, one must constantly reflect upon its merits and benefits. The second one is that one must renew or reinforce one’s generation of the mind six times in twenty-four hours, three times during the day and three times during the night. The third precept is that since it is sentient beings for whose purpose we have generated bodhicitta, one should never have the thought of abandoning even a single sentient being. One should never abandon the good heart and kind heart towards even a single sentient being. It is possible that in one’s day-to-day life one is bound to encounter situations where one loses one’s temper, people might frustrate you and so on. But even in such circumstances what is crucial here is that from the depth of one’s heart never to abandon the feeling of compassion and kindness towards other sentient beings, particularly towards the person irritating one. The fourth precept is to exert one’s effort in accumulating stores of merit and also increase one’s wisdom. Out of these four precepts which are factors that are aimed at protecting one’s bodhicitta from degeneration in this lifetime, the third precept which is never to abandon one’s good heart, one’s altruism towards even a single sentient being is the most important to observe.
There are certain precepts, which one must observe in order to protect oneself from degenerating bodhicitta in future lifetimes. The first one is never to tell lies knowingly. There are exceptional cases where for instance the situation is such that a hunter who is chasing a deer asks you where the deer went. If one tells the truth the deer will be killed and if one doesn’t tell the truth, one is lying. Under such a circumstance it is permissible to tell a lie. There are exceptional cases where one has to take into account the consequences of one’s actions. But what is important is to come up with a consistent story! (Laughter)
The second precept is to always be honest. The third precept is to always pay equal respect to the Bodhisattvas as you would respect a fully enlightened being thereby developing deep admiration towards Bodhisattvas and praise them. The fourth precept is to always encourage any sentient being you encounter to enable them to uphold their Buddhahood. (Break)
Among the practices that are related with protecting one’s bodhicitta from degeneration, the practice of tolerance or patience is one of the most important factors. One’s relationship with a person who inflicts harm upon one has the potential of destroying one’s good heart and kindness towards others. What is crucial in order to successfully engage in the practice of cultivating tolerance and patience is to first of all realize what are the disadvantages and harmful effects of anger. One also needs to know what the beneficial effects and advantages of cultivating tolerance and patience. By realizing these advantages and disadvantages of anger and its opposite tolerance or patience, this will allow one to reach a point where one will encourage oneself to increase the force of tolerance and decrease the force and power of anger within oneself.
One of the most beneficial effects of cultivating tolerance and patience is that they will protect one’s own mental calmness and peace of mind from being disturbed. Even though a very hostile environment might surround the individual if the person has the practice of tolerance and patience their mental peace and calmness of mind can not be disturbed. Not only this in future lives the effects of practicing tolerance and patience is manifest in terms of having greater courage, determination and strength of will.
Just as the Bodhicaryavatara states that there can never be a person who is angry and at the same time happy, the moment anger dominates one’s mind there is no room for peace of mind, for happiness. It will destroy one’s calmness; it will destroy one’s peace of mind. Also even though a person might be normally quite gentle in character, quite gentle in nature, calm and peaceful, but the moment they lose their temper and become angry, at that point the person almost becomes totally uncontrolled. It is at that point that the person might engage in any action, might make any decision, which could be very damaging, or something that they will regret once the anger passes. Therefore anger also has the great destructive power to destroy even one’s own closest friendships. So not only does anger destroy one’s own peace of mind and happiness but also it destroys the happiness and peace of mind of your companions, those around you. As a result it creates a great deal of conflict and makes one’s life miserable. Most importantly as a result of generating anger in one’s mind it can manifest in actions, which are potentially very harmful. For instance the person might even go to the extreme of taking the life of another person. These types of actions, which are very negative and destructive, will leave strong negative imprints on one’s mind, the consequences of which will be taking rebirth in the lower realms of existence in the future.
When one encounters adverse circumstances, circumstances that are tragic which cause suffering upon us, one should think whether the situation is such that something can be done about it or not. Can it be overcome? Is there a way out of it? If one realizes that there is a way out of it then there is no need to be depressed, there is no need to worry about it. On the other hand if through investigation one realizes that there is no way out of it, there is no solution to the problem, no possibility of resolving the situation, then there is no point in being depressed or worried about it. One should think in such terms.
Also one should think that the normal, immediate reaction to such adverse circumstances, one’s instinctive reaction is to blame the person who perpetrates or inflicts that harm. One should reexamine the validity of one’s instinctive reaction towards such circumstances because if the reason why one feels angry towards the person who inflicted the harm, it is the person who is seen as the cause of the suffering. Why should one be particularly angry towards that person and hold that person responsible? If a person causes one the harm directly by hitting one with a stick, it is the weapon used that one should hold responsible. If one holds the person responsible because they are the indirect cause then one should hold the delusions, the hatred in that person’s mind which motivated that person uncontrollably against their control, responsible for inflicting harm upon one. One should view the delusion or hatred in the mind of that person as responsible rather the person. So out of these three factors which cause that harm, the immediate cause (the weapon), the indirect cause (the delusion in the mind) and then the agent (the person holding the weapon), why does one discriminate and particularly hold the person alone responsible? By thinking along such lines one will be able to reduce the intensity of one’s anger and hatred towards a person doing one harm. From all these various perspectives or angles one can contemplate so that one will be able to some how take a precautionary stance or measure that can prevent the arisal of depression or unhappiness which is in fact the fuel that induces feelings of anger and hatred.
The practices associated with cultivating tolerance and patience as explained in the sixth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara are truly remarkable, something very admirable. Also the steps of reflection, the stages of contemplation which are mentioned in the sixth chapter are really remarkable and in fact they lay the firm foundation for the subsequent practice of bodhicitta. The training of one’s mind in equalizing and exchanging oneself for others is explained in the eighth chapter. It is in the sixth chapter that a firm foundation is laid for allowing that subsequent practice to be possible.
Next follows the three chapters of the seventh, eighth and ninth which deal with practices related to enhancing the generation of bodhicitta in the mind. The first among these three chapters is the chapter on enthusiasm or perseverance. Perseverance or enthusiasm is a joyous effort which if one lacks it then no subsequent realizations of the path are possible whereas if one possesses this faculty then it will lead one to the attainment of higher realizations. So this faculty of perseverance or enthusiasm is very crucial.
In talking about the practice of perseverance or enthusiasm what is crucial is to be able to agitate the practice in a very skillful way. When engaged in the practice, to be very intense at one point and then very lax at another point is not wise. Rather one’s of enthusiasm and perseverance should be continuous; constant so that it is like an expression that one’s enthusiasm should be so constant and continuous like a stream of water. The basic source from which one will be able to draw increasing inspiration to improve one’s enthusiasm and perseverance is the realization or the awareness of the presence of Buddhanature within the mental continuum of all sentient beings. If we on our part make the necessary initiative then we posses the seed or potential to bring about the full realization of Buddhahood within ourselves. So far as the possession of that faculty is concerned we are equal with all sentient beings. Through such awareness and reflection one must be able to protect oneself from self-discouragement because a lack of self-confidence, thinking “At my level of realization or development what can I do? I am totally incapacitated” that type of thinking is most detrimental to one’s progress on the spiritual path. In order to successfully engage in the path leading to the fully enlightened state, what is crucial is to have a tremendous amount of self-confidence, confidence in one’s own capacity and ability to succeed.
One should think that all the Buddhas of the past were initially like oneself, full of sentient beings’ weaknesses, faults, delusions and afflictive emotions. But the only difference on their part is that through their own effort and initiative, they embarked on a spiritual path which eventually led them to the state of full enlightenment. Therefore on our part if we also make a similar effort and take the initiative and embark on a similar path, we also possess the potential that we lead us eventually to the attainment of the fully enlightened state. One must think along such lines.
Next I will make some comments on the eighth chapter, the chapter on meditation or concentration. It is in this chapter that the actual practice of the stages of training in developing bodhicitta is explained.
Meditation or concentration here refers to a state where the practitioner has attained a certain degree of single-pointedness of the mind. What is being aimed at here is to somehow train a faculty which already exists within one’’ mental factors. If we examine our minds, we will find within our mental continuum that we possess a faculty of mind, which allows us to somehow retain attention on to a chosen object. Through a lack of training, through a lack of cultivating this faculty and developing it to its fullest potential, we are incapable of, we are unable to maintain that attention on to the chosen object for a long period of time. What is being aimed for here through the practice of meditation or concentration is to somehow develop this faculty so that we will be able to maintain our attention on to a chosen object for a very prolonged period of time in a single-pointed equipoise. This is the aim here.
Now to give an example. For instance when we talk about bringing about a realization of great compassion, universal compassion within us, what we are talking about is a development of a potential, which already exists within us. It is our natural capacity to empathize with other sentient beings in suffering and their problems. Although at the ordinary level that capacity to empathize is slightly mixed with attachment or a feeling of intimacy or closeness. Still there is a sort of natural empathy, a natural capacity that enables us to empathize with others’ sufferings and others’ problems. Now when we are training in cultivating great compassion what we are trying to accomplish is to somehow develop this pre-existing faculty to its fullest potential so that our capacity to empathize with others’ sufferings will become universal, unbiased and equal towards all sentient beings. This is the meaning of realizing great compassion. Similarly in training one’s mind in cultivating meditative states what we are doing is somehow developing the basis, the seed that already exists within our minds.
A state of single-pointedness of mind possess two main characteristics, these are that at that stage one must be able to somehow maintain one’s attention single-pointedly on the object of meditation, abiding as it is called. Then at the same time the image of the object must be vivid, not only that but subjectively there must be clarity on the part of the experience. These two characteristics, the ability to abide and a vivid clarity of the object, must be present.
Since these two qualities must be present in a proper meditative state of mind, the ability to abide and to have vivid clarity of the chosen object. Therefore there are two main mental factors which are reserved as the greatest obstacles that hinder one’s cultivation of the faculty of single-pointedness. One of these obstacles is mental distraction, in general terms, and then specifically mental excitement, which deviates one’s mind from the chosen object on to objects of desire. It is this mental distraction in general and particularly mental excitement, which destroys one’s ability to abide on a chosen object therefore it, must be overcome. Since clarity and vividness of the image of the object is a necessary condition for a stable meditative state, the factor that obstructs this quality is known as mental sinking. Therefore these two obstacles, mental sinking and mental excitement or distraction must be overcome.
These two obstacles, mental excitement and sinking come about as a result of certain states of mind. If one’s mind is too alert, if the alertness is excessive or one’s state of mind is too high, at that point mental excitement comes in. On the other hand if one’s mind is too low and if one feels mentally down then mental sinking creeps in. In the morning when we are fresh we feel very alert and in the evening when we feel exhausted, mentally you feel run down. At that point there is a danger of mental sinking coming in. Therefore by understanding how mental sinking and mental excitement arise one should be able to somehow in one’s meditation maintain a sort of equilibrium where one’s mental state is not too excited nor at the same time too low or down. One needs to find that middle point, find this equilibrium.
The training of one’s mind and cultivating such single-pointedness of mind in a meditative state is being undertaken at the level of the gross mind and the gross mind contains mental states which are intimately linked with the states of one’s physiological body. Therefore it is recommended for the practitioners to seek a very appropriate environment and place in which to practice. The altitude, the environment where one meditates and all such external factors make a difference on one’s ability to meditate. One’s physical health and the time of day, as one is fresher in the morning, also play a role. Judging upon all these various factors, one should seek whatever is the most appropriate time, place and environment where one can successfully begin to engage in meditation leading to the cultivation of single-pointedness.
As for the object of meditation in cultivating single-pointedness of the mind, one can take any object for one’s meditation. In fact at the initial stage at the very gross level and in fact for some certain people it might be quite a skillful means or an effective method to have an image of something if front of you. Although in reality where meditation or concentration is cultivated at the level of mental consciousness not at the sensory consciousness at the initial stage, it is helpful to have something in front of you as the object of your visual perception. Then by single-pointedly gazing at it through your visual perception and letting your mind immediately follow whatever image is registered through your visual perception, to single-pointedly place your attention on to the image registered through your visual perception. It is possible to arrive through meditation at a stage where your visual perception will no longer have any effect on your mental attention or consciousness. You might be able to arrive at a point where whatever comes into your visual field becomes totally irrelevant as you have already transcended that level to a level where your image of meditation, the object of the meditation is retained only in the form of an image which is perceptible only to your mental consciousness. So it is possible to cultivate single-pointedness of mind by first using your visual perception gazing at an object in front of you, be it a flower or any other object. There are also other simpler objects of meditation for instance like focusing on one’s own mind, take your own mind as the object of meditation and then cultivate single-pointedness focussed on that.
If you are taking mind as the object of meditation to cultivate single-pointedness of your mind then what is crucial is to first identify the object of meditation. Generally speaking when you talk of mind you can use the term quite easily but when it comes to actually identifying what it is, it is quite a difficult task. It is almost impossible, as it is in our ordinary existence to really have an experience of what mind is because our normal, ordinary existence is characterized by constant following after our sensory impressions. Most of our mental states are dominated by thoughts, perceptions and experiences which somehow follow after powerful impressions that we get through the senses. This is so much so that one could almost say that we have forgotten what it is to actually feel the mental experience. So what is required is to somehow adopt a stance or position so that you would be able to engage in a meditative session where you temporarily prevent the arisal of all past recollections or what you have done. At the same time you need to prevent any arisal of thoughts, which pertain to future events, anticipations, hopes, plans and so forth, rather you must be totally present. Through this way we will be able to somehow withdraw our mind from being totally driven away outwardly by our sense impressions and at that point we will be able to experience a vacuity between the interval point, between having successfully prevented the arisal of thoughts pertaining to past events and successfully prevented arisal of thoughts related to future events. In this midpoint we will be able to experience a sense of vacuity. If we constantly carry on with our meditation practice, somehow prolong that experience then gradually we will be able to have some form of subjective experience of what is meant by mere subjectivity which is in the nature of experience. We will also have an inkling of an experience of what is meant by clarity and awareness, knowing, mere luminosity. Through this way we will be able to identify what is mind.
By prolonging the experience of the interval point, the experience of vacuity through constant practice and meditation and by also preventing the arisal of mental excitement and mental sinking along with the application of mindfulness, one is able to maintain the single-pointedness on the object in this context for a period of one-sixth of a day. It is at this point that the practitioner is said to have attained single-pointedness of mind in a meditative state.
Once you have arrived at this point where you are able to retain your single-pointedness of mind on a chosen object in meditation for a period of four hours, then again by further meditation on the chosen object one arrives at a point where the ability to retain the single-pointedness becomes stabilized. One’s experience of this single-pointedness becomes complimented with the factor of mental suppleness, physical and mental suppleness which makes both one’s body and mind serviceable. It is at this point that the practitioner is said to have attained what is technically known as samatha or calm-abiding. When one still further meditates and practices the experience of samatha or calm-abiding can become conjoined with special insight and this leads to the attainment of the first level of concentration. As the subtlety of one’s concentration increases then one transcends from the first level of concentration up to the fourth level, which is followed by another four stages of increasing subtlety. These are technically known as the Four Levels of Formless States of Mind; Limitless Space, Limitless Consciousness, Voidness and Peak of Existence. The level of mental consciousness at the Peak of Existence is said to be so subtle but at this point there is a side-effect to it, which is a loss of intensity and clarity. It is because of those that Highest Yoga Tantra techniques are said to surpass the meditative techniques of the Sutra tradition as in Highest Yoga Tantra. As the subtle states of mind are brought about by inducing great bliss within one’s mental continuum, as the subtlety increases the consciousness instead of losing its intensity and clarity increases its power to cognize and increases its power of clarity and vividness. This is the unique advantage of using the meditative techniques of Highest Yoga Tantra.
As for meditative states there seem to be many different types of meditative states. One finds mention of different types of meditative states in the Theravada literature, the Lesser Vehicle and also one finds a multitude of meditative states mentioned in the Mahayana Sutras and the tantric literature. Now there is time for some questions.
Question: What practices do you recommend for preschool children?
Answer: I don’t know. Teachers would need to judge what is appropriate to be taught. What is important is to be kind and gentle towards the children.
Question: You said that we need to accept scientific fact. If we really doubt that fact, do we have to? For instance a long time ago we were told that the earth was flat and that the earth was the center of the universe, science was wrong. Might it not be wrong again?
Answer: As for the question of whether Mount Meru exists as the center of the universe or not, I don’t know if it is something proven to be false by science or whether it is something science has not observed. What is clear is that in the Abhidharmakosa it mentions the distances between the earth and the sun and moon. It one compares those distances with the modern scientific calculations then there is a disparity between the two. The distance from the earth to the moon and sun has been verified precisely and since it contradicts the account given by Vasubandhu I can definitely say that the account in the Abhidharmakosa can not be accepted as valid.
For example I showed a photograph of the earth taken from on the moon and showed it to several Tibetan lamas who commented that perhaps they landed somewhere on Mount Meru. Personally I don’t think we Buddhists should be so narrow-minded, we should be broad-minded. Whether or not there is a Mount Meru does not make any difference to Buddhists.
Question: Could you please give advice or suggestions on how we utilize daily practice in our lives?
Answer: As I explained earlier that what is crucial is to first thing in the morning cultivate a good motivation and a determination to spend the day in a beneficial way. One then engages in whatever work it is that you do with this motivation and outlook and try to be as helpful and beneficial towards other sentient beings. Maybe this is how one could make one’s life most worthy.
The Kadampa masters also recommend one practice that before you go to bed you review your actions and thoughts during the day and see how much of it was according to the Dharma and how much against Dharma. This form of habit and practice is very remarkable. I think the true significance of counting beads is not to just to count mantras but rather to count your positive thoughts and actions. Otherwise if it were just to count mantras it would be just wearing down your nails. There is an expression, the implication of which is if you lack the right motivation then reciting mantras and counting beads would not help. The expression runs that instead of exhausting your negativities you wear down your fingernails. I can’t claim to have counted mantras to the point where my nails have been worn off but I can definitely tell you that I’ve counted mantras to the point where my fingers begin to feel uncomfortable.
Question: When people hear of luminosity or clear light that dawns at the moment of death, they ask why is it called clear light? What has it to do with light, as we know it?
Answer: I don’t think that the term clear light should be taken literally, it is more metaphoric. This could have its roots in our terminology of the mental realm. For instance according to Buddhism all consciousness or all cognitive and mental events are said to be of the nature of clarity and luminosity. It is from this point of view that the choice of term “light” is used. Also because the clear light is the subtlest level of mind which can be seen as the basis or the source from which the eventual realization of Buddhahood comes about, therefore it is called clear light. Because clear light is a state of mind which becomes fully manifest only as a consequence of several stages of dissolution where the mind becomes devoid of certain types of obscurations which are described in terms of darkness, this experience of dissolution is metaphorically described in terms of sunlight or moonlight. The earlier three stages of dissolution are technically called including the clear light, the Four Empties. So at the final stage of dissolution the mind is totally free of all the factors of obscuration therefore it is called clear light. The terminology clear light is explained in this way in the Guhyasamaja Tantra.
It is also possible to understand the meaning of the usage of the term clear light in terms of the nature of mind itself. Mind or consciousness is a phenomenon, which lacks any obstructive quality, it is non-obstructive.
Question: For a Western person with a materialistic, scientific education are there any examples which would be good arguments for reincarnation?
Answer: The main grounds on which Buddhists accept the concept of rebirth must be understood in terms of the continuum of consciousness. For instance in the case of the continuum of the material world according to Buddhism all the elements of the macroscopic world of the universe can be traced in terms of their origin back to an initial point when all the elements of the material universe were condensed into what were technically known as space particles. These in turn are the consequent state of a disintegration of an earlier universe. There is a constant cycle of a universe evolving, disintegrating, dissolving and then coming into being again. All the material elements of the macroscopic universe can be traced in terms of their origin to the space particles.
Similarly the fact that we possess something called consciousness, mind, is quite obvious to us, it is our own experience testifies to its presence. It is also evident to us from our own experience that what is called mind or consciousness is something that is subject to change when exposed to different conditions and circumstances. It shows the nature of momentariness, shows the nature of being susceptible to change. Among what we call consciousness or the mind, the gross levels of mind are intimately linked or dependent upon the physiological states of the body. This is very evident. However there must be some basis, some energy or some source, which interacts with the material particles and is capable of producing conscious living beings. This according to Buddhism must have its own continuum. So if you trace the continuum of our present consciousness, our mind, then just like with the material universe it can be traced back infinitely, beginninglessly. Therefore there must be successive rebirths, which allows the continuous chain to be present.
Also given that Buddhists believe in a universal causation, that everything is subject to change, causes and conditions, therefore there is no place for a divine creator, no place for a necessary being who is self-created. Everything rather comes into being as a consequence of causes and conditions. Therefore consciousness or mind must also come into being as a result of earlier instances. So when we talk of causes and conditions there are two principal types of causes. These are the substantial cause, the stuff from which something is produced and cooperative factors, which contribute towards this causation. In the case of mind and body, mind and matter, although one can be the cooperative factor the other but one can not be the substantial cause of the other as Dharmakirti states in his Pramanavarttika [Compendium of Valid Cognition]. Mind and matter, although dependent upon each other cannot serve as a substantial cause of the other; one can not turn into the other.
On these bases Buddhists accept rebirth. Also we come across a number of situations where there are people who vividly recollect their experiences in previous lives. When it comes to talking about existence or non-existence even a single example is enough. But in order to prove the existence of something, a phenomenon even a single example is also enough. In order to prove the non-existence of something one example is not enough. So it is on these grounds that Buddhists argue for rebirth.
In a sense given the two choices between not accepting rebirth and accepting rebirth, the earlier position seems to leave less questions unanswered and mysterious whereas if one does not accept the phenomenon of rebirth, it leaves so many unanswered questions. From a practical point of view, there isn’t really any point to be worked up over trying to prove the phenomenon of rebirth. For example in my case, I’m a person who explicitly maintains that it is better to have a multitude of religions, a diversity of religious traditions. This implies that it is better to have a greater number of people with a diversity of opinions and it is better to have many people who do not essentially believe in rebirth. (End of day three)
Today is the last day for the preliminary teachings to the Kalachakra empowerment ceremony. Today I will conduct the ceremony for conferring the Bodhisattva Vows. As for the actual ritual for conducting the ceremony for the conferring of Bodhisattva Vows, according to the Sakya tradition there are two major systems of undertaking such a ritual. First is the system that follows the tradition of the Madhyamika School and the second that follows the Cittamatra or Mind-Only School. Today’s ceremony will be based on the system of Asanga which is the school of Mind-Only and the text on which the ceremony will be based is a text composed by Asanga called Bodhisattva Grounds or the Bodhisattvabhumi in Sanskrit. The sequences of visualizations and the stages of meditation mentioned there is quite extensive and also quite good for performing the visualizations.
The ritual for the actual ceremony is composed of three parts, these being the preliminary practices, the actual ceremony and the concluding rites. The preliminary practices begin with making request to the guru. You will be doing several repetitions of some sentences the meaning of which is that first one calls out for the attention of the master. One then states one’s name with a prefix of “I, so-and-so Child of the Family”, Family here referring to the family of the Buddhas. One states that since you have the desire and wish to take the Bodhisattva vows if there are no obstacles that would interfere in one’s taking the vows and if favorable circumstances are complete then please grant the Bodhisattva Vows. With these in mind, repeat after me. (Verses in Tibetan)
The second part of the preliminary practices is that the guru asks several questions. The significance of this is to determine whether there exist on the part of the students any adverse conditions, which would obstruct or hinder the student’s receiving the Bodhisattva Vows properly. Principle among the adverse conditions is the self-centered motivation and attitude. If someone’s primary intention for taking the Bodhisattva Vows is a self-centered attitude, thinking that if one attains the fully enlightened state one will be totally free from all sufferings, dissatisfaction and delusions, such an attitude and motivation is totally inappropriate. What is required on the part of the student is the altruistic aspiration, that it is for the benefit of all sentient beings that one seeks the state of Buddhahood. For this purpose one takes the vow. So the guru asks if one has the wish to free those sentient beings who are bound in the cycle of existence. Does one have the wish to assist those who are on the path to attain the fully enlightened state? So these question will be asked.
The first question is, “O disciples listen to me. Is your intention of taking the Bodhisattva Vows to assist those sentient beings who are not free from obscurations to knowledge to enable them to attain that freedom?” For example the Arhats, although they have obtained liberation from cyclic existence, they still posses obstructions to knowledge, full knowledge. When I ask you the question, “Do you wish so?” reply by saying that you do, dur la.
The second question is, “Do you wish to help those who are bound in the cycle of existence to be free from the binding factors, afflictive emotions and thoughts?” The third question is, ”Do you wish to help those sentient beings who let alone are not free from obstructions to knowledge and also not free from the bondage of cyclic existence. But rather because of their being under the total domination of deluded states of mind, they indulge in actions which are negative and harmful and as a result they are living a state of existence which is totally characterized by undesirable experiences such as pain, suffering, dissatisfaction and so on. Do you wish to lead them from their suffering?”
The fourth question is, “In short do you have the aspiration to seek the liberation of all sentient beings, place them in the state of highest enlightenment and by becoming a bodhisattva do you wish to insure that the Buddha’s lineage always remains present?” Next the guru asks the question, “Are you taking these vows in order to compete with someone?” One responds by, this is not the case, me lam. The next question is “Are you taking these Bodhisattva Vows under duress?” I hope the answer is negative.
The next series of questions are asked since the main sources in the literature from which the practices of Bodhisattva ideals and principles are taught are in the collection of sutras known as Domba peboche (?). Among the commentarial literature the principal work on the Bodhisattva Vows is Asanga’s Bodhisattvabhumi. The guru asks if you familiar with this literature. At least have you heard a summary of the main Bodhisattva Vows? Do you have some understanding of these? Do you have an admiration in the Bodhisattva ideals and practices? Do you have the desire and the will to engage in such practices?
The guru then advises you that since on your part these conditions and factors are complete therefore you should now reinforce your enthusiasm for taking the vows and also rejoice in the fact that you have this opportunity. I will read from the twenty verses on the Bodhisattva Vows symbolizing exposition on the eighteen root vows and forty-six secondary vows of bodhisattvas. Those who are already familiar with the practice are aware that there are translations of these Bodhisattva Vows in English. The Bodhisattva Vows can be taken directly from a guru, a living person, which has the advantage of inspiring one and increasing one’s enthusiasm as well as conscientiousness. If it is difficult to find a qualified teacher from whom one can take the Bodhisattva Vows then the Bodhisattva Vows can be taken on one’s own in front of a representation of a Buddha.
There is a principal difference between Bodhisattva Vows on the one hand and the Pratimoksa, which are monastic vows and tantric vows on the other hand. The principal difference being that in the case of Bodhisattva Vows, prior to taking Bodhisattva Vows, the practitioner can study and read about the Bodhisattva Vows and decide whether or not they will take the vows. In the case of Pratimoksa Vows which are the monastic vows and the tantric vows prior to trying to actual take the vows, one is not allowed to study in detail all the precepts.
There is also another major difference between Pratimoksa Vows, including the layperson’s vows on the one hand and Bodhisattva Vows and tantric vows on the other. In the case of Pratimoksa Vows, Individual Liberation Vows, they are something that if you have already taken the vows and you confront a situation or find yourself under circumstances where you can no longer abide by the precepts you have taken, the system allows for you to return the vows, revoke the vows you have taken. In the case of Bodhisattva and tantric vows since when you took the vows you took all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in all the directions as witnesses to the actual taking of the vows and since you developed the determination to hold them until all sentient beings are placed in the state of full enlightenment, therefore once you have taken them you can not give them back.
But if in spite of having taken the Bodhisattva Vows you confront a situation where you have transgressed one of the root vows then it is possible through certain practices to restore the broken vows. In the case of the Pratimoksa Vows if you have broken one of the cardinal precepts of the vows then there is no possibility of restoring it.
In the following verse the essence of the Bodhisattva Vows or Practices is summed up. It states that if the action is such that by engaging in it if there is benefits both during the actual execution of the act and in the long term then it is an act the Bodhisattva practitioners must definitely engage in. This includes the appropriate motivation as well. On the other hand if it is an act which when engaged in is harmful and uncomfortable but brings long term benefit and happiness then it is an act Bodhisattvas when confronted with the choice must engage in. If an act which when actually engaged in is not only harmful but also has long term destructive consequences then that is definitely an act which the Bodhisattva practitioner must avoid. Similarly if it is an act which when engaged in although has temporary benefits but in the long term its consequences are highly destructive and negative then Bodhisattvas if confronted with a choice must avoid engaging in such an action. This sums up the essence of the Bodhisattva Vows. (Recites verses in Tibetan)
Next is the accumulation of merit and this will be done on the basis of the Seven-Limb practice. Today I thought it might be good to do the recitation from the Bodhicaryavatara. The translation of the two chapters has been distributed. When you recite the text, as I mentioned yesterday, visualize in front of you all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Lineage Masters of the past and yourself surrounded by sentient beings. Reinforce your faith, conviction and admiration for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and reinforce your compassionate attitude towards all sentient beings. Also reinforce your determination to generate bodhicitta for the sake of all sentient beings. With these in mind then recite from the text.
Chapter II Bodhicaryavatara
In order to seize that precious mind
I offer now to the Tathagatas,
To the sacred Dharma, the stainless jewel,
And to the Sons of Buddha, the oceans of excellence,
Whatever flowers and fruits there are
And whatever kinds of medicine,
Whatever jewels exist in this world
And whatever clean refreshing waters;
Likewise gem-encrusted mountains,
Forest groves, quiet and joyful places,
Heavenly trees bedecked with flowers
And trees with fruit-laden branches;
Fragrances of the celestial realms,
Incense, wishing trees and jewel trees,
Uncultivated harvests, and all ornaments
That are worthy to be offered;
Lakes and pools adorned with lotuses
And the beautiful cry of wild geese,
Within the limitless spheres of space.
Creating these things in my mind I offer them
To the supreme beings, the Buddhas, as well as their Sons;
O Compassionate Ones, think kindly of me
And accept these offerings of mine.
Having no merit I am destitute
And I have no other gifts to offer,
O Protectors, you who think of helping others,
By your power accept these for my sake.
Eternally shall I offer all my bodies
To the Conquerors and their Sons.
Please accept me, you Supreme Heroes,
Respectfully shall I be your subject.
Through being completely under your care
I shall benefit all with no fears of conditioned existence;
I shall perfectly transcend my previous evils
And in the future shall commit no more.
To very sweetly scented bathing chambers
With brilliantly sparkling crystal floors
And exquisite pillars ablaze with gems,
Having canopies above aglow with pearls,
I beseech the Tathagatas and their Sons
To come and bathe their bodies
From many jeweled vases filled with waters scented and enticing,
To the accompaniment of music and song.
Let me dry their bodies with incomparable cloths
Clean and well-anointed with scent,
And then may I present these Holy Beings
With fragrant garments of suitable colors.
I adorn with manifold ornaments
And various raiment fine and smooth,
The Aryas Samantabhadra, Manjughosha
Avalokiteshvara and all the others.
Just like polishing pure, refined gold
Do I anoint the Buddhas’ forms that blaze with light
With the choicest perfumes whose fragrance permeates
A thousand million worlds.
And to the highest objects of giving I offer
Beautiful, well-arranged garlands,
As well as enchanting, sweet smelling flowers,
Such as lily, jasmine and lotus blooms.
Also I send forth clouds of incense
Whose sweet aroma steals away the mind,
As well as celestial delicacies
Including a variety of food and drinks.
I offer them jeweled lamps
Arranged on golden lotus buds;
Upon land sprinkled with scented water
Do I scatter delicate flower petals.
To those who have the nature of compassion
I offer palaces resounding with melodious hymns,
Exquisitely illuminated by hanging pearls and gems
That adorn the infinities of space.
Eternally shall I offer to all the Buddhas
Jeweled umbrellas with golden handles
And exquisite ornaments embellishing the rims,
Standing erect, their shapes beautiful to behold.
And in addition may a mass of offerings
Resounding with sweet and pleasing music,
(Like) clouds that appease the misery of all,
Each remains (for as long as necessary).
And may a continuous rain
Of flowers and precious gems descend
Upon the reliquaries and the statues,
And upon all the jewels of the Dharma.
In the same way as Manjughosha and others
Have made offerings to the Conquerors,
Similarly do I bestow gifts upon the Tathagatas,
The Protectors, their Sons and all.
I glorify the Oceans of Excellence
With limitless verses of harmonious praise;
May these clouds of gentle eulogy
Constantly ascend to their presence.
With bodies as numerous
As all the atoms within the universe,
I prostrate to all the Buddhas of the three times,
The Dharma and the Supreme Community.
Likewise I prostrate to all reliquaries,
To the bases of an Awakening Mind,
T all learned abbots and masters
And to all the noble practitioners.
I seek refuge in all Buddhas
Until I possess the essence of Awakening,
Likewise I seek refuge in Dharma
And in the assembly of Bodhisattvas.
With folded hands I beseech
The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
Who possess the great compassion
And reside in all directions.
Throughout beginningless cyclic existence
In this life and in others,
Unknowingly I committed evil deeds
And ordered them to be done (by others).
Overwhelmed by the deceptions of ignorance
I rejoiced in what was done,
But now seeing these mistakes
From my heart I declare them to the Buddhas.
Whatever harmful acts of body, speech and mind
I have done in a disturbed mental state,
Towards the Three Jewels of Refuge,
My parents, my spiritual masters and others;
And all the grave wrongs done by me,
So thoroughly evil and polluted
By an abundance of faults,
I openly declare to the Guides of the World.
But I may well perish
Before all my evils have been purified;
So please protect me in such a way
As will swiftly and surely free me from them.
The untrustworthy Lord of Death
Waits not for things to be done or undone;
Whether I am sick or healthy.
This fleeting lifespan is unstable.
Leaving all I must depart alone.
But through not having understood this
I committed various kinds of evil
For the sake of my friends and foes.
My foes will become nothing.
My friends will become nothing.
I too will become nothing.
Likewise all will become nothing.
Just like a dream experience,
Whatever things I enjoy
Will become a memory.
Whatever has passed will not be seen again.
Even within this brief life
Many friends and foes have passed,
But whatever unbearable evil I committed for them
Remains ahead of me.
Thereby, through not having realized
That I shall suddenly vanish,
I committed so much evil
Out of ignorance, lust and hate.
Remaining neither day nor night,
Life is always slipping by
And never getting any longer,
Why will death not come to one like me?
While I am lying in bed,
Although surrounded by my friends and relatives,
The feeling of life being severed
Will be experienced by me alone.
When seized by the messengers of death,
What benefit will friends and relatives afford?
My merit alone shall protect me then,
But upon that I have never relied.
O Protectors! I, so unconcerned,
Unaware of such terror as this,
Accumulated a great deal of evil
For the sake of this transient life.
Petrified is the person
Today being led to a torture chamber.
With dry mouth and dreadful sunken eyes,
His entire appearance is transfigured.
What need to mention the tremendous despair
When stricken with the disease of great panic,
Being clasped by the physical forms
Of the frightful messengers of death?
“Who can afford me real protection
From this great horror?”
With terrified, bulging eyes agape
I shall search the four quarters for refuge.
But seeing no refuge there
I shall become enveloped in gloom.
If there should be no protection there,
Then what shall I be able to do?
Therefore I now seek refuge
In the Buddhas who protect the world,
Who strive to shelter all that lives
And with great strength eradicate all fear.
Likewise I purely seek refuge
In the Dharma they have realized
That clears away the fears of cyclic existence,
And also in the assembly of Bodhisattvas.
I, trembling with fear,
Offer myself to Samantabhadra;
To Manjughosha also
I make a gift of my body.
To the Protector Avalokiteshvara
Who infallibly acts with compassion,
I utter a mournful cry,
“Please protect this evil-doer!”
In my search for a refuge
I cry from my heart
For Akashagarbha, Ksitigarbha
And all the Compassionate Protectors.
And I seek refuge in Vajrapani,
Upon the sight of whom all harmful beings
Such as the messengers of death
Flee in terror to the four quarters.
Previously I transgressed you advice,
But now upon seeing this great fear
I go to you for refuge.
By doing so may this fear be swiftly cleared away.
If I need to comply with a doctor’s advice
When frightened by a common illness,
Then how much more so when perpetually diseased
By the manifold evils of desire and so forth.
And if all people dwelling on this earth
Can be overcome by just one of these,
And if no other medicine to cure them
Is to be found elsewhere in the universe,
Then the intention not to act in accordance
With the advice of the All-Knowing Physicians
That can uproot every misery,
Is extremely bewildered and worthy of scorn.
If I need to be careful
Near a small, ordinary precipice,
Then how much more so near one of long duration
That drops for a thousand miles.
It is inappropriate to enjoy myself
Thinking that today alone I shall not die,
For inevitably the time will come
When I shall become nothing.
Who can grant me fearlessness?
How can I be surely freed from this?
If I shall inevitably become nothing,
How can I relax and enjoy myself?
What remains with me now
From the terminated experiences of the past?
But through my great attachment to them
I have been going against my spiritual masters’ advice.
Having departed from this life
And from all my friends and relatives,
If all alone I must go elsewhere
What is the use of making friends and enemies?
“How can I be surely freed
From unwholesomeness, the source of misery?”
Continually night and day
Should I only consider this.
Whatever has been done by me
Through ignorance and unknowing,
Be it the breaking of a vow
Or a deed by nature wrong,
I humbly confess it all
In the presence of the Protectors,
With folded hands, prostrating myself again and again,
My mind terrified by the misery (to come).
I beseech all the Guides of the World
To please accept my evils and wrongs,
Since these are not good,
In the future I shall do them no more.
Chapter III Bodhicaryavatara
Gladly do I rejoice
In the virtue that relieves the misery
Of all those in unfortunate states
And that places those with suffering in happiness
I rejoice in that gathering of virtue
That is the cause for (the Arhat’s) Awakening,
I rejoice in the definite freedom of embodied creatures
From the miseries of cyclic existence.
I rejoice in the Awakening of the Buddhas
And also in the spiritual levels of their Sons.
And with gladness I rejoice
In the ocean of virtue from developing an Awakening Mind
That wishes all beings to be happy,
As well as in deeds that bring them benefit.
With folded hands I beseech
The Buddhas of all directions,
To shine the lamp of Dharma
For all bewildered in misery’s gloom.
With folded hands I beseech
The Conquerors who wish to pass away,
To please remain for countless eons
And not to leave the world in darkness.
Thus by the virtue collected
Through all that I have done,
May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.
May a rain of food and drink descend
To clear away the pain of thirst and hunger
And during the eon of famine
May I myself change into food and drink.
May I become an inexhaustible treasure
For those who are poor and destitute;
May I turn into all things they could need
And may these be placed close beside them.
Without any sense of loss
I shall give up my body and enjoyments
As well as all my virtues of the three times
For the sake of benefiting all.
By giving up all, sorrow is transcended
And my mind will realize the sorrowless state.
It is best that I (now) give everything to all beings
In the same way as I shall (at death).
Having given this body up
For the pleasure of all living beings,
By killing, abusing and beating it
May they always do as they please.
Although they may play with my body
And make it a source of jest and blame,
Because I have given it up to them
What is the use of holding it dear?
Therefore I shall let them do anything to it
That does not cause them harm,
And when anyone encounters me
May it never be meaningless for him.
If in those who encounter me
A faithful or an angry thought arises,
May that eternally become the source
For fulfilling all their wishes.
May all who say bad things to me
Or cause me any other harm,
And those who mock and insult me
Have the fortune to fully awaken.
May I be a protector for those without one,
A guide for all travelers on the way;
May I be a bridge, a boat and a ship
For all who wish to cross (the water).
May I be an island for those who seek one
And a lamp for those desiring light,
May I be a bed for all who wish to rest
And a slave for all whom want a slave.
May I be a wishing jewel, a magic vase,
Powerful mantras and great medicine,
May I become a wish-fulfilling tree
And a cow of plenty for the world.
Just like space
And the great elements such as earth,
May I always support the life
Of all the boundless creatures.
And until they pass away from pain
May I also be the source of life
For all the realms of varied beings
That reaches unto the ends of space.
Just as Santideva mentions in these verses, particularly the verse:
Just like space
And the great elements such as earth,
May I always support the life
Of all the boundless creatures.
This is the type of aspiration that the Bodhisattvas generate and pray that just as the elements earth, space and so forth always remain and support the lives of all sentient beings in the universe, similarly they make aspirational prayers to serve all sentient beings. We also find a similar voice in Nagarjuna’s writings as well where he has an aspirational prayer to the effect that may he be able to serve all sentient beings continuously and eternally just as the great elements serve as the basis for supporting all life. Just as you make this aspirational prayers, a true Bodhisattva practitioner must be able to implement as much as possible into one’s daily practice these ideals.
Next is making a request to the guru to quickly grant the Bodhisattva Vows. (Recitation in Tibetan)
Now is another question and answer section, which again is to determine whether the students have the necessary conditions to actually take the Bodhisattva Vows. I will ask, “Are you a bodhisattva?” and “Have you generated aspirational prayers to attain the fully enlightened state?” I will be asking for your name. Among the audience I am sure there are some who have within themselves the realization of genuine bodhicitta. In their case there is no problem in responding affirmatively without any hesitation but those in the audience like myself who can not claim to have a genuine realization of bodhicitta, so it is quite difficult for us to immediately say yes I’m a bodhisattva. So what is required is that from the depths of your heart generate a deep admiration for bodhicitta and then develop a very strong conviction from the depths of your heart to exert effort in cultivating bodhicitta within yourself. With such conviction and admiration when you say yes I am a bodhisattva it will at least better than telling an outright lie. (Recitation in Tibetan)
I will then re-emphasize that on your part all the prerequisites seem to be complete to take the Bodhisattva Vows and ask if you have the desire to take these vows from me. (Recitation in Tibetan)
With this the preliminary practices for the ceremony of taking the vows are complete. The next stage is the actual ceremony of taking the vows. This actual ceremony consists of a set of recitations on the part of the master who is imparting these vows. I will ask again if you wish to take the Bodhisattva Vows which are in a sense are summarized in the three principal ethical precepts of a bodhisattva practitioner. These being the ethical precepts of restraining from harmful actions, accumulating merit by engaging in positive actions and working for the benefit of other sentient beings. So I will ask you if you wish to lead a way of life which is based on the observance of those three ethical principles of bodhisattva practice. I will ask again if you wish to take such a vow from me which I will repeat three times. At the end of every repetition you should say yes I do. When you finish the third repetition and state yes I do, it is at that point you imagine that you have received the complete set of Bodhisattva Vows. Those who have already taken Bodhisattva Vows before should imagine that the vows which you have received, if they are broken are now restored and if none of them have been broken then your vows are enhanced.
Those who wish to take the vows, please fold your hands. (Recitation in Tibetan) Next is invoking the wisdom of all the Buddhas in the ten directions. The guru does this by making prostrations towards all of the ten directions, invoking the wisdom of the Buddhas in the ten directions. The master states that since at this place, at this particular time and in this assembly these disciples have taken the Bodhisattva Vows and as a result a great store of merit has been accumulated. Therefore an offering of realizations and practices towards all the Buddhas in the ten directions is made.
The guru making prostrations in all the ten directions constitutes the actual ceremony of invoking the wisdom of all the Buddhas. He imagines touching the feet of all of the Buddhas and the guru states, “I, a Bodhisattva by the name of Bhiksu Tenzin Gyatso, have been the witness to all this assembly of bodhisattvas taking the Bodhisattva Vows. I request all the Buddhas of the ten directions to observe the fact that such a ceremony has been conducted and that this entire assembly of bodhisattvas has taken the vows.” (Recitation in Tibetan)
As it is mentioned in the text here that as a result of talking these Bodhisattva Vows through taking the ceremony conducted here, when such a ceremony is conducted by the force of certain individuals who have taken the pledge and developed the determination to uphold the bodhisattva ideals there will be certain indications seen in the pure realms of the Buddhas. The bodhisattvas of those Buddhas in those pure realms will notice these signs and will ask the principal Buddha of that field why they are observing certain particular signs. The Buddhas will respond that it is natural if somewhere in some place a group of individuals take the strong pledge and cultivate the determination to engage in the Bodhisattva practices and ideals by taking the vows then those kinds of signs are observed. The Buddhas out of their great compassion and wisdom will perceive that in today’’ situation on this date, on this earth, in this city and a bhiksu, a follower of the Buddha Shakyamuni, by the name of Tenzin Gyatso conducted a Bodhisattva Vow ceremony. At this ceremony certain individuals generated strong determinations to engage in the Bodhisattva ideals and practices and have made a pledge to undertake such practices on the basis of having generated the altruistic mind. It is because of that event that these particular indications or omens are being observed. As a result those great Buddhas out of their great compassion and wisdom will make a pledge to assist in the spiritual path of those practitioners and the Buddhas will feel delighted as if a new child had been born in a family. Similarly the bodhisattvas who realize that those individuals have taken the pledge will also rejoice in the fact that because these individuals have taken the pledge to engage in the bodhisattva ideals and practices, will feel delight in finding new companions or comrades.
At this point we will continue with reciting the text, Chapter III, verse 26:
Today my life has born fruit;
(Having) well obtained this human existence,
I’ve been born in the family of Buddha
And now am one of Buddha’s Children.
Thus whatever actions I do from now on
Must be in accord with the family.
Never shall I disgrace or pollute
This noble and unsullied race.
Just like a blind man
Discovering a jewel in a heap of rubbish,
Likewise by some coincidence
An Awakening Mind has been born within me.
It is the supreme ambrosia
That overcomes the sovereignty of death,
It is the inexhaustible treasure
That eliminates all poverty in the world.
It is the universal bridge
That leads to freedom from the unhappy states of birth,
It is the dawning moon of the mind
That dispels the torment of disturbing conceptions.
It is the great sun that finally removes
The misty ignorance of the world,
It is the quintessential butter
From the churning of the milk of Dharma.
For all those guests travelling on the path of conditioned existence
Who wish to experience the bounties of happiness,
This will satisfy them with joy
And actually place them in supreme bliss.
Today in the presence of all the Protectors
I invite the world to be guests
At (a festival of) temporary and ultimate delight.
May gods, demi-gods and all be joyful.
Next the guru advises the disciples not to speak about your having taken vows unnecessarily. The significance of this is that if you mention this unnecessarily without any particular reason then it might lead to situations where others who hear about it might begin to speak against it. As a result of this they would accumulate negative imprints. As it is part of the advice of the system known as Training of the Mind, Mind Transformation or the Lo-jong, one of the principal precepts there is that the transformation and change takes place within. There should be a change in one’s attitude and a transformation of one’s state of mind and way of thinking but so far as the external appearance is concerned the more normal you remain the better it is. In fact it is quite easy to bring about external change or appearance while still remaining the same person within. What is difficult is to bring about change and transformation within.
As a concluding rite for the ceremony of conferring Bodhisattva Vows, we have to again recite the verses on the practices of the Seven Limbs. The initial recitation was done in English and now this one we will perform in Tibetan.
Yesterday we spoke about the practices that are associated with enhancing the mind of the altruistic wish to attain complete enlightenment, enhancing the one you have already generated. Related to this practice are three chapters the first on enthusiasm was explained yesterday. I also spoke about a brief summary of the practices related to cultivating calm-abiding or samatha. As I explained earlier even if you haven’t attained a genuine calm-abiding, a full samatha if you have attained a certain degree of single-pointedness achieved through training your mind and cultivating that single-pointedness then the greater the level of single-pointedness the more control you will have in being able to place your attention on to a chosen object of meditation as long as you wish. This will enable you to channel all of your energy and concentration towards a particular object of meditation that you choose to undertake. It will also protect you from your attention and energy being dispersed or dissipated.
In the Bodhicaryavatara once having cultivated calm-abiding, the object here of meditation chosen is the practice of bodhicitta. Bodhicitta here is taken as the object of meditation. Bodhicitta, which is trained through the system as explained earlier, among the two principal systems of practice. One is the exchange, which equalizes oneself and others. As for the practice of training one’s mind in equalizing and exchanging oneself with others, the essence of this practice can be found in two verses [129 & 130] which are in the eighth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara. They read:
Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.
But what need is there to say much more?
The childish work for their own benefit,
The Buddhas work for the benefit of others.
Just look at the difference between them!
As these two verses state, especially the first, that all the joy we find in this world, the happiness, success and the prosperity, if one examines carefully, one finds at the root of all these favorable circumstances is the altruistic mind which cherishes the welfare of other sentient beings. However if one looks at all the sufferings, failures and tragedies, one finds at the root of all these undesirable events the root cause which is the self-centered attitude, the selfish desire that cherishes one’s own welfare and is oblivious to the well-being of other sentient beings. So this is quite also obvious which we can appreciate from our own experiences. If we remain ourselves totally self-centered, selfish and work only for our own benefit, in the end it is we ourselves who stand to lose whereas if we regard others’ happiness and well-being as more important and work accordingly, one’s own self-interest is fulfilled in the process as a by-product. Particularly for practicing Buddhists what need is there is see the disadvantages and limitations of the self-centered attitude and the advantages and beneficial effects of cherishing others’ welfare. One can appreciate the difference in the two, the contrast between the two by comparing one’s own state of existence with that of the Buddha’s. For the practicing Buddhist this type of comparison is very powerful.
We also find in the eighth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara on meditation a unique form of meditation in training one’s mind in equalizing and exchanging oneself with others. There are specific stages of meditation has been recommended where a certain type of jealousy, competitiveness and haughtiness or pride is to be cultivated. A sense of that meditation one could sum up in the following. One vividly visualizes one’s old self, who was the embodiment of a totally egoistic, selfish and self-centered person. One places this vividly pictured “you” on one side. One then visualizes all the sentient beings undergoing suffering and undesirable fates. These sentient beings are weak and are caught up in suffering. One places them on the other side. Now imagine yourself as a neutral party observing the two sides. Focusing your attention on your old self, the embodiment of the self-centered, ego-centered selfish person, compare that person with all the other sentient beings. Compared to all the other sentient beings this single person is after all only one person. On top of this, this person is very arrogant, very selfish and does not deserve to be cared for but rather one must care for all the other sentient beings. In this way one imagines that the old self, being very prosperous, wealthy, power and high position. In contrast from the perspective of the other sentient beings, they have a sense of jealousy towards one’s old self.
One takes the side of the sentient beings and first imagines one’s old self as being more powerful, more prosperous in worldly terms and develops a sense of jealousy towards that. Again by taking the side of the sentient beings imagine one’s old self as being equal to oneself as the neutral observer along with the sentient beings. Try to form a sense of competitiveness. Again taking the side of the sentient beings imagine one’s old self as being lower and inferior and develop a sense of pride or haughtiness towards one’s old self.
Now this type of meditation, since it is yourself who is training their mind through such stages of meditation, it is very effective method of gradually generating within one’s own mind a sense of repulsion towards the ego-centric attitude, the selfish, self-centered attitude. One also realizes the great value of cherishing others’ welfare more than one’s own.
Next I will give a brief summary of the ninth chapter on wisdom. In order for all these various skillful means of the path such as the practices of bodhicitta, the first five perfections such as generosity and so forth, for these various aspects of the method aspect of the path to fully express their potential to enable the practitioner to make progress on the spiritual path and work for the benefit of all other sentient beings, these factors must be complemented with the factor of intelligence or wisdom. In this context especially the wisdom realizing emptiness penetrating into the ultimate nature of reality is most important. This is one reason why wisdom is very crucial. Secondly, no matter how powerful one’s realization of bodhicitta might be, one’s realization of compassion might be, so long as the practitioner lacks the faculty of wisdom, the realization of emptiness, there is no way that those other factors of the path such as bodhicitta or compassion can ever directly confront and eliminate the root of ignorance. They can never directly eliminate or dispel ignorance from the mind and directly confront the delusions. It is only by generating insight into the true nature of reality, it is only by generating such an insight into emptiness that one will be able to directly confront and eliminate ignorance, the misconception grasping at the inherent existence of all phenomena that ignorance can be overcome.
Generally speaking except for one or two sub-schools of the Indian school of Vaibhasika thought all major philosophical schools of Buddhism accept the doctrine of selflessness, the principal of selflessness in the context of the sixteen characteristics of the Four Noble Truths. One of the characteristics of suffering is selflessness therefore the doctrine of selflessness is accepted by most of the major philosophical schools of Buddhism. In this context of the practice of the Bodhicaryavatara the selflessness of person alone is not enough. What is required is the realization of the selflessness of phenomena, the identitylessness of phenomena. It is on the basis of the acceptance of selflessness, the doctrine of selflessness that there evolved in India four major philosophical schools of thought.
Out of these four major schools it is the two schools of the Mahayana tradition, which accept the indentitylessness of phenomena or the selflessness of phenomena. These two schools are the Yogacara, the Mind-Only School and Madhyamika, the Middle Way School. These two schools differ in their interpretation of what the selflessness of phenomena or the identitylessness of phenomena actually means. Within the Madhyamika school there are different ways of dividing that school but according to the mainstream Tibetan tradition is to divide the Madhyamika into two principal sub-divisions. These are the Madhyamika-Prasangika of Candrakirti and the Madhyamika- Svatantrika. Among the multitude of interpreters of Madhyamika philosophy, Candrakirti is considered one of the greatest authorities on the Madhyamika doctrine of emptiness by the Tibetan tradition.
The distinctive feature of Candrakirti’s literature is that when he comments or interprets the doctrine or philosophy of Nagarjuna and his disciple Aryadeva, principally the two works The Treatise on the Middle Way and Four Hundred Verses, his commentary is very explicit, clear and lucid. Therefore practices and meditations on the two types of selflessness, the selflessness of person and the selflessness of phenomena, become very crucial in one’s practice. Although in terms of subtleties in the object to be negated in the course of meditating on emptiness, there is no difference between the understanding of selflessness of phenomena and the selflessness of person. But due to the difference in the object, on which the understanding of emptiness is developed, it is said that it is easier to develop an understanding of emptiness in relation to the person rather than phenomena. Therefore in many writings one finds that the exposition of the selflessness of person precedes the exposition on the selflessness of phenomena. This is also the order in which the practitioner is recommended to undertake the practice of meditating on emptiness.
As it is mentioned here in the ninth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara, the chapter on wisdom, both in the context of developing an understanding of selflessness of person and selflessness of phenomena, if the meditation and contemplation is done on the basis of using an understanding of Dependent Origination then one will be able to develop an understanding of emptiness more easily and quickly. Generally speaking there are many different types of reasoning designed to establish the emptiness of phenomena such as the Diamond Slivers reasoning which examines the nature of phenomena especially from the perspective of causation. There is another type of reasoning, which examines the emptiness of phenomena from the perspective of their effects, the capacity to produce effects. There are also different types of reasoning which aims at establishing the emptiness of phenomena from the point of view of their numerical characters such as the absence of singularity and plurality. However all of these diverse and different forms of reasoning which are designed to establish emptiness are all based on the fundamental principle which is the understanding of all phenomena as dependently originated.
Now let us do a simple meditation on the steps to arrive at an understanding of emptiness. Earlier we went through the stages of meditation generating bodhicitta within ourselves. There is something which went through those stages of meditation which generated bodhicitta and at the same time when you felt that you had generated it you also experienced a sense of joy in having had that good opportunity. There is someone or something, which is the experiencer of that joy. The denial of such an agent, the denial of such an experiencer, the denial of a doer of such an act constitutes falling into the extreme of nihilism. It is because there exists such an agent, because there exists such a doer then there is the possibility to generate such states of mind. There is the possibility to free this agent; there is the possibility to attain liberation. If we were to seek the essence of that being through ultimate analysis then we may not be able to pinpoint a substantial entity which one can point to as the essential person. But the fact that such a being exists is validated by our own experience of existence.
The fact that such an experiencer, such an agent exists is obvious as indicated by our valid experiences. If we were to step beyond the bounds of convention trying to search for the essence of this being, not being content or satisfied by the validity of our conventions, if we were to search further for the essence of this being then we do not find such a being.
Similarly if we examine our own thoughts, our natural responses and reactions to events and so forth, we will find within our minds, within our consciousness that we make distinctions between our bodies and minds. Also this distinction is a valid one. There exists within our psychophysical constituents two distinct phenomena, matter which is body and the mental factors. Also if we examine we also find that if we try to identify that being, person or self among the physical aggregates like our body, we do not succeed because as far as the physical constituents are concerned we if necessary will sacrifice certain parts of our body in order to save our lives or health. We are prepared to get rid of those parts of our body, which threaten our health. Similarly within our minds we are prepared again to rid of certain aspects of our minds, such as hatred or ill-feeling as they are harmful to our person. Why are we prepared to go to such an extent to get rid of certain constituents which our essentially our own aggregates? For one purpose, to make the self or person happy, for that being’s happiness and satisfaction. This indicates that we can not identify our own self or being, neither in the body nor in the mind. So what is evident is that there is something, a being or person which is like the owner of the body and mind, something that governs the combination of body and mind. If we search for what this being is what this person is then we do not find such an entity.
Therefore just as in a case of optical illusion, for instance where one mistakes a coiled rope at dusk for a snake and develops fear, at that point the perception of the coiled rope as a snake is mistaken. Although one had the conception of a snake but there is nothing on the part of the basis [the coiled rope] which supports the perception of a snake. On the part of the coiled rope there does not exist even a single entity, either on the basis of the collective whole of the rope, nor the shape nor the continuum nor anything within the rope which can be taken as a true example of a snake, the existence of a snake there. Similarly although we have the notion of a self or being or person on the basis of the five aggregates (form, perception, volition, compositional factors and consciousness), there isn’t on the part of the five aggregates neither in their continuum, individually or collectively even a single entity which can be justified as being the essence of one’s being, one’s true being or person. This is just as there lacks even a single entity objectively on the part of the coiled rope which justifies it as being the true example of a snake.
The difference between the two is that in the case of mistaking a coiled rope for a snake although one had the perception of a snake there that is obviously mistaken, it was an illusion and the denial of the existence of the snake did not contradict any established valid conventions. On the other hand if one were to conclude as a result of one’s inability to find a substantial being from among the five aggregates that a person does not exist, obviously one will be directly contradicting the validity of convention and one’s own experience. Therefore what is obvious is that the person or self must exist in some relation to the designated basis [the five aggregates]. Since one can not find the objective existence of such a being what one concludes is that it is a mere label designated on the basis of the five aggregates. The statement that the person or being, the identity of the person is a mere label should not be mistaken with the notion that the person is a mere term. That is not the meaning of the person being labeled. The person is neither the term nor a true referent, something existing objectively. Since it is neither the name or term nor is it a true referent which exists objectively out there, what one concludes as a result of this analysis is that a person exists by means of one’s designation on the basis of the five aggregates.
Now having arrived at such a conclusion through analysis intellectually, that is realizing that since one can not maintain that person is only a mere term or name while at the same time realizing that it lacks an objective basis something which can be taken as the true referent of the term, therefore the only viable alternative of its status of existence is that it exists by means of designation. Compare this conclusion arrived at through analysis with your own normal perceptions of phenomena including your own self. When you think of yourself in your day-to-day life how do you relate to yourself? How do you identify with yourself? What type of personal identity do you have? Extend this comparison to other phenomena. How do you perceive things normally in day-to-day life?
In you examine these questions you will find that in our normal experience our perception of things does not accord with the conclusion we arrived at earlier through analysis. In our normal way of perceiving phenomena, phenomena appear to us as if they possess some form of objective reality. They appear to us or we perceive them as if they are the true reference of the term that we use including our own selves, our own personhood. We may perceive our own self as if there existed independently out there, objectively, something called the self or person which is the true referent of the term person. Similarly when we perceive other phenomena we perceive them as if they possessed objective existence, an objective reality, as they are the true referent of the terms. If you compare that perception with the conclusion arrived at earlier then you will begin to realize that there is a disparity, a gap between the two modes of thought.
In addition to our normal perception of phenomena and one’s own self as being clouded by this misconception of perceiving them in light of possessing some form of objective reality, inherently existing “out there” in and of themselves, this mode of perception is further strengthened in certain experiences, particularly during intense emotional states. For instance in the case of the feeling of hatred and anger, the object of the anger is something undesirable to one, something destabilizing towards one. At that instant one feels as if the object of the anger exists “out there” independently, in and of itself. This experience takes for granted the objective reality of focus of one’s anger and in a way one could also say that it also affirms the perceived validity or truth of the misperception of things. Similarly when one has intense attachment or grasping towards an object at that point the object of desire becomes as if it is independent, it is solid, concrete. This emotional intensity also affirms the believed validity or truth of the misconception, which perceives things as inherently existing. During these emotional states the fact that one normally misconceives things as inherently existing, things as possessing objective reality is made very apparent.
As I explained earlier if you compare the conclusion arrived at through the process of analysis examining your normal perception of phenomena or your ordinary world view, you find that although in your ordinary perception there is a perception of an objective world, a view of self and phenomena as existing “out there” independently and in and of themselves, in reality they lack any status of such existence. As you begin to make this comparison and develop through constant familiarity the ascertainment of the emptiness of phenomena then you will be able to reinforce and increase the force of your certainty, your conviction that phenomena do lack such a state of existence. You will also be able to increase your ascertainment of phenomena as existing only nominally by the force of designation and lacking an objective, independent status. You will also be able to realize that all phenomena because their status of existence can be understood only in terms of a nominal status, depend on the designating factors. Therefore phenomena depend not only their existence but also their very identity as things, but also on other factors and therefore lack an independent status. This absence of an independent status, this lack of inherent existence is emptiness. However the ordinary perception which perceives phenomena and self in the contrary is definitely … Therefore as you keep on making these comparisons between the two you will begin to realize that although phenomena in reality lack independent and inherent existence but in our ordinary perception they appear in a contrary manner. …appear in one way but exist in a different way, different manner. Therefore the realization of the illusion-like nature of all phenomena will be actualized.
Since the afflictive emotions and thoughts such as anger, hatred, desire and attachment are essentially based on the misconception of reality based on the independent or concrete existence of the objects of the emotions, therefore the realization of emptiness, the empty nature of all phenomena will directly effect, directly confront the root ignorance which misperceives the nature of reality. This realization cuts away the root, the basis for the arisal of the afflictive emotions and thoughts. At the same time it increases the force and power of the virtuous states of mind such as love, compassion, tolerance and so on. At the initial stage although one’s feelings of love, compassion or tolerance may be induced by misperceptions of their object as inherently existing but ultimately these virtuous states of mind, the positive aspects of the mind do not require as their basis a misperception of reality. Therefore the greater the force of one’s insight into the nature of reality, the greater one’ realization of emptiness becomes, the more powerful the force of the positive aspects of the mind will become. At the same time the force of the negative emotional states such as desire, hatred or anger, which essentially require the misperception of phenomena, as inherently existent will decrease.
When such a realization of emptiness, such an insight is complimented with the factor of skillful means, method or bodhicitta then they support each other, strengthening the force of the other. One will then be able to successfully progress along the path.
Once you attain the initial realization of emptiness, which is inferential, therefore your understanding of emptiness is not direct; one approaches emptiness through its image. As you develop familiarity with this understanding, as one’s power of understanding develops through meditation then eventually you reach a point where your understanding and realization of emptiness becomes so fused with the actual experience of emptiness that there is no longer any sense of duality. The understanding is no longer based on a mere concept but rather is a true experience of emptiness. This is experienced during meditative equipoise, meditative sessions. Still as you progress along the path as a result of constant engaging in the practice of the union of method and wisdom as I spoke of earlier, eventually you will arrive at a stage where you become totally freed from any form of dualistic appearance, from any form of duality. There is no influence from any level of dualistic elaborations. Your experience of emptiness becomes complete and from the point of view of your experience of emptiness you develop total equipoise in that meditative state. At the same time all the imprints, habitual imprints and all the delusions in your mind from all the successive occurrence of these deluded events in your mind, are all overcome, are all eliminated. It is at this point that the individual is said to have attained the fully enlightened state of Buddhahood.
This concludes a brief summary of the essence of the ninth chapter on wisdom. The essence of the tenth chapter on dedication can be understood from the fifty-fifth verse of the chapter:
For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.
The next three verses read:
May all the pains of living creatures
Ripen (solely) upon myself,
And through the might of the Bodhisattva Sangha
May all beings experience happiness.
May the teachings, which are the sole medicine for suffering
And the origin of every joy,
Be materially supported and honored
And abide for a very long time.
I prostrate to Manjughosha
Through whose kindness wholesome minds ensue,
And I prostrate to my spiritual masters
Through whose kindness I develop.
I will leave at this today.
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.