Preliminary Teachings to the Kalachakra Initiation
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
on The Bodhicaryavatara
Translated by Thupten Jinpa
New York City,
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.