Reflections on the Path of Dharma
by The Ninth Khamtrul Rinpoche, Jigme Pema Nyinjadh
In this modern day and age, we have made great progress in technology and standard of living, though I do not unwelcome it. Nor do I think that standard of living or should I say the search of happiness outside of our self should be the main goal of our life. I have heard people say that “we should learn from history so that we do not repeat our mistakes”.
I feel that we should also learn from the life of those, whom we consider to be the epitome of success and happiness. Whether they are Hollywood superstars or leaders of powerful nations….. How happy are they? Are they free from all the problems in life? Can they raise their powerful hands and avoid unhappiness from coming to them and others?
Are they happier than us? Rich people seem to have almost all the problems that we ordinary have, plus some extra ones too. Yet poor or should I say middle-class people too can’t claim to be really happy, just because we are middle class or poor. Though we have our privacy and perceived freedom, which usually the rich and famous lack. While we might wish to be famous and recognised wherever we go, the famous usually seems to prefer privacy in their life.
It is said that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so if happiness doesn’t automatically come with wealth and power, how can we obtain it? Buddha taught that of all the wealth in the world “contentment” is the best of all wealth. Likewise, the famous Indian Buddhist master Nagarjuna said that ‘suffering for the accumulation of wealth, the worry of protecting it, the despair of losing it consumes those with strong attachment to wealth’. Therefore these people can never be free from suffering.
From these teachings, we can come to a conclusion that whether you are rich or relatively poor, you can be happy if you are content. Since both contentment, and discontentment, (which arises from attachment) comes from our mind, it is evident that the happiness and suffering has very much to do with our mind.
When we are happy, everything looks beautiful and nice, yet when we are gripped by negative emotions such as anger or despair the same thing appears to look unattractive and unpleasant. His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa said in “My Crazy Tale” that pleasure and pains are created by attraction and aversion. For example in the hot plains of India during the monsoon when it rains people go out and dance with joy while in the hills of Darjeeling, where it rains quite consistently we say, will this rain never stop?
Since the mind is the main source or cause of happiness and suffering, we should look inside ourselves for solutions to our life. As the great Indian master, Shantideva said, complaining that one is getting pricked by thrones while walking barefooted and trying to cover the earth with leather is not the realistic solution but if one covers one’s own feet with leather it is same as covering the entire earth!
Likewise, instead of covering the earth and sky, if one is content, that is it! You are happy! Isn’t that the ultimate aim? Instead of trying to destroy all your enemies, isn’t it better to destroy the anger inside us? Instead of trying to be number one in the world, if one is mentally humble, isn’t that a better and more realistic way to be happy? What does it matter to you how much you are respected or not? The reason I say mentally humble is sometimes we can be humble by circumstance or just externally, which is not truly humble. It is again the mind or the mental attitude that is important.
In Tibetan language, the terminology for Buddhist is “Nangpa” which means someone who looks within themselves for the answers to external problems. Buddha taught that the main cause of the suffering is ‘ignorance’. However ignorance has quite a broad range of meaning, one can understand that in essence, it means not realising the unfabricated nature of the mind which is the primordial and non-dualistic wisdom.
Never looking inward for an existence of self or ego but by the habit of countless past life or experience we have the strong grasping attitude to what we call “I ” and “others”, “me” and “mine”, “my like and dislike”. From these arises the attachment, anger, pride, jealousy, etc. These compel us to diverse karma or actions, which results in diverse reactions or results. Be it external flora and fauna of the world, or the different and diverse experience of the sentient beings.
Though we the unenlightened can’t clearly define all the diverse effects of different Karmas and to understand subtle things such as non-dual nature of the mind, even philosophically it might take a lot of studies and deep reflections. Nevertheless, it is relatively easy to understand the negative impacts or unhappiness, the negative mind or emotions such as anger, grasping attachment, pride, etc can bring in our life. These emotions immensely influence our life and drive our life that they seem to enslave us completely.
That is why in the chapter of forbearance, in the practices of the heart sons of Buddha, by Shantideva, It is said that ”the beings controlled by the negative emotions often hurt even their own cherished self” (suicide and self-inflicted pains). so we should try to understand and forebear the pain they cause us, as they are totally controlled and helpless by these negative emotions.
So from the five poison and its consequences, we take refuge in Buddha, the compassionate and enlightened one, therefore free from the five poisons and consequently free from the suffering. Dharma or the path which He Himself took, and practised to enlighten Himself.
Sangha, the spiritual community to support us on our path to enlightenment or Nirvana. (A lasting or true happiness, which comes from realising the wisdom within us or the true state of things as they are). Since a mind of a qualified teacher can be the “Buddha”, his teachings the “Dharma” and his support the “Sangha”.
In Vajrayana, the teacher is understood as Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This is the very basic understanding of three refuges. It is said that depending on your own realisation, three refuges will have a broader and all encompassing meaning as you progress in your development of wisdom. Buddha’s teaching is referred to as a universal truth, as His realisation is the truth applicable to all phenomena. Therefore, the word “truth” is often used, such as four noble truths, relative and ultimate truth.
Since enlightenment is referred as Buddha, the path is referred as Buddha’s Dharma. For example, Newton discovered the law of gravity, so it is referred as Newton’s law. However, that doesn’t mean that there was no gravity before he discovered it, or there won’t be gravity after the discovery. Similarly, Buddha too discovered or realised the truth which has always been there primordially.
Since truth is no one’s property and truth is applicable to all, whether we call ourself Buddhist or not, anyone is welcome to His teaching of ‘path to happiness or enlightenment’. Regardless of whether we call our self-spiritual or materialistic, all sentient beings do desire happiness and wish to avoid unhappiness. Generally speaking, won’t we enjoy our material wealth more, with less grasping or attachment?
Usually when we own something precious, don’t we spend more time worrying about it than enjoying it? Won’t we be a better person, a better friend, better husband, wife, or generally a happier person if we can at least minimise our anger, our pride, our grasping attachment which leads to selfishness, or jealousy? If one is able to minimise these things then, one is really practicing.
In essence, that is all Dharma is all about. When we do things which look very nice and holy yet done with negative motivation and thoughts you are not practicing Dharma but samsara. (Samsara means the ceaseless cyclic activities without essence due to the influence of ignorance and other negative emotions). So I feel that practicing Dharma in its essence will enable us to enjoy life more, with more relaxed and unbiased attitude to ups and downs of life.
Being a practitioner doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your job, family, and going to the caves, rather it means that through means of different practices you improve your mind slowly. Devoting even a short period of time from our busy schedule of modern day life to develop our mind can have great and positive effects in our life. Therefore, I sincerely pray that we all remember the great need for Dharma in our life, and practice it.
Especially when we are so fortunate to have an Enlightened, Compassionate, and qualified master such as His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa. These are some reflections of mind that I just jotted down. They are not teachings for I am just a beginner to dharma and lack either wisdom or knowledge. Yet if there is anything in my reflections which are of benefit to others, then they are due to the kindness of my enlightened teachers such as His Holiness the12th Gyalwang Drukpa and others.