Sasanaramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple, Singapore

You are always with your practice
by His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

I would like to say is that people definitely have to work and support themselves. When you have the enlightened attitude you have a responsibility to the people around you, to your country. You care about them. You are always with your practice. You are inseparable from it. You seize opportunities to benefit others and you will benefit others in whatever way you can.

You have been in this country. You were born in this country. Many people who will read this, are from families that have been here for generations. This country has been an important place for you. You have to offer respect for your grandparents and you must live a decent life, a dignified life that upholds the traditions of your ancestors, that meets the approval of society, your parents and yourself. If you are really going to serve this country and help its people, this seems like a reasonable way, rather than belonging to this party and that party, and getting involved in this competition and that competition, and all kinds of politics. As practitioners of the Dharma we don’t have to deny politics and reject politics, but we don’t have to play those games, either. It is not necessary. It is not important. It is not needed.

If you are working, may be in a hospital, you can see how you might have the opportunity and responsibility to help people. In the same way, what ever work you have taken, there are definitely people that you can benefit. So you should serve your people, serve your country, not expecting your country to serve you. And that’s the part of the practice of the Dharma. Not working is not taking responsibility.

If you are practitioner of the Mahayana teachings, that means you have something to be proud of, something to be worthy of, something to be descent for. But many people go around like some kind of outcast, in rags, with long hair, unwashed, as if you are a drug addict or something. This is not the proper way to present yourself. You are not maintaining your respect, you are not respecting Dharma that you are practicing, and you are not creating the proper outlook that the excellent Dharma is worthy of.

This is the message to the practitioners of Dharma that they must be dignified internally as well as externally, and their internal dignity must reflect outwardly also. We are not some drug addicts. Wearing the descent clothes, and being a descent human being, and serving your country, your people, serving the Dharma, and also yourself, being a self-respectful person is the Dharma path. How are you to benefit beings by looking as if you are completely discarded from the society?

By exposing that appearance, you are not taking the responsibility or you are not reflecting the enlightened attitude. If you are practicing the enlightened attitude, you should naturally be able to attract people so that when people see you, they might think, “Yes, these people definitely seem to be descent people, I think I could relate to them, and could ask something of these people. They might even be able to help me.” So in this way, you appear capable of giving help, or, at least capable of giving some directions to them for the help.

We are proud of ourselves as examples of the Dharma. If you are going around in rags, not taking care of your body, and going in the world like a misfit, it makes a very bad impression of that Dharma Center that you are involved with, and also as a person of this country, which means that you bring disrespect and a bad impression to this country and it’s people.

These are certain points that before I leave, I would like to offer to people so that they can use it. I hope that whoever hears these words, whether you are a Dharma practitioner or not, or whether you have entered into Buddhism or not, I hope that it will make some sense to you. It comes sincerely and truly, not with any put-on, or masquerade or diplomacy, but truly-straight and clean.

With integrity and sincerity you can serve beings, and as you work in the Dharma, you will serve many beings. And that is the greatness of the Mahayana teachings and practice. You don’t have to be a drop out from the country, the society or family. You are not. Cause, you have dignity.

Omniscience comes about through the elimination of the afflictive and the epistemic obscuration. Here, the afflictions are passion and so on. They are called the afflictive obscuration because they block the vision of what is real. And when a person sees the reality of that which is to be abandoned and that which is to be taken up but does not know it in all of its aspects and is not capable of explaining it to others, that is the epistemic obscuration. In that case, because one has directly realised selflessness, there is the elimination of the afflictive obscuration. But the [elimination] of the epistemic obscuration for one who has seen selflessness comes about through the intensive, continuous, and long-term cultivation [of that realisation].

— Kamalasila

智慧人生
向扬法师

在這個社會,人人都想讓自己過着富有、舒適、快樂和健康的生活,可是往往在事與願違下,卻要面對很多自己沒有想到的問題!難以招架,不知所措。

在無可奈何下,只有走一步看一步,或把問題一拖再拖,甚至將問題轉嫁他人,不關己事,最後把本來簡單或易解的問題,都搞到一發不可收拾,與人結怨,互相攻擊,互相傷害、互相誹謗、互相破坏,而衍生成仇恨。

在一念之差下,做了錯事又犯了法,上法庭接受審判,最後必须面對罰款,或坐牢或兩者兼施,讓自己活在苦惱中,怨聲載道,不知如何是好?

而問題的出現,皆离不開以下几個道理:

(一)在自己面對困難時,總覺得沒有一個真心朋友願意伸出援手,幫助自己解决問題,因此對朋友懷恨在心,日以累積而變成了仇恨,對朋友懷着報復的心。

(二)因為小時常被人欺负、戲弄、侮辱,甚至被人侵犯,造成心理不平衡,覺得在這世上沒有一個能夠真正了解自己的人,對大伙不存有任何信任,慢慢產生与世隔絕的心態,把自己封閉在自己郁悶的世界裏。或變成極端古怪的性情,專做一些讓人難以理解的事情,引起社會的恐慌,人心惶惶。

(三)在公司裏,被老板欺壓、被同事嘲笑,又得不到家人的體諒,郁悶的心情得不到安慰。怨恨又不服的心,因而漸漸建立,并在忍無可忍之下,產生了報復的心態。

(四)或在工作時,因为自己的某種古怪心態,讓人感到不舒服,造成大家對你的不滿,漸漸的與他人結起了仇恨。

(五)因為自己傲慢的心態,(唯我獨尊)從不聽取他人的意見,在處理事情時,往往把事情給搞砸了。 又因為面子的關係,不敢承擔,讓自己活在尷尬中,經不起他人的指指點點,而懷起仇恨的心態等等。

以上種種的問題,如果每個人都能夠以智慧的方向作考量,一一都能獲得巧妙的解決,因為只要了解問題的緣起,(事情的演變、過程,或來龍去脈),就能了解息滅問題的方法,而獲得智慧幸福的生活。(自在無憂)

智慧的建立,有以下8個方法,讓大家作考量:

(1)教法:

讓自己先明白自己的作為,面對問題時,該如何去處理。首先,要了解眼睛的作為。大家都知道,眼睛本為看東西時,讓自己獲得眼前的訊息,而決定如何轉向,可是其中的道理鮮為人知。

其奧妙的作為,不單單只為轉向,其更微妙的用意,是要讓大家清楚看到眼前事與物的出現,是如何建立與開始,過程的轉變,還有最後息滅的道理,因人而異。因為眼睛所看到的東西,事與物,很快被記錄在腦意識中。

1.1 不管是靜止不動的物件:如建築物、用具它的建立與作為,因人而異,因為時代的轉變,才有新建與淘汰的轉變,這種轉變是讓我們理解萬物皆無常的道理:有成必有住、有住必有壞、有壞必成空。在這種種的過程中, 就因為被眼睛所看見而清楚記在腦意識中或在歷史的記載中而獲取的訊息,明白無常的道理,不再計較事物的好與壞,輕安而居,煩惱自然息滅。

1.2 或是漂浮不定的人與事:在眼前所出現的人與事,那一個是永遠不變的道理,今天的喜、 怒、哀、樂。明天的悲、歡、离、合。万事求不得的苦。甚至有生必有老、有老必有病、有病必有死。以上種種的感覺清楚的被記在腦意識中,讓我們更了解人生的無常,而更珍惜眼前的人與事,不再計較他人的過錯,和睦相處,伸出援手。自己有錯必改,他人有缺,定當幫助其改過自新,讓他朝向健康的大道前進,何樂而不為呢?

(2)理法:

在明白了以上的道理,自己會更珍惜眼前的家人、 朋友、同事、鄰居,甚至曾經與自己有過磨擦的 夙敵。因為之前自己在處理事物時,都是以不平等的心態對待他人,斤斤計較,嫌東嫌西,不在呼他人的感受,讓對方產生莫名的煩惱與怨恨, 日以累積,而造成對方的種種傷害,間接的也傷害到了自己,怨親的對付,夙敵的破壞,人事的改變,雖然有錢、有權、有身份、有地位,卻活得不開心病苦纏身,煩惱重重,何樂之有?

唯以真誠的心態、平等的對待、歡喜的接待、恭敬的禮待、用心的盡責、互相的幫助。不再計較、 不再仇恨、不再傷害、不再妄語、不再兩舌、不再惡口、不再綺語。心相轉向智慧,就有如雨過 天晴,日日皆好日,年年皆好年,何樂而不為呢?

(3)智法:

不再有怨恨的纏縛,不再有夙敵破壞,不再有記恨的煩惱。換來平靜的心,清晰的思维,種種的過失,不再重演,種種的過去,換來新生的智慧,以往種種的無明(不清不楚的人生),讓自己明白自己的過失,造就了種種不必要的人為傷害。

傷害了家人、傷害了朋友、傷害了曾經幫過自己的人。利用了家人對你的信任、利用了朋友對你的信任、利用了曾經幫過自己的人對你的信任。 失去了家人對你的愛戴、失去了朋友對你的愛戴、失去了曾經幫過你的人對你的愛戴。這種種的過失,不再重演。就因為如此,眼前的路,有了智慧光明的照耀,讓我我從黑暗中走向光明,何樂而不為呢?

(4)斷法:

明白了種種緣起之后,自己已經不再困擾在迷惑中,因為知道了種種問題的出現,皆在自己心生貪欲、嗔恚、愚癡,而造就了自己對他人產生的仇恨、忌妒、爭鬥,讓自己陷入苦惱中。既然明白了這個道理,也肯定了自己的覺醒。唯有遠離記恨,仇報的衍生,斷除種種的邪見,(不平等心態,)所有的一切苦惱,不攻自破,何樂而不為呢?

(5)行法:

從此行在自在中,不再有仇惱、不再有迷惑、不 再有貪欲、不再有嗔恚、不再有愚癡。在家庭, 負起自己的責任,照顧好父母。夫妻間,要互相體諒與恩愛。兄弟姐妹間,要互相尊重與和氣。 對儿女,要負起養育与教育之心,讓他們得到健康與安心的成長。

對鄰居,常保持關懷與問候的心。對師長,常保持恭敬與感恩的心。對朋友,常保持誠懇和援助的心。對公司,常以歡喜與盡責的心工作。對老板,常以真誠與盡心的扶持。對社會,常伸出援手,(只要自己能力所能做到)絕不推卸責任。對國家,常以保衛與盡忠的心。起居輕安,何樂而不為呢?

(6)位法:

因為自己的誠懇與盡責,對家人負起了責任。對鄰居的關懷與問候,對師長的恭敬與感恩。對朋友的誠懇與援助。對公司的歡喜與盡責。對老板的真誠與盡心。對社會,常伸出援手。

對國家,常負起保衛與盡忠的心。如此廣大的心量,自然獲得大家對你的尊敬與愛戴,大家對你的擁護,是語言所無法表達的,自己高貴的身份,因為自己的無私,自然建立,何樂而不為呢?

(7)因法:

因為自己已經遠離了邪見,(種種之前所建立起的錯誤觀念)而有了正确的方向,不再制造苦惱,覺 知:善有善報、惡有惡報,不是不報、時辰未到, 遠離因果輪迴的束縛,何樂而不為呢?

(8)果法:

因為自己斷除了苦受的纏縛,而獲得輕安自在的心裏,這種感覺,是語言與文字所不能解說得清楚的,唯有無苦無惱的心情方能體驗和感覺到,如此的勝境,大家本來就已具足,只是無明,(不明白其中的微妙)暫時把自己給遮蔽,只要大家放下仇恨與憂慮,如此微妙的心境,自然顯現無余。

The basic nature of our mind is essentially good. The Buddha taught that all beings are buddhas covered by momentary obscuration; when those obscurations are removed, they are real buddhas. The true identity of every sentient being, not just human beings, is a state of unconditioned suchness. This is the basic nature as it is, pure and perfect. We have an inherent capacity to care for others and to understand; it is not a product of education or upbringing. To practise the dharma means simply to develop and nurture these intrinsic qualities. That is our task, our responsibility.

— Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

To Practice Mindfulness Is to Return to Life
by Thich Nhat Hanh

To practice mindfulness is to become alive. Life is so precious, yet in our daily lives we are carried away by our forgetfulness, anger and worries. We are often lost in the past, unable to touch life in the present moment. When we are truly alive, everything we touch or do is a miracle. To practice mindfulness is to return to life in the present moment.

Practicing mindfulness, we see the suffering that is caused by the destruction of life everywhere, and we vow to cultivate compassion and use it as a source of energy to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. When we see suffering, compassion is born in us. It reflects the Buddha’s first sermon, that we have to be in touch with suffering.

It can be said that there are two kinds of suffering. Perhaps ninety-five percent of the suffering we endure every day is not at all necessary. Because of our lack of insight, we cause suffering to ourselves and others, including our beloved ones. But the remaining five percent is born out of contact with the real suffering around us and inside of us. To be aware of this kind of suffering brings about compassion, the energy necessary to transform ourselves and help relieve the suffering of the world.

Do not lose awareness of the suffering that is going on in the world. Nourish that kind of awareness by whatever means possible: images, direct contact, visits, and so on. We have to do that in order to keep both the awareness of the suffering and compassion alive in us. But experiencing too much suffering is not good. Any medicine must be taken in the proper dosage. We need to stay in touch with suffering only to the extent that we will not forget. Then compassion will flow within us and be a source of energy that we can transform into action.

People often use their anger at social injustice as a basis for action, but that is unwise. When you are angry you are not lucid, and you can do many harmful things. According to Buddhism, the only source of energy that can be useful is compassion, because it is safe. When you have compassion, your energy is born from insight. It is not blind energy. With compassion, we practice in order to learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. Just feeling compassion is not enough. If we do not know how to help, we can do damage. That is why love must go together with understanding.

Virtue and non virtue depend on the intention within the mind. Virtue is not necessarily determined by outer action because to practice dharma means to purify the mind. If you upholds mindfulness and care at all times then whatever you do will be dharma. Non distraction is the path of all Buddhas. It itself is the Buddha. Mindfulness is the actual Buddha.

— Garchen Rinpoche

如何轉苦為樂
星雲大師

佛陀說法,都是隨弟子的根機利鈍,而有不同的教化,但是佛陀也有許多基本的思想、教義。例如,全世界公認的原始佛教時代,佛陀經常講苦、空、無常、無我;到了後期,才鼓勵信徒要行六度萬行,要發四無量心,要舉四弘誓願等。

我們所了解的原始佛教,佛陀對人間的看法,說苦、空、無常、無我等,是非常究竟的。不過,後代的弟子、信徒,因為對佛陀的教化沒有深刻的體認,多從消極上講說人間的苦、空、無常、無我,使得一般信徒都跟著從消極面去體會,讓人感覺到佛教的人生沒有美景、沒有光彩。

遙想人間的佛陀都在社會上生活、托缽、乞食、說法,度化眾生,後代的佛教徒卻主張要入山隱蔽修行,與社會脫節,把積極救世的佛法轉為消極避世的意思,甚為可惜!以下謹就佛教的根本教義加以闡述,並說明其與人間佛教的關系。

人間可以轉苦為樂

不少佛子把人生說得苦不堪言,並強調苦有生死苦,有三苦,有四苦、八苦……無量諸苦。其實佛陀提出苦的實相,是要我們正視這個問題,從而進德修業,去除苦因,得到究竟安樂;不是要讓我們感到人間是苦,就厭離人生、就感覺到娑婆如苦海、三界如火宅,人生沒有意義、人生活得沒有目標,因此不愛世間、厭離世間。

苦,不該是這樣認識的。苦,不是什麼不好,從積極上來說,苦對於我們人生有極大的貢獻;因為苦,是我們的增上緣,苦,是我們的營養劑。它給我們學習、給我們奮斗、給我們增上、給我們成熟、給我們超越,有能量的人可以刻苦自勵,對人生是有正面的幫助。

以離苦得樂而言,讀書的人,沒有十載寒窗之苦,哪能有金榜題名之樂?農人不辛苦的耕耘種植,怎麼會有好的收成呢?軍人不吃苦,怎麼能升為將軍?工程人員不細心的研究,怎麼能成為專家?沒有工作上的辛苦,哪裡能有成就?父母生育子女,不教育、不辛苦扶養子女,他們怎麼能長大成人呢?子女成人了以後,對老年的父母,不辛苦的去孝敬、奉養,又怎麼算是人間的倫理之道呢?花草樹木不經過嚴冬的寒霜冰雪歷練,哪來春天的芬芳撲鼻呢?一些動物不經過寒冷的冬眠或酷熱的夏蟄,不去適應苦的過程,又怎能繼續存活呢?

苦,是我們的老師;苦,是我們的力量;苦,能幫助我們成就;苦,讓我們給人家稱贊。苦,好像泥土做的瓦罐經過火烤,它就會堅實;瀝青被壓縮之後,就會堅硬踏實,給人行走;就說是黃金吧,也要歷經艱苦讓洪爐來冶煉;就是白玉吧,也要辛苦地讓工匠琢磨才能成器。

苦,也是一樣,它可以給我們訓練,給我們堅強,給我們向上,給我們奮發。人生又怎麼能不透過苦,來發展未來的成就呢?所謂‘吃得苦中苦,方為人上人’,佛教裡成功的修行大德,都是經過千錘百煉、千辛萬苦,才能與道相應,才能修行成功。就是佛陀吧!沒有六年苦行的基礎,後來的悟道也不是那麼容易。

千錘百煉 人生超然開闊

明朝於謙有詩雲:‘千錘百煉出深山,烈火焚燒莫等閒;粉身碎骨都無怨,留得清白在人間。’我們粉牆用的石灰,沒有經過開挖、火燒、水溶、錘擊等嚴竣的工序,哪裡能成為潔白的粉末,來美化房屋,供人居住?

苦,是世間的實相,這是不錯的。如佛教說八苦,有所謂生、老、病、死、怨憎會、愛別離、求不得、五蘊熾盛等苦。生,父母生兒育女,那種辛苦,誠然是難以言喻;老了以後孤苦伶仃,甚至沒有人照顧,那也是苦不堪言。有病了,本來心裡就有貪瞋愚癡精神上的苦,再加上皮肉的痛苦,如浪潮般的折磨,真可謂內外交煎,苦迫逼人;還有世人普遍畏懼的死亡,更加深了世間諸苦叢生的印象。

甚至還有恩愛的別離、冤家的相會、萬般希望卻不能獲得等等,這些苦都讓人深感煎熬。乃至一天當中遇事觸緣,身心受寒暖、勞累、辛勤……時產生了各種煩惱,你也不能說人間不苦。

但是人間這許多苦難,不是不能克服。例如:父母生兒育女是苦的,但是把兒女抱在懷中的那種喜悅安樂,這樣的苦不也帶來幸福希望嗎?甚至一些貼心的兒女,時常給予噓寒問暖,照料關懷,不也讓父母感到溫馨倍至嗎?

老是苦,但也有人老了以後,頤養天年,享受兒女團聚,享受含頤弄孫,享受天倫之樂;老了可以居家相惜,兒孫孝養,這不也是另一番情趣嗎?老,受人的尊重、受人的侍候,受人的奉養,老也有老的喜悅、老的成就;就是老年退休了無人孝養,也可以發展第二春,讓自己的人生更超然開闊。你能說老一定是苦嗎?

悟病痛意義 不執著貪戀

就是有病了,我們可以到醫院,找不同科的醫生,為我們治療各種的病痛,但你也要懂得病理,要知道營養,要知道保健,要知道運動,才能康復。就是在病榻上,現代醫護人員的照顧侍奉,有時候病中也能得到諸多的因緣,得到許多的關懷,你也不能說,有病絕對是苦。有很多的人,藉病養息,與病為友;或者在寂靜的地方贍養,與大自然共居,散步、看花,和青山綠水同在,反而因病得閒,讓身心獲至深層的放松與沉澱之後再出發,也未嘗不是因病得福。

俗話說,吃了飯食哪裡能不消災呢?病痛也不是完全不好,有的人希望生一點小病磨練自己,佛教大德常說,修道人帶三分病,才知道發道心。病,不也能幫助我們人生的增上和超越嗎?經典裡說,身體上有老、病、死、生的苦,心理上有貪瞋、愚癡的苦,只要你有佛法,就能透過磨練,從心不苦,做到身不苦。

更何況忙碌的人希望生一點小病,可以休息幾天;健康的人也希望有一些小病,來體會病中的意義。病可以讓我們認識人世間不可能十全十美,不可以指望長生不老。病的痛苦讓我們看到世間真實的一面,讓我們對世間不必貪戀、不必執著,所謂‘英雄只怕病來磨’、‘有病方知身是苦’,知道病苦就不會執著。人往往因為有病,就不會永久貪戀虛幻的榮華富貴,進而尋求生命的真實意義。不是有許多人因為大病一場而看破人生嗎!?對人生能有另外一番體悟,這也不是絕對不好的事情。

說到死亡,一般人認為死亡最苦,其實,死亡不但不苦,可以說,還是一種喜悅。因為年老衰殘的身體,等於破舊的房屋,必須拆了重建,才能住人;損壞的引擎,必須汰換更新,才能使用;又好比花草樹木,不修剪枯枝殘葉,沒有希望,沒有未來,那才是愚癡,等於春夏秋冬四季的循環,冬天過去了,還怕沒有春天的百花開放嗎?

生命不死 輪回循環不已

死亡,不是死了就沒有。就像花果成熟了,果實是那麼的甜美,那麼的豐收!這一期的果實收成了以後,種子又會再生長繁衍出下一期的收獲;人生也是一樣,老病死亡以後,色身雖然毀壞,但是我們的真如佛性不滅,正所謂生命不死。就等於燒火的木柴,一根木柴燒完了,再接著另一根木柴,一根根木柴彼此不同,就如生命一個階段、一個階段也不相同,但是生命的火苗一直延續焚燒,不會間斷。

又如念珠,一粒一粒的珠子,就好像一期一期的生命,彼此之間用業力的線,把前後期的生命體串連在一起,輪回、循環不已,不會說死了就消滅沒有,只是因為人有隔陰(我)之迷,隔了這一個身體,就是隔世了,就像隔了一道牆壁,你在那邊,我在這邊;換了身體以後,對於前世種種,今生就不復記憶了,但是善惡的業報,仍然存在,繼續在因緣裡面流轉。

死亡就等於移民到其他的地區,有錢的人可以移民到好的國家地區,沒有錢只有到比較苦難的地方生活;往生的去處亦然,它是基於善惡因果的業報,非常公平。所以生、老、病、死是很自然的現象,不必為它太多的罣礙。

過去的佛教常以‘生、老、病、死’來說明人生的過程,讓人感到死亡就是終點,未免太過消極,假如把它的次序調整,成為‘老、病、死、生’,雖然內容不變,卻增添了積極進取的意味:因為既然有‘生’,就有未來,就有希望,等於冬天過去了,春天就來了,又有什麼不好呢?好比生命的火焰一直燃燒,人生只要為善,有好因好緣,何必一定要說得那麼愁雲慘霧呢?

我們認為,佛陀的意思,是要我們認識生、老、病、死,從生、老、病、死中去長養善根,完成悟道、擴展生命、豐富的未來,所以我們要好好的結緣,好好的行善,讓我們來生獲得富樂。

修持對治苦迫 擴展生命

人生,有佛教信仰的人,都會知道是喜樂參半,假如懂得佛門的修持,會有很多方法對治我們的悲苦。例如,貪欲之苦,可以用不淨觀來對治;瞋恨之苦,可以用慈悲觀來對治;愚癡之苦,可以用因緣觀來對治等等。其他如:精進可以對治懈怠,尊重可以對治驕慢等等。因此八苦中的其它四苦──怨憎會苦、愛別離苦、求不得苦、五蘊熾盛苦,乃至世間無量諸苦,也不是完全不能超越。在信仰裡面,有這麼多好的方法,做為人生降伏諸苦魔怨的指南,讓我們得以不斷進步,難道不會感到人生那種美好的價值嗎?

人世間,因為怕苦,所以就被苦征服,若能無懼於苦難,在世間沒有感到困苦艱難,便能直面挑戰,超越苦難,成就諸事。如過去中華文化主張要能吃苦、要能忍耐、要能受委屈、要能經得起苦的淬煉,才能讓我們更具有堅強的力量,人生也才會成長,才會增上,前途才有光明。

我們也可以看到,社會上怕吃苦的人、懶惰的人、懈怠的人,會有成就嗎?唯有肯得面對苦難,克服困難,努力奮斗,才會成功。因此,佛陀講‘苦’,是鼓勵我們走向佛道,所謂‘難行能行,難忍能忍’,不畏懼苦難,那才是佛陀對人間的開示。

總說,‘人生是苦’,這句話是不會錯的,但苦是有積極向上、成長的意義,不必把它說得那麼消極,不堪忍受,佛弟子本該以學習苦行作為修行悟道的橋梁。當然,苦行也不是修行必經的過程,但是能夠吃苦的人生,必定前途會有作為、有成就。所以,人生對苦,應該要有一個重新的認識,它是我們的增上緣,不是我們的仇敵。假如能自我訓練,以苦為樂、以苦為有、以苦自得,那也是人生最大的享受。

If the intentions are good, then so will be the levels and paths. If the intentions are bad, then the levels and paths will be too. Since everything depends on one’s intentions, always strive to make sure that they are positive.

— Lama Tsongkhapa

The Perfection of Enthusiastic Effort
by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

The fourth paramita is that of viriya, which means perseverance or enthusiastic effort. We all appreciate that if we want to succeed in any skill we first have to practice. I knew a young boy in Australia who from early youth deeply loved the guitar: classical and Spanish guitar. Even as a young schoolboy, he would practice many hours every day on his guitar. Now as an adult he is a brilliant guitarist who wins many competitions. The point is that, although he had a natural talent for music and he loved the guitar, nonetheless he still had to practice.

If we want to be a footballer or engage in any kind of sports, or to become a dancer or a computer expert or anything at all, we need to practice. Even if one has a natural talent, one still has to repeat the same exercises over and over and over until they become spontaneous. If we can accept this about mastering a physical skill, why do we sometimes imagine that, on a spiritual path where basically we have to completely rework our own mind, somehow it’s just going to happen automatically?

Nowadays, it’s popular in certain spiritual circles to say: “Oh well we already have everything, so there’s nothing to be done. We already are Buddha, so therefore we don’t need to do anything.” This is why sometimes Dzogchen and Mahamudra are popular. People think: “Oh, you just sit and there you are. You have nothing to do. You just have to be.” But do we realise the difficulty of just being? It probably takes years and years of effort to become effortless. It’s like professional musicians who spend years and years practicing and practicing until finally the music plays through them. But we can’t just sit down and expect that to happen without putting in so much time for just practice. When we see great musicians playing it looks completely effortless as if they’re not doing anything and just the music is pouring through their fingers. But we know how many hours everyday for so many years, they have dedicated to being able to appear so effortless!

There is a story in our Drukpa Kagyu tradition of a ‘crazy’ yogin called Drukpa Kunley. One time he went to Lhasa and visited the main temple called the Jokhang. The principal statue in the temple is a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha called the Jowo Rinpoche which is said to represent Shakyamuni Buddha as a youth. So then Drukpa Kunley bowed down and he said to the Buddha: “Okay, you and I started out at the same time. You became a Buddha and here I am still stuck in samsara! What’s the difference between us? The difference is that you made efforts and I was lazy!”

The reason we’re all sitting here in samsara is because we’re lazy. Of course we must have done something right and made some efforts in past lives, otherwise we would not have an interest and connection with the Dharma now. But the point is that although we have this tremendous potential for realisation because that is our true nature. Nonetheless, unless from our side we take the Dharma and put it at the centre of our hearts, at the centre of our lives, nothing much will change, nothing will transform.

People complain that they would like to practice, but they have no time. This is one of the reasons why I chose to talk about the Paramitas — generosity, discipline, patience, effort, meditation and wisdom — because not only do these bodhisattva virtues comprise the path to Buddhahood, but they are our own intrinsic qualities which we need to develop in our daily lives. So therefore we must not think that Practice is only when we are sitting on our meditation cushion or when we come to a Centre to listen to Dharma talks or when we are doing our rituals, and so the rest of our daily life is just so much worldly activity. Because if we make this separation, then the time we give to the Dharma is so tiny, while the time which we are caught up in worldly distractions is so great.

But if we think of our Dharma perception, our understanding of the Dharma as like yeast, then we mix that yeast with the heavy dough of our worldly life and it will rise up and the whole of that dough will become light and nourishing. Instead of being a big indigestible lump, the dough rises up and we bake it and it is delicious! This is so important. Everything that we do, if we do it with awareness and kindness, if we really use all our experiences as an opportunity to bring into play the various principles of the Dharma which we have heard and read about, if we really use our daily life as a practice, then everything is transformed.

It doesn’t matter how many great Lamas we meet, how many wonderful teachings we hear, how much inspiration we gain from others, in the end it depends on ourselves, what we do with our lives, what we do with our own mind.

So this question of effort and perseverance doesn’t mean a kind of heaviness and panting exertion that tires us out. It’s not a joyless doggedness. When we’re doing something we really love, it doesn’t seem difficult at all. It seems easy because we have so much joy in doing it. The Dharma should be a cause of joy. It’s like any activity: if we really enjoy doing it, then even though we devote such a lot of time and energy to it, it doesn’t tire us. So if we see that everything in our lives — our family life, our time with our friends, our colleagues and society in general is our Dharma practice, and everything that happens to us is our opportunity to learn and develop — then what seemed like a pretty dull, boring, pointless existence is transformed into something profound and meaningful!

Our lives can have meaning for us. It’s so important to realise that this particular human birth is our great opportunity and we won’t probably get it again if we waste the chance now. This is the opening. No great master is going to come along and click his fingers and we’re just going to get it. It doesn’t work like that. Even if we are fortunate enough to experience a glimpse of the true state, it still needs so much time and practice to stabilise this understanding. Even if the Lord Buddha himself was sitting in front of you, all he could say would be: “Practice.”

Many of the Buddha’s disciples were ordinary people — they weren’t all monks and nuns. They were kings, businessmen, farmers and housewives. In fact it’s noticeable if we read the early Sutras, how much time the Buddha actually spent around towns, talking with ordinary people and encouraging them to transform their lives. They didn’t all become monks. They just used his teachings in their daily lives and attained very high levels of realisation. So if we use our everyday lives as our spiritual practice, things will definitely change. Then our biggest problems will become our greatest opportunities.