Who has magnificent self-confidence and fears nothing that exists? The man who has attained to truth and lives free of error.
— 7th Dalai Lama
Who has magnificent self-confidence and fears nothing that exists? The man who has attained to truth and lives free of error.
— 7th Dalai Lama
When you feel attachment towards something that you believe to be attractive, or aversion towards something that you believe to be repulsive, understand that to be your mind’s obscuration, nothing but a magical illusion.
— Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche
When the great universal teacher Shakyamuni Buddha first spoke about the Dharma in the noble land of India, he taught the four noble truths: true sufferings, true origins or causes of sufferings, true stopping or cessations of sufferings, and true pathway minds or paths leading to the stopping of sufferings. Since many books contain discussions of the four noble truths in English, they are very well known. These four are all-encompassing, including many aspects within them.
Considering the four noble truths in general and the fact that none of us wants suffering and we all desire happiness, we can speak of an effect and its cause on both the disturbing side and the liberating side of the four. True sufferings and true origins are the effect and its cause on the disturbing side of things that we do not want; true stopping and true pathway minds are the effect and its cause on the liberating side of things that we desire.
We experience many different types of suffering. All are included in three categories: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change, and all-pervasively affecting suffering. The suffering of suffering refers to [the feeling of unhappiness and thus to] such things as headaches and so forth. Even animals recognise this kind of suffering and, like us, want to be free from it. Because beings have fear of and experience discomfort and unhappiness from this kind of suffering, they engage in various activities to eliminate them.
Suffering of change refers to [the feeling of tainted happiness – happiness deriving from disturbing emotions and attitudes – and thus to] situations in which, for example, we are sitting very comfortably relaxed and, at first, everything seems all right. But, after a while, we lose that feeling [of happiness]. It changes and we become restless and uncomfortable.
In certain countries, we see a great deal of poverty and disease: these are sufferings of the first category. Everybody realises that these are suffering conditions to be eliminated and improved upon. In many Western countries, poverty may not be that much of a problem. However, where there is a high degree of material development, there are different kinds of problems. At first, we may be happy having overcome the problems that our predecessors faced. But, as soon as we have solved certain problems, new ones arise. We have plenty of money, food, and nice housing; but, by exaggerating the value of these things, we render them ultimately worthless. This sort of experience is the suffering of change.
A very poor, underprivileged person might think that it would be wonderful to have a car or a television set and, should he acquire them, would at first feel very happy and satisfied. Now, if such happiness were permanent, as long as he had the car and the television he would remain happy. But he does not; his happiness goes away. After a few months he wants another kind of car and, if he has the money, he will buy a better television set. The old things, the same objects that once gave him much satisfaction, now cause dissatisfaction. That is the nature of change: that is the problem of the suffering of change.
All-pervasively affecting suffering is the third type of suffering. [Of the three types of tainted feelings, it refers to a tainted neutral feeling. On a more general level, it refers to the tainted aggregate factors of experience – forms of physical phenomena, feelings of a level of happiness, distinguishing, other affecting variables, and types of consciousness that derive from disturbing emotions and attitudes]. It is called “all-pervasive” because it acts as the basis for the first two types of suffering.
There may be those who, even in developed countries, want to be liberated from the second type of suffering, the suffering of change. Bored with tainted feelings of happiness, they seek a totally neutral feeling. However, because of attachment to such a feeling, it leads to rebirth on the plane of formless beings. Beings on this plane of existence have only that tainted neutral feeling [as a result of the attachment from which it derived.]
Now, desiring liberation from the first two kinds of suffering is not the principal motivation for seeking liberation from samsara, uncontrollably recurring rebirth. Buddha taught that, of the three sufferings, the third kind of suffering is the root of all suffering. [Therefore, liberation from samsara requires ridding ourselves of the true suffering, namely all-pervasively affecting suffering. This is the object of renunciation.]
Some people commit suicide, thinking that their suffering is simply due to their present human life and that, by ending this life, there will be nothing afterwards. [But, this is not the case; there are future rebirths.] This third, all-pervasively affecting suffering [the tainted aggregates of future rebirths], comes about from the power of karma and disturbing emotions and attitudes. We can see, without having to think very deeply, that [our present tainted aggregates] have come about from the power of the karma and disturbing emotions of our previous lives. And, now at present, further anger and attachment [that will bring about the tainted aggregates of a future life] arise simply because we have these present aggregates.
Our tainted aggregates are like an enabler: they enable us to obtain the so-called “terrible state” – the terrible state of further karma and disturbing emotions and attitudes. In other words, since our tainted aggregates arose because of disturbing emotions, they are presently still associated or mixed with the terrible state of disturbing emotions. In fact, being under the control of these disturbing emotions and attitudes, these tainted aggregates support the generation of further disturbing emotions and keep us from generating positive states of mind. All our suffering, then, [both the suffering of suffering and the suffering of change,] can be traced back to these aggregates tainted with attachment and clinging.
Perhaps, when we realise that our tainted aggregates are the cause of all our suffering, we might think that suicide is the way out. Well, if there were no continuity of mind, no future lives, then all right. If we had the courage, we could take our own lives. But, according to the Buddhist viewpoint, that’s not the case: our consciousness will continue. Even if we take our life, we will have to take another tainted body that will again be the basis for experiencing the suffering of suffering and the suffering of change. If we really want to get rid of all our sufferings, all the difficulties we experience in our lives, we need to rid ourselves of the fundamental cause that gives rise to the tainted aggregates that are the basis of all suffering. Killing ourselves is not going to solve our problems.
Because this is the case, we must now investigate the cause of suffering. Is there a cause or not? If there is, what kind of cause is it: a natural cause that cannot be eliminated or a cause that depends on its own causes and therefore can be eliminated? If it is a cause that can be eliminated, is it possible for us to rid ourselves of it? Thus, we come to the second noble truth: true origins or true causes of suffering.
Concerning this, Buddhism maintains that there is no external creator and that even though a Buddha is the highest being, even a Buddha does not have the power to create new life. [In other words, a Buddha cannot create the all-pervasively affecting suffering of the tainted aggregates of a future rebirth.] So now, what is the cause of suffering?
Generally, the ultimate origin is the mind. Specifically, the mind that is influenced by disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, jealousy, naivety, and so forth is the main cause of rebirth and all its related problems. However, there is no possibility of ending the mind, of interrupting the mental continuum itself. Furthermore, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the deepest, subtlest level of mind [the clear light mind] itself. [By nature, it is completely pure.] However, the deepest mind can be influenced by disturbing emotions and negative thoughts. Thus, the question is whether or not we can fight and control anger, attachment, and the other disturbing emotions. If we can eradicate them, we shall be left with a pure mind that is free forever from the causes of suffering.
This brings us to the disturbing emotions and attitudes themselves, which are types of subsidiary awareness or mental factors. There are many different ways of presenting the discussion of the mind; but, in general, [mind refers to mental activity and its] defining characteristic is “ mere clarity and awareness.” [This means the activity of simultaneously giving rise to mental appearances or mental holograms of objects and cognising them, and nothing more]. When we speak of disturbing emotions such as anger and attachment, we have to see how they are able to affect and pollute this mental activity, the mind. What, in fact, is their nature? This, then, is main focus of the discussion of the true origins of suffering.
If we ask how attachment and anger arise, the answer is that, without a doubt, their arising is assisted by our grasping for the existence of things to be established truly and findably from their own sides: our so-called “grasping for true existence.” When, for instance, we are angry with something, we feel that the object is out there, solid, true, and unimputed, and that we ourselves are likewise something solid and findable. Before we get angry, the object appears ordinarily; but, when our minds are influenced by anger, the object looks ugly, completely repulsive, nauseating, something we want to get rid of immediately. Its existence as repulsive appears to be established from its own side, by its own self-nature. The object really seems to exist in that way: solid, independent, and very unattractive. This appearance of “truly ugly” fuels our anger. Yet, when we see the same object the next day when our anger has subsided, it seems more beautiful than it did the day before. It is the same object, but it does not seem as bad. This shows how anger and attachment are influenced by our grasping for the existence of things to be established truly and findably from their own sides.
Thus, the texts on Madhyamaka philosophy state that the root of all disturbing emotions and attachment is grasping for truly established existence, in the sense that this grasping brings about these mental disturbances and supports and sustains them. Thus, the naive unawareness that grasps for the existence of things to be truly established by their own self-natures is the basic source of all our sufferings. Based on this grasping at truly established existence, we develop all kinds of disturbing emotions and attitudes, based on which we act destructively and build up a great deal of negative karmic force.
In his Supplement to (Nagarjuna’s “Root Stanzas on) the Middle Way,” Madhyamakavatara, the great Indian pandit Chandrakirti wrote that first there is grasping for the truly established existence of the self, to “me,” and becoming attached to that “me.” This is then followed by grasping for the truly established existence of things and becoming attached to them as “mine” and to “me, as the possessor of them.”
In other words, at first there seems to be a very solid, independently existing “me” that is very big – bigger than anything else – establishing its own existence by its own power. This is the basis. From this, comes the false appearance of other objects [and persons] as if their existence as well were established from their own sides. Based on that, comes the appearance of the existence of a “me,” truly established as the possessor of them as “mine.” Then, because of our taking the side of that “me,” comes the appearance of “the other,” truly established as existing from his or her own side, for instance as “my” enemy. Toward “me,” “me, the possessor of things,” and “things as ‘mine,’” attachment arises. Toward him or her, we feel distance and anger. Then jealousy and all such competitive feelings arise. Thus, ultimately, the problem is this feeling of “me” – not the mere “me,” but the false “me” with which we become obsessed. This gives rise to thinking with anger and irritation, along with speaking harsh words, and the various physical actions based on aversion and hatred. All these destructive actions of body, speech and mind build up negative karma force.
Killing, lying, and all similar destructive actions also result from the negative motivation of disturbing emotions and attitudes. The first stage is solely mental: thinking destructive thoughts based on disturbing emotions and attitudes. In the second stage, this destructive thinking leads to destructive physical and verbal actions. Immediately, the atmosphere is disturbed. With anger, for example, the atmosphere becomes tense; people feel uneasy. If somebody gets furious, gentle people try to avoid that person. Later on, the person who became angry also feels embarrassed and ashamed for having said all sorts of absurd things, whatever came into his or her mind.
When we become angry, there is no room for logic or reason; we become literally “mad.” Later, when our minds have returned to normal, we feel ashamed. There is nothing good about anger and attachment; nothing good can result from them. They may be difficult to control, but everybody can realise that there is nothing good about them. This, then, is the second noble truth.
Now, the question arises whether or not these kinds of destructive mind can be eliminated. This brings us to the discussion of the third noble truth, true stopping or cessations of sufferings.
As we have seen, the root of all disturbing emotions and attitudes [and the karmic impulses to think, speak, and act upon them] is our grasping for the existence of things to be truly and findably established by their own self-natures. Therefore, we need to investigate whether the mind that grasps for the existence of things to be established in this way is correct or whether it is distorted and cognises phenomena incorrectly.
We can do this by investigating how the existence of the objects such a mind cognises can actually be established. However, since this grasping mind itself is incapable of determining whether or not it cognises objects correctly, we need to rely on another kind of mind. If, upon thorough investigation, we discover many other valid ways of cognising phenomena that contradict or negate the way that the mind that grasps for truly established existence cognises its objects, we can conclude that this grasping mind does not cognise reality correctly. Thus, with the mind that can analyse the deepest truth about things, we must try to determine whether the mind that grasps for the existence of things to be truly established by their own self-natures is correct or not. If it is correct, the analysing mind should ultimately be able to find these self-natures on the side of objects in the way that they are grasped.
The great classics of the Chittamatra and, especially, the Madhyamaka schools contain many lines of reasoning for carrying out such investigation. Applying them, when we investigate whether the mind that grasps for truly and findably established existence is correct or not, we discover that it is incorrect. It is distorted because we cannot actually find the objects for which it grasps. Since this mind is deceived with respect to its object, it needs to be eliminated.
Through investigation, then, we discover no valid support for the grasping mind. However, we do find the support of logical reasoning for the mind that realises that the grasping mind is invalid. In the internal spiritual battle, the mind supported by logic is always victorious over the mind that is not. The understanding that there is no such thing as truly and findably established existence is in conformity with how the clear-light subtlest level of mind cognises things. On the other hand, the mind that grasps for the existence of things to be truly and findably established is in conformity with how the superficial fleeting levels of mind cognise their objects. [Thus, since the subtlest level of mind is the deepest level that continues uninterruptedly with no beginning and no end, whereas these fleeting levels are superficial; the latter can be removed, leaving the eternal continuity of the former.]
When we eliminate the disturbing emotions and attitudes, the cause of all suffering, we eliminate the sufferings as well. This is liberation, or the true stopping of sufferings: the third noble truth.
TRUE PATHWAY MINDS
Since it is possible to achieve this true stopping that lasts forever, we must now look at the method for bringing about its attainment. This brings us to the fourth noble truth: true pathway minds or “true paths” leading to true stopping of sufferings. When we speak of the true pathway minds that are shared in common by the three Buddhist vehicles of mind – Hinayana and, within Mahayana, Paramitayana and Vajrayana – we are referring to the thirty-seven factors leading to a purified state. When we speak specifically of the true pathway minds of the bodhisattvas’ vehicle of mind, Mahayana, we are referring to the ten bhumi mind levels and the six far-reaching attitudes, the so-called “six perfections.”
We find the practice of the Hinayana path most commonly in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Cambodia. Here, practitioners are motivated by the desire to achieve liberation from their own suffering. Concerned for their own liberation alone, they practice to develop the thirty-seven factors leading to a purified state. These thirty-seven are pathway minds related to the five more general pathway minds.
* The four close placements of mindfulness, the four factors for attaining correct riddances, and the four legs for attaining extra physical powers are related to the building-up pathway mind, the so-called “path of accumulation.”
* The five powers and the five forces are related to the applying pathway mind, the so-called “ path of preparation.”
* The seven causal factors for attaining a purified state are related to the seeing pathway mind, the so-called “path of seeing.”
* The eight factors of an arya pathway mind are related to the accustoming pathway mind, the so-called “path of meditation.”
Developing these true pathway minds in sequence, practitioners are able to completely rid themselves of disturbing emotions and attitudes, bringing about the true stopping of the true origins of their sufferings and the attainment of their individual liberation. These are the pathway minds and their result in Hinayana.
The primary concern of Mahayana practitioners is not merely their own liberation, but the enlightenment of all limited beings. With this motivation of bodhichitta – their hearts set on attaining enlightenment as the best means of helping others – these practitioners develop the six far-reaching attitudes [generosity, ethical self-discipline, patience, joyful perseverance, mental stability, and discriminating awareness or “wisdom.”] They progress by developing, in turn, the ten bhumi levels of mind of arya bodhisattvas until they have completely rid themselves forever of both sets of obscuration [emotional and cognitive] and attained the supreme enlightenment of Buddhahood. These are the pathway minds and their result in Mahayana in general.
The essence of the practice of the six far-reaching attitudes is the unification of method and discriminating awareness so that the two enlightening corpuses – Rupakaya, a corpus of forms, and Dharmakaya, a corpus encompassing everything – can be attained. Since these two corpuses can be attained only simultaneously, their causes must be cultivated simultaneously. Therefore, we need to build up, simultaneously, a network of positive force, a so-called “collection of merit,” as the cause for attaining a Rupakaya, and a network of deep awareness, a so-called “collection of wisdom,” as the cause for attaining a Dharmakaya. In Paramitayana, we practice method held by the force of discriminating awareness and discriminating awareness held by the force of method; but in Vajrayana, we practice method and discriminating awareness as sharing the same essential nature.
It is primordially natural luminosity, unborn as any nature whatsoever, not established as subject and object, or knowing and what is known, nothing whatsoever, not dwelling in any extremes, not within the range of any expressions or reference points, inconceivable, unthinkable, and beyond thought. Therefore, do not mentally engage, but meditate by abandoning mindfulness and mental engagement.
As I see the rising sun spreading radiance all around, the authentic guru’s wisdom and compassion come to mind. Then he tenderly looked after me; now that time is gone. Thinking and thinking of him, the guru’s presence fills my mind.
— Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol
Perhaps the best way to understand what mindfulness is, from a classical Buddhist perspective, is to recognise some of the things it is not.
Mindfulness does not just mean being aware or being conscious, because one is always conscious when not comatose or dead. Consciousness is the fundamental quality of mind, understood as an event that occurs rather than a thing that exists. As such, it is always present when any kind of experience takes place. If mindfulness meant to be aware, then we would always be mindful, automatically, in all circumstances.
Mindfulness does not just mean attention, because we are always paying attention. Attention is the mental factor that gathers all the other mental factors together and directs them to a single object, bringing coherence and focus to each mind moment. Our attention may wander from one object to another, and it may be unable to stay on the same object for multiple moments in a row, but it is always directed somewhere.
Mindfulness does not mean paying attention in the present moment, because all mind moments occur in the present moment. How could it be otherwise? It is not possible to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch an object in anything but the present moment. Mental objects like thoughts can take their content from the past (a memory) or the future (an imagination), but the process of thinking about the past or future always occurs in the present moment. When people talk about being aware in the present moment, they really just mean either getting out of the mind door and attending to one of the senses or being aware of the act of thinking without getting caught up in the content of the thought.
Nor can mindfulness be adequately identified as paying attention on purpose, or as we might put it, being conscious consciously. The difference between conscious awareness and unconscious awareness is the presence of the mental factors “applied thought” and “sustained thought.” The first allows the mind to be directed to an object that is chosen by volition, and the second means we are able to hold our attention on the object of our choosing. Meditation training usually involves the intentional directing and sustaining of attention in various ways, which develops the skill of concentration, but not all meditation is mindfulness meditation.
It is important to recognise that each of the mind states mentioned so far is ethically neutral and can be used for harm or good. Many of the ways we misbehave involve attention, volition, and concentration, and these same functions are at work when we are acting benevolently.
Let’s turn now from what mindfulness isn’t to what it is in the context of Buddhism.
Every moment of consciousness is accompanied by an emotional response, and this is where mindfulness is properly situated on the Buddhist maps of experience. Mindfulness is a quality of emotional response, a particular intentional stance and attitude toward the object of experience that shapes and textures how it is experienced by consciousness.
Mindfulness is an inherently wholesome or healthy mental factor, so it cannot function at any moment when the mind is under the influence of greed or hatred, even in their mildest versions of favouring and opposing. Anytime you want or don’t want things be a certain way, the mind is not being mindful.
Mindfulness requires a thoroughgoing equanimity. This does not mean you don’t care or are indifferent to what is happening, only that the mind is evenly balanced and fully aware of things exactly as they are, without the desire to change them by favouring one thing or opposing another.
Mindfulness is a mind state that is engaged with the object of attention, but that engagement is disengaged from craving. One breathes mindfully, not wanting the breath to be long or short but just being aware of it as it is. One walks mindfully, back and forth, with no desire to get somewhere, simply noticing the nuanced textures of physical sensations arising and passing away in the body. Mindfulness is thus all of the above — awareness, with attention, in the present moment, on purpose — with the important addition: and with an attitude or intentional stance of non attached equanimity.
It doesn’t matter whatever comes, stop judging and it won’t bother you.
— Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
照這樣看，活 ── 絕對的活，不僅是一般人的渴求獨鍾，就連發了菩提心的菩薩，也具有此最強烈的蘄求，足見這個活字的誘發性、鼓激力與盤迴味，是多麼的濃稠與深厚唷﹗人類的世界具有充分的聲色光熱，這完全是由於人類活力的發明與創造。從佛法緣起業感的如實立場說，這個世界是無始性的，也不是無因而有的，乃是憑人類的共業感得的。業，概括著人類一切一切的活動，這一切一切的活動中所積累的無限活力，從他的內涵加以究析︰不外乎染與淨，染強過了淨，人心及社會風習，則日趨於敗腐淪墮；淨勝過了染，人心及社會風習，則日趨於旺鮮上升。因此，佛教特別重視轉染成淨的倡揚與體踐。從人類身心中所潛涵的一分善淨性 ── 「梵行」加以觀察，人最具有轉染成淨的可能性，「人身難得」之激勉與可貴，在此。所以，只須勝解自身之可貴，積極而果毅地向上向善，善到惡止善行，久久地積善不已，積儲的善力善德強大深廣了，人就能轉變得心地厚重，面貌寬和，與一切人相見相處得篤敬而禎祥。人類的特性之一︰具有通向、呼應、接聯、相助的理念與行為，將此種觀念與行為，透過了理智的淨導與理性的渾涵，擴充到無邊無類無人無我的境界，器質與氣宇完全都世界化了；有了世界化了的器質與氣宇，便會激發出抱著世界心，獻出世界身，發達世界願，恤拯世眾苦的弘願與偉業，騰涌而洋溢著熱血與醇情的人了。
菩薩於極久遠的過去生中為救度眾生與淨化世界而發心，所以，總是將眾生與世界連在一起看，故其視野與緣境，從未離開過眾生與世界，因此，於心心念念中都思惟著如何成熟眾生，莊嚴佛國。但是，成熟眾生與莊嚴佛國的任務非常非常的艱鉅，由於從智觀中空化了身心，對發心獻身視為最有意義的樂事；更何況為著推展普世的進化與淨化，當然更感到無比的奮暢與健昂。菩薩的興神與使命，就這樣的越來越積極懃懇的。一切諸佛的心量與眼界，無一不曠觀遍照著整個世界，生活在世界的無數有情，其中以人類的活力最為強大，強大到能到處開拓，遍地殖產，可以說人類的活力與動能創造了這個世界。在這裡我要特別說一下，我們最大的慶幸處︰上不升天堂（彌勒內院例外），下不墮地獄，卻能生在人間聞薰佛法，從佛法中聞薰的久了、深了；深到從因緣中體解到無定性、無常我，徹底振脫了世間戀著，身心邁向著出世清淨，以清淨心眼察照世界，正正直直地深入而遍入世界，負起改變、提昇世界的職責，面對世界的精神與氣志，則蓬勃輻展得與時俱進，與空俱擴，修為、發達在這麼種的時空中，一切時空中則成為詮演佛法的道場；這麼種道場的載體 ── 身心，空化淨化了的身心，自然而必然的與道相應，這樣看來，人類身心的價值與力用，是多麼的可貴呀！
身心果真化為道場的，一切云為、操守與印決，無不是道，身心則成為活道場；活道場中所顯現的 ── 正法，正法從活道場中顯出光明清淨，這樣的佛弟子所接引、所提轉的有情，在的實畢真中受到的啟發，獲得的觀摩，引發的效隨等等，都相當的正直而明豁，能腳踏實地進入活活脫脫、開開通通的新境界中，成為脫胎換骨的徹底的新新人；新到內不失念而外不著相的階段，則永不顛倒永發趣。發趣發到具有洞洞闢闢、虛虛融融的本領與能耐，面對一切的艱險恐怖，便鎮平得如空不動，身心放得下，行願當得起。行願於身心中充實的旺旺足足，念頭上空觀的光與力，將我見與我愛照治得活躍不了，一切都進修在平實坦穩中，前途看的清清楚楚，做的果果敢敢，這時，菩提心從無我的平台上指揮得了了當當，所見與所行的種種，便完全不離世界觀，與之俱起的當然是做世界人了。世界人必然的離不開世界心，發世界心為世界人的若觀若行，配應得極其緊切而親誠，菩薩的心腸與面貌，讓人們照察到的盡是表裡一如，言行一致，對任何人無條件的照料都護衛得無微不至，盡讓人感到他的的確確是發了普度世界眾生的大心行者，因此，從事實所表現的，面臨著大苦大難之際，總是搶在眾生前面充當急先鋒，衛在眾生後面作真後殿者，絕不會臨難怯逃，將赴義勇為的氣膽與精神，發揮得極極致致，實踐其普度世界眾生的決絕大願與大心。