Women Are Not Second-Class Buddhists
by Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Gender inequality is difficult to rationalise in a tradition that supposedly proclaims enlightenment for all. When questioned by his faithful attendant Ananda, the Buddha assured him that women have equal potential to achieve the fruits of the path, including liberation, the ultimate realisation. This definitive statement should have been sufficient to clear the path for women’s equality, but social realities rarely match theoretical ideals.

Even though countless women have reportedly achieved the ultimate goal of liberation — becoming arhats — women’s status has consistently been subordinate in Buddhist societies. Being born male automatically elevates a boy to first-class status, while being born female universally relegates a girl to second-class status. Wealth, aristocratic birth, or opportune marriage may mitigate the circumstances, but the general pattern of social status remains in full view. Although Buddhist societies may have overall been more gender egalitarian than many others, stark gender discrimination persists even today.

Nowhere is the subordination of women more evident than in the Buddhist sangha, the monastic community. After some hesitation, possibly based on his concern for women’s safety, the Buddha gave women the opportunity to live a renunciant lifestyle. According to the story, however, it was not on equal terms with the monks. It is taught that the Buddha’s foster mother Mahapajapati, who became the first bhikkhuni, or fully ordained nun, was required to observe eight weighty rules that continue to this day to make the nuns dependent upon the monks.

Although the language of the texts shows that these passages were added much later, nuns’ subordinate status, and a prediction that the nuns’ admission would decrease the lifespan of the Buddha’s teachings, have contributed to the perception of women’s inferiority. The teachings have far outlived the prediction (which was adjusted over time!), but the misconception has endured.

The situation of nuns today varies by tradition. In the Theravada traditions of South and Southeast Asia, the lineage of full ordination for women came to an end around the eleventh century, and many followers believe that it cannot be revived. Women who renounce household life observe eight, nine, or ten precepts, including celibacy, yet they are not considered part of the monastic sangha. Until recently they received far less education and support than monks.

In the Mahayana traditions of East Asia, the bhikkhuni lineage of full ordination was brought from Sri Lanka to China in the fifth century and flourishes today in China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Chinese diaspora. In these traditions, nuns are well supported by the lay community and have opportunities for education roughly equal to the monks.

The bhikkhuni lineage was never established in the Vajrayana tradition of Inner Asia, but women may receive novice ordination from monks and are considered part of the monastic sangha. In the last three decades, nuns have worked hard to improve their living conditions and educational opportunities. Many of them hope that the Dalai Lama will find a way to establish a lineage of full ordination for women in the Tibetan tradition.

Ideas about how to redress the gender imbalance, both for monastics and lay women, widely differ depending on the situation. For those Buddhist women in remote areas of Asia, better nutrition, health care, and education are top priority, while for those in urban areas the concerns are about gender parity in juggling work, family, and practice. Women everywhere are oppressed by sexual harassment and unequal representation.

Many Buddhists feel that it is time to take a fresh look at how Buddhist texts and teachings address gender. With the Buddha’s declaration of women’s equal potential for liberation, things started off very well. After his passing, however, patterns of male domination again became the norm in Buddhist societies. The plot thickened about five centuries after the Buddha’s passing, with the appearance of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) texts. These texts replace liberation from cyclic existence with the perfect awakening of a buddha as the goal of the path — a quantum leap in commitment that requires the aspirant (bodhisattva) to accumulate merit and wisdom for three countless eons.

Among the thirty-two “special marks” of a buddha, the most surprising to many modern Buddhists is a sheathed penis “like a horse.” This mark has been taken to mean that a fully awakened buddha is necessarily male. Exactly what the advantage of such an appendage might be is unclear, especially alongside other fantastic marks such as a spiral between the eyebrows that stretches for legions.

Are buddhas shown with male genitalia because men are presumed to be superior to women? Does the mark verify that the buddhas are sexual beings who have sublimated sexual desire? Are men more apt than women to achieve the fully awakened state because they must work harder to overcome sexual desire? Or is the presumption of maleness simply another patriarchal move to maintain superiority?

In addition to taking a fresh look at Buddhist texts and teachings, it is time to reexamine Buddhist institutions, which are almost all completely under male leadership, and reassess Buddhist social realities. Rather than blithely swallowing the meme that everyone is equal in Buddhism, or naively believing that gender is irrelevant to awakening, Buddhists need to reevaluate the way women are treated.

For example, even today in the Tibetan tradition a three-year-old boy can be honoured with the title “Lama” (meaning “guru”), whereas a highly educated seventy-year-old nun is typically demeaned with the title “Ani” (meaning “auntie”). Donations — even by women and even in supposedly enlightened Western societies — are routinely channelled primarily to male teachers and monks’ monasteries. Discriminatory attitudes have become unconsciously internalised by people in ways that are damaging to both themselves and others.

Buddhists today need to wake up to this fact and transform their habitual tendencies, equally embracing all beings with compassion. In the Buddhist traditions, the ultimate concern for women, especially nuns, is awakening — either the achievement of liberation from cyclic existence or the perfect awakening of a buddha. The fact that women are now working to achieve full representation in the Buddhist traditions and are openly voicing their aspirations reflects their compassionate concern for the well-being of all sentient life.

Ven Karma Lekshe Tsomo 1.

 

Just as a great mountain will remain still in a storm, a great yogi will remain peaceful in the world, no matter what is going on around them.

— Chamtrul Rinpoche

大圆满之路
法王晋美彭措

我们在这个世间遭受着各式各样的痛苦,修持众多法门也没有什么感应,这其中最主要的原因就是自己的烦恼分别念猛厉强烈。现在我们相遇无上密法的甚深窍诀,不需要生起次第和圆满次第,也不需要寂止和胜观的修持,只是依靠特别殊胜的方便方法,就能获得究竟圆满的证悟,这个方便法也就是来源于根本上师的恩德和无上大圆满之道。

大圆满的语句粗听起来似乎比较浅显易懂,而其意义却非常深远,比如精通显密的人对下面所讲的内容也不一定能完全明了,有些人虽然知道,但并没有身体力行地去精进修持。

对于大圆满法,如果在六个月当中精进修持打好基础后,从此以后就不一定要异常勤作。有时可以勇猛精进,有时则是在说说笑笑放逸当中,或者看书、或是修生起次第和圆满次第等等。

就象贪欲强烈的人经常想念他所钟爱的人儿,同样,如果有缘者经常修持大圆满的本来觉性,那最后就会到达佛的本地。当一个人得到王位后,其眷属自然会恭敬他,同样,当一个人认识了本性之后,所有的分别念自然就会变成他的奴仆,若是真正证悟了,一切外境也就都变成了顺缘。从根本上讲,大圆满深奥莫测,但在修持的时候,却是简单易行。

大圆满法既简单又深。如果对自己的根本上师没有信心,对佛法没有兴趣,对众生没有大悲心,这样无论你怎样努力也是得不到结果,就象不管阳光如何普照,盲人也无法看见一样。若是对无上密法和上师有强烈虔诚的信心,大圆满就显得比较简单,没有一点不懂的地方,就看修行者本人是否精进了。

本来密法中所有的誓言都是需要守持,但其中最根本的就是需要减弱对今世的贪恋,而增上对佛法的信心,对上师要有虔诚的恭敬心,最主要的誓言大概是这些。在《应成续》中讲弟子的法相时,虽然也讲了很多,但其中最主要的也是对上师的恭敬心非常重要。如果有了对上师的恭敬心,证悟无上密法并不困难,面见本尊、神通神变以及对众生的大悲心这三大功德也是会自然而然地成就。

现在很多人,好象认为成就者就象是疯疯颠颠的一样,其实成就者的行为并非如此,在修持佛法的过程中,得到舒适自然的感应,这才是真正的学修有所成就者。

因此为了获得成就,首先我们要依止具有法相的善知识,然后在上师面前依教奉行。对于上师,首先要观察,决定为自己的上师后就如理如法地依止他,最后要修学上师的密意。现在末法时代的人不重视上师的功德,而是以名声地位高下来决定是否依止,后来又诽谤自己的上师,如此致使自他都堕入金刚地狱,所以首先应该观察上师。

如果要依止一位大圆满的上师,自己首先应深信此上师已经证悟了大圆满,如果上师还未证悟大圆满,那他怎么摄受弟子呢?这是第一个条件。并且,他的传承犹如金丝般没有被破誓言的锈所污染,非但这个上师对传承上师有无伪不退的信心,而且历代传承上师也都是如此,这是第二个条件。此外,上师对今生的名闻利养等世间法没有太大的兴趣,即对世间法的贪欲非常微薄。最后是他本人通达大圆满的教义,能够如理如法地给别人讲经说法,总共有四个条件。

虽然有些上师具有一定的证悟,但给别人宣讲的时候,因拙于言辞而无法表述,这样摄受弟子也比较困难。根据续部和论典,上师必须要精通显密一切经论,即使不通达显宗,那至少大圆满的一百零八个窍诀已经精通。否则,在大圆满中有时讲烦恼是智慧,有时则说不是智慧,这样作为上师就必须通达教理。

要摄受弟子,必须要精通教理,若是独自修持则没有这些条件也可以。比如以前玛尼干戈的索南江措对佛法并不精通,但最后他已一生成就了。又以前在石渠有一个喇嘛,生活非常简朴,当时有一个猎人企图猎杀野马,那个上师就变成老虎吓唬猎人,但当他讲经说法的时候,好象一些基本佛法名词也讲不清楚。因此历史上,也有一些成就者在教理方面不太精通。

今天给大家讲了上师的四种法相,无垢光尊者在《上师次第悉地海论》中对如何依止上师的窍诀讲得比较详尽。如此依教奉行,上师教弟子怎么修,弟子就应该怎么做。以上师的教言要诀安住本性,这样以法性的谛实力,弟子在尽快的时间内就会证悟自然本智。

遣除二种障碍,断除一切疑网,我们就会通达如虚空般的心性,此刻我们与本来怙主已无二无别,自然对自己的根本上师生起坚定不移的信心和想报恩德的希求心。

上师为我们直指和介绍了心和法界的本性,虽然父母养育我们的时候也费尽心思、历尽艰辛,但与上师的恩德相比则已微不足道,因此为了根本上师,心甘情愿舍弃一切乃至自己的身体和生命,最后在心里自然会生起这样的境界。

对于修持大圆满的上师来说,可能某位上师经常显示神通,有的则可能偶尔显示一下,但不管怎样,如果上师对未来的授记非常准确,那说明他是一位大成就者。此外,亲见本尊的事情,一般人难以揣测,但如果这位上师弘法利生的事业和发心非常广大,这说明他与本尊有密切的关系,从此也可证明他是一位大成就者。因此,当大家观察自己的上师是不是大成就者时,以大圆满的自宗来讲,若是具有神通、亲见本尊和利益众生三种能力,麦彭仁波切说这就是大成就者的一种征相。

大家观察本学院的一些堪布们是不是大成就者,也可以用上面这三种条件来衡量分析。可能有些假成就者会打一些妄语,但他对未来的授记并不是全部准确无误,这就说明他在大圆满的修持方面并非高不可攀。即便对无上大圆满稍微作一点精进,也会得到殊胜的感应和智慧,因此只要我们不断地精进,自然而然就会圆满获得持明上师的功德和智慧。

全知无垢光尊者曾授记,将来大圆满法越来越兴盛。全知麦彭仁波切也指出,末法时代的黑暗越来越深时,大圆满的日光就越来越强烈。因此当众生的贪嗔痴烦恼越来越深时,大圆满的加持也是越来越大。

曾经在印度,嘎绕多吉和蒋化西宁的时代,大圆满特别兴盛。后来在藏地首先弘扬大圆满的是布玛目札和莲花生大师,中间是全知无垢光尊者和荣素班智达继承发扬了大圆满的教法,再后来全知麦彭仁波切和伏藏大师列绕朗巴也是着重弘扬了大圆满法。

在荣素巴和龙钦巴的时代,大圆满非常保密。比如当时无垢光尊者正在传法,有时护法神会亲自降临阻止。但现在护法神给我们作了比较大的开许,并非现在没有护法神,也并不是他们不知道。他们也明白在现在末法时代,把大圆满稍微给大家公开,那些难以度化的业力深重的众生,也可籍此获得利益和解脱。

因此我想,我就着重弘扬大圆满,在这方面尽心尽力。即使在藏地雪域,从理论到修法、直至具体的观想等各方面详尽系统地传授大圆满的上师也比较罕见。去年我对索达吉堪布作了特殊开许,已经翻译了《大圆满直指心性》和《大幻化网讲义》等等。

全知麦彭仁波切和无垢光尊者的大圆满,我们每次传授,从来没有出现过任何违缘,我相信此中的原由,是因为三根本乐意开许的缘故。因此一方面我不敢说不传大圆满法,另一方面我想,大家基本上也符合作为大圆满弟子的条件。

一九八九年,我应邀到北京高级佛学院讲课的时候,那些弟子对大圆满有信心,但也有无信心之人,当时我就想不能以大圆满来解释《定解宝灯论》的意义,于是我就依靠大中观的窍诀来解释此论。我个人以为如此讲解甚佳。但后来我去拉萨朝拜文殊菩萨时,我献了三次哈达,文殊菩萨都没有接受。对此原因,我自己以为是否是我讲《定解宝灯论》的时候,没有直接宣讲大圆满的意义,而是以显宗的方法来讲的缘故,回学院后,我也曾提及此事。再之后我讲《定解宝灯论》,就直接以大圆满来解释,结果后来我去朝印度时,文殊菩萨就接受了我献上的哈达。

希望大家也作认真观察,我们当中若有破誓言的金刚弟子,这种人不能听受大圆满法。本来在大圆满中,要求把上师看成真佛,不但没有这种信心,还诽谤自己的金刚上师,整天说我的上师说话不对、行为不对、各方面都不对,这种人根本就不具足听受大圆满的资格或条件。

如果对上师和大圆满有真诚的信心,可以堪为法器。若所作所为全都是为了今生的世间法,那这种人也不是大圆满的法器。总之,对上师有邪见、对大圆满和佛法没有恭敬心、经常沉缅于世间琐事的人不是大圆满的根机。除此以外的其它一些小的犯规,在我们一万多个人当中全都是如理如法也是不可能,稍微有一点问题也并非那么严重。

佛陀在世时,也有象善星比丘、提婆达多、恰嘎比丘等许多违背佛法和戒律的人,既然在释迦牟尼佛脚下也有这种人,那在现在末法时代怎么会没有呢?所以大家也不要过于烦恼。

一方面不能太紧,但也不能太松。以前我在石渠时,整个三界中再也没有托嘎如意宝那样殊胜的上师,他摄受弟子的方法也非常善巧,弟子总共有一百人左右,但当时也有一些小偷和破戒的人,也存在一些是非,那时也不得不严肃处理。象托嘎如意宝那样真正的善知识面前也有这种情况出现,那象我这样的人面前怎么会没有呢?因此对某些小事情,大家心里也应包容,不能因此而想远离厌烦众生。

因为众生的根机意乐不同,每一个人的做法和行为也是千差万别。我相信,我们这样传授佛法,虽然有极少数人得不到利益,但从大局来看,对我们大多数人肯定会有极大的饶益。

若传承上师、本尊和护法神生起欢喜,那自己所作的弘法利生事业会圆满成功,否则,一切事情都不会吉祥顺利。有时,我们看见某些人在修道过程中违缘重重,其原因就是持明圣者没有生起欢喜心。

若是想方设法让持明上师生起欢喜心,那自己的功德就会逐渐圆满,这种人今生和来世都是在幸福安乐中度过,其弘法利生事业非常广大,连自己也感到稀有。并且,自然了知这就是大圆满的殊胜特点,才知道大圆满之人间初祖极喜金刚的恩德。

有些修持比较好的老年人,自己对往生清净刹土有一定的把握,若是现在让他变成一位年青人,他就不愿意,因为年青人修法不一定都是那么一帆风顺。而有些老年人则可能情愿换成年青人的身体,这说明他一生修行的结果欠佳。

生起次第和圆满次第也是一种分别念,最后无相圆满次第也是一种分别念。而通过观修分别念不可能断尽分别念,因此从究竟意义来讲,生圆次第都不是最为殊胜的法门。无论是你观清净还是不清净,都是一种分别念,最后都应全部舍离。

大乘作为大圆满当中一种所摄,这时所有的分别念都应全部断除。在末法时代,若是仅仅观修分别念,各种分别念的梦境是不可能消尽的,因此除了无上大圆满法,其它的任何一个法门都难以有办法调伏众生的相续。

就象万丈光芒的太阳从虚空升起来的时候,黑暗自然而然会消除无余,同样,如果我们精进修持大圆满的自然本智,所有的分别念和痛苦就会自然消于法界,这时本尊和空行母在白天和晚上都会不间断地显现,这句话有深刻的含义。

我认为修大圆满的人,见到本尊、空行和护法神显现的机会相对比较多。若无大圆满的要诀摄持而修其它法门,虽然苦修了相当长时间,但也得不到什么感应,仍是徒劳无益,因此许多修行人将自己束缚和欺骗。经常依靠造作和改造,也是不究竟,若是改造而修持,在百劫中成佛也比较困难。因此,我们应该在无有任何修行和取舍的本性当中自然安住,这样在无改中安住的时候,佛的功德自然就会现前。

修持大圆满时,念诵不念诵都可以。有些上师说在休息时,也不能念任何咒语,有些则说一边要念一边要安住,有各种说法。如果要念诵,安住在本性当中念诵,这一点很重要。一般不用修,要修则在本性当中修。

对我来说,我是一个初学者,什么都不念都不修也不行,应该要念诵要修持,经常祈祷上师和本尊。但在念诵和修持时,都应安住在觉性当中来进行,否则我们若没有认识其本性,则始终得不到感应。

大圆满是果转为道用的一个圣法,阿底约嘎实际上是佛的智慧。以显宗来讲,这也是一个地上菩萨的智慧转为道用。因此,我们修持时,应安住在本性当中,其中见解最根本的一些要点在《定解宝灯论》和《大幻化网总说光明藏论》中比较广说。

在修持大圆满时,当然一切轮回的事情都是没有意义不用说,而其它一切属于分别念的事情也都应断尽,我们应当在无修无行无执当中安住。因此,在修持大圆满时,一般也没有接受空行母的这种方便方法。

按照嘎单派的观点,在修密集金刚和时轮金刚时,也需要空行母的智慧转用,这种喻智慧也需要一个表示,空行母中也有法界空行母和各种人、非人的空行母。而不共同殊胜的大圆满则不需要依靠空行母的智慧转用,作为宁玛派不需要依靠明妃。

可是藏地雪域的有些行为已经颠倒,比如在嘎单派中有人依止明妃时,他们实际上都比较反对,而宁玛派中不少人要想依止空行母,这种行为就不符合教派的观点,是不如法的。作为宁玛派修大圆满的人,不必要依靠空行母的智慧来修持,自己一个人精进修持大圆满,密法中所有的成就也同样会得到。

若我们能经常安住在本性之中,那修本尊和念咒语等生圆次第就都可以包括在其中。自己在行持一切行为包括吃饭走路、挖地剪草等都可以时刻安住在大圆满的见解当中,这样无论你做任何一件事情也是可以转为道用,这就是《普作续》不改变的行为。在《普作续》中讲,见修行果事业等一切都是无有任何实相。

修持大圆满的人,所有的护法神经常会对他恭敬。

By depending on the great, the small may rise high. See: the little plant ascending the tall tree has climbed to the top.

— Sakya Pandita

The Danger of I
by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

Birth is perpetual suffering. True happiness consists in eliminating the false idea of “I”. Mankind’s problems reduce to the problem of suffering, whether inflicted by another or by oneself.

Everyday language-Dharma language: In every day language the term birth refers simply to physical birth from a mother’s body: in Dharma language birth refers to a mental event arising our of ignorance, craving, and clinging.

Whenever there arises the mistaken idea “I,” the “I” has been born; its parents are ignorance and craving.

The kind of birth that constitutes a problem for us is mental birth.

Anyone who falls to grasp this point will never succeed in understanding anything of the Buddha teaching.

The subject we shall discuss today is one, which I feel everyone ought to recognise as pressing, namely the following two statements made by the Buddha:

“Birth is perpetual suffering. (Dukkha jati punappunam)” and
“True happiness consists in eliminating the false idea of ‘I’.
(Asmimanassa vinayo etam ve paramam sukham)”

Mankind’s problems reduce to the problem of suffering, whether inflicted by another or by oneself by way of mental defilements (kilesa). This is the primary problem for every human being, because no one wants suffering. In the above statements the Buddha equates suffering with birth: “Birth is perpetual suffering”; and he equates happiness with the complete giving up of the false idea “I,” “myself,” “I am,” “I exist”.

The statement that birth is the cause of suffering is complex, having several levels of meaning. The main difficulty lies in the interpretation of the word “birth”. Most of us don’t understand what the word birth refers to and are likely to take it in the everyday sense of physical birth from a mothers body. The Buddha taught that birth is perpetual suffering. Is it likely that in saying this he was referring to physical birth? Think it over. If he was referring to physical birth, it is unlikely that he would have gone on to say: “True happiness consists in eliminating the false idea “I” because this statement clearly indicates that what constitutes the suffering is the false idea “I”. When the idea “I” has been completely eradicated, that is two happiness. So suffering actually consists in the misconception “I,” “I am,” “I have”. The Buddha taught: “Birth is perpetual suffering.” What is meant here by the word “birth”? Clearly “birth” refers to nothing other than the arising of the idea “I” (asmimana).

The word “birth” refers to the arising of the mistaken idea “I,” “myself”. It does not refer to physical birth, as generally supposed. The mistaken assumption that this word “birth” refers to physical birth is a major obstacle to comprehending the Buddha’s teaching.

It has to be borne in mind that in general a word can have several different meanings according to the context. Two principal cases can be recognised: (1) language referring to physical things, which is spoken by the average person; and (2) language referring to mental things, psychological language, Dharma language, which is spoken by people who know Dharma (higher Truth, Buddha’s teaching). The first type may be called “everyday language,” the language spoken by the average person; the second may be called “Dharma language,” the language spoken by a person who knows Dharma.

The ordinary person speaks as he has learnt to speak, and when he uses the word “birth” he means physical birth, birth from a mothers body; however in Dharma language, the language used by a person who knows Dharma, “birth” refers to the arising of the idea “I am”. If at some moment them arises in the mind the false idea “I am,” then at that moment the “I” has been born. When this false idea ceases, there is no longer any “I,” the “I” has momentarily ceased to exist. When the “I” idea again arises in the mind, the “I” has been reborn, This is the meaning of the word “birth” in Dharma language. It refers not to physical birth from a Mother of flesh and blood but to mental birth from a mental “mother,” namely craving, ignorance, clinging (tanha, avija, upadana). One could think of craving as the mother and ignorance as the father; in any case the result is the birth of ‘I,” the arising of the false idea “I”. The father and mother of the “I” -delusion are ignorance and craving or clinging. Ignorance, delusion, misunderstanding, give birth to the idea “I,” “me”. And it is this kind of birth that is perpetual suffering. Physical birth is no problem: once born from his mother; a person need have nothing more to do with birth. Birth from a mother takes only a few minutes; and no one ever has to undergo the experience more than once.

Now we hear talk of rebirth, birth again and again, and of the suffering that inevitably goes with it. Just what is this rebirth? What is it that is reborn? The birth referred to is a mental event, Something taking place in the mind-the non-physical side of our make-up. This is “birth” in Dharma language. “Birth” in everyday language is birth from a mother; “birth” in Dharma language is birth from ignorance, craving, clinging, the arising of the false notion of “I” and “mine”. These are the two meanings of the word “birth”.

This is an important matter, which simply must be understood. Anyone who fails to grasp this point will never succeed in understanding anything of the Buddha’s teaching. So do take a special interest in it. There are these two kinds of language, these two levels of meaning: everyday language, referring to physical things, and Dharma language, referring to mental things, and used by people who know. To clarify this point here are some examples.

Consider the word “path”. Usually when we use the word “path” we are referring to a road or way along which vehicles, men, and animals can move. But the word “path” may also refer to the Noble Eightfold Path, the way of practice taught by the Buddha – right understanding, right thoughts, right speech. right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration -which leads to Nirvana. In everyday language “path” refers to a physical road; in Dharma language it refers to the eightfold way of right practice known as the Noble Eightfold Path. These are the two meanings of the word “path”.

Similarly with the word “Nirvana” (nibbána). In everyday language this word refers to the cooling of a hot object. For example, when hot coals become cool, they are said (in Pali or Sanskrit) to have “nirvana’d”; when hot food in a pot or on a plate becomes cool it has “nirvana’d”. This is everyday language. In Dharma language “Nirvana” refers to the kind of coolness that results from eliminating mental defilements. At any time when there is freedom from mental defilements, at that time there is coolness, momentary Nirvana. So “nirvana” or “coolness” has two meanings, according as the speaker is using everyday language or Dharma language.

Another important word is “emptiness” (sunyata, sunnata). In everyday language, the language of physical things, “emptiness” means total absence of any object: in Dharma language it means absence of the idea “I,” “mine”. When the mind is not grasping or clinging to anything whatsoever as “I” or ‘”mine,” it is in a state of “emptiness”. The word “empty” has these two levels of meaning, one referring to physical things, the other referring to mental things, one in everyday language, the other in Dharma language. Physical emptiness is absence of any object, vacuum. Mental emptiness is the state in which all the objects of the physical world are present as usual, but none of them is being grasped at or clung to as “mine”. Such a mind is said to be “empty”. When the mind has come to see things as not worth wanting, not worth being, not worth grasping at and clinging to, it is then an empty of wanting, being, grasping, clinging. The mind is then an empty or void mind, but not in the sense of being void of content. All objects are there as usual and the thinking processes are going on as usual, but they are not going the way of grasping and clinging with the idea of “I” and “mine”. The mind is devoid of grasping and clinging and so is called an empty or void mind. It is stated in the texts: “A mind is said to be empty when it is empty of desire. aversion, and delusion (raga, dosa, moha).” The world is also described as empty, because it is empty of anything that might be identified as “I” or “mine”. It is in this sense that the world is spoken of as empty. “Empty” in Dharma language does not mean physically empty, devoid of content.

You can see the confusion and misunderstanding that can arise if these words are taken in their usual everyday sense. Unless we understand Dharma language, we can never understand Dharma; and the most important piece of Dharma language to understand is the term “birth”.

The kind of birth that constitutes a problem for us is ‘mental birth’, the ‘birth’ or rather the arising of the false notion of “I”. Once the idea “I” has arisen, there inevitably follows the idea “I am Such-and-such”. For example, “I am a man,” “I am a living creature,” “I am a good man,” “I am not a good man,” or something else of the sort. And once the idea “I am Such-and-such” has arisen, there follows the idea of comparison: “I am better than So-and-so,” “I am not as good as So-and-so,” “I am equal to So-and-so”. All these ideas are of a type; they are all part of the false notion “I am,” “I exist”. It is to this that the term “birth” refers. So in a single day we may be born many times, many dozens of times. Even in a single hour we may experience many, many births. Whenever there arises the idea “I” and the idea “I am Such-and-such,” that is a birth. When no such idea arises, there is no birth, and this freedom from birth is a state of coolness. So this is a principle to be recognised: whenever there arises the idea “I,” “mine,” at that time the cycle of Samsara has come into existence in the mind, and there is suffering, burning, spinning on; and whenever there is freedom from defects of these kinds, there is Nirvana, Nirvana of the type referred to as tadanga- nibbána or vikkhambhana-nibbana.

Tadanga-nibbana is mentioned in the Anguttaranikaya. It is a state that comes about momentarily when external conditions happen, fortuitously, to be such that no idea of “I” or “mine” arises. Tadanga-nibbana is momentary cessation of the idea “I,” “mine,” due to favourable external circumstances. At a higher level than this, if we engage in some form of Dharma practice, in particular if we develop concentration, so that the idea of “I,” “mine” cannot arise, that extinction of “I,” “mine” is called vikkhambhana-nibbana. And finally, when we succeed in bringing about the complete elimination of all defilements, that is full Nirvana, total Nirvana.

Now we shall limit our discussion to the everyday life of the ordinary person. It must be understood that at any time when there exists the idea “I,” “mine,” at that time there exists birth, suffering, the cycle of Samsara. The “I” is born, endures for a moment, then ceases, is born again, endures for a moment, and again ceases-which is why the process is referred to as the cycle of Samsara. It is suffering because of the birth of the “I”. If at any moment conditions happen to be favourable, so that the “I”-idea does not arise, then there is peace-what is called tadanga-nibbana, momentary Nirvana, a taste of Nirvana, a sample of Nirvana, peace, coolness.

The meaning of “Nirvana” becomes clearer when we consider how the word is used in the Anguttara-nikaya. In that text we find that hot objects that have become cool are said to have “nirvana’d”. Animals that have been tamed, rendered docile and harmless are said to have “nirvana’d”. How can a human being become “cool”? This question is complicated by the fact that man’s present knowledge and understanding of life has not been suddenly acquired but has evolved gradually over a long period.

Well before the time of the Buddha people considered that Nirvana lay in sensual delight, because a person who gets precisely whatever sensual pleasure he wishes does experience a certain kind of coolness. Having a shower on a hot day brings a kind of coolness; and going into a quiet place brings another kind, in the form of contentment, freedom from disturbance. So to begin with, people were interested in the kind of Nirvana that consisted in an abundance of sensual pleasure. Later, wiser men came to realise that this was not good enough. They saw that sensual pleasure was largely a deception (maya), so sought their coolness in the mental tranquillity of concentration (jhana). The jhanas are states of genuine mental coolness and this was the kind of Nirvana people were concerned with in the period immediately before the Buddha’s enlightenment. Gurus were teaching that Nirvana was identical with the most refined state of mental concentration. The Buddha’s last guru, Udakatapasa Ramaputta, taught him that to attain the “jhana of neither perception nor non-perception (n’eva sañña n’asannayatana)” was to attain complete cessation of suffering. But the Buddha did not accept this teaching; he did not consider this to be genuine Nirvana. He went oft and delved into the matter on his own account until he realized the Nirvana that is the total elimination of every kind of craving and clinging. As he himself later taught: “True happiness consists in eradicating the false idea “I”. When defilements have been totally eliminated, that is Nirvana. If the defilements are only momentarily absent, it is momentary Nirvana. Hence the teaching of tadanga-nibbána and vikkhanbhana-nibbana already discussed. These terms refer to a condition of freedom from defilements.

Now if we examine ourselves we discover that we are not dominated by defilements all the time. There are moments when we are free from defilements; if this were not the case we should soon be driven mad by defilements and die, and there would not be many people left in the world. It is thanks to these brief periods of freedom from distress causing defilements that we don’t all suffer from nervous disorders and go insane or die. Let us give Nature due credit for this and be thankful she made us in such a way that we get a sufficient period of respite from defilements each day. There is the time we are asleep, and there are times when the mind is clear, cool, at ease. A person who can manage to do as Nature intended can avoid nervous and psychological disorders; one who cannot is bound to have more and more nervous disorders until he becomes mentally ill or even dies. Let us be thankful for momentary Nirvana, the transient type of Nirvana that comes when conditions are favourable. For a brief moment there is freedom from craving, conceit, and false views, in particular, freedom from the idea of “I” and “mine”. The mind is empty, free, just long enough to have a rest or to sleep, and so it remains healthy.

In days gone by this condition was more common than it is now. Modern man, with his ever-changing knowledge and behaviour, is more subject to disturbance from defilements than man in past ages. Consequently modern man is more prone to nervous and psychological illnesses, which is a disgrace. The more scientific knowledge he has the more prone he is to insanity! The number of psychiatric patients is increasing so rapidly the hospitals can’t cope. There is one simple cause for this: people don’t know how to relax mentally. They are too ambitious. They have been taught to be ambitious since they were small children. They acquire nervous complaints right in childhood and by the time they have completed their studies they are already mentally disturbed people. This comes from taking no interest in the Buddha’s teaching that the birth of the idea of “I” and “mine” is the height of suffering.

Now let us go further into the matter of “birth”. No matter what type of existence one is born into, it is nothing but suffering, because the word “birth” refers here to attachment unaccompanied by awareness. This is an important point which must be well understood if there arises in a person’s mind the idea “I am Such-and-such” and he is aware that this idea has arisen, that arising is not a birth (as that term is used in Dharma language). If on the other hand he deludedly identifies with the idea, that is birth. Hence the Buddha advised continual mindfulness. If we know what we are, know what we have to do, and do it with awareness, there is no suffering, because there is no birth of “I” or “mine”. Whenever delusion, carelessness, and forgetfulness come in, there arise desire and attachment to the false idea “I,” “mine,” “I am So-and-so,” “I am Such-and-such,”…and this is birth.

Birth is suffering and the kind of suffering depends on the kind of birth. Birth as a mother brings the suffering of a mother, birth as a father brings the suffering of a father. If, for example, there arises in a person the illusory idea of being a mother and therefore of wanting this, that, and the other thing -that is the suffering of a mother. It is the same for a father. If he identifies with the idea of being a father, wanting this and that, grasping and clinging -that is the suffering of a father. But if a person has awareness, there is no such confusion and distortion; he simply knows in full clarity what he has to do as a father or as a mother and does it with a steady mind, not clinging to the idea “I am this”. “I am that”. In this way he is free from suffering; and in this condition he is fit to rear his children properly and to their best advantage. Birth as a mother brings the suffering of a mother; birth as a father brings the suffering of a father; birth as a millionaire brings the suffering of a millionaire; birth as a beggar brings the suffering of a beggar. What is meant here can be illustrated by the following contrast.

Suppose first a millionaire, dominated by delusion, desire, attachment, grasping at the idea “I am a millionaire”. This idea is in itself suffering: and whatever that man says or does is said and done under the influence of those defilements and so becomes further suffering. Even after he has gone to bed he dwells on the idea of being a millionaire and so is unable to sleep. So birth as a millionaire brings the suffering of a millionaire. Then suppose a beggar dwelling an his misfortunes, his poverty, his sufferings and difficulties -this is the suffering of a beggar. Now if at any moment either of these two men were to be free of these ideas, in that moment he would be free from suffering; the millionaire would be free from the suffering of a millionaire, the beggar would be free from the suffering of a beggar. Thus it is that one sometimes sees a beggar singing happily, because at that time he is not being born as a beggar, is not identifying himself as a beggar or as in any sort of difficulty. For one moment he, has forgotten it, has ceased being born a beggar and instead has been born a singer, a musician. Suppose a poor ferryman. If he clings to the idea of being poor, and rows his ferryboat with a sense of weariness and self-pity, then he suffers, just as if he had fallen straight into hell. But if instead of dwelling on such ideas, he reflects that he is doing what he has to do, that work is the lot of human beings, and does his work with awareness and steadiness of mind, he will find himself singing as he rows his ferryboat.

So do look closely, carefully, and clearly into this question: what is it that is being referred to as birth? If at any moment a millionaire is “born” as a millionaire, in that moment he experiences the suffering of a millionaire; if a beggar is born as a beggar, he experiences the suffering of a beggar. If, however, a person does not identify in this way, he is not “born” and so is free from suffering-whether he is a millionaire, a beggar, a ferryman, or whatever. At the present day we take no interest in this matter. We let ourselves be dominated by delusion, craving, attachment. We experience birth as this, that, or the other, I don’t know how many times each day. Every kind of birth without exception is suffering, as the Buddha said. The only way to be free from this suffering is to be free from birth. So one has to take good care, always keeping the mind in a state of awareness and insight, never disturbed and confused by “I” and “mine”. One will then be free from suffering. Whether one is a farmer, a merchant, a soldier, a public servant, or anything else, even a god in heaven, one will be free from suffering.

As soon as there is the idea “I” there is suffering. Grasp this important principle and you are in a position to understand the essential core of Buddhism, and to derive benefit from Buddhism, taking full advantage of having been born a human being and encountered Buddhism. If you don’t grasp it, then though you are a Buddhist you will derive no benefit from it; you will be a Buddhist only nominally, only according to the records; you will have to sit and weep like all those other people who are not Buddhists; you will continue to experience suffering like a non-Buddhist. To be genuine Buddhists we have to practice the genuine teaching of the Buddha, in particular the injunction: Don’t identify as “I” or “mine”; act with clear awareness and there will be no suffering. You will then be able to do your work well, and that work will be a pleasure. When the mind is involved in “I” and “mine,” all work becomes suffering; one doesn’t feel like doing it; light work becomes heavy work, burdensome in every way. But if the mind is not grasping and clinging to the idea “I,” “mine,” if it is aware, all work, even heavy or dirty work, is enjoyable.

This is a profound, hidden truth that has to be understood. The essence of it lies in the single word “birth”. Birth is suffering; once we can give up being “born,” we become free from suffering. If a person experiences dozens of births in a day he has to suffer dozens of times a day; if he does not experience birth at all, he has no suffering at all. So the direct practice of Dharma, the kernel of the Buddha’s teaching, consists in keeping close watch on the mind, So that it does not give rise to the condition called the cycle of Samsara, so that it is always in the state called Nirvana. One has to be watchful, guarding the mind at all times so that the state of coolness is constantly there, and leaving no opportunity for the arising of Samsara. The mind will then become accustomed to the state of Nirvana day and night and that state may become permanent and complete. We already have momentary Nirvana, the type of Nirvana that comes when circumstances are right, the Nirvana that is a sample, a foretaste. Preserve it carefully. Leave no opening for Samsara, for the idea “I,” “mine”. Don’t, let the “I”-idea come to birth. Keep watch, be aware, develop full insight. Whatever you do, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, do it with awareness. Don’t become involved in “I” and “mine”. Then Samsara will not be able to arise: the mind will remain in Nirvana until it has become fully accustomed to it and unable to relapse-and that is full or complete Nirvana.

Since childhood we have lived in a way favorable to the birth of “I” and “mind,” and have become used to the cycle of Samsara. This habit is hard to break. It has become part of our makeup, and so is sometimes called a fetter (samyojana) or a latent disposition (anusaya) something that is bound up in our character. These terms refer to the habit of giving birth to “I,” “mine,” of producing the sense of “I,” “mine”. In one form it is called greed (lobha); in another form it is called anger (knodha); in another form it is called delusion (moha). Whatever form it takes it is simply the idea “I,” “mine,” self-centredness. When the “I” wants to get something, there is greed; when it doesn’t get that something, there is anger; when it hesitates and doesn’t know what it wants, there is confusion, involvement in hopes and possibilities. Greed, anger, and delusion of whatever kind are simply forms of the “I”-idea, and when they are present in the mind, that is everlasting Samsara, total absence of Nirvana. A person in this condition does not live long. But Nature helps. As we saw in the beginning, through natural weariness the process sometimes stops of itself, there is sleep or some other form of respite, and one’s condition improves, becomes tolerable, and death is averted.

The various enlightened beings that have appeared in the world have discovered that it is possible to prolong these periods of Nirvana, and have taught the most direct way of practice to this end, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. This is a way of practice intended to prolong the periods of coolness, or Nirvana, and to reduce the periods of suffering, or Samsara, by preventing as far as possible the birth of “I” and “mine”. It’s so simple it’s hard to believe-like the Buddha’s statement: “If monks will practice right living, the world will not be empty of Arahants (enlightened beings).”

Ven Buddhadasa 5.

Our essence cannot be demonstrated, also the nature of the mind will not let the true state of the Great Seal, or modifies. If we can truly do this, then all phenomenal appearances become the Great Seal. It is the great pervading natural way.

— Maitripa

佛教的特色
智敏上师

其他宗教,他们说人间是苦的,天堂是安乐的,他们的智慧只能看到人间是苦。他们也有“通”,也知道有地狱。人间是苦,地狱里更苦,但是他们认为天堂是享乐的,而天堂就在这个三界里边,不过是高了,他们享受的福报比人间大一点,但是不究竟,将来无常之后,还是要堕下来的。天人本身也有五衰相现的苦,其实天上的也不是乐。 出离心生起来了,才真正的是修行的开端。其他一切的宗教、哲学都没有这个。他们顶多是求避免地狱苦,求生天,到此为止。

佛法区别于其他教派或者说是外道,主要的重点:一是出离心,这个很要紧,所以我们和大家说一下;二是菩提心;三是空性正见。

一是出离心

第一个出离心。像刚刚讲的,这个世界是苦,为什么是苦的?我们还要究其原因。

因为世间上很多学者都说这个世界是好的,是幸福的,我们要创造一个幸福世界。这个话很好,我们也同意,但是我们有我们的理由。

这个“幸福”的娑婆世界是哪里来的?是烦恼推动身口意三业造恶所感的果。这根本上是从烦恼来的,你说它是不是苦的?烦恼怎么会结好的果呢?如果烦恼能结好的果,那五逆十恶的人倒成佛了。那是不可能的。

我们从因上一推,烦恼恶业,这个脏的、不好的东西感的果当然也是不好的,乐在哪里呢?以圣者的眼光看,娑婆世界犹如火宅,没有一处是安乐的,所以他才要逃。所以出离心一定要生起来。

我们并不是否定这个世界,而是否定我们的烦恼业。因为烦恼业是脏东西,是不好的,它的果也是不好的,我们自己要跳出来。

那“烦恼即菩提”又怎么理解呢?这个要慢慢来,一下子都来了,把你思想搅乱了。若烦恼就是菩提,那不要修了;烦恼就是菩提的话,也蛮好,就这么满足了。这是不对的。

所以对佛菩萨说的话,如果不理解他的层次,往往会搞错。我们先说低层次的,这个世界是烦恼推动身口意造业而感的果,必定是苦的、脏的、不净的。这样的世界,我们贪著它干什么呢?一定要出离。

出离心是佛教的特色。一切世间的学问也好,哲学也好,其他的教派也好,提出这个问题的恐怕不多,没有的!

其他宗教,他们说人间是苦的,天堂是安乐的,他们的智慧只能看到人间是苦。他们也有“通”,也知道有地狱。

人间是苦,地狱里更苦,但是他们认为天堂是享乐的,而天堂就在这个三界里边,不过是高了,他们享受的福报比人间大一点,但是不究竟,将来无常之后,还是要堕下来的。天人本身也有五衰相现的苦,其实天上的也不是乐。

出离心生起来了,才真正的是修行的开端。其他一切的宗教、哲学都没有这个。他们顶多是求避免地狱苦,求生天,到此为止。

二是菩提心

第二是菩提心。苦我们看到了,自己真正要脱苦、得安乐,决定要厌离这个世界、修行,或者求生西方。那么我去了,安乐了,其他的人怎么办?

那么多有情,都是我们过去的父母,都是对我们有恩的,我们是不是忍心就自己走了,随他们受苦去?不行!我们决定要发起大悲心,要使他们也同样离苦。

而要使他们离苦,我们不是发个心就完了,要把这个担子荷担起来:他们一天不离苦,我就一天没有尽到我的责任!把这个担子担起来了,就是发菩提心。这样的心,其他的宗教有没有?我看是没有。这是我们佛教的第二个特色。

三是空性正见

第三个特色,有了出离心、菩提心,方向对了,愿也发对了,如何出生死?方法是什么?那就靠般若的智慧——空。要是能把我执、法执空掉,轮回的苦恼也就没有了。

如果没有空的方法,即使有了菩提心、出离心,毕竟还找不到一个究竟的解脱生死的方便。

这三个是我们佛教的特色,也是我们修行所必要的。

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If one holds oneself dear, one should protect oneself well. During every one of the three watches the wise man should keep vigil.

— The Buddha

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Overcoming Negative Emotions
by Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Thubten Chonyi

“THERE IS NOTHING TO FEAR OTHER THAN MY MIND”

The Mighty One has said that all such things
Are (the working of ) an evil mind,
Hence within the three world spheres
There is nothing to fear other than my mind
(Verse 8, Chapter 5, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva)

All the fears of cyclic existence and the three realms, the suffering we wish to avoid and the happiness we are seeking arise from the mind. Likewise, all qualities depend on the mind.

When you check all the scriptures, this is also their main message – that there is a need to discipline our minds. We can understand this from our personal experience. When the afflictions – anger, attachment, ignorance, pride, jealousy and so forth – arise, suffering and unhappiness are always the result. The stronger the afflictions, the greater the suffering. On the other hand, when we have less discursive thoughts, when the three mental poisons arise infrequently, when the mind is concentrated or focussed on benefiting others, there is more mental peace and we tend to be happier with fewer problems.

By reflecting along these lines, we will understand why it is said that all fears and worries originate from the mind. Therefore, we should protect the mind against non-virtue and guide the mind towards virtue, with mindfulness and introspection. When we fail to do this, although we yearn for happiness, we run away from the causes of happiness. Although we wish to avoid suffering, we pursue the causes of suffering.

We are controlled by our minds that, in turn, are controlled by the negative emotions that disturb our mental peace and calm. That is why we feel unhappy and suffer. We need to immerse our minds in virtue instead, because when this happens, happiness is the result.

REALISING THE NATURE OF OUR MINDS

There is a saying by the great Kadampa masters: “The difference between cyclic existence and nirvana comes from whether we have realised the nature of our minds or not.”

Liberation may seem external, like a distant place. But it can be achieved on the basis of our minds. In the same way, cyclic existence is not an external phenomenon. It abides in our minds.

As long as our minds are under the control and bondage of the afflictions, we remain in cyclic existence. We achieve liberation at that very moment when our minds are freed from the control of our afflictions. So liberation is not something far away or external, and once liberated, we will experience everlasting bliss and happiness.

With reference to the paths and grounds – from the path of accumulation through to the path of preparation, followed by the path of seeing, the ten bodhisattva grounds, the path of no more learning and, finally, enlightenment – the difference between each level and each ground is primarily based on the qualities of the mind and its development. We assert that someone has achieved and is abiding in a specific path on the basis of their mental development, not their physical transformation. How do we differentiate between a bodhisattva and a non-bodhisattva? The difference does not lie in their external appearances but on whether that person has developed bodhicitta or not.

Another way of looking at the quotation is this: As soon as we have realised the ultimate nature of the mind, its lack of true existence, we are liberated from our afflictions.

Engaging in physical and verbal virtues (or positive actions) contributes to our mental development and this helps us one day to realise the emptiness of our minds. When we achieve the wisdom realising emptiness, we destroy cyclic existence. This is one of the benefits of realising emptiness.

When our self-cherishing attitude is very strong, it is very difficult for our actions to be virtuous. Furthermore, during the course of engaging in virtue, other afflictions such as competitiveness, jealousy and pride arise.

For example, arrogance and conceit may arise when we are doing retreat, “I am in retreat and they are not.” Also, during the course of this five year Basic Program, we have acquired some knowledge and understanding of the Dharma. That knowledge can be the condition for us to feel superior to others, thinking, “I know more than you do.”

It is important that our actions do not become the conditions for the development of jealousy, competitiveness and pride. These afflictions are harmful and therefore, we must learn how to apply the antidotes to overcome them.

ADVICE FROM GUNGTANG RINPOCHE: CHECK THE STATE OF YOUR MIND DAY AND NIGHT

Guntang Rinpoche advises, “If we want to make our days and nights meaningful, we should always check the state of our minds.” No beneficial actions can result from a mind that is under the control of the three mental poisons (ignorance, anger and attachment). Therefore, we should always strive to keep our minds in a positive state, thinking constantly of how to benefit others. When our actions are motivated by a negative mind, it is questionable whether those actions can be beneficial.

It is important to set a proper motivation before we begin any virtuous activities, such as doing our daily commitments. We are advised in the teachings to begin always with the meditation on the breath to bring the mind to a state of equilibrium, especially when we find that our minds are agitated by anger or attachment. Otherwise, it is difficult to generate a positive state of mind while doing the practices.

When the mind is in a state of equilibrium, it is easier to prevent negative thoughts from arising, even though we may not yet be able to eliminate our attachment or anger from the root. It becomes possible for us to consider those we normally think of as enemies or objects of aversion as pleasant and as friends. When engaged in virtuous activities, we should pay heed to the objects of desire and the objects of aversion. We should sincerely dedicate the merit we accumulate from our practices to their welfare from the depths of our hearts. It is easy to habituate ourselves to dedicating our merit in this way compared to giving away material things such as our bodies.

When we dedicate all the roots of our virtue to our enemies, does that mean there is nothing left for us, that we are not going to experience the beneficial effects of those virtues? I don’t think so. So, don’t worry.

When we dedicate our roots of virtue sincerely in this way, it is difficult to say how much benefit will actually be received by the objects of our dedication but, without a doubt, we will benefit and see the improvement in our minds. We will definitely benefit because we can see that all our problems and sufferings arise from attachment and anger in our lives.

When we neglect checking the state of our minds, then no matter how profound or extensive our prayers may be, it is difficult for those practices to be beneficial even for ourselves. When we do not benefit from our practices, then it is difficult for us to benefit others.

Gungtang Rinpoche also said: “If you wish, however, to make your life meaningless and empty, then by all means, please continue to spend your whole life being conceited and arrogant and spend your time partying, gossiping and shopping.”

DEVELOPING THE VIRTUOUS MIND

This is advice from the Kadampa masters: When our minds are virtuous and our motivation positive, then our physical and verbal actions will naturally be virtuous and positive. We will not harm but instead benefit others. Conversely, when our minds are in negative, non-virtuous states, it is very difficult to generate positive behaviour. We are most likely to give problems to others and be harmed by them in return. The Kadampa masters therefore advise us to generate a good heart and develop a positive mind and motivation.

We are now studying the practice of exchanging ourselves for others and developing bodhicitta, the main point of which is to develop the virtuous, positive mind. A positive state of mind leads to positive and beneficial behaviour that helps us to become good-hearted, virtuous people. It is very difficult to change our minds overnight. We have to start reducing negative physical and verbal actions by reducing our negative states of mind. While we may not be able to completely remove such negativities, we can work towards reducing them.

What are the benefits of being good-hearted people? We will be protected by the worldly gods who delight in virtue and receive blessings from the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Temporal goals are easily achieved. When death comes, we will move on easily to the next life and achieve enlightenment very quickly.

THE INTERNAL ENEMY

Lama Atisha said, “When we can subdue our minds, then no external enemy can harm us. But if our minds waver, with the external enemy acting as the condition, our internal enemy will burn our minds. Therefore, defeat and destroy this internal enemy.” We cannot be harmed by external enemies when our minds are loving and compassionate but if we succumb to the three mental poisons, our mental peace is destroyed. It is not the external enemy, who acts only as the condition, but our afflictions which are responsible for the destruction of our mental peace.

It is the very nature of our afflictions to do this, so our real enemies are the internal ones, our afflictions, which are the real troublemakers. We should therefore put effort into destroying them.

We need both mindfulness and introspection to protect and guard the mind. Mindfulness protects our minds by not forgetting what is to be abandoned and what is to be cultivated, and introspection is the part of our minds that checks to see whether our minds are up to virtue or non-virtue.

It is important to protect and guard our minds because only we know our own minds. No one else does. We are our own masters because only we know what is going on in our own minds. We need to check to see whether our minds are in a virtuous or nonvirtuous state because only by protecting our minds will we be able to prevent ourselves from being stained by downfalls and faults and guard our three doors.

NEED FOR CONSTANT AND PERSISTENT EFFORT (1)

The great Indian master, Chandragomin, said that when someone is very sick with a serious disease, e.g., leprosy, but does not take the proper medicine continuously over a period of time, then that patient will never recover from his illness.

This is analogous to the situation we are in. We have been controlled by the three mental poisons for a very long time. In order to free ourselves from this bondage, we have to familiarise ourselves with and meditate on the antidotes continuously for a very long time. Meditating occasionally when we feel like it will not work.

We also need to train in the complete path, not just doing the virtuous practices we enjoy and then hoping or expecting those afflictions to just weaken or disappear. It does not work like that. We have to meditate on the complete path.

We do engage in virtuous practices, but sometimes we feel that, despite doing all sorts of practices, we are not getting anywhere, we are not improving. This is how we may feel sometimes.

Actually, things are getting better but we should not expect to see instant results. Sometimes, when we engage in certain practices, we expect to see results in a day, a month, a year or even a couple of years. It does not work like that. We may not be able to see very tangible results for quite a while.

Our afflictions are like the very heavy sicknesses of a patient. We have been harbouring these afflictions, the three mental poisons, in our minds for a very long time. In order to heal ourselves of these afflictions, we need to meditate and rely on the antidotes continuously for a long period of time. If we rely on the antidotes every now and then, as and when we feel like it, then we are not going to reap much benefit from them.

NEED FOR CONSTANT AND PERSISTENT EFFORT (2)

The great Indian master, Chandragomin, said that the fruits of a fruit tree whose roots are always submerged in a pool of sour muddy water will be sour and not sweet. If we want the fruit tree to bear sweet fruits, fertilising it with just a few drops of sweetener will not work.

In the same way, we have been controlled by the three mental poisons since time without beginning. That being the case, hoping for a major mental transformation by doing a little daily practice and some small virtues, and expecting fantastic results and a huge reduction in our suffering is completely unrealistic.

In order for us to attain the fruit of the state beyond sorrow, the cessation of all our suffering, we need to remove our afflictions from the root. Hoping to achieve this by some small exertions on our part is like expecting a harvest of sweet fruit in the above analogy.

Removing our mental afflictions is extremely difficult and requires reliance on continuous effort for a long period of time. Sometimes, we may feel this is an almost impossible task. It is natural for us to think in this way because it is true that the negative emotions have been with us since beginningless time, not just a few lifetimes. We are thoroughly familiar with them. It is as if the afflictions have merged with the very nature of our minds, making it impossible to separate our minds from them. Although this may be the way we feel and how things appear to us, if we critically analyse the situation, we will find that this is not the case, because if we apply the appropriate antidotes, we will definitely be able to free our minds from these negative emotions.

Look at our lives. What are we doing everyday? Are we actively doing something to weaken our afflictions or are we actually strengthening them? If we are honest with ourselves, we find that not only are we not doing anything to overcome our afflictions but in fact, we are allowing them to become stronger as we encounter the objects and conditions which cause them to arise.

In order to destroy our mental afflictions, the only way is to put effort continuously into weakening and destroying them. If we do not do this, there is no hope of the negative emotions ever becoming weaker or being destroyed.

REFLECTION ON IMPERMANENCE

The great Nagarjuna once said that someone who would put rubbish or vomit into a precious golden bejewelled container would be considered very foolish indeed. We should reflect on how this statement applies to ourselves.

Having achieved the precious human rebirth and met the teachings of the Buddha, we call ourselves Buddhists and take on the different levels of vows and commitments. Yet, instead of accumulating virtue, we spend our time committing negativities. That is both very unskillful and unwise and if that is our situation, we must do something to overcome it. Those negative activities arise due to the three mental poisons in our minds which we must work to subdue.

The stronger the negative emotions – our attachment to friends and loved ones and aversion and hatred towards our enemies – the more powerful will be the resultant negative actions generated by them. It is, therefore, very important that we work very hard to reduce the strength of the three mental poisons. We are not suggesting here that friends or enemies do not exist but we are trying to reduce the negative emotions we generate towards them.

One of the best ways of doing this is to reflect on impermanence. For example, to reduce our hatred towards an enemy, we should reflect on his impermanent nature, how he will definitely die one day and the uncertainty of that time of death. Our enemy will probably be very fearful both at the time of death and during the intermediate state. He may also be reborn in the lower realms because of his own negativities. Reflecting how our enemy is controlled by his own afflictions and negative karma, it becomes possible for us to generate compassion instead of hatred towards him.

We can reflect in the same way to reduce our attachment towards our loved ones. They will also die one day and it is uncertain when death will come. They will experience suffering and fear at the time of death and in the intermediate state and take rebirth in the lower realms. Reflecting in this way, we substitute our attachment and desire for them with compassion.

We ourselves are also impermanent and we should reflect on the fear that we will encounter at the time of our own death. When we give in to our negative emotions, we create negativities that lead to great suffering and fear in the intermediate state, which will only throw us into the lower realms.

By reflecting on these different points, we develop renunciation. Of course, it will be very difficult for us to remove our afflictions from the root now, but by reflecting on these points, we can at least reduce the strength of those afflictions when they manifest. This is something we must do.

At this time, we have achieved this precious human body and the opportunity to listen to and discuss the Mahayana teachings. We understand that if we were to engage in negative actions, we would have to take rebirth in the lower realms. We accept the existence of the hells and the lower realms. We also accept the possibility of higher rebirths as humans and gods. Therefore, we are more knowledgeable than those who have no exposure to such teachings.

In spite of having such knowledge, when it comes to the actual practice of working to overcome our afflictions, instead of our reducing them, they actually become stronger. If this happens, we will be exactly as Nagarjuna said – very foolish and stupid. We must do something about this situation.

When we meet with difficulties, we should try to apply and reap some benefit from our Dharma knowledge. It seems that, sometimes, we are unable to do this, so that when problems come, our suffering seems to be even more intense and the bad experiences seem much more difficult to handle. This should not be the case.

ADVICE FROM GUNGTANG RINPOCHE: OVERCOMING THE STUBBORN MIND OF SELF-CHERISHING

Guntang Rinpoche points out how we always cherish ourselves. It is this evil mind of self-cherishing that is our downfall. Only when we are able to overcome this very stubborn self-cherishing mind, which is as hard as wood, then enlightenment will not be very far away.

In the same way, we are always controlled by our three mental poisons which only lead to misfortune and our downfall. We desperately want happiness but our afflictions bring only problems and suffering.

The essence of Rinpoche’s advice is that enlightenment can only be achieved when we are able to subdue our stubborn minds. Whatever virtues we do with our bodies and speech, they must ultimately lead to subduing our minds. If this does not happen, then there is no way we will achieve enlightenment.

There are students who say they have been practising for a long time – for 10, 20, 30 years – but they do not see any progress. This is the fault of not transforming their virtuous actions of body and speech into methods that will help them to subdue their negative minds. It boils down to this failure to transform their minds.

OUR NARROW-MINDED OUTLOOK

Mental suffering can only be reduced through adopting the correct mental perspective. The more we are able to think from different perspectives, the better equipped we will be to deal with our mental difficulties. Our mental unhappiness can never be solved by wealth, possessions or medication.

The reason why we experience mental unhappiness is because of our narrow-minded outlook. We tend to fixate on some small aspect of the problem. When we think in such a way, the mind will always remain narrow, tight and stressed. We need to widen our minds, make them bigger, more expansive and relaxed, by considering the problem from multi-faceted angles. Although it is difficult to experience immediate benefits from the mind training techniques given in the text we are now studying, when we continue to listen, critically analyse and familiarise ourselves with the teachings, we will definitely experience some benefits and be able to reduce our mental suffering over time.

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When we let our mind relax, a moment will come when we rest without thoughts. This stable state is like an ocean without waves. Within this stability a thought arises. This thought is like a wave which forms on the surface of the ocean. When we leave this thought alone, do nothing with it, not “seizing” it, it subsides by itself into the mind where it came from.

— Bokar Rinpoche