Selflessness in the Beginning, Middle, and End
by Khandro Rinpoche
At present, we are working with selfish reasoning — selfish in the sense that, intentionally or unintentionally, “I” takes precedence. Selfishness arises as attachment to individual liberation. Now, it is true that prior to benefiting sentient beings, we have to work with the ground of self-liberation. Nevertheless, even if the mind isn’t courageous enough to understand this, it is selflessness that brings about enlightenment. Selflessness means letting go of self in the beginning, letting go in the middle, and letting go in the end.
When we are too self-focused, we think it’s all about “me:” me and the hell realms, me and my ambition, me and sentient beings, me and my enlightenment. But, in fact, we are deeply affected by the karma of other sentient beings. Without sentient beings, there’s no such thing as enlightenment. The good karma, good wishes, and ton glen of others are partly responsible for your reading this today. There is also the fact ofShakyamuni Buddha turning the wheel of Dharma, and the Sangha working very hard to create the right conditions for everyone to practice. And there is your own hard work, merit, compassion, and kindness. So it’s a combined effort of everyone’s karma working together.
Interdependence is about the karmic patterns of a whole vast world system — and not just about my life and suffering, my wisdom and views, my body, mind, and thoughts. This kind of thinking shows a mistaken belief in a solid self, which we know cannot be established. So how can we be filled with pride and arrogance in the midst of this vast karmic creation? Grasping at a self that is so tiny compared with the vastness of the universe is a very ignorant thing to do — yet when you put down this book, you will still think that “I” put it down.
Appreciation of collective karma creates a greater sense of responsibility to generate the true fruition, which requires an enormous number of positive conditions. We ignore this when we think only of our own achievements. This egoistic approach must be checked. Otherwise the day will come when we realise that others know more than we do, and we will be very upset: “It was I who was going to save all sentient beings, and now I’m being
shown the path by others!” This is a very uncomfortable feeling. Trying to attain selflessness by preserving a self to benefit others is not only illogical, it is deceptive. It’s just another example of ignorance trying to prove itsexistence and protect its territory.
All practices and instructions are based on knowing which antidote to apply to obstacles. An obstacle is any tendency of conceptual mind that does not allow the pure intention and meaning of Dharma to arise. The most effective antidote for such obstacles is to contemplate the Four Reminders and generate genuine compassion.
The antidote to any egoism is to rejoice in the achievements and merit of others. This includes all the buddhas and bodhisattvas whose blessings and compassion made it possible for us to realise the ground of awareness. Rejoicing in the achievements of others can also alleviate suffering. The karma of suffering is lessened when we appreciate all the positive thoughts being generated toward us by others. When gratitude to others is understood, it becomes even more important to practice sincerely and honestly.