Standards of proficiency in the mind training
by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
All Dharma has a single goal.
The Buddha gave eighty-four thousand different teachings, all of them designed to subdue ego-clinging. This was the only reason why he set them forth. If they do not act as an antidote for our attachment to self, then all practice is in vain, as was the case with the Buddha’s cousin Devadatta. He knew as many sutras as an elephant could carry on its back, but because he could not shake off his clinging to self, he went to hell in his next life. The extent to which we have been able to overcome our self-attachment will show the degree to which we have used the Dharma properly. So let us try very hard.
Rely upon the better of two witnesses.
If we have succeeded in making a sufficiently good impression of ourselves so that others say, ‘This person has practised Bodhichitta very well,’ then this may be regarded as one kind of testimony. But if we think about it, we can see that unless such people have the ability to read our minds, our mental processes are hidden from them; they cannot know whether or not we have applied all the antidotes. Therefore we should examine ourselves, to see whether in fact we are less angry, less attached to ego, and whether we have been able to practise the exchange of happiness and suffering. That is the main testimony that we should rely on. We should live in such a way that we always have a clear conscience.
Milarepa said: ‘My religion is to have nothing to be ashamed of when I die.’ But the majority of people do not give any importance to this way of thinking. We pretend to be very calm and subdued and are full of sweet words, so that ordinary people, not knowing our thoughts, say, ‘This is a real Bodhisattva.’ But it is only our outward behaviour that they see.
The important thing is not to do anything that we might have to regret later on. Therefore we should examine ourselves honestly. Unfortunately, our ego-clinging is so gross that, even if we do possess some small quality, we think that we are wonderful. On the other hand, if we have some great defect, we do not even notice it. There is a saying that, ‘On the peak of pride the water of good qualities does not stay.’ So, we should be very meticulous. If, after thoroughly examining ourselves, we can put our hands on our hearts and honestly think, ‘My actions are all right,’ then that is a sign that we are getting some experience in Mind Training. We should then be glad that our practice has gone well, and determine to do even better in the future, just as did the Bodhisattvas of former times. By every means, we should try to generate the antidote more and more and to act in such a way that we are at peace with ourselves.
Always be sustained by cheerfulness.
On account of the strength of their Mind Training, the Kadampa Masters were always able to look on the bright side of things no matter what happened to them. Even if they contracted leprosy they would continue to be cheerful, happy in the knowledge that leprosy brings a painless death. Of course, leprosy is one of the worst of all diseases, but we should be resolved that, even if we were to catch it, we would continue to practise the exchange of happiness for sorrow, taking upon ourselves the sufferings of all who have fallen victim to that affliction.
Strengthened by this attitude, we should decide that, by virtue of the Mind Training, we will be able to take onto the path whatever difficult situations arise. If we are able to do this with confidence, it is a sign that we are experienced in the practice; and we will be happy come what may. In addition, we must take upon ourselves, and experience, the sufferings of others. When others are having to endure physical and mental illness, or are confronted with all sorts of adversity, we should want to take it all upon ourselves. And we should do so without any hope or fear. ‘But if the sufferings of others really do come upon me, what shall I do? Second thoughts like this should be completely banished from our minds.
With experience you can practise even when distracted.
Experienced riders do not fall off their horses. In the same way, when unexpected harm or sudden difficulties befall us, if love and compassion, rather than annoyance, come welling up in us of their own accord-in other words, if uncomfortable situations can be used to advantage in our lives, that is a sign that we have accomplished something in the Mind Training. So it is vitally important for us to continue in our efforts.
Experiences like this indicate a familiarity with the Mind Training; they do not, however, mean that the work is finished. For even if such signs occur, we should continue in our endeavour, becoming more thoroughly adept and always joyful. A mind, moreover, which has been subdued and calmed through practice will naturally reveal itself in external activities. As with the different proverbs, ‘When you see the ducks, you know the water’s near’ and ‘No smoke without fire.’ So too, Bodhisattvas can be recognised by outward signs.
Calmness and serenity
Will show your wisdom;
Freedom from defiled emotions
Will display your progress on the path;
Your perfection will be manifest
Through virtue done in dreams.
A Bodhisattva is revealed by what he does.
Signs like this will arise in us as well, but they do not mean that there is nothing more for us to do.