Carrying difficult situations onto the path of Enlightenment
by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Bodhichitta may be considered under two further headings: Bodhichitta in intention and Bodhichitta in action. Beginning with the former we find that it likewise has two aspects according as it is related to the relative, or to the absolute, truth.
When all the world is filled with evils,
Place all setbacks on the path of liberation.
If we have instructions on how to carry obstacles onto the path, then no matter how many difficulties and conflicting situations come upon us, they will simply clarify our practice and have no power to hinder us on the path. If, however, we do not have such instructions, then difficulties will be experienced as hindrances.
In these degenerate times, as far as the outer universe is concerned, the rains and snows do not come when they should, harvests are poor, the cattle are unhealthy and people and animals are riddled with disease. Because people spend their time in evil activities, because they are jealous and constantly wish misfortune on one another, many countries are at variance and in desperate circumstances. We are in the era when even the teachings of religion are perverted so that famine, disease and war are rife. But, when a forest is on fire, a gale will only make it bigger, it certainly will not blow it out. Likewise, for a Bodhisattva who has received instruction, all such catastrophic situations may be profitably taken onto the path.
Guru Padmasambhava has said, ‘Pray to me, you beings of degenerate times, who have not the fortune to meet with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions. My compassion will be swift to shield you.’ As an illustration of this, think of Tibet, a place where Buddha Shakyamunil” never went. When the abbot Shantarakshita Vajrapani in person, went there to teach the Buddhadharma, his work was hindered by ferocious and terrible evil spirits. Because of that inauspicious circumstance, Guru Rinpoche was invited. He came, and with the weapons of voidness and compassion subdued all the negative forces, blessing the entire country as a Buddhafield of Chenrezig, causing the tradition of the Mantrayana to rise and shine like the sun. This is an example of Bodhisattva activity.
We might however think that in order to carry everything onto the path to enlightenment, we need to be someone like Guru Rinpoche, with high realisation and miraculous power, qualities which, alas, we do not have. We should not discourage ourselves with thoughts of that kind! By following these instructions, we will be able to make use of every difficult situation in our spiritual training.
BODHICHITTA IN INTENTION RELATED TO THE RELATIVE TRUTH
All suffering comes through not recognising ego-clinging as our enemy. When we are hit by a stick or a stone, it hurts; when someone calls us a thief or a liar, we become angry. Why is this? It is because we feel great esteem and attachment for what we think of as our selves, and we think ‘I am being attacked.’ Clinging to the ‘I’ is the real obstacle to the attainment of liberation and enlightenment. What we call obstacle-makers or evil influences, such as ghosts, gods, and so on, are not at all entities outside us. It is from within that the trouble comes. It is due to our fixation on ‘I,’ that we think: ‘I am so unhappy, I can’t get anything to eat, I have no clothes, lots of people are against me and I don’t have any friends.’ It is thoughts like these that keep us so busy-and all so uselessly! This is the reason why we are not on the path to liberation and Buddhahood. Throughout the entire succession of our lives, from beginningless time until the present, we have been taking birth in one or other of the six realms. How long we have been labouring in the three worlds of samsara, slaves to our ego-clinging! This is why we cannot escape. When a man has borrowed a lot of money, he will never have a moment’s peace until he has repaid his debt. So it is with all the work that our ego-clinging has given us to do; it has left negative imprints on the alaya similar to promissory notes. When our karma fructifies and ‘payment’ is demanded, we have no chance for happiness and enjoyment. All this is because, as it says in the teachings, we do not recognise ego-clinging as our real enemy.
It is also because we do not recognise the great kindness of beings. It was said by Buddha Shakyamuni that to work for beings with kindness and compassion, and to make offerings to the Buddhas are of equal value for the attainment of enlightenment. Therefore to be generous to others, to free them from suffering and set them on the path of liberation is as good as making offerings to the Buddhas. We may think that it is better to give to a temple, or place offerings before an image of the Buddha. In fact, because the Buddhas are completely free from self cherishing, the more we can help beings, the happier they are. When the hordes of demons tried to obstruct the Buddha as he was on the point of attaining enlightenment, sending their armies and hurling their weapons, he meditated on kindness towards them, whereupon his great love overwhelmed their hatred, turning their weapons into flowers, and their curses and war cries into praises and mantras. Other beings are in fact the best occasions for the accumulation of merit.
This is why the Bodhisattvas in Dewachen (a pure Buddhafield where there are no afflicted beings and no objects of hatred, pride and envy) pray to be reborn in this sorrowing world of ours. For, as the sutras say, they want to be in a place where beings think only of accumulating possessions and satisfying those close to them, where they are therefore overwhelmed by defilements and so are supports for the mind training and practice of Bodhichitta. The immediate causes for the attainment of Buddhahood are other beings; we should be truly grateful to them.
Lay the blame for everything on one.
All suffering, all sickness, possession by spirits, loss of wealth, involvements with the law and so on, are without exception the result of clinging to the ‘I.’ That is indeed where we should lay the blame for all our mishaps. All the suffering that comes to us arises simply through our holding on to our ego. We should not blame anything on others. Even if some enemy were to come and cut our heads off or beat us with a stick, all he does is to provide the momentary circumstance of injury. The real cause of our being harmed is our self-clinging and is not the work of our enemy. As it is said:
All the harm with which this world is rife,
All the fear and suffering that there is:
Clinging to the ‘I’ has caused it!
What am I to do with this great demon?
When people believe that their house is haunted or that a particular object is cursed, they think that they have to have it exorcised. Ordinary people are often like that, aren’t they? But ghosts, devils and so on are only external enemies; they cannot really harm us. But as soon as the inner ghost of ego-clinging appears-that is when the real trouble starts. A basis for ego-clinging has never at any time existed. We cling to our ‘I,’ even when in fact there is nothing to cling to. We cling to it and cherish it. For its sake we bring harm to others, accumulating many negative actions, only to endure much suffering in samsara, in the lower realms, later on.
It says in the Bodhicharyavatara:
O you my mind, for countless ages past,
Have sought the welfare of yourself;
Oh the weariness it brought upon you!
And all you got was sorrow in return.
It is not possible to point to a moment and say, ‘This was when I started in samsara; this is how long I have been here.’ Without the boundless knowledge of a Buddha, it is impossible to calculate such an immense period of time.
Because we are sunk in the delusion of ego-clinging, we think in terms of ‘my body, my mind, my name.’ We think we own them and take care of them. Anything that does them harm, we will attack. Anything that helps them, we will become attached to. All the calamities and loss that come from this are therefore said to be the work of ego-clinging and since this is the source of suffering, we can see that it is indeed our enemy. Our minds which cling to the illusion of self, have brought forth misery in samsara from beginningless time. How does this come about? When we come across someone richer, more learned or with a better situation than ourselves, we think that they are showing off, and we are determined to do better. We are jealous, and want to cut them down to size. When those less fortunate than ourselves ask for help, we think, ‘What’s the point of helping a beggar like this? He will never be able to repay me. I just can’t be bothered with him.’ When we come across someone of equal status who has some wealth, we also want some. If they have fame we also want to be famous. If they have a good situation, we want a good situation too. We always want to compete. This is why we are not free from samsara: it is this that creates the sufferings and harm which we imagine to be inflicted on us by spirits and other human beings.
Once when he was plagued by gods and demons, Milarepa said to them: ‘If you must eat my body, eat it! If you want to drink my blood, drink it! Take my life and breath immediately, and go!’ As soon as he relinquished all concern for himself, all difficulties dissolved and the obstacle-makers paid him homage.
That is why the author of the Bodhicharyavatara says to the ego:
A hundred harms you’ve done me
Wandering in cycles of existence;
Now your malice I remember
And will crush your selfish schemes!
The degree of self-clinging that we have is the measure of the harms we suffer. In this world, if a person has been seriously wronged by one of his fellows, he would think, ‘I am the victim of that man’s terrible crimes, I must fight back. He ought to be put to death, or at least the authorities should put him in prison; he should be made to pay to his last penny.’ And if the injured man succeeds in these intentions, he would be considered a fine, upstanding, courageous person. But it is only if we really have the wish to put an end to the ego-clinging which has brought us pain and loss from beginningless time – it is only then, that we will be on the path to enlightenment.
And so, when attachment for the ‘I’ appears-and it is after all only a thought within our minds-we should try to investigate. Is this ego a substance, a thing? Is it inside or outside? When we think that someone has done something to hurt us and anger arises, we should ask ourselves whether the anger is part of the enemy’s makeup or whether it is in ourselves. Likewise with attachment to friends: is our longing an attribute of the friend, or is it in ourselves? And if there are such things as anger or attachment, do they have shape or colour, are they male, female or neither? For if they exist, they ought to have characteristics. The fact is, however, that even if we persevere in our search, we will never find anything. If we do not find anything, how is it that we keep on clinging? All the trouble that we have had to endure until now has been caused by something that has never existed! Therefore, whenever the ego-clinging arises we must rid ourselves of it immediately and we should do everything within our power to prevent it from arising again. As Shantideva says in the Bodhicharyavatara:
That time when you could beat me down
Is in the past, it’s no more here.
Now I see you! Where will you escape?
I will crush your haughty insolence!
‘In this short lifetime,’ Geshe Shawopa used to say, ‘we should subdue this demon as much as possible.’ Just as one would go to lamas for initiations and rituals to exorcise a haunted house, in the same way, to drive away this demon of ego-clinging, we should meditate on Bodhichitta and try to establish ourselves in the view of emptiness. We should fully understand, as Geshe Shawopa would say, that all the experiences we undergo are the fruit of good or evil actions that we have done to others in the past. He had the habit of giving worldly names to selfish actions, and religious names to actions done for others. Then there was Geshe Ben who, when a positive thought occurred to him, would praise it highly, and when a negative thought arose, would apply the antidote at once and beat it off.
The only way to guard the door of the mind is with the spear of the antidote. No other way exists. When the enemy is strong, we too have to be on the alert. When the enemy is mild we can loosen up a little bit as well. For example when there is trouble in a kingdom, the bodyguards will protect the king constantly, neither sleeping at night nor relaxing by day. Likewise, in order to drive away the mischief-maker of our ego-clinging, we should apply the antidote of emptiness as soon as it appears. This is what Geshe Shawopa used to call ‘the ritual of exorcism.’
Let us regard ego-clinging therefore as our enemy. When it exists no longer, it will be impossible for us not to care for others more than we do for ourselves. As this feeling arises, let us
REFLECT UPON THE KINDNESS OF ALL BEINGS
for they have been our parents and have shown us much goodness countless times in the past. Of the thousand Buddhas of this age, it is said that Buddha Shakyamuni was the one who had the greatest aspirations. For when the others conceived the wish to be enlightened for the sake of beings, they aspired to Buddhafields, longevity, great congregations of Shravakas etc. But the Buddha Shakyamuni prayed to be reborn in degenerate times, when it would be difficult to teach beings afflicted by disease, famine and war. He took birth in this realm knowingly, praying that whoever heard his name or his teachings might straight away be set upon the path of liberation. That is why, with his armour-like aspirations and endeavour, the Buddha Shakyamuni is without equal and is praised as a white lotus among the thousand Buddhas of this fortunate kalpa.
We should be thankful to all beings, for enlightenment depends on them, and have as much love and compassion towards our enemies as we have towards our friends. This is the most important thing, because love and compassion for parents, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters arises naturally by itself. It is said in the Bodhicharyavatara:
The state of Buddhahood depends
On beings and the Buddhas equally.
By what tradition is it then that
Buddhas, but not beings, are alone revered?
For example, if we find an image of the Buddha, or even a single word or page of the scriptures, in a low and dirty place, we respectfully pick them up and place them somewhere clean and high. When we see beings, we should respect them in the same way. Whenever he saw a dog lying in the street, Dromtonpa would never step over it, but, reflecting that the animal also had the potential for Buddhahood, would circumambulate it. Thus towards Buddhas and beings, we should have an equal reverence. In whichever sadhana we perform, immediately after taking refuge, we generate the attitude of Bodhichitta, and from that moment on, other beings become the support for our practice. We may thus appreciate their significance. For the one who wishes to attain enlightenment, the Buddhas and sentient beings have an equal kindness. With regard to those to whom we owe so much, we should meditate very strongly: generating an intense love, wishing them every happiness, and having great compassion, wanting them to be free from suffering.
If people are sick, we should wish to take their suffering upon ourselves. When we meet a beggar, we should be generous to him. In this way, we shoulder the sufferings of others and send them all our happiness, fame, long life, power etc.-whatever we have.
Especially, if we are the victims of harm inflicted by human or non human beings, we should not think, ‘This being is harming me, therefore I will make him and his descendants pay.’ No, we must not bear grudges. Instead we should think to ourselves: ‘This evil-doer has for countless lives been my mother – my mother who, not caring for all the suffering she had to undergo for my sake, not listening to all the bad things people might say, took care of me and endured much suffering in samsara. For my sake, this being has accumulated many negative actions. Yet, in my delusion, I do not recognise him as a relation from the past. The harm which I suffer at the hands of others is provoked by my bad karma. Because of my past negative actions, my enemy has hurt me and accumulated negative karma, which he in future will have to expiate. Because of this, this person has endured suffering in the past and will certainly do so in the future.’ Thus we should try to be very loving towards such beings, thinking, ‘Until now I have only harmed others. Henceforward, I will free them from all their ills and be of help to them.’ In this way, we should perform the practice of taking and giving very intensely.
If bitten by a dog or attacked by someone, instead of reacting angrily, we should try to help our aggressor as much as possible. And even if we cannot help, we must not give up the wish to do so. When in the presence of sick people, whom we cannot cure, we can visualise the Medicine Buddha above their heads and pray that they will be freed from their disease. If we do so, this will automatically be of benefit to them. Moreover, we should act with the deepest conviction and pray that the harmful beings which were the cause of the sickness might also be free from suffering and quickly attain enlightenment. We should decide that from now on, whatever virtuous actions we perform, the riches or longevity we gain, even Buddhahood itself-all these will be exclusively for the benefit of others. Whatever good might come to us, we will give it all away. What does it matter, then, if we attain enlightenment or not, if our lives are long or short, if we are rich or poor. None of this matters!
Even if we have the impression that we are under attack from evil spirits, we should think: ‘Because for countless lives I myself have fed upon your flesh and blood, it is natural that I should now repay you in kind. Therefore I will give you everything.’ And we imagine that we lay our bodies open before them, as when an animal is butchered. As it is said in the practice of chod:
Those come from afar, let them eat it raw!
Those who are close by, let them eat it cooked!
Grind my bones and eat your fill!
Whatever you can carry, take away!
Consume whatever you are able!
Saying this aloud, we let go of all clinging to ourselves. We imagine that when the harmful spirits have satisfied their hunger, their bodies are filled with a bliss free from negative emotions, and that the experience of the two Bodhichittas arises in them. This is how we should offer our bodies to what are thought to be the ghosts and demons who feed on flesh and blood. We should imagine that with this offering of our bodies, they are totally satisfied and have no further intention to kill or harm others, that they are content and pleased with all they have received.
In short, all suffering comes from the enemy of our own ego-clinging; all benefit derives from other beings, who are therefore like friends and relatives. We should try to help them as much as possible. As Langri Tangpa Dorje Gyaltsen said, ‘Of all the profound teachings I have read, this only have I understood: that all harm and sorrow are my own doing and all benefit and qualities are thanks to others. Therefore all my gain I give to others; all loss I take upon myself.’ He perceived this as the sole meaning of all the texts that he had studied, meditating upon it throughout his life.
BODHICHITTA IN INTENTION RELATED TO THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH
Voidness is the unsurpassed protection; Thereby illusory appearance is seen as the four kayas.
Sufferings related to the universe and its inhabitants are the result of false perceptions, the nature of which it is important to understand. Emotions, such as attachment, anger and ignorance are all creations of the mind. We think, for instance, of our body as a precious possession of which we must take special care, protecting it from illness and every kind of mishap. We get into this habit of thinking and, as a consequence, begin to suffer mentally as well as physically. This is an example of perception which, since it is devoid of any basis in reality, is called deluded; it depends upon the belief in the existence of something which does not exist at all. It is just as when we dream and think that we are being burned or drowned, only to discover, when we wake up, that nothing has happened.
From the point of view of absolute truth, phenomena have no actual entity. What we think of as ‘I,’ ‘my body,’ ‘my mind,’ ‘my name,’ have no real existence. Other beings have no real existence either, whether they be dangerous enemies or loving parents. In the same way, the five poisons are by nature empty. Bearing this fact in mind, we should watch from where these poisons, these negative emotions arise, what does the agent of these arisings look like, and what do the emotions themselves look like? If we analyse, we shall find nothing. This absence is the unborn Dharmakaya. Although everything is by nature empty, this emptiness is not the mere vacuity of empty space or an empty vessel. Happiness, sufferings, all sorts of feelings and perceptions appear endlessly like reflected images in the mind. This reflection-like appearance of phenomena is called the Nirmanakaya.
A grain not planted in the soil will never give a fruit, likewise that which is unborn will never cease to be. To be beyond origination is to be beyond cessation also. This aspect of unceasingness is what should be understood as the Sambhogakaya.
If there is neither birth, in the past, nor cessation, in the future, there cannot be something which endures in the present; for an existence necessarily implies a beginning and an end. For example, though it might be thought that, while we are alive, the mind resides in the body, in fact there is no residing and no one who resides; there is no existence and nothing that exists. Even if one were to separate the skin, the flesh, the muscles and the blood, of the body, where would the mind be found? Is it in the flesh or in the bone, etc? Nothing will be found, for the mind itself is void. The fact that the mind is by nature empty, that it is nevertheless the place where phenomena appear, and that it is beyond origination and is therefore unceasing-this inseparable union of the three kayas is called the Svabhavikakaya.
If deluded perceptions are understood in terms of the four kayas, it follows that in that which is termed deluded, there is nothing impure, nothing to rid ourselves of. Neither is there something else, pure and undeluded, which we should try to adopt. For, indeed, when illusion dissolves, undeluded wisdom is simply present, where it always has been. When gold is in the ground, for example, it is blemished and stained; but the nature of gold as such is not susceptible to change. When it is purified by chemicals or refined by a goldsmith, its real character increasingly shines forth. In the same way, if we subject the deluded mind to analysis, and reach the conclusion that it is free from birth, cessation and abiding existence, we will discover, then and there, a wisdom which is undeluded. Furthermore, the deluded mind, being itself illusory, is unstable and fluctuates, like experiences in a dream, whereas the true and undeluded nature of phenomena, the Buddha-nature or Tathagatagarbha, has been present from unoriginated time. It is exactly the same in ourselves as it is in the Buddhas. It is thanks to it that the Buddhas are able to bring help to beings; it is thanks to it, too, that beings may attain enlightenment. There is no other introduction to the four kayas than this understanding of the true nature of illusory perception.
We should be thankful, therefore, to our enemies for stimulating our experience of relative and absolute Bodhichitta. It was the same, for example, with Milarepa. When his aunt and uncle turned against him and his mother, reducing them to beggary, he was eventually spurred into going to seek the help of Marpa.” He then practised with such diligence that within his very lifetime he attained unsurpassable accomplishment so that his fame filled both the noble land of India and Tibet, the Land of Snow. All this came to pass because of the actions of criminals. Therefore we should be grateful for the stimulus that they provide. For indeed, as long as we are unable to make use of the antidote, as described above, and negative emotions are at work in us without our noticing, it is through the activity of those who do us harm that we are made aware of them. Consequently it is as if they were emanations of our Teacher and the Buddhas. Suppose we are afflicted by a deadly disease, or even if we are only unwell, we should think, ‘If I were not sick, I should be lost in the futility of trying to make this life pleasant, giving no thought to Dharma. But because I am suffering, I think of death, turn to the teachings and reflect upon them. All this is the activity of my Teacher and the Three Jewels.’ We all know that Bodhichitta begins to develop in us when we have met with a Teacher and received his teachings. If, with the seed of Bodhichitta once planted in our hearts, we continue to practise, evildoers and the troubles they cause, indeed suffering in general, will all conspire to make our Bodhichitta grow. There is therefore no difference between our enemies and our Teachers. Knowing that suffering brings about the growth of the two Bodhichittas, we must take advantage of it.
When Shantarakshita came to Tibet and began to teach, his work was hindered by evil forces and local spirits too. Heavy storms occurred which even washed away the Red Hill Palace. Because of these disastrous circumstances, Shantarakshita and the king invited Guru Padmasambhava, who came and caused the Buddhadharma to shine like the sun. If those negative forces had not arisen, perhaps the precious Guru would never have been invited to Tibet. Likewise, if the Buddha had not had to contend with the demons, he might never have attained enlightenment. Thus we should meditate constantly, always putting difficult situations to good use.
BODHICHITTA IN ACTION
The best of methods is to have four practices.
The practices referred to here are accumulation, purification, offerings to evil forces and offerings to the Dharma Protectors.
Accumulation. When we are in pain, we naturally wish that we were not suffering. If therefore we do not want to suffer and want to be well, we should recite the name of the Medicine Buddha and make offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas – all of which is a cause of health and happiness. We should consequently exert ourselves in making offerings to the Lama and the Three Jewels, paying homage to the monastic order, and giving tormas to the spirits.
We should take refuge and generate Bodhichitta. Then we should offer a mandala to the Teacher and the Three Jewels praying as follows: ‘If it is better for me to be sick, I pray that you will send me sickness to purify the stains and obscurations of my sinful karma. But if my being cured means that I will accomplish the Dharma, that physically and mentally I will practise virtue and make progress on the path, then I pray that you will bless me with health. But if it is better for me to die so as to be reborn in a pure Buddhafield, then I pray you, send me the blessing of death.’ It is very important to pray frequently like this, for thereby we will free ourselves of hope and fear.
Purification. When we suffer, we should regard our discomfort as a sign reminding us that the way to avoid even minor pains is to abandon all negative actions. In the purification of negativities, there are four powers to be considered.
The first is the power of revulsion, a strong regret for all evil actions committed in the past, similar to the regret we might feel after swallowing poison. It is futile to confess faults without regret, and the power of revulsion is simply to be sick of one’s negative actions. The second power is the decision to improve. In the past, we have failed to recognise the evil of negative actions; but from now on, even at the cost of our lives, we resolve to refrain from negativity. The third power is that of the support. Since it is impossible to make confession without having someone to confess to, we take as our object the Three Jewels, whose Body, Speech and Mind are ever free from evil actions, and who are utterly without partiality. When we have taken refuge in them, the best way to purify ourselves is to generate Bodhichitta in their presence. Just as it is said that all forests will be consumed in an instant by the fires at the end of the kalpa, likewise all negative actions are completely purified by the generation of Bodhichitta. The fourth power is the power of the antidote. One such antidote is the meditation on emptiness, for even negative actions are by nature empty and have no substantial existence as independent entities. As another antidote, it is said that the mere recollection of the mantra of Chenrezig can bring about enlightenment. The six syllables of the Mani correspond to Chenrezig’s accomplishment of the six transcendent perfections and are manifestations of them. By hearing the mantra, beings are liberated from samsara; by thinking of the mantra, they accomplish these perfections. The benefit of the Mani is so vast that if the earth could be used as paper, the trees as pens and the oceans as ink, and if the Buddhas themselves were to discourse upon it, there would be no end to the description of its qualities. Practices such as meditation on emptiness or the recitation of the Mani constitute the power of applying the antidote of wholesome conduct. The Buddha said in the White Lotus of Compassion Sutra that if someone were to practise properly the recitation of the six syllables, even the parasites living in his body would be reborn in Chenrezig’s Buddhafield.
Confession is practised correctly when these four powers are all present. As it is said by the Kadampa Masters, negative actions have but one good quality: they may be purified through confession.
Offerings to evil forces. When offering tormas to evil spirits, we should say with great conviction, ‘When you do me harm, I practise patience and therefore you are helping me to train in Bodhichitta. I am grateful. Use your great power to cause the sufferings of all beings to come to me.’ If however we lack such courage, we can simply offer them tormas with feelings of love and compassion and say: ‘I shall try to do you good both now and in the future; do not hinder me in accomplishing the Dharma.’ Offerings to the Dharma Protectors. When we offer tormas to the Protectors, Mahakala, Pelden Lhamo and the like, we request their help in our meditation and practice of Bodhichitta so as to be able to care for all beings in the same way as we do for our parents or our children. Let us pray to be completely free from anger towards our enemies and to overcome the delusion of ego-clinging. Let us ask them to remove from our path all causes of conflict and to bring about favourable circumstances.
To bring the unexpected to the path, Begin to train immediately.
There is no certainty that we will not fall victim to disease, evil forces and soon. If we are afflicted by serious illness, we should think, ‘There are countless beings in this world suffering in the same way as I.’ In this way we should generate strong feelings of compassion. If, for example, we are struck by heart disease, we should think, ‘Wherever space pervades, there are beings suffering like this,’ and imagine that all their illnesses are concentrated in our own hearts.
If we are struck by evil forces, we should think, ‘By making me suffer, these evil beings are helping me to practise Bodhichitta; they are of great importance for my progress on the path, and rather than being expelled, they should be thanked.’ We should be as grateful to them as we are towards our Teachers.
Again, if we see others in trouble, although we cannot immediately take their suffering upon ourselves, we should make the wish to be able to relieve them from their misfortunes. Prayers like this will bear fruit eventually. Again, if others have very strong afflictive emotions, we should think, ‘May all their emotions be concentrated in me.’ With fervent conviction, we should persist in thinking like this until we have some sign or feeling that we have been able to take upon ourselves the suffering and emotions of others. This might take the form of an increase in our own emotions or of the actual experience of the suffering and pain of others.
This is how to bring hardships onto the path in order to free ourselves from hopes and fears-hopes, for instance, that we will not get ill, or fears that we might do so. They will thus be pacified in the equal taste of happiness and suffering. Eventually, through the power of Bodhichitta, we will reach the point where we are free even from the hope of accomplishing Bodhichitta and the fear of not doing so. Therefore we should have love for our enemies and try as much as possible to avoid getting angry with them, or harbouring any negative thoughts towards them. We should also try as much as possible to overcome our biased attachment to family and relatives. If you bind a crooked tree to a large wooden stake, it will eventually grow straight. Up to now, our minds have always been crooked, thinking how we might trick and mislead people, but this practice, as Geshe Langri Tangpa said, will make our minds straight and true.