Bodhicitta: The Perfection of Dharma
by Lama Thubten Yeshe

I think it is absolutely essential for us to have loving kindness towards others. There is no doubt about this. Loving kindness is the essence of bodhicitta, the attitude of the bodhisattva. It is the most comfortable path, the most comfortable meditation. There can be no philosophical, scientific or psychological disagreement with this. With bodhicitta, there’s no East-West conflict. This path is the most comfortable, most perfect, one hundred percent uncomplicated one, free of any danger of leading people to extremes. Without bodhicitta, nothing works. And most of all, your meditation doesn’t work, and realisations don’t come.

Why is bodhicitta necessary for success in meditation? Because of selfish grasping. If you have a good meditation but don’t have bodhicitta, you will grasp at any little experience of bliss: ‘Me, me; I want more, I want more.’ Then the good experience disappears completely. Grasping is the greatest distraction to experiencing single-pointed intensive awareness in meditation. And with it, we have always dedicated to our own happiness: ‘Me, me I’m miserable, I want to be happy. Therefore I’ll meditate.’ It doesn’t work that way. For some reason, good meditation and its results – peacefulness, satisfaction and bliss – just don’t come.

Also, without bodhicitta it is very difficult to collect merits. You create them and immediately destroy them; by afternoon, the morning’s merits have gone. It’s like cleaning a room and an hour later making it dirty again. You make your mind clean, and then right away you mess it up – not a very profitable business. If you want to succeed in the business of collecting merits, you must have bodhicitta. With bodhicitta you become so precious – like gold, like diamonds; you become the most perfect object in the world, beyond compare with any material things.

From the Western, materialistic point of view, we’d think it was great if a rich person said, ’I want to make charity. I’m going to offer $100 to everybody in the entire world.’ Even if that person gave with great sincerity, his or her merit would be nothing compared with just the thought, I wish to actualise bodhicitta for the sake of sentient beings, and I’ll practise the six paramitas as much as I can. That’s why I always say, the actualisation of bodhicitta is the most perfect path you can take.

“The best Dharma practice,
the most perfect, most substantial,
is without doubt
the practice of bodhicitta.”

Remember the story of the Kadampa geshe who saw a man circumambulating a stupa? He said, ‘What are you doing?’ and the man answered, ‘Circumambulating.’ So the geshe said, ‘Wouldn’t it be better if you practised dharma?’ Next time the geshe saw the man he was prostrating, and when he again asked what he was doing, the man replied, ‘One hundred thousand prostrations.’ ‘Wouldn’t it be better if you practised dharma?’ asked the geshe. Anyway, the story goes on, but the point is that just doing religious-looking actions like circumambulation and prostration isn’t necessarily practising dharma. What we have to do is transform our attachment and self-cherishing, and if we haven’t changed our minds in this way, none of the other practices works; doing them is just a joke. Even if you try to practice tantric meditations, unless you’ve changed within, you won’t succeed. dharma means a complete change of attitude – that’s what really brings you inner happiness, that is the true Dharma, not the words you say. Bodhicitta is not the culture of ego, not the culture of attachment, not the culture of samsara. It is an unbelievable transformation, the most comfortable path, the most substantial path – definite, not wishy-washy. Sometimes your meditation is not solid; you just space out. Bodhicitta meditation means you really want to change your mind and actions and transform your whole life.

We are all involved in human relationships with each other. Why do we sometimes say,’I love you,’ and sometimes, ‘I hate you?’ Where does this up-and-down mind come from? From the self-cherishing thought – a complete lack of bodhicitta. What we are saying is, ‘I hate you because I’m not getting any satisfaction from you. You hurt me; you don’t give me pleasure. That’s the whole thing: I – my ego, my attachment – am not getting satisfaction from you, therefore I hate you. What a joke! All the difficulties in inter-personal relationships come from not having bodhicitta, from not having changed our minds.

So, you see, just meditating is not enough. If that Kadampa geshe saw you sitting in meditation he’d say, ‘What are you doing? Wouldn’t it be better if you practised dharma?’ Circumambulating isn’t dharma, prostrating isn’t dharma, meditating isn’t dharma. My goodness, what is dharma, then? This is what happened to the man in the story. He couldn’t think of anything else to do. Well, the best dharma practice, the most perfect, most substantial, is, without doubt, the practice of bodhicitta.

You can prove scientifically that bodhicitta is the best practice to do. Our self-cherishing thought is the root of all human problems. It makes our lives difficult and miserable. The solution to self-cherishing, its antidote, is the mind that is its complete opposite – bodhicitta. The self-cherishing mind is worried about only me, me – the self-existent I. Bodhicitta substitutes others for self.

It creates space in your mind. Then even if your dearest friend forgets to give you a Christmas present, you don’t mind. “Ah, well. This year she didn’t give me my chocolate. It doesn’t matter.” Anyway, your human relationships are not for chocolate, not for sensory pleasures. Something much deeper can come from our being together, working together.

“With bodhicitta, you become so precious
– like gold, like diamonds.
You become the most perfect object
in the world, beyond compare
with any material things.”

If you want to be really, really happy, it isn’t enough just to space out in meditation. Many people who have spent years alone in meditation have finished up the worse for it. Coming back into society, they have freaked out. They haven’t been able to make contact with other people again, because the peaceful environment they created was an artificial condition, still a relative phenomenon without solidity. With bodhicitta, no matter where you go, you will never freak out. The more you are involved with people the more pleasure you get. People become the resource of your pleasure. You are living for people. Even though some still try to take advantage of you, you understand: ‘Well, in the past I took advantage of them many times too.’ So it doesn’t bother you.

Thus bodhicitta is the most perfect way to practice dharma, especially in our twentieth-century Western society. It is very, very worthwhile. With the foundation of bodhicitta, you will definitely grow.

If you take a proper look deep into your heart you will see that one of the main causes of your dissatisfaction is the fact that you are not helping others as best you can. When you realise this you’ll be able to say to yourself, ‘I must develop myself so that I can help others satisfactorily. By improving myself I can definitely help.’ Thus you have more strength and energy to meditate, to keep pure morality and do other good things. You have energy, ‘Because I want to help others.’ That is why Lama Tsong Khapa said that bodhicitta is the foundation of all enlightened realisations.

Also, bodhicitta energy is alchemical. It transforms all your ordinary actions of body, speech and mind – your entire life into positivity and benefit for others, like iron transmuted into gold. I think this is definitely true. You can see, it’s not difficult. For example, look at other people’s faces. Some people, no matter what problems and suffering they are enduring, when they go out they always try to appear happy and show a positive aspect to others. Have you noticed this or not? But other people always go about miserable, and angry. What do you think about that? I honestly think that it indicates a fundamental difference in the way these two kinds of people think. Human beings are actually very simple. Some are a disaster within and it shows on their faces and makes those whom they meet feel sick. Others, even though they are suffering intensely, always put on a brave face because they are considerate of the way others feel.

I believe this is very important. What’s the use of putting out a miserable vibration? Just because you feel miserable, why make others unhappy too? It doesn’t help. You should try to control your emotions, speak evenly and so forth. Sometimes when people are suffering they close off from others, but you can still feel their miserable vibration. This doesn’t help – others with even momentary happiness forget about leading them to enlightenment. To help the people around you, you have to maintain a happy, peaceful vibration. This is very practical, very worthwhile. Sometimes we talk too much about enlightenment and things like that. We have a long way to go to such realisations. Forget about enlightenment, I don’t care about Buddhahood – just be practical. If you can’t help others, at least don’t give them any harm, stay neutral.

Anyway, what I’m supposed to be telling you here is that bodhicitta is like atomic energy to transforms your mind. This is absolutely, scientifically true, and not something that you have to believe with blind religious faith. Everybody nowadays is afraid of nuclear war, but if we all had bodhicitta, wouldn’t we all be completely secure? Of course, we would. With bodhicitta, you control all desire to defeat or kill others. And, as Lama Je Tsong Khapa said when you have bodhicitta all the good things in life are magnetically attracted to you and pour down upon you like rain. At present all we attract is misfortune because all we have is the self-cherishing thought. But with bodhicitta, we’ll attract good friends, good food, good everything.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said recently if you’re going to be selfish, do it on a grand scale; wide selfishness is better than narrow! What did His Holiness mean’! He was saying that, in a way, bodhicitta is like a huge selfish attitude because when you dedicate yourself to others with loving kindness you get a lot more pleasure than you would otherwise. With our present, usual selfish attitude we experience very little pleasure, and what we have is easily lost. With ‘great selfishness’ you help others and you help yourself; with small, it’s always ‘me, me, me and it is easy to lose everything.

Remember, Atisha had over 150 teachers? He respected them all, but when he heard the name of one – Lama Dharmarakshita – he would come out in goose-bumps. He explained this by saying, ‘I received many teachings from many, many great gurus, but for me, Lama Dharmarakshita, who gave me the bodhicitta ordination and teachings on the method and wisdom of bodhicitta and the six paramitas, was the most helpful for my life. This is very true. Sometimes techniques of deity meditation are extremely difficult, but bodhicitta meditation is so simple, so incredibly profound and real. That’s why Atisha would shake when he heard the name of his main teacher of bodhicitta.

The main point, then, is that when you contact Buddhadharma you should conquer the mad elephant of your self-cherishing mind. If the dharma you hear helps you diminish your self-cherishing even a little, it has been worthwhile. But if the teachings you have taken have had no effect on your selfishness, then from the Mahayana point of view, even if you can talk intellectually on the entire lam-rim, they have not been must use at all.

Do you recall the story of Shantideva and how people used to put him down? They used to call him Du-she-sum-pa, which means one who knows how to do only three things: eating, sleeping and excreting. This was a very bad thing to call someone, especially a monk. But that’s all that people could see him doing. However, he had bodhicitta, so whatever he did, even ordinary things was of greatest benefit to others. Lying down, peacefully, he would meditate with great concern for the welfare of all living beings, and many times, out of compassion, he would cry for them. Westerners need that kind of practice. Fundamentally we are lazy. Well, maybe not lazy, but when we finish work we are tired and don’t have much energy left. So, when you come home from work, lie down comfortably and meditate on bodhicitta. This is most worthwhile. Much better than rushing in speedily, throwing down a coffee and dropping onto your meditation cushion to try to meditate. It doesn’t work that way; your nervous system needs time and space. You can’t be rushing through traffic one minute and sitting quietly meditating the next. Everything takes time and space. It is much better to r have a quiet, blissful cup of coffee, And don’t pressure yourself either; that too is very bad. Don’t punish yourself when you are too tired to meditate: ‘I should be meditating; I am very bad.’ You destroy yourself like this. Be wise. Treat yourself, your mind, sympathetically, with loving kindness. If you are gentle with yourself you will become gentle with others so don’t push. Pushing doesn’t work for me, that’s why I tell others not to force themselves. We are dealing with the mind, not rocks and concrete; it is something organic.

“In a way, bodhicitta is like a huge selfish attitude
because when you dedicate yourself to others
with loving kindness, you get a lot more pleasure
then you would otherwise.”

The Western environment offers lots of suffering conditions that act as causes for our actualising bodhicitta, so life there can be very worthwhile. For example, it is much better to subdue an adversary with bodhicitta than with a knife or gun. When attacked, you can practice loving kindness. We could also do this in the monasteries of Tibet, where there were often horrible monks. Don’t think that Tibet was full of only holy people – we had unbelievably wild monks there that nobody in authority could subdue! If you would try to control them wrathfully they would get only more aggressive. But Arya bodhisattva monks, people who had completely given themselves up for others, would treat them with loving kindness, and the wild monks would calm down completely. They would feel, ‘This man loves me; he has great compassion. He has given up everything for others and has nothing to lose.’ In that way, aggressive people would be subdued, without authority but with bodhicitta. There are many stories about this kind of thing, but I’m not going to tell them now. Perhaps you think they’re funny, but it’s true – you can conquer your enemies, both internal and external, with loving kindness and bodhicitta. It is most worthwhile and there’s no contradiction bodhicitta is the totally comfortable path to liberation and enlightenment.

In his text Lama Choepa, the Panchen Lama says, ‘Self-cherishing is the cause of all misery and dissatisfaction, and holding all mother sentient beings dearer than oneself is the foundation of all realizations and knowledge. Therefore bless me to change self-cherishing into concern for all others.’ This is not some deep philosophical theory but a very simple statement. You know from your own life’s experiences without needing a Tibetan text’s explanations that your self-cherishing thought is the cause of all your confusion and frustration. This evolution of suffering is found not only in Tibetan culture but in yours as well.

And the Panchen Lama goes on to say that we should look at what the Buddha did. He gave up his self-attachment and attained all the sublime realisations. But look at us we are obsessed with ‘me, me, me’ and have realised nothing but unending misery. This is very clear, isn’t it? Therefore you should know clean clear how this works. Get rid of the false concept of self-cherishing and you’ll be free of all misery and dissatisfaction. Concern yourself for the welfare of all others and wish for them to attain the highest realisations such as bodhicitta and you’ll find all happiness and satisfaction.

“Bodhicitta is the most perfect way to practise dharma,
especially in our twentieth-century Western society.
It is very, very worthwhile.
With the foundation of bodhicitta
you will definitely grow.”

You people are young, intelligent and not satisfied with what you have in your own countries. That’s why you are seeking further afield. And now you have found that most worthwhile of all things, bodhicitta.

But it is not an easy thing. Easy things bore you quickly. It is quite difficult, but there’s no way you’ll get bored practising it. People need to be most intelligent to actualise bodhicitta, some, though, have no room for it. ‘Forget about yourself and have a little concern for others?’ they’ll ask. ‘That’s not my culture.’ It is very difficult to change holding yourself dear into holding others dear instead – the most difficult task you can undertake. But it is the most worthwhile and brings the greatest satisfaction.

After practising some meditations, such as impermanence and death, for a month you’ll say, ‘I’m tired of that meditation.’ But you’ll never get tired of meditating on bodhicitta. It is so deep; a universal meditation. You’ll never get tired of bodhicitta.

You have heard of many deities that you can meditate on, many deities to be initiated into – Chenrezig and the rest. What are they all for? I’ll tell you – for gaining bodhicitta. As a matter of fact, all tantric meditations are for the development of strong bodhicitta. That is the purpose of your consciousness manifesting as a being with 1000 arms so that you can lend a hand to a thousand suffering beings. If you don’t like to manifest yourself this way you can relate the meditation to your own culture and see yourself as Jesus. Avalokiteshvara and Jesus are the same: completely selfless and completely devoted to serving others.

Remember what happened the first time that Avalokiteshvara took the bodhisattva ordination? He vowed to guide all universal living beings to enlightenment from behind, like a shepherd.’I do not want to realise enlightenment until first I have led all mother sentient beings there first. That will be my satisfaction.’ He worked for years and years, leading thousands of beings to enlightenment, but when he checked to see what was happening he found there were still countless more. So again he worked for years and years and again when he checked there were still so many left, and this cycle was repeated until finally he was fed up and thought to himself, ‘For aeons and aeons I have struggled to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment but there are still so many left. I think it is impossible to fulfil my vow.’ And because of the intensity of his emotion, his head split into eleven pieces. Then Amitabha Buddha came and offered to help, and blessed him to be successful.

So I’m sure some of you people can be like Chenrezig. The main thing is to have strong motivation. Even if it comes strongly only once, it is extremely powerful. It is very rare to have this kind of thought. A mere flash is so worthwhile; to have it for a minute for a day…

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The particular thing that has created the problems of life is the dissatisfied mind of desire, which clings first of all to this life, seeking only the temporary happiness of this life, and then to these eight objects: Having comfort, not having discomfort, receiving materials (such as friends and so forth), not liking not to receive materials, having a good reputation, not having a reputation, receiving praise, not having criticism. The dissatisfied mind of desire clings to these eight objects.

— Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Lama Zopa Rinpoche 32.

浅释3种福业
文 |张瑞

三种福业,又称为三福业、三福业事、三性福业事。这三种福业是指施福业、平等福业和思惟福业三种。三种福业来自《增一阿含经》卷十二,经中讲述了佛陀在舍卫国树给孤独园,告诉比丘弟子,应当修学布施、平等、思惟三种福业。

第一种福业是施福业。施福业是指修行者若遇到贫穷之人前来乞讨时,他们需要饮食就供给饮食,需要衣服就供给衣服,乃至医药卧具等物品,随其所欲,尽皆施与。这种由于布施所获得的福业,称为施福业。《增一阿含经》卷十二云:“彼云何名施为福业?若有一人,开心布施沙门、婆罗门、极贫穷者、孤独者、无所趣向者,须食与食,须浆给浆,衣被、饭食、床卧之具、病瘦医药、香华、宿止,随身所便,无所爱惜,此名曰施福之业。”如果有人能够以欢喜心,以衣被、饮食、汤药、卧具、香花、房舍等物,布施给沙门、婆罗门、贫穷者、孤独者、无所趋向之人,满足这些人不同方面的需求。布施者对自己的布施之物,当毫不怜惜,作无相布施。除了物质的布施之外,还可作身口意三业布施。这样的布施才有福报,因而称为施福之业。

第二种福业名为平等福业。平等福业是指修行之人,能够严格持守戒律,心头从来不生恶念,精进修清净行,语言和雅,令人欢喜,并且能够以平等慈悲爱护之心,护念一切有情众生,令他们得安隐快乐。修行者以这种平等慈悲心对待他人,就能够获得福报,因而称为平等福业。如《增一阿含经》卷十二云:“云何名平等为福业?若有一人不杀、不盗,恒知惭愧,不兴恶想;亦不盗窃,好惠施人,无贪心,语言和雅,不伤人心;亦不他淫,自修梵行,己色自足;亦不妄语,恒念至诚,不欺诳言,世人所敬,无有增损;亦不饮酒,恒知避乱。复以慈心遍满一方、二方、三方、四方亦尔,八方、上下遍满其中,无量无限,不可限,不可称计,以此慈心普覆一切,令得安隐。复以悲、喜、护心普满一方、二方、三方、四方亦尔,八方、上下悉满其中,无量无限,不可称计,以此悲、喜、护心悉满其中,是谓名为平等为福之业。”

这段论述讲述了平等福业的含义。修学平等福业的人,首先应当严格持守不杀生、不偷盗、不邪淫、不妄语、不饮酒等五戒。在持守五戒的基础上,还能够广行布施,言谈悦人心,以谦恭真诚之语待人。在持戒的同时,修行者还能以慈悲心平等普覆十方一切有情,令他们都得到安隐快乐。还能以慈悲心、欢喜心、护持心充满十方世界,这种修学就是平等福业。

第三种福业名为思惟福业。所谓思惟福业,是指修行者常以智慧观察,了知出世间之法要,远离世间尘缘杂想。这种思惟出世善福之业,称为思惟福业。《增壹阿含经》云:“彼法云何名思惟为福业?于是,比丘,修行念觉意,依无欲,依无观,依灭尽,依出要,修择法觉意,修念觉意,修猗觉意,修定觉意,修护觉意,依无欲,依无观,依灭尽,依出要,是谓名思惟为福业。”

修行者若能做到念起即觉,意起即修三昧,依无欲、无观、灭尽、出要等,修诸种觉意,从而对出世间的各种法要有清晰的了解,还要远离世间各种尘缘妄想。修道者能经常用智慧观察,如理思惟修学法要,以这种方式思惟出世善福之业,称为思惟福业。

修道之人若能精进修学布施、平等、思惟等三种福业,不仅自己的德行会得到很大的提升,而且还会得到有智慧之人的亲近。将来还会因为修学三种福业的功德,往生善道。

Lotus 132.

Without perfect analysis of phenomena, there is no method by which one can totally uproot the defilements

— Vasubandhu

Vasubandhu (世親菩萨) 6.

Hard Times, Simple Times
by Norman Fischer

When sudden loss or trouble occurs, we feel shocked and bewilderment. For so long we expected things to be as they have been, had taken this as much for granted as the air we breathe. And suddenly it is not so. Maybe tomorrow we will wake up to discover it was all just a temporary mistake, and that things are back to normal. After the shock passes, fear and despair arrive. We are anxious about our uncertain future, over which we have so little control. It’s easy to fall into the paralysis of despair, caroming back to our childish default position of feeling completely vulnerable and unprepared in a harsh and hostile world. This fearful feeling of self-diminishment may darken our view to such an extent that we find ourselves wondering whether we are worthwhile people, whether we’re capable of surviving in this tough world, whether we deserve to survive, whether our lives matter, whether there is any point in trying to do anything at all.

This is what it feels like when our raw spot is rubbed. The sense of loss, the despair, the fear, is terrible and we hate it, but it is exactly what we need. It is the embryo of compassion stirring to be born. Birth is painful.

All too many people in times like these just don’t have the heart to do spiritual practice. But these are the best times for practice because motivation is so clear. Practice is not simply a lifestyle choice or a refinement. There is no choice. It’s a matter of survival. The tremendous benefit of simple meditation practice is most salient in these moments. Having exhausted all avenues of activity that might change your outward circumstances, and given up on other means of finding inner relief for your raging or sinking mind, there is nothing better to do than to sit down on a chair or cushion and just be present with your situation. There you sit, feeling your body. You try to sit up straight, with some basic human dignity. You notice you are breathing. You also notice that troubling thoughts and feelings are present in the mind. You are not here to make them go away or to cover them up with pleasant and encouraging spiritual slogans. There they are, all your demons, your repetitive negative themes. Your mind is (to borrow a phrase from the poet Michael Palmer) a museum of negativity. And you are sitting there quietly breathing inside that museum. There is nothing else to do. You can’t fix anything — the situation is beyond that. Gradually it dawns on you that these dark thoughts and anxious feelings are just that — thinking, feeling. They are exhibits in the museum of negativity, but not necessarily realities of the outside world. This simple insight — that thoughts and feelings are thoughts and feelings — is slight, but it makes all the difference. You continue to sit, continue to pay attention to your body and breath, and you label everything else, “thinking, thinking; feeling, feeling.” Eventually, you are able to pick up your coat from the coat check and walk out of the museum into the sunlight.

Confronting, accepting, being with negative thinking and feeling, knowing that they are not the whole of reality and not you, is the most fruitful and beneficial of all spiritual practices — better even than experiencing bliss or Oneness. When you sit, noticing the breath and the body on the chair or cushion, noticing the thoughts and feelings in the mind and heart and perhaps also the sounds in the room and the stillness, something else also begins to come into view. You notice the most fundamental of all facts: you are alive. You are a living, breathing, embodied, human being. You can actually feel this — feel the feeling of being alive. You can rest in this basic feeling, the nature of life, of consciousness, the underlying basis of everything you will ever experience — even the negativity. Sitting there with this basic feeling of being alive, you will feel gratitude. After all, you didn’t ask for this; you didn’t earn it. It is just there, a gift to you. It won’t last forever, but for now, in this moment, here it is, perfect, complete. And you are sharing it with everything else that exists in this stark, basic, and beautiful way. Whatever your problems and challenges, you are, you exist in this bright world with others, with trees, sky, water, stars, sun and moon. If you sit there long enough and regularly enough you will feel this, even in your darkest moments.

Norman Fischer 14.

A bigger house, a faster car, a luxury holiday, the latest fashion, the most recent phone… at what point in your life will you realise that the lasting happiness that you seek can only be found inside?

— Chamtrul Rinpoche

Chamtrul Rinpoche 48.

心的训练——定
济群法师

所谓定,简而言之,就是使一种心行形成稳定的力量。即使面对各种动荡的境界时,仍保有正确状态而不随其转。
  
定的训练,通常需要相当长的时间。凡夫的串习极为深重,一旦着手改变,很多心所都会出来反对,必然会经历一番艰难的斗争过程。我们要敢于暴露自己,敢于揭穿自我的种种借口,根据佛法而不是情绪来审视自己。但决不能妄自菲薄,若觉得“我就这样了”,便会对自我的抵抗束手无策。
  
“我”太顽固了,我们唯一的办法,就是老老实实按法的要求来对照,勇于解剖自我并洗心革面,不要总想着保护自己。
  
在无尽的生死流转中,我们早已习惯于自我保护,似乎是浑然天成的本能。不仅人类如此,一切众生皆如此,所谓“物竞天择,适者生存”。我们可以看到,动物也很善于伪装。这种伪装的心行力量,甚至可以将身体的颜色变得和环境一模一样。这正是《阿含经》所说的“心种种故,色种种”。由此可见,众生自我保护的意识是如此强烈,这种的心行力量,甚至导致了色身的改变。
  
相比之下,人类虽不具备动物那样的保护色,却会利用更多的手段和方式来伪装并保护自己。所有这些,其实都是自我的诡计。当我们开始修行时,必须狠下心来揭穿它,否则就会继续受害。我们以为这些包装能够保护自己,事实上,它们只能束缚、奴役并最终伤害我们。我们在构建一个自我,构建得密不透风、坚硬异常。在自然界中,不少动物都有坚硬的外壳,比如乌龟、螃蟹……这种坚硬的壳正是执著的外化,其实,我们的执著要比这些壳坚硬千万倍。山河大地之所以在我们眼中显得如此实在,正是这些坚固的执著所致。
  
世间任何东西都没有特质。桌子是木头做的,但木头还可以做其它,可见它并非桌子的特质。否则,木头只能做桌子,而不能另作他用了。世间任何物体皆是如此,所以法没有自性和特质,但在众生的执著下,似乎都被冻结、被固定了。这种执著的外化,使我们碰到的一切都显得很实在。事实上,不同众生因其业力所呈现的景象也是不同的。比如水,天人看到的是琉璃,饿鬼看到的是脓血,鱼看到的是宫殿。我们现在看到的桌子,在不同生命看来,所见亦不相同。在无分别智的层面,桌子只是影像而已,并非实在的物体。
  
心行的稳定,需要一个反复训练的过程。无始以来,我们已经训练了很多心态,而且训练得很成功。我执,正是训练得最为纯熟的典型,已然达到了“任运自在”的程度。我们的贪心、嗔心也是同样,只要遇到相应的环境就会立刻启动并飞速运转,强有力地主宰着我们。
  
从理论上说,训练菩提心,应该比训练这些妄执更容易。因为菩提心本来就是威力无比,我们只需要通过某些方便将它打开。不容易的,可能反而是在训练菩提心同时必须克服的凡夫心。当我们启动菩提心的过程中,总有凡夫心在强烈地阻碍我们。所以,我们要使菩提心有机会产生作用。
  
从这个意义上来说,修行不难也不易。看得太容易,固然是不对,但也不必看得太难,否则很容易被畏难情绪所障碍。

Ven Ji Qun (济群法师) 19.

Do away with your addiction to material things, and adorn yourself with the riches of the Aryas.

— Atiśa

Atisha (阿底峡尊者) 23.

Why Spirituality (Sometimes) Fails
by Asa Hershoff

You live within an amazing transformative machine. It’s called the body. It has two very different functions. I would guess that 99 per cent of people use it only for the first, which is to eat, sleep, excrete, reproduce, have a variety of pleasant, painful, and interesting experiences, and die. The second function usually remains as a hidden potential, not secreted away by any particular rule of law, but put out of sight through culture, time, and humanity’s intense predilection for fixating on the external phantasmagoria that fills our stumbling consciousness. The causes of this slumber do not concern us here. But the readers of this article already know that the human form that we inhabit is the vehicle for transforming the entire fabric of our being. Side by side with the intricate machinery of sinews, molecular reactions, nerve transmission, miles of circulatory tubing, and cellular biochemistry, lies an alternative, even more complex system of bioenergy. It is capable of uncoiling the very atomic structure of the body, turning it into a luminous egg, a light body made of energy fields of an as-yet-unidentified nature, a perfect vehicle for expanded consciousness.

Turning on this secondary system is not as easy as flicking a switch. But fortunately, the methods for accessing and using this alternative bio-system that lives within each of us have been investigated and researched for many thousands of years by “scientists of the invisible.” Scattered across time and culture, they discovered methods of inner change that have been refined and even perfected, adapted to suit a wide range of epochs and societies. These methods are always hidden in plain sight, often buried deep within widely accepted religious structures, populated by priests, shamans, Daoists, Buddhists, Sufis, and the like from Egypt, Greece, Africa, Hawaii, Mongolia, Tibet, and the Americas. With this fantastic wealth of information, the accumulation of the ages available in the spiritual marketplace of 2021, everything should be “hunky-dory.” But there are as many obstacles as there are paths. And one of the greatest stumbling blocks is one that is not easy to see, and not often spoken of: to accomplish progress toward the great goal of personal evolution takes resources. Even though we are moving from the world of solid objects and chemical soup to one of subtle energies, vibrating fields and biophotons, resources are required. Yes, at some point we may tap into inconceivable fields of power and unlimited energy, but that is on the distant shore. To make the journey we need to build the boat and stock it with ample supplies and prepare for every kind of weather.

Like the creatures great and small that share this planet, our form is primarily designed for the first function, mundane living. Then our extremely busy and full lives take pretty much every ounce of the biological and bioenergetic forces that we manufacture day to day. Food, water, air, energies, and sensory impressions, all these types of nourishment are part of a chain of transformations that maintains life in all its functions. But there is simply not enough left over for our level-two functioning. For that we need to borrow from our daily expenditure, to apportion as much as we can to this secondary possibility. Every spiritual path has techniques to generate, condense, gather, and store energy within the body-mind. But that is a story for another day. Here we will first observe the mountainous landscape of life force wasted on purposeless or meaningless activity.

BODY

It is safe to say that the average person never relaxes their body fully, completely. It is an art that must be cultivated. We won’t acquire it by modelling parents, teachers, celebrities, or even athletes. You may see it in skilled martial artists or long-time meditators or experienced body-workers, dancers, or actors, who have made it part of their craft. There is a fluidity, balance, yet economy of movement in such individuals, who are “cat-like” in their grace. However, tension is more than skin deep. The jaw, diaphragm, stomach, and inner organs are places of massive amounts of stored emotional charge with resulting contraction. Hans Selye was the first to research the biochemical and physiological effects of stress, and since then its contributions to disease and suffering have been well established. But we don’t need specialised studies to see the bizarre amounts of tension in ourselves or others. Just stop what you are doing at any point in the day and observe how tight various areas of “resting” muscles are. Or watch almost anyone walking or jogging. The asymmetries and strains are painfully obvious, so much so that the first- and third-most common reasons for visits to the doctor’s office are joint pain and back pain. For the spiritual practitioner, learning to change layers of chronic tension and habitual responses to stress is essential to acquiring the energy to change our atomic structure. Even when, in Buddhism, Daoism, or yoga, there are exercises that require strong muscular movements, even they are done in the context of a relaxed rest-of-the-body and a mind of calm and open clarity.

SPEECH

It is a tough contest between who is the greatest energy and time waster in our lives. In terms of the body and voice, it is a close race. Of the 10 traditional negative actions of Buddhist philosophy, four are attributed to speech. So while we are busy with the karma that arises from slander, lying, idle talk, and harsh words, we are also looking at energy inadvertently spilling out of the storage tanks. The physical act of excess talking demands the force of the lungs, diaphragm, circulatory system, heart, and mostly everything else! In tantric physiology, speech is driven by the upana wind that rises up all the way from the belly. Since it also has a major role in body detoxification, memory, creativity, and overall strength, depleting this wind (prana, chi, or loong) has serious consequences. Excess and dysfunctional use of the voice apparatus siphons off valuable resources that can be used for spiritual breath work, mantras, and the demanding internal sequence of light body transformation. Going into silence for some days is an excellent way to perceive how addicted we are to prattling speech while being unfamiliar with inner quiet. By the way, Facebook, Twitter, and email are just other forms of talk, even though they do not engage the vocal cords. It is similarly exhausting of vital reserves and needed inner resources.

MIND

Naturally, mind is at the centre of energy conservation. We must decide to use speech wisely and to break the cycle of body tension and to apportion our limited energy. Even before that, we have to accept the reality of our situation. And while we said that energy maintenance was the first major problem, there is yet an additional obstacle that we face. The myth of infinite energy, freely available to us, that we can just tap into is a dead-end belief system that sabotages real personal evolution. With this kind of fantasy thinking in place, why make the effort or strive for something we already have? Automatic light body, automatic ascension, automatic enlightenment are not new ideas as humans have been looking for salvation from above for a very long time. Yet samsara is samsara, and thinking that this realm will turn into a pure realm suddenly makes little sense. Pure realms are here already, but up doesn’t become down and blue becomes red. Caterpillars become butterflies, but not elephants. Order persists and there is nothing in nature or in our daily experience that mirrors this wishful thinking. The first functional system of our body follows the laws of thermodynamics, and although there is a kind of “unlimited” energy in the universe, and in our atoms, it is simply not available to us right now. We still need sleep, water, and food. And breaking free of karma, DNA, habitual tendency, and psychological layers all require massive amounts of energy. Thoughts that babble on and emotions that constantly percolate at a high rate are tremendous leaks in our energetic grid. They often leave us exhausted and, as the great Western mystic G. I. Gurdjieff noted, one angry outburst can cause an explosion in our inner spiritual factory that can destroy weeks of inner work.

Like our speech patterns and body tensions, most of our mental functions are reactive. They are stimulus-response, robotic, pre-programmed. Our day-to-day, highly depleting negative emotions are learned, not biological or inherent. And those that are hardwired are manipulated and exploited non-stop by advertising, media, politics, corporations and chemical, food, and medical conglomerates, to name a few. These are reinforced by the actions and beliefs of the whole of the conformed group-think of the society that surrounds us. But we know by example that there are those who maintain clarity and equanimity in the midst of such storms. Some may be gifted with this quality of a dispassionate-yet-open mind. But if it is possible for one, then it is something any human can achieve. It is all about learning to work with the energies that we call thinking, feeling, sensing, and perceiving.

SOCIAL

We are social animals, more or less. Being with compatible others can be uplifting, educational, fun, nourishing, relaxing. Yet many times, through work, family, or happenstance, we find ourselves with those who are draining, demanding, boring, irritating, or even energy vampires. There are circumstances we can choose and there are those that are thrust upon us, or just come with the territory. The first thing to do is to be much more aware of our situation and to make decisions — and take actions — accordingly. This doesn’t mean being guided solely by our likes or dislikes or comfort in the situation. We can be much more precise and proactive if we act in line with our understanding of energetics. Will this situation demand a lot of my (limited) energy? Will it leave me exhausted for the day? Can I hold my centre and keep my energy from being siphoned away? Or is it possible that this may be empowering and leave me more in touch with my energetic foundation? Simply, is it worth it to be here and with these people for what I wish to give and what they may wish to share? It is a dance to be sure, especially for those in the helping profession, or with family or friends who need our assistance in a variety of ways. Keeping energy in mind, and the fact that emotions are energy will give us better tools to work with.

GUARDING THE CORE

We have touched on some key ways that we lose or waste energy, priceless energy that we need for inner transformation. But we have not said much about the solutions to these thorny issues. The transformation process is not mandatory, not a given, and is, in fact, the rare — the very rare — exception. Our lives are driven by careers, family, hopes and dreams, ambitions and fears. For most, the inner call is a very distant one, an echo heard in silence. The traditions of enlightenment, light body formation, union with the unborn, have largely remained esoteric, hidden, secret. And our internal transformational system is also hidden in the recesses of normal body function, a potential waiting to be realised. And so it is only appropriate that our practice be kept in a safe place. The tradition of the “secret yogi” is a valuable safeguard to prying eyes and to our own tendency to give away what we have managed to coddle together in our sacred, innermost core. We will talk about energy conservation methods next month, but there couldn’t be a better way to start than by guarding our biological, psychological, and bioenergetic resources for the long journey through unseen territory in the manner of the sangwa’i naljor or “secret yogi.”

Asa Hershoff 2.

Confidence is like the fertile soil. As the foundation of all that is, it increases the amount of what is wholesome and healthy. It is like a boat crossing the river of fiction. It is like an escort protecting against spiritual death and emotional assault. It is like a vehicle travelling to the land of freedom. It is like the king of all jewels, making whatever one intends to come true. It is like a hero, crushing evil. It is the most precious hoard amongst the worthwhile accumulations.

— Longchenpa

Longchen Rabjam (龙钦巴尊者) 23.