學因緣消通人我,覺自他培發智慈
仁俊長老

一切佛法的共重點:學,遵循佛陀開示的次第——聞思修,配合戒定慧同步踐進,觀與行正淨、明准得不雜不偏,行、住、坐、臥中有番切實理解、體驗、依持,智見中的取舍、是非,當前的一切便昧不著、诳不了。佛法所說所行之學,大抵是這麽落實而直趣不惑之境。了生死或遊(化)于生死中的學者,一發心,沒一個不堅持這不受惑的志誓。

佛法之學的特質——因緣;學佛法,總括說,即是學因緣。佛法學得不執(「自性」)因緣、不了(「無性」)因緣,從因緣中悟解「來無所從,去無所至」,卻能于因緣中展得開、行得透,透得甚麽都不粘不離、不驚不沒,才稱得上是真正的學佛者。不離世間的佛法,從佛法察照世間的一切,肯認著緣起的「法性、法住、法界」,首先體握、契印著這,佛法知見則穩固得莫可破奪。正知見從現實中擇持得明明決決,正業行表現與應對的,成爲「世間增上」者,從世間增上中進一步,理解到色聲香味觸法,及有爲無爲法,無一非假名因緣和合而成,便能逐漸勝解出世法了。出世法成爲新知見、正行踐,身心中所現行的則坦坦朗朗的了。佛法學得坦朗澄廓,對世間的「見濁」汰淨了,就不再被引起見異思遷的同化念頭——「不隨他」。學佛法最應重視的——明與安的知行;知行明安得牢穩了,才不會從見異思遷中受(迷誤)同化。心念從明安中循觀緣起:雜染的「此故彼」扭得轉、截得斷;純淨的「此故彼」持得住、證得徹,這樣的從緣起中堅用心、深注目,有漏邊決不留連牽絆,無漏邊決定照廓通達,三乘根性的練(戒)質與成(法)器,莫不依此理則而遣除而悟入的。

人類身心的「接生相續」,無始來于惑業中流轉得沒個了期,對苦惱的纏困與迫害,總是迷悶得徒喚奈何。諸佛菩薩(阿羅漢等)徹底渡過了(有漏)因緣大河,證入無漏(無爲的)究竟涅盤。在他們沒有證悟前,也與一般凡夫無二無別,等到一旦徹證了,即能究竟洞照生死根源所在:「愚癡與貪愛」。「異生」對自家現實中所有的一切,悭惜藏護得極其緊固,這麽種強烈的非理智的欲願,造成了釀集、促催、推旋生死輪的動力。爲「無明所覆、愛結所系」的泛俗者,對世出世的染淨因果茫昧不辨,極端的甚至誹撥一切,從邪見邪行中造積著深重的三業,釀化爲心識中的染汙潛能,招感現生(及後生)的生命業果(「無作邪見」則直墮無間地獄受一大劫苦)。但是,否定「原罪」也不承認「永苦」的佛法,對于這類衆生——「愛行」與「(癡)見行」者,都從「自性空」慧中洞照他們皆由無始雜染因緣所感致。與雜染相對的是清淨,所以只須發厭離心對治雜染,痛切忏治得絕(邪惡)情斥(斷滅)見,即能直向清淨還滅的大道邁進。

于娑婆人間初成大覺的釋尊,所證與所诠的無量法門,不外乎(十二)因緣與四谛。活躍、競馳在有漏有限中的芸芸有情,不了達我與物都依因緣而生,爲惑業之根——我見與我愛所嗾使,鼓氣拚命地追求滿足物欲;物欲誘挑著人欲,在人物二欲相互诳惑的妄執中,火般的無限熾烈之欲,共相騁逐此有限之物而占有之,構成了異生「逐物流轉」的共性。一般有情的熱惱與苦迫,就這麽被襲擊、摧殘得叫苦連天。依佛法說,凡是有漏的,無一不是有限的,凡俗者不了解這定律,煽動無限的熾烈欲火而共相競爭,怎能不被焚灼得慌亂顛仆!釋尊從有情惑業的交相織引中,徹見無常、無我的業果相續,點出了衆生流轉的因由——「此有故彼有,此生故彼生」。同時,闡示衆生從惑業的消散中,即能契入無著無量,遠離一切因緣名相,趣入「此無故彼無,此滅故彼滅」的還滅涅盤。世俗一般衆生的共見:好生而畏滅,佛從淨智察照中,體認到衆生爲諸劇苦迫軋的主因:「見」與「愛」,所以終其身無間地悉力倡導修道還滅,俾泛俗者徹底解除生死大苦。學佛法,從這裏緊著眼、細用心,才會從緣起性空中走出活路來。

佛法一向重視(凡外)衆生的「生死大事」,「乘如實道來成正覺」的釋尊,他懷抱的「大事因緣」——度衆生了生死、入涅盤(現前獲得究竟安穩)。他四十五年中精勤說法,許多弟子都證得阿羅漢果。從釋尊曠劫實踐所表現的深智弘願中考察,全是行的「利他即是利己」的菩薩道。菩薩道的特質:「生死大願」爲前提。菩薩的基本觀行:報諸佛德,償衆生恩,念念不忘這麽種觀行,則必然地不像二乘行者那樣的急求解脫。這,顯示了三乘行者雖共學緣起,而菩薩的緣起觀卻與二乘迥異:一是畏緣而急求解脫——自度,一是創緣而積極載運——度他。這二類的大事,二乘契入(諸法)本性寂滅——不生不滅,如蓮華般的不受沾汙。菩薩從深智邊體察,同樣的觀不生(生無所從)不滅(滅無所至),但所發的本願——大菩提願,無間地顯現當下,流露當前,拯脫衆生苦惱的摯情與熱心,總是萦回念頭而發揮緣頭,因而氣度與神態,就超越了二乘。

菩薩心目中的人與佛——無高無下,祇是因果的差異而已。人類是由人群生命組續而遞衍下來的,理智與情感都勝過天趣等有情,如能善學善修,克己敬人而爲人,將人我間的障幕撤除了,就會相處得同至親好友般的和洽而通融。然而,從現實人類所有的表態看,卻幾乎都在「鼠牙雀角」中相互诤爭得迄無甯日。面對一切人類的菩薩行者,察知一般人都被虛妄因緣诳弄得顛倒诤鬥,由于彼此都這麽诤鬥成慣習了,也就都從煩惱猛焰中爆射出最熾酷性的彈藥厮殺!從這裏,便顯出人類的理性太有限了。構成菩薩的根本質素:理智明正,情感笃醇,理智將笃醇的情感運發得輕己重人,對人看得永遠比自己重要,敬人諒人之心,則與念俱生而俱增。因此,眼中看到和心頭想到的,就沒一個可恨可惱的人,只有一片必感必報之心。感報心久已成爲菩薩念頭與緣頭上的存持者、策現者,所以,菩薩觀行中的若因若緣,除了堵遏爲惑業纏障的因緣,觀行中就只有爲一切苦難衆生創樹清淨得度的因緣。就這樣,菩薩最重大的義命——普爲對峙、衝突而吞並的人間世,編織交往與相聯的善淨因緣的網絡與網路,從訊息中相通、相見、相聚、相助得親切慶歡。巧于疏理而勤于通接緣脈的菩薩,對于佛法法脈的通貫與察透,久已從因緣的印會中,深入一切法性的畢竟空,從畢竟空中曠觀一切人群與人事的纏糾棼擾、錯複爭鬥,痛切地感到世人的蠢昧與慘毒,激發出無比的悲愍,無限的眷顧,往複活躍也開豁得興神充足,志誓堅弘,見人都襯涵著一副謙溫平易的福德相,從喜敬的笑臉中存問得親切和暖,就這麽與法緣接合,法緣從人的念頭上接受了,體嘗到法的濃淳義味,從這義味熏發出世間沒有的力與能,這麽種從法緣引生的力能,其作用則能對治而消融我執,我執受到嚴緊而精細的對治,久了,法執也就難生起了;因爲我是煩惱總根,這條根斷卻了,法執就失去了依附處。我執與法執,真個太困惱一般人了,對治而遣除此二者的針策,惟有正聞而深學因緣。學佛法,必須肯認著即是學因緣,從汙染的黑業邊截斷它,從清淨的(無漏)白業邊體契它;于白業中將善緣廣結得無類無際,意識到彼此相依、相資、相成的因緣關聯,則能撤除掉人爲的藩籬與壁壘。人類生命的真動進、大曉了的肇因:「深因緣」法學到內不見我,外能通人,從消我通人中處處不離因緣觀,于善淨的因緣行中念念攝心不亂、發心不倦,才抖得脫世法苦樂,學得上、用得明佛法正見——因緣。

諸佛三業所顯現的:自自然然無數無量無邊的萬德莊嚴,這,都從因位中勤修不增不減、不斷不常的「深般若」而圓成的。學佛法,淨因緣學得上路,行得到家的,必須從無染無礙的甚深般若中著力學習、察照、修爲;從正觀的修爲中,理解到諸佛「還滅」及衆生「流轉」,這一切都是仗因托緣所致。所以,「論因說因」,則成爲釋尊最不共世間的根本教授!從染因而迷墮流轉的衆生邊看,是可能學正觀而還滅的;這可能性是由甚深般若光與力的洞照,「緣起甚深與緣起寂滅的更甚深」,在甚深般若光與力的洞照中,洞照得一切時處將「性」與「我」,調控得即現即呵,代之而起的乃是「無性」「無我」的「假名」(我);把這假名我用得活脫而通廓,佛法中的頭面探舉得光光正正,我們三業中的因緣大用,則能與諸佛菩薩所證所行的根本——清淨因緣,永不脫軌或離經。

修學佛法的入門處——因緣觀,因緣觀成爲學佛之眼,舉眼觸境都會歸于因緣,從因緣中徹底了達無不皆空,無始的生死根柢——我見,則不再祟擾作踏,所見所思的一切,則了了明明地無不是因緣了。心,與因緣相應得如影隨形,也就意會到一切無不是空了。從空觀中徹達了無性惟緣,從惟緣中空化、健化了身心,從健化中堅韌地淬煉而獻舍身心。學興廣涉而深觀的菩薩,所學的固然不忘因緣,所行的更投入人事因緣網紐中,與一切人善巧地相處得融渾快愉從因緣正觀中教授因緣之學,成爲標准的觀緣起而行性空的學者:把許多人接引而安住于緣起性空中,從而循次趣向正解脫或大菩提。菩薩行者的大菩提心,盡從般若空慧中出入往返;空慧之路巡回得極其熟練、暢達,理解到空慧給予自己的深度啓示:空不離有,亦不礙有,假使離有觀空,空即反而成爲度生的大障礙。因此,般若會上釋尊開示:「菩薩摩诃薩不專攝心系在緣(空法等)中」,激勵菩薩們從智觀假名中,體恤而關懷苦難有情。對這番開示,恍如釋尊「耳提面命」,我們才能從空不離有,亦不礙有中荷擔菩薩的義命責、道業行。

佛法最重視的一種學:著眼于「慧命」的體握與獲得。慧命從業命中植固得時刻增長,業命中的識(取)受到慧力的克制導轉得明快而捷利,成長中的慧命與佛法就不脫節了。持緊著如此的慧命觀,佛法從身心中顯現「遮持」大力,對境相上的反應與適應,就沒有輕泛蕩漂的俗態了。諸佛的「大事因緣」——「開示(衆生)悟入佛之知見」(無上菩提),便從如此的身心中化爲呼聲、激策、動力,猛毅毅地充當苦難衆生的前衛後殿者。因緣中的慧命觀成熟了,解除了自我的重大威脅,這麽種呼聲與動力,平常及非常之際,就都聽得清清楚楚,(表)現得活活躍躍。修學佛法中的因緣法,以無我的緣起觀與一切人溝通,互動得端端平平,大家都以淨緣相見、相學、相處、相勉,相勉得剀切誠實,倡揚因緣法的人材就成群了。因緣觀(行)成爲學佛者的群策群力的活勁與通德,這樣的通德學習得潔明重厚,一切利益都能先人後己,進一步,後己的念頭也不起了。緣起觀就這麽樣消融了真常大我,也就這麽樣學透了無性因緣,躍得出自我黑窟,從戒足慧目中遞次地、明穩地直趣正覺及大覺。

能直從生死「罩門」中猛跨出來的,總是決意先截斷情絲見網。弘願大行的策練與踐現,情絲見網就纏絆不著了,以故,觸涉到的一切蒙不住、牽不去,最新的因緣之眼,則能看透世間萬象——無性無我。就這樣,新生活的爽淨、暢快,與新生命的創培、發達,投入新生死的勇氣與健骨,處處便承兌得不折不诳,讓人看到娑婆世界有(真)菩薩出現了。菩薩存注而顯現于身心之間的:能持能續通盤佛法,能導能覺一切衆生,意象中的佛法與衆生,衆生與佛法,總是看作一體兩面。生佛(約空性佛性說)平等,全憑如此的觀行而來。衆生中能見佛、憶佛、學佛、瞻佛、體解到成佛也有自己的「分」,于是從堅忍沈奮中致力久進、上進,發現自力潛能的莫可量估,也肯認著過去生中正法的聞熏與啓示;由此而聯想到曾親近過無量諸佛;從無量諸佛的明瞻暗仰中,養成充實的熱忱與精誠的念與行,現前的准範不離諸佛,當下的「法依」不輕自己,將自我狂慢控箝得極迅極緊,對諸佛所證的空性與所現的大悲,體領中效踐得不昧不怖,菩薩精神的激提、練錘與托承,就沒一念慮疑或驚沒了。佛法與行願交融交現的菩薩,語默寢饋間都明驗得不離當前,就這樣所見的不忘諸佛,所做的不虧衆生。佛法學到永不忘失諸佛的一切,諸佛的一切成爲我們心與行中的印象,深確地了知諸佛能成佛之所以然——圓證「緣起性空」的中道;從這所以然中認清應遮應持的教示,所見的一切無不是緣,遍悟得若佛若人(等)無一不由緣而生,則不受世俗情見作弄,而以弘傳(無性)因緣爲己任。

深學而深悟因緣,以因緣之眼透視一切,染緣粘不著,淨緣擴得開,淨得不住淨而行于染衆中,與染衆見觸得往返頻密,觀察得內外周致,摸透了染汙衆生的複錯心理,法藥配得當下得巧,服下去很快就見效了。最歡喜跟人群建立友誼的菩薩,總是「隨衆生業緣」而了解衆生,藉業緣而展布法緣,從法緣中對治(雜染)業緣,導向涅盤安樂。善于以因緣啓化世間的菩薩,首先泯化了的——自我,強烈的自我愛消散盡了,本願中(假名)「我不應舍一切衆生」的悲心則迸現不已。假名我從「自性空」中用得透透到到,就體悟到一切法無不是「因緣假」了。從因緣假中幻現的一切了無定實,其當體即是「畢竟空」;從自性空深悟而徹達畢竟空,假名我的耐能與涵力,則堅強饒足得莫可破耗。凡能于生死中遊化世間,遊化得永不倦憊懼退者,總是假得笑慰劣頑,空得體護敵怨。佛法于世間能顯現拔脫大力,逗發覺悟大用;衆生對佛法能接受、領解得喜敬而奉行;奉行中觸處對一切通曉得無不從因緣所生,不讓自我盤據念頭,這樣的衆生也就能從因緣假中起大力用了。學佛法、講(寫)佛法、觀(行)佛法,一貫地都從無常無定、即緣即空中著力察心而照境,嚴格地谛審精析,怎也見不到最真的心與最小的(物)質,由此從真知灼見中——無上佛道深之又深的最極深處——「畢竟空」,得個入門處;從畢竟空中曠觀一切,無不是緣也無不皆空,種種人與種種物,莫不攝歸于此緣此空中。因此,釋尊在大乘經中「不贊是(二乘)遠離法」,因爲藉緣興悲的菩薩行者,特別重視度生的大菩提道,與二乘行的急于斷惑不同。學得深也覺得深,學得廣也成得廣,諸佛的妙因與圓果,不出乎如此的深覺與廣成。菩薩行道與行空,一味地貫注無間,道心發得大而久,空觀學得深而淨;淨得不偏不著,「得利智慧力故,不見是空法」,利猛的慧力徹照得不住空,利慧與大悲兼運得明切厚弘,弘誓中鼓斡的壯心豪膽,就不會因住空而柔弱乏力,也不會著愛而淪爲欲奴。到此,利慧與大悲就沒界別了。學佛法,著力策提自己:從利慧大悲中把假名我用得活活透透,舍得空空淨淨,我們身心中體現與顯露的,才不會遠離自覺覺他的佛法!自覺的前方便——「無作」;無作觀中所思所行的——「不可得」;了解到自家所有的一切,決不可能永遠占有,(一旦政權突變了,連生命也陪掉的,可太多了!)不可得與無作觀融明成片,自覺心照了得甯默湛穩,與一切人則相見相處得藹然淳然,言行中體涵與照拂的,念念處處才足實得能覺他。

菩薩的別稱——「具足者」,具足者的整體該涵——三覺圓滿。曠遠學程中以諸佛爲高標,視衆生爲善友的菩薩道,本願中所持所驗的:作諸佛使者:以佛道爲心而化度衆生,從接引中處處盡分盡力地提現佛道;從佛道中架建寬而長的「津梁」,讓衆生安穩地濟渡。能做到這樣的安穩的要著:「具足者即是深入」,無上佛道之曠而深、圓而遍,乃是深般若與深因緣的透達與遍攝;從般若的無相中深入空性,從因緣的無質中深轉有相;這麽樣深入深轉得內不起(真常心)惑,外不受(「名字相」)诳,透脫了常心假名的诳惑,則能從利慧中降伏自我大愛,從大悲心中摧諸煩惱。利慧與大悲直對當前發心、運心、練心、現心,我們的心與佛心就接通了。人心接通了佛心,「佛道事業」就成爲最新(淨)的事業,將這等新事業貫注、推展、發達在利慧大悲中,則能從自性空中遠離「我愛」,從畢竟空中淩越「法愛」。畢竟空出入得不著不了,普爲衆生之心與深效諸佛之願,締結得莫可開解,應爲的從智光中爲得明明決決,應償的從悲願中償得充充足足,能這樣,身心完全悲智化了,則醇豁得恢恢裕裕。時間用得緊而清,空間行得明而曠,從時空中把握著學習的原則——先學知空;空,學得與悲智相應,與一切人相見得同見佛一樣,揣摩著盡以佛心敬待一切人,把一切人看作「佛種」與「法器」,力倡「人間佛教」,肯認著「諸佛皆出人間,終不于天上成佛」的宗趣。人間的人之特質:能學而能覺因緣正法,學得亦覺得能汰脫染緣,創辟淨緣,從淨緣中消通了人我界劃、壁障,人際網絡中的人脈與佛法法脈接貫通流得靈靈暢暢,自覺覺他的智慈德行,身心中儲涵而溥溢的,才能讓見到的一切人,測驗得決不虛诳,畢竟真切!

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We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by loving kindness, make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilise it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it.

— The Buddha

How We Should Practice
by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

In the Jataka Tales, it says:

After studying, make practice the essence.
You will be freed from the stronghold of birth with little difficulty.

Similarly, the Teacher himself said in The Vinaya Scriptures:

There are two things that monastics should do: study through listening and contemplating, and abandon through meditation.

Gampopa said:

Beginners should study earnestly.
After studying the teachings, practice earnestly.

As these explain, one should first listen to and contemplate the Dharma appropriately through scriptures and then make the practice of the meaning one has studied into the essence. This is the general way to uphold the teachings. The Buddha, out of kindness, said not once but over and over that his followers should emphasise practice, and uphold, preserve, and propagate the teachings of realisation properly. Doing this is extremely important.

We can understand this when we read the biographies of Milarepa and Marpa the Translator and see what they did. They didn’t sit around like us, fat, happy, and enjoying themselves. They did such great practice that they meditated until their flesh was worn down to the bone. It is from this emphasis on practice that the name “Practice Lineage” was given, but it is not as if we do not have to do any study and contemplation. We should at the very least listen to and contemplate the lama’s instructions. Even if we cannot read the great philosophical texts, there is no way we can know how to meditate unless we study and contemplate the lama’s instructions thoroughly.

In order to meditate, it is very important to first identify what we are meditating on. If we meditate without identifying that, there is the danger it will become idiot meditation or idiot Dharma. If we do not first fully comprehend through listening and contemplating the meaning of what we are meditating on, how can we practice? Without something to practice or something to meditate on, we might say, “I’m practicing” or “I’m meditating,” but there would be the danger we end up betwixt and between, not anywhere at all. We would be neither in the world nor in the Dharma. We might try to look impressive, but because we are neither in the Dharma nor in the world, there is the danger that it could be said of us that we are caught betwixt and between.

Even if the forefathers of the practice lineage did not study philosophical texts in great detail, they did give their students naked or direct instructions on the experience they realised — the instructions of an old man pointing his finger, or symbolic pointing-out instructions. There is something special that happens when someone who has experience shows a physical expression or makes a slight gesture with their hands. After pointing out experience symbolically, there is a particular way to guide students down the path, which followers of the practice lineage must know. This is also what we call the meaning lineage of realisation. Most of the lamas in the ranks of the Kagyu root and lineage lamas first attained a high level of scholarship before doing meditation practice, although there are some about whom I wonder whether they themselves did such study and contemplation of philosophy.

However, even if one does not have the breadth of study and contemplation, the experience of realisation of the masters of the past can be pointed out nakedly or directly to students, so there is something special that happens. I think that if members of the practice lineage can recognise what the root and lineage masters have passed down and pointed out successively and what their root lama points out through the view of experience when actually instructing them, and then can make that the essence of their practice, they will uphold and preserve the teachings of the practice lineage over time, and they will also be able to help others develop and ripen.

Why is this? With Milarepa, for instance, first his lama Marpa pointed out the experience to him through signs, and he recognised it as it was given to him. Then he practiced whole-heartedly. When we read in his life story how he devoted himself one-pointedly to practice, it makes all of us cry tears of faith and devotion, whether we are members of the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu, or Nyingma Dharma lineages, without any distinction. In his actions, his words corresponded to the meaning, so it makes us cry and none of us can help but feel faith and devotion. If the words and meaning did not correspond, it would be difficult for it to make us feel faith and devotion. All Sakyas, Gelukpas, Kagyus, and Nyingmas respect Milarepa without any partisan bias, yet there is no history at all of him studying extensively and writing many philosophical texts. However, Lama Milarepa himself said something like, “I have no material offerings to give, but I make this offering of practice to my father and mother lamas for the rest of my life.”

Milarepa recognised the experiential pointing-out instruction that Marpa gave him. After recognising it, he made practice the main thing. That is how he became such a great being, able to benefit sentient beings by being seen, heard, remembered, or touched. When all of us merely hear his name, we feel a special kind of amazement. As a Nyingma lama once said, sometimes when our minds are disturbed and the afflictions are strong, other great texts do not help us, but reading The Way of the Bodhisattva and The Life of Milarepa helps a little bit. That’s how it is, isn’t it?

In any case, the person known as the author of The Life of Milarepa, the Bone Ornament Yogi or Crazy Heruka from Tsang, was a skilled writer. His writing is of extremely high quality. It strikes the heart and has feeling. Beginners can also get their minds around it. He is wonderful at touching us. Thus just by hearing The Life of Milarepa, Milarepa has become a great being who benefits the beings who merely see, hear, think of, or touch him.

In order to develop the view and meditation of the practice lineage or unmistaken meditation, we need to practice an unmistaken view. For that view, there is developing full comprehension of the view of the object, emptiness, as well as the preliminaries and the follow-through practices. The preliminary and follow-through practices are all similar, but the main practice has some distinct aspects. These are a different essence, different focus, different practice techniques, and the different power of the techniques, it is said. There are also two other distinct features of the main practice: different conditions for gaining realisation and different ways of taking the path. According to the Dakpo Kagyu, the different way to develop realisation is that because of the blessings of a lama who has directly realised the truth and the devotion of the student coming together, the student will directly realise the truth of the path of seeing. The different way to take the path is to take direct perception as the path rather than inference.

With the object, emptiness, those who primarily study the emptiness of the mahayana sutras realise it through logical proofs of the dharma nature, such as the king of reasonings, the proof of interdependence, and so forth. For the path and post-meditation as well, they follow the path primarily by way of inferential analysis, it is said. However, these are all only ways to guide disciples with differing natures and inclinations down the path, the great teachers said; there is no contradiction between them.

So we say that we are in the practice lineage, but really we are a bit of a disgrace to the practice lineage, aren’t we? I wonder whether we are going to have anything from our practice to pass on in the lineage.

It is not okay not to have read the lives of the Kagyu forefathers. When we read them, we should be amazed. We need to look at ourselves. When we read the biographies of the forefathers of the practice lineage, we feel, “Oh no!” We call ourselves followers of the great masters of the practice lineage, but when we look at ourselves, forget about being a follower — I think we are just barely not disgracing them. There’s a danger we’ll have to rewrite the verse:

The venerable guru practices like that;
We who want freedom disgrace like that.

So when we read the lives of the gurus, we wonder whether our own behaviour is compatible with the lives and deeds of the lamas. There is no point to being followers of the practice lineage in name only.

Actually, it was for practice that Lama Marpa and others underwent such difficulties and made such great efforts to go to India and receive empowerments and instructions in their entirety from genuine great Indian masters. They brought those back to the dark land of Tibet, translated them, and directly taught them to their students who practiced view, meditation, and conduct, handing them down just as a father gives his wealth to his child. They have given students or followers of our contemporary degenerate times hope and an opportunity to free themselves from the suffering of birth, aging, sickness, and death. Thus from one perspective we need to feel gratitude, and that is extremely important.

If we take Gelukpas as an example, individual monks have pictures of Tsongkhapa and his two main disciples in their rooms, which shows that they remember the kindness of their body, speech, and mind. It seems as if we Kagyupas are basically slowly forgetting about Marpa, Mila, and Gampopa, as I see it. In particular, we seem to think that the words of Milarepa that we recite these days come from the hand of a buddha who awakened to buddhahood in the past and then descended from Akanishta. We don’t think he was someone human like us. The lamas show the form of an ordinary sentient being, undergo difficulties, and make strong efforts to visibly demonstrate liberation for the benefit of the students, and we are throwing this away as if it were meaningless and unhelpful. This is a mistake. At the very least, if we don’t have the chance to practice, we need to be grateful, right?

To talk about it from a broader perspective, it is primarily the outer natural world — the plants, forests, and all the other things made up of the four elements — that supports our lives, makes it possible for us to breathe, gives us good health, and so forth. Any way you look at it, it is very beneficial to us. Thus we need to be grateful to it. Yet without the slightest bit of affection we destroy any plant that sends up a shoot or any slight bump in the ground, laying them waste.

Similarly, if we think about the inhabitants of this world, our food, clothing, beds, possessions, houses — in brief, anything at all that we might need is produced through the effort and difficulties of many sentient beings. It’s not as if our houses, nice clothes, and food are somehow just there from the time we are born. It is clear that all of these occur through one sentient being depending upon another.

From the smallest things on up, even the cup of tea we drank for breakfast depended upon many sentient beings in order to be made. Some of the butter in it may have arisen in dependence upon animals, and some in dependence upon plants. But just having a plant is not enough: there need to be many people to perform the actions of extracting the oil from the plant and pressing it. There are many people who are involved in selling it and bringing it to market. That is how it is: it has to pass through many people’s hands to get here. This is why whenever we drink a cup of tea, we first make a tea offering. It is good to be grateful like that, isn’t it?

If instead we just quickly gulp down a cup of tea without any thought or consideration, I wonder whether we are genuine mahayana practitioners. If we say we practice the mahayana, at the beginning of our meditation on bodhichitta, we remember that all beings have been our mothers. We are grateful. The gratitude of wanting to repay kindness is like the root of our mahayana attitudes and training, right? We should not just be grateful to humans. In brief, the physical environment and all the forests, plants, and everything else that comprise it, are all helpful to us. They sustain us. We should be grateful to them.

So this year the main theme of the Kagyu Monlam is gratitude. Last year the main thing was environmental protection. This year the main theme is gratitude. Thus it is extremely important for us to be grateful.

When we encounter the biographies of the forefathers of the practice lineage here now, we need to remember and keep firmly in mind how they underwent difficulties and gave up wrongdoing for the benefit of their future disciples. We can supplicate them again and again, but actually, we must wholeheartedly practice meditation on the points of their instructions. These two are very close. If we first develop a grateful attitude, then fifty percent has turned out well.

Therefore if we keep a grateful attitude in mind, I think that we will be able to uphold, preserve, and spread the teachings of the practice lineage. Otherwise, we will turn the Dharma into an empty façade. We’ll keep the Dharma from doing what it should and prevent the instructions from working, making the Dharma into even more of a façade. On the outside, it will appear as if we should be called Dharma practitioners, but if that appearance fools and deceives the faithful public, then just as Mao Tse Tung said, the Dharma will be poison. If the Dharma does not work as Dharma, there is a danger of fulfilling the prediction that Dharma will be the cause that throws us back into the lower realms.

Therefore we at least need to make sure that the Dharma doesn’t turn into poison. What we call Dharma is what we have to practice in order to free ourselves from the sufferings of the three realms of samsara. That is the sort of reason we do it. If we put aside liberation from samsara, we’ll be digging ourselves in deeper and deeper. If we mix Dharma with the eight worldly concerns, cling to discipline as paramount, and think too highly of our own view, there is the danger that we will dig ourselves ever more deeply and profoundly into samsara. That’s turning the Dharma inside out and upside down; it is not at all action that is compatible with the Dharma. Therefore, we need to take this to heart.

If we just enjoy this precious human life for its limited time without bringing back the jewel of the Dharma, we are like an explorer who goes to an island covered with treasure and returns with nothing. The journey will have been useless.

If we just get caught up in the activities of daily life, and neglect the Dharma’s liberating instructions, we will have possessed this precious human existence but gained nothing from it.

— Shechen Gyalsap Rinpoche

在家居士修学佛法的必备资粮
惠空法师

在家居士在修学佛法的历程中,有一些必备的资粮,而首先要具备的,就是皈依三宝。

第一、皈依三宝

皈依三宝不但是我们学佛的始点,也是终点,更是我们在修学佛法上的一条主轴线;也就是说,在学佛的历程中,如果偏离了皈依三宝,所有学佛的内涵都不成立、所有学佛所做的善法、业力都与修学佛道远离!为什么呢?从远处讲,我们修学佛法的目的就是要成就自性的三宝,而且,在整个修学佛法的过程中,如果不以佛为师,而是以外道、以鬼神为师;不以佛的教法为依循,而是以自己的知见、以外教的经典、或是世俗的价值观念做为依循,那不是悖离了正法吗?同样的,修学佛法的人不皈依僧、不以僧团做为领导,而是他自己领导自己、或是由外道领导,最终,他一定会走偏的。

所以,皈依三宝,看起来好像很简单、或是有人觉得它太遥远,其实,它一点也不简单、一点也不遥远,它是这样的基本、这样的实际、这样的浅易明白而却是这么样的重要、根本。所以我们做为佛弟子,要常常反省到──我对佛陀的教法、对世尊,我的本师,是不是有十足的信心?我对佛陀的教法、经典,是不是能理解?有所信仰?有去实践?我对僧团是不是有恭敬?有皈依?如果我们确实地有,那可以说,我们已经具足了做为一个佛弟子学佛的基石了。

第二、对三宝有信心

皈依三宝之后,其次是对三宝要有信心,这是修学佛法的第二个资粮。什么是信心?就是,确信三宝是真实的;确信三宝是清净与庄严的;确信三宝是尊贵的;确信三宝是我苦海的舟航;确信三宝是世间的明灯;确信唯有皈依三宝才是出离生死的一条路;确信唯有实实在在地覆践三宝、追随三宝才是我生命唯一的道路!我们反省一下,有没有这样的信念呢?是不是我认为,我不依靠三宝,我仍然可以走我生命这条路?是不是有怀疑三宝的价值?是不是怀疑三宝的存在?是不是怀疑三宝的清净、庄严与尊贵?这是我们要反省的!因为一旦我们对三宝的存在、对三宝的清净与功德起了一丝一毫的模糊,没有十足的信心,它就会腐蚀我们修学佛法的动力。所以,我们要确立对三宝的十足信心。

第三、确立对三宝的恭敬心

因为没有恭敬心,就不容易升起一种仰慕、珍重的心情,就不会觉得佛法的可贵、不会对它产生渴仰、不会觉得想要很谦卑、很虚心地去向三宝学习。所以,我们要对三宝起一个很真实、很崇敬的恭敬心。如果我们是以我慢心去修学佛法,那么可能我们所修学的佛法,反而变成我们的障碍、我们的毒药。所以我们要对三宝起一个绝对的恭敬心,在恭敬心中,建立起对佛法的实践。

第四、在家居士要修忏悔行

从一个在家人的角度来反省,可以说:因为我们的业障,所以没有善根能早早出家;因为业障,才有家庭牵累;因为有业障,所以不能发起出离的心;因为有业障,所以才现在家相。何况,我们要想到:今天我们在家,表示我们业障深重,这是我们往昔无量无边的恶业牵缠;今天,我们的业障障住我们出家,将来,我们的业障,也必埋藏无穷无尽修道的阻力及轮回的恶业。所以,我们必须深切地从佛法的体验中,体认到在家居士有很多的恶业潜伏在生命中,我们必须尽快地将它消除,而消除恶业最好的方法,就是「忏悔」──勤修忏悔、精进忏悔、诚恳地在佛法的理、事上忏悔;从我们的心念、观照力去忏悔;从日常生活的起心动念处去忏悔;从一切可以依凭的时、事、物当中,发起忏悔的心念,务必使我们现实生命的恶业,因透过忏悔而清净,进而发起善根,让我们顺利起修学佛法──这是在家居士在修学中,所要贮备的资粮,也是修学的重要方法。

自古以来,中国佛教对在家居士「忏悔」的这个意念,可以说非常着重,所以才有许多忏法的施设,如:三昧水忏、梁皇宝忏、焰口、大悲忏、八十八佛大忏悔文等忏法,这虽都是老祖师们自修自行的法门,然而表现出的却是适应这个时代广大在家居士的因缘机感,而这么多好的忏法能消除我们的恶业,我们应该很诚恳、很真诚地依循这些仪轨来忏悔。

第五、在家居士必须学习行菩萨道

菩萨行虽深不可测,但可试学,简单讲就是:布施、持戒、忍辱。因为,布施可以得到广大的功德:布施三宝可以积集修学佛法的善因,布施可以让我们消除很多的噩业、布施可以成就我们修学佛法的资粮,所以我们要修布施行。而持戒,可以免于堕噩道;持戒,就是清净我们身心、庄严我们身心,使我们具有修行解脱的资粮,使我们具有修行种种善法、佛法的工具──我们清净的身心。

还有就是要忍辱。因为不忍辱,就是瞋恨──「一念瞋心起,火烧功德林」,不能够忍,就会犯大过失;不能够忍,就会消大福报。相反的,修忍辱,能够庄严我们的身心,能够免除瞋火破坏我们的善法,避免瞋火做出种种的噩业,所以我们要修忍辱行。也就是说,布施、持戒、忍辱,就是安定我们生命最好的德目!

第六、读诵大乘经典

最后,在家居士要常常读诵大乘经典。没有智慧,就没有办法修行,而获得智慧最快最好的方法,就是直接听闻佛陀的教法──读诵大乘经典、听讲大乘经典、研究大乘经典,使我们的智慧闻熏、发展,为我们将来修菩萨行,种下无量无边智慧的根苗,做为我们真正发起、修行大乘教法的种子。

以上就以皈依三宝、恭敬三宝,对三宝起无上的信心、忏悔业障、修菩萨的布施、持戒、忍辱行、读诵大乘经典,做为我们在家居士修学佛法必备的资粮。

There are many capacities in which we can benefit others. We can undertake activities to alleviate physical suffering, and we can help others to alleviate mental suffering, but ultimately these kinds of activities, even though they definitely benefit others, are common to other traditions as well. They are not unique to the Buddhist tradition.

Mahayana Buddhism does not exclude those kinds of activities that work towards the alleviation of temporary suffering, or towards the provision of temporary happiness for others. These are certainly good. However, in terms of benefitting others in a more fundamental, ultimate sense, according to Mahayana what is really advocated is achieving Buddhahood and helping others to achieve Buddhahood.

— Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro Rinpoche

The Practice of Looking Deeply Using Three Dharma Seals: Impermanence, No-self and Nirvana
by Thich Nhat Hanh

All authentic practices of the Buddha carry within them three essential teachings called the Dharma Seals. These three teachings of the Buddha are: impermanence, no self and nirvana. Just as all-important legal documents have the mark or signature of a witness, all genuine practices of the Buddha bear the mark of these three teachings.

If we look into the first Dharma Seal, impermanence, we see that it doesn’t just mean that everything changes. By looking into the nature of things, we can see that nothing remains the same for even two consecutive moments. Because nothing remains unchanged from moment to moment it therefore has no fixed identity or a permanent self. So in the teaching of impermanence we always see the lack of an unchanging self. We call this “no self,” the second Dharma Seal. It is because things are always transforming and have no self that freedom is possible.

The third Dharma Seal is nirvana. This means solidity and freedom, freedom from all ideas and notions. The word “nirvana” literally means “the extinction of all concepts.” Looking deeply into impermanence leads to the discovery of no self. The discovery of no self leads to nirvana. Nirvana is the Kingdom of God.

IMPERMANENCE

The practice and understanding of impermanence is not just another description of reality. It is a tool that helps us in our transformation, healing and emancipation.

Impermanence means that everything changes and nothing remains the same in any consecutive moment. And although things change every moment, they still cannot be accurately described as the same or as different from what they were a moment ago.

When we bathe in the river today that we bathed in yesterday, is it the same river? Heraclitus said that we couldn’t step into the same river twice. He was right. The water in the river today is completely different from the water we bathed in yesterday. Yet it is the same river. When Confucius was standing on the bank of a river watching it flow by he said, “Oh, it flows like that day and night, never ending.”

The insight of impermanence helps us to go beyond all concepts. It helps us to go beyond same and different, and coming and going. It helps us to see that the river is not the same river but is also not different either. It shows us that the flame we lit on our bedside candle before we went to bed is not the same flame of the next morning. The flame on the table is not two flames, but it is not one flame either.

IMPERMANENCE MAKES EVERYTHING POSSIBLE

We are often sad and suffer a lot when things change, but change and impermanence have a positive side. Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Life itself is possible. If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into a stalk of corn. If the stalk were not impermanent, it could never provide us with the ear of corn we eat. If your daughter is not impermanent, she cannot grow up to become a woman. Then your grandchildren would never manifest. So instead of complaining about impermanence, we should say, “Warm welcome and long live impermanence.” We should be happy. When we can see the miracle of impermanence our sadness and suffering will pass.

Impermanence should also be understood in the light of inter-being. Because all things inter-are, they are constantly influencing each other. It is said a butterfly’s wings flapping on one side of the planet can affect the weather on the other side. Things cannot stay the same because they are influenced by everything else, everything that is not itself.

PRACTICING IMPERMANENCE

All of us can understand impermanence with our intellect, but this is not yet true understanding. Our intellect alone will not lead us to freedom. It will not lead us to enlightenment. When we are solid and we concentrate, we can practice looking deeply. And when we look deeply and see the nature of impermanence, we can then be concentrated on this deep insight. This is how the insight of impermanence becomes part of our being. It becomes our daily experience. We have to maintain the insight of impermanence in order to be able to see and live impermanence all the time. If we can use impermanence as an object of our meditation, we will nourish the understanding of impermanence in such a way that it will live in us every day. With this practice impermanence becomes a key that opens the door of reality.

We also cannot uncover the insight into impermanence for only a moment and then cover it up and see everything as permanent again. Most of the time we behave with our children as though they will always be at home with us. We never think that in three or four years they will leave us to marry and have their own family. Therefore we do not value the moments our child is with us.

I know many parents whose children, when they are eighteen or nineteen years old, leave home and live on their own. The parents lose their children and feel very sorry for themselves. Yet the parents did not value the moments they had with their children. The same is true of husbands and wives. You think that your spouse will be there for the whole of your life but how can you be so sure? We really have no idea where our partner will be in twenty or thirty years, or even tomorrow. It is very important to remember every day the practice of impermanence.

SEEING EMOTIONS THROUGH THE EYES OF IMPERMANENCE

When somebody says something that makes you angry and you wish they would go away, please look deeply with the eyes of impermanence. If he or she were gone, what would you really feel? Would you be happy or would you weep? Practicing this insight can be very helpful. There is a gatha, or poem, we can use to help us:

Angry in the ultimate dimension
I close my eyes and look deeply.
Three hundred years from now
Where will you be and where shall I be?

When we are angry, what do we usually do? We shout, scream, and try to blame someone else for our problems. But looking at anger with the eyes of impermanence, we can stop and breathe. Angry at each other in the ultimate dimension, we close our eyes and look deeply. We try to see three hundred years into the future. What will you be like? What will I be like? Where will you be? Where will I be? We need only to breathe in and out, look at our future and at the other person’s future. We do not need to look as far as three hundred years. It could be fifty or sixty years from now when we have both passed away.

Looking at the future, we see that the other person is very precious to us. When we know we can lose them at any moment, we are no longer angry. We want to embrace her or him and say, “How wonderful, you are still alive. I am so happy. How could I be angry with you? Both of us have to die someday and while we are still alive and together it is foolish to be angry at each other.”

The reason we are foolish enough to make ourselves suffer and make the other person suffer is we forget that we and the other person are impermanent. Someday when we die we will lose all our possessions, our power, our family, everything. Our freedom, peace and joy in the present moment is the most important thing we have. But without an awakened understanding of impermanence it is not possible to be happy.

Some people do not even want to look at a person when they are alive, but when they die they write eloquent obituaries and make offerings of flowers. But at that point the person has died and cannot smell the fragrance of the flowers anymore. If we really understood and remembered that life was impermanent, we would do everything we could to make the other person happy right here and right now. If we spend twenty-four hours being angry at our beloved, it is because we are ignorant of impermanence.

“Angry in the ultimate dimension/I close my eyes.” I close my eyes in order to practice visualisation of my beloved one hundred or three hundred years from now. When you visualise yourself and your beloved in three hundred years’ time, you just feel so happy that you are alive today and that your dearest is alive today. You open your eyes and all your anger has gone. You open your arms to embrace the other person and you practice: “Breathing in you are alive, breathing out I am so happy.” When you close your eyes to visualise yourself and the other person in three hundred years’ time, you are practicing the meditation on impermanence. In the ultimate dimension, anger does not exist.

Hatred is also impermanent. Although we may be consumed with hatred at this moment, if we know that hatred is impermanent we can do something to change it. A practitioner can take resentment and hatred and help it to disappear. Just like with anger, we close our eyes and think: where will we be in three hundred years? With the understanding of hatred in the ultimate dimension, it can evaporate in an instant.

LET IMPERMANENCE NURTURE LOVE

Because we are ignorant and forget about impermanence, we don’t nurture our love properly. When we first married our love was great. We thought that if we did not have each other we would not be able to live one more day. Because we did not know how to practice impermanence, after one or two years our love changed to frustration and anger. Now we wonder how we can survive one more day if we have to remain with the person we once loved so much. We decide there is no alternative: we want a divorce. If we live with the understanding of impermanence we will cultivate and nurture our love. Only then will it last. You have to nourish and look after your love for it to grow.

NO SELF

Impermanence is looking at reality from the point of view of time. No self is looking at reality from the point of view of space. They are two sides of reality. No self is a manifestation of impermanence and impermanence is a manifestation of no self. If things are impermanent they are without a separate self. If things are without a separate self, it means that they are impermanent. Impermanence means being transformed at every moment. This is reality. And since there is nothing unchanging, how can there be a permanent self, a separate self? When we say “self” we mean something that is always itself, unchanging day after day. But nothing is like that. Our body is impermanent, our emotions are impermanent, and our perceptions are impermanent. Our anger, our sadness, our love, our hatred and our consciousness are also impermanent.

So what permanent thing is there which we can call a self? The piece of paper these words are written on does not have a separate self. It can only be present when the clouds, the forest, the sun, the earth, the people who make the paper, and the machines are present. If those things are not present the paper cannot be present. And if we burn the paper, where is the self of paper?

Nothing can exist by itself alone. It has to depend on every other thing. That is called inter-being. To be means to inter-be. The paper inter-is with the sunshine and with the forest. The flower cannot exist by itself alone; it has to inter-be with soil, rain, weeds and insects. There is no being; there is only inter-being.

Looking deeply into a flower we see that the flower is made of non-flower elements. We can describe the flower as being full of everything. There is nothing that is not present in the flower. We see sunshine, we see the rain, we see clouds, we see the earth, and we also see time and space in the flower. A flower, like everything else, is made entirely of non-flower elements. The whole cosmos has come together in order to help the flower manifest herself. The flower is full of everything except one thing: a separate self or a separate identity.

The flower cannot be by herself alone. The flower has to inter-be with the sunshine, the cloud and everything in the cosmos. If we understand being in terms of inter-being, then we are much closer to the truth. Inter-being is not being and it is not non-being. Inter-being means at the same time being empty of a separate identity; empty of a separate self.

No self also means emptiness, a technical term in Buddhism which means the absence of a separate self. We are of the nature of no self, but that does not mean that we are not here. It does not mean that nothing exists. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be either empty or full the glass has to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-being and does not mean being either. It transcends all concepts. If you touch deeply the nature of impermanence, no self and inter-being, you touch the ultimate dimension, the nature of nirvana.

WHO ARE WE?

We think of our body as our self or belonging to our self. We think of our body as me or mine. But if you look deeply, you see that your body is also the body of your ancestors, of your parents, of your children, and of their children. So it is not a “me”; it is not a “mine.” Your body is full of everything else — limitless non-body elements — except one thing: a separate existence.

Impermanence has to be seen in the light of emptiness, of inter-being, and of non-self. These things are not negative. Emptiness is wonderful. Nagarjuna, the famous Buddhist teacher of the second century, said, “Thanks to emptiness, everything is possible.”

You can see no non-self in impermanence, and impermanence in non-self. You can say that impermanence is no self seen from the angle of time, and non-self is impermanence seen from the angle of space. They are the same thing. That is why impermanence and non-self inter-are. If you do not see impermanence in non-self, that is not non-self. If you do not see non-self in impermanence, that’s not really impermanence.

But that is not all. You have to see nirvana in impermanence and you have to see nirvana in non-self. If I draw a line on one side there will be impermanence and non-self, and on the other side there will be nirvana. That line may be helpful, although it can also be misleading. Nirvana means going beyond all concepts, even the concepts of no self and impermanence. If we have nirvana in no self and in impermanence, it means that we are not caught in no self and impermanence as ideas.

NIRVANA

Impermanence and no self are not rules to follow given to us by the Buddha. They are keys to open the door of reality. The idea of permanence is wrong, so the teaching on impermanence helps us correct our view of permanence. But if we get caught in the idea of impermanence we have not realised nirvana. The idea of self is wrong. So we use the idea of non-self to cure it. But if we are caught in the idea of non-self then that is not good for us either. Impermanence and no self are keys to the practice. They are not absolute truths. We do not die for them or kill for them.

In Buddhism there are no ideas or prejudices that we kill for. We do not kill people simply because they do not accept our religion. The teachings of the Buddha are skillful means; they are not absolute truth. So we have to say that impermanence and no self are skillful means to help us come toward the truth; they are not absolute truth. The Buddha said, “My teachings are a finger pointing to the moon. Do not get caught in thinking that the finger is the moon. It is because of the finger that you can see the moon.”

No self and impermanence are means to understand the truth; they are not the truth itself. They are instruments; they are not the ultimate truth. Impermanence is not a doctrine that you should feel you have to die for. You would never put someone in prison because they contradict you. You are not using one concept against another concept. These means are to lead us to the ultimate truth. Buddhism is a skillful path to help us; it is not a path of fanatics. Buddhists can never go to war, shedding blood and killing thousands of people on behalf of their religion.

Because impermanence contains within itself the nature of nirvana, you are safe from being caught in an idea. When you study and practice this teaching you free yourself from notions and concepts, including the concept of permanence and impermanence. This way, we arrive at freedom from suffering and fear. This is nirvana, the kingdom of God.

EXTINCTION OF CONCEPT

We are scared because of our notions of birth and death, increasing and decreasing, being and non-being. Nirvana means extinction of all notions and ideas. If we can become free from these notions we can touch the peace of our true nature.

There are eight basic concepts that serve to fuel our fear. They are the notions of birth and death, coming and going, the same and different, being and non-being. These notions keep us from being happy. The teaching given to counteract these notions is called “the eight no’s,” which are no birth, no death, no coming, no going, not the same, not different, no being, no non-being.

ENDING NOTIONS OF HAPPINESS

Each of us has a notion of how we can be happy. It would be very helpful if we took the time to reconsider our notions of happiness. We could make a list of what we think we need to be happy: “I can only be happy if…” Write down the things you want and the things you do not want. Where did these ideas come from? Is it reality? Or is it only your notion? If you are committed to a particular notion of happiness you do not have much chance to be happy.

Happiness arrives from many directions. If you have a notion that it comes only from one direction, you will miss all of these other opportunities, because you want happiness to come only from the direction you want. You say, “I would rather die than marry anyone but her. I would rather die than lose my job, my reputation. I cannot be happy if I don’t get that degree or that promotion or that house.” You have put many conditions on your happiness. And then, even if you do have all your conditions met, you still won’t be happy. You will just keep creating new conditions for your happiness. You will still want the higher degree, the better job and the more beautiful house.

A government can also believe that they know the only way to make a nation prosper and be happy. That government and nation may commit itself to that ideology for one hundred years or more. During that time its citizens can suffer so much. Anyone who disagrees or dares to speak against the government’s ideas will be locked up. They might even be considered insane. You can transform your nation into a prison because you are committed to an ideology.

Please remember your notions of happiness may be very dangerous. The Buddha said happiness can only be possible in the here and now, so go back and examine deeply your notions and ideas of happiness. You may recognise that the conditions of happiness that are already there in your life are enough. Then happiness can be instantly yours.