The Seven Point Cause-and-Effect Instruction
by Ribur Rinpoche

Bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment in order to benefit all sentient beings, is something that is truly inconceivable, truly splendid and marvellous. One of the gurus of Lama Atisha told him that an attainment such as clairvoyance, or a vision of a deity, or concentration as stable as a mountain is nothing compared to bodhicitta. For us, these attainments seem amazing. If we ourselves, or if someone we heard of, had a vision of a deity, achieved clairvoyance, or through practising meditation attained concentration as stable as a mountain, we would think this to be unbelievably wonderful. However, Atisha’s guru said to him: “These are nothing compared to bodhicitta. Therefore, practise bodhicitta.”

Even if you practised Mahamudra or Dzogchen or the two stages of highest yoga tantra [generation stage and completion stage] and even if you achieved the vision of many deities, these are not beneficial if you do not have bodhicitta.

As the great Bodhisattva Shantideva said, “If you churn the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha, their essence is bodhicitta.” By churning milk we get butter, which is the very essence of milk. In the same way, if we examine and churn all the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha, their very essence is the practice of bodhicitta. Therefore, it is extremely important for us to strive to achieve the uncontrived, effortless experience of bodhicitta. At the very least, we should try our best to generate the contrived experience of bodhicitta, the bodhicitta that arises through effort.

There are two main lineages of instructions on the basis of which you can practise and generate bodhicitta. The first is the seven-point cause-and-effect instruction, and the second is the instruction on exchanging oneself with others.

The first, the seven-point cause-and-effect instruction by which you generate bodhicitta on the basis of developing affectionate love towards all sentient beings, is a practice which was used by such great Indian pandits as Chandrakirti, Chandragomin, Shantarakshita and so forth. The second, the instruction on exchanging oneself with others, comes mainly from Shantideva. Whether you choose to train your mind in the seven-point instruction or in exchanging oneself with others, the result is that you will generate bodhicitta in your mind.

The great saint Atisha showed extraordinary interest in bodhicitta. In order to obtain the complete instructions on the practice of bodhicitta, he embarked on a long journey to the Indonesian island of Sumatra to study with the great master Serlingpa, not caring about the many hardships he endured on the way. Today we can travel to Indonesia by a very fast ship or by aeroplane, but at that time it took Atisha thirteen months to reach Indonesia. Once he arrived, he received the complete experiential instructions on both the seven-point technique and exchanging oneself with others from the master Serlingpa. He then practised for twelve years at his master’s feet, until he fully developed bodhicitta. Thus Lama Atisha came to possess both instructions — lineages: the seven-point technique and exchanging oneself with others. Although he held both lineages, Atisha would teach only the seven-point technique in public, to large assemblies of disciples, and would teach the instructions on exchanging oneself with others secretly to a select group of qualified disciples. When Atisha went to Tibet, he gave the instructions on exchanging oneself with others only to his principal disciple, Dromtonpa.

Later, the great Lama Tsong Khapa, the Protector of all beings, incorporated the two sets of instructions into a single practice consisting of eleven points. When you are receiving teachings on bodhicitta, you receive the two sets of instructions separately, but when you are actually meditating on bodhicitta — training your mind then you combine both instructions and meditate on the eleven points. Combining the two instructions into a single practice for the purpose of training the mind in meditation is said to be a particular greatness of the Gelugpa tradition.

In a prayer composed by Lama Pabongka Dorje Chang requesting to meet the doctrine of Lama Tsong Khapa, he wrote: “By merging the practices of the seven-point technique and exchanging oneself with others of the precious mind, this greatness which is not shared by others, may I thus be able to meet the doctrine of Lama Tsong Khapa.” “Not shared by others” means that this merging of the two practices devised by Je Rinpoche is a unique approach which is not found in other traditions.

I first received these teachings from the holy mouth of the incredibly kind Lama Pabongka Dorje Chang, when he taught the eight great lam-rim texts over a period of four months at Sera Monastery in Tibet. At that time I was very young. When he reached the point of explaining exchanging oneself with others, he gave teachings on The Seven-Point Thought Transformation. Later I received these teachings twice from the late Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche.

THE SEVEN-POINT CAUSE AND EFFECT INSTRUCTION

As for the seven points of the cause-and-effect instruction, one begins by meditating on equanimity and then proceeds through the following steps:

1. Recognising all sentient beings as one’s mother
2. Recognising the kindness of mother sentient beings
3. Repaying their kindness
4. Affectionate love
5. Great compassion
6. The extraordinary intention
7. Bodhicitta

The first six points, recognising all sentient beings as one’s mother and so forth, are the causes which give birth to the result, bodhicitta.

The way in which these realisations come about, step by step, is that bodhicitta, the thought of attaining enlightenment in order to benefit all sentient beings, arises from and must be preceded by a sense of responsibility. In Tibetan the term is “lhagsam”, which is sometimes called “extraordinary intention”, or “exceptional attitude”, or “universal responsibility” — it is a feeling of responsibility to benefit all sentient beings. For this intention to come about you must have a powerful wish for all sentient beings to be free of suffering — that is great compassion. For that to arise you must have developed affectionate love towards all sentient beings. At the moment we have affectionate love for our dear ones, but we don’t have affectionate love for those who are not dear to us. In order to generate this affectionate love for everyone, you must develop a deep sense of closeness towards sentient beings, and the way to do that is by recognising all sentient beings as your mother, recognising their kindness and generating the wish to repay their kindness. This instruction is called the cause-and-effect technique because the later points arise after having generated the preceding points.

You should not approach this practice with a short-sighted mind, thinking, “Oh, this practice is too advanced for me. It will require so much time, so much energy. I will not be able to develop such a precious mind.” This is not the right attitude. You should not have such fears because these instructions are very profound and powerful. If you continuously train your mind, step by step, with persistence, there is no doubt that you will succeed. Generally speaking, all the instructions from the old Kadampa tradition are very powerful and effective. On top of that, there are the instructions combined by the great Lama Tsong Khapa, whose experience was based on his special relationship with Manjushri, with whom he had direct communication. These instructions are extremely powerful and effective, so you should not think that they are too advanced for you and that you will not be able to develop bodhicitta.

EQUANIMITY

Before beginning to train your mind in the first step, recognising all sentient beings as your mother, you should develop the thought of equanimity. It is similar to painting a picture: if you want to paint a picture on a surface, you must first make sure that the surface is smooth and even and has no rough or uneven spots on it. In the same way, before you can train your mind in the meditation on recognising all sentient beings as your mother, you must make your mind even with equanimity towards everyone. In other words, you must learn to stop discriminating among sentient beings, feeling close to some and distant from others, and the way to do this is by developing equanimity.

Now I will explain the way to meditate in order to develop equanimity. Those of you who are familiar with these instructions, please meditate as I am explaining. Those who are new, please pay special attention and try to retain the instructions in your mind. All of you please try to have the intention to develop bodhicitta, thinking that you really must generate this realisation in your mind. As I mentioned before, these instructions of the Kadampa lamas are so powerful and effective, especially the instructions on merging the seven-point cause-and-effect technique and exchanging oneself with others as taught by Lama Tsong Khapa. So please be attentive and generate this strong intention: “I am definitely going to practise and develop bodhicitta in my mind.”

Visualise in front of you three people: first, someone who upsets you — just by seeing or thinking about him or her, your mind becomes unhappy. Next to him or her, visualise someone you love and are close to — just by seeing this person, your mind becomes happy. And next to that person, visualise a stranger, someone who is neither beneficial nor non-beneficial. When you think about these three people, you feel aversion towards the person you dislike, attachment towards the person who is close to you, and indifference towards the stranger.

Now, thinking about the person you dislike, ask yourself, “Why do I dislike this person? What is the reason I get so upset? What has he done to me?” You will realise that it is because he has harmed you a little bit in this life. At this point, you should think about the uncertainty of friends and enemies as explained in the lam-rim, in the section for the person of the intermediate scope. This is one of the disadvantages of cyclic existence: you cannot be sure of friends and enemies; sometimes a friend becomes an enemy and sometimes an enemy becomes a friend. Think in this way: “Although this person has given me a small amount of harm in this life for a very short time, in many previous lifetimes since beginningless time, this person has shown me great affection and has been very close to me for a very long time. The harm he has given me in this life is so small compared to the closeness and affection we have had since beginningless time, yet I treat him like my ultimate enemy, the ultimate object to be avoided. This is completely wrong!” You need to think in this way again and again in order to subdue your feelings of aversion towards this person.

Next to him is the person you feel close to, who makes you feel so happy as soon as you see him or her. You regard this person as your ultimate friend, the person who is closer to you than anyone else. You have so much attachment for this person you may feel that you don’t want to be separated from him or her even for a moment. If you examine the reasons why this is so, it is because in this life he has benefited you in some way such as with resources and so forth. On the basis of some very small benefits and for very limited reasons, your mind becomes so happy and excited. However, you should think, “Although in this life he has benefited me a little, he has not always been my friend. In many previous lifetimes since beginningless time, he has been my enemy. He harmed me so much that just by seeing him I felt very strong aversion. It is not reasonable for me to have so much attachment and desire for this person just because he has benefited me, is beneficial to me and will benefit me, because he has also been the opposite.” By thinking in this way over and over again, you can subdue your feeling of attachment.

Now turn your attention to the stranger. The attitude you have towards this person is: “I don’t know this person and I don’t care about him. He hasn’t connected with me in the past, he is not connecting with me now and he will not connect with me in the future, so who cares.” This attitude is also completely wrong, so you should think, “In this life, this person is neither an enemy nor a friend, but in previous lives, he was my enemy many times, and also many times he was my dearest friend, someone I was very close to. Therefore, it is completely unreasonable to be indifferent towards this person.” Just as you equalised your feelings towards the friend and the enemy, you should equalise your feelings towards the stranger by thinking in this way again and again.

Therefore when you meditate, you first think that there is absolutely no reason to be so upset and to feel so much aversion towards the enemy who has been your dearest friend so many times. You need to think about this again and again in order to subdue your aversion and equalise your mind towards this person. Likewise, think that there is no reason to be so attached to the person you are close to, your friend because he has been your enemy so many times. Think about this, again and again, to subdue your attachment and equalise your mind towards this person.

“When we perceive these three different people, we perceive them in terms of these three categories: friends, enemies and strangers. However, none of them exists in this way forever no one is a friend, enemy or stranger for all time. Therefore, they are all the same. There is absolutely no reason to feel an attachment towards one person, to feel aversion towards another, and to feel detached and indifferent towards yet another.

If we examine what they actually are, from their side, they are sentient beings. And they are all exactly the same in that they all wish to be happy and free from suffering. Thus there is not the slightest reason to discriminate between them with attachment, aversion and indifference. They are all exactly the same. You must come to this conclusion and meditate on it again and again. By meditating on this over and over again, you will reach the point where you actually develop equanimity towards all sentient beings. You will feel that they are all the same to you; your feelings towards them will be equal. This is the result that should come about.

Although you might recite every day the prayer of the Four Immeasurable Thoughts-“May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes; May all sentient beings be free from suffering and its causes” and so forth — until you have actually developed equanimity, in reality, it will be as though you are saying, “May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes and be free from suffering and its causes-but only chose I like and not those I dislike.” No matter how frequently and fervently you recite the Four Immeasurable Thoughts until you have developed equanimity, they are only words. They don’t become the actual Four Immeasurable Thoughts. Therefore, it is extremely important to develop equanimity, and even if you spent months and years meditating solely on equanimity in order to develop this realisation, it would be an extremely worthwhile way of practising meditation. If you can pacify your feelings of attachment and· aversion towards friends and enemies, it will be very beneficial for your peace of mind.

RECOGNISING ALL SENTIENT BEINGS AS ONE’S MOTHER

The next point, recognising all sentient beings as one’s mother, is actually the first step in developing bodhicitta. Lama Pabongka Dorje Chang said that this point is not easy and takes quite a long time to develop. However, it is crucial and indispensable, because only on the basis of this recognition can you develop the following steps. We cannot progress without it, so it is very important to give it a lot of attention.

In general, when you meditate you use perfect reasoning as well as quotations. Here, with this point of recognising all beings as your mother, it is very important to use reasoning. Although you can also develop the same understanding on the basis of quotations, there is a difference in the way the mind is activated on the basis of quotations and on the basis of reasoning — it is more powerful on the basis of reasoning. The specific reasoning to be relied upon here is the beginningless continuity of the mind.

First, you have to establish that the continuity of the mind is beginningless. Start by thinking that your mind of today is the result of the mind of yesterday. And yesterdays mind came from the mind of the day before yesterday. In that way, you go back, day by day. Each day’s mind is the result of the mind of the preceding day. Also, the mind of each moment is the result of the preceding moment. By going back in this way, you discover that the mind is a continuity. Each moment is the result of the preceding moment.

Continue to go back, all the way to the moment of conception, and think about how the mind of the newborn baby is also a continuity which needs a preceding moment of mind in order to be generated. The mind of the newborn baby is the continuation of the mind of the foetus which was in the womb of the mother. And if you continue to go back in this way, you will not be able to find a beginning. You cannot find a moment which you can point to as the beginning of the mind and say, “The mind began there.” This is because any moment of mind would need a preceding moment in order to be generated. In this way, you can establish chat the continuum of the mind is beginningless. There is no single moment of mind which you can point to as being the first.

Following these reasons, you conclude that the number of times you have taken rebirth is countless. Not only that, but in all those rebirths, just as in this life, you needed a mother. For one hundred rebirths, you would need one hundred mothers; for one thousand rebirths, you would need one thousand mothers, and so forth. Since you have had countless rebirths, you have had countless mothers.

So if you think very carefully about these points, you will realise chat not only have you had countless rebirths, you have also had countless mothers. Furthermore, although sentient beings are also countless, the number of sentient beings that exists is fewer than the number of mothers you have had. You have taken rebirth countless times in all of the different types of bodies, and the number of sentient beings you need to have been your mother is greater than the number of sentient beings in existence. Therefore, since the number of times you have taken rebirth and the number of mothers you have had is greater than the number of sentient beings, it means chat every single sentient being has been your mother not just once, but countless times.

Start with your own mother, thinking that your mother of this life was your mother countless times in previous rebirths. When you have gained some experience of this idea such that your mind is transformed towards your mother, then think about it in relation to your father-that your father has been your mother countless times. Following that, think about how your friends have been your mother countless times. Then think about your enemies — even your enemies have been your mother so many times. Finally, widen your scope to include all sentient beings-meditate on how all sentient beings have been your mother.

You have to meditate on this subject again and again over a long period of time. While you are training your mind in this subject, you should rely on the different lam-rim scriptures which explain various points and ways of meditating and can give you a lot of inspiration. You should request your spiritual teacher to give explanations to help clarify your mind, and you should also discuss the subject with your Dharma friends. By thinking in this way, again and again, you will reach the point where you realise that all sentient beings have been your mother, even down to a tiny insect-like ant. Even when you see a tiny insect you will feel certain that many times this being has been your kind mother, who took the greatest care of you and in whom you placed your trust. It is said that the great Atisha — who completely realised this point — would be immediately filled with a deep sense of respect whenever he met any sentient being. He would fold his hands and say, “Precious sentient being, so kind.”

RECOGNISING THE KINDNESS OF MOTHER SENTIENT BEINGS

The next step in the meditation is recognising the kindness of mother sentient beings. It is not enough just to recognise that all sentient beings have been your mother, you must also recognise the depth of their kindness. For example, your mother of this life was so kind, carrying you within her for nine long months from the time of conception, always being very careful about what she ate and drank, and doing everything with the sole thought of taking care of you. Even the fact that you are alive and are able to learn and practise the Dharma is completely due to the kindness of your mother, who carried you in her womb and took such good care of you since the time of conception.

She took good care of you while you were in her womb, and also after you were born. When you were born you were completely helpless, like a little bug, unable to do anything. Nevertheless, your mother created you as if you were a priceless jewel — continuously taking the greatest care of you, day and night, with no other thought in her mind than concern for your welfare. She fed you, bathed you, dressed you in soft clothing, took you here and there to make you happy, and even made funny faces or gestures to make you smile. Because of her constant feeling of love and concern for you, her mind was always full of worry that you might get sick or hurt-so much so chat she would have difficulty sleeping at night.

You learned how to walk because of the kindness of your mother — she would help you stand up and take your first step, then the second step, and so forth. You also learned how to pronounce your first words because of the kindness of your mother and also your father. As time went on, you were able to study and learn many other things, but only on the basis of knowing how to walk and speak, which you learned because of the kindness of your mother.

In the preceding step you realised that all sentient beings have been your mother, and with this meditation, you realise that not only has your mother of this present life been incredibly kind to you, but all the countless sentient beings have been just as kind.

REPAYING THEIR KINDNESS

The next step is generating the wish to repay the kindness of all mother sentient beings. Ask yourself: “Am I able to repay their kindness?” Then think: “I should be able to repay their kindness because I’m in such fortunate circumstances: I have met the Dharma, I have met perfect teachers, I have met the path, and I have all the right circumstances to practise. Therefore I must do as much as I possibly can to liberate them from their suffering and to bring them the happiness that they wish for. I must do this in order to repay their kindness.”

Of course, repaying the kindness of sentient beings also includes helping them on the conventional level, by doing as much as you can to give food to those who are hungry, drink to those who are thirsty, clothing and other material things. But the most important way of helping is by completely relieving all sentient beings of all their sufferings and giving them all the happiness that they wish for. You should bring this thought to your mind again and again.

AFFECTIONATE LOVE

The next step, affectionate love, is the kind of love that a mother feels when looking at her only child. When a mother looks at her child, he appears to her in a very beautiful way, and she feels great love for him. Here, you generate this same kind of affectionate love towards all sentient beings, perceiving all beings in a beautiful, glowing way.

Actually, if you generated the previous steps of recognising all sentient beings as your mother, recognising their kindness and wishing to repay their kindness, then you won’t need extra effort or extra thought in order to develop affectionate love. It will arise spontaneously, due to the force of the preceding realisations.

When you meditate on affectionate love, you also need to reflect on the fact that all sentient beings, although wishing to be happy, are completely devoid of happiness, especially pure, uncontaminated happiness. By meditating in this way, you generate the strong wish that all sentient beings possess happiness and its causes and that they actually abide in happiness. On top of that, you should also generate the wish that you yourself will make that happen. From the depths of your heart, request your lama to grant you blessings to be able to do this.

GREAT COMPASSION

The next step is great compassion. This is one of the special characteristics of the Buddha’s teachings, and Lama Tsong Khapa in particular placed a great deal of emphasis on it as a very special cause that gives rise to very special effects. Also, the great Chandrakirti, in the introduction to his Entering the Middle Way, pays homage to great compassion, saying that it is extremely important at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. In the beginning, it is the seed that enables you to enter the Mahayana path. In the middle, while you are engaging in the bodhisattvas’ practise of the six perfections, it is the very soul of your practice. In the end, it causes the result, Buddhahood, to ripen and it makes possible all the Buddhas’ wonderful deeds for the benefit of sentient beings. Therefore, great compassion is praised as being extremely important at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.

Ir is said that in the beginning, in order to develop great compassion, it is very beneficial to observe and reflect on the way a butcher slaughters an animal — cutting its throat, ripping out its insides, pulling off its skin. Using that as an example is an easy and powerful way to meditate on great compassion. Here in Singapore, there is a market where we go to buy animals to liberate. It would be extremely beneficial to go there and observe the situation, reflecting both on the animals which are being slaughtered and on those who are slaughtering them.

Once you have started to generate great compassion, then you reflect on the same meditations that you used while training your mind in the small scope section of the lam-rim, by thinking in detail about the sufferings of the three lower realms, the hells and so forth. However, this time you generate compassion by chinking of the sufferings of the specific sentient beings: the sufferings of extreme heat and extreme cold of the hell-beings, the sufferings of extreme hunger and thirst of the pretas, and the sufferings of the animals.

What is the measure or sign of having generated great compassion in your mind? It is that you feel towards all sentient beings the same wish for them to be free of suffering that a mother would feel for her only child. When a mother sees her child going through intense suffering, she feels an unbearable wish for the child to be completely free from this suffering. Feeling this same strong wish towards each and every sentient being is the sign that you have generated great compassion.

THE EXTRAORDINARY INTENTION

The next step is the extraordinary intention. This is when you have the feeling that you yourself, alone, have the responsibility of eliminating all the sufferings of all sentient beings, and bringing to them all the happiness that they wish for. It is the same sense of responsibility that a child would feel towards his or her mother — feeling responsible to make her happy and free from suffering. So when you feel that way towards all sentient beings and feel that you yourself alone will achieve this goal, then you have generated the extraordinary intention. It is “extraordinary” because it is more exceptional or supreme than the intention of the Hearers and Solitary Realisers, those who practise the individual vehicle.

The extraordinary intention is similar to being in the position of saving someone from falling off a cliff, where you feel responsible to save the person. In the same way, when you feel a deep sense of responsibility for eliminating the suffering of all sentient beings and for giving them all the happiness they wish for, that is an extraordinary intention. It can also be called the “exceptional attitude” or “universal responsibility”.

BODHICITTA

The next step is the actual generation of bodhicitta, also called “the generation of the mind”. This comes by reflecting, “Do I really have the capacity to accomplish this goal of eliminating all the suffering of sentient beings and bringing them every happiness? Actually, at this point, I can’t accomplish that even for one sentient being. And if I check who does have the complete capacity to accomplish this goal, it is only the Buddha. Only the Buddha has the right qualities, because of his power, his knowledge, and his capacity to accomplish spontaneously the benefit of all sentient beings.” At this point, you have to reflect on the qualities of Buddha as a worthy object of refuge, as you did in the lam-rim meditation of the individual of the small scope.

Following this, you generate the thought that you will accomplish the benefit of all sentient beings by achieving the qualities of Buddha yourself. This means that you generate the mind of bodhicitta, thinking, “I must achieve the supreme enlightenment in order to benefit all sentient beings.” This wish to become a Buddha is not just to abandon whatever has to be abandoned in order to achieve the complete purpose for yourself. Previously you generated great love and great compassion in order to achieve the benefit of all sentient beings, therefore it is for that purpose that you now generate the wish to become a Buddha.

You must also check: “Am I actually able to do it?” Yes, you are definitely in a position where you can become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings. In fact, there is no better situation than the one you are in now. You have a precious human rebirth, and you have met perfect teachers and the Mahayana path. This means that you are actually in the best situation to achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Furthermore, you have met the perfect teachings of the great Lama Tsong Khapa. By relying on these incredible teachings, many practitioners of the past, on the basis of having achieved a precious human rebirth, were able to achieve the supreme realisation in that very lifetime. Some individuals, such as the omniscient Gyalwa Ensapa, were able to achieve this realisation in an even shorter period of time — twelve years or even three years. These practitioners had the same basis-the precious human body and the other conditions-that you now have. Therefore you should feel a sense of confidence in having the basis that enables you to become a Buddha.

The contrived form of bodhicitta — the experience of bodhicitta which arises through effort-is known in Tibetan as “the bodhicitta which is like the outer layer of the sugarcane”. The uncontrived form of bodhicitta is when the thought of wanting to achieve supreme enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings arises spontaneously in your mind as soon as you meet any sentient being, no matter who he or she is. Having that uncontrived, effortless experience is the sign that you have achieved the actual realisation of bodhicitta. And once you have generated the realisation of bodhicitta, you earn the name “Child of the Victorious Ones”.

This concludes the explanation on how to generate bodhicitta by way of the seven-point cause-and-effect instruction.

Ribur Rinpoche 21.

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We really have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we only think of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

佛法的命根就是闻思修行
益西彭措堪布

值遇释教精华之法时,未成随诸散乱魔引转,

恒时精进闻思修诸业,此为佛法命根故当知。

前三句联在一起表达一个完整的意思。

大恩上师说:“在遇到佛教精华之法的此时,心没有被散乱魔引转,而恒时精勤地做听闻、思维、修习的法业。这是佛法命根的缘故,一定要认识到。”

“值遇释教精华之法时”:遇到释迦佛所传的具有心要的妙法时,实际上是进入了佛陀教法的光明宝山,到处都是具精华的妙宝,这时最重要的就是一心求取法宝。

“未成随诸散乱魔引转,恒时精进闻思修诸业”:就像入了宝山之后不是无意义地散乱,而是通过各种途径一心精进地取宝,又像有志气的学生上了大学后,不去打牌、跳舞、逛超市,在窗明几净的图书馆里潜心研读。学习佛法同样是“业精于勤,荒于嬉”。这个业就是闻思修的法业。“散乱”为何叫做魔呢?《四十二章经》说:“制心一处,无事不办。”就是把心力集中在一点上,就会激发智慧的火花。心被散乱魔支配,不能集中心力,什么佛法都不能成就,所以散乱是障碍佛法成就的魔王。

“恒时精进闻思修诸业”:“恒”就是日复一日、年复一年地勤学苦修,朝于斯,暮于斯,日就月将,很多年坚持不懈地努力。世间人忙碌奔波,都是向外追求名利财色。修行人是修自己的心。所做就是闻思修,这是修行人每天应该做的唯一法业。“诸业”,就是诸多的十法行,背、听、诵、读都属于“闻”,目的是熏习,把佛法的文句反反复复地熏习熟练;思维、观察、研讨都是“思”;串习就是“修”。

命根是在哪一点上比喻呢?比如人体有很多根——眼根、耳根、鼻根、舌根、身根……,其中以命根为最主要,有了它,生命才能存在,才有人体气血脏腑的运行。如果命根断了,一切生命活动就会立即停止,所以命根是维系生命存在的根本。佛法的命根为闻思修,闻思修一断,佛法就灭亡,慧命会中断。一个修行人不作闻思修,那就已经退出了修行人的行列,因为他相续里没有了佛法,见不到任何佛法方面的真实运作,实际上和世间人的相续没有两样。从整个佛教来看,如果佛弟子不重视闻思修,佛法就会在世间越来越衰弱,就逐渐变成末法,变成没有法的内涵,最后法会灭绝,在世间连三宝的名字都听不到。所以,摒除散乱,专心致志地闻思修,这是佛法的命根所在。只有如此,才能续佛慧命、住持佛法。

《入行论》中讲,即使长夜修行念诵、苦行等等,如果散乱而修,佛说没有义利。所以一切散乱的善行,果是很微少的。《修信大乘经》中说:“善男子,由此异门,说诸菩萨,随其所有信解大乘,大乘出生,当知一切皆是由其不散乱心正思法义之所出生。”用这一句来证明上师的这一颂,恰如其分。经里说得清楚,菩萨所有从信解大乘而出生大乘功德,都是从心不散乱如理思维法义而生起的。所谓不散乱,就是我们的心除了缘圣法之外,不去缘其它世间八法。破坏我们闻思修的魔王就是散乱心。心不随散乱转,静下心来,一心缘圣法的文句和意义以观慧观察抉择,这才能生起一切大乘功德。所以,这就是佛法的命根所在。上师归摄为一颂告诉我们这个大关要。所以要牢记:“值遇释教精华之法时,未成随诸散乱魔引转,恒时精进闻思修诸业,此为佛法命根故当知。”

更深层地理解,这一颂的深化就是弥勒菩萨《辨中边论》中所讲的随法行,那里面说:“随法行二种,谓诸无散乱,无颠倒转变,诸菩萨应知。”什么是随法的正行?一个是止,就是除了所缘的法义之外不向其它处散乱;一个是观,就是以胜观无颠倒地观见诸法的自性,这就是随法正行。前面止是后面观的所依处,没有止也不可能有观。所以,如何让佛法住世?如何心随法而修行?就是要把上师这一颂的教诲贯彻到底、奉行到底。

倘若不具闻思修三慧,无能践行解脱妙道故,

勿以仅披僧衣出家相,心生满足意乐诸心友。

上师教诲我们说:诸位心友!如果不具有闻思修的智慧,那就如同无眼的盲人一般,无力行走解脱的妙道,因此你们切莫只以披着僧衣的形象就心里满足。

这里,前两句是从反面显示三慧和行解脱道的关系。三慧就是由听闻所生起的智慧,由思维所生起的智慧,由修习所生起的智慧。行解脱道是把以往那个念念造成生死的方式反转过来,向着出生死的方向,去积聚出生死的因缘。本来外面也不存在什么解脱道。道是一个比喻,是说你的心开始按这样来行,解脱道和六道本是相反的两个方向,心上一定发生了不同以往的转变,才可能走解脱道。怎么能完成转变呢?那就一定要有闻思修的智慧。没有闻思智慧,我们不会发现自己以往的想法、做法,都是错误、都是轮回。认识不到这个颠倒,那所谓的解脱,连怎么走、往哪个方向走都不知道,怎么走得了解脱道?每天不还是在生死道上狂奔吗?所以,很多事都是换汤不换药,形式上从这一套换成了那一套,心相续却还是老样子,造成这种状况的根本原因,就是不具备闻思修的智慧。所以,虽然外面现出家人、修行人、大居士的形象,里面却还是搞世间名利的一套。

闻思修的智慧是修行解脱道最重要、最根本的因。以闻慧和思慧的眼睛才能看到解脱道的路线。以修慧的眼睛才能现证解脱道。从获得小乘解脱来看,一个要有出离心,一个要有通达人无我的智慧。但是不作闻思修,“三界周遍是苦性”这一点就认识不到,进一步想从三界苦海出离的心就引发不出来,这样在意乐上并没有离开原先一念又一念希求轮回圆满的心态,还是那个乐著生死的心,一念接一念地流浪生死。所以,只有对苦谛闻思修,对三界是苦性看得越来越清楚,心越来越厌离,积聚到一定量时,心再也不往轮回的方面想,这时候百分之百地内心向往解脱,一心朝解脱的方向走,这就是从随顺生死的路上跳脱出来,义无反顾地踏上了解脱道。“人无我”的方面也是如此,没有慧眼,决定是入不了的。那个顽固的我执,会让你念念缘着自我转,处处以自我为中心,这样以我执引发而造作,都成了流转生死的业,怎么能获得解脱?

像这样,要知道有闻思修三慧才能修出出离心和无我智慧,才能把原先念念生死的道一刀截断,掉转头来进入解脱道。这就是所谓的逆生死流。

谈到大乘一切种智解脱,那就更高,需要发菩提心、受菩萨戒、实际行持六度来超越生死、涅槃二边的束缚。其中发心、受戒、六度万行,每一步都离不开闻思修,不然就只落于形象,修证是决定谈不上的。

由以上的理由,上师说:你们不要只以一个穿僧衣的外相,就心里满足。这是远远不足够的。解脱道要内心拥有闻思修的智慧才能实行。想一想,内心里什么闻思修的智慧都没有,解脱道一步也前进不了。凭这样能解脱、成佛吗?能截断无始生死流转吗?能把无量众生救出生死吗?所以,闻思修是佛法的命根。凡是佛弟子都要知道这是需要昼夜精进努力的法业。

Khenpo Yeshe Phuntsok Rinpoche (益西彭措堪布) 18.

In our lives, we may often make mistakes, often out of negligence, and sometimes even unknowingly. However, making mistakes is not useless — there is actually a lot that we can learn from our missteps if we reflect on them and use them as an opportunity to improve ourselves. Of course, it also depends on how we make our errors. If we are making mistakes out of carelessness, then we should simply take more care with our actions. However, if someone makes mistakes even when being careful, then this is a good chance to learn and improve oneself in the future. Firstly, mistakes give us opportunities to explore our own shortcomings. Having recognised our shortcomings, we can then become more conscientious of our actions in the future. Finally, we can acquire the knowledge of correctly distinguishing between what is right and what is wrong. Making the same mistakes again and again will lead us nowhere, but proper reflection on our mistakes and changing our behaviour as a result can lead us to better prospects. Sometimes we might think that it is easy to judge others and pretend to know others very well. However, knowing the true personality of others is difficult because what we are able to see from appearances does not give us the total picture of a person. Even if we have known someone since we were young, it is still hard to learn everything about that individual as many characteristics may be hidden deep inside. Therefore, it would be really wise and safe from our side not to jump to conclusions.

— Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche

Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche 77.

Preparing to Die
by Andrew Holecek

Death is one of the most precious experiences in life. It is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The karma that brought us into this life is exhausted, leaving a temporar­ily clean slate, and the karma that will propel us into our next life has not yet crystallised. This leaves us in a unique “no-man’s-land,” a netherworld the Tibetans call bardo, where all kinds of possibilities can materialise. At this special time, with the help of skilful friends, we can make rapid spiritual progress and directly influence where we will take rebirth. We can even attain enlightenment.

Buddhist masters proclaim that because of this karmic gap, there are more opportunities for enlightenment in death than in life. Robert Thurman, a translator of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, says, “The time of the between [bardo]… is the best time to attempt consciously to affect the causal process of evolution for the better. Our evolutionary momentum is temporarily fluid during the between, so we can gain or lose a lot of ground during its crises.”

But even for spiritual practitioners, death remains a dreaded event. We dread it because we don’t know much about it. We do not look forward to death because we don’t know what to look forward to. For most of us, death is still the great unknown. It is the ultimate blackout, something to be avoided at all costs. So we have a choice. We can either curse the dark­ness or turn on the light.

Death is not the time for hesitation or confusion. It is the time for confi­dent and compassionate action. Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, “This is when people must do something for the person who has died; this is the most crucial time for the person.” The Tibetan Book of the Dead says, “This is the dividing line where buddhas and sentient beings are separated. It is said of this moment: in an instant, they are separated; in an instant, complete enlightenment.”

The moment of death, like that of birth, is our time of greatest need. The beginning and the end of life are characterised by vulnerability, bewil­derment, and rich opportunity. In both cases, we are stepping into new territory — the world of the living or the world of the dead. The person who is dying, and his or her caretakers, have an opportunity to create the conditions that will make the best of this priceless event.

Tibetan Buddhism is not the only Buddhist tradition that teaches the bardos, but it offers the most complete set of instructions for the bardos. The central orienting view in the Tibetan world is that of the three death bardos: the painful bardo of dying, the luminous bardo of dharmata, and the karmic bardo of becoming. The painful bardo of dying begins with the onset of a disease or condition that ends in death. In the case of sudden death, this bardo occurs in a flash. It is called “painful” because it hurts to let go. The luminous bardo of dharmata begins at the end of the bardo of dying. For most of us, it passes by unrecog­nised. Dharmata means “suchness” and refers to the nature of reality, the enlightened state. It is fantastically brilliant, hence “luminous.” It is so bright that it blinds us and we faint. We then wake up dazed in the karmic bardo of becom­ing. Suchness is gone, and confusion re-arises as karma returns to blow us into our next life.

While the Tibetan Buddhist tradition offers many helpful guidelines, they are not meant to restrict the sacred experience of death. The map is never the territory. Even though death and rebirth are described in extraordinary detail by the Tibetans, dying is never as tidy as the writ­ten word. It is important for the dying, and their caregivers, to study and prepare. But prepara­tion only goes so far. Fixating on the idea of a “good death” can paradoxically prevent one. If we think that our death will follow a prescribed order and that perfect preparation leads to a perfect death, we will constrict the wonder of a mysterious process.

Surrender is more important than control. A good death is defined by a complete openness to whatever arises. So don’t measure your death against any other, and don’t feel you have to die a certain way. Let your life, and your death, be your own. There are certain things in life that we just do our own way.

The vast literature about conscious dying is therefore both a blessing and a curse. At a certain point, we have to leap into death with a beginner’s mind and a spirit of adventure. Visions of the perfect death create expectations, a model that we feel we have to match. If experience doesn’t match expectation, we might panic: “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” “I didn’t plan on it ending this way.” Death is about letting go. That includes letting go of any expectations. The dan­ger in learning too much about death is that we end up pre-packaging the experience, forcing real­ity into the straightjacket of our concepts.

The best approach is that of the middle way. Learn as much as you can. Study, practice, and prepare. Then drop everything and let this natu­ral process occur naturally. Throw away the map and fearlessly enter the territory. It’s like prepar­ing for a big trip. We want to pack properly, review our checklists, and ensure that we have enough money and gas. But when the trip starts, we just enjoy it. We don’t worry about doing it perfectly. Some of our greatest travel adventures happen when we take a wrong turn or get lost. Having thoroughly prepared, we relax in know­ing we have everything we need.

Practices to Prepare You for Death

SHAMATHA MEDITATION

Two central themes are repeated throughout The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The first theme is “Do not be distracted.” This relates to shamatha, calm abiding meditation, which is the ability to rest your mind on whatever is happening. The stability gained through shamatha enables you to face any experience with confidence. In life, and especially in death, distraction is a big deal. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” Shamatha removes the misery.

Shamatha is a fundamental form of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is a powerful preparation because as mindfulness matures into its more advanced levels, it does not disintegrate at death. If we cultivate proficiency in this one practice alone, it will act as a spiritual lifeline that we can hold on to during the bardos, and that will guide us through their perilous straits.

One of the best preparations for death is learning to accept it and to be fully present for it. Being fully present is the essence of mindfulness, which is developed through shamatha. Because death isn’t comfortable, it’s difficult to be with. As Woody Allen said, “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Most of us aren’t there for our deaths and there­fore make it more difficult. To get a feel for this, recall how hard it is to be fully present when you’re sick. Most of us just want out.

Even for an advanced practitioner, it can hurt when the life force separates from the body. Resistance to this hurt, to death, or to any unwanted event is what creates suffering. We can prepare to embrace the discomfort of death by embracing every moment with mindfulness now. Replace opposition with equanimity. As Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche says, when we are a dying person, we should be a dying person fully. Don’t try to be a living person when living is not what’s happening.

Mindfulness is initially cultivated by practic­ing shamatha with form or referential shamatha. This type of shamatha uses the reference of the body, the breath, or an object to steady the mind. The idea is to use a stable form — while we still have one — as a way to stabilise the mind. When physical stability disappears at death, mental sta­bility becomes our primary refuge.

When we die, the anchor of the body is cut away and the mind is set free. If we’re not pre­pared for this freedom, we may panic. Imagine being tossed out of a rocket into outer space. The ensuing freak-out impels us to grasp at any­thing that can re-establish a sense of ground. Like catching ourselves just before taking a bad spill on a patch of ice, we reflexively reach out to grab on to anything that keeps us from falling. This grasping reflex can spur us to take on an unfortu­nate form — and therefore an unfortunate rebirth.

The fruition of shamatha is the ability to rest your mind on any object for as long as you wish and to do so without distraction. Wherever you plop your awareness it stays there, like a bean bag hitting the ground.

Shamatha with form develops into formless shamatha. This is the ability to rest your mind on whatever arises, not just a specified form. You take off the training wheels and ride smoothly on top of anything.

Formless, or non-referential, shamatha is important because when the body drops away at death, we no longer have any stable forms upon which to place our mindfulness. There’s noth­ing steady to refer to. At this groundless point, instead of mentally thrashing about trying to find a form to grasp, formless shamatha allows us to rest on any experience without being swept away. It’s not a problem if we don’t have a body to come back to. We simply place our minds on whatever is happening and gain stability from that. Formless shamatha is a lifesaver that keeps us from drown­ing in a bewildering ocean of experience.

The simplicity of mindfulness belies its profundity. It is the gateway to immortality. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “If by eternity is understood not endless temporal dura­tion but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present.”

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Padmasambhava agree. They taught the four ways to relate to the experience of time, emphasising the fourth moment. The first three moments relate to the conventional experiences of past, present, and future. The fourth moment is timeless and there­fore immortal. It’s beyond the first three. The fourth moment is the immediate experience of the bardo of dharmata, which transcends time and space. We don’t have to die to experience the deathless dharmata. It lies quietly between each thought — not just between each life.

Even though it transcends the first three moments, the only way to enter the fourth moment is through the inlet of the present. Nowness, in other words, is the funnel into eternity. B.K.S. Iyengar, the modern yoga mas­ter, says, “The yogi learns to forget the past and takes no thought for the morrow. He lives in the eternal present.”

If you can’t see this in the gap between your thoughts, you can get a feel for it when you’re immersed in an activity. If you’re one hundred percent present, whether it’s playing with your kids, being at a great concert, or engrossed in work, time seems to stand still. You may come out of such an experience, look at the clock, and be startled by how much time has flown by.

This is a concordant experience of the fourth moment — the entry into the realm where time, and therefore you, disappear.

These magical states, akin to what psychologists call the state of “flow” and athletes refer to as the “zone,” don’t have to be accidental. The zone of the fourth moment can be cultivated by training the mind to be present. In this regard, as Zen teacher Baker Roshi puts it, mindfulness makes you “accident prone.” The more you practice mindfulness, the more you stumble into the zone. Those who achieve shamatha can rest their minds in meditative absorption, or samadhi, and taste immortality. They have tripped into the deathless zone of total presence.

Despite the complexity of the bardos, the meditations that prepare us for them don’t need to be complex. Simplicity and relaxation are two key instructions for the bardos. Don’t underesti­mate the power of mindfulness. The Indian mas­ter Naropa said, “Since the consciousness [in the bardo] has no support, it is difficult to stabilise mindful intention. But if one can maintain mind­fulness, traversing the path will be trouble-free. Meditating for one session in that intermediate state may be liberating.”

VIPASHYANA MEDITATION

The second main theme in The Tibetan Book of the Dead is that “recognition and liberation are simultaneous.” This relates to vipashyana, the practice of insight meditation. Shamatha pacifies the mind; vipashyana allows us to see it. By seeing our mind more clearly, we’re able to recognise how it works. This helps us relate to it skilfully. In the bardos we’re “forced” to relate to our mind, simply because there’s nothing else. Outer world is gone, body is gone, so mind becomes reality. Through insight meditation we discover that whatever arises in the bardos is just the dis­play of our mind. That recognition sets us free.

Just as recognising that we’re dreaming while still in a dream (lucid dreaming) frees us from the suffering of the dream, recognising that we’re in the bardos frees us from the suffering of the bar­dos. Before we became lucid, the dream tossed us to and fro like Styrofoam bobbing on turbulent waters. But once we wake up to the dream — while still being in it — the tables are suddenly turned. We now have complete control over an experience that just controlled us. Whether in dream or death, this level of recognition and ensuing liberation is cultivated with vipashyana, or “clear seeing.”

Instead of taking the terrifying visions of the bardo to be real and getting caught in the result­ing nightmare, we can wake up in the bardos. We do this by recognising all the appearances to be the display of our own mind. This recognition is exercised in meditation. The meditation instruc­tion is to label whatever distracts us as “think­ing.” For example, a thought pops up of needing to buy some milk. We mentally say, “thinking,” which is recognising that we have strayed, then return to our meditation. Our clear seeing melts the distracting thought on contact. Labelling and liberation are simultaneous.

Unrecognised thought is the daytime equivalent of falling asleep. Each discursive thought is a mini-day dream. Drifting into mindless thinking is how we end up sleepwalking through life — and therefore death. Saying “thinking ” in our medi­tation is therefore the same as saying, “Wake up!” We wake up and come back to reality — not to our dreamy visions (thoughts) about it. If we can wake up during the day and be mindful, we will be able to wake up in the bardo after we die. This is what it means to become a buddha, an “awakened one.” And this is the fruition of shamatha-vipashyana.

Earlier we said that in the bardos, mind (thought) becomes reality. What do you come back to if there is only mind? You come back to just that recognition. As in a lucid dream, you realise that whatever arises is merely the play of your mind. This allows you to witness whatever appears without being carried away by it. Since you no longer have a body, or any other material object to take refuge in, you take refuge in rec­ognition (awareness) itself. From that awakened perspective, it doesn’t matter what happens. It’s all just the display of the mind.

TONGLEN

Tonglen, which is the practice of taking in the suffering of others and giving out the goodness within ourselves, is a strong preparation for death. It is especially powerful for a dying per­son to practice and for others to do when some­one has died. The rugged quality of this practice can match the toughness of death. The more I’m around death, the more I find myself taking ref­uge in tonglen.

The reason we suffer during life, or death, is because we are selfish. When we think small, every little irritation gets big. Conversely, when we think big, difficulties get small. Tonglen is about thinking and feeling big. To think big, we should first reflect upon our good fortune. We have the precious dharma to guide us through the bardos, and we have the potential to transform death into enlightenment. We are incredibly fortunate to die held by the teachings of the Buddha, the awak­ened one who transcended death.

Now think about the millions who are dying without being held. Imagine all those who are dying alone, under violent conditions or with­out physical or spiritual refuge. We can reduce our anguish by putting our death in perspec­tive. Tonglen instils that perspective and brings greater meaning to our death.

If you take a teaspoon of salt and put it into a shot glass of water, the water is powerfully affected. It gets super salty. If you take the same amount of salt and put it into Lake Michigan, it has virtually no effect. Tonglen transforms our mind from a shot glass into Lake Michigan. On every level, suffering is the result of the mind’s inability to accommodate its experience. Lama Zopa Rinpoche says:

Try to die with this motivation. If you die with this bodhichitta thought, your death becomes a cause of your enlightenment and a cause for the enlightenment of all sentient beings. Live your life with this precious thought . . . . As you get closer to death, you should think, “I’m experiencing death on behalf of all sen­tient beings.” Try to die with this thought. In this way, you are dying for others. Dying with the thought of others is the best way to die.

— from Wholesome Fear, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Kathleen McDonald

The Indian sage Shantideva said, “If you want to be miserable, think only of yourself. If you want to be happy [even in death], think only of others.” Tonglen is therefore a way to practice the good heart of bodhichitta. When asked what practice he would do during death, Trungpa Rinpoche once replied, “Tonglen.”

REVERSE MEDITATIONS

Tonglen is part of a family of practices we could call “reverse meditations.” They are called reverse because with these practices we do things that are the opposite of what we usually associ­ate with meditation. Reverse meditations expand our sense of meditation and prepare us for death. They are based on the tenet that if you can bring unwanted experience into the sanctuary of sanity provided by meditation, you can transform that obstacle into opportunity. This approach applies to life and especially to death. If you can bring death onto the path, you can flip it into enlight­enment. The most unwanted experience trans­forms into the most coveted experience. Tonglen is a classic reverse meditation because it takes in the darkness of others and sends out our light. This is the reverse of how ego operates.

Pain meditation is a reverse meditation that prepares us for the painful bardo of dying. In addition to the emotional pain of letting go, there is often physical pain associated with disease. To prepare for this pain, we voluntarily bring it into our experience now, on our terms.

Reverse meditations are done within the con­text of shamatha meditation. This provides the crucible for establishing a proper relationship to the unwanted experience. For the pain medita­tion, after doing shamatha for a few minutes you can bite your lip or tongue, or dig your fingernail into your thumb, and explore the sensation. Go into the pain. What is pain? What is it made of? What happens if I dissolve into it? Reverse medi­tations are not pleasant. But neither is death. Do them for short sessions, and remember that mas­ochism is not the point.

While the pain may not disappear, the suffer­ing does. Pain meditation helps us erase what Trungpa Rinpoche called “negative negativity,” which is the resistance to the pain. Negative negativity is like being shot with two arrows. The first arrow hurts you physically. If you can stay with that pain and relate to it directly, it will still hurt, but not as much as when you bring in your storylines. The second arrow is the mental commentary that transforms simple pain into complex suffering.

By becoming one with the pain, there is no one to hurt. And the character of the pain changes. This practice radically alters our relationship to discomfort. It reverses it. The next time you get a headache, turn that pain into meditation. Watch the pain transform before your eyes.

Reverse meditations require diligence. We would rather sit in tranquillity than plunge into pain. But to establish a healthy relationship to unwanted experiences, we have to spend time with them. It’s always easier to do so on our own terms. We may think we’ll be able to relate to pain or death just by having read about it, but that attitude is seldom realised when we actually hurt or die.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche says:

It is very difficult to transform an experience of intense suffering if we have no basis for work­ing with pain to begin with. Therefore, it is ini­tially necessary to work with minor pains and illnesses and discover how we can bring these to the path. Then, as more severe sicknesses come to us, we are able to bring those to the path as well. Eventually, we become capable of bringing even the most debilitat­ing conditions to the path.… If you become accustomed to looking at the experience of pain — if that looking is genuine and you can rest your mind in the pure sensation — then you will see a difference in how you experience the pain.… When a greater sickness strikes us, we will not be hit by it in the same way. It will not be such a problem or a shock. We can face even the pain and suffering of dying with greater confidence because we are facing familiar territory instead of the unknown. When the actual moment of death arrives, we will be able to look at that pain and transform it.

— from Mind Beyond Death, by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Having done this pain meditation for years, I now relate very differently to the sting of an insect bite or a stubbed toe. Instead of my knee-jerk aversion to pain, it almost becomes spiritual. My throb­bing toe reminds me to meditate, which alters the intensity of the pain. I’m begin­ning to bring pain onto my path.

Another reverse meditation is to cre­ate as many thoughts as possible. Instead of calming your mind down, whip it up. Again, start with shamatha, then make your mind as stormy as possible. Think of yesterday, think of tomorrow, visual­ise Paris, New York, or the pyramids. Do so as quickly as you can. Now is your chance to do what you always wanted to do on the meditation cushion: go hog wild mentally. This is particularly helpful for the karmic bardo of becoming, where the gales of karma rearise and blow us into our next life. By becoming familiar with those winds now, we’ll be able to sail in stormy seas later.

Notice that you can sit quietly in the centre of this voluntary cyclone and not be moved by it. You’re practising how to hold your seat in the midst of men­tal chaos. Don’t buy into the thoughts and emotions. Just watch the upheaval. This practice expands the sense of sha­matha because even though your mind is howling, you’re able to maintain inner peace. As the sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “It is disinterestedness that liberates.”

Do the meditation for a minute. Rest in shamatha, then do it again. Because reverse meditations are intense, short sessions prevent resentment. Don’t underestimate the power of short medi­tations. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche says, “We usually view anything small as unimportant and not really worth doing. For example, if we only have five min­utes to meditate, we tell ourselves, ‘Oh, five minutes is nothing. It is not enough to change my life. I need to practice for at least an hour.’” But with meditation, short is sweet. It’s like running. You don’t start with a marathon. You start with short runs and work your way up. Short sessions repeated frequently are just as effective as longer sessions done infrequently, if not more so. And when it comes to mixing meditation and post-meditation, which is how to transform your life into meditation, short frequent sessions reign supreme.

Another meditation is to place your­self in a loud and overly stimulating envi­ronment, then work on staying centred. Flip on the television, crank up the ste­reo, turn on the alarm clock, and sit with the cacophony. Go to a loud and crazy place and meditate. If you have kids, this environment is already part of your life. One of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s sons once complained to him about how hard it is to meditate in Kathmandu because of all the noise and distraction. Rinpoche said to him, “If you can’t practice under these conditions, how will you ever prac­tice in the bardo?”

As with all reverse meditations, find the silence in the noise, the stillness in the motion. Even if you never do these meditations, just knowing about them helps you reverse your relationship to unwanted experiences. The next time you’re in a crazy environment, like a subway station or Times Square, you might remember these instructions and transform the mayhem into meditation.

I frequently travel to India, a land of intense chaos. Instead of getting irritated when the flies, heat, noise, beggars, and pollution assaults me, I try to relax into the pandemonium. I reverse my usual defensive approach to these unpleasant situations and bring them onto my path. There are times when I just can’t do it and run away. But even then, I remember the spirit of these strange meditations and try to convert my automatic aversion.

All the reverse meditations culminate in equanimity, which is the ability to relate to whatever arises without bias. At the highest stages of the path, one no longer has any preference for chaos or calm, samsara or nirvana. Everything is experi­enced evenly. Pleasant experiences are not cultivated; unpleasant ones are not shunned.

As we have seen, distraction is one of the biggest prob­lems in life and death. Therefore, one of the most important instructions is “do not be distracted.” The reverse medita­tions are a formidable way to end distraction because they bring distraction onto the path. They show us how to reverse our relationship to distraction. Instead of feeling that our meditation is constantly being interrupted — by a thought, a noise, or even life itself — the reverse meditations bring these interruptions into our practice. They become our practice. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche said that if you’re in retreat and hear a noise that makes you angry, it’s a sign that you’re unable to bring distraction onto your path.

Since fear is common in the bardos, Khenpo Rinpoche recommends watching horror movies as a way to work with it. This is a potent reverse meditation for all the bardos, but especially for the bardo of becoming. Because we don’t rec­ognise the appearances of this bardo to be projections of our mind, the farther we go into it the more terrifying it becomes. The fear becomes so piercing that it can force us to grasp an unfortunate rebirth just to escape the intensity of our own minds. Establishing a relationship to fear now helps us relate to it then and can prevent such a birth.

I find this reverse meditation really challenging. The films are wretched, violent, and extremely difficult to watch. I usu­ally have to look away, or pause the movie, to bring any sense of meditation to it. My normal response is tremendous revul­sion. But as contrived and almost silly as this practice appears, it does evoke a host of nasty feelings. It allows me to become familiar with the shadowy side of my being, a dark side that comes to light in the bardo of becoming. Horror movies give me the opportunity to befriend horrible feelings I would oth­erwise never encounter.

A key instruction in life or death is to join whatever we experience with meditation. But without actually practising this, it’s hard to do. An unwanted experience arises, habitual patterns immediately kick in, and we run from the experience or relate to it poorly. The reverse meditations allow us to replace these bad habits with good ones. When difficult situ­ations arise, wisdom kicks in instead of confusion.

Lotus 138.

When Lord Buddha spoke about suffering, He wasn’t simply referring to superficial problems like illness and injury, but the fact that the dissatisfied nature of the mind itself is suffering. No matter how much of something you get, it never satisfies your desire for better or more. This unceasing desire is suffering; its nature is emotional frustration.

— Lama Thubten Yeshe

Lama Yeshe with students, 1970

如何念阿弥陀佛?
卓格永丹嘉措仁波切

我们经常遇到很多人念阿弥陀佛,发愿往生极乐世界的信徒很多,在藏地也是一样,年纪大的不方便磕头等修行者也很适合这个法门。所以,我们今天在这简单地介绍一下往生极乐世界需要具备什么样的条件。去西方极乐世界的四种因。

去极乐世界的第一个因:观想极乐世界,观想阿弥陀佛及其眷属。

佛经中记载:佛陀对阿难说,谁能祈祷阿弥陀佛或者反复观想阿弥陀佛,此人功德无量。若能发菩提心,并将此发心和功德回向极乐世界,临命终时,此人必定往生西方极乐世界。在西方极乐世界中,亲闻阿弥陀佛讲法,并且永不退转,定能成就。(“我作佛时,十方众生,闻我名号,发菩提心,修诸功德,奉行六波罗蜜,坚固不退,复以善根回向,愿生我国,一心念我,昼夜不断,临寿终时,我与诸菩萨众迎现其前。经须臾间,即生我刹,作阿惟越致菩萨。”《佛说无量寿经》)

在佛陀住世的时代,虽然科学没有现在这么发达,天空中没有飞机,地上没有汽车、火车,但是那时的人却有着不一般的智慧。几千年前,印度有印度教、瑜珈,然后有佛教。在中国,也有儒家思想、道教等。西方还有基督教等,这些宗教或多或少可以满足人们的精神需求。而现在虽然科学发达,但是人们精神上却越来越缺少智慧,人们自认为聪明,实际上不过是一些世智辩聪。所以,物质上看似丰富了,而精神上却越来越失落和迷惘。说明了现代人与过去的人智慧上的差距。

昔日,佛陀说几句话,弟子就能开悟,并且当场就能得到成就,这就是他们的因缘殊胜和智慧无上。佛陀传四谛法时,弟子中许多人当场就成就了阿罗汉。现在不要说传四谛法,不间断地传一百天的法,得到的结果是:上师,腿好痛啊。身体的痛苦无法断除,心的进步就很少有,更不要说得阿罗汉的果位了。所以说过去的人与现代的人在智慧上有很大的差距。

一、观想极乐世界

先讲观想极乐世界。观想有两种方式:

1. 从思维极乐世界的功德方面去观想。

* 首先阿弥陀佛的发心和过去的成就。
* 其次阿弥陀佛的大愿和十方诸佛菩萨的加持力。

2. 观想极乐世界的殊胜庄严。

什么叫极乐世界?极乐世界与其它的世界有什么不同?

在很久远很久远以前,无法去计算的一个时间里,有一个叫“尼更皇旭”的佛出世,佛有一个侍者叫“曲杰涌义”。这个侍者是一位比丘,有着至高无上的智慧,而且心很清净。他在佛前发愿,我要为一切众生成就佛果位。为一切众生就是发菩提心的起始。

又过了几千个大劫之后,他投生于一个能够圆满具足做人的一切条件的地方。他发愿:我希望创造一个清净的世界。他于是为一切众生发了四十八个大愿。这四十八愿在《佛说无量寿经》中介绍得非常详细。

再过许多劫之后,他又投生为一个王子,当时也有一位佛陀住世,王子与国王以及国民都恭敬供养佛陀,王子又再于佛前发愿:为一切众生成就佛的果位。这时,佛陀给予王子授记并预言:多少劫之后,你当成佛,佛号阿弥陀佛。‘阿’就是无量的意思;‘弥陀’就是寿命。阿弥陀佛意即无量光无量寿。

在释迦牟尼佛出世前十劫,阿弥陀佛已成佛,那么,也就是说,阿弥陀佛的四十八愿已经实现,极乐世界已经形成。在过去的十劫中,阿弥陀佛在不断地传法,现在依然在传法,在继续度化众生。十劫,在人间看来是一个数也数不清的时间,但在极乐世界的时间来看,才过了十天而已。所以,我们赞叹阿弥陀佛的功德。在极乐世界的发愿文中,有一句“唉玛吙”,这是赞叹的意思。赞叹佛陀的无始劫以来的发愿和功德。以上简单地介绍了佛发愿的过程。

关于西方极乐世界,世人有太多的问题。总之,不要太执着佛经字面上的意思,要对佛经有一个正确的认识。

那么,极乐世界到底在哪儿呢?以释迦牟尼佛成佛的世界来计,在地球的西方。西方有固定的方位吗?没有。怎么去寻找?全世界没有一个共同的西方,你可以理解为,自己所在地的西边就是西方。有多远?无法计算的世界以外。距离是相对的,对于业力很重的人来讲,西方极乐世界非常的遥远。而对于一个业力很少即将成佛的人来讲,西方极乐世界就在你的眼前,非常的近。极乐世界有多高?如深圳海拔为几米,北京的海拔为几十米,在藏地的海拔三千多米以上,生活在同一个世界却不在一个高度上。那么,西方极乐世界有多高?比我们的现实世界高一层。

我们的地球,有“四时、寒暑、雨冥之异”,有“大小江海,丘陵坑坎,荆棘沙砾、铁围、须弥、土石等山”,有诸多障碍。人心也有障碍,人心不平,充满“众苦、诸难、恶趣、魔恼之名”(《佛说无量寿经》)。但在极乐世界中,“唯以自然七宝、黄金为地,宽广平正,不可限极,微妙奇丽,清净庄严”,没有环境的障碍。我们的肉眼只能看到眼前,而到了极乐世界,眼睛可以看到一切,完全断除了身体的障碍。

有人问,到底存不存在极乐世界?我们要相信佛是真语者实语者。凭什么相信?你们没有去过拉萨,也没有去过某个寺院,如果你们对某人有充分的信任,他说我的房里有某些东西,房间有多大等等时。通过他的话,我们可以在心中建立一个大概的印象,也可以有所感受。等到你去了,就可以亲自予以证明。我们因为业力无缘目睹极乐世界,但是释迦牟尼佛亲眼所见,而且佛陀以神通让阿难也亲眼目睹极乐世界。阿难见后,对佛陀言:“彼佛净刹,得未曾有,我亦愿乐生于彼土”(《佛说无量寿经》)。所以,只要你信佛所言,西方极乐世界一定存在。

如果你执着眼见为实,对未曾亲眼所见的东西统统作否定,那我们对未去过的地方都要否定吗?(比如)藏区我们未去过也要否定?中国之外的其它国家也要否定?地球之外的一切星球也要否定?岂不是很荒唐吗?所以说,不能因为你无法亲见就做否定。

二、观想阿弥陀佛

极乐世界中,有无量无边的菩萨环绕着阿弥陀佛。其间有两个重要的大菩萨,一个是观世音菩萨,一个是大势至菩萨(藏语中称金刚手菩萨)。

阿弥陀佛现比丘相,一面双手,双盘,红色身,双手持钵。阿弥陀佛威神光明,最尊第一,胜于日月千万亿倍。所以,无量寿佛,亦号无量光佛(藏语称“俄华美”,寿命和光无量无边的意思)。阿弥陀佛对众生有着无量无边的慈悲心,所以示现红色的身体。红色的身体代表了佛内在的爱心,这是一种无分别无执着的大爱,即菩提心。佛陀的头顶有肉髻,凡夫甚至六地菩萨都永远看不到佛陀的头顶。证明佛陀的功德无量无边,无法衡量。佛陀的脚心中各有一个法轮。佛陀的相貌具足三十二相八十种好,证明佛陀的功德至高无上。佛陀的两只手,一只代表智慧,一只代表方便。 佛跏趺而坐,代表智慧和方便双运而得到这样的成就。所以,我们不能只修空正见而不修方便法。反之亦然。佛左手持钵,钵中装着甘露水,代表佛以甚深广大的佛法度化众生,以清净的戒律摄持而讲法。佛现比丘相,代表佛陀用戒律和清净心度化众生。阿弥陀佛坐于有无量无边的五色或八色的莲花瓣上,莲花座由八只孔雀抬着,莲花瓣上有洁白、圆满的月轮,阿弥陀佛跏趺坐于其上。

阿弥陀佛的身后是棵菩提树。这棵菩提树具有广大的功德,树上缀满花和果,还有无数的如意宝和各种珍宝、铃铎装饰其间。凡夫一看见这棵菩提树,眼睛的障碍立刻断除。如果树影照到凡夫的身上,身上的病苦立刻消除。总之,观想菩提树可以增长我们的清净心。所以,这并非一般的菩提树。以上是观想阿弥陀佛的方式。

阿弥陀佛外在的身体和极乐世界的环境有着无量的功德,那么佛内在的成就又是怎样的呢?

凡夫以世俗之理去推,阿弥陀佛的西方极乐世界那么遥远,我一个凡夫根本看不到阿弥陀佛的心,我在这里求阿弥陀佛,佛能听得见吗?佛能帮助到我吗?这是我们凡夫人的心态,也是我们的疑虑。但是,佛具有身、口、意不可思议的功德。“身”体化现无数无边的佛,而且相等于虚空;“语”言也具有不可思议的功德,如一言一句一字能讲授无数不同的语言、和意义等等; “意” 具有不可思议的功德,如一切众生的每一个念头佛是了如指掌,只要因缘具足何时都在显现。

天空中的太阳光是没有分别心和私心的,它平等地照耀万物。只要你自己不躲避阳光,无论你是什么人,乞丐也好,亿万富翁也好,阳光都会无分别地照耀你。同样地,只要对阿弥陀佛有坚定的信心,对极乐世界有强烈的愿心,阿弥陀佛的佛光和加持力一定能与你相应。

这一切的关键,是众生一定要祈求佛的加持力。众生不向佛祈求,就好像一个整天躲在房间里的人,却埋怨太阳为什么不发光,得不到阳光。其实,不是太阳不发光,也不是阳光不照射你,是你没有走出去,因为你躲在房中的缘故。所以,众生不祈求阿弥陀佛的加持力,就不可能得到佛的加持的力量。

阿弥陀佛内在的成就体现在阿弥陀佛无量无边的光上。佛是“光中极尊”,无论你处于远还是近,只要你有信心,阿弥陀佛的加持力就可以与你相应。这证明了阿弥陀佛内在的成就和内在的功德不可思议。

三、观想观世音菩萨和金刚手菩萨

阿弥陀佛的左右两边分别是观世音菩萨和金刚手菩萨。阿弥陀佛的右边是观世音菩萨,阿弥陀佛的左边是金刚手菩萨。

首先,观想观世音菩萨的功德。

要说明一点,藏传佛教中诸佛菩萨的形象,并不是西藏人认为这样好才画成这样的。若去印度朝拜,你们会看见佛菩萨的形象与藏传佛教的完全一致,一点没有改变。西藏在这方面的传承非常清净,完全保留了原来的面貌,与佛像完全一致。

观世音菩萨白色身,代表了菩萨内在的成就。因为观世音菩萨具有胜过一切菩萨的悲心,以强烈的悲心度化众生。

汉地关于观音菩萨也流传着许多的故事。在五浊恶世中,观音菩萨以各样化身应世,“若天若龙,若男若女,若神若鬼”,皆以大慈大悲之心度化众生,所以,观世音菩萨“与娑婆世界有大因缘”(《地藏经》),尤其是白衣观世音菩萨深入人心,中国人无人不知无人不晓。白色,洁白,不杂一丝黑的杂质,表五浊恶世的黑暗从来就没有影响观世音菩萨的内在的悲心。所以,白色就是证明菩萨的内在功德与成就的,这是表法。

观音菩萨的左手拿六瓣莲花,手执莲花的茎,手势代表着三宝。右手迎接众生。手执莲花,代表心目中永远关注着众生的苦难,永不放弃任何一个众生,对众生的慈悲永远不变。莲花盛开,代表智慧永远增长。

然后,观想金刚手菩萨,也就是大势至菩萨。

金刚手菩萨代表智慧,其内在成就上具有空正见的智慧。空正见永不变的表现就是菩萨的身体是蓝色的。金刚手菩萨也手执莲花,莲花中有一个金刚杵,代表十方诸佛菩萨对他身口意的灌顶,证明他具足十方诸佛菩萨的智慧和加持力。一只手手掌朝向众生,代表着,只要众生不放弃,菩萨永远迎接众生;只要众生不放弃,菩萨永远会度化众生。

阿弥陀佛呈坐相,两位菩萨则是立姿。因为两位还是菩萨的身份,而且他们时时刻刻想着众生,也在不断地度化众生。所以,他们是站立的。

四、观想其它的菩萨及阿罗汉的功德

极乐世界中有多少位菩萨?释迦牟尼佛众弟子中,大目犍连神通第一,假设他愿意,天空中三大阿僧祗劫的星星有多少,他都能计算出来,但是极乐世界中有多少位菩萨?“彼目犍连等所知数者,如毛尘水。所未知者,如大海水”,他无法计算出来。所以,菩萨阿罗汉等,数量不可为计。

在极乐世界中,观音菩萨、金刚手菩萨,还有众多菩萨众多阿罗汉众多比丘等,皆环绕着阿弥陀佛。还有铺满莲花,莲花中生起有缘的善男信女等等,等着阿弥陀佛在传授佛法,极其壮观。

观想极乐世界,可以只观想中间的阿弥陀佛,也可以再观想两旁的大菩萨,还可以再观想周围的众多菩萨等,也有观想佛菩萨身口意的功德。这些观想,目的在培养我们的心:对阿弥陀佛有坚定的信心,对西方极乐世界无丝毫的怀疑。

这种信仰不是迷信。迷信是盲目的信,不用你去思考,但是佛教在你没有修习前,一定要让你思考。在充分的闻思之后,才能进入修法阶段。修法和闻思一定要分清楚。

当你修法的时候,你不能有一丝一毫、一刹那间的邪见。什么叫邪见呢?在阿弥陀佛的修法中,邪见就是对阿弥陀佛身口意的功德有怀疑,对极乐世界的存在有怀疑,甚至想极乐世界与娑婆世界没有区别,或者根本就不存在极乐世界的想法,就叫邪见。一刹那间我们凡夫是感受不到的,当你问自己,我是否有邪见了?不仅有,而且很重。大家一定要相信佛菩萨的力量和功德以及佛菩萨的加持力,不要存有一丝一毫的怀疑。

以上是观想极乐世界、阿弥陀佛及菩萨等的方式。这是去极乐世界的第一个因。

去极乐世界的第二个因:积累资粮。

佛经中说:有福报者必定心想事成。所以,我们要积累去极乐世界的资粮。

用论点来说,西藏的高僧们怎么解释资粮?佛法中正确的资粮是什么?密法中虽然有非常多积累资粮的方式,但是净土法门主要从七个方面积累资粮,即七支供。

用七支供来修法,一方面是为了积累去极乐世界的资粮,另一方面,七支供每一支都有一个要断除的烦恼对境,即在积累的同时断除烦恼。

一、皈依,断除傲慢。

每人心中或多或少都有傲慢之心。有的是从身体方面生起的傲慢,有的是从财富方面生起的傲慢,有的是从聪明才智生起的傲慢。这些傲慢给我们造成了极大的损害。只要是傲慢都会成为我们修行的障碍。

我们生活上的损害在此不谈,仅谈修法上的损害。傲慢的人听法是听不进去的,因为他自认为了不起,心里满满的已容不下任何东西。譬如,在高耸的山顶上,雨水是没办法停留的。相反,大海是最低的地方,却可以容纳百川。人心也是如此。傲慢不仅让我们学不到对方的优点,而且只要傲慢存在心中一天,我们去地狱的时间就提早了一天。

那有没有办法断除傲慢呢?有!皈依和祈祷就是断除傲慢的最好方式。真信的皈依需要渴求加持,忏悔罪业,对皈依处恭敬无比,这样才能生起真正的恭敬心,同时也消除了傲慢的烦恼心。

首先:以皈依的方式断除傲慢。

一般我们讲皈依是皈依三宝,在净土法门里,我们皈依阿弥陀佛。前面我们讲了如何培养对阿弥陀佛的信心。阿弥陀佛有不一般的身、口、意的功德,也有不一般的智慧。所以说我们应该对阿弥陀佛充满信心。

信心分为四种:

第一种:清净信。希望得到佛的果位。

第二种:欲乐信。听到阿弥陀佛的功德之后,心里非常的舒服及清净,心自然地就清净了。

第三种:胜解信。相信阿弥陀佛有这样的功德,自己的身口意以及生命也投靠阿弥陀佛并生起信心。

第四种:不退转信。对阿弥陀佛的功德生起永不退转的信心,永不退转地依靠阿弥陀佛,不仅是阿弥陀佛, 把阿弥陀佛看成十方诸佛的显现, 视为上师三宝的综合体,这样才能使我们的信心提升,最终得到阿弥陀佛的殊胜加持。

不管通过以上哪种方式,我们都必须培养起对阿弥陀佛的坚定信心。没有信心,无法得到阿弥陀佛的加持力。为什么这样讲?虽然镜子可以照出我们的模样,但如果镜子上有划痕或不干净,镜子照出的人也就模糊不清。镜子越明亮,照出的人也越清晰,镜子的作用也越能得到发挥。同样的,我们的心越清净透明得到的加持越多,我们对阿弥陀佛有信心,我们一定可以得到佛的加持力。所以我们要皈依阿弥陀佛!恭敬阿弥陀佛,与阿弥陀佛的慈悲、智慧、和清净真如相应。

那么,什么叫皈依?

皈是归来的意思,依是依靠,我们的身心从此依靠阿弥陀佛。什么叫恭敬?是不是鞠个躬就叫恭敬呢?也不一定。恭敬需要从身、口、意三个方面来体现。

从身的方面来说,听法或做功课观想阿弥陀佛时,盘腿而坐,不能斜着歪着,也不能站着,应该做端身正心。因为身体上的脉和心有着密切的关系,身体不直不正,心也跟着乱。听法时身体端正,目不斜视,心不为外境所动,气定神清,然后才能心定。

从口的方面来说:平常我们喜欢说别人的过错,也会说挑拨离间的话等,与口有关的过错我们常犯,但是在那个当下,除了念诵佛号以外闭口不言。这就是口方面的恭敬。

从意方面来说:阿弥陀佛时时刻刻能看到我们的心,所以,我们的心里不能有贪嗔痴慢疑等烦恼,保持心的清净。心中烦恼不断,就是对阿弥陀佛的不恭敬。

所以说,身一定要恭敬礼拜阿弥陀佛,口要念佛号,意要心中观想阿弥陀佛身口意的功德,其它的妄念都要断除,这叫恭敬。

其次:以祈祷的方式断除傲慢。

我们常常口念阿弥陀佛圣号,这还不够,还要了解,阿弥陀佛是诸佛菩萨的总集,因为阿弥陀佛心中的空性圆满清净和十方诸佛菩萨的空性圆满清净是无二无别的,从空正见的角度来看是无法区分的。所以说,我们观想阿弥陀佛,就是观想十方诸佛菩萨们,甚至和上师三宝是一,不是二;我们祈祷阿弥陀佛,就是祈祷十方诸佛菩萨。祈求他们能断除我和一切众生的烦恼,并能圆满地得到佛果位。希望我们能成为您。这是密法修行中常常祈祷的方式。

千万不要认为我们一个凡夫怎么可能成为佛?是不是太不现实不合常理?不是的,凡夫完全可以成佛,一点也不夸张,因为众生本来具有佛性或如来藏。显宗只讲到众生是有佛性的,众生的心是光明的等,但是怎么去寻找光明的心却没有讲到。在密法中不仅讲人有佛性,而且有具体的寻找佛性和光明真如的方式方法,修法非常详细。但是在这里我们暂且不说,想了解的可以阅读已出版的《前行修法细说》。通过我们大概的了解,众生能成佛一点也不夸张。

我们可以这样来祈祷:希望阿弥陀佛加持我们,我等一切众生早日能断除烦恼,早日能成为如您一样的阿弥陀佛。

但是,我们不能太执着于一个佛的名号或者修一个法上面;这是要断除烦恼或执着的概念。阿底峡尊者说过:印度人容易成就。为什么?因为印度人知道,十方诸佛菩萨可以成为一,祈祷一个佛就祈祷了十方诸佛菩萨。他们有这个智慧。而西藏人就非常执着,比如:这是我的上师,永不变;那个是我的本尊,永不变。执着于一个,同时起很多分别念,所以他们无法修一个法就圆满一切法,因他执着于这一个,并没有去了解佛的无边无际的功德。

所以,我们也不要认为我要拜多少多少的佛才好。我们要知道观想阿弥陀佛就是观想一切诸佛菩萨,这是一种智慧;这种智慧可以在修法上运用。阿弥陀佛就是十方诸佛菩萨总集,他的身口意代表了十方诸佛菩萨们。所以,修好了净土法门,也就修好了一切法门,通达了一切法门。认识到这点非常重要。不仅是净土法门,所有的法门都是一样的。

又有人问,如果无量无边的众生都祈祷阿弥陀佛,每个众生名字不同、相貌不同、国籍不同、性别不同,等等,阿弥陀佛能知道谁在祈祷吗?几个人同时照镜子,这些人可以同时反映在镜子中。镜子就像阿弥陀佛的心,阿弥陀佛圆满了一切法,具足天眼法眼慧眼,佛的心是通达无碍的,遍知一切的,所以你完全不必要担心你所问的这个问题。因为,佛或者阿弥陀佛具有身口意不可思议功德;不能从我们凡夫人的角度去理解佛的功德,这一点很重要。

那么是不是人人都可以祈祷阿弥陀佛?是的。是不是人人都可以达到目的?不一定。是阿弥陀佛有分别心吗?不是。因为菩提心是不分任何众生,不分高低层次,是平等的。问题在于祈祷者本身业力的不同,所以祈祷的结果也就不同。

佛经里讲:只要众生至心相信阿弥陀佛,至心皈依阿弥陀佛,一定能往生极乐世界,但有两种人除外。

第一、“唯除五逆“,犯了无间罪的人。

什么是无间罪?出佛身血,杀阿罗汉,破合和僧,以及杀父、弑母。众生若犯有无间罪,命终时不用经过中阴身,气一断,立刻坠入金刚地狱。

地狱不是用来吓唬世人的,我们现实都能亲眼看到。大家去市场上看看青蛙被活活剥皮的场景,在厨房里把活蹦乱跳的虾倒入滚烫的沸水,把活着的蟹放入蒸气腾腾的蒸屉,等等,还有许多残忍的杀生,那不就是真正的地狱吗?

地狱不一定在某一个地方,地狱就在你身边。什么叫身边呢?只要你造作了恶业,断掉了这一口气,你立刻就在地狱中!所以,大家不要把地狱当作故事,一定要真实地看待,这样我们才能有利于精进修行。

有些无间罪虽然现在犯不了了,但相近的无间罪还是有的。伤害父母罪过也不轻。虽然释迦佛已入灭,但是令大恩上师身上出血或者说恩师的坏话,也是接近无间罪。诽谤道友也是同样,同时听上师传法的同学们都是金刚道友。这些都是大家需要小心谨慎的,一旦违犯,害处不堪设想。

第二、“诽谤正法”,谤佛谤法的人。

什么叫谤佛谤法?自认为自己所学是最高的法门,轻视其它的法门,即学密的轻视修禅的,或者参禅的诋毁学密的、念佛的等,这已经是在谤法了。所以说,无论在什么情况下,只要与法有关的,决不能谤。而且不能执着于自己的教派,这也是谤法的一种表现。太执着于自己的教派成了一种贪,原本解脱道的因成了流转于轮回的因。尤其是,最简单或者很容易地犯皈依戒,皈依的戒律中有明显提出对三宝生起恭敬心,甚至佛像的碎片、法的一个字、僧的袈裟的一块布都要和三宝一样恭敬。 

以上两种人得不到阿弥陀佛的加持力,肯定去不了极乐世界。所以大家一定要注意不要犯这样的过错。只要不犯上述两种错误,我们一定能得到阿弥陀佛的加持力。

那么,犯了以上两种罪,是不是永远没有机会去极乐世界了呢?不是,他通过忏悔可以清净罪业之后,亦能同样的往生。但是,时间、力量等方面必须要超过一般人的修持,所以也是很难的。

祈祷的同时,还要结合观想,才是圆满的祈祷。

观想我的前方是阿弥陀佛,表面上是阿弥陀佛,实质上是佛与你的上师无二无别。阿弥陀佛的周围环绕着十方诸佛菩萨。我们的左边是我们的亲生父亲,右边是我们的亲生母亲,前面是鬼、魔和仇人等,一切众生围绕在我们的周围。我们皈依阿弥陀佛,所有的众生也同时和我们一起皈依阿弥陀佛。四周的环境也是严净清丽,庄严精美。

合掌,手掌放到额头上方,观想手掌中间有一个如意宝,心里祈祷:从现在起,直至我成佛之前,我的身口意依靠您,希望您能把我的身所造作的一切业力断除掉,希望我能得到您这样的金刚身,并为众生能做出一切功德,消除一切烦恼。

然后,手掌向下移到喉间并祈祷:希望我能得到如您一样的声音及语加持,希望断除我口造作出的一切罪业。希望能得到如您一样的金刚语,并为众生能做出一切功德,消除一切烦恼。

手移到胸口并祈祷:希望能断除我的心所造作的一切业力。希望我能得到如您一般的圆满意乐,得到光明清净圆满,并为众生能做出一切功德,消除一切烦恼。

然后我们的五体(额头、手掌心、膝盖)投地,代表的是:我从五个方面(即身口意三门再加上佛的功德和方便)礼拜佛,断除我身口意造作的所有的业力,希望能得到佛的五身(色身再加上心就是五身);希望我能得到佛的圆满的法身,希望我能成为您;希望所有的众生能去到西方极乐世界。

然后开始念诵祈祷阿弥陀佛的佛号。阿弥陀佛有不同的名号,汉地弟子用念“南无阿弥陀佛”或者“阿弥陀佛”两种方式祈祷阿弥陀佛。

念诵完,坐于座位上开始回向。

以上是用皈依祈祷的方式积累资粮。

皈依是从恭敬、祈祷和观想三方面来讲的,如果圆满具足了这些功德,那么在皈依的同时就能消除一些傲慢,最终彻底消灭一切傲慢。

二、供养断悭吝

人人都有悭吝之心,悭吝的对治力就是供养。
关于供养,有两种不同方式的供养:

第一种供养:实物供养。我们拥有的一切甚至看到的一切,所有的东西,只要你认为是美好的、美丽的、珍贵的东西,统统都可作为供养品。

首先,你可以供养家中你认为是最好的东西。为什么要供养?因为:一可以有很大的功德,二可以逐渐减少你的贪心,也可以放下你的执着。否则我们的贪嗔痴会越来越增长。

有的人自己喜爱吃什么就给佛供什么,反正到时候是自己来享用这些供品。这样做可以吗?可以的。因为是佛的加持力而接受。这里有必要强调的是,你供水果给佛时,心中一定要放弃为了你自己吃水果而供养,你供养的一刹那水果与你已没有关系,否则你的供养是不清净的。然后,当你再拿回来的时候,是作为佛菩萨的加持力而接受。否则随便地从佛台上拿取来吃,这叫拥有三宝的财产,是有过失的。而作为三宝的加持力而拥有就如法了。这些都是由心态上的改变而改变是。所以,起心动念是很重要的。

另外,路边的鲜花,清新的空气,清澈的流水等,都可以用来供养佛。因为,供养这些时我们自然不会有贪心存在。佛前为什么经常供水呢?因为一般来说水容易取得,所以,大家不会有舍不得之心。也因不会起不舍之心,能让你积累很大的功德。

前面讲了四种情况会失毁功德——没有回向,错误的回向,宣扬自己的功德以及有后悔心。这说明,我们做任何善事,要么就不做,做就不能有舍不得的心。所以,在做善事积功德之前,一定要谨慎思量:做善事有功德,但做了以后我会不舍得吗?我会后悔吗?一定要问自己,因为自己最清楚自己。

会后悔的话,那就减少一点。本来要出一百元,你会后悔的话,减少一些。人心是很容易改变的,只要你稍微调整一下就不会后悔。人心就像一架机器,电脑坏了,你稍微调一下就好了,很简单。同样的,你心里有烦躁的情绪或者是后悔的时候,就稍微地减少一点。钱虽然减少了,但功德更大,而且很圆满,以后都没有烦恼。我们凡夫或者是一个修行人在没有达到一定的境界前,必须要小心谨慎。

我们的心只有通过我们自己下功夫,没有任何人可以帮到我们。所以,供养的时候要从正反两面仔细思量,想到这样做后,即使出现最坏的结果,我也绝不后悔。有这个决心就去做。做了,有不可思议的功德。包括我们去放生也应该这样思量。

那么,供养的时候,不能想我虽然富有,但是我只能出这么多,就像企业不得不给国家缴税一样,不心甘情愿,能少则少。不能以这样的心态去供养,不要当作一个任务。供养不一定要钱财,只要你具足清净心恭敬心,哪怕在路上看到一块漂亮的石头都可以供养。因为在佛的眼里,金子和石头是无二无别的。

昔日莲花生大士在印度的时候,西藏的国王派使者前往迎请,带了大量的金子供养莲花生大士。莲花生大士拒绝了,他用手碰了一下地,整座山都变成了金子。所以,在佛的眼里,不存在土地和黄金的区别,都是无二无别的。所以,只要我们没有分别心,不要认为石头低劣,只要你认为它很干净,同样可以供养。

供养时,一些细节和礼节一定要注意。

供养前一定要洗手,尽量不要说话,说话时容易有口水沾在供品上不干净,要干干净净地供养。另外,供养品一定要你认为是最好的,不能把自己都不要的东西用来供养。还有,偷盗来的东西不能供养。

其次,我们的身口意也可以供养。我们烦恼的根就是我执,我执就是由身体而造成的,有了身体才有了我执,所以,为了减少我执,或者说为了容易放弃我执,我将身口意供养给三宝,从此以后,我的快乐或痛苦都依靠佛,都交给佛。这样去供养能逐渐减少我执,对治我们的悭吝。连身体都可以供养,还有什么不舍得的呢?

第二种供养:最能体现佛法的慈悲和智慧,叫意幻供养。这样通过观想来供养,穷人也可以做大供养。虽然我不能拥有汽车珠宝等,但是我可以通过观想,供养大千世界的奇珍异宝。

这样做算不算是偷盗的行为呢?不是。偷盗一定是在为自己过得更好的发心基础上的行为,而供养时我并没有这种发心。我的出发点是什么?我想到了阿弥陀佛的功德以后,我个人的力量不够,所以我就首先观想珠宝等这些东西,让观想的对境在我的心中,然后再供养三宝,供养阿弥陀佛。这种供养方式既简单方便,又有很大的功德,所以应该常常地做意幻供养。

为什么要供养十方诸佛菩萨们和阿弥陀佛?是不是佛菩萨需要供养或者贪这些东西吗?完全不是。但是佛菩萨为什么要接受我的供养呢?为了众生,所以佛接受。此话怎讲?因为通过供养,才能增长众生的福德,同时让众生放下所执着的钱财、享乐、生命等,众生才有机会远离娑婆世界,脱离轮回。这是一方面。

另一方面,去极乐世界是有条件的,“不可以少善根福德因缘得生彼国”(《佛说阿弥陀经》),供佛是大功德,是积累福德因缘的善巧方便,所以,为了众生的福德因缘佛才接受供养,并非佛需要供养。

三、忏悔断无明

无明的对治力就是忏悔。

我们因为无明而造恶业,而造业之后因为不会忏悔所以就有业力的存在。所以,现在我们必须用忏悔的方式消除我们心中的无明。

忏悔的方式不仅在藏传佛教中有,汉传佛教也有。藏传佛教中有最殊胜消除烦恼的方法,就是通过四力(依止力、破恶力、恢复力、对治力)来忏悔我们过去现在未来的一切罪业。佛经上说:无论你过去做了多少的罪业,只要你具备了这四力,所有的罪业可以完全彻底地忏悔干净。

四力为:依止力、破恶力、恢复力、对治力。

第一、依止力:忏悔的对境,是忏悔自己想到的以及没有想到的一切罪业。

因为无始以来我们因无明的缘故,不断地造作恶业,而且从未意识到这些是罪业,更未认识罪业的严重性。因此,在不断累积的罪业之上,我们同样还会继续不断地造作罪业。那么,大家忏悔时一定要想到无始劫以来造作的十恶业——身造成的杀生、偷盗、邪淫,口造成的两舌、妄语、恶语、绮语,心造成的贪、嗔、痴等罪业以及对众生造成的伤害,从这些方面去忏悔。

总的来讲,在阿弥陀佛等十方诸佛菩萨们面前,要认识到自己的错误,认识到自己无始劫以来从身口意造作了数不清的罪业,所以我请求佛菩萨,能够消除过去我等众生所造的一切罪业。以这样的一个心去祈祷佛的加持力。这就是依止力。

第二、破恶力:我们心里要有一个坚定的心,从此我的身口意再也不做恶。纵遇命难,也不再做恶。

我们一定要知道,个人所造的罪业,伤害的只有自己,因为承受果报的最终还是自己。这些罪业越来越蒙蔽住我们的本心,看不到本心我们永远是个凡夫身,不能停止地流转于轮回;在轮回中,只能感受暂时的快乐和长久的痛苦,或者说,只要在轮回中,痛苦就永远不断。

第三、恢复力:我们在这里一定要祈求阿弥陀佛和菩萨们,加持我等一切众生的罪业立刻消失。我们的目标要求一定要高,一定要立刻消除。这是一种修法的方式和窍诀,并不代表你的罪业真的就没有了。这一点一定要清楚。密法修法时一定要这样观想:我的罪业消除了,我是清净的。这是一种修法的方便和智慧。这种方法是为了让你断除修法心理上的障碍,自己不再是一个罪人的时候,你可以勇敢地靠近佛、观想佛;你认为你还是罪人时,你的心本来不清净,加上这样的一种心态,更加无法靠近佛菩萨。

第四、对治力:观想阿弥陀佛、念阿弥陀佛圣号和观想极乐世界。若当下你清净了,清净的当下应该抓紧时间观想。因为我们的心是不稳定的,当下虽然有一点清净,过一会儿就又不清净了。所以当下立刻观想极乐世界或者阿弥陀佛。

忏悔要重复地进行。因为我们的罪业不断地重复地做过,所以我们的忏悔也要重复地做,这样忏悔才有效果。

四、随喜断嫉妒

什么心态称其为嫉妒心呢?看到别人在做某件事,而且做得特别好;或听说对方在做什么事并做的不错时,心理产生不恭敬的心或者不舒服的感觉;或者说听到别人好,心里有种不舒服的感觉。这就是嫉妒心。

这种嫉妒心对你有没有好处呢?一点好处都没有。因为当下你不舒服而痛苦,长远的也是更严重的,它会令你堕落到恶道中。所以,我们听到别人好,应该产生欢喜之心,即使你自己并没有跟他一样好。因为我们是发过菩提心的修行人,为了一切众生我愿意付出一切代价的,这是在佛菩萨面前的发愿。那么在我们付出前对方就好了,我们应该更高兴、更满意,而不是不舒服。从修法的角度来讲应该这样想。可是我们不是这么想的时候,应该反思自己的心态,若不好立即改正。

这样想不仅仅当下内心快乐,而且还有诸多益处。比如说别人完成了十万个礼拜,我们却并没有任何的付出,但是当我们听到这件事情后,我们心里非常地随喜、赞叹,那么,我们同样的可以得到他的十万个礼拜的功德。既然不用付出还有功德,我们为何不去随喜所有的善事呢?这就是大乘道修行殊胜的地方。

很高兴在座的各位都有一个习惯,听到好事就合掌,说:随喜随喜。这真是一种很好的习惯,不仅压制克服了嫉妒心,而且充满了欢喜心,皆大欢喜,何乐而不为?这也是我们佛教界的荣幸,也是人类的骄傲,我这里也随喜回向我们共同的善缘。因为,世间法的功德,出世间法的功德,都是我们随喜的对境;发菩提心而做的任何事都可以成为出世间法。

什么叫世间法?发心为自己而做的任何事,或做功德夹杂了世间八法,统统是世间法。比如在事前本来是发心为一切众生,但是在做事情的过程中又产生了为自己的杂念,虽然前面发了菩提心,但是不能成为出世间法。

什么叫世间八法呢?世间八法为:对自己稍有损益即生喜怒的世间八事:利、衰、誉、毁、称、讥、苦、乐等八法。

我们常常随喜菩萨,希望自己成为菩萨,只要那个当下你真正发出了为一切众生的心,你已经是菩萨了,当然不代表你是真实的菩萨。那个当下你虽然有菩萨之心,但是你能不能保持这样的心态呢?不能,所以你还不是一个真实的菩萨。

真正的佛法是心法,所以我们要改变我们不正确的心,尤其是嫉妒心,寻找我们本有的光明之心,所以,我们随喜所有的功德,时时刻刻,点点滴滴,包括一个善良人遇见一个老者,牵着他的手过马路。有人说看见这样的人和事会感动得掉眼泪。这确是值得赞叹的善心善行。这些都是要随喜的对境,也是要永远保存流传的品德。在这个时代,中华民族传统的优秀品德已所剩无几了。毁灭很容易,几千年的东西几年就可以毁灭,但是若再想恢复,就需要几十年甚至上百年的时间。传统的文化是非常值得推广和发扬的,孔子的儒家教育可以作为学佛人的基础,但是不能作为修法。

随喜赞叹的对境非常广泛,只要不是坏事,哪怕是一个微笑也值得赞叹。因为在现代这个社会里,笑一笑也是很难得。你对陌生人微笑,别人会当你是怪物。末法时期的认定,就是通过这些方面来体现的。过去值得赞叹的事情,现在变成了一件怪异的事情,证明这个世界和社会的变化,不是朝向好的健康的方向,而是世风日下了。以上讲了嫉妒心的对治力:随喜的心。

五、请转法轮断谤法

为了对治谤佛谤法的业力,我们就要请佛菩萨讲经说法。佛菩萨的智慧德能,一般众生不知道,也不会祈请。知道的人,有这个机缘的人,应当要代一切众生请佛说法。转法轮就是说法,唯有佛法能觉悟一切众生。

释迦牟尼佛最初成佛时,七七四十九天都没有传法。佛说:虽然我得到了甘露水一样的法,但是无人可识,我也无处可讲。所以,佛只好独自静坐于树林中。如果无人请法,佛陀很快就会入涅槃。人间无人知晓佛陀的觉悟,而天人知道了。于是,帝释天和大梵天两位天王,一位拿着海螺,一位拿着法轮,来到佛陀面前请求传法。佛陀第一转法轮就给五比丘和无量无边的天人阿修罗等,传了四谛法门。从此后海螺和法轮成为佛教的吉祥宝物。

虽然我们现在由于业力和福报的缘故,无法直接接近菩萨,更无法接近佛,但是佛菩萨慈悲,转换成上师的化身来度化我们,那么,时间是紧迫的,生命是短暂的,我们要赶快祈求上师传法,请求上师常转法轮。这是一种修行的方法。在心里祈求,并这样观想:上师已经答应了继续给我们传法。上师怎么知道呢?上师有天眼通、他心通,上师时时刻刻在观照弟子,时时刻刻在关注弟子。

继续观想:不仅是我个人求法,我的周围有无量无边的众生,我们一起请求佛菩萨上师能够给众生传法,希望众生早日断除业力,尤其是早日断除谤佛谤法造成的业力,希望来世不要出生于没有佛法的边地。

我们除了观想还要行动,要亲自向上师请法。佛法需要闻、思、修,尤其是闻和修很重要,有闻修的地方就有佛法。没有闻修,不论有多雄伟的佛像耸立,也不代表佛法在那里。以上为积累资粮的方式。

六、请佛住世断邪见

佛教里常讲皈依佛、法、僧,三皈依,但在密法中有皈依上师、佛、法、僧四皈依词来皈依三宝等等。常有人不理解:上师作为一个凡夫,为什么会放在佛的前面而皈依呢?

道理非常简单,虽然佛是觉悟者,有不可思议的成就和功德,但是我无法亲眼见到世尊。虽然佛曾传了三转法轮,直至现在我们也在修佛法,但是我没有机缘亲耳聆听佛讲法的声音。是上师的慈悲和开示,让我知道了什么叫佛法,什么叫修法,对目前的我们来讲,师恩超过了佛恩。这不是从功德上来讲的,而是从佛陀与上师的恩德方面来比较,上师比佛陀更加有恩,所以,我们将上师放在前面而皈依。

满满的一碗水放在月光下,可以映出天上的月亮;如果水干涸了,就看不见月亮的倒影。没有了众生,没有了众生的求法,就没有了佛陀和上师们的长久住世,佛陀和上师们就会选择圆寂,进入涅槃。所以,我们祈求佛菩萨和上师们为了众生能够长久住世,多请求转法轮。

佛不是有无量无边的神通吗?他为什么会圆寂呢?这是有一定的道理的。佛是早已生死自在、明心见性的觉悟者,完全突破了身体和时间的局限,但是为了破除众生对身体的执着,破除我永远存在的概念,佛必须要圆寂。为什么这样说?佛永远存在不是更好吗?如果佛是永远存在的话,那我们就没有佛法难闻的概念,会认为没有什么可宝贵、可稀奇的。所以,一方面为了体现佛陀存在的价值,另一方面为了众生具有了知身体短暂、人生无常的心,佛陀示现了圆寂。这些都是有一定意义和佛陀慈悲的显现。

我们祈求佛菩萨和上师们长久住世,为众生传法。传法才是真正利益众生的最好方式。阿难问佛陀:所有的布施当中,什么功德最大?佛回答:法布施功德最大。所有的修法中,哪个功德最大?佛回答:听法的功德最大。

人生短暂无常,所以,我们在有限的时间内要抓紧时间,请佛住世,常转法轮。请佛住世是破除生命常在等概念的对治力。

七、回向断犹豫

后悔的对治力就是回向。

回向当下、未来、过去的功德给所有的众生。回向的目的是希望众生永远断除烦恼,永远离开痛苦,圆满福慧资粮早证菩提。

所有的功德如果不回向,因烦恼的缘故可以彻底地消灭。而如果我们及时地回向,就象把功德存在了银行卡上,长期地存入本金加上利息,功德会不断地增长。

“及时地回向”非常必要,因为人心的善变和摇摆不定,因为业力,我们很容易事后生起犹豫之心,这种心态会令功德化为乌有,所以,做功德一定要回向。而且,正确的回向会令功德成百上千倍地增长。

做任何事,哪怕念一句佛号,时间不长也不困难,那样的一个功德也不可小看。我们会把钱包中的一元钱扔掉吗?不会,没有一元钱的存在,哪来一百元的累积?所以,我们不能小看任何一个功德,只要是善事,我们一定要回向一切众生。累积功德最终成为成佛的直接因缘,这样才有意义。以上是积累功德积累资粮的内容。

去极乐世界的第三个因:发菩提心。

菩提心在三殊胜里面讲过。菩提心是成佛的正因,日常一定要多训练自己。在自己前方空中,观想阿弥陀佛和观音菩萨、金刚手菩萨等众多菩萨,观想自己向他们祈求菩萨戒,祈求他们能够慈悲摄受“我”,希望“我”得到菩萨戒的戒体,从此以后为了众生做事,哪怕“我”失去生命都在所不惜,希望诸佛菩萨能看到“我”的诚心。

佛经和寂天菩萨的《入菩萨行论》里说:刹那间发菩提心,就断除了去恶道尤其是去畜生道的业力。过去释迦牟尼佛在地狱中时,见到同行的人太痛苦了,于是向狱卒请求:他的痛苦我来承受好了。这样一刹那的发心,是佛陀在凡夫身时最初的第一次发菩提心。因此他立刻往生天界。现在,我们也算是头一次发菩提心。所以,我们祈求佛菩萨们加持,从此以后做任何事都为一切众生,所作所为都成为菩萨道, “时时常行菩萨道”。

佛教强调菩提心,菩提心是为了一切众生,但佛经中并没有否定个人的利益,没有说个人的利益要放弃。在我和众生进行比较的情况下,如果重视自己的利益,不在乎别人的感受,是佛教所不鼓励的。所以事实上许多时候在世俗中也存在着一些很类似佛教的观点,比如:世俗中常常把考虑别人的人视为好人,自私自利的人算是差一点。所以,我们要尽力培养菩提心。目前虽然不能百分之百地做到,也要一点一滴地从小处做起。如果认为自己不可能百分之百地做到,干脆就不做了,这样永远没有机会成就。世间人进考场也不是一定要有百分之百的把握,只有参加考试,才有好成绩的希望,否则,连希望都没有了。所以,无论怎样,多多少少一定要做善事修佛法,珍惜自己的福报。总而言之,只要是我们做的善事希望成为佛果的因,一定要发菩提心。

去极乐世界的第四个因:回向。

前面我们发了菩提心,中间也有善心,听法的时候也专注认真地听,修法当中也是认认真真地做,在心不散乱的情况下观想了阿弥陀佛的净土,观想了阿弥陀佛。最后是回向。那么回向应该怎么回向呢?

我们应该这样回向:我为了一切众生要去西方极乐世界,所以我做了许多的功德,积累了大量的资粮。以此功德的缘故,我希望我等一切众生,包括我的一切亲人朋友和仇人等所有的众生,当我们要离开这个世界的时候,在临命终最痛苦和最脆弱的时候,阿弥陀佛和所有的菩萨们能够出现在我们的眼前或空中,来迎接我们。我们见到佛菩萨的当下立刻忘掉了身体的痛苦、眷恋亲人朋友的痛苦等离开这个世界的一切痛苦。当下,蔚蓝色的天空中出现光芒万丈的太阳。我心中想的是阿弥陀佛身口意的功德,我眼中见到的都是阿弥陀佛和菩萨们。最后,我无丝毫的痛苦,像八大菩萨一样飞向空中。菩萨们为我带路,带我去西方极乐世界,重新在那里修法,直至得到并圆满佛的果位为止。

只要能去到极乐世界,就绝不会堕落和退转。但是你能不能得到成就呢?如果你以怀疑的心去到极乐世界,你还需在莲花瓣中住五百年,只能听到佛的声音,却见不到阿弥陀佛的相。

阻止我们去极乐世界最大的障碍是什么?牵挂世间的情爱,放不下自己的财产等,这些不仅仅是障碍,而且成为你无以言表的痛苦。一定要懂得,这些都不值得留恋,该拥有时我们已经拥有了,该放下时就要放下。明明知道结果是失败,你还想着强求成功,失败时你岂不是很痛苦。已经失败了,该放下的时候还不放下。同样的,明明没有结果的,偏要为此而痛苦,一生学佛是为了断除你的烦恼,到头来却没有派上用场。为了消灭敌人我买了一把枪,枪藏在那里很多年,敌人来了,我却拿着一根棍子去杀敌,武器的作用就没有了。我们该放下的放不下,一辈子修法就失去了作用。

而这时我们极需要佛菩萨的加持和力量。因为凡夫对生活有一定的执着,那一刻完全放下非常难,那个时候没有那么好的智慧。那靠什么呢?靠菩萨加持我当下能放下,希望加持我增长智慧。

尽量地断除烦恼,一心只想佛菩萨,尤其是阿弥陀佛。那个时候,对亲人朋友的执着,要统统放下。心里只念着阿弥陀佛,不想任何人和事。你心里只想阿弥陀佛时,就是放下。但能做到这一点非常难,所以,我们现在就要去修行,修什么呢?简单地讲,就是放下。

临终助念也是很有必要的。如果有人快要往生了,很痛苦的时候,你可以教他,要去极乐世界,要观想佛菩萨尤其是阿弥陀佛。这不叫传法,这是在帮助他,也叫助念。不要说我们亲眼见过阿弥陀佛,这个时候小心不要说大妄语。但是我们可以告诉他,只要你有信心,阿弥陀佛一定出现在你的眼前。这是佛经上说的,我们决不妄语。

观想阿弥陀佛,观想阿弥陀佛的周围都是菩萨,阿弥陀佛身披袈裟来到你的眼前,是为了迎接你去极乐世界。

迎接你的时候,你要具足的条件是,第一,放下对生命的执着,第二,放下一切,包括你的烦恼和痛苦,统统放下,只剩下一颗心,想阿弥陀佛的心和去极乐世界的心,除此之外没有任何事放在心里。这样肯定有效果,这是毫无疑问的!

我们可能观想不清楚阿弥陀佛,但是我个人认为,可先从头部观想起,眼睛,鼻子,嘴巴,颜色,袈裟,佛,慢慢地观想。观想完心又乱了,就重复地观想。心只放在阿弥陀佛的身上。阿弥陀佛成佛前发愿,只要在临寿终时一心念佛,“我与诸菩萨众迎现其前”,否则,“不取正觉”,决不成佛。现在阿弥陀佛已经成佛十劫,证明他之前的一切大愿都已圆满了,证明只要我们有信心,我们一定往生极乐世界。

极乐世界的功德与在经中讲的一样,没有世间八法,也没有男女之分,没有不平等,没有烦恼,自然而然也就远离了痛苦。而且去了极乐世界,绝不会再堕落了。

我们非常幸运地出生在中国,不管中国历经了多少的风风雨雨,我们当下能够听闻佛法,能够显密双修,非常的殊胜。大家一定要珍惜当下的机会。

去极乐世界不是为了享受快乐,而是为了众生的解脱而去修法。在极乐世界修法期间,我们要圆满一切的法。我没有听过的法,祈求诸佛菩萨为我们传法。我们不仅圆满了自己的一切法,而且我们还能圆满或实现所有众生的愿望。十方诸佛菩萨都在赞叹阿弥陀佛和极乐世界的功德,我在成就之后,我也要用我的能力供养十方诸佛菩萨。这样去发愿和回向,我们就圆满了净土法门的修法。阿弥陀佛!

今天讲的这一切都是将佛菩萨和藏汉高僧大德们的法语重复一下而已,确实没有以前的高僧大德或善知识们没有讲过的新鲜的法要,但也没有自私自利的心态和谋取利益而讲经说法的心愿。但愿如此,本文中有不妥之处完全是本人的智慧欠缺而造成的,恳求善知识们指正!

Droge Yonten Gyatso Rinpoche (卓格仁波切) 3..jpg

The basic teachings of all sacred traditions in one way or the other emphasise that knowledge is ultimately related to intelligence, the instrument of knowledge within man, which is endowed with the possibility of knowing truth. A traditions hold that true knowledge is the means of deliverance and freedom; to know means ultimately to be transformed by the very process of knowing.

— 5th Samdhong Rinpoche, Lobsang Tenzin

5th Samdhong Rinpoche, Lobsang Tenzin 28..jpg

Four Dharmas of Gampopa
by Khenchen Konchok Gyaltsen Rinpoche

It is the nature of sentient beings to want happiness and freedom from suffering, but these objectives cannot be obtained merely by wishing or striving. One must also employ effective methods. Everything arises in dependence upon causes and conditions, and nothing occurs without a cause or through an incomplete or unrelated cause. Buddhist philosophy clearly explains the workings of cause and effect this way: non-virtuous thoughts and actions give rise to suffering, while virtuous thoughts and actions bring about happiness. Karmic causation is inexorable.

Samsaric peace and happiness are transient and ephemeral. This is the suffering of change. Even though we might attain the happiness of the higher realms, there is no reason to become attached since it will not last. We must make an effort to achieve total freedom from samsara. Perfect happiness can only be attained through liberation from conditioned existence.

Whether one wishes to achieve complete enlightenment, personal liberation from samsara, or simply temporal happiness, the fundamental practice is to perform the ten virtuous actions and to abandon the ten non-virtuous actions. Practising the ten virtuous actions without renunciation of samsara will serve as a cause to be reborn in the higher realms of humans and gods, but one will still not be free from the cycle of suffering. If one practices these same actions based on renunciation of personal suffering, then one will achieve individual liberation. And if one practices them on the basis of bodhicitta, then one can achieve Buddhahood.

The Four Dharmas of Gampopa explain the way to meaningfully implement our desire for happiness in a very succinct way. The four are:

* turning the mind to the Dharma
* the Dharma becoming the path to enlightenment
* dispelling error from the path and
* the dawning of confusion as wisdom

These four are simply stated, and yet they encompass the entire teachings of the Sutrayana and Vajrayana.

Turning the mind to Dharma means, first of all, appreciating one’s precious human rebirth and its eighteen qualities of leisure and endowment. At this moment, we have the opportunity to become completely free from samsara and to achieve complete enlightenment. All phenomena, including sentient beings, are impermanent and momentary. Humans must experience birth, ageing, sickness, and death. No matter how much energy we may expend in improving the conditions of this life, it will all just pass like a dream. To achieve even a small amount of pleasure, one must undergo hardships and make sacrifices. Then at the time of death, the only thing that will be of any benefit is the realisation that one has gained through Dharma practice. Even our body that we have cherished and protected will be of no help and, in fact, it will only be a source of misery. All compounded phenomena are subject to change. No matter how much one may strive for it, there is no absolute happiness in samsara.

The suffering of conditioned existence involves both physical and mental pain. The contaminated skandhas, or aggregates, are caught up in the suffering of misery, the suffering of change, and pervasive suffering. Sentient beings suffer from not attaining what they strive for, from being separated from what they are attached to, from coming into contact with enemies, from losing friends and loved ones, and from being dissatisfied even when they get what they want. No matter how much pleasure we experience, there is never any satisfaction. We always seek further happiness. This is the reality of samsara. When this is recognised clearly, one naturally seeks a way to be free of these things. Then, when one understands how the Dharma can purify defilements and lead one to enlightenment, one’s mind turns to that direction. Contemplation of the four thoughts (the precious human rebirth, impermanence, suffering and karma) is thus the means for turning the mind toward Dharma.

Dharma becoming the path means using the Dharma to achieve Buddhahood. On the foundation of the four thoughts, one has to genuinely develop immeasurable loving-kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta. This is a special method for developing one’s mind to create happiness for oneself and others. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past achieved their realisations by developing bodhicitta, and all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the future will do likewise. There are none who have achieved realisation without it.

Dispelling error from the path means dispelling the three poisons of ignorance, desire, and aversion. Whether we practice the Sutrayana or Vajrayana form of the teachings, our main focus should be on eliminating these poisons. If, in the name of Dharma, we develop desire and other afflictions, then rather than practising Dharma we are just becoming more deeply enmeshed in samsara. When we study or practice Dharma, we must watch our own minds. If our minds become more clear, open, calm, patient, aware, and understanding, then this is a sign that error is being dispelled from the path. If, on the other hand, we practice advanced Dharma teachings such as the Vajrayana, and yet only become more arrogant, undisciplined, confused, proud, and only see negative qualities in others, then error is not being dispelled from the path. So in order to practice successfully, one must always recall the four thoughts, loving-kindness, compassion, bodhicitta, and interdependence, and maintain the awareness that all phenomena are illusory like a dream. Lord Jigten Sumgön said that these preliminary points are much more profound and important than the advanced practices. Without a firm foundation in these preliminaries, advanced practices such as tantra and Mahamudra will not be effective.

The fourth dharma of Gampopa is the dawning of confusion as wisdom. Since buddha-nature completely pervades all sentient beings, there is nothing to attain that we do not already have. Rather, our study and practice of Dharma are for the purpose of recognising the reality of the primordial state, the ultimate mode of abiding that has not been previously recognised. So if we develop more ignorance, desire, and aversion, there will be no way for confusion to dawn as wisdom. We cannot achieve Buddhahood by developing more afflicting emotions but only by purifying defilements. This was emphasised by all the great masters of the past. I am merely repeating it here.

For those of you who are interested in following the path of Dharma, it is necessary to practice sincerely and with mindfulness. Understanding Dharma is not so difficult. What is difficult is practising it. Without a proper method of practice, there will be little sign of progress. Laziness is deeply ingrained and it always causes us to postpone practice. The current of negative propensities is very strong, and it sweeps us along without choice. Letting ourselves become slaves to our merciless negative thoughts, we suffer unnecessarily. The Dharma is the only means by which we can free ourselves, but it must be practised with mindfulness and sincerity. If we do not abandon the Dharma, the Dharma will never abandon us. Dharma is the real refuge that can lead us to Buddhahood.

Khenchen Konchok Gyaltsen Rinpoche 17.

To really receive the empowerment, you must know the precise meaning of the words used and then take that meaning into meditation. Without knowing the meaning, the feel of the bumpa as it touches your head or tasting the water from it will not necessarily mature the mind. However, the root of mantrayana is pure perception, and therefore to see the lama as the principal deity of the mandala and the empowerment substances as blessing nectar, and with devotion free of doubt to view the mandala and hear the names of the deities purely, will have great benefit. In that manner receive the empowerment.

After receiving the empowerment you have to protect the samaya. Your relation to the vajrayana samayas can be compared to a snake’s options for movement when placed into a hole in bamboo: keep samaya and go straight up to the pure lands, destroy samaya and go straight down to the lower realms. There are only two ways to go. There is no third way. You need to understand that keeping samaya and practising dharma, rather than merely an obligation, brings great benefit to oneself. There are many samayas to protect and many dharmas to practice, but you must always remember to bring them all into a single essential practice. In general, all of us who claim to be practitioners soon discover that our actions are not in accord with dharma, and that is our biggest mistake. Therefore don’t confuse your high purpose with your actual behaviour. Your actions should be the same in private as they are in public. If your mouth proclaims, “I take refuge, I take refuge,” and “I act for the benefit of all beings,” but you act like the ringleader in your own circus of self-important, ego-clinging tricks, then in reality you ignore karma and samaya and this is no good.

— His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche

Dudjom Rinpoche 18.