Choose Happiness
by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, Jigme Pema Wangchen

As Mandela believed, even within the confines of the walls of a prison cell, we are the masters of our own fate, because we are the masters of our own minds. Whatever obstacles we come across in life, our nature remains constant. It is our essence, our strength that we may nourish in good times and draw on when we need support.

Choosing happiness is like flicking a light switch, bringing into focus all the things you have in this life to be appreciative of. You may not feel you have much of a choice in many aspects of your life, but the number of choices and opportunities available today can be overwhelming. With so many decisions to make you can sometimes forget that you also get to choose whether you are happy or not. You might get so caught up in worrying about whether you will make the right or wrong choices that you start to put off making decisions altogether, sheltering in the comfort of the status quo whether you like it very much or not.

In reality, the only thing standing in the way of your happiness is you; the only thing holding you back is your mind, and it is your mind that can equally help you to see your happiness, to let it colour your day and your life. But like your body, your mind needs a good workout to be fit and flexible, to release the tension of irritation and impatience. You need to give yourself the space in which to look at your mind openly and honestly, and be willing to let go of your suffering, your old resentments and your anxieties about the future. None of these things is doing you a service, but in their familiarity they can almost become comfortable – because if you let down your barriers, who knows what might happen? There might be an even bigger hurt or a failure waiting for you; you just don’t know if it’s worth the risk.

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. THICH NHAT HANH

Choosing happiness today gives us no guarantees as to what will happen tomorrow; but actually, none of our safety mechanisms give us guarantees – all they do is limit us and prevent us from really living. If we begin to look after our minds and allow ourselves to be ourselves, however, we will have the strength and the flexibility to choose happiness even while accepting that life is full of ups and downs. This is authentic living, and when we are authentic our happiness shines through, even if today is a rainy day, even if our boss ignores us or somebody bumps into us. The more we choose happiness, the more strength and courage we develop for those times in our lives when we feel brought to our knees by grief, sorrow or pain; the more we choose happiness, the more clear we become in our intentions – we begin to know the meaning of our lives, we notice the detail and instead of taking so much for granted, and wanting so much more, we are able to sit and see the beauty in everything we have.

Man is fully responsible for his nature and his choices. JEAN-PAUL SARTRE

You get to say what is important in your life, what brings you happiness, and it’s up to you to choose to do those things and be with those people more on a daily basis. You might be afraid that if you choose happiness today then it may be taken away from you tomorrow, but you always get to choose because your happiness depends only on you.

Our inflexibility, the fear of stepping out of our comfort zones and the habit of giving ourselves excuses can be the main reasons for our unhappiness and our failures. My wish is to help those who are connected with me to break free from all these nonsense concepts and to be free. You cannot make others happy when you are not happy. Whether you are happy or not, it’s entirely up to you. You are your own boss!

Finding happiness within

For Kirsty, it was through a combination of experience and contemplation – living meditation – that she realised she could stop chasing happiness and discover it within:

I remember at the age of sixteen, I wrote about Buddhism for a school project. It was the highest grade I had ever received for religious studies. There was something about Buddha’s words and teachings that touched my heart and mind so deeply; perhaps it was because the words were so liberating that I got top marks.

Many years later, when I listened to teachings given by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, I realised that for a long time I had been searching outside of myself for my healing and my happiness. I had tried many things in my spiritual and personal quest. For example I had tried yoga, chi kung, giving up meat, caffeine, wine, all those things. I looked for happiness in love and in moving to new places in which to live. All the time I was trying to fill a vacuum with things outside of me, when all along everything I needed was within.

I remember as I sat and listened to the teachings and the wisdom of this old philosophy, I began to have the first inkling of understanding that opened my mind to an alternative truth about reality. I felt that I was beginning to find out about the nature of the mind, and the power of the mind to help and to heal.

I had searched outside of myself and now all I had to do was find the Buddha within. Now, after ten plus years, I am so much more aware of how my mind creates my reality, and so when I am confronted with loss, sorrow, hurt and pain I use the tools of the teachings and this gentle spiritual philosophy to place me in the safe and kindest of states one could rest in.

Of course, the process of trying to practise forgiveness, compassion, patience and all those things is a wisdom that is a continuous daily learning process. The more I do it, by putting intentions into practice, I find the more I enjoy it; it is an ongoing living meditation.

HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THE WORLD?

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. DR SEUSS

I would not deny that we all have tendencies when it comes to our personalities; some of us will incline to be more adventurous than others, more optimistic or more fearful. But by leaving it there we are doing ourselves a great disservice – because however much of our sense of self is inherited from our parents or imprinted at a young age and then again as we go through life’s experiences, I also believe that when we allow our minds to go beneath the surface of inheritance or experience, we have the possibility to discover our inner nature.

Some people may even write themselves off to a lesser or greater degree by describing themselves as a ‘generally pessimistic’ person, for example; but if they expect the worst, then perhaps the reality might come as a nice surprise once in a while. A woman I met in London told me a little story that illustrates this perfectly. She was visiting one of London’s wonderful museums with her good friend. As they were leaving, having had a very enjoyable time, she spotted the most incredible glass sculpture hanging above the circular reception area of the museum. ‘Wow, look at that!’ she exclaimed, pointing the sculpture out to her friend, who instantly replied, ‘I wouldn’t want to walk underneath that. If it fell, you’d be dead instantly.’ The two women looked at each other and burst out laughing. The friend had the sense of humour and sense of self to see immediately what she had done: ‘Oh dear,’ she said. ‘That just about sums the two of us up: there you are marvelling at a piece of art and I immediately see the potential for disaster!’ The first step to any change is being aware of the need or desire for it. By understanding that they had both seen the exact same thing from different perspectives the woman’s friend took a great step towards awareness of the power of the mind.

And while it might not happen overnight, it is possible to use such moments of awareness as a foundation for training the mind to begin to see things differently – to choose another point of view.

It is very important that we wake ourselves up from the habitual comfort of pessimistic or negative thoughts and acknowledge that such thinking is a choice, rather than something we shrug our shoulders about and write off as just the way we are. If we don’t give our courage a chance to show itself, then we don’t allow ourselves to flourish and take leaps of faith. And simply on the level of our day-to-day lives, we don’t give ourselves the chance to see the beauty that is all around us, focusing instead on the potential pitfalls. Of course, when we choose to look up at the sky and the trees and the smiles of other people, instead of constantly checking for cracks in the pavement, occasionally we might trip up and feel a little foolish. But when we are choosing happiness we can also laugh at ourselves, even if we fall right on our bottoms. As Oprah Winfrey says: ‘So go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground.’

RELAX INTO YOUR NATURE

I am told that in America rates of happiness are decreasing despite its being one of the richest countries on the planet. The number of people who describe themselves as optimists has fallen by a quarter in just a few years, while wealth has increased. This shows just how much people’s minds can change – it’s easy to believe that we must be born either an optimist or a pessimist but this trend shows how it is possible to change from one to another. Sadly, in America, more people have become increasingly negative in their outlook, but fortunately science is now discovering how practices like meditation can help people to have a more positive outlook. I believe that if people can stop looking outside of themselves to the things they cannot control for their happiness and instead realise that all the conditions exist within them, they can be optimists even when times are a little harder.

Of course, life is full of ups and downs – it is quite a winding and bumpy road for most of us with good times and sad or challenging times; but perhaps it is possible to remain strong at the foundation – like a tree that has strong roots while also being able to bend and be flexible even in pretty high winds. Can we walk a middle path of balance, so that we may understand how wonderful this life is both when things are externally going well for us as well as when things are not so good?

Renewed confidence

I have had the pleasure to know Suman’s family for many years, and feel very supported by them in so many ways. When Suman lost his way a few years ago it was my privilege to be a guide as he found his own way back to his path:

I am from India and my mother was Sikh and my father was Hindu. I lived with my father’s parents and I was often taken to both Hindu and Sikh temples, so religion was a way of life for me from a young age. And then along came this Buddhist master; I remember His Holiness and his parents coming to stay with us from when I was a child and that I felt very happy to be around them.

One of the biggest lessons for me was to watch the respect between His Holiness and his parents. His father was also a Rinpoche and great teacher; his mother was love and compassion in human form. I hope that the way he takes care of his parents rubbed off on me subconsciously.

As a young adult, I really began to struggle with my motivation. My parents had become successful and I had become very lazy. I was working in a high-salaried job with an oil company, but inside I was miserable and I didn’t want to work any more. I became depressed and the doctors prescribed medication for me, but it wasn’t working. I was at my wits’ end with insomnia and couldn’t see a way forward.

Luckily, I went to see His Holiness at this time. He gave me a specific meditation to practise and said that I wasn’t to take any pills that night. His total belief in me gave me the belief I needed, and so I meditated and for the first night in months I slept soundly. We also talked about how I had lost my motivation to work and His Holiness helped me to see things from a completely new perspective. He said that if I didn’t want the money for myself, then why not make it for the nuns? He said that if I just sat around, how could I help him! I suddenly realised that money isn’t a bad thing – it’s your relationship with it that can either be positive or negative. It was entirely up to me how I chose to see money, and whether I wanted to see the good that it could bring with the right intentions and motivation. His Holiness simply shone a light on the fact that there was choice. There is always a choice.

I discovered what mutual respect means in that moment. His Holiness showed me that he had confidence in my nature – that despite my sinking into the depths of a mental depression, there remained an inner strength and that I had just forgotten its existence and so needed a little help to get back to my senses. His Holiness asks for nothing in return, but my respect for him deepened very much during this exchange. His trust in me and his fierce compassion inspired my own trust in him as well as a renewed confidence in myself.

Intention meditation

In the Buddhist teachings, we have an aspiration prayer, which is a wishing prayer. Like all the teachings, this is something we think about to help us develop ourselves and live the Dharma, which is just to say living life. This meditation encourages us to look into our hearts, find the inspiration and generate the motivation to turn our wishes – or our thoughts – into actions. In other words, we need to aspire first, then engage, so that we may apply our intentions to what we do. In this way we unify our thoughts, words and actions; we unify our minds, our hearts and our bodies. And it all begins with the mind: the creator of everything.

In this short meditation, therefore, we keep things very simple and just take a few minutes to set our intention and generate our motivation, like restarting our computer first thing in the morning.

1. You can sit in the meditation posture as described, or just sit comfortably in a chair.

2. Bring your attention into the present by practising the Breathing Meditation for a couple of minutes.

3. Now bring your thoughts to the people in your life – those who support you and care for you and those who are more challenging. Focus in this moment on your love and compassion for all the people in your life and those who you may come into contact with today.

4. Focus on the intention that you would like all your thoughts, words and actions today to be of help to others, to inspire or teach, to be patient and understanding.

5. Now focus simply on the intention that today you will do your best in whatever tasks or interactions you have.

It might help you to read the following sentences, which are a simple mantra, and then close your eyes to bring yourself into your mind and focus on what they mean to you:

May I set my intention to be considerate of and to help those people around me today – my loved ones, my colleagues, all the people I happen to interact with during my day. We are all in the same boat. We all hope to be happy and free from suffering. Whatever our differences, we are also the same. Today, I will do my best.

FREEDOM THROUGH DISCIPLINE

Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times. AESCHYLUS

Creating a new habit or practice, such as meditation or mindfulness, takes patience and discipline – it requires a commitment to change because we know that it will be worth it. Any kind of action that calls for discipline is difficult at the start – our minds are experts at resistance and creating many excuses why we shouldn’t bother to change. But never be frightened of change; to make a change is to be inspired. Don’t be frightened to learn, to improve – because if you feed your inspiration, you will, in turn, inspire others, and that is a great gift. When we are inspired we become so much more aware, we can be spontaneous and make decisions boldly and swiftly.

In Sanskrit, the word for discipline is shila, which means ‘cooling’; when you feel very hot in your mind or emotions shila is like a fan that cools you down and relaxes you. You know the feeling when you (or, in other words, ‘your mind’) are getting out of control, and you know that to help yourself you need discipline. For example, if you realise that you have got into the habit of eating too much and so you have been putting on weight; what was once a pleasure is no longer a source of happiness, but rather a craving or even a source of negative emotions like guilt. This is when you need genuine discipline to break the habit and become slim and healthy again.

Often, when you first decide to make a change it is very hard and not enjoyable at all. But if you can keep going, by checking your intention and finding ways to motivate and inspire yourself, you will reach a point where the discipline becomes like shila – a freshness in the mind, a moment of true realisation, when you know you are doing something that is good for yourself, and you really feel it in your heart, as well as knowing it in your mind.

This is why taking care of the mind is so important. It’s impossible to effect a change – like eating more healthily, for example – if we do not also address what is going on in our thoughts, exploring them so that we can discover our genuine inspiration for change. It is hard to put things into practice, if we are not in the right frame of mind. So we remind ourselves of how great a gift life is to us. We ask: why do we make ourselves sick in the body and mind through eating so many things that are not good for us? We realise how fortunate we are to have the choice of what we can eat each day, and remember that we have the opportunity to eat foods that will nourish our bodies, to exercise and increase our strength and physical fitness. And when we combine a good attitude with healthy action, the sum becomes even greater than the parts, each nourishing the other.

So happiness springs from a healthy attitude. We begin to understand that happiness is no longer contingent on external factors and that our own minds hold the key to uncovering what is there inside. Milarepa, the Tibetan poet and saint, said, ‘My religion is to live – and die – without regret.’ These few words contain the aspirations of all of us, I think: to live our lives well, to be brave and make the most of our time, to be happy.

Choose-happiness reminders

The only person who gets to choose whether you are happy is you.
You can always choose happiness, because happiness is your nature.
In choosing happiness, you develop resilience for the times in your life when you feel brought to your knees.
How would you like to look at the world? It’s up to you.
Don’t be afraid of falling down; just know that you have the courage to stand up where you fall.
Set your intention each day.

A Random Act of Happiness

Smile at a passerby: a smile changes your whole face, your posture and your attitude. It is even contagious: when the brain sees a smile we can’t help but want to smile back. Smiling is like a happiness switch for the mind, with the power to evaporate a bad mood in an instant.

Gyalwang Drukpa 39.

The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path
by Thrangu Rinpoche

INTRODUCTION

Of the three yanas the first is the Theravada path which is often called the ‘Hinayana.’ ‘Hinayana’ literally means ‘lesser vehicle’ but this term should in no way be a reproach or be construed to in any way diminish the importance of these teachings. In fact, the teachings of the Hinayana are very important because they suit the capacities and development of a great number of students. If it weren’t for these teachings, which are particularly appropriate for those with limited wisdom or diligence, many persons would never reach the Mahayana path. Without the Theravada teachings, there would be no way for practitioners to enter the dharma because they would not have had a way to enter the Buddhist path. This path is similar to a staircase: the lower step is the first step. This doesn’t mean it is not important or should be ignored because without these essential steps one can never gain access to the upper stories. It should be very clear that this term ‘lesser’ vehicle is in no way a pejorative term. It provides the necessary foundation on which to build. The fundamental teachings of the Theravada are the main subject matter of the first turning of the wheel of dharma. These teachings were given mainly in India in the town of Sarnath which is near the Indian city of Varanasi which is also called Benares. The main subject matter of these teachings were the Four Noble Truths.

THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

If the Buddha had taught his disciples principally by demonstrating his miraculous abilities and powers, this would not have been the best way to demonstrate the path to liberation. The best way to help them attain wisdom and liberation was to point out the very truth of things; to point out the way things are. So he taught the Four Noble Truths and the two truths (conventional and ultimate truth). By seeing the way things really are, the students learned how to eliminate their wrong view and perceive their delusion. By eliminating wrong views and the causes of the delusion automatically the causes of one’s suffering and hardships will be destroyed. This allows one to progressively reach the state of liberation and great wisdom. That is why the Four Noble Truths and the two truths are the essence of the first teachings of the Buddha.

THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH

The first noble truth is the full understanding of suffering. Of course, in an obvious way, people are aware of suffering and know when they have unpleasant sensations such as hunger, cold, or sickness. But the first noble truth includes awareness of all the ramifications of suffering. It encompasses the very causal nature of suffering. This includes knowledge of the subtle and the obvious aspects of suffering. The obvious aspect of suffering is immediate pain or difficulty at the moment.

Subtle suffering is more difficult to recognise because it begins with happiness. But by its very nature, this happiness must change because it can’t go on forever. Because it must change into suffering, this subtle suffering is the impermanence of pleasure. For example, when I went to Bhutan with His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa, I was invited to the palace of the king of Bhutan. The palace of the king was magnificent, the king’s chambers were beautiful, there were many servants who showed complete respect and obedience. But we found that even though there was so much external beauty, the king himself was suffering a great deal mentally. The king said that he was quite relieved that His Holiness had come and emphasised how much the visit meant to him because of the various difficulties with which he had been troubled. This is the subtle aspect of suffering. One thinks that a particular situation will give one the most happiness one can ever imagine, but actually, within the situation, there is a tremendous amount of anguish. If one thinks of those who are really fortunate ‘gods or human beings with a very rich and healthy life’ it seems as though they have nothing but happiness. It is hard to understand that the very root, the very fibre of what is taking place is suffering because the situation is subject to change. What is happiness’ By its very nature it can often mean that there will be suffering later on. There is no worldly happiness that lasts for a very long time. Worldly happiness includes an element of change, of built-in suffering. For that reason, the first noble truth of the awareness of suffering refers not just to immediate suffering, but also to the subtle elements of suffering. The Buddha taught the truth of suffering because everything that takes place on a worldly level is a form of suffering. If we are suffering but are not aware of it, we will never have the motivation to eliminate this suffering and will continue to suffer. When we are aware of suffering, we can overcome it. With the more subtle forms of suffering, if we are happy and become aware that the happiness automatically includes the seed of suffering, then we will be much less inclined to become attached to this happiness. We will then think, ‘Oh, this seems to be happiness, but it has built-in suffering.’ Then we will want to dissociate from it. The first truth is that we should be aware of the nature of suffering. Once we have a very clear picture of the nature of suffering, we can really begin to avoid such suffering. Of course, everyone wants to avoid suffering and to emerge from suffering, but to accomplish this we need to be absolutely clear about its nature. When we become aware that the nature of day-to-day existence is suffering, we don’t have to be miserable with the thought that suffering is always present. Suffering doesn’t go on forever because the Buddha entered our world, gave teachings, and explained clearly what suffering is. He also taught the means by which suffering can end and described a state of liberation which is beyond suffering. We do not have to endure suffering and can, in fact, be happy. Even though we cannot immediately eliminate suffering by practising the Buddha’s teachings, we can gradually eliminate suffering in this way, and move towards eventual liberation. This fact in itself can help us gain peace of mind even before we have actually emerged completely from suffering. Applying the Buddha’s teachings, we can be happy in the relative phase of our progress and then at the end we will gain wisdom and liberation and be happy in the ultimate sense, as well. The first noble truth makes it clear that there is suffering. Once we know what suffering is, we must eliminate that suffering. It is not a question of eliminating the suffering itself, but of eliminating the causes of suffering. Once we remove the causes of suffering, then automatically the effect, which is suffering, is no longer present. This is why to eliminate this suffering, we must become aware of the second noble truth, the truth of interdependent origination

THE SECOND NOBLE TRUTH

The truth of interdependent origination is an English translation of the name the Buddha gave to this noble truth. It means ‘that which is the cause or origin of absolutely everything.’ The truth of universal origination indicates that the root cause of suffering is karma and the disturbing emotions (Skt. kleshas). Karma is a Sanskrit word which means ‘activity’ and klesha in Sanskrit means ‘mental defilement’ or ‘mental poison.’ If we do not understand the Buddha’s teachings, we would most likely attribute all happiness and suffering to some external cause. We might think that happiness and suffering come from the environment, or from the gods, and that everything that happens originates from some source outside of our control. If we believe this, it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to eliminate suffering and its causes. On the other hand, when we realise that the experience of suffering is a product of what we have done, that is, a result of our actions, eliminating suffering becomes possible. Once we are aware of how suffering takes place, then we can begin to remove the causes of suffering. First, we must realise that what we experience is not dependent on external forces, but on what we have done previously. This is the understanding of karma. Karma produces suffering and is driven by the disturbing emotions. The term ‘defilement’ refers mainly to our negative motivation and negative thoughts which produce negative actions.

THE THIRD NOBLE TRUTH

The third noble truth is the cessation of suffering through which the causes of karma and the disturbing emotions can be removed. We have control over suffering because karma and the disturbing emotions take place within us we create them, we experience them. For that reason, we don’t need to depend on anyone else to remove the cause of suffering. The truth of interdependent origination is that if we do unvirtuous actions, we are creating suffering. It also means that if we abandon unvirtuous actions, we remove the possibility of experiencing suffering in the future. What we experience is entirely in our hands. Therefore the Buddha has said that we should give up the causes of karma and the disturbing emotions. Virtuous actions result in happiness and unvirtuous actions result in suffering. This idea is not particularly easy to grasp because we can’t see the whole process take place from beginning to end. There are three kinds of actions: mental, verbal, and physical. These are subdivided into virtuous and unvirtuous physical actions, virtuous and unvirtuous verbal actions, and virtuous and unvirtuous mental actions. If we abandon the three types of unvirtuous actions, then our actions become automatically virtuous. There are three unvirtuous physical actions: the harming of life, sexual misconduct, and stealing. The results of these three unvirtuous actions can be observed immediately. For example, when there is a virtuous relationship between a man and woman who care about each other, who help each other, and have a great deal of love and affection for each other, they will be happy because they look after each other. Their wealth will usually increase and if they have children, their love and care will result in mutual love in the family. In the ordinary sense, happiness develops out of this deep commitment and bond they have promised to keep. Whereas, when there is an absence of commitment, there is also little care and sexual misconduct arises. This is not the ground out of which love arises, or upon which a home in which children can develop happiness can be built. One can readily see that a lack of sexual fidelity can create many kinds of difficulties. One can also see the immediate consequences of other unvirtuous physical actions. One can see that those who steal have difficulties and suffer; those who don’t steal experience happiness and have a good state of mind. Likewise, those who kill create many problems and unhappiness for themselves, while those who support life are happy. The same applies to our speech although it is not so obvious. But on closer examination, we can also see how happiness develops out of virtuous speech and unhappiness results from unvirtuous speech. At first, lying may seem to be useful because we might think that we can deceive others and gain some advantage. But the Sakya Pandita said that this is not true. If we lie to our enemies or persons we don’t get along with very well, because they are our enemies they are not going to pay attention to what we are saying anyway. It will be quite hard to deceive them. If they are our friends, we might be able to deceive them at first by telling a lie. But after the first time, they won’t trust us any more and may see us as untrustworthy. Lying therefore doesn’t really accomplish anything. Then if we look at the opposite, a person who takes pains to speak the truth will develop a reputation for being a truthful person and out of this trust many good things will emerge. Once we have considered the example of the consequences of lying, we can think of similar consequences relating to other kinds of damaging speech: slander, and coarse, aggressive, and useless speech. In the long term, virtuous speech produces happiness and unvirtuous speech produces suffering. When we say ‘useless speech,’ we mean speech that is really useless, not just conversational. So, if we have a good mind and want someone to relax and be happy, even though the words may not have great meaning, our words are based on the idea of benefit and goodness. By useless speech, we mean chatter for no reason at all. Worse than that is ‘chatter rooted in the disturbing emotions.’ When we say bad things about other people because of a dislike or jealousy of them. We just gossip about people’s character. That is really useless speech. Besides being useless, this very often causes trouble because it sets people against each other and causes bad feelings. The same applies to ‘harmful speech.’ If there is really a loving and beneficial reason for talking, for example, scolding a child when the child is doing something dangerous or scolding a child for not studying in school, that is not harmful speech because it is devoid of the disturbing emotions, rather it is a skilful way of helping someone. If there is that really genuine, beneficial attitude and love behind what we say, it is not harmful speech. But if speech is related to the disturbing emotions such as aggression or jealousy, then it is harmful speech and should be given up. We can go on to examine the various states of mind and see that a virtuous mind produces happiness and unvirtuous states of mind create unhappiness. For instance, strong aggression will cause us to lose our friends. Because of our aggressiveness, those who don’t like us or our enemies will become even worse enemies and the situation will become inflamed. If we are aggressive and hurt others and they have friends, eventually those friends will also become enemies. On the other hand, goodness will arise through our caring for our loved ones and then extending this by wishing to help others. Through this, they will become close and helpful friends. Through the power of our love and care, our enemies and people we don’t get along with will improve their behaviour and maybe those enemies will eventually become friends. If we have companions and wish to benefit others, we can end up with very good friends and all the benefits which that brings. In this way, we can see how cause and effect operate, how a virtuous mind brings about happiness and how an unvirtuous mind brings about suffering and problems. There are two main aspects of karma: one related to experience and one related to conditioning. The karma relating to experience has already been discussed. Through unvirtuous physical actions, we will experience problems and unhappiness. Likewise, through unvirtuous speech such as lying, we will experience unhappiness and sorrow. With an unvirtuous state of mind, we will also experience unhappiness as was demonstrated by the example of having an aggressive attitude. All of this is related to the understanding that any unvirtuous activity produces unhappiness and pain. The second aspect of karma relates to conditioning. By acting unvirtuously with our body, speech, or mind, we habituate ourselves to a certain style of behaviour. Unvirtuous physical or verbal behaviours create the habit of this type of behaviour. For example, each time one kills, one is conditioned to kill again. If one lies, that increases the habit of lying. An aggressive mind conditions one’s mind so one becomes more aggressive. In our later lives, that conditioning will continue on so that we will be reborn with a great tendency to kill, to lie, to engage in sexual misconduct, and so on. These are the two aspects to karma. One is the direct consequence of an act and the other is the conditioning that creates a tendency to engage in behaviour of that kind. Through these two aspects, karma produces all happiness and suffering in life. Even though we may recognise that unvirtuous karma gives rise to suffering and virtuous karma gives rise to happiness, it is hard for us to give up unvirtuous actions and practice virtuous actions because the disturbing emotions exercise a powerful influence on us. We realise that suffering is caused by unvirtuous karma, but we can’t give up the karma itself. We need to give up the disturbing emotions because they are the root of unvirtuous actions. To give up the disturbing emotions means to give up unvirtuous actions of body (such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct), the unvirtuous actions of speech (such as lying, slander and harmful and useless speech), and the unvirtuous aspects of mind (such as aggression, attachment, or ignorance). Just wanting to give up the disturbing emotions does not remove them. However, the Buddha in his great kindness and wisdom has given us a very skilful way to eliminate the very root of all the disturbing emotions through the examination of the belief in the existence of an ego or a self.

THE FALSE BELIEF IN A SELF

We cannot easily understand this belief in a self because it is very deep-rooted. But if we search for this self that we believe in, we will discover that the self does not actually exist. Then with careful examination, we will be able to see through this false belief in a self. When this is done, the disturbing emotions are diminished and with the elimination of a belief in self, negative karma is also eliminated. This belief in a self is a mistaken perception. It’s an illusion. For example, if one has a flower and were to interrogate one hundred people about it, they would all come to the same conclusion that it is indeed a flower. So one could be pretty sure that it is a flower. But, if one asked a person ‘Is this me” he would say, ‘No, it’s you.’ A second person would say, ‘It’s you.’ One would end up with one hundred persons who say it’s ‘you’ and only oneself would consider it as ‘me.’ So statistically one’s self is not verifiable through objective means. We tend to think of ‘me’ as one thing, as a unity. When we examine what we think of as ourselves, we find it is made up of many different components: the various parts of the body, the different organs, and the different elements. There are so many of them, yet we have this feeling of a single thing, which is ‘me.’ When we examine any of these components and try to find something that is the essence of self, the self cannot be found in any of these parts. By contemplating this and working through it very thoroughly, we begin to see how this ‘I’ is really a composite. Once we have eliminated this incorrect way of thinking, the idea of an ‘I’ becomes easy to get rid of. So, all of the desire rooted in thinking, ‘I must be made happy’ can be eliminated as well as all the aversion rooted in the idea of ‘this difficulty must be eliminated.’ Through the elimination of the idea of ‘I’, we can annihilate the disturbing emotions or defilements. Once the disturbing emotions are gone, then the negative karma which is rooted in the disturbing emotions will cease. Once the negative karma ceases, suffering will no longer take place. This is why Buddha said that the root of suffering needs to be abandoned. The first two noble truths may be summed up with two statements: One should be aware of and know what suffering is. One should give up the origin of suffering. To summarise, once we recognise what suffering really is, then we begin by removing its causes. We do this by stopping doing unvirtuous actions which create suffering. To stop these unvirtuous activities, we eliminate them at their root which is the disturbing emotions and various unhealthy attitudes. To eradicate the disturbing emotions we need to remove their heart, which is the belief in a self. If we do that, then we will eventually come to realise the wisdom of non-self. By understanding the absence of a self, we no longer create the disturbing emotions and bad actions and brings an end to that whole process. This is highly possible to achieve; therefore there is the third noble truth, the truth of cessation. The very essence and nature of cessation is peace (Tib. shewa). Sometimes people think of Buddhahood in terms of brilliant insights or something very fantastic. In fact, the peace we obtain from the cessation of everything unhealthy is the deepest happiness, bliss, and well-being. Its very nature is lasting in contrast to worldly happiness which is satisfying for a time, but then changes. In contrast, this ultimate liberation and omniscience is a very deeply moving peace. Within that peace all the powers of liberation and wisdom are developed. It is a very definitive release from both suffering and its effect is a definitive release from the disturbing emotions which are the cause of suffering. There are four main qualities of this truth of cessation. First, it is the cessation of suffering. Second, it is peace. Third, it is the deepest liberation and wisdom. Fourth, it is a very definitive release from cyclic existence or samsara. Cessation is a product of practising the path shown to us by the Most Perfect One, the Buddha. The actual nature of that path is the topic of the fourth noble truth, which is called the truth of the path because it describes the path that leads to liberation.

THE FOURTH NOBLE TRUTH

The fourth noble truth is called ‘the truth of the path’ because the path leads us to the ultimate goal. We do this step by step, stage by stage, progressively completing our journey. The Buddha’s teaching is called ‘the dharma,’ and the symbol of these teachings is the wheel that you see on the roofs of temples and monasteries (as shown on the cover of this book). This is the symbol of the Enlightened One’s teachings. For instance, if you go to Samye Ling, you will see on the roof of the temple the wheel of the dharma supported by two deer. Why a wheel’ Wheels take you somewhere, and the dharma wheel is the path that takes us to the very best place along the finest road. This wheel of the Buddha’s teaching has eight spokes because the path that we follow as Buddhists has eight major aspects known as ‘the eight-fold path of realised beings’ or ‘the noble eight-fold path.’ We need to follow this eight-fold path and it is essential that we know what this path is and how to practice on this path. These eight aspects to the noble eight-fold path can be grouped into three areas: superior conduct, superior concentration, and superior wisdom which make up seven of the eight spokes with the eighth spoke, superior effort which is the quality that supports the other seven. Superior effort is needed for achieving correct conduct, correct concentration, and the development of correct wisdom.

NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH

(a) SUPERIOR CONCENTRATION

1. CORRECT MEDITATION

When we practice the dharma it is most important to stabilise our mind. We are human beings and we have this very precious human existence with the wonderful faculty of intelligence. Using that intelligence we can, for instance, see our own thoughts, examine them, and analyse our thinking process so we can determine what are good thoughts and what are bad thoughts. If we look carefully at mind we can see that there are many more bad thoughts than good ones. The same is true with our feelings. We find that sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are sad, and sometimes we are worried, but if we look carefully we will probably find that the happier moments are rarer than those of suffering and worry. To shift the balance so that our thoughts are more positive, and happier, we need to do something and this is where samadhi or meditative concentration comes in, because samadhi is the root for learning how to relax. When our mind is relaxed, we are happier and we are more joyous. The word ‘samadhi’ means ‘profound absorption.’ If we can learn how to achieve samadhi then even if we apply this samadhi to worldly activities, it will benefit us greatly. With samadhi our work will go well and we will find more joy and pleasure in our worldly activities. Of course, if we can use samadhi for dharma, then it will bring about really good results in our life. Some people may have been practising dharma for some years and might feel they have achieved few results from the practice and think, ‘Even after all these years that I have been meditating, there is not much to show for it. My mind is still not stable.’ This thinking shows us the real need to learn how to develop samadhi or concentration so that samadhi becomes a great support for our meditation. No matter what time we can give to meditation, that time is very well-spent. Often if we do an hour of meditation it doesn’t mean we did one hour of perfect samadhi. Rather it probably means we had a half-hour engaged with a lot of thoughts and a half an hour of what we could call a good sitting of which about 15 minutes of this was good samadhi. So it is really important to learn how to meditate properly, so our time meditating is most fruitful.

2. CORRECT MINDFULNESS

How do we achieve superior concentration’ That is where the second factor of correct mindfulness is necessary. It is through mindfulness that we will be able to actually achieve samadhi. When we have mindfulness, we are very clear about what is happening in our meditation. Also between our meditation sessions, we shouldn’t lose the thread of meditation, so we should with mindfulness carry this power of the meditation into our daily life. Our mindfulness needs to be very stable, it needs to be clear, and it needs to be the strongest mindfulness so that we can achieve the highest samadhi. In the Moonbeams of Mahamudra by the great Takpo Tashi Namgyal it says, ‘When one meditates one needs mindfulness which is clear and powerful. It needs to have the quality of clarity and at the same time it needs to be stable.’ Mindfulness can be just clear, but if there isn’t enough force to the mindfulness, it won’t be effective. For there to be a change in our post-meditation behaviour, we need to have mindfulness and awareness. Without this clarity of awareness and without the strength of mindfulness, we won’t recognise the subtle thoughts that keep our samadhi from developing. So with these subtle thoughts, we become accustomed to a very superficial kind of meditation that will keep us from progressing. Clear and strong mindfulness, however, will allow us to recognise the obstacle of these subtle thoughts. So, strong and clear mindfulness is very important.

(b) SUPERIOR WISDOM

Normally when we speak about wisdom in Buddhism we speak of the three knowledges (Skt. prajnas) of study, contemplation, and meditation. Reading and studying in all sorts of Buddhist books will develop a certain kind of wisdom, but this wisdom is never advanced enough to lead us to enlightenment, or Buddhahood. So, wisdom received from books and contemplating these teachings is limited. To develop superior wisdom that will allow us to become enlightened can only be obtained through meditation. So far we have discussed the excellent training that develops correct samadhi and correct mindfulness. Now we need the most excellent training to develop correct intention and correct view.

3. CORRECT INTENTION

Through our meditation, the realisation of the true nature of reality will develop. Actually in the meditation itself, when we have a direct awareness of reality, we may wonder, ‘Is this it’ Is this not it’ ‘ We will have all sorts of subtle thoughts and we need to confirm the accurateness, the rightness of the meditation that we are achieving. With time and with the right instruction we will gain confidence and come to know what in meditation is the finest, clearest, highest view of the true nature of phenomena. There will be confidence and conviction in our belief due to primordial wisdom (Skt. jnana). The development of wisdom at this stage is called ‘the very best philosophical view.’ After attaining this state of jnana, our post-meditation sessions will contain wisdom about the relationship of conventional reality which allows us to cultivate the very best intention. These two together make the very best wisdom: one applies to the depth of meditation and the other to the post-meditation state. So we need to develop these and strive whole-heartedly to cultivate these two wisdoms.

4. RIGHT VIEW

There are many levels of the Buddha’s teachings each which has its own way of describing what the highest view of reality is. There are the Theravada teachings, the Mahayana teachings, the Vajrayana teachings, and the Mahamudra teachings. Each Buddhist tradition has its own way of defining what is the highest view, and whichever view we hold we need to strive in developing the right view during the meditation and to develop right view during post-meditation experience.

(c) SUPERIOR CONDUCT

We definitely need to meditate in order to train our mind. But the training of meditation needs the support of right conduct. The importance of right conduct is not mainly for meditation but to the rest of our life, our interaction with the rest of the world. The importance of right conduct is illustrated by the fact that it has three aspects of its own. Whereas wisdom and meditation concern cultivating the finest understanding of our mind, right conduct concerns the actions of body and speech and our interrelation with other beings around us. It would be an error to think that the mind is the main thing to work on and what we do with our body and speech doesn’t matter much. What we do with our body and speech is very important and that is what the last three paths of the eight-fold path concern themselves. There are many, many ways of explaining right conduct, but the eight-fold path does it through correct speech, correct action, and correct livelihood.

5. CORRECT SPEECH

Speech is very important to us. For instance, we can’t see another person’s mind so we judge and are judged by behaviour and speech. Speech can also be very powerful. Whether we are addressing 100 or 1,000 people, if the speech is good and beneficial then 100 or 1,000 people will be benefited; but if the speech is harmful then it can hurt 100 or 1000 people, which is much more than we can do physically. So we need to have not just correct speech, but we must train in the very best speech so that when we speak, we know what our speech is doing. Is it harming’ Is it benefiting’ What techniques can we use to develop this most excellent speech’ We can say prayers, such as, ‘Great Vajradhara, Tilopa, Naropa, Gampopa’ and we can recite mantras like Om Mani Pedme Hung. These prayers and mantras show us how to express thoughts which are most noble, which are completely beneficial, pure, and good. Part of our dharma practice is the study, the reciting of texts, prayers and mantras which brings about the very excellent training of the best of speech. All of these activities sow the seeds for the good and right things in our mind which will afterwards become the basis for the expression of what will benefit ourselves and others. This is perhaps even more important today than it was in the past because we have such a powerful means of communication. With the telephone we can contact people all over the world. With Internet and faxes, the power of speech is really important, so there is even more reason to be mindful, aware, and careful of how we use this tremendous power of communication and speech. We should always be aware of its potential to either benefit or to harm others. So, training in correct speech is the first of the three paths of right conduct.

6. CORRECT ACTION

In our busy lives, we need to do many different things and everything we do has a consequence to others and ourselves. So training to engage in the very best actions is to do what will not only bring benefit to oneself but to others. So with an excellent motivation, we do excellent actions which benefit ourself and others. We need to therefore analyse the quality of actions and to be able to discern between what is right and what is wrong.

7. CORRECT LIVELIHOOD

Closely connected to right conduct is having a correct livelihood. Of course, livelihood means not just our job, but also all our main daily activities that we do to have food, clothes, a roof over our head and so on. Because we do this day after day and because it involves by its very nature our speech and our physical actions, we need to learn what is a correct and what is a negative livelihood that brings harm to others. We need, of course, to give up anything that harms others and to adopt a livelihood that is beneficial either directly or indirectly for us and for others.

8. CORRECT EFFORT

Let us go back to the first spoke of the wheel of dharma ‘samadhi’ that comes through the second spoke of mindfulness. These qualities won’t come by themselves unless there is the greatest effort applied to bring these qualities out. The next three spokes of wisdom, correct view, and correct thought won’t just come about one day by themselves without a great deal of skilful, intelligent, hard work. Then the last three spokes of correct conduct, correct speech, and correct livelihood also need a great deal of effort for these values to come about. So this eighth spoke, best effort or diligence, is a support for all the other spokes. We could say that there are two types of effort. In Tibetan, the word for ‘effort’ (tsultrim) has the notion of joy and enthusiasm, while in English ‘effort’ has the notion of drudgery. So there are two kinds of effort. One is a vacillating sort of effort in which we jump into something and then when it becomes more difficult we slack off and the other is a steady, constant sort of effort. The first kind is more with what we associate with ‘enthusiasm’ and the other is more stable and the very best support for the other seven spokes.

THE FIVE PATHS

We can also divide the Buddhist path into five main stages because by traversing them we eventually reach our destination which is cessation of suffering. The Buddhist path can be analysed through these stages called the five paths. The names of the five paths are the stage of accumulation, the stage of junction, the stage of insight, the stage of cultivation, and the stage of non-study. Properly speaking, the first four of these are the path with the fifth one being the fruition of the other four paths. The first path is called the ‘path of accumulation’ because we gather or accumulate a great wealth of many things. This is the stage in which we try to gather all the positive factors which enable us to progress. We try to cultivate diligence, the good qualities, and the wisdom which penetrates more deeply into the meaning of things. We commit ourselves to accumulate all the various positive aspects of practice. We gather the positive elements into our being while at the same time working in many different ways to remove all the unwanted elements from one’sour life. We also apply various techniques to eliminate the various blockages and obstacles which are holding us back. This is called the stage of accumulation because we engage in this manifold activity which gathers these new things into our life. In ordinary life, we are caught up in the level of worldliness. Even though we don’t want to be, we are still operating on a level of cyclic existence (Skt. samsara) because we are still under the influence of the disturbing emotions. They have a very strong habitual grip on our existence. We need to get rid of these disturbing emotions in order to find our way out of samsara. Of course, we want to find happiness and peace and we know it is possible. But even with the strongest will in the world, we cannot do it overnight. It is like trying to dye a large cloth that contains many oil stains on it. It requires a great deal of effort to change its colour. So, first of all, in order to achieve the good qualities, we need to work on creating all the different conditions which will make these qualities emerge. To develop the various insights of meditation and real wisdom, we need to develop great faith and confidence in the validity and usefulness of this wisdom. Once we are convinced of its value, we need to change our habits so that we have the diligence to do all the things necessary to make insight and wisdom emerge. Therefore, there are many factors and conditions we must generate within our life to bring about our happiness. To remove all the unwholesome factors binding us in samsara, we must uproot belief in a solid self, eliminate the various disturbing emotions which hinder us, and bring together the many different conditions that make this transformation and purification possible. We talk about accumulation because we are assembling all the different conditions that make this transformation possible. We won’t be able to progress in a significant manner until we have gathered all these causes and conditions properly, completely and perfectly within ourselves. For that reason, the purpose of this stage of accumulation is to complete all the necessary conditions by gathering them into our existence. Eventually, because of the complete gathering of favourable conditions, we will reach the third path which is the ‘path of insight.’ This is the stage during which insight into the true nature of phenomena is developed. This insight is beyond the veil of delusion. Linking the path of accumulation and the path of insight is the second path of junction. Here our inner realisation, the very way we perceive things, begins to link up with the truth of the actual nature of phenomena because we are gathering all the favourable circumstances that will eventually lead us to the actual insight itself. When we attain insight into the way things really are and this insight develops beyond the level of delusion and mistaken views, we realise that there is no self. Once there is no longer a belief in self, there are no longer any root disturbing emotions of attachment, aggression, or ignorance associated with the false belief in a solid self. Once there are no longer any disturbing emotions, we do nothing unvirtuous and have no more suffering. Now, it is true that once we have that insight, all suffering is immediately removed, but in another way, that is not true. This is because the delusion of a self is a habit which has been built up for such a long time and is very, very hard to remove. For example, when we have realised that an unchanging self is a delusion fabricated by our mind, still when we hit our finger with a hammer, we experience pain. We still have the feeling, ‘I am suffering’ because there is an enduring built-up association of ‘I’ with the flesh of our body. Removal of that long-established conditioning of self occurs through a long process of cultivating the truth of non-self. This is the fourth stage of the cultivation of insight. The fourth stage is called the path of cultivation (gom lam in Tibetan). The word gom is usually translated as ‘meditation’ but actually means ‘to get used to something’ or ‘to accustom oneself.’6 This is why it is translated here as ‘the path of cultivation,’ while other texts translate it as ‘the path of meditation.’ But in this stage, it is the insight into the nature of phenomena and getting used to that insight. By becoming more and more familiar with the truth of phenomena, we can remove the very fine traces of disturbing emotions and the subconscious conditioning that still exist. Through gradual working on these, the goal of enlightenment will be attained. Through the cultivation of insight, we eventually reach the goal of the fifth path which is called ‘the path of no more study.’ Through cultivation, we remove even the subtlest causes of suffering. Once this is completed we have reached the highest state and there are no more new paths to traverse making this ‘the path of no more study’ or ‘the path of no more practice.’

CONCLUSION

To the first two quotations from the Buddha which have already been presented, two more can be added to sum up the last two noble truths: One should be aware of and know what suffering is. One should give up the origin of suffering. One should make cessation of suffering manifest. One should establish the path thoroughly in one’s being. We need to make the truth of cessation real, to manifest it in ourselves. We can’t just make it manifest by wishing, hoping, or praying for it. We can’t just pray to the three jewels (the Buddha, dharma, and sangha) for cessation and through their kindness, they will just give it to us. The law of cause and effect, karma, makes that impossible. To attain the goal of cessation, we must be thoroughly established on the path and the path must be properly and thoroughly developed in ourselves. One may wonder if the five paths overlap. Generally speaking, for nearly everyone, the stages of the path are consecutive and separate. Having finished the first stage, one progresses to the second stage and so on. Some texts such as the Abhidharma say that there are some individuals who can travel the paths simultaneously. But they are very exceptional persons; most persons need to complete one path at a time. For instance, in the path of accumulation one can start on the work that is primarily associated with the path of junction, developing insight into the truth. The principle purpose for separating these two stages is to enumerate the positive factors one must gather to complete the path of accumulation and to distinguish them from the development of insight and the level of the path of junction. These paths are not completely separate. So one cannot say they do not overlap, that there aren’t several things taking place at the same time. The Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha are very important. One can compare them to someone who is sick. When someone is sick and has much discomfort, the first thing to do is to investigate the nature of the problem. What is the sickness’ Is it in the brain’ In the heart’ etc. One needs to locate the actual problem and investigate the symptoms of the illness. Then in order to cure that person one also needs to know what is producing the disease. Only by attacking the cause of the symptoms can one actually cure the person. This is a very good analogy for the first two noble truths. One needs to understand the nature of suffering and to know just what it entails. But just understanding the problem is not enough to bring an end to the suffering because one also needs to understand the causes of suffering, which are karma and the disturbing emotions. Then one needs to be able to eradicate the causes. The inspiration to overcome illness is, of course, to understand all the qualities of good health and to be free from the sickness. To continue the example, the Buddha shows one all the qualities of cessation (enlightenment); that is a healthy and wonderful thing. Once one knows that the remedy exists, then one applies the remedy to what has been blocking the state of good health. One applies the very skilful remedies of the path making it possible to deal with karma and the disturbing emotions in order to obtain that good mental health. For that reason, the last two truths are like the medicine whose result is cessation of suffering. The order of working through the Four Noble Truths is not a chronological order. They are ordered logically to help us understand. The first two truths relate to suffering and its cause (samsara). First of all, the character of suffering is explained. Once one understands the character of suffering, one will want to know what causes it so the suffering can be eliminated. The second two truths are related to nirvana. These are not arranged in order of experience because the cause of suffering must obviously come before the suffering itself.

Thrangu Rinpoche 13.

何谓功德
普巴扎西仁波切

现前很多佛教徒不远万里长途跋涉来到高原,我就问他们来高原的目的是什么?他们说一方面是旅游,另一方面来一趟还可以谒见众多导师并且和很多殊胜的圣地结缘。

要知道当前我们信仰佛教并不是为了走个过程,也不是为了图个热闹,我们信仰佛教的目的是为了成办今生快乐、临终自在、未来更加幸福,这才是我们当前信仰佛教的终极目标。要成办这样的目标就需要时时反观自己的内心,所以调伏自己的内心才是学佛的主旨。

往昔梁武帝在位期间,修庙宇、造佛像、布施、供僧、印经等,所行之善极其广大。但当问及达摩祖师是否有功德时,达摩祖师曰:无功德。可能很多人会产生疑问:为什么梁武帝做了那么多善行,还是无功德呢?

现前很多人平时也都在从事着各种各样的善法,很想知道从事这些善事是否具有功德?那就要问问你自己,从事这些善行之后,你的烦恼是否越来越少,出离心和信心是否越来越增上?因为功德并不是安立于外在,而是在内心之中。若你的内心并没有改变,那就要想到你所从事的善行乃至修法对你可能没有起到什么作用。

有些弟子此时就有些想不明白,因为自己所依止的导师是普贤王如来的化身、莲花生大师的化身、观音菩萨的化身,而且又在如此殊胜的导师面前听闻了各式各样的教言,所修的法也是无上窍诀大圆满,是一切乘法之顶点,诸法之精要,为什么还说自己没功德呢?

让我们再看看历代传承祖师的公案:往昔阿底峡尊者入藏之时,一天清晨,阿底峡尊者的侍者仲敦巴在送早餐时,看到尊者非常伤心。仲敦巴问:“今日早晨并未有人打扰您,您为何如此伤心?”阿底峡尊者说:“今早我在光明境界中,观察到一位在印度修无上瑜伽部的弟子,见解已落入小乘,故此伤心。”仲敦巴疑惑不解地问:“您的这位弟子依止的导师是您,所修的法是密宗外三部最高的无上瑜伽部,为什么修法会落入小乘呢?”阿底峡尊者说:“这一切都取决于他自己的修法。落入小乘教法还是很幸运的事情,若要是修得不好,修无上瑜伽部堕入地狱也是有可能的。如云:‘愚者修行大手印,多数趋向恶趣处。’”因此,阿底峡尊者曰:“法不依正法而行持,法反成为堕入三恶趣之因。”意思就是说,如果不知道如何调伏自己内心,不知道如何行持,那么修持再殊胜的法,最终也会堕入三恶趣之中。若要是遵照导师的真实教言而做修行,则即生可以成办解脱。

所以,我们平常在修行时,要时时观待自己的内心。若不观待内心,仅仅口中念诵几句“阿弥陀佛”,未必有功德。细致观待,我们在进入佛门之前看过很多很多书。如果一本书从头到尾把“阿、弥、陀、佛”四个字连接起来的话,里面有多少遍阿弥陀佛我们都不知道。也就是说,我们可能已经念诵过很多很多遍了。难道仅凭这一点就能成办解脱吗?不可能的。这除了说明小时候我们上过学,认识到几个字之外,还能说明什么呢?真正的佛教不在于你念诵什么,而在于调伏烦恼。若未调自心,即便口中念诵不同的经文、心咒,恐怕这些行为都在修地狱而不是在修净土。

同样,真正的功德也不在于外相,而在于内心——贪嗔痴烦恼减少,慈悲心、信心增上。自己的内心得到调伏,才是行持善法乃至修法具有的功德。这一点要牢牢记住啊!

Phurba Tashi Rinpoche (普巴扎西仁波切) 11.

心疯、心迷、心毒
嘎玛仁波切

佛教里喜欢把人心称为一只喝醉酒的大象。大象喝醉了最多也就是糟蹋一下村庄,但是人的心醉了迷了是很可怕的。历史上很多战争,都是某些人,比如一国之君的心“醉”了,调伏不了自己的心,纵容疯心指导着疯狂造业导致的。

一个人,平时是多么爱自己啊,别人说我们一句,我们要想办法顶回去;人们是那么爱惜自己的身体,哪怕一个小小的东西砸到我们,都会哇哇大叫。但是,当人的心疯狂起来以后,有的人跑去上吊,有的人割腕自杀,还有的人不杀自己跑出去残害无辜的人。为什么会这样?就是自己的心没有被调伏,心疯了。

一个人的心大多数时间是盲目的,在想不通的时候,心中的杂念翻涌着,就像海浪一样,当心的负面力量不断膨胀,就会钻牛角尖,别人一句话刺激了他,他就老想着这事情,本身小小的火苗,会越烧越大,当嗔恨心爆发出来的时候,人们就会犯一些无法挽回的错误,在言语、行动上与他人产生矛盾与冲突。有些人,因此犯法而锒铛入狱,甚至丢掉自己的性命。

我在海外的时候经常到监狱里给犯人们讲课,时不时会听他们说,“我后悔啊,不知道当时怎么了。”然后就是向被害者道歉。大家都会说,早知现在何必当初啊!但凡夫俗子都是怕果不怕因,做坏事之前,总是想着这件事能给自己带来的好处,而不去想自己可能会得到什么样的恶果。

比如,那些打劫银行的人,想的是以后有钱了能怎么样,进高档饭店酒店,买最好的手表,买好车好房等等。他忘记了,当他开始行窃的刹那开始,他就已经不是个正常人了,怎么能够享受正常人逛街消费的权利呢?一犯法,就会从人变鬼,他以前想的好日子就离他远去了。去问问这些犯人,犯法之后没有一个可以睡个好觉的,心疯了,人就变得不正常了。

还有些人是因为饮酒乱性,最后造成对自己对社会的伤害,更严重的是现在毒品泛滥,一些普通毒品危害了不少青少年。一个家族里,因为有了吸毒的人,往往整个家族的人都会受到很大影响。有些人去到酒吧玩,说心情不好,人家告诉他,吸一点马上就会高兴,于是抱着试试看的态度去吸毒的,最后都越陷越深。为什么呢?因为你的心情会经常不好,你不可能今天心情不好吸一点,过几天你心情就一直好下去了,毒品导致的暂时幻觉,会让你感到满足,觉得以前没有得到的都得到了,想升官能升官,想发财能发财,这种幻觉会引导人在下一次遇到困难挫折痛苦时,再去吸毒,很快就会上瘾了。

吸毒的人呢,心疯了迷了被毒害了,就算过了很久,只要他有机会想起那些经历,毒性就会让他痛苦万分,这是很可怕的事情,最后全身腐烂,免疫力渐渐消失,活着就像鬼一样,可悲可怜。我们应该多去宣传禁毒,所有会让人上瘾的这些东西,规范烟酒类的销售等等,尤其是对青少年的教育,要保护他们能够健康的成长。

在佛教里,有戒律约束着信徒。这个戒律,充满了佛陀对弟子的关爱。只要我们的身口意受到约束与控制,我们的心就不会疯,不会迷,不会被毒害,这样反应到我们的语言和行为上,就不会作出害人害己的事,这就是对自他最大的保护。

Karma Rinpoche (嘎玛仁波切) 10.

Inner Cities
by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

Spiritual practitioners often aspire to live alone in the mountains among wildlife, yet a city can be an equally or an even more supportive environment for practice. Unlike the wilderness, cities don’t have many trees, aside from those in parks, but they do have lots of people and — if you think about it — people are natural too! Because cities are filled with so many people, there are many more opportunities to practice kindness, compassion, joy in others’ happiness, and equal care for all.

In the city, even if we hole up in our apartment, we can’t escape the fact that others surround us. There is the old woman next door, a transient who sometimes sleeps on the stoop, and there is the drummer upstairs. If we try to isolate ourselves too much, we won’t be able to practice loving-kindness. If, on the other hand, we cultivate a sense of being interconnected — of being a part of our city in the same way that we are a part of our family — then we will develop loving care and kindness for all of our city’s people and we will have a lot of opportunity to practice.

Living in the city, we brush up against so many people each day. Sometimes just smiling at someone or opening a door can be the practice of loving-kindness. On the bus we can give an elderly person our seat. If we take a taxi or pick up our laundry, there is always a way to extend warmth in some way. There are many homeless people living on the street. Sometimes they sit with a cup or a hat in front of them, asking for money. Sometimes they hold signs that say, “I’m hungry, can you help me?” Sometimes they are friendly and sometimes they look depressed or cold. They often have plastic bags full of belongings. It seems to mean a lot to them when someone takes the time even to notice they are there.

When we have a family, we never get our monthly paycheck and think, “I’m going to just blow this!” We always think of our family — the rent, the groceries, and our children’s education. Knowing that our family depends on us, it is rewarding to see how our support benefits their lives. We never feel that our family members owe us something and we never question why we are giving them our support. A sense of responsibility sustains us, so that we feel motivated to continue.

Now, I am not suggesting opening our doors and inviting everyone in. Maybe that is not so realistic. People are complicated; it’s not always so easy to help. Yet there are small ways that we can extend warmth — small gestures that bring a lot of meaning to our lives and to the lives of others. Through participating in this way we help shape our city, our state, our world. If we adopt all the people of our city as our family, anything we can do for them brings fulfilment.

Mothers and fathers find so much pleasure in doing things for their children. They don’t really separate themselves from them. If their children feel happiness, it is their happiness too — pure joy. It can be the same with our adopted city-family. In a family every individual may not have the same needs. There are always some members who need more help, who may have an illness or run into difficult situations, and then there are always those who have an easier time supporting themselves or better luck with what they want to do. We try to do what we can to support everyone, to hold equal care for all.

Of course, when we approach homeless people on the street, we never know what to expect. Some may appreciate it when we try to offer them something, and they may even like to give us something back in return — an apple or directions — as this can give them a sense of integrity and an opportunity to be generous too. But because homeless people live on the fringe, they often don’t express themselves in ways that we feel comfortable with. Some of them look angry and unapproachable. Some of them curl up in a corner covered with blankets. Others might give us the finger and tell us to get lost. That’s their way of surviving, so we need to respect it. Whatever their actions, we can always extend kindness to them by genuinely wishing them well, hoping that they are able to stay warm and find enough food. This powerful method of extending care to all works to chip away at our own indifference and partiality.

Usually our principles guide us in a positive direction, but some principles can limit us. For instance, we may feel that people should go and get a job rather than beg. We may worry that if we offer money to someone who asks for it, they may buy alcohol or drugs. We may feel that offering money to those in need is condescending or we may feel that it’s a petty, superficial solution to a much deeper social problem — one that needs to be addressed in a larger way. Sometimes we may feel so overwhelmed by the suffering around us that we decide it is futile to try to do anything at all. Or, we may feel it is too much of a hassle to reach into our purse and search for some change — that it will attract too much attention.

But when someone literally asks us for our help, how can we ignore their request if we have the means? Addicts have to eat. If we feel concerned about offering them money, we can offer them food or blankets instead. They have a body and feel the hotness of the sun and the dampness of rain on their skin. We should appreciate any opportunity to respond, because it is so much better than walking around thinking about ourselves all day long.

It is most important that the heart responds when there is an opportunity — that we are moved to care for others rather than getting so stuck in our own head. If we can’t recognise opportunities to help people in need, mostly it’s our own loss. Small gestures of kindness transform us; they show us the best part of our mind and connect us to others in the best possible way.

What does it really mean to change the world? If we look around, there is always something we can do.

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche 38.

The Science of Early Buddhism
by Michel Bitbol

Western historical sources posit only one origin of science: classical Greece, beginning around the fifth century BCE. According to the prevailing narrative, this initial spark was interrupted by a long pause and incubation through the Middle Ages and wouldn’t be rekindled until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, during the European Renaissance. Aside from acknowledging some antecedents to the Greeks in ancient Babylon and Egypt, such ethnocentric accounts fail to recognise the many and varied origins of science, spanning eras and geographical regions. India and China, in particular, were home to numerous scientific achievements in mathematics, astronomy, technology, logic, linguistics, and medicine.

From that standpoint, the first volume of Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics, a new series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Thupten Jinpa, is both a revelation and a precious resource on these civilisations that co-invented the scientific spirit. The editors define science as a form of knowledge of nature and its laws, based on empirical observations and striving to reach inter subjective agreement by shared rational principles. Based on that framework, they reveal the ways in which Indian Buddhism could rightly be considered a budding scientific discipline, illustrating in exquisite detail the methods, concepts, and models of nature developed by Indo–Buddhist thinkers at a time (around the sixth to eighth centuries) when the Greco–Roman civilisation was sinking into its so-called “dark ages.” This strain of scientific inquiry was just as demanding in terms of empirical accuracy, logical rigour, explanatory standards, and theoretical ingenuity as ancient Greek or early modern science.

In unpacking the similarities and differences between the Greek and Indo–Buddhist scientific methodological principles, we can draw inspiration from Erwin Schrödinger. In his book Nature and the Greeks, the co-creator of quantum physics offers a clear presentation of the fundamental principles of nascent Hellenic science, identifying two core principles he called “understandability” and “objectivation.” The first principle asserts that one should work under the assumption that “the display of nature can be understood,” rather than invoking the arbitrary decisions of supernatural agents or the whims of fate. The second instructs the scientist to “step back into the role of an external observer” so as to “simplify” the task of understanding nature. This latter principle is indeed a simplification, in that it restricts “nature” to objects that can be seen, known, and used, while excluding the seer, knower, and user.

In early Hellenic science, the principle of understandability took three forms: attempts to identify the basic stuff out of which variegated material phenomena may arise; explanations of visible changes by the interplay of invisible elementary constituents; and careful elaboration of intellectual instruments of inference. Thales, Anaximenes, and Anaximander identified what they deemed to be the basic stuff of the world: water, air, earth, fire, or “the boundless,” respectively. Atomism, theorised by Leucippus and Democritus, attributed the complex behaviours of phenomena to the motion of simple infinitesimal bodies in empty space. And Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Euclid honed logic, arithmetic, and geometry — those carefully designed instruments for constructing systematic knowledge out of fragmentary observations — to precision.

For Indo–Buddhists, the principle of understandability was a given. After all, the law of cause and effect was central to their ethical system. The editors thus reveal the remarkable level of rigour and sophistication reached by later Indian Buddhist scholars in their quest to understand the world according to this law. The ontological aspect of understanding was pushed to a high degree of accuracy by the early Vaibhasika school, that includes the various branches of the Abhidharma. Perhaps the most famous Buddhist classification is the five aggregates of “dharmas” (or “factors of existence”), the constitutive parts of composite objects.

Even earlier, the Rice Seedling Sutra, believed to be one of the first teachings of the Buddha, describes six elements from which complex phenomena of the material aggregate arise. The first four “great elements” (mahabhuta) — earth, water, fire, and wind — mirror the predominant Greek view, promulgated by Empedocles. The other two, space and time, have analogues in Aristotle’s fifth element, “aether.” Also similar to the Greek view is the Buddhist proposition that the elements embody perceptible qualities such as solidity, moisture, heat, and dryness. However, Buddhist thinkers went one step further, ascribing specific functions to material entities: earth provides solidity; water fosters cohesion; fire brings about maturation; and air enables extension, or motion. Perceptible differences in characteristics were explained on the basis of the composite nature of material phenomena, which are said to include these elements, and their associated qualities, in various proportions.

Indo–Buddhist thinkers, from the earliest sutras all the way up to Vasubandhu, addressed at length the question of what constitutes matter. The simplest definition was that matter is anything composed of the “great elements.” Another more explicit definition said matter is that which occupies space and is visible, resistant (or obstructive), and capable of modification through contact. As it happens, resistance and spatial extension were also seen as defining features of matter according to a Greek tradition, spanning from Aristotle to Simplicius. Theories of atoms, considered to be the basic constituents of material phenomena, were then derived from the former definition. In Buddhist texts, atoms are either space particles out of which elements are elaborated or are themselves composed of the major elements.

The epistemological aspect of scientific inquiry also received thorough attention, particularly within the Sautrantika school. In the Indo–Buddhist tradition, the method for obtaining valid knowledge was an object of study in its own right, just as in Aristotle’s Organon and Sir Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum. According to Sautrantika epistemological theory, developed by Dignaga and Dharmakirti, uninterpreted “direct” perception was deemed to be the most reliable foundation for knowledge. However, Sautrantika thought qualified this, noting that perception only gives access to “evident facts,” whereas the “slightly obscure facts” (such as atoms or elements), which might explain the evident facts, are ignored by it. In order to understand such unseen factors in causation, a theory of inference from observable facts to unobservable facts was needed. The Sautrantika method of inference involved the principles of logic — such as the laws of identity, contradiction, and excluded middle — and was bolstered by a universal presupposition of causality; it also submitted to self-correction through a developed art of debate. This approach was not only similar to, but also often more accurate than, that employed at the dawn of modern science, prior to Galileo.

In view of this, one might wonder why Indian Buddhist culture did not spawn the kinds of predictive and technological leaps that occurred in late seventeenth-century Europe. One reason is that inferential knowledge and manufactured achievements were not strongly correlated in Indo–Buddhist monastic universities, whereas in seventeenth-century Europe there arose a systematic collaboration between thinkers and engineers. This alliance led to the development of laboratories, where observed phenomena could be controlled and tested. Another reason was the relative isolation of mathematics within the Indian sciences. European scientists transformed mathematics into a powerful tool of inference, allowing them to relate phenomena with greater precision than was possible through logic alone.

A deeper reason, however, may be that unlike its Western counterparts, Indian Buddhism was reluctant to engage in what Schrödinger denounced as a “simplification” of the project of understanding nature by excluding the observer from it. The Indo–Buddhist mode of scientific inquiry explicitly included lived experience, especially the experience of meditation, among its sources of information; Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics offers many glimpses of the ways in which the lived experience of human subjects was among the tools of Indo–Buddhist science. Thus, His Holiness the Dalai Lama notes in his introduction that, in Buddhism, “empirical observation is not confined to the five senses alone … it includes observations derived from meditation.”

In the same way as reading a treatise on physics requires commitment to rehearse its mathematical reasoning and experiments, reading a Buddhist treatise requires one to meditate and realise the meaning of its propositions. The results of this broadening of the basis of knowledge were significant. For one, Indo–Buddhist science was innately critical of ontologies. Indeed, the ontology of permanent substances endorsed by both common sense and classical science is criticised by most schools of Buddhism on the basis of its manifest decomposition in meditative experience. The Sautrantika school thus denied the ultimate reality of universals, substances, and relations. It relegated the ontology of enduring substantial bodies, including bodily atoms, to mere “conventional reality,” whereas the domain of “ultimate reality” was restricted to instantaneous particulars. The Cittamatra school pushed this criticism of substantiality and intrinsic existence even further, considering any manifest entities projections of the mind. It saw atomism as illogical, since the spatial extension of atoms conflicts with their alleged indivisibility. The Madhyamaka school completed this critical process by rejecting any view of inherent existence, while generalising the “radical relativistic standpoint” of dependent origination.

Broadening the basis of knowledge also has consequences on the so-called “mind–body problem.” As long as perception is the exclusive source of knowledge, the objects of sense perception, circumscribed by experimentation, will be considered the only constituents of the world. Phenomenal consciousness, then, is ascribed a derivative status. The alleged physical origin of phenomenal consciousness, the objective origin of subjectivity, becomes a “hard” (but bias-generated) problem. By contrast, if, as in Buddhist epistemology and in Francisco Varela’s Neurophenomenology, the sources of knowledge are twofold — both third-person and first-person—then consciousness is no longer relegated as a derivative phenomenon. Rather, material and mental phenomena are on a par. Matter and consciousness co-arise as mutual cooperative conditions. No dualism is implied, since neither matter nor consciousness is ascribed inherent existence. This dissolves the “hard problem” of identifying the material origin of phenomenal consciousness.

This input from lived experience, especially from meditative experience, may have represented a hindrance on the path toward modern science, but the situation today is different. As Varela pointed out, in our present, globalisation culture, an acknowledgement of the relevance of lived experience could trigger a new scientific Renaissance, enriching Western science with an aspect it has been missing from the outset. Narrow objectification is perhaps the most expedient, technologically efficient way of acquiring knowledge, but it has stumbled on its own limitations. In domains such as quantum physics, the observation-dependence of phenomena is engraved in the axioms, such as the non-commutativity of observables. And how can one still take the position of an external observer when one of the last “objects” of sought knowledge is nothing other than oneself, one’s lived experience? In that context, the extended epistemology of Buddhism presents an opportunity rather than an inherited burden.

Lotus 171.

His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

Latest Karmapa Chenno MV 新MV【 ཤེར་བསྟན། 2017 】噶瑪巴千諾

噶瑪巴Karmapa
(藏文:ཀརྨ་པ་,藏語拼音:Garmaba,威利:karma pa,THL:Karmapa),全稱為嘉華噶瑪巴(Gyalwa Karmapa),又稱大寶法王(為明成祖賜號),是藏傳佛教噶舉派中的噶瑪噶舉派之最高持教法王,並且也是最早開啟乘願轉世傳統的藏傳佛教領袖。藏傳佛教視他為金剛總持的化身。
—-維基百科

(法王是小編接觸藏傳的第二個上師,剪完這輯內心真是悸動不已。還記得九年前首次去尼泊爾、菩提迦耶見法王,博塔四周的所有的佛像殿都選遍了,就是看不上一尊喜歡,啥都不投緣!當時路進角落邊的一間小店,窗底小櫃的一尊“小菩薩”吸引了我的目光,初學朦朧不知….,原來當時有緣請回的,是一尊_金剛總持。)

World Peace and Harmony

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address at an interfaith dialogue at the National Sports Council of India Dome in Mumbai, India on August 13, 2017.

Larung Gar Buddhist Academy

(The largest Tibetan Buddhism Academy in the world)

Click here to watch video: http://video.toggle.sg/en/video/series/unique-towns/ep8/439631

(the video should be able to watch on laptop & desktop only)

unique-towns-ep8-box-cover-mcbc0160816001100529-20160816225501

Spotless from the Start

by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

As soon as we talk about a path like Buddhism, we think about its finishing line — some kind of result or goal. But in the Mahayana there is no goal. In the Prajnaparamita Sutra, for instance, we hear that “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. No eyes, no nose…” and all that. There’s nothing to obtain. And there’s no “no nothing” to obtain.

The Mahayana path is more like peeling layers of skin and finally finding out that there’s no seed inside. We have to obtain liberation from the skins, but this is difficult to do because we love our skins. When we’re children, a sandcastle is very important to us. Then when we’re sixteen, a skateboard is very important, and by then the sandcastle has become a rotten skin. When we’re in our thirties and forties, money, cars, and relationships replace the skateboard. These are all layers of skin. More importantly, even the paths that we practice are all layers of skin, which we use to help us peel the other skins. The inner skin helps us to think about the outer skin and motivates us to peel it. But ultimately in the Mahayana path, you have to be free from all systems, all skins.

So what happens when all these skins have been peeled off? What’s left? Is enlightenment a total negation, like the exhaustion of a fire or the evaporation of moisture? Is it something like that? No, we’re talking about something that is a result of elimination. For example, if your window is dirty, you clean it. You wash the dirt, and then the window, in the absence of dirt, is labeled a clean window. There’s nothing else. The phenomenon that we are calling a clean window, the quality that is the absence of dirt, is not something that we produced by cleaning the dirt. I don’t think we should even call it a clean window, because the window in its original state has never been stained by the extremes of either dirty or clean. Nevertheless, the process of getting rid of the dirt can be labeled as the emergence of the clean window.

Here we’re talking about buddhanature, and if you want to know about buddhanature, then Maitreya’s Uttaratantra Shastra is the text you have to study. It’s important to be careful when establishing the idea of buddhanature, because otherwise it might end up becoming something like an atman , or a truly existing soul. The Mahayana shastras talk about the qualities of freedom, or elimination, such as the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, the thirty-two major marks, the eighty minor marks, and so on. If you’re not careful, you might start to think about buddhanature theistically — that is, in terms of the qualities of a permanent god, soul, or essence. But all these qualities talked about in the Mahayana shastras are simply qualities of the absence of dirt.

When we talk about the result of elimination, we automatically think we are talking about something that comes afterward: first there is elimination and then comes its effect. But we are not talking about that at all, because then we would be falling into an eternalist or theistic extreme.

“Elimination” means having something to eliminate. But in the Prajnaparamita, we understand that there is nothing to eliminate. And that is the big elimination. The result of that elimination isn’t obtained later. It’s always there, which is why it’s called tantra, or “continuum.” This quality continues throughout the ground, path, and result. The window continues from before the dirt was there, while the dirt is being washed away, and after the cleaning is complete. The window has always been free from the concepts of dirt and freedom from dirt. That’s why the Mahayana sutras say the result is beyond aspiration. You cannot wish or pray for the result of elimination, because it’s already there; it continues all the time, so there’s no need to aspire to it.

The essence of all of the Buddha’s teachings is emptiness, or interdependent arising. Nothing arises, dwells, or ceases independently. Therefore, there’s nothing permanent. There is no truly existing self. Everything that we think exists, or does not exist, or both or neither — all these things are fabrications of our mind. We fabricate them and then we become attached to our fabrications. But we don’t realise they are our own fabrications. We think they are real, which is why they are referred to as extreme. Basically, every single conception or clinging that we have is some kind of fanatical process. The Mahayana sutras teach emptiness, or shunyata, to lead us beyond all these extremes and fabrications.

When we talk about emptiness, something beyond fabrication, we immediately think of a state of being that has no function, like a couch potato or piece of stone, but that is absolutely not correct. It is not merely a negation, elimination, or denial. It is not like the exhaustion of a fire or the evaporation of water. It is full of function, and we call this function buddha activity, which is one aspect of buddhanature. This buddhanature has an aspect of uninterrupted wisdom. This is the difficulty, because as soon as we talk about wisdom, we think in terms of cognition and the senses and their sense objects. We are curious about how a buddha perceives things. But although buddhanature is seemingly a cogniser, it has no object, and therefore it cannot be a subject. Furthermore, it’s not inanimate, nor is it animate, in the sense of mind. This is why the Uttaratantra Shastra is really complementary to the Mahasandhi (Dzogchen) teachings, which always say that mind and wisdom are separate — the dualistic mind of subject and object is separate from the nondual wisdom, which is not other than buddhanature.

You could say that when Nagarjuna explains the Prajnaparamita, he concentrates more on its empty aspect, whereas when Maitreya explains the same thing he concentrates more on the “-ness” aspect. This “-ness” is buddhanature. You might wonder why the Buddha taught in the sutras that all phenomena are like clouds — unstable, naturally illusory, and empty. Why is it that even though we can experience them, they are without essence, like a dream or mirage?

Why is all this taught as emptiness in the Madhyamaka teachings and the Prajnaparamita Sutras? And as Mipham Rinpoche’s commentary on the Uttaratantra Shastra asks, why in this third turning of the wheel of dharma does the Buddha say that this buddhanature exists within all sentient beings? Isn’t that a contradiction? Furthermore, since buddhanature is very difficult to understand, even for sublime beings who are on the path, why is it taught here for ordinary beings? Let’s go to stanza 156 of Maitreya’s text:

156 He had taught in various places that every knowable thing is ever void, like a cloud, a dream, or an illusion. Then why did the Buddha declare the essence of buddhahood to be there in every sentient being?

First of all, there is no contradiction between the second turning of the wheel of the dharma, where the Buddha taught that everything is emptiness, and the third turning of the wheel, where the Buddha taught that all sentient beings have buddhanature. In the Prajnaparamita Sutras of the second turning, the Buddha emphasises that nothing is truly existent. So here when Buddha says there is buddhanature, he isn’t saying that buddhanature truly exists. Rather he is emphasising its clarity aspect. When we talk about the union of clarity and emptiness, it’s important that we understand both aspects, not only the emptiness aspect.

Beyond this, the Buddha’s teachings on buddhanature address, and counteract, five particular mistakes:

157 There are five mistakes: faint-heartedness, contempt for those of lesser ability, to believe in the false, to speak about the true nature badly, and to cherish oneself above all else. So that those in whom these above were there might rid themselves of them, therefore was it declared.

Generally, throughout the buddhadharma, and especially in the Mahayana, the most important thing is to generate enlightened mind. If you read the Bhadrakalpa Sutra (the Sutra of the Fortunate Aeon), you will hear how in the beginning one thousand buddhas generated enlightened mind. Generating enlightened mind is a promise or pledge to enlighten oneself and all sentient beings, and for practitioners on the path it is the most important thing. For example, when you pray, why does prayer work? It works because of this determination, this pledge to help sentient beings. It’s all based on that. Hence, there are five reasons to teach buddhanature, each one addressing one of the five mistakes, and these reasons are all about helping us to make good on this pledge.

First, if buddhanature were not emphasised, then a bodhisattva on the path might become discouraged, because the path is long, rough, and endless. One might also despise oneself, thinking how can someone impure and useless like me achieve enlightenment? Bodhichitta, the wish to enlighten all sentient beings, will not arise within people who have that kind of discouragement and despise themselves.

When we know that buddhanature is there within us, like a gold coin buried in the dirt, it gives us a lot of encouragement. We know enlightenment is possible because buddhanature is there within us. This brings joy to the path. If we didn’t know there was a gold statue inside the mold, there would be no joy in breaking the mold. But when we know, the desire to find the statue inside is so strong that we don’t even notice the process of breaking the mold, which is generating enlightened mind.

Secondly, as bodhisattvas we have to benefit all sentient beings. If we don’t know that buddhanature resides within everybody, then we might not respect other sentient beings. Rather, we might think we’re great because we’re bodhisattvas, and then despise other sentient beings. This could become a big obstacle, hindering us in benefiting other beings.

Imagine that you think you’re a bodhisattva who has buddhanature and that other sentient beings don’t have buddhanature and therefore require your help. You think you have to somehow insert the buddha inside them. That’s a very big mistake. It’s what we call exaggeration or imputation. The Buddhist view is that everybody has buddhanature. It will not change. No one, no guru, no Buddha can insert it. All anyone can do is become some kind of path to enable people to realise it themselves.

The third reason buddhanature is taught is to dispel the obstacles that obstruct us from having prajna. There are two such obstacles. The first one is imputation. Even though there is no buddhanature, we impute or imagine its existence by thinking that all these buddha qualities exist, such as the ushnisha, the protuberance on top of the Buddha’s head, symbolising his great wisdom and enlightenment. But in reality, they don’t.

We also need to overcome the second obstacle to wisdom, namely thinking that the buddha qualities do not exist, or that there are no buddha qualities within us, which is like some kind of criticism. This is the fourth reason buddhanature is taught.

Finally, the fifth reason is to dispel the obstacle that prevents us from understanding that we are equal to others. If we don’t know that buddhanature exists equally within all beings, then we might have more attachment to ourselves and more aversion toward others.

So those are the five reasons why buddhanature is taught.

Buddhanature is pure and free from all kinds of compounded phenomena, right from the beginning.

158 The ultimate true nature is always devoid of anything compounded, so it is said that defilements, karma, and their full ripening are like a cloud, etc.

Therefore, buddhanature is free from the three kinds of emotions: desire, aggression, and jealousy. It is free from the emotions of karmic formation, such as virtuous actions and non-virtuous actions. And it is free from the result of emotion, the five aggregates. So therefore the emotions are like clouds.

159 The defilements are said to be like clouds, karma is likened to the experience in dreams, and the full ripening of karma and defilements — the aggregates — are likened to conjurations.

The nature of beings is primordially pure, and that’s why we call it buddhanature. Although emotions are seemingly apparent and seemingly stubborn, seemingly like a second nature, they are never a second nature. They are like clouds — they are adventitious, and not a true part of you. This point is quite important. In Buddhism we always come to the conclusion that these emotions and defilements are temporary. When we’re looking at a grey cloudy sky, we might call it a cloudy sky, but it’s not really a cloudy sky. The clouds are never the sky. The clouds are temporary or adventitious.

The next part is very important for our understanding of karma. Since emotions are temporary, so-called karma or action is like a dream. This is very important because many people think that karma is almost like a substitute for God. They think it’s like someone who punishes you, rewards you, and decides your fate. But it’s never like that in Buddhism. Karma is actually like a dream. In a dream, you might experience all kinds of ecstasy, but no matter how much you pant and sweat, it’s just a dream.

When we say, “It’s just a dream,” there’s sometimes a connotation that we despise it, because it’s not real. But it doesn’t work like that either. If you become enamored with a dream-elephant, then in the dream you go through the ecstasy of meeting the elephant, the sadness of missing the elephant, and eventually the agony of no longer having the elephant. That’s how karma works.

This stanza is a big summary of Buddhism. Emotions are temporary, so action is like a dream, and therefore the aggregates — the result of emotions and action — are like a mirage. The five aggregates are like a mirage, because the closer you approach them, the more futile or essenceless they become. We try so hard to get close to the elephant, but even if there’s an engagement, the exchange of rings, a marriage ceremony, or whatever, the elephant remains a mirage.

To emphasise this, the Buddha taught emptiness in the earlier turnings of the wheel of dharma. For example, in the Prajnaparamita Sutra, he said that form is emptiness, emptiness is form, and everything is like a mirage or a dream, and so forth. Then after that, in order to dispel the five kinds of obstacles or downfalls, the Buddha taught buddhanature in the third turning of the wheel of the dharma.

So why is it so hard for us to conceive of or accept that everybody has buddhanature? Mipham Rinpoche has a very good explanation. As we have seen, beings have all these adventitious emotions that are not their nature, but that are nevertheless a temporary manifestation. The problem is that this is the first thing that we see in others, and so we think, “That’s it; that’s what’s real,” without looking at what’s behind that. I would call it, “Emotion at first sight.”

There’s another problem that arises when you look at what’s on the surface and think that it’s the absolute truth: you might begin to wonder how enlightenment or buddhanature can coexist with emotion. Then you separate or remove buddhahood from normal, ignorant sentient beings. This is why we always think that buddhahood will come to us later, in some other time or place, after ten years of practice, or whatever; we don’t understand that buddhanature is already there but covered by defilements, like the gold coin buried beneath the dirt.

So the first fault is the arrogance of a bodhisattva who thinks that you don’t have these qualities of buddhanature, so he has to give them to you. The second fault is when a bodhisattva doesn’t realise that defilements are adventitious, and he says that you have a problem and need to be purified.

It’s so important that you hear these words, because although Buddhism is growing and spreading, it could also be degenerating. If you don’t know this information, some Buddhist teachers might behave like people who can control your life. They may become your spiritual and secular leaders, deciding what things you should and shouldn’t have. They will try to tell you what to do, what to add, and what to remove. Eventually we might have Buddhist masters imposing laws that make everyone wear six layers of socks wherever they go, or things like that.

165 If one clings to the faults, the untrue, and disparages the qualities, the true, one will not have the loving-kindness of the wise, which sees the similarity of others and oneself.

This stanza is really beautiful. Unless you know that all beings have buddhanature, you will not have loving-kindness. Loving-kindness has to be based on the fact that everybody is equal, and this equality is based on knowing that everybody has the buddhanature. As long as you think that the person who gives love is higher in some hierarchical sense, and that the poor needy beings who receive it are somehow lower, then there is no love and kindness. It’s more like condescension or pity.

166 Through learning in such fashion there will arise enthusiasm, respect, as toward the Buddha, prajna, jnana, and great love.

Now we come to the benefit of hearing about buddhanature. When we hear about buddhanature, we experience joy or enthusiasm toward the path, because we know that enlightenment is possible. Even a dog is worthy of homage, because it has buddhanature. No matter how many emotions you have erupting inside you, you’ll know that they are removable, and that is wisdom. At the same time, you will know that all the qualities of the Buddha are within you, and that is primordial wisdom.

So now when you hear about, read about, or see amazing buddha qualities, you won’t treat them as separate from you, thinking, “Well that’s them, but I’m different.” You will not think things like that because you know that all the qualities of the Buddha, down to every single lock of hair, exist within you. There is nothing to be jealous of or to covet, because you have everything. And when you know that everybody has buddhanature, loving-kindness will grow. Can you see that emptiness alone doesn’t allow you to do these things?

So what is the effect of knowing that you have these great qualities? If you have confidence, then negativity, literally “the unutterable negative actions,” cannot easily overcome you. You become a stranger to negativity, and strangers have some kind of dignity. When you’re a stranger, others don’t have access to you. They don’t come in and feel at home with you, because you’re courageous. The second effect of knowing that you have buddhanature is that you will not look down on those who are destitute, thinking that they are lower than you. You won’t have arrogance, nor will you feel inferior when you see a sublime being, someone who has attained a lot. There’s no reason to feel inferior, because you have everything that that sublime being has. You have no more and no less than Shakyamuni Buddha or any of a thousand buddhas. Basically, there’s no inferiority or superiority complex any longer because of buddhanature.

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