Presented by Jhampa Shaneman
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
Jhampa Dec 13,88
For this evening the topic is refuge. Refuge is really just being conscious of your decisions. It really comes down to that. In making a conscious decision you could say there is an aim or focus as in when you make business decisions, you have the object that there is some profit, and that is the goal. Maybe there is a few minor things behind that goal, like good quality work that you are offering, or whatever, there are other facets, but there is that.
In introducing refuge for this evening, the whole focus is to be aware, it is just being conscious, and conscious decisions! It does go into other things which is the secondary part, but, in talking of conscious decisions, first is its good to come in touch with ourselves in the aspect that we are always taking refuge. We are always doing it. It is part of our existence. It is in everything we do. For within our mind, when a situation arises we ask what are we going to do now? What is the thing to do in this unique moment? The question, and then making a decision is refuge. I.E., you are taking this particular course of activity, the one that seems appropriate, as the one, in a sense you could say, as the one that will protect me in the next interaction we become involved with.
If you go into a community you don't know anything about and you steel your nerves as say, whatever is going to happen in this new community I will try to be clear sighted and do things properly. Like if you go down to the U.S., to cities that are strange, and you are not sure of the new community you are going into. I think we've all talked about going down the the United States and driving into the wrong part of town, what I am trying to say is that you have a new situation, for example travelling to a new community or country, or you have just meeting with new people or confronted by an employer and they are coming on very intensively and your mind says, what should I do to protect myself in this situation? Should I be assertive or should I be sorry, or whatever? Your mind is always doing it. It is saying, if I do this, I feel secure.
What you should try to do is, each time you find yourself, and its sort of being confronted by something, find that reflex in your mind that says, what should I do to work with the situation? And when you start finding that one, when you start seeing what am I doing in the situation, then you really have the meat of refuge because you can make it an immediate thing. Very much for Buddhism, there is a philosophical discourse on taking refuge which I will talk on in a few minutes, but the real meat of refuge is in each moment, the conscious decision you make. And it really has to be the conscious decisions because if unconsciously we always respond, then there is no refuge because you could almost say there's no life! Your existence is almost an animal level, instinctual level, and being on instinct isn't quite appropriate. For us we have the capacity to make choices, to have options on anything we are involved with. That is what being human is all about.
Getting in touch with that, like I say it is the meat of your being. Something is happening right now. My child is being crazy! What am I going to do? What am I going to rely upon to handle the situation?
My boss is attaching me! He is now upset! What am I going to do? In finding that, then you can start to say to yourself, "Alright, I am making decisions all the time. I definitely am taking refuge in one thing or another every moment. Particularly when I am being confronted. So what would I like to do, in catching that, is I am basically making the person I am, cultivating my character in each one of those movements."
So you can make yourself a defensive person. You can make yourself a very aggressive person. Whatever. You could make yourself a very open person when it comes to kindness. You actually can become aware of in your normal responses that you have been producing a type a personality, defensive, insecure, whatever. We throw up all sorts of shields to make sure we don't ever really get accessed by anybody.
What we want to do then is to say, "Each time I interact, I create a part of my character. Now I am more conscious of myself. What would I like to produce of myself?" Whether you are a parent, and although we like to think of ourselves as wonderful parents, totally know how to resolve all of our children's conflicts and questions, and that we give the best of examples for them so they turn into wonderful beings that radiated white light for everybody else to see...I don't know, this is our glorified picture, what we would like to think of ourselves. But, when you have your child in front of you and being totally berserk, you can say to yourself, "Alright, right now I have to deal with the situation. Also I am going to seek a method. Either I am going to yell, or ignore, or whatever. I am going to do something which is my refuge, is my support for dealing with this child." You should say, "Hey I'd like to be a little bit more together parent, a bit of an example, so have that in your mind. Have that "What quality can I give to the child?"
As the child grows they do make more and more of their own decisions and basically the child finally moves away from home. You don't get anything back other than what you gave. For example you gave love you get love back from the kids. But if you have always been an aggressive and intensive parent, all you will get left with is your intensity. That is what you will get left with because that is all you have cultivated. That child will go off and do whatever it will do. They will remember you and possibly act a bit like you because you were the main example. But really that child is free and you get left with is whatever you laid on them. You really have to think about it and say, I often relied upon aggressiveness and yelling because I thought it was the best way to do it, but if we come back in ourselves and think, all that leaves me with is an very aggressive personality and if I have enough control in a situation, i.e., I have a very weak person or a person who is under my thumb as in a child, that's what I am going to do with those people because that's all I know in discipline.
You can start to bring your interaction with the child into your actual spiritual practice as in what sort of person am I cultivating and such. And be aware that you are going to be left with whatever you have done with that relationship. So, what do you want to be left with? You can hassle yourself a bit. Saying do I want to be left with being an absolute aggressive disciplinarian who is a horrible authoritarian? Or do I want to have a nicer after thought when the whole situation is finished.
Then we can start to move into working with peers and other people. And think of that too in the sense, you have to remember I have moved it into the scale of what is an objective or a focus. What is the ultimate statement of your being that is going to come out of your interaction? Each time you make a decision you create yourself a little bit. In that creating, think about what the ultimate statement that produces in the long run? When you are working with other people, are you always defensive of the work that you do? "I did that the best I could! I tried my best!" Always defending yourself. What you end up becoming is a very defensive person. And if anyone questions you about anything, you might fly off the handle and defend yourself when there is no need for it. Someone might say "What is that?" And you go "I did that well! And all they were wanting to know was what that thing was.
You cultivate, because you are a defensive, a defensive personality. And it dominates or becomes a more predominant part of your character because that is something you can do. So be aware in each time you get confronted, think about when that person says "Hey what are you doing?" allow it to go in, I guarantee your automatic responses are defensiveness and a statement to throw them off. But to become more conscious of in each of these interactions, "Alright, I am cultivating a bit of myself in this exact moment when I fall back into something to be my support, I am actually creating myself. Well, what do I want to be?" So next time it happens and you are a little more conscious of that interaction, say, "I want to be a little bit more up front and I feel I did a good job, I don't need to say that." So just bringing consciousness into it so you are conscious of the movement of your mind. In that you are actually fulfilling so many aspects of your spiritual practice. One, you are conscious. Two, you are not allowing the common mundane aspects, delusions, which we rely on. Which I have been normally emphasizing defensiveness and fear, and then trying to resolve it by being aggressive and insensitive.
The more you become in touch with it, you can start to focus on what spirituality is as in the fully enlightened being. This is where refuge becomes very much Buddhism in the sense that the fully enlightened being is, one, the teacher that has shown the paths. That's why as least I am a Buddhist because I believe that the Buddha showed the right path and therefore I have taken refuge in him as the founder or presenter of the path. Nowadays of course, what we should focus on is one, that is something important because we were lucky to have the Buddha. Second thing is the qualities of that being which founds the path. The Buddha they say, the enlightened being, whether it is a man or a woman, has completely abandoned all negative traits and has accomplished all positive traits. It means that the enlightened being naturally and spontaneously never falls back on any negative trait as in defensiveness or any sense of insecurity. The fully enlightened being only responds from positive aspects in the sense of having a very secure mind. There is no unknowingness in the mind. The mind is full of love, compassion, wisdom, understands it's own nature fully. So that is the being that is the founder. That is one aspect of refuge as in that being personifies the most together expression that can happen.
The second aspect of refuge in that person that was the founder is that I can become that. There is nothing from stopping me becoming that. In being aware of that is making a statement to oneself that says I can become that positive being.
There is nothing that holds me back. Just that I have always relied on unconscious traits. I have always allowed myself to be what you basically can say unconsciousness. Just, I have never really been aware of what I have been doing to myself. If I start to be more aware and make positive decisions, then I will start to naturally or spontaneously without thinking about it too hard, more natural in my expression of being secure, being wise, being peaceful, being compassionate when necessary and such.
So there is two aspects in that refuge. First, the fully enlightened being is the founder therefore worthy of being venerated. The second and more important aspect is that I can become like that. That being, taking refuge in a being like that, I have personal connection to that. It means something to me. That actually I can do something about that, become that. So it is a much more real refuge. It's not like someone is always going to have their hand on your head and saying you are a good child, where you are always in this secondary position. Rather, it means that you can become into the primary position of that actual state of being. So that makes it much more exciting rather than always being as I say, the good child or whatever. You actually can become that state of being. It makes it a real thing to strive for.
The second part of the refuge is the teaching. The fully enlightened being gave teaching and that is the path that we practice. It is something that is quite external and that we strive after as in the teachings of be pious, be good, virtuous, positive, loving, kind, generous, patient, be.be.be.... That is very real. But if you bring that back to the immediate moment, as I said to be aware of every moment that you create with each decision that you make, then you don't need to be so concerned with "should be this, should be that" but rather, if you have got that sensation in our mind which says "What should I do, I'll do this," then you start to have a very real practice and it becomes much more immediate. You spirituality is very real for you.
For myself personally I like my spirituality to be real, very comfortable. It's not as in Please God bless my consciousness and something so grandiose as that. It is much more real, immediate as in the immediate moment I am creating my own enlightenment. In the immediate moment I am conscious. In the immediate moment is my opportunity to be full of love, to be full of compassion.
Again, in that way you have two types of refuge. One is the refuge as in the path I should practice. But you can also relate to that back to the refuge I practice in each conscious decision I make, each interaction I have.
Final aspect of refuge is the community. The traditional presentation of community is the spiritual community, as in those which have a spiritual practice. The best are those which have high realizations or either ordained as monks or nuns or lay ordinations or such, or at lest have taken refuge in Buddhism. So they are buddhists. That is sort of like the best of refuges as presented in the traditional presentation. Nowadays, being that we are in the west and there are not many people which we know are Buddhists, there are a few people around which express the fact that they are buddhists, but most are agnostic or spiritually inclined, or interested in Buddhism or whatever, people who are quasi this or that, not really committed to any one thing.
In that being the state we are in, what spiritual community can mean is that you are much more aware of the friends that draw into the circle of your influence, who influence you and you influence them. It does mean that you are a little more conscious of the people you have as friends. As in you try to have friends who have spiritual interest. If not an overt spiritual interest, are certainly inclined towards being supportive, positive, kindness and such things. You just sort of try to be more attracted to those people, so that you have a nicer environment around you. An environment that easily supportive. It is sometimes difficult to find a community support, because people don't want to meditate with you, or anything like that. It is sometimes difficult. But at least they have people who have similar direction. Then you feel really comfortable with them. You feel hey, I can have that person over for tea. We will talk about a thousand things and then maybe a little bit about getting in touch with ourselves and such. So there is that sort of interest in them, and that sort of interest in me. I don't get flack from my friends like why am I interested in spirituality and meditation and that sort of thing.
Nowadays refuge in communities is perhaps just being aware of the friends that you do attract. And if you meet with someone who looks like a nice person but when you get to know them find they like to drink quite a bit, carouse, whatever. Maybe they are nice people and under ordinary circumstances you might enjoy their company but when it comes down to it all they are ever going to want you to do is go out drinking, night clubbing or something like that, then you can say, I like that person, nothing against him, and if I was more loose with myself, it would be alright. But I have a direction in my life right now, so I will be friendly and always be nice, but not make those bonding contacts like coming over for coffee. Being a little conscious. Because in doing that, you will find that you are going to have to be a little involved in their trip because very few people go out of their own thing. Most people in the world do their thing. And if you will do their thing well they will want you as a friend or include you. But if you don't do their thing,...
All I am trying to say is that in spiritual community, try to be aware of those people you attract into your environment or that you get drawn together with and then being aware of if I cultivate this friendship, will it be supportive for what I like to get into or will it be something that will go in different directions. So you just be a little more aware of those things.
Question: Could you repeat those three things?
Refuge in the Buddha or refuge in the enlightened being as an immediate experience is "In the decisions I make, is that being the focus or the aim?" And it doesn't have to be too exalted as in saying, if I make a decision in being a little more quiet or more careful in my next interaction, then that is going towards the fully enlightened being. Whereas if I rely on being angry and flying off the handle because I want everyone to back off ten feet, well, the Buddha doesn't act that way so it is sort of going the other direction.
The teachings are the spiritual practice which is love compassion, development of wisdom, peacefulness, meditative awareness or consciousness.
In the immediate situation of taking refuge is being aware of the movement of your mind and being more in touch with that. It actually ties back to what is the resultant state that will be produced by the decisions I make in each moment.
The spiritual community is the people I hang out with and are they conducive to my goals and aspirations. If there was a really good community, then you could say I take refuge in the Buddha's community. For example if I go back to India, I don't know if I'd actually refuge in the Buddha's community because there is all these weird people. Let's just say there are some people that I hold in high esteem because I think they are really good Buddhists and I would like to have them as sources of very supportive energy. So there is my real spiritual community. In general I think to be aware of the friendships you have is the real spiritual community.
My focus of my refuge is just becoming enlightened as in being a person, I try to become a person who has all sorts of good qualities and doesn't rely on negativity. Sort of the ideal of what a Buddha is. So that is what my focus is. And in that focus I have nobody who is an enemy. If I really am in touch with that, there is nobody who is outside, there is nobody who is nasty or ugly. There are some people I don't want to hang around too much because they are not very nice people and they sort of hassle, but I don't judge them as being bad because the object of my refuge includes them as being an object for my compassion, love, help.
In a literal sense my focus is enlightenment. In an immediate sense my refuge is what I practice in each second of my immediate moment. I'd say the more real refuge for me is my immediate moment. But the immediate moment in a lineal sense will arrive at enlightenment, I think...
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