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.
May 5 91
Last week I introduced the subject of beginningless mind as being the basis of realizations because if one thinks of mind, the immediate moment of consciousness, there is certain implications of when one starts to understand mind and conscious experience. Because the immediate moment of consciousness that we have, how is it there? What is created in the immediate moment of consciousness? And what will be the on going modes of consciousness? Certainly we can see that our state of existence this moment is based on a stream of conscious awareness. It is not that we sort of suddenly understand things or do not understand things. Rather, our stream of mind is developed by the experiences it has. And so as we grow in experience, then the stream of continuity of our mind becomes greater in any way that we are developing whether it is in developing a very neurotic ego, or a very well established ego, or a more enlightened consciousness, however we want to understand it.
In Buddhism it is said that mind is beginningless and endless because if it were anything else, then there would be other implications. If one has a beginningless mind with no primal creator consciousness or primal creator being, then there is sort of an onward flow. There is no need to ask the question, what is the original why? Why did the universe start and such things? As for endless mind, that is important because if mind came to an end, we would be talking of extinction of the mind. The death of mind. And although we will refer to the relative mind and it's understanding as coming to a point where it will cease, ultimate mind, referring to the very subtle level of mind which is ongoing, that will not cease. That is an on going process. And that is only accessible t9o very deep concentration with correct understanding.
For a Buddhist anyway, beginningless and endless mind are an important premise because they help establish a context. Although it is difficult to blatantly confront and establish beginningless or endless mind, it is something that if you develop powerful concentration, you can actually experience. And certainly in the immediate moment of consciousness, one is more capable to gain a realization of the nature of consciousness as being a flow of mind moments. And although the flow of mind moments is spontaneous and sometimes unpredictable, still there is an ongoing flow. In that way, for example when we go to bed tonight, we will wake up tomorrow morning and have a continuity of whom we are. It is not that the mind moments are unrelated to the previous one. It is said that the previous mind moment creates the present mind moment. The present mind moment creates the next mind moment. And there are many factors in that such as the sensory input, emotional input of the individual and such things which create each mind moment, and then cause it to change as the next mind moment comes into existence.
The next subject I want to move into is one I don't want to move into! It is termed the precious human rebirth. If one is intelligent, precious human rebirth is a terrific asset. If one is not intelligent with oneself, one will make oneself very unhappy and very neurotic. I think that of all the meditative things that one can do to oneself, precious human rebirth is one of the best ways to make oneself neurotic. I can sincerely say that.
In watching western people, not all of course, but many western people get teachings on the precious human rebirth and very often they become quite unhappy. Why I say that, is because it establishes that your rebirth is very precious. That right now you are in a very powerful point. You are born as a human, you have great and wonderful capacity, far beyond the other creatures on this planet, if you look at the animals around you, obviously humans are far superior to the level of animals. And regarding other types of existence which are maybe more hypothetical as in angelic beings or God realms and such. There are reasons for why the human rebirth is seen as more beneficial due to the experiences that we have available to us in this realm.
So it is very good to appreciate that we have a very wonderful opportunity. The teachings tend to, I think, if they are not appreciated properly, one can make oneself unhappy because one thinks of one as wasting one's precious human rebirth. That is why I don't like this meditation a lot, but it is one that goes in with this series of talks. In introducing it this way, I hope that you will understand and appreciate it for the benefits that it can do for you, and also be more conscious of the disadvantages of meditating on it overly too much!
If you think of the rebirth that you have as a human being, you have incredible opportunity. Being that we have so much more knowledge of the world around us now, really your existence is absolutely extra-ordinary and wonderful right now. If you think of yourself, and we will take right here and right now, we are in Vancouver Island, Canada, and the opportunity we have. We have unlimited opportunity. Almost anything we want to do on the side of being lawful, is permissible. We can cut our hair anyway we want! We can wear the clothes we want to! We can seek the type of employment we want to! If that employment is not available we can create a job that gives us the employment we want! We can pursue any variety of objects and opportunities.
Very often we do not think of it that way. We just get up in the morning, lackadaisical, and we sort of say we will have to do something. So for those of us who are working, we go off and do our job. We think if we had payday last Friday, we think in two weeks from now is another payday and I can spend more money in such a way that I would like to and do the things I think are important. We really have a functional existence. But we do not have a quality of existence. In that way we really waste the incredible jewel like existence that we have.
So if you ask how it that so? I think my existence is alright but I am sure that others in the world can do the same? Or in any other kind of country? If you start thinking about it, it is not that way. Take Russia. There is a huge country, how free are those people to do what they want to do? They are not! They are underneath a very powerful government, poverty, if you know a bit about what goes on in Russia, food is scarce, things that we have in ample quantity here, they have in no quantity. Go to China. Rely a little on what Glen Mullin told me. He said you can walk in a store and whole shelves will be bare. And you will have pigs hooves and snouts for what you could buy in the way of meat. And even the most simple commodity, tea, salt or something, will not be there. And this isn't the outward lying parts of China.
So if you were to think of your rebirth that you have right now and start comparing it to those places, take Africa. Incredible poverty, famine, and civil war, what you would be experiencing right now. All of those things you are free from. So it is said that the precious human rebirth is a rebirth which is free from many fettered states of tied existence of difficult positions.
In that way, even further, right now you can say that sitting in this room and studying Buddhism, for the longest time in Tibet, if more than three people came together to discuss religion, they were thrown in prison! It was possibly subversive to the government and you were thrown in prison. The whole China was basically anti religious. And the same in Russia. So if you had spiritual feelings, you could go in your closet and offer prayers, but let's say you did not have the teachings. Because you were born in 1955, 1960, you were young, your grandparents maybe have all been killed, whatever, your parents were not too sure of the teachings, bibles are not readily available because they were burned by the state. You cannot even study the sort of religion which was quite prevalent in the country.
So if you think of it, the opportunity you have in this existence is absolutely spectacular compared to other existences. Let's say you go to a third world country. You might not even be able to find a book. And if the book of some philosophy or religion were in existence, it might be in a temple. Then again, people in the temple will not let you look at it because you might hurt it and damage it. And then, you might not even be able to read and write to know what it says in there.
In that way if you reflect on the states of existence which do exist in the world, and then you reflect what you do have the ability and the capacity and the opportunity to do, your existence starts to become unbelievable precious. It is like you can suddenly realize, maybe you thought you had brass rings and jewelry on you. And with a little bit of investigation, you suddenly discover that brass is a high commodity. It is almost the level of gold. And then you go wow, I never saw it before! But I have actually high quality ornaments on me. Or clothing or whatever it might be!
Without comparison, we might never appreciate the terrific existence you have. And that is what the precious human rebirth is. It is a set of meditations where you reflect on the opportunity that you do have versus the opportunities that maybe others do not have. And if you reflect on it, you will come to a powerful conclusion that actually you have a lot of opportunity. I think really you could say you have unlimited, no holds barred, opportunity in Canada anyway! It is something to become more conscious of and then you can take more advantage of it. Then you can utilize it for attaining higher goals, goals which are more meaningful.
For example, take the basic things which are part of existence of any creature. They are basically to find food, consume food, find a mate and then procreate the species. Animals do those. Bugs do those. So that is a really common thing. You cannot claim that as being a higher principle of life. So if you question the opportunities of human existence, what goals can be striven for, you might come up with, I can strive to be very wealthy! Influential! You could strive to become a great politician who works hard to bring righteousness in the world and what is wonderful! That is a possibility. Or you could strive to become wealthy, a lot of money and influence and do lots of wonderful things.
These are things which are possible and animals do not do that as well! Certainly you cannot look at animals and what they have gathered, although certain animals will stake out a domain and defend it. But when we move to the human realm, certain humans can gain a great deal of material wealth. But if we look at the quality of person, we can say that often the pursuit of high material goals does not create a very nice person. It can create a very ambitious person, a nasty person. A person who is not very pleasant to be around. And so if we reflect openly and say, would we like to be around a highly ambitious person, always looking for where they can make a buck, we might say we do not enjoy their company. Again as I say, having a precious human rebirth and utilizing it, does not mean that then we would use it in the way of obtaining great material wealth.
Then lets swing over into a more non material thing as in inner development which is what the Buddhist path is aimed at. Inner development is development of awareness, the qualities such as generosity, morality, patience, higher meditative states and the realization of the nature of the mind, and wisdom which is the understandings which are generated based upon meditation, which are seen as the qualities of wisdom which are developed. These are more meaningful. They are more meaningful, to take a very pragmatic out in the world thing, they are meaningful because psychologists and psychiatrists are in the area marginally. They are looking at mental health. And there is definitely a lot of money being made by them, so there is something to be made on mental health! So there is some value placed there by we as human beings!
Certainly inner development is important, recognized by certain schools of medicine and such, but it is even more so for one's personal self because in having inner development, it is something which gives you inner satisfaction. It gives you quality of being. One of the more important things it gives you is fulfillment! It gives you the possibility of being a happy person with quality existence in being generous, kind hearted, and things like that.
These are goals which are more appropriate. If we delve into things which would be suitable for having a precious existence or opportunity, in investigating them, we would come to the conclusion that higher inner development obviously has greater worth and value than just high material development. You might question is it? High material development is wonderful. But is it? Take the Roman Empire. It was at times highly wonderful! They had aqueducts, wonderful agricultural developments, roads which still exist to this day. There was a terrific development of material finesse by the Roman Empire which we can see. And yet at a later date, the Huns came in and obliterated it. It is mostly gone now other than the remaining ancient relics. So as humans we might say there was something wonderful in material development. You should not put your eggs in that basket for the simple reason it is of a temporal basis and can be destroyed at a later time. And many of the great cultures of the past have disappeared totally. Maybe we do not know even about some them because they have been so totally devastated.
So to put an emphasis for our existence for material development is maybe limiting and therefore maybe as not appropriate. Coming back, we do have terrific opportunity. For most of us we have good health or at least adequate health. we have wonderful things around us like abundance of material needs, educational needs and such. All of those needs. And so with this existence, and with the added aspect of the opportunity to pursue various educational things, philosophy, different points of view, all of these are allowed on our country. We have a terrifically powerful existence right now. The example the teachers in India gave is, it is like if you had a row boat and one day you came to an island and you got off the boat and walked around the island. And on the island were scattered diamonds and jewels and incredible wealth and yet you just wandered through and thought it was wonderful. And then you got back in your boat and rowed away. You just rowed away from the Lotto 649. If you had shoveled it into your boat, you could have rowed away with a boat full of jewels!
The point is, those jewels are things which you can take with you. They are the inner development and qualities. Wonderful things. Think of the people that you know which have quality, like a radiance of love around them. Or deep wisdom, highly developed inner mind of wisdom from meditation. People which have those qualities which maybe leave us in awe or maybe we are very attracted by. Very charismatic things! Those are inner developments, things which we see in the quality of the person. They are the inner jewels!
And so now that we have an existence which has placed us on a jewel island, if we have that existence and start to recognize the jewel existence we have, we can take wonderful opportunity to that and apply energy to it. And pursue it. And maybe acquire some of those jewels. So that is what perfect human rebirth is. It is starting to recognize the existence we have and making our mind swing over to the side which says I would like to take advantage of my existence.
Do you understand how neurotic you could get with that sort of meditation? You could really go nuts! You could leave your wife and kids, and really go nuts! This meditation does hassle people. That is why it is valuable, but one has to have a grain of salt with it to temper it, otherwise one can be neurotic.
For this evening I would like us to go into meditation. I would like to offer that the best balancing act for that meditation is to reflect that the immediate moment of awareness is where the opportunity to gain the jewels is. It is not in thinking that you should go somewhere or be somewhere else. It is in the immediate here and now. In doing that you have a lot of fuel for really being in the here and now. Developing love and compassion here and now. It is for the immediate moment of conscious existence, not for some projected future moment which that meditation can maybe make one think of. Make one always project away from the immediate moment. If nothing else, to develop conscious awareness that one has a very precious existence, and in becoming conscious of that, sort of feeling or realizing you have assets that you have never accessed prior to this. With that realization then, maybe just dwelling in the immediate moment where all of that wealth is potentially found.
This is fuel for meditation in the sense that it fuels one to maybe develop stronger interest in the immediate conscious awareness that you have. With that in mind, for mediation, the mind is an asset, a small part of our total set of being, and in that way it is good to have stimulation, some set of tenets or point which help us turn ourselves to experiencing integration, realization, enlightenment, however we want to term it. So with that, use your mind to help you move towards that. But as you move towards it, also know how to stop thinking about it and just be in the here and now. To use your mind to stimulate yourself, when you feel the stimulation, then to drop it and allow the stimulation to become an experiential state of being versus a lot of thoughts.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
All Rights Reserved