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 27 90
This evening we will talk about Buddha-hood. Although we cannot experience Buddhahood at this particular time, it is something which is in us in a blatant manner, in abiding nature. It is important to recognize we have Buddha nature. If we do not establish that as a basis, what is the point of a spiritual practice.
It is said in the Buddhist context, if there is not a direct relationship to the ultimate, then what is the point of any practice. For example, if the ultimate is seen as someone permanent, but we are impermanent, then obviously a permanent entity is one which has to be completely fulfilled unto itself and can have no interactions with anything else. Because if it had an interaction with something else, it would loose its sense of permanence. Therefore an entity which is permanent and we be impermanent, could not interact. We could never touch it. It would be untouchable, unchangeable. In that way, if we have those sorts of concepts in our mind, we have a mistaken idea.
It is important to realize that the attainment of enlightenment is permanent. Not permanent by nature as in permanent as in fixed. It is permanent by attainment, being that there is no cause for loss which is ignorance in the mind. For our selves, we have Buddha nature. A fully enlightened being has Buddha nature and has purified all of the distortions. He has understanding of the nature of reality. Secondly, even the subtle imprints on the mind, because of various actions which are performed in an unconscious manner, they establish habit patterns, even subtle habit patterns have been purified. Particularly the negative habit patterns have been purified. So it is said that a fully enlightened being is pure n two levels, on the level of conscious perspective, not being involved with the conscious distortion of reality, and even purified on the subtle level having no negative imprints which may be stimulating on a deeper more unconscious level. The Buddha has neither of those two obscurations of consciousness.
Does this mean the Buddha is this inert mass of jelly which does nothing? Is that the state of enlightenment. In the Hinayana sense, if one was to become an arhat, yes, that would be appropriate in the sense that an arhat absorbs their mind into the everlasting bliss of nirvana and does not arise from that state of being. If they allowed their mind to arise again, although they have no distortions on reality when they look at something, they do not distort it consciously, but they still experience the negative imprints on their mind which have not been purified. And so, you could think of it in this manner. An arhat might be sitting here, and if an attractive member of the opposite sex walked by, their mind might stay tranquil, but on a deeper level feelings may arise. They wouldn't fall on it, but allow their mind to allow the thought togo through. When they then concentrated their mind, they would disengage external phenomena. Their mind would absorb into their inner most subtle level of consciousness and they would then bliss out. And that would be nirvana. They would then keep in that concentration. An arhat waits for death. Because at the time of death, they loose their physical body and don't have to worry about that any more. Their mind goes very subtle and they go into nirvana and stay there. That is why arhat ship is said to be an extreme of peace. That the mind is absorbed into concentration of eternal peace. Because that is everlasting bliss, they do not arise from that again. It is called a lesser vehicle because it is a vehicle only for their mind, to attain liberation. It is lesser as in being only carrying their own consciousness into enlightenment.
You might then ask what is the Buddha? The Buddha, on a relative level have a harder practice than someone who strives for arhatship. A Buddha, if they practice, they want nirvana. What is the use if you do not have that attainment. That is self fulfillment. Self fulfillment is being able to bliss out and overcome problems. That is obviously personally satisfying. But because they have a social conscience, because they have altruism and relate emotionally that just as they do not want to suffer, so others do not want to suffer, because of that, they take upon themselves the responsibility of helping others realize the ultimate. In doing that, they cannot bliss out and stay there. It doesn't help sentient beings. But that is what an arhat would do.
Buddhas continuously familiarize themselves with the experience of nirvana but they utilize that. The realization of everlasting bliss and nirvana is based on realizing that your personality is not a self existing entity. The strong sense of "I", is based on the true existence of an entity. To realize nirvana, you realize that your personality is not in a permanent independently existent entity. That your personality is a phenomena from causes and circumstances, karma and such things. By meditating on the manifestation of your personality as it conceives of itself, by using that as the object of your meditation, you realize it is not independently self existent. Therefore you realizer that it is a false notion to believe in a self. So you dissolve the notion of selfhood, and because it is not true, not a reality, then you have nirvana. If you believed in a self as an existent entity, you couldn't enter into that experience and maintain it because you have a sense of duality, a nirvana versus a truly existent self.
So in Buddhism we say that although there is the image of a self existent entity, if one investigates ones personality, one cannot establish what is the basis of that personality. Is it the feelings? No because they are fleeting. Is it a color? No, because there are many colors come through consciously. Is is a shape? No because mind does not have shape. In this way, by investigating, you have conscious awareness but it is not established as a particular ego identity. It is non independently self existent. So with that realization, there is the door for realizing personal nirvana, personal everlasting happiness because the self is not an eternally or independently existent self. Because of that you can absorb your mind into a fine level of consciousness into the everlasting bliss of non-independent self existence or selflessness.
That dealt with nothing in the outside world. That is why an arhat, when they come out of their meditation and look at the external phenomena, they have never really analyzed it because it has not been anything they need to worry about. They have personal everlasting bliss, so why worry about the outside world. And so they don't even deal with it. Their practice can be very peaceful and can not disturb their realization of nirvana. And whenever they cannot absorb their mind into nirvana, and that is their focus, which is personal liberation. Why would they have to worry about the rest of the world? It is not an object which is of concern for them. Their mind is the creator of their existence. If their mind is not independently truly existent, fine and dandy, just go into that conscious awareness and absorb one's mind in to the level of nirvana bliss, and it is finished.
A Buddha familiarizes himself with that internal non self existence continuously. They again and again absorb their mind into that personal selflessness which allows themselves to be proficient in internal bliss or liberation. Their mind is liberated from a belief in an eternal self. But because they have realized that all other sentient beings are not independently self existent, and by further analysis upon phenomena such as earth or water or heat, whatever, they realize that all the phenomenal universe also is interdependent. No phenomena exists independently unto itself. Otherwise it would become permanent. And there is nothing in the world which appears permanent. All things are subject to change. In that why, Bodhisattvas or someone aspiring to enlightenment, familiarize themselves with what is termed the two wisdoms, internal personal wisdom of non self existence, and also externally realizing that external world is not independently self existent.
Because of having taken on the responsibility for working for others, they try to purify their interactions with other sentient beings. This means if something attractive appears to their mind, rather than rejecting or suppressing something as interfering with their personal nirvana, they allow themselves to view it, to analyze and realize it is not independently self existent. It is a form, I can put a name and a label to it, it is dependently arising on the fact that it is a human being, breathing, supported by the elements and such, and in that it is not standing on it's own any more. Something which is attractive to your mind stands out from the rest of the world around. If you realize it is fully interdependent with the world around, it dissolves. It is said that it becomes of one taste. By looking at it, you don't see it as standing independently. And if you analyzed what is attractive about the object, it is one aspect of that object. And even that you cannot say is there all by itself. kIn the case of a womans figure, as a man you would identify certain parts of that figure and think wow! But if you think about it, you mind is centered on certain things. It is not a full picture.
We normally identify the wonderful aspects which we think are so beautiful. So our mind is actually fixating on certain things. But if we are really open to the full being of what was happening around us, it is produced aby such things as the aspects it has, but really it is fully immersed into the reality about it. It is fully interdependent with breathing air. Standing on the earth. And so on. If your mind is more profound, you can dissolve an object in front of you by realizing it is a fully interdependent phenomena. And although it has an aspect appearing as being separate, in reality it is of one taste and one nature, the nature of voidness. It is the nature of full interdependence. In that way you dissolve grasping at any one object. Maybe something appears, but it is only appearing because of delusion. And you can check up and ask why does it appear attractive. And you find it is appearing attractive because I am having some passion inside of me.
You have delusions and projections as to what is appropriate. That is all part of your personal creation of the world around you, your creation of how you experience the world. For a Buddha, they fully continuously dissolve the delusions that they create on any object by realizing that it also is not independently self existent. And they then allow their love and compassion to be their main motivation for their interaction. They try to help sentient beings to realize their real nature. They help sentient beings to abandon anger and aggressiveness, to become more peaceful, more skillful, more intelligent, these sorts of things. This is what Buddha is all about. It is to try to help sentient beings grow, be positive, and finally realize their own innate nature and such things.
That being the process a Buddha is involved with, the final state of buddhahood is that they have realized personal nirvana, and they completely purify even to the level of instinct, habit patterns. They no longer even have subtle negative reflections on objects. They see the object purely and also cognize what motivations or delusions are motivating the sentient being. Their main interaction with the external is via love and compassion which is pure, not having defiled alterior motives. Their inner experience is purely nirvana, they have no more defilement grasping at independently self existence of self, nor independent self existence at the outside phenomenal world.
And that, is enlightenment. So if that was the case, a Buddha, in the Mahayana say, takes a rebirth for the benefit of sentient beings. If that was the case, a Buddha would take a rebirth which was most appropriate for the sentient beings at any particular era. In India it said Buddha was not born as a Brahmin when he took his rebirth in India. There are the five casts, the priests, the soldiers, the merchants, the farmers, and the untouchables. He was not born as a Brahmin because they were not that much in esteem. Soldiers were. So he took rebirth as the crown prince of a particular kingdom. Then in that life he gained fame as a swordsman, intelligent, handsome, and such, then he realized the emptiness of life in a material sense, and renounced it. By his meditative power and such, he became enlightened. Now it is said that all of that was a manifestation for the benefit of sentient beings. They would have been inspired by someone who was once a crown prince and then renounced it all to become a spiritual person. That is inspiring. And at that time was more inspiring than anything else.
The next Buddha to come will take rebirth as a merchant because at that time merchants will be the most important people. They say Maitreya is already enlightened and waiting in the pureland for the appropriate time, and then will take a rebirth. And at that time being a business person will be the most influential rebirth to take. He will become a "corporate director", go off and meditate, realize enlightenment and then teach other business men!
For this evenings meditation, a suitable object might be the investigation of the nature of your mind. Ask the size, weight, color, shape, and so on, of my mind. What is my mind? Allow yourself to become relaxed and observant. They say within the space of your mind, you allow one corner to become the observer of the rest of your mind. They say it is like a little fish in a large bowl of water. The fish of awareness then observes what is happening. Make your self the object of your meditation. Is yourself permanent non changing entity or not? If it is, what is the basis of establishment. If it is impermanent, then what makes it function that way?
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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