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 October 30,88
Continuing on the Guru prayers, guru offerings, the next section. Does everyone remember the evolution of clear light and bliss, and your body is in bliss, and manifestation of the deity, and the purification of all beings and places, and I believe I covered all of that. So we are into, From an exalted white and virtuous mind, I and all other beings as vast as space, from now until our full enlightenment seek refuge in the guru and triple gems. Namo guru bey, namo buddha yeah, namo dharma yeah, namo sangya yeah. Tonight we will talk about that and I'll try to make it practical so it's not just prayers but it actually fits for ourselves.
Taking refuge. The most important thing about it is to first feel your own emotions out and what happens when you have something come up. Particularly something which is bothersome. Because if something bothersome happens, then what do you do with that information? What do you do when things get difficult? Your kids do the wrong thing! Or whatever, life gets difficult, troublesome! If you think of it, what happens, is that you normally withdraw a little bit. It's sort of like there is something to be dealt with. It's something at work, or relationship problem, or whatever. There is something. We have a big problem coming. Then, first off, we sort of go within ourselves a little bit, look for a solution. whether we are going to be defiant in the situation, or we are going to be angry in the situation, we go inside and say, "Hey what am I going to do? What's my normal way of dealing with the situation?" And then we make our decision, and then we step out. Sometimes it's instantaneous, and sometimes we do it over five or ten minutes, half an hour, a day, over a weekend, we think over what we are going to do in the situation to come.
So if we start to recognize that emotion within ourself, that sort of response, that we look for a solution and then we make a response, that's taking refuge. In the sense that, what's happened, is that the mind looks for some place where an answer can be found, and when it finds what it thinks is the right answer, it then responds, gives it's response in whatever way it feels it is appropriate. So if you see that sort of activity in yourself, whether you have run out of gas and you phone a friend who has a car who will come and get you, or whatever, what you have is, your mind is seeking refuge. It's seeking assistance. And in realizing, if you start to become aware of it, like maybe the next four or five days, look at when things go wrong, you look for help. That's all it is, it's such a silly thing. But in finding that energy within yourself, that's where you can start to deal with yourself really on a here and now level. As in what needs taking refuge.
And in dong that, what you do, is you start to say, "O.K., what's a suitable solution to my problems? And, I mean, you can almost say that because you come here, this is one of the ways you deal with situations. Is that you are interested and the information seems appropriate, so you apply it. But what's more important really is, to sort of get in touch with yourself and the way you deal with life. Like when you have problems, relationship problems, whatever, is how do you seek the solution? And in getting into that type of realizing like what you do, then you can start to see like how you are actualizing your refuge. Like what do you want in solutions? And if you really have enough time to reflect, then you can maybe think about what have I been taught about which is an appropriate way to to act?
And if you do that, then you already have refuge in the guru, the buddha, refuge in the dharma, refuge in the sangha, or termed in other words, the enlightened being, the teachings, and the spiritual community. Because what it means, is that when you have a problem, and you have a moment to reflect on it, you say, O.K., I can get angry now or I can be defensive, or defiant or whatever seems appropriate, but, is that really going to bring the solution and so you reflect for a few moments. If I think if you are really sort of extraordinary, you might think about well, what would the buddha do? And you could say the buddha would be very capable of handling the situation, he, her, Buddha would handle it in a terrific manner, very open minded, deal with the issues as they came up and be, enlightenedly, get rid of the problem. That's the Buddha. But I think that really uncommon to have us think that way. But we can possibly deal with thinking, "I should try to be positive in the situation, I should try maybe to hear all the possible, think about all the possible ways of resolving it or such." This is taking refuge. And if we develop that from within ourselves, the way to reflect, to think about it, we are developing the capacity to take refuge better. The only thing we need to add to that, is to really be conscious in saying,"Well, what would an enlightened being do? Or a bodhisattva do? Or what would someone I respect do?" So maybe we think of our teachers. Like I would think of Lama Yeshe or Ling Rinpoche. And what would be their way of dealing with the situation. How would they respond?
Now, thats if you have more time. Generally speaking, life happens pretty quick. We have a situation, we quickly look for a solution. We are defensive. We try to answer the problem, giving lots of words or something. Maybe its sometimes better not to do that. To accept a situation and allow ourselves to sort of come up to an answer. Like they say count to ten before you respond. That sort of, it's a mild way of taking refuge, but the important thing, is if we start realizing we look for solutions. Like at work. I work at Beaver lumber now, and I very often get said, "well, I didn't get this well enough. I didn't do that properly. And why isn't this done?" And the type of job I have is you are always asked to do a thousand things and so you get something half finished and you get called away. And then the person comes back, my boss comes back and says this isn't finished. It's not lie he is being heavy, but I found myself always giving an answer to him. Always I had an answer. Why. And I realized at a certain point that I was being stupid. Because I shouldn't always have answers. I should just accept the fact that he wants to basically be in charge. He is the boss, anyway. So I realize that I should shut up and sort of let him say. If I always have answers,thats not good in a relationship. It's better to shut up. So what I'm trying to say is, maybe open minded enough to sort of look beyond what your normal defensives are, your normal responses, your normal way of taking refuge, like seeking refuge. Like I seek refuge in that I have got everything covered. I knew what I was supposed to be doing, don't worry it's going to happen in a while. Of course I'm in control. That's the projection I like to give. But reality is, maybe I don't maybe need to say that. The boss doesn't need to hear that. So, calm down a little bit, don't be so defensive, listen to what is being said. He only said that because he wants the job done He doesn't really always want Jhampa always to give a response. So, I've taken refuge in something that's maybe a little deeper. Some of my wisdom sort of starting to slide through and say," Maybe you don't need to say anything." And then I watch the relationship and it seems to work fine. The boss has to get something off his chest, and it's accepted.
I'm just saying taking refuge in better knowledge or understanding situations better, and so for each one of us, it's good to start to develop an awareness of what would a person more capably be doing. If I was a little more enlightened. Like if I was a Bodhisattva, what would I do? And it's funny. As soon as you think that way, you will all of a sudden sort of see the light! And say, "Hey I don't need to be so personally attacked in this situation. Maybe if I just back off a bit it might resolve itself. Maybe, if nothing more than that person wants to ventilate, all I have to do is just be there to accept the ventilation. So in a very immediate day to day moment to moment life, we can start to sort of actualize what it means to taking refuge which means seeking solutions. That's a very mundane way of doing it, but it's important to start to work with what happens in every mundane little situation when the principle walks into the room, or the head nurse, or the staff of administration, or who your doing the roof for, or whatever. The thing is that is th mundane way of dealing with the immediate situation. But it is good because it starts off with right here and now and it's not off in some distant time. Taking refuge virtuously, with all sentient beings around me, which is good to do. Nothing wrong with that. But it's starting right off with basic emotional responses which we have and building as much as we can from that level. Then it is a real transformation. You have a little bit more reflectiveness. And possibly you can see that, you know, what's necessary in response in the situation. Maybe it's just to listen. This person just wants to ventilate. This person in this situation just needs a set of ears.
To move to a more spiritual sense, the taking of refuge is very effective when it comes to more meaningful things as in our life and the possibility that we have to deal with our own death and such. And that's where refuge becomes much more important because as we are all growing older, it's important to think about it.
A few days ago there was a monk with me in India, and then in Thailand. Then he disrobed and went to Alaska a married a Alaskan girl. He was a stevedore and got killed three days ago. Death can happen to any of us. It's important to be aware of that. And how do you feel and relate to your personal death. Your life, what you have around your life, your relationships to the objects around you, what is that relationship? Because when you die the relationship you develop will be the one that will come up. So if you have had good relationships, you feel good about your wife, you will die quite happily. If you have had messy relationships then when you dire you will feel a little guilty, I wish I could say a few more words to that person, or this or that. This fellow in Alaska, he died really quick, maybe he had a few seconds to be aware that something was wrong. It was lights out. Looking that he has an after life, I don't know all the intricacies of how someone dies but I would say that maybe it takes him a few days to realize that he is dead, and then he has to deal with his emotions in the intermediate state. So he's not had much luck to work it out. If we are lucky we might die slowly and take a day or two, and have time to say goodbye, maybe a quick few phone calls... whatever!
Question: With all the wisdom that you have gathered in the last fifteen years, do you, when somebody that's close to you dies, does it affect you still in the overwhelming way, or because you have attained more wisdom than the rest of us, do you have a calmer way of relating to death?
I don't know. I saw a cat get run over a few days ago and I cried. It wasn't even my cat. I just felt pain for that pussy cat. It was half dead and the person left it on the sidewalk on a hot sunny day. I saw it just after it happened. I saw it lying there and thought it was dead. Then I saw it was still breathing. So I turned around, came back and I picked it up and took it to the vet. But I cried.
If someone close to me died, I'd cry sure. But I try to think of the thing that there is an after life and I have faith in an after life. So then I would sit down, and if it was someone close, Maria, I would sit down and do some serious meditation to give her a message. I have confidence in that. I would say the same thing for you or anybody. In fact I could teach you a meditation technique to do that. One of the best ways is the guru yoga practice. Tsong Khapa. And that's to invoke a higher energy. And then call that person and literally send out a hook, get creative in your visualizations, did you ever see one of these long sticky things which you fling and it sticks on something. You can almost think that like you want that person. And you just go.. and drag them in. And you think they cannot get away from you. And then you can give them the information you want, and feel that they are blessed or purified, or they are uplifted. White light, or whatever. And then you can release them. But you can get them like that, and you are much more powerful then they are. You could say that in the intermediate state they don't stand a chance. If you have strong determination, lets say the power of human spirit, the human spirit is very powerful.
Coming back to it's important to have refuge in that respect, because you have to deal with your own life. You have to answer to your own life. And you don't want messy relationships in your life. You want to have a clear relationship as in I gave my best in these relationships and I don't have anything that I am owing for it. So it's important. If you were to die, you don't want to die with emotions, unfinished relationships. And that does not mean that you have to resolve all your relationships, but on your side, you tried your best in all those relationships. You are clean so to speak when the relationship finishes. That's more again mundane, but it does deal with death and at our level, I don't think many of us will be able to transfer our consciousness out of our body when we die, we are going to have to live in a dying body as it dies, and then we are going to have to go through the various states of withdrawal of the body and such which are traumatic. And we have to deal with the experiences in the after life. So it's important that we have that sense that we are doing alright. I answer for each of my relationships because I live in each day. That's on a mundane level in regards to to our relationships and our our death.
On a little higher level, taking refuge is also for inspiration in the sense that as I say, thinking of the enlightened beings, whether it's an enlightened female or male, like the Buddha Tara or Buddha Shakyamuni, or any of those ones. To reflect on their qualities, their terrific capacities, their embracing capacity that by relying on them, you are relaying on someone who is unbelievably together. Has many answers. Is very beautiful. And so by taking refuge in them, you are taking refuge in someone who is totally enlightened and capable in handling all relationships. Their teachings, which is the most important thing, like how to live your life, how you interact, that applies to even mundane relationships.
Like just at the job. How you respond to whatever stimulates you. Or relationships at the home. And relationships in your own life, and your possessions you have, your car, job and those sorts of things, and then it relates to how you relate to your own inner being. How you treat yourself and such. The teachings in regards to all of that. And finally spiritual community is all of ourselves, our friendship to each other. Thats important to feel that we are confident with each other. That we can rely on each other. And just part of the whole, one of the main things of course is that we get together and we meditate and do your thing. There is a sense of community there, community involvement and sharing. Human spirit is very powerful sharing, meaning, it draws a lot of meaningful sharing with each other.
So that is taking refuge in a mundane sense. In a deeper sense in regards to our life and our death and then in the sense of inspiration. In taking refuge, in the prayer it says, I from a virtuous state of mind, that means having a pure heart, I and all other sentient beings from now until our enlightenment seek refuge in the guru and the triple gem. In that what you do, in taking refuge in a more ritualistic manner, is to think of oneself, I seek refuge, I seek refuge in whatever I understand inside of myself, whether it's I understand to be aggressive, defensive or peaceful and accepting, whatever I take refuge in. Just as I do it, everybody else in that room does it, everybody else in Duncan, Vancouver Island, the world, even little bugs and things take refuge in one way or another. So, I and all sentient beings take refuge. Nothing wrong with that. You can say that and feel it's true. You cannot see them all sitting down there on their hands and knees looking like this, but you should think that they do it. Like how they do it.
Like watch somebody the next time you are at work or just with other people, and someone gets threatened in one way or another. They get like, what are you doing? this or that, whatever it is. You watch that person what they do, they go back inside, they muster their forces, whatever they think, and then they come back out with their answer. They've taken refuge. In something. Whatever it is that they understand. Their own character, or some personality style, and that is what they have done form themselves.
So it's very important to see that in other people also. And then when you say, I and all other sentient beings from now until enlightenment, you can say that, every one of us takes refuge in one way or another inside of ourself in all situations. I mean, we go back and we say this is what I think is good to do in this situation and then we act. In that way, all sentient beings are taking refuge. Now, what they might not have is the best of method. Some of them do. They have partial methods. Some people understand being positive is really important. So that is part of what they take refuge in.
So, when you say I and all mother sentient beings equally, like to the extent of space, I and all mother sentient beings take refuge now in the guru and the triple gems, you can say that we are all taking refuge. Some of them have a better understanding of what taking refuge, like the better refuges to take. Some of them have very poor refuges. They take refuge in alcohol or they take refuge in drugs or they take refuge in violence, or various mundane methods. They are not very skillful, but they are into looking for refuge.
I feel that right refuge is taking refuge in the Buddha, the enlightened beings, the spiritual masters, the teachings and the spiritual community. These are the people who are meaningful to me so I and all other sentient beings take refuge in these. And then when you recite, namo guru bey, namo buddha ya namo dharma ya, namo sangha ya. That's praise to the guru, praise to the Buddha, praise to the Dharma, praise to the sangha. When you say that, you can actually visualize receiving blessings, and you should actually have it that yourself and all sentient beings in the world get that blessings, that they better understand how to take refuge in their own mind.
You can have it that there is the guru in the space before you, and he's very resplendent, around him are various buddhist texts, the teachings you take refuge in the dharma, and then around them, are many great bodhisattvas. l And these are the beings which are already deep practitioners. And these are the spiritual community that I take refuge in. The guru, buddha, dharma and the community. And having this as the object, particularly from the guru's forehead, comes white light that purifies my body. So you visualize from their forehead to your forehead comes white light, purifies my body. And it washes through my body so as you say, like there is four verses in that. It should be that we say it four times. If you say it four times or just three times, the first recitation of all four things, you can do white light to your forehead. It keeps coming and it washes you clean. White light is supposed to purify the defilements of body.
Then the second recitation of four, you get red light from the base of the throat, it flows to your throat and it washes all your body and washes most of the impurities of speech. A blue light from the center of the chest, the guru and then the community and the texts in general, blue light comes to your heart with the recitation. In this way you purify body speech and mind with white, red and blue light and also you can feel that you purify your relationships with your gurus and the buddha with the red, white and blue light. In the sense of like, when you slander them, put them down, have disrespect and such things, all of the silly little thoughts we have in regards to our relationships which we, all have.
I mean I certain have a few gurus I have trouble with. So you have to be very careful with those people, because you don't want to get too caught up in your own negativity. And then the ones that you have a lot of admiration for, then it's more easy with them. So all of my relationships to the gurus and the buddha purifies my actions of body, speech and mind. And then in regards to the teachings, all the times we have disrespect to the teachings, like we put them on the ground and sat on them, or we don't take care of the teachings, mostly it says it relates to the teachings which are the books and disrespect for those. But also in a more general sense, it's disrespect other religions. Put down Christians or muslims, I think you can philosophically debate with them and not consider it a put down;, but to to just sort of put them down, like Christian fundamentalists are all a bunch of twits, and they are all stupid. It's not good to say that because actually Christian fundamentalists are doing something towards their own enlightenment. Maybe their are missing the mark a bit... I'm just joking.
But to put down other religions is not good so in taking the blessings of body speech and mind times you have been physically negative to the buddha's teachings or amy other teachings like the bible, the koran or something, speech as in slandering other religion or slandering the dharma, and regards to mind, as whatever negativity that you have that you want to purify.
In regards to the spiritual community, it refers to the spiritual community as in your immediate spiritual community, then the more general spiritual community and then actually it can apply to just causing slander between different people, but that is sort of general. The most important one is your spiritual friends. People you take refuge with is spiritual friends, I don't think anyone here has had group refuge, but those you take refuge with are very special people. And the one's that you have taken initiation with are also special people. So in that way, all of the relationships with those people, sometimes we much up, we put people down like that whatever, then all of those relations are repaired with taking refuge to the spiritual community and receiving the red white and blue light to the three centers. So that is taking refuge and receiving purification, and identifying refuge in a mundane actions in regards to death and in regards to inspiring ourself to enlightenment.
Question: Why is the head called the center for the body and not the mind?
In Buddhism they say the brain runs the body. Most of body actions is centered in the head. The eyes, nose, tongue and ears are what stimulates our body into activity. They say the body activities are focused mostly in that portion. And waking activities, like when you you are in deep sleep, the consciousness sits in your heart, as you enter into dream state, it enters into your throat, and when you are wide awake, consciousness rises to your forehead. So they say that to purify that is to purify your forehead. Throat as speech is easy to see. And they say your mind resides in your heart, or seated in your heart, so that's why you receive it in your heart.
For the meditation I would like to do something a little different. So just remember what I said about refuge. There is a different type of meditation I would like to do. There was a question asked about how to deal with ones self and like, how does one learn better to accept what is unpleasant in life. Particularly when it makes us unhappy and when we loose our positive perspective on life. Like instead of being really good about things, we are sort of on the down side and unhappy. We are left with a bitter taste in our mouth as in we are unhappy. How to deal with that. And also to be able to deal with suffering around us.
If you would like to spend a few moments relaxing and centering yourselves, I'll do the meditation technique just for a minutes, and I'll leave you to do that or just relax and center if you'd like to.
Continuing just going with the flow of your meditation, what happens when we get overly caught up with a particular situation and it makes us depressed is that we are grasping too strongly. Very strong attachment and grasping in a particular situation. And therefore we personally identify with it and then we get very depressed. And being depressed is very unbeneficial, it doesn't help go through the situation or resolve it. In a sense its a style of indulging. It's difficult to throw off. Being depressed is not an easy emotion to deal with.
To help ourselves gain a little bit of freedom from our own strong grasping about a particular situation, we should allow yourselves to sit and relax in a meditative posture, being comfortable, and then visualize ourself being very small, five or ten inches big, sitting cross legged in front of us. And we are sitting there all depressed, visualize ourself self indulgent, depressed and unhappy, sort of caught up in our own emotions and can't see anything beyond ourself. That's what happens when we get depressed. Just think our situation is the biggest one in the world. So visualize ourself that way, depressed and unhappy.
And view ourself from being a big person. Very big. And that person is just five or ten inches tall and small in front of us. Having done that, then , say to yourself, I'm going to take the suffering of this person away. I want to make them happy. And I want to give them happiness. So as we inhale, feel we draw the self centeredness and the depression, all of the emotion of depression, we draw it in our nose, it goes down to our heart, there it is absorbed. And then we breathe out light and love so that light and love goes out and little bit lightens the load of the self visualized in front of us. So each time we inhale, we draw away a little bit of the depression and the emotion. We see that person, we see ourself, sort of straighten out a bit, become a little bit more organized and together. The emotions fall away a bit we are absorbing in our heart and we breathe back openness, relaxation, just a little broader attitude. So in this way, visualizing that we draw the suffering of ourself to our big self, and this is absorbed and ceases to exist, and then we give back light and happiness. In this way, if you do this with yourself when you get depresses, it helps to ease the pain, helps take some of the hurt out. And although it won't resolve the problem quickly, we will come to look a little bit more positively upon ourself and we won't maybe dwell as long as we might on our depression. So if you'd like to spend the remainder of the meditation thinking of yourself when you have been depressed or thinking of people who are close to you who have depression, inhale the suffering of the depression and give back happiness and love.
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