Annual India Tours
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.
Nanaimo Mar 03 1992
Last week I talked a little about refuge and the development of the altruistic attitude of bodhicitta in the sense of very basic terms. Tonight I want to cover a little chapter.
"As the realization of the void nature of the mind is completely dependent upon your collection of merit and elimination of obstacles, you should dispatch ahead of you as many prostrations as possible made while reciting"The declaration before the Thirty-five Buddhas", as well as hundreds of thousands of repetitions of the "Hundred syllable mantra of Vajrasattva."
"Then you must make repeated heartfelt requests to your Root Guru, whom you recognize as inseparable from the Buddhas of the past, present, and future, to be able to realize Voidness."
The objective of the Buddhas teachings are to free us from suffering and give us the realization of the nature of reality. In all the teachings, if looked at within that idea, then all the teachings are applicable and just depends on the level of the stage of realization of the individual. So for some, it is beneficial to use a rudimentary set of logics such as death and impermanence, or the law of cause and effect. These are the basic level of teachings the Buddha presented. Also in Buddhism there are the teachings of the three lower realms, that one should avoid activities which are strongly polluted with aversion, grasping or closed mindedness, as these will be the causes for taking rebirth in hell or as a hungry ghost or animal.
These are various levels of teachings. If one looks at them with the greater mind of recognizing the Buddhas intent, it was to groom the consciousness of various sentient beings towards virtue or greater causes for happiness, and finally moving toward actual realization. Now because happiness in the temporal sense is very illusive and not stable, the Buddha taught the ultimate nature of reality which would then give everlasting happiness or nirvana in that it is no longer dependent on the various processes of external phenomena, but rather, is internally generated realization. And it is based on the true nature of reality and therefore valid. So if you were to strive for a goal that was not on a proper basis of reality, what would be the use of it, it would be in the realm of fiction. So we should appreciate the teachings in this context.
We strive for happiness and wish to avoid suffering. The most important feature in that is not to be caught up with the various branches, the out growths of our basic striving for meaning in life, but rather to go to the root! In going to the root, we find the actual source of everything. For example, if we look at the root of suffering and cut the tree there, we destroy or stop all suffering. If we look at it another way, we go to the root of the nature of reality and discover the nature of reality. Then obviously all the activities above the root come into proper realization. Therefore all the teachings of the Buddha are all aimed really at the realization of the ultimate nature of reality. And we should always look at them in that context and then they become appropriate.
A short while ago one of my teachers said that in looking at the teachings, there are many kinds of teachings like there are many kinds of food. In that regards, it is not that we like to eat all kinds of food, but there are certain ones we enjoy. Same thing with the teachings. There are many types of teachings and many ways of practicing. They are like different types of food. Some will be very tasty for us, and others won't. So it is really in our own hands to recognize which is best for us to practice. Essentially we give ourself the life force in doing the correct meditations, we can carry on in our life.
In the teachings, the basis is to gain realization of the nature of reality which reflects back to our mind. And it reflects back to how our mind understands things and then, how we act. So, that being the case, if we think about what stops us from gaining understanding is principally close mindedness. A closed minded attitude or an ignorant attitude is the principal cause for all our obstructions. And by that is meant, a closed minded attitude does not want to look beyond at options so the mind has a negative outlook in the sense that there is fear, or insecurity regarding what is there. Closed mindedness eliminates options and therefore we have a sense of security which is quite false. If we meet a closed minded person, we see incredible pitfalls in their logic and the way they lead their life. So it is worthwhile to recognize that closed mindedness is a big problem.
We need to be open minded! But if we don't have the causes for open mindedness, then it is difficult! Now we have our essential personality we came into the world with. Some of us will have a more open attitude than others. That is the nature of life. You could say it was the previous lifetimes karma ripening in this lifetime, whatever! But we should focus on that we individually, disregarding the fact where anyone else is at because it doesn't really play on where you are at, but regarding your own mind and your own attitude, it would be nice to see beyond your own situation to have a bigger understanding.
Positive attitude and experience together are beneficial. You have a better understanding in your situation than another maybe because of experience. That is the first asset. Experience is learning, and in learning you have to be positive in the sense of being open minded to acquire experience. You have played the game and learned where you made the mistakes, so you see what is not so smart, and let's be more open minded. So experience gives you a lot of growth. But if you take experience, and then say that is enough! Finished. Then you suddenly become closed minded. So with experience you have to have open minded attitude. That then becomes a good basis for being positive and productive and being able to do a lot of good things. For example, deal with others with a closed minded attitude.
What I am driving at, when we move to spiritual realms, is that we have a certain set of experiences in our life. Because it is personal, and based on your own personal experience at this point, if you don't have a lot of positive things in your life, then, it is going to be difficult to look beyond them! Because insecurity will keep you there, inside of what is your defined reality. We are talking personality. And if we don't have a warm out look about life, a good outlook about life, if we have had negative experiences and negative things, we get very uptight and life becomes very rigid. And therefore it is very difficult to see beyond our own thing. Because personally we are feeling insecure. We are maybe going to loose. So therefore, it is difficult to grow.
So in spirituality, it is important to pursue spiritual exercises. The basis of them are to acquire and accumulate positive energy in a positive environment. The Buddhas are fully reliable. That is taking the teachings as refuge. The teachings are essentially aimed at bring you into happiness and taking you away from creating the causes of suffering. The spiritual community is supportive of you gaining realizations so you have a positive environment within which you work.
Then, for example you do the prayer to the thirty five Buddhas. Each one of them is a wonderful person and full of good energy. You feel warm about them and so you do prostrations. And in doing that, prostrations are a good practice because it immediately knocks that being arrogant and feeling that you know enough already. It eliminates the basic stubbornness that we might have. The stubbornness that doesn't want to bow down to anyone. So in one way you eliminate some causes of closed mindedness and ignorance. On the other side, doing prostrations, you generate the causes for being able to gain realizations. By venerating ones teachers, one creates a positive relationship. I don't know about yourself personally, but I know for myself, in high school I had one teacher who liked me and I picked up on that and responded by working really well in the class. There was a thing. I like him and he liked me and that created a positive environment in my mind and I performed well whereas in other classes, I did worse.
The point is, if we want realizations of the true nature of reality, it is important to have respect for the teachers, have an admiration for them and develop that, because it is a source of realization. Also we want to get off the arrogance of closed mindedness and prejudices with preconceived conceptions because that will stop us from moving out of our ego personality position. That is why prostrations are stressed.
Another practice is the Hundred Thousand recitations of the Vajrasattva mantra. That is a purification mantra where you wash your body with nectar. Essentially you take negativity activities that you have been involved with, and first become aware of them. Then you decide to do something so I recognize that negativity is lousy, that I will loose all my friends, I regret the activity because I see all the disadvantages of it, I therefore turn myself to Vajrasattva who is a Buddha, and the visualization of washing myself of this negativity. You are working in a mundane way but you are developing admiration towards good qualities. You are recognizing the disadvantages of bad aspects of your personality and so you purify yourself. In that way, it shifts your personality off of it's old position of saying negativity is alright, especially if you get away with it! And it moves you into a position where you are more trustworthy, more reliable, you are actually a good person. Again, it is a spiritual practice and it's emphasis is to move you toward a more positive position.
And if we come back to the initial idea, we want to realize the nature of reality regarding our personality. And closed mindedness is the principal obstacle of that. Therefore it is important to put some energy into a positive attitude. And taking our experiences, try to grow off of them and gain realizations. And essentially, it is said in the teachings that the realization of the ultimate nature of reality, because it is focused at our personality, it is crucial that we accrue a lot of positive force or we will not be able to see our own mind because we will not be able to move beyond our insecurity, beyond our grasping at wanting to defend our sense of self. Therefore it is important to try to be as positive as you can. If you wish to you can teachings on doing this mantra recitation and doing prostrations and such. It is very beneficial. The Tibetan tradition has in their scheme of things what is termed the four preliminaries, a hundred thousand prostrations, Vajrasattva mantras, mandala offerings and guru yoga.
The first two are aimed at purification, the last two aimed at gaining merit. In doing those you are trying to set up positive energy which allows you to gain realization or penetrative insight which can be stabilized into the nature of reality which is for example, that your personality is not independently self existent, but rather an interdependent phenomena. And then all of the ramifications of that realization.
Of all meditation techniques that you can use, the meditation of love and compassion is the most positive meditation you can do regarding your attempt at gaining the realization of the ultimate nature of reality because love sets up a basis of relatedness. And because the realization of the ultimate reality, means that one shifts off a position of independent self existence,. Love is off that position. Love has a basis of relatedness. Affection and warmth. Also love has the basis of being not insecure. Positively motivated love at least, sometimes we set up what we think is love because we are insecure. So we have to have a sense of selfless love, positively motivated love where we feel another persons suffering and do something about it. Or we feel what another is doing in their life and we experience joy in it. Love has two aspects. Love in a warm aspect is the joy and sharing with another person which is termed wishing other sentient beings to be happy. So if you have a friend, lover, or someone you care about and give them a gift or do something for them, it is a direct expression of love.
The other side is compassion. Because you have love, when you see suffering, compassion immediately motivates you to try to alleviate their suffering. Love, being that is is warm and moves outwardly and sets up a relatedness, is a very crucial aspect of gaining the realization of the ultimate nature of reality. And also as love is experienced from warmth in our heart, which affects our own personality, therefore it also helps us recognize the nature of our personality. So love is always a beneficial thing. If that can be added to bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration for enlightenment, then it becomes a greater cause of positive merit because bodhicitta essentially is a universal attitude of working for the benefit of all sentient beings, not just a particular few.
So the main point of this evening is gaining appreciation of a good basis for the realization and experience of the ultimate nature of reality we will be dealing with in the weeks and months ahead. You should have appreciation of what will be the basis of a good realization and the cause for stable realization. Essentially, taking your experiences and tying them together with a positive attitude helps you move beyond your ego position, means that you are still willing to learn. Tied together with that, any practice you can undertake whether a spiritual exercise or unstructured set of exercises you do for yourself, will be the cause of you gaining a stable or good insight into the nature of reality. Structured techniques are practices such recitations of mantras and spiritual exercises, unstructured are for example, just meditating on love an compassion and trying to generate or create them stronger. And then seeing what happens.
It is important to say, because a lot of the meditation technique which you will use will be focused on your personality. And if you don't have a positive relationship with your personality, they say as you approach the meaning or understanding of voidness, you will have a lot of fear. The reason is because the personality does not have any positive merit to be able to see the good ramifications of that realization therefore it experiences insecurity and gets more uptight. And if you have a positive experience, thought patterns about reality, then it indicates there is enough merit there which is seeing the positive ramifications of the realization.
To realize the nature of reality is a very liberating experience, because it means you don't have to try as hard in being a good person because if you realize the nature of reality, being a good person automatically benefits the world around you, so it is special. Insecurity is a very paranoid experience, but recognitions the qualities of the realization, actually it would be the greatest benefit to your personal attitude.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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