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.
April 7 1991 Duncan
One should try to motivate, especially now with the military action in the world, with a deep sense of concern or compassion. "Wouldn't it be nice if I had enough influence to bring about some change in the world?" Because our mind does create our experience of reality, and because our mind also establishes the position we have in the world, it is possible if we motivate ourselves with pure thoughts that we can actually become more and more effective in the world in changing it. If we never think about things like this, if we never motivate ourselves, then of course, it is an impossibility. But if we do motivate ourselves, and do have a sense of concern, do feel about that and say, " I wouldn't like to be in Iraq and dominated by such an evil person, and cause such pain, nor would I like to be in the position of making decisions where I cause a great deal of pain to another country." So offering a sincere prayer, which is the motivation in the sense, saying may I always bring about a peaceful resolve in all situations I become involved in and have an influence on.
If you do offer thoughts and prayers like that, whether it is a domestic dispute, a dispute with your neighbors or community, or it goes into a provincial or federal basis, if you have a sincere feeling like that, you will actually have an effect. So you should try to create those sort of thoughts. Because, they will be effective for you. So try to cultivate an awareness about your motivation and a motivation that puts you in a positive position, not one of feeling oneself completely ineffective.
So although we are concerned with our personal issue in the sense that we would like to be able to be a more developed person, have better qualities, be more able to deal with our own personal problems and such, we should try to open our mind to realize that others also have concerns, sufferings and problems. So they are not different from us. They are completely equal to us in that they would like to be free of their sufferings and would like to be happy.
That which creates our suffering and our happiness is from our mind side, our perspective. So we should try to cultivate a positive perspective with the aspect of broad mindedness.
We have been talking about refuge. I introduced the subject by talking about refuge as being your mind and where your mind is coming from. That is the real refuge. The outer signs of refuge are for example, the statue of the Buddha. Or if you had the fortune to be with Buddha Shakyamuni, or a real Buddha, of course that would be the outer object of the refuge. The person that shows the path. The actual refuge is the teachings, which means that which you actually can practice. The real refuge is what you can actually actualize in your own practice. Those people which assist you are the other practitioners. That is the correct understanding we should have. And those are the outer objects, and the real object of refuge is your own mind and your own understanding. The better you understand, and can actualize what you understand, the better you are actually developing your refuge.
To define that, a place where you can protect yourself from that which causes you suffering and anxiety and such things. That is in the negative sense as in saying I would like to be protected. In a more positive statement, you can say, refuge is that which puts you in a position of being positive and creative, being able to accomplish what you would like to accomplish. And then, you are in avery good position to bring that into an actuality.
So refuge is that. It is something you develop in yourself from your own understanding and from experience. As I say, the outer images of refuge are good. They are very important. If it was all sort of an internal development, that would be wonderful, if it could be transmitted that way. But we very much rely upon things which are around which inspire and stimulate us. If you think about it, that is what advertising is all about. It stimulates you and identifies you with the product so you say, yes! Vitality and sexuality comes from Lux Soap! Like that!
In that way, just as advertising utilizes images of fresh water falls and vibrant stimulating things to inspire their object, so also Buddhism. It means, if you look upon the image of the Buddha, it should invoke peace in your mind. That peace, and how you understand it, can give depth to it. So essentially, the enlightened being has received enlightenment by relying on those things which are the principles of the techniques which brought their mind to a position where they could understand the nature of reality.
We say enlightenment has two facets. That of correct understanding, wisdom, and the facet of deep love and compassion, the capacity to truly feel from the depth of one's heart the sufferings of others, and have the wish to release them from suffering, to bring them into a more positive head space. Those two qualities are symbolized when you look at the Buddha. So it is important for you, when you think of the enlightened being, and to give it quality, to give it an aura. Then, for example, when you sit in meditation and visualize the Buddha in the space before you, you actually feel something good about it. You maybe get a sensation of energy going through you body and goodness in your heart. And that means that is your understanding.
And with that deeper understanding, and maybe understanding how it works and is effective, then of course faith is developed which is a powerful thing for us as human beings, to be able to have an experience of faith. Faith can move mountains!
The point is, when you think of the Buddha, he is serene because he has the full realization of the nature of reality, wisdom. When you say the nature of reality, it refers to that as the world around, but it really refers to the nature of one's own being. To have that wisdom which understands the nature of one's own being is the most powerful thing that you can have. It is the very key to your own being, the way that you are. So when you reflection the Buddha, you should see that serenity isn't that which is one that is an apathy or an un-caringness, like completely sort of left the world and gone to heaven and never could give a care about anyone in this plane sort of thing. That would be really an inappropriate cop out, that spirituality is that which leaves the world far behind in the sense of not caring about it. That is not the correct realization.
In all of the Buddhist texts, for example in Zen Buddhism, they say the Pureland is here and now. Enlightenment is in the here and now. It is not in some transcendental space above the earth or something. The point is, the realization of one's own nature, ones own being, and by that realization, all anxiety is released, so a person can sit there and be very comfortable. And when objects of great fear or anxiety come, they do not cause anxiety or fear for an enlightened being because their mind is realizing how things are coming together. And also, it realizes that really ones own mind is the creator of the situation. Really, more importantly, is that one's mind creates reality. So we should try within that context, create a positive vision, a positive reflection of reality so we do not have cause for being upset and anxious. That is one quality of the enlightened being. Serenity and wisdom.
The second quality is that of great love and compassion. In the teachings it says clearly that you can rely just on wisdom to basically give yourself freedom or liberation, a clear awareness which understands the nature of reality, then you can be peaceful. But you then have an inability to really help others because if you try to come out of that realization to help someone, then your old head space, the old things which you have never resolved in a proper manner are there. And you can still say the wrong thing, or be an inappropriate person. So normally, termed what Arhats do, they say within the realization everything is fine and dandy. They do not really activate grosser levels of consciousness and everything seems fine. Although they can try to help sentient beings in a very detached manner, there is not very possible for Arhats to be able to empathize or to really act spontaneously for the benefit of others. They have a very reserved nature. If you read the texts about Hinayana Arhats, they are always tranquil and peaceful and remain very detached. In that way they try to inspire sentient beings into the path of peace, which is the Buddhist path leading to nirvana.
But they lack great love. And therefore, they do not work out their own personal problems and therefore are not capable of helping other people. Therefore you have what is termed the Bodhisattva path, the path of love and compassion which means, I can actually be very effective in helping other people. But if I want to be effective, I have to cultivate qualities.
If you think about it, you cannot cultivate qualities without reflecting on other people. Even if you say that is not true, I am going to be a very powerful politician, charisma, and I am going to have lots of people like me and then I am going to be powerful! You can say that, but if you think of it, still, you have other people involved in there. To become a powerful person, other people have to influenced by you. So your development of qualities that give you charisma are definitely tied to other people, but in this sense very selfishly. I am going to get power!
I am trying to say that the development of qualities has within it that which helps or is aware of other people which influences and helps others. And I am speaking of positive qualities, those we recognize as being good qualities such as being a compassionate person, patient, a helpful attitude, good hands to help someone with physical affection and warmth, dress a wound or something. All the things we recognize as qualities are expressed in regards to relationship to other people.
The Bodhisattva is definitely related to awareness of others and the wish to be able to help other people. Think of yourself, when you were unhappy, and met a person who was kind and had an afternoon to give me one day. Out of the blue they said, come and have tea with me! Maybe this person was nothing special, but they were kind who had time for you. And maybe listened more than they said things to you. Just a really beautiful person. And you could think, wow, that person changed my life totally.
That is exactly what a bodhisattva is. That is exactly what the development of qualities which are beneficial for others is about. So any time that you have really been effected in a beautiful and powerful way by someone else, is because they had qualities which were that of concern, compassion, patience, acceptance of what you were, if you were maybe very negative or unhappy. Why did you like them? Because they accepted you and had consideration for you. That aspect in Buddhism is termed love and compassion. Termed the bodhisattva path. It says, I am going to aspire for full enlightenment, but I am also aspiring for that quality of being which is effective for other people in a positive way. Brings warmth to their heart. Makes them inspired, relaxed. However you want to think about it.
All those qualities are what you should think of when you think of the Buddha. The Buddha, if you were to close your eyes and visualize him, you should have a reflection from that that there is a being who is fully open to me. And fully accepting to me. And in whatever way they can, will manifest for me to help me become more enlightened. So that is a wonderful object of refuge, a divine being!
In that way when you take refuge, you look to the person who showed the path. The more you understand about the person that shows the path, the more you can inspire yourself. So your knowledge you gain about yourself in your own meditations and relying on the teachings of the Buddha and such can be that which inspires faith in you, gives you more inspiration for your own practice.
So when you think of the Buddha, you should think of the being which has the quality of being fully realized within themselves, so therefore they can also of course, understand other people by their empathy. Also has developed full qualities, that which helps other sentient beings. All great saints have been recognized by the influence they have in people around them.
Reflect in this way that inspires you and gives you a good feeling. Gives you some confidence that it is possible for you to pursue your own spirituality which brings up the second aspect of refuge, the real refuge is your understanding you gain about the path and then your actualizing that path. So it has two facets, that which you accumulate in the way of knowledge, and then, more importantly, that which you actualize from that knowledge.
That is the real refuge because that is part of you. And the object or the goal that can be attained in taking refuge in that way is full enlightenment. It is not that you become a devotee or something. But that you have the opportunity to receive full enlightenment equal to the fully enlightened beings.
There is a Hindu path, the Hairy Krishnas devote themselves to this path, but I am not sure. It is the devotion to Krishna. In their path, by being very pure devotees to Krishna, it is not that you will become Krishna, but that you will take a rebirth in Krishna's heaven, maybe as a blade of grass or whatever. But that is the aspiration of them! To be born in Krishna heaven and then to be with him. By being with Krishna one receives the blessings of Krishna. By being a devotee you can receive the strokes that Krishna can give you. That is nice! If that is the way you like to practice, that is appropriate. That is similar in the sense to the Christian thing.
But for a Buddhist, it is not quite that way. The Buddhist ideal of practice is that one aspires to receive the teachings so one gains the deeper and better realization within one's own being. And so one slowly approaches the ultimate and finally attains the ultimate. So there would be a non duality, a non seperation. Many religions teach duality, like a God and that which is around the God. In Buddhism, there is not that way of looking at things. There is only the ultimate level, and then the mundane. The mundane is a state of ignorance or duality, and the ultimate is the state of non duality where there is no separation from self and the ultimate level of consciousness.
Those things are important! If you are involved in a spiritual practice, you have to take into issue those sorts of things. If I am practicing, what is this guy presenting to me as my goal? What will be my attainment if I resolve to aspire. The attainment that you will have will be the attainment of your own enlightenment, your own realization of all the qualities that enlightenment entails.
The final thing is the spiritual community, those other practitioners. They refer to it as the relative spiritual community which are other practitioners who are as realized or more so than oneself, and then the ultimate spiritual community, those which have received full realization of the nature of reality and therefore they are ultimate objects of spiritual community because they have proper realization and will not bewilder or deceive us in relying upon them.
In that way you have the relative and ultimate Buddha, practice or teachings, and community. The relative Buddha is the person that shows the path. The ultimate Buddha is our own realization of enlightenment. The relative teachings are those which are graduated or appropriate for us where ever we are at. The ultimate teaching is that of love and compassion, termed the enlightened state of mind which is the realization of bodhicitta, altruistic love and compassion combined with the realization of the true nature of reality which is a state of consciousness. The relative spiritual community is those which we have as friends in our spiritual path, the ultimate spiritual community is the enlightened beings or the bodhisattvas which have the realization of the true nature of reality and are non deceiving in the sense that they will not deceive us as to what is the nature of our practice and how we should progress towards that realization.
So when you take refuge, you should try to have some understanding about what it means. Let's say if I take that basic concept I have given you and present it in a way that sounds less religious, because some people get paranoid when they think about religion, it is to reflect that the enlightened being is a wonderful person who has a powerful positive head space and is everlastingly happy for themselves. They do not have any problems or hangups. The teachings they present are basically a positive attitude and all that entails, and the spiritual community those which are in a similar head space.
There are limitations if one holds oneself to that style of ideal, but sometimes in the west that is appropriate because people have a lot of paranoia about a being involved in a course of religion or something. So for some I think it is better to have everything phrased as sort of new age, psychological terms whatever. The point is, anyway you look at it, the objective is that you get your act together, that you do not loose responsibility for who you are, by giving yourself away to something, you do not do that. You give yourself away to your self in full responsibility. So the real path is that. That you take responsibility for who you are and what you create of yourself. And then, of course, the expression of that is the expression of your capacity to be a kind person in the world around you.
They say the bottom line for practice is that you at least do not harm anyone. And if you can do better than that, you try to benefit people. This is sort of like the two bottom lines for the practices. Never consciously try to harm anyone, and in that, if you can maintain that, try to develop the capacity to help another person.
This evening we are going to do a Tara meditation.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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