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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 21 1991
It is said the reason samsara exists is because we do not understand the real cause of happiness and causes of suffering. People rely on different techniques to obtain happiness and avoid suffering. In a worldly sense, one relies on one's own strivings to receive happiness and on one's defenses to avoid suffering. For example, all of the wars are based on the idea of aggressive activity to remove the enemy. However with reflection, we find again and again that the problems rise. It therefore is not easy to say that violence is a solution to our problem.
The Buddhist perspective says the most important source of happiness is from the mind, and the source of suffering is from the mind. Meaning, your attitude and acting out into the world are that which creates the situations which bring you happiness or suffering. So one should be as positive as one can with the relationship with the world to bring happiness. And one should not rely on negative activity such as aggressiveness and violence and deceit which although in the short term bring about release of tension, in the long run don't and become a source of further suffering.
If we take responsibility and realize how we create our perspective or mind, we can take a stronger grip of reality and how we are going to experience it. Even though we might have bad circumstances come up, by our attitude being in a positive position we can turn it so we can learn from negative experiences. So motivation or attitude is important to bring us closer to enlightenment.
We have dealt with the basis of refuge as one's own Buddha nature. We take refuge not on the fact that a large powerful entity will take you over or in their camp and you will thus be protected. Real refuge is in one's Buddha nature. With that as the basis of refuge, that is the real relationship to what you are doing with yourself.
People do cultivate that relationship a lot in regards to how they will receive, that if they have faith in a particular entity, that they will receive gifts or luck or fortune. And negative things will be taken away. For example people take refuge in the thought of winning the lotto and try to receive blessings from someone who has won! Just to touch the person or see them!
So people are always looking for refuge, and if we looked in our mind, we would find us doing various things in the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of suffering. We should become aware of that energy within ourselves and then maybe work in a more conscious fashion with ourselves.
One then is striving enlightenment by trying to remove that which is hindering one's realization of one's own true Buddha nature. To do that is not easy so one relies upon other beings who have received those realizations fully. Therefore you have refuge in the Buddha because they are a suitable guide or path to enlightenment. It is important to realize that the Buddha does not become an entity and if you touch the entity you gain enlightenment or you will get a special aura around your body and never suffer again. It is not like that. Buddha is a special entity but the practice falls on your own shoulders which is the second refuge, the teachings. And then the spiritual community, those beings which assist you in your practice with friendship and support in your path to enlightenment.
One should always understand enlightenment as the basis of one's own Buddha nature. But because we are not intelligent and have made bad decisions in the past, we rely on the guidance of the Buddha.
If one wishes to pursue the development of their own Buddha nature, there is some advice which is given. First, at the beginning and end of the day is to take refuge. To clarify your mind as to what you are doing with yourself so first thing in the morning, get up, and after having done the various things you have to do just having gotten up, then one should spend a few moments adjusting one's mind, appraising one's situation, in this sense taking refuge which is saying I am in involved in the process of becoming enlightened, in being involved in that, it is important I try to cultivate my Buddha nature which is to cultivate that which is positive and beneficial for myself and others, and should try to avoid that which is making problems for myself. In that way you establish clarity for that day for what you want to do. And in the evening it is good to review your day. Did I do very well? And in that way you can reflect on things such as the times you got angry and lashed out at people, or got negative and slandered someone, whatever! And to think about those things and if one accomplished any good by those things? And in that way make the decision in your mind to try to avoid imprinting yourself in the future with a negative attitude or activity.
Guilt is not an appropriate thing at all. In Buddhism guilt is considered a double negative. First you have the negative thing you did and then, you are guilty about it. It is a hopeless activity to be guilty. Rather, if you so something wrong, you recognize it as stupid, as not appropriate, and then try to be more careful. And there is no guilt in that, it is just making a clear decision within yourself to not do that again. So that is the first advice in taking refuge, to cultivate one's refuge in the morning and in the evening. Of course, it comes down to if one is in one's practice one should cultivate it every moment of one's life. But that is difficult, at least doing it in the morning and evening is good.
Second advice is that one should take refuge only in the Buddha, that is meant, in taking refuge, we turn for help to various things. For example if you are sick, it would be foolish to sit there and think I am just going to sit here and pray and maybe my cancer will go away. Or whatever I have. That would be a foolish thing to do, although you might heal yourself, you never know! It would be appropriate to seek help from a doctor. In that way you are taking refuge in a doctor, saying doctor, please protect me. There is nothing wrong in that. If one takes some of these things literally, like it says one should only seek refuge in the Buddha and in the teachings, that can sometimes make people think very narrow minded. That means I cannot do anything outside of what the Buddha prescribes. This is not true. For example if you are sick you rely on a doctor for medication. But if it comes down to a life and death situation, or it comes down to you and your principles, then it would be appropriate to rely on the Buddha and what is prescribed. So have that as the final advice that you would seek. To be your own relationship with the Buddha and what would be the correct way to act, and that you would not rely on other people to make them your offering, or other entities you5r offering what would seem to be a way to get out of the problem. By that I mean, sometimes we might come across someone that says we have a situation that is difficult. And so we are emotionally caught up in it and not knowing what to do. And someone comes along and says nobody knows about this so why don't you just lie! Just say it didn't happen that way! No one will know and you will get out of the problem! You could agree and use that to solve the problem, but then you would have to deal with the fact that you are deceiving others and maybe you are just protecting yourself, but you are not really accomplishing any great good, so your lie really isn't any benefit to other than yourself, so in that case, it could be better to be truthful than have to accept the humiliation that you blew it.
What I am saying is that, you don't take refuge in a short term remedy as in being blind or deceptive about something. That you sit down and say, how do I want myself to be? Maybe I am going to humiliate myself by saying I blew it, but that is alright, I will accept that. And then at least you are more honest with yourself.
People., in taking refuge, it is funny how people bring things. I once wrote a letter to my brother. We have a strong Christian imprint on our mind. So my brother once wrote me a letter asking for advice so I replied with the ten non-virtues. He took the sexual misconduct and interpreted it as being sex only for creation of species! He got very uptight about his sexual activity! That he was a bad man for having sex with his wife, he went through a lot of things. When I came back to Canada in 75 for two months, he took me aside and confessed his hard time! I feel so guilty for I have passion in my life and I don't know how to deal with myself! It was funny because no one had said anything like that, but that is the way he had interpreted it. My point is, we should be careful how we interpret things because we sometimes can mis-interpret and make a lot of suffering for ourselves. The only thing the Buddha said about intercourse was that it would be considered inappropriate to do it more than six times in one night.
So we should try not to misunderstand what is prescribed in the teachings and we should always realize they are there for advice to help in our practice. So we should take refuge in the morning and evening, we should then rely on the Buddha and his teachings for our final source of decision making. There is an easy prescription that one can apply to that. One should never consciously harm another sentient being. So in decision making, the question you might ask is am I going to harm another sentient being, and is it appropriate? To the best of your ability you should try not to harm in a meaningless way other people. The second criteria is that we should try to the best of our ability to help other beings. So if we ever have a dilemma regarding some activity, we should have those two criteria, not to at least cause harm to another, and at best, to help others.
Also, it is said in cultivating awareness, at the beginning of a meal, one should offer the first part of the meal to the Buddha, Dharma and Spiritual community. Not that they are going to eat our food, but that we don't allow ourselves to think food is there for some pleasure or that we are indulging ourselves, but actually we need food to continue our spiritual practice. So it puts food in a different relationship to ourselves. We can enjoy food, abut we should try to have the appreciation that is there to sustain our life and not to indulge in gluttony and such.
Other minor advice for refuge I will deal with some other time. I only wanted to touch on motivation of oneself in the morning and review in the evening is an important aspect of refuge because it is a method to cultivate awareness. Secondly, because our spirituality is more important for the development of our Buddha nature, that we try to develop our reliance upon that which increases and helps us grow spiritually. And we don not just rely on some short termed temporal material gratification because it seems that it would be nice to do. Rather, we try to cultivate our spirituality more. And finally, the criteria for activity is to not cause harm to sentient beings.
One other bit of advice is that we should never disparage another spiritual tradition. That is very inappropriate. To the person who has faith in that tradition it would be appropriate to cut their tradition to pieces. As they have faith, that is a basis for some spiritual growth for them. You can discuss another spiritual tradition and beliefs. It is important that we can aware and think about what is a good spiritual practice and what is not.
In Tibetan Buddhism, one other point is referred to. They refer to the guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. They relate that the guru is very important. Generally it can be said that the teacher and the Buddha should be put together as being the same refuge, because the teacher helps us find our path. It is said that if we have strong faith that by relying on the spiritual teacher we can receive blessings as if we were receiving the teachings from the Buddha himself. IN that way the teacher is seen as being the instrument for our receiving enlightenment. The example given is, although the blessings of the Buddha are like sunlight, and fall equally on all sentient beings, it is hard sometimes for sentient beings to receive the blessings because of the interferences they have. And so by the blessings of having the spiritual teacher, is like having a magnifying glass which can concentrate the rays of the sun into a powerful beam so it helps us develop spiritually. In that way the guru is important in the facet.
Another thing they say, is that although we have been around for countless eons, and we have obviously met many Buddhas, we have never had good enough karma to recognize or get teachings from them. That is why we are still here. Obviously if we had met the Buddha 2500 years ago and had had any devotion then we would have gotten our act together by now. But somehow we didn't meet him or if we did nothing happened. Obviously to this point we have not benefitted. So when we do finally have a spiritual teacher who is affecting us in some way, it is worth while to venerate them and accept their teachings because that is where our karma is at!
It says we blew it because although there has been infinite Buddhas we never received their blessings. But now that we have a spiritual teacher we should venerate them as being that which is suitable for our mind at this time. The Dalai Lama says, nowadays there is a lot of controversy over spiritual gurus. I have a book over there about all the gurus that blew it in the last twenty years. It is quite an interesting set of teachings. There are a lot of spiritual traditions which have problem when their guru goes down in flames! It seems the major point has to deal with sexuality or money and power. So I would offer the advice that in relying on a teacher, for example, some of you rely on me, that if I start to try to manipulate the women into bed or demand to give me your money, you should chastise me! It is for your own discriminating awareness to be conscious of what you are doing.
Also in regards to that, the main practice is for your spiritual development. And if a teacher is intelligent, and if the student is intelligent, then a lot of benefit can be had from a close guru disciple relationship. Generally speaking, the teacher should be more developed than the student, and in that relationship there is possibility of learning things quicker than sort of muddling through it on one's own. And that applies as much to you as to me, as to me to my teachers. The relationship, that we benefit from personally having more experience in ourselves help us. And that is the principle idea of the spiritual friend or guru. In that way I would recommend that in taking teachings from various people, that you have the awareness that that is for the development of your spirituality. And if there were some special wonderful shortcut by receiving some intimate relationship with your guru, then I would have already have been trying it way back then with my gurus. And none of my gurus offered to go to bed with me.
The point is enlightenment is a individual process for you, yourself. So the people you rely on should help you cultivate that within yourself. If there was some magic way to become enlightened quicker then I am sure all of us would have wanted it long ago and maybe we would have got it.
For this evenings meditation, the most important thing is identifying that the basis of refuge is one's Buddha nature. And one is trying to get a clearer relationship to one's Buddha nature which is one's very self, one's real nature so to speak. The guru, the Buddha are helping us to see that more clearly, the teachings are to help us actualize that more clearly, the spiritual community is to help support us in that. The thing so to realize more clearly in a more integrating peaceful manner one's own pure nature, and that is the real basis of taking refuge.
With that in mind, when you sit, think of the practice as essentially that. And what I need to do is work on my attitude which will bring me more in harmony with that and to try to release myself of negativity that causes suffering and take me further from my realization of my Buddha nature.

Copyright 1994  Daka's Buddhist Consulting  All Rights Reserved