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.
MAY 1 1990
I wanted to carry on with the topic of self cherishing. It is important in a few different ways and I wanted to take you back and approach the concepts because the better you understand the techniques you are working with, the better you can actually utilize it to your benefit. It is important in that way. Having an overall concept of what you are trying to do with yourself or with yourself, and then knowing the individual techniques in particular detail. So the general focus is trying to develop greater love and compassion, a more open heart and such things, a more open attitude and to move away from the general causes of suffering such as self cherishing and narrow mindedness and such things.
The mode of practice for what we term as a hinayana or lesser vehicle practitioner in comparison to a mahayana practitioner, is the way that you deal with things. For example, in the hinayana practice, suffering is looked on as when you suffer, that is the nature of reality. Mahayana Buddhism would'nt disagree with that. The nature of samsara, day to day existence is suffering. And all of the involvements in the day to day world have different types of suffering involved in them. There is the essential suffering of things as impermanent and always changing. There is the suffering of suffering such as having to deal with the suffering of when things don't go the way we want them to, that we get unhappy about it. There is the suffering of pervasiveness which is because we have taken the body with the five aggregates, and because we have existence in the phenomenal world, that is also suffering. Another way to refer to it is to say it has inherent in it the nature of problems. And because our minds are unrealized, we continuously experience problems time and again. And that is the nature of cyclic samsaric existence.
So that then, is sort of the premise. In Buddism it is said there is the noble truth of suffering. Within that then, if you were a hinayana practitioner you would deal with that by saying, alright! You are suffering. The cause of that suffering is ignorance. And that ignorance is th at you believe very strongly in self existence whereas in reality you are non self existent and therefore you should try to realize sunyata, the egolessness of yourself. And they focus on personality, one meditated a great deal on personality and the selflessness of that personality. And they do that on various levels saying that the self is impermanent, and then also on a deeper level saying self is not inherently existent. So whenever you experience suffering, it affirms the fact that you obviously have ignorance in your mind, that you are grasping and therefore you should try to overcome that ignorance within your mind, to realize the nirvana or everlasting peace which is actually trying to realize the true or ultimate nature of reality.
So you can see there is a very direct way of sort of saying it is the ignorance of the mind which is causing the problem. That ignorance does not understand, one, the law of cause and effect. And two, it does not understand the true nature of reality. And because of those two levels of ignorance, the conventional level of ignorance and the ultimate level of ignorance, we suffer!
Now in the mahayana tradition you have the same basic premise. The nature of cyclic existence is suffering. But, they would say not only that there is ignorance in the mind, but there is a basic mis-conception which is the cause of a great deal of the suffering. And that is the misconception of self cherishing, an attitude which has to do with you still have a great deal of self cherishing. And so you are dealing with the same situation but the mahayana idea turns around and says, yes, ignorance is a problem. But ignorance is all personally directed. Like you look at the ignorance of your mind and you decide that you want to over come it. And so there is a great deal of focus on self, self interests and such things. So the mahayana say yes, that is applicable that you should realize the essential ignorance of the mind. But a secondary facet to that which is causing suffering for you, is that your mind is held very strongly in the grips of self cherishing. And self cherishing is considered to be one of the principle causes of suffering.
For example in Lama Chopa, in the third or fourth verse of the final set of prayers, it says please bless me to be able to destroy the demon of self cherishing, the cause of all my sufferings. So what does that mean? Well, we are going to move into the ideas of Mahayana buddhism in this regard and we are going to say, self cherishing...what it means is, that every time you suffer, every time you feel miserable, there is unhappiness in your life, that is a direct indicator of self cherishing. You are obviously realizing that I am ignorant. My mind is not realizing the true nature of reality. But you can add a facet to it to say that the attitude I have though is wrong. The attitude is self cherishing. And because I have an attitude of self cherishing, I have added suffering! You have ordinary suffering because you are confused. And that is cyclic existence. But, you have added suffering because you have self cherishing which only enhances or makes greater odds that you will have greater suffering. And it is because self cherishing directly creates our suffering.
I wanted to talk on that because we should have more ways on dealing with our suffering. Now on a hinayana approach you should try to realize the law of cause and effect which is to say that create positive karma, try not to create negative karma. Do not let yourself express your attachment and such things. You should try to become disengaged from those mind states. And if you do that you will create good karma, and good karma is a definite creator of happiness. That is the relative or mundane approach. The ultimate approach is to try to realize that your personality is not an independently inherently self existent thing, it is an impermanent phenomena that is not ultimately existent. Which is selflessness or egolessness. That is the hinayana approach and you should always have that in your practice, have that part of your practice.
But the second facet that you should add to that really is the mahayana idea which says that your self cherishing is the worst demon that ever existed in your mind and is the creator of almost all of your suffering. And it is a problem of attitude. Because of a wrong attitude, we have much greater odds of suffering.
Last week I talked a bit about if you look at a self cherishing attitude, if we looked at a self cherishing attitude as in the form of an energy, is everything is directed to yourself. If you think of it, it is like, I need. I want. Me, me, me. Whenever you get in regards to anyone, the immediate energy is what can I get from this person. What do I want, what do I need from this person? We have a very self cherishing attitude. Everything is looking to me and what I want to get for me, my personality, my mind! That is what I presented last week. And if you look at it, it sets things up in a very one sided way. And we talked about some of the problems that come from that.
Tonight I want to add further reflections to that. We are going to deal with the principle delusions which are anger, attachment and ignorance in the mind. And in dealing with those three we are going to look at what do they do when the attitude of self cherishing engages reality and creates anger, attachment or ignorance, unknowingness.
When we get angry. There are definite causes of anger. The hinayana approach would say that anger is because you are grasping to the permanence of a situation and because you grasp at permanence and things are impermanent, you get unhappy and therefore you get angry. Mahayana would sal that is true, but add to that the fact that anger has a great deal to do with self cherishing. Because of self cherishing, I in my needs, my ideal, my concepts of the world around me, I get angry. Why? Because the more strongly you grasp at your idea of your self, the more you set your self up to have causes of anger. Because you will have expectations about reality around you. You will say people should be like this. My children should good, my spouse should be good. My relationships with people around me should be in such and such a way. And because we have these concepts and grasp to them, we have a self cherishing attitude saying these are things I need around me because that is how I am happy, because of that, setting up expectations, we set ourselves up for suffering. Every time our expectations are not met, we suffer! And the greater our expectations which is in proportion to how greatly we self cherish, the greater we suffer. So really you can say that anger, which is the not meeting of your expectations, and every time that you get angry,it indicates how much self cherishing you have. And the self cherishing deals with the idea that says you didn't do what I expected you to. I don't like you! I am angry with you! So that is the type of attitude we have which is saying I am very tightly grasping to myself and when things are not met the way I want them, I am very unhappy. I get angry. Hostile about the world around me.
Self cherishing attitude which you could translate to expectations about the world around you, and grasping to those expectations is suffering for you/. So the more that you have strong cherishing about the way things should be, the more you are going to suffer. If you don't cherish or grasp as those thing, then the less you will suffer. You can translate that into sort of a more hinayana approach, the but approach is going to be to say that in contrast to that, I am going to talk about in a few weeks is the cherishing of others which sets up much more causes for happiness. But for this evening we are talking about the faults and problems of self cherishing.
So first one, anger. Anger is in proportion to the sense of self cherishing. Self cherishing translated into external expression like how we deal with the world around us, is expectations. I expect this and this to happen because I have expectations, the heavier my expectations the more I will suffer.
The second facet is termed as the primary defilement which is attachment. Attachment is I love you, but if you look at attachment, it is I love you because you do this and this and this for me! It is because of what you do for me, I love you more! And so if a person makes you happy, you get terribly attached. You love having them around! But why you love having them around is because you are attached to them, to what they do for you. And so this creates problems because any time your expectations are not met or you are separate from the object of your attachment, again you suffer! So you can see, if you have self cherishing, meaning is I am attached to you because of what you do for me, to come back to that sort of energy which is all looking at myself, what I am getting from the relationship, then again you have more and more suffering. It is pretty obvious. The more that you look at what you are getting from a relationship, the more you are attached to loosing what you are getting, and then the more uptight you get. And the more you want to be very sort of... I want you always where I can keep my finger on you! And then life is really comfortable for me! Comfortable is a very miserable way!
So attachment which is grasping to the situation I like it to be for my happiness, which is self cherishing, then causes a great deal of suffering. And although it doesn't seem apparent initially, the more we have attachment to pleasures and happiness as the joys we receive, the more we do suffer. So it is good not to be attached to the things around us. We should try to be more in equanimity, a more equal attitude and not too hung up about it. So again, attachment which gets caught up with self cherishing, creates more and more suffering. The higher level attachment we have, the more we have sufferings and such. Again the thing to see is, my self cherishing creates a lot of problems for me. So self cherishing makes a lot of misery for me.
Finally there is the third of the main delusions, ignorance. Ignorance means unknowingness. This one is mainly the same as the hinayana approach which is the ignorance of the mind on the two levels of truth, the relative level of truth as in the law of cause and effect, just being aware of the karma we create with each action we do. And on the ultimate level it is the awareness of the true nature of reality. Because we are ignorant regarding both of those, our self cherishing feels very powerful. The less we understand the law of cause and effect and the ultimate nature of reality, the more powerfully our self cherishing feels true and right. It is funny but, you might think you are justifiably angry about something. I really have a reason, th is reason is right. I can be angry about that. But if you think about what that does for you, it does absolutely nothing good. So even justifiable anger is wrong. And although it seems right, it doesn't correct because it just makes you miserable. And all that indicates again is that there is self cherishing involved. And the grasping to the truth of the matter in Yes, I am right! That so and so should respond in such a way!Yes I am right that things are not worked out the way I wanted them. Yes I am right that person is terribly lazy! All of that is doing nothing else but feeding your self cherishing and making you feel more and more self righteous. You generate energy which supports your idea about yourself and makes you more and more miserable.
Although you might see the correctness of the situation, maybe your viewpoint is the more correct one of the situation, that doesn't make it right for you to be upset about it. To make others unhappy! Or make yourself unhappy because that is the situation. Maybe you are right but you have to let it go or it just makes more trouble.
Try to come to see self cherishing as a cause of a lot of misery. In fact, the more that you have self cherishing, the greater the misery you will experience. This series of meditations can be quite depressing because the more we get into it the more we realize how self cherishing we are! The point is to try to not let oneself get deeply depressed about it, but to at least start to appreciate that that attitude is really a wrong attitude. It is only creating more problems.
And so when you do experience suffering, and we all have that off and on, as we have suffering we should say alright, basically I am experiencing the ripening of bad karma which is why you are unhappy. But on another side you can say, if I had a different attitude, if I wasn't quite as self cherishing, would this be experienced differently. Run it through your mind a little and see if there is some weight to that. Just try to gain a better grip on suffering. And when suffering takes you over, have a few more weapons to approach it and say, he you miserable self, what is going on here? There is a variety of things. When you are suffering just look at it and say I am miserable. My son doesn't want to listen to me. My son is terribly lazy. My son should get his act together and do something! I want my son to be a success! All of these things. An awful lot of I want! And what I think is right. And I could be terribly justifiably correct about all those things. But it not the reality. The reality is that that person is learning in their own way. And maybe I have to learn how to be more relaxed. You can turn it into a learning lesson for yourself and maybe slow down on your own self grasping ideas about what is correct.
I was thinking of some of the things that happened to Milarepa regarding his guru disciple relationship. And sometimes even regarding myself in regarding to my guru relationship with Ling Rinpoche, I sometimes think he could have been nicer to me. But Milarepa's relationship with Marpa went n for twelve years. For ten of those years Marpa did nothing nice for Milarepa. Milarepa built a nine story tower for him, and had to twice tear it down to the very ground and return the rocks to the place that they came from. The tower is still in existence in Tibet! It is an impressive thing, fifty feet tall. And Milarepa built the whole thing by his own hand work. He worked so long he had raw spots on the flesh on his back. And stuff like this. He really suffered for Marpa.
When Milarepa came to Marpa, Marpa had a dream of Milarepa of being a diamond, but a very tarnished diamond. So Marpa had to polish that diamond quite hard. And when he cleaned it all off, he put it on the end of a long banner and he shook the banner, and from that thing came rainbows and light. So Marpa knew from his dream that Milarepa would be a great teacher of buddhism but he had a lot of bad karma because he had to polish the diamond very hard to get the smudges off of it. So when Milarepa showed up the next day, he knew it was his student. But he knew that he had to give the guy hell. And it went on for ten years. And that is why he was going through all of this.
There are two things that happened. One is that Milarepa never lost faith in Marpa. For all that he got put through, he never gave up on Marpa. He always believed Marpa was going to be the salvation for him. And that Marpa was his guru. So he put all the stones back and by himself pushed a large rock back and built the whole thing again. I think on the third try he finally built the whole thing. After that, Marpa wanted a large temple built for his son. And he built that too!
It ties in nicely with what Milarepa did for Marpa. During all of this, Marpa's wife was very supportive for Milarepa and helped him. But Marpa gave him hell all the time. Finally after about six years of austerities, Marpa had a special student come from far away and was going to give a series of initiations. So Milarepa tried to go in and participate. So he came in without an offering or anything. Marpa immediately beat him out the door! This broke up the initiation for awhile. All the students went out and you know, poor old Milarepa. I can't understand how Marpa could be so nasty to you. Beating you and all of this! They thought Milarepa was such a good student. Bit Marpa didn't give a dam. Just walked in and sat back down. Being nasty and everything. And then gave all the teachings to everyone else but Milarepa. And it went on!
The next time Milarepa came back to the initiations he brought an offering of a large copper bowl filled with butter and gave it to Marpa. And Marpa asked where he got it! Actually this is one of my things! It turns out it came from Marpa's wife who had given it to Milarepa. Again Milarepa got beaten and thrown out! It goes on and on and on like that until he finally did receive the teachings from Marpa. And having suffered so much, having gone through such emotional anguish, but still being able to come back, he purified unbelievable bad karma. And in purifying that, when he did receive initiations, he had a full vision of the full mandala and many good things happened.
If you have bad karma, it would be wonderful if you said you were going to be a good person and in that way got rid of the bad karma. But that is not the case. Bad karma is experienced in a variety of ways. One way is just emotional suffering and such things. They are a direct manifestation of bad karma. Like when you are unhappy, depressed, that is a direct cause of bad karma. The more you are purified, although you might experience bad things, you don't get caught up in it. And the more and more purified you get, things can happen and it is alright. The purification practice is the processes you have been involved with.
Let's take the teaching on self cherishing. If you have high self cherishing, actually if you have high level self cherishing, you will never be able to stay with a guru. Because the guru gives you a little bit of a rough time and you feel very victimized and you will leave. So why should the guru spend more time with you. You are too self cherishing anyway. Especially for the mahayana practice. And particularly for tantracism. Tantracism definitely requires that one have a bodhisattva ideal, or at least the intentions of a bodhisattva. It is important that that be paramount in your mind. The thing is, if you have high level self cherishing and leave then that is alright because there is nothing wrong. But if you can hang in there and still have faith and still pursue the practice, you are being purified because your self cherishing is continually getting hassled. But if you are taking the teachings to heart, for example, my self cherishing attitude is a fault. It makes problems for me. It is a bad attitude. Having that knowledge, you start to give up your self cherishing. So when your guru gives you a rough time, if you practice, you purify karma unbelievably. In fact the guru is a catalyst for you being able to purify karma better! Because they make life miserable for you!
If you area practitioner and practice what you have been taught, then that is the best thing you can do. There are the teachings on guru yoga. In that there are what is termed as three levels of repayment to the guru's kindness. The most simple way to repay your guru is to make offerings. The next level of repayment is to actually do personal service to the guru such as being able to do what is necessary for the guru's upkeep or whatever. That is like a more personal offering. But the highest offering you can offer to the guru is practicing. I think it is really important to remember that. For example with Lama Yeshe, who I had unbelievable love for, I can never be around that guy. So if I made it that I had to be around him to be his student and be in the aura of his warmth and stuff, I would have been very miserable. Especially because Lama Yeshe brought out my self cherishing terribly! I was actually the secretary for him for a little while. But they quickly realized that I couldn't do it. I got far too uptight with Lama Yeshe. Because I would see him just sacrifice himself to person after person. Like he would stay up until two in the morning talking to someone because he felt that was important. The person actually demanded it of him, so to speak! And Lama Yeshe would take that on. And next morning he would be back up early and have another thing, and another and so on. And I would get uptight that he didn't get the rest he needed. And because I didn't have much skill and means, I would get a little aggressive and of course that did't work! So after awhile they got other people to be his managers.
But you needed to have a powerful practice and have no attachment to the situation and what you felt was right. To let Lama Yeshe be the bodhisattva he really was. For me that was hell. I suffered miserably. But I also suffered misery because I liked the guy a lot. He was wonderful. Bubbly, laughter and bliss and energy. It was magnificent to be around him.
So for me it was miserable. If I was too close with him I was miserable because he was always being taken too much advantage of. If I was far away I was miserable because I liked being with him. So I had to deal with that and remember in the teachings it says the highest offering for any Lama is to practice the teachings. Being with the teacher is alright, but if you really want to make the real offering, it is making practice. And that is what Marpa said to Milarepa. He said, although you have done a great many things for me, I couldn't give a damn for anything you did. You did that for your purification. And now that you have become one of my star students, if you really want to do the greatest offering of all to me, I want you to go to mountains and meditate. And that is what Milarepa did. He renounced everything and went off and became enlightened in one lifetime! Because he practiced.
The point is the practice is the important thing. And to take these teachings for example and utilize them personally for yourself. In dealing with the day to day sufferings that you have, then your practice becomes powerful. You are actually doing things with yourself.
The main object of this evening's meditation is to meditate on our self cherishing.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
All Rights Reserved