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 15, 1990
The last few weeks we have dealt with self cherishing and it's disadvantages. The main point of it is to be more conscious of when you are getting into problems is to identify the attitudes that are behind some of those problems. And inevitably you will come with up that there is self cherishing there. And self cherishing always manifests as I need, I want. For me. And in saying that, it is not to negate the fact that we have to be aware of our conscious self and our own limitations. But we should be conscious that a lot of our own limitations are established on the basis of where our self cherishing is strong. And self cherishing is merely that we have adopted a certain attitude or adopted a certain stance. And because of that stance we have made suffering for ourself. So to be more conscious of that and to be more aware of what limitations we are setting up for ourselves. That is one aspect of the disadvantages of self cherishing. The more major aspect of the disadvantages of self cherishing is that it is very limiting. The more you have self cherishing the more limited are your possibilities of happiness and of joy in your life because you end up setting a very tight view on reality. And if your little needs are not met, then your world is destroyed.
One of my Lamas, Lama Yeshe always used to say, ego broke! And it is true. Our little ego gets broken so easily. And it is because of our self cherishing. Our ideas, our attitude, the vision, of our self cherishing.
The important thing is to identify that self cherishing is a cause of our problems. I touched on how in the hinayana approach to Buddhism, to liberation, the idea is that your ignorance is the principle cause of suffering. Because of ignorance you must try to overcome it by such means as meditating on selflessness. The principle emphasis is to say that your suffering is based on ignorance in the mind. The mahayana believes that yes, ignorance is the principle cause of suffering, but they also say that self cherishing is the secondary cause and a very strong cause of suffering. So they approach it with not only thinking of it is because of my ignorant mind, my unawareness of the true nature of reality, and myself, and my personality is causing my suffering. The mahayana has a broader understanding saying self cherishing has a very crucial aspect of creating my suffering. To tie in with that is ignorance. The ignorance we term as the fundamental cause of rebirth and samsara, cyclic existence. But a powerful secondary cause is the attitude of self cherishing.
Actually they say for a hinayana practitioner, they are presented the goals. As a practitioner you are taught that alright, in front of you is enlightenment. But also available to you is liberation. Liberation is more easy to attain than full enlightenment because liberation only requires that you eradicate the ignorance in your mind which is causing your rebirths in cyclic existence. By stopping that you can gain liberation. So if you have a high level of self cherishing, you limit your realizations because you think enlightenment is wonderful, and it is full of omniscience and it's capacity to help sentient being, but it is so hard to work for I cannot handle that! And so your self cherishing says liberation is good enough. So you end up with half an attainment. Because what you have done is solved your own ignorance of your own mind. But you never really have to worry about generating extra qualities of openness of mind, generosity, compassion, loving kindness and such things. BEcause they are extra to the practice. The principle practice for the vipasana practitioner is the realization of the true nature of reality, particularly the selflessness of personality. So a hinayana practitioner ends up with nirvana, liberation, but they end up, termed from a mahayana perspective, a partial attainment. They have only solved their own problems. They are not really that functional in the world. They can not really benefit others in a deep way. They can only benefit other people in a general way.
So if one was to strive for full enlightenment, it requires that you automatically have a little less self cherishing. It is harder to attain, but the results of enlightenment is that you are so much more capable of helping other sentient beings. Just to give you a bit more of an overview, the disadvantages of self cherishing even limits your capacity to attain full enlightenment because it makes you think that personal liberation is much more important and beneficial.
Why does that attitude of cherishing others have more advantages? What is important for this session is to try to become more conscious of the advantages of the attitude that cherishes others more than yourself. So if you have been able to generate some realizations about how limiting and how many disadvantages of your self cherishing, I want you to swing over and think of what we want is happiness. Right now we do not have the opportunity to be able to bliss out with nirvana. If we had the opportunity to go straight into nirvana just because we hear about it or something, that is wonderful.
You have two facets you are working with. One is to recognize the disadvantages of your self cherishing. On the other side, we are going to talk about the advantages of cherishing others. In regards to that, on a relative level, we want happiness. We definitely do. And happiness means just being comfortable. And then even having a little better than that. Having some joy, something that is sort of fun happening. It is something that we all want all the time. And that is what we always do. We do all sorts of things. We try to set up our home environment to have happiness. So happiness is very crucial. Sort of try to bring your mind to start to see how much time you spend on trying to have relative types of happiness.
As I was saying, if you get nirvana, it would be wonderful but we cannot. Nirvana takes a long time of cultivation. Very deep meditation. Good environment for being able to have good meditation. A good teacher to open the doors for the realization of that. It is a high attainment. It is a powerful one. It is a difficult one. So that is one which we should strive for, but we should actually strive for full enlightenment. But whatever, we should strive for those higher spiritual goals.
But if we come back to just the mundane, just the every day, we want happiness. We get up in the morning, we eat breakfast. But we don't just eat any breakfast, we eat the breakfast we like. Why? Because we want that. We like that. That is what makes us happy. Anyway we do an incredible amount of activity striving to be happy. So if that can be taken of as a truth, then where are the causes of your happinesses coming from? Do they come just because I have been powerful and gone out and got my act together? Or do the happinesses really lie in my relationships with others and what is happening around me and such things? I think we have to say that real joys in our life happen in regards to our relationships. If we have a relationships with a person we love, then that is a very powerful thing. But that requires there being another person there. If you are going to experience the joy of love or sharing, I am not just speaking about just the male and female, I am talking of even sharing members of the same sex, whatever. All of that requires that there is another person that you can relate to.
So all of the types of happiness that you can have in sharing an experience, being that you go for a walk with someone, that you have watched a sunrise or a sunset, that you can plant in the garden, that you can do any of those things, all those shared experiences need other people. That is one kind of happiness that we like. Sure, sometimes we like to go for a walk on our own, but at other times we really want to be with other people and to share. And so all of that requires that there be other people. So there is a whole section of happiness in our life, joys, that have to rely on other people. That is the first thing that you should think of.
If you think of your own self though, what does cause you happiness, all the happinesses that you have and want are in relationship to things that you either get from other people in the form of teachings, assistance, help, support, whatever, so again, even the more personal happinesses that we want. Let us take personal attainment. Like I get very together. I become a wonderful roofer or a good artist or a wonderful builder. Or I get a degree and become a very proficient professionalism. If you think about it, even those attainments require some to be there to help you get that position. You need the university system or a teacher, someone that can spend hours of their time to be considerate to you and invite you into their life so that you can be taught. So again, even the things we consider being very personal attainments require the kindness and relationship with other people. So again, you cannot really say that your happinesses depend solely on you going out and getting your act together. They do require you to be motivated, but they also require that you set up a relationship with other people.
Again we have to say that our relationships with other people are the major cause of all the joys that we have. And if you think of the high and wonderful ones, like when you do fall in love, like at the time before our mind kicks in and manipulates the situation to keep that person attached to us, if you think of the moments when you have fallen in love with someone, and the joy that you experience! It's like you are going along doing your thing and someone attracts you! And you think that person is quite nice! And then you put some energy out to ask if you are interested in me? And when that person shows something back, you fall in love! And you think about how happy you get when that happens! Some loves you! Someone responds to you! And you go on a real high! It is something to think about because there is a real wonderful energy there. You can dance on clouds. After that, alright, our ego kicks in and we try to make sure that person loves us and all the more relative garbage of our personality gets in the way, but, there is a special high which we first experience when we fall in love. And what that falling in love is saying, is, that person is responding to me! So if you take those emotions, all of that, require a relationship with another person. Requires other people.
So in this practice you have to really get in touch with the fundamental thing that cherishing others, that others have always been the main source of all the happiness that you could have or will have. And that it is really only appropriate that you should be more aware of. And actually what it comes to is, cherish others more than you cherish yourself. If you think of it, on one side you cherish yourself. Like I need this. I want that. If I don't have this I am going to be unhappy. If you think about it, that is sort of what you do. I want. Now if you have the money whatever, you can go out and get it. But if you have not, you suffer. What you are suffering from is, I want, I need, this is something I have to have. Those sorts of things. Now go to the other side in regards to relationships with other people and such, if you haven't expectations thrown in there and all the garbage of your personal sort of needs and wants in there, in regards to relationships with other people there is wonderful joy and happiness. There is just sharing an experience, just being with other people, having their company, having whatever can be offered from them. All of that is from having relationships with other people.
And so if you think about it, if you had the two in front of you, being selfishly concerned about what you need and whatever, and on the other side, having the opportunity to visit someone and share an experience. Between the two of them, if you have a choice, you would obviously want to be happy and joyful with other people instead of being caught up with your desires and ambitions. It is obvious which one you would want.
In this phase of the meditation, you have to swing your mind around to seeing what you have been doing with yourself, your attitude. The attitude is normally self cherishing, what I need! What I want! And what is that doing to me? Like every time you don't get what you want, watch what your ego goes through. If you are fairly controlled and self contained, you immediately say it wasn't worth it any way! But all you have done is sort of...I didn't really want that! And then you feel alright about yourself again. But think of it on the other side, in regards to your relationships with others. If it happens, that is wonderful. Sometimes it doesn't happen, as long as your attitude is warm and friendly, you still feel alright about yourself. You didn't have to do this defence mechanism which you did on the other side. Let's say you asked someone to go to the park today. And they say I don't have the time. And you say alright, maybe we will do it another day. You don't say oh, well I didn't really like you any way! You don't have to do that sort of game! Whereas on this side if you have a desire and it gets rejected, you do a couple thoughts with your mind. I will just try harder next time. Or I will get more money next time, or it really wasn't that important! You understand, the mechanisms of your personality and what is going on.
So if you go over to cherishing others more than cherishing yourself and trying to really establish that attitude, you have a greater potential for happiness and you don't have to go into negative defence mechanisms to protect the situation. I mean maybe initially you will go through a few negative things, but if you really do live in a sense of knowing the joy of being with other people and the opportunity to be with others, to offer the best you can for other people, in that, you don't need to go into negative defense modes.
If you meet someone who gets very angry at you, you can be compassionate to them. You can understand that this person is obviously unhappy. It is because of something negative that I have done is the past maybe that makes it this way, so you accept the situation and you offer them an ear. Let them ventilate. And then you can turn around and say hey, it's alright, would you like to do something? There is more joy in that, in solving a problem than there is telling another person off and walking away from them. Maybe you felt you were right and wonderful, but certainly a month later it doesn't make you feel good. Whereas if you are in a positive relationship, let the other person ventilate and then make a positive gesture, if they accept it you feel good, and if they don't, at least you sit back and say I did my best!
You really have to get into your mind, like the benefits of the one and disadvantages of the other and work at it. And it is not something that is easy. I mean we continuously revert back to self cherishing, what I want, when I am with someone, what can I get from that person. It depends on what your want list is, but that sort of attitude kicks in all the time. And it is something strong with us, because no one has ever said to question your self cherishing.
But now it is important to question it and ask, if the needs I have, and there are things I do need but let's not make them a priority, let my relationships with others be the priority. My being helpful with others be the priority. And let me move into that mind set. And if you do that, you have greater opportunities for happiness, joy and fulfillment, all those things are more possible for you. It is important to realize that fulfillment comes in regards to successful relationships with other people. If you are successful in your profession or in your own life, that is really a self centered fulfillment. And the only time that you feel good about it, is when other people are benefited by it. And then you say I really did something right. The world is benefited by who I am and what I have done in the world. Then you feel good. But again, you had to rely on other people to get that emotion going. So even talking abut the most fundamental thing, the sense of fulfillment and goodness about yourself, has to rely on relationships with other people. Only the most egocentric person would say I was wonderful in this life and I think I am good! Something to think about.
The most important aspect for the meditation in this style is to become more conscious of the negativity of the attitude of self cherishing and the advantages of cherishing others. It does not mean that you go and sacrifice yourself before other people, that you become a martyr for this great principle. It merely is that you try to change your attitude. Because if you go out and you try to be a selfless person, you will get destroyed and you will end up with more negativity because your expectations and needs are great. We do have a lot of them. But if you can say this is an attitude thing, you don't put yourself on a sacrificial block of being a martyr for goodness and kindness, but doing the best you can, but you don't set yourself up to be knocked down heavily. That is important. Don't expect too much of yourself in changing.
But as you change, if you start to work at your attitude in saying cherishing others is more important, a few times you are going to feel that sandpaper is being dragged across your skin, it is not something I would not normally do, but if you allow your personality to be rubbed down a bit, you will find the next time it is a bit easier. And as time goes you will experience the real joy that lies in being able to help another person, and may be sacrifice a little bit. And be able to give a little bit! You can be able to feel really good about it,. At a later date! So don't have expectations again that you are going to be the wonderful bodhisattva, being able to cherish other people, but definitely expect yourself to start working on your attitude. My attitude has to be checked up. Self cherishing has to be recognized as the major problem in my life. And cherishing others is a real source of all of the joys that I could experience. Try to have the principles in it. The disadvantages of self cherishing, the advantages of cherishing others, and to try to change the position of your attitude.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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