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.
Duncan Feb 9 1992
In the teaching of the seven point mind training, and the process is that in the world around us, there are many things which happen. And if we look that we have to change the world, it would be almost impossible. They have a nice analogy, if one thinks that the world has many thorns and sharp objects, if one then decides that one wants to cover the world with leather so it would be smooth and soft to walk on, that would be rather inconceivable. But if one covers it with the soles of one's own feet, one can walk anywhere one wishes to with immunity to problems. So also, if one looks at the world and says, that I have to destroy all my enemies, get only things which I like to have around me, that there can be no suffering, no mosquitoes or fleas, no difficulty or anything that is unhappy, and everything has to be perfect, if we have that type of mind, then certainly we will fail in attaining happiness because the world can never conform to that type of vision.
So rather than looking at changing the world, we should look at changing our attitude. And if we change our attitude, then the whole world becomes protected. More like the analogy instead of thinking of changing the world, if we just cover our own feet, we have essentially covered the world with leather. So also, if we change our attitude and look at the source enemies, the source of friends, all the problems and happiness in our life, comes from our mind, then we have actually taken a true handle on proper responsibility for our own life.
With these teachings, and I will go over this time and time again, they are for the mind and the attitude. And so if we want to effect or the benefits of applying ourselves to them, we have to look at our motivation. If we bring ourself to a good motivation, to a positive motivation, then certain the results, the good benefits that we would like to receive from relying on our practice, will come about. If we do not change our attitude, if we do not look to our motivation which is the cause of our attitude, then very difficult to expect results. And if things do not happen, it is not the fault of the teachings, it is rather the fault of our own inability to look at our attitude, look at our motivation, each day our motivation, each activity of our motivation, if we are more conscious of our motivation, certainly we can create causes of happiness for ourselves.
With that thought in mind, we should not strive to be happy just for ourselves, we want to have less stress, have a little bit more happiness, contentment, whatever, we should not think in that way, just for ourselves. Because even small minded people, even animals, even nasty creatures think of their own welfare. And it does not mean that they are doing anything good for anyone. So rather, we should be greater than that, we have great capacity, we are human, we have a developed mind, we have the ability to look at the world and realize a more appropriate manner of dealing with the world and such. So because we do have this higher capacity, we should actually manifest it and in that way no think of just striving for our own happiness, making ourselves wealthy and comfortable, and such things, rather we should try to think that just as I want happiness, so everyone in the room, outside in the community, and whatever, all want happiness also!
Relying on material goods will not be the sole cause of happiness, having great material benefit does not mean one is guaranteed happiness, so obviously happiness is something within. So therefore I am going to rely on the teachings of the Buddha, and particularly on the texts from Atisha which is the text on Thought Transformation, the real source of all true happiness, and the real way to eradicate the causes of all of our misery and suffering, the self centered attitude of self grasping. So I will rely on the teachings of Atisha to be able to bring about my spiritual transformation or my true possibility of attaining happiness, and I am also agoing to do this to be able to benefit other sentient beings also.
And I have different ways I can think about how I would like to benefit sentient beings, I can motivate that I want to first become enlightened to benefit sentient beings, or I can think that I am going to work and take sentient beings with me at the same time as I work on my spirituality. Or I can think I am going to allow sentient beings to become enlightened first, and I will be the last to arrive at enlightenment. Then, one thinks of working for bringing all other sentient beings into a proper understanding and realization, and finally they become enlightened, and then finally one will worry about one's own spirituality.
Those are the three approaches we can use. I am sure each of us have our own individual needs. Some will think, I really cannot help anyone else until I am enlightened, so I am first going to strive for my own enlightenment. But the objective still is that I want to benefit other sentient beings. Or some will say, rather than thinking of myself which sort of makes me feel selfish, I would like to do it with other sentient beings. So then with our friends, whenever we try to inspire them or give them positive energy, whatever is necessary, so we go together with the people we relate with to arrive at enlightenment. Or, some of us try to be totally selfless, and allow others to go totally before. Whatever the case, we should define our own attitude or where our particular temperament lies, and then identify that, and then motivate ourselves appropriately.
We all want happiness. None of us want to suffer, so we should expand our mind to realize that everyone is equally the same, and in that way should motivate ourselves accordingly to our own temperament as to how we are going to bring about helping other sentient beings. And also, of course, helping ourselves.
The teachings on the Seven Point Mind Training has a few analogies which are beneficial. The whole point of the practice will be your own personal inspiration. If you are not too inspired, it is most likely because you do not understand. If you understand the benefits of something, then you can you can see how wonderful it is and be very inspired by it. You would be motivated because there is something you can get from it. If you have ever been fired up by some of the network sales gimmicks, you understand how it works. The point is, there are holes in their things. First, just having money does not guarantee that you will be happy. However, if someone is skillful, and you start to listen and think about it, and the more you understand, the more you can understand how quickly you could benefit from it and would be terrifically motivated by it.
We are talking about something which has nothing to do with the clothes you wear, the way you cut your hair, the type of car you drive, the shoes you own. By that, I mean, someone could take all your possessions away, and all of those objects we normally cling to can be taken away from us. The thing that cannot be taken away from us, unless we give it up, is our attitude. It is our mind. If we start to understand that, we are the ones that are in control of our own happiness. If we do not understand it, then we think possessions and money, cars, clothes, and so on are the causes of happiness. And as long as we live in that mind space, we are going to be potentially suffering. So when we understand that they are not the causes of happiness, that we do not get happiness from those things, guaranteed, we can then take the power out of those objects, and regain the power to be able to control our causes of happiness.
That is part of the understanding that makes us inspired about the teachings. To understand that everything can be lost. My guru Geshe Rabten was a wonderful teacher. He was like the rock of Gibraltar. He was a big man with a stern face, but his lips were long and yet curled up at the ends into a natural smile. He had a wonderful heart and to me, was the most inspiring person. Here he was, a monk, spiritual, and yet he was so much really a man, but for me it was very effective. Somehow it hit me on a particular chord. Anyway he said to me, Jhampa, where is your dharma? I said, I don't know, I practice as best I can. And he said, my dharma is here, in my heart. The Chinese took away everything. My monastery. My family. My books. Everything. I walked out of Tibet with the clothes on my body. But I had all my dharma in here! He had memorized his dharma, that is one part he had, but he was also familiar with the teachings and he practiced. He said, the Chinese can take everything from me, but they cannot take that because it is inside of me. I have it in my mind.
And that is important. We should have that. We should have the essence of the teachings inside our heart, because then we are always protected. We don't have to look in a book or something. Or we don't have to wonder how we are supposed to act when we have some trouble in our life. We can just go inside. We have a right understanding, we have a well studied mind, we have experience, we have meditation which has made it more integral, integrated with the nature of our being, and so when we have troubles we can go inside and find the right thing. And when we come back out to interact with the world, we interact in a way that is constructive and positive. Gets good results. Brings a resolution to the problem.
So that internalizing process is what we really want with our spirituality. So no one can take our spirituality away. And it also gives us a real handle on what is real happiness versus a few temporal uppers. Getting a little extra money. Having good health. All those things are temporal. In the stream of our life there are many things which cripple us or make us unhappy. They are fluctuations, life goes up and down all the time.
The point is wee need an inspiration as to why the practice works, to have a good inspiration, we have to have understanding because if we understand, we are inspired from real reasons, from reality. In this there are three analogies given. It is said you should understand the significance of this instruction as like a diamond, the sun and a medicinal tree. The diamond, out of a stack of varying precious stones, surpasses all. One carat of diamond is worth much more than the rest. So of all the jewels, the diamond is the most precious. Actually diamond, even if broken into small pieces, still each part is precious, more precious than the rubies, emeralds and sapphires because it is diamond. It's nature is diamond. So like that, of all the spiritual teachings, such as those against attachment, those against anger, those for equanimity, which are like jewels, the spiritual attitude of bodhicitta is the supreme jewel. The attitude which transforms all circumstances into the path.
If you think of it, you have life, and at the end of life is death. And I am certain that all of you would like to live a life which is productive so that when we get to death, we can say, life is alright. Better than that, is if we have a little insight into the nature of spirituality, we can say, not only can I arrive at death and say I did well, I feel comfortable, I can die, even beyond it, the next lifetime, I know I am doing alright, I have some faith which goes deeper than day to day activity. It goes into the nature of reality as in future lifetimes. Now this is not crucial for one's spiritual practice, but it adds depth to one's spiritual practice.
And we can take it further and say, in cyclic existence, sure I can have highs and lows, but how wonderful if I was enlightened in cyclic existence. That I had real quality experience and understanding. It is like, you can understand how to maybe get on a bicycle and coast from here to city center, that is like being able to utilize samsara. You don't really understand how it works. We will use car because car is more complicated. You get in the car and drive down town and enjoy the ride. That is like using cyclic existence. But it does not mean you know or understand the nature of cyclic existence. It means only that if you get in a car and do this, then it will get you there. Enlightenment, though, is like knowing the nature of reality of car. It means you are never at a loss for being able to use car, but you also understand car. You have deeper understanding of the nature of car and travel and space and time and what ever else!
Like that, the enlightened mind, the mind which is spiritual, understands the nature of reality so that, one, it is still functioning, it is still going from here to destination, but because it has a realization of the nature of reality, it does not cling. It does not have grasping or such. The mind is enlightened and therefore free. Sort of like the security, if you know how to completely fix a car. No matter what breaks you know how to fix it. Like that, you have freedom. Like if the car breaks down, you don't sit there and do prostrations to it and pray that it fixes itself! You know exactly what to do because you are enlightened about the car. So also with one's spiritual practice. If one has more depth, than just thinking of from now until the time that I die, I am covered! If you have more depth than that, then you appreciate past lives, this life and future lives.
That is more depth but still just knowing how to drive the car, but not how the car really works. When you understand the way car works, it is like you have enlightenment, as in you no longer create grasping or clinging, or the sense of being a self existent entity. Therefore you are not bound into taking rebirth after rebirth with no control. You are actually in control. You are fully enlightened, you are free. And so from within that position, you can work for the benefit of sentient beings. And that is what Buddhas are. They are completely free from cyclic existence, but because they have love and compassion, they still work for sentient beings.
The point is then, in our spirituality, in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, like that there are many different practices which can be used. There are rubies and sapphires and opals. They are wonderful, but they are not as profound as the diamond. So also of spiritual practices. There are many spiritual practices, but bodhicitta is the most profound. Bodhicitta does not mean being a nice person, it means, ultimate bodhicitta is understanding the nature of reality, relative bodhicitta, understanding how to work with all experiences, bringing them into the path to enlightenment. This then translates into understanding how to handle any sentient being you bump into, and helping bring them into enlightenment. Very positive and very creative.
This teaching is how to take anything that comes into your spiritual or life experience, and turn it into your spiritual path. So that is incredible teaching. I could teach you impermanence, patience, generosity, and each is a wonderful spiritual teaching. But does that mean you know how to take any situation and turn it into the spiritual path? No. It means you know how to be very patient if someone is obnoxious. You know how to be generous and when you see suffering people, you know how to do the right thing for them. But that does not mean you know how to handle all situations. So bodhicitta is that which as you develop, give you more capacity to turn all practices, all experiences into the path of your spirituality. So it is the most incredible thing. Better than any other spiritual practice you could possibly have.
There is one analogy which is not given in this, which talks about the alchemical elixir. In alchemy, there is a special quicksilver, and when you paint it on a substance it turns it into gold. If you could fantasize turning everything around you into gold you could understand how wonderful this would be. We could have unlimited financial resources. So, like that, if you had something like this quicksilver that could turn things into gold, a lot of the problems and sufferings would be solved. And this is worldly thinking, but we think that way. That is why it is good to use that analogy. What you want then, in your spiritual practice, when some problem arises, you know how to spray them and they turn into gold, i.e. the meat and bones of your spiritual practice. Or someone else comes to you and they are very devious in trying to manipulate you, again you spray them and think you can become fully part of my spiritual practice!
Like I have lots of incapacity and inability. So if people come to me and I am at a loss as to how to help them, this practice, if worked with, can actually give you the possibility to know how to work with those people. Wouldn't it be nice to know that you have something, that you could look at someone and know how to do something rather than being incapable. Having a mind that says yes, there is something I can do. And there is the possibility. The practice that one develops from bodhicitta.
And Bodhicitta in this sense is a secret practice. Because it is not just saying, I want to become enlightened and help all sentient beings. This practice is saying, we are going to teach you how to take every circumstance that comes into your experience and turn it for your path so it becomes the meat and bones of your practice. We do not have the capacity yet. Because, we do not even have bodhicitta. I don't think most of us have good love. We have attachment. We do not have really good quality spiritual love even yet. But we are working so it is alright.
The point is, when we meet with circumstances, wouldn't it be wonderful to have that elixir that turns it into the ability to make it our spiritual practice. That is what bodhicitta is. And that is what this teaching is. The Seven Point Mind Training or the Wish Fulfilling Sun of Everlasting Happiness.
It means, it is a practice which turns all circumstances into your spirituality, into your spiritual path. And as much as you can attain or develop that, then at the time of your death, you are guaranteed to be covered. When you die you will fee pretty good about yourself. Secondly, future lifetimes, you are covered too because you have been obviously been developing a wonderful type of nature for yourself. So your future lifetime will also be fairly special because of the karma you have been learning how to get into that mode. And finally, you have put yourself into the mode to become fully enlightenment because the aspiration still is, may I become fully enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings. And that is bodhicitta, the motive.
But now we are going to talk the technique of bodhicitta which takes all circumstances into the spiritual path. This helps you become enlightened, which gives you everlasting happiness. And not selfish like nirvana everlasting happiness, but a fully functional everlasting happiness where you are still capable of working for the benefit of sentient beings. Which is what the Buddhas are. Arhats have everlasting happiness. They are wonderfully blissed out, but they cannot help anyone because they stay in the samadhi of everlasting bliss. But Buddhas go beyond getting hung up about the bliss, and because they have great love and compassion for other sentient beings, still function in the world. Like that, also, wouldn't it be nice if we could be of a similar nature, working for the benefit of sentient beings but still having our own internal everlasting happiness.
So that is the meditation for this evening. Essentially, if you think about spirituality and you can relate it to diamonds, wouldn't it nice to have the best of the diamonds? I mean, they are there! It is like if someone takes a bucket and throws them on the floor, of all the different jewels, we need to have the wisdom to be able to pick the diamonds out. And the diamond in this particular sense is the attitude of bodhicitta. That is the first analogy. The second, like the elixir that turns regular objects into gold. And then think, this is my mind. It is something inside which cannot be taken away. And that is the spiritual attitude of bodhicitta, taking bad circumstances and turning them into the path. And then work on it, see if you can generate some inspiration, alright?
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