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 16 1992
I received these teachings on numerous occasions in India, from Geshe Rabten in a very extensive set of teachings in 1971 or 1972. At a later date I believe I received them once from the Dalai Lama, and another occasion I received them from Geshe Thubten Lodon in Australia over an extended period of time. The tradition of these teachings is special, and the general concept of these teachings is considered to be quite evolved because it is not just the basics of spirituality where you try to be a good person and go to heaven when you die. It is a very dynamic path in that one tries to bring all circumstances into one's path and practice.
The definition of the path of practice for this teaching is mahayana, the Great vehicle which means that you are not striving for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others as well. Sometimes people get anxious when they hear a teaching which stresses benefitting others because they always feel a little insecure that maybe their own side has not been covered properly. Very often we hear from western people in particular, that we don't love ourselves enough and that we don't have enough self esteem. The mahayana teachings should actually in no way contradict self esteem or a sense of taking care of yourself. Sometimes people take that idea and extend it into complete self negation which is foolish. It is not that way at all.
I can remember when I first got involved with Buddhism. I wrote a letter to my brother and talked about the ten non virtues, one of which was sexual misconduct. He interpreted it as sex only for procreation. Later I got a letter that said he had a lot of trouble with this! It was so funny because it was a misinterpretation of these simple words! The same thing applies when we talk about cherishing others more than cherishing yourself which is the basis of the mahayana teaching. When people hear that they think they have a deficit in their personality as in having low esteem. So if they cannot cherish the self it means they must stay with their low self esteem. That is an idea which comes from not having understood the teachings well enough. It is not saying that it is impossible to interpret it that way but it is a mis interpretation.
The basis of any spiritual path has within it the facet of self fulfillment. And that is always important. If the path had no self fulfillment, we would all become martyrs and sacrifice ourselves, and guaranteed enlightenment, but it is not that easy. It is sort of chopping off your head and saying that I am sacrificing my life for the cause or something, and it is not going to bring you to a more developed spirituality. At least not unless there is a good understanding behind it!
I spent last week talking about the analogies for the ideas of bodhicitta. And we used the analogy of the medicinal tree, like a medicine tree, like no part of a medicinal tree you approach, the root, the bark, the leaves, a medicinal tree will heal no matter what part you are using! Because it is all part of the healing tree! So also with bodhicitta, when one has bodhicitta, no matter what aspect of bodhicitta one is working with, it all has a healing quality. Or the analogy of the diamond, if you have many precious stones but only one diamond, the one diamond surpasses all the other stones due to it's special qualities. So also with bodhicitta. Although there are many precious spiritual techniques, the technique of bodhicitta far surpasses them all! It's glory, it's value, and what it bestows upon the person that generates it. Also I used the example of the magic aerosol spray. That when bad circumstances come your way, you have this elixir which turns base metal into gold, so also the bodhicitta is like that. When bad circumstance comes your way, with your aerosol spray can, you can immediately spray it and turn it into a golden opportunity! A situation which creates gold for you. And therefore you become greatly benefitted by that!
These different analogies work very well. What you try to do is to fire yourself up about them. Sort of get inspired about the teachings. That is important to have that sense of inspiration because it gives you your vision for your life, and inspiration. It is not that one then becomes as if wearing rose colored glasses and completely misinterprets reality. If that were the case, then again one of the aspects of the Buddha's teachings which is to see the world as it is, would then be wrong or broken. So it is important that we see the world as it is. But within that, we have a facet of our own mind, our own consciousness which understands how to take the world as it is and to make it potential cause for enlightenment. Enlightenment for all sentient beings and enlightenment for oneself. It does not mean that it makes the world wonderful, It means that it makes the world potential of enlightenment.
And if you practice the teachings perfectly, actually your progress to enlightenment is like a bullet, it goes so fast and straight to enlightenment. And so it is not that one glosses over reality or misinterprets it and sees it in a distorted way, rather one sees the world just as it is. And with one's correct understanding, learns how to work with the situation, it does create it to be gold! To be gold as in the gold of spirituality.
The idea which I wanted to touch on is that fulfillment is very important! When we do something, like today maybe you did a job. Maybe you did something ice for someone in your family or such, whatever. You did some activity. In any activity that you do you have the potential of fulfillment. This means a sense of that it is alright. Let's say you go out in your garden and dig for three hours! When you finish and look at it, you feel good! That feeling is what is called fulfillment! You should try to become conscious of where you get your fulfillment from! If you talk to someone on the phone and say something which makes them happy, you get a little good feeling! That is fulfillment!
Fulfillment is a very real experience. It is actually a major cause for many of the activities that we do. We do aspire towards being fulfilled in this life. We seek out people of like mind to live with. Having found them, we have family, and this becomes another type of fulfillment. we try to amass a certain amount of wealth and have a house and a certain amount of comfort. That is another type of fulfillment. It is a valid experience and the way our minds work.
In spirituality there is fulfillment for self! There is a fulfilling experience in your spirituality. And that important to recognize that there is that facet to one's spiritual practice. It adds reason for why we do the things we do. It is an understanding we can have. This does not mean that we immediately look for fulfillment, but we know if we get to certain activities, and when finished, we get that sense of fulfillment. We have accomplished something. So certainly at the end of this lifetime, we want to arrive at the end and reflect on our life and see if we have done alright with out life activities.
That is valid. And spirituality on a basic level will supply that. You can say on a very mundane level, if you lead a good life, maybe there are no higher realizations, at the end of your life you have the potential for fulfillment. Then if you strive a little harder, like you do more meditation and look at the nature of reality, you can then gain personal liberation which is everlasting happiness. In that way you have fulfillment because your mind enters into the clear light bliss consciousness and it is everlasting bliss. You no longer create a sense of self or self existence, and therefore you live in that! Your energy absorbs into that state of conscious energy forever, that is nirvana. That is a spiritual path.
But, although it is fulfilling, it is said that it is not as fulfilling as could be because it is based on self interest alone. Just personal fulfillment alone. And so, the higher level of spiritual attainment is fulfillment where one not only fulfills oneself, but also fulfills other sentient beings. You could say it is useful for other sentient beings, but actually fulfills others beyond yourself. And the easy way to reflect on it, is to reflect that maybe you mow your lawn. You finish and find yourself feeling good. But how much more so if in doing that, you know the lawn will bee nice for others to enjoy it too! So the fulfillment is bigger than your own thing! You have fulfillment in there that you did the job we.l But bigger than that is the idea in your mind that others are going to come over and use your lawn and going to have a good time because it is clean and manicured! There is then greater fulfillment! I think if any of you reflect on fulfillment, the emotion of saying that is pretty good, that job is done well, it is much warmer in your heart when you know there are others included.
Take for instance, that in your job you somehow make a great deal of extra money1 You know, like you are doing it for your family and maybe others beyond it but you have done it for them, the sense of fulfillment is not only for yourself but for what you can supply for others that are with you! Maybe you can send someone to university and maybe you give someone the car they wanted! And in your mind when you get the fulfillment, then suddenly you think that you can fulfill some other people. And it gives you a bigger feeling!
That recognition is important because that is what the mahayana path of spirituality is. It is a recognition that we want fulfillment. And it is saying, it's nice to feel good, but isn't it better when you automatically know it is going to be helping other people! It turns you on, you feel good, and it makes you feel even better because you know it is going to be helpful to others! If you have that understanding it gives you reason for why you are practicing.
Like I said at the beginning, if you don't have good reasons why you are practicing, one, your practice is going to finish as soon as you get a little bit of bad circumstances. It is fine to say I am a practitioner. When everything is wonderful and I have all I want, good, and you meditate in the morning or here, then everything is fine. Then life gets shaky, your friends decide they don't like you, maybe you don't give them enough money or they ask too much of you and you finally say no, and they say your a creep and all want to leave you, or suddenly you don't have money to pay the mortgage, at that point if you don't have any reasons or good understanding of what your practice is about, you can say, I don't have time any more, and the first thing to go is the dharma practice. I got to have some reality here! I have a mortgage to catch up on. And we get very serious about those sorts of things.
The funny thing is, you can be as serious as you want about getting a job to pay your mortgage whatever, but there is still plenty room for spirituality1 Why you make it there, is because you understand how to make everything inclusive to what makes you fulfilled. Sometimes I don't like the word spirituality because it makes you think spirituality is all that is wonderful and good, and then there is me here as an ordinary person, and that is somehow separated from spirituality.
That is not the case. Spirituality or, life is what the name of the game is. And we want fulfillment in our life. So all the teachings that you get are for the basis of that, for being fulfilled. And they take you through various loops. The first loop is to say, at the end of this life if you want to be fairly happy about who you are, then get your act together and start to integrate the fact that at the end of life is death. With that reflection in mind, try to make your activities meaningful. That they are good activities so at the end of your life, you can feel good about yourself.
That is minimal dharma, but it life experience. Then if you have a little higher aspiration, you bring spirituality into that,like I said, and you start to make spirituality a deeper thing for your self, which means recognizing the nature of life and reality, if you understand the nature of reality you get nirvana. Then the next step is the mahayana path which says you have understood the nature of life, but you and all other sentient beings are fully equal. You all want to be happy. You all want to be separated from suffering. And the mind set which feels very me and my sense of spirituality, is a very selfish mind. It might be a very kind person, but the central focus is always I have to meditate, I've got to keep my act together because I want to attain. This is very self centered. The greater path is to go beyond worrying about your own self and personal nirvana. It says we all want fulfillment. As much as I want to be fulfilled, all others want fulfillment also. I am recognizing that just working for this life alone is alright, but there is something deeper which is the meaning of life! And in discovering the meaning of life, I can do it for my own self which is nirvana, or I can recognize that all others want to be happy, no one wants to suffer! Some sentient beings have some capacity to recognize that there is something more meaningful. Some are more open or clear. So I should try to be beneficial for them. So the practice becomes larger in it's focus. Still one is striving for personal nirvana but there is openness in the mind.
That is trying to make our practice a very real one where we start to open our mind beyond our own basic needs. The teachings when we move into them, if they have this behind them, then you have some fuel for your own personal fires of endeavor. Whereas if you do not have it, at a certain point you are going to think it pretty rough stuff and why should I do it? Why should I be nice to the person who is rude to me. Why should I be considerate when someone is a jerk? We have that sort of feelings. We all do. If nothing else we wish they would just go away.
So we have to be able to have a good basis for our practice. So we have the reasons from this end. We are sentient beings, we have limited mind, we have only so much capacity. All these reasons I did for the last three Sundays in a row have been to set you up to have reasons for why you, the degenerated being you are, have for why you are going to practice spirituality. The other side of it, we have to think what is it like on the other side. I have the reasons why I want to practice. I have a little of the concept of what the practice is all about, which is basically freeing my mind from distortions of reality. And in freeing my mind from distorting reality which creates suffering for me, I am also trying to become more beneficial in the world. It is not that I just free my mind from distortions which then gives me nirvana, but it is actually learning how to then put into the world something which makes it beneficial, makes my existence in the world beneficial. It is not that you can say you clear the slate, but having cleared it, you have then learned a technique which gives you the possibility for making better potential for the world. You have to think of that word. It is not that you can change the world, can't change the sentient beings you work with, but you can maybe help them recognize the potentiality they have!
That is what the Buddha did. He walked around and inspired people. He inspires their potentiality. They see the Buddha and go Wow! Interesting character. There is a wonderful feeling when I am around the Buddha, I feel bliss, I feel wonderful! So you ask what have you done? The Buddha says I meditated on my buddha nature and realized the nature of reality. They say, hey, I want that! They are touching base with the fact that they have that potential also! The Buddha says you have that potential. you have the Buddha nature just as I do! And here is the way you reveal or understand the Buddha nature. All the Buddha does is make them see their potentiality and inspires them into their potential.
That is the upper end of it. You clear distortions, start to understand how to create an enthusiasm about the potentiality all sentient beings have. That is this end. Now let's talk about the Buddhas themselves. What do they do and how do they act? How do they interact with sentient being? What is their state?
Right now you have lots of reasons to meditate. This turns me on. Now we also want to start identifying the other end of it, which is saying, this is what it is all about when I get there. And that is even better. And I could get really turned on about what this is all about because at the other end, it is not just I have everlasting blissful consciousness, and very high which is the Buddhas state of mind all the time. Yet within that, he does not get intoxicated. There is a terrific ability to know how to work with sentient beings. The Buddha has the freedom of mind to go and interact on a regular level with sentient beings but the mind never gets pulled down by it. They can listen to all the misery that is being said, but their mind would not come down. They know how to touch the person and help them turn around and feel good about themselves. And if it is an on going relationship, maybe bring the person finally into a very positive head space where they see their opportunities. I don't know. It depends on the Buddhas activity, how they inspire that individual sentient being according to their potential.
The point is, the Buddhas have total internal blissful consciousness experience. And secondly, although they have that, they are not intoxicated by it so they can no longer function. They can still function in regards to relationships with us, where they are helpful for us. They help us figure out what is going on and how we have to recognize our own potentiality.
I want to talk about that next week, about how the Buddhas have that possibility on their side, and then the interactions they have with sentient beings. But I just wanted to touch on it first. We spent the first three weeks on the personal motivation side, now I want us to recognize what is going on with the Buddhas on their end of the stick! And with that, you have a very good reason for all the practice.
For example, from the eight verses of mind training, where it says, when someone I have treated with great kindness and love afflicts me with great harm, may I see them as my supreme teacher! we would love to murder them! But we need to do us see them as a teacher! There is a teaching that is hard to stomach. But if you have enough reasoning behind it, if you have enough understanding which is real, then you can do that practice at some point. Maybe not too well, but initially you will start to at least change your mind set. And as time passes you will be able to accomplish that.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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