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 Mar 1 1992
In working with the seven point mind training, and it is on a commentary called the "Rays of the Sun".
In taking teachings, it is always worthwhile to always reflect on ones motivation. As it is our attitude which establishes how we experience happiness or suffering, if we do not put awareness to our attitude, it is doubtful, if we have some aspiration to maybe change or improve our position in life, our experiences, whether we really will. If we move to our attitude, we move to the cause of our life experiences in the sense that actions of body and speech are motivated or initiated from the mind's side. It depends on how we feel and think as to how we experience things.
At this time we are doing teachings, and the emphasis is to moving the awareness to the source of happiness which is of course, recognition within the mind as the creator of our reality. Therefore is worthwhile to be conscious of our motive as to why we are here. And to recognize you are here because you would like to learn, to increase understanding. To increase the power of the motivation is to try to think beyond our own self because a great deal of what happens in our life is in relationship with others. And if we from our side can create a warmer attitude in regards to our relationships, then certainly we have a higher opportunity to have happiness in our life. With that thought, we should say, not only for our self, but for the benefit of all sentient beings, certainly for the beings I have contact with, may I work not only for my own benefit but for theirs also.
"First, train in the preliminaries." The objective of the teachings is that we learn how to take all circumstances and bring that into the path. It is easy and simplistic to say my spiritual practice happens in prime time between nine and ten o'clock at night when I can have the time and quiet I need to do my practice. But at other times we sort of take our practice to side because we are too busy, have to get up in the morning and so on, however my home situation works. And work has nothing to do with spirituality. So we do not integrate any of our life experiences into our path.
There is nothing particularly wrong in that, in a sense. I means that you definitely segregate your life into portions. But if we could have a technique which took all the varieties of circumstances, all the variety of things that we come into, and have a technique to bring them into the path, it would be worthwhile to have. Something that makes life beneficial. So the objective of these teachings is called mind training. It is actually a technique which is really looking into your attitude and trying to bring all life's different experiences into the path so that you have a context or a way that when life experiences meet with you, that you can make them beneficial. Not only beneficial for yourself, but beneficial for other people too!
Beneficial for yourself would refer to that you are able to create more positive energy for yourself, to be able to utilize mundane experiences and situations, that they create positive energy. That they create something good for yourself. As for benefitting others, it comes down to the scope of your own mind. If you have an attitude which says I am going to take a regular experience and turn it into the practice of my path, then if your path is for the benefit of all sentient beings, automatically you have then included others. And so as your practice develops, automatically you are becoming a nicer person. And the other aspects of that which then means as things go well for yourself, and certainly you are becoming a much more beneficial person in your relationships with others. People will enjoy your company because of that attitude. That is what it means to bring circumstances into the path. The scope of that, the benefits of bringing them into the path depend on the mind set that you have.
There are two types of preliminaries. There is what is called the common preliminary, and the uncommon or extraordinary preliminaries. The common are, in the context of this particular teaching, the common aspects, one just recognizing how valuable ones existence, second, to recognize that life is impermanent, third, the law of cause and effect, recognizing that we are the creator of our experiences so therefore we should try to create positive experiences for ourselves, and fourth, that cyclic existence is suffering or mundane nature of the world should be recognized as having a high potential of dissatisfaction. It is not reliable. From that we turn our mind to something which is more reliable. Those are the four mundane.
The four extraordinary are actually quite a bit of hard work. They are to do a hundred thousand prostrations, and actually with that to do refuge. Second is to do a hundred thousand Vajrasattva mantras, then to do a hundred thousand mandala offerings, and finally do do a hundred thousand guru yoga practice. Those are called the uncommon preliminaries because they are actual spiritual exercises. They both purify negativity and accumulate a lot of merit. The first two are for the purification of negativity, the next two are for the accumulation of merit. It is those two facets of practice which we always have to have. That on one side we try to go beyond our previous negative attitude or limitations, which is the purification style of practice, and the accumulation of positive merit is trying to fuel ourselves, or bring ourselves into the very positive context in the meditation techniques and exercised we do within that, then actually add support to our positive attitude.
So the two are interrelated, one looks at a particular way, the other through a different angle. They are really the same process. If you are accumulating positive merit, obviously you are purifying negativity. And if you are purifying negativity obviously you are accumulating positive thoughts, depending on the side you want to view it from.
As for the common preliminaries, a lot of what we experience in life and how we take our existence, we do not realize the potential that we have. That non recognition is a loosing situation for ourselves. For example, I remember my own teacher when I first sent to India gave, he said if there were a large pile of gold dust beside me, but it was quite windy. And as the wind blew, every day a certain amount blew away. And I just sort of didn't notice because I was just spacing out, I mean, isn't it such a loss. We all value what money can do for us. And here is someone sitting there and all that gold is blowing away without any notice. Then one day it is almost gone, just a few grains left. That person has lost an incredible opportunity because all the wealth had disappeared. All the incredible things which could have been done, is all gone. When they do finally notice, time may have been almost finished. Not much can be accomplished.
Or another example is, the one I like, is going to an island while the tide was out and discovering the beach scattered in precious gems. Walking around a looking at them all, conscious and fascinated with all of the wealth lying about. Then the tide comes in quickly and covers them and you can't get back to where it was. So like that, often in life we have high potential opportunities then quickly circumstances change and we cannot get back to where that opportunity was. So we loose the opportunity. Can't get back to it.
Like that this human life we have has terrific incredible potential. I think for most of us, we have a fairly good physical being, we have a clear mind, we have ample opportunity particularly in Canada. We have opportunity to do anything we want. And yet with all of this opportunity we do not accomplish much. We basically enjoy ourselves, like space out and let time pass. But the high potential we have is never actualized so therefore when the end of one's life comes, or when the opportunity passes, let's say freedom in Canada disappears, which could happen,... Anyway, right now we do have freedom. The Tibetans lived in "Heaven" thinking that everything was fine and that they would never be bothered. Within a short time the Chinese came end and took everything over, just destroyed their temples, murdered many people, and everything was lost. The Tibetans in a sense had a high potential. For those who did not take advantage of it, due to circumstances everything was lost.
The point is, we have potential so we should try to take advantage of it while we have opportunity. In this sense we are talking about something which is a little more profound than material wealth, which is our own inner potential. And that we have a terrific opportunity with ourselves as being intelligent people, and to improve our own situation. If we develop ourselves internally as in becoming more confident, having more control, better realizations. Those things are of a real benefit for ourselves because they cannot be taken away. We could loose the freedom of Canada, but if we had inner realization, that cannot be lost.
Take the teachings we are involved, learning how to take circumstances into the path, if we tried and attained the realizations of how to do that, then our life would be very comfortable. Whether we have good fortune or not, still we have the key to success which is the positive mind, or the mind within enlightened attitude. And that is the first phase, recognition of our high potential and putting some energy towards it. So doing meditation, doing whatever we can to develop better positive qualities, and trying to realize the true sources of happiness rather than reliance upon the mundane ones. We put a lot of energy for our causes of happiness, but still we are dissatisfied. Never do we have enough money, holidays or so on. Well, if we look at our mind, most energy goes to the outside. Very little goes inward to the place where it is created. The point is, we should put some energy to inner development, and not all to the outer expenditure of energy. That is called taking advantage of our human rebirth.
The second facet is that life is impermanent. Personal impermanence is that at some point we are going to have to die. It is a fact. We have that awaiting us in the future. We should take that and make it positive for us. For example, I am sitting here. I am mortal. So how does that information affect me as an individual here and now. What it should do is make me set up an attitude that when death comes, I can feel good about myself. That I can say, I am alright! I have a good attitude. I did a few good things, I tried!
The main thing is when we die, we feel comfortable and set up so when I go into the next lifetime, everything is going to be fine. That we have the ticket to a good landing site. That ticket is that I took personal responsibility for myself and worked on myself in a way that took into context that my life was impermanent.
The easy analogy for that is to say, regarding my possessions, what is my relationship with them. In regarding my friends, what is my relationship with them? And in regarding my own body. Those three areas are the ones we have to look at.
In the realm of possessions, are my possessions the cause of my being angry, possessive, miserly? People have different relationships to possessions. Some are so protective, they do not want them touched or affected by anyone else. Some people are so miserly they cannot offer a cup of tea. It is not that someone who is poor has to give everything away, it is our relationship to what we have around us! In regards to possessions, it is how our relationship to them is. Are you generous and open minded? Are you willing to share what you have to whatever extent you can share it. Or are the possessions a cause for you to be uptight, miserly, angry, jealous and envious? All sorts of different potentials. Not just our own possessions, but those of others. Like, they have a better car. A nicer house. And so on. With that relationship, we are setting up uptight miserly energy.
Taking into consideration that at the time of death, my possessions will become someone else's. The potential to share or use the possessions in a beneficial way is over. One has merely kept the objects well for the next person in line. The object which as been guarded and protected with all ones energy just passes on to another! I am talking about the mentality of being totally possessive of ones possessions is not beneficial for you. At the end of your life, you are left with not what you had. Your possessions get taken away. All one is left with is ones miserly attitude because one never considered what was going to happen at the end of one's life.
It is important to have a good attitude with one's possessions because at the end of your life when you leave the life, you can go out with a sense of joy. The house I cared for I am giving away is a beautiful house. Isn't is better than thinking my relatives are going to wear all their dirty shoes on the carpet! There are so many things. Some people are so miserly that at the time of death they will bequeath everything to a charity so none of their relatives will get it, because they have a nasty attitude. Like that, it is how you relate to your possessions. The bottom line is personal impermanence. When you get to the doorway of your next rebirth, what sort of feelings to I get to that point with! If you have had a good attitude, you can feel pretty good. If instead of that you have been very miserly, at the end of your life you will be very uptight about your possessions and have a lot of suffering.
The whole thing is relationship. It is not so much that you have attachment. WE all have attachments. If someone ruined the paint job on ones car, one would get distraught about it. But on the other side, one would have to recognize that that happens at some point. And one has balanced it with the fact that in life, things happen, and one does not get too angry. Too much! You can't be the Buddha, but you can certainly try!
The second point is relationships. One should look at ne can give to a friendship, not what one can get. That way relationships with others should be what I give and not what I take. If we have that attitude in our relationships, at the end of our life we will have a sense of joy. We have made a lot of people happy in our lives. That gives a great sense of fulfillment. Life has been meaningful. Otherwise, if we have had a lot of relationships where all we have been doing is basically asking people for things, where we have been a burden for others, at the end of our life we would have a very pathetic attitude on our own side. Someone who has never been responsible and always been a burden on others, when they come to the end of their life, look to others and sort of say, can you do something? And no one can do anything. It is the end of the life. And that person is really miserable because they sort of feel like they have been abandoned. And they feel really miserable and unhappy.
In our relationships we have to have something that we are giving to that relationship. We are giving warmth, love, support, kind words. Whatever we can give. Car rides to people. Whatever we are doing. But at least at the end of our life, we can look at someone and cling to them. Rather, you can feel joy because you have done something nice for that person. You can see at the end of the life what reflection comes to you. Sure there are unhappiness in parting from others.
With love we are vulnerable and we feel pain when someone we love dies. But what we have to look at is that also we do have potential to create something in a relationship. We should try to create positive things so at the end of our life there will be naturally a sense of feeling good because one did what good for others that one could.
Regarding ones own body, one grooms and cares for ones body very carefully. One spends a lot of energy and time on it. But the end of our life is because of our body. It is not a very profitable place to put so much energy towards because it is going to kill you. we have a body. It is a practical things and can do wonderful accomplishments. But we should also maybe balance just how much vanity we put on it. We should be conscious of how much energy we put to the glorification of the body. It does very good things and we have to sustain the body. But if we go overboard on the glorification of the body, at the end of our life we are the only looser because the body is going to get old and decrepit. The more vanity one has as the aging process happens, the more you hurt from it. You are no longer beautiful or virile. And one suffers from aging.
The point is we need to have a balance. W need to take care of our body. We need to wash and clean ourselves. But to over glorify ourselves is a waste of time because in the end our body will die. What will have been the benefit if at the end our body is the thing that kills us. It is ridiculous to be over hung up about it and the various things we can do for it. This tones down our attachment.
And in each of those areas. We change our relationship with our possessions. We upgrade our relationship with our friends and relatives. And finally we become a little more realistic in our relationship with our own body. So impermanence used in a positive context can actually give us a more realistic life and a positive life, and a potential for being happy and fulfilled. Many good things can come out of impermanence. So it is worth while to spend time with it.
I will continue with the other two uncommon preliminaries next week.
For tonight's meditation, there are two ways to meditate. One is to reflect on the teachings or thoughts for this evening, and secondly to bring personal impermanence into context with ones own life. If one comes to a positive conclusion, to settle into that so the mind has a depth experience with it. The other thing is to be conscious of the breathing process and become relaxed with that. In developing that concentration, within that itself you have the causes for taking advantage of the human rebirth because you are developing conscious awareness. Secondly, because the breathing process is impermanent it brings us in line with the awareness that life is impermanent. Breath goes in, breath goes out. Either way, the main focus is to be here and now.
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