26 Sep 2012

Teaching: When you understand the causality of how others contribute to your well-being, a sense of happy indebtedness can arise. “How can I do more to repay their kindness?” We can contribute to others’ well-being hedonically and/or eudaimonically. Most altruism in the world is focused on hedonic happiness/suffering, yet eudaimonia is real and can be cultivated. Following Atisha’s advice, we need to achieve shamatha in order to help others find genuine happiness. Genuine happiness is a symptom of a meaningful way of life, a balanced mind, and knowing reality as it is. Someone who acts in accord with genuine happiness—as the center of his/her own mandala—is living in a utopia.
Meditation: loving-kindness. Motivated by loving-kindness, settling body, speech, and mind in the natural state. Envision your own well-being, both hedonic and eudaimonic, and attend to its causes. In eudaimonia, your potential is limitless, its very source being primordial consciousness. Imagine it as an orb of white light at your heart chakra. With every out breath, “May I be happy and find the causes of happiness.” Light fills your body, dispelling all obstacles. Light entirely consumes the materiality of your body as it settles in its natural state, becoming the pure energy of primordial consciousness. Only a body of light, luminous but empty, remains. Now, with every out breath, extend the light in all directions until it embraces all sentient beings on the planet. “May we find happiness and the causes of happiness.” Expand exponentially in all directions, stretching the mind to 100 billion galaxies and all the beings who dwell there, each one realizing full awakening.

Meditation starts at 21:55

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Summary: when you understand the causality of how others contribute to your well-being, a sense of happy indebtedness can arise. “How can I do more to repay their kindness?”

One of you wrote me a personal note commenting that, a feeling that you had received a tremendous amount of kindness, service from others over the course of your life, and felt a bit of grief or sadness at not being able to offer more back. So that is clearly a very noble perspective, it’s one actively cultivated – the Bodhisattva practice of attending constantly to the kindness of others and feeling, as Shantideva writes, “That even when you are walking down the street and you see people passing by, attending to each one, feeling a sense of gratitude for total strangers, feeling in dependence upon such a person – this person – I can achieve enlightenment!” And being aware of this tremendous network – again causality figures so utterly central to, or centrally to Buddhism, and that is in terms of causality it is only a matter of connections to see how this person actually has contributed to your wellbeing directly and indirectly, but the network of causality of all of the causes that are coming together from around the world to allow us to survive, to flourish, let alone to find dharma and practice dharma, it pretty much encompasses the entire globe. But then in a sense, it can be a sense of happy indebtedness giving rise to really noble question and that is: how can I do more, how can I be in a great service? So it is a wonderful question.

Summary: we can contribute to others’ well-being hedonically and/or eudaimonically. Most altruism in the world is focused on hedonic happiness/suffering, yet eudemonia is real and can be cultivated.

(1:42) Of course, what leaps to my mind is that there are different ways of being of service. Hedonically, for example, and that it is, people have material needs including the basic ones: food, shelter, clothing, education, medical care. Just meeting the basic requisites of life. These are very important, and depending on one’s own person inclination, own talent, own skill, own interests, perhaps one may feel in this life time, “I think that is my calling.” And it is not a calling for somebody else. It is where I feel moved inwardly, that’s where I think I can really make a contribution. And it could be in all different types of right livelihood. Shantideva says: “There is nothing a Bodhisattva won’t learn.” There’s no kind of...janitorial work...or...I don’t know...any kind of thing! Obviously, not injurious behavior. That’s not worthwhile, but that kind of goes without saying. But a bodhisattva can learn all kinds of things in order to be able to be of service to people in all different manner of ways. So there’s no elitism there. Thinking, “Oh, we bodhisattvas don’t do that!” Maid service... “Oh, not for us bodhisattvas!” No! Maid service would be terrific...a bodhisattva maid! So there it is.

So there are these different avenues. In terms of serving hedonically, this would be acquiring, perhaps, more education, more knowledge, more skills. And then, the three jewels of the mundane world can be, actually, very useful. Just like any old jewel – like a ruby, a diamond, and a saphire... Wealth can be very useful! If you have a real knack for making money, I want to be your friend! (laughter) Anyway...scratch that! It just slipped out! (more laughter) If you have a knack for making money, money can be used for a lot of really good things. There are a lot of wealthy people who are using their wealth for wonderfully benevolent things. Very helpful! Power, political power and so forth can be tremendously helpful. It’s true, isn’t it? And then fame, celebrity, status, prestige, renown – that’s just like a jewel. You can use it to throw at somebody and put a dent in their head or you can use it to really do some good in the world as well. So there for the mundane. But then and, again, I think you see that I’m speaking with respect here. There’s no disparagement, there’s no“but...” No, it’s “That’s that!” It’s really, really beneficial, really meaningful. It’s an “and!” Can we serve others eudaimonically? Can we serve others to really help them identify and alleviate the true causes of suffering? Identify and cultivate the true causes of happiness? Could we find people and help people actually find a path to liberation and awakening and not only find the path but perhaps then take them by the hand and guide them step by step along the way? Really, is there any greater service than that?

And I think this is not a Buddhist sectarianism or anything like that. I didn’t say anything about Buddhism. I said it is a path of liberation and awakening – awakening means drawing forth the full potential of the greatest depths of your awareness with wisdom, compassion, and there’s this word “power” – and it is power! Power, guided or motivated by compassion, guided by wisdom is a fantastic thing – a “many-splendored” thing! And so, then, if we’re thinking along the lines of...if that’s where our heart moves us... Well, what I’d really love to do is to help people on this deepest level. And if we consider also, that how many among the 7 billion people on the planet, many of them quite altruistic, very level, really wanting to do some good...how many are really focusing on the hedonic because, frankly, that is all they know about? They don’t even know the word “eudemonia” or any synonym or anything related to that. They think “helping” is helping people get some food, medical care, shelter, education, and so forth. And that’s it. Okay! Well, of course, that’s going to be where the government funding goes. Check in terms of your government, how much money goes to the cultivation of eudemonia. (“Gulp!” ...Long pause... “Brother, can you spare a dime?”) Probably not there. So generally what the world is aware of is hedonic suffering and hedonic well-being and that’s where almost all the philanthropy goes. Almost all.

Summary: following Atisha’s advice, we need to achieve shamatha in order to help others find genuine happiness.

But then, if you’re aware that this is not just some doctrine or dogma or belief system, but that eudhamonia is real, it can be cultivated – then perhaps you feel called there. You’ve now joined a very tiny minority. And of course, it’s not just Buddhists and it is not just religious people. Socrates spoke with great depth about eudemonia. So did Aristotle. I don’t think they’re generally thought of as, oh, such religious figures, but such wise figures. So, happily, this eudamonia – I love it! Because it, and then, do scientists have any say? Yes, scientists are starting to raise this issue, too, of eudemonia. Psychology, it’s very...to say it’s in its infancy may be an exaggeration, but at least they are starting to ask really good questions. So scientists can bring in...philosophers have a long history, and then the contemplative traditions, religious traditions of the world... So it’s a unifier. It really is a unifier. It is really quite marvelous. So, perhaps one may feel moved there, and then if so, then consider Atisha: If that’s what your passion is, if that is what you’d really love to do, is to help people to find the authentic true causes of suffering and not only attenuate but eliminate them, find the true causes of genuine happiness and completely unveil them. If that’s your passion, then you might want to think about developing the four immeasurables, and you might want to think about achieving shamatha, and developing some of the abilities coming out of that. As Atisha said, if you’ve done that then you can accumulate more merit in one day than you can do without it in a hundred lifetimes. So that strikes me as a pretty good investment.

(8:35) So there it is! And then shamatha, of course, is just opening the door. Just opening the door! Then imagine that power, the clarity, the stability of shamatha flowing right into the four immeasurables and just swoosh – and having them all just go supernova! All the barriers just broken down. And then, why would you stop at the four immeasurables? Go to the four greats! Mahamaitri, great loving kindness, great compassion, great mudita, great equanimity! And on to bodhichitta. And why stop there? How about the uncontrived, spontaneous, genuine bodhichitta? Become a bodhisattva! Why stop there? For heaven’s sake, don’t stop now! You’ve just put your foot on the path. Now make it irreversible. Seal it with profound insight into the four applications of mindfulness. Don’t stop! Keep going. Gain the direct realization of emptiness. Don’t stop! Break through your conventional mind and realize rigpa. Don’t stop! Fully manifest all the potential of your own Buddha nature. Become a Buddha. Don’t stop!

And now for as long as space remains, for as long sentient beings remain, so continue to be present...in the world...to alleviate the suffering of the world. It is a simple agenda. It is really quite simple. Yeah? So...

Summary: genuine happiness is a symptom of a meaningful way of life, a balanced mind, and knowing reality as it is. Someone who acts in accord with genuine happiness—as the center of his/her own mandala—is living in a utopia.

(10:06) In the midst of all of that, one may feel that this, in the midst of the needs of the world, how much suffering there is, how much, how many causes of suffering...evil, malevolence dogmatism, closed-minded intolerance, and so forth, it may feel sometimes a bit trivial, just selfish to think, “May I be well and happy, may I be well and happy.” If one is focusing entirely on hedonic well-being, in other words, “Every day of my life may I be lucky, lucky, lucky! May only good things happen to me!” Well that’s a bit trivial. And even if you are a Buddha, it’s not going to happen. Right? Even if you’re a Buddha! Everybody doesn’t love you. You’re, I think, a very lovable person if you’re a Buddha! And still everybody doesn’t love you. What a raw deal! You would think, “Gosh! Finally, everybody will love me if I’m perfect!” No, they still don’t. It really sucks! They just get jealous of you and want to compete with you. Or even so jealous they want to kill you. It happens...a lot! So if one is focusing entirely on one’s own hedonic well-being, well, that’s pretty shallow water. That’s for sure.

(11:32) Whereas if, in your vision of your own flourishing, as you arouse the yearning, “may I be well and happy,” if you acknowledge the importance of hedonic well-being, which I’ve never, never doubted, but then you’re focusing primary on hedonic well-being for the sake of genuine happiness. And what is genuine happiness? It is a symptom, just as genuine unhappiness is. You are sitting in a room with no stimuli coming at all, and you are just miserable! That is genuine unhappiness. That’s real! That’s the real world. Grinding away some mind-numbing job, coming home, eating, and watching television and then going comatose. That’s an unreal world. Sitting in a room and feeling miserable all by yourself, with homemade misery. If you’re an American, “Made In America.” If you’re Chinese, “Made In China.” And whoever you are, homemade misery. No help at all. “I did it myself!” Or as one slogan that came out, “I built it!”

Well, it’s coming from one’s own mental afflictions. You are seeing something real. You’re seeing a symptom of a mind that is afflicted. That’s a good thing. It would be so tragic if we carried all of our mental afflictions and didn’t experience any symptoms, just felt, “I am fine...I am fine...I’m brain dead.” That would be really tragic. So thanks goodness that mental afflictions afflict. Otherwise, they would be totally useless.

So recognizing that, then we say, “Okay, now I’ve gotten real. Now it’s perfectly clear what’s making me miserable, because there is nothing coming from outside at all. Therefore it has to be internally generated, and therefore I think I just figured out the source of suffering.”

(14:01) And likewise, when you are sitting in solitude, as one friend of mine who went on to about a nine month retreat, totally solitary retreat, and when he came out of retreat, I saw this childlike delight in his face. I didn’t need to ask it: “How did your retreat go?” And he said, “It was like a river of gold! Like a river of gold!” So there is a person who tapped into genuine happiness. It’s a symptom! Genuine happiness is a symptom of a mind that is wonderfully balanced, rooted in a way of life that is non-violent and truly benevolent, the two of these giving rise to genuine insight, the type of insight that transforms and liberates.

So you see, just sitting alone for months on end, having just enough food to keep your body going, exercise, a bit of fresh air – that’s all you need. In other words, you could be in a sensory deprivation tank. You could be in a dark retreat, because you really are not relying upon anything from the outside at all... It is like learning how to ride a bicycle, and at one point you just do not need the trainer wheels, those little wheels on the side, because you won’t fall off. Hedonic pleasure is the trainer wheels. And a person who can go into a long term retreat, like the elephant in the pond, the cat who’s morphed from an elephant, in the pond, and is simply enjoying solitude because it is time simply to be with your mind in the universe. And it is a balanced mind for which the natural symptom is genuine happiness. That is the trainer wheels taken off and having a ride. You now have a mind, and you can use it at will. It is supple. It is malleable. It is buoyant and light. It’s serviceable. And then you go for the deeper genuine happiness that comes from knowing reality as it is.

(16:01) So the wish for one’s own well-being, especially when it’s focusing or recognizing that hedonic well-being is for the sake of the eudemonic well-being, and eudemonic being is a symptom of a truly wholesome and meaningful way of life – that’s where ethics is – a symptom of truly balanced and composed and unified mind, which is samadhi, and a symptom of really coming to know reality as it is, and there is absolutely nothing trivial about wishing oneself well, wishing that one may be truly well and happy. And to end on a purely pragmatic note, psychology is studying this. Who is more productive? Who is getting the job done? Who is more creative? People who are glum, dour, merely hard working, determined, grinding their jaws, or the people who are joyful and happy? Happiness is actually much more productive. It is good for others if you are happy. And then, finally, one may feel that, oh, but I’m just one person in the world that’s so vast, that even when I’m doing some...in some service occupation, for example, and really doing my best, oh, it just doesn’t matter at all. It hardly counts. What I’m offering is so trivial, that it just makes me feel bad. And here’s one of the symptoms of living in the modern world. That is, if we lived in Medieval Europe, as I’ve mentioned before, they commonly, the peasants would not travel far, no more than 10 miles away from home for their lifetime. So if they are tending their fields and are good parents and so forth, and they know their village and a few other villages, that is a pretty big wedge of reality. You are a good father, you are a good mother, and you make good bread. Wow! You’re the only baker in town! Thank you! That really counts, because we like our bread! So you wouldn’t feel that your life is insignificant.

But now, here we are, we are getting 24 hours news about so much tragedy, misery taking place throughout the world that is ever so easy to feel that whatever we do is never enough. It’s a drop in the bucket. It is insignificant... I don’t think that is a very realistic way of viewing.

But if every one of the 7 billion people on the planet took as their fundamental priority, the first priority in terms of ways of being in the world, engaging with the world, if each one steps out of their room, out of their house each morning with the fundamental, the prime directive: “Today let me do no harm, and today when I have the opportunity to be a service, to be of benefit, may I do so.” Now everything else comes after that, but that is the prime directive. If every person on the planet did that we would be living in a utopia. They’d call this the pure land, earth! And it really would transform the whole planet. So if one person does that, then at least in the center of your mandala, you’ve just begun a utopia, whether you’re working as a waitress in a restaurant, or that woman in a Stanford bookstore.

(19:00) Alan encounters a woman in the Stanford University bookstore working in the stationery section of office supplies. He noted that she was so warm, so attentive. It was just a pleasure engaging with her. She was so nice, so pure. She was sheer benevolence. Kindness and warmth radiated from her. Some few months after Alan saw her in the bookstore, a journalist from the Stanford daily newspaper wrote an article about her. In describing her, it was clear that she was the same way with everybody else as she was with Alan. Alan said that he never had the sense that the way she interacted with him was because he was special. It never came into his mind. (And if it did, it would be delusional since there was nothing special about him at all!) She just treats one customer after another after another with this loving kindness, benevolence, warmth, happiness. This journalist found her attitude really remarkable enough to write a whole article about her. When Alan read the article, he immediately remembered her. (“Yeah, that is the one!”) Selling stationery is generally not considered professional work for which you win the Nobel Peace Prize, but you could see that this woman, day by day, office supply by office supply, was really making a contribution. So, there it is!

Let’s practice loving kindness following the teachings of the Buddha.


(22:56) Motivated by the aspiration of loving kindness for yourself and others, and that, that aspiration by venturing into the practice and settling your body, speech and mind in its natural state.

(25:40) And now envision your own well-being...hedonically and eudemonically...bring to mind your heart desire...and attend to the causes that would yield such a fruit.

(26:38) And consider the possibility as a working hypotheses that when it comes to flourishing, comes to eudemonia, whatever you can imagine for yourself, you can realize, you do have the potential. For your potential has no bounds it is limitless. We may not know whether that statement it is true or not but as a working hypotheses, it has a tremendous potential.

And imagine this potential symbolically as an incandescent, limitless orb of light at your heart. With each out breath arouse this aspiration: “May I be truly well and happy, may I find the causes of happiness.” With each out breath imagine...a flow of light from this orb at your heart, emanating out in all directions, completely filling your entire being with this light of loving kindness, a light of purity, a light of joy.

(29:14) Imagine this light throughout your whole being consuming everything that obscures...afflicts...afflicts the body, afflicts the mind. Imagine it dispelling all obstacles.

(31:00) Letting your imagination play, imagine this light flowing from the deepest dimension of your existence, the dimension of primordial consciousness indivisible from the absolute space of phenomena, the dharmadatu, indivisible from the energy of primordial consciousness, the three coexistencive.

And as this light at your heart, drawing from that source, permeates your entire being, imagine it entirely consuming the materiality of your body right down to the level of elementary particles. Imagine it all dissolving away, the materiality of your body settling in its natural state...of the pure energy of primordial consciousness.

(32:10) And where your material body was, imagine only this remains: a body of light, like a holographic image, luminous but empty.

(33:53) And now, as if your whole being is formed to super-abundance, to the point of overflowing with this light, with each out breath extend this field of light in all the directions around you, above and below. Imagine this sphere of light extending in all directions, expanding breath by breath, and as you do so, with every out breath arouse the yearning: “May each of us find happiness and the true causes of happiness.” With every out breath imagine this sphere of light expanding, and as one sentient being after another is embraced within this sphere, imagine each one finding or realizing their heart’s desire, finding genuine happiness and its causes.

(38:29) And imagine each individual, each sentient being who is embraced within this sphere of light of loving kindness finding the joy and the satisfaction and fulfillment they seek. Here and now expand this realm of possibility in all directions, greater and greater.

(41:10) Let this field of light expand to the extent that it embraces the entire planet and all the sentient beings inhabiting here. And then exponentially expand the field in all directions, all beyond our tiny corner of the galaxy, to embrace the entire galaxy and all the beings in it, and out in all directions stretch your imagination, to try to imagine imagining 100 billion galaxies, and all the beings who dwell therein. May each one be well and happy.

(43:58) And imagine each one realizing their innermost desire, realizing full awakening.

(44:40) Then release all appearances and all aspirations, and let your awareness rest knowing itself.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Brian Malone

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti


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