07 Sep 2013

Before the morning meditation, Alan raises a question: what makes a practice Dharma? Is, for example, mindfulness of breathing Dharma in and of itself or is there something else necessary to make it Dharma? Mindfulness of breathing can be simply a relaxation technique.

What makes it Dharma is motivation based in Bodhicitta. In fact, if we hold Bodhicitta as our motivation, everything we do throughout the day can be used to cultivate virtue and ethical way of life, not only our meditations. Our motivation (aspiration) connects all our activities from one day to another creating a karmic momentum. Practicing Bodhicitta is like investing in a fund and creating leftover karma for future lifetimes. The virtue of our lives goes where our aspiration goes. In the meditation practice, we continue mindfulness of breathing at the aperture of the nostrils.

Meditation starts at: 12:30

Download (MP3 / 34 MB)

Transcript

Ola so. So we’ll go right back to the practice, but as a prelude to that, it’s good to ask a question periodically -

Is whatever practice we’re doing, is it dharma?

Is it dharma, and what makes a practice dharma?

If you say “O Mani Padme Hum,” is that dharma?

If you watch your breath or if you visualize a buddha image, is that dharma?

Mindfulness of breathing is an example - may or may not be dharma.

I could easily imagine a basketball player for example, a professional basketball player who has a free throw, who has been fouled and has a free throw, before tossing the ball up, doing a little bit of (Alan breathes) ...a little bit of mindfulness of breathing before throwing the ball. Why not? It could be very good for accuracy and so forth but that’s not dharma that’s just a little attention exercise, or a relaxation exercise, right, in order to get a ball into a little hoop which is ethically neutral, nothing wrong or good about it and so likewise this could be a relaxation technique which is fine but it’s not dharma.

It could be for all kinds of motivations. One could even imagine malevolent motivations. Maybe you’re breathing so you can be a good a sniper and kill somebody. So it all really does depend on motivation. The simple fact that you’re following your breath doesn’t mean that you’re engaging in any spiritual practice at all, right.

(1:25) It all depends on motivation. And so then well what kind of motivation? It’s not just kind of one or another, or simply virtuous versus neutral. But I spoke yesterday about this quite awesome possibility of fully achieving bodhichitta so that it arises spontaneously effortlessly, one enters the path, becomes a bodhisattva and remains a bodhisattva for all future lifetimes until you are a buddha. Very awesome, very magnificent and incredibly meaningful. And for some we may feel that such achievement based upon the full achievement of shamatha and then bodhichitta may be a bit out of reach in this lifetime, especially if we’re starting rather late in life, don’t really anticipate in the foreseeable future being able to spend a lot of time in retreat, in which case one might feel a little bit disheartened. Think about it, it’s very well if you’re 20 years old, you have no children no spouse and so forth, no job, but if you really, if we do have a lot of obligations in the world one may feel well that’s really within reach, so it could be a bit disheartening, right.

Well the good news is - establish a motivation. Establish the motivation to the best of your ability. This motivation which I really quite do think is the most sublime of all motivations - the aspiration to achieve the greatest possible state of spiritual realization, of awakening, of fully unveiling the full capacity of our consciousness, awareness, in terms of the sublime virtues, such as compassion and wisdom, in order to be of greatest possible service to the world. Right, so maybe there is a higher motivation than that. Something more noble, more sublime. But I don’t know what that would be, but there’s bodhichitta. And so it’s never too early to start practicing bodhichitta. You don’t need to think - oh I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet.

(3:15) Never too early because after all we could die today. It would be really a shame. Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey ) mentioned this to me, it would really be a really a shame if you postponed bodhichitta and then you die before you even started, and so why not? People here, people listening by podcast if this strikes you as a very meaningful motivation, possibly the most meaningful possible motivation, then it’s not only the motivation that could inspire you to go into a three year retreat or a one or two year shamatha retreat or what have you. It can be your motivation every every time you sit down for 15 minutes or 20 minutes to practice mindfulness of breathing.

And in fact for any type of meaningful endeavor including preparing a meal.Taking care of your children, going to work. If it’s meaningful work, if it’s wholesome work then actually that motivation can be your current that holds together the entire day for all meaningful activity. For neutral activity if you’re really tired, you need to relax a little bit, watching something on television that’s not harmful to the mind.

You can do that with bodhichitta. You can take a nap with bodhichitta. Right You can drive to the store to get some milk with bodhichitta. Really! Anything that’s not non virtuous, you can do it with the motivation of bodhichitta and certainly this so. I would say mindfulness of breathing all by itself unrelated to any motivation, ethically neutral.

(4:33) It may be healthy, it may be good for you but ethically neutral. But as soon as the wholesome motivation a positive or virtuous motivation comes in, then that’s what makes it positive, virtuous. And then if you bring to it, if that which actually arouses you, provides you with the incentive, the motivation to engage in the practice and continue in the practice, if it actually is the aspiration to achieve buddhahood, perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, then that is a current that flows through every minute of your practice and that means every minute of your practice and that’s including times you’re a little bit wobbly, getting a little bit of excitation, a bit of laxity and dullness and so forth, we don’t expect it to be perfect but if bodhichitta is your motivation, then every moment of the practice is leading you on that path. Right

And then if this is a motivation you keep on coming back to every morning, every session, every kind of endeavor at the beginning of every kind of endeavor if you keep on coming back to that motivation and then as Atisha, says in the Seven Point Mind Training, at the beginning establish motivation - at the end dedicate merit, So whenever you come to the conclusion of a practice or the conclusion of a day, if you look back on anything virtuous anything wholesome, meaningful that you’ve done throughout the course of the day and you dedicate the virtue, the goodness , the merit of that to that same aspiration, to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all beings, then that’s where it’s going. .

[6:03]It’s really like investing in a fund, you know all of your money is going into a particular fund, it accrues interest and it grows and grows and grows and if you’ve been doing that even, you know even if you are starting at age 60 or 70 and you start doing that and you’re doing it continuously, you know for the last months or years of your life, then that’s establishing a real current. Of course you’re investing in something you’ll in all likelihood not realize the fulfillment of in this lifetime. But this means you’ve kind of deposited your investment in an account in the future and that motivation right there, that will connect you from lifetime to lifetime.

It’s called “le toh”[Tibetan] leftover karma. Toh means something left over, Le is karma “Le Toh”, and that is you’ve aspired to do something that you haven’t been able to do yet, right. That is gosh - I haven’t achieved perfect buddhahood yet.

(6:57) I guess I have some unfinished business. That’s what it means - unfinished business. And so if this is your business, if you’re in the Business of achieving enlightenment, the enlightenment of a buddha, and you die before it’s done then you have some karma left over, it’s unfinished business karma that carries you through the bardo and carries you to the next life and if you’ve led an ethical way of life, just that - ethical, and you have a motivation that keeps on coming and coming and coming from day to day to day of bodhichitta, then the prospects are very good even without yet having achieved shamatha and you know, fully spontaneous bodhichitta and so forth, that’s where you have literally invested your life. your time your energy, your aspirations your hopes and aspirations and so that’s it, that really is the most important thing, the aspiration, the most important thing.

Eventually when we gain high realization of bodhichitta, realization of emptiness, realization of pristine awareness, fantastic! But until then leading an ethical way of life and then almost like a string that goes through a whole bunch of pearls or beads on a mala, on a rosary, the string connects them all, keeps them all connected, the string that connects the days of your lives so that it, they’re coherent, they have a real continuity to them, a real direction to them - it’s your motivation. So whether you have three days to live, good, make really good use of those three days, you know. Establish your string of bodhichitta for those three days. As much virtue as you can, an ethical way of life, die a nice finish, nice finish. Even if the first you know 75 years of your life has been a waste of time, the last three days - good finish, you know, good finish. And they say actually the way you die, the kind of the experiences you have just prior to death, they’re very influential, very influential on the nature of your dying process itself, the bardo and then what comes next. So motivation.

They say in real estate “location location location.”

(9:05) In dharma “motivation motivation motivation.” Right

That’s what holds it all together, provides coherence, continuity. It’s a real confidence that our dharma practice can continue from lifetime to lifetime and not just get derailed, derailed by other unfinished business. If our real aspiration is - man I want make a million dollars, or I want to marry a supermodel, or I’d like to become really, oh he didn’t like that one (Alan laughs) you’re looking at me like - yeah supermodel good luck guy.

You know, or I want to become famous or I want to win an olympic medal or you know whatever, we have all kinds of aspirations, I wish I owned my own restaurant or a porsche. Oh if I had a porsche, you know, so we have many many desires come up - oh I wish I had children, oh I wish I had blah blah blah. So the virtue that we accumulate can actually be directed, it’s like money, it’s like stuff, you can invest it, you do invest it, it does happen your are investing it where your aspirations are. So this old aphorism in English, “Be careful what you wish for you may get it”.

Well aspiration aspiration aspiration. Motivation motivation motivation. So we have many desires there is no question about that, but if from our hearts, not just lip service but from our heart, if our highest aspiration, our most our deepest aspiration, core aspiration is indeed bodhichitta then all the other aspirations become derivative or subsidiary to that, and then as we engage in a virtue whether it’s activism out in the world, whether it’s the virtue of raising a family with love and wisdom doing, you know, engaging in right livelihood, good meaningful livelihood, making a profit, running a business whatever it may be. If the motivation of bodhichitta is there, then whatever virtue there is gets kind of funnelled or channelled to that end. And that’s a much better end than letting it go off into another rivulet and so that your unfinished business is to become incredibly handsome or beautiful in your next lifetime. If that’s what you really really wanted. Oh I wish I could be more beautiful, handsome, rich, wealthy, influential, famous, etcetera, etcetera. There are so many ways that virtue can go, and it will go where your heart is. It’s a universal truth.

Jesus said something like that. I can’t quote it right now, but Jesus said something like that.The buddha said something exactly like that and it is a universal truth.

The virtue of your life goes where your aspirations are. So you might want to develop conative intelligence right now. A wisdom in terms of our desires and aspirations.

(11:50) And let a little 24 minute session of just breathing in and breathing out, noting the little sensations at the nostrils, which by itself could be really quite trivial, at the same time with the motivation of bodhichitta it’s stepping onto the path of perfect awakening. Why not? So let’s practice…

(12:31) Bell meditation bell begins.

(13:40) Having aroused the most meaningful motivation we can for this practice, settle the body speech and mind in their natural state.

(15:29) And again settling your mind in its natural state, entails releasing all grasping, grasping onto the future, and the past, grasping onto cogitations about the present. Letting your awareness rest in its own place, naturally luminous and still.

(16:31) Then let the light of your awareness illuminate the sensations of the passage of the breath above your upper lip, or the aperture to the nostrils, again ever so importantly keeping your eyes soft relaxed, unfocused, as you direct just your mental awareness to this object of mindfulness.

(18:31) If you choose to count your breath see that the count , one count at the end of each inhalation, is a brief staccato count and between the counts let your mind be as silent as possible, as you completely fill your awareness throughout the entire course of the in and out breath with the sensations of the breath. Let it be a full time job and monitor the flow of mindfulness with introspection, apply the antidotes as before and let’s continue practicing now in silence.

(36:34) Bells meditation bell ends.

Alan: Ola so, enjoy your day. See you at 4:30.

Transcribed by KrissKringle Sprinkle

Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Final edition by Cheri Langston

Discussion

Ask questions about this lecture on the Buddhism Stack Exchange or the Students of Alan Wallace Facebook Group. Please include this lecture’s URL when you post.