01 Apr 2016
Alan invites us to move day by day through each of the Four Immeasurables in sequence and we´ve already started with Loving Kindness. Alan´s interpretation is that this is a good place to start, especially nowadays, when religion is completely gone from popular media, as if the secular world is the only reality. It is very easy to lose sight of what could be, of possibilities, and this may be very depressing. But reality is comprised of actuality and also of possibilities. Loving Kindness acknowledges what is already taking place but the aspiration here is for what could be for oneself, for others, for all sentient beings. But as we envision greater well-being, freedom from all suffering for all sentient beings, we may start to love this practice too much, become unbalanced and addicted to this “metta narcotic”. We can even lose grounding, lose touch with actuality. Then compassion brings us back - we start paying close attention to the suffering which is already actual, everywhere. The meditation on compassion starts toward ourselves and then we let the aspiration flow outwards .We can practice toward anyone that comes to mind, look into their eyes in our meditation and say “may you be free from mental afflictions you´re suffering from”.
Alan returns to the chapter on Mahayana Refuge and bodhicitta. But before that, he started recalling a story about Khunu Lama Rinpoche, one of the great beings of 20th century whose primary practice was the cultivation of bodhicitta. In a public setting, when the Dalai Lama first saw him and knowing who he was, he walked up to him and offered three prostrations. So on the one hand, we cultivate compassion, Karuna Bhavana, from the perspective of a sentient being’s mind. But on the other hand, from the perspective of primordial consciousness, there is nothing to be cultivated. As Düdjom Lingpa said, when you tap into rigpa, that is ultimate bodhicitta – don´t look elsewhere for relative bodhicitta. We cultivate it to unveil the inner resources of compassion that were already there.
Regarding refuge, if one takes the vows to heart, offering their meals, all possessions, all to Dharma, until enlightenment, releasing all attachment, that can be revolutionary.
Alan discussed the eight benefits of going for refuge and then we finally moved to the generation of Mahayana. He first explained that Hinayana and Mahayana aspirations for enlightenment are not related to a specific school but to the motivation. If your intention is all about you becoming free, this will obstruct the emergence of an aspiration that embraces all sentient beings into your motivation and it prevents you from achieving ultimate enlightenment. So if you want to become a buddha, you will have to generate the Mahayana aspiration.
These first chapter on Refuge and Bodhicitta is maybe the most important to all of us, since cultivating Bodhicitta is a way of really transform our lives into Dharma.
Meditation is on the cultivation of Compassion.
Meditation starts at: 27:47
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Olaso. So I’d like to move day by day through each of these four immeasurables in sequence. I think there is a very meaningful order to each of these four starting with loving kindness. So we’ve spent two afternoons on that. And I think a kind of fundamental theme and I’ve never seen this actually stated explicitly in the Buddhist tradition but this seems to me kind of obviously true and that is, reality is comprised of two domains or aspects, whatever. And one is the domain of actuality, what is already true. What is already true, it’s there, it’s a done deal. The realm of actuality but sometimes we can get so stuck there. We can be so focused there. Remember my old mantra from William James. For the moment what we attend to is reality. Well we can become so fixated on what is actual, what is happening, that we can really lose sight of what could be. As we attend to the past, our own past, the past of anybody, it’s very easy to think well the future is going to be more of the same. And not see any possibility of something that is unprecedented. But if the possibility for the unprecedented were not real there would be no path. There wouldn’t be any point in doing anything you may as well just hang out because it’s going to be the same old same old no matter what. So reality is comprised of that which is already true, that’s what’s actual, manifest, and then reality also consists of possibilities. And possibilities are as real as anything else. I mean they’re either real or not real and if possibilities are not real then nothing is possible that is not already actual. So I think this is not a trivial point. And I think there is, and this is just my interpretation you know, for what it’s worth, maybe it’s worth something, it is to me. And that is there is a very good reason for starting out with loving kindness. One could start with any of the four, empathetic joy, or any of them. But we know in the modern vipashyana tradition they’ll pretty much focus on metta. They may ignore the other three but if you’re going to start with one of them. If you’re going to highlight one of them, well metta is a really good place to start. There’s a really good reason to continue on as well. So anybody that starts metta, finish the job. Go on to compassion, there’s a reason buddha taught four of these and not just one. But metta is a very good place to start. And here’s my sense of it. Just my interpretation. Especially nowadays, nowadays in our world, I don’t think I need to describe it to you, you’re living here as much as I am. But if we buy into the dominant paradigm which we see everyday in the media. Have you noticed there’s hardly any religion in the media at all? There’s virtually none. They used to have a little, like with science, technology, religion, in my lifetime ten years ago, fifteen years ago, that was there. They would cover something about religion, it’s gone. New York Times used to cover it, no more. Time magazine, forget about it. The popular media BBC, it’s gone, it’s gone. So it’s all across the board secular. As if that’s the only reality, as if religion is something on the fringe. Too bad, I think we’re missing something there. But in this very secular world we’re living in where that’s the dominant paradigm, dominating government policy, dominating media, dominating academia, and of course dominating science, it’s very easy to lose sight of possibilities. And that can be very depressing frankly. If we consider what’s happening in the world around us and what’s happening in our own lives if we don’t imagine possibilities that are unprecedented, it’s too bad, just put it that way, very mildly, too bad, too bad. And loving kindness is acknowledging the reality of the actual, what is already taking place, but the whole thrust of it, again not being simply a feeling, an emotion but an aspiration. The aspiration of loving kindness is an aspiration for what is not yet actual but which could be. That’s it right. For oneself, for others, for the world, for all sentient beings. It’s aspiring, but this means it has to have a vision. To my mind I could just go on on this topic for the whole afternoon. But for our children and children’s children, to give them vision. Yeah we teach them how to read, we give develop skills, we can make them a living and all of that, but if we’re not giving each other, we’re not giving our children a vision of genuine happiness, of flourishing, then we’re not giving them much, really. I think it is so important. This is what loving kindness does, it can be on a superficial level and I think sometimes it’s taught on a superficial level, that one is cultivating these thoughts of loving kindness and it’s pretty much hedonia. May everybody be in good health, they’re not going to be. May everybody be prosperous, they won’t be. May everybody never get old, that ain’t going to happen. May everybody never have a bad day, not going to happen. So I just listed four things that are not going to happen, they’re not possible. So why aspire for something that’s not possible when there are things that are possible that are actually much more interesting? Meaningful, beneficial? Eudaimonia, can you flourish in the midst of adversity and getting sick and losing your job? And being poor and dying? Those are big ones, right? Can you flourish in the midst of those? That’s possible, right, that’s possible. So loving kindness is visionary, that’s why when I started a couple nights ago we started with a vision quest, may be a bit corny but I don’t think it’s trivial. A vision quest, what is your vision?. Develop a vision, help other people, your children have a vision. And so we move from getting almost like a jeep that’s bogged down in the mud and it’s tires are just spinning and you’re spinning spinning and you’re going nowhere at all. We can get bogged down, with our wheels spinning in the realm of actuality, as if that’s all that’s happening, that’s all there is. And it’s pretty bleak. It’s pretty bleak. And with loving kindness self directed first of all, and then of course expanding like a supernova out in all directions. Venturing boldly, fearlessly, into the realm of possibility and envisioning what could be, envisioning what could be. And especially in terms of eudaimonia, but not overlooking hedonia. Not overlooking the possibility of everybody having enough to eat. Headline today in the news, there are now more obese people on the planet than there are people who are underweight. Yeah one out of four men in America. One out of five women in America. And it’s especially of course in the developed countries, Australia, Canada, blah, blah, blah you know United States, number one [in] obesity, the United States. And so we have three point five billion people living in poverty and then our problem is obesity. Gosh how could there be a solution? That’s kind of like duh? But we’re not getting it, we’re not getting it. And so there it is. [07:35]
As we venture into loving kindness we lift our spirits, we become visionaries, we see the possible and we dedicate ourselves to inviting the possible which is really a noble possible, a noble possibility into the realm of actuality. And then we orient our lives towards that. And that constitutes a meaningful life. That’s easy. But as we we venture into this realm of possibility as we envision greater well being, happiness, freedom from poverty, freedom from and people finding genuine happiness ourselves and others. Then we may also tip over into that direction. We tend to fall into imbalances. That’s an old habit. And it’s possible then to really love the loving kindness practice so much because it’s feels good. It’s feels like a metta narcotic. Don’t bug me I’m practicing loving kindness. Especially those irritable people back off, I’m creating a really nice space without you in it. [laughter] This is my little happy space. This is my loving kindness space. That’s easy to do, understandable. It’s easy to go as we say in Los Angeles, into la la land, la la loving kindness land where we’re kind of living in this imaginary world envisioning what could be and as we start to lift off you know lose our grounding lose our footing maybe become a little out of touch with this very large realm of actuality, then compassion brings us back. Because compassion starts not with a vision of possibility it starts with very close observation of what is already real. And then we see oh, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to see there is something to that first noble truth of suffering. Of course there is nothing noble about it at all. It is simply a reality that is vividly seen by the noble ones and they are aryas, so we should never speak of a noble truth because there is nothing noble about the truth of suffering anymore than there is something noble about the source of suffering. Noble craving hostility and delusion? I don’t think so. But it is of course these are the four realities, the four aryas for the nobles, for those who are aryas. That which appears strikingly real to them but we turn to compassion then in this sequence, and we’re going to get to the meditation soon. But it’s returning to the realm of actual in our own lives. It’s a good place to start. I’m going to keep coming back there for all four of them. I’m going to come back there. I think especially in our modern world, where we have terms that didn’t even exist in other languages until having to make them up because we’ve done it. Wants some words that don’t exist in Tibetan? Self contempt, low self esteem, self loathing, lack of self worth, self hatred, they don’t even have those words. And you have to explain them. I’ve told this story many times. When the Dalai Lama was first introduced to these terms he didn’t understand at all what they were referring to. And he had to have a whole discourse by Sharon Salzberg explaining what is meant and why we in the modern world maybe have to attend to these kinds of things. Because they can be so enormously debilitating I witness it in many people and if that’s there just look for the catastrophe around it. It never comes with friendly bedfellows. Low self esteem but really nice? It pretty much doesn’t, the fallout from low self esteem, self hatred, lack of self worth, it’s always negative, it’s not compassion it’s not love it’s not virtue. It’s rooted in delusion and then something of kind of a self loathing. So in any case because that’s a reality and it is and now I travel a lot it’s kind of everywhere, I was kind of hoping it could only be in Europe and America, but then of course you’ve got to add Australia, and of course New Zealand and then the dominoes keep falling. This turns out to be a global epidemic now, I’ve seen it everywhere. I travel all over the place. And so in this regard then for each of these four to see that we’re ok at home, that there is a sense of loving kindness for ourselves within, that’s your basis and then it expand outwards. There is a sense of compassion for ourselves. They don’t even have that word in Tibetan. But we need it, because we have self loathing therefore we need self compassion. If you didn’t have self loathing you wouldn’t need the self compassion. But we do, so we do. [12:12]
And so self directed compassion, once again it’s an enormously important and very simple point in this Buddhist understanding, compassion is not an emotion. And very importantly it’s not simply feeling sorry for. That’s a false facsimile, or it’s something that is near, a near miss, there’s the target - missed it by that much. It’s not that it’s bad feeling sorry, it’s empathy, it’s sympathy that’s better than cold indifference. That’s good. But if all we experience when we’re seeking to cultivate compassion, if all we experience is simply feeling sorry for, then exactly what good is that doing anyone? If you’re very ill and I see you’re very ill, and I say Oh Katalina I’m so sorry you’re feeling ill, that kind of ruins my day, I’m so sorry you’re feeling bad and I walk away feeling bad, she’d say “And, and?” [laughs] “I could use some medicine here. You know I’ve just fallen on my face could you give me a…, you know. If there’s no follow up, if there’s no aspiration, if there’s no vision that this person, this person, this individual doesn’t need to suffer as much as he or she is now, let alone liberation and perfect enlightenment, perhaps I could alleviate a bit of suffering. It breaks down binary thinking. Binary thinking we all fall into. I can’t do anything. I’m such a schmuck. I’m so debilitated. I am, I can’t do anything. It’s very easy to fall into that. When has humanity ever been, I know the answer is never, but here’s the question. When has humanity ever been deluged with so much negative information? About what’s happening on the globe, both the misery but also the evils, the really despicable things that human beings are doing. When have we ever been so aware, almost forced fed like somebody ramming dog excrement down your mouth, it’s just like it’s in our face everyday. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. And now we know the numbers, seven billion human beings let alone all the other creatures on the planet. It’s very easy, and we get a lot of encouragement to consider how insignificant we are. There’s a lot of encouragement for that. I see it coming up a lot in science. We’re so insignificant. Billions and billions of galaxies and here we are on this little boat of dust look how insignificant we are. Well, no we’re not. That’s just one view. It’s not the whole picture. And so compassion is an aspiration. And for the aspiration to arise may you be free, may we be free, may I be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. Again we could spend a week on this one it would be a week well spent. May we be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. But if you don’t know what the causes of suffering are then you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s an empty vacuous aspiration. Right? Be free of suffering, anybody knows suffering but you can’t’ be free of suffering if you’re not free of the causes of suffering and you can’t be free of the causes of suffering unless you identify them and you see that in fact they could be dispelled. So compassion needs vision. As much as loving kindness needs vision. Compassion must have vision. Simply to be aware of the awful things happening in the world, natural calamities and then on top of that all the human created calamities. And the magnitude and the depth of mental afflictions manifesting all was justified by those who perpetuate them, can be quite overwhelming. So the compassion is an aspiration and we may as well start local. Overcoming the world’s problems with ego you know all the ecological catastrophes, and everything else going on and you know as well as I do, that’s a tall order. But at least could we make some headway at ground zero. Could there be at least some less suffering? And some less of the inner causes of suffering? Where each of us lives, is there any wiggle room in there. Is there any possibility of maybe a little less suffering today? And a little bit less of my perpetuating my own suffering today. Could I tweak that in the right direction? If so then you can start compassion. If it’s untweakable, then it’s hopeless, then there’s no compassion. Then it’s just, oh I’m so sorry. [16:34]
Nowhere. That’s got no direction, no momentum it’s got no motion to it. And so how I would like to start off this morning, this afternoon I should say, is go right back to the practice and as I will do for each of the four immeasurables we’re going to start at ground zero, self. And the aspiration is may I be free for each of us of course and for everybody listening wherever you are, equally applicable. May I be free of suffering and the inner causes of suffering. Even the Buddha after his enlightenment still had, still encountered adverse circumstances. Somebody trying to kill him repeatedly, most people would call that adversity. And many other things, bad things happened you know to him, to his family, to his sangha and so forth. There doesn’t’ seem to be any escape from that and praying for it to happen probably won’t work. So may as well give that one a rest. I guess as I’m getting older I just have no time for doing things, empty gestures, and aspiring for that which is impossible. There are too many worthwhile things to do, I’m not going to spend any time on that. That’s just my priority because I’m going to die soon you know and so I’m not going to aspire for anything that I think is actually impossible. The possibility is not in the realm of reality. It ain’t going to happen, so no point in that. But this one, can we start there, can we have some vision? Could I be freer than I am now of the suffering to which I am vulnerable? Could I be freer than I am now to the inner causes to start with, the three poisons is a good place to start. Delusion, craving, hostility. Could I be freer now than I am? And to not only aspire for, but to envision it. To envision it. And then when you go outwards, you know what’s happening in the news. If you didn’t read today’s news, we know what’s happening around about us. And we know there are individuals and communities out there who it’s just frankly very hard to love. If the, as Buddhaghosa says if the immediate catalyst, the trigger for loving kindness is seeing the lovableness in the other, that’s it you know. If that’s the case, ok think of some, maybe if you’re in America think of some political candidates. [laughter] And think, see if you can bring them to mind and say: “Oh this person is so lovable.” There are some for whom that is hard. Isn’t it? Some for whom that’s hard. It always has been but we’re kind of getting it in our face these days. So that’s hard. Because they’re just not giving us much to work with [laughter] and we don’t know them. We don’t wake up with them in the morning, we don’t see them when they’re not before the camera. We don’t see them when they’re feeling vulnerable. We don’t see them when they’re just talking quietly with their spouses. We don’t see that. We see them before the camera. And that is a very tiny fraction of anybody’s life. I don’t care who you are. But for even for those we look the people who are willing to blow themselves up, to blow up other people, at a Christian gathering in Pakistan, in Brussels, and think this is somehow justified of course. That it’s a good thing. It’s hard in that we know so little about these individuals to see anything lovable at all, therefore loving kindness in any genuine way that’s not simply an act of hypocrisy can seem a bit out of reach. Not forever, not forever but for the time being. It can be a bit tough. But then think about compassion. And I mean for the most despicable acts that are being done, the slave trade, the violation of women, of children, and the list goes on and on and on. Tragically, [Alan inhales deeply] just below the surface, can you arouse in a very sincere way - may you be free of those mental afflictions. May you be free of those mental afflictions. That led you to believe this is justified, this is good, this is okay. There’s a reason for this and it’s a good reason, because that’s delusion for people who act out of greed, raping the earth, or violating the earth, it’s greed, it’s the second mental affliction for those who act out of hostility, hatred, contempt it’s a mental affliction. And so for the worst evildoers let’s use that word I think it’s’ a safe word, a true word for the worst evil doers on the planet they tend to be human they’re not rats or cockroaches, dogs or cats, us! Isn’t that interesting? That we with our enormous intelligence and all of that, we’re the worst evil doers on the planet. I mean we have no competition, crocodiles, tsetse flies, I mean really they’re just hanging out doing their thing. But we, whoa, we’re really are over the top. In virtue and in vice. And so this is something I think can be sincere today. When we think of the politicians on the political scene that we may find very difficult to love, or anything to respect we just don’t come up with anything, can you focus on whoever comes to mind, and I’m not saying there is just one person who one obvious person, but how many more? And we bring these people to mind and we’re aware of the faults they’re displaying, they’re afflicted by. Can we attend to them and with all sincerity look right into their eyes in our meditation with the aspiration, may you be free. May you be free. With the mental afflictions they suffer from, that we hear about that I know, on the political scene, I have each one of them, that is all of those that I see, and we can give the list, we can all come up with this very similar list, I know that I have every single one of them otherwise I wouldn’t know what they’re talking about, I would just go does not compute, does not compute. I wouldn’t’ see it, I wouldn’t see that which is not part of my own repertoire. Can’t see it, would be like we’re color blind. [22:49]
But if we take these individuals that are appearing on the political screen I think I understand all of their mental afflictions, I think so oh [laughs] heavens to Betsy, that must mean I have all of them. They’re simply displaying my mental afflictions but they’re doing it so flamboyantly and I feel this aversion because I don’t like those qualities in myself. If I didn’t have them I couldn’t see them. I want to be free of those. I want them to be free of those and we’ll all be better off. So I think compassion, that’s where we live, that can be real, even for the worst of the worst. Rather than wishing them to be simply annihilated, wishing them to be free. Because if they’re merely annihilated, if they’re simply brought to justice and killed, they’re just going to bring their mischief into their next life. Untouched, they’re going to bring those viruses, those thoughts right into the next life. And they’ll be continuing that damage on, until they’re free. So for the benefit of all future generations let’s not wish that they die and what will benefit instead of simply being punished, if it’s not touching the mental afflictions then there is just some pain for them and then it will be over. But for the benefit of all sentient beings wishing that each one may be free. Free focusing first of all on the root causes of suffering that they are manifesting so flamboyantly in the world, but also as we practice this close application of mindfulness to feelings, to the mind, in the vipashyana, it just becomes so clear that mental afflictions afflict, even greed, even craving which kind of feels good when you’re experiencing it, if you think you’re going to get it or you’ve gotten it, it’s kind of like oh boy, I’ve got it just look a bit closer. Scratch the surface and see how far you need to go down before you find anxiety. That if you haven’t gotten it, you won’t, and if you have got it, you’ll lose it. And oh by the way, you will. [laughter] And so even greed, craving, grasping, clinging that feels on the surface quite good, oh I got it, I got it, scratch the surface, it’s just more dukha. Let alone those times when we feel contempt. I’ve experienced contempt, I’ve never enjoyed it. It’s like eating something bitter, it’s like, quite awful really, isn’t it? When we experience contempt, when we experience hatred, when we experience jealousy, when we experience arrogance. Gives me a sense of altitude but it’s so precarious because of course nobody agrees with me. I’m better than everybody except for nobody agrees with me in the world. And if they do they’re delusional. Because they’re not much of an ally. And so the mental afflictions, afflict. It’s not obvious, but they do, that’s why they’re called mental afflictions. And so when we see for ourselves, this is where the first person comes in again see what’s the impact on your own body, your own mind, your being, your way of life. Insofar as your own mind is influenced, poisoned by these mental afflictions, you know it’s just suffering. So then when we see other people manifesting this really unappealing or maybe even despicable behavior, scratch the surface. And as for me, so for them, it’s suffering. It’s suffering and I don’t want to suffer. And really I don’t want anybody else to suffer. I don’t think you do either. I mean where is the benefit for you? If somebody else suffers, where is the benefit for anybody. They’re just suffering, more suffering, we already have so much already so why would we want anybody to have more. When there is such a massive amount already there. So this is compassion. Let’s just go and practice it. Let’s cultivate it. [26:56]
[27:44] Meditation bell rings three times
[28:04] So now as an act of compassion, an expression of compassion for ourselves, as if with a sigh of relief, release this noisy, agitated, congested mind. Down into the still depths of the space of the body right down to the ground, quiet, non conceptual… And settle you body and your respiration, your mind, in their natural state.
[30:10] Breath by breath with every exhalation release, relaxed, calm and soothe the perturbations of the body and mind. And now let us direct our awareness inwards, not for a vision or visions of possibility, but for the actuality of our lives, as they’re being lived right here and now. And in the past, reflect upon your life as it is now, the personal history that has led to this moment, and the kinds of suffering that you’ve experienced. In your body, in your mind in your relationship with other people. The kinds of suffering which in all likelihood, you’re still vulnerable, as vulnerable as you were a year ago, ten years ago, ten lifetimes ago. If we continue in the patterns of the past, they will be replicated in the future.
[32:41] Then consider this extraordinary hypothesis from the direct experience from the buddha himself, replicated countless times since then. And that is at the root of our vulnerability to suffering, mental and physical, is in our reification of our own bodies and minds, of our own selves, and in the identification with the body and mind and other entities as being truly and inherently I and mine. The fundamental delusion, and as long as that is operative it opens the floodgates of suffering. Craving, clinging, attachment to my side. Aversion, hostility, resentment towards the other. Consider the inner causes in your own mental continuum that lie at the root of all of your suffering that you’ve ever experienced in the past in the present and in the future… And then it’s time for vision. Compassion will not arise without a vision of the possibility of freedom or at least the attenuation of suffering and the causes of suffering. So bring to mind now the possibility of your mind gradually healing and being freed from, finally, all of its internal afflictions, obscurations. And imagine freedom, inner freedom, such that you remain free even in the face of what the rest of the world would call adversity. But you are free. Envision that. And envision that this freedom lies within, not simply as a possibility, there is a dimension of your being right now that is already free. In Mahamudra, Dzogchen we call it pristine awareness. It’s not just a possibility, it’s a concealed reality that’s actual. Let your own pristine awareness affirm its own existence and symbolically visualize once again as a fathomless inexhaustible source of light, an orb of light at your heart. All purifying. All liberating. With each in breath arouse this aspiration, self directed, this aspiration of compassion as you hold in mind the spectrum of suffering to which you are vulnerable. With each in breath as you arouse the aspiration for freedom, imagine this suffering in the form of darkness symbolically being drawn into this orb of light at your heart and dissolving there without trace. Imagine the darkness banished in the light of pristine awareness, this clear light awareness, breath by breath.
[38:04] And imagine the mental afflictions to which you are still vulnerable, which lie at the root of all your suffering and breath by breath arouse the wish, the aspiration: May I be free. And imagine becoming free. Venture into that realm of possibility, and imagine being free.
[40:24] And now as if you are settling your mind in its natural state, direct your attention to the space of the mind. But unlike the shamatha practice of taking the mind as the path and simply attending to the images, the appearances that arise within this space, in the context of this practice of cultivating compassion, open your heart and mind, out to the reality around you, to all sentient beings around you, loose and free, and simply see who comes to mind. It could be a loved one who is ill, someone who is dying, or going through great difficulties. It could be someone who manifests very gross mental afflictions on the world stage. It could be those who perpetrate terrible acts of savagery, whoever it is, see who comes to mind. But now let the focus of your attention be not simply on these mental appearances in your own mind which are not sentient beings but by way of the appearances attend to the sentient beings themselves. Attend closely, let them become real, linger there. And attend closely to the suffering to which these individuals are vulnerable to, the mental afflictions that enslave them, because no one chooses to have mental afflictions. Attend closely until empathy arises, until you can see the common ground, that as for you, so for me. As you have suffering, so do I. As you have mental afflictions, so do I. I wish to be free. May you be free. And with each in breath imagine again symbolically in the form of darkness, a dark cloud, imagine the suffering and the causes of suffering of whomever you’ve brought to mind, with each in breath, being drawn into the nucleus of light at your heart, with the aspiration of compassion, and imagine dissolving that darkness without trace, utterly extinguished and consumed, in this fathomless light, of buddha nature, breath by breath imagine them becoming free.
[44:36] Let your awareness be loose and free and when someone else comes to mind, they come knocking at your door, greet them, attend to them, and continue practicing in this same way.
[48:51] Expand your awareness in all directions just for a moment. May we all be free of suffering and its causes. Draw in the darkness of the world and extinguish it in the light at your heart. And rest for a moment in stillness, awareness resting in its own place.
[50:09 meditation bell]
[51:11 ] Olaso. So we return to this chapter on the Mahayana Taking of Refuge and then Bodhicitta. As I was reading through the rest of it, it just struck me how condensed this is. He’s put in an enormous amount in this one relatively brief chapter. And as I was reading through it I saw my first impulse was, I’m embarrassed to say this, how quickly can we get through this and get on to the good stuff. [laughter] You see the egg all over my face there, it’s there. It’s old habit, it’s an old habit. Get on with it you know, get on with it, let’s get to the main practice, it’s still the preliminaries right, we’ve only read like one sentence of Panchen Rinpoche. Come on. We’ve heard about bodhicitta already let’s get on with it. And then I recalled just over the last few months reading up I don’t know quite, it must have been on the internet that’s where I look for most of my media information. But I think it was the first personal encounter between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and one of the great beings of the twentieth century within the Tibetan tradition, Khunu Lama Rinpoche, [repeats] Khunu Lama Rinpoche. And he was a lay person, is Indian, born in the northern India, in the khunu region. Khunu Lama Rinpoche and he traveled to Tibet. I don’t remember the details of his life story but the core there - he traveled to Tibet, he studied extensively, he practiced, he also studied Sanskrit, he really drew from his own native culture of India and then combined that with his adopted culture of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. But he utterly focused as the centerpiece of his entire practice on bodhicitta, bodhicitta. He wrote a whole book that’s just all in praise of bodhicitta. I have it in Tibetan and it was translated actually into English. And so that was his practice, bodhicitta. I’m sure he did other practices, but that was actually central. I’ve known about that for a long time. But what I wasn’t aware of is, and I also knew that His Holiness the Dalai Lama looked to him for his primary transmission on The Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. He received it from the lineage of Patrul Rinpoche who had quite an extraordinary lineage, but what really moved me when I was reading this kind of brief account of their interrelationship with I think it was the first time and if I make a mistake please correct me. Feel happy to correct me, but I think it was their first encounter. It was outside, it was a public setting and His Holiness Khunu Lama Rinpoche, Khunu Lama RInpoche, knowing about him, knowing really who this person was, and His Holiness in this very public setting walked up to him and offered three prostrations, [murmur from class] and Khunu Lama, yeah just whaaa. And then Khunu Lama Rinpoche of course then offered three prostrations. His Holiness doesn’t do that very often. He has many great teachers and you know when they’re receiving teachings he’ll prostrate but it’s they’re his teachers. This is a person he just whoo, he was down you know. And wow that is really something. So Khunu Lama Rinpoche, his whole practice was bodhicitta. So not something to just get through quickly. [56:04]
But a tiny note on the practice we’ve just finished. There is this theme that just crops up everywhere, and that’s development and discovery. Development and discovery, this is karuna bhavana, karuna bhavana, cultivation of compassion, and it’s a good translation, it’s a good word and we are cultivating. And that is when we start practice we may feel we’re not very rich in empathy, we’re not very rich in compassion, we continue in the practice and then it just starts to rise more easily more deeply more spontaneously and these are the undercurrents. On the surface we may feel, oh I’m not making progress, I’m not doing this, not doing that, but when you just find that compassion is arising more spontaneously than it did before, then these are the undercurrents, there is movement down below. There is definitely a maturation taking place. There is transformation taking place. And so cultivating it, that which seemed to be missing or quite meager, starts to become more bountiful, deeper, stronger, more frequent, more spontaneous, on the one hand. On the other hand, there’s this other element that frankly I didn’t really learn about until I had been studying and practicing for twenty years. And that is a theme coming out of especially the Mahamudra, and especially the Dzogchen tradition, of Buddha Nature being more than potentiality, more than a potentiality. But actually, an actuality, here and now. And as Dudjom Lingpa the great nineteenth century Dzogchen master said, when you tap into rigpa, when you gain some experience of rigpa insight, identification of your own pristine awareness, that is ultimate bodhicitta, your buddha nature, dharmakaya, primordial consciousness, tathagatagarbha, that is ultimate buddha nature, excuse me ultimate bodhicitta, and once you tap into that do not look elsewhere for bodhicitta, relative bodhicitta. Because it springs from the ultimate, it is derivative, the relative bodhicitta the aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all beings, it’s a spontaneous outflow, of tapping into ultimate bodhicitta. So it almost gets a little ironic or chuckles. Don’t think you need to look elsewhere, I mean you hit the motherload. This is where it comes from. You cultivate, cultivate, cultivate to bring it from there, you’re not conjuring it up out of thoughts and images and the activities of your intellect. You’re using all of those, what we just did to unveil the inner resources of compassion that are already there. That are in the very nature of your own buddha nature. So the practice can be seen authentically, accurately, in complementary ways. On the one hand from the perspective of a sentient being’s mind, we are cultivating compassion. From the perspective of rigpa we are unveiling the compassion that is already there. [59:04]
So, I made rather quick work of the taking refuge yesterday. I don’t want to linger there long. Actually a little bit eager now to get on to bodhicitta. But it is very significant here, that, the taking of refuge is not simply a very meaningful ritual, a liturgy. It’s not simply the taking of refuge, taking the vows of refuge. Is not simply an expression and a sustaining of trust of taking refuge, but it also entails these vows of refuge. And you can read them they are quite clear, but it’s also quite clear, as I’m looking down at the bottom of page twenty one, if one really takes this to heart and you’re just turning all that is good in your life, starting with your meals and just offering that up. And then offering of course, you’re releasing all attachment, offering that up. You may offer your family up, it doesn’t mean you leave home, but you’re offering my family, my home, my possessions, I just offer it all up. All dedicated to dharma, that would be quite revolutionary. To be frequently practicing refuge by recollecting the qualities of the buddha, dharma and sangha. That would be revolutionary. And so we see the first, the second, and the third. So these practices, these practices, and then so basically it’s practicing dharma, I mean, it’s not just this vow, this vow, this vow, but if one is placing one’s trust in the buddha, in the dharma that he revealed and the path, then of course you express that trust by doing your very best to practice dharma. That’s pretty simple otherwise it kind of doesn’t’ mean anything. But I think that simple point, that you really, having taken refuge and then say all right, well this is going to be an absolutely central feature of my life from now until enlightenment and we can boil that down to ethics, non violence, and benevolence. We can boil that down to samadhi, the cultivation of exceptional mental balance, of well being, the cultivation of wisdom. So then I mean that’s really what it’s all about that refuge is in order to really completely dedicate yourself to the path to liberation and awakening. But I just wanted to kind of touch lightly on these eight benefits of going for refuge. Because some of them, at least we should pause a little bit. [1:01:49]
The first one’s kind of obvious. You’ve entered community, you’ve entered a community, you now have a whole circle of friends. You have companions, you have fellow voyagers, you have a community. And to be aware of that, to embrace that, and to take your position in that community. Basis of all vows, quite clear. But now this next one, this one is interesting. All your previous sins, I don’t use the word sin much any more but it’s perfectly legitimate it just has a lot of weight from Christianity and some people find that unbearable. But it’s still a good translation. Evils, misdeeds, unwholesome conduct, you know, find the one that you feel comfortable with. But you know exactly what we’re talking about. And so, but they’re extinguished, all the previous are extinguished. Well, I think we need to pause here a little bit. Like ok now I have no more bad karma, all of the bad karma I’ve accumulated in all countless lives, that finished yesterday. When I said well done, or something to that effect, right. Well, not quite that simple, not quite that simple. Because it implies of course if you’ve taken refuge then you’re following the path. If you’re following the path then very crucial to that is recognizing what are unwholesome deeds, harmful deeds of body, speech and mind. What are they? And then with your trust in the buddha, the dharma and the sangha then do the obvious, do what is needed, to purify, to purify those imprints. To purify that karma. It doesn’t, as the buddha himself said, it doesn’t just happen by him waving a magic wand or blessing you in some ways and getting rid of all your karma and so it’s obvious, all schools of buddhism recognize that. The buddha could not have been more clear. And so exactly how does that occur? Is it possible that all negative karma could be purified, extinguished? The answer is yeah, but then how, how does that occur? And so just a brief reminder. This is old hat for many of you. Maybe a new hat for some of you. But how is negative karma purified? We do something awful, we look back on it and say that was wrong. It’s good to learn about ethics but there is also a bottom line of we know what violence is and we know what benevolence is. We know when we’ve acted in harmful ways. We can always learn more, we can finesse it, we can become more informed. We can overcome biases which we may have been brought up with. There have been biases throughout human history, there still are. So then we need something outside of our own culture to enlighten us, to prejudices biases within our culture. But when we clearly do recognize that something we’ve done is unwholesome, and we recognize that if those imprints, those seeds, if they are left on their own, they will germinate, they will have ramifications. Some of them will have ramifications and consequences in this life, we won’t like it. And when those seeds fully come to maturation probably in future lives, sometimes in this life, we won’t like that either. Then when we reflect upon the consequences of unwholesome deeds then the natural thing is basically common sense thing is to feel an authentic reality based wholesome sense of regret, regret. Again we could spend the whole afternoon on this. I want to move through it pretty quickly. There is really good material there, it is all over the internet. I checked this afternoon, plenty of good material. Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron has a very good blog. Alex Berzin is always good. There is a Chinese Buddhist website very good, very good. So there’s plenty of information. But just to run through it briefly because for this to make sense for this to be true, you have to know about this and practice it. If you just say oh thank you buddha, thanks a million. I’m so glad that you purified all my negative imprints, well it’s silly. It’s not true. And so to look upon those deeds of the past. It could be early early past, it could be this morning and look upon it with regret, with the awareness that, this does give rise to harmful consequences. I picked this off the Chinese website and I’m going to send it out. This is a really good snippet and it’s from a Chinese Buddhist source. But as a source of intelligent regret, not guilt, as the person who crafted this web site said. It’s very good and it’s a very positive and creative mental state, aimed at correcting the mistake so we won’t repeat it. I couldn’t say that better myself. It’s really spot on. I love to see that. When dharma is very well portrayed in this public context. [1:06:25]
And then, so there’s the first step. Power of reliance I’m just going to read this I don’t think I can do any better. The power of reliance is to correct our mistakes or negative actions directed towards either the four jewels, that would include the guru, or other sentient beings, and then correspondingly if we somehow engage in some improper unwholesome action toward the four jewels, we take refuge. If our harmful behavior has been directed toward sentient beings, we generate bodhicitta. We rely on the buddha who is our role model. The dharma, that is the teachings of the buddha and the sangha. Well said. That is the power of reliance. The third power the remedy or the antidote. These are positive actions of body speech and mind that we do to purify the negativity. So it’s kind of like matter anti-matter, if you have some matter and you want to obliterate it bring it some anti-matter they both banish, they extinguish each other, they’re gone. So this is building the wall of good karma. This can include kind deeds, chanting mantras, vajrasattva mantra, and so forth, meditation, cultivating compassion, and the dedication of merit of what we’ve done to help anyone we may have harmed. Beautifully said, I mean really spot on. This is what makes this come true, and then absolutely crucially, is the fourth one the power of resolve, the translations are really good too. This is our ongoing determination never to repeat the negative action and then not doing it. So just bravo, I love to see dharma well articulated. And that is superbly well articulated. That’s how this happens. That by receiving the teachings of the buddha, learning how to purify, these negative imprints, past karma, then they can be indeed all freed. But the next one really is a moment to pause. You accomplish everything you intend. Ok well in that case let’s all go out and buy lottery tickets. Collectively we’ll find the biggest lottery ticket, and we’ll collectively buy and we’re going to cash in because Karma Chagme knows what he is talking about. I intend to win the lottery. Just by the way, I loved this one when I heard about it. We had a great big one a while back in America. Hundreds of millions and I saw a statistic that the chances of winning that lottery were the same as being eaten by a shark and struck by lightning at the same time. [laughter] So it’s possible [continues laughing] it’s about that big. So clearly this can be silly. But then this is not a silly man writing it. It comes from deep sources. So let’s just linger there a moment. You accomplish everything you intend. Well of course talking about intentions in dharma, it can’t be hedonia. For the obvious fact it’s been known throughout all of human history bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. And it has happened, is happening, it’s going to happen again. The fact that you’re very virtuous, you may be saintly, you may be a great sage, oh there were many great lamas who were tortured to death in Tibet just for starters. And so many other cases, so let’s not be silly. But involved in this taking of refuge, it really is kind of a revolution, it’s a reorienting of one’s whole way of viewing reality, one’s priorities, one’s way of life, if that doesn’t’ happen then the refuge never really took place. It was simply a ceremony that came and went. But when there’s a carry through from just that, of truly taking refuge and continuing in it, that means you’re devoting yourself to practice which means you’re prioritizing. Prioritizing dharma over the pursuit of hedonic pleasure, the cultivation of eudomonia over the pursuit of hedonia. And there’s going to be a major shift takes place, over time or sometimes quite suddenly. And what are your aspirations? What are your aspirations? [1:09:25]
And insofar as they’re hedonic then good luck, good luck. Because within the context of this life there’s just no telling, unless you’re clairvoyant there’s just no telling. I know people who are extremely well educated and very intelligent and they just fail and fail and fail. I’ve seen that happen. And other people it’s just dumb luck. Or they’re just gifted or just great things happen to them. There is no predicting it. So for hedonia it really is the great casino of samsara. There’s just no telling who’s going to be succeeding in the hedonic pursuits. Who’s going to get rich, famous, powerful, and so forth, succeed in a myriad of ways. Who’s going to live a long life and be really healthy and so on. There is no way of telling. Within the context of this life you could just say it’s dumb chance or if you take the big picture ok karma but then who knows what the karma is. So that’s not in our control. What happens to us is not in our control. But the cultivation of eudomonia that’s something where we can actually get in the driver seat, priorities start to shift. They shift, motivations arise, renunciation, bodhicitta and insofar as the intentions align with reality, that they are authentic intentions, that’s one of the eightfold noble path, authentic intention. Right up there with authentic view. Authentic intention, insofar as authentic intentions arise that are rooted in reality and actually would give rise to the happiness you seek for yourself and others, as you carry through with them, it’s at that moment as we bring an authentic intention to reality, that reality rises up to meet us. If we bring an inauthentic intention to reality, good luck. There’s just no telling. There’s just no telling, good luck. But it’s the tango, it’s that tango, call it whatever you like, a dance, it’s that interaction, it’s that participation, there’s a reciprocity there. And if we rise to it then reality rises to us. If we don’t, we have good days and bad days, lucky days and unlucky days. And so that’s what he’s really talking about I think is your motivations start to become deeper, more authentic and you can speak more generically, more impersonally of reality rising up to meet you. I’ve told so many times, I can say it in one sentence but when I was twenty one really needed a teacher it took four hours before the delivery man came. You know that was fast, if you haven’t heard this story you’ll find it in the podcast someplace. But it was so sincere, it was genuine I really wanted a teacher and four or five hours later, there he was. And we remained in contact for decades after that. And then one thing led to another and to another and to another. That really caught my attention. That the chances of that happening just out of sheer accident, and then the next thing happening out of sheer accident and the next one and the next one after a while you say come on, let’s be realistic here. This is too much, there is no explanatory power to say oh it’s mere accident, you just start sounding stupid after a while, like are you not seeing this. And if I were I alone I might say wow, I must be somebody really special. But of course I’m not. I’ve seen this in so many other cases. But it comes down to motivation again and again and again. It’s always that. So we can think of it impersonally in this way, it’s fine. But it’s also authentic to think of really receiving blessings, receiving blessings from your guru, really receiving blessings from your personal deity, that manifestation of the buddha that speaks most closely to your heart. Whether Tara, Guru Rinpoche, whoever it may be. That actually really makes sense that actually is very real. And it brings the warmth, the sense of trust, the sense of faith of devotion really comes, then when you see that, you’re not just believing it, but you see it. And I listen. I’m on the internet a lot with friends of mine, students of mine around the globe, and it just keeps on happening again and again, I’ve seen it so many times. The need is there, the sincerity, the purity of motivation, the prayer for blessings comes and then lo and behold you know it happens. If it happened once or twice I’d say well you know good things happen on occasion but when it happens consistently then you think wow maybe there’s really some very deep truth there. [1:14:25 ]
So you accomplish everything you intend, your mindstream becomes endowed with great merit, true, you’re not afflicted, I skipped one, you’re not afflicted by human or non human obstructive forces. You recall that there was a commentary, I’ll just recite it very briefly; when karma is maturing, well that’s the time that the force is there it’s going to play itself out. But there are many types of forces, adversities, suffering, so forth that are not a maturation of karma. So I cited that there are now more obese people than people who are underweight. Well everybody’s who is even literate knows that if you’re obese it has major health disadvantages. So if you suffer diabetes and heart you know hypertension and so forth and so on because you are terribly overweight, is your diabetes and hypertension is that because of past karma? Some negative karma you’ve accumulated from a past life? Come on. No. It’s because you’re fat, stupid. I don’t mean, I’m not denigrating anybody, people are obese or people are like... you know, it’s a problem. But it’s not an inevitable problem. It’s not something that just happens to us out of the blue. And so no there are many things we do in this life, it’s not karma. Eat rotten food you get diarrhea, that’s not karma, it was rotten food. Insult somebody and they retaliate, that’s not karma, they don’t like what you said, they’re getting back at you, that’s not karma. You can see it happening right here, right. And so there are a lot of things we’re doing in this life that have repercussions, good and bad, and there are negative things that could happen to us and they may be averted by taking refuge. So that’s what he is getting at there. And you do not descend to miserable states of existence. Well, yeah, we’ve all done negative things in the past but if you purify then you’ve burnt the seeds of that which would throw you down. So it’s not just the buddha rescuing you and saving you from the pits. He’s shown you the way with the dharma and then you purify those seeds that might throw you down. And then you swiftly manifestly achieve perfect enlightenment. Good, so that’s a bit of commentary to that. [1:17:31]
And now we move to bodhicitta with ten minutes to go. But we’re not going to go very far, I just felt this is not something to rush through. It’s easy to. You know I was an academic for some time and in the buddhist studies and I know a lot of, and I went to the American Academy of Religion national annual conference and so forth so I knew the scene I was there for as a graduate student six years and as a lecturer for four. And something very common it’s just everywhere in buddhist studies and I’m sure it’s elsewhere, is when you’re writing your dissertation, you’re writing a paper, you find something really gnarly, something tough, something that’s really challenging like that. Show me the academic paper on loving kindness. You know, boring, I understand that, why would anyone want to write a paper about loving kindness? How about the difference between the Sautrantika madhyamika and the prasangika madhyamaka and exactly what is the object to be negated? Now that I can get my teeth into. Maybe I can even get tenure. Or at least get published so I don’t perish. So that tends to be you know, the tendency is to go for that tough side, the part that really challenges the intellect and so forth. Shamatha is widely ignored, I mean I haven’t, I did my dissertation on shamatha, but I was the only one. [laughs] I don’t think anybody else has. Shamatha, that’s easy, nine stages, blah, blah, blah where is the mystery of that, that’s not interesting. Next! And we are looking for something gnarly. Well, seven point mind training. How many dissertations are there on the Seven Point Mind Training? And as in academia, I’m not putting down academia, that’s just how it works. Not a criticism, it’s just how it works. And you won’t probably get your dissertation accepted if you write something that’s you know, that’s from your heart. That’s not what they do, they write from up here. And I, coming from a Christian background, if you look for loving kindness, compassion and so forth in Christianity well, just throw a rock in any direction. It’s everywhere. There are examples, embodiments of it, great beings who embody loving kindness and compassion. There are teachings on it that are splendid, that are deep, there is plenty of that. So when I went into Buddhism I was looking for something I hadn’t seen before. And then I’m looking for shamatha, I’m looking for vipashyana, dzogchen, mahamudra, stage of generation, tantra you know stuff that wasn’t part of my repertoire. So but that all suggests a kind of a bias. [1:20:10]
We come back to bodhicitta but let’s see if we can approach it, I’m going to do this right now, approach it as if for the first time. Why not? So Karma Chagme Rinpoche, this great scholar, great being, great adept, great teacher, great writer too. He said, now I shall discuss the generation of the Mahayana aspiration. Generally in terms of aspirations there are Hinayana and Mahayana aspirations. I’ve clarified that point so I don’t need to do it again. It’s not about this school and that school, it’s about what’s your motivation. And you are a follower of the Hinayana if as in the case the first is the generation the aspiration for enlightenment for the sake of your own peace and happiness. Which relatively speaking entails a small scale path. And really let’s not be too quick to deprecate that. If you’re suffering, what’s more natural than to want to stop suffering? And what’s wrong with that? And if you see internally, I’m perpetuating my own suffering with my own delusion, craving and hostility, what’s wrong with wanting to be free? As quickly as possible. And frankly my answer to that is I don’t see anything wrong with that at all. But for the moment what we attend to is reality. And if what I’m attending to, what I’m fixated on, is my suffering and my causes of suffering and my freedom, well, what am I not attending to? Everybody else’s. And if I existed independently there might be some rationale for that. But if I don’t, I find it hard to find a rationale for that. So in the sravakayana context I’ll use that because it’s not Theravada or Havasatavada or any historical school, Sravakayana it’s in the abstract. And again you could be calling yourself a vajrayana practitioner and wear a big hat, and have a great big bell and vajra, and know all the rituals and you may be a complete sravaka. Following the sravakayana, if it’s all about you, then that’s it, you know. So he’s not talking about a sectarian issue here. So there’s two. And in that sravakayana context, if you ask, and this is a true statement I’ve seen it, if you ask, why are you cultivating the four immeasurables? What’s the primary purpose in the context of sravakayana, or historical context of that -Theravada. It’s true I’ve seen it in Theravada literature. It is one historical school that bears much in common with sravakayana. Why are you cultivating the four immeasurables? Or the four bhadamahadas? Why are you doing that? And the answer is, in that context so that I can purify my mind and achieve liberation quickly. Because insofar as I feel an unevenness, I’ve seen this, it’s not a deprecation, but that’s why you do it, because you are after all seeking your own liberation, to become liberated and never return to samsara. That’s the idea, right. But insofar as my mind is bumpy, uneven, that is I really like some people, I care for some people but don’t care for others. I feel compassion for these really poor people over here but these victimizers, can’t stand those people. I take empathetic joy in the good people but not for those nasty people and equanimity is nowhere to be found. Then if that’s my modus operandi, and I’m practicing shamatha vipashyana, those are going to provide major major obstacles. I will not be free. So if I want to be free I need to level that all out. Level that all out, level out attachment and aversion so that I can cut to the root of delusion and be free. So true statement, because again the unavoidable fact is if one is following sravakayana, you’re doing so to achieve liberation and never come back. For the upside of that it’s good not to be suffering, downside of that, you have left everybody else behind. So in this regard it’s not bad it’s just small scale, it’s limited. What Hina means, [in Hinayana] it’s just lesser compared to something greater. It is said that the aspirations of the sravakas and the pratyekabuddhas are fundamental obstacles to the attainment of enlightenment, the enlightenment of a buddha. They’re not obstacles to achieving the liberation of a sravaka or a pratyeka buddhahood and the pratyeka buddha of course is simply someone who is following a path with the aspiration that in their final life, in which in the lifetime in which they achieve liberation, they will do so without reliance upon any other human teacher. They will be solitary realizers as the aspiration. And there are these historical cases of that and there are many historical cases of sravaka arhats. But if that’s your focus, it that’s your aspiration that’s your intention, this is all about my becoming free. And everybody else has you know, that opportunity too. If I can help you I will, but this is what I can do. This is possible and that is - my liberation is possible and I’m focusing on that. Then insofar as it is focused on one’s own peace and happiness then that’s going to obstruct the emergence of an aspiration that is embracing all sentient beings in one’s motivation. [1:25:35]
And then another quote: Devoid of skilfull means and lacking wisdom, you descend to the level of sravakas. Ok, skilfull means, skilfull means is bodhicitta above all. And lacking wisdom, lacking the wisdom of emptiness, lacking the wisdom of the profound interdependence the pratityasamutpada, nature of all beings, and lacking that then you may regard yourself as, and there’s an irony here, on the one hand you are striving for your own peace and happiness, on the other hand the person for whom you’re striving, has no self existence. It’s ironic. But it is possible. Intellectually sounds that’s a conundrum. Practically it does happen. I know people, I have had the very good fortune to correspond with some of the leading Theravada scholars, Bhikkhu Bodhi is outstanding but there are others I’ve corresponded with as well I won’t list names, but they’re really really good. It’s my privilege to have correspondence with them. I respect each one of them. They’re fine practitioners. And it was one of them, I’ll just leave his name anonymous, but he comments that among his fellow Theravada monastic scholar peers and friends there are some who envision, and they articulate this, they defend this, that when an arhat dies one achieves arhatship, achieve nirvana and then you die you become an arhat without remainder. There are those very intelligent, well informed, knowledgeable Theravada scholars, some today, that say look the buddha said the continuum of your five skandhas is cut, not only your body but your mind and consciousness itself including mental consciousness, the continuum of all five skandhas is terminated forever. That’s what it says. There’s no wiggle room there. When the arhat dies the continuum of these conditioned five skandhas is terminated forever. And so there are those who, and the buddha doesn’t refer to in the Pali Canon, any dimension of consciousness that lingers on afterwards. There’s no reference to that anywhere and I’ve spoken with world class, they all agree, there is no reference in the Pali Canon to some dimension or continuum of consciousness that carries on individually after an arhat has died. Nowhere to be found. They would know it, I wouldn’t, but these people are really first rate scholars, I’m not, I’m not a scholar at all, I just look on the outside. And so there are those who then therefore conclude when an arhat dies the arhat becomes annihilated, they’re called annihilationists. Because they figure that’s the final outcome. You have some years, months, days whatever after you’ve achieved nirvana and before you die. Enjoy it while it lasts, but then when you’re dead you’re dead as a doornail. I mean just deader than a doornail. I mean at least a doornail is a doornail. You’re not anything at all, you become nothing right. And so my correspondent, I could mention his name there’s nothing wrong with that but I’ll keep it anonymous, he said I disagree with that. And he’s a really good scholar and he gives sources. This is why, when the buddha refers to nirvana it’s not just cessation, he speaks of it in positive terms. And so how then could it just be sheer annihilation? So, but there are then annihilationists and there are others but then when I address my learned colleague and friend, whom I’ve never met, but we’ve corresponded over the years, I said but what is your assertion then if you’re not an annihilationist, then what do you posit, continues on? And he said - I can’t say. The buddha doesn’t say. And that’s legitimate. I have nothing to criticize there. This topic is addressed in the Mahayana. And so this is what he’s getting at here. [1:29:39]
So they, the sravakas and the pratyekabuddhas, they may attain the states of enlightenment corresponding to their own paths, the culmination of the sravaka path the pratyekabuddha path but they cannot achieve ultimate enlightenment. You cannot achieve the enlightenment of a buddha with the intention to achieve liberation just for yourself. It won’t happen. So here it is necessary to strive to generate the Mahayana aspiration if you wish to become a buddha. You will not succeed if your motivation is I want to achieve buddhahood, perfect enlightenment, because it sounds really really good and I want it. [laughter] You know for me, that won’t be enough. You can be practicing all the six perfections but they won’t be six perfections if it’s motivated by still a self centered motivation. So, we’ll pause there. But this, this is why he finished the whole path and then he came back and this is the first topic he addressed. This is worth lingering on. And happily Glenn is here, as you can see it is six o’clock now so once again no time for discussions this afternoon. But Glenn is very knowledgeable, I’m sure there are others here just as well, but Glenn I know is very knowledgeable. And this is bound to raise questions. I mean if you’re very familiar with it you will say oh yeah this is all familiar, cool. But if you’re not and questions arise, we’re not here to indoctrinate anybody, but if you’d like to have greater clarification about this qualms arise then Glenn has kindly offered to have question and answer sessions once or twice a week? Three times a week, ohhh. Mazeltov, three times a week and he’s very knowledgeable and he is a person you can rely on. I’m sure if he doesn’t know the answer he is going to say I don’t know. I love saying that, I really do. Because there is one point where I just feel that I’m invulnerable. If I say I don’t know - go ahead and refute me, knock yourself out. [laughter] Go ahead try. You don’t stand a chance. I’ve won the debate already. I am ignorant and I stand my ground. And so there we are. So if Glenn doesn’t know the answer then he will tell you. If it comes back to me and I don’t know the answer I’ll tell you that as well. But then I maybe can refer you because I know people much more erudite and wiser than I am. OK. so very good, but as we’ll see in the coming pages just a sneak preview. He’s addressing something that is relevant to every person here. And that is even for those of you to some extent, those of us who have the good fortune in the near future to be able to go off to, you know for months maybe longer in full time retreat. That’s a wonderful opportunity. For people listening by podcast, for most of us here, that’s not what reality is dishing up on May 25th right. Another way of life, and what he’s getting at here is really and is maybe the most important chapter of anything we do for the next eight weeks, for what comes after this retreat, and that is he cites a letter to a king. Or teachings to a king who has a lot of responsibilities. And he must fulfill them otherwise he must step down. And if you have many responsibilities in life and you have very little time for the cushion, sitting quietly in your room, shamatha, vipashyana what have you, if you have many responsibilities that you, like a very good king, find meaningful, that you embrace, you do not accept it grudgingly; you’re taking care of your children, I don’t think that’s grudgingly, and so forth. Then how can you authentically embrace the view and a way of life that gives you the sense rooted in reality that your practice is every bit as dedicated as full time and potentially as transformative as a person who is living in total solitude, engaging in full time solitary practice. How can there be a complete parity between those two? And possibly of course you might be actually more transformative. Because there is no guarantee going into solitude it’s going to bring a bounty of transformation, there’s no guarantee at all. And so in that big topic, that’s already in the minds of some of you, it should be in the minds of all of us, how can I see that there’s just this complete saturation of my life with dharma when I leave this retreat. During this retreat it’s like well there’s nothing else to do here anyway. You know so it’s kind of easy. But when there are many demands on our time, responsibilities and so forth how can we have that sense - today I’ve just lived in dharma all day and tomorrow I wake up in the morning and I’ve just entered into the stream of dharma and I just swim in that stream all day and day after day it’s as if you’re in full retreat but yet you’re fully present in the world. How can that be something that is not just lip service? Say - oh my life is dharma, which is just so easy to say, and he gives us a clue right here. Bodhicitta, bodhicitta, he makes it just a word but he really unpacks it. How this can be real I don’t believe Kunu Lama Rinpoche I don’t know much about his life but I don’t think he went off for years and years of retreat, don’t think so. Outstanding scholar, great being, great teacher, great scholar, great teacher of the bodhicaryavatara to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Whew, don’t think he spent much time in retreat. That’s pretty impressive. So, he must have taken what he had and so infused it that when His Holiness saw him he prostrated. Wow! That really moved me when I read that. Wow! That’s something. And of course then he prostrated right back. Oh yeah, enjoy your evening, see you tomorrow morning.
Transcribed by KrissKringle Sprinkle
Revised by Cheri Langston
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti