04 Apr 2016
This afternoon we finish the cycle of four immeasurables by meditating on equanimity. Alan says that this is the grand finale, the indispensable basis for bodhicitta. Equanimity has different meanings in different contexts but in the context of our practice it means the even-heartedness when attending to other people, other sentient beings. As long as we attend to people as objects, some appear agreeable and others disagreeable. The point of this practice is to place ourselves in the position of others, in their shoes, to see things from their perspective. If we do so, it appears that we all act out of a wish to be free from suffering and to find happiness. The motivation is the same, while the behaviour is different. And the difference is the degree to which one is subject to mental afflictions. As we seek to develop this even sense of caring, equanimity arises, and the heart opens equally to all sentient beings. If one can attend to the whole spectrum of beings - from those who seem to come from hell realms to those who act like sources of pure land - this is immeasurable equanimity. Alan introduces the meditation by explaining that in the preceding practices we were sending out the light of loving kindness and compassionately taking in the suffering of others. In the practice of equanimity we shall combine the two - sending out and taking in - in one practice known in Tibetan as tonglen.
The meditation is on Equanimity.
After the meditation, Alan briefly comments on how the four immeasurables act as remedies when one of them goes astray. So when loving kindness descends into self-centred attachment the remedy is equanimity. Then we return to Karma Chagme’s text “Naked Awareness” page 28. Alan explains that when the first ground (bhumi) is reached and the ultimate bodhicitta arises it means that the arya bodhisattva has the first unmediated realisation of emptiness. This is the Sutrayana Mahayana interpretation. In Dzogchen (and Mahamudra) view relative bodhicitta is the same but ultimate bodhicitta means the direct realisation of rigpa (i.e. primordial consciousness), not of emptiness. In Dzogchen ultimate bodhicitta is equated with rigpa. When resting in rigpa relative bodhicitta arises, so there is no alternating between relative and ultimate bodhicitta, because they are non-dual. Further in the text Alan comments on the aspirational and engaged bodhicitta and explains the two lineages of taking the bodhisattva vows. He also points out that while monastic vows are valid for one life only and can be given back, the bodhisattva precepts are taken until enlightenment. However, this also means that by taking them one is in a way “hooked” to the path for all future rebirths, because one has “unfinished business”. Commenting on giving away one’s wealth before taking the precepts, Alan explains that the important thing is to give away all attachments. As an example, he tells the story of Milarepa and his lame goat. Subsequently, Alan provides a more detailed commentary on the ritual of purification and accumulation of merit described in “Naked Awareness” (page 29). He underlines that the purification of obscurations and the accumulation of merit never ends until one is perfectly enlightened, and therefore the preliminary practices should not be treated as something that can be done and finished with, but have to be practiced continuously. As a culmination of today’s teachings, Alan guides the group into taking the bodhisattva vows. After that, to conclude, he discusses the trainings and actions of a bodhisattva and he reads the passage from The Advice to a King Sutra. Alan says that we all are kings in our jobs, families etc. and therefore we should remember that the most important thing is to always have the underlying motivation of bodhicitta. If this motivation is present in all our activities, then even the most simple things like taking a walk, resting or making a tea can mean accumulating merit.
Meditation starts at: 12:12
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Olaso. So it is a good afternoon. So this afternoon, we’ll go to the fourth of the four immeasurables, which from one, a very narrow minded perspective could look like an anticlimax after loving kindness and compassion and equanimity. But when we look at the fourth one with insight, we see it’s exactly the grand finale. It’s the full flowering of these 4 immeasurables and it is the indispensable basis for venturing into the Mahayana, into bodhicitta. Without equanimity, bodhicitta never happens, never happens, impossible. And equanimity of course is not simply a feeling of neutrality, neither happy nor sad. It actually has nothing to do with that. Equanimity, this term ‘upeksha’ in Sanskrit, has different meanings in different contexts. I’ll not give a scholarly exposition of each of the meanings, but suffice it to say, here in this context of the four immeasurable, it is an even -heartedness as we attend to all different types of let’s say people, for the time being. There are people who immediately upon encountering them they are agreeable, let alone their physical appearances, I think it’s kind of superficial, but in terms of how they present themselves, how they engage with us, how they act, the type of attitudes they express, these are much more important than mere bone structure and skin. And so in this regard too, some people are very agreeable. We find they are very pleasant to be with, to engage with and we look forward to seeing them again. And other people perhaps on immediate contact or even knowing them often by way of media, you know, from a distance, we may find their behaviour quite disagreeable and that’s because it is. [laughter] [1:47]
It’s not just prejudice. There’re some kinds of behaviour that are just disgusting, you know, and there are attitudes that are appalling. And the attitudes get expressed and the expressions are appalling. And that’s just a true statement. I mean I can be a Buddha in saying this, it would still be true, because Buddhas also recognise appalling behaviour. The Buddha did of course, he would not be intelligent if he didn’t. So there it is—just a flat out fact that some people’s way of engaging with the world, presenting themselves to the world, their attitudes and others, some are very wholesome, some very unwholesome, some very agreeable, and some very disagreeable. So insofar as we attend to others as objects, that either give us pleasure, or catalyse a sense of pleasure or displeasure, there’s just no question, other people are not even. Some people are much more positive, nicer than others. But the whole point of this practice, this culmination, and that’s why it truly is the culmination, the full flowering of these four immeasurables is to look beyond, to look beyond the appearances, and to look from subject to subject, to almost like jump out of your own shoes and jump into the shoes, into the perspective, into the being of the other person and imagine viewing the reality from their own eyes. And in this regard then, actually we are all the same, in the sense that whoever we are, whatever behaviour we engage in, and I mean the full bandwidth from the diabolical to the angelic, the whole bandwidth, we’re all doing what we do, out of a wish to be happy. And some people when they get into gear and are acting in order to find happiness, the satisfaction and so forth they seek, some people when they get into gear, their behaviour is magnificent and others when they get into gear, their behaviour is diabolical, it’s absolutely evil, but the motivation is the same. They want to be free of suffering. They want to find happiness. [4:02]
So the only difference then let’s say from the diabolical to the celestial, that whole bandwidth of behaviour, really, the only difference is the degree to which sentient beings, we sentient beings are subject to, dominated by mental afflictions. If people pursue their fundamental yearning to find happiness and be free of suffering, then their minds are really let’s say utterly unencumbered, unfiltered, unobscured by mental afflictions, then they’ll just be really nice to be with. And the same person, if you veil that person’s mind with delusion, craving, hostility, it may be unbearable to be in their presence.. But the motivation’s the same. But then nobody ever chooses to have mental afflictions. Nobody ever wakes up with a pure mind and says - this is boring, let’s have mental afflictions today. Never happens. Any more than a person wakes up one morning and says -I’m just tired of being healthy, I think I like to have terminal cancer. Just something different for a change. Nobody ever has. And so as disease alights upon or comes to an individual unwelcome and uninvited, so do mental afflictions come up, unwelcome and uninvited. [5.21]
So the first victim of the mental affliction is not those who are the recipients of this person’s harmful behaviour outside. The first victim of course is the person who is suffering from the mental afflictions, and the worse of that is that if they don’t even recognise the mental affliction as a mental affliction. Then they’re not only mentally afflicted, but they are delusional. And I mean in the technical sense of the term. They’re delusional, they are fundamentally out of touch with reality. If you don’t even recognise these basic mental afflictions as mental afflictions, diseases, poisons of the mind, then this just gives rise to all the more compassion for such a person who is profoundly delusional. So when we cut to that depth, and without many more words, I’d really like to get to the meditation, but as we seek to cultivate this even-heartedness, this even-mindedness, this even sense of caring, it’s a very nice verb, to care, a very nice word in English, to care, it’s more primal than loving kindness or compassion. [6:22]
Loving kindness has a positive valence. May you find happiness, the cause of happiness, we smile when we think of that. May you be free of suffering and the cause of suffering, the facial of the person will be more sombre. You see people suffering from the causes of suffering, but more primal, more root-like, more fundamental than the derivative of loving kindness and compassion is simply caring, and so it’s that sense of caring, of wishing and then expressing yourself derivatively as the wish that others may be free of suffering, find happiness they seek. It’s on that level, this equanimity is the even extension of caring, however people appear. And we are really experiencing this immeasurable equanimity when the heart is equally open and equally caring. For a person whose behaviour looks like it’s straight from the hell realms. Just, you know, like they just came from the hell realms and they’re just doing the same thing but here. We’ve seen this happen so many times in history. It’s like you’re just inviting hell on earth. Who needs to give examples. We have too many, right? And they’ve happened on all continents. It’ll be nice if only one race were bad and then we could say - oh they’re the bad ones. But no, it’s us, it’s us. All skin colours, all ethnic groups, and so whether it’s that type of behaviour, whether it’s one on one, or creating for all communities hell on earth, which has happened so many times, or whether those who are just creating pure lands by just their sheer presence, you know. I’ve experienced people like that. You feel like you’re in a pure land just by being with that person’s presence because they’re creating that, just by being who they are. That whole bandwidth. If one can attend to this, end of the spectrum in this end of the spectrum, and the heart is equally open in a very sincere way- may you free of suffering and its causes, may you find happiness and its causes, then you’ve found immeasurable equanimity.[8:24]
And that’s the foundation, that’s the foundation for the whole bodhisattva path. That’s it. That’s one of the two, when I was first taught meditation, one on one, just given some some practical instructions, one on one advice, it was first with Geshe Rabten, way back '71, it must be been ‘71, when he gave me just two meditations and this was one of them. He had me just stop right there and he said, Alan, I am giving you the equanimity meditation because if you look back on all of the kind of conflicts, the restlessness, the unhappiness and so forth, you have experienced in your relationships with other people, it always stems from this, the lack of this. The attachment for some, the aversion for others, liking some, disliking others, etc., it stems from that, you know, and of course he was right, and he was also right, this is not easy. But it’s so important that it mustn’t be skipped. So you see it in the preceding meditations when we are practising the loving kindness in both of those modalities that we did, we are sending out, sending out, many of you, but not all of you, are familiar with the inter-Tibetan buddhist practice called tonglen, tonglen. [9:31]
Tong—sending, len—taking. We’re sending out the light of loving kindness, the light of joy, the light of purity, the light of purification, and we are doing this symbolically of course. We are sending this out from our buddha nature or the light of our heart. And len—taking in, we are imagining taking in the darkness of others’ suffering, the cause of their suffering, but not taking in like an ever increasing burden that’s going to break our back if it gets too heavy, but rather taking it in right into the nucleus, and here’s an infinite nucleus, so even if you’re taking in massive evil, this is bigger, and it can consume it, and there’s no trace. So that’s actually a crucial point, that you draw it in and you extinguish it. So we did the tong, the sending out and the loving kindness practice, we did the len, the taking in during the compassion practice. And now we’ll take the two pieces and put them together into tonglen, one practice. And we’ll incorporate that into the cultivation of equanimity, okay? This tonglen is one of the most powerful practices in all of the Indian and Tibetan Buddhism taught magnificently by Shantideva, probably the greatest propagator of this practice in buddhism. And we’ll incorporate this now, which will be the foundation for tomorrow and then venturing into the Mahayana practices—the cultivation of great compassion and so forth. And then it will become clear to everyone here how these are different from and transcend even immeasurable loving kindness, compassion and so forth, and then we will be moving on the fast track to the actual, explicit and direct cultivation of bodhicitta. Okay.
So please find a comfortable posture, and we’ll jump right in. [11:23]
Bell rings. [12:05]
[12:24] In this spirit of equanimity which does indeed have multiple meanings, let’s venture with this practice by settling body, speech and mind in the natural state which means settling each one, the body, the respiration, the mind, in a state of dynamic equilibrium, of evenness, of balance.
[14:39] In the last session, we practiced empathic joy. Perhaps a bit ironically, first of all with respect to ourselves where the word of empathy toward oneself seems a bit strange but nevertheless meaningful. We are in a habit of liking ourselves, not liking ourselves, taking ourselves as a pleasing or unpleasing object, approving and disapproving of this person we call ourselves. But if we have this type of prejudicial or biased attitude towards ourselves, then how is it possible that we would not apply the same to others and respond to them simply in terms of how pleasing or unpleasing, how virtuous and non-virtuous they are? So very briefly, as we start, from inside, recall occasions in your past when some of the worst has come out, strong mental afflictions arises, it dominates, and we lose it. We engage in behaviour that’s really reprehensible. We may really dislike ourselves, even despise ourselves for engaging in such conduct, for being that kind of person. This is aversion, this is hatred. Towards a sentient being who happens to be ourself ... And then think of an occasion where you really brought out the best, a wholesome mind set arises, and what flows forth in terms of your behaviour, your way of speaking and acting is truly good, something you rejoice in. Lovable, noble, you’ve certainly engaged in such behaviour. Think of such an occasion where you really approved of yourself.
[17: 40] And of course there are many such occasions on the negative side, the positive side, the neutral side. Where we’re just getting on, just going about our lives, nothing particularly positive or negative. Here within our own continuum is the full bandwidth, from very negative to the very positive and everything in-between. But what was common, what was the common denominator in all of these manifestations of the person I call myself? And the common denominator is that on all these occasions, however my behaviour manifests, I always wish to be free of suffering. I always wish to find happiness. But sometimes I am more deluded and sometimes, less. Not because I choose to be, it happens.
[19:00] So with loving, even acceptance, an even sense of caring for yourself and all of your varieties, an even-mindedness wishing yourself well, especially when you are afflicted, and wishing yourself to be free of suffering and the inner causes of suffering, develop first of all this even-heartedness, this evenness, this equanimity towards this person over time, whom you designate as yourself. May you be well and happy. May you free of suffering. With each out-breath, breathe out the light of loving kindness, of joy , of and purification to yourself, as you visualise yourself. And with each in-breath, imagine drawing in and extinguishing at this light, in this light at your heart, the suffering to which you are prone and the underlying causes of such suffering. With each in-breath, arouse the aspiration, may I be free. And as you draw in this darkness and extinguish it, imagine becoming free.
[20:58] With every out-breath, imagine finding the happiness you seek as you arouse this loving kindness, this aspiration - may you be truly, truly well and happy.
[22:24] Now let your awareness come to rest in stillness in its own nature. Turn the light of your awareness to the space of your mind, as if you’re about to settle the mind in its natural state, allowing whatever comes to mind to come to mind. Unedited, unselected, uncensored. Open the space of your mind to all sentient beings. Like an invitation to drop in.
[23:37] Then see whoever comes to mind, whether it’s a loved one, an enemy, a neutral person, someone you know well or a stranger, see who comes to mind. And as soon as the appearance of some individual or a group of individuals come to mind, rather than to attending simply to the mental appearance, which is not a sentient being, by way of the appearance, attend to those individuals themselves, the actual human beings, bring them in mind, bring them to mind, attend to them, attending closely.
[24:32] However they may appear, their behaviour, their attitudes, virtuous or non-virtuous, pleasant or unpleasant, attend to the depths, where you feel the equality of yourself and the other person. The depth of caring, the depth, the wish for freedom from suffering and the wish for happiness. And from that depth, the depth of sameness, of equality, as you breathe in, imagine drawing in the darkness of this person or these individuals suffering and the inner causes of suffering. Wishing - may you be free. Then imagine drawing in the darkness and extinguishing it. As you breathe out, breathe out the aspiration of loving kindness, the light of loving kindness. And imagine this light suffusing, embracing, filling this person. Imagine them finding the happiness, that is their innermost heart’s desire beyond the realm of mental afflictions. Breathe in, breathe out.
[27:38] Let the appearance of this person fade back into the space of the mind. Let your awareness rove. See who else comes to mind, whether a friend, whether a very disagreeable person or someone neutral. And let’s continue practising in the same way.
[29:38] Now call to your attention a person who is a member of the community of Lama Tsongkhapa Institute, who has just met with a very tragic and untimely death. It’s created a great deal of sadness, and grief among many people in the community and outside as well. Much sadness. We don’t need to know the name of the person or the conditions under which this person passed away. But you can know this is very much a matter of concern for many, many people in the community just up the road. They know who it is. So bring this specific person to mind without knowing anything about him except that he has just passed away under tragic circumstances. Bring him to mind and his friends, his loved ones, who are grieving. As you breathe in, draw in the darkness of their sadness. And any mental afflictions that might arise, of confusion, for example. With the aspiration, may you all be free, free of suffering and its causes. As you breathe out, breathe out the light of loving kindness. May each of you find the happiness you seek and view this one individual who’s now in the bardo, may you find clarity, may you rediscover your refuge, call on the blessings of the refuge, may you be guided and protected as you enter the next phase of your journey in samsara, may you be well and happy, and encounter all the conducive circumstances for practising and flourishing in the dharma. Breathe in, breathe out.
[32:32] Expand the field of your awareness in all directions. With each in-breath, arouse the aspiration - may we all be free of suffering and its causes. Breathe in the darkness of the world, and extinguish it with every out-breath - may we all find the happiness we seek. May each one be well and happy, and breathe out the light of loving kindness.
[33:27] Let your awareness rest without object, in its own nature. In equanimity.
Bell rings. [34:10]
[37:16] So before we return to the text, just a very brief allusion to the manner in which each of these four immeasurables acts as a natural remedy for each of those four immeasurables when they go astray. Right? So we’ve looked at loving kindness as a remedy for hedonic fixation. Compassion as a remedy for aloof indifference. Empathetic joy for the, how to say, the compassion gone astray to despair. Then finally when loving kindness goes astray, when that goes astray, it just turns into self-centred attachment, just focusing on one’s own well being, everybody else fades out. So we’re back to self centeredness. And, this is kind of natural then. Self centeredness, well, it’s recognising -gosh I’m not the only sentient being on the universe, that I am surrounded by sentient beings, and we’re all the same. On that level, we’re all the same.And therefore it’s just being realistic to care equally for oneself and others, as well as agreeable and disagreeable others. So it’s a very powerful remedy for a very deep distortion of the human mind. [38:22]
So now we do return to this text. This very dense, and I think very rich chapter on Mahayana refuge and bodhicitta. And every paragraph is very, quite packed, so I can’t, I don’t want to rush through it. Here we are on page 28, about 60% of, to the last paragraph of the page, where Karma Chagme writes It is said that by cultivating relative bodhicitta in that way. ‘In that way’ means, in these three ways, for example, the shepherd-like, the helmsman-like, the king-like bodhicitta, in any of those ways. when the first bodhisattva level, the first arya bodhisattva bhumi, bodhisattva ground is reached, the ultimate bodhicitta arises When he says it arises, it fully manifests in all its splendour. Because what he is referring to here is the direct and non-conceptual unmediated realisation of emptiness, of ultimate reality. Prior to that point, you do have realisation on the stage, on the path of preparation for example, immediately preceding this first arya bodhisattva level or ground, you do have realization, but it is still veiled or filtered through conceptualisation. So it’s mediated by concepts, whereas when you become an arya bodhisattva, a bodhisattva who has achieved what’s called the Mahayana path of seeing, achieve the first arya bodhisattva bhumi or ground, at that point for the first time, the bodhisattva has his unmediated realisation of emptiness. And the effects of that are absolutely staggering. [39:41]
The consequences of reaching the first bhumi, the second, third and fourth are found in many texts of classic literature. One that immediately comes to mind in that purely practice context is Gompopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation which has been well translated by one tibetan lama, and right towards the end, he goes to the bhumis and shows how the powers of the mind, just that, the capacities of the mind expand exponentially from one bhumi to the next bhumi to the next bhumi, which is phenomenal. But he is referring to the first here and so he’s saying by gradually cultivating relative bodhicitta up to that point, then when you achieve this first arya bodhisattva bhumi, then ultimate bodhichitta which in this context is direct realization of emptiness, this arises, and that is ultimate bodhichitta. So this is for this general sutrayana or mahayana. That ultimate bodhichitta is the direct non-conceptual realisation of sunyata, which is nirvana, which is dharmadhatu, which is ultimate reality. [40:56]
But now we have another context, within the context of vajrayana, it is said, and it is said that in the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions, that realisation free of conceptual, it is said that realisation free of conceptual elaborations is ultimate bodhicitta. So now in this context, the same word has a somewhat different meaning, and I’ll speak with a lot of confidence about Dzogchen, because I’ve been, I’ve studied and trained in that much more extensively. But there is no question about it. In Dzogchen, when referring, the relative bodhichitta is the same, that’s everywhere it’s the same. But in the Dzogchen context and here we have it from this master of both Mahamudra and Dzogchen, he is putting it in the same category. So in the Dzogchen context and therefore he is saying also in the Mahamudra, ultimate bodhichitta here is referring to the direct unmediated realization of rigpa, of pristine awareness, buddha nature, buddha nature, dharmakaya, dharmakaya, buddha mind, ultimate mind. It is also called [Citta -ta ? 42:00 Tibetan word], the ultimate reality of the mind which is not the same as emptiness, but it is that ultimate dimension of consciousness, which fully realises in a non-dual fashion, does realise emptiness, but instead of realising emptiness from a relative perspective, as it’s done for the arya bodhisattva bhumi, arya bodhisattva, following the sutra path, in this path of Dzogchen, it is ultimate mind realizes ultimate reality. It’s dharmakaya realizing dharmadhatu, and that’s called ultimate bodhichitta. So one could linger here for a long time, I won’t. [42:30]
But in the sutrayana context, it is very widely and very correctly stated, that between these two, the wisdom and skilful means, between ultimate bodhichitta and relative bodhichitta, all along the path, including after you’ve become an arya bodhisattva, the path is really integrating and cultivating synergistically these two elements of the path. The relative bodhicitta and all of the virtues and merit, all the virtues that go along with that, and then ultimate bodhichitta, realization of emptiness. And then you are going in and out, cultivating until finally you achieve enlightenment, and then the duality between these two melts away and they become totally non-dual in perfect awakening. But until then there is, you are shifting back and forth, back and forth from the relative truth to ultimate reality, from relative bodhichitta to ultimate bodhichitta. Whereas in contrast to that, in Dzogchen, they are using the term in a different way. They are equating ultimate bodhichitta with the realization of rigpa. But rigpa is the very source, rigpa, buddha nature, is the actual source of relative bodhichitta. So you don’t look outside of rigpa to cultivate bodhichitta elsewhere because this is its source. Right? So when so defined, there is no balancing between, kind of two equals, ultimate and relative bodhichitta. It’s tapping right into this center from which both of these emerge derivatively. Okay, it’s a bit different. Methodologically, has a different, different ambience, and I can tell you exactly how, precisely, and that is, when you become, when you’ve gained some very profound realisation of rigpa, optimally, non-conceptual, unmediated, you become a vidyadhara, a vidyadhara, which in Dzogchen now corresponds to being an arya bodhisattva, but with this direct realization of rigpa. From that point, when you have this unmediated realisation of rigpa, then you don’t come out of rigpa and then do a lot of activities to try to balance that, because the center is the balance. So from that point, you practice non-meditation, remember that reference to non-meditation this morning? Non-mediation is not doing anything at all. You are resting in rigpa which is a profound non-doing, you are resting in buddha mind, so you do not activate your sentient being’s mind which is still on the path, you don’t activate that, you rest in rigpa, and then simply allow these enlightened qualities to flow out of that center. And what will flow out of that is going to be relative bodhicitta, all the six perfections and everything else arising effortlessly from right of the center. So methodologically, it’s different. It’s different. And non-meditation plays a very, very important role. But it’s important to practise non-meditation only after you realize rigpa. [laughter] And not before. [laughter] [45:27]
We, Californian hippies, we want to hear but we want to have this non-meditation to be at least happy, right after we have gone surfing and had a nice barbecue. Sign up for non-meditation, dude, we like that. But that’s not Dzogchen, that’s just California dreamer. So then we continue. Then there is, okay, again, classic demarcations, you’ll find this, in Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. There is the, here to read it, the spirit of aspiring for spiritual awakening. This is the aspirational bodhichitta. And the spirit of venturing towards spiritual awakening, engaged bodhichitta, so you’ll find different translations. But I’m just going back to the Sanskrit, as you can see, but there’s these two, one is more, is an aspiration, it is the aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all other beings, and the second one is engaged bodhicitta such that with that aspiration, you are now entering into the practice, and it’s applied. It’s like getting in the car in gear and you are on the road, rather than sitting at a stop and wishing, aspiring to go some place. So an extensive way of cultivating each of these separately, these two types of bodhichitta, is presented in the lineage stemming from Maitreya through Acharya Asanga. And that is the five works of Maitreya that were revealed by way of Asanga. So there’s one whole lineage there for developing bodhichitta and this starts by viewing all sentient beings as being your mothers and fathers. Proceeds from there. Classic practice. So that’s one lineage. And if you are following that lineage from Maitreya to Asanga, and then it makes its way into Tibetan Buddhism and all the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, if you are following that lineage, for this one must have any of the kinds of vows of individual liberation, these are the pratimoksha, this means having either lay precepts, precepts of a novice or precepts of a fully ordained monk or nun. You must have these basic precepts of individual liberation, and the bodhisattva vows do not arise without having a spiritual friend who knows the collection of the bodhisattva sutras. So this lineage then when you want to take the bodhisattva precept, the bodhisattva vow, then you must do so from a guru who is qualified, who knows the bodhisattva teachings and practices, and then grants you the bodhisattva precept or vow. Just as if you’re taking monastic vows, you must receive that from someone who has them. If you receive vajrayana samayas, vajrayana vows, then you must receive them from someone who has them, right?. And so it is for this lineage of the bodhisattva. [48:09]
The ritual for taking the precepts of aspiring bodhichitta and engaged bodhichitta simultaneously is presented in the lineage stemming from Manjusri through Nagarjuna and Shantideva. So here’s the second lineage, here’s the second lineage. Where you take the precepts for both in one ritual and this lineage comes from Manjusri by way of visionary experience, to Nagarjuna and through the continuum, through the lineage to Shantideva, from Shantideva of course on into Tibetan Buddhism and so there are these two lineages. In this latter lineage, the one that we have by way of Shantideva, the vows, the bodhisattva vows may arise in anyone. So that is our present tradition. So as Gyatrul Rinpoche says in this commentary here, for the second lineage, the second tradition, you don’t necessary have to have the vows of individual liberation. You don’t need to have lay precepts, or have monastic precepts. And moreover, you don’t necessary have to have a person, a living person from whom you receive them. You may just take them in your mind’s eye. You may simply invite in your mind’s eye - the buddha, a host of the bodhisattvas, and you may just receive them directly, right there, without a human intermediary from whom to receive the precepts. So it’s very well known in Tibetan Buddhism. [49:40]
So as the basis for bodhichitta, as the basis for bodhichitta, it is necessary to accumulate masses of merit so you must bring a lot of, a lot of momentum here, spiritual momentum to taking this rather formidable step of taking the bodhisattva precept. I mean you’re making a vow, like if you take the monastic precepts, like 36 novice precepts, or 253 precepts of a fully ordained monk, you take those only for the duration of your life. As soon as you are dead, then you are free of those precepts. It was only until you stop breathing. Then you don’t have the precepts anymore. So you take them only from now until death. Or if some circumstances change for whatever reason, outer and inner, for the monastic precepts, and you feel it’s not in my best interest, or the best interest of dharma and so forth, to maintain this way of life as a monk, then you may formally give back your precept. That doesn’t mean breaking them, in fact, there’s fault in formally, properly giving back the precept, you may do so, and then you’re a layperson.
I have done that. I was a monk for 14 years. Circumstances changed. I make my decision. I actually haven’t regretted it, nor have regretted the very, very wonderful fourteen years that I was a monk. But you offer them back formally. The bodhisattva precept is another order of magnitude, rather large. And that is, I don’t know of any ritual to give back the precepts. I don’t know, I don’t think there is any such ritual. I would have heard of it by now. So there’s no way back. You take them, this is irreversible. But also the precept continues beyond this life. You’re taking this precept, this vow to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all beings. And the vow is for now until as they say until I reach the essence of enlightenment. This is my precept, so that’s quite formidable. But it’s also quite magnificent. Because in making such a vow, this is now going to be the thread, that vow, that commitment, that unfinished business, that can be the thread, the continuity that brings you back to life to life to life. Because you are not finished yet. And so that can be what keeps, the hook that keeps on catching you from lifetime to lifetime. Which is a very good hook, right? So that’s the upside to this. That you really have unfinished business until you are a buddha. I like that unfinished business, until it’s finished. [52:04]
So the second tradition, in my experience in the Tibetan tradition when receiving the bodhisattva precepts, I’ve always received this, as far as I know, always from this second lineage. So, but in order to get there, so you’re really ripe, it is suitable, it is now appropriate for you to take this step of taking the bodhisattva precepts, then a great deal of merit is needed. And so he comments here in the past a very wealthy bodhisattvas offered 10 million temples and wish fulfilling gems. Okay. That’s a lot. [laughter]. And then generated bodhichitta for the very wealthy ones, you know. And then those lacking wealth, offer discarded clothes and straw lamps, whatever they had, that was the best they could offer, discarded clothes, lamps they would offer that, then they generated bodhichitta. Those people who had very meager possessions, and those who had not possessions at all, they generated bodhichitta simply while pressing their palms together. So, of course, the buddhas don’t care, the buddhas don’t need your temples, your clothes, or your folded palms, but the point here is very simple. Wealthy people, I think just generally, while pointing fingers, wealthy people tend to be attached to wealth. Otherwise, they probably won’t have it in the first place, or they wouldn’t still have it. [laugher] They would have given it away, you know. And so it’s quite natural. I think we all understand that, if we have something, I like my cellphone, whatever, I like it, I want to keep it, and that’s just a cellphone. If I, you know, if I owned Apple I’d probably want to keep Apple too. [laughter] All the free cell-phones I’d ever want for life, wooh. So the whole point is whatever you are attached to, whether it is your wealth, your family, your homeland, your body, your speech, your mental abilities, your accomplishments, your successes, your virtues, whatever you are attached to, give it all away, give it all away to cut the ties of attachment, but it is not just like throwing it away. Like I don’t care, like throwing it in the dustbin, but rather it’s releasing it, and in so releasing it, offering it, you are dedicating it all to perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Basically, an investment. It’s directing it all there, okay. So it becomes the all consuming aspiration. [54:42]
There was a nice story from Milarepa after he committed this horrendous act of killing many people as an act of vengeance, and he struggled, he was one of those who really struggled to find the path. He really struggled, and then eventually he found, he learned of an authentic teacher, Marpa, right? And he knew this is it, I mean he knew he’d done some really really awful things, and he knew he had a lot of purification to do, but he also had tremendous aspiration in pure renunciation. And he knew he had found an authentic teacher, the great Marpa, the great translator. And so he was all in, a nice phrase, he’s all in. When he is seeking out Marpa, he knows, okay, this is it, I mean it’s this one or nobody, this one or I’m lost, this one or I’m screwed. That karma’s going to come up and I’m going to be overwhelmed by it. And so it’s this or nothing, you know. And so he didn’t have many possessions but he had some, and he got all his possessions together and then he went off to see Marpa. And he said, everything I have I offer to you, except, left one thing behind, a lame goat, he had a lame goat. He didn’t think Marpa would have any use for a lame goat. It was kind of a crappy gift. So he left the lame goat behind, not because he was attached to it, he thought it was an unworthy gift. And he gave everything else and Marpa said, “where is the goat?” [laughter]. “I want the goat. Bring me the goat. Okay, now we are done, and yes, now I will guide you. And now roll up your sleeves. This is going to be a tough path for you.” It was. But when you have pure renunciation, all the obstacles just melt away over time. And there he is the most beloved yogi in all the whole history of Tibet, and so that’s it. Give up even the lame goat. [56:08]
So, and then here’s classic practice, really really classic, does not have a liturgy here, it just goes to the meaning. There are many liturgies. One, one is a beautiful one from the Dudjom lineage, from the Dzogchen tradition but there’s really nothing sectarian about it but it does focus on Padmasambhava. It’s the 7-limb puja, the 7-limb worship, the 7-limb devotion. Elizabeth right there? She has a copy of this. It’s one but there are many. There are many. And they are classic and they’re practised in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s very balanced, it’s very balanced, purification and accrual of merit in one, in one how do you say, integrated devotion, which is very, very good. Very, very good. And one thing I really like, and number one, it’s just absolutely classic, it is taught by Shantideva and practised by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s just immensely meaningful and rich and balanced, but also one thing I like about it is that it doesn’t entail any counting. [laughter] You are not counting a hundred thousand of this and ten thousand of that. You are just doing this everyday. You are just doing this and doing this deeper and deeper and deeper. This one thing I really appreciate about the Gelugpa tradition especially, and that is, that they too all do accumulations a hundred thousand of Vajrasattva mantra and so forth. But I know from the teachers I’ve trained in the Gelugpa tradition they speak of these preliminaries such as exactly such as this one, or there are others as well, and they say, look, you need to keep on purifying obscurations and accruing merit until you are a buddha. Up till the day you achieve buddhahood, there’s still more to be purified and there’s still more merit to be accumulated. So don’t think this is something you get over. Or you have to do and now thank goodness, I’ve finished with my preliminaries. Phew. I’ve just made it through the last set of a hundred thousand, and now I can move on to the good stuff. I really think, maybe this is crass but I think of this as you know that view is like trying to get into a sorority or a fraternity on campus. First, they make you eat 12 raw eggs and run through the snow naked, shouting: “I am so pretty, I am so pretty, as pretty as pretty can be,” you know, something totally humiliate you. And you really don’t want to do but you really want to get into the fraternity, right? And then when it’s over, you’re in. Thank goodness, I’ll make the next sucker suffer for him to get in the same fraternity. And it’s all over the place. Not my generation but I think my parents’ generation, big time. I never got into fraternity. [laughter]. It’s probably why my emotional growth is still stunted. But in any case, it’s just eerily reminiscent of something I’ve never experienced. [laugher]. And that is being hazed, in American English, it’s called being hazed before you can get into fraternity. I mean, it’s doing something you really don’t want to do at all, but you really want to be in the in-crowd. You want to be able go to all the empowerments, and get the initiations, get the secret teachings, the good stuff, and not the stuff for the general public, like that. So I think it’s kind of, frankly, it’s a silly attitude towards the preliminaries which are anything but silly. So here there’s no numbers, there’s no accumulation, there’s just this is very meaningful practice. And we’ll go through them very quickly. It’s very simple, many of you are familiar with it, and there are many, many liturgies, they are all good and they are all meaningful. And this as a daily practice is really wonderful, very balanced—purification and accumulation of merit. [59:57]
So the principal ways to accumulate masses of merit are the seven-fold devotion. First of all, it’s homage, it’s paying homage and this really comes by reflecting upon the noble qualities of the buddha, the dharma, the sangha, the guru, and virtues of especially the worthy objects of refuge. Reflecting upon their qualities, appreciating, aspiring to embody those qualities. And then while doing so with this heart of reverence, of devotion, then imagine emanating your body as many times as there are many atoms on earth, imagine just multiplying yourself, and all of these embodiments of yourself, each one making prostrations to the buddha, the dharma and the sangha. So the first one is homage. The second one is set your sights, your direction, what do you revere, what is the focus where you are going? It’s not simply revering someone else, it’s revering the fruition of the path to enlightenment, which is your aspiration. And then, secondly, offerings for the same reason I mentioned before, giving up all attachment to everything you are attached to and directing it all towards the path. So using the offerings you’ve laid out here simply as a basis for your visualisation, like this lovely altar right behind me. So there it is, it’s quite simple, quite lovely, but simple. Use this as a basis, and then on that basis, then you do do visualisation, where you just let your imagination play, you let your imagination soar. And imagine them to be of the nature of your bodies,possessions and roots of virtue, everything you are attached to, everything good in your life. And imagine these all in the aspect of the cloud-like offerings of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra. Filling the entire universe. So if you really get into this it can be a lot of fun. You just visualise beautiful landscapes and waterfalls and delicious food and the night sky and just all kinds of beautiful things, good things, all virtues and just imagine offering all this all away. You offer the whole universe in its purity and its beauty. You offer this all away. That’s the second one, offering. [61:54]
The third one then is coming back to ground for purification. And in their presence, in the presence of buddha, dharma and sangha, you disclose and confess all sins and downfalls, any unwholesome deeds, any breaking of precepts, of samayas you have committed, since beginningless samsara until now. So if it’s prior to this lifetime, you won’t be able to remember them, then you just, more generic think - , whatever downfalls, whatever misdeeds I have committed in the past, I confess them all, I disclose them all, I seek to purify them all and turn away from them. And so in doing, you purify. So you can purify negative karma before it begins to germinate, before it begins to manifest. Once the negative karma has germinated and the uh, it’s starting to unravel, it’s starting to manifest, that’s actually too late then, then you just have to experience the fruition of your karma. So better to do it before it germinates, before it manifests. So there’s the third one. Quite sobering, grounding, purifying. And then the fourth one, again it’s uplifting, and that is , meditate on rejoicing in all roots of virtue performed by aryas and ordinary beings, so shravaka aryas, arya bodhisattvas, buddhas, aryas are all those who’ve had direct non-conceptual realisation of emptiness, but all virtues performed by ordinary beings, acts of kindness, of generosity, philanthropy, and so forth and so on, wherever there’s virtue in the world and take delight in it. That’s the fourth one, that accrues greater merit as mentioned before. And then we have too those who have manifested, attained spiritual awakening or buddhahood in other realms of the universe and who remain without teaching dharma. Request they turn the wheel of dharma. So, in other realms of the universe sounds rather abstract and hypothetical, but we can also consider, as Gyatrul Rinpoche says in his brief commentary just down below, where there are those who whether or not they’ve achieved perfect enlightenment, where there are people in the world right now who have profound realisation and great understanding and really could help, but maybe they’re just not inspired to teach, as Gyatrul Rinpoche comments in his commentary just below, just feeling, maybe no use, it’s not that they’re selfish, but if a doctor has perfected medicine for some terrible disease and he knows it works, but he knows the people who are sick won’t take it, they just won’t take the medicine, the doctor might say—well , if you are not going to take it, I am not going to keep on banging on your door, trying to force feed you. You can’t do it. And so I have the medicine and you have sickness but if you’re not willing to take it, I can simply pray for you. But I am not going to try to make you take the medicine if you are not willing to.[64:35]
I remember visiting a professor, world’s expert on Crohn’s disease, apparently a very, very uncomfortable abdominal problem for which they have the symptoms but they don’t know the causes, but they know it’s stress-related. That’s all they know. I spoke with him, he’s a world expert, and I said, you know I think shamatha practice, like exactly what we’ve been doing in the mornings, I think this might be helpful to alleviate the symptoms, I’m no doctor but I know something about stress and types of meditation that can help ease the body, soothe body, so this might be helpful, you know. Would you be interested in doing a bit of research to see whether some basic shamatha practices might help alleviate the symptoms of Crohn’s disease? And his response, I have to say really saddened me, because he knows his clients, his patients and so forth, and he said, “Well Alan, you’re probably right, you know, this is stress related and the type of meditation you teach probably does alleviate stress. I mean, TM does, mindfulness meditation does, Shamatha does, so nothing revolutionary there. He said “you’re probably right but the problem is I know my patients and even if you taught it to them, they wouldn’t practise. They are waiting for a drug. They want a drug. They don’t want to have to give time. They don’t really believe in it. They want a drug.” And they didn’t say it, but they’ve been so brainwashed and they’ve not given any personal responsibility for their health, they want somebody else to do it, they just want to open up their mouths like babies -, give me something to swallow. So well then I gave up. If they are not going to practise, I am not going to teach. What’s the point? I appreciated his candour, but I thought, oh, your patients have really been brainwashed. That is materialism at its worst. It’s really materialism. And so there it is. [66:25]
So, where they are those who, whether they’ve achieved perfect awakening or they simply have realisation, and for the time being they are not teaching, well ask them to turn the wheel of dharma, request the turning of the wheel of dharma, ask them to become active. And then to those who are about to pass away into nirvana, request them not to do so. If they can linger longer, then ask them to remain. There’s a good example of this one in the movie, Yogis of Tibet. There’s an extraordinary, a number of extraordinary yogis, but one is Drupon Rinpoche . Incredible. He looks right into the camera and says, I can remember all my past lives And he says I look like human from the outside and I’m not like that from the inside and he cut his hair, he’s one of these [ Tibetan word] these really hardcore yogis who is fully ordained, but they let their hair grow long, special, special dispensation, but they let their hair just grow long, they never cut it, until they are ready to die, and then they cut their hair. So this old yogi, who has been, like, 60 years in full time practise, really awesome and that kind of realisation, he cut his hair, indicating - I am about to leave. [ audio too low to hear]. The Dalai Lama heard about that and then immediately contacted him and said, I request you not to die. (laughter]. Please remain, I know you cut your hair well never mind, it will grow. [laughter]. But please remain, I want you to turn the wheel of dharma. Don’t check out. And if I have to comment—we have too few people like you. So he lingered for some years after that. If the Dalai Lama ask you to remain, you know you are in a good situation. So that would be a case of that. [68:20]
And then finally, then dedicating virtue, dedicating the merit of your practice, dedicating such virtue to achieving perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Okay? So there’s the practice. If you wish at this point, the teacher and student may recite a short prayer, but if not, there’s no need. So if you are about to take the bodhisattva precepts, then there’s the preparation for that, for accumulating merit, for purifying obscurations. And for those who wish to, since I am sharing the transmission and explanation of this text, I think we have enough time, we’ll just simply make enough time, for those of you who like to take the bodhisattva precept right now, then please join me. [69:11]
So we are just following exactly in this lineage and now we’re following the lineage of Shantideva. It was Nagarjuna, wasn’t it, yes, Nagarjuna, by way of Manjushri, Nagarjuna and then Shantideva. So you visualise in the space in front of you, the three Jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Sangha specifically bodhisattva sangha, the Dharma specifically the Mahayana dharma, the path of bodhisattvas. And now Karma Chagme states and I recite after him, about four centuries later, so please recite after me.
Whatever little virtue I have accumulated, (three times), by means of prostrations, offerings, confession and rejoicing, beseeching and requesting, I dedicate for the sake of everyone’s great perfect spiritual awakening.
Whatever little virtue I have accumulated by means of prostrations, offerings, confession and, rejoicing, beseeching and requesting, I dedicate for the sake of everyone’s great perfect spiritual awakening.
Whatever little virtue I have accumulated by means of prostrations, offerings, confession and rejoicing, beseeching and requesting, I dedicate for the sake of everyone’s great perfect spiritual awakening.
[71:08] So this is the preparatory ritual, then following the preparatory ritual for bodhicitta, there’s the main practice. Having taken the Mahayana Three Jewels as a refuge, bodhisattvas of the past developed the spirit of aspiring for and venturing towards buddhahood for spiritual awakening, likewise, since all sentiment beings have been my kind mother and father, I, too, shall bring forth the aspiration to enlightenment for their sakes. So there’s the motivation.
With that thought, recite three times after me:
All buddhas and bodhisattvas dwelling in the ten directions, please attend to me. Teacher, please attend to me, from this time until I reach the essence of enlightenment, I take refuge in the buddhas, and I likewise take refuge in the dharma, and the community of bodhisattvas. Just as the Sugatas of the past develop bodhichitta and gradually engage in the practices of the bodhisattvas, likewise in order to serve sentient beings, I shall develop bodhichitta and I shall gradually engage in the practices.
Now for a second time.
All buddhas and bodhisattvas dwelling in the ten directions, please attend to me. Teacher, please attend to me, from this time until I reach the essence of enlightenment, I take refuge in the buddhas, and I likewise take refuge in the dharma and the community of bodhisattvas. Just as the Sugatas of the past develop bodhichitta and gradually engage in the practices of the bodhisattvas, likewise in order to serve sentient beings, I shall develop bodhichitta and I shall gradually engage in the practices.
Upon the conclusion of the third recitation, I’ll snap my fingers and at that moment, imagine you’ve received the Mahayana and bodhisattva precept.
All buddhas and bodhisattvas dwelling the ten directions, please attend to me. Teacher, please attend to me, from this time until I reach the essence of enlightenment, I take refuge in the buddhas, and I likewise take refuge in the dharma and the community of bodhisattvas. Just as the Sugatas of the past develop bodhichitta and gradually engage in the practices of the bodhisattvas, likewise in order to serve sentient beings, I shall develop bodhichitta and I shall gradually engage in the practices.
[snaps fingers] [74:05]
[74:12] Recognise that by reciting that way 3 times, the vows of bodhichitta arise in you. And then say: Well done!
The concluding task is taking delight in oneself. What this really means is taking delight into one’s practice, one’s commitment to enlightenment. So having, so now here’s a reflection, this is straight from Shantideva: Having attained a human body, it is significant that I have not died up to this point. By obtaining the vows of bodhichitta today, like an elixir that transforms iron into gold, I have taken birth in the family of the buddhas and I have become a child of the buddhas.
With this thought, recite after me three times, this again is a direct excerpt from Shantideva:
Now my life is fruitful. Human existence is well obtained. Today I have been born in the family of the buddhas, and I have become a child of the buddhas.
Now my life is fruitful. Human existence is well obtained. Today I have been born in the family of the buddhas, and I have become a child of the buddhas.
And the third time:
Now my life is fruitful. Human existence is well obtained. Today I have been born in the family of the buddhas, and I have become a child of the buddhas.
[76:05] Karma Chagme continues here. If one expands on the practices associated with receiving those vows, there’s much to be said, so there’s just that. You can learn a lot. But to be concise, and here’s, he’ll tell you what needs to be done, what’s the essence here. Revere Mahayana spiritual mentors. These are your guides on the path It’s good to revere them, they will be guiding you from here to enlightenment. Avoid the four negative deeds And you’ll see them below, *** Avoid the four negative deeds, apply yourself to the four positive deeds and do not mentally forsake sentient beings.*** And that means do not mentally forsake anyone ever under any circumstances. Forsake means forget you, I’ll have nothing to do with you, you are a lost cause and I’ll have nothing to do with you forever. That’s abandoning people. Never do it. To anybody. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done. That’s forsaking a sentient being. They still have buddha nature. There’s still hope. Maybe not in this lifetime.
Paul Ekman a very dear friend of mine, he’s secular, doesn’t believe in reincarnation, he said, when he looks, because he has dealt a lot with law enforcement, with criminals and so forth, and he’s looked at criminals, and he’s said Alan, you know I think there are some criminals, they are hopeless, they will not turn away from their evil, they have no remorse, no conscience, they will remain evil for the rest of their lives. And there may be nothing you can do about it. And he may be right. [?] but he may be right. There may be sick people so committed, and so delusional that they simply will not turn away in this lifetime. But it’s only one lifetime. In which case, look to the future. There’s always hope. [78:20]
Briefly stated, the practice of the aspiring spirit of bodhicitta is to resolve, to attain buddhahood for the sake of sentient beings. So there it is. It’s the first aspect. First, the aspiration, the resolve and then the engaging. So with this thought, this aspirational thought, this aspirational bodhichitta, with this thought, recite after me, just once:
Now by all means, I shall engage in deeds that accord with this family. And I shall not contaminate this flawless Noble family
[78:53] So it’s a commitment to abide according to the bodhisattva way of life. And I think there is no greater classic that you can carry with you in your palm of your hands than Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.
And then this is taking delight in others. So at first, he simply gives a topic for reflection: Today in the presence of all the buddhas, I have promised to serve and bring about the happiness of all sentient beings. Until you have been brought, you sentient beings, have been brought to the state of buddhahood, perfect awakening. So it’s this resolve as long as there sentient beings, then I commit myself, I promise, I make a pledge to do all I can to bring you to the happiness you seek. Or as Shantideva says at the end of its tenth chapter,for as long as space remains, for as long as sentient beings remain, so long shall I remain, to alleviate the suffering of the world His Holiness Dalai Lama just recites this so, so often. So the same point, the same essence. So you, deities in the sky, you devas in the sky and all you sentient beings who possess mental extrasensory perception. That is, you are aware of what I’m thinking, what I’m saying here, all of you who are aware of this pledge, this resolve that I’m making, rejoice. Take it seriously. I mean it. [79:45]
With this thought, repeat the following, just one time, repeat after me:
Today in the presence of all the protectors, I have invited sentient beings to experience joy until they reach the state of the Sugatas. So, devas and asuras, rejoice.
And now just once, repeat after me, repeat this prayer:
May the precious bodhichitta arise in those in whom it has not yet arisen, may it not decline in those in whom it has arisen. And may it grow greater and greater. May we not be separated from bodhichitta. May we enter the bodhisattva way of life. May we be cared for by the buddhas. And may we also be free of the deeds of Mara. May the intentions of the bodhisattvas to serve sentient beings be fulfilled. May sentient beings receive whatever the protectors intend. May sentient beings have happiness. May the miserable states of existence always be empty. Wherever the bodhisattvas dwell, may all their prayers be fulfilled.
[82:23] By those means, the vows of bodhicitta are received. [a student repeats]. This is central reading, it’s ok. [laughter]. But I appreciate your enthusiasm. So this is the training, and he just simply close again, not forsaking sentient beings, bearing in mind the benefits of bodhichitta, accumulating the two accumulations, the two collections of merit and wisdom, merit and knowledge and again and again, cultivating bodhichitta, following the four positive actions and avoiding the four negative actions. Those five comprise the training of bodhichitta for buddhahood, for spiritual awakening.
And Gyatrul Rinpoche, I will leave it to you to read it, it’s very self-explanatory, but on page 31 right in the middle, Gyatrul Rinpoche says exactly what the four negative deeds are and what the four positive ones are. He states it very clearly, you can all read clearly.
So that’s regarding the spirit of aspiration, the aspiration of bodhichitta, then the training of the spirit of venturing toward awakening or engaged bodhichitta, it chiefly comprised of the three trainings, the three higher trainings of ethics, samadhi and wisdom. So there’s the short version and they are included in the six perfections: generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, meditation and wisdom. So there’s your way of life, there’s your practice laid out in the three trainings or more elaborately in the Mahayana context the six perfections culminating in wisdom. So if one takes those as one’s vows, they are, and here he says it generosity, ethical discipline, patience, enthusiasm, meditative stabilisation or simply meditation, and wisdom, those six comprise the training of the spirit of venturing towards awakening. So as you’re envisioning the direction you want to go, you like to achieve, to realise, this is the aspirational bodhichitta and then applying that motivation to practice, then you apply that to the six perfections and then you set out on the bodhisattva’s way. And then finally I think we’ll stop here. [84:15]
According to the Chittamatra tradition, the Chittamatra tradition, so they’re different again, different lineages regarding the bodhisattva precepts, the primary and secondary precepts or vow, according to the Chittamatra or Mind Only tradition, there are four defeat-like actions and 44 secondary faults. So that’s one tradition. Defeat-like actions, these are the ones that really can demolish or so profoundly antithetical to your bodhisattva vow, that you’ve kind of torpedo-ed it.
According to the Madhyamika tradition, and this is the one again more widely taught, the one that I’ve been rained in, according to the Madhyamika tradition, for those of sharp faculties, there are 18 vows for kings and ministers and so forth and so on, and for those of middling faculties, there are four vows, and for those of dull faculties, there is one vow. [laughter]. Phew. So good. I always wait, I can tell you and I am being totally sincere, I am always wait for them to get to the dull one 'cos that’s where I feel the shoe will fit, and I am not being humble or anything I mean that’s just true. I hear about you know the ones with sharp faculties and, aha, aha, and then medium, aha, aha, and then finally, okay, now you got to me. So dull faculties, one vow, I think I can handle that one. And this is nice, we have a couple of minutes. Remember I mentioned the buddha’s advice to the king who has all these responsibilities. Can’t go on a shamatha retreat, probably not, no three-year retreat for you, sorry, too many duties, too many people counting on him, so here’s the advice to a king sutra, the buddhist discourse of advice to a king, and it states:
Great king, you and you’re all kings, kings of your family, king of your business, king of your supermarket, whatever you know, you are kings in your own domain, you have your jobs, right, so don’t think this is for somebody else, this is probably for you. Great king, you who have so many activities and so much work, you may not be able at all times and in all ways to practice the perfections from generosity to wisdom Just because you have to do other things. Therefore, Great king, whether you are walking, getting up, sitting, lying down, waking up or eating, constantly bear in mind and cultivate aspiration, faith, yearning and longing for genuine, perfect enlightenment So you’ll have many courses through the course of the day, many desires, desire to get a cup of coffee, desire to go out to your car and drive, desire for all kinds of things, desire to talk to your television, desire to relax and watch a bit of television maybe, many desires arise but underlying all those desires is kind of like the desire of desires, your prime directive, that which makes all the rest of the desires potentially meaningful - is bodhichitta. So you keep on trying to coming back to that. This is so much deeper. [87:09]
And simply coming back to relaxation, stillness and vividness. That’s good, but you can come back to relaxation, stillness and vividness because you want to rob a bank very effectively. Really you can use that for anything, robbing a bank, hitting a golf ball into a little hole. It’s so useful, you know, for stuff that, I always thought that it was quite trivial to knock a ball into a hole and then take it out again after you’ve done it. [laughter]. At least, leave it there, if people wanted it so much and they wanted it to get it in so quickly, you’d think they’d at least they leave it there and they can write home, my ball is there. It’s kind of like if you climb a mountain you climb a mountain and you put a flag there, right? You don’t climb a mountain, put a flag, and then take the flag back home. [laughter]. You leave the flag up there. I was here. I did it. Or you put your name on a little marker, I climbed, you know. You should leave your name on the little golf course, I made it. [laughter]. Leave your ball as a memento. They don’t even do that. So there’s no trace of them ever having been there. To my mind, that’s completely meaningless. You knock into the hole, you take it out and you walk away and nobody’s the wiser. But you’d probably still knock into the hole more effectively if you are relaxed, stable and vivid. Bodhichitta is deeper than that. There is just, this is, Shantideva says this too, I love it, because I really need this teaching, and that he says, once this bodhichitta really, you get into the flow of it, where it’s really there, it’s not just lip service, but it really is the desire underlying all your desires, it’s really the direction of your life. And on occasion you are bound just to get tired, we all get tired, just exhausted, pooped out at the end of the day. Maybe we want a little bit of entertainment, or something harmless or maybe even informative, entertaining on the television, or listening to music, or some light reading, 'cos you just need a little bit of a break, right, we all need that. And he said, if your underlying aspiration is bodhicitta, then even when you’re just sitting back and relaxing, you’re still accruing merit. It’s still dharma because the aspiration, the desire for getting some relaxation, just kicking back and relaxing, having a cup of tea, it’s still bodhichitta. So that’s part of your bodhisattva activity, just watching a bit of television. It can be, you wouldn’t do something unwholesome. But as long as it’s neutral or wholesome it’s fine, so even just resting or going for a walk, but the underlying motivation is bodhichitta, that’s part of the bodhisattva’s way of life. That’s really encouraging. In other words, it’s not heavy. It’s not, you know, like a hammer, you’re not practising dharma, your meditation cushion is getting cold. [89:54]
So that’s kind of nice. So there’s the first point, keep on coming back to bodhichitta. With aspiration for enlightenment, faith in the path, yearning for the path, longing for genuine perfect enlightenment, take delight in the virtues of others, remember that one? That’s really fun. I mean, it’s nice, it feels good, and that means but you’ve to pay attention, look for it, but you will see it. Little virtues, big virtues, virtues you read about it, you see on internet, you see by way of the news, you hear on the telephone. There are just virtues all over the place. But we have to listen for them, then we see them, recognise them, and then take delight in it. That really can change your whole life. Right there. That one little phrase, right there, take delight in the virtues of others. And having done so, make offerings to all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, shravakas, and pratyekabuddhas, and so just make your life an offering and having done so, treat all sentient beings in the same way. Imagine a king like that [phew] . Then so that all sentient beings may be complete and all the qualities of the buddha, dedicate this each day to supreme enlightenment. Great king, great president, great prime minister, great CEO of corporations, anybody with influence, if you do that, you may also rule your kingdom, your government, your business and so forth, you can do that, and your royal duties will not fall into decline.This will not in any way detract from your obligations and the collections towards enlightenment will also be perfected. So you can actually do both. Very powerful.
Phooooooo. Yep, so that’s good. That’s enough for the day. So we have our hands full, we have a full agenda and for these eight weeks, we have happily nothing else to do, so let’s practise dharma. So enjoy your evening and I’ll see you tomorrow morning. [92:09]
Transcribed by Shirley Soh
Edited by Cheri Langston
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti