Annual India Tours
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt
gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity.
These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
Nanaimo Feb 22 89
The spiritual teachings, for example being aware of impermanence, being aware of suffering or spiritual evolution, striving for a better rebirth or for one's own personal liberation, striving so that one's self becomes realized. All of those teachings are very important and beneficial. However it is said that those teachings are limited in that the perspective of the practitioner is always selfish, i.e. I want a better rebirth, I would not like to suffer any more, I would like to be liberated, experience everlasting happiness or nirvana, such things like this. And the practice, although one would be spiritual, I mean if one practiced within those teachings, one would become a very peaceful person, a very kind person, even a loving person, although all those qualities would be there, the fundamental of the practice is still that oneself is striving for one's own enlightenment.
In that way one has a limited perspective wherein one has not realized a full spiritual practice. Therefore the teachings we are going into now are said to be the compliment to the previous teaching in that they take you away from selfishness, the fundamental sense that I need to be liberated or I need peace, or I need to get my act together, I need to be happy, I need to gain spiritual experiences. It takes us away from that. In that it is said that it is holier, more special, more worthy of working for.
Chandrakirti was a very great Indian saint who made the coment, "I make prostrations to bodhicitta, the source of all." Bodhicitta is the teachings of altruism, the teachings of universal love and compassion. Why can one say that bodhicitta is the source of all? The reason is, if you were to think of great avatars, whether Jesus the Christ or Buddha, great spiritual masters, it is said that the great spiritual masters are the source of the teachings for most mundane people in the sense that they come along and they teach people that they should be pious, should have more morality, that they should be virtuous and they should try to help their neighbors and such, so for those practitioners. Their main source of teaching is the Buddha or the enlightened being who teaches the teachings. In one way you might say that person is the most important person, he is the pinnacle of the practice, he has obtained the full results of spirituality and therefore is the one we should venerate and respect. But in looking at the Buddha, an avatar, at least from a Buddhist perspective, that person is actually coming from somewhere. He is coming from his previous lifetimes practice. And by practicing many lifetimes has finally evolved to becoming fully enlightened and having all the qualities that allow him or her to then teach the teachings, to give them for the benefit for others, and to show them.
Within 400 years of the Buddha's passing away, Buddhism spread through China, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and so on. So the Buddha was a powerful character. From his years of existence, within four hundred years his teachings had spread that far. A fully enlightened being is very special. They have an awful lot of power in the sense that they are starting something. But where does the Buddha come from? They come from their cultivation of their personality through previous lifetimes. If we were to ask what is the source of the Buddha, we would have to say it is the Bodhisattvas, who are people like you and I who practice, and through practice and dedication to the teachings, then we evolve and finally become a Buddha.
In that sense we say that the Bodhisattvas are more worthy of veneration than the Buddha because the Bodhisattvas are the source of the Buddha. But if we were to ask where the Bodhisattvas come from, their source is altruism, love and compassion. And it is not ordinary love and compassion, rather it is called the great love, the universal love. Wanting to help all beings universally, selflessly. So the Buddhas come from Bodhisattvas, the Bodhisattvas come from the altruistic wish of bodhicitta. Chandrakirti in saying "I make praise to bodhicitta, the source of all." is really saying to that bodhicitta, then all spirituality comes from it. If you follow the analogy, all of the ordinary people that practice religion rely on an avatar or the Buddha, an enlightened being. That enlightened being relies on the evolution or process he or she went through in becoming enlightened, that is being a bodhisattva. And the bodhisattva comes from realizing that they would like to practice altruism, they would like to practice universal love.
The teachings we are going into now are dealing with this great love or bodhicitta and so are very important from Mahayana Buddhist ideals. They are really the source of all and are very powerful. And although now I am giving you something which isn't very practical, it does give you an idea of the context within which to place all these teachings. Coming down to the basics, what is Bodhicitta and why is it something to be interested in? Why would you want to be interested in it? What makes it something good to go after?
The bodhicitta is that thought which wishes "Might I take upon myself the responsibility to help all others become enlightened, become realized, become happy" in the sense of spiritual happiness so they have no more sufferings and problems. Free of delusions, free of negative karmic imprints. "Might all beings become liberated in their mind, become free of all their negative hang ups, and might they realize full enlightenment which is that state of everlasting bliss." By doing that, having that intention, we say, "May I work toward bringing all beings into enlightenment, bring all beings into liberation" why is that better than just thinking that I want to become enlightened, realized, I want to get my act together, I don't want to be deluded any more, I would like to experience happiness and bliss. It would be a gas to be everlastingly blissful! I mean, wouldn't that be fun! No more problems!
Why is that style not as good or subtle or effective as the practice of wanting all others to be enlightened? The reason? If we were to talk of where all our problems come from in our life, our problems come from our selfishness. We want to be happy. We don't want to have problems. We want this, that... If you go into it carefully you will find that every time there is a problem in your life, it is because your expectations or your own limitations are getting in the way. Because they get hassled, your self position in the world is getting freaked out. You get unhappy, you suffer, you get strung out about it and stuff. So your selfishness, your self concern is the source of all problems. If you wanted freedom from your problems, lets say you would like to get out of all your negative hang ups. All the neurotic ways that your mind works. The more effective way to get out of it is to start to change the basis upon which you function.
Let's say you would like to get your act together, be a good meditator. As you meditate better, you get good experiences, you get nice bliss inside. That's alright. I like meditation. That is your thoughts.
Your focus is very much I want to get my act together, I want to meditate. So you sit down and meditate, you find that maybe it is a little noisy in the house, so you move to another room. Then you say I am pretty happy here, but still you find there is noise outside and that bugs you. And then you move somewhere else and maybe you decide I can't handle this, so you leave your family. Say, chuck them, they are all a bunch of loud creeps anyway! You have to run away to meditate! You have to really get away to meditate! So you can see though, you are taking with you every where you go your own selfish mind. Because, I have got to meditate, I have got to get my act together, I am unhappy. These people around me bother me. I don't get the peace and serenity I want from the environment. It's a hassle. I'm bugged.
There is a real selfishness going on there. And although it is in the name of "meditation", "serenity" "enlightenment", the whole practice is based on I want! Because of that, you are still unhappy. Maybe you get a real peaceful moment for awhile and then a crow lands on a tree outside and caws it's head off! It happens, you know! Someone parks their outside and decides to check the carburetor out, starts revving the engine or something. And your trying to breathe.. awareness.. mindfulness... and finally you get upset. It happens!
This is part of the attitude that says I want. The selfish attitude. If you want a more profound way of working out your problems, then you should reverse it. So when you meditate rather than saying I am doing it for myself,say I am doing it for them! And it's not like you become a big evangelist and beat a drum or something silly like that, but you are attitude, and it is important to identify that it is just your mind, your position says, I will do my meditations, practice my spirituality so that I can bring about goodness and happiness for others. You have to change your position. So when you sit down to meditate, maybe someone makes noise, but the person isn't the source of the hassle, that person is the object of your meditation. i.e. I am doing it for them. It's not easy to get into, you might say it's a hassle, but if you think about it and go with what I am talking about, you will see that it actually does work because you don't look at those people as being a hassle but rather as the source of compassion. One is they are very noisy! So, I feel so sorry for them, they live in such a polluted, noisy environment!
So automatically you don't see then as something unpleasant, something ugly, you have compassion for them, a sense of love for them. You are already starting to shift away from selfish to shifting into being a nicer person. And if you really want to do good meditation, maybe build yourself a room with heavy duty insulation so you can't be bothered by it. But do it from the perspective of if I meditate better, I can be a nicer guy. If I am nicer, I can be nicer to other people. The basis of your good meditations brings about better things for other people.
If you think about it, you are starting to shift that basis of you the sufferer into something different. The selfishness of "I want to be happy, I want to be more together," shifts towards "I would like to be more together so that I could do more for other people!" With that your own sufferings start to disappear because for example, you are meditating, you are starting to realize yourself, like Naropa said the mirror of your mind, you are starting to recognize the images that are in the mirror of your mind. You are maybe getting rid of the negative ones, you are starting to become a bit more positive, whatever. That process of realization is starting to create good energy and you are giving it out for other people. The whole focus becomes I want to give happiness to others, I want to bring them into enlightenment.
Your practice is exactly the same but the energy created is directed at others. The love, the compassion and all that starts to naturally happen. It is not something you ave to artificially do. If you think about it, the love has a much more real quality to it. Let's say you are a great devotee and you have great faith in the Buddha, Jesus, or God, or whatever your idea of the ultimate is. You are really devoted to that. And the teachings you get say that entity is Love. And so you say I must be love. Because if I am other than love, that entity won't love me. Like they say the entrance to heaven is to be a loving kind person. So you set up a practice that says I must be nice and loving to everybody because this is the way God loves me more. It is Gods nature so I have to be that! I am just saying God in a big sense, not sort of any particular religion sense. You practice is the more I give love and the more I live in love, the more I have a relationship with this entity.
Again you can see it is a very selfish love. It is not a universal love. I love you because then God loves me more. You have actually a negative practice, not real love but a love which wants gratification. For example, that the divine entity loves me. Instead if you practiced I want to help all living beings, all the sentient beings are the object of I would like to give happiness to them, which is altruism, divine love, so in that practice, the more you get realized, the more the love is going to them. It's not selfishly focused as in I am going to get the goodies from the being above or something but rather the practice is helping other people. And the more that you do things for others the more it get you off, the more you feel good about yourself. And self when we identified you want to get out of your suffering. Well, half the problem of suffering is that you are not satisfied, fulfilled, i.e. if I had a million dollars I would be fulfilled. That is because a million dollars in my life would make me fulfilled. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. But that is not real fulfillment, is it? That is sort of external.
Real fulfillment is you yourself become full and happy. You have a good energy about yourself. You feel terrific. You feel fulfilled. You feel wonderful. If you change into that you start to care for other people, that you make as your focus to do nice things for others. That you want to give other people happiness. I would like other people to come into enlightenment, to come into happiness. As you start to get into that space, you naturally get rid of your selfishness, you start to experience fulfillment. And in being fulfilled you become happy. The process doesn't identify I am going to get happy. It is though important to know that is part of what is going on. That the better you practice altruism, the better and more naturally you are happy. True altruism is like the ultimate of openness. It is not easy to practice. But in striving toward that, in trying to set up that sort of internal attitude within yourself, you will get happy, you will get rid of your suffering, you will get rid of your selfishness, you will become more happy, meditative, more serene, tranquil. But it is going to be in a way that it doesn't have any negative kickback. It doesn't have that somewhere in there it didn't quite make it. And in the Mahayana teachings we say spirituality which is aimed at personal fulfillment is a limited trip. We say those beings, lets say you got to heaven, in Buddhism we talk of nirvana. In the sense of a personal nirvana it is termed. We say in Buddhism that the beings which attained nirvana after three hundred million eons will have to finally give it up because they have to come to final universal love. They have got a limited experience. It is still based on selfishness. So their nirvana although it is everlasting bliss, doesn't release them fully. They still have a selfish basis for it. "I got liberation." So, the ultimate or full enlightenment is that enlightenment which has everlasting happiness, nirvana, but the focus of it was helping and being kind to other people.
The most important thing I wanted to identify was one, we have entered into what is termed the Mahayana or great vehicle teachings. It is the great vehicle because it goes beyond self. In going beyond self, why is it the more profound practice? Because it takes one out of self concern and brings it into being concern and caring, kind to others.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
All Rights Reserved