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.
We have been trying, over the last few weeks to establish Buddhist altruism as beneficial, trying to set it up as something interesting and yet has some direct benefits for your personality. To talk of the technique that one works in generating bodhicitta, there are two main techniques that are taught one of which almost falls in the category of what we are talking about now which is infinite lifetimes. In infinite lifetimes we have has infinite mothers. Not just the same parents in each lifetime so therefore each one of us have been a mother and a father to each other in the scope of infinite lifetimes.
It's interesting. I don't find it very effective for myself. His Holiness the Dalai Lama mentioned that too. Although if you meditate on it, it has some benefits because it works at trying to generate more love for others and maybe starting to appreciate our own relationship to our mother and father. That is one style called the tradition of Maitreya. The tradition of Nagarjuna I find more effective for my personality. His Holiness mentioned it also.
I want to talk about something interesting and can seem quite valid to develop a more open altruistic attitude to become a nicer person. But let's try to work with some real reasons behind it, the real dynamic of starting to transfer one's position from being quite self centered and wanting to be the winner, to a position to where winning and loosing become quite immaterial. It's what you are doing in the work around you that is important issue for yourself.
The first step is to get in touch with your own feelings. The first phase is called the realization of the equanimity of self and others. Like you and I and everyone else. And actually even animals and flies and bugs and even things in other realms that we cannot see. We are all equal. There is the equanimity of self and others. The equanimity is based on one principle, that we all want happiness and we all don't want suffering. If you can think about that, it's an unbelievable realm, that each one of us has that feeling. I want to be happy, I don't want to suffer. This principal makes us all equal. There is different ways of looking at everyone but that principle makes us all equal.
I'ts easy to understand it in the sense that I want to be happy, I want to have food in my stomach and clothes on my back, things like that. But you have to also look at that energy of saying I want to be happy, I don't want to be uncomfortable, that energy when it is in you comes out all sorts of funny ways. Because, what happens is, when you look at people in that light, you can start to see that that energy is there. And even people that do really weird things, even people we consider bad, whether it's suicide, or deprivation, or whatever they do, all of the weird and all the unpleasant things people do to themselves, and all the things which we consider positive, all can be in that category.
Take the person that wants to commit suicide. They think that killing themselves is a solution. That they will get over their problem, that they will be happy, and that their suffering is so intolerable that they cannot stand it any more, so they commit suicide. Even in there is the principle. I want to be happy, I don't want to suffer. So start to look at your own feelings and get in touch with them in the sense that when you are sitting there, like right now we are sitting in the room. At a certain point you will get uncomfortable.
Let's say you decided that you are going to be disciplined and you are going to sit in one position for the whole of Jhampa's lecture. And so you sit there. And after awhile you get uncomfortable and want to move. That is the energy I am talking about.
Let's say that if we didn't have that we should sit one way, that it can be just free form, even one iota, just one atom of discomfort, and we will move. We are unbelievably dominated by the feeling of wanting to be happy and have no discomfort in our lives whatsoever. We are totally dominated by that. And so when we sit there, and we have any discomfort we immediately respond to it by moving, in this society, as soon as we are hungry we find something to satisfy our hunger. We have this immediate response when we are uncomfortable. If I am uncomfortable, I will immediately do something to alleviate it. We are motivated by it. But, if you start to see how much, you could almost say you are a weakling, you can't take any discomfort, when you start to see that then you start to be a little humble about yourself. You will start to realize that you are really dominated by this incredible urge or desire for no discomfort or happiness. You want happiness, you don't want any discomfort.
Depending on the object, you will actually go to unbelievable lengths to be happy. And it is always in the context of how you understand happiness. Some people, happiness is very easy. You can say it's basics. You want food, comfort, a little love, and money or whatever. Those are the needs we have and we work to do those. Some people, they set up the idea of much greater things. They need a million dollars to be happy and they work like crazy to get their million. All I am trying to say is that there is that energy and it functions within your personality because your personality sets up what you consider happiness as. Whether it is subsistence level, or being middle class, or being upper middle class, it is always defined by your personality. The energy is there.
It is important to get in touch with how that energy pushes you when you feel you are unhappy, how much you work hard to get out of being unhappy. Because the more you can get in touch with that feeling of how much you want to be out of unhappiness, when you look at someone else and their projecting a lot of energy which you might normally consider very obnoxious or rude, you don't get uptight about it any more. You see them as being highly motivated or pushed person, pushed by that incessant urge of I want happiness.
The context I am trying to set up is that, in understanding your own feelings you start to appraise and appreciate others in a new light, and in that you have changed a your relationship. You don't get as upset or as put out by others who have expressed a lot of energy at you or at the environment around them. You appreciate them in this new way which you havn't had before. The most important thing is to start to allow yourself to experience your own discomforts, and once you do, to get out of being uncomfortable, an example is, let's say you smoke. You run out of cigarettes. And it's ten o'clock at night but you want a smoke. Well you get so put out by it that you will actually go out in the rain, there might even be two feet of snow in the ground, but it doesn't matter, you go out until you find a seven eleven store open and you will go and buy your cigarettes. You have got to measure how much energy and time went out to get that one thing you think you needed so bad. That is one example of the length that you go.
Even in personal relationship. You have a partner that you are with and if that partner doesn't appreciate you the way that you think you deserve. There is the thing in there, I want happiness. I want to be appreciated. So you will start doing not as much as you used to do because you want that person to start to recognize you. They won't do it and so you have to try a little harder to get appreciated. So you do less. Or then you get unhappy and moody. You understand. All that is in the context of I want happiness. This time the objective happiness is appreciation and the things that I'll do about it, stop talking to that person, I'll not clean the house as I used to, I won't make them dinner, I'll be rude to them, all because I want happiness.
There is a real interesting set of thoughts to get into. And at the core of it, you can start seeing that in so many of the ways you interact, is start to find the energy coming in yourself. It's just this feeling. And then seeing how it turns itself into whatever it needs to get it's results back, like I want happiness. And happiness has different colors, sizes and shapes. It is important in that to start to see how you establish a goal, I want this happiness, I want appreciation, or I want a cigarette, or I want food, or I want love, or I want money, whatever it is. You have this objective. And then how much you push around and make yourself work hard, whether it's you bend your personality or you manipulate people, or what you do, but it is all the work of your personality because it has as it's objective as I want, and this is happiness.
When you start getting in touch with that energy you look at others in that light. So when someone comes to you and whines, and you might hate whining. But you can listen to them. Look at them and saying, look at how much desire is there for this happiness. But you don't look at the whining any more, you look at the energy and it makes that you can appreciate them on another level. You not judgmentally look at them, but look a little more openly. Or when someone is angry. It's so easy when you have this style of looking at the world. Someone is angry when they want a certain type of happiness, whatever their objective. And they are seeing that you are an obstacle to it, so they get angry. But it takes the anger off of you, you start to understand that person because they have an objective, their objective is not being met, they are seeing you as the obstacle and they are terribly animated about their situation. Again, it takes it away from being personal and makes it that that person wants happiness. And so they become upset and unhappy. It must be that they really want happiness badly.
So you can start to defray or diffuse the personal part of it and start to see people, all of us, as varying expressions, of having varying expressions of I want happiness and don't want suffering. And the key word is, I want happiness, I don't want suffering. And they act it that way. The people around me act that way. Or the country acts that way.
And you can even do it with insects. Insects are easy enough. You can see a spider, put your finger beside it and it runs away. It wants happiness. It doesn't want to get killed, so it expresses that in an immediate energy, it runs away. And animals too. All creatures, you can see it. No creature wants pain, all want comfort or happiness.
Try to get it to be very subtle. I mean if you took the end of a pin. You know how small a pin point is. It is very small. But if I put it against your arm, it would be very uncomfortable and you would not want that there any more. That is the sort of energy. Even something as small as a pin point can cause pain and you don't want it. It sounds stupid in one way, but we are talking of the emotions, feelings, and energies of all sentient beings. And this is a was to get the equanimity between self and others. Because if get that equanimity, you are no longer judgmental, you start to see people for what they are. And it gives you actual empathy. Unbelievable empathy because the more you are in touch with your own feelings, the silly little actions that you do to get what you want, then you will start to become humble or appreciate others in the stupid things they do.
A personal thing. I was in an Indian restaurant. There was an Indian man that had a big bowl of rice he was dishing out to everyone. And I wanted more rice, so I somehow sat up straighter, or did something stupid! I wanted to get attention so I made myself a little bit different because I knew that he would come by and give me more rice. And then all of a sudden I realized, how low I was that I was doing this for an extra scoop of rice. I was positioning my body and smiling extra big for it! And I thought, Jhampa is that what you are after. And I remember it devastated me for quite a few days. But that is the thing, try to realize it in yourself. You will do the most ridiculous things for a little happiness, or a little of what you consider goodness.
Define it in yourself. And when you find it in yourself that you have done something what you consider below your level, but you did it, then you really humble yourself. Then that, as I say, gives you really good empathy with other people. Then you can accept that others do the most awful things. But it is alright because it was what they considered what they needed to do in relationships to have happiness.
So the first phase of being able to be altruistic is to get a level ground where you do see all creatures are all equal. Then you can start to have good feelings for them. It's not that holier than thou feelings, like I'm spiritual and I'm going to bless you son or daughter, that attitude, and it's not righteous as in I've got the message and you don't, or something. It is a real heartfelt emotion which say I hurt, I don't like it, I want happiness, I try hard for it, you do too. That way you can gain a heartfelt equinimity between ones self and others. That is the first phase of being able to initiate what we call true altruism where you really are working from a perspective of doing it from the right motive because you can feel where another person is coming from.
Nagarjuna was a logical person. His teachings were all on the wisdom side In this, there is a lot of wisdom, wisdom of relationship and wisdom of realizing that oneself and others are related and have a similar need in life.
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