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.
Duncan March 8 1992
Last week we talked about the four mundane preliminaries and the uncommon preliminaries. We covered in the common preliminaries the precious human rebirth and personal impermanence. The last two are the awareness of the law of cause and effect or karma and the altruistic attitude of bodhicitta.
In all activities we do it is important to have in our mind some clarity as to what we are doing in the sense of acquiring karma. Using an example of bad karma, if you are going to say something unpleasant to someone because you are angry, in you is the motive. I am angry and I want to retaliate. Then the object is the person who has hurt you. The activity which accomplishes that is then your choice of words. So you pick a word which is particularly hurtful or damaging. It touches on something such as a handicap that person has so you are very effective when you say the word. So from the negative motive, anger, and directed at the object, you say the negative word. The time the karma becomes successful is when they hear it and understand it. And this applies to any variety of karma that we accumulate. That there has to be the completion of the karma in that there is recognition that the activity I did got the effect I wanted.
If you got angry at someone and said something nasty but the person did not hear it, you have not completed your karma yet. You will not get the full ripening of it. What makes it a ripened effect is that you have to have experienced the joy or satisfaction that the activity had been completed. That is the cap that makes it a very powerful karma.
Regarding positive attitudes or being virtuous, it is important for example, lets say you were going to offer a flower to the altar. Then your motivation is respect and kindness to the Buddhas. In offering the flower, it should be a beautiful flower. And in offering, it should be in a respectful way. With maybe both your hands. And maybe a dish, and put the flower on the altar. In offering it then, you could offer a prayer that all sentient beings be happy. And then the satisfaction that I have done this. This is a nice action. I am happy with my action. That then completes the karma. So in any of the activities we are involved with, it is important that we have a moment to recognize the completion of the activity. And particularly regarding positive actions. It is important that we allow our mind to register what we are involved with.
It is not like seeing a poor person walking up the street, then thinking I am going to give them a dollar, and you walk up, "Here take this!" And then you walk away. That is not a very effective way to create good karma. It is better to address the person respectfully and full of good intent. In giving it to them, they say thank you. And when you have a recognition that they have received it, that you feel that something has been accomplished. Then you are getting full results of your karma. And it is important that we do that because we are the result of our activities in that right now, where we stand emotionally is based on what we have actually been doing. If we take responsibility for ourselves, become more conscious, then we should try to cultivate ourselves in a way that is going to develop us fairly well. So we should try to become conscious of the process involved with karma.
In doing that we should try to recognize objects which are more special. For example it is said that in creating good karma, if we offer gifts to people who have been important in our lives, such as our parents or those who have been helpful, it is termed the field of benefit. They have benefitted our life. They have helped us grow up. They have helped us become a nice person. And so to repay their kindness is actually like an insurance policy. You will have good supporters in your future lives. That is one area we should have respect. It is always worthwhile although sometimes difficult to have a good relationship with our parents. At least from our side we should have a good attitude.
Another area it is good to have awareness is regarding our teachers. This applies to both our school teachers, and those who are helping us to attain skills. And then even our spiritual teachers in that it is not so much in offering to them it is good for them, it us good for us because from our side we have respect and a sense of veneration. In that way it helps us learn better. If we respect the teachers or have a sense of appreciation, we learn the subject matters better. So it is good if we make offerings to the people which is said to be the object of the field of the quality. In that the teachers who help us to become a more articulate person, who help us gain skills, and certainly and most importantly those who help us regarding our spiritual practice. In making offerings to them it helps us develop our own spirituality because it helps us develop a positive environment. It is like ground which is cleared and made fertile. When it is then seeded, it will grow very well. Also with our mind. When we have respect, qualities of being reliable, and other such things,then our mind becomes a very fertile ground where positive qualities can grow.
Finally there is the field of compassion. And that is of course, people who are not doing well. People who are poor. People who are sick. People who have a disadvantage. These are a good object to work with because they need help. And if we have compassion and a good heart when we do things for those people, it is very beneficial. You could say it is a field of need, but it also termed the field of suffering in the sense that they have problems in life. By helping it it helps them improve. So whether we offer material help or advice or circumstances, all these things are good to offer to others.
Essentially in the common preliminary being conscious of the law of cause and effect is beneficial because it helps us cultivate who we become. There is a saying, if you want to know who you are look at what you have been doing. If you want to know what you are going to become, look at what you are doing. You right now are an expression of the activities that you have been involved with to this point. If you look at what you are doing, you can have an idea of what you are going to become in the future. If you want to become a nicer person, it is worthwhile of becoming more conscious of the activity that creates you to become that way. Or if you want to gain realization or some quality which you deem as beneficial, in regards to all of those, it is important that you start to cultivate those qualities now, and after some time that quality will become ours.
Shantideva said that even insects and small animals, if they strove hard, could attain results. So how much more so for us who are human, who have a great deal of intelligence, to attain good results if we put our mind to it. That is the third preliminary for the practices of mind training.
The final is also termed the altruistic generation for the mind of enlightenment, or the wish to be able to benefit sentient beings. That is actually all the teachings are involved with, but, in reflection you should think just as I want to be happy, so all sentient beings want to be happy. just as I don't want even the smallest suffering, equally every other sentient beings does not want even the slightest suffering. Even a little bit. So with this recognition of the quality that all of us are equal in that wish, on the basis of that, we should not only work for ourselves and be selfish, we should try to work in regards to helping others also.
If you have two people in the room, one is selfish, one is a nicer person, we automatically like the less selfish person more. It is easy. They are a nice person to be around and such. So in our spiritual practice as a preliminary, if we recognize some of the facet which help us create our spirituality, which is like a preliminary to help us become a more spiritual person, in that we can say, being more open minded, being more universal in our attitude, looking at all sentient beings, creates great qualities, is a very essential preliminary which we have.
So that covers the two final preliminaries regarding the four common preliminaries. The four uncommon preliminaries are spiritual exercises which can be undertaken. Prostrations, mantras, mandala offerings and prayers to the guru. They should normally be received from your teacher. And in the spiritual exercises are for the purification of negativity, and the second two for the accumulation of positive merits. Those two things are important. It is important to purify previous negativity. It is what limits your mind. If you have a miserly or negative attitude, you are always looking pessimistically at the world, that is a hindrance to being able to grow at all. It limits you totally. So in purification, it is not that you feel guilty, but that you engage yourself in a practice which will wash you of your negativity. It puts you in a better relationship to your spiritual practice.
There are many things we have inside which we have never resolved. We have done naughty things! It is not easy to sometimes recognize what they are because they are in the past and we cannot remember the detail. But the effect of that is in us right now. And so when we do a purification practice, if we are conscious, we can start to recognize things which nee to be purified. Negative attitude. Sense of ill will. Sense of suspicion about others. These are attitudes based on ill will, insecurity and such things. So it is good if we purify them so that we can move beyond them. So the practices you do, such as prostrations, prostrations are a purification of disrespect of others. In doing a prostration you have to humble yourself. So on one side you can say it sounds simplistic, but on the other, it is a terrific practice. If you have any sense of arrogance, you put yourself above others, it puts you in a bad position and difficult position to learn how to be a little bit with empathy or love, kindness. So arrogance, the sense of being better than others, is a major stumbling block to moving forward at all . In doing prostrations, it is beneficial.
The exercise is quite physically strong. In doing them, it is said you also purify a lot of physical karma for having killed or damaged others. Regarding those things which sometimes happen quite unconsciously, we purify a lot of the negative karma with physical prostrations.
The Vajrasattva mantra practice will take up to three months to do. The benefits are great though. You visualize on the crown of your head the Buddha. And while you recite the mantra you visualize your nervous system gets washed of negativity. You should visualize washing out illness, negative feelings you may be clinging to, and in this way basically purify yourself. And even sometimes we can have negative spirits which cling to us and cause us illness. By doing the Vajrasattva mantra we also purify them, get them out of our nervous system.
The other two uncommon preliminaries refer to the accumulation of positive merit. The mandala offerings are done by visualizing the concept universe and offering it. You are setting up a mode of generosity within yourself. And normally you do it in two verses. You take refuge to the Buddha. And with a special plate and such, you take handfuls of rice and put it on the prayer. And in the second prayer you say this mandala spred with saffron, water and flowers, adorned with Mt. Meru, sun and moon, great treasures and things which are precious, I offer to the field of the Buddhas. In receiving this may all sentient beings be happy. What you are doing is offering in the symbolic form all of the material world. All that makes people in the material sense happy. And in offering, you are creating prosperity. Prosperity is important in the sense that if you are very limited, have limited material means, it is hard to accomplish the dharma because you are always looking for food, shelter and such things. In this preliminary it is said that you actually accumulate merit to have the facilities to have the condition to be able to practice your dharma quite comfortably without hardships.
There is a little saying. The saint Tsong Khapa offered eighteen million mandala offerings in the space of abut a year and a half. And in offering these, he was the founder of the sect we are involved with, he amassed a great deal of merit. The Gelugpa tradition has never been poor! There has always been prosperity for the monasteries and monks involved with that tradition. And it is said to be based on the fact that Tsong Khapa offered many mandala offering for the success of the spiritual tradition. For ourselves as individuals, it is important that we collect some karma regarding generosity because it is the cause of our prosperity.
The fourth preliminary is guru yoga, or prayers to the guru. And it considered very important because in regards to realizations we have, we have the kindness of our teachers. If the spiritual teachers were not around, and we just had books and things like that, it is much harder to gain realizations. If we have a teacher who helps us and introduces us how to practice, and particularly if the teacher is qualified. He or she had done practice himself. Is involved a little bit on the path, it is very beneficial. Because they can help us miss mistakes. Maybe we do not have the right understanding. Maybe our spiritual practice is a little wrong. By relying on a teacher, those mistakes can be corrected easily.
In that way doing the guru yoga practice is beneficial because it sets up a positive relationship with our guru and makes us receptive to receive teachings. Particularly regarding having a qualified teacher, if we find that, we are guaranteed by relying on him, good experiences and realizations. So that practice is to do a hundred thousand prayers to ones spiritual teacher.
In doing that one has finished the four uncommon preliminaries.
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