Lama Gendün Rinpoche at the summer courses in 1995 at Dhagpo Kagyü Ling gave teachings on the Way of the Bodhisattva. In order to make these teachings available to all, these teachings have been translated from German into English by LodröSangpo. The original German text can be found >>>here
The Meaning of our Life
All beings, that exist around us or that we can imagine, were once, in an earlier life, our parents. We therefore owe them great gratitude and goodness for all that they have done for us. Since they all will experience great suffering in the cycle of life, our only concern should be to free them from these sufferings. In order to be able to do that we must receive the teachings of the Dharma, reflect upon them, and practice them.
As the very first we develop in our deepest heart the wish to free them from all suffering, and finally we turn this wish into action studying the teachings, contemplating upon them, and practicing them with body, speech, and mind. For we can only help other beings when we ourselves have attained complete enlightenment.
Complete enlightenment means the all veils of the mind have melted away and all its qualities have unfolded. Enlightenment enables us to free other beings. This should be our only motivation for the practice and nothing else. With this sole purpose should we begin our spiritual road, act, and study the Dharma, reflect upon it and meditate on it. This is the meaning of our life: to free all beings from suffering by practicing the Dharma.
We apply all our energies of body, speech and mind for this goal and put our life in the service of all beings and of the three jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. At the same time we give our life to the Lama, who embodies the unity of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
This wish, to free all beings from all suffering and to apply our energy for this goal, should really be coming from the depths of our heart and should not be just a lip-service, that we utter along with the rest. It should be a deep-seated wish, a real determination that one doesn't throw aside again. We decide to work for the liberation of all beings with the means, which are at our disposal, until the realization of enlightenment of the heart.
This determination frees us from all personal and selfish interests; we do not possess our own life anymore, for all our energy does not any longer serve our personal goals. It is given to the beings and their liberation. In this way arises a universal, perfect altruistic vision.
Our main problem: I-attachment.
The main problem on the way is our attachment to an "I", the idea of a self that we think we should protect and satisfy. Because this attachment is the source of our suffering as well as the source of the suffering of all beings, we will work against it with all our means.
The first antidote is generosity, which means offering body, speech, and mind to the Lama and to the three Jewels, whereby they serve the liberation of all beings. In this way the attachment to an I is dissolved and a complete altruistic attitude of the mind can arise.
The wish to liberate all beings from suffering becomes the inspiring force behind all our actions. So that when difficulties arise, they are no longer perceived as personal troubles, but are seen as obstacles to the bringing about good for all beings. Perceived in this way the obstacles will no longer discourage us but help us to find even more energy to work for the liberation of all beings.
Our attention should primarily be directed towards others. When we don't follow any I-linked intentions, other people become more important and we develop a genuine interest in them. We care about all beings without exception with a completely equal attitude, which means free from all likes and dislikes. The well-being of beings becomes our sole motivation in all that we do.
To want to help others means to work with one-self.
Before we can do anything for others, we must first liberate ourselves, for we need inner free space in order to apply ourselves for others at all. Therefore it is necessary first of all to recognize and realize our own difficulties and limitations. When we begin to dissolve our I-attachment, our difficulties reveal themselves as qualities. We will no longer perceive our difficulties as obstacles but rather as a help in being able to understand the troubles of others. The more difficulties we have experienced ourselves, the more effectively we will be able to help others. It is therefore an advantage to have problems.
As long as our sight is clouded by emotions, it is impossible to help others, for one cannot show others the way if one doesn't know it oneself. In order to lead others on the way one must have first gone the way oneself. In this way working with one's own problems is the beginning of every altruistic activity. One realizes how one suffers oneself and then works at that first of all. The altruistic attitude then appears by itself, for the only thing that impedes it is our I-attachment. When this melts away our mind directs itself quite naturally at others and we are able to work with all our might for the benefit of all beings.
The motivation is the most important.
The quality of an action depends on the motivation. In this way, depending on the motivation, similar actions may have completely different effects. For an example we could take two people who plant a fruit-tree:
The first one plants this tree in his own garden, for he wants to reap the fruits later, in order to have something to eat and drink when he himself becomes hungry or thirsty. His intention by the planting is to become happy himself.
The second one also plants such a tree, but by the side of a road or in a public field. He wishes that people passing by, who are hungry or thirsty, would come to this tree to enjoy its fruits. His motivation is the well-being of others.
Their work seems the same on the surface: Both men dig a hole, plant a tree and nurture it. But the outcome of their work will not be the same, for the intention was different.
The first one, who planted the tree in his own garden, will try to protect the tree out of fear that somebody will take away the fruits. He will build a fence and do everything to prevent others from eating his fruits. The more they grow the more fear he will develop based on his I-related interest. His mind will be obscured through this and he may even become aggressive, if he gets the feeling that somebody may want to take the fruits away from him.
The second one will also be concerned about the growth and development of his tree, but since he has no personal interests, his mind will be significantly easier and freer. If the tree carries fruits, he will then rejoice, if any people come and partake of them.
Although these two actions seem so similar, their results are completely different, because they were done from completely different states of mind. The first one develops anxiety and fear, and nobody gets anything from his tree and its fruits, whereas the other one experiences great joy. Therefore we should be very attentive concerning our motivation in all actions.
I and the well-being of others.
Many of us have reached a point where the wish arises to be able to ease the suffering of all beings and to lead them all to enlightenment. But sometimes we might think: " That's all very well, thinking about the well-being of all beings, but who thinks of me? When will I have the time to do something good for myself?" As long as we think this way, we will never be able to really apply ourselves for others, because we worry about not getting enough ourselves. This particular worry or reservation prevents us from really applying ourselves to the common good, for we are constantly impeded by a certain fear, and that is an obstacle on the way.
If we continue on the Way, we will develop two qualities: Wisdom and the altruistic attitude, which we call Love or Compassion. These two qualities are simultaneously available and are doubly beneficial, for us and for others. When we speak of the common good, we mean the benefit for all beings without exception, and this encompasses our own benefit. So we need not worry whether we too may benefit through altruistic actions, for they benefit all beings, ourselves inclusive.
The Highest Truth.
As we progress on the way we reach a deep understanding of the nature of all things, the living as well as the non-living world. This understanding is the realization of the final, ultimate truth, the highest level of reality, which in Sanskrit is called Dharmakaya (Body of Truth). The realization of this truth completely melts away all suffering and is the highest of the benefits to be gained from the Dharma-practice. Only those who walk the path of Love and Compassion, without pursuing some personal interest, can realize the Dharmakaya. Therefore it is necessary that we think of the good of all beings, completely forgetting ourselves and working only for them.
This highest truth or reality is not something tangible. It is wisdom, not something material. But this wisdom has a certain warmth; it has qualities and aspects. If we possess the necessary positive force or energy for the way (merit) and the right motivation, then these qualities inherent in the mind appear by themselves as soon as we let go of I-connected interests. The dynamics of Love and Compassion express themselves in manifestations for the good of all beings, without differentiating between a giving subject or a receiving object. This way of being is called in Sanskrit Sambhogakaya (Body of Joy). It is the spontaneous expression of the qualities of enlightenment, the manifestation of enlightened activity, which, exactly as needed, accomplishes the good for all beings. This is true altruism. With the dissolution of the I-related veil all the qualities appear with which these beings may be assisted. This way the good of all beings as well as our own is accomplished.
Buddha is within us.
If we think about how incomprehensible Enlightenment is, we will perhaps feel a little discouraged and Buddhahood may seem far away. We feel lost and are unable to take even one step in this direction. We believe Buddhahood to be unattainable. But that is a great mistake, for enlightenment is by no means separate from us. It is the natural state of our own mind. Our usual mind is in reality the mind of a Buddha. All qualities are present therein, even the capacity for altruistic acting. But we do not know this and can find no access to these qualities. Therefore Buddhahood seems so far away. We do not know how to remove this spiritual veil, and thus our usual mind cannot find its way to its enlightened nature.
What are veils?
The veils, which shroud our minds, are the result of all the careless actions, which we have done motivated by I-attachment with our body, speech, and mind. Since before the beginning of time we have done these actions again and again, and they were all motivated by selfish interests. This has led to the veils, which now prevent the mind from realizing its true nature. The veils consist of habit-formed tendencies, reflex-like attitude, and false conception of reality based on ignorance, the source of all veils. Through this we are separated from the potential of the wisdom-qualities, which lie in our mind. Enlightenment appears as being very big, far away, and separate from our usual mind. To reach it, though, we only need little by little to free ourselves from our veils - this is the work that lies ahead. Further it is important that we keep a correct ethical attitude so as not to collect new harmful actions. Enlightenment doesn't need to be cultivated or procured from somewhere. We only need to free the mind of its veils.
Working with body, speech, and mind.
But the work in the direction of enlightenment takes place not only in the mind, but also with body and speech. Body and speech are the expressions or the playful manifestations of the mind. Although the mind may be the root of everything, our work also consists in cleaning out the body and speech in order to bring forth the hidden qualities within. If we think of our body as being a usual thing or regard it as just flesh and blood, then we do not realize that within this bodily form lies enlightened wisdom. Normally we only give expression to the veils of our mind with our speech and do not realize, that speech also has a wisdom-aspect. It is therefore necessary to clean out body and speech with the methods of the Dharma. In this way we will experience and develop the enlightenment of body, speech, and mind, the way of being of the Buddha.
Cleaning out Pride - methods for body, speech, and mind.
With body, speech, and mind we have carried out negative actions and should cultivate ethical conduct, to counter these habitual tendencies. Here Pride is our main problem. The Tibetan word for Pride (nga-rgyal) means "Crowning of the I" or the "Kingdom of the Ego". We have committed many negative acts in order to appease this Ego-King. In this manner we have hurt beings in many ways and forms, through actions which we made with the body, and often also in the way we express ourselves in words which wounded others and hurt them - all this because we were so convinced of our own, much greater, importance.
The counter measure for Pride is the development of respect and modesty concerning what is right and true, as it concerns the enlightenment. In order to clean the body we may do prostrations. We throw ourselves down in humility and in that moment let go of ourselves and our pride. We realize how great the enlightenment is. As support for the prostrations, we may for example place a Buddha-statue to remind us of the qualities of the enlightenment. We can also do prostrations before mandalas, which are artistic impressions of the enlightened universe. These are options for counteracting our pride, and through that we realize the qualities of the enlightenment, which lie within our own mind. Out of pride we have often said words which hurt others. We have spoken ill of them in order to justify ourselves or we have insisted on opinions, because we held our standpoint to be the only true one. Thus we have often caused great suffering for others as well as through hurtful words or lies. In order to progress along the way to the benefit of others and to dissolve the I-attachment, we can utilize certain methods to clean up our speech. We can for example recite texts from realized masters who are expressions of pure speech or we can say mantras and prayers, which are expressions of the truth of enlightenment. This may reinstate in our speech the dimension of wisdom, which we have lost.
Alertness and a little effort.
All emotions begin in the mind. Everything begins there. As the first appears Pride and from that springs the mind-poisons of the various emotions, such as attachment, jealousy, or anger. Our mind is completely swept along by these emotions, which in the end leads to negative action, and negative speech. Our most pressing object is therefore to develop awareness. This we can practice through meditation. When during meditation we observe the flowing of our mind, we will become aware of all its movements, thoughts, and emotions, which cover final truth. Then we should ask ourselves: Where do all these thoughts come from? ... and we will realize that they originate in the mind. We could also ask: Where are these thoughts?... they are in the mind. Where are they going?...they will dissolve in the mind again. In this way we will realize that all thoughts and emotions free themselves in the mind. This is the experience of the Mahamudra, the great cleaning out on the plane of the mind. Through the Mahamudra-practice we realize that ordinary bodies, ordinary speech, and ordinary mind can be transformed into enlightened bodies, enlightened speech, and enlightened minds. That which we call Enlightenment has always been the nature of our own mind, but we must make a certain effort in order to realize this. Without effort it is as if we were to sit in front of a glass of milk and expect it to turn into butter all on its own. The milk will only go sour and, but we won't get any butter. In order to obtain butter, the cream must be churned. They who know this will churn the milk and make an effort to make butter out of it. In the same way we must make an effort to bring forth the enlightened body, enlightened speech, and enlightened mind.
Pure viewpoint of body, speech, and mind.
Cleaning out at the highest level.
With a pure viewpoint, such as we develop it in Vajrayana, we can realize the true nature of body, speech, and mind.
At the body-plane this is obtainable through visualizing our body as the meditation-deity. Such a deity symbolizes our true, enlightened qualities. Visualizing ourselves as perfectly pure we clean our limited conceptions of our own body. This form of practice helps us to manifest the Nirmanakaya or "illusory body". Kaya, in Sanskrit, means "body", "manifestation", or "way of being", and Nirmana means "illusory". A Nirmanakaya manifests itself and is still illusory and empty, a play of illusion, like a rainbow. Through this kind of meditation we can realize the clear, but still illusory appearance of bodily forms, whose essence is the original consciousness. Through that we can purify all attachment to the body and all false conceptions about the body and realize the illusory body, called Nirmanakaya.
Also at the plane of speech such a change is possible. Ordinary speech consists simply of sounds, which we utilize for our personal interests. Through recitation of texts and especially mantras we can purify our speech. We then utilize our speech for pure purposes whereby our speech then rediscovers the wisdom-dimension. This verbal level is not only the voice, but is communication, and it may thus be realized as the natural expression of the Sambhogakaya, the "Body of Joy". Kaya again means "body" and Sambhoga can be translated as "Richness", "Joy" or "Fulfillment". The enlightened qualities of the Sambhogakaya allow us in a natural, spontaneous way to bring about the good of all beings. The richness and the Joy (Radiance) of the mind are then at our disposal. In this way our usual speech is transformed into pure, authentic speech, whereby this dimension is realized directly.
The plane of the mind, which we give our foremost attention, we can also purify. Usually we are only partly aware of our mind: limited to our own person. We speak of "my" mind and fill out this concept with the things that we want, or the things, which we don't want, or fear. Therefore it is very limited. Through the meditation we realize the open nature of our original consciousness, its spaciousness or expanse - an openness which shows itself in the relinquishing of I-related attachment. We then no longer experience the mind as our possession, for this idea of an ownership is also only a thought, and thoughts are only the playings of the mind.
Through the Mahamudra meditation we will understand the nature of the mind, for in the relinquishing of all attachment the original consciousness is experienced as it is - free from all concepts. Letting go of attachment also means letting go of duality: subject and object. The viewer, the viewed, and the viewing are only present in the mind. The witness as well as the witnessed and the space between the two are only mind things. This realization creates a deep relaxation.
To sum it all up once again: The richness of communicative possibilities manifests at the enlightened level of the Sambhogakaya. The appearance of bodily form, which is manifested as illusory dance, is the Nirmanakaya. Both work for the good of all beings. To realize this in Mahamudra is the Dharmakaya. All three are expressions of the free mind, free from egotism and possessive thinking.
Getting a clear view of the way.
In order to go along this way, we must first understand what the way is, what its basis is, in which direction it goes and with what purpose we travel it. Otherwise we might go very much astray. If our mind is not really straightened out, the means, which were given us in Dharma and which as such are authentic and true, will not be utilized in the right way. Therefore tit is necessary first of all to study the Dharma-teachings and to think about their meaning.
Dharma is the way from our present state, where we are right now, and to enlightenment. Enlightenment means complete transformation (purification) of the usual state of body, speech, and mind in their pure, true state, the wisdom aspects of the three levels. Enlightenment describes the complete transformation of these three levels into the three bodies or Kayas. A Buddha is an enlightened being who has completely realized all these three bodies. He possesses all the qualities that appear on the way to purification and realization.
Dharma is practiced in order to attain this realization and to free all beings. If on the other hand we invest our energy in the Dharma for personal gain, it will bring no good fruits. Perhaps we may think: "I am really not all that bad (and do not really need all this), but I will go to the instructions to see if I might extract something which I can utilize, so that I might fare even better. It might even be useful for me." If we think like this we apply the means of the Dharma in a completely wrong way and are totally under the influence of egocentric attachment. Our toil on the way will then only benefit the ego. We will become even more proud and intolerant, develop even more I-attachment and worry even more about how we may satisfy it (the ego).
So it is important to understand, through reflection and meditation, what the way consists of, why one practices, and where one wants to go in the first place. Only then will our work bear fruit and bring us the benefit it is supposed to, namely the benefit for all beings. Otherwise only one's own ego is nourished.
What is the purpose of the Dharma?
Dharma is simply the expression of Love and Compassion.
It is the carefulness, which one gives all beings.
All beings want constant and lasting happiness, but because of their ignorance they are like the blind. They search for happiness, but are getting further away from it all the time. The Buddha as an enlightened being saw full of wisdom and compassion which direction must be followed, and he taught the beings the way and the true means by which to attain true happiness. Wisdom and compassion were the sources of his teachings. These were then passed on orally from master to pupil and also written down.
Enlightened consciousness knows no limits. Also our mind can experience this. No matter in which of the three great realms of existence the beings might be, whether in the realm of desire, in the realm of form, or in the realm of formlessness - all three areas are permeated by mind. The enlightened consciousness is aware of all particulars of these three worlds, every movement and purpose as well as the potential, i.e. the positive or negative Karma of the beings living there. This consciousness is everywhere simultaneously. When someone realizes the enlightened dimension of the mind, he will naturally, through his compassion, find the proper means in order to help other beings - quite spontaneously - so that all beings may accomplish the transformation of their consciousness. That is all that Dharma is.
Dharma is the expression of Wisdom.
Dharma is the methods, which were given in order to attain enlightenment.
This enlightenment is by no means far away from us. When we develop the right viewpoint of body, speech, and mind, we will experience this condition ourselves. We only need to develop the right motivation and must apply our energy towards developing trust and using the right means. Then this pure realization (wisdom), inherent in our mind, which sees all and knows all will manifest spontaneously. This is a work that can be done. Enlightenment is by no means impossible or very far away.
It all depends only on how we apply ourselves, what motives we have and what consciousness we develop. This consciousness appears through study and reflection, whereby we realize, what we must do, and what we must leave be.
What is meditation?
In order to be able to meditate, it is necessary to understand that the world and all beings are only playings of the mind. Everything, i.e. the complete world of phenomena, arises in the form of thoughts in our mind, lingers (for a moment) and dissolves in the mind again. Meditation consists of becoming aware of the movement taking place in the mind: to see that thoughts appear and then to "release" them, which means letting them return to whence they came. The way, then, is to observe the inner mind as well as the outer world, to observe the universe and all beings and to let this playings happen without attachment or without wanting to interfere. That is meditation.
We will now meditate together, for that is the essence of the whole thing. Rinpoche says that he has forgotten all the other stuff anyway.
Instruction to meditation (by Gendün Rinpoche)
We are not trying to create an artificial stability by for instance drawing our chin in and trying not to let any one thought escape us. Our position should be dignified and upright, but at the same time open and movable.
Our task is to work with the openness and spontaneity of the mind. Thereby we open ourselves to the realization that all manifestations, i.e. everything that appears, are without reality. This leads to relaxation of the mind and through that also to a natural relaxation of the body, which at the same time keeps its dignity.
We have the compulsion to hold body, speech, and mind captive. Our thoughts and intentions fetter them. Stress maintains this bondage, and as a reaction stupidity or wildness arise in the mind.
By the meditation, like we will do it now, we release this narrowing of body, speech, and mind. We allow them to open up in a natural way. Thereby our usual mind will rediscover its range and finally also its wisdom dimension. Ordinary mind will realize itself as enlightened mind.
When we are without tension,
then there is no suffering.
No suffering means Joy,
which means, that the mind is enlightened!
It is really not hard at all.
Actually it is much harder,
to always cling and strain.
Opening and letting go is not difficult.
It is really the simplest thing there is.
One must simply do nothing (at all).
Enlightenment spirit – The wish to free all beings.
They who want to hear the Dharma, contemplate upon it, and bring it into practice must first develop the right motivation. This right motivation we call the enlightened spiritual attitude, in Sanskrit "Boddhicitta". At the relative level is first the wish to finally free all people from suffering. It is important that this enlightenment spirit really expands in our minds - otherwise we will not be able to liberate the beings. The enlightenment spirit has two aspects: the wish and the application.
1) Before we engage in something on the Way it is absolutely necessary that we develop the deep wish to liberate the beings that are as numerous as space is wide. Everywhere where there is space there are living entities, and all these entities were once our father or our mother. We can liberate them from the suffering in which they find themselves now by leading them to complete enlightenment
This intention will carry all our actions. Without this wish or with unstable motivation without real power our activities for others will be limited and weak. Therefore it is necessary that this wish of freeing all beings, not be uttered with the lips only, but really originates from the bottom of our heart. Therefore we dedicate ourselves to the three phases of the Dharma-practice: Study, Contemplation, and Meditation. Only with the strong wish that all beings may experience Enlightenment, can our actions become deep universal actions, which really accomplish the well being of all these entities. Because of our own way to enlightenment we will be capable of freeing all others from suffering.
2) After we have developed the wish for Enlightenment, the striving Enlightenment-mind, the thing to do is to live according to this wish. This corresponds to the phase of application of the Enlightenment-mind.
Taking Refuge means to commit oneself completely
As an expression of the applied Enlightenment-mind we should as the very first take Refuge, which means to completely devote oneself to Enlightenment. Doing that we let our pride and our egocentric attachment go completely and turn to something which is higher than ourselves: The Enlightenment in the form of the Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. At the same time we turn to the spiritual master, the Lama, who embodies these three aspects and who is the source of Refuge for us, embodying all these aspects in him.
By receiving the Refuge we devote the energies of our body, speech and mind without limitations to [attaining] Enlightenment. We relinquish all personal or egotistic interests for they would pollute our spiritual work of receiving teachings, of contemplating, and of meditating. By giving up all concessions on body, speech, and mind and giving their energy to the Three Jewels and through them to all beings, we may really act for the benefit of all beings and there will be no more obstacles. So let us direct all our energies of body, speech, and mind towards the highest altruistic goal, the Enlightenment of all beings.
Taking Refuge transforms impediments into expedients for the Way
This generosity, to offer one's own energy to the three jewels and to all beings, helps us to progress on the spiritual way without difficulties or risks. If we set out on the spiritual way with the right point of view, the way will be traveled correctly and there will be no danger. Should obstacles, temptations or mistakes occur, we may always be able to find our way back to this basic attitude which we developed by our taking refuge. We can remember this:
"My body, my speech, and my mind belong to me no longer,
for by taking Refuge, I have dedicated them to the Liberation of all beings."
Then obstacles can not deter us, for we no longer feel personally attacked by difficulties, since we are not working for our own, but for the benefit of all beings. We continue with this work even in the face of adversity. Such an attitude helps to overcome difficulties for we only see that which is for the benefit of all. Thereby our perception of difficulties is changed. There may even be great joy, when we see that our work is effective and something is happening, for difficulties are then a sign that something has been set in motion, that our way is fruitful. Difficult circumstances may even nourish and help us to develop even greater spiritual power, since they stimulate us into going further in this offering of body, speech, and mind and to work even harder for the liberation of all beings.
If one has only a shallow motivation, everything will break down on the first appearance of difficulties. That is why it is so important to develop this wish in the depths of our heart and bones. Only thus may we advance on the way and attain the Enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
Deep Prayer - The Four Immeasurables
There is a kind of contemplative prayer, which is called "the Four Immeasurables". In this one contemplates first the limitless love - the wish that all beings may experience happiness and the causes of happiness. One can just recite such a prayer by rote, or one can really connect with this wish in the depths of one's heart and transform it into action accordingly. This would mean, that one strives in all circumstances to do everything so that these beings may experience happiness, and even more importantly get to an understanding of the sources of this joy.
This wish has two aspects. First you wish the happiness of beings at a relative level, simply that all beings be happy. On top of that though you also wish that they may all experience the source of happiness, i.e., that it will always be possible for all beings to receive teachings and through them understand how they may themselves bring about happiness. The teachings, the understanding, coming from those teachings, and the actions resulting from that, will become a cause of happiness for them. To dedicate oneself to the source of happiness for all beings is a grand work, which must be carried out each and every moment.
The second of these four Immeasurables is the limitless compassion - the wish that all beings may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. This wish also has two aspects: First one struggles to keep beings free from suffering and to avoid that they suffer. The long-term aspect of this work is the wish that the beings understand what the causes of sufferings are.
Causes of suffering are all the negative actions, which we have done with body, speech, and mind. This we did because of ignorance and with the goal of protecting our own beloved ego. To really understand what the causes of suffering are, it is necessary to study, contemplate, and meditate. Only thus can we learn to really distinguish what is right from what is not, and what brings suffering from what brings happiness. First we learn it ourselves and then we may pass on to all beings what must be done and what must be given up. Through teachings, contemplation, and meditation grows clarity which lets us understand exactly which attitude is right and which is not. When we what to develop this clarity, we must begin by examining our own mind stream and by looking more inward.
Admitting one's own negativity and developing trust
Usually we always look outward and judge other people, but from our teachings we understand that we must direct our view inward and analyze our own mind flow. Only then will we be able to see, what is actually present in our own minds.
When we only look at the surface, we think: "With me everything is all right. I may have this or that small difficulty, but it is nothing serious." If we really look closely at which inclinations we have developed from our childhood, what drives us to act as we have done up till now, what actions caused by emotions we have done, and what sufferings we have caused others because of them - then we realize what an unlimited great, negative potential we carry within us. It becomes clear to us that there is a great negativity inside our minds, which causes others and us suffering now, and which will also cause suffering in the future. An awakening of consciousness takes place - and we develop the true wish to change ourselves.
By taking refuge we have already stated on the way, and now finally we start to really turn to Enlightenment - the Enlightenment, which is free from all veils, from all emotions and negative actions. The way to Enlightenment assumes that one lay open all negativity and admits to one's own negative potential. Therefore we pray fervently for the blessing and help of the Enlightenment, so that we may free ourselves from the suffering, which arises through the negativity.
We begin to develop real trust in the ability of the Enlightenment, and to dissolve the obstacles and their fruits, the suffering. Our minds begin to open up to the Buddha and the Sangha. Thereby the waves of the blessings of the three Jewels, which are an expression of the compassion, find an entrance into our hearts and help us to complete the transformation. The darkness is illuminated and Clearness shines forth.
First one must become self-aware and then one begins to develop trust and openness. With the help of these two the transformation may take place and all negativity can be cleaned out.
Taking Refuge first of all is a declaration of intent at the mind level. But that alone is not sufficient - there must follow some working with body and speech. Therefore the Refuge is always accompanied by prostrations. To bow down or to prostrate one's body expresses our trust. It symbolizes the trusting offering of body, speech, and mind. At the same time, on the plane of speech, we say the Refuge prayer. Taking Refuge, then, is a complete practice, in which we express our respect through body, speech, and mind.
To make a prostration we place both hands together in front of the forehead. This expresses our respect for the Enlightenment, which is symbolized through a Buddha-statue, a picture of the Lama, or a picture of the Refuge-tree. But we may also simply imagine the presence of the Refuge. The forehead symbolizes the body. By touching it we bring our respect for the enlightened body and at the same time we pray for its blessing. We show our respect and at the same time we receive the blessing. This cleans all the veils which we have gathered with the body since time immortal, and we understand that our own usual body and the enlightened body are inseparable.
As the next thing we put our hands together in front of our throat, as a symbol of speech. It is a sign of respect by the ordinary speech for the enlightened speech. So we pray for its blessing and receive it, whereby we understand, that one's own, ordinary speech and the enlightened speech are inseparable.
Finally we put our hands together in front of our heart, specifically the breastbone, as an expression of our respect for the mind or the heart of Enlightenment and then we pray for the blessing of the enlightened mind. Thereby we receive this blessing, whereby we realize that our own ordinary mind and the enlightened mind are inseparable.
After in this way having called upon body, speech, and mind for blessings, we bow down and with our hands on the floor slide forwards until our body has full contact with the floor. Thereby our knees, hands, and forehead are all touching the floor. The touching of the floor by these five body-points symbolizes our request for cleansing of the five main emotions: Ignorance, Desire, Hate, Pride, and Jealousy. We pray for and imagine that these emotions leave the body, speech, and mind and flow into the ground. In this way we can cleanse ourselves from these Mind poisons and thereby also from all the thoughts and actions derived therefrom, which in the future might have caused suffering.
Such a prostration is then an extensive work of cleaning out. We express our respect, get the blessing, and free ourselves from the mind poisons of emotional obscuration. It is, however, very important that we have complete trust in this method. If we have no trust or if we are motivated by some other intention, then prostrations are only child's play, or gymnastics, without any usefulness whatsoever.
Including our enemies and all beings.
During the prostrations we imagine that our father is to the right and our mother to the left of us and behind us are all the beings of the six worlds of existence. In front of us are all enemies and beings, with whom we have had difficulties or who annoy us specially. This counteracts our tendency to forget these people, to somehow avoid them, or to do even worse things to them. The presence of these for us difficult beings is very important, for if we only gather our parents and friends around us, it might seem to us as if we were at a Sunday family rally, with all our loved ones present, and where one just feels comfortable.
If, however, we also imagine the enemies together with all beings, we realize that we are connected with them all. All are depending on each other - we cannot simply stay apart from the others, the six kinds of beings, and just go after the Enlightenment, for we owe them a great debt. We owe them Love. Through this visualization it can be seen whether we really have developed the will, through study, contemplation, and practice, to work for the good of all people without exception. We will also thus avoid the error of regarding the practice as just a personal thing, and of thinking, that we can just go our own, personal way and so forget about all other beings. Therefore it is so very necessary, when doing prostrations, to have this idea. Our enemies are actually those with whom we need to work the most, since they bring us the much further along the way. Through them we develop patience and tolerance - they are very useful to our way and should therefore get their appropriate place in our spiritual practice.
Especially when we imagine our father and mother during the prostrations, that will remind us that we owe really all beings great love. We imagine then that we, together with all these beings, turn towards the Refuge tree, i.e. the Buddha, and make our prostrations. Also our parents, our friends, and our enemies prostrate themselves. This is another indication that it really is a universal practice and not some exclusively personal work.
We should also regard ourselves not as a singular, quite ordinary person, but instead in our minds we multiply our own body and imagine that we appear in limitless number. All these 'emanations' of us prostrate themselves - and so the room is filled with all these beings that are making prostrations.
Handling of bodily difficulties when doing prostrations.
Prostrations are bodily actions, and of course bodily difficulties may appear, like headaches, knee-aches and the like. Then, of course, one thinks how great these pains are, one notices only them, and perhaps one thinks that one must stop with the prostrations. One begins to moan and complain.
Here we should apply the previously mentioned right viewpoint for the Refuge. We remember that we have offered the energies of body, speech, and mind to all beings. When this is actually the case, we no longer have the feeling of possessing this body ourselves, and then we are able to regard these bodily difficulties quite differently: not as personal weaknesses, but rather as a necessary effort to bring all beings to Enlightenment. We are then no longer trying to find all kinds of excuses for stopping the prostrations as soon as possible.
The three jewels further the growth of the karmic seeds.
Through the prostrations we see what is going on within us. We notice for instance, that there is not enough trust in our minds and that we feel discouraged, that our speech will become tired after all the Refuge prayer reciting, and because various bodily discomforts appear. When we look inside ourselves, we will realize, that the karmic seeds, which are present in our minds, grow and ripen very fast when we perform the prostrations. This happens through the prostrations and through trusting. Actually it is the effect of the blessings of the Three Jewels, that we discover these difficulties now. Through the blessing of the Three Jewels the ripening of the karmic seeds is accelerated, so that the potential for great suffering, which lies dormant in the karmic seeds, is dissolved.
Not to start this work immediately can be likened to not ripping a small tree up, but instead waiting. Then the tree grows, and when first it is big, it can only be gotten rid of through great labors. This corresponds to the tree of suffering. The karmic seeds of suffering is considerably easier to uproot now, and we should be doing it as quickly as possible - and not wait till later on, when the seeds have grown to fruition by themselves.
This acceleration of the ripening of karmic seeds is a blessing from the three Jewels. Now we have conditions which lets us deal with difficulties considerably easier than later on, when we have other living-conditions, without any support from the Dharma. These instructions, which prepare us for the handling of difficult situations, are also a blessing of the three Jewels. They make it clear to us, that all obstacles and problems, which appear during our practice, are really necessary tasks in order to help others. We learn to bid them welcome, because we realize that the appearance of difficulties is a sign of the accelerated ripening of karmic seeds. We realize that we now have excellent conditions, where we can find support, and where the suffering appears in a still tolerable form and is considerably easier to endure, than it would be later on under living conditions without the Dharma.
Because of this understanding, great happiness arises. We stop complaining and have no more fear, but rather realize that what it's about is a deep cleansing and that qualities are released thereby, which will benefit other beings. Happiness gives energy, and with this energy we can overcome even more problems and go much further, than we thought, while we were still limited by our Ego. All this is possible because of our trust in the three Jewels and through a correct understanding of what is released by prostrations.
The Lama as Dorje Chang
During the prostrations we imagine that the Refuge tree stands in front of us a little above our heads. In the center of the Refuge tree is the Root-Lama, for the Lama is the source of all blessings and all welfare. Through the blessing of the Root-Lama we reach enlightenment. We do not visualize the Lama in his usual form, as we know him, but rather in his symbolic form as the Buddha Dorje Chang, who represents the Dharmakaya, the highest State of Being or complete Realization
We imagine him as the embodiment of body speech, and mind of the Enlightened Ones and in this way we avoid projecting our own idea onto the Master and avoid tailoring the Enlightenment to our own wishes. When we imagine the Master as being young or old and what else we can think of, we falsify the enlightened manifestation through our own dualistic perception, through our attachment. So that this doesn't happen, we apply a correcting filter, namely the visualization of the Lama in the form of Dorje Chang as a handy tool in order to develop the pure view of the Enlightenment. In this way we may overcome our ordinary way of viewing things and are beyond our own imperfections. When we then practice with trust and an open heart, we will tear off the veils. We can open up to the blessings of the Enlightenment and will receive this blessing in any case.
Often there is a doubt about one's own ability to be able to turn towards the Enlightenment in this way. One thinks, "How can I turn to the Enlightenment? Am I capable of doing prostrations? How may I turn to my Lama or to Dorje Chang? I can't see how this might happen. I am not at all worthy, and I don't know how to address him."
We should certainly rid ourselves of this. We must understand that our relationship with the Lama is a relationship from mind to mind. When our own mind, full of dedication and trust, ask the Lama for a blessing, it can be done in very simple language, with our own words. When we have trust and dedication, our heart, because of our sincere wish, opens up for the blessing. Through this opening of our heart and mind a natural meeting of the enlightened mind and our own mind takes place. All words are then superfluous.
The relationship of Master and student is something quite simple. It needs no massive explanations and no expression of passionate love, where the student comes and says, "I am your student", or something similar. It is something quite natural. Trust is built piece by piece, and the relationship comes along little by little. It is a relationship between minds. We only have to sit down and open our minds to the blessing of the Master, to the blessing of him, who inspires us the most.
Often when students give lengthy declarations, they often hide the fact that they are not open at all. But the other way round too, one must be very careful with the Masters, who come along and say, "you are my chosen pupil". Those are teachers, who go out fishing for students, because they like to have as many people as possible around them and because they are working for their own interests.
Our problem: Strong I-attachment
Dharmapractice is easily summed up: Our body, our speech, and our mind are "dirty". In order to clean them up we must wash them, with the Dharma practice. The detergent is Boddhicitta, the Enlightenment-mind.
For the moment our body, speech, and mind are totally possessed by I-attachment. There is no doubt about that, because for the time being there is in our actions no trace to be found of a pure mental attitude. Such a pure mental attitude would be an unselfish goodwill, a selfless commitment to others, the Enlightenment-mind. There is nothing remarkable in that, for we are deeply egotistic and have bad will against all beings, solely interested in our own personal welfare.
The task, we have to accomplish, is obvious: First of all we have to surmount our negative attitude and fight against the egotistic tendencies in our mind. Then it is necessary to develop the pure mental attitude, the good-willed Enlightenment-mind, first as a wish and then in action. Only in this way can we attain Enlightenment and finally work for the benefit of all beings. Right now this is not yet possible for us, for we are completely selfish and have no pure attitude. We are constantly busy just with ourselves: "I", "me", "mine". Our only concern is: "How can I be happier? How may I avoid problems? How can I get more recognition? Who will love me?" That is the only thing that interests us. So our minds are completely obsessed with personal interest. And there is simply no more room for a pure thought or for the Enlightenment mind. We act from the single reflex, to somehow always derive some use for ourselves.
When we hear that we must work for the good of all beings, we take the mouth full and claim that: " That's exactly what I am doing now. I am now helping all beings." When we then later on really do something for others, we will ascribe all the benefits of this initially pure action to ourselves. Our egotistic mind will again seize everything, which initially might have been a pure attitude. So ultimately they are all just hollow words.
The mind is the boss and the body, speech, and mind are its slaves or servants. The way we are now, we constantly send our body, speech, and mind in all directions only to free our egotistic mind. All actions, all turmoil, all excitement has only one aim: to pacify the ego as well as possible. In addition we make a lot of fuss to make all and sundry take notice of how great and wonderful we are. That is the problem, and the medicine is the exact opposite.
Attacking the problem: Exchanging oneself and others.
To attack the problem would mean that we now begin to notice our intentions and actions at every moment and to change, so that the necessary, deep transformation can take place. When we then notice, that we again, under the influence of strong I-attachment, want to grasp everything for ourselves, we try to turn this around, and instead we give everything to others. Everything, which we usually would rather dump on others, we begin to take onto us.
This work requires vigilance as well as full acceptance of this work from moment to moment. So we must accept regarding our mind such as it is and be ready to transform it. As soon as we notice that we again want everything good, all happiness for ourselves, we must utilize the antidote and try immediately to change our motivation with its consequent actions and words. Instead of clinging to happiness, justification, or advantages, we take disadvantages and defeat upon us and offer all happiness, all joy, and all qualities to all beings. This means vigilance at every moment.
We begin to observe all our thoughts, words, and actions, and ask ourselves continuously this question: "Have my thoughts, words, or actions really a pure motivation, now? Or is it once more egotism?"
The measure for everything is pure motivation - whatever one is doing, thinking, or saying at any time.
Only in this way is it possible to transform negativity and egotism into altruistic activity. In the end we will really master this exercise of the mind and bring about the change. This doesn't happen right away, though, and never happens by itself without our decision. One day we must really come to the decision to work in this way from now on - to really commit ourselves. If you don't really commit and involve yourself, then the mind will not change.
If we do change our mental attitude clarity will appear increasingly, the transformation will take place quite naturally, and we will spontaneously act altruistically. But this spontaneity is the fruit of steady work. Therefore quite some time of preparation is needed in which we truly apply ourselves and struggle to set the change in motion.
He who practices in this way will have more space and tolerance. Because of I-attachment we often let ourselves be overwhelmed by the negativity which meets us, because we relate it all to ourselves and we fear that they might harm us. When, however, this egotism stops and real goodwill rules our mind, then there is no room at all for intolerance or anger. Then only limitless compassion arises, for we see primarily the suffering, which the beings experience. We no longer think of our own suffering, which might come to us based on certain circumstance, we are only concerned with the suffering others experience.
Emotions and obstacles even become a source of tolerance and compassion. They spur us on to always want to better understand the mechanism of the mind and the emotions, and infinite compassion ensues. Thereby we have considerably more energy at our disposal, which again we can apply to the work of transformation. The relations with others become more natural and spontaneous. They are marked by goodwill, because we are conscious of the sufferings of others and have only the wish to ease their suffering.
The more one practices, the more one understands the mind and, in the same way you have the wish to practice even more Dharma, to understand even more, in order to even faster get the methods to free others from their suffering. In this way anger and irritation will appear less and less. You have only one wish: "May I as quickly as possible get the means to help all beings. May I have the means to study the Dharma, reflect upon it, and to practice it, so that I may later liberate all beings." If one doesn't have this pure motivation to help other beings, there is the danger that you start to study the Dharma and to practice it, and then you start to feel that you are better than other people are. You develop great pride and think that your are now someone special, because you practice the Dharma. And you might think: " Oh the poor creatures, how lost they are in this world." Then perhaps you have no more anger, but you have developed an infinite pride, and that is in no way better. Therefore it is so very important to have a pure motivation.
Happiness we give away and Unhappiness we take upon us.
All troubles are welcome, and all pleasant, light and beautiful is offered to others
In relationships we take suffering and defeat upon us and give victory, joy, and happiness to the others.
When we are able to work in this manner, we follow the way of the Boddhisattvas, who practice the enlightenment mind, and will then be able to help all beings.
If somebody strikes us we should take this as a gift. It is a teaching, which shows us how much we are lacking in patience and how quickly we react to an attack with a counterattack, violence pitted against violence, aggression repaid with aggression. The attack we should regard as a teaching and the attacker as our master, who gives us a teaching.
If we can react like this even outwardly - wonderful, but if that is not yet possible, we should at least do it inwardly by thanking the attacker for this chance to develop our qualities and to get rid of our karmic burdens. If we can not do that either, then we should at least bid him a friendly "Hello".
Meditation is not the absence of thoughts
Now we will again turn to the meditation, which enables us to do this work on ourselves. But what is meditation? Often we have the notion that meditation is the absence of thoughts - what a big mistake! If there were no thoughts, why then should we meditate at all? We meditate, precisely because there are thoughts. This table doesn't think, therefore it doesn't need to meditate.
Our mind constantly produces movements, which are called thoughts. Having thoughts is quite natural. Our problem is not the absence of thoughts, it is that we hold on to them and judge them as being either pleasant or unpleasant - we separate them into those that we want and those that we don't. (This creates tension in our mind and sets a whole chain of suffering-creating reactions in motion.)
Meditation means to not cling to the movements of the mind, to not grasp at thoughts, and to not carry on any inner debates. If a thought pops up, we do not pursue it with another, which then analyses the previous one, saying, 'This thought was good and that one not so good' etc. We should simply let the playings of the mind happen. We let the thoughts come and go without grasping at them or rejecting them and without grasping at the happenings in the mind.
Meditation does not mean to create emptiness.
Meditation is often connected with an erroneous idea of emptiness. Those who meditate then think for instance: Oh, yes, everything is empty - and project into the space in front of them an infinitely great emptiness about which they think, that it fills everything. Then they sit there admiring this emptiness, which they have created. This artificial emptiness is a mere concept, but the meditator uses a lot of energy in maintaining this putative emptiness and in trying to make it keep working in his field of experience. It began first with thoughts about the emptiness, then that produced an incredible effort to perceive and maintain this emptiness. That is not meditation, but confused, diverted mind.
Wrong postures by meditation - the interplay of body and mind.
If we do not know the tendencies of the mind, it may happen that we approach the meditation in the wrong way. Here our mind-tendencies are often visible in our body-posture, for the body reflects what is happening in the mind.
If for instance someone draws his shoulders back, lowers the head slightly, and draws the chin in, it looks, as if he is trying to create a frame in which to keep hold of his mind and not let any thoughts come up, which is a great effort for him. This comes from desire for meditative stability, which is confused with the absence of thoughts. The meditator is here yearning for a mind free from thoughts.
There is yet another extremely tense posture: With all your energy you attempt to create that, which you imagine during meditation, by stretching the body convulsively upwards. It looks as if all energies are drawn upwards and collect under the top of the skull. Also the eyes are directed upwards, and it becomes very painful. The whole thing looks just like somebody who is absolutely looking for the ideal state of meditation.
Mediation is not working with different points or different colors - blue, red, yellow, green, checkered, striped or anything like that. Meditation means letting the mind rest in its natural state, without duress or interference, free from rejection and attraction, without accepting certain thoughts or rejecting others. When we reach this state of affairs for the mind, not clinging to nor rejecting anything, then our minds become naturally open and spontaneous.
Our mind is connected to the body through energy channels on which the energies ride so to speak. When the mind is tense then the channels of the body tense up too. This also functions the other way round: When you place yourself in the proper posture, then this helps to free and loosen the energies and the channels. Therefore it is very important on the one hand to keep an open flexible attitude in the mind - not to hold on to anything, or reject anything or force anything - and on the other hand to assume the proper position, which reflects and facilitates such a mind attitude. Then the energy-channels could open up like flowers, and the energies can circulate freely in the body, which again frees the mind.
When however we tense and force our body, the channels are unfavorably affected: the energies do not circulate freely anymore, and our mind becomes problems. We may be annoyed, and then stupidity or wildness and all kinds of problems of the body and mind may appear. Our meditation is then no longer natural - our mind cannot find its natural state.
Loosening the chains
The mind makes its own prison through the compulsions it lays on itself and through the choices that it makes. Our clinging to perceptions works like chains, which captures and constricts the free and natural state of the mind. These compulsions, which the mind makes for itself, create tensions, and tensions lead to suffering. Where there is no tension there is no suffering; there is no Samsara. The cycle of being has been liberated and Enlightenment attained.
This compulsion or this tension, which the mind creates, cannot be dissolved from outside. The mind must free itself from inside, which is only possible through inner opening and inner letting go. Thereby space is created. We become able to further rid ourselves of the tensions and to find the true nature of the mind.
This inner work makes is possible to cut trough the attachment to the world of appearances. Till now we are attracted or repulsed by these apparently outside phenomena. They exert a certain fascination on us and we react with either attraction or rejection. If we do the meditative work as prescribed and let ourselves be opened and let go, we will recognize all outer phenomena as objects of the mind. Our attachment will diminish. We no longer need to have this or that. Then everything that we perceive is really a phenomenon in our own mind, and we are aware of this play of the mind. We realize that everything is called forth by the mind, and so we can relax and rediscover the natural state of the mind.
Is there, without fascination, a mental object to which one could attach?
Is there, without objects of attachment or rejection, suffering or turmoil?
I see that you are all already quite naturally in a state of meditation!
... and Rinpoche further speaks to the meditating audience in the summery warm tent and gives these Vajra-song-like teachings about True Mind Peace:
Meditation is only a process of letting go:
Seeing, what stirs in the mind,
and letting it go in the same moment -
clinging to nothing, and rejecting nothing.
Like if we would free us from our clothes,
which restrain the body
and prevent it from moving freely,
we rid ourselves of all the layers
which limit the freedom of the mind
and makes it a prisoner.
We are aware of things, see them,
and let them loose in the same moment.
Then there is no more turmoil in the mind.
The objects of fascination, which we grasped at earlier,
are then recognized as mere stirrings of the mind.
The mind no longer pursues them
and finally really relaxes.
This is firstly the relaxation of the mind
followed by the the mind's resting in clarity:
When in all phenomena we always recognize the mind
and see, that all that happens,
is simply the mind - not material, not tangible,
Then, finally, the mind sees itself.
It sees itself in its true natural state,
in its original essence,
whereupon great relief ensues.
The mind relaxes
and no longer searches for something or other,
but reposes in mindful peace.
Then the mind recognizes itself,
sees itself through itself,
resting naturally in its own nature.
Mind realizes itself like it is:
creative and shining, the source of all manifestations,
and at the same time empty, not material.
This vision leads to the natural peace of the mind,
deep and all embracing.
This is true peace of mind,
the natural stability of a mind,
which rests in its own nature.
These instructions take us a step further than the usual practice of mental peace, where you meditate on the breath etc., which only superficially pacifies the stirred mind. When the mind perceives itself in its own essence, then that is the real, true peace of mind.
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