Thought Training (Lojong) | Thubten Chodron http://thubtenchodron.org The Thubten Chodron Teaching Archive Sat, 24 Jun 2017 12:46:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Going beyond self-centeredness http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/05/letting-go-of-selfishness/ Wed, 04 May 2016 19:35:42 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=69286

  • In Buddhism we are trying to love others in a healthy way, not a needy way
  • We are the ones who suffer from holding a grudge, not our enemies
  • We learn a lot about ourselves from difficulties and difficult relationships
  • The self-centered attitude is one of the biggest obstacles we have on the path
  • Decreasing the self-centered attitude doesn’t mean we stop caring about ourselves

Going beyond self-centeredness (download)

YouTube Video

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Transforming the mind with compassion http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/04/thought-training/ Mon, 04 Apr 2016 17:22:56 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=69062

  • Asking the question, “What is my motivation?” to stop acting on automatic
  • Making our lives meaningful
  • Defining generosity
  • What we do as one person is important, and depends on our motivation
  • The unhappiness of focusing on I, me, my, and mine
  • We are the only ones who can change our own minds, we have to do the work
  • Cultivating a different attitude in ourselves changes how we feel and how we relate to other people
  • How we experience the world depends on how we interpret the things around us

Transforming the mind with compassion (download)

YouTube Video

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Practicing the five forces in life and at death http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/10/mind-training-dying-living/ Fri, 23 Oct 2015 23:11:38 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=64344

  • The five forces from the seven-point mind training instruction
  • How to practice the five forces in our daily lives
  • How to practice the five forces at the time of death
  • Questions and answers from students at Maitripa College

YouTube Video

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The great aspirations of bodhisattvas http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/02/broad-expansive-prayers/ Fri, 06 Feb 2015 17:23:47 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=40532

  • What it means for bodhisattvas to “remain in samsara”
  • Parinirvana from a Mahayana perspective
  • The purpose of expansive aspirational prayers to strengthen our love and compassion
  • Imprinting again and again on our minds the bodhisattva ideal

YouTube Video

We’ll continue along with these verses of Nagarjuna. Verse 485…. The previous two verses we did were all about dedication and bodhicitta and so on. This verse follows along with it. They’re in sequence in Precious Garland.” So it says,

As long as even one sentient being has not yet been liberated may I remain in the world for that being’s sake, even if I have attained unexcelled awakening.

This is the same as the Shantideva prayer:

For as long as space endures
And for as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

It’s the same kind of meaning. We’re not walking out on sentient beings. We’re not saying, “I got enlightened, ciao, good luck everybody. Wish you well. See you later.”

There’s often some confusion amongst certain people because sometimes it says in the sutras that bodhisattvas will remain in samsara until it ends. So people gather from that that bodhisattvas don’t want to attain full awakening and that they don’t attain full awakening. Because if they attain full awakening then they would no longer abide in samsara. Here when it talks like that it doesn’t mean that bodhisattvas stay in samsara forever. I mean, already the arya bodhisattvas are no longer in samsara. The idea is that the bodhisattva’s compassion is so strong that if it would be better for them to remain in samsara and forgo their own enlightenment in order to benefit sentient beings, they would be happy to do that. But remember, these bodhisattvas have incredible renunciation of samsara. For them the third kind of dukkha, the dukkha of pervasive conditioning, which we don’t even notice or think about, to them they say it’s like having a hair in your eye, that’s how painful it is. So clearly they want to get out of cyclic existence. It’s just this kind of statement is indicating the strength of their compassion, the strength of their cherishing of others.

If you look at it, if a bodhisattva’s goal is to benefit sentient beings, are they going to be of more benefit to sentient beings after attaining buddhahood or before? So clearly they want to attain buddhahood as quickly as they can for the benefit of sentient beings. But this way of saying that they stay until in samsara until it ends, it’s indicative of their compassion. Doesn’t mean they don’t attain full awakening.

And also when it speaks like that, there it’s talking about the samsaric universe of other sentient beings. It’s not talking about them remaining in their own samsara with their own five polluted aggregates. They want to get free of their own five polluted aggregates. And by doing that then they’re able to manifest in the polluted world of sentient beings in order to guide us and help us.

So what we’re doing is making that pledge, too. “As long as even one sentient being….” Even one. Even the person you can’t stand. Even Jihadi John. (I found out he had a name. The one that chops off heads.) Or even the ones who… They burned alive one of the Jordanian pilots they captured. ISIS did that. I mean just burned the guy alive in a cage and put the video…. And the whole Muslim world is aghast at this. But it’s just unbelievable that people would do something like that. So even somebody like this, who you just like…. “Where are they coming from? I don’t understand….” You know? We have the privilege of not understanding them. Imagine if you were captured by them. Then you’re terrified out of your mind … if you don’t have the Dharma. Even if you do have the Dharma I think it would be pretty scary. But as long as one sentient being, even somebody like that, has not yet been liberated, we’re not going to just label them something and throw them out the window and ignore them and let them, say, “Yeah, go to hell, that’s where you belong.” We’re not going to do that. But we’re going to, it says, “May I remain in the world for that being’s sake even if I have attained unexcelled awakening.” So it means that we will continue to manifest as bodhisattvas in order to benefit all of these sentient beings no matter who they are.

So attaining parinirvana, from a Mahayana perspective, it’s not that your five aggregates cease. Again you have five aggregates, but they’re unpolluted aggregates. Your body becomes the sambhogakaya. Not this body, but your enlightened body is the sambhogakaya, the enjoyment body or resource body. Your mind becomes the dharmakaya, the truth body. You still have the five aggregates but they’re purified, and in that way you use everything about yourself for the benefit of sentient beings.

We always have these kind of bodhisattva prayers that sometimes when we read them they just seem, like, unimaginable to us. It’s like, how can I say that even for one total ignoramus I’m going to stay in samsara? It’s like, how can I even think of that? Or the previous one, “May all their negativities ripen upon me and may I give them all my virtue.” It’s like, what? You know? They seem outlandish. Yes? It’s like, “Well I can never…. According to the law of karma, I can’t take on anybody’s karma. So why am I praying like that? And I can’t give them my virtue, so why am I dedicating like that?”

The purpose of these verses is to strengthen our compassion, to strengthen our love for sentient beings so that when we do encounter situations where we can help there’s absolutely no hesitation on our part. And when we do get to the point of the path where we’re real close to realizing emptiness and a thought comes in our mind like “Oh, I’m close to the path of seeing I can attain my own liberation now and be done with it.” If that thought arises…. First of all by praying like this now and dedicating like this now it will prevent that thought from arising. And even if it does arise, immediately these verses will ring in our mind and we’ll say to ourselves, “No, I can’t do that. I can’t do that. Even when I was an ignorant sentient being I prayed not to do that. So now when I’m somebody who’s further advanced along the path I cannot walk out on sentient beings.”

So you see a lot, like the different verses we say, the recitations we do—like I was saying the other day—they always give us the highest standard, and the ultimate way we want to be. And we usually compare ourselves to that and say, “It’s too much, how can I possibly get there?” But those verses are not said so that we can think about them that way and compare ourselves and say it’s useless. That’s our wrong way of thinking. Those verses are put that way so that we imprint on our mind again and again and again the bodhisattva ideal. And again and again and again this commitment to work for the welfare of sentient beings until all sentient beings are liberated. And by the force of imprinting that in our mind again and again and again, then it makes it much easier as we go along the path to adhere to that aspiration and not get sidetracked.

It’s similar to how we keep on hearing about emptiness and dependent arising being complementary. And we hear about it and we scratch our heads and like “what’s going on here? I don’t understand.” But just the force of thinking about that, hearing it again and again and again, it plants the seeds so that when we do have a realization of emptiness, when we come out of that meditative equipoise, then we’ll think, “Oh, but that emptiness means that things still exist. It means they dependently exist,” and that will enable us easily to have the illusion-like meditation in post-meditation time. Whereas if we don’t plant those seeds in our mind it becomes much more difficult.

In the same way you know how the teachers tell us many times regarding shamatha, “Yes, shamatha’s very good but don’t get blissed out in the bliss or the equanimity of shamatha….” Well, shamatha you still have the bliss, but when you go up the jhanas, the dhyanas, at one point you get equanimity which is supposedly a much better feeling than even bliss, (this is talking paramitayana), so don’t get stuck in that. So this isn’t meant to discourage us from meditating on shamatha, but it’s planting the seed in our mind so that when do come close to actualizing it, and when do realize shamatha, then we won’t get stuck in one of the form realm concentrations or formless realm absorptions because we’ll have imprinted in our mind (due to the kindness of our teachers saying it many many times) be careful don’t get stuck, because otherwise you’ll just be reborn in the concentrations or formless absorptions and you won’t attain awakening.

So we see that there are many things that we want to become familiar with now although we may not totally understand them now, because it puts that imprint, that seed in our mind so that when we need that guidance the imprint is there and it will surface, and it will make it much easier to go in the right direction in the future.

So we pray like this. We dedicate like this. “As long as even one sentient being….” Some fly. Some cockroach. Maybe a scorpion. Or that snake in the corner. “…has not yet been liberated may I remain in the world for that being’s sake….” For that being’s sake. Not only for my own benefit. It doesn’t benefit me at all. What? I don’t get any benefit? I’m doing it just for their sake? Yes! Just for their sake. “…even if I have attained unexcelled awakening.”

So it’s quite important to dedicate in this way. I mean, that’s why Lama Zopa Rinpoche in his dedications his famous phrase, “I will get fully enlightened and manifest in the hell realms with bodies as innumerable as the sky for eons as long as the number of grains of sand in 10 million Ganges rivers to liberate sentient beings by myself alone!”

“By myself alone? But … Rinpoche, I want some company.” [Laughter]

He goes “By myself alone!” He doesn’t let you off the hook at all. You know? And why? So that we develop that strong determination and imprint that on our mind now so that we develop this kind of internal courage and internal strength. Okay?

Of course, we can’t even liberate ourselves “by myself alone” right now. You know? It’s like, we needs the buddhas, we need our teachers, we need the sangha, we need help. But when we’re at that time when we can really be of the greatest benefit to others may we not shy away from it, and may we say “by myself alone I will manifest in the deepest hell realms for those sentient beings that are most out of control, and most obscured, but I will manifest in those hell realms to benefit them.” [Chokes up] I mean, it’s just incredible to think like that. Isn’t it? So let’s do it.

[In response to audience] Okay, the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, when it talks about bodhicitta, it talks about three kinds of bodhisattvas. There are the “shepherd-like bodhisattvas,” the “oars-person-like bodhisattva,” and the “queen bodhisattva.” It’s giving three examples of how bodhisattvas progress along the path according to their disposition. So the shepherd-like bodhisattvas, the shepherd goes behind the flock and it gets the flock there first, so you get everybody enlightened and then you become enlightened. The oars-person, you’re sitting in the boat together, you row, but you all arrive on the other shore at the same time. Queen-like, you lead and they follow you. Okay? So actually the queen-like is better because you get to nirvana first and then you have all the abilities to go back and get everybody else, to lead them there.

They always describe these three and then they always say the queen one is the best. I think that’s because the people who might feel more comfortable with the shepherd-like or the oars-person-like, to motivate them in a stronger way to really take the initiative “by myself alone” I’m going to do it.

[In response to audience] When I’m giving the example it seems like “Well I’m here and I would never do something like burn people alive.” So one way to do it is to say “I’m just going to go and rescue them anyway, despite this conception of ‘I’m a little bit superior to them.'” Or a lot superior to them.

But it’s very good, as you’re saying, to see that actually we’re not so different, and that if you look in this country when they dropped the bomb many people cheered. And some of our actions in Iraq have been really abominable, and so on. And so to think, if I were born in a certain situation I could easily think like some of these people think. And to not put ourselves separate.

It’s quite interesting. Yesterday there was a big national prayer thing and China made a big hoo-hoo about Obama and the Dalai Lama both being there. They didn’t want Obama to meet the Dalai Lama. So Obama didn’t invite the Dalai Lama to the White House, but he saw him at this national prayer thing which was very public. And then when he gave a talk he offered a special welcome to “my friend the Dalai Lama who’s a perfect example of compassion and peace in this world.” So he did it in a very public way, you know? But he also said (which I thought was very good): he was talking about how religion is often misused and how people misunderstand their own religion and use it for violent purposes to harm others. And so he specified what’s going on with like ISIS and some of these people misusing Islam. And then he said, but you know in the Crusades the Christians did the same thing. They were burning people at the stake and so on and so forth. And he thought he was just giving a history lesson or something.

Well, the Republicans and the Christian right blew up and said “how dare you say that about Christianity, we never do anything like that. And what you’re doing is you’re just giving an excuse and making it easier for all those Islamic militants by not saying it for what it is.” It was unbelievable to me, because all you need to do is study the Crusades and it’s unbelievable what the Church did. Even during World War II, which wasn’t so long ago, they didn’t stick up for any of the people being persecuted. They just went right along with it. Even in South America. I mean, all throughout Catholic history in South America, under the rule of the Church, what’s happened. But all these people: “We never do that!”

[In response to audience] When you really think about it, if somebody’s born in a certain situation where all you hear around you is a certain way of thinking, and you don’t have any access to anybody else who thinks in a different way, then of course that conditioning is just going to take over your mind. I mean just imagine yourself, how you were before you met the Dharma, and if you hadn’t met the Dharma. How would you be thinking? What would you be doing right now? Yes? Who knows?

I find that terrifying. So if you’re in certain circumstances and you don’t have the fortune to meet somebody else who can provide you with a more virtuous alternative, then….

So there’s no reason to be haughty or smug. Because who knows what we’ll be reborn as in the future.

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The taking-and-giving meditation http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/02/tonglen-precious-garland/ Thu, 05 Feb 2015 17:23:42 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=40531 Precious Garland of Advice for a King that are the source of the thought transformation teachings.]]>

  • The precedent for doing the tonglen meditation
  • Taking on the suffering of others with a happy mind
  • Value of doing tonglen meditation when we are experiencing pain
  • Giving with a happy mind free of the self-centered thought

YouTube Video

We started last time with some verses that His Holiness had given us to contemplate every day. They’re from Precious Garland. Let me just read those again:

Like the earth, water, wind, and fire, medicinal herbs and trees in the wilderness, may I always be an object of enjoyment for all beings just as they wish.

May I be beloved of beings and may they be more beloved to me than myself.

We talked about that last time and how transformative that is when we really put it into practice. Then the last two lines of the verse say:

May their bad deeds ripen upon me and may all my virtue, without exception, ripen upon them.

Many of you have studied the thought training teachings (and also in the lamrim) so you’re familiar with tonglen, the taking-and-giving meditation. When this meditation was really described and taught very fully in Tibet under the genre of the thought training (or mind transformation) teachings one of the geshes asked his teacher “Well, what is the source of this teaching?” Because they always want to cite a source. So this is one of the sources that they cited because it says very clearly, “May their bad deeds ripen upon me and may all my virtue, without exception, ripen upon them.”

That’s very clearly the precedent for doing the tonglen meditation, isn’t it? Because the theory of the tonglen meditation is to develop our compassion by thinking that we are taking on the suffering of others (which is the result of all of their non virtue) and using it to destroy our own self-centeredness, our own self-grasping ignorance. And then to give others our virtue and our happiness—the merit that we’ve created ripen on them in terms of their happiness, and thus may they have all the temporal things they need and may they have all the conditions for practicing the path, and may they then practice it well and attain full awakening.

I won’t go into all the details of doing the tonglen meditation because it’s in previous BBCs, and also if you get the book Transforming Adversity into Joy and Courage by Geshe Jampa Tegchok there’s a beautiful and very elaborate description in Chapter 11 of the meditation. The most elaborate description of the meditation that I’ve seen anywhere. So that’s Transforming Adversity into Joy and Courage It’s on Amazon.

It’s a beautiful kind of thought to have: “May I really take on the misery of others with a happy mind.” So it’s not like, “Oh god…. They got themselves in all these pickles and I’ve got to be the victim and rescue them again by taking on all their negative karma.” [Sigh] “These sentient beings….” It’s not like that. It’s really, with compassion, seeing, “Okay, why do sentient beings create negative karma? Because their minds are overwhelmed by afflictions.” Not because they get up in the morning and say, “Oh, I want to create some negative karma today! I’m going to have such a good time doing it!” No. That’s not why. It’s because their minds are completely overwhelmed by ignorance, anger, and attachment. So often sentient beings don’t even know their minds are overwhelmed. Or if they do they don’t care because they think ignorance, anger, and attachment are actually good. “If I’m not attached to things I won’t have any happiness. And if I’m not angry people will walk all over me and I’ll never get what I want.” So if you look around in our society people generally adhere to ignorance (not knowing what to practice and what to discard, not being able to distinguish virtue and non-virtue). I’m not saying everybody, but to a large extent. Even the people that can distinguish between virtue and non-virtue, it’s not so easy to control the mind and restrain the mind from going with anger, attachment, pride, jealousy, self-centeredness. We just follow them.

So just as we do, other sentient beings are like that, so to look at them with a mind of compassion. And just as we want to be free from the suffering results of our own non-virtue, to want them to be free of the suffering results of their non-virtue. And then to take those suffering results upon ourselves.

We should do this meditation even when we’re not experiencing some overt pain. But when we are experiencing some overt pain it works very, very well as a meditation to do.

But when we think of sentient beings suffering we shouldn’t just think of physical pain and mental turbulence. We should think of also the dukkha of change—that situations that bring sentient beings happiness later bring them suffering. And then the dukkha of pervasive conditioning—just the fact of having a body and mind under the control of afflictions and karma. So to take all of that upon ourselves with a happy mind. Especially when you’ve taken the bodhisattva vows and you’ve promised to liberate all sentient beings, what are you going to do now? Say, “Well, umm, I said that in front of the Dalai Lama because I thought it was kind of cool, but I don’t really want to work for the benefit of sentient beings. I’ll let the Dalai Lama do it.” No. When you make a promise towards all living beings in the entire universe, your word needs to be worth something. You can’t just say, “Well, that was a fit of emotion…. I really want to go back to ignorance, anger, and attachment and just think of my own happiness….” You can’t do that. So imagine taking their sufferings upon ourselves like this. All of the three kinds of dukkha upon ourselves.

Then, practicing generosity, wanting to give our own virtue to them. So it’s again not like, “Oh I created so much virtue and now I have to give it away to these sentient beings that don’t even bother to create their own virtue, and I’ve got to give them mine!” [Laughter]

I remember when I first lived in Singapore in 1987, the man who … was the benefactor for the first book I ever published—the free distribution book I Wonder Why—he also had some Dharma questions and he wanted to learn some meditations. So I was teaching him. He was fine with generating bodhicitta at the beginning, and at the end I said, “Now we’ll dedicate all the merit as a practice of generosity to give it to all sentient beings and share it with them.” And he looked at me with these woeful eyes saying, “But I have so little merit I don’t want to give it away.” He was really serious. And on one hand I had to admire him because he really believed in karma. He really believed in it. And he thought creating merit was good and he valued that and wanted to do that. And that was quite…. Compared to many people who talk about merit and then don’t really believe in it, you know? He had a solid belief in it. But he had the wrong conception in that he thought once you give it away it’s like…. Okay, if I give away these glasses then I don’t have them, you know? Whereas sharing our virtue and our merit when we dedicate them for the welfare of all beings it actually expands the virtue. It expands the merit because it’s a practice of generosity. And so especially since we’re dedicating the merit for our own and others’ awakening, our own and others’ state of buddhahood, that’s the final goal. So implicitly we’re dedicating for all the good circumstances that happen before that. Because by having a series of good rebirths with good circumstances to practice the Dharma, then that’s how we’ll finally attain full awakening. So we’re actually dedicating for everything good in samsara and on the path and our final goal of buddhahood. So when I explained that to him then he relented and he wanted to dedicate his merit. So this is quite a beautiful practice to do.

We dedicate not only our merit but also our body and our possessions. Because sometimes people think, “Well, I’ll dedicate my merit. I don’t really know what it is so it’s easy to give to others.” [Laughter] Yes? “I mean I can’t see merit, I don’t know what it is, so yes I can give that away. But give away my body? No. Give away my possessions? No. Because if I give them away then I won’t have them.”

Again, that’s not the way to think. We should remember that by being generous we create merit and we feel good about ourselves. They’ve done so many studies that people feel so much better about themselves when they share what they have. And you don’t need to spend a million dollars on a scientific study (excuse me National Institute of Health) but just look in your own mind and you see that. I mean, it’s good that they spent the money on that rather than other things, but all we have to do is look in our mind and we see that when we are generous we feel so much better about ourselves than when the mind comes and interferes with, “But if I give I won’t have.” And then we wind up hoarding so many things out of fear that if I give it I won’t have it. And we hoard all sorts of amazing things. [Laughter]

I’m always afraid if I give away these little containers then when I need them I won’t have them. So I really force myself to give them away. And that was after I stayed in somebody’s house. I volunteered to clean out her basement one day because she hoarded big containers and big boxes thinking that she would need them, and then there were big things in there for years and years, you know? And so I helped her clean them out and then I thought, “You know, I should really get rid of some of my….” Because I just save the small ones, you know? Like for putting paperclips in and this kind of stuff.

So we hoard the most amazing things. One time at Dharma Friendship Foundation we were talking about generosity and I gave people the assignment to go through just one closet, or just one set of drawers, and take out the things that they don’t use and give them away. And then report back the next week. This assignment was so difficult for people. [To audience] Were any of you there when we did it? You were there. And you. Remember? It was like some people couldn’t even get to the closet or the chest of drawers. Some people got there, they started looking at things, they discovered things that they had forgotten they had. But once they saw they had them they got attached to them and couldn’t give them away. Even though they hadn’t used them for years and didn’t even know they had them. They couldn’t part. You know, this tee shirt which is a souvenir from my trip to Mexico…. You know? Then some people they got the things in a box, they couldn’t get the box in the car. Other people got the box in the car, they couldn’t get it out of the car into a charity. It was amazing. Always there was something that interfered. And this is clearly the mind of stinginess and miserliness, the self-centered mind, that is actually the mind that karmically creates the cause for us to be poor. So here’s this amazing opportunity to be generous and to create the karmic cause for wealth, and out of fear we can’t give away the things that we don’t even remember we have. [Laughter] Let alone the things that we remember we have and we don’t use. Let alone the things that we know we have and we use but other people could need them more. It’s amazing.

Anyway, to remember that when we do overcome our self-centeredness how good it feels. I’m not saying go home and empty out everything. But just to take a look and see what do we need and what do other people need more?

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To be enjoyed and loved by sentient beings http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/02/love-without-attachment/ Tue, 03 Feb 2015 17:23:36 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=40530 Precious Garland of Advice for a King that were recommended for meditation by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.]]>

  • The wish to become whatever kind of material thing people need
  • Giving love and companionship
  • The taking-and-giving meditation
  • Aspiring to care for and cherish other living beings more than we do ourselves

YouTube Video

When we were in Mundgod in December for His Holiness’s lamrim teachings he gave an initiation afterwards and as the commitment for that he asked us to meditate on certain verses from Nagarjuna. And I really like that kind of commitment because then you read those verses and you really think about them. And so someone asked if I would explain those verses, so I thought I would do that briefly.

The first few verses His Holiness asked us to meditate on are on the bodhicitta side of the path, and then the rest of them are on the emptiness side of the path. And these first ones (on the bodhicitta side of the path) come from Precious Garland, which is a really wonderful text.

Precious Garland has 500 verses. This is verse 483. So it’s kind of coming at the end of the text, probably near where he’s starting to dedicate the merit and really steer people…. We’ve thought about emptiness, we’ve thought about all these other topics, and the whole point of doing this is to be of benefit to sentient beings.

One of the verses says,

Like the earth, water, wind, and fire, medicinal herbs and trees in the wilderness,
May I always be an object of enjoyment for all beings just as they wish.

That’s a really beautiful thought, isn’t it? We usually think—our self-centeredness—”What can I get that will benefit me? What are the objects of enjoyment that I want, and how can I get them?” And this kind of thought of attachment is what leads us to ruin because we get completely stuck and we create so much destructive karma.

This thought is completely reversing it and saying, “May I become the object of enjoyment for all sentient beings just as they wish, and may I be whatever they need.” So he talks about the four elements: earth, water, fire, wind. I don’t think he’s meaning “may we become a handful of dirt, a bucket of water.” The four elements are what all material objects are consisting of, and so in saying that he’s saying may we become whatever kind of material thing people need. And may they be able to access all we have to give them, just like they can easily access medicinal herbs and wilderness trees. You know, in those days nobody owned the wilderness or the medicinal herbs growing out in the fields. You could just go pick things and use them as you wished. There were no limitations. So it’s saying “may I become like that for all sentient beings. Whatever they need may I be able to transform into that and become like that, and may they have access to all these material things just as they wish.” So this is focusing on material things.

The next verse focuses more on giving love and affection and companionship and so on. And so that verse says,

May I be beloved of beings and may they be more beloved to me than myself.
May their bad deeds ripen upon me and may all my virtue, without exception, ripen upon them.

So usually, like when we do the taking-and-giving meditation, we talk about giving our body and possessions and also our virtue. And when we’re giving our body and possessions we transform them not only into the material things but also into the people that other people need in their lives, in the sense of giving people the ability to make connections and so forth and experience love and affection. So here he’s saying “May I be beloved of beings.” So, may other beings care about me. May I be their beloved. But not in our usual egotistical sense of, “May they like me because I’m so emotionally needy and I can’t stand on my own two feet.” It’s not like that. But may they be fond of me because by being fond of me then we’ll have a connection and I’ll be able to lead them on the path. And that’s a beautiful way to be able to lead people on the path, when we have an affectionate connection then we can really benefit others. And that’s a very fulfilling way of engaging with others.

So, “May I be beloved of beings, and may they be more beloved to me than myself.” And so from myself, may I care and cherish other living beings more than I care about my own self. So this doesn’t mean putting ourselves down. It doesn’t mean saying that we’re worthless. Because clearly, if we think we’re worthless we can’t even generate a thought like this. So we have to have self-confidence. And remembering our buddha nature is a valid basis for having self-confidence.

And so doing that “may others be more beloved to me than myself.” Meaning that instead of my just following my self-centered mind (like that donkey with the ring in its nose that’s being led here and there by the self-centered, self-preoccupied mind) may I cherish others more than I cherish myself because by cherishing others I free myself from the bonds of my own self-centeredness. And by cherishing others I’m able to do something that really benefits them.

When I only think about myself then I use others. And any love or affection I have for them is so that they will give me something. And when we always approach others feeling “what can I get out of them?” and feeling like “I am this bottomless pit of emotional need and other people’s job is just to fill me up,” we will never be satisfied. Why? Because we don’t believe in ourselves. And we have to learn how to be kind to ourselves. We need to learn how to love ourselves and to see ourselves as valuable human beings because we have the ability to practice the path and become buddhas. Because we have the ability to contribute to the welfare of others and make a positive connection with them that can really be beneficial for self and others.

It’s talking about a different way of relating to people, coming from the feeling of being a whole, confident person now because we have the buddha potential. We may not be buddhas yet, we’re not perfect beings. That’s okay. But we have that nature and that potential. And so based on that we can approach the world and approach other living beings in a positive way. In a way of, “What can I give to you? What can I share with you? How can I help you? How can I listen to what’s important to you? How can I listen to what you need?” Instead of just being involved in my needs and my wants.

I have wants and I have needs, but the way to fulfill them is to learn how to make positive connections with others. And making positive connections with others entails cherishing them and saying, “You’re a living being just like me. You have needs and wants and feelings and concerns just like me. How can I contribute to your well-being?” Because when we contribute to the well-being of others we feel fulfilled in ourselves. And they’ve done many psychological studies on this, that people feel much happier when they’re able to be generous to others than when they just think about themselves. I mean, they’ve done studies about this. Buddha knew it a long time ago. But still, the thing is, we have to learn it. And approaching people with kind of “How can I have a healthy give and take relationship with you because I care about you as a human being,” or as an animal, as some kind of sentient being. Then that becomes something that’s very fulfilling for us and very fulfilling for the other person.

So let’s try and go in that direction as our way of engaging with others.

Okay? Let me just read these two verses again:

Like the earth, water, wind, and fire, medicinal herbs and trees in the wilderness,
May I always be an object of enjoyment for all beings just as they wish.

May I be beloved of beings and may they be more beloved to me than myself.
May their bad deeds ripen upon me and may all my virtue, without exception, ripen upon them.

I’ll talk about the last two lines next time.

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Our spiritual goals http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/01/ethical-conduct-wisdom/ Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:36:17 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=40240

  • Two camps spiritual goals fall into: high status and definite goodness
    • Faith as the cause for a good rebirth (high status)
    • Wisdom as the cause for definite goodness (liberation)
  • Importance of both
  • What to abandon, what to practice: applying the teachings to our lives

YouTube Video

I’ve been studying Precious Garland by Nagarjuna during the retreat and I thought I’d share with you a little bit of what he covers. Because in the first section he really makes the point that our spiritual goals kind of fall into two camps. One is what they call “high status,” meaning having an upper rebirth. And the second is “definite goodness,” meaning attaining liberation or full awakening. And these two are related because chances are we won’t attain full awakening in this lifetime so we need to create a series of good rebirths—in other words, rebirths of high status—so that we can, in each of those, again practice the Dharma. Our principal goal is definite goodness—liberation or, in our case as Mahayana practitioners, full awakening. But the essential thing we have to do right now, the most imminent thing, is make sure we get a good rebirth in a future life so that we can continue practicing.

Nagarjuna then goes on to explain that faith is the cause of a good rebirth and that wisdom is the cause of definite goodness. What he means here by faith is having faith in the law of karma and the functioning of our actions and their results. In other words, our actions have an ethical dimension and they bring results. That is called faith because understanding the law of karma and its results is not an obvious thing and it’s not something that we can even realize by inference by the power of the fact. It’s something that we have to rely on the authoritative testimony of a reliable being such as the Buddha to be able to understand full. So we try and cultivate that faith in the Buddha and in the scriptures that teach about karma, because when we have that faith then we’ll want to keep good ethical conduct, we’ll want to create virtuous actions, and then on the basis of creating those virtuous actions we will have another good rebirth in which we can continue to practice, have another good rebirth in which we continue to practice, and on and on. And in all of those rebirths, also developing our wisdom until the point where our wisdom becomes strong enough where it can completely dismantle all of the self-grasping forever. So as we have that series of good rebirths and grow our wisdom we’ll slowly be able to have better control over our minds and then we’ll reach a certain point on the path where we’ll eliminate all the acquired afflictions, then we’ll be able to start eliminating from the root all of the innate afflictions, and then eventually they’ll be completely eliminated. And if we continue on from there then also cleansing the mind of all the subtle stains and the subtle dualistic view and then finally resulting in full awakening. So he’s saying this is the way that we have to go.

I was thinking that so often when we come to the Dharma it’s like, well karma it’s like [brushes it away] “I don’t understand that anyway, it’s kind of moralistic and so I want to go directly to definite goodness.” And so that sometimes gets us into trouble because we’re…. We turn out to be the bunny rather than the turtle. Something like that. We’re making shortcuts. That’s what we’re doing. Trying to do a shortcut.

Then in the text Nagarjuna goes on to describe the causes for upper status, causes for a good rebirth. We’ve heard this all in the context of the lamrim, but Precious Garland was written before the lamrim texts came into being. So it’s very interesting to see it from Nagarjuna’s perspective and to see how the lamrim was based on what Nagarjuna taught in Precious Garland.

What to abandon

So he starts out with the causes for upper rebirth are abstaining from the ten non-virtues. I’m not going to go into those because you know what they are already. But he says there are sixteen causes of upper rebirth. Sixteen factors that we have to bring into our practice. The first ten are abstaining from the ten non-virtues. Then there are three others that are called “blameworthy actions to abandon,” and three others that are things to practice. So, also to be abandoned is taking intoxicants, because that makes our mind, you know, bad decisions, quite fuzzy, and difficult to meditate when you’re intoxicated. Although when I first went to Kopan in 1975 most of the people there were hippies coming up from Freak Street…. And saying, “Oh Lama, what do you think about dropping acid and then meditating.” Your visualizations must be really good when you do that. [Laughter] The colors are very bright. You make a really good case to Lama [Yeshe] for the values of smoking dope and dropping acid before meditating. And Lama would just look at us and say, “Your mind is already hallucinating, dear. You don’t need to do that.” And then he’d give a talk on emptiness to explain how we’re hallucinating already.

Then the next one to abandon is wrong livelihood. So in the context of a lay practitioner it’s making or selling armaments, poisons, or pornography, or intoxicants, or anything that damages others. Or even doing a legitimate business but deceiving people by the weights you use, or lying and cheating to your clients or your customers. In terms of the monastics it’s the five wrong livelihoods which I’ve gone through before so I won’t talk about. I’ll just list them: hinting, flattery, giving a small present to get a big one, putting somebody in a position where they can’t decline to give you something (or being pretentious, making somebody think you’re really important so they’ll give you something), and then hypocrisy.

So that’s the second thing. Intoxicants to abandon, wrong livelihood to abandon.

And then harming others is the third thing to abandon. This could be harming them physically even by things short of killing them—you know, beating them up, having unprotected sex and giving them a disease, or harming others emotionally or things like that.

So those are the other three blameworthy things to abandon.

What to practice

Then there are three more [to practice] (to get to our total of sixteen).

The first one is making offerings to those who are worthy. Offering is always a practice that’s encouraged within all religions, especially within Dharma. And those who are worthy, Nagarjuna says, are our preceptors, our Dharma teachers, people who show us a good example, and actually, in general, all sentient beings. So the practice of being generous. Being generous with material goods. There’s the generosity of protecting others from danger. The generosity of love and encouraging and supporting people when they need it. And the fourth one is the generosity of Dharma, sharing the Dharma with others. So we want to practice generosity.

Then honoring those who are worthy of honor. So again, our preceptors, Dharma teachers, even people who aren’t our Dharma teachers but who know more than we do. People who have many excellent qualities, who create a lot of virtue. Paying respect and honoring those people.

By the way, when he talked about generosity he called it “respectful giving.” It wasn’t just giving. It was giving with respect. So here when there’s a chance to make the offering, to make it ourselves when we can instead of asking others. Of course, maybe you’re asking a friend to take an offering to Bodhgaya to make offerings, so that’s fine. But when we can, do it ourselves.

And then also respectful giving is giving with both hands. Some people when they give something they’re kind of walking by and they just put it in front of you and keep going. And that’s not really giving. You know? You are failing to really make the connection with the other person. So it’s very good to really give with both hands and pause for a minute and make the offering a time of connection when we can. Instead of “well, I’m in a hurry, here’s this, and I go on….”

And then the third thing to practice, in the text it just says “love.” But what he means is the four immeasurables: love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Really practicing those, because it makes our own mind joyful and it improves our relationships. And by changing our own attitude and lessening some of our very gross afflictions it’s going to make it easier to practice the preceding fifteen.

Applying this to our lives

I just summarized several verses into a short time, but I think you got the essence. But there’s really quite a bit to think about in this. You know, whenever we hear a Dharma teaching or read something, checking our life with the Dharma teaching—so how does my life correspond to what, in this case, Nagarjuna is teaching us. And am I following those sixteen or am I kind of brushing some of them off or ignoring others or too lazy to do a few of them or rationalizing several more…. So really using it as a way to think about how can I improve myself.

This is a lot of the kind of contemplation that we want to be doing during retreat where we have a period of silence where we can actually think about these things in depth instead of 18 million things pulling at our attention, we can actually sit and think about the teachings and apply them to our lives.

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Joy and courage http://thubtenchodron.org/2010/04/love-compassion-transformation/ Tue, 27 Apr 2010 19:53:01 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=64514

Transforming Depression and Anxiety into Joy and Courage, Part 2 (download)

Day 1 of this teaching can be found here.

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Transforming depression and anxiety http://thubtenchodron.org/2010/04/mind-training-courage/ Mon, 26 Apr 2010 19:52:50 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=64513

  • Progressive relaxation and breathing meditation
  • Recognizing how thoughts fuel emotions
  • Happiness and suffering originate within the mind
  • Cultivating loving kindness towards self and others
  • Developing a kind heart helps heal our emotions

Transforming Depression and Anxiety into Joy and Courage, Part 1 (download)

Day 2 of this teaching can be found here.

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