Verses 3 and 4

Part of a series of talks on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Three Principal Aspects of the Path given in various locations around the United States from 2002-2007. This talk was given in Missouri.

Three Principal Aspects 03: Verses 3-4 Renunciation (download)

Last time of the three major outlines, the preliminary, the main body, and the conclusion we covered the preliminaries. We talked about the praise which was the first line:

I bow down to the venerable spiritual masters.

We talked about the pledge to compose which was the first complete verse. We talked about the encouragement to the reader to pay attention which was the second verse. With the third verse we’re starting the main body of the text, which was the second main point on the whole outline. Are you with me? We have the three main outline points: the preliminary, the main body, and the conclusion. We finished the first one which was the preliminary and that had three subdivisions.

The main body

Now we’re going to start the second major point, the main body of the text. This one, the main body of the text, has four subdivisions. The first one of those is the explanation of renunciation. The second is the explanation of bodhicitta. The third is the explanation of the correct view. And the fourth is strong words of encouragement so that the reader recognizes the truth of the instructions and puts them into practice.

It can be very helpful to you, what I often do is go back and write out the outline in outline form. And then put each verse by the point in the outline that it goes with. This helps us really understand what each verse is talking about.

The explanation of renunciation

Back to the first point of the main body which is the explanation of renunciation. There are three sub-points under renunciation. The first one is the reason why we should develop it. The second is how to develop it. And the third is the point at which we can say that we have developed it; that we’ve been successful at that.

Why develop renunciation?

The first point under renunciation which is about the reason why we should develop renunciation—that is verse three. Verse three reads

For you embodied beings bound by the craving for existence, without the pure determination to be free (or renunciation) from the ocean of cyclic existence there is no way for you to pacify the attractions to its pleasurable effects. Thus from the outset seek to generate the determination to be free.

This is explaining the reason why we need to generate renunciation or the determination to be free. If we don’t have renunciation then there’s no way for us to “pacify the attractions” to the “pleasurable effects” of samsara. In other words, if we think that there’s some happiness to be got in samsara then we’ll go for that rather than go for liberation or enlightenment.

It’s like somebody who is in prison, unless they see the disadvantages of prison they’re not going to have any wish to be out of prison. If you’re in prison and instead you think of all the good qualities of being in prison: three hot meals, I don’t have to work, I have a bed to sleep in. If you think like this then prison seems very comfortable. Then you have, “Well, why should I try and get out of prison, it’s actually quite comfy in here.” If you think like that then you have no interest or impetus to get out, so then you spend your whole life in prison.

It’s the same way, as long as we think that there’s happiness in cyclic existence then we have no interest in getting out. As a result then we just stay in cyclic existence. That’s like the prisoner who stays in prison and they don’t see: they have no freedom, they’re treated like an infant, they’re bossed around, they can’t get a good education, it’s totally noisy, there are all these obstacles to so many things that you want to do. But until they see all of that, they’re stuck in the middle of it because they don’t want to get out. It’s a similar thing. As long as we think cyclic existence is nice then, Yes, let’s hang around. It’s no problem.

What we’re trying to do with renunciation is see the faults of cyclic existence because that gives us the energy to change the situation. This is actually one of the most difficult things for us to see in our practice. At some level we have some renunciation otherwise we wouldn’t be living here at the monastery. So we have some feeling that, “Yes, I want to get out of cyclic existence.” That got us here to the monastery. But then if we look day to day, when we wake up in the morning is our first thought, “I want to get out of cyclic existence,” and “I want other sentient being to get out of cyclic existence”? Or is our first thought mainly, “How can I have pleasure while I’m in cyclic existence?” What are most of our thoughts in the day concerning? Is it how to get out of samsara, or is it how to get some pleasure in samsara?

This is a little homework assignment for you to do a little review and watch your thoughts. See, “How many of my thoughts are concerned with renunciation and bodhicitta? How many thoughts are thoughts of how I can have pleasure?” That can mean pleasure in this life and it can also mean pleasure in future lives. Our whole mind that just thinks, you know, wake up in the morning: “Oh, my bed’s so comfy. I don’t want to get out.” Or, “What good food can I eat today?” Or, “What nice people can I be with today?” Or, “How can I avoid doing unpleasant things today?” What are most of our thoughts involved with? Is it renunciation or are we attracted to the pleasurable effects of cyclic existence? Do a little research and watch your mind. See what goes on.

Being embodied beings

The phrase in here that always strikes me is at the beginning when it says, “for you embodied beings bound by the craving for existence.” To me just that phrase and especially the words “embodied beings,” I mean, that’s what we are. We’re embodied beings. We are beings with a body. Well, what does that mean to be an embodied being?

It means having a body that has gotten born and then gets old and sick and dies. There’s this whole movement in America ‘body is beautiful’ and ‘be in our body’ and ‘love your body’ and all of this stuff. There are certain points of that movement which I think are valid because we don’t want to hate our body. Hating our body means that we’re just as wrapped up with it as indulging our body. So it’s not a question of hating our body and despising it.

When we see what it means to be embodied—just by the fact of taking a body that gets old and sick and dies—what is our life going to be about? Just by the fact of getting born with this body, what are we already directed or impelled to do? Well, just by having this body and by craving for the existence of this body, then we have to put so much energy into protecting it and keeping it healthy. Then we get attached to it and we want it to look beautiful. We get attracted to other people’s bodies and then we get afraid of getting old because our body gets ugly, it gets sick, and we get afraid of dying. All these fears just run through our mind so much because we are embodied beings—fears of things going wrong with our body.

We generate so much of our personal identity based on our body—whatever nationality we are, whatever ethnicity we are, whatever race we are, whatever gender we are, whatever sexual orientation we are. All these things are based on the body. Just by having this body then we get caught up in all those other identities. Of course that puts us in conflict with other people who have other identities based on their bodies which are different than our bodies. So just by having a body already we’re predisposed towards much suffering: just the physical suffering of the body; the mental suffering of fearing aging, sickness and death; the mental suffering of being attached to identities based on our body; the mental suffering of quarreling with other people who have other identities based on their bodies. Just the expression “embodied beings”—yuck, that’s unsatisfactory.

All this talk that we have in America about how ‘wonderful’ your body is and ‘love your body’ and all of that, I think that talk is very clearly given because people don’t see any alternative to having a contaminated body. When we don’t know anything about Dharma, in our mind there’s no alternative to conceptualized existence. You never think of having a body made of light—like an arhat. You never think of having a body that’s under the influence of compassion—like a bodhisattva. You never think of having a body that’s made of the purified winds that can manifest in any kind of form to benefit sentient beings—like a buddha. People who don’t know about Dharma don’t see any alternative to having this kind of body. When you’re stuck with that worldview then you have to say, “Love your body and feel good.” Otherwise if you look at the truth of what this body is, you just get depressed because you don’t see any recourse to it. I think what the Buddha was trying to do in getting us to look at the nature of this body: how it’s impermanent, how it’s suffering in nature, is not to get us depressed. We can do that by our self. But to say we don’t have to be embodied beings with this kind of body; there is another alternative. We take this body under the influence of ignorance and karma, but we don’t have to be ignorant and create karma. We don’t have to take this body; there’s another way to exist besides contaminated existence. I think the Buddha discovering that, and then teaching us, is giving us a whole new view about what life can be and what our potential is.

If you look at it, we’re “embodied beings craving for existence.” Craving for existence, that’s what we do, don’t we? I crave. I crave to have my ego identity. My ego identity is based on this body so I crave for this body. Then once I have this body I want it to be happy, so then I crave for glazed donuts and seaweed and Chinese buns and whatever it is. We crave for some kind of pleasure and then all of our other cravings jump in. Then our mind just gets so tangled up because we can’t always get what we want, so we get miserable.

So just that phrase: “embodied beings bound by the craving for existence.” When I think very deeply about that phrase, just what that means it’s like, “Ugh, I want out of that!”

That’s what renunciation is. Its like, “I want out!” There is something more to life than just living like that. We do have other potentials. But without seeing those potentials we’re “embodied beings bound by the craving for existence.” Without seeing our self that way, then we just have our normal kind of view of, “Well, I’m just little old me, bopping around here. And the purpose of my life is having pleasure, to be happy.” Sometimes we get happiness by sense pleasures. Sometimes we get happiness by thinking we are important because we help other people. There are all different sorts of ways that our ego gets happiness, but we get totally bound up in all of that selfishness and ignorance.

The way for us to get out is to see the unpleasurable effects of samsara, to see its suffering nature. We’ll get into that a little bit later on in the following verses, of how to see the suffering nature of samsara. When we do that then we’re no longer interested in just twiddling our thumbs and trying to get class B pleasure when we can have class A and class AA pleasure that comes from Dharma practice. What’s interesting is that the pleasure from Dharma practice comes from renouncing the pleasure of cyclic existence because we see that pleasure as small and inadequate.

Verse three is talking about why we should generate renunciation and why it’s important. Why does Lama Tsongkhapa say, “From the outset seek to generate the determination to be free”? He doesn’t say from the outset generate the correct view; or from the outset generate bodhicitta. He doesn’t say that. He says from the outset seek to generate the determination to be free because that, being fed up with the limitations of our present existence, is the thing that spurs us into Dharma practice. Without that our bodhicitta isn’t real bodhicitta; and we have no inspiration to gain the correct view either. The whole reason to gain the correct view isn’t for intellectual knowledge; it’s to get ourselves out of cyclic existence. If we don’t see anything wrong with cyclic existence, why generate the correct view? It’s so difficult. If we don’t have any impetus to get ourselves out of cyclic existence, how in the world are we going to have bodhicitta that wants others to get out of cyclic existence? We’re not going to have that either. So this determination to be free is essential. That’s why he says to generate it from the outset.

Of course many people in the West when they come to the teachings they don’t want to hear about this—all the disadvantages of cyclic existence. What I just said about the faults of being embodied beings with this body that’s limited; people don’t want to hear that now-a-days. People want to hear about how to have your body, how to have sense pleasure with your body, and how to avoid all the problems of having a body. How are you going to do that? That’s why people want science because they think science will be able to reverse sickness and aging. The whole thing, what’s cryogenics, where you freeze your body in the hopes that it can be rejuvenated later by science? That’s done to avoid the suffering of death. People want that instead of how to avoid taking this body and getting ourselves into this predicament to start with. Then people say, “Oh, meditating on renunciation is so miserable. I have to think of suffering and how unsatisfactory my life is and that makes me so depressed.”

Actually personally speaking I found that all those meditations about the unsatisfactory nature of samsara a total relief. Finally here was a place where I could admit that, “Yes, my life isn’t completely satisfactory.” Before that there’s all this pressure, “Oh yes, my life is great. My life is wonderful. Everything is going great,” when it isn’t at all. I found in the Buddha’s teaching just, “Okay. I could admit I have problems. That’s good.”

So from the outset generate the determination to be free. It’s really important. It gives us a lot of energy in our practice.

How to develop renunciation

The second part of the outline for renunciation was how to develop it. How to develop it is explained in verse four. Verse four says

By contemplating the leisure and endowment so difficult to find, and the fleeting nature of your life reverse the clinging to this life. By repeatedly contemplating the infallible effects of karma and the miseries of cyclic existence, reverse the clinging to future lives.

This second outline “how to develop renunciation” has two parts. The first is how to develop renunciation for this life. That’s that first sentence. The second one is how to generate renunciation for future lives, and that’s the second sentence. So verse four contains how to develop renunciation first for our present life and then second for the future life.

How to develop renunciation for this life

Let’s look into the first point, how to stop the craving and clinging for this life. How do we do that? First of all, what is the craving and clinging for this life? What is it? It basically boils down to the eight worldly concerns. When we talk about the craving and clinging for this life, it’s being attached to the happiness of this life, in other words, the eight worldly concerns. Let’s take a look at these eight worldly concerns. They are very important and they are very embarrassing.

The eight worldly concerns

The eight go into four pairs. The first pair is feeling happy when we get material things or money, and then feeling unhappy when we don’t get them or when we lose them. The second pair is feeling happy when we’re praised and people approve of us and speak very nicely and sweetly to us; and then the converse, being unhappy when we are criticized, when we hear words that are displeasing to our ego, when we’re blamed, when people don’t approve of us. The third pair is being pleased when we have a good image and a good reputation, when we’re famous and people know about us; and then the converse, feeling unhappy when we have a bad image and a bad reputation. The fourth pair is feeling happy when we have any kind of sense pleasure: from things we see or hear, smell, taste or touch; and being unhappy when we have unpleasant sensual experiences. Those are the eight worldly dharmas. Let’s go over these because these are so essential.

When I first learned the Dharma, Zopa Rinpoche would teach a whole month-long meditation course on these eight worldly concerns. Again and again and again: going over them, until he kind of knocked it into our heads that this was a really important topic. And it is! Whenever we do something motivated by one of the eight worldly concerns that action produces the result of cyclic existence. Whenever we do an action that’s not motivated by the eight worldly concerns, that action will produce a result of liberation and enlightenment.

This demarcation between what’s Dharma and what’s worldly is based on whether we’re motivated by the eight worldly concerns or not. Even to get a good future rebirth we have to abandon the eight worldly concerns—let alone liberation and enlightenment. Even the lowest Dharma aim—to get that we have to give up the eight worldly concerns. I don’t know about you, but when I look at my life? My life is 100% involved in the eight worldly concerns. Let’s look at them.

Gain and loss

Feeling delight when we get money and material things, right? Now we might think, “Oh, I have no attachment for money and material things.” Well, just think how much time we spend worrying about if we have enough money or not. Do we ever have enough money where we’re ever going to feel secure? Think of the worry we have of, well, you know what happens? We’re monastics, and we depend on lay people. What happens if they don’t bring us stuff? Or what happens if our monastery doesn’t have money and we can’t get the things we need?

We might think that we don’t care about money and possessions but we really do. Even very simple things like our shoes. We might think, “I have no attachment for my shoes.

Shoes? Anyone who wants them can have my shoes. I’m not attached to them.” But if we walk out of this meditation hall and we go, and we look, and our shoes aren’t there, and somebody took our shoes. We’re going to be upset. Aren’t we?

That actually happened one time. Somebody came to visit me when I lived in Singapore and I was staying at someone’s flat. He came to see me and he left his shoes outside the door. When he went to leave his shoes were gone. Somebody had stolen his shoes. That’s happened to me when I was at the stupa at Bodhgaya where I left my shoes outside. I came back…they were just plastic shoes, my cheap plastic shoes. But my shoes were gone. And your mind, it’s incredible what your mind does: “Somebody took my shoes!”

And, “I have to walk back barefoot, and it’s over this gravel, and it hurts! How dare somebody take my shoes!” And, “Now my feet are going to hurt so much and I don’t want that.”

We have this intellectual idea, “Oh, I don’t care about material things.” But as soon as somebody takes something we freak out. We get really upset. If we all went back to our room after this class and even somebody had taken our Buddha statue, even a holy object, “Somebody took my Buddha statue. How dare they!” If somebody takes our clothes, “Oh, you took my clothes!” If anybody just goes and takes our stuff we don’t like it. If somebody comes along and asks us for something? We always think, “I am so generous” but somebody comes and asks us for something, and “I don’t want to give it.”

You see, it’s incredible. Like you get a snack and let’s say, and this happens in India all the time. This is the advantage of living in India. You’re sitting on a train eating and there is a beggar who comes and says, “Give me something.” You watch your mind go, “No, I don’t want to give anything. I want this food for myself.” Yet we always think, “Oh, I’m not attached to food. Sure, I can give everything away.” It’s real interesting to just watch our mind. The worry we have about possessions and money, how we react when somebody asks us for something, how we react when somebody takes our stuff. And then we see if our intellectual concept of how renounced we are actually fits the reality of how we act. Go back in your room and if somebody took your blanket, “No blanket! It’s cold. I don’t want to be cold at night. How dare somebody take my blanket.”

The thing is, the more attached we are to something, the more aversion and anger and upset we have when we lose it. So these pairs: the attachment to money and material possessions, and the dislike of losing them. These two go right together. If you have one you’re going to have the other. It’s just very interesting to check up. Like at Dharma Friendship Foundation when I ask people to go home and clean out their closets, and give away the things that they don’t use. They found it so hard even though they don’t use the things. To go through the closets and give things away, “I don’t want to give that away. I might need it in the future.” Or, “Oh, my relative gave me that. It has so much sentimental value. I don’t want to give it away.” We find it really hard to give away stuff even if we don’t use it. That shows that we’re involved with these eight worldly concerns. It’s right there.

Praise and blame

The second pair of the eight worldly concerns is attachment to praise and sweet words and approval; and dislike of disapproval and blame and unkind words. This one’s even harder. Giving up money and material possessions is easy compared to giving up attachment for praise and sweet words. Just look at it, like especially if we look at our moods on a day-to-day basis. Just our moods in one day: how we go up and down in one day.

Somebody comes in and says, “Oh, thank you for doing this.” And, “Oh, I feel good. Somebody recognized that I did my job well”—and we feel quite happy. Then the next person comes in and says, “Why didn’t you do that?” And then we feel, “Oh, they’re criticizing me,” and we feel down. Or we get angry, “They are criticizing me! How dare they do that!” Then the next person comes in and says, “Oh, you’re so kind,” then we feel very happy, that person is my friend.

The next person comes in and says, “You’re so sloppy in your speech. I thought you were a Dharma practitioner. Why are you talking like that?”—and then we get really unhappy, and we feel miserable because we got criticized. Or somebody says, “Oh, you’re so wonderful for practicing the Dharma. I admire you so much. You’re such a good practitioner,” and we feel, “Ah yes,”—very happy. And then the next person comes along and says, “You call yourself a Dharma practitioner? What in the world are you doing? You’re so full of attachment.” Then we feel really insulted, we feel angry, we get depressed, we attack back at the other person.

It’s incredible on a day-to-day basis to watch. Watch our moods and especially how reactive we are to the words other people say to us. Absolutely incredible! How reactive and how our mind goes, “That person doesn’t like me. Oh no,” and we blame our self. Or, “That person doesn’t like me. What’s wrong with them?” We are so reactive and our moods go up and down.

Think about how we speak to other people. People praise us so of course we speak nicely back to them. Somebody else points out our fault, and even if it’s a fault that’s true and we know we have it, we get mad. Somebody says, “You’re always late.” Or somebody says, “You always do this or that or the other thing,” and it’s true, we always do. And we go, “Augh.” It’s like nobody is supposed to notice my faults. If you notice my faults you’re not supposed to say them. We’re just so reactive. We anger so quickly. We get depressed so quickly.

This is all just part of the eight worldly concerns: attachment to sweet words and praise and approval, and not liking getting blamed and people disapproving of us and people saying unkind things to us. I watch my own mind and this is eight worldly concerns. Like I was saying, the demarcation line between a Dharma action and a non-Dharma action is related to the eight worldly concerns. This is Buddhism 101. It’s the first thing we have to start working with—the eight worldly concerns. I look at my own life and how out of whack I get when people criticize me. Just how unhappy my mind gets when I get criticized. How angry I get. I fall back into all these old patterns of, “Somebody’s angry at me,” so I just shut up, and then I’m depressed, and I hold it all inside. Then inside my mind I’m just saying all these nasty things about them. I don’t want to say it out loud, because if I say it out loud then they’ll attack me more. Then my whole mind is just a mess. It’s all this set of the eight worldly concerns: praise and blame. All just that!

Here I have a precious human life with so much possibility to practice the Dharma. Yet the mind just stays ruminating about these eight worldly concerns again and again. “This person said this.” “Maybe I don’t belong here.” “They don’t like me?” “What did I do wrong?” “Everybody’s always saying this about me. Who do they think they are anyway?

The pot shouldn’t call the kettle black. I am going to tell them that they do the exact same thing. Put them in their place.” We plan out all these things that we want to say to them; just eight worldly concerns!

Fame and shame

The third pair is attachment to a good reputation and image; and aversion to having a bad reputation and image—this one is fame and notoriety. This is different from the previous one of praise and blame. Praise and blame is more of what an individual says to you. This one about reputation, good reputation and bad reputation, is your image amongst a whole group of people. So it’s different. We might think, “I don’t want to be famous. I’m not looking to be George Bush or Madonna or somebody like that. I’m not hung up on fame.”

But if we look again in our lives, we all have our own little sphere of influence, our own little groups. Within our own little groups we want to have a good reputation. We want people to think well of us no matter what our little group is.

Like people who have hobbies—let’s say they’re on the swim team. Everybody who is on the swim team wants to have a good reputation with everybody else who’s on the swim team. You’re attached to your reputation, to what all your teammates think about you. We come and we’re in the monastery. Well, we’re attached to, “What do all the other Buddhists think about me? Do I have a good reputation with the lay people? Do I have a good reputation in the Buddhist organization? Do they write about me and mention my name in Buddhist magazines? Do they mention my teacher’s name in Buddhist magazines?” If my teacher is famous and I’m attached to my teacher then I get a little bit of a good reputation too. Whatever it is, whatever sub-group we’re in, we want a good reputation within that. If you play basketball, even if it’s just with all the other people on your block, you want a good reputation with the people on your block.

Again we can get so bent out of shape when we don’t have a good reputation, when our image is ruined. When we’re trying to present this image, even of a Dharma practitioner,

“Here I am. I’m a very good Dharma practitioner.” Then all of our faults show forth, and then people talk about us behind our back, and our reputation is ruined. We go, “Oh, I can’t help it. Everybody is supposed to think I’m such a good practitioner.” All that upset happens basically because we’re attached to reputation which is a worldly concern.

It happens all the time. This thing is really deep rooted. In fact they often say that getting rid of these two sets: the one about praise and blame, and the one about reputation—that this is much harder than overcoming attachment to food and clothing and comfort of our body. They say you can go up—and the ideal in Tibet—you go up and meditate in a cave.

You just eat very meager food. You’re sleeping on the rock. You have very simple torn clothes. But in your mind you’re thinking, “I hope everybody down in the town is thinking about what a great and renounced meditator I am.” You can see they even point this out specifically in the scriptures: how difficult it is giving up our attachment to our reputation and to being well-known and wanting people to think well of us. We even want a good reputation for being ascetic, which is totally contradictory, isn’t it?

Think about all the things that we do to get a good reputation. How we butter up certain people. We do actions that are going to win us brownie points so that we look good. We make sure other people know what we did. And then when we don’t have a good reputation and people are gossiping about us behind our back? We hate that and so then we want to get even, so we gossip behind their back. We say nasty things about them. It can cause us so many problems in our life.

Similar to the previous worldly concern with the praise and blame; you know, what do we do to get the praise? Sometimes we act in a certain way that’s really insincere just so somebody will praise us. We’ll even contradict our own ethical principles because we want certain people to like us and think well of us. There we succumb to peer pressure.

We do all sorts of things to get other people’s approval. Let’s say there are people we care about who think that we’re stupid for practicing Dharma. Then we’ll even give up our Dharma practice so that those people will think well of us. Why? We just want people to praise us. Then when we get blamed and we get involved in creating so many negative actions too—it’s the eight worldly concerns. It’s just totally amazing how this runs our life and creates so much suffering for us.

Pleasure and pain

The fourth set is feeling pleased at different sense pleasures; and unhappy with other sense pleasures. So just how, on a day-to-day basis, we’re on the lookout for good sense pleasures. We’re on the lookout: “What nice things can I look at? I want to have a nice picture in my room. I want the meditation room to be painted a certain color because I think that color is nice. I want to listen to nice music. I don’t want to listen to this other kind of music.” One person says, “I like wind chimes,” and the other person says, “I don’t like wind chimes.” We’re just all involved in that.

Then what we smell, “I want to smell nice things.” So we have to put all this fragrance in the bathroom (which I think smells worse). We don’t like bad smells. And then food, we are so attached to food: “Got to cook such nice food,” and, “Tastes well,” and “Plenty of it.” We are very attached to food.

And then tactile things, we don’t like if we’re too cold, we’re unhappy. If we’re too hot, we’re unhappy. If our bed’s too hard, we complain. If our bed’s too soft, we complain. We like the feeling of people touching us—the whole sexual experience is tactile sensation.

What do we do to get all these very pleasant sensations? How much of our mental energy is consumed with arranging our life so that we can get these pleasures? What’s even trickier is when we’re Dharma practitioners. We try to arrange our life so we get these pleasures, without making it look like we’re arranging our lives so we get these pleasures.

If people know that we’re trying to get these pleasures then we get a bad reputation because that’s not a Dharma practice. But our mind is still involved with all of this. We’re trying to get all these things that give us the happiness of this life, but without actually acknowledging that we are attached to these things, and making it look like it’s some other Dharma reason or something like that.

The mind is so sneaky. Incredibly sneaky how our mind just contorts our motivation and makes up reasons and excuses and lies and all sorts of stuff. We do this so that we can get the four of the eight worldly concerns; and so that we can avoid the other four or get revenge when we get them. Think about when we lose our possessions, when people criticize us, when they talk behind our back and give us a bad reputation, when we don’t get the sense pleasures we want. It’s, “How can I retaliate? How can I get even?”

Sometimes we criticize those people. Sometimes we go around with an unhappy face, “I’m mad at you. You cook the food you know I don’t like.”

Our mind just gets so wrapped up and all it is, if we think about it, is the attachment to the happiness of this life. And this life is so short. And these pleasures are so short.

What’s the use of being so attached to them? Its like: we have a good lunch. Well, lunch is finished in a half an hour and it’s done. And do you even remember what you ate last Monday? Let alone a year ago? Let alone five years ago? We don’t even remember what we ate. The pleasure is so short lived. And yet, we spend so much time trying to get it and then being unhappy if we don’t get it.

We can look at so much with these eight worldly concerns: all the things that we do to get people’s praise and get them to like us. We really don’t care about them but we pretend to do nice things so that they’ll like us and praise us. Then we can’t acknowledge it to ourselves that we are really doing it with a bad motivation. So we think, “Actually I am so compassionate. Look what I’m doing for this person.” Our real motivation is that we want them to like us and to talk nice about us, but we can’t acknowledge it to our self or to them. So we make up our Dharma motivation of how compassionate we are and we believe it. Yet if we’re really honest with our selves, it’s just eight worldly concerns. I mean, this is why I said it’s embarrassing. And I know, because my teacher emphasized this so much, how important this topic is. This is really the crux of whether we become Dharma practitioners or not.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.