Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Verse 20-3: Creating the causes

Verse 20-3: Creating the causes

Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).

  • Thinking about karma keeps us on our toes
  • Reasoning with the angry mind

We are on Verse 20:

“May I sever the stream of the lower forms of life for all beings.”
This is the prayer of the bodhisattva when going downhill.

We’ve been talking about the unfortunate realms of existence in samsara where we’re born due to the force of the causes we ourselves create by the actions that we do. While its unpleasant to think of this, personally speaking, I find it very effective in my practice because it keeps me on my toes. In other words, when I start to think that I can fudge a little bit on my precepts, or if I was mean to somebody it doesn’t really matter, or what’s a little white lie, or I just spoke a few harsh words to that person, I just bad-mouthed them behind their back, just a little bit. When the mind starts saying, “Oh my negativities really aren’t so negative….” You know that mind? Then when we remember that whenever we do a negative action with the object and the motivation, the actual action, and the completion all together, then we are creating the causes for rebirth in an unfortunate realm.

When we say, “Well I did this thing which I consider so negative. Was it worth doing that in order to have a bad rebirth?” No. Even if we say, “Well it was a small negative action so it’ll be a small bad rebirth….” Do you want to be born anywhere in the lower realms even for a short time? It’s just not worth doing it. When I look at it that way, it’s like, “Wait a minute, I’m trying to work for my happiness and the happiness of others, and doing this is not going to bring that. Instead it’s going to bring the opposite of what I want. It’s just not worth it.”

I find this very effective when I’m getting irritated at somebody, or angry at somebody, because the mind gets really into it: “I’m right and this guy’s really too much.” I just say to myself, “Are they worth going to the lower realms for?” Because usually in our bodhisattva prayers it’s, “May I go into the lower realms even for the benefit of sentient beings, in order to benefit them.” Well, here I wouldn’t be going to the lower realms to benefit them, I’ll be going to the lower realms because of my own negative karma. I don’t even want to go to the lower realms to benefit them, I’m so selfish, so why should I want to go by the force of my own negative karma? So is getting mad at this person worth a lower rebirth? If I’m mad at them, I shouldn’t place so much importance on them, they’re not worth suffering over myself.

If you do that kind of reasoning with the angry mind, getting angry at this person is not worth going to the lower realms. It’s just not! I find that very effective in dropping the anger. That’s why I say that these kind of meditations, although initially unpleasant, are very effective in snapping us out of our negativities, because we just kind of put side by side: “If I do this action, this is the result. Do I want that result? No.” Then immediately we cut the action. Very helpful.

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.