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Mental pathways of virtue

Stages of the Path #76: Karma, Part 13

Part of a series of Bodhisattva's Breakfast Corner talks on the Stages of the Path (or lamrim) as described in the Guru Puja text by Panchen Lama I Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen.

  • Refraining from the mental nonvirtues
  • Practicing the opposite of covetousness, maliciousness, and wrong views
  • Focusing on the mental aspect of generosity and compassion,

We’re on the last three of the ten paths of virtue.

The first one is the opposite of covetousness. It means being generous. Not being stingy, but really having a generous mind. This involves not seeing things so much in terms of “mine.” As soon as we label something “mine,” boy, everything else sets in. But instead thinking of everything as “ours.”

You might try that when you’re mind’s grasping at something. Instead of labeling it “mine,” label it “ours.” “Ours” meaning all sentient beings. Or think that you’ve already offered it to the Buddha, so it doesn’t belong to you. In that way cultivate a mind of generosity. That’s the opposite to coveting.

Because these three are mental, we’re really focusing here on the mind. Of course, it’s good to give physically as well, and verbally as well, but first it has to come from the mind that takes delight in giving.

The second one is the opposite of ill will or malice. This is an attitude of non-harm. Or of compassion. Cultivating compassion towards others and having that as a motivation in the mind, instead of retaliation, ill will, criticism–mentally criticizing people, judging them, and so on. Really cultivating a mind of compassion.

Then the third of the virtues of mind is right view. That’s the opposite of wrong view. Here we’re deliberately cultivating the right view. Trying to understand emptiness and the nature of reality. That’s the right view of the ultimate level. And then also the right view of the conventional level, putting some energy into understanding cause and effect–specifically karma and its effects. If we think about that, then that will influence all of our actions.

These three pathways of virtue of mind of having a generous, sharing mind; of compassion and non-harmfulness; and of right view are very, very important, because from those three minds come the physical deeds we do and the verbal deeds we do to express them.

So that’s something we can try and practice, isn’t it? Instead of in one ear and out the other. Really trying to keep something in there. Especially generosity, compassion, and right view.

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.