A vast perspective

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Part of a series of teachings given at the Winter Retreat from December 2011 to March 2012 at Sravasti Abbey.

  • The importance of motivation
  • How the understanding of karma helps us maintain a balanced view of our life
  • Countering the judgmental mind by seeing the bigger picture

Vajrasattva 04: A vast perspective (download)

04 Varjasattva – A Vast Perspective 12-23-11

We’re in our first week here at the Vajrasattva retreat. In the last talk, Venerable Semkye talked a bit about the importance of motivation. She used the example of how all of the retreatants that are here set the motivation to come to this retreat. Here we all are!

Motivation is very important. Each time we sit in meditation, we begin by first doing some breathing meditation to calm the mind. Every mind is different so however long that takes varies. You can feel how all the thoughts kind of settle down as you settle on the cushion. Once your mind has calmed a bit, then just set the motivation. The way that I do that is I ask myself these questions: “What am I sitting on this cushion for? What’s the purpose here? What am I doing?” That always leads me to really tap into my heart aspiration to transform my mind to become enlightened so that I can benefit others. It’s very important to start with a motivation with each session because as you see, you set the motivation to come here—here you are. You set the motivation in your meditation session and then your mind will follow that. It’s quite powerful actually.

The other the thing Venerable Semkye talked about was this notion of being a good friend to ourselves. I wanted to elaborate on that a little bit today in the context of the Vajrasattva retreat. When we do this particular retreat [a Vajrasattva purification retreat] we do a life review. We bring to mind those actions that we have done that have been harmful, the mistakes that we’ve made in our lives, the non-virtuous actions that we’ve done. Then we use the four opponent powers to purify. If we keep a very narrow focus in our mind about the mistakes we’ve made, if we have this sense inside that we’ve been bad, or we’re not skillful, or we’re somehow lacking, or kind of defective, somehow just not good enough…. If we start looking at our past and review our life with that context, the retreat is going to be quite painful, quite difficult.

What we need to do is set the context of how we review our lives. We do that by really reflecting on the law of cause and effect—of karma, and that can open up our view. How? Well, if we are simply all of our mistakes, if that’s the essence of us, then we would not be in the form we’re in. We would not be here. We would be in a lower realm. It’s really important to remember that, so that we can keep this more complete context of who we are, of what this mindstream holds. If we keep that in mind then as we do our life review we do it in a balanced manner.

As you do your life review, if you start noticing that you’re getting tight in your mind or quite judgmental or critical, it’s painful. That’s the moment when you step back a little bit and open up your view again to remind yourself that you have been practicing this path for lives, not just this life. If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have created the cause in this life to be where you are right now; to meet the Dharma, to meet qualified teachers, to have an interest, to want to transform the mind.

That’s what connects all of us, we all want to transform our minds. We all want to have happiness and not have suffering, every one of us. It’s really important to keep this vast view that we have been engaged in this quest for more than just this life. We do this practice to continue to create the causes so that we can continue to progress in this life and in future lives—so that we all can become Buddhas. We all have that capacity, every one of us. Let’s keep that in mind as we do these life reviews.

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