- Explaining the puja
- Material and immaterial wealth
- Fear of not having something and generosity as the counteraction
- Poverty of friends, love, or appreciation
- Recognizing your own wealth by giving
- Expanding your mind through setting a proper motivation
- Subjective view of wealth
Today I wanted to talk a little bit about the puja that I did this morning which was to consecrate the empty statues and all the zung, the mantra rolls, and all the different materials and small statues and tsa-tsa and everything, incense, that we put inside the statues. To talk a little bit about that because tomorrow we’ll be filling the statues.
Basically in the puja what you’re doing is, first we took the statues themselves, dissolved them into emptiness, made them into Yamāntaka, made offerings, and then they dissolve back into the form of the statues. So that’s representing the mind of the Buddha, with Yamāntaka. And then the mantra rolls were dissolved into emptiness, reappear as Amitābha, so the speech of the Buddha. And we make offerings and requests and so on, and then they dissolve and become the mantra rolls. And then all the other substances and things dissolve into emptiness, appear into Vairocana, so that’s the Buddha’s body, and again we make offerings and requests, and the Vairocanas dissolve and become all the other substances. And then there’s some offerings to [inaudible] who is a wealth deity and also Ganapati, who is a wealth deity.
During those last two… Those are the ones I really want to talk about because when you’re doing the puja you’re imagining all sorts of wealth coming, and not being impoverished. And our usual attitude is to think of wealth as material wealth. And I’m seeing in Asia people love the practice of Zambhala and Ganapati, and treasury wealth vases and all these kinds of things. And people in the U.S. too, you know, in the west, too. Because they think, “Well I’ll get rich.”
But when I was doing the offerings and mantras and so on, I was thinking that it’s not just material wealth. Material wealth you need to support yourself. And may everybody be free of the pain of not having the material things that they need. But also be free of the fear of not having it. And so I was thinking, a lot about how fear controls us. We may have enough things, but our mind feels poor. There’s a sense of poverty in our mind, so then we become tight and we become fearful. and we become miserly and we don’t want to share the material things we have. And yet the actual karmic cause of wealth is generosity. So you can do this puja all you want, but if you aren’t generous, and if you don’t have a motivation of generosity, what can these deities do to help you? And if you’re just making offerings to the deities to get some material wealth with a worldly motivation, what can they do?
I was thinking like that. And then I was also thinking, you know, many people feel poor in terms of love. People want love and they feel poor in terms of love, and they feel poor in terms of having friends, having companions. And we all need that. So poverty isn’t just material things, it’s a poverty of love, or a poverty of appreciation or acceptance or whatever. But then again thinking that when we get into that mind that, “Oh, I don’t have enough love, recognition…” We get very tight and we shut down just like we do when we don’t have the material things. But the actual cause again for having this is being generous. So if we feel a poverty of friends or love, the best way to get it is to be generous, and to become a friend to others, and to give care and affection and love to other people.
I was thinking about how the karmic cause is this (opens arms outward), but we respond to a sense of lack like this (closes arms inward), which is producing the exact opposite of the result that we want. So not only do we need friends and love and material things, we also need Dharma teachings, we need Dharma teachers, we need the Sangha, and we need Dharma friends. And so again, what’s the cause to have all these things? It’s not sitting there and going “Oh, I don’t have it. Why don’t all these teachings and teachers and so on appear in front of me?” But rather, again, creating the conditions by organizing events and inviting teachers, or by helping to publish Dharma books, in one way or another. Helping to get the teachings out there, like the people who are working on the website. So all the things that we do to make the Dharma available to others becomes cause for us to receive Dharma teachings and have Dharma teachers, too. So the service we offer to our teachers becomes the cause to have Dharma teachers in the future.
I was just really thinking in the process of doing this about: “Okay, we have the feeling of poverty and lack. We react to that with grasping more and feeling afraid and having miserliness which creates more karma to have that lack.” Whereas the karmic cause is the exact opposite, it’s giving what you want to have. And it’s strange because when we give what we want to have we realize that actually, we do have something. When you’re generous, it’s like, okay, I’m not rich but I have some material things to give. When we give love and affection and care and appreciation to other people, yes, I have that. I have a mind that values that. And the things is that when we give that then we become more able to receive it ourselves. When we help the teachings grow and proliferate, when we offer service to our teachers, when we make an effort to learn the Dharma and to publish books and to do things like this, then we’re creating the cause…. You know, we’re not totally impoverished of these things at that time. We actually have something, and by being generous with what we have we create the cause to have more.
This is what I was thinking about, especially doing those practices of [inaudible] and Ganapati, about wealth, that there are many kinds of wealth, and how do we really create the cause for the different kinds of wealth. And how do we open up to be able to receive the wealth that comes our way. Because a lot times we don’t recognize it, we block it, we feel unworthy… So all of this became a lot of reflection, so I thought I would share that with you today. And then tomorrow we will actually offer all these offering things, these substances, to the Buddhas of the statues, and then again invoke all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas to abide in the statues and become holy objects that inspire us, so that we can create merit and really take the Dharma more seriously in our lives.
[In response to audience] So this is part of having the correct motivation, a pure motivation. That you’re giving these things not just to get the karmic result, but because you really want other people to have them. So you really have to have the proper motivation.
Having said that, I must say that just in my own experience, I’ve found that when my behavior changes, the outside circumstance changes. So in terms of offering care and affection and so on to other people, that does come back in this life. I mean, you have the motivation “May it happen in future lives and I’m giving in order to benefit all of the people who are in need.” Like when you do the tonglen meditation. But sometimes you do get the result because you can see when you’re a more loving, kind, open, receptive person, people are drawn to you. Even in this life.
I also know for myself that having a very stingy streak materially in myself, so that the first years of my ordination really were extremely difficult materially. Being in India with no money to the point, really, rationing your toilet paper because you didn’t have enough money to buy toilet paper. Even being in Europe and not having enough money to pay for heat, because we all had to pay for our own heat in the monastery. So just one day kind of sitting there and saying, wow, you know, this material suffering that I have… One time I had to go to the doctor, he wanted me to stay overnight in the hospital, I didn’t because I didn’t have enough money. So these kinds of things. Then I said, okay, all of this is due to my own miserliness. And if I look at my behavior right now, I’m continuing to be miserly. And it’s not that miserliness is– You know I didn’t have much to give. But I had the attitude of miserliness. So it doesn’t matter how much you give, it’s really the attitude. So I sat down and had a good long Dharma talk with myself about my behavior, and said, look, if you want things to change, then you’ve got to change. Because you’re not following the law of cause and effect. So then I began to really nudge myself to be a bit more generous and then we see in this lifetime, I mean, now I don’t lack for anything. So I didn’t do it for the motivation now, but there was some– Karma works.
[In response to audience] You’re saying that you want to have your real motivation be for future lives, and the merit created to be for full awakening, but knowing that you do get some results in this life, or that you can—you don’t, necessarily, but you can—then that gives you the kind of confirmation and conviction that being generous, for example, works.
[In response to audience] That’s the thing. When we practice generosity, all that fear of poverty goes, because our mind does become more expansive when we’re generous. When we give, we don’t have this feeling of “oh there’s so little and if I give it away then I won’t have it.” You just imagine plenty, you have a worldview where there’s not a fixed pie but where there’s enough for everybody. And that changes your attitude completely. Which changes again how you perceive the situation and experience the situation. So when you have a mind that is expansive and a mind that’s generous that mind isn’t the fearful mind. And how miserliness and fear go so much together. Whether it’s of material, or love and affection, of teachings, you name it, whatever we feel we lack. And so to have that expansive mind that is the opposite of fear. Because what is fear? (Gestures tightly at herself.) That’s fear, isn’t it? “Gotta hold onto everything and protect me.” Expansiveness is, “Wow, there’s a lot.”
And “a lot” is purely subjective. In this country people have so much, and yet they feel poor. I remember coming back from India and being with some friends of mine. And they had kids, but both of them had jobs. We were driving in their car to go out to eat at a restaurant. Not an expensive restaurant, just a regular one. Stopping by the photo shop — these were in the days when people had rolls of film. And having all of this stuff. I mean, I just came back from India and… Having your own car, having a nice flat. Going out to eat. Having photos. And enough toilet paper. And while we’re driving there they’re telling me how broke they are and how they feel so poor. And I was like, huh? You know? It was really hard for me. And it became so evident how poverty is a mental state. It’s not what you have.