This begins of a series of talks on Gems of Wisdom, a poem by the Seventh Dalai Lama.
- Introduction to the poem Gems of Wisdom
- Seeing ourselves as the sick patient who needs the medicine of the Dharma
- Becoming our own doctor
Gems of Wisdom: Prologue (download)
I thought that unless there are specific topics that are really timely, or people write questions or whatever, that I would just embark on a series of talks. It’s from a book—or rather a lengthy poem, you could say—called The Gems of Wisdom by the Seventh Dalai Lama. I was reading part of it and I was quite inspired by what he said.
The Prologue. The Seventh Dalai Lama says:
With single-pointed devotion I bow down to Guru Mañjuśrī, the Ever-Youthful one, the supreme deity, the spiritual doctor who serves as an elixir to all beings, bringing them happiness and goodness; himself being a moon full with the all-knowing wisdom, having forever abandoned the faults of every samsaric imperfection.
The prologue is a praise to Guru Mañjuśrī, seeing one’s own spiritual mentor and Mañjuśrī as having the same nature of the wisdom of bliss and emptiness, in other words the Buddha’s mind. He’s saying with single-pointed devotion. Not with a wandering mind and also not with, kind of, “Well, I’m kind of devoted but this other path over here looks interesting too.” But rather just completely he knows what his refuge is, who his role models are. In this case it’s Mañjuśrī, who’s called “the ever-youthful one.” Often when they depict the deities they’re depicted 16 years old. I don’t know what’s so special about 16. I mean you have your “sweet 16” party…. In several cultures sixteen is special, so I’m not quite sure why.
The supreme deity
“The supreme deity”—not meaning that other deities are lesser than Mañjuśrī, but that the deity, the Buddha’s mind, all these Buddha figures that we meditate on are the supreme beings, are the Buddhas.
The spiritual doctor
He’s “a spiritual doctor.” When we’re suffering with the illness of samsara we go to the doctor—Mañjuśrī—who diagnoses it and says, “Yep, you’re sick.” Samsara has attacked and the cause is the virus of ignorance, anger, attachment, all the karma that you accumulated to be born in samsara. Then the Buddha gives the medicine of the Dharma. And the Sangha is the nurse that helps us take it. But we’re the patient. And I think that’s really important to remember in this whole analogy. That we’re the patient. Because sometimes we act like a little bit too full of ourselves to be a sick patient. So he is calling Mañjuśrī the “spiritual doctor” who is then going to teach him the Dharma so that he can cure himself of the disease of samsara.
Being a doctor to ourselves
I think as we practice, our goal is to make our own mind our spiritual doctor and to learn how to be a doctor to our own afflictions so when problems come in our mind instead of just going, “Ahhh! What do I do?” we can prescribe the medicine of the Dharma to ourselves because we’re very familiar with the medicine, we know which medicines go for which afflictions. I think this is a very important ability to develop in ourselves, to be a doctor to ourselves. Otherwise we’re always left stranded.
And I’ve noticed—we were talking about it the other night—that I’ve taught about, for example, death and dying many, many times to many people, and I know the people who have heard those teachings, and yet when somebody in their life dies, they call and they say, “What do I do?” Suddenly the teachings they heard are all gone and their mind’s a total void. Not being able to help themselves because of not recalling the teachings, not having practiced the teachings beforehand. We may notice this, especially at the beginning of our practice, we run into a problem and we fall apart: “What do I do?” Because we’re still blaming the other person, “For sure it’s their fault.” Eventually we realize, “Well, no, it has something to do with me.” But then we’re still left, like, “What do I do?”
Studying and meditating on the teachings
Again, by really studying and meditating on what we study, and becoming familiar with the lamrim and which meditations are antidotes for which afflictions, then when we have a problem we’ll kind of know what to do and what to meditate on, how to be a doctor to our own mind. Until we do that, we have to go to our teacher, we have to look up in books, we have to talk to spiritual friends, and that’s why they’re all there, to help us. But our goal is eventually to become our own doctor. Or as the Seventh Dalai Lama does, he can really tap into Mañjuśrī, he has a direct line. When he has a problem, consulting Mañjuśrī and consulting his own wisdom, there’s not too much difference, you know, because there’s this direct line. You don’t get put on hold: “Can you hold a minute?” And then they play this awful music. But go directly there.
Using symbols to remember the Dharma
“Mañjuśrī gives us an elixir that brings us happiness and goodness.” Happiness and merit, because we practice. And Mañjuśrī himself is “a moon full with the all-knowing wisdom.” I think it’s very beautiful looking at the full moon, we just had one, and thinking of full wisdom. Very often the moon represents bodhicitta and the sun wisdom. But here he does it in a different way, and the moon is symbolizing wisdom.
It’s good sometimes when we have these external symbols, then when we see things in nature it helps us remember the Dharma.
“Mañjuśrī also has forever abandoned the faults of every samsaric imperfection.” So, all of the afflictive obscurations that prevent liberation and keep us bound in samsara. All the cognitive obscurations that prevent omniscience and keep us bound in our own personal liberation. Then Mañjuśrī has eradicated all of these. Okay, so abandoned every fault of every samsaric imperfection. Plus the imperfections of solitary peace, being concerned only with our own liberation.
That’s the prologue, how he starts out. We’ll continue tomorrow.