- Why it’s important to dedicate to never be separated from the Triple Gem
- What it means to ask for “blessings” and “inspiration”
- Reviewing the right attitude to have while eating
May we and all those around us
never be separated from the Triple Gem in any of our lives.
May we always have the opportunity to make offerings to them.
And may we continually receive their blessings and inspiration
to progress along the path.
This is actually a dedication verse. We’re dedicating the merit from offering the food to the Three Jewels. First we’re dedicating it so that ourselves and everybody else around us can never be separated from the Three Jewels in any of our lifetimes. That’s a very important dedication to make. If we’re born in a realm where we have no contact with the Three Jewels, or even we’re born as a human being where we have no opportunity to meet the Dharma or to meet teachers, or we’re born at a historic time before the Buddha has appeared and taught…. There can be countless different hindrances and obstacles that come up. So here we’re praying that none of them come up and that we always have the opportunity to meet the Dharma. Because let’s face it, if we don’t meet the Dharma we’re really sunk. Think of your life. Without the Dharma what would you be doing with your life? If you look just in the course of a day at how much virtue versus how much nonvirtue we do in a day, our mind goes towards the ten nonvirtues like this [snaps fingers], doesn’t it? It’s always running after some kind of ignorance, anger, and attachment, running around in our mind, and then acting that out. Without meeting the Dharma (that points that out to us) then we wouldn’t have any awareness….
I just think of before I met the Dharma, I didn’t think…. I mean, there was something wrong with other people’s greed and anger, but in general, my anger was okay, because my anger was necessary and important. Other people’s anger was stupid and was the cause of wars, but I didn’t really see any reason to avoid my anger, because if I avoided my anger then people would have just walked all over me. And as far as attachment, well that’s what I was raised to do. I’m supposed to be attached to things. I’m supposed to consume. I’m supposed to fall in love. I’m supposed to want this and that and the other thing, and have a good reputation, and show it all off to my friends. And if you don’t do that you’re abnormal in our society. In terms of seeing the afflictions as something to be abandoned, I didn’t really have that in my upbringing. Selfishness was bad when you had too much of it that other people noticed. But if your selfishness was contained then it was okay, and even, you know, you should look out for yourself and treat yourself first and everything. Ignorance was just voting for the wrong political party, there was no idea of our mind being ignorant of something.
When you look at how we were raised we were taught certain ethical standards, and we’re all very appreciative to our family and teachers and so on and so forth that taught us that, but in terms of looking at our mind and how to create virtue and avoid nonvirtue in terms of our motivations? Not so much. Not so much. I think even when people go to therapy…. This is a big generalization, please I don’t want five hundred emails in response…. I’ll say it and then [audience] is a therapist and can tell me what she thinks. I think many times in therapy what’s happening is getting people to have levels of afflictions that are societally acceptable. Our therapist is nodding in agreement. Anybody else here a therapist? Do you agree? Maybe. Hang around longer. [laughter] I don’t hear therapists talk about getting rid of all of our anger or getting rid of all of our attachment. Certainly not looking at the nature of the self that’s the root of all of this.
When I think about, if I’m born in a place where I don’t meet the Dharma then it’s really difficult to have any kind of guiding light about how to live a good life and how to live a meaningful life. That’s why it’s important to pray never to be separated from the Triple Gem in any of our lives.
The second thing we’re dedicating for is always having the opportunity to make offerings to the Three Jewels. When we really appreciate that merit is something important to create in our lives, that through having good motivations and kind actions then we leave good imprints on our mind, and that offering to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, because of their spiritual attainments they are an incredible field of merit for us to make offerings to. So, to pray not only to meet the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but also to make offerings to them. Here, when we’re offering our food, it’s a very simple offering. We eat many times a day so it’s an opportunity to create a lot of merit just by doing what we do during the day, but pausing before it and transforming our mind.
To always have that opportunity to have not only the food and the material things to give but also to have the mind that likes to give and the mind that likes to make an offering. You need two things. Of those two the most important is the mind that likes to make offerings. Whatever we give we just give… We don’t have to be rich in order to create a lot of merit because the main thing is our motivation when we’re giving. But to have the ability to make offerings to them, the mental ability, and then at least some small thing to give, again, not everybody has that opportunity. So, to dedicate to have that opportunity so we can continue to create merit.
“To always have the opportunity to make offerings to them.” And then, “to continuously receive the blessings and inspiration to progress along the path.”
Blessings and inspiration are the translations for the same Tibetan word (chin lap). Actually what “chin lap” means is to “transform into magnificence.” It isn’t like a blessing like somebody hits you on the head, or something like that. When we passed around the water, we all got some of the water at the end of the nyung ne session, the real blessing is how we meditate at the time we’re sipping the water. There were the three things to think: that the afflictive emotions are eradicated, the cognitive emotions are overcome, and the dharmakaya is attained. If you think like that then that way of thinking is blessing our mind. The water is something incidental to the whole thing.
For our mind to be blessed it requires two conditions. One is our receptivity, the other is the awakening or enlightening influence of the buddhas. These two have to come together. It’s not like we’re requesting blessing and then we just kind of sit there and wait so that lightning strikes us and we go, *gasp* “Now I’ve realized emptiness!” It’s not like that. It’s through doing our practice, and the holy beings do have some awakened energy, or awakening energy, that can affect us when we’re receptive to that. So also dedicating to receive their blessings and inspiration. But blessing is not a free ticket. It’s not like you do whatever you want and then you request a blessing and it’s all erased. It doesn’t work that way.
The next verse:
By seeing this food as medicine,
I will consume it without attachment or complaint,
not to increase my arrogance, strength, or good looks,
but solely to sustain my life.
I think this verse is from Nagarjuna, I have that memory somewhere in my mind. But again, as in the five contemplations, to remember that the food is like medicine and it’s nourishing our body so that we’re able to practice the Dharma. We’re not eating it with attachment. Or we’re trying not to eat it with attachment, putting together every bite on our fork so that we maximize the happiness that we’ll get from it. And not shoveling it in so we can get more before everybody else. All these kinds of things. But trying to eat with a mind that says I’m eating to keep my body alive so I can practice the Dharma.
Not with attachment. Not with complaint. The initial translation was “without hatred” and I always pondered that: “Why would you eat with hatred?” Then I realized it didn’t mean hatred literally, it meant complaining. That’s a form of aversion, isn’t it? A form of hatred, so to speak. “This food’s too cold. It’s too hot.” What I went through last week, “We don’t have enough protein, we have too much sugar. Why did you make white bread? Wheat bread is better for you. But the wheat bread that they give tastes like cardboard, I don’t want it. Give me bread that is soft like cake. Give me white bread.” You know how we are. I mean, complaining is our past time, especially about the food. And especially in a monastery where the food is your one last object of sense desire. That you have to take to nourish your body, but it’s like all the sense desire, craving, goes into the food. It’s like one leaf of lettuce all of a sudden becomes “Wow, I can’t have a boyfriend but I can have a leaf of lettuce.” [laughter] It’s easy to eat with a lot of attachment, and then a lot of complaint if it’s not what we expected.
It’s very interesting to watch our mind when we eat, because when you look at the food you have an expectation of what it’s going to taste like. Then you taste it and it never tastes like you thought it was going to. Once in awhile it tastes better, usually it doesn’t taste as good. So we’re always somehow disappointed. “This was supposed to be really good.”
We’re eating without attachment or complaint. “Not to increase our arrogance…” Why would we get arrogant? “Look how wealthy I am, look how privileged I am, I have all of this good food.” Or arrogance can fit in with “strength” and “good looks.” We’re eating to have a strong body so we can show people look how strong I am. Look at those muscles. And good looks. Because in ancient times being a little bit plump was a sign of wealth. You wanted to be plump. So we may want to eat so we look healthy, we look strong, and that can also create arrogance, can’t it? “Look how good looking I am because of what I eat.”
Nowadays people may get a little bit arrogant because they’re vegan or because they eat organic food, because to eat organic food you have to be able to afford it. People can use that as a subtle way of saying “Look, I’m someone who can afford the organic food.” I’m not saying everybody does that, but I’m saying it could be that somebody does that.
It’s reminded ourselves to eat with the proper motivation, without attachment, without complaining, without arrogance of how wonderful we are to have this kind of great food, without wanting to make our body strong and good looking in order to get praise, in order to be somebody, but merely eating to keep our body alive…. Not just to keep the body alive because we don’t want to die, but to keep it alive so that we can practice the Dharma. And to practice the Dharma not only so that we can free ourselves from cyclic existence, but so we can become fully awakened buddhas and help others to attain buddhahood as well.
We say these prayers every day, it’s sometimes easy, you tune out while you’re saying them, and then all of a sudden it’s over, but you know it’s good if we really kind of lock our attention onto each word we’re saying and think of the meaning of it. It really enriches the practice.
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.