The bodhisattva who wishes to follow this path must invest time and energy to understand law and rule of, or the truth of depending arising. The dependent. Nothing is independent. That everything is dependently arising. A bodhisattva must pay attention, invest time and energy to understand that. And by the way this is the quintessential Mahayana path, aim of the Mahayana path, to understand the dependent arising. Wishing, longing, aspiring, working hard to understand the dependent arising is offering to the Buddha, it is the meditation, it is the generosity, it is the discipline, it is so called meditation, it is basically Mahayana path. Trying to understand dependent arising.
For Buddhist, and specially Mahayana Buddhism, pain, release from the pain, path, all these exist within the realm of relative truth. Nothing else. If you are having a nightmare while sleeping on a nice bed, this is what Buddhist would say: Before you even slept, the nightmare did not exist. Of course not. That’s nothing unusual. But what the Buddhist are saying is: even as you are having the nightmare, while you are having the nightmare, actually it’s not happening. That’s a difficult to chew, this one. Because you will always: But I am being, you know, there is an earthquake, there is a monster about to eat me, all of that. But now there is another one that is even more difficult. Which is: after waking up from the nightmare to understand that the nightmare never existed, that’s even more difficult. Because that sense of relief from waking up from a nightmare is just so good. So how can you say that there was nothing. But anyway if you are to study and follow the Mahayana path, this is the view that you have to be brave enough to accept.
How do you define what is virtuous and what is not? If an act brings you closer to the truth, it is a virtuous action in buddhism. Okay. If an act – okay, so if an act of whatever, for instance, if, let’s say in order to save like these two, let’s say this two are being chased by a murderer. In order to save these two, the murderer asks me: “Have you seen these two?” I say: “No.” That is a blatant lie. That is an act of lying. But I am saving them. Such kind of act, outwardly it is an non-virtuous , but actually it is bring you closer to the truth. To the compassion, love, and all that. So therefore, especially in Mahayana Buddhism, action that brings you closer to the truth is virtuous. Action that does not bring you closer, action that brings you further from the truth, even though it may be seemingly virtuous such as going to Bodhgaya and do hundred thousand prostration and making sure anybody is looking at you so that you become famous, whether anybody is taking photograph of you, you know. To self-cherish and all of that. This is bringing you further from the truth. That is non-virtuous.
Please make my dharma practice successful. What does success mean? Success means that your dharma practice does not lead you to the samsara but to the nirvana or in fact in the mahayana go beyond.
Broadly speaking mahayana people, mahayana path, talk about two kind of confusion or two kinds of defilements. Okay in a very simple language, the first one is defilement of clinging to the self, meaning clinging to anything that is related to the self or the ego. And then in ?? own word, ?..?, now this is a really profound statement, so we are now going through the fourth one. The fourth point.
According to the Mahayana, those who have studied Madhyamika, it should be either for you. If you have studied Madhyamikavatara remember someone like Chandrakirti or even Shantideva whom I have been quoting again and again, ?.?, for instance, according to the Madhyamika, specially Prasangika Madhyamika, when you analyze the ultimate truth, when you analyze the ultimate truth with your logic and analytical tool and example, ?? we call it, on top of that sometimes we use the Buddha’s quotation, but Buddha’s quotation is sort of almost like the not most effective tool. The most effective tool is the analogy and – I am not saying that Buddha’s statement is kind of useless, it only works for those who are already devoted to the Buddha. Cannot be used for those who are skeptical. So you can use analogy and analytical tool. So when you search the ultimate truth, according to people like Shantideva or Chandrakirti or Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, they say you search and search and search and if you find something you are wrong. That is basically what they are saying. If you search and search and search, ?..? we call it, if you really search and search and search and finally find an ah, this is it, now this has to be the final, this has to be the reality, this is sort of indisputable reality then you are wrong. That is really the Prasangika Madhyamika statement. And it is wonderful actually.
Okay I was telling you, two kind of defilements in the mahayana they emphasize, one is clinging to the self and anything that is related to the self. Such as this my bag, anything like that. The second is, as you try to find the truth, ultimate truth, and if you find one, that is the second kind of confusion or defilement. The later intellectual or little academic, maybe, but we have to go through this anyway and you might get used to this. Because this is the most important anyway.
Just to qualify, I want to give you some of these seemingly more academical but might help your practice also. The last two point ??, and ??, these two are unique hallmark of a mahayana teaching actually. See, mahayana teaching, generally all other teachings but specially mahayana teachings, in order to qualify mahayana teachings, it really should have the equal, it should put equal importance to what we call ?..?, the upaya, the skillful means and the wisdom. Mahayana path has to equally put emphasize on skillful means and wisdom, indicating if you are not a mahayana practitioner you can afford to pay more attention to the wisdom because all your aim is to get rid of the samsara, you don’t want to go back to the samsara, and that actually can happen or can be done with emphasize on the wisdom. But what makes mahayana a mahayana is equal importance to skillful means and the wisdom. Because mahayana has altogether different agenda. In fact in many mahayana liturgy, we say ?..?, for instance, ??, it is such a beautiful word, like just by remembering you, the buddha, dharma, and sangha, you dispel the fear of samsara and nirvana.
As usual, please with two kinds of motivation, listen or engage with the practice of hearing the dharma. And the two motivations are: seeing the futility of samsara, in an other words, realizing ultimately there is no value in all the samsaric activities. And seeing the infinite value of the enlightenment and path to the enlightenment. And then the second motivation being the mahayana motivation, that you will listen to this teachings for the benefit of all sentient beings.
I try to not use the word hinayana by the way if, because hinayana is kind of a mahayana chauvinist language, it is not a good term, we should really refrain using this word. When I was in Burma I was not even a Buddhist. I was incognito. And there was this Korean monk who was like really mahayana hardline sort of. And he was in the teaching and every day, almost every day he gets into trouble. The monk, the meditation master was very honest actually, he actually towards the end he really basically said mahayana was never taught by the buddha. And one day I even, one day I actually sort of brought up the, pretending, how would this so called tantric thing. Ahh. This theravadin monk, oh that is very evil. That is actually hindu mixture and all of that. I have to get along with him actually. Do you know why? We, so called the mahayana people, while sharvakayana people, while theravadins they don’t have the burden to proof that the theravadin teaching is buddhas teaching. We have to proof. And not only that, we have to accept the theravadin teaching is the teaching taught by the Buddha.
The discipline is the foundation. And in order to generate this, to discipline ourselves there are many many many methods of disciplining oneself. But everything can be abbreviated and concise into taking refuge to buddha, dharma and sangha. Once you take refuge to the buddha, dharma and sangha whole heartedly, from the depth of your heart, without any doubt, you will, most of the other discipline will automatically easily emerge. This is why refuge, practice of the refuge, in all the Buddhist traditions, not only in the Mahayana or the Vajrayana, in the Shravakayana, everywhere, the first thing you do is take refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
So if you are talking about the general discipline, even the mundane secular worldly discipline is very important. In fact this is what is taught by the great social thinker should I call them like Confucius, like in India maybe books like Arthashastra by Chanakya. They are to really have a framework of how to have a content wealthy and not dysfunctional life. Now in the spiritual path we are aiming higher, we are not only looking for a functional society, functional family, wealth, health. We are aiming for enlightenment, we are – and specially in the Mahayana path we are not only aiming enlightenment for myself, ourselves, we are aiming enlightenment for everyone, every being. So therefore a much more profound level of discipline is absolutely necessary.
Basically in Buddhism there is a something called ten non-virtues deed. ??? like killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, anyway ten of them. Bodhisattvas are not allowed to have three mental covetousness, harmful thought and wrong view. Bodhisattvas are not allowed to have this three. Because it doesn’t make sense, you can’t have for the benefit of sentient beings you can’t have wrong view. For the benefit of sentient beings you can’t have a harmful thought. It doesn’t make sense. Other than that, bodhisattvas are, if it is benefiting sentient beings, if you don’t do it, you are actually, you are being a cowardly bodhisattva. It is bit like this. Okay in the shastras, a Shravakayana monk, not a Mahayana bodhisattva path, if somebody is being chased and his life is at stack, and he really comes to you and you are a lesser path practitioner, and he is really asking you, please save me because somebody is chasing me. So you will hide him. And then the second person comes and asks you: Have you seen this person. If you are a Shravakayana practitioner, usually what they say is thinking in your mind, you can think I am not seeing here – you can tell, you are not allowed to tell lies. So what you do is like, looking at something like I don’t know a box and say: No I haven’t seen. You understand.
Student: He is not inside the box.
Well you don’t want to spell it out because the second person will then – but bodhisattva, by all means all kind of incredible lies you can tell, if it is helping the sentient beings, with the right motivation of course. I hope you are not going to tell lies from now on.
How about blessing. Yes. That’s right. That is a very important question actually. And this is – you know I was giving you – okay I will give you a Mahayana answer. Maybe more like Vajrayana oriented. You know usually when we ask for blessing, it is always something that you don’t have and then you ask a higher being to give me whatever. But in Buddhism in generally and specially in the Mahayana and the Vajrayana it is not like that, it is the opposite. It’s more like you already have it but you just need to sort of discover this. You understand. So like my example, going back to my example, the sesame seed doesn’t even remotely look like oil. But it has oil. So asking for blessing is basically like squeezing it. Right? Squeezing or whatever. So that, it works. If the sesame seed doesn’t have oil, won’t work. Even if you wail and cry and complain and sing song, whatever doesn’t work. So the fact that we have the Buddha nature, the innate Tathagatagarbha, that’s the blessing already. But we have to discover this. That is how the blessing should work and that is very important to know in Buddhism. Otherwise the gap between the divine and the mundane will become very big. And then priests like us will become very powerful. Because we will say that: Do you want to talk to him? You talk to me first. Then I will do whatever I can. Because you don’t have what you need. I know how to get for you. It is terrible.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
Practically, if you really want to go home with some kind of an instruction on how to do refuge, if you are not a tantric practitioner, thinking that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are in front of you, and that is good enough. That’s, I mean, you may say it’s a make believe but didn’t I tell you, even four plus four is a make believe. So just thinking, even so I am not seeing it because of my own delusion, thinking and having confidence that they are there, and with this fear to the samsaric games and cause of samsara, take refuge to protect us from all kinds of temporary illness, temporary obstacles, temporary, I don’t know, sickness, disease, war, famine, disputes, disagreements. And then more importantly to protect us, you know refuge is something to do with the protecting, you remember, to protect ourselves from our own inner enemy which is clinging to the self, self cherishing. And then if you are tantric practitioner, thinking all the Buddhas, embodiment of all the Buddhas, the guru, in front of you. Your guru in the form of a deity or whatever, you know. And on top of what I just told you, reasons of taking refuge such as fear of outer obstacles, inner obstacles, secret obstacles is this constant impure perception or constant judgment, dualistic mind. To protect ourselves from this dualistic mind then we take refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, or in the Tantrayana, name of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is kind of transformed into guru, deva and dakini, and specially, if you are practitioner of more profound level of Tantrayana such as Mahasandhi or Mahamudra, then taking refuge to dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya or prana, bindu and nadi or essence, nature and display, we take refuge. And towards the end of the refuge, refuge object and you become inseparable. That’s the point. That is actually very very important. It is not as if the refuge object stays there as a celestial divine being and you go around as a mundane, ignorant being. That’s very important. They merge together. That is the technique. And then there are many many different liturgies to recite the refuge. You can do Namo Buddha, Namo Dharma, Namo Sangha or Buddham saranam gacchami, so on and so forth. ????? or in English which ever, I take refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. And then if you want to elaborate this, specially for those who are doing the Ngondro practice, then there will have a specific liturgy.
In the general Mahayana path, yes our innate nature is the Buddha, but this, this thing, this, you know, this is, it’s like by product of your past karma so it is already like too late kind of, you know, it is already cooked egg, ninety nine percent, so you cannot make into like raw egg. You are asking too much that one, according to the Mahayana. But not in the Vajrayana. In the Vajrayana this is – I am going to use this word I am sure it is going to upset some of you but, this, this thing is – not only this thing by the way, everything – is, in Tibetan we call it ???, ???. ??? there is many different way to translate but today I am going to use the word matrix. To Vajrayana, this is the matrix. You are just looking at it as your, this bony, flashy, bloody hand. That is just the way you look. Because you are trapped by your very narrow minded, narrow logic, this so pathetic habitual pattern that you have and that is the only thing that you get. You, I mean meaning you and me, people like us, we will not going beyond, we just don’t even attempt to go beyond that. For us, four plus four is eight and then we are so satisfied with that. This is so ridiculous, it is like completely – we don’t think beyond that. That is the truth, it worked for centuries, it worked for Americans, it worked for Indians, it is working for the Chinese so why should we go beyond that. Everything stopped dead. But not for the Vajrayana. For the Tantrayana, this is all matrix. If you look even a little bit of different angle it is a totally different, all together different realm. And even this is not – actually I shouldn’t say it is not prescribed, it is prescribed in some of the Tantra, really I am not bluffing this. In great tantric text like Hevajra Tantra.
Now for the Mahayana and therefore for the Vajrayana there is an extra discipline. The extra discipline is ???, the discipline of benefiting others. And this is what actually, I love the Indian thinking. So amazing. Even, forget Buddhism, even the standard Indian, what you call it, concept of strategy in our life so to speak, I am generalizing this, I am simplifying this so much. Just this is very, this are Indian thinking, and the Indian thinking always have this kind of treasure, I think it is a treasure, which is like in the Arthashastra of Chāṇakya , he said: In order to have a fulfilling life, you have to have four strategy. You should have fun he says, you should have fun. You should have money to have fun. And you should have the discipline to have the money and the fun. Now this much I think everybody got it. But what we forgot is the fourth one which is so important. The fourth one is moksha, and the end of the day one who is trying to have fun, one who is trying to make money to have fun, one who is trying to have discipline to have fun and making money, they must realize, none of this works. This you have to realize. And this is, similarly here also it is like that. In the Mahayana, we have the discipline of refraining from doing wrong things and thinking wrong things. We have a discipline of gathering doing right things and all the enlightened qualities and all of that. But for Mahayana, for the Bodhisattva, even more importantly you have to have a discipline that if it is benefiting others, if it is to enlighten others, the two other discipline must be erased. In order to enlighten sentient beings, other sentient beings, if you don’t lie – let’s say if you are lying can enlighten somebody, big lie, not small lies like I haven’t seen him, you know not like that. Very very big lies. The only three things that you are not allowed to is covetous mind, harmful mind and wrong view. Other than that, anything is acceptable. If you don’t do it actually, if you don’t steal, rob a bank even, and if it is benefiting sentient beings, benefiting meaning not just to give them food and clothing or shelter, enlightening sentient beings.
Now to the Mahayana. For the Mahayana, historically bound, the physically bound Buddha is actually a manifestation, meaning is not the real one so to speak. It’s manifested. So the real Buddha is usually out of lack of choice of words, we choose the word, many words, like dharmakaya or buddha nature that we talked this morning. And buddha nature is a very big subject, I was just hitting on very small aspect of buddha nature which was, remember, the defilements are removable. I think that much understanding is good enough to begin. And to this truth, to this nature of, nature that although defilements are so blatantly, obviously there, our defilements are so thick and large and long and tall and completely vivid and very much there. But. And big, and many. But no matter, they are all removable. And that, what we call it ???, which is quality of absence, we call it. It is a quality that is an absence of dirt, remember the dish washing example I give you. That is the ultimate object of refuge and that, you know if you take refuge to that, nothing can go wrong. It’s undeceiving.
England, I think UK generally and I think really fortunately – I am just realizing this more and more – fortunately England actually has much more affinity and they seem to be at home with the Theravada tradition, which is fantastic actually, really good. Every time I meet non Tibetans who become Buddhist but they happen to be sort of ex Theravadan, ex Mahayana practitioner, but they later became a Vajrayana, tantric practitioner, they are always the best ones. It is always these people and ya but Vajrayana students, tantric students who happen to be an ex follower of some Californian guru, very strange I tell you, very strange. It is very worrying, for themselves it’s worrying, for Buddhism it’s worrying.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
Bodhicitta, now that is the essence, the quintessence of the Mahayana teachings. Without that there is no Mahayana path. Really important. It is because of the bodhicitta a Bodhisattva never gets tired helping sentient beings. So in the bodhicitta – okay there is two kinds of bodhicitta, relative bodhicitta and the ultimate bodhicitta. Relative bodhicitta. Okay bodhicitta is not just wanting sentient beings to have some kind of a good time. Okay that is really kindergarten stuff. That everybody has. It is not just wanting them to have nice time. Bodhicitta is wishing the sentient beings to have enlightenment. Thus the subject is very big. If you keep on talking about it, I will never reach Johor Baru tonight I think. Anyway I want to clarify something here. Just out of my experience. You know sometimes we go to see the lamas and then some of these lamas are so gentle, so soft. And they don’t scold the student who has so much ego, so much pride, so much jealousy. They are so nice to them. And what do we say? “Oh he is a great bodhisattva. It is because of his bodhicitta he has been so compassionate. But I can’t stand this guys.” I think it is a good example. This kind of thing intrigues me because I don’t know whether the lama is a great bodhisattva or not. Sometimes you go and see these lamas, some lamas, who doesn’t give a damn about what people think or what his disciple – okay he might scold this disciple. Not for some petty things but because he wants to destroy his ego and pride. And he is risking it because he might lose his disciple by scolding. Okay next door there is a very good Rinpoche, who is gentle, soft, and all that. And this Rinpoche is going like this. Scolding, grill him and minced him. Risking, there is a big risk because he might go to the other. But this Rinpoche doesn’t care, he says what he needs to say. He says what the student needs to hear not what the student wants to hear. I think he is a bodhisattva. Why? I was talking about bodhicitta, remember. Bodhicitta is not just a wish to make someone sort of happy and give him a lollipop. It’s not that. Bodhicitta is really concentrating on making the other person get rid of their ego, pride, and all these emotions and make him reach enlightenment. And what is enlightenment? CCL [couldn’t care less], absence of paranoia. Remember? Bodhicitta is a wish to cut the chain of this unnecessary formalities and just all this rituals and habitual patterns and inhibitions. I mean inhibitions, that is right, that is the right word. We have so much inhibitions. First of all we have inhibitions as a human being. Secondly we have an inhibition as a Chinese, then we have an inhibition as a Buddhist. We have then inhibitions as Mahayana Buddhist. All kind of inhibitions. We collect more and more inhibitions and each time we collect the inhibitions are more sophisticated. Sophisticated inhibitions means more difficult to overcome inhibitions. That is what we do. So you know what I mean. A bodhicitta is a wish to enlighten others. That is a relative bodhicitta anyway. It is very necessary, amazing, so special. Without that Mahayana has no path.