Spiritual path is, should be, a process of pulling the rug out of your feet. That’s how it should be. Just as you are feeling comfortable on one rug, pull that rug out and you collapse.
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.
The concept of the guru is very complicated. Guru always gets misunderstood as master. I don’t know whether master is guru. We don’t know yet. I don’t think so. Most probably not. Because – I don’t know – sometimes the master seems to have a connotation of learned one. So it comes within the context of education, accomplished being, from the more education point of view. Guru is not necessarily like that. As I said guru is a very complex – but I think this might help. Guru is not limited as the master but guru is the path also. Guru is everything. Guru is the breath. The color of this grape. The spaciousness of this room. But again, as I speak like this, there is a danger to categorize guru as “e v e r y t h i n g” which is like very abstract. So in this way guru is also personalized. So anyway, in the Mahayana, and specially in the Vajrayana tradition guru is probably the most important method. You know we were talking about the wisdom and the method. Method. Probably the supreme most method.
Although it is changing unfortunately I always look up to India and Indians. I also admire Indians for having really no common sense at all. But these people have lot of wisdom. But unfortunately it is changing. It is really sad to see these amazing looking airports springing up like in Delhi. Really just so like air condition, polished, everything. Cows walking on the street – to me this is one of those last remaining sign of a culture that used to appreciate wisdom more than the common sense. I don’t know whether this actually ever make any sense to you. Basically I am talking about a spiritual path. A spiritual path must really transcend the common sense. If you want to call spiritual path a common sensical thing, then it has to be a transcendental common sense. It cannot be the usual worldly common sense.
Okay let me try another example. This is coming from a Zen master. If you have a thorn in your palm, you need another thorn to take it out. After you take that out, both thorns are gone. No need. So you need to have a little bit of attachment to the second thorn, that is not in your palm.
This is kind of ironic. Dharma, not as the truth but as the path, the teaching. Do you know the path exists because there is a dualism? Because there is a confusion. Therefore there is a path. Once the dualism or the confusion is finished, path is also finished. Not only it is not necessary, it is also gone, simultaneously. Meanwhile, wish to achieve that, wish to attain that enlightenment is necessary.
Okay let me begin with this. Unfortunately, you are asking me, someone like myself. So only the supreme expounder, ?..? we call it, the supreme expounder or the teacher is the Buddha. Only he can actually really give you the, what you call it, the specific answer. For someone like me I will have to bank on to all sort of guess jobs. This is, really of course myself, but even the tenth bhumi bodhisattva, they have to do that. The challenge is this.
The challenge is I have to tell you you should want this. But at the same time I always have to keep in mind that this does not exist what you are supposed to want. And this is actually a wonderful thing because if I have the compassion. See you are like a drunk person about to fall here about to fall there. I don’t want you to fall into the nihilism of nothing exist, I don’t want you to fall into the eternalism of things exist. The skill to teach this seemingly contradictory paradoxical thing, only the Buddha can do it. But the rest we can only sort of give, what we call it, ??, logic, ??, examples. We can only give you examples. So I was trying to give some examples yesterday, you remember, the dream. If you are having a nightmare, okay ?…?, this is Shantideva, if the nightmare is not really bothering you, then you don’t even have to wake up from that, what’s the point. Because there is a pain, there has to be some kind of a drive in you to get out of this pain. Right? As long as you have that drive, that also means that you have the pain, you don’t want to the pain so path can be constructed. All along I have to also tell you, by the way, that is just a dream. It does not exist.
I think first of all devotion is an ignorance. This we must know. Because it is a path. It has to be part of that corrosive path. Right. It is not something that we keep as a souvenir in the future once we get it, once we get what we want. Okay. Therefore, like many things, devotion has a blind element. Like I think word believe is quite good to describe, this element of so called believe. Shakyamuni Buddha in the Sutra, his teaching on emptiness is just amazingly logical I would say. So much argument, so much analysis and all of that. But at the end he told Ananda, ???, this is if you want to sort of intellectually understand, this is how it goes okay in emptiness. But if you really want to realize it the only way to realize is through the devotion. And this makes a big sense because actually it doesn’t matter who you are, you could be this sycophant, devotional superstitious backward primitive gullible. Or you could be critical, scientific, objective, rational, whatever you want to call it. We all human beings, all sentient beings, not only human beings, there is only one thing we can do at the end of the day. And it is called believe. Nothing else. Even so you are not believing, even you pride yourself so being critical to this this this you are believing so blindly to this reason why you are not believing in this and that. It always goes down to, boils down to so called believe. And remember I was telling earlier, freedom from known. When you are totally free from a known, or reference, then that is quite a high level, really high level of devotion. Because, you know the trusting and not trusting has a very very, the difference between trust and non trusting is so thin line. When you do not trust something, then you are blindly believing in reason for not trusting something. You are being nihilist basically. So when both, when you shrug off both your hang up of trusting and not trusting, when you are no more trapped by a known, then you have a devotion. This is, then you have nothing to lose.
In order to, it is very funny isn’t it, in order for us to liberate from a system we need a system. That is the only way. No other ways. But there are certain system that are designed to cancel itself. That’s why taking refuge to the Buddhadharma is non deceiving. There are certain path that is designed to not to cancel itself actually, to really remain yourself as it is, I mean whatever the system. That is dictatorial actually. That is very tyrannical path actually. Very dangerous , extreme view. All sorts of fanaticism will emerge from this kind of path. System I have to repeat this again is unfortunately a necessary tool to break all the system.
Buddhism is like a, Buddhism has always been and should always be, it should be, must be actually, it has to be a corrosive path. It has to rust itself. It has to cancel itself. Path must cancel itself. When the path is canceling itself, then this Buddhist path is good. But that’s difficult. Because many times the paths are very intricate and the workmanship is so good. So it is a very fine product. It is like just, like really, the workmanship, the finishing, the quality is so good. And the temptation to keep it as a souvenir, temptation to belong to and wear it and show off to others, so strong. But that is our challenge.
And Jamyang Khyentse Choekyi Lodro said: If you want to see the buddha nature, the closest, the closest reflection of this buddha nature is this physical human guru. Other than that, there are many distant reflection like the Shakyamuni, you know Avalokiteshvara. Those are distant though. Those are distant. And this is a big point. See this is also why the guru path makes the path short. Because you know, with Shakyamuni Buddha and all of this, they will never come and correct you, you understand. You can do anything. You can basically interpret your path. This is the problem with the guruless path.
Now then the next question is how much time do we have? Do you want to do it quick? Yes then, you know, the guru comes in here. And the guru, yes guru is difficult, really difficult. This guru business is really difficult. Situation like this happens. And needs a really strong devotion towards the path in order to apply the guru path as path.
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.
The great saint Virupa, what is he saying? He is not saying that you should not wear tie. No, not at all. If you say, okay the tie is useless, is ridiculous, it is not good, therefore you should not wear tie. He is not saying that. Because if he says that it is a bit like a Sharvakayana path. Isn’t it? Escapism. Renounce the tie. Get rid of the tie. He is not saying that. What is he saying? You should wear the tie. But know at the same time that it is ridiculous. Wearing the tie, and you should wear it really nicely. And keep on thinking this is the most useless, ridiculous piece of cloth I am wearing. Impure perception. This is my impure perception. But I am putting it on so that my boss will be happy, so that my colleges will be happy, so that some people might get inspired by my look. You understand. If you can combine this then that is what we call accepting ridiculousness of the samsara into the path. The Vajrayana tantric path is like a big recycling machine. You collect all kinds of garbage and make it into something useable. That is the whole purpose of tantra.
Maitreya said: “A path has to be abandoned.” Path is like a boat, you go to the other shore, use the boat, you reach the other shore. What do you do? You abandon the boat. You don’t stand on the boat because boat looks beautiful. Because otherwise you are not on the other shore. Yes the boat looks beautiful, boat is so smooth, boat is so, and you had the best time with this boat. But your aim is to reach the other shore. Likewise, when you reach the Buddhahood, not only the Vajrayana, all the other yanas are gone. Has to be.
It is important to really check our motivation. Hopefully the motivation is triggered with wish to receive this teachings that one will reach enlightenment. I say this hopefully because most of the time when we practice, when we hear the teachings, or when we are practicing the Dharma, most of the time we don’t do it for enlightenment. Enlightenment is almost like a – if it happens, that’s good. But if it doesn’t happen it is also okay. Most of time we go to temples, we go to teachings, because we like to live happily. We want to make the life easier, happier. Isn’t it? Specially, this is the Asian weakness I think. We chant mantras for long life. Long life is not enlightenment. Long life is long life. We don’t know by having long life we are going to have a better life. We receive teachings so that one will be successful in whatever we are doing. Being successful is not necessary enlightenment. This is why I am stressing, what kind of motivation do you have. Do I have. Do we all have. Ideally, so called long life, success, good health, good marriage, good relationship, all this should be what we call side bonus. What the bodhisattvas, for the practitioners like us, this should be the bonus. Enlightenment should be the real goal, the ultimate goal. That should be our goal. And I am stressing this, because if our aim is wrong, right, if our ultimate aim – I am talking about two kinds of aims – ultimate goal or the aim, and relative bonus, temporary bonus, relative goal. If we have the right aim, specially the ultimate aim, then even something falls apart in our day to day life, the trust to the triple gem, the trust to the guru, trust to the path will always be there. Otherwise, in the course of my being Buddhist all this time I have seen so many people coming to the Buddhadharma, hoping so that their samsaric activity will be successful. That is their ultimate aim. Coming with that kind of motivation. And then of course our life so many things go wrong. That is the nature of life. Okay, today we are happy but who knows what happens tomorrow. A tomato stucks in your throat while you are enjoying a nice food of some of this wonderful hawker centers. And then that will be it. Your life has reached to the end. All because of a stupid tomato. And this could happen. Life is totally fragile. This is something that we have, that we so dearly clutch and grasp to. And that is our life and certainly life is the most fragile. And everything is, specially now, so fast, so fragile. And I have seen people with this kind of motivation, they come to the Dharma, practice the Dharma, and then of course something goes wrong and then they loose trust to the triple gem. “Oh, you know, Buddha is not helping us.” See the approach to the Buddha is very theistic, like any religion. Like Christian, or Hindu – maybe not Hindu – but Muslims. If you have that kind of attitude or motivation then your action what you are applying and your view is contradicting. So this is why I ask to really analyze why we are here. It is good to analyze like that. Even if it is intellectually.
Question: In most Buddhist traditions there are three jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, the community of monks. In the Tibetan Buddhism they added a fourth, the guru or the teacher. And I wonder what you think about that, particular in terms of its transmission to the west.
This is a very important question, yes. Guru. The word guru is stained now. Really, it has been stained unfortunately. But the guru principle, the practice of guru is actually quite an important in the tantric Buddhist system. And it’s really unfortunate that the human gurus have actually, many of human gurus have somehow managed to spoil that beautiful system. Actually you are supposed to – okay the fourth, you are talking about the fourth object of refuge. In fact more than fourth. In fact, according to the tantric Buddhism, guru is supposedly more important than the triple gem. So this is a big statement. But all this comes in the context of guru as the path. Now this is one message that always gets missed out. Because guru always is referred as a person who dictates your life. But guru must be, really, essentially guru must be taken as the path. Meaning – okay it is a bit like this. What do you want? You want enlightenment. Can you do it? Okay what do you want? You want enlightenment. You want it fast or slow? Right? That is the question. Fast. Do you want painless or – you know stuff like that. Painless is little difficult actually. Fast I think, fast. So actually, to put it very simply, in the Vajrayana tradition the guru principle is a bit like – okay if you want to have fast track so to speak, then first you have a choice to hire a person who will destroy you or not. Basically that is it. So you actually – okay order is you take first refuge to three gems, right. Triple gems. So you have accepted the Buddha path, the path of the Buddha. Now you want the speed, you want to do it very soon. Because you don’t have much time. Now there is a solution which is the Vajrayana and within the tantric Buddhism you are allowed, there is a solution and the solution is you hire or you get a person who will – basically you are asking him to destroy your ego, your emotion and all of that. So that way the guru becomes the path and I think that is quite important for the western aspiring tantric Buddhist to understand. Otherwise this guru as a figure is very dangerous, very very dangerous.
Everything is your mind or interpretation of your mind. Everything is your imagination and there is nothing that is not an imagination. Therefore imagination is very powerful. Imagination is only reality that we have. Within the imagination there is a fantasy and a reality in the relative world. Buddhist in general they are trying to train peoples mind to think of gentleness, kindness, love, compassion and so on and so on. That is all path. But when you talk about everything as mind, you are approaching to the ultimate truth. Ultimately, yes, as we approach to the ultimate truth, first thing we have to realize is that – then we are not talking about path okay. You see, don’t bring the path in here. When we talk about the path, of course we have to talk about goodness and badness and all that. What needs to be abandon and what needs to be practiced. But as we approach to the ultimate then we don’t talk this anymore.