September 16, 2013

Medicine for the Self-Cherishing Mind.

Bodhicitta is like this. First, you have to understand your own ego problems—craving, desire, anger, impatience; your own situation, your inability to cope, your own disasters—within yourself and feel compassion for yourself.

Because of the situation you’re in, start by becoming the object of your own compassion. It begins from there: “This situation I’m in, I’m not the only one with ego conflict and problems. In all the world’s societies, some people are upper class, some middle and others low; some are extremely beautiful, some are medium and others are ugly. But, just like me, everybody seeks happiness and does not desire to be miserable.”

In this way, a feeling of equilibrium begins to come. Somehow, deep within you, equilibrium towards enemies, strangers and friends arises—it is not merely intellectual, but something sincere. It comes from deep down; from the bottom of your heart.

Buddhism teaches you the meditational technique for equalizing all living beings in the universe. Without a certain degree of equilibrium feeling with all universal living beings, it’s impossible to say, “I want to give my life to others.” Nor is it possible to develop bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is most precious, a diamond mind.

In order to have space for bodhicitta, you have to feel that all universal living beings are equal.

Buddhism considers that we should have realization of equilibrium because we need a healthy mind. Equalizing others is something to be done within my mind, not by changing human beings externally. My business is not to be bothered by mental projections of disliked enemy, grasped-at friend or forgettable stranger. These three categories of object are made by my own mind; they do not exist outside.

As long as you have as an object of hatred even one human being, as long as you have an overestimated object of craving desire, as long as you have an indifferent object of ignorance—someone you ignore and don’t care about—as long as you have the three poisons of hatred, desire and ignorance in relation to these three objects, you have a problem. It is not the objects’ problem.

Another way of describing equilibrium is to call it the middle way.

That is why, from a practical point of view, in order for Buddhists to be healthy we should have an equalized feeling with Western religion and eastern religion. We should have an equalized feeling and respect for people who practice Christianity. That’s the way to be happy, and happiness is your main business. I think it’s a mistake for Western baby Buddhists to think that Buddhism is better than Christianity. It’s wrong. First of all, it’s not true, and secondly, it creates bad vibrations and makes your mind unhealthy.

You should practice equilibrium in your daily life as much as you can. Try to have neither enemies nor objects of tremendous, exaggerated grasping. In this way, in the space of your equilibrium, you can grow bodhicitta—the attitude dedicated to all universal living beings.

Bodhicitta is an extremely high realization. It is the complete opposite of the self-cherishing attitude. You completely give yourself into the service of others in order to lead them to the highest liberation, which is beyond temporary happiness.

Our thoughts are extreme. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on and tremendous energy into activities from which we gain nothing. Look at certain athletes, for example; or people who put all their money and energy into motorcycle jumping and end up killing themselves. What for?

Bodhicitta is very practical, I tell you. It’s like medicine. The self-cherishing thought is like a nail or a sword in your heart; it always feels uncomfortable. With bodhicitta, from the moment you begin to open, you feel incredibly peaceful and you get tremendous pleasure and inexhaustible energy. Forget about enlightenment—as soon as you begin to open yourself to others, you gain tremendous pleasure and satisfaction. Working for others is very interesting; it’s an infinite activity. Your life becomes continuously rich and interesting.

You can see how easily Western people get bored; as a result, they take drugs and so forth. They are easily bored; they can’t see what else to do. It’s not that people who take drugs are necessarily unintelligent. They do have intelligence, but they don’t know where to put their energy so that it is beneficial to society and themselves. They’re blocked; they can’t see. Therefore, they destroy themselves.

If you don’t want to understand bodhicitta as an attitude dedicated to others—and sometimes it can be difficult to understand it in that way—you can also think of it as a selfish attitude. Why? In practice, when you begin to open yourself to others, you find that your heart is completely tied; your “I,” or your ego, is tied. Lama Je Tsongkhapa, in his Three Principal Aspects of the Path, described the ego as an “iron net of self-grasping.” How do you loosen these bonds? When you begin to dedicate yourself to others, you yourself experience unbelievable peace, unbelievable relaxation. Therefore, I’m saying, with the selfish attitude [of wanting to experience that peace and relaxation], you can practice dedicating yourself to others.

What really matters is your attitude.

If your attitude is one of openness and dedication to all universal living beings, it is enough to relax you. In my opinion, having an attitude of bodhicitta is much more powerful-and much more practical in a Western environment-than squeezing yourself in meditation.

Anyway, our 20th century lives don’t allow us time for meditation. Even if we try, we’re sluggish. “I was up too late last night; yesterday I worked so hard….”

I really believe that the strong, determined, dedicated attitude of “Every day, for the rest of my life, and especially today, I will dedicate myself to others as much as I possibly can,” is very powerful. Some people’s attitude towards meditation is that they want some kind of concrete concentration [right now]. It’s not possible to develop concrete concentration in a short time without putting your life together. And Westerners find it is very difficult to put their lives together; it’s the most difficult thing. Of course, this is just the projection of a Tibetan monk! However, if you don’t organize your life, how can you be a good meditator? It’s not possible.

How can you have good meditation if your life is in disorder?

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Ed: Sara Crolick

{photo: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive}

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