Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness
In practicing the slogans and in your daily life, you should maintain an awareness of  the preciousness of human life and the particular good fortune of life in an environment in which you can hear the teachings of buddhadharma;  the reality of death, that it comes suddenly and without warning;  the entrapment of karma—that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, only further entraps you in the chain of cause and effect; and  the intensity and inevitability of suffering for yourself and for all sentient beings. This is called “taking an attitude of the four reminders.”
Generosity is self-existing openness, complete openness. You are no longer subject to cultivating your own scheme or project. And the best way to open yourself up is to make friends with yourself and with others.
Traditionally, there are three types of generosity. The first one is ordinary generosity, giving material goods or providing comfortable situations for others. The second one is the gift of fearlessness. You reassure others and teach them that they don’t have to feel completely tormented and freaked out about their existence. You help them to see that there is basic goodness and spiritual practice, that there is a way for them to sustain their lives. That is the gift of fearlessness. The third type of generosity is the gift of dharma. You show others that there is a path that consists of discipline, meditation, and intellect or knowledge. Through all three types of generosity, you can open up other people’s minds. In that way their closedness, wretchedness, and small thinking can be turned into a larger vision.
Shunyata literally means “openness” or “emptiness.” Shunyata is basically understanding nonexistence. When you begin realizing nonexistence, then you can afford to be more compassionate, more giving. A problem is that usually we would like to hold on to our territory and fixate on that particular ground.
Understanding shunyata means that we begin to realize that there is no ground to get, that we are ultimately free, nonaggressive, open.
Sometimes people translate that sore spot or open wound as “religious conviction” or “mystical experience.” But let us give that up. It has nothing to do with Buddhism, nothing to do with Christianity, and moreover, nothing to do with anything else at all. It is just an open wound, a very simple open wound. That is very nice—at least we are accessible somewhere. We are not completely covered with a suit of armor all the time. We have a sore spot somewhere, some open wound somewhere. Such a relief! Thank earth!
That sore spot is known as embryonic compassion, potential compassion.
Not only that, but there is also an inner wound, which is called tathagatagarbha, or buddha nature. Tathagatagarbha is like a heart that is sliced and bruised by wisdom and compassion. When the external wound and the internal wound begin to meet and to communicate, then we begin to realize that our whole being is made out of one complete sore spot altogether, which is called “bodhisattva fever.” That vulnerability is compassion. We really have no way to defend ourselves anymore at all.
If we do not have an understanding of ultimate bodhichitta, then we do not have any understanding of the actual working basis of being compassionate and kind to somebody.
In order to arouse absolute or ultimate bodhichitta, we have to join shamatha and vipashyana together.
Alaya is the fundamental state of existence, or consciousness, before it is divided into “I” and “other,” or into the various emotions.
The relationship between a mother and child is the foremost analogy used in developing relative bodhichitta practice. According to the medieval Indian and Tibetan traditions, the traditional way of cultivating relative bodhichitta is to choose your mother as the first example of someone you feel soft toward. Traditionally, you feel warm and kindly toward your mother. In modern society, there might be a problem with that. However, you could go back to the medieval idea of the mother principle. You could appreciate her way of sacrificing her own comfort for you. You could remember how she used to wake up in the middle of the night if you cried, how she used to feed you and change your diapers, and all the rest of it. You could remember how you acted as the ruler in your little household, how your mother became your slave. Whenever you cried, she would jump up whether she liked it or not in order to see what was going on with you. Your mother actually did that. And when you were older, she was very concerned about your security and your education and so forth. So in order to develop relative bodhichitta, relative wakeful gentleness, we use our mother as an example, as our pilot light, so to speak. We think about her and realize how much she sacrificed for us. Her kindness is the perfect example of making others more important than yourself.
The starting point of relative bodhichitta practice is realizing that others could actually be more important than ourselves.
When you begin to do tonglen practice, you begin to think of the goodness that you can give out, what you can give to others. You have lots of good things to give, to breathe out to others. You have lots of goodness, lots of sanity, lots of healthiness. All of that comes straight from the basic awakened and enlightened attitude, which is alive and strong and powerful.
The suffering that other people are experiencing can be brought in because, in contrast to that, you have basic healthiness and wakefulness, which can certainly absorb anything that comes to it. You can absorb more suffering because you have a lot more to give.
it is important to take delight that you are in a position to do something which most other humans never do at all. The problem with most people is that they are always trying to give out the bad and take in the good. That has been the problem of society in general and the world altogether. But now we are on the mahayana path and the logic is reversed. That is fantastic, extraordinary! We are actually getting the inner “scoop,” so to speak, on Buddha’s mind, directly and at its best. Please think of that. This practice will be extremely helpful to you, so please take it seriously.
As the Buddha said, his teaching will not be destroyed by outsiders but by insiders who do not practice the true dharma. At that point the Buddha was definitely referring to the bodhisattva path. It is the mahayana tradition and discipline that hold the hinayana and vajrayana together. Please think of that.
The three objects are friends, enemies, and neutrals. The three poisons are passion, aggression, and ignorance or delusion. And the three seeds of virtue are the absence of passion, aggression, and ignorance.
When the world is filled with evil, Transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi. That is to say, whatever occurs in your life—environmental problems, political problems, or psychological problems—should be transformed into a part of your wakefulness, or bodhi. Such wakefulness is a result of the practice of shamatha-vipashyana discipline as well as your basic understanding of soft spot, or bodhichitta.
According to this slogan, when the world is filled with evil, or even when the world is not filled with evil, any mishaps that might occur should all be transformed into the path of bodhi, or wakefulness. That understanding comes from your sitting practice and your general awareness.
Obstacles always arise. That is something everybody experiences. And when obstacles happen, any mishaps connected with those obstacles—poverty mentality, fixating on loss and gain, or any kind of competitiveness—should be transformed into the path of bodhi.
Having connected with the notion of generosity, we begin to realize a sense of wealth automatically. The nature of generosity is to be free from desire, free from attachment, able to let go of anything.
This slogan is the essence of the bodhisattva path. Even though somebody else has made a terrible boo-boo and blamed it on you, you should take the blame yourself. In terms of power, it is a much simpler and more direct way of controlling the situation. In addition, it is most direct way of simplifying complicated neuroses into one point. Also, if you look for volunteers around you to take the blame, there will be no volunteers other than yourself. By taking that particular blame on yourself, you reduce the neurosis that’s happening around you. You also reduce any paranoia existing in other people, so that those people might have clearer vision.
That’s a tip for bureaucrats. If individuals can take the blame themselves and let their friends off to continue their work or duty, that will make the whole organization work better and allow it to be much more functional. When you say, “You’re full of shit! I didn’t do such a thing. It wasn’t me, it’s you who did it. There’s no blame on me,” the whole thing gets very complicated. You begin to find this little plop of a dirty thing bouncing around in the bureaucracy, something like a football bouncing back and forth. And if you fight over it too much, you have tremendous difficulty dissolving or resolving that particular block, plop, slug. So the earlier you take the blame, the better. And although it is not really, fundamentally your fault at all, you should take it as if it’s yours.
Usually, with any problems at all that might occur in your life—political, environmental, psychological, or, for that matter, domestic or spiritual—you always decide to blame it on somebody else. You may not have a particular individual to blame, but you still come up with the basic logic that something is wrong.
So the point is that all blames should be driven into oneself. This slogan is the first slogan connected with viewing your whole life as part of the path of relative bodhichitta.
So in a sense all the things taking place around our world, all the irritations and all the problems, are crucial. Without others we cannot attain enlightenment—in fact, we cannot even tread on the path. In other words, we could say that if there is no noise outside during our sitting meditation, we cannot develop mindfulness. If we do not have aches and pains in our body, we cannot attain mindfulness, we cannot actually meditate. If everything were lovey-dovey and jellyfishlike, there would be nothing to work with. Everything would be completely blank. Because of all these textures around us, we are enriched. Therefore, we can sit and practice and meditate. We have a reference point—encouragement, discouragement, or whatever. Everything is related to the path.
It is a fantastic idea that we are actually, finally fearless persons—that profit is others’ and loss is ours. That is great, fantastic!
The slogan “Be grateful to everyone” follows automatically once we drive all blames into one.
If someone hurts you, you should be thankful to them for giving you the opportunity to practice. But you do not have to expose yourself to be hurt, that would be some sort of martyrdom. You don’t have to ask to be hurt, but when you come up with such a situation, then all the things we discussed apply.
If you look behind their backs, it is like looking at a mask. If you look behind a mask, you see that it is hollow. There may be a few holes for the nostrils and the mouth—but if you look behind it, it doesn’t look like a face anymore, it is just junk with holes in it. Realizing that is your best protection. You realize that you are no longer the greatest artist at all, that you are not any of your big ideas. You realize that you are just authoring absurd, nonexistent things. That is the best protection for cutting confusion.
The idea of taking refuge is completely surrendering. Complete surrendering is based on the notion that you have to give up the criminal rather than that the crime should be forgiven. That is the idea of taking refuge in the Buddha as the example, in the dharma as the path, and in the sangha as companionship—giving up oneself, giving up one’s stronghold.
So the first step is a sense of disgust with what you have done. The second one is refraining from it. The third is that, understanding that, you begin to take refuge in the Buddha, dharma, and sangha—offering your neurosis. Having offered your neurosis or taken refuge, you begin to commit yourself as a traveler on the path rather than as any big deal or moneymaker on the path. All those processes somehow connect together. And finally there is no hope and no fear: “If there is hope, let our hope subside; if there is any fear, may our fear subside as well.” That is the fourth step.
In the mahayana, when we begin to realize the bodhisattva principle through practicing bodhichitta, our concern is more with warmth and skillfulness. We realize we have nothing to hang on to in ourselves, so we can give away each time. The basis of such compassion is nonterritoriality, non-ego, no ego at all. If you have that, then you have compassion. Then further warmth and workability and gentleness take place as well. “All dharma agrees at one point” means that if there is no ego-clinging, then all dharmas are one, all teachings are one. That is compassion.
even if you are drifting off, if that process of drifting off can bring you back, that is the mark of perfect practice.
The idea is that you have been trained already, so you will not have any problem in continuing. When pleasurable or painful circumstances hit, you do not become their slave. You have learned how to reflect suddenly on tonglen and on bodhichitta mind, so you are not subject to extreme pleasure and extreme pain or depression at all. When you meet with a situation, that situation affects your emotions and your state of mind. But whenever your state of mind and your emotions are affected, because of that jolt, suddenly the situation itself becomes your awareness and your mindfulness. It comes to you, so there is less need for you to put effort into it from your end. You do not have to try to protect, to understand, or to be watchful. That does not mean that you should just give up and things will come to you all the time. There is obviously a need for you to develop basic awareness and mindfulness and to be alert altogether. But that alertness could be a fundamental frame of mind, which is connected with the paramita of meditation.
All activities should be done with one intention. The one intention is to have a sense of gentleness toward others and a willingness to be helpful to others—always. That seems to be the essence of the bodhisattva vow. In whatever you do—sitting, walking, eating, drinking, even sleeping—you should always take the attitude of being of benefit to all sentient beings.
When neurosis arises, you first have to recognize it as neurosis. Then you have to apply a technique or antidote to overcome it. Since neurosis basically comes from selfishness, from placing too much importance on yourself, the antidote is that you have to cut through your ego. Finally, you have to have the determination not to follow the neurosis or continue to be attracted to it. There is a sense of abruptly overcoming neurosis.
“Cause” refers to that which causes you to be a good dharmic person or bodhisattva. The first cause is having a good teacher. The second cause is applying your mind and basic demeanor to the dharma. The third cause is having food and housing so that it is possible for you to practice the dharma. You should try to maintain those three situations and take delight that you have such opportunities.
Don’t expect others to praise you or raise toasts to you. Don’t count on receiving credit for your good deeds or good practice.