23 November,2014 – New Delhi
On this second day of teachings at the Foundation for Universal Responsibility, founded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa continued his exposition of the practice of mind training based on the “Eight Verses of Mind Training” by the Kadam Geshe Langri Tangpa. As 400 people received the teachings directly in the auditorium, another 5,000 people watched live from offsite, via webcasts that extended access with translation into Spanish, Chinese, French, German and Polish. Remarkably, the number of people listening to the Spanish translation was twice the number of people listening to the English translation.
His Holiness the Karmapa began by observing that practices to generate bodhichitta can be divided into three major types: 1) meditation on the equality of self and others, 2) the exchanging of self and others, and 3) the sevenfold cultivation of bodhichitta. Originally the instructions for the practice of exchanging self and others were kept secret by the Kadam tradition, but later began to be taught openly and are now widely practiced. He then turned to the text itself, continuing where he had left off the previous day.
When others, out of envy
Treat me wrongly with abuse, slander, and scorn,
May I take the defeat upon myself
And give the victory to others.
This verse describes what our practice looks like when the intensity of our concern for others reaches the point that we no longer care whether we have to experience discomfort or difficulty for others’ sake. In particular, it outlines an enlightened approach to responding to others’ envy of us, giving us an option of responding very differently to their treatment of us.
These instructions urge us to move beyond a mere theoretical understanding of the Dharma, His Holiness said. When we see others overwhelmed with envy, we apply our understanding of how the kleshas work. If our understanding of the effect of kleshas is complete and authentic, this should lead us to treat those who harm us as people who are visibly suffering, the Gyalwang Karmapa said.
Our study of the Dharma makes us well familiar with the idea that the kleshas can control us, and that this causes us suffering. Yet this awareness too often stays on the intellectual level. We may not feel this in our heart and therefore put it fully into practice. If we could truly integrate this awareness into our emotional experience, we would readily be able to give rise to compassion, understanding and love when we see others struggling and behaving unwisely because they have fallen into the grip of a strong afflictive emotion. We would see that it was completely inappropriate to respond to their harm with aggression or aversion, the Karmapa observed.
To describe a way that would be appropriate to respond, His Holiness used the example of people who file lawsuits against us out of envy. In that context, he drew a careful distinction between our response to the lawsuit as contrasted with our response to the envious person themselves. We would not generate great compassion toward the lawsuit itself and welcome it lovingly, but rather should make a proper legal defense against it. However, it would be wholly wrong to act out against the people filing the lawsuit, harboring a grudge against them and seeking ways to harm them personally. This would further disturb our own mind, causing us added unhappiness and distress on top of the harm the lawsuit itself was producing. Instead if we let our mind rest naturally while we are being sued, we will be able think about it rationally and make a wise and correct response.
Before we reach this point of truly recognizing how others are controlled by the presence of afflictive emotions, and what it means for their wellbeing, the Gyalwang Karmapa underscored that we first need to recognize this dynamic at work in our own mind and heart. He then outlined how to undertake the important task of clearly recognizing the disadvantages of the kleshas.
The different afflictions vary in terms of how difficult they are to recognize as problematic for us when they arise, he observed. The easiest is anger, whose faults we can readily observe and identify. Next is desire, followed by ignorance or delusion. There are also differences in terms of the strength with which any given klesha arises in the mind of each individual. In other words, there is a range of how many opportunities a particular practitioner has to see the harm done by the presence of those kleshas in their mind.
When questioned as to what the faults of anger or desire are, if we answer by reciting the list of disadvantages we read in the texts, this is not a good sign, the Gyalwang Karmapa said. That shows we have an understanding born of study, not of experience. In order to truly respond with compassion to others who harm us, we need more than superficial knowledge gleaned from reading books or from hearing our teacher speak against kleshas. Rather, we need to draw on direct and personal experience of the afflictions in our own minds, and also to vividly recognize their presence as painful and disruptive.
Therefore, we need to work to develop an understanding that arises from our own personal experience of just how dark the thickness of ignorance can be within us, and how intensely the heat of anger can burn. In this regard, mindfulness has a key role in allowing us to identify and observe our experiences, rather than just mindlessly undergoing them without learning anything from them. Similarly, we do need to exert ourselves, and make active efforts on a consistent basis, in the process of self-observation, watching our own kleshas in different situations and from different angles. If we have the capacity to view them carefully, it even gives us a way to transform the presence of those kleshas—and the mistakes we have made when acting under their sway—into a tool for our spiritual growth. In fact, the Karmapa reflected, if we think that observing the kleshas is one thing and observing their faults is another, this is another sign that we have not yet arrived at a true understanding, he said, for the nature of the kleshas itself is faulty. When we see the faults, we are seeing the kleshas, he stated, and when we see the kleshas, we are seeing the faults.
There is no fixed timeframe for coming to truly recognize the faulty nature of any given affliction. Sometimes it might take five or ten years just to arrive at a real awareness of their faulty nature. But in reality, the recognition itself can happen in a brief instant, His Holiness said. It takes different people different lengths of time to come to that moment of real recognition. Some are quite quick, he observed.
The Gyalwang Karmapa pointed out that it is not the case that holy beings were born with that awareness. Rather, holy beings are those who manage to rise above their mistakes and their own faults. This can be done by observing those faults bravely and turning them into a condition for our own improvement.
Those who have confidence in the existence of past lives will be aware that we have endless lifetimes of faults that we have committed—a mountain the size of Mount Meru that we are carrying with us, he said. Rather than let that awareness discourage us, we should let it motivate us to use each fresh experience of our faults as a foothold that aids us to climb higher. Great beings are great because they have overcome their great problems and great faults. If they were just born that way, there would be nothing particularly amazing in that.
When someone whom I have helped,
Or in whom I have placed great hopes,
Mistreats me in extremely hurtful ways,
May I regard him still as my precious teacher.
When the people we have treated kindly and worked hard to help then turn around and harm us, this is more discouraging and upsetting than if we receive harm from someone we already regarded as an enemy. For this reason, it is an even greater challenge. Because it is harder to do, we gain more from our work to face that sort of unanticipated harm with equanimity and compassion. Therefore we can regard those people as our most precious teachers.
It is important for practitioners to recognize that training in the Dharma is demanding and very often uncomfortable. Many practitioners live in urban environments and have lots of pressures, the Gyalwang Karmapa pointed out. The weekdays are full of frenetic activity and stress, and on the weekends we need to go somewhere to unwind, so we head to a retreat center as if it were a kind of resort where we can relax and be pampered with meditation and yoga, as if they were mental massages. This leaves us feeling refreshed and ready to return to our busy weekday schedules. Sometimes, we treat our Dharma practice like this—as something that keeps us comfortable enough to continue with our normal life. This is not the point, he said. It is like looking for a temporary pain relief rather than taking medicine that can actually cure us. The medicine to treat the kind of illnesses that we suffer from is not a gentle and luxurious treatment. It is an intensive course of treatment that is not comfortable or easy and takes serious effort and hard work.
Practicing in the face of harm from people to whom we have done great service is an instance of this sort of demanding practice, the Karmapa said. We can easily appreciate that such people are great teachers offering us serious and powerful training in the Dharma.
In brief, may I offer benefit and joy
To all my mothers, both directly and indirectly,
May I secretly take upon myself
All hurts and pains of my mothers.
This verse describes the practice of tonglen – giving and taking. The word “secretly” underscores the fact that we do not engage in this practice to make a display of our Dharma practice, for this would become one of the eight worldly Dharmas.
It is very difficult, His Holiness noted, to actually remove others’ suffering just by doing this practice. Rather, the aim is to strengthen our motivation and our resolve so that we are fully ready to act whenever we do have the opportunity.
The Gyalwang Karmapa explained that quite a few people have come to see him saying that they have a great wish to be of extensive benefit to others, and therefore they need to accumulate great material wealth. This makes him suspicious, he said, and he often asks them why they think they need money to help others. Others seek influence and power in order to be of more benefit to others. This is a mistake, he said, as it is not necessary to be rich or powerful to be of great benefit to others.
Anyone who truly works for the benefit of other beings is a bodhisattva, His Holiness commented. Until we reach the state of a bodhisattva level ourselves, we cannot say with certainty who is and who is not a bodhisattva. Even a dog in the street could be a bodhisattva. Since we do not recognize them as they work in our midst, we do not appreciate and feel gratitude to the bodhisattvas for their presence and for their activities. His Holiness commented that this is one benefit of the system of recognizing reincarnated tulkus. Due to this system, there are always people we recognize as bodhisattvas and whose activities we appreciate. The Gyalwang Karmapa quipped that some tulkus surely are bodhisattvas, but one might fairly doubt whether they all are.
We need to benefit others through our physical actions, through our speech and through our minds. These are the capabilities we need to cultivate. If we have these qualities and on top of that we happen also to have wealth or influence in society, then we use that to benefit sentient beings. But if we are not rich or powerful, we can certainly still help others. A beggar with no wealth or influence whatsoever is perfectly capable of benefiting others with his or her body, speech and mind. In any case, he said, without having stabilized an authentic motivation of bodhichitta, by the time we have managed to amass the profit or power that we imagine using to help others, we will likely have lost interest. We see this with election promises, His Holiness joked. During their campaign, candidates describe all the wonderful work they will do for the voters, but then when they reach office, it is as if they have already achieved Buddhahood! Even if you started with a sincere motivation in wanting to earn money to benefit others, by the time you have undergone all the activity needed to gain that wealth, you most likely will have been changed in the process. This is why it is so important for us to practice fully now to develop a profound and unshakable motivation of bodhichitta.
May all this remain undefiled
By the stains of the eight worldly concerns;
And may I, recognizing all things as illusion,
Devoid of clinging, be released from bondage.
If our goal is solely to benefit others’ worldly or short-term aims, there is a great deal we can accomplish that does not require Dharma practice, His Holiness commented. However, if we wish to bring about lasting, long-term benefit not only in this life but in future lives as well, then we do need the Dharma and its longer-term reach. We might not believe in future lives, in which case we might not see the point in working toward aims we might never see. Using the category of the three scopes of beings in the context of lam rim teachings, the Gyalwang Karmapa noted that generally the lowest of the three is defined as someone who wishes to be free of suffering in future lives. Yet the texts also describe a second type of practitioner who also falls into this first of the three categories: people who are only interested in the aims of this life. His Holiness said he felt that nowadays it is important to include this second type of person within the scope of Dharma teachings.
A present-day version of being deceived by the allure of the eight worldly concerns would be the consumerist lifestyle that has become so pervasive. It is very difficult for our lives to become meaningful if this is what motivates and inspires us in our daily lives. Some of the advertising seeking to stimulate our desire is quite subtle, but some of it is blatant fantasy. Citing the example that he had already mentioned in his book The Heart Is Noble, the Gyalwang Karmapa described an ad that showed a motorcycle taking off and flying through the air. As absurd as it is, if seen enough times, the allure takes hold and we too wish to ride on such a cool vehicle. With a laugh, His Holiness noted that even he could find his imagination captured and envision himself wearing dark sunglasses and lifting up into the air atop that motorcycle. This sort of fixation and attachment to worldly goods and comforts gives us a clear idea of the danger of the eight worldly concerns, and shows how easily they can distract us from the truly important aims in life and in our spiritual path.
With that, the Gyalwang Karmapa brought his commentary on the Eight Verses of Mind Training to a close. He then announced that he would be conferring the oral transmission of the Chenrezig sadhana and mantra, as well as the Medicine Buddha mantra, instead of the previously scheduled Medicine Buddha empowerment. He then lengthened the morning session an additional 45 minutes, and then, as he put it, left people free to enjoy their afternoons. Following a long period for questions and answers, the Gyalwang Karmapa asked the audience’s forgiveness for any mistakes he had made over the course of the two days, thanked the translators both on and offstage, and slowly left the hall. Before exiting to receive the mani pills he had left each of them as gifts, the audience lingered long in the hall, apparently reluctant to dispel the wonder of the two days spent sharing the warmth of the Dharma in the Karmapa’s presence.