A big theme of this blog is Life as Retreat. The main idea is that if you have a mind of retreat, your normal life is transformed into your retreat. You view everything as emanated by your spiritual guide as part of your retreat. He emanates different things for you to learn and practice different things. Everything that happens to you, you view as part of your long retreat. In this modern time, people do not have the time or conditions to engage in traditional retreat, so learning how to transform our normal lives into our spiritual retreat enables the people of this modern age to fulfill their worldly obligations to work and family and engage in lifelong retreat without having to sacrifice one for the other. Our worldly obligations are simply the practice exercises given to us by our spiritual guide. They are our spiritual homework. These situations will give rise to various delusions and our job is to oppose those delusions and generate as much virtue as we can with respect to them. Since it is all emanated by the guru, he gives us exactly what we need when we need it to we can generate the virtues that we need to generate in the exact order we need to generate them. He is like a spritual architect and construction foreman who guides us brick by brick (virtuous cause by virtuous cause) how to build our pure land.
When we first start viewing our life in this way, we are primarily in our samsara and we are building towards reaching the pure land (or we are building our pure land). But there comes a critical transition point where we realize that just as if we adopt the mind of retreat, we can transform our normal lives into our spiritual retreat; so too if we adopt the mind/conviction that we ARE in the pure land, we can transform our normal lives into “Life as the Pure Land.” This could be another name for this blog. From one perspective, it is “Life as Retreat” from another perspective it is “Life in the Pure Land”. Really, these are just two different points of view on the same thing. From another perspective, this is a progression: first Life as Samsara, then Life as Retreat, then Life as the Pure Land.
The ‘as’ here has particular meaning (as opposed to using the word ‘in’). As implies a ‘way of life’, a ‘point of view’, it implies action on the part of the person living the life. It implies there is a indistinguishable relationship between the person living the life and the life that is being lived – they mutually create and shape one another. If we used the word ‘in’, then it implies that where one lives is independent of the person living the life – like some independent place that exists from its own side. That is a false conception of things.
I also said that this is a blog of my new life as a father of five. This is still true. But it seems when I started this blog, I did not realize all the different ways in which my life would change. Since I just started at the State Department, my life is going to be quite different. I am at the cusp of a completely new life. If all goes as it appears now (which means it probably won’t…), I will likely spend the next 20-27 years working for the State Department, travelling to many different countries, doing many different things, meeting many different people and gradually gaining higher and higher levels of responsiblity. This entire life I will have is 100% emanated by Dorje Shugden. It seems to me now that really from the moment I started at CDL, this whole thing was put into motion. I went to CDL which gave me teaching experience which enabled me to get the job at UNT which then enabled me to get the job at the State Department. This has been Dorje Shugden’s plan all along. The landslide, the new management taking over at CDL, the change of the tuition policy, having to leave, coming to Dallas, having the twins (I would not have applied when I did had we not had the twins), having the time necessary to properly study and prepare for the written exam (Simone being here) and the oral exam (the twins being hospitalized and Claudine leaving for Spokane), everything has all been gradually creating the conditions for me to be able to embark on this new life. Stupidly and ignorantly we have been resisting the whole way. We have been stressing, worrying, fighting the whole way. This is just my lack of faith that Dorje Shugden has taken over my life (because I freely gave it to him a long time ago) and that everything he arranges is for the best, even if we do not realize how and why at the time.
Going forward, I need to remember with 100% conviction that my entire life is forever and always 100% emanated and controlled by him. I am in his pure land. My ‘normal’ life is my life in his pure land, specifically within the charnel grounds of Keajra (Keajra is within Dorje Shugden’s protection circle/pure land). Others will still see samsara, but I will know better – I will know that I am actually in the charnel grounds. I am in the pure land. VGL once said that the mind of lamrim IS (itself) Akanishta Pure Land. In the same way, the mind that is the 100% conviction that I am in the pure land is itself the pure land. It becomes true at an ultimate level since all things are empty, it becomes true at a practical/experiential level since that is how I will live and experience my life, and it is true at a causal level since by adopting this view I will create the karmic causes for it to become actually true (in terms of what karma is actually ripening) in the future. The human resources office at the State Department which will be making the decisions about where I go is actually part of DS’s mandala, sending me to different parts or corners of my mind. I can recall Chodar’s bag “Travel in Mind”. That is exactly what I will be doing.
As I see it, being a diplomat is part of my bodhisattva/bodhichitta training for two principle reasons: First, I will gain the skilful means of an effective diplomat which I can then use as a Kadampa Spiritual Guide (Gen Losang once said that he was an Ambassador for VGL, and the Spiritual Guide can correctly be seen as an Ambassador for all the Buddhas). I will learn how to deal with many different people from many different cultures, I will gain all of the different precepts of an effective diplomat, I will gain in the ability to manage, to think, to problem solve, to find win/wins, to serve others, to work for others, etc. Second, I will create karma with the whole world. All Buddhas have equal power, but their ability to help others depends upon the karma they have created with them. You can have all the realizations in the world, but if you do not have a close karmic connection with others through which you can transmit that Dharma then your realizations are useless. Through this career, I will be able to create karma with the whole world – all the different countries I interact with. This will help my bodhichitta go global. This will give me karma with the entire world which will help me be able to one day be able to help all the beings of this world.
It is very easy to forget these realizations/understandings/convictions/practices. But I must apply effort to do so and to come back to them again and again and again. The more familiarity I gain with them, the more they will become part of my thought processes until they become part of me. The key point is this: it becomes true (that I am in the pure land) when I remember/hold this conviction. In depenence upon this conviction, I will then receive the wisdom blessings which will enable me to understand how and why it is true. Then it will be my living experience. When it is my living experience, then I will create pure karma. This pure karma will then make it a self-reproducing reality for me.
One thought on “Life as the pure land”
I was once in a relationship where all i wanted to do was go off on retreat. We split up and then i realized that i didn’t really want to go on retreat after all. I wanted to experience a pure, blissful concentrated mind. This is what i actually want, that’s the actual intention.Of course retreat helps to accomplish this but there are other important causes right now that need to be created, no one could argue with this. I’ve spoken to a few people who have completed 3 year retreats who were not ready for it because certain causes were not created. Certain karma was holding them back.
I believe that the practices of moral discipline and purification are key and the union of Vajrasattva and Dorje Shugden are like two brushes which paint a pure reality for a Kadampa.
But I still consider sleep to be one of the best times to practice. Taking and giving, purification and then practice dieing with a totally pure mind. It’s not difficult at all. Much of the day can be lost to delusion but to sleep with purity allows for the pure land to really start to manifest, that subtle mindfulness can last throughout the day. Tantric moral discipline is harder since there is constant waves of ordinary appearance and conception so taking advantage of sleep, like Shantideva, is an absolute must to lay strong foundations for the pureland especially if we are living ‘ordinary’ busy lives without much opportunity to do formal retreat. To live in a pure land is to keep pure moral discipline.