Reflections on the big picture of the Kadampa path

Build your pure land magnificently.  If samsara is the mental world created by our self-cherishing and self-grasping, our pure land is the world created by our wisdom and compassion.  We built by accident our samsara.  We will need to build intentionally our pure land.  The only way to do that is to generate it within our mind out of compassion again and again and again.  Each time we mentally generate our pure land, we are creating the karma for this world to be our living reality.  We need to build this world so that we can invite all beings to be reborn there so we can swiftly and easily lead them to freedom.  
The entire kadampa path can be reduced down to four main ideas:
1.  Surrender yourself completely to your spiritual guide so that he is the source of your every action.
2.  Serve others joyfully.  Our every action should be aimed at serving others in some way.
3.  Improve yourself diligently.  We need to humbly acknowledge where we are and the faults in our mind, then strive diligently and persistently to overcome them and improve ourselves until the task is complete.
4.  Build your pure land magnificently.  Our main task is to build our pure land.  It is generated through pure mental action, primarily self-generation.  We build this pure land to invite all beings to take rebirth there so that they can complete their path.
Here is the bottom line:  The world is a reflection of your mind.  The world is a mess.  Therefore, you can conclude with certainty that your mind too is a mess.  Until you get your mind sorted out, you will never solve any of your external problems.  They will keep reasserting themselves, just in different forms and contexts.  Further, given that everything is empty and the only thing there is to do is wake up, the only currency worth trading in is Dharma realizations.  Only Dharma realizations have any real value because only they can tame the wild beast of our mind which creates this wild beast of our samsaric lives.  Only they will calm the waters of your mind, thereby leading to the cessation of these samsaric hallucinations we are trapped in.  In America, people organize their lives around the maximization of wealth.  Everything they do is geared towards this goal.  In the same way, we need to organize our lives around the maximization of our spiritual realizations.  This is the wealth that we pursue.  If you are clear on what your real bottom line is in life, then you will naturally view all situations through that lens.  You will see how whatever happens (including twins!!!) is useful in gaining more realizations, and so you will happily accept whatever happens and you will view your whole life as your spiritual trainin ground.  Then, there are no problems.  Everything else naturally falls into place.
As I enter this new phase of my life, it seems to me the entire Kadampa path can be reduced into four key things we need to do:
1.  Surrender yourself completely to your spiritual guide at your heart.  As St. Francis said, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.’  We want to have all of our actions be the Spiritual Guide working through us.  To do this, we need to align our intentions with his, make perfectly still our ordinary mind, have deep faith that he is our real nature and, with an understanding of emptiness, request him to work through us.
2.  Serve others joyfully.  Dorje Shugden arranges for us to be doing things for others all day long (either at work or at home).  One way or another, all day we are doing things for others.  But if internally, our intention is to do these things to work for ourselves (for our own sake), then all of this time we spend doing things for others is spiritually wasted.  Instead, we need to have the wish to serve others because we love them and want to help them (and because we know we create great karma for ourselves if we do).  So we spend all day doing stuff for others, but internally we are training in serving them joyfully.  Our capacity to do more than an ordinary being grows out of this mind.  Without this mind, we will never be able to accomplish anything more than our life than ‘just get through the day.’
3.  Improve yourself persistently.  Nothing can be accomplished without effort, but with effort everything is possible.  We still have faults within ourselves.  We need to humbly acknowledge them and persistently work to try train our mind in new habits.  It does not matter how long it takes, what matters is that we never give up.  It is also not enough to just overcome our faults, but we need to actively cultivate our qualities.   Often we focus on the former, but it is by doing the latter that our faults naturally fall away, almost as a byproduct.
As far as the external world is concerned, I need to maintain the faithful recognition that everything that arises is emanated by Dorje Shugden as part of my training.  He emanates the situations that will challenge me, push me to work hard to train my mind.  
What matters on the path is that you are always moving forward.  
1.  From an absolute perspective, one could say that the task is to abandon every last trace of delusions, and by doing so you will calm completely the waters of your mind, revealing the DK.  Abandon the two obstructions. 
2.  From a practical perspective, there is moving forward and moving backwards relative to where you are at.  We stop moving backwards by abandoning acting more deluded than is our norm, relative to where we are at.  We move forward by generating minds more virtuous than our norm, relative to where we are at.  From this perspective, what constitutes delusion and virtue is relative to where we are at.  What is still deluded from the perspective of an advanced practitioner might be very virtuous from the perspective of a highly deluded person.  
3.  One of the problems many practitioners have is they compare themselves against a standard of perfection, and then are always frustrated and disappointed and feel like they are failing.  They then get into all sorts of self-destructive guilt trips which distract and slow them down.
4.  If instead, we understand this relativistic perspective, then what matters equally for every practitioner is whether they are moving forward relative to where they are at.  If you are moving forward relative to where you are at, then be happy (not complacent) with your practice.  
5.  The relevant test is ‘am I being more virtuous and less deluded than I was before.’  We compare against ourselves, not some absolute standard.  The full scope of the path gives us an idea of direction, like always knowing where North is.  We always try head North, but we accept where we are in our journey.
6.  At the same time, we need to be aware that we cannot afford to be complacent.  We are in extreme danger and we have no time to waste.  We do not know when we are going to die and we have many trap doors of negative karma on our mind which can take us to the lower realms.  This is why it is very important to always be in the company of your spiritual guide as you make your journey, and to mentally feel you are relying upon him and following his instructions.  You take refuge in him.  If you are always with him in life, he will be with you at the time of your death.  He can then take you by the hand and help you once again find the path in your next life.  It will be like somebody traveling, they stumble, and the guide is there to pick them back up.  Or, even better, like a long journey where you go to sleep each night and begin again your journey when you wake up.  
7.  For Kadampas, the path we follow is becoming Heruka.  JTK is our guide, guiding us on how to do it.  DS arranges the conditions for our practice, like our spiritual trainer.  DS arranges what we need to do.  JTK guides us in how we do it.  Heruka is the beacon towards which we are heading.  
Our self grasping ignorance projects this false self and makes us believe it is who we are.  We then try to use this self to do things, we try to gain control using this self.  But this is the ultimate deception.  My more we use this self, the more we feed the uncontrolled storm.  We cannot take control of our mind with the self of our self-grasping.  We can only take control of our mind with our true self.  The real nature of our true self is the guru.  It feels like we submit ourselves, surrender ourselves, completely to the guru because we are coming from the space of the self of our self-grasping.  But the reality is it is by submitting ourselves, surrendering ourselves to the guru and allowing him to take control that we are actually breaking free from the false self of our self-grasping and realizing who we really are.  It is when we are centered in the space of having submitted or surrendered ourselves completely to the guru that we understand our false self was never us.
Muslims are of the view that Islam is God’s final word on earth, his final revelation.  One could easily turn this around and say it was his final attempt to explain for those who still didn’t get it.  But this likewise grasps at things in a linear way.  In reality, Holy beings explain the teachings in many different ways and contexts according to the capacities of different living beings.  It appears to me that Buddhism, in particular Kadampa Buddhism with JTK’s view of the middle way, is like the peak of the mountain, and Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and others are like the faces of the mountain.  From the perspective of Kadampa Buddhism, all of the other religions make sense and are seen to be appropriate vehiciles for elevating different beings of different capacities and karmic dispositions.  But they all, in the longer view, function to draw people into the bosum of Kadampa Buddhism.  As a Kadampa Buddhist with bodhichitta, I should be extremely grateful for all of these other religions and the role they play in the world.  They are out there drawing beings towards purity.  These religions connect with people where they are at, and speak to them in a language they can understand, and encourage them to head in the direction of virtue.  In this sense, I can embrace and be grateful for their work and their existence.  It is sad, though, to see how these vehicles get distorted and corrupted by worldly and ignorant beings who misuse the teachings for worldly aims.  When people see this happening, they reject the religion entirely, throw the baby out with the bathwater, instead of make the more subtle distinction of authentic versus worldly uses and interpretations of spiritual teachings.
When you think of the stories of the great prophets of every religion, one common theme is there complete obedience to the will of God, even when it seemed crazy to do.  We dissolve the guru into our heart, and learn how to communicate with him and surrender ourselves completely to his will.  The more we try to maintain control ourselves, the less he can enter into our lives and take over.  Our feeling of our self is our principle object of abandonment.  When we feel like there is the guru and then there is us, it is the us that is the object of abandonment.  When we hold on to any ‘self’-will we are preventing him from taking over.  Our self is nothing other than a figment of our deluded mind, and any action sourced in our ‘self’ is necessarily deluded, mistaken, misguided and will lead only to a furtherance of samsara.  Internally, we need to completely surrender.  In the beginning, this means primarily learning to obey.  Later it means learning how to let him take over and use us as his Avatar.  Penultimately, there is only him acting and no sense of our old ‘self’ at all.  Finally, the duality between him and us dissolves completely.  It is only him, but he is us and we are him.  This is how we become a Buddha ourselves.
I have a lot going on, but I need to keep my mind single pointedly focused on my real task.  No matter what is going on, the most important thing is for every moment of every day I apply effort to try send my mind in the direction of enlightenment.  I oppose my tendencies to go in the direction of samsara (my deluded and negative tendencies) and I try generate virtuous minds.  To simplify things, the most important virtue to train in is the wish to serve others, to work for their happiness and to make their lives a little bit easier and better.  I need to generate the mental habit of every moment of every day I am serving others in some way.  Once this becomes my habit, then I can start to focus on improving the quality with which I serve them and the degree of benefit that I am able to bring to them.  Ultimately, the most beneficial thing I can do for anybody is to help them generate Dharma realizations within their own mind because only that will provide them with real happiness, peace and relief that they want.  They can be happy all of the time.  To do this, I need two things:  the internal realizations of how to myself be happy all of the time and to transform anything and to use anything for enlightenment; and two, the people skills to be able to interact with and positively influence everyone I encounter.  In this sense, being a Kadampa diplomat is the ultimate combination.  Internally, I gain realizations through my practice; externally, I gain people skills through being a diplomat.
I need to be a karmic philanthropist.  The income I work to earn is a karmic income.  My job is to engage in as many high value virtuous actions as I possibly can.  I want to earn as much virtuous karma as I can so that I can give it away to others.  I give it away to others through dedication.  You take all the logic normally associated with earning income, working, and philantrophy, but you apply them to internal wealth.  

One thought on “Reflections on the big picture of the Kadampa path

  1. Improve yourself diligently – I prefer the idea of transformation which basically translates to ‘beyond form’. This doesn’t mean a lack of responsibility but seeing past the deception.

    For example, since we regard our ‘I’ as one with form we get confused about our ‘faults’ and and we own that fault and call it mine, then we have something to get rid of. Purification is a lot about realizing emptiness. We have a valid conventional framework when we talk about negative potentials in our mind yet to ripen and so on but the delusions that appear as ‘ourself’ are not truly ours at all.

    My mind is in a habit of seeing things in impure ways which is why i experience delusion.Transformation as transforming ourself is awakening to our real nature. I have to purify else i get really depressed. I have to experience myself as pure, faults are nothing more than dream-like appearances arsing from actions i created in the past. So i recognise that i must improve awakening rather than myself which in essence is pure. Transform: Go beyond the world of form of the external world, go beyond the samsaric situations and transform adversity and so on.

    Similar concept but just wanted to make the point 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s