I was recently helping my daughter with her math homework and in doing so I realized how supremely patient the Spritual Guide is. I know math quite well. My daughter is struggling to understand. She is convinced she does not and cannot get it. Even when I explain it to her, she does not trust me that I am right. So even though what I am explaining is correct and all she needs to do is trust me and do what I say and she will get it right, because she is seized by doubt and confusion she refuses to take it on board, so she never gets it which then feeds back into her lack of self-confidence making her discouraged and doubtful in a vicious cycle. I found myself growing very impatient thinking, “if you would just trust me and do what I suggest, I guarrantee you it will all work out and you will get it right.” If the Spiritual Guide was deluded, this is exactly how he would feel about us! After working on my daughter’s homework, I realized how supremely patient he is! Venerable Tharchin once said that Venerable Geshe-la told him, “if you would just fully believe me, you would attain enlightenment in an instant!” But because we ignorantly believe we are right and he is wrong, we continue to hold back or even do the opposite of what he suggests.
For each and every stage of the path, we must make the transition from deluded doubt to personal wisdom. This transition is like a ladder with definite steps that we need to go through. Each stage has its own challenges. The steps we need to take are as follows:
- Wrong views. We start here without effort! Here we firmly believe the opposite of what we need to realize in order to attain enlightenment. To overcome these we have to want to realize the truth more than we want to believe we are right. Often times it is only after metaphorically banging our head into the wall several times with our wrong views that we can begin to put them into question.
- Deluded doubt. This is a doubt that tends away from the truth. If this is combined with an arrogance thinking we are right, it is particularly troublesome. To overcome this we need the openness of mind to question whether we are right or not and to be open to other ways of looking at things.
- Virtuous doubt. This is doubt that tends towards the truth. Here, we are not certain about things, but we suspect that what is in fact the truth is correct. We are like a scientist who has a hypothesis, but has not yet done any experiments to verify whether the hypothesis is true.
- Correct belief. Here, we believe what is in fact true is true, but we are doing so either through the force of our karmic imprints from previous lives or through a faith that the Spiritual Guide is correct without any particularly valid reason to support the belief.
- Believing faith. Here we have not fully realized the truth of the subject, but we firmly believe it to be true based upon valid reasons that we have realized to be truth. We don’t yet “get it”, but we believe it to be true and we are right about that.
- Inferential valid cognizer. An inferential valid cognizer is when we know something is true through a valid reason. The example given is we see smoke coming our of a chimney, so we correctly infer that there is a fire in the fireplace. The truth of the subject is still a hidden object for us, but by observing the signs and indications we can affirm with certainty that it is true. This is the first step of wisdom. Wisdom is when we know from our own side something is true and we are right. We realize it, we get it, we understand it. Everything falls into place and makes sense, and we know (not just believe) it is right.
- Direct perceivers. A direct perceiver is when we know something is true directly. The truth of the subject is no longer hidden from us, we know it directly. At this point we realize the object fully, what remains is increasing the power of the subject mind which realizes directly this truth.
- Yogic direct perceivers. Here we know directly the truth of the subject with a mind that has attained superior seeing. Superior seeing is a mind that has attained the union of tranquil abiding and a realization of emptiness. The truth is still realized directly, but the mind realizing this truth directly is more powerful.
- Realizing the truth with our subtle minds. Our mind has three levels: gross, subtle and very subtle. Everything I have described up until now has been realizing objects with our gross mind. Our gross minds are, roughly speaking, our waking minds. Our subtle minds are, roughly speaking, our dreaming minds. And our very subtle mind is our deepest root mind which only arises at the time of death or through the force of completion stage meditations. Just as we have to go through the above 8 stages with our gross minds, we likewise have to do this with each of our subtle minds. We can do so either through the yoga of sleeping (where basically we learn to meditate with our dreaming minds) or through tantric meditations which enable us to generate these subtle minds in meditation. We then use these subtle minds to meditate on and eventually realize the truth of each object of meditation.
- Realizing the truth directly with our very subtle mind of great bliss. Eventually we must realize the truth of each and every stage of the path directly with our very subtle mind of great bliss. This is our most powerful mind. It says in the texts that this mind is thousands of times more powerful than the mind of tranquil abiding (basically perfect concentration with our gross mind) in Sutra.
We need to go through this progression with each and every stage of the path. First the 21 lamrim meditations, then the 6 perfections. Then the generation stage meditations of Highest Yoga Tantra. Then the body mandala meditations. Then the various completion stage meditations, such as the central channel, the indestructible drop and the indestructible wind and mind. Then with the mind of the union of great bliss and emptiness, and finally with the union of great bliss and emptiness and conventional truth directly and simultaneously. This final stage is enlightenment!
Lots of work to do, but there is a definite path with definte steps. It is simply up to us to do what is required, step by step. But as it says in the prayer of the stages of the path, “the path begins with strong reliance.” But for now, back to the math homework! 🙂
You turn: Describe a situation where you were not sure Venerable Geshe-la was right, but you then trusted him and later came to realize he was right all along.