One of the main reasons why we lack self-confidence is because we don’t know who we really are. If we try develop self-confidence in something we are not, obviously it won’t work. In this post we will look at (1) the mistake of basing our confidence on something external to ourselves – namely other’s opinion of us or what we do, (2) the mistake of basing our confidence on our contaminated aggregates – our ordinary body and mind, and (3) who we really are and what we are capable of. In the next post I will explain a magical method for unlocking the limitless power of our true selves.
Overcoming the mistake of basing our confidence on something external to ourselves
There are all sorts of external things we base our self-confidence on, such as our wealth, our jobs, etc., but the most common one that gives us the most trouble is what others think of us. Since these things are outside of our control, if we base our confidence on them, then our confidence will be outside of our control.
But let’s talk specifically about seeking approval from others. This is the cruel truth of attachment: If you have a need for the approval of others, then it will function to activate the karma which projects situations which cause this need to go unfulfilled. In other words, the more attached to others’ approval you are, the less approval you will get. We then respond by becoming even more needy for their approval, and so the downward spiral continues until we are singing that childhood classic, ‘nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I am going to eat some worms…’ This is pathetic childish behavior — that sadly we all do!
Kadam Bjorn once explained to me a special method for dealing with this attachment of wanting to feel loved or approved of. What he said was every time we feel the need for approval or love from others, we should take this as a sign from the spiritual guide that we need to offer approval to and love those around us (our students, our friends, family, etc.) (in other words, change the object of needing approval and love from self to others). He said what we need to clearly realize is that needing to feel loved is a delusion. We need to recognize this clearly for what it is: a deceptive mind which results in only suffering that is not to be believed.
We don’t need to feel love, we need to love. We need to align ourselves with the directional gradient of the spiritual guide – from self to others. Kadam Bjorn said by aligning ourselves with his intention to love others – in other words instead of seeking approval and love from others we seek to give approval and love to others – then we get the winds (pure winds at that) of our spiritual guide in our sails and he loves others through us. When he loves others through us, he satisfies their need for approval and love and likewise fills us with his approval and love. In other words, the way in which we can feel the unconditional love of our spiritual guide is not to seek it from him for ourselves, but rather is for us to unconditionally give that love others. Then he fills them and fills us with his unconditional love.
Overcoming the mistake of basing our confidence in our contaminated aggregates
Here we accept the fact that our ordinary body and mind are permanently and irreparably broken, and so give up on them. This seems strange – how can we generate self-confidence when that our body and mind are permanently broken? This seems to shatter our self-confidence. The answer to this paradox is quite profound – just as we are not our delusions, so too we are not our ordinary body and mind. As we will discuss soon, we are our pure potential. By realizing this, we stop basing our confidence on what we are not and start basing it on what we are.
How can we understand that our contaminated aggregates are hopelessly broken. Our ordinary body – it gets sick, gets old and will eventually die. It is the Titanic after it has hit the iceberg. It is going down and it is only going to get worse, no matter what we do. Our ordinary mind – this is all of our delusions. If left unchecked, what would our ordinary mind have us do? It would get us into all sorts of trouble. It always leads us in exactly the wrong direction – deeper into samsara. If we base our self-confidence on these, then we will necessarily be basing our self-confidence on quicksand. I mentioned before the example of my mother and her looks; and for those who take refuge in their ordinary intelligence, there is always somebody smarter.
Who we really are, and what we are capable of
Our true self is our pure potential – our Buddha seed. It is completely beyond defilement, no matter what delusions we might have. Its nature is the same as the Spiritual Guide. In other words, our true self fully developed is the spiritual guide and the Spiritual Guide is our own future enlightenment. The definitive Spiritual Guide is not the cute little Tibetan we call Geshe-la, it is the Dhamakaya. The Dharmakaya has all the powers and abilities of all the Buddhas. This is who we really are. A Buddha is simply an aspect or a reflection of our own pure potential. Our pure potential is like a diamond, and each Buddha is like a facet of it. The conventional aspects of Buddhas are tools which help us understand the good qualities of the Dharmakaya.
We might think, well that is nice, but I have no access to all this power, no access to myself, so what good does it do me? It is possible to gain access to all of this power and all the abilities of a Buddha right now. All it takes is faith and imagination. An easy way to think about this is to think we have two selves: our external self and our internal self. Your external self is your ordinary body and mind. Of course they are very limited in the sense that you have only one body and so can only do so much, and the ordinary mind is quite weak and so can’t do that much. But nonetheless, things can and should be done with them. But it is your internal self that does the real work. We can imagine that our inner self is already fully manifest and abiding at our heart in the aspect of Je Tsongkhapa, for example. Je Tsongkhapa at your heart has, as we will talk about in a later post, all the power and abilities of Buddha Shakyamuni (source of all Sutra attainments), Vajradhara (source of all tantric attainments), Manjushri (bestower of wisdom and emanator of Je Tsongkhapa and Dorje Shugden), Avalokiteshvara (bestower of compassion and performer of powa), and Vajrapani (bestower of spiritual power and destroyer of maras). He also shows the best example (outer, inner and secret), gives the most lucid and clear explanations and teachings, and engages in unequaled activities for the flourishing of the Dharma. He emanates all the countless Tantric mandalas, including Heruka and Vajrayogini. His body mandala is the synthesis of the spiritual power of all the Buddhas. There is nothing any Buddha can do that he cannot do. Since there is nothing he can’t do, and he is who we really are, there is nothing we can’t do. On this basis we can generate infinite self-confidence.
So the question is how can we use this right now? You know how to get your right hand to do something – you simply request it to go do something and it does so. It is exactly the same with your internal self. If you want to bestow wisdom on somebody, just request Manjushri to do it, and so forth. If we check carefully, there is really no difference between requesting our right hand to do something and requesting one of the Buddhas abiding within us (which arise from our own pure potential) to do something. When we see this, we realize we can use the enlightened beings’ bodies and minds as our own by simply faithfully requesting them to do the correct things. When we can do this, we can engage in the actions of an enlightened being right now – long before we ourselves are an enlightened being. We can right now do and accomplish any pure deed simply by knowing how to ask. So the question now is ‘how to ask?’ In the next post, we will answer this question.