I have explained the following before in the series on cultivating a true self-confidence, but it is so important I wanted to explain all of this again. If we can master this, then the rest of the path becomes easy.
What is the most important question – the question if answered would answer all your other questions? When we were kids, we would ask each other questions like: if you had three wishes, what would you wish for. Eventually we figured out that the best thing we could wish for was more wishes. In that way, we could accomplish all our wishes. Along exactly the same lines, the most important question we can ask is: “what do I need to do to be able to make internal requests to you and receive perfectly reliable responses every time?” I have had this question in my heart for years, saving it for whenever I would have a meeting with Geshe-la, but he answered the question during an ITTP without my ever asking it!
So here was Geshe-la’s answer: “It is important to develop a good heart, a Buddhist intention, a beneficial intention, day and night, even during our sleep. We will perceive a special idea, a mental image or plan as our intention is maintained. Through blessings, imprints, receiving teachings and so forth, a special understanding or idea will develop. Then our teachings will be perfect. If we follow the writings alone, we will maintain just an intellectual understanding. It is most important that we improve our motivation.”
After this advice was given, the ITTP then discussed this in great detail about what it means and how we practice it.
- First we dissolve everything into the Dharmakaya. This eliminates all the interference from our ordinary mind. We talked about this in an earlier post.
- We then align our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide. We also talked about this in an earlier post, but just to review some of the main points. Our Spiritual Guide’s final intention for everyone is for us all to attain union with the Dharmakaya. We generate a specific beneficial motivation with respect to the specific request we have for specific people by asking ourselves the question: “what does Geshe-la want for this person/these people?” ‘A good heart’ means a bodhichitta motivation, we wish to guide these people to enlightenment. ‘A Buddhist intention’ means we are thinking about their future lives, not just this life alone. Pure love, by definition, is love that works for the happiness of others in their future lives. ‘A beneficial intention’ means we are seeking to benefit the other person, without any self-concern. ‘Day and night’ means that we have a spontaneous realization of this pure motivation, we are never separate from it. So we train consistently in the Lamrim until all of our wishes are pure. ‘Even during sleep’ means we should try to carry this intention even into our sleep, and by doing so we can often receive signs and indications in our dreams. We can fall alseep in the Dharmakaya posing a question according to this method, and during our sleep we will likely receive a response. This gives new meaning to the saying ‘go sleep on it.’
- With strong faith that he is there and that he has the power to respond, we make our request.
- We then wait with our ordinary mind inactive, maintaining our pure motivation and faith for wanting a response to our request.
- Through this, a special image or plan will appear to our mind which will be the perfectly reliable answer to our request. This is Geshe-la’s personal advice for us.
- This likewise works when invoking the Buddhas to accomplish their function for ourselves or for others.
How does this work? We can understand this by an analogy. Dissolving everything into the Dharmakaya is like having a clear space within which to project an image. Aligning our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide is like aligning the crystals of our karma with the direction of the light of our Spiritual Guide. The crystals themselves are our own karmic potentialities which when a special light is shined through them they project, like a hologram, the future experiences they hold or what is possible. These are created through our practice, study, etc. We will talk in later posts how we can plant good seeds which can then be blessed. The more faith we have that our Spiritual Guide is there the more it opens the curtains in our mind by purifying the obstructions of his presence being manifest in our mind. The more faith we have that he has the power to respond to our request, the greater the power is the source of light. Our request creates the cause for him to actually shine the light through our karmic potentialities. The special idea that arises is the reflection of the light through the crystals that reflects the constellation of our karma. This is our perfect response individually tailored to our karma.
There are some things we can consider about how to increase the power of this method. First, the scope of the ‘special idea’ will correspond with the scope of our aspiration. If our aspiration is worldly, the idea can be at a maximum worldly, if our scope is initial scope, the idea will correspond, etc. Second, the purer the quality of the imprints we create, the clearer the will be the special idea, mental image or plan. We will talk in the next post about how to create pure seeds. Third, the quantity of imprints determines how much material the spiritual guide has to work with in shaping the plan. Fourth, the less the ordinary mind is functioning, the clearer is the space within which the special idea is projected. The more I get my ordinary self out of the way, the clearer I will perceive the image because there will be less distortion. The more willing I am to follow whatever is revealed, the more readily the special image will develop. Fifth, the more familiarity I have with engaging in this practice, the easier it will get. Sixth, the more faith that we have in the practice, the more rapidly will the special idea come. Seventh, the longer we can maintain/sustain the motivation, the more complete and dynamic (in time, nuance, flexibility, etc.) the special idea will be. Finally, eighth, the aspect of the Spiritual Guide to which you direct the request (Tara, Dorje Shugden, etc.) determines the nature or type of special idea or plan that emerges.
You can engage in this practice with all of your Dharma activities: when preparing your teachings, when deciding what to meditate on, when making plans for the center or for your life, when thinking about how to help somebody, when posing any question, when doing sadhanas, when doing analytical meditation to generate object of placement meditation, when deciding what to do or say, when studying or contemplating, and when listening to teachings.
Through this practice, we can move beyond the books, from which we can only gain an intellectual understanding, to being personally guided, or taken by the hand, from where we are now to the final goal. Likewise, we can know how to do the same for others (lead them by the hand to enlightenment). Through mastering this technique, we can receive perfect inner guidance from our spiritual guide at any moment, and always know what to do. With this ability, we will have nothing to fear and have infinite self-confidence.
Since much of this depends on faith, I want to just say a few words about faith in the Dharma. Westerners have a natural resistance to faith because they associate faith with blind faith. When we use the term faith in a Buddhist sense, we have a completely different understanding. Blind faith is faith without a valid reason. Believing faith is faith with a valid reason. It is easiest way to understand believing faith by likening it to the scientific method. In the scientific method, scientists have hypotheses which they then test. A hypothesis is developed when they take all available information and come up with the most logical conclusion given that information. Then they test that conclusion through experiments. When they conduct their experiments, they then acquire new information with which they refine their hypotheses. This is the type of faith we have in the Dharma. Dharma is an inner science.
Believing faith is the strongest type of faith. How do we develop believing faith? There are several different methods we can use. First, we can use the logical reasoning contained within the Lamrim to convince ourselves by weight of argument. Second, we can be a good scientist and suspend our doubts about whether it works or not, and experiment with the instructions by putting them into practice purely. From this we can see if they work. Third, we can choose to believe. Faith is a choice to believe. What do we choose to believe? That which is most beneficial to believe. So we simply investigate whether it is beneficial to think in a particular way, and then we choose to do so. Fourth, if you have previously gained conviction that your spiritual guide is a Buddha, and therefore completely reliable, then you can use the perfect logical syllogism which says, ‘the spiritual guide is omniscient and therefore completely reliable, he says X, therefore X is true.’ This is not blind faith because it is based on the valid reason that the spiritual guide is completely reliable. You then use your powers of reasoning to fully understand from your own side.
At this point, it is useful to discuss the relationship between faith and wisdom. This is best done through the faith wisdom cycle: It starts with believing faith – we believe in the good qualities of the Dharma, for example, we believe that the spiritual guide is a Buddha. Believing faith naturally leads to admiring faith – where we think, fantastic, how great. We appreciate the good qualities of the observed object. Admiring faith naturally evolves into wishing faith – the wish to acquire the good qualities of the spiritual guide ourself. Wishing faith naturally leads to joyous effort – where we put the instructions into practice. When we put the instructions into practice, we gain personal experience of their truth, which is wisdom. We know the truth of the instruction from our own side. This wisdom then functions as our next valid reason informing a now stronger believing faith, and so the cycle continues until we attain enlightenment. This cycle is how we gain realizations, and all our practices should be organized into this cycle.
Everything in this series of posts is ultimately an extension of this advice. This is the core of our reliance.