Atisha’s Advice from the Heart: Part 4

If from your heart you practise in accordance with Dharma, both food and resources will come naturally to hand.

Buddha Shakyamuni made special dedications that future practitioners never want for basic necessities.  How does this work?  Through his virtuous actions, he accumulated a tremendous amount of merit.  So much so it was enough virtuous karma that he could take rebirth as a Chakravatin king many many times in succession.  A Chakravatin king is basically the king of the entire universe.  This is a lot of wealth, food and resources!  He then “dedicated” (invested) that merit into what we can consider to be a giant philanthropic karmic trust fund.  The purpose of the karmic trust fund is to ensure that all future practitioners who sincerely go for refuge to the three jewels will not have to worry about their basic needs being met.  This then frees them to focus on their spiritual development.  When we generate faith in the three jewels, and in Buddha in particular, it is like we gain special access to this fund.  Just as a king or a very rich person has the power to give away their wealth and resources to others, so too a Chakravatin king (or more specifically the karma giving rise to a Chakravatin king) can do the same.  When we generate faith in Buddha it functions to open our mind up to receive his special blessings which make this dedication a reality.  We have on our mind countless karmic seeds.  Buddhas have the power to activate specific karmic seeds.  Our faith in Buddha functions to open up our mind to the specific blessings which function to activate the seeds on our mind to have our basic needs met.

At a more practical level, we can understand this advice from the perspective of our own karma.  When we engage in virtue, we create the causes for future happiness.  If we practice Dharma, we will naturally be giving, practicing moral discipline, being patient and cherishing others.  All of these actions plant good karmic seeds on our mind which will ripen in the future in the form of us effortlessly having resources, and not just the limited resources of meeting our basic needs, but potentially unlimited resources.  What do we do with these unlimited resources?  Like Buddha, we invest them in the welfare of others, in particular supporting their ability to follow the spiritual path.

Friends, the things you desire give no more satisfaction than drinking sea water, therefore practise contentment.

There are two main points here:  Indulging your attachments does not satisfy them, it feeds them.  They only get stronger, like feeding the dinosaur which will eventually eat you.  If you have a mind that is wanting, you will always be poor no matter how much you have.  If you have a mind of contentment, you will always be rich no matter what you have.  This is why contentment is the greatest wealth.  One of life’s basic principles which will enable us to avoid many many daily problems is to learn to be happy with what you do have, not unhappy about what you don’t have.  Why do the things of this life not give the satisfaction we wish for?  Because they can’t.  It is our false belief in attachment that makes us think that they can.  But there is nothing there and it has no power from its own side to give us anything.

Avoid all haughty, conceited, proud, and arrogant minds, and remain peaceful and subdued.

I think Ghandi said it best when he said his goal was to become the lowest of all because then he could serve everybody.  The mind of a Kadampa is one of being a servant of all living beings.  We seek only to serve others without wanting or expecting anything in return for ourselves.  Pride is, in many ways, the most dangerous delusion we can have.  If we have any other delusion but not pride we will seek out help and put the instructions into practice and eventually get better.  But if we have pride, we feel we have nothing to learn from others, we deny our mental sickness and therefore the door of spiritual life remains firmly closed.  When we view ourselves as lower than others, we look up to and appreciate their good qualities.  This rejoicing creates the causes for us to obtain for ourselves the same good qualities we see in others.  But if instead we arrogantly look down at others, our mind will be filled with judgmental criticism of everyone.  Judging and criticizing others creates the causes for us to obtain exactly the same faults we criticize in others.  It is exactly the opposite of rejoicing.  Pride is, in short, spiritual suicide.  Paradoxically (or is it logically…), it is by making ourselves the lowest of all that we make ourselves the highest of all.  While this is true, even here we need to be careful because this thought can easily be kidnapped by our pride thinking, “I am so humble, doesn’t that make me better than everyone else!”  Such thoughts are completely absurd!

Avoid activities that are said to be meritorious, but which in fact are obstacles to Dharma.

This advice warns us against engaging in our Dharma work with worldly minds.  Many Kadampas work for Dharma centers, as a teacher, an Administrative Director, an EPC or even just cleaning the toilets at the center.  Such work is potentially a spiritual bonanza which pays FAR more than even the highest paid banker.  But it is also perfectly possible (and all too common) for people to do such work with heavily deluded minds.  Many people get resentful about how they are doing all of the work and everybody else is a “consumer” of the center.  Many people generate pride at how important they are because of their important position in the center.  Many people wind up abusing their authority in a center while rationalizing it as them “protecting the tradition.”  All such minds are classic examples of activities that are said to be meritorious but which in fact are obstacles to Dharma.  Such distorted minds subvert the virtues we accumulate and quickly bring the Dharma into disrepute.  So far from helping the tradition, they are actually destroying the tradition!  This does not mean we need to be perfect before we can work for the center, rather it means we need to be mindful to not fall into such mental traps but instead remain a humble servent eager to learn.  The higher our position in a center, the more we should relate to ourselves as the lowest of all.


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