Atisha’s Advice from the Heart: Part 6

Since future lives last for a very long time, gather up riches to provide for the future.

The main point is this:  we are going to die and the only thing we can take with us are the causes we create for ourselves.  Realizing this gives us a total equanimity with respect to what effects happen in this life.  All equally give us an opportunity to create causes, so everything is equally good for us.  Realizing this also helps us to become a spiritual being.  The definition of maturity is when we use today for tomorrow.  The definition of spiriutal maturity is when we use this life for our future lives.

You will have to depart leaving everything behind, so do not be attached to anything.

At the time of your death, there is a very special delusion that arises called ‘dependent-related craving.’  Basically every attachment you haven’t dealt with during life will reassert itself at the time of death.  The most important thing to remember at the time of death is that all of this is mere appearance to mind.  I had a dream once which illustrates the dangers.  At first, there was a terrible monster who was chasing after me and attacking me.  In my dream, I remembered that it was a dream and I went for refuge requesting that this karmic appearance be pacified, and it immediately was.  But then there were a couple of dazzling Dakinis who were ready to ‘have some fun’, and because I had attachment in my mind towards this type of thing, I dove right in, even though I knew it wasn’t real.  I thought, ‘its just a dream, so why not have some fun.’  But then I woke up and realized that if this happened to me at the time of death, I would have been dragged back down into samsara.  I don’t have to worry about the Devaputra mara, but I do have to worry about the tempting demonesses.

If throughout our life, we have always chosen to pursue our objects of attachment, we will do the same at the time of death and go back into samsara.  But if we have always chosen the pure land in life, then we will be able to do the same at the time of death.  So our job is to abandon all of our attachments now while we still can.  In this way, we can approach death with a peaceful heart.

Generate compassion for lowly beings, and especially avoid despising or humiliating them.

We need to examine the nature of the others that we see.  Self-cherishing thinks that we are just this one appearance, and that only the happiness of this one appearance matters.  If we do the meditation on the emptiness of others, we realize that they are nothing more than mere appearances in our mind.  If we do the meditation on the emptiness of ourself, we realize that we too are just a mere appearance to our mind.  In this sense, we are exactly the same.  So if I think that this appearance is me, then I need to think that other appearances are also me.  Both are just thoughts in my mind.  Seen in this way, we realize that everyone is equally me.  Everyone is like a cell in a giant body or waves on the same ocean.  We impute our I validly on all living beings.  When we do this, just as our right hand cherishes our left, so too we cherish and care for all living beings.  Their suffering is our suffering.

Have no hatred for enemies, and no attachment for friends.

Geshe-la is very clear when he says there is no such thing as external enemies.  The only enemies we have are our own delusions.  External enemies actually have no real power to harm us, only we can harm ourselves by responding in a deluded way to what they do to us.  If instead, we transform their hostility towards us into the path, they become our kindest spiritual benefactors.  We generate enemies because we still grasp at our happiness as depending upon external conditions.  We have enemies only because we still have worldly concerns.

If we think carefully, we will realize being a friend and generating attachment to our friends are mutually exclusive.  If we generate attachment to our friends, we view them as causes of our attachment and our relationship with them is, in the final analysis, us using them for our own ends.  What true friend does that?  A Bodhisattva is a friend of the world.  A true friend is there for others when they need it most and what makes them a friend (as opposed to a business partner) is they ask for nothing in return.

Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.

We need to understand cause and effect.  If we are jealous of the good things that others have, it creates the causes for us to not have such qualities.  Normally when we observe the qualities of others, we generate the thought, ‘yes, but …’ and then we find some fault in the person.  If we are critical of others when we observe their faults, it creates the cause for us to acquire those very faults ourselves.  But if we rejoice in the good qualities of others it creates the cause for us to acquire these good qualities ourselves.  Karmically, rejoicing plants the seeds on our mind which ripen in the form of the appearance of us having these qualities ourselves.  Because nothing exists from its own side, the world we experience is the world we pay attention to.  So by focusing on the good qualities of others, we draw them out and come to abide in a world with more and more qualities.

Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in your- self, and purge them like bad blood.

When you see faults in others we should ‘own their faults as our own.’  The only reason why others appear to have any faults is because we yourself possess the same fault within our mind.  When we see a fault in somebody else, we should see that person as a ‘mirror-like’ Buddha who reflects back to us our own faults.  Then find we should that fault within ourself and purge it like bad blood.  When we do this, we gain the realizations we need to be able to help the other person overcome their fault and you set the best possible example for them.


3 thoughts on “Atisha’s Advice from the Heart: Part 6

  1. Hi Ryan,

    A quick question: In the paragraph below, how do I practically apply this? Our Indian newspapers are rife with stories everyday on corrupt politicians and corrupt business practices. So how do I apply this train of thought to such individuals. Many thanks.

    “When we see a fault in somebody else, we should see that person as a ‘mirror-like’ Buddha who reflects back to us our own faults. Then find we should that fault within ourself and purge it like bad blood.”

    • There are a couple of things you can do. First, you can use their corruption to identify the different ways in which you are corrupt. Just know that everything you see is, ultimately, a reflection of your own mind. We are all engaging in the same type of corruption, even if its exact manifestation and degree of intensity might be different. The other thing you can do is view their corruption as a karmic echo of your own past corruption when you were a political or economic leader. They are, like a mirror, showing you what you used to do. Use this to develop regret for your own past corruption and then engage in purification practice.

      When we remove the negativity from our own mind, we will gradually stop projecting a world filled with negativity. There may be a time lag between when we stop and when the world starts to appear differently, but that is only because the karma that has already ripened has yet to fully exhaust itself. But over time, because things are empty, there is no doubt that, over time, the extent to which you purify your mind is the extent to which the world that appears to it will be pure.

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