Atisha’s Advice from the Heart: Part 7

Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would.

What are some tricks to help us see the good qualities in others.  We need to make the distinction between the person and their delusions.  People are not their delusions.  Delusions are the cancer of their mind.  Geshe-la said it is useful to see delusions like evil spirits who temporarily take possession of those around us and cause them to engage in all sorts of negative actions.  They are the helpless victim of their own delusions. We can also practice pure view of others.  Pure view does not say that what the other person did was perfect, when manifestly it was not; rather it asks, ‘how can I receive perfect benefit from what they in fact did?’  By receiving such perfect benefit, as far as we are concerned, what they in fact did was perfect.  It was just an expression of their skillful means.  At the end of the day, all of our Dharma training is just a question of habit, so we train over a long period of time until eventually it becomes habit.  Once it becomes habit to see and relate to others good qualities, then the rest of the vast path falls into place like dominos.  From seeing their good qualities naturally comes affection love, which naturally leads to cherishing love, great compassion, bodhichitta and our eventual enlightenment.

See all living beings as your father or mother, and love them as if you were their child.

We are all familiar with the Lamrim meditation of recognizing all living beings as our mother.  The purpose of this meditation is to feel close to everyone and to develop a special feeling of gratitude towards them.  It is a sign of degenerate times that people often really struggle with this meditation because so many of us have strained relationships with our parents.  In ancient times, people generally respected their parents and generally felt enormous gratitude for all that they did for them.  Nowadays, we have psychoanalysts who tell us that our parents are the cause of all of our problems.  Our goal as an adult frequently becomes to avoid becoming like our parents instead of aspiring to emulate them.  This creates unique modern difficulties with this meditation.  The solution to this problem is fairly simple:  be grateful for whatever they did do (no matter how small it may be), don’t be resentful for what they didn’t do.  The reason why our parents “disappoint” us is because we expect so much of them.  When they fall short of our arbitrary expectations, we then get upset at them.  We may find it “normal” for our parents to live up to our expectations (often because everybody else in society expects the same things), and so therefore even when they do we don’t feel grateful for what they have done.  This is an incredibly ugly attitude.  Gen-la Losang advises us to “expect nothing from others.”  If our expectations are set to zero (and we are OK with that), then anything others do for us will be seen as special and we will find it easy to generate gratitude.  So the way in which we can practice this advice from Atisha in these degenerate times is to train in expecting nothing from anyone, especially our parents.  Once we have done that, then everything tends to fall into place easily.

Always keep a smiling face and a loving mind, and speak truthfully without malice.

While this is a very short and simple piece of advice, its application is virtually all of our daily life.  Keeping a smiling face does not mean we fake a smile, rather the meaning here is a smile should reflect what is in our heart.  If our mind is at peace, we view everything as emanated and we have the wisdom of samsara making us laugh, we can’t help but have a smile on our face.  To maintain a loving mind primarily is a question of what do we focus our attention on.  If we focus our attention on others’ good qualities and we take the time to appreciate and rejoice in those qualities, then a loving mind will develop quite naturally.  If instead we are always judging others and internally criticizing them for their short-comings, a loving mind will be impossible. 

We speak truthfully always for the simple reason that doing so creates the causes for people to believe what we say (giving our speech power).  But sometimes people misunderstand this advice to speak truthfully to mean we should tell others all of our deluded points of view.  No, it is not enough to speak the truth, we must speak that part of the truth which is beneficial to say.  If it is not beneficial to say, we shouldn’t say it even if it is the truth. 

Malice is an easy mind to develop, especially in our speech.  This most frequently arises when we want somebody to like us and we know they dislike somebody else.  So we say mean and hurtful things about the other person in an effort to get the person we want to like us to actually like us.  But this is completely wrong.  If somebody will only like us if we dislike somebody else, then that person is not a true friend anyways.  Wishing harm on others is a really stupid mind because our wishing that doesn’t harm them in anyway, but it definitely harms us.  Shantideva warns us that that there are special cauldrons in hell for those with a mind filled with malice!  But we need to be careful to distinguish between the ripening of a malicious tendency similar to the cause and the action mental action of malice.  As part of our legacy from our countless previous lives, we have innumerable tendencies in our mind to think malicious thoughts.  When these thoughts ripen in our mind (which, let’s be honest, happens to all of us), it only becomes a NEW action of malice if we ASSENT to the malicious thought.  If instead when this thought arises we realize the dangers of such thinking and apply effort to think differently then we will not only not accumulate new negative karma, but we will actually be practicing moral discipline (of restraint) and creating the causes for future precious human rebirths.

 

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