Atisha’s Advice from the Heart: Part 9

Since all the happiness and suffering of this life arise from previous actions, do not blame others.

Normally we blame others for our problems.  Our partner, our government, our friends, our boss, even the weather.  But we are the architect of our own experience, we created the cause for everything we experience.  Virtuous actions are the causes of happiness and non-vituous actions are the causes of suffering.

All happiness comes from the blessings of your Spiritual Guide, therefore always repay his kindness.

A blessing is a subtle infusion of our spiritual guide’s mind into our own mind that functions to transform our mind from a negative state to a positive state.  The spiritual guide explains the true causes of happiness, and so by putting into practice his advice we will become happy.  The supreme way of repaying the kindness of the spiritual guide is by putting his instructions into practice.  He gets nothing out of it, and he doesn’t want anything for himself since he already has everything.  We are the ones who benefit.

Since you cannot tame the minds of others until you have tamed your own, begin by taming your own mind.

There are a couple of different levels we can understand this:  At a purely pragmatic level we will not know how to help others tame their own mind if we haven’t yet tamed our own.  Somebody who has not learned how to drive cannot teach somebody else.  At the level of effectiveness, if we haven’t tamed our own mind, we will not be credible in the eyes of others.  We could be somebody who knows an incredible amount of Dharma, but if we have not been able to master our own mind, we will not be credible when we give advice to people about how to tame their own mind.  At a profound level, others are projections of your own mind.  This I will now explain in detail.

This is a love conjoined with a realization of emptiness, namely that your own mind is the creator of this world.  You can think, “I am dreaming a dream in which all of these beings are trapped in a cycle of uncontrolled rebirth.”  Buddha explains that all of this is just our dream.  We are dreaming.  This is the dream of our gross mind, our dreams at night are the dreams of our subtle mind.  But both are equally dreams.  In this dream of ours, all the beings are trapped in a cycle of uncontrolled rebirth in the various abodes of samsara.  In this dream, just in the human realm there are things like genoicides, AIDS, poverty, war, etc.  Basically, we are dreaming a world of suffering.

The way to free these beings from the world of suffering I have created for them is for myself to wake up from this dream by destroying its creator, my self-centered mind.  We can understand this through the analogy of a dream.  I once had a dream where I knew I was dreaming and I was playing with my kids.  They then put a plastic bag over my face and I couldn’t escape.  I knew the only way to escape from the situation was to wake up.  My wife once had a dream where her sister, who she had just dropped off at the airport, had died in a plane crash.  In the dream, it seemed completely real and she was devastated.  But when she woke up from that dream, her sister had made it safely to Paris and she realized none of it has been anything other than a dream.  In exactly the same way, we are dreaming a world of suffering.  By following the stages of the path to enlightenment, we can learn how to wake up from this dream. When we do, we will wake up in the world of the Buddhas in which everybody is already enlightened and we are all in the pure land.  By waking up from this world of suffering, we free ourselves and all the beings of our dream from the world of suffering we have created for them.  The generator of this world of suffering is our own self-centered mind.  This creates the clouds of this dream.  By destroying this self-centered mind, we can cause the dream it creates to cease and we will wake up in the enlightened world of the Buddhas.

The method for destroying my self-centered mind is to develop and act upon the superior intention to lead all the beings of my dream along the stages of the path to enlightenment.  This superior intention is the exact opposite of the self-centered mind.  It directly opposes it.  First we need to develop the intention to free all the beings of our dream from the world of suffering we have created for them.  The greatest wish of a bodhisattva for others is that they wake up.  It is not enough to have the wish that others wake up, but we actually need to act upon it.  We need to engage in the actions necessary for all the beings of our dream to attain enlightenment – we do this by becoming a Buddha ourselves and helping others do the same. Developing and acting upon this superior intention is the actual method for destroying our self-centered mind.  When we do this, the samsaric dream will simply cease, just like last night’s dream, and all the beings of our dream will awake in the pure world of the Buddhas, and everyone will be an enlightened being.

Since you will definitely have to depart without the wealth you have accumulated, do not accumulate negativity for the sake of wealth.

Wealth and resources in and of themselves are not negative.  In fact, they can be quite positive if we use them to engage in virtue and to help others.  But it is foolish to attempt to accumulate wealth by engaging in negativity.  First of all, even if it works to accumulate wealth by engaging in negativity, it is not worth it since the negative karmic consequences of the negative actions far outweigh the potential benefit of our increased wealth.  Second, even practically it doesn’t work even though we think it does.  On the surface, it may seem like it is our negative actions which are making us rich, but from a karmic perspective it is actually our past practice of giving that is making us rich.  The question is not how rich are our negative actions making us, rather the question is how much richer would we be if we weren’t engaging in negative actions?  Virtuous minds function to active virtuous karmic seeds and negative minds function to activate negative karmic seeds.  When we engage in negative actions we necessarily have a negative mind, so this necessarily is activating negative seeds.  So we may wonder, why then are we seemingly getting rich by engaging in this negativity?  The answer is due to previous minds, our past karma of giving is ripening making us rich.  Our present negativity is actually slowing down and obstructing this process of ripening much in the same way that rocks in the soil obstruct the growing of a flower.  If we weren’t engaging in such negativity, this karma would be ripening even more fully and we would in fact be getting even richer!  Wealth and resources, whether they are inner or outer, are in and of themselves neutral tools.  The question is what do we intend to use these things for.  If we genuinely use them for virtuous purposes, there is nothing with having them.


One thought on “Atisha’s Advice from the Heart: Part 9

  1. Thank you Ryan.
    This is very helpful and practical.
    I rejoice in your kindness in sharing this with us.

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