Practicing with Power: Going for refuge and generating bodhichitta

Every sadhana begins in the same way, by first going for refuge and generating bodhichitta.  So how can we do these practices from the perspective of increasing our spiritual power to overcome our greatest delusion?  The short answer is our faith and our motivation are two of the most important components of spiritual power. 

Before we go for refuge, there are several things we can do.  First, we need to adopt the correct meditation posture and be completely relaxed physically.  I think most of the people reading this blog already have experience with this, so there is no need for me to provide extra explanation.

Second, we should imagine that all conventional phenomena dissolve, like a dream, into the clear light nature of our mind.  It is as if our entire reality is made of holograms of light, which dissolve and reveal the clear light nature of our mind.  We should identify this clear light as the same nature as the omniscient mind of all the Buddhas, which is itself the same nature as the omniscient mind of our Spiritual Guide.  Doing this enables us to let go of our distractions and tune into the mind of the spiritual guide to be able to receive his blessings.

Third, we should imagine around us are our friends, our family, our colleagues, the people of our region, and finally all living beings.  We should strongly believe that they are actually with us in the clear light Dharmakaya.

Fourth, we should develop a strong desire to overcome our greatest delusion.  The first ingredient of spiritual power is our motivation or desire.  Kadam Bjorn said that our practices are powerful not in terms of how well we know the methods, but rather by how strongly we wish to overcome our delusions.  To help us increase our desire to be free from our delusions, we can view our delusions as demons or devils dwelling within our mind.  Would we allow a demon into our home or to remain?  They are not actual demons, since there is no such thing (there is also no such thing as you, but that is a different story…).  Much of Christianity, for example, can be correctly understood from a Dharma perspective if the devil is understood to simply be the personification of self-cherishing abiding in the minds of living beings; and God is the personification of the union of wisdom and compassion in the minds of spiritual practitioners.  To help us generate the specific desire to overcome our greatest delusion, we can consider how it creates countless problems for ourself and for others.

For ourself, we should consider how does our specific greatest delusion create problems for ourselves in our life.  We can consider how it has created countless problems for ourselves in this life.  All delusions are deceptive, they promise us one thing but give us the opposite.   We can think, “as a result of this delusion, I have engaged in many negative actions, which will later throw me into the lower realms.  If I do not get rid of this delusion now, it will assert itself at the time of my death, and I will be forced to return to samsara again.  In the end, I face a choice between remaining with this delusion or attaining enlightenment.  I can’t have both.”

For others, we can consider how our biggest delusion creates problems and suffering for the others around us?  We can think, “as a result of this delusion, I project a world filled with beings who suffer from similar delusions, which create countless problems for them in their lives.  When I engage in negative actions as a result of this delusion, I create the cause for others to engage in negative actions towards me in the future, and as a result of their actions, they later fall into the lower realms themselves.  When the karma I create from this delusion ripens, it will create a world which is the same nature as this delusion, and all the beings who abide in my dream world will suffer as a result.  For as long as I have this delusion, I cannot become a Buddha.  If I cannot become one, then it will be impossible for others to do so since they are my spiritual creation.  Because they are empty, they are ultimately the beings of my karmic dream.  Thus, for as long as I remain with this delusion, countless beings will remain trapped in the prison of samsara.”  We can consider these points to develop a heart-felt desire to overcome this delusion, indeed we need to make the firm decision that we will do whatever it takes to overcome our greatest delusion.

Fifth, we imagine that in response to this decision, from the Dharmakaya, the guru-deity spontaneously appears in the space in front of us in the conventional aspect of whatever deity we are practicing (Vajrayogini, Heruka, Je Tsongkhapa, Tara, Vajrapani, etc.).  His arising is the response to our desire.  The most important thing is for us to to have the conviction that the guru-deity is actually in front of us, inside our mind.  We then try generate faith in him by considering how he can help us overcome our biggest delusion.  For now, we just believe he has all the power necessary.  So we strongly believe that through relying upon the guru-deity in this way, we can gain all of the realizations necessary to overcome our greatest delusion. On the basis of this strong desire/decision and deep faith in the guru-deity, we are ready to go for refuge.

When we recite the refuge prayers, the most important thing is to imagine that we are leading all these beings around you in the practice of going for refuge to the guru-deity to overcome their own greatest delusion.  Each being is, ultimately, an aspect of your own mind.  They are a wave on the ocean of your mind.  By imagining each being is going for refuge with you, you literally karmicly reconstruct the beings of your dream into beings who will, in the future, actually go for refuge.  This is very profound.  This correct imagination plants the karma on your mind to have all of these beings actually go for refuge to the guru-deity in the future.

When we recite the prayers for generating bodhichitta, the most important thing is to generate a specific bodhichitta:  I must overcome my greatest delusion so that I can free all these beings from the suffering that flows from it.  Bodhichitta multiplies the power of our spiritual practices by the number of living beings.  Why is this?  When we engage in an action motivated by bodhichitta, we are seeking to attain enlightenment so that we may benefit countless living beings.  So our intention is to benefit countless others.  To engage in one virtuous action for the benefit of 1,000 beings has the same karmic effect of engaging in that same one virtuous action 1,000 times for the sake of one being each time.  Since the object of bodhichitta is the nearly infinite number of living beings, actions motivated by bodhichitta are karmically equivalent to engaging in a virtuous action nearly an infinite number of times for the sake of one being each time.  This is one of the most effective and direct ways of increasing the power of our virtuous actions.


3 thoughts on “Practicing with Power: Going for refuge and generating bodhichitta

  1. Hi again, thank you very much for all your posts – I continue to read these and gain a lot of benefit from them.

    A question if you don’t mind?

    In this post, and others, you reference how we trap other living beings in whatever realm of experience we ourselves are in. However you also give the recognition that ultimately they are empty – merely appearing as suffering.
    A buddha’s mind will perceive pure beings right? Pure beings that appear to not suffer. However from an ordinary persons side they experience suffering as a hallucination. So how is it that we are trapping others? Are we not just perceiving suffering where it does not truly exist? I can understand how we use the appearance of suffering to develop compassion – however to say WE are trapping others seems to entail inherent existence. Are beings not just experiencing suffering or freedom from within their own experience? Isn’t this how we allow for individual difference – that we all experience things differently – simply as appearance?
    However I of course await your response – thank you and I hope to hear back.

    Many blessings to you, please continue to write for the sake of others.

  2. Thank you for your question. To say that there is any part of others and their minds that is not created by our mind would be to grasp at them as being inherently existent. There is not a trace of me in your mind that is not created by your mind, and the same is true for every other being in the six realms (you are dreaming them all, each in their different realms). When we change our view of others to view them as pure, they do not miraculously all become pure, rather our pure view is the mental action which creates a new karma to have all living beings later appear to directly to us as being pure. There is a karmic lag between when we create the cause and when the effects start appearing. One question that often comes up is how do Buddhas see us as pure when we don’t see ourselves that way. The answer is they see us as pure not because we objectively already are, but rather because this pure view of theirs functions to ripen us as swiftly as possible. Another question that comes up is if all beings are creations of my mind, and all beings are creations of your mind, how can both be true? The answer is I am dreaming you dreaming others, and you are doing the same towards me. This only seems a contradiction because we grasp at our minds as somehow being inherently distinct from one another with some insurpassable chasm between them.

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