We can summarize what it means to be a good example with the following phrase: “While relying exclusively upon the spiritual guide as the source of all our actions and respecting completely everyone’s freedom to make their own choices, be the best outer, inner and secret example you can be of changing your own mind with the Dharma.” Over the next four posts, I will expand upon the meaning of this phrase.
“While relying exclusively upon the spiritual guide as the source of all our actions…”
We can say we have two sources of our actions within us. First is our ignorance and self-cherishing. This is the current source from which all our actions arise. The second is our wisdom. This is actually our true self, which is none other than the Spiritual Guide within us. Our job is to train in making the spiritual guide the source of all our actions. By doing so, all our actions will be those of a Buddha, and our life will become the quick path. Relying exclusively upon the guru is actually quite simple, it is merely a question of which mind we make requests to and it is a question of which mind we choose to listen to and follow. For more information on this see the series of posts on Activating the Inner Spiritual Guide and relying upon the Guru’s mind alone, which you can find in the category section.
But briefly, what is the actual method for having the guru be the source of all our actions? Geshe-la gave some special advice on this to the ITTP several years ago. First, we need to make completely still your ordinary self to get out of the way. Then, we generate a pure spiritual motivation to help those around us. The scope of our motivation determines the scope of the actions that arise. We should recall that our guru (definitive Vajradhara) is none other than our own true self, the foundation of our being. Then, with deep faith, we request him to reveal to us what we should do. Then, we surrender ourself fully to him so that he may work through us and he can use us as one of his limbs. If we can master this, we can effectively accomplish all actions through invoking the Buddhas with a pure intention. This enables us to engage in a Buddhas actions right now.
In particular, we can have all our actions be those of a Buddha from right now by learning how to invoke the Buddhas, in particular, the guru, yidam and protector, to accomplish their function. There is little difference between being able to do things ourself and being able to ask somebody else to do something. From the point of view of effect created in the world, it is the same. Through the above method we can request the three principal deities to accomplish their function for ourself or for others, we invoke them to accomplish their function. Clearly they will only do this if our motivation is correct, we have deep faith, and we understand how they are not separate from us.
The three principal deities and their function can be understood as follows: The Guru guides us as to what to do and how to help others. The Yidam, or personal deity, is the source of all our actions and who we ultimately strive to be. The Yidam has the power to bestow blessings on others. The Protector arranges everything so that whatever circumstances arise, it functions to forge us as quickly as possible into the Buddha we need to become. We can accomplish all the four types of actions (pacifying, increasing, controlling and wrathful) through relying upon him.
We need to spend time building links with these three deities to increase our access to their power and function. The most important thing is to build faith in them that they are there and ready to respond and help. During the meditation session, we should feel as if we retreat into the pure land in our heart and we mix fully with them to gather their strength and wisdom. Then, during the meditation break, we use them to accomplish all your actions in the way described above.
“and respecting completely everyone’s freedom to make their own choices…”
We need to respect completely everyone’s freedom to make their own choices. For Dharma to work it has to come from one’s own side, and one’s own desires. When we do not respect the freedom of others, it invites rebellion and resistance. Since we only want what is good for others, to not respect them sends them in the exact opposite direction. We need to leave everyone free to contribute in their own way that they see best. We should not have pre-conceived notions of what they should do. We give to others the principles and let them decide themselves how to best contribute. In particular, we need to do this without any trace of judgment. If we judge others, they become defensive and self-justify, so we just create the conditions for them to hold on even more tightly to their wrong views. In contrast, by accepting others fully, we create the space for them to change from their own side.
We need to be skillful. We should not try to change others to adopt our view because when we do so it comes across as being patronizing, prideful and manipulative. Instead, in our own actions, we should respect other people’s choices and make our own actions correct. Other people do not have to understand what we are doing or thinking, but we do and we have to know with an honest mind whether what we are doing is right or just an excuse for remaining ordinary and deluded. We have a tendency to project others are judging us and then we feel the need to defend against it. When we do so, we wind up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. We project others are judging us out of our own insecurity and doubt about whether we are doing something wrong. If we clarify this internally, the people appearing to judge us will simply dis-appear.
We will inevitably encounter situations where there is a difference of view with someone. Our goal during such discussions should be to avoid constructing things where one person is right and the other is wrong, rather we should strive for a situation where both people are equally right, just in different ways and from different perspectives. We can simply explain why our way of viewing things works for us, without trying to impose our view on others or convince others that our view is superior. If others find our view to be interesting and valid, then they can adopt it from their own side. From our side, we simply clarify how we think and understand things. In general, unless the circumstances call for it, we should not enter into debates with others. Above all, when we are giving advice to others, we should never accuse them of having a particular delusion. Instead, we should tell stories about ourselves in similar circumstances and explain how our own mind works in deluded ways, or we can tell stories of people we know in similar circumstances and we can use their story to illustrate how things work. But we leave others to make the final step of connecting the story to their own lives and situation.
It is a misuse of Dharma to try to change others with it when we have attachment to them changing. All of Dharma is and should be viewed as personal advice. We often feel others are judging us unfairly, so we want to change their views out of an attachment to getting them to stop. We feel justified in doing so because ‘we are right’. But because our motivation is attachment/aversion, when we do go out to ‘change others’, others will merely see us acting out of defensiveness and self-justification. They will then train themselves in rejecting what we have to say, even if what we have to say is correct.