The final aspect of being a good example of a Kadampa is using the Dharma to change our mind. At our stage of development, we can say there are two main ways we use the Dharma to change our mind. The first is we use it to overcome our attachment to the eight worldly concerns, and second we use it to solve our daily problems. These will now each be explained.
“…of changing our own mind with the Dharma.”
Dharma practice is the process of changing the habits of our mind. If we are not changing our mind, we are not practicing the Dharma, no matter how much Dharma we may know. If we are sincerely changing our mind, we are a qualified yogi even if we only know one or two lines of Dharma.
We need to make a point of overcoming the 8 worldly concerns. The first two are attachment to pleasant feelings and aversion to unpleasant feelings. What is pleasant depends on what you pay attention to. For example, if we pay attention to the taste, broccoli may seem bad; but if we pay attention to how good it is for our health, we will enjoy eating it. Gen-la Khyenrab says we need to live our life from perspective of our aggregate of discrimination, not our aggregate of feeling. It doesn’t matter what we are feeling, it only matters how we are choosing to respond to it. So much of the spiritual life can be summed up with the phrase “it doesn’t matter, quit whining and get on with it”.
The next two worldly concerns are attachment to praise and aversion to blame. If we understand emptiness, we can cut this very quickly by recalling that in reality there is nobody there saying anything or thinking anything about us. There is just the appearance of somebody there saying of thinking something. What others say is just karmic echo of what you said about others in the past. If we receive praise, we should direct it all to the guru at our heart and to the purity of the mind of the other person. If we enjoy praise, then we will suffer from criticism. We should use praise and blame to help us identify our delusions and faults. The correct response to somebody criticizing us should be “thank you for helping me see that in myself. I certainly don’t want to be like that!” At the end of the day, praise and blame make no difference on our deathbed, so why should we worry about it now?
The next two worldly concerns are attachment to a good reputation and aversion to a bad reputation. Again, we can recall that there is nobody there thinking anything, there is just the appearance of somebody there thinking something. In reality, they are just a karmic echo of what we have thought about others in the past. When it appears others think badly of us, we should recall this and use it to reinforce our determination to think only good things about others now. In modern times, there is so much suffering that arises from trying to manage what other people think. If we realize it does not matter, we can let go of so much suffering. Even from a conventional point of view, what others think depends upon their mind, not ours. So it is their problem. What they think is a reflection of their own mind, so it should not affect us. We can be concerned about it as it relates to the flourishing of Dharma, but we should never be attached to it.
The final two worldly concerns are attachment to gain and aversion to loss. What is there to gain, what is there to lose? Nothing. There is nothing there, there is nothing to gain, there is nothing to lose and there isn’t even an us. It is a karmic light show, nothing more. In the end, gain and loss depend on what you are trying to accomplish. If we are trying to train our mind, then all things equally lead to a gain. It is only when we want to accomplish goals other than training our mind that things become “good” or “bad.” Shakespere said in Hamlet, “Things are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes them so.” This is very true. For myself, I deal with almost all of my either worldly concerns through reliance on Dorje Shugden. His job is to arrange what is best for my practice. So I simply request, “with respect to X, if it is best, please arrange; if not, please sabotage it.” After this request, I can then know that no matter what happens, it is for the best. So I can accept it, be happy and get on with training my mind in the situation.
The second way we can change our mind with the Dharma is we can use it to overcome our problems. Geshe-la gives the example of our car breaking down. Normally, we say, “I have a problem, my car broke down.” But the car breaking down is the car’s problem, not ours. Our problem is the unpleasant feeling which arises in our mind as a result. If we want to fix the car’s problem, we take it to the mechanic. If we want to fix our problem, we need to change our mind by learning how to respond differently to the situation. Gen-la Dekyong took this example one step further by saying when we think about it the car can’t have a problem either because it is an inanimate object, and how can an inanimate object have a problem. So in reality, there is neither an inner problem nor an outer problem!
We can say there is an evolution of how to resolve problems. Ordinary being exclusively try make changes on side of object. When we have some Dharma wisdom, we pursue a mixed strategy where we change things on the side of object to the extent that we can, and then we change the rest on the side of our mind. Geshe-la gives the example of having a headache. We take the aspirin, but then we patiently accept the suffering as purification until the aspirin kicks in. Through training in this way, gradually our capacity to transform suffering into purification increases and we are able to accept more and more suffering without it being a problem for us. Where in the past, we may have taken the aspirin at the first available opportunity, we later don’t want to take it because for us we would rather have the opportunity to purify than to have the headache go away. Eventually, we reach the point where we can change everything with the power of our mind alone. We spontaneously perceive every object as perfect on side of object because our mind spontaneously responds perfectly to whatever arises. A pure mind experiences a pure world.