Vows, commitments and modern life: Refuge vows, part 5

With compassion, always to encourage others to go for refuge. 

We should do this skillfully by helping those who are interested to develop the causes of going for refuge, namely fear of suffering and faith in the Three Jewels.  Geshe-la says by tactfully (without being arrogant or impatient) explaining the samsaric situation we are in, the other person will begin to lose his or her complacency, and will naturally want to find out what can be done.  At this point we explain the objects of refuge and how we go for refuge.  At least we should give proper advice to those who are unhappy, and help them to solve their problems by means of Dharma. 

But we need to be careful here.  The meaning is not for us to get on our soap box, go down to the train station and start shouting the good news for all to hear!  Generally speaking, we don’t offer advice to people unless they ask us for it and we are sufficiently confident that they are open to hearing what we have to say.  Otherwise, it is usually better to say nothing.  When we offer people unsolicited advice, they usually react in the same way we do:  we get defensive and we reject what they are saying. 

At a practical level, unless we are talking to other Dharma practitioners, we need to learn how to express Dharma ideas with non-Dharma words.  If people feel like we are some religious zealot or weirdo, we will not inspire others to enter the path.  They will think to become Buddhist means to start acting all strange.  The most important thing to do when talking to others is to help them make the distinction between their outer problem and their inner problem.  If they see that distinction, then it becomes natural to seek out different solutions for different problems.  We can then offer different ways of looking at the situation.  99% of the time, our perspective is always the same:  we explain, “yeah, externally that sucks.  But I guess it gives you a chance to work on improving your (then insert human quality, like patience, love, compassion, whatever). 

Gen Losang once told the story of his Dad.  Apparently his Dad used to work in the human resources department of some giant corporation.  And his job was to go mediate disputes that arose among the employees.  So he would go talk to all of the people involved and hear what was going on.  But Losang’s Dad apparently was incapable of seeing things as a “problem.”  He always saw how the same set of facts was actually an opportunity for something else that everybody wanted.  So when he would talk to people, he would just explain how he saw it.  He didn’t impose his view on others, he just said how he saw things.  When people saw how the situation could be viewed differently and in a more healthy and indeed productive way, then they naturally adopted that view and the “problem” went away.  He was apparently quite good at this.

In exactly the same way, this is our job as Kadampas in the modern world.  For us, we just don’t see things as problems, so when people talk to us, we just explain how we see it or how we would relate to the situation.  We don’t force our view on others, we just share our perspective and let others do with it what they wish. 

Every day I make three requests to Dorje Shugden:  “(1) Please arrange everything so that it is perfect for everyone’s swiftest possible enlightenment, (2) please bless me with the wisdom to realize how whatever happens is perfect for everyone, and (3) please arrange the opportunities for me to share my perspective with others.”  These three requests are really all we need to be able to become the magical crystal that heals the world.  With the first request, we can know for a fact that whatever happens to anybody is in fact absolutely perfect for them.  We might not know how or why this is true, but we know it is true.  Accepting things are perfect actually opens our mind to receive wisdom blessings to understand/realize how they are perfect.  When we still grasp at things as being imperfect, our mind remains closed to such blessings.  With the second request, we create the causes to receive the actual blessings where we, from our side, see and understand how everything is in fact perfect for each person.  With the third request, Dorje Shugen will arrange the outer and inner conditions, both in our mind and in their mind, so that we can share our perspective with others when they are ready to hear it.  If somebody comes to us for help and we don’t know what to say, we should quickly mentally make these three requests while the person is talking.  Mentally fill the universe with mandala offerings requesting wisdom blessings.  Generate a mind of faith and then get out of the way and let your guru speak through you to help the other person.  

To go for refuge at least three times during the day and three times during the night, remembering the benefits of going for refuge. 

We should try to go for refuge once every four hours. Geshe-la says we should be like a businessman who never forgets his projects even while he is relaxing.

In the beginning, we practice this usually in conjunction with our offering what we eat.  We eat or drink many times a day, so take advantage of those times to fulfill this commitment.  While it would be ideal to wake up in the middle of the night and recall the benefits of refuge, the reality would be quite difficult for most of us.  But there are things we can do for the night.  We all go through REM cycles, and at some point in the night we either roll over or get up to go to the bathroom.  When we do this, we can briefly recall our refuge and then go back to bed.  Then it becomes something quite natural, not something rigid like setting our alarm clock for every four hours.  When my kids were very little and we had to feed them in the night, I would remember my refuge as I was feeding them their bottle. 

The real meaning of this vow is we need to remember our practice day and night, all of the time.  If we check, we will see we spend all day problem solving.  We have no trouble remembering to problem solve, our difficulty is remembering what our problem is.  Again, what enables us to do this is maintaining a very clear wisdom understanding of the difference between out outer and inner problems.  When we think our problem is the outer problem, we spend all of our mental energy planning how to solve our outer problem and we just assume this will take care of our inner problem.  But when we maintain a constant awareness of the distinction between these two types of problem, then we will start investing time and energy into solving our problem (as well as the outer problem).  Then, we will have no difficulty maintaining this commitment.

One thought on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Refuge vows, part 5

  1. With compassion, always to encourage others to go for refuge:

    According to the three great purposes, there are many wrong thoughts and views. Almost everyone is plagued by them ie not believing in holy beings or future lives. Therefore, there is much karma to experience wrong views. Likewise, we do not know what seeds are on the continuum of any being. Wrong views are essentially a denial of the truth of ultimate reality. Dharma is non-deceptive unlike wrong views, which are deceptive.

    Geshe-la has provided many examples of times when it necessary and helpful to shake the doubts out of the continuum of a being. We are not rescuing anyone. We can challenge…There are many opportunities to investigate with others, what happens when you die? If you kill that spider, how will that affect humanity? This can be done in a light way if played well. What if the brain isn’t the mind? What is deceptive, what can I really believe in? A person needs to find inspiration but empower themselves to find the answers.

    Personally, I have always found that Buddha explained it better than anyone. He was an inspiring example, which always brings me to tears. Paraphrasing and not definitive but something along the lines of, ‘Be your own refuge, examine your own mind, use what you find useful and come back to the rest, investigate, find what is non-deceptive and brings peace’ Essentially meaning that inner peace comes from within as we take refuge in samsaric pleasures!

    To go for refuge at least three times during the day and three times during the night, remembering the benefits of going for refuge:

    When we first start our practice it’s helpful to look at all the routine things that we easily remember. We then ‘blend’ the objects. This means that we can associate any object of Dharma with any other object we wish, thereby, anchoring it within our consciousness with very little effort.

    Thank you for this.

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