Vows, commitments and modern life: Refuge vows, part 6

To perform every action with complete trust in the Three Jewels. 

We should rely upon the Three Jewels in everything we do.  In this way all our actions will be successful.  We should always try to receive the blessings of the Three Jewels by making offerings and requests.  In the last few months, I have discussed extensively how we rely upon the guru’s mind alone for all that we do.  I encourage you to read the different special series I have done which explain this.  But the short version is this:  if you have a choice of a hammer or a nail gun, which will you choose?  If you have a choice of a soap box derby car or a Ferrari, which would you choose?  In the same way, if you have a choice of having your ordinary body, speech and mind being the source of all of your actions or the enlightened body, speech and mind of your Spiritual Guide being the source of all of your actions, which would you choose?  Most of us simply don’t realize we can become an instrument of the holy beings in this world, and those that do know this don’t know how to become one.  But once we know it is possible and we know how to do it, our life takes on a whole new purpose.  We come to have one goal alone:  to rely upon the three jewels for all that we do.

Omniscient beings know how to do our jobs better than we do, they know how to parent better than we do, they know how to get along with others better than we do, they know what paths to follow and which ones to abandon better than we do, they speak kinder, think wiser and act better than we do.  They even brush our teeth better than we do!  Frankly, there is nothing positive we do better than they do.  So why do we foolishly do things ourselves when we can learn to let them do everything through us. 

Never to forsake the Three Jewels, even at the cost of our life, or as a joke. 

We should never abandon the three Jewels under any circumstances.  What does it mean to abandon the three jewels?  It does not mean to forget about them.  This happens all of the time.  Rather, it means to come to the conclusion that they are wrong.  This can take any number of forms, such as us concluding they are wrong about the nature of our problem, or they are wrong about delusions being deceptive, or they are wrong about non-virtuous actions are to be avoided, or they are wrong about the need to escape from samsara, or they are wrong about why it is better to cherish and love others, or they are wrong about the ultimate meaning of human life, or they are wrong about the ultimate nature of reality.  If we come to any of these conclusions, then this would be forsaking the three jewels. 

The reality is there are very few people who maintain a constancy in their Dharma practice throughout their life.  There are many people who come into the Dharma, have a great few years, and then move on to the next thing.  It is not bad that this happens.  It is good that they have a few years with the Dharma and leave happy.  The Dharma remains with them, influencing their behavior and thoughts in a myriad of ways, and then in their next life they stay a bit longer.  One of the biggest mistakes Dharma teachers and Dharma centers make is they become attached to people coming to all of the classes and staying at the center.  Attachment creates the causes to be separated from the objects of our attachment.  So our attachment to people coming actually creates the karmic causes to destroy the spiritual life of the other person.  People are not stupid.  They know when they are being emotionally manipulated with the Dharma to get them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do.  In the short-run, this may work; but over time they start to no longer believe us that we are just trying to help them (they think we are trying to use them for our own purposes), they lose faith and they move on. 

Any amount of Dharma is a good thing.  So let people partake of what they wish, and move on when they wish.  The most important thing is to help them be happy with whatever they do do, and not feel judged for all the things they don’t do.  Even if people move on in their lives and stop coming, if we can succeed in them leaving with a happy, no regrets mind then the Dharma will remain with them their whole life.  If instead, we unskillfully say they are killing their spiritual life and blah blah blah, making them feel guilty or bad, then all that they gained from their time with us will be lost as they reject everything.  We shouldn’t project an all or nothing attitude, rather we should project a “take freely what you wish and enjoy” attitude.  Geshe-la apparently once asked, “who is more important, those who come to the center and stay or those who come to the center and leave.”  Most of us, of course, would say those who come to the center and stay.  This is where we focus our energies.  But Geshe-la said, no, it is those who come to the center and leave who are more important.  Why?  He said because “there are more of them.”  Gen-la Losang said those who come to the center and leave with a happy mind about their experience in this life are those that come to the center and stay in their next life.  So the most important thing is when people leave, that they have a happy mind about their experience.

Some people will stay for a few classes, some will stay for a few years and some will stay their whole life.  Some will only go to festivals, some will just read the books, some will just come for the tea and cookies.  Some will be serious about their meditation practice, some will just be looking for some friends.  It’s all good and we should welcome all of it.  If we don’t, then we are forsaking the Dharma.

3 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Refuge vows, part 6

  1. Thanks Ryan, another very insightful post. Something I never quite understood until recently was the “or even as a joke” part. Then a friend of mine told me about an encounter with a particularly noisy squirrel. He made a joke to his teacher about shooting it, obviously not a serious threat but his teacher warned him about his mental action. His teacher said that of course HE wouldn’t really kill a squirrel but that thought sets in motion karmic tendencies and that thought will ripen again in the future but the “its just a joke” part mightn’t. Then he’d just be left with a wish to kill. It made perfect sense then that if we made a joke about, say, the ineffectiveness of Dharma that too will ripen again in the future, but the joke part mightn’t, then we’re left with wrong views. Scary just how sensitive karma is :/

  2. The point is not that they do better than us. They brush teeth in exactly the same way. If we compare in this way we will only become discouraged. The type of mind however is vastly different and superior. They use a wisdom mind and this creates a different effect. We use samsaric minds which results in further suffering.

    Besides, Holy beings are still bound by action & effect. We may be able to give ‘better’ advice to someone rather than a Holy being, mainly due to karma. It doesn’t mean our advice is better than an enlightened beings, it means we have a better karmic connection to that being. So we could say we have a ‘better’ effect. This suggests the power of reliance also comes from karma. Karmic connection. If we create the Karma for Buddha Shakyamuni to relate to others through our interactions with them, we will be the Buddha of the future that they relate to.

    I know the intention of the post is not to draw comparison but it worth mentioning. The type of mind we use is the key. The final stage of reliance is our inner source of purity.

    Never to forsake the Three Jewels, even at the cost of our life, or as a joke:

    Contaminated life of samsara is deceptive. The ordinary appearances of our life are incorrect and deceptive.

    The Three Jewels are non-deceptive and lead us out. If we forsake The Three Jewels we deny the power and protection that they provide, inside our mind.

    This is why vows are important. Self-deception is easy to follow. Presently, the contaminated inner guide (which is our self-grasping, is a delusion) and has led us to hell and destruction numerous times.

    At the cost of our life can also mean: it would be better to die than to give in to self-grasping ignorance. Self-grasping, according to Sutra, is the root of samsara. If we give in to the root of suffering, we will never be free of samsara. If we give up (our faith) in things that get us out, cut the root of our suffering, then spiritually we are dead. If we lose the path, we are dead. For it is certain we will fall to lower realms.

    Dharma protects us from falling to lower rebirth. If we give up on Dharma, then as Shantideva said, what greater deception is there? If we have it and do not practice, what greater deception?

    Thank you for this.

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