It is important to train deeply and encompass all.
Here to train deeply means to not just know the words of Buddha, but to practice them deeply to gain profound personal experience of the instructions and their power. Encompass all means that we should view all phenomena as illusory and empty of existing from their own side.
There are many examples which can illustrate the meaning of training deeply. If we read about how good mint chocolate chip ice cream is we can develop some appreciation for how good it must be, but it is only by eating it ourself that we will know. Likewise, we can read about the efficacy of various medical treatments, but it is only when we take the medicine ourself that we can be cured. It is exactly the same with Dharma practice. By reading and studying the Dharma, we can generate an appreciation for it, but it is only by putting the instructions into practice ourself that we will know for ourselves the truth of the Dharma.
What does it mean to actually practice the Dharma? It means to use it to change our habitual reactions to things. Some people worry that their practice of Dharma seems artificial. We seem to generate an artificial renunciation, an artificial love, an artificial wisdom, etc, and then we think this is a problem. In fact, this is entirely normal. Because we have to apply effort to generate these minds, they are by definition artificial and forced. The only thing that comes effortlessly to us is delusion. But by choosing to try respond differently to life’s challenges, we plant the karma on our mind which in the future will ripen in these more positive reactions coming naturally. Effort now creates the causes for natural later.
There is an important distinction between “artificial” and “fake.” Artificial means we want to respond in the positive way, but we are currently unable to do so genuinely from the heart. “Fake” means we don’t really want to respond with virtue, but we are pretending we do. There is a big difference here. For example, someone may publicly insult us in some way and it really upsets us inside, but we don’t want to give the other person the satisfaction of knowing they can disturb us so we pretend we are not bothered. This is being fake. If instead we think to ourself, “this person insulting me is a karmic echo of my own similarly mean behavior towards others in the past. This person is giving me an opportunity to purify the negative karmic seeds on my mind, so I should be grateful towards them,” we may still be hurt inside, but we accept it as purification. We are not genuinely grateful towards them, but we do know gratefulness is the correct internal response, so we try to bring our mind in the direction of gratitude. We won’t feel it, but we will try move our mind genuinely in that direction. This effort is what creates the karma we are after. This karma will ripen in the future in the form of genuine feelings of gratitude when others insult us.
To encompass all means we try again and again to remind ourselves that it’s all a karmic dream. Nothing is actually happening, there is just the dance of karmic appearance around our sense of perception. We have never gone anywhere, nobody is doing anything to us, we have never obtained anything. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter at all what appears, it only matters how we respond to it. Every situation is like a karmic knot which we must untie by responding correctly with wisdom and compassion. It is just like untangling the Christmas tree lights when we take them out of storage. It is a big tangled mess, but if we proceed methodically we will eventually straighten them all out. We may find ourselves in a real predicament at work. Untangle it slowly with wisdom and compassion. We may have troubled relations with the members of our family. Untangle them slowly with wisdom and compassion. Wisdom and compassion work, it is only a question of time.
If children are splashing in a pond, it will make all sorts of waves moving in every direction. Some waves will crash into others and the whole pond will become covered with a wide variety of waves. But if the children stop splashing, eventually the water calms down until it becomes perfectly still and clear. It is the same with our mind. Each time we generate delusions, it kicks up waves of contaminated karmic appearance in our mind. Some waves appear to crash into one another (nations going to war, for example), and it seems as if the whole world is covered with a wide variety of waves acting independently upon one another. But if we stop making new waves, and indeed we start to oppose the waves that come towards us by applying the anti-waves of wisdom and compassion, we will soon calm the waters of our mind until our mind becomes completely still and peaceful, and as clear as the clear light. The Truth Body of a Buddha is not somewhere else, it is all around us, indeed it is the nature of all things. At present we cannot see it, but when we calm our mind everything will subside into it until eventually we feel all separation between ourself and everything melt away. The clear light will emerge from within all things and we will see directly that it has always been the nature of all things.
When we first start training in emptiness, it seems like an intellectual word play (“the body is not the parts, nor the collection of its parts, etc.). But once we have begun to glimpse its meaning it gives us the power to stop delusions dead in their tracks. Who is insulting me? Nobody, no one is even there. What is being said? Nothing. So why be bothered. All that is really happening is I am watching a karmic echo of how I was towards others in the past. But it can’t hurt me, it is just a reminder to not continue in such ways again. If we lose all of our money, what have we lost? Nothing. If we realize emptiness, we realize we lack nothing. Everything is already inseparable from our mind. It is only our ignorance which stupidly imputes “self” and “other” that creates these fictitious walls of separation. Enlightened beings are already parts of our mind, we merely need to activate them (and indeed identify with them in our Tantric practice) for them to come alive in our life. As Nagarjuna says, for whom emptiness is possible, everything is possible.
2 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Gaining experience of ultimate truth”
This helped me put certain matters into perspective, and I hold that dear in my heart. Thank you for this precious teaching.
You need to practice.