Develop a personal, spiritual relationship with your Dharma books
Dharma books are, without a doubt, the most precious objects in this world. Everything everyone does in this world has a single purpose: to avoid suffering and to find happiness. Universities and libraries are filled with explanations, yet the sad truth is none of them work because they fail to correctly identify what, exactly, is our problem. Dharma is distinct from worldly knowledge in that it provides a solution to our problem, which is our deluded, negative mind. Worldly knowledge teaches how to change the external world, Dharma teaches how to change the internal world. If we solve the internal world, we will be happy regardless of our external circumstance. This does not mean we should not also apply effort to improve our external circumstance if the opportunity to do so arises, and it also does not mean we should not still get a good education. Rather, it means we should do so with a clear understanding of the limitations of worldly knowledge and the limitless potential of Dharma.
Dharma not only helps us find happiness in this life, but it helps us discover within ourselves an ultimate happiness which will never end in this life and in all our future lives. And it does so, not only for ourself, but it provides us with the means by which we can eventually help every other living being secure for themselves the same eternal joy. Through the teachings on karma and emptiness, we are given the tools with which we can quite literally construct any world we wish. In this way, Dharma not only solves our inner problems, but it also provides a long-term means of also solving all of our outer problems. Dharma is, quite literally, the solution to all of the problems of all living beings in all of their lives. What could be more valuable than this? Geshe-la frequently tells the story of people going through great hardship, even being willing to sell their own flesh, for the sake of Dharma teachings. Yeshe O sacrificed his life so that we may have the Dharma. The people of this world are in a buzz every time a new iPhone comes out, but of what use will an iPhone be on our deathbed and what lies beyond? If we think deeply about our samsaric experience we will realize there is nothing more valuable than Dharma.
Dharma books contain the crystallization of the essential meaning of Dharma presented in a perfectly reliable form. Buddha presented 84,000 teachings; countless volumes, Sutras, biographies and the like have been written ever since. Geshe-la has condensed and synthesized all of this down into his set of books. By reading and internalizing the essential meaning of the Dharma presented in Geshe-la’s books, we are able to bring within our mind all of the essential Dharma. Put simply, the miracle of Geshe-la’s books is they contain “everything we need and nothing we don’t.” They are a “complete” set of teachings that lack nothing we need. By gaining deeper and deeper experience of what he has provided us we can enter, progress along and indeed complete the path to enlightenment.
Sometimes people worry about what Geshe-la has “left out” of his books. No doubt, more extensive explanations exist, so we can’t help but doubt, “perhaps I am still missing something I need.” But as Gen-la Losang said, “it is unthinkable Geshe-la would withhold from us something we need.” It’s all there, and anybody who takes the time to learn how the system works will quickly realize we lack nothing. All that remains is for us to do it. At the same time, his books contain nothing we don’t need. Time is short and we are easily distracted by the non-essential. By stripping away all of the clutter and non-essential we are able to see directly what really matters and what it is we need to focus on. Why waste time on the non-essential when we can invest our time in what matters? It is far better to gain deep experience of the essential than superficial experience of every interesting avenue of Dharma thought. We should never be dissatisfied thinking we lack something, rather we should develop great confidence realizing we have been provided exactly what we need. Our “attachment” to receiving new instructions makes us constantly wanting something more and new and leaves us disappointed when we find sections which are reprinted from other books. The more something is reprinted, the more Geshe-la is trying to tell us – “this in particular really matters.”
Geshe-la said that he has especially blessed his books so that they can function for us as magic telephones to communicate directly with him and receive personalized instructions and Dharma advice. From their own side, the words in the books are the same year after year. But if each time we read the books we do so with a new mind, then we will discover something new every time. The key to reading Dharma books is to “read them with your problems in mind.” Say, for example, you are having a particular problem with a member of your family. Bring this problem to your reading, requesting that you find the answers you seek for that specific problem. If you read with a mind of faith and clear understanding of the difference between your outer problem and your inner problem, it is definite you will find the answers you are looking for. Geshe-la said we can, “ask the books a question, and then open the book randomly to some page, and the answer to your question will be on that page.” I have tried this many times. It is not always obvious at first how the teachings on the lower realms are the answer to your problem with your boss, but if you contemplate the teachings with faith trusting that they are the answer, all with eventually be revealed. When we read Dharma books we should not feel like we are reading dead words on a page, but rather we should feel like we are having a personal conversation with Geshe-la and his words are him talking directly to us. If we make reading in this way our daily habit, there is no doubt we will develop a very special relationship with our Dharma books and we will feel like they are giving us personalized teachings every day.