(2.10) Within this sweetly scented bathing chamber
With a clear and glistening crystal floor,
Majestic pillars ablaze with jewels,
And canopies of radiant pearls spread aloft;
(2.11) With many jewelled vases filled to the brim
With scented waters that steal the mind,
And to the accompaniment of music and song,
I offer ablution to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Venerable Tharchin explains that the location of mind is at the object of cognition. If the objects of our mind are those within the pure land, then quite literally our mind goes to the pure land. He also said, wherever our mind goes, our “I” naturally goes with it because we naturally impute our “I” onto our mind. When the objects of our cognition are in the pure land, part of us quite literally goes there. Finally, he says whenever we engage in actions in a location, we create karma with that location, creating the causes to go back there again in the future. Finally, Geshe-la explains that whatever we give we create the cause to receive.
If we put all of this together, we can realize the almost infinite power of offering ablution in the way described by Shantideva. When we do so, we quite literally go to the pure land, and make special cleansing offerings to all of the Buddhas. This creates the karma for us to actually go there in the future, and have our mind and body cleansed of all impurities. To be cleansed here does not mean an ordinary cleaning with soap and water, but rather refers to a deep spiritual cleansing that purifies our mind of all contaminated karmic imprints and that purifies our bodies of being contaminated samsaric bodies.
We should spend all of our time in the pure land. There is no reason for us to ever have to spend time in samsara. Even if we are acting to help the beings within samsara, we ourselves need never go. Within our mind, we can still see ourselves in the pure land, but we see we have sent an emanation body into the world of contaminated appearances. This emanation body then serves and helps others while we abide in the pure land. The more we imagine we are in the pure land and the more actions we engage in there (including sending emanations into this world from there), the more karma we create there. We can think of things in terms of karmic gravity. The law of gravity says that a larger mass will attract a smaller mass, and so the more mass is added in one place, the more everything around it will be drawn to it. Right now, virtually all of our karma is created in this world. As a result, the center of our karmic gravity is within samsara. If instead, we can day after day, month after month, year after year, life after life, continue to create more and more karma in the pure land, then eventually our karmic center of gravity will shift to the pure land. Then, we will naturally and effortlessly be drawn there. As our mass is added there, those who are karmically close to us will be pulled into our new karmic orbit. In short, we will draw them to join us in the pure land.
The pure land is indescribably beautiful. Obviously I have not gone there myself, but I have had a couple of very special dreams where, as least as far as I am concerned, I went to the pure land. There was this indescribably beautiful garden surrounded on all sides by a building that had an open but covered walking area all around it, not unlike what one sometimes finds in a garden cloister in an old European monastery. All of the objects there, buildings, plants, even the sky, were all made out of a wisdom light, yet nothing felt ephemeral, rather everything had a unchanging vajra-like solidity and stability to it. Not a material solidity, but solid nonetheless. Everything glowed from within of by inner radiance that pulsated, giving rise to a profound feeling of deep inner peace and contentment, that was so peaceful it was blissful. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced, and just a few moments of it so far surpassed any pleasant experience I have had in samsara that what is offered in samsara literally falls away into petty insignificance. The allure is gone, I know nothing here can compare. Once you have tasted something like this, there is no going back. It is not that we suddenly become infinitely picky like a rich person who only accepts the finest of everything, rather it is the things of samsara simply no longer do it for us. It is like going into a glittery mall, filled with all the finest luxury goods, yet you feel as if “there is nothing here for me, nothing of interest to me.” The spell is gone, and with it the grasping at these things.
I have only had one or two experiences like this, but I can still remember them as if they were yesterday. But it was enough to give me a “taste” of what the pure land is like. Once tasted, you know there is no point working towards anything else. It is not a clamoring after the greatest and most blissful samsaric object, rather it is seeking to return to the deep inner peace that lacks nothing. Attachment actually prevents us from enjoying things. Needing nothing enables us to deeply enjoy everything.
The descriptions Shantideva gives when he makes offerings are not mere fantasy, he is describing a world – a plane of existence – that actually exists. We can marvel not only at the poetry of his words, but imagine the pure world it describes. Doing so, and offering the things of that world, creates the causes for such things to become our living reality.