(5.15) Rebirth as a first form realm god and so on,
Which results from the mental action of clear concentration,
Does not come from actions of body or speech
But from actions of mind.
(5.16) Buddha, the All Knowing One, has said
That reciting mantras and prayers, and enduring spiritual hardships,
Even for a long time,
Are to no avail if the mind is distracted elsewhere.
Geshe-la has often warned us about the distracted mind during pujas or while we are engaging in our practice. When Geshe-la first opened the temple at Manjushri he gave teachings on Lamrim, but in reality he spent three days talking about distraction, calling it the thief which is robbing us of our spiritual life. He said the sadhanas we have been given have everything we need to attain enlightenment. The only thing we have to do is apply ourselves fully to doing them with single-pointed concentration. If we do this one thing, we will attain enlightenment.
One of the many bad habits we have gotten into is distraction. When we engage in sadhanas, because we are familiar with them, we do them without paying much attention to what we are doing. Perhaps the feeling arises that we need a new practice because this one has grown boring or dry. This feeling arises because we relate to our sadhanas as things that do something to us as opposed to things we are supposed to do. We relate to them as we do any samsaric object.
The key to practicing sadhanas with constant freshness is we should try to generate the minds indicated by the words, not just recite them. Because the minds indicated by the words have multiple levels, we can engage in the sadhana at multiple levels. Doing sadhanas is an art form to be perfected. We need to continuously strive to perfect the quality with which we do our practices. This is how we advance. It is not complicated, we just need to be mindful about what we are supposed to be doing, and then we do it.
For me, the most effective way of keeping our sadhana practice alive is to view each recitation of each line of the sadhana as an implicit request to the Spiritual Guide that he generate within our mind the correct mind indicated by the words. When we rely upon the Spiritual Guide in this way we need to avoid two extremes. The first is the extreme of relying upon our ordinary mind – we try do the sadhana with our ordinary mind. This doesn’t work any more than it is possible to clean a dirty room with a dirty rag. The other extreme is the extreme of doing nothing. Here we just request the Spiritual Guide to do it all, but then we do nothing from our own side. We just wait passively with lots of attachment to results that he does something. The middle way here is to make the requests, but then try from our own side to generate in our hearts the minds indicated by the words to the best of our ability. Effectively, what we try do is align ourselves with what he is doing/generating within our mind. With our effort and his blessings, we will definitely move our mind. Not every meditation will be filled with mind-blowing revelation, but we will feel with every meditation, even the ones where we struggle to simply stay awake, we are moving the ball forward.
Training in virtuous habits requires concentration, because concentration allows us to familiarize ourself with virtue. To achieve such extraordinary results from a virtue such as conscientiousness requires extraordinary effort. Effort is not a lot of visible external work. We can be doing a whole lot of external work, but be doing it with an unhappy mind, and there is no effort. Effort is enjoying engaging in virtuous actions. We enjoy engaging in virtuous actions themselves. Geshe-la said whether we see good results from our activities is not important. Sometimes we will, sometimes we won’t. What is meaningful is our joyful effort, because good results will always come in time from such effort.