The 29th of every month is Protector Day, when we emphasize our reliance upon the Dharma Protector for the New Kadampa Tradition. In order to strengthen our connection with him, increase our faith in him, and learn how to practically rely upon him, on the 29th of every month, I will explain my understanding of how to rely upon Dorje Shugden, our Dharma protector. All of Dharma essentially has one purpose: to bring the mind under control. Delusions are that which make our mind uncontrolled. For me personally, I overcome about 90% of my delusions “merely by remembering” Dorje Shugden. In this series of posts I will explain how.
Our ability to rely upon Dorje Shugden depends primarily upon one thing: are we a worldly being or a spiritual being. If we are a worldly being, reliance on Dorje Shugden will not work. If we are a spiritual being, reliance on Dorje Shugden will change everything for us – we will never be the same again. All fear, all anxiety, all grasping will vanish. Our mind will become smooth, balanced, flexible and peaceful all of the time.
There is one question we need to ask ourself: what kind of being do I want to be, a worldly being or a spiritual being? A worldly being is somebody who is primarily concerned with securing happiness in this life. Their actions are aimed at securing worldly happiness in this life. A spiritual being is somebody who is primarily concerned with securing happiness of future lives. Their actions are aimed at laying the foundation for happiness in future lives, up to the supreme happiness of full enlightenment.
It is important to understand whether our life is a worldly one or a spiritual one does not depend on what activities or job we do, rather it depends on what mind we do these activities with. Sometimes we think that our families, jobs, vacations and so forth are necessarily ‘worldly’, but this is not the case. They are only worldly if we engage in them with a worldly mind. If we engage in these same activities with a spiritual mind, then they become spiritual activities and part of our spiritual life.
What does it mean to live our life with a spiritual mind? It means what we are looking to get out of a situation is different. For example, I have a close friend who is a very successful businessman. He views everything through the lens of the business opportunity. We went to Magic Mountain together once (Magic Mountain is an amusement park with very big roller coasters, etc.). For my friend, because he looked at things through the glasses of a businessman, what he took home from his trip to Magic Mountain was lessons in business.
For a worldly being, what they are looking to get out of a situation is external happiness in this life. Their actions are aimed at improving their reputation, increasing their resources, receiving praise and experiencing pleasure (and avoiding the opposite of these things). For a spiritual being, what they are looking to get out of a situation is opportunities to train their mind and create good causes. They view situations from the perspective of the opportunity they afford the person to train their mind and create good causes for the future. To be a spiritual being doesn’t mean we do not care about this life, rather it means we also care about future lives. We include future lives in our calculations for how we use today and how we use this life.
Before we can actually become a spiritual being, we have to have at least some belief in future lives. Without such belief, it is difficult to view our life as a preparation for them. So how can we develop some conviction, or at least some virtuous doubt, about the existence of future lives? The definitive reason which establishes everything in the Dharma is emptiness. Emptiness explains that all phenomena, ourselves included, are mere karmic appearance of mind. ‘Mere’ means they are like appearances in a dream, and ‘karmic appearance’ means that these appearances arise from karma. This life and all its appearances are just mere karmic appearances of mind that were triggered by previous minds. The quality of our mind determines the quality of the karma activated. Every karmic seed has a certain duration, and when it exhausts itself the appearance supported by that karma will cease. It is just like during a dream.
The nature of the mind is clarity and cognizing. Clarity means our mind itself is without form, shape, color, etc. If our mind had a color, for example, then everything that appeared to our mind would be that color. It is because it lacks any color that it can perceive or know any color; because it lacks any form, it can know any form and so forth. Cognizing means it has the power to know objects. Lacking form alone is not mind – there are many things that lack form, but do not know. Only something that both lacks form and knows is a mind. Our mind is like a formless field of knowing. It is like a giant container in which new karmic appearances are projected. Think back to two hours ago. What is appearing to our mind now is completely different. What used to appear no longer appears at all, yet our mind itself remains clarity and cognizing. In the same way, when the appearances of this life and this body cease, our mind itself will remain clarity and cognizing, it will just know new appearances.
If none of these ideas work for us, then it is useful to consider even if we are not sure, it is nonetheless better to live our life as if there are future lives. Why? If there are future lives, but we assume there are not, then we won’t be prepared for them when they come and our future will be uncertain. It is like somebody denying that there is a tomorrow. If there are not future lives, but we assume there are, then we will at least be able to have the happiest possible life during this life because a spiritual outlook on life is simply a happier way to relate to the world. Why is this so?
Why is it a good idea to adopt a spiritual way of life? Doing so can make every moment of our life deeply meaningful. Our lives are as meaningful as the goals towards which we work. If our goal is to lead each and every living being to the complete freedom of full enlightenment, then since this is the most meaningful goal, our life in pursuit of this goal will be felt to be full of great meaning. We can find a true happiness from a different source – the cultivation of pure minds.
External happiness, if we check, is really just a temporary reduction of our discomfort. Even if it does provide us with temporary moments of happiness, we have no control over it and so our happiness is uncertain. We feel we cannot be happy without our external objects. In Buddhism, we have identified a different source of happiness – a peaceful mind. If our mind is peaceful, we are happy, regardless of what our external circumstances are. The cause of a peaceful mind is to mix our mind with virtue, such as love, compassion, etc. When we engage in the actions of mixing our mind with virtue, we plant the karmic seeds on our mind which will ripen in the form of the experience of inner peace. Understanding this, we have an infinite source of happiness just waiting to be tapped. When our mind is at peace, we can then enjoy all external things, not just the ones we like.
We are all going to die, and the only things we can take with us are the causes we have created for ourself. Everything else we have we need to leave behind. The only riches we can take with us into our future lives are the karmic causes we have created for ourself. When we think about this carefully, we realize that only they matter. The rest of this life is not guaranteed to happen, but our future lives are, and they are very long. Now is the time to assemble provisions for our future lives. We do not know when we are going to die.