Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: The root of Dharma is the intention to practice it

(7.39) In my previous lives I held views
That denied Buddha’s teachings
And, as a result, I am now very poor in spiritual realizations.
Knowing this, how can I give up the practice of Dharma?

Previously we lacked the aspiration to practice Dharma, which is why we are poor in spiritual realizations.  If we do not develop the aspiration, what will be the result in the future?  I think one of the worst results is that we will not meet Buddhadharma again. If we are given the Dharma and all the conditions for practicing the Dharma, and we make no effort due to lacking any genuine aspiration, then how will we meet Buddhadharma again in the future?  Of course we won’t.  For example, we have been given the Meditation Handbook and the opportunity to practice and meditate on lamrim.  If we do not do it, what will happen to that opportunity?

To help us strengthen our aspiration and intention to practice Dharma, Shantideva over these next few verses describes the results of both non-virtue and virtue.  The purpose of this is to help us develop the desire to abandon non-virtue and the desire to practice virtue.

(7.40) Buddha, the Able One, has said
That the root of Dharma is the intention to practise it.
We can generate this intention by meditating
On the law of karma, or actions and their effects.

(7.41) All physical suffering and mental unhappiness,
All the different types of fear,
And the suffering of being separated from what we wan
Arise from non-virtuous actions.

(7.42) Through committing non-virtuous actions,
Even though we may wish for happiness
We shall be pierced by the weapons of suffering
Wherever we find ourself;

(7.43) But, through performing virtuous actions with a pure intention,
We shall be sustained by a happiness
That results from that merit,
Wherever we are reborn.

(7.44) Those born in Buddha’s Pure Land arise from the lotus of pure actions performed through receiving the light of Conqueror Buddha’s blessings.
They are completely pure, uncontaminated by delusions, like a lotus unstained by mud.
Nourished by hearing Conqueror Buddha’s speech directly, they experience supreme inner peace.
All this happiness and goodness is the result of virtuous actions, such as the six perfections, prayer, and dedication.

(7.45) By contrast, those born in hell, on the fiery ground of red-hot iron, suffer at the hands of the henchmen of the Lord of Death,
Who tear open their skin and pour molten copper into their bodies
And then, piercing them with flaming swords and spears, cut their flesh into hundreds of fragments.
Such sufferings, which are experienced for many aeons, are the result of non-virtuous actions.

(7.46) Therefore, I should always keep the intention to accumulate virtues, not non-virtues,
And put this intention into practice with strong effort.

Gaining a general understanding of cause and effect is not difficult.  But that is not enough.   We must allow that understanding to affect us, to influence us. Then, naturally, our intention will change. It will become a Buddhist intention, a basic Buddhist intention.  If Shantideva’s words, such as verses 44-45, cannot motivate us more strongly to practice Dharma, to abandon non-virtue, and to cultivate virtue, then what can? What can?  We need to make this real.  This is our inevitable future if we do not purify and change our ways.

We need to check why do we not allow that understanding to influence us? Why not? Why don’t we want to accept it?  Usually it is because we still believe that these negative things we are attracted to are causes of our happiness and we think virtue is boring.  We are so confused.  We think we have to give up something that is good and eat our bad tasting spiritual vegetables.  We do not think about the long-term.  We only think about the happiness of this life.  But future lives are like tomorrow.  In fact, it is certain future lives will come, it is not certain tomorrow will!  We are afraid because we know if we internalize this understanding, it will destroy our ordinary way of life.  We don’t want that to happen, it scares us.  Everything must change, mustn’t it?  Why do we want to hold on to what we have got? 

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