Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Practice without doubt

(7.49) I should maintain self-confidence in three things:
My Dharma practice, my Dharma activities, and overcoming my own delusions.
I should encourage myself by thinking, “I alone will lead all living beings to the happiness of enlightenment”,
And in this way sustain my self-confidence in these three things.

Perhaps we lack confidence in one, two, or possibly all three things. Our Dharma practice, our Dharma activities, and overcoming our delusions are all difficult.  Actually we need to cultivate each of these in turn.  We should also actively discuss with our Sangha friends how to overcome our lack of self-confidence in these three and how to improve our self-confidence for each of them.  If we have self-confidence in these three, we will accomplish everything; if we doubt we can do it, we will accomplish nothing.  There is little more important than cultivating these three types of self-confidence.

With respect to the first, our Dharma practice, in Guide to Dakini Land Venerable Geshe-la, in general whenever we practice Dharma, we should first overcome all doubts about the instructions we have received and reach a clear conclusion about them.  There is no doubt that if we do, we will become a lot more confident in our Dharma practice.  With a faithful mind, we need to apply the instructions we have received.  Through applying them, both our understanding and our familiarity with them will grow. And as they do, we will become more and more confident.  A good example is our practice of generation stage.  At first, it seems overwhelming, but with familiarity, it becomes much easier, even natural.  Many people receive the empowerments.  Those who have tried their best are now starting to get it and their confidence is growing.  Those who thought it was too difficult and did not even try are still stuck, and may have even abandoned their practice completely out of discouragement. 

Second, we need to develop self-confidence in our Dharma activities.  I have spent roughly 20 years of my life in the United States, 20 years in Europe, and 8 years in Asia.  In the United States, the cultural tendency is to dive in to things even if they are beyond our capacity, so sometimes we get in over our head, and then give up trying things we once failed at.  In Asia, people are generally afraid of trying anything unless they can do it perfectly.  They would rather do nothing than publicly try and fail.  In Europe, people often see how things can be done better than what they can do, and so they conclude if they cannot do it perfectly, they are somehow doing it badly.  They would rather do nothing than risk somebody pointing out their mistakes trying.  The point is, pretty much all of us have an unhealthy relationship with trying and failing.  Our job is to develop a healthy relationship.

The key to gaining confidence in our Dharma activities is to let go of attachment to results and realize that trying itself is succeeding.  It is the mental factor intention that creates karma, so even if we do not succeed in accomplishing specific results, we will succeed in planting seeds.  Because we have faith in karma, we know if the cause is created, the future effect is guaranteed.  We are just happy to be constructing a good future.  The definition of maturity is when we use today for the future.  Spiritual maturity is when we use this life for future lives.  There is a special satisfaction that comes from building for the future.

One thing we can do to increase our confidence in our Dharma activities is to rely more on our spiritual guide.  We need to feel the presence of our spiritual guide at our heart with everything you do.  The Spiritual Guide can do anything.  We simply need to realize the relationship between him and us.  He is our own pure potential fully developed.  When we realize this, everything he can do, we can do.  To develop faith in him is to develop confidence in ourselves.  If we try to develop confidence in our contaminated aggregates, it is just deluded pride and everything falls apart.  If we invest the time to learn how to rely upon the spiritual guide for all our activities, then we will realize everything is possible.  When we are involving our spiritual guide in this way, there is every reason to be confident.

And then the third, we need to develop self-confidence in our ability to overcome our delusions.  Again, we find it difficult because it seems our delusions are a lot stronger than we are. What can we do?  What I find helpful is to remind myself simply:  delusions and seeds of delusions are not an intrinsic part of my mind and they can be destroyed, my Buddha nature cannot be. We can also consider that Buddhas – like Vajrapani who has infinite spiritual power – are actually aspects of our own pure potential, so whatever they can do, we can do. 

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