Cultivating a true self-confidence: Abiding in a pure land right now

During the first several posts under this series, we looked at how to meditate on self-confidence by constructing a reliable basis for confidence.  In this post we will explore how to actually practice self-confidence by looking at (1) What it means to wholeheartedly accept others just the way they are, (2) how we can wholeheartedly accept others just the way they are, and (3) some special considerations on practicing within our capacity.

What it means to wholeheartedly accept others just the way they are

To accept wholeheartedly means to welcome.  Right now we have a problem with everything.  There are certain people or situations which we would rather avoid and we push them away or resist them.  We live in samsara.  We resist these things because we think they cause us suffering.  If we can instead learn to use all of these situations, then we wouldn’t need to resist them but we could accept them wholeheartedly.  As our ability to use difficult people to accomplish our spiritual goals increases, so too does our confidence because difficult situations no longer pose a problem for us.  We will fear nothing.

So what does it mean in practice to wholeheardly accept others just the way they are?  It means to abandon attachment to others changing.  We have attachment to others changing when we feel that our happiness depends on others changing.  In reality, if you think that others are anything other than perfect just the way they are, you are wrong.  This is worth repeating like a mantra.  Normally we try change others, even sometimes motivated by concern for their interests, but we cannot change others – only they can change themselves.   We can help them change in the way they want to, but we shouldn’t try change them the way we want them to.  When we accept someone as they are, we create the space for them to change.  When we don’t accept others, they become defensive and self-justifying and this blocks all change.

It means to respect 100% their freedom to choose their own actions.  Normally we ask ourselves how much freedom we should give others, but the reality is they already have all the freedom.  Our job is to respect that and give them the information they need to use their freedom wisely.  It means we push nothing away and resist nothing. We accept the situation as it is without resistance, and then deal with it.  It does no good to live in denial of how things are   We do not resist the situation or others because we don’t need to.  We can use everything.  This doesn’t mean we don’t do what needs to be done, but we just accept reality as it is.  Like a cancer patient who accepts their cancer and then deals with it.  It means we create around ourselves a zone of total acceptance without any judgement.  We don’t judge others, but accept them as perfect just the way they are.

How can we wholeheartedly accept others just the way they are?

There are several different things we can do that will enable us to do this:  First, we need to learn to accept ourself without judgement.  A very senior teacher explained to me once that the way we treat ourselves determines how we treat others.  If we are hard on ourselves, we will be hard on others.  If we accept ourselves, we will accept others.  A strong influence of how we treat ourselves is how our parents treated us.  Usually people motivate and chastise themselves as their parents did to them.  So we need to check this.  To accept ourselves is to accept that we will have delusions.  Just as a body farts, an ordinary mind has delusions.  We accept this as it is, without judgement.  It is just the nature of things.  We don’t expect it to be any different.    When we accept ourselves without judgement, then we create the space for ourselves to change.  I am sick, time to get better.

We can consider everyone to be an emanation of your spiritual guide who has come to teach you different spiritual lessons.   We can accept others because they are so useful for our practice.  So it depends upon our ability to transform whatever others do into an opportunity for us to practice.  We can view ourselves as being on solitary retreat right now, inside our heart, and everything is emanated by your spiritual guide.  We can view these as opportunities to purify.  Problems are the ripening of our negative karma.  If we happily accept them as purification it purifies our negative karma.  We can view it as a lesson in karma – we need to avoid negative actions and engage in virtuous.  We can view it as a lesson in renunciation – samsara is the nature of suffering, so let go of any expectation that it be any different.  Use the fact that by nature broken to make the decision to ‘get out of this dump.’  We can use it as a lesson in cherishing others – all problems come from cherishing ourself, all happiness comes from cherishing others.  Lesson in compassion, bodhichitta and emptiness.

We need to learn to accept and indeed cherish others faults.   We need to accept that they are deluded.  We usually have anger wishing that they were different.  We don’t want to deal with their delusions.  The belief that they are anything other than perfect is a delusion.  We will talk more next post about how to respond to others being deluded.  The greatest quality others have is their faults because these are the most useful thing for us as Dharma practitioners.  If we see their faults of others as qualities, they are no longer faults!  We can practice pure view with respect to their faults.  Pure view does not say what the other person is doing is perfect, rather is asks ourselves the question, “how can I receive perfect benefit from what this person is in fact doing?”  When we receive perfect benefit, then we can honestly think perhaps this person is a Buddha with just very skilful means.

We should rejoice in whatever others do do, and ignore the rest.  Rejoicing in others should be our main practice.  The world you pay attention to is the world you experience.  If you pay attention to others’ faults, you will live in a faulty world; if you pay attention to others’ good qualities, you will live in a pure world.  Whatever you relate to, you draw out.  If you relate to people’s faults, you will draw them out; and if you relate to their good qualities, you will draw them out.  So this is a real act of compassion.  Rejoicing creates the cause to acquire whatever good quality you are rejoicing in.  Criticizing creates the causes to acquire the faults that you criticize.  Rejoicing is the root of the Mahayana path.  Enlightenment depends upon bodhichitta, which depends upon compassion, which depends upon cherishing others, which depends upon finding others precious, which depends upon our finding them attractive/useful.

How does this mind of acceptance enable us to be in a pure land right now?  A pure land is a place where there is no manifest suffering and everything leads us to enlightenment.  Through the mind of acceptance, we can use everything, so nothing is a problem for us – just an opportunity to grow.  In this way there is no manifest suffering.  Everything functions to push us out of samsara.  Everything confirms the Dharma and propels us further on our path, so all energy put into the system gets channeled into pushing us out.  So it is just like a pure land.  We can then be like the Buddhas who are able to remain in samsara and joyfully use everything to help beings get out.

Capacity considerations for engaging in this practice

Here are some considerations for being able to practice this:  First, we should know when we should practice it.  We practice it on unavoidable suffering.  If we can deal with some situation through normal means, we do so; but for the unavoidable stuff, we practice patient acceptance.  Geshe-la gives the example of a headache:  take an asprin and practice acceptance until it kicks in.  Second, we need to be aware of our capacity of what we can transform and what we cant.  The test is not whether a situation is difficult, but rather whether remaining in it destroys our capacity to practice.  Third, we need to find a middle way between being a doormat and being a jerk.  This is done by learning how to establish clear, fair limits.  We don’t set limits for others, we set limits for ourself.  “I am incapable of being in a relationship where you are going off with somebody else, etc.”  We then respect completely the freedom of the other person to decide.  Our limits should not be aimed at having the other person change, but on our own ability to change and what is best for our practice.  Fourth, we need to accept our mistakes.  We will make many mistakes, but we need to accept them (in other words, use them).  It’s normal that we will make mistakes, so we accept this without guilt.  We then learn from our mistakes and try do better next time.

 

Cultivating true self-confidence: A magical method for unlocking the limitless power of your true self

In the last post we examined the mistake of basing our confidence on something external to ourselves – namely other’s opinion of us or what we do, the mistake of basing our confidence on our contaminated aggregates – our ordinary body and mind, and who we really are and what we are capable of.  We ended with the question of how do we gain the power right now to be able to engage in any of the pure deeds of a Buddha.  In this post, I will explain a magical method for unlocking the limitless power of our true selves.

What is the most important question – the question that if answered would answer all your other questions?  When we were kids, we would ask each other questions like:  if you had three wishes, what would you wish for.  Eventually we figured out that the best thing we could wish for was more wishes.  In that way, we could accomplish all our wishes.  Along exactly the same lines, the most important question we can ask is:  “what do I need to do to be able to make internal requests to you and receive perfectly reliable responses every time?”  I had this question in my heart for years, saving it for whenever I would hope to have a meeting with Geshe-la.  But he answered it through the teacher of the Summer International Teacher Training Program without my ever asking it!

The teacher said, “Geshe-la handed me a strange note.  It says, some of you might be wondering how to make requests and receive perfectly reliable responses every time.  So here is Geshe-la’s answer:  ‘It is important to develop a good heart, a Buddhist intention, a beneficial intention, day and night, even during our sleep.  We will perceive a special idea, a mental image or plan as our intention is maintained.  Through blessings, imprints, receiving teachings and so forth, a special understanding or idea will develop.  Then our teachings will be perfect.  If we follow the writings alone, we will maintain just an intellectual understanding.  It is most important that we improve our motivation.’”

The ITTP then discussed this in great detail about what it means and how we practice it.  I could write endlessly on just this advice, but here are the main ideas.

  1. First we dissolve everything into the Dharmakaya.  This eliminates all the interference from our ordinary mind.
  2. We then align our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide.  His final intention for everyone is the Dharmakaya, so this is an additional value of dissolving everything into the Dharmakaya.  We generate a specific beneficial motivation with respect to the specific request we have for specific people by asking ourselves the question:  “what does Geshe-la want for this person/these people?”
  3. With strong faith that he is there and that he has the power to respond, we make our request.
  4. We then wait, maintaining our pure motivation for wanting a response to our request.
  5. Through this, a special image or plan will appear to our mind which will be the perfectly reliable answer to our request.
  6. This likewise works when invoking the Buddhas to accomplish their function for ourselves or for others.

How does this work?  We can understand this by an analogy.  Dissolving everything into the Dharmakaya is like having a clear space within which to project an image.  Aligning our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide is like aligning the crystals of our karma with the direction of the light of our Spiritual Guide.  The crystals themselves are our own karmic potentialities which when a special light is shined through them they project, like a hologram, the future experiences they hold or what is possible.  These are created through our practice, study, etc.  The more faith we have that our Spiritual Guide is there the more it opens the blinds in our mind by purifying the obstructions of his presence being manifest in our mind.  The more faith we have that he has the power to respond to our request, the greater the power is the source of light.  Our request creates the cause for him to actually shine the light through our karmic potentialities.  The special idea that arises is the reflection of the light through the crystals that reflects the constellation of our karma.  This is our perfect response individually tailored to our karma.

Through mastering this technique, we can receive perfect inner guidance from our spiritual guide at any moment, and always know what to do.  With this ability, we will have nothing to fear and have infinite self-confidence.

 

Cultivating a true self-confidence: Unlocking the limitless power of our true selves

One of the main reasons why we lack self-confidence is because we don’t know who we really are.  If we try develop self-confidence in something we are not, obviously it won’t work.  In this post we will look at (1) the mistake of basing our confidence on something external to ourselves – namely other’s opinion of us or what we do, (2) the mistake of basing our confidence on our contaminated aggregates – our ordinary body and mind, and (3) who we really are and what we are capable of.  In the next post I will explain a magical method for unlocking the limitless power of our true selves.

Overcoming the mistake of basing our confidence on something external to ourselves

There are all sorts of external things we base our self-confidence on, such as our wealth, our jobs, etc., but the most common one that gives us the most trouble is what others think of us.  Since these things are outside of our control, if we base our confidence on them, then our confidence will be outside of our control.

But let’s talk specifically about seeking approval from others.  This is the cruel truth of attachment:  If you have a need for the approval of others, then it will function to activate the karma which projects situations which cause this need to go unfulfilled.  In other words, the more attached to others’ approval you are, the less approval you will get.  We then respond by becoming even more needy for their approval, and so the downward spiral continues until we are singing that childhood classic, ‘nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I am going to eat some worms…’  This is pathetic childish behavior — that sadly we all do!

Kadam Bjorn once explained to me a special method for dealing with this attachment of wanting to feel loved or approved of.  What he said was every time we feel the need for approval or love from others, we should take this as a sign from the spiritual guide that we need to offer approval to and love those around us (our students, our friends, family, etc.) (in other words, change the object of needing approval and  love from self to others).  He said what we need to clearly realize is that needing to feel loved is a delusion.  We need to recognize this clearly for what it is:  a deceptive mind which results in only suffering that is not to be believed.

We don’t need to feel love, we need to love.  We need to align ourselves with the directional gradient of the spiritual guide – from self to others.  Kadam Bjorn said by aligning ourselves with his intention to love others – in other words instead of seeking approval and love from others we seek to give approval and love to others – then we get the winds (pure winds at that) of our spiritual guide in our sails and he loves others through us.  When he loves others through us, he satisfies their need for approval and love and likewise fills us with his approval and love.  In other words, the way in which we can feel the unconditional love of our spiritual guide is not to seek it from him for ourselves, but rather is for us to unconditionally give that love others.  Then he fills them and fills us with his unconditional love.

Overcoming the mistake of basing our confidence in our contaminated aggregates

Here we accept the fact that our ordinary body and mind are permanently and irreparably broken, and so give up on them.  This seems strange – how can we generate self-confidence when that our body and mind are permanently broken?  This seems to shatter our self-confidence. The answer to this paradox is quite profound – just as we are not our delusions, so too we are not our ordinary body and mind.  As we will discuss soon, we are our pure potential.  By realizing this, we stop basing our confidence on what we are not and start basing it on what we are.

How can we understand that our contaminated aggregates are hopelessly broken.  Our ordinary body – it gets sick, gets old and will eventually die.  It is the Titanic after it has hit the iceberg.  It is going down and it is only going to get worse, no matter what we do.  Our ordinary mind – this is all of our delusions.  If left unchecked, what would our ordinary mind have us do?  It would get us into all sorts of trouble.  It always leads us in exactly the wrong direction – deeper into samsara.  If we base our self-confidence on these, then we will necessarily be basing our self-confidence on quicksand.  I mentioned before the example of my mother and her looks; and for those who take refuge in their ordinary intelligence, there is always somebody smarter.

Who we really are, and what we are capable of

Our true self is our pure potential – our Buddha seed.  It is completely beyond defilement, no matter what delusions we might have.  Its nature is the same as the Spiritual Guide.  In other words, our true self fully developed is the spiritual guide and the Spiritual Guide is our own future enlightenment.  The definitive Spiritual Guide is not the cute little Tibetan we call Geshe-la, it is the Dhamakaya.  The Dharmakaya has all the powers and abilities of all the Buddhas.  This is who we really are.  A Buddha is simply an aspect or a reflection of our own pure potential.  Our pure potential is like a diamond, and each Buddha is like a facet of it.  The conventional aspects of Buddhas are tools which help us understand the good qualities of the Dharmakaya.

We might think, well that is nice, but I have no access to all this power, no access to myself, so what good does it do me?  It is possible to gain access to all of this power and all the abilities of a Buddha right now.  All it takes is faith and imagination.  An easy way to think about this is to think we have two selves:  our external self and our internal self.  Your external self is your ordinary body and mind.  Of course they are very limited in the sense that you have only one body and so can only do so much, and the ordinary mind is quite weak and so can’t do that much.  But nonetheless, things can and should be done with them. But it is your internal self that does the real work.  We can imagine that our inner self is already fully manifest and abiding at our heart in the aspect of Je Tsongkhapa, for example.  Je Tsongkhapa at your heart has, as we will talk about in a later post, all the power and abilities of Buddha Shakyamuni (source of all Sutra attainments), Vajradhara (source of all tantric attainments), Manjushri (bestower of wisdom and emanator of Je Tsongkhapa and Dorje Shugden), Avalokiteshvara (bestower of compassion and performer of powa), and Vajrapani (bestower of spiritual power and destroyer of maras).  He also shows the best example (outer, inner and secret), gives the most lucid and clear explanations and teachings, and engages in unequaled activities for the flourishing of the Dharma.  He emanates all the countless Tantric mandalas, including Heruka and Vajrayogini.  His body mandala is the synthesis of the spiritual power of all the Buddhas.  There is nothing any Buddha can do that he cannot do.   Since there is nothing he can’t do, and he is who we really are, there is nothing we can’t do.  On this basis we can generate infinite self-confidence.

So the question is how can we use this right now?  You know how to get your right hand to do something – you simply request it to go do something and it does so.  It is exactly the same with your internal self.  If you want to bestow wisdom on somebody, just request Manjushri to do it, and so forth.  If we check carefully, there is really no difference between requesting our right hand to do something and requesting one of the Buddhas abiding within us (which arise from our own pure potential) to do something.  When we see this, we realize we can use the enlightened beings’ bodies and minds as our own by simply faithfully requesting them to do the correct things.  When we can do this, we can engage in the actions of an enlightened being right now – long before we ourselves are an enlightened being.  We can right now do and accomplish any pure deed simply by knowing how to ask.  So the question now is ‘how to ask?’  In the next post, we will answer this question.

Cultivating a true self-confidence: Adopting a winning strategy for overcoming our faults, continued

In the last post we outlined the first three steps of the strategy for overcoming our faults.  In this post, I will explain the last five steps:

Step 4:  Avoid the extremes of repression and expression by learning to accept and overcome.  One extreme is repressing our delusions.  This is when you pretend, or try to pretend, that you don’t have a delusion (you are really mad or really attached, but deny it).  This just pushes delusion into the more subtle levels of mind, where is still functions but is now hidden, so it is actually worse.  It will later resurface in some dramatic way.  The most dangerous delusions you can suppress are those with respect to your Dharma practice, such as doubts about a particular subject, problems with somebody in the Sangha or with a teacher, and so forth.  These are the most dangerous because if left unchecked they will rob you of everything.  If uncontrolledly you do this, then afterwards make the request:  “please help me to identify my delusions in a way that I can overcome them.”  Realize that suppressing itself is the delusion of running away.

The other extreme is expressing the delusion.  This is when you follow the direction or advice of the delusion (you give in to it).  Normally we do this because we think this ‘gets it out of our system.’  But the relief we feel when we give in is just changing suffering – the reduction of the pain of your uncontrolled desire – you have the object so the desire temporarily subsides.  But the reality is it just plants new tendencies to do the same thing, so it will only be harder next time.

The middle way between these two is to accept and overcome.  This is when you accept that you have the delusion, and clearly realizing it is a treacherous mind, you decide to confront it head on.  We cannot run away from our karma – no matter where we go, our karma goes with us.  So there is no getting around our karma, the only way is through it.  To accept that we have the delusion in your mind, we need to do two things:  accept its existence but not its validity.  We accept the fact that a cloud of delusion exists within our mind.  Our mind is sick with this delusion.  Acceptance primarily prevents repression.  We accept that yes, we have a delusion.  Just as it is the nature of the body to fart, it is the nature of a contaminated mind to have delusions.  We shouldn’t expect it to be any different.  On this basis, we accept the existence of our delusions in our mind without judgement.  We don’t, however, accept the validity of the delusion itself.  Not accepting the validity primarily prevents expression.  We recognize delusions for what they are:  necessarily deceptive minds.  The promise us happiness but only give us problems.  It is like spam in our email inbox.  We accept that there is spam in our inbox, but we are not fooled by its message.  By not accepting the validity of spam messages, we no longer believe what they have to say, and so we cannot be fooled.  The power of the spam over us is cut.  Just as this is true of spam, it is equally true of delusions.  The delusions may be present in our mind, but we know with certainty that they are wrong, so they have no power over us.

Step 5:  Cut your identification with the delusion.  Other people’s delusions are not a problem for us because we don’t identify with them.  Our delusions are a problem because we do identify with them.  If you want to eliminate the problems associated with your delusions, stop identifying with them.  We are not our delusions, they are simply the cancer in our mind.  We are our pure potential (we will talk more about this in the next post).   When we cut our identification with our delusions, we do so by saying ‘not me’ with respect to our delusions, and backing up into either our pure potential or our self-generated deity.  Kadam Bjorn clearly explained that if you try fight your delusions while you are still identifying with them, the only thing you will do is develop self-hatred and suppress them.  If you cut your identification with the delusions and then fight them, you will actually get rid of them.

Step 6:  Increase your desire to be free from the delusion.  Kadam Bjorn also explained that our ability to overcome our delusions is not so much how well we know the opponents, but rather how strong is our desire to be free from the delusions.  Normally we think to not express is to suppress.  But this is true only when we our ‘on-net’ desire is to indulge in the delusion.  When your desire to be free from the delusion is greater than your desire to have the object of your delusion, then you will have enough power.  Otherwise, you will eventually give in (desire realm being) or explode. To increase our desire to be free, we can contemplate how delusions are necessarily deceptive minds.  They destroy our inner peace and so make us miserable.  Following our delusions moves us deeper into samsara:  either we are going deeper into samsara or we are moving out.  We want to get out of samsara for ourself (renunciation) or for others (bodhichitta).

Step 7:  Apply opponents to decrease the delusion.  Every delusion has its own specific opponent, but the following work in all cases.  It is better to get deep experience of a couple tools than superficial experience of countless tools.  (1) Breathing meditation – imagine you breathe out the delusion and you breathe in your guru’s realization of the opponent.  (2) Mantra recitation – you recite the most appropriate mantra making the request that the particular Buddha heal your mind of the particular delusion.  (3) Change objects.  For example, with anger we want to be free from suffering and we think external condition is the source of our suffering, so we wish to harm it/destroy it.  With wisdom, we try recognize that the problem is our own anger and attachment, so we try direct the same energy against our delusions wishing to harm/destroy them instead.  With attachment we want to experience happiness and we think that the external condition is the source of our happiness, so we wish to acquire it.  Here, with wisdom we try recognize that happiness comes from virtue, so we direct that same desire towards mixing our mind with virtue instead.  (4) Use the Lamrim.  We directly use the Lamrim as an opponent to our specific delusions.  Directly or indirectly the Lamrim is the opponent to all delusions, so just a regular and consistent practice of Lamrim will wear away at all of our delusions simultaneously.  But when we have a very strong delusion, we can directly use each of the Lamrim meditations as an opponent (how can meditation 1 help me overcome my attachment, etc.)

Step 8:  Eradicate the delusion with the wisdom realizing emptiness.  Emptiness essentially explains that none of this is real, it is all a dream, so there is nothing to be attached to and no us for that matter!  Ultimately, the wisdom realizing emptiness eradicates all our delusions.

 

Cultivating true self-confidence: Adopting a winning strategy for overcoming our faults

We continue with our discussion of how to generate a reliable basis for self-confidence.  In the last post, we talked about how to generate the basis of virtuous actions through enjoying engaging in virtue.  In this post, I will talk about how to generate the basis of our ability to overcome our faults.  In the next post we will talk about generating the basis of our pure potential.

Most of the reason why we lack self-confidence has to do with the fact that we have so many faults and make so many mistakes.  We have so many delusions that our mind is out of control and we do things that make the situation worse and we can’t stop ourselves from doing it.  When we try overcome our faults, they defeat us everytime, so we just give in to them everytime they arise.  This reinforces our feeling of being helpless against our delusions and this destroys our self-confidence even further. Because we have even less self-confidence, we have no power to fight our delusions, and the vicious cycle continues downward.

In this post, I will try explain how to reverse this situation by adopting a winning strategy against our delusions.  When we gain familiarity of using this method, we will be able to start winning battles against our delusions, and little by little we will be able to have confidence that we will be able to overcome all our faults.  Then we will have nothing to fear.

So what is a strategy for overcoming our delusions?  I will take as my example for illustrating how the method works strong desirous attachment.  Attachment quite simply is a mind that thinks some external condition is a cause of our happiness, and is usually thinks without this external condition I can’t be happy.  This is a delusion because happiness is a state of mind, and so comes from the mind.  The real cause of happiness is inner peace, whose cause is virtuous states of mind.  Desirous attachment can take many forms, such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, for a partner, for being with somebody (not being alone), sex, attractive forms, etc.  Just for simplicity, I will us the example of cigarettes, but it is equally applicable to any other type of attachment, such as sexual attachment.

The strategy consists of eight steps.  The first three I will explain in this post and the final five I will explain in the next post.  Before any of the steps, we recall the problem.  For example, we see or think about a cigarette and generate an urge to smoke.  Then:

Step 1:  Analyze the nature and the cause of the problem.  The nature of the problem is not something external, the fact that you saw a cigarette; it is the unpleasant feelings in your mind.  The cause of the problem is not something external, it is the delusion of attachment within your own mind.

Step 2:  Ask yourself the question:  what kind of being am I?  If you are a worldly being, namely you are interested in external happiness, then this strategy won’t work for you.  If you are a spiritual being, in other words you are interested in gaining spiriutal realizations, then everything works.  We can change what kind of being we are through the practice of Lamrim – whose main function is to change our desire.  Again, we are so lucky to have access to Kadampa centers where we can receive introductory and advanced teachings on the Lamrim.  Within the Lamrim, the quickest way to change our desire is to recall death by asking ourself the question:  “Do I want to arrive at my death and realize what I could have accomplished spiritually but didn’t because I wasn’t motivated enough to overcome this attachment?”

Step 3:  Make requests to Dorje Shugden:  “Whatever is best with respect to this delusion, please arrange.”  If it ceases, then end of story.  For example, there is a very pure monk named Gen Togden.  He told me the story of once when he had really strong anger, he requested Dorje Shugden to arrange what is best with respect to this delusion being present in his mind.  Through the faith of his request, his anger subsided immediately.  This is not some miracle.  When we know whatever is happening is for the best, all worry, anxiety, attachment or fear vanish.  Even if it doesn’t completely vanish, it will be reduced considerably.  Any residual of the delusion that persists means that Dorje Shugen wants you to train in overcoming this delusion.  Either way, you accept with infinite faith that this is perfect for your practice, so you are happy (because what you want is to practice).

In the next post I will explain the remaining steps.

Cultivating true self-confidence: The joy of pure actions

As explained in the previous post, there are three different reliable bases upon which we can build a true self-confidence, the first of which is our own virtuous actions.  Virtuous actions are actions that are consistent with the way things actually are – they are in harmony with the reality that we are all interconnected at a very profound level.  They are generally speaking actions that seek to help others find happiness or become free from suffering.  Because they are in harmony with the way things actually are, they work and are therefore reliable. The key to cultivating this basis for self-confidence is to learn how to enjoy engaging in such actions.  Normally we think virtuous actions are things we ‘should’ do, but don’t really want to.  We do them reluctantly, or motivated by guilt, and so are unhappy about it.  To reverse this, we need to learn how to enjoy engaging in virtuous actions.  Since we naturally do what we enjoy, if we can enjoy engaging in virtue, we will effortless cultivate this basis for self-confidence.

So the question then becomes how can we come to enjoy engaging in virtuous actions?  Virtuous actions are actually naturally joyful to engage in.  Why?  Because virtue, by definition, functions to produce the experience of inner peace within our mind – and inner peace is the main cause of our happiness.  When we mix our mind with virtue, it naturally becomes more peaceful, and so we become more happy and joyful.  So really our task is simply to remove the obstructions to our joy.  When we remove the obstructions, joy will naturally arise.

So how do we do this?  By learning how to enjoy practicing itself – to enjoy creating good causes.  There are four main points which enable us to do this:

Change what you desire to be to create good causes.  If what you desire is pleasant external or internal conditions, then attachment to results is inevitable, and we will be like a yo-yo.  If what we want is to create good causes, then whether things go pleasantly or unpleasantly, either externally or internally, it is all good, because all such circumstances equally give us an opportunity to practice – to create good causes.  What enables us to make this change in our desire?  The practice of Lamrim.  This is the main function of the Lamrim.  Because of the importance of the Lamrim, we are so lucky to have the opportunity to attend classes at Kadampa centers on the Lamrim.  Where else can we learn this?

Accepting where you are at without guilt or judgement.  This is what it means to be a sincere practitioner.  There are generally two extremes when it comes to where we are at:  guilt and complacency.  Guilt is anger directed towards our self.  Because our self is a bodhisattva, guilt is actually anger directed towards a bodhisattva which is hugely negative karma.  We feel that guilt is good because we think it motivates us to abandon negativity.  But this is the tricky mind of self-cherishing that encourages us to abandon a small negativity by cultivating a bigger one (anger towards ourselves).  So on-net, we are worse off.  Guilt leads to high expectations of our self, and when we fail to meet them, we feel guilty, so it is a vicious cycle.  The other extreme is complacency.  This allows delusions and negativity to remain in our mind like they are no problem.  Normally when we let go of guilt we go to the other extreme and become more negative because we have principally been using guilt to keep us in check.  We then go to the other extreme of admitting we are negative and deluded and saying we don’t care.  It allows delusions to run unchecked in our mind and we are gradually swept away (down) by them.  The middle way between these two extremes is regret.  Regret differs from guilt and complacency in three ways:  (1) Regret accepts ourselves without judgement.  It accepts the existence of the delusions in our mind, but not their validity.  We will talk more about this in a later post.  (2) Regret blames our delusions, not ourselves.  It makes the distinction between ourselves, which are completely pure; and our delusions, which are like the cancer of our mind.  It directs the energy against the delusions, not ourself, in the form of a strong wish to be free from our delusions.  When we have guilt it turns into the wish to harm or punish ourselves, even leading up to suicide (a case I dealt with a few times).  (3) Regret is forward looking, not backward looking.  We accept our past mistakes by using them to learn what to do differently next time.  It considers the horrific future we will have if we allow delusions and negativity to remain in our mind.  It makes plans for what to do to avoid this future.  The best analogy of regret is imagining you just drank poison.  We wouldn’t waste our time beating ourselves up over making a mistake, but would actively seek an antidote and take it.

Having faith in the law of karma:  if you create the causes, the results will definitely come (so the results are assured).  Just as the laws of physics and science explain how the external world works, the laws of karma explain how the internal world works.  These are inviolable laws of nature.  If we have conviction in the law of karma that good results necessarily come from good causes and bad results necessarily come from bad causes, we will joyfully engage in virtuous actions.   It is likewise useful to cultivate faith in Dorje Shugden.  If we have faith in the law of karma, the only remaining question is when will the results ripen?  If you rely upon Dorje Shugden, they will ripen when it is best for your practice.  He is like a karma manager.  If the results haven’t yet ripened, it is because he wants you to continue creating particular causes. So if we haven’t yet experienced results we will be happy because we realize that we are saving our spiritual pennies for something bigger and better.

Some people really struggle when it comes to the question of faith, so it is worthwhile to say a few words about faith.  Faith in the Dharma is very different than faith in other contexts.  Faith is more like confidence born from scientific experimentation.  Geshe-la calls Dharma the ‘supreme scientific method.’  How can we understand this?  Through understanding the relationship between faith and wisdom.  It is actually a cycle.  (1)  Believing faith – this is faith based on a valid reason.  We have some valid reason for believing that good results come from good causes.  (2) Admiring faith – this admires the good qualities of whatever we believe in.  We believe that good results come from good causes, and admire good causes, thinking, ‘wow.’  (3) Wishing faith – this wishes to have these good qualities for ourselves.  Our admiring faith naturally transforms into a wish to have these good qualities for ourselves.  (4) joyful effort.  We joyfully put the instructions into practice.  Having faith in good causes, we joyfully engage in them knowing that good results will come.  (5) Personal experience/wisdom.  From this practice, we gain personal experience of the truth of the instructions.  This is wisdom – when we know something from our own side.  (6) A deeper believing faith.  This wisdom then serves as a new valid reason, which enables us to generate an even deeper believing faith, and so the cycle continues.

Cultivating a true self-confidence: Motivation for doing the series

The purpose of this series of blog postings is to explain everything I think you need to generate a true self-confidence.  It can be summed up as one thing:  Being born in the vajra family.

Without self-confidence you can accomplish nothing.  When you accomplish nothing, you feel like you are incapable of doing anything which reinforces your lack of self-confidence, so it is a vicious cycle.  The main point of being able to generate true self-confidence is to do so with respect to a reliable basis that is within your control.  If you base your self-confidence on something unreliable or outside your control, then your confidence will be unreliable and outside your control.  For example, my mother was a beauty queen when she was younger.  She basically accomplished most things in her life through her good looks.  But this proved unreliable for her because eventually our looks fail us and because we become dependent upon the opinion of others.  In contrast, if it is based on something reliable and within your control, then it becomes indestructible and is a true self-confidence.  This series of posts will explain how we can learn how to distinguish between these two, and how to cultivate this reliable basis.

This series of posts will organized as follows:  The first part will explore how to meditate on self-confidence.  This consists of generating within our mind the three reliable bases for self-confidence:  our virtuous actions, our overcoming of our delusions and our pure potential or true self. The second part will be on how to actually practice self-confidence through the mind of acceptance, through taking personal responsibility for others’ enlightenment and through learning how to become part of something bigger than ourselves, namely the Bodhisattva family.  The last part will be an exhortation to seize the precious opportunity we have before us and thereby fulfill our spiritual destiny – in short, we will learn how to become the bodhisattvas we were born to be!

My motivation for doing this series of posts is simple:  Venerable Tharchin once explained to me that if we know how the Dharma works, we will become incredible confident and effort will come easily.  We stand at a pivotal moment in the history of our tradition where we make the double transition from Eastern to Western but also Ancient to Modern.  This is why the book Modern Buddhism, and the tradition’s subsequent completely reorganizing of itself around the presentation in this book, is so important.  It provides us the frame of reference.  Our tradition has been reborn, so so must be.  For this to happen, we need great confidence.  Venerable Geshe-la knows these methods best and he is supremely confident.  If we understand why, we will be just as confident as he.