To give our life direction, we need to have a life project. Shantideva explains that our project is to build our spiritual reliquary. Collectively, as a tradition, we are trying to build an outer and inner reliquary to give to others in future generations. When we understand this from the point of view of emptiness, we need to build our reliquary for our world, our dream. In short, we need to work on what endures – karma, realizations, and our reliquary.
We need to invest our time, energy and resources into building an external and internal reliquary that we will leave behind for the beings of this world. The inner reliquary is our own spiritual realizations obtained for and dedicated to others. They are our own realizations which we gain for the benefit of others that we carry with us into our future lives. The most important part of our reliquary is ourself as a Buddha. The most important part of the reliquary is building ourselves as a Buddha for others. We likewise do the same in others by helping them gain realizations so there are more beings with realizations in our karmically appearing world.
The external reliquary is what we give in time, energy and resources to the destruction of delusions and the flourishing of Dharma in this world. Our local center and the Sangha community is our main reliquary. We need to build them up so that they endure and become self-perpetuating. The objects of our reliquary are our Books, sadhanas, temples, centers and sangha. But the real inner reliquary are the inner realizations and karma of practitioners.
It is really worth considering how the reliquary works. A former student of mine in Lausanne once generated the intention to receive a Medicine Buddha empowerment for the benefit of a particular family, and a year later, the conditions ripened where this happened. We make intentions to perpetually become ourselves whatever other living beings need. When this fully ripens, we spontaneously give to others without having to generate anew the conceptual intention to do it.
Strategically speaking, Venerable Geshe-la encourages us to think cosmically, but to act locally in tight, pure concentrations that gradually expand. A Dharma center is like an outpost for the Buddhas in the barbarian land or wild west of this deluded world. We need to build the pure land around us in close proximity, with tight concentration of high quality, and then gradually radiate out. We work immediately around us, working to concretely transform our world into a pure land. We shouldn’t spread ourself too thin, instead we should expand gradually over time by focusing on quality and purity. We need to karmically reconstruct our dream into the pure land, like Mount Meru arising out of the swamp of samsara. We need to build your own mandala, externally and internally. Our mandala should be built in a non-exclusive way. Everybody is invited in, and you share it with everyone. Within our mandala, everyone is free to do as the wish. The pure land is a place of total freedom.
We should think of building our reliquary as the very means by which we provide ourselves with provisions for the continuation of our spiritual project in future lives. In general in life, we need to invest time, energy and resources into that which is most beneficial and produces the highest possible return for our self and others. Karmically, everything we invest for others we invest for our own future lives. Other living beings are like magical time machines for transporting what we have in the present to ourselves in the future when we do not have these things. In our future lives, we will karmically inherit the reliquary that we create and give in this life. For example, the NKT is Venerable Geshe-la’s reliquary in this world.
We need to become a spiritual philanthropist across time. We will inherit the reliquary that we give away to others. We will lose forever that which we keep for ourself. The reliquary will appear to us in our future lives to benefit us to the extent to which we use it now to benefit others. We will find the reliquary to the extent to which we help others to find it now. It will appear attractive and useful to the extent to which we render it attractive and useful to others now. This depends on ourself finding it attractive and useful. Which itself depends on us relating to it with an attractive and useful mind.
Specifically, what do we need to do to re-find the reliquary in our future lives? We need to align our personal motivation with that of the reliquary. If we do this, we will flow in the same direction as it and more easily re-find it. We need to concentrate on putting into practice the instructions we have received. Every time we do so, we create karmic connections between ourselves and the spiritual guide who gives the instructions. Since he is at the center of the reliquary, we will be reborn with him. We should also pray to never be separated from it in all our future lives until we complete the final goal.
Whatever we do, we should pour ourself fully into doing it as part of building our reliquary. To enjoy ourselves, we need to get our effort right. We do this by pouring ourselves into everything we do. Right now, we either do not do samsara because we feel guilty and we know it does not work anyway or we do not do Dharma because we are afraid of changing and think we will lose the only remaining happiness we have. The end result is we are just unhappy and bitter with both our life and our practice. But if we pour ourselves into all that we do, focusing on doing things well, we will enjoy all that we do. We need to live our life from the point of view of ‘doing’ instead of ‘being.’ When we pour ourselves into all that we do, we will seek how to do things better and better. We will naturally then bring Dharma into it because it works to makes everything better. Whatever we do, we do it with quality and we do it well. My grandma always used to say, ‘a job worth doing is a job worth doing well.’
In the end, having our life’s project be building our reliquary is about creating good causes. There are two levels to this: First is responding well to whatever arises. Appearances arise, our job is to respond to them correctly. When we do so, the appearances become increasingly pacified and we create good causes for the future. Very simply, we try to respond to whatever appears with the least delusion and the most virtue possible. Second is building our reliquary for the future. It is not enough to just respond, we also need to actively shape our reality by creating a new one.
Our biggest obstacle to doing this is our preoccupation with worldly concerns. To overcome this, we can repeat the mantra, “So what, quit whining and get on with it.” ‘So what’ means live life from the point of view of the mental factor of discrimination, it doesn’t matter what you are feeling or what effects are ripening. ‘Quit whining’ means realize that everything is perfect and stop wishing things were otherwise. Stop self-cherishing making such a drama out of it. ‘Get on with it’ means just practice what you need to do.