Vows, commitments and modern life:  From our left? Why?

To perform all physical actions first with our left, to make offerings to our Spiritual Guide, and never to abuse him. 

Whenever we engage in physical actions, if possible we should begin from the left to remember to accomplish the wisdom of clear light, the main practice of Mother Tantra.  Of course, there is nothing intrinsically better about the left than the right, the point is to develop a method for remembering emptiness.  If we train ourselves to always begin with the left, then each time we do so we will be remembering clear light emptiness.  Every time we remember clear light emptiness, we draw ourselves one stop closer to enlightenment.

We may doubt thinking that our small attempts at realizing emptiness are feeble and meaningless, but we would be wrong to think this way.  The reality is every time we even attempt to think of emptiness, the very foundations of samsara shake.  There is only one door out of samsara, and that door is emptiness.  Samsara does not fear us generating any other mind or going anywhere or doing anything, its only fear – its only weakness – is emptiness.  In reality, enlightenment is only one recognition away.  All of this is a dream.  We either get sucked into it or we wake up from it.  There is no third possibility.  Since getting sucked in is completely unacceptable, our only choice is to wake up.  Every time we recall emptiness, we move closer to that day.

There are many different ways to recall emptiness.  While of course there are the various contemplations taught in the Lamrim, and these are useful during the meditation session, I find in the meditation break it is best to consider various analogies.  If we put on an orange pair of glasses and looked at the world through them, then everything would appear to us as orange.  In the same way, if we bring to mind a powerful analogy and then look at the world through that analogy, then everything would appear to us in the way described by the analogy.

What are some useful analogies we can recall?  The most common one is to view everything as a dream.  We know very clearly that the world and the beings that appears to us in last night’s dream are nothing more than mere projections of our mind.  When we wake up, we don’t ask where did they all go.  We know they were nothing more than mere appearances to our mind, with nothing actually behind any of them.  In the same way, everything that appears to us in our waking state is likewise just a dream.  The only difference is this is a dream to our waking mind, whereas last night’s dream was the dream of our sleeping mind.  But in terms of their quality of being merely dreams, they are exactly the same.  Recalling this analogy, when we look at the world, we should try see it through the lens of this wisdom.  Look at everything and say, “it’s all a karmic dream.  Amazing!”

Another useful analogy is to view everything like waves on the ocean of our mind.  Viewed from the surface, it can seem as if each wave is somehow distinct, but when we look more carefully we see clearly that each wave is equally part of the same ocean, and all of the waves are inseparably one.  In exactly the same way, every being, every phenomena is merely a different wave on the ocean of our mind.  Just as waves rise and fall, so too the appearances of things rise and fall.  They don’t come from anywhere and they don’t go anywhere, they always remain inseparable from the ocean itself.  It is only the appearance that changes.

A third very useful analogy is to view everything like holograms.  The interesting thing about a hologram is when you look at it from one angle, it may appear as a monster; but then when we look at it from a different angle, it may appear as an angel.  So what is really there?  Is it a monster or is it an angel?  The correct answer is, “it is both and it is neither.”  Even though it is neither, it is clear that viewing it as an angel is a more beneficial choice.  In exactly the same way, when we look out at the world from our deluded point of view, we see a samsara.  If we look out at the world from a pure point of view, we will see a pure land.  So what is really there?  Is it a samsara or is it a pure land?  The correct answer is, “it is both and it is neither.”  Even though it is neither, it is clear that viewing it as a pure land is a more beneficial choice.  So we choose to view things from that angle.

So when we do things first with our left, we can recall one of these analogies, or any other of a myriad of different ways of remembering emptiness.

This vow also calls for us to make offerings to our spiritual guide.  Making offerings has been discussed at length in earlier posts, but it is worth recalling here that our greatest offering of all is the offering of our practice, and amongst offerings of our practice, the guru yoga of our highest yoga tantra yidam is supreme.

Finally, this vow calls for us to not abuse our spiritual guide.  Few of us would actually ever physically do this, but we do abuse him every time we misuse or abuse the precious Dharma he has given us or we mistreat any member of his Sangha.  In Offering to the Spiritual Guide it says, “the Guru is Buddha, the Guru is Dharma, the Guru is also Sangha, to all Guru’s I make this offering.”  Every Buddha is actually a different facet of the diamond of our Spiritual Guide.  Every Dharma instruction is a facet of his speech in this world.  And every member of the Sangha is a facet of his body in this world.  If we abuse any of these, we are, in effect, abusing the Spiritual Guide.