Happy Tsog Day: Transforming Adverse Conditions into the Path (part 2)

In order to remember and mark our tsog days, holy days on the Kadampa calendar, I am sharing my understanding of the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide with tsog.  This is part 33 of a 44-part series.

In short, whether favourable or unfavourable conditions arise,
I seek your blessings to transform them into the path of improving the two bodhichittas
Through practising the five forces, the essence of all Dharmas,
And thereby maintain a happy mind alone.

The two bodhicittas refer to conventional bodhichitta and ultimate bodhicitta. Conventional bodhicitta is the wish to become a Buddha for the sake of others. Ultimate bodhicitta is meditating on ultimate truth emptiness with a motivation of conventional bodhicitta. With respect to conventional bodhichitta, when favorable conditions arise, we can view them as the result of our past virtuous actions which remind us that we need to continue to engage in virtue. Further, we can use the favorable conditions to make rapid progress in our spiritual path because things are easy at that time. When unfavorable conditions arise, we can view it as motivation to become a Buddha so that we can be free from all such unfavorable conditions and help others attain the same state. With respect to ultimate bodhicitta, when both favorable and unfavorable conditions arise, we can view them both as equally mere karmic appearances to mind. Both types of appearance are equally empty. Their mere appearance reminds us of their emptiness.

The five forces make all our practices more effective. The five forces are the force of motivation, the force of familiarity, the force of white seed, the force of destruction, and the force of aspirational prayer. The force of motivation is the motivation with which we engage in a virtuous action. The karmic effect of our actions depends upon the scope of our motivation. If our motivation is that of a worldly being, the karma will at best ripen in worldly ways either in this life or in a future life. If our motivation is that of a spiritual being, then the merit will ripen in our future lives. If our motivation is renunciation, the wish to escape from samsara, then the karmic effect of the action will be to enable us to take rebirth outside of samsara. And if our motivation is bodhichitta, the karmic effect of the action will ripen in the form of us attaining full enlightenment. This is true regardless of what kind of virtuous action we engage in. For example, just giving flowers to someone else can be performed with any one of these motivations, but have radically different karmic effects.

The force of familiarity is simply becoming more and more familiar with our virtuous actions. Gen-la Losang said what is natural is simply what is familiar. The reason why non-virtuous actions come so naturally is because we have deep familiarity with them, and the reason why virtuous actions are so difficult is because we have very little familiarity. But through the force of effort, we can change what is familiar and therefore what comes naturally. We remain in samsara simply due to bad habits. We can change these habits with effort, and therefore escape.

The force of white seed is accumulating merit. All good things come from merit, or good karma. Good karma depends upon engaging in virtuous actions. If our wishes are not being fulfilled, the reason is we lack merit. Instead of complaining or wondering why things never work out for us, we can use this as a reminder to accumulate merit. The supreme method for accumulating merit is to make mandala offerings. This was explained extensively in earlier posts during this series. There are many different types of merit, and each virtuous action produces its own specific type of merit that will ripen in a specific way. Therefore, as we learn to understand karma more deeply, and we understand the virtuous reasons why we want different outcomes, we can then engage in the specific types of actions to create the karma that we desire. The attributes of higher status explained earlier explain how this works, for example from giving comes wealth, from patience comes beauty and so forth.

The force of destruction refers to purifying our negative karma. The reason why things are difficult is because we have negative karma that remains unpurified. In particular, the most pernicious form of negative karma is that associated with holding onto wrong views denying Dharma. Due to this negative karma, we find it difficult to gain Dharma realizations and make progress along the path and as a result we remain trapped and even run the risk of giving up. Therefore, it is vital that we purify our negative karma. This was also explained extensively before.

The force of aspirational prayer refers to making specific prayers and requests to the Buddhas that they bless our mind in specific ways to gain the realizations of the stages of the path. If we check, the vast majority of our prayers are simply requests to the Buddhas to bestow upon us the different realizations. The mental action of making a request prayer with faith creates the karma to be able to receive blessings, which then activate the virtuous karma that exists on her mind and ripens in the form of realizations. Requesting blessings is the principal method for receiving them. While the Buddhas are constantly bestowing blessings on all living beings just as the sun shines equally on all phenomena, whether we receive these blessings depends upon whether or not there are clouds in the sky of our mind. Making aspirational prayers clears the clouds and allows the blessings to flow directly into our mind.

To rely upon a happy mind alone, does not mean to simply force ourselves “to be happy,” rather it means we only take as reliable and trustworthy the conclusions are mind reaches when it is happy and peaceful. For example, when our mind is very agitated, we are likely to send an email we will later regret. If instead, we wait until our mind is calm and then draft our email, we will avoid a great deal of problems. In the same way, every time our mind is under the influence of delusions our mind is necessarily unpeaceful, and the conclusions we reach when our mind is unpeaceful will always make our situation worse. Therefore, we should wait until our mind is calm and peaceful, and then make decisions about how to proceed.

I seek your blessings to make this freedom and endowment extremely meaningful
By immediately applying meditation to whatever I meet
Through the skilful means of the four preparations,
And by practising the commitments and precepts of training the mind.

We established before that we have a precious human life with all the freedoms and endowments. This gives us the ideal opportunity to train in Dharma and accomplish the real meaning of our human lives. We do this quite simply by responding to whatever arises with a Dharma mind. Before we found the Dharma, we encountered countless different objects and responded to them in countless different ways. After we found the Dharma, we still encounter countless different objects, but we can respond with a limited number of Dharma minds such as renunciation, compassion, patience, and bodhicitta. This greatly simplifies our life and enables us to transform every moment into the path. Many of us engage in the cycle of the 21 Lamrim meditations. If we do, we can then respond to everything that happens to us during the day with the conclusion of the Lamrim meditation we did in the morning. In this way, we are putting into practice the Lamrim meditation of the day all day long. Even if we do not engage in the 21 Lamrim meditations formally, we can still do the 21 Lamrim meditations as our meditation break practice. For example, no matter what happens, review it as a reminder of death, or as a lesson in karma, and so forth.

The commitments and precepts of training the mind are explained in the book Universal Compassion and are listed in the booklet on the vows and commitments of Kadampa Buddhism. They are methods for ripening our bodhichitta and for transforming adverse conditions into the path. For more information, please see the extensive series of posts I earlier did about how to practice all our vows and commitments and integrate them into our modern life.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Not abandoning others to their fate

(8.107) Because one whose mind is acquainted with the equality of self and others
Derives great joy from relieving the suffering of others,
For their sakes, he or she would happily enter the deepest hell,
Just like a wild goose plunging into a refreshing lotus pool.

(8.108) The ocean of joy that will arise
When all living beings are liberated
Is everything I wish for –
So why should I wish for my solitary liberation?

Perhaps we have no wish for solitary liberation, and we are always good bodhisattvas. But does it ever come up, the wish to ‘forget others and just take care of myself’?  We often experience suffering, but we often blame our suffering on the fact that we are spiritual practitioners, that we have these responsibilities to the center, to our families, etc.  It seems that so much of our suffering is related to being involved with having to be there for others, having this responsibility to be good bodhisattvas. Because if we were not, if we didn’t have this responsibility, we think a lot of that suffering would simply disappear.  We could live quite contentedly alone, doing our practice, without all these deluded people constantly disturbing our inner peace.  Perhaps when that mind comes up, we would like to just drop it all, get away from everyone.  We want to free ourself from suffering, that’s what we’re thinking about at such times. I do not want to experience this suffering, what can I do to free myself from it.

At such times we’re not thinking of the situation of others, those who come to the center, the people in our town, the people at our work, or the people in our family.  We are just thinking about ourself and our own liberation from suffering.  But when we do, does our suffering end?  No.  It usually increases.  We start to view everyone as obstacles.  We feel this great tension between “being happy” and “following our spiritual path,” like the two are in conflict.  There are all these other people out there who haven’t taken on the great responsibility to care in every way for the doctrine and migrators, and they seem quite happy.  Happier than me, at least.  There are all these people who happily live alone in quiet places, not bothered by anybody, just doing their practice.  Ah, the life.  Wouldn’t that be great.  But I’m stuck here due to all my responsibiliites towards these people.  We can think like this sometimes. 

When we do, we need to pull out these verses.  Venerable Tharchin said he wants to be reborn in hell because that is where all the living beings are.  In Offering to the Spiritual Guide, we pray, “I seek your blessings to complete the perfection of effort by striving for supreme enlightenment with unwavering compassion; even if I must remain in the fires of the deepest hell for many aeons for the sake of each being.”  This is the supreme good heart of the bodhisattva.  We should strive instead to become like the kind-hearted Bodhisattva, accept fully and enjoy what has to be the most meaningful life. How can anything compare to the ocean of joy that arises when all living beings are liberated?

Having given some encouragement to training in equalizing self and others, in these next couple of verses Shantideva gives some special advice in relation to our training, advice that I think is particularly relevant to us as modern Kadampas. He says:

(8.109) But although I work for the benefit of others,
I should do so without pride or pretension.
Moved only by the joy of benefiting others,
I should not hope for any reward.

We do a lot for the benefit of others, but we are not entirely free from worldly motives.  We still expect some degree of gratitude, or at least we expect that others not get mad at us for the help we do provide.  We haven’t quite the pure intention of Venerable Geshe-la, our intention often is mixed, isn’t it? We have still many, many worldly concerns. We assume this responsibility, we do work for the center, for our families, for our work, but we are not quite free yet from worldly motives.

We must try, as Shantideva here is advising, we try to work for others without pride, without pretension.  Our giving must be unconditional.  We must expect nothing back from others.  If we are honest, we do expect some return for our work – or at least not criticism. Parents in particular have this problem.  Despite giving everything, almost all kids wind up blaming their parents for all of their woes.  Their children have to go to therapy to recover from the so-called “trauma” of having been raised by us.  Sure, some times it is legitimate, but most of the time parents are doing their absolute best, but the wishes of the kids are infinite.  We always let them down no matter how much we do, and then they criticize us for all of the different ways we failed them.  They often don’t realize how completely ungrateful they are being until they themselves have kids – and even then, sometimes not.  We should expect this, and love them anyways, give to them anyways.  Maybe they will understand the kindness of their mothers, maybe they never will.  It doesn’t matter – we get the same good karma regardless; in fact, our giving becomes more pure if we get the criticism. 

Happy Tara Day: Tara can fulfill all our pure wishes

This is the seventh installment of the 12-part series sharing my understanding of the practice Liberation from Sorrow.

They will attain greatness here
And advance to the ultimate state of Buddhahood.

Greatness here does not mean high position, but rather the great scope of Lamrim, namely the precious mind of bodhichitta.  Atisha’s Lamrim has three scopes – initial scope, intermediate scope, and great scope.  In the initial scope, we abandon lower rebirth; in the intermediate scope, we abandon samsaric rebirth; and in the great scope, we abandon solitary peace.  In other words, we abandon merely seeking our personal liberation, and instead we seek to become a fully enlightened Buddha with the complete power to lead all living beings to the same state.  The essence of the great scope is bodhichitta, the wish to become a Buddha for the sake of all.  Since Tara is the Lamrim Buddha, we can be certain the greatness we will attain through our reliance upon her is becoming a great scope being.  Once we attain bodhichitta, our eventual enlightenment is guaranteed.  This is why it is said we prostrate to the new moon of bodhichitta, not the full moon of enlightenment because the former is the definite cause of the latter.

Their violent and great poisons,
Both stable and moving,
And even those that they have eaten or drunk,
Will be thoroughly eliminated by remembering her.

They will be able to prevent all suffering
That arises from spirits, diseases or poisons;
And be able to help others in the same way.

There are two types of poison – outer and inner.  Outer poisons, including intoxicants, pollution, and unhealthy food, are extremely destructive.  Every year, smoking kills 7 million people globally, alcohol kills 2.8 million, and drugs kill 750,000; bringing the global death toll from intoxicants to 10.5 million people every year.  Pollution each year kills 4.8 million globally.  Unhealthy food is even more deadly, with 2.8 million dying from obesity, 1.6 million dying from diabetes, and a whopping 17.9 million dying from heart disease, the overwhelming majority of which comes from unhealthy diets.  All of these are outer poisons, with a cumulative death toll of almost 38 million every year.  Outer poisons are the leading cause of death in the world by a significant margin.  But the reality is outer poisons only have the power to kills us due to our inner poisons of delusions that run towards these causes of death as if they were causes of happiness.  Our inner poisons of attachment and ignorance conspire to make us voluntarily consume or create outer poisons, which in turn kill tens of millions every year.  Thus, if we have any hope of actually preventing the suffering that arises from outer poisons, we must abandon their deeper cause – the inner poisons of delusions. 

But ultimately, outer poisons can only kill us in just this one life.  The inner poisons of delusions harm and kill us in all of our future lives without end.  The scale of the destruction is beyond imagination.  Delusions are the cause of all death, since beginningless time.  There will be no end to the slaughter until the inner poisons of delusions are abandoned once and for all.  Relying upon Tara ends the inner poisons, both for ourself and for all other living beings.  She not only blesses our mind to prevent them from ripening, but more definitively she bestows upon us Lamrim realizations which lead us to permanently abandon all delusions.  All delusions, directly or indirectly, find their opponent in the Lamrim.  Our gaining Lamrim realizations is the only lasting way to end samsara’s ongoing devastation.  People rightly dedicate their lives to fighting for justice in the world, but there will be no justice, no peace, no end to suffering until the tyranny of delusions has finally been defeated.  The only way to do that is through gaining Lamrim realizations, and reliance upon Tara supercharges our practice of Lamrim.  

If they recite these seven times, six times a day,
Those who wish for a son will attain a son,
And those who wish for wealth will attain wealth.

Typically at least once a year, most major Kadampa centers will do a 24 hour Tara puja, which involves a session every four hours engaging in this practice reciting the praises seven times.  When the Coronavirus broke out, Geshe-la encouraged us to rely upon Tara, and many centers started doing the 24 hour Tara Puja every month on Tara day.  For those unable to join such practices at a center, Manjushri center livestreams the practice on Tara day every month, so we can join in from anywhere in the world.  If we are unable to do all six sessions, it is perfectly good to do as many as we can.  Some is always better than none.  There is something particularly powerful about engaging in group pujas.  Venerable Tharchin says that every time we engage in a group puja, we create the causes to do the same thing with the same people again in the future.  It is like an insurance policy for refinding our Kadampa Sangha in life after life until we attain our final spiritual goals. 

“Son” here refers to the son or daughter of the Buddhas, namely becoming a bodhisattva.  We can wish to become a son or daughter of the Buddhas ourselves, and we can also wish for multitudes of sons or daughters of the Buddhas arise from our Kadampa centers around the world.  Wealth here refers to the inner wealth of Dharma realizations.  Outer wealth can be helpful if our motivation for using it is virtuous, but it can be dangerous if our motivation is not.  The inner wealth of Dharma realizations, in contrast, is an unalloyed good.  The more we give it away, the more it reproduces itself.  It makes us content in this life and provides for us in all our future lives.  The inner wealth of Dharma realizations is an inexhaustible fountain of good fortune.

All their wishes will be accomplished.
No more obstacles will arise for them,
And those that have already occurred
Will all be completely destroyed.

This refers to Tara’s ability to also function as a Dharma protector.  Dharma protectors arrange all the outer and inner conditions necessary for our swiftest possible enlightenment.  Normally, Dorje Shugden is the principal protector of the Kadam Dharma, but Tara also accomplishes a similar function.  There are two types of obstacle to our Dharma practice – outer and inner.  Ultimately, though, outer obstacles do not exist.  They arise only due to a lack of imagination or experience for how to transform adversity into the path to enlightenment.  But temporarily, outer obstacles can exist due to current limitations in our wisdom.  Tara can prevent outer obstacles from arising (or minimize the extent to which they do, based on our karmic possibilities).  Our job is to then use the space to practice she creates for us to then gain the inner wisdom necessary to transform any adversity into the path.  If we can succeed in doing that, then no more “obstacles” will arise for us because we will not impute anything as an obstacle.  Everything will push us towards enlightenment.  Existing obstacles are destroyed, either through purifying the karma giving rise to their appearance or through gaining the wisdom that knows how to see them all as causes of our enlightenment.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Finding others’ suffering unbearable doesn’t mean we suffer

(8.103) “There is no need to dispel everyone else’s suffering!”
This is not a valid argument.
If my suffering should be dispelled, so should everyone else’s;
And if others’ suffering should not be dispelled, neither should mine.

It is useful to also recall what we discussed in an earlier post.  If there is suffering in my world, then it is my suffering because it is taking place within my world/my mind.  Since we are not separate from our world, if there is suffering taking place anywhere within our world, it is our suffering.  This is especially true when we understand the emptiness of everything that takes place in our world.  It is all coming from our own mind. 

(8.104) “But such compassion will bring me suffering,
So why should I strive to develop it?”
How can compassion bring suffering?
It is the very nature of a peaceful mind!

We discussed this in an earlier post, but it is worth recalling the reasoning so we have no confusion or hesitation about generating compassion.  Our suffering is painful because we have body consciousness or mental consciousness with respect to these aggregates.  It is unbearable because we cherish our own well-being as important.  The suffering of others is not painful to us because we do not have body or mental consciousness with respect to their aggregates.  If we do not cherish them, then their suffering won’t harm us and we won’t care.  But we will then conventionally be a jerk, and ultimately we will be letting the cancer of suffering metastasize in the body of all living beings (which exists and is created by our own mind).  If we cherish them, then their suffering is not painful, but it is unbearable.  If there is attachment to others not suffering in our mind – in other words, we mistakenly think that our own happiness depends upon others not suffering – then when they suffer, we will suffer too.  We don’t suffer from their suffering, we suffer from the attachment in our mind.  But if our mind is free from attachment to them not suffering, we will find their suffering unbearable, but it won’t be suffering for us.  What will it be?  It will be a powerful energy to do something to help – a selfless mind wishing to help.  Such a mind is full of energy, but virtuous, so our mind will remain peaceful.  If we also then have wisdom knowing what can actually help to permanently free others from suffering, then we will be filled with powerful energy to do that thing.  What is that thing?  Attain enlightenment ourself so we can lead others to the same state.  The strength of our unbearability then drives us with great power to attain enlightenment.  It is what powers our bodhichitta.  Unbearability + wisdom knowing how to help = bodhichitta.  Bodhichitta is the most virtuous mind possible a living being can generate. 

The suffering of others cannot harm us because it is taking place within their body.  We do not suffer from their suffering.  If we cherish them, it is true we will find their suffering unbearable, but this is not a suffering for us.  Finding their suffering unbearable will induce within our mind love and compassion, which are virtuous minds that are the nature of inner peace.  Compassion also leads us to bodhichitta and enlightenment.  Finding their suffering unbearable also induces us to engage in virtuous actions, which is the cause of our future happiness.  Being clear about all of this will remove the residual doubt we have about generating compassion for all living beings and fearing that we will be crushed by all of the suffering we see in the world.   

(8.105) If, through one person experiencing relatively little suffering,
The infinite sufferings of living beings can be eliminated,
A kind-hearted Bodhisattva will gladly endure it
And delight in working for others.

(8.106) Thus, although the Bodhisattva Supushpachandra understood
That he would suffer at the hands of the king,
He did not seek to avoid his own death
But instead released many others from their suffering.

And even if we do need to endure a little bit more suffering as a result of our working for others, what is more important, the suffering of one or the freedom of countless?  The story of Supushpachandra is he knew he would be killed by the king if he went to an area and taught Dharma, but he also knew that he would lead thousands to liberation.  If we view the suffering and happiness of all beings as equally important, regardless of who is experiencing this, then it is perfectly logical to do this.

The story of Jesus also illustrates this perfectly.  He knew if he went to Jerusalem, he would be crucified, but in so doing, he would become a source of inspiration and refuge for billions in the future.  He underwent terrible suffering, but in so doing created a path for countless others.  He did so willingly because he valued the happiness of others as more important than his own.  Soldiers do the same when they go off to war to protect their homeland and firefighters do this when they jump into the blazes to save the family trapped inside.  We can happily be the same, willing to undergo any hardship in order to help others.

But let’s get real – what hardships do we really need to endure to travel the path?  The only things we actually need to abandon are the inner diseases of our delusions, which harm our inner peace anyways.  We travel a joyful path.  Sure, it might be easier in the short-run to abandon living beings when they grow too troublesome or problematic.  We do that, don’t we?  We are happy to be around others when they are happy, but as soon as they have problems, are down, depressed, or troubled, we say, “sorry you are feeling that way,” and we find our way out as quicky as we can.  My mom would call such people “fair weather friends.”  As kind-hearted bodhisattvas, we are the opposite of that.  We actively seek out those who everyone else has abandoned.  We seek to be the friend of the friendless, the one who is there for others in their hour of greatest need.  Does this involve some sacrifice?  Only of our selfish wishes, but as we already looked at before, our self-cherishing is the root of all our suffering.  What is bad for our self-cherishing is good for us. 

Happy Protector Day: Protector of the Bodhisattva’s Path

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 6 of a 12-part series aimed at helping us remember our Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden and increase our faith in him on these special days.

And on his head he wears a round and yellow hat.

This symbolizes his ability to help us gain the correct view of emptiness, the ultimate nature of reality.  We can understand how all things are like a dream, and how if we change our actions, we can change our karma and that will change the dream that appears to our mind.  In this way, we can become the architect of our own destiny, and cause this world of suffering to cease and the pure world of the Buddhas to arise.  If ever we have difficulty understanding emptiness, we can recall his hat and request that he bless our mind to be able to gain a correct understanding of emptiness.  We then imagine we receive his blessings and return to our Dharma book (or the teaching we are receiving) and try again.  If we still do not understand, we once again request blessings and repeat the cycle.  We can continue like this for as long as it takes.  Eventually, through the power of his blessings, we will understand. 

His hands hold a sword and a heart of compassion.

This symbolizes his ability to help us engage in Lamrim meditation, in particular the union of the vast and profound path.  The vast path is all of the Lamrim meditations for developing a good heart, leading up to bodhichitta, the wish to lead all beings to enlightenment.  The profound path refers to the wisdom realizing emptiness, that everything is like a dream.  Just as we did with trying to understand emptiness, when we are having difficulty with our Lamrim practice, we can recall this function of Dorje Shugden, request his blessings, receive his blessings and then try again.  Practicing in this way dramatically increases the power of our Lamrim meditation. 

To his followers he shows an expression of delight, but to demons and obstructors he displays a wrathful manner.

This symbolizes Dorje Shugden’s ability to love and care for us while destroying our delusions.  We need to make a distinction between ourselves and our delusions.  Just as a cancer patient is not his cancer, we are not the cancer of our delusions.  Many people fear Dorje Shugden because they know he can be quite wrathful, but this fear only arises because they identify with their delusions.  So when their delusions are challenged, they feel like they are challenged.  Whenever we have a delusion arise strongly in our mind, we can immediately remember Dorje Shugden and request his blessings to be able to happily accept our difficult circumstances understanding that what is bad for our delusions is good for us. 

He is surrounded by a vast, assembled retinue,

Such as Kache Marpo and so forth.

Dorje Shugden is like the general of a vast army of Dharma protectors, each of whom accomplishes a different function.  These can be understood from the explanation of the nature and function of Dorje Shugden in the book Heart Jewel and the Praise to the five lineages of Dorje Shugden explained in the extensive Dorje Shugden sadhana Melodious Drum Victorious in All Directions.  It is customary for large Dharma Centers around the world to practice Melodious Drum on every Protector Day, or at least once a year.  We can do so on our own at any time, including every Protector Day.

The five lineages of Dorje Shugden refer to the five principal deities of his mandala.  Each one corresponds with one of the five Buddha families, the five completely purified aggregates of a Buddha, and the five omniscient wisdoms.  Each of the principal deities is like a specific protector for each one of the five Buddha families, and through relying upon them we will be led to attain the five purified aggregates and the corresponding five omniscient wisdoms.

The principal deity is Dorje Shugden himself, who is the protector of the Akshobhya family, will guide us to completely purify our aggregate of consciousness and attain the wisdom of the Dharmadhatu.  The wisdom of the Dharmadhatu is an aggregate of consciousness completely purified of all our past contaminated karmic potentialities (also known as the two obstructions) and that knows directly and simultaneously all phenomena as manifestations of bliss and emptiness.  Vairochana Shugden is the protector of the Vairochana family.  Through relying upon him, we will completely purify our aggregate of form and gain mirror-like wisdom, which sees directly all phenomena as manifestation of bliss and emptiness.  Pema Shugden is the protector of the Amitabha family.  Through relying upon her, we will purify completely our aggregate of discrimination and attain the wisdom of individual realization, which is able to discriminate all objects individually as manifestations of bliss and emptiness.  Ratna Shugden is the protector of the Ratnasambhava family.  Through relying upon Ratna Shugden, we will purify completely our aggregate of feeling and attain the wisdom of equality, which experiences all phenomena equally as bliss and emptiness.  Karma Shugden is the protector of the Amoghasiddhi family.  Through relying upon Karma Shugden, we will purify completely our aggregate of compositional factors and attain the wisdom of accomplishing activities, which enables us to use a Buddha’s completely purified and developed mental factors as if they were are own.  For a more in depth understanding of the five aggregates, see How to Understand the Mind.

Dorje Shugden is also surrounded by the nine Great Mothers, the eight fully ordained monks, and the ten wrathful deities.  The nine mothers arrange the secret conditions necessary for our Dharma practice.  They are comprised of Lochanna, Mamaki, Benzharahi, and Tara which arrange the earth, water, fire, and air elements respectively for our practice; and the five offering goddesses who transform all of the various forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects into conditions for our practice.  The eight fully ordained monks arrange the inner conditions necessary for our practice.  They are the eight main bodhisattvas, including Vajrapani, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Maitreya.  They manifest whatever is needed to tame disciples and protect those with commitments like their only child.  The ten wrathful deities arrange all of the outer conditions for our Dharma practice.  They subjugate the malevolent and guard all directions with various guises.  Kache Marpo is like the commander of the Dharma protector special forces who directs all the oath-bound attendents (spirit kings, wealth gods, nagas, celestial spirits, and so forth) who perform a host of actions to help arrange the mundane conditions for our Dharma practice. 

Light rays from my heart

Instantly invite the wisdom beings
From the sphere of nature
And from all the different palaces where they abide.
They become inseparable from the commitment beings.

We visualize a vast array of mundane and supermundane Dharma protectors filling the whole of space, all working tirelessly under the direction of Dorje Shugden to arrange all the outer, inner, and secret conditions for our Dharma practice.  As Heruka, we then imagine that light rays radiate from our heart and invite the wisdom beings – the actual deities of Dorje Shugden’s mandala – to enter into the commitment beings (those we have visualized). We then strongly believe that all of these protector deities are actually in the space in front of us and filling the universe accomplishing their special function.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Viewing all suffering as our own (without it hurting)

(8.97) But why should I protect others
If their suffering does me no harm?
If we cherish only others, we find their suffering hard to bear;
So we definitely need to protect them.

(8.98) It is not a wrong conception to think
That it will be I who experiences the future suffering,
Because it will not be another person who dies
And yet another who is reborn.

Why then do or should we protect others if their suffering does me no harm?  Why?  Why protect ourselves from future suffering, since likewise that presently does me no harm?  If we do not protect others from their suffering because it does not harm us, then likewise we should not protect ourself from future suffering because it does not harm ‘us’ either.  It will be the ‘self’ of the future.  Everything is impermanent.  If we do seek to protect ourselves from future suffering, then likewise we should protect others from their suffering.  There is no difference.

But we do feel the need to protect ourself from future suffering, even though it is a different self.  We are grateful to our past selves that created the karma for us to refind the Dharma in this life and generally speaking enjoy a good life.  If our past self had not been so considerate, we would have a difficult life right now.  Likewise, we go to school to have a good job later, we save our money to have enough during retirement.  These sorts of actions involve us working for somebody in the future who is not us now.  Why do we do that?  Because we see the relationship between ourself now and ourself then.  In exactly the same way, when we let go of the grasping at self and others and come to see all living beings as one body of living beings, when we see the inseparability and dependent relationship between ourself and others, then of course it makes sense to free others from suffering.  The hand removes the thorn from the foot. 

At a deeper level, from the perspective of exchanging self with others according to tantra where we impute our I onto all living beings, in the same way that it makes sense for this present self to protect that different self, the self of the future from their suffering, then so too it makes sense to protect a different self that is others’, the self of others, from their suffering.

(8.99) “Surely, whenever there is suffering,
It should be dispelled by whoever is experiencing it.”
Then, since the suffering of the foot is not the hand’s,
Why should the hand help to alleviate it?

(8.100) We alleviate the suffering of the foot with the hand
Because it is a specific method to relieve this pain.
It is also incorrect to grasp at an independent self and others –
Such grasping should be completely abandoned.

(8.101) Things that we call “continuums” or “collections”,
Such as rosaries or armies, are falsely existent.
Thus, there is no independent possessor of suffering,
For who is there who has control over it?

(8.102) Since there is no independent possessor of suffering,
There is no real difference between my own and others’ suffering.
Thus, we should dispel all suffering simply because it is painful –
Why cling to false distinctions with such certainty?

I love this line of reasoning.  It is so powerful.  We make a difference between overcoming our own suffering and that of others because we make a difference between ourself and others.  As the analogy we discussed in the last post, if each being is a separate part of the same whole, then just as the hand removes the suffering of the foot, we should remove the suffering of somebody else.  If we were paralyzed in our legs and did not feel them, but they nonetheless had gangrene, we would certainly deal with it even though we don’t feel that pain.  Why?  Because it is part of us.

Here Shantideva goes even further. We feel like we are suffering because we falsely grasp at there being an ‘us’ who is suffering.  We think we do not feel the suffering of others because we believe that they are inherently different, they are inherently different to us.  The suffering is that of others who are inherently other. That is what we feel, isn’t it? It is the suffering of others. Other being inherently other. How can it possibly be my suffering? There is no relationship between the two at all.  As Shantideva points out, there is no independent possessor of suffering. 

There is just suffering in the mind inside ‘this body.’  Likewise there is no independent possessor of others’ suffering.  There is just suffering in the mind inside ‘that body.’  Since there is no possessor of suffering anywhere, there is just suffering in the mind, and it is equally that of everybody.  The suffering of anybody is the suffering of everybody.  For this reason, we need to overcome all suffering, simply because it is suffering taking place within our mind.  We should not cling to false distinctions with such certainty.

What about the argument that there is still a difference because the suffering that takes place within my mental continuum is ‘mine’ and that that takes place within the continuum of others is ‘theirs?’  Shantideva answers this too in that there is no continuum either.  Continuum is just what we impute on the series of subject-object pairs.  Other than this, there is no continuum.  When we understand subtle impermanence, the self of this moment is different than the self of the last moment – different, but not separate.  Different, but not independent.  Conventionally the two are completely different.  They are just as different as self and other.  There is no difference between the other of our future mental continuum and others, so if we care for one we should care for the other.

If we find ourselves confused now and have no idea about who actually possesses or experiences suffering, then that is a good thing.  Because before we found that there was no confusion — my suffering is mine and everybody else’s is theirs. And that belief binds us to a life of suffering, keeps us in a world of suffering, doesn’t it?  What perhaps begins with certainty becomes doubt, and then eventually we will get a correct belief, then a valid cognizer, and ultimately a yogic direct perceiver.  It doesn’t matter if we do not have a perfect understanding straightaway.  We have to read these verses over and over and over again, contemplate and meditate on them until they make sense to us. It is worth the effort.

Happy Tsog Day: Transforming Adverse Conditions into the Path (part 1)

In order to remember and mark our tsog days, holy days on the Kadampa calendar, I am sharing my understanding of the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide with tsog.  This is part 32 of a 44-part series.

The third to the seventh points of training the mind

Though the world and its beings, filled with the effects of evil,
Pour down unwanted suffering like rain,
This is a chance to exhaust the effects of negative actions;
Seeing this, I seek your blessings to transform adverse conditions into the path.

Sometimes people do not like the teachings on the sufferings of samsara because they think it is a very pessimistic way of thinking. And we believe that being an optimist is how to be happy. The solution to this dilemma is to be pessimist with respect to expecting samsara to ever deliver happiness, but an optimist with respect to our pure potential to become an enlightened being. Usually we do the opposite. We expect samsara to work and are then frustrated and disappointed when it does not.  We likewise do not believe that we are capable of accomplishing any of the spiritual grounds and paths and therefore, we do not commit ourselves to training in them. We need to reverse this. The truth is samsara is the nature of suffering. Just as it is the nature of fire to burn, so too it is the nature of samsara to always go wrong. It is exceedingly rare that things go right, and when they do it does not last very long and never works out in the way we had hoped.

Why is this not a pessimistic way of thinking? It all comes down to managing our own expectations. We all know the logic of managing others’ expectations. If someone asks us how long it will take to complete a report, we think to ourselves it will probably take one week, but we tell the other person it will take two weeks. Why do we do this? Because if we told them it will take one week, and it takes one week, they will just simply accept it. But if we tell them it will take two weeks, and then we deliver it in one week, they will think we did an outstanding job. In both cases, the job itself was still done in only one week, the difference is what people’s expectations were determined how they experienced what happens. In exactly the same way, if we always expect things to go wrong, and it does, then we just accept it. But if it winds up being better than we expected, then we are pleasantly surprised. Either way, we are happy. Gen-la Losang said we should expect nothing from samsara – absolutely zero. If we do, then we will never be disappointed and will sometimes be pleasantly surprised. Thus, if we wish to be optimistic in terms of effect, in other words being happy with what happens in life, then we need to be pessimistic with respect to what we expect will happen.

There are two types of experience in samsara – pleasant experiences and unpleasant experiences. We can transform pleasant experiences into the path through the tantric teachings, as explained before during the tsog offering. And we can transform unpleasant experiences into the path through the Lojong teachings. In this way, no matter what we experience, it serves as fuel for our spiritual development, and therefore is not a problem.

What are some ways that we can transform adverse conditions into the path? Geshe-la explains in Universal Compassion that we can do so by means of method and by means of wisdom. By means of method means we use the adverse circumstance to increase our renunciation or bodhicitta. When something bad happens to us, we can view it as a reminder that if we wish to escape from suffering permanently, we must escape from samsara. When something bad happens to others, we can view it as a reminder that we must become a Buddha so that we can free all other living beings from samsara. Further, patiently accepting when bad things happen functions to purify the negative karma that is ripening. In this way we can gradually exhaust the effects of our negative actions. If we also refrain from engaging in new negative actions, it is just a question of time for our karma changes. To transform adverse conditions by means of wisdom means to recall that our self, the suffering, and whatever gave rise to suffering, are all equally empty of inherent existence. They are all mere karmic appearances to mind. Instead of grasping at some things as being good and other things as being bad, we can experience all things equally as the dance of bliss and emptiness.

Father’s Day for a Kadampa

As Kadampas, we often talk about the kindness of our mothers; but I think on Father’s Day it is equally important that we reflect on fathers.  Just as all living beings have been our mother, so too all living beings have been our father.  It is equally valid to view all living beings as our kind fathers.  Fathers, especially modern ones, often help us in many of the same ways as described in the meditations on the kindness of our mothers.  They could have insisted our mother had an abortion, but instead they chose to keep us.  They provided us with a roof over our head, food on our plate and clothes on our body.  They changed our diapers, taught us to walk, run and so forth.  As we grow older, fathers give us our sense of values, teach us about a solid work ethic, encourage us to push ourselves and reach for the stars.  By expecting so much of us, we rise to the occasion.  We each have different relationships with our fathers, so we should take the time to reflect on all of the different ways our father has helped us and generate a genuine feeling of gratitude.

Most of the time we take what our parents, especially our father, does for granted.  In fact, usually we feel no matter how much our father does for us, it is never enough.  We always expect more and then become upset that they didn’t provide it.  We feel it is our parent’s job to do everything for us, and when they don’t we become angry with them.  Actually, our parent’s job is to teach us how to do things for ourselves – and that necessarily means many instances of “helping us most by not helping us.”  Not helping us is sometimes the best way our parents can help us because it forces us to develop our own abilities and experience with life.  So instead of being angry at our fathers for what they didn’t do for us, we should be grateful for what they did do.  We should especially be grateful for what they didn’t do, because this is what helped us become independent, functioning adults.  We should look deep into our mind, identify the delusions and resentments we have towards our father, and make a concerted effort to remove them.  There is no greater Father’s Day gift we can provide than healing our mind of all delusions towards him.

There is no denying it, our fathers appear to have a great number of delusions.  Whether they actually have these delusions or are just Buddhas putting on a good show for us, there is no way to tell.  But the point is the same:  they conventionally appear to have delusions, and they tend to pass those delusions on to us.  Part of our job as a child is to identify the delusions of our father, then find those same delusions within ourselves, and then root them out fully and completely.  That way we don’t pass on these delusions down to future generations.  We should also encourage our own kids to identify our delusions and to remove them from their own mind.  We have trouble seeing our own delusions, but fortunately our kids can see them quite clearly!  In Confucian societies, they place a lot of emphasis on their relationship with their ancestors.  We need to recall the good qualities and values of our ancestors and pass those along; but we also need to identify their delusions and put an end to their lineage.  Doing this is actually an act of kindness towards our father because we limit the negative karma they accumulate (remember, the power of karma increases over time, largely due to these karmic aftershocks) by preventing the ripple effects of their negativity from going any further.

But I believe for a Kadampa, Father’s Day is about so much more than just remembering the kindness of our physical father.  I believe it is even more important to recall the kindness of our spiritual father, our Spiritual Guide.  My regular father gave birth to me as a person, but it is my spiritual father who gave birth to the person I want to become.  All the meaning I have in my life comes through the kindness of my spiritual father.  He has provided me with perfectly reliable teachings, empowerments into Highest Yoga Tantra practices, constant blessings, a worldwide spiritual family, and Dharma centers where I can learn and accumulate vast merit.  He believes in me and helps me believe in my own spiritual potential.  He has given me the wisdom to navigate through some of the hardest moments of my life, and he has promised to be with me, helping me, until the end of time.  There is no one kinder than my spiritual father.  I owe him everything.  Like my regular father, I have taken his kindness for granted.  I fail to appreciate what he has provided, and I have been negligent when it comes to praying for his long life – something I know I will regret deeply when it is already too late.

My spiritual father also emanates himself in the form of Lama Tsongkhapa, who reveals the paths of Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  Lama Tsongkhapa resides at my heart and guides me through every day.  If only I can learn to surrender myself completely to him, he promises to work through me to ripen and liberate all those I love.  My spiritual father also emanates himself in the form of my Dharma protector, Dorje Shugden.  Dorje Shugden is my best friend.  Ever since the first day I started relying upon him, the conditions for my practice – both outer and inner – have gotten better and better.  This does not mean he has made my life comfortable, far from it!  He has pushed me to my limits, and sometimes beyond, but always in such a way that I am spiritually better off for having gone through the challenge.  Dorje Shugden’s wisdom blessings help me overcome my attachment, my anger and my ignorance.  I quite literally resolve 95% of my delusions simply by requesting Dorje Shugden arrange whatever is best for my spiritual development, and then trusting that he is doing so.  Geshe-la is my father.  Je Tsongkhapa is my father.  Dorje Shugden is my father.  My spiritual father also provides for me my Yidam.  A Yidam is the deity we try become ourselves, in my case Guru Father Heruka.  He provides me the ideal I strive to become like.

Father’s Day for me is also more than remembering the kindness of my spiritual father, but it is also appreciating the opportunity I have to be a father myself.  I have always been way too intellectual and have found it difficult to have heart-felt feelings.  Before I got married, I went to the Protector Gompa at Manjushri and asked for a sign whether I should get married or not.  I then had a very clear vision of a Buddha approach me and hand me a baby saying, “this is where you will find your heart.”  Being a father has taught me what it means to love another person, to be willing to do anything to help another person.  I use the love I feel for my children as my example of how I should feel towards everyone else.  Father’s Day is a celebration of that and an appreciation of the opportunity to be a father.  More often than not, fathers mistakenly believe Father’s Day is about their children showing (for once!) some appreciation for all that a father does, then when the gratitude doesn’t come they feel let down.  I think a Kadampa father should have exactly the opposite outlook.  Father’s Day is not about receiving gratitude, it is the day where we should try live up fully to be the father we want to become.  It is about us giving love, not receiving gratitude.

Many people are not yet fathers, or maybe they never will be in this life.  But just as everyone has been our father, so too we have been a father to everyone.  We can correctly view each and every living being as our child, and we should love them as a good father would.  The beating heart of bodhichitta is the mind of superior intention, which takes personal responsibility for the welfare of others.  That is what being a father is all about.  We need to adopt the mind that views all beings as our children, and assume personal responsibility for their welfare, both in this life and in all their future lives.  The father we seek to become like is our spiritual father.  What is a Buddha if not a father of all?  This, to me, is the real meaning of Father’s Day.

A Pure Life: Do not Steal

This is part six of a 12-part series on how to skillfully train in the Eight Mahayana Precepts.  The 15th of every month is Precepts Day, when Kadampa practitioners around the world typically take and observe the Precepts.

The object of stealing is anything that someone else regards as their own.  This includes other living beings.  If we take something that no one claims to possess, the action of stealing is not complete.  Like with killing, the intention must include a correct identification of the object of stealing, a determination to steal, and our mind must be influenced by delusion, usually desirous attachment, but sometimes out of hatred of wishing to harm our enemy.  It can also sometimes be out of ignorance thinking such stealing is justified such as not paying taxes or fines, or stealing from our employer, downloading pirated music or videos, etc.  Stealing also requires preparation.  It may be done secretly or openly, using methods such as bribery, blackmail, or emotional manipulation.  Finally, it must also include completion.  The action is complete when we think to ourself ‘this object is now mine.’

In modern life we have countless opportunities to steal and we often take advantage of most of them.  Common examples include not giving money back when we have been given too much change at the store, accidentally walking out with some good we didn’t purchase and not making an effort to go back and pay for it, stealing work supplies from work for our personal use, stealing our employers time by doing personal things on company time beyond what is conventionally acceptable in your work place (most work environments allow you a limited amount of personal administrative time.  The point is do not go beyond what is intended by your employer).  Another very common form of stealing is lying on our taxes so that we pay less arguing our government is wasteful.  We come up with all sorts of justifications for why this is OK, but it is still stealing. 

Stealing can also include saying certain clever things to cause something to come to us when it would otherwise normally go to somebody else.  One of the most common forms of stealing these days is downloading pirated music or videos, or copying and using software we didn’t pay for.  Again, our rationalizations for such behavior know no limits, but it is still stealing.  The test for whether we are stealing or not is very simple:  if we asked the other person would they say its legitimately ours?  If not, it was stealing.

Stealing is incredibly short-sighted.  Anybody who feels tempted to steal should take a few hours driving through a really poor neighborhood or they should go visit a very poor country or watch a documentary on global poverty.  You can find plenty of material just on YouTube.  When we see these things, we should remind ourselves that this is our future if we steal.  When we steal, we create the causes to have nothing in the future.  Giving is the cause of wealth, taking is the cause of poverty.  It is as simple as that.  Why are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet so rich?  Because they have the mental habits on their mind to give away everything.  Because they did this in the past, they became incredibly rich in this life.  Because they are again giving away all of their wealth, in future lives they will again be incredibly rich.  Just as they are external philanthropists, a Bodhisattva is an inner philanthropist.  We seek vast inner wealth so that we can have even more to give away.

There are also many subtle forms of stealing that occur due to the way we have structured our economy. As many of you know I am in economist by training. I very much believe in free markets as the least bad way of organizing an economy. However, the optimal effects of the market only occur when there is what is called perfect competition. When there is perfect competition, excess profits are competed away and both consumers and producers are as good off as they could possibly be on the aggregate. But when markets are not perfectly competitive, markets do not produce optimal results. For example, if a company has a monopoly on the sale of a certain good that everybody needs, it can charge extraordinarily high prices and people will be forced to pay. The company intentionally restricts production to drive the prices higher than would otherwise exist in a perfectly competitive market. As a result, they extract a surplus in profit not due to the quality of their product, but rather by virtue of their market power. Extracting this surplus profit is a form of stealing from the consumers and also from society as a whole because not as much of the good is produced as would otherwise be the case.  It is beyond the scope of this blog to outline them, but there are many examples of market power being used for selfish purposes. 

At a personal level, the point is we need to be aware of the situations in which we have some form of market power over others and to not take advantage of our more powerful position to extract greater profits then we are justifiably due. If we fail to do this, it is a form of stealing. Likewise, if we live in a society in which corporations have disproportionate power and enjoy political protection for their monopolistic behavior, if we vote for or lend political support for such policy knowing that it is a form of stealing, then we are also engaged in a subtle form of stealing. The point is this, we live in a society and we have a say in how that society is run. If we use our political power for selfish purposes or to support those who do so, then are these not karmic actions that have karmic effects? This is not mixing Dharma with politics; this is understanding that the actions we engage in have effects on those around us and we must take that into account when choosing our actions.  I would not say that all of this is a violation of our Mahayana precept to abandon stealing, but it is once again a directional question. Are our actions moving in the direction of stealing or are they moving in the direction of not stealing. That is the question.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Why compassion doesn’t hurt

Shantideva goes on to say:

(8.92) The suffering I experience
Does not harm others,
But I find it hard to bear
Because I cherish myself.

(8.93) Likewise, the suffering of others
Does not harm me,
But, if I cherish others,
I shall find their suffering hard to bear.

This is a very clever line of reasoning.  To understand it, we need to make a clear distinction between “being harmed” and “finding something unbearable.”  Sometimes people think compassion means we are equally harmed by the suffering of others, and to find their suffering unbearable means we find it equally painful.  If this was the case, who would ever want to generate compassion since it would be a cause of infinite suffering.  Surely it would be better to remain in different to the suffering of others than to experience all suffering.  Therefore, making this distinction is crucial.

From a conventional point of view, if I break my arm, it harms me and not others.  If find this harm both painful and unbearable.  It is painful because it was my arm that was broken.  It is unbearable because I cherish my own happiness and well-being as being important.  It is perfectly possible for me to find this experience painful (since it is my arm that was broken), but perfectly bearable because I don’t consider my well-being to be particularly important. 

Now imagine somebody else breaks their arm.  From a conventionally point of view, this does not harm me, but it does harm others.  It is harmful to them because it is painful to them.  Their pain is not my pain.  Their pain does not harm me.  Everyone knows this.  If I do not care about their well-being, then their pain will also be perfectly bearable for me.  It is not my problem.  For them, however, this experience is definitely painful because it is their arm that is broken.  It may or may not be bearable for them depending on whether they cherish themselves or not.  If I do care about their well-being, and I consider it to be important, then their pain will not be harmful to me, but it will be unbearable. 

Pain, or harm, is a function of whether we are imputing our I onto an aggregate of feeling of something that is harmed.  Bearability is function of whether we consider the happiness and well-being of that person to be important. 

But unbearability does not necessarily mean we suffer from it.  Whether we suffer from the unbearability of other’s suffering depends upon whether we have attachment to others well being or whether we are free from such attachment.  To be attached to others’ well-being means we think our own happiness depends upon them not suffering.  That’s what attachment to anything means – we think our happiness depends upon some external factor.  If we have attachment to this person not suffering, their breaking their arm will be both unbearable to us AND it will be experienced by us as suffering.

Therefore, for compassion – finding others suffering to be unbearable – to NOT be suffering for us, our mind must be free from attachment to other people suffering.  If we have attachment, we will suffer from their suffering.  If our mind is free from such attachment, we will still find their suffering unbearable (because we consider their happiness and well being to be important), but we won’t experience that unbearability as suffering.  How will we experience it, then?  To be unbearable means we can’t just sit there and do nothing about it.  We feel compelled to do something because it is unbearable. 

This is where our wisdom comes in.  What do we feel compelled to do?  If we lack wisdom, we might get mad at the other person for whatever it is they did to break their arm, hoping that our anger will deter them from making similar mistakes again in the future.  Maybe that will help, but most likely not.  But what will help?  Us becoming a Buddha.  If we become a Buddha, then we can gradually help others change the basis of imputation of their I onto an enlightened being whose arms never break.  We see the only lasting solution to their suffering is for them to attain liberation and enlightenment themselves.  How can we bring that about?  By we ourselves first attaining enlightenment for their benefit – we attain enlightenment with the express purpose of being able to in the future lead these people to freedom.  The strong feeling of unbearability, that is free from attachment to them not suffering, and that possesses the wisdom that actually knows what is beneficial to others is the pure mind of compassion that is the substantial cause of a qualified bodhichitta.  This unbearability will push us to become a Buddha.  If we have attachment or we lack wisdom knowing what can actually help, this unbearability could lead to ourself suffering at best and us feeling the need to control others at worst. 

The key here is understanding we don’t have to be harmed by suffering to find suffering unbearable. We are harmed by suffering, we find suffering then unbearable, but we do not have to be harmed by suffering in order to find suffering unbearable.  If we have wisdom and are free from attachment to others not suffering, finding the suffering of others unbearable naturally leads to love, compassion and virtuous actions, which creates the causes for our future happiness. 

But what do we do about our own suffering?  We may still be harmed because we are in samsara, but if we do not cherish ourself at all, then we will find the suffering we experience to be entirely bearable.  It will not be important, just as the suffering of others is unimportant to us now.  Indeed, when we let go of thinking that our own experience is important, we find whatever pain we are experiencing to be eminently more bearable, and this creates the space within our mind to actually be able to transform our suffering into something useful for the spiritual path.  Then, not only will it be bearable, we will start to understand Shantideva when he says “suffering has many good qualities.”  For us, it will still be painful, but so beneficial.  Then, others suffering will not be our problem.  Our suffering won’t be our problem.  Others’ suffering will be a cause of our enlightenment.  Our suffering will be a cause of our enlightenment.  Perfect!

But if we cherish only others, won’t we suffer from the suffering of everybody?  No, because we do not experience their suffering.  So by cherishing others, we do not experience their suffering, but we find it unbearable and so we are lead into spiriutal paths.  And by not cherishing ourselves, we find our own suffering entirely bearable, so it is not a problem for us at all.  In short, we put our cherishing where it can’t be harmed – others.  Shantideva’s wisdom is unparalleled.