From a teaching given by Lama Shenpen Rinpoche in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2001
We will try to go a little bit more deep into the subject of the Awakening Mind
and we will try to see at the same time how it is possible to bring such a concept into the daily life. Bodhicitta is not something that we can say as point one, point two, point three, but more as something that we experience. First I will give you the explanation about the topics and after that you will ask the different questions that you might have.
The core of the Buddhist practise is on what we can do for the benefit of the others. In the mind, in the practice of Mahayana
practitioner there is no single moment which is without thinking how to organise the time, how to organise the practice, in order to benefit at the most. Bodhichitta
is the sanskrit word for the awakening mind and the awakening mind is not what we usually define as a Compassion
in our societies. It has nothing to do with the kind of emotion and most of the time in the West, or in our Western cultures, compassion is defined as something rather close to pity or compassion is often applied for a group of persons and for a limited amount of time. But in this case the awakening mind is the way to enter in contact with ALL sentient beings
and when we say all sentient beings, it includes all beings like animals and beings that we cannot see. It does integrate all sentient beings with the concept of Equanimity
which means, that we don't have compassion for some people and consider some others as less valuable. The awakening mind is concerned about the welfare and happiness of all the sentient beings in a very equal type of mind.
It does not consider some beings as friends and others as enemies and it does not promote any idea of jealousy towards some beings and preferences towards some others.
We talk usually about two main kinds of Bodhicitta: the Conventional Bodhicitta and the Ultimate Bodhicitta.
The Conventional Bodhicitta is the awakening mind realizing Emptiness
and the Ultimate Bodhicitta is the Bodhicitta having realized emptiness.
Emptiness is the non-dualistic wisdom, the type of wisdom, which directly perceives phenomena as they are, and not just as we project them to be. I think it is quite evident and clear for all of us that our perception of our environment is very much subjective. But most of the time we don't realize how much subjective it could be, so the all work done by meditating and working on the concept of emptiness is in order to reach a clearer perception of the reality, to have a much better understanding of all the different phenomena that surround us. And when we talk about phenomena we can precise once more that it includes as well objects, events, and beings.
The way we perceive those phenomena is the origin of happiness and unhappiness. In front of two similar types of event, someone will take it with a positive mind and then will be rather happy about it and someone else will take it with a negative type of mind and then will experience Suffering
One way to develop a positive type of mind is rather to look at the others than to look at ourselves. As we can see most of the time when we are looking at our little being and all the little things around and how everything is in order and all is how we want it to be, we find a huge amount of worries. And all those worries at one point or another end up in some suffering and some stress. At the opposite, if we start to really be concerned about the welfare of the others, we don't find worries; instead of that we find "motivation". We find the deep wish to learn various topics, to learn how to control our mind in order to be more helpful. And doing so, we will understand one important point, that where we are, we are rather limited in our capacities. Because of this, we have to engage into a path that will develop our capacities, which will develop our wisdom and understanding of how and what to do, to help each Sentient being.
When we understand how much all sentient beings are themselves into troubles, worries and into suffering, than we have this deep understanding that we have to do something. And we start to do something, we start to help as we can with our possibilities and at the same time we go further on the spiritual path in order to get more and more capacities to be able to help more and more. This is somehow the cycle of happiness, because we find a source of motivation which brings us to learn more, to develop ourselves, so we can help the others; and helping the others as much as we can, brings a kind of satisfaction that will bring us further and so on.
Opposite to that type of cycle is the cycle of suffering. We look at ourselves, at our own welfare which brings us to engage into negative actions which give bad results, and we feel worse, and then we think only about ourselves. At one point of our understanding we have a kind of choice to make; and as far as I can understand, if you are here today it is already that you have this kind of understanding of the situation and somehow the wish to make a decision or to confirm a decision. At one point we have to pass, to jump from the wish to do, to the fact to do.
There is a kind of practice that we can follow and that we can go deeper, called the six paramitas
, which are about six particular qualities that one can develop in order to help more the others.
The first main quality is the quality of generosity
and it is a strong motivation, a strong will to find all possible ways to help and to share. There are various things that we can share, like material things and also the spirituality, the Dharma
. We can give protection to the ones that are in fear and we can also give all kind of different small help to those who are in need. It is a state of mind that we have to emphasis on. Instead of looking what we can gain from the others it suddenly turns to what we can give to others. It is easy to see how in the daily life many people are concerned only about themselves and that those people are the one who are more in conflict with the others. And on the other hand is possible to see that people who are most generous are the people with whom we have good relationship and who tend to have a good or better attitude in general.
The second of qualities is ethics or morality. Usually when we talk about morality there is a kind of fear about it. There is a sense that suddenly we will not be able to do as much things as before, that somehow we will be limited in our pleasures. In the same way, it is easy to see that most of the problem that we meet, as individual and that the world is meeting, is due to a lack of ethic, lack of moral values. The point is not to judge what the people are doing, not to judge you, not to make moral lessons, as Buddhist teachings are not about to judge the others but just to give a small hint, so that people start to look from the inside. That is why Buddhism is the only religion in the world that never droped any blood for spreading its philosophy.
When we talk about this Perfection
of morality it has to do with watching our daily life, watching how we usually interact with the others and to ask ourselves if we are acting in the most kind way we could. Are we acting, are we reacting for the benefits of the others? Or are we just acting in order to harm them? In a way moral, values should be at first "human based value". How to behave, how to act and interact with others with the less harm, ...
Do not look at this Paramita of morality and ethics as something that could close your activities, but at the opposite as something that could open your mind. It opens your mind in two ways: first it opens it toward the others and it opens it because it makes you more aware of what is going on in your own mind. Morality could include also the reflection on how we usually behave toward outside objects and phenomena. As we are very often Self
centered we tend to behave with external objects in a very possessive way. We want to possess food, we want to possess the best car, the best and more beautiful things, and even we would like to possess beings. In that way, if we try to possess things outside, we will generate for ourselves a lot of unhappiness and unsatisfaction; and in the same way we are creating some troubles for the others. When we want to get very much something, that is difficult to get, and also other people are trying to get, then we are ready to fight for it. There are even stories of the people who would like so much to possess one person that if they can not get that person they prefer to kill her than to let it for the others!! So morality is how to bring our mind in more stable and happy way to function.
The third paramita, the third quality that is good to develop, is patience. Already the word should immediately remember some very close examples in which we haven't been patient.
It is clear that one of the worse type of mind that exist in term of relationship, and in term of Karma
, is anger. Anger does not only destroy a huge amount of positive karma that we have created, but also endanger our relationship with others. And if we look carefully how this anger arise, we find a type of impatience. We want something and we want it now and exactly the way we like it and if we do not get it than we get very unsatisfied; and from this unsatisfaction, anger will come. We can find, almost from morning to night, various small examples. Even if they don't lead to a violent type of anger, they lead to strong unsatisfaction.
Patience is the type of happy and flexible mind. Flexible because if we can not get something done in one way it does not matter, maybe we can get it in another way, or we can get something else. But we don't get stuck just with something that we want in one way.
I like to take usually the example of the car driving, because then, all the people in this room who have a car or who has ever drive a car might understand what impatience is. And even if you didn't drive by yourself, you might have seen other people driving. There is a kind of saying which says: tell me how you drive and I will tell you who you are. And we can see, now that you have this example of driving, I mean with impatience. And you can see easily how this impatience and unsatisfaction just arise from only some projection. There is nothing true, nothing real. Sometimes we get upset because somebody doesn't go quick enough, five minutes after we get upset because somebody is going too quick.
I like as well to take the example of the parking place, as it implies not just the simple type of frustration but also it shows how we grasp the things. After half of an hour that you've been searching for a place, you arrive in front of a free place, you just put the light and... somebody has come quicker than you and took the place! What is our primary reaction? "He stole my place!" Where is the truth in the possession? Was it our place more than his place? Never the less, because of that we will generate a huge amount of negative thoughts:.to come back and park behind him and block his car, to write "stealer" on his car, or any kind of thoughts. And if you have ever drive, and if somebody stole 'your' place, you might understand what I mean. I have a car!
So we can see clearly that out of the incapacity of the mind to remain quiet and to remain objective it is a source of a lot of unhappiness and negative thoughts. We could as well take the example of when we are waiting for the bus and the bus is two minutes late; what are two minutes?! But within those two minutes we get a lot of unsatisfaction.
Practice of patience is to reflect on all those small examples and to take the decision to be next time quitter in front of them. It's clear that it is not from the first time we decide to be patience that we will be an angel. But it will bring us to a type of awareness, that type of awareness which will warn you the next time that there is anger which poped up in your mind. If you are usually an angry person and you get upset for ten minutes, then the next time, because of the strength of your motivation, the strength of your decision to be quieter, you will realize that you are angry after nine minutes and fifty seconds. It's already ten seconds less, and so on. Every time if you become aware a little bit earlier, you will have less and less anger.
And by that way we will come down in the time of the anger till finding a mental factor which is before anger and which is called "irritation". Usually anger does not appear just like this, it pass through this first mental factor of irritation, even if this irritation might be very short. If you can become aware of this irritation and if you are able to calm the mind at this moment of irritation, than anger will not arise. Because often people say that once the anger has arise than it is good to express it and that if you don't do so, it's a kind of suppressing of the anger. But in this case if you can analyze the irritation, if you can ask yourself the right questions, and if it is good to let this irritation to grow, the anger will not develop and if anger doesn't develop, we have nothing to suppress.
And this could be applied to many other mental factors; and this type of work -and specially about anger and irritation- is done by analytical meditation, which is started because of that type of awareness which makes you aware that our mind is on the edge to be disturbed. Through one small event to another small event, we train our mind to be more aware of what is going on.
Some people might also appoint the fact that such awareness is not natural and does not let the mind to express naturally. So we might ask ourselves what means to act naturally. Is it to let the mind go as wild as the mind of the animal or is it to try to make it go in a direction we would like it to go? I have my own answer. Daily, time after time we look at different moments, at different situation and we try to recognize which situation will make our mind to go out of itself.
The next of paramitas is the joyous effort. Some text might translate it as just effort, or enthusiasm but I will explain, why I like it to be joyous effort. When we decide to start to practice, when we decide to change our usual type of thoughts, we have to face a strong opposition from our mind, because our mind is used since years and years and life and life to go wild and suddenly we ask it to be more controlled, and to go in direction that we would like it to go.
We face often a kind of laziness, and that type of laziness can take various forms, even the forms we don't recognize as being laziness. One of the themes is to do not believe that we are capable to do something. You hear about the six Paramitas and you tell yourself this is far to advanced, I can not do that and you might not even ask yourself if it is laziness or not, you just believe it is true that you can not do it. But on another side it is clearly said that we all have the capacity to reach Enlightenment
, that we all have within ourselves all the capacities. So you might have those capacities and how to reach the realization of those paramitas. So, it is laziness.
And some of the times there is another type of laziness which appears when you tell yourself: "I will do that latter". You come back home after the work or after the study and instead of starting meditating or starting a little bit of Dharma spiritual study, then you tell yourself "I will do that latter", telling yourself that tonight you are a little bit too tired for that. Usually we are not to tiered to watch the TV or to go for shopping. Of that type of awareness I was talking previously, so we will than catch the moment our mind says: "I am too tired to do that"; and we will ask ourselves what else then I will do? What is more important to do? Is it a spiritual practice that will make my mind to be better and that way I will help others in a better way, or shall I just spend time in useless things?? And if we are honest enough we will of course understand that spiritual practice will be much more helpful, hopefully! But we still have a kind of tiredness. Than it is good to reflect, to meditate on positive results we can get of such a practice.
We will think about all those beings as His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all the other holy Masters, all they can do to help the others and if they can do so it is because they have done some practice and they have tried and work on their mind. We will think about all the different ways we could develop, we could learn, to help the others in a more appropriate way. And following such a reflection, following such an approach, there is a kind of joyous motivation that develops and something like a happy will to do something as those holy Masters in order to be able ourselves to help the others. And this kind of happy motivation, happy feelings will help us to put some effort into the practice. This is why I call it the joyous effort.
So every time we tend to feel a little bit dull, a little bit floppy and our mind look like much more a marshmallow, then every time you will see that your mind tend to have this kind of weak attitude, you will start to meditate on good qualities you could get out of the practice, all those qualities you will never get if you do not do the practice.
Another point to reflect on, is that everything is impermanent. Everything that born, die and if we always put the practice latter and latter, maybe we can loose opportunity to practice. So now, today, we are alive and we have all the good qualities to practice, but what will be tomorrow? You can easily fall down the stairs and not be able to do the practice - what I hope to nobody - but we have to keep that in mind, because we tend to think: "well, I will live till I will be one hundred years old", but if you understand that it's not the case and that death could catch you at any moment, then you understand that not only it is important to start the practice to get those good qualities, but you have to start it now! That is also a good way to fight against laziness.
The next of the paramitas is concentration. If we try to concentrate, to watch our mind for one minute, it will be difficult to know about how many things we have thought about. And this is a big problem not only in the spiritual practice, in Dharma practice, but in our everyday life.
If you are working on a project and you start to concentrate on your project, you try to solve the various problems that you will meet in that project, but than your mind will think about the taxes that you have to pay, about the shopping that you have to do for the next meal... and then you come back to the concentration on your project... and then you will remember that you forgot to buy some petrol for your car, and you have an important meeting to do; so at the end you will be sitting in front of your project for one hour, but you might spent just, really, few minutes for the project. And because you could not have focused long enough on the different problems, then you could not have found the answers for them.
If you are in the kitchen, trying to make a cake, you have the recipe in your head so you start to do your cake thinking about the first part of recipe, but then you will start to think about the different things that you haven't finished yet to do, you will think about your holidays, about the boss at the job which is not nice with you, etc. and at the end instead of making sweet cake you will mix salt in it. And I could take a lot of examples like this, but the point of the fact is, if we do not concentrate on what we are doing it is difficult to achieve what want to do.
And if it is difficult to concentrate in the case for a cake, try to imagine what it is about when you want to mediate on emptiness! In order to achieve a specific type of meditation on subtle subjects, we have to get this "one point focused mind". Otherwise the spiritual cake will be completely uneatable.
The concentration is possible with two helps. The awareness, I was talking about a little earlier and another factor that we call memory. We start to focus on one point and often our mind just slips away. First we have to realize that our mind is gone, and secondly we have to remember what we have been thinking about. Because if you went aside too far then you might wonder: "I was thinking about what?"
So those two factors have to be present when we start to concentrate. They are called somehow co-factors.They are not disturbing the concentration, they are somehow stepping aside, just watching. As soon as the mind will have gone somewhere else then the awareness will tell us: 'you have gone somewhere else'. We will then take back the mind wherever it went and will bring it back on our object of meditation. This is why advanced meditator has a very long arms, to get the mind back. This is a joke, of course.
This process of getting the mind back from far on what we are trying to meditate has to be done without tension. Many times, when we are at the beginning of meditation, we start to visualize the Buddha
and our mind goes away, very often; and we realize it, and somehow we get upset against ourselves because our mind went away. So we generate this kind of frustration and tension that we haven't succeed in what we wanted to do and we lose even more concentration. So when I say without tension it means, that when we realize our mind went away, without any tension, without any stress, we just remember we were thinking about the Buddha's face for example and we bring our mind back. This is in the case of a gross agitation. The gross agitation is when our mind completely goes away from its object.
The subtle agitation occurs when you keep your object of meditation, but it becomes blur. It becomes unclear, because there is like a parasite thought that come. Like you are concentrating, you are outside, outdoor and you are concentrating on a flower and there is a butterfly passing by. You don't focus anymore on the flower, but for a few seconds you focus on the butterfly. Gross agitation would be that you stand up and follow the butterfly. But in this case, because you are a little bit more concentrated, you don't go away, but you don't see very clearly the flower and still you are not focused enough. So to go against the subtle agitation you have to remain as focused as possible on your object and even if in the corner of your mind you see a thought passing by like a butterfly, then you just let it pass and go away, because more you will give strength to that thought and more you will be distracted.
We could talk about two kinds of concentration: the mundane concentration and the supramundane concentration. The mundane concentration is when you focus on something which is not the Dharma. When you concentrate very well on your recipe or on a project or on any work you are doing.The supramundane concentration is when you take as object of concentration a Dharma subject, like Emptiness.
The last of six paramitas is wisdom. We can divide it as well in two types of wisdom, the conventional wisdom and ultimate wisdom.
The conventional wisdom is the type of wisdom one is able to develop for conventional topics. We could take medicine as a conventional possible topic, art, music and so on. Those are different topics in which we can generate a specific ability to perceive clearly the subject. Unfortunately this wisdom is not taught in the medical university, which doesn't allow all the doctors to develop that specific wisdom!
And there is the ultimate wisdom, which is a specific wisdom applied to emptiness, which means that we take as main subject of our concentration: emptiness. When we concentrate long enough on the subject of emptiness then we might realize the' wisdom of emptiness'.
So those are six qualities, six important factors that we have to go through, that we have to develop, in order to be able to help more and more sentient beings. Those qualities are indispensable, if we want to have the best approach to a spiritual life.
So, if we are motivated for what we can do for the others, if we are motivated on how to help the others in the best way, than one must start by learning the six paramitas and should look how to apply them in the daily life. And we have seen various examples that we can improve in our daily life.
Of course is not the process which can take place immediately, I like the comparison again with the driver, but in this case with new drivers. When we first get the driving license, then our driving is very chaotic and it is only by the practice of driving and driving and driving again, that we can reach much fluid way to drive, till to finish with the elbow by the window and keeping the driving wheel with two fingers. But the danger in that somehow is to believe, that once we have a driving license we know how to drive and the second danger is because we do not drive well at this time to think, that we will never drive well. So we have to avoid this two extremes. At the point you engage in the practice, it would be dangerous to believe that you are already a perfect practitioner. So you have to remain aware that you have to learn, that you have to practice and you have to remain open minded for possible advices for the practice.
And the opposite is to believe that there are so many things to do or it seems there are so many things to do, that we are unable to do them. To apply the spiritual way, we have to keep in mind, that our motivation is the ground.
The point is not to know by heart fifty pages of Tibetan practice and to know how to move the Bell
and the different objects, but to know exactly why we want to engage into the practice. Of course you can learn the fifty pages of Tibetan text and learn how to move the bell and everything, but you have to keep in mind your motivation.
You have to keep in mind that, for the time being you might not be able to achieve as much as you want, you can not engage in as much practice as you would like and you can not help as to as much beings as you would like, but you have to keep in mind the wish to do it, so you have to keep in mind that even now I can not help much beings, because I don't know much, because my life is so, that I can not help as much as I would like, but if I continue the path I will be able to do it. If it is not now it will be a little more latter.
All process that arises in your mind when you decide that you would like to help the others, is extremely important and even if no action can take place for the direct benefit of the others, if you just wish to help, it creates already a huge amount of merits
. If you see somebody who needs the help and you can not help immediately you can generate the wish that you would like to do it, that if you would know how to do it, if you had the material things that person might need, than you would love to do it. And you should as well rejoice to see somebody else doing it. You can not do it, but if you see somebody else coming and helping that person, you should be extremely happy that somebody else has done it.
It all lies on how much one is ready to engage for the benefit of the others. How far one is willing to put aside his own personal desire, his own personal projection for the sake of the others. Some people want to engage into the welfare of the others at 10% or 50% or 100%. It is basically up to us to decide how much we are able to engage into the practice.
We often give ourselves wonderful excuses to do not engage as much as we would like, and I hope I will not shock anyone saying that I really don't believe in those excuses. Of course I understand that it is not always possible immediately to do what we would like and it might take some time to rearrange this, to rearrange that, specially if we have children, young for example, so we can not do all what we would like to do, but at least we have to have this impulse to do it.
Thank you for your patience.