From the holy speech of the great bodhisattva Shantideva:
[1: 26] How can I fathom the depths
Of the goodness of this jewel of the mind,
The panacea that relieves the world of pain
And is the source of all its joy?
“All the merit of the jewel thought, which is the cause of all the living beings’ happiness and which is the medicine of sentient beings’ suffering—how is it possible to make limitation?”
The meaning of this quotation is that the benefits of the jewel thought, bodhicitta, are limitless. It is the cause of the happiness of all sentient beings; it is the object of refuge or offering for the enlightened beings, the holy beings, and it is also the medicine for all the sentient beings’ suffering. It removes all the sentient beings’ suffering, thus whatever benefit it has cannot be limited by our mind, by our thought. Whatever benefits it has is beyond the limits of our thought. Whatever benefits bodhicitta has, the mind cannot figure out that it has this number of benefits; the benefits don't have a fixed number.
For instance, the action that is done without bodhicitta—like simple, ordinary virtuous actions just concerned with our own better future life, actions done just for that without any strong motivation of bodhicitta—such virtuous actions can have a certain good result. Due to this karma, due to this virtuous action, it will bring a result having such enjoyment, to receive such a rebirth. There is a certain limitation in the benefits. But the benefits of bodhicitta cannot be figured out, cannot be limited by thought because the benefits of bodhicitta are infinite. The whole thing is this, and why it cannot be figured out by the mind to be this much is because the benefits is infinite, infinite.
Also Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said in the sutra teachings called Pan chen gyi shu bi do,
Whatever benefits bodhicitta has, if it had form, it would fill the whole of space; there wouldn't be any space left.
Just as space is infinite, so this pure thought that is received has that much benefit. As I said before, I think I repeated once, as it is said in Shantideva's teaching, it is the cause of the happiness of all sentient beings and the object of refuge or offering. So if we want to please the enlightened beings and holy beings such as the bodhisattvas or our guru, the best way to please them or make them happy is by cultivating and having the realization of bodhicitta in our mind.
For instance, the bodhisattvas’ only wish is to release sentient beings from suffering and lead them into enlightenment, for them to receive enlightenment. The whole thing depends on bodhicitta. All this success, bringing success depends on bodhicitta, so what they wish is for us also to receive bodhicitta. Therefore, receiving the realization of bodhicitta is the best cause of their happiness and it pleases them very much. We become their helper. Once we have received the realization of bodhicitta, we become their helper. We can help other sentient beings when we have the realization of bodhicitta.
Same thing also for the enlightened beings: this is the best way to please them. They are extremely pleased because this is the only thing the enlightened beings wish the sentient beings to achieve. As it is said in Shantideva's teaching: “Bodhicitta is the medicine that removes all the sentient beings’ suffering.” That's why having the realization of bodhicitta is the best way to please the enlightened beings.
For instance, the great pandit Atisha, when he saw his disciples or other people he didn't say, as people usually say, “Hello, how are you? Did you have a good time? Did you enjoy? Are you well?” Whether you have been healthy or you didn't get sick, whether you enjoyed the place or something to do with materials—usually normal people ask in that way, we ordinary people ask in that way. But the great bodhisattva Atisha, whenever he saw other people, friends or disciples or other people, instead of saying, “How are you?”—instead of asking whether they had been healthy, he often asked whether they had a good mind, like bodhicitta, the beneficial thought, He asked whether their mind had been beneficial, how their mind had been—beneficial or negative. That's the way he asked, what he asked first when he saw people. Sems sang po is what Tibetans call the beneficial thought, generous thought. Sems is mind, sang po is generous, holy, pure. He often asked “sems sang po shu nge?” meaning, “Did you have good generous thoughts, beneficial thoughts?”
He often emphasized bodhicitta in his teachings. Bodhicitta is the essence of the practice of the Kadampa tradition of teachings, which came from Atisha. The practice of bodhicitta is the essence of the Kadampa tradition teachings. Another way of talking, for those meditators who follow Atisha's teaching—the Kadampa tradition teachings—the foundation of their practice, the foundation of their thought is bodhicitta.
We ordinary people—what is the essence of our work? What is the essence of our work, the foundation of our thought? It is attachment, being attached to the comfort of this life. What is the foundation, what is the base on which we work, how we think, the base? That is attachment, being attached to the comfort of this life. For those meditators who follow Atisha’s teaching, those higher meditators who lead ascetic lives, the foundation of their thought, the main object of concentration, the essence of their practice is bodhicitta.
By understanding the benefits of receiving the pure thought of bodhicitta—there are infinite benefits, as much as infinite space—by understanding this it is natural to be extremely pleased and happy to have the chance to hear this teaching, to practice bodhicitta and to train the mind in this path.
For the action of listening to Dharma to become a positive action, Dharma, it has to become the cause of receiving enlightenment. The whole thing depends on cultivating the pure thought of bodhicitta, therefore it is necessary to think like this: “Only releasing myself from samsara is not sufficient; there are numberless other sentient beings who are suffering. I must lead them into enlightenment by releasing them from suffering. Therefore I'm going to listen to the profound teaching of the graduated path to enlightenment.”
The listening subject is a Mahayana teaching, which leads the fortunate ones to receive enlightenment. It is well-expounded by the great philosophers Nagarjuna and Asanga. It is a profound teaching; in it the essence of the great unequaled, magnificent pandit Atisha, and the Dharma king of the three worlds, the great Lama Tsongkhapa's knowledge was extracted. It contains the 84,000 teachings shown by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, and all this is arranged for our practice of the graduated path and our achievement of enlightenment. This graduated path is the only path by which the past, present and future buddhas all received enlightenment.
This commentary on the graduated path to enlightenment has four outlines. The last is how to lead the disciples by showing the actual oral teaching. That has two outlines:
- How to follow the guru, which is the root of the path
- How to train the mind in the graduated path to enlightenment by following the guru.
That has two outlines. The last one is how to take the essence with the perfect human rebirth, and that is divided into three. The first one is the graduated path of the lower capable being and in general. That has two outlines. The last one is following the method that brings happiness in future lives.
This happiness is not samsaric happiness but it includes all happiness, including the most sublime happiness of enlightenment. Besides samsaric happiness, since it includes even the highest happiness of sublime enlightenment, this method which is explained is the foundation of that. Therefore, even by understanding this outline, even from the meaning of this, the subject that comes, the method is a very, very important thing to understand and to realize.
The fundamental method is taking refuge, which is the holy door of the teaching, and arising devotion to karma, which is the root of all perfection and happiness.
Regarding refuge, the first outline has five outlines:
- Taking refuge depending on what cause
- Taking refuge depending on what object, definition
- With how much understanding the person is taking refuge
- Precepts of the refuge
- Benefits of the refuge.
This part of the subject is from the third outline: taking refuge with understanding of the knowledge of the object of refuge—the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The function or the ability—what the Buddha can do, what Dharma can do, what Sangha can do—what power they have. By taking refuge, what ability do the Sangha have? So this is important to understand.
It is as if we are questioning how the Buddha can help us. At the moment our mind is not capable. Even though the Buddha explained, our mind does not have the capability now, at this moment, to fully understand how he helps sentient beings. Through listening to the Dharma, studying, trying to understand, and meditating—through the experience—and especially through the explanation of refuge, according to the level of our mind, we can have that much understanding. We can have some idea of the essence, how the Buddha helps, how Dharma helps and how the Sangha help to guide other sentient beings from suffering. But to really, fully understand how the Buddha helps, first of all we have to complete the realizations of the whole graduated path to enlightenment.
Even the higher bodhisattvas, even arhats who have such high psychic powers, who can see past, present and future, who can do incredible things, comparing even the Hinayana arhats who have realized only the Lesser Vehicle path, not the Mahayana path—compared to our limited knowledge, the arhats are like buddhas for us, they are buddhas for us.
However, as I told you before, there are three stories, examples of how arhats didn't see those subtle methods. Those examples such as the old man who became an arhat in his lifetime even though he was terribly old and the abbot of the monastery couldn't see that he had created any merit which could make the old man become ordained. Even other arhats couldn't see this, so they objected. But Guru Shakyamuni realized and he said to the old man, “It's all right, you can be ordained because you have the merit to become a monk.”
Why the arhats couldn't see this cause is because the merit with which he could become monk was very subtle, it had been such an incredible length of time ago, and there were so many eons between becoming a monk and having created the merit. It was such a long time ago, an incredible length of time ago, such a great number of eons, so far back that even the arhats—those who were out of samsara—even they could not see this, because it is so subtle and so distant in time. Guru Shakyamuni discovered this because for his omniscient mind, as we talked, there is no such existence, there's no such block, no such time, no such thing.
So Guru Shakyamuni told the old man, “There is merit, but there is such an incredible length of time since you created the merit. That's why the arhats couldn't see it. They are not perfect in power or in the collection of merit, therefore they couldn’t see this merit. The merit you created before was when you were a fly and there was excrement of animals around a great, very blessed holy stupa.” When the old man was a fly, of course, he ran to find something. Somehow, by opportunity, the fly went around on the excrement. As the excrement was all around the stupa, so the fly went around like this. Just by going around the stupa on the excrement, because it was such a great, holy object, much blessed, where the infinite buddhas’ transcendental wisdom is situated, and even though there was no knowledge from the side of the fly, the object that the fly went around was so precious that, by the power of the object, the fly had the opportunity to create such small merit. Because of that, by such small merit, he had the possibility to be ordained, by the kindness of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's realization, the omniscient mind. Like this there are so many other examples.
Simply talking now, Guru Shakyamuni knows how to help. For instance, arhats couldn't see that, even though they had much knowledge, they couldn't see such subtle small merit, which the old man had created such an incredible length of time ago. Also there are many other things. There are several other things that arhats cannot realize, cannot fully see. Only the Buddha can do this. Also very subtle karmas, for instance, this example of subtle karma, this old man's story, and many other examples—such subtle karma is only the object of the omniscient mind. Even the highest bodhisattvas cannot fully see the subtle karmas—this result happened because of such-and-such karma before—the subtle ones.
So it is not easy. Even though it is explained, our mind is not capable of understanding. To fully understand how the Buddha helps all sentient beings, we have to reach that level. If we want to fully understand that, we have to reach that level. Then we can fully understand.
We briefly talked about the knowledge, the function or the ability of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's omniscient mind. Part of the checking meditation that we talked about, the knowledge of the omniscient mind, if it's divided, becomes two divisions: the understanding knowledge and the knowledge of compassion. So far what we have talked about is the understanding knowledge.
The knowledge of compassion, for instance, we samsaric sentient beings are always bound by delusion and karma, always bound by delusion and karma. The enlightened beings are bound by compassion, bound by infinite compassion. They are the same in regard to being bound, but our bondage is suffering and their bondage is compassion, not suffering. Our bondage by delusion and karma itself is suffering.
Because we are bound by delusion and karma, besides being incapable of helping others, guiding others from suffering, we can't guide even ourselves—just one person—from suffering. Besides not guiding infinite sentient beings from suffering, even guiding one other sentient being from suffering, we cannot even guide ourselves from suffering. That's why our life is full of problems from rebirth until death, anyway, as long as we're in samsara.
In this way we can understand very clearly how our bondage—being bound by delusion and karma—is useless and only gives us trouble, however, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's bondage of infinite compassion only gives happiness, the cause of happiness. Not only is he in infinite bliss himself, he is also bound by infinite compassion, therefore he leads infinite sentient beings on the path of everlasting happiness and being bound by compassion is extremely, infinitely beneficial for all sentient beings. There is a big difference.
If we think about our personality, the function of our mind, among the numberless sentient beings, among the families, we always take the best care of ourselves. The most concern that we have is for our own comfort, keeping ourselves away from danger. That's what we're trying to do, but that doesn't mean that what we are trying to do is correct. It doesn't mean we know all the dangers; it doesn't mean this.
For instance, by thinking how much we are concerned with ourselves, the love that we have for ourselves, the individual, it seems that we have the greatest love for ourselves; it looks like that according to how much more we are concerned for self than others. But actually that is nothing. It is nothing in comparison to the great compassion that the Buddha has for us. I’m not talking about our compassion and love for other sentient beings; I’m not talking about this, I’m just talking about having love and compassion even for ourselves. This is supposed to be the greatest, it’s supposed to be the strongest. Even though we don't have compassion for other sentient beings, we're supposed to have the greatest love and compassion for ourselves. But even as much as we are concerned for ourselves, having love and compassion for ourselves more than the love and compassion that we have for others—this is nothing compared to the great love and compassion that the Buddha has for us. The Buddha has a thousand, million times greater love for us. He has a thousand, billion times greater love and compassion than the love and compassion that we have for ourselves. He has greater love and compassion for us than the great love and compassion that we have for ourselves.
For instance, even though we have heard Dharma, even though we have heard about karma and things like this, in the depth of our mind there is no respect for karma, not so much feeling about karma—even though it is explained—and not so much feeling with the Dharma. The understanding is merely intellectual and without much feeling in the mind. Even if we know what the Dharma is about and how karma exists, still we have no respect and we don’t feel much difference, whether creating negative karma or not. For instance, we don’t feel the difference between killing insects and not killing insects. Even though we think karma exists we don’t have much feeling and then we don't observe karma much, we don't care much. These things show that we don’t love ourselves that much, we don't have much compassion for ourselves.
The compassion and love that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha has for all sentient beings is equal. Even if someone cuts flesh from one side of his body, piece by piece, piece by piece cutting it off, taking it in pieces, taking much time, and if someone on the other side is patting, loving him very much, touching, caressing with much love—from the side of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's compassion, it is equal for both of them. His love and compassion is equal for both of them. There is no such thing that for one person he feels more love, he loves them more, and he loves the other person less. There is no such discrimination, which we ordinary people have.
The Buddha has the knowledge of understanding, knowledge of power and knowledge of compassion, love. If there's only the understanding knowledge and no knowledge of power, no knowledge of infinite compassion and love, then it can be possible that even though we take refuge, Buddha doesn't or cannot guide us.
Because there's also power—besides understanding knowledge there's also knowledge of power—Buddha can guide us if we take refuge. He can guide us. Even if there is understanding knowledge and knowledge of power, if there is no knowledge of compassion, even though he can guide, he may not guide us. Even though he can guide, if there's no knowledge of compassion, even though we take refuge, he may not guide us, he may not guide the sentient beings from suffering.
There's not this problem, because he has the knowledge of compassion. Knowledge of compassion is all important. He has knowledge of compassion and he has compassion to all sentient beings, therefore if we take refuge he can definitely guide us and he will guide us.
Now, the fourth one, the knowledge of action, knowledge of the Buddha's action. The knowledge of the Buddha's holy action is all the time. There is no such thing as day and night, a specific time. There is not even a second or a minute that the Buddha doesn't work for sentient beings, doesn't benefit sentient beings. The Buddha's holy work doesn't cease until all sentient beings receive enlightenment. It is continuously, continuously done. Also it doesn't depend on effort. There's no effort. To act, to work for other sentient beings by showing different methods naturally works; it doesn't depend, like us, on having an active impulse.
The way the Buddha's holy actions, working for other sentient beings, are without effort is like the [reflection of] the moon rising on the ocean, the Pacific, streams and lakes—no matter how many different waters there are on the earth, they all reflect the moon. The reflection of the rising moon comes from the water, whether it’s a reflection from the lake, from the ocean, from the stream, from all these billions of different places of water. Even a few drops of water in a cup reflect the moon; even water in a small pot reflects the moon. Small or big, all these reflections that are coming from the water in these different places happen this way. The moon doesn't have a motivation and it doesn't have to think to appear in this water, to reflect. There’s no such motivation, it doesn't need effort. It intuitively happens—as the moon rises, it intuitively happens. The reflection comes in all the places where there is water—big waters, small waters, all these waters.
The way the Buddha's holy action works for all sentient beings is without effort, just automatically, naturally, according to the level of the sentient being’s mind. This example is quite clear. The holy action is working for other sentient beings according to the level of their karma, according to their karma. If the person's karma is to show a certain method, then the Buddha shows that method. If the person's karma is ready to show a different method, then the Buddha shows that method. Like this. It’s like the example of the moon—if there's water, no matter small or big, the reflection comes, but at the place where there's no water, for instance, stones or something, the moon’s reflection cannot come to that place. In the places where there's no water, the reflection doesn't come. If the person doesn't have the karma to be shown that method and to be guided, then it doesn't happen.
If this did not depend on karma—if it didn't depend on karma to be ready, things like this—there would be no reason for even one sentient being to exist now. All the sentient beings would be enlightened already. The way the Buddha manifests, taking different manifestations, giving different teachings, manifesting differently as a living being or even as non-living things, such as statues—all these things are done just like the moon's reflection, without effort. As our karma is ready, then it works.
Also there are so many different aspects of buddhas—peaceful aspects, wrathful aspects, some embracing the female aspect and some not embracing the female aspect. All these are the Buddha's actions. All these are the actions of the omniscient mind, power and compassion. All these are different manifestations of Buddha's action and Buddha's holy speech, with the understanding knowledge, the power and compassion manifesting, appearing in such different forms, as is necessary. For example, Avalokiteshvara, who also has different aspects. Even though there is one name, there are many different aspects.
Like this, there are many other buddhas, not only appearing in the manifestation of the buddhas, but appearing in the manifestation of bodhisattvas and also appearing in the manifestation of arhats. Taking the form of an arhat, pretending to be an arhat, pretending to be a bodhisattva, pretending to be a protector or even an ordinary being. As I said before, our vision is not necessarily definite or sure. I talked before about that subject, how taking the aspect, the form, may be necessary, as that method is discovered to be helpful.
Regarding action, there are two things, as explained in the philosophical teachings. The action of the Buddha—one part of the Buddha's action is in the object, in the sentient being's mind, the object of the Buddha’s work. So what is the action of the Buddha that is in the sentient being’s mind? That is Dharma practice, virtuous actions, receiving the realizations, following the path, receiving enlightenment. But the Buddha's action that is in the mind of the sentient beings has to come from someone; it has to be caused by someone. It's not kind of intuitively happening without being caused by someone. It has to be caused by someone; the action happens by being caused by someone. It comes from the dharmakaya of the transcendental wisdom.
Who obliges us to do that virtuous action, which becomes the cause of receiving enlightenment? It can be action of our speech, it can be action of our body, it can be action of our mind, but that realization or that action has to be caused by someone, it has to be brought about by someone. It doesn't intuitively happen, sort of without reason or without cause, or self-existing. It doesn't absolutely come—another way of saying this is that it doesn't absolutely come. It comes by depending on something. It doesn't come absolutely; it comes by depending on something. So the cause, the subject, the creator who persuades us to do that action, who persuades or obliges us to do that action is the dharmakaya of transcendental wisdom.
This is one of the most important subjects to understand. It is pointed out as the most important thing in the practice of the graduated path of enlightenment, to understand this point, even at the beginning of the practice of the graduated path to enlightenment. This is in all the different sects of Tibet, the different Mahayana sects. In all the sects, in all the Mahayana teachings, this point is the most important thing to understand. Trying to understand this evolution and trying to follow it, then trying to recognize the dharmakaya of transcendental wisdom, which persuades us, which is the cause, the subject, the creator, which persuades us to do all these actions, to do all these virtuous actions—realizing, following the path, receiving enlightenment, the whole thing from beginning to the end, benefiting for sentient beings—all this.
Now definitely, when we create a virtuous action, definitely there is dharmakaya of transcendental wisdom working for us. Definitely, but it's not sure that we see the manifestation of the dharmakaya of transcendental wisdom as a fully enlightened being. We see the manifestation according to the level of our mind. So this is the dharmakaya of transcendental wisdom, which has taken such a manifestation and is the leader, leading us in the path to enlightenment.
The reason we are born as human beings this time, having the chance to practice Dharma, all these things, having all the enjoyments as we wish, all this is due to the kindness of the dharmakaya of transcendental wisdom. If there's no dharmakaya of transcendental wisdom, there's no way we can create good karma to receive all these results. No way. If there is no moon, how can there be a reflection in the water? If there is no sun, how can the sunlight come into the room and make us feel comfortable, enjoy? It's impossible. Because of the sun there is light coming, there is light.
Student: If there is the sun, Dharma is the rays of the sun. The sun is Buddha and Dharma would be the rays of the sun reaching me …
Rinpoche: If there's the same function for the sun and the light of the sun. If there's the same function. What about the sun and the rays of the sun? Is there a difference in their nature? Do they have the same power to dispel the darkness? Do the sun and the rays of the sun have the same power to dispel darkness?
For instance, the sun also has the power to dispel darkness. The rays that come into your room also have the same essence—to dispel darkness. But it just looks different. The whole round sun you don't see in your room; that’s the difference. Anyway, you can understand slowly.
This is just a brief explanation. I will just explain this briefly. This is the essential way, the main thing. If we clearly want to understand how Buddha helps us, how Buddha guides us, if we really want to clearly understand, this is the essential part, the essential subject. This is the answer, the essential subject that we can elaborate, that we can understand.
Someone explains the teachings to us and we are able to recognize the manifestation that contains the dharmakaya of transcendental wisdom. Then by the kindness of that, by gratefully following the path, we receive enlightenment. However, this particular subject is another meditation, another checking meditation. Again, it involves a very deep subject.
One useful thing is the outline that I mentioned before: how our vision is not definite, not sure. That's the most important outline to always be aware of. It's so helpful, very helpful always to remember this when we have problems with other people, in the city or wherever, even among Dharma friends. Because it is like this: if the other person is a holy being, a bodhisattva who has higher realization or something like that, then if we ignorantly create negative karma with them by getting angry or harming them with actions of our speech, body or mind, the karma is very, very heavy. As the other being has that much higher realization, is that much more holy, the negative actions that we create are very heavy, very dangerous.
Also, even if we have realization of bodhicitta, if the other person is a higher bodhisattva and has received a higher path, if we create negative actions with them, then according to the level of their realization—if we are ready to receive the path tomorrow due to the merits, but today we get angry and do some harmful action to that being who has higher realizations—depending on how much higher their realizations are, receiving the path is postponed, maybe for one hundred years, two hundred years or for eons. This delay depends on the level of our mind and on the level of the other person's mind. Not only the bodhisattvas, but it can also be enlightened beings. This is also very useful.
This is useful not only in these specific meditations on guru yoga, as I just said, but generally, as we are concerned about karma, it's very beneficial to think like this. Then if something seems wrong: “Oh, I’m not sure. My vision is not always correct. If it is always projecting my wrong conceptions, how can it be always correct? I’m not sure, maybe they are holy beings, bodhisattvas. Who knows? So maybe I shouldn't do this.”
If we think like this when we get angry, the evil thought of worldly dharma gets scared; the anger, or whatever is going on, all of a sudden it goes down, decreases. All of a sudden our action changes, the action changes right away. So it's very useful, very useful. By understanding this, we are sure, we have unshakable understanding: “The Buddha is definitely, definitely guiding me, working for me.” We have definite firm, unshakeable understanding of the evolution, the holy action of the Buddha.
Then briefly the knowledge of Dharma. The second thing is the knowledge of Dharma. Absolute Dharma, as I said before, is the full realization of absolute true nature and the cessation of the different levels of suffering, which is received by fully realizing the absolute true nature, and which is called the true path. In the four noble truths it is the true path. In the four noble truths, there are two things that come after and these are true cessation and the true path. Absolute Dharma is true cessation of suffering and true path. The true path means fully realizing absolute true nature. The true cessation of suffering, of the different levels of suffering, is received by realizing the absolute Dharma, fully realizing absolute true nature. Generally, it is good to think about this when we take refuge and to think about it generally. Usually if we can think of the whole graduated path it is useful and effective for the mind. When we take refuge in Dharma, thinking of the whole graduated path is very useful for the mind.
Pratimoksha, self-liberation—in regard to the Lesser Vehicle path there are two lesser vehicle paths: Pratyekayana path and Shravakayana path. By following both paths we receive pratimoksha, individual liberation for ourselves, nirvana. In regard to the path, there are five paths: Pratyekayana has five paths and Shravakayana also has five paths. The number of paths is the same.
Also, for enlightenment, the Mahayana has five paths. The general names of each of the paths are the same. By following both of these Lesser Vehicle paths, the paths of the pratyekabuddhas and shravakabuddhas, we can realize release from samsara. That's how we can receive nirvana, pratimoksha. And to receive enlightenment, even after we receive nirvana, again we have to follow the Mahayana path; then we can receive enlightenment.
Just talking about the five paths, here are the titles:
- The first is the path of collection [path of merit]. Collection of what? Collection not of money, but the collection of merit, the path of collection.
- The second one is the path of conjunction [path of preparation], like a railway.
- The third one is the right-seeing path. That is the wisdom eye. I think people are very interested in having an operation for a wisdom eye, to have an operation.
- Path of meditation.
- Path of fulfillment [path of no-more-learning]. Path of entraining or path of accomplishment are other ways of saying path of fulfillment.
The names are the same for the Lesser Vehicle and Mahayana paths; the general titles are the same. I think I’ll stop there.
Regarding the path of collection, generally speaking, the explanation is the same as it is for the five paths of the Lesser Vehicle. For instance, the path of collection means the collection of merit. The follower who has received that path creates much merit. They are at a stage where they create very much merit in order to receive nirvana, but do not actually receive cessation of suffering.
From the third path—the path of right-seeing, the path of meditation and the path of fulfillment—these paths have achieved the cessation of suffering. [Blinds flapping in wind] They're all talking about Dharma! The right-seeing path, the path of meditation and the path of fulfillment have different levels of cessation of delusion, suffering. Receiving the path of collection of merit helps to receive the higher paths, where delusions can be ceased. This path also has three categories, three different stages: small, middle and higher. There’s so much to say about each path, but here I’m just briefly talking about the meaning of each path, the essence.
The path of conjunction: why it is called the path of conjunction is because, according to the title “conjunction,” this is the path that realizes or sees the four noble truths, the absolute true nature, but is not fully seeing. It is not the same as the path of fully seeing the absolute true nature. There are still obscurations with this path, which block us from fully seeing absolute nature.
For the right-seeing path, “right” means absolute nature. The right-seeing path is the path that fully sees absolute nature. At this stage—the path of fully seeing absolute nature—this path has the ability to remove one hundred and twelve delusions. There is also within this path the non-intermediate path without hindrance and the path of release. While we are in deep concentration, having received the non-intermediate path, this path becomes the remedy to the one hundred and twelve delusions. When these one hundred and twelve delusions are ceased, whenever the path removes or finishes the one hundred and twelve delusions, then the path of release is received.
Same thing for the path of meditation, which also has the non-intermediate path and the path of release. The rest of the delusions, sixteen delusions, are ceased in this fourth path, the path of meditation. So same thing, there are two stages: the non-intermediate path, which has no hindrance between it and that path becoming the remedy to delusion. Then, when the delusion for which that path becomes a remedy is ceased, the path of release is received. They are received together. The path of release and removing or finishing the delusions are received together.
The fifth path, the path of entraining, the path of fulfillment—the actual meaning is the path of fulfillment. Why path of fulfillment? Because all the delusions are finished; we have finished working to remove the delusions.
This is generally talking according to the five paths on the Lesser Vehicle path; how the five paths function, what their functions and abilities are. If we are talking specifically about the five Mahayana paths, the general meaning is the same.
However, according to the Mahayana, the bodhisattva path of collection of merits creates much more merit than the meditator who has received the path of collection in the Lesser Vehicle path. Also the Mahayana path of the collection of merit becomes the helper, and receiving this path causes us to receive the Mahayana path of conjunction, also the Mahayana right-seeing path, the Mahayana path of meditation and the Mahayana path of fulfillment, enlightenment. Receiving this path helps us to join with the higher paths, which remove all the delusions—the gross obscurations and subtle obscurations.
The second path, the path of conjunction, has the same meaning, conjunction. By realizing the four noble truths, it causes us to join the third path, fully realizing absolute true nature. Then same thing, the Mahayana path of fully seeing absolute true nature has two paths: the uninterrupted path (same thing, same meaning as before) and the path of release.
Just talking about the person who enters directly into the Mahayana path without coming through the Lesser Vehicle path—when they receive the right-seeing path, the uninterrupted path becomes the remedy to delusion, the gross and also the subtle delusions, she drib, the subtle obscurations. While the meditator is in concentration, whenever they receive the second path, the path of release, then the one hundred and twelve delusions and the one hundred and eight subtle obscurations (she drib), the seeds, are removed or erased. That meditator who has received the third path, the right-seeing path, by going through the uninterrupted path, whenever they receive the path of release, all these one hundred and twelve delusions and one hundred and eight subtle obscurations, she drib, are removed at the same time.
For the Mahayana path of meditation, again, the full realization of absolute nature is continuously developed. By continually progressing in that realization, because that path is continuing the realization that is received by this meditation, it is called the path of meditation. Continuously progressing in the realization of fully realizing absolute true nature is called the path of meditation. Same thing, when the meditator receives this path there is the uninterrupted path and the path of release. At that time, the uninterrupted path becomes the remedy to the delusions, the nyön drib and she drib, the gross obscuration and subtle obscurations. Whenever the path of release is received, the sixteen gross obscurations (nyön drib) and the one hundred and eight subtle obscurations (she drib), are removed at the same time.
The fifth one is the path of accomplishment, achieved when the obscurations are completely removed.
This is talking about the five Mahayana paths, which remove both gross and subtle obscurations, nyön drib and she drib. If we haven’t gone through the Lesser Vehicle path, if we directly follow the five Mahayana paths, we remove all the delusions in the Mahayana path of meditation.
There are ten grounds or stages, called bhumi in Sanskrit. Bhumi means ground, like a base. However, there are ten stages—there are more realizations in the Mahayana path. The Lesser Vehicle path does not have these ten bhumis, these ten realizations. We start to receive these from the right-seeing path. The meditator who has received the right-seeing path, the third path, from there receives the first bhumi, and then second bhumi—gradually the meditator receives like this.
When the meditator receives the eighth stage, the eighth bhumi, at the same time all the delusions have ceased, are removed. No gross delusions exist from when the meditator receives the eighth stage. While following the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh bhumis, during those times there is delusion, but at the eighth stage the bodhisattva has no delusion. I'm talking about the bodhisattva who didn't become an arhat before by following the Lesser Vehicle path and was just straight away following the Mahayana path. When that bodhisattva receives the right-seeing path, from there they start to receive the first bhumi, then the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Whenever they receive the eighth, all the gross delusions, nyön drib, are removed, completely ceased. When the gross delusions are ceased, completely removed, they are not in samsara. Then, because there is no more delusion existing after that, the eighth, ninth and tenth stages are called pure, the three pure stages, because there is no delusion. The other seven stages are called the seven impure stages because there is delusion in the mind of the meditator. The function of these three latter stages is only removing the subtle obscurations, the dualistic mind.
Why the Mahayana path is called the Great Vehicle is because there are more realizations, it has more functions, it can purify, remove more obscurations. As it has more knowledge, it has more functions, it can remove more obscurations. Each of the Mahayana paths, even the first two, the Mahayana path of collection of merit and the Mahayana path of conjunction, has so much more knowledge; greater knowledge than the five paths of the Lesser Vehicle. These practitioners have greater understanding, more skill. There's more skill.
Thinking like this, remember the meaning of the paths, especially the right-seeing path and the path of meditation, the five paths of the Lesser Vehicle and the five Mahayana paths. Remember the functions of each path, especially the function, the ability of the right-seeing path and the path of meditation in removing the delusions and the subtle obscurations. These are very useful to think of and remember. When you do checking meditation on the knowledge of Dharma, try to remember the meaning and the abilities of each path. If you can try to remember even this much it is very helpful, very helpful.
There is very little knowledge of what ability the Dharma has, how the Dharma guides us from the suffering, from the obscurations. When we understand the knowledge of Buddha, when we make checking meditation on the knowledge of the Buddha and the ability of the Buddha, the functions of the Buddha, it is easy to figure out, to understand how the Buddha helps us, how Buddha guides us from suffering.
The same thing, when we make checking meditation on the Dharma, the knowledge of Dharma, the ability of Dharma, it is easy to understand how the Dharma guides us from suffering. By taking refuge in Dharma, it guides us from suffering. It is easy to understand this. As we talked about the ability or function of each path, by taking refuge in the Dharma, it is easy to understand how Buddhadharma guides us from suffering. As we actualize each path, according to the ability or function that each path has, it removes our delusions, the gross and subtle obscurations, those subtle wrong conceptions, those wrong conceptions. That's how Dharma causes us to be released from all suffering, from all the obscurations. It is easy to understand.
Before, we talked about Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's knowledge and how it guides us, the ability that Guru Shakyamuni has to guide the sentient beings from suffering. By understanding that we can understand how Guru Shakyamuni Buddha guides us from suffering. Also, we ourselves can become a buddha in the future. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha guides us from all the dualistic thoughts and wrong views, and we will become capable of helping other sentient beings.
So just like this there are two ways to check Dharma. One way to check is by actualizing the different levels of path in our mind, and how all these different obscurations—subtle and gross obscurations, all these different wrong conceptions—are gradually removed. That's how the Dharma guides us from suffering, from all the wrong conceptions, the dualistic mind. This way of checking is very useful; this is also the ability of Dharma. For instance, our receiving guidance, help, from Buddha, is also due to the ability of the Dharma, due to the power of the Dharma. For instance, if Guru Shakyamuni had not followed the path he wouldn't have received enlightenment and then he couldn't help us sentient beings. His benefiting us, guiding us from suffering is also the ability of the Dharma, the function of the Dharma, This is how Dharma guides us, how his Dharma guides us from suffering.
So there are two ways of checking: we can check how the Dharma knowledge that other holy beings have guides us, and how the Dharma that we have actualized within our own mind helps us, guides us. Both methods are very useful, very effective.
Also remember the graduated path, the knowledge of the lamrim; this is also very useful. Remember the ability or function of the graduated path, by following the graduated path.
The graduated path of the lower capable being has the ability or function to guide us from the suffering of a lower rebirth.
The graduated path of the middle capable being has the ability or the function to release us from the samsara. As the graduated path of the lower capable being has the function to guide us from the suffering of rebirth in the lower realms and to be reborn in the upper realms, to receive happy rebirth, so the graduated path of the middle capable being has the ability or function to guide us from samsara and to receive ultimate happiness.
The graduated path of the higher capable being has the ability or function to release us, to guide us from all the dualistic minds, from all the wrong conceptions, even the subtle ones. It has the ability or function to guide us from our own everlasting happiness, the incomplete everlasting happiness. What I mean is that there's a greater, sublime happiness, a greater goal. That's why I say “incomplete everlasting happiness.” Even though it is everlasting it is not the most sublime goal, perfect happiness, therefore it's incomplete. So the lamrim, the graduated path of the higher capable being has the ability to guide us away from the pratimoksha, our own everlasting happiness. I think I explained that once before.
Why do we need refuge to guide us from that? At the moment there is so much struggle and we are not even receiving it! The essential purpose of practicing Mahayana teaching is to receive enlightenment only to work for sentient beings. The main goal is to enlighten all sentient beings with the realization of enlightenment. This talk may come afterwards.
Even if we have received that [incomplete everlasting happiness], the work of purifying obscurations is still to be finished. We are not perfected in the purity of a buddha because our work of purifying obscurations is still not finished. Even if we have received that everlasting happiness and there are no delusions, still there is dualistic mind, the subtle illusive thoughts and the dualistic views. Therefore that purifying work is not finished. Even without talking of working for other sentient beings, whether that is finished or not; without talking of completing work for others, just only talking of our own work, the purification is not finished. As the work of purifying obscurations is not finished, the completion in knowledge also is not finished. Completing the knowledge is not finished, being like Buddha. Completing the knowledge is not finished. It’s easy to understand that even if we have received ultimate happiness, why we are not completed in knowledge. If purification is not finished, how can knowledge be perfected?
Therefore, even if we are concerned with becoming completely self-supporting, we need to receive enlightenment. To completely finish the purifying work and to completely finish the work of receiving realizations, we need to receive enlightenment, and that happens only when we receive enlightenment. Therefore, even for our own sake we have to complete the purification and complete the knowledge by following the Mahayana path.
The essential purpose of the Mahayana teaching is mainly to enlighten other sentient beings with the realization of enlightenment. If we fall into the stage of our own everlasting happiness, then we stay in that stage for an incredible, incredible number of eons. In that way we don't receive enlightenment quickly and also we can't help the sentient beings as quickly as a bodhisattva does or as quickly as Buddha helps sentient beings.
In previous times there was this story. I think Manjushri had shown the Mahayana teaching to a disciple—I forgot the name of the disciple—whose mind is not ready. He was somehow not ready, and he got heresy. Even though he had received the teaching he got heresy, sort of disbelief happened, came in his mind. Because of that karma—the disbelief, heresy of Mahayana teaching that was shown—he was born in the naraks.
Then Vajrapani asked Guru Shakyamuni Buddha why this happened. Vajrapani explained to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha that Manjushri had shown the Mahayana teaching to this person—I think the disciple’s name was Jampel or something—and because he received disbelief in it he was born in the naraks. Guru Shakyamuni said, “That's not wrong.” Vajrapani explained to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha that his mind was suitable to be shown the Lesser Vehicle teaching but Manjushri had shown him the Mahayana teaching.
Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said, “It’s not a mistake. It is because Manjushri is highly skillful that he did it, therefore it’s not a mistake. If the Mahayana teaching was not shown to him, then by following the Lesser Vehicle path he would be in everlasting happiness for numberless eons, and for such an incredible length of time he wouldn't receive enlightenment fully. So even though momentarily he was born in the narak realm, in the lowest, unceasing suffering stage, after that life he will quickly be born in the upper realms and enter straight into the Mahayana path and, by following the Mahayana path, he will receive enlightenment more quickly than by following the Lesser Vehicle path, where he would stay in everlasting happiness for an incredible number of eons.” Guru Shakyamuni Buddha explained it was not a mistake but that Manjushri was highly skillful and that's why he did this, purposefully. This was the reason.
However the essential purpose is this. By following the Mahayana, the graduated path of the higher capable being, it has the ability or function to guide us out of the incomplete peace of individual everlasting happiness. It guides us from this and from all the subtle dualistic minds, the subtle obscurations, in order to receive enlightenment.
It is very good to remember the knowledge, the ability or function of the graduated path, the lamrim. Lamrim means graduated path. The ability or function of the graduated path of the lower capable being, the ability or function of the graduated path of the middle capable being, and the ability or function of the graduated path of the higher capable being. We should remember this when we do checking meditation on Dharma. It’s very helpful for the mind. In this way, as we make checking meditation, it gives us energy and makes us want to follow this path and receive this experience.
So first maybe you can do checking meditation on Dharma, the morning subject, the actions that we talked about. First try to remember the morning subject, the action of the Buddha's compassion, the action of the Buddha, the knowledge of the ability. Try to remember that, do checking meditation on that, how that works. Also in the last part I talked about two things: how the action was working without effort, without the need of active motivation, like the moon reflecting in water. I used that example, how this action is automatically working for all sentient beings. In the last part I said there are two actions; one is in the mind of the object, the sentient being, and that is persuaded by the dharmakaya of the transcendental wisdom, that which is in different manifestations, shown according to the level of mind.
This is so important to understand. This is also the essence of the guru yoga practice, the essence. As long as you do not understand these important points, no matter how much you practice tantra—very high techniques, deities having thousands or a million, billion arms—there's no taste in your meditation, there's no taste in your practice. Your practice, your understanding is basic. The understanding you have is very dry, it’s kind of lost the essence. Anyway it doesn't matter. This is very important, even though we cannot understand it perfectly right away, we won't understand it fully. It’s like seeing our own reflection in the mirror, perhaps it may not be very clear. Of course it depends on the individual’s level of mind, how close each of our minds is to Dharma, to the realization of Dharma. It can be different and people may have different feelings. Someone may be clear, somebody sees that much, somebody sees that much and somebody doesn't see anything—it can be different. Even though we understand the words very well, we have different experiences.
Regarding Dharma, remember the ability or function of the paths. You can check up on each name, the meaning of each of the paths, the capability of each path, the power to avoid a different number of delusions, subtle obscurations.
Then after that, after finishing the checking meditation on compassionate action, then you can also think of how the Buddha guides us. Try to have a rough idea of how the Buddha guides. It’s easy to understand how Guru Shakyamuni guides us; it’s easy to understand that. Then also, how your own future buddha guides you; for instance its power. It guides you to have the power to help sentient beings, and all the subtle dualistic minds will finish. Think like this.
Then check on Dharma, the function, the ability of Dharma. Then after that, going through the path, how Dharma guides us. Think: “By actualizing the path, as the path has the ability like this, by actualizing the path in our mind, wrong conceptions and delusions are gradually removed. That's how the Dharma guides me out of samsara, out of suffering.” Then Dharma in other beings, which Guru Shakyamuni Buddha has achieved, that Dharma in other beings' minds; for instance, Buddha Shakyamuni guiding us is also due to the power or ability of Dharma.
Also Sangha. Remember how the Sangha guide us, how Guru Shakyamuni is Sangha, guiding us, and also due to the power of the Dharma. Also, how the higher bodhisattvas are guiding us is due to the power of Dharma, with these realizations, the power of their realizations. So this way of thinking is also very useful.