When we talk about Buddhism as the path with a heart, as I've kindly been asked to do, the title itself raises some questions. For example, The path with a heart. Does this imply that other paths don't have a heart? Then there's path. Is Buddhism a path? And finally, heart. What is the heart of Buddhism?
Of course, these questions are easily answered. The heart of Buddhism is compassion. Yes, there's definitely a path; in fact, there are many paths in Buddhism. And no, Buddhism is not the only path with a heart, but we could safely say that of other paths that also stress the importance of compassion, Buddhism is probably the only one that contains detailed, time-proven methods for developing it.
Compassion is the wish for others to be free from suffering. In order for us to develop compassion, we need first to appreciate its value. Why bother? Why be compassionate? How does compassion help me?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said,
The actual beneficiary of the practice of compassion and caring for others is oneself. We may have the impression that the main beneficiaries of the practice of compassion are those on the receiving end; that the practice of compassion is relevant only for those concerned about others and irrelevant for those who are not, because its main benefit goes to others. This is a mistake. The immediate benefit of practicing compassion is actually experienced by the practitioner..
The practice of compassion and caring for others immediately brings us inner strength and inner peace. Of course, compassion may also benefit others indirectly, but what is certain is the benefit that we ourselves experience. It is quite clear, therefore, that if we are really concerned about our own future and the happiness of our own life, we should develop a mental attitude in which the practice of compassion plays a central role. I sometimes jokingly tell people that if we want to be truly selfish, then we should be wisely selfish rather than foolishly selfish. [Illuminating the Path, "Prologue. Universal Responsibility."]
In other words, the way to ensure the best for ourselves is to forget about our own happiness and completely dedicate ourselves to working for the happiness of others. This is the way to experience the greatest possible happiness.
And, as Lama Zopa Rinpoche has also stated,
What is it that makes your life easy and free of confusion and problems? What is the source of all happiness and peace? What brings happiness and peace into your daily life and every happiness up to enlightenment, allowing you to bring happiness and peace to numberless sentient beings? It's your attitude-the unmistaken attitude with which you live your life, the attitude by which you live your life according to its meaning, fulfilling your purpose of having been born human. What is that best attitude that gives the most meaning to your life? It is living with compassion, for the benefit of others. [Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat, Saturday, February 13, 1999.]
As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, the purpose of our lives is to free others from suffering and bring them happiness. Not just the temporary happiness of this life or future lives, and not even the everlasting happiness of liberation from cyclic existence, but the full and complete happiness of enlightenment. Everything we do should be motivated by the determination to enlighten all sentient beings. This attitude is called bodhicitta and cultivating bodhicitta is what gives our lives its highest meaning. This doesn't mean not helping others achieve happiness in this life, but whatever we do in this regard-offering money, food, clothing, shelter, medicines, any kind of help for this life - as well as everything else, should be motivated by bodhicitta.
However, before talking more about the heart, let us look at the path.
The path to enlightenment When Lama Zopa Rinpoche says that the purpose of our lives is to free all sentient beings from suffering and lead them to enlightenment, what does this really mean?
First, we need to recognize that the underlying wish we all have is to avoid problems and suffering and find happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment. In order to comprehend the meaning of this, we need to understand what happiness and suffering actually are. Let's start with suffering.
The very first thing the Buddha taught after his enlightenment was the truth of suffering. Normally we think of suffering as physical problems, such as pain, injury, hunger, thirst, heat, cold and so forth, and mental problems, such as sadness, depression, loss, anxiety, conflict and the like. But true suffering is much more than this. In fact, the Buddha taught three levels of suffering, the preceding being but the most superficial level, which he called the suffering of suffering. Even animals recognize such experiences as suffering and, like us, spend their entire lives trying to avoid them.
Subtler than this is the suffering of change, which is more difficult to recognize as suffering because we label such experiences happiness. However, they are not real happiness because they do not last, turn into the suffering of suffering, are not experienced as happiness by all, and gaining them usually entails the creation of negative karma, which sooner or later ripens into even more suffering. The crazy habit of smoking tobacco is emblematic of the suffering of change.
Consider the mind of the smoker as he (or she) reaches for his next cigarette. By smoking it he intends to suppress the strong dissatisfaction that has arisen in his mind. This specific type of dissatisfaction has existed only since he started smoking-cigarettes conditioned it and continued smoking has perpetuated it. Instead of alleviating his dissatisfaction, the cigarette he is about to smoke will only help produce more. As he lights up and inhales, there is a temporary fall in the level of dissatisfaction-his mind is still dissatisfied, yet he believes he has found happiness and that the cigarette was responsible. Even before he has finished smoking it, the dissatisfaction has begun to rise once more. Temporarily staving it off again and again is a foolish and endless means of trying to cope with any problem, and no solution at all.
If smoking were truly the cause of happiness, everybody would enjoy smoking, smokers would experience increasing pleasure the more they smoked, and every cigarette would be a source of joy. But many people hate smoking and cannot even bear being together with smokers. Smokers themselves only get sicker and sicker the more they smoke and many times find no pleasure at all. Therefore, smoking is not the cause of happiness.
Because of the toxic effects of tobacco on body and mind, smoking is one of the worst distractions for those who wish to practice meditation, but its major disadvantage is this: the impulse to smoke arises from the negative mind that is attached to the happiness of this life, and each time the smoker follows this negative mind he creates the principal causes of rebirth in lower states of existence and other heavy sufferings for many years to come. This example of smoking can be applied to most other objects of attachment.
Most subtle is the deepest level of suffering, which is called pervasive suffering. This is simply the mere potential to experience suffering. Even if we are experiencing neither suffering of suffering nor suffering of change, as long as we are susceptible to experience suffering in future, we cannot consider ourselves to be free of it and are, therefore, in a state of suffering. Pervasive suffering, the potential to experience suffering again, is the result of our possessing a body and mind created by delusion and karma, the true cause of suffering.
True happiness arises only when we free ourselves from delusion and karma. It is the happiness of liberation from cyclic existence, the beginningless round of death or rebirth in which we presently find ourselves. Freedom from this round of existence is the true cessation of suffering. We get there by following the true path.
The path that I would like to talk about is the graduated path to enlightenment (Tib: lam-rim). The lam-rim genre of teachings was introduced to Tibet by the great Indian scholar Dipamkara Shrijnana, who is better known as Atisha. Arriving in Tibet about one thousand years ago, at the request of his hosts, Atisha wrote a short text, A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, for the benefit of the Tibetan people. In this short but seminal work, he arranged the essence of the teachings of the Buddha in a step-like manner that makes it easy for any individual practitioner to see the entire path to enlightenment at a glance and to understand how to practice. That there exists such a roadmap to spiritual perfection has always seemed to me to be the miracle of miracles.
Over the subsequent centuries, many lamas wrote commentaries to Atisha's text, the crown jewel of these being Lama Tsong Khapa's Great Treatise on the Path to Enlightenment. In general, the path starts by stressing the importance of finding and correctly following a properly qualified spiritual master; devotion to our guru is considered to be the root of the path.
Once we have found the right teacher, we need to persuade ourselves to make the most of our life by extracting the essence of our perfect human rebirth-rebirth as a human with eight freedoms and ten richnesses, which is greatly useful in three ways and extremely hard to find once, let alone again. If we have the chance to meet and practice the Dharma in this life, we must seize it with both hands and try not to waste a precious minute of it. Basically, this means renouncing the happiness of this life and motivating ourselves to work only for the happiness of future lives.
Once we have persuaded ourselves to extract the essence from our perfect human rebirth, we have to practice the path according to our level of intelligence. Here, there are three scopes. As all Buddhists know, the Buddha taught that there are six realms in samsara, or cyclic existence-the three lower realms and the three upper realms. We have been circling through these six realms-the hell, hungry ghost, animal, human, asura and sura realms-since beginningless time, dying in one and being reborn in another, compelled by delusion and karma to experience their unbearable sufferings over and over again.
Practitioners of least intelligence simply set their sights on avoiding lower rebirth, and for them the Buddha taught meditations aimed at generating the thought that renounces the happiness of this life and seeks the happiness of future lives in cyclic existence. To accomplish these goals, we meditate on impermanence and death, the sufferings of the three lower realms, refuge and karma.
Practitioners of medium intelligence see the futility of being reborn anywhere in samsara and make their own liberation their goal, meditating on not only the topics of the lower scope but also on the general sufferings of samsara, particularly those of the three upper realms. In order to free ourselves from samsara, we must practice the three higher trainings of morality, concentration and wisdom, ultimately realizing the absolute nature of our own minds, transcending our ego and attaining the ultimate freedom of nirvana for ourselves alone.
Practitioners of highest intelligence, however, will see even that great goal as relatively selfish, since the result, while of some good to others, benefits mainly ourselves. Also, in attaining it, we have not yet accomplished our highest purpose-enlightenment. Therefore, we see individual liberation as but another stepping stone on the way to buddhahood, and set our sights on enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Thus, we make our core practice the loving, compassionate bodhicitta, the principal cause of enlightenment.
The heart of the path As I mentioned at the start, compassion brings us great benefit and it is compassion that makes our life meaningful, but these are still somewhat selfish reasons for practicing it. The main reason for practicing compassion is that all our happiness comes from other sentient beings, and it is therefore our personal responsibility to free them all from suffering and bring them every happiness, up to and including enlightenment.
How is it that all our happiness comes from all sentient beings? Happiness comes from positive karma; the only way we can create positive karma is by practicing Dharma; the only way we can practice Dharma is if we're shown how. Who shows us the Dharma and how to practice it? Only the Buddha. Buddha comes from bodhisattva; bodhisattva comes from bodhicitta; bodhicitta comes from great compassion; and great compassion arises in dependence upon all sentient beings-all without exception. Therefore, all our happiness comes from each and every sentient being.
Also, the basic cause of happiness is the practice of morality. The essence of morality is keeping precepts, such as those of not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not telling lies and so forth. The object of all such precepts is other sentient beings. How could we not kill if there were no other sentient beings? How could we not steal if there were not others to whom objects belonged? In this way, too, does our happiness depend on other sentient beings.
Not only does other buddhas' enlightenment come from sentient beings; obviously, so does our own. There is no happiness higher than that of enlightenment. Therefore, not only does our ordinary happiness come from others; so, too, does the greatest happiness we can experience. How? Again, our enlightenment comes from the bodhicitta we generate. Bodhicitta has as its object all sentient beings, bar none, because bodhicitta is the determination to become enlightened for the sole purpose of enlightening all sentient beings without exception. Not one sentient being is omitted from this aim. We can't say, "I'm going to become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings except those I don't like." That is not bodhicitta, and without bodhicitta, there's no enlightenment.
Therefore, bodhicitta-cherishing others more than self-is the most important practice we can undertake. As the great bodhisattva Shantideva said in his Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life,
The Lords of Sages, who have been contemplating for many eons, have seen this [bodhicitta] alone as a blessing by which joy is easily increased and immeasurable multitudes of beings are rescued.
Those who long to overcome the abundant miseries of mundane existence, those who wish to dispel the adversities of sentient beings, and those who yearn to experience a myriad of joys should never forsake bodhicitta.
When bodhicitta has arisen, in an instant a wretch who is bound in the prison of the cycle of existence is called a Child of the Sugatas and becomes worthy of reverence in the worlds of gods and humans.
Thus, in these and many other verses in the first chapter of this work, does Shantideva extol the virtues of bodhicitta.
Echoing Shantideva, the great contemporary bodhisattva, Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen (1984-1977), who gave teachings on A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, said,
Once the plantain tree gives forth its fruit It is incapable of bearing fruit again. But even after bearing fruit, virtue influenced By bodhicitta increases without end.
He also wrote,
The holy ones explain that the sole Dharma to be embraced >From now until knowledge of all modes of meditation is reached Is bodhicitta, the ground from which come forth A hundred thousand benefits and happiness.
In fact, his book, Jewel Lamp: A Praise of Bodhicitta, contains 356 verses in praise of this precious mind, each of which is a never-ending source of contemplation and joy.
Thus, the heart of the Buddhist path is bodhicitta, and bodhicitta is born from compassion.
Developing compassion during the meditation session As I said at the beginning, one of the distinguishing features of Buddhism is its clear, time-proven method for developing compassion, without which there's no enlightenment. And because compassion arises in response to suffering, suffering was the first thing the Buddha taught.
We all know from our own lives that if we have had a bad experience, it is much easier to empathize with another person who is undergoing something similar. That's why see people who have suffered from cancer or some other disease set up foundations to research cures for such illnesses or people whose child has been abducted establish organizations to help others whose children have been lost.
Therefore, if we are to develop compassion-the wish that others be free from suffering-we must first understand the depth and breadth of our own suffering. The way we do this is to meditate on the lam-rim, starting from the beginning. Meditating on guru devotion gives us the confidence to place our lives in the hands of our teacher. Meditating on the perfect human rebirth gives us the energy we need to practice the meditations we find difficult and overcome the obstacles that inevitably arise. Then we begin on the meditations of the lower scope.
Meditating on impermanence and death wakes us up to the fact that we are definitely going to die, we have no idea when, and the only thing that will help us at that time is the Dharma we have practiced. As the Buddha said, "It is uncertain what will come next, tomorrow or the next life." Since we are definitely going to have a next life but cannot be sure if there's a tomorrow in our future, we must put most of our energy into benefiting that which certain-our next rebirth. This meditation lessens our attachment to the happiness of this life and ensures that we practice Dharma and only Dharma, right now. In this way, we protect ourselves.
When we die, there are only two doors open to our consciousness-that leading to the upper realms and that leading to the lower-and it is karma that determines the direction in which we will go. Positive karma brings upper rebirths; negative karma brings lower rebirths. If we look honestly into our own minds, we will find that since beginningless time we have created almost exclusively negative karma, and very little positive. If we die with our mind in this state, we will definitely be reborn in the lower realms, from which it is almost impossible to escape and where we will experience unbearable suffering for innumerable eons. This dreadful situation is the one that we and most other sentient beings find ourselves in.
Where do we turn to save ourselves from this imminent danger? There is only one perfect refuge-Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. There are two things that cause us to take refuge: fear of the sufferings of samsara and complete confidence in the power of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to guide us from these sufferings. This fear has three levels: fear of our own suffering in the three lower realms, fear of our own suffering anywhere in samsara and the fear of not only our own but others' suffering in samsara. The first two are selfish fears; the third is based on compassion.
Once we have taken refuge for any of these reasons, our obligation is to follow the path shown by the Buddha. This means abstaining from creating any more negative karma, purifying that which we have already created and creating as much positive karma as we can. By engaging in all these practices we can at least avoid rebirth in the three lower realms. But that is not enough. As we have seen, all of samsara, the upper realms included, is in the nature of suffering, and until we have escaped from it completely, there's no guarantee that we won't suffer again, especially in the lower realms.
In order to be motivated to escape from samsara, we need first to generate pure renunciation, and for this we have to meditate on the sufferings of the three upper realms as well. On top of this we need to develop perfect concentration and realize the ultimate nature of our own minds. This is the path of intermediate scope. As we meditate on the various sufferings of samsara, we gradually come to understand how much we have been suffering since beginningless time. More importantly, however, we also come to understand how much suffering other sentient beings are undergoing even now. When we see how we have met the Dharma and can guide ourselves from suffering while others do not have this advantage, we will begin to feel a responsibility to share with others whatever wisdom we have gained. This compassionate feeling needs to be developed.
On the basis of a deep understanding of the vast, incredible sufferings of samsara, compassion is developed mainly on the path of greatest scope, which is that followed by those intent upon attaining enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. There are various techniques for the development of compassion, such as the seven-fold cause and effect meditation, exchanging self for others and a combination of these methods. Perhaps I will just mention here the first.
The seven-fold cause and effect meditation consists of six causes and one effect, but before we begin to practice it, we need to develop equanimity, that is, seeing all sentient beings as equal. Normally, we discriminate sentient beings as friend, enemy and stranger, according to what they do for us: help, harm or neither. However, these distinctions are based on a ridiculously narrow view of our relationships with others, usually certain brief experiences of this life alone. When we take the infinite perspective of beginningless time, we see that all sentient beings are equal in having been friend, enemy and stranger and that it always changes. Also, all sentient beings equally seek to find happiness and avoid suffering, so it is quite illogical to help friends with attachment, harm enemies with hatred, and simply ignore strangers. There are, of course, many details to this meditation, but the result is that we will develop a much more even, realistic view of others. On this basis we develop great compassion-impartial compassion that holds each and every sentient being equally dear.
The first of the six causes is to see that all sentient beings have been our mother. Because all sentient beings' previous lives are beginningless and because of constantly changing karma, all beings have had every possible relationship with each other countless times each. We focus on their having been our mother because in general, of all the beings in our life, our mother is the one who has been the most kind.
Next we recall the kindness of the mother in, for example, giving us our body, guiding us from danger, giving us our temporal needs and educating us in the ways of the world.
Third we meditate on repaying sentient beings' kindness-not in just a temporal sense, but in the highest possible way. Since sentient beings give us enlightenment, we must repay them by leading them to this exalted state.
Fourth, feeling warmth and closeness with all beings, we generate great love, wanting them to be happy. The fifth cause we generate is great compassion, wanting all sentient beings to be free from suffering.
Sixth, we generate the extraordinary intention, taking personal responsibility for the happiness and enlightenment of all sentient beings. However, when we look at ourselves to see if we are actually capable of doing this, we see that we are not. Only a buddha can enlighten others, so if we really want to do this, we must first become enlightened ourselves.
Thus, these six causes lead to the result-bodhicitta, the determination to attain enlightenment for the sole purpose of enlightening all sentient beings.
Developing compassion in daily life It is all well and good to meditate on compassion in formal sessions-in fact it is extremely essential to do so-but how much time do most of us have to do this? Probably not much. We would more than likely consider ourselves lucky if we could do an hour's formal meditation a day. What about the other twenty-three? Therefore, we need some techniques for generating bodhicitta in our daily life.
As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says,
Live with compassion. Work with compassion. Die with compassion. Meditate with compassion. Enjoy with compassion. When problems come, experience them with compassion.
In other words, we need to develop the mindfulness of doing everything we do with bodhicitta. We must train our minds to remember bodhicitta all the time.
When we get up in the morning, we should think, "How lucky I am to have survived the night. How many people around the world did not? I must make this life, this year, and particularly this day as useful as possible. How should I do this? By using my precious time to create the cause of enlightenment, the greatest possible happiness of myself and others. Therefore, I dedicate everything I do today to the enlightenment of all sentient beings." Then, of course, we must make sure that our actions during the day are in harmony with this aim.
When we shower, we can think something like, "It looks like I'm washing the dirt from my body, but actually I am cleaning the delusions from the minds of all sentient beings," and visualize that as the water runs off our body down the drain, our greed, ignorance and hatred go with it.
When we have our breakfast we can think, "The purpose of my life is to free all sentient beings from suffering and lead them to enlightenment. In order to do this I must have a long and healthy life. Therefore, I am eating this food to sustain my body for the practice of Dharma for the sake of all sentient beings."
As we go out the door, we can think, "I am leading all sentient beings out of samsara into the enlightened realm."
I think you get the idea. We must be creative and use or individual experiences and lives to generate bodhicitta at every possible moment.
However, we must not leave our practice of compassion at the mental, meditative level. We must also put it onto action. In this world of suffering, there are countless ways in which we can offer direct help to others. We can give our time and attention to the sick and needy, feed the hungry, sit with the dying, offer money to the poor and shelter to the homeless. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has often said that in this regard, Buddhists should take a leaf out of the Christian book and build more schools and hospitals, and not confine our practice of compassion to the temple or the meditation room.
Personally, although I was trained and practiced for some years as a doctor, I have tried to express the miniscule compassion I feel for others by spreading the Dharma. After my first meditation course, just over thirty years ago, I went to my precious teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and said, "Rinpoche, I understand intellectually that I want to reach enlightenment in order to alleviate the suffering of sentient beings, but when I say the words, I feel such a hypocrite, because in my heart, I know I am mainly concerned for my own happiness." Rinpoche laughed and said, "Well, it has to start with the words. But as you repeat the words, study Dharma and think of the meaning, slowly, slowly the true feelings of genuine compassion will come." I think I'm still waiting!
Nevertheless, I understood from the Dharma I'd heard that while it would be good to devote myself to healing the sick as a physician, this would never put a permanent end to disease. Even if I were to cure every sick person today, tomorrow, people would fall ill once again. The only way to eliminate disease is to eliminate negative karma, and people have to do this for themselves. Therefore, as a means of helping others escape from suffering, I decided to devote myself to spreading the Dharma, which is the only method I have encountered for eradicating the cause of not only disease, but all suffering, and not just temporarily but forever. Since I'm too ignorant to teach, I spend my time editing and publishing Dharma books, most recently, working on the teachings of my own teachers, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, making them available around the world for free distribution.
To reach enlightenment and benefit the precious mother sentient beings in the highest possible way, we need to gain all the realizations of the path to enlightenment. We do this by meditating on the path, but for our meditations to be effective, we must purify and enrich our minds, so that insight can take root, flourish and ripen. If we make bodhicitta our main practice, we will be creating the most merit and purifying our minds to the greatest extent. Thus, we will quickly be able to gain all realizations and enlighten all the kind, suffering sentient beings, fulfilling their purpose and our own. This is why the Buddha taught, and if we practice in this way, we will also be doing what the Buddha wanted us to do.
References and suggested further reading.
Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana. Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Commentary by Geshe Sonam Rinchen, translated and edited by Ruth Sonam. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1997.
Gyatso, Tenzin, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Illuminating the Path. Commentary on Atisha's Lamp for the Path and Lama Tsong Khapa's Lines of Experience. Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa, edited by Rebecca Novick and Nicholas Ribush. Weston: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2002.
- . Path to Bliss: A Practical Guide to Stages of Meditation. Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa, edited by Christine Cox. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1991. Lam-rim teachings; a commentary on Panchen Losang Chökyi Gyältsän's Path to Bliss Leading to Omniscience.
- . The Path to Enlightenment. Translated and edited by Glenn H. Mullin. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1995. Lam-rim teachings; a commentary on Sonam Gyatso, the Third Dalai Lama's Essence of Refined Gold.
Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen. Vast as the Heavens, Deep as the Sea (Jewel Lamp: A Praise of Bodhicitta). Translated by Gareth Sparham. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999.
Pabongka Rinpoche. Liberation in Our Hands, Parts 1, 2 and 3. Transcribed and edited by Yongzin Trijang Rinpoche Losang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, translated by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin with Artemus B. Engle. Howell: Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1990, 1994, 2001.
- . Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Translated by Michael Richards. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991.
Rabten, Geshe. The Essential Nectar. Translated and edited by Martin Willson. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1992. Lam-rim teachings and meditations; translation of and contemporary commentary on a text by the eighteenth century Tibetan scholar, Yeshe Tsöndru.
Shantideva. A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. Translated by Stephen Batchelor. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1979.
- . A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. Translated by Vesna A. Wallace and Alan B. Wallace. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1997.
Tsong Khapa, Lama Je. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Volumes One and Three. Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2000 & 2002.
Wangchen, Geshe Namgyäl. Awakening the Mind (of Enlightenment). Wisdom Publications, 1988. Meditations on the graduated path to enlightenment.
Zopa Rinpoche, Lama Thubten. Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat. Edited by Ailsa Cameron and Nicholas Ribush. Boston: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2000.
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
“Calling forth the Great Compassion, we are one with our True Nature; that which is directly Buddha, also indirectly Buddha. Oneness with the Triple Treasure, endless, joyous, perfect being. Morning thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin, evening thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin. All present thoughts arise from Mind, no thought exists apart from Mind.”
These are the words of the Ten Verse Life-Prolonging Kuan-Yin Sutra. Who is reciting them?
A few blocks away, an old man is crying out for help and someone hears. He is a brother, sister, father, mother from a previous life. A phone is picked up and then there are footsteps running towards the sound, “Help me! Help...” Someone sees the old man sitting on the top step, near the front door of his house.
No past, no present, no future. All created things arise and pass away. All names and labels dissolve. You can observe this in meditation practice and, in experiencing impermanence in life and so-called death.
At the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra, it is said that, this is how we should view our conditioned existence: as a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
Today I sit alone in a house. The government of the country in which I live has requested that I stay here in isolation for the health and safety of the community both here and abroad. Countless others are doing the same thing, except that some call it a forced lock down, or an obstacle to their free movement. I see this as an opportunity to practice.
The Buddha taught that the suffering connected with birth, sickness, old age and death is a fact of life for sentient beings in Samsara. But so is the possibility of transcendence from Samsaric suffering.
So, for a practitioner, the question is not just “Why?” but also “How?” Why do I/we suffer and, how do I/we overcome suffering? The answer to the former is found in intuitively recognizing (the 3 Poisons): harmful habits of attachment, anger and ignorance; and the answer to the latter lies in resolving to study and practice the Noble Eightfold Path (the antidote) and, fully realizing Buddhahood for the benefit of a
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has given many millions of people worldwide time to reflect on their lives and habits of thought, speech and action.
I know quite a few who have found a refuge of peace in their gardens. Cultivating, planting seeds, adding water and nutrients all help in maintaining a healthy garden. They are also a necessary part in taking care of our bodies. But what about the mind? Generosity, ethics, loving-kindness, compassion, meditative concentration and wisdom are the food for our inner spiritual garden. Without them there is no harvest, no fruit of Awakening, Buddhahood.
As a child my parents encouraged questions, as did my Heart Lama. However, the latter person gave me two questions to ask before speaking: “will what I am wanting to say, and the way I say it, be helpful or harmful to myself/others? Also, does the question come from ‘I don’t know’ (beginner’s mind), or from a place of judgement and opinions?” The aim was/is to cultivate the mind to be like an empty vessel, not one filled to the brim and overflowing where nothing new can enter.
Today, once again, I have another opportunityto talk to you through this online Dharma Talk, proposed by Master Hui Siong. He is Vice President of the World Buddhist Sangha Counciland General-Secretary for Chinese Language Department. He is alsoabbot of Beeh Low See Temple, Mahakaruna Buddhist Center and Vihara Mahavira Graha Medan Temple in Singapore and Indonesia. The connections which lead to this opportunity could be traced back through the founding Congress of the WBSC in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1966 and the second Congress held at Vinh Nghiem Pagoda in Saigon, Vietnam in 1969 by the Most Venerable Thich Tam Chau, co-founder of WBSC. At that time, I had just moved from Hoi An to Saigon; so I did not have theopportunity to participate.
What's your vision for the future of Moreland?
What do you imagine the future of Moreland to look like? What are your hopes, dreams and aspirations? How would you like to shape our city as we move towards a post-covid world?
Over the coming months, we’ll be talking with our community to find out what's important to you, and what services and projects you want us to prioritise to make Moreland the best it can be in the future.
We'll host pop-up events, workshops, a community panel process and much more, to create a Community Vision document that sets Council's priorities for the next four years and beyond. This Community Vision will guide other Council documents including the 4-year Council Plan, 4-year Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan, 10-year Asset Plan and 10-year Financial Plan.
This is an exciting opportunity for us to talk together about how to make Moreland an even greater place to live, work and enjoy for years to come.
Please note by participating in
Hungry Ghosts is a suspenseful, character-driven ghost story with heart, humour and scares. Set in contemporary Melbourne during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, when the Vietnamese community venerate their dead, four families find themselves haunted by ghosts from the past. As these hauntings intensify, they threaten to unleash their deepest fears and expose secrets long buried.
Through an ensemble of characters, both Vietnamese and Anglo, Hungry Ghosts explores the concept of the inherent trauma we pass down from one generation to the next, and how notions of displacement impact human identity - long after the events themselves. Can you ever really leave behind the trauma of your past? Is it possible to abandon both spiritual and physical culture, or does it form part of your fundamental DNA?
To free themselves and those they love, each character in Hungry Ghosts must atone for their sins and confront their deepest fears or risk being swallowed by the shadows of their p
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is not over yet. We need to keep looking after ourselves and our community to stop the virus spreading.
Due to increased cases in Victoria, some restrictions have changed. From 22 June 2020:
· You cannot have more than five visitors in your home
· You cannot gather outdoors with more than 10 people
· Schools, libraries, places of worship and businesses remain open
· Stay close to home and do not travel if possible
Nguyện đem công đức này, trang nghiêm Phật Tịnh Độ, trên đền bốn ơn nặng, dưới cứu khổ ba đường, nếu có người thấy nghe, đều phát lòng Bồ Đề, hết một báo thân này, sinh qua cõi Cực Lạc.
May the Merit and virtue,accrued from this work, adorn the Buddhas pureland, Repay the four great kindnesses above, andrelieve the suffering of those on the three paths below, may those who see or hear of these efforts generates Bodhi Mind, spend their lives devoted to the Buddha Dharma, the Land of Ultimate Bliss.