The commitment to take care of one another is often described as a vow to invite all sentient beings to be our guest. The prospect can be daunting. It means that everyone will be coming to our house. It means opening our door to everyone, not just to the people we like or the ones who smell good or the ones we consider “proper” but also to the violent ones and the confused ones — to people of all shapes, sizes, and colors, to people speaking all different languages, to people with all different points of view. Making this commitment means holding a diversity party in our living room, all day every day, until the end of time.
It is necessary to distinguish between the mere aspiration to achieve enlightenment and the actual effort put forth toward fulfillment of your resolve. Whenever your actions are motivated and guided by your intent to win enlightenment for the sake of all beings, those actions constitute the Bodhichitta of application. It is like first making up your mind to make a journey it India and then taking the steps to get there: you buy the ticket, board the plane, undergo the experience of traveling, and finally arrive at your destination. In the same way, the Bodhisattva first makes up his mind to strive solely for Buddhahood and then undertakes to train in the six paramitas as and so forth.
What makes this resolve and this action a manifestation of your Bodhichitta is the presence in your mind of great love and great compassion, especially the latter. With a friend sense of the limitless sufferings with which beings are faced—a sense that you cannot bear to be indifferent to their sufferings, nor to have them remain in their sufferings—you feel impelled to make any effort in your power to remove them from those sufferings. When you have this sense of compassion, and when it is so intense that you feel it to be almost unbearable, then you can be said to be motivated by true great compassion, and whatever action you take to attain Buddhahood automatically becomes Bodhichitta because it is genuine.
The same is true of your aspiration: it is not merely a verbal promise or an intention to sooner or later get around to doing something for beings. It becomes true Bodhichitta of aspiration only when you feel it from the heart and follow it up with the right actions. As the Bodhisattva Maitreya said:
It doesn’t look good if an intelligent person who is carrying on his head the great burden of all living beings dallies along the way. One who has resolved to liberate himself and others from the bonds of worldly existence should exert himself in efforts that are a hundredfold greater than usual.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
The spiritual master is like the earth, never giving way beneath our feet. The spiritual master leads us to enlightenment without disappointing us. Borne by the air, a plane can take us quickly to where we could never go on foot. Borne by our devotion, the blessings of the teacher bring us swiftly to realization.
One of the meanings of the word dharma is “that which holds.” It holds and guides those who give themselves to it with confidence. A person being swept away by the swift current of a river can be gripped by a firm hand and hauled on to the bank. In the same way, the teacher’s hook can pull us out of the round of deaths and rebirths, as long as we can hold out to him the ring of our faith.
No student at any level of teaching in Buddhism, from the Fundamental Vehicle up to the Great Perfection, can do without the guidance of an authentic spiritual master. To place our trust in such a teacher is the best way to progress and to avert all the potential hindrances and wrong turnings that we could encounter. So, on our journey toward enlightenment, devotion is the fare — it is what we have to contribute ourselves in order to reach our destination.
It can be very difficult to accept that the source of what we like or do not like arises in our mind. When we get our heads stuck in the clouds – pretty clouds, ugly clouds – we cannot see that they are impermanent, that they have a life of their own, and that they will pass on, if we let them.
Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
There’s no end to the activity and delusions of saṃsāra:
The more you do, the more they go on increasing,
Animosity and attachment strengthen all the while,
Creating the causes for your own downfall.
Turn your mind, therefore, towards the Dharma.
If you can integrate the Dharma physically, verbally and mentally,
You have set out on the path to liberation and enlightenment,
And, at the moment of death, you will have no regrets.
In this and all your future lives,
You will go from one joy to the next.
The dharmakāya remains the same nature for all the buddhas.
The saṃbhogakāya remains the same meditative absorption for all the buddhas.
The nirmāṇakāya remains the same awakened activity for all the buddhas.
There are two approaches to the spiritual path: the intellectual and the intuitive. In the intellectual tradition, spiritual development is viewed as a sharpening of intellectual precision, primarily through the study of theology. Whereas in the intuitive or mystical tradition, spiritual development is viewed as a deepening of awareness through practices such as meditation. These two approaches are not in opposition. Rather, they are two channels that combine to form the spiritual path.
Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
The only source of every kind of benefit for others is awareness of our own condition. When we know how to help ourselves and how to work with our situation we can really benefit others, and our feeling of compassion will arise spontaneously, without the need for us to hold ourselves to the rules of behaviour of any given religious doctrine.
What do we mean when we say, becoming aware of our own true condition? It means observing ourselves, discovering who we are, who we believe we are, and what our attitude is towards others and to life. If we just observe the Limits, the mental judgments, the passions, the pride, the jealousy, and the attachments with which we close ourselves up in the course of one single day, where do they arise from, what are they rooted in? Their source is our dualistic vision, and our conditioning. To be able to help both ourselves and others we need to overcome all the limits in which we are enclosed. This is the true function of the teachings.
Progress in the practice depends upon cultivating faculties of mindfulness and alertness, which are lucid and sharp. If we do not maintain them, or if they are not intense enough, we will not be able to cut through the undercurrent of our thoughts.
There is no greater inspiration, no greater courage, than the intention to lead all beings to the perfect freedom and complete well-being of recognizing their true nature.
Whether you accomplish this intention isn’t important. The intention alone has such power that as you work with it, your mind will become stronger; your mental afflictions will diminish; you’ll be more skillful in helping other beings; and in so doing, you’ll create the causes and conditions for your own well-being.
Groundlessness, uncertainty, insecurity, vulnerability — these are words that ordinarily carry a negative connotation. We’re generally wary of these feelings and try to elude them in any way possible. But groundlessness isn’t something we need to avoid. The same feeling we find so troubling when we open to it can be experienced as a huge relief, as freedom from all restraints. It can be experienced as a mind so unbiased and relaxed that we feel expansive and joyful.
We cannot identify the nature of space
As having this or that attribute
Or as having this or that empirical characteristic.
It has no color, shape, or form
And cannot be contaminated by anything that occurs within it.
In the same way, emptiness —
Which is inexorably bound with the mind —
Is free from all empirical characteristics.
The nature of mind is not contaminated
By karma of either a positive or negative nature.
The ancient Buddhas taught the Dharma
Not for its own sake but to assist us.
If we really knew ourselves
We would not have to rely on old teachers.
The wise go right to the core
And leap beyond appearances;
The foolish cleave to details
And get ensnared by words and letters.
Such people envy the accomplishments of others
And work feverishly to attain the same things.
Cling to truth and it becomes falsehood;
Understand falsehood and it becomes truth.
Truth and falsehood are two sides of a coin:
Neither accept nor reject either one.
Don’t waste your precious time fruitlessly
Trying to gauge the depths of life’s ups and downs.
14th Dalai Lama
Good conduct is the way in which life becomes more meaningful, more constructive and more peaceful. For this, much depends on our own behaviour and our mental attitude.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Traveling on paths that pass through regions infested by bandits is a fearful experience fraught with dangers. The spiritual path, too, leads through difficult and dangerous defiles, and anyone making the arduous journey toward enlightenment must expect to encounter some formidable obstacles, especially desire, anger, confusion, pride, and jealousy. You may manage to avoid the ambush set up by desire, only to find anger lying in wait, ready to overpower you at the next crossroads on your path. Even if you escape that danger, it will be all too easy to fall into the clutches of pride and jealousy. The five poisonous emotions are merciless marauders who will not have the slightest hesitation in killing your chance of reaching your destination, freedom from samsara. To bring you through these dangers, you will need a soundly reliable escort. That escort is the spiritual master. Only with the master’s guidance will you arrive safe and sound.
This is something we can look at and see for ourselves. When we act with a kind heart and good motivation, without any greed or lust, without any aggression, and without any delusion, that is virtuous. If, on the other hand, we act with a bad motivation out of the greed that wants only to benefit ourselves, out of the aversion that wants to harm someone else, or out of delusion that does not know what to take up and what to give up, that is non-virtuous.
Dakpo Tashi Namgyal
Since revulsion is like the feet or the guardian of your meditation practice, you should contemplate the suffering of samsara. Keeping in your innermost mind that this life is impermanent and without lasting substance, cut worldly ties and resolve to equalize life and practice.
Since devotion is like the head or the enhancement of your meditation practice, entrust yourself fully and make sincere supplications to your guru and the lineage masters, never parting from seeing them as buddhas in person.
Since mindfulness is the watchman or heart of your meditation practice, never forsake it, not only during sessions, but also train in keeping constant company by reminding yourself of the natural state at all times and in all situations.
Make compassion the activity of your meditation practice, so that you cultivate loving kindness, compassion and bodhichitta for all sentient beings and bring them under your protection with dedication and aspiration.
The mind is like a crazy monkey, which leaps about and never stays in one place. It is completely restless and constantly paranoid about its surroundings. The training, or the meditation practice, is a way to catch this monkey, to begin with. That is the starting point.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Realizing that everything is a creation of our mind is the most important discovery; it is the fundamental enlightenment meditation. It is the best, most immediate way to solve problems, because when we realize that every problem we have comes from our own mind, there is nothing to blame on others. Even if somebody is angry at us and abuses us, it comes from our own mind. Previously we have put the entire blame on other people, thinking that all our problems came from outside, not from our own mind.
When we find that there is nothing external to blame, there is nothing for us to do except to transform our own mind, to purify our own karma. We have to purify our present impure karma, which projects these unpleasant appearances, and accumulate more merit. Since everything comes from our mind, enlightenment also has to come from our mind. Our own mind has to create englightment.
One practice that I especially like is taking mental snapshots. You can begin by closing your eyes. Then turn your head in any direction — up, down, sideways. It doesn’t matter which way. The idea is that you’re not exactly sure what you’ll see when you open your eyes. Then, abruptly open your eyes and see what’s in front of you. Almost immediately, you will revert to labeling everything, but try to observe that moment before the labeling happens. In a relaxed and open way, try to take a mental snapshot of that instant, which is empty of imputed meaning.