Eliminating the Kleshas
Bodhicitta is cultivated in order to benefit all sentient beings. We should cultivate it when we are listening to the teachings, contemplating them, or meditating. Buddhism has both the words of the Buddhas and the commentaries on them. The original words of the Buddha are of several types. One type is the teachings that arose through the Buddha’s blessing. Then there are commentaries by Indian and Tibetan scholars. This teaching is from Tibet and is called “Mountain Dharma Teachings for Intense Retreat.” This teaching is from the thirty eighth chapter.
The Mountain Teaching was requested by a student of Raga Asya, Tsondu Gyamtso. He said he couldn’t understand the teachings on emptiness and needed a summary of how to practice in order to eliminate his ignorance. So in response Raga Asya taught these teachings. In this chapter he taught the four aspects of eliminating suffering by subduing it, by applying the antidotes, by knowing its nature, and by taking suffering on the path.
The first point he taught is how to subdue suffering. This is done by teaching the law of cause and effect. By a firm understanding of karma, we can eliminate negative actions, which cause suffering, and cultivate positive ones. The actions one has to abandon are the causes of suffering. It is ignorance that gives rise to conflicting emotions and causes one to commit negative actions. So one has to know what is to be abandoned. It is certain that one’s painful experiences come from one’s `negative actions. The body that is the result of negative karma and to enlightened beings it has the nature of suffering. This is known as the first noble truth, the truth of suffering. The four noble truths are called truths, as they are non-deceptive, and noble, as they are known by superior beings.
The second noble truth, the truth of the origin of suffering, says suffering arises from negative emotions and faults. As long as one carries these negative emotions, there will be no end to one’s suffering. So this is the truth of the origin of suffering. The truth of cessation is the attainment of the end of suffering. When one can cut the causes of sufferings, negative emotions and actions, then one achieves happiness and freedom from cyclic existence. This achievement of liberation is known as the truth of cessation. Superior beings experience it as if it were the cure to illness. The path is the antidote that cures one’s illness or the causes of one’s suffering. This is what is known as the truth of the path. The path is the means to attain liberation. When one’s liberation becomes stable the path becomes a cure for one’s illness. To explain the analogy further, the first truth is like the illness. The second is like finding the cause of the illness. The fourth truth is like the treatment and the third truth is like the cure. This is the teaching Buddha taught to his first five disciples in Sarnath.
This explanation is based on what the author teaches in first two verses of this chapter. The verses say that this body is the basis of suffering that arise from negative emotions. Suffering ceases through their elimination and the cause of their elimination is the path.
In order to study all the aspects of the paths and grounds, the four noble truths can be explained in sixteen aspects. You should go through them again and again by asking questions and receiving teachings from Khenpo and Drupon, who are here all the time. Otherwise if you just put them in your notebook and don’t analyze their meanings, there could be mistakes. So you should analyze them and go through them again and again and ask the teachers to clear up difficulties. Even with one’s root teacher you should not take anything for granted, but analyze through logical investigations. This is also taught in Jewel Ornament of Liberation. Whether America can preserve Tibetan Buddhism depends on many factors. The Tibetan teachers desire to bring the teachings, but it also depends on the recipients. I myself am not very learned on these teachings. I am only here for a while, but Khenpo and Drupon are here all the time and you should request the teachings from them. Life is short and uncertain, so we should use this opportunity to request the teachings. One should also develop pure perception and see all things as pure. Students should be serious with the teachings. If you find my teachings meaningful, you should take them to heart. If not, you should clarify them by asking questions.
To talk more about negative emotions and thoughts, especially the five poisons, attachment causes rebirth in the hungry ghost realm. Hate causes rebirth in the hell realm. Ignorance causes rebirth in the animal realm. And so on. But this doesn’t mean each realm has definite causes. It is possible to be reborn as an animal through attachment. But you can hear about these causes in the Jataka stories. The five poisons give rise to the ten negative actions and these give rise to suffering.
To talk about how these ten negative actions bring suffering,. each has three effects: the initial effect, the empowering effect, and the effect similar to the cause. If one kills, the initial effect is rebirth in a lower realm. The result similar to the cause is even if one is born as a human one will like killing. The empowering effect is that one will be born with a short life or defects. So the topic of cause and effect is subtle and difficult to understand. But if one understands negative actions cause suffering and positive actions bring joy, that is its essence. One should learn the ten negative actions by heart. The ten positive actions are their opposite. There are three negative actions of body, four of speech and three of mind. The three negative actions of body are killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. The four of speech are lying, harsh words, divisive words, and gossip. The three of mind are disbelief, covetousness, and ill will. This country has many laws. But if you obey these ten precepts you will stay within these laws. Most of you have been Buddhist for many years and should know them. Though your lives are busy, you should take the time to receive teachings and practice them. It is like having a million dollars in your purse. Without spending the money, it is useless. So we should avoid negative actions and cultivate positive ones.
At the same time the happiness and joy one can find in the higher realms is impermanent. There are immense pleasures in the god realms, but they are impermanent. America is a country of pleasure and luxury. But they are impermanent. So if you renounce cyclic existence and see the its suffering and impermanent nature, there is the possibility of spiritual practice. One should not be carried away with habitual behavior, but should take time for spiritual practice and training. Although it is said America is the land of freedom, from the Buddhist point of view this is not true ultimate freedom. If you don’t agree with these points, you should listen to them and think about them before criticizing them.
So all six types of sentient beings have painful experiences and the four sufferings of birth, sickness, aging, and death. As long as being engage in negative actions, they can never be free of sufferings. So we should eliminate their causes so one can gain liberation. Without practicing their antidotes one can never get rid of them. Regarding the precepts and vows, there are the pratimoksha vows, either lay or monastic.. There are also the bodhisattva vows and tantric samayas. One should protect them as if they are our own eyeballs. If one breaks them one will be reborn in the lower realms So one should observe one’s vows strictly. We consider our lives important, but breaking the vows is worse than losing one’s life. You can be reborn as a human being if you die. But if you break your vows you are reborn in the lower realms for countless years. If you know the vows in detail, you should take them. But if you are humble, you should have the determination to avoid the ten negative actions.
I came to America because my teacher told me to do so. I don’t have the qualities to be a teacher, but I do so because Garchen Rinpoche told me to do so. The important thing is not to give rise to aversion as a result of these teachings. You should include all beings in all realms when dedicating merit.
Today we are going through the thirty eighth chapter of Mountain Dharma. This chapter deals with four things: how to eliminate suffering, learn its nature, the antidotes that overcome suffering and transform suffering into the path. If you break the vows you hold it is similar to a moth flying into a flame. Flying into a flame is similar to attachment. The object of attachment has no true existence. There are many objects of attachment: beautiful forms, good food, meat, alcohol. So these are the objects of attachment. The negative effects of these attachments is like licking honey off a sharp knife. This has been taught by Buddha, but we can analyze for ourselves. In particular there is the monastic precept of avoiding eating after noon. I know people have doubts about this, but most of us believe this is very true. Regarding eating meat, the prohibition is against eating animals slaughtered for your sake. In any case we should pray for the benefit of the animal that was killed. We often find spiritual teachers eating meat and we should be careful not to criticizing them. At best we should avoid eating meat, thinking all sentient beings were our parents. Then we will hesitate to eat meat. The idea of eating meat for strength and health seems to have developed after the Second World War. So it has become a habit. But I have heard it said that more recently scientists say meat is not good for one’s health, so we can regard it from this point of view. A spiritual master is able to benefit the being who was killed.
The precepts against eating meat are in the Surangama Sutra and Lankavatara Sutra. America says all people has equal rights. But Buddhism says all sentient beings should be regarded equally with compassion. Buddhism teaches exchanging oneself for others. So we can imagine the sufferings of being killed. It is said that your mind is clearer if you do not eat in the evening. If you go to work in the morning after not eating the night before, your mind is lighter. So it has that benefit. As for the faults of drinking alcohol, Buddha taught it is a serious negativity. It is the source of many negative actions and faults. The behavior and appearance of drunks is disgusting. So there are many negative effects to drinking.
Vows or precepts cannot be taken away by our enemies. They can only take our lives. We should practice patience so we do not lose our vows when harmed by our enemies. This mostly refers to the negativity of hatred. Shantideva said anger can destroy the virtue of hundreds of thousands of years. In order to overcome hatred, we should practice patience. Shantideva gave the example of using shoe leather to protect our feet rather than covering the surface of the Earth with leather. Similarly we cannot avoid all the hostility of others, but we can overcome our own anger.
It is said there is no hardship like the practice of patience and no negativity like anger. So practicing patience is difficult, but anger is particularly heinous. If you are tortured or beaten you should think I am Buddhist and shouldn’t fight back, that is useless. The right way to respond is to control your anger towards your attacker by feeling compassion to them and realizing you are experiencing the beating because of your past bad karma. So you should hold to the motive of bodhicitta.
The next teaching is on contentment. It is very important to be happy with what you have. Because of our desire for wealth, we give rise to many negative emotions and actions. If you are content with few possessions, you can avoid these negative emotions. It is said with strong desires one does not know the happiness of contentment. We should also know what comes to us is the results of our past karma. In life we see classmates from the same school have different amounts of success when they graduate. In America most people wish to become president, but only one person has the karma to do this. So we should find happiness with whatever one has. If two people have a million dollars, the contentment of the person with the money may be different One person may be content with this and the other may not be. This is due to craving after wealth.
The next fault to overcome is ignorance. Ignorance generally means not knowing the nature of reality and cause and effect. But in this text it refers to sleep. There are many negativities attached to sleep. The time we spend sleeping is equivalent to being dead. There are also other negativities. if you attend a teaching and fall asleep will you miss it, or if you are sleepy you may not hear the entire teaching or misunderstand it. So sleep is an obstacle to your practice. You should have a short, light sleep. When we listen to teachings on bodhicitta, if we miss the first part on generating bodhicitta of aspiration we will misunderstand the teaching on the bodhicitta of engaged action. The root cause of our samsaric existence is ignorance. Because of it, people misunderstand the dharma and give inauthentic teachings based on their fancies. These teachings lead to wrong views and suffering. Ignorance is very powerful and has carried us through all our lives through beginningless time. Through ignorance we criticize others including spiritual teachers. We should not criticize others because emanations of bodhisattvas can be anywhere. So because of our ignorance we even criticize the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and their teachings. These are heinous negative actions. And not believing in rebirth and karma are also heinous acts. Karma Chagme’s aspiration prayer to be born in Amitabha’s pure land talks about overcoming this form of ignorance. It is difficult to understand the subtleties of karma. Conceptual thinking can never lead us to this understanding. So we should depend on the teachings of the Buddhas. Our own understanding is like the flickering light of a butter lamp and the light of the omniscient ones is like the light of the Sun.
Now we will talk about jealousy. It comes from a wish to achieve a position or fame greater than others. It comes from a wish to possess others’ possessions and a desire to criticize and insult others. These cause a tremendous amount of demerit if directed to enlightened beings.
The next negative emotion is pride. Sometimes one is proud of one’s observation of the vows and precepts. There are three main vows, the pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and tantric vows. If you can keep the four monastic root vows. and five branch correctly it has a tremendous amount of benefit. Even keeping one vow is of tremendous benefit. At the same time, you should never criticize others who have no vows. As Drikung Kagyu practitioners you should carry the vows of this lineage. When I talk of my tradition, I don’t wish to slight others, but I only think we should hold our tradition purely and properly. When you do this you receive the blessings of the lineage. The ris med tradition doesn’t mean mixing the practices of other traditions, but respecting them all and not criticizing them. Here it talks of the pride of holding vows and precepts. One should never criticize beings without them as lower. One should never give rise to pride. Any ordained sangha member is regarded as one of the three jewels. So criticizing them is a heinous downfall. So whether a person holds vows or not, you cannot judge them by their outer behavior. You cannot estimate the inner qualities and realizations of other beings, so you should avoid criticizing and humiliating others. Patrul Rinpoche said remaining humble is the source of the superior qualities.
So now we have completed the first of the four topics. The second deals with the antidotes to negative emotions and thoughts. These instructions are directed to the ordained. The antidote to attachment is to meditate on the unclean substances in the body. The body is like a golden vase filled with excrement. The same antidote can be applied by women as well as men. The body contains thirty six impure substances. We can also think of the impermanent nature of the person. It is like a flower in Spring which quickly loses its color and beauty. So one should see the body as filled with a number of impure substances. It appears attractive from the outside, but its interior is not like this.
Sometimes we find this teaching uncomfortable and difficult to accept. This is due to our self grasping mind. But if we dissect the body we will see this is a matter of fact. Taking the body as pure and attractive is a delusion of self grasping mind. It is like building a house on top of a cess pool. If someone tells you this is where we have built it, we will not want to accept this. It’s helpful to go to cemeteries and seeing human bodies being given to birds. You will find it disgusting to see the internal organs and bones strewn about. But these are what we carry in our bodies right now. So we can carry these as one’s meditations. It’s helpful to see real human corpses and to go near them and smell them. Visualize a skeleton and then the whole Earth filled with skeletons. You can do this meditation by putting a real skeleton in front of you or a picture of the skeleton. Or you can use a picture of yourself and mentally peel off the layers of the body down to the skeleton. This meditation overcomes the fear of corpses. In reality the human body is a corpse. Here in America I saw diagrams of the human body without the skin. If you look at them, you see there is nothing there to be attractive. So these are all antidotes to overcome desire.
The next is the antidote for hatred. If others are hateful to you, you should imagine that all sentient beings have been your mother in previous lives. In the Thirty Seven Activities of a Bodhisattva it says you should see all sentient beings as your sons and daughters suffering from illnesses. If you can see other sentient beings as your mother, it can calm your hostilities to them. Anger cones from the ignorance of not knowing that sentient beings have been your mother. One order to achieve enlightenment, one must first achieve the perfection of patience. Our patience must be based on loving kindness and compassion. merely not responding to hostile actions is not patience. One should direct loving kindness and compassion to them. You should know your enemies are crazed by negative emotions and that they have been your mothers. On this basis you should appear compassionate and loving to them and practice patience. You should see you enemies as beneficial, as they are the objects of your practice of patience. You should not criticize or humiliate them. Instead you should see them as your spiritual friends because through them you can purify your negativities and progress on the path to enlightenment. So you should take enemies and the poor as objects of your practice. Without the poor you cannot practice generosity. Sentient beings are kind to us, because without them we cannot practice the first three perfections of generosity, moral ethics, and patience. So it is said that sentient beings are kinder to us than enlightened beings. One should be grateful to them for this reason. One should not insult them and criticize them. In the Jataka stories it talks about how the Buddha practiced the perfections in previous lives toward Devadatta. In this meditation you first think of the kindness and care you got from your mother. Then think of how the kindness was also shown you in previous lives. One can enhance one’s practice of patience by exchanging yourself with others. Think of enemies as yourself and yourself as the enemy. If you do this, you won’t be able to generate hostile thoughts towards them, because they are your self. When you exchange yourself with others you act as if you have all the anger and hatred and think that the enemy is trying to generate loving kindness and compassion to you.
The next is the antidote to ignorance. You can use the twelve deeds of Shakyamuni and the twelve links of dependent origination as an antidote to ignorance. You will find the twelve links depicted in many monasteries as the wheel of life. If you think of them it helps you understand how ignorance leads you from life to life. It is said that ignorance is like a wheel circling around. This text also talks about how to overcome sleep, especially during retreat. You can display an altar with the symbols of the three jewels around the main pillar of a house and circumambulate it. If there is no pillar, you can place a table in the middle of the house and do the same. You can visualize a flame on top of your head and this will clarify your mind and make you need less sleep.
You have received countless teachings and empowerments in previous lives, but still have not achieved enlightenment. To know that although one has received tantric empowerments and trainings and instructions on deities, because of lack of effort and capability we are still in samsara. This helps diminish one’s pride. Paying respect and making prostrations are also antidotes to pride. Pride is the feeling that one has higher knowledge and understanding. Prostrating overcomes this. Taking refuge also helps to gain faith and doing prostration minimizes one’s pride.
The antidote to jealousy is contemplating the bodhisattva vows one has taken. As one has taken such vows, we should be mindful of them when there is danger of generating jealousy. Jealousy comes when one thinks of the qualities or pleasures of another. Since one has vowed to liberate others, one should rejoice in others pleasure and happiness. This increases one’s accumulation of merit, leading to higher rebirth, even as Brahma in the god realm. By recognizing the negative results of jealousy, which are rebirth especially in the demigod realm one can eliminate giving rise to negative thoughts and emotions.
So we have gone through the first two of the four sections. The first is the abandonment of negative emotions and thoughts. The second is the antidotes to negative emotions. For anger contemplate patience, for pride think of your negativities and others qualities. You can connect these practices with the seven limbed prayer. According to Drikung tradition one should generate bodhicitta after arising in the morning, followed by the seven limbed prayer and dedication.
The third section is the true nature of negative emotions and the fourth is transforming them into the path. If we have the opportunity, I will present them in the future. But you should request these teachings from Khenpo and Drupon. The next two points are more advanced. There may be people able to do this in this country, but transforming negative emotions into the path can only be done by advanced practitioners. The peacock can eat poisonous plants, but they would kill other animals. So you should be careful with those. All these practices can be carried out within the framework of the three trainings. When I give teachings, if you take them as the definitive teaching, that would not be correct. You should analyze these teachings and clarify their points. In India when the scholars wrote a commentary on the Buddha’s teaching they were analyzed by other scholars before being published. If they were not accepted, they would tie the pages to dogs’ tails. We should stick to books that are translations of authentic Indian and Tibetan masters and be careful with other teachings.