Advice to students by
When we talk about ethics, what is ethics? Ethics is the quality of our mind wishing to abstain from non-virtue and negativity, wishing to protect our thoughts and actions from non-virtue and negativity. That quality of our mind is ethics. When we engage in a non-virtuous action, there are various parts to it. The first preliminary part is the motivation. Then you have the actual course of the action. And then you have the completion of the action. When you have that quality of ethics wishing to protect your thoughts and actions from non-virtue, that quality of the mind is in itself an antidote to the motivation. Of course it is also an antidote to the actual action–engaging physi-cally and verbally in the course of the action. That quality within our mind, the wish to abstain from non-virtue, the wish to protect our thoughts and actions from non-virtue, in itself acts as an antidote to both the preliminary motivation and the actual action of our body and speech.
Ethics is that quality of the mind, which wishes to protect the mind. What it is protecting against is non-virtue. Of the various non-virtues, it is primarily protecting against the non-virtuous motivation. And of the types of non-virtuous motivation, it is primarily concerned with the three poisonous states of mind. So how to generate and strengthen the quality that wants to abstain from non-virtue and to protect the mind? There are two ways. The first is through the taking of vows or precepts from an abbot or a preceptor. The second way is through understanding the shortcomings and failures of ignorance, attachment, anger and so forth, knowing the disadvantages of these negative states of mind. Knowing the antidotes to all of these is what enables us to have that quality of the mind wanting to abstain, wanting to protect. As we talked about last time, for some, ethics is happiness, for others, it is suffering. For example, if one thinks, “I took these vows and precepts and if I break them or incur transgressions, it will cause me to take rebirth in the lower realms,” this is a narrow way of thinking, and if one practices ethics only in this way it will not become ethics that causes happiness. It is not living in ethics that brings joy. What is important is that one takes on the practice of living in ethics by understanding that it is the antidote to one’s negative states of mind, targeting attachment, anger, and igno-rance. One needs to understand the dependent arising of actions and their results, and it is this wisdom that transforms living in ethics into happiness. By thinking in this way, our practice of ethics becomes one that is able to bring forth happiness, as opposed to thinking, “Oh, I have taken these commitments and if I don’t keep them I’m going to be reborn in the lower realms.” If this way of thinking is the only reason why one is living in ethics, then living in ethics cannot be joy, cannot be happiness. Concerning the manifestation of our three poisonous states of mind, the base of the manifestation is the intention. For that matter, the base of the manifestation of any of the ten non-virtuous actions is the intention. This base of intention is a mental karmic action, and its very root is ignorance. In order to counteract it, one needs the understanding of both emptiness and dependent arising.
order to enhance the mind of ethics that wishes to abstain and protect,
one has to have good reasons, pure reasons that give us the incentive to
abstain and protect the mind. Also, one has to know what it is that one is
protecting the mind from. Besides the three poisonous minds, there is also
the mistaken view that (fails to understand that) the way things appear is
not reality–things are not true the way they appear. These mistaken modes
of apprehen-sion can be faulted by the logic of ultimate truth and by the
logic of conventional truth. In this way, when we think about develop-ing
the mind which wishes to protect and abstain, we should even think in
terms of that level of view: wanting to protect the mind and to abstain
from this grasping at true existence, which is mistaken because it is
completely faulted by the reasonings of both ultimate and conventional
truths. In short, what has been said here is that to really enhance the
mind which wishes to protect and abstain, and in order to gain the
perfection of ethics or morality, one must have wisdom. For example, in
order the enhance the mind’s capacity or strength in wishing to give, one
needs the support of wisdom, and to enhance the mind wishing to protect
and abstain, one also needs the support of wisdom. But of the two, it is
even more important in the case of enhancing the mind, which wishes to
abstain and protect–the mind of ethics. With regard to the enhancing or
cultivation of this mind of ethics, one needs a much stronger support of
antidote to the mind of ignorance is meditating on the twelve links of
interdependent origination–how cyclic existence is caused, sustained, and
perpetuated–as well as meditating on the twelve links in reverse, in the
order in which they can be ceased. In this way, thinking about
interdependent origination, the dependent arising relationship, one
considers that the very fact that (a phenomenon) is dependent means that
it is empty. And because it is empty, it totally negates any type of
inherent exist-ence. So in this way, one applies the antidote to the
mind of ignorance.
With regard to attachment, we have many lifetimes of imprints of attachment in our minds, and that attachment is what brings alive the causes of one’s cyclic existence. Attachment is like the lasso binding us to cyclic existence. By thinking about the shortcomings of the mind of attachment, one should work towards cultivating the antidote for the mind of attachment. As beginners on the path, thinking over and over again about the shortcomings of attachment is the way to start off.
Along with the antidotes to ignorance, anger and attachment, another thing we need to work on is the antidote to the eight worldly dharmas. The antidote to our mind’s interest in the eight worldly dharmas is thinking about the general shortcomings of our cyclic existence, and thinking about impermanence and death. The other delusions to work on are pride and deluded doubt.
having an inflated sense of our own self-importance, the thinking that in
every respect oneself is superior to everybody else. But in reality,
one could not be like that–supreme in every way in relation to others. So
even if it’s not like that in reality, the mind of pride tends to hold on
to one particular attribute that one might have, one particular good
quality, and by the strength of that, the mind thinks that one is best in
every way. To counteract the mind of pride, one should think about one
particular weakness, an area in which one is lacking in some way. The mind
should focus more on that.
There are root delusions and secondary delusions, but what one should focus on eliminating are the root delusions. The more one can work on the root delusions, the more one can eliminate the secondary delusions.
Therefore, as individuals seeking the path that leads us to enlightenment, what we need to accomplish and to see as the result of our life is the ability to free ourselves from the control of our delusions. Becoming liberated from the control of the deluded states of mind, developing faith in cause and effect, cultivating wisdom, and having the basis of the minds of renunciation and ethics–if one can practice the combination of all these features together, one can obtain the objectives of the path. The Kadampa masters say that the best attainment is developing faith in cause and effect, living in pure ethics, and eliminating one’s delusions and negative states of mind. By having faith in cause and effect, one is able to live in pure ethics; by living in pure ethics, one is able to eliminate delusions. This is the best attainment.