the Perfection of Dharma|
by Lama Thubten
|Lama Thubten Yeshe
gave this teaching during a five-day meditation course he conducted
at Dromana, near Melbourne, Australia, in March, 1975. Edited by
Nicholas Ribush. This teaching appears in the November/December
1997 issue of Mandala.
| I think it is absolutely essential
for us to have loving kindness towards others. There is no doubt
about this. Loving kindness is the essence of bodhicitta, the
attitude of the bodhisattva. It is the most comfortable path, the
most comfortable meditation. There can be no philosophical,
scientific or psychological disagreement with this. With bodhicitta,
there's no East-West conflict. This path is the most comfortable,
most perfect, one hundred percent uncomplicated one, free of any
danger of leading people to extremes. Without bodhicitta, nothing
works. And most of all, your meditation doesn't work, and
realizations don't come.
Why is bodhicitta necessary for success in meditation? Because of
selfish grasping. If you have a good meditation but don't have
bodhicitta, you will grasp at any little experience of bliss: 'Me,
me; I want more, I want more.' Then the good experience disappears
completely. Grasping is the greatest distraction to experiencing
single-pointed intensive awareness in meditation. And with it, we
are always dedicated to our own happiness: 'Me, me I'm miserable, I
want to be happy. Therefore I'll meditate.' It doesn't work that
way. For some reason good meditation and its results – peacefulness,
satisfaction and bliss – just don't come.
Also, without bodhicitta it is very difficult to collect merits.
You create them and immediately destroy them; by afternoon, the
morning's merits have gone. It's like cleaning a room and an hour
later making it dirty again. You make your mind clean, then right
away you mess it up - not a very profitable business. If you want to
succeed in the business of collecting merits, you must have
bodhicitta. With bodhicitta you become so precious – like gold, like
diamonds; you become the most perfect object in the world, beyond
compare with any material things.
From the Western, materialistic point of view, we'd think it was
great if a rich person said,'I want to make charity. I'm going to
offer $100 to everybody in the entire world.' Even if that person
gave with great sincerity, his or her merit would be nothing
compared with just the thought,'I wish to actualize bodhicitta for
the sake of sentient beings, and I'll practice the six paramitas as
much as I can. That's why I always say, actualization of bodhicitta
is the most perfect path you can take.
|"The best Dharma practice,|
the most perfect, most
is without doubt
the practice of
|Remember the story of the Kadampa
geshe who saw a man circumambulating a stupa? He said, 'What are you
doing?' and the man answered, 'Circumambulating.' So the geshe said,
'Wouldn't it be better if you practiced dharma?' Next time the geshe
saw the man he was prostrating, and when he again asked what he was
doing, the man replied, 'One hundred thousand prostrations.'
'Wouldn't it be better if you practiced dharma?' asked the geshe.
Anyway, the story goes on, but the point is that just doing
religious-looking actions like circumambulation and prostration
isn't necessarily practicing dharma. What we have to do is transform
our attachment and self-cherishing, and if we haven't changed our
mind in this way, none of the other practices work; doing them is
just a joke. Even if you try to practice tantric meditations, unless
you've changed within, you won't succeed. dharma means a complete
change of attitude - that's what really brings you inner happiness,
that is the true Dharma, not the words you say. Bodhicitta is not
the culture of ego, not the culture of attachment, not the culture
of samsara. It is an unbelievable transformation, the most
comfortable path, the most substantial path – definite, not
wishy-washy. Sometimes your meditation is not solid; you just space
out. Bodhicitta meditation means you really want to change your mind
and actions and transform your whole life.
We are all involved in human relationships with each other. Why
do we sometimes say,'I love you,' and sometimes, 'I hate you?' Where
does this up-and-down mind come from? From the self-cherishing
thought – a complete lack of bodhicitta. What we are saying is, 'I
hate you because I'm not getting any satisfaction from you. You hurt
me; you don't give me pleasure. That's the whole thing: I – my ego,
my attachment – am not getting satisfaction from you, therefore I
hate you. What a joke! All the difficulties in inter-personal
relationships come from not having bodhicitta, from not having
changed our minds.
So, you see, just meditating is not enough. If that Kadampa geshe
saw you sitting in meditation he'd say, 'What are you doing?
Wouldn't it be better if you practiced dharma?' Circumambulating
isn't dharma, prostrating isn't dharma, meditating isn't dharma. My
goodness, what is dharma, then? This is what happened to the man in
the story. He couldn't think of anything else to do. Well, the best
dharma practice, the most perfect, most substantial, is without
doubt the practice of bodhicitta.
You can prove scientifically that bodhicitta is the best practice
to do. Our self-cherishing thought is the root of all human
problems. It makes our lives difficult and miserable. The solution
to self-cherishing, its antidote, is the mind that is its complete
opposite – bodhicitta. The self-cherishing mind is worried about
only me, me – the self-existent I. Bodhicitta substitutes others for
It creates space in your mind. Then even if your dearest friend
forgets to give you a Christmas present, you don't mind. "Ah, well.
This year she didn't give me my chocolate. It doesn't matter."
Anyway, your human relationships are not for chocolate, not for
sensory pleasures. Something much deeper can come from our being
together, working together.
|"With bodhicitta you become so precious – |
like gold, like
You become the most perfect object
in the world,
with any material things."
|If you want to be really, really
happy, it isn't enough just to space out in meditation. Many people
who have spent years alone in meditation have finished up the worse
for it. Coming back into society, they have freaked out. They
haven't been able to take contact with other people again, because
the peaceful environment they created was an artificial condition,
still a relative phenomenon without solidity. With bodhicitta, no
matter where you go, you will never freak out. The more you are
involved with people the more pleasure you get. People become the
resource of your pleasure. You are living for people. Even though
some still try to take advantage of you, you understand: 'Well, in
the past I took advantage of them many times too.' So it doesn't
Thus bodhicitta is the most perfect way to practice dharma,
especially in our twentieth-century Western society. It is very,
very worthwhile. With the foundation of bodhicitta you will
If you take a proper look deep into your heart you will see that
one of the main causes of your dissatisfaction is the fact that you
are not helping others as best you can. When you realize this you'll
be able to say to yourself, 'I must develop myself so that I can
help others satisfactorily. By improving myself I can definitely
help.' Thus you have more strength and energy to meditate, to keep
pure morality and do other good things. You have energy, 'Because I
want to help others.' That is why Lama Tsong Khapa said that
bodhicitta is the foundation of all enlightened realizations.
Also, bodhicitta energy is alchemical. It transforms all your
ordinary actions of body, speech and mind – your entire life into
positivity and benefit for others, like iron transmuted into gold. I
think this is definitely true. You can see, it's not difficult. For
example look at other people's faces. Some people, no matter what
problems and suffering they are enduring, when they go out they
always try to appear happy and show a positive aspect to others.
Have you noticed this or not? But other people always go about
miserable, and angry. What do you think about that? I honestly think
that it indicates a fundamental difference in the way these two
kinds of people think. Human beings are actually very simple. Some
are a disaster within and it shows on their faces and makes those
whom they meet feel sick. Others, even though they are suffering
intensely, always put on a brave face because they are considerate
of the way others feel.
I believe this is very important. What's the use of putting out a
miserable vibration? Just because you feel miserable, why make
others unhappy too? It doesn't help. You should try to control your
emotions, speak evenly and so forth. Sometimes when people are
suffering they close off from others, but you can still feel their
miserable vibration. This doesn't help – others with even momentary
happiness forget about leading them to enlightenment. To help the
people around you, you have to maintain a happy, peaceful vibration.
This is very practical, very worthwhile. Sometimes we talk too much
about enlightenment and things like that. We have a long way to go
to such realizations. Forget about enlightenment, I don't care about
buddhahood – just be practical. If you can't help others, at least
don't give them any harm, stay neutral.
Anyway, what I'm supposed to be telling you here is that
bodhicitta is like atomic energy to transform your mind. This is
absolutely, scientifically true, and not something that you have to
believe with blind religious faith. Everybody nowadays is afraid of
nuclear war, but if we all had bodhicitta, wouldn't we all be
completely secure? Of course we would. With bodhicitta you control
all desire to defeat or kill others. And, as Lama Je Tzong Khapa
said, when you have bodhicitta all the good things in life are
magnetically attracted to you and pour down upon you like rain. At
present all we attract is misfortune because all we have is the
self-cherishing thought. But with bodhicitta we'll attract good
friends, good food, good everything.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said recently, if you're going to
be selfish, do it on a grand scale; wide selfishness is better than
narrow! What did His Holiness mean'! He was saying that, in a way,
bodhicitta is like a huge selfish attitude because when you dedicate
yourself to others with loving kindness you get a lot more pleasure
than you would otherwise. With our present, usual selfish attitude
we experience very little pleasure, and what we have is easily lost.
With 'great selfishness' you help others and you help yourself; with
small it's always 'me, me, me and it is easy to lose everything.
Remember, Atisha had over 150 teachers? He respected them all,
but when he heard the name of one – Lama Dharmarakshita – he would
come out in goose-bumps. He explained this by saying, 'I received
many teachings from many, many great gurus, but for me, Lama
Dharmarakshita, who gave me the bodhicitta ordination and teachings
on the method and wisdom of bodhicitta and the six paramitas, was
the most helpful for my life'. This is very true. Sometimes
techniques of deity meditation are extremely difficult, but
bodhicitta meditation is so simple, so incredibly profound and real.
That's why Atisha would shake when he heard the name of his main
teacher of bodhicitta.
The main point, then, is that when you contact Buddhadharma you
should conquer the mad elephant of your self-cherishing mind. If the
dharma you hear helps you diminish your self-cherishing even a
little, it has been worthwhile. But if the teachings you have taken
have had no effect on your selfishness, then from the Mahayana point
of view, even if you can talk intellectually on the entire lam-rim,
they have not been must use at all.
Do you recall the story of Shantideva and how people used to put
him down? They used to call him Du-she-sum-pa, which means
one who knows how to do only three things: eating, sleeping and
excreting. This was a very bad thing to call someone, especially a
monk. But that's all that people could see him doing. However, he
had bodhicitta, so whatever he did, even ordinary things, was of
greatest benefit to others. Lying down, peacefully, he would
meditate with great concern for the welfare of all living beings,
and many times, out of compassion, he would cry for them. Westerners
need that kind of practice. Fundamentally we are lazy. Well, maybe
not lazy, but when we finish work we are tired and don't have much
energy left. So, when you come home from work, lie down comfortably
and meditate on bodhicitta. This is most worthwhile. Much better
than rushing in speedily, throwing down a coffee and dropping onto
your meditation cushion to try to meditate. It doesn't work that
way; your nervous system needs time and space. You can't be rushing
through traffic one minute and sitting quietly meditating the next.
Everything takes time and space. It is much better to r have a
quiet, blissful cup of coffee, And don't pressure yourself either;
that too is very bad. Don't punish yourself when you are too tired
to meditate: 'I should be meditating; I am very bad.' You destroy
yourself like this. Be wise. Treat yourself, your mind,
sympathetically, with loving kindness. If you are gentle with
yourself you will become gentle with others so don't push. Pushing
doesn't work for me, that's why I tell others not to force
themselves. We are dealing with the mind, not rocks and concrete; it
is something organic.
|"In a way, bodhicitta is like a huge selfish
because when you dedicate yourself to others
loving kindness you get a lot more pleasure
than you would
|The Western environment offers lots
of suffering conditions that act as causes for our actualizing
bodhicitta, so life there can be very worthwhile. For example, it is
much better to subdue an adversary with bodhicitta than with a knife
or gun. When attacked, you can practice loving kindness. We could
also do this in the monasteries of Tibet, where there were often
horrible monks. Don't think that Tibet was full of only holy people
– we had unbelievably wild monks there that nobody in authority
could subdue! If you would try to control them wrathfully they would
get only more aggressive. But arya bodhisattva monks, people who had
completely given themselves up for others, would treat them with
loving kindness, and the wild monks would calm down completely. They
would feel, 'This man loves me; he has great compassion. He has
given up everything for others and has nothing to lose.' In that way
aggressive people would be subdued, without authority but with
bodhicitta. There are many stories about this kind of thing, but I'm
not going to tell them now. Perhaps you think they're funny, but
it's true – you can conquer your enemies, both internal and
external, with loving kindness and bodhicitta. It is most worthwhile
and there's no contradiction bodhicitta is the totally comfortable
path to liberation and enlightenment.
In his text Lama Choepa, the Panchen Lama says, 'Self-cherishing
is the cause of all misery and dissatisfaction, and holding all
mother sentient beings dearer than oneself is the foundation of all
realizations and knowledge. Therefore bless me to change
self-cherishing into concern for all others.' This is not some deep
philosophical theory but a very simple statement. You know from your
own life's experiences without needing a Tibetan text's explanations
that your self-cherishing thought is the cause of all your confusion
and frustration. This evolution of suffering is found not only in
Tibetan culture but in yours as well.
And the Panchen Lama goes on to say that we should look at what
the Buddha did. He gave up his self-attachment and attained all the
sublime realizations. But look at us we are obsessed with 'me, me,
me' and have realized nothing but unending misery. This is very
clear isn't it? Therefore you should know clean clear how this
works. Get rid of the false concept of self-cherishing and you'll be
free of all misery and dissatisfaction. Concern yourself for the
welfare of all others and wish for them to attain the highest
realizations such as bodhicitta and you'll find all happiness and
|"Bodhicitta is the most perfect way to practise
especially in our twentieth century Western society.
It is very, very worthwhile.
With the foundation of bodhicitta
you will definitely
|You people are young, intelligent and
not satisfied with what you have in your own countries. That's why
you are seeking further afield. And now you have found that most
worthwhile of all things, bodhicitta.
But it is not an easy thing. Easy things bore you quickly. It is
quite difficult, but there's no way you'll get bored practicing it.
People need to be most intelligent to actualize bodhicitta, some,
though, have no room for it. 'Forget about yourself and have a
little concern for others?' they'll ask. 'That's not my culture.' It
is very difficult to change holding yourself dear into holding
others dear instead – the most difficult task you can undertake. But
it is the most worthwhile and brings the greatest satisfaction.
After practicing some meditations, such as impermanence and
death, for a month you'll say, 'I'm tired of that meditation.' But
you'll never get tired of meditating on bodhicitta. It is so deep; a
universal meditation. You'll never get tired of bodhicitta.
You have heard of many deities that you can meditate on, many
deities to be initiated into - Chenrezig and the rest. What are they
all for? I'll tell you – for gaining bodhicitta. As a matter of
fact, all tantric meditations are for the development of strong
bodhicitta. That is the purpose of your consciousness manifesting as
a being with 1000 arms so that vou can lend a hand to a thousand
suffering beings. If you don't like to manifest yourself this way
you can relate the meditation to your own culture and see yourself
as Jesus. Avalokiteshvara and Jesus are the same: completely
selfless and completely devoted to serving others.
Remember what happened the first time that Avalokiteshvara took
the bodhisattva ordination? He vowed to guide all universal living
beings to enlightenment from behind, like a shepherd.'I do not want
to realize enlightenment until first I have led all mother sentient
beings there first. That will be my satisfaction.' He worked for
years and years, leading thousands of beings to enlightenment, but
when he checked to see what was happening he found there were still
countless more. So again he worked for years and years and again
when he checked there were still so many left, and this cycle was
repeated until finally he was fed up and thought to himself, 'For
aeons and aeons I have struggled to lead all sentient beings to
enlightenment but there are still so many left. I think it is
impossible to fulfil my vow.' And because of the intensity of his
emotion his head split into eleven pieces. Then Amitabha Buddha came
and offered to help, and blessed him to be successful.