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LDC Basic Dharma Program

Subject 3 : Mahayana Mind Training
Text : Dharmaraksita's

The Wheel Of Sharp Weapons

Commentary by the Venerable Sam-lo Geshe Kelsang Session 10/2001
Translated by Ven. Thubten Yeshe Gurung 5th August, 2001

Verse 43:

When those with ambition repay trusting friendship
By luring us on with their devious schemes,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now from ambition we have acted with arrogance,
Hereafter letís dampen our self-centred pride.

The first line refers to our experiences whence we were cheated. Cheating involves different methods. When we found or realised it, we felt cheated. Instead of fighting back or confronting the person who cheated us, we can use the opportunity for mind training. Why do we experience this? In the past, our arrogance and pride were strong. This is due to our strong arragonce in such matter as ďI am the only one who can do this and that, thinking that other people cannot compare with youĒ.

Another reason is being so greedy to the extend that you want to possess property belonging to others and take their property without their permission. This taking without their permission is due to our greed. Due to engaging in these practises and actions, you are now cheated by the other people.

This is called Ďthe wheel of sharp weapons returning on usí, meaning we are now experiencing the result from the cause we created in the past. What we need to do is to train our mind by knowing that our mind is deluded by these defilements such as arrogance, pride, greed, anger, attachment, etc.; knowing that these are the main causes which bring about our experiences of their results. We try to lessen the power of these defilements and eliminate them from our mind. We should train and subdue our mind, just like when our clothes are dirty, we clean the dirt by washing our clothes in the soap water. When the gemstones were first dugged out of the earth they are not like those we wear on our body. After cleaning and polishing, they become shiny and valuable. So similarly, we can clean and train our mind using the same method.

What do we need to do in order not to experience these results? We need to have less desire and less greed on the prosperity of samsara; we need to be content. What is the prosperity of samsara? It refers to wealth, fame and gain, etc. We need to practise less greed and more contentment towards all worldly richnesses, which are the causes of all problems. If we are not satisfied and do not feel content, our desire will only grow stronger and stronger, which will bring about all sorts of problems, then there will be no end to our sufferings. For this reason, we need to have less desire/greed and be more content.

However, in terms of practicing Dharma, we should never feel content nor should we feel we have done enough.

Verse 44:

When the force of attraction or that of repulsion
Colours whatever we hear or we say,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have ignored what has caused all our troubles
The mass of delusion that dwells in our heart;
Hereafter letís try to abondon all hindrances -
Note their arisal, examine them well.

This verse says that while listening to Dharma teachings from a Lama, we should be aware that the main purpose of the teachings is always to subdue our delusions such as anger and attachment. However, instead of subduing our delusions we often cause them to grow stronger. For example, when listening to Dharma, a thought may arise due to our arrogance and we think: ďEven I can give this kind of teaching! His teaching is nothing; I can talk better than him!Ē If we let our listening to the Dharma becomes a cause for attachment or anger to arise, then listening to Dharma talks not only will not benefit us but will only bring harm. Not only do we not rejoice at the teachings being given by the Lama and think itís a great opportunity for us to develop some insights, we develop anger or attachment instead. By thinking and saying that ďeven I can give this talkĒ we develop attachment towards ourselves and adversity towards others; such thoughts only support/ increase our attachment and feeling of adversity. Having this attitude, when we later attend or give a Dharma talk, it becomes the friend of attachment or adversity. For this reason, we should not make our listening to the Dharma or giving a Dharma talk to become a way to boost our anger or attachment; use these opportunities to subdue our mind by rejoicing in the merits of those giving the Dharma teachings and those attending them.

The second line says that all these happen because of not being mindful of our evil intentions/actions. Here the Ďevil actionsí refers to whatever action that obstructs or is against the practice of Dharma. Due to our inability to contemplate on the faults of evil intentions, our Dharma practices will become supportive of the development of our anger, attachment and all other delusions.

It is explained in the great texts, like The Eight Thousands Verses of The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, the many faults of having evil intentions when listening to Dharma, teaching or practicing Dharma. So if we donít contemplate carefully on that, we will come under the control of our own delusions. Again, an evil action also refers to interrupting our daily practices with other thoughts and matters, for example: falling asleep while doing our prayers and conversing with people while meditating Ė these are also evil actions. So recognizing these evil actions, knowing their faults and then contemplating on them carefully, these actions will become supportive of our Dharma practice. Otherwise they will become the very cause obstructing the practice of Dharma.

In this context, however, the evil intention or action relates to oneís self-cherishing attitude. The self-cherishing attitude is the main cause obstructing our practice of Dharma. If we let our mind to come under the control of the evil intentions of our self-cherishing attitude, we will encounter all the faults while practicing or listening to the Dharma. Letting our mind to support or come under the control of anger and attachment will only enhance our evil intentions. Therefore having recognized that the self-cherishing attitude is the main cause of all problems and then trying to eliminate it, we will not encounter these problems again in the future.

To explain further, an evil or something that is evil does not necessarily have to appear evil, like having horns on the head, being fierceful and so on. It does not have to be always like that. An evil can be a friend who obstructs you from practising Dharma. So in this context, an evil is the self-cherishing attitude which cherishes us as a very dear friend all the time and due to that, we fall under its control. Now having recognized this self-cherishing attitude as the evil, from now on we have to be very mindful of these actions. Try to refrain from repeating them so that we do not obstruct our own practise of Dharma.

Verse 45:

When no matter how well-meant our actions towards others,
Then always elicit a hostile response,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have repaid loving-kindness with malice;
Hereafter letís always accept othersí favours
Both graciously and with most humble respect.

The first line says that whatever we do for the others we always do so with a good heart and good intention, yet these are met with retaliation, displeasure and negative responses.

For example, when someone is about to make a mistake or commit a very bad action, we try to explain to him and advice him to stop it. We do so with a good intention and itís for the benefit of that person. Some people understand our explanation and will accept our good will but there are some who donít understand. Instead of appreciating our good intention to help, they turn on to us and accuse us of blaming them for this and that. This is called Ďto repay oneís kindness with maliceí.

Why is this happening although we only want to benefit other people with a sincere and good motive?... This is because in the past people had come to help us with a good intention but we returned their kindness with harms and bad deeds. Instead of thanking them we caused them much harm. As a result of that, in this life we will meet up with someone who will respond badly to our good heart. So the second line of this verse says the very fact that we are treated badly in response to the kindness we have shown others is because we had been just as ungrateful to othersí kindness in the past. This is what we will experience in this lifetime.

There are people who act badly towards their parents or families, who harm them instead of benefiting them. Here in this text we are talking about harming not only one sentient being but all mother sentient beings. We believe that every one of these sentient beings has been our mother for countless lifetimes, in other words, all sentient beings have in fact been our mother. If we harm or react badly to one single sentient being then it is equal to harming all sentient beings. For that reason, we should really take care not to react badly to even one single sentient being because otherwise, as a result of that, we will meet up with similar treatments in the future although we try to benefit others.

From now on, what we need to do is to carry/uphold peopleís advices on our head. What does that mean? It means to hold/regard peopleís advices as more important than ours. Sometimes people come to help us with great affection, with great compassion and great care. They have great concern for us and they do so solely for the sake of our own benefit. At that time we should really rejoice at their merit and appreciate their kindness. Sometimes this can happen: people make mistakes in their attempt to try to help us; their explanation is faulty and we are well aware of that. Even so we should not retaliate or react badly. We must think that although their way of helping us has been mistaken, they have come to try to benefit us. So despite their mistake, we should still rejoice in their good motive of trying to benefit us. If we can do this and by all means, try to avoid harming or responding badly to othersí good will, as a result, we will not encounter the situations whereby people will react badly to us.

Verse 46:

In short then, whenever unfortunate sufferings
We havenít desired crash upon us like thunder,
This is the same as the smith who had taken
His life with a sword he had fashioned himself.
Our suffering is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Hereafter letís always have care and awareness
Never to act in non-virtuous ways.

This verse explains our experiences in encountering the things that are unwished for and not encountering those that we wished. Here we are talking in terms of gaining property, wealth or becoming famous, etc. Ė these are the things we wish to obtain but we never did. That is called Ďnot meeting with the things we wishí. Whereas things like sufferings, sicknesses, headache, misfortunes and so on are the ones we donít wish for but we involuntarily meet up with them.

The second line of this verse gives the example of a blacksmith who makes swords but is later killed by his own sword. What is the meaning of this is that whatever suffering that you experience, although you donít wish to experience, but you never met the happiness you wish to experience. All these are not caused by other sentient beings but rather they are caused by your own actions and you are experiencing the suffering like the black smith who make his own sword and later killed by his own sword.

What do we have to do so as not to encounter these sufferings of not meeting what one wishes? From now on, we have to be very conscious or very careful in the practice of dharma and the karma of negative actions. When we create negative actions, at that very moment we have to know that the results of these actions will cause sufferings for ourselves in the future. Knowing that, we should now refrain from these negative actions. Be conscious of this. If you donít put effort in this and you know it, it will be worse when you still commit the negative actions. It becomes recklessness. For that reason, one should be conscious of these negative actions and try to refrain from doing them.

Verse 47:

All of the sufferings that we have endured
In the lives we have led in the three lower states,
As well as our pains of the present and future,
Are the same as the case of the forger of arrows
Who later was killed by an arrow he had made.
Our suffering is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Hereafter letís always have care and awareness
Never to act in non-virtuous ways.

This verse is similar to verse 46. The first line says that whatever negative karma that we have created will cause us to be thrown into the three lower suffering states. An example is given of the forger of arrows who made the arrows and later the arrow pierced him and he died. The second line brings out the meaning of the first line.

Verse 48:

When the troubles and worries of family life grieve us,
This is the same as the case of a child
Who was cared for with love later killing his parents.
Our suffering is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us form wrongs we have done.
Hereafter it is fitting in all our lifetimes
For us to live purely as monks or as nuns.

If we have experiences whereby we are not able to settle the family well; you try to give prosperity or happiness to your family but you are not successful in doing so and later encounter more sufferings and so on. And also in a family, the parents provide all the comfort for their child, but later in return the child, himself commit killing of the parents from whom he had received much kindness. Experiences such as these are also due to the negative karma created in the past.

So, knowing that due to the cause of negative actions and the results of these negative actions, from now on, what we need to do is to pray for oneself to become a monk or nun or to receive the ordination of a monk or nun so that in future we donít need to experience those sufferings, such as being in the family and ďsnakeĒ by his own child and so on. Praying to obtain ordination to become a monk or nun is that we donít need to experience the family life and experience the negative results. For that reason, we pray to get the ordination.

Questions and Answers:

Question:
When a husband and his wife quarrel until they hate each other, whose fault is it? Both parties become unhappy. So, how does karma work? Who is at fault?

Gen-la:
Sometimes peopleís karmic imprint in their past lives can be the causes for arguement with each other. But on the other hand, it depends on who caused the argument. People donít argue without any reason. There should be some reasons why people argue. So, whoever is the cause of the argument would create a more negative karma than the other person.

Question:
Verse 46 says here that ďletís always have care and awareness, never to act in non-virtuous waysĒ. Two parties who quarrel; both suffer, right; so their sufferings are due to their non-virtuous actions that they created, thatís according to the interpretation of this verse. So, does that mean that both parties have non-virtuous actions to end up in this quarrel. Because both parties suffer, is it not they suffer because of their non-virtues, and not because of one fellow do wrong, the other fellow do right. People always ask this question. How do they finish their karma. If they hate each other, normally people divorce. If they divorce, have their karma finish already or will they meet again in future lives.

Gen-la:
Yes, it can be due to this karmic connections that they are with each other. Then, karmic connection is finished. But, later again and somehow they meet each other and come together again or something like that. This can also happen. Also due to whatever conditions that arise. This is all due to the workings of karma.

Question:
So when we advise people, is it better to tell people that itís better to bear the suffering and donít divorce. So, if they finish their karma and in future life, they donít have to suffer again.

Gen-la:
In the sense of the karma, it is quite complicated. If you advise them not to divorce, this too is the result of your karma. If they happen to divorce, itís the result of their karma. So, they created the karma. The action of advising them alone does not benefit a lot. So, they have a karma and it is ripening - they divorce. For that reason, those who advise them not to divorce is due to the result of their own karma. So, everything is due to karma.

Question:
The argument arised is due to a karmic debt. You know what is debt? The husband and wife quarrel because of a karmic debt in the past. So, the advise is not to divorce, instead to exhaust the karmic debt, i.e. donít divorce. Is it the correct advice?

Gen-la:
The karma of being divorce in the future. Karma is infinite. So, there is no limit of karma. So, maybe one can exhaust of karma of divorce this once. But, how many karma that is created for this divorce? Among all these karma, may be one karma is exhausted by not committing this divorce through the advice you have given. It does not mean all karma to this divorce is exhausted. So, there can be another karma as karma is infinite.

Question:
So, how do you overcome their suffering. To understand and practise dharma. Is that the answer?

Gen-la:
We need to overcome the defilements. If you overcome the root of the karma, and all other karma will be exhausted. The root of karma is self-cherishing attitude and ignorance and delusion.

Question:
Final question. There are two parties. Letís say the husband practise dharma to remedy the problem and the wife donít practise. Whatís that mean? In the next life, the husband wonít suffer and the lady will continue.

Gen-la:
If two partners have accumulated negative karma, the imprint is in their mental continuum. And now, in the sense of experiencing, if one of them has abandoned or overcame the negative karma or delusion, so that person experiencing the karma is finished. If the other person has the karmic seed, so he or she has to experience it. Somehow due to karma can cause the conditions to experience either with someone else, she marry someone else or then somehow gives the condition to divorce again. So, the karma does not have to be experienced together.

Question:
When you pray to become monk or nun, is it with sincere intention to become monk or nun in this life or in the future life?

Gen-la:
Seeing the disadvantages of this being a lay person with a family life, we pray to become a monk or nun. It doesnít mean that merely gaining ordination as a monk or nun in the future, you will be totally free from those sufferings and the causes of those sufferings. It depends on how you preserve the vows of a monk or nun. Sometimes a monk or nun can commit even worse negative karma than the lay or family person because they are not able to preserve the vows purely and they commit various negative actions. We have to be very careful in receiving the ordination. After you receive well and through the benefits of that will be great, then after that you donít need to experience that of the lay or family.

Question:
The last line bothers me a bit. It says that ďfor us to live purely as a monk or nunĒ. As a monk or nun, you may not live purely, you may break the vows. As a monk, you have potential to live purely. Does it mean that as a lay person, you cannot live purely?

Gen-la:
Living purely means observing the vows purely. There are two kinds of vows Ė layman vows and ordination vows. Ordination vows is much better and stronger than the layman vows. So if you receive ordination vows and keep it purely, you refrain from committing all those actions like negative actions of a lay or family life. On the other hand, a lay person or family may keep their lay vows purely but they still commit negative actions as a result of living a lay or family life. As a result, ordination vow is more important to keep purely than a layman.

Question:
This verse 48 seems to suggest that to live a family life has lots of problems. So, it seems itís better for a person to wish for, in a future life, to become a monk/nun, as it is more peaceful. Sometimes, you can interprete in this way. You got lots of problem, you go to a temple or monastery and leave behind your family. Got lots of problems, run away and go to hide and seek more peace in the monastery than to resolve your problems within yourself.

Gen-la:
To receive the ordination vows as a monk, not merely in order to release the sufferings of the family but the main reason is that being in the family one may not be able to practise dharma purely. There are a lot of difficulties. For that reason, in order to get more opportunity to practise dharma purely is the reason for one to receive ordination vows.

Question:
My second question is about family life. You find that your family gives you a lot of problems, lots of worries or a lot of troubles, does it suggest to the person saying better leave your family and go to the monastery and become a monk and nun. Sometimes, youríve got problems now, lots of headache, etc. What should you do now? It can suggest to the person that this is a way out, leave the family and go, become a monk or nun now, not say in the future.

Gen-la:
By knowing the faulty side of the family life/lay peopleís life, then if you wish to gain or receive the ordination vows of the monk or nun, then thatĎs very good. However if you know that if you leave the family and there are no other means for your family to survive or live, then in this case, better think carefully.

However, it does not mean that we have to receive the ordination vows in order to practise dharma purely, and to leave all these sufferings, family sufferings and so on like that. So, here we talk of the majority of the people, they receive the ordination vows to get more opportunity to practise the dharma so that they can be free from these sufferings of family life as we have mentioned here. However, in order to practise dharma purely, it is not necessary to receive the ordination vows of becoming a monk or nun. Even as a lay person, one can practise dharma purely and can attain liberation of samsara and even enlightenment.

An example is that of King Indrabudhi who was the supreme ruler of a kingdom near India during the Buddhaís time. Even though he wanted to practice the Dharma very much, he had not much chance to do so as he had many responsibilities in ruling the kingdom. Then, during that time the king requested the Buddha if there was any method he can practise as a lay person to achieve enlightenment for the sake of the whole nation without leaving his kingdom. Then, at that time, the Buddha gave the discourse of the tantric practice and then the king followed the tantric practice and follow the instructions of the Buddha. Finally, he could attain enlightenment as a lay person. The lay people can also do the dharma purely. It doesnít have to be a monk to practise dharma purely.

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Note on authentication

Jacqueline Lam prepared the original typescript from the tape recording. Pek Chee Hen checked and edited the typescript.

@ Losang Dragpa Centre, September 2001


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