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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 8/2001
Translated by Ven. Thubten Yeshe Gurung 22nd July, 2001

Verse 39:

When attachment and anger disturb and upset us
No matter how much we may try to suppress them,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have held on to the improper outlook:
Stubbornly cherishing only ourselves;
Hereafter letís uproot self interest completely

Attachment means desire for oneself [or oneís own benefit] while anger is hatred towards other sentient beings. Sometimes we manifest strong attachment to ourselves and we have anger. Though we know about the disadvantages i.e. resulting in suffering, they still manifest strongly. Even though we try our best to prevent the delusions of attachment and anger, they manifest even stronger. This is because of the cause we have accumulated in the past lives. In past lives, we had led our action under the control of self cherishing attitutes, these have left strong imprint in our mind. As a result, though we know the disadvantages of attachment and anger, they still manifest strongly.

Now that we know the results of self-cherishing attitudes, we must be determined to apply the antidote against the self-cherishing attitude.

Verse 40:

When success in our practices always eludes us,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now, deep within, we have clung to our ego,
Fully immersed in self cherishing ways;
Hereafter letís dedicate all of the virtuous
Action we do, so that others may thrive.

We are not successful in whatever Dharma practice we do, such as meditation on emptiness, to gain realization, take homage to the triple gems, pray and dedicate. The reason we fail is because in the past, we had strong wrong view. There are many types of wrong view such as worldly wrong view. The wrong view in this context is the view of self cherishing attitude. Thus no mater how hard we practice, we cannot succeed.

So, in order to have successful practice, we must see the disadvantage of self cherishing and apply its antidote so as to eliminate it. In the past we looked at the quality of self cherishing and support it, now we should look down self cherishing and cherish others more than oneself.

Verse 41:

When our mind is untamed though we act with great virtue,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have engaged in those worldly ambitions
That aim at success for ourselves in this life;
Hereafter letís work with pure one-pointed effort
To nourish the wish to gain freedom's far shore.

No matter how many virtuous actions we have performed, we cannot subdue and pacify our mind. Instead, we have more delusion, become more angry and have more attachmen. This is because our mind and our virtuous actions are not in correct and perfect conditions. In fact, performing virtuous action is the method for the mind to be virtuous, but if the mind does not involve in it, the mind becomes negative and has delusion.

Why we can't tame our mind? This is because in the past, we did virtuous actions for the sake of this life, i.e. to be famous, gain property etc. Thus, though we perform virtuous action strongly, we still cannot tame our mind.

In order not to have this happen, whenever we do daily practice, prostration or reciting the commitment, we must try to set the motivation of Bodhicitta or altruistic mind. If we can't do that, at least we should practice for the sake of next life. Then, this will be Dharma practice.

If we practice with the motivation for this life, e.g. not to fall sick, to gain property etc, these practices - though are not non-Dharma, they are not perfect Dharma. In order to practice perfect Dharma , we need to set the motivation at least for the benefit of next life. From then on, slowly we can extend our motivation, to gain liberation, to be free from samsara, and later we develop the motivation to gain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Thus, we extend our motivation in this way.

Sometimes, when we do our daily prayer, if we are not able to set any motivation, that is we are neutral, neither negative nor positive, though they are virtuous and Dharma actions, they are not perfect.. Therefore in order to perform perfect Dharma, it is thus very important to set motivation. By setting motivation, we accumulate merit. If we set our motivation for the sake of all sentient beings, it becomes perfect Dharma, the merit we gain will be more than the merit we gain from having set a motivation to be liberated from samsara. If we set the motivation for the benefit for next life, we gain less merit. There are thus 3 types of motivation we can set when practicing Dharma, which will result in different amount of merit. If two people who recite mantra , one recites one mantra and the other recites 100 mantra, if the former one has proper motivation, he will perform perfect Dharma compared to the other one.

In the beginning it may be difficult to set up motivation because at one hand, we have to refer to the text for daily practice, on the other hand we have to set up motivation. But once we familiarize ourselves by setting motivation in our daily practice, the motivation can easily be set up. For that reason, we should try to set better motivation whenever we practice Dharma.

It was mentioned in the sutra that if we set our motivation for next life, we would gain happiness in the next life as well as this life. But if we set motivation only for this life, there is doubt whether we can gain happiness even in this life.

In another sutra, it was mentioned two people who set different motivation. One to cure sickness of all sentient beings, never thought of oneself, while the other set his motivation to gain merit to cure his sickness. The second person can't cure his own sickness but the first person was able to remedy for his sickness. This is because the first person that set his motivation to remove sickness from others gained more powerful merit than the person who set the motivation for himself only. Setting motivation not only for oneself but others gathers more merit than setting motivation only for one self.

It is easier for those who have merit to accomplish and fulfil their wishes and achieving their goals. For that reason, in order to accumulate merit, and be closer to enlightenment, we should set motivation for other sentient beings.

From now on, whatever virtuous actions we do, do not set motivation for the sake of this lifeís fame, happiness and property, but to set motivation for the sake of next life or to gain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Also we can set the motivation to attain non-abiding nirvana, which is the same state of the Buddha. Thus, we can eliminate hindrances that obstruct from achieving our goal of practice.

Question:
We are now living in samsara and if we wish for future life, isn't the future life also in samsara?

Gen-la:
Yes, future life is also in samsara. But when we set the motivation for the future life, we aim not to be born in the lower realms, but to be born in higher realms , to be able to practice Dharma and accumulate merit, in order to gain enlightenment and be liberated from samsara. Thus, we set motivation for the next life to be born in high birth. To be born in high birth, most people aim to be born a human because precious human rebirth has more opportunities and potential to practice Dharma than the other realms. For that reason, we aim for the next life and to get precious human rebirth so that we can achieve the complete state and be liberated from samsara. on

Question:
Christian practitioners, like Mother Theresa, do virtuous work , humbly, for the aim of future life, so that when they die they will go to Heaven and be with god. In the Buddhist context, are these people practicing Dharma?

Gen-la:
Yes, Whatever the action they do, if the motivation is to aim to be born in heaven, if their actions are good for other beings, then it is definitely Dharma practice. On the other hand, if the actions are bad but motivation is to be born to heaven, then the action does not become the cause to attain the next life. Actions that sacrifice lives with the aim to have rebirth in the next life; the action is bad but the motivation is to live in heaven in the next life. Thus, it depends on the motivation and action.

Question:
In verse 39 and 40. they both mention about the cause i.e. the wrong view of self cherishing but the results in these 2 verses are different?

Gen-la:
One cause can leads to different results. Verse 39 stated that we try our best to eliminate attachment and anger, but because of our past strong familiarization, they become stronger. In verse 40, we cannot succeed with our practice because of self cherishing thoughts. Same cause can produce different results. For example by practicing patience, the result can be either born as a humble, not a short-temper person or to be born a handsome and beautiful person.

Question:
How does self cherishing leads to attachment and anger?

Gen-la:
Because self-cherishing attitude likes oneself and dislike others. One like everything related to oneself, own happiness and one's family. Whatever harm one receive on oneself or one's family, one then get angry. For example if there are 2 person, one is our friend the other is neutral to us. If people talk badly about our friend we get angry but not so when they talk bad about the neutral person.

Question:
If we are doubtful about our actual motivation, will it affect our motivation?

Gen-la:
It is true that sometime we are doubtful whether we ourselves will get the benefit by setting the motivation to benefit all sentient beings. This is because we think ourselves are more important than others. But do not worry about this. When we set the motivation for others, the Bodhicitta we have is more powerful than setting the motivation for oneself, our goal including that of benefits for oneself will be achieved much quicker.

Question:
If our motivation is not sincere, is weak but we are not very sure about the sincerity of our motivation, how can we check?

Gen-la:
The reason we are not sure of our motivation is because we do not know the advantages of benefiting sentient beings, we do not believe or have conviction on the advantages of benefiting other sentient beings.

Question:
How to strengthen our Bodhicitta motivation?

Gen-la:
In order to strengthen the motivation, we need to contemplate more on the advantages of Bodhicitta, if we do not have Bodhicitta, we cannot gain enlightenment. If we want to help others, we must have the wish to help. In order to develop the wish to help, we must see the suffering of the sentient beings. By seeing the suffering of sentient beings, then we are able to generate the wish to liberate others from the suffering. The more we contemplate, the stronger is our Bodhicitta. Thus, we need to contemplate on the advantages of Bodhicitta again and again.

Question:
If we have the thought that by having the motivation to benefit others will eventually be good to ourselves, gathering good merit for ourselves, the concept of self comes in, is that a wrong doing?

Gen-la:
It is definitely good merit when we are benefiting others. For example, for the sake of being born in good rebirth, we refrain from wrong doing and keep good morality, these are good actions. By having self-cherishing thought does not mean that it is bad. Self-cherishing can lead to good results, it depends on what way you are using it. Due to self-cherishing attitude we are doing good, then it is good. For example, Shravakas and Pachekabuddhas do their practices to gain self liberation. If the cause of self-cherishing attitude lead to good result, then it is good, if it leads to bad results then we have to prevent the cause of self-cherishing attitude. When we practice cherishing others, it is an antidote to self cherishing. In the twelve link of dependent origination, the main root of the twelve link is ignorance. The main cause of ignorance is self cherishing. Due to the cause of self cherishing, we are able to practice morality and be born in precious human rebirth. Thus self cherishing can lead to good or bad results.

Question:
When setting the motivation to help all sentient being, and the situation arise where we have to help a stranger. But at that time, we think of the consequence that if we were to die, what will happen to our family. Due to that thought, we did not help the stranger. Is this self cherishing attitude?

Gen-la:
This situation is neutral. If Bodhisatva has commitment to help others and they do not do, they will have bad karma. If we do not have such commitment, then it is not a bad karma.

Question:
How to increase Bodhicitta, how much we should contemplate and how much we should perform the act to cherish others?

Gen-la:
We need to remember the kindness of all our mothers, just like the kindness of our present mother. Due to the kindness of all sentient beings, we are able to practice patience and compassion. By contemplating so, we will wish to help others and slowly one will develop the thought that there is no point to cherish oneself as others are more important. When we have the thought of the importance of others, we will cherish others.

Question:
Do we just contemplate on Bodhicitta or should we go out and do the actions?

Gen-la:
Through contemplating on the kindness of all sentient beings, how grateful they are, with the belief of past and future life, that all sentient begins are our mothers; by contemplating in this way, the Bodhicitta will grow. Physically, we can contemplate by visualizing light and nectar from the Buddha that dissolve into us and clear away our negative karma., then Buddha's body, speech and mind are inseparable from us, no more obstruction to develop Bodhicitta. More emphasis is on how we contemplate.

In setting Bodhicitta motivation, the main cause to develop the motivation is to think of the kindness of sentient begins, to develop the compassion for all sentient beings - this is the main cause. Other practices, like physical actions, are not the actual cause but do support the development of Bodhicitta and we do accumulate merit by good action. But the actual and main cause to develop Bodhicitta is to contemplate on the compassion absorbing into all sentient beings and to contemplate on the kindness of all sentient beings. In order to achieve the result quicker , we need supportive causes such as those actions that will accumulate merit, e.g. Hospice work.

Question:
Can self-cherishing attitude leads to good samsaric results?

Gen-la:
For example in the twelve link dependent origination, ignorance is the main cause of all the link, and ignorance is self cherishing attitude. Due to the cause of self cherishing , we are born in human rebirth. Therefore, it is not a samsaric result but good result.

It all depends on your practice. If you are doing solitary or Hinayana practice, self cherishing is not an object to be abandon. But for the Mahayana practice, it is an object to be abandon as Mahayanists practice solely aim for others. When we cherish others, cherishing oneself has to be abandoned and eliminated.

In this text we talk about the disadvantages of self-cherishing attitude, as this is a Mahayana text.

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Note on authentication

Ms. Goh Pik Pin prepared and typed the original transcript simultaneously with the translation. Ven.Thubten Dechen checked and edited it according to the tape-recording.

@ Losang Dragpa Centre, September 2001


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