Thursday, October 16, l997

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Before, we start, I'd like to say a short Four-lined Invocation Prayer. Tonight's topic is about Buddha Activity and Buddha nature.

In 375 A.D. Pratisha Sheila desired to contribute something meaningful to Buddhism and she prayer deeply over that year. A son, whom she called Asanga, was born to her. Later she had another son and called him Basobindu. When the children grew their normal request to her was if she wanted them to follow in their father's footsteps, which was normal procedure in that day. Instead, however, since she requested they try to help serve humanity and the dharma, they became monks and enlisted in the study of the dharma from many of the various masters of the day.

Asanga became motivated by the quality of Maitreya and received teachings on Maitreya Buddha. He went to the foot of Bird Mountain to do a retreat on the Maitreya Sadhana for three years, but nothing happened. Depressed he left. Hearing drops of water falling and following the sound he found the drops had created a precise hole in a rock immediately below it.

He thought to himself, "The rock is so hard and the water is so soft, it must take great time for a hole to arise". With such as realization he became ashamed of his own impatience and disappointment. He felt his only choice was to return to his cave and continue. Thus, he applied himself more diligently over the next three years.

Still nothing happened and he left again. This time when leaving he noticed the sound of a bird's wing flapping. As he looked closer he saw the bird entering and exiting a hole in the side of the mountain. The surrounding rock had become smoothed by the bird's wings hitting against it with just enough opening space for the bird to fly in and out and gather food for it's young nestled within.

The rock resembled a beautifully smoothed sculpture. This thought then arose in Asanga's mind, "What activity this bird is doing is nothing more than going through the actions of it's normal daily life. What activity I have been doing has not been to satisfy some selfish personal goal, it has been trying to fulfill my mother's wish to help others. I am fortunate to be in this situation".

So, once again he returned to retreat and three more years went by with still nothing happening. He leaves a third time. This time he gets all the way down into the village where an old man is making a sewing needle. Asanga stops to watch him and asks if he has made a needle like this before. Whereupon, the old man takes out a box and opening it to Asanga's surprise it is packed full with numerous sized needles.

So Asanga thinks, "This is ridiculous. He has made many needles, many more than he will ever need and still he continues to make them. What I am doing is much more meaningful than making needles for if I can pursue my retreat it is possible I will be able to benefit many more beings than any number of needles could bring".

So, again he returns up into the mountains for another three years. Still nothing. Now it's been a total of twelve years with no sign from all his diligent application of energy. Becoming distraught and disappointed he yet again gives up one more time.

This time when leaving, he finds himself on a narrow canyon road. Hearing an angrily growling and barking dog, he looks to see the dog. Before him is a dog whose lower body is paralyzed and infested with worms, a dog who is angry and fearful.

Asanga thinks to himself, "What makes this dog bark and cry out so much in pain is only fear. It is ignorance, anger, and desire that makes him bark and howl". With this knowledge Asanga feels a great deal of compassion for the dog's sufferings.

He knows that if he removes the worms from the dog with his hand he could crush the worms and yet if he doesn't remove them the dog will die. With this dilemma in his mind and without personal concern for his own welfare he cuts a piece of meat from his leg and lays it on the ground for placing worms upon. He closes his eyes, holds his nose because of intense odor, and bends over using his tongue to lick the worms off one by one from the dog's skin. But, to his amazement, his face hits the ground.

He quickly opens his eyes and standing before him is the Sambogakaya aspect of Maitreya Bodhisattva whom he had been awaiting signs from for the last twelve years. With great astonishment and shock Maitreya Bodhisattva assures Asanga he had really been with him from the very beginning of his retreat but that until this very moment Asanga had lacked sufficient loving kindness to be aware of him and see him.

After this, he received five teachings from Maitreya Bodhisattva. These five are considered to be one set of teachings and I will be drawing upon this treatise in my discussion of the subject of Buddha Activity and the Buddha Nature.

By the way, there is an English translation on the fifth part of this treatise entitled Mahayana Uttra Tantra Shastra. The translation is not the whole of the Shastra, but the complete fifth section. The English title is The Changeless Nature.

The Seventh Chapter in this fifth book is about Buddha Activity. It says there that the activity of the Buddha is spontaneous. This doesn't mean we pray with such sweet words it touches Buddha's heart and so he responds. What it means is that Buddha activity is spontaneous in the sense that wherever the circumstances are the activity of Buddha is available.

Every sentient being has Buddha Nature. It is just there -- a part of them. A sentient being can catch a glimpse of compassion and wisdom because of the fact that such are a manifestation of their own Buddha Nature. It's like when in the midst of a dark storm lightening strikes. Just for the second everything is clear, but then it is gone. Like this, in the midst of obscurations of anger, desire and ignorance, clear insight can occur. This clear vision is related to the Buddha Nature. The being who can value that and work with that can gradually develop this quality further. This is Buddha's blessing. Buddha's blessing is really there all the time.

What counts, is that you have to be ready. It's like being thirsty with no water in the house when it's raining outside. If we put a pot out that is upside down out we'll remain thirsty. But, as soon as our wisdom and compassion and devotion is there properly, we can turn our pot over and collect the rain water and drink it. This is the way the compassion, wisdom, power, and blessing of Buddha works. It is not a favor. It is a relationship. This spontaneous quality of Buddha Activity continues until all sentient beings attain enlightenment.

The Fifth Chapter of this text is involved with the realization of one's Buddha Nature. Jang Chup is the Tibetan word for enlightenment. Jang means to be totally purified and chup means there is an entire comprehensiveness about it, with nothing left out. It is fully complete. It is being completely free from all aspects of relative veils.

There are two relative veils. One is related to the emotions an done is the conceptual aspect. The emotional veils are desire, anger, etc., all the five poisons. These five poisons are the most superficial fundamental kind of veil. If we examine ourself and our friends, we can remember times when we have been overwhelmed by these emotions.

Emotions exaggerate everything. How much one involves with the emotion is how solid, serious and big things will appear. How much you take it personally is how much it becomes exaggerated to you. It's kind of like looking through a telescope or magnified glass to see every little detail. The whole situation becomes a big exaggerated deal. In this way, we are continuously in samsara again and again. The text says one can overcome this veil by contemplating and applying the advantages of the proper use of one's Buddha Nature and by practicing the paramitas, such as compassion, patience, etc.

The second veil is the conceptual aspect. This is directly related with the emotions, but it is a condition for the emotions. There are two keys that identify this. The two keys are "I" and "Others". The various thoughts and feelings that this is mine, that is not mine, I don't want to have anything to do with this, but that is beautiful and I want it, this continual pull of this and that. Out of all these thoughts and actions of good and bad, right and wrong, this and that, this duality of "I" and "Others", the various emotions develop.

When you get what you desire, you are proud. When you can't get what you want, you are angry. If someone else has something you don't have,you are jealous. If you have something and want to hoard it and not share it, stinginess develops. If someone else touches something of yours, you get resentful and angry. It can be any of these emotions that develop.

The text says a person can work to gradually overcome this conceptual veil. It says if you overcome the conceptual veil, that is the purification part. And, when you overcome the emotional veil, that is the comprehensive part of Jang Chub. As your comprehension becomes deeper and greater, it will totally awaken your enlightened quality.

Some times people think there is really a long way to go before attaining enlightenment. This is because they have heard such things as, "this practice takes a lifetime for accomplishment to occur", or "this practice takes eight lifetimes for enlightenment to occur", or "this practice takes sixteen lifetimes for enlightenment". I personally used to really feel totally at a lost when I thought of myself ever attaining anything in practice. All of my negativity and faults and shortcomings seemed to need so much work it was almost an unsurmountable idea, this idea of freedom from samsara.

Now, I don't think like that. I don't mind 100,000 lifetimes of work. Actually, it's not so bad. I don't think it's an idea that has to be really overwhelming. We shouldn't be so impatient but instead just relax about the whole thing and be practical and have common sense. Know that regardless of how many lifetimes it takes, one is actually working on it and doing just fine.

We will get maximum benefit out of what we discussed tonight and what we will be discussing in the future if we can simply contemplate on these words of dharma and relate it to ourself and our own life. When we contemplate on these teachings and get to the point of it, understand it, and most importantly apply it, then we can receive benefit from it. Use your wisdom to turn the pot right side up to catch the rain water and drink.

Finally, if we do get benefit, we don't have to be proud. Instead, we should be thankful. Grateful to ourself and grateful to our karma which is possible because of all other sentient beings. We should be so grateful and happy that we do a good dedication for whatever we have gained to give it all away. Offering it to all other sentient beings so they too can benefit. In this way, we guarantee that what we have acquired is not lost.

Thank you so much for tonight. I feel very happy and honored to have been asked to share with you and I hope coming here has been helpful and beneficial to you. Let's conclude together with a short dedication prayer.


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