L a m a . J i g m e . R i n p o c h e

Part 2


As we advance on the path, the practice of ethics becomes more and more important. As explained already ethics is not a set of external rules but it has its base in being vigilant in the need to always keep a watchful eye on what we do. Having understood this about karma, we might be afraid of falling down. What if we are unable to perceive the negative character of an action and think instead that it was positive? The ten negative actions involving the three categories of body, speech, and mind are a useful guide:

Mind: envy, malevolence, wrong views

Speech: lying, slander, callousness, idle talk (e.g. about the faults of others)

Body: killing, stealing (taking what is not given), harming beings sexually

We have a tendency to go and ask a lama, "Is this good or not?" If we look closely enough and we are honest, we really do not need to ask. Ethics will steer us into looking at things as they really are, that is, to do "good." We can use our own understanding and can refer to external rules if sometimes we are not sure. On the surface, ethics do not seem very important, but the consequences can be grave. Small actions, positive or negative, can bring big, unpredictable results. We are responsible for our actions and do not want to take for granted the little things that we can do. We can protect even the smallest life. Our generosity will open us to the ten positive actions. We can deter someone from committing wrong. We can strive to perform small positive things and refrain from small negative actions, ever aware that all actions will bring results. By acting in a positive way, we diminish the agitation of our minds. This in turn will facilitate more positive actions leading to more peace of mind. Everything is of consequence, be it positive or negative, and we have to encourage ourselves to do what is positive.

We can see that the spiritual path is pervasive in all aspects of our lives. There is not one period of time for practice, and another when we are not in practice. It is essential to be aware of how we communicate with others. If possible, with awareness we can try to be kind. We can practice the two accumulations: performing positive actions that lead to good results and having lucidity of mind with ever-present awareness. The latter requires our vigilance all the time. Both accumulations are important and are interrelated. If we find ourselves more engaged in one accumulation, we can expand our time and energy in the other.

There are two qualities relative to the spiritual path that transcend the rationale of ordinary life, faith, and confidence; both are beyond intellectual understanding. We can speak of ethics, perseverance, and other qualities. We need to go beyond the confines of our ordinary perception and reasoning, which is only possible if we have a proper foundation. Our practice will not work if we do not have a solid grounding in ethics. Only then can we try to enter a formal spiritual practice. We need to develop the aspiration to achieve enlightenment. We begin our practice with simple and ordinary experiences that are readily available and easily understood directly in our everyday life. Our practice can take us to higher levels. To explain what we mean by going beyond the ordinary level, we use the example of bodhicitta and our good wishes for all beings. Even though it cannot be explained in words, the power of making wishes to benefit all beings can and will bring about strength in our mind that can purify negativity and make use of the power of wisdom. Although this cannot be explained in ordinary terms, it can be experienced. What is necessary is the accumulation of positive actions in order to transcend the existing boundaries. At that point we can perceive what seems otherwise irrational and can truly understand that we can only be happy by caring for the welfare of others.

Through our formal practice, our understanding will become deeper and sharper. We will understand emptiness, not to be misunderstood as nothingness, that is the nature of all things. We will understand why the practice of yidam (3) can be so effective, how the purification practice works, and why we need a lama. We can go beyond the rational through rational logic and meditation. We will gradually grasp the meaning of the 'developing phase' and 'completion phase' of the practice and how the different phases of the practice are useful. We will gradually understand why some practices are long while others are short. It is necessary to venture forward and investigate for ourselves. The practice works, yet the explanation lies beyond logic. Gradually, we will go farther and farther. This is what we mean by the "understanding of the practice." Of course, our formal practice and daily life are not on the same level, but are of the same path.

To become architects of our own lives, we have to stand on a proper base. The base is essential for our daily life while integrating all the aspects of practice to reach enlightenment. The base also serves to provide comfort and peace of mind while we are on the spiritual path. With a solid foundation, everything is possible. Without it, nothing is possible.

Tathagatha refers to the essence of the Buddha.

2 Paramita - the perfection that leads to enlightenment. The six paramitas are: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom.

3 Yidam - An enlightened aspect of Buddha in the form of a deity that helps a practitioner on his or her path to enlightenment.