The Vision of Experience

The second part of the Lam Dre is the vision of experience, which consists of two parts. The first part is the common vision of experience and the second part is the uncommon vision of experience.

The Common Vision of Experience.

The common vision of experience refers to the experience of the common Mahayana practitioner. These practioners apply themselves to meditation on loving kindness, compassion, and the enlightenment thought. By practicing these, one will experience the vision of experience. First, in order to arouse this vision, one must practice loving kindness. To practice loving kindness one must see that samsara is full of suffering. Next, one sees that since everyone wishes to be free from suffering, one must work to be free from suffering. One then aspires to attain personal freedom or nirvana for oneself. We must view the impermanence of our present aggregates, understanding our situation is like a fire without fuel which will eventually go out. Similarly, when one attains nirvana, the aggregates, which are the base of suffering, disappear. However, this goal is only an intermediate goal: if we carefully consider the situation we will see that this is not the ultimate goal. Working for oneself alone is not the highest aspiration. For example, it would not be appropriate to remain in a safe place if the other members of our family were in great trouble. If one is a good and kind-hearted person, one would not be happy in such a situation, but would rather go, and suffer together with the other members of one's family.

We believe that a continuum exists in our present awareness. Since our present body came from our parents, our consciousness must have come from the same kind of mind we experience now. From birth and continuing until old age, although our consciousness changes, the mind continuum remains the same. In this sense, there is no gap in the continuum - the same mind is simply taking different forms. This same example is used to prove that the mind has to exist before the formation of our physical body. Likewise, when we die, the mind cannot be burned or buried, but continues on in another form.

In this sense, there is no time that is considered the beginning of the individual mind. From beginningless time until now we have continued in this realm of existence: we have taken birth, we have died, and we have taken on another form. It is for this reason we believe that at one time or another, every sentient being has been our dear mother, or father, or relative, or friend. Abandoning other sentient beings in order to achieve our own salvation is not the proper goal of spiritual practice. We must continually think of other sentient beings in our practice.

When we begin to consider developing loving kindness, we should remember that every sentient being, even the most fearful animal has a kind of instinctive capacity for loving kindness. Even fearful lions love their cubs. We all have a certain level of loving kindness, but not a full capacity for it. So, we must first cultivate kindness toward persons for whom this is easier - such as our own mother, or relatives or friends. We begin by cultivating the loving kindness we already have, and then work on increasing it. Next, we should try to develop loving kindness to more difficult objects, like one's enemies. We should attempt to transcend the superficial distinction between people we see as friends, as enemies, or those we treat with indifference. In reality, we should see ourselves as having been related to all three kinds of persons at one time or another. By understanding our relatedness to others, and seeing that they have given us much love and kindness as our relatives and friends, we can finally develop loving kindness for all sentient beings indiscriminately. It is possible for us to wish all sentient beings to be happy and to experience the cause of happiness. In this way we must cultivate and build up loving kindness toward all.

After we develop loving kindness we must next develop compassion. We generate compassion by focussing on a particular sentient being that is suffering, and wishing that they be free from the suffering and its causes. As in the meditation on loving kindness, we start first with easier objects, and then gradually build up to more difficult objects, and finally apply the meditation to all sentient beings.

On the basis of loving kindness and compassion, we then develop the ultimate enlightenment thought. In order to completely free oneself from samsara, one must cut the root of samsara, which is self-clinging. Although in ultimate reality, the "self" does not exist, due to the illusions of the "jewelled vision," we perform actions. Through these actions we get caught up in this realm of existence. We therefore must create bodhicitta to crush self-clinging, which is the source of all suffering and the cause of the illusory vision. In order to crush self-clinging thoughts one must practice the two bodhicittas - which are known as relative and absolute bodhicitta. Relative bodhicitta suppresses self-clinging by making it inactive. Absolute bodhicitta completely eradicates self-clinging.

Relative bodhicitta has two parts - wishing bodhicitta and entering bodhicitta. Wishing bodhicitta means to have a sincere wish to attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Entering bodhicitta means not only to have the wish, but to actually undertake some kind of practice to achieve enlightenment. This implies enrolling on the path and proceeding with practice. Efforts which are made after generating the wish to attain enlightenment such as studying, contemplation and meditation, are considered entering bodhicitta. From the very beginning of this practice one must see oneself on an equal level with others. This is an important practice because we are in the habit of believing that there is an enormous difference between ourselves and others. No matter how much we care for others, self-clinging is a propensity we have experienced from beginningless time. Even when we consider another person "beloved," typically one still cares more about oneself, and self-clinging pe rsists. To change this we must cultivate the practice of loving other beings as much as ourselves. Then gradually, as we habituate this attitude, we are able to begin to give up our happiness, benefits, and other good things, for the sake of other beings. Then, we begin to take the sufferings and the cause of sufferings of others onto ourselves. If we had done this in the past, we would already be enlightened. But from beginningless time until now, we have only cared for ourselves. We care for ourselves to the point that every effort we make is only for our own sake, although all this achieves for us is more suffering. It is for this reason we begin to do the exchange meditations, first for ordinary persons, and later on with more difficult objects, like one's enemies, and finally for all sentient beings. In this way we accumulate merit and eradicate selfish thoughts as well as the attitude of self-clinging.

The next topic is the general bodhisattva activities. The relative bodhicitta thought only suppresses self-clinging, so that the defilements become inactive. In this sense, the defilements are not eradicated, but appear again in the future when the conditions are right again. Therefore, in order to completely eradicate the attitude of self-clinging, one needs to practice absolute bodhicitta.

Absolute bodhicitta refers to the absolute reality, the true nature of all phenomena. This is not the sort of thing ordinary people attempt to understand. More intelligent beings try to examine and draw conclusions from questions such as: What is our true nature? Why are we here? Why do we have to experience this kind of life, and why do we have to have this sort of vision? . This is the reason there are so many different philosophical schools like Sarvastivada, Vijnanavada, and Madhyamika. And within these schools there are also internal divisions.

Sometimes, students find it difficult to understand the concept of generating loving kindness toward our mothers, families and friends, because of the difficulties they have experienced with dysfunctional, addicted, and unloving families and relationships. When we give teachings, the teachings are given to help people eliminate suffering and lead them to enlightenment. So the presentation is given in the best possible way. It is true that it is difficult to practice loving kindness and compassion, especially in this degenerate age. When we teach through the pith instructions, teachings that have been passed down from one guru to the next, they have a very special effectiveness. So by presenting these, even if one cannot practice all of it, part of it might actually be very helpful. The Buddha's teaching is like an ocean, very deep and wide. Whatever amount one can take, even as little as a spoonful will be of great benefit. Moreover it is basic human nature that we all need love and kindnes s. We must try to cultivate these virtues through various methods, through the teachings, and through actual experience. We must make every effort through the various methods.

The Pure Vision

Many of the higher tantric teachings call this ultimate reality, "the simultaneously born primordial wisdom." "Simultaneous" means that the result and the cause arise simultaneously - the result is not elsewhere. In this sense, the result is not something we seek outside ourselves, but which is actually within ourselves. Because the cause and the result are simultaneously born, Buddha Nature is within every human being.

If we make efforts, we can all attain full enlightenment. In the relative sense, we go through different phases along the path to enlightenment; however, we must understand that there is a continuity between the ordinary cause mind and the ultimate enlightenment mind. We might consider the example of a copper container which is used to hold dirty things. When such a container is used for dirty things, we consider the container itself dirty. But if the same copper were melted down and made into ornaments which people wore proudly and others admired, then we would consider the copper radically transformed. If again, the ornaments were melted down and made into the image of a deity, then the copper becomes even more precious, as people worship and pay respect to the image. The point is, of course, that the actual nature or real quality of the copper never changes. The same copper has been used as a dirty container, as ornaments, and as the image of a deity. The face or the appearance of the co pper may change, but the actual quality of the copper does not change. Similarly, the natural cause, the true state of our mind, is the Buddha nature. The true state of all phenomena is the same everywhere.

Through our practice, the application of method and wisdom eliminates obscuration and finally enables us to achieve results.

After the vision of experience, when obscurations have been gradually eliminated, and inner wisdom improves, the pure vision is attained. The Buddhas or Tathagatas abandon every possible fault or obscuration and then, through their great realizations, achieve the pure vision. Just as a man who has awakened from sleep cannot experience his dreams, similarly, beings who are completely awakened from illusion cannot see the impure vision. They see the same vision that we have now, in complete pure vision, everything in form and primordial wisdom and everything in pure vision.

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