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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 1/2001
Translated by Ng Jun Mei 8th April, 2001


Due to your request for the teaching on mind training based on the text “The Wheel of Sharp Weapons”, Gen-la would now begin the commentary.

Mind training is not a separate topic from Lam Rim. Mind training is the preparation to enter the Path therefore, it is also Lam Rim. As with the Lam Rim, the Small Scope is the preparation for the Middle Scope and the Middle Scope is in turn the preparation for the Great Scope. Likewise, mind training is the preparation for entering the Path.

Let us first begin with explaining the words “mind training”. “Mind” is of course referring to the mind itself. “Training” is to make “it” (the mind) better. Why do we need to make the mind better? It is because our mind is currently with afflictions (together), it is not clean, it is completely under the control of the afflictions which propel us to create negative karma since beginningless time and that is why we are suffering. We suffer because we did not train our mind to make it clean as it is now stained with defilements. In order to train the mind to separate the stain whether coarse or subtle, we have to do it gradually. It is not possible to get rid of all these stains immediately once we start training our mind. The process of removing the stains is gradual because the afflictions have been with us since beginningless time. We have always been under their control, now we want to abandon them that is why we want to practice mind training so that we could be separated from them (the afflictions). Mind training is a method for us to abandon the defilements.

The author of this text is Dharmarakshita. This is a mind training text which belongs to the Mahayana school which means it also a bodhisattva training text. Dharmarakshita is Lama Atisha’s master, he gave Lama Atisha the ordination vows. Although Lama Atisha has a higher View than Dharmarakshita, he had great respect for his master as the latter has Bodhicitta. This mind training text was passed down from Dharmarakshita to Lama Atisha who later went to Tibet and passed it down to his lay disciple Dromtronpa. From Dromtronpa, the text is passed down to Geshe Potawa, then to Langri Tangpa and so on.

The text begins:

The name of this work is “The Wheel of Sharp Weapons
Effectively Striking the Heart of the Foe”.
I pay heartfelt homage to you, Yamantaka;
Your wrath is opposed to the Great Lord of Death.

The title of this text “The Wheel of Sharp Weapon” is an analogy. For example, when a country is invaded by enemies, it needs weapons to fight against the enemies. As this is a mind training text for bodhisattvas, the enemy here refers to self-cherishing. The bodhisattva has to eradicate self-cherishing. In order to do so the bodhisattva needs a supreme weapon and this supreme weapon is mind training.

“The heart of the foe” is self-cherishing. This is because self-cherishing would place one’s benefit above others and thus hinders a bodhisattva’s work to benefit sentient beings. Therefore this mind training is regarded as the supreme sharp weapon to destroy self-cherishing.

Self-cherishing is present in both Arya beings as well as ordinary beings. It is the mind that always thinks one should experience the best, even one’s enjoyment must be better than others and one would not experience suffering. It is like a mother wishing the best for her child and that her child will not suffer. Even for Arhats, they still have self-cherishing although they have abandon self-grasping.

When Geshe Potawa was asked on how do one recognised that one has generated the mind of cherishing others. He replied that when one is able to direct the mind which cherishes one’s own child towards all sentient beings, then one would have generated the mind that cherishes others.

The introductory verse (before the first verse), is a system of writing a text so that there would not be any obstacle to the completion of the text. This verse usually contains praises.

Yamantaka is the wrathful form of Manjushri. The ultimate meaning of this deity is the mind (wisdom) that perceives emptiness directly. The conventional meaning is the form (the manifestation of Yamantaka) which perceives emptiness.

Yamantaka is actually the Buddha. The wrathful form is an expression of his anger towards the self-cherishing of sentient beings. As it is this self-cherishing that enslaved sentient beings in samsara, the object of his anger is self-cherishing.

Verse 1:

In jungles of poisonous plants strut the peacocks,
Though medicine gardens of beauty lie near.
The masses of peacocks do not find gardens pleasant,
But thrive on the essence of poisonous plants.

It is said that in the jungle there are poisonous plants and medicine garden with beautiful plants and fruits. But the peacock is only attracted to the poisonous plants and not the medicine garden. He actually survives on the poisonous plant and the poison in the plants enhances his brilliance. As he takes in more poison, he increases in brilliance and beauty. This is an analogy. The jungle refers to samsara, poisonous plant is mental afflictions and medicine garden refers to samsaric (or sensual) pleasures. The peacock refers to the bodhisattvas.

Verse 2:

In similar fashion, the brave Bodhisattvas
Remains in the jungle of worldly concern.
No matter how joyful this world’s pleasure gardens,
These brave ones are never attracted to pleasures
But thrive in the jungle of suffering and pain.

The jungle, as mentioned refers to samsara. In this samsaric jungle, the bodhisattva sees the enjoyments of the sensual objects as only faults. Just as mentioned in the Lam Rim, that he sees the true nature of the sense objects and thus he never generates attachment towards them. The bodhisattva takes rebirth in samsara so that he could take on the suffering on sentient beings and as he takes on more and more suffering he ascends just like the peacock which increases in brilliance as he takes in more poison.

The main practice of the bodhisattva is to work for the benefit of sentient beings that is the Six Perfections. The ‘realisation’ means he will gradually complete the Six Perfections. For example, the perfection of generosity, he can perform it to anyone, his dear ones or strangers.

“…. no matter how joyful this world’s pleasure garden, these brave ones are never attracted to these pleasures but strive in the jungle of suffering and pain.”

This phrase refers to the bodhisattva taking on the suffering of sentient beings, sacrificing his own happiness. But for ordinary beings, it is completely the opposite. The mind of the ordinary being is constantly wishing for pleasure and do not want the slightest suffering. When we encounter pleasure, we feel extremely happy about it but when we encounter suffering, we feel that it is unbearable, thus our mind is the complete opposite to the bodhisattva’s mind. Due to our mindset, if we do not stop this kind of attitude, we will be always suffering because due to this attitude, we create negative karma which cause us to experience more suffering. Although we seek happiness, due to this attitude we experience suffering instead.

Based on the law of cause and effect, “you reap what you sow”; based on the bodhisattva’s practice, if you are happy and well, you wish all sentient beings to be as happy and well as you are. In addition to that you are to wish upon yourself all the sufferings that sentient beings are experiencing. For example if you are with someone suffering from cancer, you are to wish for the cancer so as to free the other person from it. Is it realistic for someone to practice the Six Perfection in this way?

For a true practitioner (with a pure mind), he cannot bear to see sentient beings suffer, he wants to take on these sufferings himself. Due to his strong wish, a lot of his negative karma is purified and he creates a lot of merit. However, for the being who suffers, it is difficult for him to be rid of the suffering just like this. It is like a mother wishing to suffer on behalf of her (sick) child but that is not possible.

Verse 3:

We spend our whole life in the search for enjoyment,
Yet tremble with fear at the mere thought of pain;
Thus since we are cowards we are miserable still.
But the brave Bodhisattvas accept sufferings gladly
And gain from their courage a true lasting joy.

As we have mentioned, the “brave one” (bodhisattva) takes rebirth in samsara to help sentient beings. As he takes on more sufferings, he increases in courage. With the courageous power, his happiness increases and his suffering decreases. As he continues to strive for sentient beings’ happiness through his courage, he experiences greater and greater happiness which is mentioned in the phrase “…and gain from their courage a true lasting joy.”

However, for ordinary beings like ourselves, we are only concern with our own happiness. Even if we perform meritorious actions, it is also for our own happiness. Therefore, it is said that if we only work for our own happiness wherever we go, there is only suffering.

Verse 4:

Now desire is the jungle of poisonous plants here.
Only brave ones, like peacocks, can thrive on such fare.
If cowardly beings like crows were to try it,
Because they are greedy they might lose their lives.

The “desire” here does not confine to attachment, it also refers to anger and other afflictions. It is not confine to the Vrajayana teaching that mental afflictions like attachment could be used to benefit sentient beings. The same is mentioned in the Sutra teachings as well.

The bodhisattvas (peacocks) can actually make use of afflictions to work for sentient beings but for beings in the Small scope and the Middle Scope as well as the ordinary beings, as long as they have not enter the Mahayana path, if they are to make use of these desire mental affliction, it would be just like the crow, would destroy their cause for attaining liberation. Thus it is only the peacock that can take the poison not the crows, if the crows were to take it, they will die.

This phrase is explaining how to use mental afflictions to work for sentient beings. It means to say that it is only for someone who has enter the Mahayana path, who is able to cherish others spontaneously, then this mind training method would be able to benefit the practitioner otherwise it will only harm (those in the Small and Middle Scope). It is just like the peacock, if they take the poison, it will help them but not for the crow, it will kill them.

Does the bodhisattva appear to manifest the desire or does the bodhisattva actually have the desire (inwardly)?

We are referring to bodhisattvas who are the Arya beings. They have not yet abandon all the mental afflictions so in fact when they use the desire, they actually have the desire also. They still have that. For example, we say that there are a thousand Buddhas coming. They are the sons of a king who is also a bodhisattva. Due to his desire, he has these thousand sons. All these can be found in the sutra.

For the Mahayana path, before the bodhisattva reaches the 8th bumi, he still has the mental afflictions. It is for the sake of working for sentient beings, they still keep these mental afflictions. In fact, it is for them to accumulate more merit.

So when the bodhisattva is angry, he is actually angry rather than pretending to be angry for the sake of others?

For Arya bodhisattvas, in their mind there is no anger. It is only those bodhisattvas who have not attained the Path of Seeing. But for desire or attachment, the Arya bodhisattvas would still have them.


Note on authentication

Jacqueline Lam prepared and edited the original typescript from the tape recording. Pek Chee Hen checked and re-edit the typescipt based on his notes.

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