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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 11/2001
Translated by Ven. Thubten Yeshe Gurung 12th August, 2001

Verse 49:

As it’s true what I have said about self-centred interest,
I recognise clearly my enemy now.
I recognise clearly the bandit who plunders,
The liar who lures by pretending he is part of me;
Oh what relief that I have conquered this doubt!

We have been discussing the disadvantages of self-cherishing attitude as the cause for all our suffering. ‘As it’s true’, is ascertaining all these discussions on the drawbacks of self-cherishing attitude. Now that the self-cherishing attitude has been clearly recognised, we would not underestimate it.

‘I recognise clearly my enemy now’, means previously, we were not able to understand and recognise this enemy (self-cherishing attitude) but now, due to the kindness of the teacher and having studied the text, we can clearly recognise the self-cherishing attitude as the enemy that gives us all the undesirable circumstances and sufferings.

Since this is a mind training text in the Bodhisattva practice, one must know and regard the real enemy as the self-cherishing attitude. Those who are unfamiliar with the Bodhisattva practice may be confused or not convinced that the self-cherishing attitude is the real enemy.

In order to achieve Buddhahood, there is no other way than to eradicate this self-cherishing attitude and to cherish others more dearly than oneself. When we find it difficult to accept that ‘self-cherishing’ is the real enemy, it is due to our very own self-cherishing attitude. Most of the time we wish for our own success, fame and wealth as propelled by our self-cherishing attitude and we use various means to satisfy this self-cherishing attitude. Therefore there is no doubt that we must eradicate the self-cherishing attitude if we want to achieve Buddhahood. Thus the worst enemy to achieving Buddhahood is the self-cherishing attitude.

We have to understand that the self-cherishing attitude is the real enemy. Normally when the thieves come to steal, they sneaked in or come discreetly. Likewise the self-cherishing attitude comes in the same manner to steal away our merits, so today ‘I have come to recognise it’.

Also, ‘I recognise’ that the liar is the self-cherishing attitude who has been cheating us since beginningless lifetimes, causing us all our sufferings and circling in samsara.

Self-cherishing is like a robber who robs things as well as like a thief who steals discreetly. It is also a liar who deceives us by pretending to be friendly and then would steal all our virtues. It acts like part of us such that sometimes, it seems like it is benefiting us. As when we spend all our effort to earn lots of money and neglect our Dharma practice. So in these three ways the self-cherishing attitude deceives us and steals our wealth of virtuous actions.

‘Oh’ represents surprise. By studying and listening to the teaching on the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, we come to recognise the self-cherishing attitude as the enemy. That is the surprise, as we have not recognised the enemy previously.

Through the study of this mind training text and the kindness of the teacher, we have come to recognise and overcome the doubt that the real enemy is the self-cherishing and self-grasping attitude. There are people who still doubt that self-cherishing and self-grasping attitudes are our enemies. Now due to studying the mind training text and listening to the teacher, we can recognise and confirm that both these attitudes are the real enemies.

How can self-cherishing attitude steal our merit when it is mentioned merit comes from virtuous actions and negative karma comes from non-virtuous actions.

Sometimes the self-cherishing attitude helps us to practice the Dharma. For example, out of fear of being born in the lower realms, one practices the Dharma. Most of the time, it obstructs us from engaging our Dharma practice. When it is mentioned that the self-cherishing attitude robs or steals our merit, we must understand this from the perspective of Bodhisattva practice. Self-cherishing attitude would prevent the bodhisattva from sacrificing his life to benefit all sentient beings therefore the self-cherishing attitude steals the merits in this way.

In the case of practitioners of the lower vehicles such as the solitary realisers, pracheka buddhas and the hearers, as they cannot bear the sufferings of samsara they worked towards personal liberation by abandoning all the delusions. They have abandoned the self-grasping attitude but the self-cherishing attitude is helpful to their attainments.

Verse 50:

And so Yamantaka spin round with great power
The wheel of sharp weapons of good actions now.
Three times turn it round, in your wrathful-like aspect –
Your legs set apart for the two grades of truth,
With your eyes blazing open for wisdom and means.

Self-cherishing refers to the attitude which does not want suffering, sickness, problems or undesirable experiences. Since it is our enemy, we have to subdue it. Dharmarakshita requested Yamantaka for blessing to meditate on Tong-len (taking on all the sufferings and problems of all sentient beings upon this self-cherishing attitude and giving one’s happiness and prosperity to all sentient beings). We work towards subduing our self-cherishing attitude by taking upon the sufferings and undesirable experience of all sentient beings upon the self-cherishing attitude, thereby destroying it. Just like defeating external enemies with weapons.

We request the meditational deity for help by making torma offerings or other offerings in order to succeed in our practice.

Dharmarakshita was an adept practitioner of Yamantaka in India. During the war (led by non-Buddhist group) to destroy Buddhism in India, Dharmarakshita made a strong request to Yamantaka to stop this war. He placed his hand on the tangka of Yamantaka. In doing so, the war was stopped and all the troops fell into the Ganges River. Today, we can see this tangka in a monastery in Tibet with the handprint on it.

The ‘wrathful aspect’ in the verse is towards the self-cherishing and self-grasping attitude. ‘Turning around three times’, the ‘three times’ represents: Relative Bodhicitta, Ultimate Bodhicitta and the union of both Relative and Ultimate Bodhicitta. The Relative Bodhicitta is the altruistic intention to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, the Ultimate Bodhicitta is direct perception of emptiness. Here, Dharmarakshita is making request or supplication to Yamantaka (who has abandoned self-cherishing and self-grasping attitude) so as to bless the mindstream of Dharmarakshita and all bodhsittvas who are practicing to overcome the self-cherishing and self-grasping attitudes and to develop the Relative and Ultimate Bodhicitta.

What do you mean by ‘making supplication’?

It is like requesting for help. Something like sending an application to officials, to request for help.

Can you explain the three turning symbolising the three types of Bodhicitta in greater detail?

Relative or Conventional Bodhicitta refers to the spontaneous mind to achieve Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. Merely generating the thought to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings is not the real or actual Conventional Bodhicitta. Through developing such thought so that it can arise spontaneously without effort is the real Conventional Bodhicitta. The Ultimate Bodhicitta is the mind of the Bodhisattva that perceives emptiness directly. In order to achieve Buddhahood, the union of these two Bodhicitta is indispensable.

Yamantaka’s slightly bent right leg symbolises the Relative Bodhicitta and his outstretched left leg symbolises the Ultimate Bodhicitta. His both eyes open widely symbolises method and wisdom. It is necessary for the practitioner of method and wisdom or the two Bodhicitta (method refers to Relative Bodhicitta and wisdom is Ultimate Bodhicitta), to balance the cultivation of these two types of Bodhicitta.

Verse 51:

Baring your fangs of the four great opponents,
Devour the foe – our cruel selfish concern!
With your powerful mantra of cherishing others,
Demolish this enemy lurking within!

The ‘four fangs of the four great opponents’ refers to Yamantaka having overcome the four evil opponents. Dharmarakshita requested Yamantaka to destroy the enemy with his four fangs and the enemy is the self-cherishing attitude (especially for those who are practicing Tong-len). Making request to eradicate the self-cherishing attitude.

The best method to destroy self-cherishing attitude is the mind that cherishes others. Therefore it is known as the supreme mantra or king of mantras.

The influence of this self-cherishing attitude causes us to circle in samsara since beginningless time and experiencing different types of suffering repeatedly. Thus this (self-cherishing attitude) is the target for the king of mantra to strike at.

Verse 52:

Frantically running through life’s tangled jungle,
We are chased by sharp weapons of wrongs we have done
Returning upon us; we are out of control.
This sly, deadly villain – the selfishness in us,
Deceiving ourselves and all others as well –
Capture him, capture him, fierce Yamantaka,
Summon this enemy, bring him forth now!

After identifying the real enemy as the self-cherishing attitude, (causing all sentient beings to circle in samsara without control), we now request Yamantaka to ‘capture’ the self-cherishing and self-grasping attitude.

By practicing the Conventional and Ultimate Bodhicitta as well as the practice of cherishing others above oneself, we lessen the power of these two attitudes and gradually subdue them. In this way we ‘capture’ the two attitudes. There are two ‘capture him’, the first one refers to using Conventional Bodhicitta to counteract self-cherishing and the second ‘capture him’ refers to Ultimate Bodhicitta.

Is it correct to say that in order to lessen the power of the self-cherishing attitude, we need to develop the Relative and Ultimate Bodhicitta?

[Not recorded]

What are the four opponent powers?

Although in this text, it is not clear what are the four opponent powers, the four evils which Yamantaka has subdued are, the evil of the aggregates, the evil of affliction or delusion, the evil of death and the evil of the son of god.

What does ‘son of god’ refers to?

The son of god refers to the god who interferes practitioners. Such as during a retreat, there are certain times which we should avoid as it is mentioned that this god would shoot an arrow of attachment, etc to interfere our practice during these times. This god is from the desire realm.

Verse 53:

Batter him, batter him, rip out the heart
Of our grasping for ego, our love for ourselves!
Trample him, trample him, dance on the head
Of this treacherous concept of selfish concern!
Tear out the heart of this self-centred butcher
Who slaughters our chance to gain final release!

‘Batter him’ refers to the self-cherishing attitude, the object to be battered. The second ‘batter him’ refers to the self-grasping attitude. It also symbolises the weapons that strike these two attitudes. The Relative Bodhicitta strikes the self-cherishing attitude and the Ultimate Bodhicitta strikes the heart of self-grasping attitude. Dharmarakshita was making supplication to the deity for blessing and help to destroy these two attitudes.

‘Self-grasping’ is to grasp at the inherent existent of a person, existing independently on its own. In order to overcome this attitude, one has to meditate on the selflessness of the person. In order to overcome the attitude of self-cherishing, one has to meditate on the faults of self-cherishing attitude and to generate the thought of cherishing others. The Ultimate Bodhicitta is the antidote for self-grasping attitude and the Relative Bodhicitta serve as the antidote for self-cherishing attitude.

‘Treacherous concept’ refers to the two attitudes (self-cherishing and self-grasping) that destroy and deprive the happiness of ourselves and other beings. These two are the main cause of unwanted experiences and sufferings. When we carry out rituals, the initial steps consist of getting rid of interferences such as capturing the interfering spirits. After subduing the interference, we rejoice just like having subdued an enemy. Similarly, in this verse, the interfering attitudes of self-cherishing and self-grasping are being captured and subdued. Thus one rejoices greatly.

‘Self-centred butcher’ refers to both self-cherishing and self-grasping attitudes. When subduing the external enemies, we strike our enemies at the heart to ensure that they are killed. Similarly, the self-cherishing attitude (our real enemy) always wants the best for oneself, thus by training to exchange this attitude for others, we can ‘tear the heart’ of the self-cherishing attitude.

In order to strike the heart of the self-grasping attitude, we must understand how we grasp or apprehend ‘self’. It is to mistakenly grasping at the existent of the self independently from its own side without depending on other factors. By realising the selflessness of the person, one tears the heart of the self-grasping attitude in this way.

If we succeed in destroying self-grasping does it automatically destroys self-cherishing?

No, because the practitioners of Lower Vehicle have destroyed self-grasping but still have self-cherishing. When one has successfully destroy self-grasping, like the solitary realisers, hearers, etc. one does not create new throwing karma or negative karma but continues to create virtuous karma.

Do Arhats have the chance of listening to more teachings and become Buddhas?

Yes, there is a chance for the Arhats to achieve Buddhahood. It is mentioned in the text that the Arhats have entered into the extreme of peace after they have achieved personal liberation. They remained in meditative equipoise for aeons, even when the earth moves, they would not be disturbed and their body is immortal. They live in this meditative equipoise and experience great ecstasy. In order to awaken them from this state, the Buddhas of ten directions send a message, to them, saying, “You have not completed your purpose. This is not the Ultimate goal. You have to enter into the Mahayana Vehicle.” So later, the Arhats enter the Mahayana Vehicle and achieved Buddhahood.

It is said that Maitreya Buddha had achieved Arhathood first and was awaken by the Buddhas of ten directions to enter the Mahayana path. Therefore above the head of Maitreya Buddha, there is a stupa representing the Buddhas of ten directions and to remember their kindness.

Buddha Sakyamuni is from the definite lineage which means he had entered into the Mahayana Vehicle since beginning.

This thing has troubled me for quite some time especially when I come to meet Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings. It appears that for an Arhat to achieve enlightenment, one of the practice he need to perfect is Perfect Generosity, i.e. unselfishness to me. Apparently it is taught that an Arhat is still to some extent selfish. It appears that the Arhat has not enough attainment or capability to help and save so many sentient beings like that of a Buddha. I am troubled by this concept that an Arhat still has selfishness. Does an Arhat still have selfishness? (Because, it is said that an Arhat still has self-cherishing attitude)

The object of self-cherishing and self-grasping attitude is the same, i.e. the object is oneself. Even though the Arhats have abandoned self-grasping attitude but not the self-cherishing attitude. Self-cherishing attitude does not refer to selfishness or any negative sense. Here, self-cherishing attitude means that the Arhats have cherished themselves thus their exert effort to achieve nirvana to be free themselves from suffering. But in order to achieve Buddhahood one needs to give up the self-cherishing attitude which means the Arhats have not generated the Great Compassion and have not developed an Altruistic Attitude, i.e. the thought to assume responsibility to liberate all sentient beings from samsara to achieve Buddhahood.

In my mind, I was thinking that first one develop Relative Bodhicitta because you have this spontaneous wish to help other beings. But direct realisation of emptiness and directly realising Bodhicitta seem like it is something that need to be achieved through meditation or be born as a Bodhisattva. But it was explained earlier that Ultimate Bodhicitta is the antidote for self-grasping and Relative Bodhicitta is the antidote for self-cherishing. In the explanation of the Arhat, it is explained that one take cares of self-grasping first and as one goes higher, one takes care of the self-cherishing. It seems to be conflicting. Should one develop Relative Bodhicitta first or Ultimate Bodhicitta?

First we have to generate Relative Bodhicitta to prepare for the Path of Accumulation. Ultimate Bodhicitta can only be achieved in the Path of Seeing. In the Path of Accumulation, one perceives emptiness in the form of a generic image. When one enters the Mahayana Path of Seeing, one perceives emptiness directly and thus developed the Ultimate Bodhicitta.

When you perceive emptiness, do you remove self-cherishing or self-grasping? ..You mean, you can only remove self-cherishing when you go into Mahayana path?

In the case of one who initially enters into the Mahayana path, the Bodhisattva first develops the Relative Bodhicitta. Then he reaches the Path of Seeing, he eradicates the self-grasping and he develop the Ultimate Bodhicitta. But there is another case of the Arhats, Solitary Realisers or Hearers. For them, they will have already abandon the self-grasping but have not abandoned the self-cherishing attitude. So, when they enter the Mahayana path, they will start to abandon the self-cherishing attitude.

Have the Arhats achieved the Path of Seeing?

Ven. Yeshe: Are you refering to the Path of Seeing in the Mahayana Path or the Hinayana Path?

Student: The Mahayana Path.

No, they have not achieved the Mahayana Path of Seeing but they have achieved the Path of Seeing in the Hinayana Path. There are differences in the Path of Seeing in the Hearer, Solitary Realisers and Mahayana Paths. There are a total of 15 Paths.


Note on authentication

Jacqueline Lam prepared the original typescript from the tape recording. Pek Chee Hen checked and edited the typescript.

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