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Subject 3 : Mahayana Mind Training
Text : Dharmaraksita's

The Wheel Of Sharp Weapons

Commentary by the Venerable Sam-lo Geshe Kelsang Session 2/2001
Translated by Ng Jun Mei 10th June, 2001

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.

As we have mentioned, the “peacocks” refer to bodhisattvas. Only the bodhisattvas who have the realisation on Renunciation and Bodhicitta can practice this method (to use defilements as a path). That is to say this practice is only for those who have spontaneous Renunciation and the strong wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings (Bodhicitta). For those who have generated Bodhicitta in their mind stream, they are able to make use of the Three Poisons (attachment, delusion and hatred) to attain Buddhahood. As we have likened “peacocks” to bodhisattvas, who could use poison to enhance their brilliance; likewise, for the bodhisattvas who have generated Bodhicitta in their mind stream, are able to benefit from making use of the defilements to attain Buddhahood. For beings who have not generated Bodhicitta such as those in the Small and Middle Scope, they are likened to the “crows”. If they (who have not generated Bodhicitta) used this method, it will only bring them harm. They will destroy the cause to liberation and may also be lead to lower rebirth. Thus only the bodhisattvas can withstand such practice. Just like our appetite; some people have big appetite while the rest small. If those who have small appetite are to take in the amount of food for the bigger appetites, they will suffer.

We say the bodhisattva takes desire as a path but in the Sutra Path, I understand the goal is to purify all defilements. It is only the Tantric Path that takes defilements as the Path. Could Gen-la please clarify?

For the Sutra Path, the mental afflictions are used to assist the bodhisattva on the path as a limb or branch. But for Tantric Path, the defilements are being used as the path. We have given the example of the king who had a thousand sons. Those who have the strong imprint became his sons and could attain Buddhahood faster. This example is from the Sutra Path.

Just like with some medicines, although they contain poison, are used to cure patients. The bodhisattvas have many qualities in their mind and due to the blessings of these qualities, they are not harmed. This is another example in the Sutra Path using defilements to assist higher realisations.

Verse 5:

How can someone who cherishes self more than others
Take lust and such dangerous poisons for food?
If he tried like a crow to use other delusions,
He would probably forfeit his chance for release.

For desire, it is only beneficial for those who can withstand it to use it as a path. For others who use desire with the intention to benefit themselves, this is going to harm them and become an obstacle to liberation and to circle in samsara and even to lower rebirth.

For attachment, it is very difficult to abandon as well as to recognise. For hatred, it is easier to recognise.

“If he tried like a crow to use other delusions, He would probably forfeit his chance for release.”

We mentioned earlier that if the “crows” were to take the poisons, they would lose their lives. Here, it is saying that if those who aims only for their own happiness (not for the sake of other sentient beings) it would be just like the crows taking poison, who in taking delusions as a path, they would probably forfeit the chance for release, no chance for liberation.

Verse 6:

And thus Bodhisattvas are likened to peacocks:
They live on delusions – those poisonous plants.
Transforming them into the essence of practice,
They thrive in the jungle of everday life.
Whatever is presented they always accept,
While destroying the poison of clinging desire.
“And thus Bodhisattvas are likened to peacocks:
They live on delusions – those poisonous plants.”

This is saying that the bodhisattvas are living in samsara where they will encounter a lot of mental afflictions. They are enjoying the sensual pleasures to increase their realisation. Likened to peacock, instead of harming them, the poison enhances their brilliance; they will cause their realisations and qualities to increase even more.

In verse 5, since the bodhisattvas are Arya bodhisattvas, they could use this method to enhance their realisation. If ordinary beings like us who have not realised Bodhicitta try to practice this method, wouldn’t we be like the “crows”, forfeiting our chance of liberation?

We are referring to bodhisattvas, not Arya bodhisattvas. That means those who have spontaneous Bodhicitta generated in their mind stream. It is only for these bodhisattvas that they can make use of mental afflictions. For us, who do not aim for the happiness of other beings but for our own, yes, these are the “crows”.

Can Gen-la give an example of how bodhisattvas make use of attachment as a cause for more realisation?

It is difficult to give an example offhand. However, referring to the example of the king who had a thousand sons, if he had abandon all defilements he would not have a thousand sons. So in the Sutra Path, the bodhisattvas still keep the defilements as tools to help others and also to accumulate merit for themselves. In the Tantric Path, it is explained that there are coarse mind and subtle mind. Subtle mind is used to understand emptiness. This method (using attachment) is used to stop the coarse mind and to activate the subtle mind while one is alive.

As this is a mind training text, the commentary is based on the meaning of the words in the text. If this is in the Tantric texts, which would give clear instruction or example of how attachment is used as a path, it would be possible to cite one but this is a mind training text and we are just explaining the meaning on the text, it is difficult to cite a specific example.

“Transforming them into the essence of practice,
They thrive in the jungle of everday life.
Whatever is presented they always accept,
While destroying the poison of clinging desire.”

Here it means in order to take the poison, one needs to know what the poison is, otherwise, it will cause the mental affliction to increase. As the bodhisattvas only work for the happiness of others, when they use the defilements, they are actually eliminating the defilements from the roots. Just like the termites who eat the wood and finally consumed all the wood. The bodhisattvas make use of defilements and finally destroy them completely.

Verse 7:

Uncontrollable wandering through rounds of existence
Is caused by our grasping at egos as real.
This ignorant attitude heralds the demon
Of selfish concern for our welfare alone;
We seek some security for our own egos;
We want only pleasure and shun any pain.
But now we must banish all selfish compulsion
And gladly take hardship for all others’ sake.

From Verse 7 onwards, is the main practice of bodhisattvas. All the previous verses are general practice.

“Uncontrollable wandering through rounds of existence
Is caused by our grasping at egos as real.”

The cause of cyclic existence is self-grasping. However, these two lines are not referring to self-grasping, they are referring to any obstacles that hinders the attainment of Buddhahood. Thus this phrase is particularly referring to self-cherishing. It is self-cherishing that caused one to circle uncontrollably in cyclic existence.

There is a difference between self-grasping and self-cherishing. The former is to grasp at the “I” while the latter is to cherish oneself more than others. The Arhats have abandon self-grasping but not self-cherishing.

“This ignorant attitude heralds the demon
Of selfish concern for our welfare alone;”

In the Tibetan text, there are two objects “demon” and “messenger” but in the English translation, there is only one object, “demon”. According to the Tibetan text, demon refers to self-cherishing and the demon’s messenger is self-grasping. It is due to self-cherishing that gives rise to self-grasping.

The first four lines in the English translation say that self-cherishing arises due to self-grasping, which is the opposite of what Gen-la explained?

The explanation given is according to the text, could there be a mistake with the English translation?

My understanding is that the sense of “I” comes first, then follows by “I must take care of myself” which then gives birth to self-cherishing. Thus I don’t quite follow why is it the reverse?

It has never been mentioned that self-grasping precedes self-cherishing. Although it is correct to say that the root of samsara is self-grasping. In this text, it is mentioned that self-grasping is the result of self-cherishing. If we do not understand it in this way, we do not get the meaning here. In the discussion on the root of samsara, it is only self-grasping, we do not mention self-cherishing. It is only in the Great Scope that we mention self-cherishing.

When I first read the text, I shared the same thought that self-grasping should precede self-cherishing. However, this text is written by Dharmarakshita, it cannot be wrong. When you think over it many times, you may come to realise that actually self-cherishing precedes self-grasping. Even when we create the throwing karma to good rebirth, it is due to self-cherishing. If you think over it again and again, you will see that self-cherishing is more powerful than self-grasping. Self-cherishing will come first and it is due to self-cherishing that we think whatever about “me” is more important, whatever is good, it has to come to “me” first. All these are due mainly to self-cherishing than self-grasping.

When you say that self-grasping being the messenger or the servant of self-cherishing, how does that happen? What is the role of self-grasping?

From self-cherishing arises self-grasping and the latter cause us to create all sorts of karma which leads us into samsara. It is from self-cherishing we grasp at the “I” which is truly existing and from there we create different karma for us to circle in this cyclic existence.

The object for self-cherishing and self-grasping is the same – “I”. The difference between them is that self-grasping is ignorance, it is a mental affliction but self-cherishing is not a mental affliction. Self-grasping has to be abandon by the Arhats but not self-cherishing.

“We seek some security for our own egos;
We want only pleasure and shun any pain.
But now we must banish all selfish compulsion
And gladly take hardship for all others’ sake”

The first two lines refer to the self-cherishing which only seeks own happiness. However the bodhisattva must throw away such attitude and take hardship gladly for other’s sake.

To give up one’s own happiness and think more of others and to work for others especially to take up the hardship to work for others like the practice of Six Perfections, to give up one’s wealth for others and even to sacrifice one’s life for others.

Verse 8:

All of our sufferings derive from our habits
Of selfish delusions we heed and act out.
As all of us share in this tragic misfortune,
Which stems from our narrow and self-centred ways,
We must take all our sufferings and the miseries of others
And smother our wishes of selfish concern.

This verse mainly refers to exchanging oneself for others - the Tong-len practice. It means wishing one’s own happiness going out to others and taking in the sufferings of others.

This is the main practice of bodhisattva. Since we are studying this mind training, we do not think of this as a story of someone else, since we are studying the Mind training, the purpose of studying this mind training is for us to know what is actually happening and what is done by these bodhisattvas because we ourselves also want to achieve Buddhahood, so it is for us to practice even though now we cannot practice as what the bodhisattvas do, we should try and contemplate on self-cherishing and self-grasping and to think more of others.

Verse 9:

Should the impulse arise now to seek our own pleasure,
We must turn it aside to please others instead;
For even if loved ones should rise up against us,
We must blame our self-interest and feel it’s our due.

We are now referring to the practice of bodhisattvas. As bodhisattvas work for the sake of others (thereby placing others happiness above their own), it is impossible for them to arise the self-cherishing thought of seeking their own pleasure. However, should such unlikely thought arises, the bodhisattva must quickly abandon it and criticise himself for such thought as his main practice is always to work for the sake of others. Whenever such attitude arises, he should apply the antidote such as giving away his wealth and so on.


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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