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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 3/2001
Translated by Ng Jun Mei 17th June, 2001

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.

‘Loved ones’ include friends, family members or even students. Usually we treat them nicely. ‘Against us’ means they return our treatment in the opposite way such as the manner they speak to us, look at us or treat us. Instead of repaying us with the same kind treatment, they treat us the opposite way.

When such occasions happened, we should blame ourselves because it is due to our inability to benefit others (as hindered by our self-cherishing) that we are now experiencing such treatment. As we have been harbouring the attitude to bring upon ourselves the best and most beneficial circumstances, what we have given others is harm. As a result, we are experiencing the karma of harming others. We deserve such treatment as we have caused it directly.

It is just like when we see two children fighting and tried to stop them but they did not listen to us and finally got hurt, then we said to them things like, “You see, you didn’t listen to me. That’s why you get hurt now.” Similarly, we harmed others under the influence of our self-cherishing attitude and now we are directly experiencing the result of our self-cherishing.

If we think that it is wrong for others to mistreat us in return for our kindness, we are mistaken. We were not able to benefit them in the past and that is the reason we are experiencing the mistreatment now. We should not blame them for being ungrateful and get angry with them, such as using harsh words, etc on them. As a means of mind training, we should interpret that their mistreating us is due to the harm we had caused them in our past lives. We should not just hold this attitude towards only one person but generalise it towards everyone, such as our parents, children, siblings, etc. We should always think that it is the Wheel of Sharp Weapons returning back to us.

Verse 10:

When our bodies are aching and racked with great torment
Of dreadful diseases we cannot endure,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have injured the bodies of others;
Hereafter let’s take on what sickness is theirs.

When our body is tormented by unbearable diseases, we feel sorry for ourselves that we are suffering. However, these unbearable diseases are caused by us having harmed other sentient beings since beginningless time and now it is the wheel of sharp weapon returning to us. When we harm others by whatever means, it is similar to using a weapon to destroy others happiness. Now this weapon is returning to us, destroying our happiness. The weapon of our harmful acts returns to us now and we experience the disease.

We should not let the disease affect us but instead accepting that experience as a result of our harmful actions in the past. In accepting the disease as an experience we had caused upon ourselves, we would also be purifying the negative karma of this past action. As the Mind Training Method is practiced by bodhisattvas, it is good for us to know and understand how bodhisattvas practice and when similar circumstances arise, we can try our very best to practice the same way.

After accepting the disease as the wheel of sharp weapons returning, we should now practice ‘taking and giving’ (Tong-len). As we are discussing on the bodily sickness, we visualise taking in all sentient beings’ diseases and request our spiritual friend (whom we had earlier visualised above our crown) for blessings that these diseases be ripen upon us immediately. As we have discussed in the Lam Rim, we should visualise all these diseases in the form of black light coming to and absorbing into the part of our body that is painful then visualise giving out all our virtues and happiness to all beings in the form of white light reaching out from our body and absorbing into them.

When we practice Tong-len we should think that all these taking and giving are real. We should not think that it is just our imagination. If we do this practice sincerely, we can purify a lot of our non-virtuous actions and accumulate vast merits.

Verse 11:

Depressed and forlorn, when we feel mental anguish,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have deeply disturbed the minds of others;
Hereafter let’s take on this suffering ourselves.

When the mind is not happy, such as experiencing fear or depressed without reason, it is because we had disturbed the minds of others, causing them to be unhappy. Our negative actions disturbing the happiness of others is like us sending out weapons to destroy their happiness and now these weapons are returning to us. Whenever we experience unhappy state of mind, we should think in this way. Therefore the practice now is Tong-len again.

Verse 12:

When hunger or violent thirst overwhelms us,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have kept what we had without sharing;
We have plundered and stolen and lured people on.
Hereafter let’s take from them hunger and thirst.

Since beginningless time, we covert others wealth and enjoyments. We either steal from them quietly or seize by force, whereas for our own possessions and enjoyments, we are miserly with them. This is how we had created negative karma, destroying others happiness. Thus, we are experiencing hunger and unbearable thirst. The weapon of evil deed is returning upon us now. Therefore we should practice taking in all the hunger and thirst of sentient beings and giving out happiness as we had discussed above (the practice of Tong-len).

Verse 13:

When we lack any freedom, but must obey others,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have looked down upon those who were lowly
And used them as servants for our own selfish needs;
Hereafter let’s offer our service to others
With humble devotion of body and life.

For example, we had forced our domestic servant to do things that are difficult to carry out and would cause lots of suffering and now we find ourselves in similar circumstances, we should know that it is our past negative actions returning upon us. We should not think negatively of those who are forcing us to do unpleasant chores or blame them for our suffering. But to understand that all these unpleasant experiences are caused by us having done the same to others and now we are experiencing the sufferings we had caused.

The practice now is to dedicate our lives and body to the benefit of sentient beings and not for our own happiness.

For those of use who use the services of a gardener or domestic help, even though we do not look down upon them but we engaged their help because we are not prepared to do the work ourselves. Does that mean we will experience lack of freedom in the future?

This is not the same because they take up the chores as their job and we pay them accordingly. If we don’t engage their services, they may lose their job and left penniless. We were referring to forcing others to do things against their will and being mean and nasty to them.

Verse 14:

When we hear only language that is foul and abusive,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have said many things without thinking;
We have slandered and caused many friendships to end.
Hereafter let’s censure all thoughtless remarks.

When we hear unpleasant words, harsh speech or divisive talk (the four kinds non-virtuous speech), it is due to us having said the same things in the past so now we are hearing unpleasant speech or sound. The practice now is to condemn such speeches and not to criticise others. Instead we should look at our own faults and condemn them. Otherwise if we look at others faults and criticise them, this becomes a fault.
Verse 15:

When we are born in oppressive and wretched conditions,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have always had a negative outlook –
We have criticised others, seeing only their flaws.
Hereafter let’s cultivate positive feelings
And view our surroundings as stainless and pure

On earth, there are places where the environment is clean and friendly while there are also places where the environment is not so clean and people are unfriendly and harmful. The reason for being born in an impure place is due to seeing others as impure. As a practitioner, we should not see others as impure. When we see impure appearances, we should think that it is due to our impure mind that we are seeing appearances as impure. Otherwise, we will be creating this karma to be born in impure place.

Seeing appearance as pure is not Tantric practice alone, this practice is also found in the Sutra Path. Even if we cannot see all appearances as pure we should have less criticism when we see faults. In Tantric practice, we have to see all things as pure. Such as if one practices the deity Avalokitesvara, one has to see all beings as Avalokitesvara and the place as the mansion or palace of Avalokitesvara.

If others harm us, we could think that it is the Buddhas/Bodhisattvas manifesting to help us in our practice.

There is the story of Naropa and Tilopa. Tilopa was living by the seaside and he ate parts of fishes which others discard (such as intestines, etc) by grilling them. When Naropa found Tilopa, he saw him grilling a fish and wondered if he had found the right person. Nevertheless, he asked Tilopa if he was the one and Tilopa said, “Yes.” Immediately, Naropa casted away all doubts and prostrated to Tilopa. At that moment, Tilopa manifested into the deity and gave teachings to Naropa. Thus even a highly realised being like Naropa could still perceive appearance as ordinary.

Another example is the story of Asanga. Asanga meditated in a cave for twelve years in the hope to see Meitreya. However, when he still could not see Meitreya, he gave up and left the cave. As he walked away from the cave, he saw a female dog with a wound that was infested by maggots. Immediately, he generated the strong wish to eliminate the suffering of the dog. He cut a piece of flesh from his thigh so that he could place the maggots on. However, he thought that if he were to remove the maggots using his fingers, he would hurt them so he decided to transfer the maggots by using his tongue. As he was about to do it, he saw Meitreya.

Since even an Arya being like Asanga could still be seeing appearance as ordinary, ordinary beings like us would of course only perceive all appearances as ordinary.

Verse 16:

When we are parted from friends and from those who can help us,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have taken the friends and good servants
Of others away, wanting them for ourselves;
Hereafter let’s never cause close friends to part.

There are two groups of people. The ones who are beneficial to us or cherish us and those whom we love and cherish (mutually). However there arise a time when we could not keep the company of these two groups of people anymore. When this happens, it is because we had separated others away from their beneficial friends and cherished ones. We had taken these people away from them and made them cherish us instead. So now, we are experiencing the circumstance of what we had done to others.

For example, if we see that another person has a very good servant or employee, intelligent and hardworking, able to be of great assistance to his employer, we tried to take this employee away from his current employer by giving him higher salaries, etc. We would then be creating a very heavy karma. Therefore, if we find that we do not have stable relationship with others, we should know that it is because of the misdeed we had done in the past. From now on we should resolve not to separate others from their beneficial friends and cherished ones.

Verse 17:

When supreme holy Gurus find us displeasing,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have turned from the Gurus and teachings,
Preferring the counsel of misleading friends;
Hereafter let’s end our dependent relations
With those who would turn us away from the path.

‘Holy gurus’ refers to pure practitioners. When we offered our services to these lamas but they are displeased with us, we should not think negatively of them (such as they are no good, etc). If we think negatively of them, it is a wrong view. Instead, we should think that such circumstances arise because in the past, when we had relied on the spiritual friend but had abandon them or did not follow their advice (instructions), by retaining the company of bad friends. Bad company mainly refers to those with self-cherishing attitude.

Therefore, when we find that our lama is displeased with us, we should know that it is this wheel of sharp weapon returning to us and we should quickly abandon the company of bad friends. However, we should not abandon them from the bottom of our hearts otherwise we would be going against our bodhisattva vows.

Verse 18:

When unjustly we are blamed for the misdeeds of others,
And are falsely accused of flaws that we lack,
And are always the object of verbal abuse,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have despised and belittled our Gurus;
Hereafter let’s never accuse others falsely,
But give them full credit for virtues they have.

When we are wrongly accused of deeds we did not commit or are blamed for breaking promises but which we had actually carried out, we should not get upset with those who falsely accused or blamed us. We should understand that it is the result of having accused or criticised pure practitioners or lamas in the past. Now it is the wheel of sharp weapons returning to us. The practice now is to resolve not to repeat the same mistake of criticising or accusing others.

It seems like the karma of despising one’s Guru is heavier as mentioned in the Lam Rim than in this text?

In this context, we are referring to any pure practitioner not just own Guru. If the object is one’s own Guru, then the karma includes those mentioned in the Lam Rim (such as many ill-rebirths) and this one (being falsely accused).

If I have a friend who is not happy with his job and is looking around for a new job, I offer him to join me. Will I find the wheel of sharp weapons returning upon me?

Yes, there will be a fault because it is going to harm the employer or company that person is working for. It is best to say to him, “You think it over yourself.”

If he realise his fault and now quickly applies the four opponent powers, does it purify his karma?

If it is purified, he would not experience the result.

What if it is I who am unhappy with my boss and would like to leave him. There is an element of disloyalty here so is it still a fault?

It depends. If your leaving is due to underpay then it is the fault of the boss or company. But if you had promised to work for a year and you break the promise by leaving early, then there is a fault. So it depends on whether you have a good reason for leaving or not. You have to judge.

Last week Gen-la mentioned that self-cherishing is not a mental affliction. How do we classify it?

It can be classified under mental factor or main mind but it is not a view because there is no object. Unlike self-grasping, there is an object “I”. However, it is still a fault.

If I am experiencing an illness now and start to practice taking in the suffering of all sentient beings. Will there be a situation where my condition actually worsens and I become discouraged to continue the practice? Or would the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas actually give their blessings so that I would not have to suffer so much?

Usually, when we are well it is easier to make such prayers but whenever we are sick we always wish that the sickness would disappear immediately so it is actually very difficult to make such prayers. For those who can make such prayers in times of sickness, sincerely wishing to really take on the sufferings of sentient beings upon himself, he will be happy as he suffers. However, if it is not sincere and he starts to regret as the suffering persists, then there is fault. When he made the prayer, he creates virtue but when he regrets, he creates non-virtue.


Note on authentication

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

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