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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 7/2001
Translated by Ven. Thubten Dechen and Ven. Ngawang Jangchup 15th July, 2001

Verse 34:

When prejudice, polio or strokes have us crippled
And external forces or harm rise against us,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have collected vast stores of non-virtue
By breaking our vows and offending protectors
In our practice from Guru-devotion to tantra;
Hereafter let’s banish all prejudiced views.

Gen-la explained that there are the two-fold teachings of Sutra and Tantra. The Tantra does not only limit to Tantra. In Tibetan, Tantra is “Nga”. It also means Mantra. That carries the meaning of protecting the mind. Therefore, in this sense, all the sutric teachings are also included in the word Tantra here.

For Sutra teachings, there are three paths – the path of the lower capability beings, the path of the medium capability beings and the path of the superior capability beings. All this sutric teachings are included here.

“Having prejudice” means that we despise Dharma. We do not agree with what the Buddha says. We do not believe that the Three Jewels have the power to protect us. All the Dharma is useless. Meditating on the Lam Rim will not help us. If we think like this, it is called having prejudice view.

In the phrase “breaking our vows and offending protectors”, protectors refer to the worldly gods as well as those who are enlightened such as Mahakala, Palden Lhamo and so on. Offending them by despising their existence. We think that it is useless to make offerings to them.

When we possess such views and prejudice, or when we feel suddenly sick, we have stroke or paradise. Also, when we encounter spirit harm, we need to realise that these are the results from causes of having broken our vows, which include the vows of the layman, monks and nuns, and the vows of the Tantric commitment. And having offended protectors and having despised the Dharma. Also, thinking that some paths of the Lam Rim, for example, the lower path is useless and we do not have to practice them.

Polio and strokes are sickness, physical discomfort. We can think of it in two ways. Firstly, that it came from our body. Another one is caused by spirit.

Prejudice view is also called distorted view or wrong view, denying the teachings of Buddha. We deny that by practicing Dharma we will eliminate delusions.

For a Shravaka practitioner, his tripitaka text does not mention about Mahayana teachings. He follows the Buddha-dharma but does not believe in protectors or Kuan Yin. Is that a fault or prejudice in this case?

We can think in this way. In some religions, they do not have teachings that describe killing of animals for sacrifice as a fault. In reality, it will cause harm. Similarly, even though it is not mentioned about protectors etc. in the Hinayana teachings, if a person despise the protectors and other Mahayana teachings, there will be a fault. In ancient India, there were two famous brothers – Vasubandu and Asanga . Vasubandu, who was the younger brother, mastered all the Hinayana teachings. Because he never saw any Mahayana teachings, he thought that Mahayana teachings did not come from the Buddha. He criticised the Mahayana teachings. Later when he had a chance to come across Mahayana teachings, he realised that he had committed a great mistake. He regretted and wanted to cut his tongue to cleanse his negative karma. When he was about to do that, his elder brother, Asanga stopped him. He said that by cutting the tongue, it would not wash away the negative karma that had been created. “What you need to do is to compose a text to propagate the Mahayana teachings.” Vasubandu listened to his brother’s advice and finally composed a great text called Ahbidharmakosa.

Just because we do not know something, that does not mean we would not be subject to the natural Law of Karma.

What does breaking vows mean? Does it mean that if one who has taken refuge, then subsequently become a Christian and throw away one’s alter and Buddha image?

After we have taken refuge in the Triple Jewels and then abandon it, this is considered the heaviest offence.

Does the results ripen this lifetime?

Not necessary. It could ripen in the next life and after that.

Maybe in the past, when someone takes delight in practicing the Dharma, we distract them from practicing the Dharma. We cause them to abandon practicing the Dharma. In this life, it will become our turn. Someone will say something and we will feel that Buddhism is no good and we would rather believe in other faith.

How do spirit harm us?

Can be in various ways. They can harm us physically or enter our body and harm us. In Tibet, there are a lot of cases like this.

Why do they harm us?

Spirits also want food. Sometimes they harm people for that. Some spirits kill a person because they don’t like the person.

Many of us come from so-called Buddhist-Taoist background, whereby we made offerings to various worldly gods. Now that we know the meaning of taking refuge in the Triple Jewels, would there be any fault if we stop making such offerings to the worldly gods?

There is no fault in stopping to make offerings to them. However, because you used to make offerings to them, if you stopped doing that, they may cause some harm to you. If they get angry, they actually create negative karma.

Verse 35:

When we lack all control over where we must travel
And always must wander like waifs with no home,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have disturbed holy Gurus and others
And forced them to move from their homes or their seats;
Hereafter let’s never cause others disturbance
By evicting them cruelly from where they reside.

We have to travel from one place to another. This is not our wish. Like the merchant or people without homes, they have to travel from one place to another with no homes to settle down. Having these conditions, the causes are that in the past, we have disturbed our holy Gurus and other people. We actually forced them to leave their houses, to leave their seats/thrones. Wondering from one place to another means that we are borne and lived in this country but then, we are chased away by high officers to move somewhere else involuntarily.

What we should do from now on is to think, whenever there are people or animals that need shelter, we should give them shelter. We should not chase them away from their homes.

For example, a monk in a monastery not studying and behaving well, causing trouble to himself as well as others, if the abbot want to expel him thinking that he is too troublesome, then the abbot is creating negative karma. Because the motivation is not good. However, if he thinks that the monk will cause trouble and disharmony, etc. then there is no fault incurred.

Another example is that if someone is causing trouble in the country and the prime minister thinks that “I must chase this person outside the country because he is just too much.” With such angry thoughts and the prime minister chased that person away then he would have created negative karma. But if he thinks that for the benefit of his people, for the peace of the country, then he expelled that person. In this case, he incurred no offence. Similarly if we kicked out animals from the places they lived, this is also creating negative karma.

Verse 36:

When the crops in our fields are continually plagued
By drought, floods and hailstones, insects and frost,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have failed to honour our pledges;
Hereafter let’s keep all our moral vows pure.

These are natural calamities – drought, no rain, floods, etc. all the plants and crops died. When all these happen, we received no harvest at all. This is because in the past we have failed to maintain our vows and keep our vows pure. What we should do is to honour our vows so that we keep them all pure. Keeping our vows pure, we will be able to keep our mind pure and be at peace. If we break our vows, our minds will become muddle and dull. For example, somebody tells us to steal something, or else we will be killed. We should be happy to keep our vows pure even if our lives are threatened. We should be determined to keep our vows pure even if it cost our lives.

Verse 37:

When we are poor, yet are filled with much greed and desire,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have been misers, reluctant to share.
The offerings we have made to the Three Jewels were meagre;
Hereafter let’s give with a generous heart.

Some people are poor and destitute. Yet they have high hope to accumulate wealth. They work very hard and try all sorts of methods, do business to accumulate wealth. But all their efforts fail and they remain poor. Why is this happening? In order to become wealthy, it has to come from a cause of being generous. This is because in the past, we had been a miser, and had been unwilling to share with others. We did not practice giving, we did not practice generosity and we did not make offerings to the Three Jewels.

[Question not audible] Gen-la: For Verse 36, here we only refer to the crops dying. For those who are not farmers, this verse still applies. The main thing is the cause of not keeping vows pure. It will cause whatever we want to achieve to fail. We may work very hard but no results come. This can apply to many other situations. For this verse, it specifies a certain situation. However, it can refer to other situations generally. If everything were to be said exactly, the causes and the results, then it will be endless. We need to think very carefully about this.

[Question not audible]

Here, it says that having all these problems is due to not holding the vows pure. However, does that mean that all such problems come from the same cause? No, it’s not. It is only one of the causes. Back to Verse 37, we are poor and yet we have much greed and desire. We want more things but we are not able to get them. What we need to do is to practice generosity. When people are in need we must practice generosity. We give to them whatever they need. We also need to practice making offerings to the Three Jewels. If we have the money, we should buy good qualities goods, and a lot of them. If we have a lot of money and yet we choose poor quality offerings and we buy only a few. This becomes impure offerings. For people with not much money but buy offerings with generous heart, this becomes pure offerings.

[Question not audible]

It depends on motivation. If both of them make offerings – the rich one offering big incense and the poor one offering small incense, with the same pure motivation, then both of them get the same results. But if the one who is not so rich and do not offer the bigger incense out of miserliness. If he can afford it but think only to make small offerings, then the results obtained will be smaller.

Verse 38:

When our bodies are ugly and others torment us
By mocking our flaws, never showing respect,
This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
Till now we have made images lacking in beauty,
By venting our anger we have made ugly scenes;
Hereafter let’s print books and make pleasing statues,
And not be short-tempered, but be of good cheer.

This verse refers to having all sorts of physical defects – our limbs and arms are deformed, the organs do not grow properly, we are blind or deaf, etc. Other people abuse and belittle us because of that. They treat us with contempt and never show us respect. Why is this happening? Because in the past, when our Gurus and those who have taught us Dharma, had various physical defects, we had looked down on our Gurus. Because of this, we do not take teachings from our Guru seriously. Because of belittling our Guru in the past, we have obtained the same results in this life.

Another cause is that of making holy images and statues in an improper manner. Because of that it become a cause for us to obtain an ugly body in the future. Also, not being respectful to the texts. We trade the text like trading other goods. We don’t take care of the texts well and put them on a clean place. We throw them everywhere. Sometimes we burned them. Having an ugly body comes from all these causes.

From now on, let’s respect all the statues and all the scriptural texts. When we make statues or draw thangkas, we should make good ones. We should respect and show appreciation towards the holy objects. Towards people, we should also think that the nature of their mind is pure. If we think like this, we will not get angry with them. We should treat them well.

Having good appearance is also important. For example, sometimes before a high Lama appears, everybody will be talking about the good qualities of the Lama. Sometimes when the Lama has physical defects and people lose faith when they see him. It influences people’s mind. When we are together with other people, we should be mutually patient.


Note on authentication

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

@ Losang Dragpa Centre, September 2001

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