GYALWANG KARMAPA'S TEACHINGS ON THE PURE REALMS TO THE EAST AND WEST
1 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
The teachings this week will be about the Eastern and Western Buddhafields and on the fifth day, there will be empowerments of Akshobhya and Amitabha. To begin with, all of us have the great fortune to be gathered together in the most sacred place of Bodhgaya and the most important thing is to make our motivation correct. For a teacher the motivation should not be worldly, but rather it should be a sincere wish to help others become liberated from samsara.
And as for the people who listen to the teachings, they should not do so out of the eight worldly dharmas, but in order to bring about long-term benefits. If people receive teachings just to fulfill worldly concerns, then it will not become true dharma. Therefore both the teacher and the students need to purify their motivation and make sure it is in accord with the dharma.
THE BUDDHA REALMS OF THE EAST AND THE WEST
Abhirati in the east, and Dewachen or Sukhavati in the west, are known as the Eastern and Western Buddhafields. Generally, in these degenerate times there are very few conditions to practice dharma and, even when we have some opportunities, there will be a lot of obstacles. In particular, the basis for both worldly and spiritual accomplishment is the practice of shamatha and nowadays it is very difficult to accomplish this because there is so much distraction and technical and material progress, especially in big cities. If there is no real foundation of shamatha, it's difficult to practice vipassana. Of course, some people will understand but it is difficult for the majority to advance even in a worldly sense without shamatha. Therefore, it goes without saying that to make progress in the stages of meditation you need a stable practice of shamatha.
In order that we have the opportunity to practice dharma without obstacles in our future lives, we must pray and dedicate our positive actions towards that end. And if we do so, there is a possibility that we will be born in the pure realms where we can make continuous progress and never fall back.
In China there are certain schools of Buddhism dedicated to being born in the western pure realm of Dewachen. In Tibet, there is no particular school dedicated to this, but all of the lineages engage in practices and prayers to be born in pure realms.
In order to reach Amitabha's pure land, we need to create the causes and conditions for it. What are the things that will bring about those conditions? Whether a person is a human or non-human samsaric being, as long as one has a mind that can be made more virtuous, one has the potential to be reborn in Dewachen. The Buddha said that if we make aspirations and we dedicate our merit and do positive actions, then unless we have committed the five most heinous deeds or have completely given up the dharma, we can develop the potential to be reborn in Dewachen. Furthermore, anybody, man or woman, who has devotion and respect towards the sutra of Dewachen, or towards Amitabha or his heart sons, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani, has the potential to be reborn there. According to Karma Chakme, since Chenrezig is the heart son of Amitabha, if you recite Karmapa Khyenno, then it is also easy to be born into Amitabha's pure realm. Also it is said that Amitabha made this promise, "Unless all beings become enlightened, I will never become Buddha." Because of the power of Amitabha's aspiration, anybody who prays to be reborn in Dewachen, generates bodhichitta, and creates all the right conditions prescribed in the sutra, can actually be born in Amitabha's pure realm.
Now the second point: what is the need or purpose to be born there? This will be discussed tomorrow.
The third point is related with Abhirati, Akshobhya's pure realm. In the last few years I have taken some interest in Akshobhya and we have offered the fire puja of Akshobhya at the Kagyu Monlams. I have also created some Akshobhya retreats here with Lamas from different countries and tried to explain what I knew about this practice. One reason I did this is because technical and material progress in the 21stcentury means that the activity of human beings is very powerful and has a great effect, unlike in ancient times. We harm other beings and the environment very much. Thus it is an age when we are creating very strong negative karma. Therefore if we practice Akshobhya, I think it will help a lot because Akshobhya is a Buddha especially meant to purify negative karma.
For example, there is no comparison between hunters and fishermen in ancient times and thosee today. The hunters of ancient times had primitive weapons of stone, and then later on, simple iron weapons. Now they have guns and all kinds of poison, and killing is much swifter and more convenient. Likewise, fishermen these days have big nets and using technology can locate the largest shoals of fish. In one net they can catch thousands of fish. So this is a time when many negative actions thrive.
However, when we accumulate very strong negative karma, the power and blessings of the buddhas become that much stronger also. Their force, their blessing, and their positive influence become more powerful. Because of that, the Buddha Shakyamuni said, "During degenerate times you should do Akshobhya's practices." Mitrukpa, orAkshobhya, means "unmoving" or "unmoved." His mind has never been disturbed by hatred or anger.
In the present time, there is a lot of anger, conflict, and violent minds that create negative deeds. Even though there are strong negative deeds there are also strong antidotes. The great masters of the Kagyu lineage in the past belonged to the Akshobhya family. For instance, when Milarepa received the empowerment of Gyepa Dorje, his flower fell in the east. Therefore he was called "Gyepa Dorje" and it was clear that he belonged to the Akshobhya family. And the Karmapa also belongs to the Akshobhya family. To signify this, he wears the Black Hat. Actually, the color of the Karmapa's hat is dark blue, like the changeless nature. Changelessness is signified by dark blue because people think that the sky does not change. Everything else changes, but the sky is empty. In the same way, the true nature does not change and since in that way it is similar to the sky, the color blue signifies the changeless nature. Therefore the Karmapa's Black Hat originally was dark blue.
Finally, even though we have the blessings of the lineage with us, we still have to practice diligently and joyfully. It is very important to practice with joy. Many people feel they have to acquire things that they do not have and they try hard to practice dharma as if it were something from the outside that we do not have within us. That is not the correct way to approach it. We need to comprehend what naturally abides within us and to look deeply within ourselves at the kindness and love that is already there rather than disregard the positive qualities we have.
From tomorrow onwards, we will talk about the Akshobhya practice.
The Gyalwang Karmapa returned to the Monlam Pavilion after lunch for Session Three, and gave a short teaching on The King of Aspirations: The Aspiration for Noble Conduct.
He then returned to his quarters at Tergar Monastery to conduct audiences during Session Four.
2 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
March 2, 2012, underneath the blue arch of the Monlam Pavilion, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued to teach on the pureland of Sukhavati (Dewachen). Yesterday, he talked about who could be born there, and after looking at various aspects of the question, he concluded that anyone who could engage their mind in virtuous actions could take rebirth in Sukhavati. Today he explained the purpose and particular benefits of being born in this pureland. Among these are avoiding the experience of the lower realms and the feeling of suffering, whether physical or mental, for this is a place (or level of realization) where we do not need to experience suffering or its origins. Instead, every day we will witness a festival of miracles. Further, in every lifetime until we become enlightened, we will attain all the leisures and resources. The most important benefit, however, is that the conditions obstructing liberation and omniscience are fewer and those that support attainment are greater.
What are these opposing inner conditions on a physical level? The body degenerates and grows old, experiences disease and weakness. The elements decline; eventually our life force fades away; and finally we die. While alive, we are poor and destitute and busy with maintaining a place to stay, food, and health. These experiences do not exist in Sukhavati. Mentally, the opposing conditions are mainly grasping on to the self of an individual and the self of phenomena on a coarse level. This has become manifest as having a great fixation on our place, our body, and objects we own. In brief, our self, this "I," is greatly favored; we think about it almost constantly.
Further, we have the wrong view that disparages karma cause and effect, and we also have the thought to harm others. The afflictions, such as aversion and excessive desire, have come to the surface. Due to our ignorance, we do not know others' minds, or the higher perceptions, and so forth. All these negative conditions, which are coarse, manifest, and mostly mental, do not exist in Sukhavati.
Connected to both the body and mind are the five things that veil or obscure our samadhi: seeking pleasure, maliciousness, torpor and sleepiness, agitation and excessive regret, plus doubt. Through these, we take up what is negative and cannot turn our mind to virtuous activity. We gather the karma that propels us into lower rebirths. Through body, speech, and mind, new negative karma is accumulated and the old is brought to fruition. In Sukhavati, these kinds of counterproductive conditions that are internal obstacles to liberation and omniscience are minimal.
Externally, negative conditions also arise—fires, floods, poisons and weapons, all the things related to what brings harm. Further, there are all manner of negative spirits that bring harm as well as enemies, thieves, and so forth. The five objects of the senses (forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects) can also obstruct. In Sukhavati, these outer, or objective, conditions that give rise to what is unvirtuous, or that cause something else to do so, are also minimal.
In Sukhavati, conducive conditions, those in harmony with the path of practice, predominate. For example, we can take birth in another world and practice the path there. We do not die involuntarily, so we have a long life. Many positive qualities are born within—we attain the siddhis, the higher perceptions, the various special eyes, such as the wisdom eye or the divine eye. During one morning, we can come before the buddhas of the ten directions and make limitless offerings. Born near them we can receive key instructions. Without hindrances and just as we wish, we can attain everything to be enjoyed—the nourishment, clothing, residences and so forth in numberless buddha realms. And these pleasures will not promote or encourage the afflictions; rather, they are an aid leading to the experience of the genuine Dharma. We feel always blissful like those in the state of the third meditative concentration. Thoughts related to the genuine Dharma—such as impermanence, the nature of suffering, the meaning of no self—arise effortlessly within our mindstream. Present in Sukhavati are also great beings, such as buddhas and chakravartins. In sum, there are many positive conditions that help an individual to move along the path.
As for the outer conducive conditions, there is no need to mention the blissful joy found in Sukhavati. In addition, Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani are always present. From the pure realms in the ten directions come vast numbers of bodhisattvas-and arhants with their retinues, who remain in Sukhavati and turn the wheel of Dharma. Positive outer conditions appear without effort. The sounds relate not to ordinary phenomena, but to the Dharma which is naturally heard, telling of impermanence, peace, and no self. The beauty of the realm—the wishfulfilling trees, the celestial gods and goddesses—does not cause afflictions or distractions, but brings to mind what is virtuous on this profound and spacious path: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha as well as samadhis, faith, emptiness, and full knowing. What arises is a mind wishing to attain liberation and omniscience. Therefore, although there are outer objects, they function as perfect conditions for accomplishing the path. In sum, compared to other pure realms, with this immense provision of outer and inner positive conditions, Sukhavati provides a special opportunity—profound, vast, and swift— to attain the qualities of the path.
After this discussion, His Holiness backs up his explanations by reading citations from a sutra, How the Pureland of Sukhavati Is Arrayed. The quotes speak of Sukhavati as a place where even the name of suffering does not exist; where one has all possible resources; and where the concepts of self and other are not present. In brief, the reason that we want to be reborn in the buddha realm of Sukhavati is that we can meet numerous spiritual friends, true buddhas such as Amitabha and true bodhisattvas such as Vajrapani. Through this, qualities of the paths and levels will arise; through bringing these benefits to mind, our practice will develop.
Then the Karmapa discussed some of the disputed points about Sukhavati, the first one being whether listeners, solitary realizers, gods or humans could be reborn there. In a sutra related to Amitabha, it is said that they all could take birth in Sukhavati. Nagarjuna affirmed the same. It was also said that since all causes and conditions are perfect, everyone born in Sukhavati has the five higher perceptions and the five eyes, (the physical, divine, wisdom, etc). There are also discussions about how the five pleasurable objects of the senses are enjoyed. Since they are experienced through a samadhi of perfect joy, involving a pliant and relaxed body and mind, attachment does not manifestly arise.
To summarize, in Sukhavati, all the positive outer and inner conditions are present, and the negative outer and inner conditions are absent. The most important point, however, is that we can actually meet the Buddha and listen to his teachings. Bodhisattvas and spiritual friends also give advice, so that we can enter the path leading to liberation and omniscience in a very profound, swift, and vast manner.
The Karmapa then shifted the topic, saying that if I continue like this people will be going to sleep, so I'll change topics and talk about science. I am not schooled in this and have just a basic understanding so there may be mistakes in what I say. He then spoke of the vast number of galaxies, the clouds of billions of stars, the unimaginable number of universes there are. We know very little about them, so it is not impossible that among them we could find Sukhavati. Some say that Sukhavati is just a product of our habitual patterns, some kind of imprint in our mind. However, there are both pure and impure universes, and ordinary people can only see the latter. There are many things that we cannot see with our physical eye and we still believe to exist because we know them through inference or by implication.
The Karmapa also spoke of Mt. Meru and the universe as it is presented in the Abhidharmakosha, saying that some of the measurements do fit what modern science has found, and general statements, such as the preponderance of water over land, are also true. When the texts speak of the "golden ground" they do not necessarily point to something made of gold; "The Golden Field" was a name for Indonesia, the home of Atisha's teacher with the same name, and gold can also be understood as the essence of the earth. In sum, these statements are based on samadhi and not technology so we have to study and reflect on them.
Then the Karmapa returned to the discussion of Sukhavati. Some say that it is not true that birth in Sukhavati brings one swiftly up the bodhisattva levels, because there is no suffering to create discontent and renunciation. Some also say that one day of practicing discipline in an impure, difficult world is worth more than practicing in a pure one. Here we need to understand that Sukhavati is beyond the three worlds of desire, form, and formlessness. From Sukhavati, we can go to myriad other realms and listen to the Dharma, which talks of impermanence and suffering so these are not unknown. Contrary to rebirth in Sukhavati, suffering in the impure realms is the result of unwholesome activity. It is also true that those who take rebirth in Sukhavati have already practiced Dharma deeply and passed beyond laziness, and so forth, so their renunciation comes naturally. Further, discipline develops more quickly and deeply in Sukhavati because there is a preponderance of positive conditions that foster it. Ultimately, the true nature of discipline does not change no matter where it is practiced.
His Holiness then followed his talk with a meditation. The main way we can take rebirth in Sukhavati is through clearing away the obscurations in our mind. We should then visualize the Buddha Amitabha, with Avalokiteshvara to his left and Vajrapani to his right in front of us. We acknowledge, or confess, previous negative actions and vow not to commit them again. This delights Amitabha, who smiles and radiates lights that come to purify the obscurations of our body, speech, and mind, allowing the qualities of Amitabha's body, speech, and mind to arise within us.
After the meditation, the Karmapa comments that there are many different prayer festivals held here in Bodhgaya and what supports them is the money that comes from donations for the living and deceased. There is no other way for the sangha to serve the donors except to make excellent aspirations their behalf, wishing that they find an easy path to enlightenment. And this is done by remembering the qualities of the Buddha, who appeared in this world and taught the Dharma. Due to this, we could work together and hold this Kagyu Monlam. So even when taking a sip of water, we should remember his kindness. We take the example of his life as an instruction and make a great effort to become able to do as much as the Buddha did to help living beings, to bring them peace and happiness.
Some people might say that this is just an aspiration, even so we still have to make it and this is the time to do it. Our prayers may be just words in the beginning, and we aspire that we can actually accomplish them. One of the main characteristics of the mahayana is making vast plans for the future to help beings until the end of endless samsara.
A drop of water in an ocean will not disappear until the ocean does. Similarly, if we dedicate a small virtuous action to full realization, it will not disappear until we attain full awakening. Whether these actions become a cause for Buddhahood or not, depends on this dedication. We are the driver of the car and can choose its direction. When the right circumstances gather, a small seed can become a great tree with numerous flowers and fruits. So a small virtue can be imbued with a vast aspiration. The result we achieve depends on the scale of our intention.
So we need to be over-confident in our aspirations: May I become a Buddha today. The main point is not to think of me alone, my things and so forth. If we analyze this me and these things, we find nothing real, nothing truly existent. Everything is interdependent. If we think about a package of food we have, it happened due to numerous causes and conditions coming together. Praise and fame come from others; the air we breathe comes from many things outside us. It is also true that when many people are together and make a strong aspiration, it becomes more powerful. If men and women gather, and also if the male and female ordained and lay sangha assemble, their aspirations are more powerful. Please keep this in mind.
3 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
According to science, this earth is the only planet where all of the positive conditions exist for human life. So to have all the conditions necessary for life is very rare. And human beings have a special quality that other beings lack: we are able to distinguish right from wrong. Many species of living beings have become extinct, but among those that exist, humans are the most intelligent because they have the capacity for ethical or moral discernment, knowing which actions are positive and which are negative. It is not just a matter of gain and loss in the short term; we can also comprehend what is beneficial in the long term. But even though we have this capacity, so far we have not used it very well. We tend to only look at what is good for ourselves in the short term, but we do not look closely enough at what is best for everyone in the long run. On top of that, for our own benefit or that of our immediate communities, we mistreat other groups of beings and create a lot of damage and loss of life. In this way, because of negative human activities, many beings have been killed and have become extinct.
And in the same way, all the problems in the environment are due to the mistakes of human beings. In one way, there has been vast technological and material development, making it easy to communicate and travel. But in another way, we are living in degenerate times. By this I mean that natural and traditional ways of doing things are being replaced by all kinds of artificial or made-up methods.
Because of this, human beings have arrived at a time when we really need to think deeply. We have all kinds of ease and assets in our environment, creating the right kind of conditions to practice dharma. And these conditions not only facilitate dharma practice, but also enable us to engage in positive actions. Thus we need to use our great capacity for intelligence to understand how to act in ways that are the most beneficial for ourselves and for others. If we can do that, then this precious human life will become useful and fruitful.
Furthermore, when we talk about our lives we are not just referring to our individual bodies. We are part of an interconnected web and whether or not our lives become meaningful depends upon acknowledging this interdependence and using our minds, thoughts, and actions in such a way that they will be beneficial, not just for ourselves, but for everyone.
Now today I will finish teaching about Amitabha's pure realm:
1) HOW DO WE CREATE CONDITIONS TO BE REBORN IN DEWACHEN?
It is said in the Amitabha Sutra, "If anybody hears my name, and then makes a prayer or aspiration to be born in Sukhavati, unless that person has created the five heinous deeds or abandoned the dharma, if they are not born there, then I will not be enlightened." So Amitabha says that if someone really aspires to be born in Dewachen, and practices positive deeds, he will make it possible for them to be born there. But first you have to aspire to it and focus your mind on it. Then you must accumulate positive deeds and dedicate those deeds to be born in Dewachen.
In the Amitabha Sutra, the Buddha says to Sariputra, "If someone concentrates on Dewachen for one to seven days, then if that person dies, they will necessarily be born into Dewachen. So therefore one must pray to be born into Dewachen."
And in another sutra called Chime Nada, "The Drums of Deathlessness," it says that if you recite the name of Amitayus, you can also be born in Dewachen or Sukhavati. The conditions for being born there are:
1) With devotion and a clear, inspired mind, you recite the name of Amitayus or Amitabha.
2) You must perform many positive deeds and dedicate them to being reborn in Dewachen.
As for the special causes or complete conditions, try to generate within yourself all the qualities of the bodhisattvas that reside in Dewachen. What are those qualities? The bodhisattvas lack hatred or anger, are very diligent, and never tire of learning. Even if they possess an ocean of knowledge they are never satisfied and all of their senses have been tamed and are under control. So we need to try to cultivate those same qualities and that comprises the complete cause of being born in Dewachen.
And what kind of life forms can create the conditions to be born there? Anybody--gods, humans or non-humans—can as long as they have the capacity to transform or direct their minds in a positive and virtuous way. Also, regarding all those causes described in the sutras, it is not enough to just do them once. We have to practice them again and again and we have to generate strong devotion and confidence in the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni.
Ordinary positive deeds will cause us to take a good samsaric birth but special positive deeds create the conditions for us to be born in Dewachen. These special deeds need to be done with a clear understanding and confidence in Amitabha's realm and also in Buddha Sakyamuni's teachings. Being undistracted is very important too. It is not enough just to recite the Buddha's name or mantra but we must do it one-pointedly. And likewise, if we perform positive deeds in a state of non-distraction, we will create the causes and conditions to be born in Dewachen. So these are ways to create conditions for ourselves to be born in Dewachen.
2) HOW CAN WE CREATE THE CONDITIONS FOR OTHERS TO BE BORN IN DEWACHEN?
We should not practice dharma for our own gain or honor but we should practice from the depths of our heart so that other beings may be born into Dewachen. We should read the Amitabha Sutra and the Chime Nada Sutra aloud so they are heard by other beings. And when we recite the names and mantras of the buddhas, we can encourage others to recite the names and mantras also. So in order to create the conditions to be reborn in Dewachen, we request or teach people to abide by their precepts and create positive deeds. Furthermore, we allow them to hear the name of Amitabha and his sutra. We can also spread sand or material that is blessed by the recitation of mantras and sutras on others' bodies and them show Amitabha's form. We can make prayer flags so that all beings will be touched by the wind that is blown through the mantras and representations of Amitabha. So these are some ways to help other people to create the causes and conditions to be born in Dewachen.
Animals like birds and pigs are unable to recite the names of the buddhas, so we recite the mantras or names in their ears in order to create the causes for them to be born in Dewachen. There are many stories about that. About a month ago, I heard something but I don't know whether it is true or not. A person wanted to eat frog meat and went to the market to buy some frogs. Apparently, skinning frogs can be done quite easily. So this person bought three frogs, skinned the frogs, and brought them to his home. By the time he got home, one frog had already died. Another frog that had been skinned was still breathing a little bit. So that frog was looking up at the person with large eyes. This spooked the person and he began to recite the mantra of Amitabha. Slowly, the dead frog revived and the frogs listened carefully to the mantra, Om Ami Dewa Hri. And then one of the frogs seemed to be reciting Amitabha's mantra. So this is an incident I read about, but I don't know if it really happened or not.
In short, most of us aspire to be reborn in Dewachen. In Tibet this has been the case for a long, long time and the same is true for Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. These traditions have been around for a long time and there are many great masters who are very skilled in the practice. However, some are rather strange because they say that we should only do the practice for rebirth in Dewachen. That is mistaken, I think. Some people are very inspired to be born in Dewachen but maybe others are not. So you cannot tell all of them that they must only do Amitabha's practice and nothing else. Even Buddha Sakyamuni never said this.
Because as I said before if you really want to create the complete causes and conditions for rebirth in Dewachen, then you must engage in all the practices of the Buddhadharma such as study, reflection, meditation, generation of bodhichitta and the bodhisattva's way of life, and the three trainings. People prefer an easier way so that is why some people say that Amitabha's practice is the only one to do and you do not need anything more. That is not right. If our aspiration is that small and simple then we risk becoming a sect by thinking "only my way is the right way." We have to be very careful about that otherwise we could create sectarianism.
Generally in the Buddhadharma, any dharma practice we do can cause us to be born into Dewachen. There is nothing that does not become a cause for us to be born into Dewachen. The only criteria are whether we are especially inspired and praying to be born there or not.
A THREE-MINUTE MEDITATION ON BODHICHITTA
In order to meditate on Bodhichitta, first it is important to meditate on compassion. Meditation is like a mirror or coin with two sides. Facing out is renunciation and facing in is compassion. In Tri Gyatsa, "100 Instructions" by the Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, there is a very nice instruction on how to meditate on compassion. I will try to go through this a little bit.
As I said before, we have attained the precious human life. The main feeling of gratitude we need to have is to our mother. Because she gave us this body, we should be extremely grateful to her. In order that we live, our parents went through many difficulties and did a lot of positive and negative things. And the reason they did the negative deeds is because of their love for their children and grandchildren. All the business they did and cultivation of the land, etc. was not just for their own livelihood but to keep their children and grandchildren alive and well. So because of all these positive and negative deeds they did for our benefit, they might be born into lower realms in their next lives. Because of this, we have to be responsible for them in some way.
Similarly, all sentient beings are like our parents. When we talk about parents, there are many different types of parent. There are the parents who gave us our body, and the parents who have been kind to us in other ways. Our parents gave us life, but other beings on earth also gave us things that allowed us to keep on living. If we eat food, it comes in a package, and we don't know who prepared it. Even though we don't know their names, some people definitely cultivated and cooked this food and packaged it for us to enjoy. Therefore, many, many people, who like our parents became causes for our survival, have been very kind to us. Anyway, to be able to feel gratitude is a very important thing. When we feel compassion, kindness, and gratitude, we become content, happy, and joyful. Thus, feeling gratitude is very beneficial and important for us as human beings.
And compassion is actually feeling gratitude for all sentient beings and remembering that all those beings in samsara have a lot of suffering and problems. When we really see that situation we feel unbearable compassion and sadness and become inspired to free them from their sufferings. So we have to cultivate that kind of sincere and burning aspiration thinking, "I want to free all beings from their suffering!" This is what we will meditate on today.
Imagine all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, like Amitabha and Avalokiteshvara, present in the sky in front of us. Then recollect all the positive deeds that we have done in the three times, past, present, and future, and offer them to the buddhas. And because we offer them to the buddhas, the Buddhadharma spreads. And because it spreads more people create positive deeds and those positive deeds are also dedicated. There is the power of creating positive deeds and the positive deed of offering that to the Buddha and the result is the spread of dharma and that creates a lot more positive deeds for many people and is dedicated for the benefit of all sentient beings. And the positive deeds that come out of that, we also dedicate for the benefit of others and the positive deeds that come out of this dedication we dedicate again. So there is an endless cycle of positive things, and we dedicate in this way, creating an unending cycle of dedication. Maybe we will do some prayer and recitation first and then meditate.
At this point the Dewachen Monlam is chanted, followed by the meditation bell.
1.50pm and the Monlam Pavilion is buzzing. People returning from lunchbreak are greeting friends, others are sitting quietly, the sangha are putting on their yellow prayer shawl in spite of the early afternoon heat. Steadily the flow of people – monks, nuns and laypeople - fills the great tent. Everything and everyone appears strangely tinted by the pale blue light filtering through the blue tent cloth and blue PVC tarpaulin. A wind picks up and ruffles the tent cloth. The PVC tarpaulin snaps, rustles and crackles in the breeze.
This is the third of eight days; there is a feeling of harmony and unity of intent within the Pavilion. At 2.00pm promptly the chanting master begins the first prayer of the session "The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct".
H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche presided over the afternoon sessions.
4 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
At the Monlam Pavilion on the morning of March 4, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued his teaching on the purelands. After he takes his seat on the throne, tea and biscuits are offered to everyone while the aspirations and names of the sponsors are read out by the discipline master.
It is not as if we get involved in Dharma because we are at a loose end and have nothing better to do. I am talking to you because I think it is really important, and you have to see for yourself if you think so, too. You are not just passing time here, having to sit through all of this. That is not the right reason to be here.
The word dharma in Sanskrit has ten different meanings. It was translated into Tibetan as chos, which means to change, to transform, or to make better. We have to alter our mind, transform it. What does this change entail? It does not mean undergoing plastic surgery to make our face more beautiful, nor does it mean hair implants or dying our hair. This is not the shift intended. When we talk of Dharma, it is not an alteration that tools can perform: only mind can transform mind. You have to use your mind to change your mind.
To begin with, you can meet with your mind and talk to it, making clear what is good and what is not. You can also watch your mind, determine what is going on, and take responsibility for what it is doing. In brief, you give yourself counsel and follow it, thereby transforming your mind. If you look inward and analyze, you can see that sometimes the mind is turning in a positive direction and sometimes not. Which part of your mind you follow, depends on you. Just as when someone is telling you what to do, you can choose to do it or not. We have to decide for ourselves. One side of your mind says , "You should get upset and angry." The other side says, "You mustn't do that. You have to be more open and compassionate." By inspecting your mental processes, you observe what is going on and take control.
Then you have to come to a conclusion and make a real decision: This is what I will do. If you do not have this resolve, then your plan will not be stable, and you will fluctuate between positive and negative actions. If you have a clear and stable commitment, your decision is consistent in the beginning, middle, and end.
Then His Holiness turned to talk about Akshobhya, saying that in Tibet his mind was more at ease, but when he came to India, many problems surfaced so he could become upset and angry. He had an interest in Akshobhya, which he then pursued, doing as much research as he could. He discovered that there was a bodhisattva named Great Vision who made the commitment that until he became fully awakened, he would not get angry. That was a big decision—to keep this commitment just until one dies would not be easy. So the Karmapa thought that he, too, should make a similar promise: Until I die, as much as I am able, I will not get angry or upset with anyone.
Since we make a commitment with our body, speech, and mind, we have to treat all three as servants, who are under the power of this commitment; otherwise, they might not obey us. We offer our body, speech, and mind to this promise, so they will follow its guidance. Nevertheless, sometimes we forget, so we have to remind ourselves every day. If we do so, then after a few months, our commitment will become a natural part of our life. So thinking in this way, the Karmapa made his promise. Then he thought it would be good to record it so that he would automatically be reminded whenever he was about to do something contrary to his promise, but it seems that our technology is not quite at this level yet.
When we say "Dharma," it concerns understanding what is good and bad, what is beneficial and what is not. We need to use this power, demonstrate and arouse it in a big way. If we do not know the Dharma well, we might do strange things, so we must study and develop our understanding. Many practice the vajrayana without knowing its actual meaning. We may think we have to have all sorts of implements and do strange things, and then our family might think we are being misled or have gone astray. But to practice vajrayana is not strange or different: it is directly related to our daily life.
There are different levels of vehicles (yanas) and some might think there is a large difference between them, but that is not the case. Some might mistakenly think that vajrayana is good and mahayana is not. Just as the four elder and eight younger schools are not higher or lower, the vehicles are not bigger and smaller or better and worse, or one more popular than the other.
Thegs pa is the Tibetan word used for "vehicle" (yana in Sanskrit) and it means "to lift" or "to carry." For example, different animals have different capacities to carry a load: an elephant can carry a big burden that would be too much for a goat. In a similar way, the difference in our practice depends on the extent of our bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain full awakening for the sake of all living beings. How much responsibility are we willing to take? How much of a load can we carry? Is it just for ourselves or for all other beings?
We can practice the vajrayana without malas, bells, dorjes, and so forth. These are things that anyone can purchase or possess. We should look to the essence of the three vehicles, which can be understood in terms of their focus—which of the three poisons and its antidote is central? In the foundational vehicle, renunciation, the antidote for excessive desire, is emphasized; in the bodhisattva vehicle, compassion and love, the antidote for anger, are most important; and in the vajrayana, taking the result as the path, the antidote for ignorance, is prominent. The vajrayana emphasizes wisdom so that impure view is cleared away. In all the vehicles, therefore, you are working with the afflictions. If you find an antidote, a way to deal effectively with the affliction, you are doing Dharma practice. If you are sincerely working with the difficult emotions and wrong views, only then you are doing Dharma practice.
The great masters have said that if you understand one Dharma, or one teaching of the Buddha, then put that into practice. If you understand two, put these into practice. Some people think that Dharma practice is to make us happy and relax our mind. Our work in a big, busy city is stressful so we escape to a special place for practice, trying to bring a little peace, happiness, and relaxation to our minds. This is not a bad thing, but the Dharma is not limited to stress reduction, which has too narrow a focus. Further, if we go to a spa for a massage, a sauna, and other treatments, the effect does not last long; in a few days, it is gone. The practice of Dharma is not like taking a drug and then everything is fine.
The practice of Dharma is like exercising or carefully following a course of training, which is powerful and deeply significant. For example, if you are in the military, you train every day, and in the same way, with the Dharma, you have to train your mind daily, not just to relax but to be able to relate to whatever is happening around you. You integrate your practice with whatever conditions you meet so that you are not carried away by them and do not lose your patience.
Patience or forbearance is not like the Shaolin monks, who become very strong fighters and can split bricks with their hands and so forth. Real patience means that we see the afflictions as faults, not positive qualities, and recognize that they are our real problems. The moment they appear, we immediately see that they are negative. Then no matter what people say to us, we will not be thrown off. Real patience does not mean we are wimps, but we know naturally when to be firm and not.
Understanding the basis of Dharma is crucial. In this life, we must come to see the nature of mind directly. Our Dharma practice is to find what is true, to see the truth. This experience is not something that we bring in from the outside or something that runs counter to facts. It is not useful to fabricate something in our mind that is not there; we need to understand our mind as it actually is. Milarepa understood the nature of samsara and of negative actions. Since he understood the facts, he practiced the Dharma and become a siddha, a fully realized master.
The Buddha first taught the Four Truths of the Noble Ones, the first of which is suffering—birth, old age, sickness, and death—and the second truth shows the origin of suffering and examines its causes. We have to understand these, because enlightenment is actually the complete understanding of how things really are. This is what full awakening is. The Dharma teaches us what our world is all about, how it is in all its aspects.
The Karmapa then turned to the topic of Akshobhya, or Mitrukpa, the Immoveable One. Yesterday some people were feeling sleep, so today I brought volume kha of the Kangyur (the Teachings of the Buddha), which has an Akshobhya text of about seventy pages with forty-nine chapters so now you can really doze off, he joked.
Twenty-five years after the Buddha became enlightened, he was in Rajgir (Vulture Peak) along with 2,500 fully ordained sangha members. Shariputra asked about the aspirations of past bodhisattvas, saying that if the Buddha were to speak of them, it would be an inspiration, and further, the sangha could learn about what to do in future. In response, Buddha taught this Sutra of the Features of Victorious Akshobhya's Realm. The sutra revolves around the generation of bodhicitta, which functions as an armor so that others' weapons will not harm you. Here, armor is a metaphor for patience.
The Buddha began the sutra by saying that a thousand buddha realms from here is a pureland called Abhirati where a past buddha, Great Vision, taught the six paramitas to his followers. Then one monk kneeled on his right leg, put his shawl over his right shoulder, and placed his palms together. He said that he wanted to practice the vast path of the bodhisattva. The Buddha Great Vision responded that the practice of the bodhisattva's way is extremely difficult. Why so? Because you cannot get angry at any living being. You must remain stable, unperturbed, or unmoved by anything anyone might do. The monk responded with complete sincerity that until he became enlightened, he would generate bodhicitta and never become angry with anyone and never be disturbed by what another might do. If this did not happen, it would be as if he had deceived all the buddhas of the ten directions.
So the monk generated bodhicitta and made eight commitments, the first of which was that his mind would not be disturbed by anger. The Buddha Great Vision prophesied from this time onward, the monk would have the name Abskobhya, the Unmoveable One, in all his lifetimes until reaching buddhahood when he would be known as Akshobhya Buddha.
The monk also made eighteen aspirations, which included: I will remember the Buddha with every step I take; every lifetime I will be ordained; and I will never criticize the four communities of the sangha (the male and female ordained and lay sangha). In addition, the monk made seven earnest aspirations. To show that his commitment was irreversible, he made the billion world systems quake (without any harm) with his right toe.
We should follow the example of Akshobhya Buddha. Of course, we will not be able to do all that he did, but we do what we can and that is very good. If we cannot do anything, we pray that in the future we will come to resemble Akshobhya. If we can keep the thoughts, "I will not get angry with anyone,' and "I will not have the thought to harm anyone," then we are really practicing.
When we practice Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezik), our compassion develops. It is not that we simply become familiar with the deities, but we actually develop and integrate their qualities. We do not need to please them for they do not need anything. When we offer prostrations, for example, it is not for them, but for us. We wish to be born in a pureland, and that comes about through these kinds of practices.
Then it was time for meditation. The Karmapa talked about dedication, saying that first we have to create a positive action so that we have something to dedicate. This is different from an aspiration prayer, when we generate a vast intention to benefit others, but there is no specific deed to dedicate. We can make aspirations even if we have not done anything special, which is not to say that they are not important. After the Buddha first generated bodhicitta, he practiced for three countless eons; during this time everything he did benefited others and all of it he dedicated for their benefit. Thanks to his immense, almost infinite, aspirations and dedications, when he became enlightened, all his activities happened without effort.
When we first generate bodhicitta and continue to do so, it is a kind of prayer: we want to bring lasting peace and happiness to all beings, so it is a huge aspiration. The benefits of bodhcitta like this are very powerful and long-term. They allow us to practice for countless eons without tiring. It is taught that because of the Buddha's aspirations, the Dharma rests in the palm of our right hand. Our aspirations have gathered us here, and now we need to make aspirations for innumerable living beings, all of whom are connected to us, so that they attain full awakening and discover irreversible peace and happiness within. Please make this aspiration now.
There are those whom past masters could not help, so we aspire to liberate these people, too, for it is important that everyone becomes enlightened. Ordinary people can help others to a limited extent but most of this assistance turns out to be rather ineffective. If we really want to help, we must know what people really need, and for that, the higher perceptions are indispensable, so we must have stable shamatha meditation. When a bodhisattva gives assistance, nothing is useless, everything is meaningful.
Ordinary people do not know how to investigate or how inference works. Like a blind person, they are led around by their preferences. How could they help others? We need to be very clear and hold a great aspiration throughout the day and night. This is not easy, but if we can manage it, we have accomplished something.
5 March, 2012 Bodhgaya
AKSHOBYA AND AMITABHA EMPOWERMENTS
His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa bestowed Akshobhya and Amitabha empowerments on March 5, 2012. Gyalwang Karmapa arrived at the Monlam Pavilion around 9:00 am. After prostrating three times he sat on the throne and put on his black activity hat. After a mandala offering at around 9:15 am, His Holiness gave a brief talk on the history of Buddha Akshobhya.
A picture of Buddha Akshobhya (known as Mitrukpa in Tibetan), a copy of the one painted by His Holiness in 2011, was distributed to all those in attendance. His Holiness told how there was once a bhikku who promised that he would never be angry and not feel hatred to anybody until he reached enlightenment. Buddha then predicted that this bhikku would be called Akshobhya, or unmoving, or that which cannot be disturbed.
He became Bodhisattava Akshobhya, or Buddha Akshobhya, in the spatial Buddhafield where there are no negative activities. According to the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni, reciting the Akshobhya mantra will help completely purify negative deeds. His Holiness said that the practice originated from Atisha Dipankara, and was made into one of the Kriya yoga tantras by one of the Shamar Rinpoches.
According to Vairocana tantra, His Holiness said, the buddhas are all-knowing and have the wisdom to teach all sentient beings according to their respective mental dispositions. They have the skillful means to teach students according to their situation. Some are given the teachings of Shravakayana, some Prateyakabuddha, some are given teachings which are relevant for buddhas, and some which are meant for humans.
Buddha gives whatever students need and whatever will benefit them most. Buddha is very skillful and completely compassionate. If somebody needs to be taught about selflessness, he will teach about that; if somebody needs to learn more about bodhicitta, he will teach about bodhicitta. If he or she does not need, or will not benefit from bodhicitta Buddha will not talk about bodhicitta to them.
His Holiness also said that those of us on the Buddhist path need to be broadminded. One should not say that one is Mahayana and that other paths are not good, or insult them, or be intolerant of them. Dharma is dharma. Such a discriminatory attitude towards others is not good.
His Holiness also explained the meaning of the Sanskrit word "mantra", which means to protect, i.e. to give protection to the mind. He said that this is something that you have to work on the subtle mind, and it is not about using rituals and religious instruments. The main understanding of the Vajrayana is about our mind. As we have discussed, Vajrayana works to transform our negative vision, or view, and purify how we see things. Because of our strong way of grasping, we see things in a deluded way; we do not see them the way they are.
When we understand emptiness, we know that everything arises from emptiness. It is therefore important to understand emptiness. The goal of Mantrayana is to protect our mind, to protect our mind from the wrong way of seeing. Or in other words, help avoid it from seeing something as true or independently arising.
Gyalwang Karmapa said that, of the many qualities that Buddha possesses, compassion is the most important. As pointed out earlier, Buddha helped others overcome suffering in whatever way possible and always thinks about the welfare of all the sentient beings. He always taught in a way that is best suited to them. For instance, for some people, the concept of selflessness is the most important while for others it is not. Then there are those who need the concept of skillful means. The goal is the same– to be liberated from samsara. Therefore, Buddha taught everybody according to their own particular situation.
At around 9:50 am, His Holiness gave the vase empowerment, after which he gave the crown empowerment.
Finally, a Mandala offering was made to thank for the empowerment.
His Holiness began the Amitabha empowerment at around 10:00 am.
His Holiness said as long as we have negative emotions it is very difficult to be born in the Amitabha realm. However, because of the special dedication of Amitabha, if one really practices and prays to be born in Dewachen (Amitabha Realm) and focuses on Amitabha, than one can be born in Dewachen. His Holiness said that the practice comes from Tulku Mingyur Dorje. When he was young, Tulku Mingyur Dorje had a vision of the Buddha who told him that if you practice Amitabha you will travel straight like an arrow to the Amitabha realm.
Finally, His Holiness said that the main goal of the dharma is to transform and improve our mind, which means to become a better human being. Dharma has to be integrated into life and if one is a true practitioner the dharma and the person are not separate.