The Manifestation of Compassionate Activity
H. H. the 16th Karmapa
TIBETAN DHARMA IS BASED ON Mahayana Buddhism and in Tibet there is a special Mahayana tradition. Centuries ago, Indian Mahasiddhas collected the essence of the Buddha's teachings which were subsequently brought to Tibet. Down to this present day, it is still possible to study these same teachings at an educational institution. In addition, you can actually come to experience the effect of what you have learned and enjoy the fruit of what you have practiced. I have confidence that you all are capable of experiencing this fruition of Buddhahood.
The heart of Mahayana teaching is the practice of experiencing bodhicitta, or the enlightened mind. Bodhicitta can be seen from two aspects--the aspiration to benefit oneself and to benefit others--but when you are truly doing the practice then you generate bodhicitta that includes both yourself and all other beings. As you are working in the world or accomplishing some task, if you do it with the intention of benefiting others and with the understanding of cause and effect, then you generate trust in people and they can have complete confidence in what you do.
The skillful means of bodhicitta allow you to be effective in helping others. Bodhisattva activities are divided into four kinds: generosity, pleasant speech, beneficial conduct and consistency of word and deed. In practicing generosity, a Bodhisattva may see someone who is poor; spontaneously they would give food, clothing or whatever may be needed. Bodhisattvas also know that people will not listen well to words spoken in anger. They are sensitive to each person's situation and understanding this, they speak without abruptness, smoothly and calmly so that the other person feels comfortable. Bodhisattva conduct allows a Bodhisattva to adapt the Dharma to many different situations. If you consider Eastern and Western religions, you can see that the faith in religion can be the same even though the religions themselves are different. If you consider philosophy, however, you will see that there is a difference. In Western countries, therefore, teachers must speak according to Western thought patterns so that the seed of Dharma can fully enter into the experience of Western people. This is the way in which the lamas speak.
Because we are in a fortunate time, America, Canada, Europe, the whole world receives the light of the Buddha's compassion. People now want to do practice and it gives them much joy. But in order to do the practice, you have to meet with the right situation and this meeting itself is the extraordinary blessing of the Dharma. Once having received this wonderful blessing, it is the responsibility of the Dharma practitioner to pass the teachings on to those who are ready for them.
As I said in the beginning of this talk, the root of the Dharma is precious bodhicitta, and bodhicitta is compassion for others. This is the essential meaning of everything I have spoken of today.
Some people think it is very difficult to receive this teaching. Further, they believe that even though they have received the teachings, they are extremely difficult and take an inordinately long time to realize. Perhaps this is true. For example, as in this world it is difficult to get what you want, so it is not easy to achieve the profound, secret teaching of Mahayana Dharma. Through practicing Mahayana, it is not easy to achieve the state of bliss or enlightenment. But all this depends on your mind. Actually you should follow the Dharma, practice, and keep precisely in mind the workings of cause and effect. If you do this steadfastly and confidently, perhaps realization might not take a long time, nor be difficult. It is said in the secret Mahayana:
In a moment, something becomes special.
In a moment, enlightenment is attained.
Nevertheless, whether there are Dharma practitioners or not, this era is a hectic one, filled with distracting activity. During such a time, what kind of practice should we be doing? As an example, we can take the situation of our own needs: whatever we might need, so will others. With this under standing, we can continuously think of benefiting others--that is the core of Dharma practice. We ground ourselves in this thought of benefiting others. If we have confidence in the workings of cause and effect, whatever work we do will have an excellent result. To take another example: In this world we say, "these are my parents, this is my country, this is my property," etc. But from a Dharmic standpoint, we look on all beings and deeply wish that they be relieved of their suffering and achieve Buddhahood. Generating bodhicitta in this way, we practice benefiting others. This thought is absolutely essential not only for Dharma activity, but for any activity in our lives. If we maintain the thought of benefiting others and recite only one OM MANI PEME HUNG, that will help liberate them from suffering and help raise them to the level of Buddhahood.
Today, many people gathered for the talk and things have gone well. You are performing the role of students and I am acting as the teacher giving a brief explanation of Dharma. I would like to extend to you my thoughts and blessings in whatever you may do and offer many wishes for your long life.
From a public talk His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapagave at the University of Colorado in 1980. The Manifestation of Compassionate Activity was the subject of the teaching, which was sponsored by Naropa Institute and translated by Ngodrup Burkhar. Dharmadhatu has very kindly given us a tape of this teaching so that it may be published in Densal.From this tape a revised translation was made by Sangye Wangchuk with collaboration and editing by Michele Martin.