Giving Up Concern for this Life–Can We? Enlightenment Practice #4 of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva

Vajrasattva
Vajrasattva

I asked a vajra teacher, a Lama that I’ve been communicating with, for a 2nd best book to continue my sort of self-made dharma lessons on The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva.   Oh, maybe vajra teacher is incorrect phrasing according to custom.   I think the word for spiritual teacher in Tibetan Buddhism is vajracary or vajrasattva is probably more technically correct but I can’t say for sure being an American who is trying to pick up where haven left off from previous incarnations—not that I could prove this.  Which actually brings me to the 2nd best book since the 1st best was $150 (totally out of the budget).

I asked a Lama of the Karmapa lineage and was referred to a book by the 17th Karmapa (who I have heard speak on TV and really admired) called ‘Traveling the Path of Compassion’, a book on the 37 Practices, which I’m now reading.

I just finished a passage written by the Karmapa on Practice #4 which was cool because he wrote about death (specifically, there’s no death) and reincarnation—he gently points out how it is almost impossible to feel that a loved one who has died is totally gone and never present in some way!  “Most people”, he writes, “have a feeling that a loved one who has passed away is still somehow still available.”

He says death is not nothingness.   Nor is it a blank state; it is the time when we transfer our light to another way of being.  We are, he says, not a candle that is finished when the flame goes out but instead a torch, a light shining everywhere that can be transferred one bright flame to the next.

Well, I had to include that here and write about that first before I start to write what I’m REALLY writing about today!  HA!  So here we go—the real reason I’m writing today!  And it still relates to Practice #4 which is about attachments.

The teaching is about being attached to this life and of course if you practice the dharma or said another way if you subscribe to the Buddhist philosophy of life and therefore relate to and start to apply the teachings to your own life (in order to increase happiness and decrease suffering first for self and then for others) then what you do in Buddhist language is that you “practice the dharma”.  Which in this case the word dharma means “the teachings” –but the word also translates to “phenomenon” and I’ll write on the correlation there another time.  Getting back to the practice of dharma, he says that we have to release attachments to life if we are going to call ourselves a Buddhist and in particular a Bodhisattva…. [paraphrased].

BODHISATTVA, WHAT?

By the way the word bodhi translates into “understanding the nature of things” or “enlightenment” –the root word “budh” means ‘to awake, become aware, notice, know or understand).   Sattva in sanskrit means purity and reality.  One could say bodhi means enlightened and sattva means existence.  So, a Bodhisattva is one who lives an enlightened existence.  And the 37 practices was written in the 13th-14th century by a highly respected and devotedly compassionate monk instructing others on how to live an enlightened existence.  That could be one way to put it which I think would be a fairly correct interpretation based on what I’ve read and surmised and I offer it to the reader with the highest intentions.

Anyway, the point that I wish to make here is that I was reading a passage written by the 17th Karmapa on the 4th Practice of a Bodhisattva in which he refers to those who turn to the dharma when in a crisis of some sort and the rest of the time their main attraction is to life and the world or the world’s entertainments.  He says that we consider our worldly possessions crucial to our lives and the very source of our happiness.

Personally, I see people who hang to each other in that same way, seeing the ‘other’ as the very source of their happiness as well.  And as he points out, even if we do not think these things consciously, they are at the background of our minds—our unconscious attitudes hold to worldly things as if our happiness depends on them.

Personally, I am guilty of this fault but am, through effort now, working to keep the dharma teachings working at all times in the background instead of my attachments and aversions running the show.  It’s a process!  There are slippery patches and tricky spots but I’m taking those and really more consciously working with them—sometimes I go unconscious and fall back into  the old habitually created karmic patterns.  (There’s an actual word for that; it sounds like “bach-tah” but I cannot seem to find the proper spelling and definition…sigh! I looked thru the glossaries of 3 Buddhists text I have here on the shelf and consulted a number of online Buddhists dictionaries! )  Well, there’s another  lesson in practice #4, letting go and non attachment!  (I’ve been highly obsessed and attached to finding that word for a good while now! ugh! letting go!)

Yeah, so anyway there’s a word for those patterns and I’ve just turned all my writing time into google time instead trying to find that right word and in giving up now must conclude this writing!

Here’s the note from the universe this morning that somewhat resembles what I’ve been trying to convey here to some extent—using life challenges to reach non-attachment and therefore happiness is what I’m trying to say and the thing below that showed up in my email says it better than I could in 10 pages of writing which is why I’m including it.  And with this, will have to wish you a good day—my time is up!

NOTE FROM THE UNIVERSE IN MY EMAIL BOX TODAY WHICH CORRESPONDS TO MY CURRENT BUDDHIST STUDIES:

(www.tut.com)

It’s not that your life totally rocks, Joy, except for a few tricky spots, slippery patches, and challenges.

But that your life totally rocks, in large part, because of the tricky spots, slippery patches, and challenges.

Stranger than fiction,
The Universe

By the way Enlightenment Practice #4 of the 37 Practices reads this way:

Everyone will part from relatives and old friends;

The wealth of long labor will be left behind;

The guest, the consciousness, leaves its lodging, the body behind:

To give up concern for this life is the practice of a bodhisattva.

Oh, and by the way, (in addition to my own personal experiences and the work that I do as a medium), I’ll take the 17th Karmapa’s word on the afterlife and reincarnation since he’s the official incarnation of the 16th Karmapa’s previous life… well, you know what I mean.  He passed the tests involved in determining the lineage continuation–he was the 16th Karmapa in his last life, and now he’s back as the 17th Karmapa!  So I supposed that if anybody should know about this reincarnation stuff, it’d be him.  Or I’d like to think so; and we have to trust, eh?

Enlightenment Practice #32 of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva Including Divination

My first thought when I drew the paper with number 32 out of the basket today and read the words associated with this practice was to recoil and to think, “Wait, I don’t do that!”  Following which I knew this must be a “biggie” if I had such a strong adverse reaction.  “You’d better look closer at this one Joy!” was the next thought.

I turned to the commentary by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche to help with this.  I think my problem was that I interpreted the wording of the original root text that read, “…if you point out the faults of another Bodhisattva…” That brought to mind the Dalai Lama or Kwan Yin or even someone like the 17th Karmapa or any of the Rinpoche’s or Lamas or even Buddhist nuns—take Pema Chodron and the like.  I revere, admire and venerate teachers of this nature; I can’t imagine ever criticizing any of them.  I honestly sat stupefied and then solemn for a moment and deeply inquired if I’ve criticized other Bodhisattvas.

Well, maybe Christians who still tend to irk the jesus out of me, pardon the pun.  I admit that I’m still healing the wound from prior life religious persecutions—but of course it is just mind latching onto an identity as one who was supposedly persecuted.  I get that intellectually and sometimes emotionally but not when the wound takes a direct hit.  Okay, okay—let’s say I’m working on that.  It’s a little bit difficult for me to see a Christian practitioner as a Bodhisattva but maybe I need to reconsider that.

Meanwhile, back to  what Khenpo Tsultrim  says about practice 32… he links this to The Seven Points of Mind Training.  The Buddhist seem to have a lot of numbers associated with their teachings:  the 3 this, the 4 that, the 6 this and the 7 that.  Probably a good way to memorize teachings!

Anyway, Khenpo Tsultrim says that one stanza in The Seven Points of Mind Training directs the reader to think that all positive qualities belong to other sentient beings and that all faults are one’s own. This is the correct attitude. [that will develop humility for sure!] Generally, most people think just the opposite: someone else is always wrong, while they are always right. This attitude is to be given up.  Patrul Rinpoche advises students to acknowledge their own deficiency first; and then, when they recognize it in someone else, to pray that the guru grants blessings to them both. It is always beneficial to see that the perceived fault in yourself is greater than it is in the other. Then you know that person is no different from you. [I highlighted what I felt where the most important points there.]

Oh Lordie, I do see how I worry/am concerned about one of my family members and their relationship to money and that this fault is greater in myself.  

The Dalai Lama spoke on each of the 37 practices of a bodhisattva and he wrote one line very succinctly which says it all, “We must try to conquer our own illusions rather than those we ‘think’ we see in others.”—pg 101, Essential Teachings

Most of what I come up with while investigating the meaning of practice 32 relates to infighting amongst various schools of Buddhism criticizing each other or student’s critiquing other students or teachers.

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DIVINATION ~ MESSAGE

Through examining this practice as it applies to my own life experience I can see how I am repulsed and disgusted with Christians to are always quoting scriptures.  Yet, am I not right here and now quoting Buddhist scriptures in the same way?

Buddhist teachings are helping me a good deal but I must remember that Christian teachings are in the same way helping those humans who, like me, are only hoping to be better humans and grow and evolve and become a better compassionate and loving soul—a bodhisattva!

Oh, and on that relationship to money thing… better go look at the bills I’ve been avoiding looking at and work on ‘my own’ illusion!

Enlightenment Practice #30 of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva Including Divination

Shantideva (who wrote A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life AKA Bodhicaryavatara
Shantideva (who wrote A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life AKA Bodhicaryavatara

The humble monk (Ngulchu Thogme) wrote the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva it in a cave in the Himalayas around the 13th century.  It’s a guide for travelers on the path to enlightenment—practically advice on how to actually live day-to-day.  Are you trying to consciously travel this path?   Me too; c’mon let’s figure this out!

So like I’ve been saying how I’m going to write about the 37 practices of a Bodhisattva (guidance to live by). You know the Dalai Lama? He is said to be the Bodhisattva of Compassion incarnate. Oh, to be like him! Anyway, I’ve got (like most of you) about 1,000 coals-in-the-fire-of –life’ as the saying goes (busy/whatever) but I want to get started here. So I’m writing numbers from 1 to 37 onto 37 small slips of paper and have now put them in a small basked. I will draw one at a time and write about that one while asking that it bring importance guidance for something currently relating to my life on the day the number is drawn!  Ready?

Divination Message 3/16/13 from the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva:  Today I’ve drawn Practice Number 30!  I don’t know these by heart, so I’ve got to grab the book and have a look; let’s together see what it says.  I guess you already know that a bodhisattva (essentially) is someone who wants to work for enlightenment not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of others in order to end suffering.  You probably already knew that.

Bodhisattva Practice #30

Reading and typing and divining as we go along here… right away I see it’s about virtue with heart.  Maybe this is about putting our whole heart into attempts to be virtuous?

Gosh, I’m remembering (flashing on) something my “spirit-guides” (as it goes) conveyed and at the time (as I did with many things then), I shrugged and felt it to be too simplistic.  You know, I was looking for something more profound after all—I was looking for something really sensational when I asked why I was here and what my purpose is.  I was told we are here to develop and practice virtue—I completely blew that off back then.  Yet, divine irony of irony, here I am studying the 37 Practices and Buddhism and that’s exactly what it’s about!

As I look at this little book of Essential Teachings (the one I carried unknowing with me for 6-weeks –see previous blog—which is the writing of the Dalai Lama himself), he’s talking about having the “right view”.  The word “view” in Buddhism (email me if I’m wrong if you’re a Buddhist monk or someone more expert than myself a humble student) has to do with understanding the nature of reality and the 8-fold path.

“Right View” as they call it has to do with the type of wisdom that has to do with understanding of things as they are which of course has to do with those 4 main truths:  there’s suffering, get real about it and then understand what causes it and the good news is that there’s a way to end it *(yay!) and following the 8-fold path enables us create that cessation.  And back to the 8 fold path again of which right view is a part.  Didn’t we just make a circle, a loop—right view leads back to right view. Ingenious!

Hey, by the way, thanks for being patient while I work through this.

Not to let all the cats out of the bag at once creating confusion but the 8 fold path (just as a preview and curiosity satisfy-er) and no, I’m not going into all this right now but they are as follows:  right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.  But hey, let’s just stick with the view for the moment—right view.  And let’s get back to the #30 practice of a Bodhisattva.

The Dalai Lama the guru teacher here says that this view in practice #30 has to do with realizing that the person who acts in any kind of way to do any kind of thing or who takes any action +plus the action itself that is taken +plus the person who may receive the action that we take don’t (in the right view) actually inherently exist.  Wow, that’s a tough one to explain to the average bear on the street human if you know what I mean!

This IS samsara after all, don’t you know?  This is a dream-like state of reality.  That is what we’re being asked to remember.  Things exist on a conventional level but ultimately—no, they don’t.  It’s really not that hard to understand with the new science where we look at atoms and the core of the atom itself doesn’t even exist only if we put our mind on it.  You know what I mean!?  You’ve heard this!  The chair you sit on or the table or any object is solid according to our perceptions but it is because the vibration is very, very, very slow.  On the quantum physics microscopic level (hope I said that right), it’s nothing but energy molecules vibrating—just a bunch of atoms which are empty at their very core!

So, let’s say you give someone a gift, you could say something like, “There is no giver, no action of giving, no gift, and no receiver of the gift”—that’s ultimate truth.  Conventionally, there is all that, but ultimately NO.  So that’s the right view of things which, if you think about it, is quite liberating and there’s a part of us that says, “Okay, I get that and now I can tell myself to stop worrying about every little thing!”  Or  that’s one view you could take and it would be ‘ultimately’ right, correct, on the quantum or ultimate level.

Whew!  Hope that makes sense.  The bottom line of this practice is:  No subject, No object.

So, what do we do?– we practice this.  We hold this in our mind and remember it and function in life with this view right alongside conventional reality—to practice this it changes our behaviors, our attitudes, and we become a teacher of the dharma (phenomenon and the truth of phenomenon) by our very being via our life being witnessed by others.

Right view is called the word “prajna” in Buddhist teachings.   If we get this one thing, in my humble opinion, it is the best thing we can understand and it really answers most any question we have about life and addresses any concern.  Upset? Worried or fearful?  Remember practice #30 of The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva – understand the emptiness of reality and shazam, this right view just calms it all right down for ya’!  Totally and fer’ real as they say! What is real isn’t real—totally dude! Samsara is an illusion.

Another way of saying it since this practice #30 is the 6th of the Six Paramitas (more on that another time)… the 30th is about cultivating  “non-conceptual superior knowledge” and in the words of the monk himself or at least one common translation:


Without superior knowledge,
it is not possible to attain perfect enlightenment through the first five paramitas alone. Therefore, joining it with skillful means and not conceptualizing about the three spheres is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

And another translation:

Since five perfections without wisdom cannot bring perfect enlightenment, along with skillful means cultivate the wisdom that does not conceive of the three spheres [as real].

Note to reader:  the three spheres in Buddhism are 1) self 2) other and 3) connecting action.

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THE DIVINATION

Now.  How can I apply this personally in my own daily life?  Ha!  I’m reminded lately of the story of the monk who, so inspired by teachings on generosity, gave away his worldly possessions, two of which included his food bowl and his shoes!  Since his generosity was not accompanied by wisdom he had to ask for them back when it came time to eat and then to go somewhere!  I was very inspirit-ed to work with generosity yesterday in my efforts to be an ‘active’ Bodhisattva!  In other words, it is one thing to wish all beings be relieved of suffering and I do that plenty but what about “putting one’s money where one’s mouth is?”—as the saying goes.

I did that to the point of pain yesterday—giving when it doesn’t hurt really doesn’t count in my book.  If you’re going to give, make it a bit of a sacrifice at least!  So with that attitude, I did so in a fairly large way; in fact, I gulped hard several times in the process thinking, “Yike, I hope I’m not being like the monk who gave away his bowl.”–!!

And today’s Bodhisattva Practice 30 is a great message for me (using the 37 practices as divination messages here)!

I’m being reminded that the 3 spheres of giver, gift and receiver are not ultimately real; self, other and connecting action don’t exist;  and to remember this and embrace it is a practice of a Bodhisattva!