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Meditation 1 Transcript: A Gift of Liberation 36: Love in the Time of the Virus (2020)

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Hi, welcome to the first meditation for Love in the Time of the Virus. It is the time of the virus where I’m speaking from, Sedona right now. We are still pretty much in quarantine. And this whole lam rim is about the time of the virus, and I like to think that if you and I do a really good practice during this retreat—if we practice this particular lam rim section very well—that we could kill the virus.

I mean, if we did some love to each other during the time of the virus, then we could kill the virus. We’re actually going to try to do that together all right? And of course that involves learning the ideas that we’ve been learning. This first week during the lam rim we’ll be studying the importance of treating other people kindly. Eespecially in difficult times. Then Pabongka Rinpoche talks a lot about how powerful the seeds are when we just reach out to other people during difficult times—like the virus times—and we do something for other people.

So in addition to that study, from that beautiful Tibetan book; which I think is one of the greatest books ever written in Tibetan. We’re also going to be doing meditations together. These are brief meditations. In general, it’s better to make meditations brief and strong. If you would like to repeat the meditations you’re welcome to. You know, you could do once in the morning or once in the evening, but it’s better I think, in my experience, to do brief meditations. I was fortunate to do a three-year, three-month, three-day retreat. In silence, good silence. We kept good silence for that period from 2000 to 2003, and during that time every six months… before I went into retreat my students asked me, “could you please just come out and teach a few days every six months during your three year retreat?”

So I said, “I can do that but I will be blindfolded, and I won’t know if there’s one person there or there’s a thousand people there.” “I think it’s important for my retreat that I don’t see anybody.” So for three years this is what we did. After about two years, I was thinking what would be very valuable for all of us to to learn during one of those few days of teaching every year—and I decided to to teach the last chapter of the Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life by Master Shantideva. So he lived about 1,300 years ago, and you know the story. He was accused of being a lazy monk and everyone thought he wasn’t a very productive person in the monastery.

And so in order to have an excuse to kick him out of the monastery, they asked him to give a teaching and they thought. “Well, he will give such a terrible teaching that we can tell him we don’t want a monk like that in our monastery.” And he got up on the teaching throne and he started to teach something he had written, which is called the Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life. And it was extraordinarily beautiful, and everyone there was incredibly amazed. And as he reached the ninth chapter, which is about emptiness, he started to rise up off the teaching throne and he kept teaching—he didn’t stop. And a few of the monks had the ability to fly, and they just flew up after him and he was teaching them in the sky.

Master Shantideva Teaching and flying in the sky while teaching the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life
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But then he kept going higher and higher, and even those monks couldn’t follow him. So not many people heard the end of the famous ninth chapter about emptiness—which is one of the greatest technical presentations of emptiness in history—and it’s poetry. It’s all incredible poetry. Then there’s a tradition that he taught another chapter alone in the sky called: the chapter on dedication. This was kind of a private prayer that he made to himself, and the prayer went like this: “If I have done a good deed by writing this poetry…” really about how to be a bodhisattva… “if that was a good karma, then I dedicate that karma to other people—I dedicate that karma to all the beings in the universe.”

Then he goes through all the different kinds of beings in the universe who are having any kind of trouble—which means he goes through every kind of living creature in the whole universe—which is amazing. For example, he starts with the hell realms, and he pictures the situation in hell. He describes it, and then he does a prayer that the good karma of writing his famous book, that that good seed will empty the hell realms and transform them into a paradise. Then he goes on to all the other realms of the universe. And so today we’re going to do a meditation based on this text. We’re going to follow the same idea.

What is that meditation? So here in the time of the virus, as we said before in this text, if we can do anything for other people during an especially dangerous time—a special time of worry, and fear, and danger for everyone in the world right now—a very special time. If we can do any small act of kindness to other people… and you have seen, and I have seen many of these acts of kindness. I mean needless to say, the doctors and nurses in the world. They’re frightened, they know… I read an article today someone from Princeton who is a doctor in New Orleans, in the U.S., and half the staff in her hospital came down with the virus and nobody left. None of the doctors or nurses left. They stayed, and they served people, and they said, “better others should live”, that was their motto. “Better others should live.”

So in our own small way I think, every one of us during this virus time, we were scared, we were worried about our jobs, we were worried about our work, our money. We were worried that our parents would die, or we would die, or our kids would die. And I think I can say probably not many of us were bodhisattvas. We didn’t run to the hospitals to serve people. I have a friend today who volunteered to go to a hospital and work, but you and I didn’t really do that. But we did do some kind things, I think every one of us has done, from deep feeling in the middle of our fear, I think we all recognize that this was a special time for bodhisattvas. This is a great time for bodhisattvas to do any small nice thing for other people.

So we are similar to Master Shantideva, because a small kindness during the time of the virus, is equal, or almost equal in power to writing the whole Guide to the Bodisattva’s Way of Life right? That’s what we learned. To do a small kindness to another living being, at a very dangerous time, is an extremely powerful seed. So let’s dedicate this seed, let’s do a meditation together.

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This is, by the way, called “an act of truth”. And these five meditations during this lam rim course are all acts of truth. So what is an act of truth? It’s like shooting a gun. And here you see a lady shooting a gun. She’s shooting at the sky and there’s a reason for that okay? The bullet in the gun is those little nice things you did for other people during the virus, and they’re still going on right? So the bullet in the gun—the bullet for the act of truth—has to be some good thing you did for other people.

And shooting the gun is called “dedication”. You give away the karma of some kindness, some love, that you did during the time of the virus. So this… Shantideva’s practice… is based upon an act of truth. If it’s true that I did one kind thing—maybe to your neighbor. Personally, I met my neighbors for the first time during the virus and we did kind things for each other. So if it’s true that I did one kind thing to my neighbors during this virus, then may the virus be killed. May the virus be shot to the middle of the sun. So I just imagine this lady shooting the virus into the middle of the sun.

I checked on google, it’s 25 million degrees in the middle of the sun. And just imagine the virus being totally vaporized by the power of the sun. By the power of the sun this virus is going to be evaporated. Completely gone. So all of us, during this next month…during these five meditations, we’re going to follow Master Shantideva’s suggestions in his famous 10th chapter, and we’re going to take some small good deed we did during the virus, and we’re going to use it as an act of truth. If it’s true Geshe Michael spoke to his neighbors for the first time, and showed some love for each other during the virus. If it’s true, then by this truth may the virus be ended, and may people no longer suffer. So we’re going to do five parts to this meditation. Let’s get ready to start.

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So please get comfortable. We’re going to start working on sending help to people of the universe. (1) The very first part of this meditation will be to identify one good thing you did during the virus. Just identify. For me, to be honest, I have a neighbor who’s a little bit cranky, and I’ve never really gotten along with him, but during the virus we’ve been extremely kind to each other and we have served each other. During the virus I’m going to take that good deed. So first you have to identify some love you gave to someone else during the virus times okay?

And it’s going to be a short meditation. 15 minutes. Just think of one good thing you did to overcome during the virus time. Then there’s an expression in English, it’s a bad expression. When I was a kid in school the teachers taught us to kill flies. Flies have germs, flies are supposed to be bad, we’re supposed to try to kill flies. My parents would hand me a piece of newspaper and you roll it up and you try to kill the flies, and if you kill some your parents say, “Oh you’re a good boy.” Of course that’s a terrible thing, now I understand it was wrong, but there’s a joke in English called “to kill a fly with a sledgehammer”. With a very heavy hammer, maybe I’ll get you a picture of a sledgehammer. And try to kill one fly with it means “overkill”. We have this expression in English called, “overkill”.

Look, that’s like trying to kill a fly with a nuclear weapon, or something okay? It’s too much. Why are we talking about that? To send the virus to the middle of the sun—to remove it from this world—is overkill. You could just snap your fingers and kill the virus and you don’t have to send it to the middle of the sun, but if you do a action which is extremely powerful, which covers the whole existing universe, then it will hit the virus also. I’ll say it again. If you perform an action which impacts on the entire universe, then because the virus is a tiny part of that universe it’s going to kill the virus also. So what I’m talking about in this meditation, we’re going to imagine sending our karma—act of truth—to whole sectors of the universe.

And we’ll cover the whole universe. By the end of the fifth meditation we’ll cover the whole universe. And then obviously the virus is a tiny part of the universe, it will easily be destroyed. But we’re going to do overkill—we’re going to do something for the whole universe. We’re going to start in the hell realms. Now, we don’t believe in hell. Hell doesn’t care whether you believe in it or not, you can go there, and many people do. There are realms of hell. Then there are simple explanations, I think they were invented by people who saw hell. And they said, “Oh look hell is, you know, 3000 feet under this floor, and if you’re bad you can go there.” “You will burn in the fire there.” And Christian religion has this tradition.

Buddhist tradition has the same tradition. Hindu also. Muslim also. So yes, we do believe in hell, but it’s not a place so many feet under the floor okay? It’s a sector of the universe. Think of the universe as a bunch of concentric spheres and there in every part of the universe there’s a hell realm. There’s a hell realm in every part of the universe. It’s not below our feet or something like
that, that’s not the point. There are billions of beings in every part of the universe living in hell.

So during this meditation, we’re going to take our little virus love action—we’re going to do an act of truth: “If it’s true that I was nice to my neighbor…if we had love for each other for the first time, then may all the sectors of hell in this universe be destroyed and transformed into beautiful Dharma parks.”

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So let’s start. Let’s just do it. Get yourself ready. Comfortable.

Sit up straight, have a nice smile. Drink a last bit of coffee. Someday i’m going to tell you not to drink coffee okay?

Get a nice smile on your face. It’s going to be a 15-minute meditation. It won’t be very long so a short, focused, sweet meditation is more powerful than a long, sort of distracted one.

Okay here we go.

Close your eyes.

Small smile.

Hands are relaxed on your lap.

To get the energy we need to do this act of truth we are going bring in front of us… we’re going to invite our teacher.

So, think of your heart teacher and bring them here in front of you. They’re going to be meditating with us.

Then we’ll come to our breath and we’ll do 10 slow breaths. Relaxed. Happy.

Smile on your face, tummy is slightly pulled in.

Long exhales. And let’s count ten breaths.

The out-breath is the first half, the in-breath is the second half.

Here we go. Ten slow breaths to settle down the mind.

Now we’re going to do an act of truth. Doing an act of truth requires ammunition. You have to have a good deed—an especially good deed that you’ve done. So for the next few minutes let’s be quiet, think about the days when you first heard
about this virus and it started to spread around the world.

In America, I think we thought it wouldn’t reach here or something. And then it reached our country and it started to spread, and a sense of fear and confusion also spread. And during those difficult days, which are still going on here, I did do some beautiful things for other people. I was afraid. I wasn’t a great saint during this time. I didn’t volunteer to go help the sick, but I did show kindness to people around me.

So think about those kindnesses you’ve shown to other people, and i’d like you to choose one. Choose one of the acts of love that you have shown to another person during the days of the virus.

Now imagine the realms of hell. And as you heard in the 10th chapter—dedication chapter—from Master Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. You should listen to the recording sometimes. There are places in this universe where people live in terrible pain all day, all night, for many many years. If the dog sees a chew toy and the human sees a pen, there are also beings who have hurt other beings in the past, who have terrible bad seeds, who see the pen as fire. They see it pressed into their eye. Fire pressed into their eye. The dog sees a chew toy, the human sees a pen, and there are beings who have very bad seeds and they see a stick of fire pushed into their eye. There are such things. Think about those people, we’re going to try to help them. They exist. We can’t really get into the mind of a dog. We can see dogs, but there are many beings we cannot see and they are around us. And there are beings who see the pen as fire pressed slowly into their eyes.

If it’s true that I showed some love or kindness during this time of the virus. If it’s true then may those beings see me as a real bodhisattva. May those beings, who see the fire being pressed in their eye, may they see a person approaching—me— as a bodhisattva. I see myself as a normal person in this world, but by that good karma—the love that I showed in the time of the virus—by that good karma may I appear as a high bodhisattva to those beings.

If it’s true I was kind once during the virus, may I appear as a high bodhisattva to those hell beings. Act of truth.

And I wave my hand and this cool rain starts to fall. It hits the fire in their eyes. The pen—the thing that is a pen in this
world which is a stick of fire in their world— and the fire goes out. And this beautiful soft rain keeps falling and their eyes are healed. All the pain disappears. They open their eyes—new eyes—and they look around. Beautiful flowers everywhere. Beautiful garden. Beautiful trees. Beautiful birds singing in the trees. Complete opposite of hell.

If it’s true I was kind once during the virus, may hell be turned into a garden of deathlessness—garden of Buddhas. Each hell being, may they become a Buddha in their own garden. Let’s spend some minutes there.

If it’s true i was kind during the virus to anyone, for even a few minutes, may they see this pen called “Michael” as
a bodhisattva who changes their world into a paradise. Changes them into a buddha.

Now let’s please come back to your breath.

Let’s take the 10 slow breaths.

Long exhales.

And slowly you can open your eyes.

I like to take a stretch after meditation. Take a good stretch.

So during this lam rim, we we’ve sort of designed…me and Tim, designed the lam rim to go on for five weeks, and you’ll be having three lam rim classes every week, and this meditation we’d like to encourage you to do it every day for the first week. So there’ll be three classes, and if you can do this meditation maybe once a day or twice a day. And that’ll be for the first week. During the second week we’ll change to a different daily meditation, but the same chapter—the same dedication. And the same sending the virus to the middle of the sun.

Okay thank you. See you in the next meditation.