The name of this online retreat is Love in the Time of the Virus. This whole lam rim section is about the time of the virus, and as you’ll see in the first guided meditation for this course, Geshe Michael likes to think that if we do a really good practice during this retreat—if we practice this particular lam rim section very well and if we were truly more loving to each other during this time of the virus—then we could kill the virus.
In each of the 5 guided meditations for this course we’re actually going to try to do that together which involves learning and practicing the ideas that will be introduced in this course and lam rim section. This first week during this lam rim retreat we’ll be studying the importance of treating other people kindly—especially in difficult times. Pabongka Rinpoche talks a lot about how powerful the karmic seeds are when we just reach out to other people during difficult times—like the virus times—and we do something for other people.
In addition to our main lam rim study from Pabongka Rinpoche’s beautiful Tibetan book—which Geshe Michael often mentions that he thinks this is one of the greatest books ever written in Tibetan—we’re also going to be doing meditations together. Geshe Michael did a three-year retreat from 2000 to 2003, and during that time about every six months he gave a special teaching from the retreat. After about two years of retreat he taught the last chapter of the Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life by Master Shantideva.
Master Shantideva lived about 1,300 years ago, and the story of his life is very famous. 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, “he will give such a terrible teaching that we can tell him we don’t want a monk like that in our monastery.” Therefore they would have an excuse to finally ask him to leave.
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. It was extraordinarily beautiful, and everyone there was amazed. And as legend has it, 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. You can see this scene in the traditional painting above. A few of the monks had the ability to fly, and they just flew up after him and he continued teaching in the sky.
He kept going higher and higher, and even those monks couldn’t follow him. Therefore, 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 written in incredible poetry. Then there’s a tradition that he 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, a prayer taking the immense karma he had created by writing his guide for bodhisattvas and dedicating that karma to other people as an act of truth. This dedication is given to all the beings in the universe. He goes through all the different types of beings in the universe who are having any kind of trouble.
The guided meditations for this course will follow this same idea and Geshe Michael will explain that in more detail in the introduction to the first guided meditation. As a preliminary he gives an oral transmission of Master Shantideva’s dedication chapter so we can use it as a basis for our meditations, as well as a beautiful way to set our intention for this entire course. You can view that video here and there’s also links in the verses below to go to that exact section of the video.
Master Shantideva’s Guide happens to be one of my favorite teachings in all of Buddhism and the last chapter that you’ll hear in the video is unspeakably beautiful and so relevant in this current challenging time we’re now facing throughout the world. If you’re anything like me, I know you’d be hungry to learn more about this prayer and go into more detail. So, in addition to the normal interactive transcripts posted here, I thought for this one to also include Geshe Michael’s commentary on each verse so you can learn more and dive in more deeply. This was taken directly from his teaching during his three-year retreat and you’ll see it below each verse. Also, anytime you see any blue text those are links you can click which will take you to related content here on The Knowledge Base or to explore certain ideas in more depth.
This is the Dedication Chapter from The Guide to Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Master Shantideva.
(1) Thus have I completed writing
A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.
And I pray that by this goodness
Every living being
May take up this way of life.
The way to make your good seeds bigger, the way to give away your good karma is that there’s a key. There are two steps.
First, you have to think about the good thing that you did. And when you think about it, it gets bigger and bigger. There’s no expiration date on good seeds. They can wear out as you get a result. But if you keep thinking about good things you did, they get bigger and bigger, in your mind stronger, stronger.
It’s a very lovely practice to go home, just sit there fifteen minutes: tonight, think about the good things you’re doing, the things you’re doing well, the things you’re doing right. Think about them. I think you don’t think about them too much. And then we’ll speak about how you give them away.
All the coffees ever made in the world came from kindness. And then when the coffee is finished, the good karma is gone. So we have to learn how to reinvest good karma. We have to learn how to make it bigger and bigger.
If you don’t give away your good deeds, if you just sit and wait for the good karma to come back to you, it’s a little foolish, because you just get one small result. Maybe if you were kind to someone, then someone makes you a coffee later on. All the coffees ever made in the world came from kindness. And then when the coffee is finished, the good karma is gone. So we have to learn how to reinvest good karma. We have to learn how to make it bigger and bigger.
I always think of my boss, my holy lovely boss from the old diamond company days; fifteen years together. He was very wise. We started with nothing; we started with half a desk that we were using in another person’s office. We shared half a desk and a telephone, and he borrowed fifty thousand dollars from a Turkish man living in England, and there were many weeks when he couldn’t pay me. But every time he made a little money, he wouldn’t use the money, he would put it back into his business.
So, in the beginning we had one small parcel of diamonds. That looks like a piece of toilet paper rolled up with some diamonds in it. But he kept using the money by putting it back in his business. He would never spend it on himself; he lived very modestly. And he didn’t show off his money. Every time he made more money he and his beautiful wife Aya, they would put the money back into the business. They wouldn’t be like pigs and just eat it and use it and then be without.
We have to be like that. The good karma we make—don’t use it up, give it away. Reinvest it in the best place, the universal bank—other people. Give it away to other people.
We have to be like that. The good karma we make—don’t use it up, give it away. Reinvest it in the best place, the universal bank—other people. Give it away to other people. Later on we bought a little safe. We hid it in the closet, one night someone broke into it; stole everything. Later we had a safe that was about four foot high, filled with diamonds. Later we had a small room, an armored room filled with diamonds and gold. He kept putting it back into the business. Later we had a very large room, with armor plating and fancy alarms and twenty-four hour guards, and it was filled with gold and diamonds. Later we had two rooms like that.
But if you keep putting your good karma back, reinvesting in the universal business of helping other people—giving it to other people—it gets bigger and bigger.
In Sera monastery in the early years in India, the students, all of us had to go and plant the corn. Fifty acres of corn; walking in the sun behind an ox and a man with a wooden plow. It was terrible work; it was extremely hard. And the monks were very careful; they didn’t eat all the corn, they always set some aside. There’s a special building called a bang-dzu, and you would keep a large building full of corn for the next year’s crops. You have to replant it, and every year the fields got bigger and bigger. Because they didn’t pig out on the corn. They didn’t use it, they invested it.
So we have to do the same with our good karma. And then you have to decide where you’re going to invest it. Who will you give it to?
Everyone has extraordinary good karma. You have to understand that. You have to think about it. And now you have to give it away to other people. First, you have to clearly admit that you are doing some really heavy good karma and you have to pat yourself on the back. It’s always a little mixed up with negative emotions and lesser motivations, but it’s extraordinary karma, it’s like an atom that’s about to explode into a nuclear bomb. You are making that kind of karma as we speak. You have been making that kind of karma. You must think about it.
Even when you focus your mind on that karmic seed it gets bigger. If you just remember what you did before retreat or while you are here, if you remember what you have done for this retreat, the thinking of it awakens that seed; it makes it stronger and stronger. Then it’s ready to give away. We’ll talk about how to give it away, and who to give it to.
I’d like to speak a little bit about how you do dedication, or giving away your karma—sending your good karma to other people, reinvesting it in the earth, in the place where it came from, other people—sweet holy other people.
I’d like to speak a little bit about how you do dedication, or giving away your karma—ending your good karma to other people, reinvesting it in the earth, in the place where it came from, other people—sweet holy other people. You have this good karma—now you have to plant it somewhere, you have to send it somewhere. That’s like putting it in the bank. It’s like reinvesting it.
For example, you could sit down tonight and think, “I washed dishes for Venerable Jigme Palmo for lunch. I dedicate that, I send it”.” And you could send it, for example, to one of your teachers. We all have many beautiful teachers. Just in this retreat during the break months many wonderful teachers are coming to help us. They fly from far away. They give up their work with many other people, they sacrifice all of their income for that time. They come to serve us, to help us, and each of the retreatants has been blessed by several wonderful teachers. So you could dedicate that good karma to that teacher’s long life. “I dedicate the karma of this retreat to the long life of my holy teachers, especially those who are sitting here.”
Does it help their long life? Can you make someone live a long life just by thinking it? For this you have to understand emptiness and how karma works.
Does it help their long life? Can you make someone live a long life just by thinking it? For this you have to understand emptiness and how karma works. I’ll speak a very tiny bit. It takes a long time to understand clearly, but when you meet one of your holy teachers, actually they are just a big lump of skin, and arms, and legs, and a head; and whether you hear them teaching you or not all depends on your karma. Nothing is coming from their side, nothing. Everything you are seeing because you served teachers in the past and you helped teach people in the past. That big lump of flesh is teaching you—you see it teaching you because karmic seeds are exploding in your consciousness.
And the karmic seeds are planted mostly by intention. If you truly intend to help other people, everyone around you all the time, then powerful seeds are being planted in your mind. If you learn this art of giving away your good karma to other holy people, holy sweet living creatures—all other people—if you learn this skill, then really you are just planting incredibly vast amounts of new good karma in your mind and that will flower and you will meet that teacher again and again and again. And they will teach you until the day you reach Enlightenment.
So yes, this is extremely powerful; this is the way to bring the teachers to you. Think about the karma you did for the three year retreat. Please think about some of it now; and then send it in your mind. Say, “I send this good karmic energy to my teacher’s heart, to ask him or her to live for a long life.” And that is a perfect act of dedication; that’s how you give it away.
Imagine that the power is coming out of your heart. Not your physical heart, but from the very subtle drop of consciousness that lies behind the heart close to the backbone. See it coming out as a kind of a crystal light. It’s light but it doesn’t have any color—it’s like water. You can think of it as ripples of light.
You drop the good karma in a quiet pond and then the ripples start to go out. And they touch your teachers. They touch your teachers in the heart, in their heart. And that actually begins to work. And the teachers will keep coming to you; you will see your current teachers happy, and well, and healthy. And then you will see new teachers coming over and over, higher and higher.
Now we’ll finally get to that text; Master Shantideva’s good karma is that he wrote the book about how to be a bodhisattva. And at the end of the book, he says, “I give away this good karma.” And then you need somewhere to give it to, and he gives it to all of us.
May everyone who ever lives learn to act like a bodhisattva, giving every moment of their entire life to help countless living creatures. Never stopping, never wavering from that one goal
And he says, “May everyone who ever lives learn to act like a bodhisattva, giving every moment of their entire life to help countless living creatures. Never stopping, never wavering from that one goal,” your whole life, every moment of your life. And he sends it to us; we have been given that karma.
(2) By the power of this good deed too
May any single living creature
In sickness or in pain,
Of body or of mind,
In any corner of this universe,
Be thrown into a sea of bliss.
When you give away your good karma, either send it as help for someone who’s in trouble, or send it as something beautiful to someone who isn’t in trouble. And these are the two kinds of love, they’re called [in Sanskrit]maitri and karuna. jampa and nyingje in Tibetan.
And the first kind of love seeks to remove other people’s problems. The second kind of love seeks to give them happiness. So, when you send away your good karma, you can send it for either goal—to stop people’s pain forever or to give them ultimate happiness.
These are the two great purposes for which to send your karma, your good karma.
(3) And for as long as they may wander
In the circle of suffering life,
May they never lose this bliss.
May every one of them one day reach
The bliss beyond all other,
And stay there never-ending.
I think there are three different basic types of people in the world. I don’t know who’s who and I don’t assume to know. The first kind doesn’t think about other people much; they are concerned about their own happiness. I think if you are not Buddhas already or bodhisattvas, you and I, we tend this way sometimes.
Then there are other people who truly want to help people. And they do it in the immediate ways, they help other people who need money or food or places to stay, things like that.
Then there are special people who understand the true stakes of life, that it’s not enough to give people food or money or place to stay, because they will still suffer
Then there are special people who understand the true stakes of life, that it’s not enough to give people food or money or place to stay, because they will still suffer. While they eat they are getting old. While they sleep in the place you prepared for them they are getting old. While they use the money you gave them they are getting old—the stakes are higher than that. We have to work to stop all pain, all suffering, even death itself. And especially death itself. And all forms of unhappiness forever.
So, in this verse Master Shantideva’s saying, “I send my good karma to help people in a short term way, but I also send my karma to help people in the ultimate way.”
And then you meet people who say, “I’m helping people in the ultimate way; I don’t need to help people with food or money or places to stay.” But, that’s not how bodhisattvas live. Bodhisattvas are working constantly for universal plans—every creature in the universe—they are working for them directly. But if someone comes into your yurt and they look tired, then they you sit down and make them a cup of tea and you serve them.
Bodhisattvas have to do both.
(4) I don’t know how many
Realms of hell there are
Hidden in our world;
But by this power may every person
Trapped in one instead find joy
In the joy of the Heaven of Joy.
Master Shantideva begins to send his good karmic seeds out with the power of his own mind, to people in the hell realms. I have to try to convince you in the next few minutes that hell realms exist. It’s not popular to speak of them. You are considered foolish by many people if you say you believe in the hell realms; other people will say you’re just following the old books—that’s negative thinking. Other people just say, the world is wonderful, there can’t be places like hell realms.
I keep thinking of the lady at my office in New York. One lady was pregnant, she was dealing with large amounts of topaz. We were very concerned for her health and the health of her child, because the color is imparted by radiation. The stones stay hot for different lengths of time, depending on the kind of radiation you use. But you have to try to imagine the danger of radiation: one tiny particle in a collision is freed from the substance, like a small piece of gem on your finger, and it easily cuts through your skin. It reaches a single cell in the first development of the child, and it goes inside the cell, penetrates the cell wall, and it hits part of the chromosomes, and it damages an infinitely tiny piece of the DNA chain in a single cell. All cancers start this way also. It’s a single loose atomic particle, striking a single cell.
It’s the same with karma, when the DNA chain is damaged, then the child will grow wrong, and you can imagine in the time of, oh two or three seconds in the womb, this DNA has been damaged, and then for 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 years, this baby has a defect, a serious defect. So the idea that a tiny infinitely small damage in a seed can cause decades of pain—real pain—to the child and his family, her family; it’s real, it’s not a made-up thing. We know these things happen. The woman’s child was damaged.
Karma is the same. A tiny imprint on that infinitely small dot of consciousness in your heart. These seeds are managed by thought alone. These seeds are planted, these seeds are moved around, these seed’s content is determined only by the focus of your own thoughts. And so if you do something very violent, mentally if your intention is very negative towards another person, then a seed is planted in your heart. DNA is damaged, karmic DNA is damaged. And then it matures like any seed, takes time to grow. And then the seeds which are creating our reality—this tent, this desert, this sky, the earth you are sitting on, the thoughts you are having, all of that energy is coming from the tiny drop in your heart, and it’s wearing out because it’s happening.
Every time an hour goes by, thousands of good deeds you did in the past are, their energy is finished. And when that energy is gone, we call it “death”. Try very very hard, try hard to know, death is not an outside thing; it’s a change in your consciousness. It’s a change in your perceptions, that’s all. The images being presented to your mind by the tiny karmic seeds wear out. And then you see something different. You see what the next seed in line offers to your mind. And if that seed is malignant, then you see a hell realm.
People try to look for hell realms, “Oh we’ll dig a tunnel under the earth.” It’s not like that, it’s a change in your perceptions. If you can watch a clock go from three to four o’clock, you can go from this realm to a hell realm. It’s the same. You have to think about it a lot.
So Master Shantideva says first, “I send my good karma to people in the hell realms.” In the hell realms, time slows down. You know when you are in pain, time slows down. And so the perception of time there is a long, long time. The karmic seeds don’t allow your body to die. People say “What a silly idea. You mean you could have your head cut off and then get back up?”
Yes, it’s a silly idea. Oh, where do you think your life came from? What’s keeping this meat alive? Where does life itself come from? How can a small bag of guts and bones outlive a car or a house? How? Where does life come from? It’s seeds—karmic seeds; they can do anything. It’s not crazy to believe that you could be cut into pieces in a hell realm and then come back into another body, whole, and be cut up again, and again, and again. Because you’re here, you’re alive. Your body is as much as an impossibility as those bodies are.
Really read a modern physics book, Steven Hawking’s great book, Brief History of Time is classic, you should read it. One of the holy teachers made me read it; I didn’t want to read it. But he’s very honest at the end. He says, “We can’t explain why things happen. There are contradictions which are impossible. Light itself moves like a particle sometimes and then moves like a wave sometimes. It almost acts as if it were two contradictory things at the same time.”
We can’t tell you even the position of a particle and tell you its speed at the same time. This is called uncertainty principle. It’s a fancy way of saying, “We can’t figure it out.” Einstein himself introduced an idea called cosmological constant. It’s a made-up fiction—and he admitted it—to explain things he couldn’t explain. It’s a big part of the theory of relativity. And it’s frankly a fiction, and he said it’s a fiction, but it has to be there or my idea is wrong. Modern physicists threw out the cosmological constant, and replaced it with their own fictions, and they … read his book, he’s very frank—these are fictions, we don’t understand. How can life be produced? We don’t know. The forces which exist in balance to create human life are beyond possibility. The very energy of an electron in relation to the other particles, if it were a millionth of a percentage different, life would be impossible. We can’t explain why it came out like that.
So hell realms exist. I could give you the historical argument. Christians also say that, the Jewish scriptures also say that, the Muslim scriptures also say that. Dante’s description and Arya Nagarjuna’s description are the same. But I think if you are an intelligent person, it’s more powerful to explain the real cause of hell—which is the seeds in our own minds.
Then Master Shantideva says, “May their seeds be changed, may the hell realms become the Heaven of Bliss.” This is a Buddha Paradise. Enlightened realm. He sends his good karmas to them for that.
(5) May those who freeze in the cold of hell
Be covered in warmth.
May infinite showers of gentle rain
Fall from vast bodhisattva clouds
To cool the searing pain
Of those who live there in fire.
I’ll tell you some tantric secrets, what the heck. [laughs] We have three principal subtle channels in our bodies, the two smaller ones on the two sides and a larger one in the middle, running roughly down the area of the back bone.
All of your experiences of something hot, of motion, are ultimately triggered from the channel on the right side. Your perception of a sun is being emanated by the energy of the channel on the right side. Those of you who have studied emptiness deeply, you know. The idea of grasping to things as self-existent, the idea that things come from their own side and not from us. Every time you think that in a certain way, then that energy on the right side is moving in a certain malignant way—a wrong way. And ultimately that has created all our perceptions of moving objects and the sun itself, the heat within our bodies.
On the left side, the other half, ignorant ideas about the nature of our own minds, triggering forces which have created objects like the moon itself. Your perception of the moon is an image presented to your mind through the influence of this channel, due to mistakes in the past.
If these subtle energies are disturbed in a serious manner, by serious negative wishes toward your fellow man, then those same energies create two forms of hell realms. One, the hells which are extremely hot. They are huge, dark caverns filled with screaming people running across an iron ground which is red hot. There’s nowhere to go, they just run and scream. In the hell’s caverns above that—you can’t find them, no one made them. Do you think Lord Buddha was a fool? Do you think he thought some construction company went underground and built these places? They are being produced by your own mind, and they are real therefore.
In the upper caverns, people just sit in snow and ice and scream, whimper in pain. So Master Shantideva is sending his good karma—may the people in the cold hells be blanketed in a sweet warmth; may the people in the hot hells, my this beautiful rain descend on them. From where? From bodhisattva clouds. What’s a bodhisattva cloud? It’s the simple action of taking care of other people. It’s the simple action of destroying the ignorant selfishness that ruins our lives.
(6) May the forest of falling leaves of knives
Turn for those who live there into
A pleasure grove of shady bowers.
May the daggers of the trunks
Of the trees of Shalmali
Sprout as the Wish-Giving Tree instead.
Surrounding the caverns of hell there are other hells, like concentric circles. People in the hot hells, they see at a distance trees, and they believe that they can run there and find some comfort. They run under the trees, and then the leaves become one like large knives, like razors, and they drop down and they cut the people’s bodies, cut off little chunks. It is a creation of former very evil negative thoughts about others. People came to you for protection and you failed them, you refused them.
I want to be clear that if you are really trying and you fail to give help and protection to others you don’t have to worry. The malignant seed won’t be perfect. This seed can only come if you give up the wish to help. This seed can only happen if you fail and you don’t care that you failed. Those of us who fail and go home and feel bad, you don’t have to worry. The pureness, the purity of your sadness will clean that karma. So really we just have to keep wishing we could protect others, and try as hard as we can, and not refuse anyone up to our capacity. Then we fail, and we know we’re in the market.
There’s a tree in the hells called Shalmali. Shalmali means a kind of a dagger. If you’ve ever seen palm trees up close, they have these sharp daggers of wood, pointing up near the top. People are being chased across the hell realm’s floor by wild beasts, like large German shepherds. They have iron teeth. They are ripping the people’s legs open. They see a tree, they try to climb it, the branches which are like swords, turn downwards, and they cut the people open. You have a choice of climbing up against the swords or dropping to the dogs. When you get to the top and the dogs go away, you want to climb down—the swords reverse. This means the karma of a promise to help someone, giving them hope, and then changing. Someone comes to you for hope, for help, and instead you take advantage of them.
Again, this seed can’t be planted for this hell if you are struggling to be good. We are all trying, struggling to be good. People here, all of us who sit at nights in our yurts and wonder why we can’t be better people, just the wondering, just the wishing we could be better, changes the karmic seeds of failing others. And they will produce a sweet result.
(7) May the caverns of hell suddenly echo forth
With the soft sweet song of the dove and nightingale,
Ruby-throated sparrow, graceful swans, birds
Of every kind, drawn to the gentle waters
That spring up instantly there, covered with lotuses
Whose delicate fragrance fills the air.
Perhaps the worst thing in the hell realms is the sound of millions of people screaming. And the poetry is very powerful. The idea that suddenly the screaming stops and people are listening, and suddenly they hear these beautiful songs of birds. Every kind of sweet song of a bird that you can imagine. And some of them are the songs of birds which are only attracted to lakes and ponds. And then suddenly, in the middle of the fire, a pond appears and beautiful trees, and birds are landing in huge flocks and singing beautiful songs, and the fires are receding and beautiful huge lotuses are growing out of the cool water.
Master Shantideva is manipulating mental images in his own heart chakra to try to actually change the reality of hell. It’s a very powerful action. More powerful than anything any of us can do externally.
(8) May the heaps of burning embers of fire become piles
Of precious jewels, and the red-hot glowing iron floor
The ground of a new world, sparkling in crystal light.
May the mountains that slam together, crushing the crowds
Of helpless people between them, turn to the palace
Temples of heaven, filled with bliss-filled Buddhas.
Master Shantideva is going into his own heart chakra; he is entering his own drop of consciousness, he is manipulating infinitely tiny karmic seeds by focus itself, by the act of focus itself. And he is imagining that the embers and the hot coals in hell turn to jewels. There are special mountains in the hells. People are herded in huge masses between the mountains. And then the mountains slam together and crush them. The mountains open again, the people rise again, the mountains crush them again.
I think many of our very basic phobias, like afraid to be in a small place, or afraid to be in a high place, I think they are vestiges of our formal hell lives. We have basic instinctual fears, even of death, which I believe are driven by a deep unconscious knowledge of what can happen after. And so he’s praying that these huge mountains should turn into beautiful crystal palaces, and inside there are just Buddhas singing, and hell becomes a paradise.
The very act of imagining it changes karmic seeds in your heart chakra. The world begins to change itself. It’s an incredibly powerful way of helping others.
(9) In the moment that I speak may the great rain of putrid
Filth, and stones of solid fire, knives, and spears,
Transform into a soft steady shower of fragrant flower petals.
And in the hells of anger, where people snatch up rocks
And sticks to gash one another open, may they instead
Gather up armfuls of petals, laughing, tossing over each other.
There’s a special part of hell; it’s one of the easier parts of hell. When you’re born there, you just assume a body maybe like ours. And the minute you open your eyes, there’s someone running at you with a stick or a rock, and they are trying to beat your brains out. And due to your karmic seeds, you are filled with anger. You search, you try to find any kind of a sick or a stone, and you pick it up and you fight back. And you can imagine a vast plain, burning plain, dark, huge groups of people just trying to bash each other’s brains out with rocks, all day, all night, no rest, no stop. When someone dies, they just get up again.
That’s impossible! Your life is impossible. It comes from anger and violence and competitive thoughts towards each other. Why are vows eight and nine of the ten non-virtues, why did they make it into the top ten? Out of 84,000. Number eight is being unhappy that other people have gotten something nice. Number nine is being happy that trouble has come to other people. We must be having some version if these thoughts about a thousand times a day if it’s in the top ten. And if you truly examine your heart, you will find those thoughts there, even at this moment.
And so in a way we are already picking up rocks and trying to smash each other’s heads. But just the intention, just the wish that other people should have problems, which I openly confess I have all the time, creates a malignant seed and it ripens into this hell realm.
The very act of focusing on the true condition of your own heart, with honesty, ruins that nice evil seed, and makes it into a beautiful seed. Do your diaries. It doesn’t change us over night. You don’t have to be a hundred percent sincere. You can be tired and scribble down something half true. But the very act of looking at your own heart, the very act of going into your mind and admitting that we don’t wish well on others, ruins that nice hell seed, and it becomes the seed for a bodhisattva.
(10) I send the awesome power of the good deed that I’ve done
As well to all those trapped within the river that cannot
Be crossed, wrapped within the hell-flame there, with all
The skin and flesh ripped away from their bodies, the bones
Jutting out in the glistening white of freshly fallen snow;
May this power grow their bodies back, in the form of divine Angels.
One of the last of the surrounding hells is a special kind of river. It doesn’t flow with water, it flows with fire. Inside the flowing fire are small creatures. The closest thing in this realm is like a piranha. People are running to escape from the dogs, the very evil birds that peck at them, the special beings, guards at the hells who are trying to cut them open. And they run into this river. They can’t ever reach the other side. No one ever reaches the other side. Every time they put their foot down, the fire and the creatures rip the flesh away. When they raise their leg, the bones are jutting out, and in the time it takes to lower their leg again, the skin has grown back. Master Shantideva says, when their leg comes up, may they turn into a tantric deity, and fly away. He is praying for that.
I think this is a statement on how we treat others who are on the very end of their rope, people come to us for help. As a bodhisattva, we have a special responsibility when another person has nowhere else to go. If you have knowledge that a person has another option, if you know that a person has someone else to turn to, then your bodhisattva vows allow you to refer them, direct them, to another person.
But if you honestly know that this person has come to the end of their hope, if you’re honestly aware that this person has nowhere, if you know that everyone else in the world would reject them—waste of time, hopeless, too much trouble, incredible trouble, maybe even crazy—then you have to take them in, we have to take care of them especially. They have reached the river at the end of the hells.
We don’t always succeed, you know, I know. People have come for our help, they have been maybe difficult people. People with major problems. And we have tried to help them. Maybe not as much as we could. But we really tried. And it failed in the end. But if you truly wanted to help, if you truly tried to help to your capacity—our capacity is not very big, we’re not perfect. But make a special effort to help people who are beyond help, you will never have these seeds. We can fail gracefully.
(11) And then may the beings in hell take pause,
and wonder suddenly to themselves,
“Why now do the henchmen
Of the Lord of Death, and his vicious
ravens, and the birds of prey,
Why do they turn and run from us?”
What glorious power has turned the night of hell
to golden day, and smothered us within
this happiness, this strength, this bliss?
Who could have such power?” And may they raise
their eyes and see the blue
of sky, and seated in it
The One Who Holds the Diamond in Their Hand.
And then may joy spread
in their hearts, so powerful that
It tears away every wrong they ever did,
and so then they can rise and fly—fly away with this Buddha.
It’s a very beautiful image. People in this huge cavern of darkness are screaming, running from hell guards. They were not hired by some employment agency. They are a projection of the same evil malignant karmic seed in your own heart chakra, like every irritating person you’ve ever met. And suddenly the guards are running the other way and suddenly all the vicious animals like Nazi German shepherds are running the other way. Suddenly the darkness in the hell turns into this glorious sunlight. Suddenly the dark cavern roof turns into a beautiful blue sky. And the people are amazed. They don’t know what’s happening.
They look up in the sky and there seated on a sun is a bodhisattva. In Sanskrit, his name is Vajradhara. Also called Vajrapani. And he has driven away the hell guards and the evil animals and the darkness. And they are so happy, they have such joy, that it pierces the heart chakra, it pierces the subtle drop of consciousness; it goes to the center of the karmic seed and explodes it, and they are finished with their hell life. There won’t be any more hell life. There is no more hell, and they just fly away with him.
It sounds a lot like some kind of a god who can just drop down into hell when he feels like it and bring everybody out. If he was a real god, and if he cared for those beings, there wouldn’t be any hell realm. They would’ve left before it began. There is no such being, and the existence of our own suffering proves it. We have to take responsibility for our own world and our own lives. We created them, we are experiencing them, only we can stop them. No one can change your karma for you. No one can take your karma away from you. The fact that we suffered this afternoon—I did—proves that they can’t if they are compassionate.
So what is Master Shantideva describing? Here begins a section where the great—it’s called a nge way sey gye in Tibetan—eight great bodhisattvas who are particularly close to Lord Buddha. Each one comes to the hell realms, we will see four of them. And they change the hell realms.
How can an outside person change my world? I have to do it myself. I have to clean my malignant karmic seeds. I have to do such pure deeds that I produce a new world. Master Shantideva’s talking about the secret identities of these bodhisattvas. Vajrapani is in truth a tantric deity, and he represents the entire secret teachings. I think when I say secret or tantric, old seeds come up in your mind and you think of cults in dark little caves, and maybe a few candles, and a skull full of blood maybe. But actually the secret teachings are these beautiful crystal mansions of golden light, whose foundation is purity in your ethical life—purity towards all, compassionate kindness towards all beings. The secret teachings are founded on these ideas. They are the extension of these ideas. They are the natural outcome of being kind to countless people.
They are full of light and purity. And so Master Shantideva is saying if you want to really change the hell realms, if you care that people that you can’t see might be suffering, tormented—unspeakably—then try to enter the secret teachings. Find a qualified teacher of those secret ways, educate yourself properly; get yourself prepared out of love for all beings who might be in pain. It’s my hope that the sweet secret teachings could be imparted to many kind and holy people through all of our work. But from your side, you must prepare. It’s foolish, and frankly it can lead to great sadness and problems if someone tries to show you the secret ways, and you’re not already prepared.
And so, I ask you again, there’s almost a little more than a year left. The retreat actually goes three years and three months. You have about a year left. I ask you again from my heart, I beg you, finish the courses, finish the eighteen courses of the open teachings. Get yourself ready, please. It’s not difficult. We sit and drink hot chocolate and listen to the stupid guy ramble on. Then you fill out a few questions, and that’s all. You can easily do it. But if you haven’t had time up to now, you got to turn on the gas now. You’ll run out of time. The time will come and you won’t be ready, and it doesn’t work. Even with the best intentions of a teacher, if the student is not ready, it actually causes trouble to try to lead them into the secret teachings.
Along with the courses, you have to try to develop your hearts. Vajrapani, which means “the one who holds a vajra”. Vajra has been called thunderbolt or diamond bolt, because in the old days, when lighting struck a rock or a tree, it split it—it burst it apart. We had one here, close by. It was extraordinary. It was a huge oak tree under which we all used to sit for classes when we began retreat. And one night lighting struck it and just broke it in two. And in the old days, people thought lighting, if it could do that, must have a diamond at the very tip of it, because they knew that nothing could scratch a diamond. But the diamond in Vajrapani’s hand—and his name means “diamond in my hand,” represents the two great concepts of the open teachings: emptiness and karma.
Never, no one here, I’m sure, would ever have a mistaken idea about emptiness, by now. It’s just the emptiness—you can say the emptiness of Jesus, for example. Some people saw him as a savior, as a messiah; some people saw him as a competitor—even when he brought people back from the dead. Some people saw him as a political threat. Some people saw him as an idiot, fool. The people in Jerusalem at the end saw him as a failure, incompetent impostor. Everything he claimed about the eternal realms, and eternal life, and kingdoms of heaven—obviously a lie, since he is up there on this cross bleeding to death. Even nowadays, all of us, we come from different backgrounds. We can have different perceptions of historical Jesus. Some people mildly respect him. Some people have a very bad experience about maybe some church they went to as a child, and they equate it with ties that were uncomfortable, or long boring talks.
That’s the emptiness of Jesus. Nothing more mystical than that. He doesn’t have a nature: He’s not a divine being. He’s not a human in contact with the divine. He’s not a great moral teacher. He’s not an idiot or a fool, or incompetent, or a failure. He’s only what thou sayest. He’s only what you see. That’s his emptiness. It’s no big deal. Karma operates in your heart chakra. The vasanas, the subtle seeds ripen. You perceive this historical being as something good or bad or indifferent or whatever your karmic seeds force you to see. It’s not a choice. Even if you change your mind this weekend about Jesus, it’s because your own seeds have changed. That’s the emptiness and karma relating to one person.
And Vajrapani holds a diamond bolt in his hand to represent that. It’s a beautiful fact that the shape of the vajra is the shape of a twinned diamond crystal. All diamond crystals which form under perfect conditions, form themselves into the shape of the vajra that we use in our special prayers. And all of you have studied the diamond cutter and you know what it represents.
(12) May a rain of lovely flower petals
mixed with cool and perfumed water
Descend in a song and extinguish the flames
of the fires that burn in hell.
May the beings who live there look upon
this sight, and suddenly
Be overcome by happiness.
And then may they think to themselves,
“Who could have done this thing?”
And may they turn and see
Before them the One who holds
the Lotus in Their Hand.
A second of the eight great bodhisattvas appears in the sky, sends down a gentle rain of flowers and extinguishes the hell realm fires. This is “the one who holds the lotus in his hand,” is the name for Avaloketeshvara, Chenrezig. It’s not a big mystery. What can change misery into happiness? What can make each of us here? What can make me happy? What can make you happy is just taking care of other people. Sit with someone this evening. Have a meal with them. Bask in the glow of the holy words of Master Shantideva and just try to imagine what they would like. Try to pass them the food they would enjoy. Try to talk about the thing they would enjoy talking about. Try to put yourself across the table in their body, and simply try to take care of them first, as if they were you.
This extinguishes the fire of all pain and unhappiness. It’s so easy. All of us are at times unhappy. We are all at times confused. We are all nervous about our lives. We are all concerned that we aren’t Buddhas yet. But the solution is so easy; just think about other people. Just try to make other people happy.
(13) And then may the hell beings
hear a voice that
calls to them and says:
“Come my friends, so far away,
cast away your fears now,
and come be at my side;
Come to the one whose power
has stripped away your agony
and thrown you into joy.”
And when they lay their eyes on this one,
on Gentle Voice himself,
may every miserable creature there
Burst forth in a song, a song
that roars throughout the hells,
a song that sings:
“You are the bodhisattva who protects
every single living being,
overcome by your love for them;
(14) “You are the youth divine,
with your flowing locks,
body blazing in light;
How could it be
that you have come to us,
and smashed the terrors here?
Are you not the one
to whom a thousand gods
would run, to touch
The tips of their crowns
at your lotus feet?
The one whose eyes glisten
In tears of compassion for us?
The one on whom
A constant shower of petals falls?
See him or her now—surrounded by palaces
filled with crowds of celestial maidens
singing out his praises!”
The next great Bodhisattva comes, the third one. Manjushri or Manjugosha; in Tibetan, Jampelyang or Jampeyang. He represents the Buddha’s knowledge; he represents the understanding of emptiness. So already we’ve had the bodhisattva of the Secret Ways, then the bodhisattva of kindness, and now Master Shantideva devotes to verses to the bodhisattva of the knowledge of emptiness.
Emptiness is the key to everything. The reason we even have retreat centers, the reason there are any classes at all, the reason people are working so hard to teach, the reason people are in retreat, the reason you are doing retreats, the reason Holy Lama Khen Rinpoche ever came to this country was to try so hard to get each person here to see emptiness directly. It takes fifteen, twenty minutes. It takes years of effort and preparation.
All the secret methods as well, all the exercises with which we try to affect our inner channels: breathing exercises, physical postures, everything, all the special meditations are directed towards causing, triggering with in the deep channels, the direct perception of emptiness. Again, emptiness is not some void or nothingness. It’s an extremely powerful reality above our reality. And you can intellectually understand it as the fact that Jesus or any other person around us is only what we perceive and nothing else.
At some point you are able in deep meditation to perceive directly the absence of all other Jesuses. The fact that no other Jesus exists or no other Buddha exists, or no other us exists. It’s not that we don’t exist—that’s not emptiness. It’s not that we don’t have a body—that’s not emptiness. It’s that if you took away the “Michael Roach” that I am—that my karmic seeds are creating right now, you wouldn’t have any other. If we took away the speaker today that you are seeing, who is created by your karmas, there wouldn’t be anything else.
There is no base reality. There is no way that things are and you are looking at it. There isn’t even any way that things are and your are interpreting it. Everything is your interpretation. There is no way that I am, or any other person is, or you are. Everything is being driven by your karmic seeds. All things are a perception. Which is why we can go from hell into paradise—it becomes a simple matter of collecting the right seeds carefully, persistently—it takes time. And then when you get a good karmic seed, well you well better think about it and give it away.
Put it clearly in your mind: “Today I went to that teaching. I sat there for god knows how many hours, and I really tried to listen. I’m not perfect, I was bored sometimes, I wandered sometimes, my butt hurt sometimes, but I tried hard. I got a good karmic seed in my mind.”
That’s called crystallizing the seed. The focus on it crystallizes it. Then you have to send it to someone. You have to give it away to someone. I send it to one of my holy teachers that I doubted or I was disrespectful to this afternoon. [laughs] I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about a seed that I have that I would like to send to myself. And you can all, we can all do that. That’s why emptiness is our savior. We exist, all these practices—from the first day you ever heard of Buddhism to the final days of your tantric practices in some yurt somewhere—they all relate to trying to see ultimate reality.
On that day, those fifteen minutes, you will clearly and directly see the enlightened awakened being that you are to become. And it will be unstoppable. At that moment you will see directly into the future. You will see, oh what the heck, seven lifetimes—nothing. And then you will be the holy, sweet, enlightened one who helps countless people on this world and other worlds. You will see this if you haven’t already, and this is why we are here. This is the only reason we are here.
And so Master Shantideva’s bodhisattva Manjushri, the angel of emptiness is changing the hell realms into paradise.
(15) Oh thus may it come to pass,
through the power of the goodness
that I’ve done:
Every suffering being in hell,
wrapped now deep in happiness,
standing staring up
At clouds as they gather overhead,
and the reality
of the bodhisattvas-
The one whose name is
and all the rest—
Uncovered fully in the light,
sending down upon them
showers of the rain
That brings them bliss,
cool soft rain,
rain of finest fragrance.
Sheer Excellence is the name of one of the other eight great Bodhisattvas. In Sanskrit it’s called Samantabhadra. In Tibetan, Kunsang. This bodhisattva is known for Samatabhadra’s offerings. It’s a beautiful offering. You imagine the whole sky covered with sweet roses. I like roses in the sky—could be any flower you like. But these beautiful flowers and holy offerings to the Enlightened Ones and all suffering beings spread throughout the entire daytime sky, like flowers floating every few feet from each other, all the way up to the end of the atmosphere. And you imagine them and you give them. Master Shantideva has asked the bodhisattva of giving to come.
Those of you who studied this scripture, know that its structure is based on the six perfections. And that oddly, the first perfection, giving, isn’t covered in the entire book in a separate chapter. And here Master Shantideva reveals that this is the chapter on giving. It’s the chapter on the ultimate way of giving. Not to work with outside objects, which is so primitive and so limited. How many coffees can you make for people? How many small gifts can you give to others? It’s very limited. How much protection can you really give to all the people in New York today who were beaten or robbed, or raped?
You can’t work with dry cement very well. We have to try . It’s our obligation, it’s our honor. It’s a commitment we’ve made to protect others and give to others what we have. But, ultimately, we must work at the level of causes. We must learn to enter the chakra of consciousness. We must learn to enter the storehouse of karmic seeds; we must learn to fix the DNA, and then teach others to do it. And that’s the real giving. That’s giving at an ultimate level.
(16) And by this power may every being
Who lives in the animal realm be freed
From the terror of feeding off each other.
May those who live as craving spirits
Enjoy a life of peace and plenty,
Like humans of the isle of Haunting Voice.
Master Shantideva has concluded his gift of his good karmic seeds to the beings in the hell realms. Now he goes to the beings in the animal realm—the first half of this verse. I grew up in cities like you, most of you probably. I didn’t have much contact with animals except with pets—dogs or cats or things like that. But here, something different has happened. I think it’s very joyful. I’d like to tell you about it. It’s very exciting for us, who are in retreat. We are city folk, really, and it’s always a joy to see these things happen.
I think because we are quiet—we don’t speak, normally, except when you’re here. And, because we are trying so hard to keep our minds in meditation and good thoughts, we don’t have other obvious distractions to prevent us from trying to keep our minds in a holy place all day. And I think because of the quietness of our minds, and the quietness of our voices, then slowly, slowly, very slowly over the two years, the animals have come to us. Very, very gradually. At first, it was the dumb ones, like lizards, and they . . . Okay, not so dumb . . . But, now it’s really exciting.
This afternoon is an example—we were sitting there, we were reading a book, and a rabbit came to the door, the screen door, and he actually banged his shoulder on it. And he wants a cookie. And we open the door and he hops inside. If you see a wild rabbit in the wild, you will only get a quick glimpse, because they run. But they are, they treat us as family now. It’s very beautiful. We have other animals that come. Even coyotes come. It took a long time for the coyotes, and they don’t eat from our hands yet, but almost. They will come inside the fence and eat close by us, and they are very beautiful.
But there’s something very sad. There’s really something sad. I came to realize that I can’t love them too much. I came to realize I can’t get too attached to them because they constantly are killed. You see a baby rabbit, a few inches long. You befriend him slowly over a year or two, and then you walk out one day, and his body is there, and his chest is torn out. And you learn sadly that we can’t—it’s very hard emotionally for a person who’s in retreat all day, and befriends another creature, to see them murdered, or lying on the ground. It’s almost like your mother was killed. We don’t have other friendships, or people around us, so we become very attached to the animals. But they are constantly being killed by each other.
I know that many animals are special. There are many stories—true stories—of amazing kindness from animals to other animals. But if you live here and you watch the animal realm, it’s a terrifying place to be. Each smaller animal lives in terror of the larger animal. There’s a food chain. The animals are extremely alert constantly. You can’t make the slightest move, you can’t make the slightest sound. They’ll be a hundred yards away if you sneeze or cough while you’re feeding them. Because they depend on their wits and their speed for survival. Because they all eat each other. They all live off killing each other. Most of them. And so they are very, very hesitant to even approach us for months and months because they are so afraid. And afraid of each other.
So Master Shantideva is sending his good karma, his good karmic seeds. I pray that all those beings in the animal realm may be freed from this violence which is done to them. And, it’s important to say that humans are a big part of the food chain. We are always killing animals, either purposely or by accident. Often just simply by neglect. We don’t stop to think that we use the skins of the animals, or we take advantage of their trust in us. He’s praying that we should all be freed from this kind of violence.
I’d like to read the next verse because it connects to the second half of this verse.
(17) May a stream of milk descend from the hand
Of the Lord of Power, the Realized One,
The One Who Looks with Loving Eyes,
And may it fill the spirits who crave,
Washing them too in a gentle bath,
Leaving them cool and refreshed.
There’s another realm we can’t see. There have been reports in western culture. People call them ghosts. People say a house is haunted by ghosts. We have stories of poltergeists. We have stories of wraiths or other kinds of spirits, especially around houses, things like that. Buddhism teaches that there is a kind of realm of spirits. These are beings who, when they were human, were overly attached to objects. It could be attachment to your house, it could be attachment to physical objects like the things you own. It is a malignant seed’s result—the malignant seed was trying to grasp onto physical objects—trying to own them, trying to collect them, piling them up in your home, always trying to get the best ones for yourself, always giving the lousy ones to others. And over a lifetime these small seeds pile up, and as you die, you feel intense attachment and pain that you are going to lose these physical objects which you have collected.
Every object you leave in your house is a danger. Every object you allow to be in your house is a danger. During your life it takes up a certain part of your mind. If you have too many of those objects, you will never be able to meditate, because of course a part of your mind has to catalog, has to be aware, where is that object now? Where is my favorite rosary? Where is my favorite Buddha image? Where are those nice things that people gave me? And you remember. If you remember where they are, it means they took part of your mind. Those objects stole part of your thoughts, your mind. Part of your memory is occupied. Part of your attention is not available to give to your meditation.
These objects are deadly enemies of Buddhist practitioners. This is a no-brainer—you have to get rid of them. Really, give them to the Good Will. Give them away to people who are not trying to meditate. And every object you leave in your home, as you die, there’s a grave danger. I’m not being poetic. This is serious. This is like having a big ball of radiation in your house, or poison in your water. It can kill you. It can take you to a preta realm. If in your last few moments of your life you reflect sadly on some idiotic physical object that you own, it can take you to a bad realm. So wiser now to get rid of them.
Master Shantideva is praying for the beings who have gone to this realm. They often stay around the thing they were attached to. Their bodies are made of very subtle physical matter—we can see them only under special circumstances. The things people call ghosts are like them, but they are counted in the millions. There are thousands on this land that we are sitting on. They wander hopelessly, attached to idiotic physical things they owned or they lived under, and they suffer. They have a special karma that due to their selfishness and possessiveness they can’t enjoy anything. You can see this karma growing in people before they die, people who have put their trust and hope in physical objects are, as they approach death, very sad. They suffer a lot. They try to cling to those objects.
And so Master Shantideva is trying to send help—karmic seed of his good deed—to the people who are suffering intensely from the disease of possessiveness.
(18) And by this power may the blind
Open their eyes and see the beauty;
May the deaf hear the song of sound.
May every woman with child give birth
As Maya, the Buddha’s angel mother,
Did him—without a hint of pain.
This begins a whole section of the dedication chapter, where Master Shantideva is speaking on two or more levels all the time. There will always be two or more levels going on.
He prays first, he sends his good karma out to all blind people. And if you’ve known a blind person, it would be a wonderful thing to give them sight. And he sends his good karma out that way. Can it give sight to a blind person just to think about sending them your good karma? Where did the blind person come from? What made the blind person; why did you meet a blind person?
It’s painful to watch a blind person. If it’s painful for you, you must have done something negative in the past, so in a sense you have helped create this blind person for you, in your life. So if you pray sincerely for their sight, it will change. If you know the real method for giving away your karma, you can give people sight in this life. You can actually perform these miracles.
But on a deeper level, Master Shantideva is beginning a long section of praying that people wake up. He’s sending his karma to people who are like sheep going to the slaughterhouse. We have beautiful cows here. They walk around, they like us now. [laughter] They stick their head in the fence; they get a cookie. Sometimes they look like they’ll pull the fence down. But every time you see a cow here it’s kind of sad in our hearts because we know they are here to fatten them up and go kill them. It’s almost intolerable to feel it; we hear them crying at night sometimes for the ones who were taken already. They are innocent. I saw the way they were brought to the truck for slaughter. They were offered beautiful bunches of carrots, fresh carrots; they couldn’t resist. They didn’t know why the carrots were there; they were being led to a truck that would take them to the slaughterhouse. They are innocent; they are trusting.
And everyone in the world, all the humans are the same. They are sincerely trying to live a good life, they are trying to help their families, they are trying to do a good job, they are trying to get by. They are merely trying to be happy, but they don’t know how bad things are. They keep hoping for things that will never happen and then they are slaughtered. They are helpless as the cows.
And so the first prayer here is, “Please, wake up. Look at what’s happening to you, look at where things are going, look where all the other cows have gone. Open your eyes.” It’s something very bad here going on, we have to try to stop it. It’s not enough to do small good things, we have to try to stop death itself, suffering itself, we have to try to remove it from this whole planet and other worlds.
So the first prayer here is, “I send my good karma to all those innocent millions of people on this planet who are walking slowly to their death, not knowing, not thinking anything else could be.”
Then he says, “May the deaf hear.” Because often you meet people, you give them very convincing logical arguments why they don’t have to die, why their body can actually change, but they can’t hear it. They smile at you with a sort of smile that says, “A little wacky, this one,” and then they’re gone from your life. And they don’t hear. Jesus often accuses his disciples of having hard hearts. He says, “I’m telling you how to stop the pain of every living being, and you don’t even hear it.”
Then he makes a special prayer; he sends his good karma to every pregnant woman in the world. It’s a very beautiful prayer. When I first read this chapter, which is—in the monastery we read this chapter separately, as a prayer oftentimes in the temple. All the monks will sing this prayer together, this whole chapter—I said how wonderful to think about the magic of a woman. She is about to give the most precious gift you can give, of life, at the risk of her own life. To be a mother is the perfect kind of bodhisattva deed, to know as you conceive this child that you are risking your life to give life to another is so beautiful, and for Master Shantideva to pray for them, to send his good karma to every pregnant woman—may they not suffer during the labor, may they give their child as Lord Buddha’s mother did.
Lord Buddha’s mother in Tibetan is called the hlagyuma. In Sanskrit it’s Maya. And when she gave birth to Lord Buddha he just popped out of her side, no pain. They say that holy beings are especially careful not to give pain to their mothers when they are born. And so we pray that every woman who has conceived a child and has that special suffering of carrying that child for so long and knowing the dangers of childbirth—we send our good karma to them, it’s very powerful.
On a deeper level Master Shantideva is praying for the successful birth of every spiritual person. May you open your eyes and see the trouble we and everyone else are in; may you hear the instructions on how to stop it forever. May your birth as a bodhisattva be happy and painless.
(19) May those without sufficient clothing
Be suddenly clothed; may the hungry
Be instantly filled with food.
May those who suffer now from thirst
Drink fine fresh water
And other delicious beverages.
Master Shantideva begins to pray for people who will enter the spiritual life. You can’t practice spiritual goals, the deep ones with meditation and very difficult study—how to understand emptiness, how to get to other realms—you can’t do these things if you don’t have clothes. You can’t do these things if you are suffering physically.
When I first went as a young person to India, I stayed in a town in the Himalayas. It was very cold at night; there’s no heating there. You just wrap up as well as you can. In the morning people would count the dead people, during the winter. How many people died in town last night from lack of clothing?
You can’t expect a person like that to be studying or meditating, it takes basic physical needs. You can’t expect hungry people to go to a dharma teaching and start studying and meditating and doing what they need to do to reach ultimate happiness. People who don’t have clean water to drink. And so at the very basic level, Master Shantideva is sending his good karma to people that they should have the basic physical needs that everyone needs before they can start a spiritual path.
(20) May every poor person there is
Find all the money they need;
May those who grieve be comforted.
May those who’ve lost hope
Find hope anew, and security
That will never leave them.
If you don’t have enough money to pay the rent, if you’re always living in debt, if you don’t know what you’re going to do, if you have this kind of anxiety constantly, you can’t practice dharma. So Master Shantideva sends his good karma to all the poor people.
Then he prays for people who have lost hope, who are grieving. Oftentimes people come to the dharma only after a major problem in their lives, maybe only after their husband or wife has died, or their mother or their child. And deep down inside they are very hurt. Deep down inside they have lost hope. We see many people like that come. They come to teachings when they’ve had this kind of suffering. And it’s almost impossible to help them. While you are in a deep state of grief, while you are in a deep state of depression, while you are in a deep feeling that no one can help you, that there’s no security—if people don’t have a very basic mental security, physical security, it’s very difficult to help them and teach them. So Master Shantideva’s praying for those people. He’s sending his good karma to them.
(21) May every single being who’s sick
Within this entire universe
Be suddenly, totally, cured.
May every kind of disease
Ever known to living kind
Vanish now, forever.
The main spiritual goals—seeing emptiness directly, meeting higher beings, developing ultimate compassion—they take strength, they take training, they take learning, they take meditation. You can’t do that if you’re sick. Sickness is one of the great obstacles to all spiritual practice. And so Master Shantideva’s sending his good karma to people who are sick. Then he sort of reveals his real game. He says, “By the way, may all kinds of sicknesses in the world vanish from the world.”
How is it possible that all sickness could vanish from this world? If sickness is something that you see in your world, painful, then it has come because we failed to take care of others in the past. If we truly dedicate our good karma to sick people, then slowly we will begin to see less and less. In your world there won’t be any sickness, and you won’t ever see a sick person, because there won’t be any.
Master Shantideva is showing you the real point of his chapter: you yourself will be the one to remove sickness from this world.
I know that it’s a difficult idea for many of us, and I think maybe you think I’m just being poetic or trying to be inspiring—it’s not that. Each person here, sooner or later, will be the one to remove sickness in their world, from all other beings. We spoke about it before, I think it’s worth mentioning again. How can there be—I don’t know how many people are here—but how is there enough room for all of us to save the world, to be “The One”?
It’s a question of emptiness. You are creating the world you see; the karmas in your mind are ripening in your own mind. You will become the one to save these people on this world. You will be the one. There are people sitting here who can see that.
(22) May all those in any kind of fear
Be suddenly freed from it.
May those imprisoned be released.
May those downtrodden come to power,
All of us living then as family,
In harmony with each other.
You can’t meditate on emptiness, you can’t see emptiness, you can’t do deep retreats, you can’t serve other people in an ultimate way if you are in a country where you’re not even allowed to do prayers. Master Shantideva’s talking about political repression, especially of spiritual practitioners. It’s not something that used to happen, it’s happening now.
The American government did it to the holy native peoples who were trying to practice their own faiths. The Russian government did it to the peoples of Siberia. And they crushed the monasteries of eastern Russia—where do you think the books in St. Petersburg came from? They were stolen from monasteries when the monasteries were burned and the monks were killed. So all of the governments are doing it, our government is doing it. We are indirectly helping that, we are all like that. Master Shantideva’s not a fool, he grew up in the court of a king, he knows politics.
He makes an interesting prayer in the second half of the verse. He says, “If the people who have been persecuted suddenly come to power, may they not start persecuting the ones who persecuted them before.” Because it so often happens that when one group which has been persecuted assumes power, then they start to persecute the other groups in exactly the same way because it’s our nature, it’s human nature; we all do that. So you can send your good karma to people in any part of the world who are not free to practice their religion as they wish to.
There’s a very subtle repression even in this country. You and I have faced many situations where you can’t speak openly about your beliefs in certain kinds of company or certain situations where you work, because you know you’ll be labelled in a certain way. And so you can also send your good karma to try to change that kind of repression, very subtle repression.
(23) May all of those who are on the road,
To anywhere at all, be safe
And comfortable, wherever they are now.
And may they without the slightest trouble
Find at the end of their journey the thing
They left their home to find.
If you think about it, everybody in the world at this very moment is either sitting at home, or they are someplace else that they’ve gone to, like their office where they work, maybe a grocery store. And then all the other people are traveling between their home and where they are going. I think even at the moment that we speak there are perhaps several billion people traveling somewhere, even if it’s just across the street.
And so Master Shantideva sends his good karma to them. “All you people on your way home commuting through heavy traffic, you know, reach your home safely. I hope that you find what you went to work to find.” And just pray for all the people who are traveling.
But there’s a deeper level to this verse. If you have opened your eyes, if you can hear, if a bodhisattva has been given birth, if you have enough food, if your mind is basically stable, if you live in a country where you can practice, if you’re not sick, then please accept my good karma. I am sending you this good karma, all of you people who are starting to try to find a spiritual way. Master Shantideva is sending his good karma to everyone who’s just starting out, he says.
And you and I can imagine people like that, people we haven’t met yet, people who will hear one of you teach someday. And you pray for them, send your good karma to your future students. All of you will become a teacher. Many of you are already teaching; it is a beautiful, wonderful thing. Send your good karma to your future students; they are just leaving home now.
(24) May all those who’ve left dry land
To travel in boats or ships
Accomplish all they set out to do.
May they cross the dangers of the waters
And then return safe to their homes,
And the arms of friends and family.
You have to understand that getting into a ship in Master Shantideva’s time was extremely dangerous, if you even just think about Columbus. You put, I don’t know, six or eight weeks worth of food in your ship; you sail off to the horizon. After three weeks you know you can’t turn back—you don’t have enough food to get home again. You must go on, even though you don’t know what’s ahead. You maybe will die in the ocean.
We can read the stories of Lord Atisha’s travel to meet his guru. He left from India around 950 AD—or a little later. It took him, I believe, a year to get to Indonesia. He went for one reason—to learn what you are learning today. And the stories of the dangers you get in a small wooden boat. You cast off, you try to navigate, you stop for food and water. People will just as soon kill you as give you food or water. And most people who undertook these journeys died.
So in one sense Master Shantideva’s praying for them. But in a deeper sense, deeper level he’s praying for everybody who’s had the courage to leave what they knew and go into unknown, uncharted waters. I think everyone here – especially the people involved in the three year retreat—you gave up everything. In a sense you cast off. You had no idea, maybe still no idea, what’s ahead. But you had the courage to leave. You had the courage to leave what was obviously death. And Master Shantideva’s sending you his good karma. He says, “Everyone who’s had the courage to leave security.”
Everyone here—all of you—have left some kind of security. I know that it is very hard sometimes. I lived for many years in a small community in New Jersey; I believe most people thought I was a fool. I didn’t have a regular job; I was trying to study with this unknown lama. And it was very hard socially, the pressure to know that everyone believes you are a fool. I went one day, something special happened; I met a man, he asked me, “What do you do for your living?”
I said, “I’m a cook. I cook at a church.”
And something special happened and I knew he was thinking I was a complete fool. And I think everyone senses, we all, it’s hard for all of us to have left the normal life in the sense of people thinking we are intelligent or we have a good career or—it’s difficult. And in a sense you have cast off from what you knew, believing that there may be something higher, and you are just sailing out to open water. You are very brave in a whole world you are swimming upstream in the Mississippi river. You are very brave. Master Shantideva is sending you his karma to help you.
(25) May those who travel a barren waste,
Or mistake their way, who wander lost,
Suddenly come upon new companions
And find their way easily, free of fatigue,
Without the slightest danger of things
Like thieves or wild beasts.
Here Master Shantideva’s praying—people who traveled in Tibet, people who traveled in India in the old days, it was very dangerous. There was no police, there were no hotels to stop at, there were no interstate highways, no airports; it was extremely dangerous to travel. And many people died. People just rode up on horses and took what you had and killed you. And no one even heard about it.
And so people would be very happy to find another traveler; it would double their protection. Groups would form caravans, travel together, and so on one level Master Shantideva’s praying for people to find good companions. He’s praying that they never lose their way. He’s praying that they be safe from wild animals.
We live in a culture where all the really wild animals have been slaughtered. But in places like India, in the old days, it was just you and the tigers when you were walking through on a long trip, and there were many animals that would kill you. When the monks first came to Sera, there were herds of wild elephants who would come and crush the corn and eat it, and they just killed some of the monks when they tried to stop them. We live in a world where there are no such animals in our country. But it was a real danger in those times.
There’s a deeper level here. If you hope to travel a spiritual path you need companions, you need friends. It’s much easier, you are much more likely to succeed, if you are living around other people who have the same vision, who have the same faith, who have the same devotion. One of the greatest joys of being in retreat here is that the people serving the retreat, the teachers who grace us with their presence, all the people who come to help, and the retreatants themselves are all very dedicated, they have powerful devotion. And it’s a pleasure and a joy to be together with them, and it makes us all stronger.
It protects us from the fatigue of giving up, it protects us from the wild beasts which are our own mental afflictions. It protects us from the thieves. Thieves are nice friendly sophisticated, reasonable normal people who come up to you and say, “Why would you waste a week out in that god-forsaken desert?” And that’s for us the wild beasts and the thieves, they will steal your vision. They will steal your devotion. They won’t beat you or put you in prison; they will say, “Let’s go to a movie.” And you will forget what you were supposed to practice. And so being with other like-minded people, dedicated people, is very powerful. Master Shantideva is sending his good karma that everyone should have friends like the ones we have here; we are so blessed.
(26) May holy angels come and protect
All those who live in fear, with nowhere
To go, no path to follow:
Small children, the elderly, those with no one
To help them; those who cannot sleep,
Those who are troubled, and the insane.
Here Master Shantideva, on one level he’s praying—it’s a very beautiful prayer—he’s trying to send his good karma to people who are lost, physically lost. And then to people who are mentally lost, they don’t have a place to go. They don’t have friends. You know people like that. When you are with them they seem okay. They share a cup of coffee with you at a restaurant. They go home and they are lonely for the other twenty-three hours.
They don’t have any choice, they don’t know about any other thing to do like we do. They don’t have a path. And specifically, when Master Shantideva uses the word gonpo in Tibetan—natha in Sanskrit, a protector, a guide—he’s talking about a lama, a teacher, a guru. He’s talking about people who are trying to make the trip without a teacher. And it’s hard for them. They will never reach where they are trying to go and they will be alone; no one will be there to protect them.
And he’s sending his good karma, “May these people meet holy teachers,” like holy lama Khen Rinpoche, someone who will spend their whole life to help people for free, in the ultimate way, and put up with every kind of disappointment, pain, trouble all kinds of hard times to help those students. May all living beings meet a protector like that.
Then Master Shantideva begins to speak about people in the world who have no one to protect them. He starts with small children. In the history of mankind, children have had a special place. They’ve never had any rights. They are considered possessions of their parents. Throughout history, even into modern times, there have been no legal or social means of protecting children. They don’t have protection. The idea in our society that a young child has the protection of society as a whole is completely new, and it’s very flimsy. People still believe a child is like an animal who is possessed by the parents and whatever the parents do to the child is a private matter, they don’t have any other protectors.
The same is true of the elderly. When I first came to serve holy lama, there were many elderly Kalmuk Mongolians in our community, because they all came here after World War Two at the same age, so everyone reached seventy, eighty, at the same time. And so one of our main activities was to help them find nursing homes and then go and serve them in the nursing homes.
I had never really been in a nursing home. I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it, it was like a hell realm. There’s one in which people were just screaming all day and all night. There was another where you had to walk down an aisle to visit a friend and people were sitting on each side of the corridor and they would just reach out to touch a person. They would look at you with this look of utter misery. They hadn’t even been able to even touch a person. The children come at the beginning once a week, then they begin to come once a month, then they come once a year and there’s no one to help these people.
We would leave them, the Kalmuks, we would give them a rosary to do their prayers; we would leave a little Buddha image that they could have next to their bed. The next time we came back it was always gone. We said, “Where’s the rosary? Where’s the Buddha image?” They said, “Is there any nursing home worker in this room? We said, “No.”
They said, “Then I can speak. They take them; they steal them.” “Oh, why didn’t you call us?”
“How can I call you? Those are the people I have to ask to use the phone. They watch us, they listen to what we do. If we complain, we don’t get our medication at night, the bedpan isn’t changed. They forget to visit us during meal time.” There’s a blackmail going on in nursing homes. The staff is often underpaid; they are bitter. They oftentimes are abusing the patients and the patients can’t say anything. They don’t have a natha, they don’t have a gombo, they don’t have a protector.
And then Master Shantideva goes on to talk about people who can’t sleep. I think it’s very beautiful that in a major philosophical work of ancient times someone would have the sensitivity to send his good karma to this simple disease that almost everyone has had. Almost everyone has times when they can’t sleep; it’s a great suffering. If it goes on too long, you move into a deeper level, depression. You begin to be depressed, you begin to feel anxious all the time, and if it gets deeper you simply go insane.
People who can’t sleep are no fun to be around. People who are deeply depressed or have anxiety lose their friends. People who get into an asylum—if you think people won’t visit old people, you should see the people in the asylums. We used to go to visit people. It’s hopeless, it’s very great suffering. People are literally beating each other, screaming, televisions are up full blast because no one can stand the sound of everyone else screaming.
And Master Shantideva’s praying for those people; he’s sending his power to those people. On a deeper level, people who are children—you know, many of you, it’s a code word for people who haven’t woken up yet—people who are still like children. They are walking very patiently, slowly, ignorantly, to their death. Everything they do to make themselves happy is backwards. Every action they take during the day is only giving them more pain. They don’t understand; they are just like small children with a huge pack of razor blades cutting themselves. They don’t even know, they don’t understand.
So Master Shantideva’s trying to send them good karma. Elderly doesn’t mean old people. It means people who have lost hope. Half the people in the world are wrapped up in their lives. And half of them have finished so much life that they believe there’s no hope anymore. People passed a certain age refuse to believe there’s any choice but to live the way they are living. It’s particularly frustrating as a teacher to meet a good person, a sincere person but who’s gone past a certain age. You say, “You could learn to stop all these things, you could learn to change. You could change your body, you don’t have to live like this, you could reach a holy paradise before you die.” And they just don’t believe it, they don’t think it’s possible. They’ve gone past a certain point of age where they can’t hear it.
And so Master Shantideva’s praying for them. When he speaks about people who can’t sleep, people with mental anxiety, depression, insane, he’s not talking on a literal level. On another level he’s talking about people who haven’t discovered kindness. People who are going crazy in this life because they are trying to serve themselves first, and this makes people crazy. If you are truly working for others, if you truly live for others, if your heart is stolen away by the idea of serving others, you will sleep like a baby. You will never feel depressed or anxiety. You can’t, you won’t; they all come from blindness. They all come from worrying about yourself first. All kinds of disorders of sleep, all kinds of mental anguish, insanity itself.
The one feature that characterizes all the insane people I’ve ever tried to help was that they were all wrapped up in themselves. They weren’t thinking about others. Every kind of mental suffering comes from selfishness, thinking about yourself. It’s the great paradox of life, when you think of others your mind is at peace, you never have trouble sleeping, you never have anxieties or depression. So Master Shantideva’s sending us his good karma to try to wake us up, because this verse is about protectors. And the only real protection is to think of others, serve others. You will never again need anything, you will never again be hurt by anything. He’s talking about the ultimate protection which is simply living your whole life to help other people.
(27) May they spend every life they still have to live
Free of every obstacle to a spiritual life:
May they find firm feelings of faith,
And wisdom, and a perfect capacity
For love; may their physical needs
Be filled, may they lead good lives.
He’s saying if people wake up and try to practice a spiritual life, you know and I know the first thing that will come is obstacles. The more you try to live a good life, the more you try to serve others, you can be sure you will have obstacles. You become like a cosmic magnet. I’m not kidding, I’m not being poetic; it’s absolutely true. You know it. People who have really tried to live a spiritual life, every time you step up the volume, the obstacles step up the volume. It must be like that, it will always be like that. You have to expect it, and you have to try to send your good karma to people who are already on the path and are getting obstacles.
We have this naive notion that all the great saints of Tibet and India popped out perfect and didn’t have any problems and served their lamas perfectly and kept all their vows perfectly and did the bodhisattva activities perfectly. Well then they wouldn’t have been here, would they? [a little laughter] You come to this realm, we come here because we are imperfect.
If you were involved with the Asian Classics Input project, three, four thousand scriptures have been input—a good percentage are prayers to stop obstacles. Those books wouldn’t exist if there hadn’t been a hell of a lot of obstacles. So you can count on them, you can expect them. They help us.
Then Master Shantideva says, “All those people who are trying to lead a spiritual life, may they find first faith.” The word shraddha in Sanskrit, depa in Tibetan, doesn’t mean blind, stupid, unconsidered faith in a teacher or a religion. It’s a word that reflects feelings of admiration. It’s a word that means to aspire to something great and holy. And so the first step for everyone is to meet a person like His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, just to see him, just to hear him speak, or holy lama Khen Rinpoche or lama Zopa Rinpoche. You meet a great person, you meet a holy teacher. There are teachers like that I think listening today, and you are inspired by them, and that’s what faith means. You say, “I want to be like His Holiness. I want to be like those other lamas. I want to learn to be as good and to serve people the way they do.”
Then you need wisdom. Wisdom discriminates between wrong paths and right paths. Wisdom discriminates between something that’s good and something that’s not so useful. And all throughout your spiritual life, Lord Buddha especially emphasized it, you have to keep evaluating the path. This point I need this, at this point I need this, at this point I shouldn’t be doing that, and I don’t think this particular path that I’ve heard about is very useful. And you reason it out in your mind.
Lord Buddha, as you know, taught four great systems. Three of them are wrong. But the lower three are necessary for people who don’t have enough wisdom. And so a teacher will give part of a path or even a slightly mistaken path to a disciple whose mind is not ready for higher paths. And then it’s really up to each disciple to find out the truth and to go higher.
All of you who studied at Sera with holy lama Geshe Thubten Rinchen, you heard those teachings. In the third turning of the wheel on this planet, Lord Buddha said, “The fourth school I taught was wrong.” He’s already said the first three were wrong. Then he says the fourth one was wrong. And then he passes from this world. And so people are left with having to figure out which one is the right school.
And in the end Lord Buddha says, “You must learn. You must have wisdom. You must figure it out.” You can’t just take what teachers say literally. You have to use your wisdom. If you hear a teacher teach something, you have to check it out. If it doesn’t make sense, you have to leave it. If you see something of higher benefit, you must drop the thing of lower benefit.
Then lastly you need love. We are all millions of years apart, possibly, in our spiritual lives. It’s not just one life. There are people here who are maybe millions of lifetimes ahead of other people here. And so oftentimes it’s hard to communicate. The person who’s a million lifetimes ahead may be extremely close to the final goal. How can they speak to us? What can they say to us, how will we understand with the great gap between us? It’s love. Love can break through all of those problems of communication. We don’t always understand what people around us want, or what they are trying to do, or it’s hard to make them happy. But if you have love for them it breaks down all the other differences. If you really love other people then all the other differences go away.
Then lastly in this verse Master Shantideva is praying that people who start a spiritual path should always have the things they need we need basic housing, food, teachings, there are basic needs every spiritual person has to have.
(28) May they have all they need to live, forever,
Without a moment’s pause, as if they possessed
The treasure of the magic sky.
May they live together without ever quarreling,
Without ever hurting each other, enjoying instead
The freedom to live as they choose to.
There’s a special thing called namka dzu. It’s here, “the treasure of the magic sky”. It’s a special yogic skill; it’s a special skill of high meditators. They can like, reach into another dimension and pull out whatever they need. I need a cappuccino, right now. [a little laughter] And, they just put out their arm and they bring in a cappuccino. It’s called the treasure of the magic sky. So Master Shantideva’s saying, “I hope every person who tries to do deep meditation, deep retreats, deep practice, that they can learn this skill of the magic sky.”
It’s all based on generosity of course. These great meditators have perfected the art of giving to others. And so whenever they need something they can call on that karma and it comes immediately. And he’s praying for that. What was the second part of that verse?
“May they live together without ever quarreling …”
Oh yeah, okay. [laughs]
Here Master Shantideva is talking about spiritual practitioners fighting with each other. If people are millions of years apart of their spiritual paths, it’s natural that they would think that the other spiritual paths they see are wrong, and to struggle with those who follows those paths. I think it’s important for each of us to understand that all of us are at different levels, we are at completely different levels. If there’s such a thing as past lives and future lives, then it’s very possible that people in this room are thousands of years away from each other. If person A stopped all spiritual progress today and person B worked for thousands of lifetimes, they might catch up, so naturally we see things differently. And naturally, different practices are useful for different people at different stages in their lives.
So it’s especially foolish, and you are breaking your first bodhisattva vow, if you criticize other paths, demean other spiritual paths. Also I think it’s important to say, especially in our countries, a person on a spiritual path such as the Tibetan Buddhist tradition just as one example, you have to be a real hardass, you have to be very stubborn. You have to work against the whole culture—the whole American culture is telling you from the time you are a child that it’s important to make a lot of money, or that impressing other people is important. Or that it’s important to eat a lot. Or that it’s important to have good sex with many different people. It’s important to indulge yourself. It’s important to get what you want. There’s only one life to live, live it as full as you can. And most of those spiritual ideas are just funny or they don’t really work or they’re for older people who have no other hope. And your whole culture is telling you that; the people here are struggling against the entire culture, hundreds of years of ignorance. It’s very hard, people here have to be tough, people here are stubborn.
I think even if you could be with the retreatants for a few hours [laughter] you can’t stay in a little yurt for two years, struggle, if you’re not stubborn. And naturally, when we get together five, six incredibly stubborn people, we start to have little disagreements, speechless disagreements. [laughter] Within a few minutes. That’s our nature. What I’m saying is if you go on a spiritual path, if you are working very hard, you won’t succeed unless you are very stubborn. And then when you put stubborn people together, they start to have disagreements and, Master Shantideva’s saying, you know, “May all the people practicing spiritual paths live in some kind of harmony, even though they are all stubborn.”
(29) May every person who is small or shy,
Who has no confidence, become
Strong and full of grace.
May those who’ve lived a life of need
And suffered from it physically
Recover in resplendent health.
Many of the early commentaries on this work, and there are many commentaries, they say Master Shantideva’s praying for short people. [laughter] Master Shantideva’s praying for people who don’t have confidence. Master Shantideva’s praying for people who have low self-esteem. Master Shantideva’s praying for people whose appearance is not very beautiful—physical appearance.
But if you consider where the verse is located in the context, he is obviously not talking about that at all. There are two great lessons in this verse, the first is we have to be willing to take risks in our spiritual practice. We can’t be complacent. You have to keep moving up. Every time you reach a new level, you have to go up to the next level. You don’t get anywhere without taking risks. They should be intelligent risks; I’m not saying that people should just walk out in the desert with no food or water and sit down and meditate on a rock. But there comes a time in your practice—normally you’re alone in your room, you’re meditating, you have a chance to go up to another level. It’s a little scary, maybe you’re alone, maybe you sense that it might be a little bit frightening to go. But you have to jump, you have to take a risk, you can’t be tentative.
And Master Shantideva’s sending his good karma to us, “Be willing to take risks.” You don’t get anywhere if you just lay back and do what you used to do and you’re comfortable with. I think of any kind of physical exercise. You could think of weight lifting. People who are serious weight lifters always add another two and a half pound weight at least every few days. They move up to the next level. They take a risk. People who are serious dancers, like ballet, they will tell you, “When I practice, I try to do something new. I try to push the envelope. And it hurts sometimes: sometimes I fall, sometimes I twist my ankle. But it’s the constant willingness to push the envelope ahead that makes people great.
I’ve had the honor of having several teachers show me the yoga asanas, the physical postures which help your channels open. And several of them have had serious injuries in their practice because they pushed the envelope. And they are teachers now because they were willing to push the envelope, and they became great from pushing it, from taking new risks. Again I want to emphasize, it’s not to take stupid risks, but to continue to push yourself. And Master Shantideva is sending his good karma.
I think the second half of the verse is talking about people who took a risk and failed. We, especially the people in retreat, we often try to push up to another level. And then we have a big fall. Maybe you spend a week in bed, maybe you think you’re going crazy, maybe you get what we call a wind condition—for three nights you can’t sleep; your hands are shaking. And so Master Shantideva is praying for people who took a risk, people who tried to push the envelope, and then they went a little beyond their ability. And he’s saying, “May you recover.” And I think it’s a good thing to send your good karma, too. There are many people who have tried this or other spiritual paths in this country, and they reached a serious obstacle, and they seriously hurt themselves.
I have seen many students of many different traditions, physically, mentally, emotionally they pushed a little too hard. Perhaps they lost all their faith after that. Perhaps they actually hurt themselves physically. And Master Shantideva is saying, “Get back up, try to recover, and then get back to your practice.
(30) May all who live in a place in society
Where they’re not treated right transform
Forever to a position ideal.
May those who are looked down upon
Be raised up high, and their arrogant friends
Be tumbled to the ground.
Here Master Shantideva is talking specifically about people who in their own society are looked down upon. It could be because of their nationality, it could be because of their racial background, it could be because of their sex, it could be because of—in our country—whether they have money or not. But people who society, for some reason, has a prejudice towards. Master Shantideva, in his verse, is specifically speaking about women in ancient India, who were discouraged from practicing. Social pressures were put on them—you should have a baby, you should have a family, you shouldn’t study philosophy, women don’t do that.
I met women yogis in India when I was oh, twenty or something, and still it was difficult for them. A male yogi will get honor and a big meal, and then if a woman comes the next day, everyone thinks she’s something dirty, everyone assumes she’s kind of strange or crazy or immoral woman. And so Master Shantideva is specifically praying here that people who are in a place in society where they have strong pressures on them not to be spiritual should be able to overcome those pressures, and that it should switch. I think in this country there’s a strong prejudice. People think that paths like Tibetan Buddhism are restricted to people who wear red robes or people who sit in a yurt all year. It’s a kind of ignorance and a kind of prejudice.
Lord Buddha intended, strongly intended, that people should be able to live a normal life, with a family, if they choose to, with a career, if they choose to, and that by using those careers and families wisely, they reach enlightenment in this lifetime. He taught the secret teachings, the tantras, specifically to people who were engaged in business or in running governments or who had family lives. And so there’s a kind of prejudice nowadays, if you don’t wear a red suit, people probably won’t come to hear you teach as much. If you lead a family life, people will assume that you’re not having deep meditations and seeing emptiness, or that you possibly already entered a divine realm in your living room. And Master Shantideva is praying that that kind of ignorance and prejudice should be removed.
Then he does a very strange thing. He says may people who are low in society get some kind of position, and then may people who are their arrogant friends tumble to the ground. What kind of bodhisattva would pray, what kind of bodhisattva would send his good karma to crush arrogant people to the ground? It’s a special prayer. Master Shantideva grew up in the politics of the court. It was a very dangerous place, treacherous place. The royal courts of India were places of intrigue, assassination, imprisonment for the previous dynasty. He has seen the cruelty of the court. He was the highest, socially, in his whole country.
When he prays that those who are high should be tumbled to the ground, he’s not praying that people should be unhappy. He’s praying that people like him, who grew up in a high position, like you and I have grown up … we are consuming I believe 10 percent of the people on earth consume 70 or 80 percent of its resources. We are in that 10 percent. We are in the higher edge of that. You and have grown up with tremendous comfort, rights. If the earth is being raped, it’s because of the level of comfort that you and I are demanding and we grew up with. And what he is really praying is that we should learn to fall down to the bottom, purposely. On purpose, you and I should be willing, we should see that simplicity is the real treasure. We should be willing to fall down.
You have to understand that when Master Shantideva left the throne—you don’t understand what a king is in India. A king owns everything and everybody. A king can come into your home without knocking, point to your wife, and say, “I want her, now.” And she leaves. A king can walk into your house and take your children. A king can ask you to leave your house immediately, because he owns you, and he owns your house. This is what a real king was. But Master Shantideva gave it up to become a monk, a yogi. Monks dropped out of the caste system. Still in India, when you make that move, you become casteless. You drop down below the lowest caste. You are worse than an untouchable.
But Master Shantideva, Lord Buddha himself—Siddhartha, Lord Atisha, many great lamas of the past, they did this voluntarily to themselves. They went from king to filth voluntarily, because they saw it was best for them and for others. And so Master Shantideva is praying for all the friends back at the court, that they should be willing and happy to drop to nothing. It doesn’t mean that we have to give up everything. It just means that we should be willing to live on almost nothing for practice. We should be willing to drop out of the lifestyle where career is the most important thing, and we should be willing to drop down to a much lower station, maybe a part-time job, maybe a pretty lousy car, maybe a pretty poor place to live, but simple and clean, and some place where we can do our meditations and reach high goals without all the distractions. So this is the meaning of this verse.
I ask you, please when you go home, think about what you have done for the three-year retreat. Crystallize it in your mind. Don’t think of it in your brain; see it in your heart, back behind your heart, a crystal drop. This is the main seat of your consciousness. In that crystal drop, your good karmas are ripening, flowering, and from that crystal drop at your heart, the world is appearing to you. So if you focus on some good things you’ve been doing, and you crystallize that karma in your mind, and then you send it out to one of the goals that Master Shantideva has mentioned today, which is mostly people starting out on the spiritual path. Send it out to them like clear light crystal.
This is the level on which your drop of consciousness operates—it’s not on a verbal level, it’s not on a physical level, it’s not on a mental level. The drop of consciousness deep inside you, which emanates the world that you are seeing, is ineffable. Power moves from one drop to another like crystal light, like ripples of crystal light. Try to imagine that level of energy, power, going out from the karmic seeds there. Then they become extremely powerful, and they can actually cause all the good things Master Shantideva has mentioned.
(31) And by this goodness I have done
May every single suffering being
Give up every single harmful
Thought or word or deed;
Taking up always in its stead
Thoughts and words and deeds of virtue.
This is a very joyful section of the chapter. Master Shantideva will be describing the process by which you get a gardener to turn into Jesus. Or a guy you meet on the road. Or a lady behind the counter at the Seven-Eleven in Tombstone—I guess a lot of people will go tonight [laughs].
Whether you see Jesus there or Khen Rinpoche in that lady is up to your good karma. Master Shantideva is dedicating his book that people who have been doing harmful things to others and saying not so kind things to others and thinking not very nice things about others, that they should all change now and begin to think of sweet thoughts of others.
It’s not a naive thought. Other people are often irritating. Other people harm us. Other people do plenty of bad things to us. That’s no argument. But if we react with hatred or dislike or if we try to hurt them, then we only cause more bad people to come to us in the future.
Master Shantideva is the master of patience the—art of not getting angry. He’s not naive. We have created a mess around us, each of us. There will be people and situations that’s we’d rather not have come to us. But if we respond with compassion and grace—force where it’s necessary, if it’s for something good—then we can change normal people into holy beings around us. So the first step is to clean up our own karmic act.
(32) May these beings never cease to strive
To reach the ultimate goal, for others;
And may their hearts be swept away
By the stream of loving conduct.
May they abandon every sort of dark behavior,
Remaining in the care of every Holy Being.
Master Shantideva gives us the second item in the list of ammunition you need to see Jesus in other people, and I’m not talking poetically, I mean real thing. You need simply to have kindness for other people. It’s not hard. Everyone in the world is suffering. Everyone in the world is unhappy with something. Everyone in the world is on their way to death and afraid. It doesn’t take an effort to feel sad for everyone else. There’s no powerful person or confident person or strong person you’ve met who’s not afraid. So it’s not hard to really be concerned for them and when you, when we break down the wall, it’s much more fun and happy to serve others. It’s a lot more fun.
I have tried in a small way to serve others. I fail very often. But I was introduced to these holy ideas when I was young, and a small amount has sunk in. And I can honestly say that if you spend even a small amount of your time trying to serve others you will be incredibly happy all the time and unbelievable things will happen to you.
Then Master Shantideva mentions the code of sweet loving conduct. This is a bodhisattva’s code, six perfections. He’s sending his karma to people to learn kindness and how to express that kindness. Then he says, “May people abandon dark behavior,” in Tibetan it’s du kyi le. Du means a devil, demons; le means their work. Du kyi le means “may the sweet people around us never be captured by the devil.”
What would it be like to be captured by the devil? It only means one thing in our lineage, in our teaching: It means to be caught by selfishness. It means to stop thinking about others. It means to focus on what we want, on our own needs. This is poison. This is a dead end. This is the way to be unhappy every minute of the day.
It’s such a simple thing. Just don’t worry about yourself. Things will come that you need. More than you ever dreamed of. Try to be in the embrace of the Enlightened Ones – means try to spend your whole day in that warmth thinking about what other people need. It’s a liberation in itself. Even if all this karma and emptiness stuff is not true, just the simple act of serving others is a true happiness.
(33) May every living soul enjoy
A life immeasurably long,
Living thus forever in
A state of constant bliss,
So that even the very word “death”
Is never heard spoken again.
I tried to teach these ideas for many years. Many people told me, frankly, “I like you. You seem to be sincere. But this constant mention that people could escape death itself, I haven’t heard that said a lot in books I’ve read about Buddhism and I haven’t heard people talk like that much and I appreciate that you seem to believe it but I don’t really think it’s possible.”
If things are empty, if things don’t have a nature of their own, if the reality around us is a product of that tiny crystal drop of consciousness in our hearts, then by changing defects in the DNA of the small crystal—the karmas—your body and my body can change into the body of an angel.
The stories throughout history of angels are not foolish talk. Those angels didn’t come from nowhere. The many mentions of heaven in all the literature of every culture are not just fancy stories. We can go there, because the world around us is empty, if we can try to be good to others.
And it’s not hard. You don’t have to be like John Brady or John Stilwell or Winston or Salim Bhai or Batbold. You don’t have to save the world. All you need is to be kind, truly kind, truly think of the people right around us. And then your world will start to change into a paradise, and your body will change.
There will come a day when all of us will be sitting around at Diamond Mountain, a campfire, cooking marshmallows, and somebody will say, “I was reading an old book.”
“And there’s this word in there, I can’t figure it out.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. I think we used to know that word but forgot what it means now.”
And Master Shantideva is saying outright there will come a day when the word “death” is not known in this world. We have to try to make it happen. People like you and me have to work very hard on ourselves and we have to work hard to serve others with this knowledge, and then death will vanish from the world.
(34) May all the places that exist, in every world there is,
Turn instantly into gardens of elegant design,
Filled with trees that grant your every wish.
And may the Enlightened Ones, along with their daughters
And their sons, walk amidst the trees,
Singing out the sweet song of the Dharma.
It’s a special word in Tibetan here, called kye mu tsel. kye mu means “a person”, tsel means “a garden”. There are two kinds of gardens in ancient India. One would just be a corner of a forest that a king liked to hang around in, and the other would be when some person had come in, a gardener, maybe Jesus, would come in and shape the trees into beautiful shapes and cut the hedges into beautiful shapes and they would go out and find deer and bring them to the garden. And this is what they call a man-made garden.
All of us are engaged in the in the act of trying to create our own garden. It’s a powerful word he’s using. We have to create our own paradise by being good to others. In that paradise there will be the wish-giving tree. This is a special tree, pak sam kyi shing. It’s like Aladdin’s lamp. You say “I’d like a maple-covered doughnut.” And pop! it just grows out of the tree and you pick it off and you eat it, if you can get away with it. [laughs]
And it’s an image for kindness. You can get anything you want if you are kind. All things will come to you, I repeat, we will all be going out to help others. There will be hard times—I don’t think as bad as the disciples, many of whom died from being stoned to death or executed or crucified themselves, even out of those twelve. But we may have hard times, but we don’t have to worry. There’s a balance between living a long time in a well-fed body and maybe living a little shorter time in a badly-fed body, but to be serving others with it—it’s an easy choice to make, I think.
So Master Shantideva is saying, and I hope the lady from 7-11 or other country is walking through those gardens with her sons and daughters. The sons and daughters in the verse are bodhisattvas and bodhisattvis. And he’s saying that if your heart is clear—and it takes time—one by one the people around you, you will see as Jesus. I repeat, the early disciples who saw Jesus today, Sunday, he didn’t look like Jesus at first, and then they saw the real being behind the form because their hearts were cleaned by the humility of failing.
(35) And in each one of these places
May the very foundation, the earth itself,
Be transformed, from sharp stones and the like,
Into the heavenly ground of lapis lazuli—
As smooth as the palm of your hand,
And soft to walk upon.
This is a reference to descriptions of paradise in the old books. The ground is been replaced. There’s no more sharp stones or cactuses, rattlesnakes [laughs]. It’s all like beautiful lapis, dark blue with golden shimmering sparks in it, and even though it looks like crystal, when you step on it it’s like—they say foam rubber, really. It sinks under your step and it bounces back up. It’s a metaphor for the way the world will become.
If you try to be kind to others, if you work hard, especially in ultimate ways—in the very cause of the universe—in your own drop of consciousness, if you try hard to give away your good deeds to others, from heart to heart, your world itself, the outer world, will begin to change. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s indescribable happiness. And it’s not such a big deal to be nice to others, it’s more fun. They need things, we have them. We give them. Everyone comes out a winner. And the world begins to change into extraordinarily beautiful place for you.
You have to try to cause that. You have to, tonight, please in the next few weeks and months. It’s a beautiful practice. I know we’re all busy with many good practices. It’s important not to overload yourself with good practices because then you get crazy.
But decide on a time, drop another good practice for a while and just sit back, enjoy some beautiful thing you’ve done. Crystallize it in your heart simply by thinking about it, and then send it away to help someone else. Imagine it going into their own heart. It’s a easy, beautiful practice, and it is working with the very causes of our universe. Try it tonight. Drop another practice for a while. Ten, fifteen minutes on this practice. It’s a joyful practice. You can’t say you don’t have any good deeds—I think we covered everyone here in the last four days.
(36) And like a precious jewel
Adorning this same ground,
May all the secret worlds that exist
And all the goodness in them
Abide atop these newfound lands,
Crowded with Warrior Angels.
You’ve heard the word mandala. We offer a mandala before the teaching. That mandala is our imagination of a world which is perfect, and we offer it for the teaching. At the end of the teaching we offer all the people in the universe living in a perfect world as a thank-you for the teaching.
There are painted mandalas and there are sand mandalas. All of the retreatants have learned to make the special mandala for our practice. Several of them have done very beautiful manuals to help people in the future learn to make these special, perfect worlds. And I know that many of the staff of Diamond Mountain and other places have also been keeping this practice.
But this mandala, secret world, that Master Shantideva is talking about is a perfect world—you can imagine it as floating above our world. Our world is ordinary suffering. Our world is a lot of pain. Our world is inevitable old age and death. And above it floats a perfect world, and Master Shantideva is saying, “By the power of kindness, may the mandala descend into this world, and this world becomes the mandala.”
If you understand emptiness, then there’s no problem with this world becoming a kingdom of heaven. This world doesn’t come from its side, it comes from us. It comes from the me—small subtle seeds in your own heart and if you could change those seeds by being kind and helpful to others then this world would change into the kingdom of heaven or you can call it mandala or paradise—it’s all the same place.
(37) And too, may all who live and breathe
Hear the song of birds,
The wind in the trees,
The light of the sun, and the sky itself,
Singing aloud to them an endless
Rhapsody of holy teachings.
Just as a gardener or a guy on the street can turn into Jesus for you, any event around you can turn into the teaching of an Enlightened Being. When our hearts are clear enough, clean enough, when the karmic seeds are pure enough—and you can make it happen much faster by giving away your good karmas, hugging lots of people [laughs]. Then something amazing happens. Even the wind in a tree can teach you these holy sweet teachings.
I like to sit near the ocean, especially in a certain sacred island, and listen to the waves coming in, and if our hearts are pure enough we can hear the Buddha’s teaching. Even sunlight coming down, touching our bodies, we can hear it as the sweet teachings of Enlightened Beings. If a black and white stick can appear to you as a pen because your mind is forming it into a pen, and if a gardener can appear to be a divine being to a person who has enough faith—she’s been through terrible times—then it’s no problem for the sound of the waves or the sound of the wind, or the sunlight to sing to us the teachings of the Enlightened Beings.
(38) And wherever they go may they always meet
The Enlightened Ones, and their children
Who strive for enlightenment.
May they honor these Lamas—
The highest of beings—
With endless showers of offerings.
He’s talking about, he sends his good karma to people, Enlightened Beings and then may they make offerings to these beings.”
I would like to give you a very personal instruction. It’s very dear to me. There will come a day when your heart is so clean from giving away your goodness that you will, for the first time, meet a person and see them as a holy being. If you have the seeds to see Jesus, if that’s what a holy being is to you, you will see Jesus. If it’s seeds to see a different form of holy being, you will see that being.
Because your heart is only just barely pure enough, it will waver. It will come in and out of holiness. “I think this is Vajra Yogi . . . uh, no.”
And then suddenly, “I think so,” and then, “Maybe not.” But you will have doubt. The doubt itself is a terrible bad karma. It is an evil karma. It is the greatest evil that there is.
When the time comes and you stand before a person and they say something, and it flashes through your mind for an instant, “This could be Her,” “This could be Him,” you have to stop, get down on your knees, put your head at their feet.
They will say, “What the hell you doing, guy?” If you doubt at that moment they will disappear. They will become a surprised offended stranger.
At that moment you must redouble your faith. “Don’t talk to me like that, Vajra Yogini. Don’t talk to me like that, Jesus, I know who you are. You can’t make me doubt. Have this doughnut, I’ve been saving it.”
Strange things will happen. Your karma is—you see, I’m being serious—your karma is not strong, it’s fragile, to see them. It will slip in and out of the ordinary to the divine. And through the strength of your faith you have to hold on. They might hit you. They might accuse you of being a bad person. They might say you’re crazy. They might throw you out of their home. But never doubt them. Then you will begin to see them more and more. Make offerings to them. Believe who they are and the faith will cause the reality to change. When the time comes you have to be ready.
(39) May the lords of the sky
Send down the rains on time,
So to bring forth plentiful harvests.
May all existing governments
Make their decisions based on the teachings,
And thus may the whole world prosper.
Master Shantideva is finishing his chapter. There will be three verses now, I think which are general prayers for the whole world. In Tibet they believe rain was sent down by local gods. Small gods—not Enlightened Beings, but local spirits—and he’s praying that they should send the rains down for all the earth, and that governments throughout the world should begin to change.
Again the very weather, the state of the crops in the whole world, the policies of every government in this world, are all products of a small karmic seed in your own heart. So as your heart becomes more pure, you will have the intense pleasure of seeing prosperity spread throughout this planet and many other planets. And you will have the pleasure of seeing each country run by principles of kindness and compassion, nonviolence.
(40) May every medicine come to have
The power to cure; may the secret words
Fulfill all hopes. May the minds
Of gods and spirits of sickness alike
Be overcome with thoughts of compassion.
I think to understand this verse properly we need an Irishman. John Brady has a can in his hands. He doesn’t know what’s in it, I think. I’d like to ask him to start handing the can from person to person. Everyone take one of the objects inside. It could be just a jellybean. If our karma was better, if we had been intensely kind to others, we would see it as the nectar of the gods. Nectar: nec means death, like necrophilia, tar comes from the same ancient language as Sanskrit—Tarameans “to cross over”. Nectar means amrta—to cross over death.
Maybe this small thing, which you should pop into your mouth immediately when you get one, could be nectar for us. It could stop death itself. Maybe it’s loaded with the good karmic seeds of countless angels. It’s empty, isn’t it? It could be either thing. It could be either one. So take it. Try to remember its emptiness. That’s the first step to seeing that it’s nectar—crosses you over death.
And all medicines are the same. Medicines don’t work from their own side. Medicines kill many people who take them. Anyone who’s taken a sleeping pill can tell you, sometimes they keep you up all night. There’s no power in that pill, from its side. Any power that comes, if it puts you to a gentle sleep, it’s because you have served others in the past. Those who couldn’t sleep, you helped them. So no medicine has a power from its own side.
Then Master Shantideva mentions mantras, secret words. It could be a Hail Mary. It could be a Sanskrit syllables. It could be the name of your own Heart Lama. If your heart is clean, then you can cure others with these words. If our hearts are a little mixed up like most of us, they would help a lot. But they don’t have any power from their own side. The power comes to them from your own kindness. What was the second half?
“May the minds of gods and spirits of sickness alike . . .”
In ancient India and Tibet they believed that many sicknesses were caused by the influence of spirits and local gods, local small deities—not Enlightened Beings, and then in order to cure people, as in the Bible you had to try to cast the spirit out of people. I think it’s important if you want to try it someday that—and I can’t do it, but I understand how it could work—that you feel great kindness for those spirits and then you gently and kindly ask them to leave the person.
In the New Testament Jesus casts out spirits and he talks to them. They’re scared not to have a person to be in, and he directs them to other places kindly. I think even in dealing with spirits, kindness is the method.
(41) May no single living being
Ever again feel a single pain.
May they never again feel afraid,
Never again be hurt by another,
Never again be unhappy.
It’s very simple, I don’t think this verse needs any commentary. But being long-winded, I will give it some [chuckles]. I have a good Christian friend. I grew up with him; he’s very dear to me. One day he came after I had finished a retreat in a holy cabin north of this place.
I described to him the ideas of karma and emptiness and how it seemed to fit Christ’s words so well. And he said he only had one concern. He said “If I accept what you say then because I am pure my world will change. Because I have been kind, then slowly my own world will change into a paradise. And by that, you mean that all the people around you, you will see as totally happy, Enlightened Beings.”
And I said, “Yes.”
And then he said, “But what do they see?”
I said “It’s a difficult question, but if you understand emptiness well, they could be seeing anything else.”
“Do you mean to tell me that I could look at a person here, say, a gardener, and see him as Jesus, truly see him as Jesus? Are you telling me I could look at any person and see them as Vajra Yogini?”
“But how do they see themselves?”
“That’s up to their karma.”
“You’re telling me that the gardener could be a suffering, dying human being to himself and be Jesus to me at the same time?”
“Yes, that’s emptiness.”
“But what is he actually?”
You have to get used to the idea there is no actually. There is no actually. He will seem to you, he will be to you Jesus, if you are pure enough, and even to himself he could be a suffering being. So Master Shantideva is anticipating this question, I think. We have to be able to reach heaven ourselves and then we have to show others how to do it.
It’s seems like a paradox. You’d have to be teaching the gardener as he appeared to you as Jesus. I don’t think it’s a paradox, really, but I think it takes a lot of thinking to grasp it. In the end, everyone would appear as Jesus to others and appear that way to themselves too. Master Shantideva’s praying for this day.
(42) May places of spiritual learning thrive,
Filled with people reading sacred books,
And singing them out loud as well.
May communities of spiritual practitioners
Live always in harmony, and may they achieve
The high goals for which they live together.
In the first half of the verse, Master Shantideva is saying, “end your good karmas to all the spiritual centers in the world.” I think here especially you can see it as ripples going out from your heart. You drop your good karma of putting up with that person next to you this afternoon into your heart, and then it starts to spread.
First it hits all the sweet spiritual learning centers that we are close to—for example, Diamond Mountain retreat center—and you send it to the hearts of all who are working to create this place. And then a little bit wider and you hit ACI New York and pray for all the people who are working and studying there. Send them your good karma. Send it to their hearts, especially the director. It’s a hard job. I’m glad he’s director.
Then you can send it to Godstow retreat center in Connecticut. Then you can send it to the people working so hard to save the ancient books of Tibet, the Asian Classics Input Project people. They are all over the world. Send some to their sweet director and the two or three close people who are working with him.
There’s a Geshe in Sera who has devoted much of his life to organizing the work there. He needs a lot of good karma. It’s a hard job. There are many refugees working, a large number of them poor women, in Tibetan refugee villages. And send them your good karma. There are young scholars for that in Russia and Mongolia. They are often lonely; they have a hard time in a foreign country. Send them your good karma. Pray for their success.
Of course we should send good karmas to holy lama Khen Rinpoche’s devoted students in New Jersey and Washington and other places, who have devoted their whole lives to assure that the written lineage and spoken lineage and practice in their own hearts will be spread.
Then I think it’s important to send it to centers like Vajrapani Institute or Land of Medicine Buddha or other many centers of holy Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Each one of these places is very, very precious. There are too few places in the world where you can learn these things. If it’s true that they can save a human life, if it’s true that they can prevent pain for millions of people, there are too few in the world. We have to send our good karmas to all of them, all the lineages of Buddhism in this country.
We tend to foolishly, stupidly, ignorantly, violently put down other centers of other traditions, other faiths. It’s like demanding that there be only one hospital in Arizona. It’s incredibly stupid and foolish. Each hospital has a role. Each small medical center has a role. If one person who is hurt can go to that place, it should exist and we should send it our good wishes and good karma.
And so we must send our good karma not only to the Buddhist centers but all of the religious centers in our country and other countries. There’s no church or synagogue or mosque or temple which exists if someone doesn’t benefit from it. They will just disappear and close. Therefore, if they are open and people are going there, it’s important that they stay open, like a hospital. It’s so foolish to wish that hospitals be destroyed or that people should only come to our hospital. So we should work as hard as we can to support the other spiritual centers of the world, of every faith, because they suit the needs of some sick person.
And as we said yesterday, in spiritual centers, especially of a new kind of religion in a country like here, you find groups of very stubborn people. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t stubborn. And so naturally we rub each other the wrong way sometimes. And we have to try to send karma ahead to prevent those kinds of problems.
Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, holy lama who has passed from this world, who blessed Australia and New Zealand with his teachings especially, he used to hold up a single pencil in the class in India and break it. And then he would take about fifteen pencils and hold it up and ask if any student wished to come and try to break it, together. And he said, “Your spiritual life is like that. If you can find friends who have the same goals, you can stay close to each other, support each other.”
And so it’s important that people should come together and work together. It makes you stronger. Send your special wishes to communities of spiritual people who are working towards goals. I think it’s especially important for all of us to send our good karma to the Tibetan monasteries and centers in Tibet and India. The ones in Tibet are struggling. There’s a grand revival happening. They have the special motivation of people who are endangered by the circumstances there. The same in Mongolia.
And I think especially important to send our good karmas to Sera monastery, and Sera Mey in particular, because of the incredible kindness she has given to us by sending us holy lama Khen Rinpoche. Those places will continue to produce people like Rinpoche for future generations. We have to work very hard to help them physically and send them our good karmas.
So please, very important, every church, every temple, every mosque in this world is contributing to the happiness of people. We have to pray that they stay for a long time.
It mentions studying books, reading them and singing them. We have a choice. We can read fifty books, or you can get deeply into one book. You can spend a year on fifty books, or you can spend a year on one special book. Maybe memorize that book. Sing it out loud when you can. Master Shantideva is sending you a small suggestion. I think it’s a beautiful idea. Those of you who have a dakkye practice, sadhana, I think especially he’s encouraging you to memorize it. Put it in your mind. If you die tomorrow, it will go with you.
(43) May all those who have ever taken
The vows of a monk come to master
The arts of solitude,
Throwing off every kind of distraction,
Gradually refining their minds,
Learning perfect meditation.
Master Shantideva begins to pray for ordained people. But in our context, it refers to anyone who is trying to do a spiritual practice. Not just monks or nuns, but anyone here, for example, who’s struggling to keep a spiritual practice. He says, “May they learn the arts of solitude.” I know that you know there are two kinds of solitude. One is physical. You give your credit card debt bills to the caretakers and the director and you go stay in a yurt. Sorry. [laughs] And you achieve physical solitude.
It’s much more difficult to achieve inner solitude. All the scriptures say that. If you could sit in an office in New York City and maintain your level of samadhi, your concentration, your pure heart, in the midst of chaos, then you have real solitude. Physical solitude is fragile. It’s hard to keep those perfect circumstances, like we have. But if you develop inner solitude, you could take it anywhere.
I sometimes worry that some people seek physical solitude and then they almost become weaker in their ability to maintain inner solitude under very difficult circumstances. I think those of you who are in difficult jobs, difficult family situations that place difficult demands on you, have a great opportunity to develop inner solitude. And it doesn’t matter then where you go. But also if you truly wish to see emptiness, if you truly wish to achieve high states of meditation, it’s very useful, occasionally, or often as you get older, to go into deep physical solitude.
He says, “May they be released from distractions.” And those are just mainly, in Master Shantideva, he’s talking about the distraction of thinking about yourself and forgetting others. Then you can reach deep states of meditation. It’s a very beautiful thing that people in this group are doing so many deep retreats. We don’t know precisely, but we have kinds of information that people are doing deep retreats, and this is a very wonderful thing. I hope you will continue it.
(44) May nuns forever find support
For their physical needs, and live lives free
Of conflict or any outside threat.
May every person who’s ever become
Ordained conduct themselves
Perfectly in their moral code.
Then it’s a special prayer for nuns. But it can refer I think to all of us. In ancient times it was very difficult for nuns to find support. I think it continues today. I’m very proud of the fact that almost all, or maybe all of the retreatants are women. It’s a very great step. I think it’s a great example for the future. And I think it’s great that so many people have given us support.
Then Master Shantideva prays that they would live in harmony. We mentioned yesterday women have to be even more stubborn to do deep spiritual practice, because of the ancient prejudices of our world. And so there are even more stubborn people put together, and more potential for disharmony. There are ancient books from India and Tibet on removing disharmony from groups. I think that means there must have been disharmony. And it’s a very terrible thing.
Many lamas have mentioned to me that of all the things we should watch out for the worst is disharmony within a group. You have to set aside your personal wishes, you have to set aside your opinions sometimes, when it’s necessary to maintain the harmony. There’s nothing that turns off young students more than seeing disharmony of those people who have been trained so well.
Then Master Shantideva says, “May the women practitioners be free from outside threats.” It’s been a tradition, a cruel tradition throughout history, if an army came through a country, to attack the convents and the nunneries especially. They were vulnerable. And it continues to happen. And so we pray that they not be hurt by outside threats.
Then Master Shantideva sends his energy to all people with vows. It’s one thing to decide not to harm other people and animals, not to kill them for example. It’s much more powerful if you commit yourself not to do it, formally, before a high lama like His Holiness or Khen Rinpoche. And Master Shantideva is saying, “All those people who have made a commitment like that, I send them my good karma. May they have the strength to keep those commitments they made.”
(45) And may any of those who may have ever
Broken this code regret what they’ve done,
And always work to clean the karma.
May they then return to a higher birth,
And in their new life never see
Their spiritual discipline fail again.
It’s more powerful to commit yourself not to do a wrong thing, and it’s more powerful if you break that commitment than if you hadn’t made that commitment. There’s a great lama, Lord Atisha, who helped bring Buddhism to Tibet from India. He said, “My vows are like the weather. My monk’s vows, I’ve only broken almost none of them, like a tiny drip from a faucet. My bodhisattva vows, my vows to be kind to others, I break pretty frequently, like a steady soft rain. And my tantric vows, which you can break in a single instant of negative thoughts towards a holy being, I have broken like a wild thunderstorm.” He used to carry around a small stupa, a small image, and stop all day long and pray that the bad karma of just thinking something wrong shouldn’t grow.
And so I think we are similar. I think we are fortunate to have had great lamas. We understand our vows. We are special in that way. But the mental ones especially are so hard to keep. And so send your good karma.
And here I introduce a new idea. Those of you who have done tong len—the practice of giving and taking with your breathing, you know that you can send energy ahead into the future to help yourself also. You can send your good karma to yourself tomorrow or next week or next year. And send your good karma ahead, your good karma from maybe the first days of your spiritual life when you turned away from the pain of this world, and send it ahead to yourself and say, “This is energy shipment from me now to me future. I hope it helps you to keep your vows.”
Then Master Shantideva does what we call a mayin gak in Buddhist logic. He makes one statement by saying something else. He says, “I hope they can come back to a higher life and keep their vows better in the future.” He’s saying that it’s very dangerous to break your commitments. It can take you to terrible states of physical and mental misery. And he’s trying to send energy to those people who have broken their commitments. You have also learned carefully how to clean bad karma, and it’s important to keep doing that practice, especially with the fire.
I think lastly I’d like to tell you we noticed something in our sojong rituals together. Sojong ritual, if you don’t know, is a group ritual to admit to each other the things we’ve done wrong, openly, and to encourage and support each other to improve in the future.
And so sometimes what we’ve been doing when we meet, which is not the whole group—only during break months: we keep our book, diary, during the day. We stop six times during the day; we check one of our vows and see if we have broken it or if we’ve done very well with it. And then every two weeks, which was yesterday, for example, on the full moon, we take that diary and we snip out some of the hits and some of the—what do you call—disasters. Then we share them with each other, and then at the end of the ritual we burn them all. The good ones go up in smoke and send energy to the planet; the bad ones are destroyed.
But something interesting happened. We began to notice that some of us were confessing for others. We would share a written entry from our diary, and it would say, “I managed to stay patient while retreatant B was being such a jerk, when they broke their vows so terribly.” And then retreatant B saw it and they said, “This is lucky. You’re doing my sojong for me.”
So I think it’s important. The only person who can keep your vows is you. And the only person who can keep other people’s vows is them. We don’t have to keep theirs for them.
You know there are secret vows. If there are secret vows that you know about, I think it’s logical to assume there maybe secret vows we don’t know about, that we haven’t heard about yet. And so we have to be very careful with this dedication, I believe. Send your good karma to those who seem to have broken their vows, but never forget to say “seem.” “Seems like that to me.” Because we never really know. And I think it’s a tendency for all of us.
(46) May every sage who lives in this world
Find the honor due to them, and always be offered
The food and other needs they request.
May they always take care that their hearts are pure,
And may they earn a good name that spreads
Throughout the entire world.
This is a special dedication of good karma for sages, could be yogis or great meditators or lamas. But at some point in a person’s spiritual life they may, I think you can call it “turn professional.” And there’s a change in the way you live.
Some teachers follow the path of dedicating their whole time to externally teaching others in an obvious way, and then they become dependent on the kindness of others for their support. In ancient India the word for monk was bhikshu, and bhikshu means “to eat” but it also means “to beg for your food.” And so it’s a prayer that those who’ve chosen that path will get all the support that they need. And it’s sending karma.
You wouldn’t guess how much, frankly, financial trouble great lamas have had, and have. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has tremendous debts because he’s supporting hundreds and hundreds of monks. He is, frankly, in very difficult financial situations constantly. Holy lama Khen Rinpoche, we told him, “Don’t worry, Rinpoche. We’ll give you $115 a month.” Six months out of the year we couldn’t do it. He never said a word. He never complained.
His refrigerator was often empty. I can remember a day when he said, “Go to the refrigerator. Give the food and make tea for all the students.”
I said, “Rinpoche, there’s nothing there. There’s a quart of milk.” He said, “Bring the quart of milk and make tea and give it to everyone.” Then he didn’t have anything for himself.
So we have to pray that people like that always have enough support. But when you begin to accept support from others it comes with a heavy karmic responsibility. This is very serious in the Vinaya. It’s described. The karma of support which others have given you so you can practice is extremely dangerous. To waste another person’s precious life by not using that support properly is very, very powerful bad karma. And I also especially encourage the retreatants here. We can’t waste a single drop of food. We can’t demand anything that we don’t desperately need. We can’t complain about any of the circumstances, ever. It’s extremely bad karma.
And so Master Shantideva is saying, “May those people who get support, like we are, conduct themselves in a way which would make the people proud who are supporting them.” healthy minds, until the day they reach enlightenment. And so it’s sort of a summary verse.
(47) May none of these people ever again
Undergo the pain of the lower realms;
In strength beyond the strength of gods
May they quickly win the state
Of a fully Enlightened One
Without the slightest hardship.
Master Shantideva’s praying—this is a sum up—all the people who are devoted to a spiritual path should have good physical and mental health for the whole time that they are reaching enlightenment. They should have strong, healthy bodies, strong, healthy minds, until the day they reach enlightenment. And so it’s sort of a summary verse.
(48) May every suffering being there is
Make offerings over and over again
To every Enlightened Being there is.
And may the Enlightened Ones enjoy
Forever what we have offered them,
In infinite waves of bliss.
I have trouble with offering, I tell you honestly. I see lamas like holy Lama Zopa Rinpoche or Khen Rinpoche set out extraordinary offerings all over their rooms, sometimes thousands of offerings around the house. And I have difficulty with that. I have trouble, I think, imagining a Buddha will come down and drink a bowl of water or eat a cookie the way that Santa Claus would take the milk and the cookies. I have trouble with it mentally.
But I think it’s important for us to understand that’s not what happens when we make an offering. We offer physical objects to our teachers and to Holy Beings. If the teacher is a true yogi practitioner, they have absolutely no need for almost anything we can offer them. A real yogi teacher sees another possession in their room as a new enemy. It’s just trouble, one more thing to disturb my meditation. They get rid of it as soon as they can.
There’s a beautiful story. You know: Student A goes to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, gives him a priceless rosary. Goes and sits down in the reception room. Student B goes in for his blessing. Student B comes out wearing the rosary. True story. Repeated over and over.
But the offering has been completed, and the offering is perfect. You have offered to your lama or Holy Beings something that means a lot to you. The minute you thought to offer it, it was offered. The minute you thought about offering the water bowl or the piece of fruit or the flower on the altar, countless Buddhas in countless parts of the universe were struck with countless waves of bliss. You should know that. It’s true. Don’t be discouraged or think that offering is silly.
I had students bitterly complain to me that they saw another student wearing a sweater they gave me. It means you don’t understand the offering. The minute you decide to give, the minute you put out your arms to offer the thing, countless Enlightened Beings are overwhelmed with extraordinary bliss and emptiness perceptions. Does it mean they don’t have bliss before? Of course not. Does it mean you gave them more bliss than they had before? Of course not. It’s for us. It’s that we have triggered more bliss in them and it’s an extraordinary good karma. So Master Shantideva is saying whenever any single person in this room offers even a little bowl of water, may every Holy Being be overcome with infinite waves of bliss and emptiness.
(49) May every plan there is in the heart
Of every bodhisattva to help
Every living being come true.
May everyone get every single thing
That the Enlightened Ones who shelter us
Have in mind for us to get.
I was thinking about this verse this morning. I used to work for a carpenter in the summer times in college. He was a beautiful, extraordinary man named Otto. He was very small and old. He smoked a pipe. He had an old Kansas hat on. And he was such a beautiful man. And he would come up and say, “Hey you, young feller. Take those two-by-fours there and nail ‘em together like this.” And I’d nail them together. And I would break my watch off because my aim was so poor.
He told me one day, “I can make a carpenter out of your brother Geoff, but you’re hopeless.” And he would just set me to the stupid work, and I’d nail a couple of boards together, and then three days later he’d say, “Where’s them boards?” And I’d go get the boards. And then he’d adjust them and put them into the structure of this new house. And I had no idea what the house would look like. I didn’t know what he was asking me to do. He had the whole house in his mind. And he would—three days and four days ahead, to make me busy—he would tell me to nail some things together. He has a vision of this whole house. He knows every nail that’s going to be going into this house. And I don’t have the slightest clue; I just nail them together.
Bodhisattvas are like that. They are working on a totally different level. We can’t—people can’t even imagine what bodhisattvas have in mind. They can’t imagine the extent of their vision. They are truly working on a universal level. They see things that will not happen for hundreds or thousands or perhaps even millions of years.
I’m not talking about Buddhas. I’m talking about a bodhisattva who has seen emptiness. They have a special knowledge of the master plan. They see the whole house. When they ask us to do a small thing—“Nail them boards together”—we have to do it. They have a master plan. They have a plan we can hardly, we could never imagine.
And so Master Shantideva is saying, “I pray that whatever plans these bodhisattvas have, they should come true. And people who are asked to contribute and nail boards together for the master house, they should try to do it happily and understand that a larger thing is happening.”
With Buddhas it’s even beyond that—future, past, for all time, is compressed into a single point. They see everything that will ever happen and that has ever happened, everywhere, in a single instant. And so it’s very powerful to send them your good karma. Can you imagine how big your seeds will get if you just make a simple, little prayer: “May the Enlightened Beings’ wishes be fulfilled, their plans.”
For them, a million years is nothing. Jneyam alpam. The world is reduced to water, a rain puddle for them. So in this verse, when you try to practice, send your good karma that the master plans of these Beings be realized.
(50) May those who follow the lower paths
Of self-made awakened ones, and listeners,
Attain the happiness they seek.
Those of you who know Buddhist philosophy, “self-made Buddha” is a code word for practitioners who are very advanced but don’t have compassion—ultimate compassion—yet. And “listeners” is the same. These are code words for high practitioners, very advanced yogis and meditators, but they don’t yet grasp—they haven’t directly experienced—the extraordinary wish to act on a universal level for all beings.
And so it’s almost, if you notice, the verse is very short. Master Shantideva is making a frank put-down of these people. He doesn’t even give them a whole verse. He gives them half a verse. He says, “Good luck, guys.” But the very fact that it’s such a short verse is a statement. The fact that it is the only verse in the whole chapter which is cut into half, it’s a half a verse, is an implicit prayer that you and I should never fall into that kind of attitude.
(51) And may we, through the kindness
Of Gentle Voice, remember in life after life
Who we are and what we practice,
Rejecting the worldly way of life
Again and again, until the day
We reach the level called Intense Joy.
If you notice, this is the first verse where it changes to “we.” All the other verses, almost, have been “them.” Master Shantideva is saying, “Take your good karmas and send them to your future self. Take your good karmas and ship them to yourself.”
For what? To reach “Intense Joy.”
What’s “Intense Joy?”
“Intense Joy” is a code word. It’s the Sanskrit name—pramudita—for the first level of a bodhisattva. This is the name for the first of the ten bodhisattva levels. You reach “Intense Joy,” the level called “Intense Joy,” when you see emptiness for the first time. You step on that level in the first millisecond that you have seen emptiness with the wish to help every single living creature in the universe in your heart. And at that moment you see them all, you see every one of them in a yogic perception, in a deep meditative direct perception of every living creature in the entire universe.
Each of us, if you haven’t come there already, you can reach that place. You have to try. It’s why we are here. It’s why all of these teachings are going on. It’s the purpose for their retreat. It’s the purpose for our very lives. All of us, if you haven’t reached this place, must try. What can stop you from reaching this place? The worst thing is if you forget why you should reach it. And that’s because we have to serve others.
I mentioned earlier today some of the terrible pain that I know has happened actually to people here. You have to keep that in mind. You can’t ever forget it. We are only here to stop that pain for every one of us. And so send your good karma ahead into the future. By the blessings of Gentle Voice—a name for Manjushri, the bodhisattva or the deity who represents the direct perception of emptiness. And may we never forget why we are here. It’s the only reason we are all working so hard. Everything we do is to reach the level of Intense Joy. Send your good karmas ahead to yourself and others, if they haven’t reached this level that they should reach this Intense Joy.
(52) May we gain the mystic ability
To live off even the poorest of food,
Growing ever more strong and healthy.
In all our lives may we win the wealth
Of learning to live in solitude
With nothing more than barest needs.
It’s very simple verse. As our, as we start to work more and more for other people, there should be a corresponding shrinking of our own needs. And it’s a wonderful experience, even if you can do it a little bit. But as your attitude shifts more from selfishness to giving for others, say giving to others, then naturally your own needs should start to shrink. And the combination—I think Master Shantideva is specifically saying—after you’ve seen emptiness, after you’ve reached Intense Joy, is that you start to change your body in the years after that. Your life begins to change. Especially if you’re trying to practice the secret teachings, then your own needs begin to shrink drastically.
On a moral level you should use less of the world’s resources, and on a physical level your body needs less food, less sleep. Your needs begin to shrink because you are seeing the first stages of your body’s transformation into light. And on a very gross level, people like us should begin to have less impact on our earth. We should begin to use less of her resources.
I’m not a great ecologist, but living here for the last few years, I think all of us retreatants have begun to appreciate deeply the wilderness and the wildlife, the other people who share our world. We have become close friends and companions to the local creatures. They eat with us often. They will even come to the door and wait for us, try to catch our attention. All sorts of wonderful creatures. And we begin to sense the need to share the earth with them in a deep way.
And I think as spiritual practitioners, as our physical needs should shrink as we serve others, we should and we do become more sensitive to the fact that every time we use a single object—food or material object—that we don’t really need, every time we eat something that we don’t really need, we are taking things away from the earth and from other creatures and from our future children and grandchildren. And so this verse is, I think, a very beautiful statement of simplifying our needs so we can serve others.
(53) And when anyone ever longs to see him,
Or ask him even the slightest question,
May the shroud which covers their eyes
Be torn away, so that the High Protector,
Lord Gentle Voice Himself,
This is a very, very famous verse I think the most famous verse in this chapter, so It’s a prayer that each of us would be able to have a personal lama, someone we could have around all the time. And anytime we need help we could just turn and ask them, “What should I do right now? I have a problem, can you help me right now? Tell me what I should be doing.”
We should pray that this kind of lama would appear in our lives and, eventually, if our karma is pure enough, they would be living at your side all the time, and anytime you had a problem you could just turn and ask them.
Frankly, honestly, I know it’s hard to believe. It could be the person you live with right now. It’s the same as the gardener, isn’t it? Your husband or your wife or your child, your parent, someone at work. If your heart is pure, if you give away your good deeds constantly, they will change because they are empty. And then you will have the highest of bodhisattvas living in your own house. You can turn to them. It’s not true you have to go to a cave or a yurt to practice. Your own family, your own home is a ultimate place to begin, and if your heart is pure by being kind, by giving away your goodness constantly, I believe that the first person you see as Jesus or Vajra Yogini will be the people you live with. And so Master Shantideva is sending a prayer that all people should try to reach this.
There’s a great thing happening here. In the past, in other countries like Tibet or India, the common forms of Buddhism were restricted to monks or nuns, professional holy people. And something else is happening here in the western countries. It’s what Lord Buddha really wanted.
When Lord Buddha taught the secret teachings, He didn’t give them mainly to monks or nuns or priests—He gave them to the common people. He gave them to family people. He gave them to business people. He gave them to government workers. The secret teachings were all designed for people to reach paradise in the context of their own career or family. They are the highest form of Buddhism, and you can easily see why.
I think it’s extremely auspicious and beautiful that in our countries, it looks very clear to me that the great yogis, the great meditators, the great saints will be regular people living in their own homes, having regular jobs with their family, and because of the intensity of their knowledge and their holy practice, they are living in a paradise. They reach paradise or heaven in their own home. This is the way that it will happen now, and the great teachers will be people like you.
I think it’s important to dedicate this very teaching. It’s a good chance to practice sending out good karma to others. I think we should send this karma to our teachers. We are very blessed. We have had the greatest teachers in the world. Khen Rinpoche, holy lama, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And Holy Lama Zopa Rinpoche, so precious in this world. And I think the other great lamas who have taught us, Geshe Thubten Rinchen, holy lama. Geshe Lobsang Tardu. Those of you in Australia, Geshe Thubten Tenzin, who taught us.
These and other great lamas have helped us and taught us. I think we have a special responsibility to make sure they are comfortable, to make sure they have basic needs filled as well as we can. And I would like to ask, especially the directors here, including the Australian one, please keep in touch with these holy lamas. If they have any special needs I know we don’t have great resources—I’m proud of that actually—but if they have some special problem or need, we should be in touch from time to time and make sure that we help them and keep them well, each of the lamas I mentioned.
And then it’s common to overlook the teachers who are close to you. We have beautiful holy teachers who are coming here and helping us. They aren’t Tibetan or Indian so it’s easy not to treat them properly. But if a teacher is helping us, if a teacher has come to you for a day or a few days or a month and if they personally put their hands on you and help you, then you have a responsibility towards them which is equal to the one we have towards His Holiness or Khen Rinpoche. If we treat the teachers who are close to us and who look like our same age or same nationality, if we treat them as normal people, then we will never advance much, we will never grow, we will never see heaven.
And I urge you who are studying with other teachers here, you must respect them, treat them with all the respect that you would give to His Holiness or Khen Rinpoche, and then the result of that will be your own success. Also, people teaching here should consider the other teachers with the same respect. It should be felt an honor to sit in another teacher’s class and listen to the dharma spoken.
If you don’t do that then you will fail. If you look at the person and not the dharma you will fail. Each person here teaching, and most of you will now or have become teachers, should learn from each other too, and respect each other as much as you would Khen Rinpoche, or else you don’t understand the dharma. And I ask that, to prepare people for the special teachings later, in the next year the classes in New York or, or Diamond Mountain or Australia or any other place, Ireland, people must be prepared. You have to try very hard to make available classes in all of the eighteen courses.
Every person who comes to us should have an opportunity, within, say, four or five years, to take all of the courses. There should be living teachers, not tape recorders, available in as many places as possible to teach even classes of one or two people. Each of the courses within a four or five-year time. You have to work very hard, especially the directors, to assure that this is available for people who wish it. It’s very bad if the classes break, if the lineage breaks down. If every five years the classes are not being held in many places, the lineage has broken down.
(54) We are working to achieve the goals
Of all the living things there are
In every corner of this universe;
And so by this power may we learn to do
Every single one of the things
That Gentle Voice is able to do.
It’s a prayer, sending energy to ourselves in the future, that we should be, learn to act like Manjushri himself. Mainly the power to see emptiness directly. May we learn to see that. Send power ahead to yourself. And also to act in secret ways, to act around the world in secret ways.
(55) And may we decide that we will stay
To work to clear away the pain
Of every living being there is
Until the last day of this
Universe; until the very last
Suffering creature is changed.
It’s a prayer that we learn to take responsibility for everyone else. And it begins with just the work you are doing anywhere. For example, if there’s a teaching like this then you stick around after it’s over. We used to serve Holy Lama during the retreats in New Jersey. They used to be ten days long. And many people would come. And on Sunday afternoon there’d be a small tornado of cars leaving, and suddenly the entire grounds of the temple and the house were empty of people and full of garbage and work to do, clean up. And it’s a kind of attitude that begins with small things like that.
Will you be there the day after the teaching, offering to help people clean up and put things away? Will you wait around until the real end of the virtue? And then it expands on a greater level. Are you willing to make a commitment to stay as long as it takes to help the last person through the door?
Many of you know, who have studied deeply, that it’s not true that bodhisattvas must stay and suffer until the last person is through the door of enlightenment. It works the other way around. A bodhisattva’s job is to get enlightened immediately, go to nirvana and highest enlightenment as fast as you can, because then you can emanate countless bodies and help other people in trillions more ways than you can if you wait. So it’s not correct, the rumor that bodhisattvas choose to stay in the suffering world until every other person is gone beyond—it’s the opposite. But we have to have that attitude, that we would be willing to stay and suffer if we had to, to help others. In actuality, your job is very exciting. You have to get to total bliss quickly so you can really help others. This is just as statement of the attitude that you should have that you will work for others’ sake. You will think of others first.
There’s many students—and I do it myself—we say we’re working for all living beings, and then when there’s only one donut left in the box we eat it ourselves. We do that. It’s a sign. It’s an indication. It’s a danger signal that we don’t have bodhisattva’s attitude. It starts with small things. You can’t claim to be a bodhisattva or studying bodhisattva’s way of life if you can’t give away a cup of tea or the last donut. We have to start with those things. We have to start with small things. And give them away to other people.
(56) May every single pain that is coming
To any single being there is
Ripen now upon me instead.
May the great community of bodhisattvas
Go forth and spread through all the world,
To work for the happiness of all.
This is an ancient practice of trying to take other people’s bad karma away from them and swallow it ourselves. It’s so important, I’d like to leave it, if you don’t mind, for tomorrow. What was the second half?
“May the great community of bodhisattvas . . .”
There’s a beautiful Sanskrit verse. Let’s see if I can remember. Kanda itva kala dandam brahmande vicaranti. It means—kanda itva means “those Holy Beings who are walking around on this planet in disguise, among the mass of people.”
In the dakkye, it starts, “Ji nye dorje kandroma,” “however many you may be, I don’t know.”
Kala dandam means, kala means “time” but it’s a word for the Lord of Death. Dandam means “a club,” “a stick.” It means, “those who have clubbed death to death.” It’s a beautiful word, kala dandam. “Those who have murdered death,” because they have moved beyond this kind of body, they have entered a state beyond death. It is the goal of all of us,and to take other people there. Brahmande means “the egg of Brahma.” It’s a word for the universe. Vicarantite means “those who wander around the world in disguise helping the rest of us.”
And Master Shantideva’s prayer is the same: “I send the energy of writing this holy book, Bodhisattvacaryavattara, I send it to all those secret agents, bodhisattvas, who are all over the place. May you continue to wander through our world and help people secretly.”
(57) The teachings of the Enlightened Ones
Are the one medicine that can cure
The great sickness of living kind.
They are the one ultimate source
Of every form of happiness.
And so by this power may the teachings remain
Long upon this planet, with all the support
They require, and all the respect they deserve.
Master Shantideva’s praying that the single medicine for all suffering should remain in this world, the teachings of the Enlightened Ones. It boils down to one thing: Serve other people. Take care of other people. Take care of other people.
It’s the whole teaching in that one sentence: take care of other people. If people continue to take care of others, then the teachings of all religions are staying on this planet. And they are the one medicine for all pain in this world. And anything that contributes to keeping that idea in this world, send your good karma to that.
(58) And lastly do I bow myself
Down to the One with a Gentle Voice,
The One who has been kind enough
To teach me the ways of virtue;
Thus last do I bow myself down
To the One who was kind enough
To raise me up from childhood:
I bow to You,
My Spiritual Guide.
This is the final verse, We all come to our teachers like children, small children. I remember, I think the first day I came to holy lama Khen Rinpoche. I was, I think, twenty two. And one of his senior students sat me down and said, “I’ll be honest with you. It’s a lot more trouble to have you here than not to have you here. It will be more trouble for Rinpoche.” He was called “Geshe-la” at the time. “Your very presence here is trouble for Rinpoche.”
I was very new. I was sort of blown away. And I went home to my little room and I thought about it. And I thought, “I’m going to try not to be trouble.” But I was. And I still am. And it’s hard, it’s hard to bring up a student. It’s a lot of pain. It’s a lot of work. It’s not – you can’t finish this in a year or two. It takes a lifetime. And that relation remains for many lifetimes. And in a sense our teachers have taken us like a child in a basket left at the door. And they take responsibility for us. And we fight them. We struggle against them. We can’t listen to them. If we could, we wouldn’t need them. It’s true. It’s by definition—rang gi tsen-nyi ki drup. We don’t know enough to even be a good student. That’s why we’re a student.
And so the last verse is a prayer, sending whatever little good karma we have to our teachers. “I’m sorry for being such a difficult case. And I pray that you will stay with me. I pray that all my teachers, my many teachers here, will not give up on me. I pray that you will continue to try to guide me, even when I’m crazy and I’m fighting you. Even when I don’t listen to you. Even when I refuse to see who you are.”