The strongest impression of Kadro-la I have is her presence. She seemed to me to emanate joy and kindness and another quality I find hard to pinoint, maybe fearlessness. Her chuckle was infectious and pure. Her face glowed. There were a few points that she seemed to make in each of her three teachings. She said the important thing is to cultivate a good heart, a kind heart, more openness and consideration for others, and less selfishness. She said that to develop these qualities we need to transform our minds. It is not effective to attend pujas, recitations and so on without first transforming your mind. You transform the mind by studying, analyzing and meditating on the lam-rim, the graduated path to enlightenment. Some notes I made at the last of her teachings are given below.
Visit from Khadro-la to Hayagriva Buddhist Centre
Notes from teaching on Sunday 23 March 2014, taken by Len Warren
The talk today is meant for both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. There are practices of benefit to both.
We all have a feeling of belonging: it can involve pride in one’s group, patriotism for one’s country. As social animals one can belong to one’s country, language, religion, philosophy, family, and so on. The more liking we have for this or that, the stronger our feeling for this or that. We feel most attached to what is closest or most important to us, and this is natural. However, we should investigate. Is this attitude honest?
When we consider others and their desires, we see that we are all the same in wanting happiness and in not wanting suffering. When we investigate what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ with discriminating intelligence we see that there are positive actions and negative actions, but that the classification is relative. So there is no point in being so attached or so averse to particular people or situations. The groups we belong and the reasons why we belong are all changeable over time.
The attitude of only wanting to improve things for ourselves would be OK if that’s what always happened. But generally, we do not get what we want, and we get what we don’t want. This is especially the case with a strong self-grasping mind, which is a very negative mind that cares only for me, mine and my country. What is it that destroys the world? What brings misery? It is mainly human beings who cause these things. Arming your country only ends up harming yourself and others. The desire for weapons only comes after we have defined some others as enemies. This is a terrible way of living your life. Suffering affects us all in the same way.
In business, we are concerned almost totally with our own welfare. We disregard what happens to others. This is very selfish.
Sentient beings are beings whose minds are mistaken, whose minds are always leading them astray, the slaves of delusions, and hence affected by the cancer of suffering. The cause of this disease of suffering is the ‘Three Poisons’: ignorance, attachment and anger. As soon as the right conditions are in place, suffering ripens.
The buddha-dharma is the antidote, and its root is compassion. We should use compassion with the tool of wisdom, then we can deal with any problem. We are empowered. The kind heart that considers others’ interests generates a good kind of ‘love’. Then our behaviour will become good, peaceful and kind; our speech will become ‘sweet’. A president of a country, by cultivating such habits, won’t implement his responsibilities with the basis of strong attachment to his country, but instead will consider all beings. Creating peace relies on a behaviour that is peaceful and honest. In this world we lack honesty and kindness. Our planet Earth is hurting so much as a result of our actions. As a result, many beings suffer.
I think that the natural environment we live in is strongly related to human motivation and behaviour. Now we destroy what we what – this is stupid! We are poisoning ourselves. One can’t reach enlightenment without discipline and ethics. In a similar way, in a country we need rules based on ethics otherwise we end up making poison and consuming it.
We need to cultivate a kind heart, more openness. This has many levels or dimensions. It is most important for example that sentient beings protect themselves. If you can take care of yourself in a kind way, this is how you will behave toward others. But to develop such a strong heart, we need a strong desire to do so. Otherwise the opposites of lying, malice and harsh speech will take over. All religions declare that we should practise love, tolerance, compassion, generosity. We need these qualities all the time, wherever we go, wherever we are born. We need them for harmony in relationships. To refrain from killing an animal because you are afraid of accumulating that negativity is good, but this thinking is still biased, and it is better not to kill because you know that the animal does not want to die prematurely nor does it want to suffer, any more than you do. This is true compassion. It is based on wisdom and honesty. We need wisdom to see the contradictions in our life and actions.
If your child had the wisdom to choose good friends he would choose someone with a kind heart, an altruistic intention. If parents had this kind heart, they would behave kindly, compassionately, but wisely, without spoiling their children. Parents without discriminating wisdom give their children everything they want. They get too many toys and distractions. Then they select negative friends and waste their time with toys, games, distractions, moving on to smoking and drugs. Then their life goes wrong for them.
We need to add to modern education the kind heart that is taught in the buddha-dharma. Children would be more respectful, more tolerant. The qualities of non-violence, kindness and compassion are universal. Those in charge of education need the kind heart.
Wanting these qualities is not enough, We need to transform our minds through correct training. We cannot buy the intelligence we need from a shop, nor can our friends transfer it to us from them, neither can the Buddha. We already have what we need: buddha-potential. The innate intelligence can be cultivated through faith based on understanding. In tantra, it is said that the actual spiritual master is your own innate awareness. The starting point is the depth of our consciousness. To transform this into a positive state we use the same consciousness. All things are possible.
The ways to transform the mind were all explained by the Buddha, they are all there. If we do not practise them, we will not progress. With even a little understanding of buddha-nature, we will become convinced that liberation is possible. When we see that beings are suffering but keep on creating the causes for further suffering, compassion will arise in our minds. Worldly people, when they are dying, look back and regret what they did and what they didn’t do, but if you have spent your life helping others, you will have no regrets. If you only followed your craving for the objects of the five senses, it will be hard to separate from these things. You will have too much fear even to say a prayer. Whether we believe it or not, virtue brings happiness. Do not harbour the illusion that your situation will not change – it will. If you lived a selfish life, then when you are dying no friends or family will gather to help you. Selfish people can have trouble keeping pets, and when they retire, they don’t know what to do. What a waste of life.
It is always possible to purify negativities and it is aways possible to help others. It is not right to give up and think, I don’t know what to do, especially when you are older. Remember to accumulate merit. This is not a religious thing. Happiness doesn’t come about without causes nor from contradictory causes. Merit is what causes happiness. Some people say, I have been practising but nothing good happens to me. The good karma may still ripen, or if not, it will in a future life. One can accumulate merit physically, verbally or mentally. The most important is mentally created merit. We can have so many negative thoughts. In these degenerate times, it takes much effort and perseverance to cultivate an honest, positive mind. It doesn’t just happen.
For beginner Buddhists, it is impossible to engage in tantra immediately. One needs deep understanding and to have realized emptiness and bodhicitta. You can get good imprints from going to a high lama, but it won’t help you on your path to liberation. If we want true cessation, we need to understand suffering and its causes, then follow the path. We need to know the dharma, cultivate our understanding, and as our interest grows further, develop the habit of practice. What obstructs us are self-grasping and self-cherishing, which are inside our mental continuum. When all the defilements in our continuum are removed, the innate clear light of buddhahood dawns. It is not to be found in a Pure Land, it is in your own mind. You recognise your own emptiness. Even though the Buddha’s compassion is unsurpassed, he cannot transfer these realizations to you. He gave 84,000 teachings to antidote 84,000 delusions. You must study and cultivate good habits. The Dharma jewel is the medicine for us. Inner, outer and secret refuge is necessary at any time and at all times. Buddha is thusness itself, not form nor sounds. Study the lam-rim till we feel that our minds have been transformed. We will notice that our self-grasping decreases and our mind becomes kinder. But people who claim, for example, to have seen Avalokiteshvara are deluding themselves; they have big contaminated mouths!
Dharma is not doing rituals, this is not the real thing. Doing practices and recitations without first transforming your mind has little or no benefit. So it’s good to follow the lam-rim: precious human rebirth, impermanence, death, suffering, refuge, compassion and bodhicitta, the wisdom realizing emptiness.
Such study requires great effort. But if you enjoy it, your effort will be spontaneous. It’s similar to the way some people enjoy meaningless games and therefore spontaneously put great effort into them. Cultivate faith toward the Dharma and the spiritual master. Don’t abandon the Dharma. You should respect all traditions, Buddhist and non-Buddhist. It’s bad to criticize. It’s always beneficial to hear teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is a buddha, so don’t stay away just because you think you’ve heard it all before. Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s great wish is that you get some understanding of bodhicitta and emptiness.
With respect to practices, if you do not understand the meaning, there is no point in practising. And if there are say tantric commitments that you do just because you are afraid of going to hell otherwise, then it is probably better for you to leave the practice aside for the moment and concentrate on avoiding the Ten Non-Virtues and cultivating the Ten Virtues. You need to want to do the practices based on strong conviction from reasoned analysis.