using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : May 2006
There are many ways to make merit, or positive karma. The most comprehensive are the six perfections (paramitas) that Mahayana Buddhism prescribes as the path to enlightenment. They are: giving (generosity), discipline (morality), patience (fearlessness), diligence (eagerness), tranquillity (contemplation), and wisdom. The first five perfections, collectively referred to as “skillful means,” are especially for accumulating merit. The sixth, wisdom, involves realizing the true nature of mind, which is wisdom-emptiness. The undervaluation of skillful-means practices to develop merit is unfortunate. Their purpose is to refine and transform our mind. Devotion opens our hearts. Compassion dissolves ego. Prayer unites us with our enlightened qualities. Pure perception transforms our awareness. Serving others, especially those who rely on us, is the purpose of dharma. There is no such thing as a buddha who doesn’t help others. So the more we open our hearts to skillful means, the more quickly and surely we reach buddhahood. We should never abandon these practices, for the path of skillful means is perfected in the goal of enlightenment, just as bricks become the finished house. The Need for Dualistic Practice Why do we need dualistic practices, such as generating merit, to reach a state that transcends duality? Because we have to start from where we are. Our mind’s true nature is covered by karmic turbulence caused by our grasping at self and our negative mental habits. “Grasping at a self ” refers to the way we grasp at mental objects as truly existing, perceiving them dualistically as subject and object. The aspect of our mind that perceives this way is conceptual mind. Conceptual mind and the true nature of mind are like the surface and depths of the ocean: The surface is choppy with wind-tossed waves; beneath it is still and peaceful. Most of us can’t glimpse into the depths, our true nature, because our conceptual mind is constantly churning out turbulence. Grasping at self tricks us, like a nightmare, into believing that we are separate from the world and each other. This triggers negative emotions, from craving and anxiety to jealousy and aggression, which spill out into unhealthy words and actions. Every dualistic perception, every negative thought, feeling, word, and deed, leaves a negative karmic imprint in our conceptual mind that walls us off from our true nature. On the other hand, positive mentalities leave positive karmic imprints that open our mind, loosen grasping at self, and thin out the barriers to our true nature. As long as we have dualistic concepts and emotions, the world is solid to us. Our suffering is all too real. Circumstances matter. If our surroundings are chaotic, it will be hard to find tranquillity. If we experience peace and joy, however, we will be inspired to generate even more peace and joy. Then whatever we say and do will be the words and deeds of joy and peace. We progressively loosen our grasping at self, and eventually we glimpse the luminous nature of our mind. If we perfect this realization, we uproot grasping at self and become fully awakened. Merit and Emptiness I am not saying that we should not meditate on the nature of the mind. My point is that we should do so in conjunction with skillful means. Buddhist masters have always said that buddhahood is the result of two accumulations: of skillful means and of wisdom. Merit and wisdom are each as indispensable to attaining enlightenment as two wings are to a bird’s ability to fly. Chandrakirti (7th century) writes: With two widely opened white wings Of relative truth [skillful means] and absolute truth [wisdom] The kings of swans [bodhisattvas] and their flock of swans [disciples] Soar through the ocean of supreme Buddha qualities. Practicing skillful means such as generosity and morality is a powerful way to create positive karma. The more wholeheartedly we devote ourselves to it, the deeper its positive imprints go in our mind and the more walls we break through. Trying to meditate on emptiness without accumulating merit may not make an impact on the walls barricading our true nature. So its effect is uncertain at best. Saraha (1st century) writes: Without compassion [merit], the view of emptiness Will not lead you through the sublime path. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 62 Our ego is solid like a rock. The more we generate compassion and devotion and make merit, the softer it gets. Eventually, it dissolves.