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Lions Roar : May 2006
If we don’t tackle our negative emotional patterns, we are bound to repeat them and remain in samsara. Tsongkhapa (1357–1419) writes: “The root of all ills is taking rebirth in samsara. That must be stopped. Stopping it depends on preventing its causes, which are karma and negative emotions. Between these two, if there is no negative emotion, karma will not become the cause of rebirth. However, if you have negative emotions, then even if there is no accumulated karma, new ones will quickly pile up.” So we need to check ourselves and start from where we are. There are three possible mindsets: negative, positive, and perfect. By perfect I mean total wisdom, the nonconceptual realization of our true nature. Chances are, we are a mix of positive and negative, as only realized masters are perfect. As long as we are mired in negative emotions, we can’t leap to perfection, just as we can’t jump from a mountain base to its peak. So we need to go from negative to positive to perfect. Acting as though we were near spiritual perfection when we aren’t is just fooling ourselves. Atisha (982–1055) once said, “The ultimate meaning of all teachings is emptiness, of which compassion (skillful means) is the essence.” “Then how come,” his disciple asked, “so many people say that they have realized emptiness when they haven’t made a dent in their hatred and attachment?” “Because,” Atisha replied, “their claims are mere words.” Our ego is solid like a rock. The more we generate compassion and devotion and make merit, the softer it gets. Eventually it becomes intangible. One day, it dissolves. All the cloud-like traces of negative karmas vanish from our sky-like mind, and our sun-like unstained enlightened nature shines forth spontaneously. The Buddha says: Sentient beings are buddha in their true nature. However, (their true nature) has been covered by adventitious obscurations. When their obscurations are cleared, they are the very Buddha. Rebirth We sometimes think that karma depends only on what we do. But what counts most is our mind. The Buddha said: Mind is the main factor and forerunner of all actions. Whoever acts or speaks with a cruel mind will cause miseries for himself ... With a pure thought, will cause happiness for himself. Karma has its greatest chance to change our lives when we leave our body at death. When we enter the bardo, the transitional passage between death and our next incarnation, all we are is mind. Freed from the strictures of our physical surroundings and body, our mind runs its own show. Our karmic habits unfold as the terrain, sights, and sounds of the bardo and propel us to our next birth. If we have cultivated compassion and devotion, loving images will greet us. Flowers may shower upon us from the sky. Buddhas and teachers to whom we prayed could appear. Negative mental habits, however, will manifest as frightful images. People often assume that they will come back as people. But a human rebirth requires much merit and many aspirations. It doesn’t happen automatically. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 64