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Lions Roar : January 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2013 38 course all of us, even the rich, experience moments of sadness and hopelessness, and we may even momentarily feel the urge to turn our backs on all this world has to offer. But this is not a genuine experience of renunciation mind, as it has far more to do with wea- riness and boredom than renunciation; it is often a sign that, like a spoiled child tired of his toys, we are in desperate need of a change. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye said that if deep down you con- tinue to believe a tiny corner of samsara could be useful or that it might even offer the ultimate solution to all your worldly problems, it will be extremely difficult to become a genuine spiritual seeker. To believe that life’s problems will somehow work themselves out, that everything bad is fixable, and that something about samsara has to be worth fighting for, makes it virtually impossible to nurture a genuine, all-consuming desire to practice the dharma. The only view that truly works for a dharma practitioner is that there are no solutions to the sufferings of samsara and it cannot be fixed. It is vital to understand that however positive this worldly life, or even a small part of it, may appear to be, ultimately it will fail because absolutely nothing genuinely works in samsara. This is a very dif- ficult attitude to adopt, but if we can at least accept it on an intel- lectual level, it will provide us with just the incentive we need to step onto the spiritual path. (Other incentives include making fools of ourselves or becoming entangled in worldly systems by trying to fix them.) The bottom line, though, is that only when a beginner truly appreciates just how hopeless and purposeless samsara really is will a genuine aspiration to follow a spiritual path arise in his or her mind. As Shakyamuni Buddha, compassionately and with great courage, explained to an autocratic king, there are four inescap- able realities that eventually destroy all sentient beings: 1. We will all become old and frail. 2. It is absolutely certain that everything will constantly change. 3. Everything we achieve or accumulate will eventually fall apart and scatter. 4. We are all bound to die. Yet our emotions and habits are so strong that even when the truth is staring us in the face, we are unable to see it. In addition to recognizing the futility of samsara, the point of dharma practice is that it penetrates our minds and diminishes our affection for our ego and worldly life by pressing us to detach ourselves from the eight worldly dharmas. However beneficial a practice appears to be, however politically correct or exciting, if it does not contradict your habit of grasping at permanence, or looks harmless but insidiously encourages you to forget the truth of impermanence and the illusory nature of phenomena, it will inevitably take you in the opposite direction of dharma. Develop the Willingness to Face the Truth Most of us tend to resent being confronted with the truth, and from resentment springs denial. The most obvious example is that we feel annoyed when we are forced to acknowledge the illusory nature of our lives and the reality of death. We also take exception to contemplating it, even though death is an irrefut- able universal truth. Our habitual reaction is to pretend it will never happen—which is how we deal with most of the other inconvenient truths we find difficult to stomach. Instead of becoming resentful, though, it is important for any- one who sincerely wishes to become a dharma practitioner to develop a willingness and openness to embrace the truth, because the dharma is the truth. The Buddha himself made no bones about it. He never once provided his students with rose-tinted glasses to take the edge off the horror of the truth of imperma- nence, the agonies that are “emotion,” the illusory nature of our world, and, above all, the vast and profound truth of shunyata, emptiness. None of these truths is easy to understand, or even to aspire to understand, particularly for minds programmed by habit to long for emotional satisfaction and aim for ordinary bliss. So if someone is able to hear teachings about emptiness and tolerate them intellectually as well as practically and emotionally, it is an indication that they have a real affinity for the dharma. Overcome Poverty Mentality Many of us feel spiritually impoverished. Kongtrul Rinpoche said this is because we never stop desiring comfort and happiness. Until that kind of poverty mentality is overcome, a large portion of our mind will always be busy trying to secure personal comfort and happiness, making letting go of anything at all extremely dif- PHOTOBYMARVINMOORE Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche teaching.