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Lions Roar : January 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2011 21 What is buddhahood? it is the attaining of egolessness. but what are we realizing the egolessness of? according to the theravada school of buddhism, if we at- tain egolessness of self, we realize nirvana, enlightenment. this is a common approach: to attain enlightenment for oneself. but when we have discovered the emptiness of the self, what is left? the other. in the Mahayana school, the “Great Path,” egolessness of other is one of the most profound teachings. the self has no entity in itself, but it believes it does. its nature is that it spreads. Wherever it goes it pervades; whatever it encoun- ters it begins to absorb as “i.” For example, when we were born, somehow our consciousness was able to transfer from our previ- ous life into this body, which exists only in a temporary way. once we came into this body, we thought, “hmm, not bad. it’s not mine, but i’ll make it mine.” and once we got used to our body, we im- mediately began thinking: my mother, my father, my house. then my city, my state, my country, my planet, and so forth. Ego has no boundary. it can go on continuously appropriating other. When we come in contact with something, initially we look at it in a neutral way; we see it as belonging to somebody else, or maybe belonging to no one. if we see a tree, we don’t automatically think, “My tree.” but if we build a house next to it, after a while, we think, “My tree.” this happens in any situation. When we buy an article of clothing, at first it feels foreign, but then it begins to feel familiar as my shirt. it is other, but the ego is constantly solidifying it as self. the Mahayana teaches that complete egolessness comes about only when we have understood egolessness of other as well as the egolessness of self. there are two approaches in terms of how to practice the Mahayana: the direct path and the gradual path. on the direct path, we recognize the empty nature of self and other on the spot. on the gradual path, we recognize the nature of things progressively: First we recognize the self as empty. then we recognize other to be empty. then we recognize things to be the mind, and that this mind itself is empty. these teachings direct us toward helping other sentient be- ings, because being able to help others is grounded in having discovered the emptiness of the self. so Mahayana logic is that we begin to flip from self to other. a crucial element of the Mahayana is the bodhichitta practice illustrationbyjEssicavonhandorF Love & Emptiness The first realization on the Buddhist path is our own emptiness—we look at the self and find nothing permanent. The next step is the egolessness of other, says Sakyong MiphaM, and the way we discover it is through love and compassion. Sakyong MiphaM Rinpoche is the spiritual leader of Shambhala, an international network of Buddhist meditation and retreat centers. he is the author of turning the Mind into an ally and ruling your World.