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Lions Roar : March 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 19 EACH TIME I LEAVE A meditation retreat, I’m struck by the level of speed and stress in our environ- ment. I’m not just talking about Westerners. The first time I went to Tibet, life there was very simple, but when I returned three years later, cell phones were ringing and the dis- traction was visible, even while I was conducting ceremonies. Something else I’ve noticed lately is that we’re bombarded with bad news. But the people I admire have always focused on the good news: that we have in our mind wisdom, compassion, and all the other elements of enlightenment. While living in stressful times does not ultimately affect our en- lightened qualities, it does demand that we become more engaged in awakening them. To transform the environment, we must begin with our own mind. We can’t expect everyone else to change first. As my father, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, was fond of saying, “It’s easier to put on a pair of shoes than to wrap the earth in leather.” The process of putting on a pair of shoes is the path of enlightenment. On the ultimate level, enlightenment is already here, but on the relative level we need to engineer its causes and conditions. The mind is a neutral situation, like a cotton sheet that we can dye any color we want, but unless we take hold of it, karmic ten- dencies—whatever habits we’ve ingrained in the past—will just take over. The practice of the path is slowly orienting that white cloth and coloring it the way we want. The path consists of three elements: view, meditation, and activity. View is our orientation, and how we orient our life is inti- mately connected with our motivation. Traditionally, the Bud- dhist teachings list three kinds of motivation: small, medium, and large. These levels of motivation describe how we evolve on the path of enlightenment. When we wake up in the morning, where is our mind taking us? Whatever it is, from that motiva- tion, everything else will arise. If our motivation is small, we will use our day getting the “stuff ” we think will make us happy—food, clothing, and friends. If it’s a little bigger, we might add some yoga to make us feel bet- ter. We might even expand it further to think about the karmic consequences of our actions—but it’s still all about “me.” With a medium-level motivation, we’re no longer so fixated on our own happiness; the basis of our actions is loving-kindness and com- passion. We’re maturing. With the largest motivation, we put the happiness of others before our own. This is the motivation of the Buddha. If we get up in the morning and the first thought that comes to mind is, “There are so many sentient beings; even if I am the last person on earth, I will stay here to help them,” that is a very big view. Motivation is just an attitude, and it’s free. So why not have big motivation? Why is view so important? View is how our mind is oriented, and the way our mind is oriented determines what we get. Our realization is based on the size of our view. The view of enlight- enment is that we are taking charge of our own destiny. Unless we take the mind where we want it to go, the environment will take the mind where it wants it to go. By setting our view every morning, we become very good at supporting ourselves in the second element of the path, medi- tation. Meditation is essentially a dualistic process in which we place our mind on an object. When we place our mind on some- thing, the mind absorbs its qualities, because we’re becoming familiar with it. This isn’t particularly a spiritual truth; it’s our everyday reality. For example, if the object is the anger you feel toward your spouse, you become more familiar with anger, soak- ing up its qualities like a sponge. In the end, that meditation leads to action. You yell at your spouse or stomp out of the room. Meditation is a proactive approach to this reality of mind. We practice choosing the object rather than being led by whatever thoughts and emotions randomly beckon. We steep our mind in qualities that lead it forward. We begin with the stabilization tech- nique called shamatha, “peaceful abiding,” in which we focus on the breath. Through this practice our mind becomes settled and work- able. Why is this important? We may have good intentions, but if we can’t control our mind, we can never enact them. For example, we want to be compassionate but we get discursive, distracted by our mental ups and downs. Before we can cultivate compassion, we The Path Home It’s one of paradoxes of spiritual practice: we need a path to travel to where we already are. SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE explains how to create the causes and conditions for realizing the enlightened nature we already possess. PHOTOBYJOHNEINARSEN MAR 18-41.indd 19 MAR 18-41.indd 19 12/19/07 2:33:56 PM 12/19/07 2:33:56 PM