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Lions Roar : January 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 53 eat something obnoxious, we would do it without thinking. It might not be easy for us, but we can immediately say, “I will not do that.” This is not a problem but the proper way of practicing patience. It must be a response that comes from deep within. DIlIgence If Hearers and Solitary Realizers for their benefit alone Practice diligence as if their heads were on fire, To develop diligence, the wellspring of all qualities That benefit every being, is the practice of a bodhisattva. The demon of diligence is struggling or pushing too hard. This is a problem, for true diligence means taking joy in doing positive things. Whatever practices we do should be done in a sponta- neous and natural way. essentially, meditation practice is about entering into the nature of suchness. It is not about beating ourselves up and forcing ourselves to do something. There is no need to strain and think, “I don’t want to do this, but I have to.” It should be a natural reaction, as if a fire were burning on our head. (This example in the verse refers to practitioners from the Foundational Vehicle, who are thought to have the more limited aim of freeing only themselves from samsara.) If our hair catches fire, we do not say, “I should probably get rid of this fire, but I don’t want to.” nor do we turn it over in our minds, consult our teachers, conduct research, or send off a stream of letters. Without thinking, we immediately jump up and extinguish the fire effortlessly. True diligence happens with a lively interest and joyful spontaneity. We do something because we see clearly that it is important and essential. A while ago, the BBc broadcast a program about birth, old age, sickness, and death. Watching it, I saw many people who were suffering and thought how much they could be helped by dharma if they really understood it. When I see millions of peo- ple suffering, I feel completely energized to do something about it. It is not a struggle or a matter of coercing myself to do some- thing I don’t want to. Diligence is really about our motivation: we feel totally absorbed and joyful in wanting to do something. MeDITATIVe concenTrATIon Knowing that deep insight fully endowed with calm abiding Completely conquers all afflictions, To cultivate a concentration that transcends The four formless states is the practice of a bodhisattva. Meditation, the fifth perfection, has a demon called “attachment to experience.” It is not easy to fully understand meditative ex- perience. The verse refers to formless states of meditation, which are categorized as follows: limitless space, limitless conscious- ness, nothing whatsoever, and neither existence nor nonexis- tence. Much has been written about these, but they lie outside the main point here. What we need to know is that when we meditate, all sorts of experiences will come, both good and not so good. These experiences, however, are not important. Here, the key is the extent to which our meditation serves as an anti- dote to our afflictions. How many obscurations and how many afflictions have been subdued or cleared away? This is the true test of meditation, not what wonderful or special experiences we might have. In fact, if we become attached to these experi- ences, that is a problem. WIsDoM Without wisdom the five perfections Cannot bring forth full awakening. To cultivate wisdom endowed with skillful means And free of concepts in the three domains is the practice of a bodhisattva. Wisdom is the sixth perfection and its demon is the obstacle called “the demon of increasing poison.” This obstacle is very se- rious, even monstrous, like an immense beast with nine heads. It comes up after studying, reflecting, and analyzing, when we reach a certain conceptual understanding and our afflictions are not too active. We find something our conceptualizing mind can seize upon and take pride in. one way our mind does this is through “concepts in the three domains,” which relate to the three aspects of any activity: a subject, an object, and an action. When our mind conceptualizes like this in a very solid and con- crete manner, our view becomes extreme. We are convinced that we have found the “right” way and we are proud of it. This process resembles how the rigid views of people caught in the mundane world are developed. nowadays, these stubborn po- sitions are a great problem. And they also contradict progress as it is understood in the dharma: As we move along the path, inferior views are gradually surpassed by superior ones, until finally there is no view at all, nothing to be seized upon. Therefore, we should not go to an extreme and cling to one position as the truth. our view of how things are is not something to grasp with a tight fist. We might think, “I’m a Buddhist, and my Buddhism is the best. I can look down on others.” When our intelligence takes this form, instead of reducing aversion and attachment, it in- creases them. We should not relate to others in such a way that we put them down and raise ourselves up; rather, we focus on developing our wisdom through listening, reflecting, and medi- tating. If it causes our afflictions to increase, wisdom turns into a demon. When our view or practice harms others, they run contrary to Buddhist teachings, for their very basis is to cher- ish all living beings in our heart. Developing wisdom through listening, reflecting, and meditating is central to Buddhism, but more important are living beings. ♦ From Traveling the Path of Compassion: A Commentary on the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva by His Holiness the seventeenth Karmapa. Translated by ringu Tulku rinpoche and Michele Martin. root text translated by Michele Martin. Published by KTD Publications and Densal magazine.