05-13-14 Advice for Dharma Practice: Questioning Appearances – BBCorner

I wanted to finish up with Lama Yeshe’s wonderful
book “Introduction to Tantra.” As I’ve been saying over and over again, I am not anywhere
near being a tantric practitioner, and Lama Yeshe, in his incredible wisdom, has spent
most of this book talking about the prerequisites for even thinking about practicing tantra,
which is the three principal aspects of the path of the Buddha. Which really encompass
everything that the Buddha ever taught. And in the past few weeks I’ve spoken about the
first of those three principals, which is the determination to be free and also the
second one which is bodhicitta. So the teachings that say, you know, we’re
finally tired of tweaking samsara, going for this low-grade happiness that never lasts,
that in fact is the major cause of suffering in the future because our minds are so afflicted
while we’re tweaking samsara. So we finally get around to realizing that this is an activity
of futility. We then strive for the determination to be free, or renunciation. to free ourselves
from this cycle of birth, aging, sickness, and death and to liberate ourselves once and
for all. And then into the second aspect of the path.
When we think about that and then we look around and see all the sentient beings that
have been our mother since beginningless time struggling with the same efforts to tweak
samsara to get some kind of happiness that going to last, which never happens. Creating
the causes and conditions only for their future suffering. We then really open up our view,
much to the self-centered thought’s consternation, is that we’re going to open up our view to
include them in our aspiration to become awakened so that we can not only free ourselves, but
also guide and inspire them to free themselves as well. And the third principal aspect, which I am,
once again, I am not an adept or even close to understanding, is the correct view, or
the wisdom aspect of the path. Because even though we’ve got this determination to be
free and this incredible open heart that wishes to guide all beings to that same state of
liberation, we have such a cockamamie hallucinatory concept of what’s really going on here in
reality, in samsara, that we seem to be sort of– Those attempts to renounce and to develop
bodhicitta have to be conjoined with the understanding of how reality actually exists so that when
we endeavor to do these things we’re doing them within this sphere of understanding the
nature of reality. At least heading in that direction. Because right now the way that
we see things, and we’ll let Lama Yeshe talk to us about that: “We instinctively feel that we exist as something
very real, definitive and substantial. We have no doubt about this real me and it seems
to be absurd to think of it as just another hallucination.” Because what we’re seeing as ourselves, as
this definite substantial real person is that we get hooked into needing, therefore to protect
this solid, permanent, independent self. And we do a whole lot of defending, we do a lot
of strategizing, and at the same time we’re perceiving everything outside ourselves as
also existing permanently and independently and that this permanent self needs to grasp
and acquire that and that, I don’t want that, I like that., I don’t like that. So we have
this relationship, misunderstanding how we exist and misunderstanding how the things
outside ourselves exist — that’s how we see it as separate – is that then all this wanting
to grasp and find this happiness that we think also exists out there inherently… We have
all sorts of afflicted states of mind, all sorts of confusion. And from that confused
state then we create the actions that then propel us into future cycles of birth, aging,
sickness, and death. So then what Lama Yeshe is saying is that
if we go looking — because part of the wisdom aspect of the path is to start looking to
see if indeed this inherently, permanently existent self does exist. So he says: “Yet if we take the trouble to search for
this supposedly concrete I or Me we will discover that we can’t find it anywhere. Neither our
head, our arm, our leg, nor any other part of our body is our “I.” The same is true of
our mind: none of the countless thoughts or feelings that continuously arise and disappear
is the real me. And, of course, this solid sense of self is not to be found somewhere
outside this body-ind combination. Yet despite the fact that we cannot discover an independent,
self-existent I anywhere, either within or outside our body and mind, we still hold onto
it tightly in the very depths of our heart as if it were most real.” So part of the wisdom aspect of the path is
start to doubt and to explore and to hit the pause button and to maybe say, you know, right
now I’m having a very afflicted state of mind because I’m perceiving myself in a very solid,
independent way, and I’m grasping for something that is not only going to bring me happiness,
but that it exists in that permanent, self-existent way. And so by starting to doubt, he really
says, you know, we just start being like — it’s a really funny analogy — Like someone going
to look for a car, and the salesman is trying to give us all the wonderful aspects of these
cars. But we don’t take all the information as the absolute truth in the beginning. We
start to say, “I need to inquire and I need to ask a little bit more about this car that
I’m going to purchase.” So we’re not so naive or so gullible. I find the analogy very helpful. They say
as of right now we’re sort of like this audience that has gone into a show and there’s a magician
on stage, and through a bunch of magic words and conjecturing he’s taken some stones and
sticks and has made horses and dancing ponies and little bears and juggling seals and things
up here. And because we are there seeing this we believe that what’s appearing actually
exists. And this is kind of the way samsara appears to us. Is that we see things appearing
sort of like this magic show. We believe wholeheartedly — forget about the stones forget about the
sticks. There is this horse, there are these elephants, there are these dancing bears in
the space in front of us and we believe totally without a doubt that these things exist as
they appear. And so as we see ourselves, and as we see things outside ourselves sort of
like these dancing bears and sort of like these juggling seals. Is that he’s saying
“just start to say, hmmm, I’m not quite sure that those things exist. And to start counteracting
this full, right on existing, believing that everything exists as it appears. A little
bit of skepticism, a little bit of doubt. I think this is one of my most favorite analogies
because the world does kind of seem like a magic show most of the time. It says: “We are like the audience. We believe
everything that our dualistic conceptions conjure up. If something seems to be attractive,
we are immediately taken in by this superficial appearance and run after it. If its appearance
changes to something not so attractive, we immediately want to run away from it, not
stopping to consider how these changing appearances are a reflection of our own mind and have
little or nothing to do with the object itself.” And as a result of thinking that this magic
show is real, we end up having these really — what does he say: We run after them, we
end up having a lot of emotional conflict, frustration, disappointment, confusion. Because
a lot of what appears is not going to be able to do what we’re asking it to do. So the whole wisdom aspect of the path is
to begin to identify how we truly exist, how things outside ourselves exist. And it’s not
like — since they don’t exist as we see them, as these permanent, unchanging things, it
doesn’t mean that it’s all just an illusion. That things don’t exist as they appear, but
they do exist. And they exist because they function, because they arise due to causes
and conditions, they have parts, and we have a relationship to them. So we don’t want to
go to the other side where we think “well if things don’t exist the way that I think
they do, maybe they don’t exist at all.” So Lama Yeshe is guiding us through this chapter
back and forth to say “now don’t fall into that ditch, which is nothing exists, but then
don’t fall back into where we think everything exists permanently and independently. So the wisdom aspect of the path is a very
long, beautiful, profound journey that we all have to take to heart and study deeply,
but it begins with just, whenever there’s an afflicted state of mind to just hit the
pause button and go “am I seeing this situation, am I seeing my self, am I seeing this person
clearly. Am I seeing it –” Because if the afflicted states of mind are arising, it means
that we’re not seeing them clearly. So just start to have some doubt, start to have some
skepticism, and as time goes on the obscurations and the obstacles to understanding the nature
of reality will eventually, through a lot of familiarity with practicing and looking
at the emptiness teachings and studying them and listening to them, we’ll finally be able
to cut this root of ignorance which really keeps us in this cycle of birth, aging, sickness
and death over and over again. So this is the most profound and the one that
we have to work the hardest on. But once we do realize the nature of reality that will
help us to really liberate ourselves from this cycle of birth, aging, sickness and death.
And at the same time we’re trying to work on that we’ve got this beautiful open heart
of bodhicitta that’s also trying to grow, incorporating all sentient beings into our
endeavors to become awakened as soon as we can. So go out and just question things. Question
the way things exist and I do strongly recommend “Introduction to Tantra.” In a way to be able
to start seeing more clearly with the eyes of Lama Yeshe to guide us.


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