Determining who we are or how we are doing in life by comparing ourselves to others will never give us a stable or reliable measure of our well-being, because comparative judgments always shift based on who we are comparing ourselves to. We do not need to live our lives measuring ourselves against external standards set for us by others. We do not need to limit ourselves to those options. When we view who we are on the model of interconnectedness, we know that we are no single thing — not a fixed or bounded identity. The options for who we can become are as boundless as the number of points in an open network. Since we are related to all other points, we can strengthen our connections and grow in any directions. We can set our own course in life.
I feel that seeing ourselves as interdependent rather than as separate individuals is more productive because it offers more opportunities for freedom. We do not need to define ourselves by how we stand up to an endlessly moving external measure. Individuality gives a sense of restriction. Interdependence gives a greater sense of possibility.
Appearances, like dreams, are devoid of any intrinsic existence. They come from nothing and leave nothing behind no matter how long they last. How can they appear if they are devoid of intrinsic existence? In fact, they can manifest in infinite ways like a dream or a rainbow that appears only through the combination of many factors briefly coming together. These factors can come together precisely because they do not exist autonomously, endowed with a permanent reality. No phenomenon exists alone, and none has a solid existence. Appearances will become more transparent and less solid as we familiarize ourselves with seeing phenomena as dreams and illusions.
As Lama Je Tsongkhapa said, when you have bodhicitta all the good things in life are magnetically attracted to you and pour down upon you like rain. At present all we attract is misfortune because all we have is the self-cherishing thought. But with bodhicitta we’ll attract good friends, good food, good everything.
Supplication creates blessing, and although the blessing is understood as something given to you, something that somehow engulfs you from the outside, in fact blessing really isn’t given to you at all. When you supplicate, you generate faith and devotion. That faith and devotion cause the appearance of what we call blessing.
Whatever teachings one takes, it is very important to meditate on them. This will enable one to develop great qualities in Dharma. Without meditation, no matter how much teaching one hears, no matter how much teaching one writes down, no matter how much teaching one records on tape, one will never be able to develop the qualities of Dharma.
When we are trying to cultivate a capacity to feel closeness to others, we do not need to create anything new. We are cultivating a latent ability, albeit one that might have been neglected or impaired during the course of our lives. There is every indication that the ability to experience genuine closeness is an innate potential of all human beings.
To end suffering – not only by relieving its symptoms but by eradicating its root cause – is precisely the aim of the Buddha’s teaching. We must first realize that the true cause of suffering is not outside, but inside. That is why true spiritual practice consists of working on one’s own mind. The mind is very powerful. It can create happiness or suffering, heaven or hell. If, with the help of the Dharma, you manage to eliminate your inner poisons, nothing from outside will ever affect your happiness, but as long as those poisons remain in your mind, you will not find the happiness you seek anywhere in the world.
We hold nothing back – not our effort, not any resources we might have, not time itself. We do not even hold our futures to ourselves. If we limit our aspirations to short-term aims and allow our aspirations to end when we attain those limited results, we will not create the momentum needed to maintain our enthusiasm over the long haul, until that time when we have developed our qualities of mind and heart to their fullest capacity.
Our endless wandering in samsara is the result of our negative emotions. But take the trouble to examine the nature of these emotions with which we are so obsessed and which are the very cause of the round of existence, and you will find that they do not have the least trace of reality. You will discover nothing but emptiness. True nirvana comprises the infinite, inexpressible qualities of primordial wisdom. These qualities are innate in the mind; there is no need to invent or create them. Realization uncovers them in the course of the path. Even these qualities, from an ultimate point of view, are simply emptiness.
Both samsara and nirvana are thus emptiness. It follows that neither one of them can be said to be bad or good. When you realize the nature of the mind you are liberated from the need to reject samsara and pursue nirvana. Seeing the world with all the unspoiled simplicity of a young child, you are free from concepts of beauty and ugliness, good and evil, and no longer fall prey to conflicting tendencies driven by desire or repulsion. Why trouble yourself about all the ups and downs of daily life, like a child who delights in building a sandcastle but cries when it collapses? To get what they want and be rid of what they dislike, look how people throw themselves into torments, like moths plunging into the flame of a lamp! Would it not be better to put down your heavy burden of dreamlike obsessions, once and for all?
Everything stands or falls with this point. Do we know the very identity of momentary thoughts to be the empty and luminously cognizant mind, or not? That is what makes the entire difference. If we know that the nature of any momentary thought or emotion is empty cognizance, we are no longer fooled by it.