When we are training in the art of peace, we are not given any promises that, because of our noble intentions, everything will be okay. In fact, there are no promises of fruition at all. Instead, we are encouraged to simply look deeply at joy and sorrow, at laughing and crying, at hoping and fearing, at all that lives and dies. We learn that what truly heals is gratitude and tenderness.
It isn’t that we say, “It doesn’t matter about me all that much, but if I changed the world, it would be better for other people.” It’s less complicated than that. We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.
Why do we need to contemplate impermanence? The fact that things change does not mean we lose something. Rather, it is a sign that we have new opportunities and new options. We meditate on impermanence in order to see that the change that takes place moment to moment represents moment after moment of opportunity. The opportunities available to us are inexhaustible and limitless, and are arising continuously. We meditate on impermanence so that we can make full use of these opportunities and make good choices.
You could say that when Nagarjuna explains the Prajnaparamita, he concentrates more on its empty aspect, whereas when Maitreya explains the same thing he concentrates more on the “-ness” aspect. This “-ness” is buddhanature. You might wonder why the Buddha taught in the sutras that all phenomena are like clouds—unstable, naturally illusory, and empty. Why is it that even though we can experience them, they are without essence, like a dream or mirage?
Why is all this taught as emptiness in the Madhyamaka teachings and the Prajnaparamita Sutras? And as Mipham Rinpoche’s commentary on the Uttaratantra Shastra asks, why in this third turning of the wheel of dharma does the Buddha say that this buddhanature exists within all sentient beings? Isn’t that a contradiction? Furthermore, since buddhanature is very difficult to understand, even for sublime beings who are on the path, why is it taught here for ordinary beings? Let’s go to Maitreya’s text:
He had taught in various places that every knowable thing is ever void, like a cloud, a dream, or an illusion. Then why did the Buddha declare the essence of buddhahood to be there in every sentient being? (Stanza 156)
First of all, there is no contradiction between the second turning of the wheel of the dharma, where the Buddha taught that everything is emptiness, and the third turning of the wheel, where the Buddha taught that all sentient beings have buddhanature. In the Prajnaparamita Sutras of the second turning, the Buddha emphasizes that nothing is truly existent. So here, when Buddha says there is buddhanature, he isn’t saying that buddhanature truly exists. Rather, he is emphasizing its clarity aspect. When we talk about the union of clarity and emptiness, it’s important that we understand both aspects, not only the emptiness aspect.
It’s usually safer to go with a guru who is not interested in fame. There is a chance that some gurus might be madly designing and printing pamphlets and buttons for the sake of all sentient beings. Not all lamas who are zealously promoting themselves and sitting on the highest thrones have an ulterior motive; some might actually be humble. But the greatest teachers of recent times said repeatedly and with complete conviction that they were not enlightened. They claimed to be totally ordinary beings, and they exhibited their humble devotion to their own gurus and teachers again and again. For example, when I asked Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche for his treasure teachings, his response was that there are so many great treasure teachings and that his were completely useless. He said I should not be wasting my time pursuing him. Instead, most of the time all he talked about was his devotion to his own teachers.
In order to train in the path that would allow us to transform death, the intermediate state, and rebirth, we have to practice on three occasions: during the waking state, during the sleeping state, and during the process of death.
I often think that we might not find value and purpose within the life we live with this one body, but we will find it through others and their lives. In this way, other people become the mirror in which we can see our own dignity and value reflected.
I must go there today –
Tomorrow the plum blossoms