When practicing and studying, it’s important to have a motivation that is free from affliction. Among the various pure motivations, the most important is the wish to help ourselves and others, the vast motivation of the Mahayana, which means acting for the sake of all our former mothers, all sentient beings, who are as limitless as space. You may already have faith, respect, and excitement about the Dharma, and the pure motivation of bodhichitta. Still, it is good to recall and reinforce that motivation from time to time. It helps your mind to go toward the Dharma, the Dharma to become the path, and the path to dispel confusion.
The problem with having expectations is that we usually do not expect the right things. Not knowing what spiritual progress is, we search for signs of it in the wrong areas of our being. What can we hope for but frustration? It would be far better to examine any practice with full reasoning before adopting it, and then to practice it steadily and consistently while observing the inner changes one undergoes, rather than expecting this or that fantasy to become real.
Know that there are three types of people:
Inferior, mediocre, and superior.
The inferior are said to be those
Who by any of the various means
Strive for their own benefit
To merely attain the pleasures of samsara.
The mediocre are said to be those
Who turn their back on samsara’s pleasures
And also refrain from evil deeds,
Yet pursue a personal peace.
The superior are said to be those
Who through understanding their own suffering
Deeply desire to completely end
The sufferings of all other beings.
Every kind of teaching is transmitted through the culture and knowledge of human beings. But it is important not to confuse any culture or tradition with the teachings themselves, because the essence of the teachings is knowledge of the nature of the individual. Any given culture can be of great value because it is the means which enables people to receive the message of a teaching, but it is not the teaching itself.
Remembering everything you experience is created by mind is also the direct antidote to pride and ego, and once it becomes second nature, you will no longer cling to your dharma activities. This does not mean you will not practise. On the contrary, in the same way someone dying of thirst cannot resist taking large gulps of water, once you know everything is an illusion, your only thoughts will be about the dharma. Of course, the dharma itself is the antidote to ego, but for those who take pride in being good practitioners, dharma activities can be just another means of boosting their egos. And this is why it is so important to remember that absolutely everything we experience is just a product of mind, even if it’s only for five minutes a day.
If you exaggerate the value of external objects, thinking that they are the most important things in life, you ignore your inner beauty and internal joyful energy; if you look only outside of yourself, you neglect your most precious human qualities — your intellect and your potential to communicate in higher ways. Thus, meditation shows you clean clear which objects of attachment confuse you and with which kinds of mind you relate to them.
The Tibetan word for Buddhism, nangpa, has the meaning of internalizing, indicating that we need to turn inward and work within ourselves. By doing so and gaining a clearer sense of who we really are, we develop a sense of our existence as it relates to all that surrounds us. If we look outside and try to figure out what is out there based on confused mental projections, we will never recognize who we are. What is fundamentally true is that the experience of pain or pleasure is not so much what is happening externally as it is what is happening internally: the experience of pain or pleasure is mainly a state of mind. Whether we experience the world as enlightened or confused depends on our state of mind.
Giving, opening, sacrificing ego is necessary. It is like performing an operation. It might be painful because finally we realize that we cannot take part in our own burial. Very painful. We lose our grip on the wishful-thinking world of pleasure and goodness. We have to give up trying to associate ourselves with goodness. Having a relationship with this may be extremely difficult. It’s an organic operation without any anesthetics.
Thoughts are just displays of the mind. They may be waves stirring up the all-ground consciousness, but this is not a fault. If you just rest loosely in them, they will disappear right there. This is why when we meditate we should let the thoughts that occur in the sixth mental consciousness relax into the all-ground consciousness.
Patience is not learned in safety. It is not learned when everything is harmonious and going well. When everything is smooth sailing, who needs patience? If you stay in your room with the door locked and the curtains drawn, everything may seem harmonious, but the minute anything doesn’t go your way, you blow up. There is no cultivation of patience when your pattern is to just try to seek harmony and smooth everything out.