What is the purpose of teaching dependent arising? The master Nagarjuna, whose very nature is compassion, saw that living beings are beset by various sufferings and assumed the task of teaching the reality of things just as it is so that they might be free. He therefore began teaching dependent arising. For, it is said:
“Seeing what is not real, you are bound;
Seeing the real, you are free.”
What is the reality of things just as it is? It is the absence of essence. Unskilled persons whose eye of intelligence is obscured by the darkness of delusion conceive of an essence in things and then generate attachment and hostility with regard to them. When the illumination of the knowledge of dependent arising clears away the darkness of delusion and the eye of wisdom sees the absence of essence in things, then there is no foundation for the other afflictions, and attachment and hostility do not develop.
Our pure, enlightened mind is limitless. It has the potential to be anything, anywhere, anytime. Nothing can hold it back. The Tibetan word for Buddha is Sangye and this word is very evocative. It means “awakened and blossoming.” What awakens and grows within us is not a new or different intelligence. It is not something that we have never known before. It is the realisation of what we already know, our true nature. Our mind is identical to the Buddha’s enlightened mind. We are no different. He and many others after him escaped from ignorance and suffering. Their example provides the strength, perfect training, and blessings we need for our spiritual journey.
These days, Buddhist lamas and institutions are cultivating fame by blatantly branding themselves with logos and stickers and lapel pins. People have even hinted that in Kathmandu event coordinators hire people to wait in a crowd at the airport arrivals area to create a more impressive greeting when certain lamas are arriving.
In Bhutan and Nepal there is a trend of erecting big gates or archways festooned with banners to welcome lamas. Loyal disciples fastidiously calculate which lama has more gates and who has the largest convoy. It’s so pathetic because many of these displays are not even done elegantly. From a spiritual point of view, it’s odd to create a brand around a teacher. One justification is that publicity could be excused as a skillful means: making a louder noise provides more people with the opportunity to connect with and access the Dharma.
But fame shouldn’t have to be contrived. There are some teachers, like Milarepa, who became famous unintentionally because of who they were and how they taught. It’s almost certain that Milarepa didn’t invest time, energy, or resources in promoting himself.
Since the future is limitless and sentient beings are limitless, our aspirations can be limitless too. With this attitude, we can reach the end of any problem, because we can make our aspiration unlimited and project it as far into the future as needed until that problem is solved. This can make our resolve to extend ourselves as much as needed absolutely unwavering. When our aspirations are vast as the sky and extending until the time when all suffering is ended, we will not be disappointed or discouraged if we do not see the results immediately or even in a foreseeable future.
When you are young, healthy, and strong, you sometimes can get the feeling that you are totally independent and do not need anyone else. But this is an illusion. Even at that prime age of your life, simply because you are a human being, you need friends, don’t you?