Font Size



Daily Life and Dharma

Paris, France (1995)

If you think deeply and profoundly, eventually you would understand that the wisdom of thanking the karma is based on some knowledge, which might have been given by some gurus or masters or found in some teachings of Buddha. I am not saying that you should not thank the Buddha or the masters. What I am saying is that there is a logic, indirectly to thank them. But the immediate object of appreciation should be your karma.

In our daily practice, efforts should be made to develop compassion and wisdom. Generally speaking, these two are missing in our life. There may be a few of you, who have reached a state of very high realization. Then for you, there is no worry. But commonly speaking, because we have yet attained realization, therefore, we need rely on and hold onto the practice of compassion and wisdom.

Compassion, love and wisdom have to be developed within ourselves. They are not something that you can get from outside. They have to come from within yourself. In a way, it is not really important to practice compassion, loving-kindness and wisdom at home. But in another way, it is very important because everything is relative, inter-connected, and interdependent. This is the reason why I said, "rely on." One has to rely on something. If you are already realized, then you do not have to rely on anything. But you are not realized right now, so you have to rely on something, like this kind of practice.

In its unrealized, relative state, life is samsara, and life is suffering. But once you realize the ultimate truth, life itself becomes cognition. So, there is no need to go or fabricate any further. But unfortunately, you are not realized right now and you have to do something else in order to realize the ultimate state.

Refuge and Bodhicitta is something that you have to understand. Many of you have already gone through this kind of practice a lot of times already. Therefore, there is no need to say anything again. But I want to talk a little bit about this for the benefit of those who are quite new to Buddhism.

Refuge is the first step we take to change the situation of our life. I cannot say that the situation of our life is horrible. I won't say that. Life is actually great, very pleasant, if we know how to loot at it. There's nothing wrong with life. But if we don't know how to look at it, then life would give us a lot of problems. So, this is what we have to change. We do not need to change our life but we have to change the way we look at it. Therefore, we take refuge, and we become refugees of the Truth.

The Buddha has given many teachings on how to look at our life. So, we take refuge in the Buddha. This is the reason why the Buddha is the first object of refuge. It is not because we are Buddhists.

The second is Dharma which is the teachings of the Buddha. Dharma is very important because it is the path that we practice so that we may realize how to look at our life. How to look at our life is the main thing.

Next is the Sangha, somebody that gives you support from different angles in your life and not let you fall off the track. He or she does not really have to be a monk or a nun. He or she is just somebody who can really support you in looking at your life in the right and correct way.

Now the second step is the Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the mind of enlightenment. After taking refuge, you have to cultivate the mind of enlightenment. There are two kinds of mind of enlightenment: aspirational mind of enlightenment and the practical mind of enlightenment. The mind is what you simply have to change, in the sense of expanding the room of your mind.

Right now, we are very narrow minded. So we cannot think of anything. Sometimes, we cannot think of ourselves also because we feel very much down with disappointment, and we become depressed about ourselves. This clearly indicates that our mind is shrinking to a state where we cannot even fit ourselves in. So in such a state, how could we practice great compassion, great love, and great Bodhicitta? That is quite impossible. Therefore, we need to expand our mind so that every sentient being can fit into our mind, not only our family and friends, but everybody, including our enemies. This is the reason why it is very difficult but very important to practice Bodhicitta.

The cycle of birth and death moves in continuity. Therefore, it is known as cyclic existence. How does it move? The karma is the result of the negative and positive accumulations, which push you around. There are six realms ~ three lower and three upper realms. The engine of cyclic existence is kept running by the accumulation of karma. The positive accumulations push you up to the higher realms of samsara, and the negative actions and accumulations push you down to the lower realms. This is why we usually emphasize such things like ~ do not harm, be helpful and etc. Other religions are also teaching these. It is one way of looking at life, but it should not be the ultimate way.

The ultimate way of looking at life should be to attain ultimate realization ~ realization of the negative as well as the positive accumulations, which are all included in the reality of life. Accumulation of positive karma with no realization of its own will only take us to one of the three higher realms. For us who are keen to practice Bodhicitta, we should try to develop the ultimate realization along with the accumulation of merits.

We need to live a better life in order to practice without any obscuration. And what should we practice for? For getting ourselves out of the samsara, out of the ups and downs in life. This is the main reason why we should practice. We do not practice the Buddhist philosophy or meditation just to obtain rebirth in the higher realms of samsara. This is not enough, and this should not be the main target. As a practitioner, the target of your practice should be to put yourself in a better situation so that you would be able to practice without any obscuration and obstacles, and eventually be able to get out of samsara, the cyclic existence. It says in the teachings that:

Anger results in the realm of hell,
Miserliness results in the realm of hungry ghosts,
Ignorance results in the realm of animals, etc.

So the cause and effect are both there; they are the process of karma, the karmic cyclic existence. Therefore, we should not be involved in these defilements, because they cause rebirth in the lower realms, where we do not want to go. It is not because the comfort is not there, or the privileges of human pleasure is not there. We have seen dogs who are looked after much better than human beings. So in this respect, taking rebirth as a dog may not be that bad. Furthermore, human beings have a lot of problems caused by fabrications, and a dog does not suffer from such nonsense. Some of the dogs even have a lot of good food, opportunities to exercise, and lots of toys to play with. They can live a much more pleasant life than the human beings.

Therefore, if comfort and pleasure are the only target for seeking rebirth in higher realms, then one may argue and say, "I would rather be reborn as a dog." But the principal idea is to be able to practice Dharma, to practice the right path. The animals and hungry ghosts do not have these opportunities to practice Dharma. Even those in the god realm cannot or may not be able to practice true Dharma, true path. Therefore, we need to do something so that we will be in the right realm, which is the precious human rebirth.

Human life is very precious. But whether it is truly precious or not fully depends on how you look at it and how you cultivate it. If you use your life in the wrong way, then you can be worse than animals. Just look at the pollution, destruction of environment and unnecessary harmful activities we see today, then we can really conclude that human beings are doing hundred times worse than any other being.

We have to make our life precious by following the philosophy or law of universal truth. The law of universal truth is such that we can make our life better and more precious because everything in our life is interdependent, and our world is a very relative world. We can make it better or worse. Therefore, life should be understood as inseparable from the practice of Dharma, the practice of universal truth. It actually means that life has to be cultivated.

If you treat life as being different from the practice of Dharma, then your life will remain devoid of practice, even if you practice for entire life. We have many excuses to say that we have no time to practice, that we have so many things to do, such as taking care of children, business or work. All these are just excuses. Otherwise, life can be seen as Dharma.

Dharma has to be understood as life and life has to be understood as Dharma. So every minute of your life is actually Dharma. There are plenty of things you can go through, but the basic thing is to understand and to cultivate the understanding that life is inseparable from Dharma. There is nothing else you need to understand or cultivate.

The principal practice of spirituality is compassion and wisdom. Some people make a big issue out of this, and then they also end up with realizing nothing. These people always say, "This is a very advanced practice, we cannot practice this. We do not really have the time." They find many excuses to avoid it, and then end up accomplishing nothing.

Actually, compassion is a daily practice. In our day-to-day life, we should be compassionate towards our friends, our partners, and even to ourselves. Be compassionate towards our friends who are suffering emotionally and physically.

Just constantly check and investigate your thoughts. First, you ought to be compassionate towards yourself by looking at your nasty deeds, naughtiness, and unnecessary worries. Then sometimes, when people do something nasty to you, you should use compassion to kill your anger. Compassion has to be practiced every minute. This is the reason why I am saying that life has to be understood and practiced as Dharma.

Wisdom is the basic foundation. If wisdom is not there, then compassion cannot be practiced in a right way. Compassion will be blind and devotion will also be blind. This is not the skillful way. Therefore, wisdom is always needed.

For example, to go from here to another country, you should know the easiest and cheapest way to travel. This is also wisdom, even though this is not the great wisdom. From this point of view, your wisdom is also sharpening. If you do not work on your wisdom as part of your practice, then the wisdom is wasted. Sometimes, even if you feel compassionate towards beggars or sick people, this is also wasted because you are not cultivating compassion in order to develop your own understanding.

So, we should not be wasting the energy of compassion and wisdom for selfish ends. The energy of compassion and wisdom should be used in a selfless way. This is the path of the Buddha, the path of enlightenment and the path of wisdom. This is the true path.

Formal practices like recitation and meditation are also very important. Each has its benefits, its own beauty and value; but overall, what we really need to do is to cultivate our natural energy ~ the energy that we have not really developed and do not know how to use. Therefore, we should learn to use our natural energy in a selfless way. This is the Buddhist path, this is the Dharma.

If you practice these three ~ wisdom, compassion and devotion ~ with selfish motivation, then this may result in your rebirth in higher realms, like the realm of gods or demi-gods; but this will never help you to get out of the samsara. So, you have to be very careful to check whether the selfish attitude is involved or not when you practice. This is very important to know.

Many people have a strong tendency to practice Buddhism, or spiritual path, and they even have a very strong motivation to give up the material life like wealth, family, and etc. They have this sort of strength to sacrifice everything, in order to do some spiritual practice for many years. But still, they end up going nowhere. I am not saying all of them are having problems; but many of them, after spending say three or six years in practice, get upset with what they have been doing. And then, they end up either criticizing Buddhism or the practice of spirituality, or blaming themselves and feeling that they are not qualified. But actually, there is nothing wrong with them, and nothing wrong with the path. The only mistake is that they do not have the wisdom or the development of wisdom to know how to look at life as Dharma. They do not know how to understand life as the principal practice. Without bothering much about life, they just practice superficially. This leads to a great waste of time. Superficially means every part of their practice is linked with ego, or egoistic attitude. This is like a demon, a very potent poison that really destroys the whole scene of spirituality.

The practice with egoistic attitude will take you nowhere. You will end up with disappointment.

Gampopa, one of the greatest yogis of Tibet, strongly emphasized in one of his teachings that Dharma has to be practiced in a correct manner. Otherwise, Dharma will cause problems. It would seem as though Gampopa was discouraging the practice of Dharma. Actually what he meant was that the egoistic attitude should not be involved in our practice of Dharma. So long as we cannot practice Dharma in the pure way, it is better not to jump in. Just sit back and wait for awhile, and learn whatever the limited way we can and do it in the pure and correct way.

The first focus in the practice of Dharma is, as I mentioned, the development of the right view to look at your mind, to look at your day-to-day life. This is the essential point of practice. And the second step is recitation, meditation, prostration and etc. Then all these practices that you do would go in the right direction; they will never go in the wrong way.

For example, there are many types of medicine, pills or drugs. If you know how to really treat your disease or illness with the correct medicine, then the medicine will work in the right way. If you do not know how any of the medicine functions, you cannot take all of them just because they are all very expensive and precious. If you do that, it would worsen your condition, and may even kill you.

Medicine is not poisonous; but it becomes poisonous if you do not know how to take it. So similar thing may happen in your life with all sorts of practices. We may feel that this practice is good and that practice is also good; and since this lama is teaching and that Rinpoche is giving initiation, we should attend all of them. So you take everything and then also pretend to practice. Of course, in a way, it is very nice. You are at least practicing. It is better than nothing. But then eventually this kind of attitude will cause you lots of problems.

I am not criticizing those practitioners; but I disagree with those people who do not bother to cultivate their life and wisdom while practicing spirituality. And they do not know what is spiritual. First of all, they should know how to combine daily life and wisdom with spiritual practice. This is very important.