Generating the Mind for Enlightenment
Transcript of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's General Address on the subject of Generating the Mind for Enlightenment
Thursday, May 7, 1998, Washington, N.J.,
[Words of translator:]
I would like to extend my greetings to all of you.
Yesterday when I arrived here, it was raining a lot, but today it's quite different--it's pleasant.
And perhaps half of you here might have come partly to have a good time, for a holiday, so if you wish to stay for the whole talk, to stay, if you wish to sort of walk around and take it easy, please feel free.
The teaching that is being conducted here is today principally the ceremony for taking, generating the mind for enlightenment, and for that as a preliminary practice I shall be doing certain recitations, including the recitation of the Heart Sutra.
[Heart Sutra recitation by HHDL and the monks]
In the context of given teachings, both on the part of the person who is giving the teaching and on the part of the students who are receiving it, it's very important to ensure that you have the right motivation. And for Buddhist teaching it is important therefore to reaffirm your taking refuge in the Three Jewels and reaffirm your commitment to the ideals of bodhicitta. So please repeat in the recitation of the refuge formula.
[Refuge formula recitation]
I've visited this place several times and also I've had the opportunity to give teachings at this place several times.
When I look around here today, one thing that I notice is the change in the trees around here. Some of the trees have really grown, some of them have really spread their roots. So what this point us, remind us is the basic principle impermanent transient nature. And it is also something that we can remember if we think about the late [?] of this Center, [Chogyam?], who is no longer with us. So all of this point towards the nature of impermanence, the transient nature of life.
And this transient nature and the process of change that one goes through, everything goes through in time, is something that no one and nothing can stop. This is a basic fact of reality, a basic fact of existence.
Now what we *can* do, and what control we have in our hands is how we utilize this time, which is constantly going through change. Whether we utilize that time for more beneficial and positive purposes so that we make our existence with some kind of purpose and meaning, or whether use it for destructive purpose where we create harms for ourselves and others, or we just lead life with no mindfulness, just complete with no sense of direction. So that's the only thing we have in our hand, how we utilize that time.
So, wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to utilize whatever remaining time that we have in our existence, in our life, to utilize it towards something that is noble, something that is meaningful, something that is purposeful.
However, leading one's life in a purposeful way and meaningful way does not necessarily mean someone has to lead a religious life in the sense of a religious belief or religious faith. What is the key or essence is to lead a life which is grounded in the principle of helping others if possible; if not, at least refraining from harming others. So that is the key.
So those who wish to create a sense of purpose and make one's existence meaningful on the basis of a religious faith, of course on this planet there are so many different major world religious traditions, so one can pursue these paths to different traditions; however, what is important is for the followers of these religious traditions to utilize, to implement into one's daily life the essential teachings of whatever religious path one is following.
So if one can integrate the essential teachings of the religious path that one subscribes to and one follows into one's own day-to-day experience and day-to-day life, then of course there would be a tremendous benefit.
Today, in the context here, the religious teaching that is being given is a Buddhist teaching, because the context is a Buddhist center.
Although many of you might already be aware of this, the key message of the Buddhist teaching is to try to seek a path to happiness and joy through a method that involves primarily bringing about the discipline of mind.
So, discipline of mind really brings about this transformation of mind, which is really the key part to attaining happiness in the Buddhist approach. So, from our own personal experience, we know that the more conviction, the more convinced that we are in the value of the particular goal that we are pursuing, the greater our commitment and the greater our desire to attain that will be. In some cases, the commitment will be so strong that even if we are tempted to be distracted, to be diverted, our commitment to that achievement of that goal will be so strong that it will be in some sense, there will be a check so that we follow the path without distraction.
So what becomes important in the context of us here is to ensure that our wish to attain that goal is grounded in a firm conviction, not only in the value of that, but also that conviction is grounded in some personal experience and also some valid reasons. The stronger its grounding in such valid reason and personal experience, the more firm our commitment to that goal will be.
Therefore, in the context of Buddhist spirituality, Buddhist religious path, understanding the nature of reality becomes very crucial.
So given that understanding the nature of reality becomes crucial for Buddhists' religious path to achieving the goal--ultimate aspiration, what becomes important for the Buddhist practitioners is not to be deceived by whatever perception that one has, not to be deceived by the level of appearance. Even from our own personal experience in day-to-day living, we know that appearance not necessarily always conveys the right picture of reality. Often there is, in our day-to-day interaction with life, often there is a disparity or a gap between how things seem to us and how things really are. So this is really the basis for the Buddhist emphasis on developing such deep understandings like the nature of the Two Truths. Because, since the understanding of the nature of reality is crucial, in order to arrive at such a proper understanding one needs to appreciate that sometimes appearance need not be the true picture of reality; therefore, having sensitivity to appreciate there are different levels of reality becomes critical.
Since the whole purpose of trying to seek a deeper understanding of the nature of reality based on the concept of Two Truths is to bring about our ultimate spiritual aspiration of attaining happiness, lasting happiness, and overcoming suffering, therefore the teachings of the Two Truths are directly related to the Buddhist teachings of the Four Noble Truths.
So once we look at the Buddhist teachings from this kind of angle, or perspective, then we really appreciate the significance of Buddha teaching the principle of Four Noble Truths. At his first public ceremony, where he, through teaching the Four Noble Truths, he really lays down, lays out the whole foundation of the framework of the entire Buddhist path to enlightenment.
And in the second public ceremony, the key teachings that was taught is the teachings of the Two Truths, and although the Two Truths as a philosophical concept is something that is found not just in Buddha's teachings but also in non-Buddhist schools, but it is in the teachings of the second public ceremony that we find the presentation of the highest level of understanding of the Two Truths.
And now that we realize that the teaching on the Four Noble Truths really presents two sets of causality: one set that deals with the causality of suffering and its origin; the other set deals with the causality of cessation and the cause of that cessation, which is the path; we can raise the question why, what was the significance of Buddha teaching the Four Noble Truths to begin with? And the significance of that is to really address a fundamental issue of our existence as individual human beings, as sentient beings, which is: at the heart of our existence is this instinctual, innate desire to seek happiness, to overcome suffering. So these sentient beings, there exist sentient beings who possesses these natural instincts.
So this suggests that naturally there exists sentient beings who possesses this instinctual desire to seek happiness and overcome suffering, and that really is the basis. So the question can be raised about what is the nature of those sentient beings? We find a reference in one of the tantras, where Buddha speaks about a beginningless and endless continuum of mind, and that is said to be ever, ever-good, eternity-good, [Tibetan word]. And the reference to the beginningless and endless continuum of consciousness or mind is that, from the Buddhist point-of-view, there is nothing that exists outside the bounds of causation. Every event and everything must come into being as the result of causes and conditions. This is also true of consciousness, as it is true of external world. In the case of a material phenomenon, no only must that object have a cause, but also that, there must be some substance which maintains its continuum from one instance to another. The Buddhists call this a substantial cause, or a material cause, you know, a cause which maintains the continuum.
Similarly, in the case of consciousness, in the case of mind, mental phenomena, there must be a continuum, and not only there must be a continuum, but also the continuum must be maintained on the basis of entities which share the same nature. A physical entity cannot become a continuum for a mental entity or a mental phenomenon. So it is on that, and so far as the continuum of consciousness itself is concerned, there is nothing that can really destroy that continuum; therefore it is also endless.
However, this is not to say that every instance of consciousness or mental event is beginningless or is endless. Of course, we talk about consciousness, or mental phenomena where we must appreciate that there are so many different levels of subtlety and coarseness. For example, many of the gross levels of consciousness, such as our sensory experiences, many of the [?] processes; these are time-bound. These are contingent--these are, for example, many of these aspects of consciousness are contingent upon specific conditions and specific physical organs, and so on.
Now, however, within the continuum of consciousness, there must be something unique to consciousness, there must be something that makes the first instance and second instance and so on, possess that nature of being an experience, which is called the Luminous Nature. Something in the nature of mere experience, something in the nature of mere awareness. And it is on that basis one speaks of beginningless continuum and endless continuum. So long as that faculty, that quality of pure awareness, of mere experience is concerned, it is not contingent upon any physical conditions. And neither it is contingent upon any specific time, so from that point-of-view, consciousness and mind is said to be beginningless and endless.
So in Buddhism, when we speak about the nature of self, or person, or I, that I or self is something that is designated upon the basis of this continuum of consciousness.So just as the continuum of consciousness is said to be beginningless and endless, therefore in Buddhism, the person or the self or ŽI' that is designated upon that consciousness, that continuum of consciousness, is also said to be beginningless, endless.
So, the method or means by which one can fulfill the aspiration of that self or that person which is designated upon the continuum of consciousness, again that means or method must come about on the basis of consciousness, on the basis of some transformation of that mind-consciousness.
So this fact is very forcefully demonstrated in the Buddhist teachings on the Twelve Links in the chain of Dependent Origination, where they explicitly taught that is it the fundamental ignorance that creates the whole chain that together, that eventually makes a cycle of the twelve links. Ignorance leads to volition, volition leads to karmic consciousness, and so on and so forth, so it is fundamental ignorance that creates the whole cycle of unenlightenment. Whereas, it is through the elimination of ignorance, one reverses the cycle and thus creates a process towards enlightenment. So, when Buddha taught the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, we were never given the impression that, although fundamental ignorance lies at the root of the whole cycle, we can eliminate the ignorance simply through prayer, or simply through adopting certain physical discipline or some form of physical, kind of, behavior. We are taught that it is only through cultivating the right insight that sees through the delusion created by ignorance, then we can begin the process of reversing the cycle.
So put it in brief: ignorance leads to unenlightenment, and knowledge, which is the opposite of ignorance, leads to . . . [Dalai Lama speaks to translator in Tibetan] . . . um, sorry. Um, ignorance leads to suffering, . . . [Dalai Lama laughs] and the opposite of ignorance, which is knowledge or insight, leads to happiness or enlightenment.
[belly-laugh from HHDL] (Translator: His Holiness was saying that he realized today that it's not just he who sometimes uses the wrong word.) HHDL in English: --it was completely opposite wrong word! [all laugh] Not only me alone, but a lot of people also! . . .
If you look at some of the Buddhist epistemological texts, in these texts one speaks of different fruits of valid knowledge or valid cognition, and in these texts, attainment of liberation or enlightenment are identified as long-term fruits of cultivating knowledge or valid cognitions. So what seems to be true is that if you examine carefully, much of our experience of suffering and confusion really comes from states of mind which are ultimately deluded, and much of our experiences of joy and liberation and enlightenment really comes from stages of thought or states of mind which are not deluded, which have their roots in some kind of valid experience or valid knowledge.
So what becomes evident through all this discussion is the fact that even for our spiritual part, cultivating the right knowledge and insight seems to become really crucial and critical. In some sense, [?] respect, because even conventionally speaking, we all appreciate the value of education and knowledge, and the higher the level of the education of the person is, the better informed that person will be to cope with the challenges of life. So in some sense, we do appreciate this basic point.
So that we can raise the question, how does cultivating the knowledge and the insight help us eliminate fundamental ignorance? Here when we talk about opposing forces, and how one expels the other, we can use the analogy of light and darkness, illumination and darkness. The moment illumination, the light is switched on, the darkness is dispelled. So here, we have a sort of an analogy here. So, similarly, when we think about different forms of mutual exclusivity, for example, like, in the case of , say, in our thoughts, if we know that something is "tree" or something is "not tree", if we know that something is "not tree", then we, so far as our thought with relation to that particular object is concerned, we can, at that very instance, never have the possibility of thinking that that is not a, that is a tree. Because one thought, by the simple fact of its occurrence, by definition, excludes the possibility of [?]. So this is kind of a similar relationship we see between ignorance on the one hand, and wisdom or insight on the other. Because ignorance is here not a case of mere unknowing, but rather it's an active case of mis-knowing. A perceiving things in a way that they do not exist. So when we cultivate opposing force, which is the true knowledge or the insight, then, given that these two thoughts oppose each other, the only difference is the insight is grounded in a valid cognition. It has, just as the insight and events do not possess some kind of independent existence; just as we have insight, it also corresponds to the actual reality, as things do *not* possess independent existence. On the other hand, fundamental ignorance mis-perceives things as possessing such independent existence, so it does not have the validity, it does not have any ground or any support. So when you compare two opposing thoughts, which are directly opposed to each other, then whatever, whichever has the validity and whichever has support grounded in one's experience is going to be more powerful, so it is through this way that ignorance will have to be eliminated.
So it is these reasons which makes it very important in Buddhism to cultivate understanding of emptiness. This is why emptiness becomes important in the Buddhist path.
Of course, depending upon different interpretations, there are different ways of understanding what emptiness really means according to the Buddhist teachings. However, we understand that the emptiness as taught by Nagarjuna where in the final analysis of emptiness is understood in terms of dependent origination--that is the highest level of understanding of the teachings on emptiness.
So when we speak of emptiness here in the Buddhist context, we're not talking about mere nothingness. We're talking about
[end of side 1 of tape; if someone else recorded this talk, please post the missing text!]
Buddhist teachings on emptiness. It doesn't mean that things do not exist. It simply means that things do not exist with some [?] identity [?] existence. And um, so, the nature of dependent origination is used as the final proof that things are empty in the final analysis.
(Translator: Sorry, I forgot something)--um, so the thought which believes in the independent or intrinsic reality of things and events is known in Buddhism as "self-grasping" thought or attitude. So this we know is one source of much of our confusion and much of our ignorance. Then we also know that there is another element which also is one of the major origins of much of our suffering and problems, which is not only a grasping at some kind of true existence of things and events and also one's self, but also an attachment to our selfs, a form of what the Buddhists call "self-cherishing" thought, a thought which cherishes one's *own* self-interest, and being totally oblivious to the well-being of others.
However, this is not to say that any form of self-regard is a source of suffering, because we do *need* a sense of self and also we need a thought which has an element of self-regarding. Because it is on the basis of a strong sense of self that we can proceed with much of the methods for attaining liberation, salvation, helping others, and so on. Now what is problem is when this form of self-regarding becomes extreme to the point where one is prepared to exploit others, one is prepared to totally sacrifice others' well-being in pursuit of that self-interest. That form of extreme self-regard, a sense of self, is a source of problem.
His Holiness was making the point that if you don't have any experience of caring for yourself, how can you even begin to care for others? Because there is no real basis upon which you can engage with others.
So how do we overcome this excessive form of self-cherishment that it's prepared to even sacrifice [?] and exploit others' well-being? Now, an effective way we can overcome this is through cultivating thoughts which cherishes the well-being of others.
So we can say that these two forces: a certain grasping at self-existence of things and one's self on the one hand, and also this excessive form of self-cherishing attitude; these two can be said to be almost like two poisons that sort of pollutes from within. One could almost say that these two are two poisonous trees that are growing in us.
So through this way we can appreciate that the essence of our spiritual path should really be the cultivating of compassion and love, which counteracts the self-cherishment, and then also the practice of cultivating current insight into emptiness, the knowledge of emptiness which counteracts other faults. And these two should not only be the essence of teachings, but also should also be the key elements of our own individual practice.
Day before yesterday I participated in a symposium on Neuroscience and Buddhist Meditation; this was at [?] in New York. And one of the speakers made a presentation where he showed an empirical study that was done which seems to suggest and in fact quite conclusively that they found that among people, those who have a tendency to use more self-reference terms, such as "I", "me", and "mine", a much higher proportion than average person, which suggested they have a much higher degree of self-involvement, they tend to have much more health problems and also have much sort of hyper- kind of personality and more prone to aggressions and so on, including a possibility of much higher probability of an earlier death. This seems to suggest that not only Buddhist meditation on selflessness and counteracting the self-cherishing thoughts through cultivation of thoughts cherishing others' well-being; not only do these kind of practices will have the benefit of leading to Buddhist liberation and Nirvana, but even within this lifetime, even in immediate terms, there seems to be visible beneficial effects. And because of this, I just before the teaching, I told one of my friends that if this is true, then maybe many of the ritual practices that are aimed towards longevity--you know, visualization, meditation, which involves prolonging one's life through focusing on one's life perhaps may be counter-productive, because the focus is on oneself! [laughter] ...The focus should be on the others!
So, if you think carefully, it seems that the more we are self-involved, the more we are self-absorbed, thinking about, oh yes--me, and my problem, and my this and my that, it seems to have an immediate effect on kind of narrowing your focus down to some tiny spot and reducing everything to that. Almost as if your vision is blurred, and even to the point of being burdened, kind of you know being sort of [pushed?] down by some heavy load. If you shift your focus from oneself to others, and think more about others' well-being and welfare, immediately it has a liberating effect because of that shift of focus it sort of gives rise to some form of strength. And also it makes you feel kind of more expansive. And even if you're maybe facing problems, you are aware of your own problems, but somehow because of that very shift in the focus somehow provides the space so that the problem which seemed so enormous earlier, before, now seems to be much more manageable; seems to be less significant as it seemed before. This seems to be true.
So since the main actual teaching here is the generation of the mindful enlightenment, you should cultivate the right attitude, which is to put the focus on others, not on oneself. And spread it out, sort of extend it to all sentient beings if possible, and for the benefit of all sentient beings you should think that you are generating the mind of enlightenment. And you should sort of make a *strong* sense of commitment that you will ensure that this altruistic mind never degenerates.
So, as usual, for the ceremony of generating the mind for enlightenment, now you should visualize in here, in your presence, the Buddha, the teacher, and all the Bodhisattvas of the past, and also the Great Masters of India and Tibet. The Great Masters such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, and so on. And focus towards them, you should cultivate strong faith and admiration in them, and then you should imagine yourself being surrounded by all sentient beings, and then focused towards them you should reinforce with new strong sense of empathy and compassion towards their suffering, towards their problems, and then cultivate then the thought for the benefit of all sentient beings I shall generate the mind of enlightenment in the presence of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the Great Masters of the past. And as a preliminary to that generation of the mind for enlightenment I need to overcome obstacles; therefore I shall engage in preliminary practices such as purification, meditation, accumulation of merits, and so on. Now this will be performed in terms through recitation of the seven practices which will be done in Tibetan. When the recitation is being done, on your part, you should remember that you are doing Buddha's practices or purification and accumulation of merits.
[recitation of the seven practices in Tibetan]
I believe that a small sheet has been distributed to all of you. Three verses?
The first two verses--the one deals with taking refuge and the next with generation of the mind for enlightenment--I believe that they are citations from one of the tantras. To the first, basically states that, sort of motivated by the wish to free all beings, that I will go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha until I attain the full enlightenment.
The second verse states that with compassion, that is, reinforced and grounded in true Insight or Wisdom, that I shall generate the mind for enlightenment in the presence of all the Buddhas here today.
The reference to Wisdom here is really the Wisdom of Emptiness, and how Wisdom of Emptiness or Insight into Emptiness reinforces compassion is because through cultivation of the right insight to the cultivation of the Wisdom of Emptiness, we will gain awareness or the knowledge that grasping at true existence is a form of delusion. And because it is a form of delusion, it is something that can be corrected, it is something that can be removed, it is something that can be eliminated. So once you gain such conviction, the possibility of eliminating that delusion from within, then one's compassion towards sentient beings who continue to be deluded, continue to be deceived by such forms of delusion, will increase evermore. Because you know that there is a way out, but sentient beings continue to be chained in the cycle. So of course this true Insight into Emptiness will reinforce your compassion towards other sentient beings.
The mind for enlightenment or Bodhicitta is a state of mind that is altruistic and that is derived on the basisof two aspirationsOne is the aspiration to fulfill the welfare of other sentient beings--all other sentient beings. The other aspiration is to seek full enlightenment for the sake of fulfilling that objective of helping others.. So it is on the basis of these two wishes that one cultivates the mind that seeks full enlightenment, and that is called "Bodhicitta" or mindful full awakening.
So the third verse really is a verse of dedication and also aspirational prayer, so when you do the--and this is from "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life"--Bodhisattvacarya vatara--so when you do the recitations of these three verses, you should dwell on the meaning of these verses: first, take refuge in the three jewels; and then in the second verse, cultivating, generating the mind for enlightenment; and in the third verse, you should have a strong sense that now that I have generated the mind, I shall follow the footsteps of the Great Bodhisattvas and share in the powerful sentiments expressed in this verse, that as long as space remains and so on. And we will do the recitation in Tibetan. While the Tibetan recitation is being done, you should read all in English together.
[recitation as follows, read three times:]
GENERATING THE MIND FOR ENLIGHTENMENT
With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha,
until I reach full enlightenment.
Enthused by wisdom and compassion,
today in the Buddha's presence
I generate the Mind for Full Awakening
for the benefit of all sentient beings.
As long as space remains,
as long as sentient beings remain,
may I too remain
and dispel the miseries of the world.
I think whenever you have spare time, it would be very effective and beneficial to recite these three verses, reflect a bit on their meanings, and that way you can experience benefits.
There's a Tibetan expression that states that mind follows familiarity, so it is through constant familiarization, constant practice, constant familiarity that something becomes more natural, something becomes easier, something becomes more applicable.
So with that, the two days' teaching is over.
So I would like to ask all of you to be happy.
[Dalai Lama speaks in English:]
Of course, I believe the ultimate source of happiness is within ourselves. In our mental state, remain calm, peaceful. Not much disturbed in your internal peace. So therefore, while we are earning money or some other things, I think it is equally important to pay more attention to our inner [?]. So more balance. We should not be a slave of money. So I think balance. Of course money is very important. Hmm? [laughter]
(through translator:) You might be interested to know that Tibetans have a nickname for money, which is called "that which, by which all the wishes are fulfilled." [laughter] Sorry, the Tibetan expression translates "that which makes everybody happy and that which makes all the wishes fulfilled."
[Dalai Lama speaks in English:]
So, as I mentioned before, at the beginning, I think it's very important to be a warm-hearted person, compassionate person. *More* sense of caring of other. The ultimate view--you get more happiness. So, as I think...you often heard before, I always been telling people, that I myself often feel if we be selfish, it should be wise-selfish rather than foolish-selfish. But that's I think very important. Uh, taking care more about others, ultimately you get benefit. That's all, thank you very much.
[recitation in Tibetan]
. . . Bye bye! [all laugh]
Respectfully submitted.recording by Graham Hall.
1st draft of transcript by Greg Kramer