The Great Medicine Which Conquers
Clinging To the Notion of Reality
Steps in meditation on the enlightened mind
Root text by Shechen Gyaltsap Pema Namgyal
Explained by by Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche
Part six of a monthly series (Click here for part one.)
How to Deal with Suffering
The next section concerns identifying the cause of all our ailments and torments, and our strong grasping to the notion of a self. To dissolve or get rid of that grasping one begins with understanding that:
When undesirable things come to pass,
Or simply when you wish to be rid of sufferings,
You must understand that these are proof
That their cause, non-virtue, must be eliminated.
Mustering the four powers,
Attack the one responsible: ego-clinging.
Suffering does not come out of nowhere nor do any external "gods" or "demons" impose it upon us. Suffering is simply a result of our past actions; therefore to alleviate suffering and prevent it from arising again, you must look at its root causes: your actions and thoughts. To do this you need four powers. First is the power of regret, becoming aware of the fact that it would have been much better not to indulge in thoughts, words and actions that cause suffering; regret teaches us something. Second is the power of support. As one needs help to change and mend wrongs, the Buddha or a spiritual teacher is an excellent support. Third is the power of the antidote. One needs a method of purification, such as a spiritual practice like Vajrasattva. The fourth power is the determination to refrain from further unvirtuous actions and thoughts. Once you have understood how suffering comes about and how to overcome it, there is no excuse for not applying these four powers.
You must not only identify suffering, but sever its very root. Clinging to the notion of a self is responsible for all thoughts, words and actions and so you must do whatever is necessary to get rid of it.
Pray that all the degeneration and faults,
Which are the causes, conditions and results
Of the suffering of an infinite number of beings,
May ripen upon you,
And that all beings may become free of their sufferings,
Which are but the result of their own negative actions.
Instead of seeing suffering as something undesirable, you should see its positive aspects. It is a reminder of the law of cause and effect and a catalyst to increase compassion. It provides an occasion to exchange your happiness for the suffering of others. You should look at it this way, "Let me make use of this suffering. Through my suffering, may the suffering of others be alleviated. May all beings be free of suffering and enjoy happiness."
Especially whenever any of the five poisonous emotions,
Or any of the eight worldly concerns arise,
Seize hold of them with fresh presence of mind.
Afflictive mental states, like desire, hatred and pride, poison our minds and destroy any happiness we or others may experience. Because of these afflictive mental states, we are preoccupied with the eight worldly concerns of pain and pleasure, gain and loss, fame and anonymity, and praise and blame. They keep us completely torn between hopes and fears, doubts and hesitations. These eight worldly concerns have been ruling our thoughts for so long and we must now find a fresh presence of mind. But before being able to apply the suitable antidotes we must recognize these mental states. If there was a thief in your house and you were not aware of him, then your belongings would just continue to disappear. But if you became aware of the thief's presence, then it would be much more difficult for him steal from you again. Likewise, if you know what the destructive mental factors or emotions are and have mindfulness and vigilance, then you can see destructive tendencies coming and it is much easier to not get carried away by them.
As a mental exercise to vanquish ego-clinging,
Recollect all the times you have been wronged.
First, think of all the obscuring emotions
And the notion that beings and phenomena truly exist,
Which create obstacles to the higher aspirations
Of all beings in general, and of Dharma practitioners in particular,
And the difficulties and adversities arising from these.
Then, gather all of this in with your inhalation,
Dissolve it into your own ego-clinging,
And destroy the curse itself.
Gather into one essential point
A fierce determination to eliminate ego-clinging,
Together with its antidote
And the meditation practice that averts it.
The source of the five obscuring emotions, the eight worldly concerns and all the afflictive mental factors is ego-clinging, which manifests as the feeling of self-importance. Therefore, we should not forget that the purpose of all Dharma practices is to destroy the curse of ego-clinging, which brings us nothing but torment. Here a specific practice can be used. First gather all the obstacles, difficulties and adversities in with your breath, and then pound them, batter the ego-clinging that is such a great part of you. Just concentrate on it and destroy it. That is the most essential point of the practice. When you have clearly identified the very root of the problem, you should make a fierce determination to eradicate it immediately. You might think that bringing everything back to ego-clinging is over-simplifying, but that does not change the fact that ego-clinging is the source of all our problems.
This is what propels the practice.
Though seemingly insignificant, it is the very crux
And brings the greatest progress on the path.
That is the relative mind training.
You will have the swiftest results if you focus on dissolving your grasping to the notion of self. This is called relative mind training and it is what the training in relative bodhichitta is all about. In The Way of the Bodhisattva Shantideva said:
Since it is said, "There is immeasurable virtue
In wanting to cure even the mildest headache of a single being.
What about wanting to dispel
All of the sufferings of all sentient beings?"
This is why we dedicate all our efforts to attain enlightenment towards freeing all beings from suffering.
To be continued next month
Translated by Ani Jinba Palmo.