from Ven. Thubten Nyima
As the wonderful late teacher Geshe Lhundup Sopa writes in his Steps on the Path to Enlightenment: Commentary on Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo: “The purpose of listening to the Dharma is to apply it to your own mental continuum. “
In other words, we use the Dharma to evaluate our own minds and determine what to give up and what to cultivate. The Dharma helps us to recognize which ailments are stronger in our minds and gives us antidotes to eradicate those ailments
The purpose of the Dharma is not to help us diagnose other people’s faults. But how many of us use the Dharma to find out what is wrong with other people?
Do we concentrate more on what others are doing and label them as too angry, these as a chip on the shoulder and these as arrogant beyond this world? Are we spending more time analyzing others instead of focusing on the state of our own mind? If we do that, we are doing wrong.
A great way to stop focusing on the mistakes of others and focus on our own mind is to cultivate the following six positive mental attitudes.
- We see ourselves as patients
- Perceiving the Dharma teacher as a doctor
- Seeing the Dharma as medicine
- Perceiving Dharma practice as a cure for illness
- See the Buddha as a holy being
- Generating a desire that the Dharma will last for a long time
First, we perceive ourselves as patients.
We see ourselves as someone with a serious illness. We have a disease called cyclical existence, which is caused by attachment, anger and ignorance and the polluted karma we generate when they run rampant in our minds. Just as a sick person suffers mental and physical pain due to illness, we all suffer greatly from mental ailments and polluted karma.
So let’s think about what we do when we have a physical illness. What kind of patient are we? Do we realize that we are sick and go to the doctor right away? Do we stew in denial for as long as possible and refuse to make an appointment with the doctor? Do you insist on self-diagnosing yourself over the internet and preparing your own medication based on recommendations from friends or family? Of course, these are not appropriate methods of dealing with a physical illness, nor are they useful when it comes to our condition.
After thinking deeply and accepting that we have this disease of cyclical existence, our next step is to find a good doctor who can help us get cured. However, since the disease of cyclical existence occurs in the mind, we need medicines that target the mind. In other words, pills, injections, sprays, bandages, etc. will not work. We need spiritual medicine.
Because of our great inability and resistance to seeing ourselves as sick – as attachment, anger, and ignorance – we really need to try very hard to maintain this attitude. We have to consider the disadvantages of cyclical existence and the desire to be free from it. Once we create this setting, however, the other five will come with less effort.
Once we are convinced of our disease, we will Find a doctor Who has the wisdom and compassion to help us heal. So we turn to a qualified spiritual mentor.
The Buddha is the most capable and qualified spiritual mentor. Why? Because once the Buddha was just like us and could free himself from the sickness of cyclical existence; the same disease that we have. He is therefore an expert and can show us how he did it. His expertise is based on the fact that he developed great compassion; he gave up the tribulations and ignorance of grasping self; achieved his own goals; and strives to help others do the same. These qualities make him a reliable doctor.
Since the Buddha is no longer alive, we rely on other qualified spiritual mentors to teach exactly what he taught. We rely on those who give the same medicine that the Buddha gives.
So what is it Medicine that the Buddha gives? Dharma is medicine.
Everything the Buddha teaches aims to get rid of anger, attachment and ignorance. The drug can be bitter or difficult to take, but ingestion is key to healing.
Let us reflect on our attitudes when going to the doctor. Do you go home and think … “This doctor doesn’t know anything?” Instead, do we go online, type in our symptoms and try to self-diagnose? Are we relying on friends and family to recommend a drug to treat our disease? Of course, if we follow the do-it-yourself approach, we are taking our risk. We could be worse off than before. Or we may be sick for a long time because we didn’t get the right medicine.
Once we have determined the qualifications of the doctor, it is natural to follow their advice. And in a broader sense, we consider the medicine that a qualified doctor gives to be absolutely necessary for our well-being.
We are fortunate to live in a time when the Buddha’s teachings still exist. In addition, we have access to spiritual mentors who teach exactly what the Buddha taught. So if we do not take advantage of our good situation, if we do not follow Teacher’s instructions, we cannot get rid of our illness.
In order to cure our inner sickness, the sickness of cyclical existence, it is not enough to practice some of the teachings just once or twice here and there. Rather, it is necessary to practice every part of the way.
We have to practice consistently and intensely to see beneficial results.
Geshe Sopa recommends cultivating a mind that thinks, “If I take this practice seriously and use it continuously, I will definitely recover from this disease.” He explains that this kind of trust and belief are necessary to make Dharma practice effective.
In other words, once we have received the teachings, we must take the medicine. That means we have to meditate and practice. If we understand the teachings but do not put them into practice through meditation, we will see no results.
Last we Create a desire for the Dharma to endure so that we and others can continue to benefit from the teachings.
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