Please listen to the following teaching by generating the altruistic mind of bodhicitta.
The teachings of the complete and perfect enlightened one, the Buddha, stress the importance of the mind. Virtuous and non-virtuous acts are classified primarily by our intentions. The consequence of performing noble acts is happiness. The result of performing destructive actions is misery. Therefore, the Buddha stated in the Dhammapada that the mind precedes all phenomenal experiences. This is the reason the mind is given such importance.
If one’s thinking is initially wrong, many other mistakes follow, whereas if we think in a pure way, good things follow. Hence, one should understand that one’s mind is the master, and the body and speech are the servants. If we conduct our mind in a very pure way, then our body and speech will take the course of purity as well. Conversely, if we hold our mind in an impure way, our speech and body will follow, and misery will ensue.
Today we are talking about the six root disturbing emotions. We have already covered the first three: ignorance, desirous attachment, and hatred. Afflictive emotions stir up and create conflict. Afflictive emotions create disturbances within one’s mind. If one’s mind is disturbed by conflicting emotions, this state of mind is samsara. Conversely, if your mind becomes liberated from these conflicting emotions, this is nirvana. Nirvana is the purity of one’s own mind.
The mind can be compared to water. Water can be either clear or muddy, but the nature of the water is neither clear nor muddy. In the same way, our mind can experience samsara or nirvana, and this implies that our mind is neither samsaric nor nirvanic. This is why our mind is capable of experiencing the content of both samsara and nirvana. If one were to speak from a very elevated view, this would be called “the union of samsara and nirvana.”
The fourth root disturbing emotion is arrogance. The root of the arrogant mind can be traced to the mind that holds onto the existence of the self. A person with a proud mind will not have any good qualities. The arrogant mind prevents the cultivation of the wise mind and is incapable of seeing other people. When we say “I,” we refer to only one, but when we say “others” we refer to an infinite number. From the perspective of the Dharma, an arrogant person is very narrow-minded. There are several kinds of arrogant mind: one comes from youth, another comes from one’s possessions, and a third comes from power.
Enlightened masters of the past have said that the arrogant mind cannot learn. It is crucial for the spiritual pursuer to understand the mistaken nature of the arrogant mind. One should strive to abandon arrogance. The best way to eliminate arrogance is to meditate on the six or eighteen dhatus.
Let us consider the six dhatus. The six dhatus are the five elements, earth, water, fire, air, space, in addition to the mind. The six dhatus do not generate arrogance, because our psycho-physical structure is made up of the six dhatus. My psycho-physical structure is not superior to yours, and yours are not inferior to mine. We have exactly the same building blocks. Another way of saying this is that your body is made out of flesh and bone just as mine is. You love and cherish yourself, and others also love and cherish themselves.
Our body is made out of the four elements, and we should use the sword of wisdom to cut the tangibility down to the smallest particle to arrive at the partless particle. By also cutting this with the sword of wisdom you will arrive at the complete realization of emptiness. At this point, the arrogant mind will disappear.
Previous, present and future moments of consciousness are like a stream. Consciousness is not composed of building blocks such as particles or atoms; therefore one cannot talk of a past consciousness meeting a present consciousness, or a present consciousness meeting a future consciousness. The meeting of past, present, and future consciousness does not happen in a tangible manner. It is very helpful for your mind to know this. We should own our minds, but at the moment this is not so. From the moment we become true owners we will strive to benefit others, and we will indeed be able to do so.
One instant of consciousness being borne is followed by a subsequent moment of consciousness. Between these two instances, there is a gap. Whether you are in this moment experiencing discursive or non-discursive thoughts, you will be capable of realizing the transcendental wisdom of this of this gap.
The mind experiences appearance and emptiness at the same time. This is the inseparability of appearance and emptiness. One can meditate on this as it is taught in the heart sutra, by meditating on the fourfold emptiness. First, the mind is empty. Second, emptiness is mind. Third, there is no emptiness other than this mind, and fourth, there is no mind other than this emptiness. Therefore, the true nature of mind is the union of emptiness and appearance.
The Buddha stated that sentient beings are enlightened and that the only difference between a sentient being and an enlightened being is understanding. If one were to speak of dharmakaya, the authentic body of the Buddha, which exists within the mind of ordinary sentient beings, and the dharmakaya that exists within the mind of the Buddha or enlightened beings, there is not the slightest difference. We should not aim to arrive at the enlightened state in the distant future. Enlightenment and happiness can be attained right now.
Most people identify the arrogant mind with the self or the ego. The antidote for the arrogant mind is to meditate on the classifications of the six or eighteen dhatus. But whatever spiritual study we do, it should subdue our arrogant mind. The spiritual work that is done through the Madhyamika (middle way) philosophy or Dzogchen (the philosophy of the inseparability of samsara and nirvana) has the same purpose – to work with the egoistic mind. If you take out the essence of all the different aspects of dharma practice and blend them together, you will have a tremendous ability to work with the egoistic mind. It can be compared to hundreds of small creeks that converge and become a big river, which finally flows into the ocean. All the small rivers can only flow into the sea because of their collective force.
Doubt is the fifth root disturbing emotion. The doubtful mind is said to have two directions; it is like a person with a single body having two heads. Such a person is not able to work properly on his or her path. But this does not mean that you should not analyze and investigate. You are welcome to analyze, doubt and examine. Even the Buddha said this when he expounded on transcendental wisdom, “Even if you were to generate doubt on my teachings on emptiness, you are capable of actually shredding the world of samsara.” To overcome doubt, one needs to attain decisive certainty with regard to the Dharma. To do this one needs to study, reflect and meditate.
Many people question the existence of past and future lives and karmic cause. These questions fall into the category of doubt. We need to make a distinction between negative doubt and positive doubt. Negative doubt leads to a negative conclusion about something that is positive. Positive doubt invites further investigation. Doubting one’s friend prevents someone from accomplishing anything. One should not go to sleep with the doubt; instead one should use the doubting mind to come out of the doubt. If the doubting mind leads you to a conclusion, then the doubt has served its purpose.
The sixth root disturbing emotion is wrong view. When we think about all living beings, or all human beings, we decide everything by ourselves. This is why there are so many spiritual traditions. Many groups regard their spiritual traditions as pure. When sentient beings look upon an objective reality such as water, they can all see in different ways. Also, followers of different religious traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam believe that a particular path is right, and then everybody follows that path.
The sixth root disturbing emotion has five wrong views. The first wrong view is singularity. The five aggregates are subject to impermanence, but the individual wrongly perceives the five aggregates to be permanent and unchanging; this depends on other factors. The five aggregates of the person are not a single entity. Also, the five aggregates are held to be clean whereas in reality, they are unclean. Through these erroneous views, beings hold onto the existence of a self. It does not matter if you are a religious believer or not.
The second wrong view is extremism. With regard to the first view, sentient beings hold that there is only one reality concerning the five aggregates. The second wrong view is an elaboration of the first wrong view. Some sentient beings perceive reality to be impermanent, some perceive the reality to be nihilistic, and some perceive the reality to be eternal. For example, some non-Buddhist traditions assert that the creator of this world is permanent. Some ancient non-Buddhist Indian philosophies assert that there is no law of karma of cause and effect, that there is no rebirth, no previous birth, and no future incarnations. Such statements correspond with the view of nihilism. Based on extreme views, sentient beings quarrel and create turmoil.
The third view is the perverted view. The perverted view does not understand reality. The reality is perverted. The perverted view applies to conventional reality. The conventional truth or reality is understood in a perverted way. All dharmas manifest on the basis of causes and conditions. The manifestation of inner or outer phenomenal experiences comes about because of the law of interconnectedness, and the belief that there is no such law is perverted.
The fourth view is attachment to ethics. People in one religious tradition claim that their moral ethics are superior to those practiced by other religious traditions. Believing that one’s ethics are superior to others’ ethics, that one’s technique is superior to others’ techniques is the fourth wrong view because it creates trouble. If you praise your own moral ethics and condemn those of other spiritual traditions, your view is the opposite of the Buddha’s.
The fifth view is the view that holds one’s views to be superior. The fourth view is connected to behavior, but the fifth view is connected to attitudes. For example, some non-Buddhist traditions claim that God, the Creator, is the Supreme Being. Buddhism claims that the creator of the world is not some kind of Supreme Being; the creator of the world is the law of interdependence.
The Buddha has stated that not everybody must adopt the Buddhist view, and that it is wrong to assume that one’s views are better than all others. For example, if one holds oneself as superior, this is arrogance. People with an arrogant mind cannot respect and revere anyone else. It is very easy for that arrogant mind to criticize, condemn and bully others. The practice is to overcome discursive thoughts, but the practice of such a view will increase the discursive thoughts. One should strive towards recognizing the six root disturbing emotions and try to eliminate them. Otherwise, they will cause one’s mind to undergo confusion and misery.
When the Buddha turned the first wheel of the Dharma and gave the sermon of the Four Noble Truths, he said that we should understand suffering. Similarly, following the statement of the Buddha, we should understand the root of the disturbing emotions; and we should attempt to overcome these disturbing emotions.
Question: Rinpoche, would you say that it would be possible to be free from wrong views by practicing other disciplines than Buddhism?
This question should be asked of the teacher of the other discipline. Laughter. I am not knowledgeable in that particular tradition, so I would not know if that spiritual tradition has the capacity to liberate you from wrong views. Only people who have delved deeply into that tradition can know this. During my travels in China I have met several older Chinese men who said that Tibetan Buddhism is very bad. When I asked them what Tibetan Buddhism was, they did not know. If you don’t know what a religion is, then how can you know if it is bad?
Question: In some way, I can understand cause and conditions, but when I come to this time immemorial it is easy to create doubt because in many ways it easier to understand that somebody started it.
You are the creator of the world. But actually, it may be a question whether it is relevant to trace back to the creation of the world because one can go back ad infinitum. There seem to be enough problems to deal with in this life. For example, many people even commit suicide due to unbearable suffering. If we remember all our past existences, our pain would be multiplied.
Samsara has existed since time immemorial; this accords with the reality as it is. If you were to posit a point of origin, this raises contradictions. It does not correspond to reality. Would you like to have a samsara with or without beginning?
Respondent: I am not sure if it is so important, but I don’t know why you are so sure that there is no beginning.
For example, you cannot find the beginning of one grain. For example, you have your parents, and they have their parents. Can you find the original parents? If you can find your original parents, then these parents will be your creator. It is impossible to find. Or take the example of the chicken and egg. Which one comes first?
Respondent: That is why I don’t understand why you can be so sure why there is no start.
Based on the teachings I have tried to find the origin of the world. I could not find it, and this is why I am sure about this. Since I explored and could not find a point of beginning, maybe it is no point for you to explore, maybe it is merely a waste of energy. Perhaps it is more of a question to look at the endpoint.
Question: You talk about disturbing thoughts and emotions. Do you distinguish between thoughts and emotions?
A thought is general; an emotion is specific. For example, the conceptual mind has pure and impure thoughts. Impure thoughts generate impure emotions. It is difficult to classify tangible particles like atoms because they are so small. But now we are talking about the intangible phenomena of our mind, which are even more difficult to talk about. If you don’t understand precisely, but understand in a general way, this is sufficient.
If you recognize disturbing emotions the moment they appear in your mind, they will be liberated immediately. If you detect impure thoughts and conceptual mind, you will be able to understand what pure thought is and what pure conceptual mind is. When we experience suffering, we appreciate times when we are free from suffering.
Question: There are different ways of dealing with disturbing emotions. One is just to let them play themselves out and try to learn from them. Then you have the method of applying an antidote, and then you have the Dzogchen view of self-liberation. How do you know which one to choose?
It depends on the practitioner. If you have cloudy water, you can filter out the mud to restore the clarity, or you can just allow the water to rest and become clear by itself. The first method is a fabrication; the other method is non-fabricated and can be compared to the Dzogchen method.
Respondent: It seems to me that I have a couple of seconds to apply the self-liberating approach, and then if I am able to spot it soon enough, it may just dissolve on its own. If that does not work, I can use the antidote, and if that does not work, I can just let it screw me over.
It is appropriate to alternate techniques. The main thing is to make sure that applying all of the techniques will reduce the discursive thoughts. If this happens, any technique can be applied. Whether you take regular medicine or homeopathic medicine, it does not make any difference if it cures your disease.
I have explained the six root disturbing emotions with a few subclasses. This subject is taken out of the 51 mental factors. What is, for example, the difference between hatred and aggression? You see, usually we use these terms, but we don’t know the subtle differences. Things become very complicated. It is very difficult for me to work with a computer, but understanding the 51 mental events and so on is rather easy. It would be beneficial for you to study a little Madyamika and then enter into the Dzogchen or Mahamudra practice.
Oslo, June 2005
Translated by Lama Changchub at Karma Tashi Ling Buddhist Centre, Norway