|A teaching on The Three Principal Aspects of the Path by Ven. Denma Lochö Rinpoche at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London, in early October 2001.
The Three Principal Aspects of the Path is a text by Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) which covers the entire Buddhist path to enlightenment.
Part 1: Renunciation
Part 2: Renunciation
Part 3: Bodhicitta
Part 4: Correct View of Emptiness
Part 3: Bodhicitta
So this state of cessation then - you may wonder 'can I remain in this state?' But if we contemplate this, what is known as a 'lesser', enlightenment is not the full fruition of one's endeavours towards generating qualities and abandoning negativities within oneself. That is to say one hasn’t brought to a final fruition one’s spiritual path, and with regard to others, one hasn’t brought about any final stages of spiritual practice or endeavour. So this being the case then, one should contemplate remaining in this lesser enlightenment, and then contemplate the qualities of the highest unsurpassable state of enlightenment. So we can look at the difference twofold: With regard to one’s own practice then, one hasn’t reached the limit of one’s spiritual practice. That is to say, from the side of abandonment, one might have removed the grosser delusions, but one still hasn't removed the subtle imprints left by those delusions on one's mental continuum, or mind, that is to say, the obstructions or the stains which prevent the forcing of omniscience or full enlightenment. Then from the side of achieving qualities - even though one has achieved certain qualities through this lesser nirvana, like the direct perception of emptiness and so forth, one still hasn't brought about the qualities of Buddhahood. So if we look at the varying inconceivable qualities of the Buddha's enlightened activity, then we can see that a person staying in a lesser enlightenment is incomparable with somebody who has achieved the state of unsurpassable full awakening, that is to say, has become Buddha.
So that individual, through having achieved the status of Fully Enlightened One, has not only brought about the final result of his or her spiritual endeavour, but also at the same time has brought about the ultimate benefit for all other sentient beings. That is to say, having achieved that state, he or she is able to bring about manifest inconceivable benefit for all other sentient beings, the likes of which is not known or is unable to be performed by any other kind of being. Then through having achieved that state, one has brought about the final fruition of one’s own spiritual practice and has brought about the extreme of being of use, or of benefit, to others. So the cause of giving rise to that spiritual state is bodhicitta. So then we should understand how to generate this mind of bodhicitta, and the way of meditating upon the causes which give rise to the bodhicitta are explained as the 'six cause and one effect' instructions.
'Six cause and one result' instruction
This 'six cause and one result' instruction for developing the mind aspiring to highest enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings (that is to say, the mind of bodhicitta) - let us look at this from the point of view of the resultant state, that is bodhicitta. The direct cause of bodhicitta is this special intent - this thought that 'I myself must engage in this particular effort in order to benefit all sentient beings'. The special intent has as its cause a mind of great compassion. 'Great compassion' is the wish to separate each and every sentient being from not only dissatisfaction, but also the very causes of dissatisfaction. The cause for this mind of great compassion is a mind of great love. So here 'great love' refers to the attitude which wishes all sentient beings to have not only manifest happiness and well-being, but also the causes which will bring about such happiness and well-being. This then has as its cause the wish to repay the kindness of sentient beings. So here when we think about repaying the kindness, we have to remember the kindness which we have been shown in the past - thus we have the fifth cause, that is, remembering the kindness of others. And the kindest person to oneself is one's mother, so the first (or the last in the way that we are here presenting it at the moment) cause is the mind which views all sentient beings as having been one's kind mother in a previous existence.
So then recognising all beings as having been one's mother we have to have a certain attitude towards sentient beings. Because at the moment, if we are honest with ourselves, the way we view others is that we hold those who are our friends or our relatives very close, whereas we put a great distance between ourselves and those who are unkind to us, or are our enemies. So the difference between the way we view friends and enemies is as vast as the ocean. If our friends and relatives have nice experiences, nice things, nice food then we are very happy; if they undergo any kind of difficulty then we feel very sad, we wish to be a friend at that time or to separate them from that dissatisfaction. Then with regard to our enemy, the way we view them is that if they have any good qualities whatsoever or any kind of enjoyment, then our mind-state becomes perturbed, we wish to compete with them, we generate jealousy towards them, we generate covetousness towards the enjoyments which they might possess. And if they have any kind of difficulty whatsoever then we greatly rejoice, and we are praying that it might increase and so forth. So with a mind which is so one-sided, it is almost impossible to bring about this mind which recognises all sentient beings as having been one's kind mother. So initially we need to equalise all sentient beings, we need to view them all in an equal light. And then through having an equal attitude towards all sentient beings, whether they be kind or difficult towards us, then on the basis of that view, we are able to engage in the practices which will bring about this mind striving for full awakening, or the mind of bodhicitta. So then initially we need to make the ground, or the field, within which we are going to plant the causes which will give rise to bodhicitta, or the mind aspiring striving for enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. You may then wonder – isn’t this a case of a numerical miscalculation – surely there are seven causes and one effect? But this is not the case – there are six causes but the six causes are like seeds which need to be planted in a field. So here the ‘field’ is one of an equal view of equanimity towards all sentient beings, then within that field, the causes which will give rise naturally to the mind aspiring to full enlightenment are then planted. So initially one needs to clean out or make ready the field, or the bed, and then slowly plant the seeds serially in that.
In order to develop this mind which views all sentient beings in an equal light, one needs to view one's friends as friends in this lifetime, but then contemplate that in a previous existence they may have been one's worst enemies, and those who caused one a great amount of difficulty and harm. Then with regard to one's enemies, one can contemplate that in a previous existence, these individuals may have been those who were extremely kind to one, having been one's kind parents and so forth. So here then we are talking about previous existences, we are not limiting ourselves to this life in and of itself.
So in order for this to have some weight behind it we need to contemplate the existence of previous lives, and to do this we should utilise the reasoning that is given in the Pramanavarttika: The first moment of awareness of a fetus has a preceding moment which is similar to it. The root text of that book tells us to separate what we know as the ‘body’ and ‘mind’, and then look at the causes of both of them. If we look at the cause of our present physical form, then that is the sperm of the father and the blood of the mother coming together, that is the substantial cause of our human form. But this in and of itself is not enough - there has to be something else added to that in order for a live human being to then develop in the mother's womb and be born - and this is the consciousness which has to enter into that mixture, and then when the three factors are complete, the fetus can start to grow and develop in the mother's womb.
So this first moment of awareness is a consciousness, a mind, and its substantial cause should be one which is concordant with it, that is to say, it should be another moment of consciousness. Now that moment of consciousness doesn’t come from the white substance from the father or the red substance from the mother, but rather comes from what is known as the 'intermediate state being', or the 'bardo being'. So at that point then, the bardo being ceases to be and that consciousness then enters into the white and red mixture. So it is not the case that minds come out of nowhere and then disappear again, rather they come into being through dependence upon a cause, which is a substantial cause which is similar to them. So if we understand that, we trace back our existence - the time we were born, the time when we were in the mother's womb, and then the time of the three (that is to say the white and the red liquids and then the consciousness coming together), the moment before that when we were what is known as an intermediate state being. And then if we trace the intermediate state being's consciousness back to the principal cause of that, which is the person who is passing away, and then if we trace that last moment of a human being's life back to birth, and so on. So we see that there is not an end to one's previous existences. So that's why it is said that consciousness in and of itself doesn't have a beginning but it does have an end, in the sense that when we achieve full enlightenment, at that point, we won't be under the control of the afflictive emotions and karma. So we will be free of being a consciousness which is wandering under the control of others…
So through this we can see not only ourselves having a mind which is without beginning, but all other sentient beings also having a similar mind, also having worn various forms in the past, having acted out various parts of mothers and fathers and so forth in the past. So through this continual contemplation, our initial feeling that 'I think there is a past life, I think there might be a future life' becomes stabilised. Through having stabilised this view, we can see that it is very feasible that those who are close to us now have in past existences been our enemies, and those who are our enemies now have at some point in the past been very kind to us. So through this repeated contemplation we will start to view from our side sentient beings in an equal light. Thus we will develop the view of equanimity to all sentient beings.
Reasonings and views to bring about the mind of equanimity
Developing this mind which views all sentient beings equally, one should strive to develop these reasonings and views within oneself to bring about the field within which we are going to plant the seeds for bodhicitta. So then through having contemplated the reasonings which bring about the correct mind which understands the actual nature of past and future lives, then let us try to bring about this mind of equal view towards all sentient beings.
So in order then to bring this about, we need to have a starting point, or a reference point, and one of the very important pith instructions is to view somebody to whom one has no particular attraction or aversion, an ordinary person which one may have just seen on the street one day, and then view that person in front of oneself with the motivation that 'I am going to develop a mind of equanimity towards that individual'. One begins the contemplation that this individual is one whom I may have known well in a previous existence... Contemplate the reasons why that person has had previous existences, how we may have had relationships with that individual in the past, be it a good relationship or a bad relationship. Then after having meditated upon the various reasonings which we have gone through, the mind of equanimity will start to arise within one's mind, or being.
Then we need to view not only those to whom we have no particular affinity but also those friends which bring about desire, and those enemies which bring about self-grasping, anger and the rest of the destructive emotions. So when we engage in these contemplations, we can do it in either a vast way or an abbreviated way. If we do it in a vast way then - viewing somebody whom we have no particular attachment or aversion to, on either side of that person we can visualise different kinds of friends and different kinds of enemies. Let's say we make a division into three - those to whom we are very attached, very close to, then those whom we are quite close to, and then those whom we have some vague feeling of closeness towards. Then the same with enemies - we can have our very great enemies, then a 'middling' enemy, and then someone who might have said at one time or another something unpleasant to us, a 'slight' enemy.
So then viewing first of all the slight enemy, we can contemplate that at the present moment, having engaged in negative actions in the past one is experiencing the negative result of such an action, and that negative result is causing us to have some slight rift between us, to cause some slight unpleasantness between us. Then contemplate how in the past this individual I am visualising, this slight enemy, has been incredibly kind to me, as kind as my mother of this life. Then they have also been a harsh enemy, they haven't always been in this slight enemy situation, but owing to the change of circumstances brought about through the ripening effect of previously accrued negative karma, the experience one is having with that individual is one which is slightly unpleasant. So using the reasonings which we went through earlier, remove that feeling of slight aversion and bring it into a neutral state by contemplating how that individual has been incredibly kind and also quite nasty to one in a previous existence, just like the person to whom one has a neutral feeling.
And then thirdly, we look to somebody who is quite close to us, someone who may have just said something pleasant to us, somebody whom we feel slightly close to. In the past we have perhaps developed some kind of positive karma, the ripening result of which is that we have had some kind of slightly pleasant encounter with such an individual. Then using the lines of reasoning, we can lessen our desirous attachment towards that person to whom we have a slight affinity.
Then we can go back to contemplating the neutral person in the middle and go on to (if we are doing it in an abbreviated way) view one's harsh enemies of this life, those whom one has a really bad relationship with. And then we can view those to whom we are particularly close, for example our partners or our parents and so forth. So whether we do that using a threefold division of slightly close, mediocrely close and greatly close, or just an abbreviated one of quite close and very close, it doesn't matter, but we should do this serially, using the lines of reasoning upon each of those individuals, and then through utilising those lines of reasoning, bring about an equal view towards all sentient beings. Thus we develop and achieve the mind of equanimity.
Dealing with the individuals who are our worst enemies - we might be in such a predicament that even the thought of them, bringing their appearance to mind, causes us to generate great anger, and the moment when we see them, we generate anger, and the moment they see they us, again they generate anger, and you want to engage in some particular action which will bring harm to that enemy and vice versa. This kind of attitude is one which is quite mistaken because just through seeing such an enemy or them seeing you, through developing anger through seeing that individual's form, what one is doing is continually familiarising oneself with the destructive emotion of anger
…And that this is not something which is beneficial to ourselves. So then we should make the resolve that 'I am not going to, just as habit would dictate, give rise to this mind of anger towards this sworn enemy which I have; rather, I'm going to engage in the practice of developing equanimity towards that individual'. So then using the reasonings which we've gone through, contemplate that this is just the ripening effect of previously accrued negative karma through which we are experiencing - both of us - great difficulties. And this is only a kind of temporary state, in that in the previous existence, this person has been incredibly kind to me, as kind as a mother or a very close friend or a partner, and this is only a kind of temporary state which is just brought about through the interconnectedness of actions and cause and effect. Then, through this, we lessen our aversion towards that enemy and rather bring them into the fold of those towards whom we have an equal view, a mind of equanimity. Then lastly, those individuals whom we are very close to, those whom we are very attached to - these individuals are ones which may be our parents or our partners and so forth. Then we should contemplate in a similar fashion: These individuals are ones whom we enjoy a good relationship with at the moment but this in and of itself is only temporary; at most, its time-limit will be this life only. So again using reasonings which we've gone through: In a previous existence I have been an enemy to this person, they have been very unkind and difficult to me, they have been my parents and so forth. Through this contemplation then, our attachment to that individual lessens and then we finally bring them into the fold of all sentient beings towards whom we've developed this equal view of equanimity.
So it's very important that when engaging in this meditation, we do it in a serious and serial way. 'Serious' in the sense that we engage in the practice, and once we've developed some kind of taste for that practice then we move onto the next part - we don't just do it in a kind of haphazard way. Because if we just make the prayer - 'May I come to view all sentient beings in an equal state, free of anger and attachment, holding some as close and some as far away', and then making the request to the spiritual master to bless one's mind-stream so that this view will come about, then that's as far as it will go - it will just be a prayer. So some days it might go well and other days it might go poorly. But if this is the case, then one has no real chance of developing the causes for bodhicitta because one hasn't really developed the proper field within which these seeds are to be planted. So it cannot be over-emphasised how much one should strive at developing this field and then one should set about planting the seeds within that field. Otherwise, some days one's practice might go well whereas other days it will go very poorly, and thus one's request to the lama to bless one, so that one develops the mind of equanimity, free of anger and attachment, which holds some as close and some as far, will just be mere words.
The recognition of all sentient beings as one's kind mothers
So then having developed this equal view towards all sentient beings, one should then familiarise oneself with this view until it becomes stable within one's mental continuum, or mind, and then one should strive to develop the first of these six causes which is the recognition of all sentient beings as one's kind mothers. So then the meditation scenario is similar to what we've gone through: initially we pick someone with whom we have no particular relationship, then an enemy, then one to whom we have a particularly close affinity, and then use the lines of reasoning which we have gone through previously - that just as I have had beginningless lives, so in the same way the individual whom I'm bringing to mind in front of me has had countless previous existences. Then in those existences, we have not just come out of thin air, but rather we were born from our mother's womb. So as we equally are the same in having had beginningless existences, then we are also the same in that we have also had a beginningless, or countless, number of mothers. So if we put two 'countlesses' together, they kind of fall one on top of the other, so it's very likely that this person in front of oneself has been, at some point, one's kind mother. And then through that kind of contemplation, we come to generate the mind or belief that the individual whom one is visualising, has at some point in the past had the experience of being one's mother, and then we stabilise this belief until this comes a part of our being. And then after that has been stabilised, we move our attention towards our enemies, and then to those to whom we are close and again use the same lines of reasoning – that just as I have had countless previous existences, they too have had countless previous existences, and during those existences, we were not born from nowhere but rather we were born from a mother. So then it is extremely likely that this individual has been my kind mother in a previous existence. And then we continually familiarise oneself with this view that all sentient beings throughout space have had in a previous existence the experience of being our mother. Then when, through familiarisation, this view becomes stable, we can move on to the next part.
Remembering the kindness of one's mother
So then just viewing all sentient beings as having been one's mother in the past is nothing much in and of itself; rather this is just providing the basis for the following two contemplations - that is, remembering the kindness of one's mother and then wishing to repay that kindness. So the word 'mother' when we contemplate that, evokes images of somebody who has been incredibly kind to one, for example young children always cry for their mothers and so forth. So then if we contemplate how our mother of this life has been incredibly kind to us, then the reasoning will follow that, equally, in previous existences how all sentient beings, at the time that we were undergoing the experience of a parental relationship, were equally as kind to us as the mother of this life.
So then if we look at the initial stages when we are a fetus in the womb: the person who was carrying us, our mother-to-be, was very strict in her diet, was very strict in the amount of work she would engage in, would be very careful about going here and there because she didn't want to bring any harm to the child she was carrying. Then at the time of birth, as it says in the scriptures, the bones are moved by the very birth of the child. These days it’s probably less painful than it was in the past because we often hear accounts of mothers dying during childbirth. Then at the time of birth, a child's flesh is very tender and the child can only be held in a very delicate, very soft way, can only be held in very fine cloth and so forth, all of which is provided for by one's kind mother. And then as one starts to grow, our mother continually takes care of us, feeding us with milk from the breast, and clearing away mucus from the nose with her hands, removing excrement and so forth, continually watching over us, and making sure we are not in any kind of minor distress, making sure that we have a full stomach, that we are not on any rough surface and so forth. And then as we start to develop as a child, we learn to crawl, then it is said that the mother is continually looking for hundreds of ways to protect the child from the world, in the sense that in your house there might be a fire and the child might crawl towards the fire or it might crawl out of a door, crawl onto a road where it might be hurt by cars, or might crawl near to the stairs. So every day the mother is continually protecting us from hundreds of dangers or hundreds of difficult situations. Not only giving us a physical protection in the early years, but also then later in life helping us to turn from a child into an adult, aiding us with education, giving money for our education and so forth. All of this is not something that appeared from nowhere but rather something which is brought about solely through the kindness of one's mother. So using the mother of this life as an example, then we should engage in the practice of bringing to mind the kindness which we have been shown.
Wishing to repay such kindness, mind of great love, mind of great compassion
Then through recalling the kindness of one's parent sentient beings, we should not just leave it at that, but rather use that as the starting point to wish to repay such kindness which has been shown to us. We might think that we can repay the kindness of our parent sentient beings by giving some food or some clothing or a place to stay, but that is limited in the sense that it is only something which might be utilised or enjoyed in this life, and this life alone. Rather if we view sentient beings in the sense that sentient beings all, like ourselves, desire to have happiness and the causes of happiness and desire to be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. So if we were really to repay the kindness of parent sentient beings, it would be most beneficial if we could bring about the causes for happiness and their result for our parents, and bring about the removal of suffering and the causes of suffering for our kind parent sentient beings. So in order to do this one needs to develop heart-warming love - wishing them to have happiness and its causes, and compassion - wishing them to be free of suffering. The plight of sentient beings in echoed is Shantideva's book, The Bodhicaryavatara, where it says,
Although desirous of happiness,
through the force of ignorance,
they destroy its causes like an enemy.
Although not wishing dissatisfaction,
they joyfully enter its path.
So what Shantideva is saying is that sentient beings, although desirous of happiness, do not know the causes which bring about happiness, and more often than not, destroy the causes of happiness like they would destroy an enemy because of being blinded by ignorance and confusion. And then through this confusion, they joyfully enter the pathway which will lead to the state of dissatisfaction.
Then through wishing others to have happiness and its cause (which is love), and wishing others to be free of suffering and its causes (which is compassion) one needs to develop, or bring about, the superior intention. So here 'superior intention' refers then to not just leaving the mind of love and compassion as just that - a mind wishing others to have happiness and wishing other to be free of suffering, but rather bringing about the means which will allow them to have the causes of happiness and be free of the causes of dissatisfaction. So 'superior' in that it is superior to all the other kinds of intention which one might develop; this superior intention is the actual cause which brings about the mind aspiring to highest enlightenment. So then if we look at this through the utilisation of an example, we can get some idea of what this mind should be like. If we then view sentient beings as being blind; 'blind' in the sense that the wisdom eye has been blinded by the arrow of ignorance; and not only that, but the kind mother sentient beings are unsure of what to take up and what to abandon, so in that way they are kind of crazy in a sense, or drunk. And then not only that, but they are bereft of a spiritual friend who can advise them of what to take up and what to abandon, thus we can say they are without a guide. And as our kind parent sentient beings have accrued, like ourselves, many positive and negative karmas, then it's very possible that they could very easily fall into the abyss of the lower realms. So they are like a person walking upon a cliff-face. So if an only child were to see his mother in a state of being blinded by a cataract or an arrow of ignorance, without a guide, and kind of temporarily insane, walking atop a high cliff path, then that child would be desperately seeking a way to get to his mother and to rescue her from such a predicament. So in the same way we should train our minds so that we view all sentient beings as that only child views his mother whilst wandering atop the cliff path: blinded by ignorance, bereft of a spiritual friend who can show them what to take up and what to abandon, bereft of a guide to lead them along that path, in immediate danger of falling to the abyss at the bottom of the cliffs i.e. the lower realms, wandering along such a path. We should train our minds to feel like that only child viewing his mother in such a predicament.
Qualities of the Buddha
Having given rise to this superior intent, like the child viewing his mother in such a predicament, we need to contemplate - how can I rescue my kind mother sentient beings? What can I do that will enable me to rescue all these kind mother sentient beings from this perilous predicament? So then we need to search, we need to look around to see who has the ability to bring about the release from suffering of all mother sentient beings. If we search in the hearers and the Solitary Realisers, foe-destroyer camp, then we find that those individual do not have the capacity to bring about such a cessation. If we look in the Bodhisattvas abiding on the grounds, then we find that those superior ones also do not have the ability to liberate all sentient beings from such a predicament. So then through searching, we come to the conclusion that… the only individual we will find who has such an ability is the Fully Enlightened One, the Buddha.
So as is mentioned in the Abhisamayalamkara then, the desire to achieve this state of Buddhahood is one of the two-fold cause which brings about this state. For example as is mentioned in the text, one needs to view all sentient beings and wish to separate them from the suffering which they are undergoing and the causes of that suffering, and then also complement that with the wish that one will achieve this exalted state (that is the state of full enlightenment, or full awakening) to bring about such a cessation, to bring about the removal of these causes of suffering. So then there are two factors which are needed to bring full enlightenment about - the desire to achieve that, and the reason - to liberate all sentient beings from suffering and the causes of suffering.
So then if we contemplate the Buddha – what is it about the Buddha that has the ability to release all sentient beings from suffering? So if we look at the qualities of the Fully Enlightened One, we can look at the qualities of the body, the speech, the mind and the enlightened activity. For example with regard to the physical form of the One Thus Born, then we have the thirty two major and eighty minor marks, the mere sight of which causes liberation. Then we have the inconceivable speech. So it is said that if a hundred people in their own languages ask a hundred different questions, each and every one of them will be satisfied with regard to the answer they receive from one utterance from the enlightened speech of the Fully Awakened One. And with regard to the mind, there is a division of knowledge and love. So with regard to knowledge: in a single instant, the Fully Awakened One knows all actions, all dharmas, of the past, the present and the future simultaneously. And with regard to love: Viewing all sentient beings in an equal fashion, regardless of those beings' views toward the Fully Awakened One, whether they be massaging perfume into one of the hands or cutting the other hand with a sword, then the Buddha himself views all sentient beings as a mother views her only child. And with regard to the enlightened activity - the enlightened activity is one which is completely limitless and spontaneously works to bring about the benefit of sentient beings. So this state of existence, this state of Buddhahood, is that which one strives to achieve so as to be able to bring about the benefit of all sentient beings. This is what is known as the 'king-like' bodhicitta; 'king' in the sense that a king can decree laws and so forth which will bring about benefit to his subjects, so in the same way if one achieves this status, one can bring about the benefit of all sentient beings.
Exchanging self for others
We have gone through the six cause and one effect method of generating the awakened mind, but there is also another method of generating such a mind aspiring to highest enlightenment, which comes through Manjushri and Shantideva and such masters. This is known as 'the equalising and exchanging of self for others'. So it is said that through this contemplation, one necessarily meditates upon the six cause and one effect. However if one contemplates the six cause and one effect method of generating the awakened mind, it doesn't necessarily follow that one engages in the practice of equalising and exchanging self for others, so there is a difference there.
So then the starting point is to develop a mind which views all sentient beings as being equal – equal in the sense of all sentient beings wanting happiness and all sentient beings wising to avoid suffering. What follows then is the meditation of giving and taking, where one visualises taking upon oneself the suffering of others and then giving one’s qualities to others. Although this in and of itself is not the main purpose of this profound meditation technique - the profundity here then comes about through changing one’s attitude
…through contemplating this mistaken attitude and this beneficial attitude, one can truly engage in this particular practice through changing one's attitude towards oneself and others.
The exalted remembering the kindness of sentient beings
In order to develop this mind, one needs remembering the kindness of others in an exalted way. This is to say that one doesn't just dwell upon the kindness which was shown to one in a previous existence where one had the parental relationship with a particular individual, but rather what one dwells upon is that all sentient beings at all times are being useful and kind to us. If we consider our enjoyments, for example the clothes we wear - if we have a nice woollen sweater that keeps us warm, then let us consider where this sweater came from: Initially the wool had to come from a sheep which was kept by a farmer, then there was the sheep-shearer who took the wool, then the wool was cleaned, then the wool was made into spinning wool; then from that wool a sweater was made which was then dyed, then taken to a shop, then sold to us, and then we can enjoy this sweater. So through the kindness of many individuals in the manufacture of our sweater then we are able to enjoy this product.
So in the same way when we eat food, whether it be rice or barley or whatever, then that doesn't just come from nowhere or just come from the cook that has put it on a plate for us. Rather if we consider that a field has to be sown, a field has to be ploughed, then the seed, whether it be rice or barley, has to be sown, then the crop has to be taken care of (watered, fertilised and so forth), then has to be harvested, then the chaff has to be taken away, and then the rice is processed, then it's packaged, then it's taken to a shop, then it's put on the shelf, then we are able to take that from the shelf and then cook it. So all along the way, there are countless kind individuals who are aiding us to enjoy these products, countless individuals involved in their production. So then one contemplates their kindness in aiding us to enjoy various products. So through this contemplation, we develop the exalted remembering the kindness of sentient beings. This is extremely important and without this, it is very difficult to actually engage in the main part of this pith instruction or meditation.
This is the same for any situation in which we find ourselves. For example, now we are all sitting here enjoying the Dharma teaching in this beautiful building. So this building didn't come from nowhere and it certainly didn't come about through our efforts. Rather countless individuals in the past - hundreds or perhaps even thousands - were involved in the planning of this building, the building of the foundations, then of the actual building itself, putting the windows in and whatever - so that now we can just come to this building and enjoy the Dharma teaching which Rinpoche is giving. But if we contemplate that hundreds or thousands of individuals have been instrumental in bringing about this Dharma talk we are now enjoying - it's not just those of us who are assembled here, rather hundreds and thousands of kind mother / father sentient beings have aided us, whether knowingly or not, in the past by having built this court-house.
So all of our enjoyments are brought about through the kindness of sentient beings. Our body came into existence through the combined efforts of our mother and father and the union of the white and red fluids. Then everything we own, every possession which we have, came into existence, came into our possession, through the kindness of sentient beings. In fact everything we can imagine came into being through the kindness of other sentient beings - so thus we should contemplate.
The faults of self-cherishing and the benefits of cherishing others
So then after this contemplation, we need to bring to mind the next step which is contemplating on the faults of self-cherishing and the benefits of cherishing others more than oneself. So it is said that self-cherishing leads one by the head, as it were, into all kinds of dissatisfaction or suffering. So let us understand what is meant by self-cherishing: If we think of certain situations which we might find ourselves in - let us say we want to have some particular object, a table or whatever. Then if we don't have the money to purchase such an item, then really wanting the best for ourselves and thinking that this 'best' will only be achieved through having such an object (in this instance, the table), then we will engage in the practice of stealing. Then, wishing the best for ourselves, we may think that if we kill an enemy we may have greater status or greater peace or whatever - then we may engage in the practice of killing another, purely through wishing to have the best for ourselves. Again for example, we might wish somebody to perform an action for us, and in order to bring that about, we may confuse that person or lie to that person so that they engage in such a negative action, through which we might engage in some temporary benefit.
But in all three of these examples, through wishing the best for ourselves, what we have generated is negative karma, the ripening results of which, that is to say rebirth in the lower realms of existence, are thus to be experienced in the future. Thus it is said that this attitude - wishing the best for oneself, cherishing oneself above everything else - is that which is going to lead one to into all states of dissatisfaction And then cherishing others more than oneself is said to be the basis or the ground of all good qualities. So if we talk from the point of view of generating the various spiritual grounds and paths, whether they be of the greater or the lesser vehicles, all of this comes about through relating with others in a positive way. For example, if we wish to engage in the practice of the various perfections - the perfection of giving then is only possible through the kindness of others. Then if we talk about engaging in the practice of morality, which is the cause of achieving human existence - this is only possible through relations with others. So we can see that all good qualities, all positive karmas, are brought about through viewing one's kind parent sentient beings in a positive light, and thoroughly ridding oneself of wanting the best for oneself, of this self-cherishing attitude.
So these qualities are enumerated in great detail in Shantideva's book The Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Bodhicaryavatara) where he says that
All happiness and joy in the world comes about through cherishing others,
whereas all suffering in the world comes about through cherishing oneself.
So as we have seen, having this attitude which puts oneself above all others is one which is just going to lead one to engage in negative actions, the ripening results of which are nothing but that which one is trying to escape - the state of dissatisfaction The Bodhicaryavatara gives manifold reasonings for the benefit of cherishing others and how terrible it is to engage in this attitude which holds oneself above others. And in essence it concludes with
What need is there for many words?
Full enlightenment comes about through the attitude of cherishing others,
whereas all states of woe come about through cherishing oneself.
So we can see through this last quotation that the state of Buddhahood with the incredible qualities which are contained therein, comes about solely through cherishing others, whereas all the states of suffering, in their various forms, come about through this self-cherishing attitude.
So if we wish to achieve positive states, positive qualities, then we should engage in this attitude of cherishing others, and if we wish to thoroughly abandon the causes of ddissatisfaction then we should thoroughly understand what is meant by self-cherishing, then contemplate the faults of that and then strive to change that attitude.
So these quintessential instructions - the six cause and one effect, and this equalising and exchanging self for others - these contemplations are to be emphasised, and if one can practice these as much as possible, this will give great impetus for achieving or generating the mind aspiring to highest enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. After having generated this mind, we have the basis for engaging in the Bodhisattva activities and whatever kind of activities we are engaging in, for example the practice of the Secret Mantra and so forth, they will become useful and beneficial, not only to ourselves but to others. If we engage in the practice of the mantras without this basis of bodhicitta, it's not really going to be of much use and can in some instances be rather harmful or detrimental to one. So having this practice as the core of our whole being is one which will bring great benefit to one in one's manifold practices. It is said that if all the wise ones came together and contemplated for aeons and aeons about which is the most beneficial thing for one, they wouldn’t find anything more exalted than this - the mind aspiring to highest enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. So contemplating thus we should try to bring about a change in our mind through these quintessential instructions.