17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.


Lama Jigme Rinpoche - Extract from the booklet "Living the Practice" - December 2008

For the time being, it is impossible for us to have the same vision as a bodhisattva because our minds are too cluttered with samsaric tendencies.  Never-the-less, it is in our power to take a bodhisattva as a reference, to follow his example regarding our individual capacities and to progressively change our tendencies.  An ardent desire to be capable of following this example will help us along the way.  As we already stated, when our own wish and the blessing of the bodhisattva come together, the combination allows us to advance along the way which becomes gradually more illuminated, encountering fewer and fewer obstacles.    
Even if it seems impossible to behave like the bodhisattvas, their blessing, and our wish to be like them as well as our suffering act as motivation along the way, allowing us to put to work, though in a limited manner at first, then on a wider scope, the activity and practice of a bodhisattva.  Like this, our capacity to behave like a bodhisattva gradually increases.   

The vision of a bodhisattva

Bodhisattvas are neither extraordinary beings, nor completely different from normal individuals.  They are simply beings that followed a path and developed themselves.  They committed themselves to this process because they recognized that beings suffer.  The difference between an ordinary being and a bodhisattva is the strong compassion and great love that a bodhisattva feels for all beings, simply because he perceives and understands their suffering.  If we do not see the suffering of beings, we can still feel compassion and love – we all have a certain degree – but these qualities are limited by our judgements and conditioned by circumstances, while love and compassion coming from a bodhisattva are unlimited.  
This process of development is like the sunrise.  At first, the light is weak, then slowly the sun rises towards the zenith, and the light becomes brilliant.  In the same way, the bodhisattva is aware of the suffering, turns towards these beings and steadily develops compassion and love that is greater and greater.  The bodhisattva himself does not suffer because he has changed his vision of things: he perceives the suffering of beings and develops his compassion and love for them, without getting tied up in the suffering himself.   

Initially, the bodhisattva generates bodhicitta and makes a commitment as a bodhisattva then slowly flourishes on the path.  That is exactly what we do here!  For example, when the Gyalwa Karmapa came to visit us he gave bodhisattva vows; we are therefore linked to bodhicitta.  While we did not immediately become bodhisattvas, through regularly connection with bodhicitta, recalling it in all possible circumstances, we will gradually develop in that direction.  When, for example, we find ourselves in a painful situation or when we see others suffering, we gradually connect our mind with bodhicitta and that is how we too will develop on the path.  Our mind becomes clearer and we are more available to others.  All the bodhisattvas advance in this manner, they do not appear from somewhere beyond, landing on earth to accomplish good for beings.  Of course, having become real bodhisattvas, they can chose where they go to help beings, but they were not always at this level.  This is an ordinary course of action: with sincerity, being aware of the situation of beings, and by cultivating the understanding of the teaching, without rejecting situations, we progress on the path.  It is very important to think about this.  

At the end of The Jewel Ornament of the Liberation1, we find several chapters on the salam2, the grounds and the paths.  This is an Indian notion that the Tibetans imported into their culture.  It refers to the fact that there is a path, which leads to a particular point.  This expression implies that the samsara is not like a cage where we can open the door and escape.  There is a process: each experience, each understanding allows the mind to become clearer, for our capacities to increase and thus decrease the suffering.  Slowly but steadily, the mind becomes vast.  Gampopa3 highlights the fact that the mind of ordinary beings is covered by the nyönmong4, afflicting emotions, and to the extent that these emotions are diminished, the darkened parts of our mind become clear.  When the mind is totally clear, there are no more darkened parts or disturbing emotions.  

This clearing out of emotions, along with the way which we continue along the path, are important points to think about.  We would like to put the teachings into practice and obtain immediate results; we want to be free here and now.  If we do not have rapid results, we begin to lose our motivation to liberate ourselves.  The problem is that, for the moment, we have any number of habits that are counter to liberation.  We are laden with judgements, emotions, all of these obstacles that we blindly follow without any perspective or clarity regarding the situation.  Due to these habits, we perpetuate a cycle directed by our afflictions, this is normal – this is the process as it stands for the moment.  

If we take for example the way that a bodhisattva sees, this gives us an idea of how to develop in the same direction.  For now, all beings suffer.  However, we see the suffering of some, and ignore the suffering of others because our capacity of judgement is not the same regarding all beings.  Furthermore, even though each one suffers due to their own actions in the past, some do not seem to suffer in a manner that shows: they seem to go along quite well and do all sorts of actions that could go even better; these negative actions are sooner or later the cause of suffering.  Like this, even though these beings are not intensely suffering for the moment, they continue to engage in negative activity because they are still under the influence of their emotions, which in turn create negativities and will at some point be the source of suffering.  The bodhisattva is fully aware that these beings constantly create the cause of their own suffering and that knowledge generates great compassion.  In fact, he sees that beings are innocent:  they are under the influence of ignorance, and consequently continue with their negative actions, and enduring more suffering.  

This is how karma works.  The term légyümdré5 in Tibetan was translated from the Sanskrit term “karma”.   Lé designates the actions which are the cause (gyü) of a particular result (dré).  This being the case, all of our actions lead to a result which depends on the actions themselves.  For the moment, we have an intellectual comprehension of karma, but we do not really feel it inside.  This is why we distinguish between ourselves and others: even if we feel compassion, we are not really capable to putting it to action because we do not completely understand the suffering.  The bodhisattva has a thorough understanding that beings create their own suffering, which is why he feels tremendous compassion for them.  Through its all-encompassing nature, this compassion takes all beings into consideration without exception.
Good references are important when thinking about this subject, and by relying on this good comprehension, we can develop bodhicitta in our own time.   This does not mean that there will be immediate results, but we will be able to gradually resolve some problems.  Our practice will improve; we will better understand the teaching, the meaning of life, the cause of problems that we encounter:  we will have a clearer vision of things.  By pursuing this training in a consistent manner, our mind will free itself from duality.  

It is not uncommon that people may be afraid to be free from attachment or from duality:  we have the impression that we might lose something if we were free from duality.  Many of our workings are similar, we can like some things all the while knowing that they are no good, yet we do not manage to walk away because we are afraid that we will lose something.  This type of fear is an obstacle to our Dharma practice.  In effect, we practice on the path, changes may arise, but if we block any interaction with the changes with fear, the mind will once again take up its initial direction.  By the same token, if we do not want to change any of our habits due to our fear of change, our habits will simple endure.  We could be fatalistic and say, “Well that is just the way it is” or “C’est la vie”, and nothing changes!  If, on the contrary, we continue building our practice on the path, our mind will be more and more at ease, more and more free, there will be fewer and fewer distractions.  Ordinarily, we are not really aware of our emotions since our habits are so strong!  We are constantly distracted, under the influence of anger, fear or criticism, etc.  Some of these emotions certainly have a basis, but most of the time, the very idea of them has an influence over us.  We are so used to these emotional feelings that we believe them, follow them and are constantly distracted.  

So how do we use these instructions in a simple manner?  I reiterate “in a simple manner” because these instructions are not reserved to exceptional use!  Every day, we wake up, we work, we eat, we relax, we re-work, we eat again, and we sleep.  This is our norm and it is also this pattern that we need to apply the instructions to.  The meaning of the teaching takes place in our daily activity and our habits change, allowing us to better understand the meaning of the Dharma.  For the moment, it is only words, but as we apply them each day, we begin to understand the meaning, progressive effects will appear in our life, and we will notice more and more veracity in these instructions.  This awareness may not allow us to follow them entirely, but by making an effort, we will continue to develop and one day we will notice a positive change.  That will encourage us – that is one of the workings of desire – because by seeing some progress, we will want to continue.  Steadily, our vision will become clearer and it will become easier to apply the instructions on the path.  In fact, we are lucky, because our daily activity offers many occasions to practice; it is important to maintain awareness in all of these occasions.  Like that, by being vigilant and applying the teachings, we will have results which motivate us to continue even farther entering into a virtuous circle of awareness and qualities.  

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