A commentary on the revered Mahayana text by the great 11th century Master Atisa Dipankara.
by Maggy Jones
Introduction and background of this teaching. There are many commentaries, including Jamgon Kongtrül the Great. The practice is widely taught and is the essence of the main Mahayana sutras. A clear understanding of the “Four Preliminaries” is essential.
1.1. PRECIOUS HUMAN LIFE. Focus on the present and make it positive. Wake up and feel glad to be alive; appreciate what you have and do not begrudge what you don’t have. Make sure your work is useful – that will bring you satisfaction.
1.2. IMPERMANENCE. We know the meaning of impermanence and that life leads to death, but we ignore this. If we can accept it, then we shall have less fear and make the most of our precious life.
1.3. SAMSARA. The terminology is Buddhist but the understanding is universal. It is our present, confused, state of mind – our strong ingrained habits, always grasping or rejecting. This leads to dissatisfaction and conduct which we later regret. There is no peace. The situation can be changed once you realise the true way things are BUT you have to do this for yourself. Once you can accept yourself as you are you will become more tolerant and understanding of the faults in others.
1.4. KARMA. Karma means “action”. My actions of body speech and mind affect everyone. I can make things better or worse. Everyone has Buddha Nature therefore we can transform ourselves. Make your habits positive. Karma is NOT punishment – it is a RESULT. Training will be difficult – approach mindfully. Make the mind more flexible through meditation. Do this calmly and relax. Train your mind to do what you want then let it rest that way you will transform samsara and find wisdom.
These Four Preliminaries summarise Mind Training.
2. PRACTISE WITH WISDOM AND COMPASSION. Shamatha Meditation is essential. Visualisations are useful to train the mind by conjuring up and dissolving. Learn to see things as they really are. True wisdom is not intellectual; it is an experience. With wisdom you can deal with any problem and that brings you liberation – ultimate Bodhicitta. Relative Bodhicitta is basically compassion related to our kleshas (mind poisons). These cause problems and pain. We must transform these. If we understand compassion in the right way we will not be dominated by these kleshas. Compassion is a benevolent experience, an attitude which changes our bad habits. Wisdom and compassion are like the 2 wings of a bird – with both these you can fly. The stronger you have the wish to relieve suffering, the more your compassion will grow, therefore wish that all beings can be free from suffering. The PRACTICE of TONGLEN. Repeat this until it happens automatically. Transform the 3 objects the 3 poisons the 3 roots – that bring attraction, aversion, indifference.
3. TRANSFORMING ADVERSITY. “Turn all mishaps into the path”. Whatever happens – make it your practice. This is not easy; it must not be an intellectual understanding but must come from the heart, an attitude. You can always find some benefit, even hidden opportunities. Stories of people who used adversity to advantage. When you can use all experiences as your path then you are a true dharma practitioner.
“DRIVE ALL BLAME INTO ONE”. Your problems mostly arise from your own samsaric mind and ego so think carefully before blaming somebody else. This does NOT mean total personal guilt. Samsaric habits are like an addiction. We must get free, but this takes time and effort. Often we create unhappiness with high expectations; accept the imperfections.
4. ESSENCE OF PRACTICE IN LIFE AND IN DEATH Establish clarity of mind. The three kayas are not separate entities but three aspects of the mind. Let go of fear and grasping – they are nothing; they are interdependence and emptiness. (Recording unclear) Q & A Explanation on “clear light”. UNFINISHED TEACHING.