Cheerful Losar. This is the year of the fire monkey and today is the first day of the Tibetan new year. I hope everyone can make tremendous progress in fulfilling their aspirations, particularly their dharmic aspirations. Our dharmic aspirations are the most important. We might feel good health is important but without dharma practice it would only have a limited meaning and benefit. Wealth and resources might feel important when we are paying our bills, but without the lifestyle of a practitioner, it has little meaning. In the same way, longing for a good relationship, without that relationship being in support of the dharma, does not have great meaning or benefit. Anything that we aspire to have in our lives that we think would be wonderful, without it being in support of the dharma and going deeper into the practice, I personally feel does not have great meaning. Health, wealth, relationship, and life itself in support of dharma practice has great value and meaning. But simply having a long life is not that meaningful, unless it is to practice the dharma and to develop further. In that way, one never gets sidetracked or lost, and caught by money, relationships and all of the other things that temporarily seem so important and meaningful. We have the habit to fixate on things and don’t think about anything else but that (dripa). We keep ourselves continuously busy and caught up in that one thing. We lose our ability to enjoy life because we are being driven furiously in one direction. Our mind is occupied day and night by what we are fixated upon (dripped out).
An alter boy’s mind is filled with an innocent ongoing spirituality, connected to god or to a higher power. When he loses that connection and only thinks about mundane preoccupations, it is a big loss. Renunciation, devotion, a sense of deep aspiration to be connected with our enlightened nature, and the path that leads to realizing it is incredibly important. If we lose that innocent longing it is a great loss for us. That longing is priceless. If we lose that longing, it is a death worse than a physical death. That is called a “drip”. We need to avoid it. We often fool ourselves thinking, “ I might be uninspired now, but in the future I won’t be. I will rekindle my inspiration and regenerate my spiritual life.” But by then we might not have the time. Time can run out and not be in your favor. Or even if you do have time, your might have become jaded. It is difficult to reinspire yourself and reconnect. Habit gets built up and creates its own momentum and power. To breakaway from that is very difficult. So while we are connected and on the path and making some progress, we must protect ourselves from these obstacles. They come from our own frivolous pursuits that eat up our time and leisure. We naturally possess this valuable and priceless quality and we don’t honor it. We trade it for money or career or a retirement for our old age or illness. Chasing that security is not a practitioner’s mindset. It is too practical and too conventional. We have to be practical but not too practical. We do need to make ends meet, but too much focus on that makes us suffer now and it will cause suffering in the future.
Our connection with the teacher and the path is the result of our merit. While we experience the beneficial result of that merit, we have connection, inspiration, joy and appreciation. We can make progress on our spiritual path and sit on the cushion and transform our body, speech and mind into the 3 vajras. We can transform our environment into Akanishta. We can transform our sense perceptions and their objects into the enjoyment of great offerings. We can transform the self that is so conflicted all the time and always crying because of discontent. When we are discontented we are worse than children. We can transform the self into pride of the diety and not be just anyone, but be the lord of the mandala and truly enjoy that. This is not just a theory and never been tested, but it is backed up by the tantra and experienced by the great masters. We can transform this world of ours into an unsurpassable sacred world. We have the chance to practice the vajrayana in this way. Or we can not pursue it and enjoy our struggles created by the conflicted self all the while trying to work like ants, or even worse than that. Ants are better than human beings because at least they work in harmony, and we often don’t. There are so many conflicts and people suffer a lot. So to not practice the vajrayana is a great loss. We just need to be on the cushion without the internal windstorms that carry us out into our cars and their journeys. Leisure is such a great asset for practitioners. To be swept into the windstorm, accomplishing nothing but being carried further and further away from our cushion is a big loss. So if there is a way to actually glue ourself to the cushion and make ourself sit and work on the generation and accomplishment stages of the practice is a good start.
We all have different degrees of intelligence. Someone with a mahasiddha’s intelligence or the intelligence of the lineage masters will really see the wisdom of this. Someone without that sort of intelligence will question it. It is possible to think that being on the cushion is a waste of time and instead give into the windstorm that rises inside and get carried out into a blizzard of samsara. We could think that is productive and a great accomplishment. When Milarepa looks at the villagers, he thinks the villagers are crazy. But when the villagers look at Milarepa, they think that Milarepa is crazy. So which side do you want to be on, the villagers’ or Milarepa’s? That choice determines our path and its outcome in this life and in our future lives.
We need to think about this especially during Losar. This time can generate deep inspiration. We might have a new years resolution to lose five pounds. But that isn’t about transforming our world. We talk about transforming our world in the tantras a lot. We can have a real aspiration to accomplish this. Not just an idea about it but to really do this on the cushion. Without doing or possessing anything, we can have everything. Without grasping, we can have abundance. It’s an internal transformation. It comes from your merit (sonam). Sonam is very important. Because of it our life will get better and better, to the point of transforming the ordinary world into a sacred world. That will be where we live. Sonam in the west is generally only thought of as being in possession of material things. We don’t consider anything beyond that. But actually sonam is a state of mind that is rich and full of blessing. It is the great experience of being able to practice the generation and accomplishment practices. And by doing that we actually increase our sonam It gets greater and greater. It never stops, especially if we seal it with absolute truth. Everything will increase until the end of samsara and the end of delusion.
This morning i was contemplating what I would like to accomplish this year. I would like to see the temple finished so that next year we can consecrate it. But for myself I would like to spend more time on the cushion to enjoy my practice mind and the life that unveils itself in the practice. That’s what I would like to do. And I would like to do more and more of it. I want to avoid getting lost in the blizzard of samsara and getting caught up in something that has a driving force that pulls me further from the cushion. When we get caught, in the moment we could say, “Oh this is great. I am climbing up to the top of human achievement. “ But in the end, I know that for myself it would be a big loss to stray so far from the cushion. Not being able to achieve those seductive accomplishments is a great blessing in disguise. Being able to glue myself on the cushion is not torture or inprisonment. It is a blessing. I expect that to be the same for the students too.
We have both Milarepa and the villager within ourselves. So from one perspective we could think we are crazy to be practicing like that and then from another perspective we think that we are crazy for not practicing like that. So both Milarepa and the villager are inside us. Which one gains more strength and momentum is unpredictable. It is unclear. We need a lot of blessings to protect ourselves from our own self to not do regrettable things but instead to accomplish things that will stand uncontested in the three times. So the new year is a good time to celebrate being a practitioner, whatever our understanding of that is. The rest of our activity can be in support of that. If it isn’t in support of that, then it is just getting older and closer to the end game. Struggle, struggle without any payoff. However if what we do is in celebration of being a practitioner and our activities are in support of that, it is not just time passing and is not just wasted struggle. Of course there are struggles, but it is the service of being a practitioner. It is not a struggle simply to be a good husband and to be successful in things that do not last or mean much after we are gone. Struggle in support of being a practitioner will not be in vain. If we struggle in support of being an accomplished practitioner, it gives the struggle meaning and it is a purification. It becomes a great purification and triumph in the end. But people often struggle without it being for a greater cause. The struggle of being poor without it being for the benefit of being practitioner, gains nothing. But in the service of being practitioner it will bring great benefit. It can inspire others who will want to follow our footsteps. Conflict with our spouse and a lack of fulfillment in marriage because of our lack of good relationship karma gains nothing. But if it is in service to becoming a better practitioner, it can become an inspiring story. Milarepa’s uncle and aunt were very mean and bad to him and his sister. But because of this, he found the spiritual path. In the same way, Illness can benefit us if we see it as a further reason to purify our physical negative karma from previous lifetimes. Gelungma Palmo was a nun who got leprosy and was shunned by her family. But she prayed to Avalokitashvara with devotion and diligence and healed herself . She was then able to heal others. So, we all struggle. But it doesn’t have to be pointless if we have a vision about that struggle. We can use it to inspire a greater determination to overcome that obstacle and to achieve our desire. Every struggle will have its own vision and meaning. Looking back, from the fruition, we will actually be able to see that the struggle of poverty, inadequate social skills, ill health or lack of relationship has enabled us to achieve what we have achieved. It has become a blessing not an obstacle. It has a greater vision and meaning. This is the skillful means of the enlightened ones’ vision. There are many stories like this in the past and now. So if we struggle, give a vision to that struggle and not become bitter, sour and disheartened.
In the struggle to be a practitioner of dharma we don’t need to do a lot of outside things. Our obstacles will naturally become self liberated or irrelevant. The struggle will only be in the context of our exterior life, not our internal life. No one can touch our internal life. Nothing makes a difference there except us. And we only need the cushion. Struggling with health, resources or relationship in the context of the conventional view, is suffering. But given the larger vision of the dharmic perspective that the struggle has meaning, then is not even suffering. It is just what the path requires. There is no path without struggle, barriers, obstacles, bumps, and challenges. If someone takes their struggle in that way, whatever it is, then it is not a problem. It is only for the conventional people that we should feel compassion when witnessing their struggles. But for the practitioner such suffering is only in the mind. Sympathy for the practitioner is simply our projection. The practitioner does’t need it. The skillful means of the vajrayana is a creative perspective that liberates us from feeling we are in an unfavorable bind. There is nothing unfavorable if we don’t make it that way. Everything is favorable. In that sense there are no obstacles. Everything is what needs to happen. Nothing happens that is out of the course of the life of a practitioner. We can have a positive attitude toward our struggle and not think negatively about ourselves. We can positively reflect upon who we are and what we need to do to accomplish what we set out to do.
In this I wish you all the best. I pray you have all the best support of the lineage and that you have their blessings and guidance especially when on the cushion and you are open and clean and worthy. When we don’t acknowledge we are a vessel and get caught up in the blizzard of samsara, what can lineage or blessing do? Nothing can be done. I pray that when you are in a receptive state of mind on the cushion may you have all the guidance, blessings, encouragement and benefits of being connected to the vajrayana lineage.
Happy Loser (sic) to you all.