Thursday, October 23, 2014

Transcending All Suffering, by Shang Rinpoche

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog Image Buddha
I have been asked many times, “What is liberation? How can we be liberated?”. I have given numerous answers to this question from various perspectives. However for people nowadays, attaining ultimate liberation seems far from easy. From the practice perspective, we talk about liberation through Dharmakaya or Sambhogakaya. Liberation through Dharmakaya refers to the liberation of the mind--Buddha nature is inherent in all sentient beings; the world around keeps exerting a corrupting influence upon us from birth, in addition to accumulation of habits over countless lifetimes and the force of our karma at play, it would be impossible to rediscover our true self-nature if we are not fortunate enough to encounter the Buddhadharma and an authentic teacher, and persevere with our spiritual practice. As far as Sambhogakaya liberation is concerned, guidance from an experienced teacher with a pure unbroken lineage of teachings is essential. It certainly is not something that you can get from just looking around online, or watching some videos. To purify this body of karma of all its afflictive obstacles transforming it into a pure body, it can only be achieved by the purification of the qi, meridians and bright spots. In the end this body of aggregates will turn into a rainbow body. This process can be dangerous and should absolutely not be done without guidance, as if toying with your own body.

Our surroundings are the conditions from which we need to be liberated. These external conditions represent the material world we live in and are also closely related with our mind. If we look at this in the terms of our karma, the environment can be divided into the so called “central condition” and the “outside condition”. There are five types of central condition: form, sensation, perception, volition and consciousness. The external condition is what is referred to in Buddhism as the Ten Dharma Worlds which is the Permanent Light Pureland, which is where the Dharmakaya Buddhas resides. The second type is the Ten Karmas Adorned Pureland which is the environment specifically for Sambhogakaya Buddhas to reside. The third being Skillful Means Pureland, residency of Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas. Next is the residency of all the Bodhisattvas and sages. Then among the Six Realms, humans who have maintained the five precepts and done the ten good deeds will be reborn in the heaven realm, which is further divided into 33 levels. Each of these levels corresponds to the extent of virtuous behavior in their previous life. The place where we human live is called the Saha World which is commonly referred to as the human realm. The characteristic of this place is that there are four courses of event: birth, aging, sickness and death, as well as the Eight Worldly Concerns. Such is the external circumstances that every human must face. The Asura Realm of the Six Realms is filled with ceaseless conflicts and struggle. The beings they battle with are those of the Heavenly Realm, so actually the beings of this realm don’t get a moment of peace either. The females there are extremely attractive, and the men are mighty, full of grandeur and fight bravely. However, they are never able to find peace. Remaining are the three lower realms of hell, hungry ghosts, and animals. These realms where beings end up as a result of greed, hatred and anger, suffering for eternity without any means to escape from their predicament.

There is probably no problem in understanding the relationship between the nature of the two kinds of karma (i.e. the relationship between the external conditions and our mind) and the Ten Dharma Realms. Actually this is what all people need to be rid of, to transcend and be liberated from. Falling prey to one’s environment as well as birth in the six realms primarily comes from the idea of reaping what one has sown. Becoming a Buddha, Bodhisattva, sage or virtuous person, no one can do this for you, there’s only one cause that determines where you’ll go--your mind. It can be the cause of your going to the pure land or hell. So how can one truly achieve ultimate liberation? You need to at least practice to the point where the five skandhas are empty. The five skandhas are everything in the external environment, which also brings about everything in the Ten Dharma Realms, so every sutra without exception starts from this idea of transforming and practice. For example, the Chapter of Expedient Means in the Lotus Sutra, the expedient methods of the Tiantai school, Satipaṭṭhāna or the four mindfulness of the Hinayana school, the transformation body of the Vajrayana school, are all methods that use expedient means to gradually bring beings to the palace of enlightenment. So in all sutra on prajna and emptiness, there is not a single one that is not heartfelt advice from Buddha Shakyamuni with the goal of helping sentient beings entering a state of non-arising and non-diminishing, seeing the five skandhas as empty in essence. So when seeking liberation, the most ultimate and the most convenient ways are prajna and emptiness. You don’t have to rely on anything, just utilize your mind. This is very difficult for beginner students to understand, for very often they become stuck in a conundrum between emptiness and the tangible, emptiness and non-emptiness.

In our daily life, whatever your eyes show you in the external environment, whether they're good or bad, pretty or ugly, you should start your practice right there. Whenever you see that you like certain objects, phenomena or people you should first observe why you like these things. How long do these things stay in your mind and how deep are their influence? And in the end when does this preference leave, to be forgotten, making room for new emotions. At all times and in all places our minds are always being influenced and driven by the external environment. If from observing the external states we can gradually transform form into emptiness, then the pain and afflictions of your mind will definitely, gradually diminish. Of course this is still a long way from ultimate liberation or the pureland, but this is the fundamental starting point. Everyone should use this as a stepping stone to get to higher states.

This is an excerpt of what I, Shang Longrik Gyatso, discussed over tea with a group of monks from Myanmar and Thailand.

No comments:

Post a Comment