A hundred scholars and a thousand yogis can say all they want to say about the nature of mind. But all can be summed up by this teaching of Jigme Lingpa. The mind should never be separated from loving kindness and compassion. Loving kindness and compassion should never be separated from emptiness. And mindful awareness should never be separated from emptiness. These are the key teachings.
What we normally call the mind is the deluded mind, a turbulent vortex of thoughts whipped up by attachment, anger, and ignorance. This mind, unlike enlightened awareness, is always being carried away by one delusion after another. Thoughts of hatred or attachment suddenly arise without warning, triggered by such circumstances as an unexpected meeting with an enemy or a friend, and unless they are immediately overpowered with the proper antidote, they quickly take root and proliferate, reinforcing the habitual predominance of hatred or attachment in the mind and adding more and more karmic patterns. Yet, however strong these thoughts may seem, they are just thoughts and will eventually dissolve back into emptiness.
Once you recognize the intrinsic nature of the mind, these thoughts that seem to appear and disappear all the time can no longer fool you. Just as clouds form, last for a while, and then dissolve back into the empty sky, so deluded thoughts arise, remain for a while, and then vanish in the voidness of mind; in reality, nothing at all has happened. When sunlight falls on a crystal, lights of all colors of the rainbow appear; yet they have no substance that you can grasp. Likewise, all thoughts in their infinite variety—devotion, compassion, harmfulness, desire—are utterly without substance. There is no thought that is something other than voidness; if you recognize the void nature of thoughts at the very moment they arise, they will dissolve. Attachment and hatred will never be able to disturb the mind. Deluded emotions will collapse by themselves. No negative actions will be accumulated, so no suffering will follow.
～Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Maitri is not the only maitri toward others, but it is also maitri toward ourselves. In fact, the first step of awakening buddha nature is friendship with ourselves. This tends to help a great deal. We don’t have alternatives or sidetracks anymore, because we are satisfied with ourselves. We don’t try to imitate anyone else because we hate ourselves and we would like to be like somebody else instead. We are on our own ground and we are our own resources. We might be fantasizing that there is a divine force or higher spiritual energy that might save us, but even that depends on our recognition that such a thing exists. Finally we end up just relating with ourselves. So friendship, or maitri, means the complete acceptance of our being. The agitation of buddha nature coming through, questioning and dissatisfied, at the same time produces all kinds of insightful discoveries. We begin to settle down to our situation—not looking for alternatives at all, but just being with that. So the first step of the process of awakening buddha nature, embryonic enlightened mind, is trust in the heart, trust in ourselves. Such trust can only come about if there is no categorizing, no philosophizing, no moralizing, and no judgments. Instead there is a simple, direct relationship with our being.
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
The Buddha knows that all sentient beings are deluded, and though he does not have any fixed concept of taking on this suffering of beings—conceptual sadness would be an example of this—his compassion naturally manifests wherever the violent karma and defilements of sentient beings are erupting. This happens without any specific focusing on his part. It happens naturally, just as all rivers flow into the ocean and not somewhere else. When these qualities of knowledge, compassion, and power develop, bodhisattva activity will be spontaneously complete.
What is bodhisattva activity? Accomplishing the benefit of beings in an unsurpassed way without the slightest concept of benefit for oneself. When one has actually realized the view of the intrinsic nature, there is absolutely no holding on to the distinction of self and other. Any sense of possessiveness related to oneself falls away. Through great compassion toward others, oneself and others become equal. There is absolutely no difference.
As an analogy, think of the mountains, rocks, trees, forests, and so on—all the things that take form on the earth: the earth does not foster good things and reject bad things. It treats them all equally. In the same way, bodhisattva activity pervades everywhere, and it is impossible for this pervasive quality to be in vain. It is like during the monsoon rains, when plants even grow from cracks in rocks, and inevitably trees and forests will fill the rocks and mountains and naturally break through them. The natural effect of bodhisattva activity can be compared to this.
～Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
In our present condition that is samsara we experience a lot of suffering. But if we were to examine this suffering, we would find that it is nothing but emptiness; and emptiness is pervaded by the supreme, unchanging great bliss. From the point of view of the way it is, suffering is nothing other than the wisdom of great bliss. From the point of view of the way it appears, suffering is suffering, and it appears thus because we have misconstrued our perception of the great unchanging bliss.
Similarly, from the point of view of the way it is, suffering is nothing other than the wisdom of great bliss. From the point of view of the way it appears, suffering is suffering, and it appears thus because we have misconstrued our perception of the great unchanging bliss. Similarly, from the point of view of the way things appear to ordinary deluded beings, the five afflictive five emotions experienced in a deluded way are the very cause of being bound in samsara. But if we realize their true nature directly, we will find that the nature of hatred is mirrorlike wisdom, that pride has the nature of the great evenness, that ignorance is the wisdom of the absolute expanse, that attachment is all-distinguishing wisdom, and that the nature of jealousy is all-accomplishing wisdom. In the same way, we will see that outer phenomena are nothing other than the play of the absolute nature. Inner thoughts and emotions are also the play of the absolute nature. Their nature is the wisdom of the great purity and great evenness, so they must not be seen as defects or as enemies that we have to get rid of.
～Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche #DilgoKhyentseRinpoche
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In this very brief time that we have on earth, we have to ask ourselves how we’re going to spend our time. Will we keep increasing and strengthening our neurotic habits in our vain quest for some kind of lasting comfort and pleasure? Or will we make it a practice to step out into the learning zone? It’s almost terrifying how fast life goes by, especially at my age. Even though I move slowly and like a lot of space, there’s this feeling that I’m rushing to catch up. At the end of each day, what did I do? Did I spend the day strengthening my comfort orientation? Did I indulge in “nostalgia for samsara,” as Trungpa Rinpoche liked to say, by longing for the time when I thought I just needed a lovely cup of tea to be happy? Or did I step out into groundlessness and truly take refuge in the Three Jewels? Did I lighten up and loosen up, or did I hunker down in my armor and try to maintain the status quo?
Status quo is not very helpful for spiritual growth, for using this short interval between birth and death. On the other hand, expanding our ability to feel comfortable in our own skin and in the world, so that we can be there as much as possible for other people, is a very worthy way to spend a human life.
~ Pema Chodron