perjantai 4. syyskuuta 2020

How Practitioners Become Fully Enlightened Buddhas

How Practitioners Become Fully Enlightened Buddhas

Seeing through the gross sense of me-ness in the form of thoughts and emotions is the foundation of all yoga and dharma. It needs to be the foundation because if we don't see through the gross ignorance, there is no way we are able to see through subtle ignorance.

In terms of buddhist vehicles, to see through gross selfing is the task of the so called hinayana, or small vehicle, where the focus of practice is to remove the most basic delusions about our self-identity. We cease to think in terms of me and you, self and other, to a noticeable degree and it is tremendously liberating. It is like coming to stand under a waterfall of pure fresh water, after you haven't taken a shower for a long time. It changes you.

But it doesn't change everything, and it is because of this why the so called caring and loving heartmind of all sentient beings (skt bodhicitta) is cultivated in the great vehicle (skt mahayana) of buddhism. Here we come to consider the difference of motivation in hinayana and mahayana.

A great vehicle practicioner takes the vow of becoming fully enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings. We take a vow to do all the internal work that is required to uncover ourselves as fully enlightened beings, in order to help, serve and to be an example for others so that they can also find a way out of samsara to liberation. In other words, we commit to complete and thorough death of the ego (jap. taigo tettei), to become buddhas for the sake of others. This death isn't dark or heavy, and it has nothing to do with sacrificing ourselves for others, as it is commonly understood. Realisation is always a very fulfilling and joyful path because you become who you really are, the ground of timeless existence imbued with goodness.

To clarify the difference between small and great vehicle practice, a mahayana practitioner, actually, in practice, takes into one's heart the suffering of all sentient beings. I am talking about the most basic mahayana buddhist practice of taking and giving (tib. tonglen). This practice is not for people who have not built a solid foundation of selflessness realisation because if this is done too early, taking in the suffering of all sentient beings can be overwhelming, too much. It is not dangerous, you just get scared and anxious for some time and if/when you do, it is a sign that you haven't worked on your gross selfing enough. You shouldn't take bodhicitta too seriously too early.

So, when you practice tonglen, you are actually taking in the confusion, anxiety, fear, greediness, jealousy and hatred of all sentient beings, incl. those in your immediate presence, into your own heart. Since you don't have gross selfing of your own anymore, you have developed a capacity to do bodhisattva - or should I say – advanced, practice of the great vehicle. Again, this capacity comes through small vehicle practice which by the way is what is practiced by most practitioners of mahayana meditators in their practice. It depends entirely on one's first hand realisation into selflessness and emptiness (skt anatman, shunyata) whether one is travelling on small or great vehicle. Someone might be chanting Bodhisattva Vows all one's life but without foundational recognition of one's own true nature, it's kind of using mahayana motivation to generate hinayana realisation which is backwards.

An excellent source of study of becoming a buddha are the 48 vows of Amitabha. These vows describe the attitude and motivation of a practicing bodhisattva called Amitabha, who wants to become a buddha for the sake of all beings. In his vows, he repeatedly states that if he after his attainment of buddhahood he failed to bring sentient beings to liberation, then may he not attain buddhahood. He states again and again, that if he fails to become a doorway for other's liberation, then he should never attain it himself. Because of those vows, Amitabha succeeded, and this is the whole point of bodhicitta. A bodhisattva is to put one's whole being, one's life, one's everything on the line for the sake of all sentient beings. This is an attitude that is to be applied in all one's life. A bodhisattva - mahayana practitioners - is to become that attitude, that vow.

Coming back to tonglen – a mahayana meditation exercise – this taking in of the pain of others and giving fresh pure love in return, becomes or should become one's main practice, or actually not merely practice, but a way of living one's daily life. You sit in your home, taking in the pain and giving love. You sit in a cafe, taking in the pain and giving beautiful pure light in return. You do this day and night, among those people, friends and strangers who you're surrounded with. Why? Because that's what buddhas do. Or actually, that's not what buddhas do, it's how they abide. To reach buddhahood, we simple emulate our own buddhahood by mimicking the heartmind of a buddha. This is the meaning of tonglen.

Thank you for reading. May your day be full of light and love,