The Hazards of Dharmic Dialogue Rooted in Attachment

The Hazards of Dharmic Dialogue Rooted in Attachment

Spring Teaching 2023 • Two Autobiographical Praises by Mikyö Dorje • Day 6

22 April 2023

After extending a warm welcome to nuns, monks and Sangha members as well as all his lay and monastic friends listening via internet - the Gyalwang Karmapa introduced the second series of the 2023 Spring Teaching for Nuns. Some of the originally planned sessions were cancelled and, while the gathering in Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath has been completed - the teachings haven't. His Holiness graciously reasserted that he made a commitment to complete this year's teaching and will continue to teach.

Then he introduced today's topic: the 28th (out of 33 good deeds) from the Autobiographical Verses “Good Deeds” outlined in Sangye Paldrup’s Commentary on the Meaning (Drepung manuscript), from the passage about his practice of the Path of the Greater Individual (v. 9–33), divided in three parts:

  1. The intention: rousing bodhichitta (v. 9)
  2. The action: meditating on the two types of bodhichitta (v. 10–21)
  3. Training in the precepts of the two types of bodhichitta (v. 22–33), further devided into 7 sub-topics:

1st - How he trained in the 6 transcendences;

2nd - How he purified his own continuum;

3rd - Today's topic - how he trained in the ways of all bodhisattvas. Although he spoke about it in the previous session, the Gyalwang Karmapa expressed the need to expound further on this topic.

The root verses:

Therefore, since all the activities of entering
The ways of enlightenment are inconceivable,
I made the prayer to follow in harmony
With the deeds of all the bodhisattvas.
I think of this as one of my good deeds. (28)

His Holiness then spoke about the nature of various relationships between the Buddha and his heirs:

  • The offspring of Buddha's Body is Rahula – his actual son.
  • The offspring of Buddha's Speech are primarily the Shravaka disciples – individuals who listened to the Buddha impart the teachings and as a result were able to find and manifest the path.
  • The offspring of Buddha's Mind are those who practice bodhichitta, therefore - bodhisattvas.

Ever since the olden times in Tibet for example, as the Mahayana Dharma spread, the state of buddhahood became the desideratum. Achieving that state requires us to give up the non-virtues of body speech and mind and practice virtue. However, this is not sufficient because the attainment of realisation is not an ordinary sort of practice and we need to do more than that.

Our buddhahood is free of all stains – it is like the clear nature of wisdom and it is hard for us, ordinary people, to wrap our minds around it.

The activity required to attain this hard-to-reach state of realisation is known as ‘the ways of realisation’, further separated into:

  1. Aspirational bodhichitta - general wish to achieve Enlightenment, also called the Conduct of Awakening and
  2. Engaged bodhichitta – actually engaging the activities that lead one to manifest the awakened state i.e. the Excellent Conduct of gathering vast accumulations

So we need to have this infinite Bodhicitta and the training of the two accumulations is vast - for ordinary sentient beings difficult to comprehend. Not only that, it is difficult for shravakas and pratyekabuddhas to fully grasp this idea. Even the beginner bodhisattvas can't fully comprehend it without training. Thus, the conduct of enlightenment (aspirational bodhichitta) and excellent conduct (engaged bodhichitta) are the practices of great beings who are bodhisattvas on high levels.

Those who are ignorant of the methods for achieving great enlightenment have not realized that ‘enlightenment’ is the interdependence of means and prajna. Deluded beings don't know this or they think that all you need to undergo is a lot of accumulation and purification.

According to the needs of many different individuals, many different methods of assiduous training in gathering the two accumulations and purifying the two obscurations are called-for in order to manifest the realisation.

To many people who don't understand this, the activity of some bodhisattvas may appear as stemming from afflictions leading those ignorant people to give rise to many projections and denials.

But Mikyö Dorje, seeing that sentient beings have numerous different afflictions, understood the need for an equal number of corresponding methods. He had completely mastered this, with the understanding of purity as the main point.

These days, there are many who have the bias of factionalism. They judge the view, meditation and conduct of other lineage teachers against the Buddhist teachings with a limited understanding of how people generally act. That view creates attachments and aversions in their own mind.

The Buddha's teachings are actually vast and if something is slightly not in accord with Tibetan Buddhism, one can't necessarily conclude that it's not in accord with the teachings of Buddhism. In this regard, Mikyö Dorje had a vast and non-sectarian view. In his text Hundred Short Instructions he says that if you act out of bias, judging as good those things closer to you with which you feel more connected but judging as worse things that are distant from you with which you don't have much connection  - you take attachment as the basis. Then, you forgo the impartial analysis and are inclined to refute the dharma of others with such an attitude which further increases attachments and aversions among people. This turns into the activity that rejects the Dharma.

If we judge other lineages and people who uphold them without looking closely at them and deem them impure, it means that the main source of such an attitude is envy. Things turn out well for another and it makes you envious and for this reason you should try to hide your judgmental attitudes. It is easy to see others' faults and very difficult to see one's own. Our responsibility as dharma practitioners is to look inwards at our own minds. Looking at others’ faults is actually the mistaken way of directing ourselves as practitioners.

Recognising, or at least suspecting, that looking at the faults of others is a sign of envy in my own mind or that I have a negative attitude is of the essence. Omitting to think like this is not right for a dharma practitioner.

If you're not a dharma practitioner or don't have any wish to practice, and you're dedicated to some kind of work then it's a different matter.

Similarly, another point Mikyö Dorje made in Hundred Short Instructions is that we judge our own school as good and others as not so good.

Such disputes stem from attitudes of attachment and aversion and are actually the greatest misdeeds. Whatever someone in your school does, you see it as good and whatever someone from another school does, you see it as bad – and, realistically, that's not even possible.

If you like a person – whatever they do you see as good. If you start to dislike someone – whatever they do you start to see as bad.

We need to recognise this.

As genuine dharma practitioners, we need to recognise that disputes out of attachment and aversion are the worst and just as there is good in our own school so there is good in others.

We recognise this through examination.

If you judge all others as bad it's a sign of factionalism - you have thorns in between you. No matter how good the monastics in our school are, they should be purifying attachments and aversions and should have a purer outlook towards others.

Some people think they are excellent because their lineage encompasses a large number of followers and their power and resources are greater and so, through the “goodness” of themselves they're inclined to overpower other schools whose members, in turn, can't even open their eyes and look at them.

Or some people think that proving our school as good is a way of proving other schools as bad. This is not in concord with Buddhism.

No one enters the gate of the Dharma intending to encounter a false teacher. We all hope to encounter a good lineage and good instructions from good gurus. We need to do that in order to pacify our attachments and aversions.

In worldly society we have many different disputes because of greed and hatred. We feel revulsion to that and we look for the Dharma and gurus to help liberate us from attachments and aversions.

But when upon entering the Dharma, we have disputes based in factionalism – attachments and aversions are growing stronger. That is not the way to achieve liberation. It's a way to achieve the lower realms of samsara. It is mixing up what we're trying to achieve.

And if this is the way it is, we could say that it's the greatest of all mistakes.

There is an actual story, one of the tales passed down by the Kadampa Lamas, which happened when Jowo Je Atisha was staying in Nyetang (a place near Lhasa where he mainly resided during the latter part of his life). Some Tibetan teachers gathered and Atisha was happy to join. Among the prominent Tibetans who attended, there was Khutön who was very well-known and learned and who participated in the revival of the Vinaya discipline but had a very funny character. And at that time, he said: “One knows whether monks and horses are good or bad by looking at their mouth…If you want to know if a horse is good - you pull them to look at their mouth. If you want to know if a monk is good, you should paw him a little bit in the mouth.” Meaning: if you get them a little bit angry then you can see whether they're a good monk or not.

So what happened was that there were people who believed in their own qualities and they denigrated other people leading the discussion to degenerate into conflict. They were disputing over who is better with a prideful attitude, almost to the point of coming to blows. Jowo Je got really upset and left.

On the second day of the discussion (which went on for a few days) Dromtönpa asked Atisha to attend. Atisha responded: “I don't want to. A Dharma gathering should pacify the attachment and aversion that prevent us from achieving true wisdom. But if going to a Dharma gathering increases disputes and resentments of afflictions such as delusion in our own or in the minds of others, it is just as if the medicine is made into poison.”

It is like water which you use to extinguish fire turning into oil which makes the flames flare up.

Jowo Atisha told a story:

In the past, there was a bhikshu in India who practiced a dharma that pacified disputes as taught in the Vinaya with the wish to reconcile individuals. It was said that when he offered tormas to the nagas on a riverbank, they would accept them and offer him alms.

This is primarily for the benefit of the nagas, right? But, because the nagas would actually come in person and make the offering to him, he changed somewhat and became a little bit proud and competitive with his friends. So, a few words slipped from his mouth which were motivated by competitiveness. After this, the nagas wouldn't give alms any more even though he continued to offer them tormas.

One novice, the student of that bhikshu, had a dream: a god came to him and said: “Your bhikshu used to have a peaceful mind, he was peaceful and subdued, so when he gave tormas the nagas were able to actually accept and eat them. Later, the nagas knew about his boastfulness through their clairvoyance and became frightened and scared of the ferocity of that bhikshu’s anger and unable to actually accept the tormas.”

In all respects, a dispute where one praises one’s own dharma and individuals and criticizes others’ is said to be the very action that breaks the bodhisattva vows. Such disputes that spread among dharma teachers are said to be the catalyst which destroys the Buddha’s teachings.

The Buddha's teaching arose at one point and, likewise, at one point will perish. And the main reason is when those who uphold the teachings no longer get along with one another.

It will not be by the hand of some powerful person from outside coming to destroy monasteries and statues or kill Buddhists. That is not how it's going to go. It will be from the inside when people say, “I am in accord with the teachings and they're not.”

This was predicted by the Buddha himself.

Even if you're not careful about anything else, you should be careful about this.

The initial problem is that we don't see it as a fault. And in addition, we get proud of such an attitude. Within our Karma Kamtsang we had disputes. Some say: “I am the real Karma Kamtsang and you others are bad.” And in the end, you can't figure out who the real Karma Kamtsang is.

The teachings will not be destroyed by the bomb. It's going to go slowly. The problems get bigger and bigger, everyone takes a side and then you have an illness which is incurable.

This is the real danger.

With this point, His Holiness concluded the lecture and requested the chanting of Tara or the Heart Sutra to be performed before teaching sessions because it increases understanding and also to remove the obstacles for His Holinness Dalai Lama.