Mysticism is popularly understood as becoming one with God or the Absolute. Here in this inspirational book are the Dalai Lama's thoughts on:
- The nature and meaning of mysticism
- How we can live lives infused with mystical experience
- How mysticism can result in both personal and social change
The book consists of four sections that provide an accessible introduction to the Dalai Lama's core teachings on the mystical path:
- Lecture on mysticism by the Dalai Lama
This is a book for fans of His Holiness and anyone interested in developing a rich and meaningful inner life.
|Publisher:||Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||4.40(w) x 4.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Renuka Singh is a professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has edited other Dalai Lama collections, including The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Buddhism and The Dalai Lama's Big Book of Happiness.Tenzin Gyatos, His Holines the XIV Dalai Lama, is the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He is widely rrecognized as an advocate of world peace and has received many honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
Read an Excerpt
Even as ordinary people we must try to use this precious opportunity before we die to gain a secure realization of the Dharma, the teaching of the Buddha. If we can do that, we will not have to fear death. A good practitioner can die peacefully without regret because his or her human potential is fulfilled.
Only by working hard and undergoing hardship over a long period of time will we be able to attain enlightenment. It is not easy to attain all the spiritual levels and realizations within a short time without making any effort.
Eliminating negativity and cultivating positive activities is not possible merely by changing our physical or verbal behavior. It can be done only by transforming the mind. In the practice of Buddhism, our goal is to attain nirvana and the state of Buddhahood.
The intrinsic nature of the mind is pure; the disturbing emotions that afflict it are only temporary flaws. However, the negative emotions cannot be removed by the most advanced surgical technology. It can be achieved only by transforming the mind.
External constructions, however well you make them, will crumble and disintegrate. What we create within our minds will last much longer.
Sufferings, like sickness, aging, and death, are problems related to the very nature of our existence, and we cannot overcome them by external conditions. As long as our minds are beset by negative thoughts, even if we have soft, comfortable clothes and delicious food to eat, they will not solve our problems.
Even our birth is accompanied by suffering; we are faced with sickness, aging, and not getting what we want, and with encountering situations we do not want. Problems like work are man-made. But as long as we are born in the cycle of existence and disturbing emotions envelop our mind, we will not find any peace or happiness.
If we understand the whole cycle of existence as having the nature of suffering, we will engage in the practice of the three trainings: ethics, meditation, and wisdom. Since it is possible to be liberated from the cycle of existence, training the mind to aspire to Buddhahood is essential.
For Buddhists, nirvana, or the true state of cessation of suffering, is the actual refuge. It is our undisciplined state of mind that causes our suffering. If we can eliminate the causes of suffering, we will attain the state of liberation or nirvana, or a true and lasting happiness.
We have found this precious life as a free and fortunate human being; sooner or later we have to face death. If we then fall into an unfavorable state of existence, it will be very difficult to find an opportunity to engage in the practice of the Dharma.
It is not enough to be born in favorable states of existence as a human being or a god. As long as we do not tame and eliminate the disturbing emotions in our minds, we will find no occasion to experience joy and lasting peace.
The awakening mind is the intention to achieve Buddhahood in order to free all beings in the universe from suffering. In order to develop the awakening mind, we must meditate; it cannot be cultivated merely by wishful thinking and prayers. It cannot be cultivated merely by gaining an intellectual understanding of what it means, nor simply by receiving blessings. It can be done through meditation and repeated and prolonged habituation.
The awakening mind is a mind with two aspirations. It is a mental consciousness induced by (1) an aspiration to fulfill the purposes of others, assisted by (2) an aspiration to achieve Buddhahood. In other words, it is compassion focusing on sentient beings and wisdom focusing on enlightenment.
The four noble truths help us to reflect on our sufferings and gain the determination to free ourselves from them. The four noble truths can be classified into two categories. The first two truths, true sufferings and true origins, are the set of distressing causes and effects associated with the disturbing emotions and the sufferings that we want to overcome. The second set of two, true cessations and true paths, are the set of causes and effects of the pure category. The last two noble truths reveal a complete path for our future course of action.
Each of the four noble truths can be explained according to four attributes. The four attributes of true sufferings are impermanence, suffering, emptiness, and selflessness.
Causes and conditions create true sufferings in such a way that by their very nature, they disintegrate and change from moment to moment. Therefore, true sufferings are clearly dependent on their causes.
To help our meditation, there are three principal ways to think about suffering. These are the suffering of pain, the suffering of change, and the pervasive suffering that is a condition of existence.
Our principal misdeeds committed under the sway of disturbing emotions are summarized as the ten nonvirtuous actions. Physically these are killing, stealing, and sensual misconduct. Verbally they include lying, divisive talk, harsh speech, and idle gossip. And mentally they consist of covetousness, harmful intention, and wrong view.
Whether we think of ourselves as fully ordained monks, or great tantric practitioners, or simply Dharma practitioners, it is often the case that either our motivation is not good in the beginning, our actual practice of visualization and meditation is not good in the middle, or our conclusion is not good. All of our various practices are interrupted by negative thoughts, so they remain weak and frail.
Only the awakening mind, which leads to enlightenment, has the power to exhaust powerful negative deeds. Even in ordinary life, the mind wishing to benefit other sentient beings is priceless.
One of the principal factors that will help us remain calm and undisturbed at the time of death is the way we have lived our lives. The more we have made our lives meaningful, the less we will regret at the time of death.
If the daily life is quite positive and meaningful, when the end comes, even though we do not wish for it, we will be able to accept it as a part of our life. It is by living in harmony with reality that we will make our life meaningful.
Others are the objects on whom our peace and happiness depend; it is therefore proper for us to take care of them. But we tend instead to think that we have achieved everything by ourselves.
A nonviolent approach is a human approach, because it involves dialogue and understanding. Human dialogue can be achieved only though mutual respect and understanding in a spirit of reconciliation. This is a way to make our lives meaningful.
A compassionate attitude does not mean a mere passive feeling of pity. In a competitive modern society, sometimes we need to take a tough stand. We can be thoughtful and still be compassionate.
Once you have an experience of the deeper subtle mind in meditation, you can actually control your death. In Tantra there are advanced practices such as transference of consciousness, but I believe that the most important practice at the time of death is the awakening mind.
Remembering death is a part of Buddhist practice. There are different aspects to this. One is to meditate constantly about death as a means for enhancing detachment from this life and its attractions. Another aspect is to rehearse the process of death, to familiarize yourself with the different levels of mind that are experienced as you die. When coarser levels of mind cease, the subtle mind comes to the fore. Meditating on the process of death is important in order to gain deeper experience of the subtle mind.
We have to travel to the next world alone, unaccompanied. The only thing that will benefit us is if we have undertaken some spiritual practice and have left some positive imprints within our minds. If we are to stop wasting our lives, we have to meditate on impermanence and our own mortality.
As a result of death meditation, a practitioner becomes less obsessed with the affairs of this life — name and fame, possessions, and social status. While working to meet the needs of this life, someone who meditates on death finds the time to generate the energy that can bring about peace and joy in future lives.
When you are well fed and enjoying the sunshine, you look like a practitioner. But when faced with a crisis, you reveal your true nature. Everyday experience tells us that most of us are like this. A weak awareness of death makes meditators behave like ordinary people in times of crisis, becoming excessively angry, attached, or jealous.
If we could take the lord of death to court, we would surely do so. Yet no military power can capture death. The richest person cannot buy death off, and the most cunning person cannot deceive death by trickery.
With negative states of mind like anger, jealousy, competitiveness, and attachment, we need to understand why they are negative, how they arise in us, and how they leave us disturbed and unhappy. Understanding their drawbacks will help us reduce them.
It is said that the more worldly activities you start, the more there are, like unceasing waves on the sea. Would it not be better just to stop and begin to practice the Dharma?
Traditionally we are advised outwardly to observe monastic discipline, inwardly to meditate on the awakening mind, and secretly to practice the two stages of the path of Tantra. It is extremely important to practice Dharma when we are young, when both body and mind are fresh and energetic. Generally, when people become old, they suffer the sickness of old age, and their memories become weak.
We have displayed indifference toward neutral sentient beings, attachment toward friends, and anger, jealousy, and hatred toward our enemies. We have accumulated negative deeds like these for a long time for the sake of this fleeting impermanent life. The actual refuge is only the Dharma.
Whether sentient beings are critical, sarcastic, or mocking, they are making a karmic connection with us. Therefore we wish that this karmic connection may become a cause for their attaining enlightenment.
When you wage a war with an ordinary enemy, you might gain the victory and drive the enemy from your country. Ordinary enemies can regroup, reinforce, and reequip themselves and return to the battle. But when you fight the disturbing emotions, once you have defeated and eliminated them, they cannot return.
Immature people are those who have little mental or spiritual growth. Such narrow-minded people are like squabbling children who are unable to live together. Do not be discouraged by their lack of contentment. Instead, generate compassion for them, reflecting that the disgruntled expressions of these children are due to the preponderance of disturbing emotions in their minds.
Anger and hostility can cause great damage in this life as well as in future lives. Irrespective of our amiability and politeness, when anger erupts, all our good qualities vanish in seconds. Anger disturbs our own peace of mind as well as that of everyone around us. It creates conflict and unhappiness. It gives rise to coarse physical and verbal behavior that we would otherwise be too embarrassed to engage in.
What fuels anger is frustration when we do not achieve what we want or when we experience what we do not want. Anger is also fueled by mental distress, and that is what we must try to prevent as it always disturbs the mind and does us harm.
There are people who mortify and mutilate themselves under the guise of religion. If people are prepared to undergo hardship for such meaningless purposes, why can't we undergo certain hardships to attain the state of liberation, an enduring state of peace and happiness? We cannot afford to flinch from hardship for the sake of liberation.
It is the nature of the mind that the better acquainted it becomes with doing something, the easier that thing is to do. Suffering viewed from a transformed perspective will help us tolerate even greater levels of suffering. There is nothing that does not get easier with familiarity. If we get used to putting up with minor hurts, we will gradually develop tolerance for greater pain.
The mind is not physical. No one can touch it, no one can harm it directly, and therefore, no one can destroy it. If someone says something threatening, harsh, or unpleasant to you, it does no actual harm. So there is no need to get angry.
Life can be compared to two dreams. In one dream you experience happiness for one hundred years and then wake up; in another dream you experience happiness for only a moment and then wake up. The point is that after you have awakened, you cannot enjoy the happiness of your dreams again; whether you live a long or a short life, you will have to die.
When there is lack of social harmony, remember that sentient beings have different dispositions, different ways of thinking. This is natural. If some agitation, confusion, or disturbance arises, you should be able to see it as a result of your own action and so avoid resentment.
If you want sentient beings to be delivered to the exalted state of Buddhahood, why do you feel distressed when they obtain possessions and respect? If sentient beings find happiness and reduce their suffering of their own accord, it is worth rejoicing about. People who are angry when others prosper have no awakening mind within them.
People who worry about a decline in their name and fame are like those small children who work hard to construct a sand castle and cry the moment it collapses. Therefore, when someone praises you, do not feel too happy. Name has no essence, fame has no meaning. Attraction to name, fame, and respect will distract you from your virtuous qualities.
Patience is extremely important for a bodhisattva, and patience can develop only because of the presence of the enemy. Since our practice of patience is the result of both our own effort and the presence of the enemy, the resultant merit should first be dedicated to our enemy's happiness. Even though the enemy provokes the practice of patience, it was not his or her intention to do so.
If you are able to develop a strong sense of compassion and loving-kindness toward your enemy, you will be able to generate similar loving-kindness and compassion toward all sentient beings. It is like removing a huge stone that has been blocking the flow of water in a canal. Once you remove the stone, the water immediately starts to flow.
While we remain wandering in the cycle of existence, as a result of practicing patience over many lives, we will have an attractive physical form. We will have a long life free from sickness, and we will attain the peace of the ruler of the universe.
We need to make an effort in our quest for spiritual realization. When laziness takes over, our pursuit of the Dharma will not advance. Effort should be steady, like a stream of running water. Effort implies that we take an interest in whatever we are doing. In this context, it is a question of taking joy in practicing the Dharma.
One of the ways to counter laziness is to think about impermanence and the nature of death. Death has no compassion. Gradually one by one, death takes us all. When death will strike is unknown and it can catch us unaware any time. Once death overtakes us, it will be too late to eliminate laziness.
There is a danger of worrying that if you die, who will help you? Who will pray for you? But the Kadampa masters used to think, "Why should I care whether someone helps me or not? I should prefer to die a natural death in a bare and empty cave just as animals and birds do."
When you achieve single-pointed concentration, you can focus your mind on any object. By combining special insight into emptiness with the practice of the calmly abiding mind, you will be able to destroy the disturbing emotions. To cultivate such a special insight, you must first cultivate concentration.
Friends and relatives are not permanent. They change from moment to moment. You destroy the possibility of finding the unchanging state of liberation as you are attached to them. Hence, your own attachment creates and contributes to the development of attachment in others.
It is said that you should live in such a way that all you own is what you stand up in. That means you have nothing to carry and nothing to hide.
The purpose of leaving the household life is not to do business or start a new project or deceive people. The only purpose is sincere spiritual practice. If you do that and do not worry much about your food, clothing, and possessions, but engage mainly in the practice of meditation, the life of an ordained person is just wonderful.
There is a verse that says that if you sincerely practice, even if you stay and lead the life of a householder, nirvana will be yours. But if you do not practice, even if you remain in the mountain for years, hibernating like a marmot, you will not achieve anything.
In meditation there is also a process of cultivation of the awakening mind by exchanging your own welfare for the sufferings of others. You see yourself and other sentient beings as of equal nature. This process is very powerful. It is supported by reason and logic, but it can also be understood in the light of our own day-to-day experience.
Excerpted from "The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Mysticism"
Copyright © 2017 Renuka Singh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
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Table of Contents
Foreword, by Robert Thurman,
Introduction, by Renuka Singh,
The Three Principal Aspects of the Path,