Shantidevas Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life: Chapter 4; Conscientiousness

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Today, I tell Indian friends and intellectuals that reviving ancient Indian knowledge of the mind and emotions would be both relevant and valuable. The Buddha clearly said that mind can be tamed and when it is tamed it is conducive to happiness. It is also said that Buddhas do not wash unwholesome deeds away with water, nor do they remove the sufferings of beings with their hands. Neither do they transplant their own realization into others. They liberate beings by teaching the truth of suchness. He noted where the verses refer to the value of a precious human life endowed with freedom and fortune, and how since things are impermanent it can be easily lost.

Further on the text asks - how did I become a slave to negative emotions? Negative and destructive emotions are compared to interfering spirits, prompting His Holiness to remark that the best way to fend off such interferences is to cultivate compassion for them. And to do this will be my sole obsession: Holding a strong grudge I shall meet them in battle! It would be better for me to be burned, To have my head cut off and to be killed, Rather than ever bowing down To those ever-present disturbing conceptions,.

Reaching the end of Chapter 4, His Holiness stopped for lunch, promising to continue his reading tomorrow. He advised that when the text states — I must never withdraw From vanquishing my disturbing conceptions … And to do this will be my sole obsession: Holding a strong grudge I shall meet them in battle!

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the world Michael, you helped me a lot. His talks point straight to the heart of why we practice. This podcast is a bottomless treasure trove of gifts. Relax Your Mind.

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Michael Stone talks on the importance of relaxing your mind and how patience and relaxation give rise to enthusiasm. Ways of seeing your parents, how deep concentration arises through relaxation, and how to glide What Can We Know? Michael reads some core teachings of the Buddha that describe the limits of what we can know. How can we practice deeper than creating new beliefs? Recorded in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin on April 8, Buddhism Before Religion.

The Buddha creates strategies, not dogmas. The more you go back into the old texts, the further away you get from religion. In the same manner the self is seen to exist as enduring, having some kind of real existence is also a false illusion. Shantideva writes:. Such things as a continuum and an aggregation Are false in the same way as a rosary and an army. There is no real owner of suffering, Therefore who has control over it?

Although in actual fact the self or the person exists only in dependence upon the aggregates that constitute the individual such as the body, feeling, perception, consciousness and volition, however when one has the idea of self or a person one tends to feel as if a self really lies at the core, that it is the real basis. All of the other aggregates such as the body, perception, feelings, volition and consciousness are in some sense characteristics of this self, something that which belongs to the self.

One feels as if the self is the basis and all of the aggregates are in some sense qualities or characteristics of the self.

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So therefore one tends to use the possessive pronouns like my body, my consciousness, my thoughts, my perceptions, my feelings and so on. However one tends to feel as if underlying all of these aggregates, body, mind and so on there is a real owner to which these physical and mental aggregates belong. But in reality the self is a construct that is dependent upon the aggregates of body, mind, feelings and so on. Now it becomes crucial for the practitioner to raise the question as to whether or not this self that one tends to believe possesses some kind of substantial reality, an enduring nature.

So just as one can talk about the body being cut or injured, one should also be able to describe these characteristics in terms of the self. This becomes problematic. So the self cannot be identified with the aggregates in that they are not identical. Nagarjuna raised a second possibility that perhaps the self may exist independently of the physical and mental aggregates. But then he stated that if the self exists independent of the mental and physical aggregates then many of the conventions concerning the self again become untenable.

One cannot talk about an individual person becoming sick or healthy as many of the characteristics ascribed to the self are also ascribed to the aggregates. But if the self exists totally independently of the aggregates then this becomes untenable.

Chapter 2: Verses

Nagarjuna then concludes that the self does not exist either as identical to the aggregates nor does the self exist independently of the aggregates. If the self were the aggregates, It would have arising and ceasing as properties. If it were different from the aggregates, It would not have the characteristics of the aggregates.

Once having rejected the existence of an enduring and substantial self then Nagarjuna said that if that is the case how can the mind that is a possession of such a self exist? This clinging as such is so powerful and intense that it gives rise to the negative emotions. All of this has no grounding. These sorts of reflections attack the idea of an enduring self, the substantial and enduring self by examining in what way such a self can be said to exist.

Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Chapter 7: Joyous Perseverance (2 of 4)

When one tries to integrate all of this rational analysis perhaps the summation in the Ratnavali or Precious Garland is the most effective. In it Nagarjuna writes that the person is neither the earth, water, fire, wind or space element and yet the person does not exist outside and independent of the elements. Nagarjuna does not proceed to say that the person therefore does not exist.

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Rather Nagarjuna says that since the person exists only in dependence upon an aggregation of the elements therefore the person as possessing some kind of objective, substantial reality is false. A person is not earth, not water, Not fire, not wind, not space, Not consciousness and not all of them; What person is there other than these? This realization I think is critical. In this passage Nagarjuna is pointing out that the true understanding of the non-substantial existence of the person is not constituted purely from a negative point of view. In essence what is being pointed out here is that the self that one tends to believe in as existing possessing some sort of enduring nature, some kind of objective, intrinsic reality is a false perception.

The self does not exist in that way; the self exists only in relation to the aggregates. Therefore Nagarjuna concludes again in the Fundamentals of the Middle Way that whatever is dependently originated that is to be known as empty.

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This is the middle way and this is also accepted as being dependently designated. Whatever is dependently co-arisen That is explained to be emptiness. That, being a dependent designation, Is itself the middle way. When one uses the logic of dependent origination as a proof for the emptiness of intrinsic reality then when one thinks about emptiness, in the very idea of emptiness there is a kind of a fullness. It does not suggest total nonexistence or nothingness but rather it suggests some sort of existence.

It suggests origination. Something that is not dependently arisen, Such a thing does not exist. Therefore a nonempty thing Does not exist. The emptiness of intrinsic existence is not being presented only by saying that when one subjects things and events to critical analysis they are not found, they are unfindable. Rather the proof really is that things and events are devoid of intrinsic existence because things and events are dependently originated.

So by using the reasoning of dependent origination what is being rejected, what is being negated is the kind of self that one tends to believe in as possessing some kind of independent, objective, substantial intrinsic reality. However this does not negate what is still left, the mere self that is a mere designation, the mere name and mere existence. Once one has this deeper kind of understanding of emptiness then one will be able to have a better appreciation of what is meant by self and others.

This distinction between self and others will be recognized purely at the level of designation and purely at the level of convention. In fact there is a way of understanding the Tibetan expression of the world of appearance and existence. Here one can read this expression is such a way that the appearance refers to the level of perception where one relates to things and events as if they existed purely on the conventional level.

Existence then refers to their ultimate nature. So this expression, the world of appearance and existence can together be read as suggesting a union of emptiness…. This also responds to the question that was raised earlier about what aspects of the self, what degree of the perception of self is illusory and what degree of the perception of the self is valid.


As I discussed earlier what one is to understand here is that the perception of self, the conception of self where there is a belief in some kind of objective, inherently existent self that element of the self perception is false and illusory. This is how one can distinguish…. However it is said that in the perception of ordinary beings like ourselves there is no perception, which is not effect, by this assumption of some kind of enduring, objective and intrinsically existence of things and events. It has a certain freshness to one and in this way one will also have a new perspective not only of the self but towards others as well, in fact with the entire universe, Buddhahood, cause and effect and so on.

All of these, one perceives in a new light. So one can say that or imagine that if this is the case that a person with such an insight has a different perspective when relating to the world can have a different impact because certainly they will have a lesser degree of projection on the world. Given that they have a lesser degree of projection then they will have a lesser potential for giving rise to powerful, negative emotional reactions such as extreme attachment, anger, hostility and so on in relation to others and the world.

In verse he extends this analysis of the non-substantial and unreality of self onto others.

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He goes on to say:. Being no inherent owner of suffering There can be no distinction at all between that of myself and others. So just as there is no real enduring, substantial self there also is no real enduring, substantial others. Similarly there is no real, enduring, objective or substantial happiness nor suffering. One can justify dispelling suffering only on the grounds that it is painful, that it is undesirable.