Thursday, January 17, 2008

the confidence of 'it is so, it is so'

i just noticed that a transcript of the teachings that impacted me so deeply by his holiness the karmapa in bodhgaya has been made available online. you can view it here. the first day's teachings are of general interest. the teachings on days two and three are more for committed buddhist practitioners...

for a little taste, here is a bit of what his holiness said during the first teaching:

"Sometimes when we are meditating on loving-kindness and compassion, if we are thinking about a big group of people without seeing them as individuals, we just say, “May everyone be happy!” That is easy. For example, when we think about a lot of people, such as all the people in this hall, it is easy to think, “May they all be happy.” That’s just thinking in a general way. However, when we pick out one individual and try to meditate on love and compassion for him or her, that is something different.

"You should really think about it beforehand, otherwise when you think you are meditating on love and compassion for everyone and say, “May all be happy,” you don’t really know whether that thought is genuine or not. So beginners should begin by testing themselves with one person and seeing what the extent of their love and compassion is for that one person. If we don’t do that, and instead think from the beginning that we love everyone, that has no substance. Meditating toward everyone is like air, which fills everything but does not have much substance. Then, when you get to meditating on an individual, you’d have second thoughts. There’s the danger this could happen to you.

"I have thought of an analogy. If we bought a huge piece of fabric in Gaya and covered everyone’s heads with it, that would be easy. We’d just put it on top of everyone, and there would be no problem of it fitting. But if we took the fabric, cut it up, and made each and every person a hat, then there would be many different-sized heads to account for. We’d have to make the hats smaller for some and larger for others so they’d fit each person’s head. It would not be nearly as easy as just covering everyone with the huge piece of fabric. Similarly, if we just cover everyone with the huge fabric of love and compassion, that’s easy. There wouldn’t be so many lumps and bumps. But, like making hats, considering each individual person is not all that easy, so that is something we need to think through.

"But if we need to think about each individual person, how many are there? There are probably a thousand or two here in this hall. If we need three or four days, or even a week, to meditate on love and compassion for one person, then meditating for a thousand people would end up taking twenty or thirty years. How long would it take to develop love and compassion for all sentient beings throughout space? We don’t know.

"So what should we do? Fortunately, there’s a way around this. We can look at how people are similar and see what they are like. Of course, there are many different types of people, but we can think about them generally in terms of the reasons we should have love and compassion for them. If we look at one aspect, everyone wants to be happy and free of suffering, so in that regard everyone is the same. Of course everyone has their own character, but when we think about one aspect and then really recognize it in terms of one person, we can feel the same way toward all the similar kinds of people."

photo was taken during these very teachings, courtesy of

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