Our Mind is Like a Crazy Monkey

Gyalwai Nyugu’s Instructions to Two Devotees from Nanjing, China, Part II
Place: Yachen Gar
Date: September 21, 2009
shangshi-aInside we are as tormented as an insane monkey or a hell being. Essentially our state is the same as those suffering in hell; it is just that their suffering is more extreme. Their hateful motives have trapped them in that realm. The goal of our practice is to take control of the crazy monkey, to find a way to heal and transform it. We start by practicing Dzogchen basics in meditation: trying to keep the body staying still like a mountain, the five roots* as quiescence as the deepest sea, the mind as peaceful as emptiness. In this chaotic modern world, freeing the mind of its complications can be considered as a miracle. At present, we cannot sit still and meditate for an hour, or read the sutras with a clear mind for thirty minutes. That being the case, can we depend on the blessing power of the guru to liberate us? Impossible! If it could be done, Shakyamuni Buddha in his great compassion would have done it long ago. Liberation requires personal effort.

The “view” or direct pointing at reality transmission I have given you is the essence of Buddhism’s 84,000 methods. You must devote time and attention to this practice. Treat it like work that you will do for a living. Even though your job only yields benefits in this temporary physical realm, you are capable of devoting a massive amount of energy to it. For us to be released from our countless lives of bondage to samsara requires great effort. It is not something that just takes a year or two or even a life or two. We must gradually renounce more and more of our life. Our attachments to our families, our children, our money; even a few dollars, is too much for us to part with. Yet when death arrives, we could have billions, but cannot take a single cent with us. The only thing that will follow us is the karmas that we made in this life and from our earlier lives. In reality, all we need is this body and a robe to clothe it. To fill our bellies, a little bread is enough. We are like people in the desert drinking salt water. The more we drink the more we want, but all we get is suffering. The pace of life is so fast that before you know it, you’re already an old man or woman. How did I get these wrinkles? Where did this white hair come from? It was your negative emotions that made you old before your time. You were too busy to pay attention to them.

shangshi-cI’m praying that you will gradually release your attachments and fears — those acquired in this and previous lives. We possess the ability to return to our original pristine state. Using our powers of judgment and the wisdom of Buddhism, we can achieve enlightenment in this life. Animals, due to their karma, are unable to do so. But we human beings, having lighter karmic loads, have this faculty where we can use it to find the path to liberation. Walking this path takes dedication and hard work. Buddhism is not a subject at school that you can just study and talk about. Unless the heart undergoes a transformation, the individual is destined to suffer, to feel the consequences of karma. Being able to read and talk about Buddhism does not mean that one has overcome one’s internal suffering. Liberation comes when we convert our chaotic internal state into one of purity. The guru is the individual and Buddhism is the path that can lead us to achieve this transformation.

Some people have engaged in academic study of Buddhism for decades. They can tell you all kinds of information about Buddhism, but cannot provide you with the wisdom that will transform your inner state. Generally speaking, the more one studies, the more feelings of pride develop. Pride brings attachment, which is the root cause of our bondage: the greater the pride, the tighter the grip on the wheel of samsara. Thus study, like any form of sadhana, can be counterproductive if not engaged correctly.

We must remember that the ultimate goal of spiritual practice is to achieve liberation by completely conquering one self. As such, students are obliged to dedicate their whole self — body, speech and mind — to the guru. But all too many students give half of their self to the guru, and the other to their negative emotions and habits. This is called “serving two masters.” You want liberation, but you want to stay in your same old ruts of body, speech, and mind. You’re wishing for the impossible.

When you leave here, perform your practice with diligence. We do not have many chances to meet. No one knows when death will come. Sometimes students ask me, “Will we be able to meet tomorrow?” I honestly can’t answer that question. All I can say is, “I don’t know.” How can I be certain that you and I will be alive tomorrow? If I follow my habitual tendencies, I would say that, “Yes we’ll meet”. But because I’m aware that these tendencies are built on the always-unstable platform of physical reality, I know I could be wrong. The truth is that our life force enters and leaves us with each breath we take; and each breath could be our last.

shangshi-bLook at your own experience. Within the course of the last year, how many of your Dharma brothers and sisters and your friends and relatives have already left you? The proof is right there in front of you. Now look at your own inner experience. Is happiness what you generally feel? Whatever goes on in your mind on a daily basis is what will characterize your death. Your death experience is the result; where your habits of mind and heart are the cause. If you transform your negative emotions now, you will be able to transform the terrifying atmosphere of your death. During the time when you are dying, if your death is free of fear, it means you have practiced correctly. If your death experience is frightening, it means you have practiced incorrectly. How you did sadhana from now and during your life is what counts.

Observe your body, speech, and mind. How much have your negative emotions been transformed? That is a window to your death experience. How much confidence do you have that you can enter the bardos with composure? You should regularly reflect on how much the Dharma has become a part of your mind.

We do not meet often. Our meeting today is part of our karmic destiny. My hope and prayer is that you will be true spiritual practitioners that benefit many in this life and the ones to follow. Let us pray that we will be close again after death.

*Five roots in Buddhism means 1) visual sense from eyes, so called eyes root, 2) hearing sense from ear, so called ear root, 3) smell senses from nose, so called nose root, 4) the taste sense from tongue, so called tongue root. 5) the sense from the body, so called body root.

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