«Explanation of the Kalachakra initiation. By Alexander Berzin at Maitreya Institute, Maasbommel, Netherlands on 26 - 28th of April 1985 Why ...»
What we have to do is to have a strong determination to get out of these problems. And the way to do that is basically described in terms of having some sort of ethical self-control in which we, on a gross level, try to have certain guide-lines 5 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation for how we going to behave and act with people and with ourselves and also we try to gain some concentration so that we can see reality. Because a lot of our difficulties come about because we don't see very clearly what's going on. We don't see that the other person is just a human being, just like we are. The other person wants to be happy just like we do and doesn't want to have difficulties, just as we do. We don't really see that reality of the other person. Instead we imagine that this person is going to save us from all our problems. We put an awful lot of unreasonable demands on other people, that the other person is going to be so perfect that they can help us in every way. That really is quite unreasonable to put on somebody else. When you do that you're not dealing with the reality of the other person, but you are dealing with the projection that you want the other person to be. When you do that, then you really get into a lot of trouble.
These are called the 3 higher trainings. That's the basic way that is followed in Buddhism, to try to deal with our problems and try to get out of them so that we can develop and realize our fullest potentials. All these problems are really limiting us.
We become what is called a limited being. It is usually translated as "sentient being". That also is a difficult word to deal with, unless you look it up in the dictionary, but then also it doesn't mean much. Basically it's talking about beings like ourselves, who are limited, whose mind and body are limited and because of our limitations we are not able to deal effectively with our own lives, let alone with other people’s lives. In terms of dealing with our own problems if our attitude is just to handle our own problems and to hell with everybody else, they don't really matter, that's something which is also very unrealistic.
I think that here in the West we're starting to really realize that about how interdependent we all are. That the problems that we face in life, let's say environment, pollution, things like that, that's nobody's personal problem. That's everybody's problem. We have to deal with it on a universal level. We can't just think in terms of getting an oxygen mask for ourselves, and it doesn't matter what everybody else does with pollution. That doesn't really solve it. Others are infinite, we are only one person. So in fact it is important to deal with all the social problems and things that come up, and to develop some sort of feeling for other people.
The way that this is done in Buddhism, basically 2 methods are discussed.
1 Recognizing how kind everybody has been to us. In fact everybody has been our mother. You know we have always talked about how we've had infinite lives in the past and in each lifetime we've had a mother, just as we have a mother in this lifetime, so everybody has been my mother and as my mother, everybody has been kind to me, so it's really important to try to pay back that kindness and help everybody.
His Holiness point out - it is very interesting - that using this type of method to expand our hearts to others has a danger in it. He says the danger in it is that you're dealing with "my" mother and the whole idea of "she" was kind to "me". I am going to help her, this person, because s/he is "my" mother. Somehow we can have the danger of reinforcing the whole idea of "me" and "mine". I'm going to help because you are "my" mother and you've been kind to "me". Although it can be a very helpful way of expanding our hearts out to others, it is specially useful in terms of let's say if you have a close relative, who dies and very soon after that an insect comes and insists on being with you, I experienced that in India very often for example you can have a bee that comes into the house and no matter what you do that bee won't leave and then you start to think: "Maybe that's my uncle, who just died or something like that, maybe there is a reason that he wants to be in the house and wants to be near me. If you think in terms of; "If I was reborn as a bee and here I was and here was my nephew, my wife or whatever, how could I try to communicate? All I could do would be buzz around them and say: "Hey, here I am". The response was just to scream and try to chase me out of the room or to swat me with the newspaper that would be not very welcome.
Although this is a very useful type of way of training your mind to try to recognize everybody as having been your mother or some sort of close relative or friend in a past life, His Holiness says it does have this danger of being very self-cantered in terms of how you're looking at other people.
2. The other way of expanding your heart out is: to change your viewpoint in terms of self and others and to put yourself from the point of view of others and instead of always thinking only about yourself, to thing about other people in the same way. His Holiness says that this has a great advantage to it, because thinking in this way of how everybody is equal and how we can change our viewpoint and see things from other people's point of view and work for others just as we’ve worked for ourselves gives us a whole feeling of how everybody is interdependent. Because it's dealing with how everybody is interdependent, a dependent arising, that in fact as a bonus we get a little bit more insight into reality by training our minds in this way. His Holiness points out these very useful type of things in terms of these different trainings, which you don't come across many other people pointing out.
6 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation Question: Can you please repeat this last point?
The last one is if you are training yourself to expand your heart in terms of exchanging your viewpoint for yourself and others and equalizing your attitude towards self and others, in other words if you try to expand your heart to thinking, "Well, everybody in this room is just like me and everybody in this room is a person, their lives are very serious to them, just as my life is serious to me, whatever problems you might be facing are very serious to you, just as my problems are serious to me.
If I can look at my own problems and want to work with them just because they hurt me then likewise I can have the same type of feeling for your problems because likewise they hurt and problems really don't have any owner to them. This is something that Shantideva points out. He uses the example of the hand and the foot. If your foot has a splinter or a thorn in it, if your hand were to say: "Well sorry foot, tough luck, that's your problem and you deal with it, because I am up here and I am doing fine". That wouldn't be very good, the foot wouldn't appreciate it. Because we are interrelated it is very proper that the hand deals with the problem of the foot. If you are working with this way of expanding your heart then it has a very good advantage to it, because not only does it help you to expand your heart, but it also helps you see reality. Because the reality is not that we all are interdependent like the hand and the foot. Problems must be eliminated, not because they're my problems or they are your problems, but problems should be eliminated simply because they hurt.
In order to actually develop this type of expanding our heart we have to develop some type of love and compassion for other people and love is basically the idea of caring for others. You really care that they'll be happy, you have feeling for them.
Compassion is more like a sort of sympathetic heart.
We were talking about this determination to be free from our problems and now we are dealing with compassion and sympathetic heart. They are very similar because both of them are dealing with problems and both of them are the strong wish for the problem to end. But the first one, the determination to be free, is thinking about your own problems and you want yourself to get out of these problems and compassion or sympathy is exactly the same feeling but aimed at other people's problems: looking at other people and having the strong wish that they get out of their problems as well.
That's why it says that, in order to really have a feeling for other people and to develop compassion and sympathy, we have to think first of all in terms of our own problems ourselves. I think what it really comes down to is taking things seriously.
You are not able to take other people's problems seriously if we don't take our own problems seriously. And really I would add that probably the same thing is true with "love", caring for others. I mean it's going to be difficult to have love and care for others, and take their wish to be happy and their right to be happy serious, if we don't take our own right to be happy serious.
I think this is a problem that a lot of us face in the west. Very often, we have the inheritance from original sin or whatever, that we are not really worthy to be happy, we don't deserve to be happy. This is something which can be a real problem. It is very important to see that it really is true that we really do deserve to be happy, that we have a right to be happy and we should take our right as something which is very serious, this is something based on the fact that we all have the qualities within us which will allow us to become fully developed beings, that we all have the potentials and abilities to do like anybody else and to become totally clear-minded and to evolve fully. Since we all have these, we do have the right, we do have the things within us which will allow us to be happy it is something also which is very much reinforced by our spiritual masters and teachers. I had the privilege to be very close to a number of great masters and my main teacher Serkong Rinpoche had a quality about him which always really moved me very much. This was the quality of taking everybody really very serious. No matter who came to him, no matter whether he was speaking to the Pope, or he was speaking to just, some ordinary, very very disturbed type of a person who didn't even know how to ask the type of question about what was bothering him, Rinpoche took them all equally seriously. No matter of what type of outrageous thing this person might ask for, he took it serious, and tried to help him, in whatever way. Once we were in a place in America going for a walk in the middle of a town and there was a drunk man and this drunk man came – he saw Rinpoche in the distance – and said; "Oh, you are a lama. I have heard about lamas". We were all very upset about this man coming over, but Rinpoche took him very seriously and spoke to him in a way that was very very kind; he was able to relate to him as a human being. This is, after all, what His Holiness always points out in terms of the human approach to World Peace. The way that we are going to be able to bring about peace is if the leaders and if everybody relates to each other as human beings and this is in terms of taking everybody serious. We can only take other people serious if we take ourselves serious. So if we see for example that our lama, our spiritual master takes us seriously – I could see this is the effect of how Rinpoche was, that because he took the other person serious, even though they themselves might not have taken themselves seriously, it got them to think: "Oh, if he is taking me serious, maybe there's something worthy in me that deserves to be taken seriously". That's a very precious gift, that our spiritual masters give to us. In fact a very precious gift that we can give to other people. No matter who the person might be, how disturbed they might be, if we toss them away like a piece of rag, there is no way that we are going to be able to relate to them. But if we respect them and take them seriously, then the doors start to be open. So in terms of being able to develop caring love for others and compassion and sympathy for others, if we first take our own problems seriously and take our own right to be happy seriously, not in a selfish way – after all we are human beings – then 7 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation we'll be able to have the same type of serious concern for other people. Then, if we say, how can we actually help other people?" First we have to take some resolve that we are going to do something about other people's problems and situation.
If we see somebody drowning in a lake and if you just stand on the side and say: "What a shame", that's not going to help the other person. You have to jump in there and do something.
Likewise the same is true in terms of any type of dealing with other people's problems. The only way to do something effective is, if we ourselves have overcome our limitations and have evolved fully so that we really know what to do. How often have we come upon a situation in which somebody is very very disturbed and he comes to us for help and we really don't know what to say. Not only we don't know what to say, but we immediately get very frightened and in fact we get very turned off and all we want is that person to go away as quick as possible, so that we don't have to handle them or don't have to deal with this problem that this other person is suffering from. So it's important to get over our limitations and to learn all the skilful means so that we actually can help other people in the most effective. So this is what is involved with what is actually "Bodhicitta", to expand our hearts out. You have this term in Tibetan "Sang. Gya"; Gya is to expand, to grow.