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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 43 working with the breath. As we exhale, we send out our root of virtue to all sentient beings. We say “root of virtue” because this virtue has the ability to nurture and ripen happiness in our- selves and others. As we breathe in, we take in all of the suffering and negativity of sentient beings, with the wish that we may alleviate their pain. Through practicing tonglen more and more, we begin to experience glimpses of what it means to actually do tonglen. The practice is accompanied by the physical feeling of sending our root of virtue to others and actually taking in their suf- fering, hardships, and negativity. Probably some of us have had this feeling while practicing ton- glen. Over time, if we practice diligently, we will perfect the paramita of generosity based on this practice, and we will realize an unlimited ability to share everything we have, including our own body, loved ones, and wealth, with every sentient being without exception—without even a hair of doubt. We can apply threefold certainty to ordinary shamatha techniques and even to tantric prac- tices such as generation and perfection stages. In fact, we must apply threefold certainty to these practices; otherwise, perfectly pure realization of the path will not arise in us. The Spiritual Guide’s Support of Threefold Certainty In the Buddhist tradition, the spiritual guide is the wish-fulfilling gem that gives rise to all levels of certainty, whether intellectual, experiential, or fully realized. Without the spiritual guide, it is impossible to access teachings on how to practice meditation. Reflecting on this, we realize that it’s impractical to think that we can meditate based on reading a book or attain realization by taking a course. Without the teachings of the spiritual guide, intellectual certainty is impossible. Experiential certainty is even more difficult, because without a spiritual guide we lack not only the opportunity to personally hear teachings on how to meditate but also a connection with someone who is able to put those teachings into practice. The spiritual guide is not just an instructor; he or she is a per- sonal example of realization. He or she shows what it means to actualize the dharma in one’s own life. Of course, without intellectual and experi- ential certainty, realization cannot arise. In the Vajrayana tradition, realization is based not only on diligent practice and the development of intel- lectual and experiential certainty but also directly PHOTO | DANA STYBER PHOTOGRAPHY