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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 49 |summer 2007 wisdom is not enough merit-making practices are just as important as meditating on the true nature of mind, says tulku thondup. without them, he warns, one cannot attain buddhahood. BuDDhism teaches that in our true nature, we are enlightened – totally open, peaceful, joyful, compassionate, and omniscient. the Buddha proclaimed: Profound, peaceful, and free from concepts, Luminous and uncompounded – A nectar-like nature – that I have realized! this aspect of our mind is “the true nature of the mind.” when we become aware of it and perfect it, we become blossoming buddhas. we’re all attracted to these highest views. But some students of Buddhism just want to meditate on the nature of the mind, emptiness-wisdom, free from concepts, without opening their hearts to the merit-making practices that are indispensable to liberation. they regard important practices like praying and generating devotion as “theistic” and “dualistic.” there are many ways to make merit, or positive karma. the most comprehen- sive are the six perfections (paramitas) that mahayana Buddhism prescribes as the path to enlightenment. they are: giving (generosity), discipline (morality), patience (fearlessness), diligence (eagerness), tranquility (contemplation), and wisdom. the first five perfections, collectively referred to as “skillful means,” are espe- cially for accumulating merit. the sixth, wisdom, involves realizing the true nature of mind, which is wisdom-emptiness. the undervaluation of skillful-means practices to develop merit is unfortunate. their purpose is to refine and transform our mind. Devotion opens our hearts. compassion dissolves ego. Prayer unites us with our enlightened qualities. Pure perception transforms our awareness. serving others, especially those who rely on us, is the purpose of dharma. there is no such thing as a buddha who doesn’t help others. so the more we open our hearts to skillful means, the more quickly and surely we reach buddhahood. we should never abandon these practices, for the path of skillful means is per- fected in the goal of enlightenment, just as bricks become the finished house. as long as we have dualistic concepts and emotions, the world is solid to us. our suffering is all too real. circumstances matter. if our surroundings are chaotic, it will be hard to find tranquility. if we experience peace and joy, however, we will be inspired to generate even more peace and joy. then whatever we say and do will be the words and deeds of joy and peace. we progressively loosen our grasping at self, and eventually we glimpse the luminous nature of our mind. if we perfect this realization, we uproot grasping at self and become fully awakened. i am not saying that we should not meditate on the nature of the mind. my point is that we should do so in conjunction with skillful means. Buddhist masters have always said that buddhahood is the result of two accumulations: of skillful means and of wisdom. merit and wisdom are each as indispensable to attaining enlightenment as two wings are to a bird’s ability to fly. from “the Power of Positive karma” by tulku thondup rinpoche, published in Shambhala Sun, may 2006. nectedness, the fact that we ask from each other and we give to each other all the time? It helps us to remember that all the time. ponlop rinpoChe: Definitely. eido roShi: Excuse me, Rinpoche, may I ask something? ponlop rinpoChe: Yes, Roshi. eido roShi: Does the letting go include yourself? ponlop rinpoChe: Yes, it definitely includes yourself. eido roShi: Good. ponlop rinpoChe: There is no true paramita with- out the three purities: no subject, no object, no action. eido roShi: Yes. ponlop rinpoChe: I think that is mukodoku. eido roShi: Yes. buddhadharma: Ritual practices in many Buddhist traditions carry with them ancient cosmologies that are very different from ours. How do we approach practices that seem to contradict our understanding of the universe? Stephen batChelor: The way we understand where we are in the universe is much different from the cosmology of the Buddha’s time and place. We see ourselves on this small globe flying around the sun, in a vast cosmos that we know more and more about through empirical observation. We no longer inhabit the classical Indian cosmology that existed through most of Buddhist history. I have certainly struggled with this in my own practice, and it is also an issue with many of the people I teach on retreats. They often have a very deep and heartfelt attraction to the dharma, and yet when they cross the threshold of a Buddhist center, they often find themselves encountering something alien that they really can’t relate to. It turns them away from the dhamma, and that is a real shame. If one doesn’t really deeply share in that cosmological vision, such practices can often be extremely difficult to do with any authenticity or honesty. Joan Sutherland: The question of people being put off by cultural trappings surrounding the dharma is not trivial. I have fears that my own tradition will remain an exotic import, marginalized in the culture. Consequently, it would not take part in the conversation I hope we are about to have about what we do in the face of global warming and constant warfare. Buddhism must be part of that conversation. I love mythology and rich sto- ries and beautiful archetypal figures, but if I had zenstuDiessociety