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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
spring 2006| 52 |buddhadharma blAnche hArtmAn: Absolutely. If I know that my actions always produce consequences, it makes me pay much more attention to the actions I choose. Karma is central to the Buddhist teachings. Guy ArmstronG: As Rinpoche suggested, we end up harming ourselves as much as we harm someone else when we give expression to the kleshas. In the Theravada teachings, we say that when we’re angry, it’s like wanting to pick up a hot coal and throw it at someone – when we pick it up, we immediately burn our own hand. buddhAdhArmA: So far we have been talking about kleshas as something to get rid of, a nuisance. But don’t the kleshas provide us with the very path to travel on? Can they not be seen as an oppor- tunity? Guy ArmstronG: When we look honestly at the impact of the kleshas, we feel them as a burden, and we sincerely wish it were otherwise, but for the time being they are definitely there. Given that situation, how can we keep a right attitude toward ourselves and toward these states as they arise? For one thing, it’s helpful to realize that they can actually strengthen our dharma practice. By working with the kleshas, we learn lots of beautiful qualities, like humility and patience. The forbear- ance we practice just to be with a klesha without doing anything with it strengthens our compassion. We see how the kleshas make us suffer, and there- fore we understand the impact they have on others, which strengthens our determination to purify our hearts further. As we have success in doing that, it gives rise to faith and confidence as well. rinGu tulku: As Guy pointed out, the klesha can never be seen as something good from the Buddhist point of view, because it creates trouble. None- theless, it does present an opportunity. A klesha can be transformed, and from the Vajrayana point of view, kleshas are, in essence, wisdom. But that does not mean to say that the klesha is good. Our basic nature is the enlightened state of our mind, and its natural quality is wisdom. Kleshas occur when we are not able to express that natu- ral quality. They are a reflection of not being able to understand or express our pure wisdom mind, and yet they are also not other than that wisdom mind. There is merely an obstruction. When we can clear that obstruction, then the kleshas arise as wisdom. In Vajrayana, we talk about three methods for dealing with kleshas: abandoning, transforming, and transmuting. In the end, they are not something we “get rid of.” blAnche hArtmAn: Suzuki Roshi often said a bodhi- sattva should be very happy about having difficul- ties, because difficulties give you a way to practice. Whenever you have a problem, there is where your practice is. When you see yourself getting caught by a klesha, there is where your practice is. rinGu tulku: Seeing the problems caused by the kleshas also helps to generate compassion. If we don’t see problems, we find no reason to have compassion. buddhAdhArmA: If we measure success in working with defilements in terms of outward behavior, do you think there is much difference between the people who have been practicing for forty years in our Western Buddhist communities and the aver- age person on the street? rinGu tulku: Sometimes people say that Buddhist centers actually have the worst type of people [laughter]. Of course, many people come to a Buddhist center with very big expectations. They hear Buddhists talk about compassion, under- standing, loving-kindness, peace, and things like that. So they expect that everyone there will fully embody all those virtues, and when they walk in, they can get the shock of their lives. Yet this is a little bit like going to a hospital and being sur- prised that there are so many sick people. Those who come to Buddhist centers are not people who are already perfect. They are people who feel there is a big need for them to work on the negative things. The kleshas are strong internally. But by exercising restraint – through the precepts, right speech, the other aspects of the eightfold path, and so forth – we inhibit the action of the klesha, and we stop spreading around so much suffering. — Guy Armstrong