"For those of you who want to attain enlightenment, do not study many teachings. Only study one. What is it? It is great compassion. Whoever has great compassion has all Buddha's qualities in his hand." —Lord Buddha
In the undeluded purity of self-appearance, there are no names for love and faith.... But since all sentient beings grasp at the uncatchable display of appearance, all our phenomena become heavy and substantial, and we create the duality of self and other, the conceptions of ordinary mind, and the karmic delusion of habit. Since all habit belongs to either the deluded panic of samsara or the noble path of enlightenment, it is best to develop the positive habit of the path of enlightenment that always creates the positive energy of love and faith, until we attain the selfless appearance of the buddhas.
Love and faith share the same essence of deep caring. The only difference is that love is aimed toward sentient beings, including those who are less fortunate than we are, while faith is aimed toward sublime beings, including all buddhas and enlightened guides. The nature of love is to give positive energy to others in order to benefit them and to release them from suffering. The nature of faith is to trust in sublime beings in order to receive the blessings of wisdom energy that benefit oneself and others. True faith creates the vast love of compassion that benefits countless beings.
If we rely on ordinary, dualistic mind, we cannot have deep and lasting love either for our equals or for less fortunate beings, because ordinary, dualistic mind depends on the uncertainty of temporary circumstances. This uncertainty easily causes disinterest, hatred, or betrayal. If we do not believe in the unending continuity of mind, we will only consider the immediate, tangible circumstances of our connections to others, rejecting or accepting them as these circumstances change according to what is the most expedient for us. Ordinary love that arises from the karmic results of habit can seem to have the qualities of being genuine, loyal, and stable, but these qualities only mask the potential for the opposite qualities of insincerity, disloyalty, and instability to arise if circumstances change. Because ordinary love has no depth, it is automatically limited. If it becomes unpleasant, we stop feeling it. When we only react to circumstances, we are really just considering ourselves and our own reactions without respecting or caring deeply about others. When we feel isolated and want to be loved, we show love to others in order to receive love from them in return, but when we are satisfied, we forget about others. This is not enduring and continuous love. It does not cause the impartial compassion of bodhisattvas because it depends on our personal, selfish desire.
If we do not believe in anything beyond what can be experienced directly with the obscured perception of dualistic mind, we will not recognize that our awareness is limited and we will only care about our immediate experiences. Our main interest will be in our own temporary benefit, even though this benefit is easily lost since it depends on unreliable, temporary circumstances
If we only react with self-interest to whatever circumstances appear, we will make choices based on trying to find temporary satisfaction. But this effort is always ultimately hopeless, since everything within samsara is uncertain because it is changing. Through the shortsightedness of our habit, we do not even notice that we are missing what is meaningful, like someone who eagerly chooses to eat a cow's red meat instead of continuously drinking its white milk.
If we believe that mind is continuous, our love for others becomes continuous. If we recognize this continuity, we do not trust temporary, tangible circumstances or take them too seriously. Since it is tiring to switch between changing uncertainties, which are inherently impermanent and unimportant, we become less easily influenced by any circumstance. This creates the habit of stability so that our minds are less erratic, our lives are less chaotic, and our feelings for others are less changeable, which causes love to become increasingly deep and loyal.
If we believe in the continuity of mind, then love inconspicuously connects us to the ones we love with continuous positive energy, so that even tangible separations between people who love each other do not reduce the intangible power of love. This love is automatically enduring since it is not easily affected by circumstances.
If we can keep from grasping at others with the selfish fear of losing them or the hope of possessing them through the unawareness of our ordinary, dualistic mind, then the energy of love increases and its quality of giving energy to others opens and expands. The positive habit of continuity is created by not depending on what occurs each moment as though it were the only moment. By believing in the continuity of mind, we acknowledge the continuity of all circumstances, including our experiences of love, which are not just for one moment or for one life. We can understand that it is useless to try to escape from momentary dissatisfaction or to pursue momentary benefit by abandoning old circumstances and chasing after new circumstances, since nothing really changes unless we are released from all circumstances to enlightenment.
Through our nihilist habit, we may superficially judge the relationships between parents and children, friends and companions, or teachers and students, deciding that they are inharmonious or unsuitable. If we do not believe in continuous mind and continuing karmic connections but only believe in coincidental circumstances, we may think that it is better to discard difficult relationships in order to rid ourselves of problems, and we may easily turn away from others.
But if we believe in continuous mind and karma, we know that momentary phenomena always change. Unless change is connected with practice leading to enlightenment, it is unnecessary to try to change our useless, worldly phenomena, which only take us from being miserable to being miserable again. We will not take temporary negativity so seriously if we know that all circumstances within gross and subtle substantial conceptualization are impermanent. We will also not want to hold on to negative feelings that increase negative habits, since we will recognize that there is no benefit in doing this. By believing that we can actually change our karmic circumstances, we can pray for others, purify negativity, and create positive karma with the intention of attaining enlightenment. Instead of trying to change our outer circumstances, we will understand that it is more meaningful to change our own phenomena.
Born in Tibet, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is a Vajra Master in the Nyingmapa tradition. This excerpt is from White Sail which will be published in October by Shambhala Publications.
Image: Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra (Father-Mother). Collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Fransisco. Copyright John Bigelow Taylor, courtesy of Tibet House, NY.