Attending to our Karma

Samyaksambuddha

“Buddhism, particularly in its Tibetan form, often contains ritual ceremonies, or pujas, directed toward various Buddha-figures or fierce protectors in order to help dispel obstacles and accomplish constructive purposes. Performing these ceremonies provides conducive circumstances for negative potentials to ripen in trivial rather than major obstacles, and positive potentials to ripen sooner rather than later. If we have built up overwhelmingly negative potentials, however, these ceremonies are ineffective in averting difficulties. Therefore, propitiating gods, spirits, protectors or even Buddhas is never a substitute for attending to our karma – avoiding destructive conduct and acting in a constructive manner. Buddhism is not a spiritual path of protector-worship, or even Buddha-worship. The safe direction of the Buddhist path is working to become a Buddha ourselves.”

[From Taking the Kalachakra Initiation by Alexander Berzin]

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Children of the Victorious One

Arya Maitreya

Arya Maitreya

“Those whose seed is devotion towards the supreme vehicle,
whose mother is analytical wisdom generating the buddha qualities, whose abode is the blissful womb of meditative stability, and whose nurse is compassion, are heirs born to succeed the Muni.”

[From Buddha Nature – The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra by Arya Maitreya]

Teacher of Gods and Humanity

Buddha, Indra, Brahma

Buddha, Indra, Brahma

Śāsta deva-manusyānam – “teacher of gods and men (i.e. humanity)”. This is one of the titles of Buddha Shakyamuni. While many may be familiar with Buddha Shakyamuni’s role as a teacher for human beings, it is interesting to note that in traditional Buddhist cosmology, many of the the gods and goddesses (i.e. devas and devis) are themselves not fully liberated from samsara. Buddhadharma speaks of the Three Realms or Three Worlds (Trailokya); the Kāmaloka (Desire Realms), Rūpaloka (Form Realms), and Arūpaloka (Formless Realms). The Kāmaloka is further categorized into the Six Realms, thus:

Deva-gati, the God Realms

Asura-gati, the Titan Realms

Manusya-gati, the Human Realms

Tiryagyoni-gati, the Animal Realms

Preta-gati, the Hungry Ghost Realms

Naraka-gati, the Hell Realms

According to lamrim teachings, all of these six realms are samsaric in nature, meaning all six realms are tinged with dukkha (suffering/unsatisfactoriness) to varying degrees. According to this view, while devas and devis (gods and goddesses) may live an incalculably longer existence than humans, and may enjoy pleasures and delights unheard of in the human realm, they too die, and by the force of their karma, may again take rebirth in one of the six realms.

When generating bodhicitta, Buddhist practitioners will often contemplate the various realms, and the forms of suffering related to them, and with the vast expanse of beings in mind, generate compassion for them all. It is also not uncommon for Buddhists to do practices to prevent them from taking rebirth in the god realms because this can be seen as a distraction from attaining full liberation and enlightenment (i.e. becoming a Buddha). The human realm is considered ideal because it is, in a sense, “mixed” in that there is both pleasure and pain, joy and suffering readily evident. This can awaken the intention to attain liberation. Comparatively, in the hell realms the suffering is so great and constant that it is extremely rare for a being in these realms to take up Dharma practice, and in the god realms, the joy is so great that practice is often neglected as well, and the fall from such an existence, the loss of the enjoyment of the god realms, often provokes deep suffering.

May all beings have happiness and its causes.
May all beings be free of suffering and its causes.
May all beings never be separated from bliss without suffering.
May all beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.

Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi

Buddha

“Bhikṣus, in regard to these three turnings and twelve motions of the Four Noble Truths, if they had not given birth to vision, wisdom, understanding, and Bodhi, then amongst all the devas, māras, brahmās, śramaṇas, and brāhmaṇas who hear the Dharma, I could not have achieved liberation, gone beyond, and departed. I also would not have had self-realization of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. Yet I have, from the three turnings and twelve motions of the Four Noble Truths, given birth to vision, wisdom, understanding, and Bodhi. Amongst the devas, māras, brahmās, śramaṇas, and brāhmaṇas who hear the Dharma, I have gone beyond and achieved liberation, and have had self-realization of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.”

[From the Saṃyukta Āgama, 379: Turning the Dharma Wheel]

The Six Paramitas

Prajnaparamita

Prajñaparamita

“One fulfills one’s bodhisattva vow through acting to benefit beings. Since this kind of activity runs against the deeply engrained habitual patterns of our usual approach, practices need to be given that unlock our compassion. The most important set of bodhisattva practices are the six paramitas. Paramita means ‘transcendent action’ and refers to practices that, in being directed to others, transcend ego. These transcend ego also in the sense that their energy flows ultimately from the selfless buddha-nature within.”

[From The Indestructible Truth by Reginald Ray. 2000.]

The Six Paramitas:

Generosity (Dana-Paramita)
Discipline (Shila-Paramita)
Patience (Kshanti-Paramita)
Exertion (Virya-Paramita)
Meditation (Dhyana-Paramita)
Wisdom (Prajna-Paramita)