Excerpts from the book - Living, Dreaming, Dying
Buddhism offers a vaster perspective: As humans we have the potential to become something extraordinary - enlightened. Enlightenment takes us beyond the sorrows and joys of the human state to something indescribably grand.
Having become enlightened we have limitless power and ability to help others in ways known and unimaginable - help them to freedom and happiness. Bodhisattvas live only to do this. This is living, dreaming, dying well. Anything less is pointless.
Many Westerners are fascinated by dream and its potential for new experience and spiritual growth. Few are drawn to the idea that death can be a creative and liberating experience.
The fact is that death offers more spectacular opportunities for enlightenment than life. So does dream. We must train while living if we want to recognise and take advantage of these opportunities.
The purpose of this book is to introduce you to the main principles of training, and acquaint you with some of the age-old Buddhist teachings on liberation through living, dreaming, dying. We will also examine how the 'ordinary person in the street' can best prepare for death and thus die skilfully. Also - how to help others who are dying or have already died.
Most Westerners have difficulty gaining perspective on the Tibetan teachings in this area. As a result they struggle to integrate it effectively into their experience. The most important single message to emerge from the Buddhist teachings on this topic is simple and powerful:
Give up all forms of selfishness and harmful behaviour.
Live to help others. Above all - try to be kind."
These were the Buddha's words when asked about himself. Was he a god? No. Was he an angel? No. A magician? No. So who or what was he? The Buddha said simply," I am awake." So, if we are not awake while we are awake, what are we? And what could we wake up to?
OUR LIMITLESS HUMAN POTENTIAL
The human condition brings with it a potential. It's the potential to become something more, to finally free ourselves from the limitations we impose on ourselves through the illusion of our conditioning.
In psychological terminology we are capable of realising much more than we normally do. We could live a more fulfilled life, be happier, more caring and loving, wiser and more compassionate. We could be more at peace with ourselves and with the world.
In the spiritual terminology of Buddhism we could become awakened or enlightened. This means the ending of all suffering and unhappiness, and the lasting manifestation of our highest human potential.
It begins with finding out how to be happy, because that is what we want most in life.
I WANT TO BE HAPPY
We all want to be happy. Sometimes we are; often we are not. Why haven't we already attained permanent happiness? Because we don't know how to. We are trapped in misunderstandings about ourselves, a form of ignorance that causes us to look for happiness in the wrong places.
Ignorance leads us to focus outward. We come to believe that happiness and peace of mind are to be found only 'out there', that something has to be added to 'me' before I can be happy. This eternal wild goose chase accounts for what most humans are doing - seeking happiness in externals such as a relationship, wealth, power, fame, possessions, beauty or some ultimate experience. Some people may find temporary satisfaction in these endeavours, but never true, deep, lasting happiness and peace of mind. Never the real thing.
What we achieve instead is to disempower ourselves. If I believe I can be happy or have peace of mind only if something external is added to my life or my self, the clear implication is that I am lacking. I lack that something. I can't be happy unless I find it. And so the desperate search commences.
This so tragically misses the point. Happiness is not out there; it is in here, in our own heart and mind. The Tibetans have an old saying:
"If your mind is at peace, you will be happy regardless of outer circumstances.
If your mind is disturbed, you will be unhappy regardless of outer circumstances."
Most of us can understand this, intellectually at any rate. But for some reason it is difficult for this understanding to penetrate deeply enough to become realisation, so we do not act on it. We continue, life after life, pursuing our elusive, phantom goals.
This book offers a different life perspective; a chance to change the scenario. We will talk about enlightenment, or waking up to what we really are and what we experience when we do wake up. We experience the profound peace of mind that is our true nature. It's here right now but we aren't experiencing it because we are ignoring it by fixating outwardly, looking outside for happiness.
Let's turn the situation around and begin to look within. Not in a morbidly introspective way, but in a joyful, creative way, exploring options we may not have seen before. We can look at life with a different perspective.
THE TWO DIMENSIONS OF REALITY
"Relative truth refers to the way something appears. Ultimate truth is what actually is."
Tai Situ Rinpoche
The basis of Buddhist philosophy and psychology rests on the understanding that we exist simultaneously in two dimensions:
* absolute, or ultimate
* relative, or conventional.
The absolute refers to us as enlightened beings, so we might say it is our 'true' state. It is present at this moment just as the sun is present even when it's obscured by clouds. Relative is the state that knows only clouds and doesn't realise there is a sun. It comes into being when separate, egocentric thinking, also known as dualistic thinking, dominates consciousness. Its existence is rooted in obsessive-compulsive thinking, and there is only one word involved - me.
The path to enlightenment is the path of dispelling the clouds that obscure the absolute, so that slowly we begin to experience what was always there. It's not mysterious. We don't have to import anything new into our lives. We simply re-tune to what we really are, which is the absolute. It is our true inner nature. It is what is prompting you to read this book. It has said to you, I need to find out something about my real inner self.' If it weren't for that you might be watching television, or diverting yourself in some other way. So the absolute is affecting us all the time, but in ways that we don't normally perceive.
It is the negative aspects of the relative that most significantly obscure our experience of the absolute. In the earliest Buddhist teachings these negative aspects are identified as 'unwholesome courses of action' and the consciousness associated with them. They are rooted mainly in greed, hatred and delusion and have unfavourable karmic results: they contain the seeds of unhappy destiny or rebirth. That is why in Buddhism a lot of attention is given to identifying and freeing ourselves from unwholesome mind states, and assiduously cultivating their opposites - generosity, love and compassion, and wisdom. When we are able to do this, the mind is closer to the experience of its true nature: the awakened state, awakened to the reality that we are the absolute.
Negativity is entrenched in our stream of consciousness at unconscious levels, and so affects us in unseen ways or as unconscious tendencies: habitual patterns and conditioned reflexes. Levels of conditioning are deep, and endure not only for this lifetime, but for many lifetimes. They dominate our lives if we do not expose and integrate them, so that we free ourselves from all conflicting emotionality. Interestingly, we don't get rid of the negative, because everything is relative and absolute simultaneously. Within every negative is an enlightened opposite. We train ourselves to transform the negative so that the enlightened opposite, which is positive, can manifest.