The 3 Excellences - Choeze Kuchen Rinpoche
First Excellence - Pure Motivation and Great Conviction
Pure motivation and great conviction are very important regardless of whether the activity performed is great or negligible. Pure motivation is what results in great merit.
Impure motivation is having jealousy, greed, desire of benefitting oneself or one's family and other negative and selfish thoughts before performing the deed. Pure motivation is doing the virtuous deed without any prior negative and selfish thoughts.
How do we generate pure motivation? There are 3 ways, 1st is that of the shepherd, 2nd is that of the boatman and 3rd is that of the king.
The shepherd lets the herd go in front and will count all the animals in the herd to ensure none of the animals are missing.
The motivation like that of the shepherd is to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment before one attains enlightenment.
The boatman ensures all the travellers in his boat reach safely to the other shore together with him.
The motivation like that of the boatman is to attain enlightenment together with all sentient beings at the same time.
The king cultivates himself and takes measures to put himself in a position to lead his country before actually doing something for his country to make the country strong and make his citizens contented.
The motivation like that of the king is to become enlightened first before leading others towards enlightenment.
The best motivation is that of the shepherd. Some may think, "If I lead others, then what about myself?" That is an unnecessary worry. If you have already lead others towards enlightenment, it is impossible that you alone would stay in samsara by yourself. Why we remain in samsara is due to our selfishness. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas always do things for others and do not care for themselves. Actually, if you have the motivation of the shepherd, you would probably gain enlightenment much faster than if you had the other two motivations.
As a vajrayana practitioner, we should have the motivation of a shepherd. Before we perform any deeds, we should consider if our motivaion is pure or impure. At that instant, if you find that your motivation is impure, you should change it to be a pure one. You must constantly perform the checking yourself. It is easy to check our mind as it belongs to us and nobody else. The real practice is to check our mind frequently.
Pure motivation is very important especially to those who are in a profession where they directly help others, such as doctors and teachers. They must have pure motivation in order to help much more people effectively and efficiently. Take for example 2 doctors, one who has good qualifications but not genuinely concerned about helping others and one who does not have good qualifications but has the pure motivation to benefit others. When trying to cure patients, the patients of the doctor with the pure motivation would be the ones who see better results as the doctor would put in much more effort in curing and caring for the patient. With pure motivation, one will benefit more people better and at a faster speed. This is especially true for teachers and doctors who are in a profession where they can help many directly.
If you have impure motivation, on the outside the deed you perform may look good, but the result will be negative as the deed is unvirtuous due to impure motivation. If you light just one small lamp with pure motivation, the merit would last much longer than performing a great deed with impure motivation. The best motivation to have is that of the shepherd man.
Pure motivation can be applied to whatever activity you perform, regardless if it is related to Dharma. Slowly we start this practice and with experience, the pure motivation would come easily. We have to change our bad habits which are due to ignorance. Through countless lifetimes, we have accumulated much negative karma, we must have the patience to slowly change ourselves. It will not be easy, but with time, we can make the change.
For lay people, especially businessmen, it is very difficult to have pure motivation when working. They feel that they have to tell lies or their business will not be so good. But you can still try to do business with a good motivation. How to do so? For example, before starting on a deal, think that whatever profit I get, I will donate 40% to charity and for the rest, I will keep for myself and my family. If you do this, then it is ok. It may even make your business more successful as you had kind intentions before starting out on the deals. Even if you can't give 40%, even 5% is good, as long as you have thought of benefitting others, and not just only yourself.
We have to try to think for others, not just ourselves. If you think for others, you will become very relaxed in your mind. If you only think for yourself, gradually you will develop stress and feel more pressure. So try to think of benefitting others. Even though you can't benefit masses, if there is just only one person in front of you who needs help and you have given assistance with pure motivation, it would make you happy and your mind relaxed.
Wealth, good facilities, infrastructure and material goods, these give us good health and comfort, but not true permanent happiness. That is why you can observe that there are rich people who are very stressed. Poor people may have to live in discomfort, but they may not be unhappy if they are contented and do not harbor selfish thoughts. Material wealth may cause one more suffering due to the grasping and attachment one has for it.
Past Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and great masters took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, they did not take refuge in material wealth! Material wealth only gives you temporary happiness. We all need material wealth to survive, but we should not put in extra effort just to gain material wealth. Take for example a diamond ring, we wipe it and make it shiny, we carry it around with us, tell it that we love it very much and show it off proudly to others, but the diamond ring cannot reciprocate our love or do anything for us, it may even make us feel uncomfortable having to wear it on our finger. So it only makes us look stupid that we spend so much time and attention on an object that cannot love or care. That is what attachment does to us.
Motivation is important, like when parents discipline their children, from the outside, it looks bad, but actually the parents only want the best for their children. Their motivation is pure. We should not only focus on appearances, it is the motivation that counts. There is a story, a few centuries ago, about the Jowo statue in Tibet which is very precious. A king during Buddha's time requested that the statue be made and invited a statue maker from the deva realms. The statue was invited from India to China and then to Tibet. In Tibet there is a saying that if you do not visit the Jowo statue, then your life has been a waste. People put in great effort to go and visit the Jowo statue. There was a man from the southern side of Tibet who was simple-minded. He saw the shrine and thought that the offerings were food for Jowo. He thought that the lamp was lit up to ensure that the butter did not harden in the cold weather. As he was hungry, he took the torma (food offering) and dipped it into the butter and ate it. When he looked at Jowo's face, it was still smiling and he thought that Jowo was so nice as he was happy to share his food. He then told Jowo that he will now circumambulate him and put his shoes in front of Jowo and asked Jowo to help take care of them. When the caretaker of the temple came, he was very upset as he saw that the shrine was ruined and someone has disrespectfully put his shoes in front of the Buddha statue. He wanted to throw the shoes out, but the Jowo statue spoke and said, "Do not throw them away. Gonpo Ben has asked me to take care of them, it is my duty to do so." When Gonpo Ben has finished his circumambulation, he thanked the Jowo statue and invited Jowo to his home. Jowo accepted the invitation. Gonpo Ben then went home to tell his wife that Jowo would be visiting them. One day when his wife went to the river to get water, she saw that the Jowo statue was inside the river. She ran back to tell Ben who went to the river and dived in to fetch the statue. He actually managed to get the statue out. When he reached a stone on the road however, Jowo told him that he cannot enter a lay person's house and disappeared inside the rock. Ben had very pure motivation and therefore managed to see, talk to and even touch a real Buddha. Even though his actions appeared disrespectful, it did not matter as he had pure motivation.
2nd Excellence - The Perfect way to Practice
All types of Buddhist practice are included within the Vajrayana way of practice, the creation and completion stages. The generation stage practice is to do visualization. We visualize our body as a form of wisdom body or that of a deity. We also visualize Samantabhadra's form of offerings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the 10 directions. If visualization is done with concentration, it brings the same benefit as doing Shamatha (stabilization/ concentration) meditation. It is very important to visualize one-pointedly in the generation stage. For the beginner, it is very very difficult, one needs time to gain experience. We must practice more often. An obstacle is having an active mind during visualization, thinking about other things. This is an evil during visualization. We must have a stable mind during visualization and meditation, we should not think of the past or future, but remain in the present. During meditation you should not feel heavy in the mind like when we are sleeping but feel very light. There is a method to go to this state of mind. Many practitioners practice for a long time without getting a sign of successful practice. Some of them then think that there is a problem with the practice or that there is a problem with their guru. But actually the problem is with themselves! If one has wandering thoughts during visualization, one will not obtain any results as one is not practising correctly and in the proper way.
During visualization and meditation, worldly and conceptual thoughts that come are the real evil. They are the biggest obstacle. We have to put in effort to resolve this problem. We cannot forcefully stop the thoughts from coming as it would make the situation worse. More thoughts would come, and if you get angry, that is very bad. When thoughts come, just do not follow them, release the thoughts naturally. Come to the natural state of your mind. Do not think of the past or future, stay in the present. Conceptual thoughts will then be released naturally. We have to try this everyday, at times of trouble etc., try to release the tension in our minds through this method. With attachment, our mind becomes heavy. Be light in your mind without any attachment. We cannot possibly stop our mind from thinking, simply do not follow thoughts and just release. If we do this more often, it will help us during the introduction to the true nature of phenomena. When there is strong anger, hatred, desire or ignorance, practise this method to release your mind from negativity and conceptual thoughts. When meditating, open your eyes and look at any object in front of you, but do not grasp onto the object. Have no conceptions. There is only this one method and there are no other ways.
Through this practice, one will obtain long life. Breathing will slow down and become relaxed. Your life will go at a slower speed. This is different from when one is angry, the breath is fast and labored. Breathing will be long and smooth during practice and this will cause your life to become long. This practice can be done anywhere. Most imporantly, release all thoughts and be without conceptions when yo visualize or meditate. This will be the prefect way to practice.
In a lifetime, we must recognize the true nature of our mind after receiving instructions from a great master. There are a lot of conditions which must be met before we can do this. The 4 foundations (Ngondro) is important as a precursor to all practices.
3rd Excellence - Perfect Dedication
After practising, we accumulate merit and we should dedicate this merit. This teaching explains how to do perfect dedication. Without dedication, even if you have accumulated merits for thousands of aeons, all of the merits may be destroyed by a single negative thought. Merit is like a drop of water. If you put it on a dry ground, it will evaporate in a short period of time. If you do dedication, it will be like putting the drop of water in an ocean, the drop of water will last as long as the ocean is still around. Only if we dedicate merit, can the merit last. So dedication is very important. How should we do dedication? We should dedicate all the past, present and future merits of ourselves, all sentient beings, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as well as the source of all good deeds, our Buddha nature. This is the special method of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon, the founder of the Drikung Kagyud lineage. Why should we dedicate future merit? We may forget to dedicate merits in future when we have done good deeds, so we dedicate merit now for those circumstances. Dedicating future merits will also make it easier for us to accumulate merit in the future.
Primoridal merit is the merit of our natural self or our Buddha nature. Our original mind or self is kind and pure in nature. There are many people who are without religion but are naturally compassionate and kind. Why? Because their nature itself is good and kind. Even for animals, you can see how good they are to their children, they also possess compassion. We survive in this world through compassion, kindness and care given by our mother. We can see that the real nature of sentient beings is compassion. This strong and powerful compassion, is the seed of all merits. We should dedicate this.
For any deeds that we perform, whether it is Dharma-related or not, we need these 3 excellences. Pure motivation, perfect way to practice and perfect dedication. It applies to every practice and is very much essential and necessary.