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Death and Rebirth-1

Death and Rebirth-1

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Published by: Dew Nada on Nov 03, 2009
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Death and Rebirth
Session One of Six
In his text
The Foundation of All Good Qualities 
, the great Tibetan yogi and scholar, Lama Je Tsong Khapasaid,This life is as impermanent as a water bubble;Remember how quickly it decays and death comes.After death, just like a shadow follows the body,The results of black and white karma ensue.Finding firm and definite conviction in this,Please bless me always to be carefulTo abandon even the slightest of negativitiesAnd to accomplish only virtuous deeds.In this module we are going to see if we can get a better understanding of the meaning of these words.
Meditation on the breath 
Now, before we begin the actual subject matter, we’re going to do a short meditation on the breath. I’m notgoing to give too much explanation of this because it’s fully covered in the module on How to Meditate andmost people should be familiar with that by now. However, this meditation on the breath is often done prior toany meditation or teaching session, and it’s extremely useful for calming, clearing and settling the mind.Sit comfortably on your meditation cushion, cross-legged, or in a chair, and adopt the seven-point meditation
posture. Make the strong determination, “Now I’m going to focus fully on my breath, without allowing myselfto become distracted by anything whatsoever, internal or external.” Then, bring all your attention to yourbreath as it enters and exits your nostrils; focus on that point, the entrance of your nostrils, and don’t changeyour breathing pattern in any way. Breathe naturally, but concentrate fully on your breath.You can do this meditation for two or three minutes, five or, actually, as long as you like. Press the pausebutton on your CD player, and when you’re ready to resume, press the play button.
Now that your mind is a lot calmer and clearer, the next thing you should do is generate positive motivation.In his book
Making Life Meaningful 
, Lama Zopa Rinpoche talks a lot about the importance of motivation and,in fact, motivation is the most important factor in determining whether an action becomes positive or negative,in other words, whether the action will be the cause of happiness or the cause of suffering. Since we alwayswant to experience happiness and never want to experience suffering, the most important thing for us toknow is how to motivate.If we don’t make a conscious effort to generate positive motivation, if we just go along as we normally do, it’salmost certain that our actions are going to be negative. We’ve been just going along, following our mindwithout understanding how it works, since beginningless time, which is why we’re still in cyclic existence, whywe are still subject to death and rebirth, why without choice we have to experience all kinds of suffering thatwe don’t want, and why it’s very hard for us to find any satisfaction or lasting happiness. Pretty much it can beall boiled down to not knowing how to motivate.In this book, Lama Zopa says,
 It is extremely important for us to know how best to live our daily lives. This depends upon our knowing whatis a spiritual action and what is not, the difference between what is Dharma and what is not Dharma. Thebenefits of having this knowledge are incredible, infinite.If we don’t make an effort to generate positive motivation, more likely than not, we are going to be actingunder the influence of one of the three poisonous minds—ignorance, attachment and aversion—not probably,definitely—we’re going to be acting under the influence of one of these three principal negative minds. Mostoften, on basis of ignorance, it will be attachment, where we are attached to simply the happiness, thecomfort, of this life. Actions done out of ignorance, attachment and aversion leave negative imprints on ourconsciousness, and sooner or later, in this life, the next, or in some subsequent future life, these imprintsripen into the experience of suffering.Therefore, we need to cultivate one of the three levels of positive motivation. Again, I don’t want to spend toomuch time on this because it’s covered in other courses, but the three levels of positive motivation are:1. The lowest level of motivation, the simplest form of Dharma practice, doing things with
the motivation of avoiding rebirth in the three lower realms 
; doing things to experience happiness within the realms ofcyclic existence, principally attaining a higher rebirth and experiencing the various forms of happinessthat are experienced in the three upper realms.2. The second, or intermediate, level of positive motivation is that where we do things
in order to attain liberation from all of cyclic existence 
, to escape from delusion and karma, to put a final end touncontrolled death and rebirth, to attain
, or individual liberation, a state of everlasting blissfulpeace, becoming an
, for ourselves alone. This is done by practicing morality, developing perfectconcentration and cultivating insight into the nature of the mind whereby we transcend our ego. But themain beneficiary, almost the sole beneficiary, of this is ourselves alone. This might be enough for some
people, this might be enough for many people, but the Mahayana tradition teaches that it’s not enough,and our teachers, in fact all Tibetan Buddhist teachers, emphasize that it’s more important to bemotivated by seeking the happiness of others than that of oneself alone.3. Therefore, the highest level of positive motivation is that where
we seek enlightenment 
, not for our ownbenefit but as a tool, or an instrument, that we can use
to bring other sentient beings, all other sentient beings, to enlightenment 
, the highest state of mental development, the same level of mind attained bythe Buddha, the level of mind beyond which there is no higher level, the greatest possible experienceof happiness. That is what we should set our sights upon, and this motivation is
.So, try to set your motivation for this doing this death and rebirth module, this entire Discovering Buddhismprogram, at the highest level by thinking, “I am doing this program, I am doing this course, I am studyingthese teachings on death and rebirth in order to reach enlightenment for the sole purpose of enlightening allmother sentient beings.”
I mentioned before some of the other modules in the Discovering Buddhism program and before going on, I just want to say that I think it’s important that, if you want to get a complete picture of Tibetan Buddhism, acomplete understanding of the path to enlightenment, you do study all the modules in this program. Also, I’mgoing to assume that people listening to this course on death and rebirth have studied one or more of thepreceding modules: Mind and its Potential, How to Meditate, The Spiritual Teacher and Presenting the Path.The path to enlightenment, which is called
in Tibetan, really does hang together and actually, it’s abeautiful thing.Sometimes people talk about miracles. Personally, I think it’s a miracle that there exists such a thing as thelam-rim, this path to enlightenment. If you look at the outline of the path to enlightenment, with all thehundreds and thousands of steps laid out in their logical order, it constitutes nothing less than a roadmap toenlightenment, a roadmap to spiritual perfection—to put it loosely, and in probably non-Buddhist terms, aroadmap to becoming one with God, one with the supreme state of being. It’s something that we can allachieve, and here’s a map of how to get there. I think that’s a miracle.This formulation of the Buddha’s teachings, the lam-rim, the steps of the path to enlightenment, is prettymuch unique to Tibetan Buddhism, and this system of arranging the Buddha’s teachings was first formulatedin Tibet about a thousand years ago by the great Atisha. He was invited to Tibet to restore Buddhism to itsoriginal purity after a period of degeneration. At this time, unscrupulous teachers were coming to Tibet fromIndia and perhaps other places to take advantage of the void created by an anti-Buddhist king, who hadsuppressed the Buddha’s teachings and driven them to the far reaches of Tibet. Upset by what washappening, the ruler of western Tibet, King Lha Lama Yeshe Ö, invited the greatest Indian teacher of thetime, Atisha, to come to Tibet to explain the fundamental teachings on refuge and karma and thus set thepeople back on the right course to enlightenment.So Atisha looked at the vast collection of the Buddha’s teachings, which the Buddha had given over a fortyyear period some fifteen hundred years before, and he arranged them into an order, gave them a structure,that makes it very easy for any individual, like you and me, to identify where we are on the path toenlightenment right now, what we should be practicing at the moment, what we should do next and what weshould do after that and so forth, all the way up to enlightenment, up to Buddhahood, up to spiritualperfection, up to developing our mind to its ultimate potential.When the Buddha taught after his enlightenment, he didn’t begin with some kind of predetermined syllabus orcurriculum, where in the first year he gave very fundamental teachings, sort of kindergarten Buddhism, thenthe next year he gave first grade Buddhism, and the next year second grade Buddhism, and so on like that allthe way up to the fortieth year, just before he passed away, when he gave his most profound and

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