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To let go of this life is the practice of a Bodhisattva.
For these three reasons, the practice of a Bodhisattva is to mentally discard this life. This attitude does not mean actually giving it up. It suggests developing an attitude of renunciation. By realizing that this life is just like a dream and an illusion, you can abandon attachment to it.
In Tibet, human corpses were discarded in four ways. The first accorded with the Vajrayana. The body was cremated and a fire puja, or ceremony, performed to clear away negative obscurations. The second tradition was to throw the corpse into the water and offer it to the fish as an act of generosity. The third tradition, which originated in China, was to bury the body as quickly as possible in order to purify the place of death, so that afterwards it would not harm those who lived there. According to this tradition, when someone died, a burial expert was immediately summoned to determine the most auspicious burial site. By consulting this specialist and precisely carrying out his or her instructions, the family believed that benefit instead of harm would descend upon them. The fourth method was to feed the corpse to vultures.
This act was performed to benefit the vultures because these birds do not kill to eat; they depend on carrion for their survival. Offering corpses to the vultures was also regarded as an act of generosity.
One of the largest charnel grounds in Tibet was at Sera Gompa, close to Lhasa. So busy was this charnel ground that the vultures there fed on corpses every day. It is still like that. If you have the opportunity to visit Tibet, go to Sera Gompa, watch how the bodies are chopped into parts and how the vultures come to eat. It is a good opportunity to meditate on impermanence.
A charnel ground in Drikung was so famous that Tibetans brought their dead from afar to have them consumed by the Drikung vultures. Before roads were built, the bereaved would place the corpse on a yak and travel as long as fifteen days, sometimes longer, to reach Drikung. Regardless of the difficulties, offspring considered they had disposed of their parent's body auspiciously by offering it to the vultures of Drikung. Nowadays, a road and the availability of cars make the journey much easier.
When friendship with someone
To clarify the respective meaning of "ordinary being" and "special being," let us use an analogy: Consider the vast amount of waste eliminated by the inhabitants of a large city. Ordinary beings are disgusted by sewage and want to be rid of it. It is dirty, it smells, it breeds disease. But the farmer is a special being grateful to obtain what everyone else rejects. His skill allows him to use this "waste" to fertilize his fields and make them more productive so that he can reap an abundant harvest. So you see there are two attitudes toward waste products and what to do with them.
It is the same way with the five afflictions. While ordinary beings must rid themselves of afflictions, the skillful individual can carry them onto the path and transform them into the five wisdoms. For example, the Vajrayana teaches a practice called "Clear Light Meditation" that transforms the affliction of mental dullness into clarity while one sleeps. Using this practice, an Indian mahasiddha named Lawapa realized Mahamudra by meditating in his sleep for twelve years by the side of a busy road. This is how to take mental dullness onto the path. If you're a skillful sleeper, then Clear Light Meditation is the ideal practice for you.
When in reliance on someone, your defects wane
The "someone" mentioned is the spiritual friend. If, by relying on a spiritual friend whom you deeply respect, your defects, and afflictions, negative karma, suffering, and so, on diminish, then this is a sign to continue your reliance. "Positive qualities" refer to the qualities of the bhumis and of the paths. They also refer to qualities that develop from listening, reflecting, and meditating. If such virtues increase like the waxing moon, these are also signs to rely on such a person.
Because your relationship with the genuine spiritual friend decreases your afflictions and increases your good qualities, you should consider this friend as even more precious than your own body. Examples of how to rely on a spiritual friend are the way Tilopa relied on Naropa, and the way the great yogi Milarepa relied on Marpa. Naropa had to surmount twenty-four hardships, twelve small and twelve great. For examples of how Milarepa relied on his teacher, read his life story.
Themselves captives in the prison of samsara,
Throughout Buddhist texts, the qualities of the three Rare and Supreme Ones are explained repeatedly in great detail. In one text called The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra (published by Snow Lion under the title Buddha Nature), of the seven vajra points, the first three concern the qualities of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. I propose that you read this text again and again in order to understand it well. In brief, what are the qualities of the three Rare and Supreme Ones? The qualities of the Buddha are mainly two- the perfection of abandonment and the perfection of realization. The quality of the Dharma is that it is a remedy against affliction, suffering, and confused appearances. The quality of the Sangha is friendship. Sangha is a community of practitioners who help us practice the Dharma and the friends who accompany us on the Dharma path. This is a brief explanation of all the qualities. If we think Dharma is books, something outside ourselves, we are mistaken. Genuine Dharma is the process of actualizing within our minds the wisdom that realizes emptiness and selflessness. Such wisdom overcomes all confused appearances and afflictions. This is real Dharma. It is like recognizing a dream for what it is, so that in the dream state we do not suffer from being burned by fire or drowned in water. Dharma is the remedy to overcome our actual afflictions and actual suffering because it enables us to realize emptiness and selflessness.
Refuge is of two kinds, relative and absolute. Relative refuge arises when we see that samsara has the nature of suffering and we develop complete trust in that recognition. We come to fear samsara and seek refuge from it. And who is able to protect us? Only the three Rare and Supreme Ones have this capacity. However, if we take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha in such a way, this is relative refuge. Why? It is refuge based on concepts; it involves thoughts. Ultimate refuge, by contrast, is the realization of emptiness, the selflessness of persons and of phenomena. If we realize emptiness, we actualize ultimate refuge. When ultimate refuge arises, all our afflictions and suffering are self-liberated.
The suffering of the lower realms, so difficult to bear,
Like dew on the tip of a blade of grass
There are those who practice Dharma to avoid the suffering of rebirth in hell or as a hungry ghost or as an animal. Fear of the lower realms motivates them to strive for a favorable rebirth as a god, or in a deity realm where they can continue to practice the Dharma. The person in this category may also seek the benefit of longevity to have more time to practice or to accumulate the means to practice in ease. The motivation of practitioners who follow the Dharma for these reasons is considered inferior because the result sought is temporary.
A person motivated by desire for liberation attains his or her goal by understanding that samsara has no essence. Since it has no essence, it can be totally abandoned. Liberation is the highest state sought by the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas- that is, by Shravakayana practitioners. A practitioner seeking liberation embodies a medium level of motivation.
One who strives for Buddhahood is endowed with supreme motivation-the desire to attain complete and perfect enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Buddhahood emerges as the result of practicing the Mahayana, wherein one cuts the root of existence through the superior intelligence that realizes emptiness. While Mahayana practice does, in fact, liberate the practitioner from samsara, the great compassion it engenders motivates the Bodhisattva to remain in existence to benefit all sentient beings. This is the attitude of the Mahayana, its supreme motivation. In his text, The Precious Garland of the Supreme Path, Gampopa describes these three kinds of motivation: inferior, middling, and supreme.
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