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Meditation on the four common foundations

The four common foundations

2004

We start with a short meditation. First consider your sitting posture, and then contemplate the concepts of temporary happiness and ultimate happiness.

It is very important to think about every experience of happiness in this present moment. It is also important to think about all the happiness experienced by any enlightened being, no matter what omniscient state they have obtained. For every single being, no matter which level of practice they are at, whether beginner or enlightened being, their experiences of happiness cannot arise without cause and conditions. All happiness results from prior cause and condition. Practice of the precious Dharma is the cause and condition from which temporary and ultimate happiness arises.

Even though you know that all happiness arises from the Dharma, if you don't know how to practise Dharma, then there will be no chance to obtain temporary and ultimate happiness. Because of that, we should come here and practise together on a regular basis, to learn how to train our mind, body and speech and also to learn the proper practice of the precious Dharma. Whether we practise Dharma properly or not, is entirely up to our understanding of the practice. To develop an understanding about practice, it is very important to generate bodhicitta.

In this present samsara, the six types of sentient beings all have the cause and conditions to practise Dharma. But for most of them, their minds are not suited to practising Dharma. It is not that the Dharma is not available for them, but rather that the mind quality itself is not suitable to the Dharma. For example, think about garden soil - there is healthy soil and very unhealthy soil. However, the seed itself does not discriminate between good or bad soil. It is easy to plant a seed in either healthy soil or unhealthy soil. The different soil will affect the result. When we plant in healthy soil, ripe and healthy crops grow due to the right conditions available. If we plant a healthy seed in poor soil, due to the lack of the right conditions in the soil, nothing will grow. In this way if we really think about it, we are so fortunate to have the right soil. That is, to be born as a human - to have this precious human rebirth.

While we have this opportunity we must make sure we do not waste it and make sure that we use this opportunity. What is the best way not to waste this precious life? Whenever we get the opportunity, without wasting any moment day and night, we keep our mind, body and speech together with the bodhicitta and renunciation mind. Without any distraction or wandering, we commit ourselves to engage with bodhicitta in every single thing that we think, speak, or act upon. We do this for the sake of all mother sentient beings, to be free from the cyclic existence. This type of practice is the true practice of the Bodhisattva. Until we can really feel bodhicitta deep in our heart, it is important to repeat the practice often in order to really experience the truth of the Mahayana practice.

In order to be successful at bodhicitta practice, it is very important to recognise all the obstacles. There are many difficulties or obstacles to daily practice, and when these occur we think the practice itself is too hard. We do not realise it is our own mind that has all the difficulties. Whether our practice is difficult or easy has nothing to do with the practice itself; it is entirely up to the state of the individual mind. For instance, while we remain in an ordinary way of thinking, the ordinary or samsaric mind is always influenced by attachment, anger and ignorance.

Attachment is the biggest obstruction to wasting our fortunate human rebirth. The nature of the samsaric mind is to be full of desire and attachment, like a flood or a river, never stopping. Because of that, day and night, our mind is always wandering and being distracted by objects of attachment. Ever since we were born and up until now, we are always chasing our objects of desire. If we find what we want to make us happy, then everything is all right. But nothing makes us happy for long. We very quickly start thinking about the next thing we want. When you get the next thing, it is often straightaway onto a third thing and so forth, day after day.

With this understanding, it is very important not to follow our desire mind. Think about how you have been doing this since birth, but still do not have lasting satisfaction. We have also done exactly the same thing in previous lives. But if we do not train the mind in this lifetime, the same difficulties will occur in our future lives. When this happens, there is no opportunity to be liberated or attain enlightenment, because you always have the desire and attachment state of mind.

Even with this understanding, it is impossible to immediately attain non-attachment or non-desire. What is important, once we recognise the problem, is to minimise the desire and attachment by not allowing it to control our mind, body and speech.

The second obstacle is anger. In this life alone, how many times have we been angry, either at other people, or things, or at ourselves? Analyse for yourself if being angry has ever really been helpful. Anger never helped overcome any defeat; anger never defeated the person you dislike or who dislikes you. Whether or not your anger exhausted your enemies or overcame the things you do not like, the reality is we still have many difficulties in our life - many difficult people, many difficult things, and many difficult situations during life. Anger is not the solution to these problems. If anger could solve the problem, we would not need it further, because from beginningless time it is impossible to count how much anger we have brought up, either in the past or in this life. Moreover, imagine how many negative deeds we committed out of anger. Imagine the results and very heavy consequences; we have already paid the negative karmic result of suffering in the past and present. As a result of anger, there is a lot still to pay for in the form of suffering in our future lifetimes.

Instead of anger defeating our enemies or our own negativities, it actually increases these difficulties. Anger is the true fire that burns all our existent happiness and peace. Anger is the true fire burning away all the causes and conditions of happiness and peace in our future lifetimes. Anger itself is the enemy of liberation or attaining enlightenment. Rather than our anger defeating others, we must defeat our own anger through wisdom and compassion.

It is good to experiment when we get angry. At the moment anger arises, instead of allowing the anger to cause negative karma, just hold or catch the anger and reflect on the feeling of that moment about yourself, or what you feel about the other person. Think not only how anger forms negative karma but also about the result of negative karma in this life and our future life. Anger is not the nature of the mind - it's just temporary, it arises due to some cause and condition. But if you try and be mindful and not allow any negative cause and conditions to form, then there is no anger. Therefore it is very important to train the mind and to practise Dharma - first to recognise one's own anger, and second to think about the consequences of anger for past, present, and future lives. Anger makes us practise patience; makes us practise loving kindness and compassion. If there is no anger, then there is no difficulty at all to practise patience, loving kindness and compassion towards all other sentient beings.

The third obstacle is ignorance. From beginningless time up until now, or maybe since we were born up until now, we have done so many things. But due to ignorance, we have abandoned what we needed to adopt and we adopted what we ought to have abandoned. For instance, the cause of happiness is a positive mind, positive speech and positive action, but most of the time we abandon these. The cause and condition of unhappiness and suffering is a negative mind, negative body and negative speech, yet we adopt those in most of our lifetimes.

For the true Mahayana or Bodhisattva practice, it is very important to be free of these three defiled minds. These three defilements (anger, ignorance and attachment) are the creator of samsara and are the creator of the three unfortunate realms. Without these three defilements the lower realms do not exist.

This morning we reflect on these two main topics. First, remember the precious human life where you can practise Dharma, because Dharma is the source of temporary and ultimate happiness. Second, every single suffering we experience in samsara is created by these three defiled minds. If one really wishes to be free from suffering and unhappiness, one must free these defiled minds.

So we reflect on this for a short time.

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