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26April2017

Spiritual Advice for the New Millennium

Drukpa Plouray, France (eve of the new millennium)

Actually the New Year isn't so important to be celebrated. The New Year celebration usually is not so important because it's just a part of life, it is just one of the changes of time that we made up. It's nothing to get fussed about. But this year, everybody is making a big fuss out of it because of the changing of the centuries, to the year 2000. So therefore, I think that there is some energy going around because so many people are talking about it. So if there is any energy, we should be turning it in the right direction.

This is one of the reasons why I took the liberty to come over here, in order to divert your energy into the right direction!

Actually, the whole world or the entire samsara works through the imagination. Furthermore, we create a lot of activities as a result of our imagination, as a creation of the state of our mind. So this forthcoming New Year is a big "scene' for all of us. This is the reason why this New Year should have some kind of effect on this world, not only for the collective world, but also for the individual world. Therefore we should concentrate our efforts in the correct way and in the right direction so that we will be able to put the whole of the next century onto a good path and into the right direction. Whatever we do, we all live in this interdependent world. The world or samsara survives in an interdependent way, so we have to work and develop in the right way. So the first day of the next millennium, which is tomorrow, is a very important day in the sense of developing the spiritual path in the correct way. If you can manage to change or divert your energy into a spiritual way, then the whole of the forthcoming century will benefit not just you yourself, but also all sentient beings. This motivation is the essence of the practice of Buddhism.

As I always repeat, in our life there is nothing of genuine value except the spiritual path of practice. The spiritual way of leading your life is the most important thing. The spiritual path is the solution to make you happy. To make other people happy, the spiritual way is also very important. So, whatever you do should be directed by spiritual understanding, otherwise there is not much sense left in our life. This is not only my opinion, but I think that everybody would be able to understand this if they really sat down and thought about it properly and precisely. This should be one of the reasons why we should be practicing on the spiritual path and why we should be helping to direct the energy of the forthcoming century.

Many people talk and also think very negatively about the forthcoming century. They even talk about the ending of the world any day, or even within hours. They say that within a few hours the world is going to be finished or something like that. Also, some people think that the next century will be very bad and very negative for everybody. Maybe they feel something like that, but they are just presuming or just guessing. The most important thing is that when we are able to put ourselves onto the spiritual path and practice spiritually, then there will not be a big problem.

In fact, we are already in a bad situation, so we can't really think of things getting worse in this world. You can see the disasters that are happening all around the world, even though perhaps those of us here are surviving well and have not really been touched by these disasters, wars and storms, etc. This is because we may not have such kind of karma. So individually speaking, we are fortunate in that we are having very good karma so that we are not influenced, touched or hit by these kinds of disasters. But generally speaking, this world is full of disasters and full of suffering. When you watch the news or read newspapers, you know that the first thing you see is that there is something bad happening in the world. This is because the world is having bad things happening almost everywhere. So we may not be able to think of anything worse than what is already happening and also we shouldn't think about anything worse than this. Instead of thinking about anything worse, we should really be thinking optimistically about the world. We should be very optimistic about the world as far as the next century is concerned. I personally think, as well as hope and pray very hard that the world will be better developed and changed in a better way, so that we all will be able to share love. Through the sharing of love and compassion which comes through spiritual understanding, I think there is a great amount of hope and the possibility of great optimism about the next century.

The reason why I am mentioning the importance of the development of a spiritual path is that in order to make our world positive and creative in an enlightened way, the spiritual path of development seems to be the only solution. Through the spiritual path, we can develop genuine love and compassion and a genuine sympathetic understanding about samsara, the world and others. However, there seems to be a very strong kind of blockage which prevents us from practicing compassion, love and the path to enlightenment. All these things are very blocked in our daily lives. We don't seem to be developing very smoothly or very successfully just simply because of a lack of spiritual understanding. So, the time that we are in is an important time of transition. We are at the cusp of moving from one century to the next, and so you should think that, "From tomorrow morning onwards, I will definitely be putting myself in the right direction, in the direction of spiritual strength." You have to promise yourself and to very determinedly say that, "I will practice a spiritual path in order to develop my life, in order to share my real compassion and love with all sentient beings." This will definitely change your life. There is no other way to change your life.

We need to change our life because our life seems to be blocked to do good things. However, doing bad things is not blocked at all, there's no doubt in that! So far, we have been very successful in doing bad things. Whatever we think, our thoughts are mostly negative. We talk mostly negatively, we mostly do negative things, and we are enjoying it! But that kind of enjoyment gives very painful results in the end. Therefore we don't want that any more. We want to be having a good or positive cause and effect. Both cause and effect need to be changed into a positive process so that the results will be positive. Actually, I don't like to call this process "good" and "bad", but "positive" and "negative". I don't know whether there is any difference between "good" and "positive", but I feel much better to say "positive and negative" because "good and bad" is a very relative kind of terminology. The fact that it's a positive way, that's very important. Whether it is "good or bad," it doesn't matter. It's positive. So we should really be concentrating on the positive at this particular moment.

You all might have gone through the experience many times, that to start something positive seems difficult. For instance, the practice of good deeds, such as the preliminary practices, the practice of chanting or the practice of generosity, or whatever practice of positive deeds, seems to be difficult. First of all, we need many days to think about it, or even many months or years to think about it. We think about what we want to do, and then nothing happens for many years. Then somewhere in the middle of all this, our positive intention disappears and never comes back. Even the thought of doing something positive disappears and then, of course, the results of these activities will never be there. This happens in many cases with many people.

For those quite fortunate people, who try to do something positive after thinking about it for many years, there are lots of obstacles. When you start to practice something positive, then perhaps your physical conditions will deteriorate or your mental strength will deteriorate. Maybe physically and mentally, you are okay, but then financially you might be broke, or be in some similar kind of difficult situation. Some problem will keep on happening because of obstacles. These kinds of obstacles are always there to block your practice of good deeds. These are the so-called "bad karmas" or "negative karmas." Negative karma or accumulations may then block your positive deeds even if you want to do them. That karma has to be dissipated or demolished by your positive conditions.

Positive conditions are very important and they can be created. This is because karma is not something that we necessarily have to face or are obliged to face. It's not like that. You don't have to face negative karma. Negative karma can be present, but it can be turned into positive karma through you actively implementing positive conditions. Positive conditions can be implemented or can be practiced. I would say they can be almost forced. Otherwise, if you don't believe in changing conditions, then the situation is almost hopeless because our karma is ninety-seven or ninety-eight percent negative, that's for sure. So, perhaps two or three percent of our karma is uncertain. Maybe some may have very good karma, very positive karma. However, ninety-eight percent of the world's population has ninety-eight percent negative karma! So, then, of course, the whole situation is hopeless in our individual life as well as in the collective world.

As we can see, the world that we live in is very negative. However, there is hope through the spiritual path to provide better conditions. The conditions are the only things that we can create through our own effort and through the so-called blessings of the guru, dakinis, dakas, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the saints… or "nature." These are all basically the blessings of "nature." The world of our own nature is the most important to attain. If we can work with this sort of spiritual blessing, spiritual force and spiritual practice, then there is not much difficulty in turning the world into something positive. There shouldn't be any problem to turn the next century into a positive century.

You might have heard of the "conditions" a lot, but so far we really have not managed to focus our practice on conditions. That's the reason why we are still here, literally doing nothing. We are just sort of roaming around and enjoying the laziness of life, which may also be good; there may be nothing wrong with it. But then the result will be that we will never get anywhere. And at the end of our life, we may be realizing that we have been wasting our energy and the whole of life's opportunity. But then it's a bit too late. So, the real message for this next century, on this particular New Year, is that to practice commitment is very important in the new millennium.

You must have a commitment to create the right conditions in your life. Due to a lack of commitment, we have not managed to put right our conditions. So, most of the time, our lives are dictated by karma. Karma always runs by itself, there is no need to push it and we don't need to do anything for it to work. That's the reason we follow karma, or we are being blown by the wind of karma all the time. We have no control by ourselves. In other words, we have no conditions. We have not managed to control the conditions, or we have not managed to implement the conditions because of a lack of commitment.

So it is recommended to put this into practice from now on. From this New Year onwards until we reach enlightenment, what we need to practice is commitment. Commitment needs to be in our life. If commitment is there, there should not be any problem. This is the message. So, commitment has to be pushed. Otherwise, commitment is not something that will come automatically or spontaneously. It won't come. Unfortunately, it won't come even though we all wish that it would come automatically or spontaneously. This would be very very nice! It would be very nice if it comes spontaneously, but it won't. I mean, according to our own experience, it has not come so far. So presumably it will not come at all. But who knows, maybe it will come, but then I think it would be too late if we waited for that. No real commitment is able to arise spontaneously. We can almost assure ourselves of this. We need to be developing it. Maybe it's not very good to say forcedly, but nevertheless we have to implement it. We have to apply ourselves with a little encouragement. Otherwise, if we don't have any commitment, then this process will be very difficult. Without applying any motivation, if we just let things happen, then unfortunately life will just be very lazy. We like to be lazy. We like to be doing nothing, except of course, when we do bad things, which we do very easily, almost spontaneously. For example, the negative way we talk, the way we think, the way we eat just comes without any effort. As an example, most of us like to eat a lot of bad things. "Bad" means negative things. If it is not necessarily bad for the body, it is bad for the spiritual life, or if it is not bad for the spiritual life, it is bad for the physical body. Anyway, it always seems that the food that you eat, the drink that you drink, the things that you talk about and that you think, all seem to move along in a negative way. This kind of negativity is almost spontaneous. However, as I said before, it is very difficult to implement positive things. You have to have the encouragement to do the positive things. This encouragement is so-called commitment, and so-called ethics and so-called morality. These things are very important, I think, for you to be able to practice spirituality.

The Four Immeasurable Thoughts

The commitment that we are talking about is contained in the "four immeasurable thoughts." The four immeasurable thoughts are the kinds of thoughts that we need to bring into our mind and into our day-to-day life. We are always recommended to think and to practice the Bodhisattva's way, the way the Bodhisattvas carry out their activities. They do everything by saying:-

May all beings obtain happiness and be happy;
May all be free from sorrow and the cause of sorrow;
May all never be separated from the authentic happiness;
May all remain in the state of equanimity,
free from attachment and aversion.

These are the thoughts or the commitments that we have to be thinking of and putting into practice.

In the text it is said, "May all beings etc." But when we say, "May all beings obtain happiness and be happy," we have to be practicing commitment at the same time. When it is written, it sounds as if it is only a wish, but not really a commitment to put it into practice. However, at the same time, we need to be committed. We need to commit to do things with this motivation and to make them happen. That is the commitment. We have to make that kind of commitment. This has to be promised. For example, when we say, "May all beings etc.", at the same time, we must think that, "I will be making this happen, I will liberate all beings from sorrow and the cause of sorrow, I will grant or give happiness, I will be happy to make others happy." So "I will" is a kind of commitment. If you want, you can say that this is a kind of vow that you are taking. There is nothing wrong with thinking of it like this. It's not harmful or painful, or it's not confusing or anything negative. You can repeat this kind of vow as many times as you like. There's nothing wrong with this. These kinds of vows are good to take many times, so that they can automatically nourish you spiritually.

The four immeasurable thoughts have three aspects or ways of being practiced. For example, in Tibetan we say, "sem chen tham ched de wa dang de wei gyu dang den par gyur chig," and then at the same time, "de wa dang den nang chi ma rung," and then, "den par ja'o". Even though these things are said commonly, they are not put into the texts. In the texts, it only says, "den par gyur chig", which means "May all beings". However, practically there are three aspects to this particular practice. For example,

sem chen tham ched de wa dang de wei gyu dang den par gyur chig,
sem chen tham ched de wa dang den nang chi ma rung, and
sem chen tham ched de wa dang den par ja'o.

The first line is the wish and the second line is a stronger wish, the kind of wish which is combined with the inspirational mind of enlightenment. The third line is a promise or commitment to make it happen.

Wishing all sentient beings to be happy is the cause of the inspirational mind of enlightenment. Whilst the wishing is good, only the sense of wishing will not be sufficient. The wishing has to be backed up by the inspirational mind of enlightenment. The inspirational mind of enlightenment comes after having developed the mind with good wishes for all sentient beings. This has to come from a selfless attitude. A selfish attitude is the main blockage of Bodhicitta, of the love, compassion and the genuine heart that you can share with all sentient beings. You can't have that unless you have a selfless attitude. Otherwise, as we are experiencing right now, we can't share genuine love with any other beings. Of course, we have physical love and we have a sort of emotional love that we can share with a few people. But that is not the kind of love that we are talking about. The love that we are talking about is a genuine love, which is unconditional. It's an unconditional love which has nothing to do with your own benefit. It is entirely concerned with the benefit of others. This motivation is enough to turn your activities into the correct way of practicing spiritually.

The inspirational mind of enlightenment is very important to support your practice. It is important for the practice of Bodhicitta, which is the practice of generosity, the practice of ethics, the practice of a one-pointed mind and transcendental wisdom, etc. All the Bodhisattva's practices are very much related to the inspirational mind of enlightenment. It's very easy to understand why this is so. Without an inspirational mind of enlightenment, then there is no inspiration towards enlightenment. This is important to consider since we are practicing to attain enlightenment. Otherwise, why are we all here right now? You may be able to have a better holiday by going down to the south, where it may be warmer. That may be much more fun than to stay here and listen to me. It doesn't make any sense to be here if you don't have some sort of inspirational mind of enlightenment, or at least some sort of inspirational mind. It may not be necessary to have the mind of enlightenment, but we must have some kind of inspirational mind, otherwise you wouldn't come here, we all wouldn't be here.

We are all here to inspire each other and we are here to inspire our own minds towards enlightenment. That's the main goal. Without this, we would never reach anywhere. The inspirational mind of enlightenment is very important to practice with anything we do. This is important for not only generosity, not only ethics, not only meditation, not only recitations, but for any kind of practice. Everything is dependent on the inspirational mind of enlightenment. Whether your practice is going correctly or not, positively or not, it depends on the inspirational mind of enlightenment. For example, because we have difficulties in the practice of recitation, meditation, generosity, ethics or morality, they are all lacking in the inspirational mind of enlightenment. That is the reason why we are not able to practice these things.

Of course, we have lots of excuses. For instance, most of us say that there is not much time to practice, so we blame it on the time. Then, we may say that we have a lot of family responsibilities, so we blame it on the family. That's the reason why we can't practice. A lot of time our business commitments can be an excuse. However, all of these excuses mainly come from a lack of the inspirational mind of enlightenment. If you really have an inspirational mind of enlightenment, then there shouldn't be any problem. Even if you are in the middle of lots and lots of commitments, family commitments, business commitments, etc. you will still definitely practice and develop the spiritual path. There wouldn't be any problem. If you really check whether the main problem is coming from your work commitments, or elsewhere, if you check thoroughly, you will see that it comes from the lack of your inspirational mind of enlightenment. Therefore, to have an inspirational mind of enlightenment is very important.

In order to have that, as I said before, first we need to have the inspirational mind which we have right now, but we don't really know what is the thing that is inspiring us, we don't really know. In order to have that, we need to know what are the genuine causes of inspiration. Some of you may think that my teachings are inspiring. Some of you may think that my presence is inspiring, but the teaching is not. Some of you may think that my presence is not good enough, but the teaching is not bad. Some people may think that just being here is fun, so that's inspiring. Anyway, some kind of inspiration is there. However, the majority of us definitely do not have the inspirational mind of enlightenment because we simply don't know what the mind of enlightenment is. So, where is the mind of enlightenment? I think it's very difficult to attain, but we all have some sort of seed or potential towards enlightenment because we have an inspirational mind. It is this which has brought us here.

As we always say in teachings, having an inspiration towards the teachings is the most important. An inspirational mind towards the teachings is really the initiation into our day-to-day practice. Then the teaching itself has to inspire your practice. This is the foundation of successful practice. After that, the teacher him or herself may be inspiring because of his or her teaching. But, where does the teacher come from? Actually such kind of teachings come from enlightenment. It's not him or her but it's coming from the teacher's enlightenment, his or her realization. After knowing that his or her teaching is coming from enlightenment, your inspirational mind of enlightenment will come spontaneously; you will have a very inspirational mind towards enlightenment. When we talk about enlightenment, there is no such thing as his enlightenment, my enlightenment or her enlightenment. Actually there is no differentiation in enlightenment. Enlightenment is one, not even one, it is everywhere. Therefore we get into the "scene" of a non-dualistic enlightenment. That is the point that you can then claim yourself to be a practitioner. Until then, we may be practicing, but we are only practicing relatively, we are not really approaching, touching or hitting the reality state of practice.

As soon as you have the inspirational mind of enlightenment, there will also be compassion at the same time. The people who have not realized the nature of mind or the nature of enlightenment, or who are not able to inspire themselves by enlightenment are the objects of your compassion. This compassion is almost spontaneous. For example, we may all be very hungry, not having eaten for many hours, and all equally suffering as a result. But then I may manage somehow to get a good meal and then I will no longer be suffering from hunger. I will then feel sympathetic towards all those who are still hungry because a few hours or a few minutes ago, I was also suffering a lot. These other people are still suffering because they have no food, but I have had a very good meal. I have no more suffering, but they are still suffering. So, spontaneously I will have sympathy towards the rest. So this is almost spontaneous.

When you realize the inspirational mind of enlightenment or enlightenment itself, then automatically you will feel a great compassion for all those beings who are out there still suffering because of a lack of confidence, or a lack of understanding or enlightenment. This is so-called "Great Compassion." These two experiences or understandings come almost together. This is also called a union, Bodhisattva's way of union. Understanding and then compassion come together to form the union. These two things are very important. You cannot fly with just one wing. You might have heard this hundreds of times. A lot of teachers say the same thing, but it may not have been made clear to you. We have to consider whether we have two wings or one wing, or not even one wing. We may not have any wings at all and are just like a piece of meat, which may be able to roll, but cannot even think about flying, we have to just forget about flying. If you want to fly, you need to have not only one wing, but two wings. That's very good. We need to have these two wings in order to fly from the suffering realm to nirvana, the blissful realm which is totally free of suffering or confusion.

With the help of these two wings, we then can practice the Bodhisattva's path. With the help of Bodhisattva's path, we can practice Vajrayana. With the help of Vajrayana, we can be enlightened within this life or even within a few moments. That's the inspirational mind of enlightenment! That is the thing that we should be inspired by. This kind of inspirational mind will be spontaneously giving us a feeling of commitment. This is the way we should develop a better tomorrow. This is the thing we should really practice.

As we always say in Mahayana practice, today should be the source of a better tomorrow. Past experience is just an experience, but the present is very important because the present is the source of the future. The most important thing is the future development. In order to make the future fruitful, we need to develop the present situation. We need to look after the present situation very well. What's happened previously is not so important. Previous experience is previous, it's just an experience that has already gone. You cannot go back, even though a few people try to do this under hypnosis. This is useless, it's just an extra illusion. We live very much in an illusionary kind of world. Through hypnosis, we think we are going back to the past and we may even feel it, but this is just an extra illusion. This is not a useful thing to do. The only things to be concerned with are the present and the future. The future is most important. That's the reason why this morning I'm encouraging you to make your future better. A better future can then be counted upon in the next century.

The changing of the centuries may not be a really important issue, but as I mentioned at the beginning of the talk, it might have some impact because millions or billions of people have been talking and thinking about it. Therefore, there should be some sort of effect flying around. We should be redirecting this energy into a correct way, so that we all will be able to benefit, share love and compassion and be happy all of the time.

Coming back to the four immeasurable thoughts, the first thought is about love, the second one is about compassion, the third one (gawa in Tibetan) means happiness or the feeling of appreciation and the fourth one is about equanimity. These four thoughts, as I said before, are the most important things to practice on the spiritual path.

These four feelings have to come spontaneously through the understanding of enlightenment, which as I mentioned before, happens through the inspirational mind of enlightenment. Genuine love is then directed towards all sentient beings. This kind of love comes through the understanding of enlightenment. The actual love that we are talking about here is a kind of strong wish and a determination to help all sentient beings to be happy. In order to be happy, the cause of happiness needs to be there, otherwise there is no happiness. Everything, including happiness and sorrow, has a source or cause. Without a cause, nothing exists in this world. Therefore, the cause of happiness has to be present in order to be happy. We have to develop a very strong wish and a firm determination for all sentient beings to be happy. Not only this, but also a determination to work for better conditions in the lives of others.

You have to commit yourself to the service of all sentient beings in order to make them happy. This is the kind of commitment we have been talking about. Then the second commitment is to put you yourself at the service of all sentient beings, to help liberate them from suffering by removing the causes of suffering. Not only suffering has to be removed, but also the cause of the suffering. Whilst suffering itself is very bad, the cause of suffering is more crucial. For instance, if you have a headache, a painkiller is very helpful to kill the pain. However, a painkiller won't help for long. It may help for a few hours or a few days, but then the headache will return because its cause is still there. In order to make the headache better, you have to find out its causes and then get rid of these, whatever they may be. Perhaps there is something wrong with an organ or with the circulation. These things then have to be cured so that the headache won't come again. So, similarly, the cause of suffering has to be demolished. That sort of service is the second commitment.

It's difficult for me to explain these ideas in English, but anyway, the third commitment is to make all sentient beings never to be separated from the state of blissful and authentic happiness. I don't know how to make it very clear, but you also have to commit to this. You have to have the commitment that every being in this world firmly stays in the state of great or authentic happiness. In a way, this is a form of wish, but in another way, you can also say that you will be committing to some sort of action or practice in order to make this happen. This again is a service to all sentient beings.

The fourth commitment is the most important. It involves having no attachment and aversion, but practicing with equanimity. Most of us who practice compassion and loving-kindness, especially those of us who claim to be religious or compassionate, we have either attachment or different kinds of aversion. Mostly, of course, we always live with attachment. This makes our practice not very authentic. The fourth immeasurable thought gives you the thorough idea of how important it is not to be involved in either attachment or aversion. Neither attachment nor aversion (or detachment) is very good. Tibetan people always talk about paying compassion very vaguely to all sentient beings. We always talk about "all sentient beings." People talk about this, but individually they have different ways of applying it. Some people are very compassionate towards the poor, but not very compassionate towards those who are wealthy. Some people are compassionate towards men, but not towards women. Some people are compassionate to human beings, but not towards other sentient beings, like animals. Many western people are not very compassionate towards their family, but they are very compassionate towards their boyfriend or girlfriend, or towards their pets. If necessary, they may even quite easily kill their parents or family, but they wouldn't even shout at their pet, because their pet is so important to them. These are the different sorts of attitude that we can have. If you ask whether this is really compassion or love, you can say that it is compassion and love, but with attachment and with detachment or aversion. So, the fourth immeasurable thought is a very important part of our practice. It says that one should not have either attachment or detachment.

In fact, both aversion and attachment are forms of attachment. Even though aversion or detachment sounds as if it is the opposite of attachment, it's actually a form of great attachment. Non-attachment refers to the genuine freedom from attachment, but detachment refers to a separation or denial of some aspect of life. Attachment itself is just attachment, but detachment is twice as bad, it is a double attachment. It is an attachment coupled together with a denial or rejection. Therefore both attachment and detachment are not really acceptable in terms of our practice.

We offer ourselves in the service of all sentient beings in order to help them into a state of equanimity. I think it is only through the teachings that you will be able to do that. Otherwise nobody will understand what equanimity is. Equanimity means having neither of these feelings of attachment or detachment. Maybe it sounds very strange – no attachment, no detachment. It may sound like you become just a piece of wood like a log that has no feeling. But that's not right. You have to understand that without attachment or detachment you then have a great feeling of love, a great feeling of compassion. In this state, you will also understand the idea of Great Perfection. Great Perfection or Mahamudra is blocked in our understanding because of these two blockages of attachment and detachment. Without attachment and detachment, everything becomes Great. Each piece of understanding becomes a very great understanding.

Not only that, but the understanding of equanimity gives you great love, and the feeling of great compassion; the feeling of great happiness; the feeling of great appreciation. Otherwise we don't appreciate anything in life. For example, we don't appreciate the offers of help that we get from others. You don't appreciate whatever you have because you don't have the feeling of equanimity. Equanimity gives you the feeling of appreciation, happiness, bliss and joy. All goodness comes from the feeling of equanimity. Otherwise, you can feel up and down, but that's just the emotions. Emotions can be very "up" sometimes and then sometimes they drop "down." They are just like a ball that goes up and down, depending on your mood, or on what is moving within you. The ball goes up and down in accordance with your emotions. These are just ups and downs. This doesn't give any so-called permanent happiness, permanent love or permanent joy. We need permanent happiness and permanent things. Permanent or immeasurable joy comes only from the feeling or state of equanimity. Without equanimity, nothing will work very steadily, very happily, or very progressively.

I think it is very important to think about appreciation. Without appreciating life, without appreciating your individual and collective world, then there is almost nothing worthwhile left. Life will be very miserable. Whatever you have will not inspire you, nothing will make you happy. Good companionship or good food, neither of these attractive or positive things will make you happy, because you don't have a sense of appreciation. You won't appreciate whatever you have. This is the basic problem that we are normally facing. Everybody is facing this kind of problem, not only the westerners, but also the easterners.

Actually, if you look very deeply into our lives, we have hundreds of thousands of positive feelings, positive things to wear, nice things to eat, nice things to talk about, nice things to think, nice people to walk with, to sit with, or to talk with. So many nice things are happening in this world quite naturally, but we do not appreciate them. We don't feel these good things. We don't really get a positive feeling even though these things are being given to us.

We don't really feel appreciation because we are not receptive. Why is this? It is because we are lacking in the sense of equanimity. Literally, we are so busy with either attachment or detachment, we are so overwhelmed that we don't have the room for accepting nature's gifts. Beautiful things are here. Many nasty things are here too, but many good things are around. However, most of the good things are hidden from our senses and from our way of understanding, so we don't really experience them. After we have suffered a lot, then perhaps sometimes we feel a little bit of appreciation. When we go through a lot of suffering, such as emotional suffering, after it has finished, then we may relax and realize how enjoyable life is. Sometimes you feel something truly positive but it's very rare. Usually, you don't feel these things, they are just a part of life.

Sometimes I may feel that life is very boring and that I would like to change it or that I would like to have something better than this. You may feel, "Everyday I am having this food, and it's very boring." Or, "Everyday I am wearing the same clothes, I should wear something else, it's so boring." This kind of attitude means that you are not appreciating what you have. You are looking for something else, you are looking for more trouble! In a way, changing may be fun. For example, I like to shop, so shopping is fun. Many amusements are around. However, I'm just speaking about a basic level of practice. We are not saying that you should not shop, you should not look for different clothes, or for different foods, etc. I'm not restricting or trying to block all these things. But, basically we are feeling a kind of greed, because we are not really appreciating life. In this case, if you leave yourself in this state, your life will always be boring, always nasty, always very negative. We will always feel that we have nothing. We may feel, "I have nothing, I need that thing but I have no money, I have no friends, I have no house, I have no family, I have no son, I have no daughter, etc." Always negative! Then even if you have these things, you don't appreciate them. This is what I feel. You can think about this yourself. This is how I feel, but you should not depend upon what I say. You should investigate how far the truth goes according to what I say.

So you should really investigate these things in your own life. How do you lead your life? Full of appreciation or not? Or are you not really appreciating anything, or are you going through great suffering or not? If you feel that you are experiencing suffering, then why are you feeling this? Even if you have a list of hundred negative things in your life, you could still find a list of many positive things. So why can't we make ourselves happy and appreciate things so that we will be enjoying our lives? This kind of investigation is a very practical way of practicing the spiritual path. This is really the essence of the spiritual path. It is about how to make ourselves happy so that we can enjoy living in the forthcoming century, in the next millennium, from tomorrow onwards.

You should really think about this. This is the kind of commitment that we have been talking about since this morning. We say that we should have the commitment to serve all beings, but why are we committing ourselves to be of service to all sentient beings? We should know why. Without knowing the reasons why we are doing something, then what are we doing it for? If we are doing to serve a religion, it's nonsense. You shouldn't do anything because of religion. You shouldn't do anything because somebody else has told you to do it. You should do things because of your own understanding, because of your understanding which has developed through the instructions of masters of the spiritual path. The spiritual path means working with your own understanding. The understanding and your witness to what is true have to come from within yourself. Your own understanding is a very important encouragement.

Looking for happiness and wishing for the happiness of all sentient beings are great things. This is so-called "love." But this kind of happiness can be entangled with attachment and influenced by it. However, the state of equanimity gives you the sense of great happiness. There is a big difference between the happiness that we are talking about in the first immeasurable thought and the happiness that we are talking about in the state of equanimity. I think these are totally different. The feeling and the experience of these types of happiness are very different. I myself can feel a big difference between these two.

Of course, happiness is happiness. We all can be very happy sometimes. We may be happy to know somebody else, to be with somebody else, happy to eat such good food and happy to do such things. There are many kinds of happiness that we can describe. But the kind of happiness that you can obtain through the sense of equanimity is a great happiness. It is something a little difficult to express, but it is a really strong and peaceful kind of happiness. It is a very deep and profound happiness. When I say profound, I'm not talking about Mahamudra, or the Great Perfection. It's still just a relative happiness, but it's very strong, profound and firm kind of happiness. So, I want to emphasize that equanimity is very important, but I am quite handicapped in putting this into English because of my limited terminology.

Anyway, this is really a great thing to think and talk about, even though equanimity sounds as though it's very boring. Some of my friends have said, "I don't like the idea of equanimity. Equanimity is not happy or sad. What a boring state!" But it's not at all boring, experientially speaking. It's really a great thing. It really gives you a lot of joy. You can't imagine, you can't really believe how joyful it is.

So the four immeasurable thoughts are most important to practice. These four commitments have to be practiced as the essence of Mahayana and Vajrayana. The reason why I am mentioning this is that if you don't know these things, if you don't practice these things along with your daily practice, then you don't really get to the point. You don't get to the point even though you may recite many mantras and many texts, and also meditate on a variety of deities, dakinis, etc. These practices don't really get to the essential point, if this basic knowledge is not included.

So from today onwards, we have to change or to bring about some kind of revolution in our daily practice. You should concentrate more on these four practices of the immeasurable thoughts. This is very, very important. This is what I'm always thinking, because people don't seem to be developing any compassion even though they practice a lot. They may have been practicing for many years, may be ten, twelve or twenty years, but when I check, when I meet them and talk with them, and investigate them, I usually find them at the same stage as before. There is no development or no improvement; nothing has happened. I'm then wondering what has been going on, and what kind of practice they have been doing.

They may have been doing a very nice practice, of course, so I can't really complain about that. However, they are just doing it without really paying attention to these four immeasurable thoughts. They never think about compassion and loving-kindness and the state of equanimity. They have been doing practices of recitation, etc., but the four immeasurable thoughts are something that they deny or that they didn't really think about or understand. They didn't really understand how important it is. Therefore, if you like, you can say this is the revolution that we have to make in our practice.