Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneMotive and AspirationAs Buddhists, whatever Dharma practices we do, whether we are saying prayers or giving or listening to teachings, we should begin by reciting the verse for taking refuge and generating the awakening mind.I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and spiritual community,
Until I attain the state of enlightenment.
By the force of generosity and other virtues,
May I achieve Buddhahood to benefit all sentient beings.This verse encapsulates the essence of the Buddha's teachings and especially those of Mahayana Buddhism, the Great Vehicle. The first two lines teach about refuge. The last two teach about generating the altruistic awakening mind.All who take refuge have a feeling of closeness and trust toward the Three Jewels -- the Buddha, the Dharma (his teaching), and the Sangha, the spiritual community of monks and nuns. This is the factor that determines whether or not you are a Buddhist. If you take refuge in the Three Jewels, you are a Buddhist; otherwise you are not. One can take refuge at varying levels of profundity, depending on one's intellectual level. The more you understand about the nature of the Three Jewels, the more you will be convinced of their special qualities. Your seeking refuge in them will then be that much more stable and profound.The way we seek refuge in the Three Jewels varies. One way is to entrust ourselves to the Three Jewels, viewing them as objects superior to us and seeking their protection, refuge, and support. Another way to seek refuge in the Three Jewels is to aim to become a Buddha one day by acquiring their supreme qualities of knowledge and insight. The two ways of taking refuge demonstrate differing levels ofcourage and determination. Some people seek the support and protection of a superior person in times of danger and hardship and need the backing of that person in order to accomplish whatever they set out to do. Such people are not really capable of doing things for themselves. However, others are more courageous. They might request some initial assistance, but they are determined to help themselves. They exert whatever effort is necessary to fulfill their wishes. They are intent on becoming independent, so they work hard to realize their goals and rid themselves of problems. In taking refuge, there are also those who are not very courageous. They entrust themselves to the Three Jewels, praying that they may be given protection and refuge. They lack confidence and faith in themselves to ascend to the status of a Buddha. This is the attitude of people seeking only their own liberation from suffering and rebirth. Those seeking the liberation of all beings are much more courageous. They also entrust themselves to the Three Jewels and seek protection and refuge from them, but their primary aim is to achieve the supreme state of Buddhahood for themselves so that they can best serve others. Such people are determined to eliminate all the imprints of disturbing emotions and realize the impeccable qualities of a Buddha. This mode of taking refuge is farsighted.Because it is clear that seeking refuge can take various forms and can be done on various levels, it is essential to think about the nature of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and their special qualities while reciting the refuge formula.By the force of generosity and other virtues,
May I achieve Buddhahood to benefit all sentientbeings.These two lines express the awakening mind, By cultivating this special aspiration, the individual aims to attain the highest state of enlightenment in the interest of all sentient beings. Starting from taking refuge, in all virtuous actions the practitioner thinks, "I shall engage in these wholesome activities so that sentient beings may be free of every misery and dwell in complete peace."The practitioner's good deeds are not geared to self-interest. This aspiration is most marvelous, courageous, and expansive. By the power of this thought, the practitioner sows the seeds and lays the foundation for all the wonderful things in this life and the lives beyond. These lines contain the essence and root of the Buddha's teachings. Although the verse is very short, its meaning is vast and profound. While reciting these lines, we should direct all our Dharma practices, such as meditating and giving or listening to teachings, to the benefit of all living beings. We should not pay only superficial attention to the words but instead reflect on what they mean.Whenever we do any Dharma practice, we begin with this verse for taking refuge and generating the awakening mind. Usually we recite it three times, although there is no rule that we cannot say it more or fewer times than this. The purpose of three repetitions is to be able to reflect on the meaning while we recite it. Through this practice we should be able to effect a transformation of our attitudes, to positively shape our minds. To do this it may be necessary to recite it many times. Depending on your disposition, you might like to recite the two-line refuge formula many times, then recite the formula for generating the awakeningmind in the same way. In this way you can concentrate on one thing at a time and make the practice more effective. After reciting the lines about fifteen times, there should be a change in your heart. Sometimes you may be so moved that there are tears in your eyes.Only after engaging in a proper practice of refuge and generating the awakening mind should you engage in any other practices, such as saying prayers or reciting mantras. The strength of every subsequent practice depends on the quality and strength of your practice of refuge and awakening mind. It is doubtful whether merely reciting prayers without proper motivation is a Buddhist practice. It may be no more useful than playing a tape recorder. Therefore, developing a positive motivation is crucial in this context. The whole emphasis of...
The second volume in the landmark Library of Tibet series, Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart examines the next step of the Path: Compassion. Based on a classic fourteenth-century Tibetan poem famous for its ability to awaken compassion in the human heart, this elegant primer combines the mind training and stages of the path traditions of Tibetan Buddhism with enduring simplicity and illuminating prose.
About the Author
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He is the author of two memoirs and numerous books on Buddhism, including The Way to Freedom and Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart--the first two volumes of the landmark Library of Tibet series.