The Three Principle Aspects of The Path – How to Generate the Mind of Enlightenment – W7

Week 7: How to Generate the Mind of Enlightenment

[7] Swept away by the current of the four powerful rivers,
Tied by the tight bonds of karma, so hard to undo,
Caught in the iron net of self-grasping,
Completely enveloped by the total darkness of ignorance.

Today we will talk mainly on Bodhicitta. As I said in one of the earlier classes, this is one of the wings through which we can achieve enlightenment. Nothing can be achieved if you don’t have this Bodhicitta. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, present and even in the future, the only way to get those realizations is only through this Bodhicitta. So today we talk about the level or how we can achieve Bodhicitta, it is all about achieving Bodhicitta.

To achieve Bodhicitta, you have to have the great compassion with acts as a cause of Bodhicitta. To have great compassion, you need to have a compassion toward all the sentient beings. There is a little difference here: the great compassion and the general compassion. The great compassion is more of a desire to see all sentient beings to be free from suffering; not only that, but the great compassion should have like ‘may I able to remove the suffering of all the sentient beings’. That’s a great compassion that one has to have if one wish to practice Bodhicitta, if somebody has this altruistic mind which is to serve all the sentient beings, to remove their suffering and let them also achieve the enlightenment or nirvana.

This [The Three Principles of The Path], I think, is very important, then I want to break down into some small pieces. So today the verves that we are going through is also about how to generate Bodhicitta and there are few levels of that, few levels of practices, and it is all about how to practice at the same time from the very beginning. In these four lines, there are some beautiful examples which is really nice in some practices for us to train our mind from the beginning level.

So, as a motivation, I would say that, first, as I said in the earlier class, you need to know the benefits of achieving something. When you know the quality, or the profits or benefits, only when you know the benefits – for example in the business, when you know the benefits of doing such a business – it will help you to have the desire to achieve that. When you have the desire to achieve that, then you will be able to put effort into that, then only way to achieve. There are three paths and the result:

  1. You need to know the goal or qualities of the goal, the qualities of the thing that you want to achieve.
  2. Then you automatically have the desire to achieve.
  3. Then you will be able to put effort into that, then you will achieve what you want to achieve, the goal.

So, exactly the same way, here, the reason why we are supposed to achieve enlightenment is that only through achieving enlightenment, we will be able to help all the sentient beings. Even when we think about the sentient beings who are really to us like our family members, the existing family member or if you are close to any family member, it is the wonderful opportunity to practice Bodhicitta, through which we can help all of them. But, if we think about a long time, the mother that we have right now in this life is generally the most compassionate person.

The one and only way to achieve enlightenment is through Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the mind which desires to achieve enlightenment, without that, there is no way that we can achieve enlightenment. Now, to achieve Bodhicitta, there are many practices that you have to go through. So to this life we are going through will be on how we should see or how we should practice to achieve Bodhicitta.

Before that, it’s important to understand that Bodhicitta, as I said, comes from great compassion, great compassion comes from general compassion, general compassion comes when you see the suffering of other sentient beings. If you don’t understand the suffering, if you don’t see the  suffering, then there is no way that you will be able to cultivate, you will be able to have the desire to get rid of the suffering.  Even to have the compassion towards others, you need to see the suffering on yourself. If you see the suffering, how you want to achieve happiness or you want experience suffering from yourself, you need to understand others. To have the great compassion which desire that the others are free from suffering, first you should have that feeling on you. To love others, you need to love yourself, without having that love toward yourself, nobody do extend it to others.

Understanding the suffering is very important role over here to cultivate compassion and through which we can cultivate great compassion and through which we can cultivate Bodhicitta. So the verse today is regarding that point:

How to Generate the mind of Enlightenment

[7] Swept away by the current of the four powerful rivers,
Tied by the tight bonds of karma, so hard to undo,
Caught in the iron net of self-grasping,
Completely enveloped by the total darkness of ignorance.

Line 1: Swept away by the current of the four powerful rivers.

Here these words are in a way of example, so it is all the metaphor which is how the sentient beings suffer, it’s more like we are literally in a powerful river, the river is like taking us away and we don’t even have control over ourselves to even get out of the river, not only that, we are in the rivers. There is a way that one can get out of the river, and the only way is that you seem through the river

and try to get out of the water that it is taking you away. It says the “four great rivers” – it’s very much understandable, and even if you think about yourself, look and try to contemplate on your very life, there is always the suffering in every angle of life. Things that we desire are very less, we encounter with many occasions that we don’t like to be in, that we don’t deserve, that we don’t like to be in or enjoy. This is all because of the karma that we have created in our past and past lives.  So, here, the “four powerful rivers” are the four sufferings that you always suffer, that each and every sentient being on the earth suffer:

  1. Suffering of birth,
  2. Suffering of old age,
  3. Suffering of sickness,
  4. Suffering of death.

There is no way that one can get rid of these sufferings, it’s more like we are literally in such journey or we are literally in the water.  And the water is not really such a river that we can just swim away, it’s a huge river, not only one river but the four great and very powerful rivers, you don’t have any control over yourself and there is no way that you can swim out of the river. The current situation of sentient beings is exactly like that, the current situation of sentient beings like they are in powerful river, not only one river but when the all four rivers come along, so it is so very powerful, so very strong that is no way that you can swim.

Think about just the suffering of birth. Many people they wish to practice dharma, according to Buddhism, when we are born, there are many sufferings that one have, not only the mother but even the child respective, it is the huge sufferings that we have to go through, it doesn’t matter how soft the blanket is where you have been placed right after the birth, it is never like the way it used to be inside the mother’s womb. Because of that, you literally face lots of sufferings.

Then, of course, nobody wants to be old – everybody wants to stay fit all the time, fine and young all of the time, because of which, many people fear of the old age for the same reason. And then the sickness, no matter how hard we try, we said that we have a huge advance of materialistic technologies, yet still, none of these is able to avoid us from suffering. For example, just think about the COVID itself, the most powerful doctors, the doctors who have the most knowledge in terms of medical field, but still they have to go through many sicknesses, so there is no way that one can totally eradicate all the sicknesses, no matter what you do. Because as long as we have this contaminated body, it is more like you want to have the sandal-wood, but you don’t want to have sandal-wood smell, there is no way because this is to come together. So we have such a body that is been created and formed out of karma and if we don’t wish to, the suffering is always there and the suffering  will never end. 

And also there are many people who truly wish to practice because when they are young, they think that “oh I am too young” or many of the young people, they don’t even think of practices or they even don’t see the importance of practice.  So, when they get a bit older, they think that “maybe I practice a bit later, bit later…” so they always postpone the time to practice. So, when they reach around 50-60-70, they think “oh maybe I wasted my life, I were not able to practice much this and that”. So, they spend many of the time regretting that they are not able to study and practice. This is something that happens with each and everyone of us, although we know that, doesn’t matter how comfortable life we are living in terms of outer phenomena like we might have the best facilities, we might have luxury house and nice car, even we might also have a nice body to be inside, but still, that doesn’t avoid us from suffering. Specially, like sickness is something that we always suffer and there is no way we can avoid all of this always sudden. 

If we even look at the history, there are many kings who tried their best to live forever. Many kings they literally killed many people by believing some strange thing: “By doing such things, I will have this immortality”. In some countries, I heard that some people killed some small children, they can eat some parts of children, so they can live like forever or very long time. But nothing happened, as a consequence, you can see that nobody is alive more than 120-130 years, which means that, if we are around 30-40 right now, even if we live too long, 60 or 80, so if we spend our whole life doing or trying to do something just for this 40 or 60 years, it’s like a waste because there are much more years to come, much more lives to come. And also, the death is something that is inevitable and also the time of death it can come at any time. We might think that we are young enough now on and we still have time. But, if you think and look carefully, the death can come at any time,  you might think that you’re very fine and fit, and that is no way can crush a nice fine car at any time, even  it is made of steel or everything, it also got crushed. Similarly – our body is not a steel – so it’s more likely that if some accident happen, we might also crush some body, and that’s it, there’s an end. In this life, the one and only way to be happy is when we are able to bring some mental changes. If we are able to bring some changes like inner changes, that is only way or the mean through which we can achieve happiness, it’s not how much you have in terms of materialistic facilities, because many people living in such facilities also suffer which mean that those facilities are not enough to bring happiness.

The current situation of sentient beings is such that they are continually taken away by the four very powerful rivers that even the one want to get rid of that river it’s no way they can get out the river by swimming or doing something like that, because the water is so strong, it constantly takes away, pushes you and it’s very strong because there is no way that we can swim out of the river – this is how we are controlled by these four sufferings. 

Line 2:  Tied by the tight bonds of karma, so hard to undo,

Not only that, it’s even just something that it takes away to a different place, that could be a bit understandable, but the sentient beings are also “tied by the bonds of karma”. We’re just “so hard to undo” most like you are literally taken away by a very strong river, at the same time, it is more like you are tied by a very big stone which is under the water. So if you try to swim out, even if it is the chance, there is no way that you can swim out because you are literally tied to a very big rock that also take away by the water, and there is no way that we can even get out of it or upward. Sometimes you’re bounced up and down, but still, you are bound by the stone. Here, the stone is like attachment and anger and all the negative emotions. So we are “tied in bonds of karma” that we have created out of negative emotions like anger, jealousy, envy, all these things. Because of that, in many past lives, we’ve done many wrong things. Because of all those negative emotions, we engaged in many negative actions, then those negative actions now act as that stone which bonds  us in the water. And it’s really “hard to undo” or it’s really hard to get rid of that stone, because you are literally tied by the stone under the water. So that is no way that you can try to get rid of the water, try to get out the water.

If you have a lot of karmas that you created in your past lives, the one and only way you can get out or get rid of the stone or get rid of that karma or your past karmas either by suffering, if you suffer, then the karma gets lesser and lesser. So, the karma finishes or the karma we can get rid of, only in two ways: either you suffer or you purify 

But it’s only some of the sentient beings who know how to purify, and many of them know how to purify but they don’t purify, majority of them don’t even think of purifying, so they suffer and suffer, but they never even think of purifying, they don’t even try to know how to purify the past karmas. Because of this, they continually taken away by the ignorance, they suffer and suffer. Many sentient beings know that they suffer because of karma, yet they don’t look for how to eradicate the past negative karma that they engaged.

Line 3& 4:  Caught in the iron net of self-grasping,
                   Completely enveloped by the total darkness of ignorance.

This is the situation, but not only that, here it says that: “Caught in the iron net of self-grasping”. There is a chance that even you have a strong bad negative karma of the past, which as like a stone inside the water which pulls you down, and avoid you from swimming out of the river, if we start to think about others, if we start to think about the welfare of others, then maybe there is hope. Just by thinking the welfare of others, and just by doing something for other sentient beings, maybe it is helpful for you to get rid of suffering, maybe it can be an option, it can be a way or a mean. But no, all we think about is ourselves, the sentient beings in this world, they are so much dissolved in themselves, all they think about is themselves, they always see themselves as the most priority.

That’s why when you think that, it’s only you that desires happiness, because of that self-cherishing mind, it never let us out of the suffering, out of that river. Even if somehow we are able to purify the past karma, even if somehow we are able to untie ourselves from the rock which is been pulling us down, the self-grasping becomes iron cages or nets which let us in the water, which don’t get us out the river. Even if we don’t have much of karma of the past, even if we are able to purify the negative karma of the past that let us be there in the water, it still doesn’t let us get out of the suffering of water or river because the self-grasping is there. As long as the self-grasping is there eventually we engage in negative actions whether is through anger, whether is through attachment, greedy and so forth, because of these emotions, suffering continue. As long as we have this self-grasping mind or the self-cherishing mind, it’s so very strong and it literally “envelop us” with a sort of smog – smog of “darkness” which literally makes us blind to classify which is right and which is wrong.

For example, look at the greed, because of this greedy or the self-cherishing mind like “I cherish myself”, so whatever people do, they are always not satisfied, so that also acts as one of the main causes, that is caused by ignorance. Because of the ignorance or because of the sort of shield of darkness, they can’t see what is right and what is wrong, so those people who are so angry, they do all the nasty things and don’t even know what they’re doing, it’s exactly like they are enveloped in a sort of darkness so they can’t see what is right or what is wrong. Because of this anger they often hurt the people they care the most, because of the greed people try to snatch things from others which they don’t deserve and because that people create a lot of bad karma. Some people might hatch the repetition from last 20, 30, 40, 50 years and people let that wash away just by a small act of greediness, because when you have the greed, then you still think, then you try many other thing to get thing that you want. When you don’t get by all those means, there are robbery, there are stealing, thief, all these thing happen. So when that happen, doesn’t matter how good and nicely spend your life – all of those repetitions that you have – which you gained throughout your life, all of those can be washed away by just an act.

It is more like when you have this self-grasping mind, it literally creates a bunch of sufferings and it washes away all your reputation, all your merits, so this is the situation, it’s exactly how the situation of all the sentient beings, it is even the situation of us . Think about our life, we get angry, jealousy, envy, ego, pride. When a person has all these negative emotions, what is the outcome? First it makes us unhappy, there is no person that they experience happiness when they are jealous, envy, ego or greedy. Whenever you have this sort of emotions, you are always unhappy, you have all these things, because you prioritize yourself.

The others are countless, but you still think that, you are more important than others, the concept of ‘you’ and ‘other’, if you’re trying to save from your body like “This is my body, I must have a nice house to live, I must have nice clothes, nice food to eat and all these thing”, because of  this, if you haven’t this greedy for what you say “I”, but when you look closely, it is your body which needs for the food, clothes and house. So, think about your body, is it really your body? The same body that you think “That’s me and this is my body”, Think of it whether it has always been yours? No, this is something that you got from your parents. This body used very small tiny blood, so that blood is not something that belongs to you, it was something that belongs to our parents. 

The body that we think it is our body is the body of everyone, in one sense; or is the body of your parents. There is nothing to think that it is mine and other’s, because what you think that is yours, it is also something that used to be others. And even nowadays, like if you think about your body, there are much more others who experience more this body than you. There are many bacteria in us, and this body also belongs to them, some doctors say that the reason why doctors give the tablet or albendazol is that they can get the nutrition of the food that you are eating for yourself, I think that albendazol is to kill those germs, some of those micro-beings in our body. Some doctors also say that, these micro-beings can be in any like two or three forms, I think so. They consume many nutrition that we get out from our food, this body is also a world for them. 

So, the body that we used to think “It’s our body”, “I don’t care about others’, it’s mine or for me”. Truly do you think that it’s really I’m, when this body is a world of many creatures, many germs and many bacteria? So this body that we used to think “this is I’m” also belongs to them. It is exactly like you think “oh this world is mine”, but we are just not really fair because there are many others, it is not just yours. So similarly this body that you used to think that is my body, yet we are something that been projected with this body as a basis.

The concept of ‘me’ and ‘other’ comes from “beginningless habituation”. And also the thing that you think “I and my happiness”, this also comes from others. Without depending on others, this is no way you can achieve any happiness, specially when you don’t practice meditation, you gonna find very less happiness that you generate by yourself. If you practice meditation, and (…) then you might find some happiness that come from others in some sense. Besides that, many of the happiness that you experience also because of others. You have a nice house, do you really build that house? We used to have a nice cloth, no, it was not us who made this cloth, you eat a nice food, no, there are many farmers working beside that. So whatever you try to achieve by discriminating ‘I’ and ‘other’, the happiness that you are trying to achieve also comes from others, what’s the point of discriminating ‘yourself’ from ‘other’?

This self-grasping mind is the cause of all sufferings, even if you try to purify your past negative karma. The self-grasping mind, the mind which sees the self is important, and ignores others, and also the self-cherishing mind in short is main reason what makes us suffer again and again, it’s not only us, but all the sentient beings suffering in the same manner. The one and only way to get rid of all sufferings is when one achieves Buddhahood, when one achieves a perfect knowledge that Buddha gave, through which we can help all the sentient beings who are suffering in this manner. That’s why it’s very important to try to generate Bodhicitta, a mind which desires enlightenment. Only through that mind, we will able to eliminate or reduce this suffering, not just for others, but it’s also for oneself. Having this wonderful human body, we meet with dharma, we know dharma, we have faith toward dharma, we’re practicing dharma and what can be better than this as a sort of an opportunity to use the life to practice dharma, so that it can benefit not only this life, but many other lives, not only ourselves, but all the other sentient beings.

So I would like to conclude the point over here that we are the whole condition of all the sentient beings, in such that we are constantly suffering. Try to find a day where you haven’t had unpleasant feelings, there is no single day where we pass through without having unpleasant feelings, many people even suffer in dream. So there is very less time that we experience ultimate happiness, you might be happy right now, but the moment that you are happy are very less, and before the moment ends, we start worrying “oh this moment gonna end”, before the end of the happiness that you experience, you’re afraid that “Ah it gonna end”. And right after the moment of pleasant that we experience is very shortly of time, we start to have unpleasant feelings because the nice moment ended. Even in this life, without practicing dharma and without trying to subdue our mind, without trying to cultivate within us for our own happiness, there is no way, nothing can be achieved.

When you see the real need of practicing dharma to achieve Buddhahood for oneself, so that you can think that others also need the same thing. The cyclic existence, all the sentient beings in samsara, they are being tortured in many ways, the example is something that you can see over here.  First the person is taken away by the water, then the water is so strong that he can’t swim out; not only that, he has been tied by a very big rock. But even if he is able to untied himself from the rock, there is an iron cage which keeps him inside. This is the condition of all the sentient beings, exactly the same sentient beings who has been our mother, father, friends and family, who has been the most kind to us. All of these sentient beings who suffer in this manner, also are suffering in different ways.

The one and only way to help them to get rid of all sufferings is only when you achieve enlightenment. That’s why a mind desiring enlightenment, even if you think about it for one second, two seconds, it will help you to accumulate such a strong merit, because you don’t bring for yourself but you bring for the whole sentient beings, so you accumulate merits as a number of sentient beings.


There is any question you are writing down? In the meantime, I just talk this point:

One of the obstacles that might arise when you try to think about the welfare of all the sentient beings is that why would I care about other’s happiness? They are suffering, so why should I care about others?

One, as I already told as a sort of repaying the kindness because all the sentient beings are most wonderful persons and they all have been very kind to us. It’s the wonderful opportunity to repay that kindness, this is the time you can practice to do something for them. One reason.

Second reason is look closely toward oneself, the really genuine happiness and the peace of mind that one can achieve even in this life is when you start to think about others.  When you try to do something for others, give your time for others, give your knowledge for others, give whatever you have to others, even if in your mind, you think of helping somebody, it is one of very secret ways perhaps to achieve the genuine happiness even in this life, those people are sleeping a peaceful sleep who are literally spending their whole day for the welfare for others.  This really makes the huge difference, just try for a few minutes, you will try to experience it right away.

If you think of helping others, there are many posibilities that your wish can be fulfilled, you will always get an opportunity to make someone happy. Many of people in this world, they are only so much self-centered in many ways, all they care about is themselves. If you help others, you will have all the hundred and the million opportunities to help others and make somebody happy. If you think about your own happiness, there is very less time, is not much opportunity to make yourself happy, specially when you don’t train your mind, this is greedy mind, you have this, you want to look for three, you have three, you gonna look for four, you have four, you gonna look for five and then six, then seven, then eight and then nine, and apple 10, apple 11, apple 12, apple 13, and apple 14  this mind never gona stop, unless you train your mind.

So if you think about oneself, you are literally making more and more difficult to meet your own happiness. And other’s happiness brings you a happiness, for example, if you have a brother, if you just think about your happiness and you don’t care about your brother; or on other hand, you care about your brother, you don’t care about yourself. So, when you care about your brother, you don’t care much about your own happiness, there would be two people who will look for your happiness. If you care about the happiness of your brother, your brother will also start to care about your happiness, there will be two people who will be a condition for your happiness. If you just think about your happiness, ignore your brother, then you will lonely have yourself.

Even to achieve one’s happiness is better to do something for others, you motivate to help others, your happiness will always come. If you want to help others, when you help others, you are satisfied that you achieve happiness, that’s either happiness.

And also think when all the farmers are sick and not happy, all the factories, they have factory, in problems, this and that. Look at the current situation these days, if the farmers are sick, they can’t work in the farms, then what will the world eat if this pandemic goes for a few years?  We can’t eat trees and we can’t live on the air or the water. We have to rely on farmers, our happiness is very much related to other’s happiness. Without other’s welfare, there is nothing much that we can achieve. If you think from that perspective, it can be helpful to realize how much others are playing a role in your happiness. You go to a nice restaurant, have a nice meal, come on like there is hundred people looking behind that.

Also, to have this class, many efforts: the one who creates the website, the one who runs the website, the one who maintains the website, and everything or the application. Because of which, we live literally like thousand of miles away but we get to see each other and talk as we are right in front each other. We are able to experience these facilities because of many others: the one who created the applications, it’s also because of many knowledge that has been left on the papers for him to study as a foundation, the creator of zoom for example, he is standing on the shoulder of giants.  If we shift all the human beings to a different planet, they would have to start from scratch to create a plane that few hundred years there have been putting down lots of researches (…)

Noted down from the Dharma Talk by Lama Nawang Kunphel on June 01, 2021 organized by The Aura of Wisdom