Introduction to the Abhidhamma
August – September 1977
5th of 16 Lectures
FIFTH LECTURE: AIN OKTOR, TUNISIA
To start today’s class, I would like to speak about the way you habitually use language. By constantly turning your mind to particular subjects and repeating phrases, eventually the words become archetypal. Beings tend to be unaware of the levels of meaning that exist behind the words they habitually use. Take, for example, the phrase “…the natural mind of compassion”: does that imply to you the mind before attainment of awakening, a state where awakening is present? Or does it refer to the Awakened Being who is dwelling in the natural mind of compassion? (Actually, I prefer “…the natural mind of wisdom-compassion”.)
For one being, compassion is not natural, not a component of the ordinary state, whereas for another the ordinary mind is pure. Here we find two opposite views of being: the specialized structuring versus the holistic basis of consciousness. From the view taken by this teaching, going into attainment is something natural. Entering into that state may be extraordinary from the puthujjana level of perception, but it becomes ordinary from the standpoint of the awakened. In the developed being, the ordinary mind is extraordinary, and to the ordinary or undeveloped mind, the state of compassion is extraordinary. Compassion is natural to the mind free of ego-referencing, the mind that has opened the ego – the box of Mahakala.
The Buddha said that you must give up doing the good, not to mention the bad. It is assumed that before getting to the point of going beyond the good you have put an end to unwholesome states and established the essentially compassionate mind. When one is compassionate, such thoughts as “What’s in it for me?” are not relevant. One is simply abiding in freedom so that type of referencing doesn’t arise. Instead there is a state that clearly realizes at-one-ment; you are me, and that is that. This is a multidimensional, single-planed kind of self-motif. Because there is no desire, it is a state of happiness. There is no gaining or losing, no arising from this or that cause; it is the happy mind of nothing suffering. Because of this non-suffering, the being is dwelling in compassion. There can’t be anything other than the compassionate mind in that state, because the lack of compassion only arises when there is self-grasping – which is not compassionate to number one, yourself!
If any form of unwholesomeness is present, there is a lack of compassion. Do examine your mind-states throughout the day; see what is present. The consequence of a mind that is knowing can’t be other than compassion. It is this very thing because compassion is always here, at this moment. This is really the meaning of the word: com – with, plus passion. Passion with things, people, places – a totality of compassion. This is an excellent practice to review over and over.
A mind that has transcended all the biggest blockages doesn’t consider itself to be compassionate in the sense you might attribute to that state. It can be nothing other than happy – and compassionate – because it is effective. A being in that state is not trying for anything. To get to that level of experience one starts by practicing compassion for an individual – and here I am using the word ‘compassion’ in the ordinary way, on a mudfish level rather than on the level of the extraordinary mind.
Ego-referencing is not compassionate; it is judgemental – if I win, you lose. You can debate this with me, but it is true. Why make any reference? Why bother referencing black to white, or making stipulations? That’s not compassionate; certainly not to you. Taken to its conclusion, that type of thinking ultimately ends with looking at others and thinking; “you are a shit”. See this directly when you find yourself making judgements about the status quo. When speaking of ego-reference I’m not talking about the mind of examination, the mind of awareness, but of the discriminating function that is always checking one’s position in relation to others. Ego-centeredness is very weakening. The concern of “what’s in it for me” without any deeper aspiration is not compassionate for oneself. As the Buddha stated: trying to make the impermanent permanent is dissatisfactory.
You can’t possibly consider it compassionate to give $10,000 to a charity if your motive is seeking some kind of kudos for your generosity. That’s not compassionate for you. Let your actions become spontaneous. It may be that you send money to various needy beings in the world, but if this is done for yourself it is not compassionate at all. Do you understand? Where is the passion for others in such actions? I don’t deny the good that may come from the gift; I only wish to point out that the giving isn’t happening from an ungrasping mind, from a natural mind.
Again, I’m not denying that you are practicing giving. I am pointing out that giving should be transmuted, should arise as a completely natural, uncontrived experience. Natural giving occurs when one has ceased to do evil, learned to do good, and then purified the mind to move beyond any sense of duality; into a state where giving is the whole of one’s activity rather than a special circumstance. Then you are not giving by prescription, by programming the mind for a desired position. There is no event of giving, because you are spontaneously giving. It is not practiced, not something you rev up to, or have to feel in the mood to do.
In addition to that, there is the work of creation – “Hail to the wisdom that is ripening!” If you are aware of the wisdom that is ripening, I would say that compassion is awakening. See that this is what is occurring, and then make an offering of wisdom. That is the way of attainment. It is very wholesome for a person when compassion begins to work in this way.
You might ask whether in fact compassion works. For most beings, it’s a matter of having to be forced into acting compassionately because they are conditioned to the ego view of duty. But in the depth, you are always becoming one with the One, and then there is no one. The being who gives anything whatsoever in meditation is already experiencing compassion naturally at work. The practice of compassion is the screen of true compassion.
It is better to think in terms of what you’re giving rather than what you’re getting because then you can become aware of what you’ve got. When you learn about giving, you will realize what you don’t have to receive. This is a vast story; at work on many, many levels. If the being has completed the first parami, that of generosity, he is in a state of wisdom. All the perfections of a human being are summarized in dana, generosity. It is said that true dana is not practiced until the being has wisdom. You already have the richness of eyes, ears, and so forth, at work in your being. You’ve already got the gift of this precious birth; the fruit on the tree. Now you are waiting, not for it to blossom but for it to bear seed. For that to occur, develop the mind of compassion.
So, what is compassion? Even to have question is compassionate. The mind of question and of communication is the mind of compassion at work. When I see a student who is not responsive to question, I think that he is lacking in compassion for himself. It is much better to be bubbling with question than to be in a pleasant vagary. In a wholesome state of mind, what else could you be but compassionate? You don’t have to practice; you only have to allow the arising of wholesome mind states every day. Maybe you will be slow in starting this habit, subject to inertia, but if you are persistent, things will speed up.
Every wholesome state contains metta, unconditional love. To begin, you are probably not even sympathetic to your own being so it is necessary to practice compassion. The Abhidhamma says that any pleasant moment is conjoined with compassion. If you are enjoying reading a book you are not separate from the compassionate mind; that state of enjoyment already contains love. A wholesome state does not think “I have to give so much”.
In this teaching you are instructed to practice three waves of wholesomeness in the morning and three in the evening if you follow a discipline such as the Hevajra tantra.
This is a practice that could be called throwing the garbage out. There is nothing unwholesome in non-dual tantric practices such as Hevajra. They are designed to enable a practitioner to enter the wholesome mind. So this is one of the rules of the highest discipline; to practice three givings in the morning and three in the evening. You give of yourself so that all might eat of wholesome states.
Any loving relationship that gives you a sense of wholesomeness is the practice of dana. It may be reading or study of dharma; training the mind in any kind of positive investigation, astro-chemistry perhaps. For you, it might perhaps be practicing three orgasms in the morning – that’s probably a teaching some of you would accept! Anything that contributes to a sense of wholesomeness can be counted as a practice of giving. The word ‘dana’ is associated with ‘donate’, gift. As they say in England, the penny drops. Then you can talk in meaningful terms about the mind of bliss, the Sambhogakaya.
You might think that you have nothing; that you are unable to give. But you are in error. You can give your eyes, and I don’t mean to an eye bank after your death. They’re there for looking now. Jesus said: “Those who have eyes to see, let them see.” That is a gift. Learning to use what you’ve got in a wholesome way is giving. You could increase that ten-fold. Jesus also related the parable of the talents, telling about the three men who received them. If you invest your talents, use them, you will increase their power ten-fold. That is the way to raise your being to perfection. That is compassion.
You should be wrestling with angels, or perhaps angels should be prepared to wrestle with you! But most of your time is not profitably spent. You entertain so many unwholesome states. Is it more compassionate to hide your talents in the ground, not utilized, or to put them out on the market from time to time even if they are not perfect? So many beings hide their talent in the ground, caught in fear, and that is horrible. When will you discover that you are a singer, a dancer?
When you enter perfection you become a completely talented being. In the process of the evolution of wisdom you will see mediocrity raised to greatness. The most compassionate thing you could do for your being would be to know that you are fully functioning, that you can do anything and communicate anything. It is compassionate for beings to know that their lives are meaningful, but to be meaningful you have to put yourself out and become useful. Talent was the word for money at one time; silver coins of aspiration. From that name for money we derived our word for richness of being; talent. When a being is very talented, something of beauty is manifesting. It is given out.
The devil finds use for idle senses, idle emotions, and so forth. What are you putting out? What do you do with your little light? Do you let it shine? Shining is emanation, and first of all it is not compassionate for you to hide under a barrel. It is much more compassionate to let the light out, to let something be expressed. If it is not expressed, it is very quickly lost.
Giving begins as emanation, but eventually it must be a radiation of beauty; an expression of the parami, and then all that there is is light. It may become too intense, but only if the being is not light enough; has not attained the quality of perfection of the parami. The natural mind of compassion attains balance by total generosity; by complete rather than partial giving. There is no flickering whatsoever. Through all events of life, the emanation of the light of generosity is stable. In one of the Tibetan initiation ceremonies or wongkurs you are told to imagine a steady emanation of light; to imagine that all the light is stable.