Mind Training And Compassion Applied to Everyday Life

A picture ofa dark Tibetan temple from inside facing large windows.

This is the transcript from a public talk given by Professor Samdhong Rinpoche at Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

Editor’s note: The original YouTube video was glitched in some parts, cutting Rinpoche’s speech for a few seconds at times. I did my best to fill up the missing parts with my best guesses of what Rinpoche said based on the context of the talk and on the Buddhist literature while being conscious that my guesses may actually be mistaken. I have marked the parts where the glitches were too long and I could not fill them up with the word “glitch”. I have also edited the contents of the talk, adding and removing conjunctions and modifying verb tenses for what I thought would be a better reading experience, which may have changed the meaning of Rinpoche’s words. Any mistakes or inconsistencies come entirely from my side.

Sincerely, Indila D. A.

Mind Training And Compassion Applied To Everyday Life

Most revered Dean, venerable monks, and dear friends, I have been asked to speak this afternoon about mind training and compassion applied to everyday life. I beg in the beginning for your forgiveness that I do not comfortably speak English language, therefore my vocabulary is very limited and sometimes I am not able to express myself fully, so please bear with me. Apart from that, today my voice is also not very good, I have lost the voice partially since this morning.

The topic of discussion is mind training and compassion. To understand the mind is the first requisite to training it and there are many different concepts of mind. From the Buddhist viewpoint, the mind has a number of different categories and layers. On the one hand, we might categorize the mind as the gross mind, the subtle mind, and the subtlest mind. 

Within the concept of consciousness, there is potential to a knowing or potential to perceive external subjects or matters that are called mind, that which is operating the person. What is a person? What is an individual? The concept of individual is the combination of mind, body, and speech. In Buddhist terminology, they are called the three doors of action. The body and speech are under the command of mind, and that mind has a number of different parts or portions, which at the subtlest level are stainless clear and no contamination can intrude in its nature. 

But at a gross level this mind is polluted, or clouded by numerous negative emotions such as concepts, or thought forces. You can categorize the mind into two groups: the positive mind and the negative mind, or in another way, it can be categorized into perceiving mind and conceiving mind. The entire conceiving mind is within the category of the thought forces, as we usually say. The thought is always dealing with the image, and the perception is always dealing with the reality. 

Without recognizing, identifying, one’s own various levels of mind, then to train the mind may not be an easy job. In order to train the mind we have to understand how the mind is functioning or operating in the various levels, and however the mind is functioning its basic source would be the subtlest mind, which may be called the subtlest consciousness, or the continuum of the consciousness which comes from previous lives, beginningless, and which goes to the next until someone liberates oneself from the bondage of defilement and karmic force. Even then, the enlightened mind, the continuum of inherent mind, still continues unceasingly. 

Therefore, according to Buddhist concept, the consciousness or the mind does not have any beginning and it does not have any end. Except few Buddhist tenets belonging to Shavakayana; they have a conception of the ending of mind when an individual enters into the *speaks in Sanskrit* that means, no residue; freedom. But that is not accepted by the majority of the Buddhist traditions of philosophy. 

Since the mind is flexible, and no contamination has entered in its nature, whatever defilements are temporarily coming from external factors, thereby they are removable. When we take the antidote of negative emotions and practice in that way, the negative emotions or the negative mind can be reduced, suppressed, and finally can be eradicated *glitch*

Ultimate truth means the real nature of the entirety of phenomena. How things exist with the help of name and thought without any inherent existence by its own nature, or the wideness of existing by its own nature independently. That is the ultimate reality. When you perceive this ultimate reality then the source of the entirety of negative emotions is completely eradicated. 

Having said that, what are the basic methods of training the mind? For training the mind, there is a process of learning, examination, and a meditative state of mind, and on the first level we need to understand the nature of mind and that there’s negativity. And the antidotes of negativity we have to learn either from hearing from the masters or teachers or reading from books, or from the teacher and this is the first stage of accumulating information, which is understanding from hearing. In Sanskrit we call it *speaks in Sanskrit*, understanding inculcated or created from learning or hearing or reading at the stage of receiving the information. That receiving the information needs to be *gets interrupted by someone in the audience*

I was referring to the process of training the mind at the first level to the accumulation of information through reading or through hearing and that is the first stage of understanding, and it is within the category of thought forces, or knowledge level. And that knowledge has to be examined through analytical meditation. 

Contemplation meditation means meditating on the basic information that you have acquired through your own mental examination and analysis using various logic and reasonings. Then you reach a stage of inner realization *speaks in Sanskrit*. That inner realization means that what you have accumulated; the information at the level of hearing, is either correct or incorrect; real or unreal; truth or untruth, and what kind of modification should be done, and so on and so forth. 

Then the second level of understanding *speaks in Sanskrit* that means understanding acquired from your own analytical meditative mind, and that is knowledge that can be considered authentic, reliable. Only the understanding acquired from hearing or from reading may not be reliable or authentic. Buddha has repeatedly said that you should not believe because Buddha has said it. You have to understand by yourself through analytical meditation and through your own logic and examination *glitch*. The real level of understanding from where it begins, that is, [where] cultivation of mind or turning of mind really begins, because the understanding acquired from hearing alone does not transform or alter the mindset as it is. 

Then at the second level, you have the knowledge or understanding from your own analytical meditation, when you acquire the authentic understanding. Then you can begin to meditate. By meditating on it you will achieve the real perception of the thing, whatever the phenomenon, whatever you are analyzing through the analytic meditation of it. That perception is not an assumption or just belief or just acceptance but it is really seeing. Seeing means direct perception, and that transforms your mind. 

This is a process of training the mind, and this process when it reaches the meditative level, grossly, it would have three different kinds: a meditation which is in the nature of cultivating the mind, and another meditation which is in the nature of practicing the concentration; concentrated with stability to be achieved. And the third category is a meditation of visualization. Visualization means visualizing something that may not be there in reality, but in the mind picture you can visualize something. 

*Rinpoche starts talking about visualization but there’s a glitch in the video*

The real meditation you have to do is the nature of cultivation. Nature of cultivation means that you have to rely much more on analytical meditation than on concentration meditation. Your mind is in nature pure and uncontaminated, but temporarily your mind is deluded with hate, anger, lust, greed, attachment, and so on. All these negative emotions might happen, and they are always arising through a default *glitch* …nature of emotion, particularly the compassionate mind is being distorted, or being destroyed, or being kept away by feelings of hatred and anger. 

Hate, anger, are the real [causes of] human misery, unhappiness, and problems. In the present state of humanity, although we think we are living in a very advanced state of human development and we are in the postmodern civilization; science and technology have achieved tremendous advancement and humanity can do almost everything they wish to, but in spite of that we have enormous challenges and problems. 

Taking humanity as a whole, the problem of violence, problem of insecurity, problem of fear are bothering humanity all the time. Particularly these days if we look upon the general state of affairs of the world, the violence, terrorism, domination, and suppressive behavior are almost pervasive everywhere. Particularly, economic disparity, and economy and other kinds of exploitation by the powerful to the less powerful are always a source of struggle and conflict. All this is arising in the beginning before expressing into a physical and vocal action [inside the mind]. As everybody says, that the war is taking place in the human mind in the beginning, that’s the truth.

All the conflicts and all the violence and all the problems are arising [from the mind] and if we are able to transform or alter or train the mind in the positive way all these problems which we are facing day-to-day would be completely avoided *glitch* …eradication of all these problems and the source problems.

Therefore we need to cultivate in our mind a compassionate emotion. In order to achieve such a compassionate mind we have to go through a systematic method of training the mind. The mind is completely conditioned through education, through habits, and through the negative environment, and mostly the system and the society which conditions our mind. Right from childhood we are being taught and encouraged into a mindset of comparison and competition through which we care for self much more than for others, and the equality between self and the other has been completely lost. And this melody is a kind of defect which is being created through [conditioned] civilization, the modern civilization has given a number of imbalances, and among these imbalances, the imbalance between self and the other. 

And until you understand the equality between the self and others you will not be able to achieve caring for the other more than the self; [this] becomes most difficult. So in the process of training the mind to cultivate a compassionate [mind one has to] understand equality; to cultivate; to create in your mind; to see or to understand; to internalize the reality of the equality of [all beings]. 

In modernity, we talk about equality, particularly in the political system we are always looking for a kind of equality, and this equality does not give you the perception of real equality. The concept of political equality at its most can give equality among the equals. Real equality, among the unequal; apparently unequal individuals or sentient beings, is not so easy. And here we have to educate the mind and train the mind to see real equality on two basic grounds: we are equal in one particular thing; that is to wish [happiness] and not wish misery and pain. Even the smallest insect and the biggest animals, like elephants, or the most intelligent human beings. No one is willing to invite pain and misery and everyone is looking for peace or pleasure. So this is the basic nature of all conscious people or sentient beings. So this is the one ground of equality of all. 

And the other ground of equality is each individual, right from the smallest insects to the most intelligent individual human beings, there is the potential for achieving enlightenment and freedom. Each one has the seed of buddhahood, if I speak from Buddhist terminology. Everyone has the potential, or the possibility to achieve the omniscient mindset, or the Buddha nature. There’s no single [sentient being who does not have] this potential. So, on the basis of potential, all the sentient beings are equal. So, on this basis, we have to realize that all sentient beings are equal and there’s no differentiation. 

Then thereafter, our mind’s approach to the end rest of the sentient beings, the approach of equality to all *speaks Sanskrit*

*referring to the Sanskrit term* Does not mean uncaring or unmindful, here *Sanskrit* means to treat, or to approach each sentient being without any distinction, without any near or far, without any dear and not dear, without differentiating friends or enemies. 

So this is more difficult to achieve in our mind because we have prejudices [against] all other beings when we deal with other sentient beings. If we see some relatives, some friends, some very close associates, we feel happy and have a mindset of attachment to those people. And when we see someone who is not friendly with us and particularly unenlightened people, we do have a [dualistic thought]. And when we see beings who have harmed one person, or who have done some undesirable or unjust things to oneself, we feel very much hate and anger towards that person. And when we see someone who is unknown; unfamiliar to us, we just have a [indifferent feeling], without any happiness or unhappiness, without any attachment or detachment. So, for three different others we have three [different] kinds of approaches. 

That which distorts our mind to have an approach of equality and through which a compassionate mind can be evolved for everyone: compassion does not mean a [type of] love, or kind of good feeling for any individual. In Buddhist terminology, compassion means a mindset that is pervasive to all sentient beings. Among the categories of compassion, we make two categories. The first category is limitless compassion and the other is great compassion [respectively] Karuna and Mahakaruna. The great compassion, Mahakaruna; that is, preparation for buddhanature and what makes the person a Bodhisattva. 

Karuna is a compassion that still does not have the power to take in its fold the entirety of sentient beings. It is not [aimed at] limitless sentient beings having been taken to the object of compassion, or kindness; that is limitless compassion. When [compassion is aimed at all sentient beings equally that is] Mahakaruna. 

So, therefore, we shall not differentiate any sentient being distinctively, or differently. An equal attitude toward all needs to be developed and if we are able to achieve it, that equal attitude can be transformed into a compassionate mindset, and compassionate mindset means seeing the suffering of that person and having a great desire or willingness to remove their suffering, that is the real nature of [Mahakaruna]. And in order to achieve such mission, before, first, we have to achieve an equal mind to all sentient beings, [take] their suffering as a reality, and [have] a great enthusiasm to remove this suffering. And in order to do that we need to understand the nature of suffering as well. At this moment we do not see the entirety of [nature of suffering] as it is. 

There are three different kinds of misery, the Misery of Misery, the Changing Misery, and the Base Of Misery; there are three kinds of miseries. We only see the Misery of Misery; the Dukkha-dukkha, which means the pain; the wound; or the deaths, which are in reality apparent pain and misery that are easy to understand. But the secondary thing is that worldly pleasures, the entirety of the worldly pleasures, are in reality not pleasure, not happiness, but in reality changing pain, because when it disappears all of them [turn out to be] transitory and impermanent. The entirety of worldly pleasures are impermanent and transitory. 

In reality, when one misery goes away and another misery begins, at that moment we feel a kind of worldly pleasure and that worldly pleasure is bound to go, and if we remain with that pleasure it will never sustain itself. And since it is impermanent, and since it is transitory, it is bound to decay and disappear. The disappearance of this pleasure itself is a pain, you can see when someone dear and near is lost we feel great pain although the dear and near person’s presence is a temporary pleasure and it is bound to come to an end. 

All the wealth, all the opulence is bound to decay, bound to diminish, and that is the Changing Misery, and then, the basis of Changing Misery is the conditioned mind or the conditioned body. Our mind-body-speech is entirely under the control of our karmic force and our mental defilements, which are caused by karmic force. So, as long as we do not get freedom from this bondage of *speaks in Sanskrit* in this circle of birth-death-rebirth, this samsaric circle will never come to an end. So, that is the basis of all misery. 

When these three miseries of oneself are realized, then the person can understand the misery of others as well, and by understanding this nature of misery and how it is painful, and thereby, how the entirety of sentient beings is really the object of our compassionate mind [this] can be experienced and understood. 

So this is the way to train the mind into the nature of compassion, and of course, it can be applied to [daily life]. All the spiritual practices are applicable in daily life. Any person who begins a spiritual journey shall combine daily living and spiritual journey. Until all your day-to-day activities are converted into a spiritual practice or facilitate your spiritual practice you cannot progress in the path of spirituality. 

Therefore all the daily activities, it may be social engagement, it may be serving the family, or it may be performing the larger universal responsibility, whatever it may be; for example, talking, eating, reading, meditating, whatever you do; you have to have good motivation and your action can be directly or indirectly helping or assisting the cultivation of greater compassionate mind or positive emotions. 

So each vocal, physical, and mental activities shall be watched through mindfulness, a consciously prepared mindfulness, which means all your physical, vocal, and mental actions or mental activities should not occur without noticing or noticing too late. So you are able to watch day-to-day leading the life or activities, which are completely under the observation of your greater awareness. 

Greater awareness means you do not do anything unawarely. That awareness is difficult to cultivate, and it also needs the three stages by which you are able to achieve “to remain aware or awake”. That awakeness will be an observing mind. That observation will not miss any single point of your daily living or your activities, and thereby remain always mindful and conscious, by which all the negativity can be reduced and eliminated and all the positivity can be developed or increased. 

Turning the mind into a compassionate one does not come in a few days of practice. It needs a permanent force of practice throughout life, and practice actually continues life after life, and many births may be used for achieving the real great compassionate mind. And once you achieve the great compassionate mind you are on the path of [omniscience]. 

 [even] A non-believer, someone is who not looking for achievement of buddhanature or higher realms, as an ordinary human being if you have some kind of compassionate mind for human beings your life will be very different and much better, and much more meaningful. 

*video glitches and Rinpoche formally ends his talk*

Original videos from which this text was adapted:

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