It is interesting. While we were reading those two chapters [ch. 4 and 5 in the Bodhisattvacharyavatara], they talk about how the bodhisattvas behave, how bodhisattvas function. One of them is very strange, saying that when you are talking to people, don’t point your finger at them, saying “Do this, do that.” They say, “Show your flat hand and say, “please do this, do that” or, “would you like to do this or do that?” In our normal character, it is simple for us to point a finger and even I am in the habit of talking with pointed finger. So when I was reading that teaching, I noticed that I was actually having both my fingers up while reading, “don’t point the finger, use your flat hand.”
The bodhisattva’s way of functioning is nothing stranger than a good, normal character of respectable human beings. They will do the same thing. I was caught with both my fingers in the air. So that was a little interesting. I was teaching the subject of alertness and conscientiousness and without that I was going on with both fingers. Suddenly I am reading that you are not supposed to do that. So that was an interesting point of reference for me. They say, “Practice what you preach,” so that’s the point.
So then we talked about compassion and bodhimind and about bodhisattva activities and all that, but talking tough is not necessarily very effective. But doing it right is so important. The conscientiousness – and alertness chapters tell us that a lot of our faults come from not being conscientious and aware of what we are doing. That’s rather unfortunate, but we have to be aware of that. It happens every day, every time, to whatever we do.
Another point I would like to point out, when something is important, then it is not bad to repeat that once or twice. Not only is it not bad, it is good. There is this good old Tibetan saying, “When it is important, be very careful and repeat it and make sure. When it is dharma, repeat it a hundred times.” That’s how it is. But the most important thing is the effect on the individual. That was the most important point, in the sense that our thinking and functioning, our way of life, has to be slightly influenced and as I pointed out with me pointing with the finger, even if it is a little too late, but you catch it and have a realization of it, and then you can correct it. That is what I call, “effective.”
Normally, we have no awareness. We do all kinds of things, but still we don’t know what we did. We often say, “What did I do? I did nothing wrong.” The other person will say, “You still don’t get it!” That’s exactly how it is. Well, if you have a little difficulty and challenges in the normal functioning of life, then it is a different story. Other than that, our thoughts should really be used to watch ourselves and anything we are doing wrong, we should be able to catch it, even if it is later.
Even then: better late than never. That’s the good old American saying. So even then, you should be really be aware. You know why? Your life doesn’t end today. Our functioning doesn’t end today, so it’s not the end, but almost like the beginning. So every time you catch yourself, even when it is late, it is always a point of reference for not repeating that.
Actually, all our past history is guidance for our future life. Our future should be shaped according to the mistakes in the past. So with corrections, our future should be brought in. That’s the whole reason why we pay attention to history. It’s not only to appreciate it, but also as guidance for the future. Some people will never have that. They will be repeating the same old thing they did wrong before, again and again and again, particularly in politics, particularly in the semi-military, political, sort of mind controlling activities.
They keep on repeating whatever the mistakes that were done before. If a little kid does that, you will probably say, “This kid never pays any attention and never thinks and always remains 11 years old.” You may think that and say that, and even scold the kid and ground it. But as they get older you can’t do that. So that’s why our mind is really the one that guides us. How can we guide ourselves? With the knowledge of our history. The past is the guidance for the future. Whatever mistakes we made previously, we have to make sure we don’t repeat them. That’s how we are supposed to move.
But our addictions will interrupt our knowledge and information. That happens to all of us and all of us, those here and those listening, are intelligent persons, not stupid. Honestly. Not a single one of us are stupid. Some may think, “I am not that intelligent.” You are underestimating yourself. Your intelligent is so great, so wonderful, so much so that you really know very well, but you also have a very stubborn nature, plus your addictions will always prevent you from going in the right direction. We talk about the Bodhisattva way. We talk about the Mahayana way. We are talking about it, but talking is not doing. We can talk loud and big, but it doesn’t mean anything.
~ Gelek Rimpoche, Jewel Heart Ann Arbor, May 18, 2014