On the Mahayana path, of course you have to work hard. No one says you don’t have to work hard. But you work also very smart, so that everything you do becomes extremely beneficial. I should not use that word because it has been overused. But it becomes very effective and reaches very far – every action. That is the Mahayana special quality. Then even saying OM alone will reach very far. That is the Mahayana beauty. I did mention OM because my Mahayana is the Vajrayana Mahayana. That’s just to introduce this. However, the Mahayana without Vajrayana does not use OM. But the totality of Buddhism is the most important. The Theravada – the self- liberation essence and then the essence of that Mahayana, the pure sutra and the vajrayana combined together, that’s the real essence of Buddha’s teaching which helps the individual make it through the difficult transitions we are in. Even this path is known as the transcendental path.
You are transiting from negativities, from ego and its influence. I use the word “ego,” but remember, I am thinking “ego,” as in what’s traditionally called ignorance. It is not the term “ego,” provided by the psychologists that helps to build self-esteem. I am not thinking that ego. I am thinking about the ego that is manipulation, confusion and fear combined together. That confused state of self-grasping and self-cherishing, that ego is what I am thinking about. I have to clarify that, because the word ego can mean anything. So this is the target of our practice, the target of refuting, not obtaining. It is that confused, self-cherishing ego that thinks that the self is most important and that everybody is meant to be serving the self. That attitude we have is really the negativity we are talking about, the thing we have to denounce, refute and purify.
Sometimes you may ask, “Why should I purify? I have not killed anyone and not lied to anyone. I have not cheated anybody. I am not an evil person. Why do I have to purify?” May you are right. We can be very proud not be such an evil person. We are very proud that we are not the devil, honestly. But we do have a problem within us and that is our ego and our self-centered self-cherishing.
These are the two most important targets we have to purify. That’s what we refer to. It is not just about if we have lied and need to make up. Sure, that’s a wrong thing. You may have used a used car salesman’s lie, which is wrong, but not that bad. You might have lost your temper somewhere. Yeah, that’s bad, but not that bad. It happens. I always say, “We are Buddhists, we are not Buddhas yet.” So it does happen. Is that something good? No. Is it something to be proud of? No. But it’s not that bad. What’s really bad is the ego-controlling and that self-cherishing that is controlling us. With that you try to hide behind everybody else. The example given is very simple. You are sitting in a room full of people. Somebody walks through the door and starts shooting. So you will be hiding behind everybody else. Everybody else is exposed in front of you. That’s what self-cherishing does. The self will not take any blame and everything is an excuse, like it’s somebody else and we nicely justify everything by saying “under certain circumstances…” Maybe it is true, but even then, it is a good excuse. The fault really is within ourselves. And that is not our self, but our ego-grasping and self-cherishing. These are the two negative points that go against our wisdom and against our love-compassion. So by avoiding these two anti-love/compassion and anti-wisdom attitudes, one reveals the wisdom, and one reveals the compassion and the love within oneself. So it happens by clearing the opposite of it.
It is almost like we have been completely overpowered. I do remember some time ago Baba Ram Das was talking with me. He was talking about peeling the orange skin and getting to the pure orange. Here is it like that: we do have a nice orange, but it does have a skin. The skin we have is the two colored orange skins, one is ego-grasping, the other is self-cherishing. These really need to be peeled off, and by peeling them off the orange comes out. It is almost the wonderful person is within each and every one of us. But what we really see is the nice-looking, juicy skinned orange or mandarine or tangerine. Where I come from, when I was a kid, we got the tangerines. When I got over here that’s the name I learnt. But in Tibet we got the big tangerines, not the small ones, beautiful sweet ones, mostly from Sikkim and Bhutan. Really wonderful. They were not like the hard orange-skinned ones that you cannot eat even after peeling. Even after peeling, so many layers of skin are still stuck on the orange, and then even when you get to the orange, it doesn’t taste too nice, but is dry. I am not talking about such an orange. I am talking about the oranges I have in mind that you used to get in Bhutan and Sikkim. I hope they are still getting them.
So the nice person, the individual, after removing the obstacles or negativities, is really revealed. I will not say that’s the true nature, but I will say, it is the really wonderful being, the person that appears. To link that, having that wonderful person with compassion, love and wisdom, we need to peel.
~ Gelek Rimpoche, Jewel Heart Ann Arbor, August 26, 2012