Q and A – Bodhimind and Helping Yourself

Audience: You talked about having love and compassion for enemies. What should you do if someone threatens you and others?

Rimpoche: You could give them one of those martial arts kicks, but I think the appropriate thing would be to call the police, rather than taking the law into your own hands. You have to protect yourself and run away. We try to train our mind to bring it to that level [of protecting others first], but we are not in that level yet. so we don’t want to be naive bodhisattvas and get ourselves hurt in this way—unless that person is going to kill someone else. Then you have to protect whatever you can. Otherwise, I would be the first person to run away as fast as I can.

Audience: It is confusing to have to choose between self-protection and helping others.

Rimpoche: True, it is confusing. everybody has a natural instinct to protect oneself and take care of oneself. But when you try to pretend to have compassion—I am purposely using the word “pretend”—you get more confused, because your natural instinct of protecting and helping yourself is reduced. You haven’t developed the true compassion for all beings, and so you are falling in between the cracks. I don’t mean you personally.

Nobody knows what to do. That’s why this particular teaching, from the guru devotional practice to this level, is telling us what to do, how to help ourselves develop up to this level. Beyond this level, the focus is going to be on how to help others, but up to this level, it is on how to help yourself. From here onward, you will say, “The way to help myself is the way to help others,” but before we do that, we must be very well established.

How to help yourself starts from the guru devotional practice and goes to up to this level. even if it is just to reduce our laziness, or to build inspiration, or to find something to hang on to, or to understand a little more. Guru devotional practice has been introduced as the source of inspiration, and as something to hang on to, and to pray to, and to give us something to do. The appreciation of life has been introduced here to build further the source of inspiration. Impermanence has been introduced to cut down laziness. The sufferings in the lower realms have been introduced to build two things: disliking the situation of the samsara and seeking protection from the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

These are the things that teach you how to develop, how to take care of yourself. If you don’t see this, then the practice becomes irrelevant. It will become simply saying prayers or chanting or just believing or just offering. It is separated from the mind. That will not reach very far. Why do we talk about the suffering of samsara? Because unless you are out of samsara, there’s always the danger of getting caught in it, without guidance, without information. That is karma without dharma. Remember the story earlier when I met up with Rabbi Zalman Schacter in his boat and his oar almost was carried away by the river. He grabbed it and said, “If I lose this, it will be karma without dharma.” These great people have very interesting things that can give you a lot of meaning and a lot of messages.

This is exactly the same [with spiritual development]: the lam rim will be over there, and your daily practice will be over here, and the chanting will be over somewhere else, and the praying will be somewhere, and I will be over here. I’m talking to every one of us. That doesn’t do any good. The Kadampa teachers used to say, “It is so important that there should be no horse galloping between me and my dharma.” It is as if a car can drive in between me and my dharma. It is the separation of the individual human being and the dharma practice. As long as we have that separation, no matter what we do, we may simply gain some kind of benefit because we prayed, because we said the words. The dharma says that you are supposed to get solid development. Instead, it becomes some kind of little fraction of a little piece, and when that becomes the only thing, all you get is some sort of blind faith, and that is very pathetic. We have such a great life and such a great mind. We have such a capacity to understand and such an opportunity and then we just rely on blind faith! It is still better than not having it, but is also not that great.

~ Gelek Rimpoche, Foundation Of Perfections, 2013, p. 151

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