The Mind Illuminated archive

Session 6 – What is Enlightenment and Why Should I Care? – Teaching Retreat January 2010

What Is Enlightenment and Why Should I Care? Session 6

The purpose of the Eastern meditation traditions is to bring us to a completely new way of being, known as Enlightenment, Awakening, or Liberation. What exactly does this mean? And how does this relate to us, living as we do in a 21st century technological society confronted with problems that were unheard of even a generation ago.

Master Culadasa leads this weekend teaching where the methods of meditation practice and their immediate benefits are fit into a larger perspective. He then takes participants beyond the meditative practices to examine their ultimate goal, a goal that often seems hidden somewhere beyond the immediate horizon. The Buddha’s definition of Awakening is explored along with how being an Awakened being manifested both in his own life and in the lives of others who have followed this Path to its end.


Here we explore the relevance of this 2500 year old Path to Awakening to ourselves, the practical attainability of its goals, and to come to an understanding of how meditation, concentration, awareness, mindfulness, and Insight that we have been cultivating as a part of our daily practices are woven together to make up this Path.

Play the recording below or right click here to save to your computer. (1 hour 14 minutes)

Note: Upasaka Nandaka is using a tool called Descript to create machine-generated transcriptions of some of the talks on the TMI Archive (at a pace of up to 30 hours of audio a month). The following is one such transcript. If you’d like to help edit them for accuracy and readability, please see this Google Doc for detailed instructions: Any editing contribution, no matter how small, is appreciated. Please remove this notice when the transcript has been fully edited.

Culadasa: [00:00:00] As I said on Friday night, what I hoped to be able to help you do too, was to feel that you had a good understanding of


I've written.

Enlightenment is all about what these words are, awakening, light method creation, and they're referring to, and what the path is like and what the stages is like. Maybe you removed enough of the confusion and demystified it so that you could make a determination whether or not this was something that you wanted to aspire to personally and your life

so far, we have a little time yet to go. To the degree that I haven't succeeded yet. That's what I want to keep working on.

Student: Okay.

Culadasa: This is a journey and you can regard complete enlightenment Buddha hood or hot ship as being the top of a mountain. That's how it's often described. It's a mountain with many sides.

So there's many paths

Student: and

Culadasa: the destination, the goal, the top of the mountain is something that

Student: you

Culadasa: can't really know and understand until you get there. And so you have to accept.

And so because of that, it's more important to focus on the journey, not the destination. And you've heard that before. So if you choose to make the journey, there are many paths you can follow and you want to keep your focus on the journey and not the destination.

The fact that there are stages of enlightenment that you can become a stream enter. And there's still a lot of journey to go in a way. That's a good thing, right? Because it's all about the journey. And the ultimate destination is just beyond the reaches of what you can really comprehend anyway.

What's important about stream entry, is it at that 0.2 things there? No falling back from that point. The other thing is it gets much easier past that point. Everything gets much easier abstinent,

Student: but

Culadasa: other than those two things, the journey from where you are to strain that trade is not especially different than the journey from string entry to Buddha.

It's the journey that counts all of the same basic processes, ingredients, everything else are the same. It's, you're continuing the same process of refinement, both as an Ren, that means a noble person has reached stream entry as you are as WorldLink. It still is at risk of falling back.

And one for him the steps on the journey still tend to be rather steep.

Student: Okay. Now

Culadasa: to be a Buddha is to be free from suffering and to have the kind of happiness that does not depend on external circumstances at all.

And why do Buddhists get out of bed in the morning?

So what's that teach others to teach others? Yes, they don't get out of bed in the morning to say, ah, there's another day. Where does it matter? That the sudden. Golden light is shining off the leaves. Cause I'd be happy if it wasn't,

it doesn't matter if there's a fresh, no rain in here or the crisp coolness, because those things not matter to me anyway, that's right. But Buddha, he gets out of bed in the morning out of compassion for those who are [00:05:00] still suffering.

Student: So

Culadasa: if you, for anyone who decides to make this journey the best way to do it is to emulate

Student: the Buddha.


Culadasa: Keeping your eye on the top of the mountain and keeping your eye on the goal. So emulate the Buddha in every way that you can, but while you keep your calling on the top of the. You have to take into account where your feet are on the mountain, right? So this is how you want to proceed.

No. Okay. You decide to make this journey. How do we emulate the Buddha? Okay. You say I really want to be free of suffering and happy. Is that really emulating the Buddha? No, it's okay. So how can we take that aspect of it and emulate the good

Let's look beyond ourselves at the world that we're in right now. What is the nature of this world

suffering? Yeah, it's filled with suffering beings.

That's that perpetuating our suffering. Absolutely. But what do they think they're doing while they're perpetuating their suffering? They're trying to be happy. So we live in a world of people who are so diluted that they're perpetuating their suffering and they think they're trying to make themselves happy.

And we see the problem there and we see that we share that same problem because while we're not enlightened being ourselves, we are also perpetuating our own suffering to the degree that we've gained some understanding. We might not. Doing that to the same degree, hopefully that doesn't change the fact that we're still suffering and we're still vulnerable to unhappiness to external causes.

And we're still diluted. We need to keep working on ourselves. But if we look at why this is going on in the world, the nature of the delusion, I think it's clear that

Student: it's

Culadasa: clear that people are diluted and because of their diluted, dilute delusion, their goal is to escape their own suffering and to make themselves happy. But it's having just the opposite effect, right? So if we look at the Buddha and then we look at other people then we say, huh, Now I want to become enlightenment project, which is being free from suffering and being hacky.

But if I focus on that, I'm not really being like the Buddha, I'm being more like everybody else, and I'm still diluted. So if I focus on making this journey for the sake of making myself happy and ending my suffering, there's a good chance. I'm gonna make a lot of the same mistakes that everybody else is making for the same reasons, a lot of reason that people suffered and what can't get in the way of your progress on this journey.

This as long as you believe in a self, and you have all of this accumulated conditioning in the background, there are parts of your mind. That don't think yourself deserves to be free from suffering. Is that right? And don't think there's yourself deserves to be happy. And as we've discussed before it's sometimes easier to wish for the happiness of other things and it is for yourself.

And as a matter of fact, it's good to always remember what Shante Davis said, because it is so true that the sum total of all the happiness in the world is a result of people trying to make other people happy. And the sum total of all the suffering in that world, as a result of people trying to make themselves happy.

Okay. So while we know that we succeed in this journey, we are going to be free from suffering and happy. Let's not make our personal freedom from suffering and happiness. The primary. [00:10:00] If we do, we're creating, we're further reinforcing the sense of selfhood that we understand is part of the obstacle. And we're also setting ourselves up so that any conditioning that we have that doesn't believe we deserve that it's going to get in our way.

And in, in general, we know it's not a very workable thing. Now

Student: we're in a world full of people who

Culadasa: want happiness for themselves and are going about it in the wrong way. What's the best way that we could help now.

What's that? Yes, I actually to become happier and more at peace and to suffer a loss ourselves.

Isn't that interesting. We can become free from suffering and happy for the sake of other things. Now, isn't that an interesting idea, so that

Student: other people

Culadasa: can't see that we are not so vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life and that we have an inner peace and happiness, and then they just might say, what

Student: are you doing?

Culadasa: How is this, that these things happen to you and they don't wanna upset you the way that

you create an interest in

Student: Yiddish.

Culadasa: There's a term called the mitzvah, which is the highest. And the highest blessing is when you do something for someone else and they don't know you've done it. So there isn't any credit in it. It's just for the love. Yes. That's a wonderful thing. Isn't it?

Student: So

Culadasa: How would you apply that to what we're discussing right now? I think raising the consciousness

Student: since we're all one, when we raise

Culadasa: our consciousness, we're raising all of the consciousness. That's I agree with that. That's for sure. And so it's a way to give a blessing if you truly wanted for others and you're doing it without getting credit more, they're not.

That's or you don't care whether you get accredited or not, and you don't care whether or not separately, right? It's not like you have to go out of your way to hide it, but it's you just make that unimportant make that you real event. And as a matter of fact is a part of the learning process.

It probably is good sometimes to try to do it in such a way that it's not obvious, yes,

Student: yeah.

Patient is, but it's, hard to sell first. Then there is the ego do no harm to others. So if we do no harm and no suffering for ourselves, we'll do no harm to others.


Culadasa: that taking the, taking their perspective of the Hippocratic oath, which is to do no harm. So then whatever you do is to benefit others. I'm not sure. How do you turn this back on yourself? Oh, yes. Yeah.

Student: I've seen with most doctors and medical professionals they've taken the out, but it's still got their ego business and he's still got the insurance and they still got their problems.

They deal more with themselves. Maybe they could do less harm to others.

Culadasa: Yes, that's absolutely true. Yeah. If they could see, but yeah, their problem is that they are trying to make themselves happy and they're going about it in the wrong way. Once again. Yeah. Is one of the Buddhist tenants do no harm period that is do no harm and that's do no harm to yourself.

And part of the challenge in keeping that is knowing when you're doing harm, recognizing when you're doing harm. And that's a skill that you developed that if you adopt that tenant then, and the practice of it at first, it may seem obvious, but in the practice of it, you began to confront those [00:15:00] situations that force you to ask the question that you wouldn't have before.

Is this really beneficial or is it actually harmful in some way that, not that I haven't before now think recognizing, and we touched on that with regard to other people in our discussions. Yeah. Tough love and enabling, the same thing applies to ourselves. A lot of the things that we think we're doing for our own benefit are actually harmful to us.

But in terms of how do we go about being bodhisattva is a good place to start is just to set our motivation, that what we're doing is not for our own sake, but rather let's make ourselves into an instrument for the benefit of others in such a way that even the pursuit of our own happiness is only for the sake and for the benefit of others.

And that's an interesting thing, because if you do that, then when you find yourselves in those very ordinary situations of hammering.

Student: Then

Culadasa: all of a sudden it takes on a different perspective. Yes, this may benefit me, but if I, if the whole point of me becoming a happy thing is to help others understand that, you know it, then I can't do it in a way that is going to reinforce the mistaken views that are operated.

Student: We need,

Culadasa: we don't need to change the motivation of everybody in the world to have a really profound impact on the way people behave in a row, but we need to make a very great change and people's understanding of how to fulfill that mission. And the problem that we have of course, is that human beings are very successful as a species on this planet.

And its conduct consequences of that are disastrous because human beings are busy trying to make themselves happy and avoid their suffering by accumulating more and more, so much more than what they need. And it's not with me. And then they, in addition to what they're doing to the planet in order to protect themselves from perceived possibility of future suffering, it's a very interesting to think about this thing of how we live our lives.

Acknowledging that we should live in the present, but there's this idea that I have to look after myself in the future. How much do you have to look after yourself in the future and how much do you need? And it's true. You have to look after yourself in the future, not disputing that, but how much do you need, and,

Student: How do you

Culadasa: know when to stop? I would guess for some of you out there that have been in that place for a while, I won't even bother trying to guess at who you are, but it's, when to, I stopped, how much do I need? How much do I need to accumulate? And this is this, is there a real problem, but in the world, large.

For most people, that question doesn't even exist. If there's more to be gotten, I don't have enough yet. I personally, I don't know about you, but it's hard for him. He to imagine why somebody with millions and millions of dollars more than they could ever possibly spend, or their children could span the multimillion dollar bonuses, not getting into any of the other sides of it.

It's just, why do they need more or people that have a lot of money and why do they need more?

Student: And

Culadasa: it's trying to get inside their head, why is it well, our whole society gears people to. Accumulation and desirability of accumulation. And it makes them feel like failures. If they don't accumulate as much as everybody that went to school with or grew up with or the neighborhood they came from.

In a way, you're lucky if you come from a poor neighborhood because you don't impose quite the [00:20:00] same expectations on yourself. And so if you only become moderately wealthy, then you're a huge success. But what society doesn't give anybody, any idea at all is where to stop. And so it's just open-ended.

Student: But if the accumulation

Culadasa: of things is in one sort of leaf system, what's going to make them happy and they keep accumulating and they're still not happy. The tendency is to w when we have something and it doesn't work, the tendency is to do it. Rather than to do an alternative. And so with something like that doesn't have an end.

I think they're trying to be happy and they're there's this fantasy or unconscious wish that eventually they're going to get to that point.

Student: And then finally they will be, I will be happy when

Culadasa: the wind, and it's also like a heroin addiction too, because when somebody gets money, it does make them happy for a while.

And then when that happiness loses its head, if they can succeed and getting some more happy, so more money, then they get some more happiness to go with it. So

Student: how can they treat depressed billionaires?

Culadasa: It's why are the heroin addicts out there who are using an amount of heroin every day that would kill 10 people and they don't get anywhere near the rush off of it that they did when the first time that they used it.

Student: So they,

Culadasa: if muddy didn't provide some degree of temporary happiness, then we wouldn't have the problem. And that we do with the problems that it's not just that everybody in the world is making so much money because the fact is it's a few people in the world have a lot of wealth at the expense of a whole lot of people who have very little that's.

The other part of it is that, when the priority is put on your happiness and when you see the accumulation as a means to bring your value, your happiness it has a very powerful erosive effect on your concern for others and your compassion for others, and it becomes very easy to adopt the attitude that because I haven't, I just.

Because they don't think last night, is that not a predominant attitude in this society? We've just seen a really interesting process where a leader of the country brings it to the attention that a huge number of people have limited access to health care, health insurance. And then we see all the people with a lot of money in the country, very resistant to changing that because he might have to give up a little bit of what they have and underlying that is the attitude that if I'm rich, I deserve to be rich because if I didn't deserve to be rich, I wouldn't be rich.

And if they're poor it's their fault

Student: after all I got rich. That's right.


Culadasa: it doesn't matter. Some of them were terribly hard and did absolutely brilliant things that many other people could not possibly do. And they have the reward of it, but that's not the point.

Student: They've worked hard seriously.

Culadasa: That's right. Yeah. They're spiritually bankrupt, but they've got lots of money in the bank. So this is what we need to examine and say, okay, the world is in trouble and the world is in trouble because it has a set of values that is based on wrong ideas. It just, it is ultimately not to work out.

Student: And

Culadasa: I don't know about you, but the best way that I could see to reduce anonymously, the amount of suffering in the world is if we could produce a shift away from a materialistic accumulation related values to enlightenment oriented values, if people could be made aware that freedom from suffering and happiness can be achieved by another means,

Student: then,

Culadasa: And I'd to, to the degree, they could be convinced of it.

Then there would be a shift in values and people start acting in a different way. [00:25:00] So I think that this is. I would recommend to you that you adopt enlightenment oriented values that you emulate Buddhists, understand as well as you can, how Buddhas are annually Buddhists. And and see if you can't become make yourself into an instrument for the realignment of the values of those around you.

And of course, it's very important that you associate with others who have the same kind of values as the group, that you're a part of expands in size. The boundary that it has with those who have not yet adopted those values is that as values increases as well, but if we just imagined the increasing of a circle then it would seem like it was a problem there because the volume of the circle or an area of the circle increases much more rapidly than the circumference does, but that's not really how we are.

We have contact with it's more of a, our Songa has more of a fractal surface. It's very irregular. It hasn't much larger boundary than just a simple circular line. So the larger our group becomes, the more people we come in contact. And the more opportunity there is to spread these new kinds of values, which will motivate us tremendously.

And it will give us the energy to continue or to SIM. And the more we succeed in making our own personal. The more powerful, the effect that we will have on those around us. So if you would like to save the world,

then the good place to start is right here in yourself. And so if the beginning point is seeing a world filled with suffering and being perpetuating their suffering through misunderstandings and misconceptions,

Then the world that you perceive is a construct of your mind. If you perceive all of this suffering in a negative and critical way, then that's your own, that's your own construct.

But if you can say that, okay,

It's due to causes and conditions that it is this way that I see it this way, that I perceive it this way and that it is up to me in the present to alter the causes and conditions for, but I see in the future, and then you can begin the process of bringing about a transformation.

Now we've looked at we look at Buddhists and we see that the Buddha is understand the emptiness of perceptions. And they understand that the emptiness of the perception itself now where we are, we might not necessarily be able to fully realize that true, but we, to the degree that we can understand it, that's the degree that.

Implemented. So if we take, if we can see that it is the attachment to self that is causing our own suffering, and it's really important that we see that as clearly as we can over and over again. What that means is every time you find yourself unhappy at all, look inside and see, okay, how is it that my attachment to self, to the idea of being a separate self is bringing this

Student: about

Culadasa: how much is my belief.

That things really are the way I see them responsible for my suffering and happiness.

Student: Okay.

Culadasa: Now sometimes it will be really clear and sometimes you'll be working on. A lot of really strong past conditioning. And that's where right. You don't expect, you don't expect yourself to actually be a Buddha before you get to the top of not [00:30:00] right. But you can emulate that. You can act as if you had a greater aware of the emptiness of self than you really do.

It's not hard to figure out how to act that way.

You might not always succeed. That's how it ranked to the force of your past conditioning is something that you can't necessarily alter in the present. You can alter it in the future. Whether that future is five minutes from now or five months from now, what you do now, altered is what it is in the future.

But what it is right now comes from the past and you can't change that.

What you have to work with is the future is the present and the present changes the future. Okay. So you don't blame yourself for the fact that you might still act out of selfish motivations, no matter how hard you try not to you just keep trying not to until you succeed. But what you're going to do is you're going to succeed and you're going to succeed more and more as time goes by.

And in this whole process of examining the causes of your dissatisfactions and the causes of your behaviors, your understanding of the role that your attachment to self on your attachment to beliefs, the things are the way your mind tells you that. You're going to, it's going to become clearer and clearer, the role that this plays in your unhappiness, your dissatisfaction your unwholesome actions and the easier it is going to be to change those views and those attitudes and those behaviors.

And the result of that is the happier that you're going to be in the more beneficial effects you're going to have on others. The more you're going to find yourself surrounded by other people who also are displaying more wisdom than you ever thought, they'd really could more positive and wholesome behavior that you're taking credit for it in the past, it would be a spreading effect.


Student: through which you're saying that you'll see when to foster.

Culadasa: You will, we are all connected. We all respond to the people around us, their attitudes and their behaviors. That's why it's so important to associate with noble companions, right? Because you may not realize it, but you are. Part of your not being the separate self that you feel like you are is that you are mirroring the collective attitudes and behaviors that you're exposed to by your companions, that all the time and what you do, the, your attitudes and your behaviors, are you going to impact other people?

And you're going to have a positive effect, even on people who don't understand any of these Dharma ideas.

Student: The reason is that

Culadasa: everyone has this Buddha nature. Oh boy, that's a big step that I've taken there.

Student: But it's true

Culadasa: that we all do. All of these truths are things that at some level, everyone already knows.

Student: I would like to bring up something in relation to that. I couldn't sleep last night with all this information from the teaching. I thought about my life again too often at night. And how much I can embrace the Buddhist path, how much it brought already into my life since I practice and how much a benefit benefits and everything.

I also know that if I have not involved, had not involved myself in my life, when I was younger, all kinds of really attachments involvement with all senses, pursuing things, finding, searching, I would not be here. So my question is, in terms of most of us maybe are born with the Buddha nature, but we are not

So if the food is highest, then really what you say as a teacher is really a phase after we [00:35:00] have done it, saying, moving on and finding that wisdom. How would you teach young people that need to involve themselves, mate?

Culadasa: How would you teach them?

Student: The wisdom comes you to the, if it comes to the age too, right?

So I was struggling with it. I would not want to give up anything what I experienced, but I'm very happy to arrive now here. When I would not know if I would,

Culadasa: That's true. And it's good to keep that in mind, that there is a sense in which everybody is where they need to be. The question is how long do they need to stay there?

And how do you teach young people? By example is really important. Young people learn so much from observation. Not, they are not nearly as dependent upon what we tell them on what we formally teach, which is a which is a good thing because, we don't spend nearly enough time.

Communicate our communicating our wisdom to young people. And that's what I'm saying, that if you following this path, you're going to be an example to everyone who comes in contact with you. But young people are especially open to that because this is one of the main ways by which that they are learning, they're learning or assimilating so much, but you can't you can't neglect.

Also the, the other forms of teaching and learning as well, but young people do need, they do need to work out there on karma. They, at whatever point you encounter a young person, they already have a history. They already have a conditioning. They have a certain amount of conditioning that they came into this life with and a certain amount of conditioning that they have accumulate.

As a part of this life. And so that's where they are right now. Just the same this with you, and each room where you are as well

Student: but

Culadasa: where a child goes, how they will evolve personally, just as with any of us, adults is not something that is pre-ordained and fixed. If it would, this would all be few times.


Student: Going along with that I'm older now and I feel I'm glad that I've done what I've done and that's how I got here. But on the other hand, part of me wishes that I had done this sooner, when I had less strong conditioning, if I had pursued this and And I still could have had a very full life and I feel like I've had a full life.

But I feel like I could have done it in a more conscious way. There are two sides of the story we are here because of what's happened to us in our past. But I also think if you're young enough to take the opportunity now, to work with your mind and your brain while it's young and much more flexible than perhaps it will be older.

So that's just another side of that same story.

Culadasa: Yes, you're right. Peggy. I agree with you. Totally. And I agree with Hannah. Totally. I look at my own life and on the one hand, there are many things I wish I had done differently, including the way that I approached this path. On the other hand, I look at my life and I can recognize very clearly that couldn't have as much.

As much as I look back and say, I wish I had done this differently. I look at who I was and what my conditioning was in that point in time. And I can say I can see that it was my karma unfolding. That's why I reacted. And that's what I asked why I made the choices I did it didn't have to happen that way.

And it's not that I came into this world and that I was going to have to go through all of the things I did. And I was going to have to mistake, make all the mistakes. I did the entire process evolve every step, along the way. And at every step, there were an infinite number of possible futures.

There was only one possible present, but an infinite number of possible futures, but I don't hold myself at fault for being what Because there's no one to hold at fault for it. I am a process. And I, the process that I am is a part of a much larger process as a matter how it gets all process. This body and mind are not, they don't have the qualities of things that my [00:40:00] mind attributes to them.

They are only processed and they are part of process.

Student: But I don't see just negative. Like I wish I would have done different. I have done things I just don't want to miss. That was main, immensely important for me. Most of it actually, but I still didn't seem to feel as if you live in this same. You have first to build up an Eagle before you can transcend it.

You have first to build that muscle before you let go. So that's what I do. And I had great fun with that was success and lots of suffering too. But the thing is I don't regret anything of that. I, my question is more towards the phases. If I would have a young daughter or a young son, would I tell him or her go involve yourself in the world, as much as you can with all your senses and then see where it leads you with the background of, as conscious as you can, as mindful as you can, as compassionate as you can.

I was not brought up this way, but I would probably want to teach that my children but the wisdom of really experiencing it comes later. Doesn't it?

Culadasa: I would agree with that. And I'm not disagreeing with you. I don't really think they're piggy is. I think what we're, I think you don't,

Student: you

Culadasa: cannot be your children. And one of the problems with parents make is that we either want our children to follow the path we do, or else we want our children to go completely ad, but the thing is that our children are different beings and they have to go their way and to the degree that, which we can guide them and advise them and spare them some of the mistakes and suffering well, that's really, that's wonderful, but we also cannot be attached to it because no matter how much we would like to spare our child, a particular kind of suffering and no matter how clearly we can see the results of the path that they're heading down, if that's what they need to do, then.

That's what they need to do. And at the end of it, you know what, they may look back and they may see it either of the two ways we were talking about, or they may see it both ways at the same time. They may say, I can see that I had to do that because I wouldn't be the one that I am today, if I didn't.

But on the other hand it would be nice if I didn't have to go through that.

Student: So could we I'm still interested in the topic of enlightenment. Yeah.

so I, I think it's all kinds of, it

Culadasa: does but we can get more specifically this point. That's

Student: good. I'm looking here because struck me yesterday that. Okay. On the very first page where you're talking about what an enlightened person is like. And you say they have a deep sense of relaxation that arises from an understanding that there's nowhere else to go and nothing else to do.

And so it's a paradox, a little bit of a paradox because and I think the natural, great perfection, are you familiar with that term? Yeah. Like you can experience that and see that sometimes from the windows and men. And then we get back into our daily struggle and

Can you talk about that? Like why do we have, I know that it's just like this compulsion. It isn't a compulsion, isn't it, John, to want to make things.

Culadasa: It is absolutely. It is a compulsion.

Student: I

Culadasa: chance had obsession, a compulsion obsession. Yes. This one of the things that is the difference between a world lame and enlightened being is that a world lame is driven by compulsion. These are built in not rational mechanisms that make us do things and make us desire, change, and make us take actions to bring about change.

But they're not coming from a place of wisdom. They are, compulsion's, they're different in different part of our thing. And that's why the things that we do, and even the goals that we aspire to are sometimes good, but often not. [00:45:00]And the actions that we take are sometimes. Okay. But they're often, there would be much better ways that we could go about things.

So acting out of compulsion is the nature of a world, worldwide acting out of wisdom and compassion is the nature of a Buddha and an enlightened being who is not yet a Buddha is somewhere between those two to the degree that we still experienced desire. We still experience compulsion to want change, but to the degree that we have overcome desire and aversion, we are capable of bringing about change on the basis of our wisdom and our compassion.

You see what I'm saying? The difference and a very important part of this is, I've said it over again a few times and I think you've all got it, but see how it fits into this is that you accept the present where I am right now is where I am right now. What's happening right now. Okay. I'm at a concentration camp.

Those people are getting gas. They're getting machine gun, I'm getting. This is where I am now is who I have to work with. I met my mansion in Malibu. You can see the sailboats out on the water and the sun shining. Yeah. Where ever you are, is wherever you are. The future is that's what can be changed, not the president.

And the only way that it can be changed is on the basis of where you are right now. And what's happening right now as the present moment evolves. And that's what it means to say that there is no place else to be and nothing else to do. And compare that with how you are so often in your life, in any given day, how many times are you in one place doing one.

And your mind is wanting to be somewhere else, doing something different and to the degree that's happening, how effective are you in the present moment? How well do you even know and experience the present moment?

And keep in mind that's our right, because we're not at a place yet where it can be completely different than that, but we don't have to resign ourselves that we're always going to be in that place. And we can try to bring ourselves in the present moment where

Student: ever you

Culadasa: are

Student: in life.

Culadasa: This is your. It's your path for today. It will be different tomorrow. The one thing you can be certain of is that it will change. Nothing will ever stay the same, but wherever you find yourself, that's the garden for you to be working here,

Student: and

Culadasa: if you're working for your own enlightenment for the sake of other beings, then you don't say, oh this is the wrong place where you are, is the right place.

It's right here. And now that this is where we need to do our work. And when we find ourselves through through to craving, not being able to be present and not being able to work where we are, then we recognize that and we say, huh, there's the problem. Okay. And it may continue to be a. But I'm not going to be ignorant of it.

I'm going to see how it's affecting me. And I'm going to use my mindful awareness to change this so that it is no longer the problem. The formula that all Duca dissatisfaction is the result of craving. It, it is so direct and clear and profound. It's that compulsion that you're talking about to want things to be different than what they call her, which causes the present moment to be dissatisfactory.

Student: It's just like in here,

Culadasa: it is absolutely it's inherent. It's inherent because it's the motor that we were born with to make us go.

Student: And you can, and you have every faith that you can

Culadasa: well, and th [00:50:00] this is a really,

Student: That's right. Yeah. You can't believe

Culadasa: in it like, but since an enlightened being has completely overcome craving, you can't believe that enlightenment is possible until you can see how is possible to function without craving.

And that's

Student: not an easy

Culadasa: thing. There's been a lot of discussion of that. There, there have been a lot of things written about that. And and people who think about this and, they examine themselves and they examine the life. They say, I don't see how this can work. I don't see how being can be free from craving and survive in the world.

And there isn't. That is very widespread. And the Buddhist countries of the world that says when a person reaches a stage of the non returners, overcome all desire and aversion for, th that says if a person achieves the stage on a non returner, if he doesn't take robes and enter a monastery within 24 hours, he won't survive.

That is literally doubly. I, I can show you books where it says that, now this is not wisdom. This is misconception, but it's showing you that the ordinary person who thinks deeply about this can easily come to the conclusion that that's not possible. If you, if that really happened, if you had no desire at all, you couldn't survive.

There's even a person that. Who is not third path, but Hey, he is he is beyond a strain after ad. This is what he said. He said I can imagine that there would be a Buddha or that anybody could be completely free of desire and aversion. And part of what I gave you, there was my reply to him.

If you read the things, it is difficult to understand it, and it can, at some point or other become an obstacle to you, you become, you will discover that you're attached to your craving. I've had those crazy, the whole of my life and everything I've ever done has been directed by this craving.

It's been the motor and the. That steered my boat through the world. And you diff you can find yourself at a point where I'm afraid to give it up because then I'll be lost in the I'll just be lost. I'll be in the Sargasso sea of the spirit with no wind and no current, lost forever.

It's not the case though.

Student: Isn't there a real danger. I

Culadasa: struggled with the concept of looking at the world as this place that is absolutely over brimming with suffering my world. Isn't yes, there, that stuff exists and there are kittens and puppies and babies and sunsets and sailboats

Student: and laughter and a whole

Culadasa: lot of wonderful, beautiful things that.

Student: Yeah,

on some level, it feels

Culadasa: like a myopic view to me when to focus on, on, on the pain and the illusion.

Student: There also there's so much good stuff. It's good. It's like

Culadasa: some people see the world is a scary, dangerous place. And some people see the world as a funny fun place. And it's the same world I guess that's an emptiness.

The way we see the world is the experiences we have. Every experience you've had is a result of your conditioning. It's a result of your karma. It is a product of your mind. Two people can stand in exactly the same place. Side-by-side. And everything that they see and feel, and here is a stent swiftly the same, but one is saying, oh, it's so wonderful.

Either mean is in a state of abject misery and sees only the ugliness.

Student: So you,

Culadasa: when you say my world is filled with puppies and sunsets and also, yeah, that's your good karma. And when you see all the suffering, when you experienced your own suffering, that's your bad karma or good back, whether it's your karma, whatever is the [00:55:00] result of your conditioning, your past conditioning, how your mind has been programmed to create the reality that you're in the moment.

And. You and I, and another person can receive the same sensory input and interpret it in completely different ways, but it's doesn't even happen that way. You and I, and another person have hugely more sensory input available to us and every instant fan we actually take in and process to create our reality.

So we're not even, we're not even in the same place at the same time, although it seems like we are because you are selecting certain parts of the experience to attend to. And each of us is selectively attending to different parts of the experience. And then we are interpreting it. And then we are having an experience that may be a good experience, right?

We would say that's a result of your good karma, but it's only your good karma because the experience you're having as a result is good. That's, what's the difference between good karma and bad karma, it's, if it's conditioned you in such a way that you are having a positive experience then for you, it's good.

And if it's bad for you, it's bad, is that is the access of relevance that our conditioning and the results of our conditioning manifest the law.

But rather than being in this, most of us don't know what's going on. And we feel like. Powerless in the face of the experiences that life presents. So we envy the person who seems to be having a happy life, and we feel really sorry for the person that seems to have have a terrible life.

And then for ourselves when we have a bad time, we say why is this happening to me? And we were having a good time. We say, we don't say anything about it other than, wow, isn't this great, I'm glad this is happening. And the assumption is that this is all due to some kind of power or process or something that's outside of ourselves.

The important thing is discovering that it's not, every bad experience you've ever had has been due to your own condition. That's hard to believe. I know it's hard to believe, but one thing that I've found, it's such an extreme example that it's helpful to look at it just because it can at least shape somewhat that certainty that you have, that experience is dependent upon circumstances.

And that's some of the stories of Holocaust survivors in that, in their events. Some people had true profound, spiritual transformation in the midst of such support and they, they're very educated and literate people who are able to write and communicate that very clearly. And it's, it just, it does illustrate that external circumstances don't have.

The power that we send, that they do, that

Student: I can understand that one of you have other people with children are involved.

How do you digest that? How do you relate to that? If you're a Holocaust survivor whose child was killed in the Hong Kong, how do you know? I can understand you undergoing that transformation yourself when your loved ones are, are suffering to that degree.

How did you relate to that?

Culadasa: How would you relate to that? It's going to depend upon your conditioning in your car. And I had them in the moment that you're trying to relate to it. We talked about this the other night with regard to the suffering that's happening in Haiti. And until, like I said earlier, until you are, until you reached the top of the mountain, you're not really going to be able to fully comprehend,

Student: but [01:00:00] you

Culadasa: need in the present moment to come as close to that understanding as you possibly can.

Which is why it's, it can be helpful to to share the stories of people who have been through that kind of experience to just get some idea of of how it can be dealt with. But yes we love our children and we love the people around us. And we are in sympathy to their suffering.

We suffered when they suffered. This is part of self identification. I don't know whether you can see that, but what we do know our mind constructs a self, and then we suffer when certain kinds of things happen to that self in the same way that we experienced pleasure when certain kinds of things happen to that.

And we have children, we expand the notion of self to include the children and the things that happened to them. Now we react to, from that same identification of selfhood

Student: and.

Culadasa: At the very least that you can see, if you can see that's what's happening when it's happening, it will give you a greater understanding of basically every time you suffer. That's what I said. Or when there is suffering than there is some unwholesome mental attitude that lies at the root of that.

And that there is an attachment to self that is, is feeding the energy into that. So I'm not suggesting that if some terrible thing happens to your child, that you are not going to experience suffering as a result of that, but that is an opportunity. For you like every other occasion you experienced suffering.

It is an opportunity for you to acquire a little more wisdom and to see a little more deeply into it, to lose, to use to use these Dharma principles that you've learned to acquire a little bit deeper understanding to the degree that you're able to do that the suffering may be moderated by a positive by some positive perceptions that will now innate the painful perceptions that you have.

Student: And,

Culadasa: but as you say,

Student: It's not

Culadasa: saying something different than I already. The experience that you're having in the moment is a result of your past conditioning. So your mind is constructing the experience based on that condition and is constructing it in such a way that you were experiencing suffering.

If you can understand how that comes about, then there comes about possibility for change. We hurt when our children hurt, because this creates the compulsion for us to do something. If it's possible to do something, to remedy the situation. And this is our history. We are animals programmed by our nature to act out of compulsion, to serve certain Hans.

And, we have inherited that. Like some animals eat their babies have that's usually because they produce way too many babies for the amount of resources that's available. And so it's conducive to the survival of the babies. They don't eat. If they eat all the others, other organisms produce very few babies and invest huge energy into nurturing and survival.

And so they have a different kind of compulsion. You're not, you don't have the compulsion to eat your babies. You have the compulsion to suffer an act because because that's going to contribute to your small number of offspring surviving better. Okay. Now of course, that doesn't help because you are still the being that you are conditioned biologically and karmically as you are.

So you're going to experience suffering. That's all right. Try to see deeper into that, trying to see [01:05:00] that, try to learn what you can from it and accept that. Yes, this is the kind of being that I am, and yes, I've meant to suffer anytime my child suffers and accept that, but don't resign yourself to that as being the, all the way that you can be.

And it should be obvious that you don't need suffering to be able to take action, to relieve the suffering and to protect your child. It's not necessary, it's there, but it's not essential because you have a completely different capacity than maybe another kind of being. You have a kind of intelligence understanding wisdom that allows you to act in an appropriate way and produce a desirable result, right?

So you don't need this primitive mechanism. That's offering any operating in you. And this is the same principle we're talking about it in your entire life. In everybody's entire life. We are driven by these compulsion's. We don't need to be driven by these compulsion's. We are intelligent. We possess some degree of wisdom, the Buddha natures there with analysts, we can develop those.

And as we develop those, we can't let go of the compulsion. And that's the part that we have to learn to be able to believe and accept. No. Do you believe it is possible? There's such a thing as enlightenment possible? It depends on what you mean by. Alignment is being free of all the compulsion's of a craving desire and aversion.

And so here, you're coming to the question. You've just asked in a different form. Is it possible to be in a state that's free of suffering, craving and aversion. Okay. Thank you

Student: for that. Can I just say something about that? Cause and it's about the movie avatar. If anybody's seen it, I've seen it three times, but I can't help, but think of what are the elements that it makes extraordinarily graphic and that is our indelible intrinsic interconnectedness, and there they suffer greatly.

People on this planet, except for greatly not this planet, but the other plan.

But there's movie in its all, its magnificence shows the well

death. There is this recognition is tangible merging. So in the case of a child, I'm no longer in

the mother tree and this sacred gosh, it, I think it depicted something that's very real, it made it graphic.

Culadasa: Yeah. Some of these things can trigger the arising of wisdom. Anna's not, they won't necessarily have the same effect on everybody, but yeah. Thank you, Pam. I think I better give everybody everything.

Automated transcription

(no transcription available)

You can edit the title and description of this talk to help us organise the content and make it better searchable.

Edit talk