The Reflection in the Mirror

Dalai Lama at US CapitolToday is the 75th birthday of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

This is from the transcript I made of teachings His Holiness gave on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland at UCLA in 1997. I believe I posted part of this before, but it well worth re-posting and rereading. In this passage, the Dalai Lama talks about the importance of having the right motivation on the part of both teacher and student.

These are also useful guidelines for bloggers to keep in mind. I have not come across much discussion about the role of motivation in “Buddhist” blogging. Our egos are just bundles of thoughts, and it is very easy to fall into the trap of self-aggrandizing one’s thoughts, or writing ability, level of education, or assume some of the other self-driven attitudes that the Dalai Lama describes:

So the explanations I’ve given so far, on the basic tenets of Buddhism and the basic framework of the Buddhist path, are based on the explanations given by great masters like Nagarjuna and other true masters of India.  And the explanations given, in their words, should not be viewed only in academic terms, as some sort of scholarly exposition, but they also reflect insights which come from the personal experiences of these great masters.

For example, in my own case, although I don’t claim to have any profound experience or realizations of these facts that the great masters are talking about, I can assure you, that from my own personal experience, as a result of continued persistence, that what is taught in these scriptures is truly powerful.

These teachings can make a difference and they can have an impact on your mind, in the sense that they can bring about an inner-change, a transformation.

One thing I realize as I’m here, so far as the potential for developing within us the wisdom penetrating into the true nature of reality is concerned, we are all absolutely equal. Everybody has these potentials. The question is whether one recognizes that fact and whether one utilizes or develops these potentials. That is entirely in the hands of the individual, but if one recognizes this fundamental fact of equality, the possession of the potential, and utilizes that knowledge, then each of us has a real chance of bringing about real spiritual change within us.

I would like to remind all of you who consider yourself practicing Buddhists to reflect upon the point raised in the sutra that we should relate to the teachings in the scriptures like the mirror. We should see our own thoughts, feeling, actions, and so on reflected in the mirror and constantly judge to what extent of thoughts, feelings, behavior, and motivation are close to that reality reflected in the mirror, or to what extent they are deviating from the scriptures, and it is through that constant comparison and checking that you should adopt the practice.

It is very important for practicing Buddhists to unsure the right kind of attitude and motivation, particularly when participating in a teaching or a lecture like this. For example, if my motivation as a teacher is colored by considerations or thinking that if I give this series of lectures I’ll be famous or that you’ll be impressed by my teaching skills or people will have high regards for me – or worse, if I am motivated by considerations of monetary gain – then of course, on the surface it may seem a spiritual work but in substance it becomes another act for accumulating non-virtuous merit. Similarly, on the part of the students, if your motivations are influenced by considerations like “If I attend these teachings I will increase my knowledge of Buddhism, I will become an expert, I will be able to impress other people, I will be able to write and be famous – such considerations are flawed. In such a case, what you are doing here may seem like a dharma activity but, in reality, it is a non-dharma activity.

Therefore it is very important for us practicing Buddhist to always reflect upon such profound thoughts, such altruistic thoughts like the ones we find in the beginning of the first verse of the Eight Verses on Training the Mind which state, “Whenever I am with others, may I always see myself as lower than others, from the depth of my heart may I always take others as dear and precious.”

It is quite rare, for us as individuals, to engage in the practice of dharma. So when we do find ourselves engaging in a dharma activity, it is all the more important to make sure that it really becomes a dharma activity. Now, behind me are a lot of Tankas of Buddha Shakyamuni. If they are displayed as an object of veneration, admiration, and faith, then that is wonderful. But if they are displayed here a part of a decoration, then I thing that is wrong, sot the point is that we should constantly check our motivation in whatever we do.

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4 thoughts on “The Reflection in the Mirror

  1. “I have not come across much discussion about the role of motivation in “Buddhist” blogging.”

    I don’t think a great discussion has happend, though I’ve seen a few bloggers openly question their motivations for it. For me, it’s a way to keep writing, a passion that I’ve always had. And it’s a way for me to engage with other Buddhists, as well as engage my practice in a meaningful way. It’s also a great record of my progress. For instance, if I had to write about the 8-fold path today, it wouldn’t look anything at all like the posts I did on it 2(?) years ago. It keeps me honest, and I’ve learned much from engaging with other bloggers.

    1. That’s great, Adam. Thanks for your response. You’ve mentioned one thing I have not thought much about and that is the blog as a record of one’s progress. I started this blog mainly because I wanted to express myself on a few things, and now a few months down the road I’m not sure what to do with it. I am not that comfortable revealing or discussing the personal aspects of my practice or life. I’m not sure that anyone would find it very interesting for one thing, and it’s just not my nature to be revealing. But you’ve given me something to think about, which only proves your last point that we can learn much by engaging with each other.

  2. I learn as much from The Zennist who never posts anything personal as I do Emily from Peace Ground Zero who gets very personal and reveals a lot on her blog.

    Another thought: At first I was dead-set against promoting my blog, as I never wanted it to be about the number of readers that visited my blog, and I didn’t want to give my ego another way to feed itself. But then I realized that if I didn’t promote it a little, I wouldn’t get the kind of dialogue and discussion there that I’ve seen lately. I started promoting on reddit, and I’ll get 50 or so hits from there, but I’ll get at least 1 comment usually too. It’s the level of discussion I’m after, not the hit counter. But in order to achieve that, I had to draw in the readers. A thin line to walk at times.

    1. Good point. That was another reason why I started my blog – to foster some dialogue. That hasn’t worked out too well yet.

      As for blog promotion, while I think it is important to check our motivation, sometimes we can take the whole ego thing a bit too far. There is nothing wrong with having something to say and wanting it to share it with others. In fact there seems to be no point in having a blog if others don’t read it. I engaged in shameless promotion of this blog only this morning and I make no apologies for it.

      What I had in mind when I made the comment on this post was that there are a few blogs out there that cause me to wonder about the motivation behind them, including several that seem to be little more than long-winded writing exercises by pseudo-intellectuals . . . well, they may be real intellectuals, but merely showing it off does not to me constitute good writing. Your blog is not one of them.

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