Good morning everyone! Welcome to today's Dharma Espresso.
Last week in our Bodhisattva training, we discussed a very difficult part, which was the practice. Therefore, we focused on the practice of The Six Hands of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and did not elaborate on the theory. 160 participants stayed in class and practiced diligently. The focus of our practice was how to transform ourselves from a worldly person to a transformation body of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. That focus seems easy, but actually it will take a long time to accomplish.
Once, somebody asked me whether I could predict how many days, months, or years that (s)he needed to practice to become the transformation body of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. That person asked jokingly, but I responded seriously. My response was that, the most difficult step to do was to change our daily habits, and then our prejudices, and our points of view.
Bodhisattva practice is to change our viewpoints and way of life. We cannot change our way of life without changing our points of view. Therefore, when we study the practice of Six-Hands, or today, when we start our practice program in Santa Barbara, we have to change our points of view first, and then change our habits. I want you to remember this: “Prejudice lives longer than Right View”.
Prejudice is spontaneous ideas, thoughts, or viewpoints formed in our mind and it is very difficult for us to eliminate them. Prejudice is the eyes through which we see things; therefore, we will never see our own prejudices. We act and think according to our prejudices. Similar to a car on the road, the road is our prejudice. We look at the road and continue our path; we cannot destroy the road. Prejudice is the foundation on which we look at the world. We often say that “we have blind spots”. Prejudice is our great blind spot.
What is Right View? Right View is the new point of view that follows the teachings of the Buddha, of those who have been enlightened. Right View is the view of the Dharma. It is very important to follow them and evolve so that our viewpoints get better with time.
Right View is the first of the Noble Eightfold Path, followed by Right Thoughts….
Right View is very important, but not easy for us to see. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of it, but it was overpowered by our prejudice. Some prejudice is very long-lasting. For example, when we hate someone, it is not easy for us to change our perception about that person if we do not have any contact and know nothing about his/her life. I used to hate a bulldog because it killed a chicken with its bite in the Hoa Nghiem garden where I spent my retreat. I also disliked its ugly face. But a few years ago, I saw an injured bulldog with tears coming out of its eyes, looking so pitiful. This made me understand that dogs were not different from humans. In order to change our viewpoints, we need to understand that not all dogs are the same. Some of us are afraid of dogs; we are scared by just their bark and would not think of touching them. I was one of those; I never dared to pet a dog. Gradually, I realized that it was only my prejudice. When I pet a dog and it licked my hand, I felt a sense of closeness that erased my prejudice against dogs. Similarly, for humans, sometimes we have a strong prejudice against somebody that we would not change until we are in contact with that person. What would we think if that person would later become our savior?
Being a bodhisattva is to help awaken people. Sometimes those we hate the most might be the transformation body of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva! This means that perhaps the person we hate the most could be ourselves and we have to accept ourselves to transformo into a kind person like Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. The process of transforming ourselves into the transformation body of Kwan Yin Bodhisattva is the process of changing our behavior from disagreeable to lovable. Instead of making others feel uneasy and uncomfortable, using obnoxious, hurtful words, we use kind and pleasant words to make people feel accepted. That change is an important step. Some people are very close-minded, get offended and upset easily, but we should become more open and accepting. We should forgive easily when people apologize. We don’t even need to receive apologies; we can change our viewpoint overnight and become open and accepting. We can become humble. Don’t be arrogant, do not think too much of our status in the society.
Therefore, we have to change-- but what do we change? We need to change our perception about ourselves. The self-perception is called prejudice: the prejudice that we are always better than others…. This is the task not only of one person but of the whole community. Our community should also change. We should endlessly embrace new views and be humble. The best thing in life is to always recognize our blind spots and prejudices. The process to achieve this task is called the practice of following the Right View.
Thank you for listening to today's Dharma Espresso. I wish you a peaceful day!
Good morning everyone!
Welcome to today's Dharma Espresso.
Yesterday we said, "Prejudice lives longer than right view.” In other words, right view dies faster than prejudice. Prejudice is a viewpoint. In the beginning, it uses much of our energy. But once a prejudice is formed, we keep repeating that view or that thought, so it no longer requires much energy from us. In the beginning, right view is also difficult to build. For a right view to arise, much energy is required. First, the energy of the right view must overcome the power of the prejudice. Secondly, once it has transcended, it has to stand firmly on its own. Thus, a right view oftentimes requires much more energy than a prejudice does.
For example, someone made us lose face, so we get angry. Once we get hurt, we treat that person like an enemy we have to retaliate. We begin to form other biases about that person: He's not good; he badmouthed me; he wants to ruin me, etc. Those thoughts are gradually built up into prejudices which were built on our hurt feeling, anger, and resentment. In the beginning, we didn't pay attention to these prejudices which entered us quietly and stayed inside us. When we met that person again, we easily saw him as a wicked or bad person. Later on, after a few more unexpected encounters, our view about him got clearer and clearer. He is indeed a wicked person. He hasn't changed a bit. We begin to see wickedness in his habits and in everything he does. Those biases, perceptions, and thoughts were formed from our acute hurt feelings from the time he criticized us or scolded us. Those biases gradually turn into prejudices. We start to gossip about that person, whom he went with, whom he talked to, etc. We do that for venting and for self-justifying. That is when we get stuck in our prejudice. No matter how much that person improves, or even if he asks for forgiveness, it is still difficult for us to form a new view about him. Months and years may pass, that person may change, may have done good things for society, and may have even asked forgiveness, we still cannot easily change our view about him to a right view. If someone says something good about him, we would only agree reluctantly and still feel uncomfortable deep inside us, still think bad about him. We then try to contradict the good story about our enemy. Hence, it is very difficult to raise energy for the right view.
Once the energy of prejudice is well-established deep inside us, it is indestructible. Gradually and unknowingly, we become a person full of prejudices. When the Buddha talked about liberation, we should not think about faraway places like Nirvana or the pure land of boundless light. No, we are liberated only when we have eliminated our prejudices and destroyed our own boundaries that we have built for ourselves. Our house is always empty and large. Now if we put a pile of things there, they stay put there. Once we invite a guest to our house, give him a bedroom, and feed him, he wouldn't want to go anywhere else. Whatever stuff we purchased, do we realize they are only for temporary use? -No! When we acquire things, we think they are ours for good.
And they are not just prejudices but also things that burden our life and keep us from being free. Our house, our rooms should be empty and clear; instead, they are full of garbage. After a while, we are so used to it and don't even think that we have to throw it out. No, we are so accustomed to keeping it. There are prejudices we can see clearly in front of us, and there are people who told us about our wrong views regarding that person, but we ignore them all. The prejudices keep staying with us through the years, and like wrinkles on our face, impossible to erase. Consequently, our life gets heavier and more burdened. Prejudices are heavy burdens.
Therefore, we should find a way to gradually recognize our prejudices and our wrong views to let go of them one by one, not all at once. The act of gradually letting go is tremendous. It is the act of liberation. To let go is to be liberated. Forming right view also takes a lot of energy. We can do it eventually, but we should begin some place. Maybe we should begin with our feeling of acute pain when we talk about a certain person. That acute pain should be our beginning place. We know we should change our viewpoint about that person.
As living beings, we can all change. If others don't change, we should accept them. That acceptance leads us to embrace and accept the fact that we also make mistakes, that we are not always right.
Thank you all for listening to today's Dharma Espresso. I wish you a happy day.
(Translated on September 12, 2017)