Twin Cities KTC AND Hay river KTC Buddhist Meditation Centers

Given by Lama Tsultrim Yeshe on June 19, 2022. This teaching is based on the book by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Excellent at the Beginning: Discovering the Buddhist Way, Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Rinchen Publications, 2015. 

May all sentient beings have happiness and causes of happiness. 
May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. 
May all sentient beings never be separated from the great happiness that is free from all suffering.
May all sentient beings experience the state of equanimity which is free from aversion and attachment.

Immeasurables can also be: 

  1. Loving-kindness
  2. Compassion 
  3. Sympathetic joy
  4. Equanimity. 

This is a Mahayana teaching on bodhicitta (awake mind), the vast attitude of helping all sentient beings temporarily and ultimately. They are limitless, or immeasurable because we extend them to all sentient beings who are limitless in number. They are immeasurable—beyond any limits, conception, boxes, or boundaries and inexhaustible. 

This is also a type of mind training through developing the right attitude and right motivation. Right attitude: Understand that you and all sentient beings have buddha nature. Buddha nature is also the source of right motivation: It is a genuine interest in benefitting others. This is our endowment, our potential that we share with other sentient beings.

Loving Kindness

Our minds, our Buddha Nature, are endowed with loving-kindness. It means being sensitive to the well-being of others. “Loving-kindness is the ability to have a sense of warmth and caring for the well-being of ourselves and others.” p. 116

If we look clearly at our present approach, it’s easy to see that we are interested in others because of who they are to us—friends, relatives, etc. We separate people into mine and not mine/others. Others are kept out and we feel aversion toward them. Perhaps we are irritated when they do well or have something we don’t. Those we are close to need to live up to our expectations or our view of them decreases, animosity increases, possibly to the point of becoming an “other”. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche stressed that “There is no benefit from this kind of loving-kindness.”

If we were truly interested in their well-being, why would we change our minds about them? Why would we get angry at them or do things to hurt them? It is because our loving-kindness is based on selfishness.” p. 118 

Everyone is constantly pursuing well-being as the goal of their actions; everyone wants to be happy. True loving-kindness is a “genuine and heartfelt concern for the well-being of others.” p. 118

We can develop it. When you have a loving thought for one being, extend it to all sentient beings. It is just thought. This doesn’t take any physical effort or more than an instant of time. “Because of the unobstructed nature of mind, there is no limit other than those we impose.” p. 119

This attitude frees us from jealousy. It frees us from “self-imprisonment and self-indulgence.” One thought of loving-kindness frees us—even if it is just a little freedom. This mental activity affects the quality of the thoughts we introduce to our minds. We don’t have to be a slave to whatever arises. Our thoughts determine how we feel and act.

Jealousy and other kleshas are not part of our inherent nature. Having loving thoughts, caring thoughts, for all sentient beings, over and over, is the way out. This gives us a spacious feeling and we can be joyful when others have positive experiences instead of being jealous. We also need to be aware when aversion arises because then irritation follows and we start to feel envious.

If our motivation for loving-kindness is self-interest, the antidote is to contemplate our emotions and be aware of what is in our mind. Know that the ultimate goal of all sentient beings is to be happy but we continue to create more karma that will lead to no happiness in future lives.

Concern for others is of great benefit to us. We need to be careful to do it repeatedly and not intellectualize it. To train in love we do this over and over. This concern for others is of great benefit now and in our next lives. We need to be careful to do it repeatedly and not intellectualize it. Just do it.

“Seemingly external problems are not as serious as self-created problems and so this is where we should put most of our attention.”

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche

May All Sentient Beings Have Happiness and the Causes of Happiness

This refers to both relative and absolute well-being and giving birth to and accumulating the causes of happiness. It frees us from confusion and suffering.

Our thoughts determine how we feel and act. To go to the root of the problem, we continually have thoughts of loving-kindness and compassion without a storyline related to personal negativity. We can stop this negativity with thoughts of loving-kindness and compassion. 

There are three causes of happiness:

  1. Proper discipline or conduct, performing virtuous actions
  2. Meditative stability and concentration free from the distractions of kleshas
  3. Training in wisdom

Happiness doesn’t have to be a big thing. For example, the happiness of seeing a dandelion blooming in a pavement crack. Even though we call it a weed and think it may not belong there, it’s still a pretty yellow flower.

If we have ego involvement, things become territorial and clinging through an aversion to “others”. We work on compassion for ALL sentient beings—humans, animals, fish, and insects, (including spiders). This aspiration to free all beings from suffering and not experience further suffering creates positive karma.

If you can do this first immeasurable, then you can do the others. If you can’t do this then you can’t do the others.

Compassion

Limitless compassion has the qualities of openness, accommodation, and spaciousness. With ego involved, it becomes territorial and clinging—for my friends, my circle, my people, and aversion for others. Being limitless, we understand that all sentient beings long for freedom from pain just as we do. No one is left out. After all, there is a limitless number of beings also.

“Compassion means having a genuine aspiration for all beings to be free from suffering.” p. 123

May All Sentient Beings Be Free From Suffering and the Causes of Suffering.

To “be free of suffering” refers to the present suffering beings are experiencing. “The causes of suffering” refers to karma and the three poisons that produce karma. Habitual patterns are another type of karma.

Our anger, resentment, rejection, and grudges cause suffering in our lives and in the lives of others. “While we are in a state of anger and hatred, we experience pain, and the consequences of our aggression will be a further experience of confusion, which leads to even more pain and suffering.” p. 123

The confused way to look at our aggression is that it is caused by external circumstances which we try to control or get away from. With compassion, none of this can arise. Practicing limitless compassion brings freedom from suffering in the present and leaves karmic traces for future freedom from suffering. When we generate compassion we free ourselves from aggression and hatred. It is very beneficial and very profound. 

There are three types of suffering:

  1. The suffering of suffering. This is not only physical suffering but mental suffering as well. It can also be thought of as one (bad) thing after another.
  2. The suffering of change. Everything is interdependent. We think things are real, true, and permanent but they aren’t. They can’t bring themselves into existence or stop themselves from changing. Things are true only from the view of the perceiver. When we experience happiness it seems real but it doesn’t last and is quickly gone. If it were intrinsic happiness it would not change.
  3. All pervasive suffering. Everyone who is born dies. There will always be a basis for suffering as long as we are confused and have ego-clinging.

May All Sentient Beings Never be Separated From the Great Happiness That is Free From All Suffering

Sympathetic Joy

Supreme, unsurpassable joy is the ultimate experience of an awakened mind. It is indestructible. We want all sentient beings to be happy, free of suffering, and to experience the ultimate, absolute awakened mind. Relative happiness is temporary and has the potential for future suffering. 

May All Sentient Beings Experience the State of Equanimity Which is Free From Aversion and Attachment

Equanimity

We tend to have an attachment to those near to us and an aversion to those who are far away. This is egoistic clinging. Ego is taking that which is not a self to be a self and that which is not other to be other. For example, if the tea in my cup had inherent existence I wouldn’t have to make it every time. If you had inherent existence you wouldn’t need to be born and wouldn’t die. If the world had inherent existence then nothing would ever change. 

If we look at something like this puja table, we think it is solid. But if you consider quantum theory in physics, at an atomic level nothing is solid. There is a difference between relative reality, which is what we interact with daily, and ultimate reality which can only be realized through study,  contemplation, and meditation. 

When we are free of dualistic clinging there is equal compassion and love for all beings. “Such equanimity is the fruition of immeasurable loving-kindness, immeasurable compassion, and immeasurable joy.” p. 127

The Four Immeasurables are the heart of Mahayana Buddhism, embracing the qualities of greatness of heart, greatness of motivation, all-encompassing openness, and great fearlessness. This only happens through training the mind. Take them into your experience and don’t just give them lip service.

Putting effort into formal meditation practice and mindfulness is the only way to achieve enlightenment. The quality of practice and actions when not meditating are crucial. Equally important is the motivation for all our actions—to benefit all sentient beings. This is what we are working to achieve, this motivation.

Dedicating merit to all sentient beings is very important. You should do this after any and all virtuous actions and at the end of the day. By doing this, slowly there will be results, seen and experienced as changes. Without proper motivation, there will be few results. Your actions will be influenced by neurotic tendencies and you will engage in more unvirtuous actions.

Don’t limit your practice by wanting temporary results.

Be motivated to have ultimate results for you and all sentient beings.

Karmapa Khyenno

Lama Yeshe

Transcribed by Ellie Strand—any and all mistakes are mine.