A Skeptic Awakening at the Foot of One Sage, 2.

This is the next piece in the Venerable Geshe Lhundub Sopa’s introductory teachings, the “lessons before the lessons.” We are still on the verse taken from Nagarjuna, Letters to a Friend. After his teaching, I offer up a commentary, along with some exercises.

 Whosoever was negligent previously

But later became attentive and careful,

Shines forth like the moon freed from clouds,

Just like Nanda, Angulimala, Ajustastru, and Udayana 

—Nagarjuna, Letters to a Friend, Verse 14 (Leslie Kawanura)


Making Use of Your Basic Intelligence

Most of us have the opportunity for liberation because, unlike all other sentient beings, we humans have an inclination of basic intelligence, which is primarily our ability to develop our wisdom and compassion. We have this special ability to differentiate between good and bad. We can obtain an understanding of cause and effect. Animals and other sentient beings cannot reason as we can. It is your own negative thoughts and actions that cover this basic intelligence, this beauty. Therefore, when you choose to study and practice the Dharma and develop your capacity for wisdom and compassion, you too can be free. In your continued carefulness, avoiding evil and negativity, you can get to point where you remain unobstructed. It is your continued conscientiousness to this spiritual attitude that removes the clouds.

Once you obtain a realization of future lives and are thus motivated by the value of the spiritual path you will need further instruction on the three poisons and how they impact your mind and life, how they obstruct you. When you understand how these three poisons cloud your mind you can also become knowledgeable about how to specifically train your mind to become free of them.

 The Three Mental Poisons

Although you can rely on your basic intelligence, the three main poisons often obstruct it. When your mind is dominated by any of these, you will manifest them through your speech and through your mental and physical actions and further negativity will result.

Fortunately, we were given four ancient stories of those who were once under the strong power of these three poisons but found freedom. Their radiance once completely clouded by ignorance, attachment, or hatred, however, on meeting with a spiritual friend, realizing the results of their negative actions, and confessing their wrong ways, they henceforth became very vigilant. Each of these stories reveals the means for freedom and the means to generate the conditions necessary for a fortunate rebirth. You too, from understanding such examples, can be free of the powerful influence of so much attachment and be utterly beautiful like the full, unobstructed moon.

The three poisons can be understood as principle, rudimentary delusions. They are mistaken beliefs that guide your choices and actions. When your mind is clouded by hatred, selfishness, competition, jealousy, or anger you think and act in resultant and harmful ways. Furthermore, these delusions cloud your judgment. In your wrong judgment, as the stories below demonstrate, you can cause yourself and others a great deal of harm.

The root of all these delusions is ignorance—holding a wrong view. When your view is obstructed by ignorance it results in attachment because you believe things exist by their own nature (that they exist absolutely and independently), and as a result, you grasp for them. You have a false conception, exaggerating something’s worth. If you like it you want more and if you see something as unfavorable you exaggerate its faults. Within this wrong view you have the mindset that “I” or “my” or “mine” is absolute and central to everything. It ends up being all about you—what you are going to get or what you are trying to avoid. The Buddhist path entails recognizing your negative mindset and combating it with wisdom and positive attitudes.

Our first story is how Angulimala, once trapped by ignorance, found freedom and even attained arhatship.*

*An arhat is a person who has attained nirvana. This is the final goal of the Hinayana path.

The next blog: Angulimala’s story.

My commentary

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book The Zero Point Agreement: How to Be Who You Already Are. In the chapter on creative manifestation we come to understand how through our appreciation of the Heart Sutra and “emptiness” we can truly manifest our dreams.

“Reliance on actions and their fruits

Within knowing this emptiness of phenomena

Is more wonderful than even the wonderful.

More fantastic than even the fantastic”

–Nagarjuna’s Essay on the Mind of Enlightenment (c. 150–250 CE)

The Paradox of Emptiness

“Basically, what quantum theory says is that fundamental particles are empty of inherent existence and exist in an undefined state of potentialities. They have no inherent existence from their own side and do not become “real” until a mind interacts with them and gives them meaning.” –Sean Robsville, physicist, from “Buddhism and Quantum Physics”

The previous chapters have helped us to understand that we have mistakenly relied upon our assumptions, projections and outward appearances to navigate our lives. We can then begin to appreciate that there is far more to us and to our experiences than our perceptions would have us believe. Oddly, this “more,” this good news, is often called the reality of “emptiness.”  This reality of emptiness is central to helping us to transcend our limited views. And, the understanding of emptiness is to grasp the meaning of the Heart Sutra and the Zero Point Agreement.

Emptiness points to how we are empty of a separate, individual self, while at the same time full of everything. Form of any kind too is empty of a separate existence, but is full of everything in the universe. Let’s revisit how we are all like a drop in the large ocean (the zero point), and how the ocean is in us. You can’t separate the drop from the ocean or take out the ocean from the drop. But the drop is empty of a separated existence. The drop, just as you and I, exist because of everything else that exists. The Sanskrit word for emptiness is shinyata, sometimes translated into “thusness.” It points to how everything—including human existence—is dependent upon everything else existing too. That is to say, everything in this world is interconnected and in constant flux. So, the way to manifest our intentions is by taping into this “thusness” and experiencing our intimacy with all things.

“It’s a big jump for people to understand the dependent nature of reality – no essence to anything, but at a fundamental level, just being able to recognize the mind that places qualities onto external objects and sees them within the object rather than as a mental projection can be a big “ah ha” moment.  At the same time, we have to keep working with the relative nature of conventional reality to unravel the good from the bad, the positive from the negative. It’s quite the process this delicate middle way.” –Cathy Kennedy, a forty year student of the dharma who is always humbled by this process of discovery.

Discovering The Thusness of Life

1.Practice this: Take some time to find anything that is permanent, unchanging and could exist entirely on its own. (Of course you won’t but give it a try).

2. Reflect on some possession that you like, your car for example. Notice first how it is impermanent (how it won’t last). Consider also the impermanence of satisfaction you get from the car. (This isn’t to say you don’t get any satisfaction but notice its flux and limits).

3. Then consider how this object came into being through dependence upon specific causes and conditions: metal, factory workers, and so forth.

4. Now, see if this understanding of its dependence on other phenomenon conflicts with its appearance as exiting in its own right, independently. How can it exist wholly independently if it can only come into existence interdependently?

5. Contemplate this poem by Kabir:

Inside this clay jug there are canyons and pine mountains, and the maker of canyons and pine mountains!

All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions of stars.

The acid that tests gold is here, and the one who judges jewels.

And the music that comes from the strings that no one touches, and the source of all water.

If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth:

Friend, listen: the God whom I love is inside

–Kabir, “Inside This Clay Jug,” version by Robert Bly, The Kabir Book: Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir


“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

For more on Geshe L. Sopa and his teachings go to Deer Park’s website: http://www.deerparkcenter.org

91 thoughts on “A Skeptic Awakening at the Foot of One Sage, 2.

  1. Según los resultados de los antecedentes clínicos y la exploración física, también pueden realizarse análisis de sangre para detectar trastornos no reconocidos con anterioridad, como diabetes y trastornos tiroideos lipídicos.

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