Lama Zopa Rinpoche advises:
"We take refuge all the time. We take refuge when we sleep, take shelter, seek friends, do business, and so many things. People in the world try so many things to find satisfaction, and all externally, but nothing external can bring satisfaction. Those who are able to succeed, to have external success, to become wealthy, to enjoy comfort, usually also experience increasing mental problems.
The reason for this is that nothing gives lasting satisfaction. So life is filled with depression and sadness.

For example the famous singer Elvis Presley. Even though he passed away quite a long time ago, people still miss him and try to act like him. He had so many friends and was so extensively known in the world, but when he was singing his last song he had tears in his eyes. Why did he cry ? No reason to feel sad if everybody loved him. What I mean is, if that is the solution for happiness then he shouldn't be upset. This example shows clearly that worldly success doesn't necessarily lead to happiness.

The food for the mind is the wisdom understanding Dharma. That which brings inner peace, because happiness and suffering do not come from outside, they come from ones own mind. They come from whichever label the mind makes up and believes in. An example, one puts a set of labels onto something and then anger arises, such as 'this person’s way of thinking talking and behaving towards me is bad. This hurts me, so it is bad.' Because we put on all these labels which were made up by the ego and attachment, anger arises.

"Without Dharma there is no happiness.
No temporary happiness, no ultimate happiness, Nothing "

But why do we interpret, even though it hurts the ego and attachment, that the person hurt ME? That is because one is a friend of the ego and attachment, so it looks like the person is hurting oneself. From this point of view, one can see that the problem is created by the mind. One can also see that when ones mind does not follow the ego, it does not disturb one, no matter what the other person does with his body, speech and mind. Even if they criticize and show dislike, one doesn't see it as harmful.

That is why the person who is practicing pure Dharma, who has cut the clinging to this life, never reacts with an emotional mind. There is always tranquillity and peace in the heart. Because there is no attachment, that person never experiences ups and downs, depression or loneliness. When ones own mind becomes Dharma, Bodhicitta, the person who criticizes one is never seen as harmful, he only becomes a cause to develop more compassion. In the view of Bodhicitta, that person becomes an object of help.

When ones mind becomes Dharma, the wisdom realizing emptiness, the subject, object and action are all seen as merely labeled by the mind. Even though another person may hurt ones ego, he does not hurt the mind. Just like a dream. In a dream, someone may criticize one badly, but if one recognizes the dream as a dream, one is not hurt. The person who believes that this is reality becomes emotional, what the other person does effects them and anger can arise.

In the view of a mind that has become Dharma, has become patience, the person who criticizes is seen as most kind. Without someone having anger towards oneself, one can never practice patience, one can never develop the path completely and one cannot achieve full Enlightenment and lead numberless beings to that state. Just as one needs friends in ones life for happiness, more crucial, one needs people to have anger towards one for training one's mind on the path. It is many billions of times more important for someone to have anger towards oneself due to the incredible benefit that one can get.

" Happiness and suffering don't come from outside,
they come from ones own mind"

Dharma practice is extremely important. A billion times more important than job, money, food and so forth which are regarded as important by common people in the world.

Without Dharma there is no happiness.

No temporary happiness, no ultimate happiness, nothing.

So there one can see the advantage of taking refuge. By taking refuge in the Dharma, the wisdom realizing emptiness, one is able to cut the root of samsara. One is able to be completely liberated from the entire suffering and its causes. By taking refuge in the Dharma, in Bodhicitta, one is able to complete the two types of merit and achieve Enlightenment.

By taking refuge in the Dharma, one naturally takes refuge in its founder, the Buddha. Then there is the need of helpers on the way, the Sangha. Just as a sick person has to rely on doctors, medicine and nurses to get better. The doctor understands the disease, the medicine is the actual treatment and nurses help one to take the medicine.

One takes refuge in the three jewels in order to completely cease the cause of suffering, and to never give rise to it again. One takes refuge in order to cease the cause of depression, relationship problems, loneliness, AIDS, cancer etc. and to never experience them again. All these problems come from the mind so one has to cease that mind. For this to happen, one needs to rely on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

According to the Lesser Vehicle there are two causes of refuge. One is the understanding fear, not ignorant fear, but the fear that understands how samsara is in the nature of suffering. The other is the belief that Buddha, Dharma and Sangha have the power to liberate one from the entire samsara and its cause. A mind being perfected with these two causes is called taking refuge.

The Mahayana way of taking refuge is similarly based on both fear towards samsara and faith in the Triple Gem. On top of that comes compassion. Wishing other sentient beings to be free from the suffering of Samsara as well, due to understanding that they are suffering just like oneself. This is the Mahayana way of taking refuge.

The above is an excerpt from a teaching delivered Ven. Lama Zopa Rinpoche on 14th January 1995, at Root Institute in the holy place of Bodhgaya, India.


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