Master Potter ~ how blessings can help


“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.” ~ Albus Dumbledore, Prisoner of Azkaban

Making spiritual progress

dry seeds

In terms of making progress in our meditations and training our mind, what a difference blessings make! Without the water of blessings, our potentials for realizations are said to be like dry seeds that cannot sprout nor grow into a crop of experience. We can push as much as we like at meditation and other spiritual practices, but results will be slow and, quite likely, torturous if we are relying only on our own unblessed minds.

Once upon a time there was an old man called Mr. Donn, who attended classes at Geshe Kelsang’s first Centre, Madhyamaka Centre, right from the beginning. He had been the principal of the art college there in York, and he told us this story one day to illustrate the need for blessings. He was scheduled to visit some student sculptors to survey their work, but when he arrived, a whole two weeks after they’d started, they were still trying to knead the clay into something malleable enough to sculpt! But it was tough and dry and, try as they might, they could get not joy from the task. “Did no one tell you to add this liquid?”, he asked them in surprise. When they shook their heads, he produced a bottle, poured it over the clay, and then magically kneaded it and sculpted it into a beautiful vase. I’ll always remember how Mr. Donn likened that magical liquid that enables us to create whatever we want from the (otherwise intractable) clay to blessings that enable us to create whatever we want from our (otherwise intractable) minds. 

Downloading realizations

As mentioned, the traditional analogy for receiving blessings is watering dry seeds, without which they cannot grow, even in a fertilized ground (analogous to a mind rich in merit or good karma) that is free from stone-like obstructions (analogous to a purified mind). You can check out the preliminary practices section in Eight Steps to Happiness for more on creating merit and purifying the mind, now available as an eBook too. 

In his Medicine Buddha teachings in 2004, Geshe Kelsang said:

“Just pushing in meditation or contemplation, reading books, understanding or studying, these things alone are not good enough because we need to receive blessings from enlightened beings.”

For a 21st century analogy, Kadampa dad likes to talk about “downloading realizations” from our Spiritual Guide! Why not do it if we can, it certainly makes our spiritual practice and path far more effortless and enjoyable. Maybe he can explain more in the comments. 

Everyone is blessed

Even when we don’t try, we receive blessings, because that is a Buddha’s function or job. In his Medicine Buddha teachings in 2004, my teacher said:

We always want to be peaceful and happy. We try to keep our mind peaceful, but it doesn’t work. Generally we say “I should be happy!”, but in reality just wanting to be happy is not enough, happiness is not coming! But sometimes, without any reason, our mind is naturally peaceful, calm, and happy. Where does this come from? Through receiving the blessings of enlightened beings. Even animals such as dogs have this experience. Even when sometimes we go to sleep in anger or unhappiness, in the morning we can wake up peaceful and calm — we’ve changed.

As Shantideva says in the beginning of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Buddha’s blessings are like lightning during a dark night, quickly illuminating the environment and so forth. Similarly, Buddha’s blessings suddenly illuminate our mind with positivity, peace, and calm. At that time we are happy.

As Robert Thomas suggests on Facebook (again rather beautifully): “I was thinking about the definition of a blessing being that which transforms the mind from a negative to a positive state and it occurred to me that blessings come in the guise of many forms. Of course there’s the classic invisible un-seen magical intervention, but often a blessing is felt or transmitted by our friends and family – it can be something they say or do, or just their constant love, perhaps a kind look in the eyes of a stranger, a sunset, a gentle breeze on a hot day. There are so many ways that Buddhas find to bestow their blessings – they come in many forms, in many ways and many places and pervade everything! Ha – i’d never thought of it like that before …”

If we do try, we can tune in and receive special blessings day and night. If “at that time we are happy”, then it follows we can be happy day and night! So, that’s another reason why making spiritual progress is accompanied by increasing happiness.

For the previous articles on this subject, see What are blessings?, Blissings and Blessings are not that mysterious.

Your turn: please share your understanding or experience in the comments box below :-)

Comments

  1. Thankyou for your thought provoking and inspiring reflections on blessings. I offer some thoughts, if only to encourage myself and share my delight in this beautiful subject.
    Venerable Geshe Kelsang has said that the function of Buddha is to bestow blessings continuously upon living beings and cause them to experience inner peace. Often I take these words superficially without relating them to my daily experience; but on those rare occasions when I do … “ my experience of peace now, at this time, is arising from the blessings or inspiration of holy beings effecting my mind here and now”… !!! A completely new world opens up before me.
    Such a difference between words to the ear understood by the intellect, and wisdom from the spiritual guide experienced, even just for a moment, within daily life.
    A beautiful piece of advice that Kadam Morten gave in the NY NKT Fall Festival was to learn to recognise the presence of blessings in our lives. Whenever we experience some degree of inner peace, we should recognise that experience as moments of blessing, to enjoy those moments with an understanding the deep and close connection we have with Enlightened Beings. As he said (according to my recollection – so please forgive mistakes): “When you experience inner peace, right there is your Buddha Nature, right there is Buddha and Buddha’s blessings”
    Often when we experience some inner peace (and I can only speak for myself) we can easily take these moments for granted and let them pass without noticing what is actually happening. When those fleeting moments pass and the clouds of disturbing conceptions have rolled back, covering the pure inner sky of our mind, we are once more unhappy and wondering where we can go to, what can we hold on to or push ourselves away from to return to that pure space. When the mind is peaceful – and thus blessed – it is easy to feel connected to Holy beings and develop our relationship with them. By contrast – again I speak for myself – when the mind has no peace it is hard to develop faith in, or even remember our connection with Buddhas and their unobstructed power to bless and transform our mind. The instinct is to immediately search outside the mind… and so, journey further into suffering. To me this shows a lack of deep understanding of where peace and happiness really come from. We need to take Geshe-la’s teaching, and Morten’s advice to heart – to develop a deep understanding and belief in the non deceptive dependent relationship between Buddhas’ blessings and our own inner experience of peace and happiness.
    The more I think about this dependent relationship and, more importantly, the more I learn to experience it in daily life, the more I start to realise that we are not the independent entities we normally perceive – unrelated to, and separate from everything else in the universe. Normally it feels like our state of mind just is what it is , from its own side, existing as a discreet entity whose qualities of peace or disturbance do not come from anywhere but are simply inherent characteristics of our mind itself. However this feeling is mistaken. Just as a rainbow arises entirely from the gathering of different necessary conditions and cannot be separate from them, so our peaceful mind arises from the blessings of Buddha.
    For me, learning to let go of my sense of independence and separateness goes hand in hand with learning to become more open and receptive to blessings. While, on the one hand we long to feel more connected to Buddhas and be nourished by their blessings, our grasping at an independent self creates the illusion of a big gap between our self and these beings undermining our receptivity. Our mind which we wish to change feels “in here” while Buddhas and their benevolent power seem “out there”. These two, which we yearn to experience as deeply related and connected are held by our ignorance to be truly separate, different , unrelated. While we try to feel ever closer to our Spiritual Guide and develop powerful faith so as to receive the blessings of all the Buddhas, our inner ignorance always holds us at a distance weakening the power of our faith. The ignorance in our heart doesn’t really believe we can change, let alone “be changed” by the influence of a pure being , so “different” and “other” to ourselves. With faith we make sincere requests but ignorance makes it feel as if our prayers are telegraphed across a big existential gap and that blessings are received from some distant Dharmakaya or holy space. Through contemplating the dependent relationship of our own experience of inner peace and blessings we begin to realize that we already have a deep, profound, powerful and intimate connection with Enlightened beings. That relationship is already there – we do not need to create it. But we can learn to recognize it and increase our trust and reliance upon this relationship as a dynamic and vital source of refuge and transformation.
    When I recognize (on the basic level that I am able) that all that I am and all I experience is entirely dependent on other factors, that every moment my mind and my self is being re-created and transformed by many conditions, I let go (however slightly) of my sense of existing independently, permanent and separate. Instead I can begin to experience my self as a dependently arising be-ing, in connection with the universe and receptive to conditions of transformation. There is no real gap between myself and Buddhas, no space between my mind and their blessings. This wisdom opens the heart more and more to the blessings of our Spiritual Guide, which in turn further awaken our Buddha Nature. Likewise there is no real gap or difference between ourself and all other living beings. We already have, right now, a profound, powerful and intimate connection with all the countless mother beings of the universe. We do not need to create this relationship. It is already there. Just by recognizing this relationship our heart begins to open with a natural, uncontrived love and compassion through which the blessings of Buddha can pervade and transform the entire universe.

  2. dharmaprotector says:

    Is there a difference between merit and virtuous seeds?

    • I think merit is the virtuous seeds left in the root mental consciousness by our virtuous karma, and is the potential for happiness and good circumstances.

  3. Jorge Badillo says:

    Blessings give us spiritual force to continue and progress in the spiritual path, and I think, it make us humbles. It’s a way to say: I can’t alone, please help me, be with me… bless me!
    Thanks for your inspirator post!

  4. Thank you so much for these wonderful posts. I am still new to kadampa life and really enjoying every word. I too, need blessings, and need to give blessings, and I am believing the best way is to help in all manner of ways, people, doesn’t matter how, all people need assistance in a variety of ways. So I am making myself available to assist anywhere, and as you say, even a kind look or a smile can be a blessing, so kindness is one blessing I will be giving to everybody. Thank you again. I am learning so much. Fae

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