Beneficial believing

To carry on from here, I want to add that conventional reality is not just a question of agreeing with each other. There is no safety in numbers. I was just reading about the odd phenomenon of presumptive nominee Trump:

The internet creates a sense of universality; it’s easy to think your bubble is more representative than it actually is. Facebook curates our feeds so we get more of the stuff we ‘like.’ What do we ‘like’? People and posts that agree with us. It’s sort of a mass delusion. ~ The Week

hallucination 1We can all be wrong about something and agree; in fact we often are. So my point about conventional reality being collective hallucination in the last article only goes that way around – collective hallucination is not necessarily conventional reality, it can just be sheer madness with no basis in any reality. For we are hallucinating both conventional truths and non-existents.

No dream, no dreamer

It is so helpful to use our dreams to delve into reality, as explained here. Geshe Kelsang gives this beautiful verse in The Oral Instructions of Mahamudra:

All my appearances in dreams teach me
That all my appearances when awake do not exist;
Thus for me all my dream appearances
Are the supreme instructions of my Guru.

I often think too, when I wake up and the dream has disappeared, the dream has gone and so has the dreamer. If there was never a real dream, where was the real dreamer? So where is the I who is now awake also? Dream minds, people (including ourself), and objects are all created by the self-grasping dream mind. Waking minds, people, and objects are all created by the self-grasping waking mind.

Beneficial believing

Understanding lack of true existence is the wisdom realizing emptiness and it will set us free from samsara permanently. However, although a direct loverealization of emptiness is our goal, we also need to learn what to do with appearances for our own and others’ sake. Eventually we will come to see appearances and emptiness (lack of true existence) as one object, at which point those appearances are no longer technically conventional truths, but ultimate truth.

Ultimate truth appearing.

So, meanwhile, until we realize this union of appearance and reality directly, how are we to navigate through the false appearances, the hallucinations, and make our lives meaningful?

I think through “beneficial believing,” as Geshe Kelsang has called it — believing things not because they are true from their own side, but because they are beneficial and will lead us in the right direction. This includes toward the one and only true object, the only truth that exists in the way that it appears — emptiness or lack of true existence — realized by our very subtle mind, the clear light of bliss.

(By the way, even ultimate truth is not ultimately true – even emptiness is empty of inherent existence.)

Buddha’s teachings are divided into two: the instructions for directly realizing emptiness (wisdom practices) and everything else (method practices). Method practices such as renunciation and compassion do not apprehend ultimate truth directly, but they do apprehend the best of the conventional or relative truths, and they lead us to relative happiness, including the requisite merit or good karma for developing the Form Body of a Buddha. Method practices nurture the growth of our Buddha nature and wisdom practices free it from obstructions.

Fulfilling our two basic wishes

To reiterate, as Geshe Kelsang says in Modern Buddhism:

All conventional truths are false objects because the way they appear and the way they exist do not correspond. ~ p. 129

bear quiz
This may help me, relatively, up the mountain.
In other words, conventional truths are all fake. However, some conventional truths are more useful than others; so those are the ones we need to focus on to go in the direction we want to go in. Which is? We all want to be happy all the time, and we never want to suffer. Anything that takes us toward the fulfillment of those wishes can be described as beneficial believing, or even wisdom.

For example, although neither me nor you exist from our own sides and are creations of self-grasping, understanding the equality and interdependence of ourselves and all other living beings (as explained in the mind-training teachings) is far more realistic and valid, and therefore beneficial, than grasping onto an isolated or inherently existent self and other. These do not exist even relatively, do not appear to any valid mind; for no one in the universe can agree, for example, that I am the only real me.

Here is an example.

“I don’t understand it!”

If we ever wonder why we get so confused in our dealings with others, we need look no further than the fact we are all hallucinating and not all our hallucinations match up. A sad friend told me this week that someone broke up with them and they can’t understand it — they were sure they were getting on so well and that the other person really liked them too. And according to them that felt like the truth; but according to their ex-lover it did not. So where did that truth exist? Did it exist at all?

Unlike a chair that we are agreed we can sit on, what was appearing so vividly to their attachment never existed. All they had was their own version of events, total projection, and in this instance no shared reality. The ex-lover’s apparent truth, that this person was no longer love 1interesting or whatever, was also not objective but a mere reflection of her own mind. In this instance, these reflections did not coincide. Their perceptions were not in agreement, in fact they clashed, and so pain arose. It’s happening all the time with all of us.

When we manage to let go of our delusion of attachment for people, all we are losing is our illusions. Letting go of illusion, we are now free to experience a totally different and more realistic relationship. It seems that the best “truth” to be salvaged from these kinds of situation is love and compassion recognizing our equality and interdependence and wishing the other person to be happy and free. That mind is valid, for its object does have a relative truth to it. And it fulfills our basic wish, it makes us happy again.

More coming soon. Meantime, your comments are most welcome! Just use the box below 🙂

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

7 thoughts on “Beneficial believing”

  1. Hi,

    I was researching for my teaching on compassion and I came across this article on Beneficial Believing. When I read the passage that, while everything is empty of inherent existence, some are still beneficial than others, I thought of an analogy. It is like watching movies. We all know that movies are not real but some movies are beneficial for our practice while others are just pure nonsense and are simply source of distraction.

  2. As it happens, I’ve been contemplating these very lines–“Thus for me all my dream appearances
    Are the supreme instructions of my Guru.” Let us say you are antagonized by someone who knows you’re in a vulnerable position and gets a bang out of tormenting you. You offer the victory. You accept the harm as purification of your past rotten behavior. You work to deepen your compassion for others in the same boat. Most difficult of all, you try to cultivate compassion for your antagonist for the bad karma they are committing. (Grrrrr, this really hard). Would you say that this is a valid interpretation of regarding these appearances as “supreme instructions”? I feel like I’m getting it on a sutra level, but when it all comes back around to “Nothing is really happening,” I feel like I’m flirting with nihilism. I hope this is not too contorted!

  3. I love this beautiful view of beneficial believing and you give it to us like a “spiritual world minute” so we can just take it and think about it wherever we are physically or mentally! Thank you KL.
    My favorite quote from Geshe-la on this topic;
    “We can choose to see everything in beneficial ways and by adopting beneficial views we create that reality “

  4. Thank you very much for all your blogs, your time and for sharing your Dharma experience.
    I am usual reader, your insights help me so much.
    I wish someday I can help others in the same way as you, thank you for inspiring me.

    1. Thankyou so much Eduardo. It is funny you should use those words because just today i prayed to be able to inspire people (as i have been inspired).

  5. So, true. Just want to be pedantic : ultimate truth is ultimately true isn’t it? although an emptiness is empty of inherent existence it is still an ultimate truth because it does appear in the way that it exists. Doesn’t it? As usual,lovely blog.

    1. Hey there, it’s me being pedantic really — “ultimately” in the context of ‘ultimately true” means that it is findable, ie, inherently existent. So nothing is ultimately true, although emptiness is true (and ultimate truth) as it exists and appears the same way. I may take that bit out as i think it can get lost in translation. All I was trying to convey is that emptiness is not inherently existent. Thank you for bringing this up. x

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