5.5 mins read.
This was written this February, when human beings still bustled quaintly on this earth within inches of each other, no masks!, and no idea what was about to hit us. This article still works now, maybe more so, given that the entire world is full of the sorrows of this pandemic. We could probably all do with an effective way to feel less anxious and overwhelmed, more safe and in refuge.
New York City is full of people. So full, perhaps, that you could find yourself sucked into dramas morning till night. Sometimes it is hard to see the wood for the trees. Given that there are so many people here, so many people in other cities, so many people in ant hills, so many people in samsara … how on earth are we supposed to extricate ourselves, let alone everyone else?! It can all feel very solid and real – the sickness, the ageing, the death, the homelessness, the hunger, the cold, and so on. No wonder compassion fatigue is a thing.
It is true that there are infinite beings in the six realms of samsara, and our stories of pain and suffering, told since beginningless time, seem to show no signs of slowing down, much less stopping. Taken alone, getting us all out seems a daunting task. But when feeling besieged by samsaric narratives, it can be incredibly helpful to remember that although there may be countless samsaric beings, there are also countless enlightened beings.
To infinity and beyond
When we visualize Buddha Shakyamuni, for example, he is not appearing with only a few holy beings dotted around him, in our tiny NY room, hopelessly outnumbered by a gazillion sentient beings. Buddha is surrounded by infinite enlightened beings, “like the full moon surrounded by stars”, who stretch on and out forever and ever.
This is not just true for Buddhists. This is true for everyone. Holy omniscient beings, however or whoever we envisage them, pervade everywhere and everyone.
(Coincidentally, just as I was writing this, I heard Stevie Wonder sing: “When you feel your life’s too hard, just go have a talk with God.” 🙂 )
Countless beings, once just like us, have attained enlightenment and no longer belong in samsara. This means that although there are infinite beings in infinite galaxies, Buddhas and Buddha Lands equal, if not outnumber, them all.
Samsara is the product of hallucination. Enlightenment is reality. Pit samsaric worlds and beings against enlightened worlds and beings, and who, ultimately, is going to prevail?
What is faith?
With the practice of Dharma we get to start choosing whose company we want to keep and be influenced by. We can start to feel that we are in the company of enlightened beings whenever we want; and with Tantra we feel that we are already one of them.
This is faith, of course – but faith doesn’t have to be overly complicated or mysterious. We can believe in the existence of enlightened beings by observing our own minds and how we have been able to reduce our delusions and increase our love and patience, for example. Nothing is fixed about our thoughts, and everything depends upon our thoughts. Taking that to its logical conclusion, we can envisage ourselves free from all faults and suffering and pervaded by spontaneous wisdom and compassion.
Close your eyes for a moment and try it!
Did that work? If so, even being able to entertain a notion of being enlightened indicates our potential for enlightenment and therewith the fact that countless enlightened beings already exist – the only difference between us and them is that they have put in the effort.
Based on this so-called “believing faith”, we can develop admiration for their good qualities — they can be our role models and super heroes, we can feel happy about them. And because we have this so-called “admiring faith,” which includes that faith in our own potential, we have the wish to become just like them, which is called “wishing faith.”
As Geshe Kelsang says in the first edition of Transform Your Life:
Without faith, everything is mundane. We are blind to anything beyond the ordinary and imperfect world we normally inhabit, and we cannot even imagine that pure, faultless beings, worlds, or states of mind exist. Faith is like pure eyes that enable us to see a pure and perfect world beyond the suffering world of samsara.
The company we keep
Whenever we think of Buddha, there he or she is. He is there even when we don’t think of him. Enlightenment is everywhere, always, because enlightenment is reality, always waiting to be revealed.
As Geshe Kelsang says in The New Eight Steps to Happiness:
Because a Buddha’s mind is mixed with the ultimate nature of all phenomena and is free from the obstructions to omniscience, it pervades all phenomena; and because his or her body and mind are the same nature, his body is also all-pervasive. From this we can understand that Buddhas are present everywhere and that there is no place where Buddha does not exist.
This means that enlightened beings and Buddha Lands are everywhere and always, including right here right now. Holy beings are just as close to us as all these samsaric beings popping up around us. Purify our minds and we will see these pure beings directly. In the meantime we can have faith that they’re here, and that, because they are always relating to our pure potential as opposed to our delusions and suffering, they love us unconditionally whatever we are up to.
We do have a choice. Even in the middle of a huge city, full of seemingly endless suffering samsaric beings, we don’t need to invest in every passing mirage, powerlessly pulled in every direction. With Dharma in general and Tantra in particular, we can start to enjoy ourselves and those around us as illusion-like appearances arising within the space of emptiness – not inherently suffering, potentially pure and enlightened. We are already in the living company of countless holy beings in a pure and beautiful world.
As it continues in Eight Steps:
Buddhas are like the sun and our ignorance is like the clouds that obscure the sun. When clouds disperse we see that in reality the sun has been shining all along, and, in a similar way, when we remove the clouds of ignorance from our mind we will see that the Buddhas have always been present all around us.
Tuning into joy and purity like this, space opens up and discouragement goes away. I think there’s an enormous amount of love and support available all the time, more than enough to stop us from feeling overwrought. And, situated now on the side of the solution, we can always find the energy to help others. For if we are already in the Pure Land, what is there to worry about?
This is the highest and most empowering form of renunciation (seeking to be permanently free) and compassion (seeking to free others), which we can learn to feel all the time, wherever we are. After all, as Freddie Mercury just happens to sing in the movie I’ve been watching on this plane out of NYC:
We are the champions, my friends. And we’ll keep on fighting till the end.
Over to you. Comments welcome below!
Enlightenment is right here, right now
I sometimes struggle with compassion and this article is sooo encouraging! Thank you!
“With Dharma in general and Tantra in particular, we can start to enjoy ourselves and those around us as illusion-like appearances arising within the space of emptiness – not inherently suffering, potentially pure and enlightened.”
I just had to come back to report that this advice from you has been a game-changer! Thank you thank you thank you! xoxo.
Oh good 😊 Compassion observing the unobservable … you can check it out in Ocean of Nectar.
Finally got the chance to check it out, I had read it before and found it very inspiring but you stated it differently and that made all the literally life-changing difference to me. I have been training in this every day. You said “ENJOY those around us as illusion-like appearances”, the text does not specifically say or teach that. My mind thrives on and naturally follows enjoyable experiences (dharma or attachments) and you taught me how to enjoy this practice and that little shift made all the difference to my practice. Thank you!
Thank you again Luna for another beautiful article.Enlightenment,pure land reminder 🙂
My pleasure! Thank you for always reading and making lovely comments!
Oh LK, Your wonderfull words bath me in joy to be alive , and knowing how wonderfull the effort that I put into my practice is paying off.. Now I know tha I can keep reaching for Enlightenment… After my Bridge Retreat I knew I had to continue on a very similar path, so now I am on my island Deer Isle Maine Homesteading and helping others … Every time I read one of your stories they stay in my heart for a long time , because I try to apply Dharma , it use to be daily but now it is one moment at a time … Blessings for you. ….
One moment at a time … how absolutely wonderful!!!
Hi Luna, i’d like to say that i enjoy a lot your articles. I’m Brazilian and sorry about my english.
I find the most beautifull way to improve my english’s reading (and soon my writing’s).
I learn Dharma and english, in this way i hope get enough merit to be at Manjushri’s Centre in some festival one day!
Thank you! I rejoice in your way to cherish others!
Sorocaba, São Paulo – Brasil
Hi Fabiana, your English is great! thank you for reading. When you get to Manjushri, make sure you come find me to say hello.
5.5 min read? Why rush? I enjoyed reading it during half an hour and enjoy it still.
Ahh, thank you for saying that!
(It took me more than 5.5 minutes to write, that’s for sure.)
Thank you so much for all of your effort into sharing the priceless treasure of Dharma. I really needed to hear this today.
Thank you for letting me know — I am glad it is helpful 👍
Thank you so much…such an inspiring post. I have been doing Dharma since 2011 and i gave had a 360 degree change of heart and life.
Just wish many more would seek out the teachings of the great master Geshe Kelsang.
It would benefit the immensely.
Lots of love
360 degrees, so true. I agree wholeheartedly. He has brought Buddha’s liberating teachings to so many already, but still a drop in the ocean — I hope millions more find them too.
Without comparing myself to anyone, I witnessed my spiritual growth and my continued observation of my behavior and being open to learning what I am ignorant of strengthens me and I am more aware my delusions. Faith has put a better attitude in and about life in my heart and I practice smiling more. Don’t loose your humor…. thank you… I can always find a good thought with your writing and the contributors. 💚💎
Beautiful comment, thank you for posting it.
Thank you for this, and for all your posts. I always look forward to reading them, and I so needed to be reminded of this today!
Thank you! And i’m glad to be a reminder 🙂
Just beautiful ….thankyou 💗
Aw, i’m glad you like it.
Thank you for this!
My pleasure! x
Yet another meaningful and thought provoking story from Luna Kadampa on Faith and Buddhas Blessings. It has been my experience that through our ignorance and lack of faith we tend to believe in the things we actually see and find it difficult to believe in the things we cannot see. It is only through our faith that we begin to discover the opposite as more true. Through our efforts in contemplating and meditating on Lamrim our Faith will grow in beautiful ways . I especially love the following paragraph you write, “ Samsara is the product of hallucination. Enlightenment is reality. Pit samsaric worlds and beings against enlightened worlds and beings, and who, ultimately, is going to prevail?” If I may to answer this, Enlightenment Prevails ! Thank you Luna for your precious teachings through stories we can all relate to…🙏😇❤️
Thank you for this comment, it’s great. And it is so true that meditating on the stages of the path, Lamrim, will naturally increase our faith. None of us has a set amount. It is a quality we can develop, like love or any other positive mind.
“I consider it a challenge before the whole human race, and I ain’t gonna lose”.
Faith enables superior intention!
Thanks for the reminder Luna!
“I am a fortunate one…”
Haha, nice 🙂