As I was driving home from the Light of the Path retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, I listened to a Christian radio station. A singer mournfully described how the years were passing, his dreams were vanishing, and how no one loved him. He appealed to God to help him, to love him.
Just as Christians, Jews, and Muslims strive to cultivate a personal relationship with God, likewise, Buddhists develop a direct connection with the Buddhas who are all around us. While the nature of God the Creator is quite different from Buddha nature, there is still a similarity in terms of the devotion, faith, and complete trust that permeate the relationship that practitioners nurture in the depths of their hearts.
How would Buddhists address the singer’s feelings and questions? Certainly we’ve all had similar experiences and doubts. It occurred to me that Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught us about the importance of taking complete refuge in the Buddhas and that the Buddhas are everywhere. Whenever we call them, they come immediately. Since Buddha nature is the unification of emptiness and great bliss, the universe is pervaded by love and compassion.
Bodhisattvas make a conscious effort to help others with a pure motivation. Buddhas, however, since they have passed beyond sorrow and are completely pure, do not have to make such efforts.
In his commentary on the Lam Rim Chen Mo, Pabongka Rinpoche describes the good qualities of the Buddha’s good works:
“As an illustration, the moon in the sky does not think [‘I will reflect’], yet its reflection appears on dew and on the tips of blades of grass and on the surface of the water in many hundreds of thousands of containers, provided the water is clear and still. The Buddha’s good works take effect spontaneously and effortlessly in the mind-streams of disciples when the time is right for them to be tamed. In fact, the Buddha’s good works depend on the primal wisdom truth body as one of their causes; this acts as the environmental condition. These good works are therefore to be taken as an outcome of his positive good qualities.
~ Pabongka Rinpoche, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand.
Since the guru is someone whom we can see, touch, and communicate with directly, it is vital to think of him or her as a Buddha regardless of whether he is in fact a Buddha. Under a guru’s protection and spiritual guidance we never feel alone, life is endowed with meaning for helping others, and we unlock the door to happiness in this and future lives using a golden key – the understanding of karma, emptiness and dependent origination and how these factors give rise to the Enlightened mind.