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Elaboration of "If Rebirth is Beginningless, Why Haven't We All Become Enlightened Already?"

Alexander Berzin
Hamburg, Germany, November 2011

Session Three: The Analysis of Making the Decision to Refrain from Destructive Behavior

Unedited Transcript
Listen to the audio version of this page (0:34 hours)

Why Haven’t We Already Built Up Enough Positive Force to Develop Bodhichitta?

We’ve seen that in order to strive for bodhichitta for the first time, we need to have heard about enlightenment and understand it a little bit and have confident belief that it exists and it’s possible to achieve that ourselves. In order to consider that, then we have to have actually met with the teachings and have interest in them and be open-minded and have some concern for others. In order to have that, we need at least a precious human rebirth. And to have that we need ethical discipline and all these other things, prayer, etc. And to have ethical discipline we need to have discriminating awareness to discriminate between destructive behavior (being to our disadvantage) and constructive behavior (being beneficial). But this is the difficulty, isn’t it? Because ethical discipline and discriminating awareness – you need that in order to achieve a precious human rebirth, but you need a precious human rebirth in order to develop them.

So now we ask a question: Is it a cumulative process, that the more discriminating awareness we build up and the more constructive behavior we engage in, the more precious human rebirths we’ll attain? Sounds like it, doesn’t it? But if that were the case, then because of beginningless rebirth, by now we should have built up enough of this, enough positive force, to develop bodhichitta for the first time and reach enlightenment. We need three countless eons of positive force to do all of this, but beginningless is longer than three countless eons, so there should have been enough time if it was a cumulative process. But this hasn’t happened. Why? So you have to analyze why. OK, because… Now we have a whole list:

1. Unawareness of reality is beginningless, but although our having this factor of discriminating awareness is also beginningless, our having correct discriminating awareness is not beginningless. It too has to be developed for the first time. In other words, we have the tool to understand correctly, and that tool we’ve always had, but it doesn’t mean we’ve always had correct use of that. That has to be developed the first time. All right?

2. Every rebirth, we’ve had some level of intelligence. That doesn’t mean that we’ve used it. But we can only develop such types of correct discriminating awareness during a precious human rebirth. And we’re talking about significant discriminating awareness, not the discriminating awareness that a cow has to identify its own barn and discriminate from another barn. A cow has that. We have to have discriminating awareness of what’s beneficial and what is harmful in the long term not just the short term. The short term would be running away from danger – animals do that as well.

3. Despite beginningless rebirth, the infinite number of lower rebirths we’ve had is a larger infinite number than the infinite number of precious human rebirths we have had. This comes from mathematics. Infinities are of different sizes. This is according to both Western and Indian mathematics. Think about this.

I’ll give an example. If for each precious human rebirth, we’ve had a million lower rebirths, then the infinite number of lower rebirths we’ve had is larger than the infinite number of precious human rebirths we’ve had, isn’t it? You know the difference?

I mean, I don’t know how many people are familiar with mathematics. I’ll give you the classic example from mathematics, if it means anything to you. The infinite number of integers – that’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… – that’s an infinite amount, but that’s countable. But there’s a much larger infinite number of what’s called real numbers (in other words, fractions or decimals) than there are of whole numbers, and that is uncountable. And also this whole concept of there’s a limited number of beings but it’s countless. That we can understand from mathematics as well. How many real numbers – in other words, how many fractions – are there between one and two? It is a limited amount (because it’s between one and two), but it’s uncountable. Now I must say I’m not a mathematician, so one has to analyze further, but these are very interesting and difficult concepts in Buddhism. It comes actually from the Jain texts in Indian mathematics, this whole classification of infinities, countable, uncountable, and so on.

So anyway, despite infinite rebirths, we’ve had more lower rebirths than we’ve had precious human rebirths. That’s the point here. So beginningless doesn’t alter the proportion. OK? Because we could have the misconception that “Well, it’s beginningless, so it should even out.” It doesn’t. OK?

It’s very helpful not to discard our Western type of analysis and things from science, mathematics. It helps our analysis. And His Holiness the Dalai Lama has often said that if from Western science and so on we can disprove anything in Buddhism, we’ll drop it, because after all what we’re concerned about is reality.

So what follows from the fact that we have had, let’s say, a million more lower rebirths than precious human rebirths? Actually I should share with you a lovely statement that one of my teachers, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, made. He said, “We are just on a short holiday from the lower realms, and we’ve already booked our ticket to go back.” That’s a very nice way of putting it.

4. So we’re building up negative karmic force and strengthening our ignorance and disturbing emotions in all our rebirths. (The present one as well. Even in the precious human rebirth, how many times have you gotten angry in your life?) But we’re strengthening our positive karmic force and our discriminating awareness only sometimes in some rebirths. So the negative karmic force and the ignorance are much stronger and compelling than our positive karmic force and the correct discriminating awareness.

I mean, you have to understand why is it that we have so many more worse rebirths than we have precious human rebirths. This is why. Because we’re always doing negative things and very rarely doing positive things. This is again a wonderful meditation that Geshe Dhargyey said. “Consider in your lifetime how many times you’ve gotten angry, you’ve been attached, you’ve done destructive things, and weigh it against how many times you’ve had positive thoughts, and then it’s clear what our future will be.” That’s worth a minute to reflect on.

5. Now for the teachings on karma, then. It says constructive behavior can weaken the negative karmic potentials and destructive behavior can weaken the positive karmic potentials, but since the amount of our destructive behavior is much larger than the amount of our constructive behavior, we are constantly weakening our positive karmic potential. Each of the two can weaken each other, but because the negative is stronger it’s always going to win, because we’ve done more negative than positive if you look in the long term, as we’ve just analyzed.

6. And although negative and positive karmic potentials no longer exist once they’ve finished ripening; nevertheless, since the negative ones outnumber the positive ones, we’re always left with more negative potentials than positive ones.

So the real question is: How can we ever break this syndrome? How can we strengthen these networks of positive force and deep awareness so that they can overcome these negative potentials and ignorance, so that we could attain a precious human rebirth at all to be able to develop bodhichitta? There’s not much that we can do in a million rebirths as a fly, is there, or a spider into eating flies? So can we just decide to do so with free will? Is it determined? Or is there some other explanation? So you see, we’re always coming back to the same question.

The Two Networks

To analyze this, we need to look even more closely at these two networks. As we explained, these two networks, positive force and deep awareness, can either be samsara-building, liberation-building, or enlightenment-building. It all depends on the motivation and the dedication with which we build it up. If you do nothing, the default setting is samsara-building. And if you don’t dedicate it at all or you’re doing positive things because of this naivety, the strong ego thing – “I’ve got to be good. I’ve got to be perfect” – the control-freak syndrome of perfectionism, that’s super samsara building. That’s positive with strong ego-grasping – I, me, I have to be good, I have to be perfect – perfectionism. If we have this perfectionism, it’s very important to analyze: What is it going to bring us to? What’s behind it?

I bring that up because often people think “Well, I only have to be good and do nice things and so on, and that’s going to get me enlightenment.” But if you’re doing it as a perfectionist, it’s only going to bring you more samsara. Think about that. Maybe some of us have this problem. That’s why it’s always stressed it’s very important that we need to be relaxed about our Dharma practice, not be a fanatic perfectionist. You know this wonderful Zen koan, my favorite one? “Death can come at any time. Relax.” Very profound actually.

OK, so how do we get out of this syndrome in terms of the negatives always outweighing the positives? It’s if our positive force is built up with unlabored bodhichitta… I mean, there’s two types of bodhichitta with which we develop it. I need to fill that in. Labored (rtsol-bcas) means than we need to build up bodhichitta with effort (this word labor), so that means that we have to go step by step: everybody’s been my mother, they’ve been so kind to me, all these steps. But it has to be not just going through the words; we have to actually feel and be sincere about these. So that’s labored. You have to work yourself up to it. That’s actual bodhichitta. We’re not talking about artificial. It’s not artificial. It is actual bodhichitta. It’s just that we have to work to build it up.

Unlabored (rtsol-med) means that you don’t have to go through all those steps. You just have it, because you’re so familiar with it. So when you have unlabored bodhichitta then you reach the first of these five paths, the so-called path of accumulation (tshogs-lam), what I call pathway mind. Because it’s not something that you walk on. It’s a level of mind that is building up. What is it building up to? It’s not accumulating; it’s not getting things. It’s building up to having combined shamatha and vipashyana, actually. Either we’ve achieved shamatha before or we haven’t. There can be two ways.

In any case, when we have actual bodhichitta – and there’s a discussion of which one it is that’s relevant [labored or unlabored] – when we have actual bodhichitta, then the positive force that’s built up with actual bodhichitta – you get this straight out of your lam-rim – cannot be destroyed by destructive behavior and it doesn’t run out all the way to enlightenment; it continues to ripen all the way to enlightenment. So it’s not like our samsaric positive force that can be weakened and will be finished when it ripens. We have to become convinced that it actually is possible to break out of this samsaric dialectic. So if the positive force is with actual bodhichitta, that stays; that will grow more and more. As Shantideva says, even when you’re asleep it continues to work. So we have to actually develop actual love, compassion, equanimity, bodhichitta, all these sorts of things. So if we really have that, anger won’t weaken it. But just the regular samsaric positive force to get a precious human rebirth – that’ll be weakened by anger.

[Note that when a bodhisattva gets angry with another bodhisattva, that devastates or destroys a hundred or a thousand eons of positive force – this must refer to destroying that amount of samsara-building positive force that the bodhisattva still has, for instance the positive force to continue having precious human rebirths while continuing to work toward enlightenment. It doesn’t devastate or destroy enlightenment-building positive force.]

So this is the problem now. In order to develop that – shall we call it firm positive force? – positive force from bodhichitta that won’t run out, we need enough samsaric positive force to get the precious human rebirth to be able to even develop that the first time. You understand that? This is what we need to reach, which is some actual bodhichitta, and then we build up positive force that really will be able to overcome (both sets of obscuration)… I mean, mind you, you need three countless eons of it, but there’s a lot of time. But we’re constantly going up and down, up and down, so how do we build up enough samsaric positive force to reach that point where we can actually build up that firm positive force, the enlightenment-building one?

The Role of Karma

So where do choice and decision-making come in this analysis? And what role does karma play in all of this? Now we have to bring in karma.

Karma unfortunately is translated into Tibetan by the word lay (las), which is the colloquial Tibetan word for “actions,” but karma does not mean actions. If it meant actions then all we’d have to do in order to become liberated is stop doing anything. If we think about it: “Oh, you’ve got to overcome karma. Karma is causing you suffering and samsara and rebirth,” and so on – if you only think that refers to actions, why are actions so horrible? Why do we have to stop doing anything? It doesn’t make any sense that it’s actions. So we have to look at the definitions, look at how it’s described in the texts in order to understand what is it referring to. Don’t just go by what it says in the dictionary. And if you ask any Tibetan, most of them will say “actions,” because as I said, karma is the colloquial word for “actions” in Tibetan.

I think a more accurate way of translating karma, what it’s referring to, is compulsion; it’s the compulsion itself. We have two theories of it. Perhaps you’re familiar that in Indian Buddhist philosophy we have the different tenet systems. So Sautrantika, Chittamatra, Svatantrika – these three say karma is a mental factor of compulsion, a compulsive urge that drives us to think, speak, or act in a certain way. Compulsively I’m constantly mentally wandering. Compulsively I’m constantly thinking with attachment about my loved one. Compulsively I am getting angry, yelling, and so on. It’s that compulsion that drives us into this type of repetitive behavior. Or compulsively we try to do good to please everybody. Ever hear of anybody who’s like that? “I have to please everybody.” It’s compulsive, a big ego thing (I’m afraid I’m going to be abandoned). It’s positive compulsion, but it’s still compulsion. Think about that. That’s the easier one to understand. And obviously we would want to overcome that. That’s a very, very strong force. Compulsion.

When we start to think of karma in these terms, then you really understand that’s the troublemaker. Karma’s not the result; karma’s a cause. One of the laws of karma: karma does not ripen into karma. We’ll get into this. Karma ripens into the wish or the feeling like getting angry or yelling at somebody. At least in English you say, “I feel like yelling at you.” That’s what ripens, this mental factor. Then can come the compulsion to actually yell, but you have a space there where you can decide – and this is what we’re eventually leading to, that space – and that is the place… I mean, this is what we’re getting to. When the feeling or the wish to yell and the feeling not to yell come up, that’s where you need the discriminating awareness. That will prevent you from creating more karma from more compulsive force that will lead into the behavior.

That’s not difficult to understand. “I feel like going to the refrigerator and taking some food, but I also feel like refraining from that because I’m really not hungry and it’s just greed for something sweet.” So then you can decide. But the feeling comes up. That’s what ripens from compulsive habits, compulsive behavior. Two feelings come up: to go and not to go. It’s only when both come up that you have a choice. But let’s go a little bit more step-by-step in terms of our understanding of karma, the whole process.

OK, so Sautrantika, Chittamatra, Svatantrika: it’s always this mental factor, the compulsive urge that drives you, that draws you compulsively into a way of thinking, acting, or speaking.

According to Vaibhashika and the Gelugpa version of Prasangika – the non-Gelugpa version of Prasangika is quite different, so please note that this is Gelugpa Prasangika – karma is this mental urge, this compulsive urge, only to think, only when we’re talking about mental things. In the case of physical and verbal karma, karma is the compulsive shape that our body takes when we act. It’s not the action. It’s the shape of our body as we’re doing something compulsive, the way that we do it. Or the compulsive sound that our voice takes when we speak. These are not very easy to understand, but there are very deep reasons why this is asserted. So a compulsive shape or a compulsive sound that happens. That’s one level of karma.

The other level of karma in this case is a very subtle compulsive energy – very subtle – which lasts during the action and then it continues with our mental continuum so long as we don’t give up the wish to repeat the action. That becomes quite profound if you think about it. There’s a certain subtle compulsiveness about the way that we are. It’s like a subtle energy of compulsion that is underlying all our life. If you think about it, it actually it makes a lot of sense.

So in neither case, neither of these two explanations of karma, are we talking about the actual action. Think about that for a moment.

So we can start to recognize within ourselves how compulsively we do things. The problem isn’t that we do things, but that we compulsively clean our house – compulsively whatever. It’s very interesting. Whether you want to or not, you somehow feel that you have to. You’re sort of drawn into it, aren’t you? Or in arguments: Compulsively I’ve got to get in the last word. Compulsively I have to tell you what I think, my opinion. It’s compulsion. That’s karma. So you see how that can be quite a troublemaker. We’re not using discriminating awareness: When I feel like giving you my opinion, do I actually say something or not? Will it be helpful? Will it just produce more arguments? You’re not going to listen to what I say, anyway?

And it’s very interesting actually with all this Facebook, social media, Twitter, all these things – why should anybody care what I think? So you analyze – I’m sorry, I can’t resist (so now I have this compulsion to tell you). It’s like somehow in the world, people feel so powerless in terms of what’s going on, and so helpless, that somehow if I say what I’m thinking and broadcast it on the internet, somehow that establishes that I exist. It gives me what I imagine to be true existence. That’s the analysis of it from a Buddhist point of view. Think about that. It’s true. And does it make us exist? No, of course not. Does it prove that I exist? No, of course not. It’s like this saying in German (it’s very nice): “If my cell phone rings, therefore I exist.” It’s true. “I get a certain number of I like yous, and therefore I exist.”

The Analysis of Making the Decision to Refrain from Destructive Behavior

Now our analysis. To build up even the samsara-building positive force, we need correct discriminating awareness, correct discriminating awareness to choose to refrain from destructive behavior when we feel like acting destructively, when the feeling comes up. So we need correct discriminating awareness when two feelings arise, two wishes: from negative karmic potential, the feeling like I’m going to yell at you, and from positive karmic potential, the feeling to shut up and not yell at you. So we need the correct discriminating awareness to discriminate the advantages and disadvantages between acting out these two feelings, what I feel like doing. That’s the crucial moment.

Again we have to look at the definition according to Vasubandhu. He gives the definitions of all of these things. What I’m calling a wish (’dod-pa, Skt. iccha) (it’s actually the word for wish in Tibetan and Sanskrit), which in our normal, at least in English, it’s like you feel like doing something – he defines it as equivalent to an intention (’dun-pa), and intention is the mental factor to do something, or to obtain an object or goal, or to do something with that object or goal once we obtain it. So “I feel like going to the refrigerator.” That is like an intention. “I’d really like to go to the refrigerator and get something to eat.” So it’s an intention. Whether we act on it or not is something else. That’s what ripens from the karmic aftermath – not from the karma itself, from what’s left over (the tendencies, habits, etc., the potentials). OK?

But the opportunity to even make this decision will only arise if, when the negative karmic potential ripens, also a positive potential ripens. The negative potential ripens to yell, then at the same time the positive potential will ripen not to yell. Only then can we make the decision between the two. Otherwise I just feel like yelling, and there’s nothing else. It never enters my mind not to yell. So then I just yell compulsively. Only when both of these arise can we then have what’s called indecisive wavering (the-tshoms) between one and the other. That’s when you make a choice. Indecisive wavering: should I do this, should I do that? This is the crux of the matter where decision comes in. Our whole discussion of free will and determinism comes down to this crucial point.

Now we have to analyze further. What causes a karmic potential to ripen? It doesn’t just ripen for nothing. Nothing happens without causes and conditions. So there are many circumstances and conditions that would cause a negative potential to ripen and many that will cause a positive one. So now we have to evaluate them.

I hope you appreciate the method that is being used here in terms of how you analyze. You have this huge amount of Dharma knowledge that hopefully we have gained, and now you have to take all the pieces and put them together. So people who have been coming to a Dharma center for years and years and they say, “Oh, I don’t want to come anymore. I’ve heard all of that before.” That’s a big mistake. They become bored with the Dharma. They aren’t taking the Dharma where it’s supposed to go, which is to put all of these things that we learn together. Every time that you hear it, new associations – new neural pathways of putting things together – get formed. Trijang Rinpoche said this very nicely: “I’ve read the Lam-rim chen-mo (this big lam-rim text of Tsongkhapa) a hundred times. Every time I read it, it’s like reading a different text.”

So for negative potential to ripen, what are these circumstances that they include? We have a list in the lam-rim. Don’t get upset about lists. Lists are important because they give us more and more insight, more material to work with.

  • A negative potential will ripen if we have a disturbing emotion (anger, greed, and so on). Anger is there, and so the potential ripens to yell at somebody. There’s a feeling to yell at somebody because you’re angry.
  • It can also arise from the negative influence of others. Everybody else is yelling, and so we yell as well. If the person that’s speaking to us is yelling at us, we yell back.
  • Incorrect consideration. A very important one. That would be like thinking that “If I yell at you, it’s going to make it all better.” Yelling at somebody, “You should love me. You should pay more attention to me.” They just want to run away – it gets the opposite effect. So that’s incorrect consideration, considering suffering as happiness, etc.
  • It could be a physical situation as well that can cause a negative potential to ripen. For instance I’m starving, I’m poor, and so I feel like stealing some food.

There’s a whole list – there’s many more – but these are the significant ones. Some combination of them would cause the negative potential to ripen.

And positive potential will ripen – feeling like refraining from yelling – also from various factors:

  • A constructive mental factor. Patience: The other person is yelling at us, so we have patience, we have understanding. That would cause us to want to refrain from yelling back. Detachment: I’m not so attached that I have to say what I think.
  • The positive influence from others. Our friend is with us and says, “Oh, calm down. It’s not so bad.”
  • Inspiration from the Buddhas and our teachers.
  • Mindfulness – that means remembering their teachings – that could cause us to want to refrain.
  • And concentration on them. Just to remember them and then forget it is not so strong. You have to remember it and hold it in your memory.

So many circumstances, then, need to be present even to encounter the situation in which we can make a decision between acting destructively or refraining, and each of these conditions arises from further conditions. You see where this is leading to? Remember this lovely term dependent arising? This is what all of this is leading to. Everything that’s involved here is arising from causes and conditions, and every cause and condition is arising from other causes and conditions. You see our line? When we have analyzed, going backwards from what you need to attain enlightenment, that you have to have bodhichitta for the first time – then what do you need for that? etc., etc., going back and back and back. Digest that for a little moment. Chew on that for a little moment.

To make the choice, both feelings – both wishes – have to come up. It’s not so strong as a wish, but that’s the word that’s used. I think the word Lust in German covers it. What do you feel like doing? I feel like yelling; I don’t feel like yelling. Only if these two come up can you make the decision between the two, and for each of them to come up there have to be circumstances that support it. We’re not talking about a more complicated situation of do this or do that. We’re talking about simply do it or don’t do it. Before you can decide to do something else, you have to decide not to do the first alternative, which is to yell. OK.

But even if the circumstances are present – this gets even more terrible – even if the circumstances are present, if the positive karmic potential is too weak it won’t give rise to the wish to refrain from acting destructively. This is the more usual situation. Normally it would never enter my head not to yell at you if you’re yelling at me. All right? Just compulsively I yell. The children are naughty, they’re making a mess, they won’t go to sleep, and I yell at them, “Go to sleep.” But even if we remember the teachings – “OK, I’m not going to yell. They’re just overtired. I’ll be calm about it and put them to sleep” – then we have the situation: “I know I shouldn’t yell, but I couldn’t help myself.” Are you familiar with that situation? That’s because the force of the karmic potential is too weak, what ripens is too weak. So usually we don’t even have the opportunity to deliberate “Shall I do this, shall I do that?” and even if we deliberate, it doesn’t really help. All right?

So what do we need? We need, when the negative potential ripens and I feel like yelling, the positive potential also has to ripen to refrain, and that positive potential has to be strong enough so that it can overpower the negative feeling, the negative wish. Then we would have correct discriminating awareness to discriminate it’s far more beneficial to refrain than it is to yell.

Then the horrible situation of samsara comes in. It comes in here because we can only have strong enough positive karmic potentials if we’ve built them up already through refraining from destructive behavior. And for that we need to have had before that strong enough correct discriminating awareness. So it’s a horrible… a “vicious circle” we call that. So since the discriminating awareness needed to build up that positive force is only built up during a precious human rebirth, and to get the precious human rebirth we need positive karmic force, and we’re always weakening our positive force through anger and so on, getting out of samsara is like trying to fill a bucket that has a hole in it with water.

That really is what it’s like, if you think about it. So many positive circumstances need to come together, and these are not beginningless. The negative circumstances arise from beginningless causes, and the negative causes constantly weaken or destroy the positive ones that we’ve built up. That describes samsara very precisely. We have the mechanism to develop the positive ones, but the positive ones aren’t there – that has to have a first time. And the negative ones have always been there, and they’re always weakening whatever positive ones we build up. So that’s like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it.

Why Enlightenment Is Possible

So then you ask: Well, is enlightenment possible at all? And the reason why it’s possible at all is that incorrect discriminating awareness can be harmed by correct discriminating awareness. The incorrect can be harmed by the correct. The correct cannot be harmed by the incorrect, but the incorrect can be harmed by the correct. My correct understanding of reality is supported by logic, by reasoning, by experience, because it produces its effect. When I understand reality, voidness, etc., I’m able to eliminate suffering, my suffering. Whereas confusion, incorrect understanding, has nothing to back it up, and it only produces suffering the more that I believe in it. And the correct understanding about reality can destroy that confusion. Confusion can’t destroy the correct one.

The correct can destroy the confusion so long as we have the mental factor of firm conviction (mos-pa), decisiveness. It’s again in our list of fifty-one mental factors. You need to have these at your fingertips to work with them. Asanga – Abhidharmasamuccaya – gives a very lovely definition of it: Firm conviction focuses on a fact that we have validly ascertained to be like this and not like that. Its function is to make our belief that a fact is true so firm that others’ arguments or opinions will not dissuade us.

This is a very difficult point. How do you become convinced of something? What does it really mean to be convinced? That’s very hard to actually put your finger on, isn’t it? At what point would I really be convinced enough so that it affects my behavior, convinced that if I yell it’s just going to produce more unhappiness and suffering for me in the long term, in the future? It might make me feel better right now, but that’s not the long-term effect. It’s very difficult, isn’t it?

You lost something in your house, you can’t find it – your keys or whatever – and you’re looking and you’re looking and you’re looking. How do you really become convinced that “I didn’t leave them somewhere in the house”? We’ve all experienced this, whether it’s the keys or something, I’m sure. You don’t want to give up: “I’ve got to have left it somewhere. I’m not convinced that I lost it,” and you look again, and you look again. Don’t we?

There’s conviction, firm conviction, a mental factor. Not so easy. All these mental factors are on a scale, as it were – so stronger, weaker, and so on. So for the correct understanding to overpower the incorrect one, we really have to be convinced of it so that you don’t have any more doubts – or “Well, maybe it would be better to yell at you.” OK?

So we will have our tea break. And what we have to analyze next is: When these two feelings come up, to yell or not to yell – we won’t do “To be, or not to be,” I’m sorry, but to yell or not to yell – and we have indecisive wavering (it’s a way of knowing both of them: do this one, do that?), how does a decision occur? There’s two ways:

  • Presumption. “I presume that this is the better way of acting. I don’t really understand it, but I presume it’s so, so I’ll not yell.”
  • Or we have valid cognition. The inference: “Buddha is a valid source of information. There’s no reason why Buddha would lie about this. Therefore I’m fully convinced.”

Because, I mean, we don’t know what the long-term effect of things are going to be. We have a limited mind. All right? So there are the two ways of making the decision: presume it’s right, or you really are confident that the Buddha knew what he was saying. Because in either case we experience the occasion of a decision arising as making a choice: “I made the choice.” That’s how we experience it. “I have decided. I made the decision.” Right? That’s how we experience it. So how does it happen? That’s the next thing to analyze.