The Barbarian

The aspect of a Barbarian
In terms of secular western thinking, the word “barbarian” often conjures images of a cruel, brutish, merciless savage who, armed with a club or other means of violence, is intent on wreaking havoc. At the least, the word is associated with a person who may be from an undeveloped, uneducated area or country and regarded as lowbrow, crude, and vulgar.
However, in the Buddhist lexicon, the meaning of “barbarian” signifies something quite different. Rather than a person with sights set upon inflicting mayhem, the Buddhist term is more akin to what westerners think of as a “heathen”, hedonist or non-believer. It refers to “jungle mentality”, one who has the body of a human but the limited view of a jungle animal. They have mind, but do not recognize own self, always reject and practice non-virtue and unnecessary negative activity that continues like a river. This action leads to an ocean of suffering because of momentary beliefs. This is the Buddhism view of the term “barbarian”.

It is said in The Words of My Perfect Teacher:
“To come across a precious jewel
Is nothing compared to finding this precious human life.
Look how those who are not saddened by samsara
Fritter life away!

To win a whole kingdom
Is nothing compared to meeting a perfect teacher.
Look how those with no devotion
Threat the teacher as their equal!”

According to Buddhist teachings, “the barbarian” is one not only ignorant of his true nature, but one who denies the reality of many relative truths or one who rejects the ten virtuous and adopts the non-virtuous activities (the 10 virtuous and non-virtuous activities are listed in detail in “The Words of My Perfect Teacher” pg. 102). Ordinary human beings generally assume the following:

  • rejection of spirituality and the belief in things material and their paramount power
  • acceptance of the superiority of the ordinary thinking mind assumption that what are empty momentary phenomena are actually permanent objects; this is impure perception coming from dualistic mind.
  • supposition of one lifetime followed by nothing or, perhaps, an eternal heaven or hell understanding that precludes the full spectrum of karma or the law of cause and effect; that all physical, vocal and mental actions have personal and universal, internal and external consequences in the present and future; that the conditions of the present are the effects of the accumulated causes of the past.
  • It is said in The Words of My Perfect Teacher:
    “To see what you have done before, look at what you are now.
    To see where you are going to be born next, look at what you do now.”

Without knowledge of cause and effect, phenomena cannot be perceived to flower as a result of prior causes… just as an actual flower cannot suddenly materialize in the sky because there is no real cause for the flower to appear there ultimate denial of one’s true nature, the original “Buddha”, the awakened basic state of supreme primordial awareness; and the subsequent repudiation of the path that leads to Enlightenment.
Convictions of these sorts can cause myriad obstacles and may result in the rejection of virtue and loss of accumulation of merit: such a person cannot perceive reality as it is, the pure phenomena perceived and generated by a Buddha.

Just as the blind person cannot see, the spiritually blind are ignorant of their True Nature and reject the Buddhist view. The “nihilist” can only accept what is before his eyes, ears and physical senses while the “eternalist” rejects impermanence with a belief in unchanging reality and the unending substantiality of the gods or immutable forms of “God”. Buddhist logic does not accept a “causeless cause” or the concept of a permanent god as a result of universal phenomena in a state of flux and change. Karma is the law of cause and effect.

Bad cannot come from good nor ugly from beautiful, this is the Buddhist point of view. As another example, there is an age old Tibetan Buddhist wisdom fable involving the nonsensical belief that rabbits can suddenly generate horns… and who has seen a horned rabbit? Many people believe in a permanent god, but it does not exist, just as a horned rabbit does not exist.

All sentient beings have the quality of Enlightenment as their true nature; but because of the negative karmic conditions of sentient beings, this true nature is not recognized and will not blossom. These conditions become the cause of beings’ wanderings in samsara.

Lacking devotion and proper respect, even Dharma students who have practiced and received teachings for many years from many different teachers may tend to reject wisdom teachings and break samaya (pure intention and Refuge vows) when confronted by obstacles. Breaking samaya is a serious matter.

For example, someone sick with sexual disease can infect many other people. But this person is a physical danger to himself and others in only one lifetime. But breaking samaya can bring negative effects to the perpetrator and others for many lifetimes.

Unfortunately, it has becomes somewhat common for some to hop from one lineage or teacher to the next in the name of gathering “knowledge” to attain Enlightenment. This is not okay and is a form of ignorance.

There is really only one lineage, that of Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Rinpoche. Some Dharma students may return to their barbarian way of thinking and old habits, denouncing their spiritual mentor in the deluded hope that a new guide can solve all and remove the obstructions for them.

It must also be said that Buddha Dharma is not political: it is not democracy, socialism, capitalism or communism. It is beyond these sorts of “outer” ideas: Buddha Dharma fosters inner development. Dharma teachings are not merely some individual’s ideas. They are the reflection of True Nature and must become ingrained like one’s DNA.

The ego always tends to believe its own thinking is paramount and correct. But history shows that limited ego manifested thought often misses the mark and ultimately fails to deliver. One’s own thinking may be clouded or deluded, that is why wisdom teachings are so beneficial. Even persons who are quite “knowledgeable” through much reading and learning may find that the ego path is, in the last analysis, quite useless.

A buck’s big rack of horns is no real protection from the attack of a vicious tiger. Similarly, anger and negative emotions can become nearly insurmountable obstacles to a “knowledgeable” but unenlightened person. But knowing even one aspect of Buddha Dharma is so beneficial that it can become the solution to many problems.

So, in contrast to the beliefs of “the barbarian”, what is the general view of the Buddhist practitioner in this context? It will be helpful to state that Buddhism is not so much a belief system religion or a philosophy, but rather a way of life. It is a path lived with a pure warm heart that fosters a constant and active outlook of compassionate loving-kindness for all beings.” Ordinary love and compassion can change from day to day, year to year… it may even disappear. But real loving-kindness, a Buddha’s compassion, is from the deepest heart and will never disappear.

The Buddhist path has many methods (skillful means) to engage karmic law of cause and effect in order to accumulate virtue and merit. Because the usual habitual state of the ordinary thinking mind is full of misunderstandings and delusions of all sorts (samsara), the Buddhist practitioner walks step-by-step, utilizing a variety of skillful means in order to purify and transform negative accumulations.

It is easy to see that positive thoughts lead to happiness and prosperity, and that negativity leads to misery and suffering. Again, such is the law of cause and effect. Therefore, it is said that better than food to eat is right meditation which feeds our spirituality and fuels our kindness to others.

Through concentrated introspection and contemplation, the Buddhist practitioner realizes the preciousness of human birth, the phenomena of impermanence and death, the undeniable cause and result of virtuous and non-virtuous actions, and the continuous character of suffering in samsara.

As clarity arises through meditation, the emptiness of all phenomena becomes apparent. In particular, the Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner realizes that in order to unveil the natural mind, the goal of Enlightenment can be achieved in one lifetime by:

  • taking Refuge developing and applying Bodhicitta (the longing to attain complete Enlightenment for the sake of others, and the wish for others’ Enlightenment) making offerings and taking kind actions to accumulate merit and wisdom
  • purifying obscurations through particular recitations and meditations performing sadhanas such as Guru Yoga accomplishing the Transfer of Consciousness dedicating merit by generously offering the fruit of practice to all sentient beings (and there are many other practices such as those of the Development & Completion stages, culminating in Ati Yoga, Dzogchen, the Great Perfection)

A sadhana such as Guru Yoga is extremely beneficial because we do not have the fortune to have been born at the time of Shakyamuni Buddha or Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) in order to receive the power of their teachings directly from them. But a qualified lineage lama or ordained Buddhist teacher is representative of all the thousands of Buddhas who have appeared throughout the eons of time, and through Guru Yoga one can receive the blessings of the all the Buddhas.

The negative mind transmutes into a positive stream and one of good heart becomes more and more capable of pure perception.
In his “Way of the Bodhisattva” (the Bodhicharyavatara), Shantideva provides us with an enlightened view that concludes our subject:

“Yet how does this compare to those who give
Over many ages and to the whole infinity of beings,
Constantly them the fulfillment of their every wish:
The unsurpassable happiness born of blissful buddhahood?”
“And those who develop feelings of hostility,
Towards these benefactors, the buddhas’ heirs,
Will languish in the hells, the mighty Sage has said,
For aeons equal to the moments of their malice.” (chapter 2, verses 33 & 34)

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