In order to practice effectively, we have to give rise to the great Bodhicitta. We have to see the needs of sentient beings—what their situation is, what their condition is. For that reason I’m going to talk, first of all, about the six realms of cyclic existence. These are the different types of reality that one may experience during the bardo or passage of living. We are beginning then with the passage, or bardo, of living. Bardo is not actually a time period. You can’t say that bardo is a period from Thursday to Thursday, or from the 24th to the 3rd of the month. Bardo is not a marking time or a markable time. It is perceived that way because of our delusion. We will see the bardo of the passage through our lives as being, oh, let’s say 75 years. We can see this as a passage. From the point of realization, this is a movement, a display, a passage, a color. It is something other than the way we experience it. We experience it as the date that we were born and the date that we die, and time in between. But, in fact, what we are actually experiencing is not a length of time, but rather we are experiencing the bardo, or passage, of living.
According to the teachings on the bardo or passage, of living, we’re not the only ones here. What a big surprise! Now everybody is thinking “Oh great! She’s going to tell us about flying saucers!” I wish. I wish! I’m still waiting for them to come pick me up. I don’t know if any of that stuff is true. I’m definitely into Star Trek and I hope to heck it’s true. It seems logical to me that it’s true, there being so many planets out there, but I don’t know that for sure. What we’re going to talk about today is the honest-to-goodness. This is what the Buddha has taught us about the realms of cyclic existence.
According to the Buddha’s teaching, the amount of those sentient beings who can achieve rebirth as a human being is so small that it would be like the amount of particles of dust on our thumbnail, compared to those sentient beings that are not human beings. That would be comparable to the particles of dust on the earth. Are you perceiving the vast amount of difference? So we have to think of ourselves as the smallest group really. There are other sentient beings who are revolving in cyclic existence. But in what way? This is what we want to know. There are so many of them! What are their sufferings? What are their conditions? How can we help them? Should we consider them? What are they to us? These are the thoughts that will help us to understand our condition and the condition of sentient beings.
According to the Buddha’s teaching, there are actually 3,000 myriads of universes. Three thousand myriads of universes. That is a way of saying uncountable reality. Uncountable, unmentionable, unthinkable display, so much display as to be inconceivable to the kind of mind that we have that likes to count beings, or likes to count numbers. There are that many wandering in cyclic existence. And according to the Buddha, there are basically six realms of cyclic existence. I will talk about these six realms of cyclic existence briefly so that each one of us can understand the condition of cyclic existence and the results of our own actions, because none of these beings in cyclic existence have ended up where they are, including us, through anything other than by the results of our own action. You are here listening to Dharma teaching because somewhere in the past you have been exemplary, exemplary. Oh naturally the room gets quiet! They want to hear about this! Don’t you love it! Every time. This is so predictable.
All right, let me tell you how wonderful you are. In order to have received the teachings that may ultimately result in your liberation in one lifetime… I mean, you talk about grains of dust on a thumbnail. That would be equal to grains of dust on the head of a pin! That is how rare this opportunity is. You must have done some extraordinary things in your past in order to be able to hear this teaching. You must have been kind to sentient beings. You must have helped other sentient beings or supported them as they sought truth, just as you are being supported in your search for truth. You must have been helpful. You must have been seeking. You must have been looking for a better way. You must have had some devotion. You must have had some faith, and more. It would take extraordinary kindness, extraordinary virtue, to come to this point.
Now within this point, there are some people in this room, and you can see that they are sleepy. They can’t listen very well, and they sort of miss most things. Well, why is that? That is not because of what they had for breakfast, really, unless of course you had a candy bar for breakfast in which case, go back to sleep! It is not because of their hearing. It is not because they speak a different language. It is not because of any of the things that you might think are contributing factors. If the person is too dulled out to be able to hear the teaching, it is because while they have the extraordinary merit and virtue to be able to hear the teaching, they don’t have quite enough to be able to absorb it deeply. It’s a little bit like if you could imagine a bug crawling on the arm of a great lama, or crawling on the arm of the Buddha. I mean, that’s a pretty good position to be in! If you’re a bug, that’s where you want to be! Crawling on the arm of the Buddha. Certainly if I were a bug, that’s where I would want to be. In the Buddha’s armpit or, you know, someplace safe. But still, the Buddha could be giving the most extraordinary teachings. The bug won’t hear it. The bug won’t accept it and the bug certainly won’t like it. The bug just wants to be the bug on the Buddha’s arm. It doesn’t even know it’s on the Buddha’s arm, really. It just wants to be comfortable. You see? So you may wish to be comfortable. You may wish to take a nap. You may think about the things that you’re used to thinking about. You may wish to keep the same exact attitude that you’ve always had, so this way you don’t have to change. Even though that all seems very logical to you, actually that’s because you don’t quite have enough merit to absorb the teachings deeply. Everything is due to cause and effect.
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