The two wings you need to fly: Compassion and Wisdom

23 June 2010 - 5:07pm 2 Comments

Compassion, wisdom and renunciation are very big words. Sometimes it’s difficult to feel connected with them. Is it even possible to achieve Enlightenment? At last Sunday’s Manjushri class, Thierry Janssens said YES.

If the Buddha says that I can achieve Enlightenment, then I can. If I couldn’t, then Buddha wouldn’t have started teaching.

So how do we achieve Enlightenment? It begins first with the Three Principle Paths of Renunciation, Compassion and Wisdom.

To fly, we need two wings, method (or compassion) and wisdom. Renunciation is the body of the bird, without which the wings do not exist. These two wings are interdependent – even if one wing is strong and powerful, we cannot fly unless the other is equally strong and powerful.

This bird analogy also symbolises that we are going somewhere; we want to attain Enlightenment. Enlightenment can be referred to as the cessation of our self-afflicted sufferings. Most of us are scared to think about what Enlightenment means, and we find it scary because it seems so difficult.

Enlightenment can be referred to as the cessation from our self-afflicted sufferings.

A reason why we feel Enlightenment is scary and difficult is because of renunciation, which implies that we have to give up something. We wrongly assume that we need to renounce the pleasurable, good, comforting things in our lives. However, renunciation is not about having to give up something we like.

Does renunciation mean that I must give up friends? Money? Family? Boyfriends or girlfriends, sex, movies, TV? Holidays? The answer is no. We do not have to give up any of those things because renunciation refers to renouncing the causes of our suffering. Therefore, instead of giving things up completely, we learn to re-organise our priorities. It doesn’t mean we don’t go to movies anymore; instead, we get to a state where we can watch movies with the mind of renunciation.

We can ask ourselves three questions:

If I watch this movie / go to this party,

  1. Does it hurt anyone?
  2. What are the consequences?
  3. Does it help my purpose?

Instead of just being entertained by a movie, we can look at it to see what Dharma lessons there are in the movie. At the same time, to avoid indulging our whole lives in just watching movies, we can keep ourselves in check with the three questions.

Does it harm anyone?

  • It would harm me in the long term.

What are the consequences?

  • I would get lazy and fat.

Does it help my purpose?

  • I don’t think it will help me get Enlightenment.

Our lives revolve around seeking entertainment as an alternative to boredom. Most of us carry out three types of activities throughout the day:

  1. Work
  2. Housework, picking kids from school, paying bills
  3. Entertainment – shopping, movies, massages etc

Some of us have added a fourth activity – going for Dharma class or puja. This fourth activity is for us to engage in something meaningful for a short time. However, ultimately, with a mind of renunciation, we can practise Dharma during all four activities.

Happiness does not come from having or renouncing your car or your job because your happiness is not based on the object itself.

We all seek happiness but we don’t know how to achieve it. We try to make more money, have more relationships, eat more food, watch more TV…but none of these things last. Even if we feel happy for a day, a month or a year, eventually we return to a state of suffering. We must realise that happiness comes from within. It doesn’t come from external things and if we keep chasing external things to get happiness, it will not work because they do not last.

Happiness doesn’t come from the things themselves. Happiness does not come from having or renouncing your car or your job because your happiness is not based on the object itself. It is about renouncing the projection you have that these objects will bring you happiness.

So if happiness comes from within, how do I get happiness? This is the secret and the core of every spiritual practice. We come to realise,

My happiness is related to the happiness of others. I cannot be happy when surrounded by suffering beings.

Now, we have the beginning of the mind of renunciation. How do we develop compassion? Compassion is when we cannot bear others’ suffering, and we want to achieve the cessation of suffering for them and ourselves. This is Bodhicitta.

With a mind of renunciation, we stop seeing things as causes of happiness, and cease our delusional relationship with external things. We apply the method of compassion to move on the spiritual path, and use knowledge or wisdom to support the method. All three are linked and, with a little bit of effort, are not that large and impossible after all!

2 Responses to The two wings you need to fly: Compassion and Wisdom

  1. So true (re renunciation) one of my friend’s friend who is not a buddhist but does a lot of meditation, wants to become a buddhist but the thought of giving up meat has deterred him

  2. The Wind Beneath Our Wings – Dharma!
    Thank you for the teaching and sharing Thierry.
    Well thought through and made easy for individuals to relate with everyday perspectives and examples!