by Naomi Levine
The hour before dawn – is it the fourth watch of the night?- the hour before the street sellers set up, before the clacking of horns begins, and the murderous metal of auto rickshaws snarl the roads. When the street dogs have finally settled into somnolence and the beggars are asleep curled into warm rows, the monks and all of us walk in procession to Tergar on the outskirts of Bodh Gaya to the blue Monlam Pavilion. The road is dark with just the bright lights of the Pavilion in the distance. No wedding music blasts the silence, no mobile phones, no loudspeakers proclaim the dancing gods of Bollywood.
We come before dawn to take the Sojong vows: not eating after mid-day, not sitting in a high place, not wearing ornaments, not killing, lying, stealing, taking intoxicants, or having sexual contact. So no more sitting around in the packed ‘cafes’ trying to talk above the noisy foreign groups. ‘We’ are vastly outnumbered anyway. Just a crunched paleface here and there. A sign of the times.
The Karmapa teaches on Amitabha’s pure land, a place where you don’t need to be a VIP, rinpoche, or sponsor to get into the toilet, or a photocopy in duplicate of your visa to become a member. To get there just make a wish to create more virtue- unless one has committed one of the 5 heinous deeds, or given up the dharma altogether.
Scanning the room quickly, HH seemed to think we could all make it. It’s fairly egalitarian. Anyone can be reborn in Dewachen, if they work at it. Ordinary humans rub shoulders with gods, bodhisattvas, pratyekabudhas, arhats, and the Buddha Sakyamuni gives teachings all the time. Vajrapani and Chenresig are both there as well. Everyone looks like a buddha with 32 major signs of the body so you don’t get an immediate inferiority complex, and everything one needs arrives just by thinking about it. There is no attachment to material things so they don’t become an obstacle to the path.
Nagarjuna said that everyone in Amitabha pure realm has the 5 eyes. Because of the environment the wisdom eye can develop very quickly. Each of the people born there will be entertained by thousands of devas; so maybe there is desire, said His Holiness en passant. But if your mind is not deluded, enjoyment of the sensual pleasures will not bring attachment. You can be touching something very nice and soft and that’s it. No attachment. You get the blessings of the buddhas so the sense pleasures don’t create negative emotions.
Even the birds sing the songs of the dharma, and the rivers resound with it. The teachings come out of nature. Trees and flowers, plants, palaces, heavenly dancers – all bring about a state of mindfulness.
Forget attachment to dear ones, anxiety of not knowing what will happen life after life, fear of wild animals. The 5 obstacles to meditation, such as distraction, dullness, and stupor, are gone.
The environment brings such positive conditions, you can travel to other buddha realms without a visa. Those beings born in Dewachen live countless years, have a special teacher or guide, have prosperous dharma friends, great diligence and natural capacities; in fact all the right conditions to develop the positive qualities very quickly. Enlightened is guaranteed in that very lifetime because you will live for a long time. Imagine thousands of years with no negative thoughts, no poverty or age related degeneration! Thus it is taught by the Buddha in his sutras.
Nor is it escapist like the god realms where you don’t see any negativity. In Dewachen, you see both sides very clearly because your mind is not deluded, whereas the god realms are still same old samsara.
‘Now meditate that Bodh Gaya is actually Dewachen’, said His Holiness in conclusion.