3

The Gelugpa Lam Rim says that someone who practices for benefit in this life alone is not even practicing Dharma -- the minimum Dharmic motivation is to achieve better rebirth (and there are two levels above that, which I am not concerned about here). Here is Pabongka Rinpoche, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand (Wisdom Pubs, Kindle Edition, location 2937; same spot in the 1991 paper edition from Wisdom begins on p. 154):

The difference in our motivation makes an enormous difference to the sort of virtuous karmic results we will receive, and to the measure of strength of these results. Suppose four people are reciting together the Praise of the Twenty-One Tārās. One has bodhichitta as a motive. Another is motivated by renunciation. The third yearns for a better rebirth. The last only aspires to the concerns of this life: long life, good health, and so on. Although all four recite the same amount of words, there is a great difference in the sort of karmic results they will obtain. ... The fourth’s recitation belonged only to this life and so was not even Dharma. And it would even be difficult for it to have any of the the hoped-for effect on his life.

So, my question -- can folks point me to similar material in the Pali Canon, Visuddhimagga or other non-Tibetan sources. Likewise in Tibetan lineages other than Gelug.


Added 11/25 -- Or, is this a Mahayana teaching, and therefore not found explicitly in the Pali Canon. The distinction between bodhicitta and renunciation as motivation is certainly Mahayana -- initially taught in this "three scopes" form in Tibet by Atisha in Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. So maybe even this pre-three-scopes teaching is not only Mahayana, but a Tibetan addition not found even in Atisha.

If so, then I'd be interested to at least find other Tibetan sources, or hear that this is strictly a Gelug teaching.


More still 11/25 -- Looks like Tsongkhapa, contra Pabongka, includes motivation for this life only in the lower scope, thus making a general motivation for better samsaric life apart from the rebirth distinction:

Furthermore, the scriptures mention many ways of positing a least, a medium, and a superior person. Like Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kosa Auto-commentary (Abhidharma-kosa-bhasya) defines the three types of persons. Among the persons of small capacity, there are indeed two types — those who are intent on this lifetime and those who are intent on future lifetimes. However, here I am speaking of the latter, whom I will identify as those who engage in the unmistaken method for attaining high status. (The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Volume One. The Lamrim Chenmo, Wisdom Pubs, pp. 131-132)

So maybe this teaching is actually post-Tsongkhapa Gelug.

  • 2
    May I ask for the motivation here? If it's for someone who doesn't believe in rebirth at all, then the Buddha said it's a problem in itself, because it's wrong view. I just want to make sure you're really asking: if someone is convinced of rebirth, and yet wants to practice for just this life alone, then did the Buddha have anything to say on that. If this is the case, I actually find this sort of situation puzzling. :) But is it the case? – Sadhana Nov 25 '14 at 15:25
  • Good question -- was thinking of it myself. I am interested in both interpretations -- lack of belief in rebirth; belief but disregard of it -- but primarily the former. Can you cite where the Buddha said it's wrong view to disbelieve in rebirth? I believe many, like Batchelor, doubt it's in the Pali Canon. – David Lewis Nov 25 '14 at 16:39
  • Because there actually is the next world, the view of one who thinks, 'There is no next world' is his wrong view... when he says that 'There is no next world,' he makes himself an opponent to those arahants who know the next world. Because there actually is the next world, when he persuades another that 'There is no next world,' that is persuasion in what is not true Dhamma. And in that persuasion in what is not true Dhamma, he exalts himself and disparages others. Whatever good habituation he previously had is abandoned, while bad habituation is manifested. -- MN 60 – Sadhana Nov 25 '14 at 20:34
  • @Sadhana Your first post above was a question about the question, so it was good you posted that as a comment not as an answer. Your second, recent post above looks like it would be better posted as an answer than as a comment. – ChrisW Nov 25 '14 at 21:14
  • 1
    @ChrisW Ok, thanks. I added it to my answer below. – Sadhana Nov 25 '14 at 21:34
4

The closest I can think of is the Dana sutta in which the Buddha explains how the purity of one's motives have an effect on the results.

"Sariputta, there is the case where a person gives a gift seeking his own profit, with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a brahman or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?"

"Yes, lord."

"Having given this gift seeking his own profit — with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself, [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the Four Great Kings. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.

[...]

"Or, instead of thinking, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise,' he gives a gift with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a brahman or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?"

"Yes, lord."

"Having given this, not seeking his own profit, not with a mind attached [to the reward], not seeking to store up for himself, nor [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death,'

[...]

" — but with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of Brahma's Retinue. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a non-returner. He does not come back to this world.

"This, Sariputta, is the cause, this is the reason, why a person gives a gift of a certain sort and it does not bear great fruit or great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefit."

-- AN 7.49

Now, if you're asking about the possibility of practicing the Dhamma without, at the very least, assuming rebirth to be true, then in the Apannaka sutta the Buddha indeed said this was wrong view, and thus against the path.

Because there actually is the next world, the view of one who thinks, 'There is no next world' is his wrong view... when he says that 'There is no next world,' he makes himself an opponent to those arahants who know the next world. Because there actually is the next world, when he persuades another that 'There is no next world,' that is persuasion in what is not true Dhamma. And in that persuasion in what is not true Dhamma, he exalts himself and disparages others. Whatever good habituation he previously had is abandoned, while bad habituation is manifested.

-- MN 60

  • Thanks -- this definitely addresses motivation, though not in the specific way I am looking for, with respect to this life vs subsequent lives. – David Lewis Nov 25 '14 at 14:41
  • Yes, I think your addendum (last citation) is relevant -- thanks. – David Lewis Nov 25 '14 at 23:13
2

As per Theravada tradition Dhamma has the quality of Paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhi (To be meant to perceive directly and this experience in withing this life time), Sandiṭṭhiko (can be examined and the results been seen here and now), Akāliko (timeless and immediate results when practiced correctly). All this leading to the fact that you should practice for this life time though the benefits would also manifest in substantial life times if you do not get fully liberated in this life.

You need some level of motivation otherwise you will not,

  • put the effort, or
  • be diligent in the way on how to practice.
  • Thanks, but you address results, while my question concerns motivation. Yes, there will certainly be results in this life, but what the Lam Rim is saying, I think, is that the results even in this life will vary according to motivation. Specifically, if one's motivation is not even Dharmic (that is, it is confined to this life), then even the results for this life will be in question. Where in the Pali Canon (etc) is that doctrine? I am assuming it is there somewhere, as most everything not specifically Mahayana in the Lam Rim derives from the early teachings. – David Lewis Nov 25 '14 at 7:19
1

I don't see how this isn't obvious.

  1. bodhichitta
  2. renunciation
  3. better rebirth
  4. long life, good health

The first three are all (aspects of, mentioned in, included within) Dharma.

"Better rebirth" at least allows you to detach from a view of self-is-this-body.

"Long life, good health" are slightly mentioned as possibilities (for example inasmuch as it's recommended not to eat too much, which is beneficial in this life), but practicing only for that motive seems to me to originate in (and to sustain) a view that's contrary to Dharma, which says for example:

  • Be heedful of the current moment
  • No guarantee about the future, except that all compound things will decay
  • Attachment (e.g. to long life, good health) causes suffering

So that view or intention seems to me to be contrary to the noble truths, contrary to the eightfold way ... if it's not Dharma ... if, therefore, it's not Buddhism ... then I don't see how it isn't obvious that it's likely that the "hoped for effect won't happen":

  • If the "hoped-for-effect" is the benefit-of-practising-Buddhism (e.g. happiness of renunciation) then the effect won't happen if you're not practising Buddhism
  • If the "hoped-for-effect" is benefit-to-health then, if you're only pretending to practice Buddhism (e.g. "reciting the same amount of words"), practising it badly or falsely, why should that have any effect at all?
  • Thanks -- and agreed that it seems obvious. But there's plenty of "obvious" stuff in Buddhist teachings. So I am still looking for scriptural references other than the Gelug Lam Rim, preferably the Pali Canon. But I am beginning to wonder if it is there -- I did a search on motivation in Pali Canon and did not find it. – David Lewis Nov 25 '14 at 14:39
  • @DavidLewis How about "intention" ... "right intention" a.k.a. "right thought", "right resolve", "right conception", "right aspiration" ... is that the same as "motivation"? There's a lot about "intention" and "resolve" on accesstoinsight.org – ChrisW Nov 25 '14 at 15:17
1

Parting from the Four Attachments :a short teaching spoken by Manjushri to the Sakya patriarch Sachen Kunga Nyingpo:

If you are attached to this life, you are not a true spiritual practitioner.
If you are attached to samsara, you do not have renunciation.
If you are attached to your own self-interest, you have no bodhichitta.
If there is grasping, you do not have the View.

This first line addresses this exact point: if your only concern is for this present life, then you can't practice. Actually, your first practice can be changing this attitude!

  • Thanks -- but I am looking for non-Tibetan sources, especially Theravada. – David Lewis Jan 1 '16 at 20:30
0

I'm going to add an answer of my own based on some reading I did today (but still give the nod to Sadhana for a good citation).

This piece -- The Truth of Rebirth, by Thanissaro Bikkhu -- makes the point that "birth" in the first of the Four Truths can only refer to rebirth, otherwise why would it be relevant to an already born being. It also cannot refer simply to micro-level, momentary mind-states because the Buddha is quite clear (SN 12:2) that he means the literal birth of a person, and likewise illness, aging and death. And for all, he means cyclic repetition of them.

This and numerous other points, particularly Paticca Samuppada (dependent arising) make it clear the the Four Truths are intimately bound up with literal rebirth. So any view that denies rebirth also denies the Four truths, that is, Dharma.

The only remaining question for me is the person who acknowledges the truth of rebirth but is still not motivated by it. But to do that is clearly not to practice Dharma either, since intention and action are a crucial elements of practice.

So bottom line, I think the Lam Rim formulation is a forceful summary of these facts, which is deeply built into the fundamental Pali Canon teachings but scattered around. (Plug for Lam Rim -- it claims to be a succinct, systematic gathering of the fundamental teachings, both Pali Canon and Mahayana. I think this example demonstrates that quality rather nicely.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.