​How Is it Possible to Cause the Buddhas Joy?

May 4, 2020


Robina, may I ask a pretty simple question? It’s an idiosyncratic thing, probably just semantics, that just distracts my mind. If you have time, please – if you don’t, no worries.

I get snagged on the idea that our offerings and prayers delight and please the buddhas. Is this ascribing human characteristics to the buddhas, anthropomorphizing them, in the sense that they exist in a total state of permanent bliss and delight? Like the sun whose nature it is to radiate light, their nature is steadily radiating kindness, etc. So I do not understand the sense of saying we can delight them. Can you help me with that?



Dearest M,

Happy to hear from you!

This question demands that we first establish what a buddha is. Actual Buddha is the dharmakaya: all-knowing, all-compassionate, all-powerful, unmanifest consciousness that pervades the universe. But that’s not much good to us, we can’t communicate with that, so the enlightened mind manifests in bodies to give us the teachings – light bodies for the arya bodhisattvas in their meditations and human bodies for ordinary people.

A person who has accomplished the state of buddhahood does not need any kind of body at all – they’ve gone beyond bodies! And necessarily the bodies of all the beings in the realms of existence within samsara are contaminated and the fruit of karma.

There’s the Buddha of the past, the Indian man whose story we know well. From the Mahayana perspective, his already fully enlightened mind manifested as a human and went through the motions of becoming enlightened, solely for us to know how we too can become our own Buddha. How else could we get the methods? 

But it was not the fruit of karma, so he was manifesting as a human; we could say he was pretending to be human for our sake. How kind!

Your assumption that we’re “anthropomorphizing” is not correct. The qualities such as joy and love – and, of course attachment and anger – are not by definition human: they are qualities of mind. Buddha’s model of the mind refers to all realms of existence, not just humans. And the virtuous states of mind are the natural qualities of enlightened minds. They’re not “human.”

Given that Shakyamuni Buddha is dead, who is the Buddha for us? Given that buddhas manifest in countless bodies throughout countless universes for the sake of countless living beings – that’s their job! – clearly the Buddha for us is the person in human form who embodies enlightenment and teaches us the path to enlightenment. And that’s the teacher, the guru, the lama. Who else?

If the guru isn’t the Buddha, who is? 

Of course, we’re not clairvoyant, so we can’t say for certain that someone is a buddha and someone is not. This is why we need to do our due diligence, check so carefully, before we commit to seeing someone as a buddha.

And it would have been the same in India. The place was crawling with sadhus in their yellow robes! We could not possibly have known that Shakyamuni was a buddha – he would have looked just like the rest of them! As he said back then, don’t just believe me, check out what I’m saying. Same now; what’s the difference? He was the teacher then.

As Lama Yeshe says, Shakyamuni Buddha is dead. So the four noble truths won’t become real for us until we hear it from our present teacher: the human being in front of us whom we have chosen, whom we have decided to see as the Buddha.

So, there you are, in front of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, let’s say. As we know, he’s renowned as a buddha. Which means that his enlightened mind, which doesn’t need a body, remember, is now manifesting in a Tibetan man’s body to show us the methods, just like Shakyamuni.

If you make an offering to His Holiness, he won’t just sit there, feeling and showing nothing! He’ll smile, reach out, thank you, show joy. When you practice the path he has taught you, he will be blissful! No? And why is he, the Buddha, joyful? First of all, because joy is his natural state, and also because he has such love for you your virtue delights him! How could it not? 

If we don’t think the Buddha is the guru, then we just stick the Buddha up there in the sky as some abstract perfected entity that doesn’t express anything. That’s nihilism!

Love to you,

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