I have finally finished the translation of Deshung Rinpoche’s The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception into Thai. It took me more almost two years to do it because the book had more than 500 pages and I can’t spend whole day every day to do it. In any case the translation is finished and I have only to translate the small introductory sections in front of the book plus perhaps some glossary at the end. Then the book will be finished.
The plan is to publish this one in the Thai edition. Thanks to Wisdom Publications for granting us the permission to publish the Thai translation. I am sure this will be of tremendous benefits to Thai Buddhists. It will be quite a big book, though.
What Deshung Rinpoche did was to expound the meanings of “The Three Perceptions” (gnang sum), which is one of the most famous texts in Tibetan Buddhism. These perceptions are: (1) the perception of those who are still bound within samsara; (2) perception of those already on the Mahayana path, and (3) perception of the enlightened ones.
Those who are still mired in samsara perceive things as they appear, and they take them to be real. This is the predicament of all of us, who are not out of samsara yet. This is the reason why we are still inflicted with suffering. In this sense we are like those people who willingly, unknowingly, take a hat full of spinning knives on our head, thinking that it is so beautiful. Or we are like moths who think that the flame is so seductively beautiful, and we fly into it, getting burned as a result. We suffer, but we think this is the normal condition of everybody. It is due to the Buddha’s infinite compassion toward beings that he pointed this out to us so that we realize how foolish we have been for so long.
The goal of the first level of perception is to get us to realize the suffering nature of all of samsara. We need to realize that the flame is hot and that we must not fly into it. Or that the house is burning and we have to hurry out of it. This is realized through full understanding of such issues as the extreme rarity of human birth, impermanence and pervasiveness of death, and the law of karma.
Then the second kind of perception is called “perception of experience.” This refers to the experience of dharma practitioners who have internalized the awareness of the suffering nature of samsara and is taking the practice to find a way out. However, we also realize that it is quite inappropriate to become released from samsara only individually. Since every sentient being is interconnected and since we already owe a great deal to them, each of whom in fact used to be our caring mother, then we feel a sense of obligation to them. Hence we can’t leave them alone to continue to suffer in the ocean of samsara. Realizing this, we do whatever we can to be able finally to help them. This is the Mahayana Path, which distinguishses it from the solitary path of getting only oneself liberated.
Topics within this level of perception are, then, generation of bodhicitta, the genuine resolve and commitment to be able to help all sentient beings out of the sea of samsara through becoming an enlightened Buddha. There are two kinds of bodhicitta. One is relative, or conventional, bodhicitta, where one feels strong compassion toward all beings, identifying with them and sharing in their sufferings, committing oneself to take up their sufferings to the full. The other is ultimate bodhicitta, which is the realization that everything is empty of their inherent nature. One generates conventional bodhicitta through cultivation of great love (maitri) and great compassion (karuna), and generates ultimate bodhicitta through the two practices of calm abiding (shamatha) and insight (vipasyana). The goal of this level is to develop fully both conventional and ultimate bodhicittas.
Then the third and final level of spiritual perception is the pure perception of the enlightened ones. This is comparable to that of those who have finally achieved the ultimate goal. The Buddha’s perception is completely pure. He perceives things exactly as they are and is totally omniscient.
I will give a talk in Thai about the book and about the three levels of spiritual perception in Buddhism at the Thousand Stars Foundation House, 695 Ladprao 11, Jatujak, Bangkok. Please click this link for more information.