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When I am born in a place of impurity
It is the weapon of destructive karma turning upon me.
For always cultivating impure perceptions.
From now on I will cultivate only pure perceptions.

– Dharmarakshita
(The Wheel Of Sharp Weapons, Verse 14)

A place of impurity is polluted, filthy, and unhealthy. It could be a slum in a large city, a site where toxic waste was dumped, or an area with thick air pollution. Living in such a place is due to cultivating impure perceptions. That is, due to grasping true existence, we generate all sorts of afflicted mental states: hostility, attachment, laziness, jealousy, arrogance, and so on. Our mind judges others, seeing everyone as falling short of our view of what they should be. Instead of cultivating these impure perceptions that cause us to be born in an impure place, we make a determination to solely cultivate pure perceptions

There are different ways to generate our pure perceptions. One is to recognise that we do not know whether someone is a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. Holy beings manifest as ordinary beings in order to skillfully teach and guide us, but they do not wear name tags identifying themselves, “Hi, my name is Avalokiteshvara. I am a Buddha.” Since disparaging holy beings is very destructive karma and we do not know whether someone is awakened or not, Buddhist teachings recommend we avoid criticising anybody. This doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t confront difficulties or that we hide the truth.

For example, if a potential employer contacts us as a reference for Joe, it’s not suitable to either speak of Joe’s faults with the motivation to harm him or to praise him for qualities he doesn’t have… If we believe that a person is not a good fit for the job, then with a compassionate motivation… we share our honest assessment. Along the same lines, we can say an action is inappropriate and harmful without disparaging the person who did it. Separating the action from the person is a powerful tool for being able to see that each sentient being has Buddha-nature and at the same time acknowledge mistakes and help people grow by holding them accountable for harmful actions.

When we do tantric practice, we try to see the environment as a Pure Land and the other beings we encounter as deities and enlightened beings. The purpose of doing this is to protect our mind from anger, attachment, dissatisfaction, jealousy and other afflictions. It does not mean we whitewash negativities or project fanciful ideas of truly existent perfection onto others, as that can lead to problems. For example, if we see others fighting, we do not just say, “These are the wrathful deities Yamantaka and Mahakala doing this as a show.” Seeing everyone as a deity does not mean we sit back and let people hurt each other. We must intercede to stop the harm if we are capable of doing so, but we do this without anger.

– Good Karma:
How To Create The Causes Of Happiness And Avoid The Causes Of Suffering

Thubten Chodron

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