The process of overcoming our defilements goes in conjunction with gaining higher levels of realization. In fact, when we speak of gaining higher levels of realization in Buddhism we are speaking primarily of the processes through which our wisdom and insight deepen. It is actually the wisdom aspect that enables the practitioner to move from one level to the next on the path.
The attainment of the levels of the path is explained in condensed form in the Heart Sutra, where we find the mantra tadyatha om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha. Tadyatha means It is thus; gate gate means go, go; paragate means go beyond and transcend; parasamgate means go utterly beyond, go thoroughly beyond; and bodhi svaha means firmly rooted in enlightenment. ~ “Lighting the Way,” by His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, Pages 25-26.
The doctrines of emptiness and selflessness do not imply the non-existence of things. Things do exist. When we say that all phenomena are void of self-existence, it does not mean that we are advocating non-existence, that we are repudiating that things exist. Then what is it we are negating? We are negating, or denying, that anything exists from its own side without depending on other things. Hence, it is because things depend for their existence upon other causes and conditions that they are said to lack independent self-existence ~ His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, Answers: Discussions with Western Buddhists pages 31-32.
Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnam, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Around us, life bursts forth with miracles—a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a flower, laughter. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
We, humans, are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives in which we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness, but they also lessen our experience of suffering. Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace — anxiety, doubt, disappointment — these are definitely less. ~ ‘The Pocket Dalai Lama,’ pages 6-7, by His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama
Your practice should be strengthened by the difficult situations you encounter, just as a bonfire in a strong wind is not blown out, but blazes even brighter. ~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, “Teachings on the Nature of Mind and Practice.”