A Brief Teaching on Refuge
By His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa
I would like to present a brief teaching on Refuge. It is the understanding and observing of the Refuge vow, which defines one as a Buddhist. It is also said, "You are not a Mahayanist if you don't have Bodhicitta." It is the generation of Bodhicitta or the Bodhisattva aspiration to aid all sentient beings, which defines whether or not your practice is Mahayana.
It should be understood that the entire Buddhist path is included within the principles of Refuge and Bodhicitta. All the teachings given by the Buddha Shakyamuni come down to Refuge and Bodhicitta. Therefore we have teachings on the roots of Refuge, the general and particular precepts of Refuge, and many other instructions related to Refuge. The roots of Refuge are faith and compassion. First there is trust and confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha (the Three Jewels). Also, there is compassion, wishing to liberate all sentient beings from suffering.
Faith in the Three Jewels consists of three types. Inspired faith is the positive inspiration you receive when visiting places of worship where there are many sacred objects, or when you meet great masters or attend sangha gatherings. Aspiration faith is when you wish to get rid of suffering and attain the peace of higher states of existence; you wish to practice good deeds and abandon negative deeds for that purpose, and have confidence in the possibility of achieving that goal. The faith of full confidence is to understand that the Three Jewels are your only and ultimate Refuge. One has heartfelt trust in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Compassion for all sentient beings is to want to liberate all sentient beings from all the kinds of problems and suffering in the ocean of Samsara. One should think, "All living beings have been my mothers (in past lives) and all have loved me and cared for me as my mother. Therefore, I would like to help them to become liberated from all their suffering." This is compassion. These are the roots of Refuge.
What is the essence of the refuge vows? It is that I have no other ultimate guide but the Buddha, I have no other true path but the Dharma and I have no other companions with whom to tread the path of dharma but the supreme Sangha. We need companions with whom to tread our path: If we want to cross the river we need a boatman; the boat will not move on it's own. If we rely on wrong companions or friends we can be led astray, so we want to find the right companions and travel together on the right path. That is the supreme sangha.
Clear and unchanging commitment to the Three Jewels of Refuge is necessary. The instructions on observing the Refuge commitments are many and can be categorized into the general, the particular and so on.
First of the general instructions is not to give up your Refuge vow even in exchange for your life, or for great awards. For example, even if someone might pile up the greatest amount of wealth on one side and tell you, "This could be yours if you would abandon your Refuge vow," one should not abandon the Refuge vow.
Second, whatever suffering and hardships you go through, you should not rely on anything but the Three Jewels.
Third, you should always make offerings to the Three Jewels and the sacred objects that represent the body, speech and mind of a Buddha.
Fourth, you should observe the Refuge vows and bring others to have confidence in the Three Jewels as much as possible. It is not enough that oneself alone should abide by the Refuge precepts, one should also bring others to the right direction; if somebody is going in a wrong way you should try to lead them on the right path.
Fifth, you should make prostrations to the Buddhas of the ten directions, to the Buddha of whichever direction in which you are heading. This simply means to have respect, recall the kindness of and pay homage to the Buddhas morning, noon and evening.
Tthere are the instructions on the particular precepts regarding the Three Jewels.
First, if we go for Refuge to the Buddha we do not ever take worldly deities and gods as an ultimate source of Refuge. Worldly gods are those like Brahma, Indra, Vishnu and Shiva, or Tsens and Gyalpo and other spirits. Since they themselves are in Samsara, how can they help you to become liberated from it? So, as it is said in the Thirty-seven Practices of a Bodhisattva (by Thogme Rinpoche), one should not go for Refuge to unenlightened and worldly beings.
Second, going for Refuge to the Dharma means giving up harming sentient beings. These living beings here include not just those with four legs and hair, but all those who have senses or a mind. One should give up killing and robbing, and should tread the path of non-violence.
Third, when you go for Refuge to the Sangha you should not spend time with negative companions; if you spend time with negative companions you will be led into negative ways and not into positive ways.
There are three precepts to observe with regard to paying respect to the Three Jewels.
First, regarding going for Refuge to the Buddha, you show reverence to the Buddhas and their representatives. This includes putting Buddha images in a place of respect, making prostrations and offerings, and so on.
Second, going for Refuge to the Dharma requires you to show reverence to the Dharma and its representations, even to a letter or a syllable by which the Dharma is written.
Third, taking refuge in the Sangha requires you to show respect to the sangha and the representatives of the Sangha, like those who are wearing the robes of the Sangha. Even if you find a piece of red robe on the street you should think that this is also a representation of the Sangha and should not treat it in a disrespectful way.
Now for the three instructions on accordance of the vows.
First, in going for Refuge to the Buddha, let your mind be in accord with the Dharma. If we claim to go for Refuge to the Buddha but our mind is completely in opposition to the Dharma it is not right. Let your mind be infused with the Dharma, and generate peace and humility in your mind.
Second, in going for Refuge to the Dharma, we should let our speech be in accord with the Dharma. If we claim to be taking Refuge in the Dharma but let our speech be totally contrary to the Dharma this is very wrong. Therefore we try to give up telling deceitful lies, slandering others, and speaking hurtful words; we try to infuse our speech with the Dharma in our daily life.
Third, in going for refuge to the Sangha we should let our body be in accord with the Dharma. We should try to live our life in accord with the Dharma and give up negative actions of the body, such as sexual misconduct and so on.
What are the benefits of observing the Refuge precepts? By going for Refuge we begin to practice the Buddha's Dharma, this generates numerous benefits. We create a favourable basis for all precepts and levels of ordination. Also, we are protected from the harm of negative humans and non-human beings; all obstacles and harmful influences are pacified. We will not be separated from the blessings of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in all our lives to come. The effects of negative karma will be reduced. There are so many benefits that it is difficult to count them all.
we'll talk about Bodhicitta. All of the paths of a Bodhisattva must be completed
within the context of Bodhicitta. First try to think of all those beings experiencing
great suffering whom you have seen, like those people who are disabled or sick,
and then think of all the other beings who are undergoing immeasurable sufferings.
You think of this again and again until you feel real and great compassion for
them. You feel as if one will personally dispel all their sufferings; I will do
it even if I must do it alone.
When this kind of aspiration and courage arises in you, it is the beginning of becoming a Bodhisattva. Developing this kind of compassion and courage constitute the preparation and training of a Bodhisattva.
There are three kinds of aspiration for a Bodhisattva.
First is the king-like aspiration. A king has power and can give orders to help and benefit to his subjects. This means one aspires to become enlightened, in order to be able to help all other sentient beings attain enlightenment.
Second is the captain-like aspiration, which means you want to become enlightened alongside all other sentient beings. A boatman loads his boat with passengers and goes with them across the river.
Third is the shepherd-like aspiration, which is when one aspires, "May all beings become enlightened because of my positive deeds. I will become enlightened only after every one of them has attained enlightenment." A shepherd will take care of the sheep first, and only then will he go home. This is the most supreme type of courage and compassion.
Of these three, the most noble is the third. But you can choose whichever is more suitable for you; there is no difference. There are three precepts of the Bodhicitta vow: abstaining from negative actions, accumulating positive actions, and working for the benefit of others. Abstaining from negative actions can be elaborated into the eighteen root precepts, but the essence of all of them can be condensed into not abandoning sentient beings. To give up on any sentient being is worse than any other negative deed, therefore one must place emphasis on this.
The Refuge vow and Bodhicitta are not just preliminary practices, or something to be done in the beginning and then be left behind. We recite verses on Refuge and Bodhicitta at the beginning of our practices, but they are not only for the beginning. These two should always accompany you throughout the path. One should maintain compassion, not give up on any sentient being, and should keep a strong commitment to the Refuge vow. This is the most important basis for the Buddhist path and one should always think that "I will personally bring all sentient beings to Enlightenment."
One should try to generate a genuine aspiration of this kind and work on it as one would dig for gold. This means one should be genuine, and not false or hypocritical. For example if you are not drunk but act like a drunk to impress others, you are not being genuine. When someone is digging for gold, he or she is not thinking of anything else but that gold. Likewise, one should focus one's mind solely on the generation of Bodhicitta and not do it for fame.
If you do not place emphasis on Refuge you cannot even practice the Hinayana, let alone the Mahayana. If you do not have an inclination towards Bodhicitta you cannot practice Mahayana, let alone Vajrayana.
It is very important to understand this basic principle. If genuine Bodhicitta is established in your mind, you will enter the path of the Bodhisattvas and you will always meet genuine spiritual friends in your lives to come. One will receive the nectar of the Dharma teachings, and will actualize Enlightenment, the perfect Buddhahood, without much delay. Perfect here means the complete abandonment of all that is to be abandoned and the full accomplishment of all that is to be accomplished.
Buddha is translated into Tibetan as Sangye. 'Sang' means awaken: you awaken from all the afflictions. 'Gye' means blossom: the wisdom opens like the petals of a blossoming flower.
Now that we have laid the foundation for the ocean of Bodhisattva activities, we should say prayers such as the Zangpa Chopa Monlam, the prayers composed by Nagarjuna, etc. al. We should say them not just once or twice but every day, but as constantly as possible throughout our lives for the benefit of others. The reason why I talk about Refuge is that we should not waste this life of ours, which is endowed with the eight freedoms and ten opportunities. Of course there are many who are more learned than I am, but I have tried to say a few words on this. A fool like me doesn't know much, but if you keep it these words in mind I think there will be some benefits.
Teaching given at Tsurphu Monastery in 1998, translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche.
Redistributed by the Tsurphu Foundation
for Peace in the World,
June 28 2004
My dear Dharma brothers and sisters,
It looks like there
could be a lot of violence happening in Iraq.
It comes out very beneficial if people read the Golden Light Sutra at least 1000 times and dedicate it for peace in Iraq and the rest of world. This will at least reduce the killing and suffering.
The holy Sutra of Golden Light is the king of the sutras (Ser.ö dam.päi do wang.gyi gyälpo). It is extremely powerful and fulfills the wishes, as well all the peace and happiness, of all sentient beings, up to enlightenment. It is also powerful for world peace, your own protection and the protection of your country and the world. Also, it has great healing power for people in the country, even if only one person reads it.
I am offering my suggestion for people who desire peace for themselves and for others. This is the spiritual, or dharma, way to bring peace that doesn't require you to harm others, doesn't require you to criticize others or even to demonstrate against others, yet can accomplish peace. So I hope some people will read this text, Buddhists and even non-Buddhists who desire world peace.
This also protects individuals and the country from what are labeled natural disasters-of the wind element, fire element, earth element and water element-such as earthquakes, floods, cyclones, fires, tornadoes, etc. They are not natural because they come from causes and conditions that make dangers happen. They come from past inner negative thoughts and actions of people, and external conditions. Their creation is not natural, it happens from our own side.
So here, I would like to make this request with my two palms together, to please recite the Sutra of Golden Light for world peace as much as you can.
Thank you very much.
With much love and prayers,
For Death And Helping The Dying
A BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE
This booklet is based on a handout used during a seminar that I have taught a number of times in Singapore and elsewhere, entitled "Preparing for Death and Helping the Dying." This seminar answers a genuine need in today's world, as expressed by one participant: "I am interested to know more about death and how to help dying people, but it's very difficult to find anyone willing to talk about these things."
The material for the seminar (which I usually teach over 3-4 sessions) is taken mainly from two sources: traditional Buddhist teachings, and contemporary writings in the field of caring for the dying. This booklet is meant as a brief introduction to the subject rather than a detailed explanation. My hope is that it will spark interest in the ideas presented. For those of you who wish to learn more, a list of recommended books is provided at the end. There is also a list of hospice care services in Singapore for those in need of such services for family members or friends, or for those who would like to serve as a volunteer. We also plan to continue working on this booklet to improve and expand it, and publish it for free distribution in the near future. Any ideas, feedback or suggestions will be gratefully accepted.
Death is a subject that most people do not like to hear about, talk about, or even think about. Why is this? After all, whether we like it or not, each and every one of us will have to die one day. And even before we have to face our own death, we will most probably have to face the deaths of other people -- our family members, friends, colleagues, and so forth. Death is a reality, a fact of life, so wouldn't it be better to approach it with openness and acceptance, rather than fear and denial?
Perhaps the discomfort we have towards death is because we think it will be a terrible, painful and depressing experience. However, it doesn't have to be so. Dying can be a time of learning and growth; a time of deepening our love, our awareness of what is important in life, and our faith and commitment to spiritual beliefs and practices. Death can even be an opportunity to gain insight into the true nature of ourselves and all things, an insight which will enable us to become free from all suffering.
Let's take the example of Inta McKimm, the director of a Buddhist centre in Brisbane, Australia. Inta died of lung cancer in August, 1997. Two months before her death she wrote in a letter to her Spiritual Teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche: "Although I am dying, this is the happiest time of my life! . For a long time life seemed so hard, so difficult. But when really recognizing death it turned into the greatest happiness. I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on their own death, the great happiness that comes with having recognized impermanence and death. This is quite surprising and unexpected, and extremely joyful. It is the greatest happiness of my whole life, the greatest adventure and the greatest party!"
Inta spent the last few months of her life dedicating herself to spiritual practice. At the time of her death her mind was peaceful, and she was surrounded by family and friends praying for her. There are many similar stories of Lamas, monks, nuns and spiritual practitioners who are able to face death with serenity and dignity, and in some cases are even able to remain in a state of meditation during and after their death. With the proper training and preparation, a peaceful and positive death is possible for each and every one of us.
First of all, let's look at how death is viewed in the Buddhist tradition.
BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVES ON DEATH
Death Is A Natural, Inevitable Part Of Life
People sometimes think of death as a punishment for bad things they have done, or as a failure or mistake, but it is none of these. It is a natural part of life. The sun rises and sets; the seasons come and go; beautiful flowers become withered and brown; people and other beings are born, live for some time, then die.
The Buddha imparted the teaching on the inevitability of death in a very skilful way to one of his disciples, Kisa Gotami. Kisa Gotami was married and had a child who was very dear to her heart. When the child was about one year old, he became ill and died. Overcome with grief and unable to accept the death of her child, Kisa Gotami took him in her arms and went in search of someone who could bring him back to life. Finally she met the Buddha, and begged Him to help her. The Buddha agreed, and asked her to bring Him four or five mustard seeds, but they had to be obtained from a house where no one had ever died
Kisa Gotami went from house to house in the village, and although everyone was willing to give her some mustard seeds, she was unable to find a house where death had not occurred. Gradually she realized that death happened to everyone, and returned to the Buddha, buried her child and become one of His followers. Under His guidance, she was able to attain Nirvana, complete freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
People may fear that accepting and thinking about death will make them morbid, or spoil their enjoyment of life's pleasures. But surprisingly, the opposite is true. Denying death makes us tense; accepting it brings peace. And it helps us become aware of what is really important in life - for example, being kind and loving to others, being honest and unselfish - so that we will put our energy into those things and avoid doing what would cause us to feel fear and regret in the face of death.
It Is Very Important To Accept And Be Aware Of Death
In the Great Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha said:
Of all ploughing, ploughing in the autumn is supreme.
Of all footprints, the elephant's is supreme.
Of all perceptions, remembering death and impermanence is supreme.
Awareness and remembrance of death are extremely important in Buddhism for two main reasons:
1) By realising that our life is transitory, we will be more likely to spend our time wisely, doing positive, beneficial, virtuous actions, and refraining from negative, non-virtuous actions. The result of this is that we will be able to die without regret, and will be born in fortunate circumstances in our next life.
2) Remembering death will induce a sense of the great need to prepare ourselves for death. There are various methods (e.g. prayer, meditation, working on our mind) that will enable us to overcome fear, attachment and other emotions that could arise at the time of death and cause our mind to be disturbed, unpeaceful, and even negative. Preparing for death will enable us to die peacefully, with a clear, positive state of mind.
Death Is Not The End Of Everything, But A Gateway Into Another Life
Each of us is made up of a body and a mind. The body consists of our physical parts - skin, bones, organs, etc. - and the mind consists of our thoughts, perceptions, emotions, etc. The mind is a continuous, ever-changing stream of experiences. It has no beginning and no end. When we die, our mind separates from our body and goes on to take a new life. The type of life we will be born into and the experiences we will have are determined by the way we live our life. Positive, beneficial, ethical actions will lead to a good rebirth and happy experiences, whereas negative, harmful actions will lead to an unfortunate rebirth and miserable experiences.
Another factor that is crucial in determining our next rebirth is the state of our mind at the time of death. We should aim to die with a positive, peaceful state of mind, to ensure a good rebirth. Dying with anger, attachment or other negative attitudes will cause us to be born in unfortunate circumstances in our next life. This is another reason why it is so important to prepare ourselves for death, because in order to have a positive state of mind at that time, we need to start now to learn how to keep our minds free from negative attitudes, and to familiarize ourselves with positive attitudes, as much as possible.
It Is Possible To Become Free From Death And Rebirth
Dying and taking rebirth are two of the symptoms of ordinary, cyclic existence (samsara), the state of continuously-recurring problems, dissatisfaction, and non-freedom which all of us are caught in. The reason we are in this situation is because of the presence in our mind of delusions - chiefly attachment, anger and ignorance - and the imprints of our actions (karma) performed under the influence of delusions.
The Buddha was once like us, caught in samsara, but He found a way to become free, and achieved the state of perfect, complete Enlightenment. He did this not just for His own sake, but for the sake of all other beings, because he realized that all beings have the potential to become enlightened - this is called our "Buddha nature", and it is the true, pure nature of our minds.
Buddha has the most perfect, pure compassion and love for all of us, all living beings, and taught us how we too could become free from suffering and attain enlightenment. That's what his teachings, the Dharma, are all about. The Dharma shows us how we can free our minds from delusions and karma - the causes of death, rebirth and all the other problems of samsara - and thus to become free from samsara and attain the ultimate state of enlightenment. Remembering death is one of the most powerful sources of the energy we need to practise the Buddha's teachings and thus attain their blissful results.
Now let's take a look at some of the ways in which we can begin preparing ourselves for death.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR DEATH
The Four Tasks Of Living And Dying
Christine Longaker, an American woman with over 20 years' experience working with the dying, has formulated four tasks which will help us to prepare for death, as well as to live our lives fully and meaningfully. The four are:
1) Understanding and transforming suffering. Basically this means coming to an acceptance of the various problems, difficulties and painful experiences which are an inevitable part of life, and learning to cope with them. If we can learn to cope with the smaller sufferings that we encounter as we go through life, we will be better able to cope with the bigger sufferings that we will face when we die.
2) Making a connection, healing relationships and letting go. This task refers to our relationships with others, particularly family and friends. The main points here are to learn to communicate honestly, compassionately and unselfishly, and to resolve any unresolved problems we may have with others.
3) Preparing spiritually for death. Christine writes: "Every religious tradition emphasizes that to prepare spiritually for death it is vital that we establish right now a daily spiritual practice, a practice so deeply ingrained that it becomes part of our flesh and bones, our reflexive response to every situation in life, including our experiences of suffering." A list of recommended spiritual practices from the Buddhist tradition can be found below.
4) Finding meaning in life. Many of us go through life without a clear idea as to what is the purpose and meaning of our existence. This lack of clarity can become a problem as we become older and closer to death because we become less capable and more dependent upon others. So it is important to explore such questions as "What is the purpose of my life? Why am I here? What is important and not important?"
four tasks are fully explained in Facing Death and Finding Hope by Christine Longaker
(London: Century, 1997) p. 37-157.
Painful or frightening experiences that occur at the time of death and afterwards - in the intermediate state and the next rebirth - are the result of negative actions, or karma. To prevent such experiences, we need to refrain from negative actions and do as many positive actions as we can. For example, we can do our best to avoid the ten non-virtuous actions (killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, harsh speech, lying, slander, gossip, covetousness, ill-will and wrong views) and to practise the ten virtues (consciously refraining from killing, etc). It's also good to take vows or precepts, and do purification practices on a daily basis.
Another aspect of Buddhist ethics is working on our minds to reduce the very causes of negative actions: delusions, or disturbing emotions, such as anger, greed, pride, and so forth. And awareness of death itself is one of the most effective antidotes for delusions. For example, realizing that we and everyone else will die one day helps us to realize the futility of hating our enemies and clinging to loved ones. Thus we should try to resolve our conflicts with others as early as possible so that we do not die with those burdens on our mind. Also, as we approach death, it's good to start giving away our possessions, or at least make a will -- that will help reduce attachment and worry at the time of death.
Study Spiritual Teachings
Learning spiritual teachings such as those given by the Buddha will help us to overcome delusions and negative behaviour, and will help us to become more wise and compassionate. Also, the more we understand reality or truth -- the nature of our life, the universe, karma, our capacity for spiritual development and how to bring it about -- the less we will be afraid of death.
Cultivate A Spiritual Practice
As we are dying, we may find ourselves experiencing physical discomfort and pain. In addition to this, we will most probably also experience disturbing thoughts and emotions, such as regrets about the past, fears about the future, sadness about having to separate from our loved ones and possessions, and anger about the misfortunes that are happening to us. As mentioned above, it is very important to keep our mind free from such negative thoughts, and instead to have positive thoughts at the time of death. Examples of positive thoughts could include:
" keeping in mind an object of our faith such as Buddha or God,
" calm acceptance of our death and the problems associated with it,
" non-attachment to our loved ones and possessions,
" feeling positive about the way we have lived our life; remembering good things we have done;
" feeling loving-kindness and compassion for others.
In order to be able to invoke such thoughts or attitudes at the time of death, we need to be familiar with them. Familiarity with positive states of mind depends upon putting time effort into spiritual practice while we are alive. And the best time to start is now, since we have no way of knowing when death will happen.
Some recommended practices from the Buddhist tradition include:
1) Taking refuge
In Buddhism, taking refuge is an attitude of feeling faith in and relying upon the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, accompanied by a sincere effort to learn and practice the Buddhist teachings in our life. It is said in the Buddhist teachings that taking refuge at the time of death will ensure that we will obtain a fortunate rebirth and avoid an unfortunate one in our next lifetime. Faith in one's personal spiritual teachers, or in a specific Buddha or bodhisattva such as Amitabha or Kuan Yin, will also have the same result and will bring great comfort to the mind at the time of death.
2) Pure Land practice
A popular practice, particularly in the Mahayana tradition, is to pray for rebirth in a Pure Land, such as the Pure Land of Bliss (Sukhavati) of Amitabha Buddha. Pure Lands are manifested by the Buddhas to aid those who wish to continue their spiritual practice in the next life, free of the distractions, hassles and interferences of the ordinary world.
Bokar Rinpoche mentions four essential conditions that need to be cultivated in order to take birth in Amitabha's Pure Land: 1) making ourselves familiar with the image of the Pure Land and meditating upon it; 2) having a sincere wish to be born there, and making regular prayers for such a rebirth; 3) purifying our negative actions and accumulating positive actions, and dedicating these to be born in the Pure Land; 4) having the motivation of bodhicitta-the aspiration to attain enlightenment (Buddhahood) to be able to help all beings - as the reason for wishing to be born in the Pure Land.
Mindfulness is a meditative practice that involves become aware of whatever is
happening in our body and mind accompanied by equanimity, free of attachment to what is pleasant and aversion to what is unpleasant. Strong familiarity with this practice would enable one to cope with pain, discomfort and disturbing emotions, keep the mind free from disturbing emotions, and remain peaceful while dying.
This practice involves cultivating feelings of care, concern and kindness towards all other
beings. When we face difficulties or pain, our strong attachment to 'I' augments our suffering; being less concerned with ourselves and more concerned for others diminishes our suffering. At the time of death, thinking of other beings and wishing them to be happy and free from suffering would bring great peace to our mind. It is also a practice that purifies our negativities and accumulates positive potential, or merit, which would ensure a good rebirth in the next life.
Become Familiar With The Stages Of The Death Process
One reason why people tend to be afraid of death is because they do not know what will happen to them. However, in the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, there is a clear and detailed explanation of the process of dying, which involves eight stages. The eight stages correspond to the gradual dissolution of various factors, such as the four elements: earth, water, fire and air. As one passes through the eight stages, there are various internal and external signs.
The four elements dissolve over the first four stages. In the first stage, where the earth element dissolves, the external signs are that one's body becomes thinner and weaker, and internally one sees mirages. The second stage involves the dissolution of the water element; the external sign is that one's bodily fluids dry up, and internally one has a vision of smoke. The fire element dissolves in the third stage; the external sign is that the heat and digestive power of the body decline, and internally one has a vision of sparks. In the fourth stage, where the wind or air element dissolves, the external sign is that breathing ceases, and internally one has a vision of a flame about to go out.
This is the point at which one would normally be declared clinically death. The gross physical elements have all dissolved, the breath has stopped, and there is no longer any movement in the brain or circulatory system. However, according to Buddhism death has not yet taken place because the mind or consciousness is still present in the body.
There are various levels of the mind: gross, subtle and very subtle. The gross mind or consciousness includes our six sense consciousnesses and eighty instinctive conceptions. The former dissolve over the first four stages, and the latter dissolves in the fifth stage, following which one experiences a white vision. In the sixth stage, the white vision dissolves and a red vision appears. In the seventh stage, the red vision dissolves and a vision of darkness appears. The white, red and dark visions constitute the subtle level of consciousness.
Finally, in the eighth stage, the dark vision dissolves and the very subtle mind of clear light becomes manifest. This is the most subtle and pure level of our mind, or consciousness, and experienced meditators are able to use this clear light mind to meditate and gain a realization of absolute truth, and even attain enlightenment. That is why such meditators are not afraid of death, and even look forward to death as if they were going on a holiday!
This is just a brief explanation of the eight stages. More detailed explanations can be found in a number of books (see the recommended reading list), such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, translated by Robert Thurman, p.23-50. Since we are naturally more frightened of what is not known to us, becoming familiar with the stages of the death process would help ease some of our fear of death. And if we are able to practise the meditations on simulating the death process and awakening the clear light mind which are found in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition, we might even be able to attain realizations as we die.
These are just a few recommended spiritual practices that we can learn and train ourselves in during the course of our life which will help us be more prepared for death. However, there are many other methods, which are suited to people of different temperaments. When it comes to choosing the method that is right for us, we can use our own intuition and wisdom, or consult reliable spiritual teachers with whom we have an affinity.
Now let's look at what we can do to help other people who are dying.
HELPING OTHERS WHO ARE DYING
It is said in the Buddhist teachings that helping another person to die with a peaceful, positive state of mind is one of the greatest acts of kindness we can offer. The reason for this is that the moment of death is so crucial for determining the rebirth to come, which in turn will affect subsequent rebirths.
However, helping a dying person is no easy task. When people die, they experience numerous difficulties and changes, and this would naturally give rise to confusion as well as painful emotions. They have physical needs - relief from pain and discomfort, assistance in performing the most basic tasks such as drinking, eating, bathing and so forth. They have emotional needs - to be treated with love, kindness and respect; to talk and be listened to; or, at certain times, to be left alone and in silence. They have spiritual needs - to make sense of their life, their suffering, their death; to have hope for what lies beyond death; to feel that they will be cared for and guided by someone or something wiser and more powerful than themselves.
Thus one of the most important skills in helping a dying person is to try to understand what their needs are, and do what we can to take care of these. We can best do this by putting aside our own needs and wishes whenever we visit them, and make up our mind to simply be there for them, ready to do whatever has to be done, whatever will help them to be more comfortable, happy and at peace.
There are many excellent books available on how to care for a dying person in terms of their physical and emotional needs (see the recommended reading list). Here we will focus on the spiritual needs and how to provide for these.
1. Working on our own emotions
As mentioned above, when people approach death they will at times experience disturbing emotions such as fear, regret, sadness, clinging to the people and things of this life, and even anger. They may have difficulty coping with these emotions, and may find themselves overwhelmed, as if drowning in them. What is helpful to them during these difficult times is to sit with them, listen compassionately and offer comforting words to calm their minds.
But to be able to do this effectively, we need to know how to cope with our own emotions. Being in the presence of death will most probably bring up the same disturbing emotions in our mind as in the dying person's mind - fear, sadness, attachment, a sense of helplessness, and so forth. Some of these emotions we may never have experienced before, and we may feel surprised and even confused to find them in our mind. Thus we need to know how to deal with them in ourselves before we can really help someone else to deal with them.
One of the best methods for dealing with emotions is mindfulness meditation (explained above). Another is reminding ourselves of impermanence: the fact that we ourselves, other people, our bodies and minds, and just about everything in the world around us, is constantly changing, never the same from one moment to the next. Awareness and acceptance of impermanence is one of the most powerful antidotes to clinging and attachment, as well as to fear, which is often a sense of resistance to change. Also, cultivating firm faith in the Three Jewels of Refuge is extremely useful in providing the strength and courage we need to face and deal with turbulent emotions.
If the dying person is a family member or friend, we will have the additional challenge of having to deal with the attachments and expectations we have towards that person. Although it is difficult, the best thing we can do is learn to let them go. Clinging to them is unrealistic, and will only cause more suffering for both of us. Again, remembering impermanence is the most effective remedy to attachment.
2. How to help someone who is a Buddhist
If the dying person is a Buddhist, ask questions to find out how much they know and understand, and that should give you a better idea about what to do to help them spiritually. For example, if the person has strong faith in Kuan Yin, then you should encourage them to keep that faith in their mind and pray to Kuan Yin as much as possible. Or if the person were a practitioner of mindfulness meditation, encourage them to do that practice as often as they can. In short, whatever teachings and practices they are familiar and comfortable with, remind them of these and do whatever you can to provide them with confidence and inspiration to do these practices. If they have difficulty practising on their own, due to pain or tiredness or a confused state of mind, do the practice with them.
If possible, place images of Buddha, Kuan Yin, Amitabha, and so forth within sight of the person. Speak to them, or read passages from books, about impermanence and other Buddhist teachings - but do this only if they are receptive, do not force it on them. Also, do not try to teach them something that would cause their mind to be confused or upset (for example, if the subject is too difficult for them to understand, or if it is new and unfamiliar). The most important thing is to help the person have a peaceful and positive state of mind before and during their death.
It may be that the dying person does not know how to meditate or pray. In that case you can meditate or do other prayers or practices in their presence, dedicating the merit of these that they have a peaceful mind at the time of death and a good rebirth. You can also teach them how to pray, by reciting standard Buddhist prayers, or by praying in their own words, in their own hearts. For example, they can pray to Buddha, Kuan Yin or whoever they can most easily feel faith in, to be with them during this difficult time, to help them find the strength and courage to deal with their suffering and to keep their minds peaceful, and to guide them to a good rebirth in the next life. Also, to help their minds be free of worry and anxiety, encourage them to not worry about their loved ones and their possessions, and to not be afraid of what lies ahead but to have faith in the Three Jewels. Do what you can to help them cultivate positive thoughts, such as faith, loving-kindness and compassion, and to avoid negative thoughts such as anger and attachment.
3. How to help someone who is not a Buddhist
If the dying person belongs to another religion, make an effort to understand what they know, understand and believe, and speak to them accordingly. For example, if they believe in God and heaven, encourage them to have faith in and pray to God, and to feel hopeful about being with God in heaven after they leave this life. And have a respectful attitude towards the person and their beliefs and practices. Remember, the most important thing is to help the person to have positive thoughts in their mind, in accordance with their religious beliefs and practices. Do NOT attempt to impose your own beliefs or try to convert them. That could cause them to become confused and disturbed.
If the person has no religion, use non-religious terminology to speak to them in ways that will help them to be free of negative thoughts such as anger and attachment, and develop positive thoughts and a peaceful state of mind. If they show interest in knowing what you believe in, you can tell them, but be careful not to preach. It might be more effective to have a discussion in which you openly share ideas with each other, For example, if the person asks you what happens after we die, instead of immediately launching into an explanation of rebirth, you might say something like "I'm not really sure. What do you think?" And take it from there.
If they genuinely wish to know about Buddhist beliefs and practices, it's perfectly OK to explain these to them. You can talk about the Buddha's life and teachings, the Four Noble Truths, impermanence, loving-kindness and compassion, and so forth. Just be sensitive to their response - be careful not to be pushy, otherwise the person could become negative. Remember, the bottom line is to help them remain free from negative thoughts as much as possible, and to have a positive, peaceful state of mind.
If the person is not a Buddhist and would not be comfortable hearing or seeing you do any Buddhist prayers or practices, you can still do these practices silently, without them knowing it. For example, you could sit beside them and meditate on loving-kindness and send the energy of loving kindness from your heart to fill them with peace. Or you could visualize Buddha or Kuan Yin above the person's head and silently recite prayers or mantras while visualizing a shower of light flowing from the Buddha into the person, purifying them and helping their mind to become more pure and peaceful. It is quite possible that the person will feel the effects of these practices even though they have no idea that they are being done on their behalf!
4. Helping by accumulating merit
After the person has passed away, we can continue to benefit them by doing positive, virtuous actions - such as saying prayers (or asking monks and nuns to say prayers), making offerings, releasing animals who are destined to be slaughtered, doing meditation, etc. - and dedicate the merits for the person to have a good rebirth, and to quickly become free from cyclic existence and attain enlightenment. It is perfectly all right to do these practices whether the person was a Buddhist or not.
It is good to use some of the person's own money to create merit, for example, making donations to charity. Also, merit accumulated by family members (direct relatives of the deceased person) is especially powerful and helpful. Doing virtuous actions and dedicating the merits to the deceased can help the person in the bardo (the intermediate state between death and the next life). However, once they have taken rebirth, the merit we dedicate may not help them in that life, but could help them in their subsequent rebirth, for example, by shortening the length of an unfortunate rebirth.
I hope that the ideas presented in this booklet will help you to be more accepting and less fearful of death, your own and others'. There is a great wealth of material - from ancient religious and spiritual traditions as well as from modern fields such as psychology, sociology and palliative care - that can guide us in living our lives in such a way as to be peaceful, calm and courageous in the face of death. And when someone we love is going through that experience, we can be a source of comfort, serenity and hope for them. May this small work inspire you to learn more on this subject. And may all beings become free from the sufferings of death, and attain the highest peace and happiness beyond the cycle of birth and death.
Christine Longaker, Facing Death and Finding Hope (London: Century, 1997), p. 113.
Pabongka Rinpoche, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand (Boston: Wisdom, 1991), p. 422.
Bokar Rinpoche. Death and the Art of Dying in Tibetan Buddhism. San Francisco: ClearPoint Press, 1993; pps. 52-53.
BUDDHIST TEACHINGS ON DEATH AND DYING
Bokar Rinpoche. Death and the Art of Dying in Tibetan Buddhsm. San Francisco: ClearPoint Press, 1993.
Kapleau, Philip, ed. The Wheel of Death. New York, Harper & Row, 1971.
Lama Lodo. Bardo Teachings. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1987.
Lati Rinpochay and Jeffrey Hopkins. Death, Intermediate State and Rebirth. Ithaca, NY:
Snow Lion, 1985.
Mullin, Glen H. Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition. London: Arkana, 1986.
Sogyal Rinpoche. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992.
Thurman, Robert A.F., trans. The Tibetan Book of the Dead. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.
Visuddhacara. Loving and Dying. Penang: Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre, 1993.
Goldstein, Joseph. The Experience of Insight. Boston: Shambhala.
Gunaratana, Venerable H. Mindfulness in Plain English. Boston: Wisdom.
Salzberg, Sharon. LovingKindness - the Revolutionay Art of Happiness. Boston: Shambhala, 1995.
Thich Nhat Hahn. The Miracle of Mindfulness. Berkeley: Parallax Press.
CARING FOR THE DYING
Buckman, Dr. Robert, I Don't Know What to Say: How to Help and Support Someone Who is Dying. London: Papermac, 1988.
Callanan, Maggie and Patricia Kelley. Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying. New York: Bantam, 1992.
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. New York: Collier, 1970.
_______. To Live Until We Say Goodbye. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1978.
Levine, Stephen. Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying.
Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1982.
Longaker, Christine. Facing Death and Finding Hope. London: Century, 1997.
Stoddard, Sandol. The Hospice Movement: A Better Way to Care for the Dying. New York: Random House, 1991.
WESTERN VIEWS ON DEATH
Nuland, Sherwin B. How We Die. London: Vintage, 1997.
Maitreya Institute, San Francisco
Our subject this evening is reincarnation. As you know, reincarnation is very important in Buddhism. I'd like to present a general outline of the subject first, and then go into some of the specifics.
Every moment is a continuation of the previous moment. This moment-by-moment continuation happens all the time. We don't say this officially, but we can say that today's myself is the incarnation of yesterday's myself. Or we can view it as a continuation of the mind and the process of thought. We don't usually say it this way because we're continuing this mind, this thought, in the same body. But except for that, reincarnation simply means the continuation of mind.
In Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism, Lord Buddha gave numerous examples of samsara and enlightenment. These examples clarify many of the complexities that prevent people from having a proper understanding of reincarnation. He said, "Since beginningless time until enlightenment is the longest dream. No matter what incarnation we take, that incarnation is always involved with the self. Therefore, the longest dream is the dream of self, the dream of samsara. We awaken from that dream when we attain enlightenment." That dream takes many forms, many conditions, many environments, many dimensions; whatever we wish to explore, we can explore in a limitless manner.
Then he said, "After that, the shorter dream is the dream from birth until death." He said, "From birth until death, a particular person dreams of a particular realm. If he is human, he dreams like a human. If he is animal, he dreams like an animal. That is life." That dream begins from the moment of birth and ends at the moment of death. When the next reincarnation occurs, the dream begins again.
It is our individual relative cause and condition that determines whether we manifest as a human being or animal or some other being in one or another of the six realms. But regardless of the particular realm into which we're born, we have a continuation that goes on until death.
Then Lord Buddha explains the third, the shortest, dream. This is the ordinary dream that we dream when we're sleeping. This dream is definitely related with the subconscious aspect of our mind. We dream about things that have something to do with us, something that involves our subconscious mind.
Lord Buddha explains that, ultimately speaking, nobody is dead and nobody is born, but relatively, everyone who is born has to die, and everyone who dies has to be born. That's how reincarnation is taught by Lord Buddha.
Levels of Reincarnation
Now let's be a little more specific. I've noticed that people tend to be confused about the difference between ordinary rebirth and the reincarnation of masters or bodhisattvas. Within my limited capability, I would like to try to make it clear.
We can look into reincarnation on four different levels. Let's start from the so-called lowest level and then go up, moving from the surface into the depth.
Ordinary Human Birth
By the time an ordinary sentient being is about to take rebirth, at that stage he or she is born without a choice. Earlier, everyone has a choice, but at that stage there isn't much choice. This is because of everything that came before. As I explained yesterday, every moment we recognize ourselves, but we miss it. For this reason, how we deal with ourselves affects everything else, including how we deal with others. Because of this cause and condition, when we take the next rebirth, that particular force forces us.
For example, if we're careless about our temperament and become aggressive, then, when somebody says something we don't like, our temper just manifests. It defeats our strength and takes over. Later we might feel regret, but at that point, we haven't much choice. In the same way, our next reincarnation is influenced by whatever cause and condition-in Buddhist terms we call it karma-we have. So we can say, although this word might be a little bit too strong, the rebirth of an ordinary sentient being who didn't develop wisdom is determined by the power of karma, without too much choice.
Rebirth of a More Developed Sentient Being
A second kind of rebirth involves people who developed a tremendous amount of pure compassion or pure devotion or good intention, and who put their pure intentions into action. Those people have tremendous power to overcome any negative influence. Let's say that a bad-tempered or hot-tempered person decides that their temperament is detrimental to themselves, or to their friends and colleagues, and they decide they want to improve, so they employ the necessary methods to overcome their temper. That person becomes a person with good self-control. When they face a negative situation, they can control their temper rather than their temper controlling them. In the same way, those people who developed tremendous pureness and strength will be able to overcome lots of karmic forces. This means that even if we have all the conditions for a negative rebirth, or a lower rebirth, our strength can transform that, and the next rebirth can be a better one. That is another type of reincarnation.
This also might include those who develop strong faith and who, in the moment of death, say "I want to be born as [whatever they think the best birth is]." If our life can end with that kind of pure inspiration, with no fear, and no greed-then it is possible that that particular rebirth might take place.
Rebirth of a Bodhisattva
The third category of reincarnation is what we call "reincarnation of a bodhisattva." It might be more appropriate to say "From the first-level bodhisattva until the tenth-level bodhisattva." The previous category might be those individuals who have developed some bodhicitta but have not yet attained the first-level bodhisattva.
According to the sutras taught by Lord Buddha, the first-level bodhisattva can reincarnate in one-hundred places, in one-hundred forms. A second-level bodhisattva can reincarnate ten times more than that, a third-level bodhisattva ten times more than that, etc., all the way to the tenth level.
How does a first-level bodhisattva manifest? Whatever manifestation that first-level bodhisattva takes, it is a reincarnation. A bodhisattva can reincarnate as fifty fully mature manifestations, and those fifty can simultaneously manifest another fifty. The first manifestation doesn't have to die before the second manifestation takes place, as long as it is within the one-hundred. It sounds technical, but I'm using this example to give you a better idea. Compared to our own level of consciousness, this is quite amazing-almost unimaginable. It seems unlimited. But for that particular bodhisattva, it is limited. That's why Buddha said one-hundred instead of limitless manifestations, And that's why it is first-level bodhisattva, not Buddha.
From that aspect of manifestation until just the moment before full enlightenment, all the manifestations are bodhisattva manifestations, bodhisattva incarnations. Bodhisattva incarnations only have one purpose-to serve sentient beings. There's no other purpose for manifesting into one-hundred. It's not for our own amusement, but to serve more sentient beings, in more places, with more hands and more eyes. Therefore, a great bodhisattva like Avalokitesvara has one-thousand arms, with one-thousand eyes in each palm, so that whenever he does something, he also sees it.
Rebirth of a Tulku
The fourth level of incarnation is translated as tulku in Tibetan. In Sanskrit it is nirmanakaya. I have found there is a great deal of confusion about the word tulku. Tulku simply means "emanated body." Incarnated lamas nowadays adopted the term "rinpoche." Rinpoches are not necessarily first-level bodhisattvas. They can be in the second category-a more developed sentient being-but definitely they are not Buddha nirmanakaya. Usually they are in the second or third category.
The word tulku usually means one of two things. It is the incarnation of a great master, a bodhisattva of the first level to tenth level, and then for the Buddha nirmanakaya. The Buddha nirmanakaya is limitless. The definition of Buddha nirmanakaya is very specific. Lord Buddha says, "How does Buddha manifest to individuals who are above first-level bodhisattva?" That is sambhogakaya. "How does Buddha manifest to ordinary sentient beings who are below first-level bodhisattva?" That is tulku, the nirmanakaya. No limit. Each of the numberless sentient beings in existence can have this same condition to encounter a Buddha nirmanakaya. If that is so, Buddha can manifest at the same time, and each manifestation can be ten different things. There's no limitation for the Buddha nirmanakaya.
These four categories roughly cover reincarnation. As you can see, the Buddha's reincarnation is very different from a bodhisattva's reincarnation. And a bodhisattva's reincarnation is very different from a strong, positive, well-developed person's reincarnation. And a strong, positive, well-developed person's reincarnation is very different from the reincarnation of an undeveloped, ordinary sentient being who has tremendous defilements. They are all different. But we must remember that these definitions are only relative. Ultimately there shouldn't be any definition, but relatively there is.
Reincarnation and Death
Reincarnation normally involves death. Except for the bodhisattva reincarnation, or Buddha nirmanakaya, every other reincarnation involves a kind of death. Without dying we can't be reborn. So the definition of reincarnation involves this body dying and this same mind going into the next body. Then it has to be reborn.
So now I would like to share some of the basic teachings about the bridge between this life and the next.
First Bardo State
Death simply means the death of the body. It has nothing to do with the mind. If we define death in medical terms, it might become very complicated. To make it simple we can say that death begins when the mind starts to leave the body. When the mind has totally left the body, death has already occurred. Again, it is the death of the body, not the mind. Mind can never die. Mind always continues. However, the death of the dualistic aspect of mind is enlightenment.
I have heard people say "I don't want to be reborn. I don't want to come back." I think I understand what they mean. I have to say that, as Buddhists, if that is really our wish, we should work very hard to overcome our defilements, our ego and the dualistic aspect of our mind. Then we will be free from all that we would like to be free from.
But I wouldn't worry too much about that. We might not like this body, or even this particular situation, but if we die naturally, when we're reborn we won't remember. Of course, if we do remember, we'll definitely have a problem. We'll say "Oh no, I'm back here! I'm in trouble again." (That's a bad joke. I shouldn't say these things!)
The reason I say death is very important is because, right now, we feel quite normal with this body, this mind and these five senses. It's not too complicated. There's nothing special or unusual about it because we're used to it. But if we really look beyond all of this, the way we are is quite amazing.
I'll try to briefly explain this simply and clearly. In Vajrayana, Lord Buddha explained how we came into this body. He said that our mind, which is limitless, is limited by the self. Just saying "I" limits everything. That I, that ego, the forces of karma, everything that is stored in that ego as a result of our desire, anger, jealousy and greed, etc., creates an energy. That energy is involved with the most subtle aspect of external universe. That subtleness is the connection between ourselves and our parents. That subtle energy enters into the most subtle part of our parents' emotions and their body. That's how we start to be in this physical body. That is what we call "liquid body."
From that time, everything is continued. According to the causes and conditions that are closely related with our ego, we take on a particular unborn form. That unborn form develops systems inside of it according to our parents and our connection with them. Then we are born. The rest we know.
Based upon this, we can now talk about death. The way we go out has to be similar to the way we came in. When we die, we have a big body, so the process is slightly different, but it can't be too different. Forward and backward. Rewind. (It shows that I listen to tapes.)
This process starts even before we die. It is taught in the tantras that if a person dies naturally-not as the result of an accident-we can predict that person's death up to six years before it happens, just by reading the physical signs relating with the five senses.
The last and most major sign of death is the absorption of our physical element into the elements of nature. It is said that the physical earth dissolves into the universal earth, the physical air dissolves into the universal air, the physical water dissolves into the universal water, and the physical fire dissolves into the universal fire. Many different signs are mentioned. When all of these things happen, we're at the last moment. And in that last moment, our mind is going back into our center.
This again relates to how we began. At the beginning, when our liquid body first enters our physical body, it is all over. Then, after 24 to 29 days, it develops the central channel, where all of the energy concentrates. According to tantric medicine, that is why the middle part of our body is so important. We can lose our hand but we're still alive. We can lose our leg and we're still alive. But if our head is gone, we'll die. If our heart is gone, we'll die. The central part, or what we refer to as the trunk of our body, is very important. From that central channel, everything else develops, like a tree trunk and its branches.
When we die, instead of going back to the liquid body, we go back to the center. There are many descriptions of this in the bardo texts. In one description, it is said to be like a big explosion, or collision, and the mind goes into the middle. Then, when the body and the mind separate, the mind faints. Even now, if someone walks up behind us and hits us on the head with something hard, we'll faint. It's the same thing. When all of the energies and connections between our mind and our body break, we go into the center. Then we faint. That is called the "first clear light," because it's the greatest explosion we can imagine. It is one of the reasons we forget everything. Even now, if someone hits us on our head and we suffer a shock, we may forget everything. And it might take us a long time to remember. When the body and mind separate, something similar happens, but greatly multiplied in intensity.
According to the bardo teaching, if we recognize that state, there is a great chance for enlightenment. Because of this, great masters like Milarepa say, "For a yogi, a natural death is the enlightenment." When our body and mind separate, in that moment we have an opportunity to recognize the nature of our mind more precisely, without the influence of the body. In that moment, we can recognize. But it should be without greed, without fear, without resentment-a proper, natural death. Fortunately we can practice for that final moment so that we don't waste our natural death.
After that comes the "second clear light." Actually, the bardo is described as first bardo, second bardo and third bardo. This involves the death aspect of bardo. The first bardo has the first clear light and second clear light. The second clear light is that when we awaken from this, there is one more thing that happens. Because of our karmic power, we have to come out of our body. This process has to take place, because why are we in this body? Why are we with our particular father and mother out of all the numberless sentient beings? There is a very strong cause and condition. So, leaving the body is the last thing we have to overcome.
The body is like a cave because of our karmic connection, and outside of the body is everything else. This is called second clear light, because it is total exposure to everything. This is a tremendous condition in which, if we have good development and strength, we can have great realization. Otherwise it can be the most frightening experience you can ever imagine.
The reason for this is mentioned very clearly in the bardo text. It says, "Right now, we are very limited. We can only see certain things. We can see only what we can see through our particular eyes." Our eye is here, so we have to look here. The eye has to be focused on something. If we want to look there, we have to turn our head and look. Listening is the same. We can hear only the particular type of sound that our ear can hear. But this is not every sound. Everything is like that. With touch, we actually have to go over there and reach for something with our hands.
When we leave our body, however, there is no limitation. It's like we're nothing but eyes, nothing but ears. It's like we're everywhere. This is the second greatest exposure, the second clear light. If we recognize that stage and have the awareness, that is another chance for great liberation, because there's nothing between ourselves and everything else. We become everything, everything becomes us. That's really how everything is, but if we don't know it, we'll be quite frightened.
I have a very stupid example that suits this situation, maybe 5%. Someone once asked me "What level of development must I attain to be able to attain this awareness?" I told him it would be like falling from an airplane 35,000 feet in the sky, without a parachute, and having to take a paper and pen and write the most meaningful, most beautiful four sentences of poetry on the way down.
Second Bardo State
The second bardo is called yid kyi lus in Tibetan, which means "mental body." Here things are slightly calmer. It says, "After that exposure, you'll slowly go into another stage that is involved with your past and your future-your past life and past karmic connections, and your future life and future karmic connections." It will be divided in the middle, as far as time is concerned. In the first half, you'll feel very much like your past life. In the last half, you'll feel very much like your future life.
This covers the main part of the bardo period. Here it says that we have no limitation, as we do now, but we still have thoughts and emotions. And because we are no longer limited by the physical body, we also have the power to think of something and be transported there immediately. If we think of the sun, we'll be in the middle of the sun right away. Without this physical body, there is no external, universal influence. If we can recognize in that stage, it is definitely another chance for enlightenment.
Let us take practitioners of Pure Land as an example. Most of the Far East-almost all of China-follows Pure Land Buddhism. That involves hundreds of millions of people. If they recognize at the time of death that they have died, and they remember that they want to be reborn in the Pure Land of Amitabha, in that instant they can be born into the Pure Land and their wishes fulfilled.
Third Bardo State
The third bardo takes us a little closer to rebirth. In this stage, almost the same thing happens as before. We have a very strong sense of our future incarnation, whatever we're going to be. For example, if I'm supposed to be born as a dog, in the last half of my bardo I'll feel like a dog. This will be close to the third bardo. At this stage, the dog thought is also gone again, just like before. Then we become totally involved with universal energy one more time, and feel as if we're nothing but eyes, ears, etc., as I said a little earlier.
In this stage, it's like trying to find a refuge, because there is a tremendous amount of light and sound from which we try to find escape. That's where the karmic power creates the energy that then involves our parents and a particular realm. Then we enter that particular realm. So this is the last part of the bardo.
In the bardo texts, this last part is also mentioned as chos-nyi-bardo. Chos-nyi-bardo explains all the manifestations of the peaceful and wrathful deities and the various lights, each representing the different realms. All of that falls under this particular aspect of bardo. In this stage, if we recognize, we can be enlightened and also choose our next incarnation. If we're not overwhelmed by exposure, we can choose the right realm, the right parents, everything. But that will be our last chance as far as the bardo is concerned. Then the bardo is over.
The time span of the bardo is specifically for the human beings of our planet, because the bardo teaching is given for the practice of human beings and taught to our type of human beings. I've never seen texts that mention whether or not it covers other realms. Great masters have commented on it and said it covers only the human beings of planet Earth, and it doesn't even cover animals of our planet. So, it was said by the masters but I've never seen it written as the direct words of Buddha. For a human being of our planet, the maximum period of bardo is 49 days. The minimum can be anything from just a split second, to one week or two weeks, but the longest is 49 days. That's how it's explained.
Since an understanding of bardo is essential to understanding reincarnation and how it happens, I'm sharing it with you. I hope you will find it meaningful.
Practice of Bardo
I'd like to say a few more things before we close. Many of us are doing our practices, and the result or fruition of all this practice will be in the future, in a future life. There's no question about it. But for those who wish to prepare for the bardo, there are a few practices that are specifically mentioned. I'd like to share some of these.
First, always remember impermanence. That is very important. We never know when we're going to die. Medically we might know, but many people die quite suddenly. We all know we're going to die, but we're not sure when. Because of that, to acknowledge impermanence will help tremendously. It will be less of a shock. When something happens, we will experience less fear and resentment. When it happens, it happens. Even if we resent it, it doesn't help, so it's better to accept it smoothly and handle it properly rather than be upset and become influenced by our emotions. So, to remember impermanence is very important.
Some people have expressed to me that remembering impermanence makes them feel disorganized, that it's bad for business. I don't think that's true. We can be a better businessman or businesswoman if we remember impermanence, as long as we remember it correctly.
Second, never overlook positive or negative deeds. Always take them seriously. That is also very important. If we see that we can do something good but we just forget about it, and because we don't take it seriously, we lose the opportunity, that's quite unnecessary. And if we see something negative that we can avoid, but we're lazy and we don't bother to avoid it, that's also unnecessary. We should take positive and negative things seriously. And if we can, we should avoid negativity as much as possible and practice positiveness as much as possible. Even if it's just somebody in the street who needs money, if we have fifty cents, we just give it. Fifty cents is not really very much. If we give it and the person can use it, that's good karma. So we shouldn't deny even a small thing.
For example, even if we see a fly jump into our glass, we shouldn't pour it into the sink. We can throw the fly out the window and then pour the water into the sink. It's simple. It doesn't take much, and it wouldn't make us fanatic. We shouldn't deny positive or negative deeds. Also, we shouldn't think, "What's the use in saving this fly? I eat meat." Don't think like that. We might be eating meat, but we might as well save this fly as well. What's wrong with that?
Third, the practice of dreaming is also considered helpful for the bardo stage, because bardo is a little bit like a dream. Of course, there is no comparison between the enormous reality of bardo and the small illusion of the dream, but some relation is there. Therefore, when we sleep, when we dream, we try to have mindfulness and awareness and recognize that we're dreaming in our dream. It won't disturb our rest. It might even help us rest better in our dream, because if a tiger chases us and we recognize that we're dreaming, we don't have to run and be exhausted when we wake up. We can just sit there and see what that tiger does. Even if he bites us and throws us around, nothing will happen. Maybe the tiger will talk to us, or we might become the tiger, or the tiger might even fall asleep!
Fourth, a practice like powa, the blessing of the transference of consciousness, will be very helpful. Participating in empowerments that involve bardo will also be very beneficial. Any dharma practice will be very beneficial, and any good thought, good inspiration or doing good deeds for others will be very beneficial. And if we can contemplate or meditate on the nature of the mind, and have some direct experience about the nature of our mind, that will be of tremendous benefit. That is one of the most important benefits of meditation, actually-the recognition of our buddha nature. Even if it is only a glimpse of recognition, it will really be worth it.
All of this will be great preparation for the bardo. Also, we can read the Bardo Tödröl carefully, and contemplate it. There's no need to become obsessed, but comfortably and sensibly reading through it and contemplating gently might be very helpful, because we'll know what to expect.
One last thing. I'm not sure how many times you've heard about this, but this is something we can relate to right now through our physical senses. We call it "sound of nature." This is an enormous noise that happens all the time and which we can hear when we're calm and our surroundings are quiet. But because we're always thinking, always occupied, we never hear that sound. So, if we really concentrate, and we're very calm, we can try to maintain that sound, at least when we're resting in our bedroom and reading books. This will help tremendously, because that is one of the sounds that we will encounter during the bardo.
I felt these couple of things might be helpful for you, especially for those of you who wish to do some practice related with bardo. Do you have any questions?
Rinpoche, why should we be concerned with choosing a particular rebirth, because if one was at that level where one only wanted to be of service to sentient beings, wouldn't that karmic force automatically put us where we're most needed? I guess I'm asking, why worry about it?
Okay. If that is how you feel, you can say that. Instead of saying "What should I be in my next life, a bodhisattva bird or a bodhisattva fish, or a bodhisattva monkey?" we can say "I want to be reborn in whatever way I'll be most beneficial." That's it. If we think that way, we say that. But if somebody thinks they want to be born in a particular place which is really troubled right now, and they want to help the sentient beings of that place, they can do that. There's nothing wrong with it. Both are excellent.
Would you say something more about that sound of the bardo? Is it an inner sound?
I'm sure everybody has heard it. It's not the ear ringing sound. How to describe it? When you hear it the first time, it's like a thread of sound that goes on and on and on, non-stop. It might sound like that. If you really want to hear it, you should go to a quiet place and try not to think too much. You can't stop thinking entirely, of course, but try not to think too much. And try not to worry. Just lay or sit down. But you have to be totally relaxed. Then you'll hear this sound. It's not in the ear, you know, it's in the middle.
At first you might hear it only intermittently because your thoughts might interrupt it. But after some time, it becomes very loud, and even when you think and read, you can still hear it. It's natural. We just don't usually think about it. And it's not a sound that makes people go crazy. By listening to this, you'll never go crazy!
If you can maintain this in your reading, in a quiet life, that can be very beneficial for your concentration, also, because you don't have to concentrate. It's just like breathing. It's a very natural presence. And don't worry that it will interrupt you. It won't disturb you. But I think it will be almost impossible for everybody to maintain that in all their action-eating, talking, being with people, driving. It might be too hard.
Rinpoche, you mentioned that there was tremendous amount of light and sound in the bardo. What is that light and sound?
The bardo's sound is that sound. The bardo's light and these things are very hard to describe, except it will be the same light and same color, but that one is the same thing. And you become one with it in the bardo. We don't necessarily say it's sacred or special. That's unnecessary. But it's a very intimate connection between ourselves and the universe. In Tibetan terms we call it chos-nyi-che-rang-da. There are many ways to explain it, but it is under that umbrella of chos-nyi-che-rang-da. Rang-da means self-sound. Chos-nyi means dharma nature, the essence of all phenomena. Che is a particle of grammar, equivalent to "of." So rang-da, self-sound, of all phenomena, essence, chos-nyi-che-rang-da.
A lot of writings talk about heaven and hell. If the bardo lasts no more than 49 days, when does that heaven and hell take place?
When they're reborn in hell.
So after the bardo? How long does it last?
Well, there is very particular life span for the realm of the gods, the realm of the titans, the realm of the animals, the realm of the humans, the realm of the hell, the realm of the hungry ghost. All of these realms are written about very precisely in abhidharma, which is one of the vast teachings of Buddha. In that teaching, he gives the number of years. And also the time is not exactly equivalent. I don't remember precisely, but he says something like "One day of the worst hell is hundreds of centuries for a human being." Something like that. And it's not because hell's cloud goes very slow, but because of the intense suffering and pain in that realm.
We have a saying that people here also say, that a day felt like a year. We also say that a year felt like a day. It's the same with all the other realms. But it's impossible to fix, because what is a human life span? Right now, according to the text, the average is supposed to be seventy-five, but many people live to be over one hundred and many people die one minute after they're born. So it's very hard to pin down.
And do these beings in heaven and hell come back and take a rebirth?
Of course. They die from there, absolutely. Otherwise we're done for. Animals becomes human. Hell beings can be reborn in the-heaven is the wrong word because if we think in Christian terms, heaven is like a Pure Land for us, and a Pure Land being will never be born in hell. So if we say beings who are born in heaven go to hell that has to be incorrect from their point of view. But it's like six realms-the highest is called the deva realm in the Sanskrit language. In Tibetan lha, and in English it is translated as gods-not God, but gods. So I don't know if that is the correct translation or not.
Can someone who lives in the deva realms be born as a human or in one of the other realms?
Yes, of course. Yes.
These days we hear of many near-death experiences. So many people die and then they're resuscitated and come back. They talk about going through a tunnel and seeing a clear light. There's some conversation with a clear light being, and they see others who have died before. Do you believe any of this?
I believe everything. That means I also can believe nothing. It's hard to say. Some of those people are really saying it honestly, and others just say it. Some of those people think they went through something like that, but maybe it's like a dream. We'll never know. So it's very hard to say believe or not believe. But I understand what you're saying. I heard a lot also. I read something as well.
Do you see the similarities between that and the bardo teachings?
Yes. They're very similar to the bardo teaching. It's absolutely like a support. But as far as a particular individual's word is concerned, it's very hard to say. Maybe that person read Bardo Tödröl!
How do we know about the bardo? Who found out about the bardo?
Buddha. Everything that is part of the teaching of Buddhism is based on the Buddha's teaching. Of course, your question also might be answered as some of the great masters in our history were called delug, which means those who die and come back. But we always follow the Buddha's teaching. Their explanation has always been the same. But that's also hard to say with one-hundred percent accuracy because some delugs can be real and some might just lock themselves up for one week and come back. I don't know what people do. So we always refer to the Buddha's teaching. Besides that, some of them are very highly respected by everyone, and some things are questioned by everyone.
If there is no such thing as ego, what is reincarnated, some sense of self or conglomeration of energies or personality from lifetime to lifetime?
Ultimately there is no ego. Ultimately nobody is born, nobody is dead. But relatively there is ego, relatively everybody is born and everybody dies. The evidence is that we're born here, and so many people die as well. So, you're right. Ultimately there is no ego. According to Lord Buddha's teaching, when we attain enlightenment, since beginningless time until death is not even a moment, because it is beyond time and any limitation. But for those of us who are not enlightened yet, our time is real, and every day has 24 hours. This is the connection between ultimate and relative which was very profoundly introduced by Lord Buddha. Otherwise it sounds like two opposite things. But it isn't. The ultimate is the ultimate of the relative, and the relative is the relative of the ultimate.
What if we become aware suddenly and everything is strange, like maybe we're in the bardo or we don't know where we are and we're consumed with fear-what should we do?
First, we must understand that nothing repeats itself exactly the same way. Everything is impermanent, everything changes, everything is the cause and condition of many things. Remembering this might keep us from being shocked if strange things happen. If you're talking about personal experience that's something. If you're talking about just theory, that's another thing. But one way or another, if somebody has that experience, if we can take it easy and don't worry about it, and observe what is happening, we might find the cause and condition, maybe a very simple one. Maybe there's a reason why that is happening to us at that stage, and in that place. If we see the cause and condition, the question can be solved right there. It might not be too complicated. If it is a theory, that's different. In theory, we can say anything. Like "If it is not like this and if it is that way then . . . " but if it is a personal experience, we can handle it by observing what causes it. There must be an immediate cause, and that can be simple.
When we meet someone and we immediately recognize them as though we've known them all our life-it could be anyone-I've heard it explained that that is tied to reincarnation. If that is so, how do we honor and how do we consider that relationship with this person who, the moment we meet them, we feel as if we've known them all our life?
It depends. This kind of thing happens to so many people, it's not really unusual. The result of those experiences we call friends. We agree with some people more easily than others, we get along and learn from each other. That's a very good sign for friendship. But if we take these things too seriously, we might worry about them, and it might worry our other friends. We don't just have one friend, we have many. It is the same with a teacher. If you have a sense of connection with a particular teacher, there is no reason to get obsessed by it, because that's a form of worrying about it. Nor is there a reason to deny it, because that's just another way of worrying about it. Therefore we handle it properly, skillfully. Skillfulness comes from mindfulness and awareness.
Rinpoche, I have heard that the behavior of the student can influence the rebirth of the teacher. But when I see people running all over doing things so their teacher will come back to them, it seems ego-centered to me, and it seems to emphasize the students' neediness. Could you say something about that?
Bodhisattvas should manifest for the benefit of all sentient beings. Bodhisattvas should manifest where a sentient being needs them most. If there is too much grease in your food, there's no reason to add another tablespoon of oil to it. The oil should go into the food that has nothing in it. So you shouldn't worry too much about that. True bodhisattvas will manifest to benefit sentient beings wherever sentient beings need help. But it doesn't mean we have to be intentionally bad so they will come and save us. That is unnecessary.
The technical Vajrayana samaya is very difficult to explain. In a most proper way, in a most pure way, it is very sacred. But in one way it is like a . . . I don't have a suitable word. Somehow they have such power that people who have taken empowerments, etc.-maybe those of you who know me for some time, I always tell people to learn what you can learn from me, but don't overdo all this magic, because it really affects each other. I don't think you should worry too much. I think I know what you're talking about.
Rinpoche, I don't understand how animals can gain enlightenment. They have very ignorant minds, and . . .
We shouldn't say that. In the ordinary six realms, animals are considered just below human. Just below. Not far below. Maybe you should read one of Buddha's teachings on his past lives. One particular text involves one-hundred of his past lives. Among those lifetimes, he was monkey, a rabbit-he was all of those things. Then maybe you'll understand that the animal realm is not a bad realm.
But can an animal be a bodhisattva?
Why not? I'd would like to meet a mosquito bodhisattva. I can serve him a very good lunch.
I'd like to ask about self-hatred. It seems very prevalent in our culture and it seems to be at the root of many serious problems.
I think I can say something about self-hatred, but I'm not sure it will be an exact response to your question. I'll try. It's certainly true that if you're a student and you fail your examination, you might feel bad that you didn't do a good job. But that doesn't mean you hate yourself. The most you can do is work harder the next time, or even to stop caring about it. Getting a low grade on your examination is supposed to be bad, but it doesn't really feel that bad, so you don't care.
Now, I can be wrong, but I feel that self-hatred is simply a misunderstanding. I don't believe it's a sickness, only a misunderstanding. We can fail in many ways. We can say we haven't done a good job and get depressed. But there's no reason to hate ourselves. It's such a tremendous duality, to hate ourselves for not doing well, or hate ourselves for not being what we think we should be. It's like double, triple, even quadruple, duality. I think it's basically a misunderstanding. And if we punish ourselves, that's another one. But I lost the connection between this and the non-self. Can you help me?
There are certain psychological states people get into that are called borderline psychotic states. A person in this state can look at a teaching of non-ego as a validation, for lack of a better term, for a pathological state of mind, a not healthy state of mind. There seems to be a tendency of people who have self-hatred to be drawn toward practices as a further way of denying or negating themselves. Can you say something about this?
Of course that's not a one-hundred percent wrong thing to do. If you want to sacrifice your life, it's better to do it that way than to shoot yourself. But as far as the real meaning of renunciation or selflessness is concerned, that's not what it really means. It's two different things.
It's very important for us to see the differences between renunciation, the real renunciation, or just considering ourselves as nothing, as garbage. Real renunciation is dropping all the samsaric activities. In the vinaya text, Buddha said, "Leaving everything behind, like leftovers." In the Indian culture, nobody touches leftover food; they throw it away. Even people who don't have food wouldn't normally eat leftovers, unless they were really dying. So he said, "Leaving all the samsaric activities behind, just like leftovers." It means we value our aim to attain enlightenment, therefore we're dropping all the hindrances to that. You're not dropping yourself, you're taking yourself more seriously and more precious. Therefore, these samsaric things are worthless. It's totally different. I think renunciation or selflessness should be understood in a healthier way.
For example, selflessness doesn't mean your self is nothing. It means the limitation of self, the I, is nothing. Your real essence is limitless. If we put it in other terms, we're saying that we're much better than this ego. We're limitless. We have the essence of Buddha. We are Buddha by nature. This ego that is just me as one single human being, with some history of success of the past ten or twenty years, or maybe some few generations of my great ancestors-this is nothing. That is how we should relate to selflessness and renunciation. You raised a very important point. I did not get that point clearly until today, so thank you, whoever you are.
[Transcribed and edited by Stephanie Harolde]
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Avalika the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from solitude, approached her & addressed her in verse:
in the world,
so what are you trying to do
Enjoy sensual delights.
Don't be someone
who later regrets."
Then the thought occurred to Avalika the nun: "Now who has recited this verse -- a human being or a non-human one?" Then it occurred to her: "This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited this verse wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in me, wanting to make me fall away from solitude."
Then, having understood that "This is Mara the Evil One," she replied to him in verses:
an escape in the world,
well touched by me
with discernment --
something that you,
you Evil One,
kinsman of the heedless,
are like swords & spears;
their executioner's block.
What you call sensual delight
is no delight for me."
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Avalika the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Soma the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from concentration, approached her & addressed her in verse:
to be attained by seers
-- the place so very hard to reach --
-- with their two-inch discernment --
Then the thought occurred to Soma the nun: "Now who has recited this verse -- a human being or a non-human one?" Then it occurred to her: "This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited this verse wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in me, wanting to make me fall away from concentration."
Then, having understood that "This is Mara the Evil One," she replied to him in verses:
does being a woman make
when the mind's well-centered,
when knowledge is progressing,
seeing clearly, rightly,
into the Dhamma.
Anyone who thinks
`I'm a woman'
or `a man'
or `Am I anything at all?' --
that's who Mara's
fit to address."
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Soma the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Kisa Gotami the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from concentration, approached her & addressed her in verse:
with your sons killed,
do you sit all alone,
your face in tears?
immersed in the midst of the forest,
are you looking
for a man?"
Then the thought occurred to Kisa Gotami the nun: "Now who has recited this verse -- a human being or a non-human one?" Then it occurred to her: "This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited this verse wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in me, wanting to make me fall away from concentration."
Then, having understood that "This is Mara the Evil One," she replied to him in verses:
"I've gotten past
the killing of sons,
have made that the end
to [my search for] men.
I don't grieve,
I don't weep --
and I'm not afraid of you,
It's every where destroyed -- delight.
The mass of darkness is shattered.
Having defeated the army of death,
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Kisa Gotami the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Vijaya the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from concentration, approached her & addressed her in verse:
"You, a beautiful young woman.
I, a young man.
Come, my lady,
let's enjoy ourselves
to the music of a five-piece band."
Then the thought occurred to Vijaya the nun: "Now who has recited this verse -- a human being or a non-human one?" Then it occurred to her: "This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited this verse wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in me, wanting to make me fall away from concentration."
Then, having understood that "This is Mara the Evil One," she replied to him in verses:
"Lovely sights, sounds,
& tactile sensations
I leave to
have no need
I'm disgusted, ashamed
of this putrid body --
is rooted out.
Beings who have come to form,
& those with a share in the formless,
& the peaceful attainments:
is completely destroyed."
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Vijaya the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
Samyutta Nikaya V.5
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Uppalavanna the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from concentration, approached her & addressed her in verse:
"You've come, nun,
to this sal-tree
with its fine flowering crest,
and stand alone
at its root,
with no one
to match you in beauty.
In your foolishness,
aren't you afraid
Then the thought occurred to Uppalavanna the nun: "Now who has recited this verse -- a human being or a non-human one?" Then it occurred to her: "This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited this verse wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in me, wanting to make me fall away from concentration."
Then, having understood that "This is Mara the Evil One," she replied to him in verses:
"If even a hundred-thousand rapists
came across me like this,
I wouldn't stir a hair.
I'd feel no terror,
and I'm not afraid of you, Mara,
even alone like this.
Here -- I disappear.
I slip into your belly
or stand between your eyebrows,
don't see me.
I have mastery
over the mind,
the bases of power.
I'm released from all bonds,
and not afraid of you,
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Uppalavanna the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Cala the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall from solitude, approached her & said, "What is it that you don't approve of, nun?"
"I don't approve of birth, my friend."
"Why don't you approve of birth?
One who is born
enjoys sensual pleasures.
Who on earth
ever persuaded you:
`Nun, don't approve of birth'?"
"For one who is born
One who is born
It's a binding, a flogging, a torment.
That's why one shouldn't approve
The Awakened One taught me the Dhamma
-- the overcoming of birth --
for the abandoning of all pain,
he established me in
But beings who have come to form
& those with a share in the formless,
if they don't discern cessation,
return to becoming-again."
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Cala the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Upacala the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall from solitude, approached her & said, "Where do you want to reappear [be reborn], nun?"
"I don't want to reappear anywhere, my friend."
"The devas of the Thirty-three,
the Hours, the Contented,
those who delight in creation,
& those in control:
direct your mind there
and it will enjoy
"The devas of the Thirty-three,
the Hours, the Contented,
those who delight in creation,
& those in control:
they are bound
with the bonds of sensuality;
they come again
under Mara's sway.
The whole world is burning.
The whole world is aflame.
The whole world is blazing.
The whole world is provoked.
The Unprovoked, Unblazing
-- that people run-of-the-mill
never been --
that's where my heart
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Upacala the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Sisupacala the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall from solitude, approached her & said, "Whose philosophy do you approve of, nun?"
"I don't approve of anyone's philosophy, my friend."
"For whose sake
have you shaved your head?
You look like a contemplative
but don't approve of a philosophy,
so why are you wandering here
"Outside philosophers place
their confidence in views.
I don't approve
of their teaching.
They're not adept
in the Dhamma.
But there is
the Awakened One,
born in the Sakyan clan,
a person without peer:
everywhere freed, independent;
endowed with an Eye
all-seeing, reaching the end of
all kamma --
with the ending of acquisitions,
He, that Blessed One,
is my teacher.
It's in his Dhamma
that I delight."
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Sisupacala the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
Bhikkhuni-samyutta -- The bhikkhunis (nuns). In these suttas Mara, the personification of doubt and evil, tries in vain to lure the nuns away from their meditation spots in the forest by asking them provocative questions. Without exception, these wise women conquer Mara decisively.
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Sela the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from concentration, approached her & addressed her in verse:
"By whom was this doll created?
Where is the doll's maker?
Where has the doll originated?
Where does it cease?"
Then the thought occurred to Sela the nun: "Now who has recited this verse -- a human being or a non-human one?" Then it occurred to her: "This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited this verse wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in me, wanting to make me fall away from concentration."
Then, having understood that "This is Mara the Evil One," she replied to him in verses:
"This doll isn't self-made,
nor is this misery made by another.1
In dependence on a cause
it comes into play.
With the dissolution of the cause
Just as a seed grows
-- when planted in a field --
because of the soil's savor
together with moisture;
in the same way, these
-- in dependence on a cause --
come into play.
With the dissolution of the cause
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Sela the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
1. Alternative reading:
This doll, this misery,
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
Translator's note: This discourse dramatizes a problem that often arises in meditation practice -- a speculative question arises that, if followed, pulls one out of concentration. Sister Vajira shows how to deal with the situation: recognize that the terms in which the question is expressed are just that -- terms -- and that whatever reality there is in the issue raised by the question can be reduced to phenomena observable in the immediate present. In ultimate terms, this comes down to the arising and passing away of stress, which should be observed and comprehended to the point where one can see through to that which neither arises nor passes away.
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Vajira the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from concentration, approached her & addressed her in verse:
"By whom was this living being created?
Where is the living being's maker?
Where has the living being originated?
Where does the living being
Then the thought occurred to Vajira the nun: "Now who has recited this verse -- a human being or a non-human one?" Then it occurred to her: "This is Mara the Evil One, who has recited this verse wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in me, wanting to make me fall away from concentration."
Then, having understood that "This is Mara the Evil One," she replied to him in verses:
"What? Do you assume a `living being,' Mara?
Do you take a position?
This is purely a pile of fabrications.
Here no living being
can be pinned down.
Just as when, with an assemblage of parts,
there's the word,
even so when aggregates are present,
there's the convention of
For only stress is what comes to be;
stress, what remains & falls away.
Nothing but stress comes to be.
Nothing ceases but stress."
Then Mara the Evil One -- sad & dejected at realizing, "Vajira the nun knows me" -- vanished right there.
by Tai Situ Rinpoche
Good evening it is very nice to see you here once again.
We talk about shinay, the shinay is a kind of foundation for meditation practise because if we don't develop quietness somehow we can't really do any kind of meditation because if we want to make a good painting we must have a clean canvas so we can make the creation on top of it. Like that if our mind is complicated and disturbed it is very difficult to work until it so the first step for entire meditation practise is to develop the state of quietness, calmness the togetherness.
The term shinyata is from Sanskrit it is translated into Tibetan language as shinay. Shin Nay is two words put in to one. Shi means shiwa that means peaceful, the peacefulness, and the quietness that is shiwa. Nay means naypa. Naypa is not moving just being there remaining sitting so remaining in peace or being at peace that is what shinay means in our language.
I am not experienced in Sanskrit but we had great experience of Sanskrit in the past so they translated shinyata into shinay so in Sanskrit it must mean the same thing.
As you know with anything to accomplish one particular thing there will be many ways and means through which we can appear so for shinay there is a large number of methods that were experienced in the teachings but all of those methods are simple method because it got to be. We have all of these neurosis and they manifest in a form of complication so the first method have to be simple one so all the method that involve with shinay that I know of all of them are very simple very direct for example one part method is involved with breathing so when you follow this method you are aware of your breathing and somehow you follow it and that is the principle and it is simple because we don't have to look for any other methods of practise it is there. We breathe every moment of every day don't we so we somehow use what we always have to involve without much choice. So this is one part method and this is shinay method involve which involves, looking it involves using your sight you look at a part image or form and try to focus on it try to see it clearly and we do it with part image or form and try to focus on it try to see it clearly and we do it with part image like image of Buddha or even if we do it we looking at a small only it can be anything or this is one other kind of method which is used in Vajrayana tradition. is visualisation, we visualise certain letters character or certain colours and we concentrate on them we try to see them clearly that kind of method. One-way or other to bring together our potential the basic potential, which is right now infinitely for most of us, scattered. It is like we have 200 pencils but they are everywhere so to write something we don't have anything just like that we have such a potential but all of the parts of the potential are relatively scattered now there the method of shinay somehow bring together all of the method of these potentials and we are able to occupy sitting and at this point there the practise of dharma are able to attain enlightenment so the shinay thing it plays one of the most important role.
Now I cant really say this is a misunderstanding that I think it is a incomplete understanding maybe so most people think we have to do shinay at the beginning then we forget about it and do other things which is not true because although we call and on title particular method shinay method that every single method that involves meditation somehow involves shinay because if we do recitation it is always a means of shinay method you have to repeat each word clearly a possible not only once but twice three times and it goes on and on so in Vajrayana Buddhism you will find lots of counting 100,000 times million times 100 million times all of that counting goes on the recitation but that is also means of shinay and for example the entire practise or specific kind of life the monastic life the monks and nuns practise or rather extraordinary like people who will renounce everything even renounce the monastic life and just go for sort of exclusive retreat life for all of these individuals every single practise they involve begins with shinay. Without together with any type of family person how can that person be able to practise dharma both as a typical spiritual practise and in daily life practise. How a monk or nun can practise in monastery without shinay. I mean he or she have to begin all of their practise upon the foundation of togetherness foundation of clearness foundation of being one pointed you have to be clear with what you are doing and the same this with the yogis these individual who will live exclusive life they also have to begin everything upon shinay.
Although every single practise involves shinay still I personal experience that the practitioners should somehow do certain amount of of practise on specific method, which is quite, lets say seriously oriented around the shinay itself. You know there is particular shinay method. It is necessary because quiet few individuals go into more advanced practise (so called) without doing shinay practise. What I find is you are not able to concentrate on that particular method clear enough and as a result of that somehow you get certain kind of result out of your practise but it is not complete because the practise itself you are notable to complete. The reason is simple when you begin something your mind is there concentrated but after few minutes it is drifting around then after a few minutes it comes back and try to continue but then also you around so what happens is you don't get the whole thing you just get the bits and pieces and as a result of that it causes the bits and pieces the result will also be bits and pieces. It will not be complete I have seen this and when that happens people come up with sort of confusion. One of the most common things that happens is people come up to you and say since e I did this practise once I feel things are going wonderful but other side I feel very
Disturbed and very confused and it sounded to me at the beginning rather schizophrenic, kind of two personality but everybody cant be schizophrenic few people can be but not everyone.
So when reasonable amount of individuals come up with those kind of experience then it puzzles that they must be something which makes this kind of reaction happen so when I asked to those individuals most of them haven't done any kind of basic shinay practise they somehow get inspired and out of the inspiration the just of course we are supposed to say fortunately sp fortunately come across with a very special method and then somehow get quite an inspiration out of that so go ahead with the practise of that. And itself involves somewhat the foundation of shinay but that wasn't enough became there wasn't the beginning. It is like I think this is quite close example somebody learns a sentence without learning the alphabet. That will be quiet difficult because you have to figure out the alphabet out of the sentence. So it becomes like that. So you have to get the result of togetherness through the methods, which are based on the foundation of togetherness. So the second step and the first step have to go together and it is almost that you have to get the result of the first step out of the second step.
And most people cant manage that so somehow (of course it is a learning process) always we learn from that kind of situation, making small mistakes we learn from them but somehow if we begin with the shinay and spend reasonable amount of time and effort on the particular method of shinay then later if we do some method which is not only for shinay then we will have better preparation for that method to work. So that is something I have seen with quiet a few people and sometimes I have been it with myself. It is something which we should not ignore that the beginners must start with the shinay method.
Now for example in Mahamudra, practise people usually think when you talk about Mahamudra it is something which is a sort of concept that occurs but in Mahamudra practise there are four steps which were introduced. Out of the four steps the first step is entitled one point, the one pointed ness so that is what really shinay stands for. Because one point means your well being your entire well being is concentrated directly one pointedly. So you will be able to somehow have maximum effect in anything you attempt.
Now this is in Mahamudra practise. The first step is one pointed ness then of course Mahamudra with the one point method will not use visualisation or breathing or any of that sort of method not so much of them. But just follows through the principle of being aware of ones own true nature.
In another way we can say Buddha Nature; other people like to say "Buddha Within". The Buddha which lives within us, the Buddha Nature, the potential of the Buddha. In the Mahamudra method the one pointedness is, somehow you are able to see the Buddha Nature which is your ultimate essence in a clear and non dualistic way. You are able to have an experience of it; you are able to have a sense of it at the beginning. But later a deeper experience of it. So that is one pointedness. The first step the Mahamudra practise involves. This one of shinay is very advanced but still it is shinay.
Now I understand that in Tibet, lets say, when people practise Vajrayana, they practise shinay but not so much emphasis is placed on it. I can see the reason quite clearly because I went there.
In Tibet there isn't so much to make you confused, it is rather simple and healthy in a simple way. There is not so much going on that could make your mind confused. The air, the land, the things which are happening around you are very much like shinay. That is what I found there because I drove (well somebody drove me) for days and maybe all the way through I saw 200 houses. There aren't so many people, no cinemas, no television. I have not seen a single newspaper. I have never seen a single magazine; people don't even know what the word magazine means. None of these things are there even after more than 20 years of communist occupation; they still have none of these things there.
So I understood, in the practise why there isn't so much emphasis on shinay as it is really needed, in my experience, with the individuals who I have dealt with.
I have been dealing with Tibetans in India and Nepal, those westerners who came to India and now I am in England and I am dealing with individuals who came to me to learn meditation. But I see the shinay is one of the most important, definitely at the beginning. It is the most important thing. So before I went to Tibet I heard everything was simple. But still I was not sure why there was a difference. But when I went there I saw it.
But here, with all due respect, you need shinay. It does not mean you are bad, you are wonderful. Your minds are clear. You are very open. You are willing to understand. Willing to learn, which is quite rare in my country.
People not so much want to learn they are quite content with what is going on around them. So here all the people have such openness and inspiration to become a better person and to do something about it. They have real respect for their potential in a very nice way. Some people maybe take it too seriously!
When you take something too seriously it becomes something not serious at all. It becomes like a joke. Then it freezes so nothing happens, because you hold onto it too hard. You have to let go of a couple of things to be able to take a few steps.
So all of these wonderful things are here but then one thing that is noticeable to me is so much is happening in your head. You are so intelligent, sometimes too intelligent. So that makes you need shinay to start with.
It is quite interesting. In my country I have never heard anybody say "I hate myself". I have never heard this.
Maybe some really crazy really sick, mad people have said this otherwise if you say to someone "do you hate yourself?" the other person will not understand what you are talking about.
Because how can you hate yourself? They will never understand that, you are the most dearest thing to yourself, it is almost impossible.
But in the west I can find so many people who hate themselves, really hate themselves.
It's quite a shock to me at the beginning. Of course in Tibet people commit suicide but all of these are involved in a very serious matter. For example if they have done something really wrong and their enemy catches them, they could be cut into pieces or something like that. They don't want that to happen so they kill themselves.
Or certain pains are so unbearable, because of that they kill themselves. It is neurotic, but they kill themselves for that kind of reason.
But in the west, in Europe, in America, now in Japan and certain parts of south East Asia lots of people learn somehow to hate themselves. I really think it is because of thinking too much. People think too much. Somehow they see something and it gets twisted.
Methods like shinay are a remedy for it. The shinay will balance you and if you are intelligent and you have done shinay practise then your intelligence will become wise, not just wild.
Your intelligence is very important, but it can also go beyond the limit and make mistakes. So the practises like shinay will eliminate that danger or that process.
An example with peoples reaction toward particular things, like for example drugs. Drugs are very harmful and destroy people's lives. If someone is supposed to live for another 50 years and they take drugs maybe they live only 2 more years. That is kamikaze. Committing suicide, without honour of course.
So why do people do that? There is something - the confusion. The activity of the mind is so intense they can't take it so they take drugs. Because of the drugs their mind activity somehow changes. So for that temporary comfort they don't mind destroying their life. They destroy their life, most of them know that will happen, but they don't mind. They still go for it. Because people feel their pressure, they feel their confusion.
Now Transcendental Meditation (TM) this method was introduced not too long ago. And how it went to people and how it was developed is amazing, so fast. The method, the technique, the way it was taken by people is just like opium. People used it like aspirin.
When I went to the Philippines its amazing. I came across one TM organisation and the guru said this year (1986) they brought 2000 TM teachers from all over the world to the Philippines. One country. Each centre sponsored their expenses for one year and each person is then to train 10 people to be teachers. After one year there will be 20,000 teachers to teach TM. So that kind of demand is there. Maybe not so much in the UK I have not heard of it so much here.
Why does that happen? People need it. Developed countries like Europe and America and countries on the stage of developing like the Philippines and south East Asia countries; they need these teachers because the pressure, the confusion is so much.
When it comes to shamatha the method is the most effective way to deal with individuals' emotion. But not only that. It is the most effective way to deal with an individuals potential. When I introduce shamatha meditation to individuals I don't tell them that you have to sit 3 hours a day facing a wall, I say you can spend how much time you are able to spend. Half an hour, an hour, concentrating on a particular method. It can be looking at a wall, breathing or anything, but this is up to the individual. At the same time if you are only doing half an hour shamatha meditation then you have 11½ hours of daytime and 12 hours of nightime. Then the rest of the time whatever you do, you may be talking, resting, walking eating, sleeping, any situation. Whenever you are able to do your best to preserve mindfulness and awareness of every single thing. If we do this then somehow the shamatha in a particular time and space of your everyday life and shamatha in every single activity you do is somehow used properly.
So that way your development becomes faster and it also becomes efficient. You yourself become more efficient, happier and there is less opportunity and less chance of becoming neurotic. This way I myself fell very strongly that every single Buddhist who wishes to practise firstly gives some time and some effort to practise shamatha meditation and study about it. Even if you have done that, later when you study further practise you do not ignore it. Still you continue. Every single practise has some sense of shamatha and you have to acknowledge that and follow it through.
That much I can say about shamatha in general.
Questions and Answers
Student: Rinpoche, you mentioned different shamatha techniques such as breathing. How does one find what method works best for oneself?
Rinpoche: This is maybe difficult for some people's way of life, maybe it is not convenient but the Tibetan way is that you somehow have to communicate with one teacher. A teacher is someone with the lineage. There could be thousands of teachers but you will have faith and trust in your teacher. You will want to learn from that person, that is your teacher. Then you go to that person and discuss your inspiration and discuss your problems, if you have any. I think each of us has some. Then somehow communication develops which is connection, the communication.
Then a particular method that your teacher will think is suitable for you after knowing you. Then you will be able to understand if you have to. Sometimes you don't want to know why and that is great! That saves lots of time! But if you want to know you cannot ignore that. So if you want to know then you have to know. Then from there it starts. So it is very difficult for me to say which method is a good method. For each individual it will be different.
Student: Rinpoche, can you say something about what you mean about a non dualistic way please.
Rinpoche: I will try to cut a long story short ok! Non duality perspective doesn't mean anything bad; it is the way things are. Conventional, regular, our way is dualistic way. You can't avoid saying "I, you". When I spoke dharma to you I used "I" many times even this evening, this is the dualistic way.
But because of this, this is the evidence of non duality. Ultimately everything is beyond dualism. So we end up saying non dual, but non dual which is not the opposite of duality. Non dual which is the essence of duality.
The non duality is manifest right now through duality. The example will be "is it possible to have one question which does not have an answer"? Of course somebody may not be able to answer or find the answer but if there is a question then there is an answer. So something the duality manifestation proves is the non duality, because it is the essence of it.
When we become Buddha or when we attain realisation it doesn't mean we look for something and we gain it, we become. But how can we become? We go beyond the conventional dualistic way. That is becoming, so after all I did not manage to cut the long story short but I think somehow you have got some idea about it.
Student: Rinpoche, could you explain about the practicalities of what you physically do when you are practising this form of meditation. Do you sit with your eyes open or closed?
Rinpoche: I can only speak from my experience, ok? When I meditate I try to open my eyes. But it is easier for us to meditate when we close our eyes. When we close our eyes we don't see anything. So it is much easier to concentrate. When we open our eyes we see so many things that attack us.
I close my eyes many times when I meditate. But when my eyes are open I find my meditation more effective, why? Because in my daily life I don't close my eyes, my eyes are open. I see things. I want my meditation to be effective, maybe it sounds neurotic! But somehow we start there.
I want my mediation effect to continue and benefit me in everyday life. What happens to me when I meditate and close my eyes is it is much, much easier to visualise, concentrate. But as soon as I open my eyes I am in another world. When I mediate with open eyes, not wide open but half open, then it is much more difficult for me to concentrate because I see many things. But when I'm able to meditate with open eyes then the result is much easier for me to feel in everyday life because it is pretty much the same. There isn't a big change from very quiet and peaceful life into something else.
It is very interesting. Sometimes I have to wait at the airport, and certain airports because my assistants can not organise an individual room, I have to sit in the transit lounge where everybody is coming and going. So when I am very tired after 8 hours of flights and you have to wait for 2 hours for the next flight that's rather tiring.
So I close my eyes and everything becomes something different. Then when I open my eyes I couldn't believe where I was! This is one example.
You could do this in a shopping centre, not in a square; you might get run over by a truck!
Do it in a shopping centre, rest, close your eyes and you are in another world. Then when you open your eyes for a couple of seconds there is a big shock.
So when I meditate I try to open my eyes, but sometimes I don't manage because I have so little time, maybe ½ hour. So it takes some time to quieten down with open eyes. When your eyes are closed it is very quick.
So it depends on how much time you have, what situation you are in but it is more effective with open eyes.
Birmingham Karma Ling April 1987
Copyright 2002 Tai Situ Rinpoche. Transcription Sherabling Foundation
(Song of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa)
This ordinary mind
of nowness is untouched by fixations on birth and liberation.
Its unceasing manifestation is unshaken by projections.
The realm of Samsara and Nirvana appear simultaneously -
This is the effortless path of the marvellous mahamudra.
Seeing the self-existing ground of insight,
The gates of Samsara and Nirvana fall into step,
And the apparent confusion of the three worlds collapses into space.
The three bodies of enlightenment are arrived at in a natural state,
So why look forward to future results?
This is the special teaching of the Kagyupas
Thinking on that, I emulate my forefathers.
Maitreya Institute, San Francisco
Tantric Science and Transformation
Tonight I'll talk briefly about tantric science and transformation, together. Then I feel it is very important that we sit together and pray for those who died in, or who are suffering injuries from, this natural disaster [1989 Earthquake in San Francisco]. So let us offer a sincere prayer for all of them after this brief explanation of a large subject. The first explanation involves tantric science and second involves transformation.
Tantric Science: Background
What Buddha taught, and how his teaching is presented, varies according to culture and geography. During the thirty-five years of his teaching, Lord Buddha Sakyamuni taught on every subject. And he taught according to the capacity of his followers, the disciples. Because disciples have different levels of understanding, there is great variation in the depth of the teachings Buddha gave. For those whose main weakness was selfishness, Buddha gave teachings to help them to become less selfish. For those whose weakness was fear, he gave teachings to help them to overcome fear. For those whose weakness was a fixation on a particular way of thinking, he gave teachings to help them broaden their understanding and not be fixed on one subject, or one style or narrow dogma.
When people came from nearby countries to study Buddhism, they obviously learned a particular aspect of the teaching from a particular disciple. Therefore, that is what they took back to their country, and that is what became established as Buddhism in that particular country. That is why if you go to Thailand, you see one kind of Buddhism, if you go to Japan, you see another kind of Buddhism, if you go to China, you see yet another type of Buddhism, and if you go to Tibet, you see still another, totally different one. The essence of all of these teachings is the same, but there a tremendous difference in emphasis. As well as there are obvious differences in external appearance, such as in the color, shape and design of robes. To an outsider with no knowledge of Buddhism, it might look like totally different religions.
After Buddha's parinirvana, or his death, the disciples recorded all of his teachings. They designated four major categories: vinaya, abhidharma, sutra and tantra.
Vinaya is mainly concerned with external discipline. It involves the vows that were to be introduced to monks and nuns. Abhidharma is mainly concerned with reasoning, such as mathematics, cause and condition, cosmology. Sutras are mainly philosophically-oriented teachings and teachings that are involved with motivation and the mental disciplines, such as compassion. The tantric aspect of the teaching is the deeper aspect. Tantra involves mental, physical and oral discipline, which we call tantric vows. There is also emphasis on motivation and the application of motivation, and disciplines that involve intention and action. That is all part of tantra.
Introduction to Tantric Science
There are many higher level answers for mental causes and conditions, physical causes and conditions and universal causes and conditions. These we refer to as tantric science. Tantric science also involves higher level mathematics, or astrology. It involves medicine-external physical healing, internal healing of energy patterns in the body, and the healing of the mind, such as how to deal with too much anger, or too much jealously, or too much energy. There are explanations as to why this happens, and methods to correct it.
When it comes to method, there are aspects that involve physical exercise, others that involve sound, or mantra, and the practice of breathing. Mandala practice involves visualizing designs and colors. Mandalas actually include the external, physical, structure of the container, like a house, as well as the internal, what it is containing, like a person. Both are described by the word mandala. In Tibetan, mandala is translated chil kor. Chil means middle and kor means surrounding. So if we're in a house, we're in the middle and the house is our surrounding. Then our house is the middle and the environment is the surrounding. That is a mandala.
All of these aspects of the teaching include directly improving the mind. The method for directly improving the mind is simply to recognize ourselves beyond our physical manifestation. It starts from a most basic analysis-not through some external method, but just analyzing what is. For example, the first thing that comes to our mind about ourselves is who am I? Then we will call ourselves a man or a woman. If we happen to be a man, the second thing is a Tibetan man, or Oriental man or Occidental man or man of color-whatever it is. That would be our second answer. Then, when we look into that, we will say "I am a man with a beard but no hair." Next will be "I am Mr. Andrew." So, "I am an Occidental man with no hair and a beard and my name is Andrew." These things go on and on.
Finally, we come to the conclusion that we are ultimately not a man, we are ultimately not a man with no hair and a beard, and we are ultimately not Andrew. What we really are is beyond this physical manifestation. This mind that says "Who am I?", this mind which asks the question, that is who we are. It goes beyond name, beyond race, beyond language, beyond everything.
The next level of ourselves involves our emotions. We are somebody who is bothered by particular things, or who likes particular things, or who wishes for this and that. When we look beyond this, we are very vast, very deep, very profound. Ultimately we have no limitation of any kind. We are beyond time and beyond any label.
So, after going through all kinds of questions, that becomes the answer. At that stage, we cannot answer any more questions because there are no more words. We have to stop there. That is one method of direct mind meditation, but it depends on the individual. Some individuals recognize this without going through all of those questions. At the same time, we recognize the limitations. Most of us have limitations. There are certain things we can and certain things we cannot do. When we push ourselves, and others push us, we get to the end of our rope and we're ready to collapse or explode. That kind of limitation is always there. But even with that limitation, a practitioner will be able to recognize his or her real self, or essence, which is beyond any limitation. By observing that, and by trying to maintain that limitless quality, all of those limitations become lessened. Of course, it will take lots of effort, but improvement takes place from there. So tantric method ranges from physical exercise, visualization and chanting to directly dealing with mind.
That is how to look at the teachings of Buddha roughly and understand where tantra fits in. Almost all of the vinaya, abhidharma and sutra teachings were given by Buddha to ordinary human beings like us, who were his disciples. But many of the tantras were taught to very highly developed human beings, and were not public. And a number of the tantras were taught not to human beings but to spirits in higher levels of existence, and so were inaccessible even to Buddha's disciples, because they weren't ready to receive them. In this way the tantric teachings weren't as common as the vinayas, abhidharmas and sutras. That is why some Buddhists who practice only vinaya, or some level of abhidharma and sutra, might hold the attitude that tantra isn't Buddhist, because it wasn't available to most of the disciples at the time of the Buddha.
On the other hand, practitioners of tantra would never entertain the slightest doubt that vinaya, abhidharma and sutra are all teachings of the Buddha, because they are mentioned in the tantras. But because tantra isn't mentioned in many of the sutras, practitioners who know only sutra might have an attitude towards tantra. Practitioners of Vajrayana sometimes take offense when a practitioner of sutra says that tantra isn't Buddhist. But that is totally unnecessary. It is meant to be that way, because Buddha didn't teach tantra to those to whom he only taught sutra.
Elements of Tantric Science
After this brief introduction, let us go into a little more detail about tantric science. I talk about tantric science because many people ask about this subject. I started to teach it in Taiwan last year. For me, science is a very vague term. Because I don't have the linguistic ability to pinpoint the meaning of science, I have to rely on my connotative sense of what it means. For me, science means that everything has a reason. Everything happens because of mechanisms and elements coming together. Nothing happens without anything, and everything happens because of a particular reason. I take this as the basic definition of science. Things happen because of interdependence. With this amateur definition in mind, I tried very carefully to look into the subject of tantra. Tantra is a very vast subject and I don't really remember even the names of most of the tantras. But I will share with you what I know.
Mathematics, astrology, medicine, and the mind-these things somehow cover everything. Astrology covers the universe. Mathematics and astrology are absolutely related. In tantra, we cannot say or do anything about astrology, without knowing mathematics. We can calculate without knowing astrology, definitely, but we cannot say anything about astrology without knowing how to calculate it properly.
Medicine is directly involved with the universe. When we learn about the universe, we learn about medicine, because for us, the external universe is like our bigger body. Then this earth becomes the smaller body, and this body becomes the immediate physical body. Whatever takes place in the universe affects this planet. And whatever happens on this planet due to what is happening in the universe affects this immediate physical body. Then, whatever happens in the body affects the mind. So, tantric science involves astrology, mathematics, medicine and mind.
Definition of Universe
First, we need a clear definition of the universe. In Tibetan, the name for universe is a bit long, but I have found it to be very useful, very meaningful. It is translated from Sanskrit directly, so it really describes what is meant by universe. It says: Pyii nu je jig ten. It doesn't just say universe. Pyii means external. Nup means container. Jig means destruction. Ten means foundation. So, it says "the foundation of destruction, the outer container." It means that the universe just exists for the eyes of the beings who live there. The universe and the eyes and the body of the beings who live there are absolutely interdependent. That means the universe exists relatively. It does not exist ultimately. I know that I'm drawing a conclusion very fast, but we have so little time.
The universe out there exists interdependent with the beings who live here. According to the tantra, the Buddha told his disciples: "What you see as the universe is absolutely interdependent on your eye. What you hear-the sound of the universe, waterfalls, rainfall, the blowing of the wind, the crackling of the fire-is interdependent with your ear." He went on and on and on with all five senses. At the end he said, "If your mind went into another type of body, with another type of eye, another type of ear, the way you would see, hear, and taste the universe would be totally different."
So if our same mind became involved in another human physical form, the way we would see everything, how everything would affect us, would be totally different. If I were to add a few of my own words onto it, I would say that I, as a human being of planet earth, of this century, cannot walk through cement. I cannot do this for two reasons. First, since I am not yet enlightened, I have many limitations. Second, my body cannot go through a cement wall because it is softer than the wall. The wall is harder than my body. But my body can go through light. My body can go through the air. I'm not a good swimmer, but my body can go through water, too. But it cannot go through a concrete wall. No way.
If my mind were exactly as it is, no more or no less enlightened, no more or no less neurotic, but my body was the totally the opposite from what it presently is, I would be able to go through the wall, but I would not be able to go through light, I would not be able to go through the wind, I would not be able to go through water. About the universe, Buddha said: "The outer container of this body-how we see, how we hear, how we touch, how we taste-is not beyond the human being of the planet Earth. It is just that. So it does not go beyond this interdependent manifestation."
I hope I'm making this clear enough so you understand what I'm saying. This subject is very hard to explain. One reason it is so hard to explain is that there is not much I can say beyond my own level, and I am not at the level of enlightenment. As a follower of the teaching of Buddha, and as a teacher, I just know a little bit more than all of you. Second, our way of thinking and relating to things becomes very different as soon as we realize something like that. I don't mean realize in the sense of ultimate realization, but just as an understanding that when that switch is on or off, then things change. So that part isn't so easy to communicate.
Jig-ten, the foundation of destruction, has a very deep meaning. I explained about the outer container of this body. That is what it is. The primary meaning is that anything in the universe can be destroyed at any moment. In the past two days, we've seen an example of destruction [the 1989 San Francisco earthquake]. The foundation of destruction means that as soon as something exists, it can be destroyed. That is very basic.
When we go one step beyond this basic definition of foundation of destruction, when does this change? I cannot go through this wall. When does it change? It changes as soon as my body is destroyed, as soon as my body is dead. Even if I die in the most protected jail in the universe, and even if that jail is protected by ten million soldiers, the moment I die, my mind is free. It cannot be locked in; the jail becomes irrelevant. Even if someone dies in a solid concrete box, as soon as that person dies, the mind leaps through the concrete. So, how long does the physical effect of the physical universe last? As long as we are alive. That is another reason for this title, the foundation of destruction.
So that is the meaning of term "universe" in Buddhism, and particularly in tantra.
Relative Universe and the Five Elements
How does the universe manifest in a relative way? How does my body exist in a particular way? How does the universe exist in a particular way? Fire burns me, and water drowns me. The positive side is that just enough fire keeps me warm, as long as I keep my distance. And enough water keeps me clean. How do all of these things work, and how should we relate to it? In tantra, and even in abhidharma, Buddha taught about the elements out of which the physical body and the external universe are created. That creation is the combination of earth, water, fire, air and space, the five elements.
Space is the most important element. It is the ultimate of all the elements. It is the greatest miracle that constantly takes place. For example, I have a glass of water here. Right now there's no space inside. Scientifically speaking, there might be some space, according to what kind of water it is, but for the layman, there is no space here. It is just a solid glass of water. When I drink it, that glass has this much space. Where did that space come from? When we pour another glass of water, the space is gone. Where did it go? When we look at space-any space, of any size-it is the most ultimate of all elements. It is the miracle element.
The other elements-earth, water, fire and air-function in space. The earth, water, fire and air that make up our body correspond roughly to the earth, water, fire and air in the universe. Most of us know this, so I won't say too much about it, but there is one thing that is mentioned in tantra. It says: "How does each universe and each level of sentient being, the physical body and its container, work together?" The element balance in a human body like mine and the element balance of its surrounding have to be compatible. Then I can live. But if the element balance of my surrounding, and the element balance of my body, become incompatible, I will die. When the amount of heat in our body and the amount of heat in our surrounding, and the amount of water in our body and the amount of water in our surrounding, are compatible and balanced, we're comfortable. But when they are not balanced, we feel uncomfortable. When we look back to the definition of the external universe, it reminds us how our body and our external universe are related, how the external universe affects our body and how our body affects the external universe. This interrelation is always there.
That relates to the raw material of the universe and the raw material of the physical body. Then Buddha said the physical body and surrounding of all sentient beings-human and animal of this planet, human and animal of other planets, spirits, everything-is totally interrelated with these five elements. According to the balance of those five elements, sentient beings have a particular body and a particular surrounding. For me, this is San Francisco. For a spirit, it is a spirit realm. For a hungry ghost, everything is a hungry ghost's realm. That's how it works. And that is how we should relate to the physical element balance of the external universe and the physical element balance of sentient beings. Mind always remains the same.
Tantric Medicine, Astrology and Mathematics
Everybody calls tantric medicine "Tibetan medicine" these days. The reason it is more appropriately called tantric medicine, or Buddhist medicine, is that Buddha manifested as Medicine Buddha and taught this tantra. That particular tantra is what Tibetan medicine is based on. In the same way, Tibetan mathematics is really Buddhist mathematics, because it came from the tantra and sutra teachings of Buddha on the subject of mathematics. Now it is known as Tibetan astrology. Chinese astrology is very close, if not the same. Astrology and mathematics go together, as I mentioned.
Where do medicine, astrology and mathematics belong? They belong to the relative subject. The medicine, astrology and mathematics that were taught by Buddha and are practiced now are according to the human universe, the human body, the human mind, the human body's interrelation with the universe and the human mind's interrelation to the human body. It is solely based on that.
In theory, Buddha taught nine-thousand million aspects of mathematics that were based on nine numbers, zero through nine. The mathematics text that is available in Tibetan language right now does not go up that high, because it is too much. People who are really devoted to mathematics and astrology in these days use sixty; you put the number nine sixty times. That is how far they are able to work with the text. Only those who make calendars and work with astrology and mathematics know how to do this. I don't know how to do it.
When it comes to mathematics and astrology together, it becomes an impossible subject. Theoretically speaking, I really don't know if this is science or something else. I have a hard time making that distinction. The details of the practice of astrology and mathematics together are usually known by the people who make calendars. Their first practice is to make a perfect, profound calendar that everyone uses. In Tibetan, we have about three different calendars made by three different calendar makers. Because calendars have very little space for each day, and that space is filled with numbers, the calendar makers couldn't use all of the mathematics. If a calendar maker were to make a full calendar, the calculation of even one day could be many volumes. It is endless.
According to tantric astrology and mathematics, to make a precise, top-quality horoscope, you have to use the nine generation theory. That means that the birthdates and times of the nine generations past are necessary to make an accurate horoscope of one person. This is amazing, because there are twelve animals that represent twelve years. Then it repeats. And there are twelve zodiacs. And there are many other things to also be considered, like karma. In a perfect calendar, each page would have the full horoscope of every child that is born at every moment with every parent. But that way it becomes impossible. Nowadays, nobody goes beyond the parents. You just get the parents' birthdates and child's birthdate and that's it. They became lazy. But that satisfies people because it can predict certain things, although not everything.
Astrology is actually based on all the stars that are involved with twenty-four major permanent stars. These in turn involve many other stars. Some of the twenty-four stars have six stars together, so it is not just one star, but groups of stars. Some of them are single stars. But that is the concept of the universe in astrology and mathematics.
One galaxy or group of universes that stays together is a third thousand in quantity. That means one-thousand solar systems times one-thousand solar systems times one-thousand solar systems. It is three times-one-thousand times one-thousand times one-thousand. That is one group. When they think about the universe, they are thinking about what we call . . . chen-po, "the greater three-thousand." That means first thousand, second thousand, and third thousand. So one-thousand times three.
I think it is appropriate for us to draw a conclusion to our discussion of the universe here.
There are basically two kinds of health-physical health and mental health. In Tibetan, a physical problem is called lung rkyen me, the sickness of the body. A mental problem is called sem rkyen me, the sickness of the mind. The good news is that our mind can never be sick ultimately. Our mind is ultimately okay. Nobody can be crazy ultimately. Nobody can be neurotic ultimately. Nobody can be evil ultimately. In Buddhism, ultimate negativity or ultimate evil doesn't exist. The ultimate is perfect, it is pure. Therefore, it is enlightenment.
Why is enlightenment so great? Why should everyone strive for it? Because it is ultimate. If there is ultimate negativity, then enlightenment is great because there is another ultimate. That is why every Buddhist will pray "May I and all sentient beings be free from suffering," and "May I and all sentient beings attain enlightenment." Enlightenment is the ultimate, and the ultimate is perfect.
Relation of Mind and Body and Introduction to Transformation
The relative sickness of the body and the relative sickness of the mind aren't necessarily connected according to the principle of medicine, but most of the time they are connected. It is possible to have a perfect body and a sick mind, but most of the time, the body influences the mind. I think it is appropriate for us to introduce the subject of transformation here, because the sickness of the mind is cured through transformation. We can use this concept of transformation for curing physical sickness as well, but it is slightly different from how the sickness of the mind is cured.
In Tibetan medicine, the basic philosophy is that the existence of the sickness is the evidence for the cure. That is how it is viewed. If there is a sickness, there is a cure. A sickness without a cure cannot exist. Having something is the evidence of having something for it, or against it.
There are a number of medicines used in Buddhist or tantric medicine. Buddha described many minerals, ranging from quicksilver to earth, and herbs, including seeds, roots, leaves, trunks, and grass. Parts of the physical bodies of different animals are also described. Lots of people don't like to hear about it, but it is there in the text.
The definition of physical sickness is that something is too much or too little. To function properly, the eye has to be able to see clearly, the ear has to be able to hear clearly, the tongue has to be able to taste clearly, the blood has to circulate properly, the heart has to be able to pump properly, the lungs have to be able to breathe properly. Each one of those systems needs a tremendous amount of balance. Everything has to be right-not too much and not too little of anything.
When something becomes too much or too little, problems develop. These problems are described in many ways. Something grows on something, or something becomes bad and disintegrates. From the bone marrow to the skin, everything in the body has its own function. Everything in the body has to be healthy and functioning properly to have perfect physical health.
According to the medicine tantra, each plant and each mineral has a particular quality that effects the element balance, so that when something is too little, it becomes just enough, and when something is too much, it minimizes. In Tibetan medicine, traditionally the doctor first checks the patient and then makes up a particular medicine according to that particular patient. Nowadays Tibetan medicine is more and more mass-produced, which changes things a lot. Traditionally, medicine was never mass-produced. Every medicine was prepared according to the condition of the individual patient. Even patients who had a similar sicknesses received different medicines, because each person's sickness and each person's body is slightly different. Traditional Tibetan doctors carried hundreds of tiny paper bags and a very sensitive scale for weighing. According to the patient, they made the medicine, weighed it on the scale and administered it.
Medicines aren't taken only internally, by ingestion. Sometimes the medicine is burned and the heat of the medicine goes through a gold needle placed on a particular spot. Sometimes a particular metal is burned on a particular spot. It sounds painful but it isn't at all. Our skin is burning, so it smells a little like a barbecue, but there's less pain than from an injection.
Sometimes a doctor will prepare a particular herb in a small rice paper cone and then glue it to the right spot and burn it. I've had several of them. That procedure really helps, but it is extremely painful. It is almost unbearable, because you have to sit there for about two or three minutes while you're burning. The burn is usually the size of a cigarette, so it is quite big.
Another cure is blood-letting. When people have bad or poisoned blood, they're given a particular medicine and preparations to apply to the skin which will usually concentrate the bad blood in a particular spot. Then they take it out and the person gets well.
The texts also have instructions for performing surgery, and descriptions of surgical instruments. It is all there-I read through the text myself. But unfortunately, the practice stopped many hundred of years ago. I don't think you will find any Tibetan doctor who will do surgery now.
There is a correct way to cure people which is done by very few doctors these days. It is a mathematical and astrological treatment, so the doctor knows exactly when to give what medicine to which person. We call it "pulse reading." This particular pulse reading is entitled "seven magnificent (or amazing) pulse." A doctor with this kind of skill can actually examine the father or mother for the health of their children or parents, who can be hundreds of miles away. He can tell how long somebody is going to live. There are seven conditions that can be described through reading the pulse of one person. As far as I know, there is one person in East Tibet, who is about seventy-four years old, who is very famous for it. Another lived in Bhutan and died several years ago. But this gives you a rough idea of the treatment of the physical body in tantric medicine.
When it comes to the mind, if the mental sickness is related with the physical sickness, proper physical treatment will definitely cure it. If the mental sickness is not related to the physical sickness, it has to be treated with the transformation or meditation aspect of treatment.
When we meditate, first we learn how to sit properly, in meditation posture. Sitting in the correct physical posture is the first step to developing balance for the mind. There is a tremendous virtue in sitting properly when we meditate. Most of the time it is described as seven postures. But when it is described for this particular purpose, it is introduced as as the five physical positions of contemplation or meditation.
In Tibetan it says samten-chi-chu-wa. I believe the Christian word for it would be meditation, but Buddhist translators translate samten into English as contemplation. So first we learn the contemplation or meditation posture, the physical position of the body. This involves the immediate balance of the mind and body. Actually, a body is either alive or dead. Whether the body is alive or dead depends on whether that body has a mind in it or not. If the body is without a mind, it is a dead body. If the body has a mind, it is a live body.
How does that work? The time for the mind to leave the body is when the body's systems shut down-the breathing stops throughout the body and the heart stops pumping blood. When those systems stop functioning, we die. The mind is subtle, absolutely subtle. It is the most subtle thing in the whole universe. The body is solid and liquid. The connection between something that is totally limitless and subtle and something that is totally limited and solid is this flow of energy. And that flow of energy is functioning right now in our body as breathing.
The breathing of the air, or the circulation of energy, is divided into five aspects of air, or five aspects of energy, or five aspects of breathing. And this has to be always renewed, always rejuvenated. It is the essence of our parents, the essence of the universe, which became ours when we were conceived. That somehow stays there as the seed. But then we constantly have to draw it from the universe by breathing, by eating, by moving, by everything we do. We have to constantly charge this flow of energy.
This correct sitting posture of crossing the legs, putting hands together, keeping the back straight and the throat slightly bent, and eyes half-open, like the Buddha's eye on the various statues-these are the five positions of the physical body, the five postures.
The first air is air that takes care of all the leftovers. The sweat comes out, the hair grows out, the nails grow out, and so on. It is like a disposal energy. That is very important. When we sit cross-legged, that disposal air becomes centralized. That is the first thing that happens. Some translators translate this as gravity air. It goes down and takes things out. That is also okay, but I think disposal is more clear.
The second is putting the hands together and resting them on the lap. This is described as water-air. This air is supposed to keep all the other airs functioning together. For instance, let us say we have a statue made of clay. It is actually just dust. What holds it together is that the statue maker put water in the clay, and that water holds the little particles together and makes a statue. Each of these airs is kept together by water-air. By putting the hands together, it centralizes the water-air, and so balances it.
The third position is sitting straight, with the backbone as straight as possible. This particular air is described as earth-air. Earth-air simply means the foundation for all of this other airs, the solid aspect of the air. When our back is straight and our two arms are straight, we'll be centralized.
When the throat is slightly bent, the particular air that is involved here is called fire-air. The fire-air keeps our body warm and allows the body to be fresh. The alive body does not disintegrate. As soon as we die, that air is gone and the body disintegrates. So that particular one is described as fire-air. To balance this, we bend the throat slightly.
The fire-air is also gravity. Even though we're standing on the ground, our blood circulation is able to carry blood to our head. It is like fire and smoke. Smoke always goes up; it doesn't go down. Fire-air always has the power to circulate everywhere.
Then, finally, the eyes and the tongue. The eyes are half-closed, half-open. The tongue gently touches the upper palate. This is to centralize the air-air. Air-air is actually described as movement, so air-air is able to make movement.
So, according to the physical body structure, and according to the function of each part of the body, when we sit in that particular posture, these five airs become balanced.
How does that relate to mind? This sounds slightly mysterious, but not exactly. There are some texts we can study that explain this. There is a particular tantric text entitled sam mo nam tun. In English it can be translated as "deep inner meaning." Another text is called ju . . . ., which is the tantra of the Hevajra tantra. Hevajra is a mandala, and the tantra, the explanation, the commentary of that particular explanation of that particular mandala is the ju . . . . . So if we look into this kind of text then we will learn each of the relationships and each of the explanations.
How does it work for the mind? Mental illness comes from the imbalance of five major defilements. If our defilements are balanced , we are ordinary sentient beings. We are not enlightened but we are ordinary sentient beings. The defilements are jealousy, anger, ignorance, attachment and pride, or ego. This order is according to those five particular airs.
The disposal air is related with jealousy, water-air is related with anger (commonly it looks like fire-air is the anger, but according to the tantra, it is not), earth-air is related with ignorance, fire-air is related with attachment and passion, and air-air is related with ego, or pride. When any of these five-desire, anger, ignorance, jealousy or pride-becomes imbalanced, when one becomes too strong and another too weak, then we become neurotic. When we become severely neurotic, we become mentally ill.
Transformation in Mental Health
As far as transformation is concerned, when we sit properly just before meditating, if we can sit for a reasonable amount of time, already there is improvement. We are able to sit properly and prepare for our meditation. As we are able to sit for longer periods of time, we become more calm, quiet and peaceful, and we are ready to meditate. That is the beginning of the improvement of our mental health. That is the first step in improving mental health.
From there, the further steps of transformation should take place. In tantra, or Vajrayana, the only way ignorant sentient beings can become enlightened is through a process of transformation. We cannot destroy an ignorant sentient being to create a buddha. The only way for an ignorant sentient being to become Buddha is through transforming ignorance into wisdom. When we go into detail, we call it the five defilements of the five Buddha families-desire, anger, ignorance, jealousy and ego.
Now, what is the other side of ignorance? The other side of ignorance is wisdom. What is the other side of wisdom? It is the ignorance. I'll try to explain this. Although I'm afraid it might be too simplistic, it serves our purpose here to understand it. The practice is one thing and understanding is another. First we need a basic understanding, then maybe we will practice.
When a person doesn't know something, that is one kind of ignorance-saying, "I don't know. I am scared. I feel absolutely frightened." It is the fear of not knowing. But it is far wiser to know that we don't know than to think we have to think we know. So, when we say "I don't know," that is already knowing. That is one step in wisdom. And then, when we really look into everything that is there to know, ultimately there is nothing to know. So it goes back to not knowing, because ultimately there is nothing to know. Ultimately everything is happening in a relative sense, but in an ultimate sense, nothing is happening. Well, I will say something. Be prepared.
If somebody asks me, "Are you a human being?", what am I supposed to say? Am I supposed to take offense and get mad? Or, I might simply say, "Of course I'm a human being." But if I really answer according to the tantric principle, I should just say, "Relatively speaking, I am a human being." Then the person would say, "Ultimately what are you?" Then, with all due respect, I would have to say, "Ultimately I'm a buddha."
Even if I asked this question to a cat or a dog, if they could answer, first they'd have to say "Relatively I am a cat, ultimately I am a buddha" or "Relatively I am a dog, ultimately I am a buddha." That would be the correct answer for every sentient being. Ultimately we're a buddha, relatively we're a human being or a dog or a cat. That is how it works. So, transformation means ignorance, not knowing, being an ignorant sentient being, being totally overwhelmed by the suffering of samsara, the trips of samsara, and we are the pilgrims of the samsara going through each event. All of a sudden we get to one place, like San Francisco, and there will be one big event and then it is over. Then we go on to the next event, like in New Delhi, and then the next.
So, right now we are a human being. We prepare for our event by going to school, going to college. Then, when we graduate, we think "This is the event, this is the real life we were always looking for." Then, after some time, we get used to it and get bored by it. Then another pilgrimage begins.
But the only way for us to really improve, really transform our ignorance, is by liberating whatever profound essence, profound quality, is there to be liberated. We don't have to add something in. We don't have to add anything. Lord Buddha said in his teaching: "Ultimately there is no difference between you and me." What he meant is "Ultimately I am Buddha, ultimately you are Buddha." That is why I have such a big mouth to say "Ultimately I am Buddha," because Buddha says so.
Then he said: "The difference is that my Buddha essence is totally liberated and yours is not. That is why you are my disciple and I am the Buddha." That is the only difference. And the reason Buddha took the trouble to give all of these teachings is because everyone is Buddha by nature, everyone ultimately is Buddha, everyone's universe is ultimately perfect. He taught the methods for purifying and transforming ourselves from relative, limited, ordinary sentient beings into our ultimate potential, our ultimate essence, buddhahood. That is basically the concept of transformation, the idea of enlightenment, and the definition of realization, buddhahood and purification.
Purification doesn't mean we are bad so we have to beat up all of our badness, throw it away, then collect all the goodness to become perfect. It doesn't mean that. Purification means we're ultimately perfect, but that perfection manifests relatively like ignorance, like attachment, like all of these relative obstacles. We have to transform our anger into compassion, we have to transform our ignorance into wisdom. That is how transformation takes place. And total transformation is total purification. That is what enlightenment is.
I think this covers these two major subjects of Buddhism, and particularly tantric Buddhism. Tantric science contains the answers for all of our questions, because Buddha said, relatively nothing happens without a cause and a condition. Everything happens with a cause and condition. There is nothing we cannot answer. There is an answer for every question because every single event takes place for a reason. Nothing happens without a reason. So that is what tantric science is for me.
Enlightenment is the transformation of our negativity into positiveness, because the positive is the essence of the negative. When we don't know something, when we do something wrong, that is negative. But when we do it right, that is positive. So it is the other side of the coin, the other side of the page. So it is totally connected.
And the idea of practice, the idea of prayer, the idea of working hard to do things right is not a demonstration against doing something wrong. It is not opposing something that is wrong. It is transforming wrong into right, ignorance into wisdom. It is not that ignorance is our enemy, but we have to transform our ignorance into wisdom.
The self, the ego, the I, are the biggest obstacles to enlightenment. From the moment a child is born, before it knows anything, it knows how to cry. It knows how to be angry. Even before we know how to say father and mother, we know how to feel I am hungry, I am cold, I am left alone. Even a small bug that walks across our table, who cannot read one single sentence and cannot communicate anything in words, knows how to hide and knows how to run if we make a little noise-because of self. So, as long as there is the self, that is the good news, because the other side of the self is buddha nature. When our buddha nature is fully liberated, that is enlightenment. That is what transformation means.
I hope the things that I shared here tonight are clear enough. I hope it makes sense to you, and that it is helpful for your quest for learning about Buddhism, or making your life more meaningful. I hope so. I'm not able to say things too clearly today because all of this tragedy made me-you know, I'm a neurotic person. I realize it affected me. I felt very sad for what happened. So many people died, and still most of them aren't out yet. They're still buried there. So it is quite a sad situation. I know that even if we feel sad, it doesn't really help, but then, I cannot help it. I'm a human being and I'm not enlightened as I should be, so I still have dualism. And I cannot say things as clearly as I'd like to say them.
Yesterday quite a few individuals came to our dharma center here and we did a short prayer for those who died and for those who survived but have lots of pain and suffering. Tonight, instead of letting you ask questions, I'd like to request that you join with me and the venerable lamas to do a short prayer. This is a Mahamudra lineage prayer, and Mahamudra is the particular lineage I follow.
Also, there is an Amitabha prayer. Amitabha is a particular aspect of Buddha that represents Pure Land, which is for the human beings. The strongest weakness of human beingd is attachment and desire. That is the common human defilement. So Amitabha Buddha is the transformation aspect of the attachment. Therefore, Amitabha is practiced as a Buddha whose Pure Land is available for rebirth for those human beings with sincere inspiration, dedication and compassion.
So we pray for those who died and for those who are suffering. Any of you who know this particular prayer, please join with us. If you don't know it, I request that you join us in your heart.
[Prayer and Dedication]
[Transcribed and edited by Stephanie Harolde]
on World Trade Center Disaster
Paris, September 18, 2001
Out of your incredible wisdom and compassion,
You taught the genuine Dharma
To help us abandon all views.
I prostrate before you, Gautama.
This is a prostration offered to the Teacher who is the one who out of his great love for
all sentient beings, teaches us the Shravakayana, the vehicle of the hearers, the
Pratyekabuddha-yana, the vehicle of the solitary buddhas, and the Mahayana, the great
vehicle. It is a verse of prostration that describes the reason why we prostrate.
The glorious Chandrakirti begins his text, Entering the Middle Way, by offering homage
to compassion. The first type of compassion focuses on sentient beings themselves.
Chandrakirti's homage to this first compassion reads:
First, thinking "me," they fixate on "self,"
Then, thinking "this is mine," attachment to things develops.
Sentient beings are powerless, like a rambling water mill-
I bow to compassion for these wanderers.
What this verse teaches us is how important it is to have compassion for sentient
beings who suffer because they cling to the belief in a self. Because it is so
important, Chandrakirti offers this compassion his prostration.
This verse also teaches us that the belief in self is the cause of all suffering; it is the
cause of all the problems there are. This is why we need to continuously cultivate
compassion for all the sentient beings in this universe who suffer as a result of believing
in the existence of self.
Chandrakirti then writes,
Beings are like the moon on the surface of rippling water
This teaches the second type of compassion-compassion that focuses on the quality
of sentient beings that is their impermanence. Sentient beings change moment by moment
nothing stays the same for them or their experience from one moment to
the next. Everything is completely impermanent, and yet, they don't realize that, and
taking things to be permanent causes them to suffer.
Since sentient beings are like this moon constantly moving on this pool of water, then
all of their difficulty, all of their suffering as well is completely impermanent. Yet, they
don't realize that, so they take their suffering and difficulty to be permanent, and that is
what causes their suffering after all.
You can have an experience of suffering, but if you know it's impermanent, it won't
be that big of a deal because you know it will change, that the situation will improve.
It's only when we suffer and we think the suffering is permanent, that it's not going to
go away, that it's always going to be there-it's when we have that attitude that it
becomes really bad.
This is why when we meditate on impermanence, the main thing to meditate on as
being impermanent is our suffering.
If it were the case that happiness never turned into suffering; if it were the case that
happiness didn't produce suffering, then we wouldn't have to meditate on impermanence
at all. But since it is the case that happiness does turn into suffering; that happiness
does produce suffering, then we have to meditate on the impermanence of happiness
They move and are empty of any self-nature.
Sentient beings are like watermoons not only from the perspective of their impermanence,
but also from the perspective that even the moon that appears to be moving there is not
really a moon at all. It is a mere appearance that is empty of inherent nature. Similarly,
not only are sentient beings impermanent, they aren't real. They are just like the sentient
beings that appear in dreams. This is an expression of the third type of compassion: non
referential compassion. It is called this because its focus is the emptiness of sentient
beings. The nature of sentient beings is that they have no nature, they have no inherent
essence, but they don't know that, and as a result of believing in their own true existence
they suffer. And we feel compassion for them for this reason.
Whatever suffering someone might experience in a dream, no matter how bad it might
seem, both that suffering and what causes it do not truly exist. They do not have the
slightest inherent nature. If however, the person doesn't know that they are dreaming,
then they will believe that suffering to be truly existent, and that is what will cause them
pain-that mistake. Similarly, we need to know that the suffering sentient beings
experience is not real, but they suffer because they don't know that, and we feel
compassion for them because they don't realize their suffering is not truly existent.
They take it to be real, and that is what causes them to suffer. This is the third type
In short, sentient beings suffer as a result of clinging to the belief in self, they suffer as
a result of believing that things are permanent, and they suffer as a result of believing
that things truly exist. We cultivate the three types of compassion for sentient beings
-and we need all of these three kinds-because there are these three causes of
In his song, The Ten Things It's Like, the Lord of Yogis Milarepa sings,
When compassion wells up from within the depths of my heart
I see the three realms' beings like they're burning in a pit of fire
We had a vivid example last week in the events in America when the two towers
were burning, and how much did compassion arise within us for the people who had
to suffer inside the burning buildings, for the people who tried to escape by hanging
out of the windows? This is an example for the compassion that Milarepa feels for
all sentient beings.
In his Aspiration Prayer for Mahamudra, the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje prays,
Beings by nature have always been Buddhas,
Yet not realizing this, they wander endlessly in samsara.
May we have unbearable compassion
For sentient beings whose suffering knows no bounds.
"Beings by nature have always been Buddhas"-this describes how it is that the true
nature of mind of every single sentient being is the enlightened essence of the buddha
nature. It is the buddha of perfect purity, the actual genuine buddha-the real buddha
is the true nature of mind of every being. But, sentient beings don't know that, and as
a result of not realizing their own nature of mind, they suffer endlessly, without interruption,
in samsara. So this is an aspiration that compassion that is so strong, you can't take
it-that this type of powerful compassion, will arise within us for sentient beings who
suffer because they don't realize their own enlightened nature.
The prayer continues,
This unbearable compassion radiates unceasing love,
And as it does, its emptiness of essence nakedly shines.
May we never leave this supreme and unerring path of union,
May we meditate upon it all day and all night.
When this compassion arises within us that is so strong, we can't bear how powerful it
is, it emits unceasing love for all sentient beings, at that very moment, its essence is
emptiness. Here, emptiness refers to the true nature of mind, luminous clarity. So to
give rise to this unbearable compassion and then rest in equipoise within the luminous
clarity that is its true nature is the path of love and emptiness in union, of emptiness
and compassion in union.
The Seven Points of Mind Training states,
Practice sending and taking alternately
Let the two ride the breath
To practice tonglen ("sending and taking"), one must first give rise to very powerful
compassion. When we feel unbearable compassion for others, we send out all of our
happiness to all sentient beings, and we take all their suffering on ourselves in exchange.
We let these two go with the exhalation and inhalation of the breath.
The final verse of the Mahamudra Aspiration Prayer reads,
By the power of the great compassion of the Victorious Ones and their
sons and daughters of the ten directions,
And the power of all the immaculate virtue there is
May my own and all sentient beings'
Completely pure aspiration prayers be perfectly fulfilled!
This verse is a prayer that all our previous prayers come true. In order to make this
happen, we supplicate all the Victorious Buddhas and all of their sons and daughters,
the bodhisattvas, in all ten directions-by the power of the great compassion and love
that all of these enlightened beings embody, as well as the power of all of our own
meritorious, positive actions, like generosity and so forth-by the power of all of that,
may my own and all sentient beings' completely pure aspiration prayers be perfectly
fulfilled. What does it mean to make a pure aspiration prayer? It means to pray that
sentient beings be free of suffering. It means to pray that sentient beings have glorious
happiness. May all of these prayers be perfectly fulfilled.
In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, one needs compassion like that in order to
attain the state of enlightenment. But not only that, compassion is something that is
important if the world itself is to be a happy place. If we want the world to be like
that, what we need to develop is compassion.
If you start out developing love and compassion, what happens when you perfect it,
when you take it to its ultimate? In the Buddhist tradition, that's called enlightenment.
Do you have any questions?
Q: Is it possible that very intense compassion becomes suffering for oneself?
A: This type of suffering that we experience as a result of experiencing unbearable
compassion doesn't have the defining characteristics of suffering, because it is a cause
of enlightenment. It is a cause of the accumulation of merit. So giving rise to this type
of compassion that produces suffering for oneself-bodhisattvas like it! They're happy
to have that type of feeling, because that's a cause of their attaining enlightenment.
Actually, if we can experience suffering just as a result of meditating on compassion
for beings who suffer, then think about the real suffering that they're experiencing.
If just by meditating you can make yourself suffer, then how about the person who
is actually going through it? When you think in that way, your compassion grows
When, for example, you watch the video of the World Trade Center and you see
the people and the suffering they experience, and that makes you feel compassion
that's unbearable, then think about the people who were actually going through it.
Think about the people who the video shows climbing out the window a hundred
stories up because the fire was so strong they couldn't stay inside. There was nothing,
absolutely nothing they could do. If that makes us feel bad, then think about the
person who actually had to experience it. Even that, though, how terrible an ordeal
it was, still, it only lasted a few minutes, then it was over. In the hell realms, however,
beings experience the suffering of burning in flames for an incredibly long time with
no break. In this way, we have to make our compassion expand. It's not enough
to feel compassion for just one group of beings. We have to make it expand.
Q: When you feel compassion in this way, you feel sad, powerless, and discouraged.
What can we do about that?
A: When you have that type of feeling, you have to remember that suffering is fleeting,
and that the true nature of mind is unaffected by it. Since the true nature of mind of
all sentient beings is the buddha nature, then even the people who felt that type of
suffering can be reborn as human beings, practice the Dharma, and can attain
complete and perfect enlightenment. That's the Buddhist tradition, and it's based
on the understanding of the reality of suffering, which is that it doesn't last, and it's
not present in the true nature of mind. The true nature of mind is luminous clarity,
completely without flaw.
We can see examples of how things can turn around in our own history. We know
of times when whole nations hate each other and fight terrible wars against each other,
considering themselves the bitterest of enemies, and destroy the whole land, with
many people dying and suffering during that time. But then, it changes, and the countries
become friends, those who suffer become happy, and the lands that were devastated
become prosperous, because the suffering is not real and the anger is not truly existent,
so it can change, and enemies can become friends. Therefore, seeing the examples of
this in our own history, we see that we have no reason to despair.
There were some countries that when they fought wars, their people got so angry and
wrapped up in ego-clinging that their soldiers would commit suicide themselves in order
to kill the enemy. Now, however, the countries that did that are wonderful aid donors
and they help many others in the world. So they've gone from one end of extreme
anger to being the world's helpers. This shows that the situation can change.
Since the true nature of mind is luminous clarity, transformation is possible. People
who have a lot of anger can meditate on love and become loving people. People
who are caught in the darkness of ignorance can learn the path and their knowledge
will grow brighter and brighter. So transformation is possible-transformation of the
whole outer environment into a pure realm, of the sentient beings who inhabit this
environment into male and female bodhisattvas, endowed with compassion, and of
one's own mind into wisdom. This is the type of transformation that the Mahayana
describes, and this is the path-the path of the Mahayana is the path of transformation.
The more confidence you gain in that, the more you can see that these temporary
states of suffering are just that-temporary. They are not the actual nature of things-
they are temporary and they change quickly.
In the Mahayana it is explained that the ten directions are filled with buddha realms.
What causes them to manifest is when a sentient being purifies their own mind-
makes their own mind noble and good. Then this very world appears as a pure
realm, and that's a very nice experience!
We'll end by reciting the final verse three times:
By the power of the great compassion of the Victorious Ones
and their sons and daughters of the ten directions,
And the power of all the immaculate virtue there is
May my own and all sentient beings'
Completely pure aspiration prayers be perfectly fulfilled!
Dedication of merit.
Translated by Ari Goldfield.
Essence of One's Heart:
How to Recognise the Nature of Mind
by Tai Siut Rinpoche
on the topic concerning the nature of the mind, there are three particular questions:
1) What does it mean to recognise the nature of mind?
2) How do we experience and live in the relative and absolute truth in everyday life?
3) How can we manage to look through delusions and transform the related negative emotions?
We, being more than five billion human beings and other creatures too, are composed of three things: (1) the Body which is tangible, (2) the Emotions and Expressions which are individual and unique, and (3) the Mind.
First, in order to discuss these topics, we must define what the mind is and explain its nature according to the Buddha's teachings.
The mind is the most important thing we have to take care of and cultivate. Its nature, also called the essence of the heart, is what we wish to recognise; we want to recognise our Buddha-nature. Besides the mind, our body and our environment also exist relatively. But, regardless of the body or the environment, the mind matters the most and proceeds these.
The mind is the most essential. It is the mind which expresses the emotions through the body; the body does not convey expressions and ideas through the mind. The body acts like an attendant, messenger and tool, and the mind uses the body to express what it wants to and needs to. So, the mind is the master of everything, even though we might not be very adequate and only get everything right from time to time.
When referring the mind's essence, it is limitless. The mind's nature does not have any limitation.
For centuries it has been common for people to debate whether or not the mind exists. If one does not believe there is a mind that is fine. Also, if one believes there is a mind, and asserts "there is something more than the body, there is definitely a mind," that is fine too. These two view-points can be argued, and the debate can go on and go on forever. This debate will go on for as long as the mind goes on; whether or not one believes in the mind, this debate is all within the mind anyway.
Now, what does it mean to recognise the nature of the mind?
Temporarily, everyone has ambition and wants to be satisfied. After that, they feel contented. But, no one in human history ever reached a state of ultimate contentment, in which their struggle to be satisfied was then over.
Only those who are enlightened can have ultimate contentment. To fulfil one's search and struggle totally, and ultimately, is to realise the nature of one's mind.
All the spiritual masters of Buddhism, and even those of other religions, found contentment within themselves. This is what we call recognising nature of mind, realising one's own essence. According to the Buddha's teachings, every single living being has this potential which is limitless and within themselves. There are then a limitless amount of ways and means which can be used to attain this potential, to recognise one's essence. We must then respect all these various ways and means, even though one might not understand each and every one of them.
Now we can deal with the next two concepts which are interconnected: Experiencing the relative and ultimate truth in everyday life, and transforming delusions and the related emotions.
Whether we know it or not, or believe in it or not, or live in heaven, hell or here on earth, we are apart of and always in unity with the relative and ultimate truth. We cannot live beyond it.
One example is that of a parent and one's wonderful child. While walking down the street, they pass by a toy shop which has a very expensive toy. As the parent, you do not have much money. But, your child wants to go in and that toy is the most important thing to him or her, no matter how much it costs. However as the parent, spending the money in order to have better food, medical care and education is far more important than wasting it on a toy. After a hard decision the parent decides to buy the toy. Tomorrow at home though, the toy is all in pieces and broken. Then one's child absolutely does not want it. Yesterday it was the most
important thing for the child, and today he or she does not even want it. So, one can see how relatively the toy was important to the child, but ultimately the toy was meaningless, it was just an illusion in Samsara.
Another example deals with the emotions. Today two people might get really mad at each other; they get on each other's nerves and are in turmoil. But, then they apologise tomorrow and everything is forgotten; yesterday's big deal is now nothing. Likewise, a long time ago two countries might've fought each other. Then, after some time, they are friends. As time passes, they fight again.
So, we can see, whether we believe in it or not, there is this relativity, and also the ultimate aspect of the illusory nature of phenomena and emotions in everyday life.
Now, we come to the topic of transforming our relative experiences and emotions. We, as people, try to manage everything so everything goes well for us; there is no one who did not try to manage it since were are all here! Karmically, one might manage negativity by being in hell for millions of years, one can manage very positive actions by being in heaven for millions of years or one can manage having a mixture of both by being born a human being.
As human beings now, we are trying to manage and want to transform our experiences. In summary, as the whole subject cannot be covered, there is a difference in the manner which sentient beings manage and transform our experiences and emotions. One is through the worldly or materialistic methods, the other is through spiritual methods based on the dharma teachings.
As humans using worldly and materialistic methods, one tries to be at peace and calm down. We try to transform Samsara by drinking coffee or very strong liquor, or smoking lots of cigarettes, or taking drugs. This is how ordinary individuals manage in Samsara.
By the definition of Samsara, we go in circles. So, with these worldly methods we must keep doing them and in the long run they keep increasing: Right now one drinks only one cup of coffee but next month one needs two cups. But soon that coffee is not enough, one must smoke a cigar with it. Later on, even that is still not enough to be at peace. The end result becomes very, very demanding.
According to the Buddha, the dharma or spiritual method of transformation is inside of you, not outside of you. One does not have to go outside of oneself to find the solution for the afflictions which are inside of oneself.
Therefore, the ultimate solution to take care of delusions and afflictions is inside you. The solution is within one's essence, the nature of one's mind. That is why the Buddha taught us to meditate by sitting down and straight, breathing normally, and calming one's mind.
These methods help one overcome Samsara. Normally people are quite hysterical: When happy we are wild and when we are upset we our wild too. Hysteria is a bad solution since it abuses ourselves from time to time, and abuses other people many, many times.
The first step in Calm-abiding (Shinay) and Insight (Lhatong) meditation is just this: One does not have to create anything, just let your potential and essence arise naturally. One cannot overcome difficulties hysterically, calm down and let it take care of itself. Just let the nature of one's mind function, don't disable it by being hysterical.
The beginning of the end of Samsara, for oneself, is just that. Buddhism is very rich in methods, there are thousands of methods suitable to each individual state of mind. Whether or not one is a Buddhist, in one's essence you are a Buddha anyway. Only in the application of methods the difference arises.
Doing something outside of oneself, like using a computer or ten secretaries or problem solver services, to transform the afflictions is not the best solution. The real essence is inside, so one must calm down and think clearly in order to realise it.
Without meaning to be negative, the problems and afflictions around us are here because we created it whether directly or indirectly. So, if we created it, the solution must also be within us. And the simple solution begins to be found once we look clearly, we transform complicated situations easily then.
In this way now, one has a basic idea about the nature of mind, the options we have, the transformation of negativity and positivity, and abiding in the different truths.
Our ultimate inner potential, the nature of one's mind, has no limitation, but our relative external manifestation has all the limitation. We are not Superman or Superwoman, our external manifestation is not, unless we buy an airplane ticket!
You might not respect the relative manifestation and emotions of someone who is creating problems for oneself. Relatively you feel this way, but this individual has the same potential as you; your potential is equal in others, even those you don't respect due to their relative manifestation. Ultimately one cannot hate, resent or disrespect someone, as their ultimate nature is Buddha.
As we can understand now, any kind of situation and major problems are not limitless. One might have a big problem, but the relative problem is limited. There is no such thing as a limitless loss or mess, no problem can equal your ultimate potential. Through gradual practice, we can realise this fully and our potential can arise clearly.
There is an ordinary Tibetan expression which says, "If you hold your little palm in front of one's eye, it is so big that it can obscure the whole universe. If one just holds it at arms' length, then it is just a palm." So, we must hold our palms at arms length at all times figuratively speaking when it comes to our relative afflictions, problems and delusions.
Every single sentient being is a Buddha, in essence, and that can never be lost or contaminated ultimately.
We as Buddhist wish to aid every single sentient being so we all can attain Buddhahood. This is more than just solving a small problem then. But if one approaches this problem by being hysterical and acting desperately one's solution will not work since nobody is ultimately in trouble. Therefore, we must be open.
For example, you might want to help someone. But your solution does not work and you feel upset. One must realise the need for openness and not be desperate. One must look at the situation differently and not think that it must work the way I tried. One simply must try one's best, be open, be sincere and pray. Once we understand this, things will become calm. There is a Tibetan saying: "The condition of happiness (having it, and then grasping or desperately running after it, wanting it to stay) is the cause of the suffering. If I know this, I will be happy." Being hysterically stubborn and narrow-minded won't work.
Knowing this limitless nature of the mind is pivotal: The mind never dies. Academically speaking the mind is described in different ways. But the mind in reference to our essence, which is that of the Buddha, never dies. It is beyond time and beyond matter.
Death is just a term used to demonstrate impermanence: Anything that is composed will decompose. The body forms out of all the elements, goes through a life-span with conditions. Once those conditions are not fit for it to survive, the body disintegrate and dies.
When one dies naturally, not due to some fatal occurrence, death is not negative or positive then; it is natural. What dies is the body and the speech. What continues is the incarnation of the mind to a different body. The mind is like a candle with a flame. One puts or transfers that flame onto another candle as it gets blown out in the original candle. The flame continues as the candles get burnt down. So with the body, it always changes, or might be male or female, but the essence of the mind continues.
Death is only the separation of the body and mind. One's mind stops identifying itself with the body. At first with death, there are some emotions and irritation of course. The observer must use this process so then the limitless potential of the mind can be experienced.
During conception, the mind enters the body. One's family, and father and mother, had the strongest immediate karmic connection than anyone else at that point in time: The time was right, so therefore you were conceived in the womb.
So, one's limitless mind which has no material substance was then conceived and concealed in a liquid substance that is limited. How does this limitless mind get conceived into something limited? It is due to our concept of the self driven by ignorance. We call it "I" in English, but even animals have this concept. For instance, a deer will run for cover if you go near it. They also have this idea of self and also this idea of others. Sentient beings then get angry, jealous, aggressive, and have desires, all in order to supposedly maintain this self.
So now, the mind is concealed in liquid, that is conception. Afterward, the centre of the body forms in the womb; the centre begins forming with energy and spaces (where all the vital organs, energy channels, etc., develop). It is the most sensitive section of the body, if anything disrupts it can hinder one's survival.
Afterward it takes nine months to be born, many years to mature and then also after some time one dies. When one is developing it is gradual, it takes many years. But death happens very quickly, we have no space for wondering, that is it. Due to this difference, we grew slowly but left life very fast, agitation can arise easily. Our attitude at that point is important, we cannot be stubborn. We must not let ourselves panic. Those around us who might be dying we shouldn't cause them to panic, and if we work with the dying it is important to give positive assurance to others.
One's understanding of this subject should be beneficial for all. Whatever has been said is based on what my own precious masters have taught and it contains their blessings. We should dedicate this wishing that all sentient beings may also realise this.
Tai Situpa's teaching at Karma Chang Chub Choe Phel Ling, Heidelberg, Germany. 1995.
Experience of Loving Kindness and Compassion
Maitreya Institute, San Francisco, August 1989
Today and tomorrow we'll be exploring the subject of loving-kindness and compassion. In Sanskrit, the term for loving-kindness and compassion is bodhicitta. In Tibetan, it's chang chup chi sem. Chang chup means complete development, complete awareness, the completely awakened state. Chi means of. Sem means mind. Chang chup chi sem, literally translated, means a mind that is for completing the awakened state of all the potential there is.
Bodhicitta (Chang Chup Chi Sem)
Traditionally, chang chup chi sem is broken down into four aspects:
These are the four aspects of the particular way of thinking and relating to ourselves and others that we refer to as bodhicitta, or chang chup chi sem.
Loving-kindness always relates to the happiness of others. Compassion always relates to the suffering of others, the wish for others to be free from suffering. Joy means directly experiencing joy for those who are in a positive condition, who are free from suffering and who have a chance to experience happiness. At the same time, just knowing that every situation is a process is also regarded as joy. Impartiality means that this loving-kindness, this compassion, this joy, is supposed to be free from, or beyond, subject and object relation. It goes beyond friends and relatives. It goes beyond "my side and your side," beyond all the differences. When we've gone beyond the differences, that's impartiality.
Obstacles to Bodhicitta
If we're confused when we look into this subject, it will appear complicated. The less confusion we have, the less complicated it will appear. Several factors contribute to how much or how little confusion we experience. The first facto is our degree of ignorance. Ignorance simply means "not knowing." Whether we think we know something or not, if we don't clearly understand it, then, practically, we don't know it. This basic ignorance causes confusion.
Ignorance is overcome through contemplation, becoming familiar with the subject we need to know about. But then, a sense of greed and a sense of hesitation arise. A person who tries to be helpful can go too far, and become greedy about it. A person who tries to be helpful can also go too far and become hesitant about whatever they were going to do. This greed and this hesitancy go side by side. It's like the front and back of the hand. Depending on how much greed there is, that much hesitation will also be there. And depending on how much hesitation there is, that much greed will also be there. So, greed and hesitation encourage each other.
Greed and hesitation, then, are the two main obstacles for any person who tries to practice loving-kindness and compassion, joy and impartiality, or chang chup chi sem. Many translators use fear instead of hesitation, and hope instead of greed, which also makes sense. Hope and greed can represent the same thing, of course, but I think we should try to overcome our greed first. Then we can try to overcome our hope.
Relative and Ultimate Bodhicitta
When a person is able to overcome greed and hesitation, we call that entering into the ultimate bodhicitta, ultimate chang chup chi sem. When this person is working to overcome his or her greed and hesitation, we call that relative bodhicitta, or relative chang chup chi sem. Relative bodhicitta, or relative chang chup chi sem, starts from a simple practice based on the principle of loving-kindness, compassion, joy and impartiality.
Those of us who are involved with the practice of bodhicitta are practicing on a relative bodhicitta level. When we practice on a relative bodhicitta level, the principle is important, of course, but the method to fulfill the principle is equally, if not more, important.
There are millions, even trillions, of methods to fulfill the principle. Each moment of life offers another method that can fulfill the principle. But rather than leaving us with millions of methods, Buddha skillfully simplified the entire vastness and depth into six basic categories-the six paramitas.
The Six Paramitas
The six paramitas are:
o generosity paramita
o morality paramita
o tolerance or patience paramita
o diligence paramita
o contemplation paramita, and
o wisdom paramita.
In some translations, I've seen wisdom paramita referred to as knowledge paramita, but in this case, it would be incorrect. When we talk about the "ten" paramitas, then we can say knowledge paramita, but when we talk about only six paramitas, the last one is wisdom. In the ten paramitas, the last one is elaborated. The sixth one becomes knowledge paramita, the seventh one method paramita, the eighth one strength paramita or power paramita, the ninth one inspiration paramita or wish paramita, and the tenth, wisdom paramita. However, since we're learning about the six paramitas, the last one is wisdom paramita.
Now, even though Buddha teaches about the six paramitas, they're not exactly discrete categories. In fact, you cannot really attain any one of the paramitas unless you attain the other five. There's a sentence from sutra that states this point clearly: "One paramita is all paramitas." This means that complete generosity isn't possible without all six paramitas. Generosity is generosity, but when it becomes a paramita, it must involve morality, diligence, tolerance, wisdom and contemplation as well. A person who develops and fulfills generosity paramita, but not the morality, diligence and wisdom aspects, has not reached generosity paramita, because one paramita is all paramitas.
The example for this is a dog getting lost in a mist. There's a vast mountain and field covered with mist. A dog is left there alone and doesn't know where to go. He can't see anything, and because there's so much water in the air, he can't smell anything either. Even though the dog is free to go wherever he likes, he has a hard time finding the right direction. He might have to look one-hundred times harder. For that reason, Buddha skillfully stated the six aspects of paramita.
Before we go on, I'd like to say a little bit about the relativity of the teachings. Buddha clearly said that every method, every teaching, down to the specific details, is just a method, a guideline. The teachings are all relative truth. What lies behind this relative truth is absolute truth. Absolute truth is beyond number, beyond any specific quality-like generosity and morality-beyond any categories we can devise. Teachings are given to provide ways to reach that ultimate state, but are, in themselves, considered relative. But they're relative truth, not relative falsity.
The difference between a particular quality, like generosity, and the paramita, like generosity paramita, is the depth of it. Generosity is always generosity, but the destination of generosity is generosity paramita. In Tibetan, paramita is pha rol tu phyin pa. Pha rol tu phyin pa means reaching the other side. When we cross a river, all of our effort goes to reaching the other side of the river. All of the methods Buddha gave for practicing generosity are for the ultimate destination of reaching the other side of generosity. That's the paramita. The action of giving, and everything around the action, externally and internally (i.e., the intention and the action), is the generosity itself.
Generosity paramita doesn't mean we must give and give until we have nothing. It also doesn't mean we must give until someone else is fully satisfied. At first, we're hesitant to give. At the same time, we become greedy to give. We want to give. It's a process. When we go beyond this, it becomes one. There is no difference between our having it or someone else's having it. There's no giver, there's no one to give to, there's nothing to give. It becomes one. We call this the three circles: the circle of the giver (the subject), the circle of whom something is to be given (the object), and the circle of what is there to be given. The paramita is reaching beyond all three.
This same principle applies to all six paramitas. They only become paramitas when they reach beyond the three circles. In Madhyamaka terms, we say khor sum, which means three circles. Khor sum nam par du tok pa means reaching beyond the thought and any notion of those three wheels. So, khor sum nam par du tok pa is the pha rol tu phyin pa, the paramita.
Now let's go through the specifics.
Generosity, the First Paramita
All six paramitas involve loving-kindness, compassion, joy and impartiality. I'll use generosity as an example, but the same principle applies to the other five paramitas as well.
First let's look at the loving-kindness of generosity. Generosity simply means giving. There are many aspects of giving, but Buddha simplified it into three:
o Giving of understanding
o Giving of material things
o Giving of protection
Let's talk about material giving, first, as it's the most popular notion of generosity. (There's always lots of fund-raising going on.) As it relates to loving-kindness, our purpose for giving is to fulfill another person's longing, their feeling of not having something they want. In order to see another person happy, we give them something they long for. Loving-kindness means we give to develop happiness in another person.
Compassion is the giving of something that will overcome suffering in others. When someone doesn't have something they need, like food, shelter or clothing, we give what we can to help them overcome their suffering, to fulfill their need.
The joy of generosity is a little tricky because we must contemplate to get the exact meaning. One part of joy is quite simple-when others have it, we feel happy. The other side is that when a person doesn't have it, he or she needs it, and therefore sees the value of it. In my life, I've never had to worry about clothes, food or a place to stay, in spite of being a refugee. As a boy, I often took two or three bites out of an apple and threw it away. Or I would chew some candy and throw the rest away. But in parts of India, China and Tibet, many children have never even seen a piece of candy. If someone were to give them a piece of chocolate, it would mean as much to them as a diamond would mean to most Americans. I once saw a Tibetan child share a small piece of brown sugar with his friends. He licked it and then let all his friends put it in their mouth for just a minute. Then he took it back and put it in his pocket. It was quite moving. For them, sugar is very special. Its presence directly relates to their psychological and emotional improvement. Losing it will definitely interrupt their improvement. So, this is process that affects a person, so they see the value.
When we see someone who lacks something, we sometimes think, "Poor thing; they don't have what they need. They must have terrible karma." Sometimes we become prejudiced against them. Instead, we should simply appreciate the situation-that we're seeing it, that those people are in it. Instead of feeling affected by it, we look into it with wisdom, and we do our best to make it more meaningful for them, to introduce a value for them, since they don't have it already.
I've observed occasions when people have been given something by a person who is lacking in wisdom and compassion. This can bring joy in the short run, but can be very harmful later on. We have to be effective in our acts of generosity so that what we do will be of benefit and can bring true joy.
For the Western mind, it would be simpler to say, "They don't have it. I have it. How fortunate I am to be able to provide something for them. I'm happy about it," instead of saying "They don't have it, how terrible it is," and getting carried away by emotion.
Impartiality is very simple to understand. Whatever we have to give, we give impartially-as a subject, as an object, and as an activity. We give in this way until it becomes paramita. When it reaches to the paramita stage, it goes beyond even that. But it has to develop gradually.
So this is one example of how the main principles of bodhicitta relate to generosity paramita. We can extend this same principle to the others.
Now let's look at these three aspects of generosity in more detail. First, the generosity of understanding.
Generosity of Understanding
Two sentences express the meaning of understanding quite clearly: yang ta ni la yang tab ta, yang tab toma nam par tok. This means, "When you see the profound truth of the profoundness as it is, when you understand it as it is, then you have a chance to realize it. When you understand the profoundness, the truth, as it is, that is true liberation." So, right understanding is important for anyone's development.
In order to accomplish even a small degree of development-that is, to be a person of good will, not a crook or a fraud-we need right understanding. When we have right understanding, we're absolutely fine. With right understanding, we have a chance to develop. And once we've developed profound understanding, we can share it with others.
Several examples of profound understanding are given in Madhyamaka. One is nye pa ne men. Nye pa ne men means positive cause and positive circumstances bring positive results; negative cause and negative circumstances bring negative results. Positive circumstances and cause won't bring negative results; negative cause and circumstances won't bring positive results. It's quite simple. This is an example of right understanding.
Another example of right understanding is den pa nyi, which means two aspects of truth-relative truth and absolute truth. Relative truth is how we see, relate and become affected by positive and negative circumstances. Absolute truth is beyond that. Absolute truth is [lost a sentence when tape turned over] The relative of what? The relative of the absolute. And when we talk about the absolute, the absolute of what? The absolute of the relative. It is inseparable. It is unity. It is the oneness of the relative truth and absolute truth.
Right understanding is based on everything we developed with our Hinayana principle. For a Mahayana practitioner, the Hinayana principle is more important than the Mahayana method. Without a foundation in Hinayana practice, we cannot really have right understanding, which is the beginning of Mahayana.
How, for example, can we expect to be accurate and clear if we're affected when someone says something nice or something nasty to us? It begins with balance, with building a stable foundation, a stable consciousness. We do this through the Hinayana method. We must develop the capacity to be down to earth, to hear what others are saying, to understand what they mean, to think according to what they mean, and to react according to that.
Buddha introduced this foundation for right understanding through the Hinayana methods-shamatta, vipasyana, vinaya, etc. Their purpose is to discipline our confused physical, oral and mental condition so that when we ride into the jungle, for example, we'll be able to tell the difference between an elephant and a cockroach. We develop a simplicity that enables us to see things as they are. If we drop a bean into a glass of water, we know we have one small bean. We see it as a bean from every direction. We don't wonder if it's an elephant or a house or a mountain, because we know it's a bean. This accuracy, this clarity, is developed through the Hinayana methods.
Then, we can share with others any understanding we accumulate. We are generous with it. This is the generosity of understanding. How do we go about it? We say tos-sam-gom. This is the beginning. First we hear, then we contemplate and finally we meditate. Using these methods, we develop right understanding. And if we have something that's worthy to be shared with others, we share it.
In learning anything, contemplation is certainly important-but practice is even more important than contemplation. Practice involves the total circumstances of our lives. There are two kinds of practice, actually. One is our intensive daily practice, like prayer, meditation or visualization. The other is our daily engagement. We have a saying to remind the monks: "When our stomach is full, when sun is dry and the weather is kind, we're better than ordinary. When negative circumstances come, we become worse than ordinary."
That is why the practice we do in our meditations and prayers, as well as when we're just walking down the street or going to the market, is important. We can be disciplined in our daily practice, but when we shop for material for our clothes, we try to get an extra six inches without paying for it. That's no good. Our principle has to be applied in all aspects of our life circumstances, and this will take time and effort.
The practices and methods most of us use to improve our understanding come from Tibetan Buddhism. Actually, it's not Tibetan Buddhism, it's Vajrayana Buddhism, which Buddha taught in India. It wasn't invented by Tibetans. However, I think Tibetans are very fortunate for the privilege of having this profound teaching thought of as Tibetan Buddhism. Other schools of Buddhism give the same emphasis, but we're talking about Vajrayana right now.
To insure proper understanding, we have lineage. Without the principle of lineage, this process is shaky and difficult at best. It would be easy for someone to purchase a complete text of the teachings of Buddha and make their own commentaries and interpretations and share them with others. This might bring some benefit, certainly, but there will be harm as well, because if that person gets it wrong, everybody who reads it or listens to him will also get it wrong. And wrong understanding is difficult to overcome. That's why we have lineage, from the time of Buddha until now, Buddha taught and his disciples listened, contemplated and practiced. When the disciples were capable of sharing something, Buddha encouraged them to share. As the disciples developed, they became teachers, and they shared the teachings with the next disciples, accordingly. It is an unbroken continuation of right understanding, right practice and right development.
Some teachers had more students, and some less. Some students managed to develop and then shared their knowledge with others, and some didn't. Some students developed a great deal of understanding and shared very little. This always depends on the individual. We're not all cast from one mold. Some of us are more talkative, some less; some of us come more from the heart, others from the head, and still others from the body. It's an individual thing. But lineage has continued from the best of the disciples of Buddha, and the best of those disciples' disciples. So, lineage means the continuation of teachers. When a disciple becomes a teacher, lineage begins. That's how it continued from the time of Buddha until now.
As far as I can tell, the lineage has continued without corruption, from Buddha until now. In my own case, my main teacher-I think you call it "root guru"-is His Holiness Karmapa. I had several other teachers, like Sangye Nyenpa, Kalu Rinpoche and Thrangu Rinpoche. Next to His Holiness Karmapa, I received most of my teachings from Kalu Rinpoche and Thrangu Rinpoche. It seems to me that their practice was maybe one-hundred times more intense than my own, maybe one-thousand times more intense. At the same time, I received so much understanding from them. Because of the continuation of the blessings, it's almost impossible to corrupt or to introduce any delusion into the lineage.
By sharing these simple words, I'm hopefully reminding you, because all of you have some potential for this understanding. With the blessings of the lineage, we can be little bit talkative and spend some time listening to and staring at each other. We can get a few things sorted out, so they become a little more clear. We can look into the jungle and see the difference between cockroaches and elephants. Sometimes we might confuse tigers and leopards, but that's not so bad. But to mistake elephants and cockroaches is definitely a problem. Anyway, that explains the generosity of understanding.
Generosity of Material
The second aspect of generosity, the generosity of material, is quite simple. I've see much generosity being extended toward Third World countries by more developed countries in the form of hunger projects, programs to combat disease, or to improve agriculture. This is giving something we have for the benefit of others. Let's say we have five things. Since we don't really need the fifth one, we give it away. It starts from there. After a while, we're able to give away the fourth one, which means something to us, but isn't too important. Eventually we're able to give away even the third thing, which is quite important to us. In this way, our greed, our stinginess, is gradually liberated. Our value becomes a valid thing for everyone, instead of only concerning ourselves. That's how material generosity starts.
An interesting example is given for this in Bodhisattvacharyavatara of Shantideva. It can apply to everything, but in this case it's offered in the context of generosity. He says, "Generosity doesn't mean we must make everyone on earth rich. If we wish to protect our feet, we cover our feet with leather the size of our feet. This is the same as covering the whole earth with leather." If we reach beyond the three circles of giving, the giver and to whom we give, that's the paramita. It becomes deeper and more profound, until we reach that final stage.
Generosity of Protection
The third aspect of generosity is the generosity of protection. The example given here is of a bodhisattva, like Chenrezig or Tara. That's how far the generosity of protection can develop. Generosity of protection starts at protection from a simple threat, like a potentially fatal disease, and continues to the level of protection from the delusion of negativity. All of us have the potential to be overwhelmed by neurosis-desire, anger, ignorance, jealousy or pride. To help others overcome that threat is the highest expression of the generosity of protection. It's said in Bodhisattvacharyavatara, "If everything on earth is against you, the worst that can happen to you is you will die. But if your neuroses are developed, that can kill you and torture you for millions of lifetimes."
When people express fear of a nuclear holocaust, I tell them that although a nuclear holocaust would be terrible, and we should do our best to prevent it, there's no reason to be afraid. We will die once anyway, and if a holocaust happens, we'll die only that once. Instead of giving ourselves over to fear, panic and feelings of helplessness, it's better to do something meaningful. We should do our best to overcome our individual neuroses, like desire, anger, ignorance, jealousy and pride. Honestly speaking, those frighten me more than a nuclear holocaust. A nuclear holocaust can kill our body, but, as Shantideva said, neurosis can torture us and destroy us for millions of lifetimes. If we develop concern and caring for others, and wisely and skillfully share our understanding with them, that's how the generosity of protection will manifest.
These are the three aspects of generosity, and this is how loving-kindness and compassion can be practiced as a paramita.
So, I think I'll stop here for today. Do you have questions?
Rinpoche, could you say something about the sadhana practice of Maitreya Buddha or Maitreya Bodhisattva?
There are several practices on Maitreya Bodhisattva, or Maitreya Buddha. The simplest one was written by one of the previous Karmapas and involves visualizing Buddha Maitreya and receiving his blessings of loving-kindness and compassion in order to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion in ourselves. It also involves recitation of his mantra. This would be the most appropriate and simplest one to practice. I'm not certain the text has been translated, but even if it hasn't, it isn't too difficult to translate, since it's short and simple.
Would you talk about the need for lineage for our development, and how we know that a particular lineage is best for us?
It always depends on the individual. At the beginning, there's a period of searching. At a certain point, you decide, and then you continue with your decision. These two stages are obvious, particularly for people who aren't Buddhist by birth, who weren't born in a climate where Buddhism was practiced. We all have buddha nature internally, of course, according to the principle, so we're all Buddhist. It doesn't relate to the historical Buddha, only to the ultimate principle of Buddhism.
While you're searching, you must remain open; otherwise you cannot make the right choice. If you go into something with an expectation, or with the demand that things happen as you want them to, that's not openness. That's being closed. When you're open, you must be ready for anything. But there should be a simple principle that develops throughout the searching process, something more than seeing yourself as a conscious vegetable who talks, thinks, functions and then dies. There isn't much principle in that.
So, first we search for the principle. When we've determined this, we search for the method to fulfill the principle. That's going to take some time. But when we find the right path, one that we feel from our heart, we feel a faith and a trust in it and we become involved in it. When we're involved in it, we can apply whatever we learned in the past. We can also apply whatever we're going to learn in the future.
Let's take a great teacher like Marpa, for example. Marpa is the great, great grandfather of our lineage. He had one-hundred-and-eight teachers. In those days, we didn't have such nonsense about not studying with someone because they represent a different lineage. That's not Buddhist-it's nonsense. The only reason we practice one particular lineage is for our own sake, so that we don't get confused. Since we have one body and one mind, we should have one path that we can follow. But we should attempt to learn from whatever is available to us, without greed, and with openness, appreciation and respect.
Our late His Holiness Karmapa learned from many teachers. Each of the great masters who is currently living learned from many teachers. The Dalai Lama learned from Gelug teachers, Kagyu teachers, Nyingma teachers and Sakya teachers. We can learn from many sources, but we apply what we learn on the path we've chosen, as part of our bodhicitta practice. That's the correct way, and that's how it was practiced throughout history.
Viewed in this way, there's no reason to get confused. When we decide on one particular lineage, we remain with that lineage, working with the teacher to whom we feel the closest, the most open. That teacher's wisdom and compassion, and our devotion, dedication and trust, all work together. We keep that connection and learn from this teacher. We go to other teachers when we feel we can learn from them, and we get advice from our own teacher about how to apply this new teaching in our life and current practice.
Or, our teacher might say, "Here's a wonderful teacher who teaches about emptiness. Your understanding of emptiness is a little poor, so go and learn from that teacher." When we come back, our teacher will ask what we learned from that other teacher and show us how to apply this teaching to the practice they've given us. So, I don't think you need to worry.
Is it really possible for us to remain open in such a violent world?
We have to. The question is, how? It's very interesting-when people use the word "open," they sometimes think it means completely passive or limp; like if someone tries to hit you, you let them do it. They might hit you ten times, and you might wake up in the hospital, but that doesn't help anyone. If somebody tries to kill us, rather than just letting them do it, we should try to knock them out. It's better for them to end up in the hospital than for us to end up in a grave. If somebody tries to kill us and we let them do it without a struggle, that's not being compassionate. If we really have compassion, we should stop them however we can. Hitting them on the head, knocking them out and letting them wake up in the hospital will be much better for them than if they kill us, and consequently become a killer.
When you suspect you see a possible harm and you think you can help, should you try even if you're not certain? How do you know when to take a risk, and what limits to set for yourself? And is it greedy to care too much?
This is a combination of several questions. With regard to taking risks, your principle is very important. Why do you want to take this risk? If you take a risk because you really mean it, you feel it from your heart, it's okay. But if your principle isn't so clear at that moment, then you should think very carefully before you do it. As a result of contemplation, your principle becomes clear. Depending on how deep, sincere and clear your principle is, right action will manifest. The other question is, is it greedy to care too much? The term "too much" already tells us it isn't right.
Rinpoche, we get all kinds of pleas in the mail for financial and other kinds of assistance for many causes-like animal protection, protecting the environment, to do research on modern diseases, and also pleas from relatives and friends for personal assistance. Some people feel the need to respond to all of these pleas, even though these causes may not really be helping the problem in the long run. It seems like giving in this way, without prajna or skillful means, is a kind of "idiot compassion." How can we deal with these things properly?
There are many sides to it. This term "idiot compassion" is very strong. You need a clear explanation when you use it. Strong words are useful when they're clearly defined, but if they aren't, they become a little misleading. This term can be used, but you have to contemplate on it more. You have to explore from the hair to the nails of the subject.
At this point, we're talking about relative bodhicitta. It has nothing to do with absolute bodhicitta, directly. Of course, relative bodhicitta and absolute bodhicitta are ultimately one, but relatively, relative bodhicitta and absolute bodhicitta are different-one is relative and one is absolute. When you practice relative bodhicitta, it has to start from that kind of statement. But it has to develop beyond that. For example, if relatives and friends really need it, that's generosity. But, gifts and generosity are different. If I give a book to a billionaire, I cannot call this generosity. If I give a billion dollars to a millionaire, maybe that can be considered generosity. Generosity means giving with a principle-the thought, the action, the way it happens.
In the 1980s, the differences between words like generosity and gift are valueless. The same is true of words like devotion, respect and care. They're all considered pretty much the same. Even words like offering and generosity are considered the same. We've lost the depth, the taste, of the words we use. We give a gift to a friend and we say this is generosity. But it doesn't work that way. I think this difference has to be explored.
When you talk about giving that involves loving-kindness, compassion, joy and impartiality, it's my understanding that we begin with ourselves through the Hinayana method. Is this correct?
I believe the heart of this question is "At what point do we start?" The Hinayana path can tell us what a person needs, what you can give and how to go about it. This is the Hinayana foundation. The Mahayana teachings will help us determine what is most beneficial for that person. Hinayana is the foundation for Mahayana practice. The Hinayana foundation is more important than the practice itself, but after you have the foundation, the practice becomes the most important.
Rinpoche, I'm not sure I understand the distinction you made between greed and hesitation.
Actually, hesitation and greed are two sides of one thing. Whenever we're involved with something, we have some expectation and desire, whether we admit it or not. Otherwise, why are we doing it? Hesitation and greed are specifics. I'll give an example of generosity of practice. Day after day we give one dollar to somebody who needs it. We give and give and give until we've given 10,000 dollars. When we force ourselves to give, without tolerance, without clarity and openness, or authentic awareness about it-that's greed. Hesitation is more like thinking, "This person might be doing more, that person might be doing more, so I should be doing more," and that sort of thing.
Most practitioners seem to struggle with this. With preliminary practice, for example, like 100,000 prostrations-it doesn't just mean you have to finish 100,000 prostrations. Otherwise, you could just pay somebody to do it for you. You have to do it for yourself. And why 100,000? Why prostrations? There's a reason. Prostrations aren't kindergarten stuff; they're a complete practice. You can attain realization just doing prostrations. It's a very simple, very profound, practice. But just as Buddha taught a simplified number of paramitas, he had a reason for choosing 100,000 prostrations. Since our mind has a tendency to become confused and discouraged if things are too little or too much, he selected a number somewhere in the middle.
Prostrations are a purification practice, a complete body, speech, mind education and purification. If we do it completely the first time, the second time will definitely be better than the first. And the third time will definitely better than the second. The fourth time will be better than the third. So, 100,000 prostrations will be much better than 99,999
[Continuation of the teaching]
Morality, the Second Paramita
We continue with the second of the six paramitas, morality. In Tibetan, this is tsultrim. Tsul means proper, appropriate. Trim means law, how things work. When we plant rice seeds, those seeds will grow rice. When we plant potato seeds, they'll grow potatoes. If we plant rice seeds expecting potatoes to grow from them, we'll be disappointed. That's the law. We decide what we want, we plant the appropriate seed, and the result will grow from the seed. This is often translated as morality. I'm not certain of the connotation of the word morality, whether or not it means the same as the Tibetan word, but I use it because it's the most commonly-used equivalent, and we know what it's supposed to mean.
Morality paramita is separated into three aspects:
1. Avoiding negative actions and intentions.
2. Doing those actions and having those intentions that are beneficial and helpful.
3. Manifesting our actions and intentions so that they assist others to avoid doing something that's not good for them. This means we try to be helpful and provide the right circumstances for others to do something that's right, something that's beneficial.
Let's go into each of these in more detail.
Avoiding Negative Actions and Intentions
Avoiding negative actions and intentions can mean many things, but the foundation, or the first step, is to avoid anything that will cause suffering and disharmony to others. We avoid any action or intention that might result in pain to others, or will disturb their peace or happiness. This includes avoiding any actions or intentions that will develop negativities in ourselves, or any causes and conditions for developing negativity.
When I say morality, most people think I mean "You shouldn't do this-it's bad for you. You shouldn't do that-it's terrible for you." This is certainly one aspect of morality. Monks, for example, take ordination vows to not kill and steal. All the basic vows are put into this category. Then it develops further, going one more step. Morality is defined as something that isn't necessarily directly harmful to ourselves or others right now, but has the potential to cause disharmony in the future. Examples of this are anger, desire, ignorance, self-importance, etc. When we claim, for example, that we know better than everyone else, and our truth is the only truth, this attitude can become an obstacle to developing our potential. We can get blocked here. It's like being locked behind a wall. Whether the wall is made of gold or clay, either way we don't have much of a chance to get out if we're locked behind it. So, even if a particular attitude doesn't bring a negative result immediately, it will in the long run.
Another word for negative attitudes or poisons such as desire, anger, and ignorance is klesas, or neurosis. The abhidharma term for it is tab je. Tab means very small. Je means grow. Brush fires are good examples. They start very small. At this stage we can put them out easily. But once they spread, they can burn thousands of acres in a short time. That's how desire, ignorance and self-orientation work. To overcome these, we do everything possible to avoid negative actions and intentions.
If we go deeper, we get into the ten non-virtues involved with body, speech and mind. Just as there are negative actions that manifest from our physical body, there are negative actions that manifest from our speech, and negative mental intentions or concepts that manifest from our mind. These are elaborated into ten non-virtues.
Killing, stealing and misconduct are negative actions that issue from our physical body. Lying, slander, harsh words and gossip are four negative intentions we manifest with our speech. Greed, hatred and wrong view are negative intentions or concepts of mind. The dualism of eternalism and nihilism, for example, represents incomplete understanding. It brings us to a wall that we cannot cross. If there's a wall, there's certainly a "beyond the wall," but eternalism is like a wall on one side and nihilism is a wall on the other. If that wall becomes a philosophy, a view, we're no longer able to scale it, so we're stuck there. We call these "non-virtues" because they're a cause and condition that will bring a negative result.
To practice this aspect of morality, one starts from a simple, basic understanding about this reality, about all the connections, and puts effort into working with that simple, basic understanding.
Practicing Positive Actions and Intentions
The second aspect of morality is the other side of the first aspect, but it's the same principle. Instead of avoiding the ten non-virtues, we practice the ten virtues. Instead of avoiding killing others, we try to save them; instead of avoiding lying to others, we try to tell the truth; instead of avoiding greed, we try to be open and generous from our hearts. These are considered virtues because they're the causes and conditions that will bring positive, beneficial results.
This subject is explained in simple terms: "There's nothing a bodhisattva won't practice." A true bodhisattva can find a way for anything to be beneficial. Beneficialness and helpfulness can be practiced through anything. And it doesn't stop with ten virtues, but with everything. There's a way to be helpful and benefit others through anything involving our mind, our body and our speech.
Acting in Ways That Will Be Beneficial to Others
The third aspect of morality is being beneficial for others. Being beneficial for others relates both with the practice of positive actions and intentions and overcoming negative actions and intentions.
Four simple points, called the four positive dharmas, are introduced here:
o Giving what is needed;
o Saying what complements the understanding of the other person;
o When we try to be helpful to someone, not only do we do what we think should be done, but we help according to what's really involved; and
o Practicing what we preach.
These four positive dharmas clarify how we can make things better for others. In any situation, we deal with a situation appropriately, so that instead of its being less helpful, or even harmful, our principle will make it more beneficial, and certainly not harmful.
The first thing is giving whatever is needed. "Needed" is a very important word, because giving isn't really enough. We must give what's needed. It can be protection, it can be understanding, but it always means something going from us to others. And when we say giving what's needed, it doesn't mean what's needed by us, but by the others. If we see that someone already has a good understanding, we don't try to add to it. But if someone doesn't have a good understanding, and we have some understanding about that thing, we can share our understanding. When someone already has more than enough of something, we don't give more of the same. But if someone's lacking something, we can provide it. That's what giving what's needed means.
The second thing concerns speech. It means the opposite of harsh words, but it's more than that. It means saying something to complement the understanding of the other person. We don't say something simply because we want to say it, but we say it because other person needs to hear it. When the person hears it, it fills in the gap in between, so the person's understanding flows.
The third situation can be a little tricky if we don't understand it correctly. When we try to be helpful to someone, not only do we do what we think should be done, but we help according to what's really involved. When Buddha taught in India, 2,500 years ago, he taught the external form of teaching according to that time, and those particular people. When he taught vinaya, he said, "The basic principles of vinaya involve tshul khrim, but the details can vary accordingly." When he introduced the appropriate colors for monks' and nuns' robes, he said the color was appropriate because it was unlikely to arouse ego in India at that time. He believed it would provide monks and nuns with a climate of modesty. But Buddha said the details of vinaya could be adjusted according to the times and conditions. In saying this, he was establishing a principle. He wasn't being stubborn and insisting his followers wear a certain color because he just happened to like it. He had a reason for it. This reason is aimed at the result. When we try to be beneficial to others, we must first understand how it will affect them.
The fourth one is the most important; we must practice what we preach. This is the key. If we say that killing is bad, we shouldn't kill. If we tell others not to steal, we shouldn't steal. If we tell others it's no good to steal, and then we, ourselves, steal, we're not living it. Whatever we expect of others, we must expect of ourselves. And it must come from our heart. It's not like homework that we do and then forget.
These are the four positive dharmas. If a person maintains them as a principle in trying to be helpful to others, one way or another their actions and intentions will become helpful. It's not limited to the first aspect of morality, avoiding negative actions and intentions. Nor is it limited to the second aspect of morality, practicing positive actions and intentions. It involves both. It involves everything, actually.
Another explanation in the Bodhisattvacharyavatara of Shantideva is also quite beneficial. It says, "How do we know when we can, and should, help someone?" The answer given is, "We can help others when it won't become a cause and condition for our ego." If we have a particular understanding we think will be beneficial for others, we should contemplate on it before sharing it. We should ask ourselves, "If I share this with others, will I develop ego? And, if so, why?" We contemplate on it and find the reason. Then we work with it. Only when we're entirely clear do we attempt to share what we've learned because, once we're clear, definitely it won't become a cause and condition for our ego.
Tolerance (Patience), the Third Paramita
The Tibetan word for tolerance is sometimes translated into "patience." I'm partial to the word tolerance because patience often has the connotation of "I've been patient with you so far, but now I'm going to explode." It's as if the person who's patient has been suffocating. On the other hand, tolerance has a connotation of letting go of differences, appreciating similarities. But since English isn't my native language, I'm never certain I'm judging connotations or word usage entirely accurately.
There are three aspects of tolerance:
o Tolerance toward those who've taken something from us;
o Tolerance of suffering; and
o Tolerance of understanding.
The first aspect is related with people, or sentient beings. Someone does something purposely, consciously, to hurt us, to disturb us, to take something from us. In this situation, intolerance or impatience arises towards that person who has taken something from us. Being tolerant toward this sentient being is one aspect of patience or tolerance.
The second aspect of patience or tolerance is suffering itself, the negative situation itself. In addition to developing tolerance toward the person who purposely causes us suffering and discomfort, we must be tolerant toward the discomfort itself. This is the second aspect.
The third aspect is tolerance of understanding. There will always be another obstacle to overcome, another process to go through. We develop certain understandings, but we hold on to them. Usually, we hold on for a long time, and only move beyond our current level of understanding when we suffer some kind of shock. Then, we continue on with our new level of understanding until something painful happens again. Then we take another step.
That happens because of the tolerance of understanding. When we understand something, we stop there. We don't go further. Because of this, in Mahayana it's explained that for a first-level bodhisattva to attain the realization of the second level, he must clean up the mess he made attaining the realization of first-level bodhisattva. When a second-level bodhisattva attains that particular realization, what does it mean? It means they worked out everything that was developed during the first-level bodhisattva. It continues this way until the person attains complete realization.
There are several ways to relate to each of these three aspects. Let's look at each of them a little more closely.
Tolerance Toward Beings Who Have Taken Something From Us
The first aspect of tolerance, tolerance toward beings who generate negativity, starts from simple understanding. If we're neurotic, but sensible, we can say that someone tried to hurt us. But it's only when we become intolerant and impatient towards that person that they've really managed to hurt us. Until then, they didn't get to us. So, to be tolerant and patient are, practically speaking, the wisest thing.
Now, let's be a little bit more enlightened than that, not that neurotic. The second step is that if we're tolerant, that person has actually accumulated merit, because they've helped us to develop tolerance. That's a reverse way to help others.
I recall a very interesting story. In Sikkim there was a very good monk who talked too much. Next to his quarters there lived another, very kind, very good monk, but with a hot temper. The hot-tempered monk was a doctor. The monk who talked too much always went to this doctor and constantly irritated him.
One day the doctor became really impatient and grabbed a piece of wood and hit the monk on the head until he bled. The monk simply sat there looking up at the doctor saying, "Thank you very much. If there are no circumstances for anger, how I can practice patience?" I don't know if he meant it or not, but that's what he said. It was talked about for many years. The doctor, seeing the blood, immediately dropped the piece of wood, applied some medicine and a bandage to the monk's head, and they became very good friends.
This is a second step. Because of their neurosis, the other person tries to create problems for us, intentionally or unintentionally. If we're tolerant in the right way, we're helping that person, because we're allowing the cause and condition of their action to assist us in our development. This is a second way of looking at it.
The third and more subtle way of looking into this is that, in any situation, everything is a process. There's no such thing as ultimate ups and ultimate downs, only relative ups and relative downs. But relative ups and downs happen in a straightforward way. It's not a zigzag but a straight line. From the moment we're born, we're getting closer and closer to the end. It always goes straight from here to there, like an arrow to its target. Whatever happens is a process.
Another way of looking at this process is that if someone irritates us, or projects negative words and activities towards us, there must be a reason for it. Instead of getting mad at that person and trying to retaliate, we look at the situation in a civilized way, a more subtle way, as a continuation of something that happened in the past. We know that, since it exists, there's a way to overcome it, so we're tolerant of the person's reasoning. We look into the history of the reason, which is an aspect of contemplation. The result will be that every situation that causes disharmony, pain and suffering can be worked out. So that's the first way to look at tolerance.
Tolerance of Suffering
There's a second way to look at tolerance. When we face suffering, we have some choices. We can leave the suffering alone, as it is, and be tolerant of all the side-effects of it. We can work with tolerance and patience to overcome the suffering. Or, we can fight it and generate resentment and aggression. This kind of intolerance of suffering makes the suffering more intense than what it actually is. The more one gets into it, the more impossible it is to overcome, because it becomes bigger and bigger.
Here's a simple, but effective, contemplation. When we're in a difficult situation, instead of looking at it negatively, we say, "Take it easy. It's here, definitely, for sure. It's happening. I'm not dreaming it. I'm not imagining it. It's happening." So, the first step is to accept it. When we accept the suffering of the negative situation, everything starts, because there's no delusion around the real situation. When there's no delusion, our potential also appears without delusion. We see the negative part of the suffering as well as the other side of it. The other side of it also manifests there. If a person who is suffering accepts it, they can overcome it. That's the second aspect of tolerance, or patience.
Tolerance of Understanding
With the third aspect, or tolerance of understanding, I've found a slight, but noticeable, difference between cultures. For example, in Eastern countries, the goal of most people engaged in dharma is freedom from the suffering of samsara, so they can develop further. That's their main wish and inspiration. On the other hand, in countries where the dharma has only recently been introduced, people who are engaged in dharma express their aim as a desire to attain enlightenment, to become Buddha. That's a very interesting difference, because, of course, attaining Buddha is a much higher goal than being free from the lower level suffering of samsara.
The tolerance of understanding is the gate or the threshold between the suffering of samsara and the ultimate realization. When a person develops tolerance of understanding, they won't fall back into the lower level suffering of samsara, because they developed these aspects of wisdom, this realization. This particular aspect of tolerance bridges the two kinds of mentality between most Eastern practitioners, like Tibetans or Himalayans, and Western practitioners.
The tolerance of understanding comes with the Path of Application, which is the second of the five paths of Mahayana practice. I'd like to briefly explain these five paths, since they're essential for our understanding of Mahayana practice.
The Five Paths of Mahayana Practice
There are several things we must learn to understand Mahayana correctly. The entire Mahayana practice is explained in five levels, which we call the "five paths." These are:
o seeing or realization
o practice, like meditation
o no further meditation
On the path of accumulation, a person accumulates merit and wisdom. We call it "merit accumulation" and "wisdom accumulation." For example, many people say, "I know what I'm doing is wrong, but I have no choice; the circumstances around me don't permit me to make a different choice." People who say this really mean it, really believe it. That's the lack of merit, because the understanding is there, the inspiration is there. From our perspective, those people appear insincere. We think, "If they would just do this or that, they can overcome it." We can say that, of course, but to be really practical, it would take them the effort of an entire lifetime to avoid something like this. That's a lack of merit.
So, we accumulate merit in order to contain the wisdom. When we accumulate merit, wisdom accumulation is possible. With the accumulation of wisdom, we begin the path of application.
The path of application means the understanding, the wisdom, the practice and the realization-all applied. These things work in a wholesome way. On the path of accumulation, many specifics are involved. Like, this is good, this is bad, I should do this, I shouldn't do this. When it comes to application, we go beyond this. We reach a certain stage where we've developed the tolerance that things flow in a right way-without being too specific, too fundamental or too dualistic about it.
At this level, we develop tolerance. And it's here that the tolerance of understanding is explained, almost towards the end of the path of application. When one reaches that realization, that stage, this tolerance will never go away, because it's not an intellectual acquisition, it's from the heart. It is true wisdom, so it remains. What's left from there is to go on to further awakening, further development of the potential. This is the tolerance of understanding.
Many of the sutras explain the benefits of tolerance and the harm of aggression, because these go hand in hand. One text mentions, quite specifically and strongly, that there's no negative action and no negative intention like aggression. And there's no positive action and no positive intention like tolerance. Out of the three paramitas we've learned-generosity, morality and tolerance-tolerance is quite highly encouraged for bodhisattva practitioners.
I think we should stop here. Would you like to ask some questions?
With regard to morality, some teachers say it's important not to break certain rules. Other teachers say it's our intentions that are important, as in being homosexual rather than heterosexual. Would you speak about this?
We need to look a little deeper into the principles, because Buddha didn't make many distinctions about what does and does not constitute misconduct, what is and is not stealing. He didn't proclaim these things as universal law. It's also directly related with how it will come out. If we put too much salt in too little food, it will come out salty. If we put enough salt in a small amount of food, it will come out good. So, Buddha doesn't say salt is good or salt is bad, but explains everything by the result.
Whether behavior is or isn't misconduct can only be judged by how it affects others. For example, a tree is affected by everything around it-the conditions of the atmosphere for hundreds of miles, and beneath the ground, to the very center of the planet. According to the heat of the center, fewer or more trees grow. Some trees have more branches, some trees have less. It's also according to the seed, to the generations that go back for many hundreds and thousands of years. So, everything affects everything.
And as to how things work, when things aren't in harmony, I definitely think they'll be difficult. But also, I think it depends very much on the individual. I can't really say more than that. I haven't seen it in the texts, so I dare not make up something.
You said that Easterners who embrace dharma say they do so to attain release from samsara and that Westerners who embrace the dharma say they do so to attain enlightenment. Is it too ambitious to want to attain enlightenment?
I wouldn't say that, exactly. Milarepa made it in his life. The eighty-four mahasiddhas did it in their lives, and Buddha did it in his life. Throughout history, many great beings have attained that realization in one lifetime. And we're only talking about since Buddha attained enlightenment, 2,500 years ago. So, I cannot say this is ambitious, definitely not. But, if I talk about myself, that's a different story. Because I think-well, okay, I don't want to talk too much!
Rinpoche, is it really possible to cross the threshold or gate of understanding in one lifetime, or will it most likely take four or five?
I can't say four or five, but I think this is definitely possible for one lifetime.
What would it take?
It depends on the individual and their practice-Bodhisattva, Vajrayana or Theravada practice.
But one must first complete the purification and accumulation?
You can say that, but it's a tricky subject. What do we mean by complete the purification and accumulation? When we complete our purification and accumulation, we've attained enlightenment. Otherwise, the last minute before the enlightenment-it sounds very neurotic, but there's got to be the last minute, or even the last second-so even at the last second before enlightenment, there's still one more to go. Until that moment, there's something to be purified, there's something to be accumulated. But when we talk about the path of accumulation, we're talking about until a certain level. So yes, we must go beyond the path of purification and path of accumulation-almost to the end of the path of application. The path of application has four steps, the third step being the tolerance of understanding.
Are there ways to use daily situations as the practice that will achieve this, or must it be a meditation practice?
You need both, because without doing a certain amount of intensive meditation practice, it will be difficult to be mindful and aware in each situation. In order to develop mindfulness and awareness, to bring ourselves together, we need to practice at least a half hour to an hour daily. If it's possible, our practice should also involve inner development, the awakening of insight and potential.
Being mindful and aware in our daily life will assist us in our development, certainly, but there will still be some negativity. If we combine daily meditation practice and daily engaged practice, it's certainly possible to reach that state in one lifetime. I'm quite certain about it. If enlightenment is one-hundred percent, I consider this to be five percent. If there are one-hundred steps to go, this can be somewhere around fifth. But we've already reached a level where we can only go up, not fall down.
It seems that after we do our practices for a while they begin to lose that pristine quality they had at the beginning. Could you say something about that?
My answer might be influenced by culture, so I suggest you don't accept it one-hundred percent. Some people have a hard time getting into something, but once they get into it, they really get into it. We say something is carved in the scalp, carved on the ribs, can never be washed, cannot be taken off. We also say, "I'll take this word to my grave." People like that are considered good people. They're well-respected. That's how we would all like to be. On the other hand, there are people who get into something new quite easily, and get very excited, but before they can get deep into it, they're already bored and moving on to something else. We say this person is like a feather. If we blow on it, it flies here and there. It has no weight. There's no principle, no ground. In this situation, we can't be like that, because if we get into something new, until we grasp it, we'll get nowhere.
For example, in the West if you want to hire someone, you look over a piece of paper called a resume, which states a person's education and employment history, what they've done, what they can do, etc. Then you talk to the person. If you like them, you might interview them several times. Then you hire them. That would never happen in our culture. It would be impossible. We would have to know the person's great grandfather, great grandmother, their entire family history. If the great grandfather was solid, strong, down-to-earth, trustworthy, we would trust that his children and his children's children are trustworthy as well, and on that basis we would hire them.
So, I think it has something to do with cultural influence. No matter who we are, the whole system around us is superficial. If we get into something new-a practice, for example-at the beginning, when it's fresh and we have the inspiration, we feel good about it. But the more we do it, the more fed up we get. After all, we don't eat the same food day after day. It's just like that. It has nothing to do with developing clarity, it's just the influence of culture. It doesn't mean you have a problem with your practice. It's just custom, like fashion. Our people wear the same style of clothing they wore 500 years ago. Here, clothing and hair styles change every week. It's simply a side-effect of that.
What can we do about it?
You need to go a bit deeper into the subject and contemplate on it. Take an afternoon off and think deeply about all the subjects you find it hard to relate to. Don't expect anything particular. Your contemplation cannot be successful if you expect something from it. Be tolerant. Go deep into each of the subjects and clarify them. Then, the next time you're involved, it will be fresh and deep.
What's the best way to cleanse accumulations of past negativity?
There are many methods. Actually, every practice is designed to overcome past negativities that manifest in our present situation. We call it purification. Every practice involves a process of purification. But then, there is one simple thing that might help us feel easier about a particular negativity from the past. Right now we're not concerned with the results of the negativity, we're concerned more about the memory of it. If we're concerned about the result, then the purpose of every practice is to overcome all aspects of the outcome of negativities and develop all the positive qualities of our potential. Then we don't need specifics. But if we're talking about memory, we need a deeper understanding about it. If you asked about it, you've taken one step toward that understanding already. Otherwise you wouldn't ask. So, we know the past situation was negative. We don't appreciate it. We don't like it. That's the first step.
The second step is to view it as a process. We'll say "That shouldn't have happened. It's not positive. It isn't right." But instead of viewing that negative memory as punishment, it serves as a reminder, and we appreciate it as the process that brought us to our current physical, mental and emotional state. That can be helpful. And I'm sure there are many other ways.
You talked about the importance of spontaneity earlier. Would you talk about this in relation to our practices, which are quite disciplined?
Spontaneity must come out of our practice. Spontaneity comes with the deeper sense of involvement with the principle. When our principle is clear, deep, profound and unshakable, spontaneity arises out of it. Take a few hours of time, whenever possible, and sit quietly. Ask yourselves what your principle is and whether or not it's unshakable. If you let things come, and act accordingly, you'll improve. But there is still the possibility of being negatively affected by them. If you find it won't affect you, then you can take it easy.
When you're contemplating in a quiet place, there's no reason to lie about anything, because nobody's listening to you. You're not talking to anyone, you're not writing a resume, so there's no reason to be anything but one-hundred percent honest. What you learn from your contemplation depends on your level of consciousness. If you're ready for it, you can take it a little easy. But you also have to be aware, because mindfulness and awareness are very important. At times people interpret spontaneity in such a way that it opposes mindfulness and awareness. This shouldn't happen, because constant mindfulness and awareness is very precious.
Rinpoche, could you say something about the relationship between devotion and compassion?
Devotion and compassion are best friends. They work together. You cannot have devotion without compassion, nor compassion without devotion. They're inseparable, one. If we have difficulties with devotion, we also have to develop our compassion. They go side by side.
Some interesting cultural differences exist, though. In the West, it's much easier to develop compassion than devotion. To get the job done, the most simple and effective way is for a person to develop compassion, loving-kindness. That will naturally manifest into devotion. In certain countries in the East, it's the other way around. Devotion is much easier to cultivate, and compassion a little difficult. So, Easterners develop their devotion, and compassion manifests from it. But this may simply be my projection. I can be wrong.
Could you talk a little more about self-will?
Self-will is a word one can twist in whatever way one likes. A will is there, definitely. If we wish to be happy, we have the will to go for it. If we don't want to be happy, we can manifest the will to be unhappy. The choice rests with the individual. Buddha's teachings give advice, never orders. As far as I'm concerned, they don't contradict at all with self-will. This is because we have the will to improve. There are many methods to help us improve, but if we have to stumble on them by ourselves, according to our present situation, it might take several lifetimes. On the other hand, if we follow a path that hundreds and thousands of people have followed and benefited from, it will save much time and effort.
We must finish now.
[Continuation of teaching on Loving-Kindness and Compassion]
This is a continuation of yesterday's discussion. We've been going through the six paramitas and learned some guidelines for relating them to the principle of loving-kindness and compassion. We have already covered generosity, morality and tolerance paramita, and the next one is diligence.
Diligence, The Fourth Paramita
In our language, diligence is brston grus. Brston means effort. Grus means together. The word grus can be used in a number of contexts, but here its connotation is quite simple. If we travel from America to India with another person, we grus with that person; we're going together. Also, we're always together with our own body, mind and expression, so that's also grus. So, the translation of the Tibetan word for discipline, or brston grus, is "ourselves and our effort together."
We need diligence so that when we start something, we'll complete it-unless it's terribly wrong and we find out halfway through that it's wise to stop. Ordinarily, anything we start, we should carry through to completion. That's why there are some things to be done and why someone must do them, finish them. If we start something, drop it, start something else, drop that, and start yet another, after twenty years we may have begun a thousand things, but never finished one. That's not so good. For that reason, diligence is introduced as an important quality.
We have a saying that if a person starts one thing and finishes it all the way through, anything that person begins is likely to work in a similar way. But if the individual begins something and drops it halfway through, or even one-quarter or one-tenth of the way through, more likely than not, everything that person does will work like that. So, brston grus is very important.
Diligence was explained in three aspects:
o Diligence like armour
o Diligence of application
o Diligence of openness
In the olden days, when people went off to battle, they wore lots of metal for self-protection. Now, we have tanks that bullets cannot penetrate. This is the first aspect, or diligence like armour. The second aspect is quite straightforward-the diligence of application. We apply our effort. The third is diligence of openness. We won't say, "I've done many good things; now I'm tired and don't want to do anything good." Instead, we remain open, fresh. Out of our openness, we're ready to progress.
It would probably help if we had a general perspective about these three aspects of diligence, its principles, and how it works. Without all three aspects, diligence can become limited. For example, without openness, we don't progress. Ego comes up as a result of what we've been able to accomplish, and we stop growing. We say, "I've worked hard and accomplished many things. Now I'm going to kick back." A fear, a hesitation and a sense of greed is also there. A person works hard to achieve a certain level of wisdom and then holds onto it. Automatically, he becomes unwise, because when we hold on to something, we become specific about it, self-oriented about it. So, without all three aspects of diligence, it can be limited.
Diligence Like Armour
When we look into it deeply, the other side of diligence like armour is that each time a person attempts an activity, obstacles arise, one at a time, which interrupt the fulfillment of that activity. This can be described in many ways, but we'll just go through a few of them.
The first one is nyam le. This is the lack of diligence that we're most familiar with. Nyam stands for tang nyam, or "in between." Let's say that just before leaving our office, our boss hands us a ten-page memorandum to read in preparation for a meeting the following morning. He asks us to write a conclusion on the memorandum and present it at the meeting. While we're studying the memorandum, we absent-mindedly turn on our television and get absorbed in an interesting program. After a while, we fall asleep on the couch. We oversleep the next morning and don't have time to review the memorandum. We have to go to our meeting unprepared. Instead of focusing on our subject, we let our attention be diverted. Consequently, our time, energy and effort was wasted. It became cheap. We were unable to complete our task. That is nyam le, in between. It's a lack of discipline, a lack of dedication.
The second aspect is what we call sgyid lub. This is a rather poor example, but it gives a clear image. Lub is when someone is overweight and certain parts of the body look gross. It's not tidy anymore. That is lub. Sgyid means the calf of the leg-so, it means fat calf, or big calf. That's the exact meaning of this word. If our calves are over-sized, we have difficulty climbing. This example is used to illustrate a particular lack of diligence, as in "I cannot do it. I'm very bad. I'm stupid. I'm weak. I'm not qualified for it." These are obstacles that keep us from doing what we're supposed to do.
Another example is nepa, which is more like an insult. The connotation of insult is talking bad about someone, but here we're referring to an insult to the principles we need to fulfill.
The greatest obstacle to anything we might want to do usually manifests as the opposite of that thing. For example, if we're supposed to wake up, we want to sleep. If we're asked to talk loud, we only manage a whisper. If we're supposed to write ten pages, we write only one page. If we're supposed to drive three-hundred miles, we only go fifty miles. This works like an insult to the principles we aspire to fulfill. It works totally against them. When we contemplate on these things, it can cover everything that interrupts the fulfillment of our destination, or the principles we aspire to.
Diligence like armour, or armour-like diligence, simply protects us from these obstacles. We can use the word strength, or solidness. We can also say confidence. If we wish to attain a goal, it must be clearly defined. We must know it from top to bottom, inside out and upside down. Without this clarity, we can be shaken by every possible obstacle. So, diligence like armour means that everything we need to know, we know from the inside out, from top to bottom. When things become clearly defined, little things cannot overwhelm us, because we have the depth and clarity that will arouse our dedication, our trust and our belief.
Obstacles like nyam le, sgyid lub and nepa work like weapons. If we don't have diligence, firmness and solidness based on clarity and depth of understanding, these weapons can affect us in negative ways. They can even destroy us. But, if we have diligence, firmnesss and solidness, based upon our clarity, they won't affect us. Our condition is unshakable. The bodhisattva is always given as an example of this in the Mahayana sutras. The bodhisattva develops gradually. Three examples are given, according to the development of the bodhicitta of a bodhisattva.
Bodhisattva Like King
A beginning bodhisattva is like a king. A king's first desire is to erect a big palace with a protective wall around it. Next, he wants ditches and moats to surround that protective wall. He makes sure he has sufficient guards, soldiers, guns and swords around him. Then he makes sure he has unlimited entertainment, many barrels of wine, and storehouses full of meat and other delectables. When he acquires all of this, then he thinks about his people. Then he can say, "This family has no food, so give them one bottle of wine and five pounds of meat." He helps people, but first he helps himself. He makes certain he is well-established and secure before he helps others. I'm not saying that's bad, but that's how it is for a beginner. Then the person gradually develops and reaches another level of the bodhisattva.
Bodhisattva Like Sailor
The second level is called "bodhisattva like sailor." The example is given of a sailor because when sailors sail across the ocean, they carry passengers with them on their boat. The sailor cannot say, "First I'll sail for myself, then I'll sail for you," because he only has one boat and one sail. So, he takes himself and his passengers together, at the same time. So, on this second level, we wish to be liberated along with others. This is a great improvement from the first level, the bodhisattva like a king, because here the welfare of others is considered simultaneously with our own.
Bodhisattva Like Shepherd
Gradually we reach to the next step, the bodhisattva like shepherd. It's hard to find an accurate example for the bodhisattva like shepherd. Forget about the shepherd who looks after sheep for their wool, or the shepherd who looks after sheep for the meat. This is a shepherd who looks after the sheep for nothing, which is almost impossible.
A shepherd looks after his sheep. He doesn't have to be afraid of the sheep, because sheep don't eat people. They're pretty good in that way, very peaceful. And the sheep aren't going to say "thank you," even if the shepherd is nice to them. Nor will they give the shepherd a Christmas present, no matter what he does for them. That shepherd spends day after day on a mountain, and stays up all night listening for wolves that might prowl on their sheep. He finds the best grazing land for them. When the sheep are cold, the shepherd leads them into the sun. When they're hot, the shepherd takes them to the valley, where there's shade. When he thinks the sheep are thirsty, he takes them to the river. The shepherds' entire effort goes into serving their sheep. This is the greatest bodhisattvas' way of doing things, because everything is done out of concern for others.
That is the gradual development of bodhicitta. First the diligence like armour of the bodhisattva like a king. Second, the diligence like armour of a bodhisattva like a sailor. And third, the greatest one, diligence like armour of the bodhisattva like a shepherd. The bodhisattva like a king's compassion and loving-kindness can be improved. The bodhisattva like a sailor's compassion and loving-kindness can also be improved. They can improve to bodhisattva like a shepherd. It's a gradual process, and each has its own armour-like diligence, according to the principles.
The principle for all three levels, all three aspects, of the bodhisattva process is, "May I attain liberation or realization for the benefit of all sentient beings." That's what enables the bodhisattva to continue without getting carried away like a king, a sailor or a shepherd. He continually progresses because of that one strong, clear, deep, well-grounded, unshakable foundation. The depth of it takes care of the whole thing.
Diligence of Application or Activity
The second aspect of diligence is the diligence of application, or the diligence of activity. First we have the principle, and then we must become involved with it.
The Mahayana sutras describe what it means to be involved and active with our principle as three:
First is stability. We continue. We're not moody. We accept both the ups and the downs. Some days we do more than enough, and others we do nothing at all. We overcome that moody aspect. It's becoming smooth, a continuation.
Next is joy. In the West, and especially in America, I hear the term "job satisfaction" quite often. Job satisfactions means the joy of doing something we want to do. We find the right job and we're good at it, so we're happy about it. We enjoy doing our work. That's another aspect of diligence, but it's a very rewarding aspect, of getting involved, getting engaged. We must find a way to appreciate it, to enjoy it.
I hear many people say, "With pleasure." That's wonderful. Someone applies effort and doesn't get into complications. And deep inside they have pleasure. That's great. That's wonderful. So joy is the second aspect.
Third is unshakability. In Tibetan, the word for moving or shaking is yo wa. Mi yo wa means unshakable. By unshakability, we don't mean stubbornness. Some people are unshakable because they're stubborn. We say "stubborn like a bull." Stubborn means that whether it's right or wrong, we're going to cling to our idea. Even if we suspect we're wrong, we don't want to admit it. This stubbornness is a waste of our time and opportunity. It doesn't help anybody, least of all ourselves.
Here, unshakability comes down to one simple thing: whatever obstacles to our diligence, our continuation, our well-balanced effort, arise, they won't affect us. Whether good things or bad things happen, it won't affect our ego. So, first we cultivate armour like diligence, and then we begin to apply it. Diligent action will definitely succeed if we have stability, joy and unshakability.
We have an expression, that " ." [Tibetan word] means in front. [Tibetan word] means face. So, it means face to face. [Tibetan word] stands face to face. [Tibetan word] means absence, when we don't see the person from the back. Now we say, the front of the face and the back must be the same. This is an important principle and is emphasized in relation to this aspect of diligence. Because whether people see it or not, it doesn't matter. Whether people hear it or not also doesn't matter. And whether they believe it or not, it doesn't matter. What's there goes beyond mood, and beyond ego involvement, because they're the same.
There are two more words that might help-mo-tsa and tel. These involve what people describe as guilt and shame. Mo means face and tsa is when we eat a chili and our tongue is hot. So, it means hot face, or burning face. It's something like losing face, in English. Tel means that in our heart we know something isn't right. Nobody sees it, so there's no mo-tsa. But we know it, so it's tel.
I've actually never felt comfortable translating tel as guilt, as many translators have done. When people say they're feeling guilty, they seem to feel quite helpless against their feelings, as if there's nothing they can do. It's like saying "I'm guilty. I'm finished. This is the end. I'm done for." That isn't the meaning of tel. Tel means we admit to ourselves that we did something, and we're not blaming anybody. We say "I did it. I know it." We accept it. That's the beginning of doing something to overcome it, because we accept it.
There's a difference between this and guilt. It's also the same with face in front and behind. But mo-tsa means we don't do the wrong thing. We apply effort to do the right thing in front of people, because of mo-tsa, but we do the same when nobody is there because of tel. Even if nobody saw it, nobody heard it, nobody thought it-if we did it, we know we did it. This is another aspect of it.
These principles can all be included as part of the diligence of application.
Diligence of Openness
The third aspect of diligence is openness. Openness is a very important point. At the same time, it involves depth perhaps even more than openness. Tibetan people understand openness quite easily, so I don't have to explain too much. In the West, especially in the United States, and particularly the West Coast, and most particularly, San Francisco, when we talk about openness, we need to contemplate a little deeper about it and see what we really mean, because it's very fashionable to be open here.
This openness is very subtle. With diligence like armour we have the foundation, the heart, the center. With diligent application, we have the ongoingness. To these we add openness. Without diligence like armour and diligent application, openness is shaky. With them, openness is very healthy. It becomes wise openness. It becomes appropriate, beneficial openness. Without those first two aspects of diligence, openness cannot be considered as diligence, because it's not complete. We would just sit back and say, "Whatever is supposed to happen to me, may it happen." That's one example.
Another example is, we might be open, and that's wonderful-much better than being aggressive or fanatic, absolutely-but still, we're talking about diligence paramita, and openness won't really lead to the paramita by itself. It won't happen easily. After many lifetimes, possibly. Something can be wonderful and open, but, in itself, it doesn't have the completeness to fulfill our potential. There's a lot of openness in San Francisco. This is very precious, because openness is rare in many places in the world. But if we don't use this potential properly, we waste it, and it's much too precious to waste. So, this diligence represents that. We apply effort.
Let's say there's an unlocked door five meters away from us. Because of our lack of the openness, we pound against the door until it eventually opens. Because of our lack of openness, we weren't able to move to the side to see that the door was unlocked. When this openness is there along with the first two aspects of diligence, it becomes complete diligence. But remember, when it becomes complete diligence, it's simply meant to lead us to ultimate liberation, or the diligence paramita.
Contemplation, the Fifth Paramita
The fifth paramita is contemplation, or samten. We also have another word-meditation-that means something slightly different. But when we talk about the six paramitas, samten represents both contemplation and meditation.
Contemplation and meditation have three aspects:
o remaining in it
The first aspect is easy. It means getting familiar with the process of contemplating and meditating. The second aspect is the actual practice of contemplation and meditation. The third aspect is remaining in contemplation and meditation. In Tibetan, we say mi yo wa, which, as we saw above, means not moving, not shaking, always in it, not going away from it, never absent from it. But remember, these descriptions are only for our understanding. The description itself won't bring wisdom.
There are a number of methods to familiarize us with contemplation and meditation. The three we are looking at here are a step-by-step process. First we familiarize ourselves, then we practice, then we remain in it. When we're familiarizing ourselves, it's one-hundred percent method. When we actually practice, it's less of a method and more of the real thing. When we remain in it, it's no longer considered a method at all.
We can say that the familiarization process is the relative aspect of contemplation and meditation, the practice is a combination of the relative and the absolute, and the remaining in it is more of the absolute. First, we're dealing with the basics-in contemplation, we attempt to build a stable mind. Otherwise, we get confused. Also, we should sit in the appropriate position for the appropriate reason. Finally, we need clear understanding about the subject of our contemplation.
I've met a number people who appear to be unclear about why they do things, why they get involved, why something is important to them. In the East, and in many other undeveloped parts of the world, many people are superstitious. One common superstition is possession. I, personally, don't believe in that sort of thing, but I understand how superstitious people feel. Instead of simply being involved in what they're involved in, with a clear idea of why they want to be involved and the value of their involvement, they become "possessed" by what they're involved in. It's almost like a superstition. What they're involved in becomes quite powerful, and this power can possess them. There's a similarity between this kind of possession and the belief in demon possession.
As we become increasingly familiar with the process of contemplation, we work this out. We contemplate on everything that relates to us, everything that influences us, and we find the clear reason for it. We become familiar with it. Once we're familiar with the process, we move on to the contemplation itself. Then to the meditation.
When we do the meditation, we need a deep heart connection, or at least a clear understanding-otherwise it's incomplete. Contemplation is an important step, because, in doing it, we become clear about our subject. Familiarizing ourselves with the subject of our contemplation or meditation is the beginning.
I think we should stop here. Do you have questions?
Rinpoche, would you please repeat the Tibetan word for openness?
Openness is the translation of the meaning, rather than a literal translation. The word-by-word translation is a little difficult. Here they use dag-pa. Dag-pa means "something on your hand." Your hand is dirty, so you apply soap and hot water. But the dirt still doesn't go away, so you apply something stronger than soap. Then it goes away. Now you can say, "My hand is dag-pa." You can also say pure or stainless. It's like a mirror that's polished. Whatever is there can be seen clearly, instead of through a layer of dust and dirt. So it means clean, purified. It has the connotation of applying some effort and getting something done. It translates into openness because it's like a clean canvas. We can draw whatever we like on it.
I have heard that we shouldn't try to transcend our ego but should develop a healthy ego. Can you describe a healthy ego?
I think a healthy ego is one that always eats soybeans. [Laughter] Ego in Tibetan is nga gyal. Nga means I, or me. If you say, "Do you like it?" I say "nga like it." Gyal means glory, glorious. So, nga gyal means "I am better," "I am glorious," "What I say is right." This word is translated as ego. The positive part of ego can be pob-pa. There are two words that can represent this-pu or pob. Pu is a little more negative. Pob is the positive side of it. Pa is a grammatical word to make this word more than a word. Pu represents courage. If you ask, "Can you climb this high ladder without becoming afraid and shaky?" we'll say, "Yes, I pu."
Now, pob-pa is, "Can you manage to be calm and not distracted in front of an angry and diverse crowd of fifty-thousand demonstrators?" Then we say "Yes, I've the pob-pa to do it." Without the pob-pa, we might say, "No, I may get killed, I might get burned alive." That would be the other side. Also, some people might say, "No, I don't want to do it because it will ruin my public image." So, pob-pa is a little more than just pu-pa, but is similar. That can be the healthier, more positive, side of ego.
I'm confused about the different kinds of compassion we were talking about before.
I think you're talking about relative compassion and absolute compassion. Everything has both a relative and absolute aspect. We say absolute bodhicitta, relative bodhicitta, absolute compassion, relative compassion. When we talk about the virtues of generosity, morality, diligence, etc., until we reach the level of paramita, it's all relative. When we say paramita, this is the point at which we go beyond the relative. The paramita level is the absolute, as far as we're concerned. In the relative, relative loving-kindness is involved, relative compassion is involved, relative impartiality is involved, relative joy is involved. But the absolute goes beyond the relative.
Can we develop diligence through intensified effort?
We need one-hundred percent clear understanding about why we're doing something. When we see it clearly, deeply, we'll be committed. When we're committed, we're engaged, and diligence comes up. Many people's lack of diligence is based on that, because they're not motivated, not really involved, so they don't really apply effort.
Could you repeat the Buddha Maitreya mantra?
Om Buddha Maitreye mem soha is the Tibetan pronunciation of the Sanskrit mantra. I'm sure an American way of chanting it is already developing.
What is the Tibetan word for devotion?
The Tibetan language has several words for devotion. One that expresses it well is mu-gus. Mu-gus is two words, me-pa and bkur-ba. Me-pa means inspiration, wish, an inspiration that's pure, a wish that's pure. Bkur-ba translates into respect. It's the real respect-from the heart. We respect someone because of some connection, or we respect them because of their principle. We trust them. Mu-gus is these two together. It's like the inspiration, the wish and the respect, based on an understanding that develops into trust.
Could you give an example of superstition?
I don't know exactly what superstition means. In our language, superstition is nong pu. Pu means pu-pa, a kind of faith. We say, "I have faith that this banner won't fall down." "I have faith that this house won't collapse." "I have faith there will be no earthquake." Mug means ignorance, absence of knowledge, absence of wisdom. We don't know it, we have no clear understanding about it, so we're mug-pa. Let's say a butterfly approaches the flame of a candle. He thinks it's beautiful, so he jumps in and gets fried. The butterfly didn't do it on purpose. He didn't know it was a flame, and that he would die if he got too close. He didn't die purposely. He didn't commit suicide. It's because of the mug-pa, not knowing this is a flame and it will burn. Mug-pu is part of mug-pu te-pa. It's the te-pa of the mug-pa, people who place their faith in something they know nothing about.
On the other hand, if we feel something, if we know it with intelligence and wisdom, and we have deep trust in it and practice it to invoke this quality within us, and if our purpose is clear, then it's not mug-pu. Otherwise it is. We might say "I don't know why I do this. I feel someone is up there. I don't know that for sure, so I'm trying it." That's superstition, that's mug-pu.
Did you give us the Tibetan word for corruption?
I'm not certain what the word corruption actually means. In Tibetan there are several words for it. The simplest word is ngug-pa (nyu-pa), which means that something is diluted. If we have a glass of clean water and add some dirt or dye to it, it becomes totally diluted. That's one example. In the context in which we've been using the word, if a person has difficulties practicing because of the absence of a guide, I wouldn't call that corruption. If we practice what we're capable of practicing, according to our development, there will definitely be no chance for corruption. But if we practice what we want to practice, even if we know we don't have enough information about it, corruption will come. It will come as a result of confusion and ego. And when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong. That's how things work.
We shouldn't be too impatient about our progress, or getting on to new practices. We need to be tolerant and flexible. Perhaps we want to begin a particular practice but don't have enough information or understanding. In that case, we should be willing to wait, and continue with the practice we're currently doing. Definitely that can't hurt us. But when we have so much freedom, and so much opportunity, as we do nowadays, it's more difficult to be patient.
A common example of this is a child at the river. Near the riverbank, the child finds colored rocks of all shapes and sizes. He wants to take all of them home in his pockets, but it's impossible, so he must choose just a few. But he doesn't know which to choose, because there are so many, and he has complete freedom of choice. Freedom isn't so easy to handle.
Why is it that many teachers won't tell students about the particulars of some of the practices?
Some things are important for us to know and others aren't. Sometimes students want to know why Chenrezig has five fingers, or two eyes, or why his mouth or his nose is one way or another. Those things aren't so important. There are reasons for them, of course, but going through the details becomes very complicated. All we really need to know is the basic principle-why there are four arms, why it's white, or green or red, and what the gestures and ornaments represent. Also, we need to know when to practice, how to practice, etc. These are the important details.
There's a sutra called The Sutra of Eleven Faces, about Chenrezig. It's an enormous text with about five or six companion volumes that explain every detail. But if we had to study five or six volumes of Tibetan texts in order to do our daily sadhana and develop compassion, it would take lifetimes. That's one reason why teachers don't go into detail about every practice.
What is the "universal law" you talked about?
I'll explain this in greater detail when we talk about intelligence and wisdom, the sixth paramita. Briefly, let's say you want to make a clay pot. You can't do it without following the universal law. How accurately you follow the universal law determines how good a pot you'll make. It's the same with painting, music and dance-these are more subtle, more sophisticated, and more advanced, but still, you can't create anything without following the universal law.
Can you tell us again what contemplation is?
Contemplation is the time we take to think about a particular subject in a focused, clear and pure manner. We contemplate with openness, so that we see whatever is there to be seen, instead of expecting to see what we want to see. Openness is a basic principle of contemplation. Okay, I think we should stop here.
[Continuation of teaching]
This is our last session on bodhicitta, loving-kindness and compassion. We've gone through the first four paramitas-generosity, morality, tolerance and diligence. We're at contemplation and meditation.
We stopped at the second of the three aspects, or three categories, of contemplation and meditation. The first is familiarization with the contemplation and meditation. The second is the practice of the contemplation and meditation we've become familiar with. This contemplation and meditation involves our entire self.
In Tibetan, contemplation is samten and meditation is ting nge dzin. These are the most basic words, but others can also be used. Meditation is also gom, but ting nge dzin is more subtle. Samten is a straightforward word, and ting nge dzin is an example word. Sam means thinking, or sam-pa. When you want to ask a Tibetan what he or she is thinking, you ask "What sam-pa do you have?" That means "What are you thinking?" You reply by saying, "I'm thinking of a mountain," or "I sam-pa mountain."
Samten means thinking that is well-grounded and stable. You contemplate on a specific thing without going in an extreme direction. You just go deep into it. The purpose is only to understand it. That's samten, or contemplation.
Ting means foundation, or base-that which is stable. If there are a pair of dice on a table, and you rattle that table, the dice won't move very much-even if you shake the table. On the other hand, an egg would roll right off. Ting is almost a sound. When you hit the gong, it will make ting sound. So, this kind of word is both an example and an expression, simultaneously. Nge makes this ting more expressive-like you say flash and flashy, or mood and moody. The nge or ting nge is clearer, stronger. Dzin means holding, but not holding blindly, holding ting nge. Whatever meditation method you use, you're concentrating and being aware, and holding and directing, and looking into this particular thing in the manner of ting nge.
So, this contemplation and meditation involves whatever we have. We have a number of things, but what we specifically have is our physical body, our speech or expression (whether emotional, psychological or external) and our mind, which is somehow a part of all of this. Everything else is made up, manipulated. Our pulse isn't us, our house isn't us, our money isn't us, our clothes aren't us-it's just this body, this speech and this mind.
We can go even deeper. We can also say our body isn't us, our expression isn't us and our mind isn't us. We can even say we don't exist. But we won't go that far, because it won't help us in our discussion of contemplation and meditation. So, let's stop there. This physical body, this expression, this mind-this is us.
When we contemplate and meditate, we're really just leaving our body, expression and our mind alone. To meditate, we find a place to sit quietly. We curtail our physical activity. We neither speak nor think too much. We just let our mind rest. In the beginning, especially, we put all activities, expressions and thoughts to rest. As we improve through the first step, we can move on to the next, which can involve physical, speech and mind activity.
In Theravada, walking and eating meditation are examples of physical activity. Vajrayana also has many physical activities. Prayer and recitation are speech activities. Visualization and sending and receiving practice are mind activities. These physical, speech and mind activities are the second step of the contemplation process; they are the practice. First we need a good clean canvas, clean paints, a clean brush and a clear mind. When we have this, we can make a masterpiece. So, the first step is leaving it alone and the second step is working with it. It's a step-by-step process.
Remaining With It
The third aspect is remaining with it, or living with it. How long do we do this practice? When do reach the end? Where does it lead? It leads to this third level, the third aspect of contemplation and meditation. We say that a person can continue to receive benefit from contemplation on a good commonsense level until they develop clarity and complete faith and trust. When they have a clear understanding about a particular subject, and know it from the heart, they can stop contemplating on it. It's no longer necessary to keep digging for information.
When it comes to a continuing meditation method, as long as effort is needed to apply a particular method, we continue to practice it. When our method becomes spontaneous, when it comes and goes as it should, this usually means we can move on to the next step. I say "usually" because there are a number of meditation methods, so there can be exceptions. Generally, we first apply effort, then it becomes familiar, then it becomes spontaneous. Then we repeat the process with the next method.
Another way is to meditate on the nature of mind, directly. This is one more step into it. We practice. We go through simple experiences. We receive our teacher's constant care, and he or she is usually close by. We're instructed on each experience we go through. In this particular case, we cannot say that when we become familiar with something, we should move on to something else. Somehow, when we reach the stage that we remain in the contemplation, remain in the meditation, have a clear understanding, the result of which is trust, then it remains. It doesn't go away. When our heart understands, nothing can shake that understanding. So, in both meditation and contemplation, when we develop spontaneity, the next method comes and we move ahead. When we move on to the next method, the result or outcome of the previous method remains. It simply develops to the next step. So, that's the third aspect of contemplation, where we remain in the contemplation, remain in the meditation.
Milarepa had a particular way of relating with reality. He related to everything as a magician. Our actions and intentions create everything that we see and experience. Some people are depressed wherever they go, about whatever they see. Others feel aggressive about everything they see. It is always according to our level of consciousness, our psychological and emotional state. If we look at life with humor, there is nothing that isn't funny. Even our own hand is funny. It is according to our state of consciousness that everything manifests.
Sometimes people say karma isn't fair. But a person who says that doesn't really know what karma means, because there is nothing more fair than karma. The first thing that makes karma fair is that, ultimately, nothing is happening, so relatively, everything is happening. Relatively, a person develops a negative intention. Because of that negative intention, and influenced by that negative intention, a negative action comes. That is one step. This negative action becomes a negative result. That's the next step. That negative result causes more negative intentions. Those negative intentions cause more negative actions, which lead to more negative results. And it goes on and on. To overcome that, we need positive action, positive intention. Positive intention leads to positive action. Positive action leads to positive result. This goes on and on and on. Positive action and intention overcomes the negativity.
But that's not good enough, because the positive is only to overcome the negative, but the positive isn't the ultimate. But if you deny the positive, you cannot overcome the negative, so you work with the positive to overcome the negative. Without getting to the first floor, you can't get to the third.
The last step is overcoming the positive. When we've looked at everything-the negative, the positive, the good part of everything, the bad part of everything-it's just like a magician looking at the magical manifestation he has created. We say, "yogi like magic," "practice in the world like magic," "greet a realization like magic." This is a simple example of remaining in contemplation, because when that person practices, it's just like going through it, but when they realize the essence of all magic, that's the final stage to remaining in the contemplation or meditation.
Wisdom, the Sixth Paramita
The sixth paramita is wisdom, intelligence, or knowledge. It's explained in three steps. It says "ordinary intelligence and wisdom," "extraordinary intelligence and wisdom," and "beyond extraordinary intelligence and wisdom," or maybe we can temporarily use "super intelligence and wisdom."
Ordinary Knowledge and Wisdom
Ordinary knowledge and wisdom includes eight things.
The first aspect of ordinary knowledge and wisdom is creation, the creation of anything, including painting, structure, poetry and architecture.
The second aspect of ordinary knowledge and wisdom is healing. When a door is broken, we fix the door, we heal the door. If a person's system isn't functioning well, we make it function. That's healing the physical body. The pot is broken, so we glue it together. That's healing the pot. A painting is spoiled, so we redo the painting. That's healing the painting. We call this sod, the creation. We say that a potter making a pot has to learn everything about the principles of this universe. If he creates a pot on the planet earth, he follows the law of the planet earth; otherwise he cannot make a pot.
This planet is made out earth, water, air (the movement), fire (the heat) and space. To create a pot, we must go through everything. We need the right material to make the pot. We need water to hold the materials together. We must move, or nothing will happen. We need the space in which to do all this activity. Finally, we apply heat and dry the whole thing. Otherwise, as soon as we add water, the pot will collapse. It won't serve the purpose for which it was intended. So, that's how a creation is based on the basic law of nature. We can't create anything without following nature's law.
For example, we can't carve metal with wood. We need something harder, something with more earth quality. We must follow the laws of the elements that form our physical existence in order to create something that will serve the purpose for which we intend it.
To heal something, we must know the function, the interrelation. We cannot haphazardly just slap some glue on a broken pot and expect it to hold water again. We have to know the function of the pot to be able to fix it. To heal a certain part of the body, we must know its function.
Tibetan medicine, or more accurately, Buddhist medicine-because all medicine teachings are from Medicine Buddha-is based on the principle that our bodies are connected with the planet itself. This human body cannot survive on any other planet unless that planet is similar to our own. This is because everything is interrelated. This earth contains everything our body needs. This planet functions as our body functions, and our body functions as this planet functions. That's why a human body can live on this planet and nowhere else.
If we find ourselves on a planet that is the opposite of our own, with a different balance of elements, we won't survive. We will instantly melt, or catch fire or freeze. Our physical body is intimately connected with this planet. Here we find plants, minerals and fruits that represent particular aspects of our body. We can make medicine out of these substances to cure disease. The cure for a human body is here on our planet. According to our particular physical problem, medicine is prepared in an appropriate balance of earth, air, fire and water.
These days, much Tibetan medicine is made into pills, like Western medicine. That's a corruption of Tibetan medicine. In the past, Tibetan medicine took the form of a powder, or a preparation to smoke, or something to drink as a tea. There were many different ways to prepare medicine, according to the specific situation.
When medicine is practiced in a traditional way, a Tibetan doctor will prepare a specific dose for a particular patient, according to that patient's sickness. Two people might have the same disease, but it won't be exactly the same. So, the dose is always adjusted to the individual situation.
There are many ways to diagnose disease, including looking at the person's face, listening to their voice, feeling their pulse and examining their urine.
When urine is collected in a container, and examined, the top part represents the head, the middle part represents the torso, and the lower part represents the lower part of the body. In other words, the whole person is represented in the urine. Tibetan doctors can determine what's wrong with a person simply through examining that person's urine. The most meticulous doctors will divide a person's urine into twenty parts and give the medicine first to the different parts of the urine and see what happens. The urine is the guinea pig for testing the medicine.
But examining the urine is only one way of diagnosing illness in Tibetan medicine. There are many ways. In particular, there's a method for checking pulses that's considered to be quite advanced. It's called the "seven amazing pulses." As far as I know, there's only one person in India currently practicing this method. Not only can this doctor accurately diagnose a particular person's state of health from head to toe, but he can also determine the physical and mental state of the person's close relatives. Astrological charts can be drawn up on the pulses, so they can be viewed from the perspective of past, present, and future. This is all included in the second, or the healing, aspect.
The third step is sound. Sound is the result of movement. If nothing moves, there's no sound. If something moves, then there's sound. Sound comes from music, from voice and from nature-like waterfalls, wind and fire. These are all interconnected.
The Sanskrit language is based on the principle of sound. The principles and rules of Sanskrit have been translated into Tibetan as the two volumes known as the Kalapa and the Chandrapa. A person who studies and totally understands these two books understands both sound and the basic principle of the language.
The basic principle of the Sanskrit language is quite simple: Everything starts from "a." There's no sound without the "a" sound. We cannot make any noise at all without involving "a." So the key, the foundation, the heart of all sound is "a." That is an example of sound as it relates to the human voice.
There's an historic event that took place during the lifetime of one of the emperors of India that illustrates the power of sound in the context of music. A particular emperor decided to test the musical accomplishment of all the musicians in the land. When one of the musicians performed what was known as "fire music," the fire quality of the sound lit the candles in the various lamps. This is a true story. Even now, people practice this type of music, although I, personally, know of no one who has that level of accomplishment these days. In a museum, I once saw a half-burned sitar that supposedly caught on fire when its owner played the sound of fire.
I've seen another story in several instruction textbooks, or ti. Ti contain factual stories, not fairy tales. In this particular story, a man was in a cave, meditating on sound. One day a crow flew into his cave and told him that a group of people were approaching and that the horse that the leader of the group was riding was having some trouble.
The man rose and left his cave. Just as the crow had said, a group of people were approaching on horseback. A colt, which was making a lot of noise, followed in the rear. The horse that the leader of the group was riding was the colt's mother.
The man heard the colt say to its mother, "I cannot walk so fast. Wait for me." The mother horse replied, "I want to wait, but there's something on my back that's hurting me and making me go fast."
The man walked up to the leader of the group and told him that something was wrong on the back of his horse.
When they removed the horse's saddle, they found that a needle had been left there by mistake, and that needle was pinching the horse.
This story demonstrates that if we develop this practice, we can even understand the language of animals. I once saw a practical explanation for this in a text: "If your mind is together, and you hear a dog bark, you'll know why that dog is barking. You'll know if the dog is happy or upset, angry or afraid." I think this is the key. When our mind is more together, these senses can develop quite spontaneously.
Tsad-ma, or Science
The fourth of the eight ordinary knowledges is tsad-ma, which is like science. Everything has a reason. The reason for everything that happens is the interdependence of whatever exists. Yesterday I said that the appearance of a tree depends on everything around that tree-the sky, the conditions under the ground, the air for miles in all directions. A tree is affected by everything around it. The same is true of people. We're in a particular situation because of everything that has happened to us over many lifetimes. Everything contributes-parents, friends, atmosphere, environment. This is all included in tsad-ma. Tsad-ma directly translates into truth, but many people translate it as logic, because certain logical methods are developed in the tsad-ma text to prove the truth.
These are the four basic kinds of ordinary knowledge and wisdom. There are four additional subjects that complement these-poetry, astrology, term and expression. Poetry includes everything that tries to express something. Astrology includes complicated calculations, mathematics, measuring distance and direction, and geomancy, or the principle of the energy flow. Term means terminology. Our terminology is how we combine sound, meaning and truth. The last one, expression, includes everything, but the most intense expressions are drama and dance.
These eight things-the four ordinary knowledges and four things that complement them-cover all ordinary knowledge. The deeper we get into this ordinary knowledge, the more wisdom we develop. The less deeply we get into it, the less wisdom we develop. We deepen our ordinary knowledge and ordinary wisdom out of our desire for extraordinary knowledge and wisdom, the second aspect of wisdom.
Extraordinary Knowledge and Wisdom
In this particular text, extraordinary knowledge and wisdom is expressed through the Four Noble Truths, which involve the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the path, and the truth of the peace.
The truth of suffering means that anything that happens in life, whether positive or negative, will eventually bring suffering. It's easy for us to see how negative circumstances will cause suffering, but harder to see that even positive circumstances will lead to suffering. This is true because, without understanding, without awareness, we naturally become attached to those positive circumstances. We don't want to lose them. Without awareness and wisdom, we don't realize that we will eventually lose them. Because we don't want to lose them, when we do, it brings suffering. How much we suffer depends on how much we cling to whatever it is.
The second of the Four Noble Truths is the cause of suffering. The cause of suffering is simply the absence of awareness and wisdom. In the absence of awareness and wisdom, passion and aggression arise. No effort is needed for passion and aggression to arise. Simply leave everything alone, and passion comes, aggression comes. We let ourselves get carried away by our passion and aggression, which only brings more passion, more aggression, more suffering. That's what we call the truth of the cause of suffering.
The truth of the path is beyond suffering. It's the absence of suffering. When we say "the path to peace," it means that since all of this passion and aggression brings suffering, if we develop a sense of awareness, mindfulness and wisdom, there's a chance for us to overcome our passion and aggression. When we overcome passion and aggression, we develop peace. So that's the path to peace. And that's the truth of the path.
The last of the Four Noble Truths is the truth of peace. The truth of peace is a vast subject, but, for now, we can say that if a person who has constant, spontaneous mindfulness and awareness, and who develops constant wisdom, experiences something negative, it won't be too bad. If it's positive, it won't bring suffering. When that person enjoys pleasant circumstances, he will appreciate it. When those circumstances pass, he will expect it and it won't bother him. His suffering won't be excessive, or cause him to sink into depression. Constant ease and peace will develop in the person, which can gradually lead him to a high level of peace.
Super Knowledge and Wisdom
I used the term "super knowledge and wisdom" when I first introduced this highest wisdom, but it was only for lack of a better word. In Bodhisattvacharyavatara, Santideva says about this wisdom: "All of the branches are explained by Buddha for wisdom." By "all of the branches," Santideva means the other five paramitas-generosity, morality, patience, diligence and contemplation, because they all develop wisdom. Wisdom is the outcome of the other five. In other texts it says, "One paramita is all paramitas."
Whenever the highest aspect of wisdom is achieved, it becomes the paramita. When it happens with generosity, it becomes generosity paramita. When it happens with morality, it becomes morality paramita. Until this highest wisdom, a gesture will remain as a specific act of generosity and morality, not the paramita. This super aspect of wisdom goes beyond ordinary knowledge and wisdom, beyond extraordinary knowledge and wisdom. It's reaching the highest aspect of wisdom, which is the end of the development of the wisdom process itself.
At the beginning of our discussion yesterday morning, I explained the three circles-the circle of the subject, the circle of the object and the circle of the action. The highest wisdom means freedom from these three circles. Remember, when we talk about wisdom, we're talking about ordinary, extraordinary and the highest. We can get confused if we don't know that it covers both ordinary worldly knowledge, like making a cup of tea, as well as the highest of wisdom, like going beyond the three circles.
So, the paramita means reaching beyond all the understanding, all the knowledge, all the development of that understanding and knowledge. How far can a person develop their understanding? A person can develop their understanding until they reach wisdom. How far can a person develop wisdom? A person can develop wisdom until they reach the last stage of wisdom, the highest wisdom. The word that's most often used for this is enlightenment.
I think that covers our discussion. Would you like to ask some questions?
At what point during these three stages of contemplation and meditation can one begin to influence the health of the body?
It very much depends. A person can do a specific meditation with the motivation for better health, certainly. There's a practice which involves eating nothing but small stones. The body digests the essence of the stones, gets full nourishment and stays very healthy. I, personally, studied the texts, and received the instructions and transmission for the practice. Specific stones are selected according to their shape, color and texture, and depending on your physical, mental and emotional condition. We also have certain herbs or pills made out of plants, along with many physical exercises and visualizations.
In the beginning, we take the stone with the pill, and cut down on food. By drinking water, doing lots of exercises and doing visualizations, we digest the stones. We receive the essence of the energy from the stone. We grow very thin and strong. So, this is an extreme method of influencing the body.
Are these eighty-four wisdoms related to the other wisdoms?
All of it is related to the law of nature. For example, when we hear soft music, we feel a certain way because it's touching the law of nature. When other kinds of music are played, we feel angry or aggressive. That's also touching the law of nature. Or when we read poetry, we get very specific feelings. That's also getting close to the law of nature. That's how it works.
Rinpoche, you talked about laws or rules that apply to writing poetry. Can you say a little about that?
All Tibetan poetry is based on a text by ________________ [?], of India. There are three parts. The first and last parts involve philosophy, calculations and sound, and are very complicated. The middle one is similar to poetry I've seen in the U.S. There are many kinds of poetry, but all poetry follows certain laws. If we don't follow the law, the poem doesn't make sense. It becomes contradictory. Bad poetry is poetry that doesn't follow the law of nature.
This particular text has thirty-five laws. I can't go through all of them, but I was very impressed with this approach. I even wrote a book about it sixteen years ago, when I was sixteen years old. We call this poetry "direct poetry." We don't use any examples at all. We don't use any words that represent something else. You just use the direct word. For example-"a blue-necked peacock." There's no example of a blue-necked peacock-only the blue-necked peacock itself.
Now there are four words in this first one: kind, activity, quality, what it has. First-the main kind. Something can be of the elephant kind, the man kind, the tree kind or any other kind. In this instance, the blue-necked peacock is from the peacock kind. So, we're talking about one particular kind. Second is activity. Voice can reach distance. That's an activity, an action. It can reach far. Third is the quality. The peacock moves slowly, carefully. That's the quality of the peacock. Fourth is what the peacock has. The peacock has colorful feathers. It's talking about one thing in four different ways.
When you study poetry, a teacher will give you one of these four categories and ask you to write maybe twenty examples. Your teacher will review them and tell you which ones work and which don't. For example, if you say "peacock speaks," your teacher will tell you it doesn't work, because a peacock doesn't speak, it makes noise. In that way, it's very subtly refined. It's a discipline.
After you finish all thirty-five, the second one is the example. There are thirty basic examples. These are the particular terms, like "it's like it," "it's similar to it," "it competes with it," "it's unseparated," "identical." These are the thirty laws. It also involves the second part, which has sixty. So, there are ninety laws to go through.
The third thing involves the finish. For example, you say, "there's nothing which isn't impermanent." That's it. There's no more. This also has many aspects.
So, there are many rules, and when you study poetry, you have to master them, one by one. If you don't succeed at first, the teacher will teach again and again until you master it. If you don't succeed at all, the teacher will quit, concluding that you can't manage to write poetry.
But if you're able to master these rules, you can spontaneously write poetry without contradiction. You become good at it. It's like studying drama. When you're beginning, you make lots of mistakes. But when you practice and become good at it, you don't have to think about it.
Rinpoche, in the West we have lots of freedom. How can we use that freedom responsibly?
Total freedom is only truly meaningful if your principle is clear. When you have no principle, your freedom drives you crazy, because you have nothing to base that freedom on. For instance, if you have the choice of seeing any of ten films, unless you have a clear principle, you don't know which to choose. When you have principle, you can go to the movie you like and leave the rest. That's how principle relates to freedom.
I'm curious about the sound structure in Sanskrit language.
It's not about learning the Sanskrit language, it's about learning the principle of Sanskrit sound. If you expect to be able to speak Sanskrit after you learn this text, you'll be disappointed. But it will explain the nature of sound.
What is the function of sound in the meditation practice?
Its specific function varies, but definitely, meditation practice involves sound. Silence is one example of sound. It's the ultimate of sound, but sound manifests out of the silence.
I understand what you said about fear being rather useless-for example, if a bomb is dropped, because we only die once. But my fear is that the entire planet will be gone and will no longer be here for the precious human birth. Is there a teaching about that possibility?
Anything is possible, but as far as prophecy is concerned, the present time is quite bad. Some people call these days the kali yuga, but this isn't accurate. The kali yuga isn't referring to ten years, or one-hundred years. Kali yuga refers to the time when, from the beginning of the universe to the end of the universe, there's no understanding at all. That's not the case in these days. This is simply a bad time for our planet.
I haven't seen any Buddhist prophecy that says the whole world will be destroyed at this time, although there are many texts I haven't yet seen. It's a vast subject. But like I said yesterday, there's no point in being afraid, because fear doesn't help. Feeling panicked or helpless about something gets us nowhere. If I learn that a nuclear bomb has been discharged and it's going to drop at any time, I'm going to call my friends and have a tea party. What else can I do? I'm not going to hide under my bed. I'd rather have a tea party and pray and meditate, rather than just crying and hiding under the bed.
There are many signs that we're in bad times. For example, because people come to me for blessings, I touch hundreds of heads all the time. I don't mean to insult anybody, but some people's heads feel just like wood. They're very tight. There's no light. Something's missing. That's a sign that many people are in bad health.
We can see it in the food we eat. Since the year 1500, the human genetic system has altered very little, and yet, our food has changed a lot. Since we've been feeding our bodies foods that aren't really suitable for our physical systems, diseases inevitably arise. Also, in the year 1500, we were walking and doing a lot more physical work. Since then, we've been doing more mental and emotional work, and sitting around more. If someone from the year 1500 were to see us in our present condition, they'd consider all of us very sick.
Can suffering become so extreme that you can disassociate from life on this planet?
It depends on how you look at it. That relates very closely to what I said about the kali yuga, which is like total night, the total absence of understanding, so it's possible.
Is there a rationale for not being moral in some circumstances?
I think it's a matter of how you define morality. Yesterday we translated morality as tsultrim, or proper or appropriate law or rule. It doesn't mean that because somebody said something it should be that way and you become fanatic about it. That's not morality. Morality means that a positive result is the result of positive cause and negative result is the result of negative cause, and that a positive result isn't caused by a negative cause and a negative result isn't caused by a positive cause. That's what morality is all about. When you're aware of this, your way of thinking about it changes.
I read a letter from Rumtek saying His Holiness Karmapa's letter had been opened and ceremonies he requested had been done. Has he been reborn and found?
I think the information is one-fourth correct. His Holiness Karmapa passed away in the United States five years ago, and, historically, his incarnations were usually recognized by a letter that was left by the previous life, saying what family he would be return into, and when and where he could be found. His Holiness Karmapa was the 16th. He left a letter several years before he passed away. That letter was opened in his monastery in Sikkim by his disciples.
When we opened the letter, we found that it contained two letters-one open and one sealed. In the open letter, he wrote many prayers, many things to do. He also told us when to open the next letter, and asked that we keep it confidential until the appropriate time.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the enthronement of a person like His Holiness Karmapa should be done in a traditional way, which goes back about a thousand years, to the first Karmapa. So, we do it as it was done in the past, as appropriately, elaborately and traditionally. We try to give people at least a year's notice before the actual enthronement, so they can prepare. If that's not possible, we try to give at least six months advance notice. But I cannot say anything for sure, because his letter might say "I'll be born in this family, and do this and this and that, and do the enthronement in a certain time, only two weeks." That's also a possibility, so I cannot say for sure.
Can you speak about the prayers he left?
He left a number of instructions, including instructions to read the entire teachings of Buddha. This means the Kangyur and Tengyur, which consists of 333 volumes.
Didn't he leave specific prayers for the various centers?
Yes. Each center was sent a letter requesting that they do specific prayers.
Okay, I think we'd better stop here.
[Transcribed and edited by Stephanie Harolde]
Maitreya Institute, San Francisco, April 3rd 1988
Good evening. Tonight's subject is the Maitreya principle. I seems appropriate to talk about the Maitreya principle at Maitreya Institute.
The simplest way to look at the Maitreya principle is: Is there anything we all have in common? Is there anything different cultures have in common? Is there anything different age groups have in common? Is there anything people with different social backgrounds have in common? When we ask this question honestly, I think we'll come to the conclusion that, indeed, we have something in common-loving-kindness. I don't think you can find any society, any culture, any religion that doesn't encourage us to develop loving-kindness. My conclusion, then, is that loving-kindness is the common interest of humanity.
How can we develop loving-kindness? How can others develop loving-kindness? And how can we communicate with each other through loving-kindness, based on the foundation of loving-kindness? When we ask these questions, it becomes rather specific. In Buddhism, these specifics are elaborated at great length. And I'm quite certain that if you study any authentic religion or culture deeply, the result of your study will be the principle of loving-kindness. But I, personally, learned about loving-kindness from Buddhism. And it's because of Buddhism that I'm able to say something about loving-kindness.
In Buddhism, the principle of loving-kindness is applied to everything. Some Mahayana and Vajrayana practitioners might like to say that the Theravada aspect of Buddhism doesn't have loving-kindness, but this isn't true. Different schools of Buddhism place more or less emphasis on particular aspects of practice, because no one can do everything at once; it would be wonderful if we could, but unfortunately we can't. Consequently, some schools put more emphasis on loving-kindness and others on some other aspect, but as far as my limited knowledge is concerned, everything in Buddhism is based on loving-kindness, one way or another.
To understand the fundamental principles of Buddhism, we must go back to the time of the Buddha, 2,500 years ago. The reason Prince Siddhartha left his palace is because he realized he could be of greater benefit to humanity by leaving than he could by staying. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that Prince Siddhartha left the palace because ruling a kingdom was too much for him. No. His principle reason for leaving the palace was so he could better serve humanity.
After leaving the palace, Buddha practiced for many years, with much hardship. The hardship was there because if you want to get something significant done swiftly, you must make up for it. To achieve enlightenment in such a short period of time, Buddha had to work very hard. After many years of hard work, he attained liberation and became Buddha Shakyamuni.
Buddha's attainment, in itself, was motivated by loving-kindness, and the path through which he attained that liberation is through the practice of loving-kindness. Finally, his activity was the manifestation of loving-kindness. Even now, after more than 2,000 years, we're enjoying the results of his accomplishments. Buddha was just a human being, like any of us, yet we're still benefiting from the teachings he contributed to humanity. That's what loving-kindness really means, and that's what loving-kindness does. Every word Buddha taught is the manifestation of that realization that was achieved through loving-kindness. For this reason, the essence of loving-kindness permeates every word he spoke.
Now, we can elaborate loving-kindness by saying compassion, loving-kindness, joy, impartiality. In Buddhism, these four constitute bodhicitta, or the mind of enlightenment. So, loving-kindness is one of the four major components of bodhicitta.
The application of loving-kindness as a teaching of Buddha has a history, a tradition, a lineage and a very precise and detailed explanation. There's an answer for everything. All the questions that exist have been asked already. When we ask a question, we're just repeating what someone else asked before us. Therefore, every answer has already been given. Because the questions have been asked, all the answers are there. Of course we can still ask questions. It's good for us to ask questions. Otherwise, we never find the answer.
That's one particular transformation. Now, let's imagine that we're just an ordinary person who never heard about Buddha, who never heard about Buddhism, who never heard about the principle of loving-kindness as part of the teachings of Buddha. In that case, outside of the context of Buddhism, what is loving-kindness? As a follower of Buddha, I have to say that the loving-kindness which is outside the context of Buddhism is no less than, or different from, the loving-kindness that Buddha taught. It's exactly the same. Even the loving-kindness we see among animals is the same. What it accomplishes is the same. The loving-kindness that is taught by Buddha, the loving-kindness that is bestowed by fathers and mothers, the loving-kindness between friends, the loving-kindness that arises spontaneously inside of us, that we've discovered through our life experience-these are all the same loving-kindness.
When we see two people who are getting along and seem to be happy, why are these two getting along? Why are they so happy? Because they have loving-kindness toward each other. When we see problems between people, between groups, what is happening there? Loving-kindness is lacking between one or both parties, or one or both groups. The lack of loving-kindness sows the seeds of disharmony, of difficulty. Therefore, loving-kindness plays an important role in everything.
There's one small, but important, difference between loving-kindness from a teaching like the teaching of Buddha and loving-kindness that arises spontaneously, however. The loving-kindness that we practice on our own is more vulnerable to error. We might get it wrong. We might think we're going to Canada, but after two-hundred miles and three months of walking, we end up in Mexico. That can happen. Even if we're tremendously sincere, there's no guarantee. We can still make mistakes. So, when we follow a profound teaching, there's less chance for error. Of course, teachers can make mistakes, and we can misunderstand the teaching. That can also happen. But, generally speaking, there's more direction, and this protects us from making too many mistakes. Aside from that, there's no difference. All expressions of loving-kindness are the same.
As a Buddhist, I wanted to use my life meaningfully by teaching the words of Buddha. It's what I know, it's what I have, and I can only give what I have. But I also see the other side. Every individual and every existing culture, education and religion has so much to offer. It isn't just traditional Buddhism that has something valid to offer. Of course, traditional Buddhism contains very precious teachings. I don't think traditional Buddhism lacks anything. Indeed, I can think of nothing meaningful that isn't contained in the traditional teachings of Buddha. But this doesn't mean only Buddhists have it. I sincerely believe that every culture, every religion, every discipline has something meaningful to offer. If I haven't seen it, it means I haven't taken the time. And if I don't understand, it means my intelligence isn't open. Perhaps I'm being stubborn and don't want to admit that someone else has the same thing I have. That sense of insecurity and jealousy is in us. We shouldn't have them, but we do. I admit that I have them too. I don't know how severe I have them, but I have them. That's why I'm here. I'm not enlightened. But I believe that all of humanity has so much to contribute. But what we all have in common is loving-kindness.
At the beginning of my talk I said I felt good talking about the Maitreya principle at Maitreya Institute. I'll say a little bit about Maitreya Institute here. I didn't start Maitreya Institute because I wanted to be famous. And in fact, in order to establish Maitreya Institute, I sacrificed a lot. You shouldn't forget that. And after it was established, some people asked, "Does Tai Situ think Buddhism isn't enough?" Forget about that. And forget about thinking I started Maitreya Institute to gain fame. Not at all. Nor did I create Maitreya Institute because I had nothing to do. Believe me-I have plenty of responsibility. If I think negatively, I'm buried maybe two-hundred feet under the ground with all the projects and responsibilities on my head and on my shoulders. I can hardly breathe. Therefore, it isn't that I have nothing else to do. Then, why on earth did I start Maitreya Institute?
In my experience, I saw that there was great benefit when people realized they had something in common. It's like a switch would get turned on. When we're able to say "We have something in common," so much changes immediately. Therefore, I wanted to be able to share a little bit of that which I have with those who are ready to receive it, those who are like a balloon that's almost ready to pop. It's filled, but what's left is to pop.
People who are open, kind, compassionate, but still into their own trip, are trapped within a thin shell that doesn't allow them to merge. I felt that Maitreya Institute could bring together people of different disciplines who are aiming towards the same goal, but without the unnecessary burden of having to promote their own path as better than others, which is the opposite of trust. So many conditions for ego exist even in good people. In fact, the worst problem that good people have is thinking they're better than others. To break through that would mean a lot for them.
I'm not saying that I, personally, broke through that as much as I wish, or as much as I should, but I did break through it just a little, and it did a great deal for me. I still have millions of balloons to break, but already I can feel great benefit from realizing, for example, that Jesus Christ was a bodhisattva. Whether he's a Buddha or not, I don't know, but he's definitely a great bodhisattva. Knowing this changed me a lot. Can you imagine-many people don't know, or they doubt, that Jesus is a bodhisattva. Sometimes I hear some people talk about Christianity seemingly in a sincere way, but I can tell that they're really trying to make Jesus look bad. That offends me.
Understanding that Jesus in a great bodhisattva in no way undermines, and actually strengthens, my Buddhism. It's a confirmation of what Buddha is and what he taught. Buddha goes beyond all the limits. When I learn the positive side of any culture, any religion, it gives me a clearer idea of what limitless really means. When I know nothing but just what I belong to, then limit and limitless are nothing more than words in a book. If I only talk to people that think the same way I do, my limitlessness becomes rather mechanical. But when I go beyond what I know, I go deeper into the understanding of limitlessness.
I have an example. A stranger once asked me, "Do you enjoy yourself?" I thought for a moment, and all I could say was, "Do I have any choice?" Because I'd rather enjoy myself than not. Then he asked, "I mean, do you have any problems?" I said, "I don't have any problems. Of course, there are lots of things to do. You can't just sit there and wait for everything to fall into your lap-but other than that, I don't have any problems." Then he said, "I think I'm not making myself clear. Maybe what you and I mean by problem is different. What do you mean when you say problem?" I told him, "Well, maybe you've never had a problem. When you've had a real problem, you know what a problem is." Then he asked, "What do you mean?" I told him, "A real problem is when you're sick, when you have nothing to eat, when you have no place to stay, when somebody tries to beat you and kill you. Those are real problems." Then he said, "I see. I've never been in one of those situations." He was a lucky person. I was very happy for him.
The point I'm trying to make is that when you see another dimension, your understanding is increased. Being open can help you make valuable leaps in your important journey. For this reason, I attempted to introduce this principle through Maitreya Institute, and so far, everything seems to be going in the right direction. I'm very happy about it.
As Buddhists, and as people who try to apply loving-kindness in our own lives and try to assist others to develop loving-kindness, I think it's very important for us to practice loving-kindness as much as we can. It's easy to talk about it, and even to become involved in activities that help generate it. We might even learn about loving-kindness, and encourage others to practice it, and yet still not practice loving-kindness ourselves. It sounds hypocritical, it sounds terrible, but there's no point denying it, since it's a possibility. Therefore, besides doing everything we can externally, we practice loving-kindness within ourselves. It has to be beyond any limitation. Ultimate limitlessness is something, but relative, tangible limitlessness is something else. I'm talking about relative, in-hand limitation.
So, how can we practice loving-kindness in our lives, with as little limitation as possible? Number one, we have to be loving and kind to ourselves. That's where it starts. And how can we be loving and kind to ourselves? Since we all have shortcomings, we find reasons not to like ourselves, not to be kind to ourselves, not to be loving to ourselves. But ultimately, each of us is perfect, each of us is pure. There's nothing that each of us doesn't have. That's the first thing you have to understand if you're a Buddhist. That's the principle of Buddhism. We call it Buddha nature. Each of us is ultimately Buddha. Ultimate negativity doesn't exist in Buddhist principle, so, ultimately, we're each prefect.
Of course, you're probably asking, "If that's true, then why such and such and so and so?" Those things are relative, not ultimate. Relatively, we have shortcomings. Relatively we have anger, ignorance, attachment. Each of us has tons of negativity, but this is all relative. That's the definition of positive and negative. The place for the positive is ultimate. The place for the negative is relative. Of course, sometimes things are relatively positive. That also happens. But as you overcome negativity, what's left is the positive. Therefore, each of us is ultimately precious, ultimately pure. For that reason, we should respect ourselves, we should be loving to ourselves, we should be kind to ourselves. And when we recognize our own ultimate true nature, then we recognize that same ultimate true nature in others.
So, again, how do we take care of this? One way or another, we are taking care of it. We're either taking care of it well, or we're taking care of it badly. Nothing goes into nothing. Everything works. If I drop this cup, it will break. If I don't eat, I'll go hungry. Whatever I do, positive or negative, has its own condition, cause and result. For that reason, instead of being negative to ourselves, we're positive to ourselves, because negativity brings more negativity, and positivity makes things better. It's quite simple. That's why we should be positive. That's why we should be loving and kind to ourselves and others. We have to. It's what we call "skillful means." And to that basic, fundamental knowledge, we add a little wisdom. That wisdom allows us to be very helpful-not just helpful, but very helpful.
I have a good example of somebody who tried to be kind, but not being skillful, brought harm instead. It's actually a rather silly example, but it's okay to be silly once in a while. A couple of weeks ago, I received an overseas telephone call from a woman whose mother was terribly ill and couldn't hold down any food. This had been going on for over a month, so the woman was desperate. I asked her, "Why didn't you call a doctor? Why did you call me?"
She said "I want you to pray." I told her that, of course, I would pray. Then I asked her what she was feeding her mother. She told me that since the mother couldn't digest anything, they were afraid to give her hot food, so they were giving her all cold food.
That puzzled me and I asked, "What kind of cold food do you give her?"
She said, "Cold chicken soup and cold milk." Can you imagine? Even I would get sick if I ate cold chicken soup.
So I said, "I think the solution is quite simple. Maybe you called the right person after all. After tomorrow, heat them up."
I spent five minutes of my time talking to her, but I'm happy after all, because I think it helped. So, we try to be helpful to ourselves and others by loving-kindness, but there's no guarantee. We have to apply wisdom to know exactly how to go about it. We have to have the skillful means. So, wisdom and skillful means are fundamental to showing loving-kindness to ourselves and others.
Before I stop talking and answer any questions you have, I'd like to say a few more words. I'm often asked about the concept of emptiness, and since I feel that loving-kindness and emptiness are very closely connected, I'd to talk about it for a few minutes.
First, how does loving-kindness work? Why does loving-kindness work? We know that it's beneficial, we know that it works, but how does it work? That's the emptiness. Everything is just interdependent manifestation. Ultimately, nothing is there that isn't interdependent manifestation. Hundreds of books have been written about emptiness. People can spend 20 or 30 years studying nothing but emptiness. But the simplest and most fundamental thing you can say about emptiness is that it is nothing more than interdependent manifestation. For example, we can be in the absence of loving-kindness, or we can also be in the presence of loving-kindness. In the absence of loving-kindness, we face lots of suffering, we create lots of suffering for ourselves and others. In the presence of loving-kindness, we experience joy in our own life, and we help others experience joy in their lives. We gain happiness, and we're able to provide happiness for others. Because of emptiness, there's a space for loving-kindness.
I have found that there is a general lack of information about emptiness. People think emptiness means nihilism, that nothing is here. That isn't true. Everything is here. I'm talking, you're listening. All of this is here. Emptiness simply means that everything is here because of interdependent manifestation. If everything was more than interdependent manifestation, there would be no space for anything else. So emptiness means that what's here isn't more than interdependent manifestation. Two sentences describe emptiness clearly and simply: "There's nothing that isn't interdependent manifestation; therefore, there's nothing that isn't emptiness."
Okay, I've been talking, you've been listening. Now maybe it's my time to listen and your time to talk. And I'll try to answer any questions you'd like to ask.
Is Maitreya Buddha a person who'll be coming into this world, or is it a principle for all of us who are practicing Buddhism to actualize?
Maitreya Buddha is the name of a particular Buddha. Our present Buddha is Buddha Shakyamuni, and Maitreya Buddha is a Buddha who is yet to come. In sutra, it says, "Bodhisattva Maitreya will become Buddha Maitreya in about twenty thousand centuries." So, the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni will last for a long time to come. When the sound, taste, and aroma of the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni are gone, Maitreya Bodhisattva will attain enlightenment and teach again. He was predicted by Shakyamuni Buddha in sutra as one of a thousand Buddhas.
Rinpoche, sometimes we're forced to commit harsh acts, from destroying an insect, to disciplining a child or preventing child abuse, to defending a country. Can you talk a little about the role of loving-kindness and compassion in relation to motivation?
We do our best to avoid harmful actions and intentions towards others, always, but this doesn't mean there's no space for loving-kindness, even in the worst situation, like a war. Even a soldier fighting his enemy can show loving-kindness. I can't say exactly how, because I'm not in that situation, but as a practitioner, if I must be involved in a negative situation, I'm sure I'll find a way to show loving-kindness.
Could you talk about the connection between loving ourselves first and the principle of loving-kindness in putting others before ourselves in the Mahayana principles.
There's a common belief that showing loving-kindness towards others means disregarding ourselves. There's an element of truth to this, of course, but no one can show true loving-kindness to others without first showing loving-kindness to themselves. Even a bodhisattva who appears to put others before himself or herself has gone through all of these steps in past lives.
Rinpoche, do you expect Tibetan Buddhism to be one of the foremost exponents of Buddhism in the United States, or do you expect it to be some other sect in Buddhism?
I have no desire for Tibetan Buddhism to take over all North American Buddhism. It makes no sense to me to think like that. But right now, Chinese Mahayana is the largest. Just look at Chinatown in San Francisco. Almost all of the Chinese there are Buddhist. So, right now, Chinese Mahayana is the largest. I believe Vietnamese Buddhism is second. But these differences don't mean very much. They're just a different language, a different culture.
I don't think most people know how many types of Buddhism there are. It is massive. If I had the traditional costume from each Buddhist tradition, I could fill a huge museum. There are that many differences. But it doesn't mean very much to me, honestly speaking. These differences exist because Buddhism is an old religion, and in olden days, customs and lifetimes were quite different even among neighboring towns in the same country, because people didn't travel very much. Sometimes even the language was different. Even now, I meet people in certain parts of world, like the Himalayan regions, who haven't traveled beyond one-hundred miles. Therefore, even though there is only one Buddhism, there are many Buddhist traditions. There's nothing wrong with this. It's actually quite good. These cultures are so old, their traditions have been refined by hundreds of generations and have gone through lots of filtration.
Rinpoche, you mentioned impartiality as one of the elements of bodhicitta. Could you elaborate on it?
Impartiality means that our loving-kindness, our compassion, our joy won't take any particular aim. It's impartial. It's for all sentient beings. It has to start somewhere, so it starts with family and friends and extends out to everyone.
How do people move from a lack of loving-kindness toward self and others into love for self and others? What steps do we take?
As far as Buddhism concerned, we practice. It's quite simple. We learn, we pray, we contemplate. Then we carefully and skillfully apply what we've learned. That's just common sense. But something came into my mind. I've noticed that, in the West, when people find themselves in the presence of loving-kindness, they become very emotional. They cry, they become vulnerable, delicate. That can become a problem. We have to be sensitive, of course; we shouldn't be like a rock that cannot hear anything, cannot feel anything. We shouldn't be like that. But when we're over-sensitive, that, in itself, becomes a problem. Therefore, this is something to be aware of. We shouldn't encourage our sensitivity, vulnerability and emotionality. We allow our sensitivities to manifest, but with caution.
How is dzog chen practiced in Tibetan Buddhism?
Tibetan Buddhism has eight major lineages, all of which are rooted in India. Various individuals who studied with masters in India then brought the teachings they received into Tibet by crossing the Himalayas. That was a very big deal in those days-more difficult than going around the world ten times nowadays. Because these teachings came to Tibet at different times, and went to various parts of the country, eight lineages were established. Tibet was originally pretty big. What you see on maps these days is about half of it. I don't know what happened to the other half. In any case, teachings such as dzog chen are common to all eight lineages, but are practiced differently by each of them. For example, the Nyingma lineage uses the term dzog chen, but Kagyu lineage uses the term chak chen for the same teaching. Sometimes chak chen practitioners say dzog chen uses too many big words, and sometimes dzog chen practitioners like to say that the terminology of the chak chen is too fundamental. Well, that's okay. That's just part of being human. It makes things work.
Rinpoche, when I realized that emotion wasn't necessarily a part of loving-kindness, I started making changes around that realization, and started working with relationships differently. But the people around me are giving me some problems because of these changes. Can you give me some suggestions how to deal with this?
We're always a little naive at the beginning of any situation. Naiveté exists, so there must be a place for it. That place is at the beginning. Let's say we see a flower for the first time in our life. When we see it, we'll say, "This is wonderful. This is beautiful." We're naive about it. But when we become more familiar with it, the thrill, the wonder and the naiveté go away. We're more knowledgeable about it, more mature about it. I personally think this is good, because we have to grow up. We can't stay in one place. We have to go forward.
You say you related with people on an emotional basis, and then, after some time, you become wiser and started treating them with concern and care rather than with emotion. You realized that emotional reactions are superficial, and thin, but the other people in your life feel bad about it. It sounds to me like those other people haven't grown up yet. Some people develop very slowly. Since you have more insight, and you're no longer naive, for their sake, you might try, skillfully, creating a little bit of drama now and then. That will help them grow. But the drama must be skillful. Being skillful means that even if you know something isn't necessary, if doing it is the only way to help someone understand something, for their sake, you sacrifice. In Tibetan culture, we say, "We play dumb." Sometimes, playing a little dumb for the sake of others will help them.
Could you please say a little about the taking and sending practice, how, as a practitioner, it could be done correctly, so it could be more than an exercise of the mind, but actually relieve the suffering of others.
Just by sending positive thoughts, positive energies, to others and taking their negative thoughts and negative energies away from them. Actually, how much your practice helps others depends on your level of sincerity. The principle of being effective is always there, isn't it? Probably the most effective way to influence someone is to take a stick and swat them on the knee. Since it will hurt them, they feel assured that you're really doing something. But if you just sit there and send loving-kindness and absorb their negativities, they might feel that nothing's happening, that you're just bluffing. One is physical and one is mental.
For the mental one, you need more skill. And if the other person is given a role to play, the practice will be more effective, quicker. While you are sending and taking, they are also sending and taking. That's the way it works. If you're the only one doing it, it's a little harder. But, even if they don't feel anything, and you don't see anything, if you do it, it's much better than not doing it. So, you have to carry on until you master it.
Mastering something means knowing how to do it. When we know how to do it, then we become master of that particular subject. But first we have to understand what it is, then we have to know how to do it, then we have to do it. Depending on how much we do it, that much we become accustomed to it. And depending on how much we become accustomed to it, that much we become master of it. So, we have to carry on to be effective, and it will take time.
I think it's time for us to excuse ourselves. I'll ask venerable lamas to pray with me. I'm sure you'll join.
[Transcribed and edited by Stephanie Harolde]
Meaning of OM MANI PADME HUM
I would like to talk a little about the meaning of the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra.
Mani represents method and padme, wisdom. In other words, these two words contain the whole path revealed by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha; the entire graduated path to enlightenment. These two words contain the whole path to nirvana-liberation from suffering and the true cause of suffering. All the lesser vehicle paths are included in method and wisdom; therefore, they are covered by mani and padme. The entire Paramitayana path, the bodhicitta path to enlightenment, is also encompassed by method and wisdom; therefore, it, too, is completely contained in mani and padme. Finally, the entire Vajrayana path-the path of the inseparable vehicle, tantra, or secret mantra-is also covered by these terms.
Tantra has four divisions, or levels. The first is kriya tantra, which in turn is divided into that with sign and that without sign. That with sign is the path of method; that without is the path of wisdom; the whole kriya tantra path is included in mani and padme. It's the same for the other tantras. Through the practice of the fourth class of tantra, Highest Yoga Tantra (maha-anuttara yoga tantra) we can attain enlightenment-omniscient mind; the transcendent state that is complete in all realizations and purified of every stain-in one brief lifetime of this degenerate age. There are two stages in Highest Yoga Tantra: generation [sometimes also called creation, development or evolution] and accomplishment [or completion]. These are included in mani and padme, method and wisdom. The accomplishment stage has four levels: seclusion of mind; illusory body; clear light and unification. Illusory body, the path of m! ethod, is contained in mani;! clear light, the path of wisdom, is contained in padme. Also, there are two types of clear light: the clear light of meaning and clear light of example.
In order to turn the mind into the path we must first lay the foundation, the three principal aspects of the path: renunciation, bodhicitta and the wisdom realizing emptiness.
Renunciation of samsara is the thought that has strong aversion to samsara through realizing that it is only in the nature of suffering; that being under the control of the disturbing negative minds and karma, our aggregates of body and mind are suffering in nature. Normally, we are not aware of this. We hallucinate that that which is impermanent by nature is permanent; that which is dirty by nature is clean; that which is suffering by nature is pleasant; and that which has no existence at all from its own side, which is merely labeled, exists from its own side. This is our normal, hallucinated view of reality. Renunciation is realization of the fact that all conditioned existence is suffering in nature.
We are like moths, which see a burning flame as a beautiful place in which to be, not realizing what will happen when they touch it. We completely hallucinate. Even if the flame is covered they still try as hard as they can to get into it. Even though they feel it to be hot, they still try to get in. They think that incredible bliss lies within the white part. So what happens when they actually get in there? It's not at all what they expected. It's the complete opposite. As long as we are in samsara, our life is constantly confused like this.
We have no idea that our life is completely suffering in nature; we follow our hallucinating mind as if it's one hundred percent right, as if our wrong conceptions are perfect. We have complete trust in our projections, our hallucinations. We believe that our wrong conceptions are completely true. It's like seeing a burning environment as a beautiful park and trying to get into it, not realizing that we'll get burnt. We see this suffering realm as a beautiful park.
Renunciation is the realization that our own samsara is only in the nature of suffering; that living in samsara is like being engulfed by flames and feeling unable to bear remaining in it for a second longer without achieving liberation. When we feel our own suffering as unbearable and the thought seeking liberation spontaneously and continuously arises, we have realized renunciation of samsara.
When we change the object and think of others instead of ourselves, the feeling becomes compassion. Having the strong thought of renunciation of our own samsara, when we reflect on others' being caught in samsara and suffering, we begin to feel incredible, unbearably strong compassion; we feel it intolerable that others are in samsara under the control of their disturbing thoughts and karma. When we see others caught in samsara it feels extremely unendurable, like a spear in the heart, like a mother feels when her beloved only child falls into a fire. It's as unbearable as that.
In that way, there arises incredibly strong compassion wishing other sentient beings to be free from suffering. We cannot relax without doing something to help them. There is no way to think of ourselves, our own happiness; no way for the thought of self-concern to arise. We can't remain still, doing nothing to free other sentient beings. We can't bear their being in samsara even for an hour or a minute. Just as, with the realization of renunciation, we couldn't stand not achieving our own liberation, couldn't wait even a minute, now our focus is on others. When this wish arises, we have the realization of great compassion-the wish that all sentient beings might be free of all suffering and the resolve to bring this about ourselves.
Bodhicitta arises from this attitude. We ask ourselves, "What's the solution now? What should I do? What's the best method for me to free all sentient beings from suffering?" The conclusion we come to is that the only way we can guide sentient beings from suffering perfectly is by achieving the omniscient mind.
Hence, the wish to develop an omniscient mind comes from the root of compassion. From great compassion, the altruistic mind of enlightenment, bodhicitta, is generated. The compassion here is that which arises spontaneously for all sentient beings without discriminating between friends, enemies and strangers-those who help, those who treat us badly and criticize us, and those who neither help nor harm us. Its object is all suffering sentient beings and compassion wishes all beings to be free of all obscurations. Great compassion wishes all those who are devoid of the peerless happiness of enlightenment to achieve the state of omniscient mind and takes personal responsibility for seeing them do so.
With spontaneously arising bodhicitta we feel like the mother whose beloved only child has fallen into a fire. We can't stand it. Day and night, all the time, the altruistic mind of enlightenment arises without effort. At that time, we have realized bodhicitta. The person who has realized bodhicitta is called "fortunate." Such a person is wise, skillful and compassionate. Those who have the ultimate good heart, bodhicitta, in their mind are truly competent.
In worldly terms, those who can earn a lot of money, who can kill their enemies, who have many apartments everywhere, are considered clever, skillful and wise. Those who can cheat others to enhance their reputation or happiness are thought of as wise, clever and self-supporting. These ideas are completely wrong. Even if you can liberate yourself from samsara you still haven't finished your work for self or others. Thus, bodhisattvas are not necessarily skillful or compassionate, even if they can liberate themselves from samsara. Therefore, the wisdom of realizing emptiness is practiced after the realization of bodhicitta.
Then, after your mind is well trained in the general path, you take initiation from a qualified vajra guru, one who can give Highest Yoga Tantra initiations. Once your mind has been ripened by receiving the four types of Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, you train your mind by meditating on its two paths: the gradual paths of generation and accomplishment. When your mind reaches the level of the clear light of example, you are free from the danger of death-there's no uncontrolled death, no dying without choice.
As I mentioned before, the clear light is signified by padme, wisdom, and the illusory body by mani, method. If you can reach this stage, you can attain enlightenment before death, but if you don't, then you can do so right after death, in the intermediate stage, as did many high lamas and great yogis, such as Milarepa, who became enlightened in one lifetime.
[Tape not clear; maybe a bit missed here.]
The merit that takes three countless eons to accumulate by following the Paramitayana path can be completely accumulated in one brief lifetime by meditating on the illusory body. The clear light is the remedy to the dualistic view; disturbing thoughts and even the subtle dualistic view can be completely ceased by meditating on the clear light with the support of the extensive merit that you accumulate by meditating on the illusory body. In this way you achieve the unification of the completely pure holy body and holy mind of the buddha or the deity you have been practicing and become a buddha.
When the moon rises it doesn't need to exert effort for its reflection to appear in bodies of water: "Now I'm going to reflect in all the waters on Earth." Wherever there's water, its reflection automatically appears. Similarly, after you have become a buddha, after you have achieved the deity you have been practicing, you work effortlessly and spontaneously for the benefit of all sentient beings. You work continually with your holy body, speech and mind to lead sentient beings equaling infinite space to the peerless happiness of the omniscient mind.
This is just a brief explanation of the meaning of the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, but I hope you can see from it how mani and padme-method and wisdom-encompass the entire graduated path to enlightenment.
Now, if your mind is like a rock it's like unfertilized earth; it's not well prepared. Even if you plant seeds, they won't grow. If your mind is selfish, solid, full of anger and dissatisfaction, like iron, like a rocky mountain, hard, vicious, then even though you want to attain liberation or complete enlightenment, the path that mani and padme contain will not develop in it. Earth needs to be watered and to contain minerals and fertilizer-then it's possible for things to grow in it. Similarly, your present mind needs to change from its concrete, vicious, ugly state. It needs to be transformed, softened-it needs the blessings of the Guru Buddha.
OM MANI PADME HUM contains the name of Chenrezig, the Great Compassionate One. Reciting this mantra is like calling your mother. You call mother to get her attention and then you ask her for what you want: ice cream, chocolate, whatever! When you recite OM MANI PADME HUM, you're calling Chenrezig's holy name and the hum influences his holy mind. What you are asking him for is to bless your mind-not only your own but also the minds of other sentient beings-to plant the root of the path to enlightenment, the method and wisdom contained in mani and padme.
Finally, what remains to be explained is the om. Practicing and completing the path of method and wisdom in your mind is signified by mani and padme-purification of all the obscurations, negative karma and impure conception, or view, of body, speech and mind. When your body, speech and mind are thus purified they become Guru Chenrezig's vajra holy body, speech and mind.
The [Sanskrit or Tibetan] letter om has three parts. The body of the letter is ah-the mother syllable. Above it is a wavy line called (in Tibetan) a naro, the vowel that converts an "ah" sound into an "o." Above that is a small zero, which adds the "m" sound. These three components add up to "om" and signify the three kayas, or vajra body, speech and mind. Your impure conceptions of body, speech and mind transform into the completely pure vajra holy body, speech and mind of Chenrezig, the Great Compassionate One. Therefore, om means enlightenment.
This, then, is the meaning of OM MANI PADME HUM: the beginning, or cause, of the path, the path itself, and the result. It's like a tree: root, trunk and fruit.
OM MANI PADME HUM also encompasses all existence-dependent arising and emptiness: mani and padme. All existence is contained in the two truths; all this is contained in mani and padme: absolute truth in padme, and conventional truth, the truth of the all-obscuring mind, in mani.
All 84,000 teachings of the Buddha-the Prajnaparamita teachings, all the hundreds of volumes of Tengyur and Kangyur-are included in OM MANI PADME HUM as well. It contains all the five great treatises on the sutras that the monks study in the monasteries, which explain the logic that proves that the Buddha is a valid, or true, holy being-non-deceptive, not misguiding and logical. Buddha's teaching is true because when sentient beings practice it, it works; it contains the experience, so the result comes. When you practice, even the simplest of everyday life problems get solved. So this is just a small proof that you can be liberated from the true cause of suffering; that you can become enlightened. This proves that the teachings are valid and true and will not betray you.
The monks in the great monasteries study the teachings on logic for many years. They usually study and debate the Madhyamaka teachings, which explain the two truths, for three years. Then they study the wisdom-gone-beyond, the Prajnaparamita teachings, for five years or so. They also study the Vinaya teachings on moral conduct-how to subdue the body, speech, and mind-for a year or more. Then they study the Abhidharmakosha for many years. They study these sutra teachings and the five great treatises for thirty or forty years, memorizing, debating and taking examinations. Then they study the tantric teachings for many years and practice all those extensive, complete paths. OM MANI PADME HUM contains an entire lifetime of study.
Somehow there's a difference when you recite the mantra of this particular buddha, the embodiment of the compassion of all buddhas-the great compassion that is unable to bear sentient beings' suffering and guides them from it. This compassion is a hundred thousand times greater than the compassion we have for ourselves. There is no comparison. And this infinite compassion of all the buddhas manifests in this particular aspect we call Chenrezig, the Buddha Seeing With Compassionate Eyes.
Because of his compassion, the Buddha himself achieved the great nirvana, the sphere of great peace, without choice, bound by compassion. We're the opposite: without choice, bound by selfish thoughts, we give harm to other sentient beings and even ourselves. Bound by compassion, buddhas manifest in the sambhogakaya aspect for higher bodhisattvas and in the nirmanakaya aspect for ordinary bodhisattvas. For ordinary beings, they manifest in the form of a monk, like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or as a king; in various forms, whatever is necessary. If there's a manifestation that will subdue sentient beings, that's how they'll manifest-as a judge, a general or even as a butcher or a crazy person; as a blind person or a beggar to cause others to accumulate merit by practicing charity and thus create the cause of happiness. If some sentient being needs to be guided in that way, they'll manifest as a wealthy person; if another needs to be guided in such a special aspect, if it! '! s t he only way to subdue that person's mind, because of his strong attachment, they'll manifest as a prostitute.
In his teachings, Shakyamuni Buddha declared, "I will manifest as all these things." He said, "I have no attachment but I manifest as having attachment; I'm not blind but I manifest as being blind; I'm not crippled, but I manifest as crippled; I'm not crazy, but I manifest as crazy; I have not the slightest anger but I manifest as having anger. If I manifest in such ways in the future, not all beings will recognize this."
However, to guide us he manifested as the Thousand-armed, Thousand-eyed One and the Compassionate Buddha's mantra is somehow different from other mantras. Other mantras are very powerful but this one has some particular personality, or effect-the mind becomes naturally more calm and compassionate while it's being recited; the thought of benefiting others naturally arises and the practitioner is less self-centered.
Normally, ordinary people who recite OM MANI PADME HUM have a very good heart even if they don't know the teachings or meditate on the graduated path to enlightenment. This happens just through having faith in the Compassionate Buddha, the Great Compassionate One and reciting his mantra. You need to have a good heart even for the happiness of this life, for peace of mind in everyday life. A good heart is of the utmost need; it's the only way. It is very helpful to recite this mantra. It is very effective for the mind.
When you recite OM MANI PADME HUM you should feel not so much Chenrezig's form but his essence, or nature. If it's uncomfortable to visualize him above the crown of your head, visualize him in front of you. Visualize great compassion for all sentient beings manifesting in the thousand-armed-thousand-eyed aspect. The nature of his holy body is light. He is smiling and has compassionate, loving eyes that look directly at you-a suffering, confused sentient being-and all other sentient beings as well. If you can manage, visualize a syllable HRIH on a moon disc on an eight-petaled lotus in his heart. From here, nectar beams emanate and enter you, purifying all your obscurations, particularly your selfish attitude, which is the main obstacle to your generating bodhicitta.
Visualizing in this way, recite OM MANI PADME HUM as many times as you can.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at the Sixteenth Kopan Meditation Course, Kathmandu, Nepal, 1983. Edited by Nicholas Ribush. The entire course transcript may be found in the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive members' area. For more teachings on Avalokiteshvara and OM MANI PADME HUM, see Lama Zopa's Teachings from the Mani Retreat.
Six Aspects of Bardo
By H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche
The following is from a series of teachings on the bardo, given by His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche at Toronto, Canada, January 7, 1995.
This morning, at the request of the Venerable Lama and the Karma Kagyu Dharma Centre, I will be explaining briefly the principle of bardo. The definition of bardo in general is an intermediate state of consciousness. This is not limited to the after-death state of mind, but is inclusive of both life and death, and after death and before the next life [into which] we [will be] conceived. So this is a most comprehensive subject. To explore this principle, we practically have to go through everything about life and everything about mind, including the connection between mind and matter. So this is an enormous subject. Having said that, we can also say that the teachings of bardo, most of the time, are summarised in the texts in a comprehensive presentation that could be understood as six stages or the six aspects of bardo. So I will go briefly into this particular teaching of six aspects of bardo.
Now, the first bardo, the first aspect of bardo, actually involves life. For example, right now, we are in this state of bardo. From our birth, or since we are conceived, until we die, we follow one main stream of reality. Right now we are human beings of planet Earth of this galaxy. So this is our reality. And we perceive and we interact with everything, mentally, physically, emotionally, based on this reality. And, until we die, we will be human beings of planet Earth of this galaxy; that's what we will be, and that's what we are. That changes as soon as we die. So, for that, in this state of bardo, what we have to consider as the practice of bardo is to appreciate and accept the way we are. And any good things that we encounter, we take as opportunity in a positive way, so that those good things will become beneficial for us and for others who are associated with us. Then anything bad and unfavourable that we might encounter in our life, we also have to accept and face and utilise in a way that will be beneficial for us and for others that are associated with us. And we have to prevent potentially unfavourable circumstances from becoming harmful and negative to ourselves and others that are around us.
So that is the first aspect of bardo. The second aspect of bardo is a very short period of bardo, which is dream. As soon as we fall into sleep, we enter into another state of mind, another reality, which is influenced by our human reality, but which goes beyond this human reality's limitations. In dreams what we are experiencing is the subconscious level of our mind, with its emotions and its defilements and all the other things that go with it; so it is the subconscious mind that influences our mind in the sleeping and dreaming state of mind. So the use of this particular state of consciousness, for a Vajrayana practitioner - and particularly as a practitioner of bardo - is to recognise that the interdependent manifestation of reality is a reality which is nothing more and nothing less than the interdependent manifestation of everything else. And the greatest example and most immediate example of this is the dream state.
While dreaming, when we see good things, we feel happy; when we see bad things, we feel upset; when we see something that is fearful, we get afraid; and so on and so forth. In life, it works the same way; but life is a little bit longer - several tens of thousands of times, maybe several millions times longer - than a dream. I don't know how many times a person dreams in life. In one year a person dreams 365 times, so if a person lives ten years, it should be 3,650 times, isn't it? And if a person lives a hundred years, then their life is 36,500 times longer. That's it. So the only difference is that life is that much longer. But, actually, besides that, life is not anything more or less than quite a long dream. Relatively it is only a long dream. Ultimately it is not long at all.
We start to dream as humans as soon as we are conceived, and that dream ends when we die. In the next life we could be a bird, a nice bird in a Canadian forest, and that dream starts as soon as we are conceived. And then we will be hatched et cetera, et cetera, and then we will be a dead bird. So that will be the end of that dream. And then that process will go on and continue from one life to another. And so that is the second aspect of bardo.
Here, in this state of mind, the most important thing is that we appreciate that we are in this world and we are dreaming all of this. We have friends, families, and so on and so forth, and this is wonderful; we appreciate it and we help each other and we respect each other and do our best to make it as meaningful as possible. But don't hold onto it for more than that, don't expect too much from each other, don't expect too much from anything else. Life is like a dream. But when we are dreaming, we should be able to make the best of it and appreciate those who are in our dream and respect them. They are dreaming us; we are dreaming them. You see? So that's what it is. So that is the second aspect of bardo.
The third aspect of bardo is to realise the ultimate potential, the ultimate nature of everything, the ultimate nature of mind itself. Actually, there is a very particular example used in this aspect of bardo. This is about meditation or contemplation. Here, the mind is understood to be beyond any kind of dualistic identity or dualistic limitation. And the only example that is close to the nature of the mind, used here, is space. And there are some sentences which describe it. So I'd like to share this with you.
One can never find the centre of space. That means every place in the entirety of space is the centre of space. And, in the same way, one can never find the mind in a dualistic way. So that means that the non-dualistic aspect of clarity and profoundness, completeness, limitlessness is the true nature of mind. Therefore, once a person realises this limitless mind, the centre of the space which is everywhere, once one realises this, then that person recognises space, that person recognises mind. So this is the third aspect of bardo, which is contemplation or meditation.
There is nothing that is impossible as a manifestation of mind; there is nothing that cannot manifest out of our mind. Right now, we might think that such and such things are impossible, but there is nothing which is not possible. Anything is possible. Buddha said that. He said that human beings here have two eyes, two ears, one nose, and one mouth. You see? And we walk on two feet; we work with two hands. But Buddha also said that human beings can exist who are totally opposite to the way we exist. So I don't exactly know exactly what this could mean, but I think your people in the United States, you know, in Los Angeles, down there, they might have figured out several different ways how humans could be! Actually I am fascinated by them, you know; I think it is very, very profound, that medium. So this, the third aspect of bardo, is to realise the ultimate potential, the ultimate nature of everything, the ultimate nature of mind itself. So this is the third bardo.
And the fourth aspect of bardo is the moment before death. Now, this is actually what most people don't want to think about and what people consider inauspicious to think about, which is incorrect, because death is not something terrible. If death is terrible, then birth also has to be terrible, because birth is the other side of death. If we are not born, we are not going to die. We die because we are born. This is very simple. Death begins the moment we are born. From birth it continues [to be the case that at] any moment we can die. After birth, at any moment we can die. We don't have to be afraid of it, we don't have to look at it in a negative way, we don't have to hate it, we don't have to constantly think of it like some kind of taboo. There is no evil in death. Life, of course, is precious. This precious human life, which we have right now [is extremely valuable], so we should live as long as we can. We have to do our best to take good care of our health, to take good care of our mind; eat well, live well, do some exercise, breathe well; we should do anything we can to live longer. We should live as long as possible, definitely - but not because death is bad, you see, not because death is bad. Death is only natural. We want to live as long as possible because we know we are human; we have our great privileges as human beings. We can learn things, we can do things, we can understand things; we have so much opportunity to improve as sentient beings in the form of a human body, in a human environment. Above all, we humans have done pretty well. Right now, we are the dominant rulers of the planet Earth. You see? It is not really fair, but we are. So there is no reason that we shouldn't appreciate it. We should appreciate it, and we should try to live as long as possible, try to be as healthy as possible, but we should never be afraid of dying when death comes. Death is only natural. So that is the fourth aspect of bardo.
And how to deal with it? In the dharma it is taught always that in our minds and in our deeds we have to prepare for this inevitable moment. After death, our death should not become a suffering for many people. So we do our best to make things clear. Don't leave too much unfinished business, because as soon as you die, everybody will fight over your things, you know? And that is not very nice. So take care of everything. Don't be too attached; don't be too suspicious of everybody; learn to trust people, learn to trust someone, learn to respect others, and don't magnify the reality [of death] beyond proportion. Leave reality alone in its place. We have a saying: "Don't hold your thumb against your eye." This is a very small thing (Rinpoche holds up his thumb), but if I hold it against my eye, it can obscure the whole universe, even the whole of space. But if I just keep it at arm's length - I don't have to learn to do it in some kind of tricky way, I just [simply] keep it at arm's length - then it is just a thumb, insignificant; useful, but insignificant. You know? Without a thumb, I cannot write, so I need it. But, it shouldn't be held close to our eye. So, in the same way we need our ego, we definitely need it; if we don't have ego, we get nowhere. The first step [in dharma study and practice] we have to make with our ego. The next step is to put a short leash on our ego. The third step is to make ego realise that whether to have that leash on or not is up to him or her. And the fourth step is get rid of that leash. And the fifth step is that ego transforms into limitlessness. These are gradual steps.
If we try to get rid of ego before we have anything [in the way of realisation], then we get lost; that is the definition of confusion: lost, no confidence, no self-respect. All these things come from that. So ego is always there. And if we don't acknowledge it, it doesn't mean that it is going to go away. I might say something like this: I will say, "I am Buddha." Then you will say, "I don't think so." And I will say, "I am Buddha!" Then you will say, "I don't think so." Then I will get very mad, and I will say, "If you don't stop, I will call the police. And if you don't believe, I will sue you." So, I mean [by this that] ego can play all kinds of roles. And we have to use the existing self, the ego, to make the first step. So we can't say, "I don't want to be enlightened; I don't want you to think that I want to be enlightened, because that is attachment to enlightenment." That is ridiculous. First we have to have the attachment and desire to be enlightened in order to make the first step. We have to overcome the attachment to serve ourselves in a selfish way. We have to overcome the attachment to fame, fortune, and all those things. We have to have desire for improvement, for betterment, for enlightenment; that is necessary. Then, once that is established, then we can get rid of that desire. Enlightenment in the end is not possible if there is an attachment to it, but that [attachment to enlightenment] is where it [our path] starts. First step is first step. It is as a final result [of traversing the path] that we overcome those kinds of final and most subtle aspects of defilement [e.g., the attachment to enlightenment, the attachment to getting enlightened]; but that final result is not a means. The means is using what we already have.
So the fourth aspect of bardo is to deal with reality [in a way] that acknowledges that we will die one day, at any moment, and we prepare for that moment all the time in a most mindful, aware, and wise, and thoughtful way, so that every moment we treat with greatest respect. If I'm going to die today, then I shouldn't feel, "Oh, I thought I would live for some time. I did lots of wrong things. I feel sorry for myself." That [state of mind] shouldn't be there. All of us, when that inevitable moment happens - which can happen at any time - should be ready for it. So that is number four. The fifth and sixth bardo are, I think, what most people talk about when they talk about "the bardo." People talk about bardo as a kind of after death experience, what happens after death. So that is actually the fifth and the sixth bardo, out of six bardos [all together]. And so I will describe these a little bit.
In this state of mind, as the bardo teachings are transmitted and taught, there are several categories of states of mind, which happen during death, after death and all the way through until you are conceived into the next life. So, during death, after death, and all the way until you are conceived into the next life, into the next physical body [is one bardo]; this bardo ends there. Now, you have heard about clear light, I think. There are books written on this [subject], many, many books, I think. So, when you talk about the clear light, actually two stages of clear light are described. It is described as clear light one and clear light two, the first stage and the second stage. But, when you talk about the bardo of that stage - the "during death and after death" bardo - there are three stages of bardo there. They're described as first bardo, second bardo, third bardo; and you shouldn't get these three [bardos of the fifth bardo] mixed up with the three bardos of the sixth bardo. They are totally different. These are the three bardos of the fifth and the sixth bardo. There are two clear lights: first clear light, second clear light. And that is the first clear light of the first bardo, the second clear light of the first bardo. So both of them are part of the first bardo, out of three bardos.
Okay, first, second, third bardo: the first bardo has first clear light and second clear light. Very simple. All of that is part, that is, the elaboration of the fifth bardo and sixth bardo, in the sixth bardo. So this is the key for this particular teaching about bardo. your first chance [at getting enlightened]. So that is described as the first clear light of the first bardo.
Now, as to the second clear light of the first bardo, after some time, then this unconscious mind wakes up. Now that could be just a moment after [falling unconscious], or that could be as long as three days [after falling unconscious]. So, for this reason, serious Vajrayana people try to leave the deceased person's body alone and not tamper with it for three days. But you can never be sure whether the mind has left the body already, or if it is still there; one cannot be sure.
Great masters, when they pass away - and I myself have seen several masters who passed away in meditation posture - [after death continue to] sit just like living people, and after two days or after three days [sitting like that], then their bodies become like dead bodies; the head falls down, and there are many signs that can happen [that indicate that the mind has left the body]. And in that way we can tell if the mind is in the body or not. But with an ordinary person, we don't know, because a few hours after death, the person's body becomes cold and there is no sign of life in it. So, in that case, it is hard to tell; but in our tradition, in our culture, we don't take the risk [that the mind might not have left the body]. We leave the person uninterrupted for three days [just in case the mind is still there in the body]. But, of course, one doesn't have to worry too much [about all of this]. In your culture and your system here, for health [considerations] and many other reasons, there is some kind of formality [or legality concerning the disposition of bodies after death]. So you don't have to worry too much. But that is the basic principle, actually, according to the bardo teaching. And now, after this moment after three days, or one day after, then when the mind awakens, the mind has to come out of the body. There is still some karmic connection because of its long association. So there is one thing still left to do, which is that our mind has to come out of the body. That is the last separation; it still has to happen. After that, then the mind becomes limitless, but until that last separation it is still trapped in the body.
Now [it is important to understand that], when that last separation happens, the different channels [and chakras] in the body, such as the crown, eye, ear, and lower chakras, et cetera, represent [entryways into] the different realms. And now, the first clear light is when our body and mind get separated. They separate inward, not outward. They separate inward. Okay. Now, our body then becomes like a house and our mind becomes like a person who lives in it. So that person goes unconscious, because of the separation. So that is the first clear light. What happens, is because our body and our mind are connected together through energy, and energy through emotion, emotion through different kinds of energy, energy through different kinds of what we call "air" or "wind." [Sanskrit: prana; Tibetan: lung; Chinese: Chi; New Age English: energy: stuffy English, perhaps: psycho-somatic motility] This term is something that keeps our bodies alive; a living body does not rot. But as soon as we die, the body starts to decay. This is so because this energy, the wind, the circulation, stops. So the body starts to rot. That is how the connection between mind and body takes place. So, when the body is broken or the body is damaged by any kind of disease or anything [i.e. by accident or any kind of physical trauma], then the mind and body connection stops. When that happens, then the mind goes back to the centre of the body.
When we first entered our body, our mind entered at the centre of our body. The first thing that developed inside our mother, when we were little, is what you call the embryo. Now, according to Vajrayana teachings, a tube develops in the middle of it, which is filled with "air" or energy. That tube is the central channel and out of that central channel then, the different energies are generated that build the hands, legs, eyes, ears, senses, everything [that we are made up of], gradually. At first we don't have any of that [those physical parts]. And when we die, we also go back to the same stage; our mind - together with its air, energy, emotions, everything - goes into the centre [of our body]. But it is a tremendous shock, because the body and mind have to be separated. And because of that, we fall into an unconscious state of mind. Now, if you're a great practitioner, if you have realisation of the nature of mind, if you are able to maintain the awareness - maintain an awareness of and observe the nature of mind in that state - then you can attain liberation there [in that moment of separation of body and mind], because [at that point] the limitation that the physical body imposes on the mind is gone. So, in that moment, if you can realise your "nature of mind" [the mind's true nature], then that would be [the mind of] the [dead] person should be able to leave the body through the higher chakras, hopefully from the crown. That is the highest and most sacred chakra to come out of. So when this happens, then if the person is aware that, "Okay, now I am dead, and now my mind is coming out of my body, I'm going out of my body," then in that time, if you can manage to do the visualisation of a deity, and the visualisation of the mandala of a deity, and the practices that you do every day, your sadhana - if you are able to do that - then you will become the embodiment of that deity. So, in that way, we have another great opportunity right there [to attain enlightenment]. So that is the second clear light. Now, with that, the first bardo is complete.
Now, [we will consider the second bardo]. At this point we are outside of our body. When we reach that state, then, technically speaking, we are totally free. We are not limited by human kinds of limitations. We are not limited to the planet Earth. We are in the universe. So we can have all kinds of experiences and the ability to affect or be affected by everything, as by the human realm, the animal realm, the gods' realms, asuras, hells, everything. And not only of planet Earth, of the whole universe, so that we have no limitation. Right now, we only can see certain colours; we only can touch certain physical entities; we can only hear certain sounds. And also we look at things like this (indicating that he sees only what is in front of him and to the sides); I can't see what's behind me, I can't see what's up there. And hearing is also the same thing: I can't hear what's happening outside, I can only hear what's happening in here, my own echo. [But in this newly arrived at disembodied state,] we don't have this limitation. Instead, we see everything, everywhere; we hear everything, everywhere; and, whatever [location] we think about, we are [instantly] there. You know, you think of something, and you're there; and we don't have to be aerodynamic to get somewhere; we don't have to struggle with gravity to move somewhere. All of these limitations don't exist [in this disembodied state]. So many texts describe the fear [that the mind experiences in this state]. And that's so because of this phenomenon.
Of course, it would be frightening, you know; there's nothing, everything becomes everything. And, if we don't realise we are dead, then this [condition or situation] will be very frightening, of course. It is not that somebody tried to frighten us; it isn't like that. Ultimate freedom is quite frightening. If somebody tells you, in a very limited way, "Okay, you have just become the ruler of planet Earth; you have to do [and manage and decide] everything." I would be devastated if that happened. But comparing [this rather imposing but still limited eventuality] to this state of bardo, then [being world ruler] is nothing. And to be able to have some kind of awareness during that time will be very difficult. I'm not trying to discourage you, but, in reality, it's difficult, as I understand it. It is possible [to have awareness at that time]. My example for how it might be possible is something like this: I'm taken in an airplane to 35,000 feet high, and then [someone] puts a paper in my left hand and puts a pen in my right hand, and then throws me out of the airplane with no parachute, and I'm supposed to write the most beautiful poetry before I hit the ground. It would be possible, it would be possible, but very, very difficult. So, to remember that I am dead and to meditate and to realise or be aware of my "nature of mind," or to have compassion for all sentient beings, or to have devotion to Buddhas and bodhisattvas and the lineage, in that state of mind, will be like that [like being thrown out of an airplane and writing poetry on the way down]; it will not be easy. But, if we practice now, then it becomes easier. If we get acquainted with these states [kinds of meditations and contemplations], and if they become habit, then it will happen that way, because whenever something really terrible happens to somebody [or to us] - some kind of serious accident or something - we will call our mother or call God or call Buddha's name or the name of our guru. So, similarly, the same thing can happen [after the mind separates from the body]. Because this [disembodied state after the separation of the mind from the body] is the most extreme state of mind, and so one automatically turns to what one believes in most. So, in this way, [if we have a strong daily dharma practice], then in this way it will be possible [for us to experience proper awareness at that time and to attain enlightenment or a favourable rebirth].
But, if we don't [cultivate these kinds of virtuous mind states in advance of our death], then [whatever we are accustomed or habituated to doing], this might happen. In Buddhism, we consider saying bad words is no good; thinking bad things is no good. Because, if, in your everyday life, when something happens, you say some very bad words, then when you are reaching this [disembodied] state of mind that kind of negativity is likely to arise and that would not be so good. Therefore, I think, we have to get habitual with good words and good thoughts instead of bad words and bad thoughts. We have to do our best to practice and establish some sense of devotion and compassion and awareness during our lifetime in order for us to encounter those states of mind during this time in the [disembodied state]. So that is the second state of bardo.
The third state of bardo (actually, the second and third states go all the way) is starting from our ordinary form, coming out of our body and encountering this limitless freedom, in one way [or another], up until we get conceived into the next life. So that is the third bardo. So, during the third bardo, what happens is that a human being of planet Earth (that is us), has a maximum of 49 [possible] days in the bardo. This is so because of [the nature of] our body, our mind, the energies [involved], [the nature of] the universe, and the connections and interdependence amongst these. So, we cannot have more than 49 days of bardo. We can have [a bardo experience as] short as one moment; it could be just a moment. If we attain realisation during the first clear light, our bardo [experience will be only] one moment. You see? If somebody has really accumulated very, very bad karma - I don't want to mention any names, but there have been quite a few human beings who have done lots of bad things in our history - and what will happen to them, according to the bardo teaching, is that at the very moment they die, they will be born in hell; that very same moment. There will be no bardo. So in the most extremely positive situation, [when a person attains] realisation, there will be no bardo; and in the most extremely negative [situations], then there will be no bardo. But, otherwise, there will be different periods of bardo. But a human being of this planet cannot have more than 49 days of bardo. So, during this time, whatever amount of the time of bardo that you experience, it will be divided by stages into two exactly equal halves. If your bardo experience is going to last two weeks, then one stage will be one week long and the second stage will also be one week long. If your bardo experience is going to be four weeks long, then each stage will last two weeks. If your bardo experience is going to be 49 days long, then each stage will be a little longer than 24 days. During the first part or first stage, the mind will be under the influences of one's past life; one will have the instincts and from time to time occurrences [consonant] with one's past life. We have been humans, so that kind of thing will happen. And then the last period or the second stage will have the periodic occurrence of what you will be in your future life; you could be a bird, you could be a dog, you could be a tiger, you could be a human, whatever. So that will happen. And so during the first half, the previous life's influence will fade away, and then during the second half, the future life's influence will become more apparent. And then finally, you will be conceived wherever you will be born, at the end of this bardo period.
During this time, of course, there's opportunity to attain liberation at any time. Just as in life there is opportunity to attain liberation at any moment, so in the same way in the bardo there is also opportunity to attain liberation at any moment. Now during this aspect or stage of bardo, you can somehow say you are "in the bardo," what mainstream mentality thinks of as "the bardo," right there. And that bardo will [likely] go on for quite a long time, as long as 49 days. And during this time the most obvious [way to take advantage of that] opportunity will be that you realise that you have died, and that then [you] try not to be afraid of all the occurrences and try to sincerely supplicate that you want to be born in a family which is positive, where you will have lots of opportunity to be a good human being, and that you will [be born into a] family not too rich, not too poor, kind of well off, and [one with a] positive [atmosphere] (i.e., both parents are happy with each other, they're positive), and that you will be able to learn and develop positively. That would be ideal. You see? [And then you might want to supplicate that] the place where you will be born be not too cold, not too hot - [so you supplicate sincerely for whatever is] positive, whatever is your ideal. Of course, if you can pray for that, that would be wonderful, and the best would be if you can really have the awareness to choose the parents of your conception. That would be the best, but these are only possibilities; it will not be as simple as I speak here.
So this is the last part of the bardo, and then after that we will be conceived. But if we don't have the awareness, then our conceiving will be very natural, and very simple, because all of this total exposure to everything else is frightening. And therefore, you're always looking for some way to hide, you're always looking for some kind of refuge. If we are being chased by 10,000 lions, then we will look for any place to hide, if we can find one. So, in the same way, in the bardo, since we have so much exposure to everything else, then [we are constantly] looking for a place. So then we find a kind of shadow, a nice place to hide; and when you find that place to hide, that becomes your next rebirth. So that is the natural way in the bardo, if you're not aware. But if you have the awareness, then you can choose with your aspiration, with your prayer; and then some people with their kind of greater realisation can even choose intentionally and technically [where and to whom] to be conceived. That is a possibility. So this is the third, the last stage of bardo. I share this with you at the request [of the lama and the dharma centre], and I definitely hope that you will be able to get some benefit out of this conversation, this teaching. I hope for that.
One last thing that I want to say is that no matter how much we know about bardo, or no matter how little we know about bardo, whatever karma we have accumulated, whether it is positive or negative, that will [determine what will] happen to us. [We don't have to worry that just] because we don't know [all the details and ins and outs of] the bardo, because we don't realise [what's happening], that, therefore, something wrong will happen to us. We don't have to worry about that. There will be no accidental misfortunate rebirth. There will be no accidental lucky enlightenment. That will never happen. Enlightenment will not happen [just because of] good luck; and being reborn in the lower realms will not happen [simply] out of bad luck. This will not happen, so about that [eventuality] you don't have to worry. [The purpose of our practice] is realisation. Through the realisation which you develop through your practice, the negative karmas [you have accumulated] you can transcend. If we were to have to attain enlightenment by working out every negative karma that we have accumulated, one by one (as you say in your terminology, "an eye for an eye"), there would be no way [that anyone would ever get enlightened]. Enlightenment would never happen, because while we would be purifying our [past] karma, we would be accumulating ten times more karma. You see? So if that were [the set-up], then it would be impossible.
But because none of those karmas are ultimately bad karma, because ultimately negativity doesn't exist [lacks permanent, substantial, singular existence, independent of causes and conditions that give rise to it], then if we realise [this directly and experientially in our practice], and if we have realisation of our mind's true nature, then all the karma that we have accumulated will be transcended. Enlightenment is only possible through inner liberation, not by "working out" [the details of our karma]; for example, say we have stolen one penny from somebody, so we [imagine that we] have to give one penny to them; okay, now my job is done. Okay, now that record is straight. If we broke somebody's tooth in our past life, and now we say, "Okay, please break my tooth;" it doesn't work like that. One has to attain the inner realisation that will transcend. There is an example. If this room is dark and [has had] no light for 10,000 years, will it take 10,000 years to light this room up? It will not. A light shines in this room; and even if there have been 10,000,000 years of darkness, the darkness will be lit in a moment. So, in the same way, enlightenment, the realisation of your mind's true nature transcends everything. And that happens because negativity is not ultimate.
There is also another [line of] reasoning that demonstrates why we can overcome negativity, because it is not ultimate. If negativity were ultimate, then there would be even negative realisation. There would be Buddha on one side, who would be the positive enlightenment, and there would be something else [on the other side] that would be the negative enlightenment. And both would be equal and fighting with each other. But that is not the case. The ultimate is perfect, the ultimate is limitless, and all the limitations and negativities are relative [i.e., they depend up causes and conditions for their existence]. Therefore, enlightenment is only possible through inner realisation.
So, the thought that I'd like to share with you is that you all do your best to try to develop your inner liberation by doing practices that you receive from profound, pure lineages - not just [practices] made up by somebody - lineages that come from Buddha, that come from Guru Rinpoche, that come from master to disciple. There are many ways by which lineages come; there is not just one way. There are many ways. But it has to be a pure lineage that you follow. At the same time, also try to be kind to yourself, to others, and try to avoid doing wrong things. You should have some kind of practice that you do, if possible, every day; if not, then periodically. And above all, the most important thing is to have full confidence in the Buddha inside you. Your mind is Buddha. We Tibetan Buddhists, and Buddhists all over the world, try to build beautiful shrines for Buddha. Why do we put gold up there? Why do we put diamonds up there? Because they are the most valuable things to us. But nothing can substitute for and nothing can be equal to the Buddha that we have inside. So we [must] believe in it; that is our confidence, that is our hope, that is our potential. So [we must] always have respect for, appreciation of, and faith in, our ultimate potential, and then [we must] do our best to uphold and cherish this ultimate potential of ours. If we do this, I think then this human life will be very meaningful, and our bardo definitely will be a beneficial and positive one.
Sometimes, when we talk about bardo, some people get frightened, and that is unnecessary, because you are here; you went through bardo already, in your past life. You're quite okay. So you will be okay in the future, too. Because you're a Buddhist; because of that, this life's bardo will not be terrible. Before you didn't know, so okay; and now you know, it will be terrible? No! You see? We have gone through the bardo countless times. So we're okay, so we will be okay. All right?
So now we will make a short, simple dedication.
Universal Gateway of
Observer of the World's Sounds (Avalokiteshvara) Bodhisattva
Chapter 25, Lotus Sutra
(Translation by Bhikshu Dharmamitra from the Chinese of Kumarajiva)
At that time, Endless Intention Bodhisattva arose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, placed his palms together as he faced the Buddha and spoke these words, "World Honored One, on account of what causes and conditions is Observer of the World's Sounds (Avalokiteshvara) Bodhisattva referred to as 'Observer of the World's Sounds'?"
The Buddha told Endless Intention Bodhisattva, "Good Son, If there were an incalculable number of hundreds of thousands of ten-thousands of millions of beings who were undergoing all manner of suffering and affliction, and if, having heard of this Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, they single-mindedly uttered the name, then Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva would immediately observe the sound of their voices and they would all succeed in gaining liberation.
"If there are those who uphold the name of this Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, even if they were to enter a conflagration, that fire would be unable to burn them. This is on account of the awesome spiritual power of this bodhisattva.
"If they were swept away by a great flood, if they uttered his name, then they would immediately find a shallow place.
"If there were hundreds of thousands of ten-thousands of millions of beings who went to sea in order to seek gold, silver, vaidurya, mother-of-pearl, agate, coral, amber, pearls and other such jewels, and if there then arose a black wind which blew over their ships so that they capsized and descended into the region of the raak.sasa ghosts, if there was even just one person among them who uttered the name of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, all of these people would succeed in escaping the calamity of the raak.sasas. It is on account of these causes and conditions that he is named 'Observer of the World's Sounds.'"
"If there were also people who were approaching a situation where they were about to be set upon and injured, if they uttered the name of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, the knives and clubs wielded [by the attackers] would break into pieces and they would succeed in escaping.
"If all of the countries of the great trichiliocosm were filled with yak.sas and raak.sasas intent on afflicting people, upon hearing their utterance of the name of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, none of these evil ghosts would even be able to cast an evil eye on them, how much the less would they be able to inflict harm.
"If there were people, whether guilty of offenses or innocent of offenses, who were subjected to manacles, leg-irons, the cangue, or chains which confined or restrained their bodies, if they uttered the name of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, then [the restraints] would be broken and they would gain their freedom.
"It may be that the lands of the great trichiliocosm are full of hostile thieves and there is a leader of traders guiding merchants with a cargo of precious jewels down a dangerous road. It may be that someone calls out, 'Good men, don't be afraid. You should single-mindedly call out the name of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva is able to bestow fearlessness on beings. If you all utter the name then you should be able to escape from these hostile thieves.' If when the group of merchants hear this they then all raise their voices, proclaiming, 'Namo Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva,' on account of uttering his name they will immediately succeed in escaping.
"Endless Intention. The awesome spiritual power of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, Mahasattva is so lofty and mighty as to be like this.
"If there are beings who are afflicted with much sexual desire, if they are constantly mindful of and respectful towards Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, they will then succeed in transcending desire. If they are afflicted with much anger, if they are constantly mindful of and respectful towards Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, they will then succeed in transcending hatred. If they are afflicted with much stupidity, if they are constantly mindful of and respectful towards Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, they will then succeed in transcending stupidity.
"Endless Intention. Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva possesses great and awesome spiritual power such as this which is beneficial in many ways. Therefore beings should constantly remain mindful of him.
"If there is a woman who seeks to give birth to a son, she should make reverence and offerings to Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva. She will then give birth to a son endowed with blessings, virtue and wisdom. If she wishes to give birth to a daughter, she shall give birth to a daughter who is well-formed and possessed of the proper features. She will have planted the roots of virtue in the past and so will be loved and respected by many people.
"Endless Intention. Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva possesses power such as this. If there are beings who respectfully make reverence to Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, their blessings will not be wasted. Therefore beings should all uphold the name of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva.
"Endless Intention. If there were a person who upheld the names of bodhisattvas equal in number to the sands in sixty-two ko.tis of Ganges' Rivers and to the end of life made offerings of food and drink, clothing, bedding and medicines, what do you think? Would the merit of this good man or woman be immense, or not?"
Endless Intention replied, "It would be extremely immense, World Honored One."
The Buddha said, "If there was yet another person who even one time upheld the name of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva while also making reverence and presenting offerings, the blessings of these two people would be exactly the same. There would be no difference. It could not be exhausted in even hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of kalpas.
"Endless Intention. One who upholds the name of Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva gains the benefit of an incalculable and boundless measure of meritorious qualities such as this.
Endless Intention Bodhisattva addressed the Buddha, saying, "World Honored One. Why does Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva roam about in this Sahaa World? Why does he speak Dharma for beings? And what is the extent of the power of his skillful means?"
The Buddha declared to Endless Intention Bodhisattva, "Good Man, If there are beings in a country who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a buddha, then Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva manifests the body of a buddha and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a pratyekabuddha, he then manifests the body of a pratyekabuddha and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a Hearer, he then manifests the body of a Hearer and speaks Dharma for their sakes.
"If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a Brahma Heaven King, he then manifests the body of a Brahma Heaven King and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of an Indra God, he then manifests the body of an Indra god and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of an Isvara Heaven god, he then manifests the body of an Isvara Heaven god and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a Great Isvara Heaven god, he then manifests the body of a great Isvara Heaven god and speaks Dharma for their sakes.
"If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the body of a great heavenly general, he then manifests the person of a great heavenly general and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a Vaishrava.na, he then manifests the body of a Vaishrava.na and speaks Dharma for their sakes.
"If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a lesser king, he then manifests the body of a lesser king and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain liberation assisted by the person of an elder, he then manifests the body of an elder and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a community leader, he then manifests the body of a leader of the community and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a government official, he then manifests the body of a government official and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a brahman, he then manifests the body of a brahman and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a bhikshu, bhikshuni, upaasaka or upaasikaa, he then manifests the body of a bhikshu, bhikshuni, upaasaka or upaasikaa and speaks Dharma for their sakes.
"If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of the wife or daughter of an elder, community leader, government official, or brahman, he then manifests the body of such a wife or daughter and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation through the person of a boy or a girl, he then manifests the body of a boy or a girl and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the presence of a heavenly dragon, a yak.sa, a gandharva, an asura, a garu.da, a kinnara, a mahoraga, a human, a non-human, or some other, he then manifests the form of any one of them and speaks Dharma for their sakes. If there are those who ought to gain the crossing over to liberation assisted by the person of a vajra-holding spirit, he then manifests the body of a vajra-holding spirit and speaks Dharma for their sakes.
"Endless Intention. This Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva has perfected meritorious qualities such as these whereby he employs all different sorts of forms and wanders to every region crossing beings over to liberation. Therefore, you should all single-mindedly make offerings to Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva. In the midst of fear and urgent difficulty, this Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, Mahasattva is able to bestow fearlessness. Hence everyone in this Sahaa World calls him 'The Bestower of Fearlessness.'"
Endless Intention Bodhisattva addressed the Buddha, saying, "World Honored One. It is fitting that I now make an offering to Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva." He then took from his neck a necklace of many precious pearls worth a hundred thousand taels of gold and then gave it to him, saying, "Pray, Humane One, accept this necklace of precious jewels as a Dharma gift."
At that time, Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva declined to accept it. Endless Intention again addressed Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, saying, "Pray, out of pity for us, please accept this necklace."
At that time the Buddha told Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva, "It is fitting that you accept this necklace out of pity for this Endless Intention Bodhisattva as well as for the four-fold assembly with its gods, dragons, yak.sas, gandharvas, asuras, garu.das, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, non-humans and others."
Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva immediately took pity on everyone in the four-fold assembly as well as the gods, dragons, yak.sas, gandharvas, asuras, garu.das, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, non-humans and others and so accepted his necklace, divided it into two parts, and then presented one part to Shakyamuni Buddha and presented the other part to the stupa of Multitude of Jewels Buddha.
"Endless Intention. Observer of the World's Sounds Bodhisattva possesses sovereignly independent spiritual powers such as this whereby he roams throughout the Sahaa World."
At that time, Endless Intention Bodhisattva inquired in verse, saying:
World Honored One of wondrous marks
About him now I ask again:
What reasons is this son of Buddha
Named 'Observer of the World's Sounds'?"
The Honored One of wondrous marks
replied in verse to Endless Intention:
"Now hear of the conduct of Observer of Sounds.
In skillful response he goes forth to all regions.
His vastness in vows is as deep as the ocean.
It goes on through kalpas past thought and description.
He's served many thousands of ko.tis of buddhas.
And has brought forth great vows which in nature are pure.
In brief I'll now tell you these things for your sake.
The hearer of the name and the seer of the person
And the bearer in mind have not done so in vain
For they're able to demolish all sufferings of existence.
If someone who's acting on harmful intentions
Then pushes one down in a pit of great fire,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds:
So that fire then will change and become just a pond.
If one's churning and flowing upon the great ocean,
Where one's troubled by dragons and fishes and ghosts,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
Thus that heaving of waves cannot cause one to sink.
If one's high on the ridges of Sumeru Mountain,
And is pushed off by someone and thence made to fall,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
So that just like the sun in the sky one may stand.
If one's chased forth by someone who by nature is evil,
And thus one then falls off the Mountain of Vajra,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
So he won't then be able to injure one hair.
If one meets with encirclement by hostile invaders,
And each holds a knife and then threatens to harm one,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
They'll all then bring forth thoughts imbued with compassion.
If one meets with the sufferings from troubles with sovereigns
So that drawing close to punishment one's life will soon end,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
Thus those knives then will shatter by falling to pieces.
If one's hauled off to prison wearing chains and the cangue,
Whilst the hands are in manacles and the feet are in fetters,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
As if fallen away, one then gains freedom from them.
Hit by mantras and curses and poisonous potions
From someone intending to injure one's body,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
They'll turn back and then cling to the person they came from.
Perhaps one encounters a poisonous raak.sasa
Or else toxic dragons, many ghosts, or yet others,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
Just in time, none will dare to bring forth any harm.
If malevolent creatures come forth and surround one
And bare their sharp teeth and sharp claws which are frightful,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
They'll then quickly run off to the unbounded regions.
If meeting with serpents and vipers and scorpions,
Whose poison from breath spews like smoke and like fire,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
So that following the voice they'll return whence they came.
When thunder from clouds drums and lightning is striking,
When hail is descending and rain falls in torrents,
Then be mindful of the power of that Observer of Sounds,
As a response to the moment, they'll melt off and scatter.
When beings are set on by troubles and misery
And incalculable suffering then threatens their bodies,
The power of Observer of Sound's wondrous wisdom
Is able to rescue from worldly sufferings.
Replete with the power of all superknowledges
While vast in the practice of wisdom and means,
In all of the lands of the ten-fold directions,
There's not one k.setra his body won't appear in.
In all of the different pathways so woeful,
Among hells, among ghosts, among animals also,
The anguish of birth, aging, sickness and dying,
Is made by these methods to gradually be extinguished.
With the true contemplation, the pure contemplation,
The vast and great wisdom-suffused contemplation,
With compassion contemplation and kindness contemplation,
He's constant in vows and eternally watchful.
With pure light that is free of the slightest defilement,
The sun of his wisdom breaks through all the darkness.
He ably constrains wind and fire disasters,
And with universal brilliance illumines the worlds.
With compassionate embodiment, thundrous quaking of precepts,
And the wondrous great cloud of his kindly intention,
He pours down sweet dew as a rainfall of Dharma
And puts out the flames from the fire of afflictions.
In disputes and lawsuits, through government places,
Amidst all the terrors of army's formations,
Just be mindful of the power of Observer of Sounds.
So hostilities then will abate and then scatter.
That wondrous sound of: "Observer of World's Sounds"
[Compared to] the brahman sound or to the sea-tide sound,
Is superior to all of those sounds of the world.
So thence one should constantly bring it to mind.
In thought after thought, don't bring forth any doubting
In Observer of World's Sounds purity and sagehood.
In afflictions from suffering and misery of dying,
He's able to serve one through acts of support.
He's perfect in all of the merits and qualities.
His loving kind eyes gaze upon all the beings.
His sea of gathered blessings goes beyond any measure.
And hence one should move thence to offer him reverence.
At that time Keeper of the Earth Bodhisattva arose from his seat and addressed the Buddha from in front, saying, "World Honored One. If there are beings who have listened to the sovereignly independent karmic actions described in this chapter and to the [description of] spiritual powers manifest by this universal gateway, one should understand that the merit gained by these people is not insignificant."
When the Buddha spoke this Universal Gateway Chapter, eighty-four thousand beings in the assembly all brought forth the mind intent on realizing the unequaled anuttara-samyak-sa.mbodhi.
(Translated May 29-31, 1998 in commemoration of the third anniversary of Master Hsuan Hua's passing.)
wishing prayer of Dewachen,
the pure realm of great bliss
composed by the learned and accomplished Raga Asye
Om Ami Deva Hri!
This is the treasury of the heart practice of [Karma] Chagme [Rinpoche]. Considering how great the benefit would be for many beings, I make the effort to write, although my hand is sick. In the case that someone wishes to copy (study and practise) this text and does not have it himself, please lend it to him. Nothing has greater benefit. There is no Dharma teaching more profound than this. It is the root of all Dharma. Do not fall into indifference, but take up its practice diligently. Since this text belongs to the sutra tradition you may recite it without receiving a ritual reading transmission (lung).
E ma Ho! From here, in the direction of the setting sun, beyond a multitude of innumerable worlds, slightly elevated, is the land of the noble beings, the perfectly pure realm of Dewachen. Although Dewachen is not visible to our water bubble like eyes, it can clearly appear to our mind.
There resides the Subduer and Victorious One Measureless Light who is of ruby red colour and blazing radiance. He is adorned with the top knot on his head, the wheels on his feet, and so on, the 32 signs of perfection and the 80 minor marks. He has a single face, two arms, in the mudra of equanimity, holding an alms bowl. He wears the three Dharma robes.
In crossed posture, he is seated on an lotus of a thousand petals with a moon disc from which rises a bodhi tree that serves as a back rest. From far away, he looks at me with his eyes of compassion.
On his right is the Bodhisattva "Eyes of Compassionate Wisdom" (Avalokiteshvara), of white colour, holding in his left hand a white lotus; and on his left is the Bodhisattva of Great Power (Vajrapani), of blue colour, holding in his left hand a lotus marked with a vajra. Both of them extend their right hands towards us in the refuge bestowing mudra.
These three main deities appear like Mount Meru, the king of mountains. Radiant, pouring forth splendour and illuminating, they dwell accompanied by their retinue of a trillion gelong bodhisattvas, all of them also of golden colour, adorned with the marks and signs, dressed in the three Dharma robes, of great resplendence.
With a devotion that does not make any difference between near and far, I prostrate full of respect with my three doors.
The Dharmakaya Limitless Radiance, Lord of the Buddha family, emanates from his right hand light rays that become Chenrezi, one billion secondary emanations of the mighty Chenrezi . From his left hand he emanates light rays that become Tara with one billion secondary emanations of Tara. From his heart light rays go out manifesting Padmasambhava together with one billion secondary emanations of Orgyen. I prostrate to Dharmakaya Measureless Light.
With the eyes of a Buddha, during all six periods of the day and night he constantly regards with love all sentient beings. His enlightened mind is constantly aware of whatever thoughts or ideas arise in the mind of all sentient beings. His enlightened ear constantly hears distinctly, without confusion, whatever words are spoken by all sentient beings. I prostrate to the all-knowing Measureless Light.
Except for those who have rejected the Dharma, or accomplished the deeds of immediate retribution, all who have faith in You and make their wishing prayers will be born in Dewachen and their prayers will be fulfilled. It is said that in the bardo, he will come and will guide us into this land. I prostrate to the guide Measureless Light.
Your life span lasting for countless kalpas you stay here and do not go beyond suffering. If we pray to you with one pointed respect, it is said that - except for the complete ripening of karma - the end of our life force will happen only after one hundred years and the various kinds of untimely death will be averted. I prostrate to protector Amitayus.
It is said that it is of greater merit to join the palms out of faith on hearing the name of Amitabha and about Dewachen than to fill countless three thousandfold universes of vast extent with jewels and to offer them as gifts. For this reason I respectfully prostate to Measureless Light.
Whosoever hears the name of Amitabha and develops just once a faith, which comes from the depth of his heart and bones and is not empty talk, will never loose the path to enlightenment. I prostrate to the protector Measureless Light.
From the time of hearing the name of Buddha Measureless Light until obtaining Buddhahood I will not be born in an inferior body, but take birth in a good family and have a pure conduct in all lives to come. I prostrate to Measureless Light gone to bliss.
My body and all my possessions, together with my roots of virtue, whatever offerings that are actually present or emanated by mind including the auspicious substances, the eight auspicious signs, the seven precious items whatever offerings exist since all times: billions of three thousandfold universes with their four continents, the central mountain, the sun and the moon together with all the wealth of gods, nagas and humans - I take them up in my mind and offer them to Amitabha. By the force of your compassion, accept this for my own benefit.
I lay open and confess all the non-virtuous deeds which have been committed from beginningless time until now by myself and by all sentient beings headed by my father and mother.
I lay open and confess the three unwholesome acts of the body: killing, taking what is not given, and impure conduct. I lay open and confess the four unwholesome acts of the speech: lying, slandering, rough speech, and gossip. I lay open and confess the three unwholesome acts of mind: covetousness, malice, and wrong views.
I lay open and confess the five deeds of immediate retribution which we accumulated: killing our father, our mother, our teacher, or an arhat, and intending to cause harm to the body of a Victorious One.
I lay open and confess the evil deeds similar to the deeds of immediate retribution: killing a gelong or a getsul, making a nun fall , destroying a statue, stupa or temple, and so on.
I lay open and confess the evil acts of abandoning the Dharma, like abandoning the three supports etc., the Jewels, the temple, and the supreme Speech.
I lay open and confess all these accumulated very negative, useless actions like abusing bodhisattvas which is of greater evil than to kill the sentient beings of the three realms.
Compared to the five crimes of immediate retribution it is more negative not to believe in the benefits of virtuous deeds and the difficulties resulting from non-virtue and to think that this is not true and simply a pedagogical device, and this although we received explanations on the duration and extent of suffering in the hell realms, and so on. I lay open and confess this negative karma that makes liberation impossible.
I lay open and confess all breakage and damages of the discipline of individual liberation including the five categories of faults: the four root downfalls, the thirteen with a remainder, the transgressions , the downfalls, the individually confessed damages, and the faults.
I lay open and confess all the transgressions concerning the bodhisattva training: the four negative actions, the five, five and eight downfalls.
I lay open and confess the samaya damages of the secret mantra: the 14 root downfalls and the transgressions of the eight secondary vows.
I lay open and confess all harmful deeds which I did not understand to be harmful: the non-virtuous deeds that I have committed due to not requesting vows and all evil deeds of which I was not aware of as actually being harmful, like impure conduct (sexual activity), drinking alcohol, and so on. I lay open and confess the serious transgressions and downfalls due to receiving refuge vows, initiations and so on, but not knowing to keep the respective vows and commitments.
Since a confession will not purify if there is no regret, I confess with great remorse, with shame, and with despair at my previous harmful deeds, as if poison had attained the depth of my being.
Since there will be no purification if I am not keeping to my vows from now on, I promise in my mind, from today onwards, never to commit non-virtuous activity even at the cost of my life.
Please, Sugata Measureless Light and your heirs, grant your blessing so that my stream of being may be completely purified.
When I hear about others who have accomplished wholesome acts, I abandon all unwholesome thoughts of jealousy and rejoice in their deeds with heartfelt joy, which is said to make us obtain a merit equal to theirs.
For this reason, I rejoice in whatever virtuous deeds are accomplished by realised and ordinary beings.
I also rejoice in the vast activity accomplished for the benefit of beings due to developing the mind of supreme unsurpassable enlightenment.
I rejoice in giving up the ten unwholesome and performing the ten wholesome acts: to protect the life of others, to give offerings, and to keep one's vows; to speak the truth, to reconcile adversaries, to speak peacefully, gently and sincerely, and to engage in conversations which are meaningful; to have little desire, to cultivate love and compassion and to practise the Dharma - in all these virtuous acts I rejoice.
I exhort all those perfect Buddhas who dwell in all the myriad worlds of the ten directions to quickly and extensively turn the wheel of Dharma without waiting any longer. Please be aware of this request with your clairvoyant mind.
I supplicate all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, holders of the teaching, and spiritual friends who intend to go beyond suffering to remain and not pass into nirvana.
As it was shown, I dedicate all my virtuous acts of the three times for the benefit of all sentient beings.
May all of us quickly obtain unsurpassable enlightenment and stir the three realms of samsara from their depth.
May these virtuous deeds quickly ripen for me and pacify the eighteen causes of untimely death in this life .
May I be endowed with the physical strength of a healthy adolescent in full bloom.
May my material wealth never decline, but increase as the river Ganges in the monsoon.
May I practise the noble Dharma without danger through demons or enemies.
May all my wishes be fulfilled in accordance with the Dharma.
May I be of great benefit for the teaching and for beings.
May I accomplish the true meaning of this human existence.
At the very moment when I and all those who have a connection with me pass beyond this life, may the emanation of Buddha Amitabha surrounded by his retinue of a sangha of monks actually come to meet us.
On seeing him, may our mind be happy and joyful, and may there be no more suffering of death.
May by the force of their miraculous powers the eight bodhisattva brothers appear in the sky and guide us indicating the path to Dewachen.
The suffering in the lower realms is unbearable, and the joy and well-being of gods and humans is impermanent - understanding this, may I develop a fearful mind and develop disgust with samsara that had to be endured from beginningless time until now.
Even those who go from one supreme human life to another experience countless times birth, old age, illness and death. In these difficult, degenerate times when there are many obstacles and the well-being and happiness of humans and gods are similar to food mixed with poison, may I have not even a hair tip of attachment.
May I be free of even the slightest attachment to relatives, food, wealth and companions, which are impermanent and illusory like a dream.
May I understand the countries, places and lodgings to have no real existence just like the places and houses in my dreams.
Like a criminal liberated from prison, may I - without ever looking back - escape from this ocean of samsara that knows no freedom to the pure realm of Dewachen.
Having cut all links of attachment and desire, may I fly off in space just like a vulture freed from a net and instantly reach Dewachen travelling beyond the countless universes in the Western direction.
May I see the face of Buddha Measureless Light who is actually dwelling there and purify all my veils.
May I take the superior of the four kinds of birth and be miraculously born from the heart of a lotus flower.
Obtaining in one instant the complete perfect body, may I receive a body endowed with all the marks and the signs.
If I doubt and hesitate to be born there, the blossom of the flower will not open for 500 years, but inside of it I will be happy and content with all enjoyments. Even though I will hear the word of the Buddha, may this fault of delayed meeting with the Buddha's face not happen to me.
May the flower open as soon as I am born so that I may see the face of Amitabha.
By the force of my merit and magical powers, may inconceivable clouds of offerings emanate from the palms of my hands as offerings to the Buddha and his retinue.
May at that moment the tathagata stretch out his right hand, place it on my head, and may I obtain his prophecy of enlightenment
Having listened to the Dharma, which is profound and vast, may my mind ripen and be liberated.
Chenrezi and Vajrapani being the principal bodhisattvas , may I be blessed and guided by these two.
Almost every day countless Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions come to make offerings and see Amitabha in this land. At that time, may I pay homage to all of them and obtain the nectar of the Dharma.
Through my limitless magical powers, may I go in the morning towards the realm of True Happiness , to the Glorious Land, to [the lands] Supreme Activity and Dense Array. May I request initiations, blessings and vows of the Buddhas Akshobya, Ratnasambhava, Amoghasiddhi, Vairocana etc., make many offerings, and in the evening without any effort return to Dewachen itself.
There are a billion realms of pure emanations - such as the lands of Potala, Alakavati, Kurava, and the land of Urgyen - with a billion Chenrezi, Tara, Vajrapani, and Padmasambhava. May I encounter them and make oceans of offerings, request initiations and profound pith instructions, and quickly return without any obstacle to my place in Dewachen.
May I clearly see with my divine eye all the close friends, monks and students and so on, and may I be able to guard and protect them, bestow blessings and at the time of their death guide them to this land.
This "Fortunate Aeon" that lasts for one aeon equals only a single day in Dewachen - may I live countless Dewachen aeons without ever dying and continuously remain in this land.
From Maitreya to Möpa, the final one, may I see all the Buddhas of the Fortunate Aeon when they appear in this world.
With my magical powers, may I go to meet these Buddhas, make offerings to them and listen to the noble Dharma, and then again, without any obstacles, return to the pure land of Dewachen.
Dewachen unites the totality of all qualities of the Buddha realms of eighty one billion trillion Buddhas. May I be reborn in this land of Dewachen, outstandingly supreme among all pure lands.
The ground which is made of jewels is as smooth as the palm of a hand and vast, spacious and radiant - blazing with light rays. When it is pressed down, it gives way, and on lifting up, it rebounds. May I be reborn in this joyful, pleasant land of happiness.
There are wish fulfilling trees made of many jewels with leaves of fine silk and fruits ornamented with jewels. On them gather flocks of emanation birds, which chant in very agreeable ways proclaiming the sounds of the profound and vast Dharma - may I be reborn in this land of great wonders.
The many rivers are of perfumed water with the eight qualities and the water in the bathing ponds is of nectar. They are surrounded by stairs and cornices made of the seven kinds of jewels and display fragrant lotus flowers bearing fruit and emanating countless rays of lotus light. The tips of the light rays are adorned with emanated Buddhas - may I be reborn in this land of greatest marvel.
May I be born in this Land of Great Joy, where even the words "eight unfitting conditions" or "hell" are unheard of - and where never any suffering is known, neither are the five or three emotions that are like poisons, nor sickness, mental illness, enemies, poverty, quarrels, and so on.
May I be born in this land of limitless qualities where there are no men or women, no beings born from a womb, since all are noble beings born from within lotus flowers. Here all bodies are without any difference, of golden colour, endowed with the marks and signs, like the topknot on their head, and so on, possessing all five special powers and the five eyes.
Whatever I desire and think of, palaces made of a variety of jewels and all enjoyments arise by themselves; no effort is necessary, all needs are spontaneously fulfilled. There is no distinction between you and me, no clinging to a self. All my wishes manifest as offering clouds arising from the palm of my hand, and everyone practises the Dharma of the unsurpassable Great Vehicle - may I be born in this realm, source of all bliss and happiness.
A fragrant breeze brings great showers of flowers, and from the trees, rivers and lotus flowers arise heaps of clouds with all sorts of enjoyments: agreeable shapes, sounds, smells, tastes and touches. There are no women, but an abundance of emanated goddesses. These many offering goddesses continuously present offerings.
At the time when I wish to rest, jewel palaces appear, and when I wish to sleep, beautiful thrones arise, covered with many pillows and cushions of fine silk, together with birds, wish fulfilling trees, rivers, music, and so on. When I wish to listen to them, they emanate the pleasant sound of Dharma, and when I do not want, no sound is heard. Also the ponds and rivers are exactly as I wish, cold or warm, just as it is pleasing to me - may I be born in this land where all wishes are fulfilled.
The perfect Buddha Measureless Light will remain in this land for countless aeons, without going into Nirvana - may I act as his servant for all this time.
Until his passing into peace after two times the number of aeons as there are sand particles in the Ganges, his teaching will remain At that time may I not be separated from his regent Chenrezi and uphold the noble Dharma.
When at dusk the sun of the Dharma is setting, the very next morning Chenrezi will be a perfect Buddha. He will be the "King whose light rays manifest the accumulated Splendour of all Noble Ones". When this happens, may I see his face, make offerings and listen to the noble Dharma.
During the sixty-six trillion million aeons that he will live, may I continuously be his servant, worship him, and uphold the noble Dharma without ever forgetting to remember his words. After he has passed into nirvana, his teaching will remain for three times six hundred billion million aeons - may I uphold the Dharma during all this time and never be separated from Vajrapani.
When Vajrapani becomes the Buddha "Completely reliable Tathagata King of abundant jewel-like qualities" with a life span and teaching just as those of Chenrezi, may we continuously be the servants of this Buddha as well, present our offerings and uphold all the noble Dharma.
When my life is over, may I instantly obtain unsurpassable perfect Buddhahood in this or one of the other pure realms.
Having obtained perfect Buddhahood, may all beings - just as with Amitayus - be ripened and liberated by simply hearing my name, and may there arise, through countless emanations that guide sentient beings and through other means, spontaneously and without effort a limitless benefit for beings.
The Buddha's life span, his merit, his qualities, and his pristine awareness, as well as his splendour are beyond measure, and it is said that someone who remembers Your name - be it Dharmakaya Limitless Radiance, Measureless Light (Amitabha) or Bhagavan of Immeasurable Life and Primordial Wisdom (Amitayus) - will be protected against all dangers through fire, water, poisons, weapons, evil doers, demons, and so on, with the only exception of the full ripening of previous karma. By remembering Your name and prostrating, please protect us from all dangers and sufferings and grant your blessing of excellent auspiciousness.
Through the blessing of having mastered the three bodies of the Buddha, through the blessing of the truth of unchanging Dharmata, and through the blessing of the undivided aspiration of the sangha, may all my prayers be accomplished just as it is wished.
I prostrate to the Three Jewels. Teyatha Pentsan Driya Awa Bhodhanaye Soha.
I prostrate to the three jewels. Namo Manjushriye. Namo Sushriye. Namo Utama Shriye Soha.
translated by Lama Lhundrup,
Karmapa Translation Committee,
Kündröl Ling, May 2001