Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Trungpa, Chogyam; Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism; Shambhala Publications, Inc.; Boston, Massachusetts; 1973.

Introduction The following series of talks was given in Boulder, Colorado in the fall of 1970 and the spring of 1971. At that time we were just forming Karma Dzong, our meditation center in Boulder. Although most of my students were sincere in their aspiration to walk on the spiritual path, they brought to it a great deal of confusion, misunderstanding and expectation. Therefore, I found it necessary to present to my students an overview of the path and some warnings as to the dangers along that path. It now seems that publishing these talks may be helpful to those who have become interested in spiritual disciplines.

Walking the spiritual path properly is a very subtle process; it is not something to jump into naively. there are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. This fundamental distortion may be referred to as spiritual materialism. These talks first discuss the various ways in which people involve themselves with spiritual materialism, the many forms of self-deception into which aspirants may fall. After this tour of the sidetracks along the way, we discuss the broad outlines of the true spiritual path. The approach presented here is a classical Buddhist one - not in a formal sense, but in the sense of presenting the heart of the Buddhist approach to spirituality. Although the Buddhist way is not theistic it does not contradict the theistic disciplines. Rather the differences between the ways are a matter of emphasis and method. The basic problems of spiritual materialism are common to all spiritual disciplines. The Buddhist approach begins with our confusion and suffering and works toward the unraveling of their origin. The theistic approach begins with the richness of God and works toward raising consciousness so as to experience God's presence. But since the obstacles to relating with God are our confusions and negativities, the theistic approach must also deal with them. Spiritual pride, for example, is as much a problem in the theistic disciplines as in Buddhism. According to the Buddhist tradition, the spiritual path is the process of cutting through our confusion, of uncovering the awakened state of mind. When the awakened state of mind is crowded in by ego and its attendant paranoia, it takes on the character of an underlying instinct. So it is not a matter of building up the awakened state of mind, but rather of burning out the confusions which obstruct it. In the process of burning out these confusions, we discover enlightenment. If the process were otherwise, the awakened state of mind would be a product, dependent upon cause and effect and therefore liable to dissolution. Anything which is created must, sooner or later, die. If enlightenment were created in such a way, there would always be the possibility of ego reasserting itself, causing a return to the confused state. Enlightenment is permanent because we have not produced it; we have merely discovered it. In the Buddhist tradition the analogy of the sun appearing from behind the clouds is often used to explain the discovery of enlightenment. In the meditation practice we clear away the confusion of ego in order to glimpse the awakened state. The absence of ignorance, of being crowded in, of paranoia, opens up a tremendous view of life. One discovers a different way of being. The heart of the confusion is that man has a sense of self which seems to him to be continuous and solid. When a though or emotion or even occurs, there is a sense of someone being conscious of what is happening. You sense that you are reading these words. This sense of self is actually a transitory, discontinuous event, which in our confusion seems to be quite solid and continuous. Since we take our confused view as being real, we struggle to maintain and enhance this solid self. We try to feed it pleasures and shield it from pain. Experience continually threatens to reveal our transitoriness to us, so we continually struggle to cover up any possibility of discovering our real condition. "But," we might ask, "if our real condition is an awakened state, why are we so busy trying to avoid becoming aware of it?" It is because we have become so absorbed in our confused view of the world, that we consider it real, the only possible world. This struggle to maintain the sense of a solid, continuous self is the action of ego. Ego, however, is only partially successful in shielding us from pain. It is the dissatisfaction which accompanies ego's struggle that inspires us to examine what we are doing. Since there are always gaps in our self-consciousness, some insight is possible. An interesting metaphor used in Tibetan Buddhism to describe the functioning of ego is that of the "Three Lords of Materialism": the "Lord of Form," the "Lord of Speech," and the "Lord of Mind." In the discussion of the Three Lords which follows, the words "materialism" and "neurotic" refer to the action of ego. The Lord of Form refers to the neurotic pursuit of physical comfort, security and pleasure. Our highly organized and technological society reflects our preoccupation with manipulating physical surroundings so as to shield ourselves from the irritations of the raw, rugged, unpredictable aspects of life. Push-button elevators, pre-packaged meat, air conditioning, flush toilets, private funerals, retirement plans, mass, production, weather satellites, bulldozers, fluorescent lighting, nine-to-five jobs, television - all are attempts to create a manageable, safe, predictable, pleasurable world. The Lord of Form does not signify the physically rich and secure life-situations we create per se. Rather it refers to the neurotic preoccupation that drives us to create them, to try to control nature. It is ego's ambition to secure and entertain itself, trying to avoid all irritation. So we cling to our pleasures and possessions, we fear change or force change, we try to create a nest or playground. The Lord of Speech refers to the use of intellect in relating to our world. We adopt sets of categories which serve as handles, as ways of managing phenomena. The most fully developed products of this tendency are ideologies, the systems of ideas that rationalize, justify and sanctify our lives. Nationalism, communism, existentialism Christianity, Buddhism - all provide us with identities, rules of action, and interpretations of how and why things happen as they do. Again, the use of intellect is not in itself the Lord of Speech. The Lord of Speech refers to the inclination on the part of ego to interpret anything that is threatening or irritating in such a way as to neutralize the threat or turn it into something "positive" from the ego's point of view. The Lord of Speech refers to the use of concepts as filters to screen us from a direct perception of what is. The concepts are taken too seriously; they are used as tools to solidify our world and ourselves. If a world of nameable things exists, then "I" as one of the nameable things exists as well. We wish not to leave any room for threatening doubt, uncertainty or confusion. The Lord of Mind refers to the effort of consciousness to maintain awareness of itself. The Lord of Mind rules when we use spiritual and psychological disciplines as the means of maintaining our self-consciousness, of holding onto our sense of self. Drugs, yoga, prayer, meditation, trances, various psychotherapies - all can be used in this way. Ego is able to convert everything to its own use, even spirituality. For example, if you have learned of a particularly beneficial meditation technique of spiritual practice, then ego's attitude is, first to regard it as an object of fascination and, second to examine it. Finally, since ego is seeming solid and cannot really absorb anything, it can only mimic. Thus ego tries to examine and imitate the practice of meditation and the meditative way of life. When we have learned all the tricks and answers of the spiritual game, we automatically try to imitate spirituality, since real involvement would require the complete elimination of ego, and actually the last thing we want to do is to give up the ego completely. However, we cannot experience that which we are trying to imitate; we can only find some area within the bounds of ego that seems to be the same thing. Ego translates everything in terms of its own state of health, its own inherent qualities. It feels a sense of great accomplishment and excitement at have been able to create such a pattern. At last it has created a tangible accomplishment, a confirmation of its own individuality. If we become successful at maintaining our self-consciousness through spiritual techniques, then genuine spiritual development is highly unlikely. Our mental habits become so strong as to be hard to penetrate. We may even go so far as to achieve the totally demonic state of complete "Egohood." Even though the Lord of Mind is the most powerful in subverting spirituality, still the other two Lords can also rule the spiritual practice. Retreat to nature, isolation, simple, quiet, high people - all can be ways of shielding oneself from irritation, all can be expressions of the Lord of Form. Or perhaps religion may provide us with a rationalization for creating a secure nest, a simple but comfortable home, for acquiring an amiable mate, and a stable, easy job. The Lord of Speech is involved in spiritual practice as well. In following a spiritual path we may substitute a new religious ideology for our former beliefs, but continue to use it in the old neurotic way. Regardless of how sublime our ideas may be, if we take them too seriously and use them to maintain our ego, we are still being ruled by the Lord of Speech. Most of us, if we examine our actions, would probably agree that we are ruled by one or more of the Three Lords. "But," we might ask, "so what? This is simply a description of the human condition. Yes, we know that our technology cannot shield us from war, crime, illness, economic insecurity, laborious work, old age and death; nor can our ideologies shield us from doubt, uncertainty, confusion and disorientation; nor can our therapies protect us from the dissolution of the high states of consciousness that we may temporarily achieve and the disillusionment and anguish that follow. But what else are we to do? The Three Lords seem too powerful to overthrow, and we don't know what to replace them with." The Buddha, troubled by these questions, examined the process by which the Three Lords rule. He questioned why our minds follow them and whether there is another way. He discovered that the Three Lords seduce us by creating a fundamental myth: that we are solid beings. But ultimately the myth is false, a huge hoax, a gigantic fraud, and it is the root of our suffering. In order to make this discover he had to break through very elaborate defenses erected by the Three Lords to prevent their subjects from discovering the fundamental deception which is the source of their power. We cannot in any way free ourselves from the domination of the Three Lords unless we too cut through, layer by layer, the elaborate defenses of these Lords. The Lords' defenses are created out of the material of our minds. This material of mind is used by the Lords in such a way as to maintain the basic myth of solidity. In order to see for ourselves how this process works we must examine our own experience. "But how," we might ask, "are we to conduct the examination? What method or tool are we to use?" The method that the Buddha discovered is meditation. He discovered that struggling to find answers did not work. It was only when there were gaps in his struggle that insights came to him. He began to realize that there was a sane, awake quality within him which manifested itself only in the absence of struggle. So the practice of meditation involves "letting be." There have been a number of misconceptions regarding meditation. Some people regard it as a trancelike state of mind. Others think of it in terms of training, in the sense of mental gymnastics. But meditation is neither of these, although it does involve dealing with neurotic states of mind. The neurotic state of mind is not difficult or impossible to deal with. It has energy, speed and a certain pattern. The practice of meditation involves letting be - trying to go with the patter, trying to go with the energy and the speed. In this way we learn how to deal with these factors, how to relate with them, not in the sense of causing them to mature in the way we would like, but in the sense of knowing them for what they are and working with their pattern. There is a story regarding the Buddha which recounts how he once gave teaching to a famous sitar player who wanted to study meditation. The musician asked, "Should I control my mind or should I completely let go?" The Buddha answered, "Since you are a great musician, tell me how you would tune the strings of your instrument." The musician said, "I would make them not too tight and not too loose." "Likewise," said the Buddha, "in you meditation practice you should not impose anything too forcefully on your mind, nor should you let it wander." That is the teaching of letting the mind be in a very open way, of feeling the flow of energy without trying to subdue it and without letting it get out of control, of going with the energy pattern of the mind. This is meditation practice. Such practice is necessary generally because our thinking pattern, our conceptualized way of conducting our life in the world, is either too manipulative, imposing itself upon the world, or else runs completely wild and uncontrolled. Therefore, our meditation practice must begin with ego's outermost layer, the discursive thoughts which continually run through our minds, our mental gossip. The Lords use discursive thought as their first line of defense, as the pawns in their effort to deceive us. The more we generate thoughts, the busier we are mentally and the more convinced we are of our existence. So the Lords are constantly trying to activate these thoughts, trying to create a constant overlapping of thoughts so that nothing can be seen beyond them. In true meditation there is no ambition to stir up thoughts, nor is there an ambition to suppress them. They are just allowed to occur spontaneously and become an expression of basic sanity. They become the expression of the precision and the clarity of the awakened state of mind. If the strategy of continually creating overlapping thoughts is penetrated, then the Lords stir up emotions to distract us. The exciting, colorful, dramatic quality of the emotions captures our attention as if we were watching an absorbing film show. In the practice of meditation we neither encourage emotions nor repress them. By seeing them clearly, by allowing them to be as they are, we no longer permit them to serve as a means of entertaining or distracting us. Thus they become the inexhaustible energy which fulfills egoless action. In the absence of thoughts and emotions the Lords bring up a still more powerful weapon, concepts. Labeling phenomena creates a feeling of a solid definite world of "things." Such a solid world reassures us that we are a solid, continuous thing as well. The world exists, therefore I, the perceiver of the world, exist. Meditation involves seeing the transparency of concepts, so that labeling no longer serves as a way of solidifying our world and our image of self. Labeling becomes simply the act of discrimination. The Lords have still further defense mechanisms, but it would be too complicated to discuss them in this context. By the examination of his own thoughts, emotions, concepts and the other activities of mind, the Buddha discovered that there is no need to struggle to prove our existence, that we need not be subject to the rule of the Three Lords of Materialism. There is no need to struggle to be free; the absence of struggle is in itself freedom. This egoless state is the attainment of Buddhahood. The process of transforming the material of mind from expressions of ego's ambition in to expressions of basic sanity and enlightenment through the practice of meditation - this might be said to be the Spiritual Materialism We have come here to learn about spirituality. I trust the genuine quality of this search but we must question its nature. The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality. Ego is constantly attempting to acquire and apply the teachings of spirituality for its own benefit. The teachings are treated as an external thing, external to "me," a philosophy which we try to imitate. We do not actually want to identify with or become the teachings. So if our teacher speaks of renunciation of ego, we attempt to mimic renunciation of ego. We go through the motions, make the appropriate gestures, but we really do not want to sacrifice any part of our way of life. We become skillful actors, and while playing deaf and dumb to the real meaning of the teachings, we find some comfort in pretending to follow the path. Whenever we begin to feel any discrepancy or conflict between our actions and the teachings, we immediately interpret the situation in such a way that the conflict is smoothed over. The interpreter is ego in the role of spiritual advisor. The situation is like that of a country where church and state are separate. If the policy of the state is foreign to the teachings of the church, then the automatic reaction of the king is to go to the head of the church, his spiritual advisor, and ask his blessing. The head of the church then works out some justification and gives the policy his blessing under the pretense that the king is the protector of the faith. In an individual's mind, it works out very neatly that way, ego being both king and head of the church. This rationalization of the spiritual path and one's actions must be cut through if true spirituality is to be realized. However, such rationalizing is not easy to deal with because everything is seen through the filter of ego's philosophy and logic, making all appear neat, precise and very logical. We attempt to find a self-justifying answer for every question. In order to reassure ourselves, we work to fit into our intellectual scheme every aspect of our lives which might be confusing. And our effort is so serious and solemn, so straight-forward and sincere, that it is very difficult to be suspicious of it. We always trust the "integrity" of our spiritual advisor. It does not matter what we use to achieve self-justification: the wisdom of sacred books, diagrams or charts, mathematical calculations, esoteric formulae, fundamentalists religion, depth psychology, or any other mechanism. Whenever we begin to evaluate, deciding that we should or should not do this or that, then we have already associated our practice or our knowledge with categories, one pitted against the other, and that is spiritual materialism, the false spirituality of our spiritual advisor. Whenever we a have a dualistic notion such as, "I am doing this because I want to achieve a particular state of consciousness, a particular state of being," the automatically we separate ourselves from the reality of what we are. If we ask ourselves, "What is wrong with evaluating, with taking sides?", the answer is that, when we formulate a secondary judgment, "I should be doing this and should avoid doing that," then we have achieved a level of complication which takes us a long way from the basic simplicity of what we are. The simplicity of meditation means just experiencing the ape instinct of ego. If anything more than this is laid onto our psychology, then it becomes a very heavy, thick mask, a suit of armor. It is important to see that the main point of any spiritual practice is to step out of the bureaucracy of ego. This means stepping out of ego's constant desire for a higher, more spiritual, more transcendental version of knowledge, religion, virtue, judgment, comfort or whatever it is that a particular ego is seeking. One must step out of spiritual materialism. If we do not step out of spiritual materialism, if we in fact practice it, then we may eventually find ourselves possessed of a huge collection of spiritual paths. We may feel these spiritual collections to be very precious. We have studied so much. We may have studied Western philosophy or Oriental philosophy, practiced yoga or perhaps studied under dozens of great masters. We have achieved and we have learned. We believe that we have accumulated a hoard of knowledge. And yet, having gone through all this, there is still something to give up. It is extremely mysterious! How could this happen? Impossible! But unfortunately it is so. Our vast collections of knowledge and experience are just part of ego's display, part of the grandiose quality of ego. We display them to the world and, in so doing, reassure ourselves that we exist, safe and secure, as "spiritual" people. But we have simply created a shop, an antique shop. We could be specializing in oriental antiques or medieval Christian antiques or antiques from some other civilization or time, but we are, nonetheless, running a shop. Before we filled our shop with so many things the room was beautiful: whitewashed walls and a very simple floor with a bright lamp burning in the ceiling. There was one object of art in the middle of the room and it was beautiful. Everyone who came appreciated its beauty, including ourselves. But we were not satisfied and we thought, "Since this one object makes my room so beautiful, if I get more antiques, my room will be even more beautiful." So we began to collect, and the end result was chaos. We searched the world over for beautiful objects - India, Japan, many different countries. And each time we found an antique, because we were dealing with only one object at a time, we saw it as beautiful and thought it would be beautiful in our shop. But when we brought the object home and put it there, it became just another addition to our junky collection. The beauty of the object did not radiate out any more, because it was surrounded by so many other beautiful things. It did not mean anything anymore. Instead of a room full of beautiful antiques we created a junk shop! Proper shopping does not entail collecting a lot of information or beauty, but it involves fully appreciating each individual object. This is very important. If you really appreciate an object of beauty, then you completely identify with it and forget yourself. It is like seeing a very interesting, fascinating movie and forgetting that you are the audience. At that moment there is no world; your whole being is that scene of that movie. It is that kind of identification, complete involvement with one thing. Did we actually taste it and chew it and swallow it properly, that one object of beauty, that one spiritual teaching? Or did we merely regard it as a part of our vast and growing collection? I place so much emphasis on this point because I know that all of us have come to the teachings and practice of meditation not to make a lot of money, but because we genuinely want to learn, want to develop ourselves. But if we regard knowledge as an antique, as "ancient wisdom" to be collected, then we are on the wrong path. As far as the lineage of teachers is concerned, knowledge is not handed down like an antique. Rather, one teacher experiences the truth of the teachings, and he hands it down as inspiration to his student. That inspiration awakens the student, as his teacher was awakened before him. Then the student hands down the teachings to another student and so the process goes. The teachings are always up to date. They are not "ancient wisdom," an old legend. The teachings are not passed along as information, handed down as a grandfather tells traditional folk tales to his grandchildren. It does not work that way. It is real experience. There is a saying in the Tibetan scriptures: "Knowledge must be burned, hammered and beaten like pure gold. Then one can wear it as an ornament." So when you receive spiritual instruction from the hands of another, you do not take it uncritically, but you burn it, you hammer it, you beat it, until the bright, dignified color of gold appears. Then you craft it into an ornament, whatever design you like, and you put it on. Therefore, dharma is applicable to every age, to every person; it has a living quality. It is not enough to imitate your master or guru; you are not trying to become a replica of your teacher. The teachings are an individual persona experience, right down to the present holder of the doctrine. Perhaps many of my readers are familiar with the stories of Naropa and Tilopa and Marpa and Milarepa and Gampopa and the other teachers of the Kagy lineage. It was a living experience for them, and it is a living experience for the present holders of the lineage. Only the details of their life-situations are different. The teachings have the quality of warm, fresh baked bread; the bread is still warm and hot and fresh. Each baker must apply the general knowledge of how to make bread to his particular dough and oven. Then he must personally experience the freshness of this bread and must cut if fresh and eat it warm. He must make the teachings his own and then must practice them. It is a very living process. There is no deception in terms of collecting knowledge. We must work with our individual experiences. When we become confused, we cannot turn back to our collection of knowledge and try to find some confirmation or consolation: "The teacher and the whole teaching is on my side." The spiritual path does not go that way. It is a lonely, individual path.Q. Do you think spiritual materialism is a particularly American problem?A. Whenever teachings come to a country from abroad, the problem of spiritual materialism is intensified. At the moment America is, without any doubt, fertile ground ready for the teachings. And because America is so fertile, seeking spirituality, it is possible for America to inspire charlatans. Charlatans would not choose to be charlatans unless they were inspired to do so. Otherwise, they would be bank robbers or bandits, inasmuch as they want to make money and become famous. Because America is looking so hard for spirituality, religion becomes any easy way to make money and acquire fame. So we see charlatans in the role of student, chela, as well as in the role of guru. I think America at this particular time is a very interesting ground.Q. Have you accepted any spiritual master as a guru, any particular living spiritual master?A. At present there is no one. I left my gurus and teachers behind in Tibet, physically, but the teachings stay with me and continue.Q. So who are you following, more or less?A. Situations are the voice of my guru, the presence of my guru.Q. After Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment, was there some trace of ego left in him so that he could carry on his teachings?A. The teaching just happened. He did not have the desire to teach or not to teach. He spent seven weeks sitting under the shade of a tree and walking along the bank of a river. Then someone just happened along and he began to speak. One has no choice; you are there, an open person. Then the situation presents itself and teaching happens. That is what is called "Buddha activity."Q. It is difficult not to become acquisitive about spirituality. Is this desire for acquisitions something that is shed along the way?A. You should let the first impulse die down. Your first impulse toward spirituality might put you into some particular spiritual scene; but if you work with that impulse, then the impulse gradually dies down and at some stage becomes tedious, monotonous. This is a useful message. You see, it is essential to relate to yourself, to your own experience, really. If one does not relate to oneself, then the spiritual path becomes dangerous, becomes purely external entertainment, rather than an organic personal experience.Q. If you decide to seek your way out of ignorance, you can almost definitely assume that anything you do that feels good will be beneficial to the ego and actually blocking the path. Anything that seems right to you will be wrong, anything that doesn't turn you upside-down will bury you. Is there any way out of this?A. If you perform some act which is seemingly right, it does not mean that it is wrong, for the very reason that wrong and right are out of the picture altogether. You are not working on any side, neither the "good" side nor the "bad" side, but you are working with the totality of the whole, beyond "this" and "that." I would say there is complete action. There is no partial act, but whatever we do in connection with good and bad seems to be a partial act.Q. If you are feeling very confused and trying to work your way out of the confusion, it would seem that you are trying too hard. But if you do not try at all, then are we to understand that we are fooling ourselves?A. Yes, but that does not mean that one has to live by the extremes of trying too hard or not trying at all. One has to work with a kind of "middle way," a complete state of "being as you are." We could describe this with a lot of words, but one really has to do it. If you really start living the middle way, then you will see it, you will find it. You must allow yourself to trust yourself, to trust in your own intelligence. We are tremendous people, we have tremendous things in us. We simply have to let ourselves be. External aid cannot help. If you are not willing to let yourself grow, then you fall into the self-destructive process of confusion. It is self-destruction rather than destruction by someone else. That is why it is effective; because it is self-destruction.Q. What is faith? Is it useful?A. Faith could be simple-minded, trusting, blind faith, or it could be definite confidence which cannot be destroyed. Blind faith has no inspiration. It is very naive. It is not creative, though not exactly destructive. It is not creative because your faith and yourself have never made any connection, any communication. You just blindly accepted the whole belief, very naively. In the case of faith as confidence, there is a living reason to be confident. You do not expect that there will be a prefabricated solution mysteriously presented to you. You work with existing situations without fear, without any doubt about involving yourself. This approach is extremely creative and positive. If you have definite confidence, you are so sure of yourself that you do not have to check yourself. It is absolute confidence, real understanding of what is going on now, therefore you do not hesitate to follow other paths or deal in whatever way is necessary with each new situation.Q. What guides you on the path?A. Actually, there does not seem to be any particular guidance. In fact, if someone is guiding you, that is suspicious, because you are relying on something external. Being fully what you are in yourself becomes guidance, but not in the sense of vanguard, because you do not have a guide to follow. You do not have to follow someone's tail, but you sail along. In other words, the guide does not walk ahead of you, but walks with you.Q. Could you say something more about the way in which meditation short-circuits the protective mechanisms of the ego?A. The protective mechanism of ego involves checking oneself, which is an unnecessary kind of self-observance. Meditation is not based on meditating on a particular subject by checking oneself; but meditation is complete identification with whatever techniques you are employing. Therefore there will be no effort to secure oneself in the practice of meditation.Q. I seem to be living in a spiritual junkyard. How can I make it into a simple room with one beautiful object?A. In order to develop an appreciation of you collection you have to start with one item. One has to find a stepping stone, a source of inspiration. Perhaps you would not have to go through the rest of the items in your collection if you studied just one piece of material. That one piece of material could be a sign-post that you managed to confiscate in New York City, it could be as insignificant as that. But one must start with one thing, see its simplicity, the rugged quality of this piece of junk or this beautiful antique. If we could manage to start with just one thing, then that would be the equivalent of having one object in an empty room. I think it is a question of finding a stepping stone. Because we have so many possessions in our collection, a large part of the problem is that we do not know where to begin. One has to allow one's instinct to determine which will be the first thing to pick up.Q. Why do you think that people are so protective of their egos? Why is it so hard to let go of one's ego?A. People are afraid of emptiness of space, or the absence of company, the absence of a shadow. It could be a terrifying experience to have no one to relate to, nothing to relate with. The idea of it can be extremely frightening, though not the real experience. It is generally a fear of space, a fear that we will not be able to anchor ourselves to any solid ground, that we will lose our identity as a fixed and solid and definite thing. This could be very threatening.Surrendering At this point we may have come to the conclusion that we should drop t he whole game of spiritual materialism; that is, we should give up trying to defend and improve ourselves. We may have glimpsed that our struggle is futile and may wish to surrender, to completely abandon our efforts to defend ourselves. But how many of us could actually do this? It is not as simple and easy as we might think. To what degree could we really let go and be open? At what point would we become defensive? In this lecture we will discuss surrendering, particularly in terms of the relationship between work on the neurotic state of mind and work with a personal guru or teacher. Surrendering to the "guru" could mean opening our minds to life-situations as well as to an individual teacher. However, if our life-style and inspiration is working toward an unfolding of the mind, then we will almost certainly find a personal guru as well. So in the next few talks we will emphasize relating to a personal teacher. One of the difficulties in surrendering to a guru is our preconceptions regarding him and our expectations of what will happen with him. We are preoccupied with ideas of what we would like to experience with our teacher: "I would like to see this; that would be the best way to see it; I would like to experience this particular situation, because it is in exact accordance with my expectation and fascination." So we try to fit things into pigeonholes, try to fit the situation to our expectations, and we cannot surrender any part of our anticipation to all. If we search for a guru or teacher, we expect him to be saintly, peaceful, quiet, a simple and wise man. When we find that he does not match our expectations, then we begin to be disappointed, we begin to doubt. In order to establish a real teacher-student relationship it is necessary for us to give up all our preconceptions regarding that relationship and the condition of opening and surrender. "Surrender" means opening oneself completely, trying to get beyond fascination and expectation. Surrender also means acknowledging the raw, rugged, clumsy and shocking qualities of one's ego, acknowledging them and surrendering them as well. Generally, we find it very difficult to give out and surrender our raw and rugged qualities of ego. Although we may hate ourselves, at the same time we find our self-hatred a kind of occupation. In spite of the fact that we may dislike what we are and find that self-condemnation painful, still we cannot give it up completely. If we begin to give up our self-criticism, then we may feel that we are losing our occupation, as though someone were taking away our job. We would have no further occupation if we were to surrender everything; there would be nothing to hold on to. Self-evaluation and self-criticism are, basically, neurotic tendencies which derive from our not having enough confidence in ourselves, "confidence" in the sense of seeing what we are, knowing what we are, knowing we can afford to open. We can afford to surrender that raw and rugged neurotic quality of self and step out of fascination, step out of preconceived ideas. We must surrender our hopes and expectations, as well as our fears, and march directly into disappointment, work with disappointment, go into it and make it our way of life, which is a very hard thing to do. Disappointment is a good sign of basic intelligence. It cannot be compared to anything else: it is so sharp, precise, obvious and direct. If we can open, then we suddenly begin to see that our expectations are irrelevant compared with the reality of the situations we are facing. This automatically brings a feeling disappointment. Disappointment is the best chariot to use on the path of the dharma. It does not confirm the existence of our ego and its dreams. However, if we are involved with spiritual materialism, if we regard spirituality as a part of our accumulation of learning and virtue, if spirituality becomes a way of building ourselves up, then of course the whole process of surrendering is completely distorted. If we regard spirituality as a way of making ourselves comfortable, then whenever we experience something unpleasant, a disappointment, we try to rationalize it: "Of course this must be an act of wisdom the part of the guru, because I know, I'm quite certain the guru doesn't do harmful things. Guruji is a perfect being and whatever Guruji does is right. Whatever Guruji does is for me, because he is on my side. So I can afford to open. I can safely surrender. I know that I am treading on the right path." Something is not quite right about such an attitude. It is, at best, simple-minded and naive. We are captivated by the awesome, inspiring, dignified and colorful aspect of "Guruji." We dare not contemplate any other way. We develop the conviction that whatever we experience is part of our spiritual development. "I've made it, I have experienced it, I am a self-made person and I know everything, roughly, because I've read books and they confirm my beliefs, my rightness, my ideas. Everything coincides." We can old back in still another way, not really surrendering because we feel that we are very genteel, sophisticated and dignified people. "Surely we can't give ourselves to this dirty, ordinary street-scene of reality." We have the feeling that every step of the path should be a lotus petal and we develop a logic that interprets whatever happens to us accordingly. If we fall, we create a soft landing which prevents sudden shock. Surrendering does not involve preparing for a soft landing; it means just landing on hard, ordinary ground, on rocky, wild countryside. Once we open ourselves, then we land on what is. Traditionally, surrendering is symbolized by such practices as prostration, which is the act of falling on the ground in a gesture of surrender. At the same time we open psychologically and surrender completely by identifying ourselves with the lowest of the low, acknowledging our raw and rugged quality. There is nothing that we fear to lose once we identify ourselves with the lowest of the low. By doing so, we prepare ourselves to be an empty vessel, ready to receive the teachings. In the Buddhist tradition, there is this basic formula: "I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the dharma, I take refuge in the sangha." I take refuge in the Buddha as the example of surrender, the example of acknowledging negativity as part of our makeup and opening to it. I take refuge in the dharma - dharma, the "law of existence," life as it is. I am willing to open my eyes to the circumstances of life as they are. I am not willing to view them as spiritual or mystical, but I am willing to see the situations of life as they really are. I take refuge in the sangha. "Sangha" means "community of people on the spiritual path," "companions." I am willing to share my experience of the whole environment of life with my fellow pilgrims, my fellow searchers, those who walk with me; but I am not willing to lean on them in order to gain support. I am only willing to walk along with them. There is a very dangerous tendency to lean on one another as we tread the path. If a group of people leans one upon the other, then if one should happen to fall down, everyone falls down. So we do not lean on anyone else. We just walk with each other, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, working with each other, going with each other. This approach to surrendering, this idea of taking refuge is very profound. The wrong way to take refuge involves seeking shelter - worshipping mountains, sun gods, moon gods, deities of any kind simply because they would seem to be greater than we. This kind of refuge taking is similar to the response of the little child who says, "If you beat me, I'll tell my mommy," thinking that his mother is a great, archetypically powerful person. If he is attacked, his automatic recourse is to his mother, an invincible and all-knowing, all-powerful personality. The child believes his mother can protect him, in fact that she is the only person who can save him. Taking refuge in a mother or father-principle is truly self-defeating; the refuge-seeker has no real basic strength at all, no true inspiration. He is constantly busy assessing greater and smaller powers. If we are small, then someone greater can crush us. We seek refuge because we cannot afford to be small and without protection. We tend to be apologetic: "I am such a small thing, but I acknowledge your great quality. I would like to worship and join your greatness, so will you please protect me?" Surrendering is not a question of being low and stupid, nor wanting to be elevated and profound. It has nothing to do with levels and evaluation. Instead, we surrender because we would like to communicate with the world "as it is." We do not have to classify ourselves as learners or ignorant people. We know where we stand, therefore we make the gesture of surrendering, of opening , which means communication, link, direct communication with the object of our surrendering. We are not embarrassed about our rich collection of raw, rugged, beautiful and clean qualities. We present everything to the object of our surrendering. The basic act of surrender does not involve the worship of an external power. Rather it means working together with inspiration, so that one becomes an open vessel into which knowledge can be poured. Thus openness and surrendering are the necessary preparation for working with a spiritual friend. We acknowledge our fundamental richness rather than bemoan the imagine poverty of our being. We know we are worthy to receive the teachings, worthy of relating ourselves to wealth of the opportunities for learning....-------------------------------------------------------------------- DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENTTITLE OF WORK: Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (Sneak Preview - Intro and Chapter 1)FILENAME: CUTTING.ZIPAUTHOR: Chogyam TrungpaPUBLISHER'S ADDRESS: Shambhala Publications, Inc. P.O. Box 308 Boston, MA 02117-0308 617-424-0228DATE OF PUBLICATION: Copyright, 1972 Permission has been given for electronic distribution of the introduction and first chapter.ORIGIN: Tiger Team Buddhist Information Network (510) 268-0102 data (510) 540-6565 voice

Friday, May 14, 2010


Who is Avalokitesvara? What is his place in Buddhist doctrine and history? Why is he important in Tibetan Buddhism? What is his function in Tibetan Buddhism? What does he do? What are the philosophical explanations of his existence? How is he used in contemplative practice? Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, is one of the most important and popular Buddhist dieties. Although he originally was conceived of in a Mahayana context, he has been worshipped under different names and in different shapes in nearly every form of Buddhism in every country Buddhism has entered. Avalokitesvara first appears in Indian Buddhism. He is originally mentioned as one of a number of bodhisattvas. These bodhisattvas are personifications of various attributes of the Buddha. Avalokitesvara is the personification of compassion. The development of a Buddhist doctrine of bodhisattvas is more or less contemporaneous with the development of brahmanic deity worship. Either the same societal forces led to both developments, or the bodhisattva doctrine was a response to the rival movement of brahmanic deity worship. The bodhisattva doctrine may have appeared as early as the second century B.C.E. Originally, bodhisattvas were considered to be less important than buddhas. Buddhas, of course, are completely enlightened beings, whereas bodhisattvas are beings who are on the verge of being completely enlightened. Bodhisattvas originally appear as attendants of the buddhas. Texts speak of there being vast numbers of bodhisattvas. A few of the bodhisattvas are more important than others. Avalokitesvara does not appear in the earliest texts about bodhisattvas. However, after a while he becomes one of the important bodhisattvas. By the second century C.E., in the larger Sukhavativyuha, Avalokitesvara is described along with Mahasthamaprapta as one of the two bodhisattvas in Sukhavati, the pure land of the Buddha Amitayus. The two of them are described as the source of the light that illumines the pure land. They also teach the devotees of Amitayus, adapting their techniques to the understanding of the listeners. Avalokitesvara's prominence changed as the doctrinal position of Mahayana Buddhism changed. In Mahayana, compassion and wisdom are seen as being the two most important qualities a person can develop. In early Mahayana, wisdom was seen as more important than compassion. Therefore, Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, was the most highly regarded bodhisattva. However, with time, compassion came to be seen as the more important quality, and thus Avalokitesvara became the most honored bodhisattva. Avalokitesvara's rise in prominence did not stop at this point. Probably around the fifth century C.E., a full-blown cult of Avalokitesvara emerged. Avalokitesvara evolves into the supreme savior of all suffering beings. He takes on the characteristics of various brahmanic gods, such as Brahma, Visnu, and Siva. Like Brahma, Avalokitesvara is described as the creator of the universe. "From his eyes arose the sun and the moon, . . . from his mouth, the wind, . . . from his feet, the earth."1 He is also described as being the creator of the brahmanic dieties. This attribution of power to Avalokitesvara may well have been aimed at proselytizing among brahmanic followers. Descriptions of his physical form become increasingly fantastic. He is described as being enormously large. His face is a hundred thousand yojanas in circumference (a yojana is a few miles long). His body is gold colored. He has a halo in which there are five hundred buddhas, each attended by five hundred bodhisattvas, each attended by numberless gods. From the hair between his eyebrows there flow eighty-four kinds of rays. Each ray contains a vast number of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Each of his ten finger tips has eighty-four thousand pictures and each picture has eighty-four thousand rays which shine over everything that exists. And so forth. At this point, Avalokitesvara takes precedence over the buddhas. Even the buddhas cannot estimate Avalokitesvara's merit. It is said that just thinking of him garners more merit than honoring a thousand buddhas. Avalokitesvara's rise to prominence may be partially caused by the Mahayana doctrine of the bodhisattva vow. This doctrine says that the most wonderfully compassionate decision is to vow to stay a bodhisattva instead of becoming a buddha, because bodhisattvas can more effectively help other beings become enlightened. Because of his compassion, Avalokitesvara has vowed not to become a buddha and slip into nirvana until after all sentient beings are saved from the nearly endless round of suffering in samsara. Instead, he has committed to continued existence so that he can help suffering beings. Avalokitesvara is not the only bodhisattva who has made this vow. However, he embodies the compassionate motivation which led all bodhisattvas to the vow. Thus, valuing the bodhisattva vow leads to valuing Avalokitesvara and everything he signifies. As compassionate action is Avalokitesvara's essence, he is supremely helpful. He can assume any form in order to help sentient beings, and there are descriptions of him appearing as buddhas, brahmanic gods, humans, and animals. In all these forms he does wonderful things to help alleviate the suffering of beings and bring them towards enlightenment. He rescues his followers from fires, from drowning, from bandits, from murder, from prisons. He gives children to female followers who want children. He helps release beings from the three mental poisons of passion, hatred, and delusion. He helpful both on the physical, worldly plain, and on a more psychological or spiritual level. In addition to being the personification of compassion, Avalokitesvara has been connected with light more thoroughly than any other Buddhist deity. The stories say that he was created from a ray of light which emanated from Amitabha Buddha. Avalokitesvara is a luminous being of light, and is repeatedly described as radiating light which shines over all sentient beings and over all corners of the universe. Similarly, he sees everything and everyone in all corners of the universe, a fact that is emphasized by his name. "Avalokitesvara" comes from two roots, "avalokita" and "isvara". "Avalokita" means "glance" or "look". "Isvara" means "lord". "Avalokitesvara" has been taken to mean such things as "Lord of what we see", "Lord who is seen", "Lord who is everywhere visible", "Lord who sees from on high", and "Lord of compassionate glances". None of these interpretations are definitive, but regardless of how his name is interpreted, Avalokitesvara is certainly connected with lightness and sight. His ability to see everywhere is important because it allows him to manifest his compassion everywhere. The light that he emanates everywhere is sometimes described as a representation of the flow of his compassion to all parts of the universe. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia, the teachings about Avalokitesvara were carried everywhere Buddhism went. In China and Japan, Avalokitesvara is the most popular bodhisattva. However, he has undergone a sex-change, and is almost always portrayed in feminine form. In China, he/she is called Kuan-yin or occasionally Kuan-tzu-tsai. In Japan, she is called Kan-non or Kwan-non. In both countries, she is seen as the supreme savior of suffering beings and is worshipped widely as the goddess of mercy and compassion. She gives children to women who pray to her for offspring. The cult of Avalokitesvara also spread to Sri Lanka. This is a little surprising as Sri Lanka primarily follows Theravada Buddhism, while Avalokitesvara was originally a strictly Mahayana conception. In Sri Lanka, he is called Natha, which is an abbreviation of Lokesvaranatha, which means "Lord of the World". He has become identified with the bodhisattva Maitreya, the "future Buddha". He is also seen as being identical with several Hindu gods. Natha is seen as the guardian deity of Sri Lanka, and is reportedly worshipped primarily because he is regarded as a pragmatically useful source of advantages in the phenomenal world. Although I have been able to find very little information on it, apparently the cult of Natha has also spread with little change to other Theravada Buddhist countries, such as Cambodia and Burma. In Nepal, Avalokitesvara is conflated with the Brahman deity Matsyendranath. He is worshipped in elaborate rituals which are performed by a priestly caste. Ordination is handed down from father to son, with some important positions being sold to the highest bidder from within the caste. According to one reporter, the meanings behind the rituals have been largely forgotten. However, they continue to be performed because they are customary and are considered to bring luck. In Tibet, Avalokitesvara has reached a position of tremendous importance. The stories surrounding him, his integration in the practicalities of life, and his use in meditative practice have all been highly developed. The Tibetans started with Avalokitesvara (here called Chenrezi) where the Indians left off. Traditional Tibetan belief holds that the cult of Avalokitesvara was brought to Tibet by the eighth century C.E. During the eighth century, King Srong-btsan sgam-po was active in bringing Buddhism to Tibet. This king is considered an incarnation of Avalokitesvara. Tibetans traditionally believe that he was active in propagating a cult of Avalokitesvara. Not long after his reign, Buddhism went into a decline, and did not revive until the eleventh century. Western scholars believe that although there may have been a small following of the Avalokitesvara cult during the reign of Srong-btsan sgam-po (and there is not much evidence that there was any such cult then), the cult certainly died out between then and the eleventh century. Traditional Tibetan belief holds that the cult continued in secret during this period. However, everyone agrees that the cult of Avalokitesvara first became widely popular during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The belief that Avalokitesvara is the creator of the universe was accepted and elaborated upon. In Tibetan writings, he is seen as not only creating the world and the Hindu gods, but also as creating the buddhas and the buddha-fields. The whole cosmos exists as a manifestation of Avalokitesvara's creative activity. This is especially true of Tibet, which is depicted as having a particularly close relationship with Avalokitesvara. His vow to save all beings becomes a vow to first save Tibetans, because they need his teachings particularly badly and because the Buddha asked him to concentrate on Tibet. Stories arose which describe Avalokitesvara as being intimately involved with the creation of Tibet. One of the more popular of these stories describes the creation of the Tibetan people. Once there was a monkey who was an incarnation of Avalokitesvara. He lived in the mountains, where he practiced meditation. One day, a demoness saw him and fell in love with him. She tried unsuccessfully to court him, and finally said that she would bring disaster on all the living beings in the area if he did not marry her. The monkey was confused, and asked Avalokitesvara what to do. Avalokitesvara told the monkey to marry the demoness. The monkey and the demoness wed and had six children, who were the progenitors of the Tibetan people. Thus, all Tibetans are direct descendants of a manifestation of Avalokitesvara. Tibetan Buddhism also produced the innovation of recognizing mortal human beings as the incarnations or manifestations of dieties. As far as I am aware, Tibet is the only Buddhist country that has this understanding. Incarnations of Avalokitesvara are particularly important in Tibetan history. I have already mentioned the progenitor monkey and King Srong-btsan sgam-po. Another manifestation of Avalokitesvara which plays a crucial role in Tibetan history is the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama has been repeatedly incarnating in Tibet since the fifteenth century. He is now in his fourteenth incarnation. The Dalai Lama is the head of the Kagyu-pa school, which is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Also, from the time of his fifth incarnation in the early seventeenth century until the Chinese conquered Tibet, the Dalai Lama was the ruler of Tibet. Thus, Tibet was governed by a manifestation of their protective deity, who was also the progenitor of the Tibetan people and the ruler who had brought Buddhism to Tibet. Further, this deity, and therefore also his manifestation, is the personification of compassion, which should guarantee that his rule is kind and reduces suffering. Avalokitesvara is important not only in Tibetans' understanding of their history, but also in their practice of Buddhist meditation. Particularly in tantric visualization practices, Avalokitesvara, as the embodiment of compassionate action, is critically important. In tantra, practitioners create visualizations which are structured so as to bring about experiential realizations of Buddhist teachings2. In order to understand the purpose of these visualizations, it is necessary to understand the philosophy which the visualizations serve to make experientially real. What is this philosophy? It is beyond the scope of my paper to lay forth the entire teachings of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, but I will try to briefly outline the philosophies which are most commonly used in tantric visualizations of Avalokitesvara. The most obvious Buddhist teaching used in these practices is the importance of compassion. What, precisely, is the Buddhist understanding of compassion? Compassion starts with sorrow at the suffering of others. As such, it incites action aimed at reducing the suffering of others. Compassion is the motivating force behind useful action. It is a warm, positive energy directed towards helping others. Compassion can only arise when we do not have a strong sense of separation from others. If there is a feeling that I am over here, and you are over there, and we are totally separate individuals, then we will not be able to truly sorrow at each others' pain, because others' pain will not touch us. In order to truly be touched by the suffering of others, we have to abandon our attachment to sharp divisions between individuals. We need to live in awareness of the flow of energy between ourselves and others.

Credit to: Karen M. Andrews

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Consecration Rituals

The Consecration Ritual - Excerpts
Offerings are a major part of the ritual of consecration and of many other Tibetan Buddhist rituals, but their nature clearly reveals their Indian origin. Offerings are made to acquire merit, but the recipient can be the poor and needy as well as lamas or deities. If the merit thus acquired is dedicated to the attainment of enlightenment, the offering becomes partof the practice of the perfection of giving. Though elaborate offerings to deities who never seem to partake of them may seem wasteful to the sceptical, especially in the case of the ritual fire offerings during which everything is burned, such offerings are not merely meaningless ritual. the primary aim of Buddhist practice is to train the mind and this is the context in which the offerings should beunderstood. Whether physical offerings actually benefit the recipient or not, from the practitioners point of view they are an essential means of reducing the desire and greed which characterize our relationship with the physical world. Desire is to think that we would be satisfied if we were to obtain some object, and greed is to think we will be more satisfied if we can keep what we have obtained or gain more. Both passions tend to reinforce the notion of ourselves as real, independent selves to be satisfied. Making offerings accustoms the mind to giving, letting go of desirable objects, and serves to loosen our sense of clinging to a real and independent self. The merit derived from giving can be a cause in the short term for acquiring wealth, but ultimately for attaining enlightenment. Offerings directed to certain deities, Buddhas, or Bodhisattvas create connections with them. In Sanskrit the word for offering is "puja" which means to please. Offerings please the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, not becausethey are pleased to receive gifts, but because they delight in the virtue of the givers, which is determined by the quality of their motivation in making the offering. Offerings need not even be material. Milarepa offered his spiritual practice, his most cherished attribute. The best offerings are of virtuous accomplishments. Thus, the offering of religious practice is what most pleases the deities and creates a bond between them and the practitioner, which provides a basis for his/her further development. Several factors determine the quality of an offering. Prominent is the giver's motivation, though the status of the recipient and the nature of the offering also contribute. The giver acquires the greatest merit when he/she is motivated by a wish to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. It is much less if he/she aspires for his/her own enlightenment alone and even less if he/she wishes merely to obtain a good rebirth in his/her next life. The poorest motivation is the wish to gain some benefits in this lifetime, such as wealth and a long life, or to be completely mundane in seeking a reputation for generosity. The status of the recipient is an important factor. The merit gained by making an offering with absolutely pure motivation to a Buddha is immeasurable. Since images and other manifestations of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are to be regarded as no different from them in nature, making offerings such as are made to the mandala deities in the consecration rituals is equivalent to making offerings to the Buddhas. The Buddhas are exalted objects of offering because they are the ultimate source of refuge, not because they will snatch us out of cyclic existence, but because the teachings they demonstrate enable us to do so ourselves. One's own lama or teacher is also an exalted object of offering, because it is due to his personal kindness and guidance that one can make any progress on the path of development for the benefit of all sentient beings. Nevertheless, since pure motivation is so important, a gift made with a very pure motivation to a needy person is also very meritorious. One can reflect that this needy person has at sometime been one's own kind mother or consider the fact that one depends on others to attain enlightenment, for without them one would have no opportunity to practice giving, ethics and forbearance, which are essential in the quest for Buddhahood. Thus it could be said that the merit obtained from making a modest gift to a needy person with an exalted motivation is far greater than one made to a Buddha with a poor motivation. Whatever is offered should always have been honestly obtained, for a wrongly acquired object severely detracts from the wholesome quality of giving it. Offerings should always be of the best one has. Food offered tothe Buddhas should not be bad or rotten on the pretext that no one will eat it. It is good to offer one's own food before eating it. Since the main purpose of making offerings is to reduce avarice, one should do so without a trace of regret. The Buddha recommended that avaricious people should initially accustom their minds to giving, by giving something from one hand to the other. Water is also commonly offered. Water is pure. the Indian master Atisha, who visited Tibet with profound effect in the eleventh century, praised the purity of water in Tibet, saying that simply by appreciating its excellent qualities one could offer it joyfully to the Buddhas. Water can easily and honestly be obtained and when offering it one can imagine washing away the miserliness of all sentient beings.

(Portion of "The Consecration Ritual", pp 55 - 56, Cho-Yang, Vol. 1-No.2,1987. Cho-Yang is an occasional publication of the Council for Religious andCultural Affairs)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Mirror of Essential Points

A Letter in Praise of Emptiness From Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang
Dorje to his Mother

I pay homage at the lotus feet of Tenpai Nyima,
Who is inseparable from Dharma-lord Longchen Rabjam
And perceives the natural state of emptiness
Of the ocean-like infinity of things.

A letter of advice I offer to you, my noble mother Paldzom;
Listen for a while without distraction.

Staying here without discomfort,
I am at ease and free from worries
In a state of joyful mind.
Are you well yourself, my dear mother?

Here, in a country to the West,
There are many red and white skinned people.
They have all kinds of magic and sights,
Like flying through the skies
And moving like fish in the waters.
Having mastery over the four elements,
They compete in displaying miracles
With thousands of beautiful colours.

There is an endless amount of spectacles,
Like designs of rainbow colours,
But like a mere dream, when examined,
They are the mistaken perceptions of the mind.

All activities are like the games children play;
If done, they can never be finished.
They are only completed once you let be,
Like castles made of sand.

But this not the whole story;
All the dharmas of Samsara and Nirvana,
Though thought to be permanent, they do not last.
When examined, they are but empty forms,
That appear without existence.
Although unreal, they are thought to be real,
And when examined, they are unreal like an illusion.

Look outward at the appearing objects,
And like the water in a mirage,
They are more delusive than delusion.
Unreal like dreams and illusions,
They resemble reflected moon and rainbows.

Look inward at your own mind!
It seems quite exciting, when not examined.
But when examined, there is nothing to it.
Appearing without being, it is nothing but empty.
It cannot be identified saying, "that's it!"
But is evanescent and elusive like mist.

Look at whatever may appear
In any of the ten directions.
No matter how it may appear,
The thing in itself, its very nature,
Is the sky-like nature of mind,
Beyond the projection and dissolution of thought and

Everything has the nature of being empty.
When the empty looks at the empty,
Who is there to look at something empty?
What is the use of many classifications,
Such as 'being empty' and 'not empty'
As it is illusion looking at illusion,
And delusion watching delusion?

"The effortless and sky-like nature of the mind,
The vast expanse of insight,
Is the natural state of all things.
In it, whatever you do is all right,
However you rest, you are at ease."
This was said by Jetsun Padmasambhava
And the great siddha Saraha.

All the conceptual designs,
Such as "it's two!" or "it's not two!"
Leave them like the waves on a river,
To be spontaneously freed in themselves.

The great demon of ignorant and discursive thought
Causes one to sink in the ocean of samsara.
But when freed from this discursive thought,
There is the indescribable state, beyond conceptual mind.

Besides mere discursive thoughts,
There is not even the words of 'samsara' and 'nirvana'.
The total calming down of discursive thought
Is the suchness of Dharmadhatu.

Not made complex by complex statements,
This unfabricated single bindu
Is emptiness, the natural state of mind.
So it was said by the Sugata.

The essence of whatever may appear,
When simply left to itself,
Is the unfabricated and uncorrupted view,
The Dharmakaya, emptiness mother.

All discursive thought is emptiness,
And the seer of the emptiness is discursive thought.
Emptiness does not destroy discursive thought,
And discursive thought does not block emptiness.

The fourfold emptiness of the mind itself
Is the ultimate of everything.
Profound and tranquil,free from complexity,
Uncompounded luminous clarity,
Beyond the mind of conceptual ideas:
This is the depth of the mind of the Victorious Ones.

In this there is not a thing to be removed,
Nor anything that needs to be added.
It is merely the immaculate
Looking naturally at itself.

In short, when the mind has fully severed
The fetters of clinging to something,
All the points are condensed therein.
This is the tradition of the supreme being Tilopa
And of the great pandita Naropa.

Such a profound natural state as this,
Is among all the kinds of bliss,
The wisdom of great bliss.
Among all kinds of delight
It is the king of supreme delight.
It is the supreme fourth empowerment
Of all the tantric sections of the secret mantras.
It is the ultimate pointing out instruction.

The view of 'Samsara and Nirvana Inseparable',
And that of Mahamudra, of Dzogchen, the Middle Way and
Have many various titles
But only one essential meaning.
This is the view of Lama Mipham.

As an aid to this king of views
One should begin with Bodhicitta,
And conclude with dedication.

In order to cut off through skilful means
The fixation on an ego, the root of Samsara,
The king of all great methods
Is the unsurpassable Bodhicitta.

The king of perfect dedication
Is the means for increasing the roots of virtue.
This is the special teaching of Shakyamuni
Which is not found with other teachers.

To accomplish complete enlightenment
More than this is not necessary
But less than this will be incomplete.
This swift path of the three excellences,
Called the heart, eye and lifeforce,
Is the approach of Longchen Rabjam.

Emptiness, the wish-fulfilling jewel,
Is unattached generosity.
It is uncorrupted discipline.
It is angerless patience.
It is undeluded exertion.
It is undistracted meditation.
It is the essence of prajna.
It is the meaning in the three yanas.

Emptiness is the natural state of mind.
Emptiness is the non-conceptual refuge.
Emptiness is the Absolute Bodhicitta.
Emptiness is the Vajrasattva of absolving evils.
Emptiness is the Mandala of perfect accumulations.
Emptiness is the Guru Yoga of Dharmakaya.

To abide in the natural state of emptiness
Is the 'calm abiding' of shamatha,
And to perceive it vividly clear
Is the 'clear seeing' of vipasyana.

The view of the perfect Development Stage,
The wisdom of bliss and emptiness in the Completion Stage,
The non-dual Great Perfection,
And the single bindu of Dharmakaya,
All these are included within it.

Emptiness purifies the karmas.
Emptiness dispels the obstructing forces.
Emptiness tames the demons.
Emptiness accomplishes the deities.

The profound state of emptiness
Dries up the ocean of passion.
It crumples the mountain of anger.
It illuminates the darkness of stupidity.
It calms down the gale of jealousy.
It defeats the illness of the kleshas.
It is a friend in sorrow.
It destroys conceit in joy.
It conquers in the battle with Samsara.
It annihilates the four Maras.
It turns the eight worldly dharmas into same taste.
It subdues the demon of ego-fixation.
It turns negative conditions into aids.
It turns bad omens into good luck.
It causes to manifest complete enlightenment.
It gives birth to the Buddhas of the three times.
Emptiness is the Dharmakaya mother.

There is no teaching higher than emptiness.
There is no teaching swifter than emptiness.
There is nn teaching more excellent than emptiness.
There is no teaching more profound than emptiness.

Emptiness is the 'knowing of one that frees all.'
Emptiness is the supreme king of medicines.
Emptiness is the nectar of immortality.
Emptiness is spontaneous accomplishment beyond effort.
Emptiness is enlightenment without exertion.

By meditating emptiness
One feels tremendous compassion
Towards the beings obscured, like ourselves,by the belief in
a self,
And Bodhicitta arises without effort.

All qualities of the path and bhumis
Will appear naturally without any effort,
And one will feel a heartfelt conviction
Regarding the law of the infallible effect of actions.

If one has but one moment of certainty
In this kind of emptiness,
The tight chain of ego-clinging
Will shatter into pieces.
This was said by Aryadeva.

More supreme than offering to the Sugatas and their sons
All the infinite Buddha fields
Filled with the offering of gods and men;
Is to meditate on emptiness.

If the merit of resting evenly
Just for an instant in this natural state
Would take on concrete form,
Space could not contain it.

The peerless Lord of the sages, Sakyamuni,
For the sake of this profound emptiness,
Threw his body into pyres of fire,
Gave away his head and limbs,
And performed hundreds of other austerities.

Although you fill the world with huge mounds
Of presents of gold and jewels,
This profound teaching on emptiness,
Even when searched for, is hard to find.
This is said in the Hundred Thousand Verses of Prajna

To meet this supreme teaching
Is the splendid power of merit
Of many aeons beyond count.

In short, by means of emptiness,
One is, for the benefit of oneself,
Liberated into the expanse of the unborn Dharmakaya,
The manifest complete enlightenment
Of the four Kayas and the five Wisdoms.
The unobstructed display of the Rupakaya
Will then ceaseslessly arise to teach whoever is in need,
By stirring the depths of Samsara for the benefit of others
Through constant, all-pervading spontaneous activity.
In all the Sutras and Tantras this is said
To be the ultimate fruition.

How can someone like me put into words
All the benefits and virtues hereof,
When the Victorious One with his vajra tongue
Cannot exhaust them, even if he speaks for an aeon?

The glorious Lord, the supreme teacher,
Who gives the teachings on emptiness,
Appears in the form of a human being,
But his mind is truly a Buddha.

Without deceit and hypocrisy
Supplicate him from your very heart,
And without needing any other expedient,
You will attain enlightenment in this very life.
This is the manner of the All-Embodying Jewel
Which is taught in the Tantras of the Great Perfection.
When you have this jewel in the palm of your hand,
Do not let it meaninglessly go to waste.

Learning, like the stars in the sky,
Will never come to an end through studies.
What is the use of all the various kinds
Of the many teachings requested and received?
What is the use of any practice which is higher than

Do not aim at having many ascetic costumes,
Such as carrying a staff and wearing braids and animal
Leaving the elephant back in your house,
Do not go searching for its footprints in the mountains.

Mother, meditate the essence of the mind,
As it is taught by the guru, the Vajra Holder,
And you will have the essence of the essence
Of all the eighty-four thousand teachings.
It is the heart nectar of a billion
Learned and accomplished ones.
It is the ultimate practice.

This advice from the core of the heart
Of the fallen monk Jamyang Dorje,
Is the purest of the pure essence
From the bindu of my life blood.
Therefore keep it in your heart, mother.

These few words of heart advice
Were written in a beautiful country-side,
The city of the spacious blue sky,
Rivaling the splendour of divine realms.

To the devoted Chokyi Nodzom,
My dear and loving mother,
And to my own devoted students,
I offer this letter of advice.

This letter to my students was composed by one who goes by
the name 'Khenpo', the Tibetan Jamyang Dorje, in the
Dordogne Herbal Valley of Great Bliss, in the country of
France beyond the great ocean in the western direction.

May virtue and auspiciousness ensue!

(This was put into English, with the help of Khenpo
Rinpoche, by Erik and Lodro.
Perigueux Retreat 1983

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Heart Sutra

Thus have I heard at one time. The Lord was dwelling at Rajagriha, on Vulture-peak mountain, together with a great host of monks and a great host of Bodhisattvas. At that time the Lord was composed in the concentration on the course of dharmas called 'Profound Illumination.' At that time also the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and Mahasattva, in the practice of the profound Perfection of Wisdom, looked down; he beheld but five skandhas and that in their own-being they were empty.

Then, through the inspiration of the Buddha, the Venerable Sariputra said to the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and Mahasattva: "How should any child of good family train, who wishes to engage in the practice of the profound Perfection of Wisdom?" And the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and Mahasattva, spoke to the venerable Sariputra as follows.

"Sariputra, any son or daughter of good family who wishes to engage in the practice of the profound Perfection of Wisdom should look upon it thus: he or she beholds but five skandhas and that in their own- being they are empty.

Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is form. Emptiness does not differ from form, and form does not differ from Emptiness.

Likewise feelings, recognitions, volitions and consciousnesses are empty.

So, Sariputra, all dharmas are Emptyness, without differentiating marks; they are not produced or stopped, not defiled and not immaculate, not deficient and not complete.

Therefore, Sariputra, in Emptyness there is no form, no feeling, no recognition, no volitions, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no visible form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no tangible, no mental object; no eye-element, and so forth, up to no mind-element and no mental-consciousness-element; no ignorance and no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, up to no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death; likewise there is no Suffering, Origin, Cessation or Path, no wisdom-knowledge, no attainment and non- attainment.

Therefore Sariputra, because there is no attainment, Bodhisattvas abide relying on the Perfection of Wisdom, without obscurations of thought, and so are unafraid.

Transcending perverted views, they attain the end, Nirvana. All Buddhas existing in the three times, relying on the Perfection of Wisdom, fully awaken to the highest, perfect Enlightenment. Therefore one should know that the mantra of the Perfection of Wisdom is the mantra of great knowledge, the highest mantra, the unequalled mantra, the mantra that allays all suffering, the Truth, since it has nothing wrong.

The mantra of the Perfection of Wisdom is proclaimed:


In this way, Sariputra, should a Bodhisattva and Mahasattva train in the profound Perfection of Wisdom."

Then the Lord rose from that concentration and commended the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and Mahasattva, saying: "Well said, well said, O son of good family!

So it is, O son of good family, so it is. Just as you have taught should the profound Perfection of Wisdom be practiced, and the Tathagatas will rejoice.

Thus spake the Lord.

The Venerable Sariputra, the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and Mahasattva, and the whole world, that assembly with devas, human beings, asuras and gandharvas, were delighted and applauded the Lord's speech.

For the full Tibetan interpretation of the Heart Sutra look for the Dalai Lama's book pictured above.

Monday, January 4, 2010

FAQ in Tibetan Buddhism

This was borrowed from Sacred Texts .com. I found it so worthwhile I wanted to share it on here.

The purpose of this FAQ list is to give a basic understanding of a few
key terms or concepts that may be a little confusing for someone new to
this realm. It is not an authoritative text on Tibetan Buddhism.

1. What's 'Vajrayana'?
2. What's Tantra?
3. What are Lineages?
4. What does 'Taking Refuge' mean?
5. What is an 'Empowerment'?
6. What's a 'Root Lama'?
7. Aren't lamas pack animals?
8. What are Yidams?
9. What are those wrathful looking beings?
10. Book list

1. What's Vajrayana?/How is Tibetan Buddhism different?

Vajarayana is the most popular form of Buddhism in Tibet. Vajrayana
(also 'Mantrayana') is the third of the three vehicle of Buddhism. 'Yana'
means 'vehicle'. The teachings of the Buddha are divided into three yanas:
Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Theravada, the most popular school of
Hinayana ('Lesser Vehcile') concentrates on discipline and virtue. Mahayana
concentrates more on altruistic motivations (compassion) and wisdom. All
three incorporate discipline, compassion, and wisdom with different methods
and motivations toward the common aspiration for Enlightenment.
In Vajrayana ('Diamond Vehicle') the central Mahayana themes of
compassion and emptiness are dealt with using symbolic and practical systems
of technique and understanding. There is the belief that enlightenment can
be attained through the proper combination of wisdom and compassion. The
three vehicles should not be considered as in conflict with each other.
Hinaya is a foundation for Mahayana, just as Mahayana is for Vajrayana.

2. What are tantras?/What is Tantra?

The tantras are the root scriptures of Vajrayana. The tantras are
texts ascribed to the Buddha in various manifestations. They usually describe
the mandala, mantra, and practice associated with a particular
deity/enlightened being.
The sexual symbolism of tantric sacred art has led to some
misunderstandings. Tantric texts are not 'pillow books', and their practice
depends on discipline, not indulgence.

3. What are the Lineages?/What is a lineage?

Tibetan Buddhism focuses strongly on maintaining a continuity of
teaching traced back to the Buddha. The relationship of the student to the
teacher (lama or guru) is very important. This continuity is maintained
through practice lineages. The true teachings can only be passed from a
living teacher to a living student, and cannot be learned properly from
books. Sometimes the teachers are in supernatural form.
A lineage isn't exactly a 'school', but the analogy is helpful
for a basic discussion. Tibetan Buddhism has four main lineages:
Gelug(school of the Dalai Lama), Kagyu, Sakya, and Nyingma. Each of these
has further divisions as well (such as Karma Kagyu and Shangpa Kagyu).
Gelug is considered the 'newest', started in 1409 with the foundation of
Gaden Monastery. Popular thought is that Gelugpas emphasize monastic
discipline and intellectual acuity, Kagyupas meditation, Sakyapas scholarly
activity, and Nyingmapas guru devotion. These emphases should not be
exaggerated though; all the schools advocate all forms of dharma activity.

4. What is 'Taking Refuge'?

The Buddhist path begins with taking refuge. We take refuge in the
three jewels, Buddha, Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha serves as our
example, Dharma as our path, and the Sangha as our companions on the path.
Tibetan Buddhism adds three more refuges(The Three Roots): the
Lama(s), the assemblage of Yidams (meditational deities), and the assemblage
of Guardians (Herukas, Dakinis, Dharmapalas). On the physical level this is
just repeating the vow, but there is an inner level. We are surrendering to
forces within us that are more continuous than our transient ego, and
asserting our commitment to unfreezing these forces to let them work through

5. What is an 'Empowerment'?

Empowerments are further developments of what is started by taking
refuge. These are 'initiations' that help clear away obstacles to our seeing
things as they truly are. The Tibetan word is 'wangkur' (dbang-skur), 'wang'
is something like 'power'. The power is in the sense that the person is
allowing greater scope to more fundamentally wholesome aspects operating
within. Empowerments usually involve a ritual where the lama purifies the
aspirant and introduces him/her to a mandala, which is described fully and
the associated mantra (a chant). The aspirant is encouraged to consider the
mandala as a representation of his/her true nature. The Empowerment of a
deity helps to develop the particular psychological aspect s/he represents.

6. What's a 'Root Lama'?

'Root Lama' refers to a teacher from whom one had received the
empowerments, instructions, and precepts that form the center of one's own

7. Aren't lamas pack animals?

No, those are llamas. Lama is a title much like the Sanskrit 'Guru'.
Lamas are experienced and learned buddhist teachers. The term is often used
to refer to the members of the 'clergy' in general. The word comes from the
Tibetan 'la' (from 'la na me pa'), "insurpassable", plus 'ma', "mother". The
allusion is to the great compassion a mother has for her child. As sources
for refuge(see #4) they are the Root of Spiritual Blessing, which they bestow
on us in Empowerments(see #5).

8. What are Yidams?

(See #4 on Taking Refuge) Yidams are meditational deities that
symbolize various aspects Enlightenment. As sources for refuge they are the
Root of Accomplishments. Accomplishments refers to the Supreme Accomplishment
of Buddhahood, and ordinary accomplishments of long life, wealth, etc.

9. What are those wrathful looking beings?

Dharma Protectors and Guardians, they are embodiments of Wisdom.
They are usually represented having a terrifying appearance; they are
invoked to eliminate obstacles to the path toward Enlightenment. As sources
of refuge they (along with Dakas and Dakinis) are the Root of All Buddha

10. Book List

"Freedom in Exile"
The Dalai Lama's autobiography.

"The Tibetan Book of the Dead"
Various editions/translations are out there of this classic.

"Tantric Mysticism of Tibet"
by John Blofield. Assumes the reader has a bit of background
knowledge of Buddhism. Deals with Tantric Meditation.

"Open Heart, Clear Mind"
by Thubten Chodron, excellent easy-to-read and practical intro
to Tibetan Buddhism.

Some of the information in this faq comes without permission from the
"Tibetan-English Dharma Vocabulary" prepared by Kagyu Thubten Choling,
127 Wappingers Falls, NY.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Words of Truth ~Dalai Lama~

Words of Truth
A Prayer Composed by:
His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet

Honoring and Invoking the Great Compassion
of the Three Jewels; the Buddha, the Teachings,
and the Spiritual Community

O Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and disciples
of the past, present, and future:
Having remarkable qualities
Immeasurably vast as the ocean,
Who regard all helpless sentient beings
as your only child;
Please consider the truth of my anguished pleas.

Buddha's full teachings dispel the pain of worldly
existence and self-oriented peace;
May they flourish, spreading prosperity and happiness through-
out this spacious world.
O holders of the Dharma: scholars
and realized practitioners;
May your ten fold virtuous practice prevail.

Humble sentient beings, tormented
by sufferings without cease,
Completely suppressed by seemingly endless
and terribly intense, negative deeds,
May all their fears from unbearable war, famine,
and disease be pacified,
To freely breathe an ocean of happiness and well-being.
And particularly the pious people
of the Land of Snows who, through various means,
Are mercilessly destroyed by barbaric hordes
on the side of darkness,
Kindly let the power of your compassion arise,
To quickly stem the flow of blood and tears.

Those unrelentingly cruel ones, objects of compassion,
Maddened by delusion's evils,
wantonly destroy themselves and others;
May they achieve the eye of wisdom,
knowing what must be done and undone,
And abide in the glory of friendship and love.

May this heartfelt wish of total freedom for all Tibet,
Which has been awaited for a long time,
be spontaneously fulfilled;
Please grant soon the good fortune to enjoy
The happy celebration of spiritual with temporal rule.

O protector Chenrezig, compassionately care for
Those who have undergone myriad hardships,
Completely sacrificing their most cherished lives,
bodies, and wealth,
For the sake of the teachings, practitioners,
people, and nation.

Thus, the protector Chenrezig made vast prayers
Before the Buddhas and Bodhisativas
To fully embrace the Land of Snows;
May the good results of these prayers now quickly appear.
By the profound interdependence of emptiness
and relative forms,
Together with the force of great compassion
in the Three Jewels and their Words of Truth,
And through the power
of the infallible law of actions and their fruits,
May this truthful prayer be unhindered
and quickly fulfilled.

This prayer, Words of Truth, was composed by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, on 29 September 1960 at his temporary headquarters in the Swarg Ashram at Dharamsala, Kangra District, Himachal State, India. This prayer for restoring peace, the Buddhist teachings, and the culture and self-determina-tion of the Tibetan people in their homeland was written after repeated requests by Tibetan government officials along with the unanimous consensus of the monastic and lay communities.