What Are Your Hopes?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Mindfulness of Cyclic Existence”

Buddhist philosophy speaks of the emptiness, or the illusory quality, of all phenomena.  If self does not exist in the way that we think it does and the only true reality is the primordial wisdom state, then phenomena cannot exist in the way we think it does either because all phenomena seem to us to be something external. That perception is born of the belief of self-nature as being separate. All phenomena are perceived as external, as inherently real. The only way that phenomena can be understood is by understanding that they are separate from self. Self ends here; other begins there. And really, that is how perception comes about if you look at the perception of your own mind. That is what your perception consists of. This is universally true. It doesn’t indicate that you are a good person or a bad person; it’s simply universally true.

Buddhist philosophy speaks of a natural awakened state, a state in which perception does not depend on division, but instead is a pure experience that is free of conceptualization, free of focus in the way that we have focus. It is a pristine and luminous state. And in that state, which, of course, is the goal in this philosophy, hope and fear have no place. Again, hope and fear are dependent upon the perception of phenomena as being separate. They are dependent on the belief of self-nature as being inherently real. In this system at least, the idea of hope and fear revolves by necessity around the idea that separation exists in such a form that self – you, I – can either have something or not have something, that happiness can be controlled by having or not having, that all the experiences that are uniquely human actually revolve around having or not having. If you think about all of the goals that we’ve had in our lives, all the things that we were taught by our parents and by our schools, they are all based on that dualistic perception. They are all wrapped around hope and fear.

This is a tremendous difficulty when one sets out to understand Buddhist philosophy. If you say to a Westerner, hope and fear are not so great, they only serve to make the mind unstable, the first thing that any red-blooded American will do is completely freak out. We do that because we were brought up with hope being a noble thing. I was born in 1949, and I remember some of the leftover consciousness that my parents had from the war—something inbred into the society or the culture at that time. Even though they were no longer directly involved in war, it was very noble to be very patriotic, to have a great deal of hope in the American way, to have a great deal of fear that the American way would be taken away. There was something from that time that I think has since been more firmly planted in our society than ever it was before, even though we were founded on revolution. Of course, there is hope and fear involved in that concept as well. At any rate, it becomes so important to us that even now in this New Age, this Aquarian Age, or whatever it is that we are in the middle of, even now a person is considered to be right-minded or to have the right attitude if no matter what life deals us, no matter what happens to us, no matter how we suffer or how sick we are or how miserable we are or how awful we feel, we rise anew every day refreshed and face the day, like a good American person. This kind of attitude is considered really, really admirable, really the way to go.  In fact, it is considered that if one has this attitude that things will somehow work out.  It’s not for me to judge whether that’s good or bad; I am only trying to isolate the idea so that we can look at it.

We also have the idea that we should have almost a priority list of things that we are hopeful about.  Actually, in our society, if you were to walk up to an ordinary, mainstream moral majority person – now, perhaps meditators are a little bit different – but, if you walk up to any one of them and say, “What are your hopes? Come on, what are your hopes? This is America. What are your hopes?” they would give you a list of what their hopes are. If there is a person that you walk up to and say, “What are your hopes?” and they say, “Well, I’m okay. I am living from day to day. I try to remain in the moment, I try to experience each moment in its fullness, and I find that that’s enough for me. I find that if I remain mindful of the fullness of each moment and live right there and don’t really think too much about hope and fear, don’t really plan too much, but remain spontaneous…” In our culture, that person is a failure. That person is considered to be inappropriate. That person’s parents would probably not be too proud of them, and I find that in myself. When my children say I am doing just fine today and that’s all I want to think about, my American motherhood just goes “sssss.” Everything inside of me tenses up and wonders what is going to happen to my poor child.  It’s so much a part of us. I am saying that we don’t even realize that.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

“Can Do” – Looking Deeper at Hope and Fear

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Mindfulness of Cyclic Existence”

As a Westerner, in a subtle and also in an overt way, we have a certain attitude that we should present ourselves in a certain way. In our culture, it is considered to be an excellent indication of our status, our development and our maturity, if we have a noble, very obvious and very positive sense of hope. This is normal for us. We must have a good attitude about things. We must think positively or seem to be positive.. We must think with a “can do” attitude. That’s a big thing in America. We really think like that. All our movies glorify that attitude. If you don’t believe me, check out some movies from the video store. I can probably give you some titles. Go home and look at the movies that really honor the American “can do” ideal. We have very strongly in our minds and in our culture this idea of positive-ness, that we can do what we want to do, that we should hold to certain ideals in a very enduring way, and that we should just go onward up the hill—Charge!—that kind of thing. We may not realize it, but this particular and peculiar American ideal,is very wrapped up in the concept of hope and fear.

According to Buddhist tradition, not only is this not advisable, but it also creates a certain instability to the mind. In fact, where we consider it an admirable quality, in Buddhist philosophy it is considered a symptom of imbalance, a symptom of a lack of the realization of the primordial wisdom state, a symptom, in fact, of the lack of the realization of the emptiness or the illusory quality of all phenomena.

In Buddhist philosophy we are cautioned not to engage in the two extremes of hope and fear. We are taught that hope and fear are essentially the same. In the same way that the balancing parts of a scale are part of the same apparatus, or in the same way that both sides of the coin are essentially the same coin, hope and fear are exactly the same and are based on several presuppositions. First of all, they are based on the solidity or reality of self-nature as we understand it with all of its ramifications and conceptualizations. They are also based on the belief in the solidity and reality of all phenomena, and in the belief in the separation of all phenomena. They are based on dividing all that you see—self is here and phenomena are there—the belief in separation. They are also symptomatic of the tendency to consider that happiness can be won or gotten by running after it, that happiness is an external phenomenon. We feel inside that happiness is out there. That it’s something that we can go towards, something we can grasp; or that there is something that we can manipulate to get happy.

According to Buddhist philosophy, all of these concepts are erroneous. Basically, the Buddhists teach that true enlightenment, or true realization, occurs when one realizes the primordial wisdom state. The primordial wisdom state is actually considered to be free of conceptualization of any kind. It is a state that is innately wakeful.  It is wakeful, and yet it is not aware of some “thing”. So it is, if we can imagine such a thing, aware but not specifically aware. It is simply awake.

Buddhist philosophy also teaches in terms of realizing the emptiness of self-nature.  Now, that sounds really strange. Every time Americans, as a materialistic society, hear “emptiness,” we get extremely nervous, because we don’t understand what that means.  The emptiness of self-nature actually means that one doesn’t perceive self according to the concepts that are popular. In other words, one might perceive the primordial wisdom nature, one’s own true nature, or one might perceive self as being separate from others. In truth, the only way one can describe self is as being separate from something else, but self does not exist in that way. What Buddhist philosophy denies, or pushes aside, is the idea that self-nature exists according to the concepts that we put upon it. It does not deny pure perception. It does not deny the perception of the true nature that is one’s inherent reality.  But it does deny the concepts that surround the idea of self.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Emptiness = No thingness

An excerpt from a teaching called Dharma and the Western Mind by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

I like Dharma and I have a Western mind. I feel that this is something that I need to talk about a great deal.  I also feel that there have been certain challenges that I have become aware of in speaking to Westerners, and that these things need to be addressed, brought out in the open where we can examine them, see what they mean and how they affect us.  In doing so we will derive some useful answers that will help us to remain firm in our practice and keep us on the path of Dharma.

There are certain ideas and kinds of conceptualization that are natural for each culture.  Each culture formulates its own specific ideas about reaching conclusions, and accepting ideas and conceptualizations as their own.  We reach our own conclusions about norms and what is right, what is normal and what is appropriate. When you bring a system or a teaching to a culture, it is necessary to address the peculiar way in which that culture listens.  In order to do that you have to understand the way in which that culture hears.

When I first began to teach Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist ideas, I found that there was a tendency for Westerners to hear certain ideas in a particular way otherwise it turned them off. However, if these Westerners were given the idea in a different way it would be all right and appropriate.  They would understand it and it would not be distasteful to them.  I found that it was a particular challenge to speak to Westerners in this way. I would like to express some of what I learned about that to you.

When you speak to a Westerner about the Primordial Wisdom State it must be done very carefully.  I discovered that trying to convey to Westerners the idea of self-nature as being inherently empty is a very difficult thing for Westerners to deal with.  We hear emptiness and we think about something that we don’t like.  We hear “empty” and we think empty pocketbook, empty stomach, empty, dark, cold, lonely, and no good.  That wasn’t the emptiness that Lord Buddha was talking about.  That was not the idea to be conveyed.  When we think of emptiness we think of the opposite of fullness and that is not what Lord Buddha is talking about.  When we think of emptiness we think of something that is bereft of any comfort, of any meaning, of any glory and of anything beautiful. We are an emotional people and we like our ‘glory’ and our ‘beautiful’ and all that stuff, so we think that emptiness is not good.

Actually when the Buddha spoke of emptiness, he spoke in such a way that he was delivering his message from a state that does not distinguish between emptiness and fullness; a state that actually understands emptiness and fullness to be the same taste, the same nature. When we speak of emptiness we actually don’t speak of emptiness as nothing and cold but rather we speak of “no thingness.” In this case nothing doesn’t mean gone, it doesn’t mean black, it doesn’t mean terrible, it means no thing, just what it is supposed to mean.

The Buddha spoke of a state that was actually free of conceptualization.  For the most part all that we perceive, everything that we have ever known in fact, is conceptualization. We know nothing then of that underlying nature which is empty of that conceptualization.  We think that to not have that conceptualization is simply not to have – that there is an absence rather than a fullness.  This is very difficult for us.

One of the reasons that it is so difficult is first of all we have not become awake to the Primordial Wisdom State and we have never had a taste of it.  And that taste is important; it is important to sense the reality of it.  Also, we are a materialistic society.  We are a society that is based on ‘thingness’ and all of the things that become important to us, all of our goals, are so much a part of our pattern of thought.  There is a tendency to wrap our minds around ‘thingness,’ it is all that we know, all that we are aware of.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Awakening the Deities Within

Amitabha's Pureland

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo given on Saga Dawa 2016:

Would we ever be able to get to another galaxy? I don’t think so. Because we think the galaxy is far away and it’s not. It’s not. As long as we think it’s far away, we’ll never get there. If we look at a star and we think, ‘Oh, that’s a star over there’, we don’t understand that not only is the star within us, but we are within the star. There is nothing separate. Nothing. It’s very difficult to understand. When we try to understand it, we try to understand it with our ordinary minds, and we can’t. No matter how hard we try.

The ticket is we have to wake up in our practice and, in doing that, wake up the deities within. When that occurs, we’ll understand that we are not separate and that the different dimensions not only connect with each other, but they are within each other. That’s why sometimes I can see things from other dimensions, because they aren’t somewhere else. They are layered together. These dimensions are not only connecting, they are in the same place. Nothing is separate from you. It’s hard to learn that and hold that in our minds in a strong way. Instead we are not kind to each other. We think negatively, and things like that. In fact, we are the same nature. We are the same nature. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a car. Out of the corner of my other eye, I see the corner of a building. Then I don’t see it anymore. I’m not schizophrenic. This is just the way I see. I know that these are different dimensions, but they are in the same place. You can’t even say in the same place because that indicates that everything is solid, and it’s not.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

What Are We?

courtesy of space.com
courtesy of space.com

The following is an excerpt from a teaching given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo on Saga Dawa May 22, 2016:

I want to talk about the emanation of primordial wisdom: How it occurs, what is occurring. I want to talk about things that are not scholarly, but that I know with my own mind.

There’s neither emptiness nor fullness, and there are both. The primordial wisdom nature emanates from the emptiness nature. Bodhicitta is how it happens.

I would like to explain a couple of things: In your subtle body, there are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and deities in union, all over your body, everywhere. Inside, that is what you are. It’s hard to understand because we can’t see it that way, but our nature is pure luminosity. On one hand, we have all these deities within us, and they are either asleep or awake. If you don’t practice, they are asleep. If you accomplish some practice, they are awake.  That’s what brings you closer to enlightenment. On the other hand, we are also within the bodies of the deities. It goes both ways. If we see, for instance, Mother Tara in a picture, it looks like Mother Tara is out there, that she’s someplace else. In fact, She is in you and you are in Her. It’s like that with any of the deities that you see. They are in you and you are in them. There’s no space between any of us.

Have you seen some of the new science programs on TV where they show that dimensions are really in the same place? Well, it’s true. There is no difference. It seems now we are separate from each other, but in fact we are not. It seems that the deities are separate from us, but, in fact, they never are. It is up to us to wake up and study that, contemplate that, and see it carefully.

Where are the stars and the suns that we see in the sky? Where are they? Will we ever get to them? I know we’ve already gotten to Mars, and we’ve sent some rockets and things to different planets and meteors and comets. We’ve sent all kinds of things and they have evidently landed somewhere. That’s really interesting, but these planets and things that we look at in the sky are not separate from us either, nor are we separate from them. They are in us and we are in them. It’s all the same. It’s important to understand that because these eyes, these five senses, are flawed. They tell us what our samsaric mind tells us. They report what they see and we interpret it; but it’s not correct because here we are looking separate from each other.

When we study, we need to understand that nothing is separate from us, and we are not separate from any of the deities, any of the beings, that we study. It’s all one whole, but it is not solid. It’s empty. In fact, it looks like there couldn’t possibly be any more room. It looks like we have no space, and then we do have space. It goes both ways. Sometimes I can see this myself. I see dimensions hit each other. If we had the understanding, if we had recognition, there’s no reason why we couldn’t put our hands and our beings into another dimension, the way the great masters do, and come to know the different celestial palaces and different worlds as being the same as us.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Analysis Through the Application of Reason

The following is respectfully quoted form “Treasury of Precious Qualities” a commentary on the root text of Jigme Lingpa by Lonchen Yeshe Dorje and Kangyur Rinpoche:

Analysis through the application of reason:

This method consists of four or five great arguments that establish the fact that phenomena are without inherent existence. The specific explanation of these arguments is preceded by a general exposition of how such assessments are made.

To begin with, the prasangika approach is unlike that of the Svatantrikas. Svatantrikas disprove true existence on the relative level but then assert an illusory existence. Likewise, they disprove conceptual construction on the absolute level, but then go on to assert (positively) that this absolute is beyond conceptual construction. The prasangika method is simply to demolish the defective propositions of their opponents by directly refuting every assertion to which the mind might cling. But they do not accompany this with any kind of independent pronouncement. In order to eliminate clinging to real existence, it is essential to eradicate the conceived object of such clinging. Therefore, as we have said before, it is necessary to analyze and achieve certainty about the true nature of the two selves which are the object of refutation. Otherwise it is like shooting arrows without seeing the target, and it is impossible to eliminate the assumption of the real existence of a self.

When one uses madhyamika arguments to search for the meaning of suchness, the idea that “the opponent is wrong” is enough to cause one to stray off the point. Therefore, from the outset, do not refute only the assertion of an opponent, but work to eradicate completely all the innate discursive thoughts in your own mind, which have been left unexamined from beginningless time and which deviate from the Truth of Suchness. Likewise, eradicate all clinging to positions or theories, which are imputations arising from philosophical inquiry and which are found in all tenet systems whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist. Subsequently, when you meditate, simply rest without clinging to anything, in the sense of having an object of meditation. This, however, is not to say that you should remain in a state of blankness, a “foolish meditation,” so to speak. On the contrary, through the certain knowledge deriving from the realization of the absence of inherent existence, your vipashyana will be rendered extraordinary and you will have no doubts. All this is the sign that your analysis has hit the mark.

Generally speaking, at the present time, all the great beings who uphold the Madhayamika declare that the way the phenomena of samsara or nirvana appear is as the mere imputation of thought; they are without dependent arising are indissociably united. Everyone is in agreement about this. In our tradition, however, we do not consider that the expression “imputed existence” implies the presence of a “something” that lacks true existence and to which true existence could be ascribed. We say that the object referred to is a kind of empty form, an originless display of the mind’s creative power.” Consequently, when emptiness is said to be inseparable from dependent arising, this is not meant to imply that there is a validly established appearance from which emptiness is inseparable. On the contrary, we understand that phenomena are themselves ungrounded and rootless. There is no way in which they could exist. And yet they arise freely, produced in interdependence.

Therefore, once the object of refutation, which is to be identified as the two really existing selves, has been eliminated, its place is not still occupied by some (residual) basis of refutation–a so–called person or phenomenon. There is simply nothing left at all. Persons and phenomena are empty of themselves. For one cannot say that they are empty of true existence while holding that phenomena themselves (the basis of emptiness) are not empty of themselves on the relative level. It is rather that form, for example, is empty of form and so forth. Therefore, because all phenomena are devoid of real existence, there is no “concrete” object of refutation. All that is refuted is the false imputation that ascribes existence to what does not exist. Nagarjuna says in his Vigrahavyavartant:

Since no object of negation can be found,
I myself have nothing to negate.
And so, by saying “I refute,”
You’re the ones who falsely testify.

It might be objected that there is a contradiction in saying, as we have just done, that the two selves are devoid of true existence, while at the same time affirming that persons and phenomena exist on the relative level. All we mean is that as long as there is the tendency to delusion, relative appearances arise constantly and unhindered. But this does not mean that they exist inherently.

 

Rest in Wakefulness

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo on October 18, 1995

What is it that we actually see when we see the Guru?  First of all, the Guru is perfection.  The Guru is perfect. The Guru arises very naturally, is spontaneously liberated; there is nothing about this appearance that has become tainted or impure.  There is no conceptualization.  There is no contrivance at all.  We are seeing a natural display of the Primordial Wisdom State.  We are literally seeing, in a non-dual way, the union of emptiness and luminosity. Now, of course, because of the way our samsaric minds work, we are not able to understand the non-duality of emptiness and luminosity.  We are simply not able to understand that.  To us they appear as two nouns.  Emptiness is emptiness.  We can describe that.  Luminosity is luminosity.  We can maybe describe that, and so: emptiness-and-luminosity-are-non-dual.  The best way to come to that is maybe to say it real quick! That’s about as well as we can do!

What is this non-dual display, this non-duality called emptiness and luminosity?  Well, first of all, we must understand that the Lama represents the primordial empty nature, that nature which is completely free of any kind of distinction or contrivance, any kind of ideation, any color, any form, anything that becomes something.  The Lama is the display of that which is without beginning and without end, of that which is primordially pure with no change, no movement, no contrivance or distinguishing factors whatsoever.  The Lama represents that pure emptiness.  When we talk about emptiness in that way, Americans have a difficult time with that; that’s why I’m trying to explain it in common ways, rather than using the traditional buzzwords.

When we think of emptiness, we think of a minus in a sense; like, an empty room is a room without things in it.  We think of an empty glass as a glass without liquid in it.  That’s the way that we understand emptiness, but in this case, you should understand that emptiness doesn’t mean an “absence of.” Emptiness, in this case, is more like freedom, more like liberation: liberation from conceptualization, liberation from contrivance.  The mind does not catch on, the mind does not hook, the mind does not hold in a package – anything.  You see?  Here, emptiness is liberation. Suppose you were capable at this moment of losing all the fetters, allowing the mind to abide spontaneously, allowing the mind to simply rest in wakefulness.  Rest in wakefulness.  That is perhaps the closest to how we might understand emptiness.

Luminosity is something we think about as a plus, like a light being on.  A light is on or it’s off.  Luminosity, we think of as something luminous, so it must be glowing. Of course, that’s not what we’re talking about here either.  Let’s say you could attain in your practice that true understanding of emptiness: if one could rest in innate wakefulness, free of contrivance, without any kind of distinction or super-structuring or building or grasping or clinging. Try to imagine a mind such as that.  Try to imagine a posture such as that, in a sense, even free of the condition of mind.  Try to imagine a posture such as that: innate wakefulness.  Then suppose that nature, free of contrivance, were to show itself:  gossamer, free, buoyant.  There are no words in English to describe it.

 

From the profound, innate wakefulness that is empty of contrivance, should a display show itself that was like that nature, inseparable from that nature in every single sense;  that display was not leaving the state of emptiness in order to show itself; completely indistinguishable from emptiness in the same way that the sun’s rays are completely indistinguishable from the sun itself; that there is no way to tell what is actually the tight hard ball of the sun, and what is the light and heat that comes out of it; that there is no way to tell the difference really: if we could imagine such display, we might call that luminosity.  We might say that this profound view of emptiness, this spontaneous, innate wakefulness that is complete and yet unbegun, could somehow show its face in a gossamer, uncontrived inseparable display that you can’t call light, you can’t call movement, you can’t call anything because it has not moved out of that nature. Because we need to use a word we say luminosity, but you must understand that this emptiness and luminosity are indistinguishable from one another.  We must also understand that this is what the Lama actually represents.

The Lama represents, therefore, the Primordial Wisdom State: that which is the wakefulness of Buddhahood in dance, in display, in radiance; not separate from the innate nature, yet arising in a completely pure display that is the primordial nature.  You have to say “indistinguishable from.”  That is what the Lama actually is. You could say that the Lama represents the union of emptiness and movement, or display.  You could say that the Lama represents the union of wisdom and method.  Guru Rinpoche appears to us always with the dakini.  He is always in union with the dakini.  Even when we see him in the pictures that we have of him or statues that we have of him, we may see him seeming alone; still, he has in the cleft of his left arm the symbol of the dakini.  So in his nature he is never without the dakini.  That is a teaching, a very profound teaching for us, as to how to understand the Lama.  The Lama, then, is understood as the appearance of the primordial nature, and the display of that nature appearing in our world, in our eyes, in our samsaric existence.  The Lama, then, represents the union of emptiness and luminosity.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

The View to Be Realized: from “The Treasury of Knowledge” by Jamgön Kongtrul

striped rope

The following is respectfully quoted from “The Treasury of Knowledge: Book Six Part Three” by Jamgön Kongtrul:

The View to Be Realized [iv]

The view is primarily the realization of the absence of self of persons.

The view for shrāvakas is primarily the realization that a self of persons (pudgalātman, gang zag gi bdag) does not exist. The self of persons imputed by tirthika practitioners to be permanent, single, clean, a creator, or independent does not exist. The mind that takes such a self of persons to exist is confused, because it is mind [perceiving] something that is not there, like someone taking a striped rope to be a snake.

The aggregates are not the self of a person, because they are impermanent, multiple and unclean. They are also not a creator because they are under the power of other things. There is also no self of a person apart from the aggregates, because “person” (gang zag) is [only] used to refer to the continuity of aggregates , which are filled with (gang) and degenerated by (zag pa) causal karma and mental afflictions. This accords with the statement in the Treasury [of Abidharma]:

No self exists–there are just aggregates.

[No self of persons exists apart from the aggregates,] because the mind that apprehends a self of persons comes into being when it observes the mere continuity of aggregates.

In this root verse the term “primarily” is used for the following reason. Texts such as the Sûtra teach that the shrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas do not realize the absence of a self-entity of phenomena (dharmanairāmya, chos kyi bdag med). Their view is that shrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas do not directly comprehend [the nonexistence of a self-entity of phenomena] through meditation. On on the other hand, some [texts] explain that shrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas do realize both [absences of self-entity]. Their view is that the attentiveness [developed] during study, reflection, and familiarization assists shrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas in abandoning the mental afflictions experienced in the three realms.

Consequently, some Tibetan scholars say that the view of Nāgarjuna and his sone [Āryadeva] is that shrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas realize the absence of a self-entity of phenomena, and the view of Asańga and his brother [Vasubandhu] is that shrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas do not realize this. These scholars maintain that they [i.e. Nāgarjuna and Āryadeva] assert that shrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas realize both absences of self-entity.

The Result to Be Attained [v]

Nirvāna is a nonarising, unconditioned phenomenon.
Vaibhāshikas assert that it is an implicative negation and Sautrāntikas that it is a nonimplicative negation.
[Nirvāna] with remainder [is divided into] eighty-nine conditioned and unconditioned [results], or into four results; [nirvāna] without remainder is the severing of continuity.

Emptiness

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Nature of Mind” given in 1988, one month after her enthronement by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche:

Do you remember when you first started to seek the spiritual path?  The innocent sense of longing that you felt.  You must have felt in at one point of another, or you could not be here.  You could not, you must have longed to purify suffering.  You must have longed to be of benefit to someone, sometime.  You must have longed to attain the end of suffering.  And there must have been somewhere in there, the desire to do that in order to help others.  There has to be.  So that innocence, beautiful longing.  Remember how happy you were at that time.  There was a time when you were really happy, when you thought that.  Now, of course we’re too sophisticated.  We’re on the path and we’re already practitioners.  So we tend not to continue that thought in our minds, but we should.  We should constantly, with great longing.  And we should make prayers in that direction.  And that’s how you begin aspiration Bodhicitta.  You begin to make prayers of longing.  I long to benefit beings.  I pray with all my heart than I can take whatever form necessary in order to bring peace to the world.  In order to benefit beings.  In order to end the suffering of beings.  You should cultivate that, really and truly, you should do that until there are tears in your eyes.  And you will find that when you begin to develop that ability, those tears are not sad tears.  They are the happiest tears you’ll ever cry and they are heck of a lot more happy than going to the shopping mall and buying something new.  I mean, really, that sounds like a superficial comparison, and it is.  But, we spend much more time at the shopping mall than we do longing.  And we should long constantly to end suffering.

So you begin in that way.  And then you begin to think of the emptiness of self nature.  Begin to, even if you don’t know how to meditate, if you haven’t the technique, then you might begin, or contemplate at least, think of the emptiness of self nature.  And it goes hand in hand with that living the extraordinary life with that idea of compassion.  They are inseparable.  Because along with the emptiness of self nature, is the understanding that all suffering is born of delusion.  And the antidote to that is the annihilation of that delusion.  It’s the same as the meditation on emptiness.  For instance, let’s see what do I need, we used to have a crystal ball up here, do we not have it anymore?  How can I make a demonstration that I really want to.  Well maybe I can come over here if my little wire goes far enough.

Look here, if you see this crystal, it looks really really clear and you may not, this may not be a good example.  Oh here, can you see my hand coming through this crystal, can you see that?  Okay, then can you see the blue.  okay.  Okay look at this crystal.  This crystal is exactly like your mind.  It is exactly like the nature of your own mind in this way.  It is clear.  It is in its natural state, it is free of any form.  There is no form in there.  It is said that the nature of mind is clear, self-luminous.  That it exists in such a form that once any distinction is made, it is not understood.  It is free of any contrivance.  In the same way that this crystal is free.  You look in there, and you see only clarity.  A better example, of course is a crystal that is perfectly clear without any flaw.  Because that is the crystal that is exactly like your mind.  Perfectly clear, without any flaw.  You in the natural state are that.  You are pure suchness.  And the moment you began to appear as you do now, was the moment you began to make distinction.  But, in the natural state it is not so.  The mind is clear, self-luminous, free of contrivance.  Completely relaxed.  It is not gathered around itself, because it has no conceptualization of self.  It’s completely relaxed.  It is suchness.

Now you look at the crystal and you think that the crystal is like that also, and that the crystal might be understood as a symbol of that suchness in this way.  Now you put your hand behind it, and look, you see blue.  Has the crystal become blue.  Well, you have to look at it on two levels.  Your looking right now, this crystal looks blue.  So, in that sense, the crystal appears to have become blue.  But, if I take it away, does the Crystal change?  Is it blue now?  So what is blue?  Who perceives blue?  Look at that, you can see this hand.  See the flesh tone in there.  It’s very, when you look at it, do you see flesh tone?  Do you see it?  So the crystal has become like that, hasn’t it.  But, then you take it away, and the flesh tone is gone.  The crystal is the same.  It is the same, it is completely unaltered.  Who perceives the flesh tone?  What is the flesh tone?  This appearance of blue.  This appearance of this tone.  This appearance of phenomena in general.  This appearance of phenomena in general is merely conceptualization.  Who is it perceived by?  Think for instance about this.

Here is a very crude example, but then I told you I was born in Brooklyn, I’m not making any apologies, that’s it.  Okay, let’s take two objects, we have two objects here, we have chocolate, and we have shit, yes shit, you heard it right.  We have chocolate and we have shit, okay, there both brown, I mean, I’m sorry but we have to do this, there both brown right?  They both have a creamy consistency.  So sorry.  They both have a strong aroma.  What make one chocolate, and the other one shit?  Who determines the difference.  Who is the taster?  Who sees this?  Who sees that?  What is happening here?  All conceptualization, all phenomena arises from the belief in self nature and from the compulsion at that point to make self appear separate from other and to make a reactive relationship necessary.  All of your mind consists of the phenomena of hope and fear.  Of discrimination in a subtle and dense way.  But, the nature of mind itself remains steadfast, clear, uncontrived and when there is no concept of self it is just like that, pure, perfect, it is only suchness.  Only that.  And it cannot be altered, it remains unchanged.  And the weird thing about is the minute you that start talking about it, you’ve removed yourself from the potential to understand it.

How do you get free then of distinction between shit and chocolate.  How do you stop seeing the hand?  How do you stop seeing the blue?  How do you perceive that true nature?  Little by little you have to dis-engage the idea of self and you have to meditate on that.  And you can begin in this way, and I recommend that you do this.  Whether you are a dyed in the wool, or dyed in the cotton, I don’t know which fabric is, dyed in the cotton Buddhist, or whether you are person that has never even heard of any of this before.  You can begin to do in this way.  I don’t recommend that you taste both shit and chocolate, but you can try, let’s say, honey and lemon juice.  And you can look for yourself, who is the taster?  You say, I taste.  Where am “I”?  Well I’m right here.  Okay, where here?  Okay, let’s take you apart.  Let’s take you apart.  Let’s find out where “I” is.  We’ll look first in the feet, we’ll start low and work high.  Did you find “I” in there?  Take it apart.  Really, you have to make slides of everything.  You have to buy yourself a microscope and make slides and see if you can find “I”, okay?  Go all the way up, look everywhere that you can, examine every single molecule.  Go all the way up to the heart.  Everybody thinks hearts are big these days.  Let’s look in the heart, see if we can find “I”.  Then we’ll look in the throat.  What part do you identify with the most.  You have great legs?  We’ll look at your legs.  You have beautiful figure, we’ll look at every part of it.  Look at everything.  Let’s look in the brain.  Everybody thinks they come from their head right?  So we’ll look in the brain.  Where is “I”?  You can even look in your eye, eyeball.  See if you can find “I” there.  No matter how hard you look, if you make microscopic slides of every single part of it, you will not find “I” in this body.  You will not find it.  Well you say, there must exist an “I”, because how can I go from lifetime to lifetime?  And, I’m telling you that the idea of “I” is only that.  It is a conceptualization that has built around it so much karmic flagellants that the profundity of it has managed to exists for lo these many eons.  And at that point you can begin to understand that essentially, nothing has happened.  In truth, nothing has happened.  You can begin to mediate on the emptiness of all phenomena.

You want to look at cup, look at cup.  Find cup in there.  Take it apart.  Grind it up, find cup.  Cup is the idea of cup.  And you can continue with everything, your house, family.  You can’t practice Dharma because you have a family.  Ok, let’s take your house.  We’re going to take your house.  We’re going to examine your house.  Let’s take it apart, we’ll put it all under the microscope.  Find family.  Then we’ll examine the people that you are calling family.  Which one of them is family.  We’re going take them all apart, just the way we took you apart.  Where are we going to find family.  Family is a concept.  Who made it up?  You did.  Where are you?  I haven’t found me yet.

It’s crazy, but it’s a good way to start practicing.  It’s a good way to start practicing because your going to find that everything you live by, the things that make you suffer, the things that you bust your tail trying to do, everything that you do is based around an idea that you made up.  You did, you made it up.  And it has effected you for all this time.  So you can begin there.  It’s true that it would take sometime to achieve realization by meditating in that way.  But, it’s a really good place to start.  And meditating on the emptiness of self and on the emptiness of phenomena as well can give you the foundation and the strength to live the extraordinary life of compassion that I’m talking about.  And it’s that kind of extraordinary life of compassion and with the profound prayers that you will return in whatever form necessary in order to benefit beings and that even now you will able to benefit beings if you consider that that is the utmost important thing in your entire life and you yearn for that.

You actually have a little side benefit there that I’d like to tell you about.  And the side benefit is that you are purifying your mind of the garbage that we have gathered around it associated with self and desire in such a way that you will be able to actually move closer meditating on successfully and knowing that profound nature of mind.  That uncontrived natural state.  Just through the virtue of considering things in this way.  Considering yourself to be only important in as much as you can benefit beings.  And to begin to function in that way.  But, I tell you, the more that you get on an ego trip about this, or anything else.  I’ve done this, and I was ? in my last life, you know that kind of thing, the kind of thing.  The kind of thing that we do, and your ? is doing it.  The more that you do that kind of thing, the more you are creating the causes of suffering and the further and further away you get from perceiving the natural state.  Because the natural state, is as it is.  Remains unpolluted.  Untarnished.  Untainted.  And the only thing that makes us perceive something else, is that we have stuck the blue in the back of the crystal basically and that blue symbolically is conceptualization.  The way to liberate the mind from the belief in that phenomena of blueness as being inherently real is to meditate on the emptiness of phenomena.  The emptiness of self nature and to live a life that causes the purification of the mind.  And actually cleanses of discursive thought.  That is the ticket.  And no matter who your teacher is, if you really could talk heart to heart with any profound, profoundly realized teacher of any religion.  I believe and I’m willing to say this publicly, any teacher, any time if they are profoundly realized, no matter what religion they started, if they are profoundly realized, will tell you that the answer is the end of ego and all of it’s desire.  And the conceptual proliferation’s that come with it.  That the realization of the natural state is the answer, and that that state is uncontrived, unchanging, unborn and infinite.

So, that’s your Kellogg’s cereal boxtop nature of mind teaching for today.  Complete with Brooklynese language and I’m afraid that that happens to be on a regular basis.  I sort of slip back into Brooklyn, Jewish, Italian mode.  But, anyway, I hope that you enjoyed that.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Nang-jang from “Buddhahood Without Meditation” by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche

The following is respectfully quoted from “Buddhahood Without Meditation” by Dudjom Lingpa:

First, to reach a definitive conclusion (tan la wab-pa) regarding view, the sacred key point is to come to a definitive understanding through four topics — ineffability (med-pa), oneness (chig-pu), openness (khyal-wa), and spontaneous presence (lhun-drub) — and realize these just as they are.

In the first of these topics, the process of reaching a definitive conclusion regarding ineffability has two divisions: coming to a definitive conclusion about personal identity (gang zag gi dag) and a definitive conclusion about the identity of phenomena (chho kyi dag).

Let us begin by defining “personal identity.” The impression that an identity (dag) exists, whether in waking experience, dream states, the bardo–the intermediate state of conditioned existence between death and rebirth–or the next lifetime, is termed “personal identity.” Immediately following this first impression, there is an underlying consciousness that takes this impression to be an “I” and that is termed “subsequent consciousness” or “conceptualization.” As attention is given to this, it comes to seem stable and solid. For these reasons, by trying to locate the source from which this so-called I first occurs, you will arrive at the conclusion that it has no authentic source.

In searching for a place where this identity might dwell between its origination and its cessation, you should examine in the following way to determine whether, for this so-called I, a location and something located there exist as anything that can be individually identified and characterized.

The head is called “head”; it is not called I. Similarly, the skin of the head is called “skin”; it is not I. Likewise the eyes, in being only eyes, are not I. The ears, in being only ears, are not I. The nose, in being only the nose, is not I. The tongue, in being only the tongue, is not I. The teeth, in being only the teeth, are not I. The brains are also not I. As for the muscles, blood, lymph, nerves. blood vessels, and tendons, in being referred to only by their own names, they are not labeled “I.” From this you will gain understanding.

Furthermore, the arms, in being only arms, are not I. The shoulders are likewise not I, nor are the upper arms, the forearms, or the fingers. Moreover, the spine, in being only the spine, is not I. The ribs are not I, the chest is not I, the liver and spleen are not I, the intestines and kidneys are not I, and urine and feces are not I.

As well, this label “I” is not applied to the legs. The label “thighs,” is applied to the thighs. Similarly, the hips are not I. The shins are not I, nor are the insteps of the feet or toes.

To summarize, the outer skin is not labeled “I”; the intermediate layers of muscle and fat, in being referred to as “muscle” and “fat,” are not labeled “I”; the bones within, in being referred to as “bones,” are not labeled “I”; the innermost marrow, in being referred to as “marrow,” is not labeled “I.” Therefore, you can be certain of emptiness in the absence of any location or something located between origination and cessation.

Similarly, you should come to the decision that all final destinations and anything going there are transcended. In actuality, as with impaired vision, there is the appearance that things are what they are not. Moreover, using all these labels is like speaking of the horns of a rabbit.

Second, to reach a definitive conclusion that phenomena lack any identity, you must search for some basis on which labels can be applied, abolish your concepts of the seeming permanence of things, confront the hidden flaws of benefit and harm, and collapse the false cave of hope and fear.

To begin with, if you search for something with ultimate meaning that underlies the application of all names, you will find that this amounts to nothing more than labels being applied to what, in being ineffable, is simply the natural glow (rang-dang) that underlies thought. This is because it is impossible for any phenomenon whatsoever to have ever existed as self-sustaining in terms of being a basis for labeling. For example, what does “head” refer to and why? Is the label applied because the head constitutes the first stage in the growth of the body, because it is round, or because it appears uppermost? In fact, the head is not the first stage in growth of the body, the label “head” is not applied to everything that is round, and when you examine the concepts of “upper” and “lower” there are no absolutes of upper or lower in space. Similarly, the hair of the head is not the head. The skin, in being skin, is not labeled “head.” The bones, in being called “bones,” are not labeled head, and the nose and tongue are not the head.

You might suggest that, if we isolate these parts individually, they do not constitute the head but that their collective mass is called “head.” But if you were to cut off a creature’s head, pulverize it into molecules and subatomic particles, and then show it to anyone in the world, no one would say that it was a “head.” Even if the particles were reconstituted with water, this mass would not be labeled “head.” So you should understand the situation–that there is no object that is the basis for the expression “head,” which is merely a figure of speech.

Let us take a similar case, that of the eyes. The label “eyes” does not apply to spheres that exist in pairs. The sclera is not the eyes. The fluids, nerves, vessels, and blood are likewise not the eyes. If you analyze these components individually, you will see that none of them is the eyes. Nor are the particles of their collective mass or the mass that would be obtained by reconstituting these particles with water. That which sees forms, in being a state of consciousness, is not the eyeballs, as is evidenced by the fact that it causes seeing to take place during dreams and the bardo.

Likewise in the case of the ears, the auditory canals are not the ears. The skin is not the ears. The cartilage, nerves, vessels, blood, lymph, in being referred to by their own names, are not the ears. The powder that would result from pulverizing them would not be the ears. The mass that would be obtained by reconstituting them would not be the ears. If you think that label “ears” applies to that which hears sounds, just observe what hears sounds during dreams, the waking state, and the bardo. It is ordinary mind as timelessly present consciousness, not the ears.

Similarly, all the component parts of the nose–nostrils, skin, cartilage, nerves and blood vessels–in being referred to by their own names, are not labeled “nose.” Since that which smells odors is a state of consciousness, you should examine what smells odors during dreams and the bardo.

In the same way, if you analyze the tongue’s individual components–the muscle, skin, blood, nerves, and vessels–in being referred to by their own names, they are not called “tongue.” The powder that would result from pulverizing them would not be called “tongue.” Even the mass obtained by reconstituting them with water would not be labeled “tongue.”

The same reasoning applies in all of the following cases: In the case of arms, the shoulders are not arms, the upper arms are not arms, nor are the forearms, the fingers and knuckles, the flesh, skin, bones or marrow. Likewise regarding the shoulders, the skin is not the shoulders, nor are the flesh and bones. Neither is the collective mass of molecules or the mass that would be obtained by reconstituting them water. Any basis on which the label “shoulder” could be applied is empty in that it does not exist as an object. When you likewise examine the upper arms and forearms, in being referred to by their respective names–“muscle” for muscle, “bone” for bone, “skin” for skin, and “marrow” for marrow–none of these has ever existed as a basis on which labels could be applied.

By examining the fundamental basis of the expressions “body” and “physical mass,” you can see that the spine and ribs are not called “body.” The heart, lungs, liver, diaphragm, spleen, kidneys, and intestines, in being described by their own names, nevertheless constitute emptiness, in that any basis on which the labels “body” and “physical mass” could be applied is empty since it does not exist as an object.

When you examine the legs in a similar way, you will find that the hips are not the legs, nor are the thighs, shins, or feet. The muscles are not called “hips,” nor are the skin, bones, nerves, vessels, or tendons. Moreover, the skin, muscle, bones, nerves, vessels, or tendons are not called “thighs.” The same is true for shins. Such terms cannot be found to apply to the powder that would result from pulverizing these tissues, nor are they used to refer to the mass that would be obtained by reconstituting the particles with water.

If you search for some basis on which the label “mountain” could be applied in the outer world, you will see that earth is not a mountain, nor are the grasses or trees, the rocks, cliff faces, or water. If you search for some basis on which the labels “building” or “house” could be applied, just as the earth-works are not the house, neither is the stone or the wood. Moreover, as for the walls, in being called “walls,” they are not labeled as “house.” Thus, “house” has never existed anywhere, externally or internally.

You might search for some basis on which such labels as “human being,” “horse,” “dog,” and so forth could be applied. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, flesh, blood, bones, marrow, nerves, vessels, tendons, and attendant consciousnesses are referred to by their own names, but no object exists as a basis on which the label “human being,” “horse,” or “dog” could be applied.

To take another example, among material objects “drum” does not refer to the wood, the leather, the outside, or the inside. Similarly, “knife” does not refer to the steel. None of the component parts–the blade, the back of the blade, the point, or the haft–has ever existed as an object that could be so labeled. Moreover, names and functions change, as when a knife is used as an awl and its designation changes, or when an awl is used as a needle, and these previous labels all turn out to refer to what have no existence as sense objects.

Relying on what my guru, the noble and sublime Supremely Compassionate One [Avalokiteshvara], said to me in a dream, I came to a thorough realization concerning two points–that which is called “personal identity” and the search for some basis on which labels could be applied.

 

 

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