Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
The Way of the Tathagata: Day 3
Three-day teaching at Savitribai Phule Pune University Campus, Pune, India
Day 3: December 29, 2019
Part 9: 57 minutes, Part 10: 34 minutes, Part 11: 7 minutes
Note 1: This transcript is not an official publication of Siddhartha’s Intent. Every effort has been made to ensure that this transcript is accurate both in terms of words and meaning, however all errors and misunderstandings are the responsibility of the editors of madhyamaka.com. Please see note.
Note 2: This transcript includes footnotes with clarifications and more information about Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist terms used in the teaching. Please click on the superscript number to read the footnote. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s name is abbreviated to “DJKR” throughout.
- The contradictory character of the Buddhist path
- Rinpoche’s dream of the birdcage earrings and the talking bird
- The Buddhist path is like a dream
The three reasons why the Buddha took the bodhisattva vow
Ground, Path and Result
- (1) Ground is the union of ultimate truth and relative truth
- (2) Path is the union of wisdom and method
- (3) Result is a shift in attitude
Q & A
- How can counsellors and therapists work with people who are suffering without burning out?
- Does the dream continue after enlightenment?
- What is the mind state of the Tathagata?
- I am afraid that I might lose my bodhichitta
- The abyss of meditation
- The union of emptiness and appearance is a big gift from the Buddha to the world
The contradictory character of the Buddhist path
So [we are talking about] the way of the Tathagata. You have been hearing lots of seemingly contradictory things. For example, you heard yesterday that you are perfect. The authentic state is already there, as in the example of washing the cup. On the ground level, the cup is essentially, quintessentially, by nature not dirty. Because if it is by nature dirty, then the whole process of washing won’t work. All the path, the way, will become useless, purposeless. So you have heard that you have that authentic state. In other words, the Tathagatagarbha1Tathagatagarbha (तथागतगर्भ) = Buddhanature – see tathagatagarbha.. As you can see, the word “Tathagata” is in there, and “garbha”2garbha (गर्भ) = the inside, middle, interior of anything; seed, egg, embryo, womb (indicating potential) – see garbha. means essence or quintessence. [In other words,] you have it. That’s what you have heard. And then the contradiction is that you also hear about the path or way [to reach that state], as if you are not there yet. That’s the seeming contradiction. And at times, especially in the madhyamaka shastras or texts like the Vimalakirti Sutra or the Heart Sutra, you also hear that everything is inherently non-existent. But at the same time we still talk about ways3Ed.: the Madhyamaka texts teach that there is no inherent existence, and yet we still talk about ways or methods or paths. Likewise, we talk about practitioners engaging in Dharma practice. As soon as we talk or conceptualise, even about the Dharma path itself, we find ourselves enmeshed in the limitations and contradictions of dualism., even though [we say] that nothing truly exists.
And then you also keep on hearing that view is one of the defilements. View is one of the things that distract you from the Tathagatagarbha, the nature of the Tathagata, the authentic state. And yet you hear about all kinds of categories of different views [that you should cultivate as part of your Dharma practice]. For example, yesterday you heard that you should look at your body as if it is an already-plucked flower. That’s your way [i.e. your path or method of practice]. Also, to view all feelings as dukkha. And to view your mind as ever-changing. And then lastly to view everything as selfless. And this time, in explaining selflessness, I [have been] using the nuance of “it’s there but it’s not there”, because I don’t want you to think that selflessness is a negation or complete elimination or exhaustion of everything. Because that will just completely contradict the Buddhist path.
But this is the character of the Madhyamaka path. In Tibetan we say that delusion is baseless. Delusion itself is illusion. Yet, actually [this is why] the path works. It needs a little bit of contemplation, I guess, to think about this.
Rinpoche’s dream of the birdcage earrings and the talking bird
The best example – I use this example all the time, and of course this example was used by the masters of the past – is the dream state. When you are dreaming, of course whatever you are dreaming about did not exist before you fell asleep. And it also doesn’t exist after you wake up. This much you know. But the thing you need to know is that even while you are dreaming, it does not exist. It’s there, but it’s not there. And yet, [the dream experience] is not chaotic. In the dream there is time. In the dream there is space. In the dream there is communication. In the dream things happen and they have an impact on your projections. You can get really scared and excited.
I don’t mean to brag, but I was recently on retreat and dreamt that I was wearing an earring. You know how the ancient Chinese have these birdcages? I was wearing one. And it had a bird inside, a live one. I was so fascinated, as the bird was telling me all kinds of things including some Dharma. I was dreaming that, and then I woke up and I was so disappointed that I had woken up. I really wanted the dream to continue. And it did continue, this bird. There’s nothing much to brag about. But you know how it is? It makes sense. It doesn’t make sense in one way, but it does make sense [in another]. It doesn’t make sense because first of all I don’t have holes here [DJKR gestures to his earlobes]. In the last few years, I have considered making holes here and maybe wearing some earrings, but just the thought of ear piercing – I’m not good with needles. And what about the bird in the cage? But in the dream it was working.
The Buddhist path is like a dream
That’s how it is. I think the dream is a good example. In the dream, there is order. Things make sense. Things function. And that’s how samsara functions. That’s how nirvana functions. This is Buddhism. The moment you wake up, Buddhism is gone. Dharma is finished. No more. That’s why the Buddha is not a Buddhist. Gone, finished. Like the birdcage and the bird talking. But the path works like this. There is that procedure.
There’s the working hard part, there’s the disappointment part, there is the rewarding part, there is the achievement part, there’s the going up and going down part, all of that. And as you know, you could just be having a power nap which is just two or three minutes of dozing, and even in that two or three minutes of power nap you could be dreaming of constructing a whole university [over the course of] a few decades. All this is very elastic, very changeable. So this world of “everything is there, but it is not there” is really liberating. It really gives us so much space. It really does. And of course within that we have so much suffering, dukkha, pain and so forth.
The three reasons why the Buddha took the bodhisattva vow
We tell stories, and those stories can also be very inspiring. For instance, suppose you ask me: how did Buddha decide to pursue the way of the Tathagata in the first place? How, in the first place, did Buddha decide to take the bodhisattva vow? There are many different explanations, and I’m going to bring one from a specific sutra. It’s quite nice, so I wanted to share this with you. This sutra says there are three reasons.
This [story is from] way before he became a bodhisattva. He was just an ordinary normal human being. And with three reasons, he decided that he had to take the bodhisattva vow, he has to develop this bodhicitta mind.
These three reasons are important. Because I would say this is another distinction between [Buddhism and] many religious ideas about [God]. How did God become God? How did someone become the almighty sponsor or almighty creator? If you think that Buddha is like a Buddhist god, and if you ask how did he decide to take the bodhichitta vow in the first place, there are three reasons. And they are very ordinary and down to earth reasons.
First, he was so exhausted by anything to do with pride. His own pride and other people’s pride. I don’t know how to put this in a very simple way. He got so tired. It’s just so endless. Pride. Remember, we have been talking [about how] pride is being overly satisfied with oneself. And pride has the element of totally missing the truth. Basically you are thinking about yourself as being [someone who] is not yourself. It’s a misguided conclusion, a misguided decision. So he was exhausted with the pride business, his own pride and others’ pride. Just so exhausted. That’s number one.
Second, he saw dukkha, the dukkha that we have been talking about. Of course, [this includes] the dukkha of sickness and death. There’s no need to even mention that. But [there’s also] all-pervasive dukkha. Whatever we do, it never comes to an end. [The end] just never comes. We think, “Right now I’m going to do this and this,” and we think there will supposedly be an end to our worldly pursuits, but this end doesn’t exist. We just keep on doing it. You worry about your child, nursery school, high school, university. Then your child gets married and has [their own] child, and then as grandparents you worry about this. And [every step of the way] you do things. It just doesn’t end. It keeps on going. And this [is the second thing that] made him feel exhausted. [Perhaps] a better way [is to say that] we are always preparing. Tomorrow’s preparation we do today [i.e. we prepare for tomorrow today]. The day after tomorrow’s preparation we do tomorrow. We are arranging and preparing this year for the next year. Preparation. Supposedly the real thing is going to happen, but it never happens. We just keep on preparing. This is the second thing that made him think “what is this?”
The third reason why he [became] determined to [take the] bodhicitta vow is when he saw others who had less or no attachment. [He saw] how they are liberated, how they are happy and content. When I speak about these three reasons like this, it sounds very simple and very basic. But please contemplate. It’s something quite profound, I would say. Because these are the three things that moved him to take the bodhicitta vow. And I think the third one is quite important, because [it tells us that] “[Having] no attachment is actually possible.” That’s a good thing. And when you have no attachment or less attachment, it’s quite soothing, quite cool, quite liberating. There’s a purpose.
So for these three reasons he took the bodhicitta vow. And by the way, there have been some requests to take the bodhisattva vow, which I think we will do towards the end, because there may be people who do not necessarily have the intention of taking any kind of vows.
So you see, I just gave you a story. [Like a] dream. Within the dream [it happened], just like the birdcage and the bird, dangling here on my ear. Once upon a time, a long time ago, when Shakyamuni Buddha was not a buddha, this [happened]. Once upon a time. And because of these three reasons, he had the guts and the confidence. He was convinced. He had the condition to take the bodhisattva vow and generate bodhichitta.
[Let me give you] some sort of concrete thread. Even though the view is what we need to transcend, we have dukkha and we are bound by delusion. We are dreaming, and for that matter we are having a nightmare. So it is inevitable, so to speak, that we have the wish to be awakened from this nightmare. And so [we wish for a] path that can help us to awaken4Ed.: we wish to transcend all views, and we need a path to awaken from our nightmare. But any path has a view, so we must temporarily adopt a view in order to ultimately transcend all views.. The Tathagata laid out three kinds of categories. Ground, path, and [result], the end of the path. I’m quoting from the sutra again.
Ground, Path and Result
(1) Ground is the union of ultimate truth and relative truth
The ground is the inseparability or union or paradox of relative truth and ultimate truth. I’m repeating this in order to help you understand. In the dream, [there’s] a birdcage and a bird. It’s happening. The bird is talking. I got excited. But while it was happening, it actually did not exist. It never existed before [the dream], and you can see that I don’t have an earring. I don’t have a hole here [in my earlobe]. I never had it before [the dream], I never had it [after the dream], I didn’t even have it while it was supposedly happening. [This is] relative truth and ultimate truth in union. Ultimately it does not exist, but relatively it was happening. And there’s no disharmony. It’s perfect. The ground is the union of the two truths.
Of course, [there is also] the birdcage of this life, which is happening right now. This moment. I’m thinking about going to Vajradhatu tomorrow. Birdcage. And yes, I can distinguish between coffee and water. The one that is doing the distinguishing, and even the very coffee, it’s just like the bird that was talking to me. But I can drink this coffee, and magically it will go down through my throat. It’s amazing that it actually [works] like this.
[For things like] coffee and water, I [can see] this [is a] dream. But for certain [other] things, I don’t know [if I can do this]. If you take away my coffee or if you put some marsala in my coffee, I think my level of intellectual understanding that this is just an illusion will [still be present, and I will] forgive you, “Oh, it’s just an illusion. Put marsala [in my coffee], it doesn’t matter”. But if you go through my diary, even though it is also a birdcage, there I will not be happy with you. It’s a bigger deal. So then my information [i.e. my understanding] that this is just a dream – this is just an illusion, this is just like a bird cage – is not too much. Because this is my diary. And [there’s] much more. I’m not going to tell you, of course not. There are a lot of lists. For example, if you [were to] set fire to one of my monasteries and burn it down, actually [DJKR whispers] I’d be happy. Now I’d have a good reason to relax. So it doesn’t mean that something bigger means that it is less illusory or more illusory.
There are a lot of things. I’m trying to think of something ridiculous maybe. One of the latest principles that I have, if you step on it I think I will mind. Even though it’s a birdcage. Even though it’s just totally useless. I don’t want to share this, as it’s too embarrassing. Do you know why? Because it’s a principle. But I should actually share it, because it’s just like a birdcage, and you’re like a birdcage. I’m talking about one birdcage to another birdcage. It should not really bother me, but I’m sorry – my level of understanding that ‘things are there but also not there’ is not that strong. Do you understand what I’m talking about here?
There were two or three people on the right side, and two or three people on the left side, and their only job is to bow down and say, “We are sorry that we are creating this inconvenience for you”. There’s construction happening. It’s meticulous, spotless, clean, efficient. But these people are bowing down. And I actually have lots of videos if you want to watch them. I don’t take photos of Zen temples and Zen gardens. I take photos of these people. To me, it’s like “Wow – this is what makes Japan Japan”. Anyone else would think this is a waste of time and a waste of manpower, six people just bowing down and expressing how [sorry they are]. And they probably don’t even mean it. But this is what they do. I get fascinated by this. And when people dismiss and criticise things [like this], I get defensive. And I go on and on for hours talking about how great this is and how you should all be doing this. I want to just give you an example. Principles. Things like this.
I used to watch CNN a lot. But because they go on and on about how Trump is bad, they’re really bashing Trump all the time, I almost like Trump now. I’m just so tired of CNN. In the past, I respected CNN and BBC. This was the only journalism that [I respected], especially BBC. I was telling someone that I couldn’t care less about Brexit. I have no personal connection with Mr Johnson. But when he was elected recently, I was in retreat. And I had one regret. I wanted to watch the faces of the BBC reporters [when he won]. “Take that, BBC!” You understand? These principles, values, decisions – they are all birdcages. And I have spent hours thinking about these things. What a waste of precious human life.
All this is such a waste of precious human body and time. But you know, this happens. I get so passionate about this. I initiate arguments between me and others. And I initiate arguments between people who disagree [with each other], and I enjoy listening to them. This is what happens when you [don’t] know that these are all like a birdcage in a dream. Basically, when you forget the union between relative truth and ultimate truth. So that’s the first [of the three categories of ground, path and result]. I’m trying to give you something that you can take home, that you can take away from whatever we have been discussing these few days.
(2) Path is the union of wisdom and method
Then because of the ground, [path is] the union of wisdom and method. Especially in the Mahayana, there’s nothing that cannot be [used as a] method, except wrong views or harmful thoughts. Harming others obviously cannot be turned into something beneficial. But other than that [everything can used as a method or path].
The union of wisdom and method. Wisdom not hijacking the method. Method not hijacking the wisdom. Methods like meditation or present day vipassana. Those are methods. They need to be united with wisdom. Wisdom is like shunyata, prajñaparamita, tathagata, tathata. In order to actualise that [wisdom], you need methods, including methods such as prostration and offering incense. You cannot say, “Oh, in the sphere of prajñaparamita, in the sphere of shunyata, there is no flower and no incense. Those are just religious cultural trappings”. No. This happens a lot, by the way. A lot of cherry-picking happens. For instance, things like shunyata, emptiness and dependent arising sound good in modern people’s ears. It sounds logical. It sounds non-religious. It sounds non-superstitious. It sounds very philosophical and intellectual and all of that, and therefore a lot of people are attracted to that.
But then, what do they do? They cherry pick this [emptiness] and then they look down at things like devotional chant, belief in reincarnation, and belief in karma5Ed.: i.e. they do not understand that belief in karma and reincarnation are methods. They are ways of actualising or putting into practice the wisdom of prajñaparamita.. [They think] those are religious trappings, cultural trappings. What’s happening here? They are divorcing wisdom and method.
Remember that wisdom and method are inseparable, and even as a practice no method should be looked down on or disregarded as something useless. And even though we often hear that some methods are higher or more precious, that’s actually very subjective. For some [people], creating a sand mandala is precious, quick, powerful, and magical. For others, begging food, begging alms, renouncing worldly life, and becoming a bhikshu or bhikshuni is very inspiring, very encouraging, soothing, and trouble-free. So what method is better or not, quicker or not, it really depends on the individual. Of course when you hear the teachings, especially if you hear teachings from the tantric masters, they will say, “This is the quickest, the most powerful, the easiest” and so forth. But that’s just a skilful means to discipline the students. This happens. If you go to Theravadin monasteries, you will hear that pañchashila6pañchashila (पञ्चशील) = the five precepts: to abstain from killing, theft, sexual misconduct, falsehood and intoxication – see pañchashila. or shamatha-vipassana are the best, the quickest and the safest way. And I totally agree with them. So [the union of wisdom and method], that’s another thing that you should take away.
(3) Result is a shift in attitude
The end, the result, is so-called buddhahood or enlightenment. Basically, this is really a shift attitude much more than halos and all kinds of enlightened qualities that we often hear about. It’s basically a shift of attitude. Remember the example that I gave you, of the child who was scared of seeing a wrathful face but then going backstage and seeing that it’s just a mask? That’s a total shift of attitude. That’s basically nirvana, liberation, moksha. And from the Mahayana and especially from the Vajrayana point of view, this is something that can happen now. Of course there are a lot of philosophical discussions [related to this]. For example, in the causal path such as the Shravakayana and even in the general Mahayana, there’s an argument that we’re already stuck with this body, so we will have to exhaust this body in order to completely liberate ourselves and attain full enlightenment or parinirvana. That’s the argument they make.
Now in the Vajrayana or tantrayana, no [that’s not the case]. [You can attain liberation] even if you just shift your attitude towards your body. [It’s] like ore and gold. It all depends on what kind of courage and what kind of vision you have, what kind of open-mindedness you have. If you are a good goldsmith or a savvy gold merchant, if someone gives you a kilo of gold ore you’re not going to complain. “Oh it’s so dusty, it’s not shiny, it looks terrible”. You’re not. You’re going to happily accept this ore. In fact, if you’re a good goldsmith, you’ll be very happy that you received it as ore, because now you have [every opportunity] to make [it into] whatever you want. Because you are an artist. You are an architect. So you can do whatever you like. It’s a shift of attitude. That is basically moksha.
[You might wonder] if I am putting a lot of water [i.e. watering this down]. Am I just telling you these things in order to encourage you, because maybe in the back of your head you think, “Oh no, enlightenment is really far away. [I can only attain enlightenment] after many many lifetimes, after many many eons. That’s something that can be achieved only after a lot of hard work”. Well I have to say, no, I’m not [watering this down]. I cannot mislead you. This is not just some sort of encouragement or pep talk. As the example states, if you can [see the ore as gold], shifting your attitude is very much possible. And the moment you are released from a certain view, a certain dimension, a certain narrow or limited dimension – the moment you are free from those, [then the] limitless, expansive view is possible. I’m not saying this just for the sake of encouragement. This is the Mahayana and especially the tantric view.
Okay, we’ll take a break. Wait. There’s a wonderful book here, authored and with camera work [by Sandra Scales]. I know her. She was the one who taught me English in the late 1970s. That was the first time I smelled patchouli, the hippies. She was the embodiment of the hippies. She may not accept this, but anyway she was a student of my grandfather, HH Dudjom Rinpoche, and also my father. And supposedly she listened to my teachings as well. So I guess you can call her a student of three generations. Anyway, she created this book called “Sacred Voices of the Nyingma Masters”, and it has been reprinted by Vana Foundation, and the proceeds are to be dedicated for life release. This is such a compassionate and wonderful thing to do, so I encourage you to at least look at the book during the break. Oh, and [the new edition has] an additional chapter on Thinley Norbu Rinpoche.
[END OF TALK 9]
Q & A
How can counsellors and therapists work with people who are suffering without burning out?
[Q]: Rinpoche, you addressed compassion yesterday, and also the professor asked a question. There are so many people who work with people in great suffering, they’re working with people suffering all the time. So what practice is the best for when they start losing hope, when their hearts get very heavy, when they live with so much suffering?
[DJKR]: There’s an echo. Can you [repeat your question]?
[Q]: Many people are counsellors or therapists who work with people who are suffering, with communities where there’s a great deal of suffering. So it’s very easy for those people to burn out. I notice you addressed this slightly yesterday. We talked about wisdom, [could you say] a little more about compassion?
[DJKR]: Okay, so keeping the topic of the way of the Tathagata as a base, I’m going to answer this very important question. [Your question is about] becoming victim of our own compassion, burnt out by our own philanthropic activities and so on. Well of course, fundamentally I think these things come because we don’t have the ground that we talked about this morning: the union of relative truth and ultimate truth. Of course. But at the moment this is very intellectual. [Maybe] it makes sense on the intellectual level, but I think you are talking more about the practical level. Okay, well, I don’t know. I’m in the habit of talking about paradox. So yes, you’re asking the right person, me, but [also the] wrong person, me, together, both. [I’m the] right person, because I inherited this kind of job. I’m forced into this kind of job. And also [I’m the] wrong person, for many reasons. Obviously [I don’t] understand the [union of] relative truth and ultimate truth. And also I just keep on falling into this trap of [having a] goal. Some sort of goal, some sort of achievement, some sort of plaque, some sort of award, some sort of recognition. Even [seeking] acknowledgement from the other side. And also I’m always bogged down by my pride and stubbornness in insisting that what I do is the only way. You can ask those people who are working for me. They can tell you this. And also, I think I’m not able to hear. I’m realising this more and more. I think I sort of listen to people, but wow – it’s so difficult to hear [what they’re saying]. It’s just so difficult, and especially putting oneself into the other person’s shoes.
But here again, [because you are] someone who is following the Tathagata and someone who has really encouraged bodhicitta, especially relative bodhicitta, I think it really is important to have the long vision that your work is not just to counsel. You’re not just giving them temporary shelter, friendship, and encouragement. What you want, your long and ultimate goal, is that they see the truth. And this is true whether you are helping a dog, a mosquito, whoever. You understand? Just because they are animals doesn’t mean they have no chance to see the truth. We are following Shakyamuni Buddha who is really a big voice for the logic of cause, condition and effect. And when the right cause and condition is there, even if you don’t wish to have the effect, it will come.
And as Buddha himself said, of all the causes and conditions, your motivation, your intention -watching your intention is of utmost importance. And I think [you should be] see-sawing between humility and confidence. If you have managed to counsel somebody even for five minutes, you should be happy and you should really treat yourself with some kind of award by [thinking] you have done a good job. You have done your best. You did the right thing. Celebrate your own great work. And at the same time humility. It’s never enough. What I do is never enough. I should do more. I should do it in a more correct way. I should do it not only [according to the] way of my view, but also to the way of others’ views. [You should have] this see-saw between humility and conviction. This is a difficult one by the way. Sometimes we get carried away by conviction, and then at other times we get bogged down by, “I can’t do this, I will not be able to do this”. Basically, bodhichitta is actually a life management strategy. If you talk about management. It’s also a leadership training, a leadership path. Really. Having this grand vision. I hope I answered your question. Do you have any more?
[Q]: Is there a specific practice?
[DJKR]: A specific practice. Okay. Let me think. I think this is good, what I’m going to say. This has been encouraged by the masters of the past, again and again. There are a lot of things to do, such as the six paramitas – which are generosity, discipline, patience etc. But I think the simplest and easiest and also the most rewarding thing to do is prayers. You know how I was talking about the see-saw between conviction and humility? Prayer has both of them. When you are doing prayers, obviously you’re admitting that you don’t have whatever you are praying for. And also, as Shantideva said in Bodhicharyavatara, actually we don’t really know what we are praying for, because we don’t really know what is good for ourselves or good for others. So we pray that may we be able to do what the bodhisattvas and the buddhas of the past and the present and the future, what they do. Prayers. Yes, at the end of the day, I think prayers. And if you want to add more specific prayers, there are so many prayers that are [taught] by Buddha himself and by his followers. There are so many.
And if you want to add some more exotic methods, you can chant mantras. Probably one of the most basic and very powerful mantras you can chant is OM MANI PADME HUM. Basically the six syllables work with six different emotions, six different defilements, six different projections, six different kinds of attitude, six different kinds of realms. We go through six different kinds of realms all the time. At times, we are in the god realm because of our pride. At times we are very like pack-rats, stingy, saving everything, you just store it even if you can’t use it yourself. You don’t give it to others of course. You are going through the hungry ghost realm. At times we get jealous with our colleagues and friends, asura realm. At times we throw a tantrum, hell realm. At times we have desire, human realm. So we go through six realms, and not only us, [also everyone else]. So supposedly if you chant OM MANI PADME HUM, it really shapes and manipulates and stirs your nadis and prana just by chanting this mantra, and that way your projections change. Your defilements get purified. So you can chant that OM MANI PADME HUM. And then you can add more and more other methods. Something like that? Okay.
Does the dream continue after enlightenment?
[Q]: Rinpoche, I’m grateful for your teachings. I was wondering. When the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree, he said, “I have found something which is peaceful, uncompounded, clear light, but nobody will understand this, so I’d rather go to the forest and keep quiet”. On another occasion, he said, “There’s no suffering, there’s no ignorance, there’s no path, there’s no enlightenment”. So my question is, does the view happen also within the dream, and does the dream continue even after you wake up? And is enlightenment some kind of union of the dream and waking up together?
[DJKR]: Yes, you can put it that way. But more specifically, an enlightened being, a fully enlightened being has never experienced samsara. They will say, “What is samsara? What is that?” They will say, “What is nirvana?” Nagarjuna explained that very well. I think we talked about this the last time I was in Pune. You know, the [example of a] stage, a play. And you have a play about something beautiful, something hideous. Or you perform magic, something very desirable, something very scary. And there are three people. First, there is the audience who doesn’t know it’s magic, and they get so sucked into this game of desirable and hideous [things]. That’s ignorance. Second, there’s the magician himself, who kind of knows this is not really happening, but he also gets involved with the game of playing the magic, and sometimes he even gets a little turned on by what he has created, or he gets disturbed by whatever he created. That is the yogi’s state. Finally, there are other people who are not even the audience of that show. Those are the buddhas. [For them] nothing happened. Nothing desirable happened, no hideous thing happened, nothing happened. The dream never happened. So there is no awakening also. Now I’m using really classic Mahayana language.
What is the mind state of the Tathagata?
[Q]: Rinpoche, I have a question about the mind state of the Tathagata. Recently, a person who newly became Buddhist asked me about this and I didn’t dare to answer because it’s the job of a teacher. I’m speaking to my knowledge. There’s very little written about this state.
[DJKR]: Very little written about what?
[Q]: About the mind state of an enlightened being. Their mind state. Is this because one’s not supposed to talk about this in the Vajrayana or in Buddhism in general? And actually she was told that if one claims to be a realised being and have [reached] the enlightened state, this person is probably a charlatan, and truly realised beings don’t talk about their mind states. And all the descriptions that she read were in the autobiography of the spiritual teacher of the city in which we now stay7Ed.: i.e. Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, later known as Osho.. And there are pages and pages about what his mind state is like as a supposedly realised being, and as a response to this a lot of letters went around the world from other supposedly realised beings. One of them was from a Japanese Zen monk who thanked him for describing this and agreed, “Yes, this is the state, and thank you for expressing it, I’ve never been able to express it or describe it.” But this person is not my teacher. You are my teacher, Rinpoche. So I don’t know if I can trust what he has described. And in my mind, you are the number one Tathagata. So since you brought it up, could you please describe your mind state right now? Or when you are writing on your WeChat moments or writing an Instagram post? I’m sure you can describe it more beautifully and more exactly and accurately than this other spiritual master has done.
[DJKR]: I think most of the answer is already there [in your question]. To describe my mind state, first of all I wish to know my own mind state. I still aspire, really, that I [will] recognise my own mind. And not only that, after realising my mind state, I also aspire that I will know how to articulate this to others. I don’t know which sutra or which account this comes from, but there’s a very beautiful discussion between two buddhas. One of the buddhas is called Sangye Karma, the Buddha who enjoys the stars. I think that’s his name. The other buddha is Kuntuzik, the All-knowing Buddha. This is basically when Mañjushri, who is supposedly still a bodhisattva – when he finally reaches or becomes a buddha, his name is Kuntuzik, the All-knowing Buddha or the Buddha who gazes at everything. So there’s a discussion between these two buddhas, and the very beautiful part is that Sangye Karma, the one who enjoys the stars, his buddhafield is as big as thumb-sized. And the duration of his buddhafield is the duration of a spark coming from a fire. [DJKR clicks his fingers]. That’s it. Finished. Now Kuntuzik, Mañjushri’s buddhafield is infinite, and also the duration of his buddhafield is endless. So these two buddhas are discussing. I don’t remember the discussion completely, but they come to a conclusion – because it’s a trick, you understand? It’s [about] time basically.
Because the moment we think in terms of “infinite”, [when we say] Mañjushri’s buddhafield is infinite, the moment we use the word “infinite”, we must be thinking “big”. But no, it’s measureless. Measureless doesn’t mean it’s big. The [buddhafield of the] other buddha is measured8Ed.: i.e. it falls within the dualism of size and duration and measurement, big and small, etc.. [It is] thumb-sized and has the duration of a spark. Mañjushri’s buddhafield is measureless and endless. Basically, they are talking about the same thing. These two come to an agreement. I guess something like, “Oh, your land is as big as mine”, and the other one says, “Oh yes, what a surprise. I thought yours is as small as thumb-sized, but it is not”. That kind of discussion. Anyway, what I’m trying to tell you, as we talked yesterday, it’s like you’re falling from a cliff. People like me. And then you manage to grab a branch with your teeth and you have to ask for help, but the moment you open your mouth you will fall. The moment I talk about the state of my mind, I will fall. So practically speaking, yes, please look at my WeChat moments and my Instagram messages. Somewhat and sometimes they may be expressing the state of my mind. But other times they may be very well camouflaging the state of my mind. Just to divert your attention from the state of my mind, I’ll send different colours and shapes. That could be happening. We don’t know. I’m very tricky here, sometimes I play so many tricks that I get myself caught. Not only sometimes. Quite a lot of times. But going back to the first part of your question, there are actually a lot of sutras and shastras and tantric texts that describe the state of mind of the Buddha, but I think probably the language is deceiving. But the deception of the language is sometimes deliberate.
For instance, if you read about the Buddha’s qualities, the Buddha is supposedly very beautiful to look at. No matter how much you look at him, you’ll never be satisfied. You just want to look and look and look. Supposedly Maudgalyayana, one of his disciples, has looked at him for eons and eons, something like this. And there are descriptions about his beauty, his beautiful quality. Like the 32 major marks and 80 minor marks that some of you may have heard. But if you read them, some of them are very strange. He has antelope-like ankles. His body width and breadth are exactly the same. He’s boxy? Really, is that beautiful? And his ushnisha? Would you date somebody who has a lump on his head? His skin is golden-coloured. Yes, maybe if you’re a kid and you like Star Wars, you might feel it’s cool to hang out with somebody who looks like bronze plated with gold. But these are difficult. These are to throw you, to pull the rug out from under your feet, again and again. And then there’s the gender bit that I was talking about yesterday.
Okay, so we’ll have one more question and then I think I have to do some transmissions, then we will do the refuge and bodhicitta.
I am afraid that I might lose my bodhichitta
[Q]: I have a question about thoughts and refuge and bodhicitta, because refuge and bodhicitta are thoughts that we can have, and therefore that we can lose. This is the biggest fear I have.
[Q]: Yes, thought, because refuge and bodhicitta is something to do with thoughts, right?
[DJKR]: Yes, it’s like you cultivate, you contrive, “May all beings be enlightened, may all be happy, may all be free from suffering, may all never be apart from that joy that they already have”. It’s a fabrication. But that’s okay, it’s relative bodhicitta.
[Q]: But it’s like [if] we can have something, we can lose something. So then I have the fear that with refuge and bodhicitta I have something to lose. I fear I will lose something.
[DJKR]: May you have this fear forever.
[Q]: But then …
[DJKR]: I really wish that you become sleepless thinking, “I will lose this relative bodhicitta”. For now you need it.
[Q]: But that’s so scary.
[DJKR]: Very good. Much better than you thinking that you will lose your phone.
[Q]: [inaudible, audience is laughing]
[DJKR]: No, the more you do it, the more it will stick with you. That’s called mind training.
[Q]: [inaudible, audience is laughing]
[DJKR]: Doesn’t matter. May you have it, and may you have fear of losing it, and I will guarantee that you will not lose it.
[END OF TALK 10]
The abyss of meditation
Because of our entanglement in principles like I was talking this morning, [we have] all these kinds of methods. Remember method and wisdom, methods to create taste, flavour, and enthusiasm to practice. Because we get bored, we need excitement, we need encouragement, we need to align ourselves with a certain path. We need to feel good along the path. We need some sort of direction. We need railings.
Talking about railings, at the very highest level of meditators from traditions such as mahamudra and mahasandhi, do you know what term they use for so-called meditation, samadhi, dhyana? Do you know what the use? Sometimes they term it an “abyss”. It’s true. They consider dhyana, concentration, meditation as an abyss. You don’t want to fall in there. But you know, most of us don’t even consider these [meditation practices] as an abyss. We consider them as a thing to do. And that’s fine. But as you go through this path, yes, you need references, you need railings, you need support. So all the details, colours, shapes, dressing – they are not to be dismissed. They are important. But what you need to realise is that being authentic is what you cannot lose. These two have to come together, united.
I think that with this, I have exhausted everything that I can tell you. And I don’t know how much all this has benefited you in your understanding of the Buddhadharma. I hope some of it has made you think a little bit. I hope for others, some of what I have said has given you some kind of direction to your study and practice, especially your practice.
The union of emptiness and appearance is a big gift from the Buddha to the world
Nonduality, union, the things that I’ve been saying – the union of emptiness and appearance, this is a big gift from the Buddha to the world. We cannot afford to lose it. It is a key to personal peace and harmony, and therefore it is a key to world peace and harmony. It is a key to everything. Economy, parenting, even for a good sleep this is important. So for those who have time and enthusiasm, please explore this. Explore, and as the Buddha himself encouraged, [explore] with an analytical mind, a critical mind, not taking things at face value. And after a while, you have to be courageous. You have to come to a point where you are brave [enough] to also discard your analytical mind and jump. Because the analytical mind, the critical mind, at the end the day they are just like a Barbie doll. They are toys. They will not deliver much. They will deceive you. You have to come to a conclusion to jump. And then. Incredible. It’s like Pandora’s Box I think. It’s so amazing, the wealth of what the tantrics call kayas and jhanas. It’s amazing, really just so amazing to even think about this. A glass of water. We think it’s water, fish think it’s a home – amazing isn’t it? That’s like opening the world, opening the view and the principles and values and meanings, and I think we will not get hung up with one principle, one value, one meaning. That is just is so tiresome, and so much poverty mentality. It’s not rich. It’s not abundance. It’s so narrow, so closed, and so much poverty mentality. Not elegant. Yes. Be elegant and be outrageous together. The union of outrageousness and elegance. Thank you.
[END OF TALK 11]
Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers
Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio