Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

View, Meditation and Action: Day 1

DJKR Sydney View Meditation Action 1

Three-day teaching at The Roundhouse, Sydney, Australia
Day 1: January 25, 2020
Part 1: 51 minutes, Part 2: 50 minutes, Part 3: 40 minutes

Transcript: Day 1: part 1part 2part 3
Audio: Day 1: part 1part 2 , part 3
Video: Day 1: part 1part 2part 3

See also: Day 2 / Day 3

Commentary by Alex Li Trisoglio: “Introduction to Buddhism – Week 4: Vipassana”

Note 1: This is an edited transcript of a live teaching, and should not be taken as Rinpoche’s final word. 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 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.

Day 1: Contents

Part 1


View, meditation, action and result

Part 2

The challenge and necessity of using language to express the view

The two truths

Part 3



Prayer to Arya Tara

Talk 1


Fate, free will and karma

I begin with an expression of joy for being here [and] seeing many of my old friends. And also Happy Chinese New Year. I guess some people may think fate has brought you here. As a Buddhist, I don’t know. I don’t think we believe in fate, like [something] sort of predetermined. It does seem to have a connotation of being controlled from somewhere else. Something sort of supernatural, something beyond you. Then maybe some of you may think, well, it’s your free will that brought you here. Again as a Buddhist, I don’t know whether we believe in free will. Buddhists are really strange, because free will also seems to indicate that you can do things at your will [i.e. you can do whatever you want]. You have supremacy. You are supreme. Individual supremacy. I don’t know whether Buddhists believe in free will.

Well, Buddhists have an idea or notion [of how to talk about this]. We use the term “karma,” which is so overly used. I think it’s in the English dictionary now, isn’t it? At least it’s in Wikipedia, right? Actually, karma is simply a sort of law of cause, condition and effect. But fundamentally this karma is false. It is falsifiable1Ed.: DJKR is expressing that the “law” of karma is like scientific “laws” in that they are not intended as statements or descriptions of an unchanging ultimate truth. In this sense karma is ultimately or “fundamentally” false. Karl Popper introduced the notion of falsifiability in 1934 to operationalize Ernst Mach’s dictum that “where neither confirmation nor refutation is possible, science is not concerned”. Following Popper, we might consider that the Buddhist idea of karma is neither falsifiable nor scientific, since although it can explain everything it also does not exclude anything, and it cannot make any experimentally testable predictions. See wikipedia on falsifiability.. As logical and as sensible as karma [might] sound for some, it’s simply a law of cause, condition and effect. You plant marigold [seeds]. [And then] with fertilizer [and] the right [conditions], the marigold will come. That’s it. That’s what it is. Karma. The law of karma. But as logical as it sounds, as sensible or even as empirical as might appear to be at times, karma is fundamentally falsifiable2See note 1.. Actually, even hardline Buddhists don’t believe in karma. It’s not like the Almighty Creator. It’s not an “almighty” thing.

Anyway, you’re all here. And I’m sorry that there have been a [few] karmic consequences before I came3Ed. DJKR’s travel plans to Australia were disrupted, resulting in the cancellation of several teachings.. And [those have] had a lot of consequences for a lot of other people. It’s quite amazing that just one person’s change of movement could impact so many things, hotel rooms, air tickets — just so many things. But as I said, you are all here. Some of you are here because you’re what we Buddhists call “karmically in debt”. I’m in debt with you and you are in debt with me. I mean, it’s fairly good proof that our karmic debt exists [because] some of you have been coming to me for the past 36 years. And if that is not proof that sycophants exist, then there is no other good proof.

You may have [come here for] many reasons. {Perhaps] curiosity, friends, or family somehow brought you here. [Or maybe] ads or word of mouth. And others [among you] may be mindfulness freaks or meditation freaks, and you just want to expand your knowledge about that [and] that’s why you’re here. Anyway, I guess you must have some sort of interest in what we call Buddhadharma, Buddhism, the Buddha’s way.

Projections of Buddhism have changed over time

In one way, Buddhism is really deep and vast and profound. But on the other hand, it’s also ridiculously simple. And this also makes it so difficult. It’s like a paradox. It’s so difficult and at the same time it’s so simple. This makes it so difficult. And probably it is a good thing. Maybe this is a self-defense mechanism of Buddhadharma or Buddhism. Maybe about two thousand years ago, Buddhism or so-called Buddhists would be considered [in the way that] we cherish or venerate or value or don’t value, I don’t know, [in the way that] we look at computer scientists nowadays. Or astrophysicists or economists. That’s how Buddhadharma, Buddhism or Buddhists were sort of looked at. [I think there were] different kinds of projections two thousand years ago.

And because of that, there were incredible patrons in India like the Pala Emperor Dharmapala4Dharmapala (धर्म्मपाल) = the second ruler of the Pala Empire in the Indian Subcontinent (ruled 8th century, c.783-820 CE), which corresponds to the present-day Bengal and Bihar regions. He was the son and successor of Gopala, the founder of the Pala Dynasty, and he greatly expanded the boundaries and influence of the Pala empire. Dharmapala was a great patron of Buddhism. He revived Nalanda university and founded Vikramashila university – see Dharmapala (emperor).. He funded or basically founded the famous Vikramashila University5Vikramashila (विक्रमशिला) = one of the two most important centers of learning in India during the Pala Empire, along with Nalanda. Vikramashila was established in the 8th century CE by the Pala emperor Dharmapala in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nalanda. Atisha, the renowned pandita, is sometimes listed as a notable abbot. Vikramashila was also a centre for Vajrayana, and its Tantric preceptors included Jayabhadra, a monk from Sri Lanka, who was the first prominent commentator on the Chakrasamvara tantra (in the 9th century CE) – see Vikramashila.. So what I’m saying is that’s how so-called Buddhism or Buddhists were projected upon or seen [some two thousand years ago].

Now, two thousand years later, this has changed. Now, if you look at a BBC talk show [that has] something to do with current religious affairs, where there are panel discussions about religion with all sorts of so-called religious pundits, then Buddhism is put together [with Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.] into something called “religion”. Just imagine if in two thousand years, Sydney University gets categorized as “Oh, that temple, that cultish sort of temple”. Or if in two thousand years MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, [is seen] as “Oh, those believers”. Maybe [it won’t take] even two thousand years. And [what if future] university professors are [seen as] no more than gurus – charming charismatic leaders? Something like that. That’s how Buddhism has become, basically. The projections [made] upon Buddhism have changed a lot.

There are many reasons for that. There are a lot of good reasons also. Many times, there’s no choice. It’s inevitable. Buddhists come with this [Rinpoche gestures at his robes]. Look, it looks really religious. Buddhists are always fiddling with flowers. They’re always fiddling with things like incense. And they have gadgets like malas6mala (माला) = a string of prayer beads commonly used while reciting a mantra – see mala.. So [there’s] all that. And Buddhism also has lots of stories. They tell stories [about things such as the] hell realm, hungry ghost realm, Sukhavati7Sukhavati (सुखावती) (Tibetan: Dewachen) = the Western Paradise, refers to the western pure land of Amitabha in Mahayana Buddhism – see Sukhavati., Buddha realm, reincarnation. “You better behave, otherwise you’ll be reborn as a prawn in your next life, and then you will end up being fried somewhere in Sichuan”. All these stories. So then you think, “Oh well”.

[But] stories are important, really important. Let’s say you’re a professor from Sydney University. You’re a scientist. Really, you’re a scientist through and through. And you’re trying to explain a very important scientific [concept] to a kid or someone who has absolutely no background in science. But you have to do it, because it’s your responsibility. But even more important, you feel. You care. You have compassion. You are a scientist with compassion. You are trying to [cure a] disease or you are trying to go to the moon or [something like that]. You do it with compassion, with care, with love. But how can you [explain this scientific concept] to a kid who has no background in science? How do you do it? You tell stories. Even scientists tell stories, don’t they? And that story [might be] written down by the student, typed, published, and five hundred years later [someone reads it and thinks] “Ah, it’s a story”

.Buddhism has interacted with other cultures

There are many other reasons why the projection of Buddhism is inevitably changing and has changed. After the birth of Buddhism in India, its host or birth country, it actually did not last long in India. But then it got adopted and nurtured and cradled by the Chinese for centuries. I think if you look at the [number of] Indian emperors who really supported Buddhism, maybe there were fifty, many fewer I think, maybe only twenty. But if you look at the list of Chinese emperors or kings who have supported Buddhism, it probably exceeds two hundred. Even today, China has more Buddhists than the rest of the world put together.

But when Buddhism traveled to China, China was not just some barren [land]. China [already] had its own culture, a really strong and deep culture [that included] Confucianism and Taoism. So when Buddhism came, the Confucianist [culture] had an influence [on] Buddhism and probably Buddhism also [had an influence on] Chinese [culture]. And this is very visible [even today]. Maybe the non Chinese may not understand this, but the Chinese people here would know. Many times among the Chinese, they will judge a so-called monk or nun or Buddhist, saying “Oh, he’s a good Buddhist.” [And if you ask] why? Then they will give you a number of reasons one, two, three, four, five, something like that.

And most of these reasons are based on Confucianism [for example], “Oh, because he really respects other people” or “Because he really takes care of older people,” That’s okay, but is Buddhism all about taking care of older people? Maybe not. That’s something to think about. I’m not saying that Buddhists say that you should not take care of older people. Buddhism is talking about something else. Not just taking care of old people or young people. Filial piety is not the most important [thing] for Buddhism.

Now, things have changed even in China. China has become a very materialistic society. This morning I asked a Chinese lady what is the word when somebody is lazy. When kids, it’s usually kids, are lazy and don’t work, don’t clean the table, don’t clean their room. When kids don’t do their homework, I heard that Chinese parents scold their kids by saying “you are becoming fàng shé”8fàng shé (放蛇) = lazy, literally “to release snake” – see 放蛇., meaning “lazy”. It’s almost like laziness and not doing anything are synonymous with Buddhism. Actually the Australian Buddhists will understand this.

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions or philosophies or paths. It has really gone through a lot. You really need to know this.

Language plays an important role

And language, wow, that is a really important one. Language plays a really important role. Okay, beware. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is known for making a lot of sweeping statements and generalizations. I totally admit it. A lot of sweeping statements. Why do I do that? Oh, you know, sometimes it’s good to get attention. And also, fundamentally, I believe that people don’t know [how to communicate] otherwise. Everybody makes sweeping statements, even including, “How are you?” “I’m fine”. That is a sweeping statement, but let’s talk about that tomorrow when we talk about meditation. Everything is a sweeping statement. “Oh, you look good.” Which part?

Language plays an important role in our life. Many of you here, those who are Caucasians, Westerners, Australians, New Zealanders, you speak English. And I’m trying to speak English here. My English is not good. I’m trying to speak English. Beware [another] sweeping statement. The English language has a lot of Abrahamic influence. Yes, maybe you are not a Christian. Maybe you’re not a Muslim. Maybe you are not Jewish. But you do have Abrahamic habits. You do. I have met many pseudo-protestant Buddhists. So many. The world is full of them these days.

Language plays a really important role. You may not know it. You may not be conscious of it, but language has that [influence]. It’s deep and it’s vast and, wow, it’s not that easy to get rid off. When you say “good”, it will have an Abrahamic influence. It is quite different from the Sanskrit word “good”, the Pali word “good”, and the Tibetan word “good”. You understand? This is important to know. You need to know this.

And by the way, you are not alone. [This is true even for] those who are not Caucasian, those who are not Westerners, such as let’s say myself. I was born in Bhutan. Most Bhutanese, for one thing, they studied at [schools with names like] St. Helen’s, St. George’s, St. Joseph’s. Especially those who got education in colonial places, they have a strong [Christian influence]. So when an educated Bhutanese person in Bhutan says “good”, as in “good karma” or “bad karma”, “good this” or “good that”, we have to be very careful. What are they talking about? Because it’s invisible, but at the same time it’s really important.

Definitions of good and bad are becoming globalized and standardized

Plus, we now have Netflix. Game of Thrones. Wow. All those relentlessly establish the global meaning or globalized definition of the word “good”. The globalized meaning of “bad”. It happens. Recently I was talking to a Chinese mother who has a small kid, and he wanted a dragon. Wow. The dragon is such an important thing for the Chinese isn’t it? It’s everywhere. But when I showed this kid a Chinese traditional dragon, he couldn’t understand what that is. He wanted the Disney version of the dragon. Things change so much, don’t they?

Yes, the globalized, standardized meaning of good and bad. That’s also happening. And this has a lot of impact by the way, and things are changing so much. For instance, just now before I came here, I met one of my Australian friends and there was a momentary dilemma because she lost quite a lot of weight. In places like Bhutan, the response is, “Are you okay?” Because you have lost so much weight. You know, in places like Bhutan when you are a little bit chubby, voluptuous, big, then you are healthy. But now that has changed. So, to have lost weight is actually good.

So the definitions of good and bad have changed. So all these changes, how we validate values, how we define the meaning of meaning. Basically, it really changes how you project. How you see your life in general. It does. I think it really does have an impact. [For example, maybe] you are one of those people who grew up watching “The Simpsons” or “Tom and Jerry”. In “Tom and Jerry” there is a lot of smashing, isn’t there? A lot of smashing and things falling. Have you thought about it? They never go naked or have sex, Tom and Jerry, or with others. [But] they smash a lot. The reason why I’m telling you this is that violence is sort of okay, but nudity? No, not during that time. Not with Tom and Jerry. Tom and Jerry having sex? That’s sacrilegious. If you grow up in this kind of culture and in this kind of environment, then of course it has an impact on your value system, the way you define your values, the way you see things.

The importance of being open-minded

Anyway, I’m saying all this because we’re supposed to talk about the Buddhist view, Buddhist meditation and Buddhist action. I’m saying these things because hopefully, I mean ideally, you have to be open-minded. Really open-minded. But that’s difficult, really difficult. Being open-minded is not our character, not [in the] human character. You know, I have so many hippie friends in Australia. Sadly, they’re getting a little extinct, and there are no lineage holders. Why is that? Maybe I’m going to the wrong places, but there are not many lineage holders. [In any case] the hippies pride themselves for being open minded, [but actually] they’re very conservative. Yes, [they’re] so fanatical, actually. They believe in certain values just so much.

Anyway, it would be good to be open-minded if you can. But if you cannot, that’s fine. At least you need to know [the importance of] language, not only [during] this time, but throughout [your study of wisdom traditions from other cultures]. I mean, if you are studying any kind of Indian wisdom tradition or Asian wisdom tradition, or [one based on] Latin, whatever. Language is always going to be a challenge. So I think it’s always important to accept that reality.

As I said earlier, many of you have Abrahamic [influences]. [Whether] consciously or unconsciously, it doesn’t matter. But you have that Abrahamic habitual pattern. And the Abrahamic system is a dualistic system. They’re proud that they’re dualistic. Evil versus good. Right versus wrong. The Abrahamic system is is very dualistic. They’re proud [of this]. It’s very clear actually. It’s also more directional. I think it’s really good for [giving] directions, “Okay, do it this way”.

Buddhism is not really dualistic. It’s a non-dualistic system. So [if you have] a language, habit, culture that has a strong duality or dualistic thinking approach, and then [you] use that language, that tool, to understand a nondual system, it’s going to be difficult. But I think to have that in your mind as a study tool will probably help.

View, Meditation, Action and Result

So [our subject is] view, meditation and action9ta gom chöpa (ལྟ་སྒོམ་སྤྱོད་) = view, meditation and action – see ta gom chöpa.. Actually, I’m going to add one more: View, meditation, action and result. Tawa10tawa (ལྟ་བ་) = view, orientation, perspective, belief – see tawa., gompa11gompa (སྒོམ་པ་) = meditation, practice, training, cultivation – see gompa., chöpa12chöpa (སྤྱོད་པ་) = action, behavior, conduct – see chöpa., and drébu13drébu (འབྲས་བུ་) = result, effect, fruit, fruition, accomplishment – see drébu..


I’m going to talk about the result first and be done with it, and then we will not talk about it [further]. What is it? What is the profit? What is the aim, the purpose, the result [of the Buddhist path]? I will go through these all one after another, but first just a brief summary. Fundamentally, the Buddhist result has got nothing to do with “something to get”. You must write this in bold. It’s very important.

The Buddhist result has got nothing to do with “getting” or “attaining” or “achieving” enlightenment. Yes, we say this a lot [e.g. to “achieve enlightenment”]. We use these kind of phrases and language and examples. But remember [how] I was talking about stories? Fundamentally the Buddhist idea of result is not defined by what you get [or obtain]. Rather, it’s defined by what you get rid of.

And it’s because of this that [we have] the word “Buddha”. It has the connotation of “awakened”, [which is about] dispelling sleep. To awaken is to get rid of sleep. So, [to be] awakened. That’s really important. That’s what Buddhism, Buddhadharma, is aiming for. To get rid of. To be awakened. To get rid of what? To get rid of mistaken ideas, false ideas, delusions. Yes, that is the quintessential meaning of the word “nirvana”. That’s it in terms of the result, because it’s important that we dwell on the other three. View, meditation and action.


Our aim is to not have any view

At a glance, when we talk about view, [it might seem that] we’re talking about what Buddhists believe. The Buddhist view, the Buddhist belief. [But] this is really difficult, [because] ironically Buddhism, the whole Buddhist path, is really trying in so many ways to get rid of all kinds of beliefs. The aim is to not have any view. To shrug off all views. To do without any view. Because view is a problem. Fundamentally Buddhists don’t like to have a belief. I think you need to know that. So in other words, fundamentally the Buddhist aim is not to have any view. So why do we talk about view? [To explain this] we have to talk about the history of the path. How does a path emerge? When did it start? How? Why [is there] a path, a way, a religion, a system? Why? It’s actually very simple.

Because we have mind, this is why. I don’t know how to put this. You have a mind. And you can never, ever take leave from this mind [even] for a weekend. Forget a weekend. You can’t even do without it, you can’t pause the mind [even] for a few moments. Maybe if you faint, or they say [if you’re in a] coma but that’s very debatable, or a deep sleep, or a startled moment and so forth. But let’s not get too technical.

You have a mind. Is it fortunate that you have a mind? Yes. But it’s also very unfortunate that you have a mind. Don’t you wish that you were a table? It doesn’t have a mind. So it really doesn’t care whether anybody is using it as a table or not. It never feels rejected. It never [asks itself], “Do I look good? Do I smell good? Am I am I strong?” Nothing.

But we do. We have this thing called mind, and it always ends up knowing things. It always ends up cognizing things. No matter how much you try. The more you try to not cognize, the more it ends up cognizing. You end up being aware of things. And if it were just a simple awareness, simple cognition, simple knowing – that would have been so much better. But it’s not like that. After cognition comes [assessing] value, [creating] meaning, good and bad. All that. And then this leads to hope, fear, expectations. The whole war begins with this.

Because you have this mind. You have this. This is not a mystery. I’m not talking about some mythical or mystical mystery. You have it. You are listening to me right now. You are noticing a baby crying now. This. This thing that you have. The thing that imagines. The thing that gets fidgety. The thing that gets annoyed. The thing that sometimes gets inspired. And you know mind, it’s so unpredictable.

Hallucinogenic substances, a horn and a tail [Part 1]

You have that. And not only do you have a mind, [but also] the mind always ends up creating different views. I’m talking about [why we need] the Buddhist view. And I already told you that actually the final aim [of Buddhism] is to not have any views. But at the same time, we need to talk about the Buddhist view.

Why? It’s like this. Australians are quite familiar with this. Let’s say you took a hallucinogenic substance. You took something hallucinogenic. And you now think you have a horn and you have a tail and you’re [thinking], “Oh my goodness. How do I go to my job tomorrow? How do I meet my girlfriend or boyfriend? Where do I hide my tail?” You have all this panic.

And what do I say [to you]? Even if I say, “Oh, don’t worry,” that’s so patronizing. Actually, I shouldn’t even be saying anything [about your horn], because you don’t have a horn. You don’t have a tail. Even to say, “Don’t worry”, even that is an instruction. “Don’t worry. Calm down”. Oh my goodness, that’s getting worse. “Calm down. It’s okay. Don’t worry”. But all this doesn’t help. You have to add more [i.e. you need to do more things to help the other person who is worrying about their nonexistent horn]. [So you say] “Drink more water”, right? Drink more water. You pet somebody. Caress. Hug. All that helps. Helps what? It helps you to be relieved from [the anxiety caused by] this non-existing horn and this non-existing tail.

I still need to tell you some sort of a view, [as in] “It’s okay. Don’t worry”. It would be worse if the hallucinogenic mushroom-taker is not an experienced one. You know, [someone who is] not a disciple of superior faculties14wangpo nönpo (དབང་པོ་རྣོན་པོ་) = sharp or keen faculties, as in “disciple of superior faculties” (as contrasted with inferior disciples with relatively dull faculties) – see wangpo nönpo.. If he is not, it would be worse. [He might be in denial that his own hallucination is not real. If you were to say] “What do you mean by horn? What do you mean by tail? I don’t see it. Come on, don’t kid yourself. Don’t deceive yourself.” That’s the worst kind of instruction that you can give. In fact, if you are a good friend, a good companion, [someone] compassionate, kind and caring, you almost have to say “Yes. Let me get a new tailor for you. Probably we could find a way to hide your tail”. You have to entertain [him by acknowledging his hallucination experience], you have to sort of get along with this friend of yours.

And that’s what I have to do for these three days. Not that I myself am not dreaming like this. I am, very much. But I have I have read about it more than you have. So I have a much more sophisticated tail. And this sophisticated tail is much more difficult to get rid of than your blob, that tail that you have. Actually it’s true. Should we take a break? Yes, I think we [should] take a break.


Talk 2

The challenge and necessity of using language to express the view

What do Buddhists believe?

So [we are talking about] the Buddhist view. [Suppose you ask a Buddhist] “What is it that Buddhists believe in? Do Buddhists believe in karma?” “Mmmm, Yes” [DJKR answers his own question with an uncertain tone and manner that indicates he doesn’t fully disagree, but he doesn’t fully agree either]. “Do Buddhists believe in doing good things?” “Yes” [DJKR answers with the same hesitant and uncertain tone and manner]. I’m sort of demonstrating the inner attitude to the view. It’s like this. “Do Buddhists believe in hell realms?” “Yes.” “God realms?” “Yes.” It’s a bit like this.

“Come on, be serious. You must have a belief. What is it?” So you’re squeezing [the other person] now. This is what the Buddhists would think or say. They will say, “If you have a wrong view, a partial view, an incomplete view, or a lopsided view, you will suffer”. That much they will say, “If you have a wrong view, that will lead you to disappointment”. This much I’m quite sure they will [say]. But even that, a very seasoned Buddhist will say [that only] very reluctantly. Now we’re talking [about] a very fine-tuned version of the Buddhist view.

Because of that, Shantideva said, “Buddhists can have one ignorance for the time being. [But] only for the time being. And what is that? To think that there is enlightenment.” This really sums up the Buddhist attitude towards the view. Shantideva was one of the greatest commentators from Nalanda University. And [if you were to ask him] “Why [am I permitted to] have that ignorance, to think that there is enlightenment?” [He would answer] “Because I see that you are in pain. You are suffering. You have anxiety. You are not satisfied. That’s why. You have to sort of shrug [it] off. You have to come out from that pain and the cause of [that] pain. That’s why”. This is a very important statement.

Falling from a cliff and hanging onto a branch with your teeth

Let’s articulate this further. To begin with, [imagine you] have fallen from a cliff. Your hands are tied. And you just managed to grab a branch [on the cliff face] with your teeth. And somebody is walking [above you on the clifftop]. You see them and now what do you do? You can’t shout for help because the moment you say “Help”, you have fallen. It’s a bit like this. [If you wish to] teach the Buddhist view, the moment you speak, you make mistakes.

And by the way, this is what Siddhartha Gautama [said] after his so-called enlightenment. [As he] awakened to that state, he actually said, “I have found a brilliant, profound, vast, uncompounded truth. But no one would hear it.” But then the story is that his disciples Brahma and Indra came and requested him to teach. And when they requested this, they told him “There are so many beings who are tormented by suffering caused by delusions. So through your great compassion and wisdom and skillful means, please liberate them step by step in different ways, with different means”. And that’s supposedly how the Buddha began teaching the Dharma. He started in a place called Sarnath [which is near] Varanasi.

In other words, [he was] trying to articulate something that cannot be articulated.

In the Buddhist philosophical system, Buddhists invented a certain discipline or a certain structure to understand this view [that cannot be articulated]. And actually [they invented] many structures. I think this time we will try to use the approach that we call the “two truths”. Many of you know this. I see a lot of old Buddhists here, those who have gone to many of my own teachings, not to mention many other teachings. For many of you, this will be very familiar and probably [you are] even jaded with this information, [after] hearing it again and again. But on the other hand, it is always important. It’s always refreshing and it’s a reminder. It can help.

Hallucinogenic substances, a horn and a tail [Part 2]

And this time I’m going to use the horn and the tail example a little bit, so that you can comprehend what I’m talking [about]. Now, let’s say you have taken this pill or mushroom or whatever, and then you have the horn experience and the tail experience.

And let’s say you’re really going through panic. You’re really paranoid. Panic. Anxiety. It’s not right. It’s not nice to have a horn. It’s not nice to have a tail. Especially [when] there are a lot of things at stake. You have a lot of things [to do] and agendas. And the more plans that you have, the more that the horn and the tail are going to bother you. If you don’t have many plans, it doesn’t really matter [if you have a horn and a tail].

Let’s say you just took that pill and you have really forgotten the fact that you don’t have a horn. You forgot. You know, [the pill] is strong. When the effect of the substance hits you, you really forget this truth that you actually don’t have [a horn and a tail]. I don’t know whether you you can relate to this. Yes, many Australians would. You just forgot. You’re very much into this [panic and anxiety about having a horn and a tail]. Your hands are sweating.

The truth can be realized without language

Now this is important. [Suppose that] suddenly a [gust of] wind blows and the window bangs. Or there’s a sound of someone flushing the toilet. Or your phone rings. [DJKR slaps his hand]. This takes you to reality. “Oh, the phone is ringing. This is not too bad. Maybe this is not true.” You understand? Coming back to the real truth. Because the phone rings. You touch [behind you], “Yes, no tail”. But then you still feel [the tail] because the impact [of the pill or mushroom] is still there. But then you think, “Maybe it’s not happening”.

No words and no language are necessary. [This happened just] through the ringing of a phone or a window banging. Or more likely your wife or husband or dog just came in. And that made you realize you don’t actually have a horn and tail. I’m talking about something quite exotic in a way. I’m talking about so-called “blessing”. We will not talk about this too much here, because it’s not really the time.

What I’m talking about is the view, the truth. And to realize this truth, actually, there are some amazing ways. But to really appreciate these amazing ways, or the amazing coincidence, or the amazing incredible cause and condition, you need to be sober. At least partially sober. You need to be sort of daring. You need to be critical and at the same time receptive.

So in Buddhism, we hear stories like Tilopa just hitting Naropa’s head. That’s it. He gets it. But that’s Tantra, so let’s not talk about it as Tantra is too risky these days. So let’s not talk about this. But even in the Mahayana there’s a story about how the Buddha picked up a lotus and looked at it and smiled, and guys like Kashyapa get it. What does he get?

He gets “no horn, no tail”, basically. That’s what he got, “Oh, okay. No tail, no horn actually”. [And he got this] just [because of] the fact that Buddha picked up a lotus flower and smiled. There are many, many accounts like this. And a little bit less than that, there are also other [methods]. [For example], I think this is very much in the Mahayana tradition, especially in the Zen tradition, they ask very ridiculous, strange questions, and through those questions the one who has the dilemma gets it.

So here we are talking about a very particular way of getting that right view. Now I’m using the [term] “right view”, but bear in mind that the aim of Buddhism is to get away from the view. But for the time being, since we realize that having a wrong view is only going to lead us to pain, at least let’s have the right view. So we are talking about the right view, and achieving that right view. If you are someone who has special faculties, you can [even] get it through the sight of a dead leaf falling.

Now I know it sounds really mystical, but it’s actually not. It’s really not. It’s just causes and conditions. It can happen. Even in our mundane life, I think it happens. I’m not talking about some sort of spiritual experience, but just the shifting of your ideas. The shifting of your values. It happens. But anyway, that is special, but it’s very individual. And it’s very subjective. We don’t know.

But for people like us, using language is the only way

Okay, so practically, academically, intellectually, scientifically, as a human, what can we do to really actualize that truth? Buddhists have only found three ways. Hearing, contemplation and meditation. That’s the only way for people like us. In other words, we need to use language. You know, hearing, language. We are not happy about it. It’s not like hearing is so holy or something. It’s out of no choice, reluctance. Reluctantly, in order to get rid of suffering, we need [to use language] because this is the only way.

Somebody needs to say, “It’s okay, don’t worry, calm down”. It helps. And then once you calm down, this person says, “You know, can you feel it on your head? Why don’t you put on your hat? See? It fits on your head. Don’t you think that means that you have no horn?” You know, logic. Logic is always like this. It’s very pathetic. It’s actually really vague. And it’s very limited. But nevertheless it works.

So the only thing we can use is hearing, contemplation and meditation. I keep on using the word “meditation”, which I really don’t like, but we will talk about that more tomorrow. So what’s happening right now is that we are doing the hearing, meaning we are using logic. And yes, in the study of Buddhist philosophy, there is a big section where we study Buddhist logic. A lot.

It’s not that logic is something that we really trust. Underneath, we always have a little bit of mistrust [towards logic]. In fact, there’s a guy called Chandrakirti who actually has a very different attitude towards logic. He said, “Well, I don’t have my [own] logic, but I’m going to use your logic to defeat you”. And this system became a really popular system [of Buddhist philosophy] in Tibet. It’s called Prasangika Madhyamaka. They call it consequentialism. It’s really famous.

I don’t know. It’s something to think about, especially for those who have studied. It’s something that you need to think about, especially for philosophy students or history [students]. I don’t know so much about Western thought and history, but I have heard a little bit about rationalism. I have a feeling that after rationalism, the West should have invited Chandrakirti, because he was very critical towards rationalism. Logic. He sees faults in that. I think there’s someone called Karl Popper [who also talks about this]. Anyway, let’s not get too intellectual here.

The two truths

The two truths: relative truth and ultimate truth

So when we are using the technique of hearing and contemplation, Buddhists have invented the idea of what we call relative truth and ultimate truth. Let’s use the horn and tail analogy. In the horn and tail analogy, relative truth is basically what goes through the mind of the person who has taken the hallucinogenic substance. He can feel it. It’s really bothering him. So it’s true to him, and in fact if more than 51% of Australians take hallucinogenic mushrooms every day, your parliament will be different. Because relatively relative truth has got a lot to do with consensus and quantity, the percentage [of the population that accepts something as true].

But nevertheless, the Buddhist idea is that [relative truth] is okay, it’s respected. This is what you think. This is what you see [i.e. Buddhists do not deny your subjective experience. They accept that these experiences are “real” for you.]. But the absolute truth is that on the absolute level, the horn and the tail do not exist [i.e. the horn and the tail do not exist in objective reality outside your subjective experience. Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s real.]

I need to define this [more precisely]. Actually [the absolute truth] is not [that the horn and tail do] not exist. On the most absolute level there’s neither [existence nor nonexistence]. There is not even talk about “It does exist before, and it does not exist later” [i.e. it’s not that there’s a need to deconstruct of the horn and tail]. Because the whole burden of the existence of the tail or [its nonexistence] is simply obsolete. [The tail] is fundamentally not there [i.e. because there is no tail there on the absolute level, there’s nothing real that needs to be deconstructed. However, there is nevertheless a need to realize that the subjective experience of horn and tail in the relative truth does not correspond to the objective reality that there is no horn and tail, i.e. the absolute reality as it is].

Only someone who has taken the substance can talk about [the subjective experience of horn and tail], “After you take the substance, you have the horn and the tail, and then when the impact of the substance is waning, then [the horn and tail] are slowly moving [and fading away]”. Only on that level can you talk about the existence of the tail or not.

So that’s the absolute view and the relative view. I’m sorry to have to speak like this, because I wish I could sort of water this down this and simplify this. But there’s also a danger of making it too simple. And [if you do that, then] the core essence and authenticity of Buddhism gets lost. We need to approach it this way.

So this is a paradox. This is how the whole world is. All phenomena. The paradox between the relative truth and the ultimate truth.

Relative teachings and absolute teachings

There is another thing. Maybe I’m confusing this too much. You know how we were talking about the Abrahamic approach? There is something to think about here. Not only in the Abrahamic approach, [but] in most of the modern approaches to studying anything [such as] science, technology, physics. These methodologies [and approaches] to studying the truth do not have obvious distinctions of relative truth and ultimate truth [Ed.: DJKR is using “absolute truth” and “ultimate truth” interchangeably]. Definitely most religions. This is just an assumption. I may be wrong, so please correct me. In my view, most religions seem to claim that whatever they’re teaching is the ultimate truth. I will give you more examples. Whereas in Buddhism, not all the teachings are ultimate truth. In other words, there are lots of Buddhist teachings that are taught by the Buddha, and he never “meant it” [i.e. not everything taught by the Buddha is meant as a statement of absolute truth].

It’s all in the category of, “It’s okay. Don’t worry”. “It’s okay. Just drink some water”, as if the water is going to shrink the horn, the non-existing horn. There is a lot of that [in Buddhism]. And under this section falls all the teachings about things like meditation, karma, and reincarnation. All these teachings fall under that category [of teachings that are not meant as a statement of absolute truth].

There are teachings that are taught by the Buddha where he really “meant it” [to be] taken literally. There are many sutras such as the Heart Sutra, Prajñaparamita Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, Vajracchedika Sutra. There are quite a lot. But even amidst these absolute sutras, there are so many relative teachings.

The relative truth and ultimate truth are always in union

I’m going to illustrate this a little bit. It’s like this. [Suppose] you go to a place where the most pure or fundamental Buddhist teachings are taught, such as Thailand or Sri Lanka, because that’s where Theravada Buddhism is taught. Theravada Buddhism is the oldest, most fundamental. It’s actually the root of Buddhism. It’s really important. If you go there, you can observe something very paradoxical, very contradictory.

The monks will teach you teachings such as Abhidharma, which includes teachings such as anatta where we hear that there is no self. But then these Theravadins are [also] the ones who are crazy about conduct, ethics, discipline, robes, merit, begging alms. You’re supposed to offer alms, to bow down. “You can’t do this. You can’t do that”. There is so much of that. Can you see the contradiction? Even in the most pure fundamental Buddhist traditions you find this. Why? Why is it like that? Because [in] the Buddhist view, the relative truth and ultimate truth are actually in union. This is always the challenge.

Now, if you shift to places like Tibet or Bhutan, it’s really so confusing. You meet monks who have shaved their head, as if there’s something wrong with hair. They zealously and diligently shave their hair as part of their discipline. But right there [you also meet] yogis who only worry about dropping [i.e. losing] their hair. They keep their hair. Every lock of hair, they say, is like dakinis, like mandalas. So they keep their hair. Some of them they keep their hair throughout their whole lives. I don’t know whether you have seen any of them, with really smelly and really long, big dreadlocks.

There are many varied expressions of nonduality in Buddhist culture, lifestyle and symbolism

[The fact that there can be such divergent and seemingly contradictory approaches to the path and practice of Buddhism is] perfectly fine for Buddhism. It’s really a nondual view. That’s why it permeates all this culture, all this sort of Buddhist lifestyle, if you like. The lifestyle. The symbolism. Even the symbolism.

As I’ve said many times before, if you go to a Buddhist temple, there is iconography there. Monks. The image of serene, simple, renunciant monks or nuns is very much venerated. The idea that a savior or a master, especially a spiritual master, has to be serene, simple, renunciant, ascetic, with begging bowl and bare feet. There’s a lot of that in the Buddhist temples, especially in Tibet. On another side, there are not-so-serene figures. Wrathful deities. Not so simple. Bodhisattvas with earrings, nose rings, anklets, adorned with all sorts of garments. And then, if it is a tantric temple, there are some amazing figures which are also equally venerated and appreciated. And [there are] many followers [of each of these different approaches to Buddhist culture, lifestyle and symbolism].

Can you imagine now? I don’t know if you can imagine. [Let’s suppose] you are a follower [of Buddhism] and you are looking at three different examples. There’s the St. Francis of Assisi-like Shariputra. And then there is a limousine-driving multimillionaire with gold rings and gold plated teeth, [someone] like Avalokiteshvara. And then there is a prostitute, a half-time prostitute half-time arrow maker like Saraha’s guru [Ed.: she is known as the Arrow-Making Dakini]. So you have these three. Now as a follower of Buddhism, can you see [the seeming contradiction?] But all this fits in the mind of people who can appreciate the culture of nonduality.

It’s there but it’s not there (it’s there and it’s not there)

Why [is all this diversity and seeming contradiction accepted]? Because of the view of Buddhism. Let’s go back to the horn and the tail. Is the horn there? Yes, it’s there, but it’s also not there, at the same time. Is the tail there? Yes, it’s there, but it’s also not there, at the same time. This is called the union of appearance and emptiness. This is one of the most important ways to understand the Buddhist view.

Basically, everything is there, but it’s not there [i.e. we experience phenomena as subjectively real in the relative truth, even though they are not objectively real in the ultimate truth. Just like the experience of the horn and tail, which feels very real as a subjective experience, even though they are not there in reality]. This is really difficult to understand. Not intellectually, [but] habitually.

You are looking at me right now. And actually, I’m here but also not here. How can you [make sense of this]? It’s difficult. “He’s there. He’s sitting there. He’s talking nonstop. When is he going to stop talking?” Why [do you experience me in this way]? Because you have drunk something. You have been eating something endlessly. That’s why. Even worse than your horn and tail, I’m here. In your mind. This.

But by the way, [this experience is] not too foreign though. It’s not too foreign15Ed.: for most people, their everyday experience is familiar and coherent. For people with psychiatric conditions or brain damage, their everyday experience can break down and become foreign, incomprehensible and even terrifying. See wikipedia on mental disorder.. This kind of experience does exist, just like the hallucinogenic experience. It’s like when you are watching a movie. Whatever is happening in the movie, it’s there. And therefore it really makes you cry. It makes you angry. It makes you feel nervous. It makes you feel suspenseful. And so forth.

But you also know it’s not there. And what does [this awareness] do? It releases you from a lot of unnecessary problems. For instance, while you’re watching a movie, if you need to go to the toilet, you go, don’t you? You don’t hold it back and think “[No I can’t go yet, first] I have to sort this out”. Because you know that it’s there but it’s not there. Especially you can pause it these days, and you can even rewind it and play it back. Because you know that it’s there but it’s not there.

That’s why you are awakened. Buddha. Enlightened from this delusion of thinking that it’s there or not there16Ed.: note the subtle but decisive shift in thinking, from the everyday way that we approach the people and phenomena in our life, namely that “it’s there OR it’s not there” to the awakened realization that “it’s there AND it’s not there”..

The Buddhist view is taught using different words, but all of them are inadequate

I really needed to express this first, because this is sort of the more classic way to understand the Buddhist view. I’m going to break it down a little bit, as I’m sure there are a lot of [people here who are] completely new to the Buddhist path. So, for their sake, those who have received many Buddhist teachings, you have to bear with me a little bit.

This is really important to know. The Buddhist view. The fact that it’s there but it’s not there. This view is taught using many [different yet] inadequate [expressions in words and] language, but we have no choice [but to use language].

One such [form of] language is “Everything is illusion”. You have heard this many times. This is one of the Buddhist views. Many people present it that way, “In Buddhism, life is an illusion”. It’s fine this way. But you have to be careful, because I think that the way we are conditioned [means that] when we hear the word “illusion”, we immediately come to the conclusion that “It does not exist”. But that’s not what Buddhists are saying. Always go back to “It’s there but it’s not there”.

Another approach is that we hear the Buddhist view [expressed using terms such as] shunyata [or] emptiness, “Everything is emptiness”. And again, this has led a lot of people to a lot of misunderstanding. Especially if you read classic sutras [with words] such as “No nose, no eyes, no ears”, it really sounds like a negation. But as I said when I gave you the example of somebody falling from the cliff but managing to grab a branch with their teeth, it’s like this. All words are not good.

But when I say this, again you may immediately think that the truth must be something mythical or mystical, something very exotic. No, we’re not talking about that at all. We are talking about something raw. This moment. What’s happening.

It’s fairly easy to understand [this] intellectually, but really difficult to understand habitually. Very difficult. There are many reasons. There is lots and lots of denial. And [there are] lots and lots of causes and conditions to make you forget that it’s there but it‘s not there. In fact, all our endeavors, everything we buy, everything we possess, and everything we do is somehow related to forgetting this fact that it’s there but at the same time it’s not there.

We usually focus on just one of the two aspects, either “it’s there” or “it’s not there”

It’s really difficult to talk about. It’s there and it’s not there. [We speak about this in terms of two truths and using two phrases, “it’s there” and “it’s not there”]. Even though they are one. It’s the same thing. It’s like the reflection of the moon in the water. It’s there and it’s not there at the same time, and it’s exactly one thing.

But we’re talking about the view. And when we talk about a view, we’re talking about the viewer, the subject. So depending on the subject, when the subject faces something [or experiences something, he or she make not see both aspects of “it’s there” and “it’s not there” together]. [Let’s suppose] we face a situation [or] we look at something or we encounter something.

[What is] your first experience? If you are really good at it, you can swallow [these two aspects] together, because you know that it’s one.

But if you are not really good at it, then sometimes you end up stumbling towards [the] “It’s not there” part first. The first thing you hear [or experience when] you encounter [a life situation] is the “It’s not there” [aspect]. What does it do? It makes you nihilist, hopeless, depressed. It’s not there. You become critical. You begin to read things like Nietzsche. You will smoke cigars and drink thick coffee. Broadly speaking, [if you were to make a] sweeping statement, all that comes out of that [“It’s not there”]. Everything is deductive [and reductionistic].

And it’s very strange actually. Many times we also feel very proud of being nihilist, proud of having that kind of negative, nihilistic depression. It’s a style. These kind of people have a different and unique smell also. They have their lifestyle. They hang different things on their walls. They wear different kinds of perfume. I’m serious. Their shoes. They wear different shoes. They hang out with that [same] kind of people. They love each other, but they also hate each other, because the other one is more nihilist than you.

Sometimes in our life, or some people, when they face [a life situation], the first thing they encounter is the “It’s there” part. They fall into [being] eternalists. Then they become righteous. Maybe they become fascist. They end up becoming believers in things like free speech. They end up becoming believers in things like democracy. They have their style.

You should observe this. If you’re good at it, you can almost tell “Yes, that’s a nihilist person” or “That’s an eternalist person”. It’s a bit like liberal and conservative. You can almost tell who is who. But sometimes things get confusing, because [maybe] in the morning you are nihilist but in the evening you become eternalist. It really permeates every aspect of our life.

Okay, we’ll take a break, and then we’ll come back with some questions and answers.


Talk 3

The middle way is difficult to understand and accept

Language such as “existence” and “nonexistence” is very deceiving and really difficult. [These words are] very vague. How do you define “existence”? You need to think about that. Because [in the] human mind, when we define [whether] something exists or [does] not exist, it’s very connected to [things] like time, space, usage or function, and as I said [earlier], consensus17Ed.: in Buddhist Madhyamaka philosophy, valid relative truth is also termed “conventional truth”, i.e. the extent to which something corresponds to the consensual definitions and beliefs at a given place and time.. But none of them really solidify and make something exist truly or more truly, or [make something] not exist18Ed.: i.e. whether or not there is conventional agreement about the validity of a given phenomenon does not make it any more or less truly existent..

When you try to comprehend the Buddhist view, you also have to get used to the distinctions of nonexistence and existence, [and the dangers and implications of] falling into [either] one of them. The Indian wisdom traditions in general are really concerned not to fall into eternalism or nihilism. They always value [the] middle way. I don’t know whether that is the case with other systems. I have very little knowledge about Abrahamic systems, but sometimes I feel they don’t even see it as “falling into” an extreme [i.e. they don’t see it as a downfall]. They don’t even call it an “extreme”. [Instead, they teach] that’s the way to go. From the Buddhist point of view, they’re almost proud of falling into one extreme [and believing that] something truly exists or does not exist. They’re proud of seeing some things as permanently and ultimately good and some things as permanently bad.

The Indian wisdom traditions generally, and especially Buddhism, are very wary of this. [They are wary] of believing in things as truly good, truly bad, truly existing, truly not existing. But as I said, it is difficult, especially habitually speaking, for you to really see me [as “there, but not there”]. Of course, I’m not asking or demanding that you see me as nonexistent. That’s crazy. That’s not only crazy, but it’s defeating [i.e. going against] the Buddhist view. Instead, what I’m demanding, so to speak, is that when you are reading the Heart Sutra [and] when you look at me, just know that I am there, but I’m also not there.

It’s just like the blonde girl in the Game of Thrones [Daenerys]. She is there but she’s not there. And her dragon [is there, but it’s not there]. [When] you know [this], then you can go on and on talking about “Oh, come on, she should have become a queen. She should not have become a queen. Is she still alive because her body got carried away by her dragon?” All that, you are free to think whatever you want to think. But it’s all within the sphere of “It’s there, but at the same time not there”.

This is sort of the most simple way I [can] present the Buddhist view.

And as simple as it sounds. It’s not only difficult habitually, and again I’m repeating, but also it’s really really important, more than ever. More than ever, this nondual [way], this middle way of understanding the truth [is really important]. Because we just fall so easily and too much to the right [or] to the left. We have two problems. We overly believe in things that are believable. Overly, too much. Or we overly do not believe in things that are not believable. And that leads us to unnecessary hope and fear, assumptions, tensions and anxiety and all that. Okay, maybe some questions. We have half an hour.

Q & A

Longing for things that cannot be longed for

[Q]: Rinpoche, I believe I am eternalist in the morning and sinking into nihilism by the evening. In most cases. Sometimes the horns are an adornment, sometimes they’re very painful and I feel stuck in the middle. And I’m at a loss to know, in our language, where do we fit?

[DJKR]: The second part? Can you tell me again?

[Q]: The horns are sometimes playful, an adornment, beautiful. But they can also be very painful.

[DJKR] Right.

[Q]: So being aware of that a little is painful, the actual dichotomy.

[DJKR]: Being aware of that fact, and then still being dragged to the old habit?

[Q]: Yes.

[DJKR]: The Buddhists would say, “Hmm, you are becoming a Buddhist”. Yes, that’s what they will say.

[Q]: But in language, there’s no word for nondualism. It’s not a word.

[DJKR]: Yeah, true. It is. I know isn’t that strange? Yes. So?

[Q]: So I cry. I’m standing here and I’m crying.

[DJKR]: Yes, I think it’s called sort of training to long for the un-longable [i.e. that which cannot be longed for], which is good. Because if you don’t do that, the chances are very high that you will long for things that will take you to trouble. So you might as well cry and long for that which is not longable, because in the long run, it will give you more freedom.

There is no truly existing karma or reincarnation

[Q]: Rinpoche, you said earlier that karma is falsifiable. Can you explain how that is?

[DJKR]: Karma is within the sphere of this “It’s there, but it’s not there”. And also karma is a relative teaching. I was giving the example of how even the Theravada countries talk about anatta, selflessness, and at the same time they talk about shaving your hair if you are a monk. You could almost argue with them, “Who is shaving? What do you mean by hair?” There is no head. There is no hair. Yet karma falls into this union19Ed.: i.e. even in the Theravada we have both “it’s there”, e.g. the discipline of monks shaving their hair, and “it’s not there”, i.e. teachings on anatta and nonself. The nondual view, the union of “it’s there, but it’s not there” is found throughout the different Buddhist paths and traditions, not only in the Mahayana.. Yes, on the level of the relative world, in the world of horn and tail, karma functions because you have taken that pill. Once that is gone [i.e. once the effect of the pill has worn off], there is no karma20Ed.: i.e. karma only functions in the world of relative truth, in the illusory manner of all other conditioned phenomena that are “there, but not there”. There is no truly existing karma..

[Q]: So it’s falsifiable once you’ve taken a pill, is that what you’re saying?

[DJKR]: Because actually there is no karma, and there is no agent of karma. It’s like this. Not only karma, [but also] reincarnation is falsifiable21For a discussion of DJKR’s usage of the word “falsifiable” see note 1 in the section on Fate, Free Will and Karma.. It’s a bit like “Four legs, plank, my cup is here and my book is here. It’s a table”. That’s karma, isn’t it? Things put together, tougher with habit and culture and also circumstances. If the organizers here, Siddhartha’s Intent, if they only put this table here in the middle of this [stage] and if I were sitting on it, many of [you might think] “These guys have really put a very strange throne for Rinpoche today”. You see [DJKR snaps his fingers] the table does not exist at that time. [DJKR snaps his fingers] The throne suddenly came. That’s how karma works. And reincarnation also works just on that level. But when I use the word “just”, I’m not using it in a sort of demeaning way. I’m not devaluing it at all. It’s so powerful, just like the horn and the tail. So powerful.

The compassion of the Buddha and why prayer works

[Q]: Since you are speaking about the whole sense of viewing things as being both real and not real, how would Buddha relate to the fires and the problems that are happening in Australia now? How would their compassion look?

[DJKR]: Yes, as soon as we talk about the Buddha and the compassion of the Buddha [we need to talk about the perspective of the observer]. Right at the beginning I was talking about empiricism. Empirical. As soon as you talk about the Buddha and the compassion of the Buddha, then we’re talking about someone else’s projection of the Buddha. So yes, that’s why I strongly believe that the Buddha has the compassion, the power, the omniscience to see this [i.e. the problems currently happening in Australia]22Ed.: DJKR is saying that it is because of his personal projection that he believes that the Buddha has the compassion to see these problems.. So now what we need to do is to create the causes and condition to invoke his compassion and power, and do the prayers, which I’m going to do towards the end [of this session]. And those who have the cause and condition of blind belief that I have, please join. You know, I have fallen into the eternalism of believing that there is a Buddha, there is his compassion, there is his omniscience and power, and therefore I will do prayers. Because I’m not awakened yet, so I’m still stuck with this [projection]. There will be people who say, “Ah, that’s just a story. There is no Buddha. There is no compassion. The fire will be extinguished by the fire people or whatever. Or not”. That’s how phenomena function. So prayer works, basically. That’s what I’m saying. Prayer works. This is what Nagarjuna would say: If not for this {i.e. “it’s there, but it’s not there”] then prayer will never work. Then things [would be] unchangeable and predestined. Remember, right at the beginning, I was talking about free will? [If not for this, then things would be] predestined, and you [would] just have to wait until that fate is finished. But no. Because it is an illusion, that’s why something is doable. That’s why prayer works. Firemen works. If politicians act, if they have their act together, it could work.

The snake and the rope and the horn and the tail

[Q]: Rinpoche, you used to talk about the snake and the rope. The snake and the rope, are they like the horn and the tail?

[DJKR]: Yes, I was using an updated example.

Letting go of self and seeing the truth

[Q]: Hello. I wanted to ask what you recommend [when it comes to] letting go of self, especially [because] amongst our generation of younger people, we’re bred into the idea of having to find our self. And now it’s this whole idea of letting go of that. It’s pretty hard to come to terms with, but I wonder how you would start to go about that?

[DJKR]: It is really good that you ask this. Because this is exactly why I think the Buddhist view and also the meditation and action really can contribute, especially to the modern world. I don’t know, [but] the idea of “letting go” seems to have a lot of [connotations of] “sacrifice”. It’s painful. I for one don’t want to sacrifice things. I think it’s much more profitable and much more soothing to really get used to the idea that this self is there, but it’s also not there. So there’s nothing to let go of, but also that is a letting go. I think that’s more profitable. We will talk about this [more]. For example, especially young people, they are so much into being cool. Cool, fashionable, unique. I think the idea of “I’m there but I’m not there” could really help to enhance confidence. I need to really contemplate on this phrase “letting go of self”. It sounds to me [like] a sacrifice. Sacrifice. Yes, some people may be able to do it. But why not see the truth? That’s actually a much better sacrifice I think.

“It’s there, but it’s not there” like the reflection of the moon in water

[Q]: If you wouldn’t mind me bring the microphone to my grandfather to ask a question?

[DJKR]: Yes, please.

[Q]: Hello Rinpoche, nice to see you back in Australia.

[DJKR]: What happened to you?

[Q]: I broke my foot just just two days ago in Bir. But speaking of appearing and disappearing and things coming and things going, I’m a little confused. How does one cook dinner or drive a car if things are appearing and disappearing?

[DJKR]: I didn’t say things appearing and disappear. Not at all. I’m saying that while it’s appearing, it’s not there also [i.e. at the same time]. It is important you brought this up. [There] is a classic Buddhist phrase, “Like the reflection of the moon in water, it’s there but it’s not there”. I didn’t say that the moon disappears the moment you look at it, as if the reflection of the moon is shy. It’s there. Very intact. And it also actually has an order. You look at it. It’s there. Your granddaughter looks at it. It’s there. The two of you will [further] solidify that it is there23Ed.: DJKR is building on his earlier comments about the validity of relative truth, and therefore our acceptance of phenomena in the relative world, as corresponding to consensual agreement about conventional truth..

[Q]: But if it’s there one minute and not there the next minute?

[DJKR]: What do you mean by “next minute”? Like a cloud comes and it’s no longer there?

[Q]: I guess. [Isn’t that] what you’re suggesting?

[DJKR]: No, actually I’m [saying] it’s there when there is no cloud, and then the cloud comes and also the reflection of the cloud24Ed.: the reflection of the moon-covered-by-cloud in water is just like the reflection of the moon in water. They are both there but not there., and there’s no more moon. All action is happening there. But it’s also not there. That’s all I’m saying.

[Q]: Thank you. Now I’m not there.

[DJKR]: Somehow I’m not satisfied. I don’t think you have understood what I just said.

[Q]: Thank you.

How do bodhisattvas help people with their horn and tail?

[Q]: Rinpoche, I had a question and then I listened to [what you just said], and then that made me think of things, and that’s making me reconsider the question.

[DJKR]: Okay. Very good. Cause and conditions.

[Q]: Yes. So we have to get rid of hope and fear, which I guess is fundamental duality. But when there’s no hope and fear, what do we do?

[DJKR]: We will be talking [about this] more during the so-called meditation and action. But I think maybe today since we are talking about the view, I think it’s important if you can think about “It’s there, but it’s not there”. Then it should give you some sort of [release from] both you hope and fear. It should really release you from blindly hoping or [being] blindly afraid of [things].

[Q]: Okay, so the hope and fear and the normal motivations that make us do things are still there, but in that moment we can recognize it’s there but it’s not really there. It doesn’t affect you so much, but you still do things. You wake up in the morning and do all the normal things.

[DJKR]: Yes, very much. You watch the whole episode. Until the end.

[Q]: Would that also apply to when we do bodhisattva activities, when we release other sentient beings from suffering? Is that also a story in the same way?

[DJKR]: Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. If you look at somebody you should even say, “Don’t worry”, even though it sounds so ridiculous. Try saying “Don’t worry” to somebody who has actually not taken any pills. [Try saying] “That’s how it is. Nobody has a horn. Nobody has a tail”. And yet you say “Don’t worry”.

[Q]: And we have to sort of convince everyone that they don’t have horns and tails? Is that what we’re trying to do?

[DJKR]: Are you talking about the bodhisattvas?

[Q]: Yes. That’s another action.

[DJKR]: What’s the question again? This is a tricky question. I better be careful,

[Q]: Is the bodhisattva path about convincing everyone that they don’t have a horn and a tail?

[DJKR]: I see. Yes well, that’s one [part] of the homework, so to speak. That’s one [part] of it. But the bodhisattva is also courageous. Do you know why? Because actually there is no horn and tail. So bodhisattvas don’t have to go through [life carrying] a chainsaw. Because bodhisattvas [think], “Actually there is no horn and tail. So it’s kind of a fairly easy job”. If [people] do have a horn and tail, then you are in trouble. There will be a lot of trash25Ed.: i.e. all the discarded horns and tails that you have cut off with your chainsaw., especially if you’re a successful bodhisattva.

[Q]: That’s very useful. It’s a bit like right now I feel slightly nervous talking in front of everyone, but not really nervous. It’s not actually there. Nothing bad can happen. It’s fine.

[DJKR]: Are you sure you haven’t taken anything?

Game of Thrones, our body, and our consciousness are all “it’s there, but it’s not there”

[Q]: Rinpoche, firstly I want to thank you for your teaching today. I [understand that] the view of nonduality is the right view in Buddhism. [How] should we keep this view in our daily life? How can we maintain it? How can we keep it?

[DJKR]: Yes, I think we will be talking more [about this] during the action. Are you coming tomorrow?

[Q]: Yes.

[DJKR]: Okay.

[Q]: I’ll leave the question for tomorrow. I have another question. We all know you’re a very famous director, since I’ve been working in the film industry for years, I always find some kind of similarity between film and real life. And my question is, does that mean our real life can be a projection? Could it be a film projected by our consciousness?

[DJKR]: Yes, but first of all, I should say I’m not that famous. If I’m famous …

[Q]: You are famous to me.

[DJKR]: Yes, I understand. [It’s] like a reflection of the moon. I’m known for making films that really put you to sleep. Anyway [to answer your question about whether life could be seen as like a film]. Yes, I think it can. But, you know, the interesting [thing] is sometimes when you write about your life, because the fiction is so well written, you forget that it’s fiction. It’s so good. Some really good writers can write amazing stuff and then you forget that it’s [fiction]. And I think that’s what is happening all the time. We write our stories so well that we forget that it’s not there. It’s there, but it’s not there.

[Q]: Does that mean our consciousness is also there, but it’s not there?

[DJKR]: Consciousness? Yes, it’s there, but it’s not there. But now you are going really far. I mean, you’re going really deep. [With things like] movies or Game of Thrones, [we can say] “It’s there, but it’s not there” and that is sort of understandable. You can buy that. But this? [DJKR pinches his arm]. [Are we saying that my body is] there but not there? Hmm. That’s much more difficult to chew. Much more difficult to accept. Now, [what if we say that] consciousness or mind is there, but it’s not there? That’s much more difficult to understand. And this is where I would say Buddhism has invested a lot of time and energy for two thousand years, to explain that.

“It’s there, but it’s not there” in the traditions of Asanga and Nagarjuna

[Q]: Thanks for everything. It has been really good. I was reading a book by His Holiness [The Dalai Lama] and he was describing how Asanga [introduced] the mind-only idea because people were becoming too nihilistic with “no mind”. Is that [view of Asanga] a useful stepping stone for mere mortals like me? I find I can accept that “It’s there and it’s not there” quite readily if I have that mind-only view.

[DJKR]: Today, I tried to present the most important and the most difficult [aspect of] the view of Buddhadharma in a very short time. It’s very difficult. I will give you one example. You know, I said that the whole phenomenal [world], everything, including consciousness, it’s there but it’s not there. And to establish this view and to dissect or decipher or really try to explain this, there are so many liturgies and so many different schools. In fact, you can sort of broadly say they are one actually. They are one. It’s a bit like a photography teacher. He can teach his student about shade. But at the same time, he’s talking about light, because they’re the same thing. But depending on what kind of student you have, maybe the student likes to dwell with shade more, so then you talk about shade and how to create shade. But simultaneously, you are also fiddling with the light. Just like that with another student, you talk about lighting, how to put light, but you are also creating shadow. It’s a bit like this. This is a really rough example. So in Buddhism also, in order to explain these two {i.e. it’s there and it’s not there], there is actually a whole [set of] commentaries written by a bunch of people like Nagarjuna. They are more concentrating and explaining the “It’s not there” part. And then there are the Asanga people, like the Yogachara people, who talk more about the “It’s there” part. And [these differences in emphasis are] not only [found in Buddhist philosophical] schools. Actually it has also influenced society. If you go to Tibet, the Tibetans are more into these Nagarjuna people. So they talk about emptiness a lot. But if you go to China, especially the later great Zen masters, I suspect they may be talking more about the “It’s there” part. Thus you have things like the Pure Land School, Lotus Sutra, and so forth. But these [two traditions] are both so important, like the light and the shadow.

If we really know “it’s there, but it’s not there”, we can take a break from our ordinary life

[Q]: Dear Rinpoche, in the beginning you said that [enlightenment] is about getting rid of [something]. So, do you mean that “getting” is like more like “It’s there” and “getting rid of“ is more like “It’s not there”?

[DJKR]: I was talking more about the result, the aim of Buddhadharma. Contrary to a lot of people’s way of expressing [the goal of Buddhism as to] “Achieve enlightenment, get enlightenment”, you know, “You get something”. But actually, the Buddhist aim, nirvana or the result, is more defined by what you get rid of. That’s why I was saying you don’t need to [get] a head. What you need to [do] is get rid of the delusion of the horn.

[Q]: So one is result and one is view and they’re not so connected?

[DJKR]: No, the result is when you are free from this delusion. That’s the result. So if somebody asks you “Are you Buddhist?” “Yes” “What do you believe in?” “It’s there but it’s not there”. Actually that will drive them nuts. But that’s how it is. Of course the safest answer [if you are at] a Christmas party or a Chinese New Year party [is to say], “Oh, Buddhists believe in vegetarianism. Buddhists believe in smiling. Buddhists believe in nonviolence. Buddhists believe in karma and reincarnation”. Yes, I think that will do. But actually you should be saying, “You know, Buddhists believe that all things are there, but they’re not there”. But I don’t think anybody will like you for that. Okay, the second question, if they ask you “Okay, so what are you aiming for? What do you get?” Then you say, “We don’t get anything. We only get rid of things”. That’s what [your answer] should be, actually.

[Q]: And as you answer the other person’s question [by saying] “It’s there but it’s not there”, can that still help people to cultivate confidence?

[DJKR]: Yes.

[Q]: How how does it work? That’s my question.

[DJKR]: I gave you the example already. When you are watching TV. Why do you have the confidence to go to the toilet if you need to go? Because you know [that the TV program] is there, but it’s also not there. If you don’t have one of those [two aspects of the view], then you don’t have that confidence. You won’t have the confidence, because you think it’s there or it’s not there.

[Q]: Like it’s there in 2-D but it’s not there in 3-D? Can we use that?

[DJKR]: What?

[Q]: I mean in the screen it’s there but …

[DJKR]: In reality it’s not there, right? That’s why …

[Q]: We have the confidence to go to the toilet.

[DJKR]: Yes. So just like that, if something is happening in your life which is really bothering you, if you can really habituate yourself [to this view]. [If you can] really realize that whatever you are valuing, whatever you are putting so much effort [into] is actually there, but it’s also not there. Then you can take a break from your life.

We think too much

[DJKR]: Okay, this will be the last question and then I will do a prayer.

[Q]: Rinpoche, do we just think too much?

[DJKR]: Yes, that’s why I’m going to end it soon.

[Q]: Thank you.

Kurukulla, Tibet, Himalayan Art
Parnashavari. China, Himalayan Art

Prayer to Arya Tara

As I said earlier, I’m going to do a prayer. Of course, [for] the awakening of all beings from all kinds of delusions, but especially [for] the situation in Australia at the moment. And also the situation in China. So I will do prayers to one of my most fond deities, Arya Tara. So those who share my phenomena please also join me.

[DJKR recites prayer to Arya Tara in Tibetan]

For those who are specifically interested in Australia’s situation. Please visualize Arya Tara [in the form] known as Kurukulla or Kurukullé26Kurukullā (Sanskrit: कुरुकुल्ला) = a female deity usually depicted in red with four arms, holding a bow and arrow made of flowers in one pair of hands and a hook and noose of flowers in the other pair. She dances in a Dakini-pose and crushes the asura Rahu (the one who devours the sun) – see Kurukulla.. And for the situation in China, [please visualize] Arya Tara [in the form] known as Parnashavari27Parṇaśavarī (Hindi: पार्णशबरी, Chinese: 葉衣菩薩, Pinyin: Yèyī púsà; Tibetan: ལོ་མ་གྱོན་མ་, Loma Gyönma, “leaf-clad goddess”) = a Hindu deity adopted as the Buddhist deity of diseases, who offers protection against outbreaks of epidemics – see Parnashavari.. I have also given you the transmission of the Parnashavari mantra28Ed.: A translation of the Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī by the Sakya master Chögyal Pakpa Lodrö Gyaltsen (1235–1280) is available at Lotsawa House.:

ཨོཾ་པི་ཤཱ་ཙི་པརྞ་ཤ་བ་རི་སརྦ་ཛྭ་ར་པྲ་ཤ་མ་ན་ཡེ་སྭ་ཧཱ། (Tibetan)




[View, Meditation & Action – Day 2]

Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers

Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio