Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
View, Meditation and Action: Day 2
Three-day teaching at The Roundhouse, Sydney, Australia
Day 2: January 26, 2020
Part 4: 52 minutes, Part 5: 50 minutes, Part 6: 75 minutes
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 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.
Day 2: Contents
- View is of utmost importance
- Unlike Saraha and the Arrow-Making Dakini, we need to rely on hearing and contemplation
The view according to the Vajracchedika Sutra (the Diamond Sutra)
- We should view all phenomena as being like a dream
- Phenomena are like a dream, but this doesn’t mean they are random or disordered
- When causes and conditions temporarily come together, phenomena arise
The view according to Nagarjuna and the Madhyamaka tradition
- Nagarjuna takes a more analytical approach when talking about the view
- Nagarjuna doesn’t accept absolute arising or cessation: while it’s arising, it’s also ceasing
The view as described in Buddhist stories
- The story of Buddha ‘Delight in Stars’
- The story of Buddha ‘All-Gazing’
- Dark aeons, light aeons and the Fortunate Aeon
The richness of Buddhism: When the view is present, everything is acceptable
- Using “negative” and “positive” language to talk about the view
- As long as the view is present, astrology and Tarot-reading are also the path
- The difference between compassion and mahakaruna
- The paradox of the view
- To qualify as Buddhist, a meditation or practice must go against dualistic mind
- The meaning of meditation and mindfulness
- Any practice can be considered vipassana if your motivation is the see the truth
- Whereas even meditation is not a spiritual path if your motivation is for a better samsaric life
The three marks: anicca, dukkha and anatta
- (1) Anicca (impermanence)
- Buying moisturizer and the Seven-Eleven vipassana
- Change is the truth, but we try to forget it and cover it up
- (2) Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness)
- Our whole life is spent preparing
- (3) Anatta (nonself)
- How the Buddha started on his Dharma path in his previous lives
- The story of when Shakyamuni met Dipankara Buddha in one of his previous lives
- The story of the visit from the indigenous Colombian tribespeople
Q & A
- How can the Buddha benefit us and protect us if he has passed away?
- How can we find the time to contemplate and practice in our busy modern lives?
- A spontaneous expression of gratitude
- How can we cultivate compassion for people that we perceive to be doing harm?
- Is Buddhanature also there, but not there?
- Why does feeling guilty about not practicing help us get closer to the truth?
- How to practice when our bodhichitta motivation is stained by dualistic mind?
- What does it mean to realize the truth?
- How can we have compassion without compassion fatigue?
- Is the purpose of practice to lead to the realization of the satori moment?
- How can we find contentment while we are still seeking the truth?
- When there is distraction, what is being distracted?
- How can we manage with dementia?
- How should we relate to the accumulation goals in ngöndro?
- How can we understand “It’s there, but it’s not there”?
- The origin of Lotus Outreach
- Sentient beings are a field of merit
- Are conditions for girls and women changing?
- A story of some Cambodian girls
View is of utmost importance
We’ll continue with the view a little bit, and then we will talk about meditation. View [is of] utmost importance. When Buddha said, “Never rely on a person, but rely on the teaching”, that’s what he’s talking about. You have to be inspired by the view, especially those who are new to Buddhadharma, Buddhism. It would be better if you were inspired by the view rather than inspired by Buddhist practices such as sitting straight and breathing in and out. And even more, it would be better if you were inspired by the view rather than a person.
Being inspired by the person and then getting into the view – that is possible. That is very much possible, but it’s really risky. It really has to have a proper cause and condition. Everything has to be together [i.e. all the right conditions]. It’s like [the story of] Saraha. The great Saraha was the Dean of Nalanda University. And Nalanda University, as I said yesterday, was really an academic institution. Nalanda was like the center of Indian critical thinking and analytical thinking. I mean, these days people pride themselves for being critical and skeptical. But if you read some of the skepticism and critical thinking of the Nalanda guys, even 2000 years later we will be ashamed at how we are actually so backward. There were so critical. Like Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika, [which is] one of the most important texts. [It has] one chapter wholly dedicated to whether or not the Buddha exists. It’s really amazing.
It’s not [at all] wishy washy. [It is revolutionary] not only [in its own] time, [although] of course at that time. I mean, we consider Buddha as one of the most important modernists or revolutionaries. He was really going totally against the ideas of a creator God and super-magical powers, things like that. The Buddha was someone who really questioned the very existence of the self. Even after 2500 years, we still haven’t come to a conclusion. Self. Myself. Yourself. He was really avant garde. He was really very much ahead [of his time] and Nalanda was just like that.
Unlike Saraha and the Arrow-Making Dakini, we need to rely on hearing and contemplation
Anyway, Saraha was the Dean of Nalanda University, and he was a very accomplished, feared, and respected, [held so much] in awe by other intellectuals and academics, the scientists [of his day] if you like. But one day he thought, “All this logic and all this reasoning and all this critical thinking is useless. They’re just another trap. They’re just another belief”. So he took off and he [came across] a woman who was a part-time prostitute and part-time arrow maker. And just at the sight of her, he was just so … I don’t know if “moved” is the right word. Something shifted [in him], just at the sight of her. And this woman was making arrows, and she was sort of testing the arrows and shooting them just aimlessly [in all directions]. And Saraha asked her, “Why are you not aiming properly?” [After all], she’s an arrow-maker. And she said, “That’s your problem, you have an aim”. And that did it [for him].
All those years of analysis and critical thinking and reading books and debating and all of that. Nothing. All of that didn’t do anything. But that experience [of meeting the arrow maker] did something. So in very rare cases [like this], if the cause and conditions are together, yes, that can happen. And that can really shift you. Forever. [It can] dent your organized, sensible life. [Your] orderly life. And that’s it. And then it’s possible that you [will] never go back to your old self.
This is very possible. But for the rest of us, we need to rely on hearing and contemplation. We need to rely on logic. We need to rely on language. We need to rely on analogy and inferential logic. We need to really rely on analysis basically. And this is why Buddha also encouraged [us] to never take things for granted. To never take what he said at face value. We must analyze. And when he’s talking about that, he’s mainly talking about the view. View is really of utmost importance. Even the most seasoned practitioners here, those who consider themselves as being Buddhist for a long time, please visit the world of view again and again. Even though many of [these teachings] are dry, boring, intellectual, academic. It will not harm [you]. If it cannot help you right away, it’s definitely not going to harm you. And I think it’s so important for the study of Buddhism. I cannot emphasize this enough.
The view according to the Vajracchedika Sutra (the Diamond Sutra)
We should view all phenomena as being like a dream
But it’s difficult. It’s really difficult, and we had a glimpse of [the] difficulty yesterday. Because articulating any kind of view of religion or philosophy is of course difficult. And especially Buddhism, because we are trying to articulate and trying to talk [about] something that cannot really be talked [about]. We cannot [talk about it]. There’s no proper language. But having said that, there are texts such as Vajracchedika Sutra [that do talk about the view]. The Vajracchedika Sutra is translated by most people as the Diamond Sutra, but maybe that’s not a good translation. Anyway, in one section Buddha talks about this view [DJKR recites a verse of the Vajracchedika Sutra in Tibetan].2A shooting star, a clouding of the sight, a lamp,
An illusion, a drop of dew, a bubble,
A dream, a lightning’s flash, a thunder cloud—
This is the way one should see the conditioned.
Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā §32a, translated by Paul Harrison. Published in Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Buddhist Manuscripts Vol. III. The Tibetan translation of this four-line gatha is:
skar ma rab rib mar me dang
sgyu ma zil ba chu bur dang
rmi lam glog dang sprin lta bur
‘dus byas de ltar blta bar bya
From Sanskrit-Chinese-Tibetan-English multilingual version available online at University of Oslo Bibliotheca Polyglotta.
The last word here [in the Tibetan]3tawarja (Tibetan: བལྟ་བར་བ་; Wylie: blta bar bya; Sanskrit: द्रष्टव्य, IAST: draṣṭavya) = to be seen, to be examined. The Sanskrit root word √दृश् (IAST: dṛś) has a rich set of meanings including “seeing, viewing, looking at”, “knowing, discerning” and “theory, doctrine”. means “that is how you are supposed to view”, where [the Tibetan word] “tawa” means “view”4tawa (Tibetan: ལྟ་བ་) = view – see tawa.. How you supposed to view what? All conditioned phenomena. And when I say “all”, I mean literally all. Everything. Not only our body, not only this [building], not only our system [but] just everything. [From] the most mundane things all the way to the most interesting and complicated things. For example, “This is a strawberry”, “This is a cherry”, ”This is a blueberry”. Very mundane. And then Buddhism, reincarnation, you, me, man, woman, all these complicated things. They are all conditioned phenomena. And all these conditioned phenomena should be viewed as [being like] a dream.
There are different translations [of the Vajracchedika Sutra]. I’m using [one that is] based on an English translation of the Chinese [manuscript]. I just wanted to use that because I think, I don’t know – maybe someone can correct me – I think printing, the whole concept and engine of printing started in China. And I was told that the first thing that they actually printed was the Vajracchedika Sutra5Ed.: A copy of the Tang-dynasty Chinese version of the Diamond Sutra was found among the Dunhuang manuscripts in 1900 by Daoist monk Wang Yuanlu. They are dated back to 11 May 868. According to the British Library, it is “the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book.” See wikipedia on Diamond Sutra. The beautiful illustrated frontispiece is available at the British Library.. How interesting is that? It’s amazing.
This is a big deal, because during those days, printing must [have been] as exciting as going to Mars. And what did they decide to print? Not some edict of an emperor, which could very [easily have been] pushed by the emperor or empress. Or it could have been money. But instead of all of that, they decided to carve [onto wood blocks] and to print6Ed.: the British Library notes that each section of the scroll was printed separately, by using a single wood block, and then joined to the others in order to form a 5-meter long horizontal roll – see British Library. the Vajracchedika Sutra, where words like this are found. We are supposed to view all conditioned phenomena [as follows]:
All conditioned phenomena
Are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow,
Like dew or a flash of lightning;
Thus we shall perceive them.7This four-line gatha is part of section 32 of the Vajracchedika Sutra, “All Phenomena Are Illusions”. The original Chinese text is:
一 切 有 為 法•
如 夢 幻 泡 影•
如 露 亦 如 電•
應 作 如 是 觀•
DJKR is reading from the translation by Chung Tai Translation Committee, which is cited in the wikipedia entry on the Diamond Sutra.
Phenomena are like a dream, but this doesn’t mean they are random or disordered
That’s the view of Buddhism. Now, as you read this you are not supposed to think, “Oh, life is [just] a dream” [in a dismissive or nihilistic way]. You see, there’s this habit [of thinking], “Oh, life is a dream. So It does not exist”. Absolutely not. It’s really important not to interpret it that way, “Oh, life is just a dream”. What do you mean by “just”? That word “just” is very scary. It has a sort of demeaning and downgrading [connotation]. Yes, so choose the word “just” very carefully. So, responding to Raymond’s question yesterday8See Q&A in Day 1 transcript: “It’s there, but it’s not there” like the
reflection of the moon in water. about appearance and disappearance, Raymond was [asking] about whether [the dream-like sequence of the phenomena of everyday life] come [without any] order [or structure]. No. [It’s a] dream. When Buddha said, “All conditioned phenomena have to be viewed as a dream” [that doesn’t mean they come in a random or disordered way]. Dreams have an order. If there are five elephants in the dream, it does not mean that there [could be] four elephants “just” because it’s a dream. It’s five and it’s truly five. That’s important. If in the dream you have a kilo of cherries or strawberries, if that’s what you dreamt, then it’s one kilo. Not two kilos. If in your dream, [there is] a long distance or actually I should say a very, very short distance between here to Uluru9Ed.: According to Google Maps, the shortest route between The Roundhouse in Sydney and Uluru is 2,838km, and it would take 29 hours to drive – see Google Maps.. Yes, well, it’s kind of puzzling, but that’s how it is. And it is acceptable.
Yes, in the dream you fall from the cliff and you get panicked. And you have a very good reason to be panicked10Ed.: i.e. the emotional content of our dreams is also structured recognizably and makes sense intuitively.. Really, a good reason to be panicked, because we know what happens when you fall from a cliff. Also, in the dream, you can get angry. You can get horny. You can get excited. You can get disappointed. All of that. And it’s happening, truly happening. That’s why it’s called relative truth. It’s truly happening at that time. [You might ask] Is it happening? Is it really there? As I was saying again and again yesterday, yes, but it’s also not there.
If you happen to dream that there are five elephants in your tiny room, obviously it’s not there also. Because it won’t fit. Five elephants are big. But in the dream, yes, five elephants are five elephants [and they are all in your room]. That’s how it works. So when when the Buddhists talk about all conditioned [phenomena] as a dream, it’s not only a negation. [When we say all phenomena are like an] illusion, [the meaning is the] same.
When causes and conditions temporarily come together, phenomena arise
It’s like a mirage [of] an oasis. [Let’s say] you’re in the desert and you are so tired of these endless sand dunes. That’s a cause and condition [for the mirage]. When you are so tired of sand dunes, only then will you have an [oasis-like mirage]. The chance of you sitting on Bondi Beach and then having an appearance of an oasis is [small], because the whole thing [doesn’t include the necessary causes and conditions]. But [if you have a] longing for an oasis, a longing for water, that also projects [i.e. is among the causes and conditions that give rise to the projection of a oasis-like mirage]. That’s how it works. We don’t want to deal with salespeople [in stores]. We don’t want to deal with all that effort of physically shopping. So that’s why online shopping happened. But then it has a lot of consequences. Yes, but we’ll talk about that later.
[We should view all conditioned phenomena as being like a] bubble. A shadow. When there are cause and conditions put together temporarily, such as switching on the light, [then] there’s a shadow. [It seemingly comes] out of nowhere. No light, no shadow. As long as there is light, there is a shadow. Like that.
While I think about this, I [would like to] say that having this view is [what is meant by] mahakaruna. I hate to use the word “compassion”. As you know, [I have been] sort of working with one of my projects called “84,000: Translating the Words of the Buddha” and I have [been] looking at words, English words, Tibetan words, Sanskrit words. I realize wow, words are just so important.
Anyway if I were like the Kim Jong-un of Buddhism, I would really forbid [the use of] the word “compassion”. There are a few words that I would forbid: “meditation”, “compassion”, “enlightenment”. It’s so bad. I would really forbid them, but alas, I’m not [like Kim Jong-un]. But I’m praying. I’m sure you know. I have told you this. And already the preconditions are developing in my system, that sort of very dictatorial [approach to life]. It won’t fit in certain [parts of] society. But I have heard that algorithms are taking over the world, and in about 50 years, democracy will mean nothing. So I think I will have a chance. I can see it already. It’s happening.
And by the way, yes. What a bubble democracy is. Free speech. What is it? A flash of lightning. Journalism is like a shadow. If you look at the list of what the Buddha laid out in the Vajracchedika Sutra, all our life [is like this]. Shopping, parenting, pension plans, health insurance, whatever. [Just] look at all [of it]. Anyway that’s how the Buddha, the Teacher, [talks about the view in] the Vajracchedika Sutra.
The view according to Nagarjuna and the Madhyamaka tradition
Nagarjuna takes a more analytical approach when talking about the view
Then [we come to the way that] his disciple Nagarjuna [talks about the view]. I want to say these things, because I think it’s really important that you get used to these words. Several hundred years later [i.e. after the Buddha] Nagarjuna came and he wrote commentaries on sutras like the Vajracchedika Sutra11Ed.: Nagarjuna (c.150 – c.250 CE) is considered one of the most important Buddhist philosophers and founder of the Madhyamaka school. His most influential work, the Mulamadhyamakakarika, was written in the 2nd or 3rd century. It is a commentary on the most important philosophical discourses in the early Buddhist texts, although the only sutra it mentions by name is the Kaccayanagotta Sutta (SN 12.15). The first Chinese translation of the Vajracchedika Sutra dates to the early 5th century, but, by this point, the 4th or 5th century Indian monks Asanga and Vasubandhu had already written commentaries on the text. See wikipedia on Diamond Sutra., and he talks about the view so much. [However] Nagarjuna uses a more analytical [approach when talking about the view]. The Buddha’s approach [relies more on] analogies and examples. Life is like a dream, like an illusion, like a bubble. But Nagarjuna is more analytical. This is something that you can think about.
For example, he said, “There is no such thing as ceasing”. This is important. Do you know how we justify [that] certain things exist? Because they have an expiry date. Cessation. We believe in cessation, like Armageddon, the end of the world. Nagarjuna doesn’t believe in this kind of thing. There’s no such thing as cessation. You should fight the fire [Ed.: Australia was battling devastating bushfires when DJKR was giving this teaching in January 2020]. It’s not like the end of the world. You have every reason to save every single tree. [Whereas] with cessation, there’s a certain strong belief [that it’s truly the end]. But there’s no such thing as cessation in Buddhism. There’s only apparent or seeming cessation, but it’s not real cessation. And just like there’s no cessation, there’s no arising. [No] birth, being born, arising. No genesis.
And Nagarjuna also [said there is no permanence]. I’m trying to give you an example of how there’s no such thing as permanent. Just as there’s no such thing as permanent, there’s no such thing as annihilation or the end. For example, Shakyamuni Buddha or Jesus Christ are gone. No more. That’s annihilation. [Whereas] your head is here on your shoulders. That’s permanent. Basically we don’t see past annihilation [and permanence]. Yesterday is gone. [If we really] believe that yesterday is gone, exhausted, [we are] basically falling into the realm of annihilation. Nagarjuna doesn’t believe in that. And yes, my head is on my neck. It is here. I can feel it. [If we] truly believe that it’s here, today, present, now, right this very moment, [we are] falling into the extreme that’s the opposite of annihilation. What is the opposite of annihilation? Permanence12Ed.: Merriam-Webster Thesaurus defines “annihilation” as “the state or fact of being rendered nonexistent, physically unsound, or useless”, and its antonyms as “building, construction, erection, raising”. Another set of opposites close to DJKR’s intended meaning include “finished“, which means “brought or having come to an end” and its antonyms “continuing, incomplete, ongoing”.. [Believing that it’s really] there. Can you think about this?
Nagarjuna doesn’t accept absolute arising or cessation: while it’s arising, it’s also ceasing
[Likewise] there’s no such thing as departing. There’s no such thing as coming. There’s no such thing as different, like black and white. Nagarjuna doesn’t believe [in it]. There’s no such thing as one [or the same], [as in the] opposite of different. He analyzed phenomena in eight different ways and he came to the conclusion that this is how things are. I talked yesterday [about how] while it’s there, it’s not there. Nagarjuna [is saying] the same thing. While it’s arising, it’s also ceasing. While it’s ceasing, that’s also the arising [of some other phenomena]. While it is solid, it is also not solid. While it is gone and finished, it’s also not finished. What is different is also the same.
All these distinctions are like a bubble. And Buddhists are not supposed to fall into [any] one of them. Buddha, Jesus, they are gone. Finished. Two thousand years ago. [That’s the extreme of] annihilation. Me. I’m here. This is here. [That’s the extreme of] permanence. [DJKR holds the table in front of him, indicating its presence and solidity] Wow.
The view as described in Buddhist stories
The story of Buddha ‘Delight in Stars’
[The view is] taught in so many different ways, and some of them, as I said yesterday, are in the form of stories. And this is where people go wrong, thinking that Buddhism [is religious because it includes elements of] myth and story13Ed.: DJKR has often noted how contemporary so-called secular Buddhists misunderstand the purpose of myth and stories in Buddhism because they deem them to be “religious” or incompatible with the rational ideals of the western Enlightenment. However, by rejecting stories they demonstrate a misunderstanding of how the view is to be understood and put into practice, and they thus risk falling into an extreme view and derailing the entire Buddhist path.. But actually the aim [of Buddhist teachings, including the myths and stories] is to teach this [view] for which I’ve just given you the list [i.e. that we should view phenomena as being like a dream, an illusion, etc.].
For example, Nagarjuna doesn’t believe in big. While it is big, it’s small. While it is small, it’s big. Everything is like this. While it is there, it’s not there. [Let me illustrate] how this is taught in some some other sutras. For example, there’s a sutra with a description of all the Buddha realms14Ed.: DJKR does not give the source, but the Buddha realms are described in “The Flower Bank World”, which is Book 5 of the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra). Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé also cites the Avatamsaka Sutra as a source for his description of the Buddha realms in Section II.A.2 in his “Treasury of Knowledge, Book 1: Myriad Worlds”. He also cites the Nyingma text “Great Array: The Tantra of Supreme Wish-Fulfillment”.. It’s so beautiful. There is a Buddha called Sangyé Karmala Gawa. What a beautiful name he has. I don’t know it in Sanskrit, but translated into English it’s ‘The Buddha Who Likes The Stars’15Sangyé Karmala Gawa (Tibetan: སངས་རྒྱས་སྐར་མ་ལ་དགའ་བ་, Wylie: sangs rgyas skar ma la dga’ ba; Sanskrit: ज्योतीराम, IAST: Jyotīrāma) = Buddha ‘Delight in Stars’ – see Sangyé Karmala Gawa.. That’s his name.
And this particular Buddha, Sangyé Karmala Gawa, the one who likes the stars, his realm is as big – I should emphasize the word “big” – as the size of our thumb16Ed.: Note 14 to Chapter 2 of “Treasury of Knowledge, Book 1: Myriad Worlds” (op. cit.) has the following description of the Thumb-sized realm Angushtha (Sanskrit: अण्गुष्ठ, IAST: Aṇguṣṭha): “here beings live only ten years and are in height no taller than a thumb. They are presided over by the Buddha Delight in Stars (Jyotīrāma) whose height is one cubit and seven fingers” – see Angushtha.. The sutra goes on. The duration of the Buddha realm, the lifespan of this Buddha, how long is it? [Imagine] a healthy young person snapping their fingers. [DJKR snaps his finger]. Like that, divide that into sixty and one of those is the duration of that Buddha realm.
You see? Story. But it depends on how you hear it. In one way it sounds like Star Wars [but you can also hear it as a teaching on “while is it big, it’s small. While it is small, it’s big].
The story of Buddha ‘All-Gazing’
There’s another Buddha called Küntuzik, ‘The Buddha That Gazes At Everything’17Küntuzik (Tibetan: ཀུན་ཏུ་གཟིགས་) = the Buddha ‘All-Gazing’ – see Küntuzik.. Supposedly Mañjushri is a bodhisattva at the moment, and when he finally achieves enlightenment he will be the Buddha called Gönpo Kuntuzik, the ‘All-Gazing’. There are even descriptions of how he will look. His face will be white, and his body will be black from the neck down. Stories …
The size of his Buddha field is as small – [once again], underline the word “small” – as infinite. That’s what the sutra says. It’s as small as infinite. Supposedly you cannot measure [it]. And his body is also as small as infinite. In one of the descriptions it says that there are tens of thousands of buddhas walking from one side of his nostril to the other side of the nostril, and they still haven’t reached the other side.
You see how these people are making mockery of time and space? They’re laughing at it. They’re laughing at things like “small”. They’re laughing at things like “big”. These guys are laughing at it. But they also know out of their compassion [that] you want to hear [descriptions of] size, you want to hear shape, you want to hear the descriptions. So they give you all this mind-boggling stuff. [And they’re] not only mind-boggling, but so many of them are so beautiful too. They’re very inspiring.
These Buddha field descriptions are quite something. Certain Buddha fields have no other realms, only ghosts. And [they are presided over by] a ghost Buddha. But in that sutra, they also talk about realms that have no buddhas. And Buddhist practitioners pray “I can be born in the ghost realm, I can be born in any realm as long as there is a Buddha. May I be born into [a realm like] that, but not in that place where there is no Buddha”. Again, it’s a story.
Dark aeons, light aeons and the Fortunate Aeon
And then there’s also münpé kalpa18münpé kalpa (Tibetan: མུན་པའི་བསྐལ་པ་) = dark kalpa or dark aeon – see münpé kalpa., the dark age or dark aeon, meaning [an aeon in which] there is no Buddha. Again, the description is so profound. You may think “Oh, okay maybe there will be a time after many centuries when there is no Buddha”. But it’s not really like that. On the highest level, the moment you are distracted – it doesn’t matter what you are distracted with – that moment is the dark aeon or the dark age. The moment you are not distracted, that’s the light aeon. There’s also something called the Fortunate Aeon19Bhadrakalpa (Sanskrit: भद्रकल्प) = Fortunate Aeon – see Bhadrakalpa., which is the aeon in which we are supposedly dwelling at the moment. Yes. And because of that, we hear teachings from Buddha, the Buddhist teachings.
Oh, you know [we are told in the Mahayana teachings that] it’s going to take three countless aeons to become Buddha. It’s a story, because they want you to work hard. They don’t want you to be lazy. But then other times, [the teachings say] you’ll get enlightenment instantly. [DJKR snaps his fingers]. Just like that. They also say this.
So, this is difficulty of presenting the Buddhadharma to the modern world which is stuck with mathematics, logic, and empiricism. [With things that are] experienceable. It’s difficult, as I told you yesterday, to teach something so nondual, to teach a doctrine that laughs at size, color, shape, time – [while] using the language of [size], color, shape, time. It’s difficult. But this is how it is.
The richness of Buddhism: When the view is present, everything is acceptable
Using “negative” and “positive” language to talk about the view
Okay, just a little bit more [on] Buddhist view. I’ve been using [language that is] seemingly a little negative. No arising. No cessation. No annihilation. No permanence. No departing. You know the words [in the Heart Sutra], “No eyes, no nose, no ears” [and so forth]. We call it gakdra20gakdra (Tibetan: དགག་སྒྲ་) = negation word (e.g. “is not”, “does not exist” etc.) – see gakdra. in Tibetan. It’s using negative words [i.e. words of negation]. Also, if you read the Vajracchedika Sutra, you can say that it uses a lot of negative words. There’s even a section where after hours and hours of teaching, the Buddha asks Subhuti, “So Subhuti, did the Buddha teach?” And you know that he’s the one who’s been listening for hours. And then Subhuti says, “No, Lord. You haven’t”. Buddha said, “There we go. That’s it. Buddha never taught.” It’s crazy. What do you mean he hasn’t taught? I have spent hours reading this. Again, using the negative. Negation. There are a lot of teachings like that.
But it’s not always like this. There are plenty of teachings where Buddhists use “positive” words. For example, kudang yeshe21kudang yeshe (Tibetan: སྐུ་དང་ཡེ་ཤེས་) = the (four) kayas and (five) wisdoms; the kayas and timeless awareness – see kudang yeshe., jñanas22jñana (Sanskrit: ज्ञान) = wisdom, primordial wisdom – see jñana., kayas23kaya (Sanskrit: काय) = “body” in the sense of a body or embodiment of numerous qualities; dimension – see kaya., 32 major marks, 80 minor marks, dimensions, wisdom, all sorts of uplifting words. Nimbin24Ed.: Nimbim is a village in the Northern Rivers area of the Australian state of New South Wales. According to wikipedia, “Nimbin has been described in literature and mainstream media as ‘the drug capital of Australia’, ‘a social experiment’, and ‘an escapist sub-culture’. Nimbin has become an icon in Australian cultural history, with many of the values first introduced there by the counterculture becoming part of modern Australian culture”. See wikipedia on Nimbin. people will like these kind of words. Don’t worry those who are not Australians, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Nimbin is a particular uplifting pure realm. Instead of using the word “emptiness” they use the words like “Buddhanature”, “tathagatagarbha”, like that.
Even Saraha, the disciple of that part-time arrow-maker, part-time prostitute, he said [DJKR recites a verse in Tibetan]. In this day and age, I have to be careful. You know, animal rights people may not like this. But anyway, Saraha said, “Those who cling to things as truly existing. They are like cattle”. Cattle. Idiots. “But those who cling to shunyata, emptiness, that things do not exist, they’re even worse than that”25Ed.: this quote is translated by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche as “To cling to concrete reality is to be as dumb as an ox; but clinging to emptiness is even dumber”. See Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche (2003) “Crystal Clear: Practical Advice for Mahamudra Meditators”, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, page 94..
As long as the view is present, astrology and Tarot-reading are also the path
You see? [Buddhist also talk] about kayas, jñanas, pure realms. And if you go to vajrayana, they have plenty of mandalas and deities. For example, there’s a blue Tara, a green one, one with four hands, one with three eyes, one with a million eyes, and so forth. Yes. Everything fits. And because of that, everything is [acceptable]26Ed.: DJKR used the word “adaptable” in the teaching, but it has been changed to “acceptable”. DJKR usually uses the word “acceptable” in this context to indicate that all kinds of methods are acceptable in Buddhism, as long as they are based on the nondual view of “it’s there, but it’s not there”.. [Even] astrology or Tarot card reading. In this context, I will not and I cannot say that sitting on a meditation cushion is a better path than reading Tarot. I cannot. As long as the view is there, and as long as it is taking you closer to the truth, then it is the path.
The difference between compassion and mahakaruna
Oh, I got distracted. I was going to talk about compassion. I was saying that we should not use the word “compassion” [as a translation of] mahakaruna. However, knowing this – knowing that there is no coming and no going, or knowing that while it is small, it is simultaneously big. [Knowing that] while it is appearing, it is simultaneously disappearing. [Knowing that] while it is apparent, it is also nonexistent – this is mahakaruna. This is what we term “compassion”. [We are not referring to] sympathy, charity, or [empathetic] feelings [of care and concern]. They are okay. But they’re not mahakaruna. They are maybe karuna, but they’re not mahakaruna. What’s wrong with that [kind of sympathy or karuna]? If you don’t have the view, [then] that kind of karuna, that kind of mere compassion may end up taking you to hospital. And you may end up needing a shrink. Lying on the couch.” What’s wrong mate?” You say “I’ve been having too much compassion. Too much. Until I broke down, like this”.
How would you feel if you were to see somebody going really bananas dreaming or [having a] hallucinogenic experience? If [their experience of things like] long and short [did not correspond to conventional reality], “Oh, Uluru is so close. It’s so far. I have 500 elephants in my room”. [Knowing that] all this is actually not really happening [and it’s there but not there], and you are like “Aw” [DJKR adopts a posture and tone to indicate sympathetic concern for another person’s suffering]. That’s real compassion isn’t it? Of course [your ability to help the other person and intervene skillfully] depends on how expert you are, how matured you are, and how skillful you are also. Because until you have this [nondual view that makes your compassion into mahakaruna], your compassion is what we call nyéring chakdang27nyéring chakdang (Tibetan: ཉེ་རིང་ཆགས་སྡང་) = with partiality and prejudice to those close and distant – see nyéring chakdang.. Your compassion is not yet free from distinctions and references, such as closeness or distance. For example, you might easily have compassion towards someone who is sick in Ethiopia or Rwanda or Syria, or someone in a war-torn zone. But Trump? “No, he doesn’t deserve my compassion. Trump. Billionaires. They don’t need my compassion”. Because you are bound by size, shape, color, length, distinctions, rich, poor.
The paradox of the view
While you are rich, you are simultaneously poor. Keep on remembering this. This paradox is really so important. So important. I was looking at the [meaning of] the word “paradox” in English, and I found a good example: “I lie all the time. Don’t believe me”28Ed.: This is the famous “Liar paradox” in philosophy and logic. Its simplest form is “I am lying”, and the paradox is also expressed in the strengthened form “This sentence is a lie” in order to make it amenable to more rigorous logical analysis. See wikipedia on Liar paradox.. I like that. The whole phenomenal [world] is like this. “I lie all the time, so don’t believe me”. So what choice do you have? “Oh, maybe he’s lying this time. Or maybe he’s now at last telling the truth?” The whole phenomenal [world] is like this. It’s not, “This time, it really exists” or “Now, this time, it’s finally gone”. [The phenomenal world is] not like that. [It’s there and yet it’s not there]. That’s the paradox. This really needs to be established in order to understand the Buddhist path.
Okay, enough with the view. We will take a break, and after the break we will talk about meditation. But I’m going to use the word “practice”. It’s better, I think. Yes, I will use the word “practice”, tawa gompa29tawa gompa (Tibetan: ལྟ་བ་སྒོམ་པ་) = view and meditation, the first two parts of tawa gompa chöpa drébu (Tibetan: ལྟ་བ་སྒོམ་པ་སྤྱོད་པ་འབྲས་བུ་) = view, meditation, action and result – see tawa gompa chöpa drébu. The word “meditation” in this context is a translation of the Tibetan gom (སྒོམ་, Wylie: sgom), which is the translation of the Sanskrit bhavana ( भावन) = development, training, practice, cultivation – see gom.. Practice. Meditation. You are welcome to keep on using the word “meditation”. I think you will. But I think we need to poke and do a little bit of a reality check on this overly used word “meditation”. It has really been overly used. So, we will do a little bit of fact-checking on this one. Okay.
[END OF TALK 4]
Recap of the view: the four seals
So, not to lose our thread or the context, we have talked about the view, meditation, action and result. And yesterday we talked about the result being not so much to do with “getting”, actually not at all. It’s more to [do with] “clearing” or getting rid of. That’s what we are aiming for. It’s like washing a cup. When you wash a cup, you’re not trying to make or get a new cup. You are washing the dirt. It’s like that. So for that, we need to apply a path in order to gain that result. It’s automatic, but we have to talk like this [even though the result is about elimination rather than gaining]. To reach to that result, maybe that’s a better word, to reach to this result, we apply a path.
A path consists of three almost indispensable attributes or aspects. (1) The view that we have talked about is very, very important. (2) And then practice or meditation. (3) And then action. Just to recap, the view is presented in many different ways, but one very popular [way] is the relative view and the ultimate view. To extend this a little bit, the relative view is sometimes presented in terms of what we call “the four seals”:
- All compounded things are impermanent.
- All defiled emotions or all emotions are pain.
- All phenomena have no truly existing nature.
- Nirvana or Enlightenment is beyond extremes.
So especially in the Mahayana, this how the view is presented. But I think we [have] talked enough about the view.
To qualify as Buddhist, a meditation or practice must go against dualistic mind
Now, [let’s turn to] “meditation” or “practice”. First I want to tell you this. To qualify [as] a Buddhist practice, any meditation or practice, whatever it is, must go against dualistic mind. That’s what the practice is for.
In today’s world, meditation has become very trendy. There are even several meditation apps. Now based on this [criterion], if you think about it, most of the meditation that is being taught, practiced, and marketed – even the so-called vipassana, which is used by a lot of people – is not really aiming to defeat duality, is it? If that [was really the aim], the app developers wouldn’t have a business. It’s really the opposite. Meditation is to make you feel relaxed. To free you from stress. To energize you. And so forth.
This is where stakeholders [i.e. masters and lineage holders] really have to be careful. I was joking with an Indian yoga teacher. He’s a really good yoga teacher, actually. I think he’s one of those last remaining authentic yoga teachers. I told him, “It’s too late now. Yoga is gone. Finished”. It has become [its own] separate phenomenon. It’s like the whole purpose of yoga, the view of yoga, and even a lot of action or the technique itself has become like the Mexican food served in America. Or like a ramen shop run by the Chinese in Sydney. Yes, it does look like ramen. But it’s not really ramen. And in the modern world, the packaging is what’s attractive. So the packaging takes over.
The meaning of meditation and mindfulness
So let’s go through this little bit more. [What we mean by] practice or meditation. Because the word dhyan, chan, zen, gom in Tibetan is really about getting used to and getting accustomed to. [Getting accustomed] to what? [It is] to get accustomed to the view that we have been talking [about for] one and a half days. That’s what it is for.
You can’t possibly think that sitting straight is our [purpose or] end. How can you think that? That would be so easy. Just put a stick [to keep] your spine [straight]. You can’t possibly think that sitting on a cushion is the end. [You can’t possibly think] that [this] is what Buddhists are aiming for. And anyway, we have to be careful about using the word and the language “mindfulness”, because mindfulness has the connotation of being careful. Mindful as in “Beware, be mindful”. Really? Is that how you want to exhaust your life, [by spending] your whole life being careful? That doesn’t sound at all good, does it? Panicky all the time, mindful?
Whatever method takes you closer to the truth – I have to repeat this again and again – that is the path. That is meditation. Now having said all of this, of course, sitting straight or isolating yourself from your kitchen to the living room, or from your living room to the shrine room, or from your house to a mountain, or from the city to a under a tree in the forest – all these have been prescribed and encouraged by the masters of the past, because they do have benefit. Yes, the chance of you getting closer to the truth, closer to the view, is higher by you sitting straight than by lying in a hammock. Probably. For a lot of people. But also [there is the risk of] spiritual materialism. “How many hours I could sit? How straight can I sit?” Those can also be a very big distraction.
Any practice can be considered vipassana if your motivation is to see the truth
[Let’s talk about] the word “vipassana”. Vi-30vi- (Pali & Sanskrit: वि) = a prefix with multiple meanings, including: (1) it may give a meaning opposite to the idea contained in the simple root (e.g. krī-,”to buy”; vi-krī-,”to sell”); (2) it may intensify that idea (e.g. hiṃs-,”to injure”; vi-hiṃs-,”to injure severely”), hence “greater”, “special”, etc.; (3) it may connote expansion or spreading out – see vi. in Pali is “suchness”, “that”, “that which is”, “the real thing”, “the real deal”, “the real McCoy”31“The real McCoy” is an idiom used to mean “the real thing” or “the genuine article”. It is believed to originate from a corruption of “The real MacKay”, which originally referred to Scotch whisky. See wikipedia., “the true color”. Passana32passana (Pali: पस्सना) = seeing – see passana. is basically getting used to that33The Sanskrit word abhyasa (Sanskrit: अभ्यास) means “getting used to” in the sense DJKR is using here – see abhyasa. The Sanskrit word pashyana (Sanskrit: पश्यन), which is the translation of the Pali word passana, means “seeing”, and also “beholding, rightly understanding”. It is based on the Sanskrit root word pas (√पश्) which means “binding, fastening”. The Tibetan word tong (Tibetan: མཐོང་) has all these connotations, including “seeing”, “insight”, “hanging onto” – see passana.. Getting used to it. So, in this sense, it is not wrong to consider what we did yesterday, [with me] talking like this and you listening, [as we are doing] now, it’s not wrong to also consider this a vipassana session. Especially if you come with the motivation, “I want to know the truth. I want to meet the real McCoy. I want to see the real color. I have been distracted and entangled too much by all kinds of fake things. I want to see the truth”. If you come here with that motivation, and [the motivation to] decipher and pull the rug out [from] this solid duality, then even listening, debating, and reading can be easily considered as vipassana.
And now think about it. [What about] offering flowers to a temple [with the aspiration] “With this, may I see the view”. Burning incense. Rituals. Going to a temple. Shaving hair. Changing robes. All this is an act of Vipassana. It is. But [how does this look to a] modern, skeptical, scientifically-minded person? [Someone who] has the residue of Abrahamic religious thinking? “What are you doing? Flowers? Incense? That’s Indian and Tibetan stuff. And it’s a ritual. It’s not scientific. It’s shamanist stuff”. But when it comes to sitting, especially if you’re British, “Oh this is jolly good. This is harmless”. So you feel comfortable with that. Which is fine. If that is what you are comfortable with, you should do that. But there are people who never, ever sit. All they do is chant mantras and [turn] prayer wheels. The whole time. All they do is [turn] prayer wheels and chant mantras, but their motivation is to see the view. Those [methods] should not be discarded. They’re very important. Really good.
Whereas even meditation is not a spiritual path if your motivation is for a better samsaric life
You know, I belong to this second department. I just can’t sit, because it’s so boring. Yes, maybe for 10 or 20 minutes once in a blue moon. But I love my shrine. I love these flowers and incense. It moves me. It makes me almost teary. Sitting. It’s boring to me. I belong to this [second group]. This is really important you know, and this is why motivation is so important. If your motivation in doing vipassana is so that you can have better sleep, so that you can be stress free, so that you get energized, so that come Monday you [can] be ruthless in destroying the earth by doing all sorts of business, [then you’re] not really following a spiritual path. Your vipassana has become just another gadget to make your life quicker, faster, more profitable, etc. It’s just like a fax. Or like a laptop. It’s like a vacuum [cleaner]. Your vipassana has become a household appliance. Like blind or shades [for your windows]. Or it has become like a massage.
I’m not saying you should not do that. Of course, please buy as many household appliances as possible, and have as many massages as possible. And yes, along with that you can do meditation if you want. But you need to know the view. And anything that takes you closer to the view, even if it means a heated argument with somebody, if that’s taking you closer to the view, you are a fortunate being. Your life has become worthwhile. So with that in mind, if you look at the recipe of the classic vipassana you will understand what I’m talking about. Basically the classic recipe, on the most fundamental level of Buddhadharma, has three ingredients of vipassana. Three characters [Ed.: characteristics]. I think sometimes they call it three marks. Anicca, dukkha and anatta.
The three marks: anicca, dukkha and anatta
(1) Anicca (impermanence)
Anicca is probably the most easy to chew. It’s good to begin with. Anicca is impermanence. That is the truth. Impermanence. That is a raw truth. It’s not mythical, it’s not religious, it’s not a revelation. It’s the raw, blatant, obvious, ridiculously here-and-now truth. Change. Impermanence. But again, here we have to be careful. Many people always end up thinking, “Oh, Buddhism [talks about] impermanence. [It’s] the harbinger of the bad news. Buddhism always talks about death and impermanence.” Well, I have to sort of blame this on the lamas and especially on the monks and nuns, because that’s one of the tricks [used in monasteries] to make them practice the Dharma more. But actually, impermanence is not just that. Impermanence is not only bad news. It’s also good news. Because of impermanence, you can do lots of things. There is hope. Thanks to impermanence, things change. This is [something] that you need to know.
So [perhaps you will] go to a cosmetic shop today and buy moisturizer34Ed.: DJKR often uses this example to make two seemingly opposed points about impermanence. First, even if we apply moisturizer, our skin will eventually age. The youth and suppleness of our skin is impermanent. However, there is only a purpose in using moisturizer because it works, at least in the short term, to relieve the symptoms of dry skin. In other words, the dryness is itself impermanent. If it were permanent and unchanging, there would be no point applying moisturizer.. Yes, by all means, you must buy moisturizer. It’s really important, even according to Shantideva, the Mahayana master, who [compares the] body to a servant:35Shantideva, Bodhicharyavatara III:13-14. Padmakara Translation Group, 1997/2006.
This body I have now resigned
To serve the pleasure of all living beings.
Let them ever kill, despise, and beat it,
Using it according to their wish. And though they treat it like a toy,
Or make of it the butt of every mockery,
My body has been given up to them.
Why should I make so much of it?
And:36Shantideva, Bodhicharyavatara V:68. Padmakara Translation Group, 1997/2006.
If servants who cannot be set to work
Are not rewarded with supplies and clothing,
Why do you sustain with such great pains
This body, which, though nourished, will abandon you?
You know, you have to pay a wage to your slave. It’s a salary. Yes, pedicure, manicure. Please. You must do whatever. Shampoo, grooming, whatever. You must do it, by all means. But today when you do it, [try to do it with] this idea that “Yes, but you know, it’s just inevitable that it’s going to change.” Not necessarily getting old, by the way. But it’s going to change. Change, anicca, impermanence. So when you buy hand cream, as you pay for it, think “Yes, it will help a little bit, but while it’s moisturizing, it is also dry.” While it’s becoming more the foundation, [all the] while it loses … [Ed.: DJKR doesn’t complete the thought].
Buying moisturizer and the Seven-Eleven vipassana
If you have that, yes, it’s a Seven-Eleven vipassana. It is, really. I have the backing of all the scholars and saints of the past, I’m serious. I’m not making this up. That is a vipassana. I would rather you go to a grocery shop and buy food and think, “It is possible that I may never eat this food”. I would consider that a much more profitable or rewarding vipassana than hours and hours sitting on a cushion [without this view of anicca] and getting really bored and in pain and whatever. It’s so important that you know this.
Similarly, [suppose] you are depressed, you’re really not happy. You’re sad. You’re really feeling hopeless. Then also [you might] tell yourself, “How many times have I been sad in the past? How many times? Just so many, and none of them stayed”. Yes, some of them sort of lingered a little bit, but there are a lot of times you are happy. Many times, I’ve seen some of you depressed people. I’ve seen with my own eyes, you had good times. Many times. So that’s possible. It’s, “Okay, this morning I’m not so happy. But it’s very possible this afternoon that I’ll be happy”. Like that. That is really getting closer to anicca. That is getting closer to the view. That is practice. It’s so important that you know this.
This culture, this kind of thinking and attitude is important. Because I think many times we wrongly measure “Oh, he or she is a great practitioner”. What does that mean? [Are you simply saying that] he sat for many, many hours? We don’t know. I would like to hear a day when some Australians say about other people “You know, he’s a great practitioner. Every time he goes to Seven-Eleven, or every time he buys a moisturizer, he thinks about how while it’s dry, it is also moisturized”. You understand? That’s a good yardstick or indicator of how you define practice.
Change is the truth, but we try to forget it and cover it up
That’s anicca. Change. Change is the truth. Change is a view. But as blatantly obvious as it is, it’s difficult. Again, yesterday we talked about our habitual patterns. Yesterday, the Chinese should all have cried for New Year because it means they’re getting old. In about a month’s time, all the Tibetans should cry for having their New Year. Every time your birthday comes, you should mourn. You should wail, “Oh, tomorrow my birthday is coming. I’m getting old”. But we don’t think like this. We cover it up.
It’s the same thing [with] all our plans, scheduling, diary books. In Singapore airport I saw a diary book for the year 2021. It’s already on sale. Shocking isn’t it? A 2021 diary book. Actually, at that time I thought “Wow, will I ever see this year 2021?” So there is that habit of eternalism or permanence, [which is the opposite of] annihilation. Permanence. It exists. We have that. So, yes, as blatantly, simply, and obviously that this truth is so ever-present, it doesn’t mean that we dwell on it. Actually we do all kinds of things to forget it. That’s what samsaric beings do. We try so hard to forget the truth.
Our so called samsaric living is that. To tell ourselves as many lies as possible, to constantly live in denial. That’s how it is. So [facing the truth of impermanence] is actually a good beginning to [practicing or meditating on] the view that we have been talking about yesterday and this morning. Impermanence is not a bad word. I think this will do [as a translation of “anicca”].
(2) Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness)
Now the next one is much more subtle, much more profound, and probably much less blatant and obvious. Dukkha. [It is sometimes translated as]“suffering”, but this word is really not good. I think the Thai and the Burmese have managed to translate this as “unsatisfactoriness” or something like that. Probably that’s better than “suffering”. There should be a Buddhist conference where we discuss this.
I think the word “suffering” that the Buddhists have been using is not only misleading, but it has also really done damage to Buddhism. No-one wants to hear Buddhadharma, because they think that Buddhism is going to talk about suffering. The truth of suffering. Right at the beginning, they hear the truth of suffering. Who wants that? Try to talk to teenagers, they all want to have fun. And they think they’re having fun. And many of them actually are [having fun].
We’re not in Syria. We’re not fighting in a war. There’s the next app to download. There’s the next episode to look forward to. Nice coffee shops. There’s a nice beach. I’m fairly okay, sort of healthy. Yes, sunsets. That’s kind of nice also. Sunrise. And we can sleep. We have nice beds. We have a lot of good soft music. A lot of jazz music. Night life. Wow. These things are all good. So I think the word “suffering” is not right. Dukkha is a very good word, by the way, I think Sanskrit is actually such an important language. I found out that Sanskrit has 72 words for “love”. What a great thing, isn’t it? So good. Love. I’m sure the Latin language is as rich.
Anyway, dukkha has something to do with unsatisfactoriness. It’s never satisfying, is it? Freedom of speech is never satisfyingly free. Democracy is never satisfyingly democratic. Fashion, food, technology, everything. Beach house. Also the word dukkha has the connotation of what in Tibetan we call tsimpa mepa37tsimpa mepa (Tibetan: ཚིམ་པ་མེད་པ་, Wylie: tshim pa med pa) = lacking satisfaction and contentment – see tsimpa.. We just never come to that day of “Okay that’s it”. Conclusion. It’s always work in progress. We have never really lived one hundred percent as we planned. And then suddenly your children will have their children, and then you have to act like a grandparent. And you’ll be happy. Yes, [being a] grandparent is good. Grandchildren. But things have begun now. So, [it’s] never ending. As the Sakyapa master Drakpa Gyaltsen said:38From Section 2, “Relinquishing Attachment to Samsara” in Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen, Commentary on Sachen Kunga Nyingpo’s Lojong Shenpa Shidrel, Parting from the Four Attachments. Rigpa Translations, 2011.
See how there is never an end of things to do.
And suffering is found among the many and the few,
Among the well-off and the starving alike.
Our whole human life is spent preparing.
And in the midst of our preparing, we are swept away by death.
But not even in death is there any end to preparation,
As once again we begin making ready for the next life.
Our whole life is spent preparing
It’s always arrangement. Preparation. We’re always preparing for the next thing. Life is just preparation after preparation. So the real pleasure or [real] life has never really arrived as we wished. And even though it may arrive momentarily, because of its uncertainty there is unsatisfactoriness. That’s what dukkha is all about.
And again, as I’m presenting this, I think I have presented it in sort of a negative way, but it should not be negative. It can be very fulfilling and rich. And amazing. Maybe I’ve got the wrong idea about this, but I made a new friend He’s really very wealthy, and it made me think a lot. He has no house. And he also doesn’t really rent a place. So he always stays in hotels. He must have stayed in several hundreds or thousands of hotels. And always really good hotels too. He comes here also, he stays in The Rocks. And also he doesn’t stay in big rooms. You know how some hotels have big rooms and several rooms [together in a suite]? No, [he just stays in] a standard room. And I was asking why [does he live] like that. He said “Oh, this is much more satisfying”. Because, he said he doesn’t have to hire a maid. The hotel has maids. And also he shops much less, because the hotel room doesn’t have much room to store his shopping. Stuff like that. It’s quite good, isn’t it?
It’s life planning. I don’t know what you think, but I think many of us, especially young people, you really need to think about [your] lifestyle, about [adopting] a different kind of lifestyle now. The world has changed. Many of us have been trying to live as we lived before, [but] it doesn’t really apply [any more]. It just gives you more headache anyway. You see? This is dukkha. If you understand dukkha, I think your lifestyle gets better actually. You know what to do. Like, “I may never see Machu Picchu, so I better take a leave [of absence from work]“. Something like that. I think I’ve talked about that in Australia before.
Let’s take someone like me. I’m almost sixty. Even if I live to a hundred years, there are only about forty years left. How many pairs of jeans do I need? Forty jeans? Eighty t-shirts? Maybe a hundred toothbrushes? How many pairs of underwear do you reckon? It depends, doesn’t it? But you know what I mean. Planning your life. Understanding dukkha. Because most of the time we don’t know this [i.e. we don’t realize this], so we shop as if we are going to live for a thousand years. So then you get deprived from other aspects of life.
So again, understanding dukkha is nothing negative. It’s just simply knowing that there you are [never] going to be a hundred percent satisfied forever and ever. It just doesn’t exist. And in any case, many times you call that aspect “excitement”. Adventure. Understanding that is vipassana. Understanding that intellectually first, and then slowly, slowly getting used to that truth. Okay, so these first two aspects of vipassana [anicca and dukkha] are on the relative level. I would call them relative truth vipassana.
(3) Anatta (nonself)
The third one is anatta. I think we have talked about that enough. Selflessness. Well, I put it in a different way, “It’s there, but it’s not there. It’s not there, but it’s there”. Shunyata. Emptiness. No arising, no cessation, no abiding. No self. [The practice is] getting used to that. However you get used to it doesn’t matter. As long as your action, your motivation, and the method that you apply brings you closer to that [realization of the view of nonself], you are doing vipassana on anatta.
Again, I’m repeating this, but it’s very important. How you do it really doesn’t matter so much. I would say for most of us, and this is what I’ve been telling my friends and so-called students. After hearing what I have been telling you, yes I think it’s something to do with the definition of practice. Okay, you have heard the view. So how do I practice this? I think the definition of practice always gets hijacked by some sort of ritual. For example, the ritual of sitting every day this much or that much. Chanting this much or that much. Lifestyle. Refraining from certain foods. All this is okay. Fine. But more than that, the definition of practice is how much are you getting used to or closer to the truth? This is what I think you need to apply.
And I’ve been telling many of my friends that I think like for someone like me, maybe the best way is [something like] guilt. Maybe it’s worry or concern. “Am I getting used to this? Am I getting closer to the truth? Am I getting closer to the view?” This concern. You may never sit. Actually, I don’t believe that most of you will sit. Even those who sort of pledge “I will sit every day [for this number of hours]”. Maybe after this [teaching], you may get inspired for about two weeks and then that’s it. You will not do it. I know this. I am a good example myself. I get so charged up and inspired by seeing Bodh Gaya, and then suddenly a few months [go by] and then this kind of inspiration doesn’t last long.
But, you know, I feel guilty [that I’m] not practicing enough. And I’m very happy that I’m feeling this guilt. I feel that this is the blessing of my masters. I think my masters have really given me so much blessing to make me feel guilty that I’m not practicing enough. “I must practice. I must practice. Tomorrow I’m going to practice. Starting from tomorrow, I will do this. New Year’s resolution. I’m going to do this from now on”. I think this is bankable [i.e. you can bank on this] to bring you to the view.
How the Buddha started on his Dharma path in his previous lives
To help you with this, [you can do] prayers. For me, it really works. Prayers. Aspirations. Actually, how did Shakyamuni Buddha [end up becoming the Buddha]? We are now telling a story of course, of how he began his path. We’re not only talking about Shakyamuni as Siddhartha, but we are also talking about his previous lives. Long, long before. Initially. How he began. How he ended up having an awkward feeling. How? There are three reasons, and they are quite interesting.
The first reason is that he got so annoyed by pride, his own and others’. That’s number one. The second reason is that he was tired of dukkha. He was tired of this endless unsatisfactoriness. He does this, and he’s not satisfied. He does that, he not satisfied. He was so tired of continuously not being satisfied. He said, “Okay, that’s it. I’ve tried this. I’ve been here, been there. I’ve done this, done that. I’m still not satisfied”. He was tired of that. The third reason is a good one. He realized that these negative emotions, defilements, and attachments are removable. Let’s say he got angry in the morning, and even though he wasn’t doing any spiritual practice or meditation, by the evening he was okay. He wasn’t doing any practice. Nothing. He wasn’t a spiritual person at all. “Oh, that’s funny. So the anger goes? Wow. Emotions don’t stay? Desire doesn’t stay. Wow. Jealousy doesn’t stay? That’s a great thing.” He found that.
So with these three he got the motivation [to practice], and he began. And when he began, he did three things. First, he practiced generosity. The second one, and I am always so moved by the second one, is aspiration. Generating that aspiration, generating the motivation. And of course the third one is the most important, which is generating bodhichitta. That’s how he began his Dharma path.
Should we take a break? I think so. When I talk too much, I lose the thread a little bit. So let’s take a break.
[END OF TALK 5]
The story of when Shakyamuni met Dipankara Buddha in one of his previous lives
There’s a little bit more at the end of that story I was telling you, about when Buddha was just an ordinary being. He got tired of dukkha, he got annoyed by pride, all that. And then he saw Dipankara39Dipankara (Pāli & Sanskrit: दीपंकर) – Dipankara Buddha, one of the buddhas of the past – see Dipankara., someone who actually followed the enlightened path [i.e. path to enlightenment]. I thought this [part of the story] is quite beautiful [and wanted] to tell you. The moment that he saw [Dipankara], he raised one of his legs. You know, with the Indians and followed by the Tibetans, many times there is a lot of poetic license. So I don’t know, but I am a sucker for all this. I believe in this wholeheartedly. But many of you might be skeptical. But anyway, the story is that the moment he saw Dipankara, he was so moved by [seeing] someone who had managed to relinquish the fire of pride and [who was able to] have this couldn’t-care-less attitude towards dukkha. And someone who also had so much compassion and who was so generous. He was so moved that as a gesture of appreciation he raised his one leg for seven days and nights. And then he he recited some words like, “Oh, I’ve never seen such a being like you, neither in heaven nor in the [ordinary world] “, those kinds of verses.
To me, this is not really a ritual. I mean, it is a ritual, yes, but it’s a spontaneous action. It’s a bit like tears. You know sometimes we meet somebody who is so inspiring, who really is just so inspiring that you have tears in your eyes. It’s a bit like that. [In this story] to raise your leg for seven days and nights. Well, in some of the shastras there are more additions. He even put a lamp or something on his head, or he put his hands above his head [DJKR indicates a prayer mudra with his hands pointing upwards above his head] for seven days standing on one leg.
And it is because of this amazing appreciation, this spontaneous act of appreciation towards someone who appreciates “It’s there, but it’s not there. It’s appearing but it’s also emptiness”. It’s that gesture, and not just the gesture, but [the fact that] the gesture was [made] towards someone who actually understood emptiness and clarity. That act of standing for seven days and nights on one leg created so much merit that it’s believed that it gave the result of the ushnisha40ushnisha (Sanskrit: उष्णीष) = the protuberance on the head of a buddha, one of the 32 major marks of the Buddha – see ushnisha., the tip of the Buddha’s head, which is supposedly the most precious mark of the Buddha. Yes, of course, broadly speaking [it is because of] veneration towards the master. But really it is [about] veneration towards the view. You see somebody who has understood that view, and not only understood it intellectually. You see somebody who is dwelling with that view and that attitude.
The story of the visit from the indigenous Colombian tribespeople
Of course, this [this story is] completely [related to] the Bodhisattva path. But on a very mundane level, I think sometimes it can happen to us in our worldly life, in a worldly situation. A situation that I experienced suddenly came into my head, so I have to share this. It’s nothing at all. I’m not talking about a spiritual experience. Well, maybe I am, but anyway, it’s nothing at all like the story I just told you. Something very moving happened when I went to Colombia a few months ago. I met two guys from a special tribe who live in a very special place. Nobody goes there, and nobody comes out of that place. Recently the government sent a drone to take photos of their village or their community, and the guys shot arrows and downed the drone. I thought it’s such a good thing to do. This is the way to go, isn’t it?
Anyway, I have this peace vase project41See Peace Vase Project., and somehow somebody managed to send a peace vase to their community, and I guess they wanted to connect to whoever gave this to them. So two of them came to see me. They have nothing to do with this sort of modern life or this kind of way of communicating. They were very special. Well, they had a stick with something on it, something like a fruit. And they had another stick, and constantly they were rubbing this fruit. And then sometimes they put the end of the stick in their mouth, and then they rubbed it again. I think it was some substance. I don’t know. I didn’t dare ask.
It was really quite special. Because I was looking at their eyes, and they don’t have [this sense that we have of] “Is anybody looking at me?” They were very at ease. They didn’t give a damn about things. They were quite special. Really, really special. Without the usual hope and fear, I think, that we go through. I don’t know whether they are [realized] masters though. I’m not claiming this. It’s nothing to do with that. [It’s] just because they come from a different [culture], almost a different sort of planet. They’re just so different.
Anyway, I made a mistake. I asked, can I come to your village or community. One of them said, “We need to ask the mother”. So I thought okay, it would be something like they would go back [to their village] where there is a mother that they have to ask. They said “Yes, we have to ask the mother”. I said okay. Then one of them said, “Well, in order to ask the mother we need a room”. Then I said, okay, now that’s a little bit interesting. I was teaching in Bogota University, so it’s a really nice place. We showed them some rooms, really good ones. Living room, green room, all that. They said, “No, none of them are good”. Finally, they chose the ladies room. “This is good”.
So they went in there. They said I can come sometimes if I like. So they went in there, and I think they stayed two or three hours. We had to ask the women in the audience to go to another [ladies room]. I went there several times and they were doing nothing. They were just rubbing that stick. And about one or two hours later, then they said “Yes. Our mother said you can come. Because we are older brothers”, they were pointing at themselves, “We are older brothers. You are the younger brother. And today, we are sort of including you as a younger brother. So you can come”. That’s it.
So I have to go there one of these days. I’m a little bit worried about it. Who knows what they will ask me to do? I heard that some of them have schools. The way they raise their kids is very interesting. I’m not so sure, but either right after they are born, or after a few years. I think it’s right after they are born. Actually they give birth in a dark cave. And they keep their [kids] there for years. And as they grow up, the adults tell them, “One day, you will go out of this cave, and outside there are things called trees. It looks like this. It has leaves. It has vines. It has roots. Then there’s this thing called wind. You know, they explain. For years. And then one day they go out, and they’re already ready, because they already know. It’s really very interesting. Isn’t it? It’s so profound in a way. Education.
Anyway, I come from a tradition that really appreciates couldn’t-care-less-ness people, people who really don’t have that kind of paranoia. People who really couldn’t care less, but with no arrogance [and with] a lot of compassion. These people are waning. We don’t see these kinds of people. And I grew up loving and appreciating this kind of tradition. So I guess it must be that. When I saw those two people, I felt so moved. Really. So encouraged.
And, yes, I’m a deluded being. A few days later, I heard news that some Colombian soldiers were killed by [people from one of] these tribes42Ed.: DJKR does not name the tribe, but in late 2019 there was a series of attacks in Cauca, southwest Colombia, including on the Nasa Tacueyó indigenous people. Cauca has been the country’s most violent region since the 2016 signing of a peace deal between the government of Colombia and the rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP)., because they were entering into their territory. I have to confess I was happy. I have to confess that because I’m a deluded being, I thought “They need to be protected”. Why not? “What are they doing there? Yes, they deserve this”. So deluded. But that’s how I was thinking. [This is how we are as] human beings. Just this morning I was talking to somebody about are we contributing to the world at all? I don’t think so. Not at all, not even a little bit. We are taking so much. Has anyone sprinkled pollen? That’s what the bees do, right? They throw pollen and then stuff grows. We don’t do this. We do not contribute at all to the earth. We [just] take. Anyway.
[We have been talking about] View, [and about] meditation or practice. I like the word “practice” better. And within the context of practice, I have talked very briefly about vipassana. And as an accompaniment to vipassana, as a stabilizer of vipassana, as something that will help your vipassana, there’s also something called shamatha, which is basically to make your mind malleable and controllable. And for that, there are so many techniques, such as just watching the breath in and out, which I’m sure many of you have heard about. I think I’m going to answer questions now, if you have questions.
Q & A
How can the Buddha benefit us and protect us if he has passed away?
[Q]: Hello Rinpoche. I have two questions on behalf of my friend. First question, my friends met an Indian scholar in Bodhgaya. And this scholar asked, “Can you Buddhists explain about Buddha. Is your Buddha passed away or still alive? If Buddha passed away, how can he protect you Buddhists? If Buddha is still alive, why do you Buddhists venerate his relics? And please answer us in one sentence”. So my friend [found this] very mind boggling, and he could not answer so he wanted to ask if Rinpoche was there, how would you respond to this question?
[DJKR]: The Indian asked this?
[Q]: Yes, an Indian scholar.
[DJKR]: This is classic Indian. Yes. It took me almost 30 or 40 years to sort of get used to their tricks. First of all, whoever asked this question, he modified this a little bit, but he got that question from the Buddhist sutras. There are fourteen classic questions. And one of them is this. Do you have his address, that Indian guy? Anyway, just say “He’s there, but he’s also not there”. Yes. This is actually not a joke. Really, that’s how it is. Because the Buddhists really don’t [believe in “truly passed away” or “truly still alive”]. Remember the view that I explained? No annihilation, no permanence, no going, not departing, not coming. No “2500 years ago”. You know, for Buddhists, 2500 years ago means now. Also now means then.
[Q]: Okay, so what about the “passed away” part?
[DJKR]: Yes, in the historical account, if you like, he passed away. And at the same time, Buddha is within me. It’s like that. My mind [is Buddha]. The innate nature of my mind. This very moment mind.
How can we find the time to contemplate and practice in our busy modern lives?
[Q]: The second question is from a young Chinese student. Rinpoche, you mentioned hearing, contemplating and action, but hearing takes time. And now the Chinese young people work “9-9-6”, which means 9am to 9pm, six days a week. So they’re so busy, so tired. When they go back home, they just lie down and watch some movies, so they only have about five or ten minutes for practice, and they cannot have a calm mind for hearing completely. This is not only about Buddhism, but about all kinds of doctrines like psychology and other doctrines. So [given] the [current] situation in China for young people, how could they generate the interest in and also the calm mind [needed] to use this time correctly, in order to [devote themselves to] hearing systematically?
[DJKR]: Okay, firstly, when we talk about hearing, I think it’s not just [something relevant for] the Chinese, but for Asians more generally. In traditional Asian society, we are still stuck with [idea idea that] “hearing” [means going] from page one to the last page. We have that tradition, which has its merits I have to say. But nowhere in the Buddhist skillful means is this emphasized. I mean, if you have time you can do it. [Instead, what is meant by] “hearing” is you can even have [be having] a cup of tea or coffee, [or be in a] bar or restaurant [and] talk about the Dharma. Talking about the Dharma, having a conversation about the Dharma, being critical towards the Dharma, criticizing the Dharma. I think many people end up thinking that “hearing” is only qualified as “hearing” when [the Dharma] is coming from a master and you’re sitting there and listening. No, not necessarily. Even reading a book, even just a few sentences, should [also] be [considered hearing]. And [having] conversations [about Dharma with friends in a bar or restaurant]. And even movies. There are many movies that can make you think about reality.
[You also asked about how can we find the time to practice] in this busy [world]. Yes, again, this is not just China but generally in Asia, there’s an old habit of seeing Buddhists [as renunciant monks and nuns]. The moment you talk about Buddhists or practitioners, you always end up thinking they are these renunciants. When I say renunciants, [I’m referring to] monks and nuns, those who need to go through that kind of training. [So Buddhism] gets associated with temples. I was just talking about this recently. For example, in [the organization] 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, we are translating [the sutras], and there’s one sutra where the Buddha said, “If you read this sutra, [you accumulate] so much merit by reading, contemplating, and hearing [the words of this sutra]. And not only that, [you also accumulate so much merit] even if you write [i.e. copy the words of the sutra by hand]. I know the Chinese have an amazing habit [i.e. tradition] of writing the sutras. So, [we can also] accumulate merit through writing the sutras. Well, I really strongly encourage and make the modern Chinese think that downloading a sutra is equally a [way to accumulate a] lot of merit. Because the times have changed. Downloading a sutra. Using it as your screensaver. All that. It depends on the motivation, doesn’t it? I think we [can sometimes] get a little bit stuck with the ancient [ways].
So let’s say if you if you want to build a temple. Instead of building a temple, why not build a workplace? Have a coffee shop, with maybe a picture of a Buddha, some Buddhist sutras and Buddhist texts, and then [spend the] whole day drinking coffee and tea and talking about life. And as long as the conversation has something to do with dukkha, anicca and anatta, even it doesn’t have Buddhist jargon, it’s fine.
A spontaneous expression of gratitude
[Q]: Rinpoche: I’m a Chinese born in Australia. I have all the right reasons to be here and I’m here embarrassed, excited, and also I have this sudden urge that I have to express. What I’m going to say is that your view, your book, “What makes you not a Buddhist” is the is the reason I took refuge in you as my guru who pulls the rug under my feet at the right time. I’ll try not to waste everyone’s precious time, but I just wanted to thank you. And to say this means a lot, and for that I’m forever indebted to you. And I work in a bank. Thank you.
How can we cultivate compassion for people that we perceive to be doing harm?
[Q]: I’d also like to express my gratitude to you for spending the weekend with us in Sydney. My question is to ask you to say a little bit more about the story you just told, specifically around the delusion you acknowledged when you felt happy about or not happy about [how the Colombian soldiers were killed when they entered the territory of the indigenous people], but that there was something positive about the [indigenous people’s] defense [of their own territory].
[DJKR]: It’s not really positive. It’s just me being completely human. Because my feeling is lopsided and sectarian. “I like this. Therefore anything that harms this, I don’t like”.
[Q]: Right and that’s maybe in the vein of you making the distinction between mahakaruna and ordinary compassion. What would the higher level, the mahakaruna view, of something like that be then?
[DJKR]: I would have to say, “Oh, those Colombian soldiers. They may have been mothers and fathers [within] this tribe in their past lives” and so forth. You know, along those lines. That’s so difficult when you get driven by a certain lopsided extreme view. It’s very difficult. But it’s doable. Sometimes it happens, and when it happens it can be very moving. For me it happens more with situations that are more safe. For example, there used to be an American Secretary of State called Donald Rumsfeld. Maybe you’re too young to [remember him]. I try to think that he has been my mother for a long, long time. Many times that’s very difficult. “No, he can’t be”. You know, that [sort of resistance]? But once I was in Morocco, and I went to a bazaar, and there was a donkey with a cart, and the [owner of the] donkey was a man selling fruits. The image of this donkey stayed with me for such a long time. Really long. Years. And I always think, “Yes, [that donkey] has to be my mother”. So it happens more with safe stuff like this. I’m sure if the donkey bit me, I would have a different idea.
Is Buddhanature also there, but not there?
[Q]: I have a question on Buddhanature and how it relates to the view. So, is the view is that all conditioned phenomena are illusory by nature?
[DJKR]: It is a name given to everything that I just said.
[Q]: Does that [also] apply to Buddhanature, in the sense of should we look at Buddhanature and think “It’s there, but it’s not there”?
[DJKR]: Yes, very much so. Actually, it’s good that you asked, because there was no time to cover that. There are so many [related words] such as Tathagata and tathata. You know, Buddha Shakyamuni sometimes said, “I have said this, I have said that.” But sometimes instead of saying “I have said this, I have said”, he refers to himself as “Tathagata said this, Tathagata said that”. You will find this in the sutras. The Sanskrit word gatha is very, very rich. It means both “come” and “go” together. So, “one who has gone” or “one who has come”. Basically [DJKR snaps his fingers] “one who has seen the truth”.
[Q]: When people [talk about] Buddhanature, they say “Maybe it’s the real me”.
[DJKR]: Something like that. [Buddhanature is a translation of] tathagatagarbha, and garbha has a connotation of “essence” or “quintessence”.
[Q]: And this is illusory?
[DJKR]: Yes, very much so. Very much. If it were not illusory, then you could fall into one of the extremes, the extremes of annihilation and permanence. There’s a lot of debate about that, even [among] Buddhist scholars. There are many Buddhist scholars, especially those coming from the Gelugpa and Sakyapa traditions, who will be very careful about teaching you Buddhanature first [i.e. before they have taught emptiness and nonduality]. They say, “This will make students fall into the eternalist [extreme], so let’s first teach them Prajñaparamita or Madhyamaka”. And once you get quite savvy with that kind of thinking, then they “insert” the Buddhanature.
Why does feeling guilty about not practicing help us get closer to the truth?
[Q]: Rinpoche, you mentioned guilt. [If you have] this guilt, that sort of nagging, even if you’re watching a movie you can’t fully enjoy the movie because you have this sort of nagging feeling “I should be practicing. I shouldn’t be doing this”, even if you’re with your boyfriend. Similarly, you’re just there, but something in the back of your mind is nagging at you. Could you elaborate a little bit more how this actual nonstop guilt can help us get closer to the truth?
[DJKR]: If you have guilt at not practicing enough, [but] if you [also] have a true belief that you will never practice in this life, then you are not really guilty of not practicing the Dharma43Ed.: DJKR is saying that not all feelings of guilt are helpful. If you think you’ll never be able to practice, that’s an extreme view. And feeling guilty based on an extreme view is not Dharma practice, so it isn’t going to help you get closer to the truth. Whereas if we have the view of “it’s there, but it’s not there”, or alternatively anicca, dukkha and anatta, then a concern and desire to get used to this view will help you get closer to the truth.. Because then you are not really understanding anicca. [When you have] self-condemnation, “Oh, I’m hopeless. I can never practice”. That is believing in eternalism or nihilism, it could go either way [i.e. you could end up in either extreme]. Then that is not really a [Dharma] practice. I don’t think so. But appreciating, “Oh, you know, things are anicca, dukkha, and anatta. And I really need to get used to this”. That concern itself is mindfulness. It can also create urgency. Especially for beginners, some amount of uncomfortable feeling will be there, but that’s okay. That doesn’t matter. I know we are followers of the Sugata, the “blissfully-gone” being, but Dharma practice is bad news for the dualistic world. And the more that it becomes bad news, that’s supposedly better for Dharma practice. So when bad news comes, there will be a struggle between the old habit and the new habit. I think that’s okay.
How to practice when our bodhichitta motivation is stained by dualistic mind?
[Q]: Rinpoche, I have a question about the path, which you are you teaching today. [I understand that we’re practicing correctly] as long as we [start with] a correct motivation, say bodhichitta, so that we’re trying to practice and save all sentient beings. Then say, for example, that you take a method like using your head and banging it on the wall and you feel pain. Then you contemplate, “I’m taking away the suffering from all sentient beings because I feel pain”. Or “I’m purifying my own downfalls because I’m suffering pain”. You might also say after all this practice, “Maybe I have some merit, then I dedicate all my merit so that all sentient beings may leave samsara”. So my question is, as long as I have that motivation, does that mean I’m on the right path? Or how can I really achieve the correct result? Or how can I identify if I’m on the right path? That’s my question.
[DJKR]: It’s good. You can go with that for now. Yes. And again, like the earlier question, always be ready to pull the rug out [from under] your feet. This is how it is. At the moment, your bodhichitta “May all sentient beings be happy” and all of that is very convoluted and stained by all kinds of dualistic mind, trying to be non-dualistic, all that. Yes, but that’s the only way we can [go forwards]. After a while, you will reach a stage where you are not frightened by the word “all” [Ed.: as in “all sentient beings”]. Do you know why? Because all is one and one is all. That’s why. Then the bodhisattva is becoming comfortable.
[Q]: So basically the path can [include] a really wide range [of methods]?
[DJKR]: And not only that. It’s very progressive. it peels off lots of skins.
[Q]: Then eventually if you get enlightenment or something, do you still have good or bad emotions in your mind? Or [it is] just that you can treat them well or control them well?
[DJKR]: It’s bit like I said earlier. In the dream, there are five elephants. That five is five. But an awakened person knows it’s a dream, so they’re not bothered by five or four. It’s a bit like this. Bad and good may still be there, but they will not function as the normal bad and good.
[Q]: So what’s the difference? When it’s not functioning as good and bad?
[DJKR]: It’s bit like this. How should I say it? Well, of course, the easiest [way] to understand this is the nonduality of bad and good. But that doesn’t mean that they become one, because it’s not like they used to be [two] separate [things which] now become one. After realization [enlightened beings understand that they are nondual] like light and [shadow]. But there’s also something called discriminating wisdom, which means you can still talk to people. And when you talk to people, four is still four and five is still five.
What does it mean to realize the truth?
[Q]: I was just wondering is it not enough to know the view? Why do we need to realize emptiness? Because if I realize emptiness I might have a heart attack and die?
[DJKR]: Understanding the view is understanding shunyata or emptiness.
[Q]: But is it not enough to just know the truth?
[DJKR]: That is the truth. Anicca, anatta and dukkha is the truth.
How can we have compassion without compassion fatigue?
[Q]: This morning you talked about compassion. I wanted to ask about compassion fatigue, which is a concept we now have in the West.
[DJKR]: Didn’t I talk about that a little bit? Like needing to go to a shrink because you have too much [compassion]? Yes, I think because there’s no wisdom. That’s why.
[Q]: So it’s compassion without wisdom?
[DJKR]: Compassion and wisdom must come together. That’s what I said. Having the right view is compassion. If you don’t have that, then you will have fatigue. That’s what I said earlier. Remember, [our aspiration is] all sentient beings, “I’m going to enlighten all sentient beings. I’m not going to leave one single sentient being behind”. Wow, that’s going to take a long time. That’s going to take forever. You know? [This is your] deluded mind. Then you go to your master, “This is going to take a long time”. Then the master says “No, no, no. [DJKR snaps his fingers]. You can do it in a moment”. Then they teach you that there’s no difference between a moment and an aeon. Really, it’s really like that. I have told some of you guys this story [before]. Again, this is another story, [but] this is really important. Suppose you ask a Buddhist a really serious question: define “moment”. As in “in a moment”.
This is the Buddhist answer. I’ll demonstrate, okay? I always like to do this. A kookaburra picks this up [DJKR holds up a small square made of soft white fabric], and goes to touch mount Uluru [with this] once every hundred years. And every hundred years he does this, again and again. And through this friction, one day Uluru is flattened. All that is “one moment” for a Buddhist44This is a traditional Buddhist story used to illustrate the unimaginable length of a kalpa or aeon. We are asked to imagine a gigantic rocky mountain at the beginning of a kalpa, much larger than Mt. Everest. If we were to take a small piece of silk and wipe the mountain once every hundred years, we will have completely worn down the mountain before the kalpa ends. From the Sanghata Sutra:
Moreover, Sarva-shūra, it is as follows: To make an analogy, there is a mountain fifty yōjanas in depth and some twelve yōjanas in height. Then a man built a house on the side of that mountain, and for a long time, when one hundred years passed, that man would wipe it once with a cloth of Benares muslin. By his doing so, the mountain would come to an end. But even after it had, still an eon would not have come to an end. Sarva-shūra, that is the measure of an eon.
[A yōjana is an ancient Indian measurement of distance, which corresponds to about 12-15 km. See wikipedia on yojana]. Translation by Damchö Diana Finnegan, 2006, available at FPMT. See also wikipedia on Sanghata Sutra and Buddhist cosmology.. You see, again we are talking about the relative [nature] of time. This view is really important. You need to know this. When there is the view, then there is compassion [with] no fatigue.
Is the purpose of practice to lead to the realization of the satori moment?
[Q]: Like the example of Saraha, is [the purpose of] all the cultivation and practice to lead to the point of realization of the satori45satori (Japanese: 悟り, literally “comprehension, understanding, awakening”) = in the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kenshō (見性), “seeing the true nature (of reality)” or “seeing into one’s true nature” – see satori. moment? To get rid of all this, to realize all this is futile?
[DJKR]: Yes. It’s like you’re a kid and you are watching a play. And in the play, there’s a demon dance and you’re so scared. You almost have to pee in your pants. Your mother rushes you towards the toilet. And the toilet happens to be backstage, behind the stage. And there [backstage] you see that [the demon] is actually a guy wearing a mask. [DJKR snaps his fingers]. Satori. You’ll go back [to your seat] after peeing, and the demons won’t matter [any more]. You’ll enjoy [them]. Satori.
At the moment we are wearing the demon mask of time, space, bad, good, man, woman. We are wearing all these masks. And talking about satori, read Basho46Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉, 1644–1694) was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan, and he is recognized as the greatest master of haiku. See wikipedia on Matsuo Basho.. He’s so good. Also Issa Kobayashi47Kobayashi Issa (小林 一茶, 1763-1828) was a Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest of the Jōdo Shinshū sect known for his haiku poems and journals. He is regarded as one of the four great haiku masters in Japan, along with Bashō, Buson and Shiki – “the Great Four” – see wikipedia on Kobayashi Issa.. These guys like Basho, he can really make the world so meaningful just based on a sound of a frog jumping into a pond48Basho’s frog haiku:
furu ike ya
mizu no oto
An old pond,
A frog jumps in –
Sound of water.
– Translation by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite.
The old pond,
A frog jumps in:
– Translation by Alan Watts.
Sound of water
– Translation by Google Translate. For other translations of this haiku see suiseki. The most popular dating for the haiku is 1686. For further discussion on this haiku see Susumu Takiguchi writing for the New Zealand Poetry Society..
An old pond,
A frog jumps in –
Sound of water.
How beautiful is that? People who attain satori, they do this kind of thing.
How can we find contentment while we are still seeking the truth?
[Q]: I have one of those big small questions. So I’m going to try my best to be clear. During this teaching, I thought of expressions or sayings like “happiness is in the waiting room”, or “it’s the journey, not the destination”. And in terms of what you were [saying] about satisfaction, and looking for and pursuing the truth, I wonder if the word “contentment” is useful?
[DJKR]: Very much.
[Q]: There’s this dissatisfaction. How do I feel content while I’m still seeking for something?
[DJKR]: Contentment. Not making a big deal out of things. Not getting swayed, not becoming lopsided. And then because of that, even the sound of a frog jumping into the pond is a very big deal. You understand? Wow, it’s so good isn’t it? These are the things that we ignore, and there are so many [of them]. [Whereas] the collapse of the [financial] markets is as futile as the smell of a squirrel’s fart. Maybe think about that a little bit, and we can talk more about it.
When there is distraction, what is being distracted?
[Q]: Yesterday you said the mind is there and not there. And today you said consciousness is there and not there, and that it’s like a reflection of the moon in the river. But for there to be a reflection there has to be a moon and there has to be a river.
[Q]: So how is that explained?
[DJKR]: The moon is also there and not there, and the reflection in the lake is also there and not there.
[Q]: But then you also said that if you are distracted, then you’re in a bad aeon. And if you’re not distracted, you’re actually in a good aeon. So that means something is being distracted. So between there and not there, what is being distracted? And why do we care?
[DJKR]: Okay, very good. Can you hold on to that? Are you coming tomorrow?
[DJKR]: Okay. If I don’t cover this, can you ask me this again? Because this is quite important. I don’t want to just rush through.
How can we manage with dementia?
[Q]: Rinpoche, you’re talking to young people about their lives. Well, I’m quite an old person now. And one of the things that happens as you get older is that your mind stops working in the same way. Is that a good thing? Is dementia, which is the dread of every old person that they’ll lose their mind, is that a good thing? Can you talk about that from a Buddhist [perspective]? It’s about aging, and the changes that happen to our mind.
[DJKR]: You mean what to do with this?
[Q]: Yes, how do we manage?
[DJKR]: For that, there is a very good answer. Do shamatha. Yes, it’s very, very important. Because actually everyone has dementia. Everyone. They just think they don’t have it.
How should we relate to the accumulation goals in ngöndro?
[Q]: My question is based on what you said earlier about spiritual materialism. I am doing the ngöndro and I came from a place where it was spoken about having to do 100,000 prostrations, etc. And as part of the Ngöndro Gar, you are now basing the [accumulation] on a timeframe as opposed to counting. So I’m doing both, and I find it quite distracting to count even though I feel like it is an important thing. Can you give some advice on how to do this?
[DJKR]: This is very related to the guilt we are talking about. So many of these [methods] are systematically and deliberately designed to create this guilt, and also make you make you do it [i.e. actually do your practice]. It’s like a toy. But, you know, the point of the ngöndro is to let your mind enter into the Dharma. To appreciate the Dharma. That’s so important. As long as that’s happening [DJKR whispers off mic “You don’t have to tell the truth to the instructors”].
How can we understand “It’s there, but it’s not there”?
[Q]: I think I’m getting a bit stuck in logic. I’ve really been trying to reflect on the opposites being the same thing. I can kind of get that “many” is the same as “one”, because there are aggregates but it’s also one person. I can get [that something could be] “big” at the same time as it’s “small”, because it’s big for an ant and small for person. I struggled with moisturizer, but it’s moisturizing for a human but maybe dry for a fish. But I’m missing something when it comes to “It’s there, but it’s not there”.
[DJKR]: You’re not really missing anything. It’s just that your habit of distinguishing them, separating them, and divorcing them is so strong. So you’re not really managing to swallow and chew this. That’s all.
[Q]: I just have to keep reflecting on it?
[DJKR]: Yes. That’s all there is to so-called practice. For example in the Tantra, in the Vajrayana, there’s something called Guru Yoga. You’re first told to visualize the guru here [DJKR indicates the sky in front of him] as mighty, beautiful, shining, blah blah blah, all that. But at the end, he dissolves into you, and you and him become inseparable. So there’s always stuff like this. Refuge is the same. You visualize the refuge objects here [DJKR indicates in front of him], but you dissolve [them]. So there’s a lot of that. This all comes in the section of anatta.
The origin of Lotus Outreach
[DJKR]: Is there a Lotus Outreach thing happening now? Okay.
[Ten-minute presentation on the work of the charity Lotus Outreach, whose mission is to empower young women and children living in dire poverty through the access to education, and thus protecting them from horrors like slave child slave labor or trafficking and poverty.]
[Q]: Some of us would like to make material offerings. This is what you have said about this, Rinpoche. I think it was in response to receiving a gift of your 26th coffee machine. You said, “When you make gifts to the Khyentse Foundation, 84000, Lotus Outreach or Siddhartha’s Intent, you are not only helping fulfill my wishes and aspirations. But you know that your money has been really well spent”. So maybe you would like to say a little bit more about how such an offering to Lotus Outreach might fulfill your wishes and aspirations. And maybe while we’re on that topic, we could also look at how supporting charity is the way to gain merit, since this is a concept that is quite strong in some Asian cultures?
[DJKR]: Just very briefly, as Jane explained, Lotus Outreach was first started in India. But Lotus Outreach became really important for me, and I have to give credit for that to the girl that I was holding, the small girl in the picture that you saw earlier. I went to Cambodia several years ago, a long time ago actually. I went there to partially for tourism. I wanted to see Angkor Wat, because I’ve always been intrigued by this [temple complex] that started out Hindu and then slowly ended up Buddhist, and there’s also that Tantric element.
So anyway, during my trip there, I went to an orphanage where I was told that many of the girls get sold in Cambodia as prostitutes. So I went to this center where all these young girls are kept. And this particular girl held my finger and she wouldn’t let me go. So tight. Really, really tight, and she wouldn’t let me go, and I had this really strong feeling, a connection so to speak. So I immediately told the orphanage that I really wanted to support this girl, all the way through her university education or whatever. But sadly, in a few years time I lost [touch with] her because you know Cambodia, correspondence, the connections, and who knows what happens.
So sometimes I think about this. What must have happened to her? Sometimes I wish that she’s in good hands. But sometimes terrible images or ideas also come in my mind. And actually I think she was a little bit, partially blind. So anyway, really have to give credit to her, the strength to have Lotus Outreach in Cambodia is really because of her.
Sentient beings are a field of merit
Now In Buddhism, especially in Mahayana Buddhism, we talk about the accumulation of merit by doing good deeds. And when we talk about the accumulation of merit, we talk about two “fields of merit”49Ed.: The main concept behind the “field of merit” is that good deeds done towards some recipients accrue more merit than good deeds to other recipients. This is compared with a seed planted in fertile ground which reaps more and better fruits than in infertile ground. See wikipedia on Field of merit.. It is important that we know this as Buddhists. Because Buddhists have this idea that buddhas and bodhisattvas are fields of merit, meaning [they are beings] to whom you pay veneration and offerings, and then you accumulate merit.
But actually, in the sutras, there are two equally important [fields of merit]. There’s a second one that’s equally important a [field of merit as the] buddhas and bodhisattvas, and that is sentient beings. In fact, someone like Shantideva would say that the second one is even more important. Because according to Shantideva, he said that sentient beings are like the property or the children of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. By making them happy you are making the buddhas and bodhisattvas happy. I think you may have read this in Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara.
So, offering, veneration, respect, I don’t know assistance, facilitating the sentient beings and especially those who have immediate needs, and especially in a worldly sense, enlightening them with education, information, skill of is utmost importance. And not only important, as a Buddhist I consider this as a very powerful and special way to accumulate merit.
Are conditions for girls and women changing?
[Q]: So as a mother, and having a daughter with so much opportunity for education, I just wondered why sometimes there are cultures and traditions where girls have not had the same opportunities, or [where they] haven’t been able to aspire to be great leaders, and if you think that will change in the coming years? Not just in the Western world, but will girls step up to be able to have more positions of influence throughout the entire world?
[DJKR]: I hope so. I really hope so. Sometimes I see hope. I see that this is happening sometimes. Other times, I feel the world is so unfair to this gender, still very continuously unfair, and the unfairness is becoming even more sophisticated and it’s becoming more hidden. And sometimes it is a little disheartening. But, at other times there are also very pleasant surprises. And sometimes they come from the most unexpected places, like India for instance. You know, they are the ones who produced nonduality. They are the ones who talk about this wisdom and so on, but when it comes to the respect and appreciation and sacred outlook towards women, I think they are not doing well. Then you go to places like China, okay they talk about communism and all of that, but, you know, when it comes to gender [equality], especially in the cities, it’s really good. Sometimes I joke with my Chinese friends, the ladies, that in a few years time, [Chinese] men might need a “MeToo” movement. It’s really strong. It’s surprising. But as I said, I have a very mixed feeling. I hope and I pray that [things will improve]. As a Buddhist, the feminine is always considered as the one that is to be sought after. Actually, I should have said this [earlier]. Prajña, wisdom, shunyata, is always symbolized by feminine. The Prajñaparamita is often nicknamed “mother”. So as a Buddhist, I have that hope and prayer. But I have to say that many times, I have a mixed feeling that it’s not really moving fast enough, or that it’s moving, but that the [unfairness and discrimination is] becoming very sophisticated.
[Q]: So as members of the female Sangha, do you hope that we’d be a bit more courageous and sort of step up?
[DJKR]: Yes. You should be very courageous and you should be very skillful, I think.
[Q]: Something that stood out to me that Tenzin Palmo said at a talk recently was that you can be a rabbit or you can be a tiger, and symbolically I thought that was quite a strong image.
[DJKR]: Yes, very much.
A story of some Cambodian girls
[Q]: I went to Cambodia to visit two homes of these children, and I’d like to share [the story of] one of the homes that I visited. I went into the home, which was behind a temple. And [the mother] had three girls. They’re all living in a very small room and rainy season was coming. And their floorboards had holes and spaces in between. and she told me that what happens when it starts raining is that snakes come up. But they’re very grateful because they had a sack of rice, they had a bicycle, and one of the girls went to school. And this girl wrote to me until she then graduated, and they were all very beautiful. She didn’t have a husband. Neither of the homes had a husband. The women worked. And I thought you know, [we can help these girls] for $35. I think we spend that much on coffee in ten days, so I’m very happy to be in touch with this. Thanks to you.
[DJKR] Thank you.
[Q]: Thank you Rinpoche we’ll do our very best to keep supporting your activities.
[END OF TALK 6]
Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers
Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio