Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
View, Meditation and Action: Day 3
Three-day teaching at The Roundhouse, Sydney, Australia
Day 3: January 27, 2020
Part 7: 58 minutes, Part 8: 72 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 3: Contents
- What makes a method or practice a Buddhist practice?
- How things appear and how things are: the example of the snake and the striped rope
- The importance of accepting rebirth as part of relative truth
- The path that requires effort and the effortless path
- Any Buddhist path must go against or destroy dualistic habitual patterns
- Alcohol, sex and Buddhism
- Our path should never make us more moralistic or dualistic
- Method should never hijack wisdom, and wisdom should never hijack method
Four indispensable practices for bodhisattvas
- (1) Generosity
- (2) Talking gently
- (3) Leading others according to the right path
- (4) Leading oneself according to the right path
- A follower of the Buddha must be like a scarf tied to a rock
Q & A
- What do Buddhists think about euthanasia?
- What do Buddhists think about gay marriage?
- What are your feelings about the scandals of Sogyal Rinpoche and the Sakyong?
- How can we help people who are suffering from ailments that aren’t real?
- What’s the difference between practice and action?
- The story of Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche giving an initiation using an apple as a torma
- How should we introduce the view to people with trauma and mental health issues?
- How should we relate to experiences of referencelessness in our practice?
- Does suffering have a purpose?
- Both samsara and nirvana are false
- How can we avoid an overly rigid interpretation of the bodhisattva vow?
- How do we know if we’re ready to follow the tantric path of crazy wisdom?
- Who is being liberated and who is doing the liberating?
- If there’s no mind, is enlightenment inevitable?
- A question about dreams
- How does the dualistic Abrahamic residue show up in our conduct?
- When should we follow the teacher rather than the teachings?
- How might some of Sogyal Rinpoche’s students be throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
- How do we know when we have reached the other shore?
- How does the example of the snake and rope relate to Dharma being a placebo?
- How should we understand anatta in the context of helping someone else?
- How are we supposed to enlighten all sentient beings if they are illusory?
- Do appearances dissolve completely when we attain enlightenment?
- How does realizing the view that “it’s there, but it’s not there” lead to omniscience?
- Do you believe in black magic?
- How should we relate to elderly people who are suffering and want to die?
- We take refuge in the Buddha, and we need to know that our mind is the Buddha
- We take refuge in the Dharma, which is based on the view of nonduality
- Buddhism has the view and the path to live with paradox and nonduality
- We take refuge in the Sangha, which can help us to continue with our study and practice
What makes a method or practice a Buddhist practice?
So, [we will] continue our conversation on view, practice and action. I think I will be repeating a lot of it just to recap, and also because they’re all connected. The view is connected to the practice. It has to be actually. Something that I wanted to share is that one way to see so-called Buddhadharma, Buddhism, the Buddhist path, or the Buddhist method [is the relationship between the method and the truth]. When you use the method accordingly and properly, whatever Buddhist method [you might be using], it must go [against], it must help decrease and purify dualistic mind or the defilements that cover the truth, the truth that we have been talking about for two days. As long as [your practice] is taking you closer to the truth, as long as it is decreasing anything that covers the truth [then the method may be considered a Buddhist practice]. That’s one way to really define [Buddhist practice]. If someone asks you “What is what is Buddhism? What is the Buddhist path?” [It could be] anything, be it sitting, chanting mantras, offering a flower, meditation, gestures, whatever. As long as it is meant for, dedicated to, and as long as it is taking you closer to the truth. Or decreasing or cleaning things that cover the truth, the defilements that cover the truth. And at the same time increasing virtue, virtuous attributes and qualities.
There’s another thing that is good to understand about Buddhism and the Buddhist path. The path must always have the character of the union of wisdom and method. The union of wisdom and compassion. The [union of] wisdom and whatever method you are applying. Those two cannot be separated. The moment you divorce these two, then it’s not a right path. Then this path actually leads you to trouble. Even though this [idea of the union of wisdom and method] sounds kind of compact and practical, it’s also quite vast and complex. So therefore it needs hearing and contemplation and so forth. Again, I’m repeating here. I’m talking about the view.
How things appear and how things are: the example of the snake and the striped rope
We also use the words nangtsül1nangtsül (Tibetan: སྣང་ཚུལ་) = how things appear; the way it seems; mode of appearing – see nangtsül., which is how things appear, and nétsül2nétsül (Tibetan: གནས་ཚུལ་) = how things are (in reality); the way it is; abiding mode (of reality) – see nétsül., which is how things are. Broadly speaking, you can say that “how things appear” is the relative, and “how things are” is the ultimate. But when we talk about how things appear and how things are, you may think “Oh, they’re two separate things”. In a way, yes, they are two separate things, but also they are not. We are talking about one thing. For example, it appears to be a snake, but actually it’s a striped rope. In one way, they are two separate things. A striped rope is a striped rope. The appearance of the snake is the appearance of the snake. They are separate. But we are looking at only one object. We are not looking at two objects, one that is a snake and [another] that is a striped rope. They’re the same thing. This is absolutely important. You need to know this. “How it appears” and “how it is” are sort of separate, but actually they’re also one.
And when we talk about “how it appears” on the relative level, everything is accepted in Buddhism, especially in Mahayana Buddhism. Everything. Time, space, flowers, incense, outfits, different kinds of outfits and dietary recommendations. Stages. Like a progressive path, things like ngöndro where you do this one first and that one later [i.e. where there are different practices corresponding to different stages of the path]. Like shamatha and vipassana, all that. And then samsara and nirvana. We accept all that during the relative truth, within the context of the snake. Can you get used to this thinking? But bear in mind, when you when you see a snake you are looking at the striped rope, nothing else. You’re not looking in another direction. You are looking at the very spot where the striped rope is. But due to causes and condition, you are not seeing it as a striped rope. You are seeing it as a snake and that can lead you to trouble. So within this snake appearance, nangtsül, how it appears, we talk about time and all of this. This is really important.
The importance of accepting rebirth as part of relative truth
This morning I’m in a slightly strange mood, the mood of bashing a few people. I will try to turn this down a little bit. But there are a lot of British Buddhists who don’t like to talk about reincarnation. And because of that, I have to say that many new American Buddhists also don’t like to talk about reincarnation. Many of them think it is something Hindu or Tibetan, a made-up culture [rather than Buddhism]. I can understand this a little bit, because the Tibetans have all this paraphernalia of reincarnated tulkus and stuff like this. And also it’s kind of mind-boggling to hear that in your previous life you were a horse. You know, it doesn’t “sink” into our system. And [it’s mind-boggling to hear] that it is possible that you may end up becoming an octopus in your next life. Things like that are difficult. “What do you mean?” It’s difficult to accept.
But it’s not only the British and American modern Buddhists. I have noticed that even in Korea and Japan, many Zen teachers [especially] those who are educated in the West, those who sort of pride themselves as [being] slightly more scientific or whatever, [also] seem to shy away from talking about reincarnation. They think this part of Buddhism is a bit like having an extra testicle or something. “Yes, in Buddhism we proudly talk about emptiness, compassion and kindness. But reincarnation is the part that we don’t want to talk about”. This is absolutely wrong. You should never feel shy. You should never shy away from relative truth. Relative truth is an illusion. Relative truth doesn’t make sense. Reincarnation exists, just as how there is a head on your neck right now. It is arbitrary. It is illusion.
This is important. You really need to know this. Anyone who does not believe in reincarnation, it means they are violating the law of relative truth. If you don’t accept reincarnation or the next life or stuff like this, and if [when you] talk about Buddhism [you] only care about this life, [then] you are a materialist Buddhist. You might as well go to business school and do business. There are much better things to do. Buddhism is the last thing you want to do. It deprives your life from a lot of fun in many ways. If you don’t appreciate the relative truth [then there are better things to do].
The very reason why we are talking about the striped rope is [because] there is a situation of the appearance of snake. If there were no situation of panic at having a snake in your room, we wouldn’t even have to bring the issue of the striped rope here at all3Ed.: the only reason we need to distinguish false relative appearances from the underlying ultimate reality is because we do not perceive things as they are in reality, and our incorrect perceptions create negative emotions and all the pain and suffering of samsara.. So, this is very important. Nangtsül and nétsül, how it appears and how it is. Yes, they’re kind of two, they look kind of different, but actually we’re also talking about [one thing]. The striped rope and the snake. Just like that. In fact, in the Vajrayana tradition, they say “It appears to be like an emotion. It appears to be anger, desire, jealousy, pride. But what it is [in reality] is wisdom”. That’s how it is. Anger [is] snake. Mirror-like wisdom [is] striped rope. That’s why the path is possible. If the striped rope and the appearance of the snake are two separate entities, you have no path. You have no relief of realizing “Oh, that’s just a striped rope”. Because these two would be separate entities.
Relative truth is so important. When I say it’s important, I’m not talking as if it is a moral obligation. It’s just there. It’s relative. What to do? We keep on seeing the snake. We just have to get used to knowing that it’s just an appearance, and that the actual fact is the striped rope. And knowing that is basically what is meant by the word Tathagata, the one who has arrived at or the one who has gone to this knowledge that “Oh, that’s just a striped rope”. And [also] having a total appreciation when someone mistake this [striped rope] as a snake. You have no arrogance. “I can see that. I can see that people see it as a snake. I totally have sympathy, empathy”. You resonate [with] this [i.e. with their deluded experience]. You can you can totally understand this. We are talking about karuna now. Anyway, this is just a recap of what we have been discussing during the past two days.
The path that requires effort and the effortless paths
So, today [we come to] action Well, I should first recap a little bit about meditation or practice. So the view is that “how it appears” and “how it is” are different, but they’re also one thing. I am presenting it this way today. I’ve also talked about how “while it’s apparent, it’s also nonexistent”. That’s how we presented it yesterday. And we need to really familiarize ourselves with that view. Because we now realize that without that view, meaning [if] you have a wrong view – such as seeing a mirage and thinking it is actually real water in the desert – that kind of wrong view is only bound to lead you to disappointment. So now what do we do? We need to get accustomed to this right view. And as I’ve said many times, that’s challenging, because we are so accustomed to the wrong view, and we have [such a strong] habit of falling into the wrong view.
So for that, there are many, many paths in Buddhism, supposedly 84,000. Many of them are what we call tsolché4tsolché (Tibetan: རྩོལ་བཅས་) = involving effort – see tsolché., a path that has [i.e. requires] effort. Many [other] paths are tsolmé5tsolmé (Tibetan: རྩོལ་མེད་) = effortless, without striving – see tsolmé., effortless paths. Both are equally important. I know many of you will be attracted to, “Ah, that effortless path”. Yes, it sounds nice, but [a path that is] effortful is also good. Because we are creatures of comfort. We like plaques [awards], we like progress and we like stages. We like references. We love references. We can’t do without them. So actually the path that needs effort is really good. Many times, the effortless path sounds good, but because it has no references or very few references [it can be very difficult to follow].
A path requires two things. One is some sort of humility, wanting to progress more and more and do better and better and perfect the path. The other one is to also have some sort of confidence that what you’re doing is it [i.e. the right thing], “This is going to lead me to the right direction”. You need both of them. And these two are almost contradictory, humility and confidence. So, [on] the path that does not have many references, you will suffer with not knowing [if you are practicing correctly]. There is no assurance. It’s very difficult to trust. No references. The best, I would say, is having both. Both the path that involves a lot of effort and a lot of references. And also try the effortless path.
Any Buddhist path must go against or destroy dualistic habitual patterns
No matter what you do [your practice must go against dualistic habits]. Again, this is a recap of what we have been talking about, especially yesterday. Basically, whatever path you choose or whatever practice you do, it must go against or become an antidote for dualistic habitual patterns. That’s important. That can be achieved by a lot of things. Don’t think that the only antidote for dualism is shamatha and vipassana, those seemingly sort of formless [practices]. You may think that formless practices go against duality faster. Not necessarily6Ed.: we might think that formless practices are less dualistic because they have less in the way of seemingly ritualistic activities such as offering flowers and incense, but this does not necessarily mean that they are better antidotes for dualism.. Many times, for most of us, it is better to offer flowers and incense and to do this and dedicate this to going against dualistic habitual patterns. Also remember that because you have done something [you will have] confidence. You’re quite assured. You’re quite happy. You feel satisfied that you have done something7Ed.: an advantage of “form” practices such as offering flowers and incense over “formless” practices is that it’s easier to see that you have actually accomplished something or done something with “form” practices. This can help to create a sense of accomplishment and confidence, especially for beginners..
So how do you define the actions [that should be engaged in by] Buddhists? What is Buddhist action? For example, what should Buddhists wear? How should Buddhists speak? How should Buddhists sit and eat? What should they eat? What should they not eat? All these kind of [things]. You have to remember the view. Always apply or bring the view here. Your activity or action should never fall into extremes. Do you know why? Because the whole reason why you are practicing and why you are behaving in this way, your behavior, is because you want to purify and destroy dualistic distinctions and dualistic habitual patterns. So your action and your behavior must assist that in one way or another, instead of adding [further dualistic habits].
Alcohol, sex and Buddhism
This is kind of a big subject in one way. It is also a little bit touchy, but probably it’s okay [for us to talk about this]. For instance, alcohol. [What is the correct] Buddhist action [regarding alcohol]? Should Buddhists not drink alcohol? Yes, that’s good. It’s better not to drink [alcohol] for many reasons. You should take care of your body. And also alcohol can lead you to all kinds of things. Not only drunk driving but all kinds of things. It can lead to a lot of problems.
But I would rather spend time with an alcoholic Buddhist [than an moralistic non-drinker]. [Imagine that] he or she is a Buddhist, alcoholic, kind of genuine and humble, really appreciates shunyata, really appreciates the snake and the striped rope, and worries about [understanding the view]. But he or she also has a strong habit of drinking. I would rather spend time with this person than someone moralistic “Oh, I don’t drink. I’m a Buddhist. I don’t drink”. You understand what I’m talking about? [If you become moralistic then] your action has become [dualistic]. [But] don’t edit what I said. Don’t say, “Oh, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche allowed us to drink today”. Don’t do that. I’ve already got into a lot of trouble because people have edited things that I have said.
Should we not have sex? By the way, let’s talk about sex. Maybe some Buddhist scholars can refute this, but [as far as I know] in all the sutras and shastras, and definitely in the tantras, there’s not a single word where [they say that] Buddhism is against sex. Do you know that? Bear this in mind. Write it down. Yes, Buddhism is against sexual misconduct. Of course. But remember how right at the beginning I was talking about the Abrahamic residue? Just keep this in your head. You have to keep this in your head when you listen to these things8Ed.: DJKR has repeatedly spoken of the difficulties that people brought up with dualistic ethical codes based on Abrahamic models of “good” and “bad” can encounter when seeking to understand and live according to Buddhist ethics..
Our path should never make us more moralistic or dualistic
We’re talking about Buddhist behavior. This is really important because Buddhism really doesn’t have a specific code of conduct that is almost like a kit, “Oh, Buddhists must do this and that.“ I have joked about this before. It would have been really good if Buddha gave us some small, clear instructions. But it’s never like this. Why? Because of the view that I have been talking about. Our conduct has to go against duality. It should not enhance it. As I’ve said before, if I wanted to have more Buddhist disciples, it would have been much easier for me to teach something like “All Buddhists should not eat chicken”. I would have many more followers. “All Buddhists must wear socks. All Buddhists must go to Bodhgaya at least once in their life”. Something like that. That would really make it clear [what is considered morally or ethically correct behavior in Buddhism], but it’s never like this.
Should you not eat meat? Yes, you should not. I don’t think so. For compassionate reasons, for reasons of kindness, and also for reasons of your own beloved health. And also for [the sake of the] environment. I was told that just for the sake of meat, so many trees are being chopped down, etc. But that conduct of refraining from eating meat or whatever must help with defeating duality, dualistic distinctions, and dualistic habits. Otherwise, you’ll end up becoming a vegetarian terrorist or a vegan terrorist. You understand? This is really important. Especially [when we talk about] morality, ethics, and all these Buddhist behaviors.
Method should never hijack wisdom, and wisdom should never hijack method
Now, if you look at the Buddhist world [and the people that Buddhists venerate] it also really reflects this [appreciation of nonduality]. As I’ve said many times, if you look at Buddhist paintings [and statues], we really venerate people like Kashyapa9Kashyapa is a shortened form of Mahakashyapa (Sanskrit: महाकाश्यप) = one of the Buddha’s principal disciples, regarded as the foremost in ascetic practice – see Mahakashyapa., who are really serene and simple, with bare feet and begging bowl. We venerate monks wholeheartedly. But we also equally venerate people like Avalokiteshvara10Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit: अवलोकितेश्वर) = a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all the buddhas, usually depicted as white in color and holding a lotus, although he appears in many different forms and even as the female bodhisattva Guanyin in Chinese Buddhism. Some later interpretations of Avalokiteshvara, especially in Vajrayana Buddhism, portray him with the lordly, regal and price-like or king-like aspects and attributes of Ishvara, as DJKR is indicating here – see Avalokiteshvara., who are very rich. Just one pair of his shoes probably could pay all our bills. He is very wealthy. And we also venerate guys like Tilopa11Tilopa is considered as the Indian patriarch of the Kagyü lineage and one of the 84 mahasiddhas. He is often depicted eating a live fish, as it is said that his most famous student Naropa first met him while he was eating fish entrails by the side of a lake – see Tilopa. and Naropa12Naropa was a student of the mahasiddha Tilopa and subsequently a teacher of Marpa the translator, who became one of his lineage-holders and brought his teachings to Tibet, thus becoming the founder of the Kagyü lineages in Tibet. Naropa is counted as one of the 84 mahasiddhas – see Naropa. and Kukkuripa13Kukkuripa was an Indian mahasiddha who is often depicted together with a dog that he befriended during his travels as a wandering yogi. He is counted as one of the 84 mahasiddhas – see Kukkuripa. and Sarahapa14Sarahapa (Sanskrit: सरहपा) = an alternative spelling of Saraha, one of the 84 mahasiddhas – see Saraha., all those kinds of people who behave strangely.
Why is it like that? Your behavior and your action must go against your dualistic distinctions. That’s the most important [characteristic of action in Buddhism]. It should not fall into extremes. Guru Rinpoche said this. Remember how I was talking about the union of wisdom and method? I’ll give an example. One thing that happens a lot, especially with Vajrayana students, is that they do something called tsok. They meet monthly and then they do tsok offerings. And there’s always a dilemma when they create the shrine, how high should it be? And [when it comes to] the substances, what kind of substances are allowed and not allowed? And this is not also the students’ fault. The teachers also give many specific instructions. And not only the teachers. Even some of the teachings themselves include some mind-boggling behaviors and practices. Like not blowing dandelion [seedheads]. How has that got anything to do with Buddhism? You know, stuff like that.
So, in Buddhism there are codes of conduct and behavior that can be as minute and as detailed as how to wash your hands, how to point your fingers when someone asks for directions, and how to walk. Especially for monks, Buddha said you have to walk like a cat, very soft and smooth and elegant and soundless. That’s a behavior. But as Guru Rinpoche said, the behavior or action must never hijack the view or wisdom. Similarly, there are also a lot of people who think “Oh, you know, in Buddhism everything is shunyata. Nothing truly exists anyway. So you can do whatever you like”. [They don’t believe in any] sort of code of good conduct. They eat whatever they want, drink whatever they want, and they really become totally barbaric with the excuse of shunyata. [But in this case] you’re hijacking the method by wisdom. That is not the way to define Buddhist action. So, this is the general spirit or principle of Buddhist action.
Four indispensable practices for bodhisattvas
Now having heard this, there are a lot of [more specific] suggestions for Buddhist action, such as the six paramitas or the ten paramitas. Today, I’ve decided to talk about what we call duwé ngöpo zhi15duwé ngöpo zhi (Tibetan: བསྡུ་བའི་དངོས་པོ་བཞི་) = four ways or means of attracting or gathering disciples, as defined in section 19 of Nagaruna’s Dharma-saṃgraha – see duwé ngöpo zhi. [literally: “the four means of gathering or magnetizing disciples”], which are four indispensable actions that bodhisattvas in particular must practice. I think this is quite important, especially in this day and age. I’ll go through them in detail, but in summary they are:
- (1) dokpa jinpa16dokpa jinpa (Tibetan: བདོག་པ་སྦྱིན་པ་; Sanskrit: दान, dāna) = generosity, giving. = generosity.
- (2) nyenpar mawa17nyenpar mawa (Tibetan: སྙན་པར་སྨྲ་བ་; Sanskrit: प्रियवचन, priyavacana) = kind words, pleasant speech, affectionate speech. = talking gently and smoothly.
- (3) dön tünpa18dön tünpa (Tibetan: དོན་མཐུན་པ་; Sanskrit: अर्थचर्या, arthacharyā) = accomplishing benefit; giving appropriate teachings; teaching each individual according to their needs. = leading others according to the law, the way, the path.
- (4) dön chöpa19dön chöpa (Tibetan: དོན་སྤྱོད་པ་; Sanskrit: समानार्थता, samānārthatā) = maintaining consistency between words and deeds, consistency in behavior. = leading oneself according to the law, the way, the path.
The first one is generosity. Especially if you are a follower of Mahayana, then supposedly you have taken on the task to help other beings. Ideally to enlighten them. But if not, then at least to not shoo20Ed.: DJKR used the word “shun”, but the intended sense is “shoo”. The word has been changed. them away from the truth, from the path. And if possible, to bring them to the path, bring them to the right direction. For that, the most basic, most outer, most easy thing that you can do is generosity. That of course be [giving] actual material gifts like a flower, pen, eraser, paper, whatever. But also space. Information. Time. And I think it also has a lot to do with putting yourself into the other person’s position which is really essential for being generous.
(2) Talking gently
The second one is talking gently. How should I say this? Basically, it’s not putting others off. I guess you can say talking gently, I guess you can say that. Soothing. And also understanding their cultural cues. Not only the cultures of different societies, but individually we have different cultures. And so really trying to create space and trying to understand other people’s cues. Otherwise [there will be] a lot of misunderstandings. Of course, [it also includes] polite words, showing gratitude, appreciation and all that. Basically not putting people off. For example, if you have a friend who likes to drink and you know it may be not so good for their own health or their ongoing path, initially you might give the time, be generous, talk to this person. But also [if you really want to help them] it’s probably not the best to immediately put off this person. Maybe [you might] even put yourself into his or her shoes, even share a few drinks. And then create a plot to slowly make him or her awaken to the right direction.
I think a lot of us Buddhists are okay with the first one, generosity. But when it comes to the second one, we Buddhists are not so good. I’m including myself. I don’t know. It’s something that you have to be really careful with here.
(3) Leading others according to the right path
The third one is that we must try to bring others to the right path. And the right path is the view that we have been talking about for the last two days, and the practice that we were talking about yesterday. Trusting the law of cause, condition and effect. Anatta, selflessness. Anicca, impermanence. Dukkha unsatisfactoriness. Things like that, trying to bring them to this. That is [an important] Buddhist action, especially for bodhisattvas.
(4) Leading oneself according to the right path
The last one is really important, especially for people like myself. Much more for people like myself than for you, I guess. People like me, I have to live [according to] what I teach. This is really important. [If] I talk about how alcohol is not good and I drink, that’s not good. [If] I talk about how meat is not good, and then I eat [meat, that’s not good]. That’s maybe not so serious, but more serious is if I am someone who talks about nonduality. I am someone who talks about anicca, anatta and dukkha. I am someone who talks about the flaws of dualistic distinctions, but I don’t live with this. Instead of anatta, I do everything according to my selfishness, self-clinging, and self-cherishing. And through that I harm others. Then you’re not living according to what you are talking about and teaching. So yes, people like myself, we need to really watch this.
These four indispensable Buddhist actions can be interpreted in many ways. When we say you have to use soothing words and speak gently, it doesn’t mean that you always have to be politically correct. Because if you are being politically correct all the time, then you are not really aiming to destroy dualistic distinctions. Because then you have an agenda there. So, there are times when you have to not join a certain bandwagon and [instead] be honest and be firm. It’s important.
A follower of the Buddha must be like a scarf tied to a rock
Dudjom Rinpoche has a very good example. He said that a practitioner, a follower of the Buddha, must be like a scarf tied very firmly to a big rock21From Richö, “Advice for Mountain Retreat entitled Extracting the Essence of Accomplishment through Direct Instructions that are Easily Understood” by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche:
Outwardly, maintain a good-natured attitude, do not be annoying, and know how to be harmonious and cheerful. In fact, if anyone – whether superior or inferior – tries to interfere with your spiritual practice, be as unshakable as an iron boulder pulled by a white scarf. Do not be shallow and weak so that your head bends easily like blades of grass blown by the wind on a mountain pass.
Translated by Lama Chönam and Sangye Khandro (2014), Light of Berotsana Translation Group – see Richö.. You sort of get along with people. Wherever the wind comes, you get along with people, but [you remain] firmly grounded and rooted to your view. I think this is important. You cannot possibly bow down to pressure and say “Yes, all compounded things are impermanent, but maybe not this”. You cannot say “All emotions are pain, but maybe not this”. You cannot. If your lover asks, “Is love also dukkha?”, you have to swallow big saliva and say “Yes. But what to do?” I think that’s better. But you have to play this very carefully. Maybe if your lover is new, maybe on that day you decide not to answer the question.
You cannot bow down. This is important. I really have this fear that as Buddhadharma is taught in different cultures, the pressure of culture and the pressure of trends, all these pressures will influence Buddhism.
Buddhadharma is very relevant. It has always been relevant and it’s going to be more and more relevant. Especially if you think about view, meditation and action. Yes, of course, times are changing. I was told that maybe in about five or six years, scientists will be able to come up with a pill to make your mind malleable. So that you can control [it], like shamatha. No problem. I will be the first person to buy this. Absolutely no problem. Now [when it comes to] vipassana, I feel that no matter what kind of artificial intelligence situation [might] arise, I have a feeling that vipassana is going to last. Vipassana will be relevant. But of course, again, if somebody comes up with a pill or a machine or something that will make you understand anatta, anicca and dukkha, I’ll buy this machine. I’ll consider this machine as the bodhisattvas’ manifestation [DJKR places his hands in prayer mudra]. [If a machine can help with] the Buddhist upbringing, [to] that I’m very open.
So, I think as far as action is concerned, I have nothing much to say apart from this. We will dwell a little bit more for questions and answers today and then I was asked to do some transmissions and then also refuge. Right after the break, we will do some questions and answers.
And, of course, you’re welcome to stay. After that then we will do the transmissions. Those here who are not necessarily Buddhist, you don’t have to receive this transmission. Also you don’t have to take the refuge. But it doesn’t mean that you must go out. You can just sit here and observe what these Buddhists are doing. You’re very welcome to remain. Taking refuge is basically a ceremony. I will explain during the ceremony, but it’s basically taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. And then I will give the transmission of the Mañjushri-Nama-Samgiti22Ed.: The text is available on the Practice page – see Mañjushri-Nama-Samgiti., the Songs of Mañjushri. It’s a little bit of a tantric text but I’ve already said yes, so I will do this. Okay, so we take a break.
[END OF TALK 7]
Q & A
What do Buddhists think about euthanasia?
[Q]: What are your feelings on euthanasia?
[DJKR]: Can someone explain what is that? Basically it’s like putting someone to sleep, right? Yes, I have been asked this question many times in different places. Okay. So here comes the Buddhist idea about cause, condition and effect. And also we have been repeating this a lot. [It has a lot to do with] habitual patterns. I think of course, if you put somebody to sleep, motivation is also playing a very important role here. To deliberately extinguish somebody, of course, that’s basically killing, even though you may be not doing it in a very dramatic way. But I heard that there are also people who wish to do it. They ask people to do it to them. So I think that may be the main question here, isn’t it?
[Q]: Yes, I think so.
[DJKR]: Buddhists are always so afraid of habit. Habit is the most scary [thing] for Buddhists. All religions seem to have an enemy, don’t they? Satan, demons and stuff like that? If you want [to know] the equivalent sort of “evil” force that Buddhists should be afraid of, it’s habit. Because what habit does that is ends up controlling you. That’s why we don’t want habit. Because habit really takes you over. Habit will control your life. Forget all kids of other habits, you know [all kinds of] samsaric habits, [this] even [applies to] the path itself. This is what Maitreya said, “Even the path itself …”, like Buddhist [practices] such as meditation, such as sitting straight, such as behaving better, being nicer, “All that is basically a habit”. What you’re trying to do is to [first] get rid of some more non-virtuous habits, because they’re a more immediate concern, so to speak. If you don’t want to suffer, if you don’t want to be going through all sorts of pain, let’s [start by] getting rid of nonvirtuous habits by using virtuous habits.
But then Buddhists also realize that this [i.e. using these virtuous habits to remove nonvirtuous habits] is also a habit. Actually, Buddhism is a habit. That needs to go also. So this is something that you need to know, that probably this may be one of the few or maybe the only religion that talks about how the religion itself is the problem. Once you reach the other shore, you have to abandon the boat. Otherwise you are not on the other shore. So habit is something that we are so concerned [about]. We don’t want to have habits.
So I think euthanasia develops this habit of extinguishing your life, ending your life, and this is something you may not want to do. Because you get into that kind of habit, then it can repeat and it can lead to a lot of suffering for yourself and others. So, I don’t know whether I’m answering the question properly, but this is probably the most important aspect [regarding euthanasia]. Is it similar to mercy killing?
[DJKR]: Should we really get into that habit? I mean, as a follower of Buddha, we are so worried [about getting stuck with habits] even to the extent of worrying about our own path [i.e. that it may become a habit]. You know, the Zen masters say if you [use a thorn to] take out the thorn that’s inside you, you [need to] get rid of both thorns. You don’t want to keep the thorn [that you used to remove the first thorn]. Thorns are troublesome, problematic. So especially the habit of sort of extinguishing your life with this kind of force is not a good idea.
What do Buddhists think about gay marriage?
[Q]: What do you think of gay marriage and Buddhism?
[DJKR]: Well, actually it’s very strange. You know, I was talking earlier [about how] in the whole sutras and shastras, I have not found anything in Buddhism that is against sex in general. Now, marriage is even [less of a concern for Buddhists]. There is no marriage ceremony in Buddhism. If you want one, if you insist on a ceremony, one would almost think the Buddhists would [prefer] a divorce ceremony, you understand?23Ed.: presumably to acknowledge the truth of anicca. Or have them both, or have them together. You are marrying but you are also divorcing. Buddhists don’t think about these things actually. But having said that, every act you do [has karmic effects], and especially the coming together of a couple motivated by love and appreciation towards each other is a very beautiful act. Therefore, it can be taken advantage of24Ed.: as a means to generate merit that can serve to benefit one’s Dharma practice.. One should take advantage of that kind of union. One can take advantage of that kind of togetherness. So, yes, there are Buddhist auspicious verses that we can recite and [we can] throw some flowers and wish that “Whatever you do, may it somehow lead you to understanding anatta, dukkha, anicca”, all that. I myself have conducted many marriage ceremonies and I’ve also married many gays and lesbians. I don’t really see as an “issue” [in Buddhism], so to speak.
What are your feelings about the scandals of Sogyal Rinpoche and the Sakyong?
[Q]: What are your feelings on the scandals of Sogyal Rinpoche and the Sakyong?
[DJKR]: Okay. Well, some of you may know that when this thing first happened, I wrote something really, really long, which was my mistake. I should have never written [something] that long because I myself cannot stand [reading] more than a paragraph. When other people write, I cannot read more than a paragraph. But I think I wrote something like 20 pages. And [there was criticism] from both sides, those who are [on the] yes side and also those who are sort of against. I could feel it. I could see from their responses that many of them had not gone beyond the second or third page.
It’s very complicated. I was actually writing this mainly to explain the philosophy and theory of Mahayana Buddhism and especially Vajrayana Buddhism [regarding the student-teacher relationship]. Because when this thing first appeared, I felt there was a lot of – what’s the English expression? “Throw the baby out with the bathwater?” I felt that there was a lot of that, and as someone who had been sitting on a situation where [I was] supposedly some sort of stakeholder, I thought this is where I had to get involved and try to say, “Let’s not throw out the baby. We are not supposed to throw out the baby. Let’s throw out the water”, so to speak.
Actually it’s a timely question. This morning we talked about behavior, and when we talked about behavior, we talked about a lot of things. We talked about compassion, kindness, not harming – of course, that is a given as a Buddhist. Sometimes we even say that Buddhist action is not to harm others. Of course that is a given. And when we talked this morning about the four indispensable bodhisattva activities, we talked about leading people to the right path, instead of shooing25Ed.: DJKR used the word “shunning”, but the intended sense is “shooing”. The word has been changed. them away or diverting them away [from the right path].
And not only that, the fourth one is really very important. You must also live according to what you teach. You are teaching about not harming others, you’re teaching about inspiring others, all of this. And if you have taken on that kind of job, you have to also live with that kind of theory, of course. Even a mundane leader in the mundane world must live according to what they teach or [according to] their principles. This is very, very important.
Now regarding Sogyal Rinpoche and the Sakyong Mipham, I am an ignorant being, a deluded being. Who am I to make a judgement? But I still do, because I’m a judgmental being, I am a human being, I’m a deluded being. And from the way I see it, as a deluded and very judgmental human being, I don’t know so much about the Sakyong because I didn’t pay much attention, but from [what I have heard] and especially [in the case of] Sogyal Rinpoche, what they have done is very wrong. They have a responsibility to inspire people. They really have to protect the image of the Buddhadharma. We sit in the situation of being teachers. We should know better.
Of course, there are a lot of conditions for this. I’ve always said this. Buddhism came to the west in a very haphazard way. Many times it’s good, there are a lot of good things about that. But there are also a lot of missing of checks and balances. There’s a lot of shortage of hearing and contemplation. There’s a lot of lack of support. And as a teacher, you need to know this and you also need to base [your approach] on that. I think it’s important. For instance it’s a bit like this. Suppose you walk into this room today, and tomorrow I [say we are] divorced and I demand alimony from you. I can’t demand alimony by saying that yesterday we were married [when] you didn’t even know that you were married. And maybe that not a good thing, that people like us lure beings into this26Ed.: especially in the Vajrayana tradition, there is a lot of emphasis placed on the samaya or commitment that is an essential part of a committed student-teacher relationship, for example to always regard one’s teacher with pure perception. DJKR is saying that it is wrong for a teacher to ask students to engage in certain behaviors based on samaya commitments that they were unaware they had consented to, especially when those behaviors might be considered abusive or degrading outside a Vajrayana guru-disciple relationship where both teacher and student are motivated by compassion and where both are practicing pure perception..
How can we help people who are suffering from ailments that aren’t real?
[Q]: I very much like the analogy of the snake and the striped rope. But it brings up a question for me, especially thinking about how relevant the teachings are for people that I know, my friends in my generation. I’m not sure if this will make sense and if it doesn’t …
[DJKR]: Oh my goodness. I knew this man when he was this big [Rinpoche indicates the length of his finger]. Yes, he sat on my lap many times. Now look at this. Impermanence. Anicca.
[Q]: My question is, if I’m in the room, and on the floor is a snake but also a striped rope, and I’m seeing that it is both of these things and also neither of these things, and I’m using this as an opportunity to see nonduality …
[DJKR] You mean there is a snake?
[Q]: There is a snake but also there isn’t a snake. The snake being the metaphor for all of this anger and these feelings “that is and that isn’t”. But then a friend of mine walks into the room, and the snake attacks them. And they’re bitten by the snake. In that moment, do I say to my friend, “Well, you know you have been bitten, but also there was nothing to bite you in the first place”, and try and lead them to the right path? Or do I take them to the hospital and say “There was a snake, and they were bitten by the snake”?
[DJKR]: I just want to clarify something. Is there is a snake and [also] a striped rope, or is there only a striped rope that is being seen as a snake?
[Q]: For me, there is a snake.
[DJKR]: Oh, I see. Then the analogy is a little bit different here. I’m saying there is no snake. There’s only a striped rope, but [it’s being] mistaken as a snake.
[Q]: Okay. But maybe [I can] try to find a different way of explaining [this]. What if there is something that is hurting somebody that I love, [but it] is not really there to me. And because I’m trying to see the truth, for me, it’s not there. But for them, it’s there. How do I help them?
[DJKR]: You know what? The whole Buddhadharma is like a placebo. It is. In this sense, on this level. The great Thangtong Gyalpo27Thangtong Gyalpo (Tibetan: ཐང་སྟོང་རྒྱལ་པོ་, “King of the Empty Plain”) (1361–1485), also known as Chakzampa, the “Iron Bridge Maker”. He was a great Buddhist practitioner, Chöd master, yogi, physician, blacksmith, architect, and a pioneering civil engineer. He is said to have built 58 iron chain suspension bridges around Tibet and Bhutan, several of which are still in use today – see Thangtong Gyalpo. said “May all sentient beings be free from this illusory suffering through practicing the illusory Dharma, going through the illusory stages [of the path], and then reaching the illusory enlightenment”. Yes.
[Q]: Okay. I’ll think about it.
[DJKR]: Have you finished The Picture of Dorian Gray?
[Q]: I think that’s the last thing you asked me. Honestly, no, I get halfway through and I stop reading.
[Q]: Because it’s too painful.
What’s the difference between practice and action?
[Q]: My question is during your talk about action, you mentioned that from a Buddhist point of view, a good action should go against dualistic thinking. So [if we engage in action that goes against dualistic thinking] can we then call it a Buddhist practice or a Buddhist meditation? Are they the same thing?
[DJKR]: Are which two the same?
[Q]: The good action.
[DJKR]: The action to defeat duality?
[Q]: Yes. Is that practice?
[DJKR]: Yes, that is the practice.
[Q]: We are learning the view, the practice, and the action. What’s the difference?
[DJKR]: We are talking about the tools to defeat duality. And when we talk about tools, for the sake of understanding we divide [them path] into view, meditation and action. That’s all.
The story of Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche giving an initiation using an apple as a torma
[Q]: I feel very much emotionally linked with you and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and these days I’m reading a book, which I believe you’re very familiar with. In the book, there’s a chapter called “Cry or not cry”28“To Cry or Not To Cry” is Episode 2 from the website “Mugwort-Born”, which Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche describes as his “memoir-in-progress” – see Mugwort-Born.. So I guess I can not cry. When I read it, there are stories about Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche that [are also] related to our teachings these days. Can I request you to share some other stories about Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche? How he acted, how he practiced, how he basically lived?
[DJKR]: Because we were talking about wisdom and method, I will try to stay on that [topic]. Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche once gave us an initiation using a fruit, an apple I think, as a torma, which is a ritual substance. Usually we make [tormas with] so much detail and all [kinds of] paraphernalia but he used an apple. That is an act of a man whose action is not hijacking [his] wisdom, and [whose] wisdom is not hijacking [his] action. And at other times, that same guy, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, did so much elaboration, “This way, that way, this high, this low”, all that. It’s a lesson for people like us.
How should we introduce the view to people with trauma and mental health issues?
[Q]: Rinpoche, I work with people with addictions providing therapy and often they have underlying mental health issues or trauma, and I’m wondering if they would be ready to be introduced to the view? And if so, how? How could I skillfully introduce them to the view or move them onto the path?
[DJKR]: Wow, that’s really difficult. I mean, it’s case by case [with] different people, isn’t it? But I think the vipassana, the three characteristics [of anicca, dukkha and anatta], are always safe. I think you should do that. Talk about anicca, dukkha and anatta.
How should we relate to experiences of referencelessness in our practice?
[Q]: Hello Rinpoche, I have a question about [using] the perceived experience of referencelessness as a reference point. I’m a student in the Ngöndro Gar, and sometimes there’s a split second of referencelessness, and I’ll ping back to a moment, particularly in my early childhood, that seemed nondualistic and referenceless. And without being discursive about it or grasping onto it or dwelling on it, I’ll see some kind of similitude. From a practice standpoint, is there any usefulness to recognizing this at all? Or should it just be abandoned?
[DJKR]: I wouldn’t go to the extent of abandoning it. But be wary of it, be cautious.
[Q]: Yes, I am cautious.
[DJKR]: Okay. Yes, very good.
Does suffering have a purpose?
[Q]: Dear Rinpoche, my question is related to suffering and compassion. Sometimes we pray “May all beings be free from suffering”. But unfortunately, I think most people are not willing to wake up [from] suffering and have the opportunity to see the view. So what does it really mean to pray “May all beings be free from suffering?” I believe in cause and effect, so related to what is happening in China right now, on the one side we hope things are getting better, but on the other side I think maybe it’s important for human beings or for Chinese people to kind of rethink something. So, how to balance these things?
[DJKR]: Those [things] are very difficult to distinguish. Whether [suffering] has any purpose or not. But it is not necessary to distinguish “Is that suffering? Does that suffering has a purpose? Maybe it means something? Maybe it is meant to be that way” etc. I think, again coming back to this [view], that actually the real suffering, the real dukkha is not knowing nonduality. That is what we should really be worrying [about]. Once that is taken care of, all the rest of the dukkha doesn’t mean anything. It has no impact, no effect.
Both samsara and nirvana are false
[Q]: Hello Rinpoche, I’m just repeating my question from yesterday. I’m sort of stuck on the nonself aspect here. Because you said the mind is there and it’s not there. You said consciousness is there and it’s not there, and the mind is like the moon in the river. But then I asked you “Is there a moon in the river?” And you said “The moon is there and not there. The river is there and not there”. So if nothing is here and not here, what is being distracted? What is being added to and decreased from? What is reincarnated? I find that really hard to digest, the anatman29anatman (Sanskrit: अनात्मन्) is the Sanskrit translation of the Pāli word anatta (Pāli: अनत्ता) – see anatta..
[DJKR]: Very good. You really have to go to deeper study of Buddhist theory of relative truth and ultimate truth. I’m saying this [because] this is a classic challenge for students who are studying Buddhist philosophy. Okay, be prepared for a very academic approach. Remember how I was talking about “How it appears and how it is”? How they’re kind of different, but they’re also one? There’s a constant challenge when we talk about these two, [because] we always end up talking about these two as separate things, and then it becomes so difficult. It’s like this. You’re almost asking “If it’s a striped rope, how come it’s a snake?”
[Q]: Essentially, yes.
[DJKR]: I’m actually saying that it has never been a snake. Therefore there’s not even a burden of getting rid of the snake. The whole idea of “Ah, there’s a snake”. Switch on the light. “Oh, [now there’s] no more snake.” Both are false.
[Q]: It’s like it never existed in the first place?
[DJKR]: Yes, because it’s not there. So this is why both samsara and nirvana are false30Ed.: in this example, samsara corresponds to the presence of (the appearance of) snake, and nirvana to the absence of (the appearance of) snake. But since there has only ever been a striped rope and no snake to begin with (“primordially”), both samsara and nirvana are false, as they both make reference to the nonexistent snake..
[Q]: Then in that respect, what role does the body play? Could the Buddha have been enlightened without a physical body, born as a sentient being?
[DJKR]: The body is nothing. Even the mind itself … Because right now, you just have the assumptions that you have. But there is one really important question, which I’m not going to teach you to ask. I want you to ask me this later. Really, think about it. There’s another important question you can ask after that.
[DJKR]: Good. Good.
How can we avoid an overly rigid interpretation of the bodhisattva vow?
[Q]: Thank you for your teachings Rinpoche. I’ve found [that there is] an oscillation in my practice, an edge, when I’m attempting to embody and practice the ten bodhisattva vows. There’s an oscillation between arriving at the other shore and leaving the boat, but when I do that I transgress the vows.
[DJKR]: It’s okay. It’s a process of the path. You can always get excited as you peel one layer of skin and [think] “Ah, there’s a fruit”. Remember, on the first day I said that you are you are permitted to have one ignorance, which is thinking there’s a result? That’s the same thing as what I just said. It’s good. And why should you have that? Because you don’t want to have dukkha31Ed.: why are you permitted to think there is a result? For the sake of practicing the path so that you may be free from suffering. From Day 1:
Fundamentally the Buddhist idea of result is not defined by what you get [or obtain]. Rather, it’s defined by what you get rid of.
See Day 1 teaching on Result..
[Q]: [I find that] I return to an overly rigid interpretation of the bodhisattva vow.
[DJKR]: [For] that one, you should just watch out. Just watch out. Always watch. Mindfulness, awareness, vipassana. Can you see the strategy in the anicca, dukkha and anatta? Anicca is change. Dukkha is pain, unsatisfactoriness, whatever. Then anatta. [There’s] no one being impermanent. No one [experiencing] unsatisfactoriness. This part is important.
[Q]: I see this part and this is the point of oscillation, because when I bring myself to that place, I then find myself breaking the bodhisattva vow.
[DJKR]: Yes, but you are forgetting that you only know this intellectually [at the moment]. You have to come down to a practical level.
How do we know if we’re ready to follow the tantric path of crazy wisdom?
[Q]: Hi Rinpoche, how’s it going? I’ll try and keep this one as simple as possible. I don’t think I’m the only one here, but after teachings like yours today and the last couple of days, where you said that even a tarot reading can be a path, then a lot of us get a little bit inspired and then start thinking that we’re masters of crazy wisdom and start living a tantric path. Until we run and bump into something and cause some trouble for ourselves or somebody else. And then at that point, we sort of dial it back and realize that we need to have a little bit more Mahayana view and a bit more practice. I’m just wondering if you have any advice for people who are going to go out there and start getting all tantric and thinking that this is maybe the way to go about things?
[DJKR]: Oh, for that one. I have a really classic [answer]. Miss lunch and dinner and see whether you get hungry or not. No, I’m serious. If you get hungry, [then] forget Mahayana, I think probably going to the Shravakayana [path] is better [for you].
Who is being liberated and who is doing the liberating?
[Q]: Rinpoche, first I’d like to acknowledge and thank you for your Australian flag. Yes, it’s most noticeable [DJKR is wearing a temporary tattoo of an Australian flag on his right cheekbone]. Thank you. My question is if the Buddha can only guide and illuminate, then who is being liberated? And who is doing the liberating?
[DJKR]: No one is. I’m now going to talk in riddles.
[Q]: That’s the answer?
[DJKR]: For now.
[Q]: Why is my heart beating so thoroughly in my neck?
If there’s no mind, is enlightenment inevitable?
[Q]: Hi Rinpoche. In regards to the rope and the snake, You said they’re the same and not the same at the same time. Does that mean if there’s no mind, is enlightenment, for lack of a better word, inevitable?
[DJKR]: Wow, what a good thing to say. Are you sure you didn’t sort of steal this from a book?
[DJKR]: This is what the great Mahasandhi master Longchenpa said, “If only you pay some attention, you have no choice but to be enlightened”. You have no choice. Okay, that’s an auspicious [question], so I’m not going to explain further.
A question about dreams
[Q]: Hello Rinpoche. I have two action questions, but I have to do a preamble first. They’re about dreaming. I’m dreaming and in my dream state I’m having relationships and I’m having a life. And then somewhere I get fascinated by the dream and it goes further and further and a door opens and I go through [and into] another [dream]. I end up with four or five different dreams. Is it possible to live simultaneously different lives?
[DJKR]: I guess. You can assume that.
[Q]: I’ve wondered. In some of the dreams I turn up at teachings.
[DJKR]: You can assume that, yes.
[Q]: So there’s a practitioner there. So the second question is, if I’m having all of these different relationships, if there are so many me’s, which me do I wake up [as]?
[DJKR]: This one, I don’t know.
How does the dualistic Abrahamic residue show up in our conduct?
[Q]: Hello Rinpoche, this is a question about the Abrahamic residue. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that, because [it seems like sometimes] the Abrahamic residue is the same as the things that we shouldn’t be doing in action, and sometimes it seems to be the same as the things we should be doing [in terms of] Buddhist action. But it’s so deep in our thinking in the West that we don’t know when it sort of flips [from one to the other].
[DJKR]: Actually, my [statement] was not only a big sweeping generalization, but also I really have no proper knowledge about the Abrahamic system. The only thing, as I said, [is that] I feel that they cherish duality. Now, if you are studying Buddhism, then you can’t use that tool [i.e. duality]. That’s about all I can say. [But in terms] of code of conduct or whatever. It’s very difficult. It’s really difficult to come to a clear [conclusion].
[Q]: I think you’re really hitting the nail on the head about it, actually. It’s difficult to even name, So thank you for that.
When should we follow the teacher rather than the teachings?
[Q]: Rinpoche, I have a question about the relationship between students and teachers. You mentioned that one should never rely on the person, but on the teachings, but a teacher also plays an important part in the study of Buddhism. So how can one distinguish if one is following a teacher like a ship, blindly admiring him, or if one is truly devoted to him?
[DJKR]: As I said yesterday32From Day 2:
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.
See Day 2 teaching on View is of utmost importance., I would rather people get inspired by the view, and then [the teacher]. I think it’s safer. But I don’t want to [rule out]33Ed.: DJKR used the words “opt out”, but the intended sense is “rule out”. The words have been changed. that it’s possible that could you bump into someone really amazing, like Shakyamuni Buddha himself did a long time ago. He was a beggar. Nothing to eat. The whole day he begged. And he only got five grains, I think. And because he was a beggar, he was so poor, and there were other beggars who could [steal] his food. So he was trying to find a quiet place to eat. This was the first time he had something to eat [that] whole day. But just before he started eating, he bumped into Kashyapa Buddha. And this guy was just so magnificent and so beautiful. He was so moved and he just threw the food on him [as a spontaneous offering]. And because of that merit, it is believed that Siddhartha became a chakravartin34chakravartin (Sanskrit: चक्रवर्तिन्) = universal ruler; emperor; sovereign of the world, especially in the sense of an imperial ruler of the entire Indian sub-continent – see chakravartin., a sort of [universal] king.
How might some of Sogyal Rinpoche’s students be throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
[Q]: Thank you Rinpoche for your precious teachings. You talked earlier about two aspects that we needed to practice. One was being humble and the other was to have confidence in the teachings. I am a student of Sogyal Rinpoche and there are many of his students here today. So I am concentrating on the precious teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche, having confidence and trying to be humble in wanting to learn more. Is that what you mean by not throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
[DJKR]: That, and many other things. You know, there’s also the Buddhadharma in general35Ed.: some students decided to walk away from the Buddhist path entirely after their negative experiences with Sogyal Rinpoche. Throwing away the entire Buddhadharma would be an example of throwing out the baby, not just the bathwater.. We were talking about action and behavior, and it’s understandable that human beings tend to judge an [entire] system just because somebody who belongs to the system did not act according to how you think they should act. And sometimes the system suffers [due to the behavior of just a few individuals]. You know, it’s a bit like this. Communism and socialism [are] quite good. But not all communists behave themselves. Democracy [is good]. But not all democracy people behave. This [misbehavior] really dents the system [i.e. damages it].
How do we know when we have reached the other shore?
[Q]: Rinpoche, you talked about how when we reach the other shore, Buddhadharma should be abandoned like the boat. And at the same time you also talked about whenever we think “This is it”, we should know that it is not it. So how do we know we have reached the other shore, relatively speaking?
[DJKR]: That’s the real attempt of abandoning.
How does the example of the snake and rope relate to Dharma being a placebo?
[Q]: Hi Rinpoche, you mentioned that Dharma is a placebo. And with your story of the snake and the rope, I wonder if my understanding is correct. With death and reincarnation, could I say death is the snake and reincarnation is the rope?
[DJKR]: No, both death and reincarnation are snake.
[Q]: Is that because when you think about the rope, it’s a lot easier to accept than the snake?
[DJKR]: Yes, but if you are somebody who has been to Africa and had a terrible experience with a snake and you have a snake phobia, when you first enter this dark room, the rope does not even exist in your head. There’s only snake. And then suppose a stupid man like, let’s say me, comes up to you and says “I see that you’re about to have a heart attack” and then I pick up the rope and [wave it in front of your face and] say [DJKR picks up some flowers from the vase on the table and shakes them from side to side as if brandishing a snake in front of someone’s face] “Nowhere is [there a snake]. This is not a snake”, you will die. If I’m wiser, I’ll say “Oh yes, I can see that. Let’s see what [we can] do”. [In other words] I would play [along] with you.
How should we understand anatta in the context of helping someone else?
[Q]: Anatta is selflessness, right? So it’s like after the plane takes off, we are always told to put on your own mask first before you help others.
[DJKR]: Oh I see. Well, that’s quite good but I think [in that case] we are talking about two selves, aren’t we? First you take care of yourself, then you take care of this self [DJKR points as if to someone sitting on the seat next to him]36Ed.: in the teaching DJKR inverted the order. It has been switched to correspond to the example of “putting on your own mask first” in a plane.. Here we are talking about the notion that the self does not exist. I gave you the example of a table, remember37From Day 1:
It’s a bit like “Four legs, plank, my cup is here and my book is here. It’s a table”. That’s karma, isn’t it? Things put together, tougher with habit and culture and also circumstances. If the organizers here, Siddhartha’s Intent, if they only put this [table] here in the middle of this [stage] and if I were sitting on it, many of [you might think] “These guys have really put a very strange throne for Rinpoche today”. You see [DJKR snaps his fingers] the table does not exist at that time. [DJKR snaps his fingers] The throne suddenly came.
See Day 1 teaching on There is no
truly existing karma or reincarnation.? It’s here in front of me [DJKR taps on the table in front of him]. That’s why it’s a table at the moment. If it was here [DJKR indicates the position of the couch that he’s sitting on] and I was sitting on it, you would think it’s the chair [or a] throne. So [at that time] the notion of the table [would be] nonexistent. Just like that, man, woman, me, you, him, her – it’s all just a label.
[Q]: So it’s like “You are me, I am you”?
[DJKR]: No. I mean, that’s very nice but …
How are we supposed to enlighten all sentient beings if they are illusory?
[Q]: Dear Rinpoche, I find that my mind tends to fall into extremes so easily. And after contemplating on the teachings, I find my mind tends to go in circles. For example, Mahayana Buddhists are supposed to enlighten all sentient beings, but also sentient beings are not really there. They’re kind of imaginary or illusory.
[DJKR]: It’s okay. You are struggling between wisdom and method, the union of these two. You know [intellectually] that it is a striped rope, but you also keep on seeing it as a snake [due to your habitual patterns]. That’s okay.
[Q]: Also you mentioned previously, that anicca, dukkha and anatta. There’s impermanence, there’s pain, but there’s no one who’s [experiencing this].
[DJKR]: Exactly. That’s why I was talking about the “strategy” [of the three marks of existence]. It’s very interesting, isn’t it? Actually, all the Buddhist teachings are like that. Even the four immeasurable thoughts38The four brahmaviharas (Pāli & Sanskrit: ब्रह्मविहार) – see brahmavihara. [namely] love, compassion, joy, and then equanimity39Ed.: DJKR is pointing out that all Buddhist teachings are based on the view of “it’s there, but it’s not there”. In these examples, “anatta” and “equanimity” can be understood as corresponding to “it’s not there”, while the other aspects of the three marks of existence and the four immeasurables can be understood as corresponding to “it’s there”..
[Q]: It feels so unsettling and my mind keeps going round in circles. Is that how it’s supposed to be?
[DJKR]: It is a bit like that, because we need to talk to you about [the reality that] there is no snake. Because we see you [are] afraid of the snake, so somehow we need to tell you that there is no snake. But you are not able to digest that information right away. You keep on seeing it as a snake, especially when there’s no light. So somebody has to keep on telling you “No, that’s not a snake. That’s a striped rope”. You understand? That’s the path.
[Q]: So I’m on the right track, is that what you’re saying?
[Q]: Thanks. That’s good to know.
Do appearances dissolve completely when we attain enlightenment?
[Q]: Hi Rinpoche, so I get that the view is that we have appearances and that “they’re there, but they’re not there”. So taking the example of the horns, this pretty much equates to saying ”Okay, I can feel the horns, but we know that they are are not there”. And then maintaining that view, and having the methods to get that view, is kind of the path. Now, are there any circumstances in which we ever get to realize completely that we actually have no horns? Basically, are there any circumstances when appearances pretty much dissolve completely?
[DJKR]: I think a better way to put [this] is that you keep on having [the experience or appearance of] horn, but you know that it’s a projection. I think that’s better.
[Q]: I understand that. But is there any circumstance when there are actually no horns?
[DJKR]: Horns are only there because there is a knower of horn. So, yes, when there’s no knower of horn, there’s no horn. Yes.
How does realizing the view that “it’s there, but it’s not there” lead to omniscience?
[Q]: How can the realization of [the nature of the] horn, knowing that it’s there and not there, be a cause for omniscience? I mean omniscience as in [knowing] the past. present, future, all that stuff?
[DJKR]: Very good. Omniscience is a big subject. You know, many people think omniscience is knowing all the languages, such as Sanskrit, Pali, and all the numbers, such how many leaves that tree has, and having clairvoyance etc. The people who love these kinds of things, they interpret omniscience like that. [But] no. Omniscience in Buddhism is knowing the truth.
Do you believe in black magic?
[Q]: Do you believe in black magic?
[DJKR]: Black magic? Oh, very much. I’m not joking. I am a believer in a lot of things. I really believe in it. I not only believe in it, I actually like it. You know, sometimes I write my own sort of story of my childhood40Ed.: DJKR is referring to his “memoir-in-progress” – see Mugwort Born.. I’m going to write about this. I was sort of scolded by my tutors for performing black magic. Of course, I didn’t know what I was doing. But I like this. Are you from Mexico?
[Q]: No, Colombia.
[DJKR] [Claps his palms in delight]. I go to Mexico. And my favorite place is this black magic supermarket, something like a supermarket41From wikipedia: “Mercado de Sonora (Sonora Market) is a city-established traditional market, located just southeast of the historic center of Mexico City in the Colonia Merced Balbuena neighborhood. It was established in the 1950s … [and] has specialized in a variety of merchandise such as pottery, party items, and live animals — and the two which make it notable, herbal medicine and items related to magic and the occult.” – see wikipedia on Mercado de Sonora.. They have everything. Once I bought almost everything that they have, I mean [every] variety [of magical item]. There are candles to divorce husband and wife. Stuff like that. That’s so amazing. Once you see that supermarket, David Jones42David Jones is an Australian upmarket department store. See company website and wikipedia on David Jones. is so boring. So boring, don’t you think?
How should we relate to elderly people who are suffering and want to die?
[Q]: I have two questions about view and dukkha. I will put both together. I work in age care. I have been working [there] a long time. And not everybody is Buddhist. A lot of people have suffering, dukkha, they’re sick or dying, and their point of view is they should be dead. They wish to die. From the perspective of the view, should I also be thinking they should be dead, or should they be living a bit longer?
[DJKR]: For Buddhists, death is not the ultimate end. So death is not necessarily going to be the solution.
We take refuge in the Buddha, and we need to know that our mind is the Buddha
So we will not have a break now. Is that okay? We will do the refuge first. You are not taking refuge in me, by the way. You are taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It’s important that you know that. I’m now speaking [following the view of the] Mahayana [tradition]. It’s important that you know that your mind is the Buddha. Buddha is not outside. You are actually the striped rope. But you have been deluding yourself thinking you’re a snake. The snake is a temporary situation. It’s imputed. It’s delusion.
And the fact is that it’s a temporary removable illusion, therefore [you] switch on the light. And when you switch on the light you then see the striped rope. If the snake really existed, then of course, after, during, and before switching on the light, there would be a snake. Then you would have a cause to worry. But the snake experience is an illusion.
Likewise, this innate nature of your mind is the Buddha. Well, “Buddha” is just a name. It’s a label. It’s a beautifully crafted name. I would still use it. It’s a very good symbol. It’s a very good representation.
We take refuge in the Dharma, which is based on the view of nonduality
So [we have had] very brief, and not at all complete and perfect. But nevertheless, very brief conversations on view, practice and action or behavior. Nonduality is a gift of Shakyamuni Buddha to the world. And it is really practical. It’s not something that you can [only] read and sort of get excited [about] intellectually. It’s something that you can apply [in your daily life]. Not just in terms of sitting [in meditation] and as some sort of a religious activity, but it’s something that you can apply in your grocery shopping, parenting, basically the [entire] way you look at the world.
And it has benefited so many people in the past. If you look at the people who have really appreciated and put this [view of nonduality] into practice over history, they were not just people from Nimbin43Ed.: 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.. They include a lot of people who were great warriors, kings, and queens. I mean, the Chinese are the most hardheaded people, and they have amazing wisdom [traditions] themselves in Confucianism and Taoism. Yet, for centuries the Chinese have really embraced Buddhism. And it’s not so much because it came from India, probably that would be the least reason they would do it. [They have embraced Buddhism] because they see there’s something in it, and that is really to do with nonduality. It is so amazing.
Once somebody invited me to a Chinese resort, a very fancy resort like a wellbeing center. There were all these people, and as part of their activities, they had one very interesting activity, which was Chinese calligraphy writing of the Heart Sutra. You know, “No nose, no eyes” etc. These [were] corporate business people, managers, managing directors, I don’t know what they [were thinking] when they were writing “No nose, no ear”. But you know what I mean? [After] 2000 years this is valued. This is appreciated. Maybe not enough, but nonduality has something so amazing.
Buddhism has the view and the path to live with paradox and nonduality
You may have the word “paradox” in your culture, but probably you don’t know how to live with paradox. Buddhism has the view of paradox and how to live with paradox. That’s very important, especially now. [The world is] becoming very dualistic. It’s becoming very fast. Also not everything is bad. A lot of good things are happening. Nonduality is a gift from Shakyamuni Buddha. You need to cherish this. And, yes many times it gets hijacked by tradition and methods. Instead of looking at the moon, you end up looking at the finger that’s pointing at the moon. But it’s still okay. [Knowing the] direction towards nonduality is important. And I think it’s growing. It’s becoming more rooted and it’s becoming very well established in places where Buddhism has not traditionally grown, such as Australia.
We need to really try to establish this [view of nonduality] within our way of thinking. There’s something so nice about this, by the way. I’ll give you one example, many of you may have heard this. I was once traveling to South India and my plane was full of these people, in India they call them hijra44hijra (Hindustani: हिजड़ा) = eunuchs, intersex people, and transgender people, officially recognized as third gender in countries in the Indian subcontinent – see hijra.. They are intersex or eunuchs. The plane was completely filled with them, and they were all wearing white. I was fascinated. I was the only one [who was not a hijra]. There are all these eunuchs [and intersex people] and many times in India an intersex person is considered inauspicious and looked down upon. Anyway, I was in the plane traveling with these guys, and I had to ask them “Where are you all going?” And then I [learned] that they had been invited by one of the most wealthy Indians, whose son was getting married, and they were the auspicious people who [were going to] bless the marriage.
Nonduality. Something bad. Suddenly, something good also. Bad, good, all that gets so chaotic, which is nice. This is something that you need in your individual life, [and we] also [need this] as a society. Otherwise there’s too much “My way, the right way, This way only”. Even on that level [of everyday social and political life], not to mention on the spiritual path. Of course, there’s so much benefit [in the nondual path].
We take refuge in the Sangha, which can help us to continue with our study and practice
Many people here have asked me [what you can do next] now that they have [listened to] this discourse or conversation these three days. They want to carry on with their study and practice, which is very encouraging. But as you know I’m really chaotic, and I have no proper sort of setup and stuff like this. I believe there are so many great Dharma centers in Australia from many different traditions. And not just Tibetan Buddhism, there are many other wisdom traditions coming from Theravada and Mahayana. And also within the Tibetan tradition, I think there are quite a few centers. Please look, but would I would always say, I would really encourage that before jumping into any kind of practice, you should really do analysis. Be critical. Do more thinking, do more hearing and contemplation. Don’t jump into practice. This is what Buddha himself encouraged, to be very critical towards the path and the teacher and everything. You need to really take advantage of this. This is important.
But if you insist in following the way or the path or the system that I have been encouraging, like in the Dharma Gar or the Ngöndro Gar and all that. There are many of [my students] here in Australia. I don’t know whether I should call them “students”. It’s more like they’re my victims. I have quite a few of them here. They’re a little bit nerdy, I have to say, and some of them are a little bit grumpy and there are some really good mature ladies also. So if you want to, please look at the website or something like this to find out what they’re doing.
I think Steve Cline may not be so healthy at the moment, but he could give meticulous information on rituals and stuff like that. And then there’s a Danish guy called Jakob, who could also give you really good information on the Madhyamaka, Abhidharma, and the Mahayana way of thinking, like things to do with nonduality, habit, language, nuances, philology. And then as I said, there are some ladies. The nuns Ani Zangmo and Ani Gosha. Then there is Jangchub, Kathy, these people can give you some ideas. I’m not asking you to take them as your tantric master. You should not do this, both for your own sake and for their own sake, but they could definitely help you. So this is something I just wanted to say.
And yes, I will continue to do prayers. I’ve been doing prayers for almost two weeks now for the wellbeing of Australia related to the fires, but not just that. It’s a fast-paced world, and [it may be] fire this year but who knows what’s next? So I do prayers and I will also ask many of my friends like the Rinpoches who happen to be here today to also think about Australia. And yes, that’s about it. I think we’ll finish here.
[END OF TALK 8]
Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers
Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio