Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
Online from Khyentse Labrang, Bir, India
September 12, 2020
39 minutes (including Chinese translation)
Note: DJKR gave a teaching in July 2020 (available at Siddhartha’s Intent India) to initiate the Bhumisparsha accumulation of 100 million Shakyamuni mantras.
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.
Right at the beginning I’d like to express my rejoicing [that we have been] able to reach our target of 100 million Shakyamuni mantras1Ed.: the Shakyamuni mantra in Sanskrit is OM MUNE MUNE MAHĀMUNAYE SVĀHĀ – see OM MUNE MUNE MAHAMUNAYE SVAHA. For information about how to accumulate the Shakyamuni mantra, see Bhumisparsha at Siddhartha’s Intent India.. Thank you [to] all the people who have contributed to this, and also thank [you] to all the organizers [and] people who really worked hard for this. Even though we have reached this target, I’m hoping that we will still continue. As I have mentioned in the past2See DJKR’s teaching in July 2020 to initiate the Bhumisparsha accumulation of 100 million Shakyamuni mantras, available at Siddhartha’s Intent India., I’m hoping that we will continue this [mantra accumulation] until the last moment of this year and the beginning of the next year. So, even though we are going to continue [to follow] the same principle, we will also try to approach Bhumisparsha3bhumisparsha (Sanskrit: भूमिस्पृश्) = touching the ground. See bhumisparsha. on a different level and from a slightly different aspect.
As many of you know, Bhumisparsha is a name [given] to a gesture4The bhumisparsha mudra (or gesture) is one of the most common iconic images in Buddhism. It depicts the Buddha sitting in meditation with his left hand resting in his lap, and all five fingers of his right hand extending downward to touch the earth. According to the traditional story of the Buddha’s enlightenment according to the Lalitavistara Sutra, after Siddhartha had resisted every temptation Mara could devise, the demonic lord of desire had one final test. He demanded to know who would testify that Siddhartha was worthy of attaining enlightenment. And his demon army rose up to support him. Siddhartha said nothing. He reached down and touched the ground, asking Prthvi, the devi of the earth, to be his witness. The earth shuddered in response, and Mara’s demons fled. Then Siddhartha meditated throughout the night and all his former lives passed before him. As the morning star appeared, he roared like a lion. “My mind,” he said, “is at peace.” The heavens shook, and the Bodhi tree rained down flowers. He had become the “awakened one” – the Buddha. See bhumisparsha.. It’s a gesture. Buddhists throughout the world remember this gesture. It’s depicted in paintings, statues and frescos, so you can’t really miss it. But this very simple gesture also has a lot of profound elements behind [it].
Even on the most mundane level, right [at the] beginning, the moment before Buddha was awakened, of all the things that he could touch [he chose to touch the Earth]. Touching the Earth is very significant. On the most outer level, of course the Earth is where we are dwelling, this precious Earth. Just imagine, this is the very Earth upon which Buddha Dipankara5Dipankara (Pāli & Sanskrit: दीपंकर) = Dipankara Buddha, one of the buddhas of the past, who is said to have lived on Earth one hundred thousand aeons ago. See Dipankara. walked, even before Shakyamuni Buddha. Not just the Buddha. So many great beings have walked on this Earth. They were born on this Earth, they died on this Earth, they did a lot of things on this Earth. And right now, we are on this Earth. And in a very peculiar way, we are connected to all these buddhas and great beings of the past because we use the same Earth. This very Earth.
But the Bhumisparsha does not just signify the Earth, as in the planet. It also signifies the truth. Nothing exotic or mythical, just the simple truth. It signifies non-hypocrisy, and it also signifies majesty and many other things, including humility.
As I spoke last time, if you heard during that rainy day, Bhumisparsha also means [to] “touch base”. Touch the ground. Touch the base. We lose our base. In the classic Buddhist teachings, there are so many teachings on how to touch this base. How to touch the base of the tathagatagarbha6tathagatagarbha (Sanskrit: तथागतगर्भ) = buddhanature. See tathagatagarbha and DJKR December 2019 teachings on The Way of the Tathagata., the buddhanature. But probably for a lot of us, those [teachings] are too philosophical and maybe too complicated.
So today I want you to understand touching base or touching the Earth at the most fundamental level. It’s really, actually to have a relationship with oneself. It’s to really make friends with oneself. To not be harsh towards oneself. To not be hard on ourself. To not make enemy with oneself. And also to not hate oneself. These are things that we human beings don’t do. We forget to do these things. In the process, amidst all this so-called busyness in our lives, we forget to make friends with ourselves. We end up making enemy with ourselves. And we keep on being hard on ourselves. We keep on asking too much from ourselves.
Now, not hating oneself, appreciating oneself, becoming friends with oneself – [this] does not mean that we want to become narcissists. In the process of [doing] this, we also don’t want to become vain. We don’t want to develop the habit of self-righteousness. We don’t want to become carried away by cherishing one’s individual self too much. Appreciating oneself, loving oneself, becoming friends with oneself – [this] does not mean that we should forsake our responsibility [towards others]. Those things don’t mean that we step on other people’s toes.
So, Bhumisparsha, touching base, touching the Earth, touching oneself, in order to do that, we need to know ourselves. Now when we say “we need to know ourselves”, there are many different ways to know ourselves. [For example] by reading books, by studying about our self. There are lots of teachings on who we are and all of that. So many. Too many. There’s not only too much information about it, there are also a lot of techniques, like contemplation [on] who we are. By all means, we should do all of that.
But this time I think we should concentrate on simply touching the base, without needing to read books or inquire or ask questions and so forth. Maybe we don’t need to ask questions like “Who are we?” or “Who am I?” Maybe we should also stop using references, just sometimes, just at this time. There are many references. Different religions such as Christianity have their references. Buddhists have their references and definitions and analysis. But maybe this time we won’t use any of these references.
So what do we have? We have our body, obviously. And we have our speech. And we have our mind. Now out of these [three] – body, speech and mind – mind is the most important. Even [when] we say “me” or “I”, most likely you are referring to your body and maybe your speech and definitely your mind. The mind is the most important. Without the mind who are we? We are nothing. We are like a table. We are like a pen. We are like an eraser.
And this mind, you have [it]. This is the one thing that you have that you don’t need to download or buy. Nothing. You just have it. This mind is what we need to touch.
And when I say “This mind is what you need to touch”, because of our habit, immediately we have an urge to look for some special mind. I’m not talking about any kind of special mind. Actually this is another meaning of Bhumisparsha. You know I was telling you [that it means] touching the base, touching the ground, down to earth. Remember? I think the English expression “Down to earth” has this connotation of not altered. Raw. Not altered. Not made up. As it is, basically.
And you have mind. I’m repeating here. You have a mind. You’re looking at me right now, you’re listening to me right now. Who is doing this? Your mind. And this mind, this naked, raw mind is what you need to touch. Now when I say “touch”, there’s something so nice about the word touch. It’s basically like this [DJKR gestures touching], isn’t it? [Whereas] this [DJKR gestures holding onto tightly] means hold, hold, hold. [Instead, just] touch7Ed.: DJKR is emphasizing the distinction between touching lightly and holding onto tightly. The practice here is to touch the mind, letting it be “as it is”, rather than trying to hold onto it as if to immobilize it and subdue its natural radiance and activity.. Any time in your day, just know. Just notice whatever you are thinking.
And whatever you are thinking can sometimes be very rugged. And this is something that you need to appreciate, this ruggedness. Don’t look [for] a perfect mind to touch. The imperfection of the mind, this rugged mind, the naked mind, the raw mind – just touch. The Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi8wabi-sabi (Japanese: 侘寂) = a world view in traditional Japanese aesthetics centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. See wabi-sabi. just popped up in my mind. The Japanese can take something so rugged and so imperfect, [and it ends up] becoming so beautiful and so decorative. Likewise, experience the ruggedness. Touch your rugged mind, and have a momentary wabi-sabi experience.
That’s it. That is touching base. Bhumisparsha.
This is so simple. You can’t tell me you don’t know how to do it. If you don’t know how to do it, you must be a robot. This is something you can do. And this is what you need to know. This is what you need to remember to do. But we human beings, we are such victims of causes and conditions. So we get distracted and we get entangled. So in order to remember to do this, we should also learn how to create the atmosphere of this. And that is what Buddhists try to do with their mind. They try to meditate. There are so many techniques of shamatha, vipassana, this, that – [all are] basically to touch this ground and also to really maintain this touching [and] to remember to touch.
To maintain this awareness, we also chant mantras such as you have been doing. And in order to maintain this awareness, we also build temples, statues, paintings – it’s all just really to not forget touching the base. Of course, as I said earlier, we have so much habit of getting distracted. Somehow we just dare not do the touching. [There are] many reasons. It’s too boring. Too ordinary. Too uninteresting. And also too scary. Being rugged, being naked, being totally referenceless is so scary. You understand? We like to entertain ourselves by hating ourselves. We like to entertain ourselves by being hard on ourselves, by asking too much [of ourselves].
And there are also a lot of obstacles. For example, we have values and we have ideologies. All these ideologies and values and emojis end up hijacking us [and] distracting us from the base. Then what happens? We lose our radiance. We lose our confidence. Basically we lose being cool. Everybody wants to be cool, but if you don’t touch the base, you’re not cool any more. You could be wearing Versace and all kinds of things, but you’re not cool.
So I know we have finished the count. But we will still keep on chanting. And there has been the creation of painting and music from a lot of our friends, especially our young friends. It’s wonderful. And in one way or another, it all brings the atmosphere of touching the base. Of course, we like to touch base through mantras and meditation, the things we [usually] do [in our Buddhist practice]. But we also like to touch base by creating things. That’s what I hope people will do. It doesn’t have to be anything so-called special. Remember, the moment you are looking for something special, you are asking too much of yourself. You could just clean your table and take a photo of the clean table and send it to us. Perfect. Or you could make a big mess out of your table and take a photo and send it to us. That’s fine also.
I’ve told you enough about what I think about touching base. Basically that should be the spirit. That should be our principle. That should be our value. And yes of course, we will still keep on chanting [the Shakyamuni mantra]. And one last thing – those who also wish to participate by becoming one of our organizers, to help with our administration or whatever, not only it will be very helpful for us, but I think it will also be fun. Hopefully.
That’s it. Thank you so much.
Note: DJKR gave an interview “The Buddha and the awesome, incredible mind” to Kuensel magazine on September 1, 2020, also on the topic of touching base and the Bhumisparsha project.
Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers.
Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio