Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
Return to Normal: Day 1
Two-day public teaching at Taipei International Convention Center, Taipei, Taiwan on October 10-11, 2020
Day 1: October 10, 2020
Part 1: 68 minutes, Part 2: 68 minutes
See also: Day 2
Note 1: This transcript is not an official publication of Siddhartha’s Intent. Every effort has been made to ensure that this transcript is accurate both in terms of words and meaning, however all errors and misunderstandings are the responsibility of the editors of madhyamaka.com. Please see note.
Note 2: This transcript includes footnotes with clarifications and more information about Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist terms used in the teaching. Please click on the superscript number to read the footnote. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s name is abbreviated to “DJKR” throughout.
I’d like to just express my joy of being in Taiwan again. It is always very nice to be in a modern city where you have roads named after harmony and peace, and also kindness and compassion. The title of the teaching is “Return to normal”. I think that is a Siddhartha’s Intent marketing strategy. Because what is “normal”? [What’s] normal for some people is chaos for others. And the idea, the definition of “normalcy” or “normality” keeps on changing.
Now I know that some of you probably have much better things to do, since this is a very long holiday. Three days I was told? So probably some of you may just want to be here for [something] like 10 minutes. Which is fine. You’re very welcome. Before you take off, I want to just tell you one thing that is probably a key to being normal. And once you hear this, please go and have a good time.
I’m definitely not going to tell you how to pray or how to meditate. I’m not even going to tell you to do positive thinking. And I’m definitely not going to tell you to think of sunrises or rainbows, stuff like that. All I want you to do is just be aware of this moment. This now-ness. It’s not complicated at all. And you don’t even have to sit straight. If you want to continue to do this later, you can even do this while walking around. And I’m not asking you to invoke some sort of special thought [or state of mind] and dwell in it. All I’m asking is for you to be conscious or aware of what’s happening now. And it could be something very, very ordinary and mundane. So let’s just do this for a few moments.
[DJKR sits quietly for a few moments]
That’s it. That’s all I’m asking. And if you have the appetite to do this, and I think you should, I’m asking you to do this at least once every day. [You] can’t get more normal than this. And there’s no other better way to achieve normality than this.
And this is now more relevant than ever, because in the 21st century, we are not even citizens of a nation anymore. I’m sure [most of] you have a Taiwanese passport, and some have a Japanese passport or a French passport. But actually, we don’t treat each other as citizens anymore. We just look at each other as consumers. And since we have been forced to be consumers, and we also volunteer ourselves to be consumers, we forget to be normal.
Okay, so for those who don’t want to continue, this is it. And don’t tell me you don’t have time for this one. You have plenty of time to browse your Facebook or whatever. You know, [this only takes] just a few moments.
Our understanding of normality is culturally conditioned
I was born in a place called Bhutan. And, unlike many of you, I wasn’t born in a hospital. I was born amidst lots of bamboo and lots of lavender. And Bhutan, as some of you may know, is a landlocked country. And as citizens or consumers from a landlocked country, we have a different psyche, which I’m not going to explain too much. Basically you live in a small territory, and you have two big neighbors breathing down [your neck] all the time.
Maybe I did not really grow up [in the] jungle, but I definitely grew up in the forest. And relatively speaking, I used to know a little bit about the forest. I knew what kind of mushrooms you can eat, and what kind of mushrooms you should avoid. But some of this knowledge is now gone, because most of the mushrooms that I eat are from Seven Eleven and other things. I think I’m still good at making fires. But there aren’t so many places to make fires now.
At the age of around six or seven, I was taken away from my family. Actually I was sold, for about five NT15 Taiwanese dollars = approx. 0.17 US dollars as of October 2020.. I’m not exaggerating, this is true. And there is a reason for this. In the Himalayas, as many of you know, the culture believes in recognizing reincarnation and so forth. So [just] when I was having a really good time in this subtropical place among the elephants, rhinoceroses and big python snakes, some people turned up one day [to take me away]. Some strangers turned up and told me that I was the reincarnation of some person. It’s bit like if some Austrians came to you and said “Hey, you have to go to Austria, because you are Mozart’s incarnation”.
Anyway I was sold for such a cheap rate, but not because my family had seven children including me. I guess for my family, it was sort of an honor. That money, that fare or that price, was important. It is the custom that when the child is given to whoever is taking [them] away, the [parents] will give the price. This is to symbolize [that] the family has no more say [over their child]. The property or the commodity belongs to someone else. Yes, that was the end of being with my family. So I don’t have a photo that is complete [with] my family all together. Never. There’s always me missing, most of the time.
Once I left, I was made to study things that were written 2500 years ago. And in fact, I have to say, after half a century I am still studying things that were written 2500 years ago. What I studied, and what I’m still studying, has been named by other people [as] “Buddhism”. This [way that Buddhism acquired its name] is very interesting, and actually it gets more complicated. I think gradually other people, especially Westerners, began to categorize what I study as a “religion” or as [something] “spiritual”.
Anyway, you can say that I’m thoroughly brainwashed and influenced by this so-called Buddhism. And today, I have come to a conclusion that there is only one man who is really right. And [in] everything that he said, he’s the only one that is right. And his name is Siddhartha or Gautama Buddha. Now I’m not only saying he’s right [about] the technique of meditation. He’s right with everything. He’s right with the economy. He’s right with science, leadership, politics, relationships, parenting2Ed.: DJKR isn’t saying that the way science etc. was understood 2500 years ago was somehow more accurate than today. He’s saying that the Buddha’s teachings set out what DJKR sees as the “right” way to relate to all these aspects of our everyday lives.. Only he is right. This is how I think. I’m totally brainwashed, you can say that. As we go on, we can discuss this more.
Now, I’m a human being. I’m not saying this to prove that I’m [not] partially AI [i.e. artificial intelligence]. The studies I have done, [which have been] called Buddhism [by others], believe that there are so many intelligences, not just us human beings. There are so many other intelligences that exist, in infinite directions and infinite space. [Buddhism] talks about millions of planets, and some of these planets have interesting [kinds of] intelligence and beings. Anyway, to make it more comprehensible, Buddhism teaches about five or six different groups of beings3Buddhist cosmology typically identifies six realms of existence, rikdruk (Tibetan: རིགས་དྲུག་): gods (deva), demi-gods (asura), humans, animals, hungry ghosts (preta) and hells (naraka). Earlier Buddhist texts refer to five realms rather than six realms, with the god realm and demi-god realm constituting a single realm – see rikdruk..
Well, we just happen to be what Buddhists call human beings. [We are part of] the human realm. I don’t think I am an animal. Well, I have an address, and I don’t have sex with my mother. And I don’t think I’m a god. I have ups and downs, and I was told that gods don’t have these ups and downs. I don’t have clairvoyance, and I don’t wish to have it anyway. Just imagine if I knew even part of what goes on inside your heads.
I’m not so sure whether I am partially ghost or not. [From] a certain Buddhist point of view, every being is kind of a ghost. But I think that when we talk about ghosts, we are talking about a certain category of beings. I don’t think I am 100% that kind of ghost. Because even though my life is so uncertain, there’s still a bit of certainty. Many times, I’m familiar with some of you people here. For example, when I meet some of you, my friends, I recognize you. [If] I see [someone] this morning and then see the same person this afternoon, I will assume that it’s the same being. So I think I’m not a ghost.
So I’m a human. And not only am I a human, I have been educated and taught and influenced to think that I’m a man. So if I need to go to pee, I have confidence to go to the gents. I don’t think I belong to what they called the “fluid” generation. I envy them. I wish I had this fluidity. I envy them partly because you have this curiosity. What does it feel like if you’re wearing a bra? [Whereas] I am stuck as a man.
And as a man, I was told that [humans] are social animals. So I’m not like a polar bear who lives alone. I like interaction. And I’m sure a lot of you do too. And interacting a lot with other human beings, or socializing I guess, is supposed to help us develop emotional stability. It is also supposed to make us emotionally flexible. But as many of you know, what helps us – what makes us flexible, what makes us stable – can also do the opposite. And the list goes on. I have been educated and influenced to think that I’m a Bhutanese and I’m a Buddhist.
We are here to talk about normalcy or normality. 2500 years ago, Buddha said “You are your own master. Who else can be your master?”4Verse 160 from Chapter 12 of the Dhammapada, Dhp. XII “Atta-vaggo: The Self”. For further information, see Quotes: You are your own refuge.. It is really important that this such kind of thinking existed 2500 years ago, long before democracy was even conceived. I think it is the wish of everyone to be master of oneself. Now more than ever, people want to be master of themselves. We want to be in control. And actually, not only [do] we want to be in control of ourselves, we [would] also like to control others. And in order to achieve that state of being master of oneself, we apply all kinds of methods.
We try to be cool. We want others to think that we are cool. And in the process of interacting or socializing with others, we actually also end up becoming the victim of others. Not only [do] we become the victim of others, we actually become the victim of the act or activity of socializing itself. We are so afraid of being lonely. We are so afraid of being bored. And we are so afraid of being left out. [So] we spend so much time answering and communicating through all kinds of platforms.
So [when it comes to] the art of being alone, the art of loving boredom that was taught not just in Buddhism but in many of the ancient wisdom [traditions], we are not even interested. We are trying so hard to fit in. We try to fit into a certain class of society, and we also send our kids to schools so that they will fit in to a certain [class of] society. We read different kinds of books, we watch news, we listen to podcasts, [all] so that we will be better equipped to fit in or not be left out.
Cultural conditioning is always changing
In the process, we change. In the process, the meaning of “meaning” gradually changes. The definition of [our] benchmarks and yardsticks [changes]. The definition of legitimacy, the definition of accountability – all this keeps on changing.
I’ll give you a good example. Just a few days ago. I got up [a few] extra hours early to finish my daily Buddhist meditation so that I could catch the debate between Trump and Biden. And I got emotionally engaged when one of them misbehaved. And when the other one fumbled, my hand sweated. Isn’t it amazing? A man who was born amidst lavender and bamboo has now reached this level, that this man worries about the fate of the United States.
So much changes in our life. Our values. The way we see things. Everything. I grew up in India watching voluptuous Indian girls dancing in Bollywood [movies]. Now among the Indian elites, girls are trying to look like toothpicks. All just to fit in [and ensure that] we will not be left out. Bhutan’s national sport is archery. But I worry more about the Barcelona football team. I even know the names of the Barcelona football players and I think I used to remember even their birthdays.
So as I was saying, many of you send your kids to different places. And I know it’s all meant for their goodness, because you don’t want your kids to be left out. And [yet] I’m sure that many of your kids will have sweaty hands in about 50 years when they are watching a [future] presidential debate.
There are so many changes. How we tell stories. The way we dress. How you call [or refer to] yourself, your name. Jennifer is sitting right in front of me. Kris is translating for me. This is how we change. And by the way, I have a lot of names. When I was kid, I think my grandmother gave me the name Lepo. My father’s father, Dudjom Rinpoche, gave me two names. One is Tsangpa Lhayi Metok, which means “the flower of heaven”5Tsangpa Lhayi Metok (Tibetan: ཚངས་པ་ལྷ་ཡི་མེ་ཏོག) = “Divine flower of Brahma”, the secret name which King Trisong Deutsen received from Guru Padmasambhava during an empowerment at Samye Chimphu – see Tsangpa Lhayi Metok.. I guess maybe my immediate family may have thought it was too girlish to have a name like that. So he gave me another name, Khyentse Norbu6Khyentse Norbu (Tibetan: མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ནོར་བུ་) – see Khyentse Norbu.. And Sakya Trizin gave me the name Jamyang Thubten Chökyi Gyamtso7Jamyang Thubten Chökyi Gyamtso (Tibetan: འཇམ་དབྱངས་ཐུབ་བསྟན་ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱ་མཚོ་) – see Jamyang Thubten Chökyi Gyamtso.. [I have] so many other names, probably sixty.
But anyway, Lepo, the name that my grandmother gave me, means “the idiot”8lepo (Dzongkha: བུ་ཚུ་) = man, idiot – see lepo.. And when my family was very loving to me, it was always “Lepo”. And when my father and others were a little annoyed with me, especially my father, it was “Khyentse Norbu”. So, the preferred name is “idiot”. And there are a lot of Bhutanese with names [like that]. My sister, by the way, is Lemo, which means “female idiot”. Many Bhutanese from my generation have these kinds of names. But I think in about 20 to 30 years time, Bhutanese kids will sue their parents for emotional damage for giving [them] these kinds of names. Because many young Bhutanese are now sent to Ivy League and other [schools], and [after] watching maybe about five presidential debates, by then they will [have] learned how to feel emotionally damaged. But this is very mundane. Who cares? Culture is something that always evolves.
Our understanding of Buddhism is also culturally conditioned
But there are a few serious ones [i.e. changing aspects of cultural conditioning] that we should pay attention to. For instance, [there is] one that always bugs me. It always bugs me whenever people categorize Buddhism into the department of “spiritual”, [when they consider] Buddhism as spiritual. Buddhism is not spiritual. First of all, the English word “spiritual” is very deeply rooted in Christian history9The first two definitions of “spiritual” in wiktionary are (1) “Of or pertaining to the spirit or the soul”; (2) “Of or pertaining to God or a place of worship” – see wiktionary.. I don’t think Buddhists even believe in spirits. Actually, it’s almost like [as if] in a hundred years time, the Computer Science or Biology departments of MIT were to be categorized as a cult or religion.
I think these are things that we should pay attention [to]. Because these kinds of things happen very subtly. For example, this seems to be happening even within Chinese society. I feel that many Chinese seem to think that [the purpose of] Buddhism is to make you a better person. No, Buddhism is not to make you a better person. Of course Buddhism is not to make you a bad person, of course not. [But] if you become a better person, for Buddhism it’s sort of a side bonus. It’s bit like if you buy a laptop, a charger comes with it. But you don’t go to a computer shop and only buy a charger. I feel that many times my Chinese friends seem to think that to be a Buddhist is really [about] aiming to become a better person. Buddhism is also not necessarily a path to engage in social service. I would be happier if somebody said, “Buddhism is preparation to go to the Amitabha realm”. That, to me, is better10Ed.: DJKR is saying that if we limit Buddhism to conventional worldly purposes like becoming a better person or engaging in social service or social change, we may miss the primary purpose of the Buddhist path..
And just as [how] in Chinese society, being a Buddhist means being a better person, now in the modern world, especially in the West, Buddhism is sort of synonymous with mindfulness, meditation, and so forth.
Anyway, I’m telling you this just as some sort of a background, because we are supposed to talk about normalcy and normality. And I think it’s really important that we are aware of cultural conditioning. I suppose at this time many of you may be thinking, “Oh, 2020. Pandemic. Things have become not normal”. But this is a very gross “not normal”. We can easily or soon get out of this kind of abnormality. But there is inherent abnormality. Well, I should not say “inherent”. We have to be aware, we have to be really cautious about loss of normality at all times.
Anyway, when we talk about “return to normal,” there is a sense of nostalgia. There is a sense of going back to the past. I don’t know whether that is possible. And even if it is possible, I don’t know whether it is the right thing to do. Maybe it’s not really a good idea. Maybe it is also good to be visionary and think ahead. To think of the long term. For instance, the earth that we live on is really being overly used and abused. It seems that the abnormality of the environment seems to be coming very fast. And when that happens, probably wearing a mask and washing your hands may not do much. But here in Buddhism, even being obsessed about the future is maybe not the best thing to do.
So, going back [to our topic today]. What is the best way to really achieve normalcy, normality or the normal state? According to Buddhism, [it is] to be master of oneself. Yes, we have to be in control of our life. Now, this leads to far bigger questions. When we say “I should be in control of myself”, who is this “I”, identity?
Identity is very complex. Identity is very abstract. There are a lot of assumptions about what is “I”. We have feelings. Who is it that is actually feeling? We are scared. Who is it that is being scared? We are insecure. We long for success. Who is it that is doing all that? Religious people trust in God. Who is it that is trusting in God? Non-religious people or modern people feel alienated. As I said earlier, [we feel] lonely and bored. We get depressed. We are anxious. Who is it that is being depressed?
Whenever religious people feel insecure, whenever they’re scared, they go to church. They go to temple. Generally, whenever we are bored, lonely or scared, we do all sorts of things. We try to get a diploma. We try to get a job. We try to generate a career. And yes, we go shopping. And there’s just so much identity crisis. Many times, [it’s] very subtle. Other times, [it’s] very obvious. We make statements because [of our] identity crisis. Fashion statements. Hairstyle statements. Perfume. Length of skirts. All this is to create identity, to create an assurance of identity.
Okay. So, let’s ask the Buddhists, what is self?
Now, a classic Buddhist will say something like “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form”. The equivalent to that is something like “Style is emptiness, emptiness is style, style is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than style”. But that’s so abstract. What does that mean? So let us try to decipher this. And I think this is important, because we are really trying to achieve some sort of state of normalcy. Maybe we’ll take a 15 to 20 minute break.
[END OF TALK 1]
Introduction: Identity and mind
So we were talking about identity. I read somewhere that the identity crisis is going to become the most vicious suffering of the modern world. Because I was told that in about 30 years, all that I’ve been talking to you [about] can be done by a machine. There will be an AI Rinpoche. He will do everything.
Right now, I feel I’m kind of okay, because I have an identity, a job, a title of Rinpoche. So I’m safe at the moment. In about 20 years, all this will be done by algorithms. Just press the button and then you will get whatever you want. Then, who am I? So, I think it makes sense that the biggest problem in the modern world is the identity problem.
Broadly speaking, when we say “me”, we’re referring to several things. I think you are referring to your body. And then of course stuff like gender, nationality, color. And then also [things] like job and positions.
But [in addition to] all these, there is something called “mind”. And that should be the most important [aspect of our identity]. And regarding the mind, if there’s anyone who has invested regarding the mind – really studying what it is, writing books about it, singing songs about it, writing poetry about it – if there’s anyone, I would say it’s the Indians and Chinese. And [this is] not new. They have done 2000, 3000, 4000 years of study.
But both the Indians and Chinese have lost it or they are losing it. Especially the young Chinese and young Indians. They are not even interested. Anyone who talks about this most important thing, mind, is categorized as being a “religious” person. Modern Chinese young people are too embarrassed to read Tao Te Ching. They would rather believe in social media or mainstream media. And at the end of the day, what is media? It is all a bunch of lies. And mainstream media is even bigger, because it’s the mainstream lies.
But anyway, as I was saying, Chinese and Indians, if [they have] not lost it, [they are] definitely losing it. They think it’s too archaic. They think it’s too superstitious. And people hardly pay attention to this study [of mind]. And all this is because of what I was saying earlier. We are trying so hard to fit in. To fit into rules and societies and values that someone else has invented.
Mind is the most important. This table [DJKR points to the table in front of him] doesn’t get lonely. If we all leave here and [it’s] left here for one week, the table never feels ignored. And if you suddenly bring a taller, bigger table or a slimmer table, this table doesn’t get jealous or competitive. It doesn’t get insecure, basically.
By the way, you can always decide to not have a finger. You know, [you can cut off] a finger like Yakuza people11Yubitsume (指詰め, “finger shortening”) is a Japanese ritual of atonement and punishment through amputating portions of one’s own little finger. In modern times, it is primarily performed by the Yakuza, the prominent Japanese criminal organization – see “Yubitsume” in wikipedia.. You can always decide to shave your hair. You can always cut part of your body, I guess. But [with] mind, you can’t do this. You’re stuck with this. You can’t eject it. You cannot delete it, trash it, or permanently empty it. Sometimes it’s really painful to have a mind. But if you know how to handle it, [then] as the great Saraha12Saraha (Sanskrit: सरह) (c. 8th century CE) = one of the 84 mahasiddhas and a founder of the Mahamudra tradition – see Saraha. said, it is the jewel, the most precious thing, the most beautiful thing.
Now, you have no choice not to have mind. Well actually, to be more specific – this might confuse some of you new people, but just to entertain those who are used to Buddhist teachings, I’d like to say this – you do have a choice not to have mind13In Tibetan Buddhism, a distinction is made between the ordinary dualistic mind (སེམས་, sem) and the nondual awareness that is the nature of mind (སེམས་ཉིད་, semnyi) – see semand semnyi.. Anyway, for now, for most of us, for you and me, we are stuck with mind. It’s not too bad actually to have a mind.
Confusion and awakening from confusion
But, when you have mind, there is also the possibility of being confused. This is the painful part of the mind. Mind gets confused. This table never gets confused. This table doesn’t have the existential angst that the Europeans talk about14“Existential angst”, sometimes called existential dread, anxiety, or anguish, is a term common to many existentialist thinkers. It is generally held to be a negative feeling arising from the experience and acceptance of human freedom and responsibility. Since we are free to choose, we cannot blame anyone else for the consequences of our choices, and we may feel overwhelmed with angst or dread when facing this truth. See “existential angst” in wikipedia and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.. We’ll talk about this a little later. But anyway for now, when you have a mind, this mind can get confused. But just as it can get confused, it can also be awakened from this confusion, which is good news. Now this is the challenge. [It’s] a very big challenge actually.
Just to elaborate a little bit more. Okay, so in a dark room if you see a striped rope and if you confuse it as a snake, you will experience the fear of snake. Now, this is the very interesting and challenging part. Because the snake doesn’t exist, but the fear of the snake exists. Isn’t it paradoxical? Isn’t it so strange? In other words, the fear of snake is not dependent on whether there is a snake or not. You still can be afraid of a vision of a snake, independent from whether there is a snake or not.
So in a very crude and simplified way of [speaking], basically [we are] trying to get rid of a problem that does not have a base. It’s always more complicated to talk about this, which is basically the whole of Buddhism. Really, the whole of Buddhism is a remedy to sort [out] or heal or [provide] relief or awaken from a problem that does not have a base.
Now, the question is this: How did the fear come? It can’t just sort of randomly happen. [There are] infinite causes and conditions. Now we are not going to talk about the most subtle causes and conditions, because I think that needs a lot of time and reading. And I guess in this kind of setting, many of you are very well-versed in Buddhism, but [for] some of you this may be the first time. So it’s probably not appropriate to discuss this now.
But for now, [we can say] the fear comes from habit. Let’s begin with that. We are fundamentally unsure about whether or not we exist. We don’t ask this explicitly and obviously like this, but there is that fundamental [anxiety], “Do I exist or not?” This is basically the mother of the identity crisis that we were talking about. So as I was saying earlier, in Europe they coined words like “existential angst”.
Some of you may think, “Why is Rinpoche telling us about the European existential angst?” It’s because most of us have become conditioned to have our hands get sweaty when we are watching someone else’s debate. We are already conditioned, so it’s no longer [just] a Western thing. The modern Chinese and modern Indians, they also have this. We bought it. We learned it. You will send your kids to Harvard, Stanford and Yale to learn this. And now you have it.
We have learned to laugh at their jokes. We have learned to feel guilty about the things that they teach us we should be feeling guilty about. I gave you [the example of] my own name. I don’t think you will call your son Lepo. I don’t think so. It’s politically incorrect. If you do that, your neighbors will report [you] to the local authorities and they will disqualify you as healthy parents.
So this existential angst, you have it. And I think it manifests in several different ways. This is just my speculation, [but] it comes in the form of asking “What is the purpose of my life? What is the meaning of life? What is the value of life?” And I’m sure many people actually get deeply depressed thinking about this. And it may not necessarily come in this kind of obvious [way], but it is there.
But actually, questions such as “What is the purpose of life?” are a very Western thing. Probably it’s even based on some of the Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic way of thinking. For instance, I don’t think that Buddhists ask questions like “What is the purpose of my life? What is the value of my life?” For a Buddhist, that’s already a secondary question. For a Buddhist, the more important [question] is, “Who is this I?” Forget purpose and value and meaning. Who is this “me”? Who is it that wants to return to normal? Again, we come back to mind. [We ask] “Who is this me?” Body, job, title, profession, citizenship, but [as] I was saying, probably the most important is the mind.
So what is this mind? Definitely Buddhists will say mind is not brain. Definitely not. Let’s go a little deeper. Is mind intelligence? If you really want to be a strict Buddhist, no. Yes, it’s part of it. But mind is not intelligence. First of all, I still want to know what the English word intelligence means. Do we have it in Chinese? Are the words “intelligence” and “mind” the same thing15Wiktionary defines intelligence as “Capacity of mind, especially to understand principles, truths, facts or meanings, acquire knowledge, and apply it to practice; the ability to comprehend and learn”; wiktionary defines mind as “The ability for rational thought; The ability to be aware of things; The ability to remember things; The ability to focus the thoughts”. The definitions for mind are more varied than those for intelligence.?
[DJKR]: Okay, what is intelligence? The algorithm, right?
[Translator]: The ability to discern.
Intelligence? No, mind is not intelligence. Now, let’s go even deeper. Is mind cognizance? If I say yes, I have to say it and you have to take it and chew it together with a kilo of salt. You know I was telling you, there’s only one man who is always right for me. The same question was asked to him, “What is mind?” And [he gave] an incredible answer. He answered and in one answer he gave two contradictions. Deliberately. This I quote from the sutra. [In answer] to the question “What is mind?” He said:
“Mind; there is no mind; mind is luminous”.16This line appears in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitā in Eight Thousand Lines). The Sanskrit original is:
तच् चित्तम् अचित्तम् / प्रकृतिश् चित्तस्य प्रभास्वरा
tac cittam acittam / prakṛtiś cittasya prabhāsvarā
For further discussion of the origins and interpretation of this quotation, see Mind; there is no mind; mind is luminous.
This quotation is probably like the spine of Mahayana Buddhist studies.
I was telling you earlier about how [questions like] the purpose of life, the meaning of life, and the value of life are not something that Buddhists really talk about. These questions are asked by people who are driven by purpose. And because of that, people become job-driven, diploma-driven, and career-driven. And because of that, you also have a fear of irrelevance. We become so afraid of becoming nobody. And that’s why TikTok is very successful. Because it numbs you and gives you some sort of a temporary purpose for life. And then Instagram, all of this works.
But then it comes with its own price. How many thumbs up? How many thumbs down? How many likes? How many not likes? And this is not just TikTok and Instagram, by the way. This [manifests] in everything we do. A few years ago, the Taiwanese tried to have Taipei 101 [as] the [world’s] tallest building17The Taipei 101 (Chinese: 台北101; pinyin: Táiběi yī líng yī), is a supertall skyscraper with a height of 1,671 feet. It was officially classified as the world’s tallest building from its opening in 2004 until the 2010 completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE at 2,717 feet – see wikipedia.. And then of course, the people in Kuala Lumpur [previously] had to have one18The Petronas Towers are twin skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At a height of 1,483 feet, they were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 when they were surpassed by Taipei 101. The Petronas Towers remain the tallest twin towers in the world – see wikipedia.. All this is related to purpose, meaning, and values. It really gets into the mind, like what brand of car? What size of car?
Okay so basically what I’m trying to say here is if you want to be normal, forget purpose just for 10 seconds. Forget values. Forget meaning. Just be there and be aware for 10 seconds. By the way, I got that from Zhuangzi19Zhuangzi (Chinese: 莊子 / 庄子; literally “Master Zhuang”; also rendered as Chuang Tzu) (369-286 BCE) = an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States period. He is regarded as a transmitter and major innovator of the Taoist teachings of Laozi (老子) – see Zhuangzi.. Nothing I have said here today [is original]. Although I wish could say this is all original, all thought by me, nothing I have said is original. It’s all taught by the guy who I think is the only [one who is] right, and people like Zhuangzi. I think we will talk a little bit more about this, but just to start.
Your mind is like water. At the moment it’s frozen, because the freezer fan is spinning so fast. And you are making sure that it moves fast.
[DJKR asks translator]: Am I talking about a very old technology?
[DJKR]: How do you make ice?
[DJKR]: Does it have a fan?
[Translator]: You’re right [i.e. there is a fan in a freezer or refrigerator]20Ed.: The main mechanism of refrigeration is a regenerating cycle that does not depend on a fan. Many older refrigerators and most small refrigerators (like small bar and dorm refrigerators) do not have fans, but most modern frost-free refrigerators have two. See “What is the function of the fan in a refrigerator?” in How Stuff Works..
So we are basically freezing our mind. We are making the mind abnormal. [So let’s stop freezing our minds]. And I’m not even asking you [to do this] for a long time. All I’m asking is maybe 10 seconds. Stop spinning the fan. And how do you do that? Just be aware of what is happening right this very moment, here and now.
Do you want to know more about mind? This is the best way. Do you want to overcome all kinds of stress? This is the one. Do you want to be a good human being? Yes, 10 seconds of just observing this moment will [make] you a good person. And by the way, being a good person is like a charger. It’s not the real thing. It’s a bonus. It’s just a throw-in, like in America when you buy things they’ll throw something [else] in [with your purchase], like “I will give you a charger or a shaver” or something like that.
We will talk more about this being in the present tomorrow, if you are coming back. I think [we will be] more fresh. But really, this is just so simple. I’m not asking you to memorize something. I’m not giving you any precepts. I’m sure modern people are so scared of precepts. The very sound of precepts is daunting. It’s so heavy. [But] I’m not asking you to be religious, nothing.
What I’m saying is you [already] have something so precious. Something so powerful. Not your body, not your job, not your home, not your family. [But rather], this ability to comprehend. So-called mind. I could say this is “you”. [Devote] some time to this. You have not given time to this. We have been giving and investing [our] time, energy, and money – everything – towards anything and everything [except] this.
How ridiculous is this? This is the most powerful and most beautiful thing. And you don’t give it time.
So before we stop, let us now [once] again give ourselves some time to this moment. And I’m not asking you to sit straight and meditate. Even the word “contemplate” sounds too longwinded. So what I’m going to do is this: I’m going to be aware during the duration of buttoning the buttons on [my] jacket. That’s all. I’m doing this because I want to tell you that you don’t have to do this [DJKR indicates sitting straight in a formal meditation posture]. For a lot of people it’s not hip anymore. However you are, just be aware. Let’s start.
[DJKR buttons the five buttons on his jacket, from top to bottom].
That’s it. I have to confess [that] I was distracted once. When I arrived at this button here [DJKR indicates the fourth button from the top], I thought “Oh-oh, people will notice I have a big belly”. So I want to do it again. Can I? Let’s do it again. This time I will unbutton [my jacket]. Okay, let’s start.
[DJKR unbuttons the five buttons on his jacket].
That’s it. Please do this [i.e. just be aware]. And if there are any lamas, Rinpoches, khenpos, abbots or Buddhist scholars who think this is not Buddhist, that this is made up, send them to me and I can really have a proper debate with them.
Yes, please, you have to [do] this one. This will give you confidence. You need confidence. The Tibetan word is poppa21poppa (Tibetan: སྤོབས་པ་) = self-confidence, courage, fearlessness – see poppa., confidence may be okay [as a translation]. You need confidence. [Suppose] you go to somebody’s house. The dog is barking at you, and about to bite you. You visualize yourself as a lion. That’s not confidence. That’s cheating yourself. Run! Poppa! [That’s] confidence. Because you know it’s going to bite. [Dogs] don’t have this kind of comprehension, “Oh poor man. I’m not going to bite him” or stuff like this. So please, you have to do this. Okay, please, if you have questions.
Q & A
[Q]: Thank you Rinpoche. So the social norms of external society are driven by the purpose of life and meaning and all that. How can we stay to those values on the surface, while internally staying true to ourselves and being aware and just observing? There’s a split of concept in there. It’s really hard to be coherent in both ways.
[DJKR]: There are many ways to [practice] being oneself or observing. We’re using just one of many methods. Yes, I agree with you. We are so conditioned. And we will continue to be conditioned. Let’s say we carry on not dying [for another] let’s say 50 years or maybe 60 years. And the continent of Africa becomes really powerful, [and] their influence, their values, and their yardsticks end up becoming the most powerful. Then, of course, even I will consider changing my name to [an African name]22Ed.: In the teaching, DJKR said “something like Woolloomooloo or whatever”. This has been changed, as Woolloomooloo is the name of a harborside, inner-city eastern suburb of Sydney, NSW, Australia. It is derived from an Australian Aboriginal name rather than an African name – see wikipedia and Sydney Barani.. Anyway, conditioning is there. But if we are consistent in, for instance, just this technique we were talking [about] earlier, what will happen is you will keep on gliding [through the changing conditions of life]. It’s a bit like surfing. The conditions are like waves, but you are a good surfer. So you [will] glide through them. [Then] actually these very dangerous and scary [wave-like conditions] actually end up becoming [something] that recharges you. That can definitely happen. For sure.
[Q]: First of all, thank you Rinpoche. As a Westerner, I can’t help but wonder when you speak about Western influence, whether the real influence is more commercialism? When I was young, Western values were much more simple. Basically [we] shared a lot with our [friends], our family, education and health, which are good things. Much more simple. And then the influence of advertising and commercialism [increased], and the world changed so much. And [there is] conditioning and habit. Everything you spoke about. But I wonder if that’s the real culprit?
[DJKR]: Yes, very much so. This is why I was saying earlier, we are not even citizens anymore. We are just consumers. But this is not really [about] the East and West. It’s basically the lack of influence of nonduality. Basically, yes, [there is] very strong influence of advertisement. And I have to say [that] even Buddhism has to be careful not to be hijacked by these things. This is why I was saying earlier, we have to be careful about becoming a good person. That’s not the real purpose of Buddhism.
Because first of all, [the definition of] “good person” is very relative. And also, it opens the door to a lot of righteousness. And then also, [the desire to be a] good human being, that’s very close to [the desire for a] happy family. It’s also very dangerous [if] happiness [is seen as the purpose of] Buddhism. [Buddhism] can get hijacked and contaminated by anything to do with that. I feel it can get commercialized. This is quite an important question. Then you may ask “What can we do?” Nothing much. But what we are doing right now, talking like this, is probably a good thing. I think we need to learn to bug our normal chain of habitual thoughts23Ed.: here DJKR is using “bug” in the sense of “irritate” and also in the sense of “introduce a bug into”, as in the way that a computer bug causes software to malfunction.. Sometimes we need to voluntarily bug ourselves.
[Q]: [Original in Chinese] When we read sutras or chant mantras or make prayers hoping to change our luck or our aspirations, sometimes the effects are not very obvious. And of course, traditionally, people would tell us that this is because we are not sincere or devoted enough. But if we don’t [see] the effect, our confidence will lessen. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. So what kind of attitude should we have towards praying or chanting mantras or doing practice to fulfill our wishes? And when the wishes are not fulfilled, what should we do?
[DJKR]: There are many answers for this. This friend of yours, he may be right. Maybe you are not concentrating. Now, if you are asking me, I would say [there is] no need for a good motivation. Just doing it [i.e. reading sutras, chanting mantras etc.], that already has an impact. But your question is “But I don’t feel the impact. I don’t get the result”. But the thing is, maybe you shouldn’t get what you wished for. Maybe that could lead to a lot of trouble. So you have to really think big. I personally think it’s working. I think it was Jigme Lingpa who said, “When 100 things that I wished for never came true, and 1000 things that I dared not wish [for] came true, then that is a blessing”.
I think it’s a wonderful that you even actually read [sutras]. To me, that’s already a big thing. In the age of Netflix, Instagram, and TikTok, you still have time to read sutras? Wow. I admire you. Read them. And don’t worry about having a good motivation or proper sitting [posture]. Nothing. Just read them. I think whoever was giving you this answer earlier, I think that guy is very good at the art of disclaimer.
Okay, let’s stop here today. We will continue talking more about the technique tomorrow. We talked a lot about what made us abnormal. Of course, one obvious [cause] is the pandemic situation, and all of that, but there is so much more. Our parents. Just everything. [There’s] just so much conditioning. Not just parents, but everything. Education. The things that we read. That’s why I was giving you a picture by using myself as an example. I am totally conditioned. But it is [because of] the blessings of my gurus that I can at least admit that I am conditioned. I think this much is important – admitting that we are conditioned. Yes, let’s talk more about the technique tomorrow.
[END OF TALK 2]
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Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio