Ten Bulls #10 512px

Week 8: Applying the view - Post-Meditation & Everyday Life

Alex Trisoglio, 26 July 2017

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TRANSCRIPTION IN PROGRESS  (18% complete) / transcript will be completed in September


 


[➜Audio]  [➜Video]  [Pre-reading]  Length: 142 minutes / Corresponding verses in Madhyamakavatara: none


DJKR 512px

Introduction  [t = 0:00:06]

Good evening everyone, I'm Alex Trisoglio and I'd like to welcome you to Week 8, the last week of Introduction to the Middle Way. Before we start, I'd like to invite us all to just take a moment to set our intention, our aspiration. This week we are going to be talking about how everything we do in life is practice. And listening to teachings is also practice. So just take a moment to set the intention that you will listen to these teachings for the sake of enlightening all sentient beings. Think about what that means for you in terms of how you would like to listen to the teachings.

[10 seconds]

Last week we completed Chandrakirti's text, the Madhyamakavatara. We spent quite some time on Chapter 11, with its description of enlightenment and the qualities of the Buddha. In particular, we talked about how Chandrakirti emphasizes their inconceivability, which is what you would expect. He is describing non-duality, and we know that we cannot reduce or express the non-dual in concepts and language. At best, we might have a finger pointing towards the moon.

We also talked about applying the view of non-duality in our meditation practice. We talked about how this means changing our subject, our projections. We talked about cultivating equality, equanimity, and preferencelessness, for example in the way that we want to ensure that we treat others in the same way, no matter if they are friend or enemy. We talked about learning to take accountability for our projections, as in Chapter 6 from Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara, the chapter on Patience, where he describes how in working with anger he changed his stance from seeing the other person as the aggressor to seeing himself as the one contributing to the other person's suffering . It's this kind of radical transformation that emptiness enables. We also talked about compassion as a practical path to approach non-duality which, as we said, is inconceivable. Non-duality is too abstract, so it's very hard for us to figure out what it means to 'practice emptiness' directly. But one of the wonderful things about the Buddhist path is that we have a complete gradual path based on bodhicitta, based on the paramitas, that helps us to get there. I'd like to build on these ideas this week, especially the emphasis on compassion and how we can use our everyday lives as part of our practice.

Ten Bulls #10 512px

In the world  [t = 0:03:17]

10. In the World

Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.

Comment: Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me. The beauty of my garden is invisible. Why should one search for the footprints of the patriarchs? I go to the market place with my wine bottle and return home with my staff. I visit the wine shop and the market, and everyone I look upon becomes enlightened.

I personally love that. The idea here of mingling with the people of the world and ‘everyone I look upon becomes enlightened' – this is very much about what we touched upon last week: How does the bodhisattva benefit sentient beings? This 10th bull describes the non-dual bodhisattva out in the world, benefiting spontaneously and without dualistic intention. And this is another great thing that Buddhism offers us, because we have the example of the sage, of the dzogchen yogi, as an example of non-duality in practice. We might think of these as mere stories, something poetic or mythical perhaps, but I really want to encourage you to see them as actual role models. As we saw last week, having role models is critical in any journey of change, and one of the wonderful things here is that we actually have role models.

We're going to spend quite a lot of time this week exploring what it means to act in this kind of non-dual way. As we said last week, the challenge is that we don't know how to behave like that right away. We don't know what it means to practice non-duality. So we need some kind of gradual path of practice. So I'd like to talk this week about both the non-dual way of being in the world, and the gradual path of practice in the world that can lead us to non-duality.

Once again we're going to talk about the Two Truths, but this time not at an intellectual level. Instead we'll talk about what they mean in practice, and in particular we'll look at emptiness in the classic Shravakayana and Mahayana paths of practice - the Eightfold Path and the Six Paramitas. We'll look at those both from the perspective of a gradual path and from the perspective of the non-dual path. Along the way I'll offer various quotes from Buddhist and non-Buddhist sources, again with the aspiration of giving us alternative ways of understanding and accessing these teachings, knowing that the path teachings resonate differently with each of us.

Hero's Journey  [t = 0:06:36]

We are at the final stage of the Hero's Journey. We are now in Act III, which is all about bringing our gift or our boon back into the world. In this case, the gift is the view of emptiness. When we learn about generosity in the paramitas, we know that it includes material generosity and protection from fear, but the highest form of generosity is to teach the Dharma, to offer the truth. So it's actually very appropriate that what we are going to give as our highest gift is our realization of emptiness.

We mentioned previously that Joseph Campbell has a 17-stage model of the Hero's Journey, and now we come to the last three stages of the journey:

(#15) The Crossing of the Return Threshold: The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world.

That's exactly what we are trying to do this week: how are we going to integrate this wisdom? And how are we going to share it through the course of our engagement with our world?

(#16) Master of Two Worlds: This step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Gautama Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.

Actually here I wouldn't use the word 'balance'; I prefer the word 'synthesis', because we're going beyond trying to find a middle point of balance between two opposites. With the Middle Way, we're going beyond all opposites and dualistic extremes. We're going beyond samsara and beyond nirvana. We're trying to synthesize and not be trapped in either pole: not remaining in nirvana, and not abandoning samsara.

(#17) Freedom to Live: Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.

Although Campbell is coming from a very different perspective and background than the Middle Way teachings, he's ending up in a place where the language sounds very similar. And on the topic of giving our gift and sharing it with the world, I'd like to quote the author Toni Morrison:

I tell my students, “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”

Bhikkhu Bodhi

Bhikkhu Bodhi

Self-transformation and self-transcendence  [t = 0:09:50]

Now we return once again to the Two Truths. We already saw at the end of Chapter 6, in verse 6:226, that the king of swans flies on the two wings of ultimate and relative truth, wisdom and compassion. And we also heard the words of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava:

Though my view is as spacious as the sky,
My actions and respect for cause and effect are as fine as grains of flour

This is very much talking about emptiness in the world, which is all about my actions and my respect for cause and effect. We know that view without practice, without action, is just an intellectual understanding. It won't transform our meditation. It won't transform our action in the world. As Rinpoche says, 98% of the path is practice. This week we are not talking about practice simply in the sense of sitting on your meditation cushion, but how you are bringing your practice into the world. How are you using the rest of your day to practice, and to embody and realize this non-dual view? Your actions, your respect for cause and effect are just as important here. But the opposite is also true. If we are just paying attention to cause and effect in samsara, we are just ordinary worldly sentient beings, just trying to make sense of the world, make things work in the world, chasing after worldly happiness and success and not actually practicing the Dharma.

Until now we have talked about the Two Truths intellectually. We've used language like ‘ultimate truth’ and ‘conventional truth’, but for most of us it's very confusing. We don't really know what it means. We don’t really know what to do with it. Having said that, it is a central idea in these teachings, so I'd like to explore some more practical ways of talking about it. First I’d like to introduce you to a wonderful article called “Self Transformation” by Bhikkhu Bodhi, which is in the pre-reading. He distinguishes between what he calls 'self-transformation' from 'self-transcendence', and as you'll see this does actually correspond to the Two Truths, and to wisdom and compassion:

[Self-transformation]: This desire for a transformed personality, for the emergence of a new man from the ashes of the old, is one of the perennial lures of the human heart. From ancient times it has been a potent wellspring of the spiritual quest, and even in the secular, life-affirming culture of our own cosmopolitan age this longing has not totally disappeared. […] Where previously this urge sought fulfilment in the temple, ashram and monastery, it now resorts to new venues: the office of the psychoanalyst, the weekend workshop, the panoply of newly spawned therapies and cults. However, despite the change of scene and conceptual framework, the basic pattern remains the same. Disgruntled with the ruts of our ingrained habits, we long to exchange all that is dense and constrictive in our personalities for a new, lighter, freer mode of being.

Self-transformation is also a fundamental goal of the Buddha's teaching, an essential part of his program for liberation from suffering. The Dhamma was never intended for those who are already perfect saints. It is addressed to fallible human beings beset with all the shortcomings typical of unpolished human nature: conduct that is fickle and impulsive, minds that are tainted by greed, anger and selfishness, views that are distorted and habits that lead to harm for oneself and others. The purpose of the teaching is to transform such people — ourselves — into "accomplished ones": into those whose every action is pure, whose minds are calm and composed, whose wisdom has fathomed the deepest truths and whose conduct is always marked by a compassionate concern for others and for the welfare of the world.

[Self-transcendence]: What distinguishes the Buddha's program for self-transformation from the multitude of other systems proposing a similar end is the contribution made by another principle with which it is invariably conjoined. This is the principle of self-transcendence, the endeavour to relinquish all attempts to establish a sense of solid personal identity. In the Buddhist training the aim of transforming the personality must be complemented by a parallel effort to overcome all identification with the elements that constitute our phenomenal being. The teaching of anatta or not-self is not so much a philosophical thesis calling for intellectual assent as a prescription for self-transcendence. It maintains that our ongoing attempt to establish a sense of identity by taking our personalities to be "I" and "mine" is in actuality a project born out of clinging, a project that at the same time lies at the root of our suffering. If, therefore, we seek to be free from suffering, we cannot stop with the transformation of the personality into some sublime and elevated mode as the final goal. What is needed, rather, is a transformation that brings about the removal of clinging, and with it, the removal of all tendencies to self-affirmation.

It is important to stress this transcendent aspect of the Dhamma because, in our own time when "immanent" secular values are ascendant, the temptation is great to let this aspect drop out of sight. If we assume that the worth of a practice consists solely in its ability to yield concrete this-worldly results, we may incline to view the Dhamma simply as a means of refining and healing the divided personality, leading in the end to a renewed affirmation of our mundane selves and our situation in the world.

In the proper practice of the Dhamma both principles, that of self-transformation and that of self-transcendence, are equally crucial. The principle of self-transformation alone is blind, leading at best to an ennobled personality but not to a liberated one. The principle of self-transcendence alone is barren, leading to a cold ascetic withdrawal devoid of the potential for enlightenment.

I love this: it is very beautiful language around the Two Truths. And as Bhikkhu Bodhi says, if you have no wisdom, it means you're blind; if you have no compassion, it means you're barren. We need both, just like the king of swans flies on two wings. I also love the way he uses everyday language like ‘self-transformation’ and ‘self-transcendence’, and for many of us this is much more straightforward and easy to relate to than ‘ultimate truth’ and ’conventional truth’. Next, he talks about what this means for the path:

Of the two principles, that of self-transcendence claims primacy both at the beginning of the path and at the end. For it is this principle that gives direction to the process of self-transformation, revealing the goal toward which a transformation of the personality should lead and the nature of the changes required to bring the goal within our reach. However, the Buddhist path is not a perpendicular ascent to be scaled with picks, ropes and studded boots, but a step-by-step training which unfolds in a natural progression. Thus the abrupt challenge of self-transcendence — the relinquishing of all points of attachment — is met and mastered by the gradual process of self-transformation. By moral discipline, mental purification and the development of insight, we advance by stages from our original condition of bondage to the domain of untrammelled freedom.

Bhikkhu Bodhi's language of self-transformation and self-transcendence is an alternative way of talking about the Two Truths that can help us to ground Chandrakirti's wisdom in our lives, and it offers important insights for our practice and post-meditation.

Burning Man - Scott London

Elegance and outrageousness  [t = 0:18:06]

Another completely different approach to the Two Truths may be found in Rinpoche's wonderful teaching on ‘elegance and outrageousness’, which is from a teaching on the Bodhicharyavatara that he gave in Berlin in 1990:

Outrageousness: Many people think that outrageousness means being free, being able to express one's own emotions. They cry, they shout and scream … [people think] outrageousness is connected with having a confident personality, like if you dye your hair and cut it in a different style and walk in the street in a very funny dress people, then think it is very outrageous. But that is not outrageousness. It becomes like another era of punk and yuppies. Anyway, to make a more precise definition, outrageousness means 'to do things genuinely and not to be the slave of society'. Wearing a tie is not so important for being very elegant, but society has determined that elegant people should wear ties, and we have become slaves of that. We have to buy a tie and we have to learn how to wear it properly. We understand the difference between good and bad manners. Even in Dharma practice, outrageousness is so important. It is almost like the display of bravery and courage.

We will talk about this more later. In the teaching, Rinpoche goes on to talk about how outrageousness applies even in our practice - how we make offerings, how we visualize the deity, and so on. Normally we come to our practice with such a poverty mentality. Rinpoche really encourages us not to be limited, but to go beyond our narrow cultural confines and really to try to think in a more expansive, non-dual way. That is outrageousness: doing things genuinely, not being the slave of whatever tribe or group or society we might be part of.

Elegance: You may think elegance is contradictory to outrageousness. A practitioner also has to be elegant. The way he walks, the way he sits, the way he dresses, the way he flips the pages of his sadhana, the way he beads the mala, the way he does meditation. Elegance is so important. In order to be elegant, you may have to wear that tie which we rejected earlier. The idea of elegance is to create the atmosphere. In everything, in Dharma practice and in life, atmosphere is so important. If you create the atmosphere nicely, then the dharma practice also becomes nice. It’s like when you go to a very special occasion and everyone is wearing nice dresses. That does not mean that your mind becomes sharper, but somehow because of the atmosphere it helps. But when you go to Dharma centres and you're wearing a floppy dress and you sit on a floppy cushion, we could say the situation is very relaxed – but we could also say it is very clumsy. So your concentration and everything else becomes very clumsy. Elegance is not simply what you wear, but the way that you are, even at home when nobody is watching you.

So outrageousness is going beyond the relative and towards the non-dual, towards the ultimate, whereas elegance is all about working within the conventional. In the 1990 Berlin teaching, Rinpoche extends this distinction beyond practice and into post-meditation and everyday life. Elegance is learning to work with conventional truth, with the language and the norms of society. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. Elegance means learning to empathize and connect and speak the language of our colleagues and our opponents, so we can build relationships and work together and get things done in the world. Likewise with our practice, elegance means not superimposing our own habitual assumptions and ideas, but approaching situations with a genuine humility and openness, a desire to tame and adapt ourselves to the situation.

Action matters  [t = 0:22:12]

All this is to say that action really matters. It matters, as Guru Rinpoche said, to do everything with care, as fine as grains of flour. To do whatever we do with excellence. We talked in previous weeks about the connection between early Dharma and the Greek philosophy, and this idea of ‘excellence’ is very much related to Aristotle and arête (ἀρετή), which means ‘excellence of any kind’, including moral virtue. In its early appearance in Greek philosophy, it meant the fulfilment of purpose or function - the idea of living up to one's full potential. We develop this moral virtue or disposition to act with excellence partly as a result of our upbringing, and partly as a result of our habits and our practice. Aristotle argues in the Nicomachean Ethics that character arises from habit - it's a skill that is acquired through practice, just like learning a musical instrument. And so our everyday practices - what we do in the world and in our day-to-day interactions – are critical, as they the places where we strengthen old habits or create new habits, and this is what becomes our character. The idea of arête has an interesting connection to an older idea in India, the Vedic concept of rta (Sankrit: ऋतम् ṛtam), which has a very similar root linguistically. Rta has the meaning of ‘that which is properly or excellently joined; order, rule, truth’. It is the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. Later, as post-Vedic thought came to India, it became linked to how we uphold the order of the universe (which is dharma), and then the actions of individuals in relation to those practices (which is karma) and those eventually eclipsed rta in terms of their importance. But many scholars say this idea of rta is one of the most important religious conceptions of the Rig Veda. Indeed you could say that it is the beginning of the history of the Hindu religion.

Rinpoche himself talks about our practice in conventional truth very much in terms of karma and action, in terms of accumulating merit and good karma. Yes, we can think about this in some magical way, in terms of some beyond-worldly storehouse of merit, but we can also think about it more accurately in terms of purifying our defilements and getting closer to the view of non-duality.

Outrageousness and self-authorship  [t = 0:25:12]

Outrageousness is learning to define ourselves or to author ourselves authentically, without reference to the norms of society, or our tribe or social network. It does not being a rebel. It doesn't mean being against society, because being against society is still being in reference to society. It's going beyond either pro or anti. And it's not just about going beyond the references of society as a whole. It’s about going beyond the references of any of our tribes - our family, our in-laws, our friends, our work colleagues, our sangha, our political party, whatever.

And this is something we've come across before, in the work of Robert Kegan from Harvard on self-authorship. He talks about the process of how we internalize a view in a way that is very similar to the process of view/meditation/action in the Dharma:

  • [reliance on external authority] We start with what Kegan calls a ‘socialized self’, which is much like Rinpoche's explanation that we are ‘slaves to conventional views’. We rely on external rules. We rely on what external authorities - our tribe, our elders, our parents, our society, our sangha and so on - tell us to do.
  • [conflict] At some point we reach stage two, and some kind of conflict emerges. Either we see different external authorities in conflict with each other, or we start to see that our internal values are evolving and we can't make sense of them in terms of external rules. The demands of our external sources of authority no longer fit. So then we have to figure out how to deal with those conflicts.
  • [self-authorship] Then finally at stage three we get to self-authorship. This is where we go beyond external sources of reference and instead develop an internalized source of reference. We define for ourselves what is our value system, what is our view, what is the Espoused Theory that we choose as the basis for our lives.

As we saw in Week 1, this idea of a self-authored approach is also very important when it comes to understanding the teachings of Middle Way and establishing our own view of emptiness - the Espoused Theory that will be the basis for our practice. It is vital that we have our own understanding so that we can apply the view of the Middle Way in post-meditation - in other words, so that when we are out ‘in the world’ and life situations come up, we know what to do and how to handle them. Because we can't always send an email to our teacher to ask for advice. We need to know what to do in the moment, as situations arise. And that's only going to be possible if the view of the Middle Way has become part of our Theory-in-Use, as we've said previously.

And that's only going to happen if we self-author and create our own ideas, our own models, our own maps, our own view to ensure that we apply the correct Dharma to our life situations. In ensuring that our Dharma practice is authentic, yet again view is so critical.


Transcript completed up to here


Spiritual bypassing  [t = 0:29:17]

[Bo Heimann, "Rethinking Mindfulness", Levekunst]

There’s another challenge that could emerge from meditation without a solid ground. It can, simply put, contribute to self-deception. Excessive detachment-ability. Blind focus on positive thinking. Fear of anger. Artificial kindness. Neglect of own feelings. Difficulty in setting limits. An intellectual intelligence that is far ahead of the emotional and moral intelligences. Focus on the absolute rather than the relative and personal. Is there a bell ringing? Yes, the above is found in quite a few of us. And, I’m afraid, it is quite common in meditation circles.

The term spiritual bypassing was originally coined by psycho-spiritual teacher John Welwood. Robert Masters has in his book of the same name, evolved the concept. He notes soberly that the road away from life’s pain often ends up in a certain form of bypassing-spirituality that keeps us in pain. Quite a few meditators see no need for important psychological work. They want to enjoy the mountaintop view by being hoisted up by a helicopter. […] We end up being unreliable and vulnerable because the view is not deserved and supported from the inside-out, but purchased. We simply have to climb all the way up if we really want to be free, he points out.

There are no shortcuts. […] We tend to seek and love the big breakthrough and the view from the top of the mountain, but not the small steps and the tough psycho-therapeutic work that’s needed to get up there without a helicopter. [And we expect] this journey should of course be almost painless. In this way, the illusory idea of a shortcut ends up a detour, or perhaps even as a cul-de-sac. Unfortunately, the easy shortcut is sold by spiritual second-hand car dealers. And unfortunately we are up for grabs for empty calories, because we would like to believe that we can do it all in half the time.

[Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1973) The Gulag Archipelago]

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Why post-meditation as practice?  [t = 0:33:34]

Madhyamaka ethics  [t = 0:36:59]

[Garfield (2015) Engaging Buddhism]

Our identities are negotiated, fluid and complex in virtue of being marked by the three universal characteristics of impermanence, interdependence and the absence of any self. It is this frame of context-governed interpretive appropriation, instead of the frame of autonomous, substantial selfhood that sets metaphysical questions regarding agency, and moral questions regarding responsibility in a Buddhist framework. What is it to act, in a way relevant to moral assessment or reaction? It is for our behaviour to be determined by reasons, by motives we and/or others, regard as our own. It is therefore for the causes of our behaviour to be part of the narrative that makes sense of our lives, as opposed to being simply part of the vast uninterpreted milieu in which our lives are led, or bits of the narratives that more properly constitute the lives of others. This distinction is not a metaphysical but a literary distinction, and since this kind of narrative construction is so hermeneutical, how we do so—individually and collectively—is a matter of choice, and sensitive to explanatory purposes. That sensitivity, on the other hand, means that the choice is not arbitrary. We can follow Nietzsche here. For what do we take responsibility and for what are we assigned responsibility? Those acts we interpret—or which others interpret for us—as our own, as constituting part of the basis of imputation of our own identities.

When I propose to jump from a window, for instance, in order avoid living through global warming and the decline of Australian cricket, the conditions that motivate my act are cognitive and emotional states I take to be my own, and which others who know me would regard as mine. The narrative that constructs the conventional self that is the basis of my individuation includes them, simply in virtue of our psychology and social practices. This, then, is, uncontroversially, although merely conventionally, an action, and is a matter of direct moral concern for me and for those around me.

If, on the other hand, you toss me from the window against my will, the causes of my trajectory lie in what we would instead, and uncontroversially, but again, on conventional, hermeneutical grounds, interpret as parts of your biography. This is no action of mine. The agency lies with you, not on metaphysical grounds, but on conventional grounds, not on the discovery of agent causation in your will, not in mine, but based upon the plausible narrative we tell of the event and of each other’s lives as interpretable characters.[45]

[Note 45]: It is important to remember that not all narratives are equally good. Some makes good sense of our lives, or those of others; some are incoherent; some are facile and self-serving; some are profound and revealing. It is possible for people to disagree about whether a particular event is an action or not, or about the attribution of responsibility. It is possible for us to wonder about whether we should feel remorse for a particular situation or not. These questions are in the end, on this account, questions about which narratives make the most sense. While these questions may not always be easy (or even possible to settle), the fact that they arise saves this view from the facile relativism that would issue from the observation that we can always tell some story on which this is an action of mine, and some story on which it is not, and so that there is simply no fact of the matter, and perhaps no importance to the question.

Being honest with ourselves  [t = 0:44:04]

[Rinpoche quoting Milarepa]

As Milarepa sang, “My religion is not deceiving myself and not disturbing others.”

[Irving Rosenfeld from American Hustle]

As far as I could see, people were always conning each other to get what they want. We even con ourselves. We talk ourselves into things, you know, we sell ourselves things we maybe don’t even need or want. We’re dressing them up. We leave out the risk. We leave out the ugly truth. We don’t pay attention to that, because we’re all conning ourselves in one way or another, just to get through life.

[George Orwell (1946) "In Front of Your Nose,” London Tribune, 22 March 1946]

The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

Work and relationships as path  [t = 0:46:07]

[Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (#7) (Rome 1904)]

It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves (“to hearken and to hammer day and night”), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.

[His Holiness the Dalai Lama]

Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

Self-transformation  [t = 0:52:23]

For some, their practice leads to their view  [t = 0:54:57]

The story of Professor George Price  [t = 0:57:16]

[Story of Professor George Price]

Professor George Price developed a new interpretation of Fisher's fundamental theorem of natural selection, the Price equation, which […] still widely held to be the best mathematical, biological and evolutionary representation of altruism. […]

Price's 'mathematical' theory of altruism reasons that organisms are more likely to show altruism toward each other as they become more genetically similar to each other. As such, in a species that requires two parents to reproduce, an organism is most likely to show altruistic behaviour to a biological parent, full sibling, or direct offspring. The reason for this is that each of these relatives' genetic make up contains (on average in the case of siblings) 50% of the genes that are found in the original organism. So if the original organism dies as a result of an altruistic act it can still manage to propagate its full genetic heritage as long as two or more of these close relatives are saved. Consequently, an organism is less likely to show altruistic behaviour to a biological grandparent, grandchild, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew or half-sibling (each contain one-fourth of the genes found in the original organism); and even less likely to show altruism to a first cousin (contains one-eighth of the genes found in the original organism). The theory then holds that the further genetically removed two organisms are from each other the less likely they are to show altruism to each other.

If true, then altruistic (kind) behaviour is not truly selfless and is instead an adaptation that organisms have in order to promote their own genetic heritage. Price grew increasingly depressed by the implications of his equation. As part of an attempt to prove his theory right or wrong Price began showing an ever-increasing amount (in both quality and quantity) of random kindness to complete strangers. As such, Price dedicated the latter part of his life to helping the homeless, often inviting homeless people to live in his house. Sometimes, when the people in his house became a distraction, he slept in his office at the Galton Laboratory. He also gave up everything to help alcoholics, yet as he helped them steal his belongings, he increasingly fell into depression.

He was eventually thrown out of his rented house due to a construction project in the area, which made him unhappy because he could no longer provide housing for the homeless. He moved to various squats in the North London area, and became depressed over Christmas, 1974. Unable to prove his theory right or wrong, Price committed suicide on January 6, 1975

Introduction to the eightfold path  [t = 1:00:35]

1. Right view  / right understanding (Samma ditthi)  [t = 1:01:56]

[Walpola Rahula (1974) What the Buddha Taught]

Right Understanding is the understanding of things as they are, and it is the Four Noble Truths that explain things as they really are. Right Understanding therefore is ultimately reduced to the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. This understanding is the highest wisdom which sees the Ultimate Reality.

[Scene from Steven Spielberg's movie Lincoln]

Thaddeus Stevens, the passionate abolitionist who had no time for slave owning whites, scolds Lincoln for compromising with them. Lincoln’s goal was total abolition. And he believed passion matched with strategy would get us there. The scene in the movie goes like this:

[Thaddeus Stevens]: You claim you trust them—but you know what the people are. You know that the inner compass that should direct the soul toward justice has ossified in white men and women, North and South, unto utter uselessness through tolerating the evil of slavery. White people cannot bear the thought of sharing this country's infinite abundance with Negroes.

[Abraham Lincoln]: A compass, I learnt when I was surveying, it'll point you True North from where you are standing, but it's got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms you'll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what's the use of knowing True North?” Our virtues become vices when they blind us to the complexity of living. If you are a compass, keep pointing. If you are a map maker, we have work to do. Real progress depends on it. And first, we must understand the landscape. Sometimes, to cross the river, you have to backtrack. But by God we'll cross it.

2. Right intention  / right thought (Samma sankappa)  [t = 1:04:14]

[Walpola Rahula (1974) What the Buddha Taught]

Right Thought / Right Intention denotes the thoughts of selfless renunciation or detachment, thoughts of love and thoughts of non-violence, which are extended to all beings. It is very interesting and important to note here that thoughts of selfless detachment, love and non-violence are grouped on the side of wisdom. This clearly shows that true wisdom is endowed with these noble qualities, and that all thoughts of selfish desire, ill-will, hatred and violence are the result of a lack of wisdom — in all spheres of life whether individual, social, or political.

[Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”]

The meaning of love is not to be confused with some sentimental outpouring. Love is something much deeper that emotional bosh. Perhaps the Greek language can clear our confusion at this point. In the Greek New Testament are three words for love. The word eros is sort of aesthetic or romantic love. In the Platonic dialogues eros is the yearning of the soul for the realm of the divine. The second word is philia, a reciprocal of love and the intimate affection and friendship between friends. We love those whom we like, and we love because we are loved. The third word is agape, understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. An overflowing love which seeks nothing in return, agape is the love of God operating in the human heart. At this level, we love men not because we like them, nor because they possess some type of divine spark; we love every man because God loves him. At this level, we love the person who does an evil deed, although we hate the deed that he does.

Now we can see what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Love your enemies.’ We should be happy that he did not say, ‘Like your enemies.’ It is almost impossible to like some people. ‘Like’ is a sentimental and affectionate word. How can we be affectionate toward a person whose avowed aim is to crush our very being and place innumerable stumbling blocks in our path? How can we like a person who is threatening our children and bombing our homes? This is impossible. But Jesus recognized that love is greater than like.

3. Right speech (Samma vaca)  [t = 1:07:21]

[Walpola Rahula (1974) What the Buddha Taught]

Right Speech means abstention (1) from telling lies, (2) from backbiting and slander and talk that may bring about hatred, enmity, disunity and disharmony among individuals or groups of people, (3) from harsh, rude, impolite, malicious and abusive language, and (4) from idle, useless and foolish babble and gossip. When one abstains from these forms of wrong and harmful speech one naturally has to speak the truth, has to use words that are friendly and benevolent, pleasant and gentle, meaningful and useful. One should not speak carelessly: speech should be at the right time and place. If one cannot say something useful, one should keep 'noble silence'.

 

Conflict and nonduality  [t = 1:08:36]

4. Right morality / right discipline / right action (Samma kammanta)  [t = 1:12:21]

[Walpola Rahula (1974) What the Buddha Taught]

Right Action aims at promoting moral, honourable and peaceful conduct. It admonishes us that we should abstain from (1) destroying life, (2) from stealing, from (3) dishonest dealings (lying), from (4) illegitimate sexual intercourse, and that (5) we should also help others to lead a peaceful and honourable life in the right way.

5. Right livelihood  (Samma ajiva)  [t = 1:13:44]

[Walpola Rahula (1974) What the Buddha Taught]

Right Livelihood means that one should abstain from making one's living through a profession that brings harm to others, such as trading in arms and lethal weapons, intoxicating drinks, poisons, killing animals, cheating, etc., and should live by a profession which is honourable, blameless and innocent of harm to others. One can clearly see here that Buddhism is strongly opposed to any kind of war, when it lays down that trade in arms and lethal weapons is an evil and unjust means of livelihood.

6. Right effort  (Samma vayama)  [t = 1:15:05]

[Walpola Rahula (1974) What the Buddha Taught]

Right Effort is the energetic will (1) to prevent evil and unwholesome states of mind from arising, and (2) to get rid of such evil and unwholesome states that have already arisen within a man, and also (3) to produce, to cause to arise, good and wholesome states of mind not yet arisen, and (4) to develop and bring to perfection the good and wholesome states of mind already present in a man.

 

7. Right mindfulness / right attentiveness  (Samma sati)  [t = 1:15:31]

[Walpola Rahula (1974) What the Buddha Taught]

Right Mindfulness (or Attentiveness) is to be diligently aware, mindful and attentive with regard to (1) the activities of the body (kaya), (2) sensations or feelings (vedana), (3) the activities of the mind (citta) and (4) ideas, thoughts, conceptions and things (dhamma).

8. Right samadhi / right concentration  (Samma samadhi)  [t = 1:16:50]

[Walpola Rahula (1974) What the Buddha Taught]

The third and last factor of Mental Discipline is Right Concentration leading to the four stages of Dhyana, generally called trance or recueillement. The third and last factor of Mental Discipline is Right Concentration leading to the four stages of Dhyana, generally called trance or recueillement.
(1) In the first stage of Dhyana, passionate desires and certain unwholesome thoughts like sensuous lust, ill-will, languor, worry, restlessness, and sceptical doubt are discarded, and feelings of joy and happiness are maintained, along with certain mental activities.
(2) In the second stage, all intellectual activities are suppressed; tranquillity and 'one-pointedness' of mind developed, and the feelings of joy and happiness are still retained.
(3) In the third stage, the feeling of joy, which is an active sensation, also disappears, while the disposition of happiness still remains in addition to mindful equanimity.
(4) In the fourth stage of Dhyana, all sensations, even of happiness and unhappiness, of joy and sorrow, disappear, only pure equanimity and awareness remaining.

Applying the Three Supreme Methods  [t = 1:19:02]

If one approaches an offering of service with basic good intention, then one accumulates merit, but when three wholesome attitudes known as the Three Supreme Methods are genuinely applied, an outwardly mundane task can even become a paramita.

(1) Intention

To apply the Supreme Methods, begin by refining your intention, thinking you will perform the work for the sake of all sentient beings. Remember you are not making an offering of service to boost your self-gratification, recognition, or mileage points. As Shantideva said, look upon yourself as a utensil and think:

I have offered my body to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road.
For those who wish to go across the water
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

Since it is going to be very difficult to remember to apply the three wholesome attitudes with every page you photocopy or every stroke of the scrub brush, before beginning a day of volunteer work, students should recite the following prayer:

Even the remembrance of your name dispels the hope and fear of nirvana and samsara.
From now until attaining enlightenment, I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Following all the bodhisattvas of past, present, and future, may I emulate their infinite activity to free beings from suffering.
Eventually may I manage to surrender everything I have - my time, my space, my belongings, and even my very limbs - for the sake of all beings.
In that aim, I shall begin by sacrificing my energy and time today to . . . (insert whatever the task is - copying, cleaning the teaching hall, shovelling snow).

(2) Emptiness

To apply the second wholesome attitude, avoid the pride that shadows your good intention. Remember that the work and its accomplishment is an illusion. If you can maintain this attitude throughout your task it is ideal, but most likely you will forget. So immediately after reciting the prayer above, you should reflect in this way:

Whatever I do today is ultimately just a concept. Relatively, there is a necessary structure just as there is in dreams. Though when dreaming there is no true direction, when I dream of falling I fall down towards the earth, not up towards the sky. Ultimately, the direction makes no difference - since I never fell - but in the relative world of the dream, the construct of “the way to fall” is still needed. So I shall do my job as properly as possible.

(3) Dedication

[From Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara, Chapter 10 verse 55]

And now as long as space endures,
As long as there are beings to be found,
May I continue likewise to remain
To drive away the sorrows of the world.

Ideally, you will do this when you finish your work, but since you may forget, the merit can be offered at the beginning by thinking:

I will dedicate whatever virtue results from my actions to all sentient beings.

Review of the six paramitas  [t = 1:22:57]

[Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Terre des Hommes (1939) Ch. III: L'Avion, p. 60]

Perfection is attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.

[George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, the epistle dedicatory to the play]

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

[Elon Musk]

If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.

Emptiness and the six paramitas  [t = 1:25:16]

Drom Tönpa once asked Atisha what was the ultimate of all teachings. "Of all teachings, the ultimate is emptiness of which compassion is the very essence," replied the Master. "It is like a very powerful medicine, a panacea which can cure every disease in the world. And just like that very powerful medicine, realization of the truth of emptiness, the nature of reality, is the remedy for all the different negative emotions."

"Why is it, then," Drom Tönpa went on, "that so many people who claim to have realized emptiness have no less attachment and hatred?" "Because their realization is only words," Atisha replied. "Had they really grasped the true meaning of emptiness, their thoughts, words and deeds would be as soft as stepping on cotton wool or as tsampa soup laced with butter. The Master Aryadeva said that even to wonder whether or not all things were empty by nature would make samsara fall apart. True realization of emptiness, therefore, is the ultimate panacea which includes all the elements of the path."

"How can every element of the path be included within the realization of emptiness?" Drom Tönpa asked. "All the elements of the path are contained in the six transcendent perfections. Now, if you truly realize emptiness, you become free from attachment. As you feel no craving, grasping or desire for anything within or without, you always have transcendent generosity. Being free from grasping and attachment, you are never defiled by negative actions, so You always have transcendent discipline. Without any concepts of 'I' and 'mine' you have no anger, so you always have transcendent patience. Your mind made truly joyful by the realization of emptiness, you always have transcendent diligence. Being free from distraction, which comes from grasping at things as solid, you always have transcendent concentration. As you do not conceptualize anything whatsoever in terms of subject, object and action, you always have transcendent wisdom."

"Do those who have realized the truth become Buddhas simply through the view of emptiness and meditation?" Drom Tönpa asked. "Of all that we perceive as forms and sounds there is nothing that does not arise from the mind. To realize that the mind is awareness indivisible from emptiness is the view. Keeping this realization in mind at all times, and never being distracted from it, is meditation. To practise the two accumulations as a magical illusion from within that state is action. If you make a living experience of this practice, it will continue in your dreams. If it comes in the dream state, it will come at the moment of death. And if it comes at the moment of death it will come in the intermediate state. If it is present in the intermediate state you may be certain of attaining supreme accomplishment."

The eighty-four thousand doors to the Dharma that the Conqueror taught are thus all skilful means to cause the bodhicitta-emptiness of which compassion is the very essence to arise in us.

Self-transcendence  [t = 1:29:36]

[Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Vimalakirti Sutra, introduction p.29]

If you have a goal, if your aim is to benefit or to achieve a result or a reward, you lack true renunciation and therefore your activity is not genuine Dharma practice. That is not to say that being a monk, like Rahula, was an aimless, fruitless, or meaningless existence; the point here is that ‘aimlessness’ is the aim. Basically, if you don’t realize that the goal of your practice is an illusion – if you think it’s real – and if your aspirations and actions in pursuit of that goal are based on a wrong view, whatever you do is not genuine Dharma practice.

[8 worldly dharmas]

• Hope for happiness  / Fear of suffering,
• Hope for fame           / Fear of insignificance,
• Hope for praise         / Fear of blame,
• Hope for gain            / Fear of loss.

[Dōgen Genjōkōan 現成公按]

To study the Way is to study the Self.
To study the Self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe.
To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others.
Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and ever.

Renunciation and mind-training  [t = 1:33:47]

[Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche (2012) Not For Happiness]

Dharma is not a therapy - It is such a mistake to assume that practising dharma will help us calm down and lead an untroubled life; nothing could be farther from the truth. Dharma is not a therapy. Quite the opposite, in fact, dharma is tailored specifically to turn your life upside down—it’s what you sign up for.

[Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche (2010) teaching on Nagarjuna's Letter to a Friend, Chanteloube, France]

If any Dharma activity, including hearing the Dharma, become useful to your worldly life, then that’s not good. Ideally, whatever the Dharma activity you engage with, in a way or another must become a hindrance to this worldly life.

[Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche (2012) Not For Happiness]

Once you understand that real dharma practice is not just about formal sitting meditation, but a never-ending confrontation with and opposition to pride and ego, as well as a lesson in how to accept change, you will be able to start practising right away. For example, imagine you are sitting on a beach admiring the sunset. Nothing terrible has happened and you are content, even happy. Then suddenly that little bell starts to ring in your head, reminding you that this could be the last sunset you ever see. You realize that, were you to die, you might not be reborn with the ability to appreciate a sunset, let alone the capacity to understand what a sunset is, and this thought alone helps you focus your mind on practice.

[Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche (2012) Not For Happiness]

The aim of far too many teachings these days is to make people “feel good,” and even some Buddhist masters are beginning to sound like New Age apostles. Their talks are entirely devoted to validating the manifestation of ego and endorsing the “rightness” of our feelings, neither of which have anything to do with the teachings we find in the pith instructions. So, if you are only concerned about feeling good, you are far better off having a full body massage or listening to some uplifting or life-affirming music than receiving dharma teachings, which were definitely not designed to cheer you up. On the contrary, the dharma was devised specifically to expose your failings and make you feel awful.

The Madhyamaka spirit  [t = 1:38:02]

[Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche (2007) What Makes You Not A Buddhist]

Subconsciously we are lured by the expectation that we will reach a stage where we don’t have to fix anything ever again. One day we will reach “happily ever after.” We are convinced of the notion of “resolution.” It’s as if everything that we’ve experienced up until now, our whole lives to this moment, was a dress rehearsal. We believe our grand performance is yet to come, so we do not live for today.

1. Right view  / right understanding (Samma ditthi)  [t = 1:41:17]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

The first point the Buddha made has to do with "right view.'' Wrong view is a matter of conceptualization. Someone is walking toward us - suddenly we freeze. Not only do we freeze ourselves, but we also freeze the space in which the person is walking toward us. We call him "friend" who is walking through this space or "enemy." Thus the person is automatically walking through a frozen situation of fixed ideas - "this is that," or "this is not that." This is what Buddha called "wrong view." It is a conceptualized view which is imperfect because we do not see the situation as it is. There is the possibility, on the other hand, of not freezing that space. The person could walk into a lubricated situation of myself and that person as we are. Such a lubricated situation can exist and can create open space.

Of course, openness could be appropriated as a philosophical concept as well, but the philosophy need not necessarily be fixed. The situation could be seen without the idea of lubrication as such, without any fixed idea. In other words, the philosophical attitude could be just to see the situation as it is. "That person walking toward me is not a friend, therefore he is not an enemy either. He is just a: person approaching me. I don't have to pre-judge him at all." That is what is called "right view."

2. Right intention  / right thought (Samma sankappa)  [t = 1:43:40]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

In order to see what this is, we first must understand what Buddha meant by "right." He did not mean to say right as opposed to wrong at all. He said "right" meaning "what is," being right without a concept of what is right. "Right" translates the Sanskrit samyak, which means, "complete." Completeness needs no relative help, no support through comparison; it is self- sufficient. Samyak means seeing life as it is without crutches, straightforwardly. In a bar one says, "I would like a straight drink." Not diluted with club soda or water; you just have it straight. That is samyak. No dilutions, no concoctions - just a straight drink. Buddha realized that life could be potent and delicious, positive and creative, and he realized that you do not need any concoctions with which to mix it. Life is a straight drink - hot pleasure, hot pain, straightforward, one hundred percent.

So right intention means not being inclined toward anything other than what is. You are not involved in the idea that life could be beautiful or could be painful, and you are not being careful about life. According to Buddha, life is pain, life is pleasure. That is the samyak quality of it - so precise and direct: straight life without any concoctions. There is no need at all to reduce life situations or intensify them. Pleasure as it is, pain as it is - these are the absolute qualities of Buddha's approach to intention.

[Theodore Roosevelt, “The Man in the Arena”, excerpt from the speech Citizenship In A Republic, delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, France on 23 April, 1910]

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

3. Right speech (Samma vaca)  [t = 1:47:21]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

The third aspect of the eightfold path is "right speech." In Sanskrit the word for speech is vac, which means "utterance," "word," or "logos." It implies perfect communication, communication which says, "It is so," rather than, "I think it is so." "Fire is hot," rather than, "I think fire is hot." […] It is just the simple minimum of words we could use. It is true.

4. Right morality / right discipline / right action (Samma kammanta)  [t = 1:48:50]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

If there is no one to impose discipline and no one to impose discipline on, then there is no need for discipline in the ordinary sense at all. […] Ordinary discipline exists only at the level of relative decisions. If there is a tree, there must be branches; how- ever, if there is no tree, there are no such things as branches; Likewise, if there is no ego, a whole range of projections becomes unnecessary. Right discipline is that kind of giving-up process; it brings us into complete simplicity.

We are all familiar with the samsaric kind of discipline which is aimed at self-improvement. We give up all kinds of things in order to make ourselves "better," which provides us with tremendous reassurance that we can do something with our lives. Such forms of discipline are just unnecessarily complicating your life rather than trying to simplify and live the life of a rishi. "Rishi" is a Sanskrit word which refers to the person who constantly leads a straightforward life. The Tibetan word for "rishi" is trangsong (Wylie: drang sron). Trang means "direct," song means "upright." The term refers to one who leads a direct and upright life by not introducing new complications into his life-situation.

[attributed to Goethe]

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elemental truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans – that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves all. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

5. Right livelihood  (Samma ajiva)  [t = 1:51:07]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

The fifth point is "right livelihood." According to Buddha, right livelihood simply means making money by working, earning dollars, pounds, francs, pesos. To buy food and pay rent you need money. This is not a cruel imposition on us. It is a natural situation. We need not be embarrassed by dealing with money nor resent having to work. The more energy you put out, the more you get in. Earning money involves you in so many related situations that it permeates your whole life. Avoiding work usually is related to avoiding other aspects of life as well

People who reject the materialism of American society and set themselves apart from it are unwilling to face themselves. They would like to comfort themselves with the notion that they are leading philosophically virtuous lives, rather than realizing that they are unwilling to work with the world as it is.

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (2011) Work, Sex, Money]

As Buddhist practitioners or practitioners of meditation, we are supposed to be immersed in the contemplative tradition and spiritual practice. Why would we discuss work, sex, and money? If you are involved in spirituality, you may think you should transcend work, sex, and money. Perhaps you think you should live the contemplative life, a life in which those things don't apply because you spend the whole day meditating. You should have nothing to do with those things. You shouldn't have to think about work. Nobody should be involved with sex, because people shouldn't have such lustful thoughts at all while living the contemplative life of meditation. And money - you should be involved with that least of all! What money? Who has any anyhow? Money - that's the last thing we should think about. [...]

Then the question is, are we really working on spirituality or not? If so, there is something that we might not have thought about: that spirituality isn't really "spirituality" in an idealized sense. Do you think spirituality is something purely transcendental? It's questionable. Real spirituality might have something to do with ordinary life. If spirituality does have something to do with everyday life situations, then relating to spirituality means contributing some- thing to society as a whole. We have to associate with society in order to offer something to society. For some people, that is not an easy thing to accept or do at all.

6. Right effort  (Samma vayama)  [t = 1:55:23]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

There is no need to be continually just pushing along, drudging along. If you are awake and open in living situations, it is possible for them and you to be creative, beautiful, humorous and delightful. This natural openness is right effort, as opposed to any old effort. Right effort is seeing a situation precisely as it is at that very moment, being present fully, with delight, with a grin.

7. Right mindfulness / right attentiveness  (Samma sati)  [t = 1:56:03]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

Right mindfulness does not simply mean being aware; it is like creating a work of art. There is more spaciousness in right mindfulness than in right effort. If you are drinking a cup of tea, you are aware of the whole environment as well as the cup of tea. You can therefore trust what you are doing, you are not threatened by anything. You have room to dance in the space, and this makes it a creative situation. The space is open to you.

8. Right samadhi / right concentration  (Samma samadhi)  [t = 1:56:45]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

Samadhi has the sense of being as it is, which means relating with the space of a situation. This pertains to one's living situation as well as to sitting meditation. Right absorption is being completely involved, thoroughly and fully, in a non-dualistic way. In sitting meditation the technique and you are one; in life situations the phenomenal world is also part of you. Therefore you do not have to meditate as such, as though you were a person distinct from the act of meditating and the object of meditation. If you are one with the living situation as it is, your meditation just automatically happens.

1. Generosity  (Dana paramita)  [t = 1:57:48]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

Thus the bodhisattva at the level of the 1st bhumi develops generosity. He is not acting generously in order to get something in return, but he is just being generous and warm. If you are acting kindly to someone in the conventional sense, it has the connotation of looking down upon someone lower, less fortunate than you. "I am rich and you need help because you are not like me." The bodhisattva's generosity need not be gentle and soothing; it could be very violent or sharp because he gives you what you need rather than what will please you superficially. He does not expect anything in return at all. He can be generous physically, giving food, wealth, clothes and shelter, or spiritually, giving food for the mind, restoring your mental health. The best kind of generosity according to the scriptures is that of working with another person's state of mind. But the bodhisattva does not go beyond his own understanding; he regards himself as a student rather than as a teacher. Nor does he try to seduce the object of his generosity. He is aware not only of "me and them" but also of the space that both the giver and the receiver are sharing. The perception of the shared space is the operation of the sharp intelligence of prajña.

2. Discipline  (Shila paramita)  [t = 1:59:41]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

Shila paramita of "morality" or "discipline." The purity of the bodhisattva referred to by the shila paramita is based upon making friends with oneself, loving oneself. You are not a nuisance to yourself anymore; you are good company, an inspiration to yourself. You do not have to control yourself so as to avoid temptations or follow rules or laws. You find temptations less relevant and guidelines less necessary, because you naturally follow the appropriate patterns. There is no need to try to be pure, to painfully discipline yourself to be pure, to apply detergent to your natural condition. […] The bodhisattva delights in working with people rather than regarding compassionate action as a duty. He has no dogma about how he should act or how other people should be. He does not try to reform or transform anyone because they do not fit his model. If people are determined to convert others into their mould, then they are attempting to reassure themselves by using the convert to relieve their doubt. The bodhisattva is not concerned with conversion; he respects others' lifestyles, speaks their language and allows them to evolve according to their nature rather than making them into a replica of himself.

3. Patience  (Kshanti paramita)  [t = 2:02:19]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

Patience […] is particularly related with the idea that the bodhisattva does not desire to be a buddha but would rather work with sentient beings to save them from their confusion. Patience also implies heroism in the sense of having nothing to lose. The meditation practice connected with patience is working with territory. There is no territory that is yours or that is others'; everyone is in no-man's-land. Not seeking enlightenment for ego's personal benefit, you have no need for territory […] You are free to do anything there, no one can make any demands upon you, so you can afford to wait, to be patient. […] Patience does not mean forbearance in the sense of enduring pain, allowing someone to torture you at his leisure. […] The bodhisattva can spring out like a tiger and claw you, bite you, crush you. He is not inhibited by conventional morality or idiot compassion. He is not afraid to subjugate what needs to be subjugated, to destroy what needs to be destroyed, and to welcome that which needs to be welcomed.

4. Diligence  (Virya paramita)  [t = 2:04:34]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

Virya […] is taking delight in and working hard with whatever working base or material we are presented with-our state of mind, our traditions, our society. It is not taking sides for or against our traditions or our state of mind, but it is taking delight in them and then working with them. It is not enough to reject superficially the different aspects of the world around us. It is too simple-minded just to abandon traditional morality as being old- fashioned, like an old clothing style, and then substitute a swinging morality, an up-to-date, "mod" morality. Many of the young reject tradition altogether, even the smell of it. They see no truth in it at all. ''I'm unhappy, neurotic because of them - my parents, my teachers, the media, the politicians, the psychiatrists, the capitalists, the clergymen, the computers, the scientists." We denounce the government, the schools, the churches, the synagogues, the hospitals. But there is some uncertainty in this stance. Perhaps there could be some truth in what the establishment says, in the way it does things? […]

Sanity lies somewhere between the inhibitions of conventional morality and the looseness of extreme impulse, but the area in-between is very fuzzy. The bodhisattva delights in the play between hesitation and extreme impulsiveness - it is beautiful to look at - so delight in itself is the approach of sanity. Delight is to open our eyes to the totality of the situation rather than siding with this or that point of view. The bodhisattva does not side with rejecting convention, mocking everything out of sheer frustration, trying to get the world to acknowledge him. Nor does he side with blind dogma, holding back out of fear, trying to mould the world to conform to rigid ideas and rules. The bodhisattva takes delight in polarities but does not side with any extreme.

5. Meditation  (Dhyana paramita)  [t = 2:07:34]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

The paramita of the 5th bhumi is panoramic awareness. This meditative state has been called dhyana in the Indian tradition, ch'an in the Chinese tradition, and Zen in the Japanese tradition. They all mean a state of total involvement, without centre or fringe. If there is a centre and a fringe, then our state of mind ceases to be one of total involvement because we have to keep track of both ends; a sense of polarity is always present. So dhyana or Zen is awareness without a watcher. In the superficial sense, when we speak of awareness, we mean egocentric watching, knowing what we are doing, knowing where we are supposed to be and how we handle the situation, which is quite a complicated process. We have to keep track of ourselves and our situation. Awareness in the sense of Zen is much simpler. The Tibetan word for it is samten (Wylie: bsam gtan): sam means "awareness," ten means "making stable." So samten means "stable awareness," sane awareness rather than neurotic awareness, awareness in the sense that there are very few things to keep track of because everything has been simplified into one situation.

6. Wisdom  (Prajña paramita)  [t = 2:09:04]

[Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1976) The Myth of Freedom]

Prajña cuts through the pieties of the bodhisattva's approach-being extraordinarily compassionate, being smooth and skilful, able to handle any situation, the syrupy, honey-like quality of the bodhisattva, being sweet and kind and gentle and at the same time slippery. Prajña cuts through any subtle attitude, any sense of virtue or manipulation, any sense of fixed concepts.

Some practice advice  [t = 2:10:11]

Towards pure perception  [t = 2:13:16]

[Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska, lecture for 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature]

The world – whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we’ve just begun to discover, planets already dead? Still dead? We just don’t know; whatever we might think of this measureless theatre to which we’ve got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might think of this world – it is astonishing. But ‘astonishing’ is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We’re astonished, after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we’ve grown accustomed to. Now the point is, there is no such obvious world. Our astonishment exists per se and isn’t based on comparison with something else. Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like ‘the ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ ‘the ordinary course of events’ … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.

[William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell]

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

Spontaneous action  [t = 2:15:42]

[Aristotle]

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

[Robert Pirsig (1974) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance]

Do you want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.

[Doris Lessing]

Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now
The conditions are always impossible

[Anton Chekhov]

Don’t tell me the moon is shining
Show me the glint of light on broken glass

Calling the Lama from Afar  [t = 2:18:25]

[HH Dudjom Rinpoche, Calling the Lama from Afar]

The essence is the primordially unchanging nature, free from mental activity.
Dwelling in the originally pure Youthful Vase body of profound inner luminosity.
Dharmakaya Lama Yeshe Dorje, care for me,
Please bestow the blessing of obtaining great confidence in the View.

The uncreated nature is the unobstructed, indivisibly united radiant Mandala gathering
Dwelling in the display of the spontaneously accomplished Five Certainties,
Sambhogakaya Lama Dechen Dorje, care for me,
Please bestow the blessing of perfectly great skill in meditation.

The compassion is the Wisdom, free from falling into bias, liberated from extremes.
Dwelling in the naked essence, the All-Pervading Rigpa-Emptiness
Nirmanakaya Lama Drodul Lingpa, care for me,
Please bestow the blessing of greater skill in activity.

The primordial ground of self-awareness is unmoving and unchanging.
The Dharmakaya’s efflorescence of whatever arises is neither good nor bad.
Since pure awareness of Nowness is the real Buddha,
In openness and contentment we find the Lama in our heart.

When we realize that this unending Natural Mind is the nature of the Lama,
There is no need for attached and grasping prayers or artificial complaints.
By relaxing in uncontrived Awareness, the free and open natural state,
We obtain the blessing of aimless self-liberation of whatever arises.

Buddhahood is not attained by fabricated Dharmas;
Meditation made by the mind, fabricated by the intellect is the deceiving enemy.
Now clinging to style and manner is destroyed with crazy abandon.
Let this life be spent in this state of uninhibited naked ease.

Dedication  [t = 2:21:01]

[From Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara, Chapter 10 verse 55]

And now as long as space endures,
As long as there are beings to be found,
May I continue likewise to remain
To drive away the sorrows of the world.


© Alex Trisoglio 2017
Edited by Alex Trisoglio
With gratitude to Valerie Neal, Rick Scott and John West for help with transcription

Last updated 31 July 2017