Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso:
September 29 – October 1, 2000 Kagyu Samye
Sept. 29, 2000
...reflecting and meditating on the teachings of the genuine Dharma will increase and increase and that through this we will be of great benefit to all limitless number of sentient beings.
Rinpoche says that he first came to Samye Ling in 1977 as an attendant to glorious most powerful of kings, the 16th Karmapa Ranjung Rigpe Dorje and since that he has been here many times. Now it has been a few years since he has been here but now to come back and to see all again makes him very happy. In the meantime Rinpoche heard news how wonderful the developments were here at Samye Ling, how the centre had expanded, how wonderful the retreats were going, he heard the news of the retreats built on Holy Island and all this made Rinpoche very happy.
Rinpoche has also been to the Samye Dzong centres in Brussels and in Barcelona and London and he feels very happy to see how wonderfully they are all developing. And that all Samye Dzong centres are flourishing is a sign that the mother centre, Samye Ling, is doing very well. It’s wonderful that you have now a retreat centre with caves to meditate on, on this island and that makes a very good connection with the Kagyu lineage because the Lord of Yogis, one of the forefathers of the Kagyu Lineage, the lord of yogis Milarepa after he received all of the pith meditation instructions in a complete and perfect way, he first went to the cave called Tanya lungten puk, and he meditated there for eleven months with a butter lamp balanced on the top of his head, and from there he went to six outer fortresses, six inner fortresses, six secret fortresses and two other fortresses. He meditated in four well-known caves and four not so well known caves. He spent his entire life practising in caves. So it makes an incredibly wonderful connection that we now have this centre where you can go practising in caves, that’s very auspicious. Also in particular in the Kagyu lineage the great yogis Lorepa and Götsampa meditated in caves on an island in a middle of a lake in northern Tibet. So this again makes a wonderful connection with the lineage and that you are doing this makes Rinpoche very happy.
Now Rinpoche will offer a praise to the Three Rare And Supreme Ones. Du sum...
Before listening to the teachings Rinpoche asks that we give rise to the supreme motivation of bodhicitta which means we listen to, we reflect upon and meditate on the teachings of the genuine Dharma so that we can benefit all sentient beings who are as limitless number as the sky is vast in its extent. Please give rise to bodhicitta and listen.
There is in fact a reason why we can attain enlightenment for benefit of all sentient beings. And that reason is that the basic nature of our mind is clarity and emptiness undifferientiable. It is the enlightened essence of the buddhanature. It is mahamudra, the Great Seal of the ground, the very existence of all sentient beings and therefore we can realise it, we can clear away all the adventitious stains that prevent us from having it manifest fully and at that point we attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.
And along these lines one of the greatest of the 84 mahasiddhas of India was the glorious of Saraha. He sang: ”The root of everything in existence and beyond is – oh yes it is – it is mind.
When you realise this there is no meditation to do, just relax, take it
easy, let it go.
We may ask what is the reason why the nature of mind is called the root of both samsara and nirvana, both existence and what lies beyond. Firstly we can see it is the root of samsara because it is our lack of realisation of it’s nature, of the clear light nature of mind that causes us to wander in samsara. The way this works is that when we are unaware of the nature of our mind then we fall prone to believing that the dualistic appearances, the appearances of some object and some subject of perceiving those objects, are real. And as result of believing in the reality of these dualistic appearances kleshas arise, the mental afflictions come up and then we commit karmic actions motivated by these mental afflictions. These karmic actions are the root cause of wandering in samsara, they are the cause of experiencing samsaric happiness and suffering. Therefore it is because of our ignorance of the true nature of mind that we wander in samsara, and that is why it is called the root of samsara.
The true nature of mind is also the root of nirvana because if we realise the Clear Light that is mind’s essence that is awareness, that is rigpa, that is the opposite of marigpa or ignorance. So this awareness is what provides the precise remedy for our ignorance of the true nature of mind, the awareness manifests as primordial wisdom that is self arisen and self-aware. And when this is manifesting, when we experience this wisdom, then the mental afflictions naturally cease because they have no more reason to arise. There is no more ignorance giving rise to them anymore. So the mental afflictions cease. Then all of the karmic actions we take motivated by those mental afflictions also cease, and then suffering will cease because suffering has no more cause. We will be liberated from suffering, we will be liberated from samsaric existence by realizing the nature of mind. And therefore it is also the root of nirvana.
It’s in harmony with the statement by the Lord of Yogis Milarepa that you can find at the beginning of the 4th verse of the song that we have on the front page:
”The workings of mental consciousness inside
We might think: ”Well, that is probably how it is, but still I have this ignorance and I can’t get rid of it. It’s impossible for me to dispense or dispel this ignorance.” Well, we actually can remove the ignorance because, apart from just being a mere state of not knowing, there is no such thing that ignorance, the ignorance doesn’t really exist. The reason why we can say this is that if we look for the cause of ignorance we can’t find anything. If we look for the ground from which the ignorance comes we can’t find anything existent there. And therefore if we can train in this, if we can train in this lack of essential nature of ignorance, then we will be free from it.
And in the second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma the Buddha said: ”There is no ignorance, there is no ending of ignorance.” When he said that there is no ignorance it doesn’t mean that there isn’t even the appearance of ignorance because there is the appearance of it, but this appearance has no essential nature. It’s not an appearance of something real. And since there is really no ignorance there then there is also no exhaustion or ending of ignorance either. The nature of reality transcends both of these conceptual fabrications. And this is what the Buddha taught in the middle Turning of the Wheel.
If we want to understand more about the buddhanature from the perspective of the sutras and tantras we can first look at the statement of the sutras where the Buddha said that the enlightened essence pervades all sentient beings, and therefore all sentient beings have within them the cause of becoming Buddha. All sentient beings can in fact attain enlightenment because it is their very nature from the beginning. They all have as their nature the enlightened essence, and that is why if they practice they can reach the highest fruition.
In the tantra, specifically in the Hevajra tantra the Buddha said: ”Sentient beings are nothing other than Buddhas. However they are obscured by fleeting stains. When these stains are cleared away they will manifest their enlightenment. And Rinpoche explains the lines the Buddha made; first: ”Sentient beings are nothing other than Buddha”. What can this possibly mean? Well here the Buddha is talking about the true nature of mind. The true nature of the mind of every single sentient being is the genuine Buddha. The actual or ultimate Buddha. Well, if that is the case, then why is it that we now appear to be sentient beings instead of Buddha – if that is our nature?
The second line answers to that question: ”But they are obscured by fleeting stains.” So, if we ask why are we sentient beings now the answer is that we don’t see our enlightened essence, we don’t experience it because it is covered over by the adventitious stains. However, that isn’t a permanent problem because the last line says: when these stains are cleared away they will manifest as buddhas. When these temporary stains are cleared away, because they can be, because they are not of the nature of mind, then that is when the actual nature of sentient beings which is enlightenment, will manifest.
When they manifest the state of enlightenment at the time of fruition then it’s called the buddhahood endowed with the two types of purity. Both the natural purity that is the inherent nature of mind and the purity that is the freedom from adventitious stains, that is what marks the actual apparent appearance of the manifestation of enlightenment. It is also the case that the nature of mind has within it as inseparable component of it the causes of reaching that fruition: namely compassion and wisdom or precise knowledge. And we can see evidence.
First of all, the presence of compassion in the nature of mind, because even though sentient beings don’t have compassion, they don’t manifest compassion that extends to everyone, they still have the roots of compassion and they can manifest in for example parents loving their children whether be human beings or animals or whatever they can manifest like that. And that is the seed for causing it to grow. And if we receive the instructions for how to cultivate compassion then we can cause our compassion to grow and grow and grow until it becomes limitless at the time of reaching enlightenment. And then it is not just compassion but it is great compassion, it is noble compassion.
And we can also see evidence that the nature of mind is endowed with the seed of knowedge, prajna. That manifest, even in animals that we see even at a very young age to know how to run away in danger. They know how to escape and try to find a place where they can be free from fear of some predator or some danger. So that’s not tremendous intelligence but it’s a sign that intelligence is there in the nature of mind. And whatever intelligence we start with we can continue developing it. We can cause it to grow; be listening to, reflecting on and meditating on the teachings of the Dharma until it too becomes limitless, and that is the fruition.
The practices of the Mahayana are both incredibly profound and vast, various in their number, but if we want to sum them all up we could say that they are the practices of emptiness that has compassion for a heart. And we can find this very clearly in a text that summarises the practises of the Mahayana in a very pithy way for example the Seven Points of Mind Traning. The Seven Points of Mind Traning is a text that focuses first on the ultimate bodhicitta, that is the practice of developing one’s precise knowledge of reality of emptiness and relative bodhicitta which is the practice of developing one’s loving kindness and compassion. In this way we can see that when we want to and we need to, in fact, summarize the practices of the Mahayana we say that the practice of the Mahayana is emptiness that has compassion for a heart.
Right now we can find ourselves in a state of ignorance about the nature of reality but we can do something about that: we can become aware of it, and to illustrate what these two states are like we can look at the example of a dream. In a dream when we don’t know that we are dreaming there is this unawareness of what is really going on. Because of this unawareness we don’t recognize that it is just a dream and we take everything to be real. But as soon as we can understand that what we are experiencing is just a dream then the ignorance vanishes and we are left in a state that is very enjoyable. It’s very open and spacious and relaxed. To direct a dream while you know you are dreaming is that kind of experience and that’s precisely how it is during the day too. When we believe that our experiences during the day are real, then that is what obscures our understanding of their true nature and causes us to be anxious and feel tight. We feel the experiences as being stuck in a net, being tangled up in a net whereas if we realize that we can be liberated from this belief that our daytime experiences are real, then it becomes a very open and spacious and relaxed experience.
We can look at this experience we call it ”this lifetime” and see that half of this lifetime we spend during the day dealing with daytime experiences and half of it we spend with dream experiences. So with the daytime experiences we constantly engage with the process of trying to do certain things and avoid other things, accepting certain things and rejecting others, and then we fall asleep and in dream we do exactly the same thing. But the fact is that even though we spend so much time in the dream we still never or very rarely recognize that it’s a dream. We think that it’s real and we think it’s the daytime as a matter of fact. That’s what we do. As a result of thinking that it’s the daytime then we are pushed about by the events of the dream and we engage in all this accepting and rejecting. When we think about how that is in a dream then we can understand how similar it is during the day. That is a result of not seeing that these daytime appearances is a result of appearance and emptiness undifferentiable from each other. Then we can experience as a result of that all kinds of anxiety, suffering and tightness.
There is both confusion and liberation from confusion. And we need to think about that. We need to think about what both stages are like. The way to do that is to first consider the example of it, then to consider the experience of it. The example of confusion and liberation is an example of a dream to think about what it’s like to dream and not to know that you are dreaming and then to think about what it’s like to dream and know that you are dreaming. Because those are the examples of what confusion and liberation are all about. And then there is the way to think about the experience of confusion and liberation. And the way to do that is to think about what it’s like to first be very angry at someone and then to look straight at that anger and let go and relax. To look straight at the essential nature of it and to let go and relax is a very open, spacious experience. So that is what the experience of confusion and liberation is like. And if we think what is behind all of this it is first ignorance in the state of confusion but then awareness. And since awareness is the precise opposite of ignorance, then when there is awareness the ignorance just dissolves, it can’t be anywhere. So these are the three things that we have to gain certainty about with regard to confusion and liberation: the example, the experience and the awareness. That is the remedy.
Since there can be liberation from samsara, that is our proof that samsara is not something real, it’s not something that truly exist. And it’s very important for us to understand that, because the whole problem is that we take samsara to be real. We take all our experience in existence to be just as they appear to be. And as a result of that we suffer. Now if samsara were real then we wouldn’t have any problems as a result of thinking that it was – we would just be perceiving it as it actually is and there would be no disharmony or anything, there would be no discord, but the fact is that we continually take something which is not real to be real, and this is why we are in a state of confusion. It’s just like in a dream. When we think that dream is the daytime we think that the dream appearances are real, that is the only source of our problem, nothing else. It’s only because we make this basic mistake. And this we can see is in fact a definition of our confusion. If we put it in a form of logical reasoning we would say that given our thoughts that take something to be real, they are confused, because what they perceive to be real is in fact not real. So this is the mistake we make.
The common explanation for the cause of samsara is that it is the belief in the existence of a self. As we believe that there is self we experience samsara. But since we can see that this belief in a self doesn’t really exist, then the result of that, samsara, we can also conclude doesn’t really exist either. So we all experience this belief in a self from the perspective of relative reality, apparent reality. We all go around thinking ”I, I”, ”me,me” all the time. But if we look into that thought of there being a self we can’t find it coming from anywhere, we can’t find that it goes anywhere.
So it is free from coming and going. We can’t find it arising at all because when we investigate we see that it doesn’t arise from itself, it doesn’t arse from something different than itself, it doesn’t arise from something both itself and something different from itself and finally the start of itself doesn’t arise for no reason at all. So therefore it doesn’t arise from any of the four possible extremes. There is no other possibility besides those four, so we can conclude that this belief in the self doesn’t really happen, it never really comes into being. And since it doesn’t, we can’t say that is ceases either, because it doesn’t arise in the first place. And since it doesn’t arise and it doesn’t cease then you can’t say that it is anywhere now, it doesn’t abide anywhere. Therefore we can say that this thought that believes in a self doesn’t arise.
This is evidence of something that doesn’t really [lied?] up or not in genuine reality, but it is a mere dependent arisen appearance of it! It’s just like when you hit a red light in a dream. When you see that red light in a dream you have to stop your car but then when it turns green you can go again. This is the explanation from a perspective of the teachings that really there is nothing to stop and nothing to accomplish. There is no activity of stopping or accomplishing in the nature of genuine reality, there are the mere conventional appearances of stopping and accomplishing.
And so to continue with this examination of ego-clinging – since we can’t find it arising, we can’t find it remaining and we can’t find it ceasing, then we can conclude that it doesn’t really exist. It’s just the mirror appearance. And since it, this ego-clinging as the cause has no inherent existence then we can also say that the result, samsara, doesn’t have any real existence, because its cause isn’t there in the first place.
When we think about the disadvantages of believing that there is a self, then we can see that they are quite numerous, because it is the belief in a self that binds us. It is only the belief in a self that causes us to suffer. We only have suffering, because of the thought that there is someone there to suffer. So it seems that there are lot of faults with ego-clinging and that one to want to give it up. But then, when we examine this thought that believes in a self, when we examine the thought itself, we can’t find it coming from anywhere, we can’t find it going anywhere, we can’t find it arising, remaining or ceasing. What this teaches us is the reality which is beyond binding and liberation. The nature of genuine reality transcends there being any bondage in the first place and therefore there being any liberation afterwards, and this is the teaching of the second teaching of the Wheel of Dharma.
In short, since it is the case, once we examine we can see that this ego-clinging mind doesn’t really bind us and therefore there is really no such thing as liberation either. Then looking into its nature, when we experience it, is an experience that is open and spacious and relaxed. We can also look at it from the perspective of the one who is supposedly bound by this ego-clinging mind: the self. When we look for the self we can’t find it as being the same as the five skandhas and we can’t find it as something different, existing apart from those five skandhas or aggregates, and therefore there really is no self. So there really is no-one to be bound in the first place. So could the ego-clinging mind bind anyone if there is no-one to be bound by it? So we can look at bondage, first as we did from the perspective of examining that which binds: the thought of ego-clinging and we can also look at it as we are now from the perspective of examining the one who is supposedly bound by it. And since we can’t find either one then there is no such thing as bondage.
The Lord of Yogis Milarepa sang of the lack of inherent existence in samsara in the following way:
”All animate and inanimate things in the three realms
When Milarepa sings that samsara has no essence, that it doesn’t exist, that it doesn’t arise, he is not saying that it is completely nonexistent, because to say that would be to deny the appearance of samsara’s arising and nobody can deny that. Samsara certainly appears just as the things in dreams certainly appear, and no-one could deny their appearance. But the point is that they are not real, and neither is samsara. So samsara appears at the same time it lacks any inherent nature.
Milarepa sings that there are no karmic actions and no result of those actions. How could he say that? Well, he can say that because one of the first things we learn about the dharma is that there is no self. The Truth of Selflessness. So if there is no self, but there were karma and there were the results of karmic actions, then that would be a contradiction. That would be illogical because you would have no-one to perform the karmic actions and no-one to experience the results of them really. So that is why Milarepa says that since we know there is no self, there is really no such things as karmic actions performed by the self, and there is really no result of those actions experienced by any self. If you really investigate, that’s what you find. And then the teachings are in harmony.
And then Milarepa sings: ”So even the name samsara does not exist.” How could he say that? Well, when we look at any object, there is both the name we give to it and the basis to which we give that name. So here we have the name samsara. What is it that we are calling that? It is the five skandhas. The five skandhas are the object to which we give the name ”samsara”. First we should examine that, to see if there is really any object there to which we are giving this name. When we examine the five kandhas with precise knowledge, we can see that they are neither one thing nor are they many things. And since there is no third possibility, we can conclude that the five skandhas don’t really exist. They are just like the appearance of the five skandhas in a dream, they appear but they are not really there, So there is no basis for anything to give the name ”samsara”. The basis for the name doesn’t really exist.
Then what about the name? Okay, there is no basis to give the name to but does the name exist? Well, we can examine that again with precise knowledge. In Tibetan the word for samsara is korwa. If you look at that you have two syllables: kor wa. You need both to have the name, but when you look at the first one: kor, there is no wa in that, so the name is not there. When you get to the second one, there is no kor in the wa. So when you have one you don’t have the name and when you get to the other one you don’t have the name! And even when you say the name korwa, when you say kor then you don’t have the last half of the name. By the time you get to the wa the kor is gone, it is a nonexistent entity. So you can’t say the name even of samsara.
For what happens is that we conceptualize about these things and we think that the word korwa or existence is one thing, and then the second step that we take with our thoughts is to think that this name and the basis to which we give the name are the same thing. We don’t understand that there is the name and the basis to which we give the name when we conceptualize about that. And that is the two things which thoughts which think things are real will do. They contemplate that there is a name and then they contemplate that the name and the object are the same thing. And that is what belief in true existence is all about. Once we examine it though we can see how it falls apart.
The experience of the relative truth of apparent reality is like the experience of a dream, of an illusion, of the moon, the moon’s reflection that appears on a pool of water, because these things are appearance and emptiness undifferentiable. They appear, at the same time they are empty of any nature. When we think that they are real we experience them as if they were, there is nothing that indicate that they are not at that point as long as we think that they are real we can have experiences that seem to confirm that. But as soon as we understand their true nature which is appearance and emptiness then they are very open and spacious and relaxed just like moon on the pool of water.
If that is the nature of the appearances that we experience then how should we think about past and future lives, how should we think about taking actions and the karmic results of those actions? Well, this is something that the Protector and the Guardian discussed when he wrote:
”To understand that all things are like the moon in the pool of water
This means that, whatever it is we are considering not to get stuck in the thought that it’s real, but also not get stuck in the thought that it’s false. That somehow existence is defined by falsity or nonexistence. And the example for that is the water moon. A water moon is not something real. It’s also not something completely nonexistent because its appearance is there. It is appearing while empty of any inherent reality. And when we can understand that things are like that, we won’t fall into the view of realism, and we also won’t fall into the view of nihilism.
And further along these lines in his text, the fundamental wisdom of the Middle Way, the Protector Nagarjuna says:
”Like a dream, like an illusion, like a siddhi of gandharvas
The reason why Nagarjuna says this is that he has devoted much of his text to analyzing claims about the nature of genuine reality. And he has refuted them all. Because there is no theory that can describe what reality actually is. And certainly there is no arising or ceasing or abiding that happens in genuine reality. So then how do we understand all of these appearances that we experience? Well, they are just like dreams, they are just like illusions, they are appearances that have no substantial nature.
This way of meditating on the nature of the relative appearances in the Mahayana is called the samadhi that sees everything to be like an illusion. In the Vajrayana it is called the practice of impure illusory body and form. This has been a brief explanation of the reasons why there is confusion and why there is liberation. Rinpoche will explain to us the song called ”Distinguishing the Provisional from the Definitive in the Context of Mahamudra” in the second session in this afternoon. Now if we sing it together that will be very good.
The tradition of singing in the Dharma, if you ask, goes all the way back to the Buddha himself. Because one of the twelve branches of Buddha’s teachings is the branch of Beautiful Melody, the teachings which the Buddha actually sang to his students. And this continued down through to the great original masters of the Kagyu lineage, the great siddhas Tilopa and Naropa and Marpa the translator all sang an incredible number of vajra songs. And especially the Lord of Yogis Milarepa sang an incredible number of songs, so many that they are counted as a hundred thousand. So we certainly have the tradition of singing, and particularly in our lineage it is the special tradition. It is the special practice of the Kagyu lineage to sing, and so that’s what we should do.
We can also consider the story when Milarepa was meditating in a forest and across his path ran a frightened deer who was being chased. Milarepa sang to the deer a song, and the deer calmed down and sat down at Milarepas feet. And then came the dog, the angry hunting dog that was chasing after that deer. Milarepa again sang a song to the dog, and the dog calmed down and sat next to the deer as if they were brothers. And finally came the hunter whose name was Gonpo Dorje who was incredibly angry to see his dog sitting next to the deer! He looked at Milarepa and he pulled his bow back to shoot an arrow into Milarepa, and Milarepa said to him: ”Okay you can shoot me. Don’t worry, there is time for that, but first just listen to a song. So Milarepa sang him a song, and Gonpo Dorje put the bow and arrow down, and sat down in Milarepa's feet and became one of his students. In this way we can see the power inherent in song. It’s like that.
So I’ll the sing first verse just to give you an idea of the melody, and then we can all go it over together from the beginning:
Distinguishing the Provisional from the Definitive in the Context of
Right here in this world, Jambudvipa, the Victor’s realm
There is one who served at his lotus feet with respect
However appearances might appear outside
The workings of mental consciousness inside
This skandha of form compulsively taken on
Apparitions of male and female demons and ghouls
In the ultimate yana, to put it in general terms,
Not knowing those self-expressions are not what they seem
Through realizing delusion to have no ground
Look straight at the essence of this present moment of mind. Let go and
By the power of this virtue may all sentient beings perfect the
accumulations of merit and wisdom
By the power of the unchanging mountain of the Buddhas body may all be
By the power of the Buddha’s mind, unstained and free from extremes may
all be auspicious
May this place be filled with happiness and excellence during the day
(End of the first session)
Sept. 29, 2000
...sing by, bearing in your mind, rest in its own nature, then singing is also meditation. (the song)
As before please give rise to the supreme motivation of bodhicitta as is taught in the Mahayana and listen.
Out of all of the lamas that Marpa the Translator relied upon, his two foremost teachers were Khenchen Naropa and the almighty Lord Maitripa. And it was Maitripa from whom Marpa received primarily teachings on the view. And so this is why Milarepa sings about Maitripa in this song, Maitripa taught the view to Marpa, Marpa taught it to Milarepa and now Milarepa sings it to the Tseringma sisters in a song.
The first verse is Milarepa’s offering of praise to the Lord Maitripa. And he begins by saying: Right here in this world, Jambudvipa, that is like the pure realm of the Buddha. It is the pure realm of the Victorious ones. The one who is so famous that he was renowned as the second Buddha, was the Lord Maitripa. And he is like the crowning jewel at the very top of the victory banner of the Buddha’s teachings. So the Buddhas teachings here are compared to a banner of victory, and the jewel on the top of those is the one whom Milarepa praises here. He is respected by all and the one to whom all make offerings. And the melodious sound of his rippling flag of fame like the banner in the front of a great ship that travels everywhere and is renowned everywhere; the fame of Maitripa is like that and it pervades all directions. So the one who is praised in every line of this first verse is now named in the last one: ”Is this not the lord and accomplished master Maitripa.”
There is one who served at his lotus feet with respect. The lotus feet of Maitripa. And drank in full draughts the quintessential elixir. Here the quintessential elixir refers to pith instructions, the teachings. And as result of drinking them down fully he realized mahamudra, the crowning point of view, peak of the peaks of the views. And doing so, this put him in touch with reality plain and simple, reality free from extremes, the basic nature of mind. As a result of this he perfectly brought all excellent qualities forth and was not defiled by any fault at all, a sugata emanation in human form. Marpa was renowned as an emanation of Hevajra. In the mandala of Hevajra there are eight surrounding deities plus Hevajra, the main one. So Marpa was renowned as an emanation of Hevajra, the centre of that mandala. And although he appeared in human form he was the greatest of beings and he taught like this.
And then the provisional from the definitive will be distinguished in different ways. The first topic that it is distinguished with regard to is outer appearance. So the first reads:
However appearances might appear outside
Here outer appearances are divided into three categories. First the stage when their nature is not realized, second when it is realized and third: their ultimate reality. However appearances might appear outside – appearances take the forms of the five kinds of objects that appear to our sense consciousnesses. It could be sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations. We can categorize these as being either good; some of them we like, some of them we don’t like and some of them we are indifferent about. However they might appear, though, whatever kind of an appearance it is, whatever we might think about it, then the first stage of dealing with these appearances that are just described, is the stage when their nature is not realized. And when that’s the case, they are delusory projections.
They are confused appearances just like the confused appearances that appear in dreams when we don’t know that we are dreaming. They arise due to habitual tendencies, these confused appearances. And when we don’t know their true nature, we will think that they are real and that’s what binds us, this is what binds us down. So clinging to objects ties you down. Meaning that the objects don’t do anything from their own side. It is the individuals’ belief that they are real that causes the problem. And the problem that this causes is that it gives rise to mental afflictions, gives rise to suffering. Just like when you dream and you don’t know you are dreaming, it’s not the objects, that there is anything there that is the problem. It is the problem that we don’t know it is a dream. And that’s how it is with regard to outer objects in the stage of no realization.
A dream is also a good example to see that it covers the entire range of appearances, however appearances might appear. Whatever it might be, because we cling to them as being real when in fact they are not, then they are delusory projections. There is confusion inherent in their perception because we make this mistake about what they are.
The next stage is the stage where there is realisation and so Milarepa sings: For those who know, they’re illusory appearance, for them what appear to be objects are mind’s best friends. So here those who know means those who know the nature of mind. For those who have realized this basic essential reality of mind’s nature then objects appear as illusory and they are not any type of hindrance to practice or meditation. Rather they are the friends of meditation.
If we dream and we know that we are dreaming then we can engage in the practices that are known as the emanation and transformation. But in order to do those practices we need the appearances to transform and emanate. So the appearances benefit the meditation, they aren’t a hindrance to it, and that’s how we can understand all appearances to be in general. We can’t stop them from appearing, there is no need to try, but rather to realize they are only the friend of meditation, they can only make our meditation better.
If that’s how it’s like when there is no realization and how it’s like when there is realization, then what is the ultimate nature of these appearances? The ultimate nature is that they’ve never appeared. That there is no such thing as appearance. That appearance doesn’t really exist. Since that is the case then nothing has ever risen. The nature of reality is unborn, nothing ever arises and within it, it is the Dharmakaya. And this is what Milarepa sings precisely: the essential nature of appearance, the unborn Dharmakaya. The Dharmakaya where no arising occurs. And since this Dharmakaya is free from any stain or flaw its essence is purity. That is what Milarepa sings: In the end, in fact, there is no such thing as appearance and being unborn Dharmakaya is utterly pure.
The next verse distinguishes the provisional from the definitive with regard to inner consciousness, specifically the mental consciousness. So it says:
The workings of mental consciousness inside
The workings of mental consciousness inside. Mental consciousness is active here, doing things, moving around. Why, we might ask. It’s specifically mentioned here as the one that is moving all over the place. Reason is that – we think about the other five consciousnesses, sense consciousnesses, they stay with their own particular object, the eye sense consciousness perceives sights, the ear sense consciousness perceives sounds, the nose sense consciousness perceives odours, the tongue sense consciousness perceives tastes and the body sense consciousness perceives tactile sensations and that’s it. They don’t perceive other things besides their respective objects whereas the mental consciousness hops around between all of them. And so that is why it is the real mover out of the six consciousnesses. In the state where there is no realization of its nature, of the nature of mahamudra, the nature of mind, then that is ignorance. Ignorance, because one is unaware of one’s own nature, one’s own basic being. One doesn’t know it. So what’s the fault of that, what’s the problem with that? Ignorance, it’s described in the next line: This is the root of all karma and all afflictions. Because, first ignorance is there, and then it becomes more and more coarse, and this results in mental afflictions, the kleshas. As result of mind being afflicted we do things. That’s karma, that’s the accumulation of karma. Could be good, could be bad, but it’s all influenced by the mental afflictions and so the result is either samsaric happiness or samsaric suffering both of which are defiled. So that is what is wrong with being ignorant of the nature of reality.
But if we look at ignorance more closely we see that it is a mere absence of knowledge, a mere absence of awareness of the true nature of mind. So that state of being unaware is given the name ignorance, but apart from that there is no such thing as ignorance really. It doesn’t have any existent essence or nature. And this also the Buddha taught in the Heart of Wisdom sutra when he said: ”There is no ignorance, there is no ending of ignorance.”
Sometimes we think of how overwhelming our ignorance is. We think: ”I’m so ignorant, I’m so stupid.” But, if we look at this ignorance which we presume to be so large, we can’t find it anywhere. We can’t find it outside of our bodies. If we look inside our bodies we can’t find it there either. We can’t find any ignorance in our brain, we don’t find any in our heart, we just can’t find any ignorance when we look for it with prajna. And therefore, since ignorance has no essence, then to believe that it’s real is again being ignorant. Because it’s evidence of not knowing that ignorance has no inherent nature, not knowing that it’s not real, and as a result we take it to be real. That’s ignorance.
The good thing is that we can investigate the words of the Buddha. The Buddha said: ”There is no ignorance.” When we investigate that with precise knowledge that’s what we find: we don’t find anything. And that’s why we conclude that ignorance doesn’t really exist.
In the Wisdom chapter of the Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Conduct, the bodhisattva Shantideva describes how it is that you can’t find the mental afflictions, the kleshas in the objects that are perceived, you can’t find them in the faculties perceiving these objects and you can’t find them anywhere in between. And in this way he demonstrates that the kleshas lack any inherent nature. The main reason why the mental afflictions don’t really exist is that their supposed root which is ignorance doesn’t really exist.
The strongest of the mental afflictions is anger, the most ferocious in its effect on us because when we get really angry, we are getting incredibly agitated, mentally, sometimes we can't even bear it, we don’t know what to do when we get so angry, but even it is so strong, we can examine it and see that it didn’t come from anywhere and it doesn’t go anywhere, and not only that, it never happens. It never comes into being and therefore it never ceases. So while anger is happening, if we are intelligent, we can examine it and see that it doesn’t come or go, that it doesn’t arise or cease. Isn’t that a good thing to do?
If that’s what it’s like when there is no realization of the nature of mind, what is it like when there is? When there is realization of the nature of mind, since the essential nature of this mental consciousness is clear light, then the experience of it is the experience of self awareness wisdom. Self-aware, self arisen primordial awareness. And that is precisely the opposite of ignorance. Ignorance in Tibetan is marigpa. Ma means ”no” so there is no awareness. Now we have rigpa, there is awareness. It’s just the opposite of that. Then you might ask: ”So what. Big deal. What’s the benefit of realizing the nature of mind, of having this awareness manifest?” The benefit is that all of the good qualities come out of realizing that the nature of mind is this self-aware wisdom. All the good qualities of the path and all of the qualities of fruition perfectly arise from that.
In the text known as the Uttaratantrashastra, the highest continuum of the Mahayana teachings, the Buddha nature is described for what it has. It’s described explaining what it is endowed with, and what it is endowed with in a natural and spontaneous way are the causes of enlightenment. As Rinpoche says he described earlier: these are the roots of compassion and wisdom. And since they are right there present in the nature of mind, in the enlightened essence then we can cultivate them with the profound practices, and so they grow and become, first the limitless great compassion of the buddhas, and second the omniscience of the buddhas.
And furthermore since the enlightened essence of the buddhanature has these qualities also in the time of the result in the completely natural and spontaneous way, as nothing different from itself, then not only can we take these qualities to the level of fruition where they are limitless, but also that fruition doesn’t go away. It doesn’t decline from that state. Since it is not composite a or constructed, created thing, it doesn’t fall apart.
These good qualities are described as being comprised of twelve different types. And at the time one reaches the first bodhisattva ground or bhumi, then you get these twelve qualities times a hundred. So you can do all of these twelve different things times a hundred. And the roots of being able to do that are first: wisdom realising emptiness and second: compassion. By taking those to the level of the first bhumi bodhisattva, you get these twelve qualities times a hundred.
The point of all these twelve qualities is that they all benefit others. They are powers and abilities to do things that have as their root motivation being able to benefit others. So then, what’s it like in terms of the ultimate nature of things? There Milarepa sings:
In the end, in fact, there is no such thing as wisdom.
So in ultimate nature of reality there is no identifiable thing that is wisdom. When you analyze that, you can’t find anything like that there. And we have to take phenomena as they go and no more than that. Meaning that we have to lead all of our thoughts about the existence of things to their exhaustion. If you can understand that the confused appearances of phenomena aren’t real then the thinking about them will also stop. So it works in that way. You understand here that the phenomenon of wisdom doesn’t exist, and then the confused perception of it being something real ceases as well.
This motive explanation that Milarepa is giving us in here is in harmony with the teachings of the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma. For example in the Heart of Wisdom sutra the Buddha taught: ”There is no path, there is no wisdom, there is no attainment, there is no non-attainment.” It’s in harmony with that way of teaching.
And here wisdom is taught to be nonexistent, in order to help us to get over our clinging to it as being existent. That’s why it’s exposed like that. Because the ultimate nature of reality equally transcends the nonexistence of wisdom as much as it does the existence of wisdom. And this we can see was the Buddha’s way of teaching the sutras as well when he said: ”There is no ignorance, there is no ending of ignorance.” So there is no existence of it, there is no nonexistence of it either in the nature of reality.”
And further in the second turning in the Wheel of Dharma sutras the way in which the samsara is empty is explained to be the same as the way the nirvana is empty. The way that sentient beings are empty is explained to be the same as the way the buddhas are empty.
In the fundamental wisdom of the Middle Way it says: ”Samsara is not the slightest bit different from nirvana, nirvana is not the slightest bit different from samsara. It’s just like how it is in a dream, there is no difference between being bound in chains and being set free from the chains.”
This has been a brief explanation of distinguishing the provisional from the definitive in the context of outer appearances and the inner mental consciousness. These verses are brief, but their meaning is incredibly profound and vast. So let’s sing these two verses together. However appearances... he said.
Now please look at the essence of the present moment of this moving mental consciousness with your eye of wisdom. Look at it directly, let go and relax. From the highest continuum of the Mahayana not the slightest thing need to be removed, nothing whatsoever needs to be added. Truly looking at truth, truth is seen and in the seeing is complete liberation. The meaning of this is that the nature of mind, clear light is beyond contrivance, it is beyond creating anything or stopping anything, and we look into its nature and relax. Then we can free ourselves from the confusion of dualistic appearance. (short meditation)
Looking again and again at the mind that can not be looked at unseeable reality is seen vividly just as it is. Cutting through all doubts about whether it is or it is not may we unmistakably recognize our own face.
Gewa di yi tsewo kun, sönam yeshe tso sog ne, sönam yeshe le song wa, tampa ku nye tob par sho.
By this merit may all beings perfect the accumulations of merit and wisdom, and from this merit and wisdom may they attain the two dimensions of genuine enlightenment.
By the power of the unchanging mountain of the Buddhas’ enlightened body may all be auspicious. By the Buddhas’ enlightened speech endowed with sixty qualities may all be auspicious. By the power of the Buddhas’ enlightened mind, free from extremes, free from stain may all be auspicious. By the power of the Victorious Ones’ enlightened Body, Speech and Mind may all be auspicious. May this place be filled with happiness and excellence during the day, may it be filled with happiness and excellence during the night, may it be filled with happiness and excellence at noon, may it be filled with happiness and excellence all day and all night. By the power of the three Rare and Supreme Ones may all be auspicious.
Sept 30, 2000
Rinpoche wishes you all tashi deleg this morning, and along with that he makes the aspiration that we will all realize the clear light nature of mind, and as the result of that directly experience all the appearances of this life as illusory appearance-emptiness, and through this be of great benefit to all of the limitless number of sentient beings.
Before listening to the teachings Rinpoche asks that we give rise to the supreme motivation of bodhicitta, which means that we first think with gratitude and love of our father and mother in this lifetime, and then extend the same feeling we have to them gradually to include even our enemies, or to include all sentient beings. And we aspire to attain the perfection of compassion and wisdom that is the state of enlightenment for all their benefit. We know that in order to do this we must listen to, reflect upon, and meditate on the teachings of the genuine dharma with all of the enthusiasm we can master in our hearts. This is the supreme intention of bodhicitta, please give rise to it and listen.
The fact that we are able to listen to, reflect on, and meditate on the teachings of the genuine dharma is directly due to the kindness of our parents, and so it is a wonderful opportunity for us to remember their great kindness. If it is the case that you don’t like your parents, that you feel resentment towards them that you feel some absence of gratitude, then you should use your practice of the Mahayana as an opportunity to cultivate that gratitude and love. The fact that we are able out of all of the bodies of sentient beings of the six realms to attain a human body, and then to have an opportunity to practice the dharma with that human body is directly due to the kindness of our parents. So we should reflect on that and feel gratitude towards them.
We have reached the verse that distinguishes the provisional from the definitive in connection with the skandha of form that is compulsively appropriated. So the first three lines read:
This skandha of form compulsively taken on
The reason why the aggregate of form or the body is called the skandha that is compulsively appropriated is that our ego clinging compulsively appropriates it, we don’t have a choice. As soon as we have the belief in self we divide between self and other and we think: this is the self. And that thought of ego clinging causes the five aggregates as being me, I. As soon as we have this thought of belief in a self we will necessarily have the five aggregates.
So all of the five skandhas are in fact compulsively appropriated, and from among these five the one that is considered here is the skandha of form. The skandha of form is generally said to be comprised of the five sense faculties and the five objects that they perceive. Here we are talking specifically of the five sense faculties, flesh and blood that comprises this body.
Generally this body can be said to be comprised of particles from each of the four elements. It is an aggregate of skandha, in a sense that there are many of these particles lumped together in one mass. Since there are lot of them it’s called an aggregate or a heap.
For what happens when we don’t realize the nature of genuine reality, what is the situation with regard to our bodies? For what happens is we think our body is real and we look at it and we think: ”This is me.” As a result of that we experience the suffering of sickness. When we think there is something wrong with this body then we think ”I am sick” and that causes us to suffer. And we can experience a whole lot of other kinds of suffering too in regard to the body, but that’s the main one.
When we look at this body and think that it’s real, think that it’s ‘me’, then we can experience the foremost suffering of feeling sick, that there is something wrong with me, there is something wrong with my body, but also lot of other kinds of suffering, too, like we can think: ”Oh I don’t have anything good to eat or drink” or ”What I have as food and drink are not good enough”. We can also suffer because we think: ”My body doesn’t have any clothes” or ”The clothes that I have are not very nice clothes” or ”They are nice clothes but they are not clean, they are dirty, I haven’t had a chance to wash them.” We can suffer because of that. We can suffer because we think ”I don’t have a place to live” or ”The place I live isn’t very good”. We can suffer with regard to the belief in self of our body because we feel we are constantly meeting people we don’t like. Or because we don’t meet the people that we like, we are separated from them. Or because the people we like are changing into people we don’t like! Or even vice versa, that can cause suffering, too. So there are many kinds of suffering that come from this.
These are different explanations of the faults that come from thinking of the body as the self. Then if we start to think about what the faults are of doing that we’ll see that there are very many of them.
In the sravakayana tradition, it is from considering the faults of thinking that the body is the self, that one comes to see the entire samsaric existence as being a pit of fire, as being a nest of poisonous snakes, like a septic pool filled with filth, like an isle of cannibals. And as result of seeing samsara to be like that, one develops the renunciation of that and longing for liberation.
If you meditate like that and then contemplate of the selflessness of the individual, and then meditate on that, one can attain the state of being an arhat. But if one doesn’t start by contemplating that samsara is of the nature of suffering, then it’s impossible to become an arhat.
In the Mahayana the main meditation is to contemplate on how it is that the body doesn’t really exist. And how suffering doesn’t really exist. How they have no inherent essence. So it is mainly meditation on emptiness.
In the Mahayana explanation happiness and suffering are explained to be independently existent, because if we don’t have any notion of what happiness is we can never have any notion of what unhappiness is. But on other hand, if there is never any unhappiness, we won’t know what happiness is either. So these two are just dependently existent, and since they can only exist one in dependence upon the other then, they can’t really exist at all.
If someone, whoever they might be, never had any experience of happiness, then they could never know what unhappiness is, suffering, because they would have no reference point, they would not say: ”Oh no, I’m not happy, I’m suffering.” They would never had been happy, so how could they know what it means to be not happy. And similarly if they never had any experience of unhappiness, then they could never say what happiness was. So suffering and happiness exist only in dependence upon each other just like the suffering and happiness we experience in dreams. And therefore neither one of them has any true existence.
When one realizes the true nature of reality then one realizes that the body is appearance and emptiness. While it appears it is empty, while empty it appears. And since in the Vajrayana when one meditates on one’s body as being the body of a deity then one meditates on one’s body as being appearance – emptiness. Then realizing the true nature prepares one for this meditation.
Therefore if we can realize that the body is appearance – emptiness then we can realize that the body is actually the body of a deity. And this is what reverses the common assumptions we entertain about our bodies: First of all that they are the self, then that they are something clean, that they are something real. All of these assumptions are reversed. And therefore it is very important before one meditates on these Vajrayana practices of one’s body being yidam deity that one determines that the body is of the nature of appearance and emptiness.
The reason for this is that once one knows that one’s body is appearance – emptiness then when one meditates on one being a yidam deity one will understand that is also just an appearance that is appearance and emptiness and one won’t be attached to the yidam as being something real.
And what is the ultimate nature?
In the end, in fact, there is no such thing as a body
And this is in harmony with what the Buddha taught in the Heart of Wisdom sutra when he said: ”You should see clearly that the five skandhas are empty by nature, that their nature is emptiness.” Since the five skandhas are of the nature of emptiness and that’s how they basically are, then certainly this skandha of form is something that doesn’t really exist, that is of the nature of emptiness and then what is included in that which is the body is also of the nature of emptiness.
In the Heart of Wisdom sutra the four applications of emptiness are also taught. And they are taught when the Buddha says: ”Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is nothing other than emptiness and emptiness is nothing other than form.” In this way the Buddha teaches the unity of appearance and emptiness. And if we connect this with the body then we would say: The body is emptiness, emptiness is the body. The body is nothing other than emptiness and emptiness is nothing other than the body.
When we examine the body and see that it is neither one thing nor many things then we see that it is of the nature of emptiness and from within this emptiness the appearance of the body shines due to the coming together of causes and conditions. So it is dependently arisen appearance from within this emptiness. And apart of this mere dependently arisen appearance of the body there is no emptiness somewhere else and as for emptiness it isn’t anywhere else than in existing as the nature of this dependently arisen mere appearance of the body.
Mental afflictions, the karmic actions we take as a result of having them, the body that is the result of these karmic actions exist only in dependence upon each other. And therefore all three are empty of any inherent essence. And this is what the Protector and Guardian teaches in the fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way when he says: ”Karmic actions have the kleshas as their cause. The kleshas themselves are brought about by karmic actions and the body has as its cause the karmic actions and therefore all three are empty of essence.
Karma is caused by the mental afflictions because it is as a result of having these mental afflictions as our motivation that we take different types of karmic actions. They are what impel us to act. So accumulating karma is direct result of having the kleshas. But he reverse is also true because there is no such thing as a sentient being who has mental afflictions who didn’t accumulate some karma first. So karma is also the cause of the mental afflictions in some way. Karma precedes the sentient being who has mental afflictions. So they are dependently existent. And finally, the body that we get as a result of having committed karmic actions in the past. But also the body is the cause of these karmic actions because you have to have a body to commit some type of karmic actions. So the body and karma also exist only in dependence upon each other. All three, the mental afflictions (kleshas), karmic actions and the body therefore have no inherent essence.
When Milarepa sings: In the end, in fact, there is no such thing as a body, we have to remember that he is singing from the ultimate perspective. At the time that one is a confused sentient being it certainly appears that we have a body and Milarepa isn’t trying to deny that.
We can look at these three stages of a body from a perspective of a dream and see that when we dream first of all when we don’t know we are dreaming it seems that we have a real body in this dream. Where does this real body come from? It just comes from thinking that it’s real. It has no other cause than that. So when we have a real body in a dream it is because we think that we do, not for any other reason. The second stage is when we dream and we know that we are dreaming. At that point we know that everything that appears in a dream is appearance and emptiness and so what kind of body do we have? An appearing, yet empty body because that’s how we perceive it to be. And then what is the ultimate nature of the body in this dream? Well, no body was ever born at the first place, so could there be any body? How could a body exist? And that’s the way to understand it from the ultimate perspective. And just as the body has three stages in a dream, three different perspectives so it is that during the day this daytime body also has three different stages.
Once we’ve gained certainty that these three stages exist with regard to the dream body then what we have to do is to apply these same stages to the body we have during the day and see how they apply there as well. But since it is the case that with this body as something that we’ve got as the result of all of the attachment we’ve cultivated over our past lifetimes then it’s quite difficult to give up attachment to it in this life. This verse that teaches about the three stages of the body is something very important from the perspective of the Vajrayana meditations of the deities and the mandalas. Let’s sing it together three times.
If we just rest one-pointedly in the sounds that are being made when we sing that shamatha or calm abiding meditation – if we examine the nature of these sounds and see that they don’t really exist while we are singing them, then that is vipashyana or superior insight. And if we look into the essential nature of our thoughts while we are singing then that is mahamudra.
This skandha of form... as a cloud-free sky is what he taught.
Next is distinguishing the provisional from the definitive with regard the apparitions of male and female demons and ghouls. So the first stage is when there is no realization and here Milarepa sings:
Apparitions of male and female demons and ghouls
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition there are you can say a numberless different types of spirits, demons, gods. The reason why is, first of all, that the religious tradition that preceded Buddhism in Tibet, the Bönpo, had a very strong tradition of asserting the existence of these gods and demons. And also Buddhism as it came from India, also had a tradition of asserting the existence of gods and demons and the tradition of astrology which came to Tibet from China also incorporated into it a belief of existence of gods and demons. So you put this all together and the Tibetan Buddhists have – did have now – a strong belief in gods and demons.
Some people might say that, well, there aren’t really such things as gods and demons. And other people would say there are such things. Who is right and who is wrong is a question you can’t really answer because the existence of anything in the relative truth is only conceptual. So whether it exists or not in the first place, is something that just depends on, whether or not you have a concept of its existence. And so in terms of the relative everybody is right whatever they say and in terms of the ultimate nature of reality then it transcends both the existence and the nonexistence of spirits.
The spirits are called in Tibetan lhandre, which is a combination of a word for god or deity and a word for demon. So why would you call one spirit or one being both the deity and the demon? –Well, it depends on how they are treating you at the moment. If you please them with offerings and respect, then they can protect you and help you, then they are like a deity, but if you do something to anger them then they harm you so they are like a demon. So these two contradictory words are put together in their name because they have changing personalities. The Tibetan tradition is to believe that these deity-demons live in a places like in a very big snow mountains or very big rock formations or lakes, so whenever one would go to a place like that then one would assume that there are spirits living there and they would have certain names and stories associated with them. And then there were the spirits, the god-demons that lived in the charnel grounds and the ones that lived in springs and so forth.
Generally, in the practice of dharma it’s good to believe in the existence of these spirits because if you have the notion that there are some type of spirit that can do you harm then it will be easy to give rise to a notion of a spirit or a deity, a yidam deity who can help you and protect you. So it is first having the thought that there are these spirits that are malicious and can harm, then we get strong notion of the yidams that can protect, that is why it’s a necessary thing to practice dharma to have a belief in spirits. For example if you believe that there are spirits out there who can hurt you now will be a motivating cause to go to the refuge to the Three Rare and Supreme Ones. And so in that way belief in the existence of spirits is good.
In terms on the relative world of apparent reality there are both gods and demons. This is the point where we are not analyzing, we are not looking into their true nature, so we would say that there are both of these, but in terms of the ultimate nature of reality when we analyze we see that gods can only exist in dependence upon demons and vice versa and so neither of them really exist.
When we realize the true nature of mind, mahamudra, the essential nature of these gods and demons as well, then what’s that like? Milarepa sings:
When your guise is seen through, your obstructors are dharmapalas
A hotbed of siddhis of such a variety
When Milarepa realizes the nature of mind and the essential nature of these demons that try to harm him, they are not harmful at all, they are dharma protectors. And the reason for that is that it is from them that Milarepa gains his realisation from meditating on their true nature, from contemplating the true nature of what appears to him. Then he gains his siddhis, his powers. And he is singing this to the spirits, the Tseringma sisters that are appearing before him at this very time. That’s why he is saying ”you”. He says. ”When I realize your nature you are not harmful you are dharma protectors. It is from you that I gain all of my great abilities.”
When the five Tseringma sisters first appeared to Milarepa they appeared in a very wrathful, fearsome form, they threatened him with all kinds of hostile language and they really wanted to do harm to him but what Milarepa did in response was to sing them songs of his realization and when he did that they both developed faith in Milarepa and became his Dharma Protectors and to this day they are the Dharma Protectors of the Kagyu lineage and Kagyu practitioners make offerings to them. If one practices the deity practice of the Tseringma sisters then they become like the deities who give wealth. One can become wealthy as a result of doing their practice.
What about the ultimate nature of these gods and spirits? Milarepa sings:
In the end, in fact, there are neither gods nor goblins
The first thing one can come to understand is that harmful spirits can only exist in dependence upon helpful ones, helpful gods and vice versa. And therefore they are only dependently existent and therefore they have no true existence. And that is their ultimate nature, they aren’t really there. So then what? —Well, the instruction is to exhaust our concepts of gods and demons. To let the concepts go as far as they go and no more, that’s it. To take the notions of these spirits as being real to their point of exhaustion. And that is the way that it is conventionally described but the actual practice is to look into nature of the concepts of gods and demons and see that the thoughts of them, the concepts of them don’t really exist. That the thoughts themselves have no essence. What is said in the instruction is in terms of taking the concepts as far as they go and no more, and letting them be exhausted but in fact what we are doing in the practices looking at the nature of what the thoughts are since the thoughts don’t really exist in the first place, we see that, then there is really no such thing as the exhaustion of them either.
The reason why in the ultimate nature of reality there are no gods and demons is that samsara and nirvana don’t really exist. They are not two different things. Samsara is not real, nirvana is not real, and therefore there are no harmful spirits, no helpful deities. If we were to think that gods and demons were real then we would have to ask the question which one comes first. Is there first a deity or first a demon? If deities come before demons then what is the reference point for calling the deities good, helpful beings, because there is nothing that is bad at that point. So what is the reference point for this notion of good? But on the other hand if demons exist first and they are the harmful spirits then at the point they exist but there are no such things as deities what is the reference point for calling them harmful. We have no notion of any spirit as being good. So there is no reference point as them being bad and in this way there are lots of proofs that can show that these things are not real but there are no proofs that can show that they are. Now let’s sing this verse three times.
Apparitions of male... ...let concepts go as far as they go and no more,
The tradition of the practice of Chöd of Cutting Through is a very good one because first one practices assuming that gods and demons exist and one makes offerings to them and then one trains in the ultimate nature of reality transcending both existence of gods and demons. And the way to practice this in Tibet was to go to a very lonesome far off charnel ground and stay there overnight so that one would have very strong notion, concept of gods and demons existing in this place. And then to make offerings to them and then while this very powerful thought of gods and demons arose in the mind to train in their lack of their any true nature.
In terms of the temporary state Milarepa also asserted the existence of gods and demons but what he said was the worst demon of all was the belief in a self. And the most numerous demons were concepts.
Milarepa sang a song to a demon known as the crack demoness called ”The 27 Cases of Dissolution” and there are 12 cases that are exemplified that Milarepa sings out and the last three of these are:
what appears as, is perceived as and understood as a ghost,
Here Milarepa teaches that an appearance of a demon is merely one’s own confused projection, nothing more, nothing really exists outside. Milarepa practiced in very remoted places in mountain retreats and the inhabitants of those places were spirits. First, before Milarepa had many human disciples at all he had a lot of spirits for his disciples and then gradually people became his disciples, too. The people Milarepa did make contact with in a very strong way were hunters because they were the ones who were wandering up there in places where Milarepa was meditating and so he developed very strong connections with hunters, for example the hunter Gonpo Dorje. Also shepherds and yak herds took their herds up. They would go to watch their herds from the places were Milarepa was meditating. He would look down on them from up there and so Milarepa developed connections with many herders including the shepherd boy whose name was Lutse Repa and many of them became his students, too.
And then when Milarepa became very famous he attracted many scholars who wanted to debate with him and prove that he didn’t really know anything. These scholars, when they came to debate they lost and as a result of that developed faith in Milarepa and became his students as well as Lotön Gendun and others. This only happened after he became well known, famous, because scholars don’t want to waste their time debating somebody who is not famous. Then people really want to try to prove that they don’t know anything and that’s why the scholars came to debate him.
After Milarepa developed great miraculous powers then he had meetings, encounters with other great siddhas from India like Dampa Sangye and Dharma Boddhi. And when he passed into nirvana he did so way up in another mountain retreat and that was an event that all those who witnessed it, said it was incredible.
When Milarepa first began to practice, when he first went off to practice he sang a song about how he was going to meditate in White Rock Horse Tooth Cave and from that point on until he passed away into nirvana he loved to meditate in caves and he would just keep going up there. And even when he passed away into nirvana he did so in a remote cave. This is something that makes his life story quite miraculous and amazing to the beings, to the people who live on this planet.
So now let’s sing the four verses that distinguish the provisional from the definitive. We should sing and meditate at the same time.
However appearances..let concepts go as far as they go and no more,
The next verse reads:
In the ultimate yana, to put it in general terms,
There are many explanations of why it is that demons and spirits appear in the first place. Here the explanation is made from the perspective of the ultimate yana and from within that the practice of secret mantra of anuttarayogatantra, the highest of four classes of tantra. And the way that it is explained is that demons and spirits appear according to this explanation is that when you do the practice of tsa, lung, tigle, of prana, nadi and bindu then when the bindu, when the tigle, when the essence coalesce in the chakras, either in the chakra at the crown of the head or in the throat or the heart or the navel, then as the result of that coalescing of tigle and of wind in those chakras then you can get the appearance of spirits on the outside.
And this is something that happened, as we can see in the life story of Dagpo Rinpoche because he saw an appearance of Hevajra surrounded by the eight deities of the mandala making nine in total and he went to Milarepa and said this happened. Milarepa said it’s because the tigle now is now coalescing in your heart chakra which has eight branches plus one of the main three channels which goes through there makes nine. So that’s why, because of these nine branches there you are getting this appearance of deities of the Hevajra mandala. That’s the explanation of why these spirits appear.
The chronicles of Milarepa divided into two parts. One is his life story and the other is his collection of songs. So his life story is what he recounted mainly about things that happened to him and the collection of songs is stories of his encounters with the students. So if you read the section in The Hundred Thousand Songs about his meeting with Dagpo Rinpoche all of this will become clear.
In short the meaning is: this term that is translated as dhatu condensation, in Tibetan is khamdu, it means gathering or coalescing of the elements. So, when you practice the tsa lung tigle meditations, then you can get this experience of khamdu or gathering of the elements and sometimes it makes you feel very happy, sometimes it causes suffering, sometimes it gives you visions of the deities, sometimes it gives you appearances of demons. In the sakya tradition khamdu is explained as something that is very good, it is a prophetic event and they explain all the different kinds of it. In the Kagyu tradition it is explained that when this event of khamdu happens then you have to look into the essential nature of the thoughts that are conceiving of it, the thoughts that are conceiving of the experiences associated with it. That is important. If we don’t know that it is just ...whatever we are experiencing is just a result of this gathering of the elements and rather we think that it is something real then that is when the confusion comes in. If on the other hand we know that it is just the gathering of the elements then we can take this event of khamdu to the path and then it becomes a friend of our meditation.
The point is that when we have an experience of something appearing due to this event of khamdu then it is just a confused projection of our own mind, it’s not something that is really there. And so Milarepa sings at the beginning of the next verse:
Not knowing those self-expressions are not what they seem
To mistake these mental projections are real is not only stupid, Milarepa thinks it’s incredibly stupid. Shintu mong, that means incredibly stupid thing to do: will get you precisely nowhere. Well if that’s the general statement what happened to Milarepa. What was his experience? —There was a time that he did that. He says:
There was a time confusion made my head spin
So first Milarepa criticizes like this. Taking the spirits to be real, not knowing that they are just self projections. But then he says: ”That’s what I did, too. At that time it was as if I was living in a nest of my own delusion, of my own confusion and ignorance. Because this confusion of taking gods that help and spirits that harm to be real was making my head spin. Thinking that the gods that I presumed to be helpful were real, that the demons I presumed to be harmful were real, this confusion spun my head around. If we can first recognize our confusion then it’s easier to see how similar type of confusion affects others.
What’s it like now. That’s what it was like before. Milarepa sings of his present experience on the last three lines of the verse:
But now through the jetsun siddha’s guidance so kind
Now through the great kindness of Marpa the translator, the jetsun siddha, I realize that samsara and nirvana are of the same nature. They are equality. And so there is no need to try to bring about nirvana and try to get rid of samsara. I see that their nature is precisely the same and therefore whatever appears is the creative display of the intrinsic radiance of mahamudra. It is the play and dance of the nature of mind that is mahamudra.
Through realizing the delusion to have no ground – through realizing that these confused appearances have no basis of existence, they have no root of any reality, then what happens, the water moon of awareness shines unblurred. Here self-aware, self-arisen primordial wisdom is compared to a water moon that is shining in a completely clear a lake. And luminosity of the true nature of mind is compared to the sun shining in the sky free of clouds just like when the true nature of mind shines in the expanse free of thoughts. And this lights up the darkness of ignorance, dispelling the darkness of ignorance out to its very limit.
A glimmer of basic being glows within – basic being is, if you want to describe it you just say: it is what it is. However that might be that’s how it is. And Milarepa is experiencing precisely that. And when he experiences precisely that then he has the glow of different kinds of emptiness. One kind would be the experience of appearance – emptiness, one kind would be the experience of clarity – emptiness, one kind would be awareness – emptiness, one kind would be bliss – emptiness. All the different kind of experiences and many more Milarepa is singing that they are happening right now from realizing this basic nature of how it is. And also all of this is happening within the overall experience of openness, spaciousness and relaxedness. Since Milarepa is having these direct experiences he no longer has any doubts of whether he has realized the nature of mind or not. He is not left with any wondering: ”Well, did I really get it or did I not get it.” He has transcended that.
In the last two lines Milarepa sings:
Now Milarepa considers the idea of seeing a ghost to be very precious, rinpoche. The most precious thing that can happen, it’s good, because it’s reminder to him to meditate on the unborn nature of reality that is mahamudra. Mahamudra transcending the thoughts, the concepts of demons and spirits and so we get that as a reminder from an appearance of a demon, to meditate on mahamudra and that’s why the thought or the appearance of a demon is so great.
Now let’s sing the last three verses of the song. In the ultimate yana... ... how strange and amazing!
In the second session of this afternoon if you have questions about the
song you can ask them.
We begin by singing the song Distinguishing the Provisional from the Definitive in the Context of Mahamudra and then we can have time for the questions.
Now what questons do you have?
Question: Rinpoche, I understand about emptiness, [inaudible] emptiness, looking at the four different schools and meditations on emptiness [inaudible] to a direct realization but I don’t understand relationship between that method and looking at the clear nature of the mind. Is this an alternative to the method I just mentioned or is this a method completely different way of realizing the emptiness so that the two are mutually exclusive?
Rinpoche: The question is about the two methods, first of studying emptiness progressively through the stages of the four philosophical tenets, versus the method of looking directly at the clear nature of mind, are these two methods exclusive or do they benefit in some way, what is their relationship if any.
First of all considering the first method that is when one comes to understand emptiness in a gradual way by first studying the more coarse explanations about emptiness and of reality and then as the explanations get more subtle the more subtle explanations are easier to understand because one has studied the more coarse ones that came before.
If one looks at the luminous nature of mind directly and rests within it free of the duality of there being anything to perceive and anyone perceiving it then that is the Mind Only School’s way to meditate. To rest in awareness that is the ground or the basis of reality but which is free of any duality of an object different from a subject. This way of meditating is just like the realization that one is dreaming while the dream is occurring.
If one looks at the nature of mind and examines it seeing that it is neither one thing nor many things and therefore that its nature is primordial emptiness like empty space, that is meditating on the nature of mind in accordance with the view of the autonomy school, the svatantrika madhyamika. When one meditates in this way then one will have experiences like that of being in the middle of vast and empty space as if one’s body had disappeared, one has no body, those types of experiences can arise from meditating in this way.
If one looks with one’s eye of wisdom directly at the nature of mind and sees that it is neither something nor nothing, neither permanent nor impermanent, neither empty nor not empty, ensured that it is beyond any conceptual fabrication, and seeing that mind is like that then one’s own prajna that is looking at this mind is also free of perceiving mind to be in any of these different ways. Then both what we meditate on and what is doing the meditating are free from any conceptual fabrication. They are like water poured into water and this is the way to meditate on the nature of mind that is in harmony with the Middle Way consequence school, the prasangika madhyamika.
As the Protector Nagarjuna says in the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: ”Don’t call it empty, don’t call it not empty, don’t call it both and don’t call it neither. Use these just as conventional expressions.” The meaning of these verses is that we cannot describe the nature of mind by saying that it is empty or not empty or both or neither because it transcends all conceptual fabrication and nevertheless when we talk about it when we are explaining it then it’s perfectly okay to use these terms as long as we understand that they are just conventional expressions.
And Nagarjuna further says: ”Those who do not assert existence or nonexistence or any combination of the two cannot be refuted by anyone else no matter how hard they try.” So Nagarjuna wrote this verse because he devotes a lot of his text to refuting the views of others. But then he is asked: ”What about your own view? Aren’t you going to refute that?” And he explains that he cannot be refuted because he has no view. He doesn’t assert any of these things.
What we should further understand is that Nagarjuna did not refute the views of everybody else in order to put them down but rather to help them. Because, as long as we still have an assertion, we haven’t reached the ultimate understanding of the true nature of reality. So that is how the Middle Way consequence school understands things.
If we look at the songs of the realized siddhas or the verses of the great masters, whenever we see statements that they are beyond assertion, they are beyond having any view then we should understand that their way of expressing things at that point is in harmony with that of the Middle Way consequence school.
If without relying on reasoning or analysis with logical conclusion we look, simply look straight at the nature of mind, and rest relaxed with it within the Clear Light that is mind’s essence, that is the way to meditate in harmony with the view of the shentong, the Empty of Other school. And here when it says that one’s nature is Clear Light we are not talking about any light that is a composite entity that exists due to the coming together of causes and conditions. It’s not that because it’s just the nature of mind as it is. So it’s not something created by anything. And when we do this in a way that is free from there being anything to rest in and anyone to rest within anything, free of that type of duality, then that is meditating according to the way of shentong.
The treatise on the buddhanature, the Uttaratantra shastra is comprised of seven vajrapoints. And the fourth of these is about the basic element of the buddhanature, the enlightened essence. It explains the three reasons why all sentient beings have the enlightened essence as their basic nature and the ten aspects of its existence and the nine examples for how it is covered over by adventitious stains. And if we can gain certainty of the qualities of the buddhanature by studying these, by being sure about what they mean, after them in the text comes one verse which teaches how to meditate on the buddhanature and this verse says: ”Not the slightest thing need to be removed, nothing whatsoever need be added, truly looking at truth, truth is seen and in the seeing is complete liberation.” Nothing needs to be removed from the buddhanature because no faults exist within it, nothing needs to be added to it either, it is perfect just as it is and when genuine understanding looks at this buddhanature that is genuine it is like Clear Light looking at itself, Clear Light looking at Clear Light without any distinction and we just rest within that.
There is nothing whatsoever that need be removed because in the essential nature of mind, the buddhanature, there is no imperfection; there are no stains at all. So there is nothing to try to get rid of. And since it exists as the nature of mind replete with all of its qualities then there is nothing to add to it, it is perfect just as it is.
The general Mahayana explanation is that we begin by practising first the Path of Accumulation and second the Path of Junction. While on those two paths we haven’t yet given up, we haven’t yet cleared away the obscurations that prevent us from seeing the nature of mind just as it is. We do that when we reach the Path of Seeing and become noble bodhisattvas. Once we’ve done that we see directly what we’ve never seen before and we go from there through the path of Cultivation, cultivating or habituating ourselves to what we see on the Path of Seeing. That covers the second through the tenth bodhisattva bhumis or grounds. And at the end of the tenth bodhisattva bhumi one rests in what is called the samadhi that is like a vajra. This samadhi completely vanquishes any last traces of duality together with the subtle imprints that dualistic perception leaves in the mind. And at that point one becomes enlightened. So when the verse says: ”Through the seeing in the seeing is complete liberation”, this complete liberation refers ultimately to the liberation of the Buddha but also to all of the stages of liberation that happen from the time one becomes a bodhisattva progressing through the ten grounds up to enlightenment.
According to the mahamudra tradition the way to meditate is explained by the third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje in his aspiration prayer for mahamudra, specifically his aspiration for the attainment of lhaktong, vipashyana or superior insight. And so he says: ”Looking again and again at the mind that cannot be looked at, unseeable reality is seen vividly just as it is. Cutting through all doubts of whether it is or it is not, may we unmistakably recognise our own face.”
Why can’t we look at mind? – Because mind doesn’t appear to any of the five sense consciousnesses. It’s not a sight, it’s not a sound, it’s not something to smell or taste or touch. So there is no way to look at it. The nature of mind transcends names, transcends conventional expressions and therefore it’s beyond logic. It’s beyond logical sings, reasons and inference and so it cannot be realised directly by inferential valid cognition. When we understand valid logical conclusions about the nature of mind then we understand it in approximate way, in an abstract way but not in direct way. And therefore mind not only transcends direct valid cognition as exemplified by not being object of any of the five sense consciousnesses, it also transcends being an object of inferential valid cognition.
Therefore, when we look at mind, we don’t see anything, there is nothing to look at, and in fact the process of looking at mind does not involve anyone looking or anything to look at, therefore when we meditate on the nature of mind there is no-one meditating and nothing to meditate upon, and when we see the nature of mind as a realisation in fact there is no-one seeing anything and nothing to see.
The second line says: ”Unseeable reality is seen vividly, just as it is.” So even though there is nothing to see and no-one to see anything there is this vivid seeing that is described, the superior insight. This superior insight is a name given to the experience of realization when in fact there is nothing to see and no-one seeing anything. It is an experience of the non-dual nature of reality. It is an expression of pure, vivid and direct insight and when we have this experience then doubts have no place to be anymore, there is no room for them, doubts about whether it is or ”it is like this” or ”it’s not like that”. All that type of uncertainty is gone and our aspiration is that this will happen; that we will unmistakably recognise our own face. Because we have to see it ourselves.
There are several traditions of mahamudra in the Kagyu tradition as a whole. The first of these is called Sutra Mahamudra and it is mahamudra of the nature of mind realized transcending all conceptual fabrications, being beyond concepts in the nature of what it is. And this Dagpo Rinpoche explained is the tradition that is in harmony with the explanation of the Mahayana Uttaratantra shastra, the treatise on buddhanature. He said this explicitly: ”Our mahamudra in the Kagyu tradition comes from this treatise on buddhanature and its explanation of the enlightened essence, the Clear Light Nature of Mind is connected with some debate of the style of meditation instructions from the Mantra Mahamudra tradition, and that is Sutra Mahamudra.”
Mantra Mahamudra is the method on meditating on the nature of reality that is bliss and emptiness. And one practises it in reliance upon having received empowerments and practising on what is called The Path of Skilful Means. Specifically it involves the practice of the third empowerment and one uses that practice in order to rest in the nature of mind that is bliss and emptiness.
The third tradition is Essence Mahamudra and it is described in the Treasury of Knowledge as receiving the vajra of the blessing of Essence Mahamudra. This is the process by which lama endowed with realization points out to the nature of mind to fortunate student or students all at once so that they are introduced directly to the nature of mind just as it is. It is the way that a realized lama gives pointing out instructions to a fortunate student who is sure, who has great faith in the lama who has transcended all doubt.
And therefore as we can see, if one looks at the nature of the mind in accordance with the views of the various philosophical tenets then also that will lead to experience. So it’s like that.
Now what questions do you have? We have to make them quite short.
Question: Is there any connection between Dharmakaya and ghosts?
Rinpoche: In fact ultimate nature of ghosts is the Dharmakaya. Since ultimate nature of thoughts – any kind of thought at all – is Dharmakaya then ultimate nature of ghosts is also Dharmakaya. As it is explained that the ultimate nature of samsara is nirvana. Therefore it’s just like when we dream of demons or spirits. Demons and spirits are just the way of appearance, not the way of genuine reality. In genuine reality there is no such thing as obstructing spirit or anything malicious at all, once we realize their true nature. And in terms of appearance then it’s important to understand that because it’s impossible to completely shut off the appearances of demons, to prevent them from appearing is impossible.
Even though really there are no such things as ghosts they appear as the confused projections of the mind of the yogin and that is why Milarepa sings – as Rinpoche quoted earlier – what appears as, is perceived as, understood as a ghost, whenever these appear from the yogi they appear and when they dissolve into the yogi they dissolve. This is very important for us to keep in mind. And further the emanation of the Lord of Yogis Milarepa who’s name was Gyalwa Götsampa sang a song called the Eight Kinds of Nonduality: ”Wonderful visions of yidam deities and fiercesome apparitions of obstructing demons, these distinctions don’t exist in a pure expanse, so how joyful, sudden victory.” This is a teaching on the nature of reality. Gods and demons are equality.
Rinpoche asks that I sing this verse and it goes like this:
Wonderful visions of yidam deities and
If we find ourselves with a lot of attachment to the deities and aversion to the demons then we should sing that verse very often. Do you have any other questions? We have ten minutes.
Question: If gods and demons are only our own projections do they believe in their own existence just like we do and if they are just our projections why do we make offerings to them?
Rinpoche: Demons have ego clinging, they believe in their own existence and in terms of deities we have to determine what deity we are talking about. What type of god we are talking about to see whether they have ego clinging or not. Demons have ego clinging, they believe in the existence of themselves because they are confused beings. So they definitely have it. People think that these demons are real and that is evidence of the people’s own confusion. The true nature of demons doesn’t go beyond dharmata, it doesn’t go beyond pure reality.
Milarepa sings in another song called The Five Perfections of the Definitive Meaning:
These demons who make all these obstacles
If you think demons are real then you need to make a lot of ritual racket to get rid of them but if you don’t think they are real, you know they are just like appearances in dreams you don’t need to do that. If you know their nature is beyond concept then there is no need to try to stop them or make them appear. It’s like that.
The second part of the question is: If they are just confused appearances why do we offer to them. – Because they are hungry! So it’s nice for them to have something to eat. In the tradition of Chod practice we understand that these demons are ravenous, they are very hungry and so we offer them a nice meal of our own flesh and blood. Just like if we dream of being very hungry, if we get a nice meal in that dream it makes us very happy, just like that. Sometimes we can dream of being very hungry and actually finding some food to eat but can’t eat it, that’s the experience of the hungry ghosts.
That’s the confused way of confusion. You have this really nice food in front of you and you want to eat it but you can’t get it. That’s what it’s like in dreams. And in the bardo confused appearances happen like that, too. That dreams, the bardo and the waking life are all confused appearances, they are all the same in that regard. And everything that is a confused appearance is not real, it is appearance and emptiness and the nature of the thoughts that think about these confused appearances is clarity and emptiness.
Well, if there are no confused appearances and there is no confused mind, then what’s it’s really like, what’s it like then? – It’s the expanse of dharmadhatu that is the expanse of pure vision and within the great palace of spaciousness and openness pure appearances, beautiful colours and all the rest shine. That’s why it is explained that the immeasurable palaces of the Five Buddha Families shine within the expanse of Clear Light and pure vision. As for the beings in the lower realms, the hungry ghosts and the hell beings and the animals, the impure appearances that they perceive are merely the result of their lack of realization of the dharmadhatu. So they perceive the dharmadhatu to be something impure. So it’s like that.
You asked very good questions and as result of that you got instructions for how to look at the nature of mind in connection with each of the philosophical tenets. So everything has gone very well this afternoon. So let’s sing the song. Sing and meditate at the same time.
The Middle Way tradition is to seek out the nature of genuine reality. So first analyze and then according to the Autonomy School rest in the completely negation of everything. That is like space. (short meditation)
According to the Consequence School the object of meditation, dharmadhatu, and the meditating mind are undifferentiable, like water poured into water. (meditation)
According to the Empty of Other school, the shentong, one rests in the great non-conceptual Clear Light. On the essential point of being free from conceptual fabrications all schools agree. (meditation)
Looking again and again at the mind that can’t be looked at unseeable reality is seen vividly, just as it is. Cutting through all doubts about whether it is or it is not may we unmistakably recognise our own face.
Cutting through to the groundlessness and rootlessness of mind, looking at object there are no objects, they are seen to be mind. Looking at mind there is no mind, mind is empty of essence. Looking at both clinging to duality is self-liberated. May we recognize the true nature of mind, Clear Light.
By the power of the great compassion of the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and the power of all the immaculate virtue that there is, may my own and all sentient beings’ completely pure aspiration prayers be perfectly fulfilled.
Oct. 1, 2000
Rinpoche wishes you all tashi deleg this morning and along with that he makes the aspiration that all of our ultimate bodhicitta which cuts through our clinging to the belief in a reality of existence will increase and increase and that also our relative bodhicitta which slams the door on our clinging to our own selfish peace will increase and increase and that through this we will be of great benefit to all of a limitless number of sentient beings.
Now we should put to melody the song that sings of the intention of the all powerful Lord Maitripa as taught to Marpa and as sang by Milarepa. The Song that Distinguishes the Provisional from the Definitive in the Context of Mahamudra:
Beloved lama bless me to naturally rest
The nails to be driven related to view are three
To describe the nails that go with view, the three
To describe the nails of meditation, the three
To describe the nails of conduct there are three
To describe the nails that go with result, the three
Now with all of these nails there is one to be driven home
Co-emergent realization drives it home.
Please give rise before listening to the teachings to the supreme motivation of bodhicitta which means that we aim to attain the state of perfect and precious enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings who are as limitless in number as the sky is vast in its extent. We know that in order to do this we must listen to, reflect upon and meditate on these teachings of the song on the profound view, meditation, conduct and the fruition sang by the Lord of Yogis Milarepa called The Three Nails with all the enthusiasm we can muster in our hearts. This is the precious attitude of bodhicitta, please give rise to it and listen.
This is a song that Milarepa sang in a place that was prophesied by the Buddha himself by the Avatamsaka sutra in a place that was prophesied by Guru Rinpoche as a secret place of practice and a place that was prophesied by Marpa the Translator, Milarepa’s teacher, as a place where Milarepa would go to practice. It was sung in the Jomo snow enclosure in Nepal in the cave known as The Tiger Cave Lion Fortress.
The song begins with a supplication:
Beloved lama bless me to naturally rest
Beloved lama, bless me that I may practice in the same way that you have. That I may gain what is the natural and spontaneous view, the natural and spontaneous meditation, the natural and spontaneous conduct.
The nails to be driven related to view are three
So this verse gives an introduction, a summary of what the song is going to be about, there will be three essential points taught in connection with view, meditation, conduct and fruition.
There are in fact many essential points conducted with view, meditation, conduct and fruition but Milarepa can summarize them all in three essential points with regard to each:
To describe the nails that go with view, the three
There are three essential points to know in connection with the view. The first one is that all appearances are encompassed by mind. And what that means is that whatever can appear to consciousness, whatever can appear to the five sense consciousnesses in this life, whatever can be known, whatever is an object of knowledge, all of it is encompassed by mind. And according to the Mind Only School’s way of explaining things what this would mean is that it would follow the explanation that whatever would appear is a confused projection that is a result of the habitual tendencies stored in the mind.
So there is nothing really there on the outside, all that we perceive our confused projections of our own habitual tendencies. That will be one way to explain this line. Another way would be to understand that as it’s really explained here which is according to the tradition of mahamudra. And that would be to say that whatever it is that appears is just the play, the radiance of mahamudra that is the nature of mind. So there is nothing outside of that. And therefore all appearances are included within mind.
Well, if all appearances are included within mind what is mind like itself? That is the topic of the second essential point of the view: In luminosity’s space is native mind, the nature of mind itself, the true nature of mind is clarity, luminosity, luminosity that is both free of any imperfection and free of being able to be described by any conceptual term or convention. So it’s both free of flaw and beyond concept that is the nature of this luminosity that is mind’s essence. Well, how can we describe this clarity or luminosity? Can we identify it as something? That’s the topic of the final nail of the view: in that there is no discrimination at all, meaning that we cannot identify mind to be something, we cannot identify it to be nothing. It is beyond description, it is beyond identification or conceptual reference point. And that is what the third line teaches.
Clear light is the term that is used to describe the nature of mind. But we need to understand that this light is not like the light we can see with our eyes. It’s not like the light of the sun or the moon. Because if it was like that then it would be something impermanent, the nature of mind and it would be subject to disintegrate, to fall apart. In fact it’s beyond that. It’s beyond being an object of the senses, it is beyond any type of description we might try to give it, and therefore it is not perceived by the senses but rather by the precise knowledge, the prajna that arises from meditation.
Our loving compassionate teacher, the Buddha said many times in the sutras and tantras that the nature of mind is luminosity, Clear Light.
To describe the nails of meditation, the three
To describe the nails that go with meditation, the first one is that all thoughts are liberated because their essential nature is Dharmakaya. This is true because if we investigate the essence of thoughts we can’t find anything there, they have no existent essence and their nature is clarity. And this clarity is nothing other than the Dharmakaya. This clarity that is the very nature of thoughts is precisely the Dharmakaya. Well then what is this clarity like? We can also say this clarity and emptiness to put the two together when we examine we don’t find anything, but its nature is clarity, so the Dharmakaya is clarity-emptiness. So the what is this Dharmakaya that is clarity-emptiness like?
That’s described in the second nail of meditation: awareness is luminous, and their depth is bliss. So there are these three aspects to the Dharmakaya. The first is the awareness, the awareness that is nondual in the sense that there is neither anything to be aware of nor anyone or anything that is aware. It is awareness that transcends subject and object and so it is called self-awareness. Then there is the quality of clarity or luminosity. And this describes the nature of mind of being bright and clear and vivid without any obstruction, any shadow obscuring anything, any flaw. That is the essential luminosity that is mind’s very nature. And this luminosity also has the quality of experience of bliss. So these are the three essential qualities of mind’s true nature, awareness, clarity and bliss, and to thoughts they appear to be different. We get a different picture when we think of these three terms conceptually, but in the essential nature of the mind they are undifferentiable. There is no difference between clarity and awareness and bliss in terms of mind’s basic nature and that is important to know.
If that is the nature of mind, how do we meditate on it? How do we meditate so that we can come to gain some experience of it? Resting without contrivance is equipoise is the third nail. Resting without contrivance means to just relax without trying to accomplish anything, without trying to stop something from happening. Without trying to create a certain type of experience or avoid another one. To just relax uncontrived and naturally within the basic nature of mind is equipoise.
If we were to apply the terms ”union” and ”undifferentiability”, then we would say that the nature of mind is awareness and emptiness in union or the undifferentiability of awareness and emptiness. It is clarity and emptiness in union or you could say clarity and emptiness undifferentiable. Bliss and emptiness in union, or bliss and emptiness undifferentiable. And finally when we consider outer appearances we can understand that they are appearance and emptiness in union or appearance and emptiness undifferentiable.
To look into this term ”undifferentiable” a little bit further. If we examine it in a connection of awareness and emptiness undifferentiable when we first hear the word of awareness then that connotes the quality of realization, of knowing something. So that is some positively present quality. With then the emptiness aspect is a word that says that there is nothing there. And the thoughts these two appear to be different. They are different words, they have different definitions. When we think of them then different objects appear to the mind. But in essence they are not different at all, you cannot distinguish them or separate them out. So they are undifferentiable.
And that’s the nature of mind as described as awareness and emptiness undifferentiable. And since it is like that when one realizes the nature of mind then for the one who realizes it the experience is one of great openness, spaciousness and relaxedness.
The experience of openness and spaciousness and relaxedness is to be completely free of any thought of any type of bondage or anyone being bound. In fact when we feel these things and we look for them you can’t find them. To say: ”I feel bound” and you look for the one who is bound and you look for the one who is responsible for the bondage you can’t find anything. So there is just the lack of any sense of that anymore. And it is the opposite of a feeling of being tangled up in a net of our concepts and thoughts that we usually feel.
In the Mahayana teachings, the Buddha described the endless Pure Lands, the endless appearances of the enlightened bodies and the wisdoms, all of these pure appearances are nothing more than the radiance and the play of the awareness-emptiness, of clarity-emptiness, of bliss-emptiness.
And in the Vajrayana there are all of the deities of the four classes of tantra which in fact are innumerable. We could never finish counting them all. And all of them are the creative display - the radiance of Dharmakaya - that is awareness-emptiness that the Buddha realized upon attaining enlightenment.
For the practitioners of Vajrayana then it is certainly the case that the genuine yidam deity is the awareness-emptiness, the clarity-emptiness, the bliss-emptiness that is the true nature of mind. Nevertheless it is the case that these are temporarily obscured by fleeting stains and so in order to purify those stains we practice the deity practices of the four classes of tantra of the generation and completion stages.
And all of the practices of the generation and the completion stages are methods to clear away the adventitious stains that prevent us from realizing the true nature of mind. As it says in the Hevajra tantra: ”In the true nature beyond conceptual fabrication the true deities and mantra abide. The true nature of mind is itself free from conceptual fabrication, cannot be described by any convention or expression and within that reality beyond concept abide the authentic deity and the authentic mantra.
The ground that provides the basis for practising these deities is nothing other than the awareness-emptiness and the clarity-emptiness and the bliss-emptiness that is the nature of mind. And when these deities appear then the ground of there appearance is as well nothing other than awareness-emptiness, clarity-emptiness and bliss-emptiness.
And therefore when we meditate on the generation stage practices what we are doing is meditating on the forms and the shapes and the colours of the deity that are generated by our thoughts. That’s where the name comes from, generation stage. It’s that the image of the deity is generated by conceptual mind. It is imbued, imagined by conceptual mind. And when we are meditating on that part of the meditation then from time to time its good to rest just naturally within awareness-emptiness, within clarity-emptiness that is the ground for the shining appearance of these deities. And when we do that, when we rest in that then we are resting in the nature of the authentic yidam.
If we ask then what is the point of this conceptually imagined and imbued and generated part of the practice, why do we meditate on the generation stage at all, the answer to that is first of all that by visualizing ourselves as the deity then we will reverse our ordinary concepts of the body as it normally appears to us. We visualise ourselves as the deity and that is opposite, that appearance is something completely opposite that we normally think of our bodies and so we will reverse the usual attachment that we have. And we will reverse it in regard to all appearances in general. When we meditate on the generation stage the way we normally perceive things has changed and the way that we are usually attached to things is reversed. And by doing that, by cleansing ourselves of the attachment we normally have, to impure appearances as being real, then it’s a method for bringing the genuine deity to manifest. The genuine deity, which is the true nature of mind, we can help to manifest by first reversing our ordinary perceptions through generation stage practice.
When the last nail of the meditation says: ”Resting without contrivance is equipoise”, that clears away any doubt we might have to whether mahamudra meditation is something contrived or not. It’s definitely not a contrivance because the very nature of mind is nature of mind, it’s not contrived or created. So if when we are meditating we are contriving something or trying to do something then we are not in harmony with the way the nature of mind is. And this why the three pith instructions of mahamudra, pith meditations are given as follows: No distraction, no meditation, no contrivance.
The first instruction is not to be distracted, meaning don’t get caught up with outer objects. Well then if we are supposed to be undistracted then we might think: the thought that we are meditating will obscure the true nature from our view, prevent us from realizing it. So the second instruction is no meditation. Okay now I have to meditate, so I don’t get distracted. That’s why the second instruction is : no meditation. Because the meditation, no concept of meditator or something to meditate on. And the final instruction is no contrivance because if we start to fabricate things, try to do things then we won’t be meditating in mahamudra.
If there is no distraction and no meditation and no contrivance then what is that? It is described in Tibetan as nyukmen gang. Nyukma means the basic state, the native state of mind. It is resting relaxed within that.
To describe the nails of conduct there are three
The ten wholesome deeds are the natural expression of conduct. This is because when one realizes the nature of mind that is mahamudra and rests within this essential clarity then there is no confusion there. And when mind is unconfused then body and speech will naturally follow that. So when mind is resting in its own state of clarity then the activity of body and speech will naturally be good. There is no possibility for them to be bad. And so therefore when one is able to meditate on mahamudra one doesn’t need to try to force the ten virtuous actions to happen because they will be the natural expression of one’s conduct as a result of resting the mind in mahamudra.
If that’s the case what about the negative actions? Do we have to try to get rid of them? Milarepa answers that question with the next line, The ten unwholesome are naturally pure in their ground, meaning that the negative actions we commit come because we have a bad intention or bad motivation. But mind is resting within mahamudra then where can there be any bad motivation? So the ten negative deeds will be self liberated. Nothing to try to do to get rid of them, just rest within the nature of mind, they won’t have any space to come up. They will be free in and of themselves.
And finally Milarepa sings: And luminous emptiness strategies cannot create. Meaning that whatever we do with conduct we have to understand that we can never create the nature of mind. We cannot bring it about or cause it to happen because it’s just how it is. Is is beyond fabrication, it is beyond creation or contrivance, so no strategy can create it anew.
We can see that the root reason why the ten wrong deeds are naturally pure in their ground is included in the two types of emptiness. Because first of all there is no self in the individual, so there is no-one to form any wrong deed really. And secondly phenomena are empty of existence, so there is no such thing as a wrong deed when you really investigate it. When you understand there are two types of emptiness you understand the emptiness of the wrongdoer and of the wrong deed and then the ten wrong deeds are naturally pure in their ground, you realize their essential nature is purity.
If we put this in a form of a logical reasoning we could say: given the ten wrong deeds there are three reasons why they are naturally pure in their ground: the first of these is that the wrongdoer doesn’t really exist, there is no self there, so there is no-one to do anything wrong. Secondly the mind that is the negative mind, when we examine it, doesn’t come from anywhere and doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t arise, remain or cease. So it has no inherent nature. And finally the suffering that is the result of performing negative actions, when we examine it we cannot find it to be one thing, we cannot find it to be many things. And since there is no third possibility then we can safely conclude that this suffering as well has no inherent essence.
When we commit negative actions in a dream, while there is that appearance, in fact there is no-one committing negative actions in this dream. The self of the wrong-doer doesn’t exist, the mind that is negative in the dream doesn’t come from anywhere or go anywhere, it doesn’t arise, cease or remain and the suffering that we can experience as a result of performing this negative action in a dream isn’t one thing, it isn’t many things, so it has no inherent essence. Just like that the ten wrong deeds during the day are naturally pure in their ground.
This way of explaining things is in harmony with the way that the Buddha taught in the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma. For example as he said in the Heart of Wisdom sutra: ”All phenomena are of the nature of emptiness: they do not arise, they do not cease, they are not stained, there is no freedom for stains.” And another reason we can look at for while this is the case in the true nature of mind: there is no stain or imperfection at all.
To describe the nails which go with the result, the three
The first nail is that nirvana is nothing we import from somewhere else. And the reason for this is twofold: first of all, all of the good qualities are spontaneously and naturally present within the essence of mind. So they are already there, there is nothing new that we need to bring in in terms of good qualities. And in terms of suffering – because nirvana means the transcendence of suffering – there is no suffering in the nature of mind. Suffering just doesn’t exist there. And so mind is called the natural transcendence of suffering. The true nature of mind is called the natural nirvana, the naturally present nirvana. So for these two reasons nirvana is nothing we need to bring in from somewhere else because all qualities are present already and suffering doesn’t exist in the nature of mind.
Samsara is nothing deported to somewhere else. Samsara is nothing we need to get rid of because samsara is just a mistake. It’s just a mistake made by thoughts. Other than that there is nothing really there in terms of samsara. It has no essence of its own. It’s just the confused mistake that thoughts project. So once we no longer make that mistake then there is no samsara to get rid of. There never really was.
Well, if nirvana is nothing to import from somewhere else and samsara is nothing to deport to somewhere else then what is the Buddha? The Buddha is your mind. This is what Milarepa sings in the third nail of fruition: I’ve discovered for sure the mind is the buddha, your very own mind is the Buddha. And this is something that Milarepa sings out: I’ve discovered for sure, because he is singing about his own experience. I know that my own mind is the Buddha. I’m 100% sure of that because I’ve had the experience of that. So therefore these are the three nails of fruition and when they are called nails it is because what we need to do is to gain certainty in them. First gain certainty that nirvana is nothing we need to bring in from somewhere else, that samsara is nothing we need to get rid of and that our own mind is of the nature of the Buddha.
When it is taught that the nature of every single sentient being’s mind is the Buddha then what is meant by that, what is being referred to is what is called the Buddha of natural purity. And this is the state of enlightenment that is the natural purity of mind itself, of mind’s basic nature. For what it is not is the Buddha that is freed from adventitious stains because even though all sentient beings have within them the Buddha natural purity they haven’t recognized that yet. We haven’t manifested that yet and so we don’t have the Buddha that is free from adventitious stains.
But by practicing on the path, then at the point of the final fruition, when all of the adventitious stains are cleared away together with even their most subtle imprints then we manifest enlightenment. Then we get the second type of buddhahood which is the buddhahood freed of adventitious stains and that type of buddha is called the Buddha Endowed with Two Types of Purity, both the natural purity and the purity that comes from being free from the temporary adventitious stains. And when we go for refuge to the buddhas then those buddhas are the buddhas endowed with two types of purity. We as sentient beings have one.
In the Hevajra tantra the Buddha said: ”Sentient beings are nothing other than buddhas but this is obscured by fleeting stains.” So the nature of sentient beings is buddhas, is to be the buddha of natural purity but that doesn’t mean that they are manifesting enlightenment right now, and the reason is that they are – we are – obscured by fleeting stains. So that clears away that there could be no difference at all between the buddhas who manifest enlightenment and us as sentient beings. If there were only this one type of enlightenment which was the natural purity of mind then there would be no difference between appearance between sentient beings and buddhas.
Now with all of these nails there is one to be driven home
So if we look at the three nails of the view, of meditation, conduct and fruition and we want to sum it all up in one point then that one point or nail would be the nail of the emptiness of the dharmata, of pure being or pure reality. So there is one thing we have to know and come to understand, gain certainty in: the emptiness of all phenomena. That’s it. And the one who can drive that nail home is a genuine lama. This refers to a genuine lama giving the instructions that point out the nature of mind. And when that is done if we analyze too much we won’t get it in. Which means that when – if the nature of mind is pointed out to us we are thinking too much, we are trying to analyze the instructions with logic and concepts it won’t have any effect.
In the mahamudra tradition the first tradition is sutra mahamudra and that is one when we use our power of reasoning to come to understand the three reasons why all sentient beings have the buddhanature, the ten aspects of its existence and the nine examples that show how it can be there and yet be covered by adventitious stains. And when that way of explaining and analyzing through scriptures and reasoning is combined with some of the special instructions from the mantra tradition then that’s called sutra mahamudra. Mantra mahamudra is the tradition having the nature of mind pointed out, of recognizing the nature of mind through the practices associated with the third empowerment and those practices allow one to meditate on bliss and emptiness and as the result of that one can recognize the nature of mind.
So here when it says: If you analyze too much you won’t get it in. Then that’s talking about the lama giving the pointing out instructions associated with the fourth empowerment. And when that happens the lama says: look straight at the nature of mind and let go and relax within it. And if at that point we are analyzing a lot we miss the instructions, we don’t follow the instructions. And that’s what this line is talking about here.
So at the point when the lama says: ”Look at the nature of the present moment of mind, look at it nakedly.” We don’t need to analyze, we don’t need to bring in a lot of quotations and logical analysis at that point, just follow the instructions, because if you do, then the analysis doesn’t go in, the pointing out instructions don’t hit home.
So if for example a lama has a student who gets very angry and the lama says: ”Hey, look at your anger, look at that present moment of anger right now” and if the student starts to analyze it or think about a lot of scriptural quotations then the student won’t be able to look at the nature of their anger. And that’s the whole point, is to look straight at this anger and to let go and relax within its nature that is clarity-emptiness. So if at this point we start to think about all of the explanations of the disadvantages of getting angry and of the great benefits of practising patience there is no way to look at the essential nature of anger. If the lama says similarly: ”Look straight at this thought that you have right now.” If you start to think about scriptures, if you start to try to analyze then you can’t look at that present thought because analysis is taking you somewhere else. That’s why Milarepa sings: If you analyze too much you won’t get it in.
Coemergent realization drives it home. When we look at the nature of mind without there being anything to realize or anyone to realize anything, then that’s it. In mahamudra this is called the pointing out instructions of ordinary mind, pointing out the nature of ordinary mind. In dzogchen it is called The Empowerment of the Awareness’s Radiance. The old tradition for example in the time of Milarepa was that the teacher would be up in the caves and then give each student individually the pointing out instructions of pointing out the nature of ordinary mind, the Empowerment of Awareness’s Radiance. But then what happened was that the Kagyu students proliferated in number and so there was no longer any time to give the students the pointing out instructions one by one, so the the lamas began to give them on mass.
These tools providing some teaching are meant to be shared
These tools providing some teaching refer to words of the song and they are like the common wealth of all dharma practitioners. So everyone can use them, everyone can benefit from being enriched by them and they appeared in the mind of this yogi, Milarepa, then he says: ”I sang them”, and he aspires that they be of benefit to his disciples who listen to them.
In general there are taught to be many essential points about the view, meditation, conduct and fruition but because Milarepa was able to summarize each of these into three then the song is one whose words are concise and whose meaning is profound. So now we should sing it. When we should remember while we are singing the meaning of each of these nails because we have to gain certainty in what they are talking about.
Beloved lama bless me to naturally rest
The nails to be driven related to view are three
To describe the nails that go with view, the three
To describe the nails of meditation, the three
To describe the nails of conduct there are three
To describe the nails that go with result, the three
Now with all of these nails there is one to be driven home
Co-emergent realization drives it home.
This was a song that Milarepa sang in a cave, The Tiger Cave of Lion Fortress of the Jomo snow enclosure in Nepal and since it’s like that if you go to Holy Island and sing it in a cave, the caves there, and listen to the sound of the echoes reverberating, the walls of the caves and the mountains up there then, that would be a wonderful thing to do, would be very beautiful.
Looking again and again at the mind that cannot be looked at unseeable reality is seen vividly just as it is. Cutting through all doubts about whether it is or it is not, may we unmistakenly recognise our own face.
Looking at objects there are no objects, they are seen to be mind. Looking at mind there is no mind, mind is empty of essence. Looking at both of these clinging to duality is self-liberated. May we realize the true nature of mind, Clear Light. (meditation)
Free of clinging to characteristics is unobscured. Non-thought beyond conception is spontaneously present. May our experiences without effort be unceasing.
Free of mental constructs it is mahamudra, free of extremes it is the great Middle Way. Since it encompasses everything it is dzogchen. May we gain the confidence of realizing all through knowing one.
In the session this afternoon first there will be time for people to ask questions
Oct. 1, 2000
We begin by singing Milarepa’s song and that would set a very good stage for us to ask questions. (The song)
Now please do you have any questions and if you do try to make them concise so that way we can get to a lot of them.
Can you explain the third initiation?
Rinpoche: If you recite the liturgy in the ngöndrö practice then you will find out what the third empowerment is all about!
Question: What is the relationship of conceptual mind and non-conceptual mind to emptiness and appearance?
Rinpoche: The five sense consciousnesses are non-conceptual. They perceive their objects directly without perceiving any name associated with it or any conventional expression associated with the object. Then there is the mental consciousness that perceives conceptually – meaning that the mental consciousness mixes together the meaning and the object and takes them to be the same thing. So those are both conceptual and non-conceptual mind, in terms of their objects the objects both are equally appearance-emptiness.
Thoughts cannot perceive any unique object directly. What thoughts relate to are abstract images of things. And there is both the abstraction of the name and the abstraction of the object. So sometimes if you read the translations of the texts these two things are called ‘name or term generality’ and ‘object generality’. But what they are talking about is an abstract image because you can perceive a flower there directly but then when you think about it the first thing you think about is the name ‘flower’. So you have some abstract notion of this name and then you have an abstract notion of the object that this name refers to, because if you just think about what is the object of your thoughts, when you think ‘flower’ then it has to be a very general image because, for example, even if you thought ‘white flower’ then that would exclude all the flowers that were red and blue and so on. And so what appears the thought is not a specific object at all but merely an abstraction.
So what appears to thought is just an abstract image but we don’t understand that. We think that the image that appears is in fact the object itself. So we confuse the actual object and the abstract image that appears to conceptual mind to be the same thing.
If one meditates for a long time and is able to transcend conceptual mind by doing that then it is said that whatever appears to the sense consciousnesses will appear in an incredibly clear and vivid way. All of the shapes and colours and other objects of the senses will be very very clear and sharp. So it’s like that. Other questions?
Translator: The question is to explain the differences between the imaginary nature, the dependent nature and perfectly existent nature.
Rinpoche: These are terms that are used in both the Mind Only and The Empty of Other schools. If we look at it from the second perspective, The Empty of Other, the shentong, then to make it easy to understand we would say that the imaginary nature or the imaginary aspect of experience refers to the object that our thoughts conceive of, because it’s completely imaginary whatever we think about. The thoughts themselves arise in dependence upon habitual tendencies in the mind, so they are the dependent nature. And the true nature of the thoughts, the Clear Light nature of mind is the perfect existent nature. The way to understand this is pretty straight forward and easy.
According to the Mind Only School the imaginary nature is, since it is just the projection of thoughts – not only does it not exist ultimately, it does not even exist conventionally, it doesn’t even exist relatively, it’s just a pure fabrication. The dependent nature arises due to causes and conditions and therefore appears to exist. So in this tradition the dependent nature and the term ‘thing’ or entity in dependent [moble?] have the same meaning: whatever arises in dependence upon causes and conditions, whatever thing that might be is dependently arisen, so it exists relatively but not ultimately. The ultimate nature is the perfectly existent nature and that is the dependent nature empty of the imaginary nature. That’s how they define the perfectly existent nature in the Mind Only school.
When we look to distinguish between the views of the Mind Only school and the Empty of Other School then our research necessarily must get very subtle. If one believes that the highest of all views is the rangtong, The Empty of Self school’s view, then it is very easy because there is no difference between the Mind Only school and the shentong view and there is no difference between the Mind Only and the Empty of Other school’s view, they are all the same, so you don’t need to do that sort of research. So it’s like that.
Translator: The question is if nagas and demons are delusive projections if we really want to see them how do we get deluded enough to be able to see them.
Rinpoche: The problem is with your eyes, because even though those beings are delusive appearances, they do not have coarse bodies like we do and so our eyes cannot perceive them. These beings have very subtle bodies just like beings in the form and formless realms and the yidam deities so if your eyes are not very extraordinary then you can’t see them even though they are there. There are very few people who can actually see these spirits and converse with them, for example in Tibet everybody believed in these things, but only very few people could actually see them and converse with them. In the west also some people say they can see spirits and converse with them but not very many people. So it’s like that. Since it is the case that our coarse eyes cannot see subtle forms then we can infer based on that that there are many sentient beings that we can’t see. So it's like that.
Question/Translator: Confused, how you can communicate with an illusion?
Rinpoche: There are lots of different ways that confused projections, delusory projections can appear. And to say something as a delusory projection means that it is just something that is connected with the projection of your mind. But that’s a very broad category. In mahamudra there is another explanation of appearances which is to say that thoughts like the light are mahamudra’s nature and the appearance that we perceive is like the radiance of that light. So that’s another way to understand it. For example in a dream when we perceive objects directly before we start giving them names then that is just the mere clarity aspect of mind. But then when we start to name these objects and think: ”Oh, there is something out there that’s different from me”, and all of a sudden this gap, this distance is created between the perceived object and the perceiving subject, that’s confusion, that’s the confused projection right there.
We can see the way that all these confused projections operate if we consider just one individual man and this man is seen one way by his friends to be something else by his enemies, to be something else by his father, to be something else by his son. The bogs that inhabit his stomach consider him to be their house. Some other animals on the outside might consider him to be a meal, and so every being has very different way of perceiving this object which shows that the object doesn’t really exist. And that all of the modes of perception are the nature of equality. And since one individual person can be perceived in so many different ways that is why appearances are said to be ‘mind only’. When we get angry at someone then a pleasant appearance of them becomes a very unpleasant one. But when we meditate in the samadhi of loving-kindness then the people who used to be very unpleasant appearances turn into very pleasing appearances. So that just shows that the appearance is mind only, it’s not real.
In the tradition of the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the Middle Way then appearance and mind are explained to be independently existent. They exist only in mutual dependence upon each other and therefore they are not real. Because one can’t perceive the other. They can’t exist in sequence and they also can’t exist really simultaneously, because then they would have no cause and result for relationship. And so they are just mere appearances like appearances in dreams.
In a dream the appearance can’t exist before the mind that perceives it because if there is no mind perceiving anything who is perceiving this appearance, how can there be appearance without anybody perceiving it. But the mind can’t exist before the appearance because if it did what would it be perceiving? It would be a mind without any focus. And the appearance that is perceived and the perceiving mind can’t exist simultaneously because if they come into existence at the same time they don’t have each other for a cause certainly, because one doesn’t have the opportunity to produce the other. So they both become causeless. Therefore appearance and mind cannot exist sequentially, they cannot exist simultaneously, they are just mere appearances. This is the explanation of the autonomy and the consequence schools.
In the mahamudra tradition it is explained that mind is of the nature of Clear Light, thoughts are the radiance or the energy of that Clear Light and the objects that thoughts conceive of are the light of that radiance and so again the example that is given to help us to understand is the example of the dream. So it’s like that.
In this explanation mind and the appearance are understood to be undifferentiable from the nature of genuine reality and if you want to look really subtly into it from the perspective of all the different philosophical tenets then you have to go one by one and it takes some time to study that.
In fact the whole exercise of the philosophical tenets is to examine and ask the question ”What is appearance and what is mind?” That’s all that they really look into. But in terms of practice then that much is enough. So it’s like that. Other questions?
Question: It seems like being able to recognize your dream would be a good thing, so can Rinpoche teach how to do that?
Rinpoche: There is this practice in the Vajrayana of recognizing dreams but there are many stages that you need to do before that in order to practice it. If you want to do the practice of recognizing dreams that doesn’t require a lot of stages then it is to develop a very strong conviction that this is a dream. And if you develop that very strong conviction that appearances right now are a dream sometimes you can recognize your dream. Especially when you are very scared, especially when you are very angry, especially when you have a lot of suffering then think very forcefully with a lot of conviction – in other words that this is a dream. That’s the way to meditate on dreams that doesn’t have a lot of stages.
Question/Translator: Yes, right now, this is a dream. You have to be very certain of that, have to have developed a very stable certainty on that. Because the experiences in a dream will be very similar to what you experience now, so if you think now, this is a dream that will cause you to be able to recognize it when you are dreaming. If you get that type of certainty then it’s possible you will recognize your dreams.
Question: Can Rinpoche sing these songs in Tibetan?
Rinpoche: Rinpoche says he thinks the English version sounds nicer. And when Rinpoche sits and listens to everybody singing it’s very beautiful.
Question: Could Rinpoche talk about appearance, how we meet them, emanation and transformation, things to do with yidam practice, could Rinpoche say more about the necessity of appearance?
Rinpoche: The question is about why in general as dharma practitioners we need appearances and Rinpoche says the reason why we need appearances first of all is in the Mahayana there are these two types of samadhi that we practice. One is the samadhi of meditate of equipoise where you rest in the samadhi that is like space. And the second is the samadhi of the post meditative phase which is the samadhi that sees everything to be like an illusion. If you don’t have appearances then there is nothing to see as an illusion. So for that samadhi you need to have appearances so you can have something to see as being illusory. In the mahamudra, the second reason is that when we meditate on mahamudra then we are meditating on the essential nature of thoughts. But thoughts think about appearances, so if we don’t have any appearances we won’t be able to meditate on the essential nature of thoughts. So for these two reasons we need appearances.
And that is why Dagpo Rinpoche said that we should view thoughts to be necessary, view thoughts to be pleasant and so forth. If we on the other hand think that: no, we have to shut off thoughts and then we are going to be deeply frustrated when we can’t do that. Because we can’t. We can’t stop thoughts from happening.
In short since the essential nature of thoughts is Dharmakaya then we need thoughts. Another analogy is that thoughts are like the waves of the ocean and Clear Light is like the ocean itself. Since whatever thoughts come up and reside back in the Clear Light they never leave the nature of Clear Light just like the waves in the ocean never leave the ocean, then we need thoughts.
It’s just like surfers who when they go surfing they want there to be as big waves as possible, the more waves the better for them and similarly when we meditate on mahamudra the more thoughts, the stronger they are the better!
When we determine the view in mahamudra then you look straight at your thoughts and you let go and relax. But if you don’t have thoughts what are you going to look at? So you are going to determine the view. So then it’s probably the case that thoughts are important. And when you look at the nature of thoughts since that nature is Clear Light, then when you rest relaxed in that nature it’s a very open and spacious experience. It’s like that. Other questions?
It’s hard to say because those words don’t precisely exist in Tibetan.
Inaudible question. Translator: Yeah, neither does that. It’s a difficult question it comes up a lot, people ask but. Q/T: Something that exists before mind? What gave you that impression? Because we meditate on the essential nature of thoughts, but not because any creator made them? I think that’s what Rinpoche was saying. If you are very curious about that I can try.
Translator: The best that I can do and I’m sorry for my limitation is to say that the concept of spirit or soul might be something what the Tibetans call sok which is life-force. But Rinpoche says, what he explains that to be is – Rinpoche: sok is the connection which is made between body and mind, through body and mind come together like the breath for example. So if you don’t have that you are going to die. Basically that’s what it is. In the Vajrayana since the nature of mind is considered to be Clear Light then that is what provides the energy of life and everything that sentient beings do. So that’s like the life-force right there as the true nature of mind. It’s just like the great siddha Saraha saying in the song Rinpoche taught us a couple of days ago: The root of everything in existence and beyond is, oh yes it is, it is mind. When you realize this, there is no meditation to do, just relax, take it easy, let it go.
So when we talk about energy or power in connection with the activity of sentient beings then we are really talking about this true nature of mind, this radiance inherent in mind because it has the ability to project samsara and nirvana, to be the ground for those two. In the tradition of the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma then both the energy and the one who has the energy are explained to be not truly existent because according to the second turning there is not a single phenomena that is real in any sense.
Tre Protector Nagarjuna said: Samsara is not a slightest bit different from nirvana, nirvana is not a slightest bit different from samsara. In this way he taught the equality of samsara and nirvana. And similarly sentient beings and Buddhas from the perspective of genuine reality which is beyond any conceptual fabrication, there is no difference. It’s explained like that. Then you have to see what you like. Some people like the Mind Only school’s view, some people like the rangtong, the Empty of Self school’s view, within that some people like the consequence school, some people like the autonomy school, some people like the shentong, everybody seems to like mahamudra. And if you like mahamudra then it would be very good to meditate on the five stages of emptiness. And the book that Rinpoche has written called The Progressive Stages of Meditating on Emptiness lays out these five different stages and if you meditate on each one successively and then practice mahamudra everything will go very well. Because first the more coarse and easy-to-understand views are explained, and then the progressively more subtle ones are explained after that. Even in the tantras it is explained that one way to enter to the highest teachings is through the progressive stages of the view. So that’s precisely what this is, to understand the more coarse views and then the more subtle and then you get to mahamudra.
And then there are those individuals who are extraordinary in the sense that they practiced a lot in past lifetimes and they have a lot of faith, they don’t have any doubts and for those people just to hear the instructions looks straight at this present moment of mind, let go and relax, that’s enough. And if you ask these people what is that experience like when you look straight at the nature of mind, then relax and they say: ”It’s beautiful, it’s clarity and emptiness.” Then for them to just relax within that wonderful experience of clarity and emptiness is enough.
And if you ask: ”What is the mind like?” And they say: ”There is nothing, there is just nothing there”, then if you say: ”Oh, what’s that mind like that thinks that there is nothing?” and they say: ”Oh, that’s the experience of clarity.” Then to rest within that is enough.
And if you ask well, what it’s like and they say: ”Well, when I look for it I can’t find anything but when I don’t look it seems that there is something there in terms of mind, but if you ask me what it is then I can’t explain it, I can’t express what it is.” And then to them what we should say is: just look at that thought that thinks that it’s inexpressible and rest within its essential nature. In the tradition of essence mahamudra that’s how it’s done, you don’t need a lot of teachings, you don’t need a lot of philosophical explanations, it’s just like that.
We can also look at the song by siddha Nyima Bepa which goes:
Look at your body, it was never born.
This teaches that when you look, when you examine you can’t find anything there at all. This is because when we look without precise knowledge at this body, when we look for something substantial there we can examine more and more subtly but we never find anything. And similarly when we look for mind we can’t find anything there and so we can just relax within that not finding of anything.
If you rest within that not finding anything then that’s the way to meditate according to the autonomy Middle Way School, the svatantrika. If you look at the thought that thinks, I can’t find anything, and rest within the essence of that then again it is mahamudra. And if we look at the nature of mind and conclude that it’s beyond conceptual fabrication, its nature is simplicity and rest within that then that is meditating according to the Middle Way consequence school or the prasangika madhyamika.
And if we look back at this thought that thinks that mind is inconceivable, that it is inexpressible and rest within the clarity that is the essential nature of that thought then again it is mahamudra.
And if we look at this thought and experience its clarity directly as awareness, then that is meditating according to dzogchen. We look at the intelligence or the prajna that is doing all this examining and see its essential nature is clarity and awareness and that’s meditating according to the dzogchen tradition. This is called resting within the very nature of awareness that transcends ordinary mental activity.
Free from mental constructs it is mahamudra.
Looking again and again at the mind that cannot be looked at
Looking at objects there are no objects – they are seen to be mind.
Look nakedly at your very own mind. Looking nakedly let go and relax. And then look again at this relaxed mind. Looking nakedly is vipashyana, resting relaxed is shamatha and this is the practice of shamata in union.
Emaho... (Short Dewachen Prayer)
As his departing aspiration prayer for you all Rinpoche prays that you bring the Mahayana practice of emptiness in union with compassion to its ultimate perfection and that through doing so you will be of great benefit to even your enemies, to all sentient beings