18 Sep 2014
Alan begins with a clarification of how the practice of silence at a Mahayana retreat is different from that at a Sravakayana retreat.
The meditation is on cultivating the aspiration that we ourselves and others be free of the suffering of change and the mental afflictions of craving and attachment that give rise to it.
Meditation starts at 24:30
Olaso. I’d like to begin with just a couple of brief comments and then I’ll go right to the meditation. First of all a correction which I really want to thank Joe Flumerfelt for, everybody in podcast this is where the real news comes from. I am truly grateful. I have not studied the Jonang tradition in any depth at all and I don’t know its history. One of my very cherished and revered lamas is the late Kalka Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche. Who is also a very very close guru of Natu. So I had the wonderful opportunity to translate for him on two of his visits. His first one and his second visit to the United States. Just a tremendous privilege and honor. He’s passed away and I think they will be looking for his re-embodiment quite soon, I imagine within a year. An extraordinary lama, there’s a whole story there I won’t share but after the retreat is all over if you would like to know more about the Jonang tradition I think, I know Joe has a lot more knowledge than I do and about this extraordinary lama then Natu after the retreat was over, you might if you’re interested. But the point is, the correction is that the Jonangpa tradition, I was simply misinformed and it’s not an area I’ve studied, the Jonangpa tradition is not a subschool of anything. Not of the Kagyu tradition nor any other tradition. It is its own tradition. It has a unique lineage. In all of the lineages, Padmasambhava ok he is Padmasambhava so the Nyingma tradition stems from Padmasambhava, Vairotsana, Vimalamitra and so forth. The Gelugpa tradition stems from multiple traditions because Tsongkhapa trained with masters from all of them, including Nyingmapa. And that Jonangpa if one looks for any precedent as Joe just informed me it would be the Sakya tradition not the Kagyu. But be that as it may it is not a subsect of the Sakya tradition either. It is its own tradition it has a unique heritage, and a uniquely rich, truly a uniquely rich heritage especially of Kalachakra, especially of Kalachakra, quite extraordinary. And I did receive some personal instruction from Kalka Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche. He said when it comes to the six phase yoga, the ashtanga yoga, that the Jonangpa is unsurpassed. It’s utterly remarkable and that’s not simply a claim, but actually they manifest. They practice the Kalachakra more than any other tradition. Gelugpas have a very fine tradition there, mostly scholarly but there are some adepts but the Jonangpa this is their central piece. So thank you for that correction. I am hoping to learn more about it. I’m hoping also that we’ll invite one or more great adepts from the Jonangpa tradition to this virtual reality of a mind center and contemplative observatory in Santa Barbara. So that is my aspiration because I have great reverence for that tradition. So that’s one point.
[02:59] And then another one. Shane very kindly pointed out to me or it was at least implicit in what he said yesterday, that in speaking of silence here, I never really clearly stated what the intention was. I simple said that let our default mode be that of silence. But when the occasion arises, where it’s more meaningful to engage in speech then by all means do so. That’s about all I said. But I think a couple more comments could be helpful. But I want to preface that by saying that I’ve already said all that I really needed to say. And that is our default mode here is silence but when it’s really meaningful to speak then by all means do so. So that’s the bottom line.
Now so having said that though, this is a Dzogchen retreat and being a Dzogchen retreat it’s totally embedded in Vajrayana. Vajrayana is embedded in Mahayana. So this is not a Sravakayana retreat or a Theravada retreat it is a Mahayana retreat and therefore the ambience is a bit different. And for a very simple reason that if one is following any of the various schools of the Sravakayana and the most prominent one nowadays of course is the Theravada. It is very clearly unabashedly a pursuit of your own individual liberation. In a benevolent non violent way, but there you are it is your own individual liberation and you want from here to there, you want out and never want to come back again. That is clearly a different ambiance than the bodhisattva ideal. Of even being willing to follow the Bodhisattva yana and stay for three countless eons. Three countess eons to achieve enlightenment and being of service in every single incarnation along that path. I can’t help but quote Shantideva here. When he’s looking at that I mean the possibility of achieving your own liberation meant, within just a few lifetimes, or three countless eons. I mean there’s just simply no comparison between those two. And Shantideva, deep into his classic text the most widely read, studied, and practiced Tibet text in all of Tibetan Buddhism, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. He’s looking at that he’s well into I think maybe the meditation chapter, the eighth chapter I’m pretty sure, and he’s looking at that. It seems like he’s weighing it you know. And here on the one hand I could just get out quickly you know. He’s already a very ripe individual so it probably wouldn’t have taken him too long. So I could just kind of make a fast escape and wish everybody well on the way out, you know. Good Luck, I’ll even leave you a book you know and then phew gone. [laughter] That was an option or he could take on because there is no reference to Vajrayana, Dzogchen or anything like that in the Bodhidharma vachara Or take on this responsibility of achieving perfect enlightenment which may take three countless eons or longer. And he’s weighing that you know. Imagine really from your very core of your being looking at, I’m allowed to follow either one, this buddha dharma is very broad, it has many doors, many paths and I can follow either one. And he’s looking at three countless eons or longer in samsara, birth after birth after birth. I mean having just in the human, reconsist,having to come to the uterine canal. How many times would that be? And they all come out screaming right. None of them come out with a happy face like that was fun let’s do it again, you know. Just that, let alone aging sickness and death I mean they’re not a piece of cake either. So it’s kind of miserable in the beginning, and then a lot of misery in the middle and then the end is like you’re old, ugly, sick and you die. So that’s not, you really want to continue with that for three countless eons you know.
[06:53] And he’s weighing that. And he poses to him that’s really one of the most moving passages among many in this marvelous text. He poses to himself, do I really need to take upon myself the suffering of all sentient beings. Do I really need to do that? Is that really my responsibility? Is that my lot? He poses that just to himself like he just casts that thought up into the sky. And then the answer comes back from the space of his own mind. Yes you do. And he answered Why? And the answer was because suffering has no owner. Suffering has no owner and therefore the suffering of anyone is your suffering and you have to be free from all of it right? So then he had to be a bodhisattva. There was no option left, right? So you can see then the ambience is different. Which means in the Theravada tradition, in Theravada retreats, and I’ve been to some of them, Burmese teacher, who’s lived in Sri Lanka, Thai teacher, when their interpretation of silence, this whole notion of noble silence I think is a 20th century invention but it’s nice. But maintaining silence, it is exactly, Shane described it perfectly, accurately and that is eyes down, just maintain your presence of mind, your composure, remain contained. Don’t let your eyes be drifting out there where your mind especially for beginners like us the mind can be so easily catalyzed for craving, attachment, hostility, aversion, you know, keep your eyes down. When monks, and I was a monk for 14 years. When a monk is walking especially in a very busy place you keep your eyes down one yoke’s length, about six feet in front of you. If people come up you really don’t raise your gaze, you maintain your presence, poise, mindful, ardent, non violent hopefully with a very loving open heart. But in terms of your senses very contained. It’s called restraining the senses. So that’s a monastic ideal. A couple of years ago here in Thanyapura one of our retreats, I think it was an eight week retreat we hosted. There was a special holy day, and we hosted a group of monks, local monks, maybe a dozen of them, and they came here and we made an offering. So it was all organized by the front desk and so they did everything for us but we paid for the offerings. These monks came, I never saw their eyes. Their eyes you know when they’re receiving offerings I never saw their eyes. Their eyes were always down even when you’re right in front of them. Their eyes are always down, right and then they accept the offerings and they went on their way. But there was really no personal contact at all. No face to face whatsoever. And in this Thai community which is overwhelmingly Theravada Buddhist, that’s simply, that’s what monks do. They’re maintaining their composure, they’re keeping their minds pure. There might have been attractive women among our group, I don’t remember. But the monk isn’t going to risk it. Or there might have been some really ugly men who knows? I can’t remember that either, but the monks not going to risk it either aversion or craving. Just keep the eyes down, and the lay people would like to accrue some merit by making offerings, we accept it and we apply ourselves to dharma. So if we were monks here and we’re walking around Thanyapura, or walking out on the streets and so forth if we had our eyes down at all times, they would totally understand.
[10:30] We’re not, but before I say anything else. For everybody here. Period, there’s no exceptions nobody this way or that way just everybody. If you’d like to maintain that kind of Sravakayana style of silence. It has tremendous nobility to it. So there’s a reason they call it noble silence. And if that’s your choice, continue or begin it today. And know that I will speak for all of us, nobody stands in judgement. Nobody stands in judgement, if that is your choice. That does not mean that you’re selfish, whether you’re following the Sravakayana instead of the Mahayana, it does not mean that does not imply that. All it means to me when I see that upon anybody here is you’re really focused in your practice, maintaining composure of mind, protecting your mind from the arousal of mental afflictions and that is only noble. So I mean every word of that. So whether you’ve been doing this all along or whether you start today or whether you start in one week. If at any time that’s your choice. Maybe you want to do it in the mornings and not in the afternoons. In the afternoons not in the mornings. Maybe you want to do it every other day, it’s your choice and I will speak for all of us. Nobody will pass any judgement on it, it’s simply an expression of your practice. But at the same time, so that’s full stop and no but, but I’ve finished that sentence.
[11:51] Now what about a Mahayana take on silence. What’s a Mahayana take because have you ever heard it? And so I thought well this is a Mahayana retreat why don’t we get that too. Who better to go to than Shantideva? So Shantideva please, will you please visit us, we have forty people here eager to hear what you have to say. [laughter] Yes, Shantideva, Shantideva’s coming, he’s about to enter the room, [laughter] Shantideva speaking. This is from the fifth chapter an extraordinary chapter, a beautiful chapter and it’s called Introspection from the fifth chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, verses 79-80. So just reading the first verse, and this is I would suggest I’m going to contextualize that for this retreat. Let your ground state be your voice resting in its natural state which is effortless silence. That’s where it rests. Just rests right. But when the occasion arises, where you feel, and it’s your own judgement, again nobody else’s, not I or anybody else I’m just going to again speak for everybody. If you decide to speak, whether it’s on a Sunday or whether it’s in the afternoon you’re speaking with somebody else, you’re not disturbing anybody else’s practice but you find it more meaningful to speak, no one here is going to pass judgement. But then if you do speak, how to speak, how to speak. Well Shantideva answers that question. In a soft and gentle voice, one should speak sincere, coherent words that have clear meaning and are agreeable, pleasant to the ear and rooted in compassion. I’m listening to that myself just in case anybody is wondering. So that’s what he says when you rise from noble silence, that’s noble speech. And then in terms of walking about and I would suggest this, this is just a suggestion but we’re not monks and so the Thai people around us do not regard us as monks because we’re not. And so they regard us as lay people and over in Thanyapura they can’t tell the difference between us and people just coming to swim. And you know that Thailand is called the land of smiles. I have really found that to be remarkably true. And I have not found it to be contrived or insincere. Now that we have this kind of enclosed place, I do my walking within Thanyapura but for years you couldn’t walk around in here it was all mud and there were no roads and so forth, no pathways. So I would go walking out on the street, that would be my daily walk, it was quite remarkable. I’ve never been to any country like this. I’d be out there on the street and people would every so often be driving by on their little their scooters or little motorcycles or they would be walking the other way. I tell you every single time they would make eye contact and there would be a genuine smile. And I’m not a tourist and we’re not in a tourist part of Phuket. But I remember one fellow he was every time he saw me and he had a little motorcycle and had a little kind of side cart, he was a merchant of some kind. There was such a warm smile on him, every time we passed. He would be driving and I would just see him and I would always make eye contact with him and he just looked, this is an ordinary lay person as far as I know, or maybe he’s a great saint, I don’t know. But there was such warmth, that I started to kind of looking forward to just seeing him pass and I would flash my smile and he would flash his smile and so we would every day and often when I was out t he was on his rounds and that was just one instance, but I remember it so vividly now and that just seeing a person drive by on a little scooter right but there really is something here.
[15:44] This is a Buddhist country and boy it has problems for sure. But there is something of a warmth there. And so I would encourage, but nobody’s going to monitor this nobody will judge and when you’re out and about and see Thai people you make eye contact with them. Because they will with you. Open your heart you know and then that will be reciprocated. That happens to me all the time my eyes are up when I’m walking. That’s my choice, I’m a dharma teacher here, I’m not simply in retreat. And it’s always the same. The eye contact, the friendly gesture. It’s very nice. I just want to say again, if you like keep your eyes down, that’s perfectly fine. Perfectly fine, no judgement, at all. But now what does Shantideva say in this Bodhisattva mode right. He said, One should always look straight at sentient beings. Look straight at them right in their eyes as if drinking them in with the eyes, thinking, relying on them alone I shall attain Buddhahood. So those are our choices. I mean we have many many choices. You can also, so many of these Thai women are really attractive. If you want to ogle them and arouse craving and lust, you can do that too. It is your choice. [laughter] It’s your choice. And there was one elderly woman here, elderly like about one year older than me. That makes her elderly, and it was amazing. She was really meditating well but she was finding that again, I mean my age. That means postmenopausal right? I think so and she was meditating and meditating and finally her libido was coming up like it hadn’t been there for thirty years and she said I’m looking at these young Thai men and va va va voom. [laughter] So if that’s where you want to go I mean a lot of these Thai men you know sleek trim muscular bodies. Everyone of these Thai women seeming to be more feminine than the last one you’ve seen. If that’s where you want to go you can do that. [laughs] Or if you like to follow the Theravada approach protect your mind that’s noble silence and if you would like to follow that approach that Shantideva just said that’s clearly absolutely in accordance with the Mahayana ideal. So it’s your choice and you can make different choices on different days. Although I would suggest you know go light, when they’re really hot, go light on that one. Everybody understand that one? You probably don’t want to linger there on these really attractive young Thai men and women, maybe you can kind of ease off on that one. At least until after the retreat, then it’s your choice. Olaso. So I hope that was all clear. That was for everybody here. And it’s time to meditate, so let’s go back.
[19:25] Alan and the class chant three times, The Seven Line Prayer and Mantras, in Tibetan.
Transcriptionist note: The Seven Line Prayer and Mantras are written and included here in both Tibetan and English.
HUNG ORGYEN YUL GYI NUP JANG TSAM HUNG
In the northwest frontier of Oddiyana,
PEMA GE SAR DONG PO LA
In the heart of a lotus
YAM TSEN CHOG GI NGÖ DRUP NYEY
Sits the one renowned as Padmasambhava,
PEMA JUNG NEY ZHEY SU DRAK
Who achieved the wondrous supreme siddhi,
KHOR DU KHAN DRO MANG PÖ KOR
And is surrounded by a host of many dakinis.
KYED KYI JE SU DAK DRUP KYI
Following in your footsteps, I devote myself to practice.
JIN GYI LAP CHIR SHEK SU SÖL
Please come forth and bestow your blessings.
GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
[21:09] chant ends, Alan continues and whispers in Tibetan
[23:43] OM AH HUM GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
[24:08] If you’d like to shift your posture, please do so now.
[24:34] Meditation Bell
[25:00] Settle your body speech and mind in their natural states as you’ve done before.
[25:56] We return this morning to the meditative cultivation of compassion. Which is not an emotion is not a feeling. It’s an aspiration. Clearly emotion comes with it but the emotion by itself is simply empathy or sympathy. But it is not compassion. Compassion is an aspiration that arises out of empathy, out of knowing. So it is an aspiration that we may all be free of suffering and its causes. And yesterday we attended especially to what is called the suffering of suffering, obvious, evident suffering that we identify as such be it physical pain or mental distress. This compassion is an aspiration that we be free of suffering but not only suffering itself but its underlying causes. Therefore it must be imbued with wisdom. So this morning we turn to a deeper dimension of suffering it’s called the suffering of change. Suffering here is not intrinsic to change itself it is the suffering that comes as a by product of attachment. The mental affliction of craving and attachment, where we look in all the wrong places to find freedom from suffering and all the wrong places to find happiness. Again I quote Shantideva, While we seek to be free of suffering, we hasten right after the causes of suffering and while we wish to be happy out of delusion we destroy the very causes of our happiness as if they were our foe. So in this modern world of ours where there is such an epidemic of low self esteem, lack of self worth, self loathing, self hatred and so on, it is timely in such a world to begin the meditative cultivation of compassion for oneself rather than standing in judgement upon ourselves feeling inadequate, unworthy. Let’s replace that by viewing ourselves with compassion. And review if you will as we begin this practice, ways in the past, in your own past in which your own mind has fallen under the domination of craving and attachment for any of the attractions of this desire realm, and meditate deeply with the eyes of wisdom how such pursuits driven by craving and attachment are always fraught with anxiety, a sense of being ill at ease, agitation, dissatisfaction. And just simply sooner or later the hammer comes down and there is once again manifest suffering.
[30:17] Without looking at others for the time being just look at your own life trajectory. Is this true or not? Observe your own life.
[31:06] To the best of your approximation view your own life your own identity and your mind from the perspective of rigpa. Symbolized as this radiant orb of light at your heart, primordially pure. This place where the Buddha’s mind, the lama’s mind, your mind all merge indivisibly. View yourself with compassion. We didn’t choose to have mental afflictions, we came with them and they afflict us. But there is hope, it doesn’t always need to be so. So with each in breath arouse heartfelt compassion for yourself, the yearning to be free. To be free of the suffering of change and its underlying causes of attachment and craving. From the depths of your heart, arouse the wish, the aspiration and bring forth the vision that his is indeed possible. To be loving, to be engaged, warm and affectionate, to have intimate relationships, to be a parent, a spouse, a child, a brother, and a sister, but without any of these relationships being contaminated by craving and attachment. Imagine it. With each in breath arouse this yearning, may I be free of the suffering of change and its underlying causes of craving and attachment. With each in breath if you will imagine such suffering and its causes in the form a darkness shrouding your being, which each in breath syphon that in, draw it in, into this orb of light at your heart and let that darkness be drawn in and extinguished without trace, with each in breath.
[34:56] And imagine being free, all that darkness vanishing.
[35:53] Having moved your awareness into this field of possibility, of potentiality, now direct your awareness to the space of the mind and bring to mind anyone you know either directly or perhaps just by way of the media. Someone you’ve never met. Who as far as you can tell is suffering, suffering because of the suffering of change. Suffering because of craving and attachment. Without craving and attachment there is no suffering in the nature of change itself. It’s just change. But with this mental affliction you’re always prone to suffering. So bring such a person to mind. Bring their suffering to mind, their mental afflictions to mind. And with no sense of judgement and absolutely no sense of superiority, simply sentient being to sentient being, or viewing them from your own Buddha nature, with each in breath arouse the aspiration, may you like myself be free of suffering of change and its underlying causes. And with each in breath as you’ve done before imagine drawing in the darkness of suffering and its causes, drawing it into this orb of light at your heart, extinguishing it there.
[38:37] Because in our normal interactions with other people when we withdraw our desires, our cravings and attachments, we also withdraw our affection because ever so often our warmth our affection is totally mingled with self centered attachment and desire for our own gratification. So when one is pulled back so is the other, and instead of attachment we respond with aloofness, with indifference, out of one mental affliction into another. Imagine that not being the case. As you bring this person to mind, imagine them becoming free, totally free of the mental afflictions of craving and attachment but all the warmth, the kindness, friendliness untouched and in fact shining more brightly no longer encumbered by these false facsimiles of love and compassion. Imagine this person becoming free, and by identifying the true causes of genuine happiness then casting off all attachment to everything that is not a true cause of happiness. Now release the appearance of this person back into the space of your mind. And simply resting your awareness in its own nature but illuminating, continuing to illuminate the space of the mind, simply see who comes I like to say knocking at your door. Who comes to mind spontaneously? Inviting themselves into your own space of awareness. Whoever comes knocking, whoever comes and appears in the space of your mind, attend closely again attending not simply to an appearance. Attend to the person or persons or region of the globe where there is much suffering because of attachment and craving.
[41:57] Practice as before. Let your attention rove at will and for a while let’s practice in silence.
[47:20] Then release all mental imagery, all objects of the mind and all aspirations. And for a very short time simply let your awareness rest in its own nature naturally pure, clear, luminous.
[48:29] Meditation Bell rings three times
[49:16] Olaso. I have a little tiny technical problem with the app. So if anybody knows a lot about apps I do have an iphone it will probably take you ten seconds to figure it out it would take me about three countless eons. [laughter] I’m not good with that kind of thing. So I’ll just step outside if anybody knows about apps, it’s a pretty small thing but I don’t know how to fix it. Besides that I wish everybody a good day. Enjoy your day and I’ll see you at 4:30 this afternoon.
Transcribed by KrissKringle Sprinkle
Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Final edition by Cheri Langston