02 Sep 2012
Teaching pt1: Alan reviews the view of reality according to the 3 turnings of the wheel of the dharma. In the 1st turning, in response to the question as posed by the Sautantrika of “What is real?”, we see things as simply or mere phenomena. Seeing means knowing what we’re seeing is mere or simply phenomena which means in accordance with the 3 marks of existence, free from our conceptual projections con-fused with reality. In the 2nd turning, we use our intelligence to uncover the ultimate nature of phenomena which still appear deceptively. In the 3rd turning, rigpa recognizes rigpa. For each of the 4 applications of mindfulness, the Buddha mentions in the Sattipathana sutta to attend 1) internally, 2) externally, and 3) both internally and externally. This allows us to shine the light of awareness and mindfulness on domains of our own experience.
Meditation: mindfulness of the body. Letting awareness be still, attend to 1) perceptions of all 5 senses and 2) your body. Ask: 1) is any appearance „you“ or „yours“?, 2) do appearances have a core or do they manifest simply from the alaya?, and 3) is form emptiness, and emptiness form?
Teaching pt2: Alan explains that it is possible for people of sharp faculties to realize rigpa by receiving dzogchen teachings without any prior realizations. However, for others, realization of emptiness is a necessary prerequisite to practice dzogchen and stage of generation. Otherwise, we’re not doing the practice properly and not getting the benefit. Likewise, it’s possible for people of sharp faculties to realize emptiness without achieving shamatha. For most of us, a step-wise approach is most beneficial and allows us to assess whether the practice is striking the target and yielding benefit.
Q1. We are practicing shamatha, but is it possible to directly go into the practice of the 4 applications of mindfulness?
Q2. In the practice of mindfulness of the body, I notice that visual forms do not appear to be in flux. Is this correct?
Meditation starts at 34:30
O Laso, This is our last day, in this first cycle of the close applications of mindfulness to the body. So as I mentioned before, we’ll have one week for the body. Next week Monday through Saturday for feelings, then mind, then phenomena, and then we’ll go through the cycle all over again, but at the second time rather than having the primary emphasis be on these three marks of existence, impermanence, dukkha (suffering), non-self, in the second cycle well then, we’ll really be focusing more on the theme of emptiness.
The 1st turning of the wheel of dharma, with emphasis on the three marks of existence to answer “what is real”?
So we’ll have our full 8 weeks here, but as we wrap-up this week for the close application of mindfulness on the body, some just central themes of this overall practice, maybe worth noting, and I do find the union, or the bringing together of the Sauntrantika view, really Classic Buddhist Philosophical view very much in accordance with Abhidharma, which again there is the wisdom teachings corresponding to, or associated with the Sutras teachings and so forth. That here this primary emphasis is simply on these three marks of existence, and the aim of this is to see simply “what is real", and “real” in Sauntrantika sense.
Real means, the real actually does things, it’s there, it has causal efficacy, it has influence, it arises independence upon causes and conditions, it in turns gives rise to further effects, so this whole nexus, this whole network of causality or “Pratityasamutpada”, dependent origination.
The aim here, and I note this, I mean, it’s just a marvelous union of the teachings from the Indo -Tibetan tradition, the Sanskrit Tibetan tradition from the Pali. Seeing how these two waves come together in the interference pattern, so to speak, between the two, is really quite marvelous, I think hardly anybody has done it yet, but it’s really quite a celebration. So what’s the point of these four applications of mindfulness is: what do you finally see, when you are really getting a clear vision? When you’re seeing with the eyes of vision, and the Tibetan term is “chu tsam” You’re seeing simply phenomena. What does that mean - simply, well whenever you see the “chu tsam”, simply, then you can ask, what’s being cut out? What is being eliminated by saying, simply phenomena, and what is being eliminated here is the conceptual projections upon.
And so, it is very very common, or see for yourself whether this is common, this is so radically empirical, that in our relationship, in our attitude, our way of viewing our own bodies, our own temperament, other people, our jobs, our environment, our possessions and so forth, it is ever so easy to be superimposing, not deliberately but rather unconsciously, superimposing a sense of more stability, more immutability and more durability that is in fact there, just a sheer projection, but then not just projecting, but then unconsciously conflating the projections with realities so we can’t tell the difference any longer, and that is called con-fusion. There is a reality there but then we fuse it together, con-fuse with that which we’re projecting, we’re seeing that which is by nature impermanent as being permanent, and why? Because there were cognitive hyperactivity disorder.
(3:35) And that is we’re superimposing something that isn’t there, and then conflating it with something that is there. Now this happens all over the place in so many cases, psychology, it’s called transference. Transference where we’ll be transferring experiences and so forth from one person, let’s say a father, and this is transferred over to a lover or to a friend or to a Dharma teacher, whatever you, transferring over and then conflating what we’re projecting with what’s actually there, and then of course becoming confused, it is a perfect term, right?
(4:20) So transference, very specific thing in psychology, gives rise to a lot of problems, unnecessary problems, stemming from literally confusion, but this is one’s really deep and is quite ubiquitous, it is not just with ones fathers, mothers, whatever you, but this way of viewing reality where we’re really seeing things, assuming things, apprehending things, as being more durable, static, unchanging that in the fact they are, and then being chocked when reality shatters that illusion. How could he die, he was so young? How could she get sick, she was so healthy? How could I be getting old, I used to be young a long time ago? And so forth, but being chocked again and again, Oh! I can’t believe it! I must be dreaming! Right? That kind of thing and that is just for one.
And then, a big one, enormous impact! I mean, talk about a revolution, and that is the ways we ever so often, as we are seeking happiness, find some object, a person, a place, some idea, whatever you, and then imputing that as: that will make me happy! Or this is making me happy, and the finger comes out: this is what’s holding me together, it is my guru, it is my girlfriend, it is my boyfriend, it is my job, is my status, that’s what’s holding me together, that’s what’s doing it for me. It’s delusion.
(5:45) And so, that’s the 2nd point of dukkha (suffering), not misapprehending, not superimposing, here is the source of my happiness, and then, lo and behold, then surprise, surprise, getting disillusion with the spouses, you know? After being married a year, two years, whatever you, ah! You’re not what you’re cracked up to be. You didn’t turn out as well as I thought! You were supposed to just bring me happiness every single day, and frankly you’re not living up the job description! It is crazy! But then, I think that’s probably the root of most of divorces, and the root of most crazy marriages. Is thinking you’re my better half, you complete me, as if there is somebody that only got 50% of a Buddha nature and the other Buddha nature is kind of wandering around like a stray dog, where is the other part of my Buddha nature? It is really crazy!
(6:38) And so there, to wake up and smell the roses. Phenomena are phenomena, people are simply people, they’re not the source of your happiness, they’re probably not even the source of their happiness. Most of them don’t have a bounty to spill over, “I got surplus fund of happiness, have some of mine” some people yes, but most people not so much.
(7:02) So this conflating of our expectation, as the Dalai Lama said, when he first led me in my lamrim retreat “expectation is the foundation of failure”, you might want to remember that one, expectation about relationship, expectations about getting a certain education, a certain job, a certain acquisition, a certain status and so forth and so on, and seeing, ah! dukkha (suffering), I was wrong. Phenomena are just phenomena they’re not actually sources of happiness, and in fact the appearances themselves are not actually a source of unhappiness either, it’s all built into the system, it’s how am I apprehending reality. Then this final one, and on the one hand it’s seems so superficial easy, totally easy to understand, and that is if I’m attached to it, take seriously, this is my cell phone and then it’s damaged then I really feel troubled by that.
In fact the Tibetans don’t even have a way of saying, “I have”, “I have a cell phone”, of course they can say that, but you know how they say it? “na la cell phone yo” - The cell phone is present for me. How substantial does that strike you? “na la” - with respect to me, “cell phone yo” – a cell phone is present, for me, and then it’s not.
(8:32) But the notion that I have it that somehow there’s something there, something more substantial than, “it is for me to use” because we’ve agreed upon that. It’s not there even in the language; of course Tibetans can be as possessive, selfish, greedy as anybody else. But the language suggests already that the notion of ownership is not built in. The simple point and that is, insofar as I’m identified with my gender, my race, my religion, my nationality, my ethnic group, and so forth and so on. People of my height, of my eye color, people named Alan, and people say, “People named Alan are really blablabla (gibberish)”, then if I’m identifying with that name, I say “oh…(sounds disappointed)”. Or (when people say) “those northern hemisphere people”, and if I’m identifying with that, then I can suffer, so wherever we’re identifying with, we’re kind of sticking our chin out into reality and saying, “hit me”. (Gives example of identifying) “I’m a northern hemisphere person and I’m ready to suffer for any disparaging comments about northern hemisphere people”. It can be anything.
(9:51) So on one level it’s easy, so just withdraw all these tentacles of “I am, and mine”, and personal identity, and ownership and possess. Withdraw, give it up, after all it’s just a projection in first place. What you projected you can unproject, but then we get close and personal; then we get inside our skin, and inside our minds. Where it doesn’t seem to be mere conventional. If your knee hurts, it’s not like, “oh, well I’ll just decide it’s not my knee anymore, anybody wants a broken knee?” It’s not so easy, or you have emotions coming up, or some really troubling memories coming up, and say, “well, somebody wants my memory? I don’t want it anymore, I’d like to just release that one”
(10:32) And so when it gets inside the skin, this closely held skandhas [the aggregates subject to clinging] then it gets a bit more serious. But we can ask, is it really fundamentally different? And that’s to be asked not with a lot of cogitation and reflection, there’s nothing wrong with that, but more probing into, really investigating closely. In what sense, how is it that this appears to me mine? How does this get to me? How does it get me in its grip, or is that only because I have it in my grip of grasping?
So the point here is as one closely applies mindfulness, this is really, this whole 1st turning of the wheel of dharma, the four noble truths, close applications of mindfulness, as the core of viphasyana practice. It’s really an exercise in radical empiricism, coming right down, scaling of all the dead skin of projections, conceptualizations, superimpositions and so forth and getting down to what’s real, and what’s real is what you can directly perceive, and what maybe existent, but not real is the ownership of this cell phone, and then we have all the others junk that we superimpose, that is not even true at all.
(11:47) So we have three levels:
So distinguishing that, and seeing through all of this, in this radically empirical sense of seeing things simply as phenomena, “chu tsam”, see them as phenomena. So it’s not simply bare attention like a woodchuck, just picking up sensations, mindlessly, just a little sensory detector. It is attending very closely to reality, but with wisdom, with insight, with knowing what you’re seeing, knowing the impermanent as impermanent, knowing the dukkha (suffering) as dukkha, knowing the non-self as non-self, then that seeing, that’s much more than bare attention, that’s direct perception imbued with insight, knowing things as they are, peeling off the layers by this close applications of mindfulness, peeling off the layers of all the stuff we pile on, in daily life.
(13:26) So there’s something quite fascinating about this, I mean so many fascinating things, and some of them quite diametrically opposed to the trajectory of western civilization going back more two thousand years, and what I’m referring to here is something that really saturated pretty much the first three, at least two hundred, and more like three hundred years of the rise of modern science. Let’s say since Copernicus, and that was a virtually unquestioned assumptions by the people, these natural philosophers or scientists, seeking to understand the nature of creation, and the overwhelming assumption from Copernicus right through Newton, and right through James Clerk Maxwell late nineteen century, as a devout Christian, was that there is a supernatural agent, somebody who stands absolutely outside of nature, outside of nature and creates the natural world, and not only creates it, but imposes laws upon it which we then call the laws of nature, and then moral laws, ten commandments and so forth and so on, not only it creates it, and then superimpose the laws, and then also intervenes, supernaturally intervenes and then punishes and rewards, and so wow! Somebody is really in charge here, and then the natural philosophers having these aspirations, these apotheosis as I mentioned before, wanting to know what is this natural world look like, from a supernatural perspective, an outside perspective, an absolutely objective perspective, God’s own perspective and that is not speculation, they actually said this. So this was very much a theological quest, especially for the earlier ones including Newton, he wrote, in the last twenty five years of his life, much more theology than he did in physics.
(16:08) And so there is something that is underpinning arise well western civilization, since going back to the Jews certainly through the Christian tradition, so that everything is steaming from a supernatural source, and there is a supernatural perspective on the natural world, that really undergirds most of modern science, and then together with this here we are, we creatures, we human beings that were created on the six day, and the notion that we also have a supernatural core, our souls, our immortal souls that carry on from this life time, to some eternal destiny, actually in roman Catholicism, limbo, purgatory, heaven and hell, you got four destinations, and that’s it. In other words you’re out for a long ride, and that which carries on is supernatural, it’s your immortal soul standing outside of, and then the question is: does this immortal soul have free will or not. This separate entity that stands apart from the body, apart from the mind, does this entity, you, have free will?
(17:16) That’s an awfully big issue, and the stakes are extremely high, because if you do not have free will, and God sends peoples to hell, that’s a really raw deal, I mean that really cosmically, galactically stinks, that somebody would create somebody and say: I am creating you, and you don’t have any say in the matter, but I’m just going to punish you forever, Just 'cause I kind of felt like it. To say that’s mean is an understatement. So the stakes are very high, we better have free will, otherwise he’s really a stinker, I mean a cosmic stinker to do that to sentient beings who had no choice in the matter at all, it’s tough enough to live a finite little life for a few decades, and then go off to eternal hell, because you screwed up, that’s pretty tough but if you get eternal punishment for not even screwing up at all, because you are programed to screw up, that really stinks. And so the stakes are very high, so we got this supernatural God, we have a supernatural soul, and then working out these two, you know the dynamic between these supernaturals, well guess what in Buddhism neither one of those is anywhere on the horizon, no supernatural, super ego, that creates the entire universe, and stands outside of it and has a supernatural absolutely objective perspective, nowhere, no evidence and nowhere positive, and then how about a supernatural little God namely the person, the ego, the soul? Not that either, so we’ve just solved two problems with one stroke, what a relieve!
(18:04) And what we’re left with then, is not even any aspiration to gain a supernatural absolutely objective view on the nature of reality, independent of human experience, because that perspective is never even positive in the first place, and we know never even really worry about free will, as some absolute anthological entity, but rather practically speaking, when we are more free, and when we last free? And that’s a totally practical question, as I said before between psychosis, and being an arhat that’s a pretty big bandwidth of more, more and more freedom.
So this theme that now crops up in some of the most delicious modern physics, namely Quantum Cosmology, the theme of observer participancy, the notion that it is completely futile to try to understand the nature of the universe independent of all systems of measurements, because the universe is always rising relative to systems of measurement, which means it’s always a role of observer participancy, well that’s just core Buddhism, not that they got it from Buddhism, but that is core Buddhism all the way through, that the subject and object are always entangled, what we’re experiencing is always entangled with our experience of it, and so in a midst of that, this then is a thoroughly naturalistic way of viewing reality when in the Satipathana it said view things as “chu tsam” as mere phenomena it’s saying as purely natural, no supernatural entities out there, who’re creating it or doing it to you, no supernatural entity in here, that somehow stands outside of nature and is experiencing it, it’s all within the web within the network, within the matrix of dependent origination and in a midst of that there are of course individual, sentient beings, people and so forth, this is my cell phone, this is my hair, these are my thoughts, all of that has a certain relative truth to it.
(19:52) But the point here once again and then in summary is just simply to see that which is real as real, and not conflate it with our projections upon it. So it’s quite simple! I know there have been a lot of teachings and you can study commentaries to the Satipatthana sutra and you can make it more complicated, but it really is coming back to closely applying attention in the spirit of a radical empiricism, to look ever so closely at the phenomena that arise in all of the six domains of experience, and to see them as they are, not con-fused by our conceptual superimpositions especially pertaining to impermanence, dukkha (suffering) and non self, to see them as they are. So, quite simple.
2nd turning of the wheel of Dharma with the emphasis on the three marks of existence: use intelligence to uncover the ultimate nature of phenomena which still appear deceptively.
(20:40) Just a little sneak preview, when we go into the 2nd turning of the wheel of dharma, The Perfection of Wisdom, which is then systematize for example by Nagarjuna in the Madhyamaka the Middle Way View, then, now the theme is really to realize the ultimate nature of phenomena, not simply whether they belong to a personal self, or whether they are by nature pleasure, whether they’re permanent and so forth but kind of an anthological probe, how finally do phenomena exist? Do they exist by their own intrinsic nature by their own inherent identity, do they or do they not?
And now a different type of methodology is going to be needed, most people, there can be rare individuals, but most people will not get that, simply by closely applying mindfulness to appearances, and why? It is actually quite simply, and that is if you are in the midst of a lucid dream, you’re dreaming and you know you’re dreaming and you’re closely applying mindfulness to the appearances, the appearances still seem to be arising from their own side. You attend to them very, very closely, but they still lie to you, or to give the analogy in waking life on the Buddha’s path, when you become an arya-bodhisattva so you’ve gained direct realization of emptiness, I mean it is pretty powerful, and you’re a bodhisattva, direct realization, arya-bodhisattva and then you come out of your meditation on emptiness and you attend to the world around you and how does things appear? As if from their own side, things still appear to be really there from their own side, even though the arya knows they are not, they still lie to him or her, the appearances are still there. In other words you’re not going to realize emptiness just by attending very closely to the appearances, because they lie to you the whole way through, even after you have realized emptiness they still lie, they still appear in a way that they are not, just as even after you become lucid in a dream, phenomena’s still appear to be from their own side, you know they’re not, but they still appear that way.
(22:53) So then we need something more than this radical empiricism, or the very close inspection of just the phenomena’s themselves, then we need really the eyes of wisdom, this anthological probe that’s when we start probing into the nature of exactly how is it the phenomena emerge. What is their nature? How do they dissolve? Do they really exist by their own nature or to the extent that they exist in relationship to the subject, what’s the nature of that relationship?
So that second one is driven by intelligence, that 2nd turning of the wheel of Dharma, The Perfection of Wisdom, the Nagarjuna, the Madhyamaka is not just paying close attention, closely applying mindfulness, that’s way he has all of his syllogisms, he’s taking your intelligence and say we just need you to max out your intelligence, use all of it, perfect it, developed better, better, better because you’re going to need it for the 2nd turning of the wheel of Dharma, you really need all the intelligence you can, because you can’t just take appearances at face value, and believe them.
In the 3rd turning of the wheel of Dharma, rigpa recognizes rigpa.
(23:56) And then we come to the 3rd turning of the wheel of Dharma, which we’ll just elude to now and then, during this eight weeks to come, turning to Buddha Nature, to rigpa, to pristine awareness, the tathagata-garbha and here are teachings about the ultimate dimension of consciousness that transcends all concepts, transcends all words, transcends all imagination, all symbols, totally transcended even and that is most clearly I think, elucidated in the Dzogchen tradition, the Mahamudra tradition, that even transcends the conceptual demarcation of existence and non-existence, Buddha Nature does it exist or not? In even that you’re already trapped because you’re trying to capture it within a conceptual category of the existence versus non-existence and it is untrappable.
So to gain a direct realization of rigpa, pristine awareness, Buddha Nature, the tathagata-garbha, dharmakaya (mind of Buddha) well it’s certainly not just by looking at appearances that won’t do it, and it’s not simply by an anthological probe trying to find out, how do phenomena exist, by their own inherent nature or not, that won’t do it. It has to be another kind of faculty, and so it’s with the perfection of wisdom taking our faculty of prajiana that we already have, and perfecting it, using it to the hilt, that you gain realization of emptiness, and so the close applications of mindfulness with introspection and closely discerningly, wisely attending to appearances, that we realize impermanence, dukkha and no-self.
But when it comes to Buddha Nature, it is not just the close applications of mindfulness, that won’t do it, and it is not simply using your intelligence, inadequate. So how then can you know rigpa, how then can you know that dimension of awareness? And the only way that dimension of awareness can be known is by itself, that is only rigpa can know rigpa, the only way of knowing it is self-knowing, because it does not know rigpa as an object, the knowing of rigpa is always by necessity, non-dual, it is rigpa realizing itself.
So the path is the end, is the ground, and I would say, if we have to find a word in English, it would be just kind of your deepest dimension of intuition, beyond mere perception, beyond mere reason and inference and intelligence, but kind of the ultimate mode of knowing which is vidya, which is rigpa in Sanskrit, and vidya simply means knowing, it’s knowing on that deepest level. So it’s not going to be irrational or antirational it’ll be trans-rational and, this is why I personally like Naropa who was already brilliant, he was a consummate scholar, tremendous teacher, great author, great pandit, knew everything, one of the greatest, in the eleventh century or so, but for him to realize rigpa after being already so accomplished, for him to then break through, not only appearances, but break to the limitations even of his brilliant intelligence, his wisdom, then when Tilopa came to him to lead him to that break through, to the deepest dimension of awareness, he didn’t do it by debating with him, or giving him one more text, you haven’t read that text have you? Read this one and that will do it for you! It wasn’t a text, it wasn’t debating, it wasn’t attending closely to appearances, it was a smack on the face with a sandal! Trans-rational! You find that really clearly in the Zen tradition in the Chan tradition, where there again seeking to break through to that.
(28:08) So it’s quite neat, radical empiricism, intelligence come to full blown perfection of wisdom, and then rigpa realizing rigpa, and the avenue is intuition, or it says in the teachings on the 3rd turning of the wheel of Dharma, that you realize Buddha Nature, or tathagata-garbha by a way of, shraddhaa (sanskrit), faith. You realize by way of faith, well faith is another word for intuition, because it’s not just faith in somebody else’s authority, or the grandeur of a tradition, or the magnificent of a certain text and so forth and so on. Faith here is not faith in something else or someone else. So it’s shradhaa. It is faith but it’s faith that doesn’t simply culminate in belief, but faith that goes trans-rational, and opens up a dimension of reality, that you can’t access simply by attending to appearances, or even with the power of your intelligence. So there is the larger framework for these four applications of mindfulness.
For each of the 4 applications of mindfulness, the Buddha mentions in the Sattipathana sutra to attend 1) internally, 2) externally, and 3) both internally and externally. This allows us to shine the light of awareness and mindfulness on domains of our own experience.
(29:13) We have just one more session in this cycle, for the close applications of mindfulness to the body, but bearing in mind, very important, that is the close application of mindfulness to all of the five domains of sensory experience, by means of which we access or able to apprehend the physical world, so the four elements within, the four elements without.
Central theme, which I’ve not mentioned yet, so I have to mention it 'cause it’s very important and incredibly useful also, and that is we have this close application of mindfulness to the body internally, we’ve been doing that, what we haven’t been doing yet, and this won’t be the theme for this session either, because it’s not so practical when you’re just sitting quietly on your cushion, but the close applications of mindfulness to the body, externally, where, and I have eluded to this, when we’re attending to another person to their physical presence, after all that’s how we attend, is by way of their body facial expression and all of that, that close application of mindfulness that full attendance, I cited Laurence Freeman yesterday, the greatest gift you can give, so that close attendance of application of mindfulness to the body externally, and that is attending to somebody else’s body. And that is attending to this, this is the outer display of this person, and so I’m giving you my full attention, and attending to what you can display, that I can actually directly perceive, and that’s facial expression, tone of voice, physical activity and so forth and so on, so externally.
(31:25) And then the culmination of that, and then we’ll go to the meditation, internally, externally and then you might recall internally and externally. And that is when we’re engaging with the person, not simply, for example when I’m in an airport, I mentioned this before I think, I spend a lot of time in airports, which means waiting for airplanes, or at least sitting before the airplane takes off, and I’ll just often simply watch people passing through, observing people, and I’m not really much of a participant, that is I’m not trying to engage with them they’re just passing by I’m just attending to, wow! a lot the people here, and so I’m simply attending the other people externally, on one hand, on the other hand, for example this afternoon Chudun (name of person) came to my room, we had a conversation, so there we are one on one talking back and forth and so as I’m speaking, I’m attending to her responding to my words, and then she speaking and I’m sensing my responding to hers, that she can be observing me. So now it’s not just me observing her externally it’s me observing her, facial expression, tone of voice, behavior and so forth, in relationship to what I’m bringing, as I’m responding in relationship to what she’s bringing and so there’s a really nice word for this in Modern Philosophy and Psychology, it’s Systems, Systems Theory, and that is I’m not just looking at this person, this entity here or just that entity there, but now there is something that is unique that was not there already.
It is Alan Wallace arising relative to Chudun, Chudun arising relative to Alan Wallace only once in a while, because normally she is arising relative to herself, or other people and so forth and so on, but when we had our 15 minute conversation, then she’s arising relative to me. I’m arising relative to her something unique is taking place and it’s over when she leaves the room, and that was Chudun a la (in relation to) Alan, Alan a la Chudun arising dynamically in into relationship with each other in a conversation.
But then observing that whole system taking place, that I’m not just observing her, she is responding to me, she maybe observing me but it’s not just me, it’s me responding to her, and so that system there, that’s right there on the Buddha’s discourse, hardly ever even mentioned, as far as I can tell, and yet there it is, and it comes for every single one of the four applications of mindfulness of the body and right on through, attending internally, externally, internally and externally.
It’s really brilliant! And it’s simple, but then we see the pratitysamutpada, the dependent origination, of other people’s behavior vis-à-vis (facing) our behavior, our behavior vis-à-vis of other people’s behavior, my feelings, your feelings, my thoughts, aspirations, memories and so forth vis-à-vis yours and this whole codependent arising, arising, arising, quite amazing!
I hope I give some impression, some intimation of the tremendous richness of this practice, and the richness really comes not from some text, which is only a few pages long in Satipatthana sutra, not long, but the richness comes just from the richness of our own existence here.
And what the Buddha’s doing is giving us a bright light, in fact he’s not even giving us 'cause the bright light is our own awareness, he’s not giving us that, but he is giving teachings here, to enable us to shine that light of mindfulness clearly, discerningly, sharply upon these different aspects of our own existence here, and our relationship with the world around us. So it becomes clear, and we move from the darkness of delusion into the clarity of awaking. It is very cool. Oh yeah!
So we’ll have one session, I’ll use few words, and not really much new this time, but kind of a summing up, as our last session for this cycle on the close applications of mindfulness to the body.
(35:40) With the aspiration to awaken, to see reality as it is. To put to the test of experience the theme that only the truth indeed will make us free. Let your awareness slip into and permeate the field of the body, settling your body in its natural state and the respiration in its natural rhythm, and calm and balance your mind for a little while by way of mindfulness of breathing.
(41:12) Open all of your five sense doors, that is of the five physical senses of course, let your awareness be still, as free of grasping as possible, quietly, unmoving and non-discursively, attend to the comings and goings, the appearances and disappearances of phenomena within the visual, the auditory, the tactile. Moment to moment attend to what is real, that what you can directly perceive, which arises in dependence upon causes and conditions, substantial causes, cooperative conditions, and in turn gives rise to effects, ever fresh, unprecedented, momentary. As you observe these appearances, each one arising, within its own causal nexus, observe closely. Does anything here belong to anything else? Does anything belong to you? Is there within this field of experience anything that is you? Are you anywhere to be found, you as the agent, you as the observer?
(45:43) These appearances of shapes and colors, of sounds, of tactile sensations, are they anything more than mere empty appearances with no substance, no core, nothing really there absolutely, just the appearances themselves? Appearances arising from the space of awareness, some called the Alaya, the substrate, perhaps even nothing more than configurations of that space that emerge from the space, crystalize and dissolve back into that space.
(47:16) Within this relative context then, the emptiness of your own substrate, the emptiness of the space of awareness, taking on form, very much like a dream, emerging from the space of awareness, dissolving back into it. An emptiness of space taking on form, and yet the form being nothing other than configurations of that space, and the form being empty of anything other than space.
A relative interpretation of emptiness is form, form is emptiness apart from form there is no emptiness, apart from emptiness there is no form, observe closely. Is this true or not?
(53:30) And attend closely especially to the body, which after all, is in the center of your physical universe, these appearances arising here of earth, water, fire and air. Are they anymore yours than colors and shapes that you perceive, sounds that you hear? Are they anything more than phenomena arising in the space of awareness, dissolving back into that space? Is there something malleable here? Can you loosen your grip hold them less closely? Simply observe these phenomena with no owner, simple phenomena.
Teachings after meditation:
(59:50) O Laso, some final concluding comments on this practice, in broader context, nowadays, specially as Buddhism has become popularized, and to some considerable extent commodified, and it can’t be helped, people have to rent meditation halls, they have to pay for airline tickets, meditation teachers have to make a living, so in a way, you have to charge, but it does get commodified, overwhelmingly it’s almost always the case, and then it’s a buyer’s market, and that is you better offer something people want to listen to. If you offer let’s say, a week long retreat on the ten non-virtues, and I’m going to really unpack them, come one come all (laughs), lot’s of luck with that one…, so what sells? Dzogchen sells really well, it’s so cool, so weekend Dzogchen, one week Dzogchen. I do it, I go from here to Australia, and we’ll have a one week on Dzogchen, and I say it without embarrassment, people requested it, I’m happy to offer it. There is one beautiful short text by Dudjom Rinpoche, gives the view, meditation way of life, I’m going to do it, I will contextualize it.
(1:01:14) Some people listen to Dzogchen and say, I really like that and they may have no teachings at all, or none that actually got in, on the teachings of the Perfection of Wisdom, teachings of emptiness, Madhyamaka (Middle Way), just Dzogchen but they really like it. Is it possible if you’ve not had any rigors training in Madhyamaka, Perfection of Wisdom, teachings of emptiness, is it possible to receive teachings just on Dzogchen and gain realization of rigpa? Is it possible? There’s a correct answer, and the answer is yes, it is possible for people of very sharp faculty. It happens.
On the other hand if you’re not a person of sharp faculties, and this was from his holiness again, was when we were in Brisbane, last spring, we’re having lunch together, it was a marvelous lunch, a number of people were there, and then we got up, he just spoke to me briefly about Dzogchen, and just made this comment. “If you don’t have realization of emptiness, to realize Dzogchen is almost impossible”.
So if you are practicing Dzogchen and say never mind all that teachings on Madhyamaka and so forth, then the chances are unless you’re a person of very sharp faculties, you’re not really practicing Dzogchen, but then you are not practicing anything else either, because there is not anything else, it is a false facsimile of Dzogchen, which means you’re not getting that benefit, but you’re not getting benefit from any other teachings, because you are not practicing them. Kind of simple.
(1:02:54) Then we have extraordinary teachings by some extraordinary teachers on, for example the six yoga’s of Naropa, I’ve received those teachings by an extraordinary master way back in 1978, stage of completion practices, I mean incredibly profound, I say that with only faith. Geshe Rabten invited this great, I mean accomplished yogi to teach us this, and I was translating for him, the words were coming out from my mouth! I think I got the words right, and afterwards I went to Geshe Rabten and said, Geshe Rabten those were incredible teachings shall we practice them now, he said “no, no way, you’re not ready for those teachings”. He was the one that invited the lama, (Alan continues with the idea) I want you to have the seeds, meanwhile go back to your practice, that’s for later. But I don’t want those sutrayana teachings, that’s for ordinary people, you know sutrayana people, I’m a six yoga’s of Naropa person, I like those teachings.
Is it possible to realize emptiness, to gain profound realization without teachings on madhyamaka, perfection of wisdom? The answer is yes, if you have very sharp faculties, and if you’re not then you just going to be going through a routine, you won’t really be practicing six yoga’s, 'cause you’re not capable! But you won’t be practicing anything else, 'cause you’re not practicing anything else. The same goes for chod, it’s a marvelous practice. It’s a deep practice. Could you without having a solid grounding in the teaching of emptiness, perfections of wisdom, just practicing chod, could you have realization of emptiness? You know the answer now, yes! If you’re a person of very sharp faculties. And if not you’re just engaging in a very cool ritual that you may like a lot. But then you’re not practicing teachings on emptiness, and you’re not really practicing chod, if you’re not really prepared for it.
(1:05:00) Stage of generation, this is again directly from his holiness, stage of generation: dissolving everything to emptiness, arising with divine pride, pure vision, the mandala, your deity, hopefully a whole bunch of hands (joking). Is that Stage of Generation practice? if you’ve not realized emptiness, his holiness says, no, is more like a cartoon, if you’ve not realized emptiness what’s the point of thinking I’m a big bull with lots of arms (joking),or I’m a beautiful naked lady look at my boobs (joking again), really what part of that is profound? If you’ve not realized emptiness it’s just a cartoon, it’s a play, it’s visualization, it’s a dance, very cool, maybe fun, really gives cool spiritual feelings. If you have not realized emptiness could you in principle practice Stage of Generation and realize emptiness? Now you know the answer, yeah! If you are a person with very sharp faculties, and if you’re not, you’re just going through a very rich, potentially very meaningful ritual, for which you’re not getting the benefit 'cause you’re not prepared. His holiness said you must have some genuine insight, some real understanding of emptiness. Otherwise that whole stage of generation is just a light show, rich with incredible symbolism, but it’s still just a light show. Because there you are thinking, in my case I’m a Stanford PHD, oh by the way I’m also a vajrasattva. Vajrasattva by the way has a PHD from Stanford (joking), (keeps going) not a state university this is a real special vajrasattva a private university, best on the west coast, this must be a special vajrasattva, it’s absurd!
(1:06:42) Then some years ago I read an article. It was quite a critical article, by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, he’s an American monk, good scholar, reads very fluent pali, he’s done a lot of good translation work. I don’t think I’ve ever met him, but I know a number of his students, and he wrote an article it was published in one of the Buddhist journals. He was comparing the teachings on Satipatthana, the core vipashyana practice in the Theravada tradition to the teachings on Madhyamaka, teachings on emptiness. I didn’t find it fair, but I find it useful.
He said, you know all that stuff about emptiness, and all the reasonings and syllogism, and so forth. It’s all a very nice interesting head trip, but who’s really getting benefit from that. Upon really reflecting upon the teachings of emptiness, who’s actually finding their mental afflictions go down. And I think from his impression it really wasn’t very effective; it was just really brilliant philosophy. Are your mental afflictions: craving, hostility, delusion, arrogance, jealousy, actually going down now that you had teachings on madhyamaka? And if the answer is yes, good! And if the answer is not, then what’s the point of all that debating, and being so smart, giving all the syllogisms, and beating other people in debate if it’s not touching your mental afflictions, so is the arrow striking your target? And I think he was making a valid observation, that in many cases it does not. And that’s just a true statement.
I mean I’ve hangout with the Gelugpas for a long time, and there are marvelous Gelugpa Geshes, and yogis, I mean they are really spectacular. And there are other ones, who are very knowledgeable scholars, and can teach with great eloquence, articulate, precise, and so forth. No experience at all. That’s true, and I’m not pointing any person, that would be just being judgmental, but it’s a true statement. And you can be a professor of Buddhist studies, and write big books on madhyamaka philosophy and the arrows never strike the target, but you can get a full professorship and endowed chair and all of that, look at me I’m a hot shot (slang) Buddhist philosopher and they didn’t even shoot in the direction of the target.
(1:09:02) So, it’s interesting these four applications of mindfulness, 'cause it’s coming right back to where we live. Do we on occasion apprehend that is which by nature impermanent as being permanent? Does that ever happen? Do we ever apprehend something that is not a true source of happiness, as being a true source of happiness? Do we ever apprehend, grasp on to something as not truly I or mine as being exactly that, I or mine, and do we suffer, or do we have our mental afflictions, craving, hostility and so forth, being aroused independence upon those delusions as ways of misapprehending realty? Does that happen or not?
But this is where I live, interpersonal relationships, my job, my work, my possessions and so forth. This is where I live, and to what extent am I suffering unnecessarily, because of misapprehending the nature of realty? So I think Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, on the on hand, I think he had an inadequate appreciation, this was years ago, so maybe now it’s no longer true, but judging by that article, I would say at that time, he had inadequate appreciation of the cases in which teachings on madhyamaka really do work, and spectacularly, but he needed to step outside the Theravada cocoon, and spend some time with Tibetans, people like Gen Lamrimpa, people like Chadrel Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, Lingam Rinpoche, and the list goes on and on. These are spectacular individuals, and they have profoundly benefited by those teachings on emptiness, that he was kind of dismissing as an intellectual trip. Ok, we all have our limitations, maybe he doesn’t have it any longer, or maybe he was simply making a point. That this is a danger, if you get totally caught up in philosophy as philosophy, it may never strike the target, in which case that’s a valid point.
(1:10:54) So here we are on these four applications of mindfulness right where we live, and the teachings are simply saying, pay closer attention! And not just with bare attention but with wise discerning intelligent attention, and use the philosophy, like a carpenter use his tool chest. Use the philosophy, to cut away the dead skin of all the junk we’re projecting on other people, the environment, and ourselves, and see what’s left over, when we’re simply observing clearly, nakedly with discerning mindfulness. What’s real, and what are these mere phenomena that are arising in dependence upon causes and conditions. And then I’ll ask a final question, if you have not achieved shamatha and you venture into these four applications of mindfulness, could you achieve liberation? The answer is yes, on occasion, remember Bahiya, he just heard the teachings…, and this occurred on other occasion too, read the Pali Canon. People come to the Buddha they receive teachings, and at the end of the teachings they become stream enterer, which means they gained direct realization of nirvana, in other words it can happen!
(1:12:13) Tsongkhapa says: by way of vipashyana you may achieve shamatha, and if you’re extremely ripe, very, very sharp faculties. By way of vipashyana, that may just pull shamatha right into it, and you may simultaneously realize union of shamatha vipashyana. That’s for very, very sharp faculties. If you have very sharp faculties you may be able to practice just vipashyana and by that unveil shamatha, shamatha just springs up unifies with vipashyana and you gain direct realization. Mazal tov! (Congratulation). It could happen, bear in mind we go way back to Dudjom Lingpa teachings, stare into space for two weeks, you may realize rigpa, in which case skip all of the preceding stages, shamatha and vipashyana and skip trekcho, and go directly to togal, could happen, but if it doesn’t you’re not going to get there just be staring at space for six weeks, or for six years, or for six thousand years, thinking maybe if I just sit here long enough I’ll become really sharp faculties. No, I think it’s called just spaced out.
So this is why then, for those of us in my camp, who have extraordinary dull faculties, then step by step actually is a really good idea. And then you see: is your practice that you’re engaging in from day to day, is the arrow striking the target?
We’re suffering because of our own mental afflictions, so for practicing dharma it’s to get those mental afflictions too soften; too attenuate, so we suffer less, we’re happier, and the mind is more virtuous. And if you’re practicing and you’re not finding your mental afflictions are subsiding, and you’re not finding virtues are increasing, and you’re not suffering less, and you’re not finding greater genuine happiness, you might want to shift your practice, so that the arrow is striking the target, because life is short.
These are the words of my teachers, these are not my words, I have nothing to offer. If I offer anything valuable you know it’s not coming from me, I’m speaking actually seriously, sometimes a joke, that would be mine, but then you know how my jokes are, they’re pretty corny (joking).
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Noa Leshem
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti