03 Oct 2012

Teaching pt1. Alan revisits the 4th immeasurable equanimity. The Pali canon emphasizes a sense of imperturbability or emotional balance. In this spirit, Alan reads a section from Dudjom Lingpa’s Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra. Hoping for and clinging to things regarded as good and fearing things regarded as bad will lead to misery and suffering. Whatever joys and sorrows arise, these are mere appearances which are not to be blocked. Just stop reifying—i.e., the feeling of joy or sorrow and its causes. The mind that reifies appearances is the root that needs to be blocked.
Meditation. Equanimity with suffering in the past, present, and future. 1) Direct your attention to a situation in your own past which you found very difficult and led to suffering. Can you distinguish between the event that arose to meet you and your response to that event? If there is suffering, you identified an event as bad. Can you observe phenomena as phenomena and distinguish that from your designation? The basis is empty of your conceptual designation. The feeling of suffering is also an empty appearance. In all adversity, as an active participant, you designated something as bad and experienced suffering as a result. 2) Is there anything here and now that troubles you? What is the basis for your designation? See the emptiness of both the basis and your designation. Once you withdraw reification, form is emptiness, emptiness is form, and there is neither benefit nor harm. 3) Is there anything in the future you dread? What is the object that you fear or find unpleasant? Is your unhappiness lodged out there in the object? The object doesn’t exist at all, nor does the unhappiness. No more substantial than a mirage, they are all empty appearances arising and dissolving in space.
Teaching pt2. Once hopes and fears are released, the mind settles in the center. In the center, there is neither pleasure nor pain, but a sense of equanimity. Beware of falling into dullness and indifference. Maintain lucidity while resting in the center, and it dissolves into a well-spring of bliss.

Meditation starts at 15:00

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This morning we turn to the forth of the four immeasurables, equanimity. And broadly speaking it’s understood in two ways, both are very, very useful. In the Theravada approach the emphasis is on this “upecha” the Sanskrit term or “upeca” in Pali, seems to point more towards just imperturbability, the feeling of equanimity, the feeling of an inner strength, unflappability, really maintaining, keeping you cool whatever is coming up so that you are not responding with wild emotional oscillations or craving or hostility.

Whereas in Indo Tibetan current, the emphasis there, as I am sure many of you know, is much more on that even open heartedness, that is towards other people in particular that instead of responding with craving to those we like and hostility to those we don’t, we more even that out.

So what I’d like to do for this morning which is fairly short, would be to go to or emphasize this first sense, this imperturbability maintaining emotional equilibrium, emotional balance, which we all value, and what I would like to draw the attention is to a relatively short passage from one of the mind treasures, perhaps the most quintessential mind treasure of Dudjom Lingpa on Dzogchen. I think I’ve referred to it in the past it’s the Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra. And it comes in seven phases starting with shamatha and culminating in achieving perfect enlightenment of a Buddha.

The first phase is all about settling the mind in its natural state, or as he says taking the impure mind as the path, in other words the only mind you have, starting from where you are, where you live, that mind, and then we will see as we go deeper then he says -now we take ultimate reality or emptiness, now that’s your path and then you go deeper and you take rigpa as your path. So at no point are you directly taking Buddhism as your path, it’s not Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana in any kind of way, it’s taking your impure mind and you didn’t get that from Buddhism, and emptiness is either real or unreal but ok, I am going to assume it’s real, that’s your path and then rigpa or pristine awareness. But so he’s just unpacked, in this phase one of the text and it’s only 10 pages long, from summarizing the entire path to enlightenment. In this first phase he describes settling the mind in its natural state or taking the impure mind as the path and of course we all know, all of you have now practiced that, it does tend to cause, not like a side effect of drug, but merely catalyze something that’s already there, ok? A drug may give you problems that you didn’t have before, but settling the mind in its natural state I really do believe it has no detrimental side effects at all, but might it catalyze if practiced correctly of course, but might it bring forth, make manifest imbalances, physiologically pranically, psychologically that were already there? Oh, definitely yes.

(3:54) So what to do when you are practicing settling the mind in its natural state, taking the impure mind as the path and it’s dredging up a lot of stuff that is pretty upsetting, emotions, memories, desires, all kind of stuff - oh man, I didn’t think that I was going to get hit by a hurricane here, it was so peaceful when I started. This seems to be going away from shamatha into hurricane territory.

But of course it’s not only for those who are really seriously devoting themselves to shamatha practice, let alone the shamatha practice of taking the impure mind as the path, let alone those who are doing it for 10 hours a day, you know for weeks and months on end, they really will wind up dredging the psyche to its depths, all the way down to substrate consciousness. But let alone such people, people who are not meditating at all, people who have no interest in dharma whatsoever. Are they experiencing circumstances that arouse over the course of their days and months and years of their lives, strong emotional upheaval? Do you know anybody who has not gone through that? Isn’t going through it now and is not destined to go through it in the future? So in others words the teaching he is about to give is relevant for everybody, from the most dedicated hard core yogis, absolutely focused on achieving shamatha and proceeding on the path, to those with no interest at all but they would really like to suffer less. Well, these teaching that he is about to give are really for people, this particular antidote, the issue is relevant for everybody, this particular antidote, he’s now, who’s his audience? And we’d have to say for this – tantra. And that is what it is, Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra. Who is his audience? Where is the dart being thrown? Who’s he really directing this to? Well I think it’s pretty clear, when he summarizes the entire path in 10 pages his intended audience is people who are really intent, committed like Gautama under the Buddha tree to achieving enlightenment in this life time, that type of commitment.

So the teachings he is about to give is not going to be relevant or is not going to be practical, applicable for everybody, but we can see – I am like a shoe salesman, here is a shoe, see if fits. So here’s what comes, he just described, he is coming to the end of the presentation of taking the impure mind as the path and now we have a session, recognizing the essential nature of that which is to be abandoned, and its direct remedy, recognizing this as the foremost path. So what the foremost paths, the best of paths to recognize what is to be abandoned and the remedy for that? The root text, the Tantra reads:


“Whenever you proudly hope for good things and cling to them and fear bad things and reify inflictors of harm, you have stumbled upon a dangerous juncture that can lead you astray. “

Really powerful, and that’ the root text, happily there is a commentary which I’ve also translated, so now that’s what you are going to get. It’s rather short and this will then launch us into our meditation for this morning. And what you’ll see here is that we are now just right on course, we’ve come to, in a timely fashion, to the forth to the four immeasurables, equanimity, and in the afternoon it just turns out golly gee, that we are focusing on the close application of mindfulness of feelings and, by crickey we’re doing it by way of Madhyamaka and seeking to realize the empty nature of feelings. All of these are of one piece, blessings of the Buddha, I didn’t plan them. So the commentary reads:

“Whenever you have fallen under the influence of proudly hoping for and clinging to things that seem to be good, [that you have conceptually designated as good,] such as material gain, respect and renown and fearing things that seem to be bad [ so that’s your conceptual designation] such as misconduct [of the peoples way of treating you that you don’t like] abuse and slander by your enemies, whenever you follow under such influence this makes for misery and suffering”,

In other words you are the person that went to the Sahara created your cage, got in and through away the key.

In short: “Insofar you reify all Gods and inflictors of harm”.

Now this is actually being revealed in the 1860s in Tibet when the existence of all kinds of demonic spirits and angelic spirits and all kinds of densely populated and where there was a lot of sense of - oh, this is must because of this deity, this entity, and it is attributed always looking for something out there.

So we give it viruses, and we give it political parties and politicians, we find something to blame, it is always out there. And we do it. With often things we can’t see, like bacteria and viruses, and I do believe they exist. But I can’t remember seeing one. I’m a believer. I do believe. And so likewise Tibetans say most of us can’t see the demons and gods and all the incredible array of intangible spirits and so forth, but we have those who have achieved shamatha and vipashyana, people who broaden the bandwidth of mental perception, they actually see them, they recognize them, they know what to do with them. So Dudjom Lingpa is couching this in mid 19th century Tibet and there are people in his immediate audience for whom this is totally ordinary. Like me talking about viruses and bacteria. Nobody goes – why do you believe that – have you ever seen one? Because we are all true believers here. And so they were all true believers, nobody among his audience were saying – what do you mean gods? I’m an Atheist. They’d say what’s an Atheist?

(10:22) Insofar as you reify Gods and inflictors of harm, the more generic, and all joys and sorrows, so not only reifying that which you see as causing the joys and sorrows, the political party etc, but also insofar as you are reifying joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains you’ve stumbled upon a dangerous obstructive juncture that can lead you astray.

Now bear in mind he is talking to people, I think it is a safe assumption, his intended audience is people now who’ve come to him and said - lead us on the path to enlightenment we want to achieve rainbow body in this life time, what can you share with us? Can you give us a path and by the way please don’ just give us a smattering of practices, we can go anywhere for that, but from you, Dudjom Lingpa, please give us a path and we are willing to do the hard work.

Then Dudjom Lingpa continues:

“Thinking, I will be unable to ascend to the supreme city of liberation, take this to heart”.

“Take this to heart”: you come to this very important juncture, a crossroads, a parting where the trail splits and if you go this way – you’re screwed and if you go this way you are actually on your way to the great city of liberation, so I mean it’s left or right, it’s perfect directions right? City of liberation this way, forever screwed that way. And forever screwed is just continue the status quo, continue reifying everything that makes you happy and sad and continue reifying all your pleasures and sorrows all your pleasure and pain, here we are.


“So thinking that I will be unable to ascend to the supreme city of great liberation, take this to heart, whatever good and bad experiences, joys and sorrows and so on arise, there is no need to counteract them, for mere appearances cannot bind you. As Aryadeva wrote, these are mere appearances and are not to be blocked, instead stop reifying them.”

(12:35) Now if a psychotherapist said that to all his or her patients, what do you think Jerry? Or a physiotherapist? Yes, I could give you a lot of techniques but …oh, to hell with it, just stop reifying and go home now and that will be sixty dollars, pay on your way out. That’s not going to wash. But then those are not his intended audience, his intended audience are people who are really serious about achieving enlightenment in this lifetime in which case, cut to the chase, give us the essence, give us the tough medicine. We are ready to take it and this is the tough medicine, this is the core medicine, this is where the healing is to be found, this is where you are going to primary cause and not merely the cooperative conditions. As Aryadeva wrote - these are mere appearances and are not to be blocked, instead stop reifying.

Commentaries continue and conclude on this one session:

“The real root of the thing to be blocked is the mind that reifies appearances, outer, everything that appears as demons, malevolence spirits and deceptive maras, arises from nothing other than this root. Consequently without subduing it, your own deluded mind that reifies everything it touches, without subduing it there will be no end to subduing all the outward demons and malevolent spirits one by one.”

What essentially to be blocked, counteracted, remedied, what’s the real problem that needs to the antidote? Is the mind that reifies appearances.

That is the core medicine.

So let’s meditate.


(16:00) It is commonly said throughout the Pali Canon as well as the teachings of the Buddha regarded in Sanskrit - the following statement: the mind settled in a state of meditative equipoise comes to see reality as it is, the balanced mind, the balanced body, speech and mind. So with this in mind, settle your body, speech and mind in their natural states.

(18:48) And now let’s move from this relative state of quiescence into the more dynamic mode of using the mind through our memory, intelligence, imagination. I invite you first of all direct your attention to your own past, any phase of your past that springs to mind but specifically target some period of your life you found very difficult, you were dealing with a very difficult unpleasant person or place or job or circumstance or a quality physical healthy you met with adversity and in response suffering arouse.

To cultivate equanimity by way of wisdom, the wisdom of which Dudjom Lingpa speaks, it’s imperative to distinguish sharply and clearly the difference between the event that arose up to meet you, the circumstances, the person, the place and your response to it. And your response very simply put was one of suffering. And therefore identifying the event, the circumstances, the place, the person, as miserable, difficult, awful.

(21:51) Coming back to the theme, “in the seen let be just the seen, in the heard just the heard”, coming back to this theme of observing phenomena simply as phenomena. Can you distinguish between the basis of imputation and your designation, verbal and conceptual, “that was awful, that was horrendously difficult, that was miserable”? And when you investigate closely, can you see that the basis of designation is empty from its own side by its own nature, empty of that which you’ve imputed upon it, it’s not to say that you were wrong conventionally, relatively from your perspective, but that from the side of the object, objective appearances, they are empty of that which you’ve imputed upon them.

(24:02) And as you closely examine the feeling itself, your recollection, how did you feel? And you recognize too - but this by nature is empty, an empty appearance with no owner, no identity, no intrinsic nature on its own, that too is designated, imputed.

And has this not been true of every other adversity that you have experienced in the past? Adversity itself was not thrust upon you from outside, you did not received it passively but you took an active role as an observer participant and you designated it as adversity and you suffered in dependence upon that designation.

(26:29) Bring your attention now to the present for those who are here in the Mind Center. We know this is a very serene, very friendly, very comfortable environment; we are being served in so many ways and nevertheless is there anything here and now that troubles you? Arouses anxiety, distress, sadness or grief? With the sharp knife of wisdom scrape off, shave away the conceptual imputations of adversity, hardship difficulty, and observe what is it upon which you are imputing these designations that makes your life so difficulty. Which appearances among the six fields of experience is the basis of designation?

(29:11) Can you see the equal emptiness of the basis of designation and all that you impute upon it? And when you withdraw that reification, you see the meaning of the Heart Sutra Statement: “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”, all these consist of nothing other than empty appearances and in which there is no benefit and no harm.

(32:10)And now direct your attention if you will to the future. Is there anything you dread, do you have any anxiety about what is to come? Is there anything in this imaginary future which is not yet real, already bringing you distress, misery, sadness? What is the object that you fear that arouses distress in the mind? What is it objectively that you deem to be unpleasant?

(33:38)And then with discerning wisdom ask the question. Is my unhappiness lodged there, is that where it’s located? Out there in the objective world lying in wait like an ambush, waiting to be delivered, suffering on a dish, or is that situation, person, place and so on, which doesn’t yet exist at all, merely serve as basis of designation for the imputation of my own fears, my own conceptual elaborations, emptiness piled on emptiness, emptiness giving rise to homemade suffering, concocted in the prison of our own fabrication.

(35:46)With the eyes of wisdom you see that the bars on the prison that you’ve constructed for yourself are in fact no more substantial than mirages. Like in a non-lucid dream you can be trapped in anguish, in prison. But from the perspective of being awake there is no prison, there is no prisoner and the anguish itself is an empty appearance arising in space.

(37:40) And now release all those empty appearances of the past, present and future and let your awareness rest non-conceptually, timeless in its own nature.

Teaching pt2.


Once hopes and fears are released, the mind settles in the center. In the center, there is neither pleasure nor pain, but a sense of equanimity. Beware of falling into dullness and indifference. Maintain lucidity while resting in the center and it dissolves into a well-spring of bliss.

Alan’s comments:

(39:36)When we release the hopes and fears and the craving and the aversion then the mind quite naturally comes to settle in the center, the Mind Center, welcome! Whether you know it or not you’ve actually been here for six weeks, but you might have had other things on your mind, like everything else.

So come to rest in the center and the center of course means neither pleasure nor pain because it’s in the center. By not getting caught up in desires - that will make me happy, we are not getting caught up in aversion – that’s going to make me miserable, we just give it a rest. And we come to the center and what is left over is not nothing but the zero feeling of equanimity, which is a feeling - keeping on coming back to that, it’s not an absence of feeling and it’s not devoid of feeling.

So we come back to that, but if we come back there and then don’t fall into the easy habitual rut of falling into a stupor, that is when something pleasant happens, then we fall into the habit “give more, I like that”, and then clinging and attachment arises. And if something unpleasant happens, “give me less”, and that’s aversion, fear and so forth; and then we are not getting neither one, “I do not care”, and just fades out into dullness, so it is craving, hostility and then ignorance, not knowing anything because well nothing’s bothering me, nothing’s pleasure I guess I can go to sleep now.

(41:15) If you can come to the center and not fall into the old rut, come into the center and maintain your lucidity, then lo and behold the center is one that slips down into the substrate consciousness and lo and behold like a geyser coming up, another type of wellbeing arises that’s not stimulus driven, that’s not hedonic, that’s genuine. But the way to it is not by pursuing the hedonic or by getting caught up in the misery and the aversion, but coming right into the center and then finding: Ah, that’s the way to open the door to another type of wellbeing, another type of feeling, because it is a feeling, a sense of wellbeing, that’s a feeling, it’s something you experience, it’s pleasant, nice and let alone “pretty” which is really enjoyment. That’s the way to open the door and the more lucidly you come to rest right there in the center, then of course your coarse mind dissolves and you slip right back into the fountain, into the artesian well of genuine happiness. And the Buddha said: “that happiness, that bliss of Samadhi is not to be feared”.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Cheri Langston

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


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