03 Meditation on the Vision Quest and Commencement of Teaching on the “Lamp So Bright” text

30 Mar 2016

Alan begins by stating the only suitable focus of our motivation as Mahamudra practitioners is on Bodhicitta as it is integral to the Mahayana path. However the Bodhicitta vow is like a promissory pledge and not realistically meaningful unless it is accompanied by a plan or strategy for taking the path. Alan invites us to develop our vision to enter the path and incorporate it into our shamatha practice initially with self-directed loving kindness and then expanding our motivation outwards by considering the 8-week retreat as part of an ongoing flow. In doing this we need to be cognisant of the big picture of the continuity of consciousness, of confidence in our practice that comes from taking Refuge, and of the practice of virtue in all our activities with the motivation of Bodhicitta.

Meditation is on the four questions of the vision quest.

After the Meditation Alan introduces the translation and explanation by Roger Jackson of the Mahamudra root text “Lamp So Bright”, noting that this has been generously provided only for the purposes of this retreat prior to its formal publication and therefore should not be made available to others outside of the retreat. Hence those listening by podcast will need to note carefully the oral transmission. However another translation by Glen Svensson will be made available on the SBI website as a pdf to assist understanding. Alan explains the opening homage and the preface to the composition in stanzas 1 & 2 and further elucidates some of the English words as translated by Jackson in relation to their original use, context and meaning in Tibetan.

The meditation starts at 10:33.


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Transcript

Olaso. So each afternoon we’ll begin with meditation and as today we’ll begin with a brief preamble. This afternoon or this evening we are starting with the text, so the formal instruction, the transmission, the explanation then begins this afternoon. And so a very good time to focus on motivation. We all know here that bodhicitta is actually the only suitable motivation as soon as we step into realms like Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Vajrayana, there’s no alternative. And that is if your motivation is not bodhicitta, then you’re not practicing Mahamudra, or Dzogchen, or Vajrayana. It’s kind of like, you’re out. Because it’s the only suitable motivation. There are other suitable motivations for vipashyana, you may follow, have the motivation of a sravaka, of a pratyekabuddha, no problem, no problem at all. Or one may engage in shamatha, vipashyana with a Christian motivation, no problem with that or agnostic motivation or any kind of motivation. It will be influenced by the type of motivation you have, but when it comes to Mahamudra, if one is really a Mahamudra practitioner, a Dzogchen practitioner, then this is simply assumed, it’s integral. Take it out, you’re no longer, it vanishes, right. And so bodhicitta, we all know the words, I think we all know the kind of general kind of theme of that, but it’s a kind of a promissory note isn’t it? And that is when you’re taking the bodhisattva precept, in the presence of all sentient beings, inviting the buddhas as your witnesses, right. You’re making this pledge to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. This is kind of like promising MaryKay, I’d just like to give you ten million dollars. This is my pledge I’m going to give you ten million dollars. And she’s got this big smile as if I actually have that money. I don’t, no. Oh but to make a pledge like that, if it’s serious, of course we’re just playing here, then if this is a pledge that she or anybody else would take seriously, she’d say well if you don’t have it now, Alan I appreciate that, I accept your offer, but of course how are you going to come through? How are you going to make good on your pledge? And if I say I don’t know I’m just hoping to win the lottery, then she just walks away with a chuckle. That’s a pledge that means nothing at all. Because there is nothing, there’s no connection between my pledge and actually delivering on the pledge. It’s just like believing in Santa Claus. Really, there is no connection. So what kind of a promise, what kind of pledge is that? When you say, when you make this when you take the bodhisattva precepts and the bodhisattva’s rejoice, well they’d be rejoicing if and only if they were taking you seriously, right? So this just speaking of bodhicitta, bodhicitta has no core unless we have a clear vision, what’s the path? From where we are today to the day that we achieve enlightenment, what’s your plan? What’s your strategy? What’s your path? And so this I think if we’re to take bodhicitta seriously and if we’re not then we’re just not following the bodhisattva way, we’re not following Mahamudra. If we’re taking bodhicitta seriously, it’s more than simply a ritual, a verbal gesture that we do each morning, and so on. There has to be a clear sense of how that actually can be realized. I promise you ten million dollars and this is, I’ve got a clear plan, maybe I’m a businessman and I’ve got a really good sound investment and I think it’s going to take about ten years and these are the people I work with and you know lay it all out and she looks at my business plan and say wow thank you for the pledge. That really means a lot to me, you know, I have confidence that you are actually going to carry through. So that’s just ten million dollars. Which would you rather have enlightenment or ten million dollars? Don’t answer that. [laughter] And so this is where path comes in. What’s your plan? To just practice dharma everyday, that’s the plan? That’s going to actually take you from here to enlightenment? That doesn’t sound like a plan to me. If you’re doing a whole bunch of three year retreats, many people find them very, very meaningful. Some people do two or three. Some people do more. Very, very good! How does that turn into a plan? How many three year retreats do you need to do, before you achieve enlightenment. Or let alone enlightenment, this is what the five paths are all about. It’s not just you and then there’s enlightenment. [04:35]

There is something in between, right, that actually makes it practical. Just like where you are today and the day you achieve shamatha. You know you look at all the qualities of the day you achieve shamatha, what happens, the state affects, the trade effects, the you know the, all of that. And then you see where you are now. It may be like looking across the grand Canyon. Like oh on the far side that looks really good, but then I have no idea how to get there. And that’s what the bridge is. All of those teaching on the nine stages, is exactly to show you, how is this practical? How can you go from where you are now maybe stage one to stage two? That’s not unimaginable. That’s really very feasible. If you don’t achieve stage two by the end of these eight weeks, [Alan makes his voice husky] “We have to talk.” [laughter] But then you have a plan, you have a strategy, you might also consider these are the methods that I’m going to adopt. And here’s the plan and we’ll see how it works out and of course plans can be reshaped, whether you’re developing a business, you’re developing a school, what have you. You have a plan and then as reality unfolds you modify the plan. You keep on being realistic, right. Without having a set timeline, because that’s where it gets really dubious very quickly, you know. Very dubious, for such an awesome ideal as achieving the enlightenment of a buddha. Better not to put a timeline on it like in the next twenty years, or something like that. Or even this lifetime, it’s as if otherwise you know, all bets are off. That is well, I can’t take it seriously if not in this lifetime, then you’re not taking it seriously. Because this lifetime could end this evening, for any of us.

[06:11] And so this brings us to the meditation and I really invite you to incorporate your own vision of the path. Because if the path, if we’re following the path of Mahamudra, with it’s four yogas which we’ll get to later. If we’re following the Mahayana path or following the Dzogchen path. Whether we’re following the path of stage of generation and completion. For all of these, every single one without exception, and it’s kind of not debatable, shamatha is indispensable. The notion of getting to buddhahood and bringing your five obscurations with you? That ain’t going to happen. You have to dispense with those pretty early in the path. It’s not something you just get rid of on the night of your enlightenment. So shamatha would be kind of like you would introduce that earlier than later. Vipashyana of course it goes without saying. What’s the vision? How do you connect the dots between where you are today and your achievement of awakening? Of perfect awakening, the fulfilment of the path? And so this brings us to, one of my favorite practices of teaching, and of practicing as well, the fourfold vision quest. I think many of you are familiar with it, it is self directed loving kindness. Which the buddha himself said, a good place to start. Develop loving kindness for yourself and then your very loved ones, your cherished friends, your more casual friends, and expand outwards breaking down all barriers. Classic Buddhist teachings. So let’s do this, but also on this first evening, of our kind of really venturing into the main body of the teachings, let’s really establish our motivation for these eight weeks. Maybe from now until enlightenment, but at least for these eight weeks, that we envision, and it’s all a matter of imagination. We envision how can these eight weeks, a very short time, just even less than two months, as we all know. But how can these eight weeks, how can these provide, a step along the path to your own fulfilment. The chances of any of us achieving shamatha or perfect enlightenment in eight weeks, not so great. But making some significant movement in that direction, really a step on the path. That you’re stepping out from the first day with that vision and as the days proceed you have that conscious awareness, that ongoing flow of motivation, that this is the direction I’m going whether it takes one lifetime or a hundred lifetimes, or seven countless eons, whatever it is, this is it, this is where I’m going. So that’s what bodhicitta is really about. But it’s got to have wisdom, it can’t just be a really nice wish like: “I want to give everybody ten million dollars. Would you like a hundred? Why don’t we just make it a round hundred million dollars?” Very sweet and completely vacuous. And what’s loftier than - I’ll give everybody here a hundred million dollars or I’ll achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings? Which one’s loftier? So you can’t take seriously I’m going to offer everybody a hundred million dollars. You can’t take that seriously at all. Clearly I have no agenda, no plan, no ability to do that. That kind of thing I probably, I really have no ability to make that much money in this lifetime. But I might just have the ability to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. How about that? Nothing special about me, I’m just saying generically. Because I already have Buddha nature. I don’t have hundred million dollar nature.[laughter] I missed out on that. That’s not a potential that’s waiting to be unveiled. Whereas the Buddha Nature is. So good, so let’s go to the session, please find a comfortable position, we will have a twenty four minute session.

[10:26 meditation bell rings three times, pauses then rings again]

I’m just fixing this. Don’t start meditating yet. [laughter] Don’t meditate yet, just rest in your natural state. Ok I think I’ve got this figured out. Ready to go?

[10:51 meditation bell rings three times]

[11:28] I think you’re all familiar with the practice of settling body, speech and mind in their natural state, so please do so now. Step by step.

[13:58] So we begin the session with a very practical question, a very personal question. For which the response will be unique, or is intended to be unique. That is what is your own vision of genuine happiness, of your own fulfilment? What would truly bring you happiness, a sense of satisfaction, a deep sense of meaning? What is your vision of your own flourishing?

[15:34] Holding this vision in mind, arouse the aspiration of loving kindness for yourself, bearing in mind that loving kindness in this Buddhist context is not simply an emotion or a feeling, but it is an aspiration. Wish yourself well, consciously arouse the aspiration, may it be so. May I find such happiness, such fulfilment. And to embed this loving kindness meditation in the context of Mahamudra, symbolically visualize Mahamudra, the great seal, which refers to rigpa, pristine awareness, the ultimate dimension of reality. Imagine this symbolically as an orb of radiant white light at your heart, symbolizing your buddha nature, and with every out breath as you arouse this aspiration, imagine rays of radiant white light of the nature of purity of joy of loving kindness, emanating out from this orb at your heart, permeating every cell of your body, saturating your mind, your entire being, with every out breath fill your body with light.

[18:21] Bear in mind that reality consists of two aspects, two domains, the domain of actuality, that which is already real, already true, and the domain of possibilities. And possibilities are also real. So by the power of your imagination venture boldly into the realm of possibilities. And imagine here and now with each out breath experiencing the happiness and fulfillment that is your innermost heart’s desire, imagine the fruition here and now.

[19:41] But now we make the observation that there’s no possible way for any of us to realize our deepest aspiration without the help of those around us. Not possible to do it completely independently. So it raises the second question, and that is, “In order to realize your greatest well being, what would you love to receive from the world around you, from those who are near and far, in the short term and the long term. To assist you on your path what would you love to receive from the world?”

[21:17] And then with each inhalation arouse this aspiration that it may be so. The aspiration that whatever you truly need, from moment to moment, day to day, to take you to the next step on your journey, that reality will rise up to meet you. That you will receive all you need from the world. And with each in breath imagine this symbolically as the kindness of your fellow sentient beings, the compassion of all the enlightened ones flow in upon you, helping you to meet your hedonic needs and your realization of eudomonia, of genuine happiness. Imagine light flowing in from all sides converging in upon your body, your mind, saturating your entire being.

[23:44] And letting your imagination play. Imagine here and now receiving all that you truly need, breath by breath. Return to a third observation and that is that such happiness, such fulfillment cannot possibly be realized without some very meaningful inward transformation, we must grow and most of all we must purify our minds. So this raises the third question and that is, “How would you love to transform? To mature, to grow spirituality. In order to realize your heart’s desire, from what qualities that impede you, would you love to be free? And with what qualities that nurture you, would you love to be richly endowed? What kind of a person would you love to become?”

[25:57] And with every outbreath once again arouse this aspiration of loving kindness, may it be so. With every out breath imagine again rays of light emerging from the source of utter primordial purity, the wellspring of all virtue, of genuine happiness. Imagine rays of light again permeating your whole being.

[28:07] And breath by breath imagine such transformation taking place here and now.

[29:08] Return to our fourth and final observation. And that is that none of us exist in isolation, independently. Our lives, our well being, is utterly intertwined, interdependent with all of those around us. So bearing this reality in mind, in order to imbue your own life with the greatest possible meaning, satisfaction, fulfillment we raise the fourth question and that is “What would you love to offer to the world around you? Again to those who are near and far, over the short term and the long term, what are the greatest goods you can imagine offering to the world, drawing them from your own unique background, your gifts, your skills? But also drawing on your deepest potential, your own buddha nature, what would your love to offer to the world around you?

[31:04] With every outbreath arouse the aspiration, may it be so. And from this wellspring of light at your heart imagine rays of light with every out breath, flowing forth from every pore of your body, in all directions, above and below, to all the eight cardinal and intermediate directions around you, and imagine here and now offering your very best, imagine these rays of light transforming into the good you would love to offer, imagine them being received.

[33:58] And release all appearances, all aspirations, all objects of the mind and just for a short time, rest your awareness in its own nature, without an object, just resting in the awareness of being aware.

[34:51 meditation ends bell rings three times]

[35:19] Olaso. So when we take into account the big picture, the fact and I think it’s one of the most well established facts, for those deeply interested in the nature of the mind and that is the continuity of consciousness. The impossibility of consciousness transforming into nothing. Widely accepted among materialists but frankly it’s a leap of faith. They simply believe, they never even test it, and don’t even know how to test. Without elaborating on this, let’s simply work within this worldview which has such an enormous amount of depth of experience corroborated generation after generation about a hundred generations since the time of the buddha. Consciousness continues on in an individual continuum. And if we take really seriously and take that into account, to my mind perhaps the most important issue, the most pressing issue, is can we maintain a continuity of practice from lifetime to lifetime? If we can’t then what we do in this lifetime is kind of like [phewwwt] almost insignificant. So you practice really well this lifetime, but then you lose the thread. No connection with dharma, no teachers, no dharma, you’re on your own. Imagine that, you’re on your own. You don’t even know the word dharma. The notion of bodhicitta doesn’t blah blah blah, has no meaning at all. Imagine that. And you have the next one being completely without a compass, no map, no nothing. You’re just, there you are in the middle of the ocean of samsara. How do you think the next life is going to turn out? It goes from confusion to confusion, bewilderment to bewilderment. And so the continuity, just strikes me, this has been my own world view for a very long time, continuity just seems like the most important thing. Not whether we achieve shamatha in this lifetime or bodhicitta this lifetime and so forth and so on. That’s all very nice, it would be great. But if we don’t, if we’ve not so rooted in our practice that we can have a strong confidence that however far we may or may not progress in this lifetime, which frankly is not under our control, we can’t just try harder and then do better. It doesn’t work that way. We’ll simply do as well as we can whether we live short life, long life. Well we can’t control that either. But where can we have that confidence of continuity without which I would say all is lost. [laughs] Really, from my perspective, and this is true, “All is lost.” If I don’t even have continuity with dharma in my next lifetime, then what the hell was I doing in this lifetime? You know really. I just piss it all away for nothing? So I’m just speaking first person. So where did that confidence come from? Well from refuge, that’s big. From bodhicitta, refuge to just follow the teachings of the buddha, the path of the buddha, to connect with the buddha himself, with his dharma, with the sangha, to meet teachers, qualified teachers, refuge is enormous. Together with that the guru yoga is enormous. To connect long term to the Mahayana path. That we set out on a path that would be uninterrupted all the way to perfect enlightenment. Bodhicitta of course, bodhicitta all the way through. And just being aware of something so enormously important and that is virtue. Virtue, whether it’s cultivating compassion, the four immeasurables, and so on and so on. Virtue can be directed in all different kinds of ways. Beatrice, do I have your full attention? [response from Beatrice is inaudible] Because this is important, you know. Miss this, you’ve missed everything. [40:06]

One could lead an enormously virtuous life, generous, ethical, kind, compassionate, altruistic, patient and all the while wishing to be a famous movie star, or win an olympic gold medal, or you name it. And guess what? If you don’t realize your aspiration, you don’t become a famous movie star or the billionaire etc, etc. If you don’t realize it, but that’s what you really were hoping for, that was the motivation, guess what, that’s where you’re going in the next lifetime. All that virtue will go to, if you wanted to be a movie star, probably be helpful to be attractive, not necessary, but it can give you an edge. So you’ll be gorgeous, you’ll be fantastic, drop dead handsome and you’ll find the agents coming and so forth and so on. That’s where it’s going. It’s that unfulfilled wish in Tibetan it’s call it leh tro, that residual karma, of something that was aspired for but not reached. And whatever it is, you want a maserati, you want a gorgeous wife, or a fantastic husband, etc, etc. That unrealized aspiration, if there is virtue, that virtue can then go to fulfill being a billionaire, being famous, being rich, having a ranch, having a maserati, that’s where it will go, because that’s what you really wanted. While you’re reciting the verses of refuge and bodhicitta what you really wanted was something else, good, it’s actually is going to what you really wanted and not toward what you’re saying. Thats where it’s going. So that’s where bodhicitta really comes in, it’s kind of like your life preserver, because that aspiration of bodhicitta, let alone if it’s spontaneous, uncontrived, can reach the path before then, if it’s sincere, that connects the days of your life however many more there may be, we just know it’s finite that’s all. But that’s what connects lifetime to lifetime, it’s that unresolved, unfulfilled aspiration. Oh you haven’t achieved enlightenment yet? Oh then that’s your le tro, that’s your momentum, carrying on over into the next lifetime. And if there’s virtue behind it, then you will encounter by the power of that virtue and so forth, then you will encounter the qualified teachers, the splendid teachings, the good dharma friends, the leisure and opportunity to practice. You’ll encounter that because that’s how your virtue is manifesting. But if you wanted something else that’s where it’s going, right, that’s where it’s going. So this is emphasized so strongly for enormously good reasons and with such a motivation then let’s venture into this text.

[43:38] Almost always when I’m teaching like in these eight week retreats or teaching almost anything else, I’m almost always teaching from my own translations. Because then I know exactly the word choice and so forth, I know exactly where the Tibetan is. You know because I’m familiar with my own translation style. But this is a text I just never got around to translating, the root text and the commentary, but a very fine scholar, who is, I think he must be, he is my generation, so he’s within a few years of my age. Roger Jackson old time student of Jeffrey Hopkins who is one of my own teachers as well. He, outstanding scholar, really first rate. He’s done a translation of both the root text and the commentary and of course he has other things he’s adding to this and he’s planning to publish it. And he’s done something quite remarkable for authors and translators, I know because I’m one of both. By and large authors and translators do not let their work out until it’s published. Because if they get it out and then somebody puts it on the internet, you’ve now just blown your chances of getting it published. Because nobody is going to publish a book that is already for free on the internet. And so I just want to express very publicly, my very deep gratitude for Roger Jackson, his generosity, his trust, his kindness. Because he’s trusting us and he’s trusting everybody listening to the podcast that we will not in any way create any obstacles to taking his very fine work, which is certainly worthy of publication. I think it’s definitely going to be published. It’s first rate work, but that would be blocked if somebody took these teachings and put them on the internet just for fun or whatever or for whatever motivation. And so I want to thank Roger for this. And so, what, I asked him for permission just for the people in this retreat physically, that they have a physical copy, the hard copy of his translations of the root text and commentary. And it’s for your own personal use, of course you can share it with friends, but it must not go digital, it must definitely not go onto the internet. That’s why I have to apologize for everybody listening by the podcast, I simply couldn’t ask for that. I think that was asking just too much, too much. Because then any kind of control is lost. And it’s’ not that I don’t trust the people on the podcast, I just don’t know who is on the podcast. And so people listening by way of podcast, how do you say, hold to every word. Because the words are being dropped into your mind stream as I give you the oral transmission of this text. But then I can add this to, I’m very happy Glen Svensson has made his own translation, a complete translation of the root text and a partial translation of the commentary. So not quite complete, but I’m certain he’s selected really very important parts of the commentary and this is, Glen has offered this to be in the public domain. So I’ll send my copy, he sent me the pdf some time ago. I”ll send this to Sangay, Sangay Wangmo, anybody listening by podcast just go to the website for the podcast you can download it right there, that will serve you very well. And you might see some interesting variations because Glen is a very fine scholar, Roger as well. So the difference you’ll see are probably not, one got it right and one got it wrong, but just more nuances of translation and that just enriches the understanding. So there we are. [45:47]

So let’s just jump right in, jump right in. And in terms of these afternoon sessions of an hour and a half, kind of a little bit to my surprise last winter in Australia, summer in the northern hemisphere, there was actually very little time for question and answer in the group, because the text kind of just swept me in and that tended to fill the whole time. I thought it was really, from my perspective, the best eight week retreat we’ve ever had. I was so happy with it. So very content. But of course it would have been nice to have question and answer. So but we did have thanks to my dear dharma brother, Glenn, he held a lot of question and answer sessions during that eight week retreat. He’s offered to do so again during this retreat. He’s very knowledgeable, so definitely you know if you wish, avail yourself of his kindness in this regard. And whether we’ll have time for question and answer during these afternoon sessions, I don’t know. We’ll just have to see. My, I just try to make the afternoon sessions as meaningful as possible. And sometimes that entails question and answer sessions and sometimes it doesn’t. Go figure. Ok so let’s just jump right in. So what I’m going for here is simply is commentary because the root text is embedded in the commentary. And so we are covering both in one text. And this is “Lamp So Bright” for those of you who have it. You’ll see the root text is separate, there’s no real reason to look at that now, you can always allude to that later. But right now I’m going to give the oral transmission and commentary. There’s no empowerment with this because this is Sutrayana teaching, so the issue of empowerment doesn’t come up. So I will just be giving the transmission and the commentary on the oral commentary on his root text and written commentary. So the author of this text is the first or the fourth Panchen Lama, his personal name was Panchen Losang Chokyi Gyeltsen. You can see his date of birth and his death. And so he was, as I mentioned before, he was the root guru the lama of the Fourth Dalai Lama and the fifth Dalai Lama. So a man of enormous stature, truly a great contemplative, a great scholar, great adept, and he was the first one that was during his lifetime identified as the Panchen Lama, and so in that regard, he is the first. But then what happens not infrequently, it also happened with the Dalai Lama, is then retrospectively, when he or those who are around him, look into his past lives, they say oh well in his past life he was this and before that he was this and before, so they go back to Tsongkhapa and his two principal disciple Khedrup Je and Gendun Drupa. And so retrospectively Gendun Drupa is regarded as the first Dalai Lama, even though nobody at that time called him the Dalai Lama, that came later. But when they looked into the past lives of the first Dalai Lama, that was recognized as the Dalai Lama, it traced back to one of the two principal disciples of Tsongkhapa. And the same is true for the Panchen Lama. When they traced it back then that goes to Tsongkhapa’s other great disciple. On Tsongkhapa’s right is Gendun Drupa, on his left the Khedrup Je. So in that enumeration, Khedrup Je was the first Panchen Lama and then there was the second, the third, and then the fourth, in that line of these reincarnations was the Panchen Rinpoche. So enumeration it is after all nominal, but that’s why you see first versus fourth. So he is the author. And then this commentary is called Lamp So Bright. [49:25]

He is just going from the translation, but I can tell you what I’ve already begun and what I will do for the rest of this teaching period. I’m comparing Roger’s translation to the original Tibetan and Roger invited me also to give him some feedback on the translation. As my expression of gratitude for his kindness, I’m doing that. So I’ll give him detailed comments, just my thoughts, so there we are. So this is the Lamp So Bright and the extensive explanation of the Mahamudra root text of the teaching tradition of the precious Gaden oral transmission. Gaden refers to the Gelugpa tradition it’s Gaden, Ganden, and Gelugpa. So they’re just synonyms, let’s not elaborate, that’s just intellectual stuff. But the Gaden is referring to the Gelugpa. But now the oral transmission, this is Kagyu, Kagyu and it does mean oral transmission. And so this can be interpreted in either of two ways and actually both are really good interpretations. According to HIs Holiness the Dalai Lama who gave a detailed commentary on the root text, which Alex Berzin translated, so I think you are all familiar with that. His Holiness interpreted this Kagyu, as Kagyu, but this is the oral transmission of the, or the teaching tradition, of the union, integration of the Gelugpa and the Kagyu tradition and there is a very good reason for drawing that conclusion. When Geshe Rabten taught me this and a collection of disciples, I wasn’t alone, he also interpreted Gelugpa and Kagyu. This is coming together, much as Gampopa for example brought together the Kadampa tradition going back to Atisha and the Kagyu tradition going back to Marpa, Milarepa, Marpa, Naropa and so forth. Integrated these two. So that’s Gampopa’s lineage, integrating these two. So does the Panchen Lama integrate the Kagyu teachings with the Gelugpa teachings on Mahamudra. On the one hand, but then Kagyu also simply means oral lineage, oral lineage, or oral transmission. Transmission is good, GYU really means kind of a lineage sequence. And we’ll see he laces out himself that just within the Gelugpa tradition itself, there was a lineage of Mahamudra, and he’s drawing on that and according to Roger Jackson’s research, he was the first Gelugpa lama to actually write down teachings on Mahamudra. So it could very well have been and Roger never refutes this, there is no reason to refute it, that it may very well have been an oral lineage from his teacher, his teacher going back, wasn’t written down. Many teaching aren’t written down. That’s ok. So that’s what this is about. So, there it is, that’s the title. And the root text you can see that’s in verse and the commentary is in prose. So we go to page two. [51:36]

This is, now within the text, he gives again the title, Lamp So Bright, an extensive explanation of the Mahamudra root text of the teaching tradition of the precious Gaden oral transmission. Then we begin as usual, with the homage and the commitment and the pledge to compose the text. A very auspicious way. With the homage, a way to start the text, and with the pledge to complete it, this is kind of an auspicious starting that he won’t stop half way through and say oh what the heck who needs that and then not complete his composition. So this is very very classic approach within the Indo-Tibetan tradition. So he begins with Namo Mahamudraya, Namo, homage to, this Mudraya, is simply to Mahamudra. And then his verse in Tibetan of course this, it is verse so it has a meter to it, that’s almost always lost in the English translation. The languages are just too different. So here’s his verse of homage. The gnosis of all the ubiquitous buddhas is the joyous dance of one in saffron robes. The lotus feet of the exalted guru triply kind I respectfully bow down. So, gnosis is Roger’s translation for yeshe which I translate and many people translate as primordial wisdom, which are five kinds. I translate it very literally ye she, primordial consciousness, but gnosis is actually a very good translation as well. Because it suggests a type of knowing that’s beyond the domain of logic, intellect, reasoning, and so forth, more intuitive. So Christian Gnosticism for example, these are stemming from visionary teachings, with pure vision, that we find so very frequently in the Tibetan tradition, the Dzogchen tradition, in Tsongkhapa himself. Some of his teachings are when he is having a pure vision of Manjushri and that’s a question and answer session with Manjushri. Ok, well that’s not something he arrived at just by keeping his eyes open, by simple perception, or let alone by logic. It’s coming from a much deeper space. So gnosis is a good translation. It’s not an etymological translation but so what. So it’s a good translation. And ubiquitous means of course all pervasive, the all pervasiveness of buddha mind of dharmakaya. But the gnosis this is the joyous dance of the one in saffron robes, referring to Buddha Shakyamuni. Or specifically to his own guru. To the lotus feet of the exalted guru, his own lama, triply kind, with the three fold kindness. And the three fold kindness is granting wang lung tri in Tibetan, empowerment in the context of Vajrayana Buddhism, the lama grants empowerment. First if you’re teaching only sutrayana that doesn’t come up, but vajrayana, empowerment. If you’re kind of, how do you say, full duty, you’re performing all the necessary functions of a lama. So, first is empowerment, lung is oral transmission and tri is the oral commentary the actual guidance in the text, in teachings providing personal guidance to your disciples. So his guru is imbued with these three modes of kindness and to his guru I respectfully, I would use the word reverently, because it’s beyond mere respect. It really is a deeper, coming from a deeper place. I often say that I have great respect for Einstein but reverence for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. That pretty much sums it up. Of course I respect the Dalai Lama, but I don’t really feel reverence for Einstein. I know a lot about his life, I’ve read a number of biographies, I have great respect for him, but it doesn’t touch me in the depth that the life of His Holiness or Tsongkhapa or Dudjom Lingpa, that goes much deeper than respect. So just, you know, translators nuance. [55:49]

So there’s his homage. And of course he would know nothing about Mahamudra. The word wouldn’t even mean anything, were it not for his own lamas who breathe life into this vision. It’s more than just reading books of course. But to really immerse yourself to enter into and immerse yourself in the practice of Mahamudra, there simply is no substitute, for having a personal teacher, a guide, a mentor and that’s the guru. So therefore his homage is there. And then his pledge to compose this root text and commentary. I will explain the light shining brightly on Mahamudra. That which clearly illuminates Mahamudra which is the mind elixir of the conquerors of the three times. I’m going to pause there. I would differ on this point. The term translated here as mind elixir, in Tibetan it’s [?56:45] don’t think that is a very good translation. There’s another word tsi, that means elixir. Like an alchemical elixir that transmutes base metal into gold. That’s an elixir. But the term [? 56:57] doesn’t actually have that connotation at all. The word [?57:00] really means like vital essence, and I’ll show you why. There’s a term I actually, I’ve received a transmission on this [? 57:07 tibetan]. It’s a type of meditative practice where you take the vital, the vital essence, kind of the sheer vitality of like flower petals and other basic ingredients of a very small quantity. You empower that with your meditation, drawing in the [? 57:23], the vital essence of the five elements of the surrounding environment by the power of imagination as a stage of generation practitioner. You draw this in and you imagine five colored rays of light emerging in on these little pills about the size of a large marble. And they’re made primarily of just flower petals. A little bit of tsampa, little bit of butter, little bit of honey, some other just spices, I’ve done it actually. And then into this you just basically, it’s like a vacuum [Alan makes a sucking sound] you’re drawing in not some mind elixir but the vital essence of the elements of your surrounding environment. So that if you achieve this practice, then you can live on just three of these pills a day. And you can live on that you can go steady state for months on end and you drink as much water as you can as much as you wish and so once you’ve shifted, it takes about three weeks if you’re successful. And you shift from eating coarse food, to eating only these energized [?58:21 Tibetan]. [? Tibetan] means pills in which you’ve taken the vital essence, the nutritive essence of the environment and you just eat these and what happens is your whole gastrointestinal tract shifts, so you no longer have any bowel movements. So it’s important for those three weeks that you’re really cleansing, drink a lot of water to cleanse out your whole gastrointestinal tract. You don’t want to be carrying around feces in your tract for weeks and months on end. Bad idea. But then you just live and so all that you’re taking in, your body absorbs. And so that’s the [?] and the [? 59:34 tibetan, repeats the word] is the residue that’s what we normally expel. And the feces and so forth what the body didn’t need it gets rid of and that’s [? 59:41 tibetan] that’s the residue. Whereas the body keeps the [? 59:44] the vital essence. So, that’s my case.

[59:49] And this is the vital essence. So, this Mahamudra, it’s the vital essence. This comes up a lot in Tibetan medicine. The [? 59:57 Tibetan] the [? 59:57]. The [? 59:58] is the vital essence of your food and so forth, the [? 1:00:00] is what you expel. You expel it through just, grime coming out of the pores. That’s what your body doesn’t need. Sweat your body doesn’t need, that’s why it comes out. Urine comes out, didn’t need that, feces comes out, didn’t need that. Eye goo, didn’t need it, comes out. Ear wax, didn’t need it, comes out. Kind of sounds disgusting doesn’t it. [laughter] Like we human beings we’re just exuding all these disgusting qualities, you know you look like Marilyn Monroe but her eye wax is pretty much everybody elses. And so we’re just kind of giving off what we don’t need and the body keeps what it doesn’t, right. So there we are. So this is the vital essence of the conquerors, the jinas, I always come back to the Sanskrit. The jinas, the victorious ones, those who’ve gain victory over the two, that is conquered, the two types of obscurations, afflictive obscurations, the kleshas, that an arhat gets rid of. But also jneyavarana, cognitive obscurations that only a buddha is free of. That enables the dharmakaya to fully manifest with all its power of compassion, wisdom and power. So what is this vital essence of all the victorious ones, all the buddhas of course of the three times, past, present and future. What is this Mahamudra? It’s the vital essence of all of them. It is the essential meaning of the sea or the ocean of sutras and tantras and it is the road traversed by all the lordly adepts. And adepts is his translation for siddha, siddha. So we have pundits, the great scholars, those of tremendous erudition and we have the siddhas, and these are the ones with deep accomplishment. They’ll often display siddhis, which means paranormal abilities. They’ll do all kinds of interesting things as they tap into the powers of the mind. So, and what is this Mahamudra? It literally means, Great Seal. There’re variations on the theme but that’s a pretty good translation. And what it’s referring to is on the one hand it’s referring to dharmadhatu, emptiness, ultimate reality. But not simply emptiness but emptiness as something indivisible from, primordially non dual from, dharmakaya. Primordial consciousness, buddha nature, pristine awareness. It is that fundamental non duality, primordial non duality, indifferentiability of the two. They’re not two things slapped together. That’s Mahamudra. So it is the ground, it’s already there. Then you’re practicing Mahamudra, it’s the path, and then you realize Mahamudra, which is the Great Mahamudra. Well you realize that’s the Great Siddhi, that’s the Supreme Siddhi, that’s Buddhahood. So Mahamudra is the ground the path and the fruition. That’s why he would say very literally, this is the vital essence of all the victorious ones. How did they become buddhas? Because of mahamudra. What was the path they followed? Mahamudra. It is the ground, path and it is the fruition. [1:03:05]

So that’s what he has now agreed to compose. Here is the instruction on the Mahamudra oral tradition of those wise and accomplished holy beings. Okay wise, this is pundit this is [1:03:21 ?] in Tibetan. So it’s the pundits, like the great scholars, the great pundits of Nalanda, Vikramshila, and so forth. And then there are the siddhas - Tilopa, Naropa, Saraha, Virupa these great mahasiddhas of India. That’s the siddha tradition ok. And sometimes they converge, as in the case of Naropa. Great pundit for sure, I mean top ranked pundit, but then he’s Naropa. After doing his pundit business then he went off, sought out his siddha teacher and then became a mahasiddha himself. Milarepa was a great siddha, but not a pundit. Marpa was both. Tsongkhapa was both. Sakya Pandita was both. Nowadays, well pretty much anytime, there are some great scholars, great pundits, but haven’t put in the time, to become great siddhas. There are those who put in the time and they are great siddhas but not necessarily great pundits. And there are some who are both. But this is the oral tradition of the pundits and the siddhas, these holy beings and this instruction comes in three parts. Very classic format. [1:04:29]

First of all the preface, the preamble to the main body of the text, to the composition. Then the explanation of the compositions, actual instructions, the main body. And then when he is finished, then dedication of the virtue arising from the composition. So it kind of boils down to this old cliche you’ve heard many times. “If you’re going to give a public address, say what you’re going to say, then say it, and then say what you’ve said.” That’s what he’s doing, I think the buddhists came up with it first. Who knows. Ok so now we go to the preface. The preamble [1:05”08 tibetan] just that preface. So, In order to show oneself in accord with those whose behavior is quintessentially holy, in order to be in that same stream, compatible with, harmonious with, one prostrates to the special objects. Expression of humility, of devotion, of reverence and then so that’s to be in alignment with the conduct of those great beings of the past and in order to complete the composition one makes a general promise to compose. So, here we are. So, the preceding one, Namo Mahamudraya, that was his homage for the commentary, and then his pledge to compose the commentary, and now we see it, as you’ll notice on the first page, when we have these all caps, all capital letters, and it’s all in italics, now he’s citing his own root text. Ok and they’re not the same of course. So, but it begins with the same homage to Mahamudra, Namo Mahamudraya. And now the homage within the root text. [1:06:19]

I bow reverently, I would say, I reverently bow, to the feet of my peerless guru, the sovereign master and lord of adepts of siddhas who plainly and that is clearly teaches or reveals, Mahamudra, the all pervasive intrinsic nature It’s simply svabhava or [?Tibetan sounds like - ranchen 1:06:42] or simply nature. The all pervasive nature of everything and what is this all pervasive nature of everything, the ultimate all pervasive nature of everything? It is the indivisible, inexpressible realm of, it’s translated here as, vajra mind. I would respectfully differ a little bit on this one, it’s a scholar’s difference. The term is in Tibetan dorje ying or vajradhatu. Dhatu, I’ve never seen dhatu refer to the mind in any context. So it’s a small point, but I don’t think it refers to mind. It’s as in dharmadhatu, dharmadhatu, it’s the, I translate it, there’s various translations, but - the absolute space of phenomena, dharmadhatu is emptiness, emptiness right. And so dhatu when they say dhatu it’s usually in appreciation of dharmadhatu, dharmadhatu. Unless you’re speaking with totally within the mundane context within abhidharma and then you might recall you have the five skandhas, you have the twelve sense spaces, and then you have the eighteen dhatus, the eighteen elements, that’s dhatu. But these are all mundane, the dhatus are the visual domain the auditory and so forth, six domains of experience, six faculties independence upon which six modes of consciousness arise. So you have six modes of consciousness, six faculties, independence upon which the six modes of consciousness, five sensory and mental arise, and then the six domains of experience, visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and then mental. So in a relative context there are eighteen, but when we go to dharmadhatu that actually has two meanings. Dharmadhatu on a relative level just refers to the domain of what is mentally perceived, mentally experienced, but of course as I gaze over at Sophia for example [? 1:08:34 inaudible] I tend visually, to her visual appearance, and so I’m bringing my visual perception, one of the eighteen dhatus, to the visual appearance of this person, so the colors of her face and so forth, appears, but in so doing I’m not just having visual impressions arising, because I’m turning my attention and so I’m turning my mental awareness, the same right now to you, or to Claudio, to anybody here, I’m directing my visual gaze, but piggybacking on that I’m also directing my mental awareness. So I’m mentally aware of Claudio, of Jeffrey, of Ursula, Amy and so forth as well as visually. And so anything that I’m aware of mentally fits into the category of dharmadhatu on a relative level.

[1:09:14] Ultimate dharmadhatu well that’s emptiness. That’s nirvana right. But now he says, but you see it here. The indivisible inexpressible, well indivisible, what’s indivisible? If you say one thing, if we say Jeffrey is indivisible, the question is yeah, finish the sentence, indivisible from what? There have to be two things, two or more. And so what I would suggest here is that vajra, which refers to that which is immutable. Well it’s referring to in the Mahamudra context, is referring to rigpa, pristine awareness. And in the Kagyu tradition, be very careful here, don’t want to mix things up, lead to confusion, but within the Kagyu tradition, the Dzogchen tradition, rigpa is immutable. Dharmakaya is immutable. There are debates about that elsewhere, but here it’s just a factual statement. This dimension of reality, it transcends all conceptual frameworks. It has rigpa, pristine awareness, buddha nature, Tathagatagarbha , has the seven qualities of the vajra , seven qualities, immutability, immutability it’s all variations on that theme, which means unborn, unarising, transcending time, it’s in the fourth time. And so vajra often symbolizes this dimension of consciousness, the vajra here, within this Dzogchen Mahamudra context, the vajra held in the right hand, symbolizing dharmakaya. The skull cup or it could be the bell, symbolizing emptiness. And so what I would suggest here is that vajra is referring to dharmakaya, is referring to rigpa, primordial consciousness, yeshe or gnosis. But then he says vajradhatu. It’s an unusual compound, but dhatu I would suggest that means dharmadhatu, and that which is indivisible and inexpressible, ineffable is that primordial non duality of dharmakaya and dharmadhatu. And again I’ve just never seen dhatu referred to mind, as such. So I would suggest, realm of the vajra, the indivisible, inexpressible vajra realm, dharmadhatu, vajra realm and then you know what you are putting together. Vajra and realm as in absolute space of phenomena, dharmadhatu. He does say realm of the vajra mind, so he’s not actually translating dhatu as mind, but then vajra means vajra, doesn’t say vajra mind. So there we are. [1:11:57]

But we have to, when we say indivisible, we have to have two things that are indivisible, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense. So, there we are. So there’s his refuge and now his commitment to compose. Collecting the elixir, this is once again the [1:12:14 ? Chu- tibetan], the vital essence, of the sea, again I would say ocean. And he says here sutra and tantra special instructions. I would interpret it differently. I’m not saying it’s incorrect, I just interpret it differently. Again my training for the last twenty six years has been really overwhelmingly Dzogchen, Nyingma, and some Kagyu Mahamudra. And what we find there very commonly, it’s all over the place is these different categories of the teachings. We have the category of the teachings, of the teachings of the sutras, and these are the Buddha’s discourses, setting forth the sravakayana path, the pratyekabuddha path, the bodhisattva path, the sutra teachings. And then we have the tantras and these are also ascribed to the buddha. In addition to those teachings, these [1:13:05 tibetan], these textual or scriptural sources in the sutras and tantras in addition to that then you have upadesha, upadesha, man ngag these are the pith instructions. Where you’ve taken the vital essence, you’ve taken the core, you’ve taken this vast ocean of teachings and now you’ve drawn it into kind of what would you put in a cup, drink it, and be transformed. And so my interpretation, right or wrong, maybe I’m flat out wrong here, but it won’t be catastrophically wrong, is that this is referring to the sutras, tantras, and what I call pith instructions, pith instructions. And not simply that they’re special, there are a lot of things that are special, but these are pith instructions, we’ve gone right to the very core of it. So, collecting the vital essence of the ocean of the sutras, tantras and pith instructions because that indeed is what he has done, I shall write the instructions of the Mahamudra oral tradition of the supreme adept Dharmavajra, father and son, who possess, that is father and son, this is multiple. Father and son, of course doesn’t, especially in the Gelugpa tradition, doesn’t refer to a father and his kid, but the father like Tsongkhapa when they say [? 1:14:19 Je ? tibetan] Tsongkhapa, father Tsongkhapa and his sons. Well Tsongkhapa was a monk, he had no children. But it’s referring to his two principal disciples, Gendun Drup and Khedrub Je. And so this is very standard, sometime on occasion, it does actually refer to the son, but normally it doesn’t, it refers to a spiritual son. And so Dharmavajra and his core disciple or disciples who possess the Geyden oral transmission and instruct it well. And so this Dharmavajra, this is the first one he cites within the Mahamudra lineage within the Gelugpa tradition. And Dharmavajra was indeed one of the great Gelugpa pundits and siddhas and he’s in the direct lineage of Tsongkhapa, he comes after Tsongkhapa, but he is of that lineage. And then his son, his spiritual son was Gyalwa Ensapa, Gyalwa Ensapa. And this is actually a previous incarnation of the Panchen Rinpoche. The Panchen Rinpoche is the fourth panchen and Gyalwa Ensapa is the third. So he’s actually offering homage to his previous incarnation. Not uncommon, because he was a great being, so show homage. And then Gyalwa Ensapa, his core disciple, his lineage holder that he passed it on to, was Khedrup Sangye Yeshe and Khedrup Sangye Yeshe was the Panchen Rinpoche’s own root guru. So the Panchen Rinpoche received the oral transmission of Mahamudra from his teacher, his root lama, Khedrup Sangye Yeshe. He received it from Gyalwa Ensapa, the Panchen Rinpoche’s previous incarnation, and he received it from Dharmavajra, and then there’s dot dot dot between him and Tsongkhapa. So did Tsongkhapa ever teach Mahamudra? And Roger Jackson, I think he has done very good research in this regard. He says, he may very well have, but we simply have no written documents of any text by Tsongkhapa or these other earlier ones, of written texts in the Gelugpa tradition of Mahamudra. Does that mean they didn’t have any? Not necessarily, it could have been simply an oral transmission. Bear in mind the seven point mind training. They trace it back to Atisha, but it wasn’t written down until Geshe Chekawa. So I don’t really think it’s’ correct to say Geshe Chekawa was the author when he was basically just the first person to put it into writing. I always ascribe it to Atisha. So Atisha wrote down the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, but he’s also the source of the Seven Point Mind Training. But I have checked out a little bit rather superficially Tsongkhapa’s own writings and in his medium exposition of the stages of the path, the medium Lam Rim, in a shamatha section, he does make a very brief but pithy reference to a mode of shamatha where what you’re attending to is the sheer cognizance and luminosity of your own mind. He says that, [? 1:17:13 Tibetan]. That’s all you’re attending to, nothing outside of your own awareness, nothing outside of the luminosity of your own awareness. So in other words it’s not that you don’t have an object you do, you’re aware of your own awareness and the luminosity of your own awareness, but you’re not attending to anything outside. So there’s no directionality. Here there’s a vector, I’m attending to you and we’ll often use the metaphor of, I will use the rope of mindfulness to fasten the elephant of my mind to you as my meditative object and that I discipline my mind. But when you’re resting in awareness and it’s reflexive awareness, simply of being aware of being aware, the knowing of knowing, and the knowing of the sheer luminosity of you own awareness. Well, that’s a very deep shamatha practice and it’s quintessentially Mahamudra. So it doesn’t take much of a leap to say maybe he was making a subtle reference there and if I remember correctly, then he follows that quite quickly with references to, do this very deeply and outcomes bliss, luminosity and non conceptuality. That’s really classic for the Mahamudra and Dzogchen tradition, really classic. And one should understand, probably all of you do, you’ve been following the podcast and what have you, that in that triad [?1:18:32 tibetan] so easy to say in Tibetan, bliss, luminosity and non conceptuality, that these are simply the qualities of your awareness when you’ve achieved shamatha. It’s not referring to the bliss of stage of completion practice, it’s not referring to non conceptuality of direct realization of emptiness, it’s right there on the mundane level. But it’s again classic Mahamudra terminology and Dzogchen terminology as well and Tsongkhapa’s trained in both. [1:18:58]

Olaso. So father and son that refers to Dharmavajra and his principle disciple Gyalwa Ensapa, who was the third panchen lama, if you’re following Panchen Rinpoche being the fourth. So, he’s just cited his own text, the root text. And then he says, because it is not difficult to understand the meaning of these two stanzas I have nothing more to say. I will not write about them in detail. So Roger Jackson’s saying, a little bit I say very playfully, a bit frustrated like, couldn’t you have told us what you meant by kagyu, are you really writing a commentary that fuses the Gelugpa tradition with the Kagyu tradition? Is that what you’re doing? Or are you simply referring to the oral lineage of the Gelugpa tradition? Enquiring minds want to know. And Panchen Rinpoche doesn’t tell you. [laughs] And I would just draw the conclusion hey, both interpretations make really good sense. So Alex Berzin, when he was translating his Holiness’s, translating the root text and the commentary he said, Gelug and, or Gendun and Kaygu and that his Holiness taught that way, so Alex was translating what his Holiness said. But this is a perfectly good translation. Because it’s also true and that’s what he says here. He’s not saying, I’m going to write what Gampopa said and the Karmapa said and citing various Kagyupa masters and how that interrelates with the great Gelugpa masters. I’m not saying that, he’s just citing Gelugpa masters. So that would give some credence maybe which is referring to the oral lineage of the Gelugpa tradition which is maybe was an ear whispered tradition before he wrote it down. And maybe indeed it does stem from Tsongkhapa himself. Tsongkhapa was very eclectic, very ecumenical, very non sectarian. So way later in the nineteenth century he starts this great big Rime tradition, non sectarian tradition. Tsongkhapa is already non sectarian, right. Sure he was. It’s not an exaggeration. [1:20:51]

Olaso. So I’m going to pause there. We’ve begun and then we’ll go into explanations of the compositions, actual instructions, the main body of the text. It starts out very juicy. But I’m going to pause right there, we have a few minutes. Any questions or comments, points of clarification, observations that you might have on anything we’ve covered thus far. Both in terms of the meditations as well as the little bit entering into the pool of the teachings, anything coming up? Yes, please. Oh and what I would like to do. Some of you, I know your names very well, but what I’d like you to do for the first one, two, three times, if you raise your hand and I call on you, if you’d just tell everybody your first name. Because we heard fifty some names last night, kind of difficult to remember for any us. And so remind everybody of your first name and then whatever comment or question you’d like to make. So whatever your name might be.

Ok, my name is Beata. I would like to ask a question to this morning’s session. [Alan] Ah yes, can you stop. We would like to have this, and so we’re inviting the podcasters to listen with us, so the question and the response please.

[Beata] My question is regarding this morning’s session. You mentioned that the tactile sensation of the breath has, in order to achieve shamatha, subside, because there is no object in this regard and then you mentioned that the rhythm of the breath, that’s still possible to experience.

[Alan] I’ll clarify

[Beata] Isn’t the rhythm just a form of a tactile sensation?

[Alan] Well this would

[Beata] for this particular

[Alan] I’m happy to return to it yeah. First of all I would just make a subtle terminological difference between respiration and breath. Just because it’s useful. And when I think of breath, [Alan expels air] I’m referring to that. [Alan does a sharp inhale exhale] the air coming in and out that’s breath. And the air goes down to the lungs. So if somebody gets punched in the stomach you say, “Oh you knocked the wind out of me.” [inhales sharply] “Oh I can hardly get my breath back.” But there is no air down there. The stomach, it doesn’t you know, and so the air goes down to the lungs. But nowhere else. It goes down to the lungs, it comes out. You know what we don’t need, comes out and so that’s the breath. That’s the passage of the breath from the apertures of the nostrils to the lungs. It comes out again. Respiration - the whole body is breathing, the whole body is breathing and so this is clearly tactile sensations. The passage of the air over the nerve endings above the upper lip, at the apertures of the nostrils, that’s clearly tactile. And as we step into the pool, as we did this morning and we’re sensing these fluctuations. Now I’m going to use the word prana, because the term prana does refer to the breath on the subtle level but also refers to vital energies, to chi. But this is what Asanga’s teaching, that you’re actually attending to the sensations of the fluctuations and movements of prana within the body as a breath is going in and out. You may feel these fluctuations down in your legs, certainly in your abdomen, in your limbs, and so forth, many places where the air is not going and there is just no air down there at all, you’re attending to that. Now when we’ve entered into this as we did this morning, are you attending to the rhythm of the breath by way of tactile sensations? Yeah, clearly. And can you continue to attend to those tactile sensations which are in the desire realm? You’ve dropped your anchor of your awareness in the desire realm by attending to these tactile sensations, they’re subtle, yeah. But they’re still in the desire realm because they’re tactile, they belong to one of the five sensory fields. And so can you be focusing on those as the whole system quiets down and gets subtler and subtler and subtler, and maybe if this is true of other people’s experience, if this turns out to be a normal pattern and not just my idiosyncrasy, and that is it slips into this rhythm of fifteen cycles per breath and gets subtler and subtler and subtler. Maybe that’s universal, maybe not, check. But as you do so, you’re attending to increasingly subtle tactile sensations which let you know what is in the rhythm of the breath, long or short, you’re still anchored in the desire realm. How far you could go certainly up to stage seven, eight, nine? [1:25:17]

You can go very far, these sensations are getting extremely subtle. Which means if you remain engaged like the two of us shaking hands and then the handshake gets subtler and subtler. Well but I’m already engaged, the hands are still clasped, if you move your hand I’m still with you. I pick up the sensations, if your attention is engaged with these sensations and these sensations are getting extremely subtle, your mind is getting extremely subtle. Because if it doesn’t, you can be shaking hands with thin air. You’ll say no more sensations, I’m not breathing. And so the very fact that these sensations get subtler and subtler as you proceed along these nine stages is a feedback loop to invite you to ascend to subtler and subtler higher frequency, higher resolution states of awareness, so that you can remain consciously, vividly, attentive to and discerningly aware of extremely subtle sensations of the breath, but it’s still desire realm. And when you cross the threshold on stage nine, you are still in the desire realm. And that is really fantastic samadhi. But your mind is still located within, dwelling within desire realm. And so what distinguishes between stage nine and actually achieving shamatha is, it’s crossing the threshold. It’s really very much like just putting one foot through the door. So now you can say, have you entered, have you entered the room if one foot has entered the door? And the answer is yeah, you don’t have to have your whole body in. You’ve entered, you could be accused of trespassing. Hey, you’ve just come into my space. Are you fully in? No, part of your body is outside but you have crossed the threshold. And that’s shamatha, that’s access to the first dhyana and you have crossed the threshold into the form realm, you’ve seen into the promised land. And yet not full immersion yet. But now if that’s the case, if your mind is now attending to the form realm, something that transcends the desire realm, you can’t still have your anchor, you can’t still be anchored in the desire realm. But now what we have from straight science, this is just indubitably true, it’s well established, that you can be dreaming, and let’s say a lucid dream, just to make it clearer. When you’re dreaming at least with the lucid dreams I’ve had. I have no aware of anything in my physical environment. My body is lying in bed, I don’t know whether I’m face down or on my side or curled up, I have no idea. It was very weird when I had my earliest lucid dreams. To know that I had a body someplace only by inference. And to have no perception of it, that’s very weird. To have to infer the presence of your own body. But I was pretty sure I wasn’t dead. And now you have the evidence. [laughter] And so your awareness is completely withdrawn from the five physical domains, it’s totally in the mental domain. But then even then, and this we know scientifically, if in the midst of a dream, you start practicing mindfulness of breathing, you could even though there is no air, you could practice mindfulness of breathing submerged in a swimming pool, because you may have discovered if you have had lucid dreams you can breathe underwater, because there is no more or less air underwater, than there is above water. Because there is no water. And there is no air. There’s no H2O or hydrogen or oxygen and so forth in a dream, it’s not physical, right. So one of the tests if you would like to know whether you’re dreaming or not close your mouth, hold your nose and see if you can still breathe. You can breathe fine if you are in a lucid dream. Who needs a nose. You don’t’ have any lungs in the dream you don’t have any air in the dream so you can breathe perfectly well with your nose blocked and your mouth closed. That’s one of the clear indicators - I must be dreaming. And so but there it is you can practice mindfulness of breathing in the dream and have no access whatsoever to any of the five sense fields. Because the rhythm of your breath in the dream corresponds exactly to the rhythm of the breath of the body lying in bed. Now that’s a real suggestion. Whoa, I’m attending to my breath but I’m not attending to anything physical at all. Now is your mind, when you’re having an ordinary lucid dream, are the appearances in your dream, are they in the desire realm? Of course they are, yeah. One could be having a dream of an extremely attractive person and feeling sexual attraction, that’s about as much desire as it gets you know. Or see a great brand new maserati. Ooh I would like one of those, and lo and behold you get one. So it’s still the desire realm. But you’re out of the sensory already. [1:29:50]

Now, that we know unequivocally, and the preliminary data, this is just my own little research, doing very small, very small research, is that if, and it’s easy to test, it’s easy to test, anybody can do this, anybody listening by podcast, some people are very gifted in this regard even without a lot of meditative training. Some people find it very easy to have lucid dreams so run the experiment and if you get some very clear conclusions let me know. I’m interested. Preliminary research suggests and this research by the way was free. It’s wonderful to have free research. But the preliminary research indicates that you may be in a lucid, dreamless sleep and if you’re in a lucid dream, if you’re in a lucid dream, this is really easy. In the midst of a very lucid dream and you’d like to shift from there to lucid dreamless sleep, it’s very easy. Stop in the midst of the dream, don’t do anything, don’t attend to or engage with anything in the dream, you may as well close your eyes, in a matter of seconds the whole dreamscape will vanish. It’s maintained only by your attention to it. By engaging with it. Don’t attend to it, don’t engage with it, it will evaporate. You’ve basically turned off the machine that turned on the holographic image. Or the story, you turned it off. If when you do that, you don’t pass out, if you don’t pass out, you maintain the flow of cognizance, your lucidity, then you go directly, seamlessly from a lucid dream, to lucid dreamless sleep. So podcasters there are many more of you than there are people here in this room, if you’re good at this try this out. If you’re good at lucid dreaming, this is really easy. Slip right into dreamless sleep so your mind is now dissolved into the substrate consciousness, you’ve not achieved shamatha, but you’re that domain, and now when you’re resting in that luminosity, that cognizance of your substrate consciousness, and what you’re aware of is now divorced from dream reality, the creations of your mind, your samsaric mind. Your desire realm mind, it’s free of that, and it’s withdrawn from all of the five sensory faculties of the desire realm. There you are, your mind clear and bright, aware of a field that is devoid of appearances, I mean no clear images coming up and then it’s a very simple question. Are you aware of the rhythm? Even without being aware of tactile sensations. Bear in mind, in the dream you didn’t have any tactile sensations. Because you’re not aware of your body lying in bed. Whatever appears to be a tactile sensation of your body in the dream, it is not a tactile sensation, it’s purely mental. So it’s not gonna leap, it doesn’t sound irrational or just crazy to think that you might be in a space where there are no appearances but intuitively on a very subtle level, you’re still in touch with the rhythm. It’s kind of a deep rhythm, this is core, this is prana. And so even in the absence of appearances, now we can’t imagine it, but then test it. If you’re good at lucid dreaming, get good at lucid dreamless sleep, and then just see. And if you come up with nothing let me know. But preliminary data from two independent sources, still aware of the rhythm. Which is very interesting. Which means you could continue attending to that rhythm and fully achieve the first dhyana. Which means you’re totally in the room and then continue on that and achieve the second and third dhyana, and then you come to the fourth dhyana, your breathing stops. Now you’re mindfulness of breathing has stopped. Because there is no breathing at all. Not even a rhythm of the breath. So clear, claro? For the time being enough and again, it would be a shame if I were so eloquent and clear and brilliant at teaching that you’re totally satisfied with my explanation. Now I know the answer good. I don’t have to ask that anymore. That would be, that would be unfortunate. Because then you would have just taken my words and say oh ok good, I’ve got it, Alan’s a real authority he knows what he’s talking about okay I don’t have to ask that question anymore, but that’s not what happend. I gave you rather a strategy to actually test this for yourself. And that’s much much more valuable than just saying this is what it’s like at the end. So what? If you don’t have a strategy to get there then that’s not very useful.

[1:34:07] Olaso. So, are you getting over this environment? I’m not, I’m just whoa. My heart just keeps on just expanding and expanding. And I’m so glad to be here with spiritual friends. And to revel in the great delight, the great dance of Mahamudra. So let’s continue on the path. Continue to practicing and I would really encourage you just keep on coming back for today, tomorrow, the next day. Keep on coming back. So melted butter would look really frigid compared to you. [laughter] I mean really uptight, oh that pool of melted butter over there, you’ve got a real problem, you must be really stressed out. Because you are just so mellow you can hardly stand it. Ok go there, go deeply into relaxation, without losing clarity and if you’re jetlagged go deeper into relaxation and lose clarity, get a good nap, sleep it off. And then you’ll come back and be fully present. Okay, very good, see you tomorrow morning, have a good night. And this is a great way to fall asleep, really good way to fall asleep. Until you lose clarity, then it’s lights out ok. See you later, enjoy your dinner. See you tomorrow morning.

Transcribed by KrissKringle Sprinkle

Revised by Cheri Langston

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Discussion

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