31 Mar 2016
Alan began by sharing with the group a question from a student, regarding how can we actually develop Bodhicitta. He replied by saying we should start where we feel comfortable, in something that makes sense for us, which in the case of Bodhicitta, for most of us, can be the cultivation of the Four Immeasurables.
The meditation is on loving-kindness, and includes Alan reading the Buddha’s own words on the meaning of developing loving-kindness.
After the meditation we returned briefly to the Mahamudra root text “Lamp So Bright”, and after that, Alan began the commentary on the retreat’s main text (Naked Awareness) beginning section, on taking refuge. Alan then leads the group on actually taking refuge vows, and then elaborated on the significance of such decision, as well on its true meaning. He reflected on how easily we can take refuge outside of Dharma, and how beneficial it is to take refuge in Dharma, which goes beyond appearances. He finished with the idea that taking refuge is really about having trust in the Buddha, in his teachings and in the Sangha that continues to bring those teachings to life. When we do have this trust, then we’ve actually taken refuge in the Dharma.
The meditation starts at 9:19.
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Olaso. So one of you in a one on meeting with me recently asked a very simple question. Bodhicitta we speak of cultivating it, many many references to cultivating bodhicitta, it’s a good translation, cultivating bodhicitta. How do you do that? How do you do that, you know. And the answer is there are multiple ways of doing it.There’s no one strategy, there’s no one recipe. If we had all been born in Tibet let’s say a hundred years ago, 200 years ago, then their faith in the Buddhadharma and that whole worldview in the lamas, the institutions and so forth was literally, it’s worth mother’s milk. I mean they’re just getting it from the ground up. And so within that worldview, if you if you live in a Buddhist world then a lot can be taken for granted and you can implement that into your practice immediately. Belief in reincarnation, karma, the six realms and so forth and so on. But as far as I can tell none of us were born in that, in that milieu, in that environment. And so I think it’s to my mind just drawing from my own experience in terms of foundation for practice, any particular practice, the foundation to my mind, when I know it works more effectively, it’s very personal what I’m about to say but it’s very simple. I need to start from the place where I feel great confidence, real confidence not start with a leap of faith, maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, maybe I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, who knows, yeah let’s go. Given them the foundation is wobbly in my experience. So if we just take one brief example shamatha well you know, can we achieve shamatha in this lifetime? Don’t know? So that’s not going to be the basis, don’t know, but which is better, to have a body mind that is uptight agitated and alternatively dull or to have a body mind that’s relaxed, composed, and clear? I have no doubt. That’s easy, problem solved and so is this worth doing? Whether we can go all the way and achieve nine stages and achieve shamatha or whether we only get to three and we just kinda plateau out. But at least three is better than one. And so is that worth doing and the answer is, to my mind, well okay that’s the end of that conversation. And so to my mind that was just taking one example bodhicitta should be the same thing, for me that’s how I need to work. It is not to start with something that may not be true and I’m not quite sure but start where it’s totally clear. And so it was the great Atisha, this is a theme that the Dalai Lama has come back to so many times as Buddhadharma goes global or as we like to say, goes West. [laughter] That it’s good to tap into the Indian sources some of which were not really highlighted in the Tibetan tradition because they found what worked for them and they didn’t need everything in the ocean of the Buddhadharma. They found what worked for them and gosh if it works don’t fix it. And so a thousand years of Tibetan Buddhism highlighting those practices they found helpful, but that means they didn’t highlight certain other practices, such as the Four Applications of Mindfulness, really core fantastic teachings you’ll hardly find any lama who has taught that in the last thousand years. The Four Immeasurables as distinct practices that you don’t simply do the liturgy for you’re really cultivating in a very rich nuanced multifaceted way. I think I’ve seen one text in Tibetan that really unpacks them. This is the area where Theravada is really strong, marvelously strong. Mindfulness of breathing is another good example. This fantastic practice so good, Tibetans didn’t do it much, they would do it for 21 breaths and say oops “basta” [laughter] let’s get on with the good stuff. What do we visualize now [laughter] and have always visualize from the beginning? I’m breathing, the breath going in and out and out and oh I know I like visualization you know. If you’re living at 15,000 feet I think it’s different. I really do, I think because I’ve been at 15,000 feet. It’s easier to visualize. That’s what I found. I been up there a number of times on different continents. It’s something about that, the air is thinner, it’s wide open, not so much noise externally or internally. And when it’s quiet, it’s easier to visualize. Simple truth. But now we come back to bodhicitta, where can we start out that whether just like there’s no conversation and there is no discussion, yes! And I’ll tell you what I’ve come up with, of course I didn’t come up with anything. I just kind of looked at what was right there in plain sight, the Four Immeasurables. Okay which is better, to be hateful, mean-spirited, resentful, grumpy, or loving, your choice. Compassion, no compassion. Empathic Joy, to hell with other people? And Equanimity, I like you, but I can’t stand you. That’s it, it’s a chuckle, that’s the end of the debate. There was no debate we just kind of like, okay, anymore dumb questions. And so it was Atisha, so I mentioned his name and I went off my tangent. Atisha who is utterly steeped in and embodied, I think really the glories of Indian Buddhism at his very best. I mean he was the he was the ‘par excellence’ what can you say. He just embodied everything that was good about Mahayana Indian Buddhism. Everything. Really. And he said when he’d spent all these 13-14 years in Tibet and got to see how they were doing it. He said “Only you Tibetans know how to develop bodhicitta without developing the four immeasurables.” [laughter] I think that was the facial expression because he was speaking ironically.[5:54]
Transcriptionist note: “basta” is an Italian and Portuguese word and it’s meaning in English is “that’s enough”.
And so coming back they’re, coming back there, the Buddha alluded to these so many times in the Pali Canon, of course they saturate the Mahayana tradition. But then we find the same ones in the Patanjali yoga sutras. It’s nothing uniquely Buddhist about this and then do you find if not in that assortment, do you find these virtues in Christianity? Absolutely yes all of them, all of them. And then do you find them outside of the context of religion per se? Sure, are there very very loving people who have no religious beliefs at all, very compassionate people, people have tremendous capacity for empathetic joy and very even heartedness just their caring for other sentient beings, maybe not just only human beings, but caring for other sentient beings and just spreads out like water over an alluvial plain, are there people like that who just have no religious beliefs at all? And the answer is yeah, sure, why not. And so these are just flat out virtues and you know if we could hop in a spaceship go through a wormhole and come out into another galaxy these will be virtues there too. I can’t imagine a world system where these are not considered to be virtues and if they’re not, that’s a world system that’s insane. [laughs] I have already diagnosed them. You’re crazy if you don’t think these are virtues there is something seriously wrong with you. Brain damage, you got too close to the sun, something happened and so there it is. So that’s what I’d like to do for the next few days is go through a sequence of practices. I’m not going to go the full spread, because I’ve taught these quite elaborately in the past. But going one by one. So we’ve already done this self-directed loving kindness and that’s exactly in accordance with the Buddha’s own teachings, when it comes to loving kindness. “One who loves himself will never harm another” he said. And in the classic teaching Buddhaghosa is synthesizing the real strategy of cultivating loving kindness in the Theravada tradition. You start with yourself. Shantideva says, “If you don’t reflect all the benefits of bodhicitta for yourself, how will you ever develop it for the sake of others?” So we’re not being temporarily selfish in directing this inwardly. We’re being temporarily, sane. If this is good for oneself, then it will be good for others. So without further ado I’d like to go right into the practice. It will be the practice of loving kindness. There are multiple approaches but I’ve just selected one that I thought will at least do no harm, so please find a comfortable position. At any time, again at anytime if you are really uncomfortable in the sitting position then by all means, supine. You are always welcome, if you are comfortable for 24 minutes, it’s a little bit better to be sitting, but no big deal about it ok. [08:36]
[09:05 meditation bell rings three times]
And from the very first breath, we can express this aspiration of loving kindness for ourselves by letting this be the motivation, the incentive for devoting this time to cultivating the heart for our own benefit. And with that motivation again let your awareness descend into the body as if with a sigh of relief, coming home, coming to the ground. And then step-by-step settle your body, speech, and mind in their natural states.
[11:26] Very briefly when we consider the term cultivating loving kindness, metta bhavana in Pali. It is literally the cultivation of loving kindness. We can consider on the one hand that we are cultivating like as in having a seed, cultivating it until it germinates, it sprouts, it grows into a strong plant, comes into full flower. We can also think of bhavana here as an unveiling of our inner capacity for loving kindness that is already present and not only as a capacity, but as an inherent quality of our own pristine awareness, Buddha nature itself. Just waiting to be unveiled and by cultivating the practice we align our thoughts and aspirations with this deeper impulse stemming from the Buddha nature itself enabling it to shine forth. Development, discovery, two sides of one coin. Without going into the full analysis of loving kindness as taught by Buddhaghosa which is indeed rich, we just go right to the point, to the essence, to the Buddha’s own discourse on loving kindness and I shall read it, let your mind flow along with it.
May all beings be happy and secure. May their minds be contented. Whatever living beings there may be, feeble or strong, tall, stout, or medium, short, small, or large, seen or unseen. Those dwelling far or near, those who are born and those who are yet to be born, may all beings without exception be of good cheer.
Let no one deceive another, nor despise any person anywhere. In anger or goodwill let no one wish any harm to another. Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so let one cultivate a boundless heart toward all beings.
Let one’s thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world, above, below and across without any obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity.
Whether one stands, walks, sits or lies down as long as one is awake one should maintain this mindfulness. This they say is the sublime state in this life. Not falling into wrong views and virtuous and endowed with insight one gives up attachment to sense desires. Verily such a person does not return to enter a womb again. (with the tiniest of commentaries: Is not propelled by karma helplessly, driven by delusion, craving, and hostility is not driven into rebirth again.) But if one returns it is out of loving kindness and compassion.
[18:02] So this is the Buddha’s core discourse on loving kindness and then he synopsizes the meditation itself, as follows:
Here monks a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with loving kindness. Likewise the second the third and fourth direction. So above, below, and around he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with loving kindness abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.
So putting this into practice. Let’s begin briefly as we did yesterday starting with self directed loving kindness bringing to mind a vision, your vision, your unique vision. Wherein lies your true happiness, your fulfillment, what is your heart’s desire? It is said in the shamatha teachings it is bliss that calms the agitation of the mind and calms the disturbed waters of anxiety. What is the bliss that would calm your mind? Again I invite you to consciously affirm, intuitively affirm, the reality of your own buddha nature, your infinite capacity, for well being, for compassion, wisdom, tapping into the creative energy, creative power of your own awareness. This buddha nature, this pristine awareness, let it affirm itself. Symbolically visualize this as an incandescent radiant white orb of light, about the size of a pearl, in the center of your heart chakra, in the center of your chest. The wellspring of your deepest desires and the wellspring of the fulfillment of your deepest desires. As if you were drawing from a well, an old fashioned pump, with every out breath imagine drawing forth countless rays of pure radiant white light emanating from this pearl suffusing every cell of your body, every aspect of your mind, your entire being. As with every outbreath you arouse this yearning, this aspiration, May I find the happiness that I seek, may I cultivate the causes that give rise to such well being, may I be truly well and happy with every outbreath.
[23:01] Breath by breath imagine your whole being being absolutely pervaded by, filled to super abundance with, this light of loving kindness… A light that consumes everything in your being that is antithetical to or obstructs the flow of loving kindness. Imagine the light so filling your being that your being becomes a body of light, transparent, luminous, empty. An embodiment of loving kindness. Imagine your being, your entire being filled to supersaturation like it can hold no more. And then imagine this light like an orb of light, a field of light, expanding outwards around and out to the sides above and below, your self being in the center of this sphere and expand this field of loving kindness, for those in this room, to the person or persons in front of you, and to your left and right and behind you, for those listening by way of podcast, simply embracing any sentient being, human or nonhuman in front of you behind to the left and to the right, imagine this sphere of loving kindness expanding and expanding with this inspiration May we each find the happiness we seek, may each one be well and happy. Breath by breath with every exhalation arouse this aspiration using your own words and imagine this sphere, this sphere of light of loving kindness expanding, embracing, enfolding all those around you evenly and imagine each one finding the happiness that is their hearts desire, their innermost desire, a desire stemming from their own buddha nature, imagine each one being well and happy, free from enmity.
[27:50] As you breathe in imagine drawing forth this light of loving kindness from its wellspring and as you breathe out imagine it flowing out in all directions. For those here imagine a sphere of loving kindness including everyone in the room wishing each one, may you be well and happy. Breath by breath expand the field to all the signs the cardinal and intermediate directions around about, above and below. Expand out over the countryside...continue expanding outwards over this whole region...over this whole country...over the whole continent...expanding this orb of light to embrace the entire earth and all who dwell upon it...expanding, expanding without limit, in all directions throughout space, wherever there are sentient beings, may each one be well and happy. Free of enmity, free of distress.
[31:26] Then release all visualizations, all objects of the mind, all aspirations and for just a short time let your awareness rest in its own nature, self knowing, self illuminating…
[32:26] Meditation ends, bell rings three times.
[33:36] Olaso. So let’s go back now very briefly to this root text and commentary by Panchen Rinpoche. And we finished the preface and now we go to the explanation and the composition’s actual instruction on page 2. Move right onto page 3 where he cites the root text from among the three divisions, preparation, the actual session and post meditation. So there’s the overall format or structure of the text as a whole, the root text. Back to the commentary, the actual explanation of the instruction so now we’re going into the core, that has been composed is three fold. Within the instruction there is the preparation, the preparation for the practice of Mahamudra, the main practice which we’ll see consists of shamatha, vipashyana and then the follow up. So back to the root text.
First In order to enter the gateway and erect the supporting pillar the mainstay that which holds everything together, the gateway and the supporting pillar, these two things of the teaching in general (that is the teaching, means the Buddha’s teaching, the Buddhadharma in general), and then the Mahayana in particular So in order to do that, to enter and to create the structure that upholds everything you must exert yourself in going for refuge and arousing the awakening mind. Awakening mind is his translation. It’s a nice one of bodhicitta, so arousing, or cultivating bodhicitta, not just by lip service or words alone. It’s interesting he says that, not just by lip service, he didn’t really need to add that, he could have just stopped, but he did add that and he’s writing that in the 17th century and suggests this has been going on for a long time. [laughter] Wherever there is liturgy, I mean really wherever there’s liturgy, in the United States in the 1950’s I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and blah blah blah blah you know. We did that every day, we just run through it. AAAAhhh. Is anybody thinking or is it just a routine you have to get through, you know. And then for those of you who have commitments. Anybody have commitments? You’ve got to do them everyday right. Otherwise hell hath no fury like a commitment scorned. [laughs] And so you know we get through them. It’s easy to do, it’s easy to get into that mindset. Whew I finished my daily recitations, whew. I mean literally they’re so blunt about it. When Tibetans speak of doing this they call it [?37:22 Tibetan kan dun] my oral recitations, I finished. I finished my oral recitations, I went phhht, [incoherent sounds] I finished you know, as if I just fulfilled my, I just fulfilled my commitment by turning on the tape recorder. While my mind’s going blah blah blah blah blah blah. So this is not something just a kooky western practitioner does, this was kooky Tibetan practitioners and it’s back to the 17th century and I don’t think it began in that century. [36:52]
Whenever we have a routine, a ritual, it’s kind of like a centrifugal force that operates to throw us out into the outward manifestation and it’s ever so easy to lose the core. In which case who do we think we’re kidding? If we are just doing a routine, who exactly are we kidding? Maybe your next door neighbor who says Oh what a holy person. Or they see me out walking with my mala, Oh he must be a holy man, he’s got his mala, he’s walking and mumbling under his breath, he must be oh a spiritual person. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe he just dresses funny. [laughter] And likes malas, got to have something to do you know, some people use those if they have a kind of nervousness, they just use those because they’re nervous. So there’s nothing wrong with the outer display but if that’s all there is to it well then that’s it, that’s all there is to it. So there’s where we stop. He’s highlighted two things that are really the entry and then the fundamental thing that holds everything up, the mainstay, he calls it the supporting pillar, a nice translation. He’s referring of course to refuge which is the gateway to entering into the teachings, the path, the training taught by the Buddha. And then of course bodhicitta being that which is the central pillar that upholds the whole of Mahayana practice all the five paths the entirety of Mahayana Buddhism. So it really occurred to me and I was very happy with the thought, it kind of came to mind and I smiled. Oh wouldn’t it be nice now just to set that aside because he doesn’t elaborate much, he just says cultivate them and don’t just give them lip service to it. Well lo and behold his contemporary Karma Chagme having finished his entire exposition of the path with elaborate teachings on the preliminaries, all the way through the tregchö, the tögal, rainbow body the whole nine yards went through everything, then he comes back and this is the first thing he addressed when he thought ok well what more might I add to just fill this out to make sure it’s very fully enriched so to speak and the topic that he came back to was Mahayana refuge and the spirit of awakening. So awakening mind, spirit of awakening, tomatoes, tomatoes. I just call it bodhicitta by now because everybody know bodhicitta. So it’s kind of a strange thing as a translator, you know if we take a term from sanskrit and then we translate it into English, if your reader upon reading your English translation is thinking what is this in Sanskrit, which happens a lot, you may as well just say the Sanskrit right, because these words, bodhicitta, I mean if you are practicing who doesn’t know what bodhicitta means?So if we really know what it means, then why not just include that with samadhi, and dharma, and karma, and buddha and all of the other Sanskrit terms. So it’s not a right or wrong here but I just figure, hey I’m a translator of the Sanskrit, English especially is such an amorphous absorptive or something it absorbs so much from every kind of source why not just kind of sponge in more sanskrit. That’s just my preference it’s not a better preference, it’s just my preference. So there it is bodhicitta, refuge in bodhicitta. So we go right to, I’m just going to be reading the root text from Gyatrul Rinpoche he has a wonderful commentary in smaller letters as you can see so, I leave you to read that at your leisure. But I’ll be giving the oral transmission and commentary just on the root text. And I thought this chapter was just too good to skip. I’m not going to, there will be no time to give an oral commentary and transmission on all of the chapters you can see it’s a pretty thick book. But I thought this would be a really good place to start. So, we’ve done it now turned we’ll get back of course after we finish this chapter we’ll go back to Panchen Rinpoche’s text on Mahamudra but he’s highlighted how enormously important this is, giving a whole chapter on it, so that’s where we go right now. [40:46]
Transcriptionist Note: Here is the text taken from Naked Awareness: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Starting at 40:57, will be the text as given during the session with Alan’s comments.
In order to enter the gateway and erect the supporting pillar of the teaching in general, and then the Mahayana in particular, you must exert yourself in going for refuge and arousing the awakening mind, not just by lip service or words alone.
These are the profound practical instructions of Avalokiteshvara. On your right side arrange an image of the Buddha, and Dharma volumes such as this text of instructions. If you have a stupa, place it there as well, and in front of all these lay out the seven kinds of offerings, a mandala, and so on.
Now Karma Chagme Rinpoche continues, to offer a more extensive explanation on the meaning of refuge and bodhicitta than was presented earlier in the instructions on the preliminaries. Once you’ve understood the meaning of this, if you again request these vows, they will truly arise in you; it is difficult for them to arise simply by engaging in their recitations without understanding their meaning. In this supplementary Dharma, the vows will be bestowed.
In terms of the vows of refuge, there are those common to the different yanas and there are the Mahayana vows of refuge; and now we are concerned with the latter. Here is the object from whom the vows are requested, according to the tradition of the present teachings: In the space in front of you, there is a broad, vast, and mighty throne of jewels, supported by lions. Upon it is a variegated lotus with a hundred thousand petals, on which rests a round moon disk. In its center is your own primary spiritual mentor Amitabha, present in the garb of sambhogakaya, surrounded by the Kagyu lamas.
In front of him is the yidam Avalokiteshvara surrounded by a myriad of yidams. On his right is Buddha Shakyamuni, surrounded by a myriad of buddhas including the thousand buddhas of this fortunate era. Behind him is the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra In One Hundred Thousand Stanzas, surrounded by a myriad of treatises and volumes of sublime Dharma. On his left is Vajrapani, surrounded by a myriad of the Mahayana and Hinayana Sangha, including the eight bodhisattva spiritual sons and the eight supreme sravakas. All the cardinal and intermediate directions are filled with viras and dakinis. Beneath him are a myriad of dharma protectors, including the Four-armed Mahakala, Six-armed Mahkala, and Draklha Gonpo. On the crowns of their heads is Om, at their throats Ah, and at their hearts, Hum. From the Hum at their hearts rays of light are emitted in the ten directions, inviting all the lamas, chosen deities, viras, dakinis and Dharma protectors like gathering clouds. Imagine that they dissolve into the deities visualized in front of you.
With palms pressed together holding a stick of incense, the master and disciples invite them by chanting together.
If you wish you may expand on this by offering the ritual bath and the mandala. This is the brief liturgy.
Just as the gods bathed you, as soon as you were born, so do I bathe you with pure divine water. This is a glorious, supreme bath, with the unsurpassable water of compassion. With the water blessings and primordial consciousness, grant me whatever siddhis I desire. The body speech and mind of the jinas are free of the obscurations of mental afflictions but, in order to purify the obscurations of the body, speech, and mind of sentient beings, I bathe you with pure water.
The foundation of the earth anointed with perfumed water and strewn with flowers, adorned with Mount Meru, the four world sectors, the sun, and moon, I visualize as a pure realm of the buddhas. Due to this offering, may all beings experience this perfectly pure realm! Idam ratna mandalakam niryatayami.
Thus imagine that the objects of refuge are experientially present in the space in front of you. Indeed they are actually present, for it is said, “For those who believe in the Buddha, the Sage is present before them.” and ”Like reflections of the moon and water, they appear wherever you look.” So they are actually present. Moreover the buddhas and bodhisattvas dwelling in the pure realms of the ten directions see you with their eyes of primordial consciousness, and they certainly hear you chanting. So this is the same as requesting the vows from all the buddhas.
With representations of the enlightened body, speech, and mind that you have set out in front of you as the basis of your visualization, request me to be your guru. Imagine requesting the vows of Maha-yana refuge. The objects of refuge are of the nature of the three embodiments, and the blessed buddhas are the Jewel of the Buddha. Request them to be your fundamental refuge. The holy Jewel of the Dharma is of the nature of the Mahayana scriptures and insights. Request this as your refuge in terms of the path. The bodhisattvas abiding on the first ground and beyond are the Mahayana Jewel of the Sangha. Imagine requesting them to be your refuge, by being your companions. This does not entail going for refuge for our own sake alone. Seek refuge in order to bring all sentient beings to the state of spiritual awakening. This is not seeking refuge only for the duration of your life, as in the case of the Hinayana; rather think, “I seek refuge from today, until I achievement enlightenment.” On bended knee, with your palms pressed together, and with with the single pointed wish to request the Mahayana vows of refuge, recite this after me three times:
All Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions please attend to me. Mentor, please attend to me. From this time until I am present in the essence of Enlightenment, I take refuge in the Blessed Buddha, the foremost among human beings. I take refuge in the holy dharma, the foremost freedom from attachment. I take refuge in the aryas and non returning sangha, the foremost community. (3 times)
Oh now, consider that the Mahayana vows of refuge have arisen in your mind-streams, and respond, *Well done, to which the mentor replies: “This is the method.”
These are the benefits of receiving the Mahayana vows of refuge. To be protected from all harm and injury in this life (except that which comes from the fruition of previous actions), from bad omens, and from falling to the Hinayana. In the future you will be protected from the fears of miserable destinations, and the fears of the cycle of existence. The Ornament for the Sutras, states: Because it protects from all injuries, from miserable destinations, misdeeds, fears and the Hinayana, it is the sublime refuge.
Upon receiving the vows of refuge, you must engage in the corresponding disciplines. With respect to those disciplines, there are (1) three general practices, (2) three specific practices and (3) three affiliated practices, making nine all together.
Always endeavour to make offerings to the Jewels, at least offering the first morsel of your meals. Do not abandon the Jewels at the cost of your life or for any reward; and frequently practice going for refuge by recollecting the excellent qualities of the Jewels.
The three specific practices include: once you’ve gone for refuge in the Buddha, do not go for refuge in other gods. The Sutra of the Great Liberation states: One who has gone for refuge in the buddhas is a genuine upasaka, and never does one seek refuge in other gods. Since you’ve gone for refuge in the dharma, do not inflict injury upon sentient beings. A sutra states: Once you have gone for refuge in the holy Dharma, be free of thoughts of inflicting harm and injury. Since you have gone for refuge in the Sangha, do not devote yourself to extremists. A sutra states: Once you’ve gone for refuge in the Sangha, do not veer toward extremists.
The three affiliated practices include: reverence to the images of the Tathagata, which represents the Jewel of the Buddha, and even a satsa or saccha fragment just a chip of such an image; reverence towards volumes of Dharma, which represent the Jewel of the Dharma, and even a single syllable of such texts; and reverence to the garments of the Revealer, which represent the Jewel of the Sangha, and even a yellow patch of such cloth.
These are the eight benefits of going for refuge: (1) you enter into the community of the Buddhists; (2) this becomes the basis for all vows; (3) all your previous misdeeds are extinguished; (4) you are not afflicted by human or non-human obstructive forces; (5) you accomplish everything you intend; (6) your mind stream becomes endowed with great merit; (7) you do not descend to miserable states of existence; and (8) you swiftly, manifestly achieve perfect enlightenment. This is receiving the Mahayana vows of refuge.
[40:57] So he starts, this is a kind of a transmission that he himself was passing on within the kind of the vein, the current of Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment, the enlightened embodiment of compassion. So it says, These are the profound practical instructions of Avalokiteshvara stemming from visionary teachings and of course this is the principal object of refuge for the people of Tibet as the people of Tibet, very central. So here it is, so he’s now in very Tibetan fashion, but in fact this is also actually classical Indian Mahayana fashion, he’s going to invite you into an elaborate visualization. It’s not just Tibetan, but it’s very Mahayana, it’s very elaborate, we’ll read through it once. You can always simplify, but why not give the full bouquet. Then you might just wind up with three flowers, after all, when all’s said and done, if you like simplicity. I must say I like simplicity. But here he says ok he’s setting the stage for taking refuge, for a Mahayana taking refuge, taking the refuge vows, which we shall do here. I invite you to do so. Obviously, nobody would even know how to make you, if you didn’t want to, nor why would anybody want to. So he says in terms of setting the stage here he says, On your right side arrange an image of the Buddha. (It can be a tongkah, statue, what have you,) and Dharma volumes such as this text of instructions, Place Naked Awareness right there, it could be Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra, anything you like. But the image of the Buddha is symbolizing the body of the Buddha, the Dharma of course symbolizing the speech or the Dharma refuge, and then he continues, If you have a stupa a stupa, a stupa of course symbolizes the Buddha Mind, buddha Mind and there’s a whole book written on that, just the symbolism of the stupa and how it symbolizes the multiple aspects of enlightened mind of Dharmakaya. So, If you have a stupa, place it there as well. And in front of all these lay out the seven kinds of offerings, so you’ve seen the seven offering bowls, a mandala, and so on. just make offerings, bountiful offerings. So there it is and I would at your leisure, we won’t do it right now because time is short but do read Gyatrul Rinpoche commentary, this was his oral commentary. I was translating for him at this time both I’ve translated his text and his commentary and it’s really very choice. So I leave you to read that at your leisure. But now Karma Chagme Rinpoche continues I shall offer a more extensive explanation on the meaning of refuge and bodhicitta than was presented earlier in the instructions on the preliminaries. that is in the main text. And of course that was the section preceding the portion of the text translated in the volumes Spacious Path of Freedom, which has not been translated yet into English but the material’s been covered elaborately in many many texts. So he’s going to expound on this, elaborate on this just because it is so important that we don’t fall into what people were falling back into then in the 17th century and do now. Just kind of cruising through the liturgy, just as a liturgy. And it’s a beautiful liturgy but if that’s all it is then it’s just words, lip service. [44:10]
Once you’ve understood the meaning of this, what he’s about to explain. if you again request these vows taking the vows of refuge. Once you’ve really understood the meaning, they, the vows, then they will truly arise in you; this will become part of your being. It is difficult for them to arise simply by engaging in recitations without understanding the meaning. In this supplementary Dharma the supplementary dharma is this entire book, and this was translated in its entirety this Gap Tzu in Tibetan this Gap Tzu the back Dharma, that is the afterword, but it’s 300 pages of afterward. This is the supplementary dharma, in this supplementary dharma in this chapter the vows will be bestowed. So he’s about to invite us to take refuge and tell us exactly how. In terms of the vows of refuge, there are those common to the different yanas the sravakayana, the pratyekabuddhayana, vajrayana, and [then] there are the Mahayana vows of refuge; So there’s a general taking of refuge simply if you want to follow the teachings, the path set forth by the Buddha, that would be general, common to all of the different sub paths. And then there are the vows of refuge that are unique to Mahayana, for those who are really dedicated to following the bodhisattva way of life to its culmination of perfect Buddhahood. And he said, and now we are concerned with the latter. Of course this, the whole text, this The Spacious Path to Freedom, and this is all about the Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen and this frankly is inconceivable outside of the context of the Mahayana and outside of the context of bodhicitta. You can conceive of it but then it’s no longer Mahayana or Dzogchen, it’s something stripped down, denuded, something different. And that happens a lot. But not here. So, Here is the object from whom the vows are requested, according to the tradition of the present teachings: So in the lineage that Karma Chagme had, in whom are united the lineage, the current, the flow of blessings, of both the Kagyu and Nyingma, the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions here’s what he’s been taught, here’s what he passes on. So here’s a visualization as I’m reading through it, why not just do it, it’s fun. As well as you can.
In the space in front of you, there is a broad, vast, and mighty throne of jewels, supported by lions. And of course all of this is symbolic, lions suggesting as it does in the west, fearlessness, throne of jewels something magnificent, awesome. So imagine this in the space in front of you. Upon it is a variegated lotus variegated means multicolored red white yellow green and so on. Upon it as a seat. Upon it is a lotus, a variegated lotus with a hundred thousand petals, it doesn’t need to be exactly 100,000 more or less [laughter] On which rests a round moon disk So you’ve all seen this portrayed in the tangkas, moon disc, it’s flat it fits in the center of the lotus, the open lotus and this is going to be the seat, the seat of the Buddha who will be the object of refuge here. In its center is your own primary spiritual mentor your own primary guru, root lama and he’s suggesting in this context when you think of your root lama why not think of Amitabha, that would be a good root lama. And then the person or persons, you can have more than one root lama, as emanations of Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light. So In the center is your own private root lama Amitabha, in the form of a Buddha, with the classic thirty two major and eighty minor marks, ruby red in color and embodying compassion. Simply a veritable, literal embodiment of compassion, present in the garb of a sambhogakaya, So this will be with the full ornamentation as you would see Avalokiteshvara and surrounded by the Kagyu lamas. [49:27]
Now I won’t read it, but Gyatrul Rinpoche who is a lineage holder of this tradition points out that he’s not referring to something sectarian like Kagyu versus Nyingma or Mahayana versus something else. Kagyu means simply the lineage, the lineage of teachings, kagyu lineage of the teachings. Ok so nothing sectarian here. But he’s surrounded by these lamas. The lineage of your own teachers and whoever they may be. They may come from the Zen tradition, the Chang whoever they may be.
In front of him so there’s Amitabha on his vast throne In front of him on another throne is the yidam Avalokiteshvara the personal deity Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of compassion, surrounded by a myriad of yidams, other yidams Manjushri, Vajrapani and so on. All of this is simply highlighting the multiple facets of Buddha Mind not really taking refuge in kind of what it’s a whole bunch of gods, but different facets of Buddha Mind. Each one symbolically portrayed as the embodiment of compassion, wisdom, and so on. So there’s Avalokitesvara sitting right in front of Amitabha, On his right is Buddha Shakyamuni, surrounded by a myriad of buddhas including the thousand buddhas of this fortunate era. So this is a vast array in front of you. Behind him, Buddha Shakyamuni, is the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra In One Hundred Thousand Stanzas. the most elaborate of the versions of the prajnaparamita. And surrounded, these texts are surrounded by a myriad of treatises and volumes of sublime Dharma. So all of this symbolizing the speech of the buddha, the dharma that sets forth the path. So this is behind him. So Avalokiteshvara in the center, Buddha Shakyamuni on his right, behind him the perfection of wisdom, on his left that is on the left of Avalokiteshvara, is Vajrapani, dark blue, quite wrathful in countenance, in manifestation, the embodiment of enlightened power, surrounded by a myriad of the Mahayana and Hinayana Sangha, including the eight bodhisattva spiritual sons and the eight supreme sravakas. So the many disciples of the Buddha. All the cardinal and intermediate directions are filled with viras and dakinis. male and female manifestations of enlightened beings. So there’s Amitabha up above, in front Avalokiteshvara, on his right Buddha Shakyamuni, on his left Vajrapani. Beneath him are a myriad of dharma protectors, dharmapalas including the Four-armed Mahakala, Six-armed Mahkala, and Draklha Gonpo. On the crowns of their heads is Om, at their throats A, and at their hearts, Hum. White, red, and blue. This of course becomes complex so you don’t have to visualize everything in detail, you probably can’t, but you can visualize that they are there, without seeing the details of each form. From the Hum at their hearts of each of these enlightened beings, From the Hum at their hearts symbolizing of course buddha mind, rays of light are emitted in the ten directions, inviting all the lamas, chosen deities or personal deities, yidams, viras, dakinis and Dharma protectors like gathering clouds. So from the Hum at the heart of each of these enlightened beings, it’s like they’re sending out a beacon, this deep blue light flowing out in all directions and it’s sending out a beacon of an invitation, you visualize these beings but now you invite the actual Buddhas, the actual bodhisattvas, dharmapalas and so forth to come, come hither. [53:31]
Imagine that they all these beings dissolve into the deities visualized in front of you. So now rather than simply being a creation of your own mind, imagine that the creations of your own mind are suffused by the beings themselves. That you’re actually in the presence of these myriad buddhas. You may simply sit as you are but he says:
With palms do this in your imagination. With palms pressed together holding a stick of incense, the master and disciples invite them by chanting together. He adds, if you wish you may expand on this by offering the ritual bath and the mandala. This is the brief liturgy. This is taken from Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. It’s not part of our Western culture, but as we visualize, a little bit of commentary, very small, as we visualize these enlightened beings these objects of refuge of course we’re visualizing that but with our own minds. We don’t have anything else to visualize them with. Our own minds have our own impurities, preconceptions, blockages, negativities and so on. So as we visualize the Buddhas we imagine bathing the Buddhas that we brought to mind, not as if they need a bath, that’s silly. We are bathing them in our mind’s eye, cleansing them of the impurities that we superimpose on them. Deeply symbolic act. So in this liturgy it reads:
Just as the gods bathed you, as soon as you were born referring to Buddha Shakyamuni, so do I bathe you with pure divine water. This is a glorious, supreme bath, with the unsurpassable water of compassion. With the water of blessings and primordial consciousness, grant me whatever siddhis I desire. The body speech and mind of the jinas the conquerors, the victorious ones are free of the obscurations of mental afflictions but, in order to purify the obscurations of the body, speech, and mind of sentient beings, I bathe you with pure water. So this is explicitly a cultivation of pure vision that as we purify our own awareness, our own minds, we’re moving in the direction of actually having a pure vision of the buddhas themselves, as has been realized by so many of the great beings of the past, direct visions of Tara, of Padmasambhava, of Nagarjuna and so on. This is how we purify the mind and in the same liturgy Shantideva continues:
The foundation of the earth anointed with perfumed water and strewn with flowers, adorned with Mount Meru, the four world sectors, the sun, and moon, I visualize as a pure realm of the buddhas. So we imagine purifying here not only our vision of Amitabha, of Avalokiteshvara, Buddha Shakyamuni, Vajrapani and so on but we imagine purifying our entire environment, seeing with the power of our imagination, our own environment as a pure realm. A pure manifestation of Buddha Mind. Due to this offering, may all beings experience this perfectly pure realm! and offering this mandala we conclude with the mantra Idam ratna mandalakam niryatayami.
Thus imagine that the objects of refuge are experientially present in the space in front of you. Indeed they are actually present, for it is said, “For those who believe in the Buddha, the Sage is present before them.” And another quote: ”Like reflections of the moon and water, they appear wherever you look.” So they are actually present. So imagine that. I would suggest these teachings are speaking to your own intuitive wisdom. This is not a logical analysis of looking for empirical evidence but intuitively these teachings invite you to imagine right here and now you are in the presence of all the objects of refuge who, as you are aware of them, they are compassionately aware of you. [59:18]
In the practice of Vajrayana we use visualization so much to imagine our own body speech and mind, our environment the lama and so on. And our spiritual friends we imagine seeing them with pure vision, as enlightened ones with them within the enlightened field of pure land. But it’s said in these teachings that while we’re imagining this to be the case, in fact it’s already true. We’re imagining something that is already really here and now but which we can not ordinarily see because the veils, the veils of afflictions, the veils of obscurations, that prevents us from directly seeing this deeper reality, this sacred space, inhabited by sacred beings. Moreover the buddhas and bodhisattvas dwelling in the pure realms of the ten directions see you with their eyes of primordial consciousness, and they certainly hear you chanting. So this is the same as requesting the vows from all the buddhas. So it’s not simply as if you’re requesting the vows of refuge from all the buddhas, visualize that you are actually doing so, and you are actually doing so. [01:01:02]
With the representations of the enlightened body, speech, and mind the buddha image, the dharma, the stupa. With representations of the enlightened body, speech, and mind that you have set out in front of you as the basis of your visualization, request me to be your guru, your lama. So writes Karma Chagme. Imagine requesting the vows of Mahayana refuge. The objects of refuge are of the nature of the three embodiments, and the blessed buddhas are the Jewel of the Buddha. Request them to be your fundamental refuge. The holy Jewel of the Dharma is of the nature of the Mahayana scriptures and insights. Request this as your refuge in terms of the path. The bodhisattvas abiding on the first ground the first arya bodhisattva bhumi, the arya bodhisattvas, the bodhisattvas abiding on the first ground and beyond to the higher of the bodhisattva bhumis are the Mahayana Jewel of the Sangha. So here is taking refuge, the Mahayana refuge. Imagine requesting them to be a refuge, by being your companions. Companions along the path. This does not entail going for refuge for our own sake alone. Seek refuge in order to bring all sentient beings to the state of spiritual awakening. Buddhahood itself. If we ask why, why take refuge there is the final answer, in order to bring all sentient beings to their own perfection. This is not seeking refuge only for the duration of your life, as in the case of the Hinayana; rather think, “I seek refuge from today, until I achievement enlightenment". So simply imagine the next, the next section, On bended knee with your palms pressed together, and with, with the single pointed wish to request the Mahayana vows of refuge, recite this after me three times: So let’s do so. If you wish to adopt that posture of course you can. So here is the actual taking of the vows, the Mahayana vows of refuge and we’ll recite that three times.
All Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions please attend to me. [Alan] “Please recite after me” [All buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions please attend to me, repeated in unison by those taking the Vows of Refuge] Mentor, please attend to me. [repeated in unison] From this time until I am present in the essence of Enlightenment [repeated in unison] I take refuge in the Blessed Buddha [repeated in unison] The foremost among human beings [repeated in unison] I take refuge in the Holy dharma [repeated in unison] The foremost freedom from attachment [repeated in unison] I take refuge in the aryas [repeated in unison] and non returning sangha [repeated in unison] the foremost community [repeated in unison].
[Alan] We recite for a second time: All Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions [repeated in unison] Please attend to me. [repeated in unison] Mentor please attend to me. [repeated in unison] From this time until I am present in the essence of Enlightenment. [repeated in unison] I take refuge in the blessed Buddha, [repeated in unison] the foremost among human beings. [repeated in unison] I take refuge in the holy dharma, [repeated in unison] the foremost freedom from attachment [repeated in unison] I take refuge in the aryas and non returning sangha, [repeated in unison] the foremost community. [repeated in unison].
[Alan] We’ll recite for a third time and on the conclusion of that I’ll snap my fingers at that time imagine you received the Mahayana vows of refuge. So for a third time: All Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, [repeated in unison] please attend to me. [repeated in unison] Mentor please attend to me. [repeated in unison] From this time until I am present in the essence of enlightenment, [repeated in unison] I take refuge in the blessed buddha, [repeated in unison] the foremost among human beings. [repeated by unison] I take refuge in the holy dharma, [repeated in unison] foremost freedom from attachment. [repeated in unison] I take refuge in the aryas and non returning sangha, [repeated in unison] the foremost community. [repeated in unison] [Alan snaps his fingers] [1:07:53]
Karma Chagme continues: Oh now, consider that the Mahayana vows of refuge have arisen in your mind streams and respond, “Well done”. [those taking refuge respond: “Well done”]. To which the mentor replies: “This is the method”. Which is to say this is how it’s done. That’s how it’s done. So, Well Done. We could also say Bravo. [laughter]
These are the benefits of receiving the Mahayana vows of refuge. To be protected from all harm and injury in this life (except that which comes from the fruition of previous actions), from bad omens, and from falling to the Hinayana.
Let’s stop there. These can be interpreted in a sensible way he’s not talking about some sectarian thing falling to you know some other religion. It’s Mahayana Hinayana. The Hinayana literally means, it’s not a school. It’s Theravada it’s not some other school. It’s falling back into the aspiration, I just want out myself. I just want out myself. Whatever you’re monastery is, whatever color you’re robes are, whoever your lineage is and so forth, it’s falling back and just seeing I mean I really get this; I really get this, just seeing the enormity of how the world is screwed up. And how so many people have no interest whatsoever in dharma. They seem to be absolutely devoted to behaving contrary to dharma. They have no, and if you try to persuade them otherwise they’ll cut off your head. And it seems like we’re violating the planet in every way that human beings can possibly imagine. And can imagine, one can see, I kind of, I get this. You might feel this world has no use for me. This world has no use for Mahayana, it doesn’t want anything from me, nothing. So then why should I give them what they don’t even want. And the path to my liberation is so much shorter. So much simpler. It’s meeting silence to silence which is so much simpler than silence in the midst of this incredible global mess. That’s slipping back to the Hinayana. And nothing to do with sectarianism. There are people who are outwardly following the Mahayana path and they are completely dedicated to Hinayana. There are people outwardly Theravada or they could be Christian, or they could be having no classification, or absolutely embodiments of the bodhisattva way of life. It is not a matter of sect, so easily with our background with all this sectarian warfare we have in the west. And of course there is plenty in the east. It’s easy to read that, but that’s not what’s meant, never has been meant that.
[1:09:53] And In the future you will be protected from the fears of miserable destinations, the lower realms, the miserable realms of rebirth. and the fears of the cycle of existence. samsara. The Ornament for the Sutras, one of the five works by Maitreya, [? 1:11:05 Tibetan] it’s called in Tibetan, states: Because it protects from all injuries, from miserable destinations, misdeeds, fears and the Hinayana, it is the sublime refuge. Let’s read a bit further.
Upon receiving the vows of refuge, you must engage in the corresponding disciplines. So this calls for refuge from the side of the object of refuge but then it corresponding, correspondingly calls for some commitment from ourselves, it’s not passive. So With respect to those disciplines, there are (1) three general practices, (2) three specific practices and (3) three affiliated practices, making nine all together. So let’s read them, it’s worth knowing, because otherwise again we can just slip back into liturgy and then it’s just noise. So among these three general practices, the first of these is, 1. Always endeavour to make offerings to the Jewels, at least offering the first morsel of your meals. I mean the idea of course that you are simply offering your whole life and everything good in your life all your possessions your virtues and so forth. You are just offering these all up. Do not abandon the Jewels at the cost of your life or for any reward; and frequently practice going for refuge by recollecting the excellent qualities of the Jewels. the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
[1:11.32] So it’s an ongoing commitment. I often think of it as, it’s so similar in some respects obviously not all, to a wedding ceremony. Where there’s a formality there, there’s a ritual, there’s the environment, there’s a rest taken and so forth. And then there’s being married and having a very fruitful and meaningful commitment of two people to each other. Well it’s obviously not the same but the parallels are not insignificant that the carry through is where all the juice is. The ceremony, the ritual opens the door for that. It’s a verbal public commitment. Public in your own mind anyway to this relationship, this commitment to this path, the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. The second of these three: (2) The three specific practices. So that was it, that was three right there. So the three general practices that was short. So just generally offering, you eat a meal, just offering, a sense of just offering. Here’s a beautiful place for I was taught this years ago. When you look around see if you can find some really beautiful view someplace, you know. And you look out and just the beauties of nature the countryside. And in many cases for this little village of Pomaya, from my view it’s just like it is an ornament to an already beautiful landscape. Isn’t it true. And that’s where human beings are blessing the environment rather than invading it, you know. So we see the natural landscape, the land, the sky. We can see the Mediterranean over there on the horizon and then these beautiful, beautiful villas that are like ornaments like jewels, and think gosh it’s so lovely. And instead of just letting that be an object of attachment. I wonder if I can rent a place here. I wonder if I can own some of it. [laughter] I should go into development this place has got a lot of potential, I could definitely make some good money out of this you know. Instead of just looking at it with ordinary mundane vision of attachment and then hoping other people don’t move here because then it gets cluttered with Americans and who wants that. Rather than the mundane and just see the beauty, just the beauties of it all and it’s just too good to keep. Just offer it all up. Just offer it all to the Buddhas. Then it’s sweet and then you’re very enjoyment turns into dharma. So you don’t have to stop enjoying and get back to the serious stuff for practicing dharma. The enjoyment of the beauties of, the enjoyment of your meal, is an expression of you’re giving. As you’re eating it, you’re giving it to all the little critters inside your body and making it an offering.
[1:14:48] So this , so when Dontonpa said, Give up all attachment to this life and let your mind become dharma. Just tell me how you actually do that when you’re eating, you’re going for a walk, you’re seeing a beautiful villa and so on. And then we have the specific practices, 2. The three specific practices include: once you’ve gone for refuge in the Buddha, do not go for refuge in other gods. So this is again, it’s really anything that is outside this sphere. Now the Dalai Lama himself has said, Jesus was a Buddha. I don’t know whether he was or not, but clearly suggesting this is not, this is not a sectarian issue, like all the other religions are somehow inferior, but this is the right one, so don’t stray from the right one. Well we’re familiar with that theme, but that’s not what’s intended here. But rather taking refuge in other gods like, George Clooney [laughter] I don’t know, Angelina Jolie is a good candidate, you know or just all this stuff, all the allures of samsara. Years ago, 28 years ago, gosh that seems so long ago but when we had that one year retreat, we had the one year shamatha retreat and Gen Lamrimpa , this marvelous yogi, he was the teacher, I was like, his apprentice in that retreat. He told people at the beginning of the retreat, now they’re going for one year, just total immersion into shamatha and this Gen Lamrimpa hardly had any contact with Westerners back then. It was me and I’m not quite sure, there weren’t that many people. So he really was from Tibet just slipped over the mountains went into retreat so he didn’t really have much contact with, what we call them, the modern world. And so he’s just speaking to these westerners, pretty much as if they’re Tibetans. And I was interpreting for him, his nephew was also there so he was doing a lot of the interpreting for the interviews. But he said you know over the course of this year, it is very possible that you will have visions of demons, malevolent spirits and so forth. And if that happens then do this and he tells you how to deal with that. Well, it may come as no surprise to you twelve people for one year, not one demon, not even one good juicy demon. Not even one. But did the demons of arrogance come up, oh yeah, big time, big hairy demons me me me. I’m superior, I’m special I’m holy. The demons of fear come, up big time in some cases sure. Fear with no referent, fear with no referent, kind of the best kind of fear, because it’s empty it really is empty, it has no object at all it’s just a great big bubble of fear but it certainly feels real. And so for us you know, for us brought up in modernity, demons are really not part of the landscape. They were in the 15th 16th 17th century, they were everywhere and people were quite terrified of being possessed them, myriads of demons right. The whole witch hunting craze of that just preceded the rise of modernity, rise of the scientific revolution and so forth. And for which the scientific revolution served as a major medication to heal us of the psychosis of that, in that world you know, these demons were very much part of the landscape, but not now. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not beset by the same problems they just don’t take on that appearance. And so then likewise for god’s. I mean really, if you ask you know, are you really tempted, which God did you want to scurry off to? Probably there aren’t any. I mean are you thinking Indra or you know, probably not it’s probably not even an issue it’s kind of like an irrelevant statement. Unless, we take refuge we commit ourself to the path and then five years later we’re not. Five years later we’re not, because we’re pursuing something else and you call that a God if you like because that has now caught the attention captured our allegiance. That is where we’re offering all of our offerings, that’s where our commitment is, that’s what we’re taking refuge in. It could be a new marriage, it could be a new job, it could mean aspiration for a successful business, it could be for all kinds of stuff. Those are our gods, not somebody with arms and ornaments and all that kind of business and that does happen, happens not infrequently. I love one of the short stories. It is not even a short story, there was a Christian minister, a very good man, a very good heart and he’s supposed to, and he’s giving a sermon and obviously within the context of his own faith. And he said, you know I’ve got a metaphor for you. You got a flock of sheep, let’s say a thousand sheep, a big flock of sheep. And then on occasion a sheep goes astray right. The shepherd brings them all back to the fold and then oops one’s missing right. And then we haven’t been around for a long time and then the shepherd has to go off looking for the lost sheep right. It’s a big big common metaphor, parable in the Christian tradition. But the pastor raised the question, Look you got a thousand sheep, they smell, they really do. They smell you got a thousand sheep they smell they smell like sheep. And they’re going bah, bah, bah. There’s a thousand of them, they too have the wandering minds, and you’ve got this bahing going and this smelling and then you get lost. How does a sheep ever get lost? Get separated from and not know where are the thousand sheep I used to be with? How is it conceivable? That sheep ever get lost? And then he answered the question. Are you ready? Blade by blade. Blade of grass, by blade of grass you go into samadhi on the blade of grass right in front of you. And then there’s just one over there and then the thousand right behind you and then one more and then oh yeah just that one and oh that one looks good. Oh that one’s really tasty oh I see one over there and you just blade by blade. And then you look around and say where is everybody? Bahhh And that’s how we lose the dharma. People get really, I’ve seen this. I’m an old geezer by now. I’ve watched a lot of people practice dharma, I’ve seen myself practice dharma and sometimes lose the thread. But how does it happen, it doesn’t happen by usually, by one day thinking, *I’ve had it with dharma, I’m now going to become something else, I’m going to do something else, not usually. It happened blade by blade. That something catches our fancy. [1:20:38]
Another ideal, there’s a god, another ideal comes to mind and we start pursuing that. And then we get immersed and then we have a bright idea and another idea and then more immersion and after awhile our dedication to dharma is entirely lip service. And we may say oh my life is dharma. And everybody’s laughing. So those are the gods, those are the gods, and for us I think those are the gods, don’t go for refuge. And people do in modernity I mean I see this all the time. Stephen Hawking, this brilliant man and I would very much enjoy the movie on his life it was very, very moving. Entirely secular man which is totally understandable. But he made a comment some years ago with all of his enormous [influence] and he must be one of the most famous scientists on the planet right. An icon and one might imagine with that kind of, and his accomplishments awesome and his brilliance awesome, his colleagues awesome, one might think that he would just take enormous satisfaction that he’d just wake up every morning thinking I’m Stephen Hawking, you know. But he said the one thing really brings meaning to my life, really brings me happiness, is my family, my family that’s what he said. I think he could probably just retire, lose his reputation, whatever but if he still had his family, I think he would be quite happy. That was he indicated I think, yeah. So what’s his refuge. Is it god, Jesus, Buddharma? What’s his refuge? His refuge is his family. And you say, I’m not speaking denigratingly or anything like that, but that’s just the literal truth. That’s his refuge that’s what he goes to for protection, for happiness, for the meaning of his life. And when I read that, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I felt kind of like this tremor in heart for him and thinking have you ever heard of the family where they’re all in the car at the same time and they have a head-on collision with a drunk driver, and then suddenly your refuge just disappeared from the face of the planet and I thought oh I would be afraid, if my refuge were my family. I love my family, I think you all love your families, but if that’s your ultimate refuge, be afraid. They will vanish whether it’s an automobile accident or old age or cancer or just moving away. Which is one thing we know, I mean wherever there’s meeting there is parting, And so if you’re taking refuge in something where there’s a coming together, then know there’s going to be a parting. This is why refuge has to go beyond the appearances, individual teachers, His Holiness. Any teacher, it’s got to be deeper than that, because when all is said and done, teachers come and go. Most of my teachers are gone. Most of my teachers were raised in Tibet, trained in Tibet. I am now a geezer and they are no longer geezers you know most of them are gone. So I can’t meet them anymore but does this mean my practice is impoverished? I’m not setting myself up as something special but is my practice depleted and malnourished because so many of my lamas have passed away? The answer is no. That’s not how they taught me, they taught me well. When I was a youngster I memorized a couple hundred pages of dharma, we all did, everybody did that was in the monastery. Can’t remember those anymore [laughs] they’re gone. That’s normal in the geshe training, you memorise Abhisamayalamkara, Madhyamakakavatara, ] we memorized all of the Lorig, , Buddhist psychology we memorize all the old [?1:25:16] texts, we memorized the whole [?1:25:18] text on logic, we memorized it all, everybody did, there’s nothing special. I can’t remember any of that anymore. That’s ok, the meaning is kind of there. So the refuge has to go beyond the appearances. Beyond the appearances of the temples, the monasteries, the books, the people, it has to go deeper than that. And not taking refuge in anything that is, an idol. How about that one, an idol. [1:25:24]
The Sutra of the great Liberation states: One who has gone for refuge in the buddhas is a genuine upasaka, This is a person who holds the lay precepts. and never does one seek refuge in other gods. Since you have gone for refuge in the dharma do not so that was relevant to refuge in the Buddha and then now refuge relevant to refuge in the Dharma, this is really crucial. This one has no defense mechanisms coming in. Since you have gone for refuge in the dharma, and I will to add this, the buddhadharma is rooted in compassion. Were the buddha not motivated by compassion then there would be no buddhadharma. That’s just a factual statement. Since you’ve gone for refuge in the dharma, do not inflict injury upon sentient beings. A sutra states: Once you have gone for refuge in the holy Dharma, be free of thoughts of inflicting harm and injury. Then we have the Sangha, Since you have gone for refuge in the Sangha, do not devote yourself to extremists. People who hold views, who follow behavior, conduct, that is contrary, to incompatible with the teachings of the buddha, The Way of Life taught by the buddha. A sutra states: Once you’ve gone for refuge in the Sangha, do not veer toward extremists. We are almost finished. 3. The three affiliated practices include: reverence toward images of the Tathagata, which represents the Jewel of the Buddha, and even a satsa or saccha fragment You know the little clay tablets clay images, just a fragment. just a chip of such an image; Show reverence there, it’s symbolic, but show reverence. reverence towards volumes of Dharma, treat each one with reverence which represent the Jewel of the Dharma, So these are all symbolic, but symbols are powerful. Symbols for evil, are very powerful. The swastika is a very powerful image now ever since the arise of, and you see that bam,the connotations and , I mean it’s just a diagram and it’s a Buddhist diagram for heavens sakes. So to the Buddhists it was just immutability, the immutability of dharma and great and then the Nazis took it over and now when anybody sees it except for the person is very damaged mind it’s just a symbol but oh boy what a symbol. That’s just one of many, the cross, the star, the crescent, so many symbols, the American flag. People boy. Symbols are powerful, burn it, watch what happens. So symbols are what’s important, symbols are important, they’re part of our lives, they’re everywhere. They should be taken seriously and this is taken seriously in a very, how do you say, beneficial way. So reverence towards volumes of dharma, which represent the Jewel of the Dharma, and even a single syllable of such texts; and reverence to the garments of the Revealer, That is the Buddha. which represent the Jewel of the Sangha, and even a yellow patch of such cloth. These are symbolic of the clothes of the ordained sangha. Even that, it’s symbolic, show reverence, it means something, it’s beneficial.
These are the eight benefits of going for refuge: (1) you enter into the community of the Buddhists; the Buddhadharma, (2) this becomes the basis for all vows; you do want to take lay precepts, monastic precepts, bodhisattva, vajrayana. (3) all your previous misdeeds call it sin, call it misdeeds, harmful, harmful, harmful karma are extinguished; This all needs some commentary but we’ll just go through it for the time being. (4) you are not afflicted by human or non-human obstructive forces; (5) you accomplish everything you intend; And don’t put a time limit on that one and (6) your mind stream becomes endowed with great merit; (7) you do not descend to miserable states of existence; and (8) you swiftly, manifestly achieve perfect enlightenment. This is receiving the Mahayana Vows of Refuge.
[1:29:24] So there it is. It is 6 o’clock but just a tiny commentary here. This is classic teachings of course, classic and it’s true for all the schools of Mahayana Buddhism. It’s not Kagyu or anything like that. But taking refuge, I mean it’s a very Buddhist phrase, but it refers to something that everybody does. Everybody entrusts themselves to something or someone. It’s I think maybe there’re a few here but their lives are so impoverished that their only objects of compassion, and these are people - I just don’t trust anybody, I don’t rely on anybody, the world sucks, people are awful, I’m just going to stand by myself. That’s really a tough row to hoe. That’s difficult that’s not that’s not a bountiful life, if everybody was living a bountiful life in any way they’re taking refuge. When I was in Florence last summer I had this persistent toothache. I took refuge in the dentist in Florence he did a really good job, got root canal, started in Florence ended in Santa Barbara, but I took refuge. I don’t know how to give myself a root canal and it sounds really awful to try to do it to yourself, that would be really awkward even if I were a dentist that would be, I’d have to take refuge in somebody who knows teeth better than I do. And so we take refuge all the time. Spouses take refuge in each other, they entrust themselves to each other, with confidence, with trust. And so and then people who have money want to invest it, they may even entrust, entrust themselves to a financial counselor and that kind of thing and so on. It’s everywhere. You can entrust your children to the school and the teachers that are having a strong influence on them 6, 7 hours a day. That’s trust that’s refuge. These are the jewels of your heart your own children and you’re entrusting them to other people. Homeschooling them all the way to college, difficult. And so when it comes to our hedonic well being there’re a lot of really good refuges out there. Good dentists, good doctors, good teachers and so forth and so on. But then within the context of this life we have a hedonic well being that we all know is very very important. And for which there is a lot of help utterly outside of the scope of the Buddhadharma. Totally good help, my dentist I doubt very much that he was human, but it was the only time I’ve ever been to the dentist, I’m telling you the truth here. He was just taking care of it temporarily because we knew we would be doing all the major work back in California. This was, no it really was, the most pleasant encounter I’ve ever had with a dentist in my life, and I tell you why. He would come in here he was so sweet I mean he created an opening because it’s like I need it right now the next day I had an appointment right there in Florence. And he invited me and it was a spic and span great clinic a great clinic. He invited me in and he had his two lovely assistants I enjoyed them too but are you ready for the punch line? As he’s working on my teeth he sang, I’m not kidding, and he had a good voice. He sang, it was like I am Italian and you are the recipient. I don’t know what he was singing but it really sounded cool. And I thought wow this is a guy I could take refuge in. Anybody who loves his work so much that he sings while he’s working on other people’s molars he’s got to be good. So for hedonia we have wonderful Italian dentists. But when it comes to eudomonia, really who do we take refuge in, who do we trust, it’s a simple thing, it’s not a catechism. It’s not did you get all your beliefs right, how many hells are there 17 or 18? It’s not that, it’s not to say that’s insignificant, but it’s not a catechism. That’s not what determines Buddhists from non Buddhists. It’s trust, it really is. It’s a nice ordinary term, it’s trust. And if you trust the Buddha, his Enlightenment, his life, his words, his impact on the world. If you trust what we have is this dharma that has been passed down over a hundred generations. If you can trust that these are in fact the teachings of the Buddha. If you trust those who most sublimely embody the qualities of the buddhadharma, then you’re a buddhist, that’s it. And if you don’t, it doesn’t matter what you call yourself, or how many beliefs you have, you’re not a Buddhist. It’s a matter of trust. And within the context of this lifetime which we have no idea how short it is going to be. This one friend of mine said, he’s about my age, he said, I’m now too old to die young. [laughter] if I died now, nobody would say, oh he died so young. Nobody’s going to think, that ship has sailed. But for hedonia, refuges are many, but within the context of this life, that which we can see, that which is evident, for those of us who are aware of and I think we all are, otherwise we wouldn’t be in this room. Eudomonia, genuine happiness, genuine well being, the meaning of life, according to his Holiness the Dalai Lama and so many other great sages east and west religious and nonreligious Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Taoists, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Sufis and so forth and so on, it’s really perennial wisdom. That the cultivation, the unveiling of eudomonia, of genuine well being, the buddha said Find what truly makes you happy and follow it.
[1:35:20] And so, but then, how do we cultivate it? How do we succeed? How do we realize, an ever ripening, flowering sense of a genuine well being. Who’s the expert who really knows about that, within the context of this lifetime you might look to the buddha. He was free, you might look to the dharma that’s what it’s all about, the dharma is a way of viewing reality, engaging with reality that brings forth an enduring sense of well being which cannot be anything other than, eudomonia. Or in Buddhism it’s called Satsukha sublime well being or Samyaksukha authentic well being. All of buddhadharma is about that. Arising from ethics, arising from samadhi, the cultivation of the mind, arising from wisdom. So if that’s your passion then it’s hard to do that on one’s own because our minds really are strongly influenced by mental afflictions but that’s within the context of this life. That’s a really good reason to take refuge here and then when we consider one of the not unprecedented insights, but enormously important direct discoveries by the Buddha and that is the continuity of individual consciousness after death. That just is a game changer, everything changes. I mean just an almost unimaginable changes, if we incorporate that into our vision of who we are and what’s the nature of reality. It just couldn’t be more different. One is playing for peanuts, it’s like playing with poker and playing with peanut shells. Really because you can die at any minute. So if you win, you lose, if you succeed, you don’t. When you’re dead, you’re terminated so it’s kind of end game, it’s over. So that was a really small game. The stakes were so low you could hardly even see them. You’re out, you’re obliterated, you become a non-entity. Boy is that game over. So if that’s what we’re dealing with here then, the stakes are low. The stakes are really low and then you open up to the indestructibility of the flow of consciousness, that is like matter energy, is like space-time. It can transform in all kinds of ways but you cannot make it become nothing. And when you get that one, when the spear of that truth penetrates your heart, it just changes everything. And then you think oh my goodness. I have some idea how to live a sensible life, I have a sense of conscience, a sense of right and wrong in this lifetime. But if I can never depart from reality, if that’s never, ever, for eternity, an option, to just say, reality no thanks I’m out of here, and become a non-entity, if that’s not even an option then, caramba![wow!] The stakes, the stakes have now gone infinite, from peanut shells to Mount Meru. I mean it couldn’t be larger. And now who can give me some guidance on this one. That I would like every life to be meaningful, every life to move in a direction of goodness, of virtue, of happiness, of wisdom. That’s what I want. I don’t want to be in this, that’s already hell realm, wandering around with no dharma that’s already hell realm as far as I’m concerned. No dharma and no teachers no nothing just where’s the money, where’s the fame, where’s the power, that’s just I’ve already arrived in hell as far as I’m concerned. That is a life not worth living, let alone, life after life after life. That just scares the crap out of me. To think that that might ever happen. And yet it is has happened, that’s where it goes to Mahayana vows of refuge. It has happened to many people, it’s their reality right now. They have no idea in any language, what dharma is, what a path is, how to cultivate it. They have no idea. And then it’s Mahayana vows of refuge. Really there’s only one thing to be done. And the enormity of that. I mean it just seems so simple. There’s only one thing to be done, and that’s become a buddha as quickly as possible, to be of greatest possible service, to bring people out of the darkness of their own delusion, their own ignorance. And then who can lead us to perfect enlightenment, well that’s kind of an obvious one, the Buddha. And what do we practice to get there? The Dharma. And who’ll help us along the way? The Sangha. Welcome to the Mahayana vows of refuge.
Enjoy the evening, see you tomorrow morning.
Transcribed by KrissKringle Sprinkle
Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Final edition by Cheri Langston.