05 Apr 2016
Alan begins with a commentary on the four immeasurables that ended yesterday with the meditative cultivation of equanimity, and explains how we are now left on an even open field which is in many ways the culmination of the monastic ideal. One has now stepped out of the realm of likes and dislikes and into the realm of evenly distributed warmth, kindness and compassion. This serves as the basis for crossing the threshold into the Mahayana, where this equality extends into the equality of self and other. Here we venture into what Alan calls “the Four Greats”, starting with maha karuna - Great Compassion. When we move from the four “Immeasurables” to the four “Greats”, we move from aspiration to intention.
Alan starts with maha karuna because this practice is very much emphasised in the Mahayana tradition, and when someone is suffering this is where we start. First we relieve the suffering, and then we can look to the vision of happiness. Maha karuna, if logically followed, can only lead to Bodhicitta. Before the meditation Alan unpacks the four-fold maha karuna liturgy.
Meditation is on Great Compassion following the four-fold liturgy.
After the meditation Alan starts with a quote from St.Thomas Aquinas. “The whole point of of the political life is the contemplative life.” He expounds on this briefly as meaning broadly that the whole purpose of the hedonia is for eudaimonia. Then he returns to the chapter on Refuge and Bodhicitta at the top of page 33. He then proceeds through to the rest of the chapter with explanations. Among other things, he highlights the fact that Bodhicitta is the most powerful way to accrue merit, and he also quotes the Vajra Essence which affirms that when you’ve identified rigpa, it doesn’t matter how extremely bad or good you’ve been in the past: now you have an unmediated realisation of rigpa and that is what matters from that point on. Finishing the chapter, Alan leaves us with the fact that Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche told one of his students that if one isn’t inclined to do the preliminary practices of 100,000 prostrations and so forth, he recommends to practice shamatha, the four applications of mindfulness and the four immeasurables.
The meditation starts at 32:52
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Olaso. So we’ve come to the culmination of a first, a certain, of a current, or an evolution through the loving kindness, the immeasurable loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. It comes out to this large even, open plain. And this really, this culmination here really summarises much of the, the feel of the monastic ideal, the monastic ideal, which is very much the sravaka, the sravaka ideal of this pursuit of your own liberation. And I just want to emphasise I find nothing wrong with that. It’s not something degraded, to seek your own liberation when you are suffering, what’s wrong with that? It‘s limited but it’s certainly better than anything less ... that’s tautological of course but I think you know what I mean. So the culmination of the monastic ideal in this regard is that when one steps out of the householder’s life into the homeless life, literally, you know, voluntarily become, becoming homeless, if one becomes a monastic, the ideal is that you not only treat but you view everyone as if being equally close and distant. And this is the ideal, and that is you step out, and you probably enter the monastic community, ideally you do. But then whoever comes to you, whether it’s your dearest family member, maybe a cherished brother, or a sister or your own mother, whether it’s a complete stranger or somebody who was really the town bully and beat you up regularly when you were a kid, you know, your worst enemy, that your way of engaging with them, the way of viewing them, it’s completely even. Completely even. And so it can look cold, and it’s not. Of course, it can go cold but it’s an aberration. But it’s not cold. But the way of greeting even one’s own mother would be … you are one of my infinite mothers. The affection would be there but the whole point is no attachment. No attachment to your own mum, to your own family, your dearest childhood buddy, and so forth; no attachment of course to gender, attractive people, unattractive people and no aversion to attractive people, unattractive people and so on. Just a complete evenness. That you’ve stepped out of that whole network of like and don’t like. [2:40]
I remember years ago when I was a monk in the late 70’s in Switzerland, I made some casual comment to Geshe Rabten, who’s like the monk’s monk. He was really a monk, and I made some comment about really liking somebody, nothing sexual or anything, just I like this person, and Geshe Rabten kind of came down on me and said, [laughter], uh, uh not that, I thought you are beyond that, of I like this person, I don’t like this person, that’s not monk, that’s not a monk. Where—one person—oh I really like you, and then oh oh there’s you, [laughter], you are not a monk, it’s the same old I prefer you over him, you know, that’s not the monk, that’s just the same old, a bit more attachment here, a little bit less there, you know. So and it can be easily, if one does not understand, it can easily be seen as aloofness and indifference. And it may be, in which case as I said it’s a total aberration. But it’s not that. The affection, the warmth, the kindness, the sense of connectedness can be stronger than almost anything you’ve ever seen. I mean take His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he’s the monks’ monk. Ooh, he’s a real monk. And then I’ve known him now for close to 45 years. I’ve never seen him in any way indicate, oh I really like this person. He will refer to people as this friend of course, he does that, of course. But I’m an old disciple of him. He has known me personally for a long time. But when I see him, I never sense attachment. Or when I’m leaving, never feel, oh, he is going to miss me. [laughter]. Ya, the Dalai Lama says, Oh, where’s Alan gone? It’s not happening. It’s not happening. He doesn’t miss me at all. And I am very glad he doesn’t because he has better things to do. So there we are, that’s where it’s going, you know. [4:44]
But especially in the case like His Holiness and when I was lingering, and Gyatso Rinpoche’s the same, just such warmth and such kindness but it is evenly distributed and there’s no-one who is not family. As His Holiness was once asked, do you ever feel lonely? Remember his answer, I never feel lonely. I always feel connected with those around about. He travels all over the world, how many countries has he been to right now, I never feel alien. I never feel I am going to a foreign place where people are … I feel fundamentally, everywhere I go, fundamentally people are the same. The German, Brazilian, Egyptian, American - the same. He is not interested in differences. I mean casually, on the surface—oh this is interesting. This is how the traditional Taiwanese are. He got a lecture on that once, how Taiwanese are quite different from Westerners. He was interested. But then he says, but now tell us more about the common ground, you know, the common ground. That’s what I’m really interested in. The other one is interesting. Not very. The common ground. So there we are. So we see really at its best. And I have seen it. I’ve seen it at its best in many of my teachers. Really have. Like it’s not hypothetical. That’s what giving, it’s really enduring inspiration, you know and then when it starts coming within, well then all the better.
But seeing this is not just history. It’s not just an ideal that we talk about. But seeing it embodied is really, really inspiring. So there it is. And one can see clearly the people who are religious, not religious, Hinayana, Mahayana, blah blah blah, this is really open to everyone. Whether you believe in God or reincarnation or you don’t. Even to everyone. But now we are going to use this as a basis for crossing a threshold, crossing like a continental divide into another domain, which is clearly Mahayana, it’s clearly, clearly bodhisattva. Bodhisattva. As we move from this equanimity, this evenness or in Shantideva [Tibetan? 6:46], the equality of self and other. So there’s on the one hand, the equality of everyone else out there, the whole field, equally being family, but then we go in a way deeper. Now we’re really going head to head so self-cherishing, self-centredness is a better translation, self centeredness, that we are all equal, and I wish you all well but I’m leaving and I’m heading out and I’m never coming back. But I equally wish you all well but you’ll never see me again. Arhat ideal. Which clearly, how can one avoid the conclusion that I do cherish my getting out more than I cherish continuing to stay on in this great ocean of samsara, how can you? How can one avoid that conclusion, I mean it’s, I don’t think you can. And then Shantideva comes in, the bodhisattva ideal comes in, and said, well, an evenness, an evenness of every other person, every other person, that we found, any person, you are no less dear to me than I am to me. Yeah. No, you, the person I don’t know very well, no less dear to me than I am to me. That’s the bodhisattva’s way. [8:12]
And then the first time I ever translated for His Holiness, I’m kind of rambling a little bit here, but I remember very vividly the first time I translated for His Holiness I was scared to death. It was in Switzerland, it was in Mt. Pelerin in 1979, ninety seventy, yep, 1979 ... And 5000 people there, the number of them bilingual, Tibetan and English. And I was translating for them. I was scared, it scared the daylights out of me. But he did make this comment. He said, you know, you set yourself here and you set all sentient beings there, which is more important? Collectively now, here’s one body, all sentient beings except for me, and then me, and now which one is more important? That was easy. [laughs]. One on one, no difference, Bianca ? and me? No higher or lower, none more precious, but not less precious, but as soon as we have Bianca and Maryka, well, that’s two against one, [laughs], two versus one, that’s easy. I can do arithmetic. Two is greater than one. If you can save, two people, and one has to be sacrificed and that one is you. That means, you can sacrifice yourself. One on one, well, then we have to talk. [laughter]
[8:38] So we’re crossing the threshold here, and we have these, they are not even called anything except for I just call them the four greats, but I’ve never heard them not called [Tibetan? 9:48], they are not called the four greats in Tibetan. But it is mahakaruna and I will do it in a sequence. Do you remember, Glen, there maybe other scholars here, in our standard liturgy, the standard liturgy of why couldn’t all sentient beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. And then of course corresponding to loving kindness, the liturgy, do you remember, does it start with compassion or does it start with loving kindness? Do you remember?
[Glen answers, inaudible].
Could well be. I think it probably is, because that’s the sequence for the four immeasurables. And I am going to do a little switch-a-roo on it, not a big deal, but for this reason it’s not just something I’m making up, but when you venture into the bodhisattva way of life, among the four immeasurables, the one that is highlighted more than any other, is clearly mahakaruna. No question about it. And when it’s said that the root of all of the buddha’s teachings is compassion. Why did the buddha after abiding in his enlightenment for 49 days under the bodhi tree, why did he get up? Because he was needing nothing. He’d come to complete, ultimate, absolute satisfaction. There was nothing missing. So why move? We move, we know why. Because we’re not satisfied. We move because we’re not satisfied. And we move some place else hoping to find some satisfaction, and everybody is moving everywhere and nobody is finding satisfaction, right? But here’s a man who sat beneath the bodhi tree and achieved perfect awakening and after dwelling there in total satisfaction, he still moved. And why? And it was compassion. It was nothing from his side, there was nothing he needed to do to cause him to move anywhere. He’d arrived. Right? It was only compassion. And was it simply immeasurable compassion? No, it wasn’t. I think it’s straight logic. It was not simply immeasurable compassion. Because immeasurable compassion is, as we have seen, an aspiration. But mahakaruna is more than an aspiration. This is the big deal. It’s not just playing with words. Mahakaruna is more than than aspiration. It is an intention. [11:54]
I aspire, I would like to win the lottery. I have no intention of winning the lottery ticket because I have no intention of buying a lottery ticket. I have no expectations anybody would get me one. Why would they? And I don’t really care. But sure, would I like to? Sure. Would I like to have a whole bundle of money just drop in my lap, that could make a lot of contemplative observatories. [laughter]. Yeah, I‘d like that, but I have no intention of doing it. None, right. And so we can have aspirations, wishes, desires all over the place. But not all desires turn into or catalyse intention. Intention is more like a commitment. It’s like you’re in motion, right. And so the four immeasurables are aspirations. One is taking delight in virtue, the other, all of the other three are all aspirations. But as soon as we go to the mahakaruna, we start with a question, it goes to an aspiration and that goes into an intention. I can spend the whole hour and half on this but I like to be kind of concise, do it in the practice. But I’ll give you the standard liturgy. And I’ve translated it and I think I must have translated it last year. It’s very straightforward and it’s been translated many times. So I think I can pluck it out from the notes from last year. But here is how it runs, I want to give you a sneak preview and then I can speak a little bit less during the meditation. [13:17]
But the cultivation of the great compassion, mahakaruna, begins with a question. A very juicy question, it’s not a rhetorical question and that is, in Tibetan [?13:32]. It’s a question. Why couldn’t all sentient beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering? When one witnesses the amount of suffering, just that we can see within our bandwidth of human mind. So we can see the suffering of human beings, we can sense the suffering to some extent of animals, many of them show it when they are in pain, and then beyond our bandwidth, there’s pretas, hell-beings, asuras, devas and so forth, beyond our bandwidth of an ordinary human mind. But we get a good sampling, I mean, there’s certainly, especially in the human realm, we have a sampling, a very big sampling of hell-like agony, physical and mental, really hell-like. And then within the still human being, the celestial-like bliss you know, ecstasy and so forth. So we have a big bandwidth, that’s something unique about the human existence. So we have a huge sampling of what the possibilities are within that sampling, as we attend closely we be aware of the amount of suffering in the world, and that’s just on our planet, the human, go to the animal and then there’s a staggering, greater amount of suffering. And we see this. And then a kind of existential question comes up, and that is—if one has a sense and maybe it’s experiential, maybe it’s intuitive, maybe you’ve strong empirical evidence, that at least someone, some human being, some sentient being can actually be free, you actually have confidence, there have been arhats in the past who became totally, irreversibly free of suffering and its causes and they will never ever suffer again, mentally. If you see that, or the Buddha, or maybe you’ve encountered someone like that, but you see it’s possible, then you can say, okay, here we are, we’re all sentient beings, we are essentially very similar in this regard and then we know of this person here—Buddha Shakyamuni, or this one, or this one, Padmasambhava, Nagarjuna, Tsongkhapa, Sakya Pandita, whoever it maybe, they achieve freedom, total irreversible freedom from suffering and its causes, and if they could, then why couldn’t all sentient beings? Let’s not put a timeline on it but just in principle, why couldn’t all sentient beings be free, you know? And is there a reason why some couldn’t or everybody couldn’t, it is just mutants that, you know, Tsongkhapa is a mutant, or Padmasambhava is a mutant, or is only mutants can achieve liberation? There’s no reason to believe there are mutants, there’s no indication of that. Milarepa was very strong on this point. Another enlightened being. But he said: do not think that I came in as a tulku or I came in as some exalted noble being. Well he killed 35 people, that’s not too noble. And so he did something really, really awful. He was a serial killer, a mass murderer.
There’s no way to spin that that sounds nice because that’s what he was. And then went from there to achieving enlightenment in one lifetime. Okay, if Milarepa, if he can achieve enlightenment, then why couldn’t everybody? Why couldn’t everyone be free? So the question is there and it’s not just something to gloss over. In Tibetan Buddhism, we turn a lot of things that are very deep meditation and we turn them into liturgy. [makes a gesture with sound]. Finish with them in 10 seconds, you know. Too bad. [16:48]
So it starts with that question. [Tibetan? 16:52.] And then if you have some intuition, there’s no reason why all sentient beings couldn’t be free of suffering and its causes, and as His Holiness points out, just go ahead and start pointing your finger, is there any reason Michelle couldn’t be? Is there any reason Brandon couldn’t be free? Any reason that anyone of us couldn’t be free, one by one, is there anybody who is kind of a rotten apple right to the core? And you could say—well you know—not you? Well that person would have to have no buddha nature. Would have to be rotten to the core. And there’s nobody like that. And so well if that’s the case, then in principle then every single sentient being could, given enough time, given the appropriate cause and conditions coming together, if each one could be free, then the next phase of the liturgy goes [Tibetan? 17:45], may we be free, may it be so. And now this aspiration, we start with a question, a really deep question and then if we get some clearing, like the clouds vanish and the sun shines through, we’d say—there’s no reason, one by one, that each sentient being couldn’t become free. But they have to find the right cause and conditions coming together. Doesn’t happen by accident. Then, may it be so, it’s just a general … [Tibetan?18:11], may it be so, may we be free of suffering and its causes. Good. So far so good, that’s still right there in the realm of immeasurable compassion. Same, it’s the same. [18:21]
Now here’s where we cross the continental divide, we cross a watershed and it’s a phenomenal statement. And on the one hand from the one perspective, it sounds ridiculous and the other hand, it sounds awesome. [Tibetan?18:37 ] I shall free us. I shall free us all. I shall free us all, that’s the one. That’s the one where if you are snoozing through the dharma talk, and then, I’m encouraging you, Rhonda, think—”I shall liberate all sentient beings throughout space. I shall do that.” It’s an intention like “I shall buy, 'oh Alan, you need some eggs? or you have a dirty shirt, I’ll wash it.” So Maryka washed one of my shirts, thank you. But she said, “I’ll do it”, she took an intention, and lo and behold I have a clean shirt. So you are ready, Maryka? You are ready for, 'I shall liberate all sentient beings throughout space from all suffering and the causes of suffering. It’s an intention just like offering to wash somebody’s shirt. That means you’re actually going to do it. She did it in one day. All sentient beings—longer than one day. Right.
But as soon as that comes up, this, that one, that phrase right there, I’ve seen it, I’ve seen that phrase in Tibetan years ago and I’ve not been able to identify it again but I saw it. And then source vanished. But the phrase was this - and that is, this great bodhichitta awakens or arouses, if you have someone slumbering and you can shake them by the shoulder, [Tibetan word Sepa? 20:00], it’s awakening, arousing them, because [snoring sound], like that- they’re sleeping. That this great bodhicitta [Sepa? Tibetan ] awakens, arouses your buddha nature as if it’s sleeping, as if it’s quiet, as if it’s dormant, as if it’s hibernating, as if it is inactive. And so here we are, very active, as sentient beings, identifying with our own personal history and all that business, and then wanting this and wanting to avoid that, proceeding on life’s path, right. Being activated, acting as a sentient being. And from that perspective, then buddha nature seems to be a potential, something I don’t see, I believe in. There have been buddhas in the past. I am not different, a total different entity entirely. And therefore the Buddha Shakyamuni manifested his potential. I have the potential, if I bring all the causes and conditions together, I can manifest my potential buddha nature and then I can manifest it to become a buddha. So from a sentient being’s perspective, buddha nature seems like a potential, a possibility, a capacity. A capacity. Like holding a seed that has the capacity to turn into an oak tree. Right. But it’s not an oak tree. That’s the thing. An acorn is not an oak tree. No guaranteeing that it will become an oak tree. But causes and conditions and that could germinate into an oak tree. Like that, it’s like a seed, a potential. [21:28]
And for 20 years that’s all I heard. That Buddha nature’s a potential, potential, potential. And then Dzogchen and Mahamudra comes in. They say, yeah, but how about you shift your perspective? Instead of looking at buddha nature from the perspective of who you’re familiar with—yourself as a sentient being, which is a perfectly good, well not perfectly good, at least an adequate perspective, it’s an authentic perspective because we are sentient beings. Instead of that, how about you shift perspective? If you could shift perspective and view reality from your buddha nature and from that perspective look upon yourself as a sentient being, you as a sentient being look like an illusion. And your identity as a buddha is real, primordially, timelessly, ultimately real. And this phantasm, this image, this hallucination, of being a sentient being, is like a, like a psychedelic trip. Just an illusion. And these both have their validity. And so when we arouse this aspiration, if we can actually do it authentically—I shall liberate all sentient beings from suffering and the causes of suffering. Every single one. If it’s sincere, and it’s not an expression of megalomania, narcissism, or sheer flat out psychosis, thinking that this sentient being known as Alan Wallace, who will be dead in a relatively short time, that I shall liberate all sentient beings from suffering and the causes of suffering, that’s crazy talk. That’s crazy talk, right. I mean I’ve got maybe minutes, maybe years, maybe a couple decades to live and then no more Alan Wallace, will not exist anywhere. I mean, nowhere at all, right. So if that’s my point of identity, if that’s my perspective from this guy from California, I shall—that’s crazy talk, that’s crazy talk, right? [23:37]
And so we are not invited to go crazy. We bring our craziness too. We don’t need to find more craziness in buddhadharma. [laughter]. And if I should cut through that very ephemeral sense of identity as being this man, that’s a matter of decades, but not centuries, we all know human life span, and if we should cut through that to this ground of becoming, the bhavanga, or the substrate consciousness, subtle continuum, mental consciousness from which this short story emerges, this chapter emerges, called my life, if we tap into that, that continuum, there’s no beginning, no end. Then, but is still within samsara, we can ask, well, how about, how does this, how does that match, how does that fit, from the perspective of my own individual continuum of subtle mental consciousness to then call out to the universe, ‘I shall liberate all sentient beings from suffering and the causes of suffering’ and the universe might call back, ‘have you freed yourself?’ [laughs]
It’s like saying I will liberate everybody from all of their debt, by the way how are you doing, oh my credit card’s killing me. [laughter]. I am totally maxed out all my visa cards and my American Express, but I’m going to deliver all you from debt. And you might say, yeah, you might want to pay off your credit cards first before, you know, before the big talk. The big talk. So it doesn’t really make any sense still, even in that, you know, infinitely longer continuum than this little snapshot called a human life. So it’s kind of obvious. There’s only one perspective from which this intention actually makes any sense at all. It’s not just crazy talk. And it is only from the perspective of your buddha nature, pristine awareness, primordial consciousness, the innate mind of clear light. From that perspective, which is dharmakaya, which is nothing, nothing other than dharmakaya. From that perspective, this timeless, all-pervasive, transcendent, infinitely compassionate, infinitely wise, vastly, vastly capable dimension of consciousness, the buddha mind, from that perspective, identifying with that perspective, identifying with that mind and saying I shall liberate all sentient beings from suffering and its causes, the answer is—well yeah of course, that’s your job. [laughs]. That’s the job, that’s the buddha’s job. From the Mahayana perspective, that’s your job description, they just said it. You are here for as long space remains, for as long as time remains, for as long as sentient beings remain, you are here to manifest your full wisdom, compassion and power to liberate all sentient beings. So yeah, of course. But from our perspective as we arouse that intention, then it stirs something. Either you are just going cuckoo, thinking I, Alan Wallace, or I, my bhavanga is going to do that, which is silly, or you just drop down, you drop down and you stir something in your existential depths, the depths of your own Buddha nature and you stir it. If I can be a bit silly, it will be like, ‘you talking to me? you talking to me?’ From buddha nature up to Alan Wallace floating on the surface up in the the pond scum, ‘you talking to me.’ [laughs]. Totally silly, I know. [27:13]
But it kind of wakes it up because that’s the only perspective from which this makes any sense. So you stir your own buddha nature, you arouse, you awaken, and then you say—”boy okay, there’s my mission.” In other words, this actually makes sense. With no timeline on it but this makes sense, this makes ultimate sense, this is ultimate meaning. And then the liturgy comes to the end and we’ll stop and go right to the meditation, but I wanted to introduce you to it so you kind of see what’s coming. And then the final phrase of the liturgy ever so simple is [Tibetan? 27:52]. May the guru and the divine, and just let’s put in, buddha or buddhas, may the guru, the buddhas, the guru [hyphen]—the buddhas bless me, grant the blessing to enable me to do so. So I am viewing from that perspective. But again I really can’t do that until this perspective has completely manifested. And I am manifestly awake. That’s only when I can really do that, carry through that intention and for that I really need some help and then we call upon the blessings of the lama, [Tibetan Lama-la 28:29] the guru, the gurus, singular, plural, you can’t tell the difference in Tibetan, so it’s plural, and then [la] the divine, the myriad, the myriad meditation deities, the yidams, the buddhas of the three times and so forth, that you call for blessings, you call for blessings. That you can actually carry through and achieve your intent. So that’s great compassion. And since it is the one that is highlighted more than any others among the four greats, because there’s great loving kindness and so forth, and it just seems to me to be eminently sensible, meaningful and seamless. From immeasurable equanimity to great compassion. Because if a person’s suffering, if a person’s suffering, and they’d really like to be happy and be joyful, then what’s the first thing you will do, you know, if they’d been seriously injured, but they also have some vision of their own happiness, of something that will bring them great happiness, what would you do first? Help them buy their dream house, or whatever it may be, their vision of their happiness, or help them with their broken bones, and, you know, bleeding out on the side of the highway? First of all, you’d help them with the suffering because that’s what really catches the attention, and you’d bring them up to give them some relief, and so, phew, like that. And now that you’re okay now, you’re okay, you’re recovering, you’re going to be fine, and now what was it again that you thought will really bring you happiness? I think there would be a sequence there, wouldn’t it? You’d first of all relieve them of their suffering, especially if it’s right in their face, it’s really intense, you’d first relieve their suffering and then, and then you would say—and now what is your vision? Well the first vision is I’d like to be free of suffering, the second vision would be—I think I’d like to be a buddha. [laughs] So there we are and then the sequence, and then we move on to the final two, which we’ll get to in due course. So that’s a little introduction, and this is where we cross over into the bodhisattva ideal. So I’m going to run through that again but now I can use much fewer words but I wanted to fill out context and invite you into this, really now, if you slip into this one, I can say this, if you slip into this one, where this great bodhichitta is really great compassion, [snaps fingers], is really rising in your mind, you’ve slipped into a stream, that if you just follow the breadcrumbs, follow the implications, follow it out, it can lead you in only one direction, and that is bodhichitta. Four immeasurables could or could not, either way, it can go either way, you can just go off to your own liberation or you may head out on the bodhisattva’s path. Or you may become a marvellous Christian or a marvellous Muslim, or whatever, you can go in multiple ways. But as soon as you cross that threshold into great compassion, and then you follow out, you can say follow out the logic, then it has to go to bodhichitta. So you slipped into a stream. This will take you to bodhichitta, okay. But it does need that evenness, that evenness. Otherwise it’s just partiality all the way along, right. Evenness of immeasurable equanimity is the basis for the whole bodhisattva path. Okay. Good. Please find a comfortable position. [32:05]
Bell rings. [32:57]
[33:32] With a sense of descent, of falling into a sense of ease, of looseness, of relaxation, surrender. Let your body, speech and mind, descend, that’s the term in Tibetan. Descend, to a state of rest. Natural state. Step by step.
[35: 44] When we mentally turn our awareness outwards, to the world all around about us, above and below, to all the sides, all the directions to the sides, we drink in the world. We attend closely to the world around us. The myriad of suffering, the ocean of suffering, the total bandwidth. The cycle of ageing, sickness and death, the many, many manifestations of suffering, of dukkha. When we open our hearts and minds to the enormity of suffering just within the human population, the animal population, let alone myriad worlds beyond our own planet.
We bring to this the awareness that every sentient being like ourselves wishes to be free of suffering and to find happiness. We also bring to this the awareness that the inner causes of suffering are not intrinsic, not indelible, are not hardwired, but we can actually be free. When we bring this understanding to this reality, the question may then may very well arise from the depths of the heart if one sentient being, a hundred sentient beings, a thousand sentient beings can be free, have been freed, if innumerable sentient beings have been freed, why couldn’t all sentient beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering? And of course this is embedded in a worldview in which this makes sense. Because if all sentient beings are simply terminated at death and it’s guaranteed all sentient beings will be free of suffering and its causes, all they need to do is die. So they don’t really need to be free, they just need to wait. And oblivion invites them. How alluring. What a happy thought. That no one suffers for long. But what if that thought is delusional? Based on ignorance and wishful thinking. Then the enormity of the reality of suffering is absolutely staggering. So raise the question in your own heart and mind, from your perspective. No script, no indoctrination. But raise the question if you will from your own heart—why couldn’t all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering?
[40:12] And if it seems to you, personally, that there is indeed no reason why any sentient being could not sooner or later, given the appropriate circumstances, find such freedom; that in fact all sentient beings could, given enough time, the appropriate circumstances, find such freedom, then naturally the aspiration which arises—‘may we all be free’—arouse that aspiration. It can arise if and only if there is a vision that it is possible. Imagine that possibility and aspire for it.
[41:14] Bring to mind those many individuals and communities around the world right now who are continuing to bring so much misery and conflict, poverty, suffering to the world. So convinced that everything they are doing is justified and wreaking so much havoc. Imagine them being free of suffering and the causes of suffering. Imagine them all being free. Aspire for it.
[42:29] Then with your power of your intuition, your imagination, perhaps some degree of insight or experience, descend beyond your mind. Descend to your substrate consciousness, cut through the substrate consciousness and descend to the ground of pristine awareness, your own buddha nature, your primordial consciousness. And from that perspective if you will, arouse the intention, in Tibetan [43:25], ‘I shall liberate us.’ You can see where the resolve for bodhichitta comes from. It stems from this. As you took the bodhisattva precepts, it stems from this. Without great compassion, there is no bodhichitta.
[ 43:50] You may be very specific here. Think of individuals with whom you’ve real difficulties, conflict, antagonism, aversion. Think of individuals and communities around the globe who are wreaking havoc, bringing so much misery and anguish to the world, and attend to them. Attend to them. With the intention, ‘I shall free you’, from all suffering and all causes.
[45:18] How to carry through with that intent. If you recall in the first loving kindness practice, having brought forth a vision of our own flourishing and then the second question was - what would you love to receive from the world? We’re there again now, at a much deeper level. Here’s the intention, here’s the vision. In order to realise that vision to carry through and accomplish the intention, what would you love to receive from the world? And here, the fourth line of the liturgy. In Tibetan [46:44]. May the gurus and the buddhas grant their blessing, to enable me to do so. To be very blunt, this is their job. This is what they are there for. So it’s not an unreasonable request. We are calling on them, asking them to do, what they are blissfully willing to do, and are doing all the time. But in making this request, we make ourselves receptive to receiving those blessings. Something may be given but not received. The blessings are always being given but are they being received? For that we have to be receptive.
[47:26] And for the rest of this session, I invite you to continue here on this current, as you breathe in, imagine the blessings of all the gurus, all the enlightened ones, the great buddhas and bodhisattvas, the great arhats. Imagine these blessings flowing in from all sides, from above and below, in the form of light, converging in upon your body as you breathe in, filling, saturating, illuminating, purifying and empowering. Your entire being filled to saturation with the blessings of all the enlightened ones, joyfully offered, this blessing from all sides. As you breathe out then from the very nucleus of your being, this orb of light at your heart, your own buddha nature, with every out-breath, imagine a cascade of light from this fathomless source, light rays flowing out in all directions, around about, above and below, flowing to all sentient beings. To those near and far, the virtuous and the non-virtuous, human and non-human. And breathe out the light of your great compassion. Imagine this light as it flows in all directions touching each sentient being. With each out-breath, imagine this light flowing out and alleviating the suffering, and the dispelling the causes of suffering of each sentient being. Breathe in the light of all the enlightened ones and breathe out the light of great compassion to all sentient beings.
[51:15] Breath by breath, imagine the blessings coming in upon you, converging upon you, bringing you to manifest perfect awakening, the awakening of a buddha. And breath by breath as you breathe out, imagine the suffering and the causes of suffering of all sentient beings vanishing away. The obscurations cleared away. Imagine their relief in such freedom.
[54:11] Imagine being perfectly awake and all the world being free. Then release all imagining, all aspirations and objects of the mind. Let your awareness rest in its own nature, self illuminating, self knowing.
[55:03] Bell rings.
So that’s the first of the four greats. That’s a straight sutrayana practice. There’s no initiation, no Vajrayana, nothing of that, straight sutrayana Mahayana. At the same time as we do that practice, and I think it was quite literal, I didn’t do anything special I just passed it on, it’s quite clear to me anyway how completely seamless such a practice is, from going right into Vajrayana, taking pure vision, taking fruition as the path and so forth. It doesn’t look like there’s any real discontinuity there.
So let’s now conclude this chapter on the Mahayana refuge and the bodhichitta. We’ve just finished the Buddha’s advice to the great king, on how to be simultaneously king and follow the bodhisattva way—relevant to everybody. There’s a nice quote, just briefly, a nice quote and I’ve thought about it so many times by now. I encountered it about 20 years ago. From St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most brilliant individuals to arise in the Christian tradition, the Western Christian tradition, and he said the whole point of the political life is the contemplative life. And political life, well, that would certainly include being the king. But he meant something much broader than politics. He’s referring to the whole point of all hedonic pursuits—of food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education and everything you can get with that. And that’s a lot. You can really flourish in the world, you know. I mean, in principle you could. And this is hedonia and you see there’s nothing trivial about any of those. But then what’s the whole point? I mean, I like asking simple questions. And that is, if you have enough to eat, and you’re well clothed and you’ve a good place to stay, and you’re well protected from the elements, and you’ve got a good education and your health care is really taken care of. What was the point? That you age, get sick and die. With a really good health insurance program? And so you get end of age caring and all of that, you know, is that it? Really? That’s it? And to my mind, that’s just a great big empty cavern with no sound in it at all. There’s nothing there, except just have kids, so that they have enough to eat and that’s it? I mean it seems to be totally vacuous, pointless. And Thomas Aquinas saw that, and he said the whole point of that is the contemplative life. And the contemplative life, I’m interpreting here, but it’s a pretty safe interpretation, the contemplative life is not that everybody runs off to the cave and becomes a solitary yogi. The whole point of hedonia is eudaimonia. The whole point of having enough, meeting your needs, getting an education, health care and so forth, the whole point of that is to then draw fully from the potential of being a human being, with our extraordinary intelligence, creativity, memory, language skills and so forth, to tap in and to cultivate and realise as fully as possible, eudaimonia, genuine happiness. And that’s the whole point. I think he nailed it. Now that is satisfying to me. And for some people like [? 60:10] living under his rock for two years, with 10 kilos of brown flour, he had everything he needed, hey, look I got enough to eat, see my brown flour, see my clothes, I got two sets of robes, so I don’t have to go naked when I am washing my clothes. And habitation—this is a nice rock, you know. It blocks from the rain. It’s really cool. Health care, well, I’m sure, something will come up. [laughter] And then education, he was very well educated. He’d received a lot of dharma and he went off to Dalhousie because that’s where the great masters were. And so he was getting education to the hilt. He had everything he wanted. He really was a great success. Hedonically, 5-star. Everything he wanted. His rock, his brown flour. He succeeded and then he used that success to then devote himself single-pointedly to awakening. And for some person, it’s having a 2-bedroom home, and another person it’s having a car and so forth and so on. And that’s necessary in some places, but not for him. He didn’t need a car, right. But I think that’s really, really timeless words of wisdom from this great brilliant theologian and philosopher. It’s certainly is core to buddhadharma. So here we are. So he’s given his advice to the king and he’s saying really basically the whole point of you being a king is to serve all sentient beings and bring them to enlightenment. That’s the real role. I’d like to see one of the presidential candidates in America saying: “and this is the reason I want to become president, I want to liberate all sentient beings.” [laughter]. That I’d like to hear, okay. Patience, patience. [61:52] [laughter]
So here we are on top of page 33. Therefore, it is important for those of you who are educated to practise those bodhisattva trainings, and so if you have some knowledge, some erudition, if you have monasteries, you have easy access to a teacher and so forth, learn them, learn about the bodhisattva trainings. If you are literate for e.g., he says, educated, if you are literate, then good, use your literacy. Interesting enough, I think it was maybe it was the only culture on the planet that this is true. Tibetan literature was almost 100% dharma. They had no novels, they had some poetry, love poetry, it’s very cool, but it’s like one tenth of one tenth of one tenth of one per cent. And they had some history but mostly it was dharma history, and the rest is dharma. [laughs]. That’s the whole point of being literate so that you can study dharma. I don’t think there was another culture on the planet that was like that, I am not sure there ever has been. It was quite exceptional.
So uneducated people, so the illiterate, people who don’t have education, but of course, you could really flourish in Tibet. Milarepa was not particularly educated and many of the great yogis were not particularly educated. Jakob Bohme in the Western, in the Western Christian tradition was not very educated, a great mystic. Not very educated. He was a tailor, a cobbler or something like this, something quite mundane. So uneducated people find it difficult to understand them. They say they just get bogged down in all the details, you know, the 18 root downfalls, 46 of this, and so forth. And that’s the basic reason why the Geshes, so these are the scholars, the really knowledgeable individuals, travel to monastic universities in Central and Western Tibet. That’s where the real density of them was for the Gelugpa tradition around Lhasa, the Sakya tradition around Sakya, there’s Tashi Lhunpo at Shigatse and so forth. These were the great. It was like the Cambridge and the Oxford and the Sorbonne and the Harvard and so forth of Tibet. That’s where people went for getting a great education. And also there was Nyingma in central Tibet. Mindrolling for example great great centre, so that was it. Well that’s why these Geshes, people who are seeking erudition, they travel to the monastic universities in Central and Western Tibet. There were some of these out in eastern Tibet. Amdo Tashi was a great centre, way up in Amdo. But mostly we hear of the yogis of Eastern Tibet, but in any case, they go to Central, Western Tibet, and spend their lives studying Madhyamika, the middle way view of Nagarjuna and the Perfection of Wisdom, the Prajnaparamita. Those topics are very difficult to understand and the explanation of them is very elaborated. As a number of you know in the great Gelugpa monastic universities you spend four years, the time that we spend in an undergraduate education to learn everything you wanted to for a career, they would spend four years just studying Madhyamika. Studying it, memorising it, debating it, meditating it, so that was a major topic in all the schools. And so those topics are difficult to understand. The explanations are very elaborated. There’s a lot to study. To really learn the Prajnaparamita, the middle way view and so forth, perfection of wisdom, the heart sutra, the diamond cutter sutra and so forth. Nevertheless, the fact that it’s difficult, and he’s speaking to these uneducated people, nevertheless, this does not mean you may discard them, for this is the root of the Mahayana dharma. And it is interesting that he’s pointed to Madhyamika, the culmination of buddhist philosophy and the perfection of wisdom. Well, he’s not making that up. As Shantideva says, as he is asked after he has gone through the first five of the six perfections, starting with generosity and then the fifth one being meditation, he said that all of this, all the first five out of six was for the sake of the sixth. He says it right at the beginning of the wisdom chapter. All the preceding, in fact what, 80% of the book, all of that is for the sake of wisdom. Because it’s wisdom that cuts the root of samsara. So that’s what’s he’s saying here. That’s the root of the Mahayana dharma. One can say certainly bodhichitta is, but bodhichitta without wisdom will not liberate you, and you’ll not be able to carry through with your intention. It’s only wisdom that enables that to be true. Without this, without this root of the Mahayana dharma, no matter how good your practice is, you succumb to the pitfalls of the Hinayana, Shravakayana and Pratyekabuddhas , that is without this union of bodhichitta and the perfection of wisdom, then you fall back. You fall back. Without this, without this bodhichitta and the wisdom, the two together, it is as if you are farming without planting any seeds, so you’ll would not obtain the fruition of buddhahood. You may achieve the fruition of sravaka arhat, yes, buddhahood, no, not going to happen, without both bodhichitta and perfection of wisdom. You need both. [66:34]
So if the benefits of this, and I’m interpreting this as he’s really referring to two, ultimate and relative bodhichitta, if the benefits of this bodhichitta, ultimate and relative, were present as form, if you try to imagine it taking on form, the sky would not hold it, all of space will be too small. So he’s obviously saying just the benefits, the merit, as Glen was commenting earlier, when I asked him what’s the fastest, well he didn’t tell me the fastest, but he told me the most powerful. What is the most powerful way to accrue merit, that’s bodhichitta. That’s bodhichitta. The fastest, oh, delight in your virtue. But bodhichitta. There’s no competition between the two, right. Shantideva, doesn’t he say it’s like the conflagration at the end of an eon that incinerates everything within like a solar system, what have you, so is the power of bodhichitta to incinerate all obscurations, and its merit like even the sky can’t hold. Here is the comment I made earlier, and he is drawing heavily from Shantideva here—once this bodhichitta has arisen, it’s flowing, it’s flowing, it’s a continuous stream, you are a bodhisattva, it’s arriving in an effortless fashion, then even when you are sitting, doing nothing, just hanging out, your merit continues to grow. Since you’ve become a child of buddhas, you become an object of homage for the world’s gods, the devas and humans, and the questions of Suryadatta sutra, so it’s the sutra in response to the questions of Suryadatta by the buddha. The buddha states here, if the merit of bodhichitta were to take on form, it will fill the whole of space and extend even beyond that. Okay. So. And here we have the Bodhicaryavatara, The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, by Shantideva, states: When bodhichitta is arisen in an instant a wretch who is bound in the prison of samsara, is called the child of the sugatas of the buddhas of course, and becomes worthy of reverence in the world of the gods and humans. [pauses reading] From that moment on, an uninterrupted stream of merit equal to the sky constantly arises, even when one is asleep or distracted. [68:58]
So here he is, he’s talking about being a bodhisattva, where that’s who you are, your mind is bodhichitta, it’s flowing, it’s flowing. And so there it is. The point has been made. Sugata of course means literally those who have gone to bliss, the bliss of perfect awakening itself. In an instant a wretch —it really reminds me of a long passage that goes on, makes the point again and again and again in the Vajra Essence. And I see it here, I see it strongly reflected here, the same basic theme, and that is, one could be a really an awful person whether you have just killed 35 people as a vendetta as in the case of Milarepa, or there are many ways of being an awful person, many, many, many. You know. We’ve explored them all, we sentient beings. And so one could have lived really an awful life, a reprehensible life, and then if one finds the dharma and purifies the mind as Milarepa did, you may achieve bodhichitta. And so in the first part of your life, you could have been an object of contempt for everyone who knows of you, almost everyone anyway, and then you go through that transition and become a bodhisattva and become an object of homage to the world of gods and humans. And in a way once you become a bodhisattva, what you did before, it’s kind of like, and what was that again? Like who cares? Who cares? You are a bodhisattva now. So whether you’re just a really swell nice person for lifetime after lifetime and then just got nicer and nicer and become a bodhisattva, or you did some really absolutely awful things, but with the awful things it gave you such a powerful sense of renunciation and a powerful urge to purify the obscurations, the deeds that’ve been committed, as in the case of Milarepa. His renunciation was incredibly intense. So powered by your moving away from the evil vices that you have perpetrated. You are the same. Once you’ve crossed over that threshold you’re a bodhisattva, whether you’re an awful person for 10 lifetimes, or just a really nice person for 10 lifetimes, nobody cares. From that perspective, it’s the same. That’s what he’s saying right here. And then what’s interesting is a strong and even a deeper parallel in the Vajra Essence, it’s rather deep into the text, but I remember it because he just hammered the whole point, and that is, whether you’ve lived your life devoted to dharma, and you’re an incredible yogi, you’ve done incredible service to dharma, built temples, blah blah blah, or whether you’ve been this most awful person and you’ve killed people, he just does it again and again, setting up these two. From the moment that you identify pristine awareness, there’s no difference. From the moment that you identify your buddha nature, you’ve identified rigpa, you’re viewing reality from the perspective of your dharmakaya. Then whatever came before, just kind of vanishes out of sight. It doesn’t make any difference. It did make a difference there. From this perspective, it makes no difference how you got here. You got here. You know. He really makes the point strongly. [72:09]
I find that has practical, to me, it actually meets me where I live. Because sometimes, somebody comes to mind, and I think, boy, this person is really delusional, boy, this person is so samsaric, this person is so selfish, this person, you know, sometimes they’ll linger on other people’s people’s faults, they do, you know. Oh, boy, this person’s really lost it. And then I just listen to the Vajra Essence, and yeah, but if this person, conditions change, the person meets or re-meets an authentic teacher, realises rigpa, all this stuff doesn’t matter. No longer matters. And it could happen. And who’s to say who’s going to be faster. Really. The person, the really nice person, good neighbour, ‘oh you want some sugar? Oh I am happy to lend you some sugar, see you there.’ You know. Andy Griffith or whatever. ‘Hi, neighbour.’ And you’re just this really nice person, but then really how much renunciation do really nice people ever develop? Because I’m really nice already. What’s the problem? You want two cups of sugar? [laughter]. Whereas a person who’s totally blown it, that can give some pretty strong incentive. So I find that very useful, actually practical, to avoid what’s very very easy, and that is even a smidgen of a notion, holier than thou, holier than thou, oh I’ve been practising dharma for 45 years, blah, blah, blah. But me and a person right now who is absolutely dedicated to pursuing samsara, who’s to say which one’s going to get to direct, unmediated realisation of rigpa first? I don’t have any idea. No guarantee. So then we’re right back to even. Even. It’s just an empirical fact. It’s good to know. It’s good to bear in mind. [74:09]
The training of this boils down to one point. Oh, that should catch your attention. To one point. Consider. Whatever virtue I commit, be it great or small, I shall do so not for my own sake alone but for the sake of all sentient beings. It’s interesting he says not for my own sake alone. He’s not saying don’t include yourself within the family of all sentient beings. Just don’t prioritise yourself as being somebody special or superior. I shall do so not for my own sake alone, but for the sake of all sentient beings. So you’re dedicating it to all sentient beings. And in the future in order to serve all sentient beings, I shall manifestly become a buddha. So that’s just kind of running through your life. It’s kind of like the underlying current. [74:49]
In order to become enlightened swiftly and without troubles and obstacles, that really catches my attention, by means of the roots of virtue accomplished today, as soon as I pass away from this life, may I be born in the pure land of the Sukhavati. There is the fast track. He’s elaborated on that theme a lot in his previous volume, A Spacious Path to Freedom. It is, if you can accept it, remember, a gift can be given and not received. This is one of the gifts that is given. Whether you receive it is up to you. Takes faith. If you have faith, you can receive it. If you don’t, that’s okay. You just don’t receive it [laughter]. If you know it, if you know it, then recite the Sukhavati prayer the prayer to be born in Sukhavati and dedication Recite the Sukhavati prayer and dedication and so on. When you, at the end of the day for example, even if you do not, even if you do not know it, if you don’t know the liturgy, the particular prayer and so forth, every night just say: may I be reborn in Sukhavati. All the practices are included in that. That’s your ultimate life insurance policy, frankly. You know. When all’s said and done, as he’s elaborated in the previous text, A Spacious Path to Freedom, this is one of those pure lands where ordinary people, like at least myself and maybe yourself as well, ordinary people can be reborn there. It’s not beyond our capacity. So on the contrary, if you perform virtue just for your own sake, this is incompatible with the vows of bodhichitta. This is a great fault. It’s contrary to it. It just comes back to me, me, me. As it’s said, upon making such a promise and that promise is, ‘I shall achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings,’ upon making such a promise, if you do not put it into action, it remains only an aspiration but no engaged bodhichitta, then having deceived all those sentient beings, what destiny shall I have? I reckon that’s from Bodhicaryavatara as well. You’ve just made a pledge, a promise to all sentient beings and then if you renege on it, well, you’ve just deceived, mislead all sentient beings, what kind of karma is that going to be. Moreover to take birth in Sukhavati, this development of bodhichitta is important. So it’s not just a free gift. You know, just pursue your hedonic ends and then ask for a free lunch at the end of the day. It’s not like that. This bodhichitta is important. It has to be, you have to be rising to Sukhavati with a mind that is in accordance with the blessings of Amitabha, the blessings of Sukhavati. The splendour of Amitabha’s sutra, the splendour of Sukhavati sutra and so on, these various sutras pertaining to Sukhavati and Amitabha, and so on state that upon developing bodhichitta and making prayers of supplication, prayers to be reborn in Sukhavati, one will be born in that pure realm. So there it is. [77:57]
It’s very simply put, this can be more elaborated. You can have elaborated visualisations, elaborated liturgies and prayers and so forth. But the gist of it is develop bodhichitta and make prayers of supplication, dedicate your merit and then you will be born, he said, you will born in that pure realm. But they do not say, these great treatises, these great sutras do not say, that one will be born there without prayer, without the aspiration, or without the prayers of supplication. Don’t say that. You have to call on it, as in the final point of liturgy of the practice we just did. You call on the blessings of the gurus, the enlightened ones, to make yourself receptive to that which is already given. So it’s not like asking somebody to turn on the lights when you’re in the dark room and they have to do something they haven’t done already. Right. The blessings are already there. The buddhas aren’t kind of waiting—he ever going to call? [laughter]. It’s not like waiting for a date, you know. They’re already enlightened. They’re already manifesting and all we need to do is to be receptive. So it’s often said like the blessings of the enlightened are like the sunlight but if your bowl is turned upside down, well, sunlight’s coming, you’re not receiving. But you don’t say: “hey sun, shine brighter, or would you please turn on now.” The sun’s already there. Turn your bowl up right, and the light is already there. So that’s it. [79:24]
So the focus of this meditation is solely that of love, compassion, sending and receiving, tonglen, tonglen, you are familiar with it. And I’m just about wrapping up here. Upon receiving the vows of refuge and bodhichitta in this way, so he’s wrapping up, your practice of refuge and bodhichitta will always be complete. So he said enough in this chapter, that your practice will be complete of refuge and bodhichitta. And all practices of the stage of generation and completion so the two major phases of vajrayana practice, highest yoga tantra and all recitations of mantras will be like towers erected on a firm foundation. And they will lead you further on the path.
[80:28] Without this, they, mantras, visualisations and so forth, they may merely protect you from dangers but they will not lead you on to the path to enlightenment. So this is important. [pause, flipping pages] This concludes the teachings on the vows of refuge and bodhichitta.
So this is the way that Gyatrul Rinpoche taught me as I told you before I’ve received the transmission, oral transmissions, the oral commentary, and the encouragement to teach this and everything else he taught me, from Gyatrul Rinpoche. And it was seven years that I was his primary interpreter. Incredible blessing. I just feel enormously fortunate to have had that very close and sustained time with him. And for that whole time, he taught only essentials. He just went from one essential meditation manual to another. And every single one dealt with the path, the path, the path. And so there it is. So there’s no, there’s no dry outer shell here, there’s no external ritual here that is not filled with his essence. The ritual’s very short, to the point, wasn’t it? There’s no counting, and again maybe I over-state sometimes, you know, when I am joking around with or like being like hazing, or getting into fraternity or whatever. It can be very meaningful, there’s no question. It’s not debatable. Can doing a 100,000 vajrasattva mandala offerings, prostrations, can it be very very meaningful, transformative, purifying? Can it accrue great merit? The answer is I think that’s not even open for ... from my perspective, not even open for debate. Of course it is. Great beings like Charga Rinpoche [? 82:14] insisted that these are really important. Many of the great lamas have and these are, you know, the finest we’ve had in recent history. So can they be beneficial? Absolutely yes. I’ve never questioned that. So I joke around sometimes but I’m never questioning that. I just have no reason to question that. Not like I’m being a good boy scout or I’m orthodox. Not that. [82:33]
One student of mine, she’s an old friend. She was with another very fine lama, lama Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, many of you may know of him. Elder brother of Tsikey Rinpoche, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, eldest son of Tulku Urgyen. Formidable family and family lineage. And Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche was with a small group of his students, I think fairly close students, years ago, not many years ago, maybe 10 years ago, in his home there in Kathmandu. And one of them was Mexican student I’ve known for years now, very sincere, and she’s been one of my students for a long time. And she raised her hand in this little gathering and she had her tape recorder on, and she said, “Rinpoche, we know that the preliminary practice is very important.” I think maybe he was teaching them or it came up. And she said, “But, Rinpoche, you know, for Westerners, or people in the modern world, not everybody has the faith to really want to do them, the faith that they’re really meaningful, not everybody has the aspiration, really wants to do them, some people don’t have enough faith to sit down and meaningfully do the hand gesture and be offering a mandala of Mount Meru and the four continents and find that meaningful. Number one, they may just not think that Mount Meru and the four continents exist at all. It’s all just fiction like Santa Claus’ village. And there are many people like that. They just don’t see the significance of it. They don’t have faith, they just don’t want to do it. So for such people for whatever reason, it’s not like they are bad, they just don’t want to do it, no aspiration, no faith, not sufficient faith to do it, what do you say to those people?. Like ‘go away’, you know. Like 'you are not up to it.’ What do you say?”
And he answered, and she sent me the tape recording, I have it on my computer, and so, anybody’s curious? Wonder whether I’m fibbing? [laugher]. You can see it for yourself. He said, Well, for people who are simply not inclined to engage in these recitations, 100,000 vajrasattva and so forth and so on, what those people should do is practise shamatha. I didn’t made this up. [laughter]. Should practise shamatha, the four applications of mindfulness that’s when my jaw is just hitting my navel, and the four immeasurables. That should be their preliminary practices—shamatha, four applications of mindfulness, foundation of vipashyana practice and the four immeasurables, foundational bodhicitta practice. So shamatha to make your mind serviceable, the four applications the foundation of all vipashyana and the four immeasurables the foundation of bodhichitta. That’s what they should do. And then over time, as they deepen their practice, the mind is purified, faith arises and so forth, over time if the aspiration does arise and the faith does arise and they find at some point they would like to start doing prostrations or mandala offering, Vajrasattva, then of course, then go for it. That just made such sublime sense to me and I was really quite astonished, because I’ve never heard any lama say this is what you should—shamantha, four applications, Gyatrul Rinpoche very close to that actually. But this is a lama, I’ve just met him I think once in Kathmandu at his home years ago. So we are not in cohorts. [laughter]. Not sending secret messages back and forth. But that made enormously good sense. [86:18]
There are many ways to purify the mind and many ways to accrue merit. And so I go into the jokey mode, alluding to myself on occasions and other people on other occasions. People who don’t really want to do them, they don’t really have the faith, they don’t have the aspiration but they do them anyway because they feel they have to. And then they’re grinding away getting it done, you know. Looking forward to getting them done, saying–finally finished that one, how many more? Oh geeeze, 300,000 more? Okay, and the lama said I have to. [breathes out heavily]. Ahhhh. Hyperventilate a little bit then you kind of get on with it but oh no, I’ll be done with this one of these days. I just don’t believe in it. That’s what I ridicule. I am not ridiculing the practice. I am not certainly ridiculing great beings like [Tatur ?] Rinpoche. That man was awesome. But I am ridiculing that because that’s not dharma. That’s phoney dharma. And if other people practising shamatha, phoney baloney, or four immeasurables and so forth phoney baloney, that’s just as phoney as anything else. So that’s it. I just want to be clear because I have reverence to these great lamas and I’ve done these practices and on occasion I found them very, very meaningful. Including the first time I ever did Vajrasattva, the 100,000. I did it three times. The first time especially. I found that meaningful. When worms started popping out of my skin, when I was coming to the 100,000, I thought maybe that’s not a random number. It was quite startling. Like, ooh, they’re leaving. [laughs] And I didn’t know where to put them. [laughter]. Anybody? I got spare worms. Worms? I was really kind of at a loss. So there we are.
So we finish with that chapter. We’ll then return tomorrow evening to the second of the four greats and then we’ll get back to the text by Panchen Rinpoche. We will be dream weavers weaving these two texts together. So enjoy your evening. Have a good night’s sleep. See you tomorrow morning. [88:18]
Transcribed by Shirley Soh
Edited by Cheri Langston
Final edit by Rafael Carlos Giusti