16 Balancing Faith, Intelligence, Enthusiasm, Samadhi and Mindfulness

07 Apr 2016

Alan starts explaining that balance is a crucial theme in shamatha training where we cultivate relaxation without losing clarity, stability of attention without losing relaxation and vividness without losing stability. The balance of these three qualities can be applied to every activity in daily life, however there is no guarantee that it is meaningful. During the development of shamatha the faculties of mindfulness and introspection, which we already have, are refined through training and turned into powers. Alan then turns to the more general theme of Buddha Dharma. Within the 37 aspects of enlightenment, there are five faculties, which can be turned into five powers through training and refinement. These five faculties are faith, intelligence, enthusiasm, samadhi and mindfulness. Alan groups them into pairs of balance. Faith can be balanced with intelligence, enthusiasm can be balanced with samadhi and mindfulness will balance out all the other four. Enthusiasm, in Sanskrit Vīrya, is not just effort or diligence but rather carries the meaning of taking delight in virtue. Alan illustrates the meaning of diligence with the examples of filling out a tax form or beating a donkey to go uphill. Enthusiasm in contrast, is likened to water flowing downhill. He then explains that Vīrya is balanced with samadhi, meaning a focused, composed, not fragmented quality of one’s attention. Alan defines the fifth faculty, mindfulness, as bearing something in mind without forgetfulness and without distraction. Mindfulness enables us to balance the other four. Alan then turns to the faculty of Faith, and explains how it is of three types: appreciation, aspiration and belief. Faith has to be in balance with intelligence. If there is too much faith and too little intelligence one can wind up being dogmatic, stupid, rigid and close-minded. And if there is too much intelligence and too little faith, one can be very smart and clever, but will not achieve anything. Alan continues explaining how enthusiasm is balanced with samadhi. Instead of just meditating for 11 hours a day he prefers to balance this with theory. By reflecting on the teachings, joy, inspiration and eagerness to devote oneself to practice is increased. He emphasizes that practice brings life to the theory and the theory brings meaning to the practice. However, enthusiasm and samadhi should not be mixed. While in-between sessions we should arouse enthusiasm, during the meditation we should just focus on samadhi. Alan then says that these five faculties can be turned into powers through training and refinement. This fivefold grid is also very useful if applied to other fields like business, mental health, education, athletics etc. Alan then introduces the “Shower of Blessings practice” as the meditation for today. The text will be available on the podcast website, in the section “Supplementary Resources”.

The meditation is the oral transmission of the “Shower of Blessings” practice.

After the meditation Alan says that he sometimes gets impatient with the request of teaching secular Dharma without any references to Buddhism. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama has now written two books on secular ethics and supports the secular approach with the motivation of helping all people, which Alan admires a lot.

Meditation starts at 29:00

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Olaso. So you’re all familiar with the fact that in the cultivation of shamatha, the theme of balance is everywhere and it’s central. The cultivation, the cultivation of a sense of ease and relaxation, but balancing this without, so you’re not losing clarity, not getting dopey, sleepy. Cultivating the stability of attention, the stillness, composure of attention, but without losing the underlying sense of relaxation, balance. And then cultivating the vividness, the clarity, the high acuity of attention but without losing the stability, so again it’s a balance all the way through. And then as we mature in the practice, then it’s a synergistic balancing of all three of these, reinforcing and balancing themselves.

[00:57] But it’s also, should be equally obvious that the refined, skillful, expert balancing of these three qualities could be applied to every type of activity, from robbing a bank to acts of terrorism, to improving your golf swing, to you know to meditation, to cultivating Bodhichitta. But I mean really for everything, the most nefarious activities and the most sublime. So there’s nothing about them that anyway guarantees that this type of activity to which one applies these types of balance will be meaningful or worthwhile.

[01:36] And so let’s rather, I’d like to take the same theme of balance, the old balance wallah - B Alan Wallace and broaden this out to a larger context for dharma practice and specifically within the wisdom I’m going to share with you, and I really think it is wisdom, I’m just passing it on, is explicitly from the Buddhist tradition. It’s everywhere, it’s in the Pali canon, the Mahayana, it’s everywhere. At the same time, I think t by the time I’ve finished talking, you’ll see that it’s quite universal. Actually completely universal in its applicability to any type of meaningful endeavour. And so what I’m getting at here is just as in the cultivation of shamatha, we’re taking our skills of mindfulness and introspection, which we already have, we already have these as faculties, everybody can bear in mind something, even the schizophrenic person can bear in mind something for a little while and a schizophrenic person may be quite aware that the devil is inside him, introspectively, ok? It’s delusional, but even a schizophrenic person, this person is you know psychotic, still has these faculties of mindfulness and introspection. So everybody does, right?

[02:43] And then but we take these faculties which we already have and then through refined, I think, highly intelligent training, then we refine these faculties and so they really come into their strength, into their power. Well in a similar fashion, but now we’re casting the net more broadly in a way that’s relevant to the entire path to enlightenment. We have in the Buddhist teachings within the 37 Aspects of Enlightenment, we have five faculties, five faculties. They are very widely known, but not terribly strongly emphasized, as far as I can tell, but I think they should be. Five faculties, and then through training, refining them, strengthening, then they turn into five powers or five strengths, right.

[03:30] And so, I find a great deal of wisdom here, I’m going to speak about it a little bit and then we’re going to practice, go right back to meditation. So what are these five powers? Well, I don’t recall any particular order. I don’t have it. There may be some meaningful order, I am not quite sure, but I am just going to get them out.

[03:51] And so, the five faculties are - I’m going to put them in pairs, but of course there’s going to be a one left over for a very good reason - pairs, so here they are, I’ll just list them first. The term that’s generally translated as faith and I have no objection, so it’s called faith, it’s Sraddha in Sanskrit, or [sounds like Tepa?] in Tibetan. Faith is one. This is going to be balanced with intelligence, I think, wisdom, prajna, or she rab so there’s a pair. Faith and intelligence, those two. And then we have another pair and the other pair is this term, [? virya or tsun dun] in Tibetan, it’s translated in various ways, and it’s translated as effort, as energy, as diligence, enthusiastic perseverance, probably some others as well.

[04:47] But I am going to use the word, enthusiasm, and it’s not just my personal predilection, but if we go into kind of the professional literature on this, you find that the definition of this virya is not just effort, just striving, just diligence. It’s the, they gloss it as [? ge wa la ngto wat] Taking delight in virtue. But it has a quality of delight. Delight. Not just trying hard. So diligence, well, diligence is important, sometimes we have to, you know, I don’t really like filling out my income tax forms. It’s not something I look forward to. But you just have to get through it. I don’t know if I’ll ever develop enthusiasm for it. (laughter). Like - ‘Boy, I hope April’s coming soon. I can hardly wait to get all my …’ probably not in this lifetime. But I do it regularly, trying to do it as meticulously, as carefully as I can, I don’t want to have a run in with the law. But that’s just sheer diligence. That’s patience. It’s for getting through it, you know. And that’s not virya. That’s in the realm of [? 6:02 shanti] of patience, fortitude, forbearance, true grit, right, which is said to be like beating a donkey going uphill.

[06:09] The donkey doesn’t want to go uphill, it wants to go downhill, you just keep on whacking on the rump and it will keep on going up. That’s how I get through filling out all my tax forms. [laughter] [makes sound of whacking]. But [? tsun du] is enthusiasm. But it’s not any type of enthusiasm, like for beautiful music or vacationing and so forth. That’s just, you know, having fun. This has a very specific gloss to it within Buddhism and that is its delight in virtue. This could be wisdom. It could be serving others. It could be cultivating shamatha. It could be any type of meaningful virtuous activity and taking delight in it. So when your practice is empowered by virya, it’s said it’s like water falling downhill. When it’s powered only by diligence, fortitude, then it’s beating the donkey uphill.

[06:58] And so this turns out to be quite important as I let the plot unravel. So virya is really enthusiasm, but again enthusiasm with a specific twist to it, not just enthusiasm for, I don’t know, gourmet food. It’s enthusiasm for dharma, right. That’s important. And enthusiasm, this one, virya, is balanced with samadhi. Surprise. So it’s faith and intelligence, heightened wisdom, and then enthusiasm balanced with samadhi. And samadhi is that single pointed focus of attention, it doesn’t have to be narrow, I just want to emphasize that. Often people miss this point, they think samadhi is always kind of a pinpoint narrow tunnel vision. It’s not, it may be, but no, it means your attention is totally collected. You may be attending to all sentient beings. You may be having samadhi on the surrounding landscape, that’s pretty big. Samadhi on the sky, you could, right. But it means your attention is focused. It’s not fragmented. It’s not dispersed. It’s not agitated. Composed, focused, boom, there it is.

[08:02] So those two are balanced - enthusiasm and, let’s call it, concentration. And then of course since this is a set of five, then there has to be one left over. And that’s mindfulness. And mindfulness again is bearing in mind the intended, whatever you wish to focus on, something familiar, bearing something, whatever it is in mind, bearing in mind, without forgetfulness, without distraction. OK. So we can be forgetful, if I am attending to Mary Kaye’s face for example. She is, her face, is my object of mindfulness, I can do so, but then I can fall into forgetfulness but just by spacing out. Like that. Then I forget what I was looking at, maybe I’m sleepy, or drowsy, dull or bored, in which case the attention retracts, it withdraws. It’s not getting excited, agitated, being carried away. It just no longer comes out to meet its object.

[09:02] Come out to meet the object. Not. Like that. So that’s a type of forgetfulness. But of course there’s another way we lose mindfulness and that is, looking over at Gyatche, what’s she doing? What’s she doing? And then every time, what’s Gyatche doing? And then I lose, then I forget about the person I was focusing on—Mary Kaye—so that’s the two ways. So without distraction, without forgetfulness. So mindfulness is that which enables one to balance the other four. It’s like in a seesaw, the kids, little exercise toy whatever, instrument, is that which is in the middle, enables the possibility to balance, it’s the pivotal, it’s the mid-point.

[10:03] Let’s run through these briefly, because time is short and we want to get to meditation, which is going to be different this morning. Okay so faith, let’s look at that one. Faith, confidence - it entails trust, classically I’m going to run through this really quickly, but it’s very, very rich material. Faith is of three types. This is in the Buddhist’s context, but again I think you’ll find it’s universal. And that is there’s faith of appreciation, and really is then appreciation. I may listen to let’s say Andres Segovia recordings of, Andres Segovia playing guitar, just one of the world’s greatest masters, and I may feel a great deal of appreciation for his artistry, the finesse, the delicacy, the sheer beauty of how he plays and the pieces he chooses to play, both. And so that’s appreciation. I am appreciating him, his guitar, his music, his skill, right? That’s a type of faith.

[11:03] And then it might get in my mind: “I would like to play like that. At least I like to approximate that, I mean I’d probably not be that great, but I would love to be able to make such music. I wonder if I could get guitar lessons. I wonder if he has any apps. If he left anything behind, Andres Segovia’s tips.” And so out of appreciation, if I have no appreciation, I have no interest whatsoever in learning how to master guitar like him, but if I appreciate, then I’ll think: “Boy, I’d like to be able to do that.” And so that’s the second type of faith. It’s something more than appreciation. It’s aspiration, right. But then there’s also, there’s another element is necessary—belief. If I were a double amputee, I had no hands, then I would have a hard time believing that I’ll ever be able to play guitar like Andres Segovia you know, not going to happen, right. So then there won’t be any belief. Or maybe if I believe he was simply born that way, that he was simply born a little you know, three year old paying a magnificent guitar, then I would say well there’s no hope, you know, because he was a guitar tulku.

[12:01] But if I believe that in fact he, of course he was naturally gifted, but he went through extensive training, absolute dedication to his art. And that if I too apply myself I could at least to some extent approximate that type of expertise and so belief that that the training is something that, the skill is something that can be trained, there’s a way to do it and that I actually have the capacity, I have fingers that work, my hearing is pretty good, perhaps a little bit of musical ability, so then belief. Well if I’ve all three of those, then I could actually sit down and I could make some progress, right. And so this is faith. Faith is sometimes presented as blind faith or something that is antithetical to science, and that’s simply propaganda. Sorry, it’s just propaganda by materialist atheists who just despise religion and they want to make fun of it out of their own stupidity and ignorance, and I’ve no respect for that.

[13:09] Blind faith occurs everywhere in politics, in science, in art, in philosophy and so forth. Blind faith is what people do when they are not very bright. But not all unbright people are found in religion. They are quite evenly distributed. [laughter]. And so faith then, faith motivates, I mean that’s a real point. Faith motivates. Who’s ever going to, show me the person who has ever mastered guitar or anything else, and didn’t have appreciation, didn’t have aspiration, and didn’t have belief that they could actually do it. It just fell on their lap. They just woke up one morning and they just started playing guitar brilliantly or anything else, you know. I think you’d have to look really hard. And so faith is absolutely indispensable for anything we do. Wholesome or unwholesome. Faith that you can rob a bank, you know, kind of same thing. But this of course is faith in something that is meaningful. But now this has to be balanced with intelligence. It’s not enough just to have those three types of faith or confidence, including belief, appreciation, aspiration, but it has to be balanced with intelligence—okay now where where will I find a good teacher? Am I too old to learn? What kind of guitar shall I get? And so apply intelligence and then you’re receiving the training, and then you listen carefully and you understand, you maybe you have question-and-answer, you clear out qualms—Is it ok to have my thumb crooked around the shaft of the guitar? Do I really need to keep it underneath?. I have seen some brilliant guitarists that have it crooked all around, but then I was told—no, keep it down on the bottom, is this important? Like seven [point mind training], you need it, does it point, can I go supine? You know.

[14:52] So you have to have intelligence to balance the faith. If it’s too much faith and too little intelligence, you wind up being dogmatic, stupid, blocked, rigid, close-minded. And if it’s all intelligence and no faith, you’ll be a real smart aleck, but you won’t get anything done. If you have only faith in yourself, if you’re just really smart, really clever, well, you’ll be very entertaining, they will invite you to parties to tell jokes, but you are not going to achieve anything. Forget about it. Right.

And so apply that to dharma. I gave something secular just to show - hey this is universal. But if we hear about dharma, maybe in some cases we meet an individual, some people meet the Dalai Lama or they meet some other exceptional individual, Buddhist or otherwise, and they appreciate this person’s presence in a way of speaking, the humility, the kindness and so forth. They appreciate that and then they listen to him. Let’s say the Dalai Lama, and they appreciate what he’s saying, that it’s meaningful, and then they aspire—I think I’d like to become like that, I’d like to have, I’d like to know more. I’d like to gain such experience and realization. And then there is belief—Is that possible? Was he simply born that way? Is this a valid tradition or is this all hocus-pocus, scams, you know, conspiracy and so forth to trick us and all that kind of stuff you know, superstition, religious nonsense. So what is it?" If the faith is not there, then one will not get anywhere in dharma practice. So the faith, I’m speaking a bit intellectually, but faith when it kind of gets on the ground, where people live, faith in an individual, faith in your lama, faith in your sangha, faith in your lineage, faith in the teachings you receive, faith in the enlightenment of the buddhas and other great beings. It brings a warmth. It brings a moisture. It brings enthusiasm. It brings inspiration. It brings blessing.

[16:55] And so in all of the momentum nowadays for secular Buddhism, secular Buddhism, and I’m getting invitations all over the place nowadays: Alan, please come and deliver your stuff, but do it in a secular way. Don’t mention buddha! Don’t mention religion. Just give it because we are very skeptical here. Can I use the word, BULLSHIT. You are not skeptical, you are just close minded. You are not skeptical of your beliefs. You are not skeptical of your values. You are just skeptical of somebody else’s. And then you demand that we cut off our limbs to correspond to your beliefs, as if we hold the same ones. BULLSHIT. [laughter]. I will tell you who the first secular Buddhist was - Buddha.

He never appealed to authority. He discarded authority, the authority of the Vedas, the authorities of the brahmins, the authority of tradition, the authority of sacred texts. He said: Never mind, never mind, never mind, check with your experience. That’s what he said, right? In the Kalama Sutta. Check with your experience! See for yourself. Is it beneficial, is it not beneficial, pragmatic, experiential, radically empirical? The first secular Buddhist was the Buddha. So there. [laughter].

[18:25] And he had a lot of faith in his own enlightenment. He had a lot of confidence in what he discovered. Has to be balanced with intelligence though, faith can become stupid. It’s easy. Just filled with inertia—my Guru said, therefore, it must be true, my dharma buddies say it’s true, my fellow neuroscientists all believe the mind is the brain, oh gosh, it must be true, they say so without ever checking out does anybody actually know what they are talking about? Or is it just a bunch of sheep bleating the same melody? [laughter]. So it must be balanced. If it’s all intelligence, but no faith, you are in a bare desert island in the middle of a very salty sea.

You’re going to die of dehydration out there. It’s dry. Intelligence, I’ve known some really brilliant people and some of them are so dry, you wonder how they can breathe. And I’ve known some very faithful people, very moist, but I can hardly have a conversation with them. Just because you know, their beliefs are so silly. I just try to avoid anything. Let’s talk about golf. [laughter] Or something else. Balance. Balance. Okay, then we have another balance. We’re going quickly here. Faith, but here’s the point here, just to drop right there.

[19:41] These two are faculties. They can turn into powers. The power of faith. Well that’s a power. That’s a natural force in the universe. The so-called placebo effect. Pretty awesome. It’s faith, it’s faith and has never been understood that scientifically. Scientists don’t understand it and the pharmaceutical industry tries to ward it off like the demon. Like the great demon of placebo effect - no we want to sell our drugs, we don’t know how to sell placebo effect. Poor things. It has to be balanced there. Faith, which brings the moisture, the enthusiasm, the joy, the blessings, intelligence that keeps it real. And then we have virya, enthusiasm, and samadhi—it’s an interesting pairing. I didn’t make up this pairing. This is classic teaching. But the enthusiasm is just that. It’s the joy, the delight, the inspiration, the eagerness to devote oneself to practice. And where does that come from? Well, this is why whenever I’m teaching meditation, I don’t just give guided meditation. We don’t meditate 11 hours a day. I think it is really cool that a teacher like Goenka just have people who meditate 11 hours a day with very little teaching. I think it’s really cool. I took it, I took his retreat, found it very cathartic. What happens to a lot of people though, when the retreat’s over, their meditation just goes right down, like a toboggan [a snow sled] right down the hill.

Because there is so little theoretical framework there. That then they just start becoming a Goenka junkie. Or you know a Mahamudra junkie, a Dzogchen junkie and so forth. A lama junkie, just trying to go from one contact high to another. I am not picking on Goenka’s people at all. But it’s a tendency that people have. If they don’t have a good theoretical understanding of what they are doing or what’s the reason for it, what’s the context, what’s the meaning of what they are doing. This is why I strive to strike a balance between practice and theory, practice and theory. That the practice brings life to the theory and the theory brings meaning to the practice. It’s true and balanced. And so where does enthusiasm come? By understanding the big picture. What’s the meaning of it? What’s the nature of it? What’s the applicability of it? The teachings like shamatha, and what have you. Reflecting upon the teachings, calling for a flow of blessings, reflecting upon the qualities of those who have gained great realizations on the path that one wishes to follow.

[22:04] So this is, as Gyatrul Rinpoche emphasized to me, this reflection upon the context and arousing the aspiration, arousing the appreciation, arousing faith and thereby arousing enthusiasm, that’s what you do between sessions. Between the sessions, that’s when you read the biographies of the great yogis, you read the sutras, you have discussions with a lama and dharma friends and so forth and so on. To really arouse that aspiration of enthusiasm for practice. But then when you sit down, you’re just practicing, then just samadhi. Just do it. Don’t keep on revving up the engine, when you’re practising mindfulness of breathing, don’t bring out the cheerleading squad - Go, go, go. Give me an ‘S’, give me an ‘H’. [laughter]. Don’t do that. [laughter]. Just focus on the practice. Don’t think about—it’s going to be good, it’s going to be really good one of these days. One day I’m going to be blissful, not yet, but one day—DON’T do that. Don’t mix the two. When you’re doing it, just do it and that’s samadhi. Don’t multi-task, don’t try to talk yourself into it. Just do it. We are back to the Nike slogan.

That was what my primary Theravada teacher told me. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya. Great, great master from Sri Lanka. He trained me in mindfulness of breathing. And I was asking him various theoretical questions and he said, in 1980, I think, before Nike came out with their slogan, he said, Just do it [laughter]. This is speculation I have to admit —there might have been some Nike guy around [laughter], who heard him say that and said, we could use that! That’s just speculation.

[23:58] But you see the balance? If it’s all enthusiasm, you’re bubble, bubble, bubble, you never actually sit on the cushion. You talk the good talk. You’re all blah blah blah, devotion and hoopy-doopy, but you never actually sit on the cushion and do the hard work. But if you’re just sitting on the cushion and the hard work, you have no enthusiasm. That’s going to get pretty, you’re back on the desert isle. It’s going to get pretty barren. Just focusing. What are you doing? Doing the same thing, balance. [laughter] And what holds it all together—mindfulness. So these are strengths to be cultivated, faculties to be turned into powers. We already have enthusiasm, good—turn it into a power, we already have samadhi, everybody can concentrate to some extent. Turn it into a power. And we already have the faculty of mindfulness, turn it into a power. Because it’s mindfulness that holds this all together and enables them to be balanced.

I think that what I’ve shared with you is really brilliant, it has nothing to do with me at all, but I really think it’s brilliant. And then, here where it’s most important is in the context of dharma. Take that same grid, that same five fold grid and now apply it to business, to mental health, to education, to athletics. I think you’re going to find that that actually works everywhere, right. It’s not necessarily virtuous in those contexts, but this is a really smart grid, it’s straight from the Buddha, straight from the Buddha. So no wonder it’s brilliant.

[25:23] On that theme I’d like now to turn, instead of going back to another shamatha session, I’d like to turn to a devotional practice, highlighted yesterday. This is the Seven-Limb devotional practice. And just looking very briefly now before we go right into it. This is the Shower of Blessings practice. There are many and a number of you already have devotional practices you really connect with, you find yourself nourished by. I’d say, just go for it, just go for it, you know, whether is the Six Session Guru Yoga, whether is focused on Avalokiteshvara, Tara, whatever it may be, if you have your own lineages, if you already have one that’s really nurturing you, bringing you that stream of blessing, just go for it. I am going to introduce one here focused on Padmasambhava and then specifically The Lake Born Vajra, a manifestation of Padmasambhava, especially pertaining to speech. So this is a good one. It’s a wonderful one. But it’s one of many wonderful ones. And so if you connect with this one, great! I’ll send it off to Claudio and to Sangey, so if you’d like to download on the internet, you can. Anybody of course, there’s no copyright on this one and people listening by podcast, you’re welcome to do this.

[26:34] I’ll give the oral transition on it. I think, not commentary, as it should l be quite clear by itself. But the point here is this—and that is, for among those five, engaging in practices like this, it doesn’t have to be this one, but like this, the Christians have their own, liturgies and so forth, that really do the same thing for them and so do the Jews and the Muslims and so forth. And then this same thing comes up in science; science and in music and philosophy. People are doing their own things to get the juice, the enthusiasm, the faith, the confidence for their various disciplines. But here we are in buddha-dharma.

And so the point here is now, very simply put—faith is a faculty that can turn into a power that can move mountains. I didn’t make that one up. But it is, I mean it’s a factual statement that faith can move mountains. When people really have faith in something, [pause] they can sometimes move mountains. It has to be balanced with intelligence. If there’s no faith, you’re not going to get anything done. People without faith sit and they basically watch soap operas. Or their proxy of soap operas, they sit around because they don’t have faith, they don’t have movement, they don’t have direction. And so faith is a faculty that can be cultivated, just like your shamatha, like vipashyana, like the Four Immeasurables. Faith is a faculty that can be cultivated and it can be enormously transformative, it can bring joy to your practice, enthusiasm to your practice, blessings to your practice. The word blessing means, kind of the feel, that’s called [In Tibetan? 28:04 jin lap]. It’s kind of a wave of something that is given. [? Jin lap]. It’s a wave that is something that is given that you are not earning every inch of the way and it comes like a wave and it inspires. It provides enthusiasm. It brings warmth. It brings the moisture. It brings life to your practice. And that’s what sustains a practice over a long time.

[28:33] So it’s to be cultivated. You don’t just kind of assume. It’s to be cultivated just like shamatha, vipashyana, Four Immeasurables, cultivated and then they turn around and serve you. So that’s what I would like to do this morning with the 24-minute session. And I will simply read it slowly in English. And there will be a little mantra recitation, not much. And so I invite you to find, for this one, it’s better to be sitting, but if you are uncomfortable, it’s not better to be sitting, then just find a comfortable position. [pause] This of course is for the cultivation of faith but also as strongly emphasized yesterday for accruing merit, charging your battery on the way to enlightenment and for purifying obscurations, which is dispelling obscurations or obstacles on your path. So we begin.

[29:30] Bell rings.


[29:54] So following the path of the great adepts, the great siddhas, the great enlightened ones of the past, we begin with refuge.

NAMO. In the Guru who is the embodiment of the Sugatas, of the nature of the Three Jewels, I, together with the beings of the six realms, take refuge until our enlightenment. (Repeats three times)

And then Bodhichitta.

For the sake of all beings, I generate bodhichitta and Cultivate the realization of the Guru, Buddha. By means of enlightened activity, I shall train each being according to their needs. And I vow to liberate the world. (Repeats three times)

Guru, personal deities, and dakinis, please come forth And be seated on the sun, moon and lotus seat. With my body, speech and mind, I reverently pay homage.

I make outer, inner and secret offerings. I acknowledge and disclose my degenerate and broken samayas, vices, and obscurations.

I rejoice in the practice of secret mantrayana. Please turn the wheel of dharma of secret mantrayana, which matures and liberates.

I pray, do not pass into nirvana but remain. I dedicate the essence for sentient beings. May we realize the perfect vajra nature.


AH. In the space in front of my ordinary body In the midst of deep and pristine Lake Dhanakosha of Oddiyana, Filled with water endowed with eight qualities, Is a jewelled lotus in full bloom.

Upon it sits the Oddiyana Vajradhara, synthesis of all the objects of refuge [this is Padmasambhava of course], Gloriously blazing with signs and symbols of enlightenment, embracing his consort Tsogyal-la [Yeshe Tsogyal].

In his right hand he holds a vajra, in his left a vase and skull cup [this is the life giving vase which is inside the skull cup] Adorned with silks, jewels and bone ornaments, Within the expanse of five-colored lights, they blaze with the glory of great bliss.

Surrounded like a cloud by an ocean of the Three Roots [and that is the Guru, the personal deity, the dakini] They gaze upon me, raining down a shower of blessings and compassion.

To the essence of all the jinas, the deathless embodiments of primordial consciousness, With sincere faith I constantly pay homage.

I offer my body, enjoyments, and collection of my virtues of the three times, Imagining them as the clouds of offerings of Samantabhadra.

I disclose all my vices and downfalls without exception accumulated since beginningless time.

I take heartfelt delight in the illustrious lives of the protectors, The sole lords of the qualities of all the jinas and their children.

With faith I pray, Please let fall a great rain of profound and vast dharma.

Drawing together all the virtues of myself and others, For as long as the ocean of realms of beings remains, I shall follow the illustrious life of you, the Protector, And dedicate those virtues to the guidance of beings throughout space.

Embodiment of all refuges, great treasure of wisdom and love, Precious and supreme protector in these evil and degenerate times, I am tormented and afflicted by the proliferation of the five degenerations And I pray, please, with a loving heart, attend to me, your child.

Manifest the power of your compassion from the expanse of your enlightened awareness And bless my reverent heart.

Please swiftly display signs and indications, And grant me the supreme and mundane siddhis.

[38:46] I will recite once in English the Seven-Limb prayer to Padmasambhava and recite it in Tibetan. Anyone who would like to join me in the Tibetan, you are welcome to do so. In English: [recites first in English, then twice in Tibetan ]


HUNG ORGYEN YUL GYI NUP JANG TSAM HUNG In the northwest frontier of Oddiyana, PEMA GE SAR DONG PO LA In the heart of a lotus YAM TSEN CHOG GI NGÖ DRUP NYEY Sits the one renowned as Padmasambhava, PEMA JUNG NEY ZHEY SU DRAK Who achieved the wondrous supreme siddhi, KHOR DU KHAN DRO MANG PÖ KOR And is surrounded by a host of many dakinis. KYED KYI JE SU DAK DRUP KYI Following in your footsteps, I devote myself to practice. JIN GYI LAP CHIR SHEK SU SÖL Please come forth and bestow your blessings. GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG

[40:48] We will recite the Guru Rinpoche mantra. For the lung, I will just recite it three times and then you can continue quietly and I’m going to do the Sanskrit, quasi-Sanskrit pronunciation. [recites Guru Rinpoche mantra—Om, Ah, Hum Vajra Guru Pema Siddhi Hung—several times]. We can continue quietly. And as you recite the mantra, imagine Guru Rinpoche in union with his consort Yeshe Tsogyal, and from the white OM on the crown of his head, imagine radiant white light flowing entering your crown. From the red AH syllable at his throat, imagine ruby red light emanating entering your throat. From the indigo deep blue HUM at his heart, imagine light in this color cascade a river of light flowing to your heart. And imagine in this way receiving blessings of body, speech and mind, purifying your own body, speech and mind and sowing the seeds for your own realization of the nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, dharmakaya.

[recitation continues in silence]


[44:16] Rays of white, red and deep blue light emerge from the three seed syllables from the Lama’s three places dissolving into my three places. They purify the obscurations of my body, speech and mind and transform them into the Vajra Body, Speech and Mind.

Finally the Guru and the assembly dissolve into light as a white-and-red bindu marked with HUNG.

[44:48] Imagine this is a bindu an orb of light, they are all dissolving into a radiant, incandescent orb of white light with a reddish sheen, a reddish glow. Synthesizing all these objects of refuge and this orb of light dissolves into your heart. They dissolve into my heart and the lama’s or the guru’s mind and my mind indivisibly remain as the connate or inborn Dharmakaya. AH, AH. And imagine the indivisibility of your own body, speech and mind with the body speech and mind of all the Buddhas.

[45:46] Sarva mangalam. May all be well. And we conclude with a brief dedication of merit. By this virtue, may I swiftly realize the Oddiyana Lama,

And may I bring all beings without exception to that state of realization. [pause]

[46:26] I am going to bring the session to a close. [pause]

[46:45] Olaso.

So I gave root text, in one word, BULLSHIT, and now to give commentary. [laughter]. I get impatient sometimes when people refuse to look at their own assumptions, their own beliefs and simply assume that their views are superior to those of these pre-scientific Buddhists, these superstitious Buddhist religious people, I get impatient with that. As I do with any type of dogmatism. I don’t care whether it’s Buddhist dogmatism, materialist, Christian or anything else. I get impatient with them. That’s where the word BULLSHIT comes up. To get patient with it because it’s so pompous, but close-minded and that’s a bad combination. But at the same time, His Holiness, my root guru, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has written two books now on secular ethics. And he’s, in multiple places including here in Tsongkhapa Institute, four times, he’s encouraged them to create an academy for Buddhism and Science, that really emphasizes a secular approach. I’m working with a group of people in Bangalore in India, the same thing, take a secular approach, a secular approach, don’t emphasize Buddhism, secular approach. Told me the same thing of course, whether cultivating emotional balance, it was his idea . It was at this meeting of you know, fine Buddhist scholars and the outstanding group of scientists, he said, do something secular, draw from the wisdom of Buddhist tradition, make it secular so that it’s beneficial to everyone. When I hear this from him, I’m just hearing Chenrezig. I really am. I’m just hearing Chenrezig who is just saying: ‘I want to include all sentient beings.’ They can hate religion. I love them. They can despise buddhism, they think buddhism, reincarnation, karma mumbo jumbo. I love them. I want to help them. Well, what can I do, except for admire that. And so the whole approach, the secular approach of buddhism is basically accommodating people’s refusal to examine their own beliefs, their own values, their own way of life. They want something that’s completely compatible with, and will make their lives more comfortable, more meaningful, happier. And the buddha, His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, I’ll help, I’ll help. Not being judgemental, not looking down on them, not criticising them for their you know, close-mindedness, arrogance, ethnocentricity and so forth. Just saying, I am here to help. Period. That’s why he is my guru. I try to follow him, and not following this little beast inside me, who says, “screw it.” [laughter]. But he’s right. I mean, my great joy is just being able to freely speak from my faith, my appreciation and my joy and delight in dharma with no holds barred, not having to hold anything back, that’s why I just feel so good at ease, you know. But there are people who are very suspicious, have strong antipathy towards religion, anything that is contrary to their materialistic beliefs or other kind of beliefs, then I have to show reserve, I have to show restraint, I can’t use the word BULLSHIT very often. [laughter] Very, very selective.

[49:54] But it’s skilful means. It’s skilful means, you know. And simply, I’m going to having to write up a whole new set of notes, because I’ve agreed to go to a major university, spend two weeks there, and they say - ‘don’t mention buddha or buddhism, don’t mention religion’. And I wrote to my host, said - well could I challenge materialism? Maybe not. [laughter]. Okay, you cut off my right hand, and cut off my left hand, and so I am going to, okay ... I’m going to basically write a whole new sets of notes for what I am teaching all the time-—shamatha, four applications of mindfulness, four immeasurables—I’m going to write, the nature of genuine happiness, I am going to write up a whole set of notes, a new set of notes, to deliver all the goods, and no reference to the buddha, as if I made this all up myself. I’m so smart, I’m so smart, I’m as smart as I can be, look how smart I am. They wouldn’t mind that, but if I refer to buddha, then they start breaking out in hives, having an allergic reaction. Okay, if that’s what helps. If that’s what helps. But then of course what can happen? I’ve met many people who have been through MBSR, it’s totally secular training, and it’s good that it is. I’ve many people who’ve have gone through that, and then their appetite is whetted, they’re are doing these very basic practices, very simplified, decontextualized, no ethics, no bodhichitta, none of that. But they get some benefit, and they start getting appreciation, and maybe some aspiration, and they then kind of then looking around—is there anything more? You know. Oh, maybe CEB or maybe there’s Rasmus Hougaard. He’s a very good man, human potential project. A bit more, good, that’s good, a bit more and then one thing leads to another you know. And maybe they’ll find their path is deep Christian contemplative practice. Great. Hallelujah. I’m delighted. With no reservations. I am delighted. If that’s your path, go for it. It’s very very rich, very deep. Maybe they’ll find it in Hinduism, in Judaism. Maybe they’ll find it elsewhere. Maybe they’ll find it in positive psychology. So this is an ongoing issue for me. It’s patience, patience.

[52:05] At the same time, my innermost heart, my deepest motivation for wanting to teach at all, I have taught so much, everything’s on podcast by now, I have written 40 books, do you need more? 20 translations, really do you need 41? Maybe it’s all there. So why teach, why, read my books, listen to podcast, have a nice day! I’m finished. I’m retiring. Here’s my gold watch. Well okay it’s brass, but it looks gold. [laughter]. And it’s path. It’s path. And for that, when it’s no holds barred, we just bring in, we just bring in the immense richness, depth, beauty and magnificence of Buddha-Dharma, and don’t pretend otherwise. It’s not dogmatism. This is where the depth is, reaching the path. Other people can teach a secular Buddhism. They do it very well. I am sure many do it better than I do. But I still have to do it, so I do. Path—that’s why I’m still teaching.

Okay, enjoy your day. [53:07]

Transcribed by Shirley Soh

Revised by Cheri Langston.

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Special Thanks to Tsanka Petkova for contribution of partial transcripts.


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