B. Alan Wallace, 28 Sep 2012
Teaching pt1: Alan shares his translation of Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices on the 4 applications of mindfulness. The body is simply a configuration of various parts and compilation of various substances assembled by the agent which arises from karma. What is called the body? What is the referent for “my body”? Where is the body which has all these parts? The body didn’t come from the past, nor does it go into the future. In the present, the body is like space. The body is devoid of an agent or one who experiences it. It has no essence and is designated by transient labels. This is medicine which is designed to overcome attachment and reification. When doing the practice, it is important to look carefully in order to come to conclusive certainty. Not only did I not find it, but had it been there, I would’ve found it, and recognize that it is not there.
Meditation: mindfulness of the body. Your basecamp is settling body, speech, and mind in their natural state, and make the mind serviceable. At your own pace, scan the different parts of the body to try to pinpoint the referent for that which is called the body. What comes to mind when you think “my body” and try to locate it experientially. If nothing can be found which corresponds to “this is my body,” rest in that not finding and knowing that absence without distraction. Look at the space of the body and the experience of the 5 elements. Is there anything here that is “my body”? View your body like space, and rest without distraction.
Teaching pt2: Alan comments that for Vajrayana practice, it is necessary to realize the emptiness of both self and phenomena. Realization of the emptiness of phenomena is needed in order to transmute our body, the environment, and beings into pure appearances. Our ordinary appearances arise from karma. In Vajrayana, all appearances are dissolved into emptiness, and through the power of samadhi, one is able to overwhelm ordinary appearances with pure appearances. In this way, one takes the result as the path. In dzogchen, when one breaks through to pristine awareness, pure perception arises spontaneously.
Q1. Does a program of study support shamatha practice and vice versa? Is study necessary in order to progress beyond stage 8 of shamatha?
Meditation starts at 43:35
So we finished the session on the close applications of mindfulness to the body in the Wisdom Chapter of Shantideva’s: “A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life”. (00:14)
I thought I would share a story that probably many of you have already heard, it is always nice to hear again, and whether you take it literally, metaphorically or as poetry or a lovely superstition, it is your choice. It is about Shantideva coming from a princely family, a royal family, making his way to Nalanda. He was at this huge university it was like Cambridge, The Sorbonne, the apex of education for all of Asia at that time, 7th – 8th century. So here we have all these industrious monks, the tremendous knowledge, just like a mandala, an extraordinary system of education that His Holiness is so strongly promoting nowadays. But here he is in this incredible center of learning, and all the monks see him as a big goof off. He just seems to be doing three things, eat, pooped, peed and slept. That was all he did. So they were kind of getting fed up with him, they don’t see him doing anything else, just a loafer. So they are getting fed up with him but they need an excuse to kick him out and so it occurred to them that it was part of the Monastic routine that on a regular basis one of the monks would be asked to give some kind of a public presentation.
So they figure okay they will get him there because obviously he doesn’t know anything, so we will put him on the spot, he will be so embarrassed he will decline, and we can then say that he can’t stay here because that is part of the Monastic responsibility – so have a nice day go loaf somewhere else. So they came to him and said that they would like him to give a public lecture, a presentation, so he asked them – “what would you like? Would you like an original composition or would you like me to recite some Sutra? They said, “give us an original one” – knock yourself out, you know they were sure he couldn’t do it, he just sleeps, eats and poops.
So it is all set up, and he is supposed to give an original composition and all they see him doing is sleeping. So the day comes, these monks really had it out for him, they wanted to humiliate him so they could get him out quick, so when they prepared a throne for him, a really high one, almost like sarcasm, and with no ladder. It was like 6 or 8ft tall, like go for it. They really wanted to humiliate him.
So the day came and Shantideva approaches this throne and you can just imagine all the monks smirking back and forth, so Shantideva approaches the throne and they suddenly see him up on the throne, and they never saw how he got up there. It was just like whoosh and he was up there, up on the throne. And then he starts giving a dharma talk, and the dharma talk that he gave was The Guide to the Bodhisattva way of Life.
He gave it just free flowing, right from his heart to his mouth and out it flowed, and anyone who reads Sanskrit, it is beautiful, it is beautiful poetry, much better than any English translation, it’s metered, it’s fluid, it’s poetry, it’s literature, it’s profound, spiritual, wise, it is incredibly benevolent, but it’s beautiful also, it really is poetry. So this exquisite masterpiece is just flowing from him, spontaneously. Then the monks saw, and some of them are starting to take notes real quickly, like man oh man, we didn’t see this one coming!
So they are writing their notes down, and it’s a rather long text, it would take probably an hour or two to read through. He gets to the Wisdom chapter, there are 10 chapters, the ninth chapter is the Wisdom chapter, then there is a final chapter of dedication of merit. He comes to the Wisdom chapter, and that’s where our text here is located, all about the perfection of wisdom, of course. Then as he is reciting it, their jaws continued to drop even more, this is the story, I take it literally, you can take it any way you like, he started to elevate above his throne. The dharma throne. He just started to hover, and he continues to recite the 9th chapter, the Wisdom chapter, and he hovers like a helicopter, just slowly higher, and higher, and higher, and he continues to recite, and the monks are taking notes but his voice is getting fainter and fainter, and he literally, has anybody seen that movie Angels and Demons, where the helicopter just goes up and up and up and then just vanishes? Well, he was a human helicopter with no blades, he went straight up , straight up, until he gets toward the end of the book and they can’t hardly hear anything it is so distant, and then he just disappears into a dot and vanishes.
The monks were rather surprised. They might have thought – we probably misjudged him. And so now they are desperate, they have to find this guy, he is a mahasiddha, a poet, a scholar, a contemplative. He is incredible, we want to keep him here forever but he just disappeared into a spot. So they are running all over the place looking for him, they have got to get him back, shower him with praise, and honor and so forth and so on, and he just disappeared.
But he left one text behind, and legend has it that he even took off the outer accouchements of a monk, and took on the guise of a wandering aesthetic. A sharma, invisible, incommunicado, and just traveled around India he just disappeared from history. But there is one story, just one that I know of and that is that he took up residence in a cave, and was meditating there, and the surrounding villagers saw that wild animals of all kinds would go into the cave, they would be drawn into it, but they wouldn’t come out. And so they had their own thoughts, this guy is eating all the animals, chowing down! They thought this was terrible, he was supposed to be a holy man, and here he is a big carnivore. So they complain and they find all these animals just gathered around him, like St. Francis of Asisi, they just wanted to be around him, they just wanted to be in his field.
That is the only story we have but, when he learned that this monks really desperately wanted him back, to come and teach at Nalanda, he said no, that time is passed, but he left one text, he said this will be your teaching, and then he disappeared from history.
And the one text he left behind was the Shikshasamuccaya Compendium, an extraordinary edition, showing he knew all the Sutras, he also had this splendid kind of mosaic, this mandala, of the nature of the whole Bodhisattva way of life. So this was the more elaborate version. There was the Guide to the Bodhisattva way of life, but by the time he got to the 10th chapter they were hardly hearing anything, and they wanted to get a complete copy, so I think they got a complete copy of that, but he left behind this Shiksha-Samuccaya, composed within his spare time, okay that will have to do, and then he just disappeared and we don’t hear any more about him.
But the larger text, the Shiksha-Samuccaya, the compendium of practices, that he just composed two texts that we know, this is the second one, and in terms of Western translation it was translated by a man name Bendal about 80 years ago, it’s rather beautifully written but also a lot of inaccuracies, the Tibetan lamas were unavailable back then so a lot of things the two translators didn’t understand the meaning of, how could they? They had no one to consult with., so that text is really in need of a new major translation all the way through, nobody has gotten to it yet, but it’s a classic, well known in the Tibetan tradition, although not that commonly taught, and so there is a wisdom chapter there of course, and there is a whole chapter dedicated to the four applications of mindfulness.
So I am doing a fresh translation just for you all, of just that one section. So for the first time, in English, a new translation that I think is pretty accurate. This is chapter 13. You can get the Bendall translation on Amazon, you can see the older translation, it is quite lovely in many respects, sometimes written in King James English, which is charming.
Summary: Alan shares his translation of Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices on the 4 applications of mindfulness.
(10:57) This is the Chapter Thirteen on The Four Close Applications of Mindfulness, A Compendium of Practices (Ṣikśasamuccaya) by Śāntideva Translated by B. Alan Wallace. So it is right in the midst of the Wisdom Chapter just as in the A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life (Bodhicaryāvatāra), The Four Applications of Mindfulness explanation is also in a midst of the Wisdom chapter.
So we now turn to this text, we did the short version, the concise version and now we go to elaborate version. This one is about 10 pages, this section on the Four Application of Mindfulness and the other one is about three pages then we finished that is we finished the body session.
Alan is reading some texts which are being written in black and between the texts you are reading Alan’s comments about each part of the text.
So now we begin:
(11:14) “Once you have made your mind serviceable in that way, engage in the close applications of mindfulness.”
So a mentioned this little opening line earlier on and that is the preceding chapter as in the Bodhicaryāvatāra, preceding chapter on dhyana, samadhi, shamatha. So that is the place to make your mind serviceble, in a myriade of ways. And so the same is true here, it is natural that the chapter that precedes the chapter on vipashyana is on shamatha and he says: once you have made your mind serviceable in that way. So that really cannot be over emphasized, you can study Madhyamaka (Middle Way), you can study all the wisdom teachings without having your mind made serviceable by subduing the five obscurations, you can do it. But then will the wisdom teachings sink in? Well that is an empirical question it is not a dogma question, if it does then great, congratulations, if somehow you can pull that one off, but the type of investigation here, that is done, and is not true only for Buddhism, it is true for other traditions as well. The type of investigation done here, unlike pretty much all scientific investigation, again each one has its strengths and limitations, I am not saying one is better than the other, but unlike all types of scientific investigation, the technology of course is your own mind, the technology you bring to bear to engage in investigation is your own mind, so that is what needs to be refined. If you don’t refine it (your mind) then you conceptually engage with material and get a lot of bright ideas, but do they sink in do they transform your view, do they transform the way you view reality, do they sink in so deeply, do they actually dispel the obscurations and afflictions of your mind? Scientific enquiry is not designed to do that, so we should never blame it for not doing something that is not designed to do. Scientific enquiry was designed to gain insight into the objective physical quantifiable world and they have done a really, really good job. Does it provide eudiamonia? No, it was never designed to do that. Does it radically transform and purify the mind of the people that investigate it? No, it was never designed to do that.
(13:40) So it is like looking at a tractor and saying why can’t you go as fast as a Maserati? Why can’t you fly like a butterfly? But wait a minute it was not designed to do that. So to make, to draw this distinction is not a criticism of science but it is saying, look everything has its limitations, if you want to build a Mac truck don’t go to Buddhist sutras.
So once you have made your mind serviceable in that way, then when you engage in the close applications of mindfulness, you’ll not only gain insight but the insight you gain will transform the mind that’s gaining it, transform and liberate, that is the whole point.
“In that regard, I have already explained the close application of mindfulness of the body in the preceding discussion of impurity.”
So in the Buddha’s discourse of the Sattipatthana Sutra there is a whole long section on really reflecting upon the impure aspects of the body to overcome the craving, the attachment, the clinging, the obsession with one’s own and others bodies where there is craving and lust, so it’s skillful means, but you say - I do not need to do that now because I have done that early, and that was in Samadhi session for people who are really heavily bound by lust and craving, by sensual desire, it is a medicine and if you actually take the medicine it works, it does, but that is not where he is going now. So he said I have dealt with that already , so we do not have to deal with that now, so he goes right in, what he does commonly throughout the entire text, he is citing a lot of the classic Mahayana sutras, so that is what he does now, he says:
The Dharmasaṅgīti Sutra presents a brief discussion of its divisions: the divisions of the close application of mindfulness of the body. So here he is quoting a sutra:
“Moreover, son of good family, a bodhisattva closely applies mindfulness to the body while contemplating, ‘This body is simply a configuration of feet, toes, calves, thighs, chest, abdomen, navel, spine, heart, ribs, sides of the torso, shoulders, hands, forearms, upper arms, the region between the shoulder blades, neck, jaws, forehead, head, and the skull.”
Those are the basic components. [of the body referring to the components of the body mentioned above.]
“They are assembled by the agent that arises from karma, and they are the location of mental afflictions, derivative mental afflictions, speculations, and various ruminations, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.”
So I think having spent 5 weeks here you are in a position to judge is there an exaggeration or maybe underestimation? So there it is so far that is numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
“Many types of substances are brought together in it, including the hair on the head, body hair, nails, teeth, bones, skin, flesh, fatty secretions of the flesh, sinews, fat, oil, lymph, spleen, liver, urine, excrement, stomach, intestines, blood, phlegm, bile, pus, saliva, brain, and spinal fluid. Thus, it is a compilation of many substances.”
This whole term skandhas, the aggregates, it has an absolute connotation, sometimes actually it is even called a sac but more broadly speaking it is a compilation, it is just an aggregation of a whole bunch of parts in a skin sac. It really puts romantic love in a very different light.
“In this regard, one closely applies mindfulness with the question, ‘What is called the body’?”
(17:39) So we are back to meaningful information. And so meaningful information always has a referent, it is about something, the big term is intentional in modern philosophy. Intentional means not just volition it does not mean that, intentional means is about something, it has a referent. For example I say flower, which flower? Oh that flower! So the word refers to something. So here we are, nice simply exercise really straight forward, and that is when we think body, the body, make it personal, my body - that is not just noise, that is a word with a referent. So this first major venturing into the realm of viphasyana with respect to the body saying, Ok, here is a body here is a word I’ve used a lot, this is not some external import from the Orient, from Buddhism, from some mystical tradition. In any language you probably have a word pretty close to - my body. We already are using that term, it is part of our vocabulary, part of way of thinking. Good, what’s the referent of the term? Where is the target? Where is the point to, where is it? So that is the question. What is called - the body?
“When this is analyzed, one considers, ‘This body is like space’ and closely applies mindfulness to the body as being like space.”
(18:48) When this is analyzed, one considers this body is like space: again, when you get insider’s view again we can only do with our own body. You just sit down and say why should I look from outside, anybody can look from outside? Miles can look at front of my body and see pretty much what I do, but what he can’t see, what nobody else can see from the outside is - I close my eyes and say: oh. That’s private. I’ve got the insider’s view, I am inside the auditorium, I am getting the insider’s view. So then, there you are. Elizabeth pointed this out some days ago, you look in there as you are doing so this is it, this is good as it gets. I am in a position of course I can look at the body and then look all those individual parts, the spleen, the hair the gallbladder and all of that, okay we can do that, but it is all looking from the outside. But now when we look from the inside and consider ‘the body is like space’.
So one considers this body is like space and closely applies mindfulness to the body as being like space. One perceives everything to be like space bearing in mind, you remember this from earlier on - when we are closely applying mindfulness to the body it’s not just one’s own body is it? Internally, externally, internally and externally but in that category - the body of all physical phenomena. And so here we take the one physical body for which we have the insider’s view as well the outsider’s view. One may be a doctor who practices satipatthana and then does autopsies or does surgery and opens up bodies and looks inside and so forth, so we can look from the third person perspective, the first person, but here is the one entity in the physical universe we have the first person perspective from the inside, and then consider - this body and then you look outside and everything else is like space.
(21:03) Now he is assuming of course that you have some background, this is not a beginning chapter and this is not beginning text, this is for people that have been around the block for a while and he is assuming that you have some basis there, on the fundamental teachings of Shravaka Yana and so forth because this is Bodhisattva Yana. And so he is assuming, it is safe to say, he is assuming that you already have some sense you know the three marks of existence, you’ve already look into this.
And so now you may be poised to see how all of these phenomena that congeal into entities that have attributes, they’re actually emerging from space, dissolving back into space, and they consist of nothing other than space, just like the appearances themselves, the appearances being the basis of designation and the conceptual mind locks onto them, makes things - objectifies and subjectifies but is all happening in space and there is nothing there other than space.
“One perceives everything to be like space. In order to thoroughly fathom the body, mindfulness is not closely applied to anything else, it is not focused on any other aspect, and it is not allowed to become distracted.”
(22:10) Right there you can do that if and only if you have made your mind serviceable in the preceding way. That is what all the shamatha is about. There is the first theme.
What I would like to do is probably keep the meditation that is coming very shortly keep it pretty open to you to venture, so I am front loading the meditation and recall the first part is familiar now we had a number of times, looking through conceptually, that is when we, within the conventionally reality, does the body have a spleen, head, bones and all these kind of things? The answer is yes, so ok, sweep through it that way and you see, oh, sure there are a lot of parts and there is a skin sac holding them altogether but again where is the body to be found in that?
I was thinking in the United Nations that just convened recently, they maybe still there I don’t know, but so these delegates, these representatives, ambassadors from nations all over the world convening in New York city, and so the assembly, the United Nations assembly, there is only one, just one general assembly, not more than one, there is only one for the whole planet, it is one entity, it is singular and then how many delegates, how many ambassadors, how many representatives and so forth, and then who is the chief of it, who is the head of it? But exactly when has the United Nations convened, at what point can we say, oh, the assembly is now there, when does that take place? There are a lot of countries on the planet, so what if an ambassador of one of them just falls ill, and says to the general assembly, sorry I can’t come, my apologies, but I am sick, I am in hospital, does that mean that the general assembly does not happen because Mauritius did not show up? Okay, go home, we can’t play because Mauritius didn’t show up? Or Iceland, what do we do without Iceland? No we can do without them, we will still go. Well how about Mauritius and Iceland? No we can still go. How about if China does not show up? We will get by. How about nobody from Europe shows up? Are you boycotting? This is getting dodgy now. Is it still assembled or not? If every single country in Europe decided ‘no’, or they all got sick at the same time? So exactly how many do you need to say, ok, the general assembly is there, the United Nations is now in session? When is it in session? When is the United Nations, there? When you say it’s there. And when is it over? How many people have to leave the headquarters before you say, oh, the assembly is gone? When you say so! It is not one, it is not 99 percent is not 100 percent it’s exactly when you say so.
(25:24) Just like how much of your body can you have removed and still say this is a damaged body? A damaged but still a body, a body, body? How much of a house has to be destroyed before you say it’s no longer a house? When you say so. When you say so.
So it is interesting, so with the body, so with the general assembly, so with the house, it comes into existence when we say so, but that means there was nothing really from its own side they come into and became it.
(25:50) I was thinking about that in my meditation before here, imagine that there is something that’s really absolute there, so we go back to Tsongkhapa’s approach, lock on to – what is it you’re refuting? Oh, I know what it is, something inherently existent by its own side, it’s independent of any conceptual designation, it’s already there. So imagine there’s something already there which means it – intrinsically, by its own nature, it already holds its own attributes, it has its attributes, it has a real lock on that, it’s inherently existent, it really is whatever you’re going to say it is. But it is not a body because it’s going to turn into a body, but not yet, it’s inherently existent. And then cause and conditions happen, but this is inherently, there is something really there, and apparently bearing its own characteristics. How can that turn into something else, if it inherently bears its own characteristics? That’s it, it’s stuck. How does it turn into something that it’s not? By an act of volition? From its side, ok, I am going to get rid of some of my attributes? How can that happen, how can one thing ever turn into anything else if it is intrinsically holding on like a vice gripe like a fist? Holding on to its own attributes? How could it ever transform into something that it’s not? And if something is really there, inherently existent? How could it become something, how could it at the end, you know when it comes time to die, how could that ever stop being itself if it is inherently existent? This is the implication from the Madhyamaka that is if it’s inherent existent it’s unchanging. The realization of impermanence itself is a slam dunk proof, if you really understood it. Realization of impermanence immediately implies that it can’t possibly be inherently existent, which means that it can’t possibly, if it were inherent existence, it couldn’t possibly engage in casual interaction. There would be no give. It would be more like one isolated titanium billiard ball that’s got absolute barriers and just goes around the world like this - I am, I am, I am and will not change, and I will not change, I will not change - because it can’t, it’s got a vice grip on all of its attributes. Which means it can’t really be influenced by anything. That’s inherent existence - a dead world.
(28:09) So there is the first theme of meditation - really reflecting on wholes and parts. When does the whole come into existence and then you look into a part of a whole, see that is also a whole, as a spleen is a whole, yet one spleen per body, but then the spleen is made by many, many cells, and so which of those cells is the spleen? And then he goes to the cell and that is made of many molecules, good but molecules are made by many atoms and atoms are made of elementary particles and particles have different features and different attributes on their own and none of those attributes being identical to the elementary particle. So do the whole - parts analyses. And then look for the referent as you holding in mind - my body - then probe in, look right in, can you find a referent, can you find a target of that word, [body]? And then in the absence of finding, you may come across space and then rest there, closely apply mindfulness of the body as being like space, perceive everything to be like space and do so without distraction.
Again it is said, here is another quote from the sutra, oh that is so interesting and it is the same theme now, right from the sutra now:
Again it is said, “This body has not come from the past. It does not proceed to the future. It is not present in the past or the future. Otherwise, it would arise from something unreal and erroneous. It is devoid of an agent or one who experiences, it has no beginning, end, or middle, no fundamental location, no master, no owner, and no possessor. It is designated by the transient labels ‘assemblage,’ ‘body,’ ‘enjoyment,’ ‘abode,’ ‘basis,’ ‘dwelling,’ and ‘sense base.’ This body has no essence. It arose from the semen and blood of one’s father and mother, is by nature impure, putrid, and foul-smelling. It is troubled by the thieves of attachment, hatred, and delusion and by fear and despair. Closely apply mindfulness to it, thinking, ‘Always subject to dissolution, separation, dispersion, and destruction, it is a container for a hundred thousand different diseases.’”
Alan is reading each part of the text and making some comments:
(29:35) This body has not come from the past. So this body has not been around forever obviously, it is not that old. So there is a point at which it did not exist. But then, did it come from the past before it existed? Where did it come from?
This body has not come from the past, it’s not an entity frozen through time, it is not ‘it’.
It does not proceed to the future. It is not present in the past or the future.
This entity, it does not proceed to the future. It is not present in the past or the future. But of course when you look for it right in the present moment, you come up with space. It is not present in the past or the future, otherwise it would arise from something unreal and erroneous.
Otherwise, it would arise from something unreal and erroneous.
If you try to find something inherent existent from which it arose, you are on a fool’s errand.
It is devoid of an agent or one who experiences, it has no beginning, end, or middle, no fundamental location, no master, no owner, and no possessor.
(30:21) This body, it is devoid of an agent, the CEO, the controller. True or not? Check it out. It is devoid of an agent or one who experiences. Remember, the awareness of awareness? When you probe inwards with the cognoscopy, when you are probing in do you have a sense of being the agent? When you probe in do you have a sense of simply being the observer? With respect to the mind and now he is doing the same thing with respect to the body. As you are attending closely to the body from any angle, you see anything here that is the agent? Something separate that is the agent in charge of the body? It is devoid of an agent or one who experiences.
It has no beginning, end, or middle. No fundamental location, no master, no owner, and no possessor.
The transient means adventitious , that is - the Italian could call it this, the French could call it this, the Germans could call it this and so forth, they are just adventitious labels, called by various labels. It is called by these. It is designated by transient labels, ‘assemblage,’ ‘body,’ ‘enjoyment,’ ‘abode,’ ‘basis,’ ‘dwelling,’ and ‘sense base.’ This body has no essence.
It arose from the semen and blood of one’s father and mother, is by nature impure, putrid, and foul-smelling. It is troubled by the thieves of attachment, hatred, and delusion and by fear and despair. Closely apply mindfulness to it, thinking, ‘Always subject to dissolution, separation, dispersion, and destruction, it is a container for a hundred thousand different diseases.
(32:30)That should be enough. This is medicine designed to overcome two things simultaneously, that are both profoundly interrelated. One of these is attachment. It happens at all ages, but attachment to the body, the clinging to the body and thinking this is the very basis of my enjoyment, this is my key to the good life, this is my key to be able to enjoy life. And I want to look good, I want to be attractive, I want to hear the people say – oh you look so young. That is actually quite a Western thing, it really is. To feel happy about that I think is really quite charming. Tibetans find that alien, traditionally speaking, if you are 80 you want to look 80, then people say – oh you look 80! If somebody comes to somebody who is 62 and says - oh you only look like you are 40, the response would be – oh I am so sorry I deceived you! I didn’t mean to!
So it is the grasping, the clinging the identification with the body that is one element. We are enormously distracted - it is such a magnet to carry us away from the cultivation of that which is really meaningful. So there is one aspect, attachment.
So largely it is attachment to the body that makes that so painful. I remember from the Lamrim when I first heard it, we can be so upset, if you have a hundred thousand dollars and you lose a thousand dollars. Someone just steals it. Oh, I don’t like that. It bothers me. Somebody steals a hundred dollars - Oh! Someone steals your car - Oh! Then you lose your family – oh! Then you lose your homeland, you become a refugee – oh! Then you lose your reputation, people think you are a total dope, oh! One by one you see that wow, this really hurts, one by one, losing everything you are identified with it, everything you think you have. But when you die you lose it all at once, everything you have, all your money, your family, your reputation, everything you have acquired, all like one Guillotine coming down. Here is you, and here is everything you had, CUT. And the thing that is closest there, is your body. Your own body. And it is ugly and it’s wrinkly, and it smells bad – decomposing bad, but it is my body. Why do you want to hold onto that? There is so much suffering because of the attachment to the body. That is one element, attachment, loosen that up.
And the other of course is the reification. Let alone my body, it’s just the reification of the body – it’s really there! So the strength of the Pali cannon of the Theravada tradition in particular, the strength of the Sravakayana is to recognize this body is devoid of an owner, a controller, a substantial agent who is controlling it. It is very clear on that. But it doesn’t challenge that much – is the body really there ? Is it an entity from its own side? It is not strongly emphasized. The emptiness of phenomena, it’s there, but you have to look for it. Because now that we are Madhyamika, front and center, it is not enough to realize this body is empty of the agent, the self, the controller that is not enough, you must see the body itself is just as empty, and no more empty, that is the interesting part.
The body is just as empty of inherent existence as you are, and that doesn’t sound true the first time we hear it, at least it didn’t for me, and you may think: no, I know I can’t find myself, I look for myself and I just find mental phenomena, physical phenomena, ok, I don’t exist, I don’t really exist, got ya! “but my body? Give me a break! When I had my motorcycle accident and I had a head on collision with a truck, on my motorcycle, I can tell you my body existed. It REALLY existed, especially my left knee. That is the one that went into the grille. Bang. Man don’t talk to me that my left knee is not inherently existent, it was screaming at me. “I hurt therefore I am”. So the body, no matter whether the body has an intrinsic owner or not, the body, Oh, when the body when is ill, when the body is injured, what do you think? You are kind of inherently existent? That is my impression. That’s a harder nut to crack, and that
is exactly the nut that needs to be cracked.
Look for the referent just as earlier here, you look for the referent of “I”, this word that we use that is being used in all languages, “I” or use your own name, Alan, whatever you name, it means something, so what’s the referent? If it means something so what is it pointing to? We think I am somewhat elusive, but the body? Put it there! My body! All 180lbs of it. That is something real. Until you start looking – oh, that’s the kneecap is that what you are referring to? Or you come in from the inside, you see earth, water, fire, air, space – or maybe you open your eyes and see visual impressions. Doggone it I know I left it here some place, where is that body? That body that has
all of these attributes and has all of those parts? It has got to be here somewhere, I am sure. Look for it. And if you don’t find it, one final point here, I can’t remember which one of my wonderful teachers, perhaps Geshe Rabten, really an important point for exactly this - In this room, forty people or so, if I ask – is Stanley here? I guess not. Is Jeanni here? I guess not. Is that not enough? I glanced around and did not see her. Can I now be confident, can I come to certainty that since I asked the question is Jeanni here, and I looked around and didn’t see her, can I be confident now that she is not here? Or could it just be that I didn’t look carefully enough? And of course she is here. And so we are talking about Jeanni for example, she is not that small, a little petite but not that small, you can see her without a magnifying glass, so within this room, you can imagine coming to an absolutely conclusive certainty, if you know what Jeanni looks like, you can scan through this room, meticulously with your eyes wide open and knowing what to look for , if by the time you have checked the whole room you didn’t find Jeanni, then you could safely conclude that it is not only that I couldn’t find her, but I looked and had she been there I would have seen her, and I didn’t. Therefore, she is not there. And that is knowledge. His Holiness the Dalai Lama strongly emphasizes this – it is not just not finding something, it’s recognizing that it is not there. Not finding something isn’t knowing something. Knowing that something is not there is knowing something. I know she is not here because were she here, I would have seen her. There is no way she could be in this room without my seeing her, after I have scanned through the whole room. But now that I have done so, and there is a total absence of let’s say Danny, because he is large enough and we can all see him easily, if you look for him, you can say with certainty right now, Danny is not in the room. If he were here, one of us would see him. Somebody would see him. But since he is the kind of person that you would see and no one sees him, then you have definitive knowledge – absence of Danny. And then you rest in that.
(42:12) If you scan through your body internally in terms of the elements, you scan through your body conceptually all the parts from the hair to the feet, if the body is here it’s got to be some place here. That’s the room. Either the body is evenly distributed through all of it or in one part or another, or if you think it is outside, check it out, but here is the container, here is the room, and if you can’t find the body through the entirety of the room or anywhere individually in the room, body isn’t there. In which case you know the absence of an inherent existent body, that exists independently of your mere conceptual designation. And then you rest in that spacious quality, that sheer absence, that spaciousness, the body is space. And then if you want to extend your application of mindfulness outwards, you may turn to any physical phenomenon that you like from a galaxy to an elementary particle. It’s the same story, you look for it, you can look for it in terms of sheer appearances, sheer appearances are not a galaxy or an elementary particle, or you can look in terms of parts for analyses, or you can investigate in terms of its factors of origination and factors of dissolution - exactly when did it come into being? Independently objectively by its own nature, or simply when it is designated? And when did it stop being inherently objectively so we simply have to witness it, or when we say so? And if is merely when we say so then it is never there from its own side in the first place, it never came into existence from its own place, it was never there from its own place, and it is never dissolves from its own place, it’s not there at all, it’s space, and rest in that spaciousness, the emptiness of inherent nature. So let’s focus on the body, let’s jump in.
(44:15) But first of all let’s take a breather, as if we are about to set out on an expedition, which can be quite challenging, first of all retreat to your basecamp, to refuge, a place of peace and quiet, to collect yourself, to set your body, speech and mind at ease, calm the turbulence of the mind and make it serviceable.
(46:15) And at your own pace, pose the question to yourself as Shantideva suggests: what is it that is called the body, what is the referent? Scan through the body part by part conceptually, attending to components that are conventionally real, they are there, buy asking: are you the body, are you the body? What is the referent of the term “my body”?
(50:50) If your mind becomes vague, a bit spaced out, just bring to mind what comes to mind when you think “my body”, does nothing come to mind or something? An image? Holding that, whatever it may be, holding that in mind, your sense of what your body is, and return to experience and see if you can find that, anywhere within the skin or outside.
(53:00) Having scan carefully, meticulously through the entire space where your body should be, if you find nothing there, objectively real that you can identify as “this is my body”, if that body is not to be found, and you have scanned thoroughly, then rest in that not finding, in that knowing its absence, rest without distraction in that knowing of the absence of a real body.
(54:50) And then with your eyes open or shut as you wish, adopt the insiders view, moment by moment arising earth, water, fire and air. Is there anything in here that warrants the name, that deserves the name: this is my body? If there is nothing there that really is your body, then as Shantideva suggests, actually view your body as being like space and rest in that awareness without distraction.
(1:08) There are questions waiting here but I think some comments might be helpful to kind of expand and also contextualize this practice and the importance of this practice of gaining some realization of the emptiness of physical phenomena starting with the center of our own universe, our own body.
We are using the summary made by SB Institute and add some of Alan’s comments thinking that would be helpful for understanding the themes, as below:
Alan comments that for Vajrayana practice, it is necessary to realize the emptiness of both self and phenomena. Realization of the emptiness of phenomena is needed in order to transmute our body, the environment, and beings into pure appearances. Our ordinary appearances arise from karma. In Vajrayana, all appearances are dissolved into emptiness, and through the power of Samadhi one is able to overwhelm ordinary appearances with pure appearances. In this way, one takes the result as the path.
A point very important for Vajrayana and that is to engage in Vajrayana practice, really any of the practices - for example Stage of Generation and Stage of Completion, it is simply inadequate to realize only the emptiness of your own personal identity but to leave everything else pretty much untouched. So I exist only as a convention but of course it is a real world. If that is where you are then you really cannot practice Stage of Generation or if you do,
it will be just a game, it would not be authentic or a profound transformative practice. Because bear in mind in Vajrayana practice you are transmuting not only your sense of personal identity but you are transmuting everything, body, speech and mind, and that includes the body, you are actually transmuting your body and this is by the power of visualization in large part. Going into manual override in terms of conceptual designation. But for that you must realize the emptiness of your own body. If you are still grasping in the notion that you have a real body here composed of molecules, cells and so forth that is really there and while, without challenging that, without seen the emptiness of that, if that remains unchallenged and you are still reifying your own body and then you pretend to dissolve into emptiness but you know it is just a little visualization exercise, and then you visualize yourself let’s say as Vajrayogini or whatever, or as a vajrasattva, it is like having a dog turd and dipping it in chocolate, it looks like chocolate from the outside but it is not, it is a dog turd covered in chocolate, it is the same old impure sac of stuff of the human body, one impure substance after another thinly veiled as Vajrasattva, Vajrayogini, Tara, Avalokiteshvara and so forth, but it’s silly.
So it is absolutely imperative to realize the emptiness not only of your body, but the entire environment because you are never simply transmuting or generating pure vision of your own body but possibly the entire environment. So that means the entire environment and everybody in it, so it is a big deal.
His Holiness was asked when he was invited to Greece in 1979, he was asked about preliminary practices, Vajrasattva, Guru Yoga and so forth, because this is the first thing, if you want to practice Tibetan Buddhism, here you are, 200 thousand – hit the deck, you know, (prostrations). But the people knew almost nothing about Buddhism, because the only books in Tibetan Buddhism in Greek at that time were books by Lobsang Rampa. That was it, so they didn’t have a clue. So these people were very frustrated, they were trying to visualize Mt. Meru, that don’t quite know where that fits on the globe, so His Holiness made a very strong point – these preliminary practices are not preliminary to the practice of buddhadharma, they were never intended as such, and if people teach them that way they decontextualize the whole of Vajrayana. Once again, if you are one of those incredibly sharp faculty people, then maybe that will do it, you will go off and realize stage of generation and completion and in one life become a Buddha. But if you are not there, and you don’t even know the Four Noble Truths, you haven’t developed renunciation, bodhicitta, developed shamatha, realization of emptiness, and you are going directly to guru yoga and vajrasattva and so forth, phew, talk about decontextualization? These people were lost. So he said the real preliminary practice for Vajrayana are the Sravakayana and Mahayana. The six perfections, the Four Nobel Truths and so forth, then once you have that foundation, a good theoretical understanding, really had some experience, ok now there is a whole level of purification that is specifically for Vajrayana. Here we go, now you really understand what Guru yoga is, it is not just idealizing your Guru, having blind faith in your Guru, thinking your Guru is infallible because he is your guru. That is religious fundamentalism. That is not guru yoga that is blind faith. So, quite strong point. For authentic practice, your real preliminaries, the Four Noble truths, practices like the Four Immeasurables, and so forth, then the six perfections, returning more deeply to shamatha, realizing emptiness, and then from that perspective, there are a couple of routes to go – one is the classic developmental approach. It’s awesome, it’s produced superb results, to my mind there is no question, it is an authentic path, and that is – from this foundation, go ahead do the preliminaries, good, see the signs of purification, see for yourself that this is really purifying, and not just that you have made it through a hundred thousand, because a computer could do that, a robot could do that. And so, with that preparation, then, dissolve all phenomena into emptiness, bearing in mind that the kind of appearances we have arising to us right now, by the time we are talking about Vajrayana, we really have to put this in the Buddhist context, there is no way to secularize Vajrayana, you can secularize shamatha, you can secularize the four immeasurables, you don’t need Buddha world view. Vajrayana I am sorry, that is within Buddhist world. So there we know.
(1:14:39) Within the Buddhist world the type of appearances arising to us, for example the appearances here in Thanyapura – of Phuket, appearances of other people, how do they appear to us, how does our own body appear to us and so forth? These appearances are coming from where? These appearances are generated by karma and that is in all schools of Buddhism, Theravada, all schools of Buddhism., generated by karma the appearances arising, the seeds are sewn and now the seeds are geminating, they are maturing, they are ripening and we are getting this flow - illness, good healthy, bad healthy, adversity, felicity, there is the flow of karma arising up to meet us, karma, karma, karma, nobody is doing it to us, not God, not Buddha, not devils, not anybody else. Karma maturing, maturing those are appearances all of them empty of inherent nature. So we lock onto them, we put them into a grid, a conceptual grid with a samsaric mind, the ordinary dualistic mind, then superimposing a familiar grid of conceptual designations, then we live in a world we call our universe, which now seems to be absolutely real out there, inherently existent as we are really in here.
(1:15:44) But of course if you realize emptiness then you see although there are those appearances, the appearances themselves are empty, emptiness taking on form and the forms themselves being empty. That is why karma is dishing up is a whole bunch of empty appearances, but they are still arising. So now in Vajrayana practice when you have received the empowerment and so forth and you dissolve everything in emptiness then by the power of your Samadhi you are dissolving everything in emptiness. If you have realization of emptiness all the better. Dissolve all appearances into emptiness but now when you come out and open your eyes, your appearances powered by karma are still going to be there, they don’t suddenly vanished just because you had an empowerment, right? What do you do, and these are the appearances driven by impure karma from kleshas (mental afflictions, obscurations) and so forth in past lives, so what do you do? Since you realize that they are mere empty appearances, you go into manual override and that is to say: “I see you and I am going overpower you by the power of my Samadhi”. If you don’t have Samadhi your Stage of Generation practice is going to be really half baked because you have this massive flow of appearances from karma and you go ic, ic, ic [it means we go too slowly] with a little tiny of visualization, I am sorry that is going to be one voice shouted out by a mob. But if you have Samadhi then you have these appearances arising and then you meet, like two waves coming and you overwhelm the sensory appearances with mental appearances, visualization, mental appearances of pure perception.
You do this, it is not that dog turd covered with chocolate you see their emptiness, their empty appearances, there is nothing being covered over. They are just appearances and you overwhelm them, you override them with pure perception, with your best approximation of visualization. And then you engage by the power of imagination, by the power of faith, by the power of realization of emptiness and so forth, then you generate, and this is hard work, a lot easier if you have achieved shamatha, you generate a whole environment, you generate all the people within that environment, viewing them with pure perception, and viewing yourself with pure perception and divine pride, in which case then you are taking the fruition as the path, that incredibly brilliant and very profound maneuver to do so. And if you continue in that practice and go deeper, deeper and deeper into it, then by the power of your bodhicitta, your realization of emptiness, your power of visualization, all of these together they can really totally override, overwhelm the appearances that arise simply by way of karma. And your environment for you, then gradually shifts from an impure realm in the desire realm, the dharmadatu where you are, where you happen to be, you can be in Detroit, you can be in Buenos Aires, you can be anywhere you like, a ugly city, a beautiful place in nature, anywhere, and because you’ve realized the emptiness, that everything around you is sheer space, that you are an artist and your canvas is space, and although there are appearances there, you override them by the power of visualization with pure vision, you override them with Stage of Generation, generating the mandala and then where you are, step by step transforms into a pure land. So in Mahayana Buddhism there is a lot of references of pure land. Pure lands of the different directions, Sukhavati, Dewachen of Amithaba in the West, West from where? The North Pole? Where is west from the North Pole? I think it is only South. If you are right on top of the North Pole and you take one step in any direction you just move south, so I guess if you are living in the North Pole you cannot go to Sukhavati because you can only move south , there is no other direction, right? Silly. And Dudjom Lingpa said don’t take this literally now, the west east business. Conventually, yes, in a manner of speaking.
(1:19:43) But wherever you are if you have transformed, transmuted, in a kind of a spiritual alchemy, transmuted not only your identity of your body but your environment then where you are, that becomes for you – Sukhavati. You are in a Pure realm, where everybody around you might be in a middle class neighbourhood, or an ugly city or in the beauty of nature, that is where they are, your next door neighbor, but where you are is downtown Sukhavati. Actually the center of Sukhavati. You are right in the center of the Mandala. But if and only if you realize emptiness otherwise again it is just a superimposition, an overlay, a covering, a quilt. The chocolate coating.
Summary made by SB Institute as below:
In Dzogchen, when one breaks through to pristine awareness, pure perception arises spontaneously.
Now in Dzogchen it is so interesting, in the classic procedure of Dudjom Lingpa, Dzogchen is so profound, for me to even say this is my view of it, it would be silly, it would be trivial, you would be wasting your time. So let’s by pass Alan Wallace, let’s go to Dudjom Lingpa, I will try to simply be interpreter for him, and that is that in this really streamline path, Shamatha – make your mind serviceable. Vipashyana – realize the emptiness of all phenomena, got that one? Good. Now we go right into rigpa without any visualization at all. Now you just break through the substrate, to pristine awareness and then naturally, as you are the locus of your awareness, the perspective, where you are looking from, as you break through the conventional mind, the relative mind, your continuum of substrate consciousness, never mind your coarse mind, as you break through even the substrate consciousness to Rigpa, this ground awareness, then from that perspective, as it becomes clearer and clearer, more and more unveiled, then without any visualization at all, pure perception arises spontaneously. Your own identity as Buddha arises spontaneously. And you are in a pure land, wherever you are, spontaneously, because that is how things are from Rigpa perspective. Equally pure from all directions. No visualization. You can do visualization of course, many people do, stage of generation and completion and Dzogchen. And Dudjom Lingpa says, if you want an unelaborated path, simple to the point, life is short – this is sufficient. You just drop into Rigpa and everything displays itself spontaneously.
It’s quite profound. But we see also from whatever path one is following within the Buddhist context, the realization of emptiness of the body is not trivial, it is very, very important.
I would like to see that we are not decontextualizing anything here, it is not just Sravakhyana by itself that is what they do in South East Asia, like putting them in a pocket, but in Tibet we practice Vajrayana and in classical India they did the Bodhisattvayana, it’s all of the piece, all of the piece.
Session of Question and Answers:
(1:23:21) Question: In to what extent is a program of regular study of Buddhas principles and philosophy, for example, mind, mental factors, etc supported to shamatha practices and vice versa, shamatha supported to study to move beyond to shamatha eight levels? Does not it need a solid understanding in mind and emptiness, etc?
I will answer the, it is a very good question, I will give Padmasambhava’s answer and so Panchen Rinpoche’s answer. My perspective does not count.
If you ask anyone in the physics community, well what do you think about Alan Wallace, they will say who is he? And the answer would be - nobody. If you had to go to any of the Ngingma masters and asked them – what do you think of Alan Wallace’s ideas on Dzogchen? They would say – who is he? A Tulku, a Rinpoche? I have never heard of him. He is a nobody. Then go to any of the great Gelupa Geshes, ask what do you think about Alan Wallace perspective – they would say who is he? I have heard of him, yeah but. So I am equally no body. So at least that is something you can count on here. I am not an authority on anything at all, but if I can pass on the teachings of these sublime beings without distortion, then I think okay, that is good enough.
So Padmasambhava, natural liberation, beginning of a section of shamatha, which is right by the preliminary practices, he says – There are two routes, first one is – Study. Hearing and reflection, by studying become a Geshe, whatever, but study well reflect well, learn the Buddhist world view, first learn the view. Then experience. That is one way. Quite common in traditional Tibet. 10, 20, 35 years of training. One of my Geshes took 35 years in training, and it took him one year to hike, from Mogolia to Lhasa to get to school, then 35 years before he graduated. There is one route, really learn well, hearing thinking and then meditation. But it is not the only route.
And Panchen Lama says the same thing. Panchen Lobsang Choyki Gyaltsen, tutuor of the 5th Dalai Lama, offered this great text on Mahamudra, says there are two routes. One is that they are rehearsed then experience. Meditation, meditation. By the way Panchen Rinpoche is regarded as an emanation of Padmasambhava, Atisha is regarded as a speech emanation of Padmasambhava, all in the same family. On the other hand there is the other approach, instead of having meditation emerge out of the view, rather go directly to the meditation and let the view emerge out of the meditation. And that is the other route. These are two of the greatest masters of Tibet, one 17th Century, one 8th Century.
So it is good to see the flexibility. It is one of the things I really love about Tibetan Buddhism, about this tradition, that there are so many avenues, so many variations so you can really, like walking into clothing store [with lot of choices], you are sure you can find something that fits perfectly, you know. To answer the question – do you need to really understand , to have studied well, the nature of mind and emptiness before you can move beyond the eighth stage of Shamatha? The answer is no. Hindus, Christians, and lots of people can achieve Shamatha, and lots of them have without having studied Buddhist world view, don’t even believe in it necessarily. So no, it is quite clear, one must be free of the five obscurations, one must have those inner requisites, but none of them say you have to have a good understanding of Buddhist phycology, let alone emptiness, you don’t have to realize that, that’s for sure. Could it be helpful? There is the answer. Could you, if you had pure motivation, good renunciation, pure ethics, contentment, few desires, few concerns, completely eradicating rumination, practicing in a condusive environment, practicing with support, companions and a good teacher, could you achieve Shamatha? The answer is yes. And then the view comes out of that, and then you will understand the reference, the meaning of the Buddhist psychology, from your own laboratory, you will say – oh those are mental factors , that’s consciousness, that’s impermanence and so forth, and so on. You will have the Buddhism start growing out of you, growing out of your own experience, so the view can emerge from your meditation. And Padmasambhava said – that is my approach. That is what I am presenting here in Natural Liberation. Go for the meditation first and let the view emerge out of that.
It is like those people in the Pali cannon who came to the Buddha requesting teachings and he gave them teachings and they realized nirvana, became stream enterers, and after they reached Nirvana they came to the Buddha and said I take refuge in you. They became Buddhist after they became stream enterers.
And for a very good reason, if someone just led you to Nirvana you would take refuge in them. It’s a good refuge, they know it now, not because they have had very good teachings, intellectually engaging and stood up to analysis and so forth, but they tasted Nirvana. Anyone who led you to Nirvana must be a good doctor, a great physician.
So the two are complimentary and then it is a matter of temperament, inclination and so forth. I will end with a story, a favorite story from my own life, it was from one of my private interviews, audiences with Kyjbae Trijang Rinpoche, one of the two tutors of His Holiness Dalai Lama. Incredible being, I can’t even remember the context of the meeting, just sitting and this one explanation he gave to me. The explanation was imagine three people are very hungry, want some food. The first one they bring out a Tibetan picnic, nice variety, all sorts of good stuff, and the person chows down and says that was good, I am full, good meal, thank you.
Second person comes in, just as hungry, and they say – here is some Tsampa, here is some cheese, here is a some nice veggies, some dried peaches, chows down, very nice meal, I am full, thank you.
Third person comes in just as hungry as the other person, gives him Tsampa, butter tea and says chow down. If you eat enough Tsampa and butter tea you do get full, I guarantee. It is good food, lots of grain butter and barley.
So each one got fully nourished, got full, got a good meal. One elaborate, one medium, one plain.
He said in a similar fashion, with authentic practitioners, some come to the dharma and they just come with an enormous appetite, they want to study everything, they just want to drink the whole ocean of dharma in, and by the time they have studied, and then they put it all into practice, they do just what Tsongkhapa said, acquire great learning and then synthesize that all into your daily practice, so all of that learning is put into your practice, it is not something else, it’s all poured into your practice, you practice day and night, you achieve enlightenment. That is one approach. The Geshe approach.
But another person will come and say life is short, give me some of the core teachings, give me Lamrim , give me 37 practices of Bodhisattva, give me Lojong, give me Heart Sutra, life is short and I really want to practice. This person gets a moderate meal, and learns well and practices day and night, and that person achieves enlightenment. Same result, exactly the same result.
Third person comes in, life is really short, you are the lama , I am the student, fill me up, give me teachings that I can put into practice, now, you teach I practice, I am going to rely on you for oral teachings, but give it to me straight, I have no time for elaboration, that person, just following the Guru’s oral guidance, step by step, achieves perfect enlightenment. All the three achieve the same. So then, which one?
That’s our choice. And none of them is better than the other or otherwise we would have to say Tsongkhapa was better than Milarepa. Nobody says that. And nobody in their right mind says that Milarepa was better than Tsongkhapa, that is ridiculous. It is foolishness. One writes poetry and touches the hearts of millions of people, the other writes 18 volumes of brilliant dharma and touches the lives of millions of people. In very different way, but all leading to dharma. So the answer is, they are complimentary, but whether you start with a lot of teaching and go to the practice, or just a little bit and go to the practice – it gives rise to great insight. Either way is good.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Cheri Langston
Final edition by Rafael carlos Giusti
Posted by Alma Ayon