HOME Dharma Teachings
His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche's Teaching on Milarepas' Songs
by His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche
Oral translation by Tashi Jamyangling
May 11-15, 2004
The Eight Ornaments of Profound Meaning
The Song of Mahamudra
Turning Daily Activities into Practices
All the Dharma friends who have come here to receive the teaching is indeed a wonderful thing to happen. To you all, with joy, I welcome you and wish you Tashi Delek.
The sublime Dharma is the words/teachings of the Buddha. What is sublime Dharma? Sublime Dharma consists of loving kindness and compassion. When we say loving kindness and compassion, we think of all sentient beings as boundless as space, we treat all sentient beings as our children and we think of ourselves as the mother. Following the Buddhist teaching, what a practitioner necessarily has to do is to try to alleviate all sufferings of mother sentient beings. Even though we individuals are seemingly insignificant, there is no limitation as to how far and wide we can generate our mind. We can reach out to all sentient beings of the three dhatus. Therefore, it is not an insignificant thing. It is a very, very significant thing.
Buddha’s teachings consists of ‘84 000 heaps’ and when we go on to practise these teachings, we do so in four different ways. Imparting the Dharma knowledge, listening or learning the Dharma teachings, meditating on what is learned and then actually practicing the Dharma teachings.
When we actually go about practicing the Dharma, we start with taking refuge. Why do we have to take refuge? Taking refuge is the foundation to the Dharma practice. We take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is the three outer refuge. We take refuge in the Buddha who is the historical Buddha, Gautama Buddha. We take refuge in his teachings consisting of 84 000 heaps. When we say 84 000 heaps, it sounds really as a tremendous amount and overwhelming. But when you sit down and practise the essence of these teaching, it is not so vast at all. In fact, the entire 84 000 heaps of Buddha’s teaching can be summarized into loving kindness and compassion. We try to generate loving kindness and compassion or bodhicitta where there is no bodhicitta. Once bodhicitta is arisen/generated in one’s mind stream, we try to ensure that it is not depleting/decreasing but increasing higher and higher. That is the fruit of, the result of, the essence of 84 000 heaps of teachings. We talk about the essence of all the Buddha’s teaching is bodhicitta or loving kindness and compassion. We can even simplify that, in summary, we can repeat what Khenpo Tenzin Sangpo replied to a foreign Dharma practitioner who met Khenpo some years ago in Tibet and the practitioner said, “The Buddha’s teaching is so vast, so overwhelming, can you please teach me one simple essence, the summary of the whole teaching.” Khenpo replied, “It is very easy. The quintessential teaching is compassion.” Khenpo Tenzin Sangpo is indeed a fully Enlightened being. When you actually sit down and practise the Dharma, what you practise is compassion or you practise love.
Sublime Dharma practice means that you have to have loving kindness and compassion in your mind stream. And if you progress in the practice of bodhicitta, you will come to something called untargeted/impartial compassion, that is, you would treat all sentient beings like a mother would to her own children. When you have that kind of loving kindness and compassion to all, that is the untargeted compassion. Right now, we have loving kindness and compassion but it is only towards those who are close to our heart. It is biased. We have loving kindness and compassion towards our children, family members because of attachment. The other side of the coin is that we have aversion, in the worst scenario, we have hatred. So, that is dualistic. When we practise Dharma whoever practise loving kindness and compassion, that person becomes a Sangha. A Sangha would not cause pain and suffering to others, but instead, will benefit to whatever extent one can.
When you take refuge, it is important to understand that the three Jewels are really in one’s own mind stream. When you actually practise the Dharma, you have the potential to reach Enlightenment because the three Jewels are within one’s own mind stream. When you reach Enlightenment, who actually and what reaches Enlightenment? The Tibetan word for Enlightenment is Sang-ge, made up of two separate words. ‘Sang’ is to awaken, so which component of oneself awakens? It is the mind which is awoken. Before one reaches Enlightenment or mind is awoken, that mind stream will have attachment, the notion that I am the center of all things. This association, the mind stream is polluted with this clinging to I and self. Whatever activities we do, there is always I or my or mine as the central focus. When I pick up my cup and take a seep from my cup, I have this tendency that the cup is mine and the water is for me and this goes on on a daily basis, at all time but no one is really consciously aware of this. So, in order to reach Enlightenment or to awaken the mind stream, you have to dismantle the attachment. The only way you can do that is to generate loving kindness and compassion. When you are able to do this, the mind becomes the Buddha. When mind is unobscured by ego clinging or self attachment, then the next word for Enlightenment is ‘Ge’ . ‘Ge’ is to expand, to reach out, to pervade. When the mind is not obscured, it reaches
out to all, it pervades everything. That state of mind in the Dzonchen language is primordially pure. Then the mind stream is fully awoken and as a result, to reach out to all becomes like the space. This definition is given by Milarepa.
In some religions, they tell you that sentient beings cannot become Enlightened beings. That is a very narrow-minded view. Gautama Buddha teaches us that if you put in enough effort, you too will reach Enlightenment. The reason is that all sentient beings have Buddha nature and Buddha potential. Gautama Buddha, being omniscient, knows that all sentient beings have the same Buddha nature and will enable them to reach the same kind of Enlightenment that Buddha himself has reached. The difference between a fully Enlightened Buddha and a sentient being who is in samsara, if we use an analogy, is as the difference between water and ice. The essence of ice is water except that it is frozen. When the water is frozen, it is called ice. When ice thaws, we call it liquid water. Both water and ice have the same essence.
Sentient beings in cyclic existence, what and who is responsible for it? It is like an ice sheet that has built up in our mind stream that is responsible. We normally don’t seem to be aware of it, but the root cause of our existence in samsara is attachment. If you read the thirty-seven Boddhisattva practices, it teaches you that the root cause of all pain and suffering is one’s desire for one’s own happiness at the expense of others. We refer to afflictive emotions – sometimes we say three poisons, sometimes we say five poisons. If we go into details, it refers to 84 000 types of afflictive emotions. The driving force or the root cause of all these afflictive emotions is attachment. If you try to look at that, attachment, the root cause of evils, you will not be able to see it. It is intangible just as you cannot touch the freezing cold weather in winter time. You go out there, the weather is so cold, everything freezes, you feel it at the tips of your fingers, your toes, your ears etc. Moreover, you have a tendency of shrinking, shivering. You do feel the effect, but if you say, “show me winter,” there is nothing that you can hold onto and say that this is winter. Likewise, attachment is something that you cannot hold and say that this is attachment. But the effect of attachment is consuming your mind stream. So we can more or less say that attachment is the harsh winter climate where everything freezes. Only the Enlightened one, the Buddha, is able to see this.
Attachment has to do with self, I. One disciple came to a lama and said, “Lama, you keep on teaching me that I should dispel attachment and self. Where is self? I cannot find it.” The lama said, “Why do you come here today?” The disciple said, “I came to receive some teachings.” The lama said, “Precisely. You said that I came to receive teachings. That is attachment. That is self.”
We are talking about attachment and self and we said that we have to dismantle attachment. The need to dismantle attachment is not seen by anyone except the wise Buddha. Whatever kind of pain and suffering in this world, it comes about because of our attachment, aversion and ignorance. Whatever kind of pain and suffering exist in samsara, it comes about because of these three poisons. It was the Buddha who saw the root causes of all the pain and suffering in samsara. It was Buddha who said that the antidote weapon against these three poisons is altruistic mind. If we need to dismantle attachment, aversion and ignorance, we have to have an altruistic mind. In the Buddha’s teaching, he compares the power of sun and bodhicitta. Buddha said, the power of bodhicitta, the radiance of bodhicitta is by far brighter than the radiance of 100 000 suns. All sentient beings do not need any pain and suffering. All sentient beings aspire to have happiness and the causes of happiness. When an individual is undergoing a lot of pain and suffering, a person can sit in the sun for a long, long time but the light is not going to alleviate pain and suffering. Conversely, when you are undergoing pain and suffering, if you either meet a really close friend or hear his or her voice or receive a letter of some sort, immediately, it will dispel the darkness of suffering in your mind stream. Why? Because of love and compassion that exist between the two of you. If love and compassion between two persons can make that kind of difference, then not to speak of the love and compassion that exist between ten people or hundred people. Then try to imagine the kind of power that it would have when you have loving kindness and compassion towards all mother sentient beings of the three realms. That is why we say the power of bodhicitta is by far greater than the power of 100 000 suns. This is just talking, you need to have the experiential understanding of the power of bodhicitta. You have to turn inwardly and experience the power of bodhicitta.
Where there is loving kindness and compassion in one’s mind stream, there is the absence of attachment and aversion. Just as the sunlight melts away the snow flakes, loving kindness and compassion will melt away attachment and aversion. When the mind stream is filled with loving kindness and compassion and when there is the absence of attachment, aversion and ignorance, then one will have an experiential understanding of the innate nature of the mind. Then you are actually experiencing the absolute truth. When you have loving kindness and compassion in your mind stream, you are not going to cause pain and suffering to others, but you are going to do anything possible to benefit the others. When you do not cause pain and suffering to others and you benefit others, you yourself become a Sangha. When you become a Sangha, you have done away with attachment. That is why taking refuge is so important. All these are within the topic of taking refuge.
Now, we talk about the three inner refuges. All the three inner refuges are not outside but within one’s own mind stream. How do we actually practise this? Milarepa said that we have to master the view, meditation, conduct and fruition. These are the four different paths. First, we will deal with the Buddhist view. In doing so, we have to look at two aspects of doing it, the outer mastering and the inner mastering.
There are three groups of sentient beings. There are sentient beings who have a great deal of mental capacity, there are sentient beings who have average capacity and there are sentient beings who have feeble mental capacity. Why are they different? From where does the disparity come? The differences arise because of one’s own past deeds. In your many lifetimes, if you had exposure to Dharma teaching and practice, the result is that you are blessed with a higher level of understanding in this life. If you had average exposure to Dharma and practice in your previous life, you will have an average understanding in this life. If you had just received refuge ordination in former life/lives, the result is that you will have leaning towards the Dharma even though maybe you do not have a profound understanding of the Dharma. Although one’s own ability to understand the Dharma is kind of predetermined by the amount of exposure that you had in your previous life/lives, all these three different categories of mental capacity are very much prevalent in one being’s current life. That is to say, when one enters the path of Dharma as a novice, there would not be a great deal of appreciation or understanding of the Dharma. So we can classify this period as a period when one does not have a great deal of intelligence or intellectual capacity. As you keep on learning and practicing, then you will open up and you will have a greater mental capacity to understand. When you receive a lot of teachings and when you do a lot of meditation etc, you will be at the level of those who have a greater degree of understanding and mental capacity.
We are dealing with the Buddhist view. Mastering the Dharma practice, for
someone belonging to the group having the least capacity and consequently have
the least capacity of understanding the Dharma, they should master the thorough
understanding of cause and effect relationship. The cause being attachment and
the effect or the result being pain and suffering that exist in samsara.
Therefore when you understand this relationship, you will understand that there
is a need to give up afflictive emotions which bring about pain and suffering.
How can you give up afflictive emotions? You can do that by making proper use
of such mental events as mindfulness, watchfulness and heedfulness. Beings with
the least mental capacity will strive to reach self-liberation. Self-liberation
can only be realized if you have the understanding of cause and effect
relationship. There is the outer cause-and-effect relationship and the inner
cause-and- effect relationship. The inner cause and effect/result is very
important. Whenever there are afflictive emotions in your mind stream, if you
aspire to reach self-liberation, you have to get rid of these afflictive
emotions. Whenever there are afflictive emotions in your mind stream, these
afflictive emotions will serve as a seed. When there are seeds sown, it is a
certainty that sooner and later, there will be blades of grass growing. It is
just like a seed of flower, one day it will bloom. So, in order to deal with
this, you have to be your own witness, your own judge, and you have to be true
to yourself and try to get rid of these afflictive emotions. When you find out
that all the pain and suffering that one faces in samsara come about because of
afflictive emotions and then when you investigate further, one will find that
hatred for example, will cause one’s rebirth or one’s experiencing of the
suffering of hell. When you know the reason why one faces certain pain and
suffering, one will come to the conclusion that one has to detach oneself from
attachment. In the case of the persons who have the least exposure to the
Dharma, through reasoning and through one’s own experience, one by one, one will
be able to find out the reasons why there are pain and suffering. If for no
other reason, by fearing the consequence of unleashing negative emotions, one
will be able to then cease to have attachment. The root cause of everything is
attachment and aversion. When we say attachment, aversion, ignorance etc,
really, it is the attachment to self. When you minimize or do away with this
very strong attachment and aversion, you will start to see the true nature of
the mind. When you start seeing a glimpse of the true nature of the mind, you
will realize that obscurations, pain and suffering are all brought about by
attachment to self. When you have this understanding, you will find out the need
for bodhicitta, loving kindness and compassion, or benefiting others or
altruism. But in the case of beings with the least amount of exposure to the
Dharma, you begin by trying to do a service to yourself. Try to alleviate your
own pain and suffering and gradually, you will find out that the way to
alleviate your own suffering is by being kind, gentle, and compassionate to
others. By being that, you will discover that you need to detach from attachment
Those who belong to the average group of beings with average mental capacity should have a complete understanding of the fact that all sentient beings are indeed one’s own parents from the beginningless time, it has always been that way. What it means is that it is the view of those who practise, who walk the path of Bodhisattva, this is dealing with loving kindness and compassion.
So if you master in the view that is suitable for the first two groups of beings, especially in the case of the average mental capacity who have thorough understanding of how all sentient beings are one’s own parents etc, then at this level of understanding, there would be very little attachment and aversion in one’s mind stream. Then there would be the presence of a state of mind that is balanced, this is called equanimity. When you have equanimity, then the state of mind will be at peace, stable. When the state of mind is at peace and stable, a subtle conceptual thought or subtle afflictive emotions would not be able to shake the stabilized state of mind. Gradually, this stabilized state of mind will become like space which is free of the four limitations or the four extremes (as summed up by eternalism and nihilism). The mind which is free of four extremes, is a mind which sees itself or its own innate nature. When you see the innate nature of the mind itself, that state of mind is not dualistic (self and others). In this state of mind, you will experience the oneness of sentient beings and enlightened beings. There will be no attachment, no aversion. Where there is no attachment, the mind is set free. It becomes like the all pervading space, free from limitations or extremes. Then that state of mind is the state of mind of the beings belonging to the group which has superior mental capacity.
The Eight Ornaments of Profound Meaning TOP
To cut through exaggeration from within
Is this not view not spoiled by any extreme?
Dress it in scriptures, adorn it with reasoning
And this will serve as its special embellishment.
Rinpoche is going to teach us one of Milarepa’s songs called “The Eight Ornaments of Profound Meaning”. First, Rinpoche is going to explain the view and the first priority (essential element). These priorities are labeled poetically as ornaments. Milarepa based on eight different ornaments to help us to understand the definitive/ultimate meaning. The first ornament is Buddha’s canonical teachings (scriptures) and one’s own analytical deduction (reasoning).
People talked about the four extremes. We can summarize it into eternalism and nihilism or affirmative and negative. We cannot fall into one extreme by saying that yes, everything exist independently. If you say that because within all phenomena, whether it is the outer cosmos or everything that is subsumed under, not one single thing exists inherently or independently without relying on other factors and conditions. On the other hand, if you have a nihilistic view of all phenomena, this is also extreme because all phenomena and everything that we experience are actually the creation of the mind.
The four extremes really mean eternalistic view and nihilistic view. This is talking about the innate nature. When we talk about the innate nature, we have to be definitive or absolute about it. We can do that based on a) quotations from the teachings of the Buddha, and b) through our own analyses and experiences. We cannot be definitive about it without both of these two components, one without the other will simply not do. We are talking about the Buddhist view which is beyond all extremes and to come to this kind of profound and definitive meaning, you have to rely on the Buddha’s teachings as well as your own experiential understanding and analyses. Buddha said, “The profound and definitive meaning of the innate nature is profound, pacifying (peaceful), unfabricated, luminous, not composite. These are the characteristics or attributes of the innate nature.”
This comes directly from a quotation of the Buddha. Now if we analyze it through our experiential understanding of the innate nature, we can only do so by the mind looking at the mind itself. When we do so, it will appear to us as if there is one aspect of the mind as conceptual thought and the other aspect of the mind which sees the rising of the conceptual thought. It appears to us as if these are dualistic. Conceptual thought which is the seeing and the see-er, the watchful aspect of the mind, which does the seeing. Now we investigate what this aspect of the mind which sees the conceptual thought (the see-er) is all about. When we do that, the identity of that particular aspect of the mind has gone into emptiness. It becomes like the space, it cannot be labeled. It has disappeared. Now we have to stay in that state of mind, a state of mind which cannot be labeled, cannot be named, cannot be identified as such, but it is there and it does not have an independent existence. That state of mind is – is not; affirmative yet negative. That state of mind is the mind which created both samsara and nirvana. It is not something that there is, it is not something that there is not. We cannot put a label to it. Let it be left in its natural state. When left to its natural state, it is unfabricated or uncontrived. To come to conclusion to the definitive profound meaning, we need the direct teaching from the Buddha, and our own experiential understanding of the subject matter. It is kind of easy when we look externally at all the phenomena and to come to a conclusion that all phenomena are the creation of one’s own mind. Everything we see outside is composite and come about due to the conglomeration of causes and conditions. It is even easier when we rely on science as far as matter is concerned. However, when it comes to the inner mind though, it is somewhat more difficult.
When the conceptual thoughts dissolve in
the state of Dharmakaya (Buddhahood),
Is this not the self-arisen/self-originated meditation?
Dress it up in the realm of experience
And this will serve as its special embellishment.
Second, Rinpoche talks about meditation and the priority here is experience. We understand that all phenomena, both in samsara and nirvana, are the creations of the mind. First, the conceptual thought arises, when we treat what is arisen as conceptual thought as having inherent existence, one thing leads to the other. The cup, for example, first you need to have an idea – conceptual thought, and it evolves from there. It is the creation of mind. So is our very physical body. But conceptual thought does not have its independent existence without relying on other causes and conditions. When you do not follow these conceptual thoughts as having independent existence, what the root text says is that these conceptual thoughts will dissipate. How? Just like waves arising from the ocean will dissolve into the ocean itself. When you understand that conceptual thoughts are without reality,
without inherent existence, then what happen to conceptual thought is that it will dissolve/dissipate into where it comes from, which is the Dharmakaya state of Buddhahood. Conceptual thought does not exist independently. Conceptual thoughts are not reality, they are merely the manifestations of the innate nature and do not exist independently. So, if you do not follow them, they will just disappear from wherever they came from, just like waves disappearing into the ocean. This is the meaning of the first two lines.
The next two lines: we talked about conceptual thoughts dissolving in the Dharmakaya state, isn’t that the spontaneously arisen meditation? This line means experience based on understanding is of priority. To come to that kind of definitive meaning, you need to have the words of the Buddha as well as the basis of your own experiential understanding. Yes, you can analyze and you can rely on science etc, but most important of all, it should be something that is based on your own experience. We may ask, “How does the conceptual thought dissolve into the Dharmakaya state of Buddhahood?” If we try to analyze these things and get into a zillion number of nitty-gritty things, it will only confuse the mind. If someone tries to cut a tree by cropping off all the branches and leaves of a gigantic tree, it is going to be time consuming, confusing and ineffective. So, if one wants to get rid of all the branches and the tree altogether, we may as well cut and crop off the tree trunk so that you have taken care of everything. Likewise, instead of going through all different ways of analyzing as to how the conceptual thought dissolves in the Dharmakaya state of Buddahood, the most powerful thing is to base everything on your own experiential understanding and your own experience. This is the second ornament. Milarepa said, “In order to come to the definitive understanding of the point, instead of putting it into very eloquent words, verbalizing it and talking about many fancy things, simply try to understand the main point.” So it is the same thing as cutting the tree trunk rather than cutting the branches and leaves.
If the understanding of the true nature is not based on your own experiential understanding, but it is based on academic understanding only, then what is going to happen is that you know how to say, “All conceptual thought arises from the true nature of mind and dissipates into the true nature of the mind.” But that is all. The negative side of having only the academic understanding is that whenever you generate a very strong negative emotion, like anger, you are going to unleash that anger, create negative karma just the way you used to do before. Nothing has changed and you are going to create the same kind of negative karma, same kind of consequences that you have to face. But on the contrary, if it is based on your own experiential understanding, then when a very strong anger arises, immediately, you will know that it is not a very good thing to unleash negative emotions. You will meditate on the nature of that particular negative emotion and in the process that negative emotion will have disappeared. When the negative emotion disappears, then you will say “Yes, I understand that anger does not have inherent existence.” Then next you are going to say, “If anger does not have inherent existence nor do any other afflictive emotions. All afflictive emotions are empty of inherent existence.” Then this is going to benefit you when you continue to practise what you understand.
The sixfold collection purified where it
Is this not the conduct of equal taste?
Dress it up in a sense of right timing
And this will serve as its special embellishment.
The third verse of teaching is dealing with conduct and the priority (ornament) is timing. In dealing with conduct, the root text said, “When the grouping of six aspects of consciousnesses is purified where it stands, isn’t that called the conduct of equal taste?” The six senses are eyes, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. Their associated objects, six sense objects, are form, sound, smell, taste, touch and all phenomena. Based on the six senses with the presence of the six sense objects, mental factor such as consciousness arises. The six aspects of consciousness are (eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness and mind-consciousness). When the six aspects of consciousness are purified where they stand, there is no question of attachment. Then there is no question of lingering in samsara. We are talking about having the experiential understanding of the innate nature. The conduct of one taste, one taste so that whenever you see an image, there is no question of attachment to the good image or aversion to the not so good image; the same thing applies to sound, smell, taste, touch and everything. There is complete oneness, no good, no bad, no parallel nor opposite. No question of beautiful and not beautiful and that is called equal taste. As to Milarepa, there is no difference between samsara and nirvana, it is of one taste. To him, if a child is crying here, he knows that it is unreal as there is no independent inherent existence, it is like a dream. So when we talk about purifying the six consciousnesses, this is what it is about.
We are talking about conduct and in the context of eight ornaments; right timing is the essential element (ornament or priority). Right timing is very crucial. When you are practicing all the things that we mentioned, the purification of the six consciousnesses and reaching a level where you can have one taste, the question is when you should practise the one taste. Now timing is important. If you do not have the experiential understanding of the innate nature of all things, you will not be able to understand what one taste is. Good taste and not so good taste in food, for example, these are all delusion and delusion, by definition, is the cause of pain and suffering. When it comes to clothing for example, there is good and not so good dress, warm or not so warm, all these attributes that we attach to our clothes. All these are in reality conceptual thoughts. When you are used to certain food and you are habituated with that food, the taste is acquired and that taste is stuck with you. It is almost like an addiction. You got to have that taste and you call it good taste. But if you look at the nature of that good taste, there is not a thing called good taste which exists independently out there. There is not a thing called bad taste in food which exists independently. The timing part, you have to practise this one taste whenever you have the experiential understanding of the true nature. But if you do not have inner realization and you went out there and drank heavily, the
result would be drunkenness. It is not a good timing. We are talking here about conduct. It has to be at the right timing. When you are realized to the level where you will not be intoxicated at all and you will not lose the mental alertness, it is perfectly fine to drink and it is of one taste. However, it is not a good timing if you are not realized. It is fine for a realized person such as Naropa to kill sentient beings (fishes) since he reached the kind of realization where his mind and the mind of other sentient beings merge into one and he could elevate their consciousness to the level of Buddha’s pureland for example. So all things are about timing and you can practise one taste only when the timing is right and when you are able to practise this one taste. When all the six sense consciousnesses are purified, that is to say, complete and utter pure vision, and when you have reached that very high level of attainment, a person who is beyond good and bad, then whatever that person does is fine as he or she sees everything as pure vision, it is now the time which enable you to do whatever you want. About timing, again, whether
the thing you do is virtuous or not, depends on the right time and wrong time. This applies to giving – charity or Dhana; there is also a timing factor here. The Boddhisattvas had no problem in cutting off their body parts and feeding the hungry animals, for example, because the timing for them was right as they were in that state of attainment where they could do that. If we try to replicate what they did, it will be tragedy. If we cut off our hands, it is going to hurt us and there will be consequences to it since timing is not right. So, instead of doing any good, it becomes an obstacle to our practice. For example, many of you who aspire to go for long retreat, again, there is right time and wrong time as mentioned here. Therefore, you should weigh all pros and cons, to see whether you are likely to be able to succeed if you went on a retreat. Also find out if you are able to make ends meet. And emotionally and otherwise, when you think it is the right time, then it is a good thing to embark on whatever Dharma practice you want to do.
experiences of emptiness bliss well up
Is this not the point of whispered lineage instruction?
Dress it in four empowering abhishekas
And this will serve as its special embellishment.
I (Tashi Jamyangling) translated the text as follows: “When experiences of emptiness and bliss are generated, is that not called the pith instructions passed from mouth to ear?” We are talking about the union of emptiness and bliss. Bliss is generated when you do practices like nadi, prajna and bindu. Bliss can also be generated when you do creation stages of practice. When you say the union of emptiness and bliss, the essence of bliss is emptiness, essence of emptiness is bliss. All kind of contaminated bliss is subject to changes, however, the non-contaminated bliss, the absolute bliss is called the Great Bliss, it is the kind of bliss that is devoid of pain and suffering and this kind of bliss can be called the pitch instructions (oral lineage) passed from mouth to ear. If you practise nadi, prajna and bindu, you will generate bliss. If you experience the true nature of the mind however, you will experience the Great bliss. The true nature of the mind itself is the Great Bliss.
When you generate bliss and emptiness, why is it that it has to tie necessarily with the unwritten pitch instructions passed from master’s mouth to your ear? Bliss and emptiness are generated (for example, by practising nadi, prajna, bindu or the creation stage of practice or completion stage of practice) because of the help of the pitch instructions given by the master. If you are going to generate the bliss and emptiness because of the pitch instructions given by one’s own master, it must be connected to the bestowal of the four empowerments. Four empowerments, the first one is creation stage of the practice (vase empowerment), second, the completion stage of the practice (secret empowerment), third, the empowerment of the mind (crystal empowerment), fourth, the essence kaya empowerment (primordial wisdom empowerment). When the empowerment of the creation stage (the first empowerment) is given, it introduces you to the fact that your five aggregates or skandas, five senses, five sense bases are primordially pure. The second empowerment introduces you to the fact that all your subtle nerves, channels, wind, bindu, everything is primordially pure. By giving such empowerment, it enables one to reach the state of sambogakaya, the state of Buddhahood after death and before rebirth. Third empowerment introduces you to the qualities of one’s mind and the fourth is the introduction to the true nature of the mind. So again to recap, the arising of the union of emptiness and bliss is called the pitch instructions given from master to disciple and this must be linked with the four empowerments.
There is also a method to introduce mahamudra – first, the generation of bliss and emptiness through the practice of nadi, prajna and bindu and then step by step attaining the attainment of the four yogas in the Kagyupa tradition. The four yogas are one point, uncontrived/unfabricated, one taste and no meditation. The four yogas are not part of the Six Yogas of Naropa, rather, the four yogas are the four levels of meditation attainment. So, the fourth ornament is the four empowerments. When we talk about empowerment, it deals directly with the esoteric tantric practice. Empowerment means the tantric practice that enables one to reach Enlightenment in one lifetime. This is the specialty of tantric practice. If one can practise it according to the tantric teachings, all the five sense objects need not be given up. In tantric practice, the sense of giving up does not arise; rather the key word is transformation, transformation of the five sense objects into the five primordial wisdoms. The five sense objects are taken into the path to reach enlightenment. This is what tantric practices is all about and this is what empowerment is all about. Empowerment in this case means the tantric practice. When you receive empowerment, with that comes the teaching and after that you will have some understanding of what tantric practices is all about.
What actually happens when you receive empowerment is that, one will then expose to the teaching of pure vision. When you are able to practise pure vision and that at all times aided by alert mind, one will always view oneself as deity and others as deities as well. At that time, the question of attachment and aversion would not arise, which means that there will not be dualism, self and others. Without dualistic mind, with pure vision, then whatever kind of sense-object that you make use of, as long as it is done without parting from the deity, pure vision, there is no cause to habituate yourself. Normally what happens is, without that kind of pure vision, first you are attracted to the sense object, then you make use of that and you kind of feel good about it and you repeat it, it becomes a habit, almost like an addiction which result in bondage in samsara. When you have this deity vision, pure vision of self and others, even when you make use of the sense object, the half you are using it for your sustenance but the other half you are offering it to the deity. This will not bind you into immobility. You will not be in samsaric bondage.
In order to practise this kind of teaching, you need to have a spiritual master who is completely qualified to impart the teaching and the knowledge which will enable you to generate the union of bliss and emptiness. From the view of the disciple, you need to have a great deal of devotion and faith in the teaching and in your spiritual master. Just repeat, the keyword here is the pitch instructions that pass from the master’s mouth to the disciple’s ear (the pitch instructions pass through the oral lineage). This is a rough orientation of Milarepa’s teaching here. Everything cannot be made explicit and open here because it is the esoteric aspect of the tantric teaching. Many of you have received many empowerments and when you receive empowerment, it is important that you observe the samayas or the obligations.
Here it says, these teachings must be practised in the context of the four empowerments or the practice must be associated with the four empowerments. Mind and the samaya or obligation must not part. When we say obligation of receiving empowerment, we are talking about pure vision. All the male species must be viewed as Chenrezig or Avalokitshvara and all the female species must be viewed as Tara. All sentient beings must be viewed as dakas and all the female beings must be viewed as dakinis. Again and again, consistently, you must train mind to recognize all sentient beings as such. When you are able to train the mind in this way, whatever daily activities you conduct, they will all be pure, whatever food or drink you eat or drink, these are viewed as ganachakra offerings. All of you must after receiving the tantric empowerment make effort to practise pure vision. For example, you have a spouse to whom you have a great deal of love and affection, you have respect etc. When you practise pure vision, your practice in this current life will progress. It will become better and better. In the future, after you pass away from here because of having practised pure vision, because of having viewed each other as deity, that practice will make a indelible imprint in your mind stream to the extent that in your bardo stage, after death and before rebirth, instead of remembering your loved one as mere mortal, you will remember your loved one as your deity. With that indelible imprint in your mind stream, you will have the possibility of reaching enlightenment in the bardo stage because when you come across the image of that very deity, the opportunity is open for you to reach enlightenment. When you practise the essence of tantric practice, experiential understanding of the true nature of the mind will be clearer and clearer.
the vivid vision of emptiness unfolds
Is this not the evolution of paths and levels?
Dress it in signs that come while traversing the path
And this will serve as its special embellishment.
“When the clarity of emptiness unfolds, isn’t that called the levels of paths and bhumis.” When the emptiness of your mind becomes clearer and clearer, this is what it really means by bhumis (the level of attainment and paths). Clarity, is an aspect of the mind which does the detecting of the arising of the conceptual thought, whether good or bad. With the detection of the rising of these conceptual thoughts, especially the afflictive emotions and the very strong negative emotions, when you ensure that you have detected these strong emotions and that you are not overcome by them and do not unleash the negative emotions, step by step then you progress in the four yogas (single-pointed, uncontrived, one taste and no meditation), one by one. For example, when the aspect of your mind actually sees the true nature of the mind, and then when you try to stabilize that special insight, it will be the first level of meditational attainment which is single-pointed. When you have a taste of that true nature of mind, without straying away from that experience, when you are able to conquer all the obscuring conceptual thoughts that arise and when you are able to remain focused, this is the next level. This is being uncontrived. And like that, you will go step by step, higher and higher. When you keep on practicing, then you keep on improving, keep on progressing and you go higher and higher in your path and bhumis, when you sit down and do one kind of meditative equipoise, for example, in that brief moment, everything is included too. Let’s say we are doing shamatha or calm-abiding meditation, when we are able to for a split second remain in a state of no conceptual thought, there will be bliss. When there is bliss, there will definitely be clarity. Where there is clarity, when the conceptual thought arises (conceptual thoughts are like throngs in our mind), we will have the wisdom of not to fall prey to these conceptual thoughts. In this brief period of meditation, we will experience everything. These experiences are blissful experience, clarity, no conceptual thought. The more you practise, the quality of your mind stream will become better and better and you will go higher and higher in terms of paths and bhumis.
The fifth ornament is the sign of having succeeded in your practice. As you progress in your practice, the quality of your practice is going to increase. Correspondingly, you will start seeing various signs but signs like bliss, clarity, non conceptual thoughts etc, but you must not be attached to these. Khenpo Munsel has taught us that in our practice, there will be many different signs. None of these signs are anything that you should cling onto. None of these signs are permanent. However, one of the definite signs of having experiential understanding of profound emptiness is that your mind stream is filled with compassion. That is significant and that is definite. Profound emptiness and compassion are complementary to each other, therefore when you have an unusual amount of compassion in your mind stream; you know that correspondingly, you have that much experiential understanding of the profound emptiness. So the signs, the most reliable indicator is the presence or the absence of compassion in your mind steam. If you do not have compassion in your mind stream and if you think you have some experiential understanding of profound emptiness, there is a great chance that your meditation and your practice will go wrong. These are the signs of path or attainment. Reaching level and paths must be indicated by signs and the definite sign is the presence of compassion. For example, when you reach the first of the ten bhumis, it is said that you will have the vision of hundred enlightened Buddhas who will give teachings to you. Other signs of attainments would be firmer and deeper faith in the cause and effect, much more compassion toward sentient beings, firmer and deeper faith in the Three Jewels, much less afflictive emotions and greater pure vision.
your mind has arrived at the point where the riddle is solved,
Is this not Buddhahood gained in a single life?
Array it in bodies, the buddhakayas, the four
And this will serve as its special embellishment.
When you have reached to the point where your ordinary mind is exhausted, is this not called Enlightenment in one lifetime? We have the ordinary mind on the one hand and (rigpa) awareness on the other. Mind is the chaotic, ordinary mind that we have which is unmindful, unheedful and undefined ordinary mind. The difference between ordinary mind and awareness is the presence or absence of clarity. The awareness on the other hand is the clarity which sees or experiences the true nature of mind. Awareness is a state of mind which has done away with ignorance. Awareness means a mind which does not have clinging attachment. Awareness means it is like the image in a stainless mirror. When you have this kind of awareness or when you have exhausted the ordinary mind, that is Enlightenment. It should be called Enlightenment. The Tibetan word for Enlightenment is Sang-gye. Sang means to awake from the delusion of dualistic bondage – dualistic as I and you, samsara and nirvana.
We have this notion that if we practise so and so, we will then reach Enlightenment some time down the road. However, it is not like that at all. If you are able to correctly practise and correctly meditate, for a split second, you embody all the qualities of the enlightened one. How? What is the correct practice? The correct practice is when you do not chase the past, when you do not usher in the future, when you stay in this present moment in the mind’s natural state or in the mind’s true nature which is like the space – a phenomena that you cannot possibly put a label on, a state of mind that has clarity which essence is emptiness, a state of mind that is emptiness which essence is clarity, at that moment one becomes fully enlightened. There is a phrase called instantaneous Enlightenment, so you reach instantaneous Enlightenment at that particular moment. But because you have not practised enough to stabilize or prolong that experience, then again delusion sets in, but if we were able to stay in that present moment at will, that is, for the duration that you wish to stay in that state of mind, you have become a fully enlightened being.
In the Mahamudra language, there are three descriptive words which describe the nature of mind. The first one is new, the second is staying in its natural state and the third is staying loosely without pressure or stress. When the mind rests in its natural state in the present moment without pressure or stress, it is like seeing a glimpse of the sun through layers and layers of cloud formation. We have in our mind stream layer and layer of conceptual thoughts, but when we dwell in the present moment, which is the new mind, in its natural state, when we leave the mind loose, we have this opportunity of having a glimpse of our true nature of mind, that is the time when the conceptual thoughts cease. Then later on when we keep on practicing, then there will come a time when the sky would be free of layers and layers of clouds when the sun would be fully exposed. When the sun is fully exposed, then the sun will not be subject to changes and it will always remain that way. In that case, it may seem like you can intermittently reach Enlightenment and then go back into delusion and again be enlightened. So it looks as if it were very easy, but not all that easy either because your attainment must be the attainment in the context of the four bodies/kayas. When you have this experience of seeing the true nature which is like open space, emptiness, that would be the Dharmakaya state. You must have this experience. Then out of this emptiness, you will experience clarity, the clarity is Sambogakaya. From the very beginning when we begin to practise, we practise the four immeasurables. The four immeasurables include loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. The creative power of loving kindness and compassion, the untargeted compassion directed towards not any one in particular but rather to all sentient beings, the feeling would be as if there is a tint of sadness in one’s own mind stream. That untargeted compassion manifests as Nirmanakaya state of Buddhahood. The combination of all three is embodied/subsumed in one’s own mind which is the essence kaya or the fourth kaya (svabhavikakaya). So your experience has to be the experience in the context of the four kayas/bodies of enlightened being.
master of scriptures and logic and special instructions,
Is this not called a lama who holds a lineage?
Adorned with a noble heart of true compassion,
This is what serves as his special embellishment.
A person who is endowed with the scriptural knowledge and who is endowed with intellectual and analytical capacity and who embodies a wide array of pith instructions based on the experiential understanding of his/her masters. When we come across such a person, what else can that person be called but a lama who embodies all these knowledge in
his/her mind stream. Tibetan word lung means scriptural teachings, scriptural teachings as contained in the three Tipitaka. These are the direct teachings of the Buddha. Analytical deduction would be for example processing all these canonical teachings. Dialectic debate would be for example a method of coming to a definitive understanding of the meanings of the teachings of the Buddha. The pith instruction is something that is passed down to you by one’s own masters. Pith instructions are based on one’s own unique experiential understanding of the practice. Someone who has all this knowledge, that person surely has to be the lama.
The Tibetan word for scriptural teachings is lung. Lung has several different meanings. In this particular context, it means Buddha’s teachings which can be categorized into two groups - one is academic and the other is experiential. From the academic side, the academic institutes, for example monastic colleges provide opportunities for students to study the scriptures (so that they become learned), to undergo training in logic, dialectical debates and so on. These are methods of defining and redefining the definitive meaning of Buddha’s teachings. He/she is a lama who has received these scriptural teachings and who has undergone training in logic etc. If we shift to the experiential part of teaching and practice, pith instructions for example, fall into the category of experiential learning and practice. A lama upholds the lineage - lineage of the scriptural teachings, lineage of the teachings in logic, lineage of pith instructions. When we say lineage, we are in the context of tantric practice. Empowerment to ripen one’s own mind stream is one lineage, that is, lineage of empowerment. The commentary teaching is another lineage. Actual practice based on pith instructions given by the masters is the lineage of blessings. So when the text refers to lineage this is the kind of lineage that it is talking about.
Pith instruction ties in with the blessing lineage which comes from practice. This is very important. When we talk about pith instructions, first of all, you yourself have to have that experience and the experiential understanding of the subject matter. You have to feel the warmth of that particular practice and then you share that experience with others in the form of pith instructions. When you do in this way, the benefit will be tremendous. You can pass on the blessings. It is something like the water running through a metal pipe. The pipe alone would be of very little use if there is no running water in it. If you yourself actually experience what you are teaching to others, then there will be the blessings. For example, when you meditate on loving kindness and compassion (the relative bodhicitta), you will experience that you are able to cope with afflictive emotions, attachment, aversion. When you are able to reap the benefit of practicing relative bodhicitta, you can share that experience with others and say, “This is what I did and these are the experiences that I have.” When you share your experience, it becomes the pith instructions. As these are my experiences, therefore, if you do the same, you will experience similar experiences. Same thing when we are undergoing the creation stage of the practice. If you do it correctly, you will have experiences. When you meditate on cause and effect relationship for example, when you have experience, you can share that experience with others; in this way, from your mind to another mind, transferring the experience. Unless you yourself have a firm belief in what you preach and have experience in what you teach others, what you teach to others will have very little use. Here in the root text it refers to someone who holds the lineage and this is the key thing. Someone who has all these wonderful qualities, pith instructions and all, who holds the lineage, to be a complete lama, this person must be ornamented with compassion. If you have compassion, the connection between lama and disciple for example is automatically made when there is compassion – compassion in the lama and compassion in the disciple. Where there is no compassion, no love, connection cannot be established.
The word lama is made up of two separate words. The etymology of the word La is mindfulness, the ability to bring to mind of all sentient beings. Ma is the Tibetan word for mother. So treating and thinking of sentient beings as one’s own mother. This is what a lama should be doing. A lama should look at all sentient beings as one’s own mother, mother sentient beings. His Holiness Dalai Lama for example, all those people who are blessed with wisdom, see him as a great being, a lama who sees all sentient beings as one’s own mother. Tibetan word for compassion is tuk gje. Another name for Chenrezig or Avaloketishvara is tuk gje chen po. Tuk gje is a word composed of two separate words. Tuk is honorific word for heart and gje is king – king of hearts. Someone who has a great deal of compassion and that heart indeed is the king of all hearts. That heart is the king of the hearts of all sentient beings. That heart is the protector of all sentient beings. When we talk in terms of loving kindness and compassion, it should be the kind of loving kindness and compassion that are unbiased. If one’s compassion is biased, then it is not compassion, whether it is the compassion of the lama or the disciple. A biased compassion is attachment. The other end of attachment is aversion. It would have no benefit at all. It has to be unbiased compassion. The above teaching is about the kind of qualities that a true lama must have.
who has faith, with compassion is amply endowed,
Is this not a student comprising a suitable vessel?
Fully equipped with respect and devout commitment,
This is what serves as their special embellishment.
Now we are going to discuss what kind of quality a disciple must have. A disciple must have a great deal of compassion, a firm loving trust in the lama or the Three Jewels. If you have these, you become the “right kind of vessel” to hold the teachings of the lama, a true disciple. When we talk about loving trust and faith in the lama, there are three different kinds of trust and faith. One is that trust and faith arise out of the fact that the Three Jewels are inspirational. The Three Jewels inspire you and out of this inspiration grows this loving trust and faith. The second is that trust and faith arise through the understanding of causality of cause and effect relationship. The third one is that loving trust and faith arise when you have such longing to be liberated from samsara for yourself and others. If you have all these, you become a true disciple, a true vessel suitable to receive the teachings.
When someone is being called the “right kind of vessel”, it is a metaphor. It means that you are a suitable vessel to receive the teaching pertinent to these three different disciplines – the ordination of self-liberation, bodhisattva ordination and the tantric ordination. This is only possible when you have the right kind of loving trust and faith. When you see the need for you and all sentient beings to be liberated from samsara and that the only way to be liberated is by seeking the protection of the Three Jewels, you will have loving trust and faith in the Three Jewels. Thus whenever you have this loving faith and trust, you will also have compassion. So you are a disciple, a suitable vessel if you have a great deal of compassion, loving trust and faith. To make yourself to become a complete disciple, a completely suitable vessel for receiving all the teachings, you need to have the ornament of mögü which normally is translated as devotion but here means respect and devout commitment. For the sake of simplicity, we translate mögü as devotion.
Devotion arises because you aspire to be liberated from samsara. Devotion is made up of two Tibetan words – mö and gü. Mö literally means inclination towards one thing or longing for one thing. This one thing is to be liberated from samsara, longing to be liberated from samsara is called mö. When you have that kind of desire, this desire will then generate respect for the lama because the lama is the one who can lead you to the right path. This respect is gü.
As to generate devotion, first we have to generate superficial devotion. We generate superficial devotion by thinking of our parents. We can generate devotion when we know that our parents have been so kind to us. We can generate the superficial devotion when we think of the kindness of all the teachers for example. Same thing can be done when we think of the kindness and the benefits of having a system in your country such as a government, an organization, a civilization and so on. So when you think of all these kindnesses, you can generate respect and devotion. When you have some understanding of cause and effect for example, you will be able to generate devotion toward your lamas or teachers because it is thanks to their teachings that you have this kind of understanding. Among all the teachers, the kindest teacher is the one who teaches you the profound Dharma.
Mögü can be loosely translated as devotion whereas Té pa can be loosely translated as faith and trust. Mögü, mö is when you look at someone like the lama, it is not only leaning toward the lama, appreciating the qualities of lama; but there is a strong element of holiness, sacredness and blessings attached to it. Then comes the word gü means respect. Tashi Jamyangling (the translator) asked Rinpoche: “When you whole-heartedly pray to your root lama with faith and trust (tépa) versus when you whole-heartedly pray to your root lama with devotion (mögü), what kind of different inner feelings or emotions would you generate?” Rinpoche replied: Tépa (translated here as faith and trust) is actually love – loving your lama, liking your lama and trusting your lama. These are the different kinds of feelings that you experience when you have tépa (faith and trust). When it comes to mögü (translated as respect and devout commitment) is when you see the wonderful qualities of your lama and then grow a great deal of respect for them to the extent that whatever the lama teaches you, you will never forget. For example, Khenpo Tenzin Sangpo would teach that when he sees the prayer flags fluttering in the wind and casting shadows on the ground, he would have so much respect that he would not walk over the shadow without being mindful and heedful. Instead he would make a gesture with his hand as if he was lifting the shadow of the flag from the ground and at the same time saying the mantra Varja Pedma Atama. When you have so much trust, love and devotion to the lama, you will always remember his/her words. Té pa (translated as faith/trust) and mö gü (translated as devotion), these two seem to be similar, yet different. When you have té pa (faith/trust, a firm-rooted one), and out
of that, one is able to generate mögü (devotion). We have respect, trust and faith in all lamas. Devotion, however, we have towards just a few. Tépa (faith/trust) basically means liking someone but there is much more than that. You like someone because that someone is not ordinary. That someone is full of blessings, there is something holy and sacred about that someone. When you are struck with this kind of feeling toward a sublime being to the extent that even the bodily hair stands on their end; when you have that kind of faith/trust and when you have mind to mind connection to your lama/root lama (the root lama would be for example, the one who has given you the refuge ordination, empowerments and oral transmission etc.), the previously arisen tépa (faith/trust) is now lifted to mögü (devotion). Tears come into your eyes and this is not like the faith/trust in the earlier days but rather there is mind to mind merging.
Milarepa, we have access to teachings of many very learned lamas. When we have
access to these precious teachings, each time when we receive teaching, our love
for the lama increases. As the love increases, the blessings also increase.
There is a correlation. Your love towards the lama corresponds to the amount of
blessings that is transferred or flowed in to you; especially when you are
undergoing real hardships or pain and sufferings. When you reflect on the
teachings of your lamas, it will help a great deal. When I was in prison for
example, when I faced lots of trials and tribulations, when I reflected on the
teachings that I received from the sublime lamas, I became tougher, more heroic
and not scared to face hardship. All this thanks to the teachings of the lamas.
This helps to increase your superficial devotion to the lamas, especially the
lamas from whom you have received the bodhisattva vows or tantric teachings.
These lamas are very, very kind to us. These lamas are the ones who show you the
way to get out of samsaric existence. First, you begin by generating superficial
devotion towards your lama by thinking of the wonderful qualities of the lama.
Then when you get used to this, later on, you will not need to first think of
the lamas’ qualities etc. The minute you think of the lama, it would be like
sunrays shining on snow flakes, your afflictive emotions and conceptual thoughts
would automatically, instantaneously dissipate because the lama’s mind and the
nature of your mind is the same. Your alert mind and the lama’s mind are the
same. Later on when you are used to generate devotion, the absolute devotion
(not the superficial one), you will find that lama’s mind is beyond death and
beyond birth. When you are able to generate non-superficial devotion to
the lama, you will see that the lama is nothing less than a fully enlightened
Here is Rinpoche’s explanation on mö gü (devotion): When I was a small boy, I used to be very, very angry at Marpa Lotsawa. I used to like Marpa Lotsawas consort Dakmema. I thought, “What a wonderful lady, how kind. What a bodhisattva.” But I used to almost hate Marpa Lotsawa because of the cruelty that he inflicted on Milarepa. Then I began to read Marpa Lotsawa’s life history. He sold everything that he ever possessed and turn them into gold coins. He took a backpack and from the cold Tibet went all the way on foot to Nepal. He faced all kinds of hardship. He went to India with the heat, diseases, sicknesses and all kinds of hardship he faced. As narrated by Marpa Lotsawa’s son when the father came back, “My father sold everything he possessed and turned them into gold and took the gold to India and when he came back, all he ever brought to Tibet was a backpack full of textbooks.” That was quite true. On reflecting on this, Marpa Lotsawa gave everything away and he did not even care for his own safety. He was willing to give his life so that he would be able to bring back the sublime Dharma. Why did he do that? He did it for sentient beings. He brought all those oral traditions of very profound teachings which he later on passed onto his disciple Milarepa. It is thanks to the effort of Marpa Lotsawa that we today have access to these wonderful teachings. When you examine this carefully, you will see how kind Marpa Lotsawa had been – not only to Milarepa but also to all those who follow the teachings today. So there is enough reason to have a great deal of superficial devotion. Your eyes start getting moist, tears gather in your eyes. All kinds of devotion then you generate because you now find that Marpa Lotsawa was not a cruel person but someone who had been very, very kind to all sentient beings. So this is how I generated my superficial devotion. There were many times when Marpa Lotsawa beat up Milarepa, physical abuse literally. However, when you look at this with a wider view, you will understand that what drove Marpa to beat up Milarepa was a profusion of compassion and love and the very profound goal that was set. Not only was Marpa Lotsawa very compassionate but he was also all-knowing omniscient. Marpa Lotsawa had many, many disciples who were entitled to have “golden canopy” as a mark of respect. But out of all these, Marpa Lotsawa hand-picked Milarepa and prophesized that Milarepa’s forbearance has the life force pull of Buddha’s teachings. In other words, Milarepa is going to be the upholder of the Buddha’s teachings out of all the disciples. From this we understand that Marpa Lotsawa really knew. He could foretell the future as he was omniscient. He knew the three times. Today, on this planet, Kagypa teachings flourish thanks to the heroic forbearance of Milarepa. Through the effort of Marpa and Milarepa, we are blessed with the practice lineage of blessing. So when I know that Marpa Lotsawa knew then what the future of Milarepa would become, I was able to generate the superficial devotion. You should have devotion, respect, trust and love towards all. If you have this, you are the one who is going to be benefited. If you have the wrong view which is the opposite of devotion, you are the one who will incur the loss. You are the one who has to face the consequences of being born into the three lower realms of existence. This is in a nutshell of how I was able to generate superficial devotion. One of the things that will help you to generate superficial devotion is to read the life histories of the sublime beings. The real (non-superficial) devotion can be generated by doing meditation.
The Song of
Sung in reply to the challenge raised by three scholars
time I’m meditating on Mahamudra
I rest without struggle in actual real being
I rest relaxed in a free-from-wandering space
I rest in a clarity-cradled-in-emptiness space
I rest in awareness and this is blissful space
In variety’s space I rest in equipoise
And resting like this is native mind itself
A wealth of certainty manifests endlessly
Without even trying self-luminous mind is at work
Not stuck in expecting results, I’m doing O.K.
No dualism,no hopes and fears, Ho Hey!
Delusion as wisdom, now that’s being cheerful and bright
Delusion transformed into wisdom, now that’s all right!
How to meditate on Mahamudra? Milarepa said, “When I meditate on Mahamudra, I rest in the innate nature without effort.” This innate nature Milarepa referred to as the ordinary naked mind. In the sutras, you will find different terms for this, terms like the Buddha nature, the essence of the enlightened being etc; but Milarepa simply referred to it as the naked ordinary mind. When Gampopa, who was a very realized and a scholarly gifted one, when he heard this label, it woke him up. Gampopa saw a new dimension to the true nature of mind. When you have conceptual thoughts arising in your mind stream, that aspect of the mind which recognizes the arising of conceptual thoughts is labeled as the naked ordinary mind. Therefore, you can look inwardly and look at your own mind. When you do that, that aspect of the mind can be found without having to make any effort. It will be found and discovered naturally. When we look inwardly, we must look at the innate nature without effort and we have to do it by ourselves. Without effort means that when the alert mind recognizes the arising of the conceptual thought and to meditate on that aspect of the mind, we do not have to make any special effort to seek because it is there naturally arisen in our mind stream and it stays in that mode.
When you mediate on the true nature of mind, you will detect the arising of conceptual thoughts. When you look at the nature of those conceptual thoughts, these conceptual thoughts will dissipate. There will be periods when there are no conceptual thoughts and the feeling or experience you get is vastness and the feeling of emptiness and then again conceptual thoughts will arise. Then look at the nature of conceptual thoughts. It is a repetition. When you keep on doing that, you do so without exerting yourself since Milarepa in his teaching specifically mentioned the word "Tson me" (brtson med) which means No Effort. Rinpoche said, “Do not make effort.” There is no need to make effort. Let the mind stay in its natural state. That is the key. Try to meditate tonight and come tomorrow. You may be asked to tell Rinpoche what your experiences were.
Normally when you practice, we precede all our practices with refuge and bodhicitta mind generation. In addition to that, if you could read The 37 Bodhisattva Practices at least once every week, then this will give you more insight into why we read the refuge prayer and the bodhicitta mind generation. When you make a habit of reading the 37 Bodhisattva Practices once every week and when you keep on doing that, you will eventually be able to recite it by heart. This little booklet tells you the reasons why we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; otherwise, if you just recite the refuge prayer and the bodhicitta mind generation, especially to the new ones who are novices, they will not have much understanding as to the causes and conditions that bring about happiness or suffering. (The 37 Bodhisattva Practices can be down-load at https://ratnashri.se/Commentary.pdf )
The root cause of all pain and suffering is attachment and clinging. Some people wonder “If you just do mental visualization of offering, how would that possibly benefit oneself or others? If it is giving, then you have to actually give. Whatever it may be, you have to actually make a material gift.” Well, that is true if it is possible, by all means, go out and give. If you do, you will have both the aspiration as well as the practice. Both aspiration and action are all included in the actual act of giving. But we have to understand why giving is a virtuous deed. Our possessions whatever they may be, with those possessions, we have attachment. When we part with our possessions, there is a feeling of not wanting to part – stinginess. When we part with things, there is aversion. When we receive
things from others, it has to do with attachment, we like it. We do not want to part with things. Why? Because the root cause of this is attachment and clinging. Therefore, if we know that the act of giving is to detach ourselves from attachment. If that is the case, then it makes perfect sense when we try to visualize everything that is wonderful – in the outer cosmos, and everything that is contained within – we make a nonattached offering to the deities, to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In our Mandala Offering, we visualize the four continents etc, all the wonderful qualities of the outer cosmos and the inner content; we bring to mind and then make them as an offering to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. That includes our own physical body, speech and mind. When you make this a habit, there will not be attachment to even your own body, speech and mind since you repeatedly make offerings to the Three Jewels in your mind stream so these do not belong to you. When these do not belong to you, you do not have attachment. It is for that reason why a prescription of 100 000 Mandala Offerings is made in order to train the mind to detach oneself from attachment. It is not a question of how big or small an offering one makes, the real point is to detach oneself from attachment. The main thing is to cleanse one’s own state of mind until the state of mind does not have attachment and clinging.
We say that loving kindness compassion – bodhicitta is indispensable and extremely important. Let’s talk about compassion. Compassion is something that is promoted by all major religions. What is unique about Buddhism is that together with compassion, we have to have emptiness; that is the specialty of Buddhism. If you do not have the experiential understanding of emptiness but you have a great deal of compassion, then sometimes, it can work against you. For example, mental condition, we call it heart disease (loong disorder), but really it has to do with the mind. Compassion without emptiness cannot be of any great deal of benefit to others. Why is that so? The logic behind is that all pain and suffering arise from ignorance. What ignorance? Attachment and clinging to self and to all phenomena as if they have independent existence. The antidotal weapon against ignorance is profound emptiness. What create karma are the afflictive emotions and even compassion is afflictive emotion. When you have compassion and in addition if you have the experiential understanding of the profound emptiness, together you can benefit both the living as well as the dead. Because you are generating compassion towards sentient beings and at the same time, attachment to a deluded notion of the existence of reality is dismantled by your experiential understanding of emptiness. Whenever you are able to generate a great deal of compassion, let that be complimented by the experiential understanding of emptiness; the two have to go together. If the two are generated together, it becomes beneficial for oneself and for others.
Solution to samsaric problems such as pain and suffering arising from losses, if the solution to such samsaric problem is achieved through material replacement, for example, the loss of one’s dear parent, which is going to generate a great deal of pain and suffering; that is, if that loss is to be remedied strictly in a material sense, the only way how we can get rid of pain and suffering would be to have the dead parent resurrected, which would not happen. Samsara has so many different varieties of pain and suffering. To find a solution, a kind of healing remedy to all pain and suffering is to be found within the mind stream itself. When you realize that all pain and suffering including happiness is nothing more or less than conceptual thought, when you see the true nature of the mind, then the healing remedy is found. The build-up of something like an ice sheet in the mind stream is thawed away. In order to find the healing remedy, in order to thaw away the ice build-up in one’s mind stream, Mahamudra is important. Mahamudra plays a great part in this healing remedy. When you have an experiential understanding of the innate nature of the ground, then you will find that neither happiness nor suffering has any “taste”. That is why we call it the state of equality or no taste of both pain and suffering. This idea of the Buddhist practice and experience is something that even the scientists are investigating nowadays and find amazing. This amazing quality of our practice is the specialty of Mahamudra.
Last night, we talked about this very thing, i.e. the innate nature, Mahamudra. We talked about it based on the root text here. The Tibetan term for this is “Don Gyi Nelug “ (Don Gyi gNas Lugs). “Don” literally means “meaning”, but here in this context it refers to the “mind”. “Gyi” is a word connector, and ”gNas Lugs” means “the state of being”. Talking about the innate nature how the innate nature is, the nature as is. Talking about the innate nature, it refers to as the innate nature of the ground that has to do with the view. When we practice this innate nature of the ground, then it becomes the innate nature of practice. We will also refer to the innate nature of ground and practice as mother and child. The mother is the ground while conceptual thoughts are referred to as the child. We will also say the awareness, the mother and child of awareness. When you look at the nature of mind, you will find that mind itself is emptiness and when the mental event, the child, sees the innate empty nature of the mind, then that is unification of mother and child. The feeling is the feeling of emptiness and that is what you will feel, that is the innate nature, a state of mind which is like the space not marked by conceptual thoughts and it is a state of mind that you do not have to make special effort to look for and to find. It is always there. It is the experiencing of the mind as is.
Last night, I asked you to meditate and try to experience the true nature of mind. I would like to know who experienced it?
When you experience the true nature of mind for the first time, it is going to be a tiny glimpse of the true nature of mind. How tiny? It would be like the fire or the amber on the tip of a burning incense stick, that is primordial wisdom – you being in contact with the primordial wisdom. When you cannot see the primordial wisdom, then it is not primordial wisdom, but it is consciousness. When you see the true nature of mind, the act of seeing that is not consciousness but primordial wisdom. That is the distinction between samsaric gods and wisdom deities. Samsaric deities who do not experience primordial wisdom are in samsaric bondage. The deities, the enlightened ones who experience primordial wisdom, they are known as the wisdom deities. This primordial wisdom, the reason why we call it primordial is because it was always there from the beginningless time and if we are able to abide in the continuity of that primordial wisdom, we will be able to see both samsara and nirvana and that is why the enlightened beings are called omniscient. It is said that even though the primordial wisdom is so tiny just like fire on the tip of the incense stick, it has the power to burn away conceptual thoughts. So you start off with a tiny fire and use its ability to burn up conceptual thoughts and gradually this tiny fire will become bigger and bigger and it will become like a burning wick of a candle or a butterlamp. When you get used to the meditation, the fire and the intensity of the heat, will be greater and greater.
The beginners will find it extremely difficult. The experienced meditators/practitioners, they will find that when they meditate on mahamudra, all conceptual thoughts disappear. The beginners, when they try that, instead of getting rid of conceptual thoughts, more conceptual thoughts will arise and they will find it extremely difficult. When we say that having a glimpse of the true nature of mind, or having a glimpse of the experiential understanding of mahamudra, is like the burning tip of an incense stick, it is quite true. It is fire though it is quite small. But if you try to take that burning incense stick and try to put a whole bunch of logs alight, the fire of the burning tip of the incense stick is not powerful enough to do that. All that the burning incense stick will be able to do is to burn a strand of hair or two. So when you try to take that incense stick and try to light a huge bond fire, it does not happen. Thus the beginners will get discouraged. Then they find themselves having more problems and more conceptual thoughts. Therefore, in the Tara practice sadhana, there is a line that says,
“After having seen the point, one does not put in effort to get used to that experience and consequently, you are back to where you started.” The second line from the Tara text is that “then one engages in unwholesome deeds”.
When you start seeing a glimpse of the true nature of mind, instead of sticking with that and persistently practicing that again and again so that that experience would be prolonged and you become so used to it as if it were your second nature, one is being distracted in doing something else and then everything will come to nothing. Therefore when you start seeing a tiny fire, a glimpse of the true nature of mind and if you then try to use that to solve all your problems and when you do not succeed in that, you get discouraged.
The beginners have a tendency of finding that when you embark on mahamudra meditation etc, even more problems and challenges arise, and they completely overwhelm you. Actually it is not like that at all. We have this tendency of forgetting all the past difficulties. If we remember everything that we underwent, then in comparison, you would not find the fresh new challenges that much overwhelming. None of us remember what it was like when we came out of the mother’s womb. If we could remember all the details of those experiences, then in comparison, the new experiences would not be that difficult or overwhelming. Since none of us can remember and we have a tendency of forgetting our past difficulties, whatever we encounter as new challenges and difficulties we have this tendency of believing that it is such an insurmountable problem.
If you know how to practice, how to grasp the essence, you can say that the entire hundred thousand songs of Milrepa are contained in these few lines (refer to The Song of Mahamudra). If you do not know how to grasp the essence teaching it is like going to a huge department store just looking at everything and coming out without buying any single item.
We talk about the true nature of mind and when you start seeing the true nature of mind, we refer to that as the reunion of mother and child. When that reunion takes place, the state of mind would be the union of emptiness and clarity. When the emptiness and clarity are not separated, it would be the union of mother and child. When you are introduced to the nature of mind, it is important to meditate on it and become used to that experience. That stabilized state of meditation is called the mahamudra. When you say mahamudra, that mahamudra has to be experienced within. Milarepa went on saying, “when I meditate on mahamudra”. If you do not see that nature of mind, it is not possible for you to experience mahamudra. When you are introduced to the nature of mind and when you meditate and practice and gain experiential understanding then each time when you meditate, it will be like meeting a friend or acquaintance. There will be the familiarity.
Union of emptiness and clarity, this clarity pervades all space. Space is boundless and therefore when clarity pervades all space, there is not a thing which is not subsumed under one’s own mind. There is nothing outside space and there is nothing outside one’s own mind. When you remain within this vastness of one’s own mind, all conceptual thoughts are dissolved and there would be an experience of great bliss. When we say enlightened being that means the state of mind free of attachment and clinging, that state of mind is so vast and if you are able to abide in that vastness, there would be great bliss. When you can abide in that vastness of mind, such thing as death is not a reality. That vastness of mind is beyond death.
Mahamudra in Tibetan phyag rgya chen po (pronounced “chakya chenpo”). ‘Chakya’ normally means mudra and ‘Chenpo’ means maha or big. The word ‘cha’ also means honorific word for prostration. ‘Cha’ can be used in the context of offering prostration to the nature of mind as such. When you experience the vastness of one’s own mind, when you experience bliss and the qualities of this, then with a great deal of reverence, one would offer mental prostration or ‘cha’ to the mind-as-such or the enlightened mind of one’s own being. To that, one offer mind prostrations. That is the real/genuine devotion (non-superficial).
‘Kya’ literally means parameters, that which confines something. In a nation for example, there is a set of rules and laws codified, and all citizens have to live within the parameters or the confines of those laws and rules and regulations. We cannot step outside the parameters or the boundaries of those restrictions. The space is such that no one can go beyond. Wherever you go, you would be within the parameter of space. All sentient beings came about because of conceptual thoughts. All sentient beings came about from emptiness. All sentient beings when they pass away will dissolve into emptiness. No sentient being will cross over the parameter of emptiness. When they come they come from within the parameter of emptiness and space and when they go, they go within the parameter of emptiness and not beyond. So we came from emptiness and we dissolve into emptiness. We do not dissolve outside of emptiness. So we will use an example. When we sit down and meditate on emptiness, all the conceptual thoughts disappear and where do they disappear? They disappear within the parameter of emptiness and not outside. By this you will learn that the conceptual thoughts are transient/momentary. All these happen within the parameter or confine of emptiness or space, they are not beyond space or emptiness.
‘Chen’/maha means big, this space is big and everything within the parameter is huge. (‘Po’ is just a companion article.)
In short, mind is the basic ground of both samsara and nirvana. Mind is like when we go to the seaside and see a huge ocean, we are kind of overwhelmed by the width and the depth of the ocean. We say, what a huge/deep ocean etc. In that ocean there are all kinds of marine lives. But instead of being overwhelmed by its size, to understand the nature of the ocean all you really have to do is to dip your finger in the ocean and bring it up and look at your finger, and understand the properties of that water and understand what is water. Through the understanding from the drop of the water, you understand the properties of that huge ocean. Understanding the nature of one’s mind is understanding mahamudra. Immediately you will come to the conclusion that by understanding the nature of mind, all phenomena do not have an independent existence. By understanding this, you will understand the profundities of mahamudra.
So let us conclude and say that Dharma brothers and sisters: You have seen the nature of the mind. In seeing the true nature of the mind, there are the qualities or attributes of mahamudra. Then if you have that kind of experiential understanding of the view, we have to get used to that view with meditation and this ties in with the words here “Let yourself not be distracted but leave the mind in the natural state of being free and loose”; so two key things – “undistracted” and “free and loose”. Loose means not being constricted or restricted but just leave it loose, like tightening and loosening of belt, so that kind of loosening – loosen the mind and leave it undistracted. The next one is “Leave mind in the continuity of emptiness”. That continuity part is important. Why does it say “Guard the mind and do not let the mind be distracted”? Rinpoche uses the following quotation from another teaching where it says
“Do not be distracted. Let your mind be on guard. If the mind is distracted, there is the danger of infiltration of robbers and bandits.”
What are these bandits? They are attachment and aversion. Milarepa said, “Do not be distracted.” What aspect of the mind is going to be on guard, to be on the lookout and watch out for bandits? It is the clarity part of mind, the alert mind. What is the difference between a non-distracted and a distracted mind? For example, when we go on mediation, the alert mind acts like a mirror on which everything is reflected with clarity. The focus is the alert mind, the aspect of the mind which for example detects the arising of conceptual thoughts. When you are in that state of mind, there is clarity and awareness of everything that is going on and yet the mind is not distracted by any forms or shapes, of any particular individual or anything in the room. When the mind is distracted, it shifts from that meditative state to, for example, focusing on just one face. When the mind is not on guard, there is no clarity, that will lead to becoming judgmental and then lead to complications.
The next key word of Milarepa’s teaching is to have the mind loosened up. What it means is that until your meditation stabilizes, you have to be persistent, work hard, always try to be non-distracted. Even when you are walking, like visually you would say that, from this pillar to the next pillar down the road, I am going to make sure that I will not get distracted. Or, for the next two minutes, I am going to remain undistracted. So like that you have to persist, put in all your effort and then when you get used to this kind of meditation, the time during which you remain undistracted will be longer and longer. When the meditation of remaining non-distracted stabilizes, then it is time to leave your mind alone, loosen up your mind. For example, you hold onto the bird all the time even when you are feeding the bird. You are kind to the bird and you train the bird, but yet you are holding onto the bird because you do not want the bird to fly away. But when you get used to the bird and the bird gets used to you, when the bird sits, eats and stays there on the table, now there is no need to hang onto the bird. Do not hold it anymore. Leave the bird free on the table. In the same way, when the state of non-distraction stabilizes, then free the mind and relax the alert mind. Rinpoche quoted two lines of teaching from a master and the first line says “Be persistent and keep the mind under tight control and then loosen it up.” Two paradoxical statements, what it means is exactly what Rinpoche is teaching.
So when you stay undistracted and loosen up the mind, gradually, you are in innate emptiness and when you are in the continuity of emptiness, there is going to be clarity as well, and the nature of mind is emptiness and its quality is clarity. When you experience the union of emptiness and clarity, then that will be blissful. That leads to the next line:
“Abide in the clarity of the continuity of emptiness”, if you did that, the next instruction is
“You do so but stay in the state of awareness, in bliss.”What it means is when you have the feeling of bliss, do not lean toward this bliss but lean towards the awareness or rigpa, the clarity of awareness. To recap, abide in the clarity of the continuity of emptiness which will generate great bliss but do not be attached to the feeling of bliss but rather abide in the state of awareness.
Mahamudra is not a process. It is not like if you meditate mahamudra, you do a, b and c. All these things are looking into the different aspects of the innate true nature of our mind. It is like when a light shrines through a crystal, a spectrum of light of different colors will appear on the other side. What Milarepa is doing is not chasing different colors of light but remain within the very crystal, where the spectrum of light first originate. So multicolor light rays manifested, these light rays do not have independent existence, nor does even the crystal itself. When you have this understanding of the totality, there is no question of attachment or aversion, everything that comes because of this. Sentient beings chase those multi-colored lights, enlightened ones do not. Those multi-colored lights do not have any independent, inherent existence, nor does the very crystal. At the end, we have to let go of the crystal. The point is that you actualize dharmakaya state and even dharmakaya state does not have independent, inherent existence. That is the precise point. Mahamudra is something that is not there. Even the glorious ones cannot put a label to it. Yet it is not that there isn’t, because it is the mother of all the basis of both samsara and nirvana. This is the wonderful quotation from the teaching of mahamudra. So the key thing is that when you do not have attachment and aversion, and when you remain in the state of mahamudra then if you ask yourself is there a dharmakaya state: no, there isn’t because you cannot put a label to it. So isn’t there dharmkaya? Of course there is since sambogakaya is the manifestation of dharmakaya and nirmanakaya who does come down to benefit sentient beings is one of the creative power of dharmakaya state. So there is and there isn’t. This kind of creative power of the innate nature of mind is unimpeded and unobstructed. Nothing is going to impede it. It is self-seeing without effort, all the enlightened activities are accomplished without any effort. These are the creative power of dharmakaya state.
Mahamudra is actual enlightenment. It is not a method to reach enlightenment but it is the actual enlightened state. It is not the means to an end. It is the end itself. The method would be the practice of bodhicitta. Mahamudra is the innate nature of all phenomena. It is the true nature of mind. It is the Buddha nature and the enlightened state. But it is not enough to say that this is it. The practitioner has to actually experience that. When you experience mahamudra, one is enlightened. We have ground, path, fruition/result. In case of mahamudra, result is not separate from the path. Path is mahamudra, result is mahamudra, all in one.
On the one hand, we talk about union of emptiness and clarity as if it is just two. But it is not like that at all. It is like the burning butter lamp here, if you look at the burning wick, the essence is emptiness (since there is no independent existence of causes and conditions) but yet out of this emptiness, there is the quality of emptiness which is clarity and luminosity. These two are completely inseparable just like a burning wick. This is only an external lamp, but the internal lamp – when we look at our own mind – is just like this analogy.
The song of Mahamudra Sung in reply to the challenge raised by three scholars contains only a dozen lines. In it, it includes everything, starting from samatha meditation going to insight vispassana meditation until you reach enlightenment. Everything is contained in these few sentences.
When I meditate on Mahamdura, Milarepa said, “I stay calm in the state of continuity of nonconceptual mind. I stay in meditative equipoise in these various ways.” When we say nonconceptual mind, it does not mean that mind ceases to have conceptual thoughts, mind will keep on having conceptual thoughts but when they arise, the recognition of these conceptual thoughts as conceptual thoughts is important. Once there is recognition, do not be judgmental about it. Do not investigate or analyze these conceptual thoughts. Do not follow these conceptual thoughts. Do not succumb to these conceptual thoughts. Let your wisdom stand on its own, then conceptual thoughts would not affect you. The key is not to follow, judge or analyze conceptual thoughts. Stabilize your alert mind. If the conceptual thoughts arise, let them arise and if they do not arise, that is fine too.
“Staying in meditative equipoise in a variety of ways”, the key is in a variety of ways. We tend to have all kinds of conceptual thoughts, sometimes it is devotion to the lama, sometimes it is trust and respect and other times it is compassion. Then we also have non-virtues thoughts as well, all kinds of non-virtuous thoughts. Whatever they may be, good or bad, whenever you are meditating, there should be equality and equanimity. If there is the absence of equanimity, you will be attached to the virtuous deeds and averse to the non-virtuous deeds and you are going to accept the good thoughts and reject the bad thoughts. If you do not succumb to this during meditation, then whatever kind of conceptual thoughts arise, they will just dissipate, just like waves arising in the ocean and waves dissolving in the very ocean.
The mind as such, if you leave it in these ways, you will experience certain unobstructed certainties. This is what the root text says. So, you do all these things that Milarepa taught us to do and your wisdom increases. We use an example here, daytime we have daytime experiences and nighttime we have nocturnal dreams. We tend to say that life is like a dream, but we do not really experience what we say due to our clinging and attachment. As a result, all kinds of complications arise out of our clinging and attachment to things that appear to our senses. However, when the clinging attachment to what seems to our ordinary mind as having inherent existence is dismantled, the daytime experiences and the nocturnal dream experiences become the same - in the sense that we do not have expectation and doubts. When we see objects or images, we have no attachment. When we do not have attachment to forms, it is called the union of appearances and emptiness. When we hear sounds, all kinds of sounds and we do not have attachment to sounds, then it is the union of sound and emptiness. Of course, it does not mean that when we are in this kind of meditation, we do not have the capability to distinguish between what is beautiful and what is not. We have these abilities but in that state of mind, we are not judgmental. We are not analyzing, the clarity is there, but we are not following these appearances. So when we hear words or sounds, we can distinguish words and sounds, but we do not have clinging attachment. In that kind of meditative equipoise, we do not have attachment and clinging to either sounds or forms. When we do not have attachment to forms and sounds, we are going to experience experiences which are not ordinary experiences, but are definitive certainties or the experiential understanding of various points of Dharma teachings and practices which arise unimpededly, unobstructedly, and spontaneously in your mind stream.
Certainties are the definitive experiential understanding. When you have the experiential understanding of the true nature of mind, then you say to yourself, yes, indeed I experience that, it is like space, then you actually experience the qualities of the enlightened being. All appearances become pure deities and all sounds become the sound of mantra. Normally in the creation state of practice, when we say deities, all sentient beings are deities. We have to make a conscious effort to think like this. We go as far as visualizing the hands, the face etc. When the mind stream does not have attachment and clinging, you have the definitive experiential understanding which to your mind is certainty without any doubt. When you have no attachment and clinging to sounds and forms, we experience what we often talk of as union of appearance and emptiness or union of sounds and emptiness. The sound, whatever kind of sound that you want to hear, it will be transformed as such. You do not need to think this is good sound or this is bad sound. The same thing applies to the inner afflictive emotions. Definitive understanding or certainty means that you in the meditative state actually experience (not only just academic learning) that there really is no difference between inner afflictive emotions and the primordial wisdoms. That is the definitive experiential understanding. When you are one with mind as such, in that state, even if conceptual thoughts arise, you do not have to do anything. You will come to the conclusion in your own experience, that as soon as the conceptual thoughts arise, they are liberated - dissolved into mind as such itself. Self-arisen and self-liberated. It is like waves that comes from the ocean and go back to the ocean. In that state of mind, you will understand the sameness of afflictive emotions and primordial wisdom. This can only happen when your meditation has stabilized - stabilization of your meditation on your experience of the true nature of your mind. When you stabilize your meditation on the true nature of mind, a whole lot of other definitive experiential understanding will arise spontaneously without obstruction. At that time, you do not have to make special effort to look outwardly. This connects to the next line “self-seeing without effort”, “enlightened activities of selfless, self-seeing”. The mind as such is self-seeing or self-illuminating. When you experience the true nature, mind as such, with that definitive experiential understanding you will be able to carry out a great deal of enlightened activities. This is because if you have genuine bodhicitta in your heart, everything you do turns into the performance of the six paramitas because of the power of loving kindness and compassion. Here we are saying, when you stabilize your meditation and you can experience the true nature of mind which is self-seeing and self-illuminating. By this power, you are able to, without any effort, carry out enlightened activities. This is because now, you have come to a level where both the appearances and existence - everything is pure vision. That is the time when you are able to carry out a great deal of enlightened activities. Enlightened activities by definition are to benefit others. It is to benefit sentient beings.
Regarding effortless enlightened activities, we have our lamas. Lamas benefit us in this life and in future lives. For the deceased, lamas will say prayers and lama will dedicate merits on their behalf. For the living, lamas will provide protection. What enables lama to help both the deceased and the living? From where does the lama derive that kind of power? The power comes from the experiential understanding of the profound emptiness - the union of emptiness and compassion. When you meditate and you are one with the true nature of mind, you will have a definitive experiential understanding of how it actually benefits all sentient beings both the living as well as the dead. How does it benefit when you have the experiential understanding of emptiness? That state of mind does not have self. When you do not have self, all afflictive emotions and everything else do not have inherent existence, not a reality. All the afflictive emotions and the ripening of karma, pain and suffering of all sentient beings will be understood as a mere dream and not having any kind of reality to it. This life, next life and the bardo state wherever the sentient being may be, what they are undergoing is something like a dream. That is, you will gain definitive experiential understanding of this particular point when you are one with mind as such.
We talk about the quality of bodhicitta. When you have bodhicitta in your heart and your friend has bodhicitta in his/her heart and when one of you face difficulties or challenges, when you hear or see or receive letter from your friend, it will bring a great deal of joy in your heart. It is because of the power of bodhicitta. Bodhicitta links all sentient beings. Whoever has bodhicitta, these beings are connected by bodhicitta. When you have ignorance, ignorance brings about delusion. When you have the experiential understanding of profound emptiness, it is as if the cataracts are removed, you have this sharp vision of what reality is. That is why when disciples are introduced to profound mahamudra and when the introduction is successful, all pain and suffering cease. The reason is when you are introduced to mahamudra, in the state of mahamudra, there is no such thing as conceptual thoughts, conceptual thoughts are dissolved back to mahamudra, so there is no cause for pain and suffering. A shepherd was asked by Milarepa to tell his experience of meditation. He said, “When I am meditating, I have no pain and suffering but when I am out of it, I feel pain and suffering.” Then Milarepa responded: In that case, you have to keep on meditating and practicing so that experience will be prolonged and stabilized and reach the non-meditation state. The reason is that when you come out of mahamudra, you will have conceptual thoughts and when conceptual thoughts are harming you, you are back to the ordinary self and you will feel pain and suffering.
These are just academic teachings but when you are one with the mind as such or the true nature of mind, you will experience the definitive understanding of this in experience. Enlightened activities are to benefit all sentient beings. You do benefit sentient beings through enlightened activities because you are able to do this in the Dharmakaya state.
Now we are going onto the last three short lines.
The result is the achievement of all mind’s aspirations and therefore my mind rests in peace. We tend to look elsewhere for result or fruition of our practice. The result is the true nature of mind. Definitive experiential understanding when you have it, you will say, this is it, I experience it. When you have the experiential understanding, finally your mind is at rest because there is no expectation or doubt - expecting to reach enlightenment, and having doubt and fear of being reborn in the three lower realms of existence – up high and down low. Now you experience the oneness of sentient beings and enlightened beings, now you see that your previous expectations and doubts were all delusions.
Next line deals with expectation and doubts. It says: I am now happy when I experience that my mind is detached from the dualistic expectation and doubt. Now you see that sentient beings and enlightened beings are one. I am very happy now because all the delusions arise now as primordial wisdom. We are deluded right now when thinking that all phenomena in samsara and nirvana have nature of their own, independent inherent nature which they do not. Everything that we perceive, everything that we experience and everything that exists in samsara and nirvana arise out of the true nature of mind. When you have this experiential understanding, they dissolve in this very nature of the mind. We have been distracted and deluded by the creative power of the true nature. The creative power of the true nature of mind is so great that we have been confused and deluded in the myriad of creativities of this true nature - manifestations, things that arise out of it, instead of understanding the true nature of mind. Now when you have this definitive understanding, through experience, now we know that in the realm of or at the level of enlightened beings, there is no such thing as delusion but primordial wisdom. Now we have the fruition and the result, everything is in that mind as such.
The last word is the transformation of delusion into primordial wisdom. This is important. Because when you meditate, in your meditative state, all the ordinary delusions are transformed into primordial wisdom. This ends the teaching on The Song of Mahamudra.
Activities into Practices
Rechungpa, my son!
I, your old father Milarepa,
Sometimes I sleep and while sleeping, I meditate.
And during this sleeping when I meditate,
I have the pith instructions to transform ignorance into luminosity.
I have these but others do not,
I wish everyone had these.
The reason why Milarepa sang this song was that Milarepa often slept late in the morning and one time Rechungpa (a disciple of Milarepa) suggested to Milarepa, “Milarepa father, maybe it is a good idea to get up a little bit earlier and do some of the Dharma activities instead of sleeping.” Then this song was sung by Milarepa. Transformation of ignorance into luminosity while sleeping is very important; otherwise, if one lives 50 years, 25 years are spent sleeping. If one lives 100 years, 50 years are spent sleeping. 50 years are wasted. Normally, we consider day time experience as real and dream experience as illusion. It is not like that at all. When we pass away from this life and go to the next, in between during the bardo, the intermediate gap, when you look back, you will find that all your day time experiences amount to nothing but like a dream. So, you have to train the mind so that you will see the day time experiences are no more or no less than the night time dream experiences. That is, the recognition of the similarity or sameness of day time experiences and night time dream experiences is important in your practice.
It would not do a great deal of good to us if we talk about something that you will not be able to practice. It is much better to talk about things that you can practice. Eating, you have to eat the right amount with right timing. In the west, people have to go out to work and come back. The normal custom is to have a hearty dinner rather than lunch. Actually, at dinner time, we should not eat a great deal. When you go to bed, be mindful of not wanting to waste the night. When you go to sleep, sleep in the lion position, right side down with the flat palm of the right hand under your right cheek. Turn down the thermostat. Do not wear too much bedding. Let it be on the thin and scanty side so that you will be more aware in your sleep. Do not be distracted. Mind should remain undistracted. Before you sleep, if you are meditating on, for example, Mahamudra or the true nature of mind and when time comes for one to go to bed, one should not make an interruption to that meditation, one should carry the meditation forward to continue that same meditative state of mind. If you go to sleep like this and take a little bit of blessing pill and put it under your tongue, by being mindful of all these things and if you go to sleep, the minute you wake up, you will find that you are in the same position. And as soon as you become conscious when you wake up, that experience prior to your actual falling off to sleep and the experience you have immediately after you wake up, the two will connect to each other. In the example above, you wake up in the same meditative state of mind. There will not be a different experience or conceptual thought interrupting the continuity of mindfulness and if there is no interruption when you wake up, then it is said that the benefit of being able to wake up in that continuity is like experiencing the luminosity in deep sleep, which is one of the practices of Six Yogas of Naropa. If that is not possible, when you wake up, if there is no continuity, but by recognizing that interruption and immediately trying to connect back to the mindful state before you went to sleep, by doing so, it is said that you will be able to actualize the sambogakaya state of Buddhahood in the bardo state. This is the teaching by kind Khenpo Munsel (HE Garchen Rinpoche’s teacher). These are some of the things that we would be able to actually practice. Other than that, if we go into the details of the Six Yogas of Naropa, it would not do a great deal of good to us.
Another method of practicing is breathing. There is a breathing exercise called Vajra Wind Recitation. You breath in, inhale, when you do that, visualize (mentally) saying OM and then hold this air, push it down below your navel and keep it there, while you are doing that (mentally) say AH and when you can hold it no more, exhale it and (mentally) say HUNG. Try to do this again and again. This will help you to have a sharp and alert mind. Your watchful mind or alert mind will be sharper and will work better for you. And it is said that if you do this, you will derive as much benefit as reciting the mantra and meditating. Try to do this Vajra Wind Recitation whenever you have a chance. The lesser amount of sleep you need, the better it is. If you wake up early, be happy that you are awake and take the opportunity to do the Vajra Wind Recitation. If you stay up late in the night, do this Vajra Wind Recitation.
Then with the day time experience of practicing the Vajra Wind Recitation, bring it forth into your dream state. With training, you will be able to have this continuity, so you will also experience Varja Wind Recitation of OM AH HUNG in your dream state as well. We are now not talking about really really deep sleep, but rather talking about light sleep and in that light dream state. These are the things that are attainable.
Both the first and the second method mentioned above can be practiced by us provided that we are willing to do it. The third one is also something that we can practice. The third pith instruction is also about continuity. During the daytime, when you come across sentient beings who are suffering, generate love and compassion towards these sentient beings. Take that experience forward into your dream state. In your dream, if you meet suffering sentient beings and if you can generate the same compassion and loving kindness towards these needy people, it is said that the benefit is equal to the experience derived in “thin luminosity”, that is, practicing and experiencing luminosity in light sleep. This is one of the practices in Six Yoga of Naropa.
This is now talking about sleep time. In your sleep, there is something called deep luminosity, thin or shallow luminosity. What it means is deep sleep, not so deep sleep and experience of luminosity gained in the sleep time. Those two, the experience of luminosity in your sleep, the first method is deep sleep luminosity and the second and third method is light sleep luminosity.
your old father Milarepa,
Sometimes I eat and while eating, I meditate.
When meditating while I am eating,
I have the pith instructions to transform all eating and drinking into the ganachakra offering.
I have these but others do not,
I wish everyone had these.
When Milarepa said that he could transform eating and drinking into ganachakra offeings and that he had the pith instructions to make those transformations, you can do so as well if you have far understanding of Tantric teachings. When we do not have the experiential understanding of Tantric practice, then everything is impure, just like we have countless number of tiny living organisms in our physical body e.g. germs that are so tiny that you cannot see them with your naked eyes. But when you have the experiential understanding of Mahamudra, because of loving kindness and compassion, bodhicitta, all these living organisms turn into deities. The scientists will tell us that there are living organisms in the physical body, some enhances our health and others are detrimental to our health. They tell us that there are two different types and of course, there are the good and the bad because they are the creation of your own deeds (karma). Pain and suffering, for example, come about because of afflictive emotions. The three poisons, attachment, aversion and ignorance, are the root cause of the imbalance of wind, bile and phlegm. (One quick clarification: wind, bile and phlegm are three categories in which all the 4004 different diseases are categorized in the Tibetan medical system. Here the phlegm is not the phlegm the phlegm but it is one of the psychophysiological constitutions.) When we do not have pure vision, there is the good and there is the bad and there are the three poisons and there are the resulted diseases and sicknesses which bring about pain and suffering. When you are eating or drinking, there are three ways to transform them into ganachakra offering. The supreme way is while eating, you can remain in the real meditation (whether it is mahamudra or Dzogchen meditation) and if you are meditating, you do not have to meditate on anything. When you eat, the act of eating and drinking will automatically become the ganachakra offering to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three times. This form of ganachakra is the best and the most supreme form of ganachakra. Next best is when you can visualize yourself as deity, you can visualize your physical body as the vajra body, the siddhi of your vajra body in which lives countless number of dakas and dakinis and then generate loving kindness and compassion. You have now transformed your physical body into the mandala of the victorious ones and then when you eat or drink, it becomes the ganachakra offering. The last one is while eating or drinking generate loving kindness and compassion especially when you are consuming meat. Think of the animal whose flesh you are eating, think of the image of that animal and understand that it is all because of past karma, it is all because of the outstanding debt of the past. When you consume the meat, say a prayer: may that animal have settled all of the past outstanding debts and that its consciousness will be reborn either in a Buddha’s pureland or in the three higher realms of existence. If you do that, this becomes the ganachakra offering. Sometimes food is offered to you as offering, and if you do this kind of visualization, it will have tremendous benefits to the benefactor who has brought the food to you and to the animal or insects who are involved in the preparation of the food. Visualize that all the dead insects or dead animal to be either reborn in the pureland or will have the opportunity to practice the Dharma in the three higher realms of existence and thereby gradually go higher and higher in the paths and bhumis and all because of the power of kindness and compassion. Audience: Is there any mantra that I can chant? Rinpoche: King of all mantras is OM MANI PADME HUNG. It represents the six munis or six buddhas. Or you can chant OM TARE TU TARE TURE SAHVA, the bodhicitta is the same.
In Tibet, whether it is to benefit the deceased or the living, we would frequently sponsor food for the ordained, that is, especially if you have a pure vision and see them as what they actually are, the primordially pure. The basic ground is that all sentient beings – their aggregates or skandhas, the five senses and sense bases, all are primordially pure and in reality, the sentient beings are actually no different from the enlightened beings in that they also have the Buddha nature. We try to practice this pure vision during the creation stage of our practice. When my own mother passed away, there was a need to do virtuous deeds on her behalf but since I have offered my body, speech and mind to my monastery, I do not have a great deal of means to offer lots of virtuous deeds for my mother. So I sponsored dinner to all the disciples in Maryland and asked them to say OM AMI DEWA HRI, Amitabha’s mantra. This is a good practice since all the practitioners have the Buddha nature, and outer surroundings, one’s own physical body, sense bases and the aggregates etc are all primordially pure. With that understanding and recognition, it is not like you are making up something. You are recognizing the things as they are and when you have this understanding, you will have tremendous benefits. If you do not have this pure vision, the result is that one wanders in samsara.
your old father Milarepa,
Sometimes I walk and while walking, I meditate
And during this walking where walking is meditating,
I transform my walking into the circumambulations.
I have this pith instruction that enable me to do so,
but others do not,
I wish all others had these.
Circumambulation, it is important to know why we do it in the first place. We go round and round temples, monasteries, sacred places. We say that this is a sacred place where lots of deities etc. reside. We go round and round because of our belief, trust, faith and pure vision. When you have these, they are antidotes to anger, ego-centric pride, jealousy, attachment, aversion etc. Faith, trust and love are the elements which bring about virtue in a practitioner.
So wherever you go, wherever you walk, you can turn it into circumambulations. In tantric practice, all the male species are dakas and female species are dakinis, wherever you go, it is celestial Pureland; whomsoever you meet, they are friends. This is in fact so in reality, it is not something that you make up. When you see it in this way, it benefits oneself; it enables one to reach enlightenment. If you do not have pure vision, even if you are in Akanishta heaven or Buddha’s Pureland, you will see it as the realm of hungry ghost. Therefore, what Milarepa said was wherever you go that entails walking, whether it is in the neighborhood, in the village, in the alleys wherever, Milarepa can transform it into something virtuous, something equal to walking around a sacred place with all devotion and positive emotions. We too can do the same.
your old father Milarepa,
Sometimes I do act and while acting, I meditate
And during this action where action is meditating,
I liberate the activities into Dharmata.
I have this pith instruction that enable me to do so, but others do not,
I wish all others had these.
This is talking about four kinds of mundane activities: eating walking, sitting and sleeping. When you have the experiential understanding of Mahamudra, your alert mind will not wander off. When your alert mind stays focused, you will not have expectations or doubts nor do you have attachment or aversion. Whatever you do then, your activities will be liberated into Dharmata. When you do not have attachment, there will be no negative effects and thus no obscuration. Milarepa just said that he had the pith instructions to transform walking into circumambulations. If you do not have the alert mind on guard, when you visit countries like the USA or Canada, you become judgmental, when you are judgmental, more than likely that you are going to see faults, then you would not see the qualities and this is going to obscure your mind. When your mind is obscured and you start seeing negative things, it is the wrong view. Either that or you are going to see certain people as your friends and that would amount to attachment. So there has to be this alert mind on guard all the time so that you won’t have attachment or aversion. All the forms that you see out there are appearances and emptiness and all the sounds you hear are sounds and emptiness. There should not be any attachment. One should conduct oneself, whatever activities you are doing, do them without attachment. When you do activities without attachment, your activities will be liberated into Dharmata. What does that mean? Rinpoche uses an example, someone comes and starts beating you up, if you reciprocate, or if you generate anger or negative emotions, then you succumb to conceptual thought; but if you have no attachment or aversion to what happen to you, then it is the state of mind being liberated into Dharmata which is the innate nature, a state of mind free of conceptual thought. Now, the root text says that Milarepa liberated activities into Dharmata. When someone beats you up and when you do not do anything, there is no action really; but in order to liberate all activities, whatever activities you do, when you do it without attachment and conceptual thought, that is liberation.
When you have attachment, that means, the other side is aversion, when you have attachment and aversion, you would not achieve what you set out to achieve. Attachment and aversion are like thorny substances that will pinch you. This is good and this is bad, this kind of positive or negative dualistic idea and judgment will obscure your Buddha nature. Eating food for example, you have good-tasting food and bad-tasting food such dualistic idea about things. Food is food, once you have eaten and chewed and swallowed, whether it is good food or bad food, good tasting or bad tasting, it has served its purpose. Whether it is outer cosmos or inner inhabitants, all should be seen as pure and without attachment. This calls for the stability of the alert mind.
When you receive teachings on bodhicitta, it is not good enough to just receive teachings nor is it enough to have an academic understanding of what bodhicitta is. What we need is first to hear and second to understand the academic aspect, but the most important of all is we have to generate bodhicitta within ourselves, it is like sowing a seed and the benefit of sowing a seed is that you expect some kind of shoot to come out of earth; likewise, the benefit of receiving teaching on bodhicitta is that one is able to generate it within oneself. The ultimate goal of all samsaric beings is to liberate oneself from suffering. What we need is to have lasting peace and happiness. In order to liberate oneself from suffering, one needs to reach Enlightenment. Of course, there are different stages of attainment where one gets some kind of liberation from suffering, but those are not lasting. In order to get total liberation, one needs to reach Enlightenment. To reach Enlightenment, the very essential ingredient is bodhicitta. It is said that all Enlightened beings are given birth as a result of generating bodhicitta or altruistic mind, the mindset of benefitting others.
We tend to think that Milarepa is a fully enlightened being and we ourselves are sentient beings living in cyclic existence. On the other hand, when enlightened beings look upon us, they see us as nothing else but the seed for enlightenment. The essence of Buddhas and samsaric beings are the same in that we too have the Buddha nature in ourselves. The difference between a sentient being and an enlightened being is the presence or absence of clinging onto ego and dualistic grasping. What we samsaric beings tend to do is on a continuous basis – just like when snow falls, flakes after flakes, they keep on falling down, one on top of the other – we tend to have this idea that ‘I’ is different from others. We tend to grasp to self and be self-centered. That obscures the true nature in ourselves, the Buddha nature. Even when we drink a cup of tea, we think on nothing but ourselves, there is grasping. Conversely, if one is able to, for a very brief moment, think for the benefit of others, when we are able to place others in front of us, that is somewhat like lighting a tinder-dry bale of hay. When you light the fire, instantly, it just catches on. When you are able to generate altruistic mind, that gets rid of all obscurations that are accumulated because of grasping to self. Where there is no self, that being is an enlightened being. The difference between enlightened being and samsaric being is somewhat like water. There are all kinds of water – springs, rivers, lakes, ponds – but wherever you go, the essence of water is the same in all these. Some ponds are muddy while others are crystal clear. Some you can drink but others you cannot. But it does not mean that the essence of water is different. The essence of water is the same. It is the absence or the presence of pollutants in the water that make the difference.
Bodhicitta, there are two different kinds – relative and absolute. In relative bodhicitta, we strive to convert all sufferings into happiness. When you reach the level to practice absolute bodhicitta, the very notion of suffering or peace does not exist. That state of mind is over and above the idea of having peace and not having peace, it is just like the huge expanse of space, always remain calm and at peace.
When you receive empowerment, you should generate a powerful mindset – I am receiving this empowerment in order to be able to eradicate the suffering of all sentient beings. There are all kinds of sufferings, just like grains in the sand, countless number of sufferings. But the origin of all sufferings comes from one source and that source is ignorance – the ignorance of not being able to see the true nature of one’s mind. The mindset should be that you are receiving empowerment for the sake of all sentient beings who are like blind not seeing the path. To receive the empowerment is to open up your own wisdom eyes so that you will understand and experience the nature of Mahamudra – the true nature of mind. During empowerment, it is very important that your mind does not wander away. If possible, meditate on Mahamudra, try to stay in the true nature of mind. If that is not possible, meditate on bodhicitta, bring to mind the sufferings of all samsaric beings. Another way to keep your mind from wandering is to meditate on Milarepa. It is very important that your mind is not overcome or intercepted by appearances and thoughts and emotions other than meditating on the things that I ask you to meditate. When you receive empowerment, your body, speech and mind are like a butterlamp, the lamp itself; and the true nature of mind, the essence of all the Buddhas and tatagathas are like the oil in the lamp. Receiving empowerment and all the pith instructions and your vajra master are like the flame on top of the wig. When your mind starts wandering off, it is like blowing out the fire, the lamp, by wind coming your way, so you have to be very very focused.
When you receive empowerment, it is very important to have unwavering devotion to your vajra master. In the sutras, it is clearly written that the lamas and the masters are dispensers of Buddha’s teaching. It is through them that Buddha’s teaching is imparted. What I meant was that you should generate same devotion to all lamas which is very important. Since if you have lots of devotion to certain lamas but not so much to others, that immediately translates into attachment and the opposite. That causes disparities which in itself is negative. That is why you should have same devotion to all lamas. By generating devotion, what you are doing is that you yourself are the one who get the benefit by generating devotion to lamas. In Sutrayana tradition, lama’s body is the Sangha and lama’s speech is Buddha’s Dharma and lama’s mind is the Buddha itself. In Tantrayana tradition, lama is the Buddha, Yidam is the Dharma and Dakini is the Sangha.
At the end of each empowerment, you should ask yourself “Did I actually receive the empowerment or not?” The reason why you receive the empowerment is because you need complete freedom and liberty of your mind. You need to empower your mind to be able to set itself free, to be liberated from negative emotions. When you receive empowerment, you should ask yourself “Did I experience the true nature of the mind?” If you did, the true nature of mind is free from negative emotions or afflictive emotions. In the US, for example, there is apparent freedom and liberty, but these are external, the real freedom and liberty should be in one’s own mind. Where there is freedom and liberty in one’s mind, there is peace and happiness. Where there isn’t, there is suffering. That is the difference.
you too, Rechung my son, should practice like this.
And you too, Megom, should wake up and cook the soup!
HOME Dharma Teachings