The Experience of Sunyata (or Insubstantiality)

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THE DILIGENT PRACTITIONER OF DHARMA is always mindful of the transience of life, for we have no idea what is going to happen in the future or when we will die. By contemplating how or when death will come, we learn to appreciate the impermanence of life, and to develop a sense of renunciation. In this way, we become less involved in mundane attachments.

It is like planning a move from one geographical location to another. A wise person cultivates an attitude that accepts the idea, then plans the change skillfully, doing important chores ahead of time, so that at his new house everything will be ready and waiting. Once he arrives, he will be less concerned about the home he has left and more able to concentrate on settling down.


In the same way, realizing how short and temporary this life is allows us to devote more energy to practicing the Dharma. This is a more fruitful undertaking than being obsessed with material pleasures, for a time is going to come when none of these possessions can be claimed. Indeed, a time will come when we cannot take along even one strand of hair.

Our friends may be willing to help us now, but in the future, not they, or any possessions or wealth will have a chance to help us. Our position as Dharma practitioners is very rare, for even famous and rich people may not have the opportunity that we have. Because our lives are limited, we should regard the Dharma and the spiritual master as very, very precious.


The connection between the spiritual master and the disciple cannot be stressed enough. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past related to the Dharma first as ordinary sentient beings, and only through proper guidance did they integrate the teachings and achieve enlightenment. From this point, they went on to indestructible omniscience and eternal bliss. Such a state of mind, and the ability to benefit others, comes only from a proper relationship with the master. It is essential to relate to the master in a sincere and genuine way, for he guides us to the proper understanding of the experiences that come with practice. This practice takes a long time to perfect, and we cannot expect fruition to come about in a day or two, or even a few years.

The nature of the mind can be explained in three points: how we perceive, how we relate to these perceptions, and the nature of phenomena. Perceptions, projections, and phenomena are all inseparable elements of the mind. Without the mind we have nothing to perceive and no way to relate to what is happening. All shapes, even nightmarish forms, are there because of the mind. If there was no mind, there would be no form. Because a blind man cannot see, for him, there is no color. We perceive colors when our eye consciousness is working, and with this consciousness we distinguish and label the different colors. In terms of ultimate reality, there is no difference between color and mind, or between the labels we give a color and the mind.


In the same way, sound is not an entity separate from the mind that hears it, and the ear consciousness reflects the inseparable quality of sound and mind. Likewise, the quality of each sense perception is embodied as a sense consciousness--sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Although sense experiences and their labels are not separate in terms of ultimate reality, we fail to take this perspective, placing what we sense and that which is sensing into different categories. If we acknowledge that there are no perceptions without the mind, we can understand that phenomena, too, are dependent on mind.

Perceived objects do not exist independently and do not have a permanent quality of their own, and labels are just reference points that we devise to support the existence of our thoughts or perceptions. Labels such as good/bad, happy/sad, long/short, and hot/cold are created by the mind, and do not in themselves hold any inherent truth. Because everything is a function of the mind, phenomena are not things in themselves, but are what the mind is and how the mind relates to them. Acknowledging that phenomena are mental projections, we can achieve greater renunciation for there really is no point in getting attached to a situation that is not what it seems to be. Going further, we can actually look into our own mind and examine it. This is a fluid situation. We have identified the quality of knowing, but we cannot locate or label that quality. We cannot give our consciousness a fixed shape or color, for the nature of mind itself is insubstantial. That which identifies, relates to, and labels other things does not itself possess a fixed identity. This step-by-step method--examining the perceiver in relation to the perceived--can help us to realize the unborn and insubstantial quality of all things. We are working toward unfolding the nature of everything, which is sunyata or emptiness.


Sunyata is not a vacuum or a state of nothingness. Indeed, an enlightened yogi sees the same things we do. At the same time, he or she appreciates the insubstantial and changing quality of everything, and understands that projections and perceptions can cause no harm or trouble. We, on the other hand, regard our projections as something substantial, and we believe that they support and sustain us. We think they are real; indeed, for us this is total reality. We fixate on our perceived reality and become attached to it. That is how we become trapped in our own projections.

To go beyond intellectual understanding to a spontaneous experience of sunyata is to experience the nature of the mind as dharmakaya. This state manifests as an all-pervading quality of space. When a practitioner merges his mind with the dharmakaya, he or she continues to experience everything as before, but also sees the transience of all things. He knows at that point that his mind is insubstantial and non-compounded.


The state of mind in which we see phenomena, yet perceive it without grasping, is called "the mind of great bliss." Although we do not categorize or focus attention on any fixed thing, we see everything that dawns in the consciousness distinctly, without mistaking one for the other. Such is clarity, and if we see clearly, we can sustain a blissful state without effort. In our lineage this is called "giving birth to the experience of mahamudra." As this awareness dawns, the quality of mind itself manifests as unborn and uncompounded.

We construct our own confusion if we hold on to a fixed reality and label phenomena as entities separate from ourselves. In doing this, we inevitably crave some things and reject others, and this is bewildering. Thus, the boundary between enlightened beings and sentient beings lies not in what is seen (because enlightened beings see things too), but in the way they are seen. From the perspective of enlightened mind, everything is Buddhanature, everything is sunyata, and everything is insubstantial. To realize this involves a letting go, the letting go that is enlightenment. Those of us caught up in confusion, imprison ourselves by holding onto a fixed system of dualities.

For example, when adults see a rainbow in the sky, they know what it is and understand that it is insubstantial. When a child sees a rainbow for the first time, he wants to catch it and make it his own. This is like the difference between enlightened beings and ordinary sentient beings. Realized beings, when they see anything, understand it as a reflection of the mind, and they get neither bored with it nor excited about it. Ordinary beings, thinking that what they see is real and permanent, run off with their perceptions and compulsively try to possess this and reject that. This is how confusion piles up. One of the highest experiences is to understand that reality is not fixed.


It is also like this with dreams. Enlightened beings have dreams much like ours. Within our framework of habitual patterns, some dreams frighten us, and others please us. For a yogi, however, the dream experience is different. He recognizes that a dream is occurring, and he knows that it is insubstantial. He can catch the dream and play with it, doing whatever he wants to do with it. Unlike us, he recognizes that a dream does not have a fixed quality, and he can experience its fluid openness and space without becoming frightened or excited.

Day-to-day life is like a dream, for we react to waking experiences as we do to dreams, with the same patterns or habits. Everything seems complete and real; some experiences make us sad and some make us happy. An enlightened being, however, has let go of everything, and regards all phenomena as insubstantial. Therefore, no one is hurt, nothing triggers excitement, and there is no cause for fear.

The bardo experience can be encountered in the same way. Usually, we cannot see clearly at the time of the bardo because we have built such heavy habitual patterns, and our projections seem so concrete. We play a game of duality, including conflicts between ourselves and others, so we fight the bardo experience, and everything frightens and bewilders us. Yet, for an enlightened being who realizes the sunyata nature of all things, even in the bardo, whatever appearances may come, there is space, openness, and movement.


The experience of sunyata is the essence of enlightenment. It is also the basis for bodhicitta, the motivation to benefit all sentient beings. This is because realizing insubstantiality--the sunyata nature of all things--makes the difference between sanity and insanity. A sane person sympathizes with the suffering of an insane person. He or she thinks, "I wish something better could happen to him," and in this way her bodhicitta grows. Likewise, a realized person sees that those who have not recognized sunyata clutch and hold onto fixed ideas, and knowing that this will lead the other person to further suffering, he or she wants to do all they can to help. Because a person with the experience of sunyata knows what the sunyata experience means to them, they know how much it would mean to others.

Just having had the experience of sunyata brings benefit to others because now spaciousness is always present. We are no longer limited to doing only this much or that much, and because there are no limitations, there is also great ability and willingness. When there is no substantial blockage to our true nature, the experience of sunyata is immaculate. Without at least a beginning experience of sunyata, true compassion is not even possible. We will only be able to care genuinely when things go wrong for our own loved ones. This becomes a sort of possessive compassion. It is limited and discriminatory, and it is not the compassion of the bodhisattvas.


The bodhicitta generated by bodhisattvas is directed toward all beings equally. Only with such non-discriminating motivation can there be the ability to benefit others. Great ability, or skillful means, extends everywhere because we have transcended a fixed state of reality and overcome all barriers. Regardless of the situation and regardless of which people are involved, we will have the ability to help.

Learning about compassion is important, but it is the actual doing of practice that enables us to realize the profundity of the teachings and to integrate them into daily life. We are not talking about practicing for a couple of months or a few years, but doing it constantly and continually until we have great experiences. This is important because the greater our experience of sunyata, the greater and more spontaneous will be our ability to benefit all beings.

At the point where we experience sunyata, practice becomes easy. When the sky is cloudy, the sun is obscured, but as the clouds evaporate, the sun's rays appear and become more and more radiant. Likewise, the more we let go of ego, the greater is the space created in the environment. Some people believe that persons who have realized sunyata become detached and aloof. This is not at all true. Indeed, with the experience of sunyata we become even more affectionate, respectful, and helpful toward others. We feel closer to everyone because the wish for them to attain enlightenment is also growing. Thus the greater our experience of sunyata, the greater our concern for all beings.


The transcendental qualities of the great yogis are beyond belief. Once in Tibet, a great yogi was doing an intensive ritual practice and a robber crept up behind him with a knife. As the yogi played his drums and ritual objects, the robber cut off his head, which dropped to the ground. Nonchalantly, the yogi picked up his head, put it back on, and continued the ritual. The robber stared speechless until the yogi had finished, and then said: "Oh, I wanted to kill you so much! I really wanted to get rid of you." The yogi replied, "Well, will my death make you happy? If it will, I'll die right here. My prayer for you is that there may come a time when I will cut the neck of your ego." With that, he fell dead. This is an example of a total letting go.

Of course, we do not actually want to drop dead, but the point is that the yogi acted effortlessly and spontaneously, and created for the future a connection between himself and the robber. In a later life, this robber became his disciple, and through this connection and his own prayers, he was helped toward liberation.

Most of us have had dreams of effortless action. As you dream of a fire, for example, you jump into it, then realize that it is only a dream, and you are not burned. Or perhaps a huge beast lunges at you, yet nothing happens. It is like that for enlightened ones: being attacked is like being in a dream. Similarly, you may dream of finding a precious object, and your first instinct is: "Oh, wow! I've got a precious jewel!" But on second thought, you realize that this is just your dream, so you just play with the jewel and then let it go. This is what seems to happen to diligent practitioners.


It is important to learn how to recognize sunyata so that we can realize that every perception is relative to our mind, and that the nature of labels, of phenomena--in reality the nature of all things--is insubstantial. We never reach a point where we can say that the mind is going in this direction, is located here, or comes from there--or for that matter that it has any particular color or shape at all. Understanding this, we can let go of our confusion, letting go of our ego and conflicting emotions as well. We can transcend our bewilderment and reach Buddhahood.

A Buddha works so that others, too, may recognize sunyata, and may themselves become Buddhas. The main point is that someone who understands sunyata acts with naturally arising compassion for the liberation of all those who are suffering.


When we build a house, we start by clearing away dirt, not by placing the completed building on bare ground. Digging the foundation is a part of the building process. In the same way, purification of defilements is part of the process of enlightenment, and it is necessary for our ultimate realization of sunyata. In helping you recognize the true nature of your mind, the teacher does not place a new mind in you, but just helps you to recognize how things really are.

This is the profound instruction of the Kagyu lineage. It is a path of unbroken teaching because it is the same path that the great masters have followed. The teachings are not presented to you in a neat package ostentatiously wrapped, and just hearing about the Dharma is not enough. Methods such as visualizing deities, reciting mantras, and so forth provide the skill to purify all accumulated neuroses, and they engender the virtues that cut through obscurations. Dharma practices are the tools that we need to break through to the experience of sunyata.


This teaching was given by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra. It was translated by Chojor Radha and edited by Sally Clay. It originally appeared in Densal, Vol. 11, Number 2.

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Nice article!

Yes, i thought so too. Thank you for commenting.


Next one...


On Realization of the Nature of Mind

by Dezhung Rinpoche Kunga Tanpa'i Nyima


When you come to approach the Dharma you should do so with the attitude that it is for the benefit of others; the concern should be for all sentient beings who have been your mother and father since beginingless time. Out of a concern to help them you are listening to the Dharma in order to become a buddha, for this is the one way in which you can truly help others. But when you listen to the Dharma you should be free from inattention, free from ill feeling or emotional disturbance and you should listen as one who is hoping for some kind of cure for an ailment which is with us intrinsically, all the time. When we listen to the Dharma we should be free from any sense of ordinariness; that is, we think no longer of this world of mundane cares, this world in which we live, but imagine that we are listening to the Dharma in the presence of a buddha whose resplendent form sits shining before us, that the place we are in is a beautiful meadow filled with light, with flowers, with fragrance in the air, that we ourselves are not in our corporeal forms, but that we are all in the form of enlightenment, the bodhisattva, that nothing is weighted down by tangibility, by substantiality, that everything appears, magic, fresh and breathtaking, like a clear dream. If with these ideas in mind we listen to the Dharma, we will understand it and apply it.

What I'm going to say now doesn't at all come from me; it's no product of my imagination, but has been taught to me by very great teachers, very wonderful people, who represent a living tradition of study and realization that extends back in time for about 2500 years. I would like to share some of this tradition with you, because I think that its teachings are very valuable, very important, and for this reason I hope that you'll listen very carefully.

There are about three and one-half billion people living in the world at this time, if I have the figure right, and most of them have little real concern for any form of religion. Most people are concerned with just looking- after their own needs and those of their families, or escaping from enemies or problems, just struggling for survival in the world, one way or another. Most people are quite involved with just living from day to day, and the few people who do manage to begin to think about the end of life, of death, or about their actions in this life and their consequences, or maybe of special ways in which they can make their lives more satisfactory, less painful, the people that we call 'religious' can be divided for our purposes now into two groups.

Most 'religious' people basically see themselves as existing in a relationship of God and man; and this relationship, I think, is commonly felt to be one of, you might say, master and servant, or even of owner and slave. Out there, there is something, someone, who is much stronger, more powerful, wiser, more intelligent, than I am, and if I do what he wants me to do; if I live as he tells me to live, then I will have done what he wants me to do, and he, in turn, will give me what I want. It might sound like a business relationship in some religions, or in some other religions one's own position might be much less strong; I am poor, weak, miserable, I will throw myself on the mercy of him out there and he, out of his kindness, will help me; in some religions this almost has the sound of a begging relationship.

The way of the buddhas, the Dharma, although we call it a 'religion,' in comparison with the situation described before, might not even be called religious'; because it is basically concerned with man himself, and with the most important part of man's personality, his mind. We can describe the buddhas Dharma as mind training. As a person I have certain abilities, there are things that I can do, and if there are certain things that I want, my mind, as the controller of my body and speech, needs training to be able to provide what I want. Now, anybody can understand that if I want to be an accountant I can take an accountant's course; if I want to learn French I can study it, but buddhists claim that the most useful thing that I can learn is what the real nature of the world really is; and that the course I can take, the mind training that will provide direct awareness, through insight, of the true nature of reality, is meditation. Everything in buddhas teaching is concerned with the training of mind, and it's a difficult and complex teaching to explain.

The source of the teachings that we know today as Dharma, which means the 'law', or the 'way', is the buddha named Gautama, the sage of the Shakya clan, who was called Shakyamuni, a buddha, or enlightened person, who reached full enlightenment in India some 2500 years ago, after a career which began with his determination to reach enlightenment in order to help all sentient beings. On the basis of that determination he practiced mind training, and cultivated the positive qualities which resulted in his full enlightenment as a buddha. During his lifetime he taught the Dharma throughout India. If we consider how to approach his teaching, it can be summarized in one concise verse, "Through connection one is bound, through disengagement freedom becomes complete." These two lines may be expanded into the four truths; "There is suffering, suffering arises from emotionality, the cause of suffering that is emotionality can be removed, there is a way that this removal can take place." To elaborate, 'connection' and 'suffering' refer to the ignorance, emotionality and the actions and their results that we are all caught up in, and that as long as we have ignorance and emotionality, or act out of emotional motivation, then this action binds us to the sort of existence that is called daily human life. Yet, when we are free from ignorance, have come to a full realization of the nature of reality, so that there is no longer any basis for emotionality, then there is only freedom; freedom from any kind of compulsion or constraint, and one has attained the goal of enlightenment, of buddhahood.

What does it mean for an individual to practice or follow the teachings of the buddhas Dharma. First, it means that he has a certain orientation; second, it means that he ]earns, or begins to appreciate, a certain approach to the understanding of life.

The orientation is called 'going for refuge' and it focuses upon the possibility of enlightenment as expressed in the concept of buddha; that is, that it is possible to become a buddha; that the way to such enlightenment is through the practice of the buddhas teaching, the Dharma, and that help and support in such an undertaking will come from the congregation, those who are engaged in the practise and teaching of the Dharma. A buddha is the direct realization of reality; he is that realization expressed as communication; he is the form which a buddha can take in order to help sentient beings. The Dharma is both experience and learning; it is the learning which is training in morality, training in meditative ability, training in wisdom and understanding, and it is the direct experience of the realization of reality. The congregation are people who can lend guidance and support to one who undertakes to become a buddha, and a person who is practising buddhism takes these references as the basis for his way of coming to an understanding, for his practice and, in a way, for his life,

A buddhist, then, is oriented toward, takes refuge in, the buddha, the Dharma and the congregation; now, the way he begins to approach the world can be laid out in four statements: All composite phenomena are impermanent, all emotionality is suffering, all phenomena lack, or are empty of, a self-nature, and the transcendence of suffering is peace.

How can we explain the possibility of, the process of enlightenment! There is the potential for enlightenment called buddha nature, there is the framework for the achievement of enlightenment which is the human existence, there is the contributing factor of contact with a spiritual teacher, the means which are the instructions of that teacher, there is the result which is buddhahood, and there is the continuous activity which is the manifestation of enlightenment which works for the welfare of others. This classification of the six elements of enlightenment shows the real possibility that one can become a buddha, and the fundamental concept is found right at the beginning; the concept of buddha nature, the seed of buddhahood. We have to recognize that there must be some potential within us if it is going to be possible for us to become a buddha. Not only must there be some potential within us, but it must also be the case that we are not already buddhas, otherwise it would be difficult to become a buddha. If there were no buddha nature, we would be caught in the cycle of suffering with absolutely no possibility of freedom; we would continue to suffer the pains and frustrations of existence that we do now, and this process would have no possibility of ending; there would be nothing that we could do about it. But this is not the case, for many people have become enlightened, have become buddhas. On the other hand, it is not the case that we are enlightened now, because we do experience pain and frustration, and a buddha is totally free from pain or frustration. So how are we to understand this potential! Buddha nature in essence is mind itself. Once it's recognized as such -- then you are a buddha. And as long as it's not recognized, there is suffering. A scriptural reference says, "The mind of a sentient being is buddha itself; it just happens to be clouded and bewildered. When this bewilderment and misunderstanding are removed, buddha is present." This is to say that, in a sense, we are each a buddha and yet don't realize it; only our blindness, our emotionality and ignorance prevent us from realizing this.

To understand more clearly, it would perhaps be helpful to investigate what we mean by the word 'mind'. There are various words which denote mind; mind as a complex of attitudes, mind as a complex of emotions, and mind as a function of consciousness. When we consider the scope of mental activity, we have to consider six things. First, we are conscious of what we see, of what we hear, of what we touch, taste and smell, and we are conscious of our own thoughts. So there are six aspects to consciousness. Now to these six aspects we may add two further ones--mind as emotionality; that is, regarding the essential ignorance which is present in mind, and then, mind as just a basic cognition, something which is conscious of, or cognises events. It is this which actually becomes, which we actually designate the potential for buddhahood, buddha nature; the fact that mind is simply aware of things.

I think that we can recognize that there is a distinction between the way consciousness of the objects that we perceive functions, and the way consciousness of thought functions. By this I mean to say, that consciousness of objects does not discriminate. We just see an object, and in the actual being conscious of the seeing there is no thought of good or evil, or of "that's a nice form, I don't like this one," it is simply awareness that seeing is taking place. In the same way, when we hear a sound, there is simply consciousness of the sound, without any discrimination or ascription to the nature of the sound, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, The same is true of taste, touch and smell. So, these forms of consciousness can be free from discrimination; yet, these are not buddha nature.

Discrimination, discursive thought, is the province of emotional thought. These are all the thoughts that we think; for example, "Oh it's too hot out, It's cold today, I like this, I don't like that, I'm attracted to that, I don't want that, I don't understand this, What's happening over there!" All of these thoughts, and there is an endless infinity of them, are the province or domain of mental consciousness; we are aware of these thoughts, that we can observe the thing that we are thinking about, the thoughts that we think about the objects that we perceive. But this tremendously active aspect of consciousness is not buddha nature either.

And then, if we can still our mind so there is no perception taking place, so that there is no discursive thought taking place, there is still a definite sense of 'I' --I am, I exist, and we regard ourselves as being some-thing. And it is that sense of'' which is the cause of emotionality; the cause of our self-interest. Even though, when we are put to it, we cannot find out what this 'I' is, we still feel that it is very, very present. And this habitual, or instinctive, grasping at the sense of an 'I', this pseudo-consciousness of an 'I', is what may be called the emotional aspect of consciousness.

And suppose. that the mind were to become so still that even the sense of 'I' were gone. Then, there is nothing that is apprehended. No colour, no form, no shape of any kind, yet there is a clarity; there is no grasping after 'I' and 'mine', but just a brilliant clarity, and there is a total freedom, a total lack of any obstacle, a total lack of any dualistic impediment of any kind. And this, which is clear, empty, unimpeded; this is basic cognition. If one recognizes basic cognition for what it is--if there is a direct realization of that, ignorance is banished and one understands; but as long as that is not recognized for what it is, there is bewilderment, and so all that happens, for good, for evil, has free play, because there is no understanding present to perceive what is, in fact, taking place. So in a sense this basic cognition, when it is realized, becomes buddhahood; when it is not realized it becomes the cause of everyday existence. It is like a jewel in a mud puddle. A jewel covered with mud doesn't shine, no fire burns inside it, but when we take it out of the puddle and wash the mud off it and hold it up to the light, it burns with its inner fire. Basic cognition is also a bit like gold in the ground. Gold ore is not visible and we don't see the gold in the ore right away, but if we take gold ore and smelt it, refine it, then the gold becomes very evident and glistens in its pure state.

We might review what has been discussed by distinguishing between three aspects of mind: there is mind itself, which would correspond to basic cognition, the simple act of cognizing. This is mind as clear, empty, and unimpeded. Then there is mind as an emotional attitude, which would be this attitude or feeling that 'I am some-thing'. And there are all those aspects of consciousness; consciousness as thought, sound, touch, sight, etc., which are properly termed just 'consciousness'. And a distinction should be made between being conscious of things, the habitual grasping of the sense of'', and mind as it is in itself.

Now our concern here is to recognize basic cognition; but even here we have to distinguish, because there is within basic cognition something which is basically composite, which leads to ordinary courses of action; it is consciousness functioning in its ordinary way, and this is the cause of everyday life, our existence as we know it. And there is also what we might call an uncomposed, non-dualistic aspect of basic cognition, and this is what we really need to realize. When we try to determine what it is, we are led to view it as simply nothing, as being empty; there is simply nothing which can be grasped there. Yet, if it is only regarded as empty, then a serious error has been made. Because, if it were in fact simply empty; that is, there were nothing, then where would any possibility of action come from? From what could anything emerge? What would be the concept of action if there were nothing for a foundation? It would be like trying to expect the sky to do some work; there is simply nothing in space, so space is totally impotent; there is just nothing there to act. So this basic cognition, in its uncomposite aspect, is not simply nothingness, is not simply empty, there is a clarity which could almost be called an immediacy; this emptiness and clarity are, in fact, identical. Yet, there is simply nothing that can be grasped conceptually. And this is why we say that this essence of phenomena, which is a synonym of mind-in-itself, is divorced totally from any concept, any process of conceptualization.

The very great Indian Buddhist teacher Taranatha has said, "One must distinguish between mind, and mind-in-itself. Mind is simply consciousness; it is the basis of life as suffering, but mind-in-itself is the essence of what really is. Most people simply realize mind, and they feel they've come to some realization; they have experienced emptiness and clarity, but this is simply the impotency of basic cognition which is of no value. It is only when you meditate, and continue, and deepen that realization over a long period of time that you begin even to get a glimpse of what mind-in-itself is really like." Another statement comes from one of the greatest teachers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, "All that we do in Dharma practice, right from the very beginning of going for refuge, is concerned with coming to this total realization; everything that we do is a means by which we clear away the various levels of distracting thought, emotionality and habitual grasping, until we come to see mind-in-itself "

I have tried to explain, then, something about this basis, this seed of buddhahood, this buddha nature, which makes it possible for us to become -- for each of us to become -- a buddha. The framework in which we can become such a buddha is the human existence, the human existence which we have now. This is the framework because it is the only form of existence in which we have the opportunity to hear, and we are able to comprehend, such teachings as these. This is the true uniqueness of the human situation, the ability of communication, and the inclination to pursue religious practice. What makes it possible for us to do this is contact with a spiritual teacher; it is through contact with a teacher that you come to understand, to learn that there is something to be understood. The means by which we can come to such an understanding are the instructions of the teacher; we must apply them if we are to benefit from them. And this is a very broad area; the means start with various kinds of contemplation and various ways of acting. We can begin by thinking about how fortunate we are to be human, to have contact with the buddhas teaching, how very precious such an opportunity is; we think about the effects that our actions will have on us in the future, what experiences such actions will develop into, and we think about the presence, the continual presence, of suffering in any form of existence that is based on ego-clinging. These kinds of contemplations will lead us to a firm determination to become free of everyday existence, to remove all ignorance and lack of understanding.

Then, we continue to develop compassion and love so that we can undertake to reach enlightenment for the benefit of others, and on such bases we need to develop meditative ability, the ability to still the mind, so that we can understand what the nature of phenomena is. If we are going to realize buddha nature, this emptiness, clarity and unimpededness, we have to understand much about the nature of phenomena, the nature of the world that we perceive, how it operates. And the key to this understanding is to gradually eliminate the sense of tangibility, of reality and concreteness with which we work in the world now; to learn to understand that the appearances that we perceive are not really as real as we would like to suppose them to be; they are not non-existing, but they are not existing either. This point of view is called the 'great middle way', and it is understanding of it which leads directly to the realization of buddha nature.

Now, there was a man named Atisha, a very great Indian master, a great scholar, a great teacher, one who came to a very great realization. He was invited to Tibet to teach the Dharma there --this was about a thousand years ago-- and when he first arrived, he met with a number of Tibetans who were interested in learning more about the Dharma; most of these people had already had some contact with it, so Atisha started to instruct them in the great middle way. He said, "All appearances, all phenomena, all things that happen, are like magic; they do not have any absolute reality, there is no essence to any of these phenomena." And he looked around and saw that his listeners looked a little bit puzzled .

So he said, "Let me explain--in India there are many magicians, sorcerers, who can create the experience of a whole life." And he told the story of a young family, the husband of which had a friend who was a sorcerer, and the husband thought it would be beneficial to himself if he could learn something about sorcery. So he asked his friend to come to dinner one day, and explained what he wanted; the sorcerer said, "Well, perhaps, we'll see," and as they sat down and were eating a meal of soup together, the husband noticed a strange-looking man coming down the road in front of the house; he was leading an absolutely magnificent horse, a beautiful animal, quite large, well formed, and as the stranger approached he called out, "How would you like to buy this horse!" The husband replied, "Oh, I would never have enough money to be able to purchase an animal like that." The stranger said, "Well, maybe I don't want so much, maybe just a few needles or something." The husband was taken aback in surprise, but before he could say anything, the stranger said, "Don't decide too quickly, why don't you ride the horse; after all, you want to make sure you like it." The husband agreed, and mounted the horse and rode off. The horse was indeed a magnificent animal; it galloped with the speed of the wind over rivers and through forests, across meadows, over mountains; the husband had never ridden such a magnificent animal before; he galloped along for hours and hours. It was such a thrilling experience that he lost track of time completely; he lost track of where he was, lost the road, and after many hours he noticed the sun was setting; he drew up and dismounted and looked around him, and he thought that he'd never been in a country like that before. Nothing around him looked at all familiar; he wasn't at all sure what to do, and after such a long ride he was tired, hungry, and thirsty, and he wasn't even sure where he was going to stay the night. But in the distance he saw a light, a lamp burning, so he walked towards it, and he found that the lamp was burning in the window of a house.

Out of the house stepped a woman, and he asked her where he was; she replied, but he didn't recognize the name of the place; he told her his own country; she'd never heard of it. I guess he looked a bit distressed and she asked what the matter was. He said, "I've ridden a long way, I'm hungry and tired, and I don't even know where I am." She said, "Well, do come in" And she served him supper, he stayed the night there, and since he didn't know how to get back to his own country, he stayed there. He lived with this woman and they had a family together, and once, after many, many years, when their sons and daughters were beginning to get older they all went to a favourite lake of theirs for a picnic, and as they stood beside the lake, looking over it--it was a very beautiful place -- the oldest of the sons jumped into the lake and disappeared. Then, one by one each of the children jumped into the lake; then his wife, whom he had loved all this time, and lastly his horse. And there he was, an old man with white hair, completely alone; and completely overcome with grief he broke down in tears. And as he cried, he felt someone shake his shoulder; he turned around, looked up, and there was his wife of many years before, saying, "What are you crying for, what's the matter with you!" And he said, "If you only knew what has happened to me!" "But nothing's happened to you;" she said, "It hasn't been half an hour since we had our dinner. See, the soup pot is still hot." And the husband began to realize that everything that he had experienced had had no reality at all.

Now, when Atisha had finished telling the Tibetans this story, he said, "And this is what all the world is like. It has no reality; it is simply an experience without any absoluteness to it at all. Oh, by the way," he said, "Do you have any magicians as good here in Tibet" And the Tibetans said, "No, no, we don't have any sorcerers who can create illusions like that." And Atisha sat very thoughtful for a minute and then said, "Well, it's going to be very difficult to explain the great Middle Way here, then, but, tell me, do any of you dream?" And the Tibetans answered, "Yes, yes, we dream, we're human, after all, of course we dream." "Well then," said Atisha, "Life in a sense, is like a dream; we have a dream, and it seems very real while we are dreaming it. When it's over, when we wake up, we realize that it was nothing more than a dream." So Atisha used this way to explain the great middle view. Everything that we experience is simply appearance; it has no intrinsic reality, and when we come to understand this, then we understand buddha nature, and we have become free from suffering.

[Translated by Ken McLeod, edited by Thomas Quinn. (©Tom Quinn, New Sun Books, 1979]


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To go beyond intellectual understanding to a spontaneous experience of sunyata is to experience the nature of the mind as dharmakaya. This state manifests as an all-pervading quality of space.

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Nature of The Mind

His Holiness Sakya Trizin

One of the main teachings of the Buddha is the law of karma, the teaching that all the

lives we have are not without cause, are not created by other beings, and are not by

coincidence, but are all created by our own actions. All the positive things such as love,

long life, good health, prosperity and so forth are also not given by anybody else. It is

through our own positive actions in the past that today we enjoy all the good things.

Similarly all the negative aspects, like short life, sickness, poverty, etc. and all the

undesirable things are also not created by any outsider but by our own actions, the

negative deeds we committed in the past.

If one really wishes to be free from suffering and to experience happiness, it is very

important to work on the causes. Without working on the causes, one cannot expect to

yield any results. Each and everything must have its own cause and a complete cause

- things cannot appear without any cause. Things do not appear from nowhere, from the

wrong cause, or from an imcomplete cause. So the source of all the sufferings is the

negative deeds.

Negative deeds basically means not knowing reality, not knowing the true nature of

the mind. Instead of seeing the true nature of the mind, we cling to a self without any

logical reason. All of us have a natural tendency to cling to a self because we are so

used to it. It is a kind of habit we have formed since beginningless time.

However if we carefully examine and investigate, we cannot find the self. If there is

a self, it has to be either body, mind or name. First, the name is empty by itself. Any

name can be given to anybody. So the name is empty by itself.

Likewise the body. We say "my body". just like "my house, my car, my home, my

country" and so forth, so the body and "I" are separate. If we examine every part

of the body, we cannot find anywhere, anything called "I" or the self. It is just many

things together that form what we cling to as the body or the self. If we investigate

carefully from head to toe, we cannot find anywhere a thing called self. The body is

not a self because the body has many parts, many different parts. People can still

remain alive without certain parts of the body, so the body is not the self.

Likewise the mind. We think that the mind may be the self, but the mind is actually

changing from moment to moment. All the time the mind is changing. And the past

mind is already extinct, already gone. Something that is already gone cannot be called

the self. And the future mind is yet to arise. Something that is yet to arise cannot be

the self. And the present mind is changing all the time, every moment it is changing.

The mind when we were a baby and the mind when we are an adult are very different.

And these different minds do not occur at one time. It is all the time changing, all the

time changing, every moment it is changing. Something that is constantly changing

cannot be the self.

So now, apart from name, body or mind, there is no such thing called the self, but

due to long habit, we all have a very strong tendency to cling to a self. Instead of

seeing the true nature of the mind, we cling at a self without any logical reason.

And as long as we have this, it is just like mistaking a colourful rope for a snake.

Until we realise that it is not a snake but only a rope, we have fear and anxiety. As

long as we cling to a self, we have suffering. Clinging to a self is the root of all the

sufferings. Not knowing reality, not knowing the true nature of the mind, we cling

to a self.

When you have a "self", naturally there are "others" - the self and others. The

"self and others" are dependent on the "self". Just like right and left, if there is

right, there has got to be a left. Likewise, if there is a self, there are others. When

you have a self and others, attachment then arises to one's own side, one's friends

and relatives and so forth, and hatred arises towards "others" whom you disagree

with, towards the people who have different views, different ideas. These three are

main poisons that keep us in this net of illusions, samsara. Basically the ignorance

of not knowing and clinging to a self, attachment or desire, and hatred - these three

are the three main poisons. And from these three, arise other impurities, such as

jealousy, pride and so forth. And when you have these, you create actions. And when

you create actions, it is like planting a seed on a fertile ground that in due course

will yield results. In this way we create karma constantly and are caught up in the

realms of existence.

To be completely free from samsara, we need the wisdom that can cut the root of

samsara, the wisdom that realises selflessness. Such wisdom also depends on method.

Without the accumulation of method, one cannot cause wisdom to arise. And without

wisdom, one cannot have the right method. Just like needing two wings in order to

fly in the sky, one needs both method and wisdom in order to attain enlightenment.

The most important method, the most effective method, is based on loving-kindness,

universal love and compassion, and from this arises the bodhicitta, or the enlightenment

thought, which is the sincere wish to attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all

sentient beings. When you have this thought, then all the right and virtuous deeds

are naturally acquired.

On the other side, you need wisdom, the wisdom that realises the true nature of all

phenomena, and particularly of the mind - because the root of samsara and nirvana,

everything, is the mind. The Lord Buddha said: "One should not indulge in negative

deeds, one should try to practice virtuous deeds, and one should tame the mind."

This is the teaching of the Buddha. The fault lies in our wild mind, we are caught up

in samsara or the cycle of existence. The purpose of all the eighty-four thousand

teachings of the Buddha is to tame our mind. After all, everything is the mind - it is the

mind which suffers, it is the mind which experiences happiness, it is the mind which is

caught up in samsara and it is the mind that attains liberation or enlightenment. So

when the true nature of the mind is realised, all other things, all other outer and inner

things, are then naturally realised.

So what is the mind? If one tries to investigate where the mind is, one cannot find

the mind anywhere. One cannot pinpoint any part of the body and say, "This is my

mind." So it is not inside the body, not outside the body, and not in between the body.

If something exists, it has to be of specific shape or colour but one cannot find it in

any shape or any colour. So the nature of the mind is emptiness.

But when we say that everything is emptiness and doesn't exist, it does not mean

that it does not conventionally exist. After all, it is the mind which does all the wrong

things, it is the mind which does all the right things, it is the mind which experiences

suffering and so forth. Therefore there is a mind of course - we are not dead or

unconscious, but are conscious living beings, and there is a stream of continuity of

the consciousness, constantly. Just like the candle light that is burning, the clarity

of the mind is constantly continuing. The characteristic of the mind is clarity. You

cannot find it in any form or in any colour or in any place, yet there is a clarity that

is constantly continuing. This is the characteristic of the mind. And the two, the

clarity and emptiness are inseparable, just like fire and the heat of fire are inseparable.

The clarity and the emptiness cannot be separated. The inseparability of the two is

the essence, the unfabricated essence of the mind.

In order to experience such a state, it is important first to go through the preliminary

practices. Also, through preliminary practices one accumulates merit. It is best to

meditate on insight wisdom. For that one needs to prepare the present mind, our ordinary

mind that is constantly in streams of thoughts. Such a busy and agitated mind will not be

a base for insight wisdom. So first we have to build a base with concentration, using the

right method. Through concentration, one tries to bring the mind to a very stable state.

And on such stable clarity and single-pointedness, one then meditates on insight wisdom

and through this one realises the true nature of the mind. But to realise such, one requires

a tremendous amount of merit, and the most effective way of acquiring the merit is to

cultivate bodhicitta.

So with the two together, method and wisdom, one can realise the true nature. And

when one has realised the true nature, on the basis of that and increasing wisdom,

eventually one will reach the full realisation and will attain enlightenment.

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Tantric Ngondro: The Essential Practice to gain stability in the View and Experience of Sunyata



Dzogchen View of Tantric Ngöndro

A Teaching by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche
Transcribed by Ngak'chang Rinpoche from oral teachings given by His Holiness Jigdral Yeshé Dorje Dudjom Rinpoche, first Supreme Head of the Nyingma School in exile from Tibet; augmented by replies to questions asked by Ngak'chang Rinpoche in private audiences, relating to the short Dudjom gTérsar ngöndro, Bodhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal, 1979.

Whatever the practice in which we engage, relative truth and absolute truth are co-existent. Method and wisdom are co-existent. Experiences and emptiness are co-existent. Because this is the nature of the reality we experience, the practice of tantric ngöndro exists as a method for realizing the beginningless enlightened state.

The final phase of Tantric ngöndro, Lama'i Naljor, is the quintessence of this method. In the practice of Lama'i Naljor you reach this level of wisdom when the Lama dissolves and becomes one with you. At this point you remain in the absolute nature of things, which is the actual state of meditation as it is [as it is transmitted in the Dzogchen teachings].

At the beginning of the tantric ngöndro we invoke the presence of the Lama. Since the Lama is the one who exemplifies both the qualities of path and goal, we acknowledge the Lama as the beginning and end of all practice.

After having begun by acknowledging the Lama, we consider the difficulty of gaining human form [in terms of having the conducive circumstances to practice]. This form is the basis of the spiritual path of liberation and is therefore precious and worthy of great respect. If you do not value the situation in which you have found yourself, then you will not make use of your precious circumstances and a great opportunity will be squandered.

Then we consider impermanence and death. Everything that exists is subject to change and dissolution. Even though you die you don't find freedom simply by losing your physical form. You just go on circling in samsaric vision, taking countless other forms according to your patterned perception. The nature of samsara is the experience of suffering which arises through the attempt to maintain the illusion of duality. We contemplate upon that.

Then we reflect upon our conditioning and the pattern of our karmic vision. We recognize the manner in which our perception and responses are all governed by dualistic conditioning that is so difficult to undermine.

These are called the Lo-tog nam-zhi -- the Four Thoughts which turn the mind to practice. Their purpose is to encourage the attention away from compulsive patterning and re-patterning. It is important to dwell on these Lo-tog nam-zhi at the beginning of the practice in order to generate the appropriate motivation for practice.

Practicing in this way is like smoothing out a ploughed field to make it even and ready for sowing. Then we need to sow the seed itself. To sow the seed is to receive Refuge; to generate bodhicitta; to offer kyil-khor [for the accumulation of causes conducive to the fulfillment of method and wisdom] and purification through Dorje Sempa recitation. These practices are like seeds sown in the ground [made ready by the contemplation of the Lo-tog nam-zhi].

From the perspective of the relative condition [in which we find ourselves] it is not possible to realize the absolute nature of reality without relating with what is relative. Without using the relative situation as a basis you cannot realize the true nature of the Mind. In the same way, without this relative practice, you cannot directly apprehend the nature of emptiness. The relative and absolute co-exist -- they go hand in hand; it is really very important indeed to realize this.

Let us now look at Refuge. At the external level there are what are called the Kön-chog Sum : sang-gyé, chö and gendün [buddha, dharma and sangha]. Sang-gyé is the source of chö. Those whose minds are turned towards chö are gendün.

Because we exist in duality we experience delusory dissatisfaction. Because of this, we take Refuge in order to be freed from the experience of self-generated dissatisfaction. Due to misapprehending our true nature [because of the delusory appearances that arise when the various elements coalesce in accordance with patterns of dualistic confusion] this human body becomes the container of endless dualistic projections. It becomes a source of attachment, in terms of supplying delusory definitions of existence. This attachment remains very strong until you see the true nature of existence. Until you are completely freed from the delusion that your body validates your existence, dissatisfaction will continually color your experience. Because of this, Kön-chog Sum exist as a focus of Refuge.

So, externally speaking, one should take Refuge in sang-gyé, chö and gendün with devotion. But internally, sang-gyé, chö and gendün are symbolic. They are a profound and skilful way to lead us out of this self-created illusory samsara.

From the Dzogchen point of view, sang-gyé, chö and gendün are within us. On the absolute level, this mind of ours, which is empty of all referential co-ordinates, is in itself sang-gyé [rigpa -- radiant self-luminosity]. Externally, chö manifests as sound and meaning: you hear it and you practice it. But from an internal point of view, chö is empty. In essence, it is the unceasing, unobstructed, self-luminous display of rigpa -- primordial Mind. Externally, gendün comprises those whose minds turn towards the chö. But internally, gendün is the all-pervading, all-encompassing aspect of Mind.

They are all fully accomplished within us. However, since we do not recognize this, we need to take Refuge in the external sang-gyé, chö and gendün. When you really practice tantric ngöndro properly you visualize Padmasambhava with fervent devotion; you perform prostrations in humility with your body; and you recite the Refuge formula with your speech. Then, when you sit silently at the end of your practice [and dissolve the visualization into yourself] you realize that all these three things -- subject, object and activity -- are none other than rigpa! The meditation is oneself; Padmasambhava is one's own creation. Just remain in the nature of rigpa. Other than rigpa, there is nothing to find!

Shakyamuni Buddha said in the Do-de Kalpa Zangpo, 'I manifested in a dreamlike way to dreamlike beings and gave a dreamlike chö, but in reality I never taught and never actually came'. From the viewpoint of Shakyamuni Buddha never having come and the chö never having been given, all is mere perception, existing only in the apparent sphere of suchness.

As regards the practice of Refuge, the relative aspect is the object of Refuge to which you offer devotion and prostrations and so on. The absolute aspect is without effort. When you dissolve the visualization and remain in the natural effortless state of mind, the concept of Refuge no longer exists.

The generation of chang-chub-sem [bodhicitta] or enlightened thought means that if we just act for ourselves alone we are not following the path of chö and our enlightenment is blocked. It is of the utmost importance that we generate enlightened thought in order to free all beings from samsara. Beings are as limitless as the sky. They have all been our fathers and mothers. They have all suffered in this samsara that we all fabricate from the ground of being. So the thought of freeing them from this suffering really is very powerful. Without this, we have the deluded concept that we are separate from all sentient beings.

The enlightened thought [in the words of the chang-chub-sem vow] is: 'From now until samsara is empty I shall work for the benefit of all beings who have been my fathers and mothers'. So from the relative point of view, there are sentient beings to be liberated, there is compassion to be generated, and there is the 'I', the generator of compassion. The way of generating and showing compassion is actually explained by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Such is the relative chang-chub-sem.

So in this relative practice of chang-chub-sem, you visualize all beings and generate the enlightened thought. You try to free them from all suffering until enlightenment is reached. You recite the generation of chang-chub-sem as many times as your practice requires. The instruction [according to the teachings on the development of chang-chub-sem] is that you must exchange your own happiness for the pain of others. As you breathe out you give all your happiness and joy [and even their causes] to all sentient beings. As you breathe in you take on all their pain and suffering so that they can be free of it. This practice is also very important. Without the development of chang-chub-sem and without freeing ourselves from our attachment [to the form display of emptiness] we cannot attain enlightenment. It is because of our inability to show compassion to others and because of being attached to the concept of ourselves that we are not free of dualism. All these things are the relative aspects of the practice of chang-chub-sem.

As regards the absolute aspect of chang-chub-sem, Shakyamuni Buddha said to his disciple Rabjor, "All phenomena are like an illusion and a dream". The reason why the Buddha said this is that whatever manifests is subject to change and dissolution; nothing is inherently solid, permanent, separate, continuous, or defined. If you see the world as solid, you tie yourself up with a rope of entanglement and are constrained and pulled [like a dog] by compulsion as your lead. You get drawn into activities that can never be finished, which is why samsara is apparently endless.

You might think that because samsara is like a dream, perhaps enlightenment is solid and permanent. But Shakyamuni Buddha said that nirvana itself is like a dream -- an illusion. There is nothing that can be named which is nirvana; nothing called nirvana which is tangible.

Shakyamuni Buddha said this directly: "Form is emptiness". For instance, the moon is reflected in water, but there is no moon in the water; there never has been! There is no form there that can be grasped! It is empty! Then Shakyamuni Buddha went on to say: "Emptiness itself is form". Emptiness itself has appeared in the manner of form. You cannot find emptiness apart from form. You cannot separate the two. You cannot grasp them as separate entities. The moon is reflected in the water, but the water is not the moon. The moon is not the water, yet you cannot separate water and moon. Once you have understood this at the level of experience, there is no samsara. In the realm of realization there is no samsara or nirvana! When speaking of the teaching of Dzogchen, samsara and nirvana are just another dualistic concept.

But when looking at this moon in the water, you may say: "But it is there, I can see it!" But when you reach for it and try to touch it -- it's not there! It is the same with the thoughts that arise in Mind. So if you ask: "How has this actually come about?" you need to consider that everything comes from interdependent origination. So what is this interdependent origination? It is simply that the moon and water do not exist separately. The clear water is the primary cause, and the moon is the secondary or contributory cause. When these two causes meet, then this interdependent origination manifests. It is the coincidental appearance of the primary cause and the contributory cause.

To put it directly, the primary cause or basis of samsara is duality -- the artificial separation of emptiness and form. From this all manifestations become contributory causes within the framework of karmic vision. They meet together and bring about the manifestation of samsara [as long as we attach to the form display of emptiness as a definition of being]. Everything that we experience as samsara exists only within this interdependent pattern. You must be quite sure of this! When you go further [and examine the nature of interdependent origination] you find that it is none other than emptiness. Therefore, apart from emptiness, there is no chö. The ultimate view of Thegchen [Mahayana] is emptiness, but this viewpoint does not exist in the lower teachings.

If you really look into your experience of existence with the eye of meditation, you begin to see everything as the play of emptiness. Phenomena [as referential co-ordinates] become exhausted and you finally arrive at their essential nature, which is emptiness. But, having said this, you might be led to say: 'In that case we should not need anything'. But whether you need anything or not is up to you. It simply depends on your mind! Just dryly talking of emptiness is not enough! You must actualize it and then see for yourself. If your mind is really empty of referential manipulation, then there is no hope, no fear, no negativity -- your mind is free of that! It is like waving your hand in the sky! Whatever arises is completely unobstructed.

The purpose of meditation is to remain in this natural state. In that state all phenomena are directly realized in their essential emptiness. That is why we practice meditation. Meditation purifies everything into its empty nature. First we must realize that the absolute, natural state of things is empty. Then, whatever manifests is the play of the dharmakaya. Out of the empty nature of existence arise all the relative manifestations from which we fabricate samsara. You need to understand quite clearly how things are in reality and how they appear in terms of duality. It is very important to have this View, because without View your meditation becomes dull. Just simply sitting and saying: 'It's all empty' is like putting a little cup upside-down! That little empty space in the cup remains a very narrow, limited emptiness. You cannot even drink tea from it!

It is essential to actually know the heart of the matter as it is. In the absolute sense there are no sentient beings who experience dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction is as empty as the clear sky, but because of attachment to the form display of emptiness, [interdependent origination] the relative sphere of things becomes an illusory trap in which there are sentient beings who experience dissatisfaction. This is the meaning of samsara.

In expressing the essential quality of the Great Mother, emptiness, it is said: 'Though you think of expressing the nature of the Heart Sutra you cannot put it into words'. It is totally beyond utterance, beyond thought, beyond concept. It was never born. It has never died. If you ask what it is like, it is like the sky. You can never find the limit of the sky. You can never find the center of the sky. So this sky-like nature is symbolic of emptiness: it is spacious, limitless, and free, with infinite depth and infinite expanse.

But having said this, you might say: 'So my own rigpa, the nature of my own mind, is like the sky, free from all limitations'. But this is not it either! It is not just empty. If you look into it there is something to see. 'See' is just a word we have to use in order to communicate. But you can see that. You can meditate on that. You can rest in that, and whatever arises in that spacious condition. If you see the true nature of emptiness and form as non-dual -- as it really is -- this is the mother of all the Buddhas. All this chatter has been an elaboration of the absolute chang-chub-sem.

Next is the purification through Dorje Sempa. In the absolute sense there is nothing to purify, no one who could purify you, and no purification. But since beings are apparently unable to leave it at that, matters become a little bit more complicated. Obscurations and dualistic confusions arise as the consequence of clinging to the form display of emptiness.

In the illusory perception of this grasping at the form display of emptiness, we subject ourselves to endless dissatisfaction. Because of this, purification becomes a relative skilful means. In order to purify our delusions, Dorje Sempa yab-yum arises from your own true state of rigpa and the flow of nectar from the secret kyil-khor of their union completely purifies your obscurations. You enter into the envisionment and recite the hundred-syllable mantra; and this is the means of purification. In the natural state of things [in the state of what is] everything is pure from the very beginning -- like the sky. This is the absolute purification of Dorje Sempa.

Now we come to the offering of the khyil-khor [cosmogramme or mandala]. The khyil-khor is offered for the accumulation of auspicious causes. Why do we need to accumulate auspicious causes? It is because of grasping at the form display of emptiness that illusory samsara has come about; so we need to practice giving everything up. Because there is the illusion that there is a way of purifying illusion, we can utilize this as a relative skilful means. Because you can purify there is also a way of accumulating auspicious causes. When you offer 'my body, my possessions and my glories', this is the relative, symbolic offering of the khyil-khor. From the absolute point of view, these things are empty, like the clear empty sky. So if you remain in the state of primordial awareness, that is the absolute khyil-khor offering and the absolute accumulation of auspicious causes.

Then there is the practice of Lama'i Naljor. Due to clinging to the form display of emptiness, the Lama appears as the one who inspires purity of mind. He or she is the object towards whom one feels purely. Because clinging obscures the mind [and because you feel purity of perception toward the Lama] both you and the Lama appear to exist in the sphere of dualism [as if the fundamental nature of your Minds, within the sphere of dharmakaya, were different]. Therefore, externally, you visualize the Lama with great devotion. Then you receive the empowerment of his or her non-dual condition.

These are all the external, relative practices of Lama'i Naljor in which you have invoked the wisdom presence of the symbolic apparent Lama. Then you recite the vajra words: "The Lama dissolves into light and unites with my very being . . . See! The one taste of rigpa and emptiness [rig-tong] is the actual face of the Lama!"

If you ask where the absolute Lama is, he or she is nowhere else but there -- in the absolute nature of the Mind! The absolute state of rigpa is where the Lama is fully accomplished as primordial wisdom and clear space. Simply continuing in the awareness of how it is, is the Dzogchen practice of Lama'i Naljor.

This is how the outer tantric ngöndro relates to the inner ngöndro in terms of the teaching of ati-yoga.



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The following teaching is from
Gates To Buddhist Practice by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

Working with Attachment and Desire

To understand how suffering arises, practice watching your mind. Begin by simply letting it relax. Without thinking of the past or the future, without feeling hope or fear about this thing or that, let it rest comfortably, open and natural. In this space of the mind, there is no problem, no suffering. Then something catches your attention an image, a sound, a smell. Your mind splits into inner and outer, self and other, subject and object. In simply perceiving the object, there is still no problem. But when you zero in on it, you notice that it's big or small, white or black, square or circular; and then you make a judgment for example, whether it's pretty or ugly. Having made that judgment, you react to it: you decide you like it or don't like it. That's when the problem starts, because "I like it" leads to "I want it." We strive to possess what we perceive to be desirable. Similarly, "I don't like it" leads to "I don't want it." If we like something, want it, and can't have it, we suffer. If we want it, get it, and lose it, we suffer. If we don't want it, but can't keep it away, again we suffer. Our suffering seems to occur because of the object of our desire or aversion, but that's not really so; it happens because the mind splits into object-subject duality and becomes involved in wanting or not wanting something.
We often think the only way to create happiness is to try to control the outer circumstances of our lives, to try to fix what seems wrong or to get rid of everything that bothers us. But the real problem lies in our reaction to those circumstances. What we have to change is the mind and the way it experiences reality.
Our emotions propel us through extremes, from elation to depression, from good experiences to bad, from happiness to sadness: a constant swinging back and forth. Emotionality is the by-product of hope and fear, attachment and aversion. We have hope because we are attached to something we want. We have fear because we are averse to something we don't want. As we follow our emotions, reacting to our experiences, we create karma: a perpetual motion that inevitably determines our future. We need to stop the extreme swings of the emotional pendulum so that we can find a place of centeredness.
When we first begin to work with the emotions, we apply the principle of iron cutting iron or diamond cutting diamond. We use thought to change thought. A negative thought such as anger is antidoted by a virtuous thought such as compassion, while desire can be antidoted by the contemplation of impermanence.
In the case of attachment, begin by examining what it is you're attached to. For example, you might, after much effort, succeed in becoming famous, thinking this will make you happy. Then your fame triggers jealousy in someone, who tries to shoot you. What you worked so hard to create is the cause of your own suffering. Or you might work very hard to become wealthy, thinking this will bring happiness, only to lose all your money. The loss of wealth in itself is not the source of suffering, only attachment to having it.
We can lessen attachment by contemplating impermanence. It is certain that whatever we're attached to will either change or be lost. A person may die or go away, a friend may become an enemy, a thief may steal our money. Even our body, to which we're most attached, will be gone one day. Knowing this not only helps to reduce our attachment, but gives us a greater appreciation of what we have while we have it. For example, there is nothing wrong with money, but if we're attached to it, we'll suffer when we lose it. Instead, we can appreciate it while it lasts, enjoy it and enjoy sharing it with others, and at the same time know it's impermanent. Then when we lose it, the emotional pendulum won't make as wide a swing toward sadness.
Imagine two people who buy the same kind of watch on the same day at the same shop. The first person thinks, "This is a very nice watch. It will be helpful to me, but it may not last long." The second person thinks, "This is the best watch I've ever had. No matter what happens, I can't lose it or let it break." If both people lose their watch, the one who is attached will be much more upset than the other.
If we are fooled by life and invest great value in one thing or another, we may find ourselves fighting for what we want and against any opposition. We may think that what we're fighting for is lasting, true, and real, but it's not. It's impermanent, it's not true, it's not lasting, and ultimately, it's not even real.
Our life can be compared to an afternoon at a shopping center. We walk through the shops, led by our desires, taking things off the shelves and tossing them in our baskets. We wander around, looking at everything, wanting and longing. We see a person or two, maybe smile and continue on, never to see them again.
That's what life is like. Driven by desire, we don't appreciate the preciousness of what we already have. We need to realize that this time with our loved ones, our friends, our family, our co-workers is very brief. Even if we lived to a hundred and fifty, that would be very little time to enjoy and utilize our human opportunity.
Young people think their lives will be long; old people think life will end soon. But we can't assume these things. Our life comes with a built-in expiration date. There are many strong and healthy people who die young, while many of the old and sick and feeble live on and on. Not knowing when we'll die, we need to develop an appreciation for and acceptance of what we have, while we have it, rather than continuing to find fault with our experience and seeking, incessantly, to fulfill our desires.
If we start worrying whether our nose is too big or too small, we should think, "What if I had no head? -- now that would be a problem!" As long as we have life, we should rejoice. If everything doesn't go exactly as we'd like, we can accept it. If we contemplate impermanence deeply, patience and compassion will arise. We will hold less to the apparent truth of our experience, and the mind will become more flexible. Realizing that one day this body will be buried or burned, we will rejoice in every moment we have rather than make ourselves or others unhappy.
Now we are afflicted by "me-my-mine-itis," a condition caused by ignorance. Our self-centeredness and self-important thinking have become very strong habits. In order to change them, we need to refocus. Instead of concerning ourselves with "I" all the time, we must redirect our attention to "you" or "them" or "others." Reducing self-importance lessens the attachment that stems from it. When we focus outside ourselves, ultimately we realize the equality of ourselves and all other beings. Everybody wants happiness; nobody wants to suffer. Our attachment to our own happiness expands to an attachment to the happiness of all.
Until now our desires have tended to be very short term, superficial, and selfish. If we are going to wish for something, let it be nothing less than complete enlightenment for all beings. That's something worthy of desire. Continually reminding ourselves of what is truly worth wanting is an important element of pure practice.
Desire and attachment won't change overnight. But desire becomes less ordinary as we redirect our worldly yearning toward the aspiration to do everything we can to help all beings find unchanging happiness. We don't have to abandon the ordinary objects of our desires, relationships, wealth, fame, but as we contemplate their impermanence, we become less attached to them. Rejoicing in our good fortune when they arise, yet recognizing that they won't last, we begin to develop spiritual qualities. We commit fewer of the harmful actions that result from attachment, and hence create less negative karma; we generate more fortunate karma, and mind's positive qualities gradually increase.
Eventually, as our meditation practice matures, we can try an approach that's different from contemplation, different from using thought to change thought: revealing the deeper nature, or wisdom principle, of the emotions as they arise.
If you are in the midst of a desire attack something has captured your mind and you must have it -- you won't get rid of the desire by trying to suppress it. Instead, you can begin to see through desire by examining what it is. When it arises in the mind, ask yourself, "Where does it come from? Where does it dwell? Can it be described? Does it have any color, shape, or form? When it disappears, where does it go?"
This is an interesting situation. You can say that desire exists, but if you search for the experience, you can't quite grasp it. On the other hand, if you say it doesn't exist, you're denying the obvious fact that you are feeling desire. You can't say that it exists, nor can you say that it does not exist. You can't say that it's "both" or "neither," that it both does exist and does not exist, or that it neither exists nor does not not-exist. This is the meaning of the true nature of desire beyond the extremes of conceptual mind.
It's our failure to understand the essential nature of emotion that gets us into trouble. Once we do, the emotion tends to dissolve. Then we're neither repressing nor encouraging it. We are simply looking clearly at what is taking place. If we set a cloudy glass of water aside for a while, it will settle by itself and become clear. Instead of judging the experience of desire, we look directly at its nature, what is known as "liberating it in its own ground."
Each negative emotion, or mental poison, has an inherent perfection that we don't recognize because we are so accustomed to its appearance as emotion. The true nature of the five poisons -- ignorance, attachment, aversion, jealousy and pride -- is the five wisdoms. Just as poison can be taken medicinally to effect a cure, each poison of the mind, worked with properly, can be resolved into its wisdom nature and thus enhance our spiritual practice.
If while in the throes of desire, you simply relax, without moving your attention, that space of the mind is called discriminating wisdom. You don't abandon desire, instead you reveal its wisdom nature.


Questions & Answers
Question: I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "liberating an emotion in its own ground."


Response: Our habit, when an emotion arises, is to become involved in analyzing and reacting to the apparent cause: the outer object. If, instead, we simply, without attachment or aversion, hatred or involvement, peel open the emotion, we will reveal and experience its wisdom nature. When we are feeling puffed up and on top of the world, instead of either indulging in our pride or pushing it away, we relax the mind and reveal the intrinsic nature of pride as the wisdom of equanimity.
In working with the emotions we can apply different methods. When our mind is steeped in duality, in object-subject perception, we can cut iron with iron: we antidote a negative thought with a positive one, attachment to our own happiness with attachment to the happiness of others. If we are able to relax the dualistic habit of the mind, we can experience the true essence, or "ground," of an emotion and thus "liberate it in its own ground." In this way, its wisdom principle is revealed: pride as the wisdom of equanimity; jealousy as all-accomplishing wisdom; attachment and desire as discriminating wisdom; anger and aversion as mirror-like wisdom; and ignorance as dharmadhatu wisdom, the wisdom of the true nature of reality.


Question: Can you say more about how contemplating impermanence reduces attachment?


Response: Imagine a child and an adult on the beach building a sand castle. The adult has never taken the sand castle to be permanent or real, and isn't attached to it. When a wave comes in and washes it away or some other children come along and kick it down, the adult doesn't suffer. But the child has begun to think of it as a real house that will last forever, and so suffers when it's lost.
Like the child, we have pretended for so long that our experience is stable and reliable that we have great attachment to it and suffer when it changes. If we maintain an awareness of impermanence, then we are never completely fooled by the phenomena of samsara.
If you contemplate the fact that you don't have long to live, it will help you. You'll think, "In the time that I have left, why follow this anger or attachment, which will only produce more confusion and delusion? If I take what's impermanent so seriously and try to grasp it or push it away, then I'm only imagining as solid what isn't solid. I'm only further complicating, and perpetuating, the delusions of samsara. I won't do that! I'll use this attachment or this aversion, this pride or this jealousy, as practice." Practice isn't only sitting on a cushion. When you're there with the experience of desire or anger, right there where the mind is active, that is where you practice, at each moment, each step of your life.


Question: In contemplating impermanence I find my attachment lessening to a certain extent, but I wonder how far I should go in dropping things.


Response: You need to be discriminating in what you address first. Eventually you may drop everything, but begin by abandoning the mind's poisons; for example, anger. Instead of thinking, "Why wash these dishes, they're impermanent?" let go of your anger at having to do them. Also understand that whatever arises in the mind that sparks your anger is impermanent. The anger itself is impermanent. Whatever someone said to you that's affected you in a negative way, that too is impermanent. Realize that these are only words, sounds, not something lasting.
The next thing to drop is attachment to having your own way. When you understand impermanence, it doesn't matter so much if things are going as you think they should. If they are, it's all right. If not, that's all right, too.
When you practice like this, the mind will slowly develop more balance. It won't flip one way or the other according to whether or not you get what you want.


Question: Is there anything wrong with being happy or sad, with feeling our emotions?


Response: Reminding ourselves when we experience happiness that it's impermanent, that it will eventually disappear, will help us to cherish and enjoy it while it lasts. At the same time, we won't become so attached to it or fixated on it, and we won't experience as much pain when it's gone.
In the same way, when we experience pain, sorrow, or loss, we should remind ourselves that these things, too, are impermanent, which will alleviate our suffering. So what keeps us balanced is our ongoing awareness of impermanence.


Question: Is the self still involved as we expand the focus of our attachment to the needs of others?


Response: If you were bound with ropes tied in many knots, in order to become free you would have to release the knots, one by one, in the opposite order in which they were originally tied. First you'd release the last knot, then the second to the last, and so forth, until you undid the first, the one closest to you.
We're bound by many knots, including many kinds of attachment. Ideally we should have no clinging at all, but since that's not the case, we use attachment to cut attachment. We begin by untying the last knot: by replacing attachment to our own needs and desires with attachment to the happiness of others.
We need to understand that selfish attachment will sooner or later create problems. How? If you are attached to your own needs and desires, if you like to be happy and don't like to suffer, when something minor goes wrong it will seem gigantic. You will focus on it morning to night, exacerbating the problem. A crack in a teacup will begin to seem like the Grand Canyon after examination under the microscope of your constant attention.
This self-focusing is itself a kind of meditation. Meditation means bringing something back to the mind again and again. If we repeat virtuous thoughts and rest in mind's nature, this can lead to enlightenment. But self-important meditation will only produce endless suffering. Focusing on our problems may even result in suicide, because we can become so preoccupied with our suffering that life seems unbearable and without purpose. Suicide is the worst of solutions because such extreme attachment to death and aversion to human life can close the door to future human rebirth.
So we need to begin by reducing our self-focus and self-important thoughts. To do so, we remind ourselves that we aren't the only ones who want to be happy -- everyone wants to be happy. Though others seek happiness, they may not understand how to go about accomplishing it, whereas if we have some understanding of the spiritual path, we can perhaps help and support them in their efforts.
We remind ourselves that of course we'll encounter problems. We're humans. But though problems arise, we mustn't give them any power. Everyone has problems, many far worse than our own. As we contemplate this, our view expands to encompass the suffering of others. As our compassion deepens, our relentless self-focusing is reduced and we become more intent on helping others and better able to do so.
If we are physically sick, it's useful to be attached to the medicine that will make us well. However, once we're cured, that attachment needs to be cut. Otherwise the very medicine that cured us could make us sick again. Now we need the medicine of attachment to benefiting others in order to cut our self-attachment. We use attachment to change attachment. Eventually, if we are to attain enlightenment, attachment itself must be cut.


Gates to Buddhist Practice
by Chadud Tulku Rinpoche

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Tsoknyi Rinpoche

Loving Kindness & Compassion in the Dzogchen Tradition



Please listen to the teachings having generated the altruistic mind of bodhicitta: the wish to attain full enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Now we are at the stage of the path. There are two aspects to the path: absolute bodhicitta and relative bodhicitta. Within relative bodhicitta there are the two aspects of bodhicitta of aspiration and bodhicitta of application. Now we will study the aspect of bodhicitta of aspiration. In relation to this, there is what is called the four boundlessnesses: boundless love, boundless compassion, boundless joy, and boundless equanimity.
We will start with love or loving kindness. In this context, we talk about the essence of love, the function of love and the immeasurability of love or the boundlessness of love. What is the essence of love? The essence of love is that type of aspiration or wish that one's self and all other beings may find happiness and the causes of happiness. However, without the experience of joy or well being, there cannot be an experience of love, and without this there cannot be the action or function of love. Then, also, there is no boundlessness to love. So, we have to start with the experience of well being.
We have to feel well being or happiness. We have to experience it in our bodies, in our minds, in our perceptions. As we come close to Buddha nature, there is that sense of well being, of natural happiness, which is not related to an object that produces it. It is not dependent on causes or conditions. It's not some kind of intoxication. It's just a very simple sense of well being. Once we identify it because we have experienced it, we can wish to attain this happiness for ourselves and also for all other beings.
For this basic love, or basic loving kindness to be experienced, we should avoid that which goes against it, and we should try to attain the conditions that may enhance it. So, the conditions that go against this are very much related with feelings or sensations. Within Buddhism we talk about the five aggregates or skandhas. These are the aggregates of form, of feelings or sensation, of evaluation, of impulse, and finally of consciousness. Love is a feeling, and as a feeling is connected with the aggregate of feeling, which according to the Vajrayana system is connected to the subtle body. This subtle body is composed of the tsa, lung, and tigle, the channels, energies, and seeds of energy. Tsa in Tibetan is called nadi in Sanskrit and translates into English as channels. The Tibetan word lung is prana in Sanskrit and translates as energies or winds in English. Tigle is bindu in Sanskrit or "seeds of energy" in English. Within the subtle body there are different levels of subtlety. The channels are kind of gross, the energies are more subtle, and finally the seeds of energy are more subtle again.

According to the Vajrayana, properly functioning tigle (seeds of energy), which are not dried up, are the basis for love, for happiness, for compassion, and for bodhicitta. When the subtle body is in balance, the energy circulates properly through the channels, and the tigle, the seeds of energy, are circulated along with the energy throughout the body. Since the mind rides on these energies, if the tigle are not dried up but circulating throughout the body, the mind has the basis to experience well being and happiness.
Due to our modern lifestyles, our subtle body is usually quite disturbed, as it is very much subjected to situations of hope and fear, which result in some imbalances in the subtle body. Actually, when children are born, if there is no strong karma or no genetic problem, usually they are quite healthy, but as they grow, children become more influenced by the different thoughts and concepts that start to proliferate within their minds. Situations start to happen in which there is lot of hope and fear, particularly fear. Due to this fear the subtle body becomes disturbed. The energies start to circulate when they should not circulate. Sometimes the energies are blocked, sometimes they go in the wrong direction and at a physical or energetic level they start to speed up.
When there is speed or the energies are blocked in many places, the tigle are not spread throughout the body and are not moving with the full sensation of the subtle body. They are stuck in one place and don't move around. The tigle then start to diminish. When they diminish or dry up, our minds start to feel a sense of depression. Everything is a little bit gray, we're easily scared. It's like the opposite of courage and the opposite of bodhicitta. We become chicken-hearted. This is not a completely mental problem; it's connected to the constitution. As far as I understand, a lot of modern problems are connected to this area. I think depression is somewhere here and unhappiness and anxiety.

What we have to do is to revive the tigle. There are many methods to do this. One is through intellectual conviction. For example, maybe you are feeling a little bit down, but deep down in your mind you trust the Dharma and the blessings of your teacher and the lineage teachers. You still feel a little bit lousy, but your conceptual belief is quite strong. With this you make supplications to the teachers and receive their spiritual influence. These blessings affect the state of your subtle body. The result of this is you start to experience well being. The four empowerments are also connected to this approach. When you feel a lot of trust in your teacher and you receive the empowerments of enlightened body, enlightened speech, enlightened mind, and the wisdom empowerment, this also influences and improves your constitution. Another method is practicing the Six Yogas of Naropa and there are many, many other methods.
The main method we are going to focus on here is the practice of meditation, the state of samadhi. Through practicing shamatha and vipassana, we revive the state of the tigle, and we start to generate the experience of well being or happiness. In the beginning, it's difficult to address the tigle directly, so we start by working with our minds, which are usually full of thoughts of all kinds. When there are a lot of thoughts that also can dry up the strength of the tigle. Therefore, through the practice of the four applications of mindfulness, we train our minds to calm down and to become more relaxed and to remain still. This automatically rejuvenates the tigle, which results in turn in the experience of well being.
The four mindfulnesses are mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of sensation, mindfulness of the mind, and mindfulness of meditation. Basically, they are four forms of shamatha applied to four different objects: our bodies, our sensations, our mind, and our meditation practice. Of these four, the most important here is mindfulness of the meditation state. Through this our minds find a state of calmness, stillness, and openness, within which that experience of well being, which is the basis of genuine love, starts to happen. However, for mindfulness of the meditation state to be properly developed, we have to depend on the first three.

Mindfulness of the body basically means our minds do not follow thoughts of the past or anticipate thoughts of the future. The mind rests in the present moment without getting involved in all the thoughts of hope and fear related to the present moment. It just rests within the body, with a sense of mind and body being inseparable. It is said that the body rests on the meditation cushion and the mind rests on the body.
Mindfulness of sensations or feelings depends on the energies within the subtle body. When we practice mindfulness of sensations or feelings, we have to somehow deal with those energies. In this case, it's quite applicable to do a practice called jam lung, which is soft breathing; it's also a practice of the subtle body. Speed is produced in our constitution at the energetic level. It results in an experience in our minds of worries, anxiety and so forth. Speed itself can go in a positive way or a negative way, but usually it drives our minds in a negative way. This affects our whole system and when this energy comes into the heart, people can become quite depressed.
The practice of jam lung is very simple, there are three aspects: consciousness, the speedy energy, and the breath. First we relax and take a long in-breath. The body rests loose and then in that state we breathe out very slowly and long, and again breathe in very slowly and long. While breathing in that way, the mind is examining where the speed is. We find the points where there is tension and tightness, as that is the speed. The moment the mind notices where speed is, it's already making a relationship with that speed. We recognize the speed energy and by recognizing it we are uniting with it at the level of consciousness. Then, with the breath we bring it down below the navel. It is very important that there is collaboration between the mind and the speedy energy. Otherwise we might do the whole exercise of bringing the breathing below the navel, but our minds continue to be speedy. In the beginning we need to rely on the breathing, but at some point, once we've become quite proficient at this, just by mere attention we can bring down the speed down below the navel. In post meditation it is good to keep about 10% of the energy below the navel. We breathe normally, our minds function normally, and we can get on with whatever we're doing but about 10% of the energy remains below the navel due to a slight muscle pressure. This helps to keep the energy down and enables us to function well in the world.
The third application of mindfulness is mindfulness of the mind. Our attention is focused directly on the mind: where does it arise from, where does it stay, where does it disappear to. We observe the mind and through mindfulness and knowing bring it to a state of stillness, just by being aware of whatever happens in the mind and recognizing it as such. From that state of stillness, which is the state of shamatha, the fourth application of mindfulness, which is the mindfulness of the meditative state, starts to arise. From there, we can enter the true nature of reality, that state of emptiness which is beyond all kinds of conceptual limitations. This is vipassana. On the basis of the fourth mindfulness, we reach a state of calmness and a natural state of well being starts to arise.

Through the practice of the four mindfulnesses, we become mindful of our body, our feelings and our mental processes. Through these practices we find a state of harmony between the body, the energy, the consciousness, and the feelings. We find there is no more conflict between all these and all our misunderstandings about them are cleared up. We reach a state of calmness and stillness of mind where a natural feeling of well being arises, which is the essence of unconditional love. Once we have found this unconditional love, we have to nurture it and extend it. There is no use finding this and keeping it for ourselves. We have to extend this love. This is the function of love.
Genuine, unconditional love forms the basis for experiencing and developing immeasurable compassion, joy, and equanimity. Though the four immeasurables are explained separately, in our experience they arise interconnectedly. For instance, when we experience this unconditional love, we have a sense of joy and appreciation. At the same time, we realize all other beings have not found this type of unconditional love, and they are still tormented by all types of suffering. Within our experience the feeling of compassion arises, the feeling of 'Oh how great it would be if all other beings were free from their suffering and the causes that result in the suffering.' At the same time we start to experience great joy and also equanimity as we are not making any partial distinctions. As we practice, all four of the immeasurables start to come to one point. The starting point is to first develop and experience that genuine unconditional love.
So, the main point is to try to find that state of basic unconditional love or well being, which is not a thought, not a mood, not an emotion. It is that state of love or well being which does not fall into desire, attachment, or lust; it is an experience of well being beyond any of these extremes. It is a basic flow of well being on top of which thoughts or moods may arise, but they do not affect the continuity of that well being. Find that and rest with that, and when thoughts and moods come, welcome them but don't change the basic flow. This is the practice. When that well being starts to remain and be sustained, it's possible to experience love and loving-kindness and all the different qualities that come with it.

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http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=9136&start=0 (has more links to other talks by Garchen Rinpoche)


Kyabje Garchen Rinpoche on Garab Dorje's Three Statements


Three Statements Striking the Essential Point
1. One is introduced directly to one’s own nature.

2. One definitively decides upon this unique state.

3. One continues directly with confidence in liberation

The special teaching or instructions on Mahamudra or Dzogchen is the means of liberating thoughts and negative emotions. When we put this into practice, whatever adverse conditions may arise is transformed into companions. Whatever negative emotions may arise they are transformed into primordial awareness [i.e. ye shes/wisdom]. Thus it is said in the 37-practices of bodhisattvas’ text, “To bodhisattvas who desire the wealth of virtue, all those who do harm are like a precious treasure.” So whatever negative emotions may arise they are simply like fuel that sustain the flame of awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya]. With the arising of negative emotions that flame will become stronger. When we see our mind which is the union of clarity and emptiness, that is the Buddha.

Basically with this, we recognize that the mind of the Buddhas of the three times and our own mind is of the same basic nature. There is no distinction between good and bad to be made in the minds of ourselves and the minds of all the Buddhas. On the basis of this, then we must engage in practice and this leads us to the second statement. Absolute conviction in the practice is the second imperative. And so once we have had the introduction, get on the basis of that we must engage it and these first two of the three statements are simple or easy

It is said in the 37 Bodhisattva practices in number 36 “In brief, whatever conduct one engages in, one should ask, “What is the state of my mind?” Accomplishing others’ purpose through constantly maintaining mindfulness and awareness is the bodhisattvas’ practice.” And so this mindful awareness [i.e. attention] is the awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] that recognizes whatever thoughts and negative emotions are arising. When we give rise to negative emotions, this awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] recognizes their fault and on that basis of that recognition we can abandon the arising.
Even if you don’t understand completely everything that is being stated in English, simply abide in this awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge] and through that you will receive the blessing of the transmission

Pure perception is a sign of the accomplishment of the nature of mind. If you engage in the practice of the Buddha dharma you should regard gurus and spiritual guides as objects of refuge and as the object of your faith. And you should regard ordinary sentient beings as the object of your compassion. When you give rise to faith and loving compassion in this way you will receive the blessings.

When the mind is abiding in the natural state, this is the view of Dzogchen The special or extraordinary teaching of Dzogchen is about how to transform negative emotions into companions. Right now negative emotions are enemies that do harm so we need to first become skilled at practicing when negative conditions arise and then at bringing those conditions onto the path. If we always abide within mindful awareness [i.e. attention], then however strong a negative emotion may be, it will be immediately destroyed through that awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], just as we have a blazing fire, we can even feed iron to it and it will melt away. Of course we now have some degree of mindful awareness [i.e. attention], but that mindful awareness [i.e. attention] is like the flame at the tip of a stick of incense, it is very weak and it needs to be cultivated. Yet we must develop and believe in the idea that mindful awareness [i.e. attention] is dharmakaya.

The mind of all of the Buddhas of the three times and our own mindful awareness [i.e. attention] are inseparable so if we are looking at various root and lineage masters of the tradition, we should understand that their essential minds’ nature and that of the Buddhas of the three times and our own mind are ultimately inseparable. And there is no distinction between greater or lesser within that mind. All of the Buddhas of the three times are combined in our own practice of mindful awareness [i.e. attention] and so in this regard, Lord Jigten Sumgon paid homage to the mandala of mind’s essence, that is the supreme palace of all the victorious ones of the three times.

When we see nature of mind that is like the sky, well, then we see it. In this regard, Lord Milarepa said when mind and space are recognized as inseparable, that is as Dharmakaya as it can get. And this mind’s nature is completely empty and clear. There is nothing that is obtained in that, nothing that we get when we look at the nature of mind. Often time we think when we see the nature of mind this will result in some kind of, something that we obtain. But when we actually see the mind with the mind, there is nothing that we get at all. And so that point should be understood.

What is it that we need to know? All of the outer container and inner contents are immeasurable and without limit. All of samsara is vast and limitless, but this has all been created by mind. Mind is the creator of karma, both collective and individual. The basis of that accumulation of karma is self-grasping. And it is through collective and individual karma that all of the phenomena of the universe manifest. When we fail to recognize the natural state of the mind, we give rise to self-grasping and on the basis of that we accumulate the six negative emotions and on the basis of them we engage activities and we create karma. And on the basis of that all of the six realms of Samsara manifest. Thus mind is the ultimate creator of all phenomena.

Milarepa taught that we should not sever the root of phenomena but rather sever the root of mind. If we look at the mindstream of a tiny insect, and the mindstream of a human being, they are essentially the same. They all wish to have happiness; they are the same in their generation of negative emotions and the three poisons of attachment, aversion and ignorance. Thus however numerous sentient beings may be, their habit of self-grasping is one, it is the same. On the basis of this self-grasping they engage various activities and accumulate different sorts of karma which condition the various physical forms that they take but all of those forms have been created by mind. The entire six realms come into existence because of mental phenomena. This is something you should think about,consider well, investigate whether this is the case or not

So really all of the phenomena of samsara and nirvanaare beyond the extremes of coming and going. On the ultimate level they abide, like the expanse of space, and all appearances manifest within that. Yet they are temporary, dream like and illusory. So in brief, what we are pointing to with this view is that there is no fixation on phenomena as being real at all. When we are free of fixation, then although phenomena still appear to exist, we recognize their empty nature.

The natural state of the mind is endowed with the knowing quality, the knowing aspect of the mind. That is the transcendent awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] that recognizes arising thoughts. When we are engaging in Shamatha or calm abiding meditation, the negative emotions of attachment, aversion and so forth are pacified, and within that peaceful abiding the awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] that recognizes arising thoughts is present. When those thoughts are recognized, they are spontaneously free and that is the practice of special insight or Vispasana. When we look at the mind we will see many thoughts arising. If we recognize those myriad thoughts but do not fixate on them, then we don’t need to manipulate them in any way. And they naturally just subside; they do no harm to our practice, or to awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya]. This is what is meant by the term non-conceptual. The text refers the clarity aspect of the mind as being inseparable from non-conceptual awareness wisdom. In this way the thoughts that manifest are like waves that arise from the ocean and dissolve back into the ocean. Although there may be many thoughts, they do not disrupt the continuity of awareness [rigpa i.e. knowledge], that is to say the mind does not waver at the arising of thoughts. When we are practicing calm abiding that is endowed with special insight, if we really wish to train in this then we need to give rise to compassion and great loving kindness. If we lack this then there is no way that the mind will abide in calmness and clarity. So conventional bodhicitta is of greatest importance. When we have conventional bodhicitta we will not give rise to gross conceptual thoughts and the very subtle thoughts that arise will be instantly destroyed through to the power of awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/viday]. So in this way we cultivate conventional bodhicitta, which is love and compassion together with awareness wisdom.

When we engage the mind that is the union of emptiness and compassion, a great radiance manifests, what is that radiance? It is the spontaneously arisen light of wisdom and love that pervades all of the pure Buddha realms above and all of the six realms of sentient beings below. All of the sentient beings of the three spheres of existence have accumulated karma and are presently experiencing the ripened effect of former actions. When we give rise to the mind that is the union of wisdom and love, it is like the sunlight that pervades the dark areas of the six realms of sentient beings. So however great our transcendent awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowldge/vidya] is, we will give rise to a correspondingly great compassion. However great our compassion is, we will give rise to the capacity to pervade all of the spheres of existence of sentient being

And through awareness [Rigpa i.e.knowledge/vidya], those thoughts and negativities will dissipate. In this way our self-grasping and ignorance are cleared away. And on the basis of this we realize the meaning of selflessness. That realization is like a brilliant light that is more powerful than 100,000 suns. These are the qualities of giving rise to precious bodhicitta. When we abide in the natural state of the mind, we recognize the awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] that is the sky like expanse of mind. We recognize the empty nature of the mind and that recognition is the view. Then having recognized that, we need to abide within that awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge]. And that is meditation, simply remaining the continuity of the non-dual union of bliss and emptiness.Then within that mindful awareness [i.e. attention], we recognize all phenomena to be like dreams and illusions; no matter what activity we engage in, we recognize its illusory nature and that is the conduct. If we abide in a state of Rigpa, or awareness wisdom, all of the view, meditation and conduct are combined within that.

Vision is Longchen Rabjam

Unelaborated view means is there is no fixation on phenomena as being real. The moment that fixation exists there is elaboration. When we look at the natural state of the mind, it is like space and all of the phenomena of the outer container and inner contents are arisen from that space like mind. And that mind’s essence is the view, and so the first sentence of the text reads, “vision is Longchen Rabjam, the all pervasive vast expanse.” We should understand that the very meaning of his name “all pervading vast expanse” to be a metaphor of the sky, which is the metaphor for the view.

When ordinary sentient beings abide in Samsara, they think that the phenomena of Samsara are real and true. This is like perceiving a block of ice and thinking this block is really like stone, and its true on a relative level, a block of ice is like a stone. But when you are introduced to the mind’s natural state, together with that introduction comes a recognition of the possibility of liberation, its as though we finally recognize that the block of ice is not really a stone, because it can melt and become free flowing water.

Action is ‘Gwalwa Neugu’

There are different types of students of varying capacities, when one has trained well in former life times, and is a disciple of highest capacity, that person is referred to as one who is kind of instantaneously realizes. Or immediately understands. I asked Rinpoche “Understands what?” and he said,“understands the natural state of the mind, what else is there.” And those who have not done this kind of training or who have trained in only a limited way. Then they are beings who gradually realize in progressive stages. So even if in this lifetime they do not realize mind’s nature then eventually within seven life times or whatever, that realization will dawn. So if those fortunate ones realize the natural state and if they engage in practice like Milarepa did, it is possible within a single lifetime to realize the state of Buddhahood

It’s the mind that needs to attain the state of Buddhahood. And when we are free of fixation, then the mind abides like the expanse of space then the body will attain liberation. But we don’t need to look kind of outwardly what we think the Buddha qualities might appear to be on a physical level, rather we need to look inward at the mind to understand the Buddha qualities. And on the basis of that turning inward, we will understand

Milarepa taught that when negative emotions and transcendent awareness [rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] are recognized as indistinguishable. That is the perfection of the sign of realization. So whatever happiness and suffering we may encounter, whatever thoughts, afflictions and delusion may arise they are recognized as none other than transcendent awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya]. The mind does not waver regardless of the arisings, rather the minds abides like the expanse of space. And so of course afflictions will arise, the point is for us to recognize them as awareness [rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya]. Without this mode of practicing view, meditation and conduct, although we may intellectually understand the teachings, whenever we encounter adverse conditions in this life, negative emotions, suffering and so forth we will fall under their power.

What this is about is bringing adverse conditions onto the path. For example if we give rise to great anger that blazes more strongly than a fire, if with awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] we recognize the fault of that anger then the awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] increases and the anger is overcome. All negative emotion no matter what they may be is to be dealt with in just the same way.

Meditation is Khyentse Odser
In this regard the text it says Meditation is Khyentse Odser and then Khyentse Odser is another name for the master Jigme Lingpa. In this particular translation then the actual name Khyentse Odser is translated as the “radiance of wisdom and love”. And so if we really wish to cultivate the meditation, we need to habituate the view that is the union of love and compassion with wisdom. When we engage the mind that is the union of emptiness and compassion, a great radiance manifests, what is that radiance? It is the spontaneously arisen light of wisdom and love that pervades all of the pure Buddha realms above and all of the six realms of sentient beings below. All of the sentient beings of the three spheres of existence have accumulated karma and are presently experiencing the ripened effect of former actions. When we give rise to the mind that is the union of wisdom and love, it is like the sunlight that pervades the dark areas of the six realms of sentient beings. So however great our transcendent awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] is, we will give rise to a correspondingly great compassion.

Jigme Lingpa is said to be to be one who attained his realization completely without training although there are countless great masters who through training and scholarly endeavour attained understanding of the teachings. Teachers suchas Je Jongapa and Longchen Rabjam pa and so forth. The Vidyadhara Jigme Lingpa isi nconceivably precious in that he attained his understanding of the teachings as well as the omniscient wisdom of the Buddha through his realization of the view completely without training or education.

With regard to these three experiences of bliss, clarity and freedom from thoughts, people are different in the kinds of experiences that they give rise to, some will experience great clarity, and have many different clear experiences but whatever it is that is arising, the important thing is to be free of fixation. If we have experience of clarity for example and we think “This is good” then that is fixation. The bliss experience is the same thing, the nature of the mind is naturally blissful thus we speak of the dharmakaya as the great bliss. Yet if we have that experience and fixate on it, this is where we fall into error. Occasionally when we are practicing looking at the nature of the mind, we will experience states free from thought, in which the flow of thoughts and emotions just ceases for a period of time. And within that we think “This is the view” we have givenrise to fixation. Although these various experiences will arise, if we are free of fixation on them, then there will be of no harm.

In the three statements that strike the vital points, the first of which is about the direct introduction into the nature of mind, and with this come the recognition that all the phenomena of Samsara and Nirvana are created by the mind. Thus if we only understand the mind’s nature we will understand all the phenomena of Samsara and Nirvana. That which has been made, that is all the phenomena of Samsara and Nirvana, is the nature of emptiness and likewise the maker, the creator of those phenomena which is the mind is empty like the sky.

We talked about the non-conceptual state free of the three spheres, in which there is no longer, any division among self and others and the object, or activity that is engaged. And within this non-conceptual awareness there is no distinction to be made between self and other and phenomena of Samsara and Nirvana and so forth. We see experientially that the natural state of our own mind, the mind of the Buddhas of the three times and the mind of all sentient beings are of one singular essence.

When we study the meaning about the natural state of the mind, we can begin to understand and eventually to recognize it. But with regard the third point about implicit confidence, in release, this is a little more difficult. When we are introduced to the natural state and then we continuously abide in that natural state, we see the arising thoughts and negative emotions, through their recognition they are liberated, thus no matter how many thoughts may arise they do no benefit to our mind they do no harm to our mind. They naturally are dissipated like water bubbles that spontaneously appear on the surface of water and just as quickly disappear. When we practice in this way, thoughts are naturally destroyedthus no karma is accumulated. If no karma is accumulated, no karmic propensities are established and then one does not experience the fully ripening effect of karma

This union of awareness and compassion is like hot water when it is poured over ice, it will immediately melt away that ice. If we lack this union of awareness and compassion, then this frozen block of ice remains just as it is. And this is an example of the delusion of sentient beings. If on the other hand we never part from this union of mindfulness and compassion, thoughts will be liberated on rising but in order to practice in this way, great diligent effort is required.

When we see fish in fish tanks we look at all the fishes that is swimming around in the tank, you can follow after them and find out where they are going, and all of these fishes are like the thoughts and emotions that arise in our mind. If on the other hand we shift the focus of attention to the water itself, this is like shifting one’s awareness away from the thoughts to the natural state of the mind. And within this shifted focus, one recognizes when thoughts are arising and when they are not, and there will be junctures in which when thoughts and emotions are not arising, in those junctures we can see the natural state.

We should attend to the natural state of the breath. Usually what happens when we are not attending to the breath, and the wind energies, we habitually follow after karmic wind energies. As an antidote to this we can place the tip of the tongue against the hard palate. And when we breath in, we breath in through the nostrils but then when we breath out we gently breath out though the mouth maintaining the tip of the tongue on the hard palate, allowing the out breath to flow over the left and right sides of the tongue. At this time we should be breathing very gently and naturally. This will be of great benefit and has the same effect as the vajra recitation. The important point is that we are not panting, we don’t have our mouth hanging open, we are not allowing all our breath to escape outwardly. By maintaining this point of contact with the tip of the tongue on the hard palate, this actually serves to separate out the pure essence of the wind energy from the gross wind energies

So whatever it is that arises the mind, it needs to be recognized through awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya]. This is true of all thoughts, all emotions, all the experiences of bliss, clarity and freedom from thought. And when we abide in awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], there is no attachment to so called good experiences nor is there aversion towards negative experiences. Even if Guru Rinpoche clearly manifests in front of you still there is no need to focus on this arising as being so extraordinary, unique or precious. It is just the display of the mind’s natural radiance. It is the pure aspect of the mind manifesting and so at such moments we don’t need to look into the appearance or to investigate it in any way. All that we need to do is maintain awareness in its own seed. Then no matter how many thoughts, emotions or experiences may arise there will be no harm in our practice.

“In this state of equilibrium and relaxation, abruptly utter a mind shattering PEH forcefully loud and short and there it is”. When we give rise to all of these diversity of meditation experiences, in that very instant, we should immediately shout the syllable PEH, to clear away the cloudiness and to clear away the over excited mind. To clear away fixation and various thoughts and emotions that arises. When we shout the syllable PEH it should be like the flash of a bolt of lightning. Shouted as the text says, forcefully loud and short. Immediately after shouting this syllable PEH, we can see the natural state of the mind, we are completely free of any fixation at that moment, all the recollections of the past have ceased and all the ideas about the future have not yet arisen, so in between these two, in the gap between the two, we can look at the natural state of the mind which becomes like space in the moment that we utter that syllable. When we are alone we can verbally shout this syllable in any case the whole point is to reach a state completely free of any fixation, any concept about doing this practice, and when this is done then the thoughts and emotions are just scattered.

The view manifests very clearly and this is what is meant by the term “Zangtal” It is translated inthe text as all pervading freedom of mind. Its kind of unobstructed freedom of mind. This term really refers to being completely free of any fixation on matter or on objects whatsoever. By way of example, if we are sitting in this room and we are meditation on the form of the deity and we visualize that deity as very large and we think now it can’t get any larger because the head has reached the ceiling. This is a fault of fixation If we are completely free of fixation we can visualize the form of the deity filling all of space without any obstruction at all. And this is what is meant by the term unobstructed freedom of mind, it is the all-pervading mind of awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge] without any obstruction posed by fixation

All of the erroneous views can be condensed into two views of eternalism and nihilism. When we think that phenomena are actually existent they are real and true then we fall into the error of eternalism. All phenomena are composites; they are the nature of impermanence. Understanding this then we should stay clear of the error of eternalism. When we think that actually there is nothing that is truly existent at all, there is nothing that is real, even karma cause and effect is not ultimately real or true, then we fall into the other extreme of nihilism. If we give rise to negative emotions and on the basis of that we act on that then karma is accumulated and once that happens sooner or later we will eventually experience the ripen effect of that karma.

We can look at the example of anger alone and understand the nature of all of the five other negative emotions, anger has a connection to all of them, desire, attachment, ignorance and so forth, so when we first give rise to a negative emotion, if we recognize that with mindful awareness [i.e. attention], the awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] becomes stronger. Eventually the negative emotion will arise simultaneously with mindful awareness [i.e. attention]. When we practice in this way then the awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] is like a flame and the negative emotions are like wood or fuel that feeds that flame. If we can maintain awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], these negativities are transformed into the five wisdoms. It is a method for transforming negativities into awareness [Rigpa i.e. knwledge/vidya] and poisons into medicine. Milarepa referred to the aspect of the mind that recognizes negative emotions as being awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya]. And so if we are cultivating this awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], it becomes stronger and stronger with each negative emotion that is liberated.

The wisdom dakini, Niguma said, “Even the flame of primordial awareness [i.e. ye shes/wisdom] may be small, it can be refreshed again and again." And so each time we cultivate awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] it grows stronger and stronger. So we must have confidence, that through mindfulness, primordial awareness [i.e. ye shes/wisdom] becomes stronger and more powerful.

“Then whether there is quiescence or flow, rage or lust, happiness or sadness, at all times and in every situation sustain that recognition of dharmakaya’s total presence”. So having been introduced to the view, we need to engage the practice of meditation. In this regard we must cultivate meditative absorpsion in a continuous flow at all times and in all situation as the text says. We must protect and preserve a kind of ceaseless continuity of mindful awareness [i.e. attention].

For those who are instantaneous realizers based on the previous training they have engaged in former lives, it is possible for them to be introduced to the view and to immediately realize it in a stable and unchanging way. For such beings there is nothing that really needs to be cultivated nor is there anything that need to be stopped or ended. But such beings are very few, even for those who do recognize the nature of mind when you are introduced to it, many will give rise to pride, thinking “Oh, I have got it” so the point is once we have received the introduction, we must inwardly continue to cultivate it and meditate upon it.

Just like the sun and the rays that are spontaneously manifest from the sun, awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge] itself manifests arising as phenomena in an ongoing display. When we understand this then, there is nothing that particularly needs to be suppressed. No matter what arises, it spontaneously manifests, just like waves arising on the surface of water. And naturally dissipate like waves dissolving back into the water. Thus things are naturally arisen and naturally liberated. In this way there is no need to suppress arisings nor is there any need to kind of establish them

With regard to this meditation that is free of meditation, when we see the natural state of the mind and we are totally free of doubt about that, we recognize the inseparability of the mind of the guru and the mind of all the Buddhas. And on the basis on one’s devotion to the guru, which is nothing other than awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge], one can begin to experience the inseparability of one’s own mind, the guru’s mind and the minds of all the Buddhas. And so I find that this pith instruction makes the point more accessible

Knowing one liberates all and really all of the methods of liberation are combined within Rigpa or within awareness. The guru is not the body of the guru the actual guru is the guru’s mind. The mind is the Buddha and that is the principle importance, when we are cultivating mindful awareness [i.e. attention] that is the ultimate guru.

Simply by abiding in the natural state of the mind, thoughts are liberated. Just like the waves that arise on the surface of the water and dissipate back into the water. The Dharmakaya is the very basis, and thoughts are not separate from Dharmakaya, just as the wave not separate from water. Thus we really must understand or recognize that thoughts and mind are inseparable.

Looking at the mind itself and abide in the natural state this is like the meeting of the mother and son lights, the text says the son clear light uniting with the familiar mother light. And within this we must understand that these lights are not two; that is the knower and that which is known are of a singular nature. Thus we speak of nondual wisdom, the seer and that which is seen are one and the same. And it is through looking at the nature of the mind that we must recognize this.

We say that the basic nature of mind is like a clear crystal or a mirror, although various images or forms that may be reflected in the mirror these are like thoughts that arise in the mind, they dissipate upon arising. Although forms may be reflected in the mirror, the mirror itself has no sense of good or bad with regard to these various appearances. And in a similar way when thoughts arise in the mind, that which recognizes is completely free of fixation on that which has arisen.

When we perceive outward phenomena yet we do so while remaining in a state of awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge]. All of these outward forms are not seen distinctly, or individually, rather they are just perceived as a whole. Do you understand the difference between looking at each individual thing and just looking at the broad general picture with awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge]? Tank and fish, yes!

When we are abiding in awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] there will be no fixation at all regarding good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant sounds that are heard. And we are thus free from fixation there is no obscuration in the mind. This is what is meant by forms being the union of emptiness and appearance. And everything that is heard being the union of sound and emptiness. When we abide in awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] in this way we will not give rise to attachment to those things that are pleasant nor aversion to things that are unpleasant. This is one of the qualities of mindful awareness [i.e attention] and within this there is nothing that really needs to be blocked or suppressed nor is anything that needs to be cultivated

Whereas Rigpa or awareness, is when whatever thoughts and emotions may arise they are immediately destroyed through the power of that awareness [i.e. knowledge/vidya]. This is like a fire that is so strong that it will immediately incinerate whatever is placed inside it. So the difference between what we are calling mind and Rigpa in this context is whether or not all mental arising are liberated. Thus we speak about the transcendent awareness that goes beyond mind and that’s what we are referring to in this term Rigpa.

So we need to merge our meditative experience that comes in our meditation sessions with our everyday activities. If we don’t have the leisure of remaining for a long time in isolated mountain retreats, still we can devote an entire Sunday, for example on a regular basis to doing retreat practices. We can devote half an hour to concentrated meditation. In fact it is taught that we should engage short sessions again and again many times. So in this way we cultivate an undistracted mind, eventually we will be able to merge that mindful awareness [i.e. attention] that is cultivated in meditation sessions with all of our ordinary activities. And so if we have the thought “Oh I need to pee”, we don’t just get off the cushion immediately, but rather we look at the mind that’s thinking “I need to pee.” And we look at that mind and cultivate awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] and then within that state of awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] we get up slowly to go take our pee. This is the way it should be with all our activities. They should be done conjoined with vigilant mindful awareness [i.e. attention], and by doing that we merge meditation and post meditation experience

If we want to understand these three precepts, we can again and again refer to the verses in the 37 practices text. If we hold these in our recollection and we can mentally recite them, it will cause the mind to become clearer and clearer. So the first among these three is verse 22 and this relates directly to the first of the three precepts, which is a direct introduction into the nature of mind. So in relation to this the 37 practices text says “Appearances are one’s own mind. From the beginning, mind’s nature is free from the extremes of elaboration. Knowing this, not to engage the mind in subject-object duality is the bodhisattvas’ practice.” So this verse is parallel to the direct introduction.

With regard to the second of the three precepts, absolute conviction in the practice, this is parallel to verse 30, which reads, “If one lacks wisdom, it is impossible to attain perfect enlightenment through the other five perfections. Thus, cultivating skillful means with the wisdom that does not discriminate among the three spheres is the bodhisattvas’ practice.” And then with regard to the third precept, implicit confidence in release, that is parallel to verse 36. “In brief, whatever conduct one engages in, one should ask, “What is the state of my mind?” accomplishing others’ purpose through constantly maintaining mindfulness and awareness is the bodhisattvas’ practice.” And so if you deeply contemplate these three verses again and again, it will over time give you profound insight into the three precepts that strike the vital point.

For whatever period of time that we are sitting in meditation, even if its only five minutes, for that period of time we need to exert ourselves, making effort to meditate with clarity. Just as a seed planted in the ground must be nurtured with light and water and so forth in order to yield a flower, and just as that nurturing is ongoing, so too our cultivation of awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge] must be without interruption in order to become strong. So when we are in a place of trying to stabilize awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], it is said that we should have strict sessions and during those sessions really exert ourselves in the practice.

So how is it that we can avoid falling under the power of conditions, it is through stabilizing mindful awareness [i.e. attention]. When we go outside and we engage our daily activities, if we do so with mindfulness then we will become like Milarepa, who sang “Whenever I go from one place to another, I am bring all appearances onto the path.” So for example if we are sitting down and suddenly we have the wish to get up and go do something, we should just for a moment look at the mind that wants to get up and do. When we do this,the wish to get up and go dissipates and then within a state free of needing to get up, we can get up and engage our activities. When we want to eat something, we should first just recognize that desire to eat, and then the desire itself is liberated. And within a state of desirelessness eat the food. When we suddenly give rise to anger at something someone has said to us, we can look at that mind of anger and it will dissipate and then we can respond in a state free of anger. In this way by cultivating mindful awareness [i.e. attention] we can engage all of our activities in a state free of negative emotions. We can enjoy all of thefive objects of senses pleasure in a state free of fixation. This is what it means to mix awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge] with conduct

When we are engaging in activities, we should do so in the context of the Tregchod practice or the practice of destroying delusion. So what is this Dzogchen view of Tregchod, it is when the mind is abiding in a state free of fixation on negative emotions as being real. So for example when you are extremely hungry and then you see food, you immediately want to eat it so that you mouth starts watering, and if in that moment you look at the desire to eat, the desire itself dissipates. In this way you directly cut through the fixation. That is what we call Tregchod or the direct cutting through. We also use this term “Trushak” in Tibetan, which means destroying delusion.

If we have pure water for example and we pour milk into it, the water becomes clouded, it is obscured and in a similar way, fixation on negative emotions obscures the mind. If we give rise to great anger and then we recognize the anger, it is purified through the recognition. So we should understand that the fixation is what obscures the mind and when we are free of fixation, negative emotions are spontaneously purified. The awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] that we cultivate is like a flame that burns away the fuel of all arising afflictions. In this way although anger may arise, it does no harm at all.

“At all times and in every situation, watch the free play of Dharmakaya alone. Convinced that there is nothing other than that”. Abiding in this awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] is the medicine that cures 100 different illnesses. This is the inseparable union of Shamatha and Vispasana or calm abiding and special insight. With regards to calm abiding, it is whenever thoughts and delusions arise and the mind is completely free of fixation on them. They are naturally purified or pacified, within that state of pacification, we see the clear nature of the mind and that seeing is the special insight or Vispasana. So within this, what is translated as the free play of Dharmakaya in the text; within that state all of the teachings are complete, all of the paths are combined, the entire practice of Shamatha and Vispasana, all of the essential points of the Buddhist’s teachings are included within that. Thus the text says, “Watch the free play of the Dharmakaya alone. Convinced that there is nothing other than that”

In the context of Dzogchen practice, it is simply through recognizing the nature or the essence of mind that transformation is accomplished. However many negative emotions may arise, or however gross they may be when they are met with mindful awareness [i.e. attention], they are spontaneously liberated. When this is habituated the negative emotions will arise simultaneous with awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], and then there is no antidote that is needed. For example anger arises and its like we conquer anger with anger. When the anger manifests together with mindfulness, it is immediately dissipated. The same is true of lust and desire. When it is co-emergent with mindful awareness [i.e. attention], it totally dissipates. And so we merge desire and lust with meditation and on the basis of this no karma is accumulated. The desire itself dissipates and this is what is meant by bringing negativities onto the path.

With regard to the subtle ones, if we are meditating and we become kind of dull in that meditation, then many subtle thoughts that we don’t feel may arise. And when we fail to recognize them, they become grosser and grosser until at some point they become gross enough that we recognize them. And realize “Oh I’ve gotten distracted.” So it’s important to understand that if we fail to recognize the subtle thoughts, those will also obscure the mind. And so the recognition is what is important. If we sustain clear awareness then we will recognize gross and subtle mental arisings. Primordial awareness [i.e. ye shes/wisdom] is like a flame and all the gross and subtle thoughts and emotions that arise are like fuel. If we continue to meet the thoughts with awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], it is as though we continue to feed fuel to the flame, thus it increases in intensity.

If we do not recognize the natural state that is the cause for the arising of all of samsara it is because of this non recognition that we continually wander in cyclic existence. So all of samsara can be condensed into the three realms, the form realm, the formless realm and the desire realm. And what is the cause of all these? First we should understand that there is like a fundamental alaya consciousness and really this is a mind of un-clarity or unawareness and it is taught about quite clearly in the aspiration prayer of Samanthabadra. In this state of un-clarity, beings follow after whatever thoughts and emotions that arise in the mind. Because of abiding in this really unclear unconscious state, one is said to attain or take rebirth in the formless realm. If from within this unclear state a subtle consciousness arises, it is not really recognized for what it is. It is not seen. And on the basis of that we start to fixate on phenomena as real and that becomes the cause of rebirth in the form realm. And then from out of this mind, arise gross thoughts and emotions it condition rebirth in the desire realm.

When we generate the great primordial awareness i.e. ye shes/wisdom] it is the cause for liberating ourselves from the three realms and also from all of samsara. This is because of the natural attributes of wisdom mind. For example when we look at a flower, and we see its beautiful form, if we abide in stable mindful awareness [i.e. attention], the mind doesn’t waver, it doesn’t go outside to the object of perception, it is not lost in that flower. And so by holding this kind of stable mindful awareness [i.e. attention], the mind is liberated from rebirth in the desire realm. So then when we experience clarity, the clarity aspect of the mind, if we are free of fixation on the clarity, this purifies the phenomena of the form realm, thus the mind is liberated from rebirth in the form realm. Again we refer to the mind is the union of clarity and emptiness, and whenever thoughts and emotions arise, if we do not investigate them or manipulate them in any way, we give rise to confidence in awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya],and thus the mind becomes very clear, this purifies the unconscious or unawareness state. When we abide in this non-conceptual awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], we do not need to investigate in any way the mental phenomena that arise. The mind is the union of emptiness and clarity but the clarity aspect of mind cannot be lost, when it is sustained it becomes the basis for liberating the mind from the phenomena of the formless realm. The alaya or base consciousness as I mentioned before, is just a state of unawareness, unknowing and when we see the nature of the mind that is just like the sky, it is also endowed with clarity. That clarity is what liberates us from the formless realm.

When we see the natural state of the mind, it gives rise to three principle qualities or attributes. They are known as the sublime intent that fully liberates the three spheres, the three realms. This is an extraordinary Buddhist teaching. This liberation of the three realms is connected with the qualities of the Buddhist three kayas and those three kayas are complete within the mind itself. The mind’s empty nature, which is like the expanse of space is parallel to the Dharmakaya, the mind’s clarity aspect, which is endowed with wisdom, is parallel to the Samboghakaya, and from within this the unobjectified loving-kindness or the compassion without any reference point pervades all of space and this is parallel to the Nirmanakaya. Thus the seed of the Buddhist three kayas is present in our mindstream. These three kayas are endowed with the same power as this sublime intent, which fully liberates the three spheres.

When we look at the natural state of the mind, it is said that form is the union of emptiness and appearance. That is to say we perceive the form with the eye but we do not investigate them, we do not engage the mind in contemplation on these forms. The mind does not waver outside to the form, or to become wrapped up in the image, rather it is perceived as being like the reflection in a mirror. There is no real substance to it. And so although all of the myriad phenomena of this realm manifest in one’s mind, they are seen with the eye, when there is no fixation in the mind then the forms manifest while awareness [Rigpa i.e. knoweldge/vidya] is held in its own place. So we give rise to a clear perception of the form yet we abide in a state free from fixation. So this state is free from the dualistic notion of the perceiver and that which is perceived. The mind does not need to wander outside and become involved in that which is perceived. Now the quality of this state is not something that will necessarily be fully grasped through mere understanding of the words, it is when you engage in the practice that you will see its attributes.

“By intuiting this liberating aspect of the Dharmakaya, and now to a figure drawn in water there is uninterrupted spontaneous arising and reflexive release.” So in brief we talked of self-arising and self-liberating and this is when the thoughts manifest and spontaneously dissipate just like writing on the surface of water, the moment that we recognize the thoughts with awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya], they cease to be, just like a wave will arise out of the ocean and dissolve back into it.

“Whatever arises is the fruit of naked presence and emptiness, whatever moves is the creativity of the sovereign Dharmakaya”. If we sustain unbroken awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] then there is no harm when thoughts and emotions arise. Its like if we have a strong fire burning in the hearth then how much fuel we put inside of it, it will spontaneously be burnt away. And so it is when the flame of awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] is strong, whatever arises whatever thoughts and emotions may manifest simply are burnt away by awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya].

“The way thing arises the same as before, the crucial difference is in their release”. And so for a practitioner the way that thoughts and emotions manifest in the mind, is just the same as the way in which they arise in the mind of an ordinary person. The difference is that for a yogin or yogini whatever arises is spontaneously liberated on arising. This is what is referred to as the play of awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya]. So for ordinary beings, thoughts and negative emotions arise they fixate on those arisings as real and their mind is bound by that fixation. Thus they accumulate karma. For a true practitioner awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] arises simultaneously with the thought and it is liberated.

“Without this vital function of release, meditation is a delusory path. Imbued with it we abide in the Dharmakaya of non-meditation.” So even though one may not have engaged this practice for a long period of time still when one cultivates the awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] that liberates thoughts on arising, that awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] is Dharmakaya. Without having cultivated that even if one has engaged meditation practice for many years, still it is nothing but a delusory path.

With regard to the fruition it is all about abiding in the natural state of the mind. When we do that the very basis, which is Buddha nature, is realized. We speak about ground path and fruition and that ground is that innate in dwelling Buddha nature. And when we know that natural state of the mind, and we cultivate that, we engage the path. And as a result we experience fruition which is the mind becomes pure. Thus these three ground path and fruition are closely related to the view meditation and conduct. When we really can act in accord with the meditation that we are engaging, then without doubt we are practicing the path

In this regard there is a praise of Guru Rinpoche that says: “I pay homage to the one who is unstained by the obscuration of desire. Homageand praise to the Lotus born one.” So this example of the lotus flower is that it rises out of the mud and yet bears a blossom that is unstained by mud is an example of the minds of the Buddhas.So the example of the lotus flower is the example of great primordial wisdom [i.e. ye shes/wisdom]. As I have mentioned that the lotus grows out of a muddy swamp yet its blossom is totally untainted. And so when we talk about the term Rigpa, this is kind of a term that we find in the Dzogchen teachings and there are other terms that are common to the mahamudra but really this term Rigpa is something that is easy to understand, it is the self-recognition of the natural state of one’s own mind and this is the mind totally unobscured by negative emotions. When we speak about transcendent awareness or Rigpa that is nothing other than the Buddha. If we recognize it now in this moment then the mind is unobscured in this moment. When we give rise to fixation, that fixation obscures the mind. When we are completely free of fixation to various thoughts and negative emotions then awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] is sustained and there is no taint. Although thoughts and negative emotions will continue to arise they will not obscure the mind.

If we have compassion for sentient beings, this is a sign that we have given rise to pure perception of the outer container, which is this universe, the inner contents which are sentient beings. Although sentient beings temporarily manifest in a deluded way like frozen blocks of ice, in truth sentient beings are unreal, they are dreamlike and illusory. In truth beings are truly Buddha yet when we see the limitless suffering of sentient beings that drive them to madness. It is as though they are made crazy by the limitless sufferings that they experience, we naturally give rise to compassion. Yet at the same time there is an understanding that beings are unreal they are not inherently established, thus it is said that there is neither compassion nor an actual object of compassion on the ultimate level. So for example if someone is sleeping and dreaming we do not see their dream yet the dream may seem so real to the sleeping person that he cries out in his sleep. Similarly allthe phenomena of samsara and nirvana are unreal and illusory. When we recognize that sentient beings are unreal and they lack any inherent existence, this is a sign of having generated pure perception

So we should give rise to conventional precious bodhicitta for all sentient beings without exception thinking that there is not one who has not been our kind parent. In this way we should give rise to love for all sentient beings like the love of a mother has for her child. We should have special bond of love with our dharma companions and our vajra siblings. How does this arise? When we engage in practice and we see the natural state of the mind, all of our minds become the same and on the basis of this a great love arises and pervades. So if we are free of the dualistic view of self and other, then what we will findis that others negative emotions of anger and pride and so forth will naturally melt awayand dissipate and we will see all beings as our friends

Khenpo Munsel taught that the measure of one’s realization of the view is the compassion that one has generated thus the most precious of attainments is great compassion. Like the rays that naturally manifest from the sun, compassion will spontaneously arise out of emptiness. Although there are other signs of accomplishment such as clairvoyance and many diverse experiences, we should not fixate on any if these but rather should understand that the greatest of all signs of accomplishment is compassion.

These teachings one essential point on awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] are the essence of all the Buddhadharma. The mind of omniscient wisdom of a single Buddha pervades all of the Buddhas of all space and time. Likewise the Buddhas of the three times of past present and future are complete in the mind of the root guru. The way that this can be so is the qualities of emptiness

The first line of the text that we are working from is “I pay homage to the root lama of matchlesskindness. Of matchless, peerless compassion.” So really the essence of this line is about the practice of Guru Yoga. It is taught that the Guru is all the embodiment of all of the Three Jewels. So, if at the outset in the text, we make prostration and pay homage to the Guru we should understand that by doing that we are prostrating and paying homage to all of the Three Jewels

We should understand that the mind of the Guru is the essence of all of the minds of the Buddhas. All the Buddhas are present in the root Guru’s mind. And that root Guru is our own vigilant mindful awareness [i.e. attention]. Within that awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] there is a non-distinction to be made between great and small, good and bad and so forth. The basic transcendent awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] of our own mind is the guru. The guru’s speech is the Dharma, and that Dharma, although it is vast, it is said to contain 84,000 aggregates, still it all comes down to two types of Bodhicitta. Apart from conventional and ultimate Bodhicitta, there is no other Dharma teachings to be found.

So all of the Dharma is condensed in the speech of the root Guru, and likewise the body of the Guru is the sangha. With regard to the sangha, when we have listened to the teachings of the Buddha and we have put them into practice by cultivating love and compassion in our minds, we purify the obscurations of our minds. Having purified our own minds, then we are able to guide others thus we become members of the sangha. How is it that we can guide others? Through introducing them to the teachings on Karma cause and effects and to the two truths and so forth. We can show beings the methods for practicing virtue and abandoning non-virtue which is the cause of suffering. So when from our own side we become liberated then we can engage in activities to liberate others. This is what it meansto be a member of the sangha. And it is said then that the Guru’s body is the sangha

When one cultivates bodhicitta in his mindstream, that individual’s body is the Guru, his or her speech is the yidam and his or her mind is the dakini. Thus we can say that the Guru is the embodiment of not only the three Jewels but also the three roots. Through relying on the body of the Guru we receive the empowerments and we are introduced to the nature of the skandhas, dhatus and ayatanas as pure from the very beginning. Likewise, on the basis of the Guru’s speech, we are given instruction in generation and completion stage practices. We are taught in the context of generation stage how to visualize ourselves as the deity and so forth. On the basis of this to engage in secret mantra practices, thus on the basis of speech we can realize the Samboghakaya and then on the level of mind, this is the prajna paramitra, the perfection of wisdom. It is the nature of emptiness, the nature of ultimate bodhicitta. And that nature is nothing other than the mind of the Guru. So the Guru, himself or herself is the embodiment of the three roots, of Guru, Yidam and Dakini.

When in this way one engages the practice of the three jewel and the three roots, the fruition is to attain the three kayas. And those three kayas are complete in the Guru. The Guru’s body is the nirmanakaya or the tulku and so the Guru has cultivated bodhicitta in his or her mindstream and through that mind which is bodhicitta, emanations or tulku spontaneously manifest. On the outward level, the body of the Guru seems like the bodyof just another human being, like an ordinary person but the Guru is extraordinary in that on the level of mind, he or she has fully cultivated the two types of bodhicitta. So the Guru’s speech is the Sambonghakaya. That is to say on the basis of the words of the Buddha or the speech of the Guru, the Yidams and Mandalas manifest ininconceivably vast numbers. On the basis of the Guru’s mind, which is endowed with loving-kindness, the Dharmakaya is realized. Although the Guru’s mind is the nature of love, on the ultimate level it is empty, this is what is meant by the term the union of clarity and emptiness. So this Dharmakaya, which is vast like space, is the mind of the Guru and then the Samboghakaya is like the various rainbows that arise in the expanse of the sky.

What is this fourth kaya? When we are introduced to the Guru’s attributes, then we need to know, and deeply contemplate each of the Guru’s qualities. Then when through practice, we ourselves cultivate the qualities of the three kayas, at some juncture we really get insight into the ultimate nature of the Guru, which is none other than our own mind’s essence. When we realize this, we recognize the sameness of our mind and the mind of the Guru, and that there is no distinction between good and bad to be made between our mind and the Guru’s mind. This is the non-dual union of clarity and emptiness, it is the realization of the natural state of the mind. When we have this experience, we know definitively the non-dual nature of our mind and the guru’s mind; this is the realization of Svabhavikakaya.

It is through this practice that our mindstream transforms into the guru. The guru is endowed with perfect qualities, and right now we see a great distinction between ourselves and the Guru. But really the only distinction is in the fact the Guru has given rise to the mind wishing to benefit others. While we on the other hands have great self-grasping and negative emotions. So at the very outset when we first received the vow of refuge, we are introduced to the outer three jewels, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. But then after having received the vows and beginning to really engage in the practice we start to recognize our own mindful awareness [i.e. attention] as inseparable from those three jewels. So on the outer level, we look at the example Guru, or the Guru who manifests in human form. But on the inner level, the ultimate Guru is mindful awareness [i.e. attention].

Having devotion to the Guru, on the outer level, devotion is the faith and the respect that we have for the teacher. But on the inner level, what devotion is, is holding the words and instructions of the Guru as precious and putting them into practice. So for example, although Marpa had many disciples, the real transmission or the complete transmission went to Milarepa and it is said that the one who really held to whatever the Guru taught was Mila Dorje Gyaltsen and that’s the real meaning of devotion to the Guru.

The term that we use in Tibetan for Guru Yoga is Lamei Naljor, the first two syllables Lamei means of the guru, the second two syllables Naljor, is yoga. This term Nal is referring to the natural state of the mind. So yoga is the union with the mind’s nature. How is this accomplished? It is accomplished through mindful awareness [i.e. attention] and that mindful awareness [i.e. attention] is the inner guru. The outer body of the Guru is not the ultimate guru; it is just a conglomeration of particles that is subject to impermanence. When we look at the inner guru, we see that there is no dualistic distinction of good and bad. That awareness [Rigpa i.e. knowledge/vidya] is the nature of mind and in order to maintain that connection, love is what is of principle importance. When we have this mind of love and awareness then there is no distinction between near and far. We have authentically united with the inner guru, that is the nature of the mind. And this is the true practice of Guru Yoga.

Sentient beings because they are temporaryily obscured by negative emotions do not recognize this and their mind becomes a frozen block of ice. But when they meet with the conditions of having faith in the three jewels and compassion for sentient beings, it is like that ice begins to melt away into free flowing water. Particularly in the context of secret mantra practice, we are taught to cultivate a pure view of the outer container that is the universe and the inner contents, which are all sentient beings. All of the ways of accumulating virtues are combined in or encompassed by pure view. When we have pure view, what it means is that we are free of fixation, whether it is attachment based or aversion based. When we have purified fixation in this way, the ice of our ignorance melts away. And then we recognize the qualities of the inner guru. So if we have pure view, from our own side, whether the guru is a good and authentic master or not, does not matter, we will realize the Buddha qualities from within

Milarepa, when he was passing away, told his disciples, “Actually, I will never die, if you have love and believe in me”. Milarepa pervades in the five elements, and thus is always present.” And so it is on the basis of the disciple’s faith that we again and again connect with the Guru or the deity. On the basis of this we receive the Guru’s blessings. So the fact that Milarepa can pervade the five elements, is really one of the qualities of the Dharmakaya of the Buddha.

http://www.kunzang.org/assets/pdfs/news ... npoche.pdf
Edited by Simple_Jack
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