Presented by Jhampa Shaneman
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
Jhampa November 22, 1987
There are the relative objects of the world. So we have the relative thing. I'm a man and you are women. These are relative terms established on the basis of for example, what a man is, what a woman is, or what a lamp is. In the sense that the relative terms, these are the things that relate to the world. The relative world has various aspects, various ways that things appear but they are all pervaded or all part of the ultimate nature in the sense of, the ultimate nature of reality is said to be one. And all of the various manifestations of that ultimate nature are aspects of it.
Now tying that in what we talked about previously, we spoke extensively that all objects are interdependent, the whole of the phenomenal universe is interdependent.
What is being said is that in the ultimate nature of reality, nothing is said to be independently self existent. Taken to deep levels, it means that no object holds a final entity, a final reality in the sense that that object's relative name, and I will use "cushion" for example. We all know this is a cushion. We all agree it is a cushion. But that is the relative level of truth of that object. Because, if you look at the object and say, "This is cushion", what we have in the simple way, we say cushion. A nice big generalization. Because when we look at the object, we only see the surface of the object. We can flip it over and say "Yes, this is definitely a cushion!"
If it was attached to the floor, we might say it was a chair or something. But, the relative nature, when you go deeper than just the appearance and function of it, you loose "cushion". How? If you think about it, this is the top, the side, bottom. Here is a door into the stuffing of the cushion. Taking the whole object, we can say
"cushion." But when we go deeper and ask, "What's the "cushion" of this cushion? The entity? If I was to take it and squeeze it to get the essence of "cushion", what would I get?" And you couldn't get it. On the objective side of the object if you go deeper, you have cloth, not "Cushion". But cloth sewn in a proper way can give "cushion". But "cushion" is also stuffing, soft, etc. All put together produce "cushion" and we label it because it functions as "cushion" But outside of that aspect and function is where "cushion" stops. That also applies to curtains, walls, carpets, and even us as humans. In the sense that if we have a pile of meat and bones, we don't have human, just parts of human. What we need is the parts put together in a certain way and alive. Then we have human. This applies to all things.
On the generally applicable level, the generally approachable level, looking at any object, you have the aspect and the function of that object which we base all of our reality upon. So thats where we have relative reality. But as soon as we go deeper to find a real nature for an object, we will not find it because it will disappear. For western people I think it is easy for us to say, because basically if you analyze this pillow you wind find Einstein's e=mc2 which is just energy. I'll leave it at that because all of you can go home and read books about it.
In the Buddhist terminology we would say all things are interdependent even down to the level of atoms and molecules. Even they are interdependent because even an atom depends on the nucleus, protons, neutrons, and all of those together we again label as "atom". But if we analyze that we get the parts. And even analyzing them we get down to more parts, we loose it. If we start to go, and we go with a very uptight mind, looking for reality, like taking this pillow and squeezing it for the essence of "Pillow", you won't get it because it won't be there. But that doesn't negate the face that we have pillows and chairs and people etc. It's just that the real nature of reality is interdependence and what you have on the relative plane is objects which have an appearance and function. On the ultimate level, the deep level, what is called the hidden level, you have only interdependence. All objects are lost in their interdependence. You could think of it in more interesting terms. That we are part of an incredible web or matrix or network of reality. I think quantum mechanics is real good for that, that all things are in relation to each other and nothing can stand independently. The whole objective scientific approach is completely false.
From a Buddhist or spiritual perspective, the Buddhist presentation of the world is that you have a relative world which has male, female, ordinary beings, enlightened beings, all the categories, any category, or anything you say. Like you say there is a Buddha, or you say there is an ordinary person, or a pillow, that is all relative because it is merely a label upon something that functions in that way or appears in that form. As soon as you go to the deeper mode or what is termed as the hidden nature, or absolute nature, you immediately arrive at the realm of the one nature of interdependence. It is a singular nature.
This ties in well with the text you have in front of you. The first three syllables of the mantra "TA YA TA" which is Sanskrit meaning "Just as it is". When you recite this mantra, the first statement of it is to say, "All things are just as they are, but they are one in nature." Not to get too involved into it, when you recite the mantra you are invoking that there is the relative nature which is having male and female, cushions, pillows, chairs and you are also appreciating that this is merely superficial, and the deep level which is only basically the one ultimate nature which is interdependence and is termed the enlightened nature. In Buddhism it is termed the Buddha nature, the Tathagata garba (sp) and there again you can say theres a tathagata or tatha in that. And thats in the mantra "Ta ya ta". It's the same, part of the structure of the words, O.K.?
When you recite, when you do a visualization, you always appreciate that there is what we term the relative which is merely the aspect of the Buddha. In this particular meditation we are doing a male buddha. It is purely relative. The ultimate, as soon as you get deep, as soon as you go the hidden nature of the Enlightened Being, there is just that one divine nature. And it is one nature pervasive, time and space, anywhere in the universe. And you have to think universe, not just this world, small mind. Theres just that one ultimate nature which is pervasive with all time and space and anywhere in the universe, and that nature is the nature of the total interdependence, or network or matrix of reality. And that nature is of one taste or one quality. Thats the Buddhist presentation. But on a relative level and that's merely the aspect, and working in a particular function or fulfilling that function, that aspect is then for example in this particular meditation, a male Buddha. But in no way should you allow your mind to stop and say "theres this male Buddha and it is some sort of fixed thing." Thats completely missing the point of this meditation. There is nothing fixed. Nothing permanent. Nothing like a big lump of cement, nothing hard and heavy. Reality is not of that nature.
So when you work with your meditation, always allow yourself to on one side appreciate that there is a male Buddha, male Enlightened Beings, Female Enlightened Beings. There is nothing wrong with that because that is the relative world. I mean, in this relative world we have men and women so it's part of the relative world. But as soon as you go deeper in nature, it's of one nature, one taste, and in that sense enlightenment is really beyond gender, it's not a male or female gender at all.
When you do the meditation, please never leave yourself in the realm of being caught up with any image or aspect. Always appreciate, if you want to term it from a spiritual perspective, that the ultimate nature of enlightenment, the ultimate spirituality, the final enlightenment consciousness is of one divine nature anywhere in time or space, anywhere in the universe. But because we have a relative world with particular aspects, then to manifest in a relative world, Enlightened Beings take on a male or female aspect. And that is always felt that it is proportionate to the level of beings in the world.
They say for example that Buddha Shakyamuni, whom this meditation is focused upon, is the Buddha of 2500 years ago. When he came into the world, it is felt from a spiritual perspective that being of a royal birth and high level of education was the best aspect to take in this world because people naturally felt respect for that. So they say the Enlightened Being, or Buddha Shakyamuni in this particular aspect, manifested in this particular race or social class of being a king or a rajput with full education, then renounced everything, became a monk, practiced his meditation and became enlightened, assumed the best aspect for that time. The next Buddha to come, Buddha Maitreya which is to be in long thousands of years in the future, will come from the middle class because this will be the predominant class. For that reason he will appear in the aspect of a middle class person because that will be the most respected class at that time. Thats to give you an idea that Enlightened Beings manifestations are always proportionate to where we human beings are at. So Enlightened Beings manifest according to where we are at, not from where they would like us to be.
When we do a meditation, that is so to speak the background of whenever we do a visualization, we have the ultimate nature which is one with anywhere in time and space, the ultimate level of consciousness. And to relate to it in a relative way... its not necessary to relate to it in a relative way. I mean, if you want to meditate only on divine consciousness, thats o.k. But sometimes its good to have an added appearance in a relative world. So for this particular meditation on the male Buddha Shakyamuni, it's important to realize that a lot of what you do in visualization is your own inspiration. It's what inspires you, and so to speak, gives you strength in your day to day practice. In doing your visualization, you should always visualize Enlightened Beings as having beautiful physical form, having perfect proportions, perfect beauty, and perfect physical features in all ways. So that if you were to look at them you would naturally feel really comfortable with that being. It would be like an incredible sense of ease, physical ease, because their presence automatically invokes that. They are very beautiful to be with. To be seen with. The best of partners so to speak. So if you have an enlightened female, then you feel fantastic, this person can't do anything wrong. If it is a man, then you have the ultimate in male and wouldn't that be fantastic to be with that person.
When you do meditate on the Enlightened Being though, have it that they have a very beautiful quality and the physical quality is one of great peace and great beauty. The emotional or spiritual quality is one of very great wisdom, very deep love. So have that aspect when you do the visualization. Whether you can visualize clearly or not is unimportant but you should be aware of this being. "If I was to invoke this being, what would be my emotional experience?" In the sense that, "I'm connected with this visualization. I'm invoking this spiritual presence in the space before me so I should be related to that. How am I related to it in a relative perspective? I should be inspired. I would like t be strengthened. I would like to feel a support for that being, that that being has become fully enlightened. And I have the confidence by seeing their manifestation of full enlightenment that I also can become enlightened."
They say you have a casual visualization in the sense of a visualization that is the cause of your becoming inspired, having a sense of faith, and having a good feeling in your being because you see someone that you can get behind. I think sometimes certain people in the world, who become popular, charismatic, have that quality. That when you see them you feel drawn to them naturally. Trudeau had that magic. How, if you were in front of that person, he would invoke feeling in you. Some people in the world, such as a king or queen, do invoke a natural sense of awe in the sense of their regality. When you invoke an Enlightened Being, you have t open up your mind to that level of existence. So when you open to it, then you should envision a being that inspires awe and faith. Never leave the visualization purely as your own creation. What I'm trying to say is, is that there are very spiritual beings and entities in the world. And in one way what you do, so to speak, you set up, or as my teacher used to say... you make a telephone call. And you have a particular number you are dialling. And that number has put you in a particular channel. Now in dialling that number, reciting the mantra, saying that prayer, doing that visualization, you put out energy in that way.
Now you might sort of think, "Oh I'll never really have the experience of having the visualization of an Enlightened Being" or whatever. And if you have that mind you will stop right there and you will never go beyond that. But if you allow yourself to do the visualization with a sense of openness, not being too rigid minded, not being too closed minded, then you can have, lets say, visions, and being given information, told your spiritual practice, told all sorts of interesting things. That is possible. In the Christian practice it is possible. In the Buddhist practice it is talked about. In the Hindu practice it's talked about. So it is a universal experience if there are spiritual beings. And so in doing visualization you are creating a vision to purify yourself, to inspire yourself on a relative level. But on a deeper level, you are trying to attract the attention of those Enlightened Beings. For that, then, you have to leave yourself open to be able to receive their blessings and such.
I don't mean to go into it too much other than to say don't be too small minded when you do the visualization, to just lend yourself so to speak to that your visualization is your own vision, and nothing but your own vision. That is short changing yourself in the long run.
When you do the visualization do it with a sense of awe, with a sense of inspiration, and also appreciate that on a relative level maybe I'm here and the Buddha there, but on an ultimate level we are of one nature and it's merely my own deluded mind, my own small minded nature, my own inability to see beyond my own situation that keeps me in this world.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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