Annual India Tours
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.
Nanaimo Feb 04 1992
Although there are many books around these days, it is still hard to find spiritual teachings. So from a Buddhist concept of any tradition, Buddhist, Christian, whatever, teachings regarding spiritual matters should not be sat on, left on the floor! Things like that because it shows disrespect. So as much as you can put them in an upper place!
Not that you would be cursed or such, but in showing respect for that which is meaningful is a good position for your own personality. It indicates that there is something for yourself inside, not on the outside. In the Zen tradition there are stories of monks taking wooden statues of the Buddha and burning them for firewood because it was getting very cold. In some sense, why not? It is just a Buddha statue. So one has to have a sense of balance with one's view of what is right and wrong. Anyway in regards to getting teachings and such, one should always have respect. If one has faith towards the Buddha, by showing respect towards books and such which are supposed to be the teachings of the Buddha, then one is acquiring merit in showing respect as in the sense of being positive towards something which creates positive feelings within oneself.
You will have to read them in your own time. That will be the basis of the teaching and I will go into it as the weeks and months go by. I wanted to do an introduction for the teaching for this evening, and there is a question I will be leaving with you at the end of this class to think about.
The teaching is termed the Mahamudra, the Great Seal of Voidness. In India, before the arrival of Buddhism into Tibet, it is said that the practitioners relied on one deity for their meditation practice from which they received all their realizations. The idea behind it is is that one should try to strive for a single understanding or point of conscious awareness.All of one's practice can come from there. All one's experiences can go into that one point. It is what could be termed a point of integration. This then became termed Mahamudra. Maha means great, and mudra means the symbol or the point of integration. The black and white of the ying yang symbol is that symbol of mahamudra in the sense that it is the balance and harmony of the universe.
The most important thing is that although there are various spiritual practices, for you as a spiritual practitioner may take up the awareness of impermanence as a conscious focus. Then you would become more detached as you developed the awareness of impermanence. Your mind would not grasp to limited small phenomena. Maybe if things went wrong in the material plane, you lost possessions or something, you wouldn't be so emotionally disturbed by that because you understand the flux and flow of the universe. So impermanence would be a point where one would gain more equilibrium regarding the highs and lows of cyclic existence. Or one could move to the law of cause and effect. One becomes conscious of how one acts, one will reap so to speak. Thereby one would put emphasis to one's positive motivation and then would do activities within one's speech and body activity which would support that motivation. Being kind, polite whatever. And one's actions would try to avoid stealing or killing things, whatever.
There is a meditation focus. You could take it and then sit down, enter into concentration in to the law of cause and effect or the reality experience of impermanence. And you could then generate a very real relationship with the world within that understanding. The law of cause and effect could be very profound. If you delve into it you can gain a deep appreciation of phenomena will only change, which actually brings you into an appreciation of impermanence due to the causes and effects that interplay. No phenomena stands independent unto itself. All is interdependent. That is also understanding cause and effect.
So any of these meditative focuses which are for the improvement of one's own experience of reality are beneficial. But can one say that one can fully integrate on that one point and have the full experience of reality? On a deep or subtle level? Or on the manifest level? Is it possible to have full integration?
Really it is not possible with any one particular meditation technique, whatever you use, unless you have wisdom or realization of the ultimate nature of reality. But not just that. Tied together with with that, an appreciation of the relative level of existence, then you have an integrated practice. Because the deep level of existence of experience, of understanding, gives you freedom, gives you nirvana. But you have to be able to integrate that with the various activities of the world. And when you put them together they should not be contradictory. You should not have a problem with that the ultimate nature of reality contradicts the relative reality, or relative reality contradicts ultimate reality. They should be in harmony, and this is very important.
So although there are many spiritual practices, being virtuous, generous, patience, whatever, meditation, they can be beneficial but it is not certain they will be fully integrated for you. Even in India, in the stories of the great mahasiddhas, Naropa who was extremely educated pandit who could defeat any philosopher of any spiritual tradition by the great power of his intellect. He had terrific intellectual development. Even though he had a great understanding of ultimate and relative reality and had them put together intellectually, still he did not have experience! Once while he was reciting a prayer, a very ugly woman with twenty seven points of ugliness on her body asked him if he understood the teaching! He said yes I do. At that point she went hysterical and freaked him out! The point is she broke his arrogance about his intellectual understanding.
In meditation, in our process of trying to find integration, it is important to strive to what we term mahamudra or that single point of awareness where the practice is fully integrated, or where we can have full integration. That is termed the great seal of voidness or mahamudra and is understood as a single mind pointed consciousness, conscious awareness, which integrates all the levels of the paths, all types of spirituality into one conscious experience. And whether it could be said to be conscious understanding and then it becomes conscious experience. Another way it is referred to is, it takes the objective pole of the ultimate nature of reality and takes a subjective mind of the perceiver and makes those two non dual. So that there is no objective and subjective experience of it, there is the experience, you could say. So it removed the duality or the division between the experience and the experiencer, the observer and the observed, however one wants to term it.
And certainly, if one speaks of one's spirituality, take the Christian idea of God. You can talk of God and so you pray very hard to have the vision of God or something like that. But in one sense, if you are still in a dualistic position as the divine as there and I as here, it is not going to be beneficial for you. You have to be able to access, or gain a non dual experience. And then you can say your salvation is insured. So certainly from a Buddhist point of view, although one may have an appreciation of the ultimate nature of reality, the law of cause and effect, if one cannot enter into a non dual experience of that, then one cannot say one has the assurance that one will be liberated at the time of death or whatever. Just in the immediate moment being liberated!
The objective of the teachings that we are going to do are not artificial to what you are as a basic person. A practitioner, a person who is striving for some sort of realization of existence is a regular person. A regular person has an assumption that you are or that life is. There is no reflection about that. It is a taken as in there is the world and me and I am in the world. From that position, we strive to always be happy or to find happiness or fulfillment. In whatever activity we are involved with. Whether we are enthusiastic about life, or lazy about life and don't do many things at all. In any case, still the mind is still not questioning the nature of reality, it is just acting on the basis of I would like to be happy, for some it is to live on welfare, others strive for an education and then utilize their skills. Still all fall in the category of striving for happiness. The question is, have they reflected or wondered where they are coming from.? What is the basis of their activity? It can be termed, what is the fundamental meaning of life?
The only difference between that person and one which pursues enlightenment, is that the one which pursues realization of enlightenment spends time reflecting on where they are coming from? What is the basis of self? From within those reflections then tries to move into the activity, whatever it be! And there does not have to a negation of being a social assistance recipient or the negation of being one who worked hard in life and attained a great deal academically or whatever. All of those activities are still perfectly valid. They are no being negated or lessened by any realization. But they are understood. So that when one enters into those activities, the appreciation or the meaning of life is within the context of being involved in those activities.
I am trying to identify that all people have energy and are working with themselves in trying to be happy. In the church up the road they are praying. In the pub drinking beer! All are out there striving to do something with themselves! And you could say both have their philosophy of life. The only question being asked for ourselves is, is that let us look into ourselves and try to take what is blatant or obvious in the world around us as to the nature of reality. And when we start to penetrate that, and gain some harmony with the world seems to appear around us, or even maybe go beyond just coming in harmony, we actually gain a realization which has a clear more vivid experience of that, sort of immediately present reality. From there we learn how to move from that into and integrate that with our activities so that our whole experience of reality is in harmony with the nature of reality. All that is mahamudra. The whole point of what the mahamudra teaching is, that point of integration.
I am going to read the first paragraph, from there I will read the teachings over the coming weeks.
The Great Seal of Voidness
It is the root text of the Gelug Kargyu tradition of Mahamudra, the main path all Buddhists travel
I prostrate to mahamudra, the great seal of voidness, I prostrate to my peerless guru, the Lord of Great and Extensive Attainments, who teaches in all it's stark details the diamond hard voidness of the mind. Beyond all words, mahamudra, the Great Seal of voidness, the all pervasive nature of all things, the indistinguishable single of both objects of voidness and voidness itself.
Within that first paragraph it identifies the mahamudra as beyond words. It is not something which can be intellectually thought about. It is a diamond hard voidness of the mind, means it is indisputable. Like diamond is the hardest of all substances in the world and can cut all other things, so also with one's proper realization of the nature of reality, one can cut through all which is presented to oneself and see it in the nature of reality, or in the starkness of being the true nature of reality. It is the great seal of voidness, and the all pervasive nature of all things. It means it cannot only here and not over there. It is both in the church up the road, the pub, and this room too! It with the little puppies down the road. It is everywhere and not just in a place of being holy. It is indistinguishable, you cannot see it as separate from the immediate world you are involved with. The single nature of both objects of voidness and voidness itself. Meaning, you should not look for it outside of what is appearing to the immediate mind right now.
This is very important. Voidness isn't something outside of what is appearing to your mind itself. That is crucially important. Sometimes we look for the ultimate nature of reality as something which is something which is like we are not seeing it. But it is right here. We do not know how to see it properly. It is not separate from what we are seeing. It is indistinguishable from what we are seeing. We are completely mixed with it. So when you look at the carpet with proper understanding you should immediately know voidness, with the right mind. And you should try to do, is not just make it words, make it an experience. Because as it says in the last five words, both objects of voidness and voidness itself. So it means the voidness of the objective world and the subjective mind observing it, are also inseparable. So they have to be understood in that way. It is termed non duality.
This is very interesting. Great Saints spent years in the mountains meditating in caves on this profound subject matter. I think if you think of the zen masters where they are chopping wood and carrying water, it is to be found in all of those traditions. It is pursued by all aspirants in the sense that it is the experience of the ultimate.
The whole of this text is based on the investigation of how does one realize that mahamudra, that diamond hard mind. For this evenings meditation, I want us to look at ourselves. A lot of our existence is based on an unconscious assumption. Things are happening. So i assume it is happening. I act. I don't have a deeper reflective mind which is in appreciation of something other than just an unconscious assumption that everything is perfectly as it may seem, you could almost say. The point is, you came to this house this evening. You are sitting here, and in doing that, don't go too deeply or you will loose it, because your mind works on a superficial level.
When you came here, and if you look at the way you were thinking, like tonight is dharma, meditation and so on, in those very thoughts are the assumption of the nature of your reality. It is quaint because I can bet that if you start to delve into it, it disappears and there is like, I don't know what that assumption was any more! But if you slip back into just sitting here, and yes, it was a nice talk, I am here in this nice warm room,,, the assumption is there again. But as soon as you investigate it, it gets lost. And you can say, ah, non existence, I am a non entity. But that is i\not in harmony with reality because then you have to negate your whole existence and that is not true. You are an existing being experiencing and such.
With a little investigation you will bounce between total negation of yourself and the this unconscious assumption that everything is alright. It is a hard one to identify because it is an unconscious assumption. And as you think and function it is just sort of always there. Just behind the thoughts. And as I say, it is an unconscious one because it sort of assumes everything is perfect and alright.
The meditation for this evening is more maybe just trying to catch your mind just thinking in it's sort of unconscious way. Maybe you have to relax. Forget that you are meditating. And then the mind kicks in its internal dialogue, maybe I am going to Calgary tomorrow, something like that. And then you are thinking about something else. And when you allow yourself to relax enough, it starts happening. Then you have to have a little corner of your mind question the basis of me making these decisions? And you try to go a little deeper!
In doing that, don't end up getting nihilistic and saying there is nothing there! Get all negative with yourselves! Just be conscious of what is the assumption that I have which is the basis of a lot of my activities? Try to find that. It is all. It is a very nebulous meditation. But a very good one! As I say you are all sitting here thinking thoughts and all assuming things. And you have been assuming a lot unconsciously for quite a long time. And all I have asked you to do is assuming things in a more conscious way, or being conscious of what you have assumed!
see the movement of one's own mind.
Respsonce to question
If you try to have a concept which could embrace totality, it would be difficult. If you think about it, all the myriad experiencing and phenomena which could exist, to say that you were going to embrace totality, from the Buddhist point of view, it is said to be able to embrace totality you should make yourself empty of the assumptions about totality. And then you are approaching it better! In the sense that if there a final nature which is pervasive of all time and space, and it has to be experiential versus conceptual, then how could you approach that?
you approach it by a concept. You have to have something in the mind which sort of formulates it. Because even in a position of no concept is a concept. that is just the way the mind works. I look at it as rather than trying to assume or to postulate a concept which is trying to put something there, remember the objective is experiential conscious awareness, so to make the mind move towards that, you have to strip away the concepts or assumptions to start the mind to have experience which is, you could say, the teachings of voidness are to make conceptuality thinner and thinner. Till finally, conceptuality will leave off. Not as in to contradict what the concept is had, but to get thinner and thinner until there is a merging into the experience.
from the Buddhist side it says, don't conceive about reality. Try to back away from conceptions or assumptions of reality. And it requires initially an investigation into the assumptions. For example, the whole of tonight's meditation is a terrific meaningful one. Because in doing it, what was your individual experience? I am sure they are going to be nebulous, to find anything that can be clearly delineated. And that is exactly the point of what the Buddhists are talking about. To move towards voidness or an experience of reality, one has to first turn one awareness to what have you been assuming to be the nature of reality. And with that, then you investigate that. And from investigation, it is said you prick, or find the emptiness of your assumptions. The emptiness of the basis of your assumptions. And then you have the realization of reality!
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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