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 2 1993.
We have been working on the mahamudra for almost a year. It has been very slow, but that's what enlightenment is all about. If we have big expectations about quick enlightenment, sometimes that can be a hindrance. We should strive very hard of course to become enlightened very quickly, it is said we should work for enlightenment as if it were to be there in the next five minutes, sort of very quickly so we are very excited about it, but we should have the patience for the rest of our life time. So we should be persistent.
But, I want to initiate the process again, to bring it back into it because the teaching is very important. The context of the teaching is this. The bottom line is that we have experiences and such. And really there is very little that calls us to question reality until a crisis comes. Until someone close to us dies, or there is a major catastrophe for example, that somehow we are affected by. One of the major ones, of course is death in the family, or death of a close friend. That will affect us a great deal and we will question what is the nature of life. Why? What is going on? And such things.
From a Buddhist perspective, that is exactly what the meditation is. It is the delving into "why". Or, perhaps more appropriately, questioning as to it is happening, I am obviously affected very strongly, so maybe the question could be, is there something I am missing?
I am sure all of us drive every day. We never really look at what passes us as we drive by. We are superficial as we drive down the road. We notice this building, and so on, but we never really notice. It completely falls into we never really notice, we just notice it's a red building, and a red building is supposed to be there. Then one day it is gone, and we notice it is gone. But the thing is, the reality around us, how we experience the reality, what is happening around us, is never really brought into question until the day a crises happens, and then suddenly we question what is happening. Especially if it affects us in a negative way, then we feel emotionally depressed and have a lot of emotion. At that time, if we were intelligent, we might question as to how is it that I have been leading my life? How have I assumed the type of position I have emotionally?
The point is, we have a very unconscious existence. And on various occasions we have crises that brings us into delving into the nature of reality. Buddha Shakyamuni, who started the whole process, was a crown prince and had a wonderful life exposed to the pleasure of human existence, then at the age of twenty-eight he had a series of small awakenings as to the fact that life was not at all perfect, people do get ill and get old and die, and, that there are people who strive for a deeper spiritual meaning in life. It is said that Buddha was taken around by a charioteer. I use the term an old man, and an ill person, and a dead person, and a spiritual mendicant. It would be interesting what word in Sanskrit he used for prince Siddhartha, that made him think about it. What was the word, what was the meaning that came into his mind when he used those words. Because, it affected him so strongly that there was so much pain in the world, that there were those who strove after deeper meaning in life, that on the basis of that, within the year he gave up his kingdom, his queen, his child, wealth and all of that to leave, shave off his hair, shed his silks and jewelry. He didn't even keep a piece of it, he had that determination in mind. He wasn't twenty or younger that you could call him naive or idealistic. Yet he went off and sought various spiritual paths and finally ended up in Buddgaya meditating for six years with very deep samadhi or concentration and finally gained realization.
So from the moment he had a few small crises as to the nature of life, till final realization, he did years of practice in a very disciplined and powerful way. So Buddha did investigate the nature of reality.
For ourselves, maybe we don't think about the world properly. When things go wrong and we blow it, we do ask howl it is going. Like what is the question I can ask myself that will help me resolve some things. That is the Buddha's process. That questioning. And luckily we seem to have someone who has done fairly well in their questioning and seemed to have gained some realization. That was Buddha Shakyamuni. And from him, many Buddhist saints. Many people who accessed something very powerful because it affected the whole of Asia. At one point you could say, all of Asia was Buddhist until various other religious came along with a greater military force and removed them.
So we have the question what is the nature of reality? What is the nature of how or what I cam thinking? Like, how is it that I am thinking about things? Am I thinking in the correct way or not?
There are two reasons one wants to question in this way. First, in trying to gain some spiritual experience, you can endeavor in some spiritual works. Being a good person. Actualizing your love and compassion. Being charitable, working for others, doing good deeds. This is a very traditional Christian one, but is also very valid in the Buddhist path called the "Massing of Merit". Included is the six perfections, generosity, morality, patience, enthusiasm, meditation, and wisdom. These are all practices of which certainly generosity has a lot of different ways of being expressed. Morality also, helping others, is part of the Buddhist path. That way is the Amassing of Merit for positive force. If one does that, realizations will become because of it's positive quality and nature.
It is not that one has simply to do good actions. One has to be intelligent and understand. One dedicates ones prayers, one has to have wisdom. If one just does good deeds but without a very pure intention, then the power of the positive actions are weak, really. So one must have sincerity, purity, good intention. And if we do that, that amasses merit. That merit will bring about spiritual realizations.
Secondly, the other route is the development of wisdom. Wisdom is not dry intellectual pursuit, but rather an investigation into the nature of reality which then affects the way you do your activities or meritorious deeds. And the better your wisdom is, the more powerful your virtuous deeds will be because you have a deeper understanding behind them. You can say, the path of good works is really a path of faith. It is important though that the faith be intelligent. In Buddhism that is strongly stressed. As for the path of wisdom, it needs to be incorporated with the path of activity, whether the act of meditation or whatever virtuous thing you do. It should not be just dry intellectual wisdom. Yet to do that, it is more powerful because you understand better.
This is the context I am trying to establish. I am living. I am experiencing things, and things sometimes do not work out. And I don't like that. I like to be more understanding of the nature of reality. Because if I understand it, at least I can accept it. If I don't understand it, I get angry and upset and I am really unhappy. That is what I am saying. That is what Buddha did. He had a few shocks, and questioned and delved into his own inner being. So that is the issue I am bringing up. That is the point of mahamudra and of all of the teachings over the last stretch of time we have been delving into.
That being the cause, from the Buddha's teachings, it says there are two levels of truth, the relative or mundane, that's it,whatever we are seeing, and this is called the conventional because it is the conventions which the regular world lives by. The ultimate level has to be the final level, the conclusion where nothing goes beyond it, nothing extra. That has got to be it. That is the ultimate nature. It is not that if you get to this level of understanding then there is something else after that. That has got to be it.
For a buddhist there are those two areas to investigate. The relative and the ultimate. We will not talk about ultimate right now, but the relative has got to be an analysis or investigate into how things work. Like I am sitting here watching you moving and breathing. That awareness that I can generate, an observation, is a wisdom of the mundane workings of things. It has implication because if we do investigate properly and we have been living our life in a mistaken, the implications will be that we have to change our attitude or view. And that will help us deal better with who we are and where we are going, how we are doing what we are doing with ourselves. So that investigation into the relative level is important.
On thing said in Buddhism is that there is no inherent nature to phenomena. By that is meant that no phenomena expresses it's own nature. Watch does not say it is watch on it's side. Pants don't say pants on their own side, and so on. If someone from a different part of the world comes here, they don't look at light and say light because light says it's own name, they will look at it and will have their own word for it. They will see the phenomenon, but it does not have it's own intrinsic nature. Like you can't cut the shaft of light down and take it apart and find light, something that the nature of word labelled "light". It has to have a light bulb, current from some dam somewhere that is creating electricity, and many other factors. All those things make it that it does not have a unique and intrinsic nature. It has a very diversified nature, an interdependent nature. That is real Buddhist philosophy, that everything is interdependent.
If you can open your mind to that, we have many times meditated on even being aware of the breathing process. In that alone is incredible realizations because you start to recognize that your body in intricately involved in the atmosphere, if we took away the atmosphere, we couldn't breathe and we would be dead. That is interdependence. The ramifications of that are profound if you allow yourself to go into it. You are fully an interdependent being.
Now, let's talk about personality.I'm sure many of you sit there there and think that at all times you are you. "There is still me. I close my eyes and there is me with my eyes closed!" Yet, for a Buddhist, for that process of investigation, in Buddhism we talk about emptiness. So that means when I go inside myself there has to be something there which isn't there. Or there is something there which I assume is there which isn't there. Which means that there is something which has been taken away, or an emptiness. That there is sort of a vacuity or a hole? Or maybe you think when you close your eyes, you think there is still me here. So I am very real and cannot understand this!
But, we are investigating relative level of truth. You have to remember this. It is relative. It is just the functioning. It is - what is making my wrist watch work, is the relative sort of interdependence of the little battery and the little things, whatever makes it work. Like that. We are talking about when I close my eyes, my personality is sitting in there and it is functioning with my body and it is giving it's little impulses and such. And I am sitting in there. And what is going on, difficult to believe and understand?
I think the impportant thing is to forget about emptiness because it gives the wrong understanding. And why I have this leggo block, this is the leggo realization you are going to have! is, that is like me. Like any of us. Like a human existence. Now, what is being said from the Buddhist perspective, is easy to understand. Take a tree outside, it is fully interdependent because it draws the moisture up, it breathes the atmosphere around, it responds to sunlight. It is an organic relationship with the world around and it is fully interdependent. My body is fully interdependent. Easy as pie to get. Me! Well I'm here but I am selfless? I'm ego-less? Like in Buddhism they say I am ego-less. Well, what the hell, I have to cut something out of my brain, and then I have sort of got some kind of realization. If that is the understanding, then that is actually a misunderstanding! You have somehow missed the point! Because you have attacked yourself and you are looking for something. In looking for it, like Buddha said there is a self-lessness, like non-self existence.
In saying that, there is problems because people think that somehow they are non-existent, whereas they feel very existent. Like if I close my eyes, I still feel very much there! I didn't go anywhere, I didn't become non-existent! So what is the Buddha talking about!
That is not the point. Rather, there is the body, meat bones and blood that make up the body. Then we have the mental feelings, good feelings, bad feelings, or indifferent feelings. Then we have the perceptions, the ability to perceive things around me, hear sounds, sense warmth or coldness, taste, smell, touch. Then there is the ability to think, such as when I get a sensation, and my body is cold, I realize I am sitting by a drafty place, so I move. That is part of the thinking process, a volition. Finally, there is conscious energy, energy to move. Energy is the transmitter of sensation, so it is sort of related to the physical. I don't know, but there is energy. If someone gets very angry, or we have a feeling off of someone, that is conscious energy.
From a Buddhist perspective, any one of you, all the parts of you could be shuffled into those things. All the physical aspects of the body, feelings, perceiving aspect of the mind, thinking ability of the mind, and the energy which runs through the body which you can experience in various ways, all those should cover all bases. If we got into a deep analysis, if you tried to come up with one, it's supposed to all fit in there. That is the pie of human existence has been divided into those areas.
When you talk about interdependent existence, it does not mean that you are going to destroy yourself, say that you are non existent. Say that you are not self existent. Rather, it means to recognize that you are an interdependent phenomena. That then says that if you sit down and analyze yourself, Then you should be able to take the various little blocks of your conscious experience and facets, if you relax, and come up with the little divisions as to how you divide yourself. But you should be able to say, there is that part of me that is recognized, that part of me that seems to include those things. And so forth, and that is me. You didn't take anything away, because the important thing is that there is nothing to be taken away in the observing of how you experience yourself. You don't shoot yourself in the head, what you do is allow yourself to fully participate in a conscious way as to how you are existing.
That is the whole discourse tonight. That is, in your investigation, no one said at any time that you were supposed to find your non-existence. What you are supposed to find is the dynamic quality of your interdependent existence. That realization, which I will go into later, has unbelievable ramifications for you, in how you relate to yourself, how you relate to your friends, how you relate to your world, and everyone. Lots of ramifications. But you only get the ramifications if you understand this one. And this understanding didn't mean that you killed yourself or somehow went to a state of unconsciousness, like I am blissed out and it was gone and there was this empty voidness. That is not the process involved with wisdom. The process of developing wisdom is the understanding which gives you power to better participate in the world, to better relate in the world. It really comes down to how to be happy. That is the whole process.
The Buddhist attainment of nirvana, the word Lama Yeshe gave us, called "everlasting happiness". That is something which sounds nice. I'd like ever lasting happiness, I don't know about everyone else! So the point of all of this is to have ever lasting happiness. It is not, it is really important, I didn't take any part of the leggo cube and throw it away! I didn't melt it down and destroy it, did I? So when you investigate yourself, you don't destroy or do anything to any part of yourself. When you close your eyes and sit there and say I am really here, that is perfectly alright because it is a valid conscious experience. You don't say this does not exist, it exists, you are experiencing it. What you need to do is to be able to understand better all the various things. And all it requires initially is to be able to come to recognize the five parts I identified.
So tonight's meditation is the ability to sit down and allow yourself to take an object, say a tree, and to allow yourself to go into the completely interdependent nature of the tree. That no part of that tree is separated outside from any other part of the tree. It all has to be there together to live healthily. And you have to recognize that it is not like the outer part of the tree is separate from the inner parts. All have to be there for the tree to be there in a healthy way. You have to have a holistic tree which is included in the whole world around it. When you have that, then you can say to yourself, that is interdependent origination, then allow yourself to focus internally upon your mind. You don't kill anything, you just allow yourself to start to reflect on the inter-dependent nature.
If you want to do something more direct, do your own body and its breathing of air. The bottom line of the whole meditative process is I want to be happy, I want to have the true key to happiness, not a fabricated or false one, if I am just pumping a dogma which doesn't have truth to it, what is the use of that? So we want to in tune with reality. And just as I want to be happy, I am sure everyone else wants to be happy, so expand your mind to be more universal. And having done that, start to process of developing the wisdom side of your being by investigation and observation.
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