OVERVIEW OF MAHAYOGA CHYÉRIM PRACTICE: THE CHIDÖN
Morning Teaching, April 24,1999
Introduction to the Nine Yanas
I would like to request the participants here to arouse bodhicitta before we begin this session of teachings and to listen to the teachings with the proper conduct as described in the sutras and tantras. In listening to the teachings, we understand that there are teachings according to all levels of beings. This particular teaching is the teaching for those who have supreme faculties. The teachings for the beings of supreme faculties are the teachings of the Tantrayana. The teachings of the Tantrayana are known as the teachings of the fruition yana.
There are also the causal yanas such as the
the Pratyekabuddhayana and the
The Shravakayana teaching are for beings of inferior faculties, the teachings of the Pratyekabuddhayana are for beings of medium faculties, and the teachings of the Bodhisattvayana are for beings of supreme faculties.
Within the Bodhisattvayana there are both the causal and fruitional yana teachings. The causal yana teachings are the teachings on the Prajnaparamita that the Buddha gave in person at Rajgir, and the fruitional yana teachings are the Tantrayana teachings, like those on the Kalachakra, that the Buddha taught during his lifetime. However, for the most part, the Buddha just made predictions about the Tantrayana teachings coming into the world.
Within the Tantrayana there are
the three Outer Tantras.
Then we have the three Inner Tantras in which there are
the Father Lineage,
Mother Lineage and the
Those are the general terms.
The Mother Lineage teachings focuses on the channels, winds, and essences-for example, like the Chakrasamvara teachings of the New Schools. Finally, the teachings on the nature itself, the very nature of beings, is known to be the Non-dual lineage, like the Kalachakra teachings. Whether it’s the New School [[[Sarma]]] or Old School [[[Nyingma]]], the above is all general knowledge.
The atiyoga focuses mainly on the teachings on the very nature of sentient beings’ mind. What one needs to understand is that within these, the chyerim or [[mahayoga] teachings on visualization are more the outer teachings, the [[[anuyoga]]]] or dzogrim teachings on the
This teaching was given as part of the 1999 Guru Sadhana Retreat. Rinpoche gave talks on the view, and commentary talks on the sadhana itself (which are included in full in the sadhana manual) and asked that the two types of teachings be kept separate. This teaching was the first of the “view” talks.
channels, winds, and essence are more the inner teachings, and the [[[atiyoga]]] teachings on the very nature of the mind are the secret teachings. As another way of looking at, one can understand that the chyerim or mahayoga teachings are like the ground, the teachings on the psychic channels, winds, essence and the yoga practice are like the path, and the atiyoga practice is the fruition.
For instance, the chyerim practice concerns the visualization of the environment, the individual’s body, speech and mind and how it relates with the gross elements of one’s existence. The anuyoga practice-the teachings on the psychic winds and channel- relates with the subtle part of one’s existence. Finally, atiyoga relates with the nature itself. And that nature is secret.
In the Guhyagarbha teachings there are two kinds of secret: self-secret and the hidden secret. Self-secret means the nature is self-secret to all sentient beings, therefore sentient beings have not realized the nature. Due to not having realized the nature, sentient beings are wandering in samsara, caught in the delusions. That is how the nature is self-secret.
Then there are the hidden teachings. What does this mean? For example, if one reveals the teachings prematurely to a sentient being whose karma has not ripened to the point of their understanding and being open to the teachings, to have the teachings penetrate their mind and their emotions and do what the teachings are supposed to do-the appreciation of the teachings will not be met by the being’s mind. And if there is no appreciation, the opposite occurs, with there being an un-appreciation for the teachings. In that way the value of the teachings is brought down.
Therefore, the teachings are kept hidden, secret, until the appropriate time. On the other hand, the secret teachings are non-conceptual-they have to be practiced and they have to be experienced. People who do not have the good fortune of their karma being ripened or the ones who have the good fortune but are not there yet with their progress, will not be able to understand the teachings in this experiential way. What often happens in this case is that people will conceptualize the teachings.
This conceptualization in a way defiles and corrupts the teachings.
In addition, the reason to keep the teachings secret is that the teachings on the mahayoga, anuyoga or atiyoga and their view are incredibly vast and complex; they are incredibly outrageous and actually provocative to the conventional mind and the conventional narrow way of thinking. If one is not ready to take the leap from the conventional mind from the narrow way of thinking, one will not be able to appreciate the teachings.
One will not only defile the teachings, but one could potentially develop negative thoughts or negative emotions towards the teachings, which would ultimately be harmful to oneself. Therefore, for the protection of beings it is very important to keep the tantrayana teachings secret. This is why the teachings are called “secret.”
Of these teachings, mahayoga teachings are considered outer teachings; anuyoga teachings are the inner teachings and atiyoga teachings are the secret teachings. If there is no path of atiyoga, there is no path of enlightenment. That which is the path of enlightenment is the most pithy and the most essential. If it is not protected it could become more and more defiled and more and more corrupted and more and more misunderstood.
Then, over time people will just be left with something that is not genuine. Over time the teachings could even turn into something fake. Even if you read, even if you study, even if you contemplate, even if you understand, if you think you understand, it will all be fake. That’s why it’s very important to preserve and protect the teachings. That is the general idea of it.
In the tantrayana teachings, eight tantrayana traditions have come to Tibet over time. These teachings we are learning about today are of the Old School, the Nyingma School. And in the Nyingma School we have the kama and the terma. The kama are the oral transmissions coming from Samantabhadra himself or Vajradhara himself down to the present time. Masters pass the teachings down to the students and then the students become masters themselves and continue passing down the teachings in an unbroken golden lineage-the golden chain of the lineage through oral transmission. That’s the kama.
The very unique thing about the Nyingma teachings are the terma teachings. The terma teachings originated even before Guru Rinpoche. In the Akanishta Buddhafield Vajradhara turned the wheel of the Vajrayana teachings and has consistently been turning the wheel of Vajrayana teachings. Ananda is the gatherer of all the Sutrayana teachings that Buddha taught. Vajrapani (Tib. Sangwa Dakpo) is the gatherer of all the Vajrayana teachings that have been taught in the past and that are being taught in the present.
He hid the mahayoga teachings, particularly the mahayoga teachings of the Nyingmapa, the Kyabje, the eight Heruka teachings, in the great charnel ground of Siwatsal (“Cool Grove”)-some of you have been there. In the space there, there is supposed to be a stupa that can only be seen by fortunate beings. In that stupa the Vajrayana teachings of the mahayoga were hidden by Vajrapani himself. Later each of the eight Herukas (or the eight Mahapanditas) went there and revealed each of the Heruka’s teachings such as Yamantanka, Vajrakilaya etc.
Subsequently, Guru Rinpoche came and revealed what had not yet been revealed by the eight Mahapanditas-who are the great Herukas themselves. Guru Rinpoche also received teachings from all the Eight Herukas and brought them to Tibet. This is the terma lineage of the mahayoga teachings. Guru Rinpoche himself gave the Eight Heruka initiations to the twenty-five disciples of the Tibet. Each of the twenty-five disciples, while doing the practice of their particular deity has had the fortune to connect with the teachings. They all attained the true nature of their enlightened mind and attained the siddhi.
Through attaining the siddhi they performed miracles. In some of the thangkas you can see the twenty-five disciples either flying or performing various other miracles. This happened when Guru Rinpoche gave the initiation and the twenty-five disciples did the practice. Through Guru Rinpoche’s instruction, the dakini Yeshe Tsogyal hid the mahayoga teachings throughout Tibet. At different times various tertons came and revealed those teachings. It always happened at the appropriate time to benefit beings of that particular era by that particular terton with that particular teaching.
This terma tradition comes from Jigme Lingpa, Kiinchyen Jigme Lingpa, omniscient Jigme Lingpa. Omniscient Jigme Lingpa revealed the teachings of Rigdzin Diipa, which is the essence of all of the Eight Herukas. It is the practice of not only the Eight Herukas but the Guru Yoga of the Eight Herukas. When you practice the deity and the guru as one, there is a much more powerful effect. In the Rigdzin Diipa practice we do the practice of the Eight Herukas in the form of the guru. For instance, Guru Rinpoche is surrounded by the Eight Vidyadharas. The Eight Vidyadharas are actually the deity manifested in the form of the guru.
So, this treasure was revealed by the Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa who is the founder of the Longchen Nyingthik tradition. In the Longchen Nyingthik tradition we have again, the chyerim teachings, the dzogrim teachings, the dzogchen teachings.
In the chyerim teachings we have the practice of Rigdzin Diipa and the practice of Palchen Diipa and other practices like Vajrakilaya, Wrathful Garuda etc. There are many of them but the main one is the Rigdzin Diipa practice. The dakini practice that we have in this terma tradition-Dechen Gyalmo-is an Anuyoga practice. Along with the dakini practice we go into the tsalung practice. This is the practice of the psychic channels, winds and bindus; it is the upper gate and the lower gate practice-utilizing one’s own body as skillful means and the other’s body as a method to progress in that same practice.
Chyerim practice uses manipulation of our perceptions and mind to wake up
The point is to wake up. In all cases, whether it’s the teachings of the chyerim practice, or the dzogrim, whether it’s the practice of Ati, the essential point is for the practice to have some effect on one’s mind, on how the perception perceives phenomena, how the mind functions. And beyond that, to wake up to one’s enlightened nature. That is the essence. There is some manipulation involved in the chyerim practice, in the dzogrim practice, in the practice of visualization, in the practice of yoga. There is manipulation going on with one’s perceptions, on one’s sixth consciousness.
The manipulation is done in order to transform the perceptions, to transform the continuum of the sixth consciousness and dissolve the obscurations that exist in the perception that exists in the sixth, seventh and eighth consciousnesses. However, the manipulation or the contrivance alone is not going to do it. It has to be based upon reality-reality of how phenomena truly exist. How phenomena truly exist has nothing to do with how we perceive them or how we mentally think of them to exist. For instance, a person with jaundice perceives the snow mountain as yellow and thinks of the mountain as yellow. That has nothing to do whatsoever with the fact of the snow mountain being white. In this way we perceive the phenomena in a dualistic way, in a defiled way. We think of the phenomena as very intrinsic, solid and in a very samsaric way.
There is no need of an introduction to that; you could just experience the perceptions that you have and the mental continuum that you have now and see how much negativity there is in them. That applies to everything we perceive with our ayatanas-in a subject-object way. We also perceive it in very gross and suffering ways. Anything that we think of and perceive, we do so in a dualistic way: subject and object, with a gap between the subject and object, along with many negative emotions of attachment, aggression, jealousy, pride and arrogance and their resultant confusions. With even just one thought occurring in your mind, you can observe how much pain and suffering there is in it. It’s incredible.
If that is reality then there is no enlightenment to be found. This would have to be enlightenment-the way we perceive it, how we are actually experiencing the phenomenal world now with our mind. This has to be enlightenment. However, since this is illusion and not reality, we may be able to work with it and overcome it. We may actually be able to perceive the phenomena in a different way and experience the phenomena of our world and our existence, the whole universe, in a different way. Therefore, there is enlightenment. There is enlightenment beyond what exists for us now, how we experience it now. If this is to be taken as reality, there is no point in searching for enlightenment outside of this. Since this is not reality there is a point in searching for enlightenment beyond this.
How do we search for it? We search for it through the means of engaging in practice. This practice has to be based upon view. The view has to be based upon reality. The reality is based upon how things exist in the awakened state, not in confusion, not in illusion. We have to accept that right now we are in illusion. We are trapped in confusions. Otherwise there is no point in seeking enlightenment beyond what we are experiencing. But the illusion and confusion are temporary. We could actually awaken ourselves from the illusion and confusion. We have to accept that there are illusions and confusions.
But we also have to accept that these are temporary, that this illusion is dissolvable. We are eligible to wake ourselves up to the reality and experience the view as it is taught in the Tantrayana teachings accurately, with a genuine sense of experience, not just hypothetically, conceptually or idealistically, but based on experience. We also have to understand and accept that it will take the study of the view, the practice of the view and it will take the path. The path has to have an unbroken lineage that has worked until this point. We need the lineage and the pith instructions of that lineage. If we do not have the lineage, if we do not have the view, the path and the pith instructions of the lineage, how is it possible to do this? It is not possible to do this. Therefore we have to appreciate the lineage and we have to join the lineage and practice, receive the pith instructions and apply them.
The necessity of merit
There are hundreds of lineages, hundreds of paths, hundreds of pith instructions. All are very profound. But individuals must have the merit. All of you for instance, you are all here right now receiving teachings, and you will all, at some point, do the practice. But you also have to apply yourself fully. In order to even apply yourself fully you have to have the merit. Without merit even if you had the intention you would not be able to apply yourself. Or even if you have the intention and even if you apply yourself, your mind has to be open. This openness is very important. In order for you to have and experience that openness, you have to have merit.
Merit will actually provide the necessary conditions to be open and to not be stuck. In some sense, all the obstacles that you experience are karmic debts coming to fruition. Whether you like it or not, accept it or not they are karmic, samsaric seeds coming to fruition. The relationships, the struggle with jobs, struggle with your emotional states, struggle with your mental states, struggle with your physical states-all are samsaric karmic seeds coming to fruition. Not having enough positive merit to counteract that or to overcome it, you are unable to truly apply yourself and replace those karmic seeds.
Merit is very important and there are many ways of accumulating merit. In essence, merit is the most important, isn’t it? There is no path, no enlightenment that has ever been achieved that has not been dependent on merit. Therefore, on the path, it is said that you have to accumulate merit.
There are two kinds of accumulation of merit: relative and absolute. Relative merit works to set up the kinds of conditions we have been talking about. Absolute merit dissolves the obscurations. So, in some sense, from the beginning of your path, from taking refuge onwards, doing the ngondro practice-it’s all relative merit. The relative merit works on one’s mind and one’s emotions, one’s seeds. You know that you have come along this far. From this point on it will be dependent upon merit, the relative merit. How one will be able to work with one’s mind and one’s emotions and one’s seeds to be able to do the practice well depends upon the merit.
Hopefully, as you have done the practice well in the ngondro, the practice has worked with this sort of mind and emotions and the seeds to be able to come this far. The practice has to work in that way. That is relative merit.
Absolute merit comes from the practice on the nature of mind. From the beginning of the Longchen Nyingthik path you have started with the nature of mind. You were able to have a first glimpse that has awakened you from illusion for a moment. However you experienced that, it introduced you to a different level of consciousness and has given you hope of being able to awaken completely. If that hope is not present, if that hope is not given, there won’t be any belief that it is ever possible to get off one’s ordinary mind and get on with something else.
Being able to do the session practice, the nature of mind practice until this point, you have seen how setting conditions in a different way enables you to manipulate the mind. You have seen how thinking in terms of the Dharma and applying yourself with the practice of the ngondro or The Words of My Perfect Teacher, it does work. Ultimately speaking, if it’s all manipulation of thoughts and emotions and not something beyond that, it won’t work; it would reverse.
If it is all conditioned, it will not work, ultimately. There is a great chance of reversing. There is a great chance of becoming totally lost again and feeling like you have to hold onto the views. It is important to have that experience of something else happening, beyond applying the teachings. Beyond applying the wisdom of the Words of My Perfect Teacher. Something else has happened. What has happened? You have seen the true benefit of practice. Whether big or small, the true benefit of practice has to be some sense of liberation.
If it is just one thought to another thought, it is still a thought and there is still the distress of having a thought. Liberation is a sense of being able to go beyond all thoughts and all emotions and being able to find peace from the effects of the dualistic mind and the experience of confusion and distress of the dualistic mind. That’s why, I believe, you are all still here. Otherwise, I very much imagine that you would be not so loyal to your lineage or to your guru or your own practice, to your own path. That taste, even though it is not much of a taste, has kept you, in some ways, interested and inspired and longing to go forward, and is why everyone is here.
Fragility and insisting to remain stuck in who we are
But at this point it is very fragile. That inspiration, that longing, that sense of experience is very, very fragile. The experience itself is actually momentary in your practice. The effect of that experience is very fragile. Right now, it’s very easy for you guys to get confused about the Dharma, about the guru, about the lineage, about one’s sense of purpose of being a practitioner. Any time any the conditions change slightly in your environment you’re all in flux and very vulnerable. But as time goes by, hopefully, things will change and you will become much more stable.
The way to get stable is not through the thought education. Of course, the thought education is very important. But the experience and the true sense of growing confidence in the experience is what can make you a stable practitioner and make you progress as a practitioner and go forward on the path; it is what allows you to get closer and closer to the sense of being a genuine practitioner and the ultimate purpose of that. There is both a temporary purpose and an ultimate purpose of that. The temporary purpose of that is to actually cope with samsara, to be able to live in samsara but not sink in it. The ultimate purpose is to attain enlightenment, to awaken. But if you stay where you are and insist on staying where you are, then you will always be where you are.
It won’t happen on it’s own. You will stay where you are, without even knowing it. The way you insist on staying where you are is by being attached to your conventional life, conventional world, all of your samsaric perceptions, samsaric mental continuum or emotions that we have all inherited. If you insist on staying there, you’re going to stay there. There’s really no way to get in there and get somebody out if somebody is insisting. Therefore, it is important to make even little steps in one’s emotional mind or in one’s mental continuum to be able to take a leap, a leap towards embracing the Dharma and the view of the Dharma and show the courage to become a true practitioner.
Some people say, “Oh, I’m practicing the nature of mind, I’m practicing Mahamudra, I’m practicing Dzogchen.” But if their emotions stay the same and they insist on staying the same and being caught and totally bewildered by it-even more so than ordinary people-then it is really questionable how the practice is actually serving or doing any good. There has to be a balance, with the absolute nature really loosening your mind and freeing you from your ordinary ways of thinking and ordinary ways of being stuck in your emotions. At the same time you are also making the leap. It cannot be all manipulation of thoughts and emotions with the conceptual view. Likewise, we cannot just expect that the practice alone will do its work. You have to understand karma.
The practice works, but also requires taking a leap
Practice may work immediately, as all of you have experienced at those times when you are really practicing and are able to connect with the practice. There seems to not be much struggle. There seems to not be much struggle even if there are things you’re struggling with. In that moment, there seems to be no struggle. But then when you close your pecha or you come out of your practice, struggle is back fully, the same way as before.
And then you feel discouraged. Quite discouraged. “Why is it that when I’m practicing there seems to be no struggle but when I close my pecha or when I come out it seems to be the same old struggle?” Same old stress or distress, the pain and suffering are all there. Why? That’s because practice works. The remedy is not powerful enough to overcome all of the obscurations at once or all of the defiled states of mind, from beginning to end. It works for that period of time.
And to have that period of time’s experience, it’s evidence that it works. It’s proof for you, not for anyone else, that it works. But it doesn’t take care of everything completely without you applying it in the relative, and actually working with your mind. You have to work with your mind with the teachings, and if you work with your mind with the teachings it won’t be so simple and easy. It will take a leap. And making the leap will over time, work with the seeds, work with the habitual tendencies, the bagchak. Over time the bagchak becomes weaker and weaker and you become much more able to find freedom from your own bagchak and from your own tendencies. And that’s how one can make progress. So, one has to make a leap in the relative sense.
The practice must become experiential to work and for the lineage to survive
There are many paths within the Vajrayana. I have tremendous faith in all of the teachings of the Vajrayana and particularly in the path of the Longchen Nyingthik-the path that we are all on. It is not going to survive, nor could we keep peoples’ interest and inspire them to go further if there is no actual experience, if it’s just a dry conceptual thing. Dry conceptual things can only work for the time being.
People who are interested in dry, conceptual things will be interested in dry, conceptual things. But at some point, that becomes boring and stale. If it isn’t experiential then why would this lineage survive? Why would peoples’ interest and inspiration be continuous even though they make very little progress, even though they find very little openness to make a change in their life due to lack of merit? I call it lack of merit-that way it’s clear that it is not the person’s fault. Even though the person is in some sense responsible, it’s not as though the person is bad. It’s more like one’s karma is making the person the way they are.
And yet, we can’t simply think that karma just runs one’s life and we have no freedom or choice within our own hands. It’s not like everything is predestined by karma. Karma is present and there are delicate contemplations to do with that. It is one’s choice, but it’s also karma. Karma reflects one’s mind and mind reflects the karma. In essence, what I’m trying to say is that the lineage of Longchen Nyingthik is going to survive and benefit beings, bring people along in the path to the ultimate fruit ONLY if there is actual experience. That is, the real sense of experience that relates with your everyday mind and everyday emotions and everyday suffering, and through that, finding yourself becoming more and more free and liberated. But if you insist to be a sufferer then there will not be that effect.
Developing faith in the teachings and in one’s experience
In many people I see lack of faith in the Dharma, lack of faith in the teachings, lack of faith in their own experience and in their own mind. They have much more faith in the confusions, have more loyalty to their defiled emotions, and are validating their confusions. Think about this; it is a very interesting thing-validating one’s confused emotions. People often insist on suffering and on not making a jump.
Now, if people are doing that, what can the lineage do? What can the teacher do? The teacher can’t do anything, if you insist. In that sense, you have to understand your obstacles or your negative karma. Karmic seeds are working on you at those times. Even while I’m talking it may sound like I’m trying to trick you into believing something that you don’t want to believe, or that you want to be suspicious of. You would rather be suspicious.
But the reality is that there is very little time. Even if we live to be eighty, there’s very little time. For instance, Gary or Kelly and Ann, you are already in your 40’s and 50’s. Time is very limited. We can be patient with ourselves or with the students, but at the same time it’s not like we have infinite time. We are faced with that and we have to consider it.
It really boils down to how badly you want this path. How badly do you want liberation, how badly do you really want to believe in the path and liberation? If you do, I think any necessary stretch to embrace the view, even though in the beginning it feels a little awkward or foreign or conceptual, unsettling, provoking many doubts and different things, you would make the jump. Like Naropa made the jump off the ten-story tower because he wanted the teachings from Tilopa.
I’m not suggesting for anyone to jump like that, but this can be interpreted on many different levels. Everyone can relate to this with his or her own mind. You also have to be perceptive of your mind and where you are closed and where you are stuck, where you are not making the jump. I realize everyone is fragile. But even though peoples’ minds are unstable, fragile and vulnerable to obstacles and confusions and negative conditions taking over their lives, still peoples’ faith in the lineage, in the teachings, in the relationship with me, is there. Based on what? The existence of this faith is based on your experience and because of that experience I think you are all still Dharma students, still practitioners and find inspiration and longing to go forward. I rejoice in that. That is still the ground; we still have ground.
If you actually look outside-not to put down other people-but many people don’t even have that ground. They are much more vulnerable. They are Buddhist and practitioners today, but tomorrow they might actually become a butcher. There’s a very big possibility of that because the conditions of one’s mind and emotions are all that is there, and those always change. In those cases, there is no other reference beyond the conditions of one’s mental thinking and emotions. I rejoice that we have the ground-and you and I both have to accept that. It’s not a personal thing; I don’t take it personally. When somebody actually shows openness and inspiration and longing to go forward, I don’t take it personally. I see that as that person’s own experience working, working on their own mind.
Personally speaking it is very unimportant, in some sense, isn’t it? Even if how the student relates with the guru may seem very important to the guru, actually it is important only in principle. It is not the case that the guru needs someone to tie his shoes and that will please the guru, or that the guru is dependent on the student to tie his shoes. It’s much more in the principle, and if the experience is working, then the person comes along better. But if the experience is not working no matter how close the person is to the guru physically, they are in the same breath going farther and farther from the meaning of the whole thing. So, you have to accept and I have to accept that we have an experience here as a ground of Dharma. We have the practice truly working with one’s mind and emotions on the thought level with application of teachings. In essence the teachings are thoughts working with our confusions and our confused thoughts and emotions.
Glimpsing the nature as the very root of all our inspiration and determination
On the level of experience, we are able to have a glimpse of the nature. The nature has to work. If it’s just the nature and not anything in relation to the mind and emotions then what good will come of that nature? It has to work with the mind and emotions, and yourself. And you have seen it work, you have experienced it at work in your meditation practice; you have found liberation on your own cushion. That’s why people are changing. Otherwise how would people ever change? People wouldn’t change; people are rigid, more rigid than a horn. You could carve a horn and make it into any shape, but people are much more rigid than that.
Yet, there are many rigid people here who have changed and made tremendous progress. Some people have made progress in an easy way; some people made progress in a hard way. Those people who have made changes in a hard way, I don’t think it is a result of being able to work better with me and being able to listen to me or cultivate a relationship with me on a different level. A lot of people think that way, but that’s not it. It’s actually one’s own mind and one’s own experience that are making the difference. For instance Natasha or Deana-things that are changing in you are changing because of your experience not because of outer things, something outside of your own experience. You have to honor that experience, otherwise, you would be insisting on staying the same.
The reason I am emphasizing all of this is to lay the foundation in this first sadhana talk. I want to, in a way, visit where you are, where your mind is and what is happening to your mind and put things in perspective. Take a look at what your life as a practitioner has been or is now. In this way you can see what to do next, how you can progress. If you don’t know where you are, where your mind is as a practitioner, how would you know where you are going or what you have to do and how to do it? It would be very difficult to know that. In all the teachings it is a leap. In the Vajrayana teachings it’s a bigger leap.
Before we make this leap we have to know that we have two choices: make the leap or insist on staying where we are. If you insist on staying where you are even though the practice has a great effect on you, it becomes pointless. It defeats the purpose. But again, you have to understand that you have a choice here. I am trying to communicate that you have a choice here because if I don’t try to communicate that you have a choice here, most likely, unconsciously you’ll insist to stay where you are. While at the same time trying to make a leap. Both at the same time are not going to work. So, one has to work.
You can’t move one step forward and one step backwards and then expect to get far. This is what I sometimes feel that people are doing with their mind. I don’t blame you for having doubts. Everybody has doubts. It’s not such a big deal to have doubts. It’s not such a big deal to have emotions. It’s not such a big deal to have confusions-we’re all samsaric sentient beings. But if you insist on staying confused, if you insist on finding reasons to hold on to your emotions and validate your perceptions, then it’s not just only having confusions. It is that fundamentally something is shifting and you don’t want it to shift. You want to come back, close back up. You want to close it off because you are afraid, threatened by going to another level of being. So, you want to go back to your old ways right away. I find this to be the biggest obstacle for the students.
=Going deeper is more important than just doing all the right things=
At the same time it’s not like you just have to do the right things and that will take care of everything. Its not just that you apply the teachings, follow the guru’s commands or the words, and be a sincere, serious practitioner, doing all the right things and then it will all work out. It’s not going to work out. We have evidence of that kind of thing, for instance, with Vern. It’s not going to work out that way.
There has to be something happening in a deeper level of a person, deeper level of a person’s being. The person has to go through some process of falling apart and then be able to put oneself together, going into a state of confusion and also clarity. And one has to know the confusion and the clarity and accept the experience of the falling apart of your old habits and all your conditions. Then putting yourself back together with a sense of well being that comes, not from outer conditions and trying to insist on your conditions but from deep within, but from a deeper sense of who you are as a practitioner, who you are as a realized being-a being who has realized the nature.
So, in that sense, the process is not bad. The process is really not bad, but the closing off of the process, solidifying the process in one way or another works against one’s benefit. Most of the time people don’t get to that point. I feel in many cases people don’t even get there. They’re floating on the surface. They know it and I know it. Its like they’re not in touch. They’re just superficially applying the teachings and doing the “right things” and there isn’t anything happening in the deeper levels. Everyone has an experience. But as to how far that experience goes, there is a depth and a level to that.
How it works against your well being or the core being. For instance, David here, he’s such a nice guy. Because he’s too nice a guy, sometimes maybe what’s happening underneath, deep down, is unknown. Hopefully being a nice guy and being in touch with what’s happening underneath comes together or becomes one. And who David is, a nice guy, a wonderful person-if it’s a true reflection of what’s happening underneath-despite his struggles, his confusions, his pain, despite feeling lost much of the time, it would be like two parts of David coming together. What’s core and what’s surface coming together and becoming one.
Please don’t take me wrong - I don’t want you guys just to behave well. This is not a talk on the behaving well and doing the right thing. It’s not. It’s more about really observing what’s happening on a deeper level and how practice is actually helping or not helping. How you could make practice help you and make the leap, not insist on being confused. In that sense there will be shinjang all the way through. Shinjang is like when you work out in a gym, you go through a lot of pain. At the same time after going through the work out, the pain also has a sense of well being to it.
That sense of well being comes from going through the pain of the workout. It is the same in the practice of meditation. When you are just sitting, at first you are very agitated, your body is a hurting, you have aches and pains but you are still remaining on the cushion and you’re still holding a good posture and you’re just letting go. And when you let go of that for a while then there is shinjang in the body; your body feels a great stillness. Everybody has felt that, right?
After going through the agitation and the pain and the aches, your body gets to a state where it’s very still and you discover an almost unknown pleasure that exists in your body. A kind of evenness in your body, the energy is even in your body. You don’t want to move even a little bit because you don’t want to disturb that. That is physical shinjang.
Mental shinjang is when you go through so many agitations and emotions and struggles with the practice, applying the instructions and it not working and sometimes working. Then after a while you get to a point where your mind is actually very calm and peaceful. It’s not that you have no thoughts. It’s not that you have no emotions. On the contrary, you could have the same thoughts, the same emotions that you used to have and that you were struggling with. You could be applying the same kind of instructions on your mind. But this time it’s different. It is all very light.
It is all synchronized and it’s working. Even if it’s not working, it’s not a struggle. And there comes a mind in a simple state-in essence it’s a simple state. In essence it’s a calm, peaceful, simple state experience of light synchronization. That is mental shinjang. I hope everybody knows this experience. People have been practicing a lot. Does everybody know this experience? Put your hands up. Most probably everybody knows. So, that’s your mental shinjang.
In the whole path there will be shinjang all along. Everything that one goes through on the path, the many different things that you go through in practice, it will all get you further. This is particular to Vajrayana-we call it nyonmong lamcher in Tibetan.
It means utilizing the defilement and the confusions as part of the path. What does that mean? If you get stuck in those, you’ll be a samsaric person the same as anyone else. It won’t be different in any way. If we go through those things and apply the view and the practice, we get to where we want to be. In the Hinayana path we shove away the perceptions of negativity and the confusions of the different mental states and negative emotions and try to stay peaceful conditionally. In the Vajrayana we get where we get due to what we go through. If we get stuck, it’s not going to be that way.
I was just telling Natasha this in regards to her situation-the kind of experience of going through the struggle of moving down to Crestone, to a totally different situation. I feel very encouraged that the path can work; it will work. I’ve seen it working.
As a teacher, I see it working even better here than in Tibet. So, I’m encouraged in that way. But at the same time what I want to emphasize is that it takes a lot of patience. It takes so much patience to wait for people to make the small progress that they are making. And being understanding with the ways people are getting stuck and why they are getting stuck and how they are insisting to stay the way they are. It takes so much patience and so much tolerance. But I think I have the patience and the tolerance with all of the people.
So, based on that, we’re going to be hearing these teachings. And based on that, these teachings will be another step. When we had our first sadhana retreat we didn’t have this kind of view or this kind of clarity. So, this is another step and there will be another step and another and another and many more, to the end. As Nyoshul Lungtok, one of the great lineage teachers said, “What does it have to do? It has to benefit your mind.” In the end it has to be a benefit to your mind. Not in an ordinary way, but a benefit in a true sense. That true sense of benefit; at this point, even within this group, if I were to mention what the true benefit actually would be, it would be like me describing a mango and you thinking about it as a pear. You will have a totally different image.
But over time what you go through with your mind will bring you closer to the true benefit. For instance, take someone like Ann. In the beginning of our relationship we were just talking about depression. How to work with depression and that was all that mattered; anything beyond that was not going to be relevant. But at the same time going through that and then taking another step from that and then another step from that, another step from that and now I hope that when I am speaking, Ann is making a connection to what I’m talking about.
Still, I feel that in this room if I were to talk about the true benefit people would not be that inspired. The reason is because there is no opening for that benefit. People often think that they are fine the way they are. Scott Gallagher’s big neurosis is that he thinks he’s fine the way he is, the way his mind is. At the same time I can see that we all have to live a human life and living that human life intelligently, we go through many things. And going through many things we are brought further and further to seek more and more truth, the deeper levels of the truth. We are not fooling around as much with the surface layers of the truth. In that sense I’m very confident and I hope it works for all of us, myself and all of the students.
My confidence right now is based on the goodness of the people rather than their performance. Based on that goodness I have trust in people. I hope the performance and experience will come as time goes on. For instance, Jenny is going into retreat. I am hoping that it works out, that the benefit will be there in the end. At the same time I am totally open-she might want to come out after two weeks. That’s totally possible. So, it’s like that with everyone: I am hopeful but I really have no expectations. For instance, I wanted Scott Gallagher to do a one-year retreat.
He really wanted to do a one-year retreat. But I don’t think this one-year retreat is going to do much. It’s good to wait for now. Right now he serves the sangha much more and brings the benefit to the sangha just where he is. Disrupting this and putting him in a retreat is not going to do much. At some point he will have to get beyond where he is now, with the practice particularly, not so much with the service. Really going through some things gets you beyond. Then it is helpful. I think it would be like that with everyone. Andy asked to be in retreat.
And I said it’s not time. The reason I said it’s not time is that you could go into retreat and come out and be the same old Andy. It’s not going to make that much difference. But when the right time comes I hope everybody gets a chance to do retreat. Doing retreat, we have to consider that it is like cocooning. It is cocooning, but a good kind of a cocooning. A caterpillar cocoons and then transforms into a butterfly and comes out. The point of cocooning is to become a butterfly, not to stay in the cocoon the whole time.
All this discussion are “ngondro,” preliminaries for just setting up the mind, setting up the mind and the conditions for people to digest the teachings and bring a perspective of what we are trying to do here. I could just go into the text right away and read it and you could intellectually connect. But I don’t know whether that would be anything helpful.
The Five Auspicious Coincidences of Place, Teacher, Teaching, Assembly, and Time
So, we will be starting the Rigdzin Diipa teachings now. Listen to this with an open mind. It might be a stretch for you; it is a stretch for you, but the stretch is important. In the Tantrayana teachings, to visualize the five auspicious coincidences being present is very important. Here we are in Crestone, in the sangha house and in this room. We are cramped and receiving the Rigdzin Diipa teachings-those are all ordinary perceptions of the place. But if you think this place is Akanishta and this house is Buddha Samantabhadra’s palace with all its ornaments and all the richness present in the environment-you can see how your mind changes. There is much more of a leap and the benefit of the leap. So, perceiving the place like this is the first auspicious coincidence.
Likewise, when you see the teacher as just an ordinary human being, with a mind and emotions the same as your own, who is similarly relating to his mind and emotions like you do, if the teacher has the same kind of mind and emotions as you have, then who’s going to teach what to whom, and how? There won’t be anything special about that. But if you visualize or perceive the teacher as Samantabhadra-a completely enlightened, awake person with complete freedom and qualities of enlightened mind manifested in this form in order to relate to your mind and emotions, to liberate your mind and emotions from the state they are in-then there is some inspiration, some interest or warmth growing in your heart, with a sense of making a connection to the teacher.
Therefore in the Vajrayana teachings we have to visualize the teacher as the Samantabhadra or Vajradhara himself. Of course, you won’t see it with your eyes; it is more of a mental thing. (To see the environment, the place, the teacher like this, you won’t experience it with the sense perceptions; it’s a mental thing. That mental thing has to override itself and the perceptions). That is the second auspicious coincidence of purely perceiving the teacher. Then there is the third auspicious coincidence-the teachings. The teacher is giving the teachings. If you consider these teachings the same as going to any other kind of teachings, then it won’t be so significant, important or special. You are more or less going to want to get down to the dining room and eat.
Maybe what’s on your mind. There is nothing wrong with that, but at the same time if that’s what’s on your mind, this time and the auspicious coincidence of coming together is going to be very ordinary. On the contrary you could think that the teachings being given here are the Tantrayana teachings, the very same teachings that bring sentient beings to enlightenment within one lifetime. What is being introduced here is the true reality and the true nature of one’s mind, which will remedy all your confusions, all your pain and all your suffering and ignorant mind. Thinking in this way there is some openness, a sense of warmth and joy, a sense of mind that wants to connect to the teachings.
Then there is the auspicious coincidence of the assembly. When we look at ourselves sitting here among the people and think, “This is Michael, this is Scott and Scott has this kind of personality; Michael has that kind of personality and Rebecca has this kind of personality...” and get stuck in that state of mind, it’s not going to work. It will be, more or less, a hassle to be around each other. On the other hand if we look at the people around us as future buddhas and understand that buddhahood is present within them, then it gives you another feeling, another sense of inspiration, warmth in the heart and openness. So that is the fourth auspicious coincidence.
Finally, there is the time, the fifth auspicious coincidence. If we consider this just one week of time, within which we will get together to hear these teachings, if the time is being taken for granted by thinking that this could happen any time, at any moment and in any year, then it feels quite ordinary. But if you actually see this time as the time that makes the most difference in your life-which it is supposed to-and understand that this is enlightened time where there is actually no beginning, no end and no middle, that it’s a time of actually going beyond, then that way of thinking gives you a different sense of time. It gives you another inspiration. It provides another kind of leap in one’s mind and emotions, a sense of warmth in one’s heart.
Chyerim practice overrides our ordinary mental flaws
These all constitute mental thinking, which has to override our ordinary habitual mental flaws. It has to have that effect in order to really perceive something like that. Visualization is perceiving, isn’t it? It is mental perceiving, not perceptual perceiving. If the mental perceiving is strong enough it can override the physical perceptions. When it overrides the physical perceptions it brings the benefit of the mental perception being mental as well as mental perception overriding the physical perception. Whatever the physical perception usually does, this kind of mental perception provides that. It gives you that effect. For instance, if you see this as a clock, that’s your ordinary perception.
If you think this is a clock, that’s your ordinary mental flaw. Now if you see this as Kalachakra (the Wheel of Time) it gives you a whole different sense of it. And if that sense is strong enough you could be physically perceiving this but mentally if you have perceived this as Kalachakra (Kalachakra meaning time beyond past, present and the future, time of Dharmadhatu), it gives you a certain level of perception and that mental perception overrides the physical perception. For instance, when you mentally perceive yourself as Guru Rinpoche, when you can override thinking of yourself as Scott Gallagher or Vern Mizner or Nicholas Carter, there is that effect of mentally overriding your mental habitual flaws with the pride of the deity.
To see yourself physically as Guru Rinpoche right away and not see yourself as Scott Gallagher will be very difficult. Or if you see yourself as Guru Rinpoche but don’t have the effect of Guru Rinpoche, how is this going to be any better than just being Scott Gallagher or Vern Mizner? But if you’re able to mentally perceive yourself as Guru Rinpoche, then it overrides the mental thinking. Overriding the mental thinking brings a certain benefit, certain blessings into your being. Perception-wise, when you are able to perceive yourself as Guru Rinpoche it overrides your physical perception, your eye perception. Overriding your eye perception brings you a different kind of perception.
All of that is manipulation of mind, emotion and perception, isn’t it? Even though perception is not literally changing, it’s still manipulation. We should be aware that this is manipulation. However, we have to believe that this manipulation is more real than the other side of it. Do you understand what I mean by the other side of it? On the other hand if you think that is real, it is again a manipulation. Even though it’s the pride of the deity and you really believe in the pride of the deity, that again is a thought, isn’t it? It is a true belief in a thought, which ultimately is not true belief; it’s partial belief. If you could truly rest in the nature of mind and project yourself as the deity, that would be true belief.
When there is no difference between Guru Rinpoche and yourself, that is true belief. In that case you are not only manipulating on the thought level, you are actually connected with the nature of your enlightened mind, which is the same as Guru Rinpoche’s nature. Both Guru Rinpoche and yourself appear out of that nature. In that way you and Guru Rinpoche are one. There is no difference between the two except that you have this particular skandhas and Guru Rinpoche doesn’t have these skandhas. However, in your practice you don’t have those skandhas. Though the skandhas are present, you don’t own those skandhas.
You have detached yourself from the skandhas. As you perfect the nature and as you perfect the practice you will be able to appear as Guru Rinpoche to others. It is said that when people went to see Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, they saw him as whatever their particular deity was. The reason for that is that Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s nature and the nature of deities are one. It would be a mistaken belief to think that Guru Rinpoche’s nature is pure and our nature impure, that Guru Rinpoche’s appearance is pure and our appearance impure. In the nature of each there are no differences at all.
Having said that, it won’t be so easy just as you enter into it. It will take some practice-consistent practice, consistent application of your mind on the visualization. The part where we perform the manipulation of the perceptions, thoughts and emotions is called chyerim. The chyerim or visualization practice has to be connected with the dzogrim, or accomplishment practice.
Dzogrim is the reality-accomplishment; accomplishment is the reality. The reality also has to be experienced. If it is not experienced then it will remain as just a conceptual reality. So, if you are able to rest in the nature as well do the visualization, then the visualization will not become concrete. That visualization will be lucid, clear, transparent. Because the nature itself has those qualities its effect can make anything that you are projecting from that nature be that way. So, we have the chyerim and the dzogrim, the visualization and the accomplishment practices.
Within that there is the nature as well as the appearance. Nature is the accomplishment and visualization is the appearance. This is what we call mahayoga practice in essence. The whole of the mahayoga practice is like that; this is just one way of introducing it.
Ordinarily, we start from perception to mental and then go from mental to emotional. Sensory perception triggers the sixth consciousness. Sixth consciousness triggers the emotions and consequently there is the sense of seventh consciousness that is holding onto the self. The alaya [[[eighth consciousness]]] is the base. That’s how our existence is, right? In the practice of visualization you don’t start with perceptions. However, it is difficult to dismiss the skandha of perception right away, like that (snap). You are going to see this tree as a tree. There is no harm in seeing the tree as a tree. What starts all the harm is clinging to the tree as a tree.
How visualization replaces our ordinary appearances, perception and emotions
So, where do we start the practice of visualization? We don’t start with the perceptions. We start with the sixth consciousness. With that, every thought has appearance. For example, when I close my eyes and think about Deana, the picture of Deana is in front, as my thought.
There is the appearance and the there is the clinging to each thought. So, each thought has clinging and appearance. There is appearance and the clinging to appearance is happening. When we do visualization practice we dismiss all of the ordinary appearances. We replace the ordinary appearance with the visualization of the deity, the mandala of the deity and the offerings and everything that is described in the sadhana practice.
We don’t cling to it, but we try to perceive it that way. We are resting in the nature so there is no clinging. As a basis of the visualization we are to rest in the nature. So, even if you are thinking that way (I am the deity, this is the palace, etc.), there is no clinging in the ordinary sense. The ordinary clinging is replaced. You are perceiving everything in a different light and in front of that perception there is a whole different appearance, which is a mental appearance. Beyond that, there are different emotions. Any emotions we have come from the two tendencies of cherishing and protecting the self. Those two tendencies come from clinging to the self. Clinging to the self comes from not seeing the true nature of one’s mind.
So, we covered the changing of the mental image, and we covered how perception is different. Now we are talking about emotion. How do we actually change our emotions? We change our emotions because we actually hold the pride of the deity instead of clinging to the self in the ordinary way. When you hold the pride of the deity you have to imagine yourself actually being the deity-enlightened. You use all of your imagination of how an enlightened being manifests.
Much like an actor, you have to portray the character truthfully. Imagining yourself as a deity you are not going to have all your neuroses and insecurities and all the problematic emotions. This again, takes work. Just holding the pride of the deity won’t come completely free of all the problematic emotions. You could be holding pride of the deity and have neurotic emotions at the same time.
However, you have to project your emotions from the pride of the deity. When you do that then you will have the experience of one-taste, rochig, of complete purity. Then, it’s very simple. Complete purity, one-taste, enriching qualities, positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity-the four immeasurables-you could project all of them.
Again, we have to understand this only comes with work. It doesn’t come without work. Just thinking that if you visualize yourself mentally as Guru Rinpoche, and that would do it, is false. You have to know how it works as well and be patient. Then it’s all practice, isn’t it? It’s not a one shot deal. It’s consistent practice. You go back and forth. In shamatha you go off your breath and then you come back to the breath.
Much like that you go off into ordinary perception and then you come back to your visualization. You achieve pride of the deity and you go back to clinging to yourself and then you come back to the pride. You are projecting your emotions in ordinary ways and then you come back to projecting your emotions with a sense of being enlightened. You will go back and forth like that. But over time, hopefully, with consistency you will override the ordinary perceptions, ordinary emotions, the ordinary self-clinging. This happens due to the power of the practice, the blessings, and the reality itself.
There are two realities, the relative and the absolute. There is the relative reality, in which this (visualized mandala) is much more real than the ordinary perceptions. In the ordinary perceptions we are much like a jaundiced person who perceives the snow mountain as yellow. We have to understand that. Then there is the absolute perception. If all of this is solely based upon thought, and beneath that thought is our ordinary alaya-which is ignorant-then all of the rest of it wouldn’t be so significant.
It is the alaya which has to be dissolved. The way alaya is dissolved is by resting in the nature of mind. When you rest in the nature of mind, however long you are able to do that, alaya is dissolved, isn’t it? When you are doing the nature of mind practice, when you are just able to rest in the nature for a second or two, you feel like a hood has been pulled from your eyes, totally awakened; you experience panoramic awareness and feel completely in connection with everything.
As a contrast to that, when you go back to your thoughts and get lost in your thoughts, you feel again like the hood is being pulled back down over your eyes and you lose the panoramic awareness; you are in a one-track fixation on whatever your thoughts are perceiving. Isn’t that your experience? So, one has to be able to rest in the nature of mind. However you experience that, you have to be able to rest in the nature. Even if you can’t rest in the nature of mind, you have to trust that the nature is present. Not because the teacher said so, but because you have the experience of that nature. You have the experience of the alaya but you also have the nature of that experience. So, you have to have faith in the fact that the nature is present. If you are able to rest in that-think about it-what is left that is not enlightened?
Perception is changed even if perception is not outwardly changed. Mental continuum is changed. The sixth consciousness is changed. The seventh consciousness is changed. Emotion is changed. Alaya is changed. Beyond that what obscurations are there? What obscurations do we have to the enlightened nature? We don’t have any obscurations beyond that. The eighth consciousnesses are the obscurations. With this, all eight consciousnesses are transformed at the very moment of being able to visualize yourself as Guru Rinpoche. What’s left is just the perception, isn’t it? The perception of seeing a tree as a tree. And seeing earth as earth and water as water instead of water as Mamaki, earth as Sangye Chenma.
That’s all that is left. What is the difference in seeing the water as a water and seeing the water as Mamaki? There’s not much difference, just seeing. Just in seeing there’s not much difference. That’s why the Tilopa said to Naropa: “Do not think the appearance catches you or deludes you. It’s not the appearance. It is the clinging to the perception that catches you or that deludes you.” So, perceiving this tea as Buddha Mamaki or seeing the tea as tea, there’s really no difference. If everything else has changed, there’s not much difference. What is so significant in appearance alone? As a beginning practitioner we think appearance matters so much. Of course, appearance doesn’t always stay how we perceive it-that would prove it is somehow intrinsically real. It does change at some point, but at this level, there’s not much problem with just perceiving the appearances if there is no clinging to them as real.
Stages of the Rigdzins
To speak about the stages of the Rigdzins, or Vidyadharas, which are the four stages of enlightenment in the Vajrayana, when you are in the first Rigdzin stage it’s called the Maturation Rigdzin. In this stage your mind has ripened into enlightened mind but the physical skandha has remained the same. The second stage is the Longevity Rigdzin. That refers to the time when you actually cross over from the ordinary skandha to the extraordinary skandha, the longevity skandha.
If you get to the longevity skandha then it follows that you attain enlightenment within one lifetime. This attainment of enlightenment is not dependent upon the bardo. The reason for this is because you have the power to remain in this world as long as you wish, to perfect and complete your path. When you get to the longevity state of the Vidyadharas there is still a form skandha, and a skandha is a skandha; you attain the power of immortality but your skandhas will still be there at this stage. The next level is the Mudra Rigdzin.
This is the level at which the skandhas change completely; the whole of the skandhas change into the totality of the deity and the mandala of the deity. Here, one is able to see oneself as the deity. For instance, Vimalakirti saw this world differently from Shariputra; he saw it as completely pure. We are able to perceive the world in that same way at this stage. The next level is the Spontaneously Present Rigdzin. When you come to that point, other people are also able to see your enlightened form and one is able to perform as the deity. In Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo other people were able to see him as various deities. When you accomplish Spontaneously present Rigdzin, the Spontaneously Present Vidyadhara, then you attain enlightenment.
All of this happens through the visualization practice, the mahayoga practice. You are able to attain enlightenment and then within those, there are the general five paths of accumulation, engagement, seeing, meditation, and no more learning. Beyond that there are the five bhumis of the enlightened state-Vajra, Ratna, etc. The important thing to understand is that ultimately it changes. It doesn’t remain the same. It changes in the four stages of the Vidyadharas. From where we are now it seems like a very difficult thing, a very long process.
But in actuality, the Vidyadhara stages could be as short as a (snap). In the old days when the mahayoga practice first came into this world, the practitioners held drupchens. In seven days the whole assembly had gone through the entire four stages of Vidyadharas and attained enlightenment. So, it can be as fast as that or it could be as long as eons an eons of time. Until you reach the point of the Longevity Vidyadhara you are dependent on karma.
If you are able to attain the Longevity Vidyadhara then what happens is your choice: you can complete the path in one minute or you could take a long, long time. It is your choice. So, the Longevity Vidyadhara is an important place to reach, but the Longevity Vidyadhara is also a difficult one to attain. It is difficult because we have to obtain the power of immortality. In order to obtain the power of immortality you have to enjoy yourself “too” much. And people don’t know how to enjoy. Really, this is what it boils down to-they don’t know how to enjoy. Or they’re not capable to enjoy enough to obtain the power of immortality. What happens a lot of the time is that they perfect just the first stage.
Applying the practice in the bardo
The first stage is very important. Don’t think the first stage is insignificant in any way. If you complete the first stage and are able to do the visualization practice well in mind, with the mind being completely ripened in the form of the deity and the whole field of the deity, then at the moment of death you will be able to connect with the deity. When they die, during the first bardo of dying, all sentient beings go through the process of everything dissolving into the Dharmakaya state.
From the Dharmakaya state, we have the reappearance of the pure perceptions and pure appearance. Everything dissolves into the Dharmakaya state and everything from the Dharmakaya state reappears and is spontaneously present. At that time, through the power of the practice, the mind is able to connect with that particular opportunity to recognize everything: the nature itself and the appearance and everything. From there, within a very short period of time we accomplish all the qualities, all the perfections, and every last bit of obscuration is purified in that way. There is a tremendous benefit there.
However, what usually happens is that everything dissolves into Dharmakaya and the person doesn’t recognize the Dharmakaya. Then everything reappears from the Dharmakaya in the pure sense, at first. Here, because we don’t recognize the nature and also don’t recognize the appearance as projections of our mind, everything that was pure to begin with starts to become more gross. Why do you think we have this body?
Why do you think we have a nose? Why do you think we have eyes? Why do you think we have legs and hands like this? It’s a gross reflection of the deity’s forms. If there is no subtle pure forms of the deity, this gross form is not going to come. No forms are going to come. Any form that exists comes from a pure form and is now a gross reflection of that pure form, a deluded perception of that pure form. So, that is one opportunity of attaining enlightenment and accomplishing all four Vidyadhara states in a short time.
If not that, then due to the power of the practice, and the power of the deity, the power of the mantra and one’s connection with the deity, when you get to the sipa bardo, the ordinary bardo of becoming, you can remember the practice. Whatever we are forcefully doing during the day now, we remember in the night when it comes up in our dreams. In the same way, in the sipa bardo you remember the practice, you remember the deity and at that moment you are able to do the practice and meet the deity and go to the pure realm of the deity, where you are reborn in the pure realm of the deity. From there you continue the path and attain enlightenment in no time.
Cultivating stability in the view now, while we have this body
Why are you able to go to the pure realm of the deity then and not now? Because of this body. You are able to easily do many things in your dreams that are difficult or impossible in real life, right?. In the same way in the bardo you won’t have this physical body at all, just mind alone. Think about how much power there is to mind alone if this physical body was not restricting it. Not only that, at that time because there is no gross physical body, just a mental body, all beings in the bardo have incredible miraculous powers. Practitioners in particular are able to use that. Otherwise you are not able to use the opportunity well when it comes.
You will simply be more or less confused. You’ve all experienced how when you are physically ill, when you are having depression or lung, how unstable your mind becomes. For instance, a schizophrenic’s mind is tremendously unstable. A schizophrenic’s mind is unstable because of the illness that has affected the body. When we don’t have the body at all to ground our mind, our mind will be very, very unstable. They say a mind in the bardo is seven times speedier than a schizophrenic’s mind. So, you can understand what a terrible time that will be. Yet, if you have cultivated stability in your mind through the practice, it will help tremendously at this time. I am not speaking of stability in the sense of being able to control thoughts. Nobody can control thoughts.
If you give an enlightened person three or four hits of LSD, the functions of the mind will be the same as an ordinary person’s. They will have the hallucinations and all the experiences just the same as an ordinary person.
Otherwise how do you think medicines or injections work at all on an enlightened person’s body? The stability doesn’t have to do with the thoughts and the controlling of the thoughts. Many times people think that stability means being able to control thoughts. The difference between a practitioner and a non-practitioner is not going to be in the arising of thoughts. There is no difference in how the thoughts arise and there is no point in controlling thoughts and emotions in some sense. We are talking about ultimate stability of mind.
What will this stability depend on then? It will depend on the recognition of the nature of mind. If you are able to recognize the nature and rest in that nature with stability, then it doesn’t matter what thoughts arise or how they arise. However wild it gets, however confused it gets, however it becomes challenging, there will be that much more awakening inside. I don’t know whether you remember when Khenpo Jigme Phiintsok came to give us teachings. He said, as much challenge as there is in the practitioner’s life, that much it supports the nature. Through the challenges the realization of the nature becomes deeper and more stabilized. That’s where it is different for a practitioner.
The relationship between chyerim and dzogrim
The ultimate goal of the chyerim practice per se is just to accumulate merit, relative merit. But to accumulate that relative merit what are we going to do? That relative merit has to have an effect on our dzogrim. Dzogrim is accomplishment practice. The relative merit works toward the realization of the absolute nature. The stabilization in the absolute nature will be the way to attain enlightenment. Just the chyerim alone is not going to do anything. Chyerim is the way to realize the dzogrim nature. Realization of the dzogrim nature will be the ultimate outcome of doing the chyerim practice well.
Imagine yourself in the bardo. If you accomplish the chyerim well enough to do the visualization well, and can rest in the nature of mind and bring the chyerim and dzogrim together in one experience, there won’t be anything to be so scared about. You will be able to make it. But if you don’t assert yourself well enough in this lifetime to be able to stabilize yourself in the nature, remain stable in the nature by means of the chyerim practice or by the means of the dzogrim practice or by means of the Dzogchen practice, then the illusion will have very much power over you. As far as the illusion itself, whether it is present or not present doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Never missing an opportunity to practice and realizing its value
So, that’s the overall view or the chidon of the chyerim practice and how the chyerim practice can bring us to the enlightened state. The great teachers in the lineage say “Do not miss a moment of opportunity to practice,” because we’re not like Indrabodhi. Indrabodhi recognized the nature, stabilized and perfected it, and attained fruition in one single shot. We are not like that. There are two ways to attain enlightenment: Instantaneously or gradually. We are more on the gradual, progressive path rather than the all-at-once path. This is because the condition of our faculties are of a progressive nature.
In this way whatever time you have-fifty years or sixty years or eighty years or whatever time you have in a day-if you practice, maybe on one hand it doesn’t seem like much is happening. But on the other hand you know it’s having some effect. There is some effect on the stabilization of the nature. Think about the difference that you’ve experienced from the beginning of your meditation to now, how things have changed.
Then you could think about that in the future, how it can continue to effect you. It has made a difference because you practiced. If you didn’t practice the change wouldn’t have happened. That’s why it is said that if you take any opportunity to practice, even if you don’t see the change right away, eventually you will receive the benefit. You will receive the benefit of really having worked on your mind and you will have that benefit in the bardo.
At the same time things don’t just depend on you-you have to understand that. That’s another big assurance. If everything hinges on how well you perform, as if in a race, things will be much more difficult. So you have to understand that everything doesn’t strictly depend on you; there is also the power of the deity. There is also your merit of having done the practice. At the time of the bardo, even the habit comes in handy. So, there are many factors that can be very positive for you. But it has to be cultivated in this lifetime. But, if one has not cultivated it in this lifetime, it won’t be there in the bardo either.
In understanding that, we could feel more and more appreciation for having met the Three Jewels, having been introduced to the Tantrayana teachings and having a chance to practice. Think about how many beings in the world have been introduced to the Three Jewels, have had a chance to be introduced to the Tantrayana teachings, have had an opportunity to do sadhana practice. Very few. You are all like stars in the daytime-extremely rare. Thinking in this way you can really rejoice in your life. Not whether you’re getting your pathetic desires met or not. Right now you laugh when I say that.
You laugh because your pathetic desires are so important for you. But when you come to a certain point in your life with the practice and study and with the process of going forward, then you really realize what’s really important. Sasha told me that when Thrangu Rinpoche came to Gampo Abbey he said that even if you had a chance to just hear the Buddha’s name, you should feel so lucky.
Even you had a chance of just folding your hands and nothing else, you should feel so lucky. And I’m sure in his mind he is very genuinely speaking that way; he really feels that way. There must be that kind of genuine appreciation. But do we have that? No, we don’t. We don’t because we’re not there yet because we are much more occupied with this world and the insignificant mirage of samsara. We are caught in the mirage of samsara and are not really open to the possibility and the good fortune of our own existence.
People think, “Oh, it would be so wonderful to have this and that, and such and such conditions.” As far as the conditions are concerned, the god realms have the most wonderful conditions of all. However, in the god realm the body is a light body; they don’t have this physical body and therefore there cannot be a precious human body. We say that this is precious human body because we have this gross body.
Even though having this gross body is a bondage to us, it has great significance as far as the Tantrayana is concerned. For example, the menstrual cramps or PMS that you have every month or the white substance that the male has and those things males have to be concerned about-it is to be appreciated when you deeply understand the Tantrayana teachings; you have to appreciate how significant these are. There are no menstrual cramps and PMS in the god realms. Therefore, they don’t have the precious human body. They don’t have the white substance and therefore they don’t have the precious human body. In that way a person who is a slightly awakened in the god realms prays to be reborn in the human realm, in the gross human realm.
Even the bodhisattvas from the different realms take birth in this world to actually enjoy the body we have. But because we’re not open to it, we are hassled to have to buy tampons and condoms etc. This is all about understanding, appreciation. That is why I was mentioning what Thrangu Rinpoche said. When I heard that story I felt that he must really feel that way; he must really think that way. Coming back to the point, you have to realize what is the value of practice. You have to have the gold in order to examine it. In the same way to truly do the practice and value the practice, you have to know its worth. You have to know what practice is and how it works or doesn’t work. Without knowing that I don’t think the practice will make much of a difference in a person’s life.
You also have to understand that there is a choice. You could live your life like a feather in the wind-most of the time people are gone with the wind. They don’t even resist the wind. You could let it go like that and in that way you’re quite sure to get sucked deeper and deeper into samsara and be more and more tormented by this world’s illusions, as well as the next world’s illusions. Just think about this world’s illusions: birth, old age, sickness and death. Think about what Patty is going through. We’ll all be going through this at some point soon.
Just think about that and the trauma and the kind of emotions and feelings and stress and confusions that we will be vulnerable to. So, we have a choice to let ourselves go with the wind or to do something significant. Do something at this point while it’s not too late. His Holiness used to say, “When your body is well and your mind is peaceful, this is the time to do something.” That’s why I think we got together here today and why we are doing this. This morning I just gave a little ngasol, a clearing away, as well as an overall view. Clearing away the confusions and giving an overall view.
If you understand the overall view, then it’s easy to understand the details to come. The details you could study. But if you understand the details and don’t have the overall view then it’s always harder. Gary told me this story once-it is a very good example, actually. There were three carpenters working on a construction job. A man went and asked the first carpenter, “What are you doing?” The carpenter answered, “I’m earning five bucks an hour.” Then the same man went and asked the second carpenter who was working on the job, “What are you doing?” And he said, “I’m building a wall.”
Finally, he went to the third carpenter and asked, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m building a castle.” All were doing the same job but the perspectives were different. You have to have an overall view of what it is you are doing. The details are easy to get to if you have an overall view. This is especially true with the teachings. That was my big frustration when we were studying in the shedras.
You get in to so many details, but you don’t have the overall view until the end. We used to think, how wonderful it would be if we had the overall view in the beginning and then we could go over the details. But then again, that’s the process of studying philosophy. So, an overall view is important. It helps you to understand, and also to feel more and more inspired-in life, in practice, in anything. Even if you are not practicing you still feel inspired to be practicing. There are some people like that, (laughter)