Thursday, August 26, 2004

Islam, Emptiness and Realisation

Having been asked on a List to give my views on Islam, Muslims, and the actions and suffering which are associated in some way with them, I attempt to give it here. As it's a huge and complex subject, I can only cover some aspects. And this is all just that, just my own views, which I hope are lightly held, and offered for consideration.

I think it's quite difficult to approach this by responding point by point and without making some very general points, so I will try to map out what I believe to be general points and guidelines, and necessarily be brief on what the consequences of those points are .... and I will set this out a some length, for which I ask forgiveness, as I believe it important to follow this through, and establish whether the conclusions are based on Dharmic principles or not.

In a sense, the issue is ... how to we act in the world? By which of course, as a Buddhist, I don't just mean how do I act in terms of acts of the body, but also in terms of speech and mind. How do we act?

The teachings are very clear that certain types of acts bring harm to both ourselves and others, and certain acts are beneficial to both. Those acts which are based on ignorance, ill-will or craving bring harm. And this is always the case, according to the teachings.

Ill will and craving are straightforward to see, I believe. If you feel *anything* of the nature of these two when you are acting with body, speech or mind towards anything or anyone, then you will bring harm to yourself, and the other, either now, or later on. I think it is relatively clear when there are these mental states involved in ones actions.

Ignorance is rather harder, and the key in a sense. Ignorance here means those actions based on something other than realisation of emptiness or dependent arising. It means actions based on believing that things are 'real', that things solidly exist from their own side, that our concepts are the thing itself, etc etc.

It means actions which don't spring from the three-fold purity. That is, from a mind that is free of the conceptions of a 'really-existing' subject or person doing the action, a really existent object, or person receiving the action, and free from a really existing action, or the thing being done. If there is, for example, a notion of either a giver, of giving, or of someone being given to, then this action is not pure, and is clouded by ignorance.

So this is very much a matter of realisation, of realising emptiness and dependent origination, and is one which goes to the heart of the the Buddhist path.

The degree to which we act based on the three-fold purity, is the degree to which I actions will help or harm ourselves or others. In a sense, it's not ultimately about whether the actions are based on generosity or greed, on ill will or love, but rather whether they are based on the threefold purity. Why? Because acts of ill will or greed or pride etc etc cannot by nature be pure in this sense, only those based on love or generosity etc can be three-foldly pure.

So this is the guide to our actions, and this is based on our realisation. And this has important consequences as to where our emphasis on the path is, as only but realising the nature of mind and of all appearances, can we be in a position to act in a beneficial way. This doesn't of course mean 'just meditate until enlightenment, and then act in the world', but it does mean that here is a clear emphasis ... realisation is our primary concern *if* we really care about others, *if* we really want to help others. If we are serious about our Bodhisattva vows, then we *must* gain realisation, otherwise we cannot help. And if we indulge in actions of body, speech and mind which make that realisation harder, then we will be less able to help others.

So, coming back to the three fold purity - actions not tainted by either a sense of a do-er, a receiver, or an action itself (described so well in the Prajna paramita teachings, as well as the Vajrayana teachings) .... coming directly to our issue - Islam, when one is acting, we can examine our minds, and see if this three-fold purity is present.

The three-fold purity will be present to varying degrees, dependent on our realisation - it's not black or white ..... and this is important, as the greater our realisation, the more 'free' we are to act in greater and more far reaching ways to the benefit of beings. But, the less our realisation, then the more careful we must be in how we act due to the consequences to ourselves and others.

Any notion that there is an Islam, or Muslims, or something truly happening 'out there', or it 'should' be like this, or like that etc is a sign that something is very wrong, from a Dharmic point of view. Of course when we converse in a relaxed way, we use these sort of terms to describe things. But, here we are concerned with Dharma, and how to attain enlightenment to help all beings, so here we are talking in a way which is relating to how things actually are.

Here we get to the heart of things: If we have a notion of a 'thing' out there, we are mistaken. The teachings are very clear, and I would hope that from the basis of one's practice it is clear, that there are no 'things' and they are not 'out there'.

There is no 'Islam'. And it is not 'out there', outside of my own mind.

I think that this bears reflecting on deeply.

There is nothing out there which is fixed, which exists from it's own side, which is truly 'real', other than that which arises dependently, dependently on conditions, dependently on our own mind.

Things appear the way they do because of all the factors which come together in our mind at that point. All our past actions condition what we see and think.

What we see, is thoroughly tainted by how we have acted in the past, ie, our physical actions and speech, but most importantly, our mental actions. How we see the world is based on our previous thoughts and emotions. *How we see the world is conditioned primarily by how we see the world.* This is the crux of the matter here.

There is no really existent thing out there, or issue. There is, however, the appearance of things, largely based on how we have previously seen the world. So, how we see the world conditions how we see the world, and what we see is, in effect, what we want to see, or more accurately, what we are able to see.

This is very clear in the teachings, of all levels and schools, and very clear in the words and actions of the realised ones.

But this is most difficult to come to terms with, I believe, if one has not yet developed realisations. It flies in the face of 'common-sense', and is contrary to our notions. And that is because the non-dual wisdom of the Buddha is so radical, and so very different to our samsaric way of seeing the world. If we do not have realisations, then we will tend to distrust this teaching, even though the teachings are clear.

I believe that there are a number of common ways in which we tend to somehow dismiss the full import of the Buddhas teachings here. For one, we might misunderstand the nature of the teachings on the two truths, and think that somehow we are *in* relative truth, and that somehow this means that these teachings are not for us, for where we are at now, but only for the Buddhas, as they are somehow *in* absolute reality.

Or, we think that we are less developed, and therefore we somehow must operate at the relative level, and therefore these teachings might be true, but don't actually apply to where we are at.

Or, we think that this understanding must somehow lead to inaction, that realisation of emptiness and dependent origination leads to inaction somehow. I think there are other common misunderstandings, but perhaps I could just address these two?

Realisation doesn't lead to inaction. The three-fold purity of action *is* action, it's just that it doesn't come from ignorance (and ill-will, craving, pride, jealousy etc). What it comes from is wisdom, which sees things as they are. And how it manifests is as compassionate action. What it means is that we don't see 'things out there' ... Islam, Nazi's, Vegetarians, Buddhists, or anything else, as being more than convenient labels, convenient to talk with, it means that our actions are not based on misunderstanding the world, taking things as solid, and then acting on that mistaken solidity with mistaken actions. It means that we see things as they are, as fluid, ever changing, ever un-graspable, and in response, we spontaneously act with compassion, doing what needs to be done, and leaving undone what does not need to be done. We do not act from ego, we do not act from ignorance, and we do not act from mistaken views.

So, if someone is being attacked, one spontaneously knows the right thing to do, based on wisdom, and the compassion that naturally flows from it. It's not inaction, but, it's action that is in accord with seeing things as they are.

The other misconception I mentioned was to do with somehow we are *in* relative reality, or we are not advanced enough yet to act in accord with ultimate reality. This is based on not truly seeing the truths of emptiness and dependent origination, and not realising that we are *in* both relative and ultimate reality, that all things are of both, are both relatively and ultimately true or existent. There is no thing which is solid, and yet things appear. The extent to which we grasp onto things as solid, and then act on that, is the extent to which we harm ourselves and others. The ultimate is right here and now .. all things that appear to our mind are illusory, they melt before our awareness, and there is nothing in them which we can find, or grasp, or take as ultimately existent. And yet they appear - they have relative existence.

So, in this case, things truly are not ultimately existent, and this *is* the way things are, it's not that it's the way things are only for Buddhas, and we are not ready ... it's how things are now .... and acting in accordance with this brings good, not harm.

We cannot put off this understanding as if it is for later, or as if it doesn't apply to us. It is how things are, and it is the guide for our actions.

How can we check up on ourselves, and see if we are acting in accordance with the teachings, in accordance with our bodhisattva vows, in accordance with the path we have committed ourselves to?

Do we have the idea that there is something that really exists? Do we think that there is such a thing as Islam, or the Qur'aan, or of Muslims etc? Do we think that these exist as somehow separate from mind, as a thing that is solid and real, rather than something which has come together through causes and conditions in our mind? Do we think that these things exist other than in a way which is the result of how we have previously thought they exist?

If any of these are true, then alarm bells can usefully go off, as there is nothing which actually exists, as a solid thing, which is not conditioned by our past ideas and actions, and which is not compounded by numerous conditions at this very moment.

Do we think that there is something 'out there' ... that Islam, Qur'aan, Muslims exist somehow 'out there', externally from our minds, and that 'yes, we hold views which colour what we see, but these things actually exist out there, regardless of how mistaken or karmically coloured our views are'? If so, alarm bells can usefully go off, coz there is nothing that exists 'out there', separate from our minds.

Do we think that 'things should be a certain way'? If so, alarm bells can usefully go off. The word 'should' is always a give-away, one which points directly to a wrong notion, to grasping the world as 'really existent'. If we think that things should be a certain way ... we should be free, people should oppress, or act unskilfully etc etc, then we are grasping at really existent things or actions. 'Should' is a big give-away.

Do we generalise? If so, alarm bells can usefully go off. Generalisations are based on partial views, based on solidifications of what isn't solid (and that was just one!!!!)

We commonly mistake things as being solid. We may think 'there is such a thing as Islam', or 'Islamic countries are like this'.

What does this mean? It means that we take how things are, and from that, we select those aspects that arise in our minds, and we make a 'story' out of them, we generate an 'idea' or view, or notion, and it is one which 'fits' our previous ways of acting in body, speech and mind. And it is one which falsifies reality, which is not in accordance with how things are, and it is one which creates harm and suffering for both ourselves and others.

We may think, to use your example, that in a Muslim country, Buddhist are not free to meditate, or practice. I lived in a Muslim country for 7 years, was free to do both, attended Dharma centres and retreats there, my teacher Shangpa Rinpoche is currently giving initiations there. How can this be? All Muslim countries are not the same. Within a Muslim country, things vary. At different times, things vary. Different people in the country vary. Different people understand teachings in different ways. Etc etc. There is nothing fixed and solid there, and the grasping onto an idea that 'this is how things are in Muslim countries', or 'Islam is like this', or the Qur'aan says this' are all falsifications of reality, and mere reflections of our views, of our past actions, of our karma and obscurations. Things are fluid, they change, they are ungraspable, and that is the nature of things. Being open to how things actually are enables one to act in accordance with compassion, on the basis of wisdom. Having ideas of how things are as being solid always gives a misleading picture, which leads to actions which create harm.

If we say that this happened in a part of the world, due to Islam, then we most likely see things in a partial (but entirely wrong - as dualistic) way. We see the problems caused by Muslims in former-Yugoslavia, but we don't see the problems caused by non-Muslims. We see the problems in the world from Muslim countries right now, but we don't see the problems caused in the past, by colonial powers, but those that are somehow 'us'. We see our values, our modern, liberal democratic values as really existent, eternal, and true, and don't see that these are mere appearances, which appear a certain way, based on our past views and actions. We then clash them with other views, other ways, and of course they come out top, they make sense, and the others are 'wrong'. But, the conclusions we arrive at are the only possible outcome of seeing the world the wrong way, of dualistic thought, of seeing things as truly existent, and being attached to those views. It must come out that way, and challenging the views on the level of 'your view is wrong, Islam is not all bad, how about taking this, or this into consideration' will make little difference to you, because given your past actions of mind, speech and body, these things don’t carry the same sort of weight that those views you already have do. We have emotional commitment to our views, as they are in accord with our past actions, views and karma. It is only be dropping things on that level, and realising the truth of the Buddhas teachings on emptiness and dependent origination that we can see how wrong our views are, and begin to let them go, and act with compassion born of wisdom.

If you think the Qur'aan is evil, then whatever you see will tend to confirm this. We will notice that which confirms it much more than that which contradicts it, and it simple gives you even more conviction that these views are right. Our views colour what we actually see. More accurately, there is nothing out there objectively which we see in a coloured way .... more accurately, we see what we want to see, we see what our past actions allow us to see, we see things which are dependent on our past views and actions as being actually existent, out there, and objective. But it's all a falsification of how things are, and our actions bring harm based on that.

What I am suggesting is that whenever we have a 'story' in our minds, about the way things are, then we stop, don't act on it, but examine it from the perspectives of dependent origination and emptiness. Is that story conditioned by our past experiences, actions and views? Is it really existent? Is it objectively out there, beyond our minds? If so, don't act on it.

If we think 'should be this way', then we stop, and examine deeply this thing that relates to 'should'.

I'm suggesting that we are extremely careful indeed with how we act in body, speech and mind, and that we act as must as possible from wisdom, with compassion, and with as much threefold purity as we can muster.

I'm suggesting that most of what we believe about the world is most likely false, and acting on it will harm us and other beings.

I'm suggesting that if there is a hint of 'us vs. them' then we are on dangerous territory.

And, above all else, I'm suggesting we take the Buddha's teachings really seriously, and not justify our own ignorance, but really try to see the teachings through, and be very careful of acting without really taking the teachings onboard in their fullest way.

Some other observations in random order:

When I look at my teacher, Shangpa Rinpoche, can I imagine him acting on the basis of 'Islam is like this, therefore I must act like this', in a way which has a solid view of it, which is as if it was really existent, or in a way which is 'us vs. them'? .... and the answer is 'no I cannot'. It is inconceivable to me that Rinpoche would hold onto views in this way, and act on their basis. One of my guides to action is to always imagine what Rinpoche would do, and I have to say, it's always very clear what the response or answer is. His actions are so exemplary, and such a guide, that it always shows me my wrong views and wrong actions as if in a mirror.

Having lived in a country which is utterly different to mine, culturally, intellectually and behaviourally for many years, it showed me in a dramatic way how biased my views were when I had previously imagined them to be objective. All the values of ethics, common sense, humanitarian etc etc were all conditioned by my past experiences, and not universal or objective. What you see is not coloured, what you see is what you are able to see. There is nothing out there objective which is distorted, there is only what comes together in your mind, based on your past actions and views. And my views on 'Islam' changed as a result, amongst others, including my views on Dharma. Having lived in a Muslim country was extremely illuminating.

Having Muslims in my family, and as friends, has opened me up to how conditioned my views were, and how they falsify reality.

Having some small realisation, I realise now not how my views were slightly wrong, as against, it's like this, rather than like that ... but how 'wholly' wrong they were, as things are not like this ... as in something solid, but things are fluid, ungraspable, and not objective, but merely appearances which are empty, empty of solid existence which is separate from my past views and actions.

Being attached to our views is a sure sign way of knowing that they are based on ignorance. If we are really strongly committed to defending our views against others, and jump in at all costs to defend them or spread them, then we are most likely very attached to them. And it is only possible to be attached to views based on ignorance. And if you look around on the web, at the mass of views about religion, for example, you will see what appears to be a mass of attachment to views which are not how things are.

Arguing on the basis of trying to prove others wrong, of winning the argument, and of trying to convert others to ones view is surely based on wrong views, of misunderstanding how things are.

Of course, these last points, and indeed all my points, are not directed personally at you, nor a characterisation of how you are or think, but are general observations of how I believe things to be, in accordance with my understanding of the teachings of the Buddhas. I'd just like to make sure that is clear :-)

So how do we act in respect to all these things which appear to be going on in the world, which appear to be harmful, ugly, and which appear to be all around us?

Well, I think I've made clear that what appears to be so may or not actually be so, so the primary thing is to check up on what appears to be so for us.

And I think I've made it clear that I believe seeing things as they really are leads inevitably to our acting, to acting with compassion based on wisdom.

In terms of our Bodhisattva vows, then yes, we are impelled to act for the benefit of beings, and are impelled to act to try to minimise the harm caused by others to others. But I hope I've made it clear that this harm, or its causes are not as clear as they seem to be, are not solid, and that clear seeing is not a taking of sides, but more a matter of realisation. So we constantly attempt to let go of wrong views, and are extremely careful of acting on the basis of them.

In terms of priorities, I hold the view that primary for us as Buddhists, and especially so for those of us in the Mahamudra lineages, primary is the development of non-dual wisdom, of self-illuminating awareness, of seeing things as they really are. Only this heals the world, and heals beings sufferings. Changing laws, and acting in the world, in and of itself, cannot ultimately help beings. Only acting in the world on the basis on ourselves having realised the true nature of mind can really help anyone. And this is a much harder thing to do than seemingly external pursuits and actions, or hobbies, and which requires single minded devotion to the development of otherwise it will not happen. I'm not saying just sit on a meditation cushion, please don't mistake me, but I am saying that resting in self-illuminating awareness at all times is the means to help ourselves and others. And that anything which makes that harder makes us less able to help others. And being caught up in mistaken views, and acting on them makes it harder to develop rest in that, and to act on the basis of that.

Personally, I've found that I can have most effect, most deep long lasting effect, on those who I have a personal relationship with, on those that I can effect directly through my words, actions, and mental states. There the effect can be deep, and it can be long lasting. I have not found that long range actions, as it were, on those I don't have a substantial relationship with, has born much fruit that is of ultimate benefit. I believe that to be a good guide to getting involved in movements, or campaigns, or types of work. In seeking to help the world, does this bring me into deep relation with beings where I can have an effect. Or does it encourage long range actions which most likely will lead to the opposite of the desired effect?

When I see my ex-wife though the eyes of my views, though the eyes of my past experience, then I see her wrongly, and I necessarily act wrongly. When I see more truly, as empty and dependently arisen, then I see her as she is, and my actions are more compassionate and wise. It's not as if she really is out there, objective, and like 'this', and I miss-see her, but, what appears to my mind is the result of my past actions, or my experiences, and the 'her' that I see is a dependent origination, and is mind. I see what I can see, and sometimes mistake it as being real, out there, and self-existent. But, it's fluid, ever changing, and entirely dependent on my mind, my past actions and views, and all the conditions that pertain at this very moment.

How very different my views and actions are in relation to her, when I am able to accord with my realisation, and with the teachings, than when I cling to mistaken views. The difference is massive, and affects her, myself, our children, and all that I and her and they come into contact with, then and thereafter. Like ripples of waves, every action we have has infinite consequences, for all beings. One moment of clear seeing and action, has infinite consequences, and so does its opposite.

Finally, I don't believe that the options are sitting on the cushion, or acting in the world. Nor do I believe that sitting on the cushion and developing realisation has no effect on others. I do believe that each moment that we dwell more closely to the way things are has infinite effects on all beings. Each moment we may dwell, resting in the nature of mind, in self-illuminating awareness, we affect all other beings, and have an impact which cannot be measured. All things affect all other things, and each moment of profound meditation, each moment of action which is three fold pure has unlimited consequences. And each moment of action based on ignorance also has unlimited consequences.

I have no idea if any of this helps?!

In my defence, I'd justify writing such a long email in a number of ways. Firstly, as having lived in Muslim countries, and having friends and family who are Muslims, it's close to home. Secondly, caring about the world, and living beings, it's close to home. Caring about Dharma, it's close to home. And caring about the consequences of my actions, it's close to home.

For those reasons, I've reflected on this a great deal. For those reasons, I have tried to look at it from a Dharmic point of view, and present that view step by step. I believe that the issues involved are so important that it is worth making the effort to follow that through.

I also know that my views are clouded by my ignorance, by my heavy karma, and by my failings to take the teachings seriously, and my own mortality seriously, and to generate the necessary realisations. I can only hope that there is some glimmer of light in my mind, and that some spark in others is generated by engaging with this.

Sentient beings are beyond count, and so are their sufferings. And yet, nobody exists, and nobody suffers.

Seeing the emptiness of all Dharmas, and that Islam or Muslims don't exist is the nature of the practice of the Kagyu teachings.

But alleviating the (illusory) suffering of (illusory) beings (including Muslims) is our very path to Enlightenment.

May all beings realise the self-illuminating awareness that is beyond all conception.

With very best wishes in the Dharma,


> Hi again Karma Dungyu:
> I think that anyone should have the possibility to be free. I
> suppose that such an utopic system should be based upon a perfect
> balance between what each individual does or does not do. That is
> what I mean with the need for intelligence. So there is indeed a
> moral dilemma here, as you point out, and others discussed: what
> should be done when we run into unfavorable situations? (BTW I find
> it very interesting that you had no trouble with your practice while
> living in a Muslim country, were you open about it? could you invite
> friends home to show them your Tangkas or statues or pictures?...).
> The most important thing of course is that we practice. That keeps
> us a bit detatched from personal viewpoints and a bit of clarity
> arises. What if we would be persecuted for doing this? I think it
> would be useful to at least try to keep this freedom we have here.
> With all of this I am not advocating any kind of violence, nor am I
> chastizing anybody else's lifestyle, opinons, or culture, as long as
> I am allowed to. But I also see a necessity to take a stand when
> this freedom to grow is in danger. I don't mean to take a machine
> gun, but just to try to do what we are doing here. To think
> independently, to be aware, to try to be useful.
> In other words, I don't think that we should just disappear into
> some cave out of the way and let samsara go on its own. Stop the
> world, I want to get off. That would be more in the style of
> Hinayana practitioners. Most of us here gave the Bodhisattva promise
> and would just *have* to do something when need and opportunity
> arise to be useful to other beings. It's a commitment don't you
> think? Totally beyond personal opinions and views.
> What is your view on this subject? It is clear that we should avoid
> the 10 negative actions, what is the correct action when others
> enforce the view that the 10 negative actions are actually virtues?
> Most modern societies would consider such views as criminal and
> would strive to prevent actions based on such criminal views. Should
> Buddhists just go on with their mani chant when society is shifting
> this attitude around in dangerous ways. Soon European contries may
> begin to allow the enforcing of the religious laws, there is talk
> already in Canada. I don't have an answer that makes me completely
> happy, do you? Honestly, I am asking.
> ---*****

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Quote - Song to the Patrons of Nya Non

This is one of my favourite Dharma songs - Milarepa sings so powerfully of impermanence, and conditionality ... so beautiful, I really don't cannot bear to add words of my own to it here ...

Song to the Patrons of Nya Non

The patrons of Nya Non wish Milarepa to stay with them permanently. Milarepa replied, "I cannot stay here long, but I will bestow the blessing of long life and good health upon all of you. Also I will make a wish that we meet again under auspicious circumstances conducive to Dharma."

Then he sang;

In the immense blue sky above
Roll on the sun and moon.
Their courses mark the change of time.
Blue sky, I wish you health and fortune,
For I, the moon-and-sun, am leaving
To visit the Four Continents for pleasure.

On the mountain peak is a great rock
Round which circles oft the vulture,
The King of birds.
Their meeting
And their parting mark the change of time.
Dear rock, be well and healthy, for I,
The vulture, now will fly away
Into the vast space for pleasure.
May lightnings never strike you,
May I not be caught by snares.
Inspired by the Dharma,
May we soon meet again,
In prosperity and boon.

Below in the Tsang River,
Swim fish with golden eyes;
Their meeting and their parting
Mark the change of time.
Dear stream, be well and healthy, for I,
The fish am going to the Ganges for diversion.
May irrigators never drain you,
May fishermen ne'er net me
Inspired by the Dharma,
May we soon meet again
In prosperity and boon.

In the fair garden blooms the flower, Halo;
Circling round it is the Persian bee.
Their meeting and their parting,
Mark the change of time.
Dear flower, be well and healthy, for I
Will see the Ganges' blooms for pleasure.
May hail not beat down upon you,
May winds blow me not away.
Inspired by the Dharma,
May we soon meet again
In prosperity and boon.

Circling round the Yogi Milarepa
Are the faithful patrons from Nya Non;
Their meeting and their parting
Mark the change of time.
Be well and healthy, dear patrons, as I
Leave for the far mountains for diversion.
May I, the yogi, make good progress,
And you, my patrons, all live long.
Inspired by the Dharma,
May we soon meet again
In prosperity and boon!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Confused Dharma from Tibet

Last night I was watching the 1996 documentary on Tibet - 'Time-Life's Lost Civilizations - Tibet'. The documentary was well made, with some very powerful imagery and strong narrative relating to the distinctive contribution that Tibet has made to both spiritual practice and social and cultural development. The end of the documentary focussed on the destruction of 'old' Tibet, which was very emotive indeed.

But one thing really struck me in the documentary above all else.

Though on historical or social aspects the documentary was quite accurate, on virtually every mention or explanation of Dharma it was astoundingly mistaken or confused! Constantly talking about Buddha being a 'god', or the Dalai Lama as a 'god king', or as the spiritual leader of Tibet (as against the Gelug school), or of 'souls migrating between bodies' .... the list goes on ....

How is it that a documentary could be made by such an esteemed producer, and be so accurate on pretty much everything, and yet be so utterly mistaken in everything it said about Dharma?

I can only hazard a guess. And that is that those charged with writing the script found it hard to get beyond two things.

One obstacle would be the concepts which come from Christianity. So many of the mistakes about Dharma seemed to come from translating them into Christian type concepts, which are manifestly different from the Dharmic ones.

The other and perhaps more fundamental problem for the script writers is Non-Dualism.

How hard must it be for someone who is accustomed to thinking in dualistic terms, whether in terms of science, religion, or indeed, anything else ... how hard must it be for them to make sense of the 'middle way', which avoids and transcends all dualistic veiws, all views rooted in eternalism or nihilism, and which runs counter to the common-sense notions of the conceptual mind?

I don't say this out of an egoistic sense of 'superiority' .... my view is better than all other views! It more that I was struck so forcefully by how radical the Dharmic view is, how different indeed it is from the common sense notions by which people negotiate the world, and create the very suffering which they seek to avoid.

I'm sure that there are many more documentaries out there which present the Dharma from the Dharma's point of view, and are more satisfactory in that respect, but 'Time-Life's Lost Civilizations - Tibet' provided me with a timely reminder of the nature of the Dharma, which leads to the pacification of all views.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Eyes Wide Shut

About a month ago I switched to always meditating with my eyes open, after pretty much always meditating with my eyes shut for the last 16 years. In the past I'd tried to switch, but found my ability to concentrate greatly impaired, so had reverted to keeping them shut.

However, it has been 3 years since switching to Mahamudra view and method, and several times recently I've read teachings which seemed to very pointedly advise to meditating with eyes open. So, I thought it was time to try again.

So often it seems that teachings jump out at me which seem 'meant for me', and seem to carry the imprint of my teacher, Shangpa Rinpoche, regardless of their not being written or spoken by him, but are actually the words of another teacher. Nevertheless, as I hold the view that all things that arise in mind are inseperable from the mind of my guru, it seems very clear when other teachers' teachings or indeed, other things in the world, arise in my mind, inseperably from my teachers intent. How useful indeed is that view!

Well, this time has been very different. After 4 weeks it seems so natural and 'right' to keep the eyes open in meditation. Indeed, whenever I shut them for a moment if my gaze is too 'strong', then I immediately feel the inclination to open them again. So it seems that a new 'habit' is here for a while ... of meditating with the eyes open.

So how has this been different? This last few weeks, I've noticed a sense that my meditation is even less somehow 'different' from the rest of my day, or other activities. Or, if you like, my formal practice is less seperate from my informal practice. It seems as though I'm somehow more integrated, with less distinction between meditating and not-meditating.

Why might this so? My feeling is that there is a subtle symbolism in keeping the eyes open as being less of a 'cutting myself off' or less of a constraining of conditions when I meditate. It's as if there is symbolically less distinction betwen them. And this fits in, it seems to me, with the Mahamudra approach, which is such a natural approach, and one which is, in a sense, more gently integrated with daily life, or able to be gently integrated, than some other approaches to meditation.

With Kagyu Dharma I've increasingly moved away from the approach of setting things up a certain way to support practice ... and wanting things to be a certain way ... for example, doing retreats, group study, mixing with lots of Buddhists, and grown into an approach with just allows things to be the way they are, and, however they are, just looking into the nature of mind ... right there at that moment, at work, with family, wherever. So it becomes less and less like practice is one way, and there is something else (presumably non-practice, or non formal practice) which needs integrating into. So life becomes a whole, it just is what it is, and I just look at the nature of mind, whenever, and wherever I am.

So for me, having the eyes open in meditation, and adding the play of visual appearances to the play of appearances of all the other senses during meditation in this way, gives such a greater sense of all of them being the play of wisdom, all of them are part of the mandala, all of them are inseperable from the deity, and inseperable from the mind of my guru.

Somehow, it's more a whole, more integrated, more natural, and just 'fits'.

..... for now! Who knows how things will change ... things always change ... but it's very 'right' for now .. and such a great blessing :-)

The Wake Up Bell

How wonderful that my wife 'woke me up' this morning with the bell of rememberance!

Having got little sleep this last few night with my sick toddler, I slipped into an old pattern of 'wrong speech' when overtired. How often it seems to be that when I've not slept, I revert to more automatic patterns of speech, which seem driven by the winds of karma. That space of awareness seems missing, the one which allows clear choices of action, rather than automatic responses which are more likely unskilful.

When she heard my comment on something on TV, my wife gently 'woke me up' with kind words reminding me of my commitments.

How wonderful indeed to have a companion on the path, someone who can bring back rememberance when it escapes you. How wonderful that whatever you do, all is not lost, and you are not dammed eternally, and lost forever. How wonderful that whereever you are, you can always recommit, always try again, always rededicate to the path that leads all beings 'beyond'.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Right Where You Are ....

Seems like we often feel that we need to get into certain circumstances in order for our 'practice' to blossom. That we need to change the conditions in our lives to somehow support our practice. That we would be able to somehow do it 'better' if things were other than how they are now.

But, mind is right here, right now, regardless of what the circumstances are in my life. Mind. Different contents, different experiences, but mind is always right here. So the opportunity to just look, to just see the nature of the mind is always right here, right now, however the conditions are in my life.

So why do I want to change them? Mind doesn't go away, and only pop up under favourable conditions! Mind doesn't become more or less present with the changing of experiences. Mind is always present, and all I have to do is look at it, look deeply into it, and see how it is.

It's the same 'job', however things are. Just look, and see how mind is. See its nature. Just keep coming back to looking at its nature, and neither getting caught up and lost in the stories that pass through mind, nor wishing that the story was somehow different.

All that we experience is within and of mind. We know nothing of anything else. May we recognise the true nature of mind this very moment. May we never get lost in longing, in wishing for things to be other than how they are. May we see clearly and deeply .... and truly.

Was thinking this morning of a number of classic scenarios which keep on popping up in the spiritual life. They seem to be not just classic aspects of

Is there any pleasure in life as great as that of offering a stick of incense, or making a prostration?

Could anything be so complete, so right, so wonderful in its simplicity and perfection? How amazing that something so simple, so small, could give such fulfilment and pleasure. How incredible, of all life's pleasures, that such a small things should be so complete.

And to think that before I was a Buddhist (in this life!) I could never have envisaged myself bowing down to anyone or anything :-)

Life surely is a strange and wondrous thing!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Classics - The Kiss of Death

Was thinking this morning of a number of classic scenarios which keep on popping up in the spiritual life. They seem to be not just classic aspects of my path, but of other people's too ... so thought I'd share them.

The Kiss of Death!

You get a few days where everything seems to be 'coming together'. Meditation is getting stronger and clearer. Positivity welling up. Beauty seems everywhere. A calmness descends, an equanimity which feels like it is unbreakable and will last forever.

Nothing seems to trouble you ... life seems so *easy* ... just ride the waves, the surfer, at one with the Tao ....

then .....

it happens!

The Kiss of Death!

you think the thought ... the thought that is the Kiss of Death.

What is that thought ..... ?

It's .....

"I've got it!"

"I've finally got it .... got the knack ..... seen through it ..... can see how it's done ..... I got the riddle of life sorted ... and never again will go back to confused, angry, inpatient, unclear, stressed, doubtful, or just plain *suffering!*

And that's what does it!!!!

Doesn't matter whether the thought was fully formed or not, or how strong your sense of having 'finally got it' was .... the very act of having some sort of 'now I've got it' .... is the ultimate Kiss of Death .... coz right after that thought .....

It all falls apart :-) And suffering follows most surely in its wake.

Cause and Effect .... Hubris ... and the fall .....

so, like Dory in Finding Nemo ..... "Just Keep Swimming" .... and don't attempt to grasp onto anything that arises on the path as a ground, as security, as something to rest on or leverage .... don't grasp onto good/bad, or results .....

"Just Keep Swimming"

Qualities of Mind - 2

In response to a further question, asking 'which qualities of mind do not pertain to Buddha Nature - is not everything an expression of mind, and primordial wisdom?

I think I can see why you say this, and feel this way. In one sense
it is so ... all that appears to arise has the same nature, that of
being apparent, yet empty. But, the teachings on Buddha Nature seem
to point to something else here, which is the difference between
those aspects of mind which are viewed as adventitious defilements,
and those which are Buddha Nature.

For example, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso:
"All the beings' flaws are unreal -- mere confused and
impermanent appearances, because actually the Buddha Nature is
originally perfect. It is empty of the separable, which are the
fleeting stains, but not empty of the inseparable, which are the
unsurpassable qualities.

How is this possible? Because the stains of confusion are not
intrinsic to the essence of mind, so they can be removed, whereas the
qualities of enlightenment are the nature of mind, so they cannot be

This is of course a Shentong view, and would be contradicted by

Coming to your point below ... I can understand what you are saying,
and can see the strength in not rejecting any of your experience or
in being attached to the labels of 'good' and 'bad' in relation to
aspects of mind. I can also understand what you are saying about the
positive changes in the balance of mental states as a result of
practice. However, I think the questioner you originally mentioned in
your first email was pointing at what looked like a contradiction in
the teachings, which was that certain qualities are accepted as
somehow 'ultimate' or innate qualities of mind, and others aren't.
For example, how compassion *is* a quality of mind, and uncompassion,
the opposite of compassion - ill-will, is not. And that issue is to
do with what Buddha Nature is actually pointing to in those

very best wishes to you ....

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Qualities of Mind - 1

In response to a scenario on a List, where a person was confused as to how it is said that mind has no qualities, and yet it is said to have compassion, fearlessness, indestruction etc.

There are a couple of layers in response to this. As a Shentongpa, I
cannot help responding from a Kagyu Shentong perspective. Looking at
what your friend said in your description above, there is a very
clear distinction indeed between what he said, and what your Lama

When we look at mind, and look at its nature, do we see qualities
such as colour, weight or size? Surely when we look and examine, the
answer must be 'no'. However hard we look, or however long, we never
see any qualities such as colour, weight or size to mind. It is clear
in looking at mind that these things never appear to arise. At all!

But, when we look at mind, and look at it with respect to what your
Lama mentioned, do we ever see the qualities of compassion,
fearlessless or indestruction (I will check back with you at the end
to make sure I understand this term correctly) appear to arise? Well,
the answer must surely be 'yes'. If we look at the mind, deeply, and
for long enough, we will surely see these things arise. Colour,
weight and size never ever arise in mind, but compassion,
fearlessless and indestruction do arise. So it can be said that the
mind doesn't have the characteristics of the former group, but it
does have the characteristics of the latter.

But, do these things that appear to arise have substantial existence?
This is why I use the word 'appear' in the sentences above ....
'appear to arise'. These qualities like compassion do indeed appear
to arise. They appear to our mind, and so may be said to be qualities
of the mind, unlike the other group. But, and this is very important,
though they appear to the mind, they do not have any substantial
exisitence. When you examine them deeply, these things like
compassion that appear to arise ... well, they are not there! They
are not there at all. They appear to arise, but actually, there is
nothing there which can be held and said ultimately to be
'compassion' or the rest. When you look deeply, they just melt away
before the awareness, like rainbows, like illusions. So, in classic
language, they appear, but are empty. Again, in classic language,
conventionally, or relatively, they exist, ie, they appear to arise,
but ultimately, they do not, ie, on deep looking, there is n
othing there at all which can be held, or captured, or really
grasped by the mind.

So, I hope this is clear .... the first group never ever appear to
arise, the latter group appear to arise (merely appear, but are
actually empty), so they can be said to be qualities of the mind.

Of course, depending on the perspective one is taking in asking the
questions, ie, relative or ultimate, these things will appear as a
contradition or be consistent. So one must be careful to establish
the level from which the question is being asked if you wish to
answer at the right level.

Turning to the second level, on a slightly deeper level, in a sense,
this issue throws light on the Shentongpa position on Buddha nature.
From this perspective, the mind is said to be empty of all qualities
which are adventitious, which are not ultimate, but the mind is not
empty of those qualities which pertain to Buddha nature. This is why
the Shentong perspective is said to be 'empty of other', whereas the
Rangtong position is said to be 'empty of self'. So, from the
Shentong position held by most Kagyu's, (and Nyingma's) and therefore
presumably by your lama, the mind is empty of all adventitious
defilements ... so this would include uncompassion, but it is not
empty of compassion.

I hope this makes sense?

best wishes to you in the Dharma


How is it that we always think that Peace is to be found by somehow arranging things in a certain way, if we could get things like this or that, that is certain things could be put into place, then we'd be at peace?

We so often get caught up in thinking that in order to be peaceful, we need to change something. Change the noise, change our mental states, change our partner, change our life. Or even, change other people.

When all we have to do is ....

Let Go

Let go, and accept how things are. Be at peace with how things are. Totally, fully, accept the nature of things, in that moment, just as they are.

Then, should we wish, from a heart of peace, we can act with wisdom and compassion, without attachment or aversion, to move things along to help sentient beings.

Let Go ..... and Trust.

Quote - Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra

The Whole of the 'View, Meditation and Conduct' or of the 'Ground, Path and Fruition' are here in this one Doha or Dharma song. Unbelievably inspirational .... it makes me tingle everyone time I recite it. Faith and Devotion well up in response. It's so odd how something which maps out the whole of the spiritual life, in such clear, methodical terms, can at the same time be such a cause for devotion and inspiration. Faith and Reason, Devotion and Meditation, Study and Direct Perception. All dualities dissolve ....

Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra

by HH3 Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje


Gurus and yidams, deities of the mandala,
Buddhas of the three times in the ten directions
and your sons and daughters,
Please consider us with kindness and understanding, and
Grant your blessing that these aspirations may
be accomplished exactly as we ask.

Sprung from the snow mountain of pure intentions and actions
Of myself and all sentient beings without limit,
May the river of accumulated virtue of the threefold purity
Flow into the ocean of the four bodies of the Victorious Ones.

So long as this is not accomplished,
Through all my lifetimes, birth upon birth,
May not even the words "evil deeds" and "suffering" be heard
And may we enjoy the splendour
and goodness of oceans of happiness and virtue.

Having obtained the supreme freedoms
and conjunctions of the precious human existence,
endowed with faith, energy, and intelligence,
Having attended on a worthy spiritual friend
and received the pith of the holy instructions,
May we practice these properly, just as we have received them,
without obstacle or interruption.
In all our lives, may we practice and enjoy the holy dharma.

Hearing and studying the scriptures and
reasonings free us from the obscuration of not knowing,
Contemplating the oral instructions disperses the darkness of doubt.
In the light born of meditation what is shines forth just as it is.
May the brightness of the three prajnas grow in power.

By understanding the meaning of the ground,
which is the two truths free from the extremes of eternalism and nihilism
And by practising the supreme path of the two accumulations,
free from the extremes of exaggeration and denial,
Is attained the fruit of well-being for oneself and others,
free from the extremes of samsara and nirvana.
May all beings meet the dharma which neither errs nor misleads.

The ground of purification is the mind itself,
indivisible cognitive clarity and emptiness.
That which purifies is the great vajra yoga of mahamudra.
What is to be purified are the adventitious,
temporary contaminations of confusion,
May the fruit of purification, the stainless dharmakaya, be manifest.

Resolving doubts about the ground brings conviction in the view.
Then keeping one's awareness unwavering in accordance
with the view, is the subtle pith of meditation.
Putting all aspects of meditation into practice is the supreme action.
The view, the meditation, the action--may there be confidence in these.

All phenomena are illusory displays of mind.
Mind is no mind--the mind's nature is empty of any entity that is mind
Being empty, it is unceasing and unimpeded,
manifesting as everything whatsoever.
Examining well, may all doubts about the ground be discerned and cut.

Naturally manifesting appearances, that never truly exist,
are confused into objects.
Spontaneous intelligence, under the power of ignorance,
is confused into a self.
By the power of this dualistic fixation,
beings wander in the realms of samsaric existence.
May ignorance, the root of confusion, he discovered and cut.

It is not existent--even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
It is not nonexistent--it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana.
This is not a contradiction, but the middle path of unity.
May the ultimate nature of phenomena,
limitless mind beyond extremes, he realised.

If one says, "This is it," there is nothing to show.
If one says, "This is not it," there is nothing to deny.
The true nature of phenomena,
which transcends conceptual understanding, is unconditioned.
May conviction he gained in the ultimate, perfect truth.

Not realising it, one circles in the ocean of samsara.
If it is realised, buddha is not anything other.
It is completely devoid of any "This is it," or "This is not it."
May this simple secret, this ultimate essence of phenomena,
which is the basis of everything, be realised.

Appearance is mind and emptiness is mind.
Realisation is mind and confusion is mind.
Arising is mind and cessation is mind.
May all doubts about mind be resolved.

Not adulterating meditation with conceptual
striving or mentally created meditation,
Unmoved by the winds of everyday busyness,
Knowing how to rest in the uncontrived, natural spontaneous flow,
May the practice of resting in mind's true nature be skilfully sustained.

The waves of subtle and coarse thoughts calm down
by themselves in their own place,
And the unmoving waters of mind rest naturally.
Free from dullness, torpor, and, murkiness,
May the ocean of shamatha be unmoving and stable.

Looking again and again at the mind which cannot be looked at,
The meaning which cannot be seen is vividly seen, just as it is.
Thus cutting doubts about how it is or is not,
May the unconfused genuine self-nature he known by self-nature itself.

Looking at objects, the mind devoid of objects is seen;
Looking at mind, its empty nature devoid of mind is seen;
Looking at both of these, dualistic clinging is self-liberated.
May the nature of mind, the clear light nature of what is, be realised.

Free from mental fabrication, it is the great seal, mahamudra.
Free from extremes, it is the great middle way, madhyamika.
The consummation of everything, it is also called
the great perfection, dzogchen.
May there be confidence that by understanding one,
the essential meaning of all is realised.

Great bliss free from attachment is unceasing.
Luminosity free from fixation on characteristics is unobscured.
Nonthought transcending conceptual mind is spontaneous presence.
May the effortless enjoyment of these experiences be continuous.

Longing for good and clinging to experiences are self-liberated.
Negative thoughts and confusion purify naturally in ultimate space.
In ordinary mind there is no rejecting and accepting, loss and gain.
May simplicity, the truth of the ultimate essence of everything, be realised.

The true nature of beings is always buddha.
Not realising that, they wander in endless samsara.
For the boundless suffering of sentient beings
May unbearable compassion be conceived in our being.

When the energy of unbearable compassion is unceasing,
In expressions of loving kindness, the truth of its
essential emptiness is nakedly clear.
This unity is the supreme unerring path.
Inseparable from it, may we meditate day and night.

By the power of meditation arise the eyes and supernormal perceptions,
Sentient beings are ripened and buddha fields are perfectly purified,
The aspirations that accomplish the qualities of a buddha are fulfilled.
By bringing these three to utmost fruition-fulfilling, ripening and
purifying-may utmost buddhahood be manifest.

By the power of the compassion of the Victorious Ones of the
ten directions and their sons and daughters,
And by the power of all the pure virtue that exists,
May the pure aspirations of myself and all sentient beings
Be accomplished exactly as we wish.

Madhyamika and Shentong - 4

Is Shentong not part of Madhyamika?

This one is a bit tricky, as more or less all the schools claim that their highest view is in fact the highest madhyamika view. So, the Shentongpas call their highest view in the tenet system 'great madhyamika', and yet so do the Rangtongpas call theirs 'great madhyamika', and so do the prasangika-madhyamikas. So very different views get called highest madhyamika by the various approaches in the Tibetan schools.

Does not Rangtong recognizes emtpiness alone as ultimate nature of mind, while in Shengtong it is inseprability of emptiness and luminiosity which is seen as ultimate nature of mind?

Whilst what you say is true, it's not actually what I was communicating. I was making a different point, which is that for many Kagyu's and indeed Nyingmas, madhyamika method is seen as an exemplary method for clarifying the view, and Shentongpa view is seen as the prime view on which to base meditation. Just to reemphasise ... why is this so ....?

Madhyamika method enables you to cut away at your subtely wrong views ... so ... it's not this, it's not that ... keeping on cutting, cutting .... so that your view is gradually purified of gross mistakes, and progressively subtleer mistakes .. .then, when you meditate, you take the shentong view ... and don't fall into these errors (which are very easy to do when meditating from a Shentong perspective) because of the work you have done using madhyamika method. Does this help?

Are you not using Madhaymika as another word for Rangtong, and Shentong is a Madhyamika view as well?

Yes, for most Kagyupa, Shentong is seen as the highest Madhyamika view (as per the comment above), though Rangtongpas would dissagree.

Do I refer to Shengtong as something outside of Madhyamika scope?

I hope this is now clear, it isn't. Shentong is based on Madhyamika, and uses madhyamika to cut away wrong views, whilst allowing a 'positive' view of the qualities of Buddha nature and enlightened mind, without straying into subtle error. Rangtong is something altogether different, also based on madhyamika, but different from it.

Does one not need luminosity in order to just talk about emptiness? Like Milarepa said - the only way emptiness can experience itself is through its inherent luminosity?

Well, yes, but all Rangtongpas would strongly dissagree, which would include most Gelugs and Sakyas, and they attain realisations and enlightenment too, so I wouldn't push too far and say they are wrong, more of the nature of different methods based on different views, which work better for different people.

Some of course say both shentong and rangtong are wrong .... and that both are subtle versions of eternalism and nihilism .... .but that is another discussion altogether!!!!!

Didn't Vimalakirti make Manjusri words disappear as if they never happened, isn't that the best expression of Emptiness?

Well, it's been a few years since I read the sutra, but my recollection of it is that Vimalakirti kept noble silence in answer to the question, and that silence was described as deafening, and resounding with the truth. Of course, in a sense, silence falsifies the truth less than any speech ever can do, as it doesn't fall into dualistic error. But, for most people, speech is necessary, as a means to point towards the truth. Different people need different fingers pointing in different ways, to the same moon. Hence, Shentong, Rangtong, Kagyu, Gelug, Manjushri, Vimalakirti, and all!

very best wishes to you ... thank you for bringing up so many wonderful points which stimulate such discussion which I hope will be of some use in beings' paths .....

Madhyamika and Shentong - 3

In response to a quote from a song of Milarepa, where Rechugnpa experienced a glimpse of emptiness and felt lost, becauase there was nothing to hold on :-)

Interestingly enough, this is precisely what Madhyamika method leads to ... the realisation that there is nothing whatsover to hold onto, and whatever we turn to in our attempt to ground ourselves, that too is empty, and devoid of anything we could establish as a ground ...

In response to a comment that it is hard to tell where view starts and ends, and experience starts and ends.

As I've argued in my previous email, I would say that that is because View and experience are intimately related, because View is not an intellectual thing (though it can find intellectual _expression), but is in fact our realisation, our wisdom, our means of 'seeing'.

In response to the statement that Madhyamika as part of Mahamudra practice is not a separate teaching ot foundation or whatever - but rather one of the aspects of practice. It is the projection of experience into words and logical constructs, so to say.

Again, as mentioned in my previous post, I'd argue that Madhyamika is indeed part of Mahamudra practice, one which is especially suited to clarifying View, and not just a projection of experience into words and constructs, but the skilful employment of words and contructs to engender realisation.

In response to the position that logic can always be defeated, as can reason, and therefore have no value by themselves in the spiritual path.

In response I guess I'd say that the point of Madhyamika method is in part a means to take reason or thinking to its limit and beyond, and lead the person to a place from which they can lead to direct perception. It is taught that it is a mistake to foreshorten this process, and just 'believe' that it is impossible for thinking to grasp the truth of things. Because such a belief is a thought in itself, and one which is not a realisation. The realisation of the nature of thought and mind, is one which comes with the seeing through of thought, not the acceptance of a thought which says thought is not enough .. .if you see? However, I'd agree that there are many methods to this goal, but that traditionally, Kagyu teachings have given a significant role to Madhyamika methods, and not just Mahamudra methods.

Once again I must leave now .. and will reply to your most interesting points about Shentong in another post ... till then,

very best wishes in the Dharma

Everything In Place

S'funny how from here, right now, it seems like everything is in place, is in exactly the right place!

The practice - Chod, the teachings - Mahamudra, the teacher - Shangpa Rinpoche, the lineage - Karma Kagyu. What more could I need?

Every circumstance that presents itself, whatever it is, I already have all that I need in relation to it. I don't need to seek anything else, I'm fully equipped.

Each moment that unfolds it's as if my teacher has given me something which is just what I need at that time, a special gift, the key to the door, and all I have to do is turn the key. I don't need to seek further instruction. I don't need further practices. I don't need to change my circumstances in life. Just how it is right now, with these tools, this View, this method ... it's all here.


Just how blessed can one man be!!!!!!

Madhyamika and Shentong - 2

In response to the notion that the teachings of Madhyamaka (Great Middle Way, or Uma
Chenpo in tib.) are foundation of view in Kagyu tradtion.

I didn't say that Madhyamika was the foundation of the Kagyu view. I actually said that within the tradition it is often said to be "most useful for clarifying the view", which is quite a bit different. I would say that for most Kagyupa the Shentong approach is taken, which is based upon the third turning of the wheel of Dharma teachings, and so if anything is the *foundation of view* in Kagyu tradition, it is the inseperability of luminosity and emptiness.

I would further argue, as an interesting aside, that it would be difficult indeed for Madhyamika to be the *foundation of view*, as in itself, it presents no view, and is effectively a method to end all views, and is very resistent indeed to taking a view itself.

So in the light of that Madhyamika teachings are said to be most useful for clarifying the view in the sense that they allow you see your wrong views, and let them go. In particular, they bring into focus our continual falling into subtle eternalist or nihilist views. This is most important to us as throughout the path we will do with with notions of emptiness and clarity.

In response to the notion that view is not a mere combination of analytical concepts, borrowed from even such detailed teachings as Madhyamika - neither is it purely intellectual by its nature.

There's a couple of things I'd like to respond to in this.

I entirely agree that View is not purely intellectual in nature. However, I think it would be a mistake to view Madhyamika as either just a set a teachings, nor as just pertaining to the intellectual.

Madhayamika, whilst undoubtedly a philosophy, is also most importantly a *method*, one which is employed precisely to clarify view. As such, it is not just concepts, nor just intellectual, but method. Again, Madhyamika employs the three wisdoms in its application, which is to say listening/studying, reflecting, and meditation. None of these are purely intellectual or conceptual activities, and all reach much deeper than the intellectual.

In response to the view that 'view' is the product of attempts to find an 'angle' from which your changing experience makes sense.

I broadly agree with your description of the role of karma in how people work with view, and entirely agree with view being an 'unalianable aspect of whole practice', as I hope my reiteration above that madhyamika is useful for clarifying the view (as again a conceptual method that is the basis of the view) makes clear.

I would add that view is both our current level of wisdom, in effect, and the concepts that we use to express that wisdom. So, it's not just a set of concepts which suit our karma (I don't think you were implying that, but just to be clear), but actually our current level of wisdom, and how that is expressed. As such, it is our realisation, through which we see the world, and therefore, to the extent that we have genuine realisations, our view is not just inclined to our karma.

I have to go now ... my little son awaits me! ... and so will respond to the rest of your most interesting mail as the opportunity arises.

best wishes to you in the Dharma, and many thanks for sharing this dialogue.

Madhyamika and Shentong - 1

In response to a mail where it was said that 3rd Karmapa in his Mahamudra verses actually says that 3 diferent approaches - Maha Ati, Maha Mudra and Madhyamaka - lead to the same goal and, when you realize one, you realize other two as well. So, from the level of accomplishment, they are the same thing.

Hi, I just wanted to add one small thing to *****'s excellent email,
where he has perfectly summed up both the potential difficulties and
the opportunities in combining Mahamudra and Dzogchen.

In terms of the relation between Madhyamika and Mahamudra within
Kagyu practice, it is often said that the Madhyamaka perspective is
most useful for clarifying the view, and then the Shentong
perspective is most useful for meditation itself. Utilising the two
together in this way is the best way for developing realisation of

Another way of putting this is that utilising Madhyamika is most
excellent for cutting away all the false views of how things are,
then on that basis utilising Shentong is most excellent for
realisation how things actually are.

Again, it is said that Madhyamika is ideal for preparing the ground
for realising emptiness (shunyata), and Shentong is ideal for
recognising the inseperability of emptiness and luminosity (clarity).

In all these senses, Madhyamika has traditionally been used in Kagyu
practice as an important basis for the realisation of Mahamudra.

best wishes in the Dharma

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Quote - The Single Word of Heart-Advice

It's really this simple ... nothing else is needed ... just follow Karmapa's advice. No need for complex, no need for difficult, no need for struggle, for goal, for striving, for conflict, no need for imaginary obstacles that block our path and make life so difficult ... just follow this ....

The Single Word of Heart-Advice

by Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje

Homage to all the sacred masters.

The heart-mind of all the Buddhas of the past, the present, and the future, widely renowned as Dharmakaya, as Mahamudra, as enlightened mind, is precisely your own mind, which thinks of this and that.

Simply allow this unique awareness to rest vividly awake and present in its natural way.

You don't need to worry or think, "Is this really it? Could this be Mahamudra?" Don't bother yourself with these doubts and questions. Don't hope for improvement or be afraid of degeneration.

By practicing in this extraordinarily simple way, again and again, you will definitely recognize the groundless, rootless open essence of all thoughts, appearances, and phenomena. When that happens, realization blooms naturally. All attachments, all habitual patterns, all conditioning is spontaneously liberated and released in this blossoming of realization.

I swear there is not a more profound and ultimate instruction from all the holy and realized masters of the enlightened lineage that is more profound and more vital than this single word of my heart-advice. Please don't waste this. Don't squander it. Remember this teaching always. There is no mistake in it. Rely on the blessings of such a teaching, rather than on the blessings of others.

This was written by Karmapa Rangjung Dorje in the Yangon Hermitage. May all beings be happy. Sarva mangalam.