Thursday, February 17, 2005

Reflections on Padmasambhava - View and Conduct

Do not lose the view in the conduct;
If you lose the view in the conduct, you will never
have the chance to be liberated.
Do not lose the conduct in the view;
If you lose the conduct in the view, you stray into black diffusion.


This seems to be an ongoing theme for me, working with the interplay of Relative and Absolute Truth. What resonates in Padmasambhava's teaching for me is that one-sidedness greatly diminishes our practice and progress.

The view for me is fundamentally rooted in the 'openess' of how things are, Shunyata, the ineffable, indefinability of all. As I look, all melts away before the gaze of minds eye, including minds eye. And yet, things certainly 'seem' to appear, dancing and entrancing - the play of appearance.

So what is conduct? Conduct is skilful action, which is rooted in understanding of Karma. Without understanding karma, then there's no way to act skilfully, for the benefit of oneself or other beings. Actions have consequences, so acting skilfully brings benefit all round.

And yet, this is the level of Relative Truth ... the level of how things appear to be. Karma 'appears' to be, it 'appears' to be true. But when we look deeply, no karma is seen, no consequences are seen ..... indeed, no action is seen either.

Karma certainly seems to take place, and yet, it is ultimately empty.

Loosing the view in the conduct would mean believing, fundamentally believing that your actions exist, yourself and the recipient of your actions exist ... and their consequences too. And you'd be reduced to doing good deeds .... which is great, but will not allow you to put a end to Samsara through seeing through the whole wheel which turns. You'll do a great deal of good, but not attain liberation.

So acting with skilfullness, ultimate attention to skilfulness, but not caught up in believing in an actor, and action, and those acted upon. All are empty.

But once again, if you loose your conduct in the view .... if you think that as all phenomena are ultimately empty then nothing matters, it matters not which way you act, then again you'll fall into error and the path will be lost. Padmasambhava calls this 'black diffusion' ... a wonderful expression for being lost in the mists of directionlessness.

In another teaching Padmasambhava talked of keeping your view as high as possible, but your actions as fine as can be .... neglecting neither.

Though your view be like the sky, let your conduct be as refined as flour.

Clear enough, but in practice for me, an interesting locus. Without a definitive realisation of emptiness, I constantly slip and slide across the twin errors mentioned in the quote. The middle path .... acting with perfect conduct, yet not caught in the three-fold error of projecting a doer, a done to, and that which is done .... this is a fundamental challenge. My focus changes moment to moment, and day to day. Now more on conduct, now more on view .... like a sheepdog corralling the sheep ..... nudging view and conduct into better alignment .... working in harmony, and working more deeply. Depth and harmony. Working on both, and keeping them hand in hand.

View and Conduct.


Florence said...

I love your blog, its humanity and cleverness. It is rare with buddhist practicioners. I fully agree with your point of view about View and conduct. Many people seem to understand the View but forget it as soon as they act in the "real life". You will probably see all the other comments I just left. I recently came to the evidence that usual practices (shine, mantras, yogas) are not powerful enough to help us realizing our true nature. Even there, who has the full transmission of the 6 yogas of Naropa ? As far as I know, they give them only in 3 years retreats. But we have the chance that some dzogchen masters like Namkhai Norbu or Tenzin Namdak, and maybe other, give openly full transmissions of dzogchen. This is a great chance. Anyhow, I don't want to bother you, but if you are interested to speak about these matters, you can write me at
I am none, I teach nothing, I am just a beginner who think that practicioners can learn much from mutual sharing.

Chodpa said...

Hi there, many thanks for your comment here and on the previous postings. They were an opportunity for much reflection :-)

best wishes to you on your path,