Friday, December 31, 2004

Joy and Sadness

When you are born you cry,
but the whole world is overjoyed.
When you die the whole world cries,
but you may find the great liberation.

Quote from Bardo Thodol

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Story

The other day something quite illuminating happened. I walked into a store, and saw in a distance the headline on a newspaper - "man stabbed by fork" on a local newspaper. Immediately in my mind, the following thoughts popped up .... "ah ... local newspapers ... always full of trivial news ... like cats stuck in trees ... wow ..... someone stabbed with a fork makes the front page of the paper! .... wonder if it was an argument at the dinner table? .... hmm, eating forks are quite blunt ... still, it's pretty trivial" and so it went. This little story spun out in my mind, as I waited for my companion to catch up with me.

Then, I walked through the barrier and walked past the newspaper, reading the lead paragraph as a walked by.

To my surprise it said "man stabbed in the throat with a garden fork". Well, that really shocked and horrified me .. the thought of someone being stabbed in the throat with something as large and weighty as a garden fork ... what a terrible thing to happen!

And just as surprising to me as finding out what had really happened was watching what had occurred in my mind, reeling off this story, all based on assumption, and how wrong that story was.

And then I reflected that however much we know about a situation, our understanding is still based on assumptions, as we can never know all the causes, conditions and aspects of something, so our view is always partial, and to that extent, actually not how it is.

Only how it is to us, at this time, based on what we know, and how we 'choose' to interpret it.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Samsara and Nirvana

Where does the unsatisfactoriness of life come from? How is it that we experience pain or sorrow, frustration or unhappiness? What is the cause of experience of life as being imperfect?

It’s all just a matter of perspective!

Misunderstanding the nature of things we experience suffering. This is the experience of Samsara. We mistakenly view phenomena as having an enduring existence, and a sense of solidity or selfhood that they do not possess. Whatever we perceive, whether seemingly within our minds or objects outside, we imagine they are discrete and enduring. We experience an emotion, and grasp at it as though it truly exists, that it is solid and real – a solidly existing entity. We see a car and again imagine ‘car’ – we think there is a thing there with ‘car-ness’, and that that is what we see.

But all phenomena are composite … they can be divided up into constituent parts, and the ‘thing itself’ can never be found. Dividing up a car, we see wheels, doors, engine – where is the car?

Dividing up the emotion, we see physical sensations in the body, and flavours in the mind.

But looking deeper, we can divide up the wheel, into tyre, rim and nuts. Looking deeper, the physical sensation isn’t one, but a multitude of shimmering aspects, flowing ever one. There is no end to the way we can look more deeply into the composite nature of a phenomena, and nowhere in any of it can the ‘thing itself’ be found. It’s just a label we project onto what we perceive.

Looking at the car, it comes together through all manner of causes and conditions, all that has been needed for that car to be there in that moment. But that is not fixed – the conditions constantly change. And so does the car. It rusts, the paint fades, the parts wear out, the seats get dirty. Always changing, never the same. The causes and conditions constantly change, and so does this what we label as ‘car’. Nothing fixed or solid there, only process and flux.

And with this wrong way of viewing phenomena, this projection of a solidity or selfhood which it doesn’t possess, comes the consequence for us …. We suffer.

We suffer as we try to grasp onto those ‘things’ that we find pleasant. We suffer as we try to push away those that we find unpleasant. Given them a reality they don’t possess, we then end up acting on them as though there was inherent value in that mistaken selfhood. Feeling that things are much more solid and real than they actually are, we push and pull at them, hoping to rearrange the world to make us happy. As nothing has the nature that we imagined, our hoped for result goes awry, and suffering is the inevitable result of this mistaken perception of phenomena.

This mistaken way of viewing things is the cause of all our suffering, the cause of Samsara. Seeing things as they truly are means the end of suffering, and is known as Nirvana. No longer mistakenly seeing ‘things’ where things do not exist, we view all phenomena as empty, empty of solidity and selfhood. Seeing the composite nature of all phenomena, we no longer try to grasp or reject. Seeing the conditioned nature of all, we no longer imagine a fixed and isolated selfhood, free of dependence on conditions, and changing as those conditions change.

Seeing things as they are, suffering can never return, as the roots of suffering – mistaken perception is forever banished.

Seeing things as they truly are, we can never again experience Samsara. Once this topsy turvey way of viewing the world is dropped, then our unsatisfactory experience goes with it. View phenomena incorrectly, we experience Samsara. View phenomena correctly, we experience Nirvana. Though it’s a simple change, it’s one which is profound in consequence.

Not places or realms, Samsara and Nirvana arise in dependence on conditions, in dependance on correctly seeing the nature of phenomena. Rather than it being somewhere, a plane of existence or thing, it’s simply the mistaken view of what is, and arises in dependence on that mistake.

May all beings view all phenomena as they are, and no longer transmigrate in Samsara, forever freed from its sufferings and imperfection!

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Vantage Point

One of the nice things about being ill is that the circumstances of your life are rather different from 'normal', and as a result, it gives you a different vantage point from which to view how things are.

Instead of the usual routine, you are forced into a different one, one which may well disrupt your preferences, or choices. And with that change, comes the precious opportunity to see afresh. How wonderful indeed to be shaken by illness, and given the chance to see life from the side, instead of head on!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

All Situations Are Workable

To use Chogyam Trungpa’s phrase – all situations are workable. After reading part of a teaching by Trungpa Rinpoche on a forum today, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to label situations as either easy or difficult from the point of view of practice. And, beyond that, how easy to label certain situations as basically being unworkable.

How often do we seek to move away from situations that we don’t like? We justify it with all sorts of rationale’s, such as ‘this is not conducive to my practice’, or ‘this one encourages me to loose mindfulness’, or ‘this one has a negative effect on me, and I loose momentum or perspective’. So we decide that certain situations are basically best avoided, as somehow that would have a negative effect on what we view as ‘our practice’.

How is this? Well, from a Hinayana point of view there is certainly some merit in saying that we should not keep too close company with either those that are unskilful, or those situations which encourage unskilfulness. But, within the Hinayana teachings are those on Vipassana which encourage us to not get entangled in whatever arises, and caught up in either pushing away or pulling experiences towards us, but instead to see their true nature – especially in terms of their being impermanent, suffering, and not-self. Allowing things to be as they are, we practice non-preference, and examine the nature of what is, not trying to find happiness through choosing what we want.

And moving to Mahayana, where the emphasis is more on transformation, rather than avoiding that which is harmful, the first and fundamental perfection is that of generosity. So ideas of ‘my practice’ as being a guiding force, or being around this person is detrimental to me are fundamentally opposed to the Bodhisattva path. If we are on the Mahayana path, then should we prioritise ourselves in this way? There are needs, and we respond to them. Where there is suffering, our compassion moves to help. No longer hypnotised by what arises in our mind, we see the nature of things as empty - without enduring substance, like a rainbow. Watching what arises, we see no 'me', no owner of the experiences, just a play of insubstantial phenomena. No longer bound by 'me' and 'you', we are freed from attachment and able to respond to need wherever it lies. Standing our ground, wherever we are, we do what needs to be done, without favoratism or fear.

With the Vajrayana, we no longer need to transform anything, as all Dharmas are seen to be self-liberating anyway. Instead of either backing away from difficult dharmas, or seeking to transform them by applying antidotes, we allow them to be, see their nature as they play, and utilise their energy for our work of liberating all sentient beings. As all phenomena and circumstances are just empty arisings of mind, what need is there to discriminate between them in such a way that we try to keep ourselves out of certain circumstances or away from certain people. Different apparent arisings in mind have different textures, or different flavours, as it were. But all reveal the nature of mind, all appear to arise, all are empty of any substance, and thus all are one taste – inseperable emptiness and clarity.

If we no longer fear emotions, then we no longer have to move away from those that we label ‘emotional’. If we no longer fear different views, then it does us no harm to be around those who differ from us. If we are no longer afraid of ourselves going out of control, then we no longer have to try to keep the lid on our minds, and constantly worry that unskilful emotions or thoughts will take us over. Whatever arises can be taken to the path, becomes the path, is the path for us. Whatever arises, however it is, is the fuel of our apparent journey, our journey that takes us to where we already are.

No longer fearing dharmas, no longer enslaved by fleeting experience, we gain the courage and confidence to take a stand with life, and allow it to be what it is. And ourselves – we can be what we are – more fully each moment we open to and embrace what arises.

Each moment provides the flavour and the fuel.

Each moment is what it is … the ground on which we awaken.

All situations are the path – right here, right now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Meeting Needs

Looking at a situation with a group of people, what do you see?


However you look, you see either immediate suffering, the suffering that comes from the nature of change and therefore loss of present happiness, or existential suffering - the suffering that comes simply through being embodied.

Looking at beings, you see beings rubbing up against how things are, and the resulting sufferings caused by ignorance. Not seeing how things truly are, we try to grasp stuff, or we push stuff away, or we remain untouched by that which doesn't trigger our attachments.

In a family or work dynamic, we experience things we don't find pleasant, and often seek to move away from that. The person who reacts differently to how we want them to - we experience a 'need' to get them to change. That may stem from wanting to change the uncomfortableness of the situation or behavoir, rather than through seeing that being creating unnecessary suffering for themselves and others through their behavoir based on ignorance, and a spontaneously compassionate response to that.

One of the beauties of a family is, like in a monastery, you have placed a stake in the ground, and said "this is where I stand, and this is where I now practice". Rather than seeking the grass that is supposedly greener elsewhere, you have commited to being in this particular circumstance, however that plays out.

The great beauty of this is that it encourages you to see how things truly are, and to work with it, rather than to give in to the compulsive need to want to move away from that which you find unpleasant. In a marriage, you've let go of the idea of wanting a 'perfect person', and have commited to being right here, right now, with this very person. With children, you can't move them away if they no longer suit you - this is the ground with which you work.

And why should you seek to be elsewhere? Why seek a different partner due to the sufferings that arise from not wanting your present one to be as they are? Things are as they are. Situations give rise to pleasant and unpleasant. People are in part as you would wish (at a particular moment) and partly not.

A pleasant sensation arises .... how is that? An empty arising in mind, no more, no less. Not something to make a great story out of, a 'song and a dance', and then to start grasping after. It's just what it is .... utterly without substance, yet a play of mind.

An unpleasant experience arises ... how is that? Again, just the minds luminosity, momentarily 'holding' that flickering appearance, an empty conjuring trick which plays and goes. Why seek to push it away, to change what we think is 'out there' and causing it? It just is what it is, a shadow play of mind.

No longer caught in the push-pull of compulsion, no longer projecting an 'other' out there to be 'perfected', we can allow things to be as they are. Truly at peace with the world, we can let go of manipulating and forcing.

And out of that letting go, that allowing things to be .... what arises?


Compassion - the desire to help and alleviate the sufferings that appear to appear. Wherever they arise, seemingly in others, or seemingly in ourselves, we can gently offer what needs to be offered. Is it out there, or is it in here? Does the suffering occur in others, or in ourselves? No longer seeing 'me', no longer seeing 'them', we no longer get caught up in balancing our needs and the needs of others. No longer a juggling act, with limited resources. The play of mind is just that ... empty appearances seemingly arising. Where they arise in such a way that inspires compassionate action, then that action occurs in the way that it is needed. Where does 'you' or 'I' come in to it?

The unbearable suffering of seeing beings caught in delusion, grasping and pushing at what they experience, thinking they will find release in holding and excluding. How painful indeed to see that needless suffering, when the shadow plays of their minds are no more substantial than your own?

Playing to the wrong game plan, how painful to see .... compassion reaches out, to help where it can. Not caught up in trying to make them 'right', to make them 'see', to again change the world into how it 'ought to be' - filled with beings who no longer self-cause suffering. Just gently offering help where help can be given, helping, and holding, and allowing their blossoms to gently bloom.

Yet there are infinitely more needs of suffering to relieve than our current capacity to help. This desperate unbearable suffering of feeling others' sufferings, and not having the capacity to help them all drives our desire for realisation, so that we may have the unlimited capacities of an Enlightened One.

Illusory beings creating illusory suffering, yet the dream is so vivid, so real, so entrancing.

Just what it is, a play of appearances. Not mesmerised by the shadowplay, and then freed to spontaneously be. Be-ing in the best way, be-ing of benefit. Needs appear to arise, and just responding as can. No longer caught up in 'me' and 'their' needs.

Seeing the nature of mind allows the delusory dualisms to fade. Not caught up in delusion, compassion can arise. Freed from forcing, letting go is the ground.

Letting go ... everything is accomplished.

Nobody to do, nobody done to, nothing is done.

And yet, all is complete ... Eh Ma Ho!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

2 Days Later

Outside of meditation, reflecting now, 2 days later .. did those thoughts arise at all? Where are they? ...

Are they any different in nature from the dream I had last night? Where has that gone?

They both had a sense of 'realness' at the time, but what substance remains of either? Both resonate, and seem to leave an emotional echo, but was either more or less 'real' than the other? ....

Both empty arisings .....

That echo in the present mind ... how do I know it is connected to those thoughts 2 days ago? How do I know I even had those thoughts 2 days ago? ... my 'recollection' now ... how do I know it is trustworthy recollection?

Like a dream, experiences of empty appearances ... whether we call ourselves 'awake', or 'dreaming', it all has the same nature .... vivid and clear, unobstructed, and empty of all substantiality ....

Friday, December 10, 2004

Where Do Thoughts Come From?

Where do thoughts come from?

This last evening, I've been watching seemingly endless thoughts appearing in mind, anger and revenge mostly, as in the midst of a family crisis, my ex-wife decided to pitch in with the 'blame game'.

It's funny this expression - pushing the buttons. The common expression is .. 'she knows how to push my buttons' .. meaning, she knows what to say which hurts the most, and upsets the most.

So a rush a thoughts running through mind, which play out this amazing story of this, and that, then this then that ... all running along, seemingly without any fuel or intention. It's like a train out of control .... careering on, yet 'who' asked it to?

They pop up into mind .... but where did they come from? I look at mind, and cannot see where they arise from. I look, but they just spontaneously appear, seemingly from nowhere. How can that be? How can 'something' come from 'nothing'?

Well, are they 'something', and do they go back into 'nothing'?

Seems like that as the rush of emotion is in full flow. But watching closely, there's increasingly less a sense of 'something' arising. Like ghostly presences, thoughts 'seem' to appear. But do they? What substance do they have? Sure, there is a sense of emotional fullness ... and bodily sensations which accompany their presence. But how amorphous they are, and how transparent. Nowhere when I look can they be found, and yet they are there. Is there an arising? Or is there not? Can't seem to apply either term to what is, with any sort of confidence. Seems like words fall down at that point.

So whether they arise or just like apparitions 'seem to arise', where did they come from? Again, no sensible answer, not one that makes sense conceptually. There doesn't seem to be a 'where' ... a place, an antecedent. Is there 'place' at all, where mind is concerned?

Looking at mind, and how it is .... just a different 'weather' today, one I'm not much used to .... but still the same mind, still the same nature, it would seem. Like watching a different football match, with seemingly different players ... but it's still just 'football', or has the same nature. Bad metaphor ..... but you know what I mean?

May all unskilful thoughts be the cause or occasion for awakening! May we use all adverse circumstances to awaken, and help others end all suffering.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Reflections on Longchenpa - Seeing with Naked Awareness


It is the single (nature of) mind which encompasses all of Samsara and Nirvana.
Even though its inherent nature has existed from the very beginning, you have not recognized it;
Even though its clarity and presence has been uninterrupted, you have not yet encountered its face.
Even though its arising has nowhere been obstructed, still you have not comprehended it.
Therefore, this (direct introduction) is for the purpose of bringing you to self-recognition.
Everything that is expounded by the Victorious Ones of the three times
In the eighty-four thousand Gateways to the Dharma.
Is incomprehensible (unless you understand intrinsic awareness).
Indeed, the Victorious Ones do not teach anything other than the understanding of this.

Excerpt from 'Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness'
A Terma hidden by Padmasambhava, and revealed by Longchenpa.

This *is* the fulcrum, the central turning point of the Dharma ... the understanding of the nature of the mind, of our intrinsic awareness. All the various means and views of the Dharma all lead to this one point - to understanding directly the nature of your mind. All the meditations, all the precepts, all the philosophy, all the skilful means - all of them point back to the direct, non-conceptual seeing of how things are, of the nature of mind.

All of the Dharma teachings are incomprehensible unless you experience directly your mind as it is. Not a foreign land to be reached for the first time after a long journey, our immediate sense of that land is carried with us, each step of the way, guiding us, supporting us, and infusing our sense of journey and not-journey.

Our practice derives by resting in this awareness, this nature, and permeating our activity with that resting.

The direct teachings of Mahamudra and Dzogchen continually point to how close, easy and immediate available is this nature, right here, right now ..... not far away, not something to be cultivated afresh. Our mind is like 'this', and it doesn't need to be changed. Just seen. Just ... Just .....

May I and all beings Awaken right now, and guide each other home!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Reflections on Longchenpa - The Middle Path

Since things neither exist nor don't exist,
are neither real nor unreal,
are utterly beyond adopting and rejecting -
one might as well burst out laughing.

Longchenpa Rabjampa

Tenzin Chodron's post to the Kagyu Online Study Group reminded me of this wonderful quote from the 14th Century Nyingma master, Longchenpa Rabjampa.

So often recently I've felt this urge to laugh in the face of the way things are. Life is such a wonderful and wondrous thing, in all it's seeming diversity of appearances, however pleasant or unpleasant we seem to find them.

When we look deeply at what seems to arise in our minds, we cannot find anything there whatsoever. Like mist in the morning, the appearances evaporate before the sunlight of our awareness. Yet it cannot be said that nothing is there .. as appearances seem to arise, and play before our mind's eye.

Does that which which we usually say we experience exist or not? Hehehehehheheeh Yes and No or maybe something else. They certainly seem to appear, and yet nothing can truly be found. They seem to arise, but looking deeply, does anything arise? They seem to fade away, but did they go? They seem to be impermanent, but was there anything there to be 'impermanent'? Does permanent or impermanent make any sense for these mirages, these magical shows?

As we start to see how things really are, such labels as 'exist' and 'not exist' start to drop away a little, and a smile and laughter often arise.

As we see clearly, we loosen our grip a little on this magical play of the mind, and then, what need is there to 'adopt' or 'reject' anything? Meditating, all Dharmas are self-liberating, so what need is there to want or not want any of it, or to seek to transform it.

Mind in it's nature is beyond words, you might as well burst out laughing.

Life is beyond words, you might as well burst out laughing.

Seeing our previous behaviour, caught in the net of views, caught up in accepting and rejecting, we can't help but burst out laughing.

Knowing we've only just begun, we can't help bursting out laughing.

Knowing there's nowhere truly to go, we burst out laughing.

Never left, never returned.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Subject Object Projections

Understanding the teachings on the illusory nature of the Subject Object distinction used to be rather theoretical for me. Yes, I heard the words, I understood the theory, and it made sense. But, when the chips were down, when suffering arrived, this understanding was nowhere to be seen.

In recent years with the blessing of my teacher, Shangpa Rinpoche, and the precious Mahamudra teachings, the nature of things has moved just a touch out of the realms of theoretical understanding, and a little into just seeing what is.

I remember that the teaching which had made the most impression on me in years gone by was that experience was a continuity, rather like a rubber band, and that due to delusion, we put a twist in the rubber band, and that therefore one side of the twist is viewed as subject, and the other viewed as object. It made perfect sense of what this delusory way of seeing was, but it wasn't a seen reality.

It's interesting reflecting on this metaphor now, a number of years later. When I look at experience, what do I see? I see all manner of arisings, seemingly there ... appearances of different flavours - thoughts, sights, feelings, concepts etc etc. And looking at those appearances, I see nothing substantial there at all. Whichever the appearance, whether of a thought, a feeling, a moment of peacefulness or mindfulness, whatever it is, it evaporates in awareness.

Endless arisings, endless emptiness. Whatever appearance .... emptiness.

Are there objects in experience? No. No objects, just appearances of the perception of objects, arising in mind. Is there a 'me', a subject, who perceives these appearances? No, just empty appearances themselves. Sometimes a 'me' seems to arise, especially when a particularly beguiling appearance seems to arise. This sense or feeling of 'I' seems to arise, but like all other appearances, it's empty, yet seemingly there.

The object was never there, only the empty arisings of the perception of the supposed object.

And the 'me' was only there in the misguided arising of a thought of 'me', also empty yet seemingly appearing.

Not so much a rubber band with a twist in it, as 'one taste', of empty luminosity ... a shadowplay .... there, and yet not there.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Sometimes you are faced with decisions which seem to have massive consequences, whichever choice you take. Sometimes that choice seems to lead to very mixed results, whichever choice you take.

How can you see which choice to take? Life is so surprising in how it plays out. It's so hard to 'guess' the future, to truly have any sense of what will lead on from this very moment. It's so tempting to think we know how the future will be .... the story plays out in our mind so easily, so temptingly.

But really, the interconnectedness of things is such that the twists and turns of eventualities are so hard to predict.

So what can we rely on? Reaching deep into the heart/mind .... where lies the bases for taking life-shaping decisions? How do you ever truly know what is right, or best, or even least-bad? How do you judge? From where, with what?

What do you place your trust in ... as the basis, the root?

Decisions ....

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Relative Poverty

I was sitting watching my son, who was watching a kids news program on TV. The program was showing the refugee camps in the Sudan. The refugees were mostly children, and many had lost their parents who had been slaughtered by militia. The fortunate ones lived in a tent, without possessions. Those less fortunate had a sheet of plastic for shelter against the desert sun, heat and sandstorms.

I was aware of my son sitting there in his Nike trousers, hair all gelled up, and brand new jumper. It's funny .... one recurring theme for him, and in our relationship, is how he feels poor, or deprived, as his friends all have Playstations 2's, lots of cash etc etc. As we have little money, he has to make do with far less than his mates have. So he ends up stealing stuff, and is often unhappy over all this.

The interviewer on the news show said that he was surprised at how positive the children in the refugee camp were. Despite all their suffering, and how little they had, and how bleak their futures seemed, they still looked forward with optimism, and got on with their present. How hard my son finds things as he compares himself with those around him, and feels a poverty relative to them.

What a strange thing this world is, with poverty and riches, sufferings and happiness. Such extremes of wealth, and extremes of opportunity. And of course, an old truism from a Buddhist point of view ... happiness isn't directly related to either what we have, or our circumstances in life.

So much suffering in the world ... so many beings to help.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Mahamudra Is Too ...

Mahamudra is traditionally said to be difficult to realise due to Four Faults. The nature of our mind is right here, right now for us to recognise, but somehow we may not manage that. The Four Faults are:

It's Too Easy

We may have an idea that seeing the nature of our mind must be massively difficult and that therefore we don't realise that it's here, just here, right now. If we have the idea that it's so very difficult, then how much harder does that make the simple recognition of what is right before our 'eyes'? In a way, it's too obvious, so we don't notice it. Having trust and confidence in the teachings that it's right here, and that we *can* realise it, and that when we see 'it' this *is* it is a crucial support for realisation.

It's Too Close

We may have an idea that Enlightenment is many aeons or kalpas away for us, and that it will take an unimaginable number of lifetimes to realise the nature of our mind. We may hold onto a view that we personally are full of obscurations, and that we couldn't possibly recognise the nature of our mind. And yet, it is so close, it is right here, right now, however our mind is, and whatever our views of ourself are. So close to us, like the water to a fish, or air to us ... actually, even closer than that, as the fish isn't water, and we aren't air ... but so close that we don't notice it, as it's always there. It's so close we overlook it, and look elsewhere.

It's Too Good

The nature of our mind is entirely free of problems. Bound up in our mistaken views, and grasping onto our delusions as solid and real, we cannot conceive of our mind being pure in nature, and entirely perfect. It is as though if it is said that the nature of our mind is already like this then we feel that this is too good to be true. It's as if we prefer to grasp onto our pain and narrowness, and therefore fail to recognise the expansive luminosity of what is, and fail to claim our inheritance.

It's Too Deep

As we attach to thoughts, views and a projected sense of 'me', we narrow our scope and awareness. Caught up in this tunnel vision, it seems hard to open to limitless, expansive self-awareness. Awareness without object. Panaramic vision.

Instead, we habitually see a tiny excerpt, and mis-see that too! Caught up in distracting thoughts, we are swept up into misunderstood partiality, yet the vast expanse of mind is right here, right now.

But despite the potential for these four faults, the nature of mind is always as it is.

Ground Mahamudra is how it is, whatever our self-image or ideas of what is or can be.

Right here, right now ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya

I used to imagine that the Buddha was so very far away. Enlightenment was so inconceivably difficult to attain, and the path there so very long. With my swirling emotions and obscurations, how long the journey seemed, and how very hard I had to strive in order to reach the state of perfect Awakening. When imagining what the Enlightened 'state' must be like, I projected it out, as the 'Transcendental', some glittering, mysterious plane of being that I aspired to reach. Did I have this 'Transcendental' now? ... not at all! .... it was unimaginably far away, and remote from my experience.

But the three Kayas of the Buddha are not truly so far away. They aren't something even which need to be created anew, nor something which are not present at this very moment.

PrajnaparamitaThe Dharmakaya is the ungraspable, unfathomable, intangible unborness of mind, which resists all efforts to hold or conceptualise. Looking at mind, I try to somehow get hold of it, to get a hold on it, but it's utterly resistant to all those efforts. I let go of grasping, and its 'nothingness' fills awareness. Not a blank nothingness, but an utter unfindability which is the matrix of being. The Dharmakaya is my fertile voidness, and is present whether experienced or not. It doesn't come fresh into being when realised, but is our very nature. A glimpse of utter indescribableness reveals our Dharmakaya, a jewel waiting to be seen. All that is needed is to see what is already there (which cannot be seen by grasping mind), and keeping that in awareness, allow it to blossom forth. The Prajnaparamita sutras say that 'do not think that this body is the real Buddha, the real Buddha is the Dharmakaya'. This Dharmakaya is not so far away .. it's our inheritance, and our inheritance is present right now, hidden by only our foolish seeing. Calling the Dharmakaya 'ungraspable' is another label, and potential source of grasping or holding on to something. The Dharmakaya is not 'ungraspable', but it is truly ungraspable. There is no point of reference whatsoever, and this description doesn't provide one.

The Sambhogakaya is also here right now. Looking deeply at our own mind, there is a knowingness, a luminous clarity which co-exists with the empty unfathomableness. That very luminosity is the Sambhogakaya. Not something needing to be created, our minds reveal that aspect of clarity, of knowingness, that capacity to experience and know. It's not a thing, not a quality that can be grasped. When looked for ... it hides from view, and yet it is there .... radiant and bright. Though only experienced fully by the highest Bodhisattvas, the Sambhogakaya is not something which will arise from scratch. Our mind is luminous, aware of that or not. Looking deeply at mind, though there is no qualities there at all, nevertheless luminosity is apparent ... the Sambhogakaya within.

The Nirmanakaya is revealed in our minds. Our mind gives rise to appearances, which seemingly ebb and flow. The unobstructed appearance of 'thought' is the Nirmanakaya, the body of the Buddha. Not far away, not needing to be conjured from the start, our minds capacity for spontaneous appearance is the Nirmakaya within. Continuous seeming manifestation ... this is Nirmanakaya. Not solid or real, but seeming to arise and fall. Without anything tangible or real, the Nirmanakaya of appearances are revealed within.

The three Kayas are not far off, but are our very nature of mind. Looking again and again, the Kayas come into view. Not created where they previously didn't exist, but just seen where they were previously unseen.

It's not that I've given up on an imagined projected goal, the 'Transcendental' which lies so very far away. And that I've replaced that with another fantasy, that of 'already Enlightened' which lies comfortingly close. The three Kayas are not entirely manifest, or realised, but they are already there. They don't change or come into being, or are something which is utterly remote from experience. Looking deeply, they reveal themselves within. Our nature is Buddha Nature, the three Kayas are already there. Our experience of them is the path, Taking Mahamudra as the Path. Fully realised they are the goal, the Awakening that benefits all beings.

Not looked for elsewhere, our inheritance awaits us. What we already are, though we forget.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Taking Mahamudra as the Path

Things appear to change. Things appear to go through phases. I say 'appear to' as I'm not at all sure that they do. They *appear* to, but do they really? How do we know? We have memory of what was. How do we know how accurate our memory is of what was? Accessing a memory takes place in the present, about another time which was supposedly some where else, some other time. But the only time we ever has is the present .. never the past. So we can never directly access the past ... only in the present have some thoughts which we believe are recollections of the past. And we have a certain trust, usually, of the relative accuracy of the recollections.

Anyway, having said that .... it appears to me that there are changes, or phases to things. Assuming that this is the case (which I don't, but for arguments sake for the point I am about to make!) .... then there seem to be patterns, or periods of time where things go certain ways.

One pattern at present is a sense that I am not really 'practicing' in the sense that I used to feel like I was practicing.

I used to feel that I had a 'practice', a method, means and actions which combined in order to try to bring about a desired result. So basically I was trying to get beyond suffering, and perhaps to help some beings along the way. Hopefully as I developed in my practice I'd gain the ability to really help them, and help them such that they too would find the way beyond suffering. So I practiced, practiced creating the causes for this liberation, and had a 'practice', which was all the stuff which would bring this about.

Now, it seems a little different, and I don't sense a 'practice', or that I am 'practicing' in quite the same way. I don't really consciously try to generate causes for a desired result. I am not trying to get Enlightened in quite the same way. I am not trying to attain to the Transcendental, or connect with it, or achieve liberation through some sort of strenuous set of practices.

But I am most definitely doing something though! I feel like there is a focus, a intent, a meaningful centre to things.

What is that then, if it is not a practice, or practicing?

I guess the traditional Kagyu formulation of Taking Mahamudra as the Path is the closest I can get to describing it. What it comes down to is not really trying to bring something about which isn't already there by practicing.

It's more recognising what is already there ... ones Buddha Nature ... which is Mahamudra, and in recognising that, just keeping it in focus, and deepening the awareness of that by keeping it in view, with various means. Nothing is being created, nothing is being practiced in order to generate something that wasn't there already.

Recognising our own true nature, we can just keep that in view, and deepen our dwelling in that view by utilising the various skilful means of the Vajrayana. And most importantly, just through looking directly at the nature of Mind, just recognise what is (and was isn't). And in looking, and recognising .. naturally, those natural qualities, our nature, our Buddha Nature, it just flowers, and blossoms, as our view clarifies and focusses.

Nothing new created, no practice of generating results from conditions. Just taking our view of how things are, the nature of Mind, and allowing it to permeate all our actions of body, speech and mind. It's fullness overflows as we take it as path. Naturally, spontaneously, what already is, but what wasn't recognised, becomes recognised, and more obviously present in all experience, however it is.

Our nature doesn't change. Taking Mahamudra as the Path, and keeping our Buddha Nature in view doesn't change our nature. Nothing new is cultivated or brought about. It's what we've always been, and it's just 'how things are' .... and we just take what we have seen of how things are, and keep the view. Just keeping that view is the path.

So it seems like this ... this phase, at present, and it didn't seem like that before, before Taking Mahamudra as the Path.

But is it, who knows? I don't ... for sure ... but just lightly and gently support what seems to be, as it unfolds and envelops all.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Just That

Yesterday in a place of worship 'belonging' to a different religion to my own, I noticed so many things about the nature of things, and the nature of those who wish to embrace and understand how things are. So many reflections came up, shedding light on my own practice and tradition, viewed as a result of engaging with a different tradition. And many reflections arose on that other tradition, viewed through the view and prism of my own approach.

So full were those reflections, and so meaningful. And yet, something greater still arose.

Underneath, inbetween, and all around those reflections was a deep stillness and contentment, which permeated my experience. There really was little need for words, nor indeed for thoughts. I sat perfectly at peace in this 'foreign' environment, watching people at prayer. No need to analyse, justify, compare or contrast. No need to convert, engage or debate.

A deep sense of things being the way they are. Peacefulness seems to be as it was, at that moment. Gratitude seems to be it's own way. Gratitude, Interest, Faith, Understanding .... all were as they were. Not belonging to this or that path, this or that method, or particular person.

Prior to words, prior to concepts, prior to divisions and allegiences.

Compassion is compassion. Connectedness is connectedness. Love is love. Gratitude is gratitude. Turning within is 'just that'. Coming home is 'just that'.

All just as they seem to be, and seemingly perfect just as they are. Just what they are, without spin, concept or explication.

Resting in what was, as it was, as it seemed to be. Seemingly arising, seemingly without core.

What is what? How are things? .... my words cannot say. Words were so far from 'what is' yesterday, and trying to convey this now still comes up short. Not short, but utterly not 'it'. Words are so far away from 'it' ... totally utterly not 'it' .... letting go of words ..... 'it' .... 'no-name' ... I don't know what to call it .... resting ... allowing to be .....

I cannot summarise or conclude ..... words fail

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Niguma: Mahamudra as Spontaneous Liberation

Don't do anything whatsoever with the mind --
Abide in an authentic, natural state.
One's own mind, unwavering, is reality.
The key is to meditate like this without wavering;
Experience the Great [reality] beyond extremes.
In a pellucid ocean,
Bubbles arise and dissolve again.
Just so, thoughts are no different from ultimate reality.
So don't find fault; remain at ease.
Whatever arises, whatever occurs,
Don't grasp -- release it on the spot.
Appearances, sounds, and objects are one's own mind;
There's nothing except mind.
Mind is beyond the extremes of birth and death.
The nature of mind, awareness,
Uses the objects of the five senses, but
Does not wander from reality.
In the state of cosmic equilibrium
There is nothing to abandon or practice;
No meditation or post-meditation period.

~ Miranda Shaw (tr.) "Niguma: Mahamudra as Spontaneous Liberation," in Passionate Enlightenment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A Smile

It's funny how often recently when I've been reading other people's Dharma blogs that I've found that the only thing I can contribute by way of a comment is a simple smile.

So often something in their posts just 'hits the mark' and words are really inadequate to express what I feel in response. And, more than that, they are not just inadequate, but they would also falsify what I feel.

It's like a recognition going on, of one person seeing into something, and that resonating with my seeing into something, and across this seeming divide of internet, blogs, beings practicing on other sides of the world whom I've never met .... there's a moment of recognition ... a meeting .... and .... a smile.

How wondrous that moment of recognition is. And how full the smile.

Nothing to add to other people's posts, nothing really to say, just a smile .... a smile of recognition, and a smile of profound gratitude. Greatful for the post, for that persons sharing, and grateful for the compassion of our teachers, who have so skilfully mapped out the path, and given us the opportunity to discover each step along the way for ourselves ... aided by their unfailing signposts.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Where Does It Lead?

Sometimes you make choices in life which seem as though they are going to have huge consequences. Sometimes it seems as though they are going to define the parameters of what will be possible and what will be for many years to come. From a conventional point of view, it seems obvious that if you do this or that, then this, this and this will be the consequences. Such a choice awaits me now ... but what will the consequences be?

Who knows? How can we possibly know what the consequences of our actions will be? How can we know if we make a certain choice, then this, this and this will happen with any sort of certainty?

When we look to the future, and entertain our thoughts about what may come, a whole story tends to play out, envisioning, and mapping out the consequences. That story seems real for us. We imagine what will be said, who will do what, why they act as they do, and often lose the sense that this is just thought, it is a vision of what could be, but only that. It attains a hardness, a sense of reality it truly doesn't have.

But things unfold in life in the most surprising of ways. When there's a letting go, there's also a great gift of an opening to the preciousness of each moment, however it is. When that weight of expectation and thinking/planning is allowed to drop, there's a real appreciation of people and events which doesn't discriminate between 'good' and 'bad', between 'wanted' and 'unwanted'.

Truly, it's impossible to see where choices where lead, except with the broadest of broad brushstrokes. But beyond that, the experience of the future is never coldly conditioned by what we think will come about. Even when certain events we predicted do transpire, they do not need to be, indeed, they never are experienced subjectively how we imagined we would experience them.

This, this and this .... no need to plan, to fear, to judge, to cling .....

Trusting in mind, and good action, we can allow life to unfold, born from the wellspring of our naturally wise and compassionate hearts, and dwell at peace as each moment unfolds, with whatever seems to arise in mind.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Taking Sides

This last few days I've been reading blogs from soldiers fighting in Iraq. I've also been reading the comments on those blogs, and some related materials from people around the world. The recurring theme throughout those comments has been how polarised people seem to be in their views. They are either 'for' or 'against' the war, 'for' or 'against' the assault on Falluja.

People write as if it's entirely black and white .... the facts, they say, either show we are wrong to assault Falluja or they show we are right. Are things not vastly more complex than that, with all manner of things going on, all manner of motivations, actions and consequences? How can something this big ever be purely right or wrong?

Taking Falluja as an example, if the soldiers are sent in, then surely a multitude of seemingly good consequences and a multitude of seemingly bad consequences ensure? So many different people are affected in so many different ways, so many people act with so many different intentions, how could it be otherwise?

And if the soldiers don't go in, and things are dealt with another way, then isn't it the case that again there are many different consequences for so many people ... how can it be black and white .... so simply right or wrong? For whom, at what point, judged in what way? ... a blanket judgement which covers all aspects of the situation for all beings, for now and ever onwards? Is there any utility in making such judgements?

I'm not saying it doesn't matter what is done, I'm not saying there are not differences ... I am saying that things are massively more mixed and complex than simple yes/no right/wrong 'sides' can ever convey. And in taking those judgements and sides, we totally falsify the way things are, and just lose ourselves in a dreamworld of our own making.

As an aside, something else that struck me was reading the descriptions of the soldiers experience, on the ground, as they experience it. And how very different that was from the types of things talked about when discussing the rights and wrongs of the situation overall. The big picture seems so removed from the small picture. The soldiers considerations, in those very moment, were so utterly different from the things being discussed from the top. And again, for those soldiers, they work with a range of possibilities, within a particular circumstance that is given for them ... within that, they make choices, but don't choose at that moment the overall paradigm. And how that is for us to, wherever we are .... making choices within a range of possibilities. How did that range come about, within which we make our choices, but which we cannot directly alter itself? Through our past actions of body, speech and mind, through our karma, the direct consequences of our past choices. This is the teaching of the Buddhas ... we inherit what we create for ourselves. Sometimes it's clear what we are able to choose between, but frustrating what we cannot change.

Returning to my start point ... may all beings find peace and safety, and know the difference between skilful and unskilful actions. May we see the nature of how things are, and let go of the tendancy to falsify that with dualistic views and perceptions. May all beings arrive at the peerless peace without limit.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Renault Prayer Flags

Posted by Hello

It's funny how mind works when it is filled with the fullness of vision of Vajrayana. Right out the window of my office where I work are some flags advertising a car showroom. The flags flutter madly in the winds, often against blue skies and racing clouds.

How similarly shaped are these flags to a certain type of Tibetan prayer flag! Aside from the more common ones threaded on strings, there is a style on long poles which are almost identical in style and proportion. Everytime I see these flags, I think of Tibet, think of the Dharma, and think of prayers flying out to all beings. From a distance I can't see what is written on them, and even if I could, it wouldn't stop the sense that these are indeed prayer flags, benefitting beings. It's not just that they seem like that to me ... but they *are* like that in actuality. What a strange and wondrous thing our sense of 'what is' is!

It struck me today that if there is 'Renault' written on the flags, then is the word 'Renault' flying out across the world blessing beings? :-)

Gone are the days when scientific materialism limited my view of what is and what could be .. limited to a cold, dry mechanical universe, so small in scope and being. When I see the beauty of the flags, and the beauty of the sky behind, my heart soars and my mind fills with bliss.

May the blessings of the Enlightened Ones sooth the hearts of all beings, bringing peace and laughter to our oft-troubled minds.

Death Is So Close

Driving in to work this morning, it really struck me how close to death we all are.

Flying along the road, I was continually inches away from crashing into another car. One momentary misjudgement, on anyone of a hundred different drivers part, and the result would have been dramatic. More than that .... how many thousands of parts are in my car, and everyone elses, which continue to work and keep me safe. One component going, and any of us could spin off out of control.

How is it that we assume that this will not happen, that all the components in all the cars will continue to work, and that all the drivers will make good and safe choices at all times?

Obviously we cannot drive with fear in our hearts, expecting and fearing such things. And yet we don't drive as if they might happen, with safe distances, with safe speeds, with a 'what if' in mind either.

And more than that, we are usually not aware of the fragility of life, how we take it for granted that our karma which supports our life will not run out, and that we'll make it to work again today, safe, and in one piece!

It would make no sense to fear what might happen, and it would be truly difficult to drive in a way which would enable us to cope with these things happening, but an awareness of the fragility of life is something which is possible. Bursting along the highway, it's easy to feel that fragility at such speeds. And what is more, the flip side of that ... this precious human life, equipped as it is with all the conditions for the spiritual life .... how valuable that is, and how tenuously we hold on to it.

Life can end at any moment, in a thousand different ways. Some are swift, some are not, some are painful ... we have no idea when or how. But one thing is for sure ... it *will* happen. And when it approaches, will we think ... I wish I'd done things differently?

Will we care about those TV programs which seemed like such a need, mere entertaining trifles?

Will we care about the thousand and one things we possess, imagining they will somehow 'make things better'?

Will we care about promotions, money, ambitions, likes, dislikes?

What will we care about as death approaches? .... a life well spent, filled with love, and going deep into the nature of what is, an exploration of what it is all about?

Life is so fragile, death is so close. Driving in the fast lane brings that home, but it's that way all the time .... fragile and uncertain. How to make this life a life well lived?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Not Resting

How tempting it is for the mind to grasp onto what is directly perceived, and to ossify it into necessarily rigid and falsifying concepts. The raft of skilful use of conceptual understanding is a tricky one to ride, and one which seems to hold much potential for misuse. The Buddha described the Dharma as being like a raft to the other shore, and said to this effect - "would a man who has crossed to the other shore, then take up the raft, place it upon his head, and proceed to walk around with it?"

The methods are a means to an end, and not to be grasped onto as an end in themselves. Descriptions of how things are, necessarily words, conceptual in nature, are just skilful means, designed to point us in a particular direction, and are not the thing itself. How easy to grasp onto both as the point itself, rather than something just to skilfully utilise. It seems when looking around that it is so easy for followers of the various religious paths to lose sight of the point, and grasp onto the means as literal and ultimate.

The concepts which make sense of our experience once outside of meditation are beguiling in their simplicity, and seeming definitiveness. However things are, however we see things, there seems to be a tendency to hold onto that level of seeing, and to automatically turn it into a conceptual view. Emptiness is like this ... appearances are like this ..... mind is like this ..... but how is it all?

The conceptual understanding sits easily in the mind, a neat clear nugget, which simplifies to the point of utter falsification. Life seems to be utterly mysterious at root, and defies all description. By that I mean that what is/isn't seems endlessly ungraspable ... always slipping away as the mind struggles to word it. It seems endlessly elusive, as awareness seems to see and know. It seems endlessly wondrous, as we open truly and let go.

So full is this experience, so blissful the openess, and yet, how easy to rest on our concepts and names.

How readily concepts seek to intrude in meditation itself, naming and judging .... a chance to exchange the richness of moon itself with the poor relation of the finger pointing. Letting go of naming, letting go of the concepts which try to overlay and overlap direct perception. Our habit is to name, to understand, to contain and explain.

Yet names have usefulness, as do our notions and concepts.

Without names, could we find our way? .... I don't know .... I've never given up the conceptual habit outside of meditation. I can't imagine why the Realised Ones would have spent so much time spinning skilful concepts unless there was definite utility in them. Holding up the golden flower, Shakyamuni spoke the unspeakable .... and we cannot but help smiling in return. But how to share this wondrous glimpse?

And how to lightly hold concepts, this precious means of pointing to that which cannot be pointed to, and yet one so intoxicating in their potential duplicity.

Never resting with what is seen. Never resting with conceptual crutches. Never resting with our limited love. Never resting with beings still suffering.

Never resting with the job part done.

And yet, perfect as things already are, we let go, completely and utterly.

The concepts are not the thing itself. And yet, they reveal all that is and can be.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Beads on a String

It has really struck me over the weekend how much the continuity of meditation is facilitated by a daily practice. For many years when I started on the Dharmic path, I was fiercely concerned that I should meditate every day, following my teachers advice. Like many things in those days, there was a sense of struggle, of battle, of throwing myself up headfirst against all that I was seeking to move away from, and towards all that which I wished to encourage. So meditation practice was something which sometimes I had to 'fight' to get into my day, up against so many other activities and responsibilities as it was.

In more recent years, I seem to have relaxed somewhat, and things are no longer the 'battle' or 'struggle' they were. I'm more able to allow things to be as they are, and allow the practice to do the work, without excessive 'doing', and allow dharmas to self-liberate in awareness and love.

So meditation, like other things, had become one flavour of the day, and sometimes I skipped one of my sessions at the weekend if family responsibilities seemed like a more skilful thing to do. In a week then, I'd meditate 6 days out of 7, and do my various samaya commitments on the day that I skipped.

Recently, I've been meditating in the living room when I get up at weekends, and part way through my two year old tends to wake up and come down. As I've posted before, it's been a very beautiful time, sharing the space with him, and radiating spacious awareness amongst his busy inquisitive doings.

But it's really struck me once again how the sense of continuity in meditation has been facilitated by this 'every day' fullness of my meditation practice. There's a stronger sense of momentum which is maintained by running through my full practice every day. Each time I start meditation, the flavour is so readily there, and so strong, as if I've barely stopped meditating. Some days, it almost feels like deja vu, as if 'surely I've already meditated today', such is the strength of what readily comes into awareness at the beginning of practice.

It feels like a string of beads, one right up against the other, with so little gap between. And like thumbing beads in prayer, they slide along in a dynamic continuity, moving and shuffling, but always in connection. My meditation shimmers and moves, and has a shifting pattern like the weather. But so much runs through it which seems connected and threaded. Not like something, a 'thing', which is passed from one day to the other. More like flames which flicker on, a continuity, but where is the substance in a flame which truly is continuous?

The sense of wholeness and meaning is strong .... the feeling of connection runs deep. Blessings overflow, and gratitude is something which bubbles up, hardly able to show how wondrous this thing is, this gift, this precious, precious jewel.

Like beads on a string, the rhythms of life and practice flow on. Each moment a bead, each meditation session a bead, each being encountered a bead, each bead a Buddha.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Experience is the Experiencer

We experience endlessly, and on top of the flow of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, and thinking, with project and add a fictional 'experiencer', a one, a self who is doing this experiencing. And yet, there isn't anyone there to do this. so who or what is experiencing the experiences? ..... the experience itself is in a sense the experiencer! Not as a self, or something separate or added on top of the experience. Just the experience arising in awareness .....

Each moment of experience, as it arises in awareness is just what it is ... an experience ... and that is all there is

Don't need to project out a self or me who 'has' this experience. No need to experience these arisings in mind as being 'out there' ... things in the world. No 'me', no 'world' directly experienced. Just arisings in mind, momentary and complete.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sick and Well

Yesterday I started to catch a cold. My mind was very cloudy indeed, and I felt like I was floating in a cloud. It was really hard to focus on anything and retain that focus as I tended to drift off into blankness. Mentally, it was real hard to apply myself to work, and thoughts of 'unwell' kept coming up, with a sense of how things might be ... with looking after children, work, and so on.

This morning, my cold is well and truly here. My nose is running, my throat is sore, and I'm sneezing. And yet, my mind is clear now! Physically I'm much worse, but my mental states have clarified. It's really struck me how these two aspects of mind and body are not in synch, at least not in the sense of as one gets 'worse', then the other gets 'worse' too. Indeed, I don't really know what 'worse' means in this sense. Though I feel a lot of painful bodily sensations, there's still a sense of bliss within, which permeates my mind whenever I recollect its presence. I'm sick, and yet, I'm very well!

Where is the sickness? Is there such a thing as a cold? I search for it, for this thing called 'cold', yet it is nowhere to be found. There are physical aches to be sure, but mentally I'm fine ... indeed, more than fine. Where are the aches? I look at my 'aching back' ... and it melts away before my minds gaze. A shimmering mass of sensation, vibrant, dark, yet wherever awareness goes, it evaporates away like mist in the morning sun. No aches, no cold .... so how am I ill?

Thoughts have arisen overnight about 'I'm getting ill ... how will that be' ... yet now no illness is to be found. There's a flavour to my experience this morning, and if I choose to string all the elements of that flavour together in a particular way, and emphasising particular things, then I end up with a label for my experience which says 'I am ill'. And yet, if I don't carry that through to the conclusion of a label, or buy into the thoughts which say 'it's like this ... I'm ill' .... then actually, there's just flavours to experience, and they are a mixture of pleasant and unpleasant ... and they are just what they are. And there's always flavours there, shimmering and changing ... morphing and moving .... today is no different. They just vary in hue, and vary in style. None of them are what I am, and none of them last.

Watching a movie on a screen, of a movie on a screen, of a movie on a screen ..... where is the ground?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Marpa's Dream Teaching from Saraha

Compassion and emptiness are inseparable.
This uninterrupted flowing innate mind
Is suchness, primordially pure.
Space is seen in intercourse with space.
Because the root resides at home,
Mind consciousness is imprisoned.
Meditating on this, subsequent thoughts
Are not patched together in the mind.
Knowing the phenomenal world is the nature of mind,
Meditation requires no further antidote.
The nature of mind cannot be thought.
Rest in this natural state.
When you see this truth, you will be liberated.
Just as a child would, watch the behavior of barbarians.
Be carefree; eat flesh; be a madman.

Just like a fearless lion,
Let your elephant mind wander free.
See the bees hovering among the flowers.
Not viewing samsara as wrong,
There is no such thing as attaining nirvana.
This is the way of ordinary mind.
Rest in natural freshness.
Do not think of activities.
Do not cling to one side or one direction.
Look into the midst of the space of simplicity.
Marpa's Dream Teaching from Saraha

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Calling Me Back

Two nights ago I watched the final episode of Michael Palin's new TV series - 'Himalaya', a series which followed his trek through that extraordinary region. Most of this last episode was set in Bhutan, and showed wonderful views of the environment there, the mountains, the valleys, and life in villages and monastery's.

It was extraordinary how my heart lept in seeing these images, in seeing the places, the people, and the lifestyles. The images and sounds cut so deep, like calling me back to a long lost home. That night I dreamt vivid dreams, and felt deep movements stirring in my consciousness.

How is it that these things run so deep, and seem to connect at such a primal level in my being? Why does the traditional presentation of Tibetan Dharma seem so direct, yet 'interpretations' of it in western language seem so foreign to me, despite my birth in the west? How do these things resonate so unbelievably strongly, as if they are me in my core, what I am, what I've always been, what I always will be, if not that I've been there many times before, making karmic connections and links?

I know so strongly when I've 'met' someone before on meeting them for the first time in this life. I resonate so strongly with people, places and things, in a way which makes no sense at all from the perspective of only this lifetime, but which seems to open a timeless sense within me ... like something echoing across time, .... no .... more than that ... like it echoes beyond time and place .... eternally resonating .... calling me back to recognition of what is, and always will be ....

The Heart of Enlightenment, Buddha Nature .... resonating and calling .....

and it's most familiar guise .... Tibetan Dharma ... its manifestation in time and place ... that which is most recently and deeply cut into my very being ... my path thoughout lifetimes.

Calling me back home ... a home I never left .... a home within and without ... wiping away the forgetting, awakening from the dream of forgetfulness .... into awakening itself ....

Devotion and Awakeness ... how blessed to even know of their possibility! And how marvelous the unfolding of our particular path ... marvelous, mysterious, and beguiling.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Generalisations Obscure the Truth

Hmm ... that was a real tough weekend! So many challenges to rise to, so much energy expended keeping everything going and everything together ... I'm now ready for a rest at work!

But lying there reflecting on the weekend last night, it really struck me how easy it is to miss what actually is, and buy into what we think is. The pervasive impression of the weekend was its toughness and difficulty. Difficult people, difficult situations, difficult decisions. So how easy it is to buy into an idea of the weekend ... an idea which is a generalised ... wow it was tough. But in and amongst all that difficulty were a host of lighter moments, delightful episodes, and periods of relaxation and peace.

If I just hang on to the generalised idea, then my weekend was *difficult*. And it's as if those other things never happened, buried as they are under the shadow of the generalised idea. Only through refusing to listen to the idea or view which tries to monopolise the attention, and seeks to effectively rewrite history, and allowing myself to bring to attention the myriad little moments which were exceptions to that generalisation .... only them am I able to clearly see the variety of experience at that time, and therefore see the impermanence of things, and see how these generalised thought falsify what is.

Generalising from this! .... it's easy to see how one can take a view of a particular government, for example, and allow that particular view or thought to obscure the myriad aspects which contradict that particular view. So Bush is bad/evil, to use a common current example ... which replaces the complexibility of what is, which a simple generalised idea which isn't really what is at all, in all its complexity, variability and subtlety.

Not buying in the big generalisation .. the big thought ... the big lie, and allowing the variety of things to surface .... then I can stay in touch which those things which affirm, and those things which are conducive to realisation ... even when their relatively quiet voices are easily shouted down by the demands of the big thought.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Deity Yoga and Concentration

I thought I'd respond to Al's comment on my previous post here, and share something of how Deity mediation works in a Vajrayana and Mahamudra context.

seems like your in a great space - if I may ask - how much "concentration" is applied during your meditation - I do recall you mentioning devotional aspect - does it mainly consist of chanting/mantra?

There is so much I could say here, but will just share a few key threads or aspects.

My main formal mediation practice is a deity yoga practice, and is therefore a Vajrayana practice. As such, it utilises a different model of working to either Hinayana or Mahayana practices, in that it is a resultant vehicle practice, rather than a causal vehicle practice. This means that you are not really working at generating the causes of Enlightenment as a means of practice, but instead are practicing directly on the result, on the Enlightened mind itself as a means of practice.

Taking a deity as an object of meditation fits this model, in that you are very much focussed on not just what you aspire to become, as an object of concentration, but from a Vajrayana perspective, what you already are, but just haven't realised yet. So you are practicing seeing the world as a Buddha sees the world, if you like. Rather than building up causes so that you can eventually become a Buddha and therefore see and act from a perspective of Awakening, you just practice being Awake, in a sense.

So in the course of the deity practice, you make direct contact with your Buddha nature, and with your realisation of the true nature of mind, and how things are, and you rest in that as a basis for practice. That direct contact with your Buddha Nature, and realisation of the nature of mind has come through transmission from your teacher, by the way, as it is they who introduce us to it, either through initiation into the mind of a particular deity, or through direct pointing out instructions. From that perspective of resting in the nature of your mind, you then run through a whole bunch of stuff which is designed to bring that resting in your nature into clearer and truer focus. It's not that you are creating something that isn't there yet, more that you are allowing what actually is (rather than what you deludedly think is) into view, and stabilising that view as an actuality.

In the course of the meditation, you run through all the factors and aspects which take one from deepest ignorance right through to ultimate awakening. But, one again doesn't do that from the perspective of generating these as causes, but more from the point of view of each remembrance of them allows what already is to come further into view and focus. So one goes through various aspects of renunciation, of Refuge, of confession, of Bodhisattva Vows and generation of Bodhicitta, of bringing Emptiness into view, of bringing out the luminous aspect of mind, of recognising the various inseperable qualities of mind, such as bliss-emptiness, clarity-emptiness, of same-taste and so on .. each part wiping a little away of the dust of obscuration from the mirror of mind . wiping away a little of the seeming obscurations and defilements which are not our true nature, and which separate us from what we already and actually are. We use these means to allow the flowering of what is through focussing on how things actually are, in reality, in essence, but which we are usually unable to see due to our deluded way of seeing. And therefore, seeing things as they are, we are now able to act on the basis of how things are . so we can manifest the qualities of Enlightened mind, and not just see them.

Of course, that doesn't happen in one go, so to speak, but each time we practice on the result, we more clearly bring how things are into view, and more and more free up what is there but trapped or cut off by our illusions and ignorance.

Again with Vajrayana, one uses as many means as possible to bring this all into focus, and so one uses body, speech and mind to all play their part . or, if you like, we use body as a Buddha, as things are, we practice the Buddha's speech and practice the Buddha or realised mind. So chanting is practicing that Vajra speech. And Mudra's or hand gestures are practicing Vajra Body. In deity meditation then, we tend to be much more active in body and speech than most forms of meditation, and those forms of meditation in Hinayana and Mahayana approaches too.

Throughout the Sadhana (Sanskrit) or Drup Tap (Tibetan) - the ritual text used in Deity yoga to actualise this resultant, we are engaged in acts of body, speech and mind in this way. And as mentioned before, we run through a whole series of views, aspirations, and reflections as part of this process of bringing what is into view. It's not that we have to change our mind from how it is into a mind that is emptiness and luminosity inseparable, for example, but rather one of recognising what already is, that our mind is that inseparability. It's not that we really create something that is not there, or imagine something which is not there . we are that deity in reality, we have vajra speech, and vajra body .. .we just utilise these skilful means to bring what actually is into focus, and to allow our misperceptions, our deluded way of seeing, thinking and action to drop away. As those misperceptions drop away, then those qualities already inherent in mind are just freed to manifest in action. They are not generated, or caused or created . .they are simply liberated, and allowed to be.

In terms of concentration, there is obviously a lot going on compared to many approaches to meditation, from one angle. All this chanting, mudras, and visualisations. Deities are arising and dissolving, all manner of things are being visualised, and all manner of reflections are coming into view and passing away. So how does one concentrate in all this, and how does that compare to, say, mindfulness of breathing, where one is focussed on one object throughout?

It might seem as though one is not really developing one pointed concentration in Deity yoga, but that is not the case. Though many things are being brought to mind, and a whole drama of visualisation plays out before your minds eye, these are all focussed on with concentration. Nothing is grasped, and whatever is brought to mind is the object, at that moment. So concentration is very much on a moving target, so to speak, in that a succession of 'things' are concentrated upon. In a sense, this is no different from watching the breath, as the breath is not a static object .. but rather a succession of unique individual objects, or better still, just a succession of seemingly existing objects, but actually not even that .. appearances seemingly arising .. which we watch in Shamatha meditation.

Deity meditation follows what are known as Development (or Generation) and Completion stages, the former revolves around the visualisation of the deity (and a whole bunch more), and the later dissolving all images, and resting in the nature of mind. To a degree, the development stage is more shamatha, and the completion stage is more of vipassana. But, having said that, vipassana and shamatha are both there, supporting each other throughout the practice.

For me, to speak more personally, there has been an extraordinary blooming as a result of taking on this type of practice, after years of other methods. Truly my concentration has developed such that I don't need to be in particularly conducive conditions, whether in terms of environment or my own mental states, in order for me to meditate and really benefit from that meditation. And those qualities which I've suggested are allowed to come into view, those things which are inherent (to use a very un-Dharmic term!), which are our Buddha Nature .. those things are blossoming as a result. But, I can't imagine that that would have been the case without many long years of focussing on the breath and other methods which are of the Hinayana and Mahayana vehicles. Vajrayana is entirely built on the other vehicles, and both in terms of view and method, it needs a certain amount of realisation and actualisation of both in order for it to 'work'. Indeed, without that basis, it may actually be detrimental and cause more harm than good.

So, playing musical instruments, chanting, hand mudras, a whole drama of visualisation, and multiple reflections . they are all going on throughout the practice, and all things that arise in mind are incorporated into it. So what might have seemed like a 'distraction' from my old perspective is now just an aspect of mind, just an aspect of the deity and their mandala, just one more seeming arising, which is empty, and yet apparent . just the play of mind which is unobstructed and perfect as it is.

It's just all a bunch of skilful means which allows me to see how things actually are, to actualise what I'd not really been able to see, and to clear away the illusory obstacles which block off the free flow of enlightened qualities which are the nature of mind itself. Purify one's seeing, and one sees how things truly are. Seeing how things are allows one to function freely from how things are. Changing one's view in this way simply allows what already is to manifest freely. Nothing is newly created, nothing has been caused as such. Action takes place, and yet no action takes place. Things appear to change, and yet nothing changes. We seem to go on a journey, but actually the journey never leaves home. Just to wake up, to awaken, to come back home (when we never truly left).

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Blessings of Meditation

There are some beautiful changes in my meditation at present which I thought I’d share.

A month or so ago I switched to doing my daily meditation out in the open again, having spent much of the last 6 months meditating outdoors. It’s been such a joy to meditate under the open sky, regardless of the weather, rain, wind or cloud. There’s something really beautiful about being outside, without a roof overhead, and exposed to nature and the elements which seems so conducive to meditation. Every day the weather is noticeably different, and provides an immediate reflection on impermanence. Each day similarly feels special, as it is not known what conditions await at the meditation seat. Practicing Chod seems particularly conducive in the outside, traditionally practiced as it is in graveyards and remote places.

It’s been some 3 months since I switched to meditating with my eyes open, and again this has had quite a profound effect. Actually inviting the visual consciousness into the meditation, though focussed on the 6th or mental consciousness, seems to have given me a different sense of how that visual consciousness actually is. Somehow over this time the visual consciousness and its objects have more of an insubstantial character now, where in the past they were more seductive and bewitching in their seeming substantiality. I notice the dreamlike nature of things more often, and that feels at least in part due to having somehow undermined my belief in the substantiality of the visual world through switching to meditating with eyes open. Having consistently practiced meditation in seemingly ‘difficult’ places over the years, such as café’s, buses, parks, trains etc, I seem increasingly able to let go of any sense that what arises in mind is distraction/not distraction, and somehow allow it to play whilst my meditation plays.

This last month I’ve come to meditate downstairs at home at the weekend, and my two year old has rapidly adjusted to my presence, and my meditation. Amazingly he doesn’t try to play with me or interact with me, and seems genuinely calmed and happy with my meditating and chanting nearby. Usually he seeks one cuddle during the meditation, which suits so well, and provides a beautiful moment of shared joy and stillness. At his age his changes in mood and character are so apparent, and I wonder how meditating with him will play out over the months ahead.

Meditating outside has brought a renewed sense of connectivity, and spaciousness to my mediation. Keeping my eyes open has enhanced my appreciation of the luminous aspect of mind, and undermined my sense of the solidity of the visual realm. And meditating with my 2 year old nearby has brought a wonderful sense of sharing, and benefit to other to this most precious of activities.

Once again, how utterly blessed I am in this lifetime, to share such riches, to be aware of such possibility, and to live this life of adventure and discovery.

May all beings attain the spotless realisation of the Enlightened ones!

Monday, November 01, 2004

Direct from the Source

When you read some of the amazing Kagyu texts and books in print in English today, I can't help but be awed and grateful for our good karma in having these clear and lucid teachings available in undiluted form at this time ... and so easily available too ... without having to climb mountains or travel half way across the world .... it's all right here ... wow!

I remember when I first came to the Dharma, there were far less books around, and many of them where highly interpretive in nature. Many sought to utilise very different concepts, terms and frameworks to traditional ones. For me in retrospect, there was much benefit in the ability of those texts and teachers being able to reach out to people using language they could readily understand. However, the mixing of Dharma with non-Dharma can be quite confusing when you don’t have the experience and understanding to be able to sort them out, and so there’s a downside there too, perhaps.

For myself, it seems as though many more people are able to benefit from a direct transmission of the teachings, undiluted and unmodified in form and content. I always used to marvel at how readily the traditional explanations made sense to me, and how hard I had to work to understand them when they were ‘translated’ into supposedly my own ‘western’ conceptual frameworks. And again, how right and direct the traditional Buddhist imagery was, even though I was being told that there was much there that was just ‘cultural’ in origin, and therefore could be dropped.

I guess our karma is different in this respect, and mine seems to make me receptive and responsive to the direct stuff! For others, a reworking into more culturally familiar terms seems to help.

How my heart leaps when I encounter the direct transmission – it seems to come from so deep within myself that its more me than me, more meaningful and central than anything could possibly be! Talking directly from ‘what is’ to ‘what is’ …. Impossible to describe … but so ‘right’ in the experience, and what really is the only thing that makes this life make sense. Purpose, meaning, ‘rightness’ … so very deep is this resonance, this finding again.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The 'Is-ness' of Things

One thing which has come to me over and over again in recent days is the profound ‘is-ness’ of things. By this, I don’t mean the ‘suchness’, to use Buddhist terminology. What I mean is that when I look at a leaf, it is extraordinary how ‘leafy’ it is …. the texture ripples with extraordinary ‘rippleness’ .. the colours are so vibrant .. greens are so ‘green’ … the sheen on the leaf is so ‘sheeny’ … the shape is so ‘leafy’ and on and on. Everything I look at …. My computer keyboard, the sunrise this morning, my cup, my hand, the carpet …. All are so vibrantly what they are .. such utterly, extraordinarily rich and full.

Why is that? …. The inevitable ‘why’ question from myself! Well, I believe it is because as my meditation matures, then the clarity aspect of mind is becoming purified, and the conceptual overlay on sense perceptions is lessoning its hold. As such, I directly perceive the sensory impressions from the first 5 senses more directly, without the veil of conceptual overlay – all the endless associations which that thing has had for me, and so see things much more clearly and vividly than before.

What is so profound for me is how amazing this world of sensory impressions really is. With the benefits of meditation, the sensory fatigue of the normal mind is cleared, and an openess to the richness of experience opens up. Much like ‘beginners mind’, and much like the sheer wonderment and openess of the small child but with intelligence and wisdom intact, the clarified awareness brings the world to life, and the sense of sacredness to the fore.

This ‘is-ness’ of things is so apparent. And yet.

And yet, when you continue to look deeply, the ‘is-ness’, this new found richness, the is-ness melts away, nowhere to be seen, as the emptiness of all impressions comes to view.

How amazing, that appearances are so magical, so vibrant, so utterly powerful in their charge, compared to the non-meditating mind.

And how amazing that none of it truly exists, at all ….. a phantasm which entices and entrances.

Monday, October 25, 2004

How Blessed!

..... my two old boy, sitting on my lap, clasped to me with his little hug, whilst I gently chant and meditate. Moments before, he was mid-tantrum, screaming and kicking ... lost in his pain.

How beautiful to share those precious moments with him, 5 minutes together, with peace in our hearts.

.... how beautifully the meditation stilled his heart. How blessed we all are.

Friday, October 22, 2004

My Identity is Portable

I was re-reading one of my favourite blogs this morning - Willow's 'Life as a Dervish'. Her blog resonates really strongly, I guess because I've also lived abroad for many years in a totally different culture from the one that I was born into. And for me, that experience was just like meditation - a mirror which illuminated so much, so much that I previously took for granted and didn't see, because it was just too close and familiar. But I get a sense in her blog that although it seems as though that new cultural experience is very alien, in a sense, it's more 'home' than 'home' ever was.

One phrase above all others has stuck in my mind from her postings is 'My Identity is Portable', which seems to keep popping up in my consciousness like a cork floating in water. I too have a sense of carrying an identity around with me .. not a solid one anymore, as in pre-Dharma days ... where 'I' was 'me', and I knew who I was ... and strongly attached myself to all manner of views about myself .... but more an amorphous shimmering visage, which mutates like a shadow play before my eyes, endlessly reinventing itself in colours and shapes, most-times reflecting back what is projected forward. An identity which tells more about what looks, than what is looked at .... which coalesces around thoughts and feelings at that moment .... an illusory solidity, which conspires to reassure, yet is ultimately groundless, absent, and a phantasm.

Yet the magical display proceeds ... and pops up here and there ... a sense of continuity, a sense of centre .... a knowingness which lies behind both seeming identity and appearances that arise. This luminous knowingness which projects as both identity and world perceived ... creator, knower, that which obstructs nothing, yet enables all to be ...

All is not what it seems, so no wonder conventional notions seem complex, confused and paradoxical. My Identity is Portable ... nothing to get worked up about ... just a magical display ... in the mirror of ..... ?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Quote - Four Themed Precious Garland

The supreme peerless vehicle of the secret Dzogchen, the Great Completeness, functions to bring you directly into the Sphere of that which is spontaneously there. This sphere, which is the foundation, is unchanging.... It need not be sought for because it is spontaneously present from time immemorial. No trying or effort is required. This path is naturally obvious. The mandala sphere of clear light is unconditioned. It is the innate Dharmakaya, the all pervasive intentionality of the Buddhas. To realize it is the supreme view of reality.

from the ‘Four Themed Precious Garland’

Just wanted to post this beautiful Dzogchen evocation of the Ground, Path and Fruition.

Peerless inspiration ... how extraordinary that the Realised Ones could leave words which point to the wordless, signs which point to that which could not be pointed to!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Never Absolutely So ...

I have been thinking a lot this last few days about how pretty much any statement you make about approaches to Dharma can be contradicted. I was reflecting on Al's post the other day:
Seated meditation is the arena in which the meditator practices his own fundamental skills. The game the meditator is playing is the experience of his own life, and the instrument upon which he plays is his own sensory apparatus. Even the most seasoned meditator continues to practice seated meditation, because it tunes and sharpens the basic mental skills he needs for his particular game. We must never forget, however, that seated meditation itself is not the game. It's the practice. The game in which those basic skills are to be applied is the rest of one's experiential existence. Meditation that is not applied to daily living is sterile and limited.
and thinking "though that may be just so for Al, actually for me, that's not actually how it is. Seated meditation *is* the game, just as much as 'post meditation' *is* the game. It's all the game, and none of it is practice". Practice could imply somewhere you go to try to get it right, then turn it on when it's really important .... in life itself. Or it could imply that there is a significant difference between meditation and post-meditation, and that one is somewhere where you really do it, and the other is where you try to carry it over. Or a whole bunch of other things which aren't really how it is ... all of them too-hard dualisms.

But for me, at this time, it's all a seamless whole ... there isn't really much difference between meditating and post-meditation time .... sure, in one I am following a particular sadhana, a particular set of visualisations and recitations in sequence, but essentially the way I view mind, how I relate to what appears, and how I *am* is the same.

But this is not to say that I think Al is wrong! Far from it. Just that perspectives on Dharma practice so much relates to what is right for you at the time, and it's so hard to generalise too much beyond that. What is right for me now may not be right next week, or even the next moment! Let alone be right for someone else.

For me, the concept of *practice* seems a bit iffy, if you know what I mean. Life just is, and Dharma is the way I see it, relate to it, and experience it. For someone else, it's vital to have a sense of practice, in order to get to grips with how their life is, and initiate the types of forces and motivations which they wish to bring to bear and cultivate.

And Al didn't say this was right for everyone always either ... he talked of himself, and how it is now.

If only more people in the world would realise how relative their views are .... how much more tolerance of difference their might be .... and peace in the world.

Just a view!