Saturday, November 28, 2009

One Who Is Awake

I came across this today, apparently an excerpt from Karen Armstrong's upcoming book - The Case for God. It was such a beautiful piece of writing, and sentiment, that I thought I'd reproduce it here:

From almost the very beginning, men and women have repeatedly engaged in strenuous and committed religious activity. They evolved mythologies, rituals and ethical disciplines that brought them intimations of holiness that seemed in some indescribable way to enhance and fulfil their humanity. They were not religious simply because their myths and doctrines were scientifically or historically sound, because they sought information about the cosmos, or merely because they wanted a better life in the the hereafter. They were not bludgeoned into faith by power-hungry priests or kings; indeed religion often helped people to oppose tyranny and oppression of this kind. The point of religion was to live intensely and richly here and now. Religious people are ambitious. They want lives overflowing with significance. They have always desired to integrate with their daily lives the moments of rapture and insight that came to them in dreams, in their contemplation of nature and in their intercourse with one another and with the animal world. Instead of being crushed and embittered by the sorrow of life, they sought to retain their peace and serenity in the midst of their pain.

The Buddha after his awakening - teaching the DharmaThey yearned for the courage to overcome their terror of mortality; instead of being grasping and mean-spirited, they aspired to live generously, large-heartedly and justly and to inhabit every single part of their humanity. Instead of being a mere workaday cup, they wanted, as Confucius suggested, to transform themselves in to a beautiful ritual vessel brimful of the sanctity that they were learning to see in life. Thy tried to honour the ineffable mystery then sensed in each human being and create societies that honoured the stranger, the alien, the poor and the oppressed. Of course they often failed. but overall they found that the disciplines of religion helped them to do all this. Those who applied themselves most assiduously showed that it was possible for mortal men and women to live on a higher, divine or godlike plane and thus wake up to their true selves.

One day a brahmin priest came across the Buddha sitting in contemplation under a tree and was astonished by his serenity, stillness and self-discipline. The impression of immense strength channelled creatively into an extraordinary peace reminded him of a great tusker elephant. "Are you a god, sir?" the priest asked. "Are you an angel...or a spirit?" No, the Buddha replied. He explained that he had simply revealed a new potential in human nature. It was possible to live in this world of conflict and pain at peace and in harmony with one's fellow creatures. There was no point in merely believing it; you would only discover its truth if you practices his method, systematically cutting off egotism at the root. You would then live at the peak of your capacity, activate parts of the psyche that normally lie dormant, and become fully enlightened human beings. "Remember me, " the Buddha told the curious priest, "as one who is awake."

This story of the first person that the Buddha met after his Enlightenment has always been a powerful one for me. There are so many strands here - he did not recognize him for what he was, he passed on by after the Buddha told him what he was, not knowing how to profit from the encounter ..... and on and on ....

The notion that the Buddha is one who is awake - fully and utterly awake to their experience - has also remained powerful and poignant. Not about being someone different, becoming someone different, becoming anything other than what we are, right now. But opening fully, and utterly to what is, right now, and seeing it for what it is, not lost in it, not entranced and seduced by it, but seeing it for what it is, in the fullest possible context, in detail, and it nature. Fully awake.

Karen summarizes so well the best of this inner urge that many of us feel, that seems to have become a little lost in the public eye, transfixed as it is with the words and deeds of fundamentalists.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reflection on Khakhyab Dorje - Melody of Buzzing Bees

I began this post a couple of months ago and wasn't able to finish it. I thought I'd just publish what was there, as the teaching from Khakhyab Dorje is extraordinarily rich ...

Last night I dreamt of HH15 Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje, so thought sharing 'Melody of Buzzing Bees' would be auspicious.

Just a few reflections, unnecessarily trying to gild a solid gold statue:

You are the primordial ground, Buddha Vajradhara,
Unobstructed manifestation, the body of great compassion.
You posses the kindness that delivers Buddha into the palm of one's hand,
Please enjoy being an ornament on the top of my head.

This nature that's there in *all* experience, the primordial ground, which Khakhyab Dorje refers to as the Buddha Vajradhara is the groundlessness of experience. This never changes whatever arises in our mind, whether pleasant or unpleasant, skilful or unskilful, nor whether englightened or not. It's always there and is known as Buddha Nature. You don't have to become something else to be enlightened. You don't have to become something else. Right there, right here - where is the ground in whatever you experience right now?

HH15 Karmapa, Khakhyab DorjeHow beautiful the image of keeping the lama who shows you the nature of mind, the nature of all possible experiences, above your head. How beautiful.

Your son supplicates with devotion and longing;
Father Rinpoche, please look on me with kindness.
Lord, by the light rays of your kindness,
The darkness of confused ego-fixation has been cleared.

To develop sufficient level of attention so that we can remain aware in *any* experience, however unpleasant, however hooked into past actions and patterns and conditioning, then we need a lot of energy available to that attention. In Vajrayana that energy comes from cultivating devotion to the guru. It could be loving kindness or compassion, such as in the Hinayana or Mahayana. For myself, what matters most is that the emotional energy, the energy that can move mountains, is there. It's clear how powerful emotions are compared with thoughts. You can feel the whole shift when emotions stir. Having that available to fuel your attention underlies your ability to remain in attention when appearances beguile.

You are the primordial ground, Buddha Vajradhara,
Unobstructed manifestation, the body of great compassion.
You posses the kindness that delivers Buddha into the palm of one's hand,
Please enjoy being an ornament on the top of my head.

Having obtained a human body this one time,
I was accepted by your great kindness, lord.
You, the Jetsun who makes this free and well-favoured birth meaningful,
Please dwell inseparably in the very centre of my heart.

Your son supplicates with devotion and longing;
Father Rinpoche, please look on me with kindness.
Lord, by the light rays of your kindness,
The darkness of confused ego-fixation has been cleared.

In this song of the realization of the pure ultimate natural state,
These naive words are like the buzzing of a bee.
Although they irritate the ears of the father Jetsun,
Your son, with overwhelming longing,
Offers this song of nonsense words; please think of me with compassion.

In general, this body endowed with the eight freedoms and the ten favourable circumstances
Is more excellent than the wish-fulfilling gem.
Obtaining this body,
I know it to be the power of unperverted merit.

Although I have obtained it, it is impermanent,
And, therefore, the moment of death is unavoidable, as is said.
Since one never knows when it will come,
I wonder, "When will death come for me?"

The cause and effect of karma ripens infallibly in everyone
Just like a see that has been planted.
Because of my actions of deceiving myself and others,
I wonder, "What will my end be like?"

In general, ignorance, the great city of samsara,
Is filled with endless and strenuous suffering.
When I think about this, I almost lose my mind.
Panic-stricken, I wonder, "When will I be liberated?"

My body, blown by the wind of bad karma,
Falls from the precipice of the wrong path.
Now I am sunk in the mud of samsara; please look on me here!
Kind lord, precious Guru,
Please protect me from this terror.

Through a break in my evil karma, I discovered good karma.
I met the father Jetsun, the excellent true Buddha
Whose essence if Sri Cakrasamvara.
The skin of ignorant ego-fixation fell away from me,
And the great knot tied by passion and aggression was loosened.

As for the klesas, produced by the three poisons,
The object of their arising, the arising itself, and the one who gives rise to them
Are all projections of mind.
Like a reflection in a mirror,
Their essence is empty.
Like waves merging with the ocean,
they subside into empty ineffable space.

External phenomenal objects: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch,
All these phenomena are no other
Than the magical tricks of mind.
Like a child who builds sand castles,
It is mind that fixates on names.
Realizing that this is unreal is also mind.

Therefore, nothing exists as separate from mind
Neither as substance nor as a mark.
Realizing that everything is the manifestation of mind,
So-called samsara and Nirvana,
Considered to be bad and good respectively, do not exist.
Realization that mind is the manifestation of Dharmakaya,
The natural state of self-existing mind
Does not exist as form or substance.

It completely passes beyond even being shown by analogy.
To say "emptiness" is not total negation;
Rather, its nature is luminosity,
All-pervasive like space.
To say "existence" is not to establish a reality.
Just like space,
It does not exist, but it is very luminous.
Although it arises, it does not exist as separate,
But is liberated in the essence of this luminosity.
Like clouds in the sky,
It arises from space and dissolves into space.

In short, the phenomenal world is mind.
From the aspect of its luminosity, there is appearance.
From the aspect of its essence, there is emptiness.
Neither Buddhas nor sentient beings
Exist as separately established things.
All the so-called gods and demons do not so exist.
Everything is mind.
Mind is self-existing luminosity.
It passes beyond all arising, ceasing, and projecting.
It is free from dwelling, coming, or going anywhere.
Other than this ineffable mind,
There is no Vajradhara.
Mind is luminous;
I have confidence in realizing that this is so.

Jetsun, this realization is your kindness.
Rinpoche, now I remember your kindness.
Please look upon me, one of bad karma, with compassion.
Father Jetsun, ultimate Vajradhara,
Time and time again I think of you and devotion blazes up;
With undistracted longing I supplicate you.
Father, grant your blessings so that we may be beyond meeting and parting.

This song of experience
I offer to your ears, father Jetsun.
If there has been any stain of error,
Please wash it away with the amrta of loving kindness.
This son supplicates with one-pointed longing;
Please accept me with the iron hook of your compassion..

At the Karma Vihara of Akanistha, the great Dharma palace of the Buddha Karmapa, in the year of the Iron Tiger called Vikrta, I offered this song with great devotion of body, speech, and mind at the feet of the omniscient Jetsun, the king of Dharma.