On this day of traditional hope, on the night of Lord Shiva we have a lot to contend with. Good example is counter opposing idea of “Reality” and “Tradition”. Even though our very own tradition of Buddhist transmission is ground, path and result of connection on these three levels to the Liberation from confused states and ignorance within the cycle of existence, within Samsara. Still we are all bound to maintain a degree of sectarian view as long as ego demands of imposition of limitations is not let go more and more. The whole revolutionary idea is that there is idea of reality and idea of knowledge and that must be of importance not any idea of maintenance of any tradition for the tradition sake. As one great master said in my paraphrase: “True lineage is embodiment of wisdom within by the lineage holders” and not any number of traditional “bells and whistles”.
So, it is soon that we will have “New Moon” and traditionally Maha Shiva Ratri is the night just before last New Moon Night which takes place just before the Spring equinox. Spring equinox is that moment when finally momentum of days lengthening and nights shortening results in days becoming longer then nights.
May it give us all renewed strength to practice the liberating Dharma in accordance with the Dharma abandoning all egotistical self imposed limitations on the path of freedom.
All the time we all are in a way navigating through things, places even time. And there could be a very interesting question taking place which has more greater role in our lives so called destiny or so called free will?
While it is my firm opinion that all questions have answers in them already. And thus purpose of the spiritual path can be not to have more answers but to have fewer questions.
The idea above is very important and the foundation for spiritual path is that we are all “here” it is that basic human condition. Then as Buddha said “Watch Your Mind” – This is really what is required, to be able to actually pay attention to ones thoughts, speech and actions. This would include understanding that we can observe goings on in our lives and possibly see that all the temporary goings on are just like clouds and even if they may appear to block the sun, the sun is still there. So, if it takes a while for the clouds to move along it does not really cause disappearance of the sun, no matter how long it is still only that: temporary obscuration. Temporary blockage in our vision and the sun is there.
Facebook is not all “no prisoners” some people have highly detailed sense of humor. And when just such a person arrives it makes it all just so much better.
Thank you Geoff. I liked it too much, so I thought of saving it here. I hope you do not mind!
Nothing is better at the time of shelter-at-home then a small facebook laugh. When this comes together with existential question of whether we have any degree of spiritual outlook or are we just chasing something to satisfy something. Well, good luck to all of us. May some one benefit _/\_
Summation: Do not be ashamed to be confused on the path as a student, clarify your confusion instead. Do not be aloof towards student as a teacher, connect to accept responsibility and explain things correctly or leave the room.
There is an interesting phenomena out there.
In this age of freedom of information when one can buy any book on amazon and if that desired book is published as restricted, one can bypass the amazon altogether and download a PDF, if one desires.
In this age ideas and their validity have some chance to be established.
Without doubt all understanding is always based on each person’s background, their level of readiness so to speak.
A metaphorical idea in this is that if we assume for there to be several languages out there, in order to read in other then your native language you need to know that other language already.
And in that way to be prepared to engage with the ideas.
This works as an example very well when words in a way of language get translated but ideas remain challenging and require work in understanding.
And so we have two interesting directions in regards to where it all is going when some one is “looking in”.
Let’s make a mixture of where we land if we put together law of cause and effect, the karma then Christian based spirituality and Buddhist spirituality.
Within Buddhism we do have very expedient path of what some call a “short cut” of Vajrayana, expedient path of liberation in one life.
However easy this path may seem for the whole thing to take off just right every little component has to be in place and perfectly aligned with the rest.
Comparing basic Buddhist practice to walking along the road, path of Vajrayana is alike a launch of a space mission which has a chance of total complete failure at any stage.
And so as Buddhist when we are so well aware of the karma it can be really very positive to say understand ideas offered in many public talks by masters of high profile.
These go along these lines: “One does not need to convert to Buddhism” so to speak, it is more important to have a good heart. Which has a perfect result of assisting anyone on that path in their efforts of accumulating good karma.
If taken with aspiration to liberate or just follow Buddhism, that too should without doubt arrive at the right time.
As all results are based on causes and anything can arise, the wish to enter path of liberation is a direct cause to going in just such a direction.
Above advise becomes actual skillful means. – Have a Good Heart.
Then however we have a more interesting direction which has no relationship to maturation of the students. It is feeling of possessiveness in regards to the teachings.
Feeling that one has developed an understanding because of long and what is often said “arduous” study.
There is expectation of respect of sorts. Now should it be too pointless to point to the obvious. This is why so much discord and frustration takes place all too often in western spiritual circles.
Westerners in their naïveté demand something genuine in any degree, but that is well liked.
Some like it only if it is confirming, some like it when it very manicured.
But in the quest to find something outside that is “all that” one of the interesting clashes takes place when a spiritual guide does not seem to offer much in return for high throne, prostrations, donations or any degree of aloofness.
Now we arrive at the next step relevant to the followers of Buddhism that are in one way or the other on Vajrayana path already.
This point I am about to make is the reason why this article is written in fact.
We do get at times public message that if one is to enter or in some way to study “Highest” parts of Vajrayana or Dzogchen / Mahamudra doctrines one is likely to become confused.
There are so many points I can make about that!
In a lighter way of half joking we all at some point confused left and right direction at one or another situation in our life.
And this knowledge is very forcefully imposed onto our lives since early childhood. In most cases nothing new.
So, it is not really in any way shameful to attempt to try to get it right, right hand, left hand, right turn, left turn.
It is assumed that it is normal to work through that type of confusion all in order to “keep going”.
How come we are expected not to have any confusion on the spiritual path? Or are expected not to work with it?
Great master Longchenpa said that all spiritual traditions that teach beings right from wrong are of benefit.
And remembering that we should always quite simply try to find “our way” no matter how confused we may be or appear to others.
There is no shame in trying to find the way, there is a possibility for finding shame in giving up.
And so, if some one who is credentialed does not offer direct instruction traditional or from experience but rather points out that you are possibly confused for likely walking the path, well this is just unhelpful arrogance.
Second point that is more serious and related directly to the actual higher vehicles is that there is necessity of study, yes.
However the very entrance into the path is some one in the role of the spiritual master leading by example, no more no less.
That very idea of some one there, that idea or a personification of idea in fact is very traditional. And one of important points for why it is there is so that confusion could be clarified into wisdom.
Unmistakably on every step of the way as much as possible.
That person is not there merely to: “pull rank” but rather they are the “responsible adult in the room”, taking care that you come out on the other end without becoming sidetracked.
And if one were to put effort into application of any direct advice received then it is clearly seen as primary to any other possible study, because it illuminates the confusion to dawn as wisdom for that person, right there, at that time.
Third Drubwang Penor Rinpoche passed away in India which makes it interesting in calendar terms. In India it was 28th of March and in USA it was still 27th. Then because Penor Rinpoche was most important master for Tibetans there is Tibetan Calendar that can be used, it uses phases of the moon, according to lunar calendar it is 2nd month, 1st day. 1st day of 2nd month in 2019 coincides with April 6th. And this year it is 10 years ago.
I was very fortunate to meet Rinpoche in person for five years in a row and to receive life changing instructions from. Looking back I feel strange nostalgia come over, it was time before social media and before “selfies” could be taken with others. People did take pictures and I remember that I owned digital camera but seldom used it.
Selfishly every time meeting Rinpoche privately, in a group or during ceremonies was about my best attempts to “just be there”. Needless to say i failed at many picture ops.
Here is a picture that a friend took during Chenrezig Empowerment at Grand Chinese temple in Carmel NY, in 2006. Khenchen Rinpoche can be seen on the left side of the picture as well.
Guru Rinpoche if approached with a degree of knowing is immediately understood as one of the most influential masters that ever lived. The sphere of influence and time frame during which it took place (not counting the fact that it perfectly continues to this very day) of Guru Rinpoche is enormous and engulfs most of today’s historic Buddhist regions in one way or the other and at one time or the other.
With understanding that what we call Himalayan or more often Tibetan Buddhism is only possible because it was indeed single handedly established for generations to come by non other then Guru Rinpoche. With that we see how Guru Rinpoche legacy reaches into Europe and America of 21st century as important and dominant spiritual tradition of today. Some thousand years later to the fact of historical time line of Guru Rinpoche visit to Tibet.
This much is clear Guru Rinpoche is here, with us, today and in many forms.
There is little doubt that Guru Rinpoche was not the one that practiced acception or rejection all the while perfectly unveiling the spiritual path to all of his students. Guru Rinpoche clearly was not into dogmatic rituals, yet he perfectly transmitted Rituals. There are quotations from the master that tell us things like this: If one were to receive such and such instruction it is possible to awaken then and there, or within a practice retreat of several moths, a year, twelve years, during bardo, next life time, within 3 lifetimes thereafter. From that there is no was to misunderstand the potency of instructions that can be had and it is clear that application right where one is, in that time and space, all that matters. Our capacity to follow through that is all that differs from case to case. And so based on that we can encounter some slight feel of lightly calcified situation, a little bit of dogmatic approach. Which is nothing that is ever found in the teachings but rather is due to our rational mind organizing doctrine of liberation from bounds of Samsara into a system of knowledge rich with concept. Much alike famous “stone tablets”
Let’s bring Guru Rinpoche more into our hears, into our popular culture, into things we know and live in today.
I am a big fan of impressionist and post impressionist European painting and here is a picture that in some way is meant to bring famous Ngadama image into that frame of understanding, into that technique. It does not mean that I would ever think that traditional Thangka Painting should change at all and this picture is not even meant to be of same magnitude as to be meditated upon as a support for visualization. It’s just my own personal small attempt to use a piece of modern art and representing something that I am working on still making my own in any small way. The legacy of great master.
We often hear now with a very good, very healthy dose of dark sarcasm something along these lines:
“Education is not necessary, one can just become youtube student, scholar, Guru”
There is some truth to it, youtube is popular and if it is pivoted around spoken word one can listen to it in a way of audio, riding in a car, or the iconing going out for a healthy jog (in the park, maybe?).
Let’s tackle this is traditional social media, youtube, world wide web’s type of way. This post is going to outline things that are easily cross referenced and are almost “known” but in the past would require a number of books to be gone through, for hours.
While I can not promise that you will understand, or even like what I am about to put together, alas there will be also no degree or a certificate of any kind here.
However, who knows maybe something here will be of help to some one.
Let’s start, per-requisites are:
As a start one will need to absorb this framework, this formula rather well.
It’s sole purpose is to make any interested spiritual seeker derive benefit in most direct way possible, without solidification of various points of in-between as make believe final destination.
The four reliances:
The four reliances (Skt. catuḥpratisaraṇa; Tib. རྟོན་པ་བཞི་, tönpa shyi, Wyl.rton pa bzhi) —
Rely on the message of the teacher, not on his personality (gang zag la mi rton/ chos la rton);
Rely on the meaning, not just on the words (tshig la mi rton/ don la rton);
-There is more material available on the page linked above, it is strongly recommended for one to visit the link mentioned and read through.
Now we move onto the next stage where it is important to have a slight framework in place in regards who these names represent, it does not have to be very extensively formed idea, but some knowledge is good. These are the examples that will be used and while their “role” in this article is to give an example, to just mention these greats of Vajrayana Buddhism in it’s self is a good thing.
Padampa Sangye an Indian Mahasiddha that has visited Tibet and Bhutan, is believed to have lived for well over 300 years and is usually associated with the system of meditation called Chod, in Tibetan that stands for the idea of cutting the ego grasping through offering. Padampa Sangya has met Machik Labdron and Milarepa. https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Padampa_Sangye
Milarepa is likely the most famous Tibetan yogi that has ever lived. Life story of Milarepa written by Tsang Nyon Heruka is the “popular culture” of Tibet for many centuries through it’s appeal of overcoming adversity on the spiritual path and use of poetic songs rich with metaphor. https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Milarepa
Bodhidharma is traditionally thought of as traveling Indian Sage, who was born in South India as a prince and who transmitted a number of Indian Buddhist texts in Northern China. Also giving local monks a system of yogic exercise to strengthen them for longer meditation sessions. He himself is said to have cut off his eye lids to stop himself from ever falling asleep in meditation.
Now this above introduces these historical figures that populate imagination of most Himalayan Buddhists as major landmarks.
For the sake of this larger picture that is attempted to be introduced into view here it is good to picture that Buddhist ideas, texts and even systems of Yoga are moving from southern (possibly Tamil Nadu) part of India, with perfect lay-over in Tibet (on the other side of world’s most imposing mountains. And reaches Northern China.
Unlike our current age of the youtube scholarship back then such a far reaching transmission could only happen if at every step of the way there was some one of really high realization, level of embodiment of these teachings. And there are multiple stories that reach us today about this idea Padampa Sangye, Kamalaśīla and Bodhidharma were not three important students, patriarchs, yogis, but in fact were one realized practitioner that has achieved a degree of control over his own life span.
Here is an excerpt from the article that should be very well considered with the view of opening up to the potential of application of the four reliances through the view of Upaya, skillful means of manifesting anything, life, teaching, records of life stories.
About the Translation Below
The translation that I have prepared to accompany this essay is an excerpt from hagiography of the 11/12th C. Lord of Siddhas, Padampa Sangye. This excerpt states Padampa Sangye was none other than the great 8th C. Buddhist master Kamalasila. If this were the case, then by the time Dampa Rinpoche displayed his passing into parinirvana (death) in the early 12th century, he would have been over four hundred years old.
To illustrate how and why we are told to really zero in at the meaning rather then words. There is another story that tells us how Padampa Sangye came to be known as some one that has dark and unattractive looking body. The former prince now Mahasiddha Padampa Sangye was traveling with his friend who originally possessed the body we came to know about. At some point two yogis came upon a whole village that seemed sick and upon investigation of the local river they found that an elephant has died and fallen into the stream contaminating sole source of water, from which the village was drinking everyday. The yogis agreed that they have to move the elephant and that the best way to do so is to leave one’s body, re-animate the body of the elephant and walk it off. The other yogi said that Padampa Sangye should do it as his skill is unrivaled. After leaving his attractive body “empty” he started to work on moving the elephant out of the river. While out companion who was haunted a bit by his own appearance thought that here it is, his chance to never be looked down upon and take over an attractive body of his friend. Which he did, leaving Padmpa Sangye with no choice by to accept the “trade”.
There is also a well known story sited in the Padampa Sangye public wiki page that Kamalaśīla was the one that got the unattractive body off the Padampa Sangye to took over his body while Kamalaśīla was moving a dead animal out as it was contaminating a local stream.
The bottom line that we think to believe is that Kamalaśīla and Padampa Sangye, both have visited Tibet and Kamalaśīla has also gone on to the North China to become known as Bodhidharma.
And so: There is also a story told that one was incarnation of the other. Many stories that do not need to be taken as factual or non-factual, contradictory or coherent. There is no reason to prove anything to anyone, there is no reason to very much look for factual proves outside of the real of wisdom mind. -If you are on the path that is. If this all is a spectator sport to you, where you would not mind to gain recognition but nothing else much. Then at the end of the day you will feel that no you are not drunk but rather ground is moving right under you feet. As endless inconsistencies abound, all over the place, for all of us, all the time.
As Jetsun Milarepa is mentioned above as a practitioner, perfect embodiment of Vajrayana Buddhism with in one life time we can easily remember that there were many stories from his lifetime that put a lot of “stress” onto his contemporaries and us to day understanding of what is real and how things are really “set”.
A well known story is of Milarepa walking around during the rain and taking shelter inside the large, hollow end of a yak’s horn that was on the ground and then singing that horn did not become bigger, or his body smaller. And how this is all related to one’s perception and how him entering into the horn demonstrated achievement of freedom from self imposed limitations.
Rechungpa got lost totally after the showers of hails and rains, when he came to his senses he looked around but did not find his Guru Milarepa. He went searching for his Guru. After some time, he sat down and waited to see his Guru. He saw the yak-horn lying nearby. He also sensed that his Guru’s voice was coming out of it. He went closer to it, and tried to pick it up but it became so heavy that he could hardly move it. He bent down to look through the yak-horn. He saw his Guru sitting comfortably in it. The yak-horn did not grow large but he saw the life-sized Guru in it.
Milarepa from the yak-horn said to Rechungpa, “if you match me at this skill, come in right now.” Rechungpa could not do anything even though he saw there was plenty of room for him, too.
Then, Milarepa sang for Rechungpa, “The pleasure-yearning human body is an ungrateful creditor. Whatever good you do to it, it always plants the seeds of pain. This human body is a bag of filth and dirt; never be proud of it. Rechungpa, but listen to my song! When I look back at my body, I see it as a mirage-city; though I may sustain it for a while, it is doomed to extinction.”
Listening to the mind-touching song of Milarepa, Rechungpa realized that he became proud of his learning, and even attempted to minimize the wisdom of his great Guru. Thus, Milarepa cleared up the ego from the mind of Rechungpa”.
Above is text of this story found online.
Now for the real substance of our so called “course” The main material should be listening to these Talks on Vajrayana in several European cities by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Here is the link to a playlist. If taking into account above as frameworks for going directly towards wisdom one should listen to the “Cinderella teachings” as it is mentioned by the Rinpoche and it should be easy to understand.
And when one has listened to all 5 videos here, one is ready to graduate, not sure what, but something for sure. Rejoice !
I could have just posted the above list and say: “I like it”
But many have done this already as it is. Also the temptation of writing and writing around something to do with brilliance of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is hard to resist. And in my subjective opinion these talks should be listened to.
Also, recently in social media there was talk of Padampa Sangye, Kamalaśīla and Bodhidharma, from that I saw that all these stories that I mention above are not all that well known and could use a boost.
Happy graduating to all of us, youtube gurus and keyboard warriors.
For a while the grand temple for the artists in New York’s at that time very democratic Manhattan was without doubt Pearl Pain art supply store. The store had 6 floors and a crafts annex in the building across the street in the back. It was located near corner of Broadway on canal Street and it would not be an untruth to say that a large, very large percentage of all American and artists came through it’s stair. That store had it all. One could buy a box of 3 tubes of Old Holland oil paints ON SALE and not go broke. At some point, i think later on they even had a line of paint that they packed themselves. Here is a single tube that lives on in my collection.
As I never worked there, I do not have a “1st hand experience” of the idea but it was also said that for the artists it was one of these places where one could easily land a job, if in need.
We do not have Pearl Paint anymore. But to remember the ones that remember, well we have:
Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York
a.k.a. The Book of Lamentations: a bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct
Here is a link to the article on pear’s departure.
When one’s life is full of activity with a degree of uncontrolled hectic energy, well cultivation of flowers is much harder to maintain then one thinks.
And to that, in NYC there was effort after effort to buy an Orchid in a supermarket and see it thrive. However whether over-watering, lack of fertilizer or who knows, possibly lack of watering? They never did thrive. After a while following in it’s inevitable direction they would shrivel and die.
After move upstate whole family’s burden of running around in busy circles has somewhat abated. And one time finally visiting a temple in the Hudson Valley that I meant to visit for over 10 years, I observed many orchid pots standing on a previous lama’s throne’s and table. All in full bloom with many flowers. And so 2 pots were purchased some time later and comfortable abandoned in a good spot, they are thriving and it takes no effort. Now blooming for 2 years.
This year biggest and now apparently in Guinness world record book as such gathering called Kumbh Mela was culminating with the last bathing in the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and river of energy Sarasvati on seldom coinciding 2 day and a night in between Maha Shivaratri. The Kumbh lasts 55 days.
Lord Shiva is naturally respected by Buddhists of any depth and while our deep appreciation will naturally differ from some theistic and ritualistic approaches of some followers that we term today as Hindu. It is of no importance, as we can still all remain respectful and appreciative, which we really must. Maha Shivaratri translates as The Great Night of Shiva and many spiritual seekers will not sleep during this night devoting themselves to prayer and contemplation. And I really like this part. To change your schedule from routine and monotone or to sacrifice a bit of sleep and comfort all for materially most useless type of thing: spirituality. It is rather great and in the end invigorating!
I went on and composed this pointing of an orchid as an offering to the Shiva and all spiritual practitioners. Especially the one’s that stay on through the dark of night!
-There is a famous iconic Buddhist manifestation of Buddha in a female form like that.
There is also a legend that an important female Siddha and a head of a monastery in Tibet just would not be seen if she did not want to be seen and at any time would turn into an ordinary looking pig, hiding from any visitors. This gives us a very practical level of understanding of what “Nirmanakaya” could actually be. It is said that out of compassion Buddhas continuously manifest as buildings, roads, bridges, rain, sunshine, food, books, teachers, “dharma”. The idea does ask us in return to consider thinking of all these manifestations that we see as Buddha Bodies, even if we were to assume that some are not, there is still no way to tell which one’s are which! So, it could be better to stay on a safe side (and follow teachings on pure view, 5 purities and such).
-Surround your self with Buddha’s manifest bodies. This way one can’t go wrong. This one here is a homage to the idea of the “Year of the Pig”