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”
There is no end to reports and first hand accounts. It is so massive these days that anyone on the path (as a student or as a teacher) should outright hide, let alone display something even remotely resembling anything that can be called crazy wisdom. But what do I know, honestly if one is to hope for the pure view, it will not really come without challenges, for most of us, it seems.
What I am meaning to really say:
The whole world awaits you all. And it is impossible to go there if you do not take care of yourselves. So, please take care and do not wail in grief over the death of an idea. For as physicists say amount of matter and energy in this universe does not change. So, all these ideas never came or ever went. In conventional speech: Dream of Enlightened Society will reincarnate!
I have communicated with many of you online and in the past in person as well. You are regular human beings. If any of you even if it is after the years of service to your community have to leave it, this is totally normal dynamic. And happens to many.
In fact it happens in many situations, organizations, communities all the time. People leave, people arrive. What is more important is to remember that life is short. And within that short life one can not conceive of benefiting others if one is completely overcome by any one or combination of negativities. Thus it is important to be able to benefit oneself, while it is not too late and we must remember that in fact we are told over and over that this present moment is all we have. So, it is never too late. As in do it now.
For many it should be of greatest importance to utilize the idea of “The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side” because of the serious problem with the vision, many do not see grass / other side. Do not let your imagination fail you! This is our normal ego driven wish to better our situation, to study, to receive teachings, to contemplate on these, to actualize them in one’s sphere of being. In regards to the general knowledge of many people that I have observed, mostly online, there is a chance to benefit from study of any of the famous Tibetan Buddhist Traditions. There is a lot of books, sadhana texts, monasteries, masters in several countries. If there is something that you wanted to do, explore, find out about, this could be the perfect moment for that.
I understand that many, especially older generation want to talk about ideas of support and social justice. And while it maybe something that at the current time in this country will be effective. On the individual level it will never make us better followers of Lord Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava or any lineage masters of Kagyu, or Surmang at all.
Study, contemplation, meditation in order to really absorb the teachings, to become the teachings, to embody these, should never leave anyone’s sight.
These should always somewhat co-inside with the most fundamental idea of renunciation. A lot of societal values should be abandoned in favor of retreat from such. And it is never the same as throwing about phrases of “basic goodness” or “enlightened society” and then in a slightest moment of confusion becoming angry and red in the face, bar-fight ready to happen type of thing.
With folded hands, with a wish for complete perfect awakening for all of us in this, however dysfunctional it may seem family, sooner, or later, or always.
Some one of utter un-importance, writing things down because it is possible to.
Named by parents: Alex, Named by a Nyingmapa master: Sherab Gyatso
Your friend, -is how I feel.
Sometime during this holy 1st month of the lunar calendar, may auspiciousness prevail, for all.
This volume was not planned but came together from various writing here and there, on the blogs and on social media. Then, when I saw that material accumulating is starting to look more and more as if there is enough for a book, the book came about. Initially as What’s What, 1st edition through Createspace Publishing in June of 2016.
As of autumn of 2018 Createspace is merging into Kindle Direct Publishing and it looks appropriate to update What’s What with a few pages in addition for the new, 2nd edition.
So, meanwhile, whole two years came and went, while life presented a very rare opportunity of almost retreat like, very restful time and it does not feel like 2016 was long ago and similarly not really yesterday, not anymore.
Special mention for Orgyen Cho Dzong Sangha of upstate New York, where for first time I was able to join in with Kyabje Shenphen Dawa Rinpoche, family and disciples at the end of summer of 2016. Especially fortunate is that Rinpoche’s son Namgyal Dawa Rinpoche saw it fit to offer a comment on this piece of writing and now I can include it as a review for 1st edition on the back cover. It is a type of review that I personally like and it goes much a like what my friend Migmar Tsering said to me after reading a copy I gave him during Summer Retreat at Palyul Retreat center: “It is as if you a re talking to me”. So, in some way, this is it, mission accomplished! -Simple, personal voice, without any status or authority but with a wish of positivity to increase, for everyone. Then, in a glory of miraculous displays Kyabje Shenphen Dawa Rinpoche displayed passing from this life on April 15th of 2018 and I have written a short obituary that offered me a chance to contemplate on situations like this, how do we feel when our Lama passes away? This short piece of writing is added to this current edition, may it all be virtuous and may our confidence be renewed if it wavers, unfailingly so!
-NY State September 2018
Picture is by Hyunju Lee at Jackson Heights NY,
while attending teachings of Palyul Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche
By now I should have expected something like that. But every time something of s sort happens there is a slight feeling of surprise. As i wrote in more then one article here already, my father in-law without much interest or expectation has discovered to his surprise what i told him now and then, for years. I still view myself as somewhat of an artist and there was a time when I exhibited, sold and even answered questions, all in regards to my artwork.
Much has changed since then. America is where I am now and I read, write and speak in English with some degree of proficiency. Computers came and took over, pay ohones all but disappeared, together with music and book stores. Cell phones now are viewed as ultimate gateway to happiness (just think of azure coast line screen saver that one can get with a purchase of a $1,000 device that can do invariable more and more of the things that never needed to be ever done). All this is here not just for me but for many.
And so my father in law asked me on several occasions to paint his portrait, -that sounded really good to me. I have not painted for 18 years at that point but never thought that I have laid down the brushes, it’s just that I was not in the right place to do so. And so, I bought a few canvases, a pallet knife and investigated into new paint producers to add to the selection of now antique tubes of paint (all purchased in Pearl Paint in NYC – art materials point of pilgrimage that only exists in the realm of memory of so many).
My 1st attempt at the painting did not result in anything that I felt I could finish, although the composition came together neatly and character of the old man somewhat reflected in the moment. Still I was playing with the ideas, colors, brush-strokes too much after all these years and I had to abandon the canvas. Quickly painting just a prominent portrait with noting much in the picture in a way of distraction.
However when the old man came over he said that he is intending to take the half finished, half erased, half not meant to be canvas home and i can come and work on it there, finishing it as i please. I was amused, telling myself: “Guess what I will have to do something to finish this one as well, to some degree, he wants two portraits now”
And here we have it, yet another canvas lives to be signed as a finished work.
I hope so, there were always plans to paint things, but when you pay astronomical rent, run a restaurant or have to merchandise 2,000 Lbs of cheese, all invariably 6, not five days a week, all these painting plans have no chance to take hold, none at all. Finally father in law after looking at many of my older canvases had a eureka moment: “you are classically trained artist”. I was like: “you can say that, in some past life, – I had not painted for about 18 years”. He could not resist and asked for a portrait. So, here it came to pass, I am painting again, not as “seriously” but obviously just as seriously.
This is some of the best of everything. Legendary NYC art supply dealer of 20 years ago David Davis stretchers, -mine have Mercer Street address, it is from the time when they had a store in the basement of “Guggenheim Soho”, then canvas from fabric wholesaler (that does not exist for many a year) on Lower Broadway, and a finished painting that was started 18 years ago, all feels very, very special.