H.E. Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche teaching – Entering the Mahayana: 5th Teaching – 8/27/11 – 3 PM – the 12 Nidanas (continued) 4 Foundations of Mindfulness
12 Nidanas (continued)
What is being given out is a copy of the Satipatthana Sutta translation. Keep it with you till we get to the sections where you do the contemplations. How are you all doing? (laughter) Thanks to Lisa and the Padma team. The changes around the land are amazing. Thanks to the karma team- Lama roar and everyone – nice to see continuation. Hopefully this thing (the hurricane) that is supposed to happen won’t happen. Vajra team keeps saying its’ coming. So they have been talking about paranoia (laughter).
So, one begins to see the importance of working with oneself. The path that leads to that is called dharma. But it must be understood to lead to the cessation of affliction. One must develop mindfulness that is such that it is able to bring about the full manifestation of wisdom. One must know true nature of all phenomena, outer and inner, and bring about the wisdom of knowing things as they truly are. Buddha explained the 12 nidanas, causes and arising… These can be seen in all broader and other circumstances. Can see how a consciousness is propelled by karmic formations, how a strong compulsion for ignorance and karmic formation propels consciousness to become an embryo. This is the dot of conception, leading to aggregates, leading to grasping, and leading to craving.
The personal experience of the aggregates, the 4 factors – make it a very…
Ignorance leads to karmic formations, which creates form as solid and concrete. Then feelings, formations, perceptions and consciousness activities are seen as fully concrete. This is true even for an embryo , where senses, contact of senses, then feelings, then graspings due to pleasures and unpleasurable activities begin to be conceptualized. There then becomes craving for the opposite, so it repels. This then leads to old age, death, and the resultant stage.
Shakimuni Buddha said, “because there is this, that is. Because this came into being, that came into being; because there is ignorance, a volitional act came into being.”
(Because the first nidana happens, the 2nd nidana arises)
The second nidana focuses on law of causality. Understanding of the nidanas can be taken on several grosser and subtler levels. Taken into subtler nidanas, in every minute, every thought can be a full life cycle. The 12 nidanas can be taken into a smaller or larger period – 24 hours, a minute, or a thought. “Because this came into being, that came into being. “ So, understand subtler and grosser. Also, understanding nidanas from 1-12 shows how suffering occurs, or one can understand then from 12-1 which leads to cessation.
Jigma Lingpa – text- “Because of not knowing the true nature, there is what we call ignorance. There is no one single ignorance”
When we say this, that happens. This is seeing it in same light.
Because of not knowing the true nature, the other is seen. This is not because of a push by someone else. There is no one particular cause; it just is. It is a bad itch sort of thing (laughter). Every time you have an itch, you are diverted.
Because of not knowing true nature, the other is seen.
Or, as it would be said more directly in the Tibetan way, “because of not knowing the true nature, the other becomes permanent.” What becomes more permanent is given form. At this level, the interpretation of form is needed.
Where the other becomes familiar, it is given an idea which is insubstantial. It would be a mistake to see it as a solid form; it is simply energy, an impulse. This indefinite form searches for familiarity. If it finds something familiar, it’s found it. If it doesn’t, there is displeasure. Even in confusion, there is searching. Between finding and searching for, what satisfies is the searching, not the finding. Even so-called ‘neutral’ feelings are confused feelings. Just the fact that it can continue the impulse to search. There is a a blissful kind of experience in confusion.
This immediately tried to locate familiarity in confusion – pleasant, unpleasant, confusion – which then branches into 2 aspects. Some of these actions lay dormant, retaining the power of becoming active in the future. It Immediately breaks into two:
- Part remains dormant. This is the seed of karma. It retains the imprint, the power when in the future the conditions come together, it will continue its activity.
- The second, what immediately continues to become action that is engaged is the casual consciousness. When the mind has a sense of search, part of that is dormant, part stays active. This leads immediately to Activities leading to more production. When that pleasant feeling is felt, there is a familiarity retained at the basic level of consciousness. You retain some information, and you express some information.
It becomes a reference. Your mind is always trying to produce a reference it can relate to. What we call memories are all those experience that make us think that. We allow part of the message to be retained, so 10 years later, we can say “see what I told you.”
The Main causal causes, the active causes, contributes to production. There is also sowing the seeds, making immense imprints on the stream of consciousness. It doesn’t need to go into things as they truly are, mind thinks “it’s okay to be selfish, to retain your identity.“ Mind asserts and reasserts familiar kind of activities that lead to dualities. This is supported by the storehouse consciousness and active consciousness. This morning, we were talking about aggregates. This is when a much more definite aggregate becomes a personal experiences. It goes from the 3rd to the 4th nidana, “name and form”. The personalization of aggregates takes shape. A name is given, form is grasped to, and you think “like”. There is immediately a name, and forms lead to a pleasurable experience.
“Name and form” is where what has tilled now been indefinite becomes very definite, a personal experience. What could be left as an indefinite coming together of aggregates becomes much more definite. For example, take an embryo with all the sense faculties and sense objects- feelings, perceptions, aggregates.
Say you were looking at a flower. In a Subtle approach, one looks into one’s own mind. A fresh thought is immediately given a name “good thought”, due to the beauty of the flower. Now, suddenly, it becomes very definite – “there is pink, red, white, it has petals, it has a stem.” This is how the simple indefinite is changed when formulations take place in mind – shape, form, and ownership are given to it. It is now the “flower on table placed there by Jessie”. Now, the concentration moves to “who’s Jessie? Mark’s wife Jessie, where is she, what is she doing, etc.?”
What is in field of awareness – where the personalization occurs, the solidification occurs. One of the famous lines from Naropa to Tilopa is “it’s not outer phenomena that creates suffering. It’s the grasping that creates the distraction.” Taming the mind with mindfulness allows mind to remain in what they are. Aggregates will arise, manifest, cease. Our thoughts will manifest, arise, cease. If one doesn’t bring about strong feeling of it, then nothing will create a distraction and disturbances.
However, most of us try to bring about non-grasping. Then the not-grasping isn’t very successful . If it arises with firm belief of other, you are getting into trouble. Meditators go to isolated places. What happens, it’s a forced way of subduing things, which doesn’t lead to cessation.
If grasping was coming from others, and then running away would be good. But it comes from you. A person can be busier in an empty cave than a castle.
The other is still stronger in one’s own mind, to bring about cessation of grasping, has to bring about cessation of craving. But if there is feeling, there is always craving. Forcefully subjugating feeling doesn’t help. You would need to keep your sense objects and sense consciousness separate. Where there are senses, sense consciousness, and sense object, contact will always be there.
It seems contact is to be blamed. To defeat contact, you would need to defeat senses. It’s too late in this life; tell your mother in your future life, “I don’t want to be born with senses.” (laughter)
Senses are not at fault. The blame is not on senses, it is on name and form. The activities came into being because of name and form.
The question is, “why do we name things”? Why does everything need a certain name and context? Why can’t feelings just be feelings? Why must they be embroiled in feelings of feelings? Why can’t perceptions just be perceptions? Why can’t formations just be formations? Why can’t consciousness just be consciousness? When you go into the kitchen and ask “what’s cooking?” why ask? It’ll be served. Interference is interference, when you call someone with cell phone; first thing one asks is “where are you?” Before, we never said “I won’t talk to you unless I have a mental picture of where you are!” (laughter)
There is the constant shift from what could be pervasive awareness to personal experience. Awareness is much deeper, humble understanding, allowing aggregates to be what they are- very matter of fact.
Personal experience is based on gain and loss, hope and fear, and agendas. Things are what you want them to be or not. There is a deeper reluctance to even go into what is to be sustained.
“Name and form” is also a place where a speed bump could be. We accept certain things are beautiful, certain things are ugly, certain things are good, certain things are bad. For example, here at Lotus Garden, we go to bed at a certain time and wake up at certain points. Then in the morning, we walk into shrine room, and there are specific ways to act, ways to bow, ways to speak. We go like sheep – it doesn’t matter who agrees. Everything is solidly structured. Until everyone acts like that is not normal. Anyone not normal goes to a mental hospital. (laughs) There is an old Buddhist joke that we lock up those who sees things that are not there. We say “this flower has been in this spot on this table the past 8 years.“ There is a very concreteness in the way in which we live. Such a person takes forms for granted, takes them to be true, unchallenged, and becomes slaves to it. On the consciousness level, the same imprint becomes strong. People poke their faces into a baby’s face and say “papa – mama” – name, form.
Some imprint are from previous consciousness “don’t like papa – cry” or “like mama-smile”. Outer causes, your own inner causes, combined with the conditioned world and what we believe, they condition us to be slaves to concepts. Consider geographic locations. There is an immensely humorous way of looking at visa situations. Especially looking look at Canadians trying to come to dharma programs in the US . Recently, I’ve recently been hearing a lot about this. For a Tibetan, this doesn’t make sense. We don’t think there is much difference between “Canada” and “America”. We don’t know there is a border between the two, really. (laughter) But there is a booth somewhere between the two, and someone in there, and there is apprehension when they ask someone at the border “what is your name?” and they forget. (laughter)
That’s how human beings are, with the distinctions we make. We make distinctions of good and bad, we make religious distinctions, asking “how long have you been a Buddhist?” Mind is being pushed to name and form to make references. This makes more references and so on up to the consciousness level. We never question “what is true nature of thoughts/ reality?”
If only that much supposition was what was happening, wouldn’t be so bad, but we encourage ourselves to??? The most strong are like/don’t like/neutral.
It is like a wavelength that always affirms the 3 major emotions/references/ impulses – liking, not liking, and indifference. Where what you have created becomes a personal experience of like/dislike/indifference, then the causes that are created combined with what you like makes you very rigid.
Ego is an uncompromising attitude. There is no one ego. With everything being created, bringing some degree of uncompromising attitude. “I do not want it!” is very firm. 7 billion uncompromising people together, some have to win and lose. Those who win are happy for now, those who lose are sad for now.
Unwittingly, the circumstances that come about are due to the liking/not liking, which finds its ground upon experience of name and form. The 12 nidanas in this way, they support each other. They come in sequence, but at the same time, feeling can immediately go to consciousness. All the dynamics of different links move – expresses and supports –
All the causes you are creating – expressivity. The feedback supports and makes samsara begins to make sense. We don’t like it, but still. We find a lot of sense in samsara. The feedback we get is “it is alright to assert yourself.” Causes and their consequences , the effects are the causes. It asserts the belief of duality. No longer the causation until the creation of 12 nidanas. Grasping to craving – from feeling – from contact- from senses- from name and form – from consciousness – from nothing. Only impactful impulse. An idea that it has to like, dislike, or don’t care….
The disintegration of ignorance starts when you- posit what you like, don’t’ like, ignorance. Going to state what you like? Must point to it. Even in the hiniyana teachings- “where are you asserting your differences? When that question is put to use, we immediately think “but I like this thing.” What do you like? “Phenomena.” Ex. “deliciously expensive chocolate. (laughter)
Mhadyamika – what do you like in chocolate? The taste? The ingredients? Must give credit to what comes into being. We need a reeducated mind to see things beyond personal experiences. Here is the mediation itself to do so. How do we cultivate breakthrough, so aggregates….
It is not the fault of aggregates. Can you appreciate chocolate without personal expressiveness? A cause has been created due to our own personal preferences. This leads to different productions, desires, and selfishness. They come into productions due to like, dislike, indifference.
The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness
To bring about a sense of the one taste relationship (in vajrayana) sees every form as it is, what things are in their natural essence. We are training mind into breaking free of productions. The methods in the sutra teachings – practiced especially in Pali traditions – are called the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness.
I will read through it first.“Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living among the Kurus, at Kammasadamma, a market town of the Kuru people. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhu thus: “Monks,” and they replied to him, “Venerable Sir.” The Blessed One spoke as follows: This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering (dukkha) and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the four corner stones of awareness. What are the four? Herein an aspirant lives contemplating the physical body ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; one lives contemplating feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; one lives contemplating consciousness, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; one lives contemplating phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief.”
In order to be able to overcome sorrow, to reach nirvana/Nibbana – to bring about cessation, realize one’s own responsibility arising. The causes arise in you. You need to cut the thought. To cut the thought, you need to tame the mind. To tame the mind, you need to cut the ignorance. To reverse the nidanas, the Buddha referenced to the 4 mindfulness, starting with Contemplation of the Body.
“Having overcome, in this world” is renunciation. There is no bringing about cessation without renunciations. Look at afflictions. See the destructive nature of anger, the destructive nature of craving, the destructive nature of jealousy and so forth. Seeing afflictions as poison. To bring about cessation of productions is renunciation. “It would be nice if I could attain cessations.” We all have that attitude at times.
Ask yourself, “Do I really want cessation?”
Especially with consciousness – it’s fun to play with feelings. One of the symbols of consciousness is a monkey. A monkey is never able to stay in one place. The mind actually likes to be naughty. That you can do strange things like trap feelings; make others happy/unhappy, it creates a lot of entertainment. As long as mind wants entertainment….need to see for yourself, what “a Sangha is important for you for inspiration”.
You come to annual retreat, and inspiration is like a blown up balloon. Summer is the season of inspiration. (laughter) The distractions of the pleasures of being able to formulate this. As long as those still have power, there will always be a lot of gaps to discourage.
The most important thing is renunciations. Clearly seeing the power of desire, the power of arrogance, etc. And there is no better way than reflecting on suffering. Ignorance manifests as attachment, form, etc. Overcoming, from a sense of renunciation, and mindfully seeing leads to:
1) Contemplation of body
What is the practice of mindfulness – “body in the body”,” feeling in feeling”, “consciousness in consciousness”, “mental objects in mental objects”? It is nothing more than to remain mindfully in things as they truly are.
The monks asked – 4th paragraph. The kindness of the Tatagatha is simply resting without the ego, studying the mind, and then allowing the mind to retain awareness without going into personal interpretation of own experience.
When you keep a story short, mind is still. What distracts the mind is cleverness. The creativity of the story writer of a soap opera :“I am standing” vs. “why I am standing? Who am I standing with?” We are talking about knowing things as they truly are as things as they truly are, not the commentary.
When you have the distractions, for example, I ask “do you feel connected to 12 nidanas?” You say “I don’t feel connected to ngondro/vajrayana/padmasambhava” Ultimately, the poor Tibetan teachers have such a hard time with this, but we remain polite. Western teachers can relate, but we have no idea how to. We say switch references. “If Padmasambhava doesn’t work for you, try Shakimuni Buddha. If not him, try Manjushri.” It’s polite answer. Really would be better if you would say “I don’t feel connected to anger.” Or jealousy, or and of the other poisons. Yet as unwanted as they are, they are never questioned. But it is just a deception of ego. When the tendencies of consciousness arise, then likes and dislikes dominate what is reality. Wether it is towards an object of spiritual practice or samsara. If you go into practices with attachment, then one can do the required numbers and hours, but it doesn’t defeat negative tendencies.
So, we start out with implementing single-pointed concentration on the body as it is.And further, monks, an aspirant, in going forward and back, applies clear comprehension; in looking straight on and looking away, one applies clear comprehension; in bending and in stretching, one applies clear comprehension; in wearing robes and carrying the bowl, one applies clear comprehension; in eating, drinking, chewing and savoring, one applies clear comprehension; in walking, in standing, in sitting, in falling asleep, in waking, in speaking and in keeping silence, one applies clear comprehension.
“He applies clear comprehension”… “falling asleep, or staying awake” – and that’s it: clear mindfulness. “I’m walking and walking and walking…” not needed. It is a sense of clearly being pervasive, very mindfully seeing action of body.
Mindfulness of body can be broken into 7 sections.
- Being able to observe body in any place.
- In sitting concentration, look deeper. See all the components, the “…hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, midriff, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine…” and so on. You can add more. What is the basis of arrogance? “Arrogance of heart, phlegm, etc.” One must have a clear understanding of what this body you are going to assert really is. You need to know the true nature of the body. Read through slowly, be aware of each of the elements- marrow, kidney, urine, etc. Feel them, identify them in your body, like a person going through a shopping bag. Clearly see what the body is made up of. If we don’t see that, it will be very confused to assert preferences. “Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body” – may take only that section into meditations. Or go further….
- The material elements – earth, water, fire and wind. Which parts of your body are which ingredients? A butcher in old times cuts up flesh of an animal, and divides it into different kinds of meat from different parts of body, saying “this is more expensive, this is less expensive, this is intestine, this is liver, etc.” All this that was once together. The pus, mucus, urine and so on is the water element. The body’s Heat is the warmth element. The Gaps in the body are the space element. So far, we have covered Body in action, body in components, and body in elements.
- Applies seeing a dead decaying body, and then apply it to yourself. In the West, you have nice places called cemeteries instead of charnel grounds. These are very nice places. Most of you all will end up in an urn. I have the urn of Loppon Peter Lieberson right here. Each year, I get more than a dozen good friends in urns and zip-lock bags. One of the good exercises is to go into your closet, and see the number of things you have got for yourself just to believe that one day, that urn won’t be you. All the things we get to make ourselves believe that we are permanent.
- ” If one sees a body being eaten by animals” –it sounds gory, and not polite. But that’s how it is. Negating what is most true is living in denial.
- If one sees a body reduced to a skeleton,
- then see it reduced to bones, then reduced to bones becoming dust, then reduced to dust. My body will become of the same nature.
Mindfulness of the body is a way to see the nature of this body. It performs actions, the formation is elements. It is transitory. Ultimately, it becomes dust. Is it only what I supposed it to be? Or are all the aspects understood? When you learn your body, you appreciate your body better. Greater appreciation for your body is first step to less attachment, when you learn about the many facets of the body, as a solid body, it doesn’t happen. The pervasive understanding of the body leads to greater appreciation of the body yet also cuts through attachment to this body. Suppleness arises in relationship to this body.
Read each section, put it down, and really put it into effect. In post-meditation experience, relate to mindfulness of body.
2) Contemplation of FeelingWhen experiencing a pleasant feeling, know “I am experiencing a pleasant feeling”; when experiencing a painful feeling, know, “I am experiencing a painful feeling”; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling,” know, “I am experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling.”
Knowing it to be a natural expression of awareness without trapping it to become a personal experience is freeing it from grasping. There is no added commentary of “who is responsible for this pain/pleasure? What can I do with it?”
- Pleasant/painful/neither worldly experience. It’s ok. Don’t pretend to be dead. As an alive person, you have feelings. As a result of not wanting to grasp, we often forcefully subdue feelings. This will not work. We need to make friends with feelings instead. Like when you greet a friend, you shake hands, hug, kiss on cheeks, and then go on. Instead of pushing it away, you simply think “that was a good feeling”, and then go on. Let it be. In the Vajrayana, we talk about letting go, letting be. In the Mahayana, we talk about emptiness. This is quite profound, but it is not needed if you can simply let it be like this. If you have a Pleasant spiritual feeling, instead, you all write it into a report 1000 pages long, then post it on Facebook, and then you get worried you only get 5 thumbs-up “likes”. (laughs)
- Pleasant/ painful spiritual experience. That’s ok; you don’t need to write me letters. (laughs) People get worried that you don’t get spiritual experiences.
- Feelings in feelings internally
- Feelings in feelings externally
- Origination of the factors in feelings. The feeling went from there, and went to there.
Throughout a session, either one feeling arises, or thousands. This is the natural arising of your awareness. Whatever else is produced is just the entrapment of the ego. Keep things source and very natural. Feeling and feeling. Cut the bridge to exaggeration.
3) Contemplation of Consciousness, or Mindfulness of Mind
Mind with lust as with lust, consciousness without lust as without lust, Consciousness with hate as hate, Consciousness without hate as without hate, Consciousness with ignorance as with ignorance… Consciousness with distraction… We try to do with lust, without lust. Or with a shrunken mind we try to make it big. We never allow one’s own fundamental nature to be. What you are trying to train is not the mind, it’s the alterations. You are trying to reach the true fundamental state. Whether profound, distracted, etc. Just as one would not let clouds to disturb the sky, one allows mindfulness to allow pervasiveness to continue while the clouds of distractions arise. Only enough to establish, “Consciousness exists”, allowing mind/ Consciousness to be, let it arise, like a cluster of clouds arises in the sky, without your own graspinp or interpretation. None of them have ability to obscure natural expanse. Letting the perception be, retaining the expansiveness. This is allowing one to dwell in one’s own primordial mind.
4) Contemplation of Mental Objects, or Mindfulness of Phenomena
Mental Objects and Mental Objects of the 5 hindrances
- knows “there is sense-desire (or other 5 poisons) `in me”, there is not sense-desire (etc.) in me”, if it is left there, that is cessation, that is the death of desire/anger/etc. Otherwise, it is immediately given interpretation of personal experience, and there is a lot of investment into it, leads to gain and loss, hope and fear, and so on. Know how the arising of sense desire comes to be, etc….
- Knows how anger arises in self, etc.
- Sloth/torpor/ignorance. Must put in full form.
- Agitation and worry…
Contemplating mental objects internally, externally, or both. Origination factors. Only enough to establish, “Mental objects exist”
The Five aggregates of clinging
- Form. This is form, arising of form, disappearance of form.
The 6 internal and 6 external sense-bases
We are trying to breakdown everything, like taking a hammer to all the things we haven’t broken down yet. Between articulation and assumption, which is more convenient? The Buddha is not lazy. He goes through all these things.
- Eyes and sights – “eyes see a form, recognized by consciousness of the sight”
- Ear and sounds
- Nose and smells
- Tongue and flavors
- Body and tactual objects
- Mind and mental objects
- When there is nothing, the mind is recognizing something, he knows one is doing so.
The 7 factors of enlightenment
- Knowing there is joy, pliancy/suppleness, equanimity, Samadhi, etc. and when they are not present.
- You know you are sitting in shamatha. You know you are doing vipashina. Behind not realizing –
Is mindfulness more important or the result more important? The mindfulness of your mindfulness is more important than going for a result. Never grasp meditation experiences. In pursuit of a result, you lose mindfulness.
The Four Noble Truths
Knowing “this is suffering”. Particularly in post-meditation experience, being able to see “this is suffering, this is the path, etc.” being able to take into the view of things as they truly are rather than appearances. All the great teachers, they see the causes of release in even the most unfortunate experiences. They see them in painful things, such as Chinese imprisonment. What is common to all of them is how sorry they were for those who inflicted the pain on them, rather than “what is being done to me.” Suffering is seen, but the cause is seen more acutely, therefore, sympathy is much more there. When we don’t see this, we see “how much this is happening to who, to me, why?” rather than sympathetic attitude. So, we have the four noble truths of Suffering, origin, cessation, and path.
The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness leads to arhatship, which is not different from the Path of No-more learning in the Mahayana, also known as the 5th path.
This is the only way to purify our beings and …
“I hope this is approved by you.” (laughs)
This sutra was not put into Sanskrit, so it wasn’t put into Tibetan. Therefore, the Pali language survived. So, many of the words are in the Pali language. I read the whole thing to you to encourage you to read it all.
I am always suspicious when people talk about “being mindful of feelings.” It’s like drinking salt water to quench thirst. Mindfulness is only related to these 4 things, which when correctly understood, leads to cessation. If misunderstood, it leads to ego. Ultimately, all confusions arise because body is not understood, feelings are not understood, mind is not understood, and phenomena are not understood. When you know things as they truly are, when wisdom arises, that is known as Prajnaparamita.
The DC Khandro Rinpoche Study Group had a session covering the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness in December 2011, several months after this teaching was given.
Standard disclaimer: all mistakes, errors and faults in these notes are due to my own shortcomings and are my responsibility alone. – JTR