Khandro Rinpoche – Entering the Mahayana: 6th Teaching – Conclusion of first section of 2011 Annual Retreat– 8/28/11 – 9:30 AM
To student: Summarize what we have been talking about.
A: Some things seem prominent – 4 noble truths. And the basis of them is suffering.
Q: What is suffering?
Suffering must also be reflected upon. When you think about suffering there are all varieties of adverse circumstances, birth, old age, sickness and death, NOT attaining happiness. The whole life-long search for a situation free of suffering is itself a cause of suffering. The pursuit of every action to achieve happiness has immense possibilities for suffering. There are diverse experiences of suffering, which also has potential for future arising of adversities, which is suffering.
Fundamentally 3 things are the causes of suffering.
1) Whenever we do not see the causes that are rampantly creating, particularly from the seed of Afflictions, to be suffering, we are suffering. This is not knowing the abject causes of suffering in pursuit of happiness.
2) Not knowing and not being able to accept suffering. That is the law of nature.
3) Not knowing the selflessness of phenomena and self is also suffering.
So when we say ignorance is the cause of suffering, it is ignorance of not knowing suffering, change, power of afflictions and the causes that it creates to cause suffering.
The teachings say there is no sentient being that is suffering. One is associating suffering with only big impactful experiences, and not subtle suffering of change. Not knowing the anatan – “no-self” and not knowing dukha – “suffering” – is ignorance.
“Pra” is not knowing , not seeing transitoryness, change and transformation.
This is the basis of suffering.
And then grasping. What is grasping? Grasping is, to use a simple analogy, like a person that does not know how to swim is thrown into a river, and grabs the water, fully knowing you can’t hold onto water. He is fully aware of this, but can’t overcome the habit of trying to hold on to something. It’s a reflex, an impulse action we call grasping.
Where does it come from? Some message in mind that “some things, if grasped on to, are hold-onto-able”. This is a baseless hope. Grasping is the resultant state, a full-fledged expressed notation- action. It comes from some notion that you can hold on to it. It’s a mixed feeling . Your logical mind may say “this won’t help you”, but you cannot simultaneously resist the temptation to hold on to it.
It seems to be a very strong impulse. What is its basis? It must come from somewhere. An action must come from an idea. So where does it come from? Where is this fundamental ignorance? What do we mean by fundamental ignorance?
And Ignorance . What is it? Is ignorance one? It’s a combination? What is it a combination of? Not seeing things clearly is ignorance. Not being aware of the true nature. There is not one ignorance. Each perception, each formation we encounter, where ever the true nature is not seen, that is not-knowing, and that is ignorance.
Everything we conclude is only partially accurate tends to be on basis of partiality. Independently, that is not capable of much damage. But the not-knowing leads to partiality. It’s like an electric switch. It has the potentiality of lighting a room. But it won’t until some switches it. Someone triggers it. Ignorance propels causes. These are the immediate and dormant causes. Immediate causes are whatever action you have. Dormant causes lie passive till it meets other causes and conditions.
What triggers the causes is the bias.
Not knowing the true nature, when that unifies as the bias, it is expressed as the 2nd nidana of “likes, dislikes, indifference”. That’s the trigger of the non-awareness.
All the mindfulness meditation is about how do the catch the process there.
Define the relationship and connection. What is the relationship between the 12 nidanas and 4 mindfulness, prostrations, the 5 this and 4 that? They are not uncles, aunts and cousins. Don’t need to be categorized. Every relationship we need to find is found in the 4 noble truths. This is a different topic I wanted to insert.
Now, back to mindfulness meditation. Cultivating it is the method to address the habit of bias. We have a habit of giving realness to the non-awareness. The birthing proves of everything is set into motion by idea that there is a habit that needs to be expressed in a state that has moved away from own nature.
Ignorance through karmic formations. This ignorance is not distinct from arrogance. You need to come up with a reason that YOUR not knowing the true nature is valid. It is similar to when you meet with teachers. If you see me from a distance coming towards you, then it is ok – you write letters, Barbara tells you when to come up for an interview, you can sit and collect your thoughts. But there are moments when we suddenly meet, and people say the strangest things! “Oh, you have no hair today.” “You came to the Annual retreat!” (laughs) You know it’s not needed when a simple “hello” would do, but somehow, you have to validate that encounter. Somehow, you have to validate why you have ignored…
Subtle ego is somehow, whatever mistakes you have made, you have to convince others and yourself. Self-deception, delusion, arrogance, and ego – you are grasping to it out of necessity. Somehow, you have to sustain it, to have a reason convincing enough to ignore. The seductive quality of that ignorance/ arrogance – it is entertaining, it is busy. It feeds upon friction. Wherever there is some movement, that movement makes the reason you have given yourself to ignore that nature. It makes it more solid. It is the same as we see in ourselves whenever we are nervous, we fidget, and we do strange things. We try to balance the state of mistake with preoccupation. So, in meditation, we cultivate one-pointed concentration, silence, and stillness. All these things are to free yourself from those very subtle but personal reasons to bring about what we call ignorance and make it very enticing and seductive. Ultimately, we come up with like, dislike, indifference, which immediately becomes more impacted.
So, grasping coming from ignorance.
Ignorance is the most insecure aspect. Primordially, there is primordial wisdom, part of your awareness that knows that it moves away. When it moves away, that sense of ignorance you have succumbed to – recognize as a meditator something being more than real nature, immediately joined with expression of bias. That is the idea being designed. Reaches the table where the designing takes place.
Saturday, we talked about consciousness as the designer. This is the Causal and resultant consciousness.
There is some kind of discriminating ignorance. What does it impact? Where does the bias go? The mind, at the level of consciousness. So what is consciousness? Is there one consciousness? No.
The actual use of space is a teaching in itself. There is the subject matter, the deity, of course, but it has a physiological effect in itself. It touches the ground of your being, without the explanation.
Resultant consciousness is always a seed with potential to grow in the future with the right conditions. Like a fruit seed you would eat, then…
Consciousness – is it one or not? There is a limitation on the English word – like a soul. Even using word “mind” – can be very misleading. It is not one. In accordance to 5 aggregates. The 5th – one refers to it as the sense consciousnesses – eye, awareness of the eyes to see, capability of the eye to see, capability of the ears to hear, capability of the nose to smell, capability of the tongue to taste, capability of the body to feel tactile-right?…and the capability of the mind to think and feel. You can think of how they work together by way of an analogy of the 5 fingers being the senses and the palm of the hand being the mind.
But there is also the gross consciousness – thoughts, feelings. And the subtle.
Everyone knows about the 8 consciousnesses. Let’s not go into that. The gross consciousness, primarily this is the “mind” you all talk about. You can’t find it – it can’t be found. You try to find your mind. If you came here (Lotus Garden) to find your mind, you came to the wrong place. (laughs) Mind is generally a supposition we have we give a name to. It’s very skilled, awake, and sharp – but doesn’t have a form or structure. Beginners on the path must balance “we can’t find it or see it”, but you know it has a lot of power, capability.
However, gross mind is taking the capability intermixed with emotions.” I have feelings, I sense.” Your sense consciousness are so biased, the mind becomes more dull. It is usually a mind intertwined with personal experience.
In teachings on the aggregates, it is said that consciousness left pretty much without triggering bias is ok. But as soon as bias is triggered, you have to bring in arrogance to have to defend your point. Where that bias is produced. You sink into a sense of personal experience. Like it, it’s your personal experience. Don’t like, it’s your personal experience. Indifferent, it’s your personal experience.
Makes that moving away even more prominent. Makes the grossness of the mind. When the sense consciousness – hearing, seeing, etc.- are tamed to settle without too much of a projection of opinion, it allows the gross mind to have more clarity, to be free from trappings of personal experience – to make the cloud move away to reveal the movement of the sky.
The mindfulness meditation reduces the hunger for sense sensations, free from needing to respond to personal expectations. This reveals the subtle mind. When the preoccupation is settled, it can be clearer. Subtle mind becomes more aware.
What is more strong in our case? We will all be humble today and say ‘gross mind.’ Gross mind is of course stronger in my case. If I die today, I die with gross mind. And it is fully conditioned with –
Everything I have done has not only been expressed as karma, but also, repetitions. How many times do you think one is selfish in 1 lifetime? Each time you have been selfish, you have also recognized it. It solidified familiarity. It is the resultant karma. It stays as a familiar impulse, an impact. It begins to immediately create the blueprint in your sphere of your awareness. Externally, as you express causes, you immediately (????) at a very subtle consciousness level where karma is stored. Everything we do, think, good and bad, it comes down to one information – in English, “IS”. “It is this, yes, yes.” It affirmed a message that “it is fine to have moved away, that there is valid reasoning to retain the familiar habits.”
Ultimately, we are taking refuge in the belief that there is a mountain, there is a true, and there are good Buddhist people – “yes, things are divisible”. There are objects to be gotten, discarded, philosophies to be followed. It is like a story: “Once upon a time, there was a land, there are kings, there are heroes, there are heroines, There are villains, the positive ones are justified…the end.” And then the next one. “This is me, this is ocean…” We subject our mind to information. “This is yours, this is there…” That information is continuously feed. And whenever one is trying to counteract that, “yes, that is threatening”. You are trying to counteract 1000’s of lifetimes, and (???) don’t want to. If you work hard in the kitchen whole day, and then no one comes to eat, you get very frustrated because you worked so hard. In same way, when mind thinks “maybe this isn’t things as they truly are”, then we think that we’ve been wasting efforts for 1000’s of lifetimes. Then that is fear of emptiness. In Mahayana, there is talk about not teaching about emptiness too early. It is said when Buddha first taught 2nd wheel, 100’s of beings fainted. We are better, we shut our ears. (laughs)
It is a blow to whatever we have maintained. Suddenly we see, all the holding on wasn’t needed. Even in mediations, we may encounter moments of ….
Then religiosity take root. We succumb to obstruction and get theistic, rather than exhausting all causes the seed of affirming all ignorance is not exhausted. Like any root problem that is not treated, the problem is always there. No matter how much the aggregates of body, and feelings change, you may die, and be reborn in any form, but the ground is always there. If one dies, and is reborn as let’s say a mouse, then that firm belief that separate of self and other, there are objects of like, dislike, and indifference there. No matter how small the being, there is immense projection. We firmly believe “there is me, that is other, and this personal experience is valid.”
The expression may be different than human being, but the … A mouse doesn’t have to remember its previous birth as a human to learn to project 5 root afflictions. Just having the positing the self different from other is enough to like things and going towards them, dislike some things and try to keep them away, and be indifferent to some and just going to sleep.
We have 84,000 afflictions. A mouse, I dunno. 12,000 maybe. (laughs) But it is still enough. Expression of liking is fine, I have to do it. Don’t like, have to do it. Then the mouse dies and the physical aggregates decompose. But then causes and conditions lead to next birth. There is an assertion “self”- based on self, immediately very familiar with personal experience of like, dislike, and indifference depending on how acute the senses are, including the sophisticated 6th sense, which is even more complex. So the cyclic existence is unending because the…
However such a cause is in constant connection with other causes. Say for example a family of a father, mother, and child – 3 individuals’ past causes creating causes, and combined causes. When they meet, it becomes causes supported by conditions. Then is the manifestation of all kinds of conditions that keep us preoccupied. This goes well with distraction. It makes us feel very alive, very worthy. Who does feel a need to know true nature?
So, in the context of nidanas, we talk about consciousness. In the context of aggregates, also talk about consciousness. We explain consciousness in this context the same as we do in the 3rd nidana. It is more as sphere where all information is stored. It is the input of information and output of causes, the junction. It is important to take subtle consciousness. If one is able to reach subtle mind, allows one to discern between a lots of things to be discarded. It has clarity, rather than being submersed in personal experience. It is clean of false concept. If it is not free of them, the emotionality even hijacks the practice. Compassion becomes emotional compassion, when you think of sufferings of sentient beings. It’s very good, very nice – no arguing you have sensitive mind, but breaking down in tears doesn’t help anyone.
In the same way, when you practice patience, if you are genuinely embracing things as they truly are, it is true patience. Otherwise, it is a selfish patience. If it is a selfish patience, It gets run out, and then the explosion is terrible, when the true nature is not understood. Realizing dharma is knowing the true nature of things. This cannot be posited. You can’t posit true nature, emptiness nature of antidotes. Just as ignorance is not one, emptiness is not one. Seeing emptiness is one to impose that is negation. That is saying aggregates don’t exist, which is not the Mahayana. It is dropping what is not – to see that, it has been minds’ own supposition of what it is.
What is anger? What is desire? What is ignorance? Arrogance? Jealousy? In your own mind, what is it?
We think jealousy is there, but… Where do we feel it? Who feels it? Where? What kind of power does it have? What is the force? Where does this force come from? If I throw this (bowl) at you, the thought comes from where? (laughs) Where does the idea come from?
Q. What is anger? Where does anger come from?
Q. Where is that ignorance? Who does not know? What is anger? Are you the anger? Is the other the anger? Is the ignorance the anger? Ultimately, it’s about the ‘self’. What might that be? If you didn’t know about the 12 nidanas, who would you say the ‘self’ is?
A. A continuing thing.
Q. What is its fundamental nature? Where does it exist? You can’t find it, but you can sense it? What’s the difference between something being reality there and a supposition? So, where is the self? You can’t say “I don’t know”. It would be a supposition. What are you really believing? Where do you posit Karl?
A. “I wake up and there I am” (laughs).
So you are saying when you are sleeping you are something different, that when you first wake up, you aren’t Karl. When you wake up, you are aware. At what point does that awareness become “Karl”? It does so based on a sophisticated sense consciousness that actual benefits our creates a loss. That belief creates a very vibrant experience that becomes a contaminant. Everything consciousness is aware of is greedily taken in. Sometimes, we have bad habit of going into a situation thinking “what can I get out of it?” And if you can’t get anything out of it, we think “this is a waste of time.” But if you can benefit, you can immediately grab on.
Sometimes, people walk by on a street hearing people singing. Some may criticize then that “it sounds terrible.” But if you sing well, and you know the song, you jump in. Or someone strums a guitar, and asks if you would like to try, and you play wonderful, and people around you applause, you will think “that is nice”. But if you are sleep-deprived, and just got a phone call with bad news, and then walk by the exact same thing I described before, and you can’t sing or play, you think “those people are wasting their time, should cultivate renunciation.” The assertion of the self is about maintaining continuity of self.
Where does desire come from? What makes “this will make me happy”? Every possible thought that will make you happy is always because of selfishness. What are wrong things? Things you don’t want in your personal experience. Things you are adverse to. What is right, pure? A mind that wants a good personal experience. What is wrong, impure is a result of a mind that wants a good personal experience. Beauty, good, right, pure, correct- can only justify the absoluteness of these terns based on firm belief of self.
So long as these 3 things and other afflictions… So long as there is a personal belief of a self being very important, because you have to justify preferences ,since you have to justify that initial moving away –
There is reciprocity between the assertion of a self and building up of options and opinions. However we look at it, a lot of things we have sustained, in particular emotions of desire, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and pride are basically sustained without a basis. If searched for, they are not found to be originating from somewhere as an originating concept. But the supposition is, we think it is. Not knowing the true nature of inner phenomena – emotions, thoughts, feelings- and only trusting levels of different kinds of assumptions, all these guesses we keep, they kind of sustain a make-believe concept. It is not true, but we try to sustain it through supportive action.
This feeds into like and dislike becoming more demanding. Afflictions become more increased, afflictions become more gross, more demanding, which creates stronger displeasure, and self becomes more believable. And the ego is nurtured because you allowing all the afflictions to be there. It goes back and forth creating a delusion, the aspect of all the concepts we have, and nothing is seen for what it truly is.
Emotions aren’t seen. We think it is good enough to take a vague idea and make it our personality, our nature, and we make that nature the basis for all our activities. We don’t mean to have enemies, but we don’t mind projecting anger. The outer phenomena are what we primarily hold to be responsible for what we feel.
As a meditator, see the suppositions of mind. Then see what is not, what may be true nature. So to be able to look, you need mindfulness. Looking at body and let it be. Look at feelings, let it be. Look at phenomena and let it be. When you train in mindfulness, which brings about concentrated awareness not seduced by our own suppositions and assumptions, being very matter of fact – whatever the phenomena is – can you clearly see what is not a supposition, what is, what is not?
When the mindfulness and concentration is clear, it is very hard to see something NOT a supposition, see the unceasing thoughts. This is why in Mahdyamika, one takes long and short sticks, see “this is a short stick, and this is a long stick.” Then, we take a shorter stuck. And then a shorter stick, and see how we create the concepts of “long” and “short.” What we usually do is to have taken a very preoccupied mind that has to make do with current, hurried suppositions, and has not had time to consider.
When training in resting of the mind in stillness, stillness settles the sense of suppositions, the greed with which we need to support things. Body is a body, nothing beyond that. Feelings are feelings, mind is mind, phenomena as phenomena, and let the other assumptions be. Then we can create genuine friendship, we can generate genuine equanimity. In any meditation, the result is equanimity. The mind is balanced, it doesn’t tip towards suppositions, it doesn’t get kidnapped, triggered by likes and dislikes. Such a mind is able to remain after the disintegration of all the layers of concepts. It is almost like an unpeeling, like the skin of a plantain tree. The skin of a plantain tree, for those who haven’t seen one, it looks like a trunk. But when an outer leaf gets no water or nutrients for 5 days or so, it dries off and falls apart. In the same way, where there is the stillness of mind not distracted by own preferences, then all suppositions fall apart. Then what arises is the natural nature of emptiness.
But, emptiness is not the disappearance of things. Many people think emptiness is “there is no aggregates – no form, no feeling…” there is form, feeling, perception ….but they are free from duality, your personal likes and dislikes. Form, feelings, perceptions…
Emptiness is a much friendlier way to be able to appreciate everything in its truer nature. One is able to go into truer form.
So, even in highest Mahamudra or Dzogchen where you may hear “nothing happens”, you are not going to disappear. Aggregates won’t disappear. It’s not that you won’t have any more feeling or perceptions like a zombie. That would be unpleasant! (laughs) You will be you, beings around you will be the same, time will be the same – but the relationship towards yourself and others and how you perceive will be different. You will have no agenda of gain and loss. Where there is no agenda of your own gain and apprehension of own loss, wherever you go, it is a peaceful, harmonious state. So, primarily, the study and practice of dharma allows for a much easier relationship between self and other.
What makes this samsara is the brittleness of the relationship of self and other. ‘ Brittle’ because it is grounded on the relationship of self and other. Seeing others with all our opinions is a supposition. Whatever distinctions or suppositions there are are mainly founded on suppositions of mind. An unbiased attitude is equanimity – if one is still on the training ground, that is meditation. But if it is founded on the view of no difference between meditation and post- meditation – when one is able to see all unfolding, seeing taking self and attraction to personal experience out of the equation – there is much more a sense of calmness, that calmness has no room for bias. Where bias is not there, there is harmony.
In that state of concentration, of equanimity, then there is nowhere else to go to find enlightenment. What makes this imperfect is sense of self. So, enlightenment isn’t difficult. If you thing enlightenment is something to be reached without lessening self-grasping, is a long time.
That’ s why texts say you can get enlightened in 3000 lifetimes, 15 lifetimes, at best 7. Between now and the 15th lifetime, there is hope you will understand this. If you see yourself entering into a state of enlightenment, then the distance is long. If you see an embracing of state without self, then there is no ignorance, no badness, and no negatives. Whenever mind says “yes, but there is suffering out there” – then you are back to spot of seeing “out there” distinct from, “in here”. As long as mind continuously thinks “out there” and “in here”, then there is a lot of work left.
So, a summation of the dharma containing 23 aspects (???) is that it is the reduction of afflictions through deeping of understanding of own mind thorough concentration through mindfulness and shamata. An increase in wisdom is through exploring the true nature of self and other. Recognition of the true nature of self and other through exploring the 12 nidanas allows us to better understand nature as it is vs. what we suppose it to be. This allows us to be freer to allow things to be as they are. This deepens mindfulness, and then ….
They complement each other very well. The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness allows one to have a deeper understanding of 12 nidanas. So, they must be worked with together. The 12 nidanas works with the wisdom mind The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness makes sure the analytical meditation is actually felt, which is confidence which is needed to defeat ignorance. We need analysis to make sure meditation is not an escape.
So, what is mind, self and others? This allows one to come to a simple question: what is nature of mind? What is the nature of anything that we think to not be in one’s own mind? Sights, smells, tastes, sounds… any gross and subtle activities. Are they in mind or beyond mind? Most of the times, we think they are beyond mind. That is the birthplace of duality. We think “My mind is in me…”
Is that true? Is there anything possible not in my mind? That mind we say we can’t find, nevertheless, is there anything that can arise, perform, cease that is not in mind? If you eliminate mind, what is there? If the observer is not there, how will you have posited anything else? Unless you stubbornly posit something else.
So, I will leave you with a question mark. I joke you all put so much activity into carefully examining simple things, like, for example, water in India. 70% of the time, I think you all fall ill when you come to visit India due to fear, and all the shots you take before you come. It happens when mind is so focused on concept on falling ill. You sneeze all the time here in America, but in India, it is a disaster. (laughs)
There is a change of climate, a change of weather, of course you get sick. (One senior student) didn’t eat any food over in India but what he brought, but he got sick anyway. I tried to find out what happened. Apparently, it’s the American way of showering – you all open our mouths when showering for some reason. Some drops of water went in and he got sick. Think how carefully we examine drops of water into the mouth, but do we put that much analysis into this gifted human life that could live in harmony with every situation as it arises?
We place our trust in a lot of suppositions, and create a tremendous gap between self and whatever self experiences. We don’t consider all the causes that create confusions and sufferings to all the beings.
First thing when we wake up, what we are supposed to do is supplicate the Buddhas to allow us to live in harmony. At the same time, we wake up, but then we allow the self to be so grounded in personal importance, it doesn’t allow us to see all the different factors. So, think of all the shared causes and conditions. No matter how good we are, understand co-dependency . No matter how much we try to create good causes, it will be impossible to do so – to reach such perfection. It can be made possible by getting to root of problem, which can be addressed by asking the fundamental question: What is the nature of self? The enormous heaviness of the self-grasping is the birth of reality. What is the nature of self? Just as you examine anything you put trust into, examine this. What is the nature of the self that we relate to? This sets us into rhythm that investigates 12 nidanas.
We stop here. Thank you to the loppons, Linda and jetsunla to make the talks on-line. None of the efforts will be realized as truly being beneficial if not applied to self and others. Now, try to make full use of the dharma to lessen afflictions and create wisdom, which creates great benefit to all beings.
Note: all mistakes, errors and faults in these notes are due to my own shortcomings and are my responsibility alone. – JTR