(Editor’s note: These notes were taken a couple weeks ago at a teaching by the Great Abbot of the Drikung Kagyu, Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche, on the Drigung (sometimes spelled “Drikung”) Kagyu Fivefold Path of Mahamudra. This text is one of the defining text of the lineage, and the teaching was very dense. So, I am putting this up section by section as I get the notes edited, so anyone reading can digest each part instead of reading them all the way through. Quotes from the text are in blue. – JTR/LWWD)
Introduction: Setting intention
…the culture of the defiled nature of samsara. We all share the same thing: a desire for freedom from suffering, to have peace and happiness, co-emergent. We all want this. Reflect on this. We all want peace and happiness. We [in the shrine room; dharma practitioners] are doing nothing special, we are just trying to find peace and happiness. Samsara is very intractable, the defiled emotions are so deeply rooted… So, to face (life on a) day-to-day basis, the dharma teaching is so precious. It gives us an opportunity how to get free from suffering. This is not in some magical way to (get) free from suffering, but in an empirical way. Everyone has the opportunity, if we have interest. So to have this interest, to be here like this, and go through step-by-step is so precious. It is so precious because we develop discernment wisdom, the wisdom that gives us ability to see things how they abide from a reality point of view. That is why there is this emphasis that you study, you listen, then you contemplate, and then you implement, you put into practice. In order to implement your mind into that subject, we need to contemplate, analyze, and make sure you understood in an empirical way. One has to listen, read, and study: these are all related to each other. This gives us the individual opportunity. We have basic goodness, that is the capital. We acknowledge we have that potential: that is called human value. We respect everyone, give (the) opportunity, and then individually take responsibility. This is not just emotional. This is the way to go through to be a decent human being. We progress ourselves step-by-step to get more spacious, more clarity in mind, to not (be) paranoid. This is how to approach (the teachings). It is very important we start with that.
Then, we need to cultivate altruistic thought, that ‘my feeling is shared with all the sentient beings.’ This not something special, it is the reality nature. We live in a society where we depend on each other. My interest is the interest of all sentient beings, Educated or not, rich or poor, Human beings or animals. That’s why great teachers like Buddha and others made prayers like “may all mother sentient beings have happiness and freedom from suffering.” It is very important to bring into heart. Everyone has limitations because they are not enlightened. So, we give rise to love and compassion. This is something that we put together in the mind and start to practice. We see there are limitations in every individual’s life, including myself. See “how I am limited, and need to improve myself on the basis of these teachings” to dispel our adventitious delusions. Any time you spend on dharma is precious. Dharma is good at the beginning, good at the middle, and good at the end, because dharma is taught from enlightened mind, not deluded mind. Our whole nature has intrinsic intelligence. This is the complete perfection of qualities within us as I mentioned: basic goodness. But we have not yet revealed that, because the cold of the afflicting emotions covers the pervasive sky of our intrinsic effulgence. This is how it goes.
The Essence of Tantra
In the next five days, we will cover this small book, which is the essence of tantra. Lot of people have misinformed ideas of tantra. This book was written by great disciple of Lord Jitgon Sumgon. Before we touch on this, we have here some introduction. I didn’t have time to translate the literal meaning, but translated rough meaning of the introduction to get some sense of this text. Who deduced this method? Many go to Buddha, of course, but who deduced the five-fold path of mahamudra? Some basic introduction here on the history of this practice.
(Khenchen Rinpoche reads the intro.)
“…Many different schools and lineages developed over the centuries. Because of this, many great spiritual masters manifested throughout history. Among them was Lord Jigten Sumgon, the second Buddha to come into the world.”
Lord Jitgon Sumgon’s life story is available in Prayer Flags, Great Kagyu Masters, and Calling the Lama From Afar.
“…He fulfills the wishes of all who supplicate him, and is the yogin who raises the banner of the three vows.”
The three vows are Vinaya, bodhisattva, and tantra. A dharma practitioner is one who can keep these vows. One who disavows the Vinaya is not a successful practitioner.
“…He is indefatigable in gathering sentient beings through the four means, defeating the hordes of Mara with the unobstructed power of altruistic love and compassion.”
Harmonious speech, providing all necessaries, teaching the pure dharma teachings, and living life according to what Buddha taught are the four means.
“…He gathered realization of all the Buddha’s teachings, including the commentaries, into one essential point.”
The one essential point is virtue and non-virtue. All the virtues are subject to practice, and all the non-virtues are subject to be purified. This is the one essential point.
“…He achieved Buddhahood in one lifetime, the unity of the vajra body. This great teacher attended the feet of Phagmo Drupa, the lord of sentient beings, and received the complete teachings of the lineage. Lord Phagmo Drupa taught him the Fivefold Path of Mahamudra…which is the essence of all the sutras and tantras, the foundation of the ocean of all the teachings, which can be practiced by one person.”
The unity of the vajra body is inseparable of the clarity and emptiness.
The Fivefold Path of Mahamudra
1) Love, compassion and bodhichitta;
2) The Yidam deities of tantra;
3) The four-kaya guru yoga;
4) Mahamudra; and
How are these important? All the Buddhas achieved Buddhahood through this practice. This is dakini instruction. If you want to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime, this is it.
“This is the lam rim, complete and unmistaken, to be practiced on one seat.”
This is written by disciple of Lord Jitgon Sumgon.
“These thoughts are universally accepted: every sentient being desires peace and happiness, and wishes to be free from suffering.” We are not looking for a small solution; we are looking for the ultimate solution – enlightenment.
“This is an inward, mental, journey. First, we must be equipped with a precious human life…Then; we need precious Dharma teachings handed down to us from the Buddha because they provide us with the wisdom and ability to discern the demarcation between the causes of peace and the causes of suffering.”
Everybody makes efforts. All we do is to create cause of peace and happiness. All we do is to get rid of suffering, but at the end of life, we are not successful. What went wrong? Contemplate. Contemplate impermanence.
“Contemplating the impermanence of all composite phenomena is a special remedy for samsara…One’s ability to take advantage of this opportunity depends on the degree of one’s understanding of the disadvantages of samsara and advantages of enlightenment…” Contemplate difficult conditions. When I was in Pittsburg, I met one of my old friends from back in the 80s and 90s. He said last December, he got real sick. He has had so much reading, but his whole mind was filled with suffering. He asked, “What should I do?” We know (dharma) intellectually. When we feel good, we think “I am good practitioner.” But when suffering comes- mental delusions, predicaments – then no trace of dharma study comes. What happened? We didn’t practice. We need strength of mind based on wisdom – compassion. Then we have no fear. Otherwise, we talk about Jewel Ornament of Liberation and all the (other) precious books you bought and put on table. But you get depressed, maybe (commit) suicide. The books didn’t bring much benefit. As I mention, we have intractable mind. Dharma study and practice is just intellectual; it does not become a practical thing. Especially for someone like me, when I wear robes and talk dharma. I am knowledgeable. But then I get suffering, and I am an ordinary person. We need to practice. It is not just a belief. We need to implement, practice. Then you rejoice, and then you have no fear, no resentment. That is the purpose of our life in the dharma.
Later when we talk, reflect about when suffering comes. We get what we don’t want. Then will come the suffering of aging, suffering of sickness, and suffering of death. It is Inevitable for us. It is a matter of time. So at that time, look carefully. Wealth won’t give support. All the friends will come, show empathy, but can’t share our pain and agony. This is what we are working for. Without friends and relatives, rejoice in dharma.
We have a lot of peace and happiness in our life, luxuries, but we always focus on small suffering. We don’t know how to appreciate our life, because of our attachment to Counter-productive emotions – mental afflictions.
If you have heard of mind training, lojong training, giving and receiving, they are all here, described from the point of view of advanced practitioners. You’re always looking for very profound, advanced teachings. (laughs) Well, it’s here now. You can digest and finish. (laughs)
“…They comprise a very profound and direct path to allow confusion to dawn onto the path as the nature of primordial wisdom. Through these practices, we have every opportunity to realize that samsara and nirvana are but two sides of the same hand, the nature of nonduality.”
Allow confusion to dawn on the path. What is dawn? How can confusion arise as wisdom? Confusion arising is normal? (laughter) Confusion is artificial. Normal is your intrinsic effulgence. THAT is normal. The confusion dawning is not normal, it is contrived. Confusion dawns onto the path as the nature of primordial wisdom. ‘Nature’ – Is the confused nature is normal? (No, the) Primordial nature is normal. Confusion is not normal, it is fabricated.
Nonduality – This is what is called a high teaching. (laughter) Real high. (laughter) This is where we are. To abide in this, and recognize this – this is a high teaching.
“These are the indispensable methods to develop the great wisdom that penetrates the nature of reality and to develop altruistic love and compassion. To learn more of these subjects, please read Jewel Ornament of Liberation and A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path.” Also read Shantideva (The Way of the Bodhisattva). We need an introduction. When you read this, it is intense. Paradoxically, we want to hear high teachings, but don’t want to practice high teachings. (Laughs).
This was translated in the early 80’s, but I hadn’t touched since then, when it was in Prayer Flags. Now, in April, I got an opportunity to repolish the translation. When I look back, I thought: “my English must be improved.” But, (when) I go back to books I did in 80’s, I think I haven’t improved much. (laughter) Frustrating. (laughter) You see when you study practice dharma, how much you improve. My English is still limited, but… as I said, the inner journey of mind is very complex, very sophisticated, profound, and vast. It is a hidden subject because it’s not material, it is consciousness. That consciousness cannot be brought about by material things. The mind has to be understood by the mind, consciousness. That is why meditation is required. A machine may, say, show you some activates on the material level. Modern technologies can explain surface level of brain through machines, but can’t give (deeper). (We) can only reveal (deeper) through meditation practice.
Look at your mind today. Your mood is good, fine. “I want to do this this this.” You like all these things. (But the) next day, your mood is changed. All you liked yesterday, you dislike now. Why? The next day, you completely screwed up. (laughter) Why? If you can’t believe your mind by yourself, can’t judge your mind, how can we judge other’s mind? Mind is profound. There is layer after layer- infinite. Mind can only be captured by meditation.
(To be continued)