Review of 2006 Shedra – Lopon Jann Jackson – Morning – 4/14/07

We are going to do a Review of H.E. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s teaching at 2006 Shedra.  Shedra is a total immersion training program to turn away from ordinary activities with body speech and mind.  After years of training, one doesn’t just get a degree.  A khenpo gets a PHD in being a complete human being.

For the next 2 ½ hours, you will not be thinking your usual thoughts. You are doing something different. At the beginning of a day, you are setting aspiration for entire day. Ordinary activities are being turned away from. Hopefully this sparks some inquisitiveness.

The reason we do all this is to benefit all sentient beings. Some teachers stress this motivation much more than anything else. For example, Patrul Rinpoche would talk 70% rousing bodhichitta, 30% teaching. He’d question people on and on about motivation. If a student’s motivation was not proper, he’d send people out of the room!

We also need to work on transcending casualness, and saying prayers to focus.

This isn’t all quiet meditation. (Laughter) This is a time of training and learning.  Quietness is the first step. But if you don’t use that stability, it’s like milking a cow and letting the milk spill onto the floor.

This place (Lotus Garden) is part of the Rime non-sectarian movement.

The ultimate remedy for doubt in spirituality is knowledge. Faith is important, but faith w/ knowledge is a more powerful protection. If you KNOW something with certainty after investigation, then you have non-moveability, irreversible confidence.

Last year was the first year of Shedra w/ H.E. Digzar Kongtrul Rinpoche. Dzigar Kongtrül Rinpoche was born in 1964 in North India to Tibetan parents.  At age 9, the 16th Karmapa recognized Rinpoche as a tulku – an incarnation of Kyabje Jamgon Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye called “the Great,” the one who gave life to the rinme [non-sectarian] tradition.  Rinpoche trained in all aspects of Buddhist doctrine.  His Root-Guru was H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche of the Nyingmapas, the oldest of the Tibetan Buddhist denominations.  He has a Shedra of his own, and is also spiritual director of this Shedra. He lives in Colorado, and is married to a Westerner, so knows the western mind, and all our traps.  H.E. Digzar Kongtrol Rinpoche’s talks had a conversational tone, but if you read it, it references all kinds of teachings and complex arguments.

I’m taking what he dropped in passing to make sure we heard it right. This is a stream of teachings.

(Summary of last year’s teaching, Bibliography passed out)

Absolute truth is the perfect expression of wisdom, compassion, and skillful means.

We glimpse it in moments.  But we have our obscurations, and think head is different from heart. The teachers decided to make us use rational mind to get to absolute truth.

All these different areas- slogans, emptiness, Manjushuri, skandhas – may confuse. These seemingly different areas may confuse.

I’m giving you map – “PA is different than MD, but they are both in the U.S.”

The one goal of all of these is to undermine any sense of duality, dividing world into subject and object. It is to do it in a way so you don’t fall into psychosis or catatonic, but instead non-conceptual wisdom (jnana).

This is using concepts to transcend concepts to see Things as the truly are.

We use body, speech and mind to have direct perception of absolute truth.

The first turning of the wheel of Dharma

Buddha’s first teaching.  Cathie Papatonio and I felt we couldn’t teach on Shantideva without covering the core gateway teachings like H.E. Dzigar Kongtrol Rinpoche first.  We are starting the way Buddha did.

Different traditions say there were certain Buddhas before and after Shakyamuni. In the Longchen tradition, he was 12th Buddha, # 13 is Maitreya. Maitraya’s waiting for when the Dharma is about to disappear completely to appear (even though it is said there have been some incarnations/ emanations that have been here already).

I got to go to Bodhigaya on pilgrimage, where it all began. Sitting under the tree in Bodhigaya, the most powerful part for me was when a young female dog covered in scabs, sores, and stretched from having puppies walked by. Everything in me wanted to hold that dog and heal it. It embodied every bit of suffering there is to her. Buddha saw the same thing – but he had the courage to just sit there. “For every dog/ person I help, there are a million more. I must get deeper to be able to help all beings.” The environment around there was saturated with His courage.

What he saw was so vast, he had great difficultly teaching it. The first time he tried, talking about what he had experienced, people just could not understand.  It didn’t work. But he did try again, in the Mahayana tradition it is said after Brahma and Indra presented him a golden wheel. When he tried again, he decided to do so starting with the experience of his five former companions.

We spend so much time rousing ourselves, try to “put on happy face and give it my best shot.”  “Life is suffering” is saying under all that, so much is so painful. Telling yourself the truth is the only way to start. “It hurts, everything slips through my fingers, and I can’t hold it together.”

So he went on to teach the 4 noble truths and the 8 fold path.  You could do the whole path if you fully got the 4 noble truths and 8-fold path. “If you don’t get it, you need to go further.” Those of us who have a lot of teachings are dense. (Laughter)

The three marks of existence.

Impermanence, suffering, selflessness/emptiness.

There is also a fourth mark:  Nirvana is peace.  Whatever we grasp onto will dissolve. Everything that comes together will fall apart.  For example, our body is a temporary conglomeration of the 5 elements.  You can easily reduce it to component parts.  There is no cell in me that was here 7 years ago. We are what we eat, what we drink, what we take into ourselves. We have an illusory relationship to this body. It is thanks to our parents coming together in desire, and the animals we ate, that we have this body.  Sooner or later it will go. My hair will fall out, and Jann will pass away. If I hold onto it, I will suffer.

The 12 nidanas. 

This is an explanation of how things come into creation. Buddhists never refute world of appearances.  Instead, it talks about the two truths.

  • Relative – this is a book, person, and chair.
  • Absolute – inquiry into anything – thought, feeling, concept, external reality, it will all dissolve.

Quantum physics will come up with a description of world which is very close to the view of Absolute reality. However, the reasons for doing this analysis are very different. The only reason a Buddhist does any of this is the alleviation of suffering.  It is to undermine erroneous views of self and world.

This is not ”here’s a paper on string theory,” and then you go home and yell at your partner, not taking in the full ramifications of what one has described about the nature of the world. Instead, the Dharma is all about “so why do I do all this emotional sorting based on me?” If systematic inquiry into me finds no me, we let ourselves be haunted.  Quantum physics doesn’t go this deep.  I keep waiting for one of these scientists to get the implications of it, though. (Laughter)

Things are arisen from causes and conditions, moment to moment.  For example, what got you into this room? You were handing a book, heard a talk, talked to someone, etc. which led to you being present here today.  In this way, each moment is the fertile moment of the next. Conduct shapes the causes and conditions. The more conduct is aligned to virtue, the more likely that auspicious coincidence will lead to more conducive conditions.  If you follow moment to moment, you turn the heat up on yourself. Everything you do creates a ripple, which you have responsibility for.

Buddha’s goal in the first turning was to help students discover emptiness of self.

1st turning Practices:

  •             Shamatha/ Vipshyana
  •             12 nidanas
  •             Inquiry of self
  •             Practicing virtue

Fruition– alleviation of your suffering, Self-liberation

But the limitation of this is that one has not been investigating others, who are suffering.

At the time of the Buddha, the practitioners were mostly monks avoiding world, and avoiding sense perceptions.  It’s like a recovery process – “you can’t be around that substance, you need to go to daily meetings, and you must talk to sponsor.”  It is very proscriptive, to help to rediscover one’s balance.

“Hiniyana is detoxing from samsara.”

It’s a wonderful place to begin, which we never really leave.

After Buddha Shakyamuni died, the first council was convened with 500 arhats gathered.  Many of these had perfect recall of what He taught.

Three were of particular importance.

  • Ananda, the Buddha’s main attendant recited the Sutras – He would recite everything Buddha said, who was there when it was said, and why it was said.
  • Upalivinaya
  • Mahpisahkaabhidharma

Abhidharma is using analytic thinking to break down false views of reality.

The 5 skandhas

  1. Form – What’s breakable – the elements.
  2. Feeling – Even 1 cell organisms can sort forms into positive, negative, neutral. We do it every microsecond.
  3. Perception – The ability to distinguish characteristics. “Blue, green, onion, sky” – the names of things. For example, When you taste something and went “blah!” – 2nd skandha – When you try to place it, the mind will strain.  For ego, groundlessness is the enemy.
  4. Mental formations/ concepts – All the motivational factors.  Mindfulness, desire, anger, etc.  Motivation is the engine of karma.  Sleep. Hunger. Avarice. Etc.
  5. Consciousness – That which divides into subject and object.  The discursiveness. This thing you mistake to be your self.

10 Wrong Views

Normally, we have 10 wrong views about ourselves.

1)      We imagine the self is unitary.

2)      We imagine the self is the one who causes action. For example, “I drove my car, I ate breakfast, etc.”

3)      We imagine the self is the enjoyer of experienced. For example, “I enjoyed that meal. I am happy.”

4)      We imagine the self is creator or doer.

5)      We imagine the self is an autonomous power.

6)      We imagine the self is the one possessing control.   “Ha!” (Laughter)

7)      We imagine the self is enduring through time.

8)      We imagine the self is the one defiled or purified by following the path.

9)      We imagine the self is the subject engaged in meditation.

10)   We imagine the self is the one who was formerly bound, but is now free/ liberated.

Abdhidharma suddenly shines a flashlight on the floor we have been standing on.

Core assumptions that have NEVER been questioned.  H.E. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche notices we focus all western education on the object.  Even with our language, all sentences start with “I.”

You are still dragging along “me.” As soon as you stop practicing, there you are with “me” again.  Abhidharma says “let’s look for the subject. Who is this me?”

You systematically undermine each of the ten above beliefs. Just because there is an experience, doesn’t prove there is an experiencer.  In this way, one can prove there is no subject.

The Buddhist definition of “subject” is something singular, permanent, and truly existent.

You understand there is no single, truly existent me.  That is the source of liberation. If there is nothing to be protected, there is no need to protect. Experience becomes liberated.

As an analogy, suppose we have lived our entire lives in this room. We have been studying vastness, emptiness, etc., but never leave the room.  Occasionally, we see out the window and get a glimpse. Abdhidhrama removes the walls of the room.

There is nothing that limits you, with no basis.  It’s like software.  “Hit delete, or at least upgrade.” Teaching hits wall of concept that has no basis in reality. Only you can go in and drill into that “reality” and hitting delete.

Then one abides in a very vast place, like the bodhisattvas, motivated by loving-kindness of all sentient beings. That enlightened energy is all round us, saying “please come out”. But we need to make the journey ourselves.

Mipham Rinpoche (1846-1912) wrote a lot on abihdharma.  He is closely associated with Mindrolling and H.E. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s lineage.

His explanations of how to investigate are in the book “Calm and Clear” aka the Wheel of Analytic meditation.

Ask yourself; is the self I cherish in the form, or the form in the self?

Is this nested in that or that in this?

If you are going to buy only one Mahayana book, buy “Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness.“ If you just going to buy one book, Jigme Lingpa’s “Treasury of Precious Qualities.” “It’s just fabulous.”

Buddhists intent is to overcome suffering. For there to be suffering, has to be an “I” that suffers.  For there to be an “I,” there has to been some solid independent thing that exists.

Intellect can NEVER experience things non-conceptually.

One moment, the walls have come down and you are free.

Empty is empty of jail cell, confinement, limitations. To not explain this would be to break vow of teaching emptiness properly. It is VERY important to teach this properly – emptiness is NOT voidness.

Now, a simple guided meditation…… (on the five skandhas, from “Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness.”)

Mipham would go MUCH slower – one bone at a time, and then into elements…is the self in the space, or the space in the self? Series of questions to go though exhaustively and repetitively.

For example, it is Like we’ve lived in a house for eons that we were told there was a poisonous snake, but never looked, just lived in fear. Abhidharma is like getting a buddy and a flashlight repeatedly over and over to investigate that house to make sure there is no snake.

12 Ayatanas – 6 Consciousnesses

Mipham Rinpoche said that those of superior intellect should focus on breaking experience up into the five skhandas.  For those who are middling (which is pretty much all of us), one should focus on the ayatanas.  These are especially good if you are hooked by sense perceptions.  For example, “I believe I am here, the flowers are there, and I am enjoying the flowers. There needs to be an I, and needs to be flowers.”

If you were in a coma, you would be staring, but not experiencing flowers.

Prove there is a consciousness…

How does that moment of perception occur?

When it all come together, where does it touch?

Taking that one moment, and going back.

We have this thing called visual memory.  We would say “I saw MY life flashing before my eyes.” What really happened was consciousness was experiencing some visual images for about 30 seconds.

…        It could have been a movie.

The questions are really annoying. (Laughter)   If you aren’t annoyed, you aren’t awake.

On a relative level, you are looking at a beautiful rose.  In fact, you enjoy it more, because you realize that the coming together of causes and conditions is so rare, it makes it so exquisite?

“Who experiences karma?” Who puts a line around this and calls it cause, effect, result?

Embedded in the question is the combo. How do you view miracles of bodhisattvas?

Have to chew on the paradox.  Need view and attention to detail together.

Q and A

Sentience is a broad term – that which is mobile and awake.

In Classical Buddha-dharma, they talk about beings within the 6 realms.

“Sems” – Tibetan for mind.  There are around 15 words in Tibetan for mind.

Emptiness of people – you are investigating something you cannot see.

Consciousness is self-aware.

Shamatha is allowing things to arise in consciousness without acting out or pushing it. : touch and go:

You can’t practice to impede sense – For example, try to not see blue. On cushion, we may try to impede thought.

Streaming quality of ayatana # 6 and 11 & 12. All of mahamudra is aimed at this, not getting rid of reality.

We don’t believe in a creator or not believe in creator. Experience isn’t truly existent, but it is not either. If you veer into eternalism, and say God exists, it doesn’t help. If you veer into nihilism, then you see no way for karma to work.  That is why we aim for the Middle Way – not separate from you, but not different.

Buddha’s wisdom is unborn, non-dwelling, non-ceasing. One can’t not talk bout it, and can’t ignore it.

For example: A cat could walk in this room. That cat would believe they exist, and are in that room. You pick it up and put it outside; the cat goes home and sees you as a God.

We coexist on the land (Lotus Garden) with 1,000,000’s of beings. We see more than all the other beings, but we have greater capacity for compassion, wisdom, and skillful means.

There are beings with these qualities that co-exist w/ this reality.  When you call on Manjushuri, you are calling on your own wisdom too. “Help me develop my innate capacity for wisdom.”  Yidams arise, you form a relationship with it, it dissolves inseparably into you, and then it dissolves.

The prayers are a poetic distillation of every talk you could ever get.

Take the analysis when you’re suffering, when really gripped by anger, irritation, and fear.

It takes courage and is provocative.  Right at the verge of saying your usual thing, to ask yourself the question “who is angry here?” it is enough to cut that wave of karma.

You get just a sensation, and if you can just say there, you are cutting karma.

But to have this at your disposal, must go through it on cushion first.

The 51 samskaras are mental formations that form karma – mental concentration, faith, non-violence, greed, etc.  Things that shape movement. Consciousness functions to apprehend sensory object. Seeing the object is consciousness. The wakefulness that joins inner and outer to create “sight”. All these are happening very, very fast, like a movie.

Consciousness is empty, but awake.

“You could laugh forever, or cry forever. Both are true.”


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Filed under Dharma teachings, Lotus Garden teachers

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