Lopön Andre Papantonio and Rita Gross-12 Nidanas Review-8/27/11 8:30 PM

Lopon Andre: This is a chance to get all your questions out there, all your concerns and confusions. The only things we offer are repeating the words of our perfect teacher.

Khandro Rinpoche likes us to always start any session with motivation. This is not to gain intellectual knowledge, but to transform our lives, and devote our body, speech and mind to serve all sentient beings. And remember the lineage going back through H.H. Mindrolling Trinchen Rinpoche, Terdak Lingpa, Padmasambhava, Buddha, and all the kindness.

The attitude and conduct is most important. The willingness to train yourself in path of practice doesn’t matter if old or new students, it’s all about training yourself. When you go back home, people should see a change in conduct and kindness.” – Khandro Rinpoche

Lopon Rita: In 35 years of hearing teachings, this was the first time I’ve heard a Tibetan teacher teach from a Pali text. This is wonderful. I can’t emphasize how important these foundations are. I think people get to vajrayana too fast, and it becomes like balancing on a point, and coming back to them year after year. They are vast in their profoundness. I am so grateful. (editor’s note: Ditto.)

She’s emphasized at this retreat so far the 12 nidanas and interdependence, which is the foundation of everything else. Next week will be the Four Immeasurables, which caps the foundations. These were presented with great depth. She built a bridge with Theravadan.

Student: I’ve breakdown feelings in particular events. I find myself using meditation to push things away, instead of breaking them down.

Lopon Rita: It’s a common mishearing: “we are good Buddhists, (bad things don’t) happen to us.” This text never says to GET RID OF what you are experiencing, just KNOW IT. Don’t indulge the story line. You add to it and it makes it worse. It always is the story line that makes it worse. It’s indulging the emotions.

When you keep the story short, the mind stills. “ – Khandro Rinpoche

Shakyamuni Buddha: “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)

Lopon Rita: There is a direct link between the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness and Jung Nye Dro Sum (analytic meditation, as done in Mahamudra/Dzogchen).

Lopon Andre: All the things we do are to lead to wisdom. All analytical meditations, even the 10 virtuous actions are to see through the veils. “What did you put !!!! before”?

Ken- The 12 nidanas cover not just one cycle of life, but one thought. Not only do they act sequentially, but in any other order possible.

Lopon Rita: We get locked into the sequential order. Ananda says in one Pali text, “Interdependence is so easy to understand.” Buddha replies, “No, it’s not that easy. It’s a tangled skein (ball) of yarn.”   In Buddhist countries, people in common talk refer to karma being the same as destiny. It’s much more complex than that.

Lopon Andre: Did anybody get lost in the 12 nidanas, or doesn’t quite get what the point is?

Student: Could you please explain how sentient beings go through process of superimposing a reality over things as they really are?

Ken Rawie: From an engineering point of view, if you have a buggy program, you need a flow chart or diagram so you can see how it’s put together and re-wire it.

Student: This is an approach at neuro-physchology before we had CAT scans and the like.

Lopon Andre: To quote David Byrne, “Well, how did I get here?” (Laughs) Trungpa Rinpoche said in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism that the first grain of sand forms the basis that cascades into existence.  The best bet to cut the craving is between # 8 and 9 – craving and grasping. But we can also cut the craving between # 3 and 4 – the aggregates and name and form. So,when can we wake up?

Question: Where is becoming?

Lopon Rita: Because you grasp, something new starts to form. That is becoming. Once we start grasping, leads to a new situation, which becomes a solid thing. And that things will inevitably cease. We almost hear the 12 nidanas as an entrapment. But karma is not destiny. We are not inevitably doomed to this cycle. What Buddha teaches is how things arise and how they cease.

The well-known mantra: “OM YE DHARMA HETU-PRABHAVA HETUM TESHAM TATHAGATO HYAVADAT TESHAM CHA YO NIRODHA EVAM VADI MAHASHRAMANAH SVAHA” translates roughly as, “Of all phenomena, the Tahtagata has taught their origin and also their cessation.” This is what one of Buddhas’ first disciples, the Arhat Assaji, said to Shariputra when he asked what his teacher taught. Just hearing this is what made Shariputra instantly follow Shakyamuni.

But for cessation to occur, we have to know how they arise, so we don’t get into the mechanism of arising. Every product, every political system, everything that arises will cease.

Some clarification of emptiness: it is not nothingness. Interdependence and emptiness are the same thing. The Sanskrit word “Shunya” means something isn’t there. What is it lacking? Independent, inherent existence. Appearance still happens.

Lopon Andre: Jeanie Pickett taught the first Buddhist class I ever heard. One thing that impressed me and has stuck with me all these years is she said “things are empty of our concepts of them.” We are invested in assuming that things are lasting and real. When we are upset about something….it seems real.

How do we use these in daily life?

Lopon Rita: I think you use mindfulness. Take that momentary, running with an emotion. “Unwinding the 12 nidanas” may not be as hard as it sounds. You don’t have to correct everything going back to one. Instead, you have to stop producing new causes and conditions. There is a reason Khandro Rinpoche says every year- “talk less.”  If I just did that, I would be a better Buddhist.   We think we have to produce to survive. Like the guy on the Ed Sullivan show who spun 8 plates at a time.

We create more causes, which creates more results.

We create a psychic wheel that spins way too fast. This is trying to slow it down. It seems so simple, yet it is so difficult.   Observing yourself in a mindful way is so powerful. Some people set dings on a timer, and some use the phone ringing for it.

Khandro Rinpoche – “the greatest compassion you can have is to free everything from your opinion of it.”

Everything you do, including giving good advice, creates karma that you have no idea how it will turn out. Thinking we can fix the world without understanding its reality creates further karma. That’s why the great teachers are pictured as not doing much.

Student: isn’t it true that silence as karmic consequences?

That’s why skillful means –knowing when to speak.   You should be able to base what you need to say from analysis.   The first place we start is our own mind.

What is the difference between not having an opinion and indifference? Don’t know vs. don’t care.

Lopon Andre: Khandro Rinpoche gave one example – at level of like/don’t like. Similar to – when you decide where you are going to sit with your tray, there are some people you are attracted to , and some you are not, to get to the point where you could sit anywhere, esp. here where there are no axe murderers. (laughs) It’s not ignorance, its openness.

Lopon Rita: An interesting thing to note about the Pali suttas is how they were composed. One of the proofs they circulated orally, it because they are so repetitive. This made it much easier to memorize and transmit. We need to repeat the whole thing, saying the same parts over and over again.

I can’t emphasize how important this text is. It is THE key text in the Theravada.

Thursday night, Khandro Rinpoche gave a statement from Terdak lingpa, and then taught on the 4 noble truths.

There isn’t that much in depth on the 12 nidanas from the Tibetan tradition in English. Anyen Rinpoche just did a book on the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness called “Momentary Buddhahood.”

12 Nidanas – list in order
  1. Ignorance
  2. Karmic formation
  3. Consciousness
  4. Name and form
  5. Six Sense consciousnesses
  6. Contact
  7. Feeling
  8. Craving
  9. Grasping
  10. Becoming
  11. Birth/rebirth
  12. Old age and death

One of the most helpful things is, “It is very helpful to remember that ignorance is also dependently arisen. And therefore it is impermanent, and subject to cessation.” We usually think of it as like Original Sin.

Many years ago, when someone asked, “when was the original mistake made?,” Khandro Rinpoche said, “Now.” Any moment it could dissolve.   It’s why we don’t get depressed about the Dark Age. It’s always now.

One last thing to ponder:

In a moment of desperation, we say “I take refuge in Buddha, dharma, Sangha” – what does that mean?




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