Taming the Mind, Importance of Truly Working with Mind, 4 Dharmas of Gampopa, 3 Kinds of Laziness, 9 Stages of Shamatha
A very good morning everyone, as we begin with welcome to the first section of the annual retreat. And of course, acknowledging the factors that allow us all to be here, there are wonderful resident administrative staff, etc. thanks all of the heads of families, the staff that reside that make it possible year after year in all the programs here.
Lisa said that everything is happening without excitement, on their own. (Laughter) That is very nice to hear; it speaks volumes. The coming and going no longer has the excitement. For a practitioner, it is good if it is less. Would be good if it was all comings, and no going without realizations, but… (Laughter) A sense of it all becoming normal, very ordinary. Very wonderful. The teachers, senior practitioner, and Welcome back the lopons and nuns. Many of you have been studying with them. For those residing here, an intensive study and practice program.
Not just within the public programs, but year round. Very helpful for entire sangha. We passed the 10th year of Lotus Garden. It is timely that a group of people are maturing in dharma. It has started; the residents can keep up the continuity. A year round possibility. I am grateful to the monks, nuns, and teachers.
With that, begin with this section. Many of you are aware of Taming the Mind from last year. A series of teaching/ practice sessions emphasizing cultivating of meditation as foundation of practice. From last year, will recall the branching of the retreat to 3 parts.
The first part is to understanding meditation – hinayana, whatever, knowing the terminology is not about groups of people, but one’s own mind, working with one’s own mind, one’s own training of mind, focusing on silence, stillness, and non-thought. Three basic principles, following Buddha’s words. Any practitioner that doesn’t recognize one’s own mind as the basis of dharma doesn’t get dharma. Training the mind is very basis of dharma. Such a person who understands this closely accurately understands the relationship to the path of practice.
Importance of Truly Working with Mind
Place mind outside of whatever one is learning in practice. One may be learned, one may know theory, but the theory doesn’t mature, the fruition doesn’t occur to benefit unless that mind is brought into the basis, whatever you are examining, hearing, contemplating, and meditating.
If we talk about kindness as wonderful quality, but just a profound quality… knowing so, it must be applied. Mind must be kind. At the same time, knowing there is nothing to be grasped: no self of self or self of phenomenal appearances: forms, sounds, other appearances. Where assumption is it exists as individual form, examine, find selflessness, knowing that if it is just an intellectual… it has no benefit unless applied to your own mind’s ways of functioning.
When mind recalls, when mind hears but is stuck with certain thoughts and ideas, apply dharma to your own mind so the tightening, loosens. Knowing how to do this, how you are hearing, contemplating, and meditating, apply to your own mind – and it is not easy- you hear more, you practice more, and come Back to your own mind: molding your mind, shaping your mind, freeing your mind from faults, deepening understanding of true nature of mind. When a meditator engages in this way, they are taming one’s own mind and truly engaging in the path of the teachings, which is the main characteristic that one may refer to oneself as a dharma practitioner.
This part for… is to work with oneself, plenty of opportunity to know how many things go into just being here.
I usually don’t interfere with registration. Many teachers come with the idea that when you make time to go to teachings, that is simple: you choose, you go, and you arrive. That’s what I used to think. Lotus Garden has taught me a lot. Now, I hear that it is nothing less than war for some of you. (Laughter) Some of you are fortunate that it is easy: you plan what to do, and you do. You pack and arrive. But for 90% of you… (Laughter) Now that Jigme is in the Registration office, I hear from her. (Laughter) It’s been educational for me. Going to war might be same amount of preparation for many of you. (Laughter)
From a financial point of view, how you twist the arms of spouses, how you deal with animals, how you deal with children, all the preparation: There are so many areas to get away from for a number of days, all the strategies and planning needed.
So, knowing you have gone through months of trying to plan to be here in this shrine room in this session, there should not only be a sense of joyfulness, a sense of dedication, and a sense of devotion, but also know how to use all you have poured into your being here constructively. It would be a waste of all you went thorugh to be here if, in that moment of fruition, you didn’t apply the teachings to your own mind.
This has to be understood, bringing fruition to all the effort, and generating encouragement in yourself. Don’t waste time; don’t try to be a part of this environment but neglect [placing] one’s own mind into the basis of the teachings.
Whatever you are hearing, contemplating, and meditating has to be more powerful. Silence to be observed, then … your own intrinsic mind into silence. Rest within silence, all the effort- this is the moment to be in fruition.
Particularly recollect the intrinsic qualities and the external factors [such as] the number of teachers learned from. Many of you are fortunate that there are so many teachings are available, so many oral transmissions received, so many books read. You are very wealthy in strong connections.
Also, you are free to make your own choices. Recollect the freedoms and endowments of Precious human birth [due to] limitless merit accumulated over many lifetimes, especially in this one. All the virtues, all the positive karma, all the different actions: The buildup of positive merit accumulated fruitioning into one’s own devotion in the path of practice. Part of you knows the mind is intrinsic Buddha-nature.
Reflect on all the qualities. Beyond that, reflect on all the external qualities: sangha, environment, framework, teachers making time to give instruction. Reflect on all that has gone into this moment where you will work with taming your own mind, and express gratitude and joyfulness for the external qualities. Reflect on the positive intrinsic qualities, reflect on all the effort, and [give arise to the aspiration] that it may arise in the single awareness of taming the mind.
Bringing the mind into the path of practice, may it eliminate and abandon all negativities. Think, “Here is a moment I am in retreat.” The mind takes a break from habitual patterns. Here is the moment, here is the place you brought your mind to be free of grasping tendencies, to be free of aggression, to be free of jealousy, to be free of arrogance, to be free of ignorance. Instead of being overwhelmed by these, may one be able to take a fresh start, to take a fresh moment, just to be with own self, to go deeper into its own nature not influenced by disturbances. May mind be quiet, may mind be still, may mind be free from elaborations.
From such an opportunity you give to your own mind, may what arises as realization, what arises as the result be gentleness, be genuine good heartedness, may it be basis of happiness and liberation for all sentient beings.
When one thinks in way, one is a dharma practitioner. When one doesn’t, then it becomes a cause of concern. People are learning, learning, learning – but only learning. Increasingly prominent in my mind is, “for how long will this continue?” Of course there is impermanence. But also, [I am concerned about] the complacency in meditators these days. You are comfortable with being a student, with being a learner. There is all the who-ha about tapes and transcripts. Ever since I arrived, they keep being [in demand]. All the typing is good, but we’ve been doing the same thing since 1992 or 1993, when I first teaching here [in the West]. On the one hand, it is all very nice, and I appreciate all the hard work. But on the other hand, it makes people complacent, thinking you could do long time. You are going to die being good students! This isn’t how it is supposed to be.
There are 3 steps: learning, practice, and realization. That is the way it should be.
Learning without cultivating in mindstream [isn’t enough]. Your mindstream must be completely imbued with dharma. Whether you live here, you don’t live here, you are a monastic, you are a lay practitioner – it doesn’t matter. As long as the qualities of the teachings are examined, found true, [and put into practice]. What is most important is, “what do I need to let go and what do I need to cultivate?” That should be only point of practice.
All those obstacles that are impediments: have the courage and the ability to let go of them. Be brave enough to let go. With the same braveness, transcend and transform ones’ own mind to be less contaminated with negativities and be clearer, more awake. Then, such a person no longer remains a student, an admirer of the teachings, but is a practitioner.
Generate Bodhichitta, and strengthen your determination. It doesn’t matter if you know rituals, if you call yourself a Buddhist, if you don’t call yourself Buddhist. These are not really that important once you get in. Of course you should finish, but for all of us, the most important thing is working with your own mind. If you are able to, because of dharma, if can shape mind to be genuinely good and pure, nothing else is required.
Buddha and Mahakasyapa – How to Cross a River
Like last year, I’d like to start with antidotes of Buddha and Mahakasyapa, this great Arhat/bodhisattva who became Buddha’s lineage heir. When he first met Buddha, Mahakasyapa was already a great sage and meditator. He had already practiced austerities, already practiced rituals, already was disciplined, and already had a whole community devoted to prayers. People like us think prayers, aspirations, meditation practices, study, analysis, debate, discussions, and questions are very important. Mahakasyapa speaks in a dialogue with Buddha, asking “how important are these?” Buddha said, “These are not so important at all. They have their places, but don’t mistake these to be the practices.”
Now, it is important for us to think that liturgies, prayers, and aspirations are important. Some of you don’t like to do them. You may now say “Rinpoche says we don’t need to.” (Laughter) That is not what we mean. What we are referring to is thinking this or that practice are “it.” There are those who think being in retreat, or being a monastic are the most important thing. “I’d be the most realized person tomorrow, but my hair gets in the way” or “I don’t know Tibetan” or “I have a family.” We think that saying a few mantras, doing some prostrations, saying some prayers are dharma. These are methods helpful to understanding much deeper when impure perceptions [are an impediment]. Pure perceptions are a method to go past that.
However, Buddha said “Imagine if a person is looking at the other shore of a vast river, and wants to cross. How would he cross?”
Mahakasyapa responded, “if the water is shallow, he could [wade in] and walk across. If the water is deep, he could take a boat or swim across.”
Buddha said, “What if this person doesn’t want to walk, doesn’t want to take a boat, or doesn’t want to swim, but still wants to go to the other side?” He says, “I would like the other shore to meet me.”
Mahakasyapa responded, “Then this is a foolish, ignorant person. This isn’t possible.”
Buddha said, “It is in the same way when you don’t want to walk, swim, or take a boat to cross from samsara to nirvana, but want nothing less than realization. Refusing to walk, refusing to take a boat, refusing to swim, a person who doesn’t tame their own mind thorugh shamatha is the same type of person.” One may know a lot of things, but you need to mold the mind thorugh siting. But simply praying, supplicating, or asking something to happen is actually no different than such a person that refuses to walk, swim, and take a boat but demands to get to the other shore.
Mahakasyapa responded, “I have never seen anyone explain the basis of silence, stillness, non-thought so simply until now.”
This was when Mahakasyapa became a follower of Buddha and his heir.
This was when Mahakasyapa became a follower of Buddha and his heir.
Buddha said, “If the mind doesn’t move from impure to embodying of pure qualities, then simply doing refuge, meditation, [and so forth] doesn’t bring any benefit at all.”
As much as possible, train the mind. This is why this section of the retreat is called “Training the Mind.” Patrul Rinpoche said we should not be relying on anything else. If an animal with a rope tied on its own nose were to take that rope itself and chose to walk that way, in the same way, a practitioner’s mind should follow where it wants to go.
4 Dharmas of Gampopa
As Gampopa said beautifully:
“Grant you blessings so that my mind may be one with the Dharma.
Grant your blessings that dharma may progress along the path.
Grant your blessings so the path may clarify confusion.
Grant your blessings so confusion may dawn as wisdom.”
These 4 lines, the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, are the basic framework to keep in mind. [It is essential to] always support the importance of bringing the mind to dharma, taming the mind it realize own true nature, and then make this basis become the basis of freeing all beings.
It is important that there is no habit of waiting for the other shore to come to you, but instead you are taking the nose rope and turning your own mind to dharma. [Aspire that] “Here in retreat, may I be able to take a breath of fresh air and let my mind to surface from chaos, to surface from habitual patterns, and give a fresh start to fortify this intention. “
Gampopa himself said [as much] in these in 4 lines and in his commentary. Remaining under the sway of one’s own mind, deceived by the 8 worldly dharmas, remaining under the sway of wrong views, refusing to relinquish unvirtuous actions, is what does not turn mind to dharma. The sway of one’s own mind is where it is deceived by 8 worldly dharmas.
Look at the past year, and how much do you actually see continued from last year? From Last year when you were trying to incorporate sitting practice, you have taken 12 months. Examine, how much has it been successful to getting itself untangled from the 8 worldly dharmas? You can look at it that way, or ask, “How much has it been bound up with the 8 worldly dharmas?”
Speak less, be silent, and reflect. See how traces of the 8 worldly dharmas, traces of hope and fear have dominated your ability to remain in silence, stillness, and non-thought. Instead of them, look at how much it has suffered from hope and fear. Knowing that being hopeful doesn’t work the way you imagined. Also, know that the way you fear doesn’t have to happen that way. How much searching, knowing as a practitioner that happiness and suffering arise in mind. In the last 12 months, you have forgotten how much chasing external happiness? Knowing suffering is internal, how much praise of you, recognition, being heard, being spoken about: how much have these been a preoccupation allowing you to neglect sitting, to neglect deepening recognition of your own mind. Instead, how much have you been chasing the mirage of praise and blame, the preoccupation of sadness? Therefore, it is a good day to look back and see how much hope and fear, see how much praise and blame, see how much gain and loss, see how much happiness and suffering have been seductive. Instead of looking in oneself, see how much you have allowed these influences to turn your mind away [from Dharma].
Gampopa said “may one’s mind not be swayed by deceptions of the 8 worldly dharmas.” In the same way, see the forgetfulness, see the dullness. Looking into yourself, see how much wrong view has been an obstruction, forgetting has been an obstruction, clinging to permanent solid self, not understanding mind relationship to appearances, knowing mind grasping to outside appearances- that wrong view has been strong in oneself.
Look at the patterns you have drowned in oneself. Look at the hopes and fears you solidify, and how yours are more important, and others are less important. These strong discriminations, these strong graspings are standing between you and realization. This discrepancy is because mind hasn’t turned itself to teachings, because mind isn’t actually inclined to dharma. You are still maintaining strong wrong view in mind.
On examination, one can see some of you have worked thorugh this. The 8 worldly dharmas have lessened; some of you are freer from them. You still feel anger, desire, and jealousy, but in the depth of your mind, there is a voice that says “don’t cling to this.” I got nice letter from (student’s name) talking about their small contemplations, their knowing how not to elaborate. Very nice.
Notice how mind sees, indulgences in habitual actions, can see “teachings aren’t being applied here.” I can make it very big, or it is up to me, I cannot give it that prominence. It has natural disintegration.” When that capacity arises you are cultivating right view. Then, immediately generate joyfulness, which is basis of greater determination to continue training the mind.
Gampopa says one “knows when the mind doesn’t turn to the dharma, when it is turning to wrong views, wanting relative attainment.”
Successful meditation, temporary gain of peacefulness, learnedness, pacification of ambitions: if these are destinations that make you engage in practice, they are the relative kind, not powerful enough to turn your mind to real dharma.
Particularly these days, people will say, “I am doing this to teach others.” A few of you are teaching mindfulness meditation in different areas, is wonderful – but a few of you are learning Buddhism ONLY to learn to teach, to put on your resume! Someone said “I don’t want to get enlightened; I just want to become a chaplain.” If only turning to dharma only for that reason, that is relative attainment for self not to be encouraged. You can do better than that. In process of your own realization as a liberator of all sentient beings, if you can simultaneously benefit other beings like that, is good. But if you are only [learning Dharma for these purposes], the true potential doesn’t become fully matured.
Wherever one is deceived by relative attainment of self, in same way one is continuously attracted to the 10 unvirtuous actions.” For mind to turn to dharma, must allow mind to turn less to 8 worldly dharmas, need to integrate learning of selflessness of self and phenomena into body, speech and mind in daily life. Should be no less than the aspiration to liberate all sentient beings. Should be only motivation. Being free of habits. When these are … one can confidently say you have, and then mind has turned to dharma.
Otherwise, are like the person who doesn’t want to walk, swim, or take a boat to the other shore.
At Taming of the mind 2013, we talked about all the obstacles that can arise for meditators and to turn the mind to 9 stages of shamatha, all important instructions. Lopon Helen and Lopon Barbara will review these teachings.
You can’t be careless. Meditation is just sitting in silence allowing mind to rest from what is not its own true nature. Sitting, shamatha, sitting in recognition of own nature of mind- not complex, difficult, just resting in own nature. But difficulty arise when what is not own nature of mind begins to intervene. Everything else talked about is what is not true nature of mind.
Here, this year the emphasis should be to make all the obstacles that impede meditation don’t become hindrances. Take from Gampopa “may my mind turn to the dharma.” It requires removing the hindrances of wrong view, and the 8 worldly dharmas of hope and fear, praise and blame, gain and loss, happiness and suffering.