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The Urban Dharma Newsletter - January 2015
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In This Issue:

1. New Podcasts
2. The Buddhist Society of London – Videos
4. Book – Unfathomable Depths / Wisdom Publications
4. CONVENTIONAL AND ULTIMATE WISDOM / www.ViewOnBuddhism.org

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Hi,

Happy New Year… May you find Happiness and Peace in 2015.

Peace… Kusala


1. New Podcasts

I’ve posted 2 new podcasts on iTunes and UrbanDharma.org:

Audio – The Art and Science of Giving - 12/28/14 - 59 Min. - My Talk Sunday at 'Against the Stream' on Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA ––

http://www.urbandharma.org/podcast/ATS122814.MP3

Video – Enlightenment - The Way Home (Video) - 12/21/14 - 23 Min. - A Sunday talk at the, 'Center for Spiritual Living' in Ventura, CA ––

http://www.urbandharma.org/podcast/dec2014clcven.mp4


2. The Buddhist Society of London – Videos

https://www.youtube.com/user/58ecclestonsquare

A good selection of videos on different aspects of Buddhism.

The Society provides a range of classes and courses in the Buddha’s teachings, as well as instruction in Buddhist meditation and daily life practice. Courses start with the popular Introduction to basic Buddhism and interested members can then progress to our First Steps in Buddhist Practice, First Turning of the Wheel and Great Way Courses.

Buddhist Society of London website:

http://www.thebuddhistsociety.org/


4. Book – Unfathomable Depths / Wisdom Publications

Unfathomable Depths / Drawing Wisdom for Today from a Classical Zen Poem - Sekkei Harad & Daigaku Rumme

http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/unfathomable-depths

Editor’s Note: This classic Zen poem provides the foundation for our new title Unfathomable Depths: Drawing Wisdom for Today from a Classical Zen Poem. Zen master Sekkei Harada uses the enigmatic “Ten Verses of Unfathomable Depth” as the basis of his practical and theoretical discussion of these concerns. Unfathomable Depths presents a concise treatment of Soto theory and practice, while delivering approachable and workable advice from one of Zen’s most esteemed teachers. Rooting himself in Tong’an Changcha's classical poem, Harada intimately speaks to the world of Zen today.

Ten Verses of Unfathomable Depth

1. The Mind Seal

I ask you, “What does the Mind Seal look like?”
And “What sort of person dares to transmit it?”
Throughout the ages, it has remained firm and unshaken.
As soon as you call something the Mind Seal, it is already
meaningless.
You must know that in essence all things originate from
infinite emptiness.
You can compare it to a lotus flower in a red-hot kiln.
Don’t say that a free and empty mind is the Way,
A free and empty mind is still separated from it by a great
barrier.

2. The Mind of the Enlightened Ones

This mind is like emptiness, but it isn’t empty.
How could the unfathomable function ever degenerate to
being the result of achievement?
The bodhisattvas at the three stages of wisdom have still not
clarified this.
And how can the higher ranks of bodhisattvas ever reach it?
The golden carp that has passed through the net remains
trapped in the water.
But the stone horse still on the way leaves its sand cage
suddenly.
Why have the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the
West explained in every detail?
Don’t ask about the coming from the West, nor about
the East.

 3. The Unfathomable Function

You cannot rely on looking far ahead to the end of the universe.
And why would you tie yourself down to tainted worldliness?
Essentially, the miraculous body is not bound anywhere.
It is already throughout the whole body, so what other traces
could there be?
A single efficacious word transcends the multitudes.
It is far beyond the Three Vehicles and does not require
cultivation.
Shake off your hands and get away from the sages of all ages.
Then your path of return will resemble an ox in the midst
of fire.

4. The Transcendent Within Dust and Dirt

That which is impure is impure by itself; that which is pure is
pure by itself.
Highest wisdom and delusion are likewise empty and even.
Who could say that nobody can appreciate Bianhe’s jade?
I say that the jewel of the black dragon shines everywhere.
Only when the myriad dharmas disappear does the whole thing
appear.
The Three Vehicles split up, and assumed only provisional
names.
Truly outstanding people have determination that knows no
bounds.
Do not try to go where the bbuddhas have already gone.
 
5. The Buddhist Teaching

The Three Vehicles spoke golden words one after another.
But the bbuddhas of the past, present, and future only declared
the same thing.
At the beginning, when they expounded the reality of skandhas
and then complete emptiness all people got attached to it.
Later, when they negated both reality and emptiness, the people
discarded it again.
The complete treasury of sutras in the Dragon Palace has the
meaning of prescriptions.
Even the Buddha’s last teaching does not reach the
unfathomable.
If even one deluded thought arises in the world of true purity,
This already means spending eight thousand years in the world
of human beings.

6. The Song of Returning Home

Don’t be distracted by the King of Emptiness when you are
still on the Way.
You must drive your staff forward, moving on until you
reach home.
If you travel for a long time like clouds and water, don’t get
attached to it.
Even in the deep recesses of snowy mountains, don’t forget
your mission.
Ah! I regretted that in past days my face was like jade.
And I lamented that at the time of my return my hair had
turned white.
Returning to my old home with dangling arms, there was
no one who recognized me.
Also, I had nothing to offer my parents.

7. The Song of Not Returning Home

Having the intention of going to the source, of returning
to the origin, is already a mistake.
Essentially, there is nowhere to settle down, no place to call
one’s home.
The ancient path through the pines is covered with deep snow.
The long range of mountain peaks is furthermore blocked
by clouds.
When host and guest are tranquil and serene, everything is
incongruous.
When lord and vassal are united, there is wrong in the midst of
right.
How will you sing the song of returning home?
In bright moonlight, the dead tree is blooming in front of
the hall.

8. The Revolving Function

It is still dangerous even inside the castle of nirvana.
Strangers come across each other without appointment.
People call someone who provisionally puts on a dirty robe
a buddha.
But if someone wears precious clothes, what should you
call him?
In the middle of the night, the wooden man puts on shoes and
leaves.
At dawn, the stone woman puts on a hat and goes home.
An ancient emerald pool, the moon in the empty sky.
Screening and filtering over and over to catch the moon, for
the first time you will really know.

9. Changing Ranks

Growing hair and horns, you enter town,
Resembling a blue lotus flower blooming in the midst of fire.
All afflictions become like rain and dew in the vast sea.
All ignorance becomes like clouds and thunder on a mountain.
You completely blow out the furnace below the cauldron
of hell,
Smashing to pieces a forest of swords and a mountain of
daggers with a single shout.
Even golden chains cannot hold you back at the entrance.
Going into the realm of other beings, you transmigrate
for a while.

10. Before the Rank of the Absolute

In front of many dead trees and steep boulders, there are
many wrong tracks heading off course.
Those travelers who have reached this place all trip and
stumble.
A crane stands in the snow, but does not have the same color.
The bright moon and the flower of reeds do not really resemble
each other.
“I’m finished, I’m finished, I’m finished!” When you think so,
you cannot really be finished.
If you say, “This is it! This is the ultimate source!” you also
need a good shout.
From the bottom of your heart, you play a melody on the
harp with no strings.
How would it be possible to grasp the moonlight shining in
the empty sky?


4. CONVENTIONAL AND ULTIMATE WISDOM / www.ViewOnBuddhism.org

http://viewonbuddhism.org/wisdom_emptiness.html

'I am not, I will not be.
I have not, I will not have.
This frightens all children,
And kills fear in the wise.'
~ Nagarjuna

Although Albert Einstein was certainly not a Buddhist, these statements sound much like it:

    "A human being is part of a whole, called by us the 'universe', a part limited in time and space.

    He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest

    - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

    This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affectation for a few people near us.

    Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

    "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

From Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh:

    "Enlightenment for a wave in the ocean is the moment the wave realises that it is water."

Wisdom in Buddhism can refer to two types of insight: conventional wisdom and ultimate wisdom:

Conventional wisdom relates to understanding the conventional world, or the world as we know it. Traditionally it refers to understanding the way in which karma functions; to understand which actions bring us happiness and which bring us suffering. Conventional wisdom covers all understanding of the world as it functions, including science, with the exception of ultimate wisdom.

Ultimate wisdom (jñana in Sanskrit) refers to a direct realisation which is non-dualistic, and contradicts the way in which we ordinarily perceive the world. The experience of ultimate truth or emptiness is beyond duality.

It is important to remember that emptiness here does not refer to nothingness or some kind of nihilistic view. Emptiness refers to the fact that ultimately, our day-to-day experience of reality is wrong, and is 'empty' of many qualities that we normally assign to it.

Describing this non-dual experience in words is not really possible, as language is based on duality and contrasts. Trying to explain this experience - which contradicts our normal perception - is a bit like explaining colors to someone who is born blind; difficult to say the least.

WHY TRYING TO UNDERSTAND IT?

    "...I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed..." ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

If it can not really be explained in words, why bother?

According to the Buddha, as long as we do not realise emptiness directly - especially of our idea of how our "I" or 'self' exists - we do not properly understand how the world functions and we will continue to create causes for our own misery.

    "How much suffering and fear, and
    How many harmful things are in existence?
    If all arises from clinging to the "I",
    What should I do with this great demon?"
    Shantideva

Merely starting to doubt our perception of the world is invaluable if we ever hope to break the bondage to uncontrolled cyclic existence and suffering. In order to familiarise ourselves with this all-important experience, we can try to familiarise ourselves with it on an intellectual level. When we would experience emptiness, we would then be able to recognise it. Instead of believing we have suddenly gone mad, recognition would encourage us to enhance the experience and achieve liberation from suffering.

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche explained it in Pointing Out the Dharmakaya:

    We cannot get rid of suffering by saying, "I will not suffer." We cannot eliminate attachment by saying, "I will not be attached to anything," nor eliminate aggression by saying, "I will never become angry." Yet, we do want to get rid of suffering and the disturbing emotions that are the immediate cause of suffering.

    The Buddha taught that to eliminate these states, which are really the results of the primary confusion of our belief in a personal self, we must get rid of the fundamental cause.

    But we cannot simply say, "I will not believe in the personal self." The only way to eliminate suffering is to actually recognize the experience of a self as a misconception, which we do by proving directly to ourselves that there is no such personal self. We must actually realise this. Once we do, then automatically the misconception of a self and our fixation on that "self" will disappear.

    Only by directly experiencing selflessness can we end the process of confused projection. This is why the Buddha emphasized meditation on selflessness or egolessness (emptiness).

    However, to meditate on egolessness, we must undertake a process that begins with a conceptual understanding of egolessness; then, based on that understanding, there can be meditation, and finally realization.

INTERDEPENDENCE

The wisdom of emptiness refers to a lack of something: 'inherent existence'. 'Inherent existence' means that things appear to exist independently, in- and out of themselves, from the side of the object, by way of its' own character, self-powered, autonomous. Ultimately however, things exist in dependence upon causes and conditions. For example, a human being ceases to exist in a vacuum, we would instantly die when all conditions for life are suddenly gone. On another level, a human being needs to come into existence by the combination of a sperm from the father joining an egg from the mother and all the right conditions to grow into an embryo. So, considering ourselves as independently existing, fully autonomous is a mere illusion and does not accord with ultimate reality.

Ultimate wisdom can be compared to eco-thinking in biology: a century ago, biology focused mainly on categorising species of animals and plants and describing their specific aspects. Plants and animals were cut to ever smaller pieces to analyse how they function.

However, nature also functions at a completely different level; as relations and processes between living beings. Ecology appeared as a new branch of biology, more dealing with relations, cycles and interdependence of animals, plants and surroundings. This is somewhat similar to the view of emptiness. Instead of focusing on differences and individuality, the realisation of emptiness is about realising that nothing exists by itself alone, but depends on other things. Just as all living beings rely on other living beings - at least their ancestors, so do even inanimate objects depend on other objects, conditions, parts and processes to arise and disappear.

The fact that we normally do not realise emptiness and the relatedness of things is directly related to our perception.  As soon as we perceive something in the outside world, it feels different from our own body or mind. We feel as if other things are "out there", separate from "my self", which is "in here".

But are they really separate? To begin with, if the outer object would not somehow "relate" to us in the form of sound, smell, light etc., we would be unable to perceive it. So our perception of objects depends on interaction, rather than the fact that we are separate. To put it simple, our perception of the world is only possible because of interaction, interrelation, dependence and exchange of information.

From the Avatamsaka Sutra:

    "Far away, in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each eye of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number.

    There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now look closely at any one of the jewels for inspection, we will discover that in its polished surface are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflection process occurring.

    This symbolises our world where every sentient being (and thing) is inter-related to one another."

His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, from The Compassionate Life:

    "All events and incidents in life are so intimately linked with the fate of others that a single person on his or her own cannot even begin to act. Many ordinary human activities, both positive and negative, cannot even be conceived of apart from the existence of other people. Even the committing of harmful actions depends on the existence of others. Because of others, we have the opportunity to earn money if that is what we desire in life. Similarly, in reliance upon the existence of others it becomes possible for the media to create fame or disrepute for someone. On your own you cannot create any fame or disrepute no matter how loud you might shout. The closest you can get is to create an echo of your own voice.

    Thus interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law, or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena, from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests, and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay."

PERCEPTION AND OBJECTIVITY

When we perceive an object, we automatically tend to label it (like nice, bad, wet, dry, light, dark, etc.). As soon as our mind puts a label  on an object, the label takes the place of the actual object in our mental processes. As our mental image or label can never represent all the different qualities and characteristics of any object, it is always just a simplified, usually exaggerated, subjective snap shot. However, our mind reacts on the basis of our own mental label of an object. No wonder we tend to react simplistic, exaggerated and subjective in many situations. All perceived objects are conditioned by our senses and our own mind.

This leads to the dramatic conclusion that we are not and by definition can never be objective!

Or, as the famous physicist Werner Heisenberg said,

    "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning"....

SEPARATENESS

Our labelling leads to problems like anger and attachment, but also to the more basic problem that we think we are somehow separate from the outside world. But are we separate from the outside world?

When we see something - for example a table - it appears to be separate from the rest of the world, just standing there by itself, but is that correct? How could the table stand there without the ground supporting it? How could the table exist without a carpenter making it from pieces of wood? The pieces of wood come from a tree, which comes from a seed, water, soil, air, the sun and its nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms etcetera.... Every object needs causes and conditions to exist, just like we need our parents, food, air, clothes and many more things to exist. Apart from that, our perception of an object is strongly coloured by our own senses, mental state and memories. In this way, it becomes impossible to maintain that 'I' am separate from the outside world, however much it feels that way.

    "Monks, we who look at the whole and not just the part, know that we too are systems of interdependence, of feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness all interconnected. Investigating in this way, we come to realize that there is no me or mine in any one part, just as a sound does not belong to any one part of the lute." ~ Samyutta Nikaya, from "Buddha Speaks"

    "It is important to remember always that the principle of egolessness does not mean that there was an ego in the first place, and the Buddhists did away with it. On the contrary, it means there was never any ego at all to begin with. To realize that is called 'egolessness'." ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

THE PHILOSOPHY OF EMPTINESS

The Prasangika Madhyamila philosophical school of Buddhism teaches that things are:

     1. Dependent on their parts
     2. Interrelated, not isolated
     3. Merely labelled

To prevent misunderstanding, we must avoid the "two extremes", that is, believing that:

    1. Things are permanent, independent of their parts, and independent of our labelling

    2. Things do not exist at all (nihilism).

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO ME?

This view has consequences when it is applied to whatever I call "I" and "mine":

    I am not isolated from my surroundings and other living beings.
    I "create" the world with my own concepts and ideas.

    The world is like an illusion: how I see the world depends on my own ideas/projections.

    This world is "my" film, "my" projection, I run the show, so I can change my experience of the world.

    I can change the world, if I start with my own mind.

    I can change, as "I" is only a concept, impermanent and dependent on causes and conditions, just like all phenomena (even emptiness itself).

    Although I can understand this intellectually, I don't perceive the world that way until I directly realise emptiness!

    "Sometimes, the thought of "I" suddenly arises with great force....The situation is like that of a rock or a tree seen protruding up from the peak of a hill on the horizon: From afar it may be mistaken for a human being. Yet the existence of a human in that rock or tree is only an illusion. On deeper investigation, no human being can be found in any of the individual pieces of the protruding entity, nor in its collection of parts, nor in any other aspect of it. Nothing in the protrusion can be said to be a valid basis for the name "human being.”

    Likewise, the solid "I" which seems to exist somewhere within the body and mind is merely an imputation. The body and mind are no more represented by the sense of "I" than is the protruding rock represented by the word "human." This "I" cannot be located anywhere within any individual piece of the body and mind, nor is it found within the body and mind as a collection, nor is there a place outside of these that could be considered to be a substantial basis of the object referred to by the name "I".”

    The Second Dalai Lama (1475-1542), in Samuel Bercholz's 'Entering the Stream'.

    ...when we talk about the notion of self in Buddhism, it is important to bear in mind that there are different degrees or types. There are some types of sense of self which are not only to be cultivated but also to be reinforced and enhanced. For instance, in order to have a strong determination to seek Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, one needs a very strong sense of confidence, which is based upon a sense of commitment and courage. This requires a strong sense of self. Unless one has that identity or sense of self, one will not be able to develop the confidence and courage to strongly seek this aim. In addition, the doctrine of Buddha-nature gives us a lot of encouragement and confidence because we realize that there is this potential within us which will allow us to attain the perfection that we are seeking. However, there are different types of sense of self which are rooted in a belief in a permanent, solid, indivisible entity called "self" or "I." There is the belief that there is something very concrete or objective about this entity. This is a false notion of self which must be overcome. ~ From Healing Anger by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

HOW TO INTEGRATE EMPTINESS INTO DAILY LIFE By Lama Thubten Yeshe

    What is emptiness? Emptiness (shunyata) is the reality of the existence of ourselves, and all the phenomena around us. According to the Buddhist point of view, seeking reality and seeking liberation amount to the same thing. The person who doesn't want to seek reality doesn't really want to seek liberation, and is just confused.

    If you seek reality and you think that it has to be taught to you by a Tibetan Lama, that you have to look for it outside yourself, in another place - maybe Shangrila! - then you are mistaken. You cannot seek reality outside yourself because you are reality. Perhaps you think that your life, your reality was made by society, by your friends? If you think that way you are far from reality. if you think that your existence, your life was made by somebody else it means that you are not taking the responsibility to understand reality.

    You have to see that your attitudes, your view of the world, of your experiences, of your girlfriend or boyfriend, of your own self, are all the interpretation of your own mind, your own imagination. They are your own projection, your mind literally made them up. If you don't understand this then you have very little chance of understanding emptiness.

    This is not just the Buddhist view but also the experience of Western physicists and philosophers - they have researched into reality too. Physicists look and look and look and they simply cannot find one entity that exists in a permanent, stable way: this is the Western experience of emptiness.

    If you can imagine that then you will not have any concrete concepts; if you understand this experience of physicists then you will let go of your worldly problems - but you don't want to understand.

    It seems to me that we twentieth century people are against nature, against reality, the very opposite of reality. Each moment we build up our artificial, polluted ego; we cover ourselves with heavy ego blankets - one, two, ten, one hundred blankets against nature, against reality. Modern life is the product of the intellectual mind, and we create it. The intellectual mind is superstition. We don't understand reality, and the intellectual life that we lead keeps us far from reality.

    So we don't accept who we are. We are always looking to cover ourselves with thick blankets and say "this is me". We hide our own reality and run away from natural beauty, completely neglecting it. By not touching our reality, our modern life becomes so complicated and we create problems with our superstition. We are like a spider spinning his web, climbing on his thread then falling down; climbing up again and falling down again. In the same way we build our own intellectual web, a way of life, that is so complicated, that doesn't touch reality, that is so difficult to live in. This construction arises from our own mind and does not arise from anything else.

    If I told you that you are nothing, you are zero, that you are nothing that you think you are, then you would be shocked. "What is this monk saying?" But what if I say that it is the truth! In fact you are non duality, non self existence. You do not exist, relatively or absolutely, as you think you do. If you really understood this then you would become more realistic and you would really gain satisfaction and peace. But as long as you hold on to the fantasy, concrete conception of yourself and project this wrong conception onto your environment, then no way will you understand reality.

    In Western cities nowadays, you can see, the older you are the more problems you have. When we are young, not so many problems, but then there are drugs and sex, and eventually they become dissatisfying, then more depression, more depression. So, as your body becomes bigger and your brain becomes wider, you have more and more problems and become more and more depressed. The more money you have the more problems come. You can see this.

    You only take care of your body, you never take care of your mind, and the result of this imbalance is depression. For most western people this is the case: only the body is reality and they don't care about the existence of the mind, the soul, the consciousness. They don't believe they can change their minds. They can change their nose through an operation, but they don't believe they can change their mind. And when you believe this, then no way can you resolve your depression.

    Our thoughts, our mind or consciousness are mental energy and cannot be localised in the body. It cannot be touched; it has no form and does not travel in time and space. We cannot touch it or grasp it.

    What is important to understand is that the view you have of yourself and the view you have of your environment are based on your own mind; they are the projection of your mind and that is why they are not reality.

    I will give you a good example. When a western man or woman looks for a girl or boyfriend, there is this research energy from both sides and when suddenly they see each other they make up an incredible story. "Oh, so beautiful! Nothing wrong inside or outside". They build up a perfect myth. They push and push., the mind makes it all up. If they are Christian they say, "Oh, he looks just like Jesus. She looks just like an angel. So nice, so pure". Actually, they are just projecting their own fantasies onto each other.

    If she is Hindu, then he would say, "Oh, she looks like Kali, like Mother Earth, like my universal mother"...and if you are Buddhist you fold your hands and say, "Oh, she is a dakini and she is showing me the true nature of all things". You understand? "When I am near her she gives me energy, energy. Before, I was so lazy, I couldn't move, I was like a dead person. But now whenever I go near her I can't believe my energy!" I tell you all this is superstitious interpretation. You think that she is your spiritual friend and all she does is really perfect, even her kaka and pee pee are so pure! Excuse me, perhaps I shouldn't talk like this - I am a Buddhist monk! But when we speak about Buddhism, about reality then we have to speak practically, from daily life, about what is earthy, what we can touch and see, not just get caught up in concepts.

    What I mean is this: you should recognise how every appearance in your daily lift is in fact a false projection of your own mind. Your own mind makes it up and becomes an obstacle to touching reality. This is why, our entire life, no matter what kind of life we have, it is a disaster. If you have a rich life, your life is a disaster. If you have a middle class life, your life is a disaster. If you have a poor life, your life is even more of a disaster! You become a monk and your life is a disaster. If you become a Christian your life is a disaster. A Buddhist, disaster... Be honest. Be honest with yourself.

    In fact reality is very simple. The simplicity of the mind can touch reality, and meditation is something that goes beyond the intellect and brings the mind into its natural state. We have the pure nature already, this reality exists in us now, it is born with us... The essence of your consciousness, your truth, your soul is not absolutely negative, it does not have an essentially negative character. Our mind is like the sky and our problems of ego grasping and self pity are like clouds. Eventually they all pass and disappear. You should not believe, "I am my ego, I am my problems, therefore I cannot solve my problems". Wrong. You can see. Sometimes we are so clear in our life we are almost radiating. We can have this experience right now. Now!

    So it is wrong to think that we are always a disaster. Sometimes we are clean clear, sometimes we are a disaster. So, stay in meditation, just keep in that clean clear state as much as possible. All of us can have that clean clear state of mind.

    Actually, maybe this is the moment to meditate. My feeling is to meditate now. So, close your eyes, don't think, "I am meditating", just close your eyes and whatever view is there, whatever view is there in your mind, just be aware. Don't interpret good, bad. Just be like a light - light doesn't think "I like this, I like that". It is just a light. Whatever is in your consciousness, whatever experience, just be aware. That is all.

    Whatever your experience at the moment, whatever your colour, whatever appearance is there, just stay aware. Be aware. If it's black energy, then that black energy is clean clear. If it's white energy, just feel that clean clear state. Be aware of whatever is happening. No interpretation ... Don't try to hold onto something or to reject something.

    Excerpt from Lama Yeshe's talk at VajraYogini Institute, France, September 5, 1983.

HOW TO PRACTISE?

To realise emptiness, externally we need a qualified teacher, and internally we need enough merit (or karma), purification, practice of ethics, keeping our vows and generating single-pointed concentration.

In the Tibetan tradition: first one tries to intellectually understand it, then later the realisation can ripen in the well-prepared field of our mind.

It is advised to analyse the "I" first, and then later one analyses other phenomena in the same way, for example using the "fourfold analysis":

1. Identify object of negation: inherently existent "I"
2. Determine possibilities of how the "I" exists: is it the body, the mind, both or different? (We can say, "I have have a body and a mind", which would indicate that the "I" is something different from the body and the mind, but is that possible?)
3. Is the "I" same as body and/or mind?
4. Is the "I" other than body and mind?

    "While you are meditating there is an "I" (representing the Self) which appears to exist from its own side. Right on top of that think, 'the I is merely labelled'. Just meditate on the meaning of the I being merely labelled. I is a name; a name does not exist from its own side, a name is given, imputed by the mind. We can completely agree with that. This I is merely labelled; concentrate on just that. Try to feel that. This automatically eliminates eternalism, the view of a truly existent I." ~ Lama Zopa Rinpoche

    "The real glory of meditation lies not in any method but in its continual living experience of presence, in its bliss, clarity, peace, and most important of all, complete absence of grasping. The diminishing of grasping in yourself is a sign that you are becoming freer of yourself. And the more you experience this freedom, the clearer the sign that the ego and the hopes and fears that keep it alive are dissolving, and the closer you will come to the infinitely generous "wisdom of egolessness." When you live in the wisdom home, you'll no longer find a barrier between "I" and "you," "this" and "that," "inside" and "outside;" you'll have come, finally, to your true home, the state of non-duality." ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

    "Intelligent Practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not. And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that. I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever-changing energy field. I don't want to be that. So good practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating, analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud to keep ourselves safe in make-believe practice. True practice is not safe; it's anything but safe. But we don't like that, so we obsess with our feverish efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obsessive practice is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality. The only thing that matters is seeing with an impersonal spotlight: seeing things as they really are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem anywhere." ~ Charlotte Joko Beck, in 'Everyday Zen'

    "Our exaggerated sense of self and our compulsion to find happiness for this larger-than-life self we have fabricated cause us to ignore, neglect and harm others. Of course, it is our right to love and take care of ourselves, but not at the expense of others. While "As long as I'm alright" is our motto, we have no hesitation in acting with total disregard for others." ~ From: The Three Principal Aspects of the Path: An Oral Teaching by Geshe Sonam Rinchen

TO THINK OR NOT TO THINK?

One issue which can create much confusion is about our dualistic mind. Normally, our mind functions on a very dualistic level, which means that we continuously make distinctions, like black and white, good and bad, hard and soft. This level of mind reasons and is the basis for our ability to think logical using concepts. However, the goal of the teachings on emptiness is to lead to a non-dualistic experience (realisation) of emptiness. Different schools may approach this problem differently; for example, the Zen schools tend to emphasise first achieving a non-dualistic state of mind in meditation, the Tibetan schools first emphasise proper dualistic, inferential, logical understanding of the subject, and then meditating on it to achieve the direct realisation.

A question was put to to His Holiness Dalai Lama:

    "How does one go from inferential knowledge to nonconceptual knowledge? Since analysis is used to arrive at total inferential knowledge any more analysis would still be inferential."

His Holiness' answer:

    "Among meditations there are many different types and in special situations such as certain levels of Highest Yoga Tantra for example, analysis is discouraged. The general mode of procedure on the Buddhist path is that through constant reflection on the knowledge which is initially inferential, through various stages of familiarisation, reflection and contemplation, that knowledge which is initially inferential could eventually become nonconceptual. The engagement of that knowledge in relation to the object becomes subtler and subtler, eventually the knowledge becomes direct and unveiled.

    Generally speaking it is very true that there must be a correlation between cause and its effects. Any cause can not give rise to any effect. There must be some causal relationship and connection but that does not mean that every effect must have completely similar causes. Take for instance the omnisicent mind of the Buddha; if we insist that its cause must be completely similar in characteristics with its effect which is omniscient mind, then we will have to maintain that within us we possess the seed for attaining Buddha's omniscient mind and wisdom. Then we must possess within us, even to a slight degree some form of Buddha's omniscient mind which cannot be maintained. As far as non-conceptual awareness or wisdom of Arya beings is concerned, the causes need not be such high states of realisation. Therefore regarding the non-dualistic awareness or wisdom of Arya beings, their causes can be said to exist even within ordinary beings.

    If we examine our mind, as long as we remain in an ordinary state of existence, our mind is characterized by dualistic perceptions, dualistic experiences. Within this dualistic experience and perception we must be able to seek some kind of seed which would give rise to non-dual wisdom and awareness. Therefore in the initial stage of knowledge, it is inferential, dualistic and characterized by duality between subject and object. As you train your mind and constantly reflect and cultivate your familiarity with that object, then that subject and object duality will gradually diminish in its intensity. Gradually it will lead you to realization. Your knowledge of the object becomes direct, intuitive and non-conceptual.

    When we talk of non-dual awareness in the context of dualistic appearances or dualism, one must bear in mind that there are many different meanings of the term. Dualistic experience could be understood in terms of a multitude of ways: conventional appearance as dualistic appearance, subject and object duality or separateness as being dualistic appearance; or as a generated image through which we can conceive as object, that image can be seen as dualistic appearance. Similarly when we come across the term non-conceptuality we do not have the notion that there is only a single meaning which is universal in every single context. Non-conceptuality will have different meanings in different contexts."

WISDOM AND COMPASSION

With this explanation, you may be tempted to think that emptiness is all about playing with words and doing complicated mind games. However, it is said that realising emptiness directly can solve all our problems, as all our problems are caused by our misunderstanding of the world. As all our communication is based on words which cannot express the ultimate truth, please try to discover the real meaning behind the words for yourself!

Another thing that should be kept in mind is that when one directly experiences emptiness, the mind cannot perceive anything dualistic, meaning it cannot perceive anything of the "normal" world. That does not mean there is no perception at all, but we would perceive the world very different. Perhaps comparable as if everyone would have an eye-defect and see all things as blue. When a medicine becomes available to cure this defect, nothing would look familiar, as the colors all appear to unfamiliar and strange. This is why discussions on emptiness often tend to go astray and may have an "otherworldly" feel to them, from the ultimate view of emptiness, all our normal perception and thinking about reality is flawed. It is said that only a fully realised Buddha can experience emptiness and ordinary existence simultaneously.

Now a few words on the combination of wisdom and compassion. In Tibetan Buddhism, these are considered the two most important aspects of practice. Just like a bird needs two wings to fly; a very compassionate person without wisdom is only a likeable fool, and a person with wisdom and no compassion is like a lonely hermit in an ivory tower... Both will reinforce each other: once we realise how interrelated we all are, it is hard not to feel some level of compassion, and once we feel compassionate to others we realise our interrelatedness.

    "Recently I am emphasizing that due to the modern economy, and also due to information and education, the world is now heavily interdependent, interconnected. Under such circumstances, the concept of 'we' and 'they' is gone: harming your neighbor is actually harming yourself. If you do negative things towards your neighbor, that is actually creating your own suffering. And helping them, showing concern about others' welfare -- actually these are the major factors of your own happiness. If you want a community full of joy, full of friendship, you should create that possibility. If you remain negative, and meantime want more smiles and friendship from your neighbors, that's illogical. If you want a more friendly neighbor, you must create the atmosphere. They they will respond.”

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama (from an interview in the November issue of the Shambala Sun)

    "The one thing to be attained is essentially void and compassionate. Let me explain.

    The realisation of voidness is the absolute spirit of enlightenment; it is seeing that all things are unborn.

    Compassion is the relative spirit of enlightenment; it is reaching out in love to all beings who have yet to realise that they are unborn.

    Those who follow the Mahayana path should develop these two forms of the spirit of enlightenment." ~ Drom Tonpa

    "The supreme goal of the teachings is the emptiness whose nature is compassion." ~ Atisha

    "Know emptiness, be compassionate." ~ Milarepa

    Samadhi Raja Sutra

    Know all things to be like this:
    A mirage, a cloud castle,
    A dream, an apparition,
    Without essence, but with qualities that can be seen.

    Know all things to be like this:
    As the moon in a bright sky
    In some clear lake reflected,
    Though to that lake the moon has never moved.

    Know all things to be like this:
    As an echo that derives
    From music, sounds, and weeping,
    Yet in that echo is no melody.

    Know all things to be like this:
    As a magician makes illusions
    Of horses, oxen, carts and other things,
    Nothing is as it appears.
    The Buddha


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