Mahamudra teachings

I was asked to talk today about a practical way of practicing dharma. This text is short, but has great meaning. It comes down to the simple form of practicing the two truths. We have an analogy in Tibet, it’s moistening leather by spitting in the palm of your hand while you are sitting by a lake. That’s what Khenpo and Drubchen are doing to me. They are sitting on the side and asking me to explain the practice. They know my love to them and all of you and your love to me. When a loved person says a few words, it can have a great impact. So that’s why they asked me to talk today. Although I don’t know much. I’ll try to speak. The first thing the text says is may all sentient beings be liberated from suffering and have the causes of happiness. If we do not have a solid foundation of equanimity, we will see things as good and bad and develop greed and hatred. So we should examine our mind to see whether it has grasping or compassion. Wanting all beings to be free of suffering is developing love and compassion and leading them to the higher states.

We first develop faith in the Three Jewels, so we won’t generate attachment and hate. All the past masters said we should practice dharma as if we were taking medicine. If you take medicine without first identifying the illness, it can cause harm that would be worse than illness. So practice should develop positive qualities and diminish negative ones. If dharma practice develops attachment and hatred, that would be worse than not to practice. So when we practice we should form the attitude that we are practicing to reduce attachment and hatred. We should look into ourselves and inquire. What has caused us to be in cyclic existence? Our attachment and hatred. We have met many bodhisattvas and teachers, but it has not reduced our attachment and hatred. Instead we have developed them further through dharma practice. So we continue to cycle in samsara.

The first stanza talks about the importance of taking refuge in the root lama. The next stanza reads may all mother sentient beings attain the dharmakaya. When the text talks about mother sentient beings, this is not a metaphor. While cycling through samsara all beings have been our mother. They have not realized that Buddha is within themselves. So we pray that they realize their potential to become a Buddha. Because of not realizing our full potential and our self cherishing thoughts and afflictions, we have cycled through the six realms, the great ocean of samsara. There is no lasting happiness in any realm of existence. In the human realm we have the suffering of change. The beings in the lower realms have constant sufferings. Until we cut though the root of suffering, self grasping thoughts, we will not have happiness in cyclic existence. There is no one who likes to have suffering, yet we are confused as to which path will lead to happiness. When we do not have the wisdom support of choosing the right path, we commit more negative acts.

When we are born we can’t determine right and wrong, Though we are human, our behavior sometimes is worse than animals. The core foundation of practice is a strong belief in cause and effect. Without this we won’t believe our conduct determines its result. A beautiful or handsome person may seem to have acquired everything. But this is from what merit they have accumulated in a past life. If they don’t practice in this life it’s questionable whether they have achieved anything of value.

The text says the freedoms and endowments are as rare as an udumbara flower. The rarity refers to the difficulty of being born as a human with the freedom and endowments to practice the path of Buddha. It is much easier to be reborn in other realms than in the human realm. If you consider the numbers, human life is very rare. For example, if you look at the number of insects on a plot of ground, it would compare to the number of humans in a country. All beings share the desire not to die, but live. Due to their actions in the path they have been born as they are. Due to our positive actions in the past we have been born in human realm and encountered the dharma. This must be because we cultivated bodhicitta in the past. So you can see how a small thought can create a big result. Our mental attitude about things are important. A person without goods may still have the thought: I am a dharma practitioner. I may be hungry, but I can still recite the dharma and practice, and I will be happy. This person has the confidence of being reborn in a higher realm in the next life. In contrast, a person with great wealth, can be still be dissatisfied with his wealth and even commit suicide. Although you have been fortunate to be reborn with the freedoms and endowments, you may still spend your efforts in acquiring the happiness of this life. It is short sighted to spend so much effort for the sake of temporary benefits. The reason of practice is to take such persons as objects of our compassion. Temporary benefit is like smelling a poisonous flower that will take our life. So we must use good judgement and wisdom in pursuing our goals. Realizing we have the freedom and endowments, we must not waste them and practice.

The next thought is that life is impermanent. We don’t know when death will strike us. Death and birth happens every day. We spend a lot of time acquiring goods as if we would live for ever. But if someone asks us how long we will live, we cannot answer with any conviction. We cannot even say how long this Earth will endure. Realizing this, nothing guarantees that we will be here permanently. We act as if life is permanent. This is not true, and one day its untruth will strike. When we are without our physical bodies and only have our mental bodies, we will suffer constantly. These beings have been our mothers in the past. So what should we do for them?

So how can I use my precious life properly? Buddha said that suffering is to be known and the causes of suffering are to be abandoned. Without a strong conviction in cause and effect one would not bother to practice. Otherwise, one would think, I am very proud of my negative actions. Where you are it is determined by your actions in the past. When you get up, rejoice in gaining your human birth and think I will not waste it by not practicing. When you leave the house, think though you are not watched, cause and effect will not miss your actions. When a situation arises when you may develop negative emotions, apply an antidote. In the evening reflect on what you have done and repent of negative actions. When going to sleep think there is no guarantee I will live until tomorrow and resolve to practice. If you realize you have generated a negative emotions and do not confess them, this will cause your downfall. Right now we are not animals or hell beings, so we don’t know their sufferings. We should study about their sufferings so we develop pure renunciation. Hatred is a defilement and its antidote is loving kindness. If a father has a short temper, it causes other people to dislike him and he suffers. Then he will be reborn in a hell realm where his suffering is thousand times greater. If another person has compassion for the sufferings of others, that is the source of happiness to beings in this life and the next.

If there are so many negative actions, then is there a door to liberation from this suffering? Yes, but encountering it is rare. The word “konchog” indicates the rarity and preciousness of the thee jewels. Buddha himself was totally freed of all negativities and had developed all the qualities of Buddhahood. His knowledge and wisdom are the dharma, which shows the path to liberation. The sangha are those who guide us on the path to liberation.

Because we are all under the influence of hatred, when two hateful persons encounter each other, one may take the life of another. Buddha said the physical opponent is nothing. The opponent we must conquer is our mind. People are hateful because of the self cherishing thoughts they develop of grasping and hatred. Get rid of these and you have truly conquered the enemy. In the practice of Drikung Kagyu at a conventional level there exists the object of attachment and hatred. While you have this sense of duality your perception is faulty. So we develop compassion to our enemy. If we do this, we will have no problem developing compassion to our friends. And we will have no trouble generating compassion to all beings upon the realization that all beings have been our mothers. We will have love to all, even strangers. Right now we get angry because our practice is not deep and stable. Without equanimity we will not treat all beings with love and compassion. When we think I like a sweet, we will enter into grasping it. But if we think this is not real, we will let go of our grasping.

Calm abiding is not just thinking nothing. It is the result of an effort to get rid of negativity. In shamatha we can eliminate coarse forms of negativity. In the ultimate nature of truth by the union of bliss and emptiness we can dissolve the subtle forms of grasping. So it is very important to develop the conventional bodhicitta mind. The founder of the Drikung Kagyu has said the actual practice is not enough, but the preliminary practice is. When you have a good foundation, the realization itself will come automatically. The conventional level of bodhicitta mind will give rise to dharma naturally

Next we will talk about mahamudra, which deals with the ultimate view. It is an advanced practice, so it would irresponsible to teach it without talking about the preliminaries which lead to it first. Without conventional bodhicitta you cannot achieve any of the advanced realizations. You must have a strong generation of the conventional bodhicitta before you engage in mahamudra. The entire teachings of Buddha can be divided into conventional and ultimate truth. In the conventional level things exist as they are thought to exist. So why does it say things are empty in ultimate truth? There is no contradiction. The mind develops good and bad thoughts. But if you look at mind’s nature it cannot be grasped as an independent entity. So its ultimate nature is emptiness. It is beyond cause and effect. When you realize this, you have closed the door to the afflictive states. For example, the letter A is the source of all other sounds. Although the sound exists, when you look at it closely it does not ultimately exist. When you search for its mode of existence, it is not found. Mind is also like this. So the mind is unrecognizable. To look internally the mind it has to be examined by another mind. So when you look at it, how does the mind exist? You cannot find it, but you cannot say it does not exist. So Buddha has said that it is beyond the description of words. Although it is described as empty, a negative term, it is not a nothingness. It is a clarity that can perceive all things. When you have good karma and the guidance of you guru, you can realize this.

When we talk about placing mind in its natural nakedness, we mean leaving the mind in its own state. In its own state there are no misconceptions or erroneous thoughts, or even the thought, ” I am meditating on the ultimate state.” In that moment there is no meditator, meditation, or object of meditation. When you apply this type of meditation you are close to achieving calm abiding mind.

The mind of Buddhas and sentient beings are the same. There are many sources of water in the world., but the quality of water is the same. Similarly, the nature of all minds is dharmakaya. Getting rid of all misconceptions is calm abiding. Applying the special insight of emptiness is called the union of calm abiding and special insight. When you have this understanding, the union of the two is not that far. The question may arise, if you talk about the union of calm abiding and insight, why are they talked about as separate entities? Until we see emptiness, we have to apply effort to get rid of our misconceptions. Until we have gained the upper hand in the technique of stopping misconceptions, both have to be practiced and explained separately.

All the six sense objects are subsumed under the categories of desirable and undesirable. These are all aspects of the mind itself, which is clear and empty. Who fabricates this appearance? It is the mind. So although everything appears within our mind and is a reflection of our mind, an object within the mirror of mind, both the mirror and reflection are free of substantial existence. We describe a reflection as pretty or ugly. When you do that, the reflection and the mirror become two. By forgetting that phenomena are the activity of the mind, we fall into duality and grasping. For a mind realizing emptiness, objects appear but are understood as part of the empty nature of mind. So there is no grasping. All the activities of mind and their mode of abiding is dharmadhatu. If we do not have the philosophy of the ultimate view, we a re easily disturbed by external appearances. If someone tells you that you are beautiful, you think wow, tell me more. If someone criticizes you, you become angry. But a practitioner realizes there is not ultimately good and bad, whatever a person says to you, you will not be affected by it. You instead will think that the other person is upset. Physical objects do not say they are good and bad. We define them to be so. We should let these views dissolve in the ultimate nature of mind. Since all things are empty, they cannot be described as good or bad. So this practice of letting things abide as dharmakaya, is the most important practice of Dzogchen. Jigme Lingpa said when you have this understanding, nothing can disturb your meditation. Since the nature of mind is clarity, objects appear in them. If all phenomena are empty, why grasp at them, just let them go. You have to have a strong conviction in this view. Whatever appears is the activity of mind itself. With this understanding everything becomes clear. If you go into the lower realms, the same nature is there. The nature never changes from emptiness.

Mind itself is pure from the beginning.� In Drikung Kagyu terminology we call it the Buddha of our own mind. All defilements are adventitious and can be cleared away. All these conceptions appear, but they are temporary. If you have the thought, I don’t want conceptual thoughts, you should think thougts appear from mind and dissolve back into it. The subject and object are both the display of the mind. You should realize all thoughts are just the play of the mind. Our thoughts are preoccupied with the past and future. The past is endless and one thought leads to another. Don’t do that. Leave the mind in its own state. Getting rid of the grasping, automatically leads to the end of thoughts. If you remain without grasping where thought appears and dissolves, that is the practice of the ultimate view. The difference between you and I is that I, being a monk, do not have to think about my livelihood. You have to plan out your activities. That’s okay. But you should think, if I achieve my plan that’s okay, I’ll take it as the grace of the three jewels, if I do not then that is my bad karma.

We are talking about the space-like quality of the mind. When you realize the ultimate nature of the mind, you don’t think of things as good or bad and are free from the relative states of existence. In that understanding, when you see mind as selfless and empty you don’t have to free yourself from self grasping thought. It is self liberated. Because all has been freed it is called the white panacea.

When belief is born from the heart, diligence will be engendered. When you realize the emptiness of one misconception, it is the same with everything. The logic must apply to everything. When you have that conviction, you have to make a diligent effort to enhance that understanding.� Here we are talking of the diligence of non-effort. When we leave the mind in its own state, we don’t engage in effort. There are probably physical activities, but mind is effortless. Hence, Milarepa has called it so. But to get to that state we have to apply effort. So in this practice, although one is not making effort, the gradual realization is being achieved. You don’t think where am I right now. You are on the road the Buddhas and bodhisattvas practiced. The practice of emptiness becomes the practice of the six perfections. The important thing is the practice of the two bodhicittas, conventional and ultimate.

When you are able to practice the union of method and wisdom, you will be able to practice the four yogas. The first is single pointed concentration, remaining in the space-like quality of mind. The four can be done in one single practice. When we begin practice, we start with single pointed concentration. Remaining in the space-like quality of the mind, everything appears within that. When you have achieved that state of meditation, you don’t have to make any effort. You can just lie down.

Here we talk abut the quintessential teaching of the oral tradition. All teachings are contained in the two truths. If you really know the way to practice, it doesn’t take more than these four pages. But if you don’t, even if you have studied the entire corpus of teachings, you would still be circling the mountain for more teachings. So everything comes down to practice. It doesn’t matter which school you follow. All have developed great siddhas. We cannot say this practice will guarantee you this or that. But the great gurus have traveled this path. So we can say if you follow the path correctly and with determination, you will achieve this result.

Drubwang Rinpoche’s picture was taken and in it he appeared to be transparent. We believe that he has achieved Buddhahood and appears in his emanation body. A purified person may appear in this way to lead beings to their state. A nonbeliever may think there is a problem with the camera. There have been Buddhas and bodhisattvas in all traditions. If we practice we can follow their path. The rough crystal is sentient beings and the polished crystal is Buddha. But they are the same by nature. If we practice, we will achieve this state. When I talk about teachings of Buddha, many scientists have told me there is something in this. Whatever the case, those who are too skeptical may see this is a fault with the camera. Everyone here has faith in Dalai Lama, and since he has composed this prayer to Drubwang Rinpoche, we can conclude that he has achieved enlightenment. To conclude today’s teaching, I have a request. You are very fortunate that you have your teachers to guide you. In bodhicitta mind you must see all beings as your mother. So we shouldn’t break a samaya by mischance. We should come to the center to practice in a positive way in order to sustain the practice of the dharma.