Thirty Five Verses of Advice: Part Two
Yesterday we left off after the explanation of verse twelve. Verse thirteen starts the explanation of the fourth dharma of Gampopa, please bless me so that my confusion dawns as wisdom. It says if one does not experience mahamudra, the one understanding that liberates all, confusion will not dawn as wisdom. The meaning of mahamudra is literally great seal. The seal is a symbol for that which nothing goes beyond. The universal emperor has a seal to stamp his commands and no one transgresses them. Similarly, nothing goes beyond the great seal of mahamudra. It is called the the great seal because it is the nature of reality, free from all concepts. No conceptual construct can cross it. It is great because there is nothing beyond or higher than it.
In Tibetan it is named "chagya chenpo." "Chag" is the natural liberation of all disturbing emotions. It is meeting the face of the dharmakaya. Because it is not affected by any conceptual constructs and does not waver because of them, it is called "gya." It's called "chenpo," or great because it is higher than the teachings of the causal vehicles and higher than the four classes of tantra. Gampopa explained it is called "chag" because it does not go beyond the unborn nature of all phenomena. It is called "gya" because it does not beyond the innate nature of whatever exists. Since all is self liberated it is great, or "chenpo." There is ground, path, and fruition mahamudra. The ground is the mode of abiding of all things. In order to practice the path it is necessary to experience the ground. Merely being satisfied with the outer shell of words and academic titles is not sufficient, because at the time of death these are lost, like a snake casts off its skin. Just a snake is driven by anger, and even though it loses its skin, it has the same anger, we are not freed from disturbing emotions even when we leave this life. We leave this life as an ordinary person in a state of regret. Therefore his heart advice is to meditate on mahamudra.
The next verse says all persons will wander in the bardo. No matter how great someone may be, through pride and other disturbing emotions, they eventually wander in the bardo and are not liberated. So Chokyi Drakpa's heartfelt advice is to practice the dharma.
The next verse says reckless use of alcohol and sexual misconduct are causes if shame in the eyes of the Noble Ones. Heedlessness which leads us to negative actions such as drinking and sexual misconduct shames us and causes us to break our vows. So Chokyi Drakpa's heartfelt advice is to guard our minds and always be cautious. Even jumping, running, and physical amusements, injure the body. This is taught in the context of meditating in seclusion. Instead we should be peaceful and modest in our behavior. Idle chatter, arguments, teasing, and joking and hanging out with slackers is shameful in the eyes of the wise. Instead we should discipline our speech. We should not talk roughly, like the people from Eastern Tibet. Instead we should talk gently, like the people of Central Tibet.
The next verse says if your body and speech are tamed, but your mind is wild, it is like being a snake or cat. A snake has smooth skin, but they will bite. Similarly a cat may purr, but has a cruel nature. So we should tame our minds.
In mahamudra there is no need to apply an antidote to the appearances of the six consciousness. In sutra you antidote anger by meditating on love. In tantra you see the disturbing emotions as deities. But in mahamudra whatever arises is the fundamental nature of mind, self liberated, and you should rest in it. This corresponds with the fourth dharma of Gampopa, that delusion should arise as wisdom. The text says that thinking that there is nothing to meditate on is a conceptual thought and thinking there is something to meditate on is also a thought. Therefore without thinking there is or is not something to meditate on, leave the mind as it naturally is. Whatever thought arises, don't follow it. Without modifying, fixing, or blocking, or adding to it, sustaining freshness is Chokyi Drakpa's heartfelt advice. An Indian master said, "Freshness, the innate, and the natural, that is the mahamudra that transcends concept." The exhausted mind is like a guest, so rest the mind in the guest house of non-concept. Without dualistic apprehension do not have expectations or fears. Do not accept or reject. When activities are free of elaboration, contrived thought dissolves into the dharmadhatu. Resting in the natural state is Chokyi Drakpa's heartfelt advice. Until one has gained stability in seeing the nature of the mind, contrived meditations such as the twelve yogas cause one to go astray. Compared to the highest practice, all other practices are contrived. In dzogchen the emphasis is on rigpa. In mahamudra what is emphasized is resting in the mind's innate nature.
Some assert that they have understood the nature of mind, but haven't freed themselves from ego clinging. You should be nauseated by ego clinging conduct. If one realizes one's own mind, students spontaneously gather. This is true, as seen in the case of Milarepa, who meditated alone on Lapchi mountain, in the middle of nowhere. He never went to seek out disciples. On one occasion he had a dream that he would meet a disciple at a spring. He met a wealthy man on his way to a wedding. Milarepa asked if he could give him a ride across the river on his horse. The man refused, so he walked across the water. Seeing this, the man offered everything he had to Milarepa. Milarepa refused it, but accepted him as a disciple. This was the only time Milarepa went out to meet a student. So this is still true. If you have realized your mind, students will find you. You do not need to advertise yourself. Don't try to assemble a retinue of disciples. The previous Kagyu masters lived in isolated places. Claiming to renounce materialism and yet gathering disciples and wealth and building a house should be abandoned. You should live with only the mountain and birds as companions. Our dharma center here is only accompanied by the deer and birds [joking].
The next verse says, "The giver gives and the receiver receives, thinking in this way is not taking alms with little desire, but taking wealth with pretense and conniving. to take the wealth of others. Giving up such depression is my heart's desire."
The next verse says, "Whatever experiences may arise and qualities of abandonment and realizations might arise, do not boast or show off but conceal those qualities within. Even if you see the qualities of others inferior to your own, you should rejoice in them. This is my heartfelt advice."
The next verse says, "Do not abandon a constant loving mind to beings and do not expose others faults. Practice equanimity not grasping anything, spacious and free of concepts. To achieve equanimity is my heartfelt advice." The equanimity referred to here is the great equanimity that sees everything as empty.
The next verse reads, "Whatever possessions you have are merely borrowed for this life. Do not be attached to them. Companions, retinue, and possessions as well as your body are impermanent so do not be attached to them."
The next verse reads, "Think about whatever actions you have done and if you are tainted by negative activities, immediately confess them, like washing after sticking your hand in mud." When you confess you use the four powers. The first is remorse, recognizing the action is evil. The second power is support, confessing to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. The third power is the resolve never to commit the fault again. The fourth power is the antidote. The supreme antidote is bodhicitta. But there are others like saving lives. Visualization and recitation of Vajrasattva is also an antidote. It's also important to seal virtuous deeds by dedication. If you don't the merit can be destroyed. If you do it is like putting a drop of water in the ocean, which remains as long as the ocean remains.
A realized being names Desa Wanga was sued and accused of a crime. He said it wasn't me. The accuser said, if it wasn't you, dedicate all your merit to me. He replied, I've already dedicated my merit to all sentient beings, so I have none left over. The best dedication is free of the three spheres. If you can't dedicate in that way, dedicate in the manner of Samanatabhadra and Manjushri.
The next verse says, "In brief in this life whatever you do do not be hypocritical or deceive others, without bringing shame to the three jewels, bring all the practices together into one and practice that. This is my heartfelt advice."
The author writes, "These are my thirty five verses of advice. This is not to disparage what others have said. This is also not deception. This was written for my disciple who requested these teachings. I have put down here the heart of my practice. This is not just words. It was written by the follower of the Drikung lineage, Chokyi Drakpa. May virtue increase." If you want to increase virtue follow this path.
Q: Why do we do mudras?
A: In order to bring the ultimate to mind we need words. For the symbolic or sign language we need mudras. This is from a tantra. Most tantras were collected by Vajrapani.
Q: Why is it said that attachment is the nature of wisdom if attachment is a fault? Is there a distinction between being overly attached and the attachment that is the nature of wisdom?
A: Attachment is to be abandoned. But there are different means to abandon attachment. In the sutras it says to think of the repulsive. In tantra when attachment arises it is transformed by seeing it as the appearance of Amitabha. In mahamudra all thoughts are naturally liberated and attachment is just another thought. Attachment is always abandoned, but abandoned in different ways.
Q: How do you explain non-attachment without the other person misunderstanding what you mean?
A: It's important to recognize that attachment brings about suffering. When we hear about non-attachment people may not understand this. If you tell someone not to play with knives, they may misunderstand by thinking they shouldn't use knives at all. We do need to have feelings for others. The fact that attachment is empty enables it to be removed. That's why mahamudra can self-liberate attachment. At a certain point we develop non-referential all encompassing compassion. Some may think compassion without a reference is not really compassion. But compassion with a reference is only a beginning level.
Q: What are the yogas which can hinder our understanding? Does this include guru yoga?
A: These lines about contrived meditation are written in the context of mahamudra. From the standpoint of mahamudra these practices are contrived. In the beginning when you practice mahamudra you need to practice guru yoga because you reach the ultimate by the steps of the relative. Guru yoga is a contrived practice in the beginning, but when you reach the mansion of mahamudra, it contains it, because the guru is the dharmakaya. What this verse states is that you shouldn't get caught up in contrived meditations and think that's all there is. You need to practice the uncontrived meditation of mahamudra. The best meditation to develop mahamudra is guru yoga. Other practices are like the body and mahamudra is the mind. You shouldn't neglect the mind and only develop the body. But you also need to take care of the body.
Q: How do you know if you have achieved stability of mahamudra?
A: There are stages of attaining stability. The first is having an understanding, the second is an experience, the third is perfecting the strength, the fourth is stability. You will know this when you experience it. You can see by how you react when someone gets angry with you. If you respond in kind, you haven't realized the nature of mind. Attaining stability is an even higher level.
Q: Are bodily sensations also thoughts that should be left alone in practice?
A: Yes, they are also thoughts.
Q: What are the dangers with Tantric practice?
A: They are said to be dangerous because they're like putting the knife into the hands of a small child. Tantra is dangerous because we are habituated to disturbing emotions. In tantra these disturbing emotions are not rejected and if you cannot apply tantra to transform them, it's like playing with knives.
Q: So how do you become able to do Tantra?
A: There are preparations like studying the teachings of Buddhism and in particular developing bodhicitta and developing non-attachment. There are stages of engagement in tantra, the preliminaries and there are also stages of practice within tantra.
December 29, 2005
Tibetan Meditation Center