Mantra, Scholarship and Closing Thoughts
Lama Jinpa: AHHHHHHHH, I’m teaching you a Dzogchen mantra, Ahhhhh. Sometimes you can begin or end with three ahhhhs: Ahhhhh, Ahhhhh, Ahhhh. Lots of times the Ahhh’s go along with visualizing of a letter, a kind of a rainbow tiglet. But it is just good to say Ahhh and it is good to follow up with “Ahhh oh you did it that way…”
There are a lot of good mantras: “Om Ah Hung”; “Ohhh, Ahhh, you did it that way.”
So Ahhhhh comes from the heart center.
Okay we are going to take a ten minute break. Even on short breaks, maintain Sambhogakaya, Vajra pride – but the pride means you are maintaining helpful royalty. Isn’t that nice? Yeah, I have all my jewels, titles and badges and I will hold the door for you or give you my seat or pick up the trash. I’m willing to be inconvenienced by you. It’s not just doing good on our own time. I’m willing to be inconvenienced by you as I help you out.
Okay Bodhisattva royalty, I’ll see you in 10 minutes. (Break)
In our tradition, of course we rely upon our own experience and practice, but we also rely on our teachers’ scripture and logic. So it’s also traditional for a teacher to say, ‘Okay, I’m giving a teaching on this and this and this. I’m consulting this person, that person, and that text.’ There two books that I especially enjoy, we have many books on Mahamudra and Dzogchen, but the ones I have found most useful are these. First there’s a book by Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche called “Mind at Ease: Self-liberation Through Mahamudra Meditation.” He passed away a little bit early, before I had a chance to meet him or study with him, 5 or 6 years ago. It’s an exceptional book and teaching, and with a forward by Trungpa Rinpoche. It’s nice overview of history and direct experience. I don’t know if we have a copy in our library or not. He goes through the four yogas of Mahamudra and ground, path and fruition Mahamudra. Wonderful!
Even though we can’t get realization by reading, we can definitely get confusion by not reading. (Laughter) So we honor the finger pointing at the moon, particularly if it is pointing in the right direction. The Dzogchen book I used for my teaching on the three points is just called “Dzogchen: Heart Essence of the Great Perfection” by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
So, I was very fortunate to be in San Jose in 1989 when he gave the empowerment for Guru Rinpoche /Padmasambhava and the Eight Manifestations. That was San Jose, 1989, so it has that empowerment in one chapter. It also has a question and answer section, which I always like. The Dalai Lama’s wisdom and compassion is immense so it’s just such a nice overview. Books on Dzogchen are all good in their own way, but these are the ones I recommend if you have to get one. The Dalai Lama looks so young here in the picture – of course in 1989, we were all younger. (laughter) Okay, let’s have questions, comments or complaints.
Q & A
Lama Jinpa: Usually somebody raises their hand and says, “I just don’t get it.” No one has done that yet today, unfortunately.
Question: How can we know if we’ve managed to actually achieve humility?
Lama Jinpa: Things like that can be hard to know. In a monastic situation, you’re sort of always in front of one’s teacher, but for lay people maybe sometimes you have to put it out there, and say “This is my experience.” You have to do that knowing that you’re not going to get instant validation. You might get some- maybe. But probably not. (Laughter)
It isn’t our teachers’ role to do that generally, to say, “Oh, that’s good!” But nevertheless we should bring our experiences to our teacher. Lots of times we have experiences but we dismiss them, and you know, we think I’m letting go of it, I’m not attaching to it, but it maybe it should actually be recognized and built on. And maybe sometimes it’s a genuine realization – we really have incorporated something into our lives and we need the mirror’s feedback. So in our tradition, we always check in with our teacher. We need feedback. It can be kind of embarrassing sometimes but it can also be really confirming. We need to look in the mirror and check.
Question: You mentioned actual lived experience. What do you mean?
Lama Jinpa: What is your actual lived experience right now?
Question: I don’t understand.
Lama Jinpa: Our lived experience is right now, either you’re talking or I’m listening; you’re writing. You’re moving your head.
Question: What would be an actual lived experience?
Lama Jinpa: Well actually, a non-lived experience is when you have a huge amount of explanation and commentary surrounding an experience. Rather than a lived experience, we have a commentary because we’re just habituated to refer to our own internal commentary. Commentary is just a kind of echo. Something can be a lived experience, but usually we get caught in thinking about our explanation about it; we get caught in our overview, which is like a film, a fiction.
With actual lived experience, we’re thinking what’s going on right now but we can also bring forth memories when someone asks about something – it doesn’t have to be right now, “I am blinking.” As we go deeper and deeper, the actual lived experience is the three times. So I get annoyed with Ekhart Tolle fanatics who say, “Well you know there is just the now.” There is the now but it is a long ‘now’. (Laughter)
With a certain amount of insight there is a “now” that was our childhood experience too; many people can recall more vividness there, their childhood experience or their first experience of something and bring that really clearly forth, rather than just like a vague memory. So when you’re talking with someone who is in touch with their whole flow of experience, it doesn’t have to be like now now. We have past now. We have future now. But usually if you say now, people will go into their heads and just give an explanation. That now is more like just clock time.
Clock time is one way to talk about ‘now’, but our actual lived experience is the whole span of our life. It’s just not our explanation about it. For example I’ve said before, like in couple’s therapy, when I work with couples, usually people are kind of upset with each other. Maybe this is stereotypical, but the wife will say, “I don’t feel any love from you anymore” and the husband will say, “I’ve told you a million times that I love you.” That would not be the actual lived experience of love. Would it? (Laughter) “You know I love you – I bought you a new vacuum for your birthday. You know I love you.” These are true quotes! (laughter.)
A more loving thing might be a loving smile or a loving gesture, a lived experience. It’s hard when we’re feeling defensive. We kind of go into our heads and scramble. But a lot of people’s childhood as well as their future is very alive for them and they can draw on that. So we can’t just say our actual lived experience is the now clock time because how long is the now clock time?
Question: You were talking about single-pointedness. Can you say more?
Lama Jinpa: Yes. I mean it’s kind of metaphor, a kind of dangerous metaphor; in English we kind of drill down and funnel down on things. With the single-pointedness metaphor, you want to be a needle with one point so you can pass completely through all the cloth, whereas if you’re a needle with two points, you can get stuck. But we hear single point, and we’re like ZZZzzzzzt, we’re drilling down. We hear it as too much like that.
In a sense, single-pointed is like, not distracted. Shamatha for example is like really single pointed concentration. So your attention can simply rest there, just really present. I call it, ‘You don’t want to be anywhere else.’ “I’m really happy to be looking at this thing or being with this person’” I’m not thinking, “When is this going to be over?” So you are just happy to be present with it. In Shamatha there is a sense of bliss.
I got a real compliment from one of my professors in grad school after he graded our MMPI’s. I don’t know if people know what that is – it’s a really old psych test that tests for a whole bunch of sort of deficiencies. He said, “You tested really high for a tolerance of boredom. You’d be really happy watching paint dry.” (Laughter) He knew that I was a dharma practitioner.
Question: Does single-pointed mean fixated?
Lama Jinpa: No, not at all. We tend to see one-pointed as fixated, but when you tell people to concentrate, you’ll notice their brow wrinkles and their jaw tightens or something. Yeah they fixate. We’re trained that way as kids, it’s like funneling.
A big part of sitting meditation is to have an open gaze that at the same time is non-distracted, because we’re used to having this kind of trauma gaze that’s funneling. That’s what happens in fight or flight responses, the visual field is narrowed and fixated. Single-pointed is different.
In Mahamudra, I call it listening gaze. The mind rests on nothing, just space. Ironically, the suggestion is ‘rest in the natural state.’ Everyone goes, “Where is the freaking natural state?!?” The joke is you don’t have to rest on anything because we are the space. In fact, we are everything we experience, so there’s no need to go anywhere. There’s no need to escape – so what is there to worry about? There is absolutely nothing that you can meet that is not your own experience.
Question: Can you please repeat that last thing?
Lama Jinpa: There is nothing that you can meet that is not your own experience. If it isn’t your own experience, if you cannot meet it, you cannot experience it. Then what is it? It is a concept.
It’s important to know what these terms really mean in relation to training and practice. We just may be using different languages or translations, or using different emphases depending upon the skillful means of the audience. Like in the Diamond Sutra, in Sanskrit, the Vajracchedikā Prajnaparamita Sutra it says, “The Bodhisattva produces the mind that rests on nothing.”
We’re always going to want some kind of substratum, it’s instinctive. That’s very deep. We always sort of believe there has to be something underneath that’s giving it structure, so that with the majority of religions, we think there’s something behind it that gives it structure or value, like believing there are gold bars in back of the dollar which there are not, so we are always looking for that, and the Buddha said there is nothing behind the experience, guys.
So we should always be looking for that – that’s good news! There’s nothing binding us! There’s nothing hidden! It’s all right here! It is all right here. We think, “That can’t be true. That’s too easy.” You can’t make money off of that – but it’s true.
Question: So we are actually free.
Lama Jinpa: Yes, we are actually free, liberated, right now. So we could all quit right now, right, but we stay around because even with a little insight, it feels good and we wish to expand it. And then we realize that there are many people that we love and care for, and many people who we don’t even know, who are stuck and suffering and we want to use skillful mean to work with that. That spontaneous compassion is an expression of awareness, of Rigpa, Yeshe. It’s weird. Life is weird.
Question: But what about karma?
Lama Jinpa: As far as our karma goes, we have the motivation and we’re creating the action which has the result, so with what we have done, we can look back and reflect. Somebody made the building and now we can paint it. So it is here. In a sense it looks predetermined, but it isn’t.
Question: But aren’t we creating it?
Lama Jinpa: That could get a little New Agey, where we say, “Everyone creates their own space and blah blah blah.” Rigpa and Yeshe, fundamental mind, is not created by anybody. So when we say ‘created and dissolved’, that is relative truth – emptiness and inter-independence, that is not born and it is not dying. You know we Buddhists don’t go, “That’s your karma. You screwed up, so you have it this way.” There is no determinism, but once you’ve screwed up, it takes work to change it. There’s no instant fix. You all know there are different karmic paths.
Maybe we can end with a meditation.
But before we do our prayers and dedication, here’s a quick review. In our tradition, the foundation and preparation are essential. If you want to build a pyramid that’s high, you need a broad foundation. When starting practice, before you really get your day going in the morning, you still have zero state. You have Rigpa state, where you’re just kind of there. So zero, and then we do our dream and reverie, Nine Breaths and energy work and then we do the prayers and then we’re sitting. We’re doing those preparations and reading too. We’ve covered our energetic side. We’ve covered our mind side. We’ve covered our intellectual side. We’ve traversed our entire mandala, so when we are ready to do direct recognition of mind, we’re prepared.
A lot of times, people are like I was at the beginning saying, “I don’t want to read the directions, I just want to sit. I don’t want to read all the prayers, I just want to sit.” But then when I did, it was humbling to read the books, to develop the aspiration do the energy work. I was under the impression that real yogis just kind of sit on the cushion and it just works out. Well, maybe after eons and eons monkeys with typewriters will compose Shakespeare. (Laughter)
But you know, Vajrayana is the fast track – we want to get it done. It takes more discipline, and in some sense it’s riskier, because we have all these practices we want you to do, and we’re doing a lot anyway. We brush our teeth, we brush our hair, we feed the cat. We do a lot of things anyway, and then more. Whereas in some other traditions, they just sit – Buddha mind will manifest. They’re safer, but they’re slower. Okay? You may not get that high of realization. Things may bubble up but without energy work, prayers, and a teacher, you’re just sitting. It’s fine, but it’s slow.
With Vajrayana, we do emphasize some study. We particularly emphasize energy work, doing the inner yogas, doing the things that really turbo-charge the Guru Yoga practice. You know things like that are turbo-charged so when we do a direct recognition practice, direct liberation practice, Mahamudra /Dzogchen, we’re prepared. When we jump off the diving board, we’ve trained. That is our tradition. As we gradually get more stability, we can increase our sitting time. But that’s because we have the right foundation through motivation and so forth. That’s easy.
If you practiced for eons, many things would gradually bubble up, but not necessarily very quickly. Frogs sit a long time – maybe we’re frogs on some level. Seriously, it looks like we do more in Vajrayana, but the motivation for that, in my experience, is that this is a faster and deeper path. I’m just putting a little pitch for our school. The teachers for all of the schools have made a lot of practice and energy work. They have a lot of energy. They do a lot of stuff. They have a lot of bodhicitta. How is that possible?