Yeshe Jamyang / Patty Marcotte delivered this talk on August 2, 2020. Unfortunately, the recording of her talk has some issues that prevent it from being displayed. What follows is a transcript of her talk.
Good Morning Friends. My name is Patty. I am a student of Lama Yeshe Jinpa. So glad you are able to join me this morning. Before I begin my talk, we will say the seven line prayer of Guru Rinpoche in english one time and then sing it one time.
Buddha Nature/Our Basic Goodness
For today’s talk, Lama Jinpa requested that I speak about Buddha Nature as it relates to our basic goodness. He asked me,“How does it feel worthy? How does it feel to be alive, to have a fundamental sense of well being?” We can all imagine times when however fleeting we feel connected and free. I am going to share a few examples and hope my examples help you remember your own experiences
For example, when we see a small child’s face smiling back at us or a puppy wagging it’s tail in delight or a noble cat purring at us for attention, we automatically brighten up. Without effort, we find ourselves uplifted. Something in us is sparked. We experience the freshness of life. Joy fills our whole being. We have a spring in our step.
In uncertain times like we are experiencing now, we are at risk of losing touch with this spark. We may find ourselves gazing downward at our feet, forgetting that with just a shift, a blue, limitless sky is inviting us to look up. Our habitual patterns and reactions are very strong. There comes a time when every one of us needs support.
At Lion’s Roar Dharma Center, Lama Jinpa often reminds us that we are doing the whole thing. What does he mean by the whole thing. He means we engage in study, reflection and meditation all at the same time. Doing everything at the same time provides us with the support we need.
This morning, we will spend some time with reflection. Lama la requested that I share a few verses from a very special book with you this morning, “Buddha Nature: The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary.” I am not a scholar and therefore not qualified to give commentary but it is a very moving text as it was inspired by Arya Maitreya and written down by his disciple Asanga, one of the most important spiritual figures of Mahayana Buddhism and the founder of the Yogacara school. There is great value for ordinary people like ourselves in reading the text as the verses are considered the actual speech of Buddha. Buddha gave Maitreya direct permission to share these teachings with Asanga.
We suffer for one Reason
This book speaks to us because each of us possesses Buddha Nature. There are different names for Buddha Nature but for our purposes today, as I mentioned before, we are talking about our basic goodness. Everyone without exception has within them this seed of enlightenment. We suffer for one reason. We suffer because we do not understand reality. Anger, attachment, stupidity, pride, and jealousy are based on this ignorance or this lack of knowing.
Three Turnings of the Wheel
To help people with different abilities, the Buddha gave different levels of teachings. In the first turning of the wheel, he taught the Four Noble Truths. He taught about impermanence and suffering. In the second Turning of the Wheel he emphasized emptiness, that all things lack both concrete substance and self-nature. Although things appear, they have no true existence whatsoever. But emptiness is not blankness and so in the third turning of Wheel, Buddha accentuated the luminous aspect of mind or Buddha Nature.
When the Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma in Varanasi, he did not have to force people to gather around him and listen. He did not plan the teaching, thinking, “I will teach them the Four Noble Truths.” It was not a deliberate act. He was spontaneous and effortless. The Second and Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma were equally unplanned and effortlessly taught. The Uttaratantra Shastra belongs to the third turning of the wheel of Dharma. Lama la requested that I read from the chapter, “the Fourth Vajra Point, the Element but before I read, I want to share a famous story that some of you may know about the disciple who received these teachings from Maitreya, Arya Asanga.
Asanga story of the wounded dog
For 12 years, Asanga meditated and practiced diligently in retreat until one day, feeling heavy hearted and discouraged, he walked away from his retreat cave. As he was walking, he came upon a very sick dog, with deep wounds covered in maggots. He wanted to help the dog but knew if he removed the maggots with his fingers, the maggots would be harmed so he decided to use his tongue but could not bear to look so he closed his eyes. When he opened them, the dog had disappeared and Maitreya stood before him. Asanga asked him, “Why did you not come?” And Maitreya responded, “I was always with you but because of your obscurations you could not see me.” After this meeting, Asanga accompanied Maitreya to his dwelling place in Tushita Heaven where he received many teachings including the Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra.
Read the sacred Texts with Your Heart Mind
Lama la cautions that we should not read sacred texts like the Uttaratantra Shastra with a college student approach. We should engage our heartmind. We imagine the Buddha is talking through Maitreya to Asanga to us. We have an attitude of humility, gentleness and genuineness. In this way we become a vessel, open to receive the teachings. We have the potential for complete enlightenment, the Buddha nature, is our natural possession. Therefore, we need never feel discouraged.
Uttaratantra Shastra An Antidote for Discouragement
Monday evening, Lama Jinpa gave teachings for the Lion’s Roar Buddha Dharma Program. He read passages from the Uttara Tantra Shastra. This was an incredible talk. Lama la said that students sometimes tell him they are not smart enough to understand the classic texts. He said Maitreya’s words are an antidote to this kind of discouragement because over and over, in a multitude of ways Maitreya stresses that everyone, without exception, has Buddha Nature.
Never Give Up
We keep this conviction in our hearts and make a vow to practice because we know if we stay on highway 80, eventually we will get to San Francisco. Of course, along the way, we might get a flat tire or there might be a car accident but we understand that if we keep going, we will get there.
The Uttara Tantra Shastra tells us that we have arrived at our destination already but due to ignorance, we don’t recognize this. Of the 7 billion beings on the planet, every one of them has Buddha Nature with the potential for enlightenment. It does not matter where we come from. It does not matter if we are rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight and so on, we are all the same in this way. Buddha was not just trying to encourage us. He was stating the truth.
A four-line verse that appears in the Uttara Tantra listing three reasons why all sentient beings are never apart from buddha nature:
1. Because the body of complete buddhahood is all pervasive,
2.Because the suchness is indivisible
3. And because of possessing the potential, All beings constantly have the Buddha essence.
The text is divided into seven topics. The first three sections are the three jewels, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The next four concern Buddha Nature, Enlightenment, Qualities and Activities. I am going to read from the section on Buddha Nature, the Vajra Element.
As I read from the text, please remember Lama la’s suggestion to listen with your Heart mind. And remember that these are the words of Buddha Shakyamuni through his regent Maitreya. I will read a few verses.
Connecting with Our Buddha Nature
I would like to share another example related to touching our Buddha Nature. Many of us work in helping professions as teachers, social workers and nurses.Our jobs often feel rigorous and our responsibilities overwhelming. In my job as a speech therapy assistant, I come into contact with children from all walks of life. Over the years, there have been several beautiful moments seared forever in my heart. On one occasion, I had a child on my caseload whom everyone had given up on as he was very troubled and deemed incorrigible. I made a conscious decision to love him and not ask much from him in return. Over the course of several months, something magical began to happen. The child, whom no one liked, started bringing me presents, dandelions and pictures that he drew. I was supposedly helping him but what happened was over time he connected me with my inherent goodness. He melted my heart. He connected me with my Buddha Nature and I connected him with his Buddha Nature. Of course, life was still difficult for my little friend. He had so much pain to deal with, more than I could ever imagine but we connected and shared the struggle with love and this made all the difference.
The Lion’s Roar
Now I will read commentary on the “Maitreya Uttaratantra Shastra” from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye “The Unassailable Lion’s Roar.” What is the Lion’s Roar? I looked up the meaning in preparation for today. This is what I found. The Lion’s Roar has to do with a kind of faith, a kind of trust that our heart can be with whatever comes our way. This confidence is the Lion’s roar. When we identify with our Buddha Nature, we touch our own innate capacity to make the Lion’s Roar.
Enlightenment is already Present
Over and over the text says, dharmakaya is all-pervasive. The end result of complete enlightenment is already present within oneself. The same Buddha Nature that is in the great Masters is also in us. Suchness is indivisible. There is no difference whatsoever between the suchness, or dharmadhatu nature, that is present at the time of complete enlightenment and the suchness that we possess at this moment. They are identical. The suchness of fully enlightened buddhas and the suchness of ordinary beings, like ourselves, is exactly the same.
When we recite the prayers like we did this morning, we say,“May I become a Buddha to benefit all sentient beings.” We take these words to heart. We make a commitment to practice as diligently as we can. If we were offered a plate of gold, we wouldn’t say, “ I will pass for now.” The dharma is a plate of gold.
I will read a few more verses from the Vajra Element.
And now a short commentary by Jomyang Kongtrul Lodro Thaye
Pg 154 commentary
Awakened from a Nightmare
A helpful metaphor I would like to share goes like this. Let’s say a person is asleep and experiencing a nightmare. He is dreaming that a monster is chasing him and he’s terrified. Yet, sitting beside him is another person who is clairvoyant and can perceive that this sleeping person is in the midst of a nightmare. He knows that what this person is experiencing is not true, that the person is actually lying in bed having a dream. So, he will do something to try and wake the person up.
The Buddhas are like the clairvoyant person and sentient beings are like the dreamer. The Buddhas perceive that ordinary sentient beings are deluded. Unable to perceive the nature of things, they suffer. Therefore, teachings are necessary. The clairvoyant person who perceives someone suffering in the dream state feels the need to wake him up. Of course, essentially there is nothing wrong with sleeping, the person is just lying safely on his bed but because the dreamer’s experience is untrue, it’s better that his perception be awakened.
The main hindrances to achieving liberation from samsara and complete enlightenment are disturbing emotions. Studying the Uttara Tantra increases the accumulation of wisdom, or prajna. Once our accumulation of merit and wisdom is increased, we will be able to abandon all that should be abandoned, realize all that should be realized, and uncover our true identity, buddha nature.
Educated Yogis Roped Together
Here at Lion’s Roar, we see ourselves, not as scholars but as educated yogis who speak from our experience. We do the yogic practices, not as cowboy yogis but informed by doctrine. Meditating, reading and listening to many teachings our paths take many twists and turns. We are roped together, helping each other out as we find ourselves together on windy trails with deep crevices, sheer cliffs, and breathtaking vistas.
As Natural as breathing
Sometimes our Buddha Nature reveals itself as glimpses that we can all relate to like when we sit down to a meal with our dear friend and we forget who bought the meal. We only remember that our friend helps us all the time and we want to do something to express this. But it is not an exchange. It’s as natural as breathing. We love our friend and they remind us in small and large ways that we belong too, that we are worthy.
We are so fortunate. Lama Jinpa and Geshe Damchoe are here in person to guide us. Other Lineage holders like Jhado Rinpoche, Khangser Rinpoche, Arjia Rinpoche and so on visit us on a regular basis.
Thank you for listening to my talk. You are the reason Lama Jinpa is here. He wants to help you wake up but on our side, we have to be willing. We have to be open. We have to ask for help. If we say yes, extraordinary things can happen.