Three Approaches of Zen

The Three Divisions of Ch’an Buddhism by Zen Master Zongmi (Tsung-mi)
There are various schools of Ch’an mutually conflicting with each other. The doctrines preached by these established sects are contradictory and obstructive to each other.
Some of them

  • Regard Emptiness (sunyata) as the foundation
  • Some regard Wisdom (prajna) as the source.
  • Some say that only Silence is true;
  • Some that [all actions such as] walking and sitting are right.
  • Some claim that from morning to evening all actions arising from the view (drsti) of discrimination (vikalpa) are false
  • Some say all discriminate doings are real.
  • Some preserve all the myriad practices;
  • Some suppress even Buddhas.
  • Some give free course to their will;
  • Some restrain their mind.
  • Some respect the sutras and the vinayas as authorities to rely on;
  • Others regard both of them as obstacles to the Tao…

Essentially speaking, when these doctrines are viewed in a limited perspective, each of them is wrong; while looking at them from a comprehensive perspective, all of them are right
One has to use the words of Buddha, to show the meaning and the advantages of each school, and thus to classify these teachings into three divisions corresponding with the three teachings [of Buddhism]. Unless this is done, how can one become a skilful teacher of the age and make all the schools important and wonderful entrances to the law (Dharma)?
The Sect Which Taught the Cessation of Falsity and the Cultivation of Mind
Firstly, the sect which taught the stopping of falsity and the cultivation of mind.
Although it is said that all sentient beings innately possess the Buddha-nature (buddhata), yet the Nature cannot be seen as it is covered up by the beginningless ignorance (avidya), and they are, therefore, dragged within the wheel of birth and death (samsara).
When Buddhas have eliminated false thought, they see their Nature in its fullest extension; they are freed from the bondage of birth and death and acquire super-natural powers and independence.
One should be aware of the different functions of common men and saints, and this difference exists both in their treatment of external objects and in their mind within.
It is, therefore, necessary for [disciples to]

  • rely on the spoken teaching of a master,
  • to detach themselves from outward objects and
  • contemplate their mind,
  • thus to extinguish false thoughts.

When thoughts are completely extinguished, one immediately attains Enlightenment (bodhi), which is omniscient.
It is like a mirror obscured by dust; one has to cleanse it diligently; only when the dust is wiped out completely, does the mirror become bright and able to reflect all things.
One should also have a clear understanding about skillful means to enter into the realm of Dhyana: to keep oneself far away from confusion and noise, to stay in a quiet place, to harmonize one’s body and breath, and sit cross-legged in silence, putting the tongue upward against the palate and concentrating the mind on one point.
Zongmi explains that the Buddha has seen that the Six Ways of sentient beings (the six conditions of transmigration) in the Three Worlds (of Desire, of Matter and Immaterial) are all Characters of the True Nature itself. They originate from the sentient beings being deluded about the True Nature substance in itself; and do not have any substance of their own; therefore their nature is said to be Dependent (paratantra).
For those whose faculties are dull, it is impossible to be awakened (from the delusion). So the Buddha discourses on the Law according to the Characters which they see, in order to ferry them over gradually. Therefore it is called discourse on Characters. As Ultimate Truth is not expressly revealed in this teaching it is called esoteric (mi-i – having a hidden meaning)
Scholar Jan Yün-Hua mentions that, “This sect destroys the attachment to external objects by the theory of Consciousness-only. When people understand that external objects are merely projections of subjective consciousness, they will not attach themselves to phenomena. They will then devote themselves to the cultivation of consciousness. This is what he calls cessation of falsity and cultivation of Mind.
The Sect of Emptiness
Secondly, the sect which taught absolute annihilation (cessation), this is to say that everything, both profane and sacred is dreamlike illusion and entirely non-existent. Original non-existence does not begin from the present. Even the knowledge which leads one to attain to nothingness is unobtainable.
In the Dharmadhtu which is all identity (samata) there are no Buddhas nor sentient beings; the Dharmadhatu itself is merely a borrowed name.
If the mind is non-existent, who will talk about Dharnadhatu?
As the cultivation itself is non-existent, one should not cultivate; and as Buddhas are non-existent, so their worship is unnecessary.
If one claims that there is a Dharma which is better than Nirvana, I would still say that it is a dreamlike illusion.
There is no Law to follow, nor a Buddhahood for one to attain.
Whatever the effort, all is deluding and false. To avoid going against truth, the only way is thus to understand thoroughly that originally nothing exists, and that one should not attach his mind to any thing.
Only after this is one called liberated. From Shih-t’ou and Ox-head down to Ching-shan, all preached this doctrine.
They consequently asked their disciples to practice mentally in accordance with this doctrine, and not to let their feelings be hindered by any single Dharma.
In course of time the defiled habits would be eliminated by themselves, and one would be without any obstacles from hate or affection, sorrow or happiness.
Because of this doctrine, there were a kind of Taoist priests, Confucian scholars and idle Buddhist monks who had some vague knowledge of Ch’an and liked to speak such words and regard them as the highest.
These people are, however, not aware of the fact that this sect does not regard only these words as being its law.
The disciples of Ho-tse, Chiang-hsi and T’ien-t’ai are also preaching this teaching, though they did not regard it as their principal doctrine.
Zongmi clarifies this as follows:
According to the ultimate meaning of Truth, the false tenets are originally empty, so there is nothing to negate. All pure Dharmas are originally the True Nature, and have forever their wonderful functions in accordance with circumstances. Therefore, they are also not to be negated. However, there is a kind of sentient beings who are unable to awake, as their vision is obstructed by attachment to empty Characters. So the Buddha negates all Characters without distinction of good and evil or pure and impure. He considers both the True (Buddha) Nature and its wonderful functions as not non-existent; but he cannot discuss it explicity and he says they are non-existent. That is what is called esoteric teaching. It also means that the intention of the teaching is to reveal the True Nature, but its linguistic expression only negates Characters. Since the intention is not explicitly expressed, that is why it is called esoteric (secret).
(This is also the teaching of inference. Where the nature isn’t directly pointed to but can be stumbled upon. This is characterized by the Zen stories featuring Masters lifting fingers, raising eyebrows, shouting, hitting, Joshu’s MU)
The Sect of the Direct Discovery of Mind-Nature
Thirdly, the sect which taught direct revelation of the Mind-nature: this is to say that all Dharmas, whether existent or empty, are nothing but the absolute Nature (Buddha Nature).
The absolute Nature is characterless and nonactive, and its substance differs from all phenomena; it is neither profane nor sacred, neither cause nor effect, neither good nor evil.
Nevertheless, the functioning of the substance is able to create all kinds of manifestations, meaning that it is capable of manifesting itself as profane or sacred, as material forms or other characters.
Here, one may point out two kinds of manifestations of Mind-Nature.
First, things such as language and action, desire and hatred, compassion and patience, good and evil deeds, suffering and enjoyment, all these are the Buddha-nature in yourselves; they are the original Buddha [in you] apart from which there is no other Buddha.
When one understands that this natural reality is spontaneous (svayambhu), the longing for cultivation of the Tao does not arise in one’s mind. The Tao is the Mind itself; one cannot use the Mind to cultivate the Mind.
Evil also is the Mind itself; one cannot cut off the Mind with the Mind itself. Non-cutting and noncultivating, following one’s self-nature freely, may be called liberation (vimoksa).
The (Mind-) Nature resembles emptiness; nothing can be added to it nor taken away from it.
What necessity is there for completing it?
The only thing one has to do is to stop one’s own Karma and to nourish one’s own spiritual power, at all times and places where one lives, thus to strengthen the womb of holiness and to manifest the wonder of spontaneity.
This is the true awakening. the true cultivation and the true realization.
Second, they say, all Dharmas are dreamlike illusions, and this has been taught by all saints.
Originally, therefore, false thought is calm, worldly phenomena are empty, and the empty and calm Mind is self-knowing and never obscured.
This empty and calm knowledge is your own real Nature; whether deluded or enlightened, the Mind is always self-knowing.
It does not depend on other conditions for birth, nor does it arise from external objects.
The one word (awareness) is the gate to all wonders.
Being deluded by the beginningless ignorance, one wrongly grasps his physical body (rupa) and mental elements (nama) as the Self, from which thoughts of desire, hatred and so forth arise.
If one has a good and learned friend to open and indicate the empty and calm knowledge of Sudden Enlightenment, and [to indicate] that the knowledge itself is thoughtless and formless, then who will make a distinction between self and others ?
When one realizes that all characters are empty, thoughts will naturally not remain in his mind.
When a thought arises, one is immediately aware of it; and with this awareness, thought becomes nothing.
The wonderful gate of religious cultivation is here and not elsewhere.
Although a myriad ways of cultivation are available, yet the Absence of Thought is the principal.
Only when one becomes aware of the Absence of Thought, do love (raga) and hatred (dvesa) naturally become calm; compassion (karuna) and wisdom (prajna) naturally become brighter; evil karmic effects are naturally cut off, and meritorious actions naturally advance.
After one thoroughly understands that all characters are no characters, one naturally cultivates without cultivation.
When passions are ended, one is freed from the bondage of birth and death.
When birth and death are annihilated, one is confronted with Nirvana-illumination, whose responses to the needs are inexhaustible; and this is called Buddha-hood.
[Despite their differences] these two views are both aimed at the unity of all characters and the return to (Buddha-) Nature. They are, therefore, to be considered as having the same principle.
The third type of Buddhist thought is termed by Tsung-mi as “the exoteric teaching revealing that the True Mind itself is the (Buddha) Nature”.
He comments this formula as follows,

“This teaching directly points to the Mind as being the True (Buddha) Nature. The revelation of Truth is limited neither by phenomenal nor by mental Characters, so it is said that Mind itself is the (Buddha) Nature. As this teaching is not through the skillful means of esotericism, it is called exoteric revelation.”

Scholar Jan Yün-Hua mentions that,

“These passages show that Tsung-mi considers all the doctrines and practices of Ch’an Buddhism as devices only. In other words, while he recognizes that the fundamental problems of the phenomenal world are basically the same, yet the spiritual needs may be different from man to man. Therefore, there is no dispute about the painful aspect of worldly life, but there do exist differences about the means or the ways helpful to each individual.

The three divisions mentioned above are further divided by their attitudes towards traditional “teaching”: either looking up to it or looking down on it, either following its characters or destroying them. Their methods for the refutation of external challenge, their skillful means towards the lay community, their modes and manners of teaching disciples, are varied and different. All these differences, however, are modes of action beneficial to and adapted to circumstances. There is no loss therein. The principle which they respect is non-dual. This is why they should be understood comprehensively in accordance with the words spoken by Buddha.

Each of these devices are useful and helpful only to certain groups of people to which the device is suitable and adopted. As far as these people are concerned, it is correct and productive; however, if one proclaims the device to be the only absolute or ultimate way to salvation, and imposes it upon other people, then the device becomes an obstacle rather than a help. After all, there is no single medical formula that is capable of curing all kinds of diseases.

This recognition of the individual need is one of the most distinct contributions of Ch’an Buddhism. Ch’an Buddhists pointed out that if any religious man chose an unsuitable device for spiritual cultivation, it would be impossible for him to attain the expected fruit. In that case, religious practice may become a source of suffering, rather than of liberation from suffering. Ch’an therefore laid stress on the freedom of choice as to the means adopted to reach the religious goal.”



Where Do I Start?

Where Do I Start? Transcribed

Okay, so we’re doing live Dharma talks.
So is there any insights, revelations, challenges, frustrations since the last time I’ve seen you guys?
Come on – I know all of the above?
Yeah go ahead? Let’s do it.
Student: I just want to know where to start?
Zen Master E: You already did – you already started.
Student: Okay.
Zen Master E: But – clarify. What do you mean? Why do you feel like you haven’t started? And What is it starting mean to you? Yeah.
Student: I guess – what does starting mean? I think I have a thing in my mind of what it looks like and I’m not like doing that.
I’m like not good.
Zen Master E: You’re a terrible person. You’re a terrible practitioner. A terrible human being.
Well, you gotta let that shit go. You carried that all the way here. You okay?
Student: Yeah
Students husband: We drove
Zen Master E: You drove? Of course – that was heavy (to carry that burden) the car must have been leaning.
What does it look like for you?
Student tries to answer: Ummmm…
No! From your heart. Not from your head.
What does practice mean for you? Right? You need to clarify that because I mean, like, you feel like you want to sit more?
Student: Yeah.
Zen Master E: Okay. So do it. But what does that look like then? Right. Is it a morning sit? An afternoon sit? An evening sit?
You’re busy lady.
Student: Yeah, I’m like bogged down by all of that. Yeah. And then I just don’t do it.
Zen Master E: Oh, that’s, that’s terrible. You’re a terrible person.
But this is our story. All of our story, right?
Yeah. Raise your hands if this is your story. (All the people there emphatically raised their hands)
Right? And I’m not hard enough. Not long enough. Not frequent enough. Everything. Right?
So we have to see. And that’s why for us in our tradition, we use multiple…
Okay, so couple things. Okay.
You know, that fundamental presence that you guys experienced in meditation right there?
Students: Yeah
Zen Master E: That’s your fundamental natural state – available to you at all times.
Doesn’t matter.
You’re running, sleeping, having sex, everything.
It’s always there, permeates and penetrates everything.
No matter what you do – sinner or saint.
It doesn’t matter.
It’s always there. Right?
We believe that it’s not.
These practices do not generate awakening, enlightenment, whatever you want to call it. actualize Buddha. No. They remove all the obscurations, so that you can see what’s naturally present.
So that natural presence is your natural state,
Always available to you.
Right now it’s listening to me. It’s seeing me, You don’t have to do – sinner or saint it doesn’t matter.
It’s always there.
We believe that it’s not.
These practices DO NOT generate awakening, enlightenment, whatever you want to call it – actualized Buddha.
They remove all the obscurations so you can see what’s naturally present.
So that natural presence is your natural state.
Always available to us.
Now it’s listening to me. It’s seeing me.
You don’t have to do anything right now for all of this to arise for you.
In moments throughout the day – we call it snap back right?
Notice it aright?
And it’s good, when you’re having an emotional charge, the moment that you notice that you’re off your throne, getting whipped around by karma, by emotions, whatever it is, that noticing, who is it that’s noticing?
Who’s that?
So cool, just snap back into that presence, into that spaciousness.
The energy and the patterns and whatever is still going to be rolling through the body – but boom there it is.
(Zen Master E gives other upaya for those who are having trouble with the Resting in the Radiance)
Even the single breath, the breath is the medicine. Right? The breath is with you everywhere. Right?
This body, Right?
Come back to the breath.
We have to let go of our fixed concepts of what practice is.
In the Zen tradition we say there’s multiple gates.
Are you a meditation gate?
Chanting gate?
Bowing gate?
What’s your gate?
Maybe in one day, you’ve gone in and out of 62 different gates.
Who cares?
For us – so a lot of things right – so we have a lot of (upaya) skillful means at our disposal. Right? And we are all lay practitioners. All very busy. Right?
So we need – we have different medicines for different environments, Right? Yeah.
When I’m in the car, I play the mantras. I play Mantra practice all the time, Right?
Sometimes I give myself a target, Right? I want to do X for – say we’re doing a teaching – when we’re in a series, right?
Because we’re going to do OM MANI PADME HUM.
So for us – to bring that power and blessings I did 100,000 of those for us. Right. So that when you guys get the empowerment for OM Mani Padme Hum, you get the power.
I did that for you guys. Right?
Boom, they get a kickstart, you know to get you going. Right. Yeah. Again, right.
You have to get clear, right?
Clear motivation (Bodhicitta) right.
Your practice right now is just for you.
This is part of the problem, too. Right?
When it’s just for us, then it’s easy for us to call in sick.
Right? Yeah, You know, this as a mom.
I never realized how much power this body has until I hadn’t slept for four days and the kid cried in the middle of the night and next thing I know, I’m up – I’m not fully awake, but I’m there.
Talks in sweet voice – “Hey there – it’s OK. You want the bottle? (Knocks the bottle to the floor) You don’t want the bottle. OK – I’ll pick that up later.”
It’s amazing, right?
As parents, we need to see that too. Right?
You already have it innate within you. Right?
When “the practice” is just for us then – no.
When my practice switched to like, “Yeah – why can’t we all be free?” and “I’m going to, I’m going to do it! I’m going to awaken and then I’m going to awaken all of us.”
My life, in that moment, was no longer my own.
I made a promise right then and there, I’d taken the Bodhisattva Vow a couple times by that time – didn’t matter – that’s when I really took the Bodhisattva Vow – it was four or five in the morning in the middle of a grocery store I was working nights. Right? No more of this (a life of pleasure and selfishness) As I was getting clearer and clearer and clearer on the true purpose of my life. And it hit me – at that time was delirious, exhausted. I was listening to a Dharma podcast at that time period.
I had already been steering my life that way. Steering I knew it – or getting back on track to that.
Because at a certain point, I started to believe in the “should’s”
Terrible. That guy’s terrible. This guy’s way better.
So – my practice was already pretty good. Right? Because I’m, I’m a meditator. Right? But then it just like, (makes explosion sound).
Then it’s no longer my practice.
Why do I do this?
For you.
He’s hurting… (points to one of the students) And – of course I need to do this now.
There’s no question.
So when we move it out of us, for the benefit of all beings.
Why do I do that? Why do I wake up at five in the morning to do this?
Go upstairs, start the coffee and go over and you guys saw my the altar right?
I start, I start every day I offer incense to the Buddha, to my personal teacher on the physical realm (Zen Master Hwasun Yangil) Padmasambhava on the Sambhogakaya, the energy realm let’s say, then the Dharmakaya, well, and the lineage – you see that little blue book that’s the lineage book. So my name’s in there and I’m part of that lineage and I thank all of those people for all that they’ve done for us, because they’ve done tons. Sacrificed way more than I can ever imagine. To make sure the Dharma got to us here. I thank those people. I thank the fundamental nature of mind, Right?
I pray for you guys.
I do prostrations.
I ask for things, right. Blessings, wisdom, compassion, whatever the thing is for that day, usually it’s a certain things, I thank and I accept.
By that time coffee’s done.
Then I go fill up the coffee’s for me and Andy. And then by that time period she’s usually finishing the shower. And I know I have a little coffee cup for her. I bring the coffee cup downstairs for her. That’s how she likes it. There you go. And then I get in the shower.
I don’t have time to sit in the morning.
And I don’t beat myself up for that. I’ve adapted my practice. Right?
Then I hop in the car and mantras come on. I do the mantras, whatever the mantra is for that time period or whatever I’m working on or teaching that we’re going to come to right?
Oh, then I get to work.
At work I got a mobile practice.
What’s my mobile practice? ATHA – I chew on the Koan – Alllllll day long.
When I’m not engaged as Ian manager guy, people need me, I need to do stuff, I’m chewing on the Koan.
There’s that.
Then again, my job is my temple too, you need to start to look at this too. I was telling the kids this this weekend. I was like guys, we need to – the house is the temple.
When you’re at the temple – because they’ve been coming to temple with me more and more now because they’re older. Thursdays I go and I train with my teacher. But then every so often I go for the big ceremonies when my teacher wants me there. So “hey guys”, when they’re with me, I bring them with me.
And so yeah, so when we’re at Temple it’s so easy, right? When you guys go to clean this (points to the tea set), you don’t even think about it you just do it. Right? But when you go to clean the dishes at home, “Oh my god – the dishes – why doesn’t anybody ever help me with the dishes?” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah dishes story. Story. Whoa is me, Right?
Notice. Listen to that. You just created suffering world for yourself.
(Make poof sound like a magician creating something)
It just arose.
Shut up.
Do the dishes.Because the dishes are the practice then right? And then Okay, no problem. So then I got a stereo in the kitchen now and I played the mantras and I got the whole family into the mantras now.
But if it’s just me I just feel and see the soap and the bubbles and everything. There’s no “Ian” doing the dishes there’s dishes getting done. There’s no “Ian” “doing” “the” “dishes”. There’s just the dishes getting done. I’m just watching it all happen. Look at this.
You walked from the car into the place – how many steps did you take?
How many steps go up and down your house?
Right. It’s interesting, right?
Do you remember putting on your shoes this morning?
Interesting, Right?
Our whole life is the practice – if we drop what we believe the practice is.
Everything is the practice.
Everything that you’re doing is the practice. Every conversation that you have is the practice, right?
I like it within the Christian tradition where Jesus is like, “Hey, yeah, yeah yeah you love me? That’s great. But now see everybody like me.”
Can you do that? Can you see the Buddha in everybody?
They showing up – they’re being a jerk to you, that’s the Buddha, “Oh yeah you said earlier that you want to be more compassionate and patient eh?”
Baka Baka Baka Baka (person being annoying)
Thank you Buddha.
That’s the Buddha just showing up there. You think it’s Henry or whoever but no – the Buddha went into that person and made that guy a puppet for you to show you.
So drop what you think it is – drop this pressure that you have on yourself.
Yeah, man.
Even to just distill it simply that’s why I love Maitreya’s practice. Maitreya, the coming Buddha, they say that he did one practice to awaken – loving kindness.
He was just loving and kind to everybody, everything and himself.
Maybe that’s your practice.
Because it looks like you need some love and kindness for yourself.
Too hard for yourself. Okay?
(student starts to cry)
Good. It’s good.
Feel that hurt.
That’s the thing, right? We’re messy practitioners. Okay. Life is messy. And we love the shit out of it. That’s what we do. We just love. And we see and we know, “Oh god why are you holding this? Stop holding it. Give me it. Put it here, I can carry it. Okay?
That’s why in the Buddhist tradition, we remember refuge, right?
I can’t hold it – I give it to Buddha.
I give it to my teachers I give it to the lineage, I can’t hold – this little tiny (holds heart), trying to hold all the sorrow of the world in this little heart.
I can’t do that. I need to increase my capacity and the only way I can do that is to surrender myself. Completely.
That’s The beautiful thing about the Christian tradition – give it up.
The hell man.
Why are you holding all this stuff?
Just let it go.
Just release it. Right?
Because if not, look at all those hell worlds that you created for yourself.
That’s why in the Zen tradition they just point right back at your mind. Right?
Just look, you’re creating all these different realms.
The human realm is the best. It’s the sweet spot. Because it’s the Goldilocks. You’re not like a god. Right? But we see even see it right? People with money and money and money.
They can just build a giant moats right around themselves and they never even need to know that the world exists. Right.
But that can only last so long.
‘Till the money runs out. Fortune favor and then next thing you know, one moment it’s here, one moment it’s gone.
The practice is important.
But we have to lose what we believe “the practice” is.
You’ll see different different people “No this is the practice. This is the practice. And this is the practice.”
Here, how many practices have given us already tons, right? Even just in this talk right here. There’s tons, you just ride one of those to the end. Right. And that’s the thing, right? We pick this up and you pick this up.
You resonate with something, some sort of practice – just pour yourself into it.
The best practice, is to Rest in the Radiance. That’s the best. But sometimes it’s hard. Because it’s so simple. That can’t it – Come on Ian. That can’t be it.
Okay, All right, then do some mantras and do that thing. Alright alright – I’m tricking you, you know,
Resting in that presence in the radiance – that’s the practice because that’s the great remembering.
When we’re in that space, like the word I used, familiar, used to it, such that when life comes crashing at you, “Oh look at that! It’s like watching a picture show.”
Sometimes even still, the body will have reactions, “Wow – look at that – that’s interesting.”
Just to be staying on the throne, Right?
So this – when we’re in this posture, whatever the comfy, stable posture is, what we’re doing isn’t meditation.
It’s actualizing your Buddha nature. Period.
So until we get familiar completely, then yeah, we do these other things, too.
But we have to see we are so busy, right? We have to remember we’re lay practitioners, Right? We we have jobs, kids, bills, commitments, all this stuff.
So we need an adaptive and fluid practice. Right?
The fundamental is the great remembering.
Always there ever present.
Nothing you can do can make it any better, or any worse. Yeah.
Sometimes we got to work the energy through.
Prostrations are great for that. Anybody done prostrations work? You’ve done it some? Little bit.
Prostrations right where you do bowing.
Yeah. And full right out. Oh, you haven’t done the full one. Yeah.
It’s really good. Right?
Like, if you feel like you have a lot of kinetic or a lot of emotion, or a lot of things trapped in here that you’re working through?
Do some full on bows, man, you’re going work that stuff out. Yeah, give it over. Right?
If it’s not the Buddha, then give it to wisdom, to compassion, to the universe, whatever the word is, put whatever you want in there, I don’t care.
Give it up, give it away. It’s too much for you to hold on to.
It’s obvious. It’s too much – our limited capacity.
Just adapt, adapt, tweak, tweak your practice. And if it’s no longer, You know, it’s no longer the mantra work, then it’s no longer the mantra then.
Thank you mantra.
We just move on.
Yeah. Well, that’s a good thing about our tradition is that we’re not fixed.
Right? It’s not a fixed form. We have a messy form.
Why though?
Because we trust the innate Buddha Nature in each and every one of us.
This is the trick.
I trust the innate wisdom within you. Right?
When you show up here, that’s all I keep magnetizing out of you. That’s it.
You come – bring problems, whatever I don’t care about those.
Yeah, you think – problems are infinite. Just when you think one finishes another, and another and then another, another another.
OK. So the problem is not the problem. Right?
The problem is, you can’t see your own potential.
I can see it.
That’s why I cry for you guys.
I pray for you guys.
I beseech all the Buddha’s, my teachers, the lineage and the fundamental nature of mind itself.
“Please watch over them, care for them, guide them. Help them swiftly and easily awaken.
This is a big thing lately: Give up the hard lessons.
Stop asking for it to be hard.
Just smooth. Easy.
“Please bring me the support, the guidance and the wisdom that I need. The grace and the understanding the patience. Thank you.”
It’s one thing to ask. But we have to thank, Right? You need to own that stuff. Right? You’re gonna suck at it. Yeah, come on.
Come on, you’re not that good. Come on, right.
Just be real man. This is the this is the other thing with our practice, Right? Like people, some people that are caught in, like, what the practice looks like, are going to have trouble with our group and our style and everything like this. Right?
We fundamentally believe in the fundamental good in each and every one of us.
Sometimes it’s really hard to see. Right?
But we, we see it in them. Which means guess what? We see it in ourselves.
So we keep trusting it, seeing it.
When we come here we get more and more familiar.
Confident is good word in it, Right?
Doubt is the mind killer, is the heart killer really, as the awakening killer, Right?
And the teacher, the teachers, biggest job is to give you confidence again, in yourself and the fundamental goodness of each person.
Right? We were talking about this last week, where where did the Buddha come from?
What is the fundamental ground of Buddha’s?
Sentient beings.
Where do they come from?
Everyone you’re looking at is Buddha’s.
That’s why in one of the pieces that I wrote down as “It’s so funny to see Buddha’s looking for Buddha’s.”
This is crazy.
This is nuts.
And when we’re resting in the radiance, when we’re deep within that practice, when we continue to soften, letting go right in that state – come on – are you gonna do anything, anything bad? You gonna hurt anybody? You gonna say any crazy shit that’s gonna wound somebody deeply? No!
So that’s why we just get familiar here.
At the seat of Buddhahood, which is your Buddha hood, Right?
The fundamental nature is the same for each and every one of us. Right?
When we go on a retreat, I’m probably going to try to do an experiment where when we’re in the meditate, we’re gonna describe the meditation.
And you’ll see, we’ll write it down somewhere and I’ll be like, “You just described Buddha.”
You think you’re not. It’s crazy.
But when Buddha gets off this chair to go out into the world – Protibha Buddha, Sally Buddha, Mary Buddha, Christina Buddha, Greg Buddha.
So then the practice is to be authentically and fully you. To allow the Buddha juice to flow through you. As you. Is you.
I don’t have your life.
So just live your life for me.
Fully, freely. Right? And that’s what the teacher wants for you to be open and free and to laugh and to love again to dance as well.
To dance again.
Mary posted a videos and she was dancing in the middle of the house.
Just to be free to be freely ourselves. Oh my god. What is that like?
Right? That’s the thing with my kids, man. I just keep telling them, “This is your dad guys. I’m gonna pretend to be somebody else.”
A dad.
Like they screwed up the other day somethin bad amd I was like, “Hey! Okay. I don’t want to be that guy. So this is practice time. And I said, in the world, people are going to lose their minds if you did this to them. Right? Because they didn’t come home.So I had to go out and find them. Right. I said you had one job – you made a promise to me. This is practice, Okay. This is Practice. There was no remorse? None nothing. I said why are you guys beings asshole right now. Come on, lead with your heart. You feelin bad? Yea we’re feeling bad. Then why didn’t you just lead with that? I said, this is practice for the “real world”. Because you come up showing up like that and the “real world” is going to hack you down. Because the real world is suffering. They’re gonna want to get vengeance on you because you’ve spurned them and you’ve done them wrong, whatever the story is, right? And they got to dominate you with power. So I was like this is practice you guys. Okay. Alright? So we just lead with our heart next time okay? You screwed up. We’re all gonna screw up. I was like Daddy screws up all the time. Let’s just be authentic. Natural.”
What does that look like?
We think we need to be something else.
Drop it. Just put it down.
So much better.
Student: So much better.
Put it down.
Because once you do that, then you’re free.
You can see again, hear again, feel again.
Everything just flowing free.
And this is the practice too right?
Because everything is locked. In certain traditions they say like the biggest thing that happens is there’s like this giant heart knot and we just keep unraveling it.
Unraveling it.
And then again, there’s like a big BOOM but then there’s still – just when you think it’s over.
Holy jeez.
Because you don’t even know how much you’ve stuffed down deep in there. This life, let alone whatever else you brought into this life.
So just give up the ghost man. You know?
Put it all down.
What you think the practice is supposed to be. What you think awakening is supposed to be. Right? What you think all of it is supposed to be.
What you think being a mom, being a dad is supposed to be like, Just keep showing up and be naturally you.
That’s the practice.
That’s the practice.
That’s why I gave you that name (taps one of the students whose Dharma name starts with Sahaja which means natural)
Because once that clicks – oh my god!
(Makes the sound of being in awe)
It’s the whole universe. Right there.
Everything makes so much sense.
It’s just easy then.
Because it’s always been.
But we believe we’re a sentient being.
And we bear down on it.
To open it up. To keep keep unfolding it. And just when you think – there’s more and more and more.
People don’t even understand
It’s crazy.
It’s nuts.
And honestly it just gets easier.
We mess it up man.
It’s so crazy, right?
We mess it up.
But like the fundamental practice is just look at yourself.
Just look.
Look at what you’re creating for yourself.
You’re getting angry, you’re creating anger world.
Sad, sad, world.
Frustrated, frustration world.
When rest in the radiance then you create Buddha world all around you.
At first it’s just tiny and small. Just keep it right here (close to your chest).
Keep it safe.
Create Buddha world for yourself.
I remember one time I was carrying something, I was being stupid and carrying something in my heart, oh my god, it was crazy. I called the Buddha, right? Just call – whatever – you guys maybe resonate with Jesus, maybe more than than Buddha – call Jesus, man. Who cares? So he comes down (the Buddha) and (now Ian demonstrates – the Buddha looked lovingly at Ian – tapped him on the chest and said, “Give this to me.” and the Buddha just went off into the sun and then Ian just describes being free of it and crying with release)
It was amazing.
Why am I holding this?
I don’t know what to do with this.
Why do I keep thinking I know what to do with this.
No. You don’t. You don’t.
That’s why we go for refuge. Right? You guys took the precepts.
You don’t understand the power of refuge.
Give it up. Just give it up.
Go to the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.
Remember we give our squishy and tender hearts over.
Give it to the teacher.
that’s it. Give it up.
You don’t know how to take care of it.
Not yet.
So give it to somebody that knows.
Because when you get it back, you’re gonna be like, “That’s how it works???”
It’s all spit shined and tuned up.
You don’t even know.
So what was the question?
But it started practice something.
So out of all of that, blah blah blah – whatever stuck for you. Okay.
But maybe it’s loving kindness.
Maybe that’s the practice.
Just to be loving and kind.
You don’t need to be formal about it. May I be loving and kind to myself. May be loving and kind to this moment, to this person, the situation.
What does that even look like?
Imagine the world just doing that (loving-kindness) not even a full blown awakening.
But supposedly that’s what Maitreya did, he just poured himself into that practice.
Poof! Awwwwww (like a choir of angels)
Just took it all the way to the end.
Just find the Dharma gate that you go through and then it opens up, right?
I didn’t know I’d be so devotional like we talked about until like, until I met my teacher and had my breakthroughs.
Now I’m just a fuckinig gusher like Oh, my God. Life is so! Thank you soooooo much!!!
Mary’s a Bhakti type (devotional).
Reverence and love and all “Come on, guys. We can do this!”
They just keep loving the shit outta everybody.
But the difference is with wisdom and compassion and understanding and insight.
That’s the difference, right?
The hippies they had a pretty good, right.
Like, Almost there.
What needs to be they need to mesh together – wisdom and compassion – on the bedrock of stability,
But we’ve already seen the fundamental nature of your mind is immovable
Everything rises in it.
See the mirror like – you can see it right now right?
It’s almost like a mirror like. There’s a mirror. Right?
The mirror is unaffected by what arises within it.
That’s The pointing out instructions.
That fundamental nature is always there and always been there.
You can go run around the block – you look, it’s still the same thing. When you walk down the stairs is still the same thing.
Always there, you’re never separate from it. Okay.
As you become more and more familiar in that space, boundaries start to dissolve, and then you tell me what happens after that you’ve come to tell me. Okay?
Oh, looks like it worked.
What should we call this Dharma talk?
Student: Where dp I start?
Oh, yeah.
Where do I start?


The Best Pointing Out Instructions

An Anthology of the Best “Pointing Out” Instructions

Lama Gendun on the Nature of Mind, “The recognition of the nature of mind is the only thing that we actually need – it has the power to liberate us from everything and to liberate all beings in the universe, too. All phenomena of the external world are only the manifestations of the luminosity of our own mind and ultimately have no reality. When we allow our mind to rest in the recognition that everything that it experiences is its own projection, the separation between subject and object comes to an end. Then there is no longer anyone who grasps at something and nothing that is being grasped at –subject and object are recognized to be unreal. In order to experience this, we allow our mind to remain in its ordinary consciousness, the awareness of the present moment, which is the deep, unchanging nature of mind itself and which is also called “timeless awareness.” (yeshe) That is the natural insight that arises spontaneously when in every moment we look directly at the true nature of mind. In seeing the nature of mind, there is nothing to “see” since it is not an object of perception. We see it without seeing anything. We know it without knowing anything. The mind recognizes itself spontaneously, in a way beyond all duality. The path that leads to this is the awareness of the present moment, free of all interference. It is an error to think that the ultimate truth is difficult to recognize. The meditation on the nature of mind is actually very easy, as we do not have to go anywhere to find this nature. No work needs to be done to produce it; no effort is required to find it. It is sufficient for us to sit down, allow our mind to rest in itself and directly look at the one who thinks that it is difficult to find the nature of mind. In that moment, we discover it directly, as it is very close and always within easy reach. It would be absurd to worry that we might not succeed in discovering the nature of mind, as it is already present in us. It is sufficient to look into ourselves. When our mind directs its gaze upon itself, it finds itself and that the seeker and the sought are not two different things.”
The following quote is from the famous cycle of teachings known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The text was discovered by Karma Lingpa (born in Tibet around 1329). It was considered to have been originally written by eighth-century Master Padmasambhava, who hid the text before he left Tibet. It was later discovered by Karma Lingpa. It is part of what is called “The Direct Introduction to Awareness” teaching of Dzogchen and is meant to “awaken” those who simply read and understand the text without need for any prior or subsequent practice:
Padmasambhava said, “And in the present moment, when your mind remains in its own condition without constructing anything, Awareness, at that moment, in itself is quite ordinary.
And when you look into yourself in this way nakedly, without any discursive thoughts,
Since there is only this pure observing, there will be found a lucid clarity without anyone being there who is the observer, only a naked manifest awareness is present.
This Awareness is empty and immaculately pure, not being created by anything whatsoever. It is authentic and unadulterated, without any duality of clarity and emptiness.”
(From John Reynolds’s translation, Self-Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness.)
Khenpo Gangshar, “Simply rest naturally in the naked ordinary mind of the immediate present without trying to correct it or replace it. If you rest like that, your mind-essence will be clear and expansive, vivid and naked, without any concerns about thought or recollection, joy or pain. That is awareness (rigpa).”
Sri Ramana Maharshi, “You are awareness. Awareness is another name for you. Since you are awareness there is no need to attain or cultivate it.”
Longchenpa, “Awareness abides as the aspect which is aware under any and all circumstances, and so occurs naturally, without transition or change.”
Longchenpa wrote in his Choying Dzod, “There is only awareness, pure in being free of adventitious distortions; there is no essence of buddhahood other than this -mind itself; nothing to seek through causes or conditions, effort or achievement, because the term “buddhahood” is being used merely to describe pure awareness.” P. 84
Longchenpa, “So once you rest in awareness, to then make an effort or engage in view and meditation is beside the point and will lead to error and obscuration” P. 85
Tulku Pema Rigtsal said, “But in actuality, the intrinsic awareness of Dzogchen is not produced or initiated by causes and conditions, for the potential of pure being and primal awareness is intrinsically present and manifests spontaneously.”
Longchenpa, “The Philosophical Systems” (p.305) “Natural great perfection, the essence of utterly lucid basic space, is naturally occurring timeless awareness. Since it involves neither cause nor effect, neither something to develop nor an agent to develop it, nor any attendant conditions, it is timelessly present such that its nature is like that of space.”
Rigtsal, Tulku Pema (2013-02-19). The Great Secret of Mind: Special Instructions on the Nonduality of Dzogchen (p. 119). Snow Lion. Kindle Edition, “In The Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra, Longchenpa says, “It is taught by the Lama Vimalamitra, that Buddha will never be attained on the paths of the nine graduated approaches by engaging in their view, meditation, and conduct. Why not? Because in the views of the nine approaches, there is only intellectual conjecture that is sometimes convincing and sometimes not, but which can never induce the naked essence.”
Rigtsal, Tulku Pema, “Until we realize that intrinsic awareness is already present, we must understand that striving to generate that awareness is a wrong path.”
Tulku Pema Rigtsal, “When all discursive thought and concepts and all constructs of the dualistic mind dissolve into their spaciousness, the real luminous mind in all its clarity shines in its own space, and there is no need to look for it anywhere else.”
Tulku Urgyen, “Rigpa simply means uninvolvement in thoughts of the three times (past, present, future).”
Tulku Urgyen, “Rigpa is neither caught up in the object perceived nor with the sense organ through which perception takes place. It is not caught up in the perceiving dualistic mind. Rigpa is not caught up in anything whatsoever. Rigpa is therefore described as immaculate dharmakaya, which means flawless. If rigpa were even slightly affected by some habitual tendency, you would not call it flawless. Rigpa means the state that is totally untainted by any obscuration, negative karma or habitual imprints, just like mercury remains unaffected by whatever it touches.”
TulkuUrgyen, “There is some innate stability in this (rigpa) that is present all by itself —it is not kept up deliberately. It is not that one thinks, “Now I must make myself undistracted.” That is not necessary. There is a natural sense of being undistracted.” “As It Is” volume 2
Garab Dorje taught, “Empty Awareness” (rigpa) is always primordially present equally during moments of empty stillness as well as during moments of mental activity and turbulence.”
The Dalai Lama wrote, “As Dodrubchen says, mere ‘luminosity and knowing’ (rigpa) pervades all consciousnesses and can even be identified during the generation of a strong afflictive emotion without having to cease the six operative consciousnesses.”
Longchenpa from his “Commentary on Basic Space”), “When something appears or arises, recognize it as naked, unobstructed rigpa. It should not be looked upon as an “other” at all.”
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, “Do not divide appearances as being there and awareness (rigpa) as being here. Let appearance and awareness be indivisible.”


Everything is the Buddha

When we see the great light through complete enlightenment, we see the non-duality of the eternal and the momentary. Everything we see is Kwanseum Bosal, and everything we hear is the mystical Dharma sound.
There is no truth aside from seeing and hearing. Do you understand? Mountain is mountain. River is river.
Let us respect all forms of life as we respect the Buddha. The true form of everything in the universe is brighter than sunlight, clearer than sky, and immaculate.
Such terms as “evil” or “lowly” are but superficial judgments. Everything is Buddha, everything is magnificent, everything is sublime.
Let us respect not just people, but all forms of life—even the lowly flies and ants, and ferocious wolves and tigers—just as we would the Buddha.
When we respect even the most vile criminal, we come to see life as it really is. We come to live in true fundamentality.
Everything in the infinite universe is Buddha, and every nation is a Buddhafield. If you look into the true nature of reality, you will not find a trace of misery. You will only find eternal happiness everywhere.
Seon Master Songchol


Essentials of Cultivating the Mind

Daman Hongren – Essentials of Cultivating the Mind
The essence of cultivating the Way is to discern that one’s own body-mind awareness is inherently pure, not subject to birth or death, and without division.
Perfect and complete in its self-nature, present awareness is the fundamental teacher.
Focusing on it exclusively is superior to reflecting on the awakened ones of the ten directions.
How do you know that one’s own awareness is inherently pure?
To use the bright sun as a metaphor: even if the clouds and mists of the world were to arise together in all directions so that the world became dark, still, how could the sun ever be extinguished?
The sun’s light is not destroyed, but merely deflected by the clouds and mists.
The pure mind possessed by all sentient beings is like this – simply covered by the layered clouds of discriminative thinking, false ideas, and ascriptive views.
If you just distinctly maintain awareness of present clear mind and don’t manufacture false thoughts, then the reality-sun of nirvana will be naturally manifested.
That is how you can experience that your own mind is inherently pure.
How do you know that one’s own awareness is inherently not subject to birth and death?
The Vimalakirti Sutra says: “Suchness is without birth, suchness is without death.”
The term “suchness” refers to the nature of awakened presence, the mind which is the source of all phenomena.
Suchness is fundamentally, originally existent, not conditionally produced.
The sutra also says, “ordinary beings all embody suchness; sages and wise ones also embody suchness.”
Although the names and characteristics of ordinary and awakened beings are different, the essential reality of suchness embodied in each is identical and is not subject to birth or death.
This is how it is realized that one’s own mind is inherently not subject to birth and death.
Why is the mind the fundamental teacher?
The true mind exists of itself and does not come from outside. As a teacher, it does not even require any tuition fee!
If you discern the “suchness” of the mind and maintain awareness of it, you reach the shore of nirvana.
By clearly maintaining awareness of the mind, the false mind (of attachment to ideas) is not activated and you reach the birthless.
Therefore we understand that the mind is the fundamental teacher.
Why is focusing on your own mind superior to reflecting on the awakened ones of the ten directions?
You cannot transcend birth and death by constantly imagining awakened beings divorced from yourself, but you reach the shore of nirvana by maintaining awareness of your own fundamental mind.
The Buddha says in the Diamond Sutra, “Anyone who views me in terms of form and seeks me by sound is practicing a mistaken path and is unable to see the one who is ‘thus-come.’”
Therefore we realize that maintaining awareness of (your own) true mind is superior to reflecting on awakened ones divorced from oneself. (But this word “superior” is only used for encouragement in the context of practice – In reality, the essence of the ultimate fruit of awakening is harmoniously inclusive and without opposing dualities).
If you can maintain awareness of the true mind without generating false thoughts or the illusion of personal possession, then you will automatically be equal to the Awakened Ones.
The nature of true presence is the core of both ordinary beings and awakened ones just the same.
Why, then, are awakened ones liberated, while ordinary beings are deluded?
At this point we enter the inconceivable which cannot be understood by the ordinary mind.
You awaken by discerning the true mind, you become deluded by losing awareness of this true nature. If the conditions (for awakening) come together, then they come together – it cannot be definitively explained.
Simply commit to your conviction of the ultimate truth, and maintain awareness of your own true mind. Do this constantly with focused energy, without fabricating false thoughts or the illusion of personal possession.
Awakening then manifests of itself.
If you ask a lot of questions, the number of conceptual terms will simply become greater and greater.
If you want to understand the essential point of the Awakened Way – then know that maintaining awareness of mind is the fundamental basis of nirvana, the essential gateway for entering the path, the basic principle of all the scriptures, and the teacher of all the awakened ones of the past, present, and future…
The essence of what is called nirvana is serene dissolution.
When one’s mind focuses on the true, false thoughts dissolve.
When false thoughts cease, correct mindfulness arises, generating the wisdom of serene illumination, or the total comprehension of reality-nature, which is also called the experience of nirvana.
All concepts, and all affairs of past, present, and future, should be seen as dust on a mirror – when the dust is gone, true nature naturally becomes clearly visible.
That which is learned by the deluded mind is completely useless.
True learning is what is learned by the unconditioned mind, which never ceases perfect awareness. Although we can call this “true learning,” ultimately there is nothing to be learned.
Because “self “and “liberation” are both insubstantial, they are neither different nor the same.
Thus, the essential principle of “nothing to be learned” is evident.
All the Awakened Ones of the past, present, and future are born within your own consciousness.
When you do not give birth to false thoughts, when your illusions of personal possession have been relinquished, the awakened one is born within your own consciousness.
You can only experience awakening by maintaining awareness of true mind.
My only desire is that you discern this fundamental mind for yourself.
Therefore, I employ you: Make effort! Make effort!
All the myriad scriptures and treatises say nothing other than that maintaining the true mind is the essential way to awakening.
Do not try to search outside of yourself – this only leads to the suffering of continued conventional patterns.
Just maintain the same mind of awareness in every moment of thought, and in all phases of mental activity.
When you sit…you may experience all kinds of good and bad psychological states…when you perceive such things, concentrate the mind and do not become attached to them. They are all insubstantial manifestations of deluded thinking.
A scripture says, “The triple realm is an empty apparition that is solely the creation of the individual mind.”
Do not worry if you cannot achieve special concentration or do not experience the various states of meditative absorption – just constantly maintain clear awareness of the present mind in all your actions.
If you stop generating delusive ideas and the illusion of personal possession, the you will realize that all the myriad phenomena are nothing other than manifestations of your own mind.
The awakened sages only preach with extensive and verbal teachings because the mental tendencies of sentient beings differ, and require a variety of responses. In actuality, the (present) mind is the basic subject of all the myriad teachings and philosophies.
Make effort and remain humble.
It is rare to get a chance to hear this essential teaching.
Of those that hear it, very few are able to practice it.
With great care keep your self calm, moderate your sensory activity, and attentively view the mind that is the source of all phenomena. Allow it to shine distinctly and clearly at all times, without letting yourself fall into mental blankness.
What is mental blankness?
People who practice special concentration exercises can inhibit the true mind by being dependent on particular sensory activities, dulled states of mind, or restricted breathing.
Although they may practice constantly, they cannot experience true clarity; they cannot reveal the mind which is the source of all phenomena. This is called blankness.
One can have success with minimal exertion by merely donning tattered robes, eating simple food, and clearly maintaining awareness of the present mind.
Deluded people of the world do not understand this truth and put themselves through great anguish in their ignorance.
Hoping to achieve liberation, they cultivate a broad range of superficial practices to gain merit – only to fall into the inevitable discontent of habitual cyclic existence.
(So just) make your body and mind perfectly empty and peaceful, without any discriminative thinking at all.
Sit properly with the body erect.
Regulate the breath and concentrate the mind so it is not within you, not outside of you, and not in any location in between.
Do this carefully but naturally.
View your own consciousness tranquilly and attentively, so you can see how it is always moving, like flowing water or a glittering mirage.
After you have perceived this consciousness, simply continue to observe it gently and naturally, without getting fixed anywhere inside or outside of yourself.
Do this calmly and attentively until its fluctuations dissolve into peaceful stability.
This flowing consciousness will disappear like a gust of wind.
When this consciousness disappears, all illusions disappear along with it…one’s own mind becomes peacefully stable, and pure.
I cannot describe it any further.
Anyone who can keep this mind in sight during all activities and in the face of the desires for forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, and in the midst of the winds of success and failure, criticism and praise, honor and abuse, suffering and pleasure, has established a pure practice (brahmacarya), and will never again be born into the realm of birth and death.
My disciples have recorded this treatise from my oral teachings so that readers might intuitively resonate with the words and perceive the meaning behind them.
I want everyone to discern their fundamental mind and experience awakening at once.
The basic principle of this teaching is the the manifestation of the one vehicle.
It’s ultimate intention is to lead the deluded to liberation, allowing them to become free from the realm of birth and death themselves, and to help others to cross over to the other shore of nirvana.
But this treatise only speaks of the benefit to oneself, it does not elaborate on how to benefit others.
It should be understood as a gate of direct practice.
Anyone who practices according to these instructions will realize awakening immediately.
From the Xiu Xin Yao Lun (c.700) written by members of the “East Mountain School” (Hongren’s students) as a summary of Master Hongren’s teaching. Based on a translation by John R. McRae.


Right Samadhi Dharma Talk

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Video of the Right Samadhi Dharma Talk
RIGHT SAMADHI (samyak-samadhi)
At long last we finally come to the eighth stage or limb of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Here once again we come across the gnarly issues that translators face in their work.
For the most part Samadhi is usually translated as concentration but this totally misses the mark. Samadhi is a hard concept to pin down for most people. It’s slippery and illusive. Abstract and profound. Not easily conveyed.
This is an introductory talk on Right Mindfulness from the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. For a full explanation of the path be sure to checkout:
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Buddha Nature

Slowing the Mind Down

When in a completely dark room, someone can be holding a burning stick of incense perfectly still. You will only see a glowing orange point.
But if the stick is spun in a circle rapidly, you will see an orange circle of light, a “fire circle”.
If the spinning is slowed down, the circle disappears all by itself.
One doesn’t have to try to change the circle itself to make it disappear.
Likewise, during shamatha meditation, when the speed of thoughts slow down enough, the sense of self and its personal story of being a suffering or seeking “me” will disappear automatically without those illusions having to be addressed analytically.
Just like we discovered that no “fire circle” ever really existed, we also discover that no personal self as a “me” nor its alluring stories ever existed.
By Jackson Peterson –

Buddha Nature


If you look up the word sunyata in the sanskrit dictionary you’ll see that the first thing, the first entry will probably be empty. That’s the common usage.
But actually that word empty comes from the meaning in India of zero. Which doesn’t actually mean empty.
The word Shunya is the word we would use for zero in mathematics.
In Indian mathematics it doesn’t mean zero as we mean it – it means potential.
This has been very mis-understood.
In the west we say zero and we mean nothing.
But actually it’s not the same in Indian mathematics. The word sunyata technically means “full potential to go anywhere” which is what sunyata means.
So if you keep hearing the word emptiness, because of our western training it’s devoid.
But empty in this context means “fully potential to fill up”.
It also means “fullness, completeness, and wholeness.”
Sunyata also can mean “full potential”.
It doesn’t mean full of nothing.
The other meaning for emptiness in the tradition and why emptiness is such a good word, is to come to this fullness we need to empty the states and conditioned patterns, empty out these states and conditioned patterns that get in the way of experiencing fullness.
So emptiness is a beautiful word.
It’s exactly right on.
But one has to change how one feels about the word emptiness.
Emptiness means “potential to have totality” not “potential to have nothing”.
This is not a teaching of utter depression.
I once got asked by a room of psychotherapists, I was giving them teachings on emptiness and teachings on liberation, they were actually really mad.
They said, “What is this teaching of emptiness? It’s the worst word we can possibly use. It’s a teaching of depression.”
In their mind, that word is all about depression and the emptiness that people feel in their heart.
I said, “No this couldn’t be further from the truth. This is fullness of the heart. But one has to actually empty out the bewildered states first before one sees the cup full. Otherwise the cup’s always empty. Or full of something that doesn’t work.”
The root of the word Sunyata, is s-long a-n-a, which means to bud or to flower. That’s the root.
But at the same time when you look it up it means flower, bud, open, and it also says empty, devoid, deserted, vacant.
Then we have another root which is sunya which means hollow, barron, deserted, absent, unreal, free from sensation, and also bare naked.
Naked of what?
Naked of all fabrications.
It also means innocent, space, heaven, atmosphere.
Sunya also means swollen, swelled, increasing, growing and emptiness.
So here’s the difficulty for most beings – we like to have one answer.
Is the cup full or empty?
If I said to you that it’s 93.5% full would you enjoy that?
Not really right?
You may say, “What is he talking about?”
But actually there’s room for other things.
There’s always room for other possibilities isn’t there?
The normal human brain wants one answer.
It’s either empty or it’s full.
The experience of emptiness, the realization of emptiness, is neither one or the other – it’s both – at the same time.
It’s very difficult for a human brain to want to handle both natures at the same time.
It’s like sexuality. Research is showing that there is a continuous scale of human sexuality for male and female – a complete scale. There’s no such thing as truly a full male and there’s no such thing as truly a full female. Homesexuality or lesbianism has a full scale and range from bi-sexual, heterosexual, right through every combination.
But we want one answer.
Who are you? Male or female?
We want to know one or the other but life isn’t like that.
The whole universe is full of potential.
So how do we handle a total universe that is full of potential?
It’s not a question of complexity, it’s a question really of looking in an elegant way at how the universe is.
So we say about Dharma, about the practice, study and realization of Dharma – it’s not what you want, it’s not what our fantasies want, it’s actually what is. That produces happiness. The other doesn’t.
The studies that I’ve read show that the level of fantasy making, the level of discursive thought and fantasy making, to a large degree is connected with unhappiness.
An unhappy mind spends a lot of time in fantasy. An unhappy mind spends a lot of time making up a world that actually isn’t there.
Dharma is about the end of fabrication.
Doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story. You just actually know what’s going on.
One also knows that stories build more stories.
[box] I would love to be able to say that I was able to provide this insight on Sunyata for you but that’s not the case. This amazing explanation of the meaning of Sunyata was transcribed from a podcast of Lama Mark Webber entitled Sunyata and the 5 Skandas. It was the most succinct and revelatory insight/explanation that I had ever heard on Sunyata.[/box]

Awareness Dzogchen The Path

Padmasambhava's Pointing Out Instructions

Over 1000 years have passed since the Great Master Padmasambhava gave these pointing out instructions.
And I believe that these instructions of precise clarity were truly meant for the Western mind.
Below you’ll find:

Padmasambhava’s Pointing Out Instructions to the King and the 25 Disciples
Imagine being there in the snow capped mountains of Tibet. And because of fortunate karma you have been blessed to be in the close presence of Padmasambhava, probably the greatest master to share the Dharma.
And knowing that life is short and that death may snatch you away at any moment you along with the king and the 25 disciples humbly ask the Master to bestow on you simple and profound teachings to help you fully realize the awakened state.
Picture that now…
In your mind see yourself and the others calling out to Padmasambhava asking,
“Please bestow upon us a profound instruction
that touches the essential point,
which is all inclusive
and yet simple to practice.”
Padmasambhava sang in reply:
King, princes and the rest of you disciples,
I will briefly explain
What you, out of devotion, have asked me.
Listen here, take the cross-legged position,
Keep your body straight on the seat and meditate!
Keep your attention thoughtfree and
unconfined by mental constructs.
As your focus transcends all types of objects,
Unfixed on any mark of concreteness,
Remain quiet, tranquil and awake!
When you remain like this,
the signs of progress naturally appear,
As the clarity of consciousness
that neither arises nor ceases
And as awareness utterly free of misconceptions.
This is the awakened state found in yourself,
Not sought elsewhere but self-existing
— how wonderful!

Since your mind has no real identity to be shown,
In a natural, uncontrived. spontaneously present state,
Remain undistracted within the sphere of nonmeditation!
Remaining like this, liberation occurs spontaneously.
This itself is the awakened state!
All phenomena of samsara and nirvana are your own mind,
And do not appear apart from this mind —
Devoid of a self-nature,
beyond thought, word, and description.
Don’t accept the pleasant or reject the awful,
don’t affirm or deny,
Make no preferences,
But remain vividly awake
in the state of unfabricated naturalness!
By remaining like this, the sign of progress is that
your body, speech and mind
Feel free and easy,
beyond the confines of pleasure and pain.
That is the moment of
understanding the awakened state!
All that appears and exists, samsara and nirvana,
arises from your own mind —
A mind that cannot be grasped,
free from center and edge.
In the natural state of vast equality,
intrinsic and uncontrived,
Remain undistracted in great effortlessness!
Whatever thought you think, it arises
as the space of wakefulness —
The Awakened One is nothing other than this.
When self-cognizant wakefulness is fully actualized,
That is what is given the name ‘buddha’!
Your mind is nonarising,
no thing whatsoever is seen.
Thoughtfree, forming no concepts, don’t follow your thinking!
So don’t affirm or deny, but remain, released in yourself!
In this state, the flow of thoughts is cut
And wisdom unfolds, drawing the line
between samsara and nirvana!
Your mind is simplicity free from ego and a self,
So remain in its self-occuring, self-subsiding state,
free from artifice!
At that moment, bliss arises from within,
The signs of progress occur spontaneously;
this is itself the awakened state!
Your mind was at first not created through causes,
And at the end will not be destroyed by conditions,
So remain effortless in
the indescribable and uncontrived state!
At that moment, the fruition is discovered
in yourself without seeking.
Apart from this you
will find no other Awakened One!

The awakened mind of enlightenment
is not created through meditation,
So, free from thinking,
without projecting or dissolving thought,
Remain with wide-open senses,
letting your thinking subside in itself!
Within this state,
your thinking spontaneously dissolves
And the wisdoms occur by themselves
without being sought.
This is itself the discovering
of the awakened state.
That which bears the name
‘awakened mind of enlightenment’
Is intrinsic, primordially self-existing
and without center or edge.
Don’t correct it but in the state that is
self-cognizant and naturally serene,
Don’t change, don’t alter, but remain,
released into naturalness!
By remaining like this,
your mind free of turmoil
Is itself the Awakened One!
The awakened state of mind is unmade,
Unsought and self-existing.
Without the effort of holding a subject and object,
Remain in the unfabricated state of natural cognizance!
By remaining in this way,
the stream of agitation
is cut and ceases;
Recognize that moment to be the Awakened One!
Leave your attention free of dualistic action,
don’t affirm or deny,
But remain in uncontrived effortlessness,
don’t accept or reject.
The awakened state is
to dwell undistractedly in that!
Leave your mind in nonmeditation,
don’t fabricate an attitude,
But, without constructing, remain
in self-existing natural cognizance!
By remaining in that state,
without casting samsara aside,
The natural dissolving of samsara’s faults
Is the wisdom of the Awakened One!
Your mind is devoid of subject and object
and is not made,
So free from effort and artifice,
don’t create anything through meditation,
But remain undistracted
in self-existing natural cognizance!
By remaining in that state,
natural cognizance is liberated.
You will never find the Awakened One
if you abandon this!
When letting go of subject and object,
the mind is not a thing to show.
Likewise, it is not to be made or corrected.
Remain in the state of equanimity,
not straying into fixation on concreteness.
Remaining undistracted from that
is itself the awakened state!
The awakened state of mind is free
From all claims to be more or less.
Unfabricated and naturally free
From the subject that accepts or rejects an object,
Don’t dwell on anything, be utterly unobstructed.
To remain in this state is itself the Awakened One!
Your mind cannot be thought of,
nor can it be observed.
It lies beyond being and not being,
permanence and annihilation,
So remain free of the meditation
on meditator and object!
When you remain undistracted from that state,
That is what is called the dharmakaya
of the Awakened One!
Leave your attention free of knower and known,
Do not fixate, but relax freely without wishing,
And remain in the state of cognizance
devoid of self-nature.
To remain unwavering from that
is itself the awakened state!
Your mind, which perceives yet is free of substance,
Cognizes without thought, is conscious yet indescribable.
Free from the movements of conceptual thinking,
Remain in that state, awake and wide-open.
To remain in this nature
is itself the awakened state!
Awakened mind is a perceiving emptiness,
An empty yet luminous cognizance.
Remain in its self-existing state,
don’t alter or correct it.
To remain unmoved from that
is itself the Awakened One!
The identity of your attention,
which consists of nothing whatsoever,
Is not to be held; neither is it to be
created or neglected in meditation.
Don’t correct or alter
its self-existing freshness,
But remain in the original state
that is spontaneously present!
Within this state, don’t let your mind waver,
Since you will never find a fruition apart from this!
Awakened mind is empty while perceiving
And likewise perceives while being empty.
An inconceivable unity
of perceiving and aware emptiness —
Remain in naturalness, undistracted from this sphere.
To remain unmoved from this
is itself the Awakened One.
The nature of your mind
is not concrete and has no attributes,
Don’t seek to fabricate or improve it,
but remain without changing or forgetting.
To remain like that is itself the Awakened One.
Your mind is inconcrete and primordially pure,
Naturally empty and uncontrived,
So remain in the state free
from meditator and meditation object.
Through this, you attain the fruition of buddhahood!
Your mind does not arise or cease,
nor does it have
Attributes of concreteness.
Empty by its nature,
its cognizance is unobstructed.
To remain unmoved from this
is itself the Awakened One!
All of you, apply these instructions in your experience!
You may compare the sutras and tantras
Of the Buddha and their commentaries,
With words in numbers
that transcend the limts of space,
But the concise meaning is included
in just these vital points.
So practice them, and hide them as treasures
in accordance with your oath!
Thus Padmasambhava spoke,
and by merely bestowing the true
essential instruction upon them,
they were all liberated and
attained accomplishment.
Padmasambhava’s Pointing-Out Instruction to the Old Lady
When the nirmanakaya, Master Padmasambhava, was invited by King Trisong Deutsen and was residing in Glorious Samye at Red Rock, the virtuous Lady of Ton, a woman of extraordinary devotion, sent her attendant the Lady of Margong by the name Rinchen Tso to offer a morning meal of curd with slices of grapes.
Later, when the master was on his way to Samye Chimphu, just as he was passing through the gate, the Lady of Ton bowed down on the road and circumambulated him, joined her palms before him, and said: “Please, great master, You are about to leave, and this old lady is about to die.
“First of all, since I was born as a girl, I am of an inferior birth.. Having been distracted by activities, I forgot the Dharma. Second, being of lesser intelligence, my wits are feeble. Third, I feel obscured due to my advanced age and my mind is unclear.
“Please, great master, bestow upon this old woman an instruction that requires little hardship, that is simple to grasp, easy to apply, and very effective. Please give an instruction for an old woman who will die soon.”
The master replied: “Old Lady, who are you?”
The old woman responded: “I am the one who has been sending a bowl of curd with a lowly maid.”
The master joyfully said: “You are surely one who has greater devotion than Trisong Deutsen.”
The he instructed the old lady and her attendant with these words: “Old woman, take the cross-legged position and keep your body upright. For a short while, simply remain with totally relaxed attention.”
The master pointed his finger to the old lady’s heart and gave this instruction: “Old woman, listen to me. If you are asked what the difference is between the mind of the truly perfected Buddha and the mind of sentient beings of the three realms, it is nothing other than the difference between realizing and not realizing the nature of mind.
“Since sentient beings fail to realize this nature, delusion occurs and from this ignorance the myriad types of sufferings come to pass. Thus beings roam through samsara. The basic material of Buddhahood is in them, but they fail to recognize it.
“First of all, the basic material of Buddhahood is within you. In particular, it is in the human beings who have obtained the freedoms and riches. Moreover, it is not such that the basic material for Buddhahood is abundant in men and deficient in women. Thus, even though you have taken rebirth as a woman, you are not prevented from attaining Buddhahood .
“The 84,000 Dharma doors have been taught in order to recognize and realize the wisdom mind of the buddhas, but this understanding is contained in a master’s three words of instruction. Thus, even though you may be of inferior intelligence and feeble wits, you are not disadvantaged.
“Now, the meaning of the Dharma, the Buddha-mind, and the master’s three words of instruction is this; By purifying externally perceived objects, your perceptions are freed in themselves. By purifying the perceiving mind within, your nonclinging awareness is freed in itself. As the lucid wakefulness between is delightful, you recognize your own nature.
“How are the perceived objects outside purified? This present awareness, the awakened state of mind, is unspoiled by thought and perceives as a natural brightness. Let it be like that, and objects are perceived without being clung to. In this way, no matter how appearances appear, they are in fact not real and are not held to be actual things. Thus, no matter what you perceive, be it the earth or rocks, mountains or cliffs, plants or trees, houses or castles, goods or utensils, friends or foes, family members or companions, husband or wife, sons or daughters — towards all these and all other things — you are uninvolved in the attitude of claiming ownership; and so, they are perceived but not held to be that way. By being free of clinging to anything whatsoever, you are purified of objects perceived externally.
“Objects being purified does not mean that you stop perceiving. It means not to hold and cling while being bright and empty. Like the example of reflections in a mirror, they appear but are empty in that there is nothing to grasp, and your perceptions are known as ‘perceptions occurring to yourself.’
“By means of the inner perceiving mind being purified, here is the instruction in liberating nonclinging awareness in itself; No matter what occurs in your mind — the flow of thoughts, memories, or the five poisonous emotions — when you do not focus upon them, the movement vanishes by itself; thus you are untainted by the faults of thinking.
“To be flawless within does not mean to become an inert stone. It means that your awareness remains free of the flaws of thinking, like the example of having gone to an island of precious gold; on this golden island, no even the name “stone” exists. Likewise, once your thinking dissolves into original wakefulness, there is not even the name “thought.”
“As the lucid wakefulness between is delightful, here is the instruction in recognizing your own nature; While practicing, free from unknowing, your own consciousness is clear, pure, and awake. When practicing, you have the experience that your innate, self-existing wakefulness is neither spoiled by a conceptual attitude nor by clinging to bliss, clarity, or nonthought. As that itself is the Buddha-mind, you have recognized your own nature.
“It is like the example of not needing to imagine your mother to be your mother, as you have no fear due to thinking that she is not your mother. Similarly, when your awareness recognizes that it is the innate nature of dharmata, you will no longer mistakenly imagine that the phenomena of samsara are the innate nature — even without knowing it, you were never apart from this innate nature of dharmata.
“As this is known as the unfabricated training, the dharmata mother is the fact that all phenomena are devoid of self-nature; the dharmata abode is the recognition that they are devoid of self-nature; and ‘knowing your own nature by yourself’ is so called since you recognize that your own awareness is the innate space of dharmadhatu.
“When you have recognized this, there is neither superior nor inferior birth, neither higher nor lower activities, neither sharper nor weaker intellect, neither greater nor lesser intelligence, neither vast nor narrow learning, neither high nor low age, neither clear nor unclear mind.
“This is an instruction of little hardship but simple to grasp, easy to apply but very effective, with which you will have no dread at the time of death. Old lady, practice it! Be diligent, as life does not wait! You get no reward from slaving for husband and child, so do not return empty-handed, but take along the provisions of your master’s instructions! The tasks of this life are endless; so reach perfection in meditation practice!
Old lady, keep this advice as your escort for being fearless at the time of death!”
Thus he spoke. Since the master gave this instruction while pointing his finger at the old woman’s heart, it is known as “The Pointing-Out Instruction to the Old Lady.” Upon hearing it, the old lady and her attendant were both liberated and attained accomplishment.
Lady Tsogyal of Kharchen committed it to writing for the benefit of future generations. It was written down on the southern slope of Samye on the seventeenth day of the second summer month in the Year of the Hare.
Concealed as terma treasure for the sake of future generations,
May it meet with a worthy emanation!
May it instruct beings in appropriate ways!
Through this, may the destined ones liberate their stream-of-being!
Seal, Seal, Seal.
Padmasambhava’s Pointing the Staff at the Old Man’s Heart
WHILE THE GREAT MASTER PADMASAMBHAVA was staying at Great Rock Hermitage at Samye, Sherab Gyalpo of Ngog, an uneducated 61 year old man who had the highest faith and strong devotion to the master, served him for one year.
All this while Ngog didn’t ask for any teachings, nor did the master give him any. When after a year the master intended to leave, Ngog offered a mandala plate upon which he placed a flower of one ounce of gold. Then he said,
“Great Master, think of me with kindness. First of all, I am uneducated. Second, my intelligence is small. Third, I am old, so my elements are worn down. I beg you to give a teaching to an old man on the verge of death that is simple to understand, can thoroughly cut through doubt, is easy to realize and apply, has an effective view, and will help me in future lives.”
The Master pointed his walking staff at the old man’s heart and gave this instruction:
Listen here old man!
Look into the awakened mind of your own awareness!
It has neither form nor color,
neither center nor edge.
At first, it has no origin but is empty.
Next, it has no dwelling place but is empty.
At the end, it has no destination but is empty.
This emptiness is not made of anything
and is clear and cognizant.
When you see this and recognize it,
you know your natural face.
You understand the nature of things.
You have then seen the nature of mind,
resolved the basic state of reality
and cut through doubts about topics of knowledge.
This awakened mind of awareness is not made out of any material substance;
it is self-existing and inherent in yourself.
This is the nature of things that is easy to realize
because it is not to be sought for elsewhere.
This is the nature of mind that does not consist of a concrete perceiver
and something perceived to fixate on.
It defies the limitations of permanence and annihilation.
In it there is no thing to awaken;
the awakened state of enlightenment is your own awareness
that is naturally awake.
In it there is no thing that goes to the hells;
awareness is naturally pure.
In it there is no practice to carry out;
its nature is naturally cognizant.
This great view of the natural state is present in yourself:
resolve that it is not to be sought for elsewhere.
When you understand the view in this way
and want to apply it in your experience,
wherever you stay
is the mountain retreat of your body.
Whatever external appearance you perceive
is a naturally occurring appearance
and a naturally empty emptiness;
let it be, free from mental constructs.
Naturally freed appearances become your helpers,
and you can practice while taking appearances as the path.
Within, whatever moves in your mind,
whatever you think,
has no essence but is empty.
Thought occurrences are naturally freed.
When remembering your mind essence
you can take thoughts as the path
and the practice is easy.
As for the innermost advice:
No matter what kind of disturbing emotion you feel,
look into the emotion and it tracelessly subsides.
The disturbing emotion is thus naturally freed.
This is simple to practice.
When you can practice in this way,
your meditation training is not confined to sessions.
Knowing that everything is a helper,
your meditation experience is unchanging,
the innate nature is unceasing,
and your conduct is unshackled.
Wherever you stay,
you are never apart
from the innate nature.
Once you realize this,
your material body may be old,
but awakened mind doesn’t age.
It knows no difference between young and old.
The innate nature is beyond bias and partiality.
When you recognize that awareness,
innate wakefulness,
is present in yourself,
there is no difference between sharp and dull faculties.
When you understand the innate nature,
free from bias and partiality,
is present within yourself,
there is no difference between great and small learning.
Even though your body,
the support for the mind,
falls apart,
the dharmakaya of awareness wisdom is unceasing.
When you gain stability in this unchanging state,
there is no difference between a long and a short life-span.
Old man, practice the true meaning!
Take the practice to heart!
Don’t mistake words and meaning!
Don’t depart from your friend, diligence!
Embrace everything with mindfulness!
Don’t indulge in idle talk and pointless gossip!
Don’t become involved in common aims!
Don’t disturb yourself with worry of offspring!
Don’t excessively crave food and drink!
Intend to die an ordinary man!
Your life is running out, so be diligent!
Practice this instruction for an old man on the verge of death!
Because of pointing the staff at Sherab Gyalpo’s heart, this is called ‘The Instruction of Pointing the Staff at the Old Man.’ Sherab Gyalpo of Ngog was liberated and attained accomplishment.
This was written down by the Princess of Kharchen for the sake of future generations. It is known under the name ‘The Instruction of Pointing the Staff.’