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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Marshmallow Determination

In Tibetan society, when someone becomes ill, he or she begins to practice hard. They redouble their meditation practice and their prayers. However, it is so interesting that in the west, sometimes this is different, but as soon as we get a little sniffle, we say, "I am not going to meditate today. I do not feel quite well enough."

It should be instead, “When things get tough, the tough go to their meditation cushions!” The tough increase their meditation time. This is determination. I have students, when their pet passed away, stopped meditating for a long time because they could not sit, they felt too sad. It is better to pray for your pet's arrival in pet heaven or for a good rebirth, but do not stop meditating. Do not discourage yourself from meditating. Find ways within difficult situations that make it imperative for you to practice.

In that way, the nature of diamond motivation comes alive in you. Do not be like marshmallow inside. Have diamond determination, not because you want to feel better, but because you need to get to the transformed state in order to be of benefit to all living beings. You do not do it for yourself, but for others. Then it becomes effortless.

One of my students came to me almost cracking under with the stress of how their mortgage was going to be paid. I said, "Now is the time to do tonglen. You are the perfect person to understand the suffering of having to figure out how to pay your mortgage. Think of all of those people out there who are currently trying to get a mortgage in order to do something valuable. Pray, “I want you to give me all of that suffering. I understand the suffering because I am going through it myself.” Give me all of your mortgage sufferings, and in return, I will use it to destroy my own self-cherishing, and send you back pure healing light.

In Tibetan Buddhism, we have many techniques for overcoming difficulties, transforming them into opportunities for practice. Whatever life throws at you, this determination to transform adverse circumstances makes you unbreakable. Indestructible, like diamond, perfect determination becomes a wisdom resource. You will not fall over in a breeze. Others can count on you to not keel over at the first sign of trouble, taking defeat as the excellent remedy for your problems.

The strength of determination has many other fine remedy perceptions. It is good to think that your determination to be free and to attain this transformed state is like a diamond that can cut anything, but it itself cannot be cut. Energetic sturdiness is not like stubbornness, but a transformation of the energy system, which probably has not been used correctly up to this point. Some of you have become stubborn at times when you should have been flexible, and you have been very flexible at times when you should have been stubborn.

Thinking changes the neural pathways used for strategies, and in return, strategies display and redefine perceptions. For example, if you shout when there is something that you want or do not want, and it works one or two times, it begins to change you so that shouting becomes a strategy. Soon you are the kind of person who has to shout in order to get what you want.

Thinking changes methods we use for developing new strategies. New strategies in accordance with the Dharma change the results experienced in daily life and meditation practices. Even though the strategy of shouting has worked often enough so that you have developed it, you instead deliberately think, 'I am not going to do that anymore. I am going to try a new way.'

Using new strategies based on Buddhist principles change the data result that you get in daily life. New strategies will also change the flow of data results that you are experiencing in meditation. Your actual being, the real you alive on another level of reality, only has your information about what is going on in this world. It does not need that information because it wants to know about the world, but because there is something important that they are missing for transformation. Correct meditation creates better data information, feeding your deep innermost actual being a different message about this world.

The world that you see inside will have a new view. It is like living in a different world than before when new strategies are in accordance with higher development. High thinking presented in the philosophy of Buddhism changes the taste and the texture of life experiences. Something indefinable that will make you feel like this is not even the same world.

Good results cause us to use the successful strategies because it feels right. This not only applies to successful strategies, but also successful dynamics. Dynamics are comprised of states of mind in various strengths. This is skillful; even though everyone around you is losing his or her mind, you hold a careful balance and are valuable.

Not just in daily life, but these dynamics in meditation are everything meditation is. These are nothing compared to the dynamics that you are holding in the form of complex states of mind, the effect of enlightenment experience in this world. These dynamics are used in your personality. Successful strategies reflect in your behavior, and produce a beneficial effect on future actions. Powerful successful strategies that you deliberately hold make you valuable. Good strategies not only make you happier in your own mind but also will gentle your nature.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How Do You Know When You Are Enlightened?

Student: When enlightenment comes, you dissolve into nothing, and that's what it is. You would know, because you would not know anything.
Student:To receive blessings to become enlightened, we have to give up relationships with our loved ones and with those we choose to be near and dear. Maybe it's a Western idea; if you want to become enlightened, you must stand alone, leave your spouse and children behind, and that is sad to me. You have left everything that you like or been committed to behind. Or you kick them out? You have to sacrifice them.

Rinpoche: The fact that it is not true bears no relationship to the way that you think it is. Many in the West are ripe for transformation, but cannot, because they were indoctrinated into strange ideas about what enlightenment is, or how you will be, how you will feel once enlightened. There you are: enlightened, poof! You disappear! I see bits and pieces of valid path here that have become fearful instead of balanced and careful.
Student: Part of me was pounded by hearing from others, “You cannot get there. You are not supposed to. Only Jesus could do that. You cannot.” or you are bad if you try. It's illogical. “I wanted to be like Jesus” when I was a kid. “That is blasphemy. Don't do that or tell anyone.”
Rinpoche: These form your present attitudes regarding enlightenment. You feel or you think that, but it is not true. You think that you are not permitted to become enlightened. This is painful, and causes you to go around looking for a way through, a little answer here and there. You try to put it together out of principles from inside and hints from outside sources. This is an obstacle. You want the sacred quality to arise in you but as soon as sacredness touches your inner process, you feel unworthy.
Student: My intellect knows that this is erroneous, but it seems that to be enlightened is “to be perfect.” Since I feel that I could never be perfect, therefore I can never be enlightened.
Rinpoche: So, it is like a hot potato flipping it from hand to hand, “But I want to be perfect. Oh, that's impossible; I'm not perfect. Put it back over here. I should be perfect.”

In addition to other wrong conclusions, many spiritual seekers crave the feel-good feeling and do not actually want to change or transform; only
feel good all of the time. Who is willing to set aside grasping after feel-good feelings and do spiritual transformation?
You practice because you are suffering, because you want to feel better, of course. However, at a certain point, after becoming enthusiastic about the possibilities, meditators are no longer so invested in the feel-good feeling. The sensualist, the spiritual sensualists will drop out.
We talk about peace quite often and how wonderful peace feels. However, peace is a result of closure of suffering, and not a spiritual/sensual feel-good feeling. After enlightenment: peace... yes, but it is not a goal in itself. What some are seeking is an answer to their self-assessment, “How do I feel? Am I having a good day? Am I happy enough?”
Surprisingly, I find many Western people who only meditate when they feel good, whereas, in the Orient, it is quite the opposite. As soon as Tibetans do not feel good, they begin more meditation. In general, when they, or someone in the family is sick, they meditate and pray! However, in contrast, many non Orientals, when not feeling well or happy, even suffering from the sniffles, do not meditate that day. Perhaps this attitude comes from thinking that the purpose of spirituality is to feel increasingly
good, and that will be enhanced to the point of enlightenment.
Student: What about the moments in meditation that feel blissful and joyous, or very alive? They do not even have to be in meditation, just little moments. That is what I picture as enlightenment: able to have that all the time, connected and feeling bliss of joy. That is a feel-good feeling, but on another level, right?
Rinpoche: Yes, you are saying it but you are not doing it. If the process to the enlightened state depends upon a barometer of the feel-good feeling, you will never achieve enlightenment, or it will be a very long time until you change your attitude. Then you can get back on the path to actual transformation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Theravada and Mahayana stages of Buddhist development

There are three stages of training. Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, as well as within each of those, the outer practices and the inner practices. New Buddhists should understand the different approaches most clearly in the similarities and differences between the first two stages.

There were 18 original Theravadin schools in the earlier times, but none exists in the pure form anymore. They have evolved into Buddhism practiced in Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, as well as other places. Hinayana is a term used by the Mahayana. Hinayana means small vehicle. Mahayana means greater vehicle. You can see who named it.

However, Hinayana practitioners call their tradition Theravadan or the path of the elders. The outer practices of the pure Theravadan emphasize a reduction in interest in samsaric or worldly involvement. We are calling this the first of three stages of training, which means that in Tibetan Buddhism, the Hinayana does exist, not as a process in and for itself. It is an element of the Mahayana.

The Hinayana is the entry into spiritual discipline based on the reproducible effect. It is not a final entry into the enlightened state itself. In the outer practices, it reduces interest in unhappy activities. You have all been there the first time you said “I don’t think I will go to the rock and roll concert. It hurts my ears. It didn’t use to, but now it hurts my ears,” and you have entered a kind of Hinayana. You have reduced your involvement in samsaric interests to a certain degree. You feel that that is not quite so interesting as it used to be.

However, this is done in a structured manner, not just staying away from bad company, but in fact, much more. Renunciation is important because worldly life is suffering. We do not emphasize the ascetic lifestyle in the Mahayana and the Vajrayana, or take vows of poverty, but it generally works out that way, and we are okay.

However, among the Hinayana outer practices is the option of taking and keeping vows such as monastic ordination. In all of Buddhism, when one becomes ordained vows are taken in the Hinayana system. Holding vows lessens interest in worldly involvement, which is important in the outer practices. One might also or instead, take a general vow of following the noble eight-fold path. They are right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Almost all of the teachings of the Hinayana path are based upon upon this plan. These are important and valuable processes to keep virtue and to keep from harming others and ourselves. It is all very good. We have no problem with it, and we need to have structure.

In the inner practices of the Hinayana, are the energetic practices associated with thought processes and concepts, taught in the outer Hinayana philosophy. These cause us to turn away from grasping after suffering states as being pleasurable. In the past, the need to grasp after objects seemed nice or exciting. However, grasping and clinging as a general state of mind are actually suffering. If it is a person you are clinging toward, this is suffering for both you and the other; filled with anxiety associated with uncertainty of having clinging returned or potential loss of the object of our clinging. Even if the whole world tells you it is pleasurable, grasping and desire are suffering. The Hinayana portion of the path helps us calm down regarding how things mistakenly appear as pleasurable. It is not complicated, requires no philosophical certificate to understand that all created phenomena are suffering.

The Mahayana or greater vehicle is different in the outer and inner practices. In the outer practices of the Mahayana, one uses the gains after having achieved a certain level of calming of the mind with the Hinayana portion or first of three paths. It is structured and based upon the nature of all things being empty of inherent existence. What is based on the Hinayana is also based on the truth of cessation, that things do not exist in the way you think. They are empty.

Since we are doing an overview, I will not go into that, although I would enjoy that. I will not, because the outer practices of the Mahayana are rooted in a fresh interest in the welfare of others in an ultimate sense. Feeling better, the emerging Mahayanist turns this inside out saying, “Oh, I am feeling better. Well, what about others who are still suffering from desire and grasping?”

This is the essence of the Mahayana. If I was feeling so bad, all other living beings are like me. What about them? I was so occupied before with myself, but in a funny way. And then, in my earlier practices, I was really focusing on my development. Now I am feeling better, and I can see that all other living beings are suffering at least as much or greater than I was. Therefore, the outer practices are defined by philosophy as well as techniques, for the benefit of others.

Outer practices include holding the 18 vows of Bodhichitta. These are important to your emerging new relationship to others, and focus on compassion practices and training. Studying and meditating on the nature of non-inherent existence or the logical doctrine of emptiness is also emphasized in the Mahayana.

In the Mahayana inner practices, the actual energetic changes stimulate inner development, in preparation to reject lower states of entry into perceived safety from worldly grasp. What seems to be a logical progression of entering into this state of non-being of the lower Nirvana or cessation, the goal of the Theravadin practices away from the grasping nature of the world is now rejected. We say, “There is a better way. There is more.”

Therefore, those who have entered the Mahayana train to reject personal liberation. This is energetic training as well as philosophical or intellectual training. The goal of the Mahayana is the full development of correct compassion combined with wisdom of how phenomena exist, as a path to become a benefit being after enlightenment. As a Mahayanist, you are not encouraged to be attracted to cessation. For the benefit of all sentient beings we continue learning and training, entering into various stages of enlightenment.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Liberty Diner Memories and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival

Photo is in front of the Liberty Diner in Liberty NY where I enjoyed many meals in my just previous life before passing away in September of 2001. I remembered it well because we used to stop here after shopping in town. When I went in, I saw the hostess and remembered her face although I never saw her in this new life. I said hello, do you remember the small Tibetan monk who used to eat here often? She said yes I do, but I have not seen him in a long time. I said to her that is because I passed away. I am the reincarnation of that one. Oh, she said, I remember that I took a photo of him in front of the diner once. Yes, I remember that too. Then I sat down to order my usual vanilla ice cream. Place not change at all.

a teaching I gave at the fantastic balloon festival- more than 1000 balloons! I am describing how advanced students behave before transformation and inner structure of higher level beings. Enjoy!