Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Swimming in the Mirage

One of our favorite blogs is earlytibet.com, where there is currently learned discussion on the hermeneutic evidence of early Dzogchen in Tibet. It seems we have mentioned this discussion here on our own blog, before.

In the context of this discussion, the author raises the issue of the Nyingma Great Perfection samaya, consisting of three and twenty-five words of honor, and some really rather disingenuous person has written in to us, to ask for "clarification."

The definitive clarification in the English language is the translated work entitled Perfect Conduct, published by Wisdom Books. This is actually Panchen Pema Wangyal's 16th century work Ascertaining the Three Vows, together with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche's commentary.

The clarification requested is with reference to the twenty-five words of honor, expressed at earlytibet.com thusly:

"The other 25 vows are placed in four groups: (i) The five to be accepted (ii) The five not to be rejected (iii) The five to be practised (iv) The five to be known (v) The five to be accomplished"

In proper order, these would ordinarily be expressed as the five to practice (liberating, union, stealing, speaking untrue words, and idle speech); the five not to be rejected (desire-attachment, hatred, delusion, pride, and jealousy); the five to accept (urine, feces, menstrual blood, marrow, and semen); the five to recognize (five aggregates, five elements, five objects, five organs, and five colors); the five to accomplish (the buddha, vajra, ratna, padma, and karma families).

So, in Tenpa Rinpoche's words, "what do you know now that you didn't know before, and how is it you think you have helped yourself by selfishly acquiring this knowledge?" You cannot, you see, take these things at face value, without clarification. A confused person would immediately ask, "What do you mean! Somebody should practice speaking untrue words?" In this instance, it is an intellectual artifice which refers to constructing explanations according to relative truth in order to avoid inculcating extreme views of nihilism. Similarly, "idle speech" means open talk about inexpressible realization, such as saying: "inexpressible realization," in order to point to that which cannot be narrowed.

Maybe, as Rinpoche also likes to say, we "don't need to put 'Keep Out of the Water' signs around a mirage."

Actually, the samaya of the Great Perfection is of two sorts: that of "nothing to guard," and that to be maintained. With respect to the latter, there are twenty-seven words of honor: nine each of the body, speech, and mind., further divided into three each outer, inner, and secret. If we want to take an example, then the nine of the speech are the three outer (to avoid lying, slander, and harsh words), the three inner (never verbally disrespect a Dharma teacher, anyone who contemplates the meaning, or anyone who meditates upon the fundamental nature), and the three secret (never to disrespect the speech of the vajra family, speaking negative words about the conduct of the lama, and disregarding any of the lama's teachings or advice whether given by him or members of his immediate mandala). The others follow similar concordances.

Tenpa Rinpoche once explained this to me as follows:

"We can say that the first task is to acquire basic information about the dharma, the next task is to enter into the practices, and the lifelong task is to keep the samaya. Keeping samaya is what allows us to actually accomplish the practices. Doing practices is really rather easy, but keeping samaya is actually challenging: a sort of chicken and egg type thing, because the more you understand, the easier it gets, but understanding is difficult without the samaya. It is symbiotic, you know? Maybe you could say that in Great Perfection it is particularly challenging, especially when we deal with the vows about taming wild beings and so forth. It isn't always easy in this society, and sometimes entails great personal cost. Since we need to remain flexible in order to deal with circumstances as they arise, and we can't always stop to read the rule book, the main thing is to proceed from an absolute tenderness, or kindness, in each and every situation, even if you have to become overtly wild in order to dance with the energies. It is actually difficult to break samaya if you have a loving heart. If you honestly have a loving heart, then I could even say it is almost impossible to break samaya. Since Buddha honestly has a loving heart, it is possible to repair broken samaya. All sorts of methods are used, and we of course immediately think of Vajrasattva in that regard, but what makes the repair possible and what accomplishes the repair is none other than an honest, loving heart. What goes on outside is less important than what goes on inside. Rescue workers smash down doors, tear down walls, jump through ceilings, and throw people out of windows."

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1 reader comments:

KT said...

Thank you, Trinh, for posting Rinpoche's words. This truly touched my heart. KT