Sunday, July 05, 2009

What Does It Mean?


Somebody wrote in and asked, "What is the Tibetan transliteration in your header supposed to mean?"

Well, we owe this one to Padampa, who was a traveler, and I owe this one to Dr. Dan Martin, who is a scholar and by all reports a gentleman.

It translates as, "The rabbit that sees the moon is liberated from arrogance."

What it "means" can be as simple or complex as one wishes.

In Padampa's time, as in our time, some people believe that there is a rabbit on the moon, i.e. what we call the "man in the moon," others call the "rabbit in the moon."

Some people take it a step further, and say that this rabbit is up there pounding out the elixir of immortality (Chinese), or mochi (Japanese).

So, an ordinary rabbit -- one who holds a high opinion of himself, as rabbits often do -- might look at the moon and see this extraordinary rabbit, and suddenly realize, "I am not so big and magical as I thought."

That is the quick and dirty answer, but the operative word "liberated," in the above sentence hints at something rather more involved. After all, the rabbit who sees the moon might be humbled for a time, yet still experience a resurgence of his arrogant ways at some point down the trail.


What is it about the moon that liberates the rabbit from arrogance, if not the process of comparison just mentioned?

Perhaps it is the rabbit's one-pointed concentration upon the moon?

In the phrase immediately preceeding this one, Padampa writes, "Consider the behavior of the cemetery rabbit." In the associated commentary we find, "The rabbit staying in the cemetery or sepulchre directs its eyes toward the moon and stays there. The mind fixed, there is no other aid for samadhi."

That is not what rabbits do in cemeteries, or anywhere else for that matter. That is what yogis who realize the rabbit-like nature of their minds attempt to do in cemeteries.

I think it is a safe bet we have to take the two rabbits together, thus: "Consider the behavior of the cemetery rabbit. The rabbit that sees the moon is liberated from arrogance." Therefore, it is not comparison which liberates but samadhi born of one-pointed concentration. Which begs the question: what did Padampa mean by samadhi? Did he merely mean concentrated mind, or did he mean a state of oneness with the object of concentration?

Ah! He most excellently meant supreme union. The ordinary rabbit is liberated from arrogance by supreme union with the extraordinary rabbit.

We are liberated from arrogance when we realize that we are not separate from the deity.

We are also not finished pounding the mochi.


Padampa knew that there is no rabbit on the moon. Padampa knew that the concept of a rabbit on the moon is a mental projection. Maybe Padampa is not talking about a rabbit at all, but mind itself. This mind is staying in a cemetery, i.e. the mind inhabits no place. There is nothing to support the mind. This mind enters into supreme union with what? With its own projections? There is nothing to support these projections. There is nothing to support union or the absence of union.

We are liberated from arrogance when we realize there is no subject or object of arrogance.

We are also not finished pounding the mochi.

Why does Padampa select a rabbit to illustrate these points?

Return to the behavior of the cemetery rabbit. He spends a few minutes sniffing and glancing around. Then he spends a few minutes grazing. Then he spends a few minutes chewing. Then he poops. Then he hops. Then he sniffs and glances around. Then he flops motionless, as if deceased. Then he jumps up as if he forgot something, and sets off sniffing, glancing, grazing, chewing, pooping, and flopping. When the moon is out he frolics and cavorts with other rabbits, playing leap-frog, and exhibiting a domination behavior called "screw your nose." He might glance at the moon, but then he stops looking. If you seek order in his behavior you see chaos, and if you see chaos, you miss order.

I have of course compared mind to rabbit behavior. That happens naturally, but comparison is inherently counterproductive, so one moves on. One stops comparing, realizes there is no subject or object, erases order and chaos, and like the rabbit, effortlessly stops looking.

I know this because I have worn out hours in cemeteries watching rabbits. Sooner or later, regardless of what the rabbit does or does not do, I can absolutely assure you: one stops looking.

We are now done pounding the mochi.

Now you can stop looking.

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2 reader comments:

D Birdwell said...

Dear Tulku Tenpa-la,
I don't even know if you personally read the comments nor do I know who else might read them, but I feel the need to communicate with you. I have had a connection with rabbits for about 30 years now, which has in recent years developed into the sudden appearance of rabbits in auspicious places. For example, when I checked into my hotel in Bethlehem, PA, last year to year HH the Dalai Lama's teachings on Je Tsongkapa's _Lam Rim Chen Mo_, I opened my curtain, looked outside and there was a rabbit. On the first day that I arrived at the monastery in Nepal where I have spent most of the past year, there were several young monks in the courtyard playing with a rabbit. In a couple of instances, I have seen rabbits (or pictures of rabbits) after having made a difficult decision. Most recently, when I was unwrapping my newly acquired thangka of Guru Rinpoche, the page of the Kathmandu Post that had been used had and article about rabbits and several large full color pictures of rabbits. My teacher's basic take on these things (if I may summarize) is "don't get distracted by the magic." And I honor and appreciate that advice. But I'm just curious about you and whether I should know you... You can find me at my (not very well maintained) website: www.wideworldhome.net
May you be blessed with long life and all the causes of true happiness.
DB

TENPA said...

Interesting photo you have on your site of Tarthang Rinpoche's big German bell.

There is, I think, a useful discussion of postulated synchronicities in Tarthang Rinpoche's Time, Space, and Knowledge, and I suppose if we had to quickly summarize it might look very much like "don't get distracted by what appears to be magic."

I think that is good advice. I may write something on this later today or tomorrow when I have the time, but first I have to ring the spacious bell and call the rabbits to knowledge dinner. We're having German potatoes today.

As to whether you should know me, please be advised that I am a useless person and it is probably best if you steer clear of me.