Saturday, March 20, 2010

Calling All Vidyadharas

If it helps, try to remember three things: all appearances are the deity, all sounds are mantra, all thoughts are the spacious play of original wisdom.

So, then -- sun and moon, your kids her kids.

We can think about a huge, ever-present light. Everything scattered around this light experiences both shadow and illumination. The light itself is dynamic: like a momentary glance, it never shines the same way twice. Where does this take place? Is the light surrounded by darkness, or is darkness surrounded by light? 

There are countless (well, maybe 84,000) teachings equal to the numberless beings, and each of these is at once and the same time both particular and universal. Individually specific instruction is found instantly, by anyone everywhere: in all times, places, symbols, and circumstances. This encompasses everything required for birth and broken heart, war and rainbow: flowers falling from the skies, blood running down the walls, the golden laughter and silver tears of comedy and tragedy in the opera of angels and machine guns. We can elaborate endlessly, but elaboration of elaboration is unnecessary. All this apparent diversity refines itself to one basic message, and if we wanted to call it something, we could call it conjoined love and emptiness.

Love and emptiness.  Done gracefully. Done joyfully. Easier said than done. We are not talking about business as usual. We are talking about the actual cessation of malfunctioning emotions. Loving kindness does not successfully linger in the absence of wisdom. "Romantic" love only lasts for the second it takes to burn.
I'm just a whisper of smoke.
I'm all that's left of two hearts on fire,
That once burned out of control:
You took my body and soul,
I'm just a ghost in this house.
                              --Hugh Prestwood
Everything is temporary. Even "temporary" is temporary. You are already fine, but you are temporarily bewildered. Your temporary bewilderment will pass. Maybe you have to do something, maybe you don't. Maybe that depends on the nature of your bewilderment. Sometimes, there is a wisp of smoke when the fire has already extinguished itself.

Let it go away by itself, into the sky, and dissolve. Even ghosts are impermanent.

Today you are impermanently human: a raw, unrefined wanderer, perpetually six feet away from being temporarily something else. You can spend a lifetime fashioning tormas out of flour, which takes effort, or you can snap your fingers and offer all the tormas on the planet, which takes no fabrication whatsoever. What are you waiting for? 

Whatever works is whatever earns that momentary glance.That sudden turn-around that trumps all the endless lectures, books, and what passes for "practice" in the absence of refined simplicity. That ever-present light creates, you see?

Look at the absolutely incredible display of your mind, shining with your light.


Jigme Lingpa wrote, "... those who take devoted training as their path also need to have a clear objective for the teachings they engage in."

So, what have you been doing?

You can sit on your seat and visualize the deity but who is to say that the deity is not visualizing you? Generally speaking, I have this idea that if the deity has spontaneously revealed itself to you in perfect lucidity -- even just once -- that should be sufficient to get you sustained. Why do I say this? Maybe that takes some explanation, yes?

I say this because I have another idea that the deity only spontaneously reveals itself in the presence of naturally awakened bodhicitta. I have such confidence in the latter -- really, unshakable confidence and certainty -- that I believe it only takes a single instance of your mind's true nature revealing itself to itself to sustain a vow lasting many, many vigorous lifetimes.

Well... at least that is what I would wish for you.

Temporarily relieved of your temporary bewilderment, you are effortlessly showing yourself to yourself. You are showing yourself what has always been available, and at the same time, you are showing yourself what is to come.

Of course, if this approach isn't working for you, there are more laborious methods. Some people say these are, in essence, replacing one sort of habit with another sort of habit. If you want to always think in terms of purification then I suppose this is purification. Lately, I have been tinkering that concept because I think it layers unwarranted cultural assumption. In Buddhism, purification proceeds from clarifying one's view, not by scourging one's backside with a cat-o-nine. Since we have all these closeted Christians running around interpreting things, we have to be very careful. In place of "purification," which subsumes breaking the deity and you into two, I have been experimenting with "refinement," or sometimes "distillation," in the sense that we refine gold or distill essences.

If you and the deity are ever-presently non-dual, perfect from the beginning, innately pure, and inherently in need of nothing, you might want to ask yourself about mind's condition or nature.  If mind itself is dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya, you might want to ask yourself about the deity's condition or nature. You might want to ask yourself what, in fact, is going on. What are you waiting for?

Jigme Lingpa also wrote, "... with transformative rituals, it is simply impossible not to attain the level of a knowledge holder within six months."

Hello, all you Vidyadharas!

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11 reader comments:

Pema said...

I've been doing this a lot longer than six months and I am not a knowledge holder yet.

TENPA said...

Maybe that is the point of the article.

Geoff said...

So you are suggesting that we should change the imagery of purification because of a few self-flagellating, closeted Christians? I am loathe for us to define ourselves in such a manner. It seems simpler to me to clarify that what we are being purified of is momentary confusion. This keeps it simple and doesn't deprive us of the needed comic relief of watching others' self-mortification.

Moreover, even the great masters have done extensive retreats of all levels of tantra. Surely this was not because they did not understand mind essence and needed to treat the deity as Lord, friend, etc. Even when we are long past the *need* to view the deity in such a manner, we have an obligation to lend our energy and realization to those practices to be of service to beings still in training, no?

TENPA said...

Geoff, thoughtful comments like that are the reason I bother writing this blog.

Rulief said...

And your thought provoking blog and thoughtful comments,like the one by Geoff is why I keep coming to this site. I think it is helpful to examine the cultural implications of language, but not feel we have to make it work for everyone. The use of variations of a concept, as in refering to refinement and distillation as referants of purification is quite helpful. It keeps one from feeling like a concept has a fixed definition.

Anonymous said...

as if it were possible for "confusion" to be less perfect than anything else!

Geoff said...

Confusion (without scare quotes) is merely the distinction between recognizing or not recognizing mind essence. This is the sole difference between being a sentient being and a buddha, so it is a very important distinction to make. You can make claims that this or that is "perfect", but how are these claims anything more than conceptual elaboration?

I think a suffering sentient being going through countless torments as a result of their confusion, attendant negative emotions and the results of their actions would punch you in the nose if you told them "Everything is perfect, man."

If one is looking to end suffering, such sophistic assertions and a five spot will get you a grande latte. They won't however get you liberated.

Anonymous said...

you can see why it is said that Ati is not for everyone...

Anonymous said...

you might want to take a look at the chos dbyings mdzod and consider, just consider, the possibility that with this precious heart advice Longchenpa has cracked the cosmic egg wide open and made a tasty & nutritious omelette for you.

TENPA said...

I'm glad you mentioned that, because I have been meaning to do something on the Seven Treasuries, and your comment reminded me.

Geoff said...

Longchenpa wrote the Seven Treasuries so that beings could recognize mind essence not as some hippie culinary feat. If the confusion of not recognizing is perfect on its own side, why then would he write even one treasury let alone seven? Why so many methods for skillfully entering contemplation? As Longchenpa was wont to say, "Herdsman! Enough of your inverted thoughts!"

The difference between recognizing and not recognizing is wider than the gulf between earth and sky. As Longchenpa says in the chos dbyings mdzod:

"Nowadays, those "elephants" who pride themselves on being ati practitioners allege that thought patterns stirring and proliferating are awakened mind. All of these fools are submerged in darkness, far from the meaning of the natural great perfection. They do not understand even dynamic energy or what arises from that energy, to say nothing of the essence of awakened mind." - p. 39 of the Barron translation