Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trungpa for Halloween

Click this link for Trungpa Rinpoche's brief remarks on the general and enduring topic of spookiness, as preserved by the Chronicle Project.

Happy Halloween to you all!


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Friday, October 29, 2010

A Rain of Blessings for Lha Bab Duchen

We send a rain of prayers and auspicious wishes to you today, Lha Bab Duchen, 2010, with the sincere hope that your good fortune be multiplied ten million times.

Sarva Mangalam!

.

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Big Lily

"That just about does it, don't it?
And that'll just about do it, won't it?"

I live in the neighborhood of South Jambudvipa's contemporary Desert Floristic Province that people have agreed to call the Mojave; although, there is some confusion about what constitutes (1) a desert, and (2) where the Mojave Desert begins and ends. 
Since my purpose in life is to harness confusion, I guess we'll stroll out in the corral, and find out who will stand still long enough to take a saddle.
Just as Jambudvipa is defined by the rose-apple tree, Eugenia jambolana -- or, properly speaking, the sound (jambu!) that the fruit makes when it splashes into water to be consumed by nagas-- and, in a not altogether dissimilar way, just as the Buddhas are each said to reach enlightenment beneath a particular kind of tree -- so, too, is the Mojave Desert defined by a tree: Yucca brevifolia, or the Joshua Tree.
If you are outside, and you see a Joshua Tree, then you are in the Mojave Desert. That is a picture of one, above, just so you can familiarize yourself with what you might see if you come around these parts.
So, if the Mojave is a desert defined, or at the very least delimited, by the Joshua Tree, what then defines a desert? 

Suppose we go to the textbook, and see what it has to say? 

"In spite of the frequency with which the term is applied," says Dr. Thomas T. Warner's Desert Meteorology (Cambridge, 2004), "there is no universally accepted common or technical definition of 'desert.' It is perhaps one of the oldest written words (El Baz 1983), having come to us from an Egyptian hieroglyph pronounced Tesert, and through the Latin words desero -- to abandon, desertum -- a waste place or wilderness, and desertus -- abandoned, relinquished or forsaken."
Those of us who live in deserts don't call them "deserts" per se; rather, we call them "arid lands," and one handy definition of an arid land is where, due to evapotranspiration and a basic scarcity of precipitation, you lose more water than you gain. Like Dr. Warner says, "...if you place a bucket outside on the ground and it never fills up, you are in a desert."
Well, now... there's a provocative analogy if ever I heard one.
"Those receiving teachings should avoid six mistakes:
listening too soon, like a clay pot that has not been fired;
not paying attention to what is said, like a cup turned upside down;
not memorizing what is heard, like a leaky vessel;
tainting the teachings with negative emotional bias, like a pot lined with poison;
not following the spiritual path, like a contaminated container;
and taking pride in knowing just the words, like a broken vase.
Avoid any mistakes like these and listen to the teachings carefully, with undivided attention."
                                                        --Longchenpa
Maybe you have a sure-enough bucket, but you fill it only long enough to slake your immediate thirst, and that is that.

Maybe you leave it out a little longer, but on the way to put it somewhere, most of what you have collected spills out through careless handling.

Maybe you take what you collect in your sure-enough bucket, and go sell it someplace else. 

Seems like a whole lot of that is going around.

Or maybe, just maybe, you fill that bucket so you can take it to everybody else and make certain they have cool water.

If you can come out to this place where it does not rain very much with a perfectly pristine, clean, and thoroughly empty bucket, and manage to abandon, relinquish, and forsake habitually thinking in terms of gain and loss, you will have accomplished something. 

I expect you might even begin to see the Joshua Tree as a wish-fulfilling tree. 

You will know what it means to be in South Jambudvipa, bathed in the blue reflected from Mt. Meru's southern face, in the place where nagas eat fallen rose-apples and shit gold that becomes a golden river.

I just tell you. Beneath the forsaken, there is a river of gold.

"Mojave" is a Native American name for a place near the Colorado River, on the eastern edge of this desert, where there are three pinnacles. So, "Mojave" is a Native American reference to a triad. If you want drag the Triple into this, then I guess you can. If you sit around long enough, you will find concordances everywhere, whether you want to or not. The clouds in the sky -- well, you can read them just like books. Those dust-devils out on the playa -- sure, you can invest them with personality.

I believe I already told you, one fine day,  that even three ravens can make a door. 

Nevertheless, here in the arid, three pinnacle resort of rabbits and ravens, delimited by a remarkable monocot that many scientists consider a giant lily -- liliaceae (some others disagree, calling it agave -- agavaceae -- a giant asparagus) a massive, prehistoric flower of considerable mystery -- one eventually wears out metaphor on the whetstone of experience. 

One eventually stops seeing "concordances," and merely relaxes back into the "state of dharmata, clarity, and emptiness combined," the way moonlight relaxes into a vision of the fluttering moth upon whom the Joshua Tree depends for pollination.


When even this moth ceases to be a suffering sentient being, then do you imagine it will be time for us to turn out the moonlight and close the raven door?

The Joshua Tree is the indicator species of the Mojave Desert. It can live for centuries, with some specimens reckoned at over a thousand years old. As it goes, so goes its realm, so scientists invest effort in knowing its moods.


There are now more Joshua Trees on less ground. The concentration of the tree is growing, but the distribution of the tree is shrinking. 

The older trees are dying off. 

Earlier this year, I had some interest out at the Desert Queen Mine, so I went wandering through Joshua Tree National Park. Along the way, I encountered Ranger Mimi Gordon, seen in the photograph above, photographing what she feels to be the oldest Joshua Tree still standing -- estimated at some 400 years. She gave an impromptu lecture on the general state of the park's trees, noting that they were "circling the wagons," or disappearing around the edges, and increasing in density at the center of their distribution. A paradox, indeed, that the cause of this desert dweller's demise is being laid to climate change -- in result of global warming. 

By the way -- about the best discussion I have yet to find of the vicissitudes facing the Joshua Tree is in David Darlington's The Mojave: A Portrait of the Definitive American Desert, which will please you whether deserts please you or not.

Thus it is, that thousand year old trees die, and so shall we ---
At first, when you are certain that you are going to die, you must cut all ties and attachment to this life. Confess from the depths of your heart any downfalls and breakages of samaya, harmful actions and so on. Devote not even so much as a single moment to feeling guilty about your own negative actions, fearing death, or being attached to this life. Instead, feel happiness and joy, and say to yourself: “Now I shall recognize the clear light at death. Or, if that is not possible, since I shall certainly use the bardo as an opportunity to travel to a pure realm such as Akanishtha, Zangdokpalri or Sukhavati, I shall be joyful.” Maintain, without ever letting it slip away, the strong intention and thought “I shall travel to the pure realms!”

Gently, in a relaxed way, as you settle into an experience of whichever practice is the clearest and most vivid for you, let go of the constituents of this life. Since you will be unable to practise any unfamiliar pith instructions, rely only on those practices which are clearest for you at the moment. These two points—settling into a practice in this way, and aspiring to travel to a pure land such as Zangdokpalri—are unsurpassable. In particular, it is absolutely crucial that you repeatedly form the intention to travel to the pure land of your choosing. It is exceptionally important to understand that even now, both day and night, you must never let go of this thought.
         ---Patrul Rinpoche, A Brief Introduction to the Bardos
We land here in three pinnacles of blue; with the threshold of a bucket; watching moths make love to aging monocots in the moonlight; whilst sitting atop a river of gold; gradually bereft of metaphor; ground down by frequent wind and rare waters, waiting for the place we have agreed to call samsara to empty out of what we have decided to call suffering.

We all have the same thing to look forward to, but we spend our valuable time seducing each other, hollering at each other, thumping on each other, shooting at each other, lying about each other, and taking so many sides there are not any sides left to take.
When you are young, you have a lot of energy to chase those fractious ones around, wrassle a saddle on them, and then congratulate yourself for doing a good day's work. When you are older, you learn to settle into the corral, see who gets nosy, and then stand still so they walk right up to you. There really is no substitute for lived-through experience.
When you are older, people say you should take time for the flowers.

A big lily is what I have around here, so that is what I have to start and finish with. 

If you don't make a wish on them, then how the hell do you know if they fulfill wishes or not?

Some say yippie-ki-yea; some say e ma ho.



Lha Bab Duchen, 2010. May it be auspicious.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Shamans See

"The teacher is me, the dharma too is me.
The gathering and the listeners are me.
The teacher of the world and the practices are me.
The worldly and the nonworldly are me."
                                                    --Hevajratantra


Once upon a time, I took a class entitled 'Observation and Description.' The instructor explained that the skill of observation is predicated upon one's ability to accurately describe what one sees; hence, to be a keen observer, one has to increase one's descriptive vocabulary. This seems true, at least conventionally speaking, and is in any event a normal enough supposition to preclude much argument for or against.

However, ours is not a normal forum, and here the subject of labeling, by whatever means, is a fit topic for constant dissection.
"Labeling takes place in confusion, for what is nonexistant is taken to exist.
Given that the nature of things is similar to that of dream images, which have no basis,
how exceedingly strange it is to fixate on samsara and nirvana as though they existed in their own right!" -- Longchenpa
Above, is a photomicrograph of two human cancer cells, seen just before they divide into four cells, viewed at 100X magnification. The photo was taken by Dr. Paul D. Andrews of the University of Dundee, in Scotland, and comes to us courtesy of Nikon Small World.

If you could interdict the division process, right at this very moment, then you could stop a cancer dead in its tracks.

In the shared belief we call Vajrayana -- which becomes less a belief and more an observation the more we share it -- we have numerous examples of the visualization and manipulation of structures very similar to the structures seen in the above photomicrograph. Just as an example -- and it is an example from the open literature -- take Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche's description of a particular protection wheel employed in White Tara practice:
"In an instant, from the state of emptiness a white wheel with ten spokes appears. Unlike the wheel that you have been visualizing in your heart, this wheel is not flat and it does not have a rim. In fact, it is probably better not to think of it as a wheel at all, because that word is misleading. It might be better to think of its shape as something like some of the satellites we send into space, which are round with various spikes sticking out."

"Imagine the hub to be a very, very large sphere of white light. Though it is said to have ten spokes, there are only eight spokes evenly spaced around the horizon. The hub is hollow and round except that the top and bottom are slightly pointed. They are therefore referred to as spokes, making ten spokes altogether. The eight spokes around the horizon are like ribs, and taper to a point. There is no break between them, but there is an arch between them like between the bones on the top of the hand. The spokes go all around, and the whole thing would be therefore appear circular if viewed from above. Inside the wheel and spokes it is hollow and inconceivably vast and spacious. The wheel is almost invisible because it is spinning very fast. The eight spokes are turning so fast that they are just a white blur, so you can only see a tentlike ball. This is the reason why we call it a wheel. It spins clockwise. The upper and lower spokes are turning in place. They are like an axis."
Now consider, for just a moment, that you are infinitesimally small, and inside your own body, trying to describe the behavior and appearance of cells you see around you. Might not your description of what you observe be very similar to what Khenpo Karthar has given, above? By the way, that description was from his book, The Wish-Fulfilling Wheel: The Practice of White Tara (2003), which is very highly recommended.

We don't have to visualize ourselves inside our bodies. Instead,we can just go outside and look at the stars. The above animation depicts all the asteroids orbiting the sun, as we have discovered them in the past thirty years.

Finally, since we have looked inside and outside the magic theater, we can use our x-ray vision to pick up the scenery, and look inside that. Here is a picture of what agate looks like under 4X magnification: 

So, we can look into spaces that we consider external to ourselves, internal to ourselves, or adjunct to ourselves, and as we deconstruct what we see, we find it all quite similar.

And all quite empty, for as we delve deeper and deeper into these self-similar spaces, activities, and patterns, we find more self-similar spaces, activities, and patterns. What is the difference between this asteroid striking the sun, as seen in the below video, and sperm fertilizing an egg?

For more years and in more places than we find what we have nowadays agreed to call Vajrayana, there have been shamans -- of greater or lesser realization and purpose -- and these shamans have -- for altruistic good or otherwise -- flown into spaces, activities, and patterns, employing a particular vision. In some senses, what they see, and how they see it, eventually came to be refined, and codified into systematic expositions like the Kalachakratantra, or the Hevajratantra, but that does not -- and should not -- imply ownership.

What we are examining is fundamentally human. It "belongs" to all of us.
"Mind itself is a vast expanse, the realm of unchanging space.
Its indeterminate display is the expanse of the magical expression of its responsiveness.
Everything is the adornment of basic space and nothing else.
Outwardly and inwardly, things proliferating and resolving are the dynamic energy of awakened mind.
Because this is nothing whatsoever yet arises as anything at all,
it is a marvelous and magical expression, amazing and superb."
Longchenpa wrote that, and when I read what he wrote I begin to wonder. Maybe the reason why we have not yet found a cure for cancer is because we are seeking a material solution to a non-material circumstance.

How can we proceed without proceeding from the foundation of the recognition of the true nature of phenomena?

.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Tibetan Astrology: October 25 - October 31, 2010


NOTE: This week, we observe Lha Bab Duchen, the last of the so-called "ten million days" for 2010.  Buddha spent three months teaching in the realm of gods, and this marks the day he returned to the human realm. Whatever you do this Friday, positive or negative, will see results magnified ten million times. Unless you feel yourself immune to cause and effect, that is something to keep in mind.

Despite the auspicious character of Lha Bab Duchen, and a Drubjor day on Tuesday, this week is marked by generally negative energy. It is not out of the question to expect political turmoil, sudden violence, accidents, military or paramilitary action, geological upset, and damaging storms.

This might be a good time to go back and re-read the general prognostications for 2010 we published in December of last year. Note particularly the remarks on spiritual discord. Now is when we will see some of that demonstrated to perfection.

By the way -- the San Francisco Giants made it to the World Series of Baseball. There are probably more Tibetan Buddhists in San Francisco than anywhere else in America. We are reporting the schedule for the World Series games with complete neutrality, and no favoritism whatsoever, as you can clearly see below.

October 25, 2010 - Chinese 18th, M-T-K 18th. Sheep, Khon, White 6. Not a good day for government and a dangerous day of the most negative possible character. Act with extreme caution in all things today. What is done in haste will be regretted with painful slowness.

October 26, 2010 - Chinese 19th, M-T-K 19th. Monkey, Dwa, Red 7. Today is Drubjor. Yes! We have a double drubjor this month! If you were going to put up flags on Friday, but can't because it is not auspicious to put up flags, then use this day instead. This is a highly successful day when all the brakes are off, so whatever you do, strongly do. Best day all year to buy a new car - but take it straight home and put it in the garage until next week. Some will be tempted to use today's energy for vengeance. Use today's energy for positive accomplishments, instead. The Dalai Lama is scheduled for Miami, Florida today.

October 27, 2010 - Chinese 20th, M-T-K 20th. Bird, Khen White 8. Today is nyi nak. What harms unity, harms sanity. Worry and strife begins. Giants vs Rangers at the Holy City of San Francisco. UPDATED: Giants win, 11-7.

October 28, 2010 - Chinese 21st, M-T-K 21st. Dog, Kham, Red 9. Worry and strife continues. This is an extremely beclouded and negative day -- virtually, if not actually,  demonic in character. I am again suggesting that the time has come to absorb the longevity of a troublesome embodiment of malevolence and anger, purify it, and liberate it into basic space. On a much more positive note, Giants vs Rangers at the Holy City of San Francisco. UPDATED: Giants win, 9-0.

October 29, 2010 - Chinese 22nd, M-T-K 22nd. Pig, Gin, White 1. Lha Bab Duchen. Today is zin phung. Today is also baden, so no flags today.

October 30, 2010 - Chinese 23rd, M-T-K 23rd. Mouse, Zin, Black 2.  Today is yan kwong. If there is no significant disaster stirring up some part of the world today, be very, very surprised. Giants vs Rangers at some horrid place in Evil Texas. UPDATED: Rangers steal, 4-2.

October 31, 2010 - Chinese 24th, M-T-K 24th. Ox, Zon, Blue 3. Halloween. If you have a choice between going out and staying in tonight, by all means stay inside. This is most definitely not a lucky night for trick or treating. Giants vs Rangers at some horrid place in Evil Texas. UPDATED: Giants win, 4-0. Trick or treat?


Naga observations for the ninth  month: In general, I want to say it is very bad to cut trees this month. Best days for offerings are lunar 12, 17, 27, and 29. Studiously avoid 6, 10, 13, 16, 20, 22, 24, 25, and 26.

Consult our extended discussion of 2010 astrology by clicking here.

Published every Monday at 00:01 香港時間 but written in advance and auto-posted. See our Introduction to Daily Tibetan Astrology for background information. If you know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can get information about your positive and negative days by clicking here. If you don't know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can obtain that information by clicking here. For specific information about the astrology of 2010, inclusive of elements, earth spirits, and so forth, please consult our extended discussion by clicking here.  Click here for Hong Kong Observatory conversion tables. Weekly Tibetan Astrology copyright (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Worldwide Live Release Today: Updated

All it takes is a little imagination -- a little compassion -- and you have performed an act that has enormously positive consequences for you, as well as the creatures you have saved.

 
It may not seem like much to you, but it means more than words can say. Above, one of our intrepid readers from Australia, has just released these crickets -- otherwise destined to be bait. 

So far, we have heard from:
Stephen, in Singapore
K.R., in Greece
E.S.Z., in India
Cliff, in Ohio
R.B., in Australia
B.T., in Canada
Isabel, in Portugal
Jewel, in Arizona
A.C., in New York
J.R.S., in Florida
L.B.T., in England
W.X.H., in China
A.C., in Taiwan
N.S., in South Africa
N.E.A., in Russia
T.G., in India
Dave A., in Pennsylvania
J.C., in California
Leni, in Singapore
Jordan P., in Maryland
The creatures being released today include birds, fish, and insects. So far, they number into the thousands. What makes me so happy is to see that we have representatives from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and America -- we have people all over the world involved in this virtuous activity, and I imagine we will hear from more as the day goes on. Please try your very best, O.K.?

Thank you so very much for participating in Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar's Annual Worldwide Live Release for 2010.


UPDATED: We've added some more names to the above list, and also, Dave A. from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sent us this photo of minnows being released. He also released some earthworms nearby.


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Dudjom Tersar Empowerments in Spiti


The "Vajrakilaya Dance" from the Dudjom Tersar empowerments conducted by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in Spiti, earlier this year.

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First Recorded Statement by Trungpa XII


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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Worldwide Live Release for October 21, 2010

Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar has organized the live release of sentient beings all over the world, to be accomplished on October 21, 2010. So far, we have already received commitments from India, Australia, Singapore, Greece, Canada, and several American states.

That's a nice beginning, but it is not enough.

If you enjoy this site -- and I know many of you do, because we have several thousand repeat visitors every day -- then please, please, please....... please participate in this event, even if it only involves one being.

As the above photo of Yangsi Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche illustrates, you do not need elaborate preparations, nor do you need to know elaborate ceremony. Just acquire some critters who are otherwise destined to die, and set them free where they won't be harmed. You can set birds free to the sky or acquatic creatures free to lakes, rivers, or oceans. You can get insects, who would otherwise be used as bait, and set them free in the forest. If you want to chant something while you do this, then recite Om Mani Padme Hum, or the Medicine Buddha mantra.  

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what --- we are asking you to participate to the best of your ability, on October 21, 2010.

-o-*/o\*/o\*-o-
The Benefits of Saving Lives
Chatral Rinpoche


I bow down before the Lama, Buddha Amitayus,

And the bodhisattvas in training.

I shall now in brief describe the benefits

Of freeing animals and ransoming their lives.


To save animals from slaughter or any mortal danger,

With an entirely pure motivation and conduct,

Is without doubt a practice to be taken up

By all followers of the Buddha Shakyamuni.

Many sutras, tantras and commentaries

Describe in detail the advantages it brings,

And countless learned and accomplished masters of India and Tibet

Have stressed the value and importance of benefitting beings.

Even in the basic vehicle one avoids inflicting harm on others,

In the mahayana this is the very training of a bodhisattva,

And in the secret mantra, a principal samaya of the ratna family.

The reasoning behind this is as follows: in this world,

Nothing is as dear to someone as his or her own life,

So no greater crime is there than taking life away,

And no conditioned virtue brings greater merit

Than the act of saving beings and ransoming their lives.

Therefore, should you wish for happiness and good,

Exert yourself in this, the most supreme of paths,

Which is proven through scriptures and through reasoning,

And is free of obstacles and potential dangers.

Consider your own body and with this as an example,

Avoid doing anything that might bring harm to others.

Make every effort not to kill any living creature,

Birds, fish, deer, cattle and even tiny insects,

And strive instead to save their lives,

Offering them protection from every fear.

The benefit of doing so is beyond imagining.

This is the best practice for your own longevity,

And the greatest ritual for the living or deceased.

It is my main practice of benefitting others.

It dispels all external and internal adversity and obstacles,

Effortlessly and spontaneously, it brings favourable conditions,

And, when inspired by the noble mind of bodhichitta and

Completed with dedication and pure aspiration prayers,

It will lead one to complete enlightenment,

And the accomplishment of one’s own and others’ welfare—

Of this you need have no doubts at all!

Those whose minds incline to virtue and acts of merit,

Should prohibit hunting and fishing on their land.

Some birds, in particular, such as geese and cranes,

Are impelled by their karma to migrate

And fly south in autumn, north in spring.

At times, weary from the efforts of their flight,

Or having lost their way, some are forced to land,

Distressed, afraid and anxious; when this happens,

You should not throw stones or shoot at them,

Nor try to kill them or do them any harm,

But protect them so they may easily fly once more.

To offer care and affection to sentient beings

In desperate situations who lack protection

Brings just as much merit as the meditation

On emptiness with compassion as its core—

So it has been said by glorious Lord Atisha.

Lamas, officials, monks, nuns, men and women,

In all the places over which you have control,

Exert every influence and do all within your power

To release animals and ransom their lives,

While encouraging others to do the same.

In all those places where this is done,

Sickness among people and livestock will cease,

Harvests will be plentiful and life will be long.

All will enjoy happiness and wellbeing in abundance,

And at death let go of deluded experience,

Before finding an excellent rebirth within the higher realms.

Ultimately, there is no doubt that this will lead one easily

To find the supreme and perfect state of awakening.



In response to the request of Doctor Dordrak,

Who offered a pure silk scarf and a hundred Nepali rupees,

The one called Chatral Sangye Dorje,

Who strives continuously to ransom lives,

Wrote down spontaneously whatever came to mind.

By the merit of this may all sentient beings

Come to practise enlightened actions!


Mamakoling samanta!


Photo by Matthieu Ricard, translation from Lotsawa House

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Choying Dzod Special Edition in English

If you don't get one of these while they are still available, you will have missed a fantastic opportunity. I'm talking about a special edition of Longchenpa's Choying Dzod ("Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena") -- the source verses -- done with a letterpress, on archival paper, and fine-art binding.

For USD $40.00 ? I have no idea how they did it, but they did. For a little extra, you can also get it with a brocade cover.

This magnificent edition was done up as a labor of love by Padma Publishing -- Chagdud Tulku's people. You know the old thing about, "if you were on a deserted island, and you could only have one book...?" Well, this is definitely the book. 

A beautifully done, small volume, somewhat larger than pocket size (depends on the pocket, I know) that you can keep for yourself or give away as a gift. Choying Dzod is also used as a support on altars, and is often read for dying Dzogchen masters. This latter use reinforces the idea that mere possession of this book is a sublime blessing.

Click the link, above, and purchase this volume before the edition runs out.


.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

White Tara Mantra: Karmapa XVII

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White Tara Prayer


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Mi Kha Dra Dok


THE CONDENSED RITUAL FOR
AVERTING THE ENEMIES OF GOSSIP

Karma Raga Asyepa
(Karma Chakme)

RANG NYID THUK JE CHHEN PO'I THUK KA NAY OD ZER JANG GU THRO PAY TAM NGEN MI KHA THAM CHAY DOK PAR GYUR
From the heart-center of myself as the Great Compassionate One, there radiate green rays of light, which cast away all negative rumors and gossip.

OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH!

OM AH: HUR THUM MI KHA TAM NGEN THAM CHAY DOK
OM AH: Avert all trouble-making, negative rumors and gossip!

RILI! RILI!

OM MAHA DHEVA: DRA WO NI TRI NI SROK LA BAY CHHOD
OM MAHA DHEVA: Enemies, NITRINI! Completely sever their life-force!

BHYO: MI KHA NGEN PA GYUR
BHYO: Destroy all malicious bad rumors!

MI KHA NGEN PAY DRA WO MA RA YA
The enemy of malicious bad rumors, MARAYA!

THUM! THUM!

SHIK! SHIK!
Be gone! Be gone!

BAY BAY DRIL DRIL BHYO BHYO DOK
Send away! Send away! Throw out! Throw out! BHYO! BHYO! Avert!

GYA YI MI KHA DOK
Avert the negative rumors of a hundred!

TONG GI THRAM CHU DOK
Avert the lying lips of a thousand!

GYA KHA YER YER DOK
Avert the hundred mouths immaculately!

TONG KHA MER MER DOK
Avert the thousand mouths comprehensively!

NAY NA DOK
Avert the various kinds of illnesses!

DRA NA DOK
Avert the various kinds of enemies!

GYOD NA DOK
Avert the various kinds of disputes!

KUN NA DOK
Avert the various kinds of thieves!

MAK NA DOK
Avert the various kinds of wars!

NYI MA CHHOK ZHI TSAM GYAY KYI MI KHA TAM NGEN THAM CHAY DOK
Avert all of the negative rumors and gossip in the sun's four cardinal and eight intermediate directions!

NGEN SEM TSUR LA CHANG WAY DRA DRE THAM CHAY LA BAY BAY
Send away, send away all enemies and negative spirits who hold on to malicious intent!

DRIL DRIL
Throw them out! Throw them out!

THUM! THUM!

SHIK SHIK
Be gone! Be gone!

BHYO! BHYO!

DOK DOK
Avert! Avert!

BHYO DOK CHIK
BHYO: May they be averted!

This was composed by Karma Raga Aseypa. Virtue!


Translated by Erick Sherab Zangpo at the request of Tenpa Rinpoche.
Copyright reserved. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.

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Milarepa's Advice to the Demoness

"Do you think you are happy now? You confused,
wretched hag!
If you have not found happiness, it is your
own fault.
Beware! Your clinging-to-Ego is greater
than yourself;

Pay heed! Your emotions are stronger
than yourself.
Oh, specter, your vicious will is far
wickeder than yourself;
Your habitual thought is more characteristic
than yourself;
Your ceaseless mental activity is more
frantic than yourself!

To maintain the existence of a ghost,
Only brings about mischief;
To understand the non-existence of a ghost
is the way of Buddha;
To know that ghost and Reality are one
Is the way to Liberation.
Knowing that the ghosts are all one's parents
Is the right understanding;
Realizing that the ghost itself is Self-mind
Is glory supreme.

You will be emancipated from all fetters
If you realize the truth that I have stated;
This is my instruction to you, demoness!

To become my disciple you must observe the
precepts.
Violate not the rules of Vajrayana,
Debase not the great Compassion,
Afflict not the body, word, and mind of Buddhists.
If you ever violate these rules,
You can be assured of plummeting to
the Vajra Hell!
Recite these important rules three times;
Remember their meaning and practice them."

The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa
Garma C.C. Chang translation

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Weekly Tibetan Astrology: October 18 - October 24, 2010


NOTE: This week picks up where last week left off, if you can believe such richness is still possible. If you have been troubled by discord with others, now is the time to let it go. Let us call this "Peace Week," if we can, and make it an intelligent peace:
"Do not chase after the object of your hatred -- look at your angry mind (instead).
The appearance of your anger, self-arising and self-liberated, is luminous emptiness.
There is no luminous emptiness separate from mirrorlike wisdom.
Right within hatred being self-liberated, recite the six syllables."
Patrul Rinpoche said that, and it is worth memorizing. There has never been a time when dark murmurings and incipient hostilities were not at work. Do you grasp at them or do you let them dissolve naturally? The madness of others cannot be corrected; all one can do is strive to let one's own madness self-liberate, and go with the ever-present stream of effortless compassion. This world is full of crazy jealousies and conflicts, so why add anything to this?
                                                                
If someone wished to practice true magic this week, there would be no better gift than to erase all thoughts of anger, hatred, or revenge from one's heart, and seal it with the jewel of the six syllables. Next Friday is Lha Bab Duchen, so we can spend this week setting the stage to hit the ground running, or we can be like those people who go to church on Sunday, and the saloon every other day of the week.

Personal Note: If it is at all possible -- and even if it only involves one being -- I am most respectfully asking every reader of Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar to perform a live release this week. We have done this in the past with some considerable success, but I would like this week to be the biggest ever. So, please, wherever you are and whoever you are, try your very best to release beings at some point during the week. Send a picture if you can, and we will publish it here. If we can do this while the Dalai Lama is in North America, as a joyful tribute to the example of his boundless compassion,  it becomes a very special thing.

October 18, 2010 - Chinese 11th, M-T-K 11th. Mouse, Dwa, White 8. Today should be turned over to longevity practices of the most intense possible character. What can one say about today? Today is the oldest we have ever been, and the youngest we will ever be. The Dalai Lama is scheduled for Atlanta's Emory University today. Please try to organize a live release for today.

October 19, 2010 - Chinese 12th, M-T-K 12th. Ox, Khen, Red 9. Another dangerous Tuesday. Be cautious in all things, and don't be startled if you are startled. Good day for naga offerings. The Dalai Lama is scheduled for Atlanta's Emory University today.

October 20, 2010 - Chinese 13th, M-T-K 13th. Tiger, Kham, White 1. Success possible, but this is a fragile moment in time. The Dalai Lama is scheduled for Cincinnati, Ohio today.

October 21, 2010 - Chinese 14th, M-T-K 14th. Rabbit, Gin, Black 2. Today is the anniversary of Konchok Gyalpo (1034 - 1102), Kunga Nyingpo (1092 - 1158), and Khyungpo Naljor (1050 - 1140). Blessings will attend today at a very high order of magnitude. If you stay in one place, it makes them all the easier to receive. The Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak at Oxford, Ohio's Miami University today. Please try to organize a live release for today.

October 22, 2010 - Chinese 15th, M-T-K 15th. Dragon, Zin, Blue 3. Hey Scorpio. Today is Drubjor, so whatever you do, let it wail. Good day to make a jewel offering. The Dalai Lama is scheduled for Toronto, Canada today.

October 23, 2010 - Chinese 16th, M-T-K 16th. Snake, Zon, Green 4. Today is zin phung. You can get things accomplished, but it might wind up costing more than you can really afford. The Dalai Lama is scheduled to remain in Toronto, Canada today.

October 24, 2010 - Chinese 17th, M-T-K 17th. Horse, Li, Yellow 5. Put aside your worries and strengthen the home front. All obstacles evaporate in time. Good day for naga offerings. The Dalai Lama is scheduled to remain in Toronto, Canada today. Canada is where all the freeways end, where beavers frolic, where Trungpa Rinpoche disappeared, where everybody speaks a different language, where most of the stuff they buy there is actually made there, and where guys in red coats chase wily Frenchmen paddling canoes. Last time the Dalai Lama went to Canada, somebody gave him a cowboy hat. If they give him a Mountie hat this trip, I will go there for sure.

Naga observations for the ninth  month: In general, I want to say it is very bad to cut trees this month. Best days for offerings are lunar 12, 17, 27, and 29. Studiously avoid 6, 10, 13, 16, 20, 22, 24, 25, and 26.

Consult our extended discussion of 2010 astrology by clicking here.

Published every Monday at 00:01 香港時間 but written in advance and auto-posted. See our Introduction to Daily Tibetan Astrology for background information. If you know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can get information about your positive and negative days by clicking here. If you don't know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can obtain that information by clicking here. For specific information about the astrology of 2010, inclusive of elements, earth spirits, and so forth, please consult our extended discussion by clicking here.  Click here for Hong Kong Observatory conversion tables. Weekly Tibetan Astrology copyright (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Benoit Mandelbrot, 20 November 1924 – 14 October 2010

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

V-Twin Vajrayana


And now, for an episode of blatant labeling --

Well, here we go --- if you're reading this post, I am off and running.

Next week I will have one of those culturally predetermined "milestone" birthdays -- one I never in my wildest dream ever thought I would see -- so, as is traditional for me this time of year, I am taking some time off to go work on the Bucket List.

In so many ways, I am the luckiest person. 

I have been able to meet with the greatest teachers of the age. I have also met with many other remarkable people around the world. 

With only one or two remaining exceptions, I have done everything I ever wanted to do, and then some. 

There is no place I ever wanted to go that I have not been, and that includes some places which might surprise you. 

I can say that every dream I ever had has always come true -- really, I can say that I have been blessed with extremely good fortune since the day I was born.

Then of course, there is the absolutely meaningless, and often counterproductive stuff from which none of us are immune. Things like sky-diving, staring down a charging rhino, running with the bulls, or marrying someone from Tianjin, all of which I have observed to embody the same essential experience. 

For me, this year, counterproductive stuff takes the form of a serious road trip and a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle. 

Oh, how appropriate! 

Fact is, I've never ridden Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and don't know anything about them: one of the very few things I wanted to do that I've never done. I figure the best way to learn is to get on and ride until I get it mastered, or run into a wall, whichever comes first.

Assuming I am able to survive that experience, next stop is the silver wings and roaring engines, and a long-planned flight to a place I have always loved.

I could tell you that I'm middle-aged crazy, except I am no longer middle-aged. Let me see... that leaves crazy, now doesn't it?

While I am out motoring, we'll have some guest editors here at Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar, and we also have some articles "in the can" as they say in Hollywood -- all set to auto-post. By "auto-post," I mean that the articles are already written, and are set to post automatically at predetermined times.

Thing to remember about ghosts is, they always fly in straight lines.

When you get to my age, sometimes people ask, "What have you learned?" I do not know how to answer that, because I am still learning. Like the song says, you know I've always been a dreamer -- spent my life running 'round.

So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time


Photos copyright (c) 2010 by the author. All rights reserved.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

California Rinchen Terzod On Again!

The Rinchen Terzod which was canceled last week is on again --  here is the official text of the announcement:
Dear Sangha,


This evening Yangthang Tulku Rinpoche called and spoke with Gyatrul Rinpoche and Lama Chonam. He has confirmed that his health is strong and affirmed clearly that he intends to come to Orgyen Dorje Den to bestow the Rinchen Terzod.  He said that "Gyatrul Rinpoche has asked me and the students are expecting me and so this is the year! I have every intention of giving the Rinchen Terzod and fulfilling this request."

We are sorry for the postponement--but it appears our merit may actually be sufficient for the transmission to occur!
We still have some logistical issues to work out, but we think we should be able to start the wangchen on Friday, November 26th.

We just heard the good news and wanted to let you all know just as soon as possible; the duration and suggested donation remain the same as was previously announced, but as we get more information regarding the starting date and the daily schedule we will let you know.

Sincerely,

The Oryen Dorje Den Board of Directors
That is the latest. Apart from one small motel in Alameda, California that is not giving a particularly favorable "group rate," there is no logistics assistance coming forth at this hour.

Nevertheless, this is great news. If it happens, the Rinchen Terzod on the West Coast is a long-awaited event, and will attract a large number of participants. Where, in the Bay Area,  these hundreds of people are going to stay for three or four months -- during high season, with hotels and rooms already booked months in advance -- has yet to be revealed.

UPDATED: One of our regular readers suggested http://www.couchsurfing.org/ as a possible solution to the billeting issue. Don't know much about them, never had occasion to use them, but here is the link anyway.

I used to maintain a residence in the charming island town of Alameda, California -- the very first time Gyatrul Rinpoche visited the place it was to visit my "lagoon" -- and the first thing that jumps to my mind is, where do they expect to park the cars? If only 150 people show up, it will create a parking nightmare in that part of town. If 1,500 people show up? Forget about it. Maybe I am over-estimating attendance?

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Only the Beginning

There are people in this world who do terrible things to rabbits. This week has not been a good one for my friends, with lurid headlines such as "Rabbit Compound Fortified to Stop Breakouts," and "Smallest American Rabbit Gets No Legal Protection." Seems as if the practice of rendition now extends to lagomorphs, who are apparently faring worse than Muslims at Gitmo.

Now, from Australia -- where rabbits are historically subject to all manner of barbarity -- comes news of a different sort. Seems a hunter went about shooting rabbits all afternoon, after which he hopped in his truck and began to drive away.

The truck struck a bump, and by some means, a shotgun in the rear of the vehicle discharged, killing the rabbit hunter.

I take no pleasure hearing of this accident, just as I take no pleasure hearing of the rabbits that were murdered. Still, people who think there is no karmic retribution for killing animals should think again.


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ordinary Mail

In the middle of the last century, in the West, Buddhist images were few and far between. For some of us, childhood was a struggle to resolve what we saw in our hearts with what we saw by our eyes.

In my own experience, had it not been for a  painter, an engraver, and a postage stamp, I might have easily lost direction for a while. 

Today, among other things, I want to honor the three of them -- this is something I have been thinking to do for what seems a very long time -- and in so doing, it is my intention to acknowledge the enormous blessing associated with Buddhist images.

The French painter Marc Leguay is sometimes called the "Gauguin of Laos." While still in his early twenties, an exhibition of his paintings caught the eye of the then Governor-General of Cochinchine, who kindly invited the young artist for an all-expense-paid tour of Laos.

So, in 1936, Leguay set sail to the place that would become his home for most of the rest of his life. He was so taken with the country and its people, that upon the conclusion of his visit, he literally jumped ship and fled into the jungle! Now wanted by the French police, he managed to hide until 1937, when he was discovered, and through the kind intervention of the Governor-General, allowed to stay permanently, eventually founding the Laotian Academy of Art.

Leguay lived in southern Laos, and thereafter close to the Cambodian border, until in 1945, he was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned. When the war ended, he returned to find his home wrecked and his life's work destroyed. He had no money, and had to support himself by teaching art to the children of the wealthy.

 Marcel-Louis Leguay (1910 - 2001)

So it happened that French rule ended, and a national government came into being. In 1951, Prince Souvanna Phouma invited Leguay to design Laotian postage stamps. In 1952, the first of these stamps came into being -- a collaboration between Leguay and the famous French engraver Jean Pheulpin (1907 - 1991).

The subjects of Leguay's designs and Pheulpin's subsequent engravings were always people in Leguay's immediate milieu. He used his wives and mistresses as models, and also his children. Buddhism was also a subject Leguay visited many times in his works, and his images are compelling.

In the mid 1950s, Leguay painted a Buddhist monk receiving alms. This monk only occasionally came to Leguay's door, and the artist had to sketch him surreptitiously, capturing different aspects during different visits. This painting later became the design of one of a series of stamps issued in 1957, commemorating Buddhism in Laos.

Like many others of my generation, I had a stamp collection.

When this stamp was issued, it became my favorite in all the world. I cannot tell you why -- or, if I could, perhaps it would not be so important -- but I can tell you that I began accumulating this stamp by every means possible. Once upon a time, I had literally thousands of them. I also used to give them away to my friends.

How can I say this? In 1957, that small picture of a Buddhist monk was somehow both a comfort and an inspiration to me. So, I wanted to be surrounded by this picture. A strange thing, isn't it?

By the 1970s, I was professionally interested in South East Asia. How that came to be is, I think, a result of what we call "throwing karma," no less than idealistic decisions by a natural-born romantic. While on one such adventure, I had to visit Paris, to meet with some old French colonialists. 

During dinner one evening, the subject of philately came up, so I told my story of the Laotian stamp. As it happens, my dinner companions were in the business of knowing things and finding people, and they were in a expansive mood.


Thus it came to pass that I was able to meet Jean Pheulpin, and to receive from him a most generous gift of signed, engraver's die proofs of the beautiful designs by Marc Leguay. I have scanned and now publish the proof of the monk -- a 10 kip stamp of 1957. Along with this proof, Pheulpin also gave me the story of how Leguay came to make the painting, from the furtive sketches I describe above.

One thing leads to another. We have all heard this saying, and many of us have experienced this as well.

If it happens you are a Buddhist, and you are also fortunate enough to be born in a Buddhist nation -- or at least a place where there is institutional sympathy for Buddhism -- then your inner experience and your outer visual experience can be in harmony with one another. 

If, for example, you have a dream of Tara, perhaps you will wake up and see an image of Tara, and then you can say, "Oh! Last night I dreamed of Tara!" Your divinity is culturally labeled in just this way. 

But, there is something else at work that is not so easily brushed aside.

When I was a small boy, my father brought home a picture book that described all the world's religions. He said to me, "I want you to very carefully look through this book, and think about what you see. Then, if you can, choose one thing that you want to study, because this is meant to guide you in life."

"[A]ll mundane and supramundane phenomena, without any distinction, are primordially enlightened as the mandala of vajralike body, speech, and mind. Thus [the mandala] is not accomplished through a path." --Rongzompa, Establishing Appearances As Divine
I was quite close to my father, with whom I enjoyed a very good relationship.  He was a most cordial, compassionate, and unselfish man of even, gentle temperament, who instinctively thought of others before himself. It was always my wish to follow his instructions to the letter, because it was my happiness to please him. I readily took up the book, and began to glance through it, when my eye fell upon a picture of Shakyamuni Buddha sitting beneath the bodhi tree. 

I told my father, "I don't want to see any others, I just want to study this one." 

My father was somewhat taken back by this, so he asked me, "Are you quite sure? You haven't even looked at the other ones." 

I was adamant, and replied that I did not feel the need to look elsewhere.


Attraction to that image led me to another image. We had a series of books in the house entitled John L. Stoddard's Lectures, published in 1925. In the third volume, on page forty-one, there is a picture of the bronze Buddha at Kamakura, in Japan. As a child, I loved this picture so much that I have kept it with me even to the present day.

Regardless of this, now you can understand how, when 1957 rolled around and I saw that monk's picture on the postage stamp, the image already seemed familiar to me, like an old friend. 

When, because of imprints arising from countless former existences, we experience an attraction to Buddhist images, these images will gradually begin to multiply, until we see them literally everywhere.

That is one way to view the matter.

Another way to view the matter is to consider that the seeming duration of "time" this takes is immaterial, because apart from being ubiquitous, the activity is continuous. Thus, while this may seem to happen immediately in one circumstance, or to happen gradually in another circumstance, what seems to "happen" has in fact already happened.

Gradually, having experienced the images everywhere, we will experience a cessation of grasping at these images, and our mind will cease naming its own appearances. Instead, we will begin to see all appearances as having the same nature.

Indeed, this has been the case all along -- we just haven't noticed.
As an aside: I know of many, many cases where Westerners have experienced dreams or visions of Christian deities, only to be led to the Dharma in result. This is  something interesting. In our polycultural society, you could say that one has an early and open opportunity to grasp all appearances as the same. You know, it seems that in Bhutan, or Thailand, or someplace similar, one doesn't have much choice. In America, if one actually seeks out the Dharma as a natural extension of one's spirituality, this is a little different.
In some respects, it is a mistake to think in terms of causes, i.e. because of some cause arising from a prior circumstance, we have a resulting attraction to Buddhist images. In an ultimate sense, if this were entirely true, then there would come a time when the results of the causes were exhausted, and the images would cease appearing to us. Yet, when we stop naming Buddhist images as "Buddhist images," and view all images exactly as they are, then all images become thoroughly inexhaustible Buddhist images.

In both their component and established sense.

Whether we perceive them or not.

Only the mind apprehends this appearance and decides, "here are rocks, creosote bushes, joshua trees, and sagebrush in the desert."

Only the mind apprehends this appearance and decides, "here are lurking rattlesnakes, tarantulas, tortoises, ravens, and coyotes."

Only the mind apprehends this appearance and decides, "here are countless buddhas, teaching the dharma, surrounded by the sangha, enjoying measureless offerings, attended by numberless dakinis in the buddhafield."

Only the mind apprehends this appearance and decides, "see the rock that resembles a seated buddha!"

Only the mind apprehends this appearance and decides, "see the seated buddha that has turned to stone!"

Only the mind apprehends this appearance and decides, "see the self-arising buddha having the nature of stone!"

In actuality, what is there before us is the Triple Gem. One can legitimately take refuge right there and then, with full confidence that one has taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

But, we do not do this.
"[A]ll apparent phenomena are nothing but delusion and there is, moreover, no freedom from delusion to be achieved by dispelling delusion. Delusion is, by its own essence, completely pure and, hence, enlightened. All phenomena are, in this way, primordially, fully, and completely enlightened. Phenomena appearing as various attributes are, therefore, indeed the mandala of vajra body, speech, and mind. They are like the Buddhas of the three times, never transcending the essence of complete purity. Sentient beings and Buddhas are not differentiated in terms of their essence. Just like distinct causes and results appearing in a dream, they are nothing but perceptions of individual minds brought forth by the power of imputation." -- Rongzompa, Establishing Appearances As Divine
The letter has already arrived for us -- maybe there is a lovely Laotian stamp upon it! -- but we think there is postage due. We rummage around in our pockets and purses, trying to find correct change. Maybe we feel we have to borrow from somebody to meet this obligation. Maybe we feel we have to go earn something. Maybe we feel we have to go down to the post office, and consult with the clerk. What shall we wear to the post office? Where is the post office? How shall we travel there? What must we say to the clerk?

Actually, the letter is already delivered. Absentmindedly, we placed it between the pages of a book, that we put on a shelf, intending to read it later.

Actually, the book is already down from the shelf, open to the correct page, and the letter is reading itself to us.

Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo (1012 - 1088)
Painting by Sergey Noskov

Rongzompa, who was himself a wish-fulfilling jewel, taught about wish-fulfilling jewels.

Rongzompa said that one may find such a jewel, but be unfamiliar with its singular quality.

Indeed, unless one knows of jewels, one may or may not see the jewel as a jewel.

Even if one does see a jewel, perhaps one will see an ordinary jewel, and thus one will not be able to enjoy its wish-fulfilling powers.

So, maybe this jewel is left in a drawer somewhere.

However, someone else may come along who is thoroughly familiar with wish-fulfilling jewels, and begin to point out this particular jewel's qualities. Suddenly, one is able to recognize the extraordinary nature of this jewel, and it becomes an object of veneration.

Rongzompa says:
"Likewise, unless ordinary body, speech, and mind are understood to be divine, and revered [as divine], their [divine] qualities will not be seen. However, it is observed that [divine] qualities manifest wherever [body, speech, and mind] are understood and revered [as divine]."
We do not always need to speak in terms of wish-fulfilling jewels, or other things that seem foreign to our culture and experience. Because we hear of them, and hear of their attributes, such things seem to exist, but whether or not such things exist is immaterial. If we hang on to such things we are hanging on to dreams.

If divinity naturally expresses itself as a primordial continuum of compassionate activity having neither origin nor cessation, then awakened reality already proceeds in a fashion precluding any necessity for fantasy.

That is what I mean when I say one can make the ordinary extraordinary, and the extraordinary ordinary, long enough for both the ordinary and the extraordinary to be ordinary.

For a friend in Athens, and all sentient beings. All photographs copyright (c) 2010 by the author. All rights reserved. Image of Rongzompa copyright (c) 2010 by Sergey Noskov. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In the Shadows of Sagebrush

IMPORTANT WARNING: This article discusses a deadly poisonous plant in terms of its historical use as an entheogen. Please be warned and advised that some people read articles such as this one, and decide to ingest this plant by various means in order to sample its effects. Those people are dead, because this plant kills. Please do not be a fool. For expanded research into this plant's toxic chemical properties, please consult the Phyto database and Toxnet.

When you first began to study Vajrayana, perhaps you will recall that your teacher gave a little analogy to explain the difference between Vajrayana and the other vehicles. 

Your teacher might have told you that when a follower of  the Hinayana sees a poisonous plant, he thinks "Alas! A poisonous plant!" and he avoids it at all costs. When a follower of the Mahayana sees a poisonous plant, he thinks "Poison, true! But even poison may be made into useful medicine!" so he thereafter sets out to transmute the thing. However, when a follower of the Vajrayana sees a poisonous plant, he thinks "Everything is fundamentally pure!" and gobbles the thing right down.

You can regard that as literally as you dare, but keep in mind the difference between analogy and admonition. If, for some irrational reason, you are tempted to gobble poisonous plants, I suggest you first sharpen your skills by bringing speeding locomotives to an abrupt halt.

If you can derail locomotives, then I suppose you are ready for locoweed -- otherwise known as Datura.

Either way, you are dealing with a train wreck.

Datura is a genus of plants with anywhere from nine to twelve species (depending who you consult) that some botanists consider native to North America.

In the natural world, Datura plants are food for the larvae of Lepidoptera.

In the unnatural human world, they are highly toxic deliriants.

Datura kills, but first it causes you to go completely insane. Like a bad marriage, only quicker.

All Datura plants contain tropane alkaloids,  among numerous other chemicals, so basically one experiences extreme delirium, and cardiac arrest, followed by forty-nine days at the multiplex. If you  take Datura, you will wake up afterward. The thing is, you will wake up in a different body. Relatives and friends will be sobbing or arguing over the old one, and large birds will have no cause to struggle with a menu. 

Thus do we again warn you: do not experiment with Datura!

Datura is also known as toalache, which is an old Mexican name, and toalache forms the basis of what ethnographers refer to as the "toalache religion" of the Native Americans. Up the hidden arroyo you see in the photograph, above, we find one ancient center of shamanic practice, which the evidence suggests involved the use of toalache. 

As mentioned in Letters From An Old Magician, human habitation of this area is usefully dated to some 11,000 years ago. The petroglyphs we found here are easily 1,000 years old. What this ultimately suggests is that the authors of the petroglyphs found some relatively reliable means to ingest datura, -- we know they did because of archaeological evidence -- to the extent that it became a ritual behavior that was practiced well into the nineteenth century. Still, we do not know precisely how the datura was prepared, nor do we know what parts of the plant were used.

This ritual was called tamonin, or the "teaching." Once a year, adolescent boys ingested a decoction of Datura meteloides, then danced around a fire until the drug took effect. The boys were then laid out in rows, to sleep off these effects. Visions would come to the sleeping boys that were, upon waking, interpreted by various means, and thereafter used to guide the boys for the rest of their lives.

Indeed, this was one means by which shamans were developed: according to the character of their dreams and visions during the toalache ceremony. Although it was generally believed that shamans were "born with the power," this power was sharpened by subsequent toalache drinking, which typically continued throughout the shaman's entire life.

Now, it comes to us, in the twenty-first century, from the hand of twentieth-century scholars, that the prehistoric shamans were motivated to record their dreams by inscribing petroglyphs on the rocks surrounding their sacred spaces. The scholars reason that, what appears to modern eyes as the abstract quality of the petroglyphs, is in fact a simple record of entoptic phenomena brought about through drinking toalache. 

So, then...

Do the wavy lines of the petroglyphs above the shaman's cave suggest entoptic "snakes" of the shaman's drug-induced vision, or is a righteous visionary well in touch with his environment taking his clue from other sources? 

Do you see the shadow of the sagebrush on the rock, in the photograph, below?

Why is this interesting?

Well, even though botanists believe Datura is, in the ultimate sense, native to America, it is being used in rituals elsewhere in the world, and as it happens, these rituals are of the Vajrayana. 

Datura is mentioned in the Vajramahabhairava-tantra, and the Cakrasamvara-tantra, to name but two. When we tear that down a bit more, we are left with the understanding that Datura is being used in Oddiyana circa the eight century, and if you want to bring in other Indian sources -- the venerable Kamasutra jumps to mind -- you can push use back to the fifth century.

One of two things has happened here. 

Either somebody in Asia -- and we can safely say this "somebody" would have been a person occupied with spiritual pursuits -- found his way to America with Datura seeds, or somebody else of a similar character in America found his way to Asia with Datura seeds. 

Now, since the very name Datura comes from the Hindi dhattura, we begin to wonder if the botanists have their signals crossed. Yet, when we examine the incidence of the genus in the field, we find persuasive evidence that yes, indeed, Datura originates in North America, because it is here that the various species are seen to perfection, and nowhere else. 

Cute? Maybe. But, I don't know how probative.

Yet again, we find that it is the arguably "American" species they are using in Oddiyana. As it appears, much of the scientific evidence available to us at the present time argues in favor of prehistoric ritual use of Datura -- the putative  deliriant muse of the rock artists -- somehow making its way to India from the wild arroyos of western America, and on to Oddiyana circa Padmasambhava's time.

Except, the ritual context is entirely different. 

In Asia, Datura is being used for purposes that I do not, for a variety of idiosyncratic reasons, having less to do, perhaps, with samaya than cultural sensitivity, feel entirely comfortable discussing. Suffice to say that it has nothing to do with sleeping lads, all in a row, dreaming of a grand new dawn. You want to read a most interesting article on all this, consult "Datura Rituals in the Vajramahabhairava-Tantra," by Bulesu Siklos, which investigates the matter in some detail. For an extensive key to resources, see R.C. Parker, "The Use of Entheogens  in the Vajrayana Tradition."


The particularity of who did what, and in which direction, is diverting but maybe not so important. The generality is what we have under discussion: North American ritual used Datura for life, Asian ritual employed it for death. You can take feathers, bamboo, and a bit of sharpened stone, to make an arrow that kills or jewelry that adorns. As the above photograph of my old friend from Mongolia illustrates, shamans did not visit the three o'clock in the morning of their minds with philosophical armor alone.

Consuming dangerous flowers, men and moths echo costumes that author a stronger testament than scratches on stone. Fear, spiritual contest, assertion, and preservation. All about hope and fear, isn't it? Will these help? Or is this a poison that poisons itself?


The horizontal shadows of the sagebrush, do you see them? Thoughts of taking up and putting away are just like these. Even they are here, before us, how long can they stay? As quickly as they come, so do they go -- you can say they come and go simultaneously, right in their own place -- so what becomes of them? 

Just one moment, do you realize? The sagebrush will never again grow uniquely the way it has for just this moment. Even one year to the second hence, the light will not cast precisely this way. In time, even the rock will surely move. Just this place, this time, these causes, these conditions, and then never again.

What is produced by the notion of benefit and harm?

Just one flash -- the fragment of a second -- with the shadows of the sagebrush is far, far better than a lifetime of mirrors and struggles, regardless of whether this takes on the illusion of meditation in a cave, or dress in a dream. Datura's poison will only kill you once. Unless you come to understand them as self-liberated when they arise, the five poisons will kill you over and over and over again.

Learn to transmute them by seeing them just as they are.


The shadows of the men on the stones, do you see them? Can you tell me how these are any different from the shadows of the sagebrush? 
"When a single feather and a thousand worlds
Are equally this Space,
Who can say which contains which?
Who can find limits 
To life's richness?"
                           --Kyabje Tarthang Rinpoche


In our shared belief, it is difficult to think of poison without thinking of peacocks. This is because peacocks are reputedly able to ingest poison without ill effect. 

Usually, when we think of peacocks, we think of them as multicolored, and we get caught up with their fascinating display. 

However, just like rainbows, their colors are only their colors. 

On the other hand, there are also -- albeit quite rarely -- some plain, white peacocks upon which numberless colors are reflected as they walk through this world.

Simply by lacking confidence, whether you speak of them for good or ill, it will be the root of a mistake. Possessing confidence, you can bring all of that with you like the colors stainlessly absorbed by those white feathers. It all becomes weightless.

When the Datura's flowers wither; when the snow and the sun kill the plant to its roots, and it blows away like dust, where does its poison reside? When abrasive wind and shaking earth crumble the inscribed stone walls, what becomes of the mystery inscriptions? Indeed, as time seems to pass, what becomes of motive?

In the instant that light changes, what can you find in the shadows of sagebrush?


May it be auspicious.

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