Monday, March 08, 2010

Answering An Echo

So, then, to continue... we were talking about my three favorite subjects: desire, anger, and delusion.
"These are originally present, and sticky, and even if you try to throw them away, or overcome them, they will not be discarded or overcome."
Some readers who fancy themselves able to comment -- on the basis of parroted phrases,  and personal prejudices, as distinct from lived through experience of the dawning of knowing the nature of their own minds -- had difficulty with that, although I don't know why they should, because we are only talking basics. 

There is the gross and then there is the subtle, yes? The sperm and ovum, having the character of the five elements, carry within themselves that which is itself of the nature of the three poisons: desire, anger, and delusion. At the precise moment of conception, the subtle stream of consciousness from the intermediate state between death and life becomes indivisible with the union of the sperm and ovum. Habitually imprinted predispositions of the five mental afflictions, viz. the three poisons plus jealousy and pride, meet the three poisons inherent in the sperm and ovum and according to the dominance of one or another, the character of the basic human life form is established.

Those with a predominance of desire are born as the rlung psychophysical aggregate, those with a predominance of  anger are born as the mkhris pa psychophysical aggregate, those with a predominance of delusion are born as the bekan psychophysical aggregate. Unless you are miraculously born in the center of a lotus, there is no way around this. If you inhabit a human body, you are in greater or lesser degrees one of those three basic psychophysical aggregates. Usually, we don't say "psychophysical aggregate;" usually we say "somatotype," or even "humor," but I do so dislike those words because they limit the concept. Be this as it may, the point is that desire, anger, and delusion are originally present, as indeed are their extensions of jealousy and pride.

So what -- our readers ask -- is the point of Vajrasattva practice? Even if you do Vajrasattva practice, you are still born in exactly this manner.

The point is to get out of the way.

Vajrsattva practice is commonly explained as a method to clear one's karma and purify obstacles. I think the choice of English words "clear" and "purify" is unfortunate. I think the ways that the practice, the visualizations, and the concepts have been presented to Westerners are unfortunate. Vajrsattva -- this external deity, like a god or something -- drips honey on the top of your head and all the black lizards go flying out your ass. As Westerners, we make cultural assumptions about that sort of imagery. Also, I want to mention that Vajrasattva practice has many levels, but we really only see one of them, i.e. this whole purification aspect. There are practices that go way beyond this, but they are only rarely presented.
"If bound by iron wire, even this can be untied. However, if bound by religion, it is difficult to be free."
--9th Ogyen Tulku
I remember, when I was sixteen years old, I was afraid of Vajrasattva practice. Every time I did Vajrasattva, all sorts of troublesome things would happen. I started to think that these troublesome things were the result of doing the practice wrong, so I went to my teacher and asked him, "What am I doing wrong?" He told me that I wasn't doing anything wrong, that I was in fact doing everything quite perfectly. So, I soldiered on. Things became even more troublesome. I couldn't stand it. I went back to the lama and told him, "I am getting really troublesome results." 

"Oh, no you are not," he replied.

So, I just asked him, "Well, what are these results I am getting?"

"You're not getting any results," was the answer.

Well, if I was doing the practice perfectly, and all these troublesome things were cropping up,  and I wasn't getting any results, what the hell was going on? Was I crapping black lizards? I went to the lama, thinking myself oh, so clever, and I asked him, "Are these troublesome things that are happening that which is symbolized by crapping black lizards? Is this purification?"

He physically struck me at that point and snorted, with very great disgust, "Monk's mind!" You have to understand, "Monk's mind" was my teacher's pet expression of derision. It was also his teacher's pet expression of derision. When you heard "Monk's mind," you were hearing the Master of Masters himself -- but, of course, this is only assuming you were exhibiting the flaws and foibles of a monk's mind.

I was getting frustrated at this point, so I asked, with some despair, "Well, what exactly is this Vajrasattva practice?"

He said: "You want to see Vajrasattva practice? You are really wearing me out with your stupidity. O.K., I will show you Vajrasattva practice."

So, he ordered all the students to the puja room, and he drew out the design of burgandy robe. He wanted everybody present to make one of those robes, and show up with it at the next meeting. 

Naturally, everyone was excited. This seemed like some sort of progress, or fun development. We were going to wear red robes! Everyone went out and got the best fabric they could possible afford. Some of us, like me, were very poor, so we got lousy fabric. Some others got lovely fabric. Those who could sew took pains to sew lovely robes. Those who couldn't sew, really tried their best. Some went to tailors or dressmakers.

At the next session, everybody proudly walked in wearing their new robe, whereupon Rinpoche told everybody to go hang the robes on pegs by the door. "Go out and come in again," he told everyone. "And when you come back in, just take down the first robe that comes to hand. Don't go looking for 'your' robe because 'your' robe isn't there anymore."

So, we all did as commanded, filed back in, put on any old robe, and sat down. When everybody was settled, Rinpoche leaned over to me and whispered, "You want to call this practice? You can call it Vajrasattva practice." Please bear in mind that to somebody else he might have said, "That's Tara practice for you," so I am only recounting what he said to me.

How would it be if Vajrasattva isn't an external deity like a god or something?  How would it be if Vajrasattva is actually your mind's manifestation as the embodiment of enlightened body, speech, and mind in a single possibility? How would it be if what Vajrasattva practice actually does is give us a rest from duality? A stand down from dualistic thinking? A moment of lucidity? A window of opportunity through which the clear light of dharmata might dawn? What if, instead of purification, we think in terms of non-dual freedom? What if your mind allows your mind some unprejudiced stillness?

All the closet Christians who have taken up Buddhism because they think they need a preferentially arranged, organized religion to frame their innate spirituality, think they are praying "to" something external that "does" something in response to an inner agenda that they, themselves direct, or is prescribed for them by a teacher. For such people, Vajrasattva is a big, shiny, white laxative that makes them crap out something tangible, like "sin," or "bad karma," or "impurities." These are people who feel they need to be "cleansed," or to "purify" something that has been done wrong, gone wrong, or is wrong.  If you leave that sort of belief alone long enough, it becomes like Falun Gong, where karma is thought to be an actual, material substance: something like atomic particles. However, in a framework where there is nothing "wrong" beyond the confused imputations of convoluted thinking, none of this foolishness goes very far.

Not one single syllable of the Hundred Syllable Mantra says "Oh Lordy! Help us sinners purify our sins."

Some time ago, Gyaltrul Rinpoche gave a nice teaching on the subject of the Hundred Syllable Mantra, so I will try to summarize this from memory. Here is what it says:

OM begins the mantra primordially, or maybe it is better to say ultimately, or penultimately. VAJRA evokes the seven qualities of the Buddha's mind. SATTVA evokes heroism. SAMAYA evokes fealty. So, maybe OM VAJRASATTVA SAMAYA is supremely evoking a solid, stick-to-it loyalty, and honesty.

MANUPALAYA VAJRASATTVA invites or exhorts protection. Most people who just mouth this mantra do not understand that MANUPALAYA" and "VAJRASATTVA" go together, because of the way the mantra sounds.

TE NO PA TISHTHA DRI DHO ME BHA WA means stand fast, stand firm, or better: be ever present. So, taken together, the above lines are a call to protect and be ever present, or always available.

SU TO KAYO ME BHA WA means make me confident about the presence of this solid, loyal, always available protection.

SU PO KAYO ME BHA WA means increase the positive aspect of my own being.

ANU RAKTO ME BHA WA means always love me and never leave me.

SARVA SIDDHIM ME PRAYATSA is a request for the common and supreme siddhis.

SARVA KARMA SU TSA ME is a request for anything and everything else that might be required in the way of enlightened activity.

TSITTAM SHRI YAM KU RU means one holds one's mind to be fundamentally virtuous.

HUNG is the seed syllable.

HA HA HA HA has several meanings, but we are basically calling forth the four immeasurables and at the same time reminding ourselves of the four accomplishments.

HO is a positive exclamation not unlike "Wow. So, that is how it is."

BHAGAWAN is he who has tamed the enemy, and added to SARVA TATHAGATA means that the Buddhas have totally subdued all negativities.

VAJRA MA ME MUNTSA means "never abandon me," and VAJRA BHA WA means "I will become like you." When you take these two together, it means "hang on to me and I will be as you are."

MAHA SAMAYA SATTVA is a little diffcult to translate, but we here explicitly speak to the ultimate nature of Vajrasattva as perfect activity.
AH is AH.

My purpose in summarizing the above is not to dissect or explain the Hundred Syllable Mantra, but to demonstrate that not one word calls on the lord to help us overcome weak-willed wickedness, or purify us sinners. To the contrary, what we have here is a vigorous, openly joyous, positive affirmation of those aspects of one's own mind that are wholesomely dedicated to the welfare of others.

So, the point of Vajrasattva practice, to the extent that it may be said to have a point, is getting out of the way long enough for an affirmation of that which is already fundamentally present. There is no original sin. There is only original wisdom.

If you hear a sound in the next few moments, it is the trap we always seem to set for ourselves springing shut.

In Padmasambhava's Instruction for Women on Attaining Enlightenment Without Abandoning Daily Activities, there is an beautiful passage wherein one of the ladies asks the Guru, "For a woman like me, whose five poisonous emotions are strong, please bestow an instruction for awakening to enlightenment without having to reject these five poisons." Please take very careful notice of Guru Rinpoche's reply:
"The five poisonous emotions are a natural possession within you since the beginning and therefore cannot be discarded by rejecting them. They are not transformed by transforming or purified by purification. Since these five poisons are of the nature of dharmata, they must be liberated where they are by dissolving naturally."
Gee...  equating women with the five poisonous emotions. Think Guru Rinpoche was a misogynist? Somehow, I sort of doubt we should be looking at things in such terms, but apparently some of our readers are so caught up in gender roles they can't see anything else. We also find a lot of the same confusion in one particular misandrynistic attempt to emulate sangha, and this even prompted Gyaltrul Rinpoche to comment:
"Maybe some of you women might prefer to focus on a female lama, but you needn't worry because a primordial wisdom being, such as Guru Rinpoche, is of both sexes. There's absolutely no distinction: he is lama, yidam, and dakini."
Answering echoes is fruitless and doesn't get anybody anywhere. I want to show you this, but you make up your own mind.

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6 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

I know a little something about the people you are "answering" in this article and I just want to tell you that they are beneath you.

This is probably the most clear, concise explanation of Vajrasattva practice I have ever read or heard from anybody anywhere and it REALLY helped me with my own practice.

Thank you, Rinpoche.

Anonymous said...

I read your post to my teacher (a Tibetan tulku)and asked him if it made sense and what could he tell me about the person who wrote it. He asked me to read him some other things you wrote so I did. I did not say who wrote them. Finally, he told me that what you wrote was completely correct but he did not feel comfortable making any comments because it was clear whoever wrote these things had a realization so much higher than his own. I don't want to get into the politics of all this but I thought you should know what my teacher said. As far as I am concerned you know what you are doing and that is good enough for me.

Yeshe Dorje said...

Sparkle, sparkle. well done!

Paldor said...

Thank you very much! I will have to read this still many times.

OpenMind said...

This is what I have been looking for. I really appreciate this. Thank you so much.

Jeanette said...