Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve, Twelve, Twelve

Well, this is set to auto-post at 12:12 on 12-12-12, even I do not have anything meaningful to say. Here it is right before Christmas, and I am like the snowman you see above: a lot of hungry rabbits and one lousy carrot. 

So, then --

The Year In Review. 

This coming Saturday is the first anniversary of the landmark legal decision that made it O.K. for me to tame debbils any which way seems useful at the time. In honor of the event, someone has gone out and found the following commentary from Trungpa Rinpoche, which thoroughly divests any sense of either dismay or satisfaction I might personally feel, lest I become (a) impatient, or (b) an exhibitionist.
"Always Abide by the Three Basic Principles
"The three basic principles are also described as [1] keeping the two vows, [2] refraining from outrageous action, and [3] developing patience.
"The first is keeping the promises you made when you took the refuge and Bodhisattva vows, keeping them completely. This one is quite straightforward.
"Number two is refraining from outrageous action. When you begin to practice lojong, you realize that you shouldn't have any consideration for yourself; therefore, you try to act in a self-sacrificing manner. But often your attempt to manifest selflessness becomes exhibitionism. You let yourself be thrown in jail or crucified on the cross... Many of our American friends have done such things. However, that approach should be regarded as pure exhibitionism rather than as the accomplishment of Bodhisattva action.
"Number three is developing patience. Usually, there is extreme confusion about patience. That is to say, you can be patient with your friends but not with your enemies; you can be patient with people whom you are trying to cultivate or your particular proteges, but you cannot be patient with people who are outside of your protege-ism. That kind of extreme is actually a form of personality cult, the cult of yourself, which is not such a good idea. In fact, it has been said that it is absolutely NOT a good idea."
I felt so much better when I saw this I went ahead and read it three times.

This coming Saturday also marks the day when I will begin a retreat with flexible boundaries, scheduled to end on February 20th, or the first Guru Rinpoche Day of the forthcoming Year of the Snake. In this particular case, "flexible" doesn't necessarily imply anything less than "strict;" rather, it means that certain longstanding obligations will be observed, and certain karmic linkages will be examined -- this last rather joyfully, I imagine. However, I hasten to say this will not be one of those "retreats" where one posts one's sterling visions on the Internet, so you can expect a fair amount of silence from hereabouts. We'll save all hoopla for a grand finale somewhere down the shaky river.

This coming Solstice, on Friday the 21st, which is supposed to be a big problem if you are Mayan, is also the first anniversary of my departure from Baltimore, Maryland's tender ministrations and new age hospitality. If the world ends, that will be some kind of symmetry, eh?

Maybe I should also interject that this year's Ngenpa Gu Dzom or Nine Bad Omens is from 23:48 on the 18th until 22:36 on the 19th, and Zangpo Chu Dzom or Ten Auspicious Omens is from 22:36 on the 19th until 22:36 on the 20th. So this shakes out as Ten Auspicious Omens on Thursday, Solstice on Friday, and Guru Rinpoche Day on Saturday the 22nd.

This coming December 27th is the anniversary of Kyabje Thinley Norbu Rinpoche's passing, so that is something to keep in mind. Dudjom Rinpoche's anniversary coincides with New Year's Eve this year, and Longchenpa's anniversary comes a month later on January 30, 2013. Gutor is February 9, 2013, and Losar is February 11, 2013.

Speaking personally, the year now passing brought a host of fortunate events, emotional trials, and medical challenges. Was disposed of deceptive attendants and transient "friends;" they were replaced by true practitioners: true spiritual friends. Had heart surgery again on January 9th, followed by useful hospitalizations at intervals thereafter -- a longstanding and difficult to diagnose condition was, at long last, properly diagnosed and treated. I now have the right medications, and even have a therapist who comes twice a week and helps me with agility and balance issues. This is all a blessing, you know?

The year now gone also marked the death of my dear Little Mister Bee Rabbit in the spring, and my beloved Marshimaro Usagi rabbit in June, just shy of his seventh birthday. This brought great sadness into my life, but was relieved by being reunited with a very old, very dear companion who was lost for many years, and is now ever so thankfully found.

I also now have three new rabbits, rescued from a chicken coop in a Chinese suburb. 

I cannot say that anything was actually accomplished this year. I was able to see the Dalai Lama in the spring, had some stupas made in the summer, and so forth, but as you will have noticed, I didn't write very much at all. I regret that I simply did not have sufficient energy to do something and nothing at the same time, so I opted to do nothing.

So, Merry Christmas to you all, Happy New Year to you all, Happy Losar to you all, and a heartfelt prayer that all your wishes for the benefit of sentient beings come spontaneously true exactly as envisioned. I'll be back when I get back, and I will try to write more in 2013, for those of you who enjoy my writing.

Many, many blessings to you.

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Monday, December 03, 2012

Like Coming Home

I read what seemed a particularly well-sharpened passage the other day: a few lines from Diana Judith Mukpo's sometimes moving account of romance with her late husband, Chogyam Trungpa. They met, and quickly began relations, in 1968 when she was fifteen and he was twenty-nine. He was keen to marry her, and did so the following year, when she turned sixteen. I recall that the British newspapers were merciless, on the order of "mad monk robs the cradle" headlines.

The passage that caught my eye is where the former Mrs. Mukpo describes her initial feelings:
"...I knew that I had a very deep and old connection with him, and it stirred up a lot of emotion for me. The only way I can describe this experience is that it was like coming home. Nothing in my life had hit me in such a powerful way. I said to myself, 'This is what I’ve been missing all my life. Here he is again.' It wasn’t just that this was some cool, powerful experience. I knew him, and as soon as I saw him, I realized how much I’d been missing him. It was coming home. And from that moment on, I wanted desperately to meet him."
I find this to be such a wonderfully simple and accurate description of what actually happens in these circumstances, that I wish to share it with everybody. In particular, the idea of "coming home" resonates with what some of us have been fortunate enough to experience. Of course, this is almost immediately followed by what the Chinese philosophers call "...the myriad of things struggling to take form," or the crazy irregularities of love.

It can take considerable courage, and a not a few tears, you know? One has to applaud their strength. Although not particularly unusual by world standards, their relationship was somewhat unconventional by Western standards. By American standards, for example, Rinpoche was risking the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. The young lady in question had to be not only true-hearted, but sure of herself, at an age when most young ladies are unsure of everything, and their emotions are volatile. 

Despite the age difference, despite the social obstacles, and despite some very vocal opinion at the time, these two old friends stuck together and managed to find their way home.

I write this for you travelers. I pray for your swift, unencumbered arrival. The idea of your continuum of personal love recognizing itself sufficiently enough to encompass current status is remarkable, don't you think so?

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Sherab Palden Beru Passes

Famed Tibetan artist Sherab Palden Beru passed away in Scotland yesterday, at the age of 101. His body of work spanned generations, and became the main 20th century influence on how Tibetan art expresses the divine. He was a most gracious, kind, and generous gentleman who is remembered far and wide for an exemplary life. We will see many tributes to him in the coming days.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Show Some Backbone

"Don’t worry… 

You’re all tulkus … incarnations of beings who have taken the bodhisattva vow to raise all sentient beings to the level of complete enlightenment…

Just because you don’t have an important title attached to your name doesn’t mean that you haven’t appeared in this life to fulfill your bodhisattva vow…. 

Historically, the term “Rinpoche” referred to a person who is born with a “wealth” or “precious inheritance” of knowledge, whereas nowadays, it often refers to a person born into a wealthy family….

Be grateful that you don’t have a title…and rest assured that you entered this life and have the opportunity to continue in the stream of Buddhist teachings as a result of the vows and practices you engaged in during previous lives."

--- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Reawakened Presence

So, then --

We can be thankful for the reawakened presence of Padmasambhava in our lives, no matter where we happen to be, and we can be thankful for the myriad ways this presence continuously announces itself. We have Padmasambhavas as teachers, books, images, sights of nature, melodies of wind, bodies of stone, and soft, infinite whispers. We have, you see, this immediate recognition of Padmasambhava as something without deceit, and therefore true. When we are bewildered, truth is very healing, and comforting. This is, almost certainly, not the first time we have been exposed to the truth; hopefully, this is the first time that truth will stick all the way to the last breath, and lead us to yet another reawakened presence.

I read a lovely passage the other day, attributed to Urgyen Tulku but without further citation. I immediately thought to share it with you, reproduced here as encountered:
"Ordinary people think that enlightenment is something that happens once, 'KaBOOM', 'ZAP', 'BZZZZZZZ', 'KAZAAM' and 'That's It' and we are forever there.
"It is not like that at all. Recognition of our Enlightened Nature or Buddha Mind, or Ordinary Mind for the first time lasts only for a few seconds. But due to the force of our habitual thinking that has been going on for countless lifetimes, Ordinary Mind will be obscured again by this conceptual thinking mind. 
"This is when training really starts, this is when what Great Masters call true meditation is. This is when we have to keep bringing or letting the Natural Mind arise again and again. 
"First we have to establish confidence that IT IS the Natural Mind. The difficulty in this is that it is so ordinary and simple that one will easily doubt that it is special. Therefore it is of primary important to have an authentic Master to confirm, clarify the experience. It is only that we have absolute conviction that it is what it is that confidence will arise spontaneously and slowly. This is not a matter of a moment but days, weeks, months or years training. 
"Until the time when one is never for a moment separated from the spontaneous Natural Mind is one confirmed a Buddha. 
"There are many statements and advice to this subject, I will quote only one here. 
"The training in recognizing mind essence is this: short moment repeated many times. There is no other way. A short duration guarantees it is the authentic mind essence, by itself. Many times ensures we grow accustomed to it. Attempting to keep long moments of recognition simply corrupts the natural experience with a conceptual state of mind. 
"You need to grow used to the natural state through training. The training is simply recognizing, not a willed act of meditating. In the moment of recognizing, it is seen. In the moment of seeing, it is free. That freedom does not necessary last long. The fact that there is no 'thing' to be seen is clearly seen as it is. It is not hidden; it is an actuality. 
"Short moments, but repeated many times. You need to train like that. Once you are fully trained, you do not need to think twice. 
"The training is simply to remain undistracted, because it is nondistraction that takes us all the way to complete enlightenment. Non-distraction does not mean deliberately trying to be undistracted, as we do when we replace normal thoughts with the thoughts, "I shouldn't be distracted" It is simply to not forget. The moment we forget - and we do forget- both the practice and all other things are forgotten, because our attention strays."
Isn't that magnificent? It strikes us as true, because it captures the essence of what we actually experience. It takes away all the pressure of "performance consciousness." This simple advice is in fact widely applicable. You could train a marksman, or musician, or learn to love this way.

The analogy of love is particularly apt. If we could grasp this analogy, we would not experience nearly as many ups and downs in our relationships as might now be the case.

Love appears suddenly, and effortlessly. In the initial stages, it is quite powerful: almost intoxicating. We tend to imbibe rather deeply at this point, but the cups are many and the canteen is still finite. When the drinking is done the analytical mind begins to dissect the experience, and out of nowhere love somehow becomes profound. We speak in terms of its gravitas. This is not so useful, but this is our habit. In the midst of intellectual battles, we tear up our love with tiger teeth and throw it around the den, harboring all sorts of opinions and suspicions. 

Eventually, we have a motion picture in distress. Scripts have been distributed, but each person has a different script. These scripts are rife with scrawled additions, hastily scribbled directions, and crossed-out dialogue. The pens are of different colored inks, and many sorts of handwriting. The accompanying musical score is even worse.

So, I think it is better if we approach love as "short moment repeated many times." This will have the effect of reawakening love's presence so that we do not need to think twice. Love's sweetness is constantly present. We can throw away the scripts. Now, every sound is sublime music, and nobody is drunk. We are in touch with the original source -- no need to carry around a canteen.

Padmasambhava wants us to be happy. Whether this happiness is great or small, he wants us to be happy. Naturally, he wants us to experience greater happiness, but to experience this we need to start small.

We need to begin with each other in a way that recognizes this is Uddiyana and we are the angels. We already know, don't we?

Maybe we just momentarily forgot.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

The American President, 2012

We have lived so long as to see this. The consequences of this simple act will reverberate through many lifetimes, and will ripen into liberation. Our Secretary of State suggested that our President do this. She is truly an excellent advisor in that regard. By urging this action, and rejoicing in this action, her merit will also ripen into liberation.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Western Monk Dies by Self Immolation

A man born in Britain as David Alain, has died in France as the 38 year-old monk Lobsang Tonden. He killed himself at Nalanda Monastery, by dousing himself with gasoline and lighting himself on fire. His is, apparently, a gesture of solidarity with Tibetans who have died by self immolation. He had been at Nalanda, a Gelugpa monastery associated with the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Traditions, for five years.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Arrow to the Heart

The prayers for rain
made by those who have lost their minds
are very quickly answered with a shower so sweet,
perfectly directed, so perfectly measured;
as to shame the feeble efforts of
the greatest weather-changing magician
of this or any other era.

I am so pleased to say that love
has blossomed
from flowers I thought impossible,
and I have been struck in space
by an arrow perfectly unaimed:

"Bend the bow
of practice without slack.
Attach the bowstring
of commitment that's not feigned.
Draw together the thumb and notch
of connections and aspiration.

"To shoot the arrow
is to shoot at every kingdom.
To hit
is to hit those with whom there's a karmic link.
To satisfy
is to satisfy their every wish,
So that your accomplishment
is to accomplish buddhahood in a lifetime."

--Jigme Lingpa,
Dancing Moon in the Water

[illustration above by the great Kevin Radthorne]


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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day 2012

Today is Veteran's Day: a national holiday in the United States, celebrating the service of all members of the armed forces. Would you be surprised to know that this includes rabbits? From deadly front lines in the trenched warfare of World War I....

No, I am not talking about easy duty......

I am talking heroic service all the way through World War II: memorialized by the wise-cracking rabbit Bugs Bunny who authored a hundred acts in clever defiance to oppression.

Always, in my household, November 11th is also celebrated as my father's birthday. He would have been 112 years of age today.

What's Up, Doc?

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dear Buddha: Quenching the Flames

Dear Buddha,

Please come out from the hiding place where my dualistic notions put you,
and don't worry, this isn't a prayer....
more like a note to myself, but
in order that I know I am not alone with this,
and you are really still here
please allow my mind to relax into all your constantly replicating myriad bodies,
or, left to my own devices, if I see myself as even more trapped and am choosing off some menu, send Avalokitesvara, who is high in the Buddha of the Moment,

to see my tears
to help my tears
to augment my tears,
so that they rain in sufficient quantity and quality
to put out this terrible fire in a place that deeds have named Tibet.

People all over the world are exchanging pictures
of an uprising amidst the flames,
but I beg you to help me know, and if possible, fix
why some people are throwing themselves into oblivion
in order to warm their enemies
yet feel themselves at war.

help me with this, I really beg myself
I really beg myself to cry on that fire
and put it out
even I have to leverage all the heartbreaks of this and other lives,
is there anywhere to take this bargain?

There is nowhere to take this bargain, Buddha.

Some years ago, a single monk burned himself on this planet,
and the world felt the warmth of his heart which did not burn,
yet today dozens of hearts have burned all over Tibet
and it is cold everywhere.

how generous of Tibetan people to give such precious comfort,
to a bundled up world in posh down jackets and leather seats.

Please, don't let devils roast you. Don't get dragged into who told who or who did what.
This smoke rises to heaven and makes hypothecated sky-going beings of a wide-ranging nature
cough their guts out. It makes decent people stop and think, "Oh, How I Have Failed All Sentient Beings," and sometimes wish to burn themselves in place of you...

If that is true, why do the numbers of the one
fall smaller than the other?

Not that there isn't blood all over our hands down here; far from it. We killed all the people who originally lived in what we call America. The karma hasn't even begun to get paid on that one.
We're now so sick with murder that we shoot armed drones on people exactly like it was a computer games. Who lives and who dies is a decision made by a committee and judgment is executed thousands of miles away by guys who don't have very honest lives.

What can I do...
Buddha, that's my main question.

Sit around here and do or not do stuff until given infinite possibility, I am, as the training manual has it, enlightened? Meanwhile a lot of people are killing themselves by jumping in a fire down here..... doesn't matter who they are or what they are called.

I have a lot of faith in you, Buddha,
but since you and I are actually identical,
according to some currently popular interpretations,
do I really hand this off to you, or do I answer that question myself?
Seems like it wouldn't make any difference.

Forgive me for doubting... maybe my faith is secretly weak... but, I know myself unworthy and so, secretly harbor the notion that you and me are two different somethings.... so, I am asking you...
no, I am really begging you,
face down on the ground, as shameless as an opera singer,
why the fuck we can't put out those fires?
Is it my dualistic thinking keeps them burning?

Some people say the fires are "necessary."
The first thing a whore does is learn her client's language.
After a while, she entices internationally.
Whores are necessary. They don't need any enforcement
To cry a river of tears
and put that fire out.
Even their laughter is tears,
the slightest gesture,
the smallest whisper,
the instant thought,
body, speech, and mind:
pure honesty in the midst of deception.

So, I know tears aren't going to do it.
I don't see how this is going to be relieved
unless I almost instantly
grab lightning from the sky
before it hits the ground.

Buddha, I know you don't grant wishes,
but this is what I see presently
and I thought I would talk to myself,
to see if I could do something without crying
and put out that fire before it gets started.

Thank you for listening.

P.S. This isn't the only thing going on, but is demonstrative of the case.

P.P.S. This isn't the only time something like this ever happened. In ancient days, besieged cities used to throw their children from the ramparts, and then fight to a certain death.

P.P.P.S. I guess what I'm after is an instant affirmation of the method to cease permitting the causes and conditions that recognize the sight of suffering; or, in the alternative, cease believing in any reality attached to what is fundamentally an apparition -- the language of deception -- the first thing I learned.

P.P.P.S. There is of course the suggestion that enlightenment is possible within a single lifetime, but this seems so rare that people burn to death in the mistaken notion that anything ultimately beneficial is far outside grasp.

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Anniversary of the Fall

Today, November 9, 2012, is generally regarded as the anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. A family member just yesterday arrived in Berlin, and is paying respects today as my representative.

We tend to lose sight of what went into that wall being demolished. 

The sacrifice in terms of human lives has yet to be quantified: most likely we will never know. Yet, we speak of it so dismissively, as if those lives were wasted -- as if we failed to learn from our experience.

Today, may we all step back and examine our individual roles as peacemakers. May we remove aggression from our lives, and the lives of those around us. Expressly, may we recognize human compassion and let this guide our lives.

Today, deep prayers for those who made this bit of history for all sentient beings: the bodhisattvas of the Berlin Wall.

"We have to learn to respect this monumental creation called the confused world, samsara. Because of its monumental quality, it also breeds sanity, wakefulness, or nirvana. We have to take it very seriously. We have to take the whole world seriously. Monuments like the Statue of Liberty may be hollow, but until you realize the monumental quality of the Statue of Liberty, you don’t see all that it is. We have to respect things; in other words, they are sacred."
~Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, 
Orderly Chaos: The Mandala Principle

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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Lha Bab Duchen 2012

Today, we celebrate Shakyamuni Buddha's descent from heaven. Buddha's mother, Mayadevi, was reborn in Indra's heaven. To repay her kindness, to liberate her, and also to benefit the gods, Buddha spent three months teaching in the heaven realm. When it came time for him to return to this world, Indra and Brahma manifested a triple staircase of 80,000 steps, and Buddha returned to this world on the twenty-second day of the ninth Tibetan month.

Today, the effects of positive, as well as negative, actions and thoughts are multiplied ten million times.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy: Fear Not

When the obstacles from earth, water, fire or air
Endanger or destroy our illusory bodies,
Without hesitation or divided mind we pray to you;
Orgyen with the female deities of the four elements,
Without doubt will pacify the elements instantly.
Padmasambhava of Orgyen, to you we pray;
Please bestow the blessing of spontaneous fulfillment of our wishes.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sky Islands, Time Islands

In autumn, there is always one special morning of singular light and meaningful wind. Many magicians have tried to name it, usually with indirect reference -- calling it "this" wind or "that" light -- but no single name suffices. Even if you were born in another season, you feel it, but if you were born in autumn, you feel it acutely: it is the very core of your physical existence. It is raw life. This morning, after the Orionid meteor shower cleansed the heavens with star rain; this morning, as the Ch'ang Ho bells ring beneath west wind -- the wind of gates shut upon effulgent sunlight -- this morning, my October birthday morning, autumn's special life came to me again. 

What is it like? 

It is like falling in love.

In preparation for today I set off last Thursday, to ride the high ridges before first snow and forest wardens closed the trail gates. I was retracing the annual spirit journey of the Serrano band of Native Americans. The Serrano held polity over the San Bernardino Mountains, in what is now my stomping grounds. I wish you would take a few moments to read about these mountains. If you do, you will come to find they are what is known as "sky islands," defined as "...a high mountain region whose plants and animals vary dramatically from those in the surrounding semi-arid lands."

So, the San Bernardinos -- once the property of Spain -- are unique unto themselves. You will encounter many things here that you will encounter nowhere else. The photo above was taken at about one mile high. That dry lake in the distance is where my journey began.

Moving east, around a mountain lake and up to the 8,000 foot ridges, one finds the self-arisen stupas flourishing amid trees. Up here there are many glens and glades, populated by all manner of spirits. This is a beautiful place to set up camp.

Moving higher still, and looking back west, behind you, is a portion of the lake. I actually made it up there, with pounding chest, shaking leg, and the plaintive wish that I had not forgotten to bring the Nitrostat. The entire following next day was given over to recovery. 

Still, it all worked out for the best, as Friday and Saturday were given over to working my way back down from the ridges to the desert floor -- to a time island reckoned as inhabited 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.

At least once in your life, try to witness a desert sunrise. There is a exquisite tension between strength and gentleness; again, one of those things better experienced than described.

This picture and the picture above were taken just moments apart. This shows you how quickly the morning light arrives.

Looking back from the gate to the edge of a lava flow. I have taken some of you here before. According to the University of California, this is an ancient shaman's den.

You find yourself in a labyrinth that time has carved into the desert floor. A most remarkable and powerful place for ritual, if you like that sort of thing.

The clues are recorded everywhere upon the face of the stones, but it is a lifetime's challenge to read them.

This overhang is above what the university researchers call the "rattlesnake shaman's cave." The photograph below is of the interior of the cave itself.

I have to believe that the plants growing here are particularly meaningful, but I have not investigated the matter in any depth.

In the spirit of mutual cooperation, the shamans left instructions, but we have forgotten how to read. "Mutual cooperation," is, in fact, the theme of this year's birthday post and annual appeal for live release.

Just the other day, someone published a quotation from one of the Dalai Lama's books, and it seems to be the watchword for this particular season -- a sort of textural (not textual) commentary, like the textures in the photograph, above:
"Because it is a reality that we are by nature social animals, bound to depend on each other, we need to cultivate affection and concern for other people if we really desire peace and happiness. Look at wild animals and birds. Even they travel together, flock together, and help each other. Bees do not have a particular legal system, they do not follow any spiritual practice, but for their livelihood and survival they depend on each other—that is their natural way of existence. Even though we intelligent human beings must also depend on each other, we sometimes misuse our intelligence and try to exploit each other. That goes against human nature. For those of us who profess to believe in a particular religious practice, it is extremely important that we try to help each other and cultivate a feeling of affection for each other. That is the source of happiness in our life."
I came home, and I sat on the front porch, really exhausted by my travels. As I sat there, suddenly two ravens came howling over the ridge, screaming bloody murder. One took up a position in a tree nearby Rabbit Central Headquarters, and began alarming the rabbits. The other took repeated, aggressive dives at the stupa! From my limited knowledge of raven, it seemed as if they were warning the rabbits that a bobcat was laying in wait.

Indeed, they were! This bobcat was hiding amid the stupa's walls, looking to pounce upon an unsuspecting rabbit. The ravens would have none of it, and drove the bobcat away with a cacophony of cat castigation that made the rattlesnakes blush.

So, it comes to me, as it no doubt comes to you, that if the ravens can protect the welfare of the rabbits -- an act that does not benefit the ravens in even the slightest degree -- why can't you and me learn to care for each other that very same way? Whether we are stomping around on our sky islands, or nosing around our time islands, we are all part of the same texture.

Feel the October sunlight. 

Embrace the October wind. 

Let love come into your life and stay there, by being born anew every day.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Beautiful Rosary of Jewels

"Supplication to the Lineage, Beautiful Rosary of Jewels

Homage to the single mother T’hroma Nagmo!

The lama, the massive mountain of the white snow, embraced by the sunlight of the fortunate ones’ devotion, ripens the fields of the devotees with the rivers of blessing; the choice sprouts of whatever mind desires flourish and come to fruition year by year

Yogic practitioners, male and female, with fervent minds
And pleasant measured speech
Palms joined and moved to tears
Supplicate in this way free from doubt:


In the palace of the field of reality, free from emanation,
the embodiment of total meaning, Kuntuzangmo
mother of the Prajnaparamitra
A son of the Dharma mother (woman) supplicates from the heart
Grant the blessing of arriving at the place where reality is exhausted

The glory of the self-arising, unobstructed play of the vast dance
The self-liberated five elements, the five great pure consorts
Self and others supplicate with a mind of great faith
Grant the blessing of going to the limit of pure presence.

In the pure realm of the completely pure dakinis’ great bliss
To the lady, the queen of the dakinis
I supplicate with the whole of mind in great faith
Grant the blessing of increased comprehension of the all-ground

In the self-arisen appearance of the field of Yulokod
To Tarema, the royal consort of the unity of appearance and emptiness
The child dependent on appearances and cognition supplicates
Grant the blessing of the manifestation of the appearance of pure suchness

In the mansion of the Lotus Light of great bliss (Dewachen)
To Mandarava, secret consort of Demchok Padmasambhava
I, the child desiring bliss, supplicate from the heart
Grant the blessing of attaining inexhaustible bliss

In the mandala of the supreme secret excellence
The teacher of the supremely excellent vehicle, the Lady Tsogyal
Supplicated by her disciples, possessors of the supreme vessel
Grant your blessings that the supreme union be attained.

In the self-arisen palace of the Lotus Net
To the chief of the Lotus Dakinis, Lapdronma
I supplicate the holder of the Lotus lineage
Grant the blessing of the non-duality with Padmasambhava

In the palace of the vast expanse of the profound secret suchness
The master of profound treasure, Kunzang Dechen Lingpa
I supplicate with the fierce devotion of my deepest heart
Grant your blessing that I attain the profound ground of freedom from conceptualization

In the mansion of the great bliss purity
All the omniscient root and lineage lamas
I supplicate with great devotions to each and every one
Grant the blessing of power that benefits beings purely

The field of great bliss at the crown, best of the noble fields
To the precious root lama, best of the noble ones
I supplicate after the noble ones
Grant the blessing of inseparability from the lama, best of the noble ones

Lord of the great self-arisen cemetery, Urgyen
Lady of Urgyen, the single mother T’hroma Nagmo
I, the representative of the Urgyen’s descendants, supplicate
Grant the blessing of equaling you, Urgyen and Macig

From the sphere of the peaceful field of reality which is unmoving
She who causes peace, Dechen Karmo Yeshe,
I supplicate the peaceful Vajra Dakini
Grant the blessing of the heart of the peaceful vajra

In the mandala of pure natural increase
She who causes increase, the yellow Dondrup Yeshe Ser
I supplicate the Ratna Dakini who causes increase
Grant the blessing of accomplishing the undertaking of increase

In the pure realm of the powerful lotus net
The mighty red Dradok Yeshe Mar
I supplicate the ruling Lotus Dakini
Grant the blessing of possessing the best of great power

The chief of the fierce, awesome, blazing field
The fierce and wrathful green mother Natsok T’harchin Yeshe
I supplicate you who blazes with ferocity and power
Grant the blessing of possessing the wrathful might

Also, in this mandala of the fierce lady of magical display
Transform into the supreme dance-display of benefitting others
I supplicate those whose kindness to others is beyond thought and word
Grant the blessing of skill and method in taming the mind-streams of others

Emanated messenger, guides dwelling in the Buddha-word (samaya)
Sprung from the Buddha-word 1000 wondrous lightning flashes
I supplicate the obedient mamos and dakinis
Grant the blessing of protecting the teachings of the Buddha-word

The fierce, awakened activity of protecting the four doors
Separating perverted understanding from the doors as soon as it arises
I supplicate the four great door-protecting kings
Grant the blessing that the three doors mix with the Dharma

By the blessing of supplicating thus
I supplicate that you grant that, accordingly,
All malign obscurations be pacified
All siddhis be instantly accomplished
And blissful listening  itself be attained,

(By supplicating the vital lineage in this way, the continuity of the gentle rain of blessings will not be cut; at present, obstacles will be pacified, and in the future dakinis will follow.)


On the tenth day of the new moon, Kunzang Dechen Lingpa brought this down from the casket of intent, innate, expansive and pure. May virtue increase!"

Copyright (c) Kunzang Dechen Lingpa. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Photo by David Scharff. Used by permission.

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Saturday, October 06, 2012

His Eminence Tulku Rinpoche

His Eminence's profound, silent commentary on the nature of karma. Ah, there but for fortune, you think? There but for "fortune," or something much, much finer. 

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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Suffering at Cox's Bazar

This past Saturday, at Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, thousands of suffering beings inflicted further suffering upon thousands of other suffering beings, believing that to do so would bring happiness.

Names have been given to the perpetrators and the victims -- Muslims ran amok, killing and injuring Buddhists, and burning Buddhist temples -- yet, in the reality of things, it is impossible to distinguish between them.

We can sit around and work up a fine head of steam "for" and "against" the components of this affair -- a self-righteous fury that causes our blood pressure to rise, our bodies to perspire, and our eyes to weep. We can even entertain thoughts of doing an equal if not greater wickedness upon those we perceive as foes.

Theirs was a thoroughly wicked deed, was it not? We'll have to deal them out come Shambhala time, won't we?

We can think that way, or we can sit down and calmly consider the matter as Lord Buddha would have wished. 

The images that are being shown around the world do tend to excite the emotions, but our young monk friend in the picture above seems to have them all trumped.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Hill to Die For

"[H]ow do you put a price on a 5000 year old buried city containing multiple monasteries and settlements possibly going back to the Bronze Age, a site at least as significant as the tragically lost Buddhas of Bamiyan?"

That is the question being asked by an important new effort to save, from certain destruction, the most important Buddhist archaeological site in the world: Mes Aynak, in Afganistan.

The effort is mounted by the Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ARCH), and I strongly urge everyone to visit their Mes Aynak website, establish links, and widely promulgate notice of their activities.

There is an aspect to this story -- not widely known -- that deserves to be told. Basically, the Chinese paid the Afghan government three billion dollars for rights to mine copper from Mes Aynak. The copper they seek to mine is underneath a 5,000 year old Buddhist monastic complex the size of a city. Evidence suggests that this site may well have some bearing on the story of Padmasambhava's oft-mentioned Copper Colored Mountain.

Meanwhile, as part of its "security program" for Afghanistan, the United States has deployed American soldiers to guard this site on behalf of Chinese interests. The weapons that are killing those American soldiers are being provided to the Taliban by Chinese military intelligence sources. 

As a Buddhist, given the overall importance of this site, Mes Aynak may well be my proverbial "hill to die for." I sincerely doubt it holds the same sanctity for those American soldiers who have died there, in an ugly game of international greed.

Time somebody on the Hill -- in this election year -- starts sweating out the future of Mes Aynak, and saves something that, once lost, can never be replaced.

Please feel free to distribute this post widely.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Catching the Scent

[Field Notes] Maybe it was 1970, or 1971, when I came to visit my Precious Teacher after one or the other eastern misadventure. He took me in the backyard and showed me some things he was doing with stupas and prayer wheels, and we generally passed the time. I told him I was tired. I told him my practice lacked energy. I told him I was stalled.

It was then he told me that he always harbored the wish I would study with Kalu Rinpoche and Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche -- individually or both, as the case might be. I was not inspired by running to some other lamas, and I told him so, but he replied that it was "necessary." He also shared the thought that I would probably enjoy easy access to Kalu Rinpoche, but a connection with Urgyen Rinpoche would be more elusive, and problematic.

Indeed, it came to be so. I almost immediately thereafter developed a beneficial relationship with Kalu Rinpoche that lasted up until his death in the spring of 1989. Unfortunately, as of his death in early 1996, I still had not met Urgyen Rinpoche.

My Precious Teacher held Urgyen Rinpoche in the highest possible regard. I know they often corresponded with one another, and when Urgyen Rinpoche passed away, my teacher wrote a moving eulogy. I am deeply sorry I was unable to fullfil my teacher's wish and develop a connection with Urgyen Rinpoche, but sometimes, such barely tangible links disappear like dew after sunrise.

Naturally, as works in English by Urgyan Rinpoche began to appear, I tried whenever possible to make a special read of them. Over time, I came to realize why, in fact, my Precious Teacher thought it "necessary" to study with Urgyan Rinpoche. I found Urgyan Rinpoche's written works a perfectly balanced commentary on my own teacher's oral instruction. When I could sit down and consider them both, at leisure, it became most rewarding in every sense.

Here then, a brief excerpt from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's as it is, Volume 2, which, in many ways, is as rich yet unvarnished a written exposition of the Dzogchen training experience as you are ever likely to find these days.

+ + +

"When we first receive teachings, we usually get an extensive explanation covering all topics of the Dharma, known as the expedient and definitive meaning. As that point we are are introduced to the fact that the definitive meaning is about buddha nature, the essence of mind, which we need to eventually realize. We are given a general layout, an overview, and gradually we hone in on what is of ultimate importance among all the Buddha's teachings. We narrow it down to the 'pointing-out instruction,' through which one is introduced to and is able to recognize this nature of mind, the buddha nature.

"The moment of recognition is like catching the scent.

"A carnivore out hunting needs to first catch the smell of the deer, then he can hunt it down. The pointing-out instruction is for this little carnivore to get the whiff of buddha nature. Once we smell it, we do not have to speculate so much about it anymore. We are finally on track. Most important is to get the whiff of buddha nature. Before that it is all right to spend a lot of time analyzing. Once you get the scent of it, there is no need to fill up your mind with a lot of intellectual speculation.

"What is meant by catching the scent is like this. At some point your guru leans over towards you and says, 'Now we need to speak just between the two of us. When you recognize mind essence, what do you see?' A good disciple would say, 'Honestly, I don't see a thing.' The guru replies, 'Well that is true, that is really how it is. Your nature is empty. But in the moment of recognizing that your mind is empty, are you totally blank and unaware at that point? Are you oblivious?' A good disciple would say, 'No, I am not. I experience what is present..' Then the guru might say, 'Isn't it true that this emptiness and cognizance are a unity; that one always occurs in conjunction with the other?' The disciple would again say, 'That is true.' The guru continues, 'Isn't that moment a vivid state of being awake which is at the same time empty, really without clinging?' In this way, one is gradually introduced to the scent of buddha nature.

"After that, the tracking down of the deer does not need to be imagined anymore, because the scent is already there. You don't have to dream up this empty cognizance any longer. You don't have to make up ideas about how it is. You don't have to indulge in fantasies like those I mentioned earlier, imagining how the buddha nature looks and trying to keep that fantasy constantly in mind. Once we receive the pointing-out instruction and recognize buddha nature, the training is not in meditating in the sense of imagining buddha nature; the training is in not losing track of it, in the sense of not being distracted. We do not have to imagine buddha nature, it is already present. There is no point in trying to make it up. The emptiness that the buddha nature is, is an original emptiness; the cognizance is an original cognizance. The unity of being empty and cognizant is an original unity, isn't it? It is not that we need to create the unity through practice. That fact becomes absolutely clear. Meditation practice is no longer an act of making the mind empty and cognizant, not at all.

"Yet what happens is that we do forget it, we do get distracted. This is when the training comes in. The training is to simply recognize again. We need to acknowledge how it already is. Again we forget and are carried away, because of the coemergent and conceptualizing ignorances. Coemergent ignorance is simply losing track or forgetting, getting distracted. Conceptualizing ignorance occurs when, in the moment you are distracted, you start to make thoughts about what you have wandered off towards. This needs to be eliminated. This twofold ignorance is not someone else's doing; it does not come from outside. The twofold ignorance is your own manifestation, just like your own shadow. It is an expression of the essence itself, but directed outwardly.

"The training is simply in letting habitual fixation gradually fall away, by recognizing again and again. The more we train in this way, the easier it becomes. It is like memorizing, although not exactly the same as this analogy. When I chant the Dusum Sangye supplication a few times, I don't have to think even as much as a hair's tip in order to get from the beginning of it to the end. It comes automatically, because it is already imprinted in the all-ground, the alaya. Similarly, once we become more stable in the recognition, it will last for a while, not deliberately but automatically.

"Because we have never been separate from it for an instant, the nature of mind is not something to meditate on, but to get used to.

"Distraction makes the division between these two states. We need the undistracted nonmeditation. If you chant a prayer by heart, do you have to think about it? That is the idea of automatic. Nondistraction should be automatic, not requiring any deliberate thought. You do not need to congratulate yourself every single time, 'Wow, now I recognize the unity of empty cognizance. Now I recognize it again.' That is a thought, isn't it? If you know this Dusum Sangye chant by heart, once you have said the first line, 'Dusum sangye guru rinpoche,' do you need to think, 'Now, what is that next line? Oh, it is such-and-such.' You don't have to think that at all. When you know a prayer by heart, no thought is necessary to recite it. Rigpa does not require any thought. Once you have grown used to rigpa, it is automatic.

"When a master teaches his students the direct knowing of buddha nature, it is the same as introducing a carnivore to the scent of the deer. Once you get the scent, then you have it. The scent is there. You have gotten the scent of the dharmakaya; there is no thing to see. You have gotten the scent of the sambhogakaya; while there is no thing to see, there is still knowing. Finally, you have gotten the scent of nirmanakaya, that these two are indivisible. Just keep on sniffing it, like tracking down prey in the mountains.

"It's quite wonderful, isn't it? It is through this path that we can attain buddhahood."

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Monday, September 03, 2012

Ogyen Tulku Nominated for Award

Our beloved friend, Ninth Ogyen Tulku's seven CD set of recordings has been nominated for Taiwan's Best Religious Music Award for 2012 -- something like a Grammy, if the Grammy had a Buddhist music category.

This is a wonderful set. As we've mentioned before, Rinpoche has a beautiful voice and the mantras are recited with absolute perfection. This set can be used to teach yourself different smoke offerings, and can be used as an all-day sound offering with a variety of full-length mantra recordings such as Seven Line Prayer, Kurukulle Mantra, Mani Mantra, Vajra Guru Mantra, and others. This is not the annoying mantra set to music one usually hears, but, like Lama Gyurme's recordings, this is music set to mantra. There is a difference.

We want to encourage all of our readers to purchase this set, which is being offered at a promotional price for a short time. You can obtain further details from this website.

Ogyen Tulku's center in Taiwan is thriving these days, and we extend very best wishes to him and all members of his center.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Same As Me:" Recent Developments

As previously reported in the following links, since 2009 we've been working to recreate Samye's famous "Same As Me" statue of Padmasambhava, destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, using high technology from the motion picture industry:


We, of course, are not the only ones. Several groups are approaching this project, not only in the United States, but Europe, and Asia. This is a worldwide cooperative effort, where we all share our findings. Quite recently, we heard from the Museo di Arte e Cultura Tibetana, in Italy, sharing with us their latest effort to extrapolate the head of Guru Rinpoche from the famous photo, above, using 3D modeling software. Below, you see some of the results.

Here is an excerpt of our reply to Italy, which I include here for the possible interest of all other parties to this effort:
"....the consistent problem we have is in finding another photograph of the original statue. We are quite certain more than the one photograph, i.e. the Queen of Sikkhim's photograph from the 1930s, exists somewhere, but despite an exhaustive worldwide search -- four years now -- we have been unable to locate anything.
"So, from that point, we set out in three directions:
"(1) We began collecting every photograph of every statue of Guru Rinpoche we could find, up to an arbitrary cut-off date of 1950. There are many such photographs in existence. We did this because we believed that the statue may have inspired duplicates, and we believe we found one such duplicate in the Potala, depicted in a photograph dating to the 1920s. We also wanted to established iconographic "baselines" from which we could extrapolate a homogenous iconography, i.e. the chin is commonly this way, the forehead is commonly that way, etc., etc.
"(2) We hit upon the method of placing the Queen of Sikkhim photograph in a stationary position, and then using a boom camera to photograph the photograph from extreme left to right, and extreme right to left, then from top to bottom, and bottom to top, describing a crossed arc in front of the original. This is similar to the modern x-ray machines that dentists use to x-ray the whole of your teeth in one shot.
"This last approach is, I think, promising. In your efforts, as depicted in the photos you sent me, you will for example notice how the nose width seems to be a problem. I believe you could cure that problem by using the technique described above. Basically, you want to find as many legitimate planes of the face as possible to use as your data set, and let the software extrapolate what is missing.
"(3) The third thing we did was to examine as much 8th century regional sculpture as we could possibly find, in order to establish a certain "logic" of the face. Although of divine origin, Guru Rinpoche took what by all historical accounts was a very pleasing human form. We wanted some sense of how pleasing male faces from the region may have appeared in the period, or at least how they were idealized. Some examples from Ghandara proved extremely useful in this regard."

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Lion's Roar

"The usual problem we have when emotions arise is that we feel we are being challenged by them. We think that emotions will take over our self-existence, our credential of existence. We are afraid that, if we become the embodiment of hatred or passion, then we won't have any personal credentials anymore.

"So usually we react against emotion, because we feel we might be taken over by it. We feel there is a strong possibility that we might freak out, lose our heads. We are afraid that aggression or depression will become so overwhelming that we will begin to lose our general functional level, forget how to brush our teeth, how to take a shit in the toilet or whatever. There's some kind of fear that the whole thing might become too much, so that we might get hooked into it. Then we will lose our dignity, our ability to function as ordinary human beings like the others. That seems to be the problem.

"So transmutation in this case means going through such fear or whatever else might be, or occur. Let yourself be nuts. Go through it, give into it, experience it. And when you begin to experience this process of going towards emotions rather than emotions coming towards you, then you begin to make a journey. You are making an effort towards them, therefore some actual relationship is involved, and a sense of dance begins to evolve.

"This means that the highest forces of energy, any kind of extraordinary energies there might be, become absolutely workable rather than taking you over. This is because, if you are not offering any resistance, there's nothing to take over. Whenever there's no resistance, there is a sense of rhythm happening. The music and dance happen at the same time.

"So that is what is called the lion's roar: whatever occurs in the realm of samsaric mind is regarded as the path, and everything is workable. It is a fearless proclamation-lion's roar.

"But as long as we patch over what we feel are unworkable situations, as long as we try to put the patchwork of metaphysical, philosophical or neat religious ideas over the holes, then it ceases to be a lion's roar. It turns instead into a coward's scream-which is very pathetic."

                            --The Lion's Roar, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

White Shell

Over the past three or four days, I've been spending time on the 'Net chatting about this and that with my friend. We began by discussing the "even when you are wrong, you are right" school of learning from mistakes, and this somehow segued -- you know how talk bounces around -- into discussing Yeshe Tsogyal as an historical personage, who loved Guru Rinpoche.

It is certain he loved her right back; at once ordinarily and extraordinarily. Together, they made of their love an enormously liberating experience for all sentient beings.

After these conversations, I chanced to come upon the following by Yeshe Tsogyal, and it seemed appropriate. From the text, it would seem she is quoting Padmasambhava, but who is to say where one of them began and the other ended, so to speak?
"An individual who knows that there is no delusion in the primordial ground of being and then goes astray establishing sentient beings and their worlds: this is like a white shell appearing yellow to a jaundiced eye. Although a variety of seemingly conflicting passions manifests, one knows that there is no delusion in the ground. Fully realizing this, then whatever one does, one knows there is no cause for delusion. Knowing this, primordially there is the freedom of self-generating pristine awareness; at the time of delusion there is the freedom of self-generating pristine awareness; and in the end there is the freedom of self-generating pristine awareness."
So, this seems like a beautiful way to love, doesn't it? A relationship based upon this sort of view is almost certain to be gentle, and beneficial to all parties. Imagine: you love someone, and the nature of your relationship is such that it becomes a source of refuge, a source of instruction, and a source of realization for others. 

Here it is, centuries later, and we continue to receive the benefit of their relationship.

I think from now until my dying day, I will remember this little comment about a white shell appearing yellow, and just leave a white shell as a white shell, without too much tinkering. In this fashion, one can almost certainly benefit from mistakes without actually making them.

Dakini Day, August 2012

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