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Posts from the ‘Milarepa’ Category

27
Apr

hinayana of the mind

Recently I was reading the introduction to the recent translation of books nine and ten of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s Treasury of Knowledge, entitled Journey and Goal, by Richard Barron (Chokyi Nyima).  While reading, I came across a wonderful discussion of the topic of “paths and levels” (Tibetan: sa lam).

For whatever reason, be it cultural or philosophical, or a need to act as an extension of the phenom that was Indic scholasticism, many early Tibetan scholars/translators placed great energy into codifying all of the various routes taken by the three Buddhist vehicles.  Of equal interest to Tibetan scholars/translators were the various the road-maps provided by the lineages that comprised these vehicles. Indeed, lam rim (stages and paths) literature from Jey Gampopa onwards, for example, has functioned as a great cornerstone for the practice of dharma up to this very day.  Rest assured that if you are ever lost on the path to enlightenment, the Tibetans have all the various maps you may need neatly organized.

What was of great note for me was Richard Barron’s exploration of the term Hinayana in his introduction to the translation of Kongtrul’s text.

According to most descriptions, the three buddhist vehicles are delineated as: Theravada (Pali: थेरवाद), Mahayana (Sanskrit: महायान), and Vajrayana (Sanskrit: वज्रयान).  The histories and unique wealth that all three vehicles contain is obviously too vast for this blog, and therefore I enthusiastically encourage exploring the expansive richness that these buddhist traditions continue to offer the world.  For now, I would like to explore further hinayana of the mind.

The term Hinayana (हीनयान) translates a “deficient vehicle”, or “defective vehicle”.  It arose as a derogatory term after the development of the Mahayana view to denigrate and belittle self-centered practice of dharma, not necessarily as a criticism of the Theravada approach.  Indeed, that it arose post facto is significant in that it was used to distinguish Mahayana from some aspects of an earlier approach to Buddhist practice.  It should be noted that this earlier form or approach to practice that was being criticized was that of the Sarvastivada school (an eternalist belief that “all exists”) and similar groups.  Over time it became somewhat common to erroniously regard Theravada Buddhism as Hinayana.

That said, people are people are people, and Buddhists are no different; the chauvinism of some Mahayana practitioners towards practitioners of the Theravada approach resulted in harsh belittling of a legitimate and praiseworthy dharma.  Indeed, this shows how easily the kleshas of greed, hatred and delusion, the very roots of our suffering, can be used to debase and belittle others in such a way that we easily poison our internal well-spring of basic goodness.  Perhaps this is the intended meaning of hinayana; perhaps this is how we manifest the hinayana of our own minds.  How we become deficient or defective.

The late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said that even the most precious and extraordinary tantric practices can become hinayana practice if our motivation is confused.  If we become focused upon self-aggrandizing, self-enrichment, self-liberation, and pious aggression, what good is our practice?  How easy it is to become an inner Devadatta towards our own pure motivation; to become stricken with a tight and closed approach towards others.

The great yogin and Kagyu forefather, Jetsun Milarepa, once said that staying in the house of someone who practices with hinayana motivation is akin to accumulating seven lifetimes of misdeeds. Milarepa seems to be saying that even loose peripheral association with the hinayana perspective can lead to great downfall, I can’t imagine that he was referring to the ill effects of accepting the generosity of receiving shelter from a Theravadin buddhist.

How does this apply to our daily lives?  What impact does it have in chaplaincy?  What does pure motivation mean, and how do we allow the root kleshas of greed, hatred, and delusion (as well as the branch kleshas: conceit, wrong view, doubt, torpor, restlessness, shamelessness and recklessness) constellate with us?  How do these factors cause the growth of hinayana mind?

It is said that fire can be used as a tool; to bring warmth, to cook, and enlighten.  It can also be used to burn and destroy.  How we practice, and especially how we relate to others, as well as the environment, seems to be an especially powerful barometer with which we can measure the relative efficacy of our spiritual path.  To that end, and with that in mind, it seems of vital importance that we remain mindful of the occasional flashes of the hinayana of the mind; how it arises may be different for each of us in terms of specificity, however, I suspect that our inner Devadatta’s are cut from a similar cloth: ego-clinging or self-orientated thinking/separation from others.  Whether it take the form of high lamas causing a rift in the sangha, our own inability to recognize the suffering of others, or even the sometimes subtle belief that we are more unique or special than everyone else, it is easy to fall prey to hinayana mind.

May we totally dispel the neuroses of all beings (including ourselves)!

12
Feb

on how we can be close to the karmapa: what it means to be kagyu

The recent events surrounding His Holiness Orgyen Trinley Dorje have been extremely painful to watch. I realize that I am not the only person who has strong feelings about the present situation.  Right now it feels important to bring these feelings inward and let those who are much more skillful and experienced with the complexities of these issues remain at the forefront.  Perhaps directing all of the emotions that arise from the present situation towards practice, and using this present moment to reflect upon the Kagyu lineage can be a powerful tool for connection and empowerment.  Rather than add to the frenzy of internet activity through discussing what has been going on, I would like to respectfully let the Office of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa with its advisors lead the way, they are wise, capable and have my complete confidence.

So let’s go deeper.  What does it mean to be Kagyupa?

Practice.  Devotion.  These qualities are certainly not solely owned by the Kagyu lineage, or even vajrayana buddhism for that matter, but they are the special signature of this precious ear-whispered lineage.

What does that mean?

The relationship that the great Pandit Naropa had with his radical, skillful and essential guru Tilopa was one of great intimacy and tenderness.  It was a relationship of sharing, where a master tested and took great care in exhausting the neuroses and misapprehensions of his student, who through his own dedication and drive, applied the special instructions and worked hard to guard and tend to the experience of enlightenment.  Master and student lived side by side so that any ordinary experience could be used as a tool for revealing the dharma.  In creating the a relationship of close intimacy Tilopa challenged Naropa, he knew what buttons to push, he chided Naropa’s intellectualism, and ultimately empowered him to experience buddhahood.

Marpa the indomitable angry Tibetan farmer- stuborn and hard-headed- decided to leave Drogmi Lotsawa to find and experience dharma on his own, for himself.  Undergoing a series of journeys through out Nepal and India he eventually found his guru, Naropa.  Marpa had to bear the brunt of being Tibetan in 11th century India, not an easy task Tibetans were generally regarded as rough and not that intelligent by their Nepali and Indian contemporaries.   Indeed, the mahasiddha Sri Santibhadra (aka Kukkuripa) to whom Marpa was directed to initially receive the transmission of the Mahamaya Tantra asked why he should give the empowerment of the Mahamaya Tantra and subsequent explanations to a “stupid flat nosed Tibetan?”  That must have really pushed the buttons of this precocious, driven seeker who was known for having a short fuse!  The relationship between Naro and Marpa, like that of Tilopa and Naropa, was also intimate and close- Marpa spent years actualizing the paths that were offered to him from his primary guru, Naropa.  Marpa also maintained close relationships with the mahasiddhas Maitripa, Kukkuripa, as well as Saraha (in the dream-state).  Marpa brought the instructions of these great masters back to Tibet and firmly placed the victory banner of the kagyu ear-whispered lineage upon the Tibetan Plateau.

Milarepa, the repentant magician suffered great loss early on in his life.  Imagine the loss of everything you know as one of your parents die, imagine that all you have every owned, or all that has ever been promised to you has been taken by family that you trusted.  Imagine the shame and guilt, the remorse and regret that Milarepa must have felt growing up- imagine those feelings distilling into the deep focus to harm others.  Marpa, the farmer lama, with his liberating presence, took the time to be there for Milarepa as a teacher in the best way possible.  He had the skill to know that forcing Milarepa to perform nearly impossible tasks of physical labor to ripen his karma, to help push the reset button, and to reveal wholeness where previously there was just suffering, was appropriate.  After all, Milarepa had been to a teacher before Marpa who was much looser in his teaching style which didn’t fit with Milarepa’s attitude.  As a result not much occurred between Milarepa and this other teacher.  Marpa, ever the farmer, planted the seeds of dharma within Mila’s being and carefully, tenderly raked, weeded and fed these seeds until the grew into a rich crop.

Rechungpa and Gampopa, the left and right hands of Mila Laughing Vajra, expressed the wisdom, instruction and blessings of their father-like lama.  Gampopa did this through codifying and merging the ear-whispered lineage of experience with his experience as a Kadampa monk thus providing a monastic base for the Kagyu lineage; his famous Jewel Ornament of Liberation is a classic lamrim (stages of the path) presentation of the dharma.  Rechungpa, a repa or cotten-clad yogi, continued more within the activity tradition of Marpa Lotsawa, returning to India to procure the empowerments and instruction for the practice of the Formless Dakini, a lineage that is still maintained within the Drikung Kagyu lineage. Both Rechungpa and Jey Gampopa were cared for by Milarepa- they had very close and different relationships with Milarepa.  The devotion and sadness that Rechungpa expressed upon learning of Milarepa’s death is a beautiful reminder of the internal connection that they had.  It also feels important to note that the last thing that Milarepa shared with Gampopa was showing him his calloused buttocks- a final testament that practice is essential, that the experience of liberation is supported by practice.

The Kagyu lineage, and all of its branches, is often refered to as a practice lineage.  And indeed, if one took a look at the lives of the lineage holders, one can see that great care has always been applied to the maintainance of the purity of the lineage, as well as experiencing or tasting its essential essence.  When we look at the lineage of the Karmapas, Tai Situpas, the Gyaltsabpas, the lineage of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Traleg Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche, Sangye Nyepa Rinpoche, Trungpa Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, Chokgyur Lingpa, Karma Chagme Rinpoche, Khamtrul Rinpoche, and many other great Rinpoches, and unknown practitioners, it is amazing how alive and energetic the Kagyu lineage is.

I sometimes feel that people believe that being Buddhist involves shunning the world and keeping ourself calm and without emotion.  In the hospital I am often asked by patients how I have the strength to not feel or to remove myself from the world.  I don’t have that strength, I’m not even sure if that is a strength, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to remove myself from the world.  There are worlds upon worlds within us, physical isolation or separateness alone doesn’t change that.   The freedom we seek is found in embracing what is right infront of us.  Buddhism is in the midst of being translated to the western idiom.  It has firmly taken root in many respects, however I feel that a significant point of focus may need to be how we as Buddhists (perhaps more so for vajrayana Buddhists, although maybe not) can maintain sacred-outlook as well as a realistic understanding of the world around ourselves.  How can we connect to the visionary nature of our lineages, create real connection, feel that we are part of them, recieve the blessings of their transmission history without having an overly utopian notion of how everything constellates with the world that we live in?

A few years ago I read a translation of a text by Raga Asay, the first Karma Chagme Rinpoche in which a  story was related about Raga Asay who after recieving instruction from the 10th Karmapa Choying Dorje,  prefered to live far away from Tsurphu.  When asked by a friend why he would choose to live far away and not be able to attend public events (empowerments, reading transmissions, teachings, etc.) Raga Asay replied,” when I am in retreat the lama on the top of his head is near and I always feel his blessings.  When I am at Tsurphu my mind is plagued by insecurity, jealousy and gossip.” Karma Chagme found the balance; his balance,  a confidence in his relationship with His Holiness as well as with the larger lineage.  At the same time Karma Chagme seems to be suggesting “people are people are people”- we gossip, brag, and in all our enthusiasm during special religious functions often inadvertantly act unskillfully.

In terms of the present situation, it is easy to pick up on and focus on the politics, the gossip, and the intrigue and forget that this is all appearance.  By all means we should support His Holiness, but as his children perhaps we should bring what arises within us to the path.  This is what Gampopa refers to when he lists the ways to deal with obstacles to practice, we can try to abandon obstacles, or we can transform them, or we can rest within them as they arise.  Gampopa suggests that transforming obstacles is good, but that resting in them may be better- it is a way to bring direct experience of the present moment to our practice.  In facing our fears, our insecurities, our rage, our frustration, and being able to be aware of this as none other than the play of our mind, we are able to be clear and free.

When His Holiness came to Mirik to consecrate and install the kudung stupa of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, His Holiness told the large group of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche’s students that our greatest offering to Bokar Rinpoche is our practice.  That to put into practice his instructions, and to aspire to completely master master them, we are connecting in a profound manner to Kaybje Bokar Rinpoche.  This sounds like timely advice for the present moment, but also something to keep in mind at all moments.  While we can not always serve our lama in an everyday setting, we can serve our lama by holding dear and practicing the instructions that she or he offers us.

The office of His Holiness recently offered a statement of thanks to everyone who has supported His Holiness and his labrang and suggested that we offer our practice towards the removal of all obstacles towards the problems that His Holiness has faced.  You can read it here.  This is wonderful!  I cannot think of a better way to maintain a connection with such an amazing teacher.  In practicing for him, we are generously offering our time, our effort, our spirituality as well as our connection with the lineage from which the instructions that we follow flowed from.  This is an offering beyond time and space; an essence offering which when fused with the intention of benefiting His Holiness and his labrang- doubtless, this is a powerful way of maintaining connection, it’s a way through which we can feel the heartbeat of Tilo, Naro, Marpa, Mila within our very being.

Although all practitioners have a lineage,

If one has the Dakini lineage, one has everything.

Although all practitioners have a grandfather,

If one has Tilo, one has everything.

Although practitioners have a lama,

If one has Naro, one has everything.

Although practitioners have teachings,

If one has the hearing lineage, one has everything.

All attain the Buddha through meditation,

But if one attains Buddhahood without meditation,

There is definite enlightenment.

There is no amazing achievement without practice,

But there is amazing achievement without practice.

By searching, all will find enlightenment,

But to find without searching is the greatest find.

-Marpa

25
Nov

Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche, Father and Son, protectors of the Kagyu Monlam.

It has always felt  to me that if Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche was the essence of Milarepa, then Kaybje Bokar Rinpoche was the essence of Gampopa.  While I never had the chance to meet Kalu Rinpoche, I have met many Tibetan, American, British and French students of Rinpoche who often spoke of his direct orientation towards practice, his passion for transmitting instruction, and his easy going trust in the dharma- these seem to be qualities that I associate with Milarepa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similarly, Bokar Rinpoche with his purity of heart, emphasis upon transmission of the lineage teachings and stainless vinaya, truly does remind me of qualities that were emblematic of Je Gampopa.  In expressing the direct simplicity of mind, Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche was known as a great master of Mahamudra.

That they both maintained, preserved and expanded the Kagyu Monlam in Bodh Gaya is important.  Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche can be credited with establishing the Kagyu monlam in Bodh Gaya.  When he began the monlam it was a small informal gathering.  After his passing, Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche continued the practice of maintaining and further developing the Kagyu monlam; it slowly grew and grew.  I attended several of these earlier monlams where Bokar Rinpoche and Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche presided over a much smaller number of monks, nuns and lamas than those that attend present monlam celebrations.  They were a combination of grand and intimate, which seemed just right for reciting aspiration prayers and receiving inspiration.

After His Holiness the 17th Karmapa escaped from Tibet in January of 2000 and was allowed to travel inside of India, he presided over the monlam.  Its as if Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche were keeping his Holiness’ seat warm under the bodhi tree.  Since the sudden death of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, the monlam has been run by Lama Chodrak (the lama he appointed to organize the monlam) and the monlam committee.  His Holiness the 17th Karmapa has also taken a strong role in monlam planing, and feels strongly about its mission and goals.

With their activities in mind I offer this song of supplication written by Kaybje Bokar Rinpoche.  May it be of benefit!!

Wide Wings That Lift Us to Devotion: A supplication

A Vajra song by Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche

Spiritual master, think of me!  Think of me!

Source of all blessings, root spiritual master, think of me!

 

Spiritual Master, think of me!  Think of me!

Epitome of all accomplishment, root spiritual master, think of me!

 

Spiritual master, think of me!  Think of me!

Agent of all enlightened activity, root spiritual master, think of me!

 

Spiritual master, think of me!  Think of me!

All refuges in one, root spiritual master, think of me!

 

Turn all beings’ minds, with mine, towards the Teachings.

Bless me that all stages of the faultless path-

Renunciation, the mind of awakening, and the correct view-

Genuinely arise in my being.

 

May I dwell untouched by the faults of pride and wrong views

Toward the Teachings and the teacher of freedom’s sublime path.

May  steadfast faith, devotion and pure vision

Lead me to fully achieve the two goals for others and myself.

 

The Human tantric master introduces my intrinsic essence.

The master in the Joyful Buddha’s Canon instills certainty.

The symbolic master in appearances enriches experience.

The ultimate master, the nature of reality, sparks realization of the abiding nature.

 

Finally, within the state of the master inseparable from my own mind,

All phenomena of existence and transcendence dissolve into the nature of reality’s expanse;

The one who affirmed, denied and clung to things as real vanishes into the absolute expanse-

May I then fully realize the effortless body of ultimate enlightenment!

 

In all my lifetimes, may I never be separate from the true spiritual master.

May I enjoy the Teachings’ glorious wealth,

Completely achieve the paths and stages’ noble qualities,

And swiftly reach the state of Buddha Vajra Bearer.

 

 

In 1995, in response to requests from two translators, Lama Tcheucky and Lama Namgyal, on behalf of my foreign disciples, I, Karma Ngedon Chokyi Lodro, who holds the title of Bokar Tulku, wrote this at my home in Mirik Monastery.  May it prove meaningful.[i]


[i] Zangpo, Ngawang. trans. Timeless Rapture: Inspired Verse of the Shangpa Masters.  Snow Lion Publications. 2003.  Ithaca, NY., Pg. 215-217.


16
Nov

purity, impurity and inner offerings

From the nature of emptiness wind and fire arise.

I remember very clearly the cold late November afternoon in Gangtok, Sikkim, fifteen years ago when I was taught Milarepa guru yoga.  It was one of those incredible experience of being shown something for the first time: electrifying, new and magical.  One of the things that instantly spoke to me about the practice was the imagery of the inner offering of the five meats and five nectars that appears in the beginning of the text.  Indeed, in looking back at it I think that the inner offering in Milarepa practice (as well as in many other tantric Buddhist practices) has been something that has held great meaning for me.   Part of it may be the fact that this prelude to Milarepa practice is a wonderfully clear metaphor for Mahamudra; one of the central forms of meditation passed down through the Kagyu Lineage.  The inner offering presents a different form for approaching the mind’s essence from other meditations- chod involves cutting and offering, samatha/vipassana is quiet and still, some practices involve fiery wrath, others still, a warm familiar tenderness.  Each of these emotive backgrounds illustrate a modality, an emotion, a style, or an outlet through which we may we express and experience ourselves within the context of awakened activity; the union of clarity of being and luminosity of mind.  Within the context of the inner offering, the metaphor is that of boiling and melting (not unlike the athanor which refines the prima materia in Alchemy).   This burning and melting is so powerful that a sublime blissful nectar is produced, a non-dual nectar that confers the blessing of the Buddha.   This part of Milarepa guru yoga came to be, and remains, an exciting fun part of my practice, instilling a sense of dynamic power that seems to illustrate the potential “atomic” nature of Vajrayana.

In a skull on a tripod of skulls GO KU DA HA NA become the five meats and BI MU MA RA SHU become the five nectars.

The inner offering is a product of medieval India (roughly between the 6th through 12th centuries), when both Tantric Buddhism and Tantric Hinduism were taking shape.  This was a time of immense social upheaval throughout the Indian sub-continent. In both Hindu and Buddhist circles, groups of siddhas broke away from the orthodoxy of their respective majorities in order to develop, practice and teach tantric forms of Hinduism and Buddhism.  One of the principal causes of such a move was a the adoption of an antinomian attitude towards the strictures of Indian society with its caste system, its brahmanic tendencies towards “purity”, and the establishment of Buddhist monasteries so large and wealthy that their leading teachers often lived very comfortable lives of scholastic celebrity.  This shift was often exemplified by the lives of the 84 mahasiddhas, some of whom left their teaching positions at the famous monasteries of Nalanda, Somapuri, and Vikramashila to practice in jungles, others were kicked out for their outlandish behavior, while a few were kings or princes and princesses afraid to give up their wealth, and many were of low-caste status.  Disregard for the religious and cultural status quo led to a shift towards the charnel grounds as gathering places, frightening “dirty” locations, where wild animals scavenged the remains of the recently dead.  It was a time where meditation instruction was sung in vernacular so that the everyday person could be touched, not just those who were ordained or occupants of a higher social station.  This time also marked a focal shift (as far as practice goes) towards cities where the concentrated hustle and bustle of everyday life revealed itself as a ripe field of opportunity, a place where one is faced to deal with a full range of emotions.  For some it was also a shift into the seductive luxurious courts of both major and minor royalty.  Human experience, in all of its forms was recognized as embryonic in nature allowing most anyone who exerted themselves in practice to become pregnant with realization.  This became the birth right of all, not just those born into one caste, and certainly not just those who were literate or educated.  Perhaps one could go so far as to say that this period was a time of spiritual anarchic-democratization.

One of the most interesting aspects of this time period was the apparent looseness of sectarian divisions between the then Saivite sub-sects that represented the forefront of Hindu tantra and the Buddhist equivalents who ushered in Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, Candamaharosana, Guhyasamaya and other early tantric deity practice. The shared iconography between Saivite Kapalika Hindu tantra and Buddhist tantra is clear evidence of some common direction and praxis orientations.  Such symbolism makes use of skulls, flayed animal and human skins, invocations of the more wrathful nature of these deities, and sexual union with their consorts.   Similarly, the dual identities of the siddhas Matsendryanath, Gorakanath, Jalandhara, and Kanhapa who are counted as four of the eighty-four Buddhist mahasiddhas as well as founders of the Hindu Nath lineages suggests that there was much more dialog between the more iconoclastic progenitors and practitioners of Hindu and Buddhist Tantra.  These four siddhas are credited with the development of Hatha Yoga, which has many applications within Buddhism and Hinduism.  David Templeman, in his fascinating paper Buddhaguptanatha and the Survival of the Late Siddha Tradition has suggested that the interaction between Buddhist and Hindu yogins was more common than most Tibetan scholars had assumed.  This was a perplexing and fascinating subject for the erudite Tibetan scholar Taranatha, and according to Janet Gyatso, in her book Apparitions of the Self, the great Nyingma terton Jigme Lingpa was very curious about such points of contact.  In some way it appears that the assumption of difference seems to be a convenient projected organizational tool used to try to clarify such a difficult topic of study.  A way to try to define that which tries to defy definition.  The Centre for Tantric Studies offers a forum for exploring the history and development of tantra in and around the Indian Sub-continent.

Much debate and uncertainty surrounds the issue of how tantra came into being, even more debate surrounds how we should approach understanding tantra.  The works of scholars like Geoffrey Samuel, Roger Jackson, Ronald Davidson, David Gordon White, Elizabeth English and Christian Wedemeyer (to name a few) have helped to illustrate some of the more pertinent issues surrounding the subject of Buddhist tantra.

They are melted by wind and fire.

As a means of throwing open the gates of  ultimate realization, the Pancamakara: madya (alcohol), mamsa (meat), matsya (fish), mudra (edible foods) and maithuna (sexual intercourse) were included in Hindu tantric rituals as a means to effect a eucharistic understanding of non-duality.  In essence, by consuming that which is culturally regarded as impure in ritual context, one undermines the very notion of the purity/impurity dualism that keeps us trapped in feeling fragmented and lacking expansiveness.  These particular objects, when handled and offered by practitioners of this more radical form of Hindu Tantra were held with the left hand, the hand reserved for handling impure substances.  In adopting an enthusiasm and greater equanimity towards these violations of cultural mores regarding cleanliness (spiritually as well as otherwise) one was directly contradicting the rules of conventional Hinduism.  It should be noted that the  use of the left hand in offerings is also prevalent in one form or another in Buddhist Tantra.  This dynamic was central to the Kapalika sect whose influence upon the corpus of Yogini Tantas was considerable.   While few scholars can agree who influenced who, the most important thing is that these traditions arose.

Light from the three seeds attracts wisdom nectar.  Samaya and wisdom become inseparable and an ocean of nectar descends.

In Buddhist sadhanas the five meats and the five nectars share a certain equivalency to the  Hindu Pancamakara.  Rather than the transgressive five M’s (madya, mamsa, matsya, mudra and maithuna) we have the five meats: the flesh of cow, dog, horse, elephant and man, and the five nectars: semen, blood, flesh, urine, and feces.  The five meats are representative of the five skandhas: form, feeling, discrimination, action, and consciousness.  Likewise,  the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind, correspond to the five nectars. Depending on the explanation lineage of the inner offering, these associations may vary, but generally the essence is the same.  In this practice we join the five wisdoms with the five elements to produce a non-dual intoxicating ambrosia that has the capability of revealing the qualities of awakening and in that sense provides a powerful spring-board of potential realization.  In other words we are joining our perceptions with the objects of our perceptions- entering into direct relationship with phenomena; uncontrived and expansive.  We boil perceptions and the ability to perceive  in a five dimensional way thereby naturally releasing our habitual confused samsaric reaction for a more aware equanimous relationship with the world around and within us.  This is the very mechanism of samsara/nirvana!  What’s more, as this mechanism unfolds, it reveals the don-dual vastness of Dharmakaya, a spring-board for sacred outlook.  For a moment everything is okay, relaxed into ease.

These substances emanate from their specific syllables and are brought together to be mixed in a kapala (skull cap bowl), one then generates a flow of prana which strikes syllables for fire and wind underneath the kapala to make its contents boil and in a sense unify.  This now ambrosial nectar (amrita) emits the syllables Om, Ah, Hung, dispersing the blessing of pure Buddha body, speech and mind.  This simply radiates.  It is used to bless torma offerings and nectar used in offerings, or in a more general way tsok offerings as well as the general environment.

Andy Weber representation of the inner offering

Om Ah Hung Ha Ho Hri Hung Hung Phe Phe So Ha.

There is another side to this as well; it seems an importantly powerful thing to keep in mind at some level that the five meats and five nectars were intended to be transgressive repulsive substances.  Shocking and caste destroying, they arose directly out of the charnel ground culture that figures so largely in Buddhist Tantra.  There is power in our response to disgust, to fear, guilt, lust and all those emotions that lurk around the edges of our movement through the world; we all have our own relationships to purity and impurity, and they are a lot more complicated than we like to assume.  Guilt, fear, self-righteousness, abandonment, woe, depression, anger, disgust- an army of emotions- are related to how and why we connect to/react to purity and impurity- we carry these reactions with us wherever we go as we label the things around us as clean and or unclean, desirable and undesirable.

A few years ago I was speaking with the abbot of a Buddhist monastery in India about the historical development of tantric applications of using impure substances.  In his reply he said that things are so much more different today in trying to connect with these practices.  It’s hard to see rotting corpses, scary wild animals feasting on human remains, lepers, one can’t go down to a charnel ground these days to do a puja around bodies in various states of decay.  With the use of toilet paper, some of the stigma of the use of the left hand in India is less powerful, and in western countries there never really was the same kind of stigma in this regard.  This he suggested that this is one of the reasons why we use/rely upon visualizations- they can be quite powerful.

However, I wonder where these places of fear are- we all have them- perhaps they are more individualized, or abstracted.  Homelessness, illness, mental illness, terrorism, and death, perhaps these are some of the newer “untouchables” of our times.  It is important to locate them for ourselves, touch the fear or terror that they bring, and then offer them up- the essence of fear and terror is mind, and mind’s essence is primordially pure.  If we can take these sources of impurity and throw them in a pot and cook them with wind and fire, energy and exhaustive passion, they can be seen for what they are, not much different from the purity and wholesomeness that we so easily cling to.  What then is the difference?  And why to we always run from one towards the other?

2
Nov

Milarepa on the nature of mind

This is a particularly intimate and moving song of instruction by Milarepa for his student Gampopa.  The imagery of a parent concerned for his child contributes to the sense of closeness between the teacher and student in this song, it also shows how subtle some of the maras (perceptual delusions) that we experience along the way can be.  Milarepa as the tender father helps to point out some of the pitfalls that obscure the natural luminosity of the mind’s essential nature.

Following along with the parenting metaphor for a moment, I am reminded of a teacher who once reminded a friend and I that once one begins to meditate, no matter how much time spent in meditation, or its frequency, we should act as if we are pregnant; or we should know that we are pregnant with the innumerable qualities and benefits of Buddhahood. How long the gestation period will be is hard to know, but one day we will give birth to the clear and stainless realization of our mind.  All it takes is to begin a meditation practice and examine what effects it has on our perception and our relative well-being; once we are pregnant with this potential awakening, we should guard ourselves against that which complicates and distracts our meditation practice.  The tone that Milarepa sets in this song is gentle and supportive; how can we be this way with ourselves in our practice?

 

A Song of Instruction to Gampopa

By Milarepa

 

 

Son, when simplicity dawns in the mind,

Do not follow after conventional terms.

There’s a danger you’ll get trapped in the eight Dharma’s circle.

Rest in a state free of pride.

Do you understand this, Teacher from Central Tibet?

Do you understand this, Takpo Lhajey?

 

When self-liberation dawns from within,

Do not engage in the reasonings of logic.

There’s a danger you’ll just waste your energy.

Son, rest free of thoughts.

Do you understand this, Teacher from Central Tibet?

Do you understand this, Takpo Lhajey?

 

When you realize your own mind is emptiness,

Do not engage in the reasoning “beyond one or many”.

There is a danger that you’ll fall into a nihilistic emptiness.

Do you understand this, Teacher from Central Tibet?

Do you understand this, Takpo Lhajey?

 

When immersed in Mahamudra meditaion,

Do not exert yourself in virtuous acts of body and speech.

There’s a danger the wisdom of nonthought will disappear.

Son, rest uncontrived and loose.

Do you understand this, Teacher from Central Tibet?

Do you understand this, Takpo Lhajey?

When the signs foretold by the scriptures arise,

Do not boast with joy or cling to them.

There’s a danger you’ll get the prophecy of maras instead.

Rest free of clinging.

Do you understand this, Teacher from Central Tibet?

Do you understand this, Takpo Lhajey?

 

When you gain resolution regarding your mind,

Do not yearn for the higher cognitive powers.

There’s a danger you’ll be carried away by the mara of pretentiousness.

Son, rest free of fear and hope.

Do you understand this, Teacher from Central Tibet?

Do you understand this, Takpo Lhajey?[i]


[i] Songs and Instructions of the Karmapas.  Nalandabodhi Publications.  2006.  Pg. 25-26.